Are You Someone Who Cooks or Someone Who Loves to Cook?

Another excellent Bible study today using the book “Encounter the Spirit” by Carolyn Moore.

Moore noted that there is a difference between someone who cooks and someone who IS a cook.

Many of us cook because we are hungry and need to eat in order to live. We probably know little about the vocabulary of good food. We often buy products that are quick to put together, just wanting to get something on the table at the end of the day for our family to eat. We cook because we need to eat.

Then there are those who love to cook. They enjoy trying new recipes, experiencing with different spices. They get joy by sharing their meals with others. They cook because it brings them happiness. My youngest daughter is one of those who love to cook. Any time she hears of someone that is sick she quickly makes a meal to share with them. She is a pastor, and she often bakes treats for Bible studies she leads or for any time of gathering the church may have. Her cupcakes are not just a cupcake. She tries different ingredients and decorates them in different themes.

RIP cookies for a Halloween school party
Muffins with marshamallow, Hershey candy bar and so delicious!

So it is with our Christian walk. We can be someone who follows Jesus or we can be someone who LOVES FOLLOWING Jesus.

Jesus said in John 15:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 

Someone who tries to keep His commandments because that is what a Christian is supposed to do. Or, someone who follows His teaching out of a heart of love for Him.

More importantly, we can be people who are full of God’s joy – and love sharing that joy with others. We can seek to allow God’s Spirit to overflow from us to those we meet who are struggling with a difficult time in their lives and need that joy we can share.

My prayer is:

“Lord, help me to truly love you and follow you in gratitude for all you have given me. Help me to obey you out of a heart of love for you and not out of some sense of duty. There are so many who are in need. Open my eyes to see them. Show me how I can help. You have given me many resources. Help me to use all that you have given me to help others. Use me to draw them to you.”

Please join me this Lent season in this prayer.

I’m Still Growing! How About You?

The women’s weekly Bible study I attend is currently studying a small group guidebook called “Encounter the Spirit” written by Carolyn Moore. Each week’s study has a portion called “encounter” in which Moore offers ideas for applying what we have studied that week.

Since I am soon turning three-quarters of a century, I found her suggestions for thought very interesting.

She talks about how we plan for the future. Questions she presents are:

  • What will I be when I grow up?
  • What kind of job will I get next?
  • How will my children grow up?
  • What will retirement look like?

Looking at those questions, I realize I already have answers for those.

  • At almost 75 I think I can say I am grown up (although I still may not always act like it).
  • I am not looking for another a job.
  • My children are in their 40’s and 50’s so I can see how they have grown up.
  • Now in my eleventh year of retirement, I know what that looks like.

Still, applying planning for the future in a spiritual sense, her questions have me really taking a deeper look at my spiritual life. Even in this last stage of life, I desire to grow up spiritually.

Some things for me (and hopefully you will also) to ponder are:

  • Where do I want to be spiritually in six months?
  • How do I want to use the spiritual gifts God has given me to bless others?
  • How can I grow closer in my relationship to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Although I have grown up physically and my body is beginning to let me know that this life on earth is coming to the final chapter (don’t mean to sound morbid, I plan to stick around for quite a while yet), we have been designed for eternity. That tells me there is much more growth for me spiritually and mentally.

Join me in this journey of ever seeking to know more of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and grow more like Jesus each day.

This Sums It All Up!!!

I have a birthday coming this spring. As I realize I will be three quarters of a century old and I have fewer days ahead of me than behind, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on the years gone by.

Interesting – sometimes I cannot remember what I had for lunch but memories of life when I was five or six are so vivid.

If I had to say what these reflections have led me to conclude about life so far, this song says it all. Committing my life to Jesus Christ at six years of age was the best decision I have made.

Life has brought joy and sorrow, moments of great excitement and moments of despair. But through it all, I see the goodness of God.

What Kind of Fast Does God Desire?

