|Monday, January 8, 2018|
|The Maker's Instructions|
I learnt a hard lesson in breadmaking today: by mistake I put a quarter of the flour in before the milk powder and sugar and thought, oh that will be fine as they are all dry ingredients. I then added the milk powder and sugar followed by the rest of the flour and everything else. I put the right amount of all the ingredients in, with just that small amendment - and this is how it turned out!
Why is it that I think I can make my own decisions, "wing it" and it will be all right? I think I know best. But.... the breadmaker does come with a comprehensive set of instructions and it makes it clear you have to follow them or it will not turn out well.
Today was a day when I consciously went against the maker's instructions. Other days, I have just been forgetful, one way or another. This picture shows when I failed to put the paddle in the bottom to stir the mixture.
This one shows what happens when you don't (through ignorance) leave the yeast in the fridge, because it then dies and cannot do what it needs to do. The other one (right) was taken out of the pan too early because it beeped mid cycle and I thought it had finished.
Before you think I have a very strong failure curve, here's a photo (below) of a successful loaf of bread. I must have made dozens.
Now, why am I showing you all these pictures?
Most of the time, we carry on with our lives serving God and we see His blessing over us. Sometimes, things don't work out the way we had hoped and we wonder why?
Have we decided to do it 'our way' thinking that would be ok (like when Uzzah put his hand out to steady the oxen transporting the Ark and was struck dead - 2 Sam 6)
Have we failed to ask God which way to go and so have not had any guidance as to the direction? We need the Holy Spirit's wind in our sails, like the breadmaker needed the paddle to guide the mixture.
Uzzah didn't know that they were meant to carry the Ark on poles. I didn't know I was meant to keep the yeast in the fridge to keep it live. The yeast was dead and couldn't do its job and sadly Uzzah was struck dead too.
Sometimes we pray about something but we try to take action before God tells us to. We need to give him His time to work. That can be a short time or a long time, but it is HIS time, not ours. I took the bread out of the maker too early, so it didn't work. If we are impatient in waiting for God to answer, it is quite likely that our trying "to hurry Him up" will not be successful.
It is quite simple what we need to do! We need to listen to Him to know what to do, follow His instructions and guiding exactly - and we will be in His will.
Of course, things still don't always work out the way we had hoped, but we tend to learn lessons of patience, strength, compassion (and many more) on the way.
|Monday, September 25, 2017|
|Back to Basics - Birthing a Group|
In our protocol manual it talks about 'Birthing a Group'. Have we thought about this in more detail recently? Have we tried to birth a group, without success?
When we give birth to a baby, it usually isn't a simple straightforward process. First of all, we pray and make plans about when we are ready to consider having a baby. This often involves having other things in place like us both being ready to have this child, time, employment and a bedroom for the baby. Later on, many practical things get put in place like hospital visits, decorating, buying furniture equipment and clothes. Eventually, when you are both very aware of the enormity of what is to happen, the birth takes place. Unless you are very blessed, this is a lengthy and painful time.
Once the baby is born, you then have much to learn as you adapt to caring for this little one, which is very precious and you want to give it the best you can of your prayer, love, care and energy.
Should 'birthing' a group be any different? Often we hope we can make a few calls, choose a date, get some manuals - and off we go! But, this is often not how things happen..... Consider all the things we had to put in place to birth a baby - birthing a group is often similar.
Thinking back to birthing a baby, sometimes we pray and make plans, but we cannot conceive. We spend some joyous months optimistic of the outcome, but then our plans start to have sadness and failure mixed with them. Is this the same for birthing a group? I think so.
Sometimes the failure to conceive is because there is something fundamentally wrong with one or both of us. We then have to deal with those problems and consider other ways to help us achieve this goal such as IVF or even adoption. If our plans to birth a group aren't working out, perhaps we need to consider different way to achieve this such as visiting couples one by one, visiting pastors or churches that we haven't been to before or following up couples who have already shown interest in a group beforehand but never started one.
