The Flash Mob and a Public Mocking

The hot sun betrayed the fall season on Thursday in downtown Cape Town. My kids, since they live in Africa now, think they don’t need to wear shoes anymore. So three little bare feet children followed me from the apartment block through the overgrown, grassy field. When we came upon a huge shattered pane of glass, I knelt down to carry my son piggy-back across the field. We passed more broken glass, discarded wine bottles, a cardboard shack, and used hypodermic needles strewn along the trail. The smell of human waste completed the ugly picture of urban poverty.

Crossing the street to the University, I didn’t know what to expect. We were to be part of a Flash Mob, a term I knew only had something to do with the Passion scene we were about to re-enact. Soon Jesus appeared, a teammate dressed in rags and covered in bruises, hardly recognizable.

We followed him-representing HIM- up the stairs around to the amphitheater of the University, gathering onlookers to join us. Some did, a few stood up to trail after us and see what we were up to.

I struggled to find my voice as teammates shouted “Crucify Him!”

As we passed students, their reaction stunned me. Most pulled out their cell phones to video the disruptive scene. Many ducked their heads and nervously giggled to each other as we made our procession through campus. As we continued the laughter increased. Soon many in the crowd around us were doubled over, laughing and pointing.

Laughing. Mocking. Jeering. It was like they were part of the mob. Or were they?

I stood there, feeling on fire, hot with the sun and hot with emotion at seeing the likeness of a crucifixion even in the small degree we re-enacted. My kids held back, gaping, as the crown of thorns rested on his head. Suddenly all our sin seemed equal. Great or small, we have all sinned against this perfect Savior.

I was part of the mob.

Then preaching. Moving for us who love Jesus, provocative for some, offensive to others. The kids and I took the basket of freshly baked German bread, each shaped into the form of a cross, and dispersed into the crowd to share about the love of Christ. We talked to many people, and each person unique in their perspective on what they just witnessed and their thoughts on sin, the afterlife, and a Savior.

Driving home that day I recalled my prayers for an outreach our family could participate in together. Our hearts are tenderized from this experience. We celebrated the Passover today (on Good Friday, a little out of order but no matter), and besides being exceedingly grateful to not be subject to boils among the other Plagues (don’t go google pictures to show your kids what a boil looks like…trust me!) I believe each of us has a deeper understanding of the perfect lamb, slain for us, saved by his blood and soon to rejoice in his resurrection.

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Why Submitting to Your Husband Gives You the Upper Hand

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I believe in the biblical principle of wives submitting to their husbands as to the Lord. This was not always the case.

My wordly views stemmed straight from our corrupt culture. That a strong, independent woman would think for herself and submission meant being meek and insecure and dominated by a man.

Yet as an 18 year old, the truth of the gospel slowly unfolded before my eyes and a new image of submission appeared. One that grew into a spectacular cathedral of thinking.

Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Wives are to submit to their husbands, as husbands are the head of their wives like Christ is the head of the church.

I love the way The Message paraphrases Ephesians 5:22-28.

Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage. (Ephesians 5:22-28 MSG)

So when I submit to my husband, I am doing so in obedience to God, and thus it is an act of faith. I am entrusting my well-being to my husband, and in doing so trusting in his obedience to God to love me and do what’s best for me.

If I put my money on myself, and choose to do what I think is best rather than allowing my husband to lead, then ultimately I limit my experience of the sacrificial love of Christ evidenced through my husband.

This may or may not make sense to you. But God continues to challenge me with just how far I will take this concept of submission. Because the little things do matter, they add up, and bigger things are on the horizon.

Early in our courtship, a friend also in a cross-cultural marriage relayed this wisdom to me: “Remember, you are a team, and you are on the same side.”

So we are on the same side, my husband and I, and I believe in marriage God can use husbands and wives to do things together that they cannot do separately. But this is contingent on his leading, her following. Often I am glad the burden of leadership and can we say decision-making doesn’t fall on my shoulders. You don’t want to know how long it takes me to figure out what to order in a restaurant or what toothbrush to buy!

