Gifts

Apple of My Eye

Apple basket

Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. –Proverbs 25:11

Every autumn, the kids and I make our annual pilgrimage to pick pumpkins and apples. Sometimes it’s at a farm, sometimes a farm stand, sometimes a nursery, but almost always there is apple cider, apple crumble and baskets of apples.

Aren’t apples appealing? (pun intended) They are fragrant -- and no wonder since they are a member of the rose family of plants, along with pears, peaches, plums and cherries. They come in all shades of red, green and yellow. They have a nice shape too and fit nicely right in the palm of your hand, begging to be sampled.

And that whole "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" turns out to be true! Apples are good for you. A large-sized apple only has about 130 calories since 25 percent of an apple’s volume is air. They are fat-free, sodium-free and cholesterol-free. Apples are an excellent source of fiber; one large apple contains 5 grams of fiber, including the soluble fiber pectin. And some studies have shown that consuming apples regularly may reduce your risk of cancer. This healthy fruit contains quercetin, procyanidins, and Vitamin C, which are all beneficial in the prevention of disease and cancer.

Apples even made it into the Bible. And no wonder since archeologists have found evidence that humans have been enjoying apples since 6500 BC! Right now, worldwide, more than 7,500 apple varieties have been identified. And since the Pilgrims planted the first American apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, more than 2,500 varieties have been grown in the United States – 100 of which are grown for commercial sale. And apple trees can be grown in cooler climates than other fruit trees because they bloom late in spring, minimizing the chance of frost damage.

Apples do seem like small demonstrations of God’s love for us. They are small, nutritious, hardy and versatile – you can have them raw, baked, fried, dried, sauced, juiced or made into pies. And they are fragrant and sweet. It’s no wonder they feature prominently in New Year’s celebrations in the Middle East. In both the Iranian New Year (Nowruz celebrated on the first day of Spring) and the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah, or the Feast of Trumpets, celebrated early in September) apples are symbols of the wish for a healthy and sweet new year.

Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love.

–Song of Songs 2:5

One of my favorite expressions from the Bible is ‘apple of my eye’ meaning something or someone that one cherishes above all others. It started out meaning pupil of the eye and is probably related to the expression ‘keeping an eye on.’ In two of the places the expression is used, it paints such a lovely picture of God’s tender love, provision and care for us:

For the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted inheritance.

In a desert land he found him,
in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
he guarded him as the apple of his eye,
like an eagle that stirs up its nest
and hovers over its young,
that spreads its wings to catch them
and carries them aloft.

–Deuteronomy 32:9-11

🍎 🍏 🍎 🍏 🍎 🍏

Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.

–Psalm 17:7-8

The other verse where it appears is similar in that it expresses how much God wants to communicate with us and have a close relationship:

Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.

–Proverbs 7:2

There are plenty more apple verses. I’ll let you find them yourself. But don’t bother looking in Genesis at the Adam and Eve story. No, that forbidden fruit was not an apple! Well, actually it wasn't specifically named, so it could have been anything really.

As summer fades and autumn colors and smells fill the air, take a moment and consider our Great God who put all of this here just so He could delight in pleasing us. Indulge in some apple-picking good times, enjoying the bounty of the earth. Even the ubiquitous apple is a small, miraculous reminder of God’s love for you.

Autumn blessings,

Jen


In God We Trust

Bus Angel gamma15 BESTPsalm 84:11-12

11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

It’s all about trust.

Humans, and especially Americans with their ‘pioneer spirit,’ like to be self-reliant. We pride ourselves on it. It starts early -- who can forget the stubborn toddler who has learned the word ‘no’ and refuses help putting on their shoes and socks? They struggle valiantly, but sometimes, one needs to rely on others.

In fact, when we can be totally honest with ourselves, we will acknowledge that we were meant to live in mutual dependence on one another. And perhaps we can even admit that it’s nice to do so. It’s a wonderful thing to hand off tasks, duties and responsibilities to others…as long as there is trust.

TRUST: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.

