Paradise Bakery: Expected divine taste, unexpected Divine encounters

by

photo-1 I almost choked on the bite of muffin I had just taken when my friend Jill told me her husband had said that my husband Chris and I should move back to Arizona and plant a church. This conversation happened last February during a weekend trip to Phoenix. I had packed my schedule with catch-up-with-friend meetings because I figured I might not be back for years.

My last day in Phoenix, I met my dear friend Jill Rhodes for breakfast at a Paradise Bakery. We had a lot to catch up on because we hadn’t seen each other in eighteen months. I was surprised when she told me they had moved to a new area in Phoenix. I was also stunned to find out they were no longer involved at the church they had been leaders in for over thirty years.

“We feel God wants us to be a part of a church plant,” she said.

“Really? Which church?” I asked. She said they didn’t know yet. I told her I was encouraged to know God was calling people like them to help with church plants, because Chris feels God is calling him to plant a church (thinking of the growing Dallas suburbs). That’s when she dropped the bomb. She told me I would never believe what her husband David, known to be quite prophetic the fifteen years we have known him, had just said two weeks before. He had told her to call me and tell me that Chris and I needed to move back to Phoenix, plant a church, and they would help us get it off the ground. I was speechless. David said that?

After I got home and talked with Chris, I realized that the conversation with my friend Jill had kicked off a series of days of messages, one after another, from God, regarding our move to Phoenix. Chris and I received texts from friends with scripture verses they said God laid on their hearts for us, emails from friends encouraging us to have faith for whatever God tells us to do, sermons on the radio that spoke about stepping out in faith, scripture from our Bible readings and songs on the radio and at church that spoke directly to this issue of us answering God’s call to have faith and go. Within three days it was confirmed on every side, including a meeting with our pastor where he affirmed our church sending us to Phoenix to plant a church. Little did I know that meeting to catch up with a friend over a muffin would turn my world upside down and so soon we would know an interstate move was in our near future.

A few weeks later Chris and I were on a plane to Greater Phoenix with one mission: to discern what area the Lord would have us plant a church in a city spreading over 9,000 square miles with a population of 4.3 million. I was pretty sure I knew where we would relocate…next door to (or at least down the street from) Jill and David. After all, God had used Jill and David to get this ball rolling. Jill and I dreamed of morning hikes in the Sonoran desert foothills and the community center where we might lead women’s Bible studies together.

But we had no idea what God was doing in the heart of another dear friend. Our first night in Phoenix Chris mentioned how much he would like to see Darian, a kindred spirit Chris had led to the Lord seventeen years prior. Chris set up an early breakfast at Paradise Bakery with him for the next morning before we started our church location search.

That morning Darian told Chris his family was doing well and after having been away for years, they had settled back into life in Arizona. He shared that he carried a heavy burden for his community, the west valley of Phoenix. Darian explained that while the population had exploded, churches had not kept up with the growth. He said it had been so heavy on his heart that he actually had considered starting a church himself. He had even seriously looked at possible meeting locations. But then a mentor told Darian he believed he was to be an encourager that would come alongside a leader who God would send, just as the biblical Caleb came alongside leader Joshua.

Thinking that part of the discussion was over, Darian then asked Chris what had brought him to Phoenix that weekend. Chris and Darian were both overwhelmed with emotion as they shared an “I might be your Joshua” moment.

photo  Interestingly enough, many people through the years have talked about Chris’ “Joshua spirit.” Our former pastor Jeff Warren drew a caricature of Chris a few years ago that depicts him as Joshua, leading the people.

Just before leaving Phoenix that weekend, we met with Jill and David at Paradise Bakery and talked about how we felt God was leading. We all agreed the location was to be the west valley, and Jill and David said they were all in and would make the half-hour drive.

A lot is cookin’ up at Paradise Bakery these days…and the bakers and their muffins are just a side story. The real story is God himself, leading us at times and places we least expect. “Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:43.) I know I’m taking the verse out of context, but I can’t help but notice the pattern of unexpected meetings with Jesus at this place. Yes, Father, we are feeling a little bit of Heaven on Earth.

Funny thing is…Chris and I had a date today before I sat down to write this blog. Where did we go? We both had a craving for a Paradise Bakery salad and zucchini muffin.

