Category Archive: Christlikeness

Yes? No? Wait?

Most of us have seen the news: seventeen missionaries, serving Christ in Haiti, abducted. Among them are two teenagers and children aged eight months, three and six years. The missionaries had been brought back to the US and Canada after the assassination of Haiti’s President, but were recently sent back to the country.

In a letter, the families of those abducted said “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.”

The group invited people to join them in prayer for the kidnappers as well as those kidnapped. They expressed gratitude for help from “people that are knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with” such situations.

I grieve for these men and women, for mothers trying to care for an infant and two small children in captivity. These missionaries are from Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist groups, while Don’s and my roots are of Mennonite origin. And I pray for their protection, for grace in their captivity, for their release.

And God cares!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:6-8

He also brings hope.

Hope when discouragement seems to reign over the world and our hearts.

Hope when we feel lost inside, fearful.

Hope that comes from his Word, which is still so very relevant today; and from his Spirit within us that speaks truth to us.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17, ESV

In spite of abduction, war, death, fire, flood, as well as personal challenges, God promises us hope which comes from faith if we will spend time listening to, and reading or hearing his message to us. Faith that what we see is not all there is.

The Bible is God’s love letter to you and me. Who else sent His Son, the eternal Son of God and part of the Triune God, to live among us, to show us the character of God. No other religious leader has died a horrific death, rising three days later to conquer death and offer us eternal life through His sacrifice for us.

Some think God is punishing, vengeful, that he could not possibly forgive what they have done. But look at the promise in John 3:16-17, verses familiar to many of us:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17

His desire is not vengeance, but reconciliation, relationship.

And God’s answers to prayer are not always what we think is best. His answer may be “Wait”, as it was when I longed for my first husband to pop the question! It may be “No,” as it was when people around the world prayed for the release of missionaries Jim Elliott, Nate Saint and three others at the hands of the Auca Indians in 1956. No, God didn’t spare the lives of these five men who were trying to reach a tribe in Ecuador with the Good News about Jesus. But through that murder, and through the continuing faithfulness of Jim Elliott’s widow, Elizabeth and Nate Saint’s sister Rachel, that entire tribe came to faith in Christ. His is a long view, if you will. This earth is but one step in our life’s journey. Eternity will be, well, eternal!

lightning unk on green grass field
Photo by Alexandre Bringer on Pexels.com

And his answer may be “Yes.” The daughter of friends was to be married at two o’clock this afternoon, outdoors in the Santa Cruz mountains. As many of you know, we have a storm today–heavier rains in northern California and in the mountains, with evacuation orders in place for parts of Santa Cruz because of debris and the threat of falling trees.

Don and I have prayed much this week for this wedding. We’ve prayed for rain, and didn’t want to ask God to shut the windows of heaven. We also wanted this family to have a wonderful day of celebration. Impossible to have both? When they planned the wedding the weather was projected to be clear; now there were no canopies available for rent in the area, for either the outdoor wedding or reception.

brown trees under blue sky
Photo by Jelena Juhnevica on Pexels.com

Our pastor told us this morning that another wedding at the outdoor venue cancelled yesterday (Saturday), and our friends moved their wedding up by a day. Photographer, caterers, pastor, all were available a day early and the couple had a wonderful wedding day without rain. I expect many were praying for this, and give glory to God for making a way in a situation that seemed impossible.

I don’t know what God will do with these abducted missionaries. My mind is not his. But I know this. God is good, and he loves each of those seventeen adults and children. And he will work through the resolution of this horrendous situation, whatever it may be. AND, he wants us to ask! Please join me in prayer for them.

Father, good God, please grant your peace to these servants of yours as they wait in captivity. Convict the gang members and show them your love through this group. Provide the grace that's needed for each person, and especially for the parents of the small children as they help their little ones navigate captivity. I pray the group will be able to stay together so they can encourage and uplift each other. Keep your word alive in their hearts. And in your mercy, I ask for their release. Be with their families; and in whatever comes, may your name be lifted up! In Jesus' name.

Amen!

Seventy times Seven

Our granddaughter, Gabrielle and her boyfriend, Weston spent four days with us this week. What a delight. We cherish the time we spent together. This picture was taken at Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz.

