Category Archive: Encouragement

Thank you for your Service

Today is Veterans’ Day, a day to thank those who have served our country in military service. And there are many stories of veterans who have been heroes, caring for children in war zones, helping their companions, often separated from family members for long periods of time.

Like me, you’ve probably teared up at some of the TV news spots showing a serviceman or woman surprising a spouse, a child by walking into their place of work or school. Or the one where the soldier’s dog greets him with unabashed joy, whole body wiggling, tail wagging.

My favorite veteran, my husband Don Loewen, was part of the cleanup efforts in Okinawa for sixteen months at the end of WWII. While others within our Mennonite peace culture did significant alternative service like teaching or working in hospitals, building artificial limbs for returning soldiers, Don believed he had a responsibility to serve within traditional means and trusted God to guide him in that. Don was assigned to the medics and worked in mosquito abatement.

My husband doesn’t like to talk about his service. Like many who have been in war zones, he doesn’t want to relive the memories that have never left him. But there are some stories he has told me, like the time in 1945 he hung onto the bottom of a cargo truck for eight hours while a typhoon rocked the island with wind gales up to 180 mph.

Or the times he went into a bar with his best bud. Don would order a Coke while Ray drank hard liquor. But when Don told him he’d had enough, Ray stopped drinking.

Don carried his pocket Bible with him at all times. I didn’t know him then, but I like to think back of that handsome young soldier who stood for God, country and family. Who wasn’t afraid to walk into a place that was foreign to his upbringing (like a bar) and do the right thing, because of his commitment to Jesus Christ. Who was willing to confront Ray when his actions jeopardized his health and decision-making.

So while I know there are abuses of power in the service, I am thankful for those men and women who serve(d) with honor and integrity. I also ache for those who came home with tremendous scars, missing limbs, PTSD, broken families.

To each of you, starting with my husband, Don, thank you for your service!

Harvesting

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

So if we want these qualities in our lives, how do we get them? Is it by trying harder? By putting reminders on our mirror or fridge to say “be kind today.” “Be patient with the crazy driver in front of (or behind) you.” “When you get angry, hold your tongue.”

We so often try to produce these ‘fruit’ by working harder. And yet, God says that doesn’t work…and how well I know it. Just before these verses Paul describes the works of the flesh, i.e. those qualities and behaviors that come naturally to us, as “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (verses 19-21).

I can think of a time when I exhibited four of these in one incident when my temper got the best of me. So first of all, I’m grateful, deeply grateful, for the forgiveness of God that wipes out my sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I John 1:9 ESV

Second, I was reminded by our pastor today that these fruit of the Spirit i.e. love, joy, peace … are HIS work in me, not mine in myself. My challenge is to spend time with Him, focusing on Jesus, loving and worshipping Him, allowing His Holy Spirit to produce these characteristics in me.

What a joy. It’s not my job to make me like Jesus. It’s my job to rest in Him, trust in Him, and allow Him to change me. That’s His job! And He can do what I cannot do myself!

Thank you Lord, for producing more of your likeness, for growing a good harvest in me as I focus on, spend time with you. I love you.

How Beautiful Heaven will Be

Dad had just received the news that he was terminally ill with leukemia and had only a short time to live. I walked gingerly into his room to see him gazing out the window at the flowers outside.

One of my favorite photos of Dad and Mom. Dad’s been in heaven seventeen years already.

My father turned back to look at me. My eyes were wet with tears. “How beautiful heaven will be,” Dad said with his wonderful smile. I wept.

Don and I attended a wedding reception this weekend for a lovely couple. We saw friends we hadn’t seen in awhile. We met others we’d heard much about. As we spent time talking, we had some rich, meaningful conversations about how we were all connected through Karen and Jerry, parents of the groom, and about God’s work in our lives. Everyone has a story and it was a privilege to hear, and share those, from the widows to the divorced to those impacted by critical illness … but with confidence in the goodness of God.

We had a marvelous time, and hung out beyond the stated end time of the party. I thought, if it is such a joy to meet both old and new friends at a reception on a Saturday afternoon in Saratoga, California — what will our joy meter read in heaven when we meet Jesus face to face, and are reunited with those we love who have preceded us into glory?

Scripture promises that one day Jesus will return to take his followers to heaven for eternity. Some of us will be called home through death before he returns. But we have a choice. That choice is to take him at his word, to accept his forgiveness and acknowledge him as our Lord and Savior; or to reject the grace he offers and be separated from him for all eternity.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17 ESV

If you have never committed your life to Jesus Christ, please consider his great sacrifice and his offer of forgiveness, hope, peace, and eternal life with him.

“How beautiful heaven will be!” I’m looking forward to it.

I’d love to talk about any questions you may have.

Unexpected Interruptions (they’re always unexpected aren’t they!)

I walked out of my meeting, stepped into my car, and turned the key. The engine sputtered and died.