Provisions for Pennies

by

Would I rather go for

Door A: a brand new Bassett dining room table and one chair?

Or, for the same price, would I rather go for

Door B: a like-new Bassett dining room table and six chairs, outdoor granite table with six chairs, two outdoor barstools, two outdoor rocking chairs, six bookcases, a desk with matching file cabinet, kitchen table with bench and six chairs, refrigerator, gas dryer, chandelier, and piano?

Door B may not have been the path of least resistance, but I had to go for the deal. Through the last twenty three years of marriage we’ve watched God put together a beautiful home for us through furnishings and decorative pieces we have found for pennies on the dollar at garage sales and online sales.

The great thing about buying a piece for pennies on the dollar is that I enjoy it all the more. It just makes me smile when I think about it. If I have to pay full price for something it takes all the fun out of it. Prayer, patience, persistence are key to the search. But before I give details on the search, would you like to see the latest items?

0-5

This is the Bassett table and chairs. It has an extra leaf, which extends it to 108 inches and seats 10-12. The chairs still had tags hanging on them and looked like they had never been sat on. Actually, everything else in this picture was picked up at yard sales over the last few years.

 

 

0

This is the gorgeous outdoor granite table. It has four side chairs and two end chairs that swivel. Also, in the foreground is one of the two outdoor bar stools, and in the background are the two rocking chairs. Would you believe my husband got these all in one load on our Honda Ridgeline truck? Straps and blankets have definitely been key in getting all these home.

 

0-3

God is so good! Check out how these bookcases perfectly fit into our space, wrapping around on each wall. And these were located less than a mile from our house! Six bookcases for only $200…and they look like built-ins!

 

 

0-2

Chris is working out of the house in a small extra room off the master bedroom, so we needed a small desk for him. This one matched the bookcases and included a file cabinet/printer stand for $45. Also located less than a mile from our house.

 

 

0-1

Although we had to eat off a folding table and chairs for a couple of weeks, this one was worth the wait. The bench top lifts for storage and it has an extra leaf, which extends the table to 108 inches. Seats up to 12. The people who sold this even offered to deliver it to us for free in their trailer.

 

 

0

This is what will soon be hanging over our kitchen table. We got this new-in-the-box chandelier for one-fourth the retail price, and it was located only a few miles from our house. The Kenmore refrigerator and Whirlpool Duet gas dryer are not exciting enough to make the photo line-up today, but they work great and I basically got them for what I sold my other ones for.

 

 

0-4

Lastly, a dear friend heard of our search for a piano, and he gave us this beautiful Kimball. It has a great tone and is even in tune, and he even delivered it to our home. We are so grateful. Now the search for a new piano teacher….

 

 

Back to the pre-move details. Knowing many items would almost cost us more to move than we paid for them, I sold them and knew we would be looking to replace them when we got settled in our home in Phoenix. I began praying weeks before the move, specifically that God would provide the items we needed.

Though I know a lot of people are scared about Craigslist transactions, this was my venue for almost all of the selling and buying I have done in the last two months. It’s free, and it’s also easy to search for exactly what you need and where you need to find it. You can also choose to search only for “by owner” items if you don’t want to deal with dealers. I have met so many nice people through the transactions, but I try to be cautious and always have either my husband or sons with me for safety’s sake.

After prayer, the next key is patience. Like a good fisherman, you must be patient to wait. Yes, you could go get exactly what you want today by paying full price at the store. But continue to watch and wait to see how God provides. It makes the catch all the more fun.

Lastly, persistence in checking listings is key. The best deals go fast, so it is important to regularly check online for updates. When you find what you want for a great price, contact the seller quickly and arrange to go buy it as soon as you are able.

I’d love to hear about your deals!

You might also like

Grieving Leaving

by

bear“Are you ready to move?” a man walked up and innocently asked me at church in early June. Tears immediately flooded my eyes as the reality of leaving McKinney hit me head on. Two weeks later as Chris and I were writing up a contract offer for a house in Phoenix, Chris asked me, “What date can we close? July 15?” A specific date brought the certainty of leaving McKinney to the forefront, and I lost it again.

