Category Archive: Relying on God

God … in the Storm

Hurricane winds, floods and storms are blighting our land. Irma closely follows Harvey, with Jose and others coming behind. People are dying, losing homes and worldly goods, and face a long reality of rebuilding their lives. On top of that, there are the personal storms of people we love … broken families, heartbreak, insecurity, fear, anger, loss, homelessness, and more.

Is someone you love going through their own personal hurricane? Troubled seas, high waters, loss of innocence. My heart is heavy for someone in my life who is carrying an overwhelming load. And I feel helpless. All I can do is pray.

And yet, isn’t that the very thing to which God calls me FIRST? When there are practical ways to help – food, shelter, rescue, emotional and physical support–all of which are happening in a major way in Texas, and now in Florida and along the East Coast–we do those. But sometimes there just isn’t anything our “boots on the ground” can do. So we pray: for wisdom, for others to come alongside, for courage, perseverance, long-suffering love, and healing. For protection of body, mind and spirit in the fight against the darts of the evil one.

So often I think “I can handle this …” And yet, there are times when everything needed is beyond any human control. And God tells us to call on His name for help. Lamentations 3:54-56 states this so clearly:

In the eye of the storm

“…the waters closed over my head,
    and I thought I was about to perish.

I called on your name, Lord,
    from the depths of the pit.
You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears
    to my cry for relief.’”

These are difficult times in the life of our nation. But God is able to bring good out of the storm. He is able to take the darts of the enemy and bring beauty out of ashes. He is able to impart His strength to the weak, His rest to the weary. My prayer for all going through turmoil, whether physical, spiritual or emotional, is Psalm 73:26:  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” May these be moments where God shows up in such distinct ways that we stand by, watching in awe.

 

So let’s discuss: what do you do when you can’t do anything?  

How do we Give Thanks – All the Time?

How we can stay up in a down world?” Good question. God tells us to “rejoice always;” to “pray continually” (or incessantly), and to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18.

I sure don’t always feel thankful; nor do I give thanks in every circumstance.

How can we be obedient to God’s command to be thankful in every circumstance when:

  • We lose a loved one to death
  • Divorce enters our lives or families
  • Children rebel
  • Pain wracks our bodies or minds
  • Finances are a challenge, or
  • A spouse or child rejects Christ?

Not long ago, my two-year old grandniece fell through a screen, from a second story bedroom window to the cement below. Seeing this little sweetheart very vulnerable in her hospital bed, a soft brace on her neck, and a purple, very swollen eye, hurt me. Thankful that she fell? Of course not. Thankful as we saw God’s protective hand over her, with no neurological damage? Yes. And if she had suffered greater damage? It’s not always easy to give thanks and I don’t think scripture gives us easy answers; but it does challenge us to trust in the ‘God Who is There’.

Years ago, I was targeted by an employee. I did not appreciate her hostility or efforts to sabotage me. However, as I ate my lunch each day, reading the Psalms and looking at a beautiful oak tree across the road, God spoke peace to my heart. He assured me that He would care for and justify me. And He did, when she was later caught stealing from the company. And as I waited for an outcome that I couldn’t anticipate, I chose to trust that God would rectify a situation I could not correct.

In her recent sermon, Pastor Valerie Webb reminded us that we’re not told to give thanks FOR everything. But IN every circumstance we can give thanks. Why?

  • Because we have a God who cares (Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” I Peter 5:7, TLB).
  • Because our God feels with us in our suffering; He wants to carry our burdens (“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens”–Psalm 68:19); and
  • Because He has promised never to leave nor forsake us (Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”–Hebrews 13:5).

And because He is ultimately in charge, we can thank Him–for His presence, His awareness of our need, His promise of faithfulness. God has a way for us, even in our pain, and despite the time and healing we may require to see His outworking.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 expresses the prophet’s commitment to praise.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

When I focus on my circumstances I can get very down, discouraged, despairing. But when I focus on God, I choose to thank Him because He is holy, loving, forgiving, and is WITH ME – Immanuel!

Where do you need Jesus to be your burden-bearer right now?

