Category Archive: Encouragement

Hope Realized

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV

I was on a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles to meet women I hadn’t seen for 38 years. My anticipation was high, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.

We worked together in the Los Angeles ghetto. Some of the women coming to the reunion accepted Christ through the ministry and went on to become staff members. 

Six women in this 1970’s L.A. staff photo were among the 14 present at our reunion

During my ten and a half years of service there, we worshipped, sang, taught children and adults the Bible. Our African American teens taught us white Mennonite girls, not known for dancing, the “hustle”. Our girls laughed at us, but I won the dance competition. That’s about as much dancing as I’ve done in my life, and it was fun! We taught children’s and adults’ Bible studies. We cried together when someone we loved was hurt or killed. We took in women who were abused, threatened, hurt. We watched an SLA house burn to the ground directly across from our home. When our lives were threatened we sat up late, talking and praying until we were fatigued enough to sleep.

We were close, both because of a common purpose and because we needed each other. We built tight-knit relationships within staff and in the inner city communities where we lived. We rejoiced together when another precious child, woman or man began a walk with Jesus that changed their lives and gave new hope.

Thirty-eight years later, I wondered how the women I would be with had changed. How had I changed? Would we have to work our way past years of separation and misinformation or could we pick up where we left off?

As I wrote last week, my departure was under less than optimal circumstances. Would there be questions, rehashing, resentment? Or forgiveness and love and acceptance for each person where she is now?

Were there residual areas of healing that needed to occur? I have forgiven those who hurt me. But were there still areas I needed to address?

After taking my first ever Uber ride from LAX, I knocked on Katie’s door. Entering, I was greeted with a lingering hug, which I gladly returned.

As twelve other women joined us, the extended hugs continued. Without words, we seemed to say “I’ve missed you. So very good to be with you again.”

One missing – we were 14!

I felt at home.

After a potluck lunch the 14 of us sat around the family room. We took turns updating each other on our lives. None of us are still with the organization we left, although one or two still volunteer with it. For four and a half hours we shared nonstop.

Patsy asked why I left. She had felt abandoned, another person walking away from her life. For 38 years some of these women had no idea why I left. I shared that I had lost trust in our President, with whom I’d worked very closely for 10 1/2 years. When he realized I no longer trusted him, he told me to leave town … that night. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. My sharing answered a long-held question for Pat, and I think brought some closure.

But I had not walked away from the Lord we all loved.

The ability to ask and answer questions, the vulnerability we shared with each other, reestablished a foundation of trust among us. And I realized that I was the first, but certainly not the only one who experienced rejection and hurt in leaving that ministry.

We had prayed for a time of healing, of restoration. My text to Don said it all. “Ohhhhh. Myyyyyy.”

Have you had a difficult challenge with a ministry from which you needed healing? That changed your faith? That caused you to question God or service?

You’re not alone.  Let’s talk about it.

Next week I’ll share more of what I learned and experienced this weekend. Still processing!

Process, or Purpose?

Computer problems prevented my posting the last two weeks. My apologies … but I’m back!

Before leaving for Mexico I determined that on our return I would make a concentrated effort to lose weight. And so I began a weight loss program that has worked for me in the past.

I’m encouraged to have started. But a dear friend reminded me that there is a bigger picture involved.

  • I want to lose weight.
  • I want to encourage and bless my husband in every way possible.
  • I want to help and serve my mother.
  • I’m writing a novel that’s been in the works for awhile. I want to finish it before next year’s Spring Christian Writers’ Conference.

As we talked about these goals, Grace looked at me with love and said, “And in order to finish that book, Carol, you need energy. So is weight loss the overriding purpose?”

And I realized it’s not. My purpose, for which weight loss is one part, is to become healthier so that I can complete these other goals…supporting and encouraging those I love, completing my novel…all for the glory of God.

Delicious – but does it feed my goal to become healthier?

How often do I set targets and stay focused on little goals without putting them in the context of a bigger picture. In what ways do I sabotage my overall purpose in life, which is to honor God and delight in Him forever? Is it by eating foods I know are unhealthy for me (i.e.too much sugar, too many carbs)? Is it by staying up too late (although there are nights, like tonight, when I can’t sleep and so I do get up and work or relax), by filling my mind with unwholesome reading or TV? Is it by filling my schedule with “good” projects that prevent me from doing the best thing(s)?

