Category Archive: Faith

post by carolnl | | 2

What’s Love Got to Do with It

My mother showed me unconditional love in so many ways.

I came home from kindergarten in Winnipeg, Canada one day. “Mommy, I missed you. I don’t like being away from you so long.” She looked at me, gave me a hug and said, “I’m not quite ready for you to be gone so much yet either.” So I’m a kindergarten dropout–and I think I turned out ok!

Another time when I was even younger, I spilled milk on my highchair. I expected a scolding, but instead Mom grabbed a damp towel and said, “Oh well, that can be cleaned up.” I’ve never forgotten that incident although I was only two or three at the time. Mistakes were ok, they could be fixed. (However, I’m still a recovering perfectionist!)

When I made some choices in college that differed from the way I’d been raised, I was able to explain my thought process to Mom and Dad and they didn’t question my choices.

When I broke off an engagement and went home to grieve, Mom stayed up ’til the wee hours listening to me, crying with me.

We had disagreements, sure. But after my father died twenty years ago, Mom and I took several out of town trips together. Our conversations ran the gamut, from faith to family to food to movies to sex (yes!) to hopes and dreams for the future. These relaxed times together were some of our most precious.

She loved both of my husbands. She enjoyed Jerry’s humor; and treasured Don’s hugs and kisses, freely given, as well as his help hanging pictures, building shallower steps up to her door, helping move her into Assisted Living, and pushing her wheelchair when we took her out on occasion.

Mom had a beautiful, classically trained first soprano voice. She often sang solos in church, songs I remember as being part of Mom’s signature. I loved singing next to her in the church choir because her voice always challenged me, pulled mine out stronger and more controlled.

My mother is in heaven now, singing with that heavenly chorus. And I’ll bet she can hit that ‘high C’ again with clarity! She left us shortly before Mother’s Day last year. I’ve written about her before because she has been and continues to be such an impact on my life. And I miss her. Our family has been together on Mother’s Day for years. Two years ago Mom joined in the fun when we followed nephew Kyle’s example and balanced spoons on our noses! She was able to laugh at herself, and with us.

And she modeled love for Jesus Christ. Her deepest desire was to know him better day by day. To search out truths from the Bible. To see him face to face in eternity!

I’m so thankful for my mother’s presence, love and impact in my life.

blue jeans
Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com

I’m also thankful for many other mothers. My three sisters-in-love, Vicki, Carol Ann, and Sheila. My stepdaughters-in-law. My nieces and granddaughters, by DNA and by marriage, who are embedding core values into their own children’s lives. Some homeschool. Some support their children in private or in public schools. Some have adult children already. I love watching the interactions between some of my nieces and their children as they love well, discipline wisely, and direct the interests of their children into positive outlets. And I hurt with them when they go through difficult challenges with their children.

two woman chatting
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

There are also many wise women other than my mother, who have impacted me over the years, too numerous to name. I’m grateful for you–Sunday school teachers, friends of my parents’, youth group, work and writing mentors.

And I’m grateful for the women who have become like daughters to me as I’ve mentored them in faith and life. If you’re not a biological or adoptive mother, you can still love and mentor a younger woman.

Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.

Titus 2:3-5, NET

If your mother is still alive, love her in actions and deeds, not just with words. And when her frailty provides new challenges to you in terms of time and energy, be grateful she is still with you. One day she will not be.

And if she is no longer with you, remember the precious times, the conversations, the laughter, the tears, and be thankful.

…in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thessalonians 5:18, NET

So Moms, my hat’s off to you! Your task is a great one with ramifications that will reach to eternity. So what’s love got to do with it? Just everything!

Happy Mother’s Day!

post by carolnl | | 2

MIRACLES … AND NEEDS

Friends of ours invited parents of a former refugee and immigrant to Canada to stay with them when they came to visit their M*slm background Christian son in Canada. That was two years and 10 months ago. This family comes from a nation where persecution against Christians is strong and violent. Previously, a brother and sister chose to become believers and suffered heavy persecution in their homeland. When life became too dangerous, they fled to a nearby country, where they have been living as refugees.

An aerial view of a Refugee Camp
Aerial view of one refugee camp

When the parents left their country to visit their son in Canada, they were allowed to leave with the stipulation that they give poison pills to their Christian children who had become apostate. They took the pills with them, but disposed of them and didn’t act on those orders.

Another son back in their country has been badly beaten and suffered much because of his siblings choosing to follow Jesus, and possibly because he himself has now become a believer.  The parents think that he is a believer because he had been so eager to learn about Jesus and later, after the police stopped and searched him one time, he told his parents, “They don’t know that what I have is on the inside.”

Through conversations with their children, with our friends (through translation), and through the love of Christian community, the parents have both become Christians. Their immigration hearing was Friday this week. As they and our friends met with their lawyer, she thought their testimony was not very good (because of their poor memories and communication… possibly because of the trauma and PTSD) and they might lose the case. She was not encouraging and actually made the process difficult and frustrating for all of them.

