He Sees the Sparrow Fall

I heard Don walking toward our office.

“There’s a deer in the yard. I think his leg is broken. We should probably call Animal Control.”

I went to the back deck to look and sure enough, a beautiful fawn was struggling to get to her feet. She tried so hard to roll from her side to her feet. But every time one of her legs would buckle underneath her and she would fall back, getting weaker with every attempt. It hurt to watch.

I called County Animal Services, explained what we saw and asked for their help. The fawn lay on her side (which I learned is dangerous for deer because their sternums get blocked), panting and shaking with what appeared to be shock. I thought about taking her water but resisted, knowing my approach would probably only terrify her more. Within thirty minutes an Animal Control officer was there. He threw a towel over her eyes to calm her while she bawled in pain and fear. The officer couldn’t feel a break in her leg, but there was a bruise on her face. She had likely been hit by a car and had head trauma. He carefully picked her up to transport her to a local vet. Had the fawn lain there a few more hours, I think she would have died.  

Oh, it hurt to see this animal in pain, frightened, unable to help herself.

I know deer can be destructive–they’ve eaten some of our plants and flowers and we get ticked off. We also try to plant deer-resistant flowers. But these creatures are still beautiful, graceful creatures of God, and watching/hearing her pain went deep.

And if I hurt when an animal with whom I have no relationship is in pain, how much more must our Father grieve when he sees our pain? How deeply he wants us to come to him with our needs, hurts, fears. When we strike out on our own, we often make the situation worse. When we turn to him for help, he can bring beauty from ashes (last week’s post, http://carolshope.com/2018/07/beauty-for-ashes/).

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) 

He understands our pain. Scripture tells us that when his friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept (John 11:35).

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

If God cares for the tiny sparrow enough to know when it falls to the ground, how much more does he know when we are in need of His divine intervention, His loving guidance, His complete forgiveness?

Question: What is heavy on your mind and heart today? I encourage you to take it to Jesus and allow him to lift your burden.

BEAUTY FOR ASHES

 

Demolition began Monday! Don and I purchased a home in a lovely over-55 community called “The Villages” just over two years ago. With a plan to stay in our beautiful Soquel locale for another two years or so, we rented the house in San Jose to several short-term tenants, the last of whom moved out a week ago. Now we’re preparing for our own move within several months.

Don and I arrived at the house early on demo morning to let our contractors in to begin work on our kitchen and master bath. The house looked clean, with everything in place.

By the end of the day the kitchen was totally torn apart (photo right), with wood strips, shavings, sawdust, and countertops on the floor to be removed and dumped. What a change in that one day!

Our lives can be demolished just that quickly if we’re not careful. In the case of our  “new” house, the demolition is occurring for the purpose of bringing about new life. Sometimes the same happens to us. A physical or emotional tsunami hits without warning. Stress, loss due to death or illness, or poor choices can have the effect of seeing our lives splinter and disintegrate.

But God has promised to “restore the years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). This scripture first resonated with me when I read a biography of Senator Harold Hughes. An alcoholic who was ready to kill himself with the loaded rifle at his side, Hughes felt God’s touch. Choosing to live for Christ from that moment on, Hughes spoke about how God did indeed give him a full and productive life of service to God and country. From desolation, our faithful God can bring a fresh, new reality.

I felt despair when my first husband passed away. I was shattered, lonely, aching. Couldn’t think straight. Couldn’t concentrate. Got on the wrong freeway–in very familiar territory–four times in two weeks because the wheels of my brain just weren’t connecting. But God gave me this scripture from Jeremiah 29:11 almost immediately after Jerry’s passing: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” With time, the love and support of family and friends, and a helpful grief recovery group that reminded me I was not alone in my crazy-making, the slow healing process began.

We can choose to stay in that lonely place, crushed, broken-hearted, closing ourselves off to those who would love us and walk with us. And when we do, we can’t heal.

Or we can allow Jesus to bring ” … beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3)  Another translation speaks of a “garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” That spirit of heaviness can be cloying, overwhelming, suffocating. Healing doesn’t often occur overnight, but over time as we take three steps forward and two back; or sometimes, three forward and four back … but if we keep trusting our God, He will bring the healing for which we ache.

