Wednesday, January 16, 2019

I'm SO glad that God NEVER says THAT!!

I was 15, and our family was in Mexico for three months (on our way to a furlough in the States).  At a small missionary complex,  I had my first venture into "entrepreneur-ship"!

I made a batch of glazed yeast donuts, then went door-to-door offering samples and taking orders! 12 pesos for a dozen.  I had to make donuts twice a week to fill all the orders. (They were really good!)
Every week I walked the dusty road into town and bought the flour, sugar, potatoes, yeast, etc., needed to produce my wares.  I kept an account so I could figure out my net profit.  In my memories, the days sort of blur into each other, as they were so similar.  But one part of each "donut-day" stands out even now, almost 50 years later!

I could look out the windows every donut-day afternoon, around 4:00 or so, and see other missionary kids arriving to stand outside our house....and wait.  Each one clutched something in his/her hand.  They never knew exactly when it would happen, but each one wanted to be among the first to get there.

What were they waiting for?

I had found that at the end of the donut-making process, there were always some that were a trifle deformed.  A little squished here or there.  I never included them in my regular orders, so they were always left over.  And THAT's what the kids were waiting for!

As the kids saw our door open, they would come up to buy the "irregulars" at half-price - only 50 centavos each.   The reason they tried to get there early was that, as the "irregulars" were limited,  (I never knew how many donuts were going to decide not to cooperate!), it was a matter of "first come, first served".  No one wanted to arrive too late to get one!

Isn't it comforting to know that God never says "first come, first served"?  We never have to wait anxiously, hoping to have gotten there in time to be included!  When Jesus said He was preparing rooms for us in Heaven, He never said they were limited, and if you didn't establish your relationship with Him early on, and someone else beat you to it, you'd be left out!  Check these verses out:

"Whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be judged, but has crossed over from death to life."  (Jesus, John 5:24)

"All those the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me, I will never drive away."  (Jesus, John 6:37)

                       "For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, 
                      that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."                                                             (John 3:16)

Thursday, October 4, 2018

"Butternut Babies"...surprising sequel!

If you saw the last post, you've seen this little butternut squash plant before.  Of course, it looked a lot different! (See photo below and compare.)

I had despaired of this little guy, and had been considering pulling it and throwing it out!
What a difference!  Although most of the surrounding plants are so voluminous I can't see the ground for all the leaves, this one still stands out for surprising me with its unexpected growth.

And just as it served as an "object lesson" in its former unproductive state, it again serves as a lovely reminder of something we all need a lot more of:  patience!

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  (Galatians 6:9)   Whenever we feel like giving up on ever seeing "anything good" coming from a certain person or project, let's remember this verse.  God's timing is so much different from ours!  Patience! Some people and things take longer to grow...but are not, because of that, of less value!

We will come up against people and situations that mirror the second (earlier) butternut picture all through our lives.  As believers, I think we should be more hesitant to give up on them!  After all, our interaction with others, as representatives of our Lord God, can be critical, and used by Him to promote growth, even for those that seem the most hopeless.

I like this rendering of James 5:7,8 (MSG) where we are challenged to have "productive patience"!

                        "Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master's arrival.  
                                          You see farmers do this all the time, 
                                     waiting for their valuable crops to mature, 
                               patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work.  
                                                     Be patient like that.  
                                                    Stay steady and strong.  
                                    The Master could arrive at any time."


Father, please give us "productive patience", and help us trust You as we wait!
                                                      Thank You!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Butternut Babies! (A gardening "object lesson")

Day after day, week after week...coddling, watering, seemed like it was taking forever to see any sign of impending squash-hood!   Then, a few days ago, I found this!  My first "butternut baby"!

(This kind of squash isn't well-known here at all, and when our supermarket suddenly had some for sale, the cashiers would say, "You're the only one who buys them.  What do you do with them?")  It had been years since I'd seen them for sale, and not knowing when they might appear again, I decided to plant some, and see if I could get them to grow here in the thinner, colder mountain air.  
 Most of the plants sport large, wide leaves, and have vines snaking out from their centers.  Cute little tendrils grace the vines.  As I add fertilizer and water, I see them expand and develop...and now start the process of actually producing fruit.

I said most of the plants.  All except this one. It's been around as long as the others.  It hasn't died...but it hasn't grown.  What an object lesson!
Looking at this poor little non-starter (or "non-continuer") I thought, "Just like some believers.  They're not 'dead'...but they don't grow!"

