BLACKBERRIES, STICKERS AND COBBLER

June 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By DiAne Gates –

PRAYER: Father in Heaven, thank you for the miracle of Your creation, the love of family and friends and memories; but most of all, thank you for loving us and sending Jesus to die for our sins.

Springtime in Florida was a multi-colored landscape of green, buttercup yellow, and pastel pink. Delicate white blooms dotted prickly vines along roadsides and covered fence lines. Transparent flowers with pollen-filled centers, swayed in the breeze. Honey bees buzzed.

Lumpy, green balls replaced blossoms to confirm this was the perfect patch. We watched those hard green spheres balloon into hundreds of scarlet berries. And sunny days and spring rains urged their transformation into plump, luminous, blackberries.

The berries ripened. Our family piled into our ‘57 Ford, and headed toward our berry patch alongside a country road near the marshes of the St. Johns River, outside Jacksonville, Florida. The Gooding family joined this annual first-blackberry-picking-day.

Parents set boundaries and issued warnings about snakes, stickers and sandspurs. They might as well-a’-been-talkin’ to the wind. We grabbed our buckets and raced down the slope to be first to find the biggest blackberry in the patch.

We scrambled here and there, hoping to find the berry of the day—waiting to be picked by someone—hopefully me. Truth is, we ate as many as we picked, evidenced by toothy grins smeared with tell-tale black juice tinting our lips, our tongues, and grimy fingers.

During one of those scrambles Elaine lost her balance, bounced bottom first down the sandy slope, and landed right in the middle of a sticker-filled-cactus-patch.

Her wails brought an end to this event. Two dads carried the wounded berry-picker to the car where she laid, face-down across our laps, and cried all the way home.

Moms washed the black treasures, then mixed ingredients for the anticipated cobbler. My dad churned homemade vanilla ice cream that would crown the scrumptious berries already bubbling in the oven.

Elaine’s dad had the unpleasant task of removing those nasty stickers from her backside.

I’ll admit, we were not sympathetic onlookers. She had spoiled our fun. We snickered and giggled, sneaking peeks around the corner with every shriek of pain—secretly grateful it wasn’t one of us.

Glasses of iced tea, lemonade with mint sprigs, warm bowls filled with black-berry cobbler, piled with homemade ice cream, however, proved our berry picking day a success.

We lingered in the backyard, swaying in wooden swings hanging by gnarled ropes from aged oak trees as the last moments of the day slipped away. But fireflies flashed in the hedges and a new chase was on, to see who could capture the biggest, brightest insect.

Everyone but Elaine, who stood with her bowl of cobbler.

I no longer search country lanes, but drive to Walmart and buy expensive, tasteless berries, picked before they’re ripe, packed in plastic—not a kid’s bucket—only to find a layer of moldy ones on the bottom.

These days I sit on the patio to watch the day fade into evening while the latest accounts of troubling information blare on the evening news and my grandchildren text me in three word sentences.

I recall these joyful memories while one or two fireflies dart in the bushes around our pond and marvel that times change but God is forever sovereign and on the Throne.

My grandchildren will never experience the excitement of beating friends to the biggest blackberry in the patch, or catching the brightest firefly in their jar, or joining lighthearted conversation with grown-ups.

Memories of a tummy full of cobbler and fresh homemade ice cream, wrapped in the blanket of love family and friends provide, holding my jar full of God’s miraculous lights, are tucked into the secret places of my heart.

Precious memories this world of technology will never duplicate.

But They Desired a King

June 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

In December of 1620, a ragged band of pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, running from the King of England, searching for the freedom to worship the Almighty God. It cost them, and most of our founding fathers, their lives. But their determination to maintain their allegiance to God birthed a nation—under God—the United States of America.

And as long as Americans pledged their allegiance to the God of our Fathers, He blessed our land, our people and our children.

But the seed of Adam’s sin infects every generation. Just like in the Garden of Eden, man still struggles with the sin of rebellion against God. Each of us must decide where to place our allegiance. Each of us must choose the laws we will follow. Each of us chooses to give our love and our heart either to God or to Satan.

There is no middle ground. “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NAS).

We are no different from our ancestors, all the way back to Adam and Eve. We think we’re different because we’ve tossed mud into the waters of the sovereignty of God, hoping our pitiful attempts to obscure His truth in education will silence His Word. But God’s Word will remain forever, in spite of our futile efforts to diminish, twist, and destroy it.

God is the same God in Genesis that He is in 2013. His ways are the same. His authority is the same. His power is the same. And His judgments are the same.