So, as Don and I watch our house being rebuilt from a baseline of demolition, I want to remember that God is doing that kind of work in my life, and in the lives of those I love, as well. As I allow Him to tear down old strongholds, as I confess sin and receive His forgiveness, He is faithful to complete His good work in me–to build something new and pleasing to Him–until He comes to take me home for life in His presence, for all eternity.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,

    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
   to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

   to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
   the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
   and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
 They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Isaiah 61:1b-3 (NIV)

Rancho Santa Marta Update

The lovely, 450-acre ranch in the dusty rolling hills of the Baja Peninsula, Rancho Santa Marta serves the needs of 40-45 residential children and about 220 schoolchildren from the surrounding areas up to 60 miles away. Its staff of Directors, teachers, therapists, house parents, ranch hands, and others encourage, teach and build children, many with learning disabilities, into productive students who learn about the love of God in Jesus Christ. Don and I have been involved with this ministry for the past nine years.

I was especially touched by this month’s update and want to share it with you. The group pictured under “Building a High School” (“Menlo Park”) is the one of which we are a part. In addition to the building projects Don has led for the past years, it is a joy to see the ranch children grow from one year to the next, and to renew our friendships with them while there. Some children have limitations great enough that they will never leave the Ranch. Others will become productive members of society. All are loved and given hope for their futures.

Enjoy reading about Cynthia and the progress she has already made: and about Sam and Grant, two young men who have each given a year to minister as therapist and teacher respectively, to the children. If you feel led to be a part of the Ranch’s significant ministry, please contact them directly.

The needs are great; the challenges sometimes overwhelming; stress can be high, and staffing is always critical. I’m so thankful for men and women with a heart to serve these children. Click on the link, then click again to size the newsletter to read.

RSM July 2018

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Blessings to you!

 

 

Farewell…For a Season

Don and I attended a meaningful memorial service yesterday for our dear friend, June McCuistion, who left earth for heaven a week before her 90th birthday. The service was a celebration. June had polio at five years of age and has been in constant pain since, every day of her life. Yet I’ve rarely seen a more beautiful, gracious, strong woman.

I never recall her complaining about her pain. This morning Don and I read the following statement: “I call you to lead the life that I have assigned to you, and to be content … Learning to be content is both a discipline and an art: you train your mind to trust my sovereign ways with you–bowing before my mysterious, infinite intelligence.” (Jesus Today, by Sarah Young) As Jan, June’s daughter, shared at yesterday’s service, “Mom’s faith allowed her to choose to accept the life she had, and to be the best she could be.”

June also had severe scoliosis, and a spine that was quite curved, making it harder for her to find clothing she liked. Once, June and Walt and Fritz and Frank Buschman were vacationing together with us in Puerto Vallarta. Fritz, June and I went shopping and found some clothes that were beautiful on June, with her stylishly simple, snow-white hair and beautiful face. That evening she modeled the clothes for her husband, Walt, and the rest of us. Walt’s eyes shone, and June teared up. “I feel beautiful.”

And she was beautiful…inside and out. June regularly listened and empathized and went beyond her pain to hear and feel the needs of others, which may in retrospect have been far smaller than her own needs. She could also speak truth in a firm, but loving way, when women coming to her for advice needed to correct their thinking or behavior.

June’s dear husband, Walt McCuistion, was a pastor and counselor for many years. He and I had lunch together one day when I was in conflict at work. I’d called in sick because I woke up in tears and couldn’t face going into the office that day. My sweet husband called Walt and asked if he could meet me for lunch. Over that brief period, Walt gave me perspective on the situation I was in, challenging me to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). I returned to work with a new attitude and a refreshed heart.

Walt married Don and me. He was getting forgetful, and started to pronounce us husband and wife before we said our vows. Both June and I spoke up.

“Not yet, Walt.”

“What?”

“We haven’t said our vows yet.”

“Oh, go ahead.”

And with that we simply moved forward through the rest of the ceremony. We’d decided to have a very small wedding–had both had big weddings in our prior lives–and the interruption of Walt’s forgetfulness felt so natural, so comfortable with only eight people there, that it remains one of our fond memories of a very intimate and close time.

