Come Aside and Rest

Hacking coughs. Dripping nose. Mucous. It’s been a nasty week. I have been hit by a cold the likes of which I haven’t had in several years. It’s knocked me for a loop for sure!

The first three days of the week I had commitments that it wasn’t easy to change. Wednesday was a colonoscopy. I double checked that I could do that despite my cold. Don and I checked in at the Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center in Santa Cruz, where I’ve had other procedures in the past. Their care is superb.

I put on my designer hospital gown and crawled between sheets under the warm vacuumed air blown into the air blanket. Ah, toasty warm. The procedure took only about 25 minutes and the report was good. Now I could eat again! And the first thing I wanted – and got – was a big piece of chocolate cake! Yum. After 36 hours with only fluids that cake tasted mighty fine.

They told me not to do anything that required judgment for the next 24 hours so I napped off and on, read, watched a bit of TV. With our move and clearing out our former house, it’s been a particularly busy season, and was rather pleasant to relax a bit. Since then I’ve taken it quite easy to allow my body to heal from this cold. Still fighting it, but improving.

Sometimes we just need to rest. When Jesus’ disciples were so busy they didn’t even have time to eat, “… he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'” Mark 6:31 NIV

I’m grateful that God cares about our need for rest. How are you doing in that area?

Suffering … and Hope

There is much in this world that is sad, horrific, tragic. And yet there is also great joy–in the beauty of creation, the colors of a sunset, the love among family and friends, the laughter at the antics of a little dog, or cat, or whatever furred- or feathered-family you may have in your life.

But there is suffering in this world. We cannot escape it, no matter our life or financial circumstances, our health or lack thereof, our belief systems.

This week a seven-year old girl in Santa Rosa was hit by a car and thrown 10 feet by a hit-and-run driver. Amazingly, she got up with scratches and bruises and fear, but will be okay.

A four-year-old boy died this week when a framed picture fell off the wall, splaying glass everywhere and cutting his abdomen.

Stock photo   (Getty Images / Birute)

A refugee family of nine in Canada was reduced to two when a house fire claimed the lives of all seven children and left the father in critical condition.

When my late husband was ill, one of my colleagues wrote that she was angry that this was happening to us because we were “good people.” I was able to respond that God has not promised His followers no pain, no difficulties, ease or comfort. Matter of fact, He said that in this world we would have trouble. And why should His followers be exempt from the troubles that face so many in the world?

An old hymn by Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) says

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
  Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Presence. That’s what He promised. His presence in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. And as painful as life can be at times, His presence is enough.

And we have the promise and hope of heaven. No, that doesn’t take away the hurts of today, but it does help give perspective on our lives.

In Lord of the Rings, Sam thought Gandalf and he were both dead, but then realized they were alive. He says, “Is Everything Sad Going to Come Untrue?” What a comment! That’s far beyond whether good things will happen; it’s the wiping out, the complete healing, of anything sad in our lives. But that hope is only through faith in Jesus Christ, who suffered and died to take the punishment for our sins–and then rose again, conquering death!

There is suffering … and we have hope … and Presence!

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, NIV

Waiting …

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Where’s my next step?

Don and I moved to a lovely over-55 community in September last year. Since October, the beautiful home we left behind has been on the market. We’ve had many people come through the house; comments have been extremely positive about both the main and the guest houses and the property itself, in a beautiful little hill valley five miles above Capitola Beach.

But to date we’ve received only one low-ball written offer. Dear friends are in the same situation, also waiting for a sale. This has become a stressor, and yes, we’ve been discouraged.

Don still maintains the property, pays taxes, insurance, and energy bills. We had hoped and prayed that the house would sell before he felt obliged to plant new spring flowers and re-beautify the yard. After all, we moved to simplify our lives and reduce some of those demands.

We’ve prayed for a good buyer–oh yes, we’ve prayed, as have friends and family. But at times it feels like our prayers have gone unheard.

Have you ever been there, wondering why God appears not to answer?

I prayed for my late husband’s recovery following dual transplant surgery, along with hundreds of others who knew and loved us. God’s answer was “not here.” Because he had accepted God’s promise of eternal life to those who accept the forgiveness and new life promised through Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am confident that Jerry is healed, whole, and is rejoicing in the presence of God. And while that gave me great hope, it did not remove the pain of loss.

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For God so loved the world that He gave His only . . . Son, that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life. John 3:16

And now, Don and I are again being stretched. Will I trust God in this long season of waiting, knowing many have far greater needs than ours? Or will I choose not to trust because things aren’t going according to my plan?

Will I believe and act on the truth that God is still, and always will be, my loving Father, or will I complain and allow bitterness to creep into my spirit?

