Category Archive: Compassion

A Little Girl and a God who Lasts!

Masks were off at outdoor church today! The breeze stirred as we sat in the sunshine, singing “We need a fresh wind, the fragrance of Heaven. Pour your Spirit out.”

person holding white dandelions
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels.com

Do you feel, as I do, that the heaviness of the past year is lifting just a bit? And yet, countries like India are still overwhelmed with Covid cases, with hospitals that can’t hold all the sick, with deaths there aren’t enough people to handle. India’s most famous guru, Ramdev, has decided to take the vaccine after berating doctors and saying ayurvedic medicine was sufficient. https://news.yahoo.com/ramdev-india-most-famous-yoga-140805662.html

I lost a friend to Covid two and a half weeks ago. The husband of one of my college best friends. Grief and sorrow continue. Do you need, as I do, to be reminded of hope?

Don and I have been reading through the book of Isaiah. There’s so much prophecy, and we don’t understand it all or know when some of the prophesied events will happen. But oh, chapter 40 is so rich it had me in tears the other day.

Isaiah begins the chapter with the familiar line Handel used in his Messiah: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” (KJV) Isaiah writes that we need to prepare the way of the coming Lord, the Creator of everything we can see or imagine. THE MESSAGE says “Who has scooped up the ocean in his two hands, or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger…” He is a God of magnitude we cannot comprehend!

The prophet continues:

So who even comes close to being like God? To whom or what can you compare him? Some no-god idol? Ridiculous! … Have you not been paying attention? Have you not been listening? … God sits high above the round ball of earth. The people look like mere ants. He stretches out the skies like a canvas–yes, like a tent canvas to live under…

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob (or Carol, or Sue, or Rod, or …) or whine, Israel, saying ‘God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me’? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts … He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath, and he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40:18-31 (The Message)
selective focus photography of woman in pink shirt
Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

This is so precious to me. I’ve had a knee and shoulder replaced and have pain in the other parts. I don’t walk fast. I don’t run. But one day, in God’s amazing kingdom of justice and peace, I will run without tiring. I will pick up things without pain in my shoulders.

Dear friends of ours, Directors at Rancho Santa Marta, Mexico, birthed three children. They have a very full plate running a Christian school with about 250 students from up to 60 miles away. They oversee five residences for live-in children who may be orphans, removed from their homes due to abuse, or have learning difficulties. But Rod and Tina adopted another little girl from India a number of years ago.

Recently the couple was asked by the Mexican welfare system if they could take in a little deaf mute girl. They felt having her in one of the residences would add another layer of complexity to the family structures they’ve developed there, so Rod and Tina offered to foster this child. Within a week, they were in love with her and have decided to adopt her as well.

person woman music pink
Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

The God who created the heavens and all that is in them reached down to pluck this little girl up and put her in a home where she will be loved, taught, and hopefully helped medically. The family is checking into getting cochlear implants so she can learn to hear and speak and have a more normal life. But they have a short window of time. She is 5 and a half, and they evidently only perform these implants on children until the age of six. Won’t you join us in prayer for the MediCal and financial support they need to have this surgery done before their little one turns six?

Isaiah 40:27 (MSG) talks about this amazing God:

“Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.”

It’s only when we hope in God that we can impact a world that seems hopeless–sometimes, one child at a time.

“Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.

“It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

God CARES. He LASTS. He doesn’t change. He hasn’t lost track of his children, including me. That gives me hope.

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MIRACLES … AND NEEDS

Friends of ours invited parents of a former refugee and immigrant to Canada to stay with them when they came to visit their M*slm background Christian son in Canada. That was two years and 10 months ago. This family comes from a nation where persecution against Christians is strong and violent. Previously, a brother and sister chose to become believers and suffered heavy persecution in their homeland. When life became too dangerous, they fled to a nearby country, where they have been living as refugees.

An aerial view of a Refugee Camp
Aerial view of one refugee camp

When the parents left their country to visit their son in Canada, they were allowed to leave with the stipulation that they give poison pills to their Christian children who had become apostate. They took the pills with them, but disposed of them and didn’t act on those orders.

Another son back in their country has been badly beaten and suffered much because of his siblings choosing to follow Jesus, and possibly because he himself has now become a believer.  The parents think that he is a believer because he had been so eager to learn about Jesus and later, after the police stopped and searched him one time, he told his parents, “They don’t know that what I have is on the inside.”

Through conversations with their children, with our friends (through translation), and through the love of Christian community, the parents have both become Christians. Their immigration hearing was Friday this week. As they and our friends met with their lawyer, she thought their testimony was not very good (because of their poor memories and communication… possibly because of the trauma and PTSD) and they might lose the case. She was not encouraging and actually made the process difficult and frustrating for all of them.