Sometimes the failure to conceive is not a fault of either of us, but we just take longer to conceive than we would expect. If you don't think your efforts to birth a group are what God wants, then PUSH through that. (Pray Until Something Happens)
I hope that this will encourage many of you to consider birthing a group and not be put off by the challenge this can be!
|Tuesday, July 12, 2016|
|Flowers, Weeds and Good Intentions|
When we bought a house that had been long neglected, we hired a landscaper to help us rescue and develop our yard. I asked her one day, "How can you tell a weed from a plant you want? They all have flowers." Her answer was classic, "It just depends on what you want to grow in your yard."
That day I learned that weeds can be as beautiful as flowers we intentionally plant. They just have different consequences when they grow. For one thing, weeds seem to have seeds that are carried by the wind or that are hearty enough to grow unattended when they hit the ground. They don't seem to need water or any kind of care. they flourish and multiply in all kinds of weather conditions. And they come back year after year despite harsh winters or dry seasons.
By contrast, cultivated flowers need a lot of TLC. They must be watered, and fertilized, and debugged as necessary. Some of them don't do well in hot son and others don't do well without it. An unexpected frost can destroy their buds and possibly even kill the plant. Rodents and other pests love to eat them. All in all, it takes constant work to keep them healthy and thriving.
Marriage is a lot like a garden. Some things we work at planting and other things seem to grow by themselves. On the surface, they may all appear to be equal, but after a time the weeds begin to become a problem. Weeds in a marriage are things we kind of just drift into. They are habits or activities that may begin even by accident, but seem to be okay. We may even enjoy them, but as they grow over time, they become a problem for the two of us.
For instance, a couple may work hard to cultivate an active reaction time together. They may purposefully plan outings or take hikes together on weekends. Being together and being active is something they value. Then one day one of them has the opportunity to join with a group of men (or women, depending on the spouse) who engage in similar activities. At first it seems like a wonderful opportunity to continue their life pattern of activity even if the other spouse is busy or not able to go that day. As time goes by, though, the new group takes more and more time and interest of the participating spouse. Soon times together as a couple are few and far between. The other spouse decides he or she still loves to get out and be active so that spouse joins some other group that affords that opportunity. Before long the couple finds they no longer enjoy times together, but are more active with their separate groups. A weed has grown in their garden and is robbing life from their relationship.
Another weed can begin as small seeds of words, maybe a sarcastic comment or a cutting remark. Those words may even make you feel good at the moment. At first it seems like only a quick response in that situation, but left to grow it can become a pattern of interaction between spouses. Instead of cultivating life-giving words to each other, it becomes easier to just react and then react again. The weed is taking hold.
Intentional cultivation takes work. It requires being aware of what we are planting and being willing to help the good seeds grow. It means recognizing weeds when they first start and getting rid of them quickly. And realizing that sometimes the beauty of the weeds can be deceiving. Recognizing what is growing and deciding what we want to cultivate in our relationship is totally our choice. "It just depends on what you want to grow in your yard."
|Saturday, April 23, 2016|
|Glasses-Full, Empty, and In Between|
I once heard someone say that if you think the glass is half-full, you must have drunk the first half. That may be true, but the question of whether or not a glass is perceived as half-full or half-empty has always intrigued me. A glass that is halfway full or halfway empty really looks the same. It all depends on your point of view and I guess that is the whole point of the discussion.
It is said that the optimist sees the glass half-full. I know that is true. I live with an optimist and every cloud has a silver lining. Sometimes I tell him, "You just don't understand how bad this is!" I clearly see when a glass is half empty! I expect it to be full and when it isn't, that means it is half empty. Michael, though, expects it to be filled any minute and so it is on its way there when half of it is full. I see the black smudge on the wall and he sees the wall with only an almost imperceivable little spot.