Being challenged to look at a purpose beyond losing weight or finishing a novel helps me prioritize, determine how and where I expend my energy, and make wise choices along the way. In order to accomplish what God has called me to, I need to take better care of myself in the ways that I can, not out of selfishness or ego, but for the glory of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Galatians 5:22-23a

I’m trying to look at each day in light of this larger purpose of increased health, and I look forward to what I will learn in the process.

Is there an area where you need to review your deeper purpose and put it in writing to help you remember?

*I apologize for not posting the past two weeks. I had a glitch in my program that took awhile to resolve. I’m back!

Home

Jesus, Lord and Savior, is alive!

My seven-year old grand nephew stepped into the house.

“He is risen,” I said to his parents. With a brilliant smile, young Cole responded. “He is risen indeed!”

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Oh, how I delighted in hearing this child echo those precious words. The Cross is empty, and Jesus is alive! In conquering death, He gave us hope, for now and eternity.

Bill and Gloria Gaither penned these familiar words.

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know who holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.”

I’m reading a wonderful novel in which a 29-year old mother of three, engaged to a kind, loving man after having been in an abusive marriage, dies without warning. Here’s how the author, ___, describes her death.

“She turned away, and in the space of a breath, her spirit defied the bounds of the room’s four walls, the roof of the house, then the limits of earth and the boundaries of the heavens themselves.

“She became aware of a holy presence, surrounding her, embracing her. And a beloved voice that spoke a name she did not know, yet somehow recognized as her own.

“She moved closer, into the arms of the One who beckoned. And in that moment she knew.

“She was home.”

A NEST OF SPARROWS, Deborah Raney

Home!

Raney reminds us that death is not just a leaving, an end, but a going toward.

I cherish my life, filled with love, family, friends, the beauty of nature, our home and dog, memories, laughter, worship, joy, challenges, opportunities to learn and grow and give. And yet, “I can only imagine” what that sense of wholeness, of being “home” will be like when I pass from this earth to eternity and see Jesus face to face. And I won’t want to leave the ultimate joy and pleasure of being in God’s presence.

May you have hope today because He lives!

She was home.

Come Aside and Rest

Hacking coughs. Dripping nose. Mucous. It’s been a nasty week. I have been hit by a cold the likes of which I haven’t had in several years. It’s knocked me for a loop for sure!

The first three days of the week I had commitments that it wasn’t easy to change. Wednesday was a colonoscopy. I double checked that I could do that despite my cold. Don and I checked in at the Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center in Santa Cruz, where I’ve had other procedures in the past. Their care is superb.

I put on my designer hospital gown and crawled between sheets under the warm vacuumed air blown into the air blanket. Ah, toasty warm. The procedure took only about 25 minutes and the report was good. Now I could eat again! And the first thing I wanted – and got – was a big piece of chocolate cake! Yum. After 36 hours with only fluids that cake tasted mighty fine.

They told me not to do anything that required judgment for the next 24 hours so I napped off and on, read, watched a bit of TV. With our move and clearing out our former house, it’s been a particularly busy season, and was rather pleasant to relax a bit. Since then I’ve taken it quite easy to allow my body to heal from this cold. Still fighting it, but improving.

Sometimes we just need to rest. When Jesus’ disciples were so busy they didn’t even have time to eat, “… he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'” Mark 6:31 NIV

I’m grateful that God cares about our need for rest. How are you doing in that area?

Birds of a Feather …

Don recently put a bird feeder behind our house. We enjoy watching our feathered friends flit about. We’ve had up to 20 birds vying for spots on the feeder, sitting on the fence ’til one flies over to the feeder and bumps another off his perch. It’s been such fun! And they go through the feed fast enough that Don refills it every 2nd or 3rd day.

We’re both fascinated by the antics and the variety of our little friends. From the vivid blue of the scrub jay to the vibrant orange on the Spotted Towhee, the Black-Capped Chickadee with his cheeks lined white, the Oregon Junco with his rusty brown back and black hood, the grey-crested Titmouse, several kinds of sparrows, and beautiful little Red Finches, I’m learning to identify them.

And periodically a little bunny hops over to pick up the sunflower seeds the birds have dropped. He is so very cute and I love watching him scurry back and forth.

I am often in wonder when I watch God’s marvelous, varied and incredible creation. If Don and I delight in these beautiful little creatures and appreciate the variety, the diversity we see right outside our nook window, how much more does our God love and take delight in each of us, and in the diversity within each of the species in His world.

Matthew 6:26-27 (NLT):
Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?