Category Archive: Encouragement

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.

Hope for Women and Children in Crisis

Glass walls surrounded from floor to ceiling. With a 110-foot high domed ceiling above us, Don and I climbed the stairs to the mezzanine where h’ors d’oevres and drinks were being served. With a view of downtown San Jose all around the City Hall Rotunda, we met our friends Bonnie and Bill Fitzgerald, who had invited us to the Hearts of Gold Gala for Cityteam’s Women’s Ministries.

Following a delicious dinner and auction of donated experiences, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo spoke about the linkage of government and the faith community. San Jose has a homeless population of 4300 persons. Of those, about 1500 are women, often with children. These are among the most vulnerable, and he thanked Cityteam for their significant role in bringing hope and healing to many of these women and their children.

Cityteam President Glen Peterson also shared that the San Jose Cityteam Board just voted to add another 150 beds for women in need to the fifty currently available in their two women’s programs, Heritage Home and House of Grace.

Heritage Home helps pregnant women with both immediate needs and long-term solutions. Its structured program provides “housing, meals, clothes, strollers, car seats, and diapers in addition to mentorship, education, parenting classes, Bible studies, AA meetings, life transformation classes, and career workshops.” https://www.cityteam.org/san-jose/programs/

We heard the story of a young mother who has learned how to parent effectively and is very excited about raising her daughter with lots of love and an understanding of who Jesus is. This young woman has gained the tools necessary to move forward with hope. “My daughter never has to see me high, or stoned, any more … I can’t believe how much I love her,” she beamed.

House of Grace provides a “long-term, life transformation program” so that addicted, abused or homeless women can rebuild their lives while keeping their young children with them. The program “addresses chemical dependency, abusive relationships, and other self-destructive behaviors … women are mentored and taught how to rejoin the mainstream of community life and become productive citizens supporting themselves as well as their families.” (*) And their onsite nursery provides a safe and caring environment for newborn to five-year old children.

Both Don and I were deeply touched by the stories of lives changed because of the love of Jesus Christ and his people. Gala attendees were generous with their bids and gifts to help women in crisis find meaning, purpose, and life skills to help them reenter mainstream society.

And as Cityteam Vice President of Development, Michele Ruby, told us, each section of the Rotunda’s dome must be interlocked with its neighbor to provide the structural stability needed to hold the roof up. A beautiful analogy of the body of Christ. As Pastor Tim Wood said this morning, the shields of the Roman empire were not meant to protect only the soldier behind it; those shields interlocked so that a phalanx of guards could move forward in battle together, much stronger than any one of them alone. So when scripture talks about putting on the whole armor of God, it’s not just referring to what I do individually, but to how I am connected to others in the family of God for added strength and stability.

So last night we joined our shields together with Cityteam to serve women and children in need. May God bless them, every one!

Question: where are you linking your shield with others for added strength, stability and effectiveness?

Finding Treasures

Yard work – check. The large, ribbed periwinkle pot we took over to our new house has been replaced with a terracotta and green pot which looks inviting. Redwood chips were put down today, giving the new flowers a finishing touch. “Coming Soon” signs are up at the bottom of the hill and at our driveway, indicating our house will soon be on the market.

Packing – check. We have about 120 boxes packed so far. Today Don packed up his CD collection, players and sound, as well as technology items from inside the house. Yesterday Grace and I packed about 16 boxes, a new record!

I’ve emptied the credenza and most of our armoire; and will load wardrobe boxes from the moving company on Wednesday.

And I found a buried treasure yesterday! In going through shoe-boxes, one of which was filled with paperwork of Don’s, I found his wedding vows to me. I’ve been looking for those for about eight years, the length of our marriage. What he committed to me that day (and has lived out since) was so meaningful that I was sad I couldn’t find the written copy to have it in full. And there it was! I think this whole move may have been worth it just to find that gem! And finding it reminded me where our real treasure lies…in the love of God, family and friends, and the memories of those precious, irreplaceable moments in our lives.

Saturday we worshipped in our much-loved church, Twin Lakes in Aptos; we enjoyed pizza afterward with a group of friends whom we’ll miss!

But we’re beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. Through this long summer of packing and prepping, through a remodel and sale prep, God has been with us as he promised. While at times we’ve both been exhausted and a bit short, for the most part Don and I have supported and upheld and encouraged each other in our various responsibilities.

So another new season is about to begin. A new home, new neighborhood, finding a new church and fellowship and shopping and doctors and dentists…being nearer my mother and several other family members…having less property to care for and hopefully more time to write and also to take off together (and with Paigey) for the day, or to sit and watch the local wildlife from our back patio (bobcats, wild turkeys, deer…). More time to be still and enjoy our God, the beauty of his creation, and each other. The REAL treasures!

We look forward to what this new season will bring!

How about you? Finding, or reveling in, any treasures lately?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 ESV

The Lost is Found

“Look at what’s in front of you,” our friend Dave challenged me.

I looked at my husband’s hand, holding a glass of water. Was the water clearer than before? Don and Dave had worked in the yard most of the day.

“Your hand is shaking,” I said to my tired man.

“She’s not looking at the right thing,” Dave grinned.

I looked again. And there it was, right in front of me, on the third finger of Don’s right hand … the gold, sapphire and diamond ring Don lost in the yard about four months ago. He had missed it, having worn that particular ring from a former company for many years. But we had given up on ever finding it. The ring was significant, given to him by a company he enjoyed working with; and when the initials wore away and an insert fell off and was lost, we replaced them with a sapphire I had, and several small diamonds. Don wore it daily, including pruning and gardening in the dirt, and woodworking.

Today, as Dave raked leaves out by the well in preparation to put in a wooden walkway, he saw a shiny, perfect round something.

“Could there be a ring out here?” he asked Don.

“No, there’s no ring.” Don had looked long and hard for it at the time of its loss.

Dave raked over the leaves again, his mind holding onto what he’d seen.

“Did anyone ever lose a ring here?”

“Well yes, matter of fact, I did a few months back.”

Oh no, thought Dave. Now I’ve covered it again in the leaves and dirt and won’t find it … but there it was, on top of the leaves. Picking it up, he handed Don’s sentimental, handsome ring back to him. And we all rejoiced like the woman in scripture who searched for her lost coin and rejoiced and told her neighbors when she found it.

I thought how we had to give that ring up for lost before the Lord revealed it to us again. We had done that, let it go. And now, months later, God’s grace and Dave’s eagle eye spotted its shine in the dirt. Sometimes God challenges us to give up things that are important to us before he returns them, or something better, to us.  Not because he doesn’t want us to enjoy good gifts, but because our holiness – our focus on Him – is more important to him than our little pleasures.  And He so often develops our character through the challenges life brings our way. He wants the best for us, and the best is our relationship with and trust in Him.

And it is also precious that He cares even about the little things. And in the light of eternity, of world and personal tragedies, a lost ring is a little thing. But we are invited to “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” I Peter 5:7.

To what are you and I holding on?

We’re preparing to move this Fall. Much as we love our home in Soquel, the care for three acres is getting to be too wearing. We’re in that process of determining what to keep and what to let go of. Not always easy decisions when much of what we have comes from our travels, from people we love, from our own interests. But we are downsizing and will have to make some tough decisions. I pray that I will hold material things loosely, being wise in what to keep and what to release, for the good of others and our own benefit; and that I will trust God to lead in the process.

 

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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!