Right now, less than two weeks from our move out date, I’m in that hard place of grieving–leaving a place and a people so precious to us. If we had not loved so deeply, we would not feel the loss so deeply. So I thank God for the sorrow because of the blessings it represents. I’m also grateful for the certainty of His call on our family to Phoenix.

I thank God for more McKinney moments than I could ever recount. So thankful for…

  • The simple life we have lived on Brook Lane…neighborhood potlucks, small group meetings on Sunday nights, and the ability to walk to church, schools, the dentist office, and piano lessons.
  • Family dinners in the round room with Grandma and Grandpa often present.
  • Group bike rides and more than a dozen triathlon finishes with friends.
  • All the teachers at school and at church and coaches who have invested so much in each of our children.
  • The thrill of cheering on the McKinney Boyd tennis team at State.
  • Grandma and Grandpa sitting with us at the kids’ piano and choir concerts and soccer, baseball, basketball, and football games.
  • A group of girls that helped launch the Coach Mom book in one of the busiest seasons of my life.
  • Weekend road trips to spend time with Nana and Pap in Tulsa, OK. And their trips to McKinney, always with a homemade loaf of zucchini bread in hand.
  • Friends on their hands and knees with us scraping wax off our brick floor during our home remodel.
  • The opportunity to get to meet with hundreds of moms groups across McKinney and the Greater Dallas area.
  • Lunch with friends on the square in downtown McKinney.
  • Chris building a tree fort for the kids that overlooks the creek in our backyard.
  • Writers groups that met monthly for as long as the past eight years, helping edit everything from books to newsletters and blogs.
  • Friends that met weekly to pray for our schools, teachers, and students.
  • The joy of dozens of missions group send offs.
  • The amazing young people who have stayed in our home for DiscipleNow weekends…and the delicious breakfast casseroles and muffins provided by our food coordinators (okay, we admit it–did it for the food!)
  • Being part of the summer camp where over one hundred young people surrendered their lives to full-time ministry in one evening.
  • Wednesday morning Bible study groups with powerful prayer sessions and drawing closer to God.
  • Opportunities to help lead in worship through the music ministry.
  • One-on-one weekly spiritual accountability meetings with dear women.
  • Runs and walks around Town Lake with friends.
  • Super kids who have been so much fun for me to teach in summer drawing camps the past eight years.
  • Great finds and fun with my mom at Trade Days (best find of all: our little pooch, Speedy, who was 4 pounds and sitting in a Christmas stocking.)

As I look ahead toward our life in Phoenix,  I’m reminded of the multiple times God has already moved in the past fifteen years to prepare us and prepare others for this work we are about to begin. Here are just a few of the ways God’s hand has moved to bring us to this place: we have already seen how God has gone before us in multiple ways:

  • Fifteen years ago when we lived in Phoenix he gave me the verse Isaiah 43:18-19 for Phoenix: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I’m making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
  • While in Phoenix, God sent 40 women to intercede and fast with me for God’s will to be done, and for revival to break forth in the Phoenix area.
  • During that time I recorded 14 pages of words from God regarding revival for Phoenix, which I still have on file. As we started to feel God’s call back to Phoenix, and I thought about m the things we had hoped for but never saw, I felt Him whisper to my heart I never make a promise I don’t keep.
  • God has used sermons on the radio, scripture texts from friends at key moments, scripture from our daily readings, and other avenues to confirm his call.
  • God has moved in the hearts of some dear faith-filled friends to get them in place to help launch the church. These gifted leaders are coming from the North and West Valleys of Phoenix, from McKinney, and from Atlanta.
  • We get to keep the connection with First Baptist McKinney as they will be our sending church. And we have a connection with the church we formerly served in Phoenix, North Phoenix Baptist. They are acting as our Arizona “host” church.

As we move, we look forward to watching what God will do. We are not sure of all the details yet, but when God tells us the name of our church, where we will be meeting, or when we will begin meeting, we will let you know. And we appreciate and need your prayers.

Though we are grieving in the leaving, we look forward to where God is taking us and all that He has ahead for us. The best is yet to come! Now it’s time to stop writing and start packing! But first, I want to share two verses.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:8

We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33:20-22 (NIV)

You might also like

Looking for Poppies

by

Chris and I just returned from Europe last week, where he was speaking for a missions conference near Budapest, Hungary. I had a few surprises along the way.

