Celebration and Supplication

As we celebrate America’s freedom today, I pray we will put aside our differences and thank God for this country.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson

Yesterday we enjoyed a wonderful outdoor church service, with bunting strung along the tent and church. We thanked God for the freedoms we experience in this country. And we were reminded to look to Jesus, the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, Berean Study Bible) for our confidence and hope.

Christina’s dance of praise

Christina shared her testimony of God’s faithfulness. Two years ago she was declared cancer free after having Stage 2 breast cancer. “I am so thankful. And that is why I dance.” We saw her gratitude in the beautiful routine she performed to the worship song, “From the rising sun to the setting same, I will praise your name. Great is your faithfulness to me.”

After church, we enjoyed hot dogs and tacos, snow cones, games for the children, a bounce house, and face painting. Most of us stayed for at least two hours before going home. Don and I enjoyed visiting with different friends and watching the fellowship around us. We were family, delighting in hanging out together. And yes, I got some face paint!

When I was in turmoil over the hostility present in our country, one of our pastors reminded me, “I have never relied on the government for my security. Governments change, leaders change. My faith is in Jesus Christ.”

So, as we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as a nation, as we pray for change in the areas where it is badly needed, let us also remember that Jesus Christ, our hope, is over and above all.

man holding bible
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It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Galatians 5:1, 13

Ukraine Trauma Continues

I missed them in church this morning.

people on concert
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A couple of months ago a new family came to our church. My friend Susan told me they just arrived from Ukraine–a widowed mother, her two daughters and a nephew. The first morning they were in church I delighted in watching the twelve-year old boy clap along as we sang our praises to God..

Imagine being in a new country, with a new language and customs. You have no money, no ability to find decent work to support yourself and your children.

a mother and son hugging
Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

This week, Dmytro, the boy (names changed) flew to Switzerland to be reunited with his mother. I saw a video that brought tears to my eyes as the two gripped each other. His mother kissed her son all over his face, and the look on his face was one of pure joy. What will their future hold?*

And it appears the mother and her beautiful daughters may also return to Ukraine soon, after visiting another area to assess possibilities in America. I pray for their protection, and for the millions of others suffering under the current war.

Their presence brought us together as a church in meaningful ways, from volunteers to pick the children up from school, to financial assistance, to prayer, to gifts and toys, to some English tutoring, outings, etc. When I asked if they had translators in the last few weeks of our American schools, Dmytro said no. But Larysa said “Yes, Google Translate”. Not easy to use Google Translate for a phrase or a concept! But learning to know these new friends gives me a renewed perspective on refugees’ needs on arrival in a new country.

  • Language
  • Profitable employment
  • Income
  • Food and Housing
  • Friendships
  • Faith, which may be practiced in a different way than their prior experience;
  • and much more.

So yes, I missed them this morning. Missed seeing their lovely faces and greeting them with hugs. Our church felt a bit emptier than when they were here. This family has blessed us, as we have blessed them. I pray we will be open to others whom God sends our way.

According to World Vision, children make up half of all Ukrainian refugees. “The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports some two million children have fled the country, with another 2.5 million displaced within Ukraine…The U.N. has said that another Ukrainian child is becoming a refugee nearly every second, and that more than one of every two Ukrainian children are now displaced.” For very helpful FAQs and more information, see https://www.worldvision.org/disaster-relief-news-stories/ukraine-crisis-facts-faqs-and-how-to-help#what

Friday evening we met Mila, a Nordstrom seamstress who altered some slacks for me. I thought her accent was Eastern European, so asked about her home country.

“Ukraine.”

“Oh my! My father was born there.”

“Really!”

I asked about her family. Mila, her husband and children are here, but her parents and siblings remain in Ukraine. I told her we are praying for her country, and would pray for her family. It was a warm conversation with care expressed on both sides.

A letter to Philip Yancey from his Ukrainian publisher said that Zaporozhye, a city near where my father grew up, with a population of 710,000, has taken in another 200,000 refugees fleeing other areas where the battle rages. While they may be without scratches or burns, they are traumatized emotionally.

a boy supporting ukraine in a rally
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Imagine terror that impacts you so you cannot even speak.

Imagine constant sirens going off, the ever-present fear that you may die.

Imagine being a child, separated from your parents and/or other family members.

While Ukraine is no longer as prominent in the news as it was two months ago, let us continue to pray for, and become involved as we can, with the people there and with refugees in need of help.

Ukraine is not the only country facing such monstrous challenges. Whenever we learn to know individuals and their stories, God opens our hearts. We can be part of God’s healing the brokenhearted!

There are also believers who continue to minister beyond their own fears and insecurities to bring hope to many in need. They too need our prayer and support, not only for physical, but for emotional and mental coverage.

He heals the brokenhearted

    and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

Several organizations with feet on the ground in Ukraine, Poland and surrounding countries:

Novo.org/ukraine-crisis

mcc.org/stories/crisis-ukraine

https://www.worldvision.org/disaster-relief-news-stories/ukraine-crisis-facts-faqs-and-how-to-help#what

samaritanspurse.org

Have you become acquainted with refugees from another country? How has the experience impacted you?

