Forgiveness

Forgiveness. We all want it, but have a hard time giving it to others.

I’ve been working several months on a book on forgiveness. It simply refuses to be written. I’ve started again and again. So today I decided to include you in the struggle. I’m going to put bits and pieces up here until I finish the job. Knowing you are looking over my shoulder might give me the kick in the pants I need to persevere.

Comments and suggestions are welcome.

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We need to start at the beginning.

It nearly broke His heart. This man and woman God had created decided to believe Satan instead of God. They did the one thing God commanded them not to do, ate of the fruit of the only tree off limits.  Satan made Eve doubt God’s goodness. Made her think God was selfish. That He was keeping something good away from them. Satan deceived her into thinking he had her bests interests at heart. It was all a lie.

Eve gave some of the fruit to her husband and the rest is history. He chose her over God. The thought of losing her was too overwhelming. And then they hid. What else could they do? The shame and guilt were destroying them.

God sought them out. Gave them a chance to explain. Their explanation consisted of blaming each other, Satan, even God. Yes, Adam said…”this woman whom you gave to be with me…” (Genesis 3:12) Do you hear the not so subtle tone in his voice?

And so the perfect world was ruined. They were expelled from the garden, never to return. But God didn’t leave them without hope. He promised a Savior who would one day bring redemption, forgiveness. Things would be restored.

Satan thought he had won…but God’s plans are always bigger. Forgiveness would be a  reoccurring theme from now on. Satan, who was beyond forgiveness, would continue to cause all the trouble he could. The F word (forgiveness) would make him scream with anger. It must not happen. The redemption must not be complete. And so the battle continued.

Genesis 2:7 – 3:24

 

 

The Greatest of These is Love

Our family was under stress. My husband had just retired. We were getting our house ready to sell by cleaning, fixing, packing and throwing away. We were also looking for a new place to live in another town. It wasn’t going well. Most of the places we asked to see were selling before we could make an appointment. Our current house had a string of unexpected things to fix. It had all taken its toll.

Our mood changed from expectant to surly. We weren’t exactly fighting, but our tone must have been off because our granddaughter, Arianna, quietly handed each of us a handmade construction paper heart with the word love written in crayon.

She instructed us to put them in our pocket so we would remember to love each other.

We quietly said, “Oh, honey, we still love each other.”

She wasn’t convinced and her silence brought conviction. We had forgotten that circumstances and things are not what make a happy life. Our love for each other was much more important. Love must be lived out in words and actions and ours had not lined up with what we claimed.

I’m not used to being put in my place by a seven year old, but God will use whatever is available to get through to hard hearts, and Arianna was available.

We accepted the hearts and obediently put them in our pockets.

Our house eventually sold, we found a new one, and survived the move.

I would be lying if I said our surly days were over, but Arianna had helped us to be a little softer and kinder to each other. And every time I think of the paper heart for my pocket I breathe a prayer of thanks to a good God who blessed us with a granddaughter who knows exactly how to speak the truth in love.

Where are We Going?

Where are We Going?

“Where are we going?” Our granddaughter asks.

“Just get in the car and you’ll find out.” my husband responds.

“Why? Where are we going?” Arianna insists.

“Just trust me, you will like it.”

“But Papa, I want to know where we are going. Is it the mall or the grocery store?”

“I’m not going to tell you. Just trust me. It’s a surprise! Don’t ruin it.”

“I want to know. I need to know!”

“You need to be patient.”

“I can’t, Papa. I can’t!”

And so the conversation continued all the way to Dairy Queen. Arianna was rewarded even though she wasn’t patient, demanded to know, and didn’t quietly trust. Her Papa rewarded her with one of her favorite treats, not because of her quiet obedience, but because she is his granddaughter and he delights to surprise her with good things.

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I was reminded of this episode when we found ourselves in the middle of a housing crisis.

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While looking for a home on short notice we encountered several slammed doors. A couple offers slipped through our fingers. We prayed again and again.

“Where do you want us, Lord?”

Almost as clear as day I heard Him say.

“Just trust me, it’s a surprise.”  (We were not amused.)

Funny how God uses our own words to pierce our heart.

…”In repentance and rest you shall be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.” But you were not willing…Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you…He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.”  Isaiah 30:15, 18, 19

Looking for Home

He built most of it himself. It was a strong sturdy house with white siding and green trim. It started out as just four rooms. It was what they could afford. His brother, Clarence, helped him lay a basement foundation and then the new part of the house was built while we lived in the old part.

Electrical work, plumbing, windows. He did it all himself. One of the few things he hired out was a carpenter to make custom cabinets for Mom’s kitchen.

Dad rescued wooden floors from an old school that the city was taking down. He carefully refinished the wood and covered the floors in the living room, dining room, and all of the upstairs. He made the stairs extra wide which made it easier for us to slide down on our bottoms. I tried it once when I was older and nearly killed myself.

There was an old garage and a small shed on the ten acre property. The front yard was full of big shade trees. The old cottonwood was an especially fine specimen. My two sisters and I would try and grab hands around it. We could never quite grasp each other’s fingers.  There were two good climbing trees. We spent many hours reading books and eating lunch in them. I would often climb the one closest to the road to watch for my Father’s car as he made his way home from work.

