Gladiolas of Gladness

It is summertime and I love the beauty of fresh flowers. Gladiolas are a blossom I remember my mother planting. These bulbs need to be placed in the ground each spring and dug up in the fall, so they do take extra effort and special handling. Gladiolus are often referred to by the nickname of glads. In The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp tells of sharing gladness with people by taking them bouquets of glads.

The gladiolus is a flowering plant in the iris family. It is sometimes called the sword lily. When I think about a sword, I am reminded of the sword of the Spirit. Ephesians 6:17 says, Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” A spear of gladiolus flowers is a beautiful sword just as the Word of God is a beautiful sword of the Spirit.

Let me share some verses of gladness from God’s Word as well as some images of the floral glads. While you read the following scriptures, I want you to imagine yourself receiving a bouquet of glads filled with gladness.

You (the Lord) have put gladness in my heart
Psalm 4:7 NASV

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

Don’t be afraid, my people. Be glad now and rejoice,
for the LORD has done great things.
Joel 2:21 NLT

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be
glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14 NIV

For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with
gladness.
With His love, He will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and His bride has made herself ready.
Revelation 19:7 NIV

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
Psalm 16:9 NIV

Joyfully,
Cheryl

*Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.

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Fire with a Purpose

fire-hs2fire-bonfireRecently I attended a Christian women’s retreat and our evening session was held around a bonfire. While the speaker shared what had happened in her life that caused her to feel like trash, many women threw their own garbage into the fire. What happens when the worthlessness of our lives is combined with fire?

The most obvious answer is that all the trash and garbage is burned up. However, ashes remain. Ashes often symbolize sorrow and repentance for sin committed. Job 42:6 NLT says, “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” When we toss our garbage into the fire, flames are kindled that burn up the useless things that have happened to us.

Malachi 3:2 describes God by saying, “For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.” When we leave our rubbish and rubble at the feet of Jesus, He becomes our fire who refines us to be pure like silver and gold. In Isaiah 48:10 the Lord says to us, See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”  This concept is expanded in I Peter 1:7 NLT that says, These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” Once again we see how God uses everything in our lives for good. (see Romans 8:28) Although we may mess up when difficulties arise in our lives, God will refine our trash into treasure when we throw it into the heat of the fire. God has a flame of forgiveness for us.

I Corinthians 3:15 says,If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” Then Paul goes on to say in verse 16, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” This is possible because of another function of fire. Acts 2:3-4 describes Pentecost and the descending of the Holy Spirit by saying, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” The Holy Spirit sets us on fire to serve the Lord.

In Daniel 3, we read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego being thrown into the fire by Nebuchadnezzar, but upon closer look there were four in the fire because God was with them. My Reader, I want to assure you today that if you are in the fire for any reason, God is with you. He will burn up your trash and receive your ashes of repentance. He will turn these ashes into beauty by refining you into someone more precious than gold or silver. He will set you on fire with the Holy Spirit and will live within you. II Timothy 1:6 says, “For this reason I(Paul) remind you (Timothy) to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” I remind you to do the same. Fan the flame of fire within your heart and also fulfill I Thessalonians 5:19 that says, “Do not quench the Spirit.”

The bonfire I experienced at the retreat helped to keep all of us warm on a chilly evening. However, it also provided us with a powerful picture of what the Lord was doing in our spiritual lives that evening.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

 

Mommy Memories

As we approach Mother’s Day on Sunday, I am reflecting upon previous celebrations not only with my mother but also with other women who have fulfilled a mother’s role in my life.  When I delve into the files of my life, I find a category known as “mommy memories” with dates for specific Mother’s Day observances.  My Reader, please join me as I do some reminiscing.