If my husband is actually willing to lay down his life for me, what do I have to lose by submitting to him? If he loves me as he loves himself, he will give me nothing but the very best. As he seeks out direction from God, he has my best interest in mind. As I honor him, respect him, and submit to him, the door opens for God’s abundant blessing and provision in my life and marriage. In humbling myself through the act of submission, God can raise me up through the nobility of a husband fulfilling his call to protect and provide.

I’ve had a recent struggle with submission. After a series of moves in 2013 I said something to the effect of “I am happy to die right here in this place, I shall never move again.”

That sounds like a song. Maybe I sang it.

And then I hear the words I scorn. I resist hearing them. I am sarcastic and unyielding as I know what he wants. To move.

From my point of view, it doesn’t matter that this other house is just 5 minutes from where we live now. Ocean view, shmocean view. I’m not impressed. So what if we will save money or that the house is being renovated with new carpet, paint, and backsplash as we speak. I can think of nothing good to say about another move.

I can feel the anger boiling under my skin and suddenly I’m sure he is just thinking of himself. He just wants that stupid view, I say to myself.

But didn’t I ask the Lord, way back when we contemplated a move to Cape Town, for a view of both the sea and the mountains? Nawhh, I don’t think so. I look around at our current home with rose-colored glasses, not seeing the broken tiles and fixtures and leaking tub and postage-stamp yard.

Since I promised to pray about it, I grudgingly go before the Lord and pour out my pitiful case, certain the Lord will stroke my pride and say I’m right and my husband is being selfish.

But as I pray, I clearly hear God telling me to submit. I think I actually stomped my foot! How embarrassing.

The truth is, even after I give the A-Okay to my husband on this move, I am still pouting. It comes out in my attitude, in a subtle hostility and undermining way. When God told me I needed to submit on this one, he didn’t mean go talk to my friends and tell them how much I’m dreading this move. He didn’t say go email your mother and sister and get them to feel sorry for you.

When I am confronted with my unpleasant attitude, then I see the disparity of it. I have been playing the martyr.

Yuck.

Instead of rising in my posture and position as a much-loved woman, by my God and my husband, I sulked in the ashes, not seeing the full blessing God wanted to release to me through the desire and will of my husband.

And then, I get the revelation of a truly biblical attitude toward submission.

“I am trusting the Lord that there is a reason for this move {my act of submission}.”

What I cannot see, I trust God for. When I am called to submit, it is an act of faith in the goodness of a kind and loving God. No sooner than these words are out of my mouth, I feel the anger dissipate. And when we arrive back to our house after 2 weeks away, my heart is in an entirely different place. A new song of praise is living there, and I am excited to move, to make another house into home. And I realize that all along I have been holding back, knowing that we are not really settled in the house we live in now.

So while the world scorns humility and submission, God celebrates it. It is another chance for him to radiate his supernatural grace through the covenant of marriage. Submission is beautiful and holy and evidenced in Christ himself as he lay down his life for us. And, as I now know, God will not be fooled into thinking you are submitting when you are not! Neither will your husband, for that matter. Submission is a matter of the heart.

Photo courtesy of http://www.cottonwoodstudiosworldwide.com
Thank you Todd & Dezi for sharing your amazing photo with us!

Though it Linger

We are back in our home in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa after two weeks traveling with our 5 kids to a missions retreat. It was a hairy ride up and a beautiful one back. Sometimes I feel like we barely survive traveling with kids (read about our trip here) but you know I will be doing it again! Grace and short-term memory loss help with the thought of such future travels ;-).

I’ve been wanting to share this post with you for a few weeks. I’m excited for two reasons. One, Oswald Chambers captured my attention with this deep and potent word, and I am still stirred by it. Two, our friend Janelle Willis took this amazing picture and when I saw it, I knew…Habakkuk 2:3. If she had hurried the photo, the colors of brilliance would be weak. The timing was just so. Thank you, Janelle, for sharing your stunning photo.

