Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Treasure Verse Tuesday ~ Bearing Fruit Upward

And [they] shall again take root downward, 
and bear fruit upward.
(Isaiah 37:31)

 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples."
(John 15:1-8)

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Teaching Through Taste Buds!

"Taste and see that the LORD is good; 
blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him."
Psalm 34:8

"...serve Him shoulder to shoulder."
Zephaniah 3:9

I think my dear friend, Lucille, is one of the most uniquely gifted women I know.  God has given her the gifts of teaching and hospitality, just to name a few.  Educated in culinary arts and having worked on television cooking shows for many years as a Professional Food Stylist with some of the finest chefs and cookbooks authors, God prepared her for a rare and specific ministry.

I remember a few summers ago, she and I and two other girlfriends gathered for lunch. As we laughed, chatted and caught up with one another, Lucille shared this idea for a ministry called Psalm 34:8 Cooking. Wow. Like a movie reel fast forwarding in my mind, I could see how God had been readying Lucille for this ministry over the years.  We sat with her excitedly as we talked about different ideas and encouraged her with this vision.

Since that time, I've had the privilege of continuing to pray for and see God's work in Lucille heart and hands and how He is developing this very unique ministry where Lucille teaches God's Word and shares the Gospel through culinary arts and cooking classes.  Lucille loves to learn, and through that passion He has been shaping her gift of teaching.  She's been faithful to seek Him, wait on Him and honor Him.  She doesn't rush ahead of Him.  Simply choosing to abide in the Vine daily, He is bringing forth sweet fruit as she encourages us to "taste and see".  Song of Solomon 2:3 ~ His fruit is sweet to my taste.

Recently, for our Gather and Grow Bible Study annual season finale, Lucille presented her class "Abide In The True Vine".  As our taste buds enjoyed delicious culinary creations all from the grape vine, our hearts received encouragement, comfort and conviction from God's Word, the richest of fare.  Isaiah 55:2 ~ Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

One of my favorites of all of Lucille's classes, Abide In The True Vine is a great lesson for Christians already abiding in Christ and also as an outreach to those that may not be.  Lucille illustrates the necessity of receiving our sustenance, nourishment and life from the True Vine.  She also discusses the life-changing difference between religion and a personal relationship with Jesus.

As I delight to see how God is shaping Lucille and her ministry, my heart pauses and my eyes look around to see how He is working in the hearts and lives of those I love.  What gifts is He giving and growing?  What dreams and desires is He placing in the hearts of those I hold dear?  Just as it is fun to taste and see, it is awesome to watch, pray and rejoice.  Colossians 4:2 ~ Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Though we are often unaware, He is preparing us for great works for His purposes and glory. Ephesians 2:10 ~ For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.   

His goodness and blessings stir my heart to marvel.  As I delight with my dear friend, Lucille, as she beautifully teaches God's Word through culinary arts, I am reminded that the Vine Dresser wants to bear fruit through all of our lives.  He has gifted us, invites us to dine with Him and partake in His goodness.  As we abide, He places dreams and desires in our hearts, uses the gifts He has given us and produces delicious, genuine fruit. He satisfies our souls with the richest of fare.   

Therefore if anyone cleanses himself...
he will be a vessel for honor,
sanctified and useful for the Master,
prepared for every good work.
2 Timothy 2:21

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Even On Sundays

"Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD."
Psalm 34:11

French-braiding Gabrielle's hair at 7 a.m.on Sunday morning, I spoke tenderly to her as her tired body stood quietly.  Still half asleep, she was sweetly cooperative as my fingers wove through her soft, blond locks.  Usually we go to the second service, but our day's plans proclaimed that we needed to attend the first service.  I had to wake Gabrielle up out of a sound sleep so she could get ready. 

Standing together looking into her mirror, her pretty reflection looking into my eyes, God blessed us with a sweet, little conversation that I pray made a deep impact on her heart.  It was one of those unexpected, serendipitous opportunities to teach her and live out, by His grace alone, Psalm 34:11. 

I told her she was doing a great job preparing for church even though she was very tired.  She got out of bed without complaining and quietly washed and dressed herself. 

"Gabrielle, you are doing very well this morning, and I know you are very tired.  Thank you.  I know you are still sleepy.  I am tired, too, but we are going to first service today."
"What time did you get up, Mom?"
"Well, I got up early to have my quiet time and devotions with the Lord and to put dinner in the crock pot."

"You got up early to have devotions today, Mom?"

"Yes, I did."

"You get up early for quiet time and devotions...even on Sundays?"

"Yes, even on Sundays."

