Category Archive: Encouragement

New Things

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

It’s a new year–new hopes, dreams, goals. Here are a few of mine.

New Year, New Hopes and Dreams
  • New understandings in my walk with God. I’ve rejoined a women’s Bible study that I dropped out of for health reasons over a year ago. I’m thrilled to be back with these lovely women as we seek God together.
  • Complete at least the first draft of a novel I’ve been writing for a looong time …
  • Increased depth in my relationships with God, Don, family and friends.
  • New vistas. We’ve had the Canadian Rockies on our bucket list for awhile and just reserved our place on a train and bus tour through those in Fall of 2019 (I almost typed 1919–whoa!).
  • Finding and getting involved in a church home in our new community.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'”  Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV)

HE is the reason for my hope as we enter this new year.

  • He knows all the troubles in the world–riots in Paris, persecution, especially of Christians in other parts of the world, turmoil.
  • He knows the discord and infighting in our own country.
  • He knows the tremendous losses that have occurred corporately and personally in floods and fires and because of the active presence of evil in our world.
  • He knows my days and has promised to lead me through each one.
  • He loves me, oh amazing truth! And because of that love, I have great hope.

What are you anticipating this year? Are you hopeful or disheartened, or both? I’d love to know.

Thanks-giving

Do you feel stuffed after all the delicious Thanksgiving vittles?

I’ve managed pretty well with food this week; but I do feel fat with friendship! There is much for which I’m thankful this weekend. For one, California has gotten rain, blessed rain, this week. While that makes it more difficult to look for human remains among the horrendous fires we’ve had this month, it helped contain the fires and clear the bad air quality that’s hovered over many of us. While we continue to pray for, and grieve with, those who have lost loved ones, homes and pets, it has been refreshing to see blue skies once again.

  • I’m thankful for a kind-hearted, gracious, fun and thoughtful husband
  • That my almost 97-year old mother is still with us
  • For loving families and friends
  • For our Paigey
  • For the desk my husband, his son and my nephew moved to our new home this week; so glad to be getting more organized and have increased usability
  • Most of all, I’m thankful that God loves me enough to pursue me, even when I feel distant from him. He gave his son, Jesus, to pay the price for my sins and to give me hope, a future, and the promise of eternal life with him.

And I realized something else. Now that Don and I live in an over-55 community, I’m using the “Nextdoor” internet application more than in the past. I found our new veterinarian through online recommendations. Don and I just made reservations to take Mom to a special event at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts for her birthday and Christmas (two days apart). She’s having increased difficulty walking, so I researched wheelchair rentals. Then I remembered the “Nextdoor” online site, where I posted a request to borrow or rent a wheelchair for one day. I’ve received about 15 responses, from “The Villages Medical Auxilliary loans them out free of charge;” to “I have one you can borrow.” What a wonderful resource! It is meaningful to have a community I can ask for recommendations, to borrow something, or for information.

I think we need a “Nextdoor” for local Christians. We could request input on challenges, ask for prayer, encourage each other, or seek practical help i.e. rides to church, meals for ill folks, respite for caregivers …

But wait! That’s what the Church is called to be. We’re exhorted to hold each other accountable, to pray for, hold each other up, encourage and challenge each other as we all grow into maturity in Jesus Christ.

The most meaningful relationships in my life have been those in which sharing was open and vulnerable and responses were loving, God-honoring, challenging me to be all God wants me to be in word, thought and deed. Trust is a key factor in this kind of relationship, which can be with a marriage partner or a same-gender friend. Confessing my faults, fears, hopes is not for the purpose of gossip or even of sharing externally for “prayer,” but to open myself to another so God can work His life more deeply into mine, knowing what is shared remains inviolate.

And so I am thankful for my husband and for those women God has put into my life for mutual encouragement. Some of you know who you are. Thank you! I can be deceived and give in to wrong thinking or actions. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (NIV)

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 NIV

Question: How have others encouraged or challenged you in your faith? Have you thanked them for building into your life?

 

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