Category Archive: Encouragement

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Heroes

Brian Rogers, Commander of American Legion Post 858

He phoned about a month and a half ago.

“This is Brian Rogers of the American Legion Post 858. Don is part of our Post, and we want to honor World War II veterans at our September meeting. Will you join us?”

We agreed, and Brian asked Don questions about his 26 months of service, including 16 months during the occupation on Okinawa toward the end of WWII, and the cleanup operations after the war.

The day was amazing.

Paulette and Al – Vietnam Veteran

We arrived at the Post, met Brian and talked with a few other people. As people gathered, we took our seats at tables under red and blue umbrellas. John and Al, Vietnam veterans, and Al’s wife Paulette, joined our table. There was a wonderful sense of cameraderie. Men and women who served in WWII, Korea, Iraq, Vietnam, all served our country. And we learned that Paulette and Al are also Jesus followers. What a joy!

As we walked to the tables we saw a group of high schoolers practice carrying framed flags to the front table. After Don and I sat down, four of the girls came over and asked how we were doing. They all wore yellow t-shirts with NAVY on them, so we asked about their goals.

ROTC Students

The Honor Guard, these NAVY-t-shirt students, and Boy Scouts are part of their school’s ROTC. Of the four girls who came to speak to us, two want to become pilots, one to be in another area of service, either Navy or Air Force. All were excited about helping protect our nation.

Lunch was hot dogs or hamburgers, chili, chips, eggrolls, cookies, and sodas or water.

As the anthem of each service branch was played, Brian asked those serving under the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard to stand when their theme song played. I was proud of my dear husband as he saluted to “While the Army Goes Rolling Along.”

Then Brian, current Commander of the Post, and Tito, who began the VSSA, handed out the framed flags.

Note Don’s, second row middle

Of five surviving WWII veterans, two were present – Don, and a 100-year old Coast Guard service member (right). Flags were also given to the families of WWII servicemen who passed in the last year.

We were deeply impressed by the services provided by the American Legion, through the Veterans Supportive Services Agency (VSSA). Tito, who started the VSSA, talked about how they fought to get congressional approval for American citizenship for those Filipinos who fought with us during WWII.

Now they are beginning a campaign to gain more support for deceased veterans’ wives. When their husbands pass away, these wives are often left pretty destitute.

It was a meaningful day. Meeting other veterans, and especially these students who are focused on joining the military, encouraged our hearts. So often we hear of divisions within our nation; yet there are those still willing to fight for the freedoms we enjoy. And whether or not you are a conscientious objector, I have a great deal of respect for so many who were, and are, willing to sacrifice to keep our nation free.

Don and John, a Vietnam vet, posing with the Jr. ROTC’ers

My confidence is not in America, our government or leaders. We are all fallible. My confidence is in the Son of God, who gave Himself to pay the penalty for my sins and yours.

One day we will all stand before the Great Commander in Chief, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Jesus Christ. He will judge us, not on how good or bad we’ve been, but on whether we’ve accepted his free gift of eternal life through his death and resurrection.

If I was so touched by this ceremony, how much more do I want to have something to give back to God in worship when I stand before him.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17, NIV

The Savor of Salt

plate of cooked meat with cooked vegetable
Photo by Jer Chung on Pexels.com

Don and I have begun ordering two meals a week from Hello Fresh. We receive a box with frozen meat and all the fixings, as well as recipes, for two meals for two. The flavor combinations are wonderful, using unique spices I don’t have in my cupboards.

I’ve always used some salt in cooking. However, almost every recipe begins with “salt and pepper the chicken,” or pork, or beef. I have never thought about how critical salt is to our taste buds until now.

Jesus says we are to be salt and light in a world that is often overcome with darkness.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. …

Matthew 5:13-16
black berries near salt
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Jesus used such practical examples. Salt. Light. Everyday things we often take for granted, at least in North America.

So what are some ways we can be salt and light?

  • Sending encouraging, uplifting messages to friends.
  • Watching the tone of our social media posts: are they there to build up, or to cause anger?
  • Doing an errand for a neighbor in need … shopping, weeding, taking food, sending cards.
  • Giving a needed, appropriate hug.
  • Listening to someone who needs a caring ear.
  • Giving when it is in our power to do so.
  • Telling our own story when it will help another realize that help is available, hope can be found, and he or she is not alone.
  • Sharing with others the good news of the gospel. Jesus came “to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) And without Him, we are all lost.
unrecognizable graceful ballet dancer resting on floor
Photo by Kristina Polianskaia on Pexels.com

Sometimes we lose our saltiness. I’ve experienced that during times of deep grief or chronic pain. The great news is that our saltiness can be restored as we approach the Father to ask for His help, His peace, His grace and His forgiveness as we walk through each situation. He has promised never to leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Soaking in the truth of His love letter to us restores our soul, and invites us to be honest with Him about our needs.

