Category Archive: Grace

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The gifts have been unwrapped, wrapping paper has been cleaned up, joy-filled Christmas carols have been replaced by Easy Listening radio and Bowl games, and turkey leftovers are in the freezer.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!”

“Why?”

Dennis R. Fast

I’m pleased to introduce a guest blogger today. Dennis Fast has been a senior pastor for 35 years and is now working in several part time ministries in central California. He recently wrote this devotional for his church congregation. He graciously granted permission for me to share it with you. I found it helpful in giving perspective to the question of suffering in the world. Thank you, Dennis!

 

“In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

A few years ago Lee Strobel, author of A Case for Christ, commissioned a national survey and asked people what question they would ask if they could ask God one thing. The number one response was, “Why is there suffering in the world.”

I’m thinking of that today as it feels like the state of California is on fire.  That’s an overstatement, of course, but the devastation and loss from south to north is incredible.  One report called the fire in Napa and Senora counties a “once in a life time” fire.  And this on the heels of last week’s tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, preceded by unprecedented hurricanes in The Gulf, sandwiched between earthquakes in Mexico.

Strobel said in a printed sermon, “That “why” question is not a new one; it goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th Century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And the 21st Century didn’t start any better. There was 9/11, the Syrian slaughters, and on and on. Why do all of these horrific things happen if there’s a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people?

If you would like to read the full article/sermon by Lee Strobel go here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2012/july-online-only/doesgodallowtragedy.html?   But let me give you the five “points of light” that he shares in the article for your encouragement today:

The first point of light: God is not the creator of evil and suffering.

The second point of light: Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good.

The third point of light: The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.

The fourth point of light: Our suffering will pale in comparison to the good things God has in store for his followers.

The fifth point of light: We decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage.

We will never fully answer the question of “why” on this side of eternity.  But my prayer is that you will find some encouragement and hope today in the truth about God in his Word.  And I also pray that you can be a witness to the grace of God as you face the difficulties that God allows in your life.  When we face hardships, our hope is a powerful witness to the goodness of God and can draw others to discover the peace we have – the peace that so many long to experience.  It is easy to ask, “Why didn’t God create a perfect world?”  The answer is that he did, but that perfect creation has been marred over and over by the sins of choice that humans make each day.  Today, choose hope, choose joy, choose grace: choose Christ!

 

Carol Loewen Oct 11 (3 days ago)

It’s a Parade!

Nurse Paigey on my lap while I recover

I wish I’d had a long selfie stick to capture the moment. Following major surgery last week, I’d had quite a good day at home with lovely visits (and meals) from dear friends. I’d probably overdone it. That night, despite my medications, I was hurting significantly and couldn’t find a pain free position in which to sleep. At about midnight, I told Don I’d go sleep in the recliner in the family room.

Don said he would join me and followed me out of our room, pillows in hand. Walking down the hall, I heard the patter of softly padded paws trotting behind Don. Our little parade of 3 settled onto the recliners and slept thru the night, together. Every time that picture enters my mind I chuckle…this was family, working together toward recovery.

Before having total shoulder replacement surgery, both Don and I thought about the possibility of complications. When it came time, we each had to release our concerns to the Lord, trusting He knew our present and our future.
Afterward, my wonderful surgeon said all had gone well. Several times during the day and night following, I wakened to an enveloping sense of peace and quiet. And a sense of wonder infused my spirit. It was over. I was here. God was here. Don was here.

Now I’m home, with loving thanks to you who’ve sent cards, notes, called, and brought meals. My four-legged buddy has kept very close tabs on me since being home, cuddling up against me at night, sticking close during the day. My two-legged wonder, Don, even watched a shoulder replacement surgery with me online (well THAT explains the bruising!), cared for me, warmed meals, cleaned and laundered.

We have an amazing God who not only fashioned us within our mothers’ wombs, but has given man the tools and experience to rebuild damaged parts of the body. I give thanks!

So we’re into recovery. A day at a time. Grace for each day. Surrounded by love, trusting that I will also respond with grace when pain persists.

 

WHEN THE STORM OVERWHELMS

Harvey’s impact continues. This morning I saw a video of people and animals being rescued–beautiful horses who were caught in the underwater trees and couldn’t get free. The need is still overwhelming.

President Trump has declared Sunday, tomorrow, to be a NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER.

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 3, 2017, as a National Day of Prayer for the Victims of Hurricane Harvey and for our National Response and Recovery Efforts. We give thanks for the generosity and goodness of all those who have responded to the needs of their fellow Americans.”

And oh, how we need to gather together before the Father, corporately and individually, confessing our sin, our need, and crying out “Jesus, help us. Help our unbelief.”

I’ve wrestled with some tough questions in my own devastating times: Why is this happening to us? What is God’s purpose in suffering? And when friends asked me these questions, I was able to share that as believers we are not exempt from suffering in the world, from the effects of sin and illness. God has not promised to spare us, but He has promised “never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Heb 13:5, NIV), and to walk with us in all the paths of our lives, especially in the “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4, NIV).

Friends are dealing with critical illness, with crushing despair leading to harmful choices, with trying to access medical treatment with limited staff and facilities. How do we respond when the storm overwhelms, when it doesn’t seem to lessen? W. David O. Taylor wrote about this from within the storm. I am attaching a link to his article here.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/august-web-only/when-jesus-doesnt-calm-storm-hurricane-harvey-houston-flood.html?share=

Let’s join together Sunday in corporate prayer for those in need, and for all who are serving others selflessly in Houston and other impacted areas. Let’s pray, too, for God’s intervention in the lives of those we care for who are hurting and need the loving touch of the Father’s heart.

I wish you His peace.

Search me O God

I can see it (all)!

Dusty. Sweaty. Tired. Sore. Yup, I just cleaned and reorganized the pantry. And I can see everything I need at a glance. Wow!  I’ve actually left the pantry door open because it looks so neat! Salad and mixing bowls are on a lower shelf where Don and I can easily reach them. It’s several years since I’ve done a full-on job on this. I’ve stretched my sore shoulder to reach for bowls I needed. I’ve forgotten what I had, so bought more of the same. I’ve stored foods I’ll never use. It was time!

And then I think how my walk with Jesus is a little like this pantry. I get cleansed with confession, adoration, and praise; and then life butts in and I allow things back into my heart that I should reject–anger, worry, self-centeredness … I forget to confess something and carry it with me. And then my life feels chaotic, my mind cluttered, my heart not free.

And I forget God’s marvelous, unchanging grace! And yet, Jesus is always there ready to forgive and to cleanse me.

I’m going to try to keep my pantry clean and organized; but I know disorganization will creep in. I hope to use it as a reminder of any cleanup I need to do between my Father and me, or between myself and others.

But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins. (I John 1:9/TLB)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24/TLB)

I’m so thankful for GRACE!

 What reminds you of your need for ongoing grace?