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If we lose “the heavenly vision” God has given us, we alone are responsible—not God. We lose the vision because of our own lack of spiritual growth. If we do not apply our beliefs about God to the issues of everyday life, the vision God has given us will never be fulfilled. The only way to be obedient to “the heavenly vision” is to give our utmost for His highest—our best for His glory. This can be accomplished only when we make a determination to continually remember God’s vision. But the acid test is obedience to the vision in the details of our everyday life—sixty seconds out of every minute, and sixty minutes out of every hour, not just during times of personal prayer or public meetings.

“Though it tarries, wait for it . . .” (Habakkuk 2:3). We cannot bring the vision to fulfillment through our own efforts, but must live under its inspiration until it fulfills itself. We try to be so practical that we forget the vision. At the very beginning we saw the vision but did not wait for it. We rushed off to do our practical work, and once the vision was fulfilled we could no longer even see it. Waiting for a vision that “tarries” is the true test of our faithfulness to God. It is at the risk of our own soul’s welfare that we get caught up in practical busy-work, only to miss the fulfillment of the vision. Watch for the storms of God. The only way God plants His saints is through the whirlwind of His storms. Will you be proven to be an empty pod with no seed inside? That will depend on whether or not you are actually living in the light of the vision you have seen. Let God send you out through His storm, and don’t go until He does. If you select your own spot to be planted, you will prove yourself to be an unproductive, empty pod. However, if you allow God to plant you, you will “bear much fruit” (John 15:8).
Obedience to the Heavenly Vision, Oswald Chambers

These words resonate soundly in my spirit. Do you have a vision from the Lord? God sent us to very southernmost place in Africa, Cape Town, with a dream and vision to disciple, train, and help lead a generation of young adults in reaching the unreached. You know what is odd in a wonderful sort of way? We are finally old enough to be ‘fathers’ and ‘mothers’ towards the younger crowd. We are at that age when we can be more than just a few steps ahead but really influence a younger generation. I love it!

God is stirring up my dreams. Dreams I had when I was 19 and 20 that were either just begun and then put on hold or stayed in the seed form altogether. Honestly I let some of these dreams die. It was easier that way, especially in the harried season of birthing babies and diapers and nursing and sleep deprivation.

It is exciting (and daunting…) to be reminded of dreams and vision again. Some days I feel like there is no way I can be of any use to anyone, not even knowing if I should start with the laundry or the dishes or getting myself dressed before lunchtime. And homeschooling? What grade are my kids in again??

Can you relate to this?

But then there is the storm of God, when God sends you out, and decides it’s time for you to be released. I love how Chambers says we must live under the inspiration of the vision until it fulfills itself. God has a way of working in us as we wait it out, of planting desire in our spirits and then as we work out our salvation he waters those seeds and they sprout and begin to produce life.

How has it happened in your life? Looking back on the last 15 years, I have changed and grown so much. But it’s interesting to note that my dreams and vision have not changed but rather matured. Much like that rock hard avocado I bought the other day. After what felt like a generation of waiting, it was finally ripe and perfect for our favorite food…guacamole!

I am still in the early to middle stage of raising our children, of being a homemaker, of learning how to love my husband and build the nations of the earth through our family. This is my first calling, focus, and passion of my heart. I suppose 95% of my time and energy is spent on being the keeper of our home. Yet God in his brilliant goodness can anoint all hours of the day, even in the life of a stay-at-home-missionary-homeschooling-wife-and-mother to bring forth fruit and fulfillment.

Be encouraged that God can cause us to dream dreams again! I am thankful for these words of wisdom today as we carry on raising our 5 disciples but also walk forward with a vision to tear down darkness in our culture and build up sons and daughters from all nations of the earth.

A Series of Unfortunate Un-adventures

Let me tell you a little story. Once there was a family who, bold, brave, and optimistic, packed their belongings tightly in their well-travelled mini-bus and headed north to a far-away place, on their way to a missionary retreat. Their foresight allowed them the prudence of departing one day later than planned, as to allow their sweet little children one more day to recover from a tiny cold. Long before dawn, five chirpy children nestled cozily into their car-beds laid out carefully by their daddy, their duvets, sheets, and pillows piled high. Eventually nodding off to a long-winded sermon CD, they slept soundly over a mountain pass and through an extraordinary tunnel carved through the mountains. Then one little head popped up and said, “Daddy, my tummy hurts.”

