Category Archive: Faith

scenic view of night sky with stars
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

The sky was inky black. I gasped. “Don, look at the sky!” The stars were so brilliant they almost jumped out at us. There in all his glory was Orion; and there, the Big Dipper. Further over, we saw Cassiopeia. And between, millions of stars, twinkling and blinking in glorious harmony. Breathtaking!

We’d left home at 10 am. Don, Paigey and me.

After enjoying our Starbucks breakfast, Paigey her puppucino, we transitioned to Highway 101 for Tracy, where we dropped our little girl off at her “first mom” Mary’s for the next few days, where Paigey was surrounded by adorable Cav pups, aged 7 weeks to 18 months.

Continuing, Don and I laughed, listened to our favorite talk show on the radio, and sang along with CD’s by the Texas Tenors and Kelly Bryant, who we met in Branson a few years ago. Bryant’s are specifically songs of hope, praise, and trust in a faithful God, and my spirit was uplifted as it was filled with the truths she sang.

In Mariposa, we stopped at a Burger King for a potty stop and lunch. The dining room was closed, only drive-through, so a man there directed us to the burger place across the street. We shared a delicious burger and sweet potato fries. Before the food arrived, I wanted to use the restroom. I went the wrong direction and turned into a courtyard where several children were doing their homework. The waitress told us they waited there daily for their mother to pick them up after work. The children kindly gave me directions. One was a sweet ten-ish Hispanic girl, and I wanted to say more to her. But the opportunity didn’t arise.

After Don and I finished eating, I went to use the restroom once more and, there she was – the sweet girl I’d wanted to appreciate. As she walked past I said, “I hope you know how beautiful God made you.” She smiled shyly. “Thank you.” “And he loves you,” I added. She turned around and said, “And he loves you too.” “Thank YOU!” What a God-moment. To hear her affirm God’s love for me when I wanted to encourage her was priceless.

Upper Yosemite Falls cascading into ice and snow

As we entered Yosemite we began to see snow along the roadways, on the rocks, and in some areas of the Merced River. Bridal Veil Falls and El Capitan were colored by the lowering sun. Upper Yosemite Falls dropped into a pool of snow and/or ice before falling down to the middle and lower falls. And Half Dome reflected clearly in the stream below.

We checked in, unpacked, and found our room in a wonderful corner, windows on two sides, with a lovely sense of privacy. There we enjoyed a great zoom call with one of my brothers and sisters-in-law. Then we put on warm jackets (it’s supposed to get down to 17 degrees) and our snow boots and walked over to share a turkey sandwich and chips. As we left our room, I gasped, looking at the stars, uncluttered by the lights of a city. Clearer here than I have seen them in years. Startling. Sparkling. Amazing. Immediately Psalm 8 came to mind.

When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

    which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

    human beings that you care for them?

Lord, our Lord,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8:3,4,9
At the bridge by Lower Yosemite Falls

Don and I are here for our twelfth anniversary. Our marriage is a beautiful gift from God, and we are enjoying more years together than we anticipated, since Don is twenty years older than I am. And yet, by God’s grace we’re both relatively healthy and enjoying this good gift from the Father’s hand.

I love the words from the song, “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me.

I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by Your side
I can only imagine what my eyes would see when Your face is before me
I can only imagine Yeah

Surrounded by Your glory what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees, will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes and I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I will do Is forever, forever worship You
I can only imagine, yeah

I can only imagine when all I will do Is forever, forever worship You
I can only imagine …

I Can Only Imagine

Surrounded by my Father’s grace, my husband’s love, and the million stars we can see from here, I can’t think of a place I’d rather celebrate.

May God’s blessings and presence surround you as you walk through this week and this year. I pray you and I will find small and large moments to celebrate this year. It may be those divine appointments, the beauty of nature, the love of family and friends, the awe of knowing God. Our God is good, all the time!

As we Enter 2022

Merry Christmas from our house to yours.

with prayers for a happy, healthy New Year.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100

post by carolnl | | Closed

The Arrival

I loving the word “Advent.” The Arrival.

Rome ruled Israel. Taxes were high and people anxious, wanting the promise of Messiah to be fulfilled as it had been prophesied multiple times in the Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and other books of the Old Testament.

And Herod, who officially ruled Galilee and Perea as a client state of the Roman Empire…well, he knew he could be thrown out of power at any time if he didn’t align himself with Rome.