  • The French computer keyboard. I used a friend’s Apple computer, and had a hilarious time trying to type!
  • A young Hungarian couple exclusively played traditional polka music at their wedding reception.
  • The flight to Europe seemed short compared to my recent trips to Africa.

At the conference we had the joy of getting acquainted with church leaders from all over Western Europe. My friend Vicki from Switzerland shared with me this story:

A couple dreamed of beautiful roadsides in their community. Pulling a large portion of the money from their savings account, they invested in a great amount of poppy seeds and joyfully scattered them on each side of the road for miles. Eager to see the flowers crowding each side of the highway, they watched and waited, watched and waited. Years passed and not one poppy grew in the area they had planted. Assuming they had wasted their money and time, the couple was greatly disappointed.

poppies

Then one spring years later, they were driving along and could not believe their eyes. Beautiful red poppies graced each side of the road. When the conditions (temperature, moisture, and sunlight) were right, the seeds bloomed. The flowers were beautiful in their time. The couple saw the realization of their dream, and experienced the fullness of Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” And others also were blessed because of their work.

That story encourages me as I reflect on what I believe God laid on our hearts in 1998 to pray for Phoenix: revival. Though we did not see evidence of revival before we moved from Phoenix in 2003, I believe the answer to our prayers is now coming into full bloom. It is heart wrenching on so many levels to leave McKinney, but I have an overwhelming sense that God has given us this invitation to go back and see the fruit of what we helped sow in prayer fifteen years ago. I eagerly anticipate seeing the “poppies” in Arizona.

I wonder how many people have a God-given dream in their heart that they have become hopeless and heart-sick over. Or how many have allowed the busyness of life to put a dream on the back burner to the point that it is almost forgotten. I wonder how many would be bold enough to take that dream to God in prayer and ask Him what to do with it. “We are not called to be spectators watching from the stands as the prince of darkness goes about to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus said there is a shortage of workers, but the actual work will be done by God’s Spirit through you and me doing great things beyond our wildest imagination. It all begins when you offer yourself to serve.” (Spirit Rising, 188, Jim Cymbala).

I’m praying for fellow poppy planters. People that will invest their efforts in work that will reap an eternal harvest. May we pray the prophet Isaiah’s prayer: “Here am I Lord, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

 

You might also like

A Promise Revisited

by

It was a normal Phoenix afternoon on August 28, 1998. I was preparing dinner in the kitchen with Dillon, age 5, and Derek, age 3, running circles around me and sliding on the Saltillo tile and my 4-month-old Caleb sitting in his bouncy seat on the counter. Glancing up at my scripture-a-day calendar, the words of Isaiah 43:18-19 seemed to come off the page at me: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” My heart leapt within me — I knew that God was telling me that He wanted to bring revival to our city. I opened my Bible to the passage and read on to verses 21-22: “Yet, you have not called upon me, O Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel.”

The need was clear. It was time to pray. My friend Debbi and I had vowed a year earlier to pray every day for the women of our church, but this was a bigger vision – revival for the city of Phoenix. I prayed God would send us more intercessors. In the weeks that followed, friends from my church as well as new acquaintances God brought my way (in places as unlikely as the produce section at the grocery store) began gathering to pray and fast for God’s will to be done in our city. Our group of 40 women felt God led us to call ourselves “Frontline” because God was telling us we would win this spiritual battle by worship and the Word, just as God directed Jehoshaphat to put the worship team on the front lines of battle so that all would know it was God who was doing the fighting.

Though God worked richly in our lives during that season, by the time I stopped leading the group in June of 2000 because of having my fourth baby, we had not seen the major breakthroughs we were expecting. It was one of the biggest disappointments of my life. I couldn’t figure out what had blocked God’s plans for the city. By 2003 and 2004, sadly, Proverbs 13:12a described my condition: “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick….”

In 2004 God called us to serve at a church in McKinney, Texas. Though it was hard to leave friends in Phoenix, it was a joy to move close to family and to put the disappointments of unfulfilled spiritual expectations behind me. I put my journals of words from God regarding Phoenix in a file, and moved on.

