Category Archive: Authenticity

post by carolnl | | 2

What is Success?

 5:00 am Saturday. Most of our missions team met at Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City. One of the three team vans picked Don and me up in San Jose, from where we headed to meet the rest of the team at Starbucks in Gilroy.

Tools – check

Passports – check

Toilet paper – check

Clothing, sundries, hats – check

We were as ready as we were going to be.

11:30 pm Saturday, we drove through the gates at Rancho Santa Marta in the Baja. My leg was screaming.

Our usual 15-hour drive to the Ranch, 65 miles south of Ensenada, had taken 18.5 looong hours. As we left the Bay Area we enjoyed reconnecting with former team members and getting to know new ones. After stopping for a fast-food lunch near Magic Mountain, one of our vans refused to start. AAA towed it to one service center which wouldn’t take it because they were going to close at 5:00. We went to another, determined the repairs would not be a quick fix, and made the decision to leave the one van behind to be repaired, and reload three vans into two.

We emptied most of the three vans, took out non-essentials (a coffee table, several boxes of t-shirts, some equipment), and repacked people and materials tight into the two other vans, then finally took off again. At Chula Vista we stopped to fill up with gas and enjoy a quick fried chicken tailgate dinner before climbing back into the vehicles to cross the border.

After unloading our weary bodies and supplies at the Ranch, we crawled into bed. I took two Advil PMs to knock me out, wanting very much to be in church Sunday morning.

As the team historian/photographer, I took some photos during the worship service. My heart was renewed as I greeted old friends. I turned to where three of our team stood to sing, and watched one of our new team members who is also a relatively new Jesus-follower. Eyes closed, his face lifted to the heavens, tears streamed down Miguel’s face. And I began to weep as I saw the adoration, praise and worship on his face.

The worship leader introduced separate prayer times for pastors/missionaries; for the Ranch, staff and children; for those who are ill. Children stood voluntarily to give thanks to God for everything from a barbecue this afternoon to their teachers and house parents.

Ranch Director Rod’s sermon, in English and Spanish, addressed what it means to be a success. Miguel is a picture of success. Coming from a difficult background, he said “God, you said if we would seek you with all our hearts we would be found by you. Where are you?” As he kept praying that prayer, God showed up and changed his heart and life. At the end of the sermon, Rod’s father-in-law, Bill, who founded the Ranch with his wife Kaye, stood. “Son-in-law,” he began, “your success will be reflected in the lives of these children who will grow up and change the world.” What a touching and meaningful encouragement.

Drawn into Miguel’s worship, I actually had my first message long before the singing ended and the sermon began.

I am so thankful to be here once again, with staff and children we love dearly.

Some of us have been at RSM for years already; others are brand new this year. God seems to meld us together as we drive and share and snooze along the way, and then throughout the week as we work together.

This week our primary focus is putting up trusses for the new high school building. The Ranch is home to 40-45 children, many learning disabled, some abused, some orphaned. Some will grow up and become teachers or come back to the Ranch as house parents; others will never have the skills or maturity to leave the Ranch and will be given work to do here into adulthood – gardening, cleaning, animal husbandry. Don and I have come to love this ministry to Mexican children in need; and to the 220 students bussed into school from up to 60 miles away during the week.

Pray with us as we serve this week: our attitudes (especially when we get weary), our unity, our effective work on the projects and love for the kids as we see them throughout the week, as well as the day we’re divided into groups to have lunch or dinner in one of the four residences; the piñata and s’mores party (no chocolate, too much caffeine) one afternoon. I look forward to seeing many young friends we’ve watched develop over the past eight years, to reconnecting, loving on them, and praying for them and for their teachers and house parents. Pray that our service will be an outgrowth of our worship of our good God, and will honor Him.

I think of what success means for our team this week. Scripture says “In everything you do, do it as unto the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks …” Success will be our working in unity, encouraging each other, not only doing the work effectively but with grace and joy. The HOW will be as, or more important, than the WHAT.

