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Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Gardener and The Pumpkin


                                                
   (borrowed, but adapted)

Once there was a Gardener who planted seeds in His garden (show pumpkin seeds).  Each day the Gardener cared for the seeds.  He watered them, pulled weeds from around them, and sheltered them from the heat of the sun.  The seeds grew into seedlings, which developed into plants, they grew flowers that were pollinated by bees (that’s our bee reference for tonight) and other insects , and then one day, they produced fruit – pumpkins!  The pleased Gardener looked out at His garden and said, “It is good!”

One day, the Gardener went out into his field and picked a special pumpkin (place pumpkin on the table – on top of a cookie sheet or tablecloth, etc. with the uncarved side facing the audience).  It was a bit dirty from laying in the garden, so he brought it inside and gently wiped it off (wipe off exterior of pumpkin).  Now the pumpkin looked clean on the outside, but what about the inside?

The Gardener took a knife and cut open the top of the pumpkin (pretend to cut open the top again and take it off).  And what did He find?  A bunch of slimy, yucky goo! (show kids the goop).  

The Gardener wanted His special pumpkin to be beautiful, so He carefully scraped out all of the goo inside until the pumpkin was as clean inside as it was on the outside! (Remove goo and throw away. Show children the clean interior)

But the Gardener still wasn’t satisfied with the pumpkin.  He decided it needed a face!  So, He carefully cut out two eyes, a nose, and a big smiling mouth (Turn the carved side of the pumpkin to face the audience. Poke out the eyes, nose and mouth you carved out previously).  

Now the Gardener’s special pumpkin looked clean AND happy. But the Gardener still wasn’t satisfied with the pumpkin.  So, He put a light inside of it (insert candle and light it).  The pumpkin glowed so beautifully!  The Gardener’s special project was complete.

When friends and neighbors saw the Gardeners special pumpkin, they marveled at how He took something ordinary from His garden, cleaned it inside and out, put His light inside, and made it something extraordinary!

We are like pumpkins and God is the Gardener.  God creates us and cares for us. He “chooses” us from all of the other pumpkins...he picks us from the patch, brings us in and washes all of the dirt off the outside of us.  But just like the pumpkin, we have an outside and an inside.  The outside is what people see. When they pick a pumpkin...or “pick” people, they examine the outside, but the inside is what God cares about. The inside of the pumpkin is like our soul...our heart.  A pumpkin left to itself will soon rot and die.....and so will we. 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 6:23

But our soul will never die, so just like the Gardener cleaned out his pumpkin’s “yucky” stuff....God wants to clean out all of our yucky stuff....our sin, too, so that we can live with Him someday and so that we can bring others to Him.  This is what we look like to others and what we are like when are hearts are not changed.....we have all that yucky stuff inside.

The hearts of men are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live Ecclesiastes 9:3. 

He sent his Son to die for our sins, to take the punishment we deserved.  He is the only one who can change our heart, but we must become open to Him so that He can clean it out.  How can we get rid of this icky stuff?" 

I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25b-27).

He removes goopy sin and the seeds of fear, doubt, despair, hate, impurity, and greed.  Jesus was willing to take our mess upon himself, so that we might be clean.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Just like the Gardener gave the pumpkin a new face, God makes us a new creation!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

As His new creation, God tells us to share our faith with the world.  The world is dark, but as a Christian, we are light.  We are HIS light.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

When Jesus lives inside of you, you can glow!  You will let your light shine. You will want to be kind and honest. You will want to please God, to help others, and to tell other people about Jesus.  

So, when we let God clean out our sin, by believing that Jesus died to pay the punishment that we deserve, repent of our sins, and have our sins washed away, He turns us into new creations that can shine for Him!  And when others see our light, then they might want to learn how to have a light of their own. 

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Joyful and Happy? Seriously?

My brothers and sisters, be very happy when you are tested in different ways. You know that such testing of your faith produces endurance. Endure until your testing is over. Then you will be mature and complete, and you won’t need anything. 
James 1:2-4 (God's Word Translation) 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 
James 1:2-4 (NIV)

What? Really?  Seriously?  God, you except me to have joy and be happy when I'm in a trial and hurting?  Surely that can't be right!  But God says, "Yes."  And He knows just what we need!