Chaos was rampant as Israelites and Romans clashed in the streets. Crime was up. Waves of revolt were often led by two sects: the Zealots who sought Jewish independence, and the Sicarii, a Zealot extremist group whose name means “assassin.” Hostility was high. Roman occupation included oppressive taxes, physical abuse by Roman soldiers, and the repugnant idea that the Roman leader was a god. Repeated efforts at gaining political independence went nowhere. Whether in the city or country, Israelites were oppressed by Rome. 

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it! (I’m not making a political comment, just saying their culture and ours parallel in a number of ways.)

But the Israelites expected a Messiah Ruler; a leader who would vanquish Rome, set captives free, and give them peace and freedom and victory celebrations!

Instead, Messiah came as a baby, born in a humble stable. Not even a room in the inn. He had to be laid in a manger, probably filled with straw. This isn’t the way one would expect a King to enter the world. Pastor Tim used a statement last week that “The infinitely high became incomprehensibly low so we could be seated with him in the heavens!” God’s Son gave up everything, even the Oneness he shared with the Father, when God turned his back on the sin laid on his Son’s shoulders on the cross. Jesus gave up everything so we could have everything!

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)

With Mary, I proclaim

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

Luke 1:46-48 (NIV)

This has been a difficult year around the globe. Uncertainty, hostilities, pandemic, floods, natural disasters, loss of loved ones, and isolation have taken their toll.

woman showing stop gesture with hand
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

And, while Jesus wasn’t born into a palace, surrounded by servants, rich damasks and silks, and the finest of infant foods, he did come as our Lord and King, the only one who could take on himself the penalty for our sins. Eight days after his birth, the elderly Simeon, a righteous man who had been awaiting the arrival of Messiah, held Jesus in his arms and prayed:

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.

Luke 2:29-32

So as we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s remember the God who holds the world in his hands and sent his one and only Son, the exact likeness of God, to become nothing, so we could have everything!

I wish you and yours a joyous Advent, celebrating not only the babe in the manger, but our Lord and King!

Yes? No? Wait?

Most of us have seen the news: seventeen missionaries, serving Christ in Haiti, abducted. Among them are two teenagers and children aged eight months, three and six years. The missionaries had been brought back to the US and Canada after the assassination of Haiti’s President, but were recently sent back to the country.

In a letter, the families of those abducted said “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.”

The group invited people to join them in prayer for the kidnappers as well as those kidnapped. They expressed gratitude for help from “people that are knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with” such situations.

I grieve for these men and women, for mothers trying to care for an infant and two small children in captivity. These missionaries are from Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist groups, while Don’s and my roots are of Mennonite origin. And I pray for their protection, for grace in their captivity, for their release.

And God cares!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:6-8

He also brings hope.

Hope when discouragement seems to reign over the world and our hearts.

Hope when we feel lost inside, fearful.

Hope that comes from his Word, which is still so very relevant today; and from his Spirit within us that speaks truth to us.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17, ESV

In spite of abduction, war, death, fire, flood, as well as personal challenges, God promises us hope which comes from faith if we will spend time listening to, and reading or hearing his message to us. Faith that what we see is not all there is.

The Bible is God’s love letter to you and me. Who else sent His Son, the eternal Son of God and part of the Triune God, to live among us, to show us the character of God. No other religious leader has died a horrific death, rising three days later to conquer death and offer us eternal life through His sacrifice for us.

Some think God is punishing, vengeful, that he could not possibly forgive what they have done. But look at the promise in John 3:16-17, verses familiar to many of us:

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

His desire is not vengeance, but reconciliation, relationship.

And God’s answers to prayer are not always what we think is best. His answer may be “Wait”, as it was when I longed for my first husband to pop the question! It may be “No,” as it was when people around the world prayed for the release of missionaries Jim Elliott, Nate Saint and three others at the hands of the Auca Indians in 1956. No, God didn’t spare the lives of these five men who were trying to reach a tribe in Ecuador with the Good News about Jesus. But through that murder, and through the continuing faithfulness of Jim Elliott’s widow, Elizabeth and Nate Saint’s sister Rachel, that entire tribe came to faith in Christ. His is a long view, if you will. This earth is but one step in our life’s journey. Eternity will be, well, eternal!

lightning unk on green grass field
Photo by Alexandre Bringer on Pexels.com

And his answer may be “Yes.” The daughter of friends was to be married at two o’clock this afternoon, outdoors in the Santa Cruz mountains. As many of you know, we have a storm today–heavier rains in northern California and in the mountains, with evacuation orders in place for parts of Santa Cruz because of debris and the threat of falling trees.

