“Fab Friday”

These four women, and one other, have become precious to me over the past five or six years as our “Fab Friday” group meets twice monthly to study the Bible, pray, and care for each other.  This photo was taken at our 2018 Christmas brunch a few days ago.

We’ve walked through a lot of life together in these years…illness, loss, life’s various challenges. About a year ago I needed to take a step back due to my own health issues, so I dropped out of the group for a time. These women continued to love me, communicate with me, and keep me in the loop.

This past year has included lots of change for me: a new shoulder, new knee, a move to a new home and community, some of my closest friends moving out of the area … I realized I need these long-term sisters in Christ. I need their support and friendship, even as I give mine to them.

Why do I need these women?

WISE FRIENDS MAKE ONE WISER

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20 New International Version)

These are godly women from whom I learn much, and I need their input into my life, even as I share with them..

WE BEAR EACH OTHER’S BURDENS

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2)

WE CHALLENGE EACH OTHER TO BE MORE LIKE JESUS

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17 New Living Translation”

As we are vulnerable to share our weaknesses as well as strengths, we sharpen each other to be more like Jesus.

WE FOLLOW JESUS’ EXAMPLE

God, Creator, Sustainer, Comforter, Healer, Peacegiver, Redeemer, exists in community himself: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And He created us for relationship–not to go it alone, not to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, but to be in relationship with Him and with others.

These women are not my only friends; I have dear friends near and far. Some are one-on-one friendships, other couple friendships, but this is a group of women committed to each other, to confidentiality of the things we share, and to building each other up in our walks with Jesus. Such friendships are a precious gift, to be treasured and nurtured.

It’s easy for me to get lazy. I need to be reminded of how God is at work in others’ lives; to remain in His word and also to be reminded through what others recognize, how God is working in my own life. 

And so, as of January 4th, I’m back in!

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” ( Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Question: If you do not have a small group of trusted women or men with whom you meet regularly, where can you find one?

CAUTION! DISTRACTED DRIVER

You know those times you see someone swerve across three lanes to make a last-minute change to access an exit ramp? I’ve always said if I was too late to make a safe lane change I would overshoot the exit, take the next, make a U-turn, and return to the desired freeway change.

One day this week, while driving, I talked on the phone with my mother, hands-free. But I wasn’t totally paying attention and suddenly realized my exit was on the right–three lanes over.

“Hold on Mom,” I spoke up.

I glanced quickly over my right shoulder to see clear lanes and crossed two lanes, then bypassed a big pothole to move into the exit lane. I’d seen a grey car coming but I couldn’t accurately tell whether it was in the left or right exit lane. As I drove past that pothole, the grey car swooped right past me–in the lane I was entering!

“Thank you Jesus!” I gasped. Fortunately Mom didn’t hear that, or it would have caused her great concern (as will reading this!). I could have been the cause of a very serious accident, and am ashamed of my decision to make that multiple lane change at the last minute. I consider myself a safe driver. But that day I made a split-second decision that was not only unwise, but unsafe. I plan to remember this in the future and stick with my original idea.

En route home I stopped at Trader Joe’s for some groceries. As I walked toward the store, an African American woman approached me. She looked distressed.

“Can you help me? I need BART fare to get home. I’ve been walking around this shopping center twice and I got a dollar.” She pulled it out of her pocket. She said a woman in the center had called her the “n” word. “I’m so sorry.” I shook my head. “That is so wrong and you are precious.”

I asked her name, which was Faith Love.

“Do you know Jesus?” I asked Faith. “Oh yes. I walk with him all the time.” Faith’s response was immediate.

We sat outside as she told me she had cancer. Her hair was falling out and Faith pulled a scarf over her head. She told me her sister drove her to San Jose for chemo treatments, but was pulled over for a minor infraction and found to be in violation of parole. So she got taken to jail, and Faith had no way home.

While I don’t usually give money (I’d rather give food), in this case I felt led to help Faith financially. Whether her story was on the level is not up to me. I gave her the money for BART and a little extra, prayed with her, and said goodbye.

It was quite the day.

Although I was embarrassed, I told Don about the near accident after I returned home. My hubby said he prayed for God’s protection over me several times while I was gone. God definitely answered his prayer and kept his hand of protection on me. When I think of what could have happened, I am deeply grateful. I guess God’s not finished with me yet.

Have you made a foolish decision that could have been disastrous, but wasn’t? How have you seen God’s hand in the outcome?

Thanks-giving

Do you feel stuffed after all the delicious Thanksgiving vittles?

I’ve managed pretty well with food this week; but I do feel fat with friendship! There is much for which I’m thankful this weekend. For one, California has gotten rain, blessed rain, this week. While that makes it more difficult to look for human remains among the horrendous fires we’ve had this month, it helped contain the fires and clear the bad air quality that’s hovered over many of us. While we continue to pray for, and grieve with, those who have lost loved ones, homes and pets, it has been refreshing to see blue skies once again.

  • I’m thankful for a kind-hearted, gracious, fun and thoughtful husband
  • That my almost 97-year old mother is still with us
  • For loving families and friends
  • For our Paigey
  • For the desk my husband, his son and my nephew moved to our new home this week; so glad to be getting more organized and have increased usability
  • Most of all, I’m thankful that God loves me enough to pursue me, even when I feel distant from him. He gave his son, Jesus, to pay the price for my sins and to give me hope, a future, and the promise of eternal life with him.

And I realized something else. Now that Don and I live in an over-55 community, I’m using the “Nextdoor” internet application more than in the past. I found our new veterinarian through online recommendations. Don and I just made reservations to take Mom to a special event at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts for her birthday and Christmas (two days apart). She’s having increased difficulty walking, so I researched wheelchair rentals. Then I remembered the “Nextdoor” online site, where I posted a request to borrow or rent a wheelchair for one day. I’ve received about 15 responses, from “The Villages Medical Auxilliary loans them out free of charge;” to “I have one you can borrow.” What a wonderful resource! It is meaningful to have a community I can ask for recommendations, to borrow something, or for information.