Especially on Sundays.  I need to be sure my heart is right before I enter the sanctuary of God to worship and to receive the teaching from God's Word.  I don't want anything between me and God.  I don't want unconfessed sin or an unchecked heart.  I want to worship Him without pretense and with sincerity.  I want Him to convict me and encourage me through His Word.

"Now do not be stiff-necked...but yield yourselves to the LORD; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the LORD your God..." 2 Chronicles 30:8

If I need to make things right with my husband and apologize for a spat, I do that.  If I've been putting my hands over my ears to something God has been trying to whisper to me, my hands need to be folded in prayer and receiving His word.  If pride has gotten a hold of my attitude and heart, I need to humble myself and ask for forgiveness.  I need my quiet time with Jesus each morning.

Even on Sundays.  Especially on Sundays.

As I wove her hair into a pretty braid, I believe He was weaving His love and truth into the fibers of her heart.  I pray God used that precious moment with Gabrielle to make a lasting impression on her young, tender heart.  Our relationship with God is constant and uninterrupted.  He continually hears our hearts' cries, receives our praises and desires to walk and talk with us throughout every moment of every day. 

Even on Sundays.  Especially on Sundays.    

One thing I have desired of the LORD,That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple.
 Psalm 27:4 

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Surprise Room

 "If you...know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!"
Matthew 7:11

The Surprise Room.  Our spare bedroom nesting delightful surprises and gifts for our children (and other family and friends) until just the appointed time.  Perhaps a birthday, a recital, a sports championship, an excellent report card, Christmas or Easter...or simply because we love them. 

The closet in our Surprise Room has a large box filled with gift bags. A variety of wrapping paper and bows mingle together in the corner of the closet just waiting to be chosen.  Tape and scissors sit contently in a basket as if knowing they contribute to the preparation of blessings we call gifts.

Shopportunities and clearance sales afford us the chance to hide gifts in The Suprise Room until the right time.  As the parents, we are so excited knowing what we have in store to suprise and bless our children.  Already planning to bless them with serendipities, we usually give no clue to the unexpected treasures that wait behind the door of The Surprise Room.

The children know that, if the door to The Suprise Room is closed, they may not enter.  It is our joy and delight to prepare gifts ahead of time for our children.  The mystery and boundaries the door provides adds to the joy and excitement of giving the gift in the future at the right time.  We know the surprises we have preapared for our children and how delighted they will be to receive them.  Yet, they are unaware of what blessings await them in the storehouse of gifts we call The Surprise Room.

"If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey."  Numbers 14:8

As a parent with the privilege of excitedly preparing blessings for my children in The Surprise Room and holding the key to the door, I often think of our Heavenly Father and the gifts He has prepared for us.  It humbles me that He takes great delight in us (Zephaniah 3:17) and that He desires to give us wonderful gifts.  He is the Giver of good and perfect gifts.  "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."  James 1:17  

God knows the plans and blessings He has in His surprise room for us, His children.  He does not always reveal those gifts to us, but rather usually He waits until just the right time to present them to us.  He knows it is better for us to wait and trust as He keeps the door to His surprise room closed and secured.  With reverence and faith, I trust the door closed by the Father's hand until such time as He opens it and gives the gift.

Our favorite gifts to give our children from The Surprise Room are those surprise gifts we give to our children ~ simply because we love them. They have not earned them. They are not expecting them on a certain celebrated day. We give to our children simply because we love our children. Just like our Heavenly Father. "God so loved the world, that He gave..." John 3:16

Some of the sweetest, most serendipitous blessings I receive from the heart and hand of God are those that are completely undeserved and unearned.  He has given me the most amazing gifts after times of failure and defining moments where I have needed His grace and mercy so deeply.  These intangible gifts of His grace have left me hushed and humbled by His perfect love.  "He will quiet you with His love..."  (Zephaniah 3:17)

"One can give without loving,
but one cannot love without giving."
~ Amy Carmichael

God gives because He loves.  He gave us an eternal gift in His Son, Jesus, our Savior.  Our Heavenly Father's storehouse of blessings for us must be bursting at the seams!  His love is perfect.  His love is generous.  His love is lavish.  "How great is the goodness You have stored up for those who fear You. You lavish it on those who come to You for protection, blessing them before the watching world." Psalm 31:19

God's Surprise Room.  As His child, I wait excitedly to know what He stores inside for just the right time.  I trust His plans.  I am covered by His perfect love.  I am humbled by His grace.  I depend on His mercy.  His gifts are good and perfect. 

Thank you, Father, for the unexpected treasures You are storing up for us!  May our earthly Surprise Room represent Your perfect love, grace and mercy to our precious children. As they wait, may their trust and faith in You grow. When they receive, may their hearts always be humble and thankful to You.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Jeremiah 29:11-14