Pencil Skirt Pride

Pride always seems to get in the way of pleasing God. I know because it happened to me.

When I started a new job, I wanted acceptance and respect as a true professional. A shopping trip was the first step! I really needed some new outfits meant to impress.

That navy blue suit was a perfect fit! I was bursting with pride when I wore it! It had an adorable little jacket and a pencil skirt that fell below the knee. A white blouse and black shoes completed my professional outfit.

I received several compliments from the older ladies in the office, who were just a little tired of the more casual attire worn by some girls. I was quite pleased I measured up to their high standards! The other girls didn’t say anything, but that was okay.

Right off, my boss gave me an important task to do that day. I was to go over to one of the government buildings to pick up some paperwork. No problem!

I found a parking place and started walking to the building. That’s when I discovered I could only take very tiny steps instead of my usual longer stride. I hated to admit it to myself but that skirt just didn’t have any give to it at all.  It was a bit of a hike and my time was slipping away. It was impossible to hurry.

When I finally made it to the building, my next obstacle loomed before me. To my horror there were about fifteen steps to the building’s main door. How does one get up steps if you can hardly bend your knees?  

I stood there, hoping  no one noticed I was deliberating about how to get up the steps. Obviously, my beautiful outfit was more suited for church, not office work. I had no choice but to swallow my pride and hike my skirt up a bit so I could go up those awful steps.

I am reminded of the verse in Proverbs 16:18 (KJV):  “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Another verse that comes to mind is found in 1 John 2:16: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

Later, I had to admit to myself and God that my goal in wearing my gorgeous suit was to draw attention to myself. I wanted to show up the other girls in the office. There was an attitude in my heart that set myself up as better because I had a much desired position in the office. It wasn’t about looking good, but about setting myself apart in arrogance.

God doesn’t mind us dressing up for an important event. He doesn’t mind when we excel and do well. He expects us to do our level best in every situation, not purposely fail.

To do our best, we need to turn to Him in prayer asking for His direction and guidance. Our focus is to be on how we can please Him, not ourselves. Instead of seeking our own acclaim, let us take pride in what our Lord does! He alone deserves the praise and glory! Our joy comes from knowing that we are pleasing to Him.

A thoughtful reminder from the Apostle Peter:

“…be clothed with humility:  for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the might hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:5b-7

Every time I begin to feel prideful, I am reminded of my humiliating experience in a pencil skirt. I remember to trust God to help me to be the person He wants me to be.

Written by Linda Hull

Does God Care About Our Daily Needs?

How do I know God is a part of my daily life?  Every time I begin to think God is too busy in His Heaven to remember my needs and wishes that might seem trivial, I try looking for Him in my routine activities.

I remember one busy morning I had to shop in a short time. I needed an indoor basket plant for my friend, Helen who was recovering from a short illness, and I had other shopping to do.  Knowing that florists expect a “good price” for the sort of dish garden I wanted, I thought of a large discount store outside my neighborhood.

But I don’t enjoy visiting this store because it’s always crowded.  Still, I felt an inner urge to shop for groceries items there.  Just as I expected, when I arrived, the store was filled with shoppers.

Then I prayed, “Dear God, please help me find a gift for Helen.”

Inside the store, with shopping list in hand, I came upon a temporary table of assorted,  dish garden plants. I couldn’t believe it!  They were exactly the kind I wanted, but much more beautiful than I’d even imagined.

“I must have one of those basket plants,” I told myself.  I knew Helen would enjoy the plants.  Cautiously,  I read the sign and then looked again.  It was true, these large, healthy dish gardens were moderately priced.

“Thank you, God,” I whispered.

Then further down, on the right, there was  a display table of children’s books.  As I browsed through them,  I found a beautiful picture book showing the life of Jesus.  It too was moderately priced. The book would be the perfect gift for my young granddaughter Alyssa, whose birthday was in a few days.

