Category Archive: Discouragement

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
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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.

Friday Looks Bad…but Sunday’s Coming!

Forecasters predict the weather. Newspersons predict behaviors. So as we look toward Easter, we can paraphrase that well-known line to say “Friday looks bad–but Sunday’s comin’!”

lightning strike on city
Photo by Philippe Donn on Pexels.com

What an amazing gift! Thinking of Jesus’ pain recently has brought back memories of prior Easters. The joy of celebrating the resurrection, covering a cross with flowers to reflect the “beauty instead of ashes” (Isaiah 61:3) that came out of Jesus’ suffering, happy times with family members. Then there was the Easter shortly after Jerry, my first husband, was diagnosed with terminal liver disease. I was in Japan on business (of course I’d asked his doctor and Jerry before going) and celebrated the Resurrection in a local English-speaking church. Meanwhile, Jerry and our friend, Lee Todd, went to church together in California and were invited to Mom’s for Easter lunch. Jerry broke down and couldn’t go. I came home early, soon after that. And last Easter, my mother passed from death to Life the night before Palm Sunday.

Scripture tells us there was “darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour” – i.e. from noon ’til 3 pm, when Jesus died. That darkness symbolizes the pain of separation from God. Even Jesus, God’s only Son, was separated from the Father, with whom He is One (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Our Savior could have walked away from the Cross. He walked away from the mob trying to throw Him over a cliff.

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

Luke 4:28-30, NIV

He could have called angels to rescue Him. But no, He accepted the scorn and agony in obedience to the Father, in our place. Amazing grace!!

motivational simple inscription against doubts
Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Have you experienced that darkness? The feeling of separation from God and from others you love? I have. For my father, first husband and my mother–Resurrection! But for me, there were times of great darkness and grief.

Imagine the pain of Jesus’ disciples. They believed He was ushering in a new kingdom. And He was. They just didn’t understand that it was a kingdom that was not of this world. Now their leader, Rabbi, hero was dead. I imagine they felt not only grief, but betrayal. What happened to Jesus’ promises?

Before He died, Jesus told His disciples,

… “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

John 14:6-8, NIV
black cross on top of mountain
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Amazing grace indeed, that He would die in our place.

So what is our response to His sacrifice?

Do we ignore Him, assign Him a “good man/great teacher” role, or accept Him as our King?

At the moment of Jesus’ death the heavy curtain at the entrance to the Temple was torn. That incident symbolized the opening of the veil–that through Jesus, all have access to God the Father. The good news was not only for the Hebrews, but for all people, including you and me! Forgiveness was granted to the man on the cross next to Jesus; to Saul, who persecuted and killed Christians before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and became the apostle Paul. No sin too great for God to forgive!

I have questions that may not be answered until eternity. I don’t have it all together. I question why my mother’s body had such a hard time letting go when her mind and spirit were so ready to be in the presence of God. But this I declare–Jesus is my King! And one day, all my questions will be answered, my fears resolved, peace restored to the world as God intended.

So I encourage you this week to remember, “Today’s Friday … but Sunday’s Comin'” (you can listen to the whole piece at the link below). God be with you this Easter week!

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-norton-ext_onb&ei=UTF-8&hsimp=yhs-ext_onb&hspart=norton&param1=0a6ef5af-06c6-4c78-90af-877a4392b851_2020-06-18_cr&param2=ds_nag_may20&param3=ngc_22.20.2.57_wk25_2020&param4=1000&source=nag&p=this+is+friday%2C+but+sunday%27s+coin&type=cr_ds_may20_wk25_2020#action=view&id=20&vid=f2df1939757237945cd3489b31759ccc

Three Weeks

Just three weeks until we celebrate the greatest event of all history–no, not the victory at the Battle of the Bulge. Not the election of whichever Presidential candidate we supported. Not man landing on the moon. In three weeks we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death, conquering it for all eternity.

light people art silhouette
Photo by Thgusstavo Santana on Pexels.com

Imagine those last few weeks of Jesus’ life on earth. He knew the Cross was coming. I would think he experienced anticipatory grief. Mobs tried to throw him off a cliff, but he calmly walked through the crowd and away. Pharisees tried to catch him in a misstatement (but couldn’t–he called their bluffs). He was accused of not making his disciples follow the traditions that the Chief Priests and Rabbis had put in place, which were neither in scripture nor in Jesus’ teaching. The religious leaders wanted control. Jesus wouldn’t give it to them until it was his time.

