Category Archive: Hope

Thanksgiving – Today, or Every Day?

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”

(Psalm 95:1-2 NIV)

 

Thankfulness has been scientifically shown to have significant health benefits, including an increase in happiness. But to receive its highest value, we need to SHOW our thanks, not just feel it. As pastor and author Tim Keller states, “It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.”

So as we enter this Thanksgiving week, I’m reflecting on the things for which I am grateful. And they are many.

  • For Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, who enfolded me into His family, who died and rose again so that I might have a relationship with Him now and for eternity. Who enabled me to move forward after the most devastating loss of my life, into a new life of love, joy, service, and community.
  • For Mom and Dad, who loved me unconditionally, even when I hurt them by actions or choices, and who taught me as a child to love Jesus.  Who provided a secure home foundation as well as resources for me to grow in faith and in life. Who pray for me, and their other children, daily.
  • For three loving brothers, Melvyn, Arnold and Robert, and their wives Vicky, Carol and Sheila, who have always had a significant presence in my life, and who have walked with me through significant joys and sorrows.
  • For Sunday School and public school teachers who taught, challenged, encouraged me to learn and grow and study and pass on what I learned that impacted my life.
  • For single missionary to Nigeria, Katherine Dick, whose life showed me that service to God was a joy rather than simply a duty.
  • For two loving husbands, Don and Jerry, both of whom love(d) me well, sacrificially, joyfully; with whom I delight in sharing life; and who work(ed) with me through the difficult times all marriages face.
  • For two precious daughters-in-faith, Grace and Tanith, who give me deep joy as I watch them develop their own walks with God, and who love me back.
  • For grandnephew Joshua, visiting from London these past two weeks, who helped Don put my new desk together and taught me a great deal more about my online presence and possibilities.
  • For my writing mentor, Karen, and my writing critique group members who hold me accountable and critique my work to make it better and more impactful.
  • For sorrow, without which I might not recognize–or appreciate as deeply–joy.
  • For my dear friends, who have stood with me through good and bad times, who have forgiven me when needed, who have invited me into their hearts and lives. You know who you are, and I thank you!
  • My readers, who take the time to let me know if something touches them, or if there is something I say with which they disagree.

And there’s more! Our country, the wonderful church Don and I are part of, a home, food, clothing, friendships, our sweet doggie …  laughter, tears, the ability to think, walk, see, hear, smell …

Charles Stanley: “Gratitude produces deep, abiding joy because we know that God is working in us, even through difficulties.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!” 

So, as we enjoy the food and festivities of this special day (and every day), have you expressed your thanks to others? If not, I challenge you to do so–for both your benefit and theirs!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

 

 

 

So What’s Next?

The right engine died. The warning light flashed. “Turn off the generator.” As Captain KD Jost lifted his hand to hit the button, following protocol, he heard a voice. “Don’t hit the button.” Trained in the exact steps to follow in an emergency, KD hesitated. Once again he heard, “Don’t hit that button.” As he pulled his hand away from the button, the plane’s left engine stopped. Had KD turned off the generator the plane would have been totally without power, likely leading to a crash and multiple deaths.

Another Captain, a friend of KD’s, stepped out of the pilots’ rest area and into the cockpit on a transatlantic flight. The navigator jabbed at one knob after another, trying to get the instrument controls to work. The pilot was catatonic, unable to respond to the crisis. Realizing their flight was off track and they weren’t getting any instrument feedback, the Captain literally slid under the pilot’s body and pushed him out of the way in order to take control.  In addition to being lost, the plane’s gas was running low. “God, help me,” he prayed. And he heard, “95 degrees.”

Looking at the navigator, the Captain spoke. “I’m going for a 95 degree heading.”

“You can’t do that,” the navigator said. “We have no idea where we are.”

“Well, the instruments aren’t telling us anything and this is the most helpful input I have so I’m going with it.”

Wonderful time celebrating KD’s retirement

Following the 95 degree heading and knowing the gas tank was near empty, the Captain began his descent, still not knowing where he was or what would greet him when he broke through the clouds. But as he did, he saw the runway of the Azores straight ahead of him. And just as he landed, the empty gas tanks caused the engines to flare out. All on board were safe because the Captain listened to the clear direction of the Holy Spirit for that otherwise-doomed flight.

These were just two of many stories KD told this weekend as family celebrated his retirement after 38 years of commercial flying and training other pilots on the newest aircraft, including the United’s Dreamliner. Eighteen of us had a wonderful weekend celebrating, visiting, catching up on each other’s lives, learning to know and love each other more, laughing, and of course, eating!

So what’s next for KD and his lovely bride, Connie? “Probably staying home for awhile, resting up, then we’ll see where God leads.”

Retirement … a new beginning. The end of one stage of life and the beginning of another. As Jesus followers, our purpose goes beyond when the paid work stops. God has used KD to serve the needs of his passengers, his crew, his trainees. And His work through KD is not finished. And just as He directed KD, sometimes in miraculous ways, during his years as a pilot, He will continue to lead. Our God doesn’t change, nor does His directive to love and serve God and others end as we age.

Some retirees use their RVs to travel to disaster sites to help rebuild.

One of my best friends started a volunteer group helping first grade kids with literacy, through a program in which local churches partner with neighboring schools to help make an impact.

Still others host refugee families or serve in the Church in new ways.

Paul reminds mature women to teach or mentor younger women to live in such a way “that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:2). In other words, to live and mentor in such a way that our lives, and the lives of those we mentor, honor God and family. One of my greatest joys in this season of life is mentoring two younger women in their faith walks.