“Thank you, God, for sending me here,” I murmured happily, reaching for the picture book.   Through my prayers, God had helped me find the things I needed today.

At home, relaxing after shopping, I thought about my morning.  And I had to remind myself once again–when I take the time to look for Him, it’s easy to find God doing wonderfully, unexpected things in my ordinary life.  I just have to stay alert and recognize them.

When I do, I find the reassurance that these little “special favors” are God’s way of showing me that I am not alone to meet the challenges in my life.  They reveal that God is here with me, helping me, and smoothing out my way in my day to day needs.

Isn’t it wonderful how God makes His presence known to us in ordinary ways all the time!  What a joy to know God is here in our lives, helping us, and blessing us every day with His faithful love.

Written by Evelyn Horan

True Beauty: Understanding What It Means

God tells us we are wonderfully and fearfully made, and to Him, you are beautiful and unique. He does not compare you to others, as you are the person He made you to be.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where we can feel judged. Despite what the Bible says, we can face pressure within ourselves, or from others, to conform to a false idea of beauty. In this article, we will try and get some perspective on the matter, and try to understand what true beauty means.


On the surface

When most people think of beauty, they think of face value. First impressions are made, wrongly, by the way somebody looks on the outside. The media doesn’t help. From magazine models to movie stars, we wonder why we don’t look like the people we see on the page and screen. There is also peer pressure at school to look and dress a certain way. If you are too fat or thin, or you are wearing the wrong fashions, you may struggle to fit in with the crowd.

For starters, don’t be fooled by the false image the media portrays. The pictures you see in magazines and on the internet have often been photoshopped, with any blemishes removed before publication. Movie stars are as insecure as anybody else, spending a fortune on making themselves look beautiful for the screen. You can look after your skin, with advice from a website such as Exfoliate.com, but you don’t need to compare yourself to others, as chances are, they will still look like you do first thing in the morning.

You don’t want to neglect your body, and we have offered advice at Relatemag.com. Health is important, so while you don’t need to feel ashamed about the way you look, there is still the need to be sensible and take care of yourself. Body shaming has become a trend, but there is no ‘perfect’ weight provided you are healthy and looking after yourself. There will always be bullies in life, but don’t subject yourself to their torment and criticism.


On the inside


The Bible tells us we are made in God’s image. We don’t know what God looks like, but the verse refers to the qualities of God, rather than physical appearance. You have probably noticed some of these qualities in other people, including love, kindness, and grace. It is this writer’s opinion that true beauty radiates from the inside. As you will know from movies such as “Mean Girls,’ people can be beautiful on the outside, but very ugly on the inside.

Focus on your inner beauty. Be somebody that cares for others. There will be people in your life who may not be physically attractive, at least to society’s standards, but you won’t notice this when their beauty radiates from the inside. Think of the people you love, and ask yourself why you do. It will be who they are on the inside, and the way they care for you.

So, what is true beauty? You decide, but above all, love yourself, for who you are, and be good to others.

Love: It Can’t Coexist with Hate

You only love Jesus as much as you love the person you like the least.  Or, how about this:  your love for Jesus equals the amount of love you have for the person you hate the most.

Harsh, right?

You’re shaking your head and saying, no way, I love Jesus way more than that.

I’ve thought the same.  In fact, I’ve been in denial for several years.  I’ve looked at other people (Christians, mind you) who were burning with anger and hatred and thought, “Wow, they must not love Jesus very much.” But all the while, I’ve not put much thought into what this meant in my own life.

The fact that the difficult equation has surfaced many times throughout the years tells me that it’s something I need to work on.

The fact that I felt compelled to write about it tells me I’m not the only one.

Think about this.  Jesus tells us to love one another.  People who aren’t Christians like to call us out on this one, too; they like to point out our hypocrisy.  And it’s rampant for a reason…loving someone you don’t like is really, really hard to do.