*These photos are representative, and for security reasons, are not photos of the real people I talk about.

What it Means to be a Father

When I was a little girl, my Dad told me I could be anything, do anything I wanted. He helped me dream. He bragged on me. He teased me–especially the time when I was about three and we were at a Sunday School picnic. They had a spike-driving contest every year to see who could hammer a railroad spike into a square piece of lumber with the least strokes. Dad always won, hands down. Three hits and that baby was embedded! I was so proud of him!

So this particular Sunday, feeling shy, I walked over and put my arms around his leg. Suddenly I heard his gentle voice. “Carrie, I think you have the wrong daddy.” I looked up and, to my chagrin, realized I had hold of the leg of another man, one I was sure at my brilliant age wore a toupee. I quickly released this man, who was smiling while the other men chuckled, and I ran to the “right” daddy!

As I grew, I didn’t always like my father’s instructions or correction. He didn’t often raise his voice, but a quiet “Carrie” along with “that look” could stop me in my tracks.

But he didn’t just correct. He spend time playing on the floor with my brothers and me. Made time for Daddy-daughter dates as I grew. Cheered on my accomplishments. Prayed fervently when I ministered in the ghetto. Encouraged friendships with others who also trusted my Jesus, both my own age and his and Mom’s age. I always knew Dad loved me. I figured I’d still be “Daddy’s girl” at 80, although he passed twenty years ago.

How I treasure the love, presence and security of my dad in my life.

My husband, Don, has five children, four in-laws, ten grandchildren, and two greats! He dearly loves his family, watching out for their needs and supporting their endeavors. He also loves my family (they’re all ours!), as evidenced by the way he cared for my mother during the years of our marriage, and by his love for my siblings and their children. In many ways he is like my father. Gracious, hospitable, discerning, godly, quiet, and wise.

To read four recommendations for helping your child feel safe, seen, soothed and secure from the beautiful photo at left, see Kirsten Russell’s Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/p/CeEgDSqpT7M/?fbclid=IwAR3Dr4HgTC4Pm6mPa1J0AuUI8j8bxrdZBLA8Fb6F3n6LSkNeReBk5qFrREw

…is if a child has at least one person who they feel securely attached to and who shows up consistently.

I know many have not experienced the love of a righteous father, as I have. My heart grieves for these, as a father’s love is foundational to who we are and become.

Good fathers are present. They listen to their children and take their concerns seriously. They build up, affirm, challenge, and correct. They make home a safe haven for their children. Fathers impact the future of their children in significant ways.

Prager U says “Statistically speaking, a child who grows up without a father in the home is more likely to experience homelessness, commit crime, serve time in prison, abuse drugs, drop out of school, be obese, suffer from poverty, and so much more. And the United States has the highest share of single parenting in the world.”

And yet, there is a Father who reaches out to us, through the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, who says “I am with you. I will be your father. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Bring all your burdens to Me, because I care for you. Confess the ways you’ve walked away from Me, and receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.” (Paraphrased from Psalm 68:5, Hebrews 13:5, I Peter 5:7, and John 3:16.)

The apostle Paul had wise advice for both children and fathers when he wrote,

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:1-4, NIV

If you’re a father, spend intentional, loving time with your child.

Whether you’re a child or adult, treasure the moments you have with a loving, imperfect father. One day he will be gone and you will miss those moments, as I do!

A righteous man walks in integrity; blessed are his children after him.

Proverbs 20:7 –

Costco Grace

We’d planned to go to Costco after I did some writing Monday. However, the audio department at the VA called to say they could get Don in that morning to switch out a part of his hearing aid that didn’t fit correctly.

person holding hotdog sandwich with ketchup
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So, leaving Paigey with a Greenie to chew, we headed to the VA, then to Costco. After our shopping we stopped for hot dogs. Let’s not argue about what’s in them or whether they’re bad for you. Once in awhile, they are a treat!

Only one table was empty so Don approached it at the same time another man did. They agreed to share the table. I approached with my hot dog loaded. We sat across from, and met, Vivian and Ray, a paralegal and a pilot. Vivian was born in China but relocated to Taiwan at the age of two years, then came to the US for college. They were eating before shopping (a good idea, since when we’re hungry we sure add to the list!). We sat and talked about everything from Putin and Ukraine, to Taiwan, to our need for hope, to hearing aids. A delightful, relaxed conversation from which no one was in a hurry to walk away.

creative shot of human ears on dark background
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I have some hearing loss in my left ear, and the audiologist had told me it’s better to adjust to hearing aids while your hearing is still decent than when it is further gone. I’d talked about making an appointment with Costco’s hearing aid center for a year. I have Mom’s hearing aids, which were only a year old when she passed away.

For some reason, while at Costco Monday, I felt a nudge and made the hearing appointment for Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday I drove to my appointment. Bonnie greeted me and thought they could make Mom’s hearing aids work. I’d tried to charge them but her charger didn’t work. Bonnie looked up the record of Mom’s purchase.

