Category Archive: God’s Promises

“He sets the Lonely in Families…”

As we hosted our grandniece Savannah last weekend, she, Don and I talked a great deal about missions. Savannah felt God’s call five years ago. Since then she has gone on several interim mission trips and continued her nursing in preparation to go overseas, her commitment remaining strong. Together we delighted over a mouth-watering Thai dinner of Fresh Spring Rolls, Tom Kha (coconut soup), Panang Curry, Broccoli Beef, and brown rice. The next morning we breakfasted at home with bacon and eggs, rolls and fruit. We laughed a lot and enjoyed worshiping together. Don and I shared our love story, and Savannah told us how she is preparing for her ministry assignment. It didn’t seem we would ever run out of things to talk about.

Later Sunday evening we met members of my family, including my New York niece, Nicholee and her son Calum, who is entering his senior year of high school. They were in California exploring film schools, Calum’s interest. What a delight to catch up on the lives and future plans of these two, whom we last saw four years ago.

And yesterday Mom and I attended a baby shower for my niece Janae, who is expecting her and Leon’s first child in November. Our family continues to grow and diversify. Between both sides of our families we have members from New York to South Carolina to Virginia to Texas, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, here in California, and in Canada – and in future, in other parts of the globe. I’m grateful God has put us in families. He created us to be in community, understands our need for companionship, and provides that in more than one way.

I’m thankful that God’s children, those who are Christ-followers, are another kind of family, one of faith in the blood and redemption of Jesus! Even those without traditional “family” members can still be a part of a family, a community of faith. And within that community we can hopefully find the kind of support, affirmation and love we hope to find in our natural families. No, God’s family members aren’t perfect – far from it, matter of fact. But we’re forgiven and so are also learning to forgive and love each other along a common path. Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”

Family Reunion in 2012

My family has loved and supported me through all the seasons of my life: childhood, schooling, college, ten years of ghetto ministry, marriage at the age of 36 and widowhood at 57; and remarriage at 62. They traveled across the country to support my late husband and me while he was trying to recover from a transplant. And while two brothers helped me carry Jerry’s ashes back home after he passed into the waiting arms of Jesus, two walked me toward my new husband, Don, and a new life five years later.

We’ve had our disagreements, some significant. But we’ve loved each other enough to work through those and to value relationship over “same thinking”. I love both my natural and my faith-families.

So what’s the best part about the family(ies) you’re in?

May God be with you in whatever relationships you are experiencing; and with those of you sending your children off to another year of school. Hold them close, and teach them to fly!

P.S. I told you I’d let you know what color we chose for the living and dining rooms of our new home (move to come in two and a half weeks). It’s a beautiful aqua grey–and as our realtor pointed out to me, almost exactly the same color I’ve been wearing on my fingernails recently. I guess I’m consistent!

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)

On the Road Again

Thirteen hours on the road Thursday, traveling from California, through Nevada, Oregon and into Idaho for Noah’s high school graduation. We’ve made this trip three times in the past four years for four grandchildren’s grads. The road has become quite familiar. Our “regular stops” along the way included the Donner Summit Rest Area; a Shell station off Hwy 80 in Sparks; the small, smoky casino in McDermott on the Nevada-Oregon border; and the Sinclair station in Jordan Valley, Oregon.

Snow-capped peaks reflected sun back to us in northern California. Enormous, stunning granite rocks lay beside the road.

In Eastern Oregon we could see the road ahead, perfectly straight for over fifteen miles.

Fascinating Oregon Clouds

We traveled through deserts of sage brush, sandy soil, rolling hills. We looked down onto a beautiful green and tan valley. I saw animals in the shapes of the beautiful clouds. Sometimes we could see the road ahead of us clearly. Occasionally a big truck inhibited both view and speed as we exercised patience and slowed down.
So in life we face beauty and obstacles, clear paths and blind turns. For many years, one of my big blinds was my singleness. While I knew God had a purpose for me right where I was, my heart’s desire was to marry and share my life with someone. Sometimes I wept, lonely for a heart connection. I told God “I only need one man, Lord. Only one.” (And in His grace He’s given me two wonderful husbands.) But trusting Him didn’t always come easy. Giving my desires, my needs back to the God who created them within me was an ongoing process.
Along our drive trees provided some shade from the noonday heat. Sometimes there was just sage brush and sun. In the same way, at times God has covered me with blessing and joy in relationships and ministry; at other times there was just loneliness. But He has been there with me through it all.