Fifty-one percent of Americans are screaming for a king. Fifty-one percent of Americans want nothing to do with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Fifty-one percent of Americans desire a government like other nations who have either a dictator or a king.

And God will give the people what their hearts desire.

Just like He did to the Israelites who stood on the border of the land God and assigned their loyalty to ten lying spies who refused to believe God’s Word and His promise. And that choice cost those folks forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Until they died.

Choices bring consequences.

Refusal to address sin and rebellion in our lives, in our families, and in our nation is a refusal to seek God’s presence. Without Him there will always be chaos.

What will it cost Americans if we continue to reject the Lord God Almighty and pursue the desire to be like the other nations? What will the consequences be if this fifty-one percent grows to seventy-five percent? What will become of our young people, our grandchildren, being schooled in the murky waters of Day Age, Evolutional Creation, self-worship, pride, homosexuality, infanticide and millions of other deceptions writhing in the cesspools of evil?

Are you satisfied with Jesus? Does your heart truly belong to Him? Is He your Lord, your God, and your King?

Or does your heart desire another king?

A Stirring of the Heart

May 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

It can begin with a thought, a song, a word. Or perhaps an emotional tug that swirls through your heart like a recurring melody that won’t go away. For a moment, a day, maybe much longer. Ever whispering. Ever nudging. Ever growing.

That is, if you listen.

In the beginning, God’s Holy Spirit moved over the dark, formless void of the waters and stirred them in preparation for His magnificent work of creation. This same Spirit now rouses the believer’s heart to accomplish the Lord’s sovereign plan in this age.

Have you experienced this flow of the Spirit that moves through you like a current? How do you respond? Have the crashing tidal waves of life drowned the sound of His whisper and swept you away from the blessing of obedience? Or have you disciplined yourself to be still, to be quiet, and tuned your ear to hear when the Spirit of God stirs your heart?

If you turn away from the Spirit’s prompting, He will find another heart. A heart that desires to please God. Another heart that will do what you refused to do and you will miss the blessing. But if you choose to allow the Spirit to fill you, you will become like a mighty river that swells and grows with purpose and direction under the power of God’s hand.

In 539 B.C., God stirred the heart of Cyrus, King of Persia, just as Isaiah prophesied.

“It is I who says of Cyrus, He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire. And he declares of Jerusalem, She will be built and of the temple, Your foundation will be laid” (Isaiah 44:28 NAS).

God called Cyrus by name, one hundred seventy-five years before he was born. His purpose was already anointed and at the appointed time, the Holy Spirit stirred this king’s heart. And Cyrus listened.

He released those Israelites whose hearts were also moved by the Spirit of God to return to Jerusalem to build a house for the Lord God. And Cyrus paid all the building costs.

Then the king went into the treasuries of Babylon and brought out all the vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had removed from God’s temple, before he destroyed and burned Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and Cyrus returned them to the new temple in Jerusalem.

The Book of Ezra records how God moved the heart of this pagan king, the Jewish people, the priests and the Levites to rebuild the House of God and the Holy City of God at the appointed time.

But how about your appointed time? How long has it been since the Spirit of God stirred your heart? To rebuild a broken relationship. To listen for the whisper of the Spirit’s direction to complete God’s plan in your family, your church, or your nation. To anoint you as a conduit to pour out His love, His grace and His mercy on the hurting folks your life touches every day.

The Book of James tells us faith without action is dead faith. To maintain true faith we must be continually stirred, filled and spilled by the Spirit’s work in our hearts.

“For just as the body without the Spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26 NAS).

Daddy, It’s Dark and I’m Afraid

April 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

It’s dark and I’m afraid.

What mom or dad hasn’t heard these words? Many times. And what did you say to that frightened child? Be quiet and go to sleep? Did you fuss and tell your child you needed to sleep? Or did you get up, go to your son or daughter and lovingly give them proper comfort and instruction?

But where does a parent go when shadows fall like a shroud and pitch you into the depths of unknown terror?

If you haven’t been there yet, just wait. It will come.

Twenty years ago, my husband had an aneurysm rupture in his leg. Petrifying weeks followed as we waited to see if he would loose his life or his leg. Waited to see if he would be able to work or still have a job. Waited for that time of unequivocal darkness to pass.

Until job loss, heart attacks, financial distress, deaths—all long black tunnels of fear—sucked the light from our lives and plunged us into the inky abyss of anguish. We couldn’t hop over ‘em, dig under ‘em, or run around ‘em. I sobbed, “Abba, Father, it’s so dark and I’m afraid.”

