The Tough Flower in my Garden

November 30, 2020 by  
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By DiAne Gates –

SCRIPTURE: “And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

Summer before last, I purchased a new variety of zinnias, the miniature bushy ones. They bloomed all season in a plethora of colors, draping their smiling faces over the bricks of my backdoor flowerbed.

Then winter swooped in. Early and with great gusto. Caught by surprise, I did not have the opportunity to pull up the spent annuals and mulch the bed for the coming spring.

To my delight, when spring arrived, the warm soil became home for a new crop of miniature zinnias that needed no help from me. And when the harsh Texas winter was followed by the most severe drought we’d experienced in decades, those tough little plants thrived and bloomed in even greater abundance than the year before.

Now I’m a quick study in the gardening department. I purchased three packages of their larger cousins to frame these border darlings. Those seeds also produced hardy plants with spectacular blossoms in red, purple and yellow, all summer long. While my plumerias and roses, orchids and daisies struggled to maintain life in the 110 plus afternoon heat, the $2.50 packages of zinnia seeds flourished and embellished our landscape with vivid color.

One pleasant fall afternoon, I sat in my yard swing, the spent zinnia heads in my lap, and removed seeds from each dried blossom. Every flower produced at least fifty or more seeds. What a harvest! Now that I had learned the secret of this tough flower of garden annuals, I envisioned flowerbeds this spring that would explode into patches of brilliant color.

In Genesis 1:29 God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth. . . ”

I looked at the bags of seeds I’d collected and thanked God for His multiplied provision for the next year’s garden, but asked forgiveness for countless seeds of His goodness I’ve wasted through the years, both in my garden and in my life.

In times of abundance, I’ve taken God’s blessings for granted and foolishly squandered the gifts He poured out on me. But when hard times come, and they always do, I’m quick to faint and cry for His help.

I’ve become like a hothouse plant that needs constant care from the elements of life. God places me in difficult situations to develop in me the hardiness and colorful beauty of a zinnia—able to thrive in all conditions. His desire is that I develop the ability to bloom for Him in every season, so that like that tough flower in my garden, He can multiply the harvest of my life.

Father in Heaven, help me remember when trials and hard times come You have allowed them in order to develop in me the strength, courage, and endurance that transforms me into the image of Christ Jesus as I trust You—from faith to faith.

You Can Do It

November 24, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

Last year a seminary professor came to our church and recited 2nd Timothy. All of it, from 2 Timothy 1:1 to 2 Timothy 4:22. Sound amazing? Perhaps even impossible?

And yet, pause now and think about all the songs you sing to on the radio–those you know word for word. Add to them the commercial slogans and theme songs you know.

When my daughter was seven or eight, the church we attended had a contest. The child who could memorize the most verses won an American Girl doll. My daughter memorized 51 verses in four weeks. Sound unbelievable? Like she’s a super child? Nope. She just wanted the doll.
It’s not that we can’t memorize. We memorize all the time. The question is what are we filling our brains with?

Think back to your favorite song. There was a time when it was new to you, but the more you listened to it and tried to sing along, the more familiar it became until familiarization turned to memorization.

I believe we can do the same with Scripture, which leads me to my next question—Why don’t we?

I think there are a few reasons.

First, we lack confidence. I don’t think we realize how truly phenomenal the human brain is.

Second, we lack follow through. I’m talking to myself now. Where I tend to pray, I have slips of paper with verses written on them–verses I wanted to memorize. Yet five months later, I’ve hardly given those verses a second glance. Think back to my song analogy. We don’t learn the songs we don’t listen regularly to, right?

Third, I think we lack focus. Again, talking to myself about those verses in my basement. I started with one that seemed to pop out at me one morning while reading Scripture. Soon, another verse spoke to me, so I wrote it down. Now I have a stack of verses to memorize with no clear plan as to how I’m going to do it. I need focus.

Now imagine what we might do, how we might grow, if we approached verse memorization with confidence, followed through, and operated with a clear focus. I imagine our faith would grow, peace would ensue, and Satan would start running for cover.

Spring Forward

November 18, 2020 by  
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By Candace McQuain –

In my opinion, springtime is by far the loveliest of seasons. It ushers out the cold and harshness of winter and welcomes the long, carefree days of summer. When spring arrives, it brings with it fresh, new life. Flowers burst into perfect full bloom, as if thanking their Maker with all of the colors of the rainbow. Trees dance in the gentle spring breeze, displaying their splendid new growth with stunning shades of green and red.

So what do we humans do in the spring? Well, many of us clean and organize areas of our homes. Baseball fans prepare with eager anticipation for the first pitch. And many of us just sit back whenever our crazy schedules allow to enjoy the mild weather and beautiful sights around us.

But should we be doing more? Don’t we have as much to offer and eagerly show off as God’s botanical creations do?

After a long pity party involving an insane amount of chocolate and Lifetime movies, I learned that the answer is most certainly yes. My woe-is-me, somebody-give-me-a-break-right-now attitude had consumed me, but a tugging at my heart was undeniable.

During a commercial in the middle of one of my chick flicks, I saw a post on Facebook. Nope, it wasn’t about a new recipe or someone “checking-in” somewhere, just a simple, relevant Bible verse.

“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 NIV).

With tears and mascara streaming down my face, desperate for God to fill the huge void that had overcome me, I called out and asked Him to tell me about those great and mighty things.