 

 

Freedom, Used for Good

“The essence of America–that which really unites us–is not ethnicity, or nationality, or religion. It is an idea–and what an idea it is: that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. That it doesn’t matter where you came from, but where you are going.” Condoleezza Rice

Marian Anderson was the first African American woman to sing at the White House, and the first black Metropolitan Opera Star. My mother, a soloist and voice teacher, learned that Anderson was going to perform in Winnipeg, Canada, where I grew up.  Although I was just a child, probably 6 or 7, I remember the event clearly when our entire family went to hear Anderson’s marvelous contralto voice. Despite having been rejected for music school because of her color; despite the racial barriers that initially limited her opportunities, Anderson continued to follow her passion, and was later received at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera, in addition to the White House.  And, at her death at age 96, over 2000 admirers attended a memorial service held at Carnegie Hall.

As we celebrated Independence Day this week, we were reminded once again that freedom is not free. Whether the battle is for freedom of thought and worship, for racial equality, or for justice, it has cost the lives of many good men and women; others have suffered loss of family, of limbs, sometimes of emotional or mental stability. And still more have prayed for those in battle. The question is, what will we do with this hard-won freedom? That question is relevant for us as a nation, and even more so as Christ-followers. The Apostle Paul said, “For you have been called to live in freedom. Use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

Nellie Cashman’s purpose, borne out of Ireland’s potato famine, was to make money in order to serve others. This was what her faith dictated. Leaving County Cork, Ireland, where her father had died and many were starving, Nellie’s mother took her and her sister Fannie to the United States in about 1850. After growing up in Boston, Nellie, Fannie and their mother migrated to San Francisco in 1865.

Cashman loved the outdoors and became involved in prospecting for gold in California. Petite, she set up shop and learned mining in camps where she was the only woman. Never was she treated with anything less than the respect she demanded, and gave, in her dealings. She moved with new prospecting fields, and was noted across the American and Canadian west as a gold prospector, restaurateur and boarding house owner, nurse, and philanthropist.  She led a rescue of miners in the Cassiar Mountains–they were “my boys”.

E.A. Hegg / Library and Archives Canada C-005142

In her fifties Nellie climbed the Chilkoot steps out of Skagway, Alaska with a dogsled and provisions. With 900 pounds of food and supplies, 1100 short of the 2000-pounds required by the Mounties to pass through to the prospecting fields. She talked her way past the officers by comparing her weight (90 pounds) with that of the Mountie (200 pounds), stating why she wouldn’t need as much food and supplies as he would.

Throughout her life, Cashman used the money she earned in her many roles to build hospitals, churches, and to help those who were less fortunate. She used her freedom for good and, in 2006, was inducted into the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame.

For a fascinating novelized biography, read TOUGHNUT ANGEL, by my friend Jane Carlisle Baker (available @ https://www.amazon.com/Toughnut-Angel-Tale-Real-Life-Adventuress/dp/1522980571/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498955102&sr=8-1&keywords=toughnut+angel).

“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” Peter Marshall

Who has exemplified using their freedom for good in your life?

 

How’s Your GPS Working?

Grey clouds hovered overhead as raindrops dropped onto the windshield. Don, his son Dan, and I drove out of Meridian, Idaho and into the town of Eagle.

Don wanted to show Dan a specific property Don’s son Victor owns in the foothills. It had been a long time since Don was last there, so navigation by memory wasn’t working too well. And since there was no specific address, we couldn’t just call it up on GPS. By phone, Victor told us the nearest crossroads, but we had already overshot one of those. We drove in a big square, took a couple of wrong turns, and were uncertain which direction the other road was from our location.  Between Don, Dan and me, a GPS and my Waze, we finally got to the crossroads Victor had mentioned. Recognizing the area, Don turned right and then off the highway and up a dirt road onto a hill where we looked over a newly planted field and the Eagle area valley. The stunning view was worth the wrong turns and difficulty finding this place.

I thought of how often we take wrong turns in life. Maybe it’s a choice to run with people who are a negative influence; perhaps it’s a relationship that promised the moon, but left us in the ditch; it may be getting into drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Perhaps it’s our own selfish “me first” attitude; or allowing life’s challenges to take priority over our focus on God.

