Category Archive: Conversations

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
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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
Photo by shutter_speed on Pexels.com

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?

post by carolnl | | Closed

Foibles and Grace

Headed for the exit in an unfamiliar city, I turned too soon. Instead of driving out of the rental car lot, I drove around in a circle, back to a different exit gate.

“Five minutes in Orlando and I’m already lost.” I smiled at the woman. “I just went out that gate over there and made a circle.” She laughed aloud and said “You’re fine ma’am. You can go.”

“I’m glad I gave you a chuckle,” I said as we exited the gate for the second time.

This time I took the correct ramp and Don and I got caught in a myriad of freeways–this way, that way…we chose the direction by our gut because there was nowhere to stop and turn on my Waze directional system (which didn’t work inside the cement car lot).

We drove several miles before we could get off the freeway and start Waze. Thankfully, we hadn’t gone very far afield and were headed in the correct direction.

Back at the airport, we’d ordered wheelchairs because I recently injured my hip and am using a cane periodically. And Don needed a wheelchair to keep up, because people who push those for a living are incredibly strong and FAST!

Michael was awesome. He managed both chairs, took us down to claim our luggage, across the street to car rental, got us right in front of the rental counter, loaded the car for us and sent us on our way (with a sizable tip to him!).

We stopped at the Welcome Center at the very large resort to check in.

“Oh, you’re supposed to see Hope in another welcome center. Here are the directions.”

We tried to follow the directions, got turned around at one gate, went through another and were to follow the yellow line (reminds me of Dorothy’s yellow brick road!). In the dark, we lost the yellow line. Regardless, we were too late to check in at that station, which closed at 8 pm.

We went back to the Welcome Center. “Oh, you’re back!”

“They’re closed. We’ve been here … and there … and there … and now we’re back here. And we’re tired. And we’ll try very hard not to be grouchy!” (And we weren’t). Having been awake since 3 am, we were pretty exhausted.

After checking in, we drove around to find our room, settled in and went to bed.

Twelve hours later, we wakened. Ah, what a sleep.

That afternoon we went to the resort’s market. Don’s phone fell off the car console and he thought it fell on my side. Now understand; I have a wounded hip and knee, but I wanted to help him find it. I got down on one knee in the back seat, my elbows on the floor looking under the driver’s seat to look for the phone. Not there. Then. I. Couldn’t. Move. My knee wouldn’t give, my elbows wouldn’t move. Can you imagine the view? (Don’t try.)

“I’m stuck.”

Don looked at me.

“Please help me. I’m stuck.” (Said in a very calm, quiet voice.)

“Oh, you’re serious.”

“Yes, I’m serious! Help me!” My tone was getting just a bit more strident.

He pulled me out of the back floor of the car (no, I should not have gotten down there in the first place)! He thought I was playing a joke on him! And the phone was on HIS side! Well, at that point we just started to laugh. I think sometimes laughter is 70% of forgiveness!

So we’ve laughed at our foibles and started to relax after a very busy schedule these past months.

Soon after entering Disney Springs we looked at a posted location finder. A husband and wife walked by and the man, seeing Don’s Veteran’s cap, thanked him for his service. That began a conversation where we learned he is a semi-retired pastor from Maine, about to take on a role as interim pastor for several months. It was a delightful God-moment to meet other believers, Susan and Ron.

Today, Sunday, we met our grand-niece Iona Jost for lunch. It was a delight to learn to know her better. I met her once before, and Don hasn’t seen her for several years either. We sat outside, at a table beside a cerulean lake, unmasked. And as I ate the yellowfish tuna that melted in my mouth, I was grateful for family, for this time away with Don, for life.

Somehow in the middle of all the tension in the world there is still room for laughter, for joy, for giving thanks.

In the Old Testament, Abraham’s wife Sarah, who was approaching 90 years of age and had not borne a child, was promised a son by God. And she laughed at herself, and at her joy.

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

Genesis 21:6

As I’ve matured I’ve found it much easier to laugh at myself rather than simply being embarrassed. It’s freeing. So while we continue to pray about the crises in our world, our families, our lives, let’s laugh when we have the chance. It’s healthy!

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

The Waitress

woman wearing gray top
Photo by Athena on Pexels.com

She walked to our restaurant table in Florence, Kentucky. Blonde, pony-tailed, heavily tattooed, our waitress answered some questions and then, somehow, told us her life story. I don’t even remember how that happened, how she opened up. But over her next several trips to our table, Leah spilled out one of the saddest stories I’ve heard–and I’ve heard a few.

  • Her brother was born of an incestuous relationship between her mother and her mother’s father.
  • Her mother sold the two children for drugs when they were little.
  • Leah had been on drugs for several years, but had been clean for about three years, trying to make a new life for herself. She broke up with her boyfriend because he wasn’t committed to staying clean.
  • She’d had three cars in the last two months, and the one she had now needed repairs.
  • Her brother wanted to have a sexual relationship with her, which she refused. “I’m here to protect you, not to be your girlfriend.”