It’s so hard to do, in fact, that it’s easier to walk away from people we don’t like and stop dealing with them altogether rather than find some common ground or forgiveness or, gulp, here it is again, love.  We harden our hearts and dismiss people like they are broken or out of date cell phones that can be replaced by shiny, unfamiliar, newer versions.  I know because I’ve done it.  Repeatedly.

Until I decided that I’m done, I’m not walking away.  I’m going to deal with it.  By giving it to God.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but here is the thing…GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY.  I got so fed up with the fury churning at the inside that I’ve simply prayed, “God, please, fill up that space, that gap, where I am so shamefully lacking, and help me love this person.”  I had to mean it.  I had to empty myself of the anger by no longer giving it my attention, and I let God do what He does.  And here’s the thing…He did.

I have stood across from people I have absolutely nothing in common with other than the fact that we both have noses on our faces; our political, spiritual, moral codes, our likes and dislikes so polar opposite it’s difficult to see them as people, and I have loved them for reasons I cannot explain.  I have recognized them as souls that God made with a purpose, and I have felt nothing but compassion.  I have faced people who have hurt me deeply and personally, and I have prayed the same prayer, and all my hurt feelings have shriveled in God’s pool of forgiveness.

Loving others, the ones that are most difficult to love, the ones that are the most distant, have brought to me more peace than anything else I have experienced in my life.  I wish there was something that I could so eloquently say that would convince you this is true, but I don’t have those words.  I can only pray that you want it enough in your own life that you try it.

And, while this may be another article of its own, I think it’s important enough to add: this goes for yourself.  If the one person you can’t stand to be around, the one person you wish you could change or punish or perfect is the girl staring back at you in the mirror, you have to love her, too.  You can’t love Jesus and hate yourself.  

Anger and hate and contempt cannot coexist within a soul that claims to love Jesus.  They are too big of burdens to bear, and they will squeeze out all the goodness that Christ wants to bring out in our lives.  Fortunately, the opposite is true.  His light is brighter than the darkness of contempt, and He will quench it if we allow Him to.  The question is, which one will you choose?

 

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Let God Be Your Giant Slayer

Life’s problems and challenges, I call “giants”, seem insurmountable and impossible to resolve. The Bible story of a young David taking on the giant, Goliath, and winning gives me a lot of hope! Consequently, we know we can win our battles too when we let God be our Giant Slayer!

Young David, the youngest of his father’s eight sons, was a keeper of his father’s sheep. David’s job was to shepherd the sheep, keeping them safe, warm, and well fed. Now sheep are not particularly smart so they must be led to fresh grass and water. They need protection from predators. David’s job was challenging!

Funny thing, as he learned the challenges of being a shepherd, he didn’t know that God was preparing him to shepherd a kingdom. Life changed for David when Samuel, a prophet of the Lord, came to David’s father Jesse looking for the one who replace King Saul as king. No one expected David to be selected, especially David.

God had specific qualifications he was looking for in the future leader of the Israelites.  God is looking for one who is His, one with heart who loves God more than life, and loves others as God loves. God is looking for someone teachable and willing to obey His commands. Samuel 16:7 tells what God requires:

“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

Our battles are the LORD’S. He knows we are weak and dependent upon Him. He will fight for us, just as He enabled David as he fought for the Hebrews.

David wasn’t afraid of anything as long as He kept a right relationship with God. David knew God would provide the direction and instruction he needed. Saul doubted he could fight Goliath and win, but David told him how God had prepared him:

“Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear:  and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.  And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD Be with thee.” 1 Samuel 17:36-37

We too have our challenges ahead of us, but we can be assured that God has it all worked out if we will follow Him. He will lead and guide us each step of the way. Like David, He will prepare us, even when we don’t realize it!

What are your giants?

Bitterness? Bitterness keeps us from staying focused on Him. It is the result of us seeking our will and being angry when we don’t accomplish our plan. Feelings of being let down by God when we don’t get our way, leads to resentment and separation from our LORD. Bitterness is a giant that must be conquered.