Floating $2 bill

We learned to know Gabrielle again after not seeing her for a few years. Learned to love Weston. The four of us laughed and talked as we prepared three appetizers for a larger get-together, each one doing his or her part in seamless completion of a task that would have taken me several hours longer on my own. We went to the beach (one day, fog; the next sunshine), enjoyed a few magic tricks, talked through some issues, shared our faith journeys with them. These are precious memories we carry forward.

I could go on writing about the ways God answered prayer this week, about times of laughter, but life isn’t one-sided. It is filled with joy and with sorrow, as most of us have learned by now.

I felt the barbs this week … again. You’d think after years of passive hostility I’d be used to it. We don’t see each other often but when we do it’s like I don’t exist. She moves away as soon as I enter the space where she is.

“I want to hate her,” I told Don, “but I can’t. That would not be Christlike.” (And that’s a choice, not a feeling.) And I don’t. But how do you or I respond when a hurt feels repeated deliberately, year after year. Somehow I don’t think I’m alone in this.

jesus saves neon signage
Photo by Patricia McCarty on Pexels.com

Jesus tells us to forgive seventy times seven. But forgiveness isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come cheap. It costs the forgiver, requiring letting go of the right to hurt back, releasing the sense of self-righteousness that can come with unwarranted animosity.

Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily happen immediately. It may take a period of time, of praying and talking and working through the issue with God’s help. Forgiveness is also a choice, not a feeling. And the choice may need to be repeated until it becomes reality. For me, the process starts with the God who tells me to:

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.  Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many

Hebrews 12:14-15 NLT
gray trunk green leaf tree beside body of water
Photo by Daniel Watson on Pexels.com

Bitterness hurts me more than it does anyone else. It blocks the free-flowing channel of communication between God and me. And then it transmits to others around us, just as these roots are spreading out beyond the base of the tree.

I think of the man I read about whose wife was murdered in cold blood. He was later able to forgive the murderer, and even to share God’s love with him. That is possible only by the power of God!

And I know my Father wants me to let this go–again. He has forgiven me for the times I’ve walked my own way. We’re told to confess our sins and be healed, so I requested prayer after church this morning. My sin was holding onto the hurt and, in the process, hurting my beloved husband. I’m still working through this one, but by God’s grace it is coming. And I realize I may have misread some of her actions this week. I hope so.

Who’s a difficult person in your life and how do you deal with him or her?

So … a week with precious memories and some hurt. Which will I allow to rule my thoughts and life? Hmmm … Amazingly, while on the Cross, Jesus prayed for his persecutors. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 NLT) I know what choice he wants me to make. And after almost a week of struggle, I choose to obey.

post by carolnl | | 4

What’s Love Got to Do with It

My mother showed me unconditional love in so many ways.

I came home from kindergarten in Winnipeg, Canada one day. “Mommy, I missed you. I don’t like being away from you so long.” She looked at me, gave me a hug and said, “I’m not quite ready for you to be gone so much yet either.” So I’m a kindergarten dropout–and I think I turned out ok!

Another time when I was even younger, I spilled milk on my highchair. I expected a scolding, but instead Mom grabbed a damp towel and said, “Oh well, that can be cleaned up.” I’ve never forgotten that incident although I was only two or three at the time. Mistakes were ok, they could be fixed. (However, I’m still a recovering perfectionist!)

When I made some choices in college that differed from the way I’d been raised, I was able to explain my thought process to Mom and Dad and they didn’t question my choices.

When I broke off an engagement and went home to grieve, Mom stayed up ’til the wee hours listening to me, crying with me.

We had disagreements, sure. But after my father died twenty years ago, Mom and I took several out of town trips together. Our conversations ran the gamut, from faith to family to food to movies to sex (yes!) to hopes and dreams for the future. These relaxed times together were some of our most precious.

She loved both of my husbands. She enjoyed Jerry’s humor; and treasured Don’s hugs and kisses, freely given, as well as his help hanging pictures, building shallower steps up to her door, helping move her into Assisted Living, and pushing her wheelchair when we took her out on occasion.