Within the next few hours, through a divine set of circumstances and encouraging words from friends completely unaware of my state of mind, God showed me something very powerful.

He did not create me to sit around and wait to fit into someone else’s opportunity. He gave me unique abilities that only I possess, that only I can use, that only I can devote to glorify Him.

I’m no different than the flowers that bloom or the trees that flourish, each one, offering a distinct importance to the world around them.

We have all been blessed with gifts from God. Those valuable, one of kind gifts were not put there to lie dormant or to use only at our convenience. They were put there to bring us new life, to set us apart as His.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8 NIV).

Powerful Words, Powerful Message

November 15, 2020 by  
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By Janet Morris Grimes –

My heart beat faster with each step. I pulled the door open, bracing myself for our first meeting.

I heard his unfamiliar voice before I saw him. Different than I expected, but I wasn’t sure exactly how. He rested in a chair, seated in an office that held his name on the door. Impressive.

I leaned inside as he rose from the fabric-covered chair.

“Hi. I’m Janet.”

He smiled. “You look just like your picture.”

“Is that good or bad?” I asked. Without waiting for an answer, nor giving him the option, I hugged him. I’d waited for this moment for a long time.

He was a bit shorter than I expected, but maybe that came from seeing him through my little-girl imagination, rather than through the eyes of an the adult I had become. His words were strong and calculated, expected from a lifelong preacher. Thick, silver hair topped his tanned face. His smile was jovial, inviting me to share in his happiness.

We stepped in unison up the steps to the auditorium and down the center aisle. He placed his Bible on the lectern for his upcoming lesson. I waited in anticipation on the pew, about four rows back. This man, once my father’s best friend, spoke on the book of Hebrews.

I half-listened, wondering what it would be like if my own father were standing there, using his own version of the authoritative preacher-voice.

They’d been buddies in high school before the relationship grew into a true brotherhood while roommates at David Lipscomb College. They tackled the world of the unknown together, each of them pretending to have more answers than the other. They kept each other from studying, sharing the blame for their poor grades. They found the girls of their dreams, and then married them.

A friendship that should have lasted forever. I guess in a way, it did.

My father was killed tragically in a car accident when I was just a baby, so I had no memories of him. This led me, as an adult, to contact his best friend, Rod, with one simple request.

“Please tell me about my father?”

He shared as many memories as he could with me, describing a funny, brilliant-when-he-wanted-to-be kind of guy. A practical joker. Stubborn, but in a good way. The kind of person that thankfully matched my fairy-tale version of him.

Rod provided hand-written letters Daddy had sent while Rod served as a missionary in Africa. He shared photos, expanding on the stories that surrounded them with a faraway look in his eyes. Did he travel back to those hallways and locker rooms at Salem High School? I so wanted to travel there with him; to peer around the corner and see for myself.

Our first face-to-face meeting came to an end much too soon. But as he was leaving, he offered these words:

“Janet, your father would be so proud of you.”

And the little girl in me melted. In some ways, I think that is all I ever wanted to hear. I needed to hear my father’s voice, but Rod’s served as a great substitute.

I left there wondering how many more people need to hear that message; but not so much about their own fathers. But from God.

Don’t we all wonder what He would think of us? As we strive to make Him proud, wouldn’t it be great to hear those same words, in His voice?

If that isn’t possible, shouldn’t we serve as the role of the best friend, and tell our kids and those around us as much as we can about God. About how He moves and how He loves?

I went directly home and said to my daughter, “Your Father, in Heaven, is so very proud of you.”

I suspect that is something she has waited her entire life to hear.

Signs of the End Times? Chaotic Weather

November 9, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith Articles

By Dianne E. Butts –

It’s April and the beginning of spring. In many places, spring is the time for violent weather. We’ve certainly seen a lot in the United States in recent years.

According to Wikipedia, “the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded, and popularly known as the 2011 Super Outbreak, occurred from April 25 to 28, 2011.” Destructive tornados hit Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia. The Wikipedia article continues, “In total, 353 tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service in 21 states from Texas to New York and even isolated tornadoes in Canada. Widespread and destructive tornadoes occurred on each day of the outbreak, with April 27 being among the most prolific and destructive tornado days in United States history with a record 208 tornadoes touching down that day. Four of the tornadoes were destructive enough to be rated EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which is the highest ranking possible; typically these tornadoes are only recorded about once each year or less.”

A total of 346 people were killed as a result of those tornadoes.

Less than a month later, on Sunday afternoon, May 22, 2011, Joplin, Missouri, was struck by an EF5 multiple-vortex tornado. “It was part of a larger late-May tornado outbreak sequence and reached a maximum width of in excess of 1 mile (1.6 km) during its path through the southern part of the city,” an article on Wikipedia says. The number of deaths directly linked to the tornado: 160.

In Luke 21:25-26 Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

Do you think this Bible verse could refer to increased intensity in chaotic weather patterns on earth?

Jesus mentioned, “the roaring and tossing of the sea.” We talked last month about earthquakes and tsunamis. I’m sure you remember the tsunami that occurred after the earthquake in Japan on March 11, 2011. The tsunami was partly to blame, along with the earthquake, for the damage and resulting nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant where eventually three of six reactors went into meltdown.

Do you think God is shaking up the nations and the heavenly bodies right now? God always sends warnings before He sends judgments. But people don’t always listen. Do you believe God is shaking up the human race with earthquakes, tsunamis, and chaotic weather to get the attention of people? Or do you simply think “global warming” is to blame?

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