So, this Labor Day, I thank God for His reminder to be salt and light to the world around me. A world with a lot of grief. Cancer. Rebellious children. Hostility within our country. Friends with Alzheimers’. Homelessness. The loss of loved ones. And I thank Him for those who, despite tremendous setbacks, continue to love and serve others in Jesus’ name.

Father in heaven, as I grieve with those around me facing various kinds of pain and difficulties, I want to thank you for your reminder that I am to be salt and light among them. Often I don’t know how to help. But You do, and I can come to you, asking for your grace, peace, love and provision in their lives. And when I see a need I can meet, help me to do so willingly, gladly, asking your blessing on the giving and the receiving. In Jesus’ name.

Connections

Had a couple interesting interactions this week and always enjoy small connections with others.

While at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, I asked for my free Covid test kits (covered by Medicare). Because the pharmacist wasn’t there, I wasn’t able to get those that day, which meant a return trip.

man doing a sample test in the laboratory
Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

At the cashier to my right, an older Indian gentleman asked for something (I didn’t hear whether it was the same as I had asked or something else). The young man explained to him, as he had to me, that he couldn’t release that without the pharmacist’s sign-off, and she was out to lunch. The man would have to come back.

“But I’m in front of you now.”

I got such a chuckle out of his straightforward response–not a typical American way of phrasing his thought, but the man’s point was very clear. I leaned over and said “I can’t get mine either. I have to come back too.”

The gentleman looked at me and said, “OK, I’ll come back.”

selective focus photo of a woman touching yellow bananas
Photo by Los Muertos Crew on Pexels.com

Then I stopped at Lucky’s to pick up bananas. I had only a few items, but hadn’t thought to use a cart or basket. So I stood in line for the self service checkout with my purchases in my arms. One of the boxed items fell to the floor. An African American gentleman quickly picked it up and returned it to me.

“Thank you so much.” I smiled at him. “I would have dropped everything if I’d tried to pick that up.”

“You’re welcome. It happens to all of us.”

And when at dinner with my brother, sister-in-law, their daughter, her husband and their son, three-year old Titus looked me in the eye.

“Why are your eyes red?”

I had to think. “I guess because I’m tired.”

Titus’ clear eyes at age two

Then I looked at his child eyes – no red lines, no reddened inner corners – except for the iris and pupil themselves, his eyes are pure white!

Maybe I haven’t been around enough three-year-olds recently, but I was amazed at Titus’ attention to detail.

Why is it that these tiny interactions stay with us? I think it’s a combination of kindness, and simple human connection. After having worn masks for two years, we’re looking each other in the eye again. Yippee!

Then I drive and get so busy talking or ruminating about something that my dear husband will say “Uh, I think you need to get over for the next exit.” What would I do without him by my side!

Somehow these connections energize me. We’re created by God to be in community. Pastor Jeremiah Johnston said isolation is the worst punishment for a human being. These last two weekends Don and I have “attended” church online. The sermons have been wonderfully challenging, the music uplifting, and I’m grateful for technology that allows us to be a part of the services from a distance. But there is nothing like being present in person, connecting with others of like mind and spirit, worshipping God together.

Evergreen Church, San Jose, on July 4, 2022

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

We need each other. Those in our family, our faith community, our neighbors, and those we meet in kindness in everyday life. These last two years have been very difficult emotionally. Suicide rates were up, especially among teenagers. Depression has increased. I encourage you to be in groups in whatever ways you feel comfortable – perhaps sitting outdoors for a church service; meeting friends for a meal outside; or finding another way to be with others, especially those you love and who love you. Let us follow the instruction in Hebrews to encourage one another, to be together again, to reject isolation and welcome community!

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What’s your Focus?

Don’t you get discouraged when the headlines scream of war, deaths, accidents, hostility? I know there’s a lot going on that we can be upset about. But we need to also focus on good news.

Healthline.com estimates that 77% of Americans have a social media presence of one sort or another. A new study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology followed 143 students from the University of Pennsylvania who were divided into two groups. One continued their pattern of interacting on social media. The other was reduced to 30 minutes a day, 10 minutes each on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

The results were clear. The group that reduced their activity on social media had better mental health outcomes.

“What we found overall is that if you use less social media, you are actually less depressed and less lonely, meaning that the decreased social media use is what causes that qualitative shift in your well-being,” said Jordyn Young, a co-author of the paper and a senior at the University of Pennsylvania.

The authors of the study say there isn’t yet enough data to say everyone should cut down on their social media presence; however, the data clearly suggests that extended time on social media can cause increased depression and loneliness.

When we constantly go to our feeds, we tend to compare, to think “if only” and to deal with FOMO–Fear of Missing Out! How does my life compare with the pretty pictures on Facebook or Snapchat? Because, face it, most of us don’t post downers.