Mom had a beautiful, classically trained first soprano voice. She often sang solos in church, songs I remember as being part of Mom’s signature. I loved singing next to her in the church choir because her voice always challenged me, pulled mine out stronger and more controlled.

My mother is in heaven now, singing with that heavenly chorus. And I’ll bet she can hit that ‘high C’ again with clarity! She left us shortly before Mother’s Day last year. I’ve written about her before because she has been and continues to be such an impact on my life. And I miss her. Our family has been together on Mother’s Day for years. Two years ago Mom joined in the fun when we followed nephew Kyle’s example and balanced spoons on our noses! She was able to laugh at herself, and with us.

And she modeled love for Jesus Christ. Her deepest desire was to know him better day by day. To search out truths from the Bible. To see him face to face in eternity!

I’m so thankful for my mother’s presence, love and impact in my life.

blue jeans
Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com

I’m also thankful for many other mothers. My three sisters-in-love, Vicki, Carol Ann, and Sheila. My stepdaughters-in-law. My nieces and granddaughters, by DNA and by marriage, who are embedding core values into their own children’s lives. Some homeschool. Some support their children in private or in public schools. Some have adult children already. I love watching the interactions between some of my nieces and their children as they love well, discipline wisely, and direct the interests of their children into positive outlets. And I hurt with them when they go through difficult challenges with their children.

two woman chatting
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

There are also many wise women other than my mother, who have impacted me over the years, too numerous to name. I’m grateful for you–Sunday school teachers, friends of my parents’, youth group, work and writing mentors.

And I’m grateful for the women who have become like daughters to me as I’ve mentored them in faith and life. If you’re not a biological or adoptive mother, you can still love and mentor a younger woman.

Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.

Titus 2:3-5, NET

If your mother is still alive, love her in actions and deeds, not just with words. And when her frailty provides new challenges to you in terms of time and energy, be grateful she is still with you. One day she will not be.

And if she is no longer with you, remember the precious times, the conversations, the laughter, the tears, and be thankful.

…in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thessalonians 5:18, NET

So Moms, my hat’s off to you! Your task is a great one with ramifications that will reach to eternity. So what’s love got to do with it? Just everything!

Happy Mother’s Day!

post by carolnl | | 8

COVID MEMORIAL

How do you hold a memorial service during a pandemic? This is a relevant question for many whose loved ones are dying either from or despite COVID-19.

My brothers and I brainstormed ideas of how we could grieve together as a family and honor our mother during this time of Shelter in Place. And we took a page from the playbooks of many churches. Through Zoom, we held a virtual memorial service for immediate family yesterday and hope to have a broader service or burial at some future date.

While we couldn’t hug, be in the same room, meet together as a family for a light meal before the service, or share stories with extended family and friends afterward, we did have a meaningful time.

I was just one part of the service, which we recorded. But here’s what I said about my beloved Mother.

After Mom’s death I found an index card in her room on which Mom had written some of her favorite verses. The scriptures I share here were among those favorites.

Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the people of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
    and have carried since you were born.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:3-4

Mom lived her faith. I think of that aria we just heard her sing (“I Know that My Redeemer Liveth”) as her signature song. While she had questions and doubts at times, she loved Jesus with all her heart.  She spent a lot of time reading His love letter to her, and talking with him in prayer. She beamed when she spoke about her Lord. And often when I shared a concern with her, she said, “Let’s pray about it.”

Mom encouraged others. Many of the cards she received over the years talk about her thoughtful notes, phone calls, visits. She prayed faithfully for each of her family members. And she and Dad were hospitable from as far back as I can remember. When we were still in Winnipeg they hosted parties for nurses and grad students. My little girl eyes loved to peek out of my room to see the pretty young women, all dressed up, and their handsome boyfriends.

Mom as a young woman

Because Mom treasured her relationship with Jesus, she wanted others to know Him too. She and Dad worked in Bible clubs, street meetings (Mom sang and played the accordion and Dad preached), and Sunday school. The longevity of her impact is reflected by her decades-long relationship with Sylvia Sigurdson, who was a child in Winnipegosis, Canada when Mom led her to Christ. Sylvia has kept in touch with Mom these 70-odd years.

