The Garden of My Heart

The Garden of My Heart

gardenbloomMy flower gardens bring my husband and I great joy. They were planted strategically and have spread over time. Easy care perennials bring color at various times of the spring through late summer and annuals show a more consistent pop of color. A bonus to the flowers are the birds and butterflies that have come to our back yard. It is amazing to watch the little hummingbirds flit about, giant butterflies visit and we watch the brilliant goldfinches in our birch tree. Several neighbors have been beneficiaries of bouquets of flowers for their tables.

Taking care of a garden and keeping it healthy takes a little TLC and a watchful eye. My neighbor has a huge vegetable garden that has tripled in size this year. We watched as he built new raised plots, carefully planted, staked and screened in the new beds. He has invested a great amount of time and energy in protecting, watering and weeding .  If it’s so much work why do Gardeners garden?  The answer is, FOR THE HARVEST!

Living the Christian life is like a garden. We need to invest time and energy to nurture our souls and be careful of the things we allow into our hearts and homes.  Social media lacybybugscan steal that precious time and allow a lot of anxiety, negativity and even anger to creep in and eat away. I was not watchful while some insects quietly munched away on my hibiscus bush leaving the leaves looking like lace. Weeds are subtle because they grow slowly and often look like the plant they are next to. To be our best selves we need allow God to work in our hearts, carefully dead heading the things that don’t belong. If we are not careful to read “The Master Gardeners manual” we cannot tell the difference when Satan’s lies blend with the truth.

I think God loves gardens. He placed Adam and Eve in a garden with many kinds of foliage and fruit- not at a seashore resort. Jesus told the parable of “The Sower and the Seed” (Luke 8) to warn against the condition of our hearts and other scriptures are filled with life giving encouragement to help us grow strong.

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Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.2 But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.              Psalms 1:1-3 (NLT)

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?       Matt 6:26-30 

What is the Kingdom of God? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds,32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.        Mark 4: 30,31

Despite the circumstances we are now facing, we all  have a job to do. We can be water bearers to those who are dry and weary. We can give shade and assurance to those who are confused and angry. Let us share the flowers and fruit of compassion and kindness and be a beautiful bouquet drawing others to Him.

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All Lives Matter

All Lives Matter

I grew up in a family that accepted people of different color as all part of the same human race. We were taught to care for those less fortunate than ourselves and that all life held great value. God created the heavens and earth and filled them with diverse and wonderful creatures.  But mankind was specially created in His own image, male and female. God breathed life into them and they became living souls.  (Gen. 2)  God also gave us free will and the ability to love and be loved. Animals were given to us for food but it has never been acceptable to kill another human being.

Protesters in our streets are carrying signs that say, “Black Lives Matter” and I agree they do!  But Asian, White and Native American lives matter too. Unfortunately in our society and around the world there are many castes, hierarchies and prejudices that pigeon hole a person into what they can do or become.  We in our own wisdom decide if life is valuable or not in quality and quantity of years.

The very definition of infanticide is the crime of killing a child within a year of birth yet we have legislators that feel it’s ok to kill a living infant in a failed abortion attempt or “partially” birthed. How cold, cruel and unfeeling we have become to life!  Eighteen percent of pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) in 2017 ended in abortion – that’s approximately 862,320 in the USA.  Didn’t their lives matter?  Or do we think somehow they don’t matter because they were an accident, a mistake, unplanned and unwanted.

A well beloved surgeon I worked with learned that I had a son with disabilities. He said, “Well, you’re a better person than I am. My wife and I decided that if we knew anything would be wrong with our baby, we would abort.”  I smiled and said, “It’s hard sometimes but so worth it. We have gone places we never would have dreamed of and have met the most amazing people.”  Our son’s life matters and so do the lives of his cognitive and physically disabled coworkers and friends.

Everyone enjoyed the story of P.T. Barnum glamorized in the musical “The Greatest Showman” because “ it fosters hope in dreamers and a sense of inclusion in outcasts, projecting a message that is desperately needed in today’s society. Barnum saw possibilities and beauty in the misfits and outcasts of society and gave them a sense of family.”*** The movie crosses barriers of all kinds and the powerful lyrics to “This is Me” topped the charts. Why?  I believe we want a world of inclusion and peace deep down in our hearts. We want to belong and feel like our life matters.                                                  **quote from Jen Piekarz review

God Himself declares all life to be sacred and planned for a purpose.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15  My  frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.            Psalms 139:13-16 (ESV)

The gospel is the most inclusive doctrine in the world and has an open invitation for all. While Jesus was on earth he lived the greatest example of sacrificial love, compassion and inclusion.  He healed untouchables (ex. lepers), ate with “sinners” of all kinds and hung out with a mixed group that included uneducated fishermen as well as a tax collector. He was not afraid or too proud to speak with half breed Samaritans or Roman Centurions.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life     John 3:16 (ESV)

 Jesus came for ALL. If we could love each other like Jesus there would be no more hatred, inequality or dismissing people as less than. Bullying would cease and understanding would increase.  If only we could grasp the truth that ALL LIVES MATTER.

