A little strength

“You won’t need that many, this is enough.” This is not something you usually hear from a salesperson, but my customers often hear it from me regarding plants that they are about to purchase. Sometimes, all you need is a little bit and it grows into a lot more!

The strawberry plants that have spread out to cover much of our yard are a prime example. Five little plants from a sweet lady at a local church have turned into a never-ending supply of strawberry plants for dozens of my friends and relatives. We even get a few strawberries when we are diligent about picking them before the birds do! 

Several times, I have decided that the trouble of picking them wasn’t worth it, so I’ve given them “all” away. Of course, there were always one or two baby plants that didn’t get dug out, and now (again) we have hundreds.  Continue reading “A little strength”

When the levee breaks

It began to rain and it seemed that it would never stop. The tributaries rose steadily and without abatement for months. Slowly, the disaster began to take shape. Finally, in the spring of 1927, the levees along the great Mississippi River began to fail. Tens of thousands of square miles were inundated. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes and their jobs. The waters did not fully recede for months.

Many songs were written in the aftermath of the flood, including “When the Levee Breaks” by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. It detailed the sorrow of the inevitable. Where do you go when your protection fails and the flood waters surge? Continue reading “When the levee breaks”

Compartmentalizing

It is time to admit that some plants are just too aggressive and invasive to be planted with the rest of the better-behaved beauties in the garden.

Take mint, for instance. Really, take it! I have a ton! I have much less now than when I naively planted it in the nicest bed in the front of the house. It quickly overtook the whole bed, and it took years to fully remove it. It now lives in a pot. Or take showy primrose, or violets, or erigeron, or verbena rigida.

The worst offender is the bane of my existence as a gardener — the dreaded Bermuda grass. Continue reading “Compartmentalizing”

Jesus groaned

One of the most impressive things about Jesus was how much he cared for people.

The Greek concept of God was that of an impersonal and uncaring being. In fact, the Greeks thought their gods were just too self-centered to care. Greeks could not conceive of a deity that could sympathize with humans. The thought was foreign to them.

Yet, Jesus showed great compassion for people. In John 11:33, the sight of Mary weeping evoked powerful emotion from Jesus. The verse tells us, “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled” (John 11:33 NASB). Continue reading “Jesus groaned”

Temporary (in)sanity

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by Richard Mansel, managing editor

On September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks killed 3,000 and the nation mourned. Prayers reverberated through the homes, offices and streets of America. Church pews were filled, and people recommitted their lives to the Lord.

Days passed, life assumed its routine and the religious fervor was replaced with, “What was I thinking?”

Every day in America, variations of this story happen with much the same results. A beloved Christian will die and their loved ones will examine their lives, realizing they are on the wrong path.

Suddenly, the most important thing in their world is to spend eternity with their loved one in heaven. They attend worship in tears and promise to live for God.

Time passes and routine pulls them back into their normal lives, and God is soon forgotten. Satan returns to his throne, and they wonder at their temporary insanity.

Sadly, what they have mistaken for insanity is actually sanity. They flirted with, truth and found it wanting. Their all-consuming need to see their loved one has been replaced with selfishness.

God will never truly be real when wrapped in emotion. We will see a false construct but not the Savior’s eyes.

“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me'” (Mark 8:34, NKJV).

It’s an emotional time when we realize we are a sinner and that we cannot live without the Lord (Acts 8:36). However, that emotion is grounded in something. However, raw emotion expressed in a fad or a moment will not bear fruit (Matthew 13:3-9).

If our loved one has lived an exemplary life, showing Christ to us, we can ignore their example, grasp it vicariously or we can  investigate the validity of their claims. We must make Christ real in our own hearts or it will never mean anything (Matthew 13:20-21).

Jesus is not a moment, he is a life.  We all need to realize that Christ can be found in a time of loss. However, he must sink in to truly change our lives, transforming us from lost to saved (Romans 12:1-2; Acts 22:16).

Give them your heart

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by Stan Mitchell

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Charles Swindoll in his book “Killing Giants, Pulling Thorns,” tells of a little child who lost a playmate to death. One day the child announced to her family that she had gone to comfort the sorrowing mother.

Surprised, and a little alarmed, her family wondered what had happened.

“What did you say?” asked her father.

“Oh nothing,” the little girl responded, “I just climbed up on her lap and cried with her.”

I doubt that the most eloquent preacher in town could have communicated better. When someone loses a loved one we are afraid to speak to the bereaved. “I won’t know what to say,” we declare, “What if I say the wrong thing?” we fret.

These fears are natural. But remember in your anxiety that their sorrow is much greater than your discomfort.

I have learned that it is better to try to do something than to leave the bereaved without a word at all, without the touch of a caring friend. Even if you do nothing more than “weep with those who weep,” your very caring has communicated something important.

Most people who are experiencing this don’t expect you to say something that is historically profound. Your words of wisdom won’t dispel the cloud of hurt they are under, and they understand that. What they do want is to know if someone cares.

Hold a hand. Write a card. Pull a thorn out of a throbbing foot. Shed a tear with them.

Those actions will say more than your words can, anyway.

What do I know?

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by Paula Harrington

Recently, I received the news that a friend is now dealing with the devastation of a cancer diagnosis. I know the emotional toll news such as this causes on a family.

I know how it feels to sit alone in a crowded room and wonder how a good God could allow such pain to afflict his faithful children, fully aware of the fact that his own aren’t immune to the struggles of this life. Yet we still wrestle with the, “Why?”

A grieving father once said that life is short and full of many troubles (Job 14:1). And his story, which may be one of the oldest in the Bible, was written for our benefit.

To show us that even in the thickest of grief, we don’t walk this world alone nor do we have the capability to fully understand the one who knit this world together.

Too often we focus on what we don’t know. We critique and meditate matters, that if given too much time, can make us stumble and lose heart. But thank God for that which we do know. For it’s in those truths that we find hope.

I don’t know a lot about this world, but I do know that even in the darkest of night when all looks lost, God has not deserted us (Hebrews 13:5).

  • I know that he is not only a God of then and there, but a God of here and now.
  • I know that we’re in a spiritual war with Evil and the enemy will stop at nothing to destroy our faith even if means destroying our earthly bodies.
  • I know that the God of Heaven and Earth stills our soul, makes our paths straight, is slow to anger, and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8). I know he is our refuge and strength in a place that desperately tries to overcome us (Deuteronomy 33:27, Psalm 46: 1-2), and I know that he has overcome this world (John 16:33).
  • I know that the bride of Christ will continue the revolution of love because his power lives through her regardless of how men may try to taint her (Ephesians 5:23).
  • I know there is a place being prepared for us and even though the one who prepares it knows of its peacefulness, comfort, and tearless landscape, and that we are better off once we enter there, he still weeps alongside us (John 11:35).
  • I know that trials are temporary and fears are fleeting but we will never be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).
  • I know that this world is not our home but a catalyst for something bigger, something greater, and something eternal.
  • I know that words such as inoperable, terminal, and death are always trumped by the words faith, hope, and love.
  • I know there will come a day when he will wipe away all tears (Revelations 21:4).

What we don’t know about this life could fill volumes, but it’s in the certainties of what we do know that offers us the strength to face each day.

Even through the darkness, focus on what you know. It will take you to Heaven.