I remember one time when a pastor decided he did not want to work with 2=1 and, because he lived in a small town, soon other pastors joined him in the boycott. I was terribly upset and wanted to contact people and set the record straight. Michael, on the other hand, said to just let it ride itself out. "In a couple years," he said, "they won't remember the problems of this hour, only the name of a ministry that can help marriages." Sure enough, a couple years later a pastor from that town contacted us and asked for couples in his church to be trained as coaches. Once again, the glass was filling. I guess we need both half-full and half-empty people.
It seems to me, though, that a major part of the discussion should center around the size of the glass. A large glass that is half-empty, still can hold more than a small glass that is half-full. Isaiah 54:2 says, "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes." I think God's plan is, if we increase our capacity to give out to others, our glass is bigger and, half-full or half-empty, we still have more to give. God doesn't seem to be limited by people's outlooks. A half-empty big glass holds more than a half-full little glass any day of the week!
|Saturday, April 16, 2016|
|Aphids, Spidermites, and Other Little Things|
One of the biggest problems we face in our organic garden is tiny little pests, aphids and spider mites in particular. They are so small that they are hard to detect. Usually the first signs that they are present is when plants begin to die. By then the little critters have a substantial head start.
There are many chemical solutions to this problem, but our goal it to keep chemicals out of our garden. So we resort to simpler, healthier ways of dealing with them. We have tried varying degrees of warfare and have found that introducing other bugs, their natural enemies, into the garden works best. In a short amount of time it seems all the little pests have been eliminated. Yet, it only seems that way. Before long the telltale signs begin to appear that the little pests are back.
Marriage is a lot like that. It's those tiny little things that are hardly noticeable that begin to eat away at our relationship. By the time we really notice them, they have become well established. Sometimes when we are experiencing the effects of the attack, we begin to blame each other. It's like using those harsh chemicals in our organic garden. We may have seen the problem, but harsh accusations damage our relationship more than help it heal.
No, the key to our healing is just like in the garden. We need to bring in life that overcomes the attack. The Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit when applied with faith will overcome any attack the enemy brings against us. It takes a bit longer when we have allowed the enemy to get a foothold, but it never fails to work.
We need to examine our marriage daily as if under a microscope. Those tiny "pests" that create such havoc in our lives are totally visible to the Holy Spirit, long before we can see them. And they keep coming back and trying to establish themselves in our marriage once again. If we submit our lives to Him, He will alert us early when the attack is underway. And we can get victory a lot sooner!
Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes. Song of Solomon 2:15
|Sunday, April 10, 2016|
|Sow and Reaping and Sowing|
It is hard to describe in words the joy of my heart when I was able to harvest the first vegetables from our garden. I watched each one grow daily, sometimes by the hour. I would stand in the garden and praise the Lord for the wonder of what was happening.
My mom and dad had a beautiful garden every summer for many years. It always looked so easy when they planted and cared for it. And they always had a bountiful harvest. They firmly believed the first fruits belong to the Lord and so they taught me to always give away the first things that grow in your garden. That was, no doubt, one of the keys to their success.
So I knew the first fruits were not ours, but it was painful to give away that first tomato, and zucchini and cucumber and all the rest. I had waited for them for so long, but somehow that act of releasing them helped me increase my faith that the Lord would provide more. And that He did! Maybe that's what giving away the first fruits is all about. Our harvest grew, not to my wondrous expectations, but we finally had enough vegetables to make some great salads.
Then one day, the growing season ceased and a new revelation became evident. I had not planted anything new. We had enjoyed the harvest and exhausted the garden, but we had nothing new coming up. Quickly I planted new seeds, but it would be long time before they grew and matured and another harvest would come forth.
Sometimes it’s like that in our marriage. We sow good seed into our relationship and before long a new harvest begins to come forth. It is wonderful! Our prayers have been answered. We are enjoying great blessings in our marriage and seeing new victories. We thank the Lord for His blessing and rejoice at the changes we see.
Yet while we enjoy the new harvest, we forget to continue sowing good seed. One day the harvest runs out and we experience a dry season as we scramble to sow new seed into our relationship.