We trust in so many people and things. We trust that our chairs will support our weight. We trust that the water will come out of the spigot and be safe to drink. We trust that the power grid is intact. We trust that drivers will follow the road rules. We trust that the school bus will carry our children to school. We trust that our local, state and federal governments are providing services. We trust that the people in our lives will live up to their commitments. We trust that our employer will pay us for the work we’ve done. We trust our bank to keep our money safe. We trust that the church will be open on Sunday morning.

If you have been able to rely on those people and things, you should truly count yourself fortunate! Probably most of us have experienced the pain of not being able to trust a few of those things. Some of us may know the fear and uncertainty of not being able to trust but a few of those things. My hubby grew up in Iran in the 70s. One day he was wearing his bell-bottom jeans, riding his banana seat bicycle down to the neighborhood store to buy an American paperback novel and pick up some bread for his mom. The next week, there were soldiers on the streets, schools were closed, stores ran out of food and American books were being confiscated. He never thought such a thing could happen in his country. Now we have hour by hour photos and stories coming out of Afghanistan demonstrating how everything you trusted in could collapse in mere days. COVID and the politics of the last couple of years have weakened our trust in systems and institutions. And yet, we still have to trust.

We can’t do everything ourselves. We have to trust others. Yet others will eventually let us down because they are just human, and we humans can be wrong, make mistakes, or even sinfully lie, cheat steal and destroy.

We can only fully trust God. Only God’s character, ability, strength, and truth can be assuredly relied upon. God is GOOD. He will withhold no good thing from those who trust Him. (Psalm 84:11-12) God is ALMIGHTY. Nothing is impossible with God. (Mark 10:27) God is POWERFUL. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; (Psalm 147:5) God is TRUTH. God is not human, that he should lie…. Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19) Check out some of God’s awesome promises here: https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/gods-promises-verses-in-the-bible/

Myself, I have decided to trust. No more grumbling. I don’t like it? I wouldn’t have made that decision? I don’t want to? So what?! It’s not about me anyway. Other people are in charge of so many things in my life and I just have to trust that they’re doing their best until there is evidence otherwise. Even then, I have to trust in other people to discover it, report it and fix it. And sometimes stuff just happens. 

When I’m tempted to grumble or complain or even get involved, I’m gonna just give it to God and stay in my lane. If I’m trespassed against, I’m not gonna grumble and stew on it, I’m gonna forgive and give it God and keep on truckin’. And when I’m the one messing up and grumbled about, I’m gonna confess it, not stress it, give it to God and travel on. I’m well aware that in two minutes God will challenge me on this. But I have to. I can’t keep driving with all that junk in my trunk! I have to trust God to work it out.

Stay blessed,

Jen Jahromi


Teach Well

Apple for the Teacher lvls autofixThey came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth…. Mark 12:14

I love school. I’m what people call a lifetime learner. A classroom is my happy place. From preschool with it’s bright-colored kid sized furniture and picture books, to elementary school with the fun, seasonally themed bulletin boards right on up to college and law school with intimidating theater style seating. While not so much a fan of physical adventure, I’m always ready for the intellectual adventure of learning. I haven’t met a subject yet that I couldn’t get excited about.

I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm about learning with other people too. Some people call that teaching. (Others call it annoying. 😉) For me it’s as natural as breathing. I realized I was a teacher when I had kids. They’d ask questions and I had answers. They’d ask hundreds of questions and we’d just get a Bible or a book or a telescope or an atlas and find the answers together. We just kept going until they were teaching me new things.

Jesus was a Teacher in a similar way. Of course, He was thoroughly familiar with His subject of God’s Word. He sat with His disciples or with vast crowds of people or just one-on-one and challenged people to really think using stories and by asking questions. He threw in object lessons using concepts people were familiar with such as farming, the weather, the seasons, etc. to get His point across. And He let his disciples try out their new-found concepts and skills with hands on healing and preaching. The world was His classroom and class was always in session. 

Our Sunday School curriculum is much the same. We put a big emphasis on having fun and getting kids to really think about the stories and imagine what it would be like to be there. We encourage them to share about how it relates to their own lives. We do some crafts, some games and some experiments, all to reinforce the lesson. And we repeat, repeat, repeat God’s Word to get it stuck in their hearts and heads.

