Just a thought or two

                                                                                                  by Marla Bentien

Flowers part 2                                       August 2nd

My friend Jack was a self-taught agronomist, and a brilliant one, I might add. When I met him about 25 years ago, I was nearing the ripe old age of 30 and he was in his early 70s. I knew he was in the ‘older’ category but I never really thought of him as ‘old’ because he was constantly on the move. Younger people were challenged to keep pace with him. But more than that…his heart was always light, he went about whistling or humming, had a quick and hearty laugh, loved God and man, and was willing to share his knowledge with anyone eager to receive it. Old? I should be so old!

Jack and his wife Gladys lived in Central California where Jack had experimented with grafting trees and had plantings of all kinds to his heart’s content. When they both retired from teaching, they decided to move several hours north to Willits to be near their children. Well, I should say, Jack decided. Gladys followed, of course, but it wasn’t at all easy to leave behind her friends and clubs and church and home and garden and flowers. I think perhaps we women get more attached than men do and it is hard to uproot ourselves and think about starting all over.

The first time I visited my ‘older’ friends at their home was early one March. I turned off the main street of the small town, headed west through an older neighborhood, wound around some trees and over a creek, and finally spied the address on the mailbox. As I drove up the long driveway, my mouth fell open! The hillside in front of their house was a welcome mat of bright, smiling daffodils. It was several years later when I learned that Jack had planted hundreds of his beloved wife’s favorite flower at their new home- his way of saying ‘thank you’ for her willingness to come north.

I can’t imagine anything more beautiful than a flower. Well, maybe just one thing…A flower planted with love.

“A friend loves at all times…” Proverbs 17:17

Flowers part 1                                                        July 27

Flowers make my heart sing…and dance…and smile…and jump for joy. God didn’t have to make flowers, you know. In fact, He didn’t even have to make a world filled with color. He could have made it simple and just gone with your basic black and white, or perhaps a muted gray. But wasn’t He kind to splash the world with riotous color, and even make a season each year for us to revel in it.


On my little farm, the daffodils pop up their cheery heads in February. I always say, “They are so early this year!” but I suppose they are on time and I am the one who is racing to catch up with the calendar. I am, of course, delighted to see them again. They share their sunny color for such a short time. Every summer I fill a long raised bed with a mass planting of zinnias, creating a jewel-toned entrance to my vegetable garden. I plant them close together, and the four-foot wonders stand tall next to each other, like soldiers ready to obey their marching orders. I don’t fuss over them much and they easily out-give me, filling my heart and spirit every time I pass by. Sometimes I just stop for a couple of minutes, rest my eyes upon them, and try to take in their beauty, simple yet intricate.

What forgiveness is not

                                                                     July 19th


About a decade ago I was sitting under the teaching of a young pastor who decided to preach a sermon on forgiveness. Admittedly, I wasn’t too interested, thinking I’d heard plenty of teachings on the topic and had no need to hear it now. (Um, I think that’s called pride?!) But I was soon enthralled in his message when he began explaining what forgiveness is NOT. Looking at it from this angle seemed to bring clarity to the issue, and I also found the insights very practical. I was so impressed that I met with him in his office later in the week to thank him for the sermon and ask for his notes, something I can’t recall ever doing. I went home and typed it up in summary form and have since shared these thoughts with quite a few people.

He told me that the ten points were not original with him, so I’m not sure where he got them, but I want to share them here in hopes that someone will be encouraged and maybe even make a start on the road to forgiveness. Our Lord commands us to forgive others. It is an act of the will and can set us free. We must not let bitterness take root in our hearts. “…Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13).


Ten Things Forgiveness is Not


Approving or diminishing

To forgive does not mean that you are giving your approval to what was done, nor does it in any way diminish or lessen what was done to you.


Enabling sin

To forgive does not mean that you are enabling the sin of another person. It does not mean that you are saying their sin was okay or doesn’t matter. The offender is still accountable for his/her sin.


Denying of wrongdoing

To forgive does not mean that you deny what was done to you, or pretend it didn’t happen.


Waiting for an apology

Forgiving doesn’t mean you have to wait for an apology. That may never come. The ball is in your court, not theirs.