 

greeting-card-mfPriority memories are given to my mother with whom I shared the first 25 years of my life.  Unfortunately, she died of cancer before she could see either of her grandchildren born.  However, I have many positive memories of her.  When I was about seven years old, I remember wanting to make her a special Mother’s Day card all by myself.  My problem was that I did not know how to spell mother.  However, I could spell mommy, so on the front of the card I inscribed “Happy Mommy’s Day!”  I still remember her laughing at my ingenuity of how to resolve my dilemma.  As she received my card with love, the wording did not matter to her.

carnation-mf My memory bank also has deposits of both my mother and me honoring my grandmother.  My mother always bought a white carnation for Grandma to wear on Mother’s Day.  At that time, if one wore a white carnation, it meant your mother was no longer living but if you wore a red carnation, your mother was alive.  Mom always let me help her give Grandma her flower.  Oh, yes, my mother was also proud to wear her red carnation that day.

orchid-mfI fast forward my mind many years to the time when I became the mother. My husband would take our two children with him and they would buy me an orchid to wear on Mother’s Day.  I guess the carnation tradition was no longer observed but flowers were still an appropriate gift.  I remember the pride and smiles on the faces of Greg and Jill as they would give me my orchid corsage.  Neither do I forget the gleam in my husband’s eyes when it was my turn to be honored.  I am reminded of Proverbs 31:28, “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.”  I am blessed!

tea-for-two-mfSince my mother died at an early age, I was blessed to have an aunt who helped fill the mother role for me.  She lived in Iowa and I lived in New York, however, we shared enough love to stretch between the miles.  My husband and I made many trips to Nebraska to see family and whenever possible we would stop in Iowa to see my aunt and uncle.  One year we were able to be there Mother’s Day weekend and I went to a Mother’s Day Brunch at church with my aunt on Saturday.  I felt very honored that she would include me as her daughter at this event.

ice cream cone LINK pdNew pages continue to be added to my mommy memory file every year.  Both my daughter and daughter-in-law are good at remembering me on Mother’s Day, but sometimes I like to make Mother’s Day special for them because they are now the 24/7 moms.  I still smile when I think about the Mother’s Day card my daughter gave me last year.  She had been teaching the children’s Sunday School that morning and she had them make cards for their mothers.  So, she made one for me as well. The card was made like a big ice cream cone with sprinkles and a cherry on top.  On each sprinkle was the name of something the child liked about his or her mother.  My ice cream cone hung on our refrigerator for a long time!

So, my Reader, how are you feeling about the observance of Mother’s Day this year?  Does Mother’s Day create happy or sad feelings within you?  Do you have a mom or a mom substitute or a mom mentor with whom you can share the day?  We have a friend whose daughter often sends him a Mother’s Day card because her dad was both her mother and her father when she was growing up.  While mothers come in many different shapes and sizes, I hope you can express the love in your heart to your “mom person” and you can receive their love as well.  My desire is that my Mother’s Day recollections bring to mind many memories you may not have thought about recently.  May you find some remembrances that bring a smile to your face.  Whether you are the mom or you have mom memories, one thing for all of us to remember is that mothers reflect the nurturing and loving character of God.  We are all made in the image of God and each one of us uniquely reflects one or more facets of His nature.  I like the image Jesus describes in Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.”  Picture with me the image not only of a mother hen with her brood of little chicks under her wings, but of our Lord holding and protecting us in His loving arms.  Also see yourself with either your mother or your children in a loving embrace.

Happy Mother’s Day!
Enjoy your Mommy Memories!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Apple Pies and Apple Seeds

APPLE LATTICE PIE BAKED IN AN APPLEapple-pie
Ingredients:
4
large Granny Smith apples
1 (21 ounce) can apple pie filling
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (14.1 ounce) package Pillsbury rolled pie crust (use just 1 of the 2 crusts in the box)

 Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice the top off each of your apples and scoop out the inside of the apple. I used a knife and a spoon to hollow out the apple.
3. In a small bowl, mix the apple pie filling with the cinnamon. Spoon the filling into the well of each apple.
4. Unroll one pie crust and cut it into fourths; one for each apple. Then cut each quarter into 1/4-inch strips.
5. Lay strips of the dough on top of the apple. Then take one new strip at a time and alternate weaving it over and under the pie strips already in place. Repeat until the top of the apple has been covered. Trim excess pie crust around the edges with a knife.
6. Place apples in a baking dish and fill with 1/4-inch of water. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until crust if golden brown. Remove from baking dish and enjoy.