I look back and recall God’s faithfulness in all the seasons of my life:

  • The times I’ve made mistakes that God has redeemed, and through which he has brought something good.
  • The breakup of a relationship I believed would lead to marriage but didn’t –and how grateful I am for that “no”!
  • Ten years of service and God’s protection as I served with a team in the L.A. inner city.
  • Healing from the stresses of those ten years.
  • Marriage to a wonderful man at the ripe old age of 36.
  • God’s faithfulness and strength and mercy and comfort, as we faced his death twenty years later.
  • In grief at other losses–of my nephew, grandparents, dear friends, my father.
  • The marvelous gift of a second love and life with my Don.
  • God’s promises of eternal life, of comfort and peace and Presence in all circumstances.

So if I complain now, it seems a bit–well, more than a bit–selfish. As I look back I can see how God led in each situation. Minister and author V. Raymond Edman once said “Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.”

Life is hard sometimes. It can be confusing. And we were created to love and serve and honor our God–not to understand Him. But He has given us His great and precious promises to help us in just such times as this.

So, despite moments of stress and lack of understanding; despite concerns about the house still being unsold, I will choose to trust for His best, knowing He loves me more than I can comprehend, and that His purpose for me goes far beyond the sale of a piece of property.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

Are you questioning why your prayers seem to be unheard in any certain area? I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with your questions and doubts.

May you be encouraged by the peace and Presence of God.

Birds of a Feather …

Don recently put a bird feeder behind our house. We enjoy watching our feathered friends flit about. We’ve had up to 20 birds vying for spots on the feeder, sitting on the fence ’til one flies over to the feeder and bumps another off his perch. It’s been such fun! And they go through the feed fast enough that Don refills it every 2nd or 3rd day.

We’re both fascinated by the antics and the variety of our little friends. From the vivid blue of the scrub jay to the vibrant orange on the Spotted Towhee, the Black-Capped Chickadee with his cheeks lined white, the Oregon Junco with his rusty brown back and black hood, the grey-crested Titmouse, several kinds of sparrows, and beautiful little Red Finches, I’m learning to identify them.

And periodically a little bunny hops over to pick up the sunflower seeds the birds have dropped. He is so very cute and I love watching him scurry back and forth.

I am often in wonder when I watch God’s marvelous, varied and incredible creation. If Don and I delight in these beautiful little creatures and appreciate the variety, the diversity we see right outside our nook window, how much more does our God love and take delight in each of us, and in the diversity within each of the species in His world.

Matthew 6:26-27 (NLT):
Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?

Rainbows and Turtles

Rainfall was intermittent as we drove down the Hana Highway in Maui (if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes). At times it pelted down, the raindrops driven horizontal by heavy winds.

And then I looked up. All across the sky was a beautiful rainbow with radiant shades of green, blue, violet, red, orange and yellow. The symbol of God’s promise that He would never again destroy the world with a flood.

Sometimes I forget God’s good promises. I try to work things out on my own, to ‘power through’ on tasks without asking for His presence in all I do. And yet, He has given us great and precious promises:

  • Forgiveness of sins and a relationship with God (Romans 3:23-24, John 3:16)
  • Never to leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6, I Kings 8:57)
  • Abundant life in Jesus (John 10:10, NIV)
  • Eternal life for those who confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10, I John 5:11-12)

And there are so many more promises. Don and I experienced some “abundant life” incidents on our recent anniversary trip.

We stood on the cliff in a bracing breeze, watching a few brave surfers in the waves. Below us a group of people appeared to be looking at us, or at least in our direction. We couldn’t see what they saw because of the cliff. What could they be looking at?

Getting into the car, we drove down the road, parked, and walked to the area where people stood. The beach was covered with large black rocks. I looked again–not rocks, but huge green sea turtles! I gasped at the unexpected, wonderful sight. What a delightful surprise!

Another day we were to meet Rodney, who was going to show us some grass woven handbags. We had walked by his kiosk several times when no one was manning the booth. This particular day we were to meet Rodney at noon in front of the Hula Grill, where he was supposedly setting up a display table. Nothing there. We walked down to the kiosk–no one there–so returned to wait by the Hula Grill. Then my phone rang.

“This is Rodney. I think I see you. Turn around.” Don and I turned from where we were standing and saw a man on a cell phone, about twelve feet away, facing the other way. “You turn around,” I said into the phone. “I think I’m behind you.” As Rodney turned and we looked at each other, we both began to chuckle as we realized we were indeed talking to each other–in stereo now, on phone and in person! Another fun moment.

We came back home to California and yesterday, as we drove to church, saw another double rainbow across the sky. And I thought “isn’t this like life. Sometimes it’s really hard, where heavy winds and rain attack and drench us; and then we have God-moments where, through God’s creative beauty in nature, fun surprises, the love of a partner, or re-connection with an old friend, we feel the grace and goodness and love of God.”

So I’ve seen about four rainbows in the past week, more than I’ve seen in a very long time, especially with California’s drought over the past few years.

Question: What lovely surprises have you experienced that reminded you of God’s creative, amazing love? I’d love to hear about your turtles and rainbows!