Category Archive: Blessings

OVERFLOWING GRACE

Three years ago our church celebrated one hundred twenty-five years of ministry. The weekend was a time to celebrate God’s grace in the familial life of Twin Lakes Church. And celebrate we did!

  • Slide shows celebrating the history of TLC.
  • Rene’s memorial book of past church minutes – eleven members and 19 cents in the account, but “all bills paid”!
  • Birthday cakes (couldn’t pass that up!).
  • Remembrances past and present, many sweet, some difficult, like the nine years the church lay dormant between 1914 and 1923.
  • Pastor Rene reminded us of how God has led TLC. Only by His grace could eleven people rekindle the church during the Great Depression of the ‘30s and see it develop and nurture the community for the past eight-five consecutive years. “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” I Samuel 7:12.

Rene’s challenge? When you find yourself in a waiting room with God, not knowing what the future holds, wondering whether God will be faithful to you, remember what He has done in the past. Remember, and hope. Remember, and live.

When I joined an inner city ministry at twenty-one, I trusted God would be faithful in the midst of poverty, crime, violence, and broken families. And through the next ten years I experienced His faithfulness as He drew children, teens and adults to Himself; as He protected us in numerous volatile situations; and as He showed Himself strong in our weakness.

God’s promise encouraged my heart

When my beloved husband passed away at the age of sixty-six, I held onto God’s promises, knowing He had been faithful to me in the past and that His work for me was not complete. “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 became my watchword, the first scripture God brought to my mind after Jerry passed into His loving arms. I was in the waiting room Rene talked about. Who am I now? What does God have for my future? I felt helpless, lonely, bereft. But I could reflect back on God’s faithfulness in difficult situations before, and I knew HE had not changed.

And when He brought me together with another wonderful man a few years later, I was again in His waiting room. “Is this your plan? Should I remarry or do you have work for me to do as a single person? Am I willing to risk being widowed again?” As the Father grew Don’s and my love for each other, I looked back on His faithfulness, the ways He led even in challenging times in my first marriage.  I knew I had memorial stones to rely on, reminding me of God’s grace in times of need.

Are you in a waiting room? How has God met you, provided grace, in the past? He never changes. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. “ Hebrews 13:8.  His character, His love for you and me, will never change. Despite what may come, He will be faithful to extend grace for each situation. May you experience His peace today, trusting His grace for tomorrow.

Unexpected Time

“If you’re calling to check when you need to report for jury service, press 1 …”

I did.

“As of this time you are not needed to serve. Check back tomorrow after 5 pm.”

I’d been on call for federal jury duty for eight days without having to report in. Friday was almost the last day of my on-call status and, guess what, I commuted over the hill to San Jose to check in at 7:45 am!

But these last eight days have given me the gift of unexpected time. I kept my calendar clear, knowing I might be unavailable. As a result, I’ve read more, filed for renewal of Don’s passport, visited with Mom, and picked up olive oil and flavored balsamic vinegars (how does chocolate balsamic sound to you? Or lemongrass mint?). I reorganized the pantry after Don repaired a leak, removed and replaced part of the wall.

AFTER – So much fun to paint!

Don and I relaxed on the porch glider, catching up on our respective days’ work. And I sat on the corner of our front deck, skies sunny and blue, and chalk painted a small table and desk. This was a new project for me and I loved doing it. Not quite finished, but the basic painting is done; I will add a few more stenciled paint areas and then seal the pieces.

Twenty years ago I had allergies (to grass, trees, weeds, chemicals and lots of other things) that were so severe I lived indoors. I couldn’t sit outside without getting sick. So imagine my gratitude at the blessing of being able to enjoy these lovely and renewing moments in God’s creative beauty.

Unexpected time–how do we use it? One of those mornings I thought of what I wanted to accomplish,  including delivering a Valentine’s gift from Don and me to Mom. After stopping at the library, I called her. She was eager for company and had a Bible study in an hour; had I called a bit later she would have been out of the house. When we’re open to God’s leading for our day, He opens doors, like the timing of my call to Mom. So Paigey and I buckled in and enjoyed seeing Mom open her Shari’s Berries, which she graciously shared with me.

