RETIREMENT…SO FAR

Questions…questions…questions!! I have many questions at this stage of my life. What am I supposed to be doing? Is my life over? Am I valuable anymore? How clean does my house have to be? What’s next? Actually, people ask me questions about retirement which I can’t really answer. So, what is it? One of my very good friends who has walked this road before me said, “It’s a process!” The problem is that I want the process to be over and done; but that’s not how process works.

Process is gradual which requires patience! Ugh! I’m a foot tapper so patience is not my strong suit. Am I alone in this? I don’t think so. We live in a world of “fast” results for everything from food to information. The problem is that life is not fast or instant. Sure, I can look back on my life and say things like, “It seems like that happened just yesterday.” The truth is that it happened yesterday which is past. It took a lot of yesterdays to get to today. They have been part of the process of our maturing in age as well as abilities. We are very agreeable about the sanctification process because we know we are not going to achieve perfection in this world but there’s not too much patience for other processes. Is there hope in this retirement process?

YES!!!

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I don’t want to lose heart. I lose heart when I am impatient with my day. Rather than losing heart, I need to seek the Lord. He has me in this. He knows my tendencies and he will work to make me more like Jesus. I must, however, cooperate with him. There is so much more to this life than going to work each day. My being at home doesn’t erase people and their need of Christ. There are people who are lost and need to know the Savior. People who need to know God is with them in their circumstances. I can help if I turn from looking at myself to others. Every time I look to myself, I lose heart. May the Lord help me with this.

The truth is I’m wasting away. We are all dying, which is another process. I’m not getting any younger. I may feel younger but I’m not. That’s the reality of the situation. I need to focus on the eternal glory in the presence of God to come. Death brings me eternity with my Savior. I can waste this time by focusing on “not knowing” or I can become a benefit for the kingdom. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to pull back the curtain and see the glory of God in His fullness? It would, but I have a feeling my wicked heart would still be active.

The bottom line to this retirement thing is that I need to relax in God and allow him to show me what’s next. He’s never failed me ever! He is always true and just! My problem is I need to be more like Jesus! Lord, help me to do just that.

Oh to be like Thee by Thomas O. Chisholm

            Oh! To be like Thee, oh! To be like Thee,

            Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;

            Com in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;

            Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

WHAT I LEARNED AT DISNEYWORLD! PART FOUR

Lesson Four – Followers of Christ are not of the world, however, we are in the world.

As you walk through the many streets of Disneyworld, you see many different people. One of the things that really struck me was that people were wearing things I know they would never dare wear in public on a regular basis. Men and women had on their Mickey ears with various costumes to match. Kim and were matching on a couple of days and it was fun. I doubt you’ll see us do that at the women’s kick-off this year. 😊The idea is to have fun by joining into the make-believe atmosphere. When going to a public venue, like Disneyworld, we must remember it is not a retreat for followers of Christ. That means we will witness lifestyles, bad language, selfish attitudes, and those who would mock our Lord and Savior. We were in line for a ride on one day when I heard a discussion behind me. One of the young ladies of the group said, “Come on! Gender is overrated!” Wow, how do you overrate gender? We are either male or female and as followers of Christ, that is what we believe. Did I witness partners of the same sex walking around? Yes. Do I think Disneyworld is involved in being politically correct? Yes. The one thing I know for sure Disneyworld is of this world and I am not. So, how will we handle these disruptions in our lives? What are we to do just stay home and hide away? The truth is even if we do hide away, we can’t hide from our own sinful thoughts and deeds. We can get ourselves into sinful situations without any input from the world. Let’s look at a few points from Jesus’ prayer in John 17.

  • The world hates followers of Christ because they hate Christ.

This is a fact stated by Jesus in John 17:14. We always seem to think something else will happen. The rebellion of this world is against our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This will not change until “every knee bows and tongue confesses” (Philippians 2:10). Until that time we will be hated. This world is not our home and does not treat us like family but God’s people will and should. Our joy comes from being loved by him.