Scripture talks of “elders in the gates,” giving advice and sharing wisdom with people in their circle of influence. I think of the life experience KD, my husband Don, my brothers and other men I respect have and are able to share with younger men, both in life and in their walks with God.

At retirement the world says “Enjoy life. You’ve earned it. Take it easy. No responsibility.” But God says we are to honor Him all the days of our lives–whether relaxing and enjoying the blessings He has given us; or serving the church and others. And while we may move more slowly, be limited in some of our strength or capabilities, we can still pray. We can visit those in the hospital or in need; help at a food distribution center; offer rides to doctors’ appointments; and do all with joy and grace in the name of Jesus.

And our God has promised to be with us through every day, every year of our lives. In Isaiah 46:4 He promises “I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (NLT)

So retirement is not an end, but a beginning, as we look to God, asking, “So what’s next?”

If you’re retired, where do you feel the most joy? If you’re not yet retired, what are you looking forward to in that season of your life?

What’s the Lie You’re Believing?

It was 1983. Russia had shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007, killing all aboard and leading to worldwide tension. On September 26th, handsome young Lieutenant-Colonel Stanislav Petrov was in the commander’s seat in the underground early warning bunker south of Moscow. He expected a boring night when nothing would happen. And then it did! A warning light flashed and, in red letters on a white background, his computer screen screamed “LAUNCH. LAUNCH. LAUNCH.” Sirens pierced the night, indicating the US had just gone to war.

When a US missile could reach Russia in 12 minutes, seconds were critical.

Petrov broke out in a cold sweat and his face paled. But he kept his nerve. Other screens were not showing the flash of an inter-continental ballistic missile leaving a US silo. Could this be a computer glitch rather than the real thing? Other warnings flashed onto the screen, but they didn’t make sense. They indicated an attack of three, four, five missiles, rather than a mass preemptive strike of overwhelming force. He decided to wait. After ten interminable minutes the warnings stopped and there was no attack. Petrov’s screen had lied, and his decision to wait stopped what could have been World War III.

Pastor Rene told us this story this weekend and talked of how often, through our culture, the media, and advertising, our screens lie to us, telling us we will be happy “if only …” We’ll be popular if we drink this beer, or wear these sneakers, or use that perfume.

What if instead, we took time to thank God for the many blessings He has given each of us, gifts from the mundane to the sublime, from life itself, family and friends, beauty, laughter brought by a loved pet, and food most of us can access easily. We’re not necessarily told to give away all the blessings we have, but to be content with them, to say no to the lies that tell us we need “a little more”.

I struggle with this at times, wanting something to make me stronger, thinner, happier. Do you? Do we even recognize the lies when they bombard us?

I Timothy 6:6-8 says “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. So if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Contentment happens when we recognize and thank God for the good gifts He gives us rather than looking for what we’re missing. I had significant pain this week, following my recent total shoulder replacement. I can complain and say “I wish my body was stronger.” Or I can recognize the blessing of being able to have this surgery and look forward to significant healing as time (and therapy) goes on. I thank Him for my physical therapist who “hurts me good”; for my husband who ensures I’m tucked in comfortably to sleep; for my surgeon; for a place to rest and renew and exercise; and so much more.

And when I am content, I am also more willing to express my gratitude by being generous with my time and resources, to help others in need.

For what are you thankful today? And, if you’re believing a lie that says you need “more,” how will you counteract that with the truth?

 

 

A Pair of Shoes

Tall, deep blue delphiniums, soft and bright peach roses, white daisies, and burgundy orchids filled oversized flower pots. Always well-kept, each tub held a picture-perfect cornucopia of colors, textures, and heights.

We walked up the curved stairway to the second floor of Macy’s Men’s Store, looking for a new pair of men’s shoes. Don found some very comfortable Rockports he liked. However, on clearance, they didn’t have his size 12 in chocolate brown.

Checking inventory, the salesman told us another store had two pair available.

“That’s a long way to drive,” said Don. However, we were leaving for Canada in five days and he needed good walking shoes for the trip.

“Let’s just do it and make sure we can get these before they’re gone,” I said.

We parked right by the door and meandered into Macy’s Men’s Store, where we saw a tall, red-haired brunette returning to the department.

”Can I help you?”

“Yes, Stanford Macy’s said you had two pair of these shoes in chocolate brown, size 12.”

“I’ll check.”

Returning from the back room, she apologized that the inventory was incorrect and they did not have the shoes we wanted. But she brought another shoe in Don’s size.

Enjoying her accent, I asked “Are you by chance from Russia?”

“The Ukraine.”

I raised my brows. “My father was born in the Ukraine.”

”Thank you for your kindness,” Nataliya said. “So often people get annoyed, saying they can’t understand me. But I speak Russian and English and they don’t speak Russian. But being in America has been a real blessing, thanks to Jesus.”

“Are you a Christian?” I asked.

“Yes, I love the Lord.”

“So do we.”

“I knew it; I could see it in your eyes and the way you smiled at me.” Nataliya began to tear up. “I’m having a hard day–some medical and money things. I just asked Jesus to help me, and here you are, a brother and sister to encourage me. He is so faithful. Praise Jesus.”

We talked a bit longer, and Don bought the shoes, after which Nataliya came out from behind the counter. “I’m supposed to be so professional but I have to give you both a hug.”

When I tried to hand her some extra money, Nataliya backed away and said, “No, I will be ok, thanks Jesus, but just pray for me.” We promised to do that and walked away, saying “If we don’t see you again down here, we’ll see you up there,” pointing to heaven.

What a joy. Another divine appointment–all because of a pair of shoes.

Where have you experienced a divine appointment recently? I’d love to hear about it.

 

“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)