Category Archive: Encouragement

New Life

Spring has arrived in all its glory. Don and I walk through the hilly woods near us and see blue lupen and bright orange California poppies in the fields. Paigey stops to sniff, picking up scents of deer and other wild critters.

Nature illumines my soul. As we begin to emerge from the cocoon of Covid-19 this past year, I feel hope in the new life of all around me. The 12-18″ wild, bright green grasses growing on the hillside. The trees crisscrossing over the dirt road on which we walk, giving us sweet shade beneath the warming sun.

We have a small back yard, but see the breadth and width of the nearby hills, with no houses between. Don and I often enjoy a light lunch as we sit on our patio watching flowers, squirrels, iceplant, and a great variety of birds. And when we look out between the large oak trees to the hills, I feel at peace.

God’s nature, always renewing, refreshing, the darkness of winter superseded by the glories of spring, bringing life and hope to a newly budding world, and heart.

I want to share with you this beautiful rendition of AMAZING GRACE, by a group called Il Divo. AMAZING GRACE was written by John Newton, a former slave trader who met the Master who changed his life and calling. Newton was transformed from a captain of slave ships to an abolitionist and priest of the Anglican parish at Olney, Buckinghamshire, England for two decades.

This song is one of many Newton wrote, but is his most famous, probably because it speaks to the marvelous grace of God that can change a stony heart to soft, a hard heart to one that is open to both receiving, and granting grace.

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=il+divo&type=cr_ds_may20_wk25_2020#id=3&vid=a8ebd5953f837cb5a8f9bda275712176&action=click

What renews your soul? Is it God’s creativity in nature? Time with family and friends (in person)? Solitary time? Time spent alone with God and his Word? Let’s talk about it.

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.

NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US

Jan died Tuesday morning. She told me awhile back that the doctors said the cancer that lay dormant for a few years had returned with a vengeance. She had six months or less to live.

We met Jan, our next-door neighbor, before we ever moved to our current home. She phoned to say the fence was broken and ask if we would split the cost of repairs. Of course we agreed.

After we moved in, we often met Jan walking Sophie, her golden Lab, while we walked Paige. After Sophie passed, Jan’s daughter gave her Harley, a handsome black Lab. Jan’s pockets always carried an abundance of Charlee Bears, which she freely shared with other dogs along her walk. First Sophie, then Harley, was “just perfect”. She loved these canine companions dearly.

close up of dog relaxing on bed
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Don and I prayed for opportunities to serve her, and to share the love of Jesus with her. One day I asked, in the context of the conversation, if Jesus was her Savior.

“Yes, He is. I talk to Him every night.”

Jan continued walking Harley ’til about two weeks ago, when she simply was too weary to continue. Harley went back to Jan’s daughter and was reunited with old buddies there.

Over these months we took baked goods, flowers, replaced light bulbs, sent cards and assured her of our prayers, so grateful to know Jesus was on this journey with Jan.

Monday morning Don and I read Romans 8:38-39:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

sky sunset person silhouette
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I felt those verses were for Jan that day. We hadn’t seen her in a week, so didn’t realize how quickly she had declined. I wrote the scriptures in a card and called to see if we could bring it over.

One of her daughters answered the phone. “She’s unconscious, on morphine, but you’re welcome to come talk to her.”

Entering Jan’s room that afternoon, we saw her unconscious form. As we stood at her bedside I took her hand and said, “Jan, it’s Carol and Don.” She seemed to try to respond as her lips moved, without sound. “We brought you a card, and I’ll just read it to you.”

I read the verses aloud. Medical professionals say hearing is the last sense to go, so I wanted these scriptures to be in her heart and mind as she transitioned. “NOTHING will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Unknown to me, two of her three daughters had entered the room and listened. As I told Jan “When you see Jesus calling you, just go to Him – just let go.” Her daughter murmured, “yes.”

Jan let go Tuesday morning at about 6 o’clock.

Isn’t it just like God to give us a scripture that we’ll need for something that very day? Don and I were so glad to see Jan and say goodbye, tell her we look forward to seeing her again at Jesus’ feet.

And yes, walking out our garage doors feels empty now, just knowing our Jan is no longer here. And yet we rejoice knowing she is in the presence of Jesus Christ, Lord, Savior, Messiah. And because of God’s provision for our sin through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we will see her again.

Thought: if you have a loved one in a coma, or near death, keep talking to them, asking God to allow your words to sink into their spirit.

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.

What is Love?

“Love is a choice of the will, not a servant to the emotions.”

Many of us are familiar with I Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul’s love chapter.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

I Corinthians 13:4-8a

These are great tests for how I’m loving my husband, my family, friends and neighbors. And those with whom I disagree!

Do I want the best for my partner, or only those lovely things he does for me?

Do I insist on my own way, and become resentful when I don’t get it?

When my husband (or wife) is discouraged, how can I come alongside to encourage and strengthen him (her) with hope?

Where do I most need patience, kindness, goodness in my relationships?

What difference does it make if I show Christ-like love when my partner or friend doesn’t?

I’m happily ensconced in my second marriage, having lost one spouse to death. HARD? No words for it! Don’t waste your moments together!

But in both marriages to men I love(d) deeply, there were times when I didn’t like them very much. Didn’t feel particularly attracted to them. No soft, snuggly warmth. More like this worn-down barn.

So what can you or I do when that is the case?

Remember that love is a choice. And its accompanying feelings cycle. At times attraction and warm, fuzzy feelings peak and we’re crazy in love with the other person. At other times something they do, which may be quite minor, tips the scales and we want to correct them, stop them, express our anger or frustration.

Love is a choice. If we wait patiently, the cycle will again change. Godly love, the kind spoken of in I Corinthians 13, chooses to upbuild and uplift the other even when circumstances are less than ideal. 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, Russell Wilson, paraphrased his father’s instruction to him…

“To the young boy or girl who has a dream, who wants to make a difference. Remember this one thing: love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love changes things.”

https://www.christianpost.com/news/russell-wilson-named-nfl-man-of-the-year-quotes-1-corinthians.html

I think of husbands who love their disabled wives, care for them, help meet their needs with understanding hearts. I read about a man who visited his wife in the Alzheimer’s Unit of a care center every day. She didn’t recognize him any more. Because of a stroke, her lip drooped on one side. Every day her husband would do his best to match the curve of her lip as he kissed her, then served her in any way he could.

I’m grateful for wives who encourage husbands who are discouraged and unsure which direction to go.

I thank God for the partners who commit to the long road of rebuilding a marriage after trust has been broken by infidelity.

And for those who, through good days and bad, support, pray for and encourage their mates.

That’s the kind of lover and friend I want to be.

My husband shows his love for me consistently and in many ways–on a cold morning he’ll start my car so it warms up before I have to leave for an appointment.

He makes breakfast every day to free me to write in the mornings.

We hug and encourage each other when one of us is discouraged, down.

We pray together for our families, friends, our nation.

And I am blessed in his love and, from what he tells me, he is in mine.

But think about the people around you who may be lonely–either married or single–but not experiencing the love and true partnership of either a spouse or a family member. What can you and I do today, this week, to reach out and extend love to someone near who may look like all is well, but inside is not?

I’m going to call my single neighbor right now.