We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Hope for the Harvest

Do you have a garden? If so, what crops have you been harvesting?

Earlier this summer, I enjoyed picking my own chives, rhubarb, blueberries, raspberries, and more recently tomatoes, white onions, and red cabbage. As the leaves begin to showcase their colors, I've also been gathering squash and apples from a local farm market. There's something satisfying about harvesting the fruit of our labor. From the planting to the weeding to the watering to the gathering, it's an earthy experience, to be sure!

This past Friday evening, my small group shared fall harvest dishes. We all sampled each one and compared notes about our gardens. Many around the table had little children, so I (as the grandmother of the group) enjoyed their young enthusiasm. 

Also this weekend, I helped a friend with an estate sale. Her mom, now in an assisted living facility, has lived in the house since 1976. It boasted vintage dishes and clocks, old records and turntables, games and decorations, furniture and linens, all on display in every room of the house. My "assigned" place included the upstairs, where I answered questions and helped in any way I could. One gentleman was startled when I moved, thinking I was a mannequin for sale!

I also heard bits and pieces of conversation as lines of collectors, couples, and families made their way through the house and up the stairs, hands full of treasures. They talked about their grandmother's similar ivory brush and mirror set or commented on the vintage toddler dresses from the 1950s. Many admitted garage-saling was a ritual they enjoyed - even though they already had a house full of "stuff" and really should have a sale of their own.

So, what do baskets of vegetables and an estate sale have in common? I've been thinking . . . gathering the harvest represents the culmination of our gardening efforts when we finally enjoy some tasty rewards. In much more significant ways, we've been sowing seeds for a lifetime. At the end of the season of our lives, we will harvest what we planted. It's not about all we accumulate, the "stuff" of life that will just be passed on. King Solomon wrote, "One who sows righteousness gets a sure reward" (Proverbs 11:18). Paul talks about "the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:11). 

"Whatever one sows, that will he also reap . . . " (Galatians 6:7). I hope we will faithfully plant and water Christ's righteousness as we live out each day - with the assurance of reaping a harvest of blessing when we see Jesus. Something to consider in this lovely season of harvest.

Friday, August 30, 2019

What's the Point?

Do you read the obituaries? 

I only get the newspaper on Saturdays and Sundays, but I do find the death notices and skim each one. Maybe it's a sign of getting older myself? I usually note the age of the person listed and, if it's mentioned, the circumstances surrounding his or her passing . . . a brief illness, a long battle with cancer, a car accident. 



Recently, several in my circles have lost spouses, siblings, or parents. When I heard the news, I felt the same way as when I walk to the cemetery and happen to see a fresh grave with flowers laid on top. It saddens me. A life lived. A life gone . . . so quickly. Reminds me of the book of Ecclesiastes where the writer talks about the vanity of a life that is soon snuffed out.

The melancholy part of me grieves. I feel unsettled . . . and vulnerable.

There's a little phrase tucked in one of Paul's sermons in Acts 13 that I go back to often. It offers hope and focus, especially when, in our more human moments, we might be tempted to wonder, "What's the point if we all die and after a while nobody remembers us anyway?"

Here's the verse: "David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers . . ." (Verse 36). 

Did you see it? Yes, David lived and died, but he also served God's purpose in his own generation! He was a man after God's heart who gave himself to his contemporaries in multiple ways . . . from caring for the family's flock of sheep to governing the nation of Israel. He wasn't perfect, yet with intention, he fulfilled God's purposes for him and those under his influence.  

Three millenniums later, we walk this earth to live out the same objective as David. To faithfully serve God's purposes (not ours) in our own circle of influence, for this generation - for the glory of God. 

So the next time we read the obituaries in the paper, let them remind us of David's example. A worthy goal. A noble aspiration that sheds a whole new light on life and death. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Community . . . Quietly Caring

Three police officers walked up my driveway to the patio where I sat with my daughter and her friend after supper. "Is there a Sarah Phillips here?" one of them asked. 

