Category Archive: Encouragement

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.

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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

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
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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.

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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?

Restore

Even in the midst of a new variant, Omicron, on the Covid pandemic, our lives during Christmas and New Year’s felt full. While our get-togethers were with smaller family groups, we enjoyed the times we could be together.

This week? I find myself a bit lethargic, tired, unmotivated. Do you? Seems that now that life is quieter again I’m kind of worn out. We’re tired of masking, of conflict within families and friendships, of isolation.

I think that’s normal after the holidays; perhaps more so with the continuing pandemic. Friday afternoon Don and I took a wonderful 3.5 hour nap (very unusual!), then slept a full night. After church and Starbucks this morning, we took a walk with Paigey in her stroller. She seemed very content in the beautiful sunshine and fresh air, while we got some steps in. It was a renewing time for us.

So how do we respond to a bit of a letdown after a busy and uplifting time?

Following are a few things I find restorative:

Music can soothe the soul
  • Naps are helpful but, then, I’m retired. Not everyone has room in their life for naps. I didn’t either when I worked full-time.
  • Walks in the fresh air are renewing.
  • We enjoy our Sunday ritual of church and Starbucks, hearing the Word taught, then hanging out together.
  • Reading–the scriptures or a good book.
  • Listening to a challenging podcast.
  • Listening to, or playing, music. This afternoon we listened to a number of the old hymns we grew up with and felt encouraged. I used to play piano well, but am seriously out of practice. Nevertheless, those times when I sit on the bench of my mother’s piano and play, my soul feels restored.
  • Focus on a specific scripture, like Psalm 23. Close your eyes. What does it mean to you that the Lord is your Shepherd? That he leads you beside quiet waters and refreshes your soul? I used to have a favorite mental picture of a certain valley on the drive from San Jose to Fresno. The grass was lush, trees scattered about, and a lovely, bubbling stream wended its way through the valley. I can picture myself walking with Jesus in that valley, being refreshed in His company.
  • In the same chapter, think of what it means that He walks through the valley of the shadow of death with us? I experienced that with the loss of my first husband. No, He didn’t remove the pain; but He gave purpose and presence during the loss.
  • Last, find someone who needs help, and give it! I’ve found there’s not much sweeter than meeting someone who is lonely, or hungry, whom I can help, sometimes in little ways by giving a packet of non-perishables, sometimes by listening, bringing groceries or a meal, sometimes by praying for the person(s). Giving renews the spirit.
  • Exercise thankfulness. Like a muscle, it grows with use and changes our perspective.
  • Focus on his love–for you.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

I John 4:9-11

Did I mention naps? I took a short one before finishing this. Sweet! And I’m challenging myself with this post. These are the things I need to do to renew, to step out of my lethargy and move ahead with those tasks God has given me to do.

What do you do to renew yourself?

Blessings!

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Who Influenced your Philosophy of Work?

cheerful expressive woman dancing in beige studio
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I write, because teachers, both in person and online, taught me the joy of reading and writing. Mrs. Goolsby taught me to love history in the eighth grade. From the South, she often broke into the Charleston right there in class–and received long-stem red roses from another teacher on Robert E. Lee’s birthday. Regardless of your opinions about the Civil War, she transmitted a passion for the human side of history.

Mrs. Goolsby also took time to talk with me after I got a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ on a test (I don’t recall which). She knew that was not my norm and we talked through how I answered the True/False questions. Together we figured out that, instead of ‘x-ing’ the correct answer, I ‘x-ed’ the wrong answer, leaving the right one clean. When she re-graded my test with that understanding, I did well.

text
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A senior high teacher whose name I can’t recall, taught me to love literature and writing. My favorite was an essay on the psychological background of Lady MacBeth (“out, damn spot!”). There’s actually quite a bit of information on the subject and I enjoyed synthesizing it and putting it into an “A” essay.

In the hospital, both for my own surgeries and with my first husband, I’ve encountered kind, effective doctors and nurses who went beyond just doing their job. They checked on me as well as Jerry. They encouraged me during very difficult days. When they knew they couldn’t restore him to life, one helped me choose the most natural way for him to transition into glory.

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My father and my current husband, Don, were both contractors, working hard with their heads and hands to design and build quality homes and structures that would stand.

My parents taught my brothers and me a strong work ethic, which exists to this day.