As Christians we are called to be lifetime learners AND life-time teachers. There is always something new to be gleaned from God’s Word. At different ages and stages in life, and whether in a valley of struggles or a peak of enlightenment, the Bible can speak to us in very different ways although the words are the same. This is a mystery, but it is nevertheless true. If we become parents we are mandated to speak to our children about God in our comings and goings and to make Christian education a priority. Even if we don’t have kids, we’ve promised to help raise Godly children in our church family. And as we all know by now, it takes a village of teachers, carers, parents, pastors and friends to raise Godly children these days.

Similarly, there is always something that you can teach others in the congregation. Older members have valuable life experience and perspective to share with younger members. Younger members may have a better grasp of technology or social trends and their impact on the church. And divorce, addiction, death of a loved one, surviving illness, working on the mission field, volunteering with the needy and many other life experiences yield valuable insights that others may need. The wisdom of the Bible comes alive when it is paired with examples of how it was lived out in the testing crucible of life.

And naturally, we are all teaching by example every day everywhere. We make the choice daily to be a good example or cautionary tale in those various ‘teachable moments’ life throws at us.

As the kids, teens and adults head back to school, virtually and in-person, I want to say “Thank You!” to all teachers, past, present and future. Preschool, Sunday School, Homeschool, Bible Study…it is all a high calling and an often draining one. Giving of yourself means there’s not much left of you by the end of the class. But it shapes minds and molds spirits and sets hearts on fire. It is the method God put in place for us to make disciples (students), and to imitate Christ is to learn to be a rabbi (teacher)!

Lord, please place Your loving hand of protection over all our schools and teachers. Guard them, watch over them and keep them safe. Give teachers, professors and administrators wisdom and strength. Fill them with encouragement daily. Help our students to learn, not just reading and math, but also kindness, compassion and integrity. Lead them into a relationship with You as they grow. And let them know they are loved. Amen.

Blessings,

Jen Jahromi


Small Whisper

Small Whisper11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

~1 Kings 19:11-13

I am not, myself, naturally filled with physical toughness or mental courage. You know that saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going?” Well, my version of that saying is “When the going gets tough, the tough get a pint of Rocky Road and curl up in a ball.” I admire those, like my hubby, who are compelled to run toward danger and face it head-on. Through him, I have learned that I can only wallow in my self-pity for a day or two, and then it’s time to get back to it and move forward.

In fact, if I have any courage or perseverance, it’s all Jesus. My old self was a quitter. I have a looong list of classes, projects, careers and honors that did NOT get completed because it got too challenging or scary. In fact, I often joke that Christianity is the only thing I ever tried that I never quit. Since Jesus, there has been much less quitting and giving up, but it’s been a process.

What is it that keeps you going? When I’m at the end of my rope and everything in me wants to just quit or run away, it is usually a little voice in my head that keeps me going. It’s never my own voice. It’s usually God’s Word, or my hubby, or one of my church friends’ voices, mostly encouraging me, occasionally warning me, and sometimes scolding me. I’m grateful for those voices because they are the voices of Truth. And it is usually the voices of lies and deception that are begging me to throw in the towel.

Looking at the verse above, we see that God was not in the big, loud, attention-grabbing events of wind, earthquake or fire. He spoke in a still, small voice. I remembered this part of the story, but I had forgotten what brought Elijah to the mountain in the first place. Perhaps you have too:

3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” ~1 Kings 19:3-4

This is very interesting. God sent His man on a mission. It was a challenge, and then it became overwhelming, and the great prophet ran away, quit and prayed to die. This I can relate to. Not being a mighty prophet of God hunted down by a wicked king, but certainly the calling it quits part. And searching back in my own life story I realized that when I was at a very low point, when the problems that I had created all loomed like giants, when I was thoroughly exhausted and ready to quit, in desperation, I cried out to the God I had denied for so many years. And I heard that still, small voice.

