Retooling

I sat down at the keyboard, placed my fingers in position. I couldn’t open my WordPress program. Nada. Nothing. I was stumped. I couldn’t post my weekly blog.

The following week I contacted my provider to regain site access. After six or seven calls and repeated emails that got me nowhere, I was getting quite frustrated.

Finally I spoke with a service representative who said, “This is beyond my pay grade so I’m going to escalate your call.” Thank you Jesus (and Shawn)! This man recognized he did not have the skills necessary to correct my issue and up-loaded my call. Jon, on the other hand, did have the needed expertise and spent time with me, giving me back access to the administrative side of my blog and answering questions patiently. Something about my system needed retooling.

How often do you and I need retooling in our lives, whether spiritually, physically, emotionally or mentally?

I was recently challenged to fast in some way. I tend to get lightheaded if I wait too long between meals and so a food fast doesn’t seem workable for me at this time. However, I can fast in another way, for the purpose of spending that time with the Father.

My morning habit is to pick up my phone while I’m still in bed, check news and emails. I’ve determined that for the next week I will postpone that time on my phone, rather getting out of bed to sit by a living room window overlooking the pines and hills, and start my day with my Savior FIRST.

I need retooling periodically. How about you?

Process, or Purpose?

Computer problems prevented my posting the last two weeks. My apologies … but I’m back!

Before leaving for Mexico I determined that on our return I would make a concentrated effort to lose weight. And so I began a weight loss program that has worked for me in the past.

I’m encouraged to have started. But a dear friend reminded me that there is a bigger picture involved.

  • I want to lose weight.
  • I want to encourage and bless my husband in every way possible.
  • I want to help and serve my mother.
  • I’m writing a novel that’s been in the works for awhile. I want to finish it before next year’s Spring Christian Writers’ Conference.

As we talked about these goals, Grace looked at me with love and said, “And in order to finish that book, Carol, you need energy. So is weight loss the overriding purpose?”

And I realized it’s not. My purpose, for which weight loss is one part, is to become healthier so that I can complete these other goals…supporting and encouraging those I love, completing my novel…all for the glory of God.

Delicious – but does it feed my goal to become healthier?

How often do I set targets and stay focused on little goals without putting them in the context of a bigger picture. In what ways do I sabotage my overall purpose in life, which is to honor God and delight in Him forever? Is it by eating foods I know are unhealthy for me (i.e.too much sugar, too many carbs)? Is it by staying up too late (although there are nights, like tonight, when I can’t sleep and so I do get up and work or relax), by filling my mind with unwholesome reading or TV? Is it by filling my schedule with “good” projects that prevent me from doing the best thing(s)?

Being challenged to look at a purpose beyond losing weight or finishing a novel helps me prioritize, determine how and where I expend my energy, and make wise choices along the way. In order to accomplish what God has called me to, I need to take better care of myself in the ways that I can, not out of selfishness or ego, but for the glory of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Galatians 5:22-23a

I’m trying to look at each day in light of this larger purpose of increased health, and I look forward to what I will learn in the process.

Is there an area where you need to review your deeper purpose and put it in writing to help you remember?

*I apologize for not posting the past two weeks. I had a glitch in my program that took awhile to resolve. I’m back!

CONDUCT UNBECOMING – OR WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL?

“You signed off on this. Get over it.” My first (mental) reaction was defensive. Our neighbor, Jane, had approved our plan for solar installation prior to its approval by the Architectural Review Committee for our community. Now she hated it. Some of the equipment was on the outside of our garage, which she saw every time she walked out of her front door.

It seemed every time she saw Don or me, she’d comment “That’s ugly.” But she never proposed, or even asked for, a solution. Her words and dour facial expression were getting a bit old.

Don drew up sketches of a plan to cover the equipment and make the wall more palatable to Jane. We submitted them to the architectural control committee (ACC) and the next day, got a call from one of the committee members.

The committee liked our plan but thought it would be good to meet together with Jane to ensure she was on board. We said absolutely! So that afternoon Jane, Don and I met with Mary and another committee member, looking at the wall and the plan.

I had prayed that God would control my initial defensive response because after all, our desire is to be a reflection of Jesus to our neighbors, to build bridges, not walls. He answered that prayer. Don presented his plan well. And he is just calmer than I am. I tend to get a fire lit inside myself pretty easily at times.

I can get huffy when others disagree with or dislike something I’ve done.

But what is my end goal?

Is it to be right … or to be righteous? Is it to win … or to love?

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

Is my conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ? (Philippians 1:27a)

I was reminded of this question through the situation with Jane. And yes, we came up with next steps. We haven’t finished working through the issue yet, but we do have approval from both Jane and the ACC. My prayer is that when the adjustments are completed, Jane will realize that we care about her, respect her concerns, and that she will be more open to us.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 12:18, NIV

Back to the Ranch

I wish I could capture mornings at Rancho Santa Marta. The air is crisp and cool—cooler than we expected! Birdsong of different species fills our ears with the hope of a new day. I look out our door to see three horses in the paddock. Somehow, because of different environmental allergens, my vision here is superb and I can almost count the leaves on the Ranch’s trees.

