Coloring Inside and Outside the Lines

As a child, I remember spending many hours coloring pictures in coloring books. I took pride in my creations. Today, there are coloring books for all ages – even adults. We never outgrow our desire or ability to create. In Genesis 1 we learn that God created the heavens and the earth. Then in Genesis 2, we read that God made us in His image. We like to create because God creates. I believe there are both natural and spiritual coloring books. God gives us the opportunity to color our lives. Some of us may prefer to color inside the lines while others may want to venture outside the lines of life. Both are artistic expressions.

Scripture draws some lines of life within which we can color. In the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments give us some guidelines. These are found in Exodus 20:2-17. In the New Testament, Jesus condenses these lines to two commandments. Matthew 22:37-39 says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Scripture also gives us the opportunity to color outside the lines. In Genesis 12:1, the Lord told Abram to leave his country. Abram, later known as Abraham, colored outside the lines. He obeyed God without having any specific lines to follow. In Mark 16:15, Jesus told the disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Going into the world does not define very many lines.

Jabez colored outside the lines. In I Chronicles 4:10 Jabez cried out to God, “Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain. And God granted his request.” God allowed Jabez to color outside the lines and create a bigger picture.

The Bible gives us crayons for our coloring project. Rather than referring to them as crayons, scripture lists nine fruit of the Spirit with which we can color our lives. Galatians 5:22-23 describes our spiritual crayons as, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Colossians 3:12 offers us a few more color options.Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

II Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” The lines of life are not drawn with indelible ink. Neither are they printed upon color-by-number pages. The Holy Spirit may even inspire us to color outside our comfort zone. There is no perfect color perspective. However, our best pictures will be designed by the Holy Spirit.

God has given each of us our own coloring book. Every day we pick up crayons and make our mark. Some days we stay inside the lines and do everything perfectly. We color with lovely lavenders, passionate pinks and gracious greens. We may choose to add highlights of glorious golds. Peace will be portrayed in the picture. Other days we may grab a pencil of gray and scribble all over the page defying the designs of the printed page. These pages will reflect frustrating days of turmoil. Philippians 4:13 NLT says, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” That includes creative coloring no matter what color crayon we hold in our hands.

My Reader, grab a few crayons and color a picture in your coloring book of life. Your picture may not be perfect, but that is OK because none of us are perfect. Just continue to color inside and outside the lines of life as the Lord leads. James 1:4 says, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I encourage you to persevere with your coloring project. The day will come when it will be complete.

A Memorial Day Honor to Gold Star Mothers

As citizens of the United States of America, we will be observing Memorial Day this coming Monday. Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor military men and women who have lost their lives while serving our country. Unfortunately, many have forgotten the solemn meaning of this day. People have come to look upon this holiday as the first weekend of summer and celebrate with picnics rather than patriotism. However, there is a special group of women who still observe the true meaning of Memorial Day. I want to honor the American Gold Star Mothers today.

Let me take you back in history to World War I. When the United States entered the war in 1917, George Vaughn Seibold, 23, volunteered for military service. With her son no longer being home, Grace Darling Seibold decided to do some volunteering herself. She began visiting returning servicemen in hospitals.

Over time, Grace quit receiving letters from her son. However, she did not quit her volunteer work. She still visited hospitalized veterans in the Washington area. Unfortunately, George was never found. Her son had given his life for his country.

Grace knew that self-contained grief was destructive. So, she expanded her community service. While continuing to visit those hospitalized, she also reached out to other mothers who had lost sons in military service. Grace and these mothers organized a special group. Their purpose was not only to comfort each other, but to give loving care to hospitalized veterans in government hospitals far from home.

On June 4, 1928, twenty-five mothers met in Washington, DC to establish a national organization known as American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. It is a private, nonprofit organization of American mothers who have lost sons and daughters serving in the United States Armed Forces.

The organization’s name was chosen because of the custom of military men and women’s families hanging a banner called a service flag in the windows of their homes. The service flag has a star for each family member in the Armed Forces. Living military personnel are represented by a blue star. When a son or daughter loses their life in combat, a gold star is superimposed over the blue star.

The Gold Star gives honor and glory to the person who has made the supreme sacrifice of life for his or her country. It signifies the last full measure of devotion and pride for the family making this sacrifice. These families do not want to focus upon mourning symbols that point out their personal loss. Gold Star Mothers choose to wear white instead of black. White denotes the celebration of their children’s goodness, innocence and sacrifice.