I slowly raised my hand to acknowledge my identity.

"Can we talk with you for a minute?"

The look on my face must have registered concern as I rose from my chair, apron still on, to meet them in the driveway.

"There's no cause for alarm, ma'am," the same man informed me. He then mentioned my dad's name. "Do you know him?"

Turns out, my dad's neighbors were concerned because they hadn't seen him for a few days. They did a little detective work, too . . . mail in the mailbox, car in the garage . . . and then they took action. 

I told the officers of my father's whereabouts - Indiana with my sister. I had checked on his house a couple of times, watered the flowers, and checked the mailbox. He would be home the next day.

In the end, I thanked them for their help. And later, thanked my dad's neighbors for their concern (and gave them my cell number). It meant a lot to me that other people were looking out for my 83-year-old dad. 

There's something to community . . . people quietly caring for people. 
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:4

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Forty Years . . .





Forty years ago today, 
I married my college sweetheart. 


After dating for over a year and a half and then waiting another two years after our engagement until I finished school, we finally tied the knot on July 14, 1979. We were young and in love, ready to face the world together. Barry taught Social Studies at a growing Christian school, and I practiced my homemaking skills and helped at the school and church. I fondly remember our first little apartment . . . 

When Barry graduated from college, he was debt-free with $40 in his pocket from mowing lawns, just enough to drive home and find work to save a little before the wedding. I still have our first budget, all laid out on a sheet of notebook paper.

We had no idea that God would bless us with three beautiful daughters and three little grandsons, that Barry would serve at Clarks Summit University for 20 years, and that we would be part of the same community for 32 years. 

Every summer around the time of our anniversary, we tried to get away for a couple of days, just the two of us. He always had a plan in place. I wonder what he would have had up his sleeve for our 40th.



Time provides perspective. Looking back, I see the faithfulness of God. 
Unmistakable grace!

July 14, 2012, Sharon's Wedding

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Slapping Mosquitoes

Bzzzzzz. Ouch. Slap. "Gotcha." Another one. Then another. Pretty soon, we feel itchy all over!

Like it or not, this is the season for pesky mosquitoes. Time Magazine says, "Mosquitoes really do prefer some people to others." Those with Type O blood or a certain chemical make-up attract these blood-suckers. Other factors that invite them include dark clothing and movement along with those who are sweaty from exercising. If you're looking for a healthy tick and mosquito repellent, we like this one from Beyond Organics. 

Sometimes life is a little like slapping mosquitoes. First one thing "bites" us, then another, then another. Pretty soon we feel like we're dancing an unwelcome dance that's exhausting. And there's no end in sight. Even in the night, the bzzzzzz of worry keeps us awake.

I've had a few "mosquitoes" buzzing around me lately. An unexpected car repair, several important decisions, the concerns of my kids, and most recently, a diagnosis of osteoporosis. I'm a prime candidate, I know, but the low T-scores still took me by surprise- especially since a healthy diet and exercise have been part of my routine. I've been researching and putting a plan in place to fight back, but the bzzzzz of concern and worry about any number of things follow me around like a hungry mosquito. 

You've been there, too.

There will always be mosquitoes buzzing around, but we have a "worry repellent" available to us. 
God is our refuge and strength, a very present and well proved help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its water roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
What are your current circumstances? Will you and I trust God with our stories . . . though we face health challenges? Though reasonable expectations turn upside down? Though change brings about uncertainty and unsteady steps? 
Be still. Cease striving, and know that I am God . . . the LORD of hosts is with us. (Psalm 46) 


There is a God in heaven who invites us to His throne . . . to bring to Him all our daunting and pesky problems . . . and to find abundant grace and help in time of need (Daniel 2:28; Hebrews 4:14-16). 

Photos from bing.com/images/freetouse

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Oops! When God Sees Our Mistakes

When was the last time you made a mistake? 