My brothers–a retired GI physician; a retired Head of a college’s Psychology department; and a police officer and expert on blood spatter analysis–all have worked hard throughout their adult lives, and continue to give to their families, churches and communities.

I’m thankful for each of these who labored in their field, performing quality work with passion and intention.

I’m thankful for colleagues at Intel who worked in the Human Resources field, and for what each brought to their business and to the team.

I’m thankful for fire fighters, gardeners, tradespeople, salespersons (well, not on the phone!), waste disposal technicians, soldiers, veterinarians, and so very many others who toil, day after day. Some love their work. There were seasons in my HR work when I thought “And I get paid to do this!” (Other times, not so much–smile).

men working in a warehouse
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Others work because of their need to be productive and care for their families, and trudge home at the end of a long day, having kept their commitmnets and done their best.

On this Labor Day weekend I am thankful for each of these.

Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.

Colossians 3:23, MSG

I wish you a happy celebration of Labor Day as you remember and are thankful for these individuals who impacted your view of work.

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A Little Girl and a God who Lasts!

Masks were off at outdoor church today! The breeze stirred as we sat in the sunshine, singing “We need a fresh wind, the fragrance of Heaven. Pour your Spirit out.”

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Do you feel, as I do, that the heaviness of the past year is lifting just a bit? And yet, countries like India are still overwhelmed with Covid cases, with hospitals that can’t hold all the sick, with deaths there aren’t enough people to handle. India’s most famous guru, Ramdev, has decided to take the vaccine after berating doctors and saying ayurvedic medicine was sufficient. https://news.yahoo.com/ramdev-india-most-famous-yoga-140805662.html

I lost a friend to Covid two and a half weeks ago. The husband of one of my college best friends. Grief and sorrow continue. Do you need, as I do, to be reminded of hope?

Don and I have been reading through the book of Isaiah. There’s so much prophecy, and we don’t understand it all or know when some of the prophesied events will happen. But oh, chapter 40 is so rich it had me in tears the other day.

Isaiah begins the chapter with the familiar line Handel used in his Messiah: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” (KJV) Isaiah writes that we need to prepare the way of the coming Lord, the Creator of everything we can see or imagine. THE MESSAGE says “Who has scooped up the ocean in his two hands, or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger…” He is a God of magnitude we cannot comprehend!

The prophet continues:

So who even comes close to being like God? To whom or what can you compare him? Some no-god idol? Ridiculous! … Have you not been paying attention? Have you not been listening? … God sits high above the round ball of earth. The people look like mere ants. He stretches out the skies like a canvas–yes, like a tent canvas to live under…

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob (or Carol, or Sue, or Rod, or …) or whine, Israel, saying ‘God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me’? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts … He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath, and he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40:18-31 (The Message)
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This is so precious to me. I’ve had a knee and shoulder replaced and have pain in the other parts. I don’t walk fast. I don’t run. But one day, in God’s amazing kingdom of justice and peace, I will run without tiring. I will pick up things without pain in my shoulders.

Dear friends of ours, Directors at Rancho Santa Marta, Mexico, birthed three children. They have a very full plate running a Christian school with about 250 students from up to 60 miles away. They oversee five residences for live-in children who may be orphans, removed from their homes due to abuse, or have learning difficulties. But Rod and Tina adopted another little girl from India a number of years ago.

Recently the couple was asked by the Mexican welfare system if they could take in a little deaf mute girl. They felt having her in one of the residences would add another layer of complexity to the family structures they’ve developed there, so Rod and Tina offered to foster this child. Within a week, they were in love with her and have decided to adopt her as well.

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The God who created the heavens and all that is in them reached down to pluck this little girl up and put her in a home where she will be loved, taught, and hopefully helped medically. The family is checking into getting cochlear implants so she can learn to hear and speak and have a more normal life. But they have a short window of time. She is 5 and a half, and they evidently only perform these implants on children until the age of six. Won’t you join us in prayer for the MediCal and financial support they need to have this surgery done before their little one turns six?

Isaiah 40:27 (MSG) talks about this amazing God:

“Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.”

It’s only when we hope in God that we can impact a world that seems hopeless–sometimes, one child at a time.

“Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.

“It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

God CARES. He LASTS. He doesn’t change. He hasn’t lost track of his children, including me. That gives me hope.