It is stated on the Gold Star Mothers’ website, “The success of our organization continues because of the bond of mutual love, sympathy, and support of the many loyal, capable, and patriotic mothers who while sharing their grief and their pride, have channeled their time, efforts and gifts to lessening the pain of others. We stand tall and proud by honoring our children, assisting our veterans, supporting our nation, and healing with each other.”

I first became aware of this group through a special friend, Dorothy, who is a Gold Star Mother. She and her husband Ken lost their son Nicholas on December 13, 2012. Nick was a Staff sergeant in the Army and was part of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal. He gave his life while serving in Afghanistan. Dorothy was a Blue Star Mother. Her blue star became a gold star. Today, the banner of the Gold Star Mothers of America hangs in a window of their home.

Memorial Day has a treasured place in the hearts of Gold Star Mothers and their families. On this day, they especially remember the lives of military sons and daughters they have lost. This year, Ken and Dorothy are going to Washington DC to join other soldiers and their families with whom Nick served. They will be attending the “Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom 2019event. This is a motorcycle rally that begins on Sunday at the Pentagon after a “blessing of the bikes” at the National Cathedral on Friday. The various events conclude on Monday. Nick’s first sergeant, Lt. Burns from Kansas, will be riding Nick’s motorcycle in this event. During the ride, they will stop at Arlington National Cemetery to visit the grave site of one of Nick’s comrades. These two soldiers were part of the same unit and died within a month of each other. Dorothy says, “It will be a time of remembrance for all of the families that are visiting there.”

Nick is no longer alive on earth, but he is alive in heaven. The life he lived still influences the lives of his parents. Dorothy says, “The Lord continues to grant us opportunities to reach out with God’s love to others who have suffered the loss of loved ones.”

Today, I am privileged to honor these special Gold Star Mothers as well as remember those who have given their lives while serving our country. Let’s celebrate Memorial Day as originally intended.

 

 

Grace Giver

When I awoke the other morning, I heard “Grace Giver” whispered in my spirit. I believe Grace Giver is an accurate description of God. He is the giver of grace. Grace is God’s gift to us.

Let’s take time to unwrap the gift of grace. Let’s meditate upon words of scripture and words of prominent Christian authors and speakers.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

Grace is the power of the Holy Spirit available to you to do
with ease what you cannot do by striving in your own strength.
Joyce Meyer

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
Ephesians 4:7

But grace is at the center of the life God calls us to—
and reflects the heart of the One who calls.”

John Ortberg

My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.
II Corinthians 12:9

The true definition of “grace is the power of God,
not the unmerited favor of God.”
Bill Johnson

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.
Hebrews 13:9

Grace is the empowering presence of God that enables you
to become what He sees when He looks at you.”

Graham Cooke

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find
grace
to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

Grace sees potential – potential is more powerful than mistakes.
Grace sees what you can do, not what you have done.
Rev. Robert Reeves

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through
the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

II Peter 1:2

Grace: more than we deserve, more than we can Imagine.”
Max Lucado

(Calligraphy image done by our granddaughter Grace.)

For Mom

Our parents gave each of us a first and middle name when we were born. This is the name by which we are known. When a woman becomes the caregiver of a child, she inherits a new name. A few variations of this name are: Mother – Mom – Mommy – Mama – Ma. Throughout the day, she may more frequently respond to this new name than her given name.

Mother is more than a name. Mother is a role and a responsibility. Some may refer to it as an occupation or a title. However, I believe being a mother includes more than any of these descriptions. Being a mother is an honor.

I think about biblical mothers. There are numerous nameless moms.

In scripture we have many references to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Each of these men had a mother. We know Sarah was the mother of Isaac while Rebecca was Jacob’s mother. However, who was Abraham’s mother? We do not know her name. Abram had to have called some special lady Mom. I wonder how she felt when God called her son to move far away. I wonder if she ever knew that God changed the name she gave her son from Abram to Abraham.

I think about such prophets as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Micah, and Zechariah. Each of these men had a mother but we know nothing about them. No prophet could have come into existence without a mother. God chose a particular woman to give birth to each of these men. Their prophetic words never would have been heard without these women.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were nurtured by their mothers long before they wrote the gospel accounts. Were these women proud of their sons’ accomplishments? Of Jesus’ twelve disciples, James and John were brothers. Peter and Andrew were also brothers. Here were two mothers who each watched two of their sons leave home and follow Jesus during His earthly ministry. Neither mom is given a name in scripture. However, these women had a part in creating the written word of God.

