The Blessing

We typically look for affirmation, acceptance, and unconditional love in a variety of ways.

  • The sexually abused daughter who grows up to become promiscuous, believing physical intimacy is the way to gain the blessing, or approval, of men.
  • The son who has never been able to please his father, continues to push himself, trying ever harder to get an “atta boy”.
  • The perfectionist who continually beats herself up because she could have “done it better,” never satisfied despite awards and recognition.

blessings rockWhat we’re looking for is a blessing. God gave one to Moses for priests Aaron and his sons. This 3000-year-old blessing still carries deep meaning.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26 ESV

When his face shines on us and he gives us peace, our spirits are at rest. In his blessing we find unconditional love which remains constant, not because of who we are or what we do, but because of who HE is. God has chosen to delight in me. I don’t have to earn His love. I can’t. I simply need to receive it, bask in it.

And how can I give the blessing to others? In a video, an impatient man is given a pair of “all-seeing” glasses.blessing joyce meyerPeople who before were irritants or interruptions are seen through a new lens—recognizing one needs a hug, a woman just lost a dear friend, a man lost his job. Seeing their pain, the man responds very differently than before.

Pray God for eyes to see and ears to hear, so I can bless those around me…with a warm smile, a listening heart, a “thank you” to store clerks, health care professionals, and others who serve me. I want to intentionally affirm those I love and those who need encouragement.

What choices will you make this week to receive and give blessing?

“We Need to Race Toward You”

Mourning in Nice

Mourning in Nice

Another three officers gunned down this morning, this time in Baton Rouge, LA. So much hatred. Sorrow … grief … horror. The Bastille Day attack in Nice, when a truck driver drove into a crowd, killed 84 and left 303 injured. Among those were three generations of a family taking an evening walk, a French father who protected his pregnant wife, two of four sisters, and ten children and teenagers.

Turkey’s recent coup killed 265 individuals, with over a thousand more injured. Days before that, five police officers were shot and killed in Dallas; and a few weeks before, 49 persons were killed by an ISIS supporter in Orlando. Each of those killed or injured leaves behind someone to whom they matter–a parent, lover, child, friend, employer. The individual impact is deep and will carry long-term repercussions in the lives of those affected. Seen in context of multiple deaths and injuries, it is colossal. My heart goes out to the families of those who have been killed and hurt.  The senseless terror must pulverize the mind.

All this in the midst of an election year that is full of contention, seemingly more so than usual. How do we respond?

Franklin Graham has asked Christians to pray between 12 and 1 o’clock Eastern time Monday, just before the opening of the Republican convention; and again the following Monday before the Democratic convention. I Timothy 2:1-2 tells us “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prayed at a service at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church this weekend. Part of her prayer:

“As a nation and as a people, we need to race again toward you, into the embrace of your loving arms,” she continued. “Dear Heavenly Father, we pray for guidance, we pray for wisdom for our leaders, and we pray that each and every one of us will leave this place justified by faith and secure and confident in your deep, deep love for us.”

I plan to join Franklin Graham in prayer for our country, both ongoing and before the RNC begins in Cleveland tomorrow, and I hope you will too.

Isaiah 51:11: Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

 

Gatherings

Sitting at breakfast, Don and I watched through the window as a quail flew onto our fence. Another flitted up behind the first; and a third soon joined them. We often see groups of quail, eight or ten little ones scurrying about collecting whatever worms or insects they find, while two or three adult quail sit on the fence, watching for trouble, guarding those focused on the earth.

My dear friend Susan Swain captured the beauty of our need for each other in her alcohol ink painting “Gathering.” (used by permission).

We gather for many reasons.

  • Celebrations like weddings and holidays.  On the July 4th weekend Twin Lakes Church provided a petting zoo, bounce house and slide, hot dogs and watermelon for all. Just a reason to be together as part of the family of God.

    Tents going up for conference

    Tents going up for conference

  • People of Faith gatherings – before moving to the Soquel hills, we were warned that this season was crazy along San Jose-Soquel Road because of the attendees at the Seventh Day Adventist conference grounds just down the road from us. In addition to the many folks who come with fifth wheels or trailers, rows upon rows of camper tents are put up in preparation, along with enormous white meeting tents. But we’ve always enjoyed this time. True, we’re retirees and don’t often have to be somewhere at a specific time. But the conference provides their own people to direct foot and vehicular traffic, and we’ve never been held up long. Rather, it’s lovely to see knots of people tailgating for meals around various trailers, walking in with their Bibles for worship and teaching.
  • Memorials – Last week I mentioned my brother-in-law, Wally, whose memorial we had attended. As family gathered, we told stories, shared memories, and reconnected with each other. We come from a variety of political, faith, and personal backgrounds; but we came together to honor one we all love.
  • And in tragedies like the recent shootings of young black men as well as the five police officers gunned down in Dallas; destruction by earthquake, fire or flood; we gather to grieve, to support, to help where we can, whether that’s rebuilding homes, or walking alongside those who are creating a new normal, changed forever because of loss.