The Bible uses numerous references to plants as allegories and illustrations.  For example: 

"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.  So neither the one who plants  nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes everything grow."  (I Corinthians 3:6-7) 

 We can - we should! - share the Good News and encourage others (plant and water)...but it is the Holy Spirit who actually brings a new spiritual "sprout", a new believer, into the Kingdom.  (My plants need me to water and feed them, but baby butternuts are birthed from the God-created core of the plants themselves.)

Here's another great verse:

"For as the soil brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown to sprout up, so the Lord will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all nations."  (Isaiah 62:11)

And one of the most splendid promises from God's heart to ours, where He says He will...

                                 "provide for those who grieve in Zion - 
                        to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
                                  the oil of joy instead of mourning, 
                           and a spirit of praise instead of a spirit of despair. 
                  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, 
                                             that He may be glorified."    (Isaiah 61:3)

       Father, your love is amazing!  As your oaks...let us display your splendor!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

"To Be A Harp" - a poetic prayer

I'm not surprised that angels in Heaven play harps!  The harp is an incredible instrument.  I doubt I will ever learn to play one...but maybe I can learn to BE one.

                 TO BE A HARP  

         To be a harp...
         but not just any kind!
         The kind that seeks
         the grace-notes of your Mind.

                                               To be a harp!
                                               To learn the angelic art,
                                               and match the timeless
                                               rhythms of your Heart.

                                               Were I a harp,
                                                I'd want to never cease
                                                reflecting Heaven's
                                                harmony of Peace.

                                                                 Yet...on its own,
                                                                  a harp's a silent thing.
                                                                  It cannot play itself
                                                                  or pluck its strings.

                                                A harpist, then?
                                                A skillful hand that deigns
                                                to draw from out the harp
                                                its deepest strains.
                                                Blest Harpist!  Yours
                                                the Master-Hand that plays
                                                sweet, sacred song,
                                                woven so many ways!

                                                Make me your harp,
                                                in tune wherever I go.
                                                Come!  Use my strings;
                                                Lord, make your Music flow!
                                                                                                         (Becky Rhon)                                                 

Above I said, "Maybe I can learn to BE one".  It doesn't come naturally.  We would usually prefer to be the musician, not the instrument!  Too often we want to be the one who chooses each day's "music".  Jesus described what our end-goal should be, what the result of our "music" must be:

"You are the light of the world...Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven."   (Matthew 5:14-16)

The best way to ensure that this result is achieved?  Take to heart the following verse, and commit to letting HIM be the Musician in our lives.

                                               "May the God of peace...
                        equip you with everything good that you may do his will, 
                        accomplishing in us that which is pleasing in his sight,
                       through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. 
                                                                                                        (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

God's Hourglass

Dionysius (a Greek tyrant who lived several hundred years B.C.)  had sentenced one of his subjects to death, and none of the latter's tears or pleas could move the heart of stone.

  According to the story, the condemned man finally asked the ruler to concede him one last request.  "Anything you want, except your life," was the answer.

"I have a family that will be left in a hopeless state unless I personally go and take care of winding up all my business and financial affairs."

"Impossible!" thundered Dionysius.

"Please listen.  I am an upright man, and I always keep my word.  Give me ten days to put all my affairs in order.  I will try to find a friend to come here and take my place in prison until I return, taking on my sentence if I should fail to do so. If you allow this, I will return before the ten days are over."

"If you find such a friend, I'll give you 20 days," replied the ruler.

One of the man's best friends volunteered to take his place in prison.  Things got more and more tense as the days went by and the man did not appear.  Dionysius went to see the hostage in prison and asked him, "Today is the last day.  How can you be so relaxed and in such a good mood?"

"Well, it's just that I know that he will arrive in time," was the confident reply.

The execution procedure began, the hostage was taken to the block, the axe was lifted...when someone shouted, "Hold it!  Stop!"  It was the original prisoner, who presented himself before the ruler and said to the executioner, "Here I am; here is my head."

Dionysius exclaimed, "No!  I absolve you! And...let us make your friendship of two...a friendship of three!"

Inspiring!  We sometimes wonder if God is going to "show up on time", and don't always understand why things don't happen when we think they should!  But that should never worry us.

In numerous places the Bible says, "at the appointed time...", or "in due time...", or "in His own time..."

"For the revelation waits an appointed time...though it linger, wait for it, because it will surely come."  (Habakkuk 2:3)

 Psalm 27:14 tells us to "Wait for the LORD.  Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD."

Why "take courage" when we can't see how things are going to end?  Because, like the best friend in the story, God always keeps his word and always arrives on time.