We have entered the season of Lent – 40 days of prayer and fasting before Easter as we reflect on the suffering of Jesus Christ and examine our own hearts.

For some churches this is a very big part of their services. For others, little, if anything, is said about this season.

Growing up in a church that did not emphasis Lent, I have come to really appreciate it as an adult.

While the Bible does not specifically mention anything about Lent, (the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. began this observation), the Bible is full of calls to fasting and prayer.

  • 1 Samuel 7:6 – the people fasted in repentance.
  • 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 – the people fasted for protection
  • Ezra 8:21-23 – the people fasted for direction and unity
  • Matthew 4:1-11 – Jesus fasted in preparation for His public ministry.
  • Acts 13:1-3 – the people fasted in preparation for expansion of their ministry.

There are hundreds of ways people observe this time of prayer and fasting. Some actually go without eating for a day; others miss a meal for one day or throughout Lent. Some give up a specific food or drink that they normally have each day.

The idea is not just giving up something, but spending the time that would be given to a meal or a favorite food in prayer.

But Lent is not about giving up to make us feel “holy.” If we do not take this time to really reflect on and seek God for spiritual direction, vision, right living, compassion….the list could go on and on….our sacrifices of food or favorite things are meaningless.

Isaiah 58:6-8 tells us what kind of fasting we should do in this time of Lent.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

I Didn’t Recognize You With Your Clothes On!

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One story my husband hates for me to tell – but I get such fun out of telling is the Sunday a visitor showed up at church.

My husband loved to get out of the office and into the community.  He felt just sitting at a desk all week was not the best way to be a help and influence to the community.  Since he is a Pepsi fan (I always said if he needs a blood transfusion they could just use Diet Pepsi instead of blood), he always stopped at the local Casey’s for a soda while he was out visiting.

Stopping two or three times a week at the same Casey’s, he became friends with the cashier and often invited her to come to church.  She always had some reason why she could not come.

Then one day she surprised my husband by showing up for the morning worship.  As my husband greeted her in the foyer, she loudly proclaimed, Pastor Paul, I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on!

I wish I had a camera with me that day to get a picture of the shocked look on his face.  Then, a second later, a picture of the woman’s face as she realized what her comments sounded like and her face turned all shades of red.

Looking around at the congregation that stood by very puzzled at her statement, she explained what she meant.  “I mean, I always see you in jeans and a t-shirt.  I have never seen you in your suit and tie.”

While my husband hoped that everyone who heard her first statement also heard the second one, I just stood there and laughed and laughed!  I still tease him from time to time that I did not know he made pastoral calls in the nude!

39 years Ago – He Met His “Barbara”

It was in January 39 years ago I walked into a church in Bethalto, Illinois, not knowing that I was about to meet my future husband. As Paul and I remember that special day, we still marvel at how God brought us together. So – once again, I share our story.

“We as a community of friends are gathered here in God’s presence to witness Paul and Barbara’s renewal of commitment to one another and to ask God’s continued blessings on them. Marriage, like our creation as men and women owes its existence to God. It is His will and purpose that a husband and wife should love each other throughout their life. Shall we pray?”

This was how our Pastor began the ceremony when my husband and I renewed our wedding vows on our 25th anniversary. We still love to remember that story.

Here’s the story!

While living in the state of Washington, my husband, Paul, found himself a single father trying to raise two teenagers. Needing support, he returned to his home town to be near family. He was very lonely and began to pray for a Christian wife. Since he was a minister and also loved to sing, he asked God if it would be possible that this wife would also play the piano and be able to work with him in the ministry.

Her name will be Barbara

While praying, he felt impressed in his spirit that God would grant him that request and that his future wife would be named “Barbara.” He was afraid at first to share that thought with anyone as he felt they would think he was crazy. But it was so real to him he needed to reveal it to someone. He finally related that information with a couple at the large church he was attending but no one else.

Four months later I walked into the church with my two young daughters.