Addictions? Addictions weaken us. Depending on something or someone other than our LORD leads to disappointment. When we can’t handle life’s challenges and consequences from wrong decisions, we often turn to artificial means to cope. Addictions are giants that must be overcome.

What is the giant that seems insurmountable in your life? Tell the LORD. Seek His help.  The LORD overcomes all giants, if we let Him.

Written By Linda Hull

Chit Chatting with Dr. Erick Schenkel

 

Written by Jill Sheets

It always amazes me when someone is so dedicated to Jesus that they would spend years in the Muslim world, or any other dangerous place, to preach the Good News, even knowing that they are risking their lives. That is just what Dr. Erick Schenkel and his family did. Read on to learn more about his sixteen years in the Muslim world, the Jesus Film Project, and what his favorite Bible verse is.

 

R: Tell us about yourself and about your book Everyone, Everywhere.  How did you come up with the idea to write the book?

E: Five years ago, my wife and I returned to the USA after sixteen years in the Muslim world to lead the Jesus Film Project. A few months ago, one of our team members at Jesus Film Project asked the question, “What would it take to finish the job of making it possible for everyone, everywhere to know someone who really follows Jesus?” My book is an attempt to answer that question, based on the best thinking of our whole team.

 

R: You went through a lot while spreading the Good News–you and your wife have even been beaten.  Despite this, you never stopped proclaiming the Gospel. How did you do it? 

E: The amazing grace of God! God has been so good to us in so many ways, and we know that eternal life with Him is ahead of us. We want everyone to have a chance to know God personally, for time and eternity. Everything else is so much less important.

 

R: If you could have done something different, what would it have been?

E: One of my regrets is how narrow my focus was as a young man and a new Christian. I wasted time arguing with other followers of Jesus over less important issues than the life and death issue of taking the Good News to everyone. I held my opinions way too strongly.

 

R: You said, “Which is more important, good works or preaching? The answer is always both a and b.Would you mind explaining this and why it is both?

E:  New life in Jesus is something we show as much as it is something we proclaim. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Knowing Jesus changes us into people who love others and want to serve them. As soon as I met Jesus, I went to visit my family members who hated my side of the family, I started feeding street people…the love of God changed me. No amount of words speak as loudly as a changed life. But only words can explain the change people see in us as we follow Jesus. We must explain: “You are not seeing a good person here, you are seeing a person energized by knowing God, and you can know God too!”

 

R: What was the Reset: Together 2016?

E: Reset: Together 2016 was an amazing meeting of thousands of Christians on the National Mall in July 2016, organized by a coalition of Christian groups led by Nick Hall. It was remarkable, because it included such a broad cross-section of Jesus-followers of all ages from so many backgrounds. The main statement the event made was, “There is a new generation of followers of Jesus in this country who are ready to humbly offer their lives to make Jesus known to people in need.” It was hot that day, but the spiritual atmosphere was hotter! Those who think the church in America is dying with the millennials are going to be surprised by the folks who were in Washington that day.

 

R: What would you like people to take away from your book?

E: There is nothing better than following Jesus and making Him known to others. I hope a lot of people who are casual Christians will catch a vision for real life in Christ and get excited about living a whole new way.

 

R: Where can people get your book?

E: The book can be found at jesusfilm.org/EveryoneEverywhere or at Amazon.com.

 

R: What are you currently working on?

E: I am working on doing what I wrote about in the book: giving everyone, everywhere a chance to know Jesus. I travel around the world learning first-hand how people are using video to share the Good News of Jesus, and then I come back to our office in Orlando, Florida and try to help us do better at making powerful video material available in every country of the world.

 

R: What is the Jesus Film Project?