We post highlights–vacation shots, the new garden we planted, a cute pet, house upgrades, loving times with family and friends. Sure, those are part of our lives–but they are not the whole. The person who had a lovely vacation may come home to care for a loved one who is disabled. The beautiful home upgrades may come with a cost that pressures the family to cut back in other areas. The loving times with family and friends are precious – but do we talk about the times we disagree, see things differently?

If seen too consistently, watching the news can have a similar effect. One can become depressed about the war in Ukraine and its effect on people we care about, or even simply about a country that has been attacked without provocation.

On April 6, 2022, Healthline stated “A steady stream of disheartening news can alter your perception of the world, causing you to lack motivation and view the world with a sense of cynicism and hopelessness. Negative news has the potential to exacerbate your personal anxieties and the stressful situations occurring in your own life.”

So let me share some GOOD news, the stories we don’t read about often enough.

bbcgossip.com

Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, was recently interviewed about his pro-life stance by ESPN. Here’s what he said:

The interviewer then asks, “What would you do if a player or a female staff member of the Michigan football team came to you and said, ‘Coach, I respectfully disagree with your stance. Can we discuss it?”

“I’ve told [them] the same thing I tell my kids, boys, the girls, same thing I tell our players, our staff members. I encourage them if they have a pregnancy that wasn’t planned, to go through with it.”

“Let that unborn child be bornand if at that time, you don’t feel like you can care for it, you don’t have the means or the wherewithal, then Sarah and I will take that baby.

ESPN Interview

I am touched by Harbaugh’s commitment. Whatever your position on abortion, this man has committed, not just to a cause, but to raising children if their parents are unable to do so. I know this is cliche, but he’s put his money where his mouth is.

Another story touched me. A young man and his nephew shopped for groceries. The nephew noticed an elderly gentleman who had a hard time reaching items because of his extreme bent frame. It was hard for him to look up. The nephew said, “Can I go help him?” After receiving the ok, he approached the man. “Can I help you find things, sir?” “Thank you kindly, young man. That would be wonderful.” As his uncle shopped for their needs, his nephew ran around the store, picking things up for the elderly gentleman, having a ball.

When he had all he needed, the older man said this was the first time in fourteen years someone had offered to help him! Wouldn’t you be proud of that nephew? I sure would.

And when Don and I flew home from Wichita last Monday, a Hispanic man sat next to me, wearing a mask. I wasn’t sure if he’d want to converse, but introduced ourselves and began to talk with him. We had a most pleasant conversation. Near the end of the flight I was concerned that we might not make our transfer, since our flight had been delayed out of Wichita. My brother, Bob, was seated in the back of the plane.

I called over an air hostess and explained my concern, asking if there was some way Bob could get off the plane before others in order to make our connection. Immediately Jose spoke up. “I have more time than you do. I’ll trade with him.” And he did, so Bob, Don and I were all in a row near the front of the airplane.

Later, as we stood outside a restroom, Jose walked by.

“Will you make your flight?”

“Jose, I had the wrong time zone in my mind and we’re fine. But thank you so very much for your kindness.”

Another of those lovely moments of kindness and graciousness that we don’t hear about often enough.

So this week, let’s focus on ways we can extend kindness, both to those we love and know, and to strangers, whether it’s in the grocery line, with someone wanting to make a lane change, or someone in need of a helping hand to reach what they need on the shelves.

And let’s remember and think on the good things around us, rather than focusing on the negative. The Apostle Paul challenges us to focus on what is good.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 1:8, ESV

How have you found focusing on what is true and good helps you deal with the stresses of your life?

Celebration and Supplication

As we celebrate America’s freedom today, I pray we will put aside our differences and thank God for this country.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson

Yesterday we enjoyed a wonderful outdoor church service, with bunting strung along the tent and church. We thanked God for the freedoms we experience in this country. And we were reminded to look to Jesus, the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, Berean Study Bible) for our confidence and hope.

Christina’s dance of praise

Christina shared her testimony of God’s faithfulness. Two years ago she was declared cancer free after having Stage 2 breast cancer. “I am so thankful. And that is why I dance.” We saw her gratitude in the beautiful routine she performed to the worship song, “From the rising sun to the setting same, I will praise your name. Great is your faithfulness to me.”

After church, we enjoyed hot dogs and tacos, snow cones, games for the children, a bounce house, and face painting. Most of us stayed for at least two hours before going home. Don and I enjoyed visiting with different friends and watching the fellowship around us. We were family, delighting in hanging out together. And yes, I got some face paint!

When I was in turmoil over the hostility present in our country, one of our pastors reminded me, “I have never relied on the government for my security. Governments change, leaders change. My faith is in Jesus Christ.”

So, as we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as a nation, as we pray for change in the areas where it is badly needed, let us also remember that Jesus Christ, our hope, is over and above all.

man holding bible
Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Galatians 5:1, 13