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A simple song I learned as a child says it all.

Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red and yellow, black and white

They are precious in His sight

Jesus loves the children of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Clean Sweep

A Clean Sweep

The beginning of a new year gives a chance to look back at the accomplishments and struggles of last year and look forward to the new and hopefully better one. I change the calendar, the checkbook register and get a new “planner”. My husband and I sit down and discuss home improvements needed, taxes and vacations… but not at the same time!

_20180126_094451 (1)January is known for its “white sales” – new appliances, linens and storage containers.  Decluttering, downsizing and organizing guru’s share the latest tips to contain the mess.  Every year we make the same or similar new years’ resolutions because we want to do better, be nicer and feel healthier.

We often deal with the stuff around us but what about dealing with the “stuff” in our hearts? The classic booklet “My Hearts Christ’s Home” by Robert Boyd Munger weaves a story of inviting Jesus in and giving a tour room by room of our “house”. Each room represents a place in our lives but the host balks at letting Jesus see the hall closet.  The stuff in that closet is old and smells bad ; like bitterness, bad habits, past secret sin we hang on to. Only Jesus can help us clean, reorder and restore this closet of our heart.

DSC_0927 (1)  It’s easy to ask God to forgive us for “little sins” of omission or commission. But what if we are honest and go a little deeper? We can try to justify our feelings and actions – but that doesn’t bring peace of mind. The Bible has a lot to say about unclean hearts.  God sees and knows it all and yet we often try to sweep our “stuff” under the rug or hide.

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you Psalms 69:5 (ESV)

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

Only God can wash our hearts from all the hurts and hang-ups. He says come – let me remove the “dirt” and cleanse you from the inside out. God desires to restore a right relationship with Him and promises us a new beginning. He is the God of second chances! Even if something seems impossible to forgive (like trying to get red ink out of a white shirt) there is nothing impossible with God.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.       Psalms 103:11-12 (ESV)

prayer in church

Start the New Year off by spending time in prayer and reflection. Let’s open up the closet of our heart and ask God to do a deep cleaning. Sometimes that deep cleaning takes a long time because first we need to recognize our fears, failures and faults in order to let Him work on those areas. The process isn’t easy but it is freeing and satisfying. Let this prayer of David be yours :

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.        Psalms 51:6-10 (ESV)

 

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My “What-Ifs” Went Over the Bridge

My “What-Ifs” Went Over the Bridge

Traveling over the Tappen-Zee bridge I symbolically threw all my “what-ifs” over the railing. That was a long time ago but I still remember it vividly. There comes a time in all of our lives when we need to deal with the things we hold on to that never happened.  Past plans, dreams or maybe lost opportunities can resurface in our minds and cause discontentment in our heart.

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We were heading south to visit some dear friends. Paul was driving and our young children were buckled in the back with kids music playing on the radio. We traveled Rte. 95 with all of its twists and turns.  As we went through Bridgeport I saw two of the hospitals where I interviewed as a graduate nurse….but I was never meant to work there.  A twinge in my heart wondered, “what if” I had worked in the Cardiac unit I was hired for? “What if” we had moved to Connecticut? “What if”???

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.         Jer 29:11 (NLT)

My life took a very different path.  I had major surgery right after graduation that took awhile to heal and my now husband had changed jobs to one in Boston.  I ended up training for the Operating room in MA, a career  I have loved for over 34 years.  We bought a nice home and met awesome people at church who are now life-long friends. We were much closer for our children to be loved and spoiled by their grandparents.  Life was different from my simple “what ifs”  but in a good way!

Is it wrong to think back and wonder? Not really. But for me they created a little wedge of discontentment, a feeling that I had missed out on something. It was wrong thinking because I haven’t missed anything – I have enjoyed all that God did have in store for me and my family!

As we passed over the bridge I silently prayed,  “God take all my “what-ifs” because You call me to live in the present and not hold on to the past. Your plan is better than I could ever imagine. Don’t let me feel any regrets or false yearning but contentment instead.” And over the bridge they went.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.         Phil 4:8 (NLT)

Seeds of discontent and comparison should have no room in my heart. Instead I will make the choice to count my blessings. I will choose gratitude and praise towards God for His faithfulness and provision for all of my needs. Satan still uses the same old tactics he used in the Garden when he told Eve that God was withholding something good.  So the next time he whispers in my ear, I’ll tell him to jump off the bridge.