One thing our garden has taught us – Always Be Sowing! That way one harvest overtakes another. And that giving of the first fruits is a valuable lesson for a marriage as well, but that's for another day.
While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22
|Thursday, April 7, 2016|
|The Garbage Gene|
I am convinced there must be a gene on that long chromosomal line that carries a tolerance for overflowing garbage. And in our marriage, my husband got it and I didn’t.
For some reason Michael believes that every trashcan should be filled to capacity before it gets emptied. I think it is some kind of trash fulfillment program that recognizes that each trash bag only gets one chance in life. So in our home, each one gets to fulfill its destiny to the fullest.
I, on the other hand, have some kind of radar that begins to go off as soon as the trash can is about two third’s full. From that point on I watch as each new item gets added, feeling that maximum level has surely been reached. About the time that trash reaches the top of the container, I notify Michael that it is time to take it out.
Michael, undaunted by my premature prediction, simply pushes down as hard as possible on the trash and compacts it. “There,” he says, “It’s good for another two days.” So once again I watch as each new item is added to the compacted mass. And, again, as it reaches the top, I announce it is time to take it out. Michael, again, solves the problem by pushing it down.
So, by the time it will no longer compact, it weighs a lot more than you would ever anticipate a trash bag could. Thank God they are making them super strong and stretchable now. We don’t have to worry about spillage, only hernia repair.
Michael and I will probably never see trash in the same way. Maybe you have a similar issue in your marriage. We have tried a number of approaches in the past.
- I just take out the trash when I think it is ready.
- Michael takes out the trash when I think it is ready, but makes it very obvious I am wrong and he is suffering because of it.
- I tolerate the trash build up, but make it obvious that I think he is wrong and I am suffering because of it.
Finally, I bought a much bigger trash can. Now it takes longer for us to reach the point of decision.
Maybe not the best solution, but it is one of those things that we will probably never agree on. Is it worth strife and conflict? Not really. Neither one of us is 100% right and neither one of us is 100% wrong. We just have different approaches to the same issue.
There are many things like that in a marriage relationship. Choose your battlegrounds carefully. Not everything is majorly important. We can get hung up on things that just aren’t done the way we want when, in the end, it probably doesn’t matter.
In fact, I’ve even started wondering how much trash he really can compact in that container. Sometimes it even impresses me.
Make every effort to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace [each individual working together to make the whole successful]. Ephesians 4:3 9 Amp)
|Wednesday, April 6, 2016|
|Sowing in Harvest Time|
|Monday, March 28, 2016|
|Marriage and Lush Lawns|
In the nineties we had just moved into a new home on almost two acres of pretty lush grass, rolling hills and shade trees. There was a long lane to the house and as I drove home one day I was pondering how smooth and green the entire yard looked. That evening my husband and I were going to spend some quiet time in prayer with the Lord. He suggested we stroll around the yard and up to the back hill to sit and enjoy the sunset with God.
As we walked past the garage I noticed an area in our "lush green" grass that had some of those ugly weeds that have one root in the ground but somehow the tops spread and spread to cover some of the lawn in that area. We were both so surprised to see it and our immediate reaction was to make a note to buy weed killer the next day to eradicate it from our lawn. We then started walking again and part way up the back hill we came upon an area where a barn for horses had previously been. Here there was an area that had lots of pebbles and rocks just scattered and mixed into our nice grass. Again we hadn't expected to find that and we agreed that the next day we'd take the wheel barrel and rake up there and remove this irritating gravel that didn't look nice and was difficult to walk on. So on we strolled till we reached the top of the back hill where we intended to sit on a soft grassy rug. Wow! This was really a shock. There was a whole spot about two yards around that was totally bare. Bare! Nothing was growing there at all. We were seeing that our perfect lush lawn had issues for sure. So we agreed that when we went to the store the next day we'd also buy quality grass seed to lovingly plant and cultivate till the area was no longer bare.