Thanks for praying with and for us. Buen dia!

 

 

Sleepless Nights and Grace

I typed emails, giving directives like shotgun blasts.

I lacked sleep, unable to get comfortable with my leg still healing from a total knee replacement.

Perhaps I was more sensitive, more grouchy, because the discomfort, while certainly bearable, has been present now for five weeks after surgery. The first two weeks I expected pain and discomfort. But after that it just became wearing. Along with that we had (wonderful) company for a week, I took a fall on my new knee, and we have been preparing for our annual missions trip to Mexico which involves a lot of planning and communication and follow-up on my part.

Friday night was another sleepless night, at least initially. Finally I stopped fighting to sleep and got up. I have a Coloring Book Devotional, “Drawn to Worship,” by my friend, Lisa Bogart. So I sat at the kitchen table and colored in the lines (photo left). As I did, I began to pray for the many friends who are in need of one sort or another right now – health, strength, loss, rebellion – and God showed me how grouchy I’d been. I asked His forgiveness and committed to asking a few others for theirs too.

My husband was first. His graciousness to me is a picture of Jesus’ grace, extended freely and without condemnation. “I know you’re going through a hard time. I expect you to be a bit touchy. Just know I’m here for you and I’m with you all the way.” (Which he proved again last night when I couldn’t sleep. Don got up and put the ice machine on my knee, legs propped up on a recliner plus wedge pillow. While I expected him to return to our bedroom while I hoped to get some sleep on the couch, he grabbed a blanket, sat down in the other recliner and spent the night in the family room with me.)

Our missions trip team leader was next. He too extended grace and appreciation for what I was doing.

What a gift we can extend to each other … just a piece, a reminder, of the greatest gift God has given us … grace, forgiveness, acceptance in the Beloved. As I said to Bob, “I can’t commit to feeling better, but I can commit to trusting God for grace for my need each day.”

I’m thankful for my God, who is and extends GRACE and strength for each need when I rely on Him (which I was forgetting to do); and I’m so grateful for friends who also reach out, not lessening God’s standard but also saying “I get where you are. I’m sorry for your struggle, I love you, I support you.”

And my struggles are so minimal when compared with others’ – but they are MY struggles and the ones that God uses in my life.

So … I can’t commit to feeling better, although that will come with time. But I CAN commit to behaving better, by the grace of God. And I might be coloring again tonight!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

“Go about, preaching the gospel, using words where necessary”

“She kept things ship-shape here. Kept the doctors in line–and they still loved her.”

“Oh, I miss her! Please tell her hi.”

Shirley and Fritz (right) on a girlfriends’ weekend with me.

One of my best friends, Fritz Buschman, retired two years ago from Washington Hospital’s Institute for Joint Repair; now I was there for a total knee replacement.

“She was always smiling. Very approachable.”

I was on an overnight stay in the hospital following my surgery on Thursday. As I’d asked hospital personnel if they knew my girlfriend Fritz, I got loads of wonderful comments expressing appreciation for Fritz, her hard work and her spirit. And I was delighted to hear these great comments about one of my dearest friends.

Fritz and I have been close friends for about twenty-five years. Not long after we met, she called to tell us her husband was in the hospital, needing immediate surgery. My late husband and I rushed to the hospital to sit with Fritz and their daughter, waiting to hear the results of Frank’s emergency stint in the OR.

Fritz was one of the close friends who visited me in Florida when Jerry was dying. She helped me understand the monitors. I remember her lovely blue eyes, full of compassion; her smile, which welcomed others in; her patience in explanations; and her loving support (along with other dear friends) after Jerry’s death.

He gave His life for me, and for you

So I totally understand why Fritz was admired and appreciated in her workplace. Hearing these warm sentiments, I was reminded of  II Corinthians 2: 15.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

Through her competence and compassion, Fritz has been a pleasing aroma of Christ to those with whom she worked. She has let her love for Christ show in how she respects and treats others.

