Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving tension

Therefore, we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away for the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:6 (NIV)

As I tucked in and squared off the corner of the bed sheet, I mentally reviewed my list of things to do: fresh bed linens, clean bath towels, stock refrigerator, vacuum family room carpet, tidy bathrooms. Our children were coming home for the Thanksgiving holiday and an inner tension was already beginning to build.

My husband and I are so thankful with where our kids are currently in their lives. At 25 years of age, our son has been working in a full-time job since graduating from college almost three years ago. He and his bride-to-be are excitedly preparing for their wedding next spring. Our daughter, who is in her fourth year of a six-year physical therapy program, has a part-time job and lives in an off-campus apartment. Whether it's to simply say "Hi, momma" or "The jeep is making a funny noise," she keeps us involved in her life by way of text messages and phone calls. I'm thrilled with the skills and abilities they are developing to live independent of their dad and me.

As I placed special "goodies" in each of their bedrooms to help welcome them home, however, I caught myself thinking about their early years: GI Joe birthday cakes, "cat-o-py" science projects, tears at having to wear eyeglasses, sibling squabbles, broken noses, high school musical tryouts, driver's license jitters, and all. Man, to be able to turn back the clock to the time they were young and we were all together living under one roof.

The Apostle Paul talked about moments of tension that confronted him. On the one hand he had the responsibility and duty to fulfill God's purpose for him in his life (Philippians 1:24-25). At the same time, he desired the glory that awaited him when his work on earth was done (Colossians 3:4). In his letter to the Philippians he wrote that he is torn between the two. While he desired to depart and be with Christ--which he said is better by far--he states that it's more necessary that he remain here on earth.

Thanksgiving has come and gone. So have our daughter, son and future daughter-in-law. For a few days we enjoyed each other's company, ate way too much food and made plans for the next time that we hope to be together. Until then, we've each returned to our homes and the responsibilities and duties of our lives.

Dear friend, as believers in Christ Jesus, we, too, can anticipate something special! God has a glorious eternal home prepared for us (Philippians 1:21-23). Like Paul, our goal can be to please the Lord. And until that time that God calls us home, we can live a life of faith; confident that the Lord is actively present in our daily lives.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving praise

Sing to the Lord of harvest,
Sing songs of love and praise;
With joyful hearts and voices
Your alleluias raise.
By Him the rolling seasons
In fruitful order move;
Sing to the Lord of harvest
A joyous song of love.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House

Monday, November 15, 2010

The enduring Word

The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
Psalm 19:9-11 (NIV)

The headline caught my eye: 8 nearly worthless collectibles. While I admire fanciful figurines, turn-of-the-century landscapes, and ornamental plates, I'm not an avid collector of any particular item. Still, I was curious as to what was included on the "nearly worthless" list.

According to the article, mass production and changing tastes have cut deeply into the value of various dolls, toys, plates and other items that used to be in high demand. Figurines that were once considered special keepsakes are now barely worth the crates they're packed in. Cute beanie toys are valued at 50 percent less than their original purchase price. Paintings have been "QVC'd" to death." And, the glut of "small slices of Americana" have caused ceramic plates to be worth little.

"Collecting as a hobby can be a fun, worthwhile and potentially lucrative way to pass the time," the report states. "Amassing collectibles as investments, however, can be a disappointing endeavor yielding nothing but piles of devalued knickknacks for your next of kin to sort through."

The opening words of the Bible were most likely written during the 1400s BC, penned by Moses as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness between Egypt and the promised land. Roughly a millennium later, the Hebrew Old Testament's last prophet, Malachi, recorded his message to post-exilic Israel around 400 BC. The Greek New Testament was composed during the 1st century AD.

Down through the ages, God chose holy men, inspired them to write His message to us, and preserved His remarkable message of salvation. Through the pages of Holy Scripture, we are brought face to face with ourselves, with God, and with His grand design for our lives.

As we dive into the truth of who God is and who we are in Him, God speaks personally and powerfully to us by the power of the His Spirit. In Psalm 19 we can see the psalmist's delight and eagerness for God's teachings. His confidence is absolute. God's ways give him hope and peace. His decrees bring joy, wisdom and instruction.

Dear friend, fun may be all there is to associate with modern-day collectibles. Collecting God's Word and storing up His commands in our heart, however, is a valuable proposition. The Bible promises that His enduring truths are "more precious than gold, than much pure gold." You can bank on it!

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Source: Moneycentral Savings and Debt

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pruning butterflies

I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.
John 15:1 (NIV)

What a difference 18 months makes. Since moving into our house in central Pennsylvania a number of shrubs have experienced significant growth. As a result, and in preparation for the winter months, my husband and I considered the various landscaping needs around our property.

We took into account the Red Maple in the corner of the backyard. The recent dry, hot summer certainly took a toll on the huge tree. Of particular interest to me, however, was the Butterfly Bush located on the north side of our home. Little more then a year ago it was all but a stick-like stump. Over the months, however, it had grown into a rather gangly, unruly plant.

As a side note, for those readers familiar with my gardening prowess, or lack thereof, I must mention that I do have a bit of experience with the Butterfly Bush. The prior owner of our house in Missouri had planted a hedge of Buddleias along the property line. Consequently, I came to appreciate the beauty of the robust plant. The hardy shrubbery's arching stems had an almost hypnotic effect as they swayed in the wind. What a treat it was watching a cloud of butterflies, attracted by the plant's nectar-rich flowers, move from bush to bush.

My husband and I are by no means expert gardeners. We do know, however, that pruning will enhance the appearance of our shrubs and trees as well as fix any damaged areas; not to mention, keep the plants from growing out of control. Consequently, we made plans for the care of each plant: corrective pruning on the Redbud and Ornamental Pear trees, shearing of the Euonymous, Barberries and Spirea, and hand reduction of the Forsythia, Viburnum, Pyracantha and Butterfly Bush.

Interestingly, I learned that the Butterfly Bush has a tendency to give gardeners fits when it comes to pruning. Sharp loppers are needed to chop back the tough "weeping" side branches to just a cluster of main stems in the center of the bush. The center stems are left as tall as possible without having the tops droop down. This usually means some of the top growth is cut back, in addition to the more "beefy" side stems. I was cautioned that the end result could be a plant that resembles a plucked chicken. Nevertheless, my encouragement came from being told that these amazing beauties respond well to pruning and by next spring I could expect new growth and a display of colorful blooms.

"I am the vine," Jesus said. "You are the branches." (John 15) He said His Father, the Master Gardener, prunes His children. He cuts away whatever it is that hampers our individual growth in order that we may experience the richest, most fruitful of lives. Hardships certainly may be painful. But, what we see as tragedies may only be blessings in disguise and the very opportunities through which God chooses to reveal His love and grace.

Dear friend, are you being pruned today? Have your dreams been dashed? Has the dearest in life been torn from you? You can trust Him to do what is best in every situation. God will not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).

Blessings, dear friend
Faithfully Following

Photo: Mountain Valley Growers