  • God’s Word is truth and we are set apart in that truth.

Jesus prays for his children to be sanctified in God’s truth in John 17:17. To be sanctified is to be set apart. God in his marvelous grace and mercy has saved us from sin and darkness. We are in the world and we need to wash ourselves with the Word of God regularly. By doing this, we can recognize the world and its influence in our lives which will cause us to turn back to the truth. We can’t live in this world without the truth. Our joy comes from being led by the truth of his Word.

  • Unity in the household of God is vital as we live in this world.

In John 17:21, Jesus prays for our unity. It’s so very important for us to love each other well. Our love will grow for each other as we look to Jesus for our example of love. It’s interesting to realize that when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he washed Judas’ feet. He knew that within a few hours, this man would betray him to the authorities. His knowledge of this didn’t keep him from serving Judas. The culture of this world is contrary to the Word of God. We don’t know how far it will go until judgment happens but we know, our God is with us. He wants us to be with one another. We allow many things that don’t really matter to divide us. The bottom line is we always think we’re right. That kind of thinking doesn’t bring about unity in the body of Christ. Our Pastor has always said we should be a bag of grapes all mushed together, not marbles bumping into one another. We are to move as one in unity for the gospel’s sake. Living in this world will be easier when we know there is a family of believers who have our backs. Our joy comes from being able to encourage, carry, and love one another.

  • The example of lifting others in prayer is given to us. Are we praying?

I find that it’s easier to condemn than to pray for the world. Condemnation doesn’t promote the gospel but prayer does. Our job is to be a light in this world for the gospel. We can’t do that if all we do is condemn the world. Yes, we call sin, sin! We don’t apologize for that but then we pray. There were many to pray for as I walked through Disneyworld. Some so sad and lost in the system which will not save them. Others who no longer think with logic and say things which make no sense. In the end, they need Jesus. Are we being a light in this world? Smiles, saying please and thank you, being generous with tips, or helping someone put heavy objects in cars are all easy things we can do. Recently, I went to brunch with some ladies and one of them said to the waitress, “we pray before we eat. Is there something we can pray for you?” I loved that and it opened up a dialogue with this woman who was facing some difficulties in her life. We prayed for her. Simple but a gospel light. Our joy will come as we begin to shine our light in this world.

For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” John 13:15

WHAT YOU CAN LEARN AT DISNEYWORLD! PART THREE

Lesson Three – Every generation is important!

Families traveling together is a big thing at Disneyworld! You can observe the grandparents, parents, and children walking along together, sometimes with strollers, wheelchairs, and electric carts. They work at staying together and experiencing this vacation as one unit. It was so encouraging to see grandparents with a grandchild on their laps riding them along in the electric carts or sharing their wheelchair with them. They were smiling and enjoying their time together. I also witnessed children in distress after one of the rides. They needed to be comforted and the grandparent held and spoke to the child with much patience. There were times when not all the family could ride but sacrifice was made in order that others could ride. Input into the generations is so important and it isn’t always the very young who need that input. A mother who needs her mother to put her arm around her and rub her back in the middle of the day when everyone is so tired. A father who hears from his father, “I’m proud of you son for all you’re doing for your own children today. I know this is a sacrifice.” We all need encouragement regardless of our age. The generations after us are important and we need to step up in our families and also in our church family.

God’s Word has much to say about how we are to treat others in his family. There is a reason we are to encourage, love, confront, be kind, have patience, live at peace, and carry one another’s burdens. We do this because of all that Christ has done for us. He lived perfectly for us. He died to make us his. He rose from the dead in victory! He intercedes for us today at the right hand of the Father. It is these works of Christ which make us part of the family of God if we have placed our faith in him. We do what we do because Christ did what he did! That is easy for us to remember but not always easy to do. This includes all generations within our family. Let’s look at Psalm 78:4-8. (This is a longer passage but please read it all as it is of great importance for our family.)

                        “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generations might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generations, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.”