Thursday night many of us joined a zoom prayer meeting where we “met” the parents online for the first time. What a joy to pray together with other believers that S and T would be able to remain in Canada, but above that, that God’s will be done, even if that meant a return to their country to be a witness and suffer for Jesus’ sake. We didn’t know which way the hearing would go, but knew already that one obstacle had been removed. A key government figure who planned to oppose their asylum request was no longer going to be involved.

The next morning, at least 106 of us had committed to pray during the hearing, many at specific times. Don and I prayed for those who would hear their testimony, that the parents would receive grace and favor and be at peace in this situation. Early in the afternoon, we received an email with a YAAAAAAAAAY Victory! in the subject line. I ran to find Don. The female decision maker had read all of the documentation our friend prepared (over 300 pages) the day before the hearing, and realized this couple would indeed be persecuted if they returned to their country. She granted them Permanent Residency and after five years they can apply to become citizens.

We were in tears, and we certainly know they were!! Tears of joy, of watching a miracle of God take place. There are lots of steps ahead–our friends’ church has hired them as janitors. They need to learn more English and at some point probably move out on their own. Our friends have worked tirelessly to help them, and they need respite.

But God is so gracious in granting this huge miracle!

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:7, NIV

So we see God’s mighty hand at work on the one hand; and we plead for his mercy and care for so many other needs. God is a good Father and his ways are higher than ours. But we know there is significant pain all around us.

What can we do?

First, pray. Pray for those you know who are hurting, in need, lonely, afraid, sick. We so often think of prayer as a last resort when it should be our first. I love the way THE MESSAGE often refers to God’s name: God-of-Angel-Armies! Wow, to think our prayers can help move that mighty army!

Reminds me of a true story of an escape from Russia to China over the Amur River in 1929 Bolshevik Russia. The 26 escapees watched for times of shift change, when the smallest number of guards were on duty. They left at midnight, trying to keep babies from crying, horses from whinnying. They were never fired on and reached China safely. When the superiors questioned the two guards the next morning, they said “There were armed guards all around the group. We had no chance.”

Second, step in where you can. Visit, listen, share the love of Jesus with those who are open, bring cards, food or flowers–the list will vary depending on your life circumstances, location, etc.

Third, if you can, give to organizations that have integrity in reaching desperate needs…

  • worldvision.org
  • samaritanspurse.org
  • mcc.org
  • mercyships.org

Or to on-campus ministries to reach our students:

  • intervarsity.org
  • cru.org

And your local church likely gives a portion of its budget to missions and to community needs. We were part of one church which has given over a million meals to Second Harvest Food Bank; and joined with other local churches after a local tragedy shook our community. Together, the churches provided resources for counseling for the mothers of both the 15-year-old boy and of the eight-year-old girl he murdered.

We are the Church, Christ’s body here on earth. We’re in a spiritual battle and need to engage as he leads us. My way may be different than yours; and yours, than your neighbors’.

So let’s rejoice in God’s still-miraculous work, and pray for his guidance, his heart in us for the world around us.

The Judge

We sat on our couch, watching courtroom proceedings on zoom for seven hours.

It was sentencing day. The jury had already declared the defendant guilty. But both sides’ attorneys, as well as the perpetrator and the victims of his fraud were allowed to raise objections or make statements of his impact on our lives.

The Judge was consistently patient, listening to all sides. He treated each of us, including the defendant, with courtesy and respect. We were never felt rushed or like we were wasting the Court’s time. The Judge carefully expressed the rationale behind his decision to overrule or uphold each objection.

The trial has dragged on for four long years and four months. Along with quite a few others, Don and I were victims of the defendant’s fraud. We were all eager to put this behind us and move on. Some victims lost their life savings, pensions, and went into debt because they believed in the cause this man represented. Due to the stress of the fraud and trial, several probably died earlier than they would have otherwise.

We were blessed not to have fallen for “F’s” schemes longer than we did.

Even when handing down his sentence, the Judge spoke to the defendant with compassion. “You’re an intelligent man, and have done some positive things. I don’t know where it went wrong for you that made you choose to do what you did.”

BUT … the law was clear. He chose to go another way and has to pay the consequences for his crime.

We were very touched by one victim’s testimony. An articulate young man, he spoke of God’s forgiveness and desire for “F” to repent and seek forgiveness. He forgave “F,” but encouraged the Judge to give the maximum sentence in light of the loss, pain, illness, and suffering “F” put on so many.

It reminded me that one day we will each stand before the King of Kings, the fair and just Judge of all mankind. He has already provided forgiveness … but He gives us the choice of whether or not to receive it.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

John 3:16-17

God won’t ask how much we gave to this charity or that, or what good deeds we did. In love and grace, God has provided the way through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and offer of forgiveness and new life to each of us. Our choice is whether or not to receive it.

And our eternity will be based on that answer.

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.

I John 5:11-12

My only answer to the King of Kings is “I’m here with Jesus, who died and rose again that I might have life eternal.”

