Category Archive: Hope

CONDUCT UNBECOMING – OR WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL?

“You signed off on this. Get over it.” My first (mental) reaction was defensive. Our neighbor, Jane, had approved our plan for solar installation prior to its approval by the Architectural Review Committee for our community. Now she hated it. Some of the equipment was on the outside of our garage, which she saw every time she walked out of her front door.

It seemed every time she saw Don or me, she’d comment “That’s ugly.” But she never proposed, or even asked for, a solution. Her words and dour facial expression were getting a bit old.

Don drew up sketches of a plan to cover the equipment and make the wall more palatable to Jane. We submitted them to the architectural control committee (ACC) and the next day, got a call from one of the committee members.

The committee liked our plan but thought it would be good to meet together with Jane to ensure she was on board. We said absolutely! So that afternoon Jane, Don and I met with Mary and another committee member, looking at the wall and the plan.

I had prayed that God would control my initial defensive response because after all, our desire is to be a reflection of Jesus to our neighbors, to build bridges, not walls. He answered that prayer. Don presented his plan well. And he is just calmer than I am. I tend to get a fire lit inside myself pretty easily at times.

I can get huffy when others disagree with or dislike something I’ve done.

But what is my end goal?

Is it to be right … or to be righteous? Is it to win … or to love?

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

Is my conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ? (Philippians 1:27a)

I was reminded of this question through the situation with Jane. And yes, we came up with next steps. We haven’t finished working through the issue yet, but we do have approval from both Jane and the ACC. My prayer is that when the adjustments are completed, Jane will realize that we care about her, respect her concerns, and that she will be more open to us.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 12:18, NIV

Back to the Ranch

I wish I could capture mornings at Rancho Santa Marta. The air is crisp and cool—cooler than we expected! Birdsong of different species fills our ears with the hope of a new day. I look out our door to see three horses in the paddock. Somehow, because of different environmental allergens, my vision here is superb and I can almost count the leaves on the Ranch’s trees.

We’re up at 5:30 am for group devotions at 6:00, followed by breakfast and the workday ahead. Don and I walk out of our room, down the cement steps and along the dirt road to the dining area.

Peter leads devotions for our group, talking about cracked pots–you and me, and some days, especially me! Each of us is a vessel (an “instrumento”) designed for service. The apostle Peter instructed that “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” I Peter 4:10 NIV.

My lovely amiga Julia grew up at the Ranch and is now studying Film at University

We’re once again in a beautiful part of God’s world in Baja, Mexico, about 60 miles south of Ensenada, with people we love and a ministry to under-served children that touches our hearts.

Don leading men in construction projects

And our team’s gifts are many and varied, including:

  • Cooking
  • Construction
  • Craft-making
  • Painting
  • Puppetry
  • Photography
  • Project Management and
  • Administration.

All pitch in to help cook and clean.

Some who have never worked in construction learn new skills as our team builds trusses, hoists them onto the roof of the last two high school classrooms here, and covers the trusses with plywood sheeting, ready for the next volunteer team to move the project forward.

Photo courtesy of Larry Trice

About 38 children live on the property in four homes, each with house parents. Additionally, about 200 children are bused in for school daily from up to 60 miles away. Teachers who could earn much more in the public school system give of their hearts and minds to these children who need to know Jesus’ love, expressed through men and women who are His hands and feet on earth. The students are trained according to their special needs.

We’re getting tired. And yet every time Don and I come here we are so glad to be back in this place where children we have learned to love are given a safe haven in which to learn and grow. The needs for external and internal healing are great, and God’s love and grace are part of the curriculum.

This week’s projects, led by different team members, included the following:

  • Built and erected 38 trusses for the last two high school classrooms on the Ranch.
Covering the trusses with plywood sheeting
  • Led four craft sessions, one for each children’s residence.
  • Conducted puppet and chalk talk demonstrations in many of the elementary school classrooms.
  • Built and installed shelves in a new and expanded room for clothing and shoe distribution.
  • Trimmed and thinned peach trees in the orchard.
  • Prepared, cleaned up, and ate three wonderful squares a day to keep us going.
  • Enjoyed games and music some evenings.
  • Had a Pinata and S’mores party with the resident children, followed by dinner in the four homes.
Enjoying dinner in one of the girls’ residences

Saturday we leave RSM at 5 am to head for the border and back to our “normal” lives, a little bit richer for having been here once again – year ten for Don, and nine for me.

God bless the directors, teachers, staff, house parents and children at Rancho Santa Marta until we see you again!

www.ranchosantamarta.org/

post by carolnl | | 4

Faithful and True

There’s just something about a girlfriends’ weekend such as I enjoyed a week ago.

Fritz, Shirley and I talked about our lives and concerns, and reminded each other how God has shown up in a variety of situations.

And we raised questions. Why is evil so rampant in our world … from the horrific bombings in churches where Christians celebrated the resurrection on Easter Sunday to the synagogue shooting in Poway, California a few days ago. Why are some young lives cut short? And does God really bring good out of evil?

Sunday morning we stood in church singing “You are perfect in all of your ways … ” That truth ministered to me in a meaningful way as I recalled difficult times in my own life–a controlling leader who caused significant physical and emotional pain in my life, and the agonizing loss of my first husband, to name just two. And yet, God is perfect, holy, righteous. He could have stopped each of these events, but didn’t.

