Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I thought it was about time I gave an update on both.
Almost exactly a year ago, amidst great fanfare, I put six plants in the garden bed.
I did a few other small bits and pieces but basically more plants were needed and that budget item never seemed to rise to the surface again. The days turned to weeks. The weeks turned to months. And then it was Christmas. And then it was the LONG, HOT, DRY summer. Not a time to be establishing plants. Then the rain came down. Too wet to be outside. Then the cold weather came. Too cold to be outside.
And all of a sudden a year had gone by! However all six plants are still alive, with a few vincas on the edge and some winter weeds for good measure.
100% of plants still alive after a whole year has to count for for some sort of gardening success.
As for the pots of herbs...well, they didn't survive the LONG, HOT, DRY summer.
Feeling inspired last weekend with a free afternoon, a sunny winter's dayand the promise of evening showers, it was off to the nursery to buy the next instalment of plants.
More daisies, more geraniums (can't believe I actually paid good money for geraniums...but I did get three different varieties and they look just lovely), lavender, rosemary and some new herbs. And two strawberry plants chosen by the boys.
So the pots of herbs are reorganised and the garden bed is more fully planted out. There's not much to see as yet. The new plants are all pretty small. Come back in spring for a peek when things are a bit more established.
As for The Year of the Roast, that has been humming along quite well. I feel like I have the confidence to prepare and serve a roast dinner now however I have become convinced that it is not actually worth the bother my preferred style of cooking. I like roasts - the veg and the meat. But I'd be just as happy with roast lamb served with steamed veg and a baked potato. And I quite like roast veg served alongside steak or chops. But doing both together means getting started on dinner preparations at 4pm or earlier and that just doesn't fit in with our life here at the moment. Or the fact that for almost all my entire adult cooking life, my cooking motto has been IF IT CAN'T BE COOKED AND ON THE TABLE IN UNDER 30 MINUTES IT WON'T BE HAPPENING IN THIS HOUSE. So while I have worked out that I CAN do it, I don't think I'll be putting on too many roast dinners in the future.
Interestingly, as I was reaching this conclusion just this week, I decided on one last tilt at the old roast dinner with a roast chicken - I've roasted chickens many times in the past and hey, roast chicken is the "bread and butter" of the roasts - but after the event I declared that I would never roast a chicken ever again. Well, not while I live here anyway. The end result was fine. But I was reminded that I really don't like handling whole raw chickens with all that loose, flappy chicken skin where their necks used to be and having to deal with the stray feathers. It turns my stomach just thinking about it. (Sooky sooky la la, I know.) And you see, we have a shop around the corner from us that cooks decent sized chickens over a wood fire. They are the same size as home roasted ones, delicious, carve beautifully and come in at about the same price as roasting one at home. It's a no brainer.
Really, to my mind, the best sort of roast dinner is the one that someone else cooks. So it seems that The Year of the Roast has become The Six Months of the Roast. And now I may just need a new project - but no, sweet Helen, it won't be quilting!
First there was King David - and God promised to David that his kingdom would reign forever. David was followed by his son Solomon. Then came Solomon's son Rehoboam, whose very early actions resulted in the splitting of Israel into two kingdoms - Judah and Israel (all of the tribes of Israel other than Judah...and David came from the tribe of Judah.) Rehoboam's reign had mixed success - at times he humbled himself before the LORD and at other times he worshipped other gods. Notably though, his reign was marked by constant warfare with Jereboam, the king of Israel.
After Rehoboam's death his son Abijah became king and he picked up the mantle of being at war with Jereboam. So there stands Abijah, new king of Judah. He has an army of 400 000 fighting men. That's quite a lot, except that Jereboam has an army of 800 000 able troops. What is Abijah to do? He stood on Mount Zemaraim and made this magnificent speech, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 13:4-12.
Jeroboam and all Israel, listen to me! Don't you know that the LORD, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam son of Nebat, an official of Solomon son of David, rebelled against his master. Some worthless scoundrels gathered around him and opposed Rehoboam son of Solomon when he was young and indecisive and not strong enough to resist them.
And now you plan to resist the kingdom of the LORD, which is in the hands of David's descendants. You are indeed a vast army and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made to be your gods. But didn't you drive out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and make priests of your own as the peoples of other lands do? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams may become a priest of what are not gods.
As for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him. The priests who serve the LORD are sons of Aaron, and the Levites assist them. Every morning and evening they present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the LORD. They set out the bread on the ceremonially clean table and light the lamps on the gold lampstand every evening. We are observing the requirements of the LORD our God. But you have forsaken him. God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. Men of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you will not succeed.
Men of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you will not succeed. And succeed they did not.
Abijah and his men inflicted heavy losses on them, so that there were five hundred thousand casualties among Israel's able men. The men of Israel were subdued on that occasion, and the men of Judah were victorious because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers.(2 Chronicles 13:17,18)
I am humbled by Abijah's faith and complete confidence in God and by God's power and might to see His will done.
