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Thursday, October 14, 2021

Sowing seeds of life - losing loved ones is highlighting God's glory!

We plow the fields and scatter...Dear Friends and Praying Saints,

Last Wednesday we attended the Harvest Thanksgiving service at the little church across the road from us. One of the hymns we sang was, "We plow the fields and scatter the Good Seed on the ground..." Then when we arrived at the chapel this morning, we saw those very words in action.

Of course, we never know the exact day this is going to happen, but we have always gotten this same joyful surprise every year that we've been here. It is such an encouraging event, full of symbolism and meaning—investment in hope, the promise of the coming harvest, and the promise of new life out of death, etc, etc. Jesus said in John 12:24, "Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

Turning the plow sharesAs a child, I used to love watching the neighboring farmers plow their fields. But I had never seen these modern plows that have added an amazing new twist—they turn the opposing set of plowshares so they can follow directly back on the last furrow without having to drive halfway across the field to plow to the other end.

As I looked on, the following scriptures came to mind one after the other. Colossians 4:5-6, "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt..."
2 Timothy 4:2, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort..."
1 Corinthians 9:22, "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some."

 Speaking of seeds and life, these words of Jesus, "but if they die, they bear much fruit...", have suddenly taken on Bob Trolese, 1947-2021a profoundly new significance all too recently. Last Thursday, one of my closest and longest-time friends, Bob Trolese, went home to be with Jesus. We had been friends for 48 years and drove together as missionaries to Guatemala in 1976. We have been deeply affected by his passing on James Gilbert, 1942-2021to glory. And then just this afternoon, we received a call from our dearly beloved friend Kay Gilbert to let us know that her husband James Gilbert passed away yesterday morning. They pastored the Cowboy Outreach Church near Shreveport, Louisiana, and we have been close friends with them for 14 years.

Both of these precious and godly men had an admirably deep relationship with the Lord and were some of those amazing seeds that bore much good fruit throughout their lives. Each in their own inimitable way profoundly touched the lives of hundreds and thousands of people, and God's word and His presence of God flowed out of them in abundance in every situation. They both lived 1 Peter 3:15, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect..." They will be greatly missed by their families and friends, so please keep them close in your prayers during this difficult season.

The fields are ripe unto the harvest!The yearly planting of the field also spoke to me about the successive generations of believers, and Bob's and James' lifetime of seeding the world reaches into eternity, where they now reside together in glory with all those gone before.

When the Lord gave me these words 20 years ago, I didn't know what comfort they would become in recent times.
    "How marvelous are Your works, oh Lord. And how great it is to understand Your ways, to know that as life's end points to sorrow and loss in the world's eyes, in You it brings joy and riches forever! To know that our only real and lasting treasures are friends and loved ones who are found in You brings rest to the soul. What would be loss is gain, what really dies is pain. In You we live and move and have our being. The rest is passing fancy.
     You said, "The Kingdom of God is within you," for so it is. So to sit here in Your Kingdom is heaven on earth. To dwell in Your presence is fullness of joy. To breathe in each moment is to savor Your grace. To taste of Your goodness is everlasting life. To behold You is love itself."

All that the world is looking for, and what we are praying and trusting God for, is the heart of the gospel that Jesus declared in John 11:25-26, "...I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Please keep these families, and so many others that have lost loved ones, in your prayers, and that the world might know of the good seed of salvation and the bread of life,

Dick & Gladys


Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Settling in, a brief getaway, and learning to see again...

Our new view from Betws Ifan churchyardDear Friends:

Since the spring we have wanted to go to visit friends in North Wales and do a little sightseeing. A couple of weeks after the arrival of all our earthly goods, and subsequent unending busyness, we desperately needed a rest. So when a timely opportunity presented itself, we jumped in the car and headed for the hills in the north.

We were only able to get away for five nights, but it was a huge blessing to just unplug from everything and disappear. The icing on the cake was this breathtaking view from our final evening, although this photo falls way short of capturing even only one moment of time in the creation of our loving heavenly Father.

Exploring the hills with our friend ElinorWe were graciously hosted by our long-time friend Elinor in Llansannan. The first order of duty the next morning was to properly get our bearings, so she took us to a nearby hilltop with an expansive 360- degree view of the area. It was wonderful to feast our eyes on the still lush green growth of the beautifully tended farmland in every direction.

The dedication and hard work of many generations of farmers have made this area as beautiful and productive as it is. Countless winding lanes and steep valleys bear witness to this, especially considering periods of harsh winter weather, and that it was, for the most part, built up without the aid of motorized vehicles or equipment.

Another highlight of our trip was a visit to the Bodnant Gardens near Colwyn Bay. This 80-acre botanical garden is another example of the fruit of perseverance and hard work—the product of five generations is truly impressive. The maintenance Bodnant Gardens near the top end of this huge place is very labor-intensive—there are 26 full-time gardeners plus volunteers. We were blessed with mostly dry weather and could have easily spent an entire day or more admiring the enormous diversity of God's creation. 

Speaking of admiring the beauty in the world around us, I'd like to relate my experience related to seeing things. In late July I had cataract surgery and lens replacement in my right eye, and the change was remarkable but a bit unsettling. My left eye was still corrected by my glasses and had always been my stronger eye. But the brightness and colors through my new transparent lens in my right eye were amazing!

I had to remove the right lens of my glasses because my vision was so different with some correction in the new lens implant it was like looking through the bottom of a coke bottle! So it was like I was living in two worlds—one was fairly clear detail but dull, the other was sparkly bright with vivid colors but out of focus. After a while, my brain began to blend the right's colorful image with the left's focused image, and I was able to find a sort of balance and manage things satisfactorily. I was constantly thrilled by how distinct and bright my world had become!

Through this experience, The Lord began to speak to me about how we actually are living in two worlds. In John 17 when Jesus prays for the disciples, he says in verse11, "Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are." And then in verse 16-17 He says, "I do not pray that You should Pen Bryn beachtake them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth."

As believers, then, we find ourselves "in the world" but not "of the world". And for our walk with God to be fruitful for His purposes we need to keep in the place where we can maintain the balance between the two worlds. Of course, that is impossible on our own, but Jesus prayed, "Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me."

So the end of the matter is that we are kept in that fruitful place of balance by God's grace. And His word is the truth that nurtures and sustains us far better than any earthly garden is maintained. What a priceless gift! I like The Message translation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that says, "Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us."

Thank you for your prayers for His work in Wales and the nations. May the Lord bless us all with His continual grace and new mercies,

Dick & Gladys


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