Walt died five years ago. June was in a rehab center after a bone break, and the family had all gathered in a conference room to discuss her treatment. As Walt sat in his chair, surrounded by his wife, daughter and son, he simply passed into the presence of Jesus. “Good for him, bad for us,” his son Greg said yesterday. And yet, what a way to go Home, to the eternity that awaits those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ and His atonement for us. We were created for heaven … and, for the believer, death is a transition, a graduation if you will, to what we were made for–unending, perfect fellowship with our God and fellow believers.

June and Walt are reunited. Their memorial services were five years and one day apart. But their lives have impacted many for eternity. I miss them; and their family needs God’s comfort in the loss of this wonderful mother and grandmother. But heaven is enriched because another saint has come Home.

If you haven’t looked at the claims of Jesus, please do so. Read the New Testament book of John to discover his words, his heart, his sacrifice, his gift of eternal life. And consider his invitation to become part of his eternal family.

 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:12) 

See you soon, June and Walt!

Precious Memories

We sat around the dining table, my two older brothers, Mom, a sister-in-law, and Don, looking at pictures from my childhood and growing up years. And of course I recall my Daddy, whom I adored and who has been in heaven’s realm for sixteen years already. I love this picture of Dad with my two older brothers, Melvyn and Arnold.

Other memories … those awful drapes in an early house in Canada before we moved to California when I was nine years old. That mountain scene was repeated across the whole fabric; I’m sure it was considered lovely at the time …

Mom, Melvyn, Arnold and me on the horse swing at Camp Arnes, a church camp on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, a gigantic body of water that we thought must extend to China on the other side. Walking the mile into camp–or even driving it when we visited my grandparents’ cabin there–was always an adventure. The curved, forested roadway wound back and forth like a slithering snake, and at every turn we eagerly awaited seeing the trees part and the lake open before us. It was there that I committed my life to Christ at the age of eight years.

Three cute kiddos sitting on a piano bench.

Then our move to California, and the addition of a third brother, Bob.

Family waterskiing photos.

That’s me on the right

Arnold and I participating in a Youth for Christ Bible quiz team competing for the national title at Winona Lake, Indiana. The old photo on the left reflects our goal to get off the chair in the quickest possible way in order to have the opportunity to answer the question. We also had to complete the question accurately if we were off the electronic chair pads before the question was finished. Thus the pelvic thrust jumps!

And the fun we had teasing others. New friends were sometimes surprised by Arnold’s and my close friendship. Once, when we were perhaps 15 and 17, we told two teenage girls sitting across the table from us at a youth conference that we were brother and sister. “No you’re not. You like each other too much.” My brother looked at me and said “Want to show them?” I knew exactly what he was asking and together, we leaned across the table and wiggled our eyes at them–a rare trait that can be a symptom of drug usage (nystagmus) but in our case happens to be voluntary and divorced from any illegal substance. “We believe!” they yelled.

Laughter. Sharing. Catching up. Telling each other stories of our memories. Hugs. Family. Precious. And there was a photo of Melvyn’s old MG, which Mom thought was white but I thought was red. Arnold argued for green. We looked at the picture as Mel stated that the car was actually dove grey. Same car–different memories!

I realize that I was blessed to be raised in a loving Christian family, and that many have not had the childhood I experienced.

But then I enjoyed lunch yesterday with about 25 women. We were together to honor and say farewell to one of our number, a faithful servant of Jesus Christ who exudes grace and giving, and who is moving out of the area this Fall. As the majority of us waited quietly (“shhh”) in the kitchen for Nancy to come out of another room so we could surprise her, I felt a deep sense of connection with these women, beautiful inside and out, and the reality that we share a common faith in a good Father God. While neither the nuclear nor the Christian family is perfect, because we’re finite, sinful individuals, there is love, warmth and acceptance available when these two organisms function under guidelines given by our Creator God. The God who is “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling … (who) sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” Psalm 68:5-6

As blessed as I am to have had the father and mother and family I have, the greatest blessing in my life is my Father God. He has enlarged my family. He loves me unconditionally; He has forgiven me, accepted me unconditionally because of Jesus’ death and payment for my sin, guided me through joy and sorrow, and then into joy again; and given me eternal life. And that life is available to all who receive His gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

How have you experienced a father’s love, either through your biological dad, other caring male mentors, or through our heavenly Father? I’d love to hear your story.