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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Elusive Maturity

It was a beautiful Spring morning in Clinton, Oklahoma, on the playground. Usually a happy child, I looked across the playground and spied my friends chatting near the entrance to the Junior High. I walked over to the bevy of girls, who had cool names such as Betty, Madonna, Mildred, etc. I wondered what they were talking about and approached them, asking, "What are you talking about?"

I still remember the disdain in their eyes, although that word didn't reside in my vocabulary then. And the pronouncement that has haunted me to this day came..."You're too young to know."

Indignantly I responded, "But we are the same age." I withered from the looks I received, and wandered away wondering what they were talking about. I quickly put it out of my mind, thinking that it probably wasn't worth hearing.

Move the life-clock forward...and I wondered 'if-I-was-old-enough'. Mother and I prepared to give a talk about Maturity at a church ladies' meeting. "Mom, how old do you feel?" Mom's answer, at 85 years old surprised me, "I still feel sixteen." I stared at Mom, realizing that at 63 years of age, I felt sixteen, too. We both giggled like school girls, like sixteen year olders.

Reflecting on that moment, I gained understanding that just because our bodies age, our spirit continues to flourish. We continue to think of responsibility and of the possibility in our lives.

I found these quotes concerning maturity:
The first sign of maturity is the discovery that the volume knob also turns to the left.Jerry Wright
A person's maturity consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child, at play Friedrick Nietzsche
Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasures for long-term values. Joshua Liebman
Maturity is that time when the mirrors in our mind turn to windows and instead of seeing the reflection of ourselves we see others.
Although these quotes are wise and ponder-worthy, I can still see my Mom at 80 years old, dancing with excitement as she encounters a blessing, a new insight in the scripture or just the joy of life. Where did she find this joy? In her faith in Christ and living that faith, not in a vacuum, but in myriad of relationships of family and friends.

In contemplating what maturity consists of, I posted on Facebook. One of my former students from twenty years ago commented:
I suppose there are differing concepts of maturity to consider as well; some maturity (emotional and spiritual) is not a destination so much as an ongoing journey. Unfortunately progress isn't at a set rate of speed or increase, and not all individuals chose to undertake the difficult task of growth and the associated pitfalls; it is all too easy to remain mired in denial of either facet of life-- growing older but never up.
This young man understands what maturity is all about. That it is a journey that is not completed until the last breath is drawn. Thank you, Wilbur!

Galatians 5:22-23 says (The Message)
But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
NIV - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The Fruit of the Spirit is the visible product in our lives that indicates living in the Spirit.
When we balance maturity in our lives, we see that our lives are many faceted. We wonder what to follow, who to follow and why. In this day, in our world, we must sift through many words to find the truth. The underlying and everlasting truth lies in our faith in Jesus Christ. In Him we can begin and continue on a journey to the maturity that counts. A spiritual maturity that makes life worth living. Along the path of life to maturity, the decisions we make each day determine our lives here on earth and our eternal destination.

Yes, Wilbur, maturity is a process and journey. The ultimate destination is a Forever.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rainbow of Blessings

I read in the Balanced Living Bible Study to creatively describe the joy and wonder that God has shown us. Past tense, which means to gather instances and see where God has led us. Doing the intuitive leap that my mind seems to do often, joy and wonder was translated into one word - blessing...

I realized that God, indeed, has blessed my life with a Rainbow of Blessings. This morning I gathered them as one gathers a bouquet of fragrant flowers in a garden. From the deep faith in God that characterizes our family life back for 4 or 5 generations to the now.

First I thought about a Rainbow...the gift that God gave, and continues to give, as a reminder of his word....From now on, when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I'll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life. Genesis 9:15

God's promises are true, but in order to be assured of His promise, we must look up and look for the rainbow and see the blessings in our lives. It is not a just a scientific phenomenon as described on Wikipedia, but a promise from God. "A rainbow is an optical and meterological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines onto droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere."

A rainbow consists of seven colors, red, orange yellow, green blue, indigo and violet, that appear in the sky. It has long been an infinite pleasure for me to see the many colors that our Creator worked with in His Creation of His universe. As I watch a rainbow, the word blessing comes again. Just as I search the skies for the Rainbow of Blessings, I walk through my day looking to see the color of those blessing and where does it match the rainbow.

The seasons abound with blessings of God's creativity - the new green leaves and budding flowers that signal Spring, the luxuriant greens and deep colors of roses in summer and their reflection in a body of water, and the the riotous colors of fall leaves make my heart sing. Even the pristine newness of snowfall, or glistening ice that coats our world in the winter provides a blessing.

As His crowning creativity, God created man. Through man can come great reflections of God's love and praise. In a child's chortle of laughter and innocence, in the pure love between a young man and his maiden. In a 'church family' where there is concern, prayer, love, and giving. What colors abound here in the Rainbow of Blessings? Just to discover the hue of each would devour minutes and hours.

