Category Archive: Encouragement

My Times are in Your Hands

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once talked about two kinds of faith, the “if” faith and the “though” faith. The “if” faith says “If God blesses me, I’m prosperous and healthy and happy, then I’ll trust God.”

“Though” faith is different:

Though things go wrong, though evil is temporarily triumphant, though sickness comes and the Cross looms, nevertheless I’m going to believe anyway and I’m going to have faith anyway.. Though the waters doth roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Martin Luther King Jr.

In the Old Testament, Job looked around and saw that everything had been stripped away from him. He couldn’t see the big picture. He just saw the losses stack up. Even his wife advised him to “Curse God and die.” Job’s response was “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13:15a).

So what kind of faith do you and I have? Can we say we have a “though” faith?

  • Though hate and violence rear their ugly heads in my country
  • Though all collapses around me
  • Though I get lonely and desperately want face to face people connections
  • Though people I love are experiencing grave difficulties
  • Though I lose loved ones to COVID-19
  • Though I fear for much of what is happening in our country.

Oh, we will grieve. We may be lonely. We may be fearful or depressed. But we still have a choice. Will we choose to trust God despite those circumstances, and as we work our way through them? Or will our faith collapse under the weight of the pressure?

This is Pentecost Sunday, the day commemorating the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ earliest followers. The Holy Spirit is referred to as Advocate, Helper, Comforter, Counselor. He is still with us. Let us trust him to help in our times of need, to give us strength to hold on, to share His love with those around us, and to trust that God is holding us when we feel we have no strength left with which to hold onto him.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 

Jesus, in John 16:7 KJV

We still have His power working in us today to help us through these various challenges.

Psalm 31:14-15 tell us “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands...”

I have struggled with depression; I am grieved and angered by much of what occurs in our society; I don’t know what to expect next–do any of us? But I will choose to trust the One who holds my times in His faithful hands.

The Blessing

Like many in the midst of this pandemic, I am looking for places of hope. Pastor Rene Schlaepfer, at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, California encourages us with the following thoughts from the story of Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8.

In the midst of the WHAT is making us anxious, there is a WHO saying “Look at Me.” When our focus moves from the storm itself to the One who is with us on this journey, when our faith in someone surpasses our fear of the something, then we can be at peace. We will face storms–they will come into our lives unpredictably, unexpectedly, inevitably, and impartially.

  1. Jesus is close. In the middle of the storm, Jesus was right there in the boat with the disciples. And in this pandemic, He is here with us. Isaiah 43:1-2: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”
  2. Jesus cares. The disciples said, “Jesus, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” He does. As hard as this is for some of us, we are to relax in His care. I Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”
  3. Jesus is in control. In our Western culture we like to think we are in control. A pandemic like this shows us how little control we actually have. But we can rely on the One who is in control. Mark 4: “Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!'”

I rely on these truths for myself and for those family and friends who are ill, have lost jobs, are going through marital struggles, and are just feeling anxious.

I will leave you with a wonderful song by musicians from 25 churches in Hawaii, from six islands. Skip the ad and go to The Hawaii Blessing, hosted by Hawaiian Island Ministries (HIM).

May God bless you and keep you and give you His peace.

Where is My Refuge?

Pitch pipe on sheet music

Mom used to tell me how often God wakened her with a song in her heart, usually one that gave her hope or peace in a difficult time.

Don and I slept in yesterday. Our room was still in shadow, all the windows covered. Don got out of bed first and opened one of the blinds. The sun poured in, almost blinding. Immediately an old chorus popped into my mind. It goes like this. Do you remember it?

Chorus:
Oh there's sunshine blessed sunshine
When the peaceful, happy moments roll
When Jesus shows His smiling face
There is sunshine in my soul.

There is gladness in my soul today
More glorious and bright
Than shines in any early sky
For Jesus is my light.

I got up singing. It’s the first time in forever that I’ve had five consecutive nights of good sleep. I know people have been praying for me, and we’ve made some small changes to our daily schedule. But to waken with a song and feeling refreshed felt like a gift from my heavenly Father and my mother!

Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them.

Vincent McNabb

Hope. Without it, we soon lose our way. With it, we can move forward through our fears, our griefs.

So how do we respond during this time of conflicting news reports on COVID-19, differing opinions on what kind of contact is or is not safe? Different states, and counties within states, have varying regulations. Individuals and families struggle with long-lasting illness and death. And we deal with fears, privately and corporately.

  • As we Shelter in Place, one of our biggest joys is going for a walk around our neighborhood, especially on a pleasant day.
  • Churches–and businesses–meet on Zoom or another platform (and thank God for technology that allows us this option).
  • Friends email, call, Zoom.
  • Visits sometimes occur through the windows of residential centers which cannot allow guests inside.
  • We delight in meeting neighbors out walking, retaining our distance but treasuring face time.

But we still have choices.

