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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Peace and Joy in Difficult Circumstances

Peace and Joy in Difficult Circumstances

Do you ever have times when a particular theme keeps reoccurring? Maybe you just read about a topic and then you see a sign about it or hear a song on the radio that reminds you again. God has been whispering in my ear… “Child, pay attention”.

I just finished a month long study on the book of Philippians. One of the main themes is Joy and another is Peace. Joy is not a fleeting or a superficial and soon forgotten feeling but a deep inner emotion that lasts and is remembered. Russell M Nelson stated, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”

In this pandemic crisis and world of social distancing it is hard to feel joyful. Instead,we are afraid, depressed, sad, overwhelmed and over worked. Our brains are tired from adjusting and trying to live with new restrictions, changing rules and new expectations. Remember, the apostle Paul was writing from prison when he challenged the early Church.

                    Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice        Phil 4:4

We are to make the Lord our focus and not our circumstances. He is the source of our strength in each new day.  Our relationship with Him needs to take higher priority over anything else. It’s easy in times like this to reverse that order but we will only feel more exhausted. When I am “too busy” to read my Bible and pray I end up with a bad attitude and more stress.

Contrary to popular opinion, Christians do not have to have it all together. It’s okay to feel burnt out, confused or frazzled….or whatever emotion you may be feeling. And it is okay to have good days and bad ones. That is the only thing normal right now. Most Moms weren’t planning to run their own one room schoolhouse. Most service people weren’t expecting to be facing a health risk on the job. We were created for community not isolation. Every day we are facing a lot of uncertainty and it is stressful but we can choose our focus and adjust our attitude.

Anxiety is a joy robber. It’s been said that “worry is like sitting in a rocking chair – you think you are moving but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.      Phil 4:5-7

Remember “the Lord is near” : we need to live with an awareness of God’s presence (read Psalm 139:1-12 and Joshua 1:8,9)  Other translations for “reasonableness” are; be considerate, gentleness, forbearance, work together. God gave us our emotions so it’s okay to talk to Him about how you are feeling. Get it off your chest – He already knows anyway. When we leave our fear and doubt at His feet we exchange those negative feelings for inner peace. He will guard our hearts and minds – our attitudes, emotions and thoughts.

Our problems are real and won’t go away instantly but our hearts can change. Faith is exercised when things cannot be seen. We can have peace and joy in difficult circumstances when we remind ourselves that God is Sovereign and in control. We choose to trust in His faithfulness and promises for each day – one at a time.

 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you       2 Cor 13:11

 

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Our Daily Bread is Not on a Menu

Our Daily Bread is Not on a Menu

Once in awhile my husband and I like to dress up and go out for a fancier dinner than table-3018151_1920our usual Mexican Cafe.  We go for the ambiance, white tablecloths and candlelight, expecting good food and good service.  The waiter comes out with a large menu to delight our palate…Oh so many choices! We sit and contemplate each section while picking and choosing what we want to fill our senses and satisfy our hunger.

Our Pastor mentioned in a sermon that we might be guilty of treating prayer that way.  I think I am sometimes.  Prayer becomes just a daily duty when we only ask for what we want and thank Him for what we have.  We treat God like a Heavenly Waiter.  We Thank Him for the food and great service while we leave our leftovers and dirty dishes behind for Him to clean up.

God is not a waiter, Santa or a magic genie just waiting to fulfill our wishes.  Prayer is direct communication with Our Heavenly Father, Our Creator – the One Who sent His only Son to die in our place! Since the very beginning of time God has longed to have a relationship with His Creation. Jesus gave His disciples a model for prayer that we can follow too.

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Our Father in heaven –  Our Heavenly Abba or Dad, unlike our earthly fathers  He is the One Who knows everything about us and promises to always be with us.  He is all powerful and can never fail.

Hallowed be your Name.  – Holy, praise and glory to, reverence and awe to, your Name above all Names.  We fail to worship Him for Who He is.

Your kingdom come – Are we building His Kingdom (sharing the gospel) and looking for His return?  It could be soon!

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  –  Recognize that He reigns over Heaven and earth. It’s not what I want but trusting that He knows better than I do. He sees all our circumstances and is Sovereign and in control.

Give us this day our daily bread – He provides daily for our every need; food, clothing, shelter, friends, family and way beyond.  Make your own list of blessings not just wants.

and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors – Forgiveness is freeing and powerful. We do not deserve having Someone die in our place! We mess up every day.  But we also have to forgive others to have true peace in our hearts.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. – be mindful of the things that trip you up. Stay away from temptation and ask for that way to escape and overcome.                                                                Matt 6:9-13 (ESV)

 

Jesus taught a lot about prayer.   First we should make sure our thoughts and motives are pure when we pray and keep short accounts with God. He does encourage us to ask for our hearts desire because God longs to give His children good gifts. He hears us, sees us and knows our pain and every need and we can trust Him in all situations.