While living in Southeast Missouri, my first husband was accidentally killed leaving me with two small daughters to care for. Everything I read about grief told me that I should make no sudden changes or moves for at least a year. However, after a year of trying to make it far from home, I decided to return to Illinois where my family could give me much-needed support. While it was great to be close to my family again, I still carried a heavy load of grief and sorrow. I tried to be strong for my two young daughters, but after a while I realized I did not want to continue living alone. Although I longed to find happiness again, I knew that my daughters’ happiness and safety were more important than my own. If I ever remarried, it would have to be a very special man who would love my daughters as well as me.

I asked God to give me a godly husband who would help me raise my daughters.

One year after moving back to Illinois, I decided to attend the church where my parents were members. When I walked in the foyer, I saw a couple that I recognized. They were friends with my first husband’s parents but I had not seen them in years. They seemed extremely happy to see me, but it was only months later that I found out why my sudden appearance at their church was so exciting to them. They were the couple that Paul had shared his secret with.

After greeting me, they hurried to locate my future husband and tell him, “There she is.”

He had no idea what they meant until they told him the red head that had just walked into the church was named Barbara. Paul told them to not say anything, but if this was the Barbara God had promised, God would work it out. A few weeks later Paul asked me on a date and the rest, as they say, is history.

And a good history it has been. Paul has proven to be a wonderful husband and, even more important, a wonderful father to my two daughters and grandfather to my grandchildren.

Today as we look back at the 39 years we have shared, we are grateful that God answered our prayers. I am no longer a red head, but he loves me anyway. 🙂

Aging With a Laugh

December was not a good month for me. It started off with a terrible head cold. My poor nose suffered from constant blowing.

When the cold was over, I had three to four days that were good – and then I got Covid.

Of course, being a good wife, I shared it with my husband.

After a couple of weeks of misery, we both looked pretty bad. I had cancelled my hair appointment when I got the cold and it was now almost eight weeks since I had a hair cut. I keep my hair very short and usually get a trim every four weeks. So with no makeup and my hair sticking out everywhere, I was not a pretty sight. My husband also was looking ragged with no shave for several days.

Then we heard a joke on TV and it has kept us laughing as we slowly recover from the effects of Covid.

Husband, looking in the mirror: “My arms are like little sticks, my chest is sagging, I can’t see my feet and my face is full of wrinkles.”

Wife: “Well, look on the bright side. Your eyesight is still perfect.”

Today I got my hair cut – and I have promised myself tomorrow I will put on my makeup. My husband has shaved and is looking good again.

Still, we are old and certainly are not the wonderful specimens of youth and beauty we once were. 🙂

But we are grateful to still love one another – even with our perfect eyesight.

Frustrations, Laughter and Joy

As another new year comes around, my mind races back to other new years and other times. Recently I was thinking about the life of a pastor and his family and the frustrations, the laughter and the joy that life brings.  Three different stories came to mind that illustrate all three scenarios.

THE FRUSTRATIONS

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One Sunday morning as my husband was greeting the church members after service, one man stopped him and said, “Pastor, you know what is wrong with this church?”  Smiling while thinking “I didn’t know anything was wrong – and who asked you,” my husband asked him what he thought was wrong.  His response:  “You are too organized.”

Continuing to shake hands with the other members, a woman stopped him and said, “Pastor, you know what is wrong with this church?”  Now my husband took a deep breath, smiled and said “What is wrong?”  Her response:  “You are not organized enough”

THE LAUGHTER

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There was a woman in one of our churches that bounced from church to church throughout the community.  She was a little slow mentally and when she came to our church we tried our best to make her feel welcome.

One Sunday my husband told the congregation that we would be out-of-town the following weekend as we were going to visit relatives in North Carolina.  He was encouraging everyone to please attend as members often stay home if the pastor is not going to be there.

This woman raised her hand and when my husband asked her what she wanted she asked him:  “Is Barbara going with you?”  Of course I was going and my husband replied in the affirmative.