The mildy concerned but still optimistic mommy and daddy said, “Oh, don’t worry little one, you’re just a bit carsick. Sit up, and look straight ahead.”

They drove on, comforting this little one when she emptied out the scarce contents of her tummy. A few hours passed and it was time for breakfast, when the mommy noticed she didn’t feel so well. When she passed up an anticipated steaming hot Wimpy coffee, her husband compassionately asked if she is pregnant.

NO, I’m not pregnant!” came the disagreeable response.

The poor mommy turned green and ran for the bathroom.

Later, after consuming many snacks and yogurt drinks, after many construction delays and routine police checkpoints, the little boy started howling from the backseat. He, too, experienced the effects of what this bold, brave and no longer optimistic family realized was the sudden onset of stomach flu.

Again and again this unfortunate little boy headed for the side of the road, his daddy learning just how quickly he could pull over and hit the brakes while passing coal trucks and other inspired African vehicles.

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While on such a stop, another little girl popped up and said the now much dreaded words, “Mommy, I don’t feel so good.” Her devoted but barely standing mommy quickly handed her the second-to-last barf bag. Then the brave oldest daughter burst into a puddle of tears. “I don’t want to throw up!!!” she wailed, “Why does this have to happen every time we go on a car trip?”

It was then this mommy and daddy realized they were three for three with road trips and the flu.

Time for some prayer! That is not God’s blessing…and his word says he will watch over all our comings and goings! So they prayed and broke any curses off their travel time. Unfortunately the sickness still had to run its course.

The tired, nauseous, and edgy family finally arrived at their half-way stopover for the night. They phoned ahead to forewarn their lovely but temporarily crippled aunt of the sudden onset of stomach flu and asked to be quarantined immediately upon arrival. Unfortunately that was not to be the case as guests were already occupying her bed and breakfast rooms. So while the family tried to be polite and sit around the dinner table with an exquisite homemade lasagna and salad, events were not to move in a positive direction.

The high-context Afrikaans culture of the daddy’s family dictated a table set with china, a delicate table-cloth, wine glasses, and conversation with the former Dean of Theology at the University of Bloemfontein involving the merits of studying Latin.

When suddenly, while the mommy with bloodshot eyes tried to feed lasagna to her fussy baby, this sad fussy baby became the last child to serve projectile-vomit all over the dinner table. Both of them covered in vomit, the humiliated, weary, and queasy mommy quickly excused herself to find the recompense of a hot bath and bed for herself and sick baby.

The next day she awoke feeling much better after sleeping for eleven and a half hours straight to the greetings of an amazing, healthy, considerate and hard-working husband who took care of the baby and all vomiting children through the night.

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Enjoying a ride in Tannie Amanda’s walker as she recovers from knee surgery

Van scrubbed and disinfected and vomit-covered duvets, sheets, pillows, and clothing bagged for laundering they stopped for some Power-Aide and finished the drive to their destination, passing spectacular fields of blooming cosmos along the way, without further ado.

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The End.

 

 

photo credit

I Will Give Them a Crown of Beauty

As I write this, it is Gabrielle’s 5th birthday, and a new tradition is begun. We take turns with each of our kids to have a special “date” with dad. This ranges from a trip to the grocery store (special to be alone when you have four other siblings vying for this privilege!) or out for a milkshake. Once it even involved shopping for clothes at a Thrift Store.

But today, on her birthday, it’s G’s turn. I fully expect her to in be in complete princess regalia as she goes out to breakfast with her Daddy. As the news spread through our home that G is going out for a birthday breakfast with Dad, each child smiled and commented wistfully…”I want to do that.” It certainly helps that our favorite restaurant in South Africa gives a voucher for a free kids meal on their birthday!

It is so important for Dads to make a habit of filling up their daughter’s hearts with words and actions of love, affirmation, affection. It’s easy for me to smother my kids with love and kisses. Yes, they need that too. But something different happens when their father kneels down and looks them in the eye and says, “You’re beautiful.”