We’re up at 5:30 am for group devotions at 6:00, followed by breakfast and the workday ahead. Don and I walk out of our room, down the cement steps and along the dirt road to the dining area.

Peter leads devotions for our group, talking about cracked pots–you and me, and some days, especially me! Each of us is a vessel (an “instrumento”) designed for service. The apostle Peter instructed that “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” I Peter 4:10 NIV.

My lovely amiga Julia grew up at the Ranch and is now studying Film at University

We’re once again in a beautiful part of God’s world in Baja, Mexico, about 60 miles south of Ensenada, with people we love and a ministry to under-served children that touches our hearts.

Don leading men in construction projects

And our team’s gifts are many and varied, including:

  • Cooking
  • Construction
  • Craft-making
  • Painting
  • Puppetry
  • Photography
  • Project Management and
  • Administration.

All pitch in to help cook and clean.

Some who have never worked in construction learn new skills as our team builds trusses, hoists them onto the roof of the last two high school classrooms here, and covers the trusses with plywood sheeting, ready for the next volunteer team to move the project forward.

Photo courtesy of Larry Trice

About 38 children live on the property in four homes, each with house parents. Additionally, about 200 children are bused in for school daily from up to 60 miles away. Teachers who could earn much more in the public school system give of their hearts and minds to these children who need to know Jesus’ love, expressed through men and women who are His hands and feet on earth. The students are trained according to their special needs.

We’re getting tired. And yet every time Don and I come here we are so glad to be back in this place where children we have learned to love are given a safe haven in which to learn and grow. The needs for external and internal healing are great, and God’s love and grace are part of the curriculum.

This week’s projects, led by different team members, included the following:

  • Built and erected 38 trusses for the last two high school classrooms on the Ranch.
Covering the trusses with plywood sheeting
  • Led four craft sessions, one for each children’s residence.
  • Conducted puppet and chalk talk demonstrations in many of the elementary school classrooms.
  • Built and installed shelves in a new and expanded room for clothing and shoe distribution.
  • Trimmed and thinned peach trees in the orchard.
  • Prepared, cleaned up, and ate three wonderful squares a day to keep us going.
  • Enjoyed games and music some evenings.
  • Had a Pinata and S’mores party with the resident children, followed by dinner in the four homes.
Enjoying dinner in one of the girls’ residences

Saturday we leave RSM at 5 am to head for the border and back to our “normal” lives, a little bit richer for having been here once again – year ten for Don, and nine for me.

God bless the directors, teachers, staff, house parents and children at Rancho Santa Marta until we see you again!

www.ranchosantamarta.org/

post by carolnl | | 4

Faithful and True

There’s just something about a girlfriends’ weekend such as I enjoyed a week ago.

Fritz, Shirley and I talked about our lives and concerns, and reminded each other how God has shown up in a variety of situations.

And we raised questions. Why is evil so rampant in our world … from the horrific bombings in churches where Christians celebrated the resurrection on Easter Sunday to the synagogue shooting in Poway, California a few days ago. Why are some young lives cut short? And does God really bring good out of evil?

Sunday morning we stood in church singing “You are perfect in all of your ways … ” That truth ministered to me in a meaningful way as I recalled difficult times in my own life–a controlling leader who caused significant physical and emotional pain in my life, and the agonizing loss of my first husband, to name just two. And yet, God is perfect, holy, righteous. He could have stopped each of these events, but didn’t.

Sickness and dysfunction are present in our world ever since the Fall of man. Evil exists and people suffer.

Sometimes we see God bring miraculous healing and closure. Other times we see Him give grace beyond comprehension, as when some of the church members in Charleston forgave Dylann Roof, the man who attended Bible study and then murdered eight of their number in 2015.

And yet sometimes we can’t see how God is working in a situation. That’s when we can choose to trust that He is “perfect in all of His ways,” that in light of eternity there is always hope, even beyond understanding, beyond despair. When my first husband died, I wanted to curl up in a shell and withdraw from life. But I knew that would not honor either Jerry or my Lord, and that since I was still here, God’s purpose and plan for me was not over. I chose to trust that He would bring me through, that hope would return, that when my faith was at its lowest He would hold me.

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Evil, heartbreak, horror exist and we are touched by it. But God is present with us in every circumstance and He is just. And one day His justice will reign down, evil will be conquered, and righteousness will reign. Wow, what joy!

There are many questions we won’t understand until we see our God face to face. Meanwhile, we can trust the One who is faithful and true.

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

Deuteronomy 32:4 NIV