The purpose of our involvement in the other generations is so that they would put their hope in God and follow him. This is a high calling which every Follower of Christ is given. When was the last time you shared your space with a child, or comforted someone who’s tired, or used your words to encourage another generation? It’s so easy to get caught up in who we think we are, or how we don’t have time, or maybe we think we’re not competent to do it at all. But God has given us a great challenge to get involved with another generation, to step outside of ourselves, and to love others well for his glory. How can we do this within our church body? It needs to be intentional. We can be involved in the children’s ministry, the women’s ministry, the men’s ministry, or a small group. Each of these opportunities gives us the chance to be involved with others who are of a different age and circumstance. If you are older, like me, then you have much in the way of experience of how God has worked in your life that will be of great benefit to others. We should want to be a part of the next generation putting their hope in God.

There was someone or many who put their time into you, pointing you to a Savior. Remember and be grateful today for them and God’s direction in their lives. They loved you well. Let’s seek to love well too for God’s glory.

“Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.” Joel 1:3

WHAT YOU CAN LEARN AT DISNEYWORLD! PART TWO

Lesson Two – We have to watch our hearts!

Disneyworld is a great place to observe people. One of the things you see are families on vacation together. As I mentioned in my first blog, it is a joy to see the smiles on children’s faces as they look around at all the attractions there. The characters walking down the street, shaking hands, and stopping to greet these children brings light to their eyes. There are a few who cry, but most do not. These families are on vacation which means they are wanting to enjoy every single moment they have. However, life is not always smooth even on vacation. Our hearts get in the way. The desire for what we want can overrule the enjoyment mode of those with us. We can decide “this is what I want” which will definitely put a damper on vacation.

If you have ever traveled with children, you know the obstacles well. They experience hunger, tiredness, and missed expectations. Each of these can affect the mood of the child, one minute smiling, the next crying, and the next screaming. Parents need to handle these obstacles in a loving way but, more often, their hearts and what they want take over. I heard parents saying the following:

“We’re here for you. Do you think I want to be here?”

“You’re being very bad. I’m just going to take you home.”

“You ruin everything we do.”

“You don’t appreciate my sacrifice to bring you here. Do you know what I had to give up?”

Parents also struggle with heart issues especially unfulfilled expectations. They expect their children are going to be so grateful and love them at a greater level because they spent so much money to take them to Disneyworld. This is unrealistic and actually, selfish. The whole vacation should be a gift freely given to their families with love. When life gets messy, however, then desires take over and the result is a loss. So those smiling families are not always as they seem.

As Followers of Christ, we are family. We have brothers and sisters within the body who we are to love well. However, we don’t always do that because we look at the outward smiles and family units thinking they have it all together. We become jealous of what it appears they have and begin to think things we shouldn’t. The problem is we think we know because of what we see but we can’t see hearts or homes. Jesus told us in John 16:33, “…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We all have trouble in this world. It is not right to compare our troubles or to think in terms of, “I wish I was her.” Jesus tells us he has overcome the world so we can take heart and have peace in that. He doesn’t tell us we’re unappreciative or throw his death in our faces. He loves us with a love we can’t even fathom. Things are not always as they seem. There are things hidden in the hearts of men we wouldn’t be able to handle. Remember there are things hidden in your heart and mine we can’t understand! What we can understand is that God has given us a Savior who has overcome this world and all its problems! Let’s pray for one another! We never know what’s going on in another’s life!

“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

WHAT YOU CAN LEARN AT DISNEYWORLD! PART ONE

I have just returned from the trip of a lifetime made possible by the women of Cornerstone Baptist Church. As I prepared for retirement, the women were pooling their money to send me, cost free to, Disneyworld. It was a surprise that still overwhelms me. I didn’t even have to drive. My friend, Kim, did all of the driving. Now the “magic” is over and retirement really begins. It occurred to me that, perhaps, you might be interested in lessons available even in Disneyworld. I will take a few blogs and share those with you. May God use these for our good making us more like Jesus.

Lesson One – God’s arms are always open to his children.