Fast forward nine years. In the process of praying through a call that my husband has felt on his life to lead pastor a church, Chris started feeling the Lord leading him toward church planting. In January I all but told him, “Anywhere but Phoenix!” (Really, I know better than to make statements like that!) Though we have so many dear friends there, I guess the deep-rooted disappointment of past hopes still lived on.

TreeofLife

Through a series of unexpected events that started mid February of this year, we could feel God’s undeniable leading toward exactly the place I said I didn’t want to go: Phoenix. But there is a new twist to it. God has given me the full of Proverbs 13:12, bringing to my attention the last part of the verse. “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Really, Lord?! We feel this is God’s invitation for us to come back and harvest what we helped sow in prayer 15 years ago. Am I excited? You bet I am! I am poring back through the many pages I have of promises that God gave me in 1998-1999, and claiming every one of them. I’ve felt the Lord whisper to my heart, I never make a promise I don’t keep.

Another exciting part of this is that our precious church in McKinney is sending us to do the church plant! Though we will be a thousand miles away, we are still connected to a people we love and we will have their support as we go on this new adventure. Many dear friends in Phoenix are also praying for us and some are even planning to come help get the church off the ground. Our hearts overflow with thankfulness.

Father, I thank you for this opportunity to share of your faithfulness and your calling. We are privileged to be at your service. Thank you for the promises that you have given every believer in your Word. Help us to know those promises and may they carry us through difficult times. Thank you that we can trust you always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

You might also like

Wringing Out My Wrongs: Things My Mom Did Right

by

Today is my mom’s birthday, and this post is in her honor.

My mom is an amazing seamstress. In high school she made beautiful evening gowns and won State 4-H contests. No one could beat her. Desperate to win first place, a girl once drugged my mom before she modeled her evening gown before the judges. Though it was a miracle she was even coherent, my mom won. That is how good she is.  Growing up, she and my Grandma outfitted my brother and sister and me with clothing they had sewed.

Blackley-Family-1978

During my late elementary years, my best friends Tama Walley and Donna Person wore clothes from Dillard’s and other top department stores, and I longed to do the same. So, no matter how perfectly finished, I took it upon myself to criticize every clothing item that my mom or Grandma ever made for me. There were always sleeves that were too puffy, a collar too small, or buttons I didn’t like (Basically, I was just a congenial, grateful, content, and easy-to-get-along-with sixth grader.)

Our church middle school choir musical, “Down by the Creek Bank” was coming, and all the girls were talking about what overalls we planned to wear for the production. My friend Donna’s mom found some at Dillard’s that had a pocket on the front with a gold stitching design that I thought was out of this world. “I need a pair of those overalls!” I said. My Dad was a minister of music on a church staff and my mom was a homemaker. We couldn’t afford to spend our entire month’s clothes budget on one pair of overalls. But my mom told me she would be happy to make me some that were similar for a fraction of the cost if I wanted to be a part of the process.

She took me to the fabric store so I could pick out just the type of denim I wanted. She had me pick out a pattern while we were there. “You will be happy with these overalls made of this material and stitched with this thread?” she asked. “Great.” Then she made me sit by her side as she sewed, and approve every part of the overall making process. She took the denim strips and ironed them to be straps. “Will you be happy with this width? Would you like me to do double stitching down each side or single? And you will be happy with that?” I sat there for who knows how many painstaking hours over a few days, answering her questions about exactly how I wanted everything designed.

I never once complained about anything she or Grandma sewed for me from that day forward.

Thanks, Mom, for wringing out my wrongs.

 

You might also like

by

Chris and I just returned from Europe last week, where he was speaking for a missions conference near Budapest, Hungary. I had a few surprises along the way.

  • The French computer keyboard. I used a friend’s Apple computer, and had a hilarious time trying to type!
  • A young Hungarian couple exclusively played traditional polka music at their wedding reception.
  • The flight to Europe seemed short compared to my recent trips to Africa.

At the conference we had the joy of getting acquainted with church leaders from all over Western Europe. My friend Vicki from Switzerland shared with me this story:

A couple dreamed of beautiful roadsides in their community. Pulling a large portion of the money from their savings account, they invested in a great amount of poppy seeds and joyfully scattered them on each side of the road for miles. Eager to see the flowers crowding each side of the highway, they watched and waited, watched and waited. Years passed and not one poppy grew in the area they had planted. Assuming they had wasted their money and time, the couple was greatly disappointed.