I just read an article entitled “What would you do if you had twenty minutes to live?” It focused on the fear and panic after the recent mistaken account of a missile headed to Hawaii. One of my FB friends reported that his 11- or 12-year old grandson called from Hawaii to say he loved them, and goodbye. That’s overwhelming! Fortunately this was a false alarm. But the fear and panic were real.

So what would I do if I knew I had twenty minutes to live? I’m not sure … I would want to say goodbye to dear ones, would want to hold/be held by Don, caress Paigey. I’d also want to challenge those dearest to me who aren’t walking with Jesus to commit their lives to Him. Twenty minutes isn’t a lot of time.

I need to live now as if my life might end tonight. Which it could. I need to live for Jesus Christ; to tell my loved ones how precious they are to me; and not to wait until the “last minute,” which may come without warning.

Here’s the Apostle Paul’s challenge:

We try to live in such a way that no one will ever be offended or kept back from finding the Lord by the way we act, so that no one can find fault with us and blame it on the Lord. II Corinthians 6:3

So, if you had twenty minutes to live, how would you use them?

The Wisdom of Words

         Golden apple by krzysiu                    “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

Whoever said “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me” was wrong–way wrong. Sometimes the deepest wounds are those caused by the sharp blade of hurtful words.

When I was around ten years old, a neighbor said I was “pleasantly plump.” Those words, meant well, have never left me. Who wants to be “pleasantly plump?” Words can cower a woman, destroy her spirit.  An abusive husband can tell a woman she’s worthless, never affirm her in her business or homemaking skills, or tell her she is important to him. A husband whose wife degrades him in front of others shows by words and actions that she doesn’t respect him. A child’s parents may tell him he has big ears, is lazy, stupid, uncoordinated.

Words can be either a blessing or a curse. Sometimes I ask God to give me the wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent. Proverbs 10:19 warns against too many words: “Don’t talk too much, for it fosters sin. Be sensible and turn off the flow!” (NLT) A tremendous gift given to me after my first husband died was the attentive ear of a dear friend, who spent several hours sitting on the floor while I poured out my heart, talking about Jerry’s last day and his death. Her words were few, but precious. “Mmmmm ….”, “Oh my”, “I’m so sorry.” Sometimes listening in silence is the greatest gift we can give others.

Gossip destroys people and reputations. Lies and flattery hurt by raising false hopes; perverse or crude words bring others (as well as the speaker) down. And angry words destroy. It’s been said that the one thing you can never take back is your words. Once they have left the mouth they are always out there, never to be pulled back in. Thankfully, we can repent, we can ask those we’ve hurt to forgive us; but the damage can never be erased.

Another close friend ministered to me through words. A nurse, she told me how to read Jerry’s vital signs on the monitor and what each meant; how to know when his health was getting critical. So both silence and words can be a tremendous gift to others.

Wise words are a blessing. Proverbs 16:24 says it beautifully: “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (NLT) With our lips we praise God; and with our lips we encourage and influence others.

It was my eighth grade civics class. Our amazing teacher, Mrs. Goolsby, returned the graded tests to each of the students in the class, except me. What could have happened?

“Carol, I’d like you to stay after class for a few minutes.”

Mrs. Goolsby told me, in private, that I had failed the test. I was a reasonably good student, so this didn’t make sense to either of us. She questioned the process I’d used in answering the true/false questions and together, we figured out I had crossed out the right answer rather than crossing out the wrong one and leaving the correct one showing. When she re-graded the test with this criteria I had passed. But her words were kind, her heart discerning to understand what had gone wrong, and I knew she believed in me. Words of honey! And with her words, she influenced me for good.

The bottom line, as Pastor Val said last week, is that our words reveal our hearts.

Do you recall a time when words were either a curse or a blessing to you? How has that impacted your life?

“May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14 (NLT)

Love, Commitment and a New Year

The gifts have been unwrapped, wrapping paper has been cleaned up, joy-filled Christmas carols have been replaced by Easy Listening radio and Bowl games, and turkey leftovers are in the freezer. Today we’re taking down the tree.

As we enter a new year, many will make resolutions, many of which will go by the wayside before the end of the month. It is good, however, to reflect on the past year and consider where we might want to make changes.  Some of my goals, not resolutions, for 2018:  to know Christ better; to love and serve my husband, family and others; to build relationships and focus on presence.