APPLE SEEDSapple seeds
I found this recipe online and thought it was a unique way to make individual apple pies.  I hope you try it and like it.  However, what I now want to share with you pertains to something one throws away when making these apple pies, specifically the seeds.

Robert Schuller has said, “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” If I were to make the recipe for the apple pies baked in an apple, I know I would not take time to count how many seeds I discarded.  I would make sure I got out all the seeds, but they would not be numbered.  However, I want to think about this from God’s perspective.  God created everything, including apple seeds and apples.  He knows not only how many seeds are in an apple, but also how many apples will be produced from each seed within each apple. If God knows and cares about each apple seed, how much more does He care about me? (I Peter 5:7)  One scripture that reveals to me how much personal attention God gives me is Matthew 10:30.  It informs me that God has the hairs on my head numbered.  I think God must be in the counting business!  Hmmm…  God is concerned about apple seeds, hair, and me!   God intensely and immensely cares about everyone and everything.  I may give no thought to how many apple seeds I am throwing out, but God does!

What is the importance of seeds and why does God keep track of the number of apples found in each individual seed?   Mark 4:1-20 is the parable of the sower and verse 14 defines the seed as being the Word of God.  In fact, there are forty-four verses in the New Testament where the Greek word “sperma” is translated “seed.” This is the same word from which we derive our English word “sperm.”  So, I see that there is life in the Word and there is life in the seed.  I Peter 1:23 says, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” When I study the Word, I am putting the life of God inside of me. The Word grows as a seed in my life and I will produce fruit.  No wonder God keeps track of seeds!

I may discard the seeds of an apple when I am making these little apple pies, but I do not  want to disregard scriptural seeds.  I will plant the seed of His Word in the soil of my heart and let it grow and produce and reproduce fruit for the Kingdom of God.  I most likely will never know how much spiritual fruit is produced in the lives of other people because of the seeds of God’s Word I have planted into the lives of those around me.  Only God will know the number of apples, or fruit, that will come from seeds I plant, but that is okay!  All I do, I want to do for the glory of God. I am accountable to God, but God is the one who counts the seeds and the apples.

My Reader,  if you make these little Apple Lattice Pies in an Apple, you may throw away the seeds.  However, let the seed of God’s Word grow in you and do not toss out these seeds.  Let the spiritual seeds yield fruit of faith in yourself and those around you.  Bake a spiritual pie as well as an apple pie.  There are physical and spiritual appetites to be fed.  Only God needs to know the true harvest.

Joyfully,golden apple #2(MF)
Cheryl  

 Challenge for the week: If you are blessed by this blog, plant some spiritual seeds into the life of a friend by passing along this website.  Remember, there is a new post every Wednesday.

           

What is PT or ST?

hands raised mfPT, the abbreviated terminology for physical therapy, became a common term in my vocabulary in August when I began the process of regaining movement and strength in the arm I broke in June.  My Reader, if you were to describe the meaning of physical therapy by choosing words with these two initials, what words would you choose?  One person told me they stood for pain and torture.  I did not like that!  So, I decided to create my own descriptive words that I wanted to focus upon while going to PT.  My first choice of words were patience and tenacity.  I knew it would take time to regain the mobility and strength that I had lost while my arm was in a cast.  These words helped me keep the proper perspective that use of the arm would return little be little as I diligently did my exercises and went to the therapist.  The other phrase I chose to think about was prayer and trust.  I did not have to recover muscle and movement only by my own power.  God was there to help me if I would only ask Him.  I asked for His help through prayer and then trusted Him to be faithful to answer my prayers. 