Then one spring years later, they were driving along and could not believe their eyes. Beautiful red poppies graced each side of the road. When the conditions (temperature, moisture, and sunlight) were right, the seeds bloomed. The flowers were beautiful in their time. The couple saw the realization of their dream, and experienced the fullness of Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” And others also were blessed because of their work.

That story encourages me as I reflect on what I believe God laid on our hearts in 1998 to pray for Phoenix: revival. Though we did not see evidence of revival before we moved from Phoenix in 2003, I believe the answer to our prayers is now coming into full bloom. It is heart wrenching on so many levels to leave McKinney, but I have an overwhelming sense that God has given us this invitation to go back and see the fruit of what we helped sow in prayer fifteen years ago. I eagerly anticipate seeing the “poppies” in Arizona.

I wonder how many people have a God-given dream in their heart that they have become hopeless and heart-sick over. Or how many have allowed the busyness of life to put a dream on the back burner to the point that it is almost forgotten. I wonder how many would be bold enough to take that dream to God in prayer and ask Him what to do with it. “We are not called to be spectators watching from the stands as the prince of darkness goes about to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus said there is a shortage of workers, but the actual work will be done by God’s Spirit through you and me doing great things beyond our wildest imagination. It all begins when you offer yourself to serve.” (Spirit Rising, 188, Jim Cymbala).

I’m praying for fellow poppy planters. People that will invest their efforts in work that will reap an eternal harvest. May we pray the prophet Isaiah’s prayer: “Here am I Lord, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

You might also like

A Lesson in Pruning

by

Rose

Valentine’s Day I took the plunge. Knowing it was the recommended day for pruning rose plants in North Texas, and looking for any excuse I could find to get outside and enjoy the sunny 65-degree day, I overcame the intimidation and did it. I researched a few pruning tips online, gathered my leather gloves and clippers, and trimmed back my Belinda rose bush.

Having just attended the Ash Wednesday service at our church the night before, I worked on the rose bush and thought about the pruning God is doing in my life during this season of Lent.

“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

God revealed to me my own life step-by-step as I worked on the bush:

– Removing the dead canes, I thought about how God wants to remove the worthless things in my life that do not contribute towards the purposes He has for me.

– As I snipped off small green stems I thought about the areas in my life that may seem okay, but are draining energy away from the areas in my life that God deems as top priority for this season. Actually, those “good parts” sometimes take the greatest courage to remove. But I know God will free up my energy for the “best parts” when I allow the pruning process.

– Some branches were healthy and nice sized, but they overlapped, which can make rose bushes prone to disease. So they had to go. I wonder how many times my schedule has overlapping parts that create an atmosphere of stress and worry that crowd out my joy and peace. If branches are too crowded, they can’t get enough sun. In the same way, if all my time is committed to busy activity, it leaves no time for prayer or reading the Bible– I can’t get enough of the Son.

– I then removed the inward growing branches. Outward is the healthy way for the bush to grow. I pray regularly that God would deliver me from my selfish ways and give me His love for others, spending my time and energies to reach outward. It’s amazing how healthy I become when I focus on others instead of myself.

– Next I scattered a few tablespoons of *Epsom salt around the base of my bush, and water it. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” I pray my speech and life are salty enough to cause others to thirst for the living waters of salvation found in Christ.

– Although my bush looked pretty pitiful when I was finished, I encouraged myself that it will look beautiful in its time. Roses are perfectly capable of sending new shoots out of old branches, even if they are the size of tree trunks! This reminds me that even as I age God can continue to bring new and fresh fruit through me for His glory and honor. I need not fear letting go of the old works that God has done. He is always doing new things.

“The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul, spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12-13

Father, I praise you for being the Master Gardener. Thank you for doing your pruning with tender loving care.  Give me the discipline to daily be in your Word, knowing it is one of your most valuable tools in this pruning process. I pray that I might bear a lifetime of fruit for your honor and glory. Amen.

 

rose*Here are some practical gardening tips using the inexpensive household ingredient Epsom salt:

Epsom salt is an inexpensive and organic fertilizer for the rose plant that increases the size of the roses, provides a rich color to the flower, and increases the number of buds on the plant.