 We don't need to know WHEN. Sometimes He lets us know, sometimes He tells us, as Jesus said to the disciples, "It is not for you to know the times and dates the Father has set by his own authority."  (Acts 1:7)

                                "God is not a man, that He should lie,
                        nor a son of man, that He should change his mind. 
                                  Has He said, and will He not do it? 
                             Or has He spoken and will He not fulfill it?"   (Numbers 23:19)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Everybody's birthday! (Tsachi church visit)

I have always made cakes to share when we visit the Tsachi church, but this time I was not feeling very well before the trip, so Germán suggested we buy a couple of cakes, and celebrate everyone's birthday! It didn't matter when one was born, he/she deserved to be honored!

The short lady in the middle of the photo is Carán, a special friend, and I am right beside her - amusingly, the only one wearing a native skirt! My husband is beside me, and Primitivo (church leader) and his wife Tserere are on the other side of Carán.

Sorry, I started at the end let me change gears to the pre-cake events.

Very few attended the service - and none of the bunch of little children were there - but there was a great atmosphere, once more proving that "where one or two are gathered together", God is there and will bless. The pictures show only a few people...but the room was full! 

After singing in Spanish, I was invited to lead them in a few songs in Tsáfiki!  A surprise, but a pleasant one, as I firmly believe they should sing praises in their own language.

 Germán gave the message, and it was heartening to see the obvious attention in their faces...even when he had to raise his voice a bit because it started to pour rain!

In the picture, he is closing the devotional time with prayer.

I was grateful to feel better than usual during the after-service, and could enjoy talking with the ladies with more energy than any previous visit!

These are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and reflect Revelation 15:4:  "ADONAI, who will not hear and glorify your name?  because You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for your righteous deeds have been revealed."

This church is very close to where we had our house when my family first came among them 61 years ago (when I was 3!).  We cross over the little river  that provided us with so much fun as young children, and can see across to the area we lived in, now grown over with trees and bushes.   The wildlife we knew, like ocelots, jaguars, agoutis, armadillos, deer, monkeys...has pretty much disappeared with the advance of roads and construction.  But in a special place in my heart, this is still "home".

These dear people will be among those John refers to in Revelation 7:9:

"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white, with palm branches in their hands."

Father...what can I say?  You are awesome, and your amazing love - that reaches out to every single person - brings tears to my eyes again...

                                                      Thank You!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Fabulous failure! "Amazing" accident!

I was disappointed. This new recipe sounded so good! Crock pot...butternut squash and apples...raisins.  But I left it too long, and it ended up as a weird mush.  I was tempted to throw it away, but put it in the fridge.  A couple days later, I decided I could mill the "mess" and maybe use a bit now and then in something.

I took it out... milled it...and as I was transferring it to a container, I tasted it...and was amazed!  It was delicious, and tasted just like Apple Butter! (with a very slight hint of the nutritious squash - and sugar-free!).  I was excited, because I love apple butter, and can't get it down here.  Recipes I've come across seem like a lot of work  This was so easy, with few ingredients...and all the result of a "failure"! (The recipe's below, in case you're interested.)

On a much grander scale, something like that happened when the steward of a wedding failed to provide enough wine for the guests.  It ran out, and it was his fault! But Grace took over, and Jesus changed ordinary water into wine of such quality that the emcee was amazed!
                      I unwittingly changed a casserole into apple butter. 
                           Jesus splendidly changed water into wine!
On an even grander scale...a cosmic scale!...something similar happened almost 2000 years ago.  People thought Jesus was going to lead the resistance against the Romans and set up his kingdom.  They were ready to fight and help Him win their freedom! Suspense and excitement!

But what happened?  The Leader of this new movement was killed.  Disappointment washed over their hearts and twisted their gut..  Had it all failed?

Three days later, they saw the result of this "failure"...and were amazed!  When Jesus, the Son of God. walked out of the grave, very much alive, He had put in place the final, crucial, part of a Divine Plan that would bring eternal freedom to anyone who believes in Him.

The result of his "failure"?  It drew me out of MY failure!  He knew what He was doing all along...we often don't! He made no mistake...we often do! What others saw as a failure was a perfectly executed plan of Love, Grace and Justice.

The psalmist wrote: "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  (Psalm 73:26)  So we can trust Him! Remember what He said:

                                   "As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
                                      so are my ways higher than your ways 
                                       and my thoughts than your thoughts."  (Isaiah 55:9)

Accidental Apple Butter
1 not-too-big butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed
4 green cooking apples, peeled, cored, chopped
3/4 c. raisins
(opt. about 1/3 c.chopped leek)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg.
--Mix all in the slow cooker, leave it on High for 5 hours or till very mushy. You may want to tweak it to your taste, as ingredients vary in flavor.
--I puree it in a food mill (so the raisin skins and any stray leek pieces stay behind), but you can try the blender, or food processor.  Keep refrigerated.  So easy!