The husband of a friend of mine fought cancer valiantly. Now, although cancer-free, he is suffering with an internal infection that requires one surgery after another to clean and disinfect the area so he can  heal. Today is surgery #20. My friend is tired, burned out. But her focus remains on a good Father who loves her, her husband and son. Her posts continue to honor Him, to speak honestly of her weariness while she throws herself on His grace, love, and healing touch. I’m challenged by her trust.

God’s Word says he will “restore the years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25).  He calls us back to Him, even when we’ve made wrong decisions or turned away from Him. He welcomes us with open arms, forgiveness and love. And He has given us a reliable GPS–His Word. As we return to our focal point, our God-given GPS, His Spirit resets our path so that we again find our way on His path.

What a gracious God!

Rancho Santa Marta – the Privilege of Service

We came to Mexico to serve – children, teachers, staff.

Quite a few groups of young folks come to volunteer at the Ranch. We learned Sunday that we are known as the “white-haired group” because so many of our team members have, you guessed it, white hair! (We ran the gamut from 19 to 91 this year.) Being the “white-haired group” is a pretty great distinction because, while we delight in the younger men and women who come–and need their energy, skills and mobility!–various people on our team have  served here for over 30 years (Don and I, eight and seven respectively). Like the Eveready Bunny. Evidence of God’s grace that we are still able to serve in meaningful ways.

We’ve experienced that grace in a variety of ways this week. Annette worked with children on English words and crafts. Leola cooked, and worked her puppet magic. One boy, whom she said doesn’t speak in school, got behind the cardboard stage, a puppet in each hand, and told his classmates a story! Debbie needed help repairing a sewing machine to continue work on the curtains she was making for one of the homes. She mentioned the need to Juan who, as the youngest of thirteen children, often repaired his mother’s sewing machine! A few minutes of his expertise and, wallah, Debbie had her repair.

One side of gym, complete with metal studs and siding

Much needed restroom by children’s play area

Don and his team directed the construction work with grace and strength, and one side of the new gymnasium is now supported by metal studs, covered with siding. Another group worked on a needed play area restroom with six stalls each for boys and girls. We are tired; but  keep working to accomplish the goals set for us, despite several significant workaround challenges.

JoAnn and I enjoyed keeping ‘our boys’ hydrated and uplifted with snacks and water twice a day, as well as painting, photography, and doing crafts with the children.

Last night our team leader, Bob Moorhead, played the organ in the chapel for those who wanted to listen. I sat, stitching a yarn art sample for our craft time and listening to wonderful sounds, from “Just as I Am” to the Beach Boys. It was a renewing time of just being in God’s presence.

Every year our time is meaningful as we watch what God is doing in the lives of many of these children, and understand a little more about the challenges of directing this large operation, which includes forty-five resident children, another 180-200 in elementary and junior high school, the ranch with its horses, pigs, cows, goats, the hay bales scattered over some of the 450 acres, the peach tree orchard. The wisdom and diligence required to lead this ‘operation’ demand much. Its Directors rarely get away for a break; yet they continue to serve, love, teach, and build into these young lives.

Will you join us in prayer for a couple of specific needs:

  1.  House Parents for one of the boys’ homes. “Victor’s House”, which our team framed last year,

    Victor’s House

    is ready for occupancy by the older boys/men. It is named for the oldest male resident who grew up at the Ranch and just had his 40th birthday. These boys’ disabilities make living independently almost impossible. However, they, and the house parents who will move with them, cannot move until new house parents are identified and hired to take over the younger boys remaining in the initial house. This is a tough job; 24/7 with children with special needs. Often house parents leave after a short while, saying “it’s too hard.”

  2. Times of respite for Directors, house parents, and staff.
  3. Additional teachers needed for the school, especially as the Ranch begins teaching tenth grade this Fall.

I am deeply thankful for this ministry of intentional building into the lives of children and young adults, and privileged to be a very small part of its ministry. For more information about the Ranch, see http://www.ranchosantamarta.org/

May God bless you this week as you watch for opportunities to serve Him in your daily life.