Grandma’s Raspberry Jam

Summer is such a bountiful time and one of the things I love most are all the berries. Starting with strawberries in early June, then raspberries, blueberries, marionberries and finally blackberries. I look forward to them every year and I love to make jam with them. I’m talking hot, sticky, exhausting jam making in the heart of summer heat. Standing over the boiling jam, removing hot jars and lids from their water bath and then processing the fruit syrup into tasty jam. The telltale ping of the jam lid to signify it has sealed properly and can be stored away for the year is immensely satisfying.

In Ecclesiastes 3:13 (ESV), we read, “…also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil-this is God’s gift to man.”

There is a peace in the simplicity of doing things the way our ancestors did them. I feel closer to my Grandma when I am jarring up nature’s goodness to be eaten throughout the year. The tastes of summer enjoyed in the cold snap of winter makes me glad for the works of my hands, my toil.  

When I was growing up as the oldest granddaughter, my Grandma was still raising her family. I remember sitting at her elbow watching as she made her famous jam, delicious desserts, fortifying hearty meals, and canned produce and fruit from her garden. Grandma also canned the best cherries I have ever eaten and even taught us how to make our own root beer that was nothing like the root beer you buy at the store. Some of my very best memories are times spent in Grandma’s kitchen. A picture I treasure is of me as a young girl wearing an apron and holding a broom at Grandma’s house.

She had her own raspberry vines and nothing tasted as good as the jam she made from her own berries. There were fights between the kids and their spouses about that jam. Grandpa appointed himself as the keeper of the jam and there is nothing he loved so much as to dole out the jam very sparingly as his son-in-laws looked on with envy. His favorite thing to do was make everyone wait until Christmas, yet he teased for months beforehand about how great it tasted. It was a lively tradition every year to try to outdo each other to win Grandpa’s jam favor.  

Watching this as a child every year, I loved how Grandma provided something so enjoyable that the entire family would fight over it! Grandma was artistic and lively and funny in her youth, and in the here and now, with the knowledge that she has Alzheimer’s; I am blessed to remember how she once was, not as she is currently.

Deuteronomy 4:9 (ESV) states, “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children…”

These things I grew up with are the things I can teach my children and they, in turn, can go on to teach their children also.  It is important to remember our heritage and to honor those who have gone before us. Working with integrity, taking care of relatives in need, making do with what you are given, and living with blessing, not complaining – these are some of the heritage items I have seen in my grandparents that I intend to share with my kids.

It does not matter your job title, how much money you made or how big your house may be. These are temporal things of Earth, not the values and character traits that make eternal difference in the lives of others. My grandparents knew of God but did not have personal relationship with Him until much later in life, but they still knew enough to impart values that mattered; values that would be upheld by their children and their children’s children.

Fast forward to some years later: Grandma no longer makes jam, nor is Grandpa with us any longer. And yet, there are still berries to be had and jams to be made. As I make jam every summer, I am linked to my family legacy to something greater than myself and I am providing for my family and friends. When my husband doles out the jam, albeit a little less grudgingly, we all remember Grandpa doing the same with Grandma’s jam and we continue a legacy. My mom is reminded of her mother as she sees her daughter carry on family tradition every time she receives a little jar of love. I think God is honored by this and I want to challenge you to discover something for yourself that you can do in honor of your family legacy.

Ephesians 6:2-3 (ESV) says, “Honor your [grand]father and [grand]mother, (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land,” (emphasis added).

Inquire of the Lord

“Therefore David inquired of the Lord…” 1 Samuel 23 (NKJV).

In 1 Samuel 23, David is just trying to survive.  His enemy is constantly looking for the opportunity to overcome and kill him.  David is doing what he has to do to protect himself and his followers.  Suddenly, a messenger comes and David is made aware of someone else’s needs.  Without his help, they will surely be overtaken and lose their battle.  If he helps them, he gets exposed.  David is not moved by his own fear or the other people’s need.

“David Inquired of the Lord,” 1 Samuel 23:2.

If you are like me, you spend active time working on the areas that I know I need to because of pride or some other goofy reason.  But I keep it to myself and focus on myself.  Sometimes others needs come to my attention and I have to decide whether expose an area of weakness in order to help them because they genuinely need help or not help and let them fail. 

David Inquired of the Lord. 