E: The Jesus Film Project (JFP) was started in 1979 to translate the feature film, JESUS, based on Luke’s Gospel, and to distribute it globally. Over the years, other films were made, and, to date, there have been 7.5 billion views of JFP films in 1,510 different languages! The film JESUS has become the most watched film in history and over 490 million people have indicated decisions to receive Jesus Christ after watching our films. The Jesus Film app makes all the JFP films freely available on Apple and Android devices.

 

R: Tell us about about some of your experiences in the mission field.

E: Some of my most memorable moments took place in official Muslim countries in Central Asia, where my family lived and served for twelve years. In those countries, I became friends with several former Islamist radicals who have become followers of Jesus and who risk their lives to tell others about him. I also suffered the loss of dear brothers in Christ who were killed for their faith. My strongest lasting impression is that, despite deep cultural differences, people are the same everywhere in the world. God can change the hardest heart—just as he did for Saul of Tarsus in the Bible—and make apostles out of persecutors.

 

R: What was your first thought when God told you what he wanted you and your family to do?

E: Excitement! My experience of God’s leading is that He prepares my heart to want to do what he wants me to do. That’s how I understand the Bible verse that says, “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” When I sensed God’s call to leave America, I knew there were many things I would miss—the Boston Red Sox, Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee, and leaf-peeping in the fall in New England. But I was excited about what I would see and learn, and I have not been disappointed! The awe of experiencing the majesty of thousand-year-old civilizations, the rush of taking aid into a war zone, the thrill of seeing people who have never heard of Jesus before receiving Him and being transformed just as I am being transformed—nothing better!

 

R: What is your favorite verse?

E: Psalm 113:7-8. “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the dung pile, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.” That’s what God has done for me—a poor kid from a single parent family–and I am grateful.

 

R: What advice would you give a teenager who has trouble preaching to people, whether they are shy, nervous, etc.?

E: Be yourself. Have a real relationship with Jesus. Find ways to love people that are natural to you. Don’t worry about “preaching” to people. Learn to listen. Find ways to connect with a person, then share your experience of Jesus in the flow of your relationship with the other person. Share early and often what Jesus means to you.

 

R: Are you or your book on any social networking sites? If so, which ones and what are their addresses? Do you have an official website?

E: My official Facebook page is Erick Schenkel Jesus Film. You can read more about my work at the Jesus Film Project at jesusfilm.org.

 

Photo Credit: Jesus Film Project®

 

Almost A Giant

The hallway seemed crowded with kids even shorter and smaller than last year!  When two girls passed, I heard their giggles.

“Did you see her? She’s so tall!”

“She’s almost a giant,” the other girl said.

“Why did I grow so tall over the summer?” I moaned.

In the lunch area, I found Jan and Amy, my friends from last year.  It was different looking down at them.  It was REALLY different being able to see over their heads.  In a moment they suddenly exchanged glances and left in a hurry.

The day was ruined!  The whole year was ruined!

Fighting back tears, I pretended everything was normal until the long day at school ended.  Then I hurried home and threw myself on my bed and had a good cry.

“Dear Jesus,” I whispered, “I’m different. Why did I grow so tall?”

Something warm and fluffy brushed against me.  “Hi, Maggie.” I ruffled the fur of my orange cat.  “You’re small and cuddly.  And I’m like Gulliver in GULLIVER’S TRAVELS.  I’m a giant!”

My cat rubbed against me,  purring softly.

I smiled tearfully.  “I’m suffering and you want to be petted.  You’re so selfish, but I love you.”

Mike, my seventeen-year-old brother, stuck his head in the doorway and grinned. “I couldn’t help overhearing,” he said.  “You love me even though I’m selfish.  Thank you, Sandy, thank you!”

I  hurled my pillow at him.  “Ooh, you weren’t supposed to be listening!”

Mike caught the pillow.  “Someone,” he said softly, “has been crying on your pillow.”

I picked invisible specks of lint from my jeans.

“If you don’t want to talk about it, I think I can guess,” Mike said.

“No, you can’t. Nobody understands what I’m going through.”