Not one of us enjoys going through pain, trouble, and trials.  It's not fun. It's not easy.  It's not enjoyable at all.  So does God want us to be joyful and happy at these times?  The simple answer is that He knows it will help us. The difficult part is us really doing it.

Going through bad times tests our faith. Instead of relying on ourselves as we sometimes try to do, God allows problems in our lives so that we will grow in our faith and lean on Him even more.  He also knows that in doing so, we are shining our light for Jesus even more.  When we are willing to lean on Him, be joyful and happy, and let our lights shine, we are showing a lost world His Son. Jesus is who we strive to imitate and no one showed faith under trials and pain more than He did during His ministry and through His death.  He remained faithful....unto death.

Is it hard? You bet!  But Our Heavenly Father is right there with us....comforting us....strengthening us.....telling us that we can do it and that He is with us all the way.

The trials in life will come and go, but in the end, when we remain faithful, we will persevere. We will become mature and complete.  Satan will be defeated!  We won't lack anything.  Anything.

If you are going through a trial right now, rest assured that God loves you, and He is with you.  He is faithful to His promises, so put your faith in Him.  His love will never fail you.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Such a Time as This....

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14

Why am I here?
What is my purpose?
What is God's plan for my life?

Do you ever ask yourself these questions?  Do you ever wonder why you live where you live? Why you're doing what you're doing?

I think we all probably do, from time to time.  We aren't sure we're doing what created us to do. We're not sure we are seeing the bigger picture that He sees, and how we fit into that picture.  But sometimes we must just have the faith that there is a reason.  We must trust His plan for us until He directs us in another direction.

I love the story of Esther.  She is an example for all of us about how she used where she was at time time to save her people.  The scriptures up above are so good for us...especially that last phrase....for such a time as this.

Maybe there is something going on in your life and you're not quite sure why you are where you are.  Maybe you're not sure why you are in the situation you are in.  But maybe, like Esther, you are where you are "for such a time as this".  Maybe God needs you right where you are at this exact moment, to further His Kingdom.  Maybe His plan is for you to be there to help someone....to teach someone....to be an example to someone.....to pray for someone.  You may not realize it now, and you may not realize it ever.  But by being "there" you are doing right what you need to be doing.

The day to day routines of life can become monotonous and routine. We may not think that we're doing much at all.  But, most likely, we are.  We may be doing big things.  Very big things for God.  Perhaps you are just where you are for "such a time as this".

Friday, October 25, 2013

CALL IT BOTH WAYS!

CALL IT BOTH WAYS!

It doesn't take long into a basketball season before you hear that familiar phrase. In fact, maybe you're even the one saying it! But maybe, like us, we're just the ones hearing it. Really hearing it. And it was directed towards my husband! And I didn't like it! At all!

This week was our annual elementary tournament. Several teams come to our large gym, they turn the court into two smaller courts with side goals that come down. The referees are locals - like my husband, brother-in-law, a few teachers, and a few high school basketball players. Strictly volunteers. No pay, just glad to help out the local school and visiting schools.

It didn't take long before fans (and coaches) were yelling about the calls they did make or they didn't make. They were even talked about on a small town radio station! Now before you think they really were that bad, consider that these kids are 5th and 6th graders, maybe some 4th graders. Many, if not most of them, have never played much basketball before and they're still learning the game. They're learning to dribble, to pass, to guard, to shoot, to be in the right places at the right times. And for many, at least in our town, they just finished football and went to basketball maybe two weeks ago. Not very long for practicing in their short gym period and with so many students.

Here are a few things we heard, and mine and my husband's thoughts about them afterwards:

1. Call it both ways!
What the fan really means is call it MY way. If the calls were all in his/her favor, he/she wouldn't be yelling!

2. They're walking! They're fouling! They're doing.......whatever!
Yes, they are some times. Both teams are. Look really closely and you'll notice. But, they did call it when it was bad...just not the occasional.

3. You need to call everything!!
Really? There were two teams playing at a time, starting at 4:00 and ending about 8:00. If EVERYTHING was called, it wouldn't have been over until midnight. Really. Again, what the fan means is call everything on THEM.

4. Didn't you see that?
No. Probably not. You are a ways from the action and usually up in the stands, so it's easier for you to see it than it is for a ref who can't look at everything. He/She must look at the play/action where the ball is. One of them may be back a ways, but then the offense may be blocked from their view.