I want my life to be such a sweet aroma for Christ, one that reflects His character. At times I fail miserably. But I thank God for forgiveness and clean slates that allow me to start fresh, clean, whole.

And I’m grateful for Fritz’ lovely example.

 

The Greatest of These …

Love God, Love Others

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

That was YouVersion’s “verse of the day” on Wednesday, Valentine’s Day 2018. And I thought of these three great characteristics.

Faith. Hope. Love.

So why is love the greatest of the three?

The apostle Paul says that without love, faith is meaningless. If I have faith that can move mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. And hope will end one day, when it is realized. But love never ends.

Love encompasses many other characteristics. It covers a multitude of sins. When I truly love, I don’t look for things to complain about, to criticize, to change. I accept, believe in, trust the person I love. And in reverse, knowing my husband’s–and my heavenly Father’s–great love for me, I never want to deliberately cause them hurt.

And it’s because of God’s great and unconditional love that we can have a relationship with Him, one that leads to our internal (and external) change and to the promise of eternity with Him.

Real love is shown on an ongoing basis in how we treat others. In his great definition of love in I Corinthians 13:4-8a, Paul writes:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.”

Shari’s Berries from my Valentine

    Valentine’s Day flowers and Shari’s Berries are lovely and deeply appreciated; but if that’s all the expression of love we give or receive, there’s a long drought between expressions of love! The kind of love Paul speaks of is shown in daily service to others.
    • One of my favorite definitions of love was written by a boy of about six, who said “Love is when you know your name is safe in their mouth.” Wow! I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Don never speaks ill of me. My name is safe in his mouth, and I feel loved!

 

Love is reflected:

  • In my mother’s daily prayers for her children and grandchildren;
  • In my husband’s fixing the leak in our pantry wall, repainting and putting the shelves back on the wall, all without complaint – then helping me reload those shelves.
  • In the faithful prayers of God’s people for comfort and peace for the families of victims of this week’s school shooting in Florida;
  • In prayer and care–calls, food, respite–for those in need in our circles of influence, and for people around the world, hungry for the love and grace of God and His people.
  • By responding kindly to the woman who rudely told me to move my grocery cart in Safeway (at which I’m sorry to say I failed!).
  • In acts of service, in speaking up when someone expresses prejudice, in giving to help those who are ministering in ways I cannot, like the Mercy Ships and other Christians loving our world’s under-served.
  • In listening; in affirming others’ value; in extending grace to others, as grace has been given to me.
  • In telling others of God’s amazing love and desire for relationship with them.

What do you think? Why is love the greatest of these three?

Grief at Christmas

At a memorial for our dear friend this week, close friends celebrated Steve Stybor’s life and faith through sixteen years’ struggle with cancer. The pastor spoke of Steve’s love for Jesus Christ. Friends spoke of this man’s care for them, always wanting to know how THEY were doing in the midst of his own struggles. I experienced this too.

“How’re you doing Steve?”

“Not great. But how’s your shoulder healing?”

Steve made friends everywhere he went, from the Safeway clerks he knew by name, to the orderlies, nurses and doctors in the oncology ward and chemo unit, to friends at Bible Study Fellowship and at church.

We miss Steve. Conversations, shared memories, and his humor. He had two memorable caps he wore often: one embroidered with “Chemosabe;” the other with a fringe of fake red hair sticking out the top. Steve could laugh at himself as well as at, and with, others.

I expect some of you are either experiencing your own grief over the loss of a loved one, or know someone who is grieving this Christmas season. Somehow all the “firsts” hit especially hard as the loved one’s absence leaves a gaping hole as we go through the motions, hearts numb, minds unfocused, eyes either wet from unstoppable tears or dried out from the sobs that have already wracked our bodies.

So I thought I would repeat a blog I wrote two years ago.

It was Christmas, 2005. Eighteen days after my husband had moved from my arms into the waiting arms of Jesus.