We visited all four Disney parks while we were there. I observed the same thing in every park. There were children and parents making their way through the crowds. It is very easy to lose your party as you make your way around so many people. There was the little boy or girl ahead of parents looking around, being distracted by all he or she could see. Their eyes and smiles were so big you could almost feel their excitement. But wait, something changed, no smiles and eyes darting in panic mode. What happened? They remembered they had parents and they couldn’t see them. As they turned to see mom or dad, they began to run with arms held high. When mom or dad embraced them, there was relief written all over their faces. Many times, I witnessed the child being picked up and carried which was so reassuring to the child.

This was a very common occurrence. Sometimes, we get ahead of those we’re supposed to be walking along side. We think we know a better way or an easier way so we take it. leaving others behind. Families are meant to stay together. A church is family and should stay together. We should be willing to keep up with, walk alongside of, and carry our brothers and sisters. This world can be distracting to us and cause us to lose our way. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith,…” Hebrews 12:1b-2a  As Followers of Christ, we know we must keep our eyes on him, but so many times we don’t. Is there any hope for us? Yes, because God’s arms are always open for his children.

We all know the parable of the Prodigal Son. There is much we can learn from this parable about the sons but more about the father, who represents God, the Father. Let’s focus on one verse. Luke 15:20b “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”  God, our Father, looks at us in our sinful condition. In fact, his eyes are always on us. He sees our ugly and then he feels compassion. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, God sees his righteousness and not our ugly but he knows it’s there. He has compassion and wants to help. The greatest help immediately needed is the connection with him. When we turn (repent) and look to him, we connect with our Father. He meets us by running and then embracing and kissing us. God never turns his children away, but meets us as we repent. He never leaves us wondering if he cares. He has proven his care for us in the sacrifice of his son.

Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus as we move through life in this world. There will be distractions and temptations but we must remember that our Father is watching over us. He is a loving parent who knows everywhere his children are. Above all remember his arms are always open to us. We can’t make him turn away. It’s not in his nature!

“As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!” Psalm 40:17 

WE ARE FAMILY!

Sunday marks another Mother’s Day! It’s a special day to honor mothers. Some women will not be honored on this special day. There are those who have passed away and are no longer with us. Single women will wonder where they fit. Those women who haven’t been able to have children feel a weight on this day. Other women who do have children but have no contact with them will grieve their absence. This day will remind others of the children they’ve lost by miscarriage, still birth, or death. Mother’s Day is very tricky. We want to honor mothers and yet there are so many who suffer. The answer lies in the instructions Paul gave Timothy concerning the church.

“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” 1 Timothy 5:1-2

In these verses, Paul makes it clear to Timothy that the church is family. We are to relate to one another as members of the same family. It’s interesting to read his instruction concerning our conduct toward one another, it is to be pure. Let’s think about purity for a moment. This is an attitude of our heart. It doesn’t really have to do with outward appearance but with what flows out of our heart.

  • Our interactions with other member of our church family should be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is not law.” Galatians 5:22-23
  • We should be free from selfish motives. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”       Philippians 2:3
  • Respect should be our heart’s desire for others in our church family. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood.” 1 Peter 2:17a
  • The older men and women are fathers and mothers. The younger men and women are brothers and sisters. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”           1 John 3:1a

Here’s the challenge! When was the last time you reached out to an older member of the family? Mother’s Day is a great day to adopt a mother. Just an encouraging word, a card, or a hug would mean so much. The older women in our family have poured into the younger members. We need to recognize that and celebrate them.

How about another challenge! When was the last time you reached out to a younger member of the family to encourage her or him? Mother’s Day is a great day to adopt a sister. We have many sisters who are grieving losses of children and others who are single and feel left out completely. Recognize the struggles and be the one to invite them into your day. You can pray for them and with them.

