Category Archive: Trust

“Yes, And … “

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NIV

What did thirteen- or fourteen-year old Mary think when the angel Gabriel appeared to tell her that she, a virgin, would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit, and that child would save his people from their sins?

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Nativity Scene Table Decor – nativity-scene.jpg

Luke 1 says Mary was troubled when the angel first appeared to her. And yet, she responds in trust. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”  

I’ve always thought of the young Mary as submissive, humble, obedient–a sweet, lovely girl. And I expect she was all that. But what if the emotions around the angel’s message weren’t quite that straightforward for her? 

What if she said yes, but still had questions?

  • How will I tell Joseph?
  • Will he break up with me?
  • Will he love this child?
  • What about all the gossips in this town? Will I be able to hold my head up when I walk down the main street?

When I felt God call me to minister in the Los Angeles ghetto, I said yes. But how was I going to respond when my mother cried, fearing I would be raped, beaten, or killed? 

How is my friend responding when her daughter is preparing to go to a potentially dangerous missionfield, single? I can appreciate the mother’s concerns for her daughter’s emotional and physical wellbeing, her security, her happiness.

Or another friend who has just received a diagnosis of terminal illness and has decided not to go through treatment and its side effects, but to trust God for her remaining days.

So an initial ‘yes’ doesn’t necessarily end the story, does it. But God leads us, one ‘yes’ at a time.

Mary responded with that initial “yes,” and there were many yeses to follow.

  • Yes to her twelve-year old son who stayed behind, conversing with the Temple elders when his mother and Joseph left Jerusalem to return home after Passover.
  • Yes to watching her son ridiculed, attacked, called a fraud.
  • Yes to watching this son she bore mocked, beaten, nailed to a cross to die, in agony of spirit and body.

And yes to His resurrection, to seeing her son alive and changed, knowing He was Son of God, Redeemer, Messiah, Holy One.

So I expect most of us have said “yes” along the way. But what’s the next “yes” in your journey of obedience? In mine?

Thanks-giving

Do you feel stuffed after all the delicious Thanksgiving vittles?

I’ve managed pretty well with food this week; but I do feel fat with friendship! There is much for which I’m thankful this weekend. For one, California has gotten rain, blessed rain, this week. While that makes it more difficult to look for human remains among the horrendous fires we’ve had this month, it helped contain the fires and clear the bad air quality that’s hovered over many of us. While we continue to pray for, and grieve with, those who have lost loved ones, homes and pets, it has been refreshing to see blue skies once again.

  • I’m thankful for a kind-hearted, gracious, fun and thoughtful husband
  • That my almost 97-year old mother is still with us
  • For loving families and friends
  • For our Paigey
  • For the desk my husband, his son and my nephew moved to our new home this week; so glad to be getting more organized and have increased usability
  • Most of all, I’m thankful that God loves me enough to pursue me, even when I feel distant from him. He gave his son, Jesus, to pay the price for my sins and to give me hope, a future, and the promise of eternal life with him.

And I realized something else. Now that Don and I live in an over-55 community, I’m using the “Nextdoor” internet application more than in the past. I found our new veterinarian through online recommendations. Don and I just made reservations to take Mom to a special event at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts for her birthday and Christmas (two days apart). She’s having increased difficulty walking, so I researched wheelchair rentals. Then I remembered the “Nextdoor” online site, where I posted a request to borrow or rent a wheelchair for one day. I’ve received about 15 responses, from “The Villages Medical Auxilliary loans them out free of charge;” to “I have one you can borrow.” What a wonderful resource! It is meaningful to have a community I can ask for recommendations, to borrow something, or for information.

I think we need a “Nextdoor” for local Christians. We could request input on challenges, ask for prayer, encourage each other, or seek practical help i.e. rides to church, meals for ill folks, respite for caregivers …

But wait! That’s what the Church is called to be. We’re exhorted to hold each other accountable, to pray for, hold each other up, encourage and challenge each other as we all grow into maturity in Jesus Christ.

The most meaningful relationships in my life have been those in which sharing was open and vulnerable and responses were loving, God-honoring, challenging me to be all God wants me to be in word, thought and deed. Trust is a key factor in this kind of relationship, which can be with a marriage partner or a same-gender friend. Confessing my faults, fears, hopes is not for the purpose of gossip or even of sharing externally for “prayer,” but to open myself to another so God can work His life more deeply into mine, knowing what is shared remains inviolate.

And so I am thankful for my husband and for those women God has put into my life for mutual encouragement. Some of you know who you are. Thank you! I can be deceived and give in to wrong thinking or actions. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (NIV)

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 NIV

Question: How have others encouraged or challenged you in your faith? Have you thanked them for building into your life?

 

Unswerving Hope

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

I attended another memorial service Saturday. They’re coming closer together these days.  Don N was the beloved husband (of 50 years) of a college friend with whom I’ve reconnected in the past few years.

This service was outstanding. I’ve known and admired Marilyn for fifty years. She and Don raised a beautiful family; and she has cared unceasingly for him during these past very difficult eighteen months of his battle with cancer. But I didn’t know Don much other than seeing him around campus years ago. He was always pleasant and gracious. And, from the stories we heard at his memorial, just a bit crazy and a lot of fun!