5. Come on, REF!
You know what? If you really feel like the refs are that bad, why don't you become a ref yourself and make the system better! This more for paid/professional refs, of course....not the volunteers at an elementary tournament.

If you're a fan, please open your eyes to TRULY see everything that is going on. Don't look only at the other teams' offenses, but at your own. Open your mind, as well. And maybe, for once, don't open your mouth! Ha! Ha! Remember, little ones are listening to you. They're watching your example. When you yell rude things, they'll learn to do the same. And sometimes it isn't just parents, it's grandparents!

And remember, little Johnny may not grow up to be the greatest basketball player in the world. But if he's your son/daughter, grandson/granddaughter, the most important thing you can do is to be there. Even if they only sit on the bench.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Somebody Else

Last night in ladies' class, I taught a lesson called, "Be a Servant".  It's good to examine your life from time to time and see if you are doing all you can  do in your service to God.  Our greatest Christian role as a Christian is to tell others about Jesus.  That is our mission - to bring others to Him.

There are other ways to be the Lord's servant, as well.  Little things we can do that need to be done.  Jesus did menial tasks throughout His ministry, though in reality, they weren't menial at all.  They were big because serving someone else is always big in the eyes of God.

Ask yourself these questions about your Christian service:
If everyone served God the way I do, what would get done?
If everyone served God the way I do, what would be left undone?
What is one thing I can do today to be a better servant of God?

Do you do all that you can do?  Do I?  Maybe we don't, and just maybe it’s because we think Somebody Else will do it.

SOMEBODY ELSE
There’s a clever young guy named Somebody Else,
There’s nothing this guy can’t do.
He is busy from morning till way late at night,
Just substituting for you.
You’re asked to do this or you’re asked to do that
And what is your reply?
Get Somebody Else to do that job,
He’ll do it much better than I.
So much to do in this weary old world
So much and workers so few,
And Somebody Else, all weary and worn,
Is still substituting for you.
-Author Unknown

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Story of Spoon

My husband, Joe, has a Border Collie named Spoon that is a goat herder. He lived in a pen by himself, but next to one of our son's show goats.

Spoon got plenty of exercise, running with my husband often, plus herding the goats from time to time, but lately Spoon had been getting out of his pen and coming to the house to visit.

A few weeks ago, Spoon got out and ran to over to a field that has some of our older goats, plus two Great Pyrenees goat dogs, named Ranger and Chow. Also in that field is a neighbors' horse!

So now Spoon lives with the two other dogs, two old goats, and a horse that is visiting for a while. What a neat blended family!

This story makes me smile!  The thought that Spoon wanted to live somewhere else is so interesting to me!  Spoon didn't ever live with those other goats, or the other dogs, or the horse.  But the really interesting thing is that from his pen, he couldn't even see that field!  Maybe when he got out he saw it. Maybe that's how he became interested in that other field.  Maybe he knew that was where he belonged.  It just felt right.

Now, I'm not saying if you are feeling like something is wrong in your home you should leave! Not at all!  But, let's make a spiritual application to Spoon's story.

We can think of the big, open field as the church.  The church is world-wide, established on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.  Many spend their lives searching and searching for something, yet they don't know what.  They are searching for God....for Jesus.  They want to belong to Him, but they just may not yet realize it.  When they do, they are added, by Him, to the church.  When one gives their life to Jesus, follows God with their whole heart, and becomes a part of the church, he/she feels at home, at peace, and content.

Spoon is content, apparently.  He could choose to leave.  He could go anywhere he wanted to go, and we wouldn't be able to stop him.  But most likely he won't.  Apparently he loves his home.  He didn't feel comfortable in his own life. He wanted a new life.  He has new friends.  Not friends that look just like him, but friends who apparently 'love' him and accept him, as well.

That's what the Lord's church is designed to be like, as well.  A home for forgiven sinners, who love each other, who love the church.  The new Christian has a new life.  The new Christian has a new family - their brothers and sisters in Christ.  And he/she feels comfortable because they are surrounded by that new family and because they are in a close relationship with their Heavenly Father and their Savior.

