New Things

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

It’s a new year–new hopes, dreams, goals. Here are a few of mine.

New Year, New Hopes and Dreams
  • New understandings in my walk with God. I’ve rejoined a women’s Bible study that I dropped out of for health reasons over a year ago. I’m thrilled to be back with these lovely women as we seek God together.
  • Complete at least the first draft of a novel I’ve been writing for a looong time …
  • Increased depth in my relationships with God, Don, family and friends.
  • New vistas. We’ve had the Canadian Rockies on our bucket list for awhile and just reserved our place on a train and bus tour through those in Fall of 2019 (I almost typed 1919–whoa!).
  • Finding and getting involved in a church home in our new community.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'”  Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV)

HE is the reason for my hope as we enter this new year.

  • He knows all the troubles in the world–riots in Paris, persecution, especially of Christians in other parts of the world, turmoil.
  • He knows the discord and infighting in our own country.
  • He knows the tremendous losses that have occurred corporately and personally in floods and fires and because of the active presence of evil in our world.
  • He knows my days and has promised to lead me through each one.
  • He loves me, oh amazing truth! And because of that love, I have great hope.

What are you anticipating this year? Are you hopeful or disheartened, or both? I’d love to know.

Let Justice Roll Down!

This 2018 has seen both joys and sorrows, personally and corporately. We look ahead to a new year with the God who is present, who gave Himself that we might have life more abundantly (John 10:10b). He said to Israel that “… I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.” Amos 5:24, NLT. May that be our heart’s desire and purpose in the coming year.

“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?

`
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?

Christmas Wonder

Quite the week! Monday Don and I drove back to our former residence to take  items for an estate sale this weekend, which would be set up on Tuesday.  Wednesday we saw and heard the Foto Sisters sing and play piano, violin, viola and cello here at The Villages. Wonderful harmonies and lilting melodies, voices that moved seamlessly from high to low and back again, helped us focus on the joy and good news of the Christmas season.

Friday evening we enjoyed singing Christmas carols with my mother and her church. Last night we attended a client appreciation dinner with our realtor’s company. And new neighbors are coming over for dessert on Monday. (Actually, we’re the new neighbors.)

Meanwhile, I drove to Palo Alto four times to give sputum samples and see my pulmonologist about whether a non-contagious lung infection I’ve had for several years is abating. Looking pretty good, but the challenge continues. I miss being able to sing as I used to. Instead of soprano, I’m usually singing alto or tenor now, and raspily (I know that’s not a real word) at that.

 This season tells the story of hope for all mankind. Of suffering, of sacrifice, of joy and of pain. It tells the story, not only of Jesus’ birth, but leads to His death and resurrection. He sacrificed, that we might be saved. He went through agonizing pain of body and spirit, that we might be redeemed, brought into relationship with God through Jesus’ payment for our sins. There is a cosmic war going on between light and darkness, but God in Christ won the battle at the Cross, and Jesus is Lord!



We are richly blessed in the things that really matter–family, friends,  Immanuel, God with us. Beautiful, centering music. Hearing the name of our God lifted up in the memorial service for President George H.W. Bush.  

Yet in the middle of all the festivities and celebration and joy, there is lots of pain.

  • Families have lost loved ones, homes, towns in California wildfires. Many don’t know where their next housing will come from.
  • Friends have lost loved ones…husband, mother, others…and are facing their first Christmas without that precious one at their side, at their table.
  • Families are stressed because of conflict, finances, illness, and other challenges.
  • Loneliness is heightened during a season focused on love, when many are surrounded by loved ones and others feel like everyone else has it together.
  • Political conflict abounds. Riots in France, questions about integrity and leadership at home, persecution of Christians abroad.

This is a time of challenge, but with challenge, people often look for more, for answers, for something or someOne who can give peace despite circumstances. Life is hard. Jesus said:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT) 

While we still face difficulties, we have a God who has promised to be with us in all, who cares for our pain, and who promises His people a future when justice will reign, illness will be forever gone, and we will live in peace, love and joy in His presence for all eternity.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.” (Matthew 5:3, MSG)

Will you join me in focusing on moments of joy and gratitude this Christmas season, rather than in the “to do lists” we all have for the holidays? Let’s make more of presence than of presents; of the beauty in our loved ones than in our homes; of God’s good gifts than in our wish lists.

Blessings to you this Christmas!

“Fab Friday”

These four women, and one other, have become precious to me over the past five or six years as our “Fab Friday” group meets twice monthly to study the Bible, pray, and care for each other.  This photo was taken at our 2018 Christmas brunch a few days ago.

We’ve walked through a lot of life together in these years…illness, loss, life’s various challenges. About a year ago I needed to take a step back due to my own health issues, so I dropped out of the group for a time. These women continued to love me, communicate with me, and keep me in the loop.

This past year has included lots of change for me: a new shoulder, new knee, a move to a new home and community, some of my closest friends moving out of the area … I realized I need these long-term sisters in Christ. I need their support and friendship, even as I give mine to them.

Why do I need these women?

WISE FRIENDS MAKE ONE WISER

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20 New International Version)

These are godly women from whom I learn much, and I need their input into my life, even as I share with them..

WE BEAR EACH OTHER’S BURDENS

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2)

WE CHALLENGE EACH OTHER TO BE MORE LIKE JESUS

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17 New Living Translation”

As we are vulnerable to share our weaknesses as well as strengths, we sharpen each other to be more like Jesus.

WE FOLLOW JESUS’ EXAMPLE

God, Creator, Sustainer, Comforter, Healer, Peacegiver, Redeemer, exists in community himself: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And He created us for relationship–not to go it alone, not to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, but to be in relationship with Him and with others.

These women are not my only friends; I have dear friends near and far. Some are one-on-one friendships, other couple friendships, but this is a group of women committed to each other, to confidentiality of the things we share, and to building each other up in our walks with Jesus. Such friendships are a precious gift, to be treasured and nurtured.

It’s easy for me to get lazy. I need to be reminded of how God is at work in others’ lives; to remain in His word and also to be reminded through what others recognize, how God is working in my own life. 

And so, as of January 4th, I’m back in!

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” ( Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Question: If you do not have a small group of trusted women or men with whom you meet regularly, where can you find one?