When a family obeys and worships the Creator of the Rainbow Blessings, joys grow. Just as we have to search for the rainbow when clouds hover over us and our lives. Sometimes we don't want to look up and search the Giver of Life and we find that the blessings hide and diminish in our finite eyesight.

Death, illness, separation or hardship clouds clutter our skies. Yet, when we look to Father in Heaven, we see will see blessings that encourage us to see the Rainbow. This is not a one time looking up, but a generational need. There is a constancy and a faithfulness of God to bless those who are His children and love His Son, Jesus.

We must teach our children and our children's children and more generations to search for the Rainbow of Blessings and the God who created each of us. When do we get the whole measure of a blessing? It is when we thank God for the little blessings and when we give back our best to Him. When one of our granddaughters, just eleven months old, reached up to me with both her arms to be picked up, I fell in love with this child. Now, almost 23 years later that love just grows. As God's children, may we hold up our arms in love to our Father in Heaven.

There are many kinds of blessings -- the blessing of parents as the children choose their mate, the blessing of parents for their children as they give them to the Lord. One of the blessings that gives us so much joy is sharing our children and grandchildren's lives through communication. We do not live close, and treasure visits and hearing about them. Another blessing is our church family. Being able to enter traffic safely on New Hope Road, playing the keyboard without mistakes, being able to close my eyes at night - knowing my rest will not be interrupted by intruders, the first tomato from our garden in the summer and having a loving husband for 57 years. My children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. There are more, but these blessings I see reflected in the Bible.

I live in expectation of our Lord's Second Coming. I live in expectation of the Rainbow of Blessings in our lives and search for them as I live for Him. I am aware that when the clouds gather in my life, there is a Rainbow of Blessings there, too, and I look for the blessings.

Jesus taught this in Matthew 5:3-12
"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.

"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.

"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.

"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.

"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.

"Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Don't look for the silver lining, look for the Rainbow of Blessings!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How Will It All Turn Out?

Mother and I drove to Fairview, Oklahoma, to see Aunt Marie Siemens for a visit. Aunt Marie was in her 80's and our visit was filled with the stories of her life. She sat in her chair, a tall woman. No matter how strong the winds blew against her, they did not diminish her faith or strength. As she remembered and told us incidents, it was if she didn't see us, but looked past us to the journey of steps she walked.

After each little story, we heard the comment/question, "And I wondered how it would all turn out."

Aunt Marie was married to Dr. Jacob VI Siemens, Dad's older brother. Aunt Marie, also a chiropractor, a strong lady with a stronger faith in God, read the many textbooks that enabled Uncle Jake to become a chiropractor. Uncle Jake was blinded through accidents as a young boy.

Curious as to his sightless world, as a child, I walked around the house with my eyes closed. Feeling my way, hesitantly taking steps. I felt the braille publications he read from, and wondered how he could discern the paper bumps into words. How did the juicy red watermelon taste to him in the summer? Or Aunt Marie's fresh-baked bread? I tried eating with my eyes closed, and found it was not as easy as Uncle Jake seemed to make it. He was not able to see the two beautiful daughters Virginia and Helen that were born to them or his grandchildren.

Aunt Marie told us about accepting Jesus Christ as her Savior, and how her older sister had not yet, so she had to wait until she did....I can hear her yet, 30 years later, "And I wondered how it would all turn out."

So many times in my family, when money was tight, I know that Aunt Marie's question was in the back of our minds. When we were young, we had a family meeting (pow-wow) and determined that although Dad, delivering mail, wanted to have a Coke each day for a nickel, the price was a constant. Was it wise for our budget for him to spend this amount every day? This was in the 1930's.

When my brother, Jim, was in the hospital with a concussion after being thrown from a pickup, delivering papers, I know my parents thought, "And I wondered how it would all turn out."
He recovered, in time, but it was frightening. Physical life or death takes on gargantuan import in our lives.

My Dad, Herman Siemens, became ill when I was about 8 years old. He needed to travel from Clinton OK to Topeka KS on the train to have surgery. I remember the tears and the goodbye. Dad didn't think he would live. My Mom was left at home, separated from her love, to care for three small children, the cow, the chickens and the garden. "And I wondered how it would all turn out."

When Dad's grandparents were raising their children in Oklahoma on a homestead farm, they had no meat. Dad's great-grandfather saw that his children were starving and brought a butchered calf to help feed them. When Dad's father noticed that the suitcase slipped from his grasp at the train station, he knew his body no longer functioned. He would not be able to travel and preach God's Word. "And I wondered how it would all turn out."

Every family has many heartaches and ask, "And we wondered how it would all turn out."
Yet, their faith in God provides the strength to know that the ultimate victory is theirs. For the journey on this earth is not all there is, it is simply time of strengthening, a time of testing and a time of learning.