Family is support for one another. We hold one another up in the hard times. We celebrate together in the good times. Our Father is perfect. Our lives can be meshed together in service to him. We are family, but do we really believe it? Let’s do something different this year and begin to adopt mothers and sisters. Don’t forget in June you can continue something different by adopting fathers and brothers.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:12

ON TRACK

Have you ever thought about a train and how it stays on the track? The wheels have a flange on the bottom that looks like an L. This is what hooks to the inside of the track. Does the train ever derail? Yes, it does. There are a few reasons for this. It could be a broken rail. The gauge (the distance between the track rails) may be too wide for the wheels. Perhaps, the wheel picks the switch. The switch is the mechanism designed to lead the train from one track to another. If the switch isn’t adjusted properly then there’s a gap between the track and the switch. The wheel will roll the flange into the gap and the train will fall off the track. It will be derailed. To keep a train on the track, it takes good maintenance of the equipment. Let’s think about our Christian walk. It takes maintenance in our lives to follow Christ.

How in the world do we get off-track as followers of Christ? It’s not as hard to do as you may think. We all have the ability to form habits. This is a gift from God. Have you considered how your ability to drive is so habitual? You jump into the car, turn the key, put it into drive, and go forward. You didn’t have to think about it. This habit came about after much practice behind the wheel. In the same way, we practice each day in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We’ll think of it as “the more I __________, the more I will _________.” We can put whatever we want to in the blank. It’s about forming a habit.

Examples:

The more I swear, the more I will swear.

The more I play games on the internet, the more I will play games on the internet.

The more I respond in anger, the more I will respond in anger.

The more I put myself first, the more I will put myself first.

The more I isolate, the more I will isolate.

Do you get the picture? We choose things in this life to focus on that have nothing to do with our Christian walk. It’s so easy to continue to choose them as they become a habit in our lives. We derail our Christian walk by our thoughts, words, and deeds which don’t line up with who we say we are. The reason we continue to “do more” is because we are looking for peace and joy in the things we’re choosing. There is no peace and joy in not following Jesus. That’s where peace and joy is found. It’s hard to right a train which has derailed. It takes cranes and multiple men to lift it up again. We, on the other hand, can make steps to right ourselves. This change is not on our own as followers of Christ. We have the Spirit within, the body of Christ, and the Word of God to help us to get it right. Let’s think of what that would look like.

Examples:

The more I pray, the more I will want to pray.

The more I fellowship with the body, the more I will want to fellowship with the body.

The more I go to church, the more I will want to go to church.

The more I read God’s Word, the more I will want to read God’s Word.

The more I depend on the Spirit, the more I will want to depend on the Spirit.

The more I remind myself of the gospel, the more I will believe the gospel.

You see all of the above are habits worth forming. We can’t form a habit without effort, work, and practice. When we begin to form these habits, then we will be surer of our salvation. We will have joy and peace in Christ and what he has accomplished for us. The life lived as a follower of Christ is so worth the effort.

This road of life is not easy. There are many bumps, twists, and turns which can tempt us to derail from the track God has prepared for us. We will be tempted to pick the switch by falling into the gap created in our life by this world’s system. This world is not home for followers of Christ and its system will not bring us the peace we need.  Paul states this for us in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” This world doesn’t have the answers for life, God does. We will derail our lives by seeking our own way and creating habits that move us further from the Lord.

The more I pursue God and his ways, the more I will pursue God and his ways.

Let’s stay on track!

 IT’S GOOD TO BE NEAR TO GOD

Have you noticed how everyday there seems to be more and more bad news?  We all know the news programs strive to have the worst possible scenarios for us to consider.  For instance, when there is snow on the horizon, the weather is given to us every 15 minutes on the radio.  Preparations are encouraged to be made as if there is going to be a snow apocalypse.  Then, as we all know, we get two inches.  Even though this happens, it’s true that the world is in a bad way.  The world has turned away from its creator.  There are consequences to that.  As a follower of Christ, I need to keep in mind who holds my hand, who carries me, and who is my greatest comfort.  As all of the information of this world’s problems flood my mind, how can I remember God.  I am easily distracted and need to be reminded.  How does that happen?  Let’s look at the idea of being near to God together.