But I learned so much about Don Saturday. This gifted dentist took up art after his retirement, developing an amazing skill reflected in paintings of the nature he loved as well as a pencil self-sketch that showed incredible detail and perspective.

Don also had a beautiful singing voice, and sang with several groups, last with the Bethany Four, a men’s quartet from his church. He wanted one of the songs they pre-recorded to be a part of his service. Don soloed on “I Chose to Believe.” This was the story of his life; choosing to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, despite whatever life brought his way.

And now he is with that Lord, with the Author of Life! I took one of the complimentary CDs the family offered and listened to it at least three times en route home. I was touched each time to hear Don sing “I Chose to Believe”, knowing his faith is now reality!

This man also mentored other men in their walk with Jesus. One said Don brought him closer to Jesus and then said, tongue-in-cheek, ” …You set the bar high for me, Don … and I don’t appreciate it.”

Pastor Brian Wiebe talked about some of the hopes Don had:

  • Hope that the medicine and treatments would restore his health for long-term survival;
  • Hope that he would see his granddaughters walk the aisle on their wedding days;
  • Hope that he could once again enjoy a good meal; and
  • Hope that he could again enjoy the beauty of the mountains he loved.

Don’s cancer and suffering caused him to question whether God’s promises were true, whether He was trustworthy and could be relied upon. And Don concluded that yes, God could be trusted. While many of Don’s hopes were not realized in this life, Wiebe stated, “Don is now enjoying the greatest of all hopes, the hope of eternal life.”

I pray that when God takes me home, I too will be able to say that “I chose to believe.” That has been and is my choice–through trials, through the loss of a father and a husband and others I love. We can choose to believe in anything, whether or not that source is reliable. If the source is not reputable, our faith is worthless. But because God is faithful, I can and do choose to believe. May trust in Him be the consistent and repeated theme of my life.

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But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:20-21 NIV)

Farewell…For a Season

Don and I attended a meaningful memorial service yesterday for our dear friend, June McCuistion, who left earth for heaven a week before her 90th birthday. The service was a celebration. June had polio at five years of age and has been in constant pain since, every day of her life. Yet I’ve rarely seen a more beautiful, gracious, strong woman.

I never recall her complaining about her pain. This morning Don and I read the following statement: “I call you to lead the life that I have assigned to you, and to be content … Learning to be content is both a discipline and an art: you train your mind to trust my sovereign ways with you–bowing before my mysterious, infinite intelligence.” (Jesus Today, by Sarah Young) As Jan, June’s daughter, shared at yesterday’s service, “Mom’s faith allowed her to choose to accept the life she had, and to be the best she could be.”

June also had severe scoliosis, and a spine that was quite curved, making it harder for her to find clothing she liked. Once, June and Walt and Fritz and Frank Buschman were vacationing together with us in Puerto Vallarta. Fritz, June and I went shopping and found some clothes that were beautiful on June, with her stylishly simple, snow-white hair and beautiful face. That evening she modeled the clothes for her husband, Walt, and the rest of us. Walt’s eyes shone, and June teared up. “I feel beautiful.”

And she was beautiful…inside and out. June regularly listened and empathized and went beyond her pain to hear and feel the needs of others, which may in retrospect have been far smaller than her own needs. She could also speak truth in a firm, but loving way, when women coming to her for advice needed to correct their thinking or behavior.

June’s dear husband, Walt McCuistion, was a pastor and counselor for many years. He and I had lunch together one day when I was in conflict at work. I’d called in sick because I woke up in tears and couldn’t face going into the office that day. My sweet husband called Walt and asked if he could meet me for lunch. Over that brief period, Walt gave me perspective on the situation I was in, challenging me to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). I returned to work with a new attitude and a refreshed heart.

Walt married Don and me. He was getting forgetful, and started to pronounce us husband and wife before we said our vows. Both June and I spoke up.

“Not yet, Walt.”

“What?”

“We haven’t said our vows yet.”

“Oh, go ahead.”

And with that we simply moved forward through the rest of the ceremony. We’d decided to have a very small wedding–had both had big weddings in our prior lives–and the interruption of Walt’s forgetfulness felt so natural, so comfortable with only eight people there, that it remains one of our fond memories of a very intimate and close time.

Walt died five years ago. June was in a rehab center after a bone break, and the family had all gathered in a conference room to discuss her treatment. As Walt sat in his chair, surrounded by his wife, daughter and son, he simply passed into the presence of Jesus. “Good for him, bad for us,” his son Greg said yesterday. And yet, what a way to go Home, to the eternity that awaits those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ and His atonement for us. We were created for heaven … and, for the believer, death is a transition, a graduation if you will, to what we were made for–unending, perfect fellowship with our God and fellow believers.

June and Walt are reunited. Their memorial services were five years and one day apart. But their lives have impacted many for eternity. I miss them; and their family needs God’s comfort in the loss of this wonderful mother and grandmother. But heaven is enriched because another saint has come Home.

If you haven’t looked at the claims of Jesus, please do so. Read the New Testament book of John to discover his words, his heart, his sacrifice, his gift of eternal life. And consider his invitation to become part of his eternal family.

 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:12) 

See you soon, June and Walt!

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)