OVERFLOWING GRACE

Three years ago our church celebrated one hundred twenty-five years of ministry. The weekend was a time to celebrate God’s grace in the familial life of Twin Lakes Church. And celebrate we did!

  • Slide shows celebrating the history of TLC.
  • Rene’s memorial book of past church minutes – eleven members and 19 cents in the account, but “all bills paid”!
  • Birthday cakes (couldn’t pass that up!).
  • Remembrances past and present, many sweet, some difficult, like the nine years the church lay dormant between 1914 and 1923.
  • Pastor Rene reminded us of how God has led TLC. Only by His grace could eleven people rekindle the church during the Great Depression of the ‘30s and see it develop and nurture the community for the past eight-five consecutive years. “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” I Samuel 7:12.

Rene’s challenge? When you find yourself in a waiting room with God, not knowing what the future holds, wondering whether God will be faithful to you, remember what He has done in the past. Remember, and hope. Remember, and live.

When I joined an inner city ministry at twenty-one, I trusted God would be faithful in the midst of poverty, crime, violence, and broken families. And through the next ten years I experienced His faithfulness as He drew children, teens and adults to Himself; as He protected us in numerous volatile situations; and as He showed Himself strong in our weakness.

God’s promise encouraged my heart

When my beloved husband passed away at the age of sixty-six, I held onto God’s promises, knowing He had been faithful to me in the past and that His work for me was not complete. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 became my watchword, the first scripture God brought to my mind after Jerry passed into His loving arms. I was in the waiting room Rene talked about. Who am I now? What does God have for my future? I felt helpless, lonely, bereft. But I could reflect back on God’s faithfulness in difficult situations before, and I knew HE had not changed.

And when He brought me together with another wonderful man a few years later, I was again in His waiting room. “Is this your plan? Should I remarry or do you have work for me to do as a single person? Am I willing to risk being widowed again?” As the Father grew Don’s and my love for each other, I looked back on His faithfulness, the ways He led even in challenging times in my first marriage.  I knew I had memorial stones to rely on, reminding me of God’s grace in times of need.

Are you in a waiting room? How has God met you, provided grace, in the past? He never changes. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. “ Hebrews 13:8.  His character, His love for you and me, will never change. Despite what may come, He will be faithful to extend grace for each situation. May you experience His peace today, trusting His grace for tomorrow.

Unexpected Time

“If you’re calling to check when you need to report for jury service, press 1 …”

I did.

“As of this time you are not needed to serve. Check back tomorrow after 5 pm.”

I’d been on call for federal jury duty for eight days without having to report in. Friday was almost the last day of my on-call status and, guess what, I commuted over the hill to San Jose to check in at 7:45 am!

But these last eight days have given me the gift of unexpected time. I kept my calendar clear, knowing I might be unavailable. As a result, I’ve read more, filed for renewal of Don’s passport, visited with Mom, and picked up olive oil and flavored balsamic vinegars (how does chocolate balsamic sound to you? Or lemongrass mint?). I reorganized the pantry after Don repaired a leak, removed and replaced part of the wall.

AFTER – So much fun to paint!

Don and I relaxed on the porch glider, catching up on our respective days’ work. And I sat on the corner of our front deck, skies sunny and blue, and chalk painted a small table and desk. This was a new project for me and I loved doing it. Not quite finished, but the basic painting is done; I will add a few more stenciled paint areas and then seal the pieces.

Twenty years ago I had allergies (to grass, trees, weeds, chemicals and lots of other things) that were so severe I lived indoors. I couldn’t sit outside without getting sick. So imagine my gratitude at the blessing of being able to enjoy these lovely and renewing moments in God’s creative beauty.

Unexpected time–how do we use it? One of those mornings I thought of what I wanted to accomplish,  including delivering a Valentine’s gift from Don and me to Mom. After stopping at the library, I called her. She was eager for company and had a Bible study in an hour; had I called a bit later she would have been out of the house. When we’re open to God’s leading for our day, He opens doors, like the timing of my call to Mom. So Paigey and I buckled in and enjoyed seeing Mom open her Shari’s Berries, which she graciously shared with me.