“I’m still a teenager.”  Mike grinned teasingly. “Even though I look and act like a dashing young man.”

“You’re a boy!”

“Sometimes, but being short and cute and sensitive has its advantages.”

I still didn’t look at him, as he sat beside me.  “Well, being the tallest girl in class has no advantages I can see; starting with your SHORT friends not liking you anymore,” I mumbled.

“Remember last year when I had that physical before I became a church camp-counselor for the boys?” Mike asked.

I nodded.

“I asked Dr. Johnson something I’d been worried about for a long time.  “‘Doc,’ I said, ‘I’m one of the shortest guys in my class, and I feel lousy about it.  Am I going to grow anymore?'”

“What did he say?”

“He showed me a growth chart and told me  that most of the guys my age would be taller than me.  I probably wouldn’t grow much taller.  He said he wouldn’t recommend a career in basketball!”

I gasped.  “Why did he say that?”

“He was being honest. He put his hands on my shoulders and told me, ‘The world is made up of tall people, short people, white people, black people,–all kinds of people. You are what you are.  You can spend your life wanting to be something else.  Or you can accept who you are, and be a happy person who will bring love and happiness to others.  You can choose for yourself.'”

“That’s deep!”  I whispered.

“Right,” Mike said rising. “I’ll never forget it.  That’s why you see me, as I am.  On the small side, but otherwise perfect.”  He beckoned playfully.  “Stand up.  Now, look at you,” he said. “You aren’t as tall as I am.  You’re a shrimp!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  “The girls think I’m a giant.”

“They’re probably wishing they were taller,” Mike said. “They know you’ll be great in sports like basketball and soccer and don’t forget track.”

“Oh, sure!”

“It’s true.” Mike smiled and crossed to the door.  “We older people know these things!”

As Mike closed the door I looked over at the picture of Jesus on my desk.

“Thank you Jesus,” I said sighing. “Thank you for giving me an understanding brother like Mike. He’s just what I needed today.”

As I  started to do my homework the phone rang.  “Hi, Sandy, it’s Jan.”

“Oh hi, Jan,” I said, cautiously.

“Sorry we had to rush away today. Amy and I had to hurry to the library to get some books for a social studies assignment.  But let’s all eat lunch together tomorrow and get caught up on what’s been going on over the summer.”

“Well, sure,” I said, happily. I’d been wrong about the girls!  “I’ll see you at lunch.”

I hung up the phone smiling.  Tomorrow would be a much better day.  “Thank you, Jesus, for showing me I didn’t lose my friends,” I whispered.  “And I’m not going to worry about being tall anymore!”

Written by Evelyn Horan

Watermelon Seeds!

Summertime always reminds me of watermelon! The sweet red fruit is so good on a hot day! The sugar boosts energy levels, and its electrolytes quench thirst. It would be the perfect fruit except for those black seeds!

How disgusting it is to have to keep spitting seeds out. Yuck! The joy of a perfectly good piece of fruit ruined. Trying to pick out the seeds leaves a pile of mushed up fruit. Not very appetizing.  

Our hearts are sometimes like a slice of watermelon, full of seeds. Seeds? Yes, seeds of bitterness. These seeds of bitterness have grown slowly over time. They are the result of each little hurt that you have hidden in your heart.

Maybe it’s a circumstance that has left a bitter seed. Something didn’t go as planned. You’ve been humiliated. Harsh words have been hurled. Promises have been broken. Ridicule, slights, and all those tidbits of pain you never forgave are still there, hidden out of sight.

A key word brings one to mind, and the pain is felt anew. Memories surface that cause us to lose our joy and contentment. Maybe you blame God or someone dear to you for what happened.

When something triggers the pain or the memories, our hearts feel the seeds of bitterness.  They rob us of our peace because we can’t get past the hurts. Sadly, we willingly let go of our peace.

Seeds serve a useful purpose. They produce the fruit we love so much! They are a necessary part of God’s creation process.