Mistakes come in all shapes and sizes, but the common denominator is the lack of realization that we have it wrong . . . until it's too late. A simple arithmetic error in the checkbook results in an overdrawn check. We lock our keys in the car and miss an important appointment. If we had treated a physical ailment earlier, we could have prevented present complications. We miss the ounce of prevention that's worth a pound of cure.

We all know that "ugh" feeling. We should have known better, we moan. But, the fact remains, we didn't know. What happened was unintentional. Once again, our humanness got the best of us, and we're left with regrets and even guilt. We missed the mark in appraising situations, making decisions, and/or nurturing relationships. And in the process, we did the less-than-best or even the wrong thing.

I'm reading the Old Testament through this year. It's full of stories, laws, and worship guidelines for God's people, the Israelites. The death and resurrection of Jesus has replaced and fulfilled the sacrificial system and the seeming endless list of rules the people were to follow. I know that. Yet, as I'm reading, I'm looking for themes. Themes that speak to the character of God. And what I'm finding is both sobering and comforting.

God was swift to judge unbelief and disobedience just as He consistently rewarded obedience and faith. Over and over again, the text speaks of forgiveness. 

What popped off the page were the paragraphs that begin with these words, "If you sin unintentionally . . ." (Leviticus 4; Numbers 15:22-29; Hebrews 9:7). God understands our propensity to make mistakes, to display weakness (1 Corinthians 2:1-5),  or to "sin" and not even realize it until later. He made provision for His people's shortcomings in Old Testament times, and He understands our humanness and offers forgiveness today (1 John 1:9). He is strength in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) and sovereign over all (Colossians 1:17).

This reminds me of King David's words in Psalm 103: "He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust" (verse 14).

So maybe it's okay to make an innocent mistake, to accept our humanness, to lean into God's gracious perfection. And then when it's needed, to ask forgiveness, to make restitution, and to learn what God has for us in this moment. He is, after all, much bigger than our best efforts . . . and our worst mistakes.



Photos from bling.com/images/free to use

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Travel Fatigue?

I turned the key in the lock and swung the door open, all the while wrestling my bag over the threshold and into the breezeway. Bone weariness and achy shoulders told the story of a long afternoon of travel in and out of the rain. The familiar surroundings and scent of the house welcomed me home. "Thank you, Lord," I breathed.

I'm sure you, too, can relate to the old saying: It's good to go, and it's good to come home." 

The past few months the Lord has opened up a number of speaking opportunities for me . . . from small groups to women's events and even a quilting retreat. I have been able to share our story and offer encouragement and hope from God's Word with women of all ages. The best part often comes after my talk . . . the hugs, the sharing, and even the tears as we chat about trusting God with our stories. I marvel at the tenacity of many who tell me what they are facing. I pray for them all the way home. What a privilege.

At the same time, travel fatigue is real, especially for homebodies like me! 

Certain Scriptures have popped off the page during the weeks I've been coming and going. Like the verses in John 4: "[Jesus] had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar . . . Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well (italics added)." In another instance, He slept through a stormy boat ride until his disciples woke Him up (Matthew 8:23-27). 

Later, when Paul the apostle wrote to the believers in Corinth, he reviewed some of his experiences. Right in the middle of his list describing all kinds of dangers, hardships, and shipwrecks, he includes "on frequent journeys" (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).

How blessed we are in the 21st century. The modes of transportation available to us far surpass walking for miles and miles. And we usually don't worry about severe opposition, lurking danger around every corner, hunger, and exposure to the cold. 

There's a bit of comfort knowing that Jesus and Paul also felt bone tired as they traveled and served God. When I think about them I gather courage, purpose, and perspective.

It's been said, "Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap." I'm not usually a nap-taker, but I am grateful for a quiet place to rest and reflect. I sometimes think of the verses in Mark 6 when "the apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while'" (Mark 6:30-32).

Jesus understands travel fatigue. He invites us to rest.