Sunday, May 29, 2011

Blueberries and Blessings

DSCN5217 In terms of eating, there are few things that I like better than free access to fresh fruit, especially fresh from the vine/tree/bush/bramble. This week marked the beginning of blueberry season for Alabama. I’ve been waiting for this moment ever since I learned that Uchee Pines has a berry farm. And as soon as I heard rumor that they were ready, I was one of the first to be out among the blueberry laden bushes with my bag, gathering the tasty little berries for my breakfast. Growing up, blueberries were usually too expensive to feed a family of 6. This spring for the first time in my life I’ve had the privilege of eating them to my heart’s content!

c Naturally excited to tell anything good that others would enjoy, I’ve been announcing to all my classmates that the blueberries are ripe. At the breakfast table I’ve been sharing what I’ve picked too. (Note: I think most of the Uchee Pines is waiting till next week to start picking them. . . then they’ll be a bit sweeter they say. But I’ve never had anything but store-bought blueberries, so I don’t know the difference, lol.)

But I found something interesting; the staff who have been here for years are barely excited for blueberry season. One individual told me that she had had her fill of blueberries and unless someone baked her a blueberry pie, she probably wouldn’t bother with them DSCN5216this year!

I guess I was a little shocked at the apparent lack of enthusiasm for the blueberries. I mean, at the store they’re probably $5+ a pound and don’t have half the flavor that these have! But then I realized that in this experience there is a lesson for me.

The story of the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2 tells of a people who had first tasted the sweetness of God’s love and had committed their lives to Him, but had backslidden to complacency. They had forgotten their first love; the reality of Christ’s sacrifice had become dimmed. God’s counsel for them was, "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.” (Rev 2:5) 

God is calling to my heart. Don’t forget the sweetness of surrender, the blessings of salvation. Don’t get so “used” to them that you do not value them.

Listen to this, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

The people Paul is writing this epistle to have already heard the gospel preached, already received it, and already are living it out in their lives. But here is Paul, repeating the same truths to them yet again. You ask, “Why?” The last part of the verse makes it plain: because only when the truths of the gospel are kept fresh in our memory are they capable of saving us.

So now you have a lesson I learned in the blueberry patch. God Bless!

No Seeming Success

A human version of a storm cloud—that’s what she looked like. Her arms crossed in defiance and her lips puckered in a pout, it was evident that somebody wasn’t happy! I heard her mumbled to herself as she boarded the van, “I don’t want to go. Why do they make me? I wish they would just leave me alone.”

I was visiting a Christian boarding academy for the weekend and was joining their outreach team this Sabbath afternoon. Our plans were to sing and play instruments at a local nursing home to bring cheer to the elderly residents. I was glad for the opportunity to get out into the community and also glad to spend some time getting to know some of the students at the academy.

Right away I noticed the unhappy girl. My heart went out to her; she looked miserable behind the defiant mask she wore. I made it a point to sit by her in the van and then tried to start a conversation. It felt like the time I was going to start a business collecting hickory nuts, cracking them, and selling the delectable meats. The collecting wasn’t hard, but striking the nuts with a hammer only sent them flying to the other side of the garage, unscathed. My conversation questions were answered in a yes/no fashion, making me feeling like I hadn’t gotten anywhere.

“Dear Father,” I prayed silently, “I know there is in this child, a hurting heart that needs your love. Please shine through me that she may see You.”

“What do you want to do when you grow up?” I tried again at starting a conversation.

“Go into the army.”

“Really?” I tried not to sound surprised. It’s not every teenage girl whose life goal is to go to the army.

“Yeah, I wanna get outa here. I want to get away from home too.”

“I see.” Inwardly I was praying again. Randomly looking for a topic that would interest her, I asked her about the CNA program offered at the academy. “What do you think about medical work? Are you looking forward to working as a CNA in the campus nursing home while you’re in academy?”

“Nope. I don’t want to. I never will. I hate medical work.”

“Oh,” I said, “you know ’never’ is a dangerous word.”

“How is that?” She asked.

“Well,” I began, “it was dangerous for me anyways. When I was about your age I said ‘No, Never’ to quite a few things that I now am doing. What I thought I would hate actually turned into something that I love doing—medical missionary work, Bible study, preaching, history, backpacking—all of these things were things I said I hated and would never do. . . But when the Lord Jesus took hold of my life. He changed my heart and helped me to see beauty and enjoyment in these things. He gave me peace and happiness that I never had when I was in rebellion.” From there I told a few stories of my mission experiences in Nepal.

“Huh,” my captive audience grunted, “but I will never be a CNA. I’m going to the army. I’m not interested in spiritual things either.”

The van pulled into a parking spot in front of the nursing home and my conversation was over with my little friend. I was disappointed. I wanted to gather this stormy child into my arms and make her to know the love of God. I wanted to see a change for the positive in her life. I wanted to see the peace of God shine from her face. But it wasn’t to be.

Honestly, much of my missionary work has been like this. No response, no marvelous outcomes. Just silence or rejection. The canvassing work was especially like that. Sometimes I would have beautiful experiences, but I never saw someone baptized because of my work.

Some time ago I discovered a quotation that encouraged me greatly in my work. It goes like this. “We are to be sincere, earnest Christians, doing faithfully the duties placed in our hands, and looking ever to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Our reward is not dependent upon our seeming success, but upon the spirit in which our work is done. As canvassers or evangelists, you may not have had the success you prayed for, but remember that you do not know and cannot measure the result of faithful effort.” {CM 114.2} 

I have learned that despite the absence of measurable results in my work, by faith I can know that the reward for my work, is no less than the evangelist who just baptized 50 converts or the Bible worker who just brought 20 people to pray the sinner’s prayer of repentance.