While being aware of the stiffness in my hand and arm, I thought about how God refers to the Israelites as being stiff-necked people.  Exodus 32:9 is the first scriptural reference to the Lord describing them as being stiff-necked.  This happens after the people had made the golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai with God.  In Exodus 33, the Lord reveals to Moses that He will not go with the Israelites into the Promised Land because they are stiff-necked.  Moses responds in Exodus 34:9 by praying, “Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”  (If you want to read more details regarding this condition found among the Israelites, you can read Exodus 32-34 and Deuteronomy 9.)

So, what does God mean when He refers to the Israelites as being stiff-necked?  According to Deuteronomy 9:6, I believe it refers to their being unrighteous because this verse says,  “Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people”  I think any person who is stubborn, obstinate, rebellious, or defiant is stiff-necked.  I think the Israelites were in need of some PT for their stiff necks!  They needed to personally spend time in prayer and not just rely upon Moses to seek God for them.  They needed to trust God to lead them into the Promised Land.  Where was their patience and tenacity to wait upon God to do what He had promised?   Maybe I should say they were in need of some ST. What is ST? I am defining ST as spiritual therapy.  What is involved in ST? I would like to suggest that the Israelites should have been singing and testifying.  While on their journey to the Promised Land, they could have been singing songs of praise to the Lord reminding themselves of who God truly was.  They also could have been testifying among themselves as to what God had done for them and how He was still in their midst.  Just like muscles that can become frozen from lack of use, faith can become cold and impersonal if not actively lived out on a daily basis.

In Acts 7:51, Stephen says, “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!”  Yes, the Israelites were stiff-necked, but so can I be stiff-necked if I do not follow the leading of the Holy Spirit today!  What might be some of my symptoms of being stiff-necked?   I think being stiff-necked can be an attitude problem often manifested as pride.  Could I be suffering from a spiritual stiff neck if I insist that my way of doing something is the only way it should be done?  How about when I make excuses for my shortcomings or become defensive when I am criticized?  Maybe I am in need of ST as well as PT!  One way I can procure ST is through studying and tutoring.  I am referring to my daily setting aside time to study God’s Word and to learn it well enough that I will follow His principles in all my actions.  By tutoring, I am referring to discipling – asking another person to speak into my life and to hold me accountable for my choices while helping me grow in my faith.

My Reader, how about you? Do you need some PT or ST in areas of your life that have stiffened up? Another couplet of words defining PT could be praise and thanksgiving.  This is one of my favorite exercises to loosen up some spiritual muscles that I do not use often enough.  The Lord inhabits my praise (Psalm 22:3) and His joy becomes my strength (Nehemiah 8:10).  His provision allows for both my physical and spiritual strength.  I express thanksgiving to God for His love and faithfulness that reach to the skies (Psalm 57:10). Since His love reaches to the skies, it helps me to be able to reach to the skies with my hands physically and spiritually.  I am still doing some physical exercises to get full use of my hand and arm but there has been much improvement.  However, muscles can still become tight if I do not keep limbering them up.  I also need to remain flexible spiritually so that I am ready for the Lord to be able to use me the way He desires.  PT helps me gain strength in my hand and arm, my physical being. ST strengthens my inner being, my spiritual nature.  Ephesians 3:16  tells me that I can be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.  I need both PT and ST in my life in order for me to be able to physically raise my hand as high as I would like as well as to be able to raise my hands spiritually to God in praise of who He is.

Joyfully, golden apple #2(MF)
Cheryl   

Challenge for the week:Join me in some stretching exercises of PT and ST!

Teacher and Student

school-1-mfSeptember is here and, for us in New York state, this is the first week of classes. If you live in another part of the country, school may have already started.  Anyway, today my thoughts are turning to teachers and students.  Our family fulfills these two roles well. We have six grandchildren as students. Our son is a classroom teacher who is just completing his year as New York Teacher of the Year and is still having amazing doors open for him within the field of education.  Both our daughter and daughter-in-law have taught school and are currently involved with volunteering in the elementary schools where their children attend.  Our son-in-law is a part-time pastor who teaches from the pulpit.  Are not teacher and preacher similar words with only different letters at the beginning?  I have taught in various capacities over the years and my husband also taught school for a year.  That is enough educators for one family! However, today I am expanding the roles of teachers and students from a broader perspective.

study (MF)Several years ago an important statement was made to me: “Everyone is a teacher.”  Hmmm.  That leads me to come to another conclusion:  “If everyone is a teacher, then everyone must be a student.”  I want to develop these two statements from two different viewpoints.  First, if everyone is a teacher of mine, then I am everyone’s student. Secondly, if everyone is a student of mine, then I am a teacher to everyone.