“Oh my,” she said.

“Oh my, what?”

“Your mother’s warranty is up in eight days. I can get you a new replacement charger for nothing.”

“Really?” I was skeptical. “Are you sure?”

“I am.”

So why did I make the appointment last Monday when I’ve put this task off for a year or more, only to find the warranty was still good for eight more days? Some would call that a coincidence. I call it a God-incident.

One of the songs we sang in church that morning was written by Tommy Walker. Some of the words go like this.

We will remember, we will remember
We will remember the works of Your hands
We will stop and give you praise
For great is Thy faithfulness

You’re our creator, our life sustainer
Deliverer, our comfort, our joy
Throughout the ages You’ve been our shelter
Our peace in the midst of the storm

With signs and wonders You’ve shown Your power
With precious blood You showed us Your grace
You’ve been our helper, our liberator
The giver of life with no end

We will remember, we will remember
We will remember the works of Your hands
We will stop and give you praise
For great is Thy faithfulness

When we walk through life’s darkest valleys
We will look back at all You have done
And we will shout, our God is good
And He is the faithful One

Bridge

…I still remember the day You saved me
The day I heard You call out my name
You said You loved me and would never leave me
And I’ve never been the same

We will remember, we will remember
We will remember the works of Your hands
We will stop and give you praise
For great is Thy faithfulness

The song reminds me that when my day feels dreary, when my heart hurts, when I lose hope, I will remember what God has done for me in the past–and there are so many times He has stepped into my situation for good. He has also walked with me along painful paths of sorrow. And as I remember His faithfulness in the past, I will trust Him for the present and the future.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV

When is the last time you had a God-incident, an unexpected moment of grace that reminded you of God’s faithfulness?

Adventures

Don’s youngest son and his wife have created an oasis in their back yard. The part of the family that is in town and had not tested positive for Covid met there on Memorial Day. All contributed to a wonderful, salad-themed meal.

Don and granddaughter Kate

Kate and Jenn came up with a trick to play on us. Rod grilled burgers, then put them on a plate, the “veggie burgers” separate from the “meat burgers.” They did look different. We garnished our meat burgers with tomatoes, relishes and lettuce, and enjoyed every delicious bite.

Then Jennifer admitted they were all veggie burgers – just different brands. They pulled a fast one on us and we never caught it. And I would gladly eat those again!

Lots of chatter back and forth. Don and I put a puzzle together with four-year old Patrick and his mom. We hadn’t seen Kate in a couple of years, and she regaled us with one story after another … I think she’d missed being with the larger family!

We expected friends from Texas to arrive that evening and had told them we’d be home around 8:30. Stopping to pay an enormous price for gas we needed the next day, we got home around 8:45. There in our driveway was their SUV. They beat us by just a few minutes.

Eager to get inside to greet Joe and JoAnn, I opened the garage door and pulled in, closing the door as Joe exited their car in the driveway. A minute later, JoAnn was at the front door. The directions we’d given to enter the house if they got there before we did hadn’t worked.

Along Capitola River

I couldn’t believe I drove into the garage without noticing the two were seated inside their car in our driveway!

Tuesday we lunched outside on a gorgeous day at Capitola Beach, walked about, then drove a lovely area of the coastline before coming home, making dinner, and playing games together. Joe and JoAnn left very early the next morning but we had a delightful time catching up with these dear friends, sharing needs and praying together. We have served together at Rancho Santa Marta, Mexico for quite a few years.

Don on Treasure Island with SF skyline in background

Don and I toured Treasure Island with a group of Villagers on Thursday. The 480-acre Island was built from landfill and Bay mud for the 1939 World’s Fair. Only three of the original buildings remain. The Island features lower-cost housing for police officers, firefighters, and teachers–rents in San Francisco are simply too high for many. Most of the buildings are being razed, to be replaced with more housing – from high-end to homeless shelters. I found myself hoping those rebuilding would also add trees to prettify the flat, dry space. We had a great view of both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate from one stop. After a lunch at Max’s at the Opera in San Francisco, we went to the Museum of Modern Art, where we saw a huge, portable mural by Diego Rivera, husband of Frida Kahlo.

Four of the panels – lower right has Henry Ford and Thomas Edison; lower left, Hitler and WWII

Rivera returned to San Francisco in June 1940 to headline the main fine arts exhibition of Treasure Island’s Golden Gate International Exposition. He worked on a scaffold in an airplane hangar before a live audience to paint The Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on This Continent, commonly known as Pan American Unity, his last mural in the U.S.

The work measures twenty-two by seventy-four feet and weighs over thirty tons — portable only because Rivera didn’t paint this fresco on a wall, but on ten steel-framed cement panels. The MOMA Rivera exhibit is open to the public free of charge until 2023.

And today we voted. That is a privilege and responsibility!

I’m grateful that, in the midst of concern for those we love who suffer, of chaos and pain in our world, God still gives moments of delight with friends and new experiences.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17

What do you value most about your friends?