Don and I have prayed much this week for this wedding. We’ve prayed for rain, and didn’t want to ask God to shut the windows of heaven. We also wanted this family to have a wonderful day of celebration. Impossible to have both? When they planned the wedding the weather was projected to be clear; now there were no canopies available for rent in the area, for either the outdoor wedding or reception.

brown trees under blue sky
Photo by Jelena Juhnevica on Pexels.com

Our pastor told us this morning that another wedding at the outdoor venue cancelled yesterday (Saturday), and our friends moved their wedding up by a day. Photographer, caterers, pastor, all were available a day early and the couple had a wonderful wedding day without rain. I expect many were praying for this, and give glory to God for making a way in a situation that seemed impossible.

I don’t know what God will do with these abducted missionaries. My mind is not his. But I know this. God is good, and he loves each of those seventeen adults and children. And he will work through the resolution of this horrendous situation, whatever it may be. AND, he wants us to ask! Please join me in prayer for them.

Father, good God, please grant your peace to these servants of yours as they wait in captivity. Convict the gang members and show them your love through this group. Provide the grace that's needed for each person, and especially for the parents of the small children as they help their little ones navigate captivity. I pray the group will be able to stay together so they can encourage and uplift each other. Keep your word alive in their hearts. And in your mercy, I ask for their release. Be with their families; and in whatever comes, may your name be lifted up! In Jesus' name.

Amen!

Visions Completed, Visions Destroyed

Don, Paige and I left home mid-morning. Carmel or Rio del Mar (both California beaches), we asked ourselves. Since we lived near Rio for six years, we decided to take a drive down memory lane by our old home.

Our formerly soft yellow country house with white trim is now dark gray with white trim. The dark gray is a more contemporary color, but we miss the brightness of our warm yellow and white home. But when you sell a house, it’s the buyers’ to change as they wish to make it their own. It was fun to see the large equipment on the property and realize they are making other changes, including installing a chicken and duck coop behind the guest house.

We left Soquel for Aptos, home of Twin Lakes Church, our church home for six years. Before we moved several years ago, the church shared a vision to build a coffee house as a ministry center to the students at Cabrillo College, next door. We loved the idea and were part of that funding campaign. “The Loft” was finished and opened several months ago and I wanted us to see the completion of this particular vision.

“The Loft” is beautiful inside and out. Drought friendly, attractive landscaping welcomes. Inside, the front has a coffee bar, tables and chairs, with a loft upstairs that holds two offices and several more tables. Every table was filled with students on laptops and friends meeting. While enjoying our lattes we ran into Pastors Rene and Adrian and told them how thrilled we are to see this vision become reality.

“The Loft” – getting known by Cabrillo College students

Behind the coffee bar is a large auditorium and stage for meetings, presentations, music, etc. We pray God will use The Loft to reach college students for Jesus.

On to Rio del Mar, a great walking beach for dogs and their peeps. We walked to Seacliff beach, and onto the pier. Paigey loved chasing the pigeons and would have done more had she not been on a leash firmly held by Mummy. We sat and talked and watched the ocean come and go. To our left lay the remnants of the SS Palo Alto, called the “cement boat,” built for service in the First World War but launched May 29, 1919, too late to see service. Mothballed in Oakland until 1929, the SS Palo Alto was bought by the Seacliff Amusement Corporation and towed to Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, California.

For several years, the ship was anchored three miles from shore. This monster party boat included a casino and dance hall, arcades and entertainment until its owners went belly up when the Great Depression rocked the world in the early 1930’s. The ship now rests on the bottom of the Monterey Bay.

The Cement Boat

In the heavy storms of 1917, 34-foot crashing waves broke the stern from the rest of the boat, and eventually turned it on its side.

When I was a child, the pier connected to the boat, which was used as a fishing pier. I remember walking onto the ship, a good fishing spot and bird haven. Now, of course, the ship is very unsafe. It has weathered, deteriorated, and sections have separated from each other; and the end of the pier is gated.

Visions–whether making a home your own, reaching college students with the good news of Christ, or building a ship that could weather storms and war. Which will last?

What will I leave behind when Jesus takes me home? Will I leave memories of loving service, of caring for others in his name, of sharing the good news that God wants a relationship with each of us and has provided the bridge, Jesus, between heaven and earth, between sin and redemption? Or will I leave memories of self-centered decisions and advancement at the cost of hurting others? I know which I want to have as a legacy, but how often I fall short. I’ve been trying to remember to ask Jesus to join me in the little things–driving to an appointment, talking with others, being with my family, emptying the dishwasher. And as I do, I am more aware of his love and presence with me.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

    and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6