The entire congregation tried so hard not to laugh when she said, “Well, if she can’t go with you, I can.”

THE JOY

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One morning as my husband and I headed across the parking lot from the parsonage to the church office a car pulled into the driveway and a young woman got out to talk to us.  She was looking for the church that was administering the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program.  We gave her directions to the local church that had the program.

She lingered after we gave her the information and seemed as if she was troubled and wanted to talk.  We invited her into the office and she began to share how she was pregnant and wanted to keep the baby but her boyfriend told her it was either him or the baby.  If she did not abort the child, he was kicking her out of their apartment and breaking off their relationship. She clearly did not want to abort the child but was unsure if she could raise a child by herself.

We spend time with her discussing her options.

  • She could obtain an abortion and keep her home and relationship with her boyfriend.
  • She could seek help from others, give birth to the baby and then put it up for adoption.
  • She could seek help from others and raise the child herself.

While we tried not to judge her or her boyfriend we naturally advocated for the life of the child.  It was clear she really wanted that, but just needed some help in not only making that decision but being able to have resources so she could keep that choice.

I made a list of phone numbers of various resources that would help her including the local Pregnancy Resource Center.  We also gave her our phone number and told her we would do anything we could to help her with doctor visits, baby supplies, etc.

After prayer with her, she left saying she did not know what she would do but she would keep in mind our offer of help and the list of resources I had given her.

Weeks, months went by and we never heard from her again.  I agonized over whether we had not made it clear enough that we and our church were willing to help her.

Almost 3 years later we had a district meeting at our church.  Several other churches in the area were in attendance.   A young woman walked up to me with a beautiful little girl  in her arms.  She asked:  “Do you recognize me?”

I did not know who she was.  Tears of joy quickly came to my eyes as she identified herself as the young woman who we had counseled and prayed with over the decision of abortion.  Although she had never called us back she had gone to the Pregnancy Resource Center.  They helped her with doctor visits and baby clothes and gave her the friendship she needed to carry though with the birth of that little girl.

She thanked me that we had taken the time to help her walk through the options she had and offered resources to help her in her choice of life.

So – you add it up.  The joys and the laughs far outweigh the frustrations.

The frustrations are gone, but the funny things still bring a laugh, and the joys still make it all seem worthwhile.

The Party’s Over – What Now?

I posted this three years ago. This year it is a good reminder to me. Christmas this year was not anything I had anticipated. A few days before Christmas I contacted Covid. All the plans for candlelight service at church and gathering with my daughter and her family for a fun day had to be cancelled. Christmas Eve my husband caught Covid from me and we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day basically sleeping when we were not coughing our heads off.

Our daughter, who normally would have been over – wearing a mask – to bring us food and check on us also had Covid and like me she shared it with her husband.  We are so thankful our granddaughter has remained negative.    So, we were basically on our own.

Spending Christmas alone while we struggled to have enough energy to sit up awhile and wish each other Merry Christmas made this anything but the Christmas we had always enjoyed. Today we are on the mend but still so tired. It will be quite awhile before we will be back to normal. But as I am saddened by no Christmas for us – I am thankful that the real reason for Christmas is still true. In the midst of our sickness, we are minded that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”

Grandma's Ramblings

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Christmas 2019 is history.  My decorations are all back in the boxes and the boxes are all in the storage area in the basement where they will sit until next December.  Here and there I see a few houses with Christmas lights still up but most of my neighbors have removed all the reindeer, snowmen and nativity sets from their yards.

Gifts have been given.  Some were, no doubt, a big hit.  Others may have been a disappointment.  Store clerks have been busy at the return counters.

Children are counting down the days until they have to return to school while many are heading back to work after a few vacation days.

Here and there I hear comments about the letdown after Christmas.  It is understandable that after all the shopping, decorating, baking, parties and family gatherings, going back to the “normal” routine of life can be a bit of…

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