And when as a teen I doubted my salvation, Mom listened to my fears and gave me John 6:37: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” I began to rely on Jesus’ work and Word rather than on my feelings for my assurance of salvation.

Isaiah 41:10 was another favorite:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Five years ago, Mom wrote this:

“Before God revealed himself to me I was … a young girl (7 or 8). I did not have conviction of sin. Now I am … a mature, 93-year old woman who has been a Christian for 85 years. As I study God’s Word, it becomes dearer to me! I love the verses in Isaiah 41 and others that state that God chose me even before I was born! He loves me – so precious to me!”

Mom’s Diary

Zephaniah 3:17 concludes:

“The Lord your God … will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Music was a vital part of Mom’s life. Hymns were a significant way God spoke to her. When I broke off an engagement eons ago, she and Dad worried about me. She wakened one morning with a song that reminded her to trust God that all would be well, and her heart was at peace.

Mom sang to us a lot as children: not only hymns, but classical songs and “Auf dem Baum ein Kuckuke sass” (the cuckoo song) which Mel, and perhaps Arnold, have sung to their children and grandchildren.

On October 25, 2012 Mom wrote:

“Today it’s 10 years since John left this earth. I have shed tears this morning and I hurt. I have the assurance of Jesus holding me fast, assurance of reunion, that John is in heaven, happy. Am so thankful for that! For over 90 years Jesus has kept, protected, loved, guided, forgiven me! He will keep doing that and I’m grateful for all his promises!”

Mom’s Diary

After Dad died, and again after Jerry died, Mom and I took several out of town overnighters –to Napa, Sonoma, Winnipeg – even the Ukraine where Dad was born. Whenever we had relaxed, extended times together, whether for several hours or a couple of days, we had wonderful, deep conversations about life, love, faith, family. Oh how she loved her family!

And when Don and I started dating, and Mom had a good male friend, we double dated several times. Now that was both fun and interesting!

Mom always felt she was too serious. She wished she laughed more easily, was more fun. In these last months and years life became more difficult, communication more challenging because of her hearing and memory. But on occasion her chuckle reached her eyes so they twinkled. It was at those moments that I thought “There’s my Mom.”

Mom with her son Arnold

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.

Psalm 143:8

Mom longed to go home to Jesus, and to see Dad again. She was not only ready, but eager to go. And on April 4th, her prayer was answered.

I love you and miss you Mom. See you soon!

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints!

Psalm 116:15

Should you wish to access the one hour memorial service online at your own convenience, please let me know and I will share the link with you.

Undivided Attention

As I sat behind my desk, ready to write, Paigey (our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) looked up at me from beside the desk. Then she pulled her ball out and brought it to me.

“Okay, here you go.” I tossed it over the desk and our pretty red and white girl chased it. But she wouldn’t bring it back to me behind the desk, no matter how much I cajoled her.

Paigey

Finally I got out of my chair and walked around to stand in front of the desk where Paigey had my full attention. We played ball ’til she tired and lay down on her carpet.

Don’t we want that from those we love, and who love us? I love it when Don sits and listens with undivided attention. I feel heard, understood, loved.

And God has promised that kind of attention to us. “Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7). We can approach the throne of God with confidence, knowing He hears, loves us, and cares about our needs. And while His answer may at times be different than what we ask for (my first husband died despite thousands of prayers wending heavenward for his recovery), He has promised always to be with us, never to leave nor forsake us.

His goal for us is not to be our personal genie, but to work in our hearts and lives, purifying us for His purposes–and for heaven!

I love the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 71, his confidence in God, his Rock and Defender!

“For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth…

Do not cast me away when I am old;
    do not forsake me when my strength is gone…

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
    of your saving acts all day long—
    though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
    I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
    and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
    do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
    your mighty acts to all who are to come.

19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
    you who have done great things.
    Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
    many and bitter,
    you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
    and comfort me once more.

22 I will praise you with the harp
    for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
    Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
    when I sing praise to you—
    I whom you have delivered.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
    all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
    have been put to shame and confusion.”

Psalm 71:5-24

The Psalmist reminds me to praise God for His faithful works in my life and the lives of others, for His comforting hand in all my ways, His ears that hear my heart’s cry for His complete love and attention.

So I will praise Him.