I wonder about the mothers of Noah in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament. I suspect neither woman had any idea what their son would do for the Lord. I could go on and on.

However, there is one more unnamed mother that I want to highlight. In John 6:6-14 we read about a young boy who gave Jesus his lunch of five loaves and two fish. Jesus multiplied this little lad’s lunch to feed 5000. While this account is found in all four gospels, we never learn the mother’s name who made this lunch for her son that morning. (This was pointed out to me by Melanie Shankle in Church of the Small Things.)

Maybe you are a stay at home mom who makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches five days a week. Maybe you are a working mom who has to hurriedly throw a piece of turkey or bologna between a couple of slices of bread before you leave for work. Do not underestimate your responsibility or your privilege. You do not know who you may be feeding. With whom might your son or daughter share their lunch? What are God’s plans and purposes for the young person for whom you provide daily nourishment? While being an attentive mom of your children, you fulfill Proverbs 22:6. Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Being a mother can sometimes feel like a thankless responsibility. However, your place in the family is part of God’s design for His bigger family. You may be known as (insert your son or daughter’s name) mother. Consider it a blessing.

Your children may only know you as mom. That is OK. God knows you as a mother and He also knows your name. Isaiah 49:16 NLT says, “See, I have written your name on the palms of My hands.

In just a few days, we will be celebrating Mother’s Day and honoring the extraordinary women God has called to be mothers. It does not matter if you have achieved world fame or have your name written in history books, you are special in God’s eyes. God has entrusted His little ones (and not so little ones) into your care.

Proverbs 31:25-20 is a good description of how the Lord views mothers. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her; ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’

Happy Mother’s Day to all women who fulfill the role and responsibility of a mom!  You are honored!

Seedlings

Our daughter loves gardening. While looking through seed catalogs, she decides what she wants to grow in her garden. Then she purchases the seeds. Zucchini – tomatoes – peppers – cucumbers.

Since warm weather is slow to arrive in New York state, she gets an early start by planting seeds indoors. Her seeds have become seedlings by the time she transplants them outdoors. I think the seedlings appreciate her TLC.

We can follow her example with spiritual seeds we plant in our hearts. Instead of looking through seed catalogs, we can look through our Bibles and find what seeds we most want to grow during the upcoming months. We, too, can give our spiritual seeds a head start by digging deeply into what scripture tells us about specific seeds.

Here are a few options of the spiritual seeds we can plant.

Faith
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.Hebrews 11:1 NLT

Hope
For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.Romans 8:24-25
Hope is confident expectation.

Love
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.I Corinthians 13:4-7

Forgiveness
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.Colossians 3:13 NLT

Joy
This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.Psalm 118:24

Although Jill gives her plant babies proper attention and extra nutrients, her seedlings are still delicate. However, they are one step ahead of seeds planted directly into the ground. The seedlings must be handled with care.

We will be wise to give our spiritual seedlings a little extra TLC before we transplant them into the world around us. The sprouts of our spiritual seedlings are fragile. They need our attention. They cry out for nourishment and water. Revelation 22:17 says, “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.II Corinthians 9:10 says, “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

Once planted in the garden, our daughter’s vegetable seedlings grow rapidly with abundant sunshine and rain. However, weeds also grow. Jill now has a new project – pulling weeds. This is a continual part of gardening throughout the season.

Our spiritual seedlings also like Sonshine and heavenly rain. Ezekiel 36:25 promises. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.” We will encounter weeds when are in the world. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” In these verses we not only discover weeds that need to be uprooted but we also learn how to get rid of them. Acts 3:19 tells us, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Yes! Let’s wipe out all the weeds that want to crop up in our hearts.

From one little zucchini seedling, Jill gets enough zucchini to make multiple loaves of zucchini bread, to serve many dinners that include some kind of zucchini dish, to eat it raw with humus, and still share some of her vegetable produce with us. One zucchini seed or seedling can grow into a plant that yields many zucchini.

Our harvest from a spiritual seedling has the same potential. For instance, let us take a little seedling of love that is allowed to grow to maturity. Ephesians 3:17-19 says, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. The amazing thing is that a spiritual seed or seedling grows best when shared with others. We want the fruit of our labor to be more than seedlings. We want fruitfulness!

Just as vegetable seedlings grow in fertile, watered and cared for ground, spiritual seedlings will sprout, grow and flourish in our hearts. I want to restate the last part of Ephesians 3:17 Living Letters,May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.Let us nurture and care for these tender sprouts. However, may we not be content with just seedlings. May our plantings produce godly growth we can share with those around us.