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September 2021

Why Me?

Bunny Pout cropWhy won’t you leave me alone, at least long enough for me to swallow!  If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of all humanity?  Why make me your target?  Am I a burden to you? -Job 7:19-20

Listening to the Pastor’s message this past Sunday, I had a moment where I really thought he had read my mind. He was speaking about overwhelming problems and how they are the necessary precursors to miracles. But he suggested that many of us only see the ‘overwhelming’ part and respond in three ways: procrastinating, blaming others, and finally worrying, stressing and feeling frustration.

I have to admit that in facing the task of getting the Education Building ready for in-person Sunday School, I did ALL of those. And even as I finally began tackling the job bit by bit, I alternated between pouting at not being able to ‘pass the buck,’ stamping my feet in frustration, and whining “Why me?”

If we’re honest, we've all probably had (or at least thought) these responses to the problems that loom large in front of us. For some of us, those feelings pop up when we have a flat tire. Or get a cold. Or get caught in a freak rain shower.

Somewhere along the way, the unconscious thought that life should be good most, if not all, of the time creeped in. As Christians, we may be tempted to believe a good God should protect His children from every hardship, large and small. Even in our western culture, we have been conditioned to have a low pain threshold, both physically and emotionally.

We have shelves full of pain relievers to choose from, and when those aren’t enough, some turn to alcohol or illegal drugs. TV commercials tell us to pamper ourselves in comfort. Any type of difficulty or unpleasantness is treated like an affront to our happiness.

When challenges arise, instead of asking "Why Me?" why don't we ask, "Why Not Me?"

When we ask, "Why Me?" we make our circumstances more important than Jesus. We forget the temporariness of this life and the eternity of life with him. We forget that our challenges and suffering in this life teach us important lessons and develop our Christ-like character:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” --John 16:33

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -- James 1:2-4

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” --2 Corinthians 12:7-9

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. --1 Peter 1:6-7

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in

--Proverbs 3:11-12

That last verse reminded me why pouting, whining, stamping my feet and complaining to the Lord about the unfairness of my situation were the wrong reactions. I found myself thinking “I don’t wanna, I’m not gonna, you can’t make me!” My reaction was like a child frustrated and overwhelmed by a task. But the Lord is like a gentle parent who won’t let you out of the task but will stay with you as you tackle it bit by bit. This is how children grow and mature: by taking on increasingly difficult challenges. Why should we think that growing into mature Christians would be any different?

Adversity can be overwhelming, but escaping discomfort is not the most important thing in life -- Jesus is. Difficulties and trials are unfair. They kidnap our attention and try to force us to look only at our pain, disappointment or irritation. You don't deserve it, but there's no way out. You have to keep going, but don’t forget there's someone going through it with you -- Jesus.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” --Deuteronomy 31:8

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” --Matthew 28:20

Someday, you will stand face-to-face with your Savior. You will gaze at the beauty of your new home, filled with never-ending love. You will look at the nail scars on Jesus' hands. You will know your unworthiness to be there and, filled with gratitude and humility, you will ask, "Why Me?"

Humbly yours,

Jen


Happy Fall Y'All!

Harvest Bear FlagYou crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance. --Psalm 65:11

Welcome to Autumn! Or more colloquially, “Happy Fall Y’All!”

Fall is my favorite season. I like everything about it: the cooler temperatures, the colorful leaves, back-to-school, apples, pumpkins and gourds, fire pits, and two of my favorite holidays.

Another wonderful thing about Fall is the harvest. Harvest is the welcome reward for all the investing and tending and waiting since Spring. I fear that this is getting lost on newer generations that are farther from the land. And of course, these days we can find fruits and veggies in our grocery that are not in season here. But that isn’t how it used to be.

Back in the day, Harvest brought such joy because it was security for the future. A good harvest meant the farmers got paid for the year. A good harvest meant food to can, jam, dry, or pickle and store up to survive the winter. A good harvest meant that the family could bless others with the fruits of their labor. And what a joy to finally get to taste the fruits and vegetables as they came into season – things you hadn’t had fresh for a year.

THE LORD OF THE HARVEST

God also wants us to celebrate the Harvest. “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field. “ --Exodus 23:16  Yes, we harvest with joy, but God wants us to remember that the firstfruits of the harvest belong to Him. In truth, the entire harvest is His, because He has made everything and given us everything and blessed us with sun and rain.

But even more, God uses the harvest that nurtures our bodies, as a metaphor for the spiritual harvest that nurtures our souls.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. --Galatians 6:9

Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. --James 3:18

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. --James 5:7

And the Spiritual Harvest is not just about us, it is about winning souls for Jesus and bringing in more people to spend eternity in Heaven. This is the last job Jesus gave us before returning to the Father, and it is what our Christian walk is truly all about:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” --Matthew 9:36-38

Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. --John 4:35

Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” --Revelation 14:15

One day, soon and very soon, there will be a great Harvest Festival in Heaven. That will be the best celebration because the abundant Harvest will be our friends and families, our neighbors and co-workers, the kids we taught in VBS, the lady in the grocery line we spoke to, the waitress we prayed with, the Mom at the playground we invited to church, the missionaries we supported, the kids and families they won to Christ, the children around the world we supported and wrote to every month, our grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren who we never even met but who shared a legacy of love for Christ that we laid the foundation for. What a glorious day that will be! And if there’s some apple cider, s’mores, pumpkin bread and pickled beets there, all the better!

Happy Harvesting,

Jen

 


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