And when I cried, my Father was faithful to hold me, comfort me, and give me His strength. Strength to put one foot in front of the other. One step at a time. And travel with Him through the sightless night back into the light. During that time, I feared I might stumble and die in the process.

But God taught me there were lessons I must learn in the dark. Lessons I can’t see in the bright light of day. Lessons I must learn in the discipline of darkness.

This discipline required me to walk in lock-step with the Lord Jesus, forced me to focus on His face, instead of the things that creak and groan in the night. And reminded me to call out, “Daddy, I’m afraid.”

I only do that when I’m forced to abide behind the sooty curtains of heartache.

God shines the truth of His love on me in the light of day. But in the darkroom of trouble, He develops the knowledge and understanding of my faith in Him. Then I see the profane and unclean things lurking in my mind, things I have refused to acknowledge in times of blessing. I see pitfalls and traps that would have entangled me, had I not slowed my pace and clung to Jesus. And I am convinced it is better to walk with God in the dark than to stand alone in the light.

But as sure as day follows night, turmoil will pass and His light, like the sunrise, will disburse trials and tragedies. I will blossom again, strengthened by His comfort to know when darkness returns all I have to do is cry, “Abba, Father—Daddy— I’m afraid.”

And if you’re His child, He will wrap you in His arms of comfort and carry you through ’til morning. Because He loves you.

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15 NAS).

“What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee” (Psalm 56:3 NAS).

A Time and Place to Linger

March 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

Christmas 2012 is over. The decorations cleaned and stored for next year, and the residue of the season swept into the vacuum, the trash or the washing machine. Tablecloths, dishtowels, and napkins, however need a deeper cleansing. A time and place for them to linger, in a sink filled with hot water and Oxi-Clean to remove the stains inflicted by holiday festivities

If you’re like me, you’ve incurred a few stains during the holidays too. The stain and depression of remembering those not with you at the table or around the tree. The stain of disappointments and failures. Unfulfilled expectations. Relationships gone awry. The stain of guilt and fear of what has been and what’s yet to come.

So what’s next? Do we rush into the New Year, counting the days ‘til Easter, worrying over the state of our nation, our family, our world? Thinking of Resurrection Sunday and spring, attempting to sweep the stains under the carpet of life and just keep on keeping on?

The sun peeked through my window this morning and I found my mind skipping along the precipice of depression. A deep sadness burrowed deep in my soul. ‘Til I heard the Spirit whispering words I have typed throughout the holidays. Born to Die.

Yes, we’ve celebrated the miracle of the virgin birth of God’s Lamb. But that baby, that Lamb was born to die. And the Spirit whispered again—linger here.

Linger at the Cross. Don’t rush to the empty tomb—linger at the foot of the Calvary.

But I don’t like to linger anywhere, much less at the Cross. It’s a hard place. It’s ugly. And it’s uncomfortable. I see so much suffering every day. I’ve grown tired and desensitized to blood and suffering. I am war weary—at home and across the world.

The Spirit said, “all the more reason you must learn to linger at the Cross and contemplate the Lamb, born to die so that you might live in His joy, His peace and His love.”

That old hymn played through the corridors of my mind. “There’s power, power, wonder working power. In the blood of the Lamb.” Then another melody stirred. “There is a fountain, filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains…”

I thought about those linens soaking in the sink. In the power of Oxi-Clean. All their stains disappearing. A rapid cycle through the washing machine didn’t remove the smudges—they needed soaking. They needed to linger in the power of a stain remover.

The Spirit took my face and turned my eyes to the miraculous power of the blood of Jesus. The power that His blood has to remove all the stains sin has ground into the pages of my life. I needed to linger and soak in that fountain of my Lord’s powerful blood this morning. Every morning and remember the Cross.

Our journey through life on earth is messy. The filth of rebellious choices, a prideful heart, and selfish actions and what-ifs that had clung to my blemished soul and seeped to the surface needed a good soaking—a daily soaking in the deluge that still flows from the Cross.

Stop awhile and ponder the Cross and the love of a Savior—born to die—for you and me. Linger there. Allow the depression and weariness to vaporize in the power of the blood of the Lamb—our Savior, our Lord and soon coming King.

Behold the Lamb!

“And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came, and He took (the book) out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne…and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb…and they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy art Thou to take the book and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Revelation 5:10 NAS).

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