He fed a crowd of four thousand men (plus women and children) with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Mark 8:8 says “And they ate and were satisfied.” After the meal his disciples picked up seven basketsfull of leftovers!

The religious leaders tested Him over and over again, but were astonished at his answers because they couldn’t trip him up!

He healed the blind, the lame, the woman with chronic bleeding, and many others. He foretold his death to His disciples. Peter rebuked Him for talking that way, and Jesus rebuked Peter, saying he needed to focus his mind on the things of God rather than man (Mark 8:33)!

Then he called the crowd and his disciples together.

“If any of you wants to be my follower,” he told them, “you must put aside your own pleasures and shoulder your cross, and follow me closely. If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.

“And how does a man benefit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process? For is anything worth more than his soul?”

Mark 8:34-37 TLB

As we enter this Easter season, let’s remember that we can’t be neutral about Jesus Christ. He said ““Whoever is not with me is against me…” Matthew 12:30a NIV.

Most of us aren’t in a court trial for our faith. But the reality of our confidence in Christ shows (or doesn’t) in our daily life. That’s where we’re on trial, day after day. Will we identify with Jesus? If I feel led to speak to a stranger, pray for my manicurist in her shop (and I do ask permission first), or reach out to someone in need, my thought is often “What will others think?” But isn’t that obedience the test of my faith? And how often do I fail because of unkindness, selfishness, or lack of love for others?

I want to write more about those weeks and days before Jesus’ death and resurrection. But I challenge you to join me in thinking, not just what can I give up for Lent, but how can my daily life reflect more of Jesus in my life?

I’d love to hear your reflections as you focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Where Else would we Go?

I’ve been in a marvelous, online writers’ conference the past three days, so wasn’t sure what I would write about today. Then, in my inbox, I received this wonderful Bible art from YouVersion, created by Faithlife:

This just resonated with me because God used this scripture in a time of my desolation and despair. After my first husband died, the memorial service was over (and was all I wanted it to be, to glorify God, honor Jerry, and help people understand how to have a relationship with God), I crashed.

Suddenly I was in a dark pit, a place a despair, of deep loneliness, of hopelessness. What if all I believed about Jesus was a lie and I’d never see Jerry again?

Some of the disciples walked away from Jesus when they felt the road was too hard. He asked the rest, “Will you also leave me?”

Peter, in his usual extrovertish, bullish personality, jumped in. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69 NIV)

After wallowing in my personal pit for about three weeks, God brought the scripture above to my mind. At that moment my mind left the pit, the lie the enemy would have me believe that God’s Word was untrue. I continued to grieve, deeply, but without that despair of “where is God in all this?”

I think we all face these questions from time to time. Our pastor said this morning that it’s possible to want what Jesus can do for you more than you want Jesus, a good life more than God in our life.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said one of his disciples would betray him that very night. Rather than naming Judas, I think Jesus wanted each of them to look into their own hearts. No one wanted to be Jesus’ betrayor; but each recognized the temptation in his own heart for power, wealth, comfort. Each looked into his own heart and, one by one, said, “Surely you don’t mean me?” But it was Judas, the one who held the disciples’ purse-strings, who betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins–and later hanged himself.

God has already given me everything–Himself, salvation through the cross of Jesus Christ, eternal life. He owes me nothing.

So will I serve him because I expect to get something out of it for myself– recognition, wealth, influence, whatever–or will I serve him wholeheartedly because he has already given me everything, and I adore him?

Jesus took me from death to life. Think about how huge that is!

In a day where many are weary, heartsick, lonely, feeling abandoned, we need the hope that only Jesus can bring.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:7-10, NIV

May we be blessed this week, knowing God has freely given us himself; and may we worship and adore him with our words, actions and service.