All I wanted to do was crawl under a warm blanket for about three years, until the aching void in my heart had eased, the elephant on my chest been removed. But you can’t sidestep grief. I slept about eleven hours a night, often with a two or three-hour nap in the afternoon. The ache felt so HEAVY.  It weighed me down. In a daze, I moved from one thing to another, planning and communicating with friends about his memorial, filing for insurance and social security benefits, and taking care of immediate needs.

I thought my life was over. “How do you go on when half of you has been ripped away?” I sobbed. And yet, the very day of Jerry’s death God gave me Jeremiah 29:11 to claim as my own: “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.” I knew that withdrawing into myself would not honor either my Jerry or my God. I stumbled on, with a deep void I thought would never leave my heart, tears accompanying me to bed and again on waking, the body pillow I hugged a very poor substitute for that living, breathing man beside me. And yet, the God who is FAITHFUL and TRUE promised never to leave nor forsake me.

I felt His care through family and friends who loved on me, who didn’t try to “fix” me, who let me cry or talk or be silent or a distant guest, lost in my own thoughts as others laughed and talked around me. My brothers supported me in a myriad of ways during and after Jerry’s death. My nephew and niece, who rented an apartment from me, came to my back door every night for weeks, to check in and hug me. My sister-in-law and niece prepared and froze quite a few individual meals for me. On each Tupperware container was a scripture or note of encouragement. And, having been widowed three years earlier herself, Mom listened and prayed and grieved along with me.

A very loving note from my then five-year old niece

A very loving note from my then five-year old niece

As we celebrated Jerry’s life a few weeks after his death, I knew my family and many friends who also loved Jerry, grieved with me. But two days later, during our family Christmas, I felt like I was in a bottomless hole. With hollow, red-rimmed eyes, I watched others open gifts. Their muted affirmations of thanks swirled around me. I wasn’t quite “there.” This was my first Christmas in 24 years without his love, laughter and teasing, his presence, his gifts, and gifts for him. It seemed surreal that life could continue when mine had been so radically altered.

It must have been hard for my loving family to watch me, as they reached out to me with hugs and tears throughout the day. They were dealing with their own loss, of a son-in-law, brother-in-law, and uncle.

Friends expressed love in a variety of ways. The day after Christmas, a dear friend sat on the floor in front of me and listened. The first person to whom I told the whole story of Jerry’s last day on earth, she loved me by squeezing my hand and murmuring words of compassion as I spoke.

How about you? Are you lonely this Christmas? Can you reach out for help, to a friend, a local church, a counselor? Be with people who will allow you to grieve at your own pace and in your own way?

Conversely, if you know someone who is having a hard time this Christmas, look for ways to encourage them.

  • Don’t try to “fix” your friend. Listen meaningfully and hug appropriately.
  • And oh, avoid giving advice (unless asked) or telling the person “this must have been God’s plan.” A woman approached me very soon after Jerry’s death, asking “What is the Lord teaching you through this time?” She must have caught my look, which said “Teaching me? Friend, I’m just barely hanging on by my fingernails.” “Spiritualizing” is NOT helpful. Listening IS.
  • Prepare a meal, or invite them to attend something with you. (And if they say no, ask again later–they may not have been ready yet to do anything public.)
  • Send a card or note telling them you’re thinking of them.
  • Offer practical help, such as grocery shopping, a ride to an appointment, or help finding resources such as grief recovery groups.
  • Allow your friend the freedom to express anger, pain, disillusionment, whatever he or she feels, without judging or trying to challenge those feelings. They need to be expressed in a safe place. LISTEN!
  • If many others are asking how they can help, offer to be the point person to coordinate so the grief-stricken individual doesn’t have to handle logistics at this difficult time.
  • Pray for them.
    • Now.
    • On the phone.
    • In person.
    • Privately.
    • However the Holy Spirit suggests.

Click on the link below for more ways to help a grieving friend.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-devSupporting a Grieving Personine/death-and-dying_b_4329830.html

May you experience the love and comfort of our God, through Jesus Christ, no matter your circumstances, this Christmas season. “Immanuel” — God with us!