BE YOUR OWN ALARM CLOCK

 Alarm clocks are not really our favorite possession.  They are a necessity.  We need them to get us up on time. The alarm goes off and we have to stretch and get out of bed.  The noise it makes alerts us to the start of another day.  When we allow this world to overwhelm us, we need to give ourselves a wake-up alarm.  Truth needs to buzz our minds back to our Father God.  He has things well in hand.  We can remind ourselves, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” Proverbs 21:1  BUZZ!!  There is no leader on this earth that God doesn’t hold in his sovereign hand! 

HAVE A BACK-UP ALARM CLOCK

There are those of us who may sleep so deeply that a second alarm is needed.  You may put it across the room so that you have to get up to shut it off.  It takes more effort but it gets you going and you can start your day.  Sometimes being our own alarm clock isn’t enough.  We have to put forth the extra effort to contact someone who can be our back-up alarm clock.  “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” Ephesians 4:15  BUZZ!!  A brother or sister in the Lord is a great back-up alarm clock to remind us of the truth of who God is!

HEAR GOD’S LOVING ALARM

Do you remember when you first had to start using an alarm clock?  Your parents gave you instructions on how to set it and then made sure you knew you were on your own for the morning.  What was the problem with them waking us?  They were up anyway so it would be easy to shake a shoulder.  However, our parents wanted to teach us responsibility.  They wanted us to learn independence.  It didn’t mean they didn’t love us, quite the opposite.  Teaching and training is a loving thing for parents to do for their children. God wants us to remember his character and live trusting in Him.  “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Ephesians 5:1  BUZZ!!  God is our example and we can trust his character!

How do we stay near to God?  We believe the truth of who he is and what his word says.  We have to get our own attention, rely on someone else, and fully embrace God’s love.  When we get our minds on so many other things, our eyes begin to wander.  We spend more time looking at others than we do our Lord and Savior.  Looking at how this world’s people respond will not help us be near to God.  In fact, we will be getting farther away from him.  What do you need to change in your life in order to be near to God?

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” Psalm 73:28

BITTERSWEET…WHAT A WORD!

Have you ever had a bittersweet experience?  I’m sure you have. It’s hard to express exactly what being bittersweet is all about.  Is it good? Is it bad? Enjoyable or miserable?  Yes; all those things wrapped into one package.  Many have asked me about my retirement, which is coming up at lightning speed.  What is it like right now for me?  Bittersweet!  I think of the bittersweet chocolate used to make delicious brownies.  It’s hard to eat alone but when you add sugar, eggs, flour, and other ingredients it’s tastes good.  That’s what I’m experiencing right now.  I’m the chocolate without the other things added.  What that means is, I don’t know what will happen when I no longer come to my office every day. It has been a drive I’ve made for the last 33 years.  On July 1st, I won’t have an office to drive to and I have no idea what that will look like.

Here’s what I do know, God is not finished with me yet because I’m still breathing.  I’m still capable of following him and want to do that.  As I think about that I’m considering what will be added to take me from bittersweet to good.

  •  GOD’S PRESENCE

“…And behold, ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”           (Matthew 28:20b)  Jesus said this to his disciples as he was leaving this earth to go and be with the Father.  I am his disciple and I know he will be with me in the days ahead.  I may not know exactly what they hold for me, but he does.  He will walk through each day with me just he does now.  I can count on his presence to bring me comfort and peace.

  • GOD’S WORD

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

There are so many times I take it for granted that I have God’s Word available to me at all times.  God will use his word to give me direction and to point me in the way he would have me to go.  His word is powerful enough to give me what I need in order to move forward in life without an office.  I can rest in what I learn from his word about him and me.  God means what he says.  It is truth.

  • GOD’S PEOPLE

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”  (John 13:34)

Jesus gives this command to his disciples and to us, the church.  I know that in the days ahead, I can count on my church family to continue to be my family.  I don’t need an office to love others or to be loved by others.  Jesus’ love will shine through his people and I know I’ll continue to be the recipient of that love.  There will be new opportunities to love others well.  I look forward to that.