Sequel: The experience with the girl happened 3 months ago. Last week I ran into the teacher who had been driving the van that day when I was visiting. She stopped me and said she had a little news for me.  The girl I had talked to—she had come to her teacher just a week ago and told her that she was sorry for the way she’d been acting and wanted to be forgiven. She admitted that she wasn’t happy and actually wants to change her life. Maybe she’d like to try Jesus too.

Hearing this snippet of good news, my heart rejoiced to hear of God’s working on this girl’s heart. I don’t know exactly what triggered this change in my little friend, but I’d like to believe that God used this little conversation we had in the van to stir within her heart a desire for something better.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Before and After

I have a fascination with seeing before and after results. The more drastic the difference, the more enjoyment it seems to bring me. I discovered this as a small child when my mother taught me how to clean the bathroom. She showed me how to clean the sink fixture with an old toothbrush, how to scrub the bathtub until it was white, and generally how to make the bathroom shine. From that time onward I took pride in cleaning the bathroom. To this day I especially like to clean it when it was really dirty just so I can see the difference when it is clean. (Just ask my roommates, lol!)

A new “before and after” that I have been enjoying in the last month has been working in patient care at Uchee Pines Institute. I am enrolled in the Lifestyle Counselor course here, where large portions of the coursework consist of working directly with the guests who come to the Lifestyle center. Since a month ago, we have been working with patients instead of having classes all day. Yay!

Uchee Pines runs 17-day sessions where patients suffering from cancer, diabetes, lupus, MS, obesity, and all other serious or chronic illnesses come to the lifestyle center for natural treatment and an education on how to change their lifestyle to promote healing. At the beginning of the session, a lifestyle counselor (LC) is assigned to the patient as a kind of personal nurse to take care of them during the time they are here. As an LC, I work together with the doctors, providing assistance in the diagnosis and treatment of my patient(s). This means attending doctors appointments with them, taking pulse, blood pressure, and blood glucose; drawing their blood, doing urinalysis, giving massages, fever treatments, designing diet plans, making herbal teas, and sometimes just spending time with the person talking and praying with them. Every day I chart their progress and every day I literally see improvement.

This last session has just ended and I’ve been reflecting on the progress and improvements I saw during the last 2 1/2 weeks that I spent with my patient. This dear woman had been to dozens of doctors and specialists through the course of 20 yrs without finding any real diagnosis or proper treatment for her problems. So she finally comes down to a little place way out in Alabama that treats people with water, herbs, and fruits/vegetables. And the doctors found out exactly what was causing her problems and how to treat them. Every day was like watching a wilted, drooping sunflower revive and come back into full bloom. By today, every golden petal was out and the sunflower was turned toward the sun. She was SO much better! I felt so privileged to be her LC and to have a part in helping her. [I am continually amazed at how simple remedies combined with the power of the Master Healer bring about miraculous results. To God be the glory!]

You know, I’ve discovered that God loves seeing the "before and after” too. Look at the verses I found:

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Luke 15:7

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

God delights in taking poor, wicked wretches and making them into His treasures. He loves to take out our blackened, stony hearts and replace them with tender, love-and-truth-filled hearts.

I find that cooperation with God always brings about spectacular “before and after” results. I’ve found it true in my own personal life. I’ve found it true as I work together with God for the salvation of others. And I believe with all my heart that in the very near future, God will take our filthy, old, sinful world and replace it with one that cannot even compare in beauty and wonder. I can’t wait!

My question for you my friends is: are you letting God accomplish the “before and after” results in your life? Are you trusting Him and believing His Word? Are you letting Him have His way in your heart?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Look up!

The sun glistened on the fresh beads of morning dew as I walked towards the little white campus church at Uchee Pines. I was thinking of how glad I am for my weekly Sabbath rest. My life is always busy and sometimes I feel like I don't get enough time to spend with God. Sometimes I get so focused on the daily round of duties and the little frustrations of life that I forget to look up to God for strength to do His biddings.

A noisy squawking caught my attention as I passed the gardens. "The birds are fighting over worms or a nesting spot perhaps," I mused. But when I stepped closer to see, I saw two gray mockingbirds were actually caught in the chicken wire enclosure around a little tree. The birds were frantically flying at the little holes in the mesh, scolding and pecking at each other as they rammed their heads in and out of the holes. The holes were almost big enough, but not quite. 

"Oh the silly birds!" I thought. Why can't they look up? Don't they remember how they got down here? Can't they just return the way they came?

Trying to help, I bent the top of the wire over a little, trying to show them their only way to freedom. For a while nothing happened. Some minutes passed and finally the birds became tired. Going forward was fruitless. Finally one bird shot a glance upwards and with a triumphant chirp she shot up into the sky. Her partner soon followed, after which they both flew to a powerline nearby to recover from their scary experience.

As I neared the church, I began to ponder the little nature lesson I had just witnessed. Those birds are a lot like me. They were so focused on their goal--to go forward in life, to accomplish their tasks, to be victorious, that they had failed to spend time doing the only thing that would help them--to look up!

The Lord Jesus said in reference to the trials at the end of the world, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Luke 21:28

My friends, look up! Your redemption draweth nigh!

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