So we see there are two kinds of seeds:  good and bad!  Seeds reproduce to kind. If we want good fruit, we need good seeds. Seeds of bitterness only produce more bitterness.  

We need to cultivate our heart to produce good seeds. These good seeds produce the good fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 tells the good fruits we can produce:  “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.”

It’s difficult to overlook a hurt. It’s far easier to blame someone else for your seeds of bitterness than forgive. Life is tough. People make it tougher, so you may think they deserve your bitterness and hatred.

Did you know that those seeds of bitterness and hate can be cast out of your heart?  All you have to do is confess each thought of bitterness as sin, trusting our Lord and Savior to remove it. Let us remember Jesus took the punishment for all sin. Whatever was done to you has already been punished on the cross.

Galatians 6:1-2 teaches:  “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

Bitterness can keep us from forgiving those who have wronged us. When we are sorrowing over our own sin, our hearts long for forgiveness and forgetfulness from the one we wronged. We seek a restored relationship. So too must we provide that same gift to those who have wronged us if we want to free ourselves from seeds of bitterness.

We each have the responsibility of actively forgiving the one who hurt us. It’s wonderful to receive an apology! However, it’s important to release the hold this person has over you.  When you forgive, those seeds of bitterness disappear! Forgiveness leads to freedom!

 

Following are some fun watermelon websites:

http://www.watermelon.org/Watermelon-101

http://www.watermelon.org/Carvings

http://www.watermelon.org/Recipes

http://www.watermelon.org/Nutrition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons From a Master Gardener

When I was in San Francisco I toured the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. It was created by Makoto Hagiwara in 1894. Mr. Hagiwara was clearly a master gardener. I was awed by the cultured beauty and peace of the garden, but I particularly loved the Bonsai trees. How did they grow so perfectly shaped? I knew there must be a story behind each one, just like each of us. I found the answer in the Bible.

Through my brief study of the art of Bonsai, I learned the trees are actually regular size trees or shrubs that have been cultivated to a small size. To maintain the tree’s small size, constant  pruning must be done to control growth. Roots must be cut back so the tree will not grow beyond the size of the container. Branches are wired to shape them into the desired position. The trees require regular maintenance to keep their design intact.

When I began to read my Bible regularly, I realized a Christian is like a bonsai tree. We start out as a new believer, ignorant, eager, and desirous of becoming like our Lord and Savior. We are raw material waiting for our Lord to teach and train us, so that we may be pleasing to Him and able to do the work He calls us to do.  

Jesus explained this in John 10:10b, “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Most importantly, God wants us to bear fruit. Jesus said in John 15:1-2: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:  and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

In John 15, we learn about the true vine. Who is the vine? Jesus. God, the Father, is the husbandman or gardener. The branches are Believers. In a biblical sense, we find that abiding is the result of a personal relationship with Jesus. If we are not part of the vine of Jesus, we will wither and die.

Just like the Bonsai master prunes his tree, so does the Lord prune His children. The beautiful form of the bonsai is accomplished by placing wires around the branches to bend each one gradually into the desired shape. Through God’s shaping process, the Believer is groomed to better produce fruit.

The Lord shapes us through His Word and through life experiences. He trains us to put aside the selfish and self-interested tendencies of the natural person. He reminds us that we are rooted in Him through the Holy Spirit. He keeps us, just as the Bonsai master keeps his trees.

The Bible says in Ephesians 2:10:  “for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

As a Believer, we are expected to obey God’s Word because we love Him. We recognize the sacrifice He paid so we might be saved from the punishment for sin. Abiding is about love, commitment to Jesus, and obedience to His commands. As we grow and develop as Believers we will be used to reach others. Our Lord created each of us for a purpose that He reveals to us in His good time.

Change in us and in a bonsai tree is gradual and oh so slow. I am thankful that my Lord is patient and kind to me, giving His life that I might have eternal life.