We can complain and be filled with negative thoughts, and pass those on to others.

We can trust that the God of the universe has not lost control, nor has He lost sight of what’s happening in our world. We can ask Him what purpose He has in this situation, how He is working out His plan as we are all reminded that ultimately, we are not in control.

I treasure this scripture.

The name (character) of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Proverbs 18:10

Don’t misunderstand. God is not promising bad things will never happen to His people. But He is promising the security of knowing He will be with us, will never leave us, no matter what circumstances we face. (Hebrews 13:5).

And we need to surround ourselves with hopeful friends who encourage and support us, who help us look to the source of our hope. If we keep our eyes on the problem we will despair, but if we keep our eyes on God, the problems take on a different perspective.

I need to keep returning to that source. It’s not at all a once-for-all thing. My fears resurface, motivation veers off course, and I need to drink deeply of the well of living water again and again. I’m encouraged by these verses.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT

What’s helping you walk with hope in this challenging time?

Toilet Paper

In an interview with YAHOO MONEY, Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist and professor emerita at Golden Gate University said “The antidote to anxiety really is control, and what people can control right now is buying things.”

We feel we’ve lost control, and so we turn to those things we can control … and toilet paper appears to be the ‘poster child’ for panic buying. And yet, no matter how hard we try, there are things over which we have no control.

  • The car that runs a red light and hits and kills the cautious driver.
  • The school and children’s care center closures which require parents to find alternative ways to care for their children.
  • Illness, like the coronavirus, which can be hosted in someone’s system for five days before the person knows he is sick.

But can we also find benefits in this time? I can think of three.

Slowing Down:

In last week’s sermon, Rene Schlaepfer told us that in 1870 people slept an average of 11 hours a night. Today the average is less than seven hours. People work on average four weeks more in 2020 than they did in 1979.

We can re-focus during this time on those things that are most important. Don and I cancelled all non-essential appointments this week (that was all of them) and are enjoying a slower pace, more time at home and with each other. We’re listening to messages online, enjoying some quality TV shows (like the “Man from Snowy River” series on Hallmark Movies Now). We’re emailing and phoning and texting and writing notes, finding different ways of communicating with those we love.

Solitude:

We’ve experienced Church and our small group meeting online, which may continue for awhile. In this time of social distancing, Don and I enjoyed seeing the faces of some with whom we regularly worship on a video feed service. Although we miss being face to face, we are thankful for the blessing of technology that allows us some visibility to each other. Many in countries hostile to the Christian faith, or lacking the access to technology which we enjoy, cannot experience this benefit.

Jesus went out alone to pray. We can walk in nature and talk to God and each other.

Silence:

Our over-55 community is usually quiet. However, it’s more still than usual. Few cars are on the streets. People are walking and talking to each other, but from a distance. The quiet is lovely, renewing, especially if I sit, relaxed and quiet, focusing on God and allowing Him to renew my spirit.

As Rene said, “stop checking for coronavirus updates all the time … that makes you more vulnerable to getting the virus … don’t go for updates on the virus but check for upgrades on your intake.” What is my intake? Where is my focus?

The apostle Paul was imprisoned under a death sentence and Christians were being persecuted by Nero when Paul wrote these words to remind us to be intentional about how we direct our thoughts.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8 NIV

Instead of our ‘control’ being in how many rolls of toilet paper we can buy, let’s focus on the good things of God–our intake–and trust Him to hold the key to our days. Bless you, wash your hands, be well.

Moments

Undulating green hills rose and fell as far as we could see, a soft, lumpy carpet interspersed with jagged rocks thrusting up through the soil and grass at periodic intervals. Here were downed trees. There, moss-covered logs. Cattle and horses stood or laid in the fields. Boulders the size of a small house astounded. The Merced River rippled over rocks on its journey down the mountainside. Mountains that had been burned out now sported short bursts of new growth.

As we drove, granite glowed as sunlight shone on mountain peaks. Fluffy white clouds opened to reflect patches of blue peering through. And next to me was my husband, who loves me better than life.

The CD of a favorite male quartet filled our car and Don and I sang along. The view all around us was pastoral, peaceful. In that moment out on the road I was filled to overflowing with love and praise and worship. 

I looked at Don. “Stunning scenery, the two of us together, going to a place we love, singing along out of tune … it doesn’t get any better than this.

It was a moment.

Isn’t that life? We go along day by day, doing what’s needed, hanging with loved ones, laughing, crying, paying bills, doing dishes … just routine stuff. And suddenly there’s a moment, a precious, soul stirring moment that touches our spirits.

Those moments are priceless. Makes me wonder if some couples separate because they expect a life of continuous moments and don’t treasure the moments they do have. My brother Arnold made a comment in a different context that I think fits here … “Pray for the moments but don’t expect them regularly.”

So here’s to love and marriage, to appreciating the routine of the day to day and delighting in the moments.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I Corinthians 13:4-7