During this Lenten season let us be more mindful of how we pray. Let us not be complacent or so casual as to treat Him like our personal waiter. If we follow Jesus’ model we can pray powerful prayers that make a difference in our lives and those around us.

Praise God from Whom All blessings Flow

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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)

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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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Days Without the Sun

Days Without the Sun

Spring has been so dreary in New England this year.  April only had four days of total sunshine. Gray clouds and light sprinkles to pouring rain have continued to drag our rainyhandweary bodies and souls down. Oh how we long for the sun and warmth! Nature still takes its course despite the weather and the days grow longer. We watch the birds return, buds sprout on trees and flowers push their way up through the ground.

But what a difference the sun makes! I watched with gladness when my perennials shot up five inches after only two days of sunshine. I enjoyed coffee on my patio in the brief warmth and felt a sense of relief. It gave me a renewed feeling of energy and a better attitude.

sunny patioThis is true of our spiritual lives as well. A day without the SON is also a little bit dreary. Without spending some time in prayer and reading God’s word my day is not as focused and my spirit can sag.  

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matt 11:28-30 (NLT)

Jesus calls us to come to Him. We are to leave our worries and problems with Him believing that He loves us and is at work in our lives. Our God is not a harsh task Master but has promised good things to us. So many people misunderstand God because they don’t really know Him.

               My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.      John 10:10 (NLT)

We all have days in our lives that are gray and seem never ending.  I find a lot of encouragement in the book of psalms and chapter 42 is a favorite of many because it describes the weariness of the soul. If you are feeling blue, I encourage you to read the whole chapter.

5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and6 my God!     Psalms 42:5-6 (NLT)

Even on the dreariest day I can have Sunshine in my soul.  Anyone who knows me or has read my blog knows I love music. I’ll end today with the words to a dear old hymn.

There is Sunshine in My Soul

There is sunshine in my soul today,
More glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky,
For Jesus is my light.

O there’s sunshine, blessed sunshine,
While the peaceful, happy moments roll;
When Jesus shows His smiling face
There is sunshine in my soul.

There is springtime in my soul today,
For when the Lord is near
The dove of peace sings in my heart,
The flowers of grace appear.

There is gladness in my soul today,
And hope, and praise, and love,
For blessings which He gives me now,
For joys laid up above.

 

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Living in Gratitude

Living in Gratitude

Throughout the month of November we hear a lot about “Thanksgiving”, as in the holiday story and being thankful for basic needs being met. But peculiar to America, the day after we nostalgically fill our stomachs we have “black Friday”, a time of racing off to shop for the best deals and display full blown commercialism and greed.  What happened?

thanksgiving-2903166__340The words gratitude, thankfulness or gratefulness  come from the Latin word gratus ‘pleasing, thankful’ , it is a feeling of appreciation . We can be grateful for something that gives us pleasure or contentment  and or supplies comfort or alleviates discomfort.  The definition of thankful is to be ; 1.conscious of benefit received or for what we are about to receive – makes us truly thankful – a feeling. 2. it is expressive or 3. we are well pleased

How do we live a life of gratitude? How we choose to look at life or our circumstances can be either dismal or hopeful. Being grateful comes from a healthier perspective. Here are some points to ponder:

  • It doesn’t matter if the glass is half empty or half full. Be thankful that you have a perspectiveglass and there is something in it.
  • Be grateful for what you have already while you pursue your goals. If you aren’t grateful for what you already have , what makes you think you would be happy with more?                  Ray T. Bennett
  • Charles Dickens said, “Reflect upon your present blessing, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

It is so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of “I want”, “I need” ,”I gotta have it too”, while comparing ourselves to others. The marketing and media industry wants us to focus only on temporary things but God wants us to value the eternal things.

16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.                           1 John 2:16 (NLT)

6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.     1 Tim 6:6-8 (ESV)

Watching the news this past year has caused me to stop and count my many blessings more than ever.  Our country has suffered massive destruction coast to coast – storms and floods, volcanic eruptions, and massive forest fires. I pray for victims and first responders but also stop and thank God for my home and all the things I have. I have so much! We all have so much!

I believe that true gratitude comes from a heart that recognizes we deserve nothing but God gives us everything we need. We are given so many blessings every day but are entitled to none. I can learn to be content with what I have. I was recently challenged to write down one thing I am grateful for everyday over the next 30 days. Maybe that would be a good exercise for you and your family too because a thankful heart is a happy heart. Let us live with an attitude of gratitude.

 

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