Before planting a rose bush soak its roots overnight in a solution of Epsom salt and water (about ½ cup of salt in 1 gallon of water). In the hole that you have prepared to plant the roses, put another tablespoon of crystals before you put the plant in. After planting, put another ½ cup of Epsom salt in the soil and mix down to two inches deep.

For plants already in the ground, scatter one tablespoon of Epsom salt for each foot your rose bush is high at the base of each rose bush, then water the plant. Do this in the Spring and again in the Fall. Dissolve a tablespoon per gallon of water then spray on plants after leaves appear and again when the roses bloom.

*This inexpensive household product is also said to be helpful for tomato and pepper plants. The magnesium sulfate in it increases chlorophyll production and helps plants use phosphorus and nitrogen better. When transplanting tomato and pepper plants, sprinkle one tablespoon around each transplant. Then spray them with 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt per gallon of water at the first planting, again when blossoms appear, and at fruit set.

Prepare garden soil by sprinkling up to 1 cup of Epsom salt per 100 square feet, then work it into the soil before seeding or planting.

You might also like

A Wake-up Call to Live What I Believe

by

I couldn’t understand the words, probably spoken in Creole, but they were growing increasingly louder and had the harshness and brashness of curses.  Just as Mariama and I came to a part in the road that narrowed to about two feet wide, three-foot-tall grass to our left and sloppy mud puddles to our right, the speaker of the brash words came upon us and passed us quickly. Still spewing the seemingly foul language, he growled an ugly “Pastor Chris” right in the middle of it just as he brushed my left shoulder and quickly pushed past us.

My heartbeat and adrenaline surged, and I strengthened my grip on Mariama’s hand and sped up my pace toward the compound, only about 50 yards away. “He’s crazy!” Mariama said. All I wanted to do was get far away from him, the man I’d seen all week storming around the village mumbling to himself.

Later, in my Bible reading for the day I read about Jesus casting out the evil spirit in a man. Because I follow the Chronological Bible to read the Bible in a year, it lists a specific story back-to-back if it is told in more than one book of the Bible. So I read the story from Mark 1, Luke 4, and Matthew 8. “That evening after sun set the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” Mark 1:32-34

A verse came to mind: “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” John 14:12 (New Living Translation, 2007).  I pondered on the scriptures and what had happened just an hour before. Why had fear been the overriding emotion of that “crazy man” incident? Why did I not rebuke the curse on my husband in Jesus’ Name? Why did I only fear for my own well-being and not have any compassion to help free this tormented soul? Do I really believe through Christ I can do even greater works than He did when He walked on Earth? Really…?

If I really do believe the things I say I believe, then why don’t I show it?

That day kicked off what I believe God gave me as a goal for the year: Live what I believe. Why? Donald Miller’s quote in his book Blue Like Jazz sums it up: “What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.”

How does this flesh out in my day-to-day life?

  • If I truly believe I can’t do my life without God’s help, I will spend time in prayer and His Word every day.
  • When crisis comes, I will trust God and not worry.
  • When someone wrongs me, I will forgive.
  • When I’m misunderstood, I know that God knows my heart.
  • When temptation knocks, I can resist and take the way of escape that God provides.
  • When my role changes, I will remember that my identity is in Christ alone.
  • When life gets hectic, I allow God’s deep peace to guard my heart.
  • When I look in the mirror, I can thank God for how He made me.

Father, thank you for all the promises I have in you through Christ. I pray the daily circumstances of my life will reveal a deep trust in you and in your Word. May others see your faithfulness and praise your Mighty Name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

You might also like

Words of Truth on Busy Streets

by

As we move forward to do what we feel called to do in adding some precious new ones to our family, I reflect of the messages I saw on the poda podas (the bush minivans) on my recent visit to Sierra Leone. These primary sources of transport, along with droves of walkers (that seem to be moving faster than the vehicles most of the time), are seen all over the streets in a city that has no public transit, no street lights, and few well-paved roads. I will let the poda podas speak for themselves…

2012 July-October 787

2012 July-October 766

2012 July-October 765

2012 July-October 763

2012 July-October 755

 

You might also like

1 2 3 4 5 10