Happy 4th of July

According to Wickapedia “Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain”.

This year, the 4th seems to be a bigger struggle than last year….there seems to be a few more memories missing as a result of the MS.  I went on a hunt to find some pictures to go with the post and struggled to remember.  I pulled our the scrapbook I made for Belinda for her 16th birthday and was overwhelmed.  The pictures looked familiar but the memories of the experiences have slowly slipped away. It is times like this I am glad I started blogging before things were too bad because it helps me to remember at least a little bit….

Hubby and I were just talking about life in Ocean Grove  and how we would love to live there again.  The 4th of July was always a whirlwind of fun and excitement filled with July 4th parades and bar-b-ques with family. Sitting on Main Street waiting for the parade and the barrage of candy thrown by the floats as they traveled down the street. Grams worried Belinda would get too close to the  trucks. Belinda hiding and covering her ears as the fire trucks came by – her sensitive ears were always a concern for Grams.

Then came the years Belinda was in the parade in an array of costumes. Costumes made by me – Ariel (The Little Mermaid), Pocahontas, Peter Pan… are you getting the Disney theme? Yes, we were obsessed with Disney and we wore out many VHS tapes before DVDs came around. Then as Belinda got older, it was decorating her bicycle. Cards in the spokes to make the flipping sounds – okay, am I really showing my age now? Red, white and blue shirts, shorts, and hats…

Life in Ocean Grove was fun and is filled with many memories.  I am grateful for scrapbooks – mostly since Belinda was born but at least there are some.  There was actually a time when ALL of us lived in Ocean Grove on Broadway – Edythe, then Grams, Pop-pop & Elsie then closest to the beach was mom and I. Okay, so it was BEFORE Belinda but it was always a lot of fun. Yes, I squirreled!

Best wishes for a ThirtyOne-derful day with friends and family. Enjoy the moments and treasure them….

Evidence of God’s Love

I would like to take a moment and wish a Happy Father’s Day to dads.  Today will be bitter sweet as I remember my dad and grandfather treasuring the moments with my hubby.

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message…..

Our hotel room had a small balcony that overlooked the swimming pool. Early one lazy vacation morning, I grabbed my journal, Bible, and a fresh cup of coffee then headed to the balcony for some quiet time.

As I settled in, movement by the pool caught my eye. I watched as a maintenance man approached a palm tree and briskly pulled a brown, life-less branch from underneath the green leaves. Oddly, before he pulled the dead branch off, I hadn’t even noticed it was there.

After he pulled it off, however, the palm tree looked fresh and vibrant.

Seriously.

The pruning made such a difference!

Jesus spoke to His disciples and said,

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

 I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  (John 15:1-8, NIV)

Whom we spend time with really matters.

And what we say and do and how we say and do it also really matters.

Stay with me here! Don’t let the familiarity of this Scripture fade the impact it has on you.

I understand to my core how horrible it feels when my walk and my talk do not line up. Withered branches in my heart constantly need to pulled off and thrown away. You too?

In order to experience the blessings and power of God’s Spirit in our lives we must root our faith deep in the soil of God’s Word and then allow His truth to produce fruits that are ripe with evidence of His love. These fruits are clearly seen (or not) at the intersection of our faith and our actions. I’ve found that when I have those I-just-want-to-scream-because-everyone-in-the-world-is-on-my-last-nerve days God meets me with His grace when I whisper His name.

God will deepen the roots and increase the fruits of your faith as you spend time talking to Him early in the morning over a hot mug of coffee. When you pray and worship on the way to work or on your powerwalk. When you feel a prick of conviction in your heart about that behavior – or about that response – that tone – that act of disobedience. When you call out to Him for patience and strength as your teenager slams his door in rebellion – or when your adult daughter “forgets the morals she was raised with” and moves in with her boyfriend – or when frustrations mount up at work.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self control. To bring glory to God, this fruit of His Spirit must be seen in our lives.

Unfortunately, we have a keen ability to rationalize our less-than-fruitful behaviors.

But he… But she… But they… I just can’t…

Fortunately, God doesn’t expect us to behave like this without Him. In fact, we simply can’t. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. Remember? (v5) But when we remain in Him – when we seek Him, obey Him, savor His presence, live for His glory, and prioritize Him above all else – we can and will make a big impact for God and experience the joy and peace we all long for.

The maintenance man at the resort didn’t pull the branch off to hurt the palm tree.

He pruned it to increase its beauty, health, and vibrancy. God does the same for us. He prunes His children to increase our beauty, health and vibrancy for our good and for His glory – to make us more useful to Him and more fruitful.

Pause to ponder this question: Are there any dead branches hanging on your tree?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!