We asked if she knew God, and she said she did. “I talk to him every day.” Did she know Jesus? “Yes.” But she didn’t have a Bible, wasn’t in a church as far as we know, so I don’t know how deep her understanding of God’s nature and of Jesus’ forgiveness went. I told her that no matter what her past held, she is precious in God’s eyes and that he loves her. We were able to leave her with a Gospel of John (she said she’d buy a Bible that weekend), with some other information about how to know God through Jesus, as well as a very healthy tip, saying we wanted to bless her.

We’ll likely never see Leah again except, we pray, in heaven.

But what a divine appointment! Had we been busy chatting ourselves we may never have connected with Leah as we did.

Jesus asked questions of the people he met.

“Do you want to be made whole?” (Good question!) Is it possible that some would rather wallow in their self-pity, their dysfunction, their addiction, than be made whole?

He engaged the Samaritan woman at a well. She would come when the townswomen were not there to gather water. As a woman living in adultery, she could not join in their laughter and gossip. But Jesus was there. After they had spoken for awhile…

The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

John 4:25-26. NKJV

How often do we stop long enough to listen–to the one who wants to tell her story; the one who struggles to find words because of brain cancer or dementia; the one who must weep before being able to speak; the one who hungers for someone to really hear them? Listening requires being quiet, not speaking quickly (which for me is the easier course of action).

We have a Father who is always ready to listen.

Casting all your care on him, for he cares for you.

I Peter 5:7 NKJV

And the Father has given us each other, to listen, be present, and help as he leads.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

I John 4:11 NIV

Listening takes time. I confess that I often move from one thing to another without stopping long enough to listen. I’m working on that. I want to be available for those divine appointments God brings my way; to listen closely enough to him that I know when to slow down or stop, pay attention and love someone along my way.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry …

James 1:19

What divine appointments have you experienced recently, or in the past? I’d love to hear.

post by carolnl | | 2

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.

ALL NATIONS, TRIBES, PEOPLES, AND LANGUAGUES

legs of crop person with socks
Photo by Thiago Matos on Pexels.com

I walked into Macy’s to buy socks. Yup, socks. The ones I have either weren’t the right color or were worn out. I found what I needed, paid the bill, and walked toward the exit.

An older African American woman, walking with a cane, hit the automatic door opener button. I walked out the door beside the automatic one, not wanting to crowd her. As she pushed the button to open the outer door, the woman said “You can go through this door too. I’m just slow.”

I thanked her and walked out the door, then stopped. “Do you need any help getting to your car?”

“No, my car’s right there.” She pointed to a car in the disabled parking. “But thank you for caring. Our world is so crazy right now it’s really nice when people are kind.”

I agreed. “Our world is strange; but we can rely on God.”

“Oh yes! We can indeed.”

We crossed to the parking lot together. I smiled under my mask, nodded.

“I’m Carol.”

“Hi Carol. I’m Diane.”

We both stopped walking near her car. As Diane opened her door, she said, “Nice to talk with you, Carol. I’ll probably never see you again.”

“Yes, you will,” I responded. “We’ll see each other in heaven, if not sooner.”

“Oh yes. I don’t know why the Lord is still leaving me here. He must still have a purpose for me.” Diane proceeded to tell me that, at 85 and somewhat disabled, she still sends Bible correspondence lessons to people; and when they return one, she sends them the next. “I can’t do much, but I can do this.” And she’s been doing it for about twenty years!

I left with the warm sense of meeting another Christ-follower, someone with whom I will have an eternal relationship. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we who have accepted His free gift of forgiveness and newness of life will live again after death.

At home, I greeted Don with the joy of the Lord, which is beyond happiness, as I recounted my God-moment meeting with Diane.

This week we’ve read and heard about disturbing hostility and violence toward Asian Americans. It disturbs me deeply to see our nation becoming more and more divided politically, ethnically, socio-economically. We are called by God to love each other as He has loved us.

And God loves diversity. In the book of Revelation we’re told that He will preserve people’s diversity in heaven–what a marvelous thought!

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.

Revelation 7:9

A few years ago, Don and I stood on the banks of the Jordan River in Israel. Several of our travel group had chosen to be baptized there, where Jesus was baptized. There’s an area where the river has gated sections so each group can have its own separate baptism ceremony. To our left, I heard voices praising God in an Asian language; another gated area was filled with people singing what sounded like an African praise song. There were others as well. And I thought, this is a little picture of heaven, where we will all praise God together, various nations and people groups and languages.

I eagerly await that day! And I want to live in light of eternity right now, right here, loving whomever God brings into my sphere of influence, respecting and honoring them for just who God made them to be.