 

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Spring of My Heart

Spring is a time of renewal, new birth and HOPE. During this Lenten season we are often challenged to examine our lives and our hearts.

animal-sheddingWinter is receding, days are longer and buds are forming on the trees and bushes – a sign of beauty and or bounty coming soon.  I look in my garden for signs of growth – the fulfillment of hope when I planted bulbs in the fall.  We (especially in the North of America) long for warmer weather and look forward to shedding layers of clothing. Our furry friends are shedding too!

I’ve begun my “spring cleaning” and maybe you have too. The heaviest of coats and sweaters are cleaned and packed away as well as winter boots.  Soon it will be warm enough to clean up the gardens.

What about some spring cleaning in my heart?  Maybe it’s time to get rid of the old dead cleaning ladyleaves of discontentment or disappointment.  Over in the corner are cobwebs of  unforgiveness that need to go. Maybe underneath the furniture there lurks some bitterness, jealousy or fear.

The word spring, besides being the name of a season, is an action word meaning to leap. You can only spring up or open and you fling things away from you.  The apostle Paul wrote a long practical list, in the book of Colossians , about  negative feelings and actions to get rid of and positive ones to “put on” or into our lives. He used the analogy of taking off clothing like our Winter to Spring/Summer wardrobe.   He uses terms like “put to death” and “get rid of”’. That sounds like serious business to me!

TAKE OFF:    *sexual immorality, impurity, greed, anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, lying and dirty language.

 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.      Col 3:10 (NLT)

PUT ON: *hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, make allowance for other’s faults, add forgiveness and love

Jesus said, 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you.19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander .    Matt 15:18-19 (NLT)

After reading verses like these we tend to think, “Oh but not ME– I’m a good person.”  But honestly, we all have evil thoughts, we tell little white lies or share gossip and put others down so easily we don’t even call it what God calls it – sin.  If we could be clean enough on our own then Jesus would not have had to die.

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.             1 John 1:8-10 (NLT)

manpraying

This is our promise of renewal and cleansing from within! God promises to make us a new creation. I can clean my house and change my wardrobe but I need God to clean my heart! It’s time to do some spring cleaning!!!

    Change my heart, Oh God. Make it ever true,

Change my heart Oh God, make it be like You!

A Clean Sweep

A Clean Sweep

A new year is upon us and I find the need to clean or clean-out.  It’s not the same as “spring cleaning” or fall “harvest and prepare for winter” cleaning but it is a type of renewal.  The beginning of a new year gives a chance to look back at the accomplishments and struggles of last year and look forward to the new and hopefully better one. I change the calendar, the checkbook register and get a new “planner”. My husband and I sit down and discuss home improvements needed, taxes and vacations… but not at the same time!

_20180126_094451 (1)January is known for its “white sales” – new appliances, linens and storage containers.  There are all kinds of magazine articles, books and Pinterest ideas on de-cluttering and getting organized. And of course there are many new years’ resolutions made because we want to do better. Everyone has some area of their life that they want to work on. As to house cleaning, we deal with daily and weekly messes on a regular basis but occasionally we have to do some deeper cleaning.

Being inside more due to the weather, I tend to re-organize the pantry – the kitchen junk drawer is a mess – and how can those spices be outdated? But rarely do I make it to the hidden areas of the house like under the bed, the spare closet, the attic or the boxes of old papers. If it isn’t seen – it doesn’t bother me. But it won’t go away on its own. That takes time and real determination.

 

DSC_0927 (1)We also need to deal with the messy areas of our lives.  It’s easy to ask God to forgive us for “little sins” of omission or commission. But what if we are honest and go a little deeper?  There are hidden sins of the heart like when we try to hide a wrong-doing. If we let a grudge turn into bitterness or shame turn into fear, it affects our hearts and minds. We can try to justify our feelings and actions – but that doesn’t bring peace of mind. It started in the Garden of Eden and continues to this day. Adam and Eve disobeyed, lied about it and then played the blame game.

The Bible has a lot to say about unclean hearts.  God sees and knows it all and yet we often try to sweep our “stuff” under the rug.

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you Psalms 69:5 (ESV)

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

Only God can wash our hearts from all the hurts and hang-ups. He says come – let me remove the “dirt” and cleanse you from the inside out. God desires to restore a right relationship with Him and promises us a new beginning. Even if something seems impossible to forgive (like trying to get red ink out of a white shirt) nothing is impossible with God.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.       Psalms 103:11-12 (ESV)

prayer in church

Start the New Year off by spending time in prayer and reflection. Let’s open up the closet of our heart and ask God to do a deep cleaning. Sometimes that deep cleaning takes a long time because first we need to recognize our fears, failures and faults in order to let Him work in our hearts. The process isn’t easy but it is freeing and satisfying. Let this prayer of David be yours :

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.        Psalms 51:6-10 (ESV)

 

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