Questions? I’d love to talk with you.

Never Forget!

Nineteen years ago on September 11th, I walked into my office building. The security guard looked flustered. “They flew into the Twin Towers.”

I hadn’t heard any news en route to work that morning, so asked what she was talking about. I rushed to my desk to turn on my computer and saw the horrors of 9-11 on my screen: planes crashing into towers, towers crumbling from the impact, people jumping out of windows to their deaths.

Then we began hearing about the heroes of that horrific day.

  • Firefighters who risked their lives to rescue people stranded on upper floors of the Twin Towers.
  • Jason Thomas (right), who was dropping his daughter off at his mother’s in Long Island when he heard what had transpired. A former Marine sergeant who had been out of the Corps for a year, he changed into the Marine Corps uniform still sitting in his trunk, and sped toward Manhattan, where he and others worked tirelessly for the next two and a half weeks to rescue survivors.
  • Policemen who searched the rubble for survivors and kept others away from the devastated area.
  • A cousin of my sister-in-law’s, who would have been on the 81st floor of one of those Towers except for running a bit late that morning. He and others loved and supported their employees through the tragedy, also sharing the comfort only Christ can give.
  • Todd Beamer who led passengers on Flight 93 to fight back when they realized the plane had been hijacked to attack the Pentagon. They, and all 44 passengers aboard the plane, gave their lives when the plane crash landed on a Pennsylvania field rather than into the Pentagon.
  • Husbands, wives, parents, children who posted pictures of their loved ones in hopes of finding them – in a hospital, with amnesia, even in a morgue; and many others.

We watched the New York Port Authority, the Police, Firefighters, Marines, and every day civilians work together to rescue survivors and recover bodies.

On 9-11 we promised never to forget!

And once again today, when our country is deeply divided and experiencing rioting, a pandemic, looting, fires, floods, murders and anti-freedom activists, we have heroes, many unsung. Let’s remember to pray for, and to thank those who are sacrificing for the good of our nation–firefighters, police, the military, medical personnel, pastors, and many other heroes who are working to bring relief where they can.

The words of Martin Luther’s old hymn still speak truth and hope, hope that goes beyond this life to the next.

1 O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.

3 Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame,

From everlasting thou art God, to endless years the same.

4 O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come,

Be thou our guide while life shall last, And our eternal home.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise–in God I trust and am not afraid.

Psalm 56:3-4a

A Different Kind of Week

I felt a bit dizzy during the night Monday. When I wakened Tuesday I was quite nauseous. I stayed in bed until about 11, then Don prepared me a very light breakfast of fresh fruit.

Back to bed to sleep – for hours! It’s years since I’ve done that. At 4 o’clock I wakened, feeling like I was going to upchuck. I got up as slowly as I could and headed toward the restroom. I hit two walls on my way and barely made it before losing everything I’d eaten (or so I thought).

I called my doctor’s office at 4:50 to ask for advice. A nurse called back shortly. “You’re too late for office hours and urgent care won’t see you if you’ve thrown up today. You need to go to the ER and get checked out.”

I knew throwing up was one possible symptom of COVID-19, but I had no others.

“You don’t sound good, and I think it’s important you be seen tonight.”

“Do you really think that’s necessary?” I asked.

“OK. I’ll go.”

I dressed and told Don what the office had said. On the way I said “I really don’t want to throw up in your car, love.”

Don pulled into the ER driveway. I opened the door, and wallah – you guessed it! A kind man pushed me inside in a wheelchair while Don went home to wait (no visitors allowed).

Over the next five hours I was poked for blood tests (great job, hardly felt it), given an EKG, gave a urine sample, and was put into a bed and given two warmed blankets to cover me (later, a third was added). The nurses and aides were gracious.

At one point I overheard the woman next to me say “Thank you for being so kind to me,” and I prayed God’s blessing on her. I heard several “Code Blues” and felt it a privilege to pray for those individuals and the medical personnel caring for them. Of course I prayed for Don, at home waiting for news. I’ve recently been anxious over fires and riots and yet, in the ER I was truly at peace the whole time and so grateful for God’s presence with me.

From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive. Kind words are like honey–-sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

Proverbs 16:23-24 

I told one of my nurses I was praying for them, and he thanked me. “I really appreciate that,” he said. “I think this is the first year that people are really thanking us–oh, here and there people have, but as a whole.”

We were very thankful with the report that all my vitals looked good, no COVID, just vertigo. I left late that night with medication and exercises to help.

I’ve been very thankful for our medical personnel before, particularly when Mom needed care over the past year plus. But somehow when it’s you in that bed and waiting for results it really sinks in how much these men and women are on the front lines – doctors, nurses, phlebotomists, aides, registrars, cleaning staff.

Thank you, each of you, for treating me with kindness and respect, and ensuring you did all possible to check whether or not I had an infection or virus. God be with you, each and every one!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15