Forgetting

Forgiving doesn’t mean you have to forget what happened. “Forgive and forget” usually doesn’t’ happen. Most of the time, we can’t forget what happened, and that is okay. We just have to keep forgiving.


Ceasing to feel the pain

Forgiving doesn’t mean the pain goes away. Maybe it will, but many times it doesn’t, at least not for a while. That’s okay.


A one-time event

We may have to forgive over and over again. Satan may throw it in your face again and again. That doesn’t mean you didn’t forgive. It just means you have to forgive again.


Neglecting justice

To forgive doesn’t mean the person gets away with something. Forgiveness does not mean that justice is put aside. On the contrary, justice should be served where it is appropriate.


Trusting

Forgiving isn’t the same as trusting. You may never be able to trust the person again. But you can still forgive them.


Reconciliation

Praise God if reconciliation happens, but sometimes it doesn’t, or perhaps it isn’t even possible (for example if the offender is deceased). You can forgive even if the reconciliation doesn’t or can’t happen.


  • Laughter                                                        July 12th

       What sounds do you enjoy? Have you ever thought about it? I think we talk more about the sounds we don’t like (my alarm clock comes to mind!) But what sounds make you smile? I love the sound of cloppity-clop horse hooves. I have no idea why! My flock of chickens makes a certain “happy” sound when it’s dinner time. (Hmm, maybe I do too). I had a friend who would get positively giddy at the sound of a breeze rustling through trees. He taught me to hear that and I learned to like it. I smile at varied chirps of the mockingbird that wakes me up most mornings. I have a few wind chimes on my patio, but not all of them have a pleasant tone. A student of mine from Russia gave ma small-ish wind chime that I just love. It has a tinkle-tinkle sound that is simple but pleasing.


       But I think my favorite sound of all is laughter. Whether it’s a giggling baby, my friend across the table, a roomful of students or an auditorium full of families…the sound lightens my heart and as a bonus, is usually contagious. Laughter is such a gift. I don’t remember any laughter in my home growing up. Not that it was a torturous existence; it was just on the serious side. You do your homework and your chores and don’t get in trouble, and repeat again tomorrow. Perhaps that’s why laughter is at the top of my list of delightful sounds (not to mention experiences).


       I don’t know how I missed it all these years, but I was surprised when I recently came across Luke 6:21b, where the Lord tells His disciples, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” I tend to think of God as always serious, much like my childhood home. Though there are few specific references in the Bible to laughter, JOY is one of God’s main topics. Therefore, God’s people should be joyful…because of who He is and what He has done for us and the grand future that awaits.


       Heaven is going to be full of wonderful sounds!

  • Independence Day                                              July 4th

       I love my country. Don't most of us? My single friend Debbie up in British Columbia loves her country. Another BC friend moved to New Zealand a couple of years ago to get married, and she loves Canada as well as her new home. My friends from Mexico love their country. Boy, do they love their country! My father's father came to the US from Denmark and because it was the homeland of Daniel Bentien, it is special to my family, even though we've never lived there. My mother's father arrived at Ellis Island from England as a young man. Because Albert Rowley was English, my family has a soft spot for that land. I can still hear him calling me "Mahla," with the slightest remains of his accent.


       My heart hurts for what is happening in my country right now, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or even paralyzed. But as important as it is to be a good citizen, as Christ-followers we know our citizenship is not here, but There. Our true home is Heaven. It seems everyone wants to go to Heaven. Why? So many reasons I'm sure; it's beautiful, it's perfect, we'll see friends and family again; pain and sorrow will be replaced by new bodies and eternal joy.


       I'm sure Denmark and England are nice countries, and certainly have lovely places to explore and new experiences awaiting. But I wouldn't be so interested in those lands if I had no family attachment there. My King and Lord and Savior is in Heaven, and that's why I want to go there. If He isn't there, it isn't Heaven. I want to say: let's keep our focus on Heaven, where our true citizenship lies. And that's a good thing to do. But even better,  let's focus on the "main attraction" of Heaven. And someday soon we will hear Him call our names and welcome us to our true and forever Home.


       In the meantime, we live here. I'm sure we are all praying for our nation. But this Independence Day, let's take some extra time to pray for our leaders and for the healing of our land.


       "...(M)any live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body."                                                                                                                                                                             Philippians 3:18b-21