Written by Linda Hull

 

More about the Bonsai…

*Here is a link to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco:

http://japaneseteagardensf.com/

http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/japanese-tea-garden/

 

*If you would like more information about bonsai trees, check out this website:

https://www.bonsaiempire.com/

*Here is a link to the United States National Arboretum’s page about The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum which features a bonsai photo gallery.

http://www.usna.usda.gov/PhotoGallery/BonsaiGallery/index.html

A Good Biscuit!

by Linda Hull

What brings a family together? Food! Joining loved ones around the table is a heartfelt blessing because families are God’s gift to mankind. A delicious meal is worthy of praise, for it is truly a gift of love to the family. I should know because my Grandmama was one of the best cooks in the world, notably for her buttermilk biscuits!

“Helping” Grandmama in the kitchen was a real joy back in those little girl days! Back then, just about everything was made from scratch. Cooking took more time and effort than it does in today’s world. It also provided many opportunities for talking about life.

It was a fact of life that Granddaddy had to have his biscuits every night at dinner. So making biscuits was the last menu item to make before everyone was called to dinner. That’s because Granddaddy liked his hot, with lots of butter and strawberry jam!

While the rest of the meal simmered on the old stove, Grandmama would gather her ingredients. The flour was kept loose in a pullout flour bin in what was probably an old Hoosier type cabinet, a novelty in today’s kitchen. Next she would measure out all her ingredients into the sifter. The flour, baking powder, and salt were shaken together as she turned the crank. Next she scooped out the shortening and placed it in the bowl with the dry ingredients.

Once the ingredients were assembled, she took a table fork and pressed that shortening into the flour mixture until it resembled coarse meal. Next came the buttermilk with a little cup for me to drink. Then she would scrape the mixture all up into a ball of dough, kneading it for just a little bit. Not too much or the biscuits would be tough.

After rubbing a bit of flour onto her rolling pin, she rolled that dough out to about a half inch thick. Each biscuit was cut from the dough with her biscuit cutter and placed on the cookie sheet to bake. My little bit of dough was added to the cookie sheet too, a testimony to her diligence in teaching me, and my desire to be just like Grandmama.

You know, you can learn a lot about God and His ways when you make biscuits. When I think about Grandmama’s hot biscuits, I think about Luke 6:38 (KJV): “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

Biscuit making is a lot like life. You see, God knows we women are givers by nature and by design, but in order to be useful to Him, He has some work to do in our hearts. God sees us as that lump of dough that needs to be worked to make a good biscuit! He gives us everything we need to become the person He wants us to be, including the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word. He presses us down a bit to bring us into conformity with His Word. Then he shakes us up so we learn to depend on Him. He shapes us by our life experiences into women who are useful in furthering His Kingdom. He teaches us that what we give always comes back to us with more besides. When life brings discouragement, just remember God is making you into a good biscuit!

 

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Following is my biscuit recipe roughly based on Grandmama’s old recipe.  I’ve made adjustments like using self-rising flour and using the Crisco brand shortening.

 

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

 

2 cups sifted self-rising flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons Crisco shortening

2/3 to 3/4 cup buttermilk

 

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut shortening into flour mixture with fork until it resembles coarse meal. Add liquid gradually, stirring with the fork, until the mixture sticks together. Turn out on a lightly floured clean surface. Knead gently for about 1/2 minute until it feels elastic. Flour the rolling pin. Roll out dough to 1/2″ thick. Cut dough into biscuit shapes with a biscuit cutter or a floured beverage glass. Place on un-greased baking sheet in very hot oven (450 degrees F) for 12-15 minutes.  Biscuits should be lightly browned. Serve immediately with butter and jam. Makes about 1 1/2 dozen depending on the size of the cutter.  

 

Bibliography

 

“Baking Powder Biscuits.” American-International Encyclopedic Cookbook. Thomas Y. Crowell Company. Copyright 1972 by Homemakers Research Institute.