Green Apple on Books

If everyone is a teacher,
then I am everyone’s student.

My stepsister-in-law, Karleen, is the person I have heard say, “Everyone is a teacher.”  She would often make this comment about two older parents for whom we had mutual love and concern.  We might shake our heads as we observed some of the opinions and actions of her mother-in-law and my dad, but then Karleen would bring our focus back to the proper mindset by saying, “Everyone is a teacher!” Yes, these two specific people, and everyone else around me, is a teacher from whom I have the privilege to learn. The older generation has more wisdom to share with me than I might want to give them credit for.  I also can learn from the younger generation as our grandchildren are teachers of mine as well.  Both the irresistible and the irritating mannerisms of people can be teaching tools if I have the proper attitude.  I want to remember that every person I come in contact with is either teaching me something I want to do or something I do not want to do. I want to embrace wisdom and knowledge and common sense from the teachers God has placed in my life.

Bible Meditation (PD)For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know,
and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie.
I John 2:27 NLT

My best teacher, the Holy Spirit, lives within me! I want to quote John Bevere from his weekly devotion on August 8, 2013 entitled “Welcome Him as Your Teacher.” He writes, “The Holy Spirit plays many roles in our lives, but probably His greatest role is that of Teacher. He is always teaching us something….Scripture is the timeless textbook of the Spirit. God’s Word is the record of God’s thoughts. To think like Him, talk like Him, and act like Him, we need His Word—and we need to understand it. That’s the job of our Teacher: to lead us and guide us into all truth, unfolding the meaning of the scriptures we need, right when we need them.”  The Holy Spirit is my favorite teacher.  I want to learn from Him and teach like Him!

people possibilities 6 mf

If everyone is a student,
then I am everyone’s teacher.

My last statement is the perfect transition for me to think about how I am everyone’s teacher.  I realize that I feel more responsibility being the teacher compared to being the student!  I desire to have a positive influence upon my family and friends.  How can I be the best teacher God wants me to be?  Am I portraying teachable traits and visible virtues to inspire those God has placed in my life to be followers of Christ?  What knowledge has God imparted to me that I can share with others?

Bible Meditation (PD)Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
 and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Matthew 28: 19-20 NIV

What Jesus said to his disciples, He still says to me today.  He specifically tells me to teach what I have been taught by His Spirit who lives in me.  Going to all nations suggests to me that I am to be a teacher everywhere I go.  He is telling me to be a witness, or a teacher, for Him by the life I daily live.  The people who are a part of my life are the students God has entrusted to me.  I desire to be the best teacher possible with God’s help.

people possibilities 5 mfIn conclusion,  everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student!  My Reader, you and I do not need to be involved with education inside the four walls of a school building to be teachers and students.  The world is our classroom.  Actually, we are fulfilling these two roles whether we comprehend it or not. Every person I come in contact with is teaching me something I want to do or something I do not want to do.  In this sense, I am their student. Every person I come in contact with is learning from me something they want to embrace or something they want to avoid in their own thoughts and actions.  In this respect, I am their teacher.  It is September and formal required education has begun, but teaching and learning never stop. My Reader, are you a student who is following the leading of the Holy Spirit as your best teacher? Are you an exemplary teacher throughout your area of influence in the eye of God?  What kind of grade would receive as a student? In which role are you most comfortable?

 Joyfully,
Cheryl

Challenge for the week: Be aware of how you are a teacher and how you are a student.   Pray especially for the teachers and students involved with formal education during the 2013-2014 year.