It was going to take a lot of help and David’s men would be exposed as well.  (Sometimes your family and friends, maybe even your job, will be impacted by your decisions.)  They needed reassurance from David before they committed.  David knew they needed peace.

“Then David inquired of the Lord again,” 1 Samuel 23:4.

David didn’t quibble or doubt when God said go; he went in obedience.  When I think of all the times I saw someone who had a need and the times I felt impressed to share a Word from the Lord, I also think about the battle in my gut and my mind.  David inquired of the Lord again.  He wasn’t going to go under his own power or based on his feelings for the people in need. 

David first inquired of the Lord to get the answer on what to do.  Then inquired again, not to get out of it but to get peace about the decision, so they could go in the power of the Lord.

God gave them the battle and David’s crew profited from it, but their victory exposed them to King Saul and he was coming to kill them.  This exposure to Saul was what they were afraid of before they got peace, but they didn’t go back to the fear.

David inquired of the Lord…  

David wanted to know if the people they just helped would be loyal to him; God said they would not.

Then David inquired again…

Will my enemy attack me here? God said yes.

Wow, at this point it would have been easy for David and his men to say, “I did what God said and now I am in more trouble than before! See if I do anything like that again.” 

“But God did not deliver them into their hands,” 1 Samuel 23:14.

The power God uses to work through you is the same power He uses to work for you.  There is no difficulty, challenge, danger, situation, character flaw, or personality (yours or others) that God cannot overcome.  David understood he was a servant of God.  He also understood God’s deliverance. 

David’s life was marked by his reliance on the Lord for deliverance.  The lion, the bear, the giant, the angry king… God would eventually make David the greatest king that ever lived!  No one would have guessed it at the time that he would be.  Even David didn’t know that when he decided to obey God.

He just asked and trusted.

I think there is great wisdom in the verse, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6. 

It says ALL YOUR PATHS.  Paths into battle, paths of help and provision, and paths of deliverance.  Bottom line here, inquire of the Lord.  David and his men were more than capable to overcome.  David carried God’s anointing and he had many great victories under his belt.  But still David Inquired of the Lord.  Other times when David didn’t know what to do, he inquired of the Lord and was delivered or victorious.  God wants that place with you.  Other times David acted under his own power, and he failed.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

Help me to be aware of and value Your wisdom and presence.  Help me to greatly desire and require your input.  Help me to have a heart fully yielded to You.  Thank You for the strengths and skills You have gifted me with.  Help me to yield them all to You all the time.  Help me not make decisions based on my feelings and circumstances but rather by the answers You give to me in prayer.  I trust in You. Please lead me in paths of victory and deliverance, and use me to lead others down those paths as well.  Make me Your faithful servant.  Amen.

Faith Promise?

The concept of faith promise giving was shared with us at the Olympia Lacey Church of God about a year after we moved to Olympia (read about our move in our previous blog “Recognizing God’s Hand” from April 15, 2017 for another encouraging story).  A faith promise is asking and hearing from God an amount of money He wants to flow through you into a particular ministry.  You commit in writing to a time period the money will come into your possession and be given to a specific ministry.  This promised money is something you do not currently have, as it is a gift from the Lord directed toward Kingdom work.

The story of our faith promise commitment began about a year after we moved to Olympia from Vancouver, Washington in 1978.  We started attending the Olympia Lacey Church of God located directly across the street from our house.  (The church is still located there and has grown and expanded their facilities, and the little house we lived in was sold and there is a gas station and mini mart there now.)  While attending the church, missionaries to China came who were raising funds to translate the Bible to Chinese.  They were raising the funds by “Faith Promise” commitments.

The missionaries shared for a couple of Sundays about the work in China and what was needed to get the Bible translated.  We were asked to pray and ask The Lord for an amount of money He would bring to us specifically to give directly for the China mission to translate the Bibles.  Since the money was to come from outside our known resources it was easy for us because we only had $10.00 in our savings account which we had to leave there to keep the account open.  Our income was already, shall I say, scheduled.

Bill and I talked and prayed together and were impressed to believe God for $500.00.  He would provide this through us in some way, supernaturally, before the end of the year.  We were excited and believing for the money, knowing God would do it!  The Sunday came to fill out a card pledging the faith promise amount.  Bill and I were in separate services that day because we were teaching different classes.  We hadn’t thought about this minor detail and we both filled out a card for $500.00.  When we got home and realized what we had done we just laughed.  We thought if God is the one supplying the $500.00 then $1,000 isn’t really over His budget.  Then the church called on Monday and asked if we wanted them to tear up one of the commitments.  We said no, we would go with the $1,000.