Sickness and dysfunction are present in our world ever since the Fall of man. Evil exists and people suffer.

Sometimes we see God bring miraculous healing and closure. Other times we see Him give grace beyond comprehension, as when some of the church members in Charleston forgave Dylann Roof, the man who attended Bible study and then murdered eight of their number in 2015.

And yet sometimes we can’t see how God is working in a situation. That’s when we can choose to trust that He is “perfect in all of His ways,” that in light of eternity there is always hope, even beyond understanding, beyond despair. When my first husband died, I wanted to curl up in a shell and withdraw from life. But I knew that would not honor either Jerry or my Lord, and that since I was still here, God’s purpose and plan for me was not over. I chose to trust that He would bring me through, that hope would return, that when my faith was at its lowest He would hold me.

No copyright infringement intended

Evil, heartbreak, horror exist and we are touched by it. But God is present with us in every circumstance and He is just. And one day His justice will reign down, evil will be conquered, and righteousness will reign. Wow, what joy!

There are many questions we won’t understand until we see our God face to face. Meanwhile, we can trust the One who is faithful and true.

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

Deuteronomy 32:4 NIV

Heart Friends

This weekend I was renewed by time together with two close girlfriends, Fritz and Shirley. It is a real privilege and joy to have heart friends who know our history, have walked with us through good and hard times, and have encouraged us along the way.

On Friday, we drove through the foothills to Three Rivers, a long town in the California Sierras bordered by a roaring river on the left and hill country on the right. Crossing a bridge, we turned into the Gateway Lodge and Inn and were seated at a window table overlooking the raging white waters.


The best part of our visit was meaningful conversations amid the beauty of God’s creation. We talked about families, dreams, husbands, concerns and, well, heart issues.We encouraged and committed to pray for each other’s current concerns.

Some of the ways these friends, and others, have encouraged me include the following:

  • Flying across country to support me when, with an ill husband, I was in a hospital 3000 miles away from home.
  • Praying for me.
  • Listening to me recount the most difficult day of my life, without interruption.
  • Loving me when I was at my lowest, hurting at the loss of the man with whom I thought I would grow old. Fritz said to me today, “You wonder, when a friend is grieving, what can you do to help? Did you say the right thing? Did you say enough?” I told her they ministered to me just by loving me, and that was enough.
  • Encouraging me to build new memories in an environment I shared with the person I just lost.
  • Working through their own feelings about a new relationship and learning to love the new man in my life.
  • Reminding me of special moments, and helping me laugh.
  • Helping hold me accountable for choices I make, and reminding me of God’s faithfulness to me in the past.
  • Giving me wise perspective on decisions I am making in our new community.

Fritz and Shirley helped me think through issues such as what church we want to be part of since our move. My friends talked about God’s gracious gift to me of a second husband whom I adore and who my friends also love; as we talked, the truths shared around table and in the car spoke wisdom and challenge into my spirit.

I’d felt unsettled in the church we considered being part of. Before service Sunday I prayed that God would change my heart toward this body of believers. There was nothing wrong with the church … it just was different than the last two marvelous churches we’ve been part of, and I wasn’t handling the differences well.

Sunday morning’s service was tremendously uplifting, the sermon challenging. And I felt God changing my heart. I know this was at least in part because my girlfriends spoke truth to me.

Tres Amigas

So I have been renewed in mind and spirit. I am grateful for my heavenly Father who answers prayer and who gives me heart friends to encourage, challenge and strengthen me.

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” Proverbs 27:9, NIV

How has a friend encouraged or challenged you recently?

Home

Jesus, Lord and Savior, is alive!

My seven-year old grand nephew stepped into the house.

“He is risen,” I said to his parents. With a brilliant smile, young Cole responded. “He is risen indeed!”

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Oh, how I delighted in hearing this child echo those precious words. The Cross is empty, and Jesus is alive! In conquering death, He gave us hope, for now and eternity.

Bill and Gloria Gaither penned these familiar words.

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know who holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.”

I’m reading a wonderful novel in which a 29-year old mother of three, engaged to a kind, loving man after having been in an abusive marriage, dies without warning. Here’s how the author, ___, describes her death.

“She turned away, and in the space of a breath, her spirit defied the bounds of the room’s four walls, the roof of the house, then the limits of earth and the boundaries of the heavens themselves.

“She became aware of a holy presence, surrounding her, embracing her. And a beloved voice that spoke a name she did not know, yet somehow recognized as her own.

“She moved closer, into the arms of the One who beckoned. And in that moment she knew.

“She was home.”

A NEST OF SPARROWS, Deborah Raney

Home!

Raney reminds us that death is not just a leaving, an end, but a going toward.

I cherish my life, filled with love, family, friends, the beauty of nature, our home and dog, memories, laughter, worship, joy, challenges, opportunities to learn and grow and give. And yet, “I can only imagine” what that sense of wholeness, of being “home” will be like when I pass from this earth to eternity and see Jesus face to face. And I won’t want to leave the ultimate joy and pleasure of being in God’s presence.

May you have hope today because He lives!

She was home.