THAT story makes me smile! :)


We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sinmight be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 
Romans 6:2-8

Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
1 Peter 1:21-23




Saturday, October 19, 2013

Happy 40th Anniversary, Mom & Dad!

Forty years ago this past July, my parents began dating.  Just three months later, they said, "I Do!"  A quick engagement!  That doesn't happen often (if at all) any more!!

They had known of each other in high school and went to college together, but had never dated.
A few years later, Mom was teaching at the time.  Dad was a farmer in his hometown, about 25 miles from her.  She moved to that small town to become a farmers' wife, continuing her teaching job.
The best part about them (for me, anyway!) getting married, was that it was a package deal.  Not only did my Dad become a husband that day.  He also became my Dad!  I was four then. The "Dad" deal was made official soon afterward, and I thank God for that!  

Thirteen months later, we added one more to our family with the birth of my sister. 

We should have taken more pictures while we were all together last weekend, but we didn't.  So, here are a few pictures of my sister and I with Mom and Dad from a few years ago.  They're just pictures of photos in frames, so not very clear.  
Surprise birthday trip with Mom.

Surprise birthday trip with Dad.

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad! We all love you!




Friday, October 18, 2013

Splendor and Majesty

For all the gods of the nations are idols,
 but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
 strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
 ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Psalm 96:5-7
Praise the Lord, my soul,
Lord my God, you are very great;
 you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
 he stretches out the heavens like a tent
 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
 and rides on the wings of the wind.
Psalm 104:1-3


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Chronicles of Biscuit: "Goin' Through the Motions"


Today I had to go to Oklahoma City, so didn't pick Biscuit up after school. On my way home, I called him. He was at the office with his dad.  It was an interesting conversation:

Me:  Hi, Biscuit! How was your day?
Biscuit:  Oh, good....you know....just goin' through the motions.
Me: Oh, really?  How do you just 'go through the motions' at school?
Biscuit: Well, you just go through the day, but you don't really know what's going on. You're just kind of 'there'.  

Well, that's interesting, isn't it???  Wonder if Biscuit just 'goes through the motions' often at school?  I'm guessing 'not' since we haven't gotten a call or text from the teachers or the PRINCIPAL!  Ha ha!!  (And Biscuit will be in BIG trouble if we DO get a call about it!!)

But Biscuit got me to thinking.....

How often do we just "go through the motions" as a Christian?  How many times do we worship Him, without really, really worshipping Him?  How many times do we sing praises to Him, yet not focus on the words? How many times do we partake of the Lord's Supper....a time of communion with Him, yet fail to focus on what He did for us.  Dying on a cross is pretty significant.  It was a huge gift that He willingly gave His life for ME and for YOU.

Maybe Biscuit's thoughts made me think just a little bit more about my worship.....and my praise.....and my communion with my Lord and Savior.  And just maybe it will make you think about yours, as well.


Family Weekend Fun

My parents are getting ready to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.  This weekend we happened to be going to see our daughter perform in a musical at college, so my sister and I also planned a meal and little surprise for them.
I didn't get a picture of them together that day, and by the time I thought about it the next day, dad had already changed from his church clothes to his overalls!  Oh, well....maybe my sister can get one of them on the 19th....their anniversary date!
 The surprise was that one of my mom's brothers and his wife came to the celebration!  It was fun surprising them!
 He's always funny, so got them this really cute card!
Later that evening, we saw Lauren perform in Will Rogers' Follies.  It was fun seeing her perform, since we don't have things like this in our small town! She enjoyed it, but was thankful to have an end to the late-night practices and having every evening tied up with something.
 I kept telling her to "break a leg", but she didn't like that much since many of the routines and dances were on really tall and steep steps!  Even her brothers enjoyed the show!
 Here she is with two of her cousins.  
We brought her flowers to help celebrate the performance.  So much fun!  