During the months to follow, people would testify that when it came time to buy the things they needed, those items were on sale so they could put the money they saved towards their faith promise.  We were happy with them for the way God was supplying the money, but for us, that was a way God regularly provided for us.  If we needed shoes or household items, we would end up at a store that was having a huge sale that we didn’t even know about.  Since I don’t believe in coincidences, I knew it was God providing our needs and I was very grateful!  I sensed deep inside that we were going to receive the $1,000 all at one time and I had absolutely no idea how it would happen!  God always met our family needs.

As the months passed by a major need surfaced for a dependable car.  We had a 1966 Dodge Coronet station wagon that was deteriorating before our eyes.  It leaked around the doors and grew mushrooms in the floor mats in the winter.  The defrosters stopped working so we had to wipe the windshield inside when the window fogged up.  Bill had tried to rebuild the carburetor; he is a good man but not a mechanic.  We were a two-car family but the other car was a Vega, which Bill called the “first disposable car”.  Bill drove it to work each day but in order to make it to work and back, he had to clean the sparks plugs every night.  We didn’t have a carport or garage so in the winter I would hold a flashlight and umbrella so Bill could be a bit dry and see to clean the spark plugs.

I became increasingly concerned that we would be able to give the promised $1,000 in joy when it came because of the personal needs we had.  I asked the Lord to fill our hearts with joy when the money came so we could give it gladly to further His Kingdom.  Now it is into December and the money commitment was due by the end of the year.  Other people fulfilled their commitments in various ways and we were happy for them.  I believe it was the gift of faith working in me because I just knew inside that God would do it in one lump sum.

I went to our rural mailbox in about mid-December and there was a check from a place we had received small checks from before.  The check was for approximately $2,300 and there was no explanation with it.  Wow!  Needless to say, I was really excited!  It turned out the company had discovered an ongoing mistake had been made and they owed us the money.  YES!  God not only provided the $1,000, which we gave in JOY, but enough to fill the need for a dependable car.  God is so faithful and gracious!

Bill sold the Vega to a friend for $100 and he rebuilt the engine for his son.  We bought a nice station wagon with the rest of the money and the total cost of the vehicle, tax, license etc. came to exactly what was left after paying the faith promise commitment.  Since there are no coincidences, thank You, Jesus for Your Signature on Your gift to us!

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.  “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says The Lord of hosts;”

Malachi 3: 10-11 (NKJV)

This was the beginning of major blessings from The Lord in our lives!  I encourage you to hold steadfast the promises the Lord made to you and wait expectantly for Him to deliver!

 

 

The Snickers Bar Rations

When I agreed to be a contributor for the church encouragement blogs, I knew I would have periodic writer’s block but I didn’t think they would be this bad!  Weeks and weeks went by the due date and still nothing.  I don’t want to write dribble or fluff pieces.  I want my writings to be as meaty as the blogs I enjoy reading.  My heart is to encourage those who struggle with the same struggles I’ve had.  But nothing was coming to mind!  It was like God put a stopper on my writing ideas.

Honest moment.

I’ll be honest.  God didn’t put a stopper on my writing ideas… I was the one who stopped coming to Him for ideas.  Life happened.  I moved.  I went on a week long vacation.  I’ve been trying to put a home together for my family.  I’ve been on the go!  I know we’ve all been there.  But like everything that needs energy, I ran out of fuel.  I was spiritually empty and in desperate need of a filling.  How can I expect to write and encourage when I have nothing to give?  Nothing to outpour?

I was not taking care of my spirit that constantly hungers for the Word and the Voice of God.  Only after did I come to a complete sputtering halt in my spirit did I take the time to sit, put on worship music, and be still.  Now, when I say be still, I mean it in the holistic sense: body, mind, and spirit.  So I waited on the Lord to speak.

But my mind doesn’t sit still:

“Well what if I wrote about this?  Oh! What am I going to do tomorrow?  I forgot to put away dishes.  No!  Shhhh. Let the Lord speak.”  Honestly, me silencing my thoughts is like playing Whack-A-Mole.  Every time a thought pops up I had to whack it back down.  But the Lord is faithful when His children press-in, no matter how messy it looks.