After trying to start the care several times without success, I called Triple A for a tow. I was pleased that one of their first questions was “Are you and your car in a safe place?” (We were.)

My mechanic determined the car had a fuel pump failure, then went above and beyond to ask the dealer if this defect might be covered under warranty. After haircuts and lunch with stepson Brad and his wife Cathy, I once again called Triple A.

Don and I waited about two hours at our mechanic’s until the truck arrived to tow the car to the dealership. Charlie told me if it turned out to be a defective fuel pump it would cost me nothing to repair. If it was not that, it could run me about $3000. Ouch! My car has been wonderful, reliable, well maintained. This was not something I had planned for, nor could I afford it.

So Don and I had already lost two days to wait time/ tow trucks/ car trouble. But we were thrilled when the dealer called to tell us the repair would be fully covered. Thank you, Lord!

They did find two other repairs that needed to be done and we authorized those–but at a significantly lower cost than the possible $3000 had the fuel pump repair not been covered.

Today was a full day. Don and I had an appointment, then breakfasted at Le Boulangerie. After that I took a sputum sample into a lab in Los Gatos (I give these monthly to check on a non-contagious lung infection that is very difficult to eradicate and which I’ve had for several years already).

The car dealer called and told us the car was ready for pickup, so Paige and I returned home, I picked Don up and we headed to pick up the car. Although they had projected keeping the car for five days (over the holida), waiting for delivery of the needed parts, the parts arrived Saturday morning and the repairs were complete!

I have my car again, hopefully good for many miles to come. And I’m thankful for my auto mechanic who goes beyond “We’ll fix it for $___” to research ways to help customers save money and get effective corrections made.

Thanks Bill, Fiona, and Charlie! And thank you Lord for caring for my smallest needs, ensuring this didn’t happen the day before we leave on vacation, or across the hill, or at night …

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

I Peter 5:7 NLT

May we recognize in those difficult moments the grace of God that sustains, provides, and cares for us.

Leaning In

A few weeks ago I bared my soul about pain experienced almost forty years ago in a ministry situation. I got many more responses to that post than usual. Encouragement from former colleagues, prayers for the coming reunion time to be above our expectations in healing and recovery, expressions of love.

I’m so grateful for each person who responded. My pain touched people. And in response, they touched me.

Mourning

Recently Pastor Tim talked about how God speaks to us in our pain. It’s something we don’t want, and which God does not author, but nevertheless uses for our good and for others.

One of the ways God uses pain in our lives is to sensitize us to others, to open our eyes to their needs, and to help us encourage them with the comfort God has given us.

And in the years I dealt with healing from the pain of separation from my former work and friends, God was there. He provided resources to help me recover. Through this and other painful circumstances in my life–

–a broken engagement,

–the deaths of a husband,

–my father,

–a nephew, and dear friends,

–concerns for my mother’s health,

–as well as workplace challenges–

I have become less judgmental and more sensitive to others’ pain. My understanding grew that we need to know someone’s story before we can understand why they make some of the choices they do.

But what resonated with me is that people are drawn to vulnerability, and relate to expressed pain.

As Pastor Tim stated, “When we talk about pain, people lean in.” Our voices are sometimes softer when we talk about pain. We don’t generally shout it from the rooftops. But people want to know what have we experienced that they can relate to, can learn from. Pain touches all of us, and when we share it, we increase our authenticity.

I like Facebook. I enjoy posting pictures of people I love, fun things I’ve done, life I’ve lived with others. But I understand that it is only a partial picture. Most of us post only good things …. those things we’re happy to share.

But others can look at those pictures of beautiful homes and decor and yards and travel and families and think, why isn’t my life like hers/his?

But when we share openly about our pain, our challenges, the bumpy roadblocks in our lives, others understand that we are all on this journey together. And while each of us has an individual path, we also walk with, encourage and strengthen, or drag down, each other along the way.

Forward by missionary Gracia Burnham

I’m reading a challenging book, Hearts of Fire, by Voice of the Martyrs. It contains the stories of eight women in different parts of the world, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured for their faith in Jesus Christ. While the stories are at times hard to read, these women’s faithfulness also challenges me. They share temptations faced, i.e. questioning God in their suffering or loss. Temptations to renounce faith, to give in to other voices that offered a strong shoulder of support, to be quiet about their faith. Despite their questions, these women continued to speak, teach about Jesus, and to be faithful to him.

Why am I drawn to these women’s voices? They’ve shared their pain and God’s faithfulness. We all go through difficulties, whether because of our faith, as they did, or because life just has its ups and downs, its tragedies as well as its joys. None of us knows what the future holds.

I hope I’ve shared God’s faithfulness to me in these posts. I hope that has encouraged you in some ways. But I too need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness, not only to me in the past, but to others who have gone through far deeper trials than I have or expect to encounter.

I’m leaning in.

“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