Are there any better ingredients to add to my bittersweet retirement?  I don’t think so.  God will make it deliciously his.  I need to rest in that and trust him as I move forward.  As I look at the calendar, I can see June 30th looming in the near future.  As I look to God, I can see many beginnings in store as I come to this ending.  The beginnings will be sweet because of God’s presence, word, and people.  How can it be anything else?

DO YOU HAVE A GARDEN?

The days are getting longer and warming up a bit here in Michigan.  This is a celebration for those who like to be outside in a flower or vegetable garden.  You know who you are.  You enjoy being on your knees with your hands in the dirt.  It can be relaxing for you but for others it’s a chore.  I would venture to say that even if you enjoy gardening, it is still hard work.  My Dad loved to garden.  He had a vegetable garden every year until he was 93.  His pride and joy were his roses and his tomato plants.  Even in his old age, he would scoot around on his bottom to weed.  He knew the value of cultivating in his gardens.  The time spent preparing them for planting and then pulling weeds was so valuable to the outcome of the plant.  I think that as members of the body of Christ, we have a garden of people.  We need to take the time to cultivate our relationships.  What does that look like?

  • Giving of our time for other’s best interests.

When you have a garden, you have to put aside time to cultivate the soil, plant the seeds, pull the weeds, and water them regularly.  Without this time the plants will not grow to their potential.  I think of how Jesus gave of his time with the Samaritan Woman at the well.  Although the Jewish people didn’t go through Samaria, Jesus did on purpose.  I love how the KJV says in John 4:4, “And he must NEEDS go through Samaria.”  To give of his time for this woman was a need.  He needed to do it for her and for so many others who believed on him that day.  Do you see time spent with others as a need for their best interest?

  • Giving of our ears for the other’s best interests.

What does listening have to do with a garden?  You can’t hear the plants as they stretch and grow.  You can listen and learn about gardening and how to do it better.  My dad never missed listening to Jerry Baker on the radio to get gardening tips.  We will do better in our relationships if we listen.  If we listen to others well, we will learn more about them and how to love them well.  Conversations can only go forward if we listen.  Take Jesus’ example again with the Samaritan Woman.  He spoke to her and then he listened to everything she had to say.  He never talked over her and dismissed her words.  Jesus was after her heart. “…If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  John 4:10  Do you take the time to listen to others in order to understand their needs?

  • Giving truth for the other’s best interests.

In a garden, you need to fertilize, water, and weed in order for good growth to take place.  There was a time when my Dad gave me three of his tomato plants for my yard.  I wanted to make him proud so I was determined to care for them well.  The holes were dug, but before I put the plants in the holes, I poured in a generous amount of manure.  I was sure they would thrive on all that nourishment.  Two days later, the plants were shriveled up and brown.  I over fertilized them.  Those were the last tomato plants my Dad gave to me.  Can this happen in relationships?  Absolutely.  We can say truths that are hurtful because they are said at the wrong time.  In Romans 8:28, it tells us all things work out for good to them who love the Lord.  This is truth but is not the best truth to tell someone whose husband just died.  We must learn from Jesus on how to speak the truth at the right time and in the right way.  It needs to be helpful.  The Samaritan Woman told Jesus that the Messiah was coming.  It was at this point when Jesus gave her truth, “…I who speak to you am he.” John 4:26  This was the perfect time and she believed him and then went to call others to see the Messiah.  Do you use the truth to harm or to help others?  Do you use the truth to smother someone who is hurting?  Will you use the truth for other’s best interests?

These are only three ways we can cultivate our relationships within the body of Christ.  We can learn from Jesus and his encounter with the Samaritan Woman.  Take some time and read the account from John 4:1-45.  You will see how Jesus works at cultivating a relationship with this woman.  Remember this…we don’t have to wait for warm weather to cultivate relationships.  Every moment of every day is a great time to cultivate within the body of Christ.  What is holding you back?  Move toward someone today for their good and God’s glory.