The Cherry Tree and Martin Luther: Life Lessons

My husband has offered to cut the cherry tree down. Several times.

I was thrilled when the tree offered a bountiful harvest of cherries, sweet with a little tartness.

Then came the year of brown rot and mold. We spent a week picking all the rotten fruit and cleaning up the mess. 

Another year a late snowfall came while the tree was in blossom. There were no cherries that year.

Over the past few years Japanese beetles have discovered the tree. They eat the leaves on the tree, weakening it. So I tried picking them off, dropping them in a bucket of soapy water, as some fell down my shirt. Last year I treated the tree with neem oil.

This year is a recovery year, but the robins honed in on the ripening fruit. I have to admire their zealous pursuit of the cherries. I hung a couple of garden shop owls in the tree and also shiny CDs.

The cherries were of such great worth to the robins that they played out a dramatic scene.  I can see the tree—it is just outside my kitchen window. 

The robins showed acrobatic moves, twisting their necks to reach a cheery hanging below a branch. They would fly in with a focus on a cherry, see an owl and flutter like a hummingbird. Then they would seize a cherry and speed away.

I picked a quart of cherries. The robins consumed the rest. I have been thinking about the focus and determination of the robins (and also my determined attempts to save the cherry tree lol). What are the things of great value, deserving my focus? //

During this time at home I have pulled some books off the shelf that had intimidated me by their length. Currently I am reading Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and changed the World by Eric Metaxas. 

Martin Luther was totally focused on understanding the Bible, learning the true meaning. He pursued faith in God with his whole heart. Luther demonstrated in his life the most worthwhile goal—an example for us to follow. The greatest treasure in our lives is a relationship with God through Jesus.

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: WORTH

How to Have Hope

The Bible does not shrink from telling us the ugly side of human history. God’s word tells us the truth, and clearly states that God’s desire for us is good. We need to seek God and His ways in every aspect of our lives. 

“How you have helped him who has no power!
How you have saved the arm that has no strength!”
Job 26: 2

Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!
Psalm 31:19

O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Psalm 104:24

During this time of unrest and turmoil we have the opportunity to spread the hope of God’s word.

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Isaiah 52:7

photo courtesy of unsplash

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: HOW

Lessons from History: Esther, Adams & Jefferson

My days are spent in the garden, in the kitchen and with a book. I begin with Bible study—currently the book of Esther. The drama of King Ahasuerus, Queen Esther, Mordecai and Haman is colorful, frightening and humorous. But I am most struck by the steadfast calm and faith that Mordecai shows. The effect of prayer and fasting. Esther’s courage and her plan for the appeal to the King. 

The other book that I am slowly making my way through is John Adams by David McCullough. It has 656 pages. Perhaps because of the stay at home orders, that have been in place for months, I am fascinated by John Adams’ travels. 

John Adams made several trips to Europe in an effort to get support from France during the Revolutionary War. His first trip was in February of 1778. The ship he was on encountered a fierce storm and the mast of the ship broke. The trip took six weeks.

On another trip the ship sprung a leak and all hands, even passengers, were required to help pump the water out. The ship reached a port in Spain. John Adams did not want to wait for the ship to be repaired and against advice went by mule from Spain to France.

Adams traveled throughout Europe. He did not have much success in his appeals to France, but did much better with Holland. Holland was the first country to recognize the United States.

The other aspect of the book that has caught my interest is the relationship of John Adams and  Thomas Jefferson. They worked together on the Declaration of Independence and enjoyed a great friendship when both were in France.

Later that friendship was eroded by politics. Jefferson was working at cross purposes to Adam’s policies while serving as Adams’ vice president. In 1800 Jefferson and Adams were pitted against each other in the presidential election. The author shows the human flaws of both men.

Nations led by flawed human beings will always have inner conflict. I am reminded of the importance to pray for our country. We always need to pray. At this time in our country we must seek God’s help as we listen to each other.

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday Writing community. Today’s prompt is: STAY

When I Observe the Robins

One of the things I miss most during the current shutdown is my weekly trips to the local library. I know, I could get e-books, but I prefer the book that I can hold in my hand. I also like to check the library shelves holding new releases.

So, instead I have been going through the books that I have. 

I am blessed to have a little cache of books loaned to me by a good friend. But I also have books that I had bought and placed on my book shelves, planning to read someday. I found the book, The Table Talk of Martin Luther, translated by William Hazlitt and edited by Thomas Kepler.

The book covers a variety of topics in short sections. Each section is a from a conversation of Martin Luther, his perspective. The first topic is God’s Word.

That the Bible is God’s word and book I prove thus: All things have been, and are, in the world, and the manner of their being, are described in the first book of Moses on the creation; even as God made and shaped the world, so does it stand to this day. . . . And ’tis no small miracle how God has preserved and protected this book . . .

Yesterday I was observing a couple of robins and discovered their nest. We have a large bush in front of our house. In the past week I have noticed rustling sounds and the flight of a bird.

Then yesterday two robins flew to a nearby tree. They twittered in a flustered fashion, and I was motivated to investigate. I peered into the thick branches of the bush. In the center of the bush, well hidden, was a nest. 

A little later I discovered that I could see the nest from my dining room window–and a robin settled in the nest.

I thought about the behavior of the robins; the ability to design a nest, nurture new life and protect the young. Have you ever watched a parent robin coaching a young robin as it learns to fly? God’s design is evident in all creatures.