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“A father-daughter relationship is the God-ordained birthplace of true beauty in a young woman. Just as God spoke words into a formless void and the world came into being at creation, a father’s words create beauty, security, and confidence in a daughter. When words of blessing, looks of love, and pure touch have gone forth from a father and done their work in a daughter’s spirit, she is not drawn to the other voices that may want to lure her. She is not dependent on those other voices to validate her because she has already been securely validated in her beauty through her father.

There has been a lot of talk about spiritual warfare in recent years. If you want to fight hell and the powers of darkness that seek to destroy the hearts of our daughters, I know a type of spiritual warfare that creates value in a daughter’s spirit. It is called “Taking your Daughter out for Tea” or “Going to Her Soccer Game,” and it works in direct opposition to the agenda of hell and darkness that wants to destroy their lives. They need our time, attention, questions, and interest.”

Jim Anderson, Unmasked, pgs. 44,48

We are so thankful for this princess, this daughter of the King; for her delightful spirit, easy smile, and way of bringing out the best in people.

The Mountain I Climbed

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“The only problem with a busy schedule,” my husband said recently, “is that we lose speed when our feet touch the ground!” He took this beautiful picture in the slide above while doing some good, old fashioned character building with our son.

But it’s true! Our family can run on adrenaline for a while, but at some point, something has gotta give. When our feet do touch the ground, I feel like our family can get a stress fracture and then its time to do damage control.

In the uncanny wisdom of Dr. Seuss, “You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace.” I’m not an advocate of running at the break-necking pace of the western culture. I have no problem with saying ‘no’ to events, meetings, outings and activities. Being busy is not necessarily better! I see my job as a mom in part as the Gatekeeper of the Home. To protect, guard, and sustain our home. Nothing gets in or goes out without going through that gate!

Recently, due to an unusually high amount of activities we’ve committed to, I’ve had to put the brakes on the kids and I attending evening activities. It is so refreshing to be home, get the kids to bed on time with a bath and story, and keep our hearts quiet. Instead of wearing ourselves thin with too much busyness, we are trying to live and parent intentionally.

So, to get to the point of this post! A couple months ago my husband and I sat down with the chief task of writing out a plan on how we want to Live on Purpose in regards to our family. We used 2 Peter 1:5-8 as a starting point in identifying the values we want to pass onto our children. It is by no means a perfect plan, but it gives us a reference point to intentional parenting and building a strong family identity. I’m learning we need to set goals and cast the vision for our family if we want to raise up a godly generation. Or else by default the world will do it for us.

A central value in developing our little disciples is Good Character. Of course this has been drilled into me since my days in Master’s Commission! On the list of character qualities we are hoping to develop in our kids is perseverance. To quote one of my favorite authors and the inspiration for our Living on Purpose plan, Sally Clarkson, “Teaching your child how to endure and how to wait with grace could change the whole story of their lives.”

Perseverance…the ability to strain ahead, endure, press on, strong inner resolution.

Perseverance is something that’s easy to get practical with. We’ve all learned it, to varying degrees. For me, the very best catalyst to develop perseverance is to be physically challenged in the outdoors. Where the natural elements of nature meet the spiritual. Its one thing to talk about perseverance while reading a book about it; its entirely another to talk about perseverance when you’re clobbering a mountain one heavy footstep at a time. Or when you are pushing through the middle mile in a 5k, 10k or if you are like my extreme-sport-loving brother in law, a marathon.

So we decided to make a point to physically challenge our kids through hikes, sports, and exercise in general. Which is some of the reason why we have a full-er schedule than normal! We are blessed to live in a place with ample opportunity for anything you might want to try, so the challenge is more to eliminate all the rest. My husband is training for a ministry trip to an unreached people group in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal. It will be an arduous trek, over several 16,000 foot mountain passes. When our six year old son heard wind of a hike up the Helderberg to train with his dad, there was little we could do to prevent him from going with! In his mind, all he would need is a peanut-butter sandwich or two and he could easily conquer that peak.