Look up Matthew 4:4 said a still, small voice.

Oh?  Ok, Lord!  And so I did.  Now, I know I heard from the Lord because I’m not this good at Bible roulette.  Here’s what it says:

“Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: ‘It takes more than bread to stay alive.  It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth’,” Matthew 4:4 (MSG).

Consider myself gently reminded.

How many of us would stop here?  God spoke; you read a section of scripture and received some measure of filling, and then continued your day without further ado.  It’s the Snickers Bar Ration.  You weren’t feeling yourself because you were spiritually hungry, so you got yourself a Snickers bar-sized portion of scripture thinking it will fill you up and carry you through the rest of the day or week.  Is that how you want to live?  Surely there must be more than that.

 

God grabbed my attention with a morsel but it was up to me to feed my spirit a real meal. So I read more.

The scripture leading up to Matthew 4:4 tells how Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness and stayed there for forty days and forty nights.  He was physically weak, most likely mentally exhausted, and dehydrated.  Jesus knew He was going to be tested by the devil and prepared for the test by removing Himself from distractions, including food.  At His weakest, satan came.  Typical satan.

Continuing beyond the passage of Matthew 4:4, satan does what he can to tempt Jesus to indulge in His humanity but fails to best Jesus.  In the end, Jesus tells satan to beat it.  Jesus for the win!

As I chewed over this story, the more I realized just how off base I’ve been.  By all medical understanding of the stages of starvation, Jesus should have been at a point when apathy and listlessness sets in due to the prolonged absence of nutrients.  In other words, He was most likely in a state where He shouldn’t have cared about the Father’s Will (apathy) or had the grit to tell satan off (listlessness).  By the way, did you know that a synonym for listlessness is spiritless?  But that’s not what we read, is it?  Quite the inverse actually.

When Jesus’ physical and mental health was at its lowest, His spiritual health was at its peak!  How?  Why?  Didn’t we just read that His state of starvation would have made Him apathetic and spiritless?  This is probably why Jesus said that we cannot live off of bread alone, that it takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.  I believe Jesus was literally surviving off the steady stream of words from God’s mouth.

Think about it.  Sure, Jesus built up a spiritual food supply of scriptures in His heart that He resorted to for nourishment.  But I think there’s more to it than that.  A steady stream of words from God’s mouth.  Folks, what if the whole time Jesus was in the wilderness, His spirit was being freshly fed from Father God with tender whispers of I love you, my Son, You are so pleasing to me, I’m so proud of you, I am with you, remember this verse? I was thinking of you when I wrote this.  I don’t know about you, but that’s not a Snickers bar of spiritual food, that’s a whole 5 course meal with a serving of sorbet in between courses!  No wonder He was able to withstand the temptations of satan!

And here’s another food for thought (pun intended), does our spiritual health look like a physical starvation?  Are you experiencing spiritual apathy and listlessness?  Are you starving your spirit with Snicker rations of scripture like I have been for weeks?  If you are, I encourage you that there is hope, there is a well that never runs dry, there is something more than bread you can live off of.  Abba Father wants to take you out to dinner and lavish you with His best dishes everyday (and I can probably guess it’s not a Snickers bar either)!  So ditch the snack bar, pull up a chair, and start devouring the words that God is speaking over you today; I love you, my child, you are so pleasing to me, I’m so proud of you, I am with you, remember this verse?  I was thinking of you when I wrote this.

Lord Jesus,

Thank You for showing us what we can do when we’re spiritually fed properly.  Forgive me for neglecting Your Word and only taking small portions when You have so much more for me.  Holy Spirit, guide me into scripture and let it come alive to me.  As I read, let every word I read become bread for my spirit.  As I sit quietly, let me hear the words You speak over me.  May I be nourished in spirit so that when I am tested, I can tell the devil to ‘beat it’ too.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Why Should We Give Hope Filled Encouragement?

This past week it was my youngest son’s birthday.  He turned 14 this year!  We had a Caribbean Dinner for him at home that my oldest son, who is a chef, prepared.  It was amazing and a fun family day.  I made a chocolate cream pie and homemade ice cream as well.  Very fun, but it is nothing like the birthday parties I have done for my kids in the past.  The last few birthdays have been like this.  I have teenagers and adults so it is more expensive to do big deal parties.  So I have been somewhat down on myself about the lack of creativity or effort put into the last few parties. 