Don with Victor’s family (minus the grad) and Dan, prior to graduation

This week I traveled with two companions, my beloved husband and his oldest son. We engaged in both conversation and quiet; both were welcome.

My high school graduation was memorable.

My college grad was even more so. My boyfriend broke up with me the night before (yeah, that was a bummer)! But I was determined he would not spoil this significant day. I walked across the amphitheater stage to receive my diploma, head held high. When my brother Arnold came up to me afterward, knowing the pain I felt, he picked me up and whirled me around in congratulatory love. A special moment. And God’s plan for me was so good, better than what I anticipated at the time.

Now Don and I were in Idaho, anticipating grandson Noah’s graduation and transition into a new season of his journey.

I look forward to another graduation too. At the memorial service for the mother of a dear friend, the pastor spoke about how Gerry had graduated, reached her goal, completed her race. As Jesus followers, our goal is to be with Christ forever; and transitioning from this life to the next will be my greatest graduation, with unimaginable surprises on the other side.

My father, my late husband, a nephew, and friends I love have all preceded me into Jesus’ presence. And I expect you have loved ones waiting for you too. Can you imagine the reunion we will enjoy? Not only with those who have gone before whom we love, but also with Old Testament saints, with the apostles Peter, John, Paul and the rest. With John Newton, who wrote “Amazing Grace” after being redeemed out of a dissolute life of slave trading to a life of service to God. Probably with many we didn’t expect to be there. But that’s God’s grace, freely given to all who trust in Jesus’ atonement for us.

What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see

When I look upon his face, the one who saved me by his grace

And he takes me by the hand,

Leads me to the promised land.

What a day, glorious day that will be. (James Hill, 1955)

 

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.

The Wisdom of Leaning

Yes, leaning.

Who are the people we tend to look up to, admire, want to follow? Generally, it’s the strong; the leader; the successful entrepreneur or the woman who always appears put together.

And yet, sometimes the wisest, and strongest, thing we can do is recognize our weakness and lean in–to Jesus, to others–for help, support, guidance.

The apostle Paul recounts asking God several times to heal him of a physical affliction. In II Corinthians 12:9-10 he shares the message he got back. “Each time he (God) said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God’s ways are so opposite of our North American “can-do” mentality, our focus on independence. When something in our lives isn’t working, we try harder, like the little train that could. Only sometimes we can’t. And God doesn’t want us to try apart from Him. I sometimes find it a challenge to step back from my own striving to say “I can’t do this; can’t help this person; can’t change this situation. Only You can, so help me lean into You and allow You to work without my getting in Your way.”

We’re instructed to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:17 (NIV) God never planned for us to carry our burdens alone. He has promised to guide, instruct, counsel and love us. We have this great resource wholly available to us. But how often do we forget, or neglect, to call on Him for help?

Sometimes wisdom is just leaning into Jesus, trusting His heart even when I can’t see His hand at work. There was a time when I couldn’t see the next step ahead, when I felt devoid of hope, unsure of what to do, in a mire of despondency, confusion and despair. While I trusted God, I had no strength left with which to hold onto Him. But scripture, and truths I’d learned from His Word, assured me that He would not let me go even when I couldn’t hang on even by the tips of my fingers. During that time He gave me a song, to which I clung.  I listened to it every night for at least three weeks before going to sleep. Here are the lyrics, and a link to the song as sung by the Gaither Vocal Band.

 

In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face,

While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place.

‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Chorus Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,

Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;

Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try,

For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”

But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise

Where the storms never darken the skies.

Chorus Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,

Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;

Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

When the long night has ended and the storms come no more,

Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore;

In that land where the tempest never comes, Lord, may I

Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.

Chorus Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,

Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;

Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

I want to be wise enough to lean into my Lord and Savior, trusting Him through the storms and joys ahead; and to rejoice as He leads me through this new year. Won’t you join me?