When Hope is Lost

Posted by Carol Nicolet Loewen on 11/22/2020

Laura Bennet is a wonderful author I first met in a writers’ group in Santa Cruz. Since we are both finding hope from opposite ends of the country, we swapped this week. Be encouraged as you read her wonderful post. You can read more of her posts or subscribe to Laura’s blog at www.laurabennet.com. You can also read mine this week at https://laurabennet.com/2020/11/21/blessing-in-an-annus-horribilis/.


WHEN HOPE IS LOST

by Laura Bennet

The past year has devastated our world with natural disasters in abundance. Fires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, as well as raging violence leave us reeling with anger, grief, questions and perhaps hopelessness. And now the news media has taken over our nation with election controversies.

One nation under God.

A nation started by those seeking God’s ways and freedom to live in them the way they chose. A nation whose pilgrims initially embraced help with gratitude from those who lived here before them as they all celebrated the unique offerings their differences yielded.

But now that nation is torn apart.

Hatred, racism, politics, disrespect, and tragic disaster reign as each person tries to fix the issues in their realm or in their own heart. Many turn their anguish and heartache toward God with a shaking fist asking,

“Where are you, God?”

I’ve certainly had moments of wondering what God is doing in all of this.

And I believe the answer to the question isn’t that God is absent, but that he’s present in each circumstance and life offering love, hope and something good to come out of all the bad. Maybe the good is a sense of unity. Perhaps it’s reaching out to our neighbors, and asking how we can help each other. Through it all, many are turning to God for comfort. Whatever happens, God will be seen and known for who he is.

God with us.

It’s interesting to me that when good happens we are quick to point to ourselves—how we invented, accomplished, or created something great. But when bad happens we are quick to point at God with an accusing finger. 

It’s our glory and God’s fault, right?

What if we flipped that around? What if all the mess of the world is actually us doing our own thing, going our own way, believing that we have answers and know what’s best, but in reality we’re arrogantly messing things up?

What if God truly has the answers, has a way for our lives to work well, offers us good for the taking?

This side of heaven, nothing is going to fix this world. Oh, we can improve things by loving each other, feeding the poor, and taking care of orphans and widows (as Jesus told us to do). But since man chose to do his own thing from the beginning of creation, God turned the world over the to the father of lies, the one who kills, steals and destroys, the current ruler of earth.

Does that mean God isn’t in control?

No. He’s much greater than his and our enemy. His love far surpasses the evil of the world. But he also doesn’t force anyone to follow him, love him, or obey his ways. He gives us a choice. And much of the crisis in the world has been our choice.

Maybe not yours or mine in a given situation, but certainly ours as a nation.

I love that even if we choose not to follow God, he pursues us, woos us, and stays close to us waiting for us to turn around and embrace him. Like a lover—the lover of our soul desires relationship with us and longs for us. He will even allow something difficult to put up a roadblock so we will turn around and see him there with open arms.

In the end, God is our only hope.

He creates life in the face of death, streams of water in wastelands, rescue from bondage, and offers an eternity in his presence. Each day, when I keep my eyes and heart focused on the One who loves me most and best, I am settled in peace and hope no matter what rages around me.

The same can be true for all of us.

Maybe it already is. But it’s not easy. Keeping our thoughts focused on someone we can’t see isn’t an easy task. That’s where faith comes in. Creation around us, God’s word, and the testimony of others who know and follow Jesus help keep us on track. Listening to and singing worship music helps keep me focused because it focuses on Jesus.

Hope is never really lost.

We may feel hopeless at a point of crisis or loss when we look at the devastation and wonder what we can possibly do to make a difference. But for each simple act, like a prayer, or a few dollars given, or a bottle of water offered, we offer hope and our hope is restored.

After all, God, who is love, is also our hope.

If you are feeling hopeless, I would love to pray for you. You can email me at laura@laurabennet.com, or check out my blog at https://laurabennet.com/.

*Laura Bennet is a multi-published author who blogs and writes books about hope, healing, and redemption emerging from the ashes of crisis and trauma. Originally from Southern California, she currently lives in Fort Myers, Florida where she basks in tropical warmth with her Aussie husband and youngest college-attending son. When she’s not walking on the beach, photographing nature, or sipping her weekly peppermint mocha, she loves to connect with her readers who can find her at www.laurabennet.com.