As soon as we discussed this the Lord spoke to my heart and said "Now do you see the Biblical principle I have been trying to show you?" That took me by surprise. I thought we were just working to help our lawn be beautiful. So I asked the Lord what He meant. (When the Lord drops a revelation into your heart and mind it is so full and brilliant, though many times very simple and to the point.)
He said to me "When you saw the place with the horrible twisted weeds, and the ugly rocky area and finally a spot that was totally, absolutely bare you did not get angry with the yard and immediately decide to call a realtor the next day and demand a for sale sign be placed out by the street to get rid of this horrible situation. Your response was to get weed killer, work to remove the rocks, and plant and nurture good grass seed; to restore your lawn so it would truly be as pretty as it appeared from the other end of the long lane. Most couples are willing to work harder to improve their lawns then their marriages. They are more involved in wanting "things" they own to be cared for than the precious gift of their marriage. Please pray for couples to not put "For Sale" signs out over their marriages but to come to Me for weed killer, removal of hurtful rocky spots, and healing for the bare areas in their hearts and marriages."
" For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37
|Friday, March 25, 2016|
|Much to Learn|
Three years ago our son built us an indoor garden area. I had always wanted to garden year round, but in Colorado that is impossible outside. So he created three large raised beds, filled them with soil, and set up a watering system. My dream had come true!
Unfortunately, my enthusiasm far exceeded my knowledge of gardening. I planted my seeds and watered them faithfully. Before long some of them grew into beautiful plants. Some of them never germinated. I was happy with what did grow, though, and began making plans for how I would distribute all the food I was going to harvest. I decided that Michael and I wouldn't need all that much, so we could easily share our abundance with the rest of the family. I pictured overflowing bushel baskets being carted out the door by one person after another. I couldn't wait to see the harvest!
Weeks passed and many of the plants blossomed with all different colors of flowers. They only served to heighten my anticipation of the bountiful harvest that was coming. As the days went by, though, the blossoms fell from the plants and no vegetables grew. I was disappointed but thought that perhaps the plants had to mature a bit before they began producing. I waited for the next round of flowers and again dreamed of the bounty to come.
When those blossoms all fell off and no vegetables began to grow I decided it was time to get help. I went to a local gardening store and shared my problem with the owner. "How do you pollinate them indoors?," she asked. Pollinate? I thought that just happened naturally. "Well," she continued, "there are no bees or other insects indoors so there is no way for them to be pollinated. You will have to do it."
I returned home feeling like the dumbest farmer on the planet. I had failed Reproduction 101. I found a little makeup brush and the next time flowers appeared, I began to mix pollen from one to another. At that point I still didn't understand the how to distinguish between male and female blossoms, but the Lord gave me grace and things began to grow. From that starry-eyed beginning, I have produced just about enough food to feed Michael and myself if we are willing to fast a lot. But I am learning and the crops are growing and if I continue to win the battle with the aphids and spider mites, the harvest will continue to increase.
I have realized that marriage is much like a garden. We enter into it with starry-eyed wonder and have all kinds of plans and dreams that we can't wait to see happen. Yet, as a couple, we are much like I was with our garden. We really know very little about how marriage is designed and all that it takes to produce good fruit. Just like the seeds I planted, some of our plans don't germinate. They never come to life. Others begin to grow but we don't always know what it takes to keep them growing. And, as with the aphids and spider mites, there are obstacles and challenges that we face as a couple.
I think that is why God placed the first couple in a garden. He wanted them to learn His life-giving principles that would cause their marriage to grow and flourish. He wanted them to understand how marriage is to bring forth life, not only children, but spiritual life as well that can be shared with others. The dream I had of bushel baskets of harvest should be our vision for our marriage as well. Our marriage should produce so much life that we can't contain it all and we can give it away to others. I think some of the keys for that kind of marriage are found in the garden.
The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. Genesis 2:8.15