I just read an article entitled “What would you do if you had twenty minutes to live?” It focused on the fear and panic after the recent mistaken account of a missile headed to Hawaii. One of my FB friends reported that his 11- or 12-year old grandson called from Hawaii to say he loved them, and goodbye. That’s overwhelming! Fortunately this was a false alarm. But the fear and panic were real.

So what would I do if I knew I had twenty minutes to live? I’m not sure … I would want to say goodbye to dear ones, would want to hold/be held by Don, caress Paigey. I’d also want to challenge those dearest to me who aren’t walking with Jesus to commit their lives to Him. Twenty minutes isn’t a lot of time.

I need to live now as if my life might end tonight. Which it could. I need to live for Jesus Christ; to tell my loved ones how precious they are to me; and not to wait until the “last minute,” which may come without warning.

Here’s the Apostle Paul’s challenge:

We try to live in such a way that no one will ever be offended or kept back from finding the Lord by the way we act, so that no one can find fault with us and blame it on the Lord. II Corinthians 6:3

So, if you had twenty minutes to live, how would you use them?

The Greatest of These …

Love God, Love Others

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

That was YouVersion’s “verse of the day” on Wednesday, Valentine’s Day 2018. And I thought of these three great characteristics.

Faith. Hope. Love.

So why is love the greatest of the three?

The apostle Paul says that without love, faith is meaningless. If I have faith that can move mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. And hope will end one day, when it is realized. But love never ends.

Love encompasses many other characteristics. It covers a multitude of sins. When I truly love, I don’t look for things to complain about, to criticize, to change. I accept, believe in, trust the person I love. And in reverse, knowing my husband’s–and my heavenly Father’s–great love for me, I never want to deliberately cause them hurt.

And it’s because of God’s great and unconditional love that we can have a relationship with Him, one that leads to our internal (and external) change and to the promise of eternity with Him.

Real love is shown on an ongoing basis in how we treat others. In his great definition of love in I Corinthians 13:4-8a, Paul writes:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.”

Shari’s Berries from my Valentine

    Valentine’s Day flowers and Shari’s Berries are lovely and deeply appreciated; but if that’s all the expression of love we give or receive, there’s a long drought between expressions of love! The kind of love Paul speaks of is shown in daily service to others.
    • One of my favorite definitions of love was written by a boy of about six, who said “Love is when you know your name is safe in their mouth.” Wow! I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Don never speaks ill of me. My name is safe in his mouth, and I feel loved!

 

Love is reflected:

  • In my mother’s daily prayers for her children and grandchildren;
  • In my husband’s fixing the leak in our pantry wall, repainting and putting the shelves back on the wall, all without complaint – then helping me reload those shelves.
  • In the faithful prayers of God’s people for comfort and peace for the families of victims of this week’s school shooting in Florida;
  • In prayer and care–calls, food, respite–for those in need in our circles of influence, and for people around the world, hungry for the love and grace of God and His people.
  • By responding kindly to the woman who rudely told me to move my grocery cart in Safeway (at which I’m sorry to say I failed!).
  • In acts of service, in speaking up when someone expresses prejudice, in giving to help those who are ministering in ways I cannot, like the Mercy Ships and other Christians loving our world’s under-served.
  • In listening; in affirming others’ value; in extending grace to others, as grace has been given to me.
  • In telling others of God’s amazing love and desire for relationship with them.

What do you think? Why is love the greatest of these three?

Lord Have Mercy

The line stretched for blocks. Men, women and children stood in the hot African sun, waiting, praying, hoping for their chance to have life-changing surgery, many after years of having been told doctors in this third-world country could not help them. Many of those in line had walked days for one chance at a new life.

Seeing the kinds of health challenges in a poverty-stricken country was eye-opening. Whereas a tumor growing out of the neck or face would, in America, be caught and treated early, in this third-world country it is likely to grow unchecked.

During our church’s missions week, Don and I watched the first segment of a National Geographic documentary on Mercy Ships, showing now in the UK and hopefully coming to the US in a few months. The 450-person crew, including medical personnel and surgeons, are all volunteers. The images we saw were so powerful I didn’t even want to blink while watching.