I think we need a “Nextdoor” for local Christians. We could request input on challenges, ask for prayer, encourage each other, or seek practical help i.e. rides to church, meals for ill folks, respite for caregivers …

But wait! That’s what the Church is called to be. We’re exhorted to hold each other accountable, to pray for, hold each other up, encourage and challenge each other as we all grow into maturity in Jesus Christ.

The most meaningful relationships in my life have been those in which sharing was open and vulnerable and responses were loving, God-honoring, challenging me to be all God wants me to be in word, thought and deed. Trust is a key factor in this kind of relationship, which can be with a marriage partner or a same-gender friend. Confessing my faults, fears, hopes is not for the purpose of gossip or even of sharing externally for “prayer,” but to open myself to another so God can work His life more deeply into mine, knowing what is shared remains inviolate.

And so I am thankful for my husband and for those women God has put into my life for mutual encouragement. Some of you know who you are. Thank you! I can be deceived and give in to wrong thinking or actions. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (NIV)

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 NIV

Question: How have others encouraged or challenged you in your faith? Have you thanked them for building into your life?

 

Restoration

5:06 am. Our airport transport was scheduled to pick us up at five o’clock. Don and I were getting anxious, knowing our flight boarded at 6:20.

5:14 am. I called Toni, the ex-mother-in-law of the woman who was to pick us up (I hadn’t yet gotten Sandy’s phone number but had booked through Toni).

“Toni, I’m so sorry to call you at this hour, but no one is here to pick us up yet and it’s 5:14. We’re getting a bit anxious.”

She sounded wide awake. “Oh no. This has never happened before. I’m so sorry. I’ll just pick you up myself. Be there in 10 minutes or less.”

And she was. And she got us to the airport in time.

As she and Don unloaded our luggage, Toni saw Don reaching into his pocket.

“Don’t you even think about paying me after our mixup this morning. Just put that away, and call me another time.” And because of Toni’s attitude and concern that we’d had anxious moments because of a slip-up (for which Sandy called and apologized profusely, having slept past her alarm), we will call her again.

Now wasn’t that gracious, and classy? Our housesitters told us about having lunch at a local restaurant. Kathie found a piece of plastic (like from a bag in which the greens had been) in her salad and mentioned it to the waitress. The waitress immediately removed the salad, offered another and Kathie’s choice of dessert, and removed any charge for the salad or dessert from their bill.

Mistakes happen. Owning up to our mistakes and doing what we can to make them right can go a long way toward restoring relationships.

And that’s what God asks of us. He promises that “On the other hand, if we admit our sins – make a clean breast of them – he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.” (I John 1:9, MSG).

Sometimes when we ask for forgiveness, the other party says they’ve forgiven, but doesn’t want any further connection with us. “I forgive you, but I don’t see how we can be friends any more.” That hurts! In my case, the friendship was broken.

But when we agree with God that we have sinned, He forgives freely. We are made clean, like new. The relationship is fully restored and is still whole. What grace!

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found

was blind, but now I see!

When Tragedy Strikes

Like many of us, I’ve had a heavy heart this week. Another shooting in Southern California left twelve dead, others with horrific memories and their aftermath. And fires, in both Northern and Southern California. The town of Paradise decimated, 23 reported dead as of Saturday evening.

Amazingly, the Paradise home of dear friends of ours is still standing, as is their church. But for several days they didn’t know whether or not they still had a home. Others I know have lost everything, except in most cases, their loved ones. Homes are gone. Lives are lost. And even if you still have a home, there is currently no water in Paradise, no power. So as of yet there is no possibility of returning to the homes that remain.

Our friends who still have their home are in the minority. We’ve heard that 80% of Paradise is simply gone. Destroyed. Decimated How do you even begin the overwhelming task of starting over? And how do you move back into a home that is still standing when all around you is destruction, ash, rubble?

Others have certainly gone through that. In countries where persecution abounds because of ethnicity, or faith, or religious differences, many have fled their homes with nothing more than they could carry. Here in California, many escaped the Camp Fire, or the Malibu fire, or another, with only the clothes on their backs. Plans for family gatherings at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas or Hanukkah must change because people are now homeless.

So how do we help?

  • Tell people we’ll pray for them – and then DO IT! If the words are simply the “thing to say” in a tragedy, they are meaningless. Perhaps instead of just saying we’ll pray, we can stop and say “Let me pray for you now” and do it immediately, and then continuously.
  • Pray for the firefighters and emergency responders who so faithfully serve in these difficult times.
  • Ask what help they need. Someone commented that they went into Target to buy necessities only to see the store full of people walking around, dazed, not knowing where to begin. If you’ve lost everything, do you start with food or with medicines? With blankets or underwear?
  • Find ways to give where funds will be allocated in appropriate ways. The worship pastor at our Aptos church is from Paradise. He is there this weekend, meeting with the church from which he came to determine how we can help. Twin Lakes Church will give us opportunities to give in meaningful ways that are based on a real assessment of critical issues.

In the tragedy of these days we have an opportunity to come alongside those in desperate need, and love them in the name of Jesus.

My friend Shirley Fransen Holm posted this article on Facebook Saturday. What a beautiful picture of what it means to come alongside those in need.

At my synagogue, I’ll take 20 Mennonites over one armed guard

After telling the disciples he would soon leave them, their hearts were also heavy, Then Jesus said “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)

Our hope is in the God who is present, the God who has promised never to leave or forsake us, and who calls us to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need.