So, the other day I particularly enjoyed one of the prayers on the Parents' Prayer Programme and thought I would make mention of it here on the blog. However when I returned to my post featuring this programme I discovered that Bob Hostetler's original was ordered and worded slightly differently - and if you were following along using that programme, it would bear no resemblance to the prayer I prayed this particular morning. Which just goes to show that you should never blindly cut and paste without doing a little proofreading!! So below is the version I use and have used for the last ten or so years. To my thinking, the language in the version presented below is a little easier. Maybe that's just because I have been using this tool for so long. Either one will provide you with a good solid set of prayers to pray for your children, your loved ones or yourself. Using either one in prayer will be time well spent. But just for the record, the one I use is this one, not the other one. Happy praying!!
Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
(Isa 45:8, 2 Tim 2.:10)
2. Growth in Grace
I pray that they may “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
(2 Peter 3.18)
Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to live a life of love through the Spirit who dwells in them.
(Ephesians 5.2,Galatians 5.22)
4. Honesty and Integrity
May integrity and honesty be their virtue and their protection.
Father, help my children not to be like many others around them, but let them be “alert and self-controlled” in all they do.
(1 Thessalonians 5.6)
6. A love for God’s Word
May my children grow to find your Word “more precious than gold, than much pure gold; [and] sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.”
God, help my children to love justice as you do and to “act justly” in all they do.
(Psalm 11.7, Micah 6.8)
May my children always “be merciful as [their] Father is merciful.”
9. Respect (for self, others, authority)
Father, grant that my children may “show proper respect to everyone” as your word commands.
(1 Peter 2.17)
10. Strong, Biblical Self-esteem
Help my children develop a strong self esteem that is rooted in the realisation that they are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2.10)
“Let love and faithfulness never leave [my children],” but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts.
12. A Passion for God
Lord, please instil in my children a soul with a craving for you, a heart that clings passionately to you.
Grant that my children may learn responsibility, “for each one should carry his own load.”
Lord, may my children “always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.”
(1 Thessalonians 5.15)
Grant that my children may "be generous and willing to share [& so] lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age.”
(1 Tim 6.18-19)
16. Peace, peacability
Father, let my children “make every effort to do what leads to peace.”
May the God of hope grant that my children may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, teach my children perseverance in all they do, and help them especially to “run with perseverance the race marked out for [them].” (Hebrews 12.1)
Lord, please cultivate in my children the ability to “show true humility toward all.”
Lord, please clothe my children with the virtue of compassion.
Grant, Lord, that my children’s lives may be marked by prayerfulness, that they may learn to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Father, teach my children “the secret of being content in any and every situation ... through him who gives [them] strength.”
I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children’s hearts, that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them.
(Luke 17.5-6, Hebrews 11.1-40)
24. A Servant Heart
Lord, please help my children develop servant hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly “as if [they] were serving the Lord, not men.”
“Create in [them] a pure heart, O God,” and let their purity of heart be shown in their actions.
26. A Willingness and Ability to Work Hard
Teach my children, Lord, to value work and to work hard at everything they do, “as working for the Lord, not for men.”
Father, I pray that my children may develop self-discipline, that they may acquire “a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair.”
28. A Heart for Missions
Lord, please help my children to develop a heart for missions, a desire to see your glory declared among the nations, your marvellous deeds among all peoples.
May my children be filled “with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”
(1 Thessalonians 1.6)
May my children always “be strong and courageous” in their character and in their actions.
As much as I loved this book, there was a sad moment for me just before the end. It was just a moment. But for that moment my thoughts turned away from the delight of this tale to things more serious.
In the story the Queen has just turned 80 and is considering her mortality.
In the darkness it came to the Queen that, dead, she would exist only in the memories of people. She who had never been subject to anyone would now be on a par with everyone else. Reading would not change that...
In death, the playing field becomes level. It doesn't matter if you are the Queen or a commoner of any standing. At this point the Queen in the novel is thinking about how she will be remembered after her death. But I couldn't help thinking beyond reputation and remembrance to something much more significant - standing before God on the Day of Judgment. Death is THE equaliser. And it doesn't matter what we have read or not read, who we are (king, queen or commoner) or what we have done. We all stand before God having fallen short of His holiness. We are all equally made low. The only thing that truly matters is whether we have stood before God in repentance and confessed Jesus Christ as Lord.
One of the things I did during the holidays was read The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett.
Queen Elizabeth reads plenty - papers from Parliament, newspapers, briefing notes and the like - but never novels. No time for such things. But that all changes when she inadvertently stumbles upon the City of Westminster travelling library van parked outside one of the palace's kitchen doors while taking the dogs for a walk. She pops her head in to take a look and then duty bound, feels she can't leave with out borrowing something. She is given a novel and again feeling duty bound, reads it. So begins her journey into reading.
She makes a slow start but soon picks up speed and it isn't long before her work begins to suffer. While others around her manage her now less than diligent work practices, she travels through various stages in her own inner world - the delight of reading, the guilt of spending too much time reading, regret that she didn't start reading sooner, regret at being exposed to a new way of life that she can't properly access in all reality because she is the Queen, wondering if she should turn her hand to writing herself...
This is a gentle read, not unlike another favourite - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Along the way the names of authors and novels are dropped left, right and centre as the Queen is exposed to more and more literature. As we, the readers, remember these novels and authors, and whether or not we enjoyed them, it is as though we join in a literary conversation with the Queen as she makes her comment on each. In this way it's very, very clever and engaging. Best of all there is the most delicious twist at the end.