He came back, four hours later, puffy and swollen, bruised, covered in red dirt,  scraped knees, holes in his shirt, and the tennis shoes that were almost done-in are now officially scrap material. After a soak in the tub…he went to bed! How many six year old boys do you know who tell you they need a nap?

But he learned something of perseverance, and before my eyes, he grew up a little bit. Now, when we drive past the Helderberg Mountain on our way to Cape Town, he reminds me…”See mom? That’s the mountain I climbed.”

As parents we aim to teach our kids the ability to strain ahead, endure, and press on through hard things in order to reach the goal of the upward call of God. Sometimes, it’s just carrying that heavy shopping bag home or finishing a tough math assignment. Later on in life overcoming challenges becomes more complex. We want all of our kids to look back and say…”That’s the mountain I climbed.”

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Coping with Drought, Dry, Hard Times

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We know life is made up of seasons. As I’ve mentioned recently, our family went through a hard season of transition in moving from a comfy, quiet life in the Midwest, United States to living smack in the middle of a couple million people in Africa. But as I reflect, our comfy, quiet life in the Midwest wasn’t easy, either. It was full of long, exhausting days raising little babies, days of being a single mom while my husband pulled long 48 hour shifts with the EMS, dealing with smothering heat and suffocating loneliness. There were many times of wondering what I am doing here, feeling stuck, waiting to feel God’s anointing again.

It felt like Moses living in the desert, tending sheep, learning the value of hard work, walking out the blessing of family and marriage… but all the time wondering what the nagging feeling of destiny was all about. I knew God called us to be where we were, no questions about that. Often I went back to that place of certainty. But even my walk with God felt sort of dry, and my prayers like pebbles rolling around on dusty, hard ground. I grew in perseverance, and day by day grew in understanding how to raise my little family and enjoy our quiet life in the woods. During this time of about five years, I do not recall many great answers to prayer. I do remember many times of calling out to God, dry and desperate. Walking around our property listening to the leaves crunch under my feet, packing a baby on my hip, and trying not to get knocked down by our rambunctious Labrador, all the time searching for the presence of God. Trying to get excited about my butterfly bushes or lavender or irises that refused to respond to my half-hearted attempts at gardening the rocky, clay filled, hard, soil.

In fact, my attempts at gardening felt like my walk with God during this time. Full of rocks, clay, insects and squirrels undoing my hard work. Starting over the next day after the dog dug up my plants. Finally getting my flower box beautifully filled with lovely foliage and blossoms, only to have a week of blasting heat come and wither it to brown leaves. Trying to create beauty but fighting the land.

One of my favorite verses is from Psalm 1 which says, ‘He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.’

This is the man who takes his delight from the law of the Lord. Who purposefully removes himself from the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, and the seat of mockers. Someone who meditates day and night on the law of the Lord.

Our years on Cedar Bluff Ridge were a time set apart from a corrupt culture, where God trained me how to be a mother. They were a difficult, dry time when my spiritual roots had to go down quite deep to find water. They were a lonely time when I longed for intimate friendship and instead learned how to release my loneliness to the Lord and run to him. He created special times of connecting with kindred spirits along the way and those were like wells of sweet water.

This blog, DeepRoets, sprung up from that time. It is during the times of drought when a tree’s roots grow deep and strong. The deeper the roots the more drought resistant a tree is. The idea is that you want the water to soak in deep, forcing the roots to likewise have to go deep to get the water. If you water frequently and shallowly, the roots never have to go down deep to get water. Be sure that if you are going through dry time in your walk with God, he will provide times to quench your thirst and in doing that, water your roots.

Dry times in our lives force our spiritual roots to grow deep. To become anchored. So we can be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Do not despise small beginnings, or dry, hard times. God says to consider it pure joy in trials when our faith is tested because we are developing perseverance! Perseverance must finish its work so that you will be mature and complete, not lacking anything. God has a plan to create a mighty display of his splendor through your life. It will stand the test of time and be a haven for life and produce fruit in season.