My father carefully planted a shelterbelt made up of a row of evergreens, a row of Chokecherries, and another of plumbs. He added Nanking cherries a few years later. The plowed garden was about two acres. There was a strawberry patch, raspberry plants, and an apple tree with many varieties of apples grafted onto it. My dad was especially proud of the apple tree. He had done the grafting himself. It was a sight to behold when it was in bloom and later, when the fruit was heavy in its branches. He planted rows of corn. More than we could ever eat or freeze, but he liked to give it away. He started studying Gurney’s seed catalogue in the winter and ordered in plenty of time for planting. He usually started the tomatoes and Mom’s zinnias inside. The rest of the seeds he planted in the garden with us reluctantly helping.

The ditches were full of wild roses and white anemones. In the spring they were full of water which meant we could sail up and down on homemade rafts. If it was especially wet the side yard became a pond for a few short days.

There was a small patch of bushes that we called woods. We made an animal trap in a hollowed out spot. We crisscrossed branches and covered it with leaves. Of course we never caught anything, but we checked it often.

We had a big backyard where we played kick the can when church kids came over.

There was a well-worn path that led to the neighbor’s house. He was a widower that watched our dog when we went out of town. We imagined he was sweet on our grandma, but nothing ever came of it. He had a couple good climbing trees that he allowed us to use when we wanted. He also had some metal bars that we would swing on or hang from by our knees.

The winter brought storms which lasted a few days instead of a few hours. After shoveling we were rewarded with high snowbanks for building caves and forts. We would jump off the neighbor’s barn into deep drifts when the conditions were right. On occasion the garden became a skating rink. I imagined I was an Olympic racer.

It was a magical place full of imagination and memories. Now it was gone, replaced by a tangle of roads and buildings. They call it an Industrial park. Doesn’t look like much of a park to me.  I tried to hide my wet eyes from my granddaughter who was happily playing in the back seat. I so wanted to show it to her as it had been…but it was all gone. Not a hint remained of what had been. And I grieved.

I can’t shake the sadness…these emotions that well up. I was trying to find some link to my past…some proof that we had lived there. That my father had built a good life for us there. That we had been happy and safe.  Instead I found progress…I can’t see it improves things. When fields and gardens and climbing trees are wiped out for the sake of an industrial park.

But I think it is more than that. We are, after all, eternal beings. God made us to live forever and when things are ruined or don’t last an aching sadness sets in. This is not how it is supposed to be. Someday it will be different.

“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Cor. 5:1

I take comfort in the fact that what my heavenly Father is working on will last for eternity. When He calls me home it will really be home. He will be my home.

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms;

For further study:  Psalm 90:1b; Ezekiel 37:27; Matthew 25:34;  John 14:2&3; I Corinthians 2:9

 

Thinking on Gardens

I took a walk through my yard today. I was looking for things we had planted. I met with limited success.

The Toad Lily is nowhere to be found. We have planted it three years in a row only for it to refuse to come back to life each spring.

The hydrangea tree, which was beautiful last year, is now dead. Some small animal had eaten away at the bark close to the ground.

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We have planted many bluebells over the years.  Last year there were two. Only one of those survived. This isn’t a good sign.

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Most of the tulips had been eaten by the deer as soon as they appeared. Thankfully they left the daffodils alone.

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I did find the Jack in the Pulpit. It sprang out of nowhere.

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Lily of the Valley was thick and growing everywhere. Many places I didn’t remember it being before.

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The Iris are back and will be bursting into bloom soon. (I’ll keep you posted.) I know the Daylilies will come later in the summer. Now the leaves are lush and green.

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This Tree Peonie surprised me with its early blooms.

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The yard was full of unexpected life. Each year I am surprised when things come back from their long sleep.

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In an effort to hurry summer along my husband planted some pots as well.

I long for heaven and the gardens that will be there.

I suspect the animals will be better behaved. They won’t be allowed to gnaw through things or uproot bulbs.

Things will bloom where they are supposed to bloom. Nothing will be choked out by weeds. There will be a wild orderliness about it all. (Like God Himself.) God and His garden will take our breath away.

Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 22:1-7 talk about “a river of the water of life” that flows from God’s throne. On either side of the river is the tree of life bearing 12 kinds of fruit. One for each month. It’s leaves are used for the healing of the nations. I can hardly wait. To be home with the God who loves me. To leave this earthly imperfect garden behind for such a spectacular one.

In the mean-time I work on this garden full of plants and people and situations all part of the work He has given me to do.

“Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” I Corinthians 15:58

 

 

Long Awaited Spring

My granddaughter and I went out this week to find Spring. We heard it had arrived. At first the only green I saw was her sweatshirt…but we looked further.

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Sure enough there were a few leaf buds.

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and I was able to find a patch of blue that is the first to appear each year.

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We also found the faithful Magnolia with its buds just starting to burst open.

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Then the Violets and Hyacinth.

And last of all, my favorite, daffodils.

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God hadn’t forgotten. He woke each one up when it was time. I hope it is Spring where you are too.