And as I think of some memories from this Christmas just past, I am incredibly grateful for family.

It was the anniversary dance at my niece’s celebration of marriage. Don and I, who are not dancers, enjoyed holding each other and swaying to the music. We sat down pretty quickly, at “married ten years or less” (our eighth anniversary is this month).

The DJ kept counting.

“If you’ve been married fifteen years or less, sit down.” Some did.

“If you’ve been married twenty … twenty-five … thirty-two … thirty-seven …”

Of about twenty couples who started the dance, only two remained on the floor: my second oldest and my youngest brothers and their wives. My oldest brother would have been there too, had his wife been able to join us that day. Bob and Sheila left the dance floor at “forty or less”, while Arnold and Carol remained center stage until the DJ said “If you’ve been married fifty years or less …”

Dad & Mom, married 58 years

I loved seeing my brothers and sisters-in law out there, a testimony to the grace of God and to commitment over the long haul.

Bob’s tender gaze as he danced with Sheila touched my heart.

Carol had a life-changing stroke five years ago. Her mobility is limited, despite her determination to regain health and strength, to relearn the use of muscles and processes from walking, to using her hands. So to see the love she and Arn share, the laughter and joy they express with each other, and to see them standing, Carol dependent on Arnold for stability, on the dance floor after fifty years of marriage was especially meaningful. And to have the last two couples on the dance floor be two of my brothers and sisters-in-law touched my heart with thanksgiving. It speaks to the values we have learned from our parents, from our understanding of God’s principles about love and commitment, and to the grace of God in our family’s life. Each of us has faced hardships. We’ve lost family members we treasured. Marriages have gone through difficult challenges. But our commitment to God and family has kept us together, and I thank God for His grace in each of our lives and marriages.

So as we move into this new year, I pray God’s grace on each of us, and on you, my dear readers. Grace for each day, each trial, each joy, each marriage and family. As Tiny Tim so aptly said, “God bless us, everyone!”

Generosity … of Life and Spirit

I walked into her home, my mind and tummy anxious, swirling with confusion, a decision needing to be made. The last thing I wanted was to visit someone I’d never met. And yet, as Ilene greeted me at the front door, I felt a sense of calm settle over me. There was something about her, something I couldn’t even define, that spoke peace. I think it was generosity of spirit, a warmth that took me in right where I was, dark thoughts notwithstanding, and helped me to feel at home.

Have you met anyone like that? Someone whose very presence stilled your soul?

In talking about living a richer life, our church has focused on generosity. So often we think of giving in terms of finances–and that’s important. There are a myriad of needs that go far beyond what I can help; but I can help. I can give to the Food Bank or purchase a gift for a child of a parent in prison; I can contribute to special giving projects, or hand out small food packets to men and women asking for help along my routes to and from the grocery store. I can give to a fresh water project in a third world country; a goat or chickens for a family struggling to make a living to raise something that can bring in income as well as food products for themselves.

And generosity goes beyond that. Ilene’s extension of her peace to my heart was a tremendous gift at that particular time in my life. There is something about a generous spirit, especially one that radiates the love of Jesus Christ, that shines light into the darkness around us. The prophet Isaiah promised that “People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light; Sitting in that dark, dark country of death, they watched the sun come up.”

What’s your life purpose? Mine? I love how THE MESSAGE expresses this in Matthew 5:13-16.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth … You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you?Shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

Generosity stems from recognizing the free gift of God, celebrated in this holy season when the true light exploded into the darkness with the birth of Jesus Christ, Savior of all mankind.

  • He gave us His Son, a gift of unconditional, overarching love from the Creator to the created.
  • He gave us forgiveness through the Cross.
  • He gave us eternal life that starts the moment we receive His free gift of salvation.
  • He gives grace, day by day, for the challenges we face.
  • He gives joy that goes much deeper than happiness, joy that is rooted in knowing Him.
  • He gives peace that stems from knowing He is in control and has our best at heart.

So at those times when resentment creeps into my heart because someone may take my generosity farther than I intended, I want to use the opportunity as a thank offering to God for all He’s done for me, and for stretching me beyond my comfort zone.

Let’s SHINE this Christmas with the light, life, and giving heart of our God.

Question: Is it easier for you to give money or practical help, or to give of yourself with time and presence? I’d love to discuss.