We’re not created to live life solo, but in community. Whether married or single, we need each other–for fellowship, forgiveness, healing, accountability, support, help. “And one standing alone can be attached and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT.

Who are some of the cords in your life?

Remembering, with Thanks

O say does that star-spangled banner still wave ...

O say does that star-spangled banner still wave …

This weekend we thank those who have served our country, giving time, commitment, sometimes their lives in order that we could remain free. While I appreciate all who have served honorably, I am thinking especially today of our World War II veterans, who are slowly leaving us. My brother-in-law, Wally Loewen, is among those. Wally passed away just over a week ago at the age of 95, joining his Savior, Jesus Christ, his beloved wife Esther and their son Paul, both of whom preceded Wally in death three years ago.

And while I was raised in a conscientious objector tradition among peace-loving Mennonites, I respect and appreciate all who served in a variety of ways to maintain our freedom to worship, think, and speak freely. That thanks extends beyond the service men and women to the families who prayed, believed, hoped, loved, and sometimes buried them.

My husband believed it was his responsibility to serve his country, joined the Army, and trusted God to place him where he should be. Billeted in the Medical corps, Don went to sanitary technician school, where he learned how to keep food, hospitals and fields sanitized to inhibit the spread of disease. In chauffeur school, he also learned to drive all sorts of transport vehicles. During and after the end of the war, Don spent sixteen months in Okinawa, working primarily with mosquito abatement to prevent malaria spreading among the troops and on the island.

His older brother, Wally, went into alternative service where he made prosthetic limbs for returning servicemen. When Wally was transferred to Camp Barkley near Abilene, Texas, his new bride Esther didn’t know where he’d been sent. Determined to start her marriage WITH her husband, Esther persisted until she learned Wally’s new posting.  She promptly boarded a bus and followed, surprising him on her arrival. She repeated that persistence when he was transferred to Ogden, Utah. Gutsy lady, committed to her man and her marriage.

There’s an even greater freedom that Jesus came to give us. Galatians 5:1 states “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” His sacrifice frees us from the burden and power of sin and guilt, from the necessity of following a set of rules that bind us rather than setting us free. His atonement brings us into relationship with the God of the universe, Savior, Lord.

So this weekend, my thanks are first to Jesus Christ, who set me free from the power of sin and death; and also to those men and women who have faithfully and honorably served our country to maintain the freedoms we still enjoy.

Who are you remembering and honoring this weekend?

Promises Kept

DSC00203

“Love, love will keep us together …”

Just below a beautiful cathedral atop a hill in Linz, Austria, is a chainlink fence covered with padlocks. Each is a symbol of love between two individuals. Since the keys have been thrown away, the myth is that as long as the padlock is secure, the love will remain. The couple are locked together in love.

In 1975, the Captain and Tennille sang Neil Sedaka’s “Love, love will keep us together …” but sadly, divorce has separated the Captain and Tennille. So, what is it that will keep us together?

Promises made ... and kept

Promises made … and kept

72 years ago yesterday, June 25th, my parents married in a small town in Manitoba, Canada. They had high hopes–family, and domestic mission work in an even smaller village where three of their children, including me, began our childhoods. Despite Dad’s shy nature, he pushed beyond his comfort zone to preach on street corners and teach Bible school; while Mom’s beautiful, well-trained soprano solos, which she accompanied on her accordion, invited passersby to stay and listen. Together they invested in the lives of children and teenagers, some of whom are still in touch with my mother today. Their love and commitment bore fruit.

And there were sacrifices … Mom put the possibility of a music career on the back burner to be wife and mother first. Perhaps not necessary in our day and age, but in their time and culture, more so. Dad returned to school to become a carpenter. When the frigid Manitoba winters became too difficult, Mom left her close-knit parents and siblings in Winnipeg to move with Dad to California, where the housing industry was booming. Dad obtained his contractor’s license and went on to build beautiful, luxury homes in the Los Gatos/Saratoga sections of the Bay Area. Mom taught music to private students, raised four children and made a warm home into which she and Dad also welcomed all our friends. The Froeses’ was a good place to hang out.

Friday nights were family night. Since we didn’t get a television until I was in high school, we played games together, made popcorn, watched 16mm movies borrowed from the library (we had the projector), and laughed and prayed together. As soon as my younger brother, Bob, turned five we taught him to make the popcorn, thereby working ourselves out of that job!

When Dad was eighty-five he was diagnosed with acute leukemia, and passed into glory exactly a month later. One night he asked Mom if they were going “home” that night. “Not yet,” she replied. “But Jesus is building a mansion for you in heaven” (John 14:2). A builder at heart, he looked up. “I’d like to see the specs.” He asked if she would go with him. “I’m not coming now,” Mom told him through her tears, “but I’ll join you there soon.”

This is a promise kept. A faithful marriage through good times and hard, joy and sacrifice, for fifty-eight years. No padlock kept them together, but their promise to each other before God. Promises made and kept. And reunion to come.

Who has been an example to you of promises made and kept? How has that person/persons impacted your life?