My heart went out to the male nurse triaging the folks in line. What grace of God must be needed to say to someone, “I’m sorry, we don’t have the kind of doctor you need. We can’t help you here.” Or, “I’m sorry, your child is dying and we can’t help.” And yet, in many of those cases someone from the ship will follow up with the family, giving counsel, sometimes hospice services. Of the 5000 or so we saw in line, about 720 were selected for surgery.

And what joy to say to someone, “We can help you; we can help your child.”

A man with a tumor the size of his head growing out of his chin, could hardly be understood because speaking was so difficult. He shrouded his head in cloths and knew his disfigurement limited his ability to get a job, to have a somewhat normal life. When he first looked into a mirror following a delicate surgery to remove the tumor without sacrificing critical nerve connections, his smile was broad and beautiful. His handsome, dark eyes shone with what looked like hope.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

Unable to breastfeed, Haingo was starving to death

Seven-month old Haingo had a severe cleft palate, with a hole in the top of her mouth that didn’t allow her to breastfeed. She was slowly starving to death, her 7-month weight below 7 pounds! When a stranger told Haingo’s mother about Mercy Ships, Viviaby walked two days to get to a place where she could find transportation to the ship. Volunteer nurses immediately started Haingo on a round-the-clock nutrition regimen to help her gain enough weight to safely undergo the surgery. When the little girl finally reached 7.7 pounds, surgeons corrected her cleft lip and palate, giving her the ability to thrive, to eat and drink and learn to speak well. What a beautiful little girl!

Haingo, thriving

The new Africa Mercy is the largest civilian hospital ship in the world, including five operating theaters, rooms for recovery and intensive care. Their capacity is 7000 interventions a year–from removing life-threatening tumors to repairing cleft palates.

What we forget in a country of privilege is that hope comes with having options: we can treat, wait and watch, or try different approaches. Hope is also about the possibility of getting help. One patient said her doctor had told her to wait until the big white Mercy Ship came and to go there for the help she needed, which he could not provide.

We were deeply touched by the significant ministry being conducted on Mercy Ships, by the hundreds of volunteers who do everything from scrubbing the decks, to cooking, to surgery and follow-up care.

For more information, stories, and ways to give, go to: https://www.mercyships.org/international/

Lord, have mercy! And may we be a part of that mercy.

 

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will reward them for what they have done.”

Proverbs 19:17

The Wisdom of Worship

According to Mayan legend, the gods who made the earth wanted someone to praise and worship them. So they created people made of clay; but the clay was soft and the clay people couldn’t stand.

So the creator made people of wood. These could stand, but had no minds or souls, and forgot to worship the gods who made them. So the gods sent a great water to wipe them out; and then made people of straw, who became the Mayans.

As Don and I listened to our tour guide at Tulum, a Mayan ruin on the stunning turquoise Caribbean coastline, I was impressed with two thoughts.

First, I was reminded of the truth of Romans 1:20-21: For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

It seems every culture has an understanding that there is a God.

And second, the parallels (like the flood, or God’s desire to be worshipped) between ancient tradition and God’s Word remind me that God has always desired to make himself known to his creation.

And He desires our worship. Psalm 9:11 exhorts us to “Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people.”  And Psalm 30:4 says “Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise His holy name.” But he longs for this to be of our own volition, in recognition of who he is and what he has done, and will do, for us.

We praise Him for:

  • Revealing Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ, through whom we have eternal life in the future, and meaningful life now.
  • Rescuing us (I’ve been rescued when I lived in the LA ghetto, and probably other times I’m not aware of). “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2). We can rely on Him.
  • Being great and glorious and above all. (Psalm 150).
  • Loving us–amazing as that is. So many cultures and belief systems focus on currying favor with the gods, whereas the God of the universe, of Creation, came to earth so we could know Him and have a relationship with him. (John 3:16).
  • His grace (Ephesians 1:6) and mercy (I Peter 1:3).
  • His faithfulness in all times (Psalm 40:11).
  • His comfort in times of sorrow, loss, distress (II Corinthians 1:3-5).
  • His guidance: Psalm 16:7 says “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.”
I pray I will always remember to praise and worship my Lord, my God, my Redeemer–not because I fear being annihilated, but because He is good and loving and worthy of all my praise.
I’d love to hear what you would add to my partial list of reasons to praise God above.