I John 5:1-5 (The Message)
Every person who believes that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah, is God-begotten. If we love the One who conceives the child, we'll surely love the child who was conceived. The reality test on whether or not we love God's children is this: Do we love God? Do we keep his commands? The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome. Every God-begotten person conquers the world's ways. The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. The person who wins out over the world's ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God.
Aunt Marie, thank you for faith in Jesus Christ, and your question that needs but one answer. Your life was lived by trusting Him. You knew the answer to your rhetorical question, for you knew our Savior. And now we know that Jesus holds the key and we KNOW how it will all turn out.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

God's Breath - 2009

After the fierce ice storm in our area of Northwest Arkansas, I searched for 'ice' on And there are the words that stir men to ask, "What is God teaching us?" "What is He saying to us?" Job 37:1-13.

On Monday, January 26th, the Weather Forecasts were similar - warning of the impending severe ice storm. One lady counseled, 'Just pray that it goes around us.' It didn't. It hit full force. Icy rain caused 24 inch long icicles from our roof and swelling of the icy limbs and branches. Tuesday morning our neighbor across the street brought hot biscuits and gravy. Their good deed was much appreciated. Their power went off an hour later.

We saw children playing outside in the ice. The mail was delivered every day of the bad weather.

A limb hit the back porch roof Tuesday afternoon and two limbs pierced through like sharp knives. Tuesday evening, man's power stopped and God's power continued. We wondered what the evening would hold for us.

Tuesday night we heard house-shaking booms as limbs hit the ground or our home. In the darkness, the unknown became more frightening. We prayed that no other limbs would create havoc on our roof.

As the house grew colder and we found heat only in the number of clothes we put on and passing our hands over the candle's flame. Because our house is well insulated, even though the temperature dropped to 16 degrees outside, our temperature stayed at 49 or above.

Wednesday morning it was silent outside. I leaned over a thermometer in my bedroom and laughed to see an icy fog of expelled breath in the air. Daylight brought a wonderland of white. Snow had fallen on the ice - creating more weight on the limbs. More fell. Our front and back yards were filled with huge limbs.

On the kitchen table we placed the candles and burned them during the day. When I wanted to warm up my hands, I washed dishes from the hot water from the faucet (gas hot water heater). The dishwasher sat mutely - a monument to futility. Finally, I enjoyed washing dishes!

What a blessing that hot water heater became. It provided 'hot' coffee and tea, instant Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup, and 'hot' cereal. On Wednesday we drove carefully and slowly to pick up some medication and a few groceries -- we found more candles and batteries, too.

The sunlight and clear blue skies set off the iced limbs etched against the blue. God's beauty was not only in the ice cold air, but his power and love resided in the hearts of men who worked so diligently about us.

On Thursday night I watched the Esplundh trucks park on our street. In the dark, I saw 6 men tramping about in our snow/iced back yard, trimming the trees around power line. The next day we saw Electric Trucks on our street. Again, different men tramped through our yard. I began praying that the power would come on. And praying for the men who had come from different areas to work long hours in adverse conditions to restore our power. God answers prayer, and our power came on 71 hours and 50 minutes after it went off.

We ate out (unusual for us) two days - Thursday and Friday. Our children called to check on us from CA to WI to IL to GA. We were covered with love and encouragement. On Saturday afternoon, we napped, and were awakened to the sound of a chain saw. When we looked out the window, we gave God heartfelt thanks. The friend who cuts our grass in the summer began sawing and dragging the limbs to the curb. Such a sacrifice and service. I remembered that before we were blessed with electrical power, our ancestors lived without the heat we enjoy today. Compassion becomes foremost in men's hearts when we struggle to survive in many different ways - whether it be environmentally, physically or emotionally. Let us be mindful of our Father in Heaven and give Him praise!

Yes, we hear God's voice...and praise Him for His Son and the sunshine.
Job 37:1-13 says:
"Whenever this happens, my heart stops— I'm stunned, I can't catch my breath.
Listen to it! Listen to his thunder, the rolling, rumbling thunder of his voice.
He lets loose his lightnings from horizon to horizon, lighting up the earth from pole to pole.
In their wake, the thunder echoes his voice, powerful and majestic.
He lets out all the stops, he holds nothing back. No one can mistake that voice—
His word thundering so wondrously, his mighty acts staggering our understanding.
He orders the snow, 'Blanket the earth!' and the rain, 'Soak the whole countryside!'
No one can escape the weather—it's there. And no one can escape from God.
Wild animals take shelter, crawling into their dens,
When blizzards roar out of the north and freezing rain crusts the land.
It's God's breath that forms the ice, it's God's breath that turns lakes and rivers solid.
And yes, it's God who fills clouds with rainwater and hurls lightning from them every which way.
He puts them through their paces—first this way, then that— commands them to do what he says all over the world.
Whether for discipline or grace or extravagant love, He makes sure they make their mark.