It is easy to focus on the big, loud, scary events in life. The wind, the fire, the earthquakes – they threaten to destroy us, they demand immediate attention, they raise blood pressure and adrenaline levels. Panic fills up our hearts and minds leaving no room for anything else. But God…. God is the still, small voice. Similarly, Jesus showed us that He can calm the storm with just a word. And God asks, “What are you doing here?” and “Do you still have such little faith?”

He gave us a job to do, but it got overwhelming, and we forgot that “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31. We let the fears of this world drown out the voice of our Creator and Savior and all His many promises to us.

We need to keep adjusting the dial on our spiritual radios to tune out the big, loud stations and tune in to the frequency of God’s still, small whisper. We need to tuck all those wonderful words of life into our hearts and heads on a continuous loop so that when big, focus-stealing things come (like COVID, like political intrigue, like violent crime, like racial tensions, like natural disasters, like heath crises, like breakdowns and break-ups, like the stress of uncertainty) we won’t be tempted to listen to the lies that shout at us to give up and quit. Instead, the voice in our head will be the voice of God, the voice of Truth, reminding us that “with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Blessings,

Jen Jahromi


Arise and Shine!

Arise Shine bestSatisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. --Psalm 90:14

I’m learning to love mornings. I‘ve always been a ‘night owl’ preferring the solitude of the night when all is quiet. However, working and as a parent, for most of my life staying up late and sleeping in was not an option. I woke wrestling with the morning, exemplifying that t-shirt “…but first, coffee.”

On rare occasions when I was ‘forced’ to wake early, usually on vacations, I did enjoy the splendors of the morning: the sunrises over the water, wild horses out on the beach, dew on the grass and the intoxicating smells of the forest, seeing a nearly empty Main Street, USA. I always thought there was plenty of potential there…for someone else. **yawn**

But lately, my timeclock seems to have permanently reset itself and I’m beginning to appreciate mornings and their solitude. And here in the country, there is plenty to appreciate. The coolness, the dampness which holds all the smells of flowers and plants, the birds gathering at the feeder, chipmunks scurrying here and there, squirrels crashing through the trees, bunnies, hummingbirds and deer coming out for breakfast.

And just as they say that it’s important to start the day with a nutritious meal, it is perhaps even more important to start the day with nourishing thoughts and meditations. Francesca Battistelli and Sara Groves both have excellent songs about the importance of carving out time first thing in our busy mornings to praise the Lord and tuck His word into our hearts. I think it’s imperative to do so, especially on super-busy mornings or important mornings. God’s word really is like our armor (Ephesians 6:10-18). I used to watch my hubby put on his police uniform in the mornings. With each additional piece of clothing and equipment his attitude would transform from laid back KJ into Sergeant Jahromi. The confident air of authority was palpable. God’s Word can be like that for us if we let it. If we truly ‘own’ God’s promises of victory and protection and goodness and salvation, how could we walk in anything other than confident authority? After all, we’re daughters and sons of the King!

Mornings are also a clean slate full of possibilities. Rip off that page on the calendar and begin again. Yesterday is history, but the Present is a gift! Today is the first day of the rest of your life. One of the best parts of Christianity is the forgiveness and the ability to start over and transform yourself. The world wants to define you by your past, but God’s mercies are new every morning.

Morning is a good time to peruse your schedule and determine if it reflects your goals. Is there enough time for God, for you, for your family? Is there stuff that needs to be reduced, discarded? I read a quote the other day that really spoke to me: ‘Not everything we do is meant to be done.’ Could that meeting have been an email? Are you taking on too much? Is that project really worth doing at all? Did you say ‘yes’ because it will fulfill you, or just to please someone? Can some of the load be shared? Could that activity be a bonding experience with the family? Are you frittering away precious moments consuming junk on Netflix or YouTube?

I’m developing a habit of using my uninterrupted hour to learn a little French, read a little Bible and exercise my brain with some games. I’m learning the power of ‘a little at a time.’ It really mounts up over time. My brain is still not happy about reading and learning before the coffee has fully kicked in, and my body aches a bit, but I’m enjoying the discipline in my mornings. It is good to wake up and smell the coffee, take time to smell the roses and strengthen the spirit with the word of God.

(And it keeps my cliché game strong.)

Blessings,

Jen