 A friend of mine had some plants to give me and told me to pick them up at her office.  So I dropped by to get them.  She said that she had seen the pictures of Jett’s birthday and it was fantastic.  She also said we always do such an amazing job with celebrations!  Wow, what an encouragement! 

 On our group family text, my daughter asked this question: Why should we give hope-filled encouragement? 

 The first thing that came to my mind was the story above, because it had just taken place. 

 Hebrews 3:13 (NIV) says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

 My daughter in-law said this about encouragement:

It’s so easy to get caught up in the frustrations and disappointments in life or give up because things take too long to happen.  But when we encourage each other with words of hope, we remind each other why we are to “press on”.  It’s like someone on the sidelines during a race.  The runner may feel like they’ve given it all they’ve got but then they hear the crowds cheering them on, speaking out encouragement, it’s like a fresh wave of adrenaline hits you!  People who don’t have encouragers in their life seem to give up more quickly.  We need words of hope to remind us that God is cheering us on, which gives us renewed energy to finish our race well.

 

 

 My husband Rich said, ” I can’t help but think that it’s the media that joy comes through. Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him; also Abraham hoped when hope didn’t even make sense.”

 In Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) it says, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

 Why should we encourage each other?  Because we all need it!  We all need to be reminded of the hope we have.  We all need to have someone from the outside saying you’ve got this. 

 So my question to you today is who are you going to encourage?  Wouldn’t it be cool if we went about our day bringing hope and encouragement to others and making their day? So heads up!  Look around and pay attention to who you can be filling with hope and encouragement today!

 

Come As You Are

Lay down your shame; let no one judge your worth.

For I have loved you always, even before the moment of your birth.

You remain my child and in me you will find peace.

Come boldly to my throne room, for grace and forgiveness are here at the Mercy Seat.

As a teenager growing up before texting and email, we communicated through ‘snail mail’. We held ‘Come As You Are’ parties.  The concept: when opening the invitation, whatever you were wearing at the time you unsealed the envelope was what you wore to the party and it was based on the honor system.  If you came all dressed up and properly ‘primped,’ it was very suspect.  

I feel the concept fits well with the way God invited me to come to Him.  He didn’t want me to come to Him dressed in my finest clothes once I felt I’d done enough good or felt worthy. Who would ever come?  The honor system has no meaning to Him because He already knows me as I really am, dressed in what I was wearing when I opened the gift of being His child.

Can I truly say to another person ,“Come as you are, I will love you no matter your faults?”  I hope so but being human I really only understand conditional love:  I will love you IF you are nice to me, IF you believe what I believe, or IF you don’t look at me the wrong way.  Another part of this conditional relationship is the fact I don’t extend the invitation of love to everyone I meet.  I know I typically approach those who I’m confident will accept me. This way I avoid the sting of rejection.  How amazing is it then that our Lord makes this offer so many times in the Word to ALL OF US!

 

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it,’ Hebrews 4:16 (NTL).

 

Let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him.  For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean and our bodies have been washed with pure water,’ Hebrews 10:22 (NLT).

 

The phrase ‘Come as you are’ tells me God knows my faults and does not expect me to be perfect in His eyes.  He understands my brokenness and loves me in spite of myself.  It’s a waste of energy to present myself to God wearing a mask.  He sees me always and there is nowhere for me to hide from Him.  With this understanding I am free to be His creation and know I am loved and cherished.  

My past, present, and future will continue to contain sin and yet God says to me, “Come as you are, I’ve always wanted you to come to me, knowing only I can love you unconditionally. I’ve made a path for you to come and sit at my feet.  Let me look upon you and adore you for who you are. “

We come to Him out of tremendous need or during a crisis larger than ourselves.  Who else would take us back over and over again?  How many times did the Lord rescue Israel?  COME AS YOU ARE to the Lord knowing his love is vaster than any problem you have.

 

‘You have come to the assembly of God’s first born children, whose names are written in heaven.  You have come to God himself, who is the judge of all people.  And you have come to the spirits of the redeemed in heaven who have now been made perfect.  You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and the sprinkled blood, which graciously forgives instead of crying out for vengeance as the blood of Abel did,’ Hebrews 12:23-24 (NTL).

 

Graciously Forgiven, Come As You Are!