And, she's coming home for Fall Break today!  Yippee!  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Oklahoma Christian: SheSpeaks with Missy Robertson

Monday evening I had the privilege of attending the Oklahoma Christian SheSpeaks banquet, along with my sister-in-law.  
I enjoy teaching classes about manners and etiquette to students in our local 4-H club, and also at school in Life Skills class, so it was pretty neat to put those skills to good use at the banquet!  Do you know what each of the three forks are for???
The centerpieces were pretty white pumpkins wrapped with grapevine.  The table had scattered crystals around the top of the black tablecloth.  Hot pink napkins were placed in the coffee cups.  It was really neat that the coffee and tea were in vase-type containers (they probably have a fancy name that I don't know), so that we could refill our drinks ourselves, without having servers do it.
Eight-hundred guests attended the event. It grew so large that it was moved to the gymnasium, but even in the gym, the event was made to look elegant. Those chandeliers hung from metal pipe things coming out of the curtain.  You can see part of the scoreboard at the very top of the stage curtain.
Here's the program....a pretty souvenir from the event.
 And the dessert.....some kind of flan, I think.  It was pretty!
The dinner (I would say supper, but since it was a fancy thing, I'll call it dinner!) was stuffed pork loin with a yummy sauce, grilled veggies, and a stuffed baked potato.
The guest speaker was Missy Robertson, from the famous hit, Duck Dynasty.  Missy said that Hollywood was very perplexed about the popularity of Duck Dynasty. Hollywood wanted a reality show with a lot of drama and friction. But that wasn't their family.  She said, "Our reality comes from the Word, not from drama.  But then they met Uncle Si!"  And Hollywood liked him!  And now the nation likes the whole family.  Missy read Colossians 2:17, which says, "These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."
Missy's daughter, Mia, talked about being born with cleft and lip palate. She will undergo another big surgery in December.  Mia said, "God is bigger than all our problems!" And He is!  Thank you, God!


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

QMCC Ladies' Fall Retreat 2013

The annual QMCC (Quartz Mountain Christian Camp) Ladies' Fall Retreat was held last weekend. It was a Natural Beauty theme.  This cute cheese ball was PERFECT for the theme, and tasted delicious, too!!
The Rush Springs, OK ladies organized this years' retreat and did a great job! They had a funny fashion show.  
                                         
 I wish I could remember all of the names they used for this "cute" clothing fashions!
They assured us that these clothing items were "must haves" to those who care about fashion.  I'm sure you'll agree!
One really neat thing the ladies did was that ever so often, someone would ring a bell and we would all say the theme scripture together:  Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30
A fun activity was filling bags with "spa" treats: a mesh pouf, homemade lotion, bath salts that smelled wonderful, and sample sized lipstick and perfume.  
And a great activity about who WE think we are and who GOD KNOWS we are!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Be Holy and Let Your Light Shine!

As Christians, we must strive to live holy lives because we're commanded to, but also we should want to, so that we will be more like Jesus, our Savior. That is how the world will see Jesus - by Him living in us. We are lights of the world. The moment we became a Christian, we became a light. That is our job. The problem is that sometimes we don't want to be a light....or we don't want to shine too brightly. But we must. Living a holy life means we must shine brightly. The world needs our light! SHINE!

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”  
1 Peter 1:13-16

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Understanding the Recipe

Our 15 year old, Jacob, needs some help in the cooking department, apparently.  Last week in his Life Skills class, they were making a dessert. The recipe called for 1 1/2 TEASPOONS of baking soda.  The teacher caught him just as he was putting the last 1/2 CUP of baking soda in! He had already put in the whole CUP!!!  She scooped out as much as she could, but then they decided to go ahead and bake the dish! It didn't blow up, but she took it out of the oven, just as it was about to.  He'll never live it down, will he??!

Jacob read the recipe, but didn't get the clear picture of what the recipe meant....or was mixed up on what he thought he saw. Either way, it was wrong.

You know?  Some people do the same thing with the Bible. They read part of it - the "recipe" - and either get all mixed up on what it says, or don't understand what they read.

Just as the dessert didn't work, reading the Bible and getting a mixed-up message won't work, either.  Sometimes it takes a "teacher" to help us understand the "recipe" of the Bible.  Or maybe we, ourselves, can study more and find out what the "recipe" really means.  We can't learn to bake without understanding more about the recipe. We can't learn about God and Jesus without a bigger understanding of the Bible. It takes some time to learn to bake.  It takes time to learn about being a follower of Jesus.  But both are very rewarding.  And one is absolutely necessary!

Becoming a follower of Christ is the very best decision you can ever make.  Studying that life "recipe" book is the best book you could ever learn about!  It can change your life. It will change where you spend your eternity!
 
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