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: PERSPECTIVE I’m also linking with Inspire me Monday and Heart Encouragement .

Living Word

In A.D. 64 the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome. The Emperor Nero was persecuting Christians and Paul was facing execution.

It is hard to imagine being in these circumstances. What would I do?

Paul wrote a letter to Timothy whom he loved like a son. He gave instructions for going forward in faith. Paul believed that life went beyond physical life on earth. 

Paul once wrote to the church at Corinth: So we are of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8

Throughout the letter to Timothy Paul anchors his instructions in the scriptures. Paul has completed his role and is passing the torch of faith to Timothy.

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 MSG

This is a wonderful reason to spend time studying God’s word.

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: LIFE

Success, Obedience and the Word

The women in our Bible study group were amazed (and amused) by the account of men being circumcised after they crossed the Jordan River and before taking possession of the promised land. We are studying the book of Joshua.

God instructed Joshua to circumcise all the men that had not been circumcised while they wandered in the desert. Before beginning battle they were to be consecrated and reminded of the covenant God made with Abraham.

What is the relationship between obedience and success? The book of Josua gives some perspective.

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night . . . Joshua 1: 7-8a

These verses remind me how important it is to know the Word of God. We are blessed to have the Bible available to us in so many ways—online, in book form, audible readings on CD. It is an encouragement to meet with other believers to study the Bible.

In our Bible study group we acknowledged that we don’t always understand God’s ways. And His interpretation of success or His timing might be different than ours. Yet God’s desire for us is good and best.

Do you find time to study the Word?

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: SUCCESS

A Truth Beyond Measure

The prompt for Five Minute Friday is: MEASURE

I usually think about the prompt over night and then write in the morning. In bed I mused about all the ways I have made measurements.

As a mom I measured the height and weight of my children as they grew, the ingredients in recipes. I counted the candles on birthday cakes.

As a nurse I measured many things: the medications for each patient, the rate of intravenous fluid, urinary output, the cervical dilation of a woman in labor.

The Bible gives us many measurements: the length, the breadth and the height of the ark, the dimensions of the tabernacle, the number of men (20 years old or more) in each tribe of Israel when they entered the promised land.

Measurements inform us and provide order. They can guide our actions.

But the Bible tells us that some things are beyond measure. 

He [God] does not deal with us according to ur sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103: 10-12

The wonderful news is that God’s love and grace are beyond measure.

Verses About Love

In celebration of Valentine’s Day I have made a list of verses. The Bible has much to say about love.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Psalm 86:5

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Jesus said, As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love. John 15:9

Paul wrote: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with with Christ–by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2: 4-5

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4: 9, 11

We long for love. The deepest and most fulfilling love comes from God. He offers it to us. We simply must receive it.

This post is part of #Write28Days. To see the other posts in the series click here.

This post is also linked to Lyli’s #FaithOnFire.

Pierced and Embraced: Book Review

Sometimes I listen to the radio when I am in the car. At other times I prefer silence. One day I was listening to WMBI and heard an interview with Kelli Worrall. The topic of discussion was her book, Pierced and Embraced.

The discussion piqued my interest and I jotted down the title when I reached my destination. I ordered the book.

Kelli Worral included stories from her own family as she wrote about seven encounters that Jesus had with women. In a detailed account she has shown the compassion and respect that Jesus had for women (and still has), as recorded in the gospels. 

The seven/eight women included in the book are: Mary, mother of Jesus; the woman at the well; the woman with the hemorrhage; the woman caught in adultery; Mary and Martha; the woman with the alabaster jar; Mary Magdalene. 

Although the book is organized in seven chapters with discussion questions at the end of each chapter and could be studied over a period of weeks, I read it in one week. 

Each chapter had insights for me. In the chapter about the woman with the issue of blood, Worrall discusses wounds—or gaps in the way we were mothered. This history of our childhood and transition to adulthood can affect our adult life, where we try to exert control over our fears and desires.

This resonated with me, because I have attempted to control areas of my life. More on this tomorrow.

NOTE: The bull on the cover refers to a story by Flannery O’Connor, a story symbolizing grace. Kelli Worral explains the shocking symbolism in the beginning of the book.

This post is part of #Write28Days. I am linking with Literary Musing Mondays.

Mary and Elizabeth: An Example for Us

It seems right to start my series for the #Write28Days with two women from the Bible. The first two chapters of Luke tells us about Mary and Elizabeth. They are wonderful examples for us in three ways.

Both women knew the old testament scriptures and the prophecies. Even though it seemed like God was silent for 400 years (the time period between the Old Testament and the New Testament) they were waiting in expectation of the Messiah.

Mary responds to the message that she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit with a song. Here is a portion of the Magnificat.

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . . He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.  Luke 1: 46-47, 54-55

May we read God’s word and wait in expectation for Jesus’ return!

Mary and Elizabeth were an encouragement to each other. They were surprised by their pregnancies and they were able to support each other.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Luke 1: 39-40

Mary & Elizabeth
The Visitation by Philippe De Champaigne

If I could time travel I would like to go there and see the friendship and faith of these two women during the three months they spent together. 

As Christian women, may we be an encouragement to each other.

That [our]hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2: 2-3 ESV

Both Mary and Elizabeth praised God. They were in situations that could be frightening but they praised God.

May we always be quick to recognize God’s touch on our lives, acknowledge him and praise him.

I give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds, I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most high. Psalm 9:1-2