Thursday night many of us joined a zoom prayer meeting where we “met” the parents online for the first time. What a joy to pray together with other believers that S and T would be able to remain in Canada, but above that, that God’s will be done, even if that meant a return to their country to be a witness and suffer for Jesus’ sake. We didn’t know which way the hearing would go, but knew already that one obstacle had been removed. A key government figure who planned to oppose their asylum request was no longer going to be involved.

The next morning, at least 106 of us had committed to pray during the hearing, many at specific times. Don and I prayed for those who would hear their testimony, that the parents would receive grace and favor and be at peace in this situation. Early in the afternoon, we received an email with a YAAAAAAAAAY Victory! in the subject line. I ran to find Don. The female decision maker had read all of the documentation our friend prepared (over 300 pages) the day before the hearing, and realized this couple would indeed be persecuted if they returned to their country. She granted them Permanent Residency and after five years they can apply to become citizens.

We were in tears, and we certainly know they were!! Tears of joy, of watching a miracle of God take place. There are lots of steps ahead–our friends’ church has hired them as janitors. They need to learn more English and at some point probably move out on their own. Our friends have worked tirelessly to help them, and they need respite.

But God is so gracious in granting this huge miracle!

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:7, NIV

So we see God’s mighty hand at work on the one hand; and we plead for his mercy and care for so many other needs. God is a good Father and his ways are higher than ours. But we know there is significant pain all around us.

What can we do?

First, pray. Pray for those you know who are hurting, in need, lonely, afraid, sick. We so often think of prayer as a last resort when it should be our first. I love the way THE MESSAGE often refers to God’s name: God-of-Angel-Armies! Wow, to think our prayers can help move that mighty army!

Reminds me of a true story of an escape from Russia to China over the Amur River in 1929 Bolshevik Russia. The 26 escapees watched for times of shift change, when the smallest number of guards were on duty. They left at midnight, trying to keep babies from crying, horses from whinnying. They were never fired on and reached China safely. When the superiors questioned the two guards the next morning, they said “There were armed guards all around the group. We had no chance.”

Second, step in where you can. Visit, listen, share the love of Jesus with those who are open, bring cards, food or flowers–the list will vary depending on your life circumstances, location, etc.

Third, if you can, give to organizations that have integrity in reaching desperate needs…

  • worldvision.org
  • samaritanspurse.org
  • mcc.org
  • mercyships.org

Or to on-campus ministries to reach our students:

  • intervarsity.org
  • cru.org

And your local church likely gives a portion of its budget to missions and to community needs. We were part of one church which has given over a million meals to Second Harvest Food Bank; and joined with other local churches after a local tragedy shook our community. Together, the churches provided resources for counseling for the mothers of both the 15-year-old boy and of the eight-year-old girl he murdered.

We are the Church, Christ’s body here on earth. We’re in a spiritual battle and need to engage as he leads us. My way may be different than yours; and yours, than your neighbors’.

So let’s rejoice in God’s still-miraculous work, and pray for his guidance, his heart in us for the world around us.

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.

Living in Freedom

What do you need this year? Is it confidence, hope, peace, forgiveness–either for yourself or toward someone else?

Will we shift with the changing variances of politics, economics, belief systems, hurts? If we do, our feet will slip easily, not having stood on solid ground.

Many of you will recall reading about Corrie Ten Boom, author of THE HIDING PLACE. In 1922, Corrie was the first woman licensed as a watchmaker in the Netherlands. Over the next ten years, in addition to working in her father’s watchmaking shop, she established a youth club for teenage girls, providing religious instruction and classes in performing arts, sewing, and handicrafts. The faith of Corrie and her family led them to serve their society by offering shelter, food and money to those in need.

The family determined to help the Jews during Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, which began in 1940. At great danger to themselves, they offered a haven for Jewish fugitives. The Dutch Underground Resistance learned of their activities and sent an architect to create a concealed space within their home, “the Beje.” Whenever neighborhood sweeps happened, a buzzer alerted the resident Jews to crawl into “the hiding place” and remain completely still until the raid ended.

Corrie also became involved in directing some of the underground movement to smuggle Jews to other safe homes. It’s estimated that 800 Jewish lives were saved because of her work.

What caused this family, this woman, to risk their own lives to help those less fortunate? Some important tenets of their faith included the fact that the Jews were God’s chosen people, and that all people are created equal.

In February 1944, a neighbor betrayed them and the family was arrested. Corrie’s father died ten days later. The Jews hidden in the concealed room were not discovered and were later moved, with the help of police who were part of the Resistance, to other locations.

Eventually Corrie and Betsie were taken to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where they led Bible studies at night with a Bible Corrie had been able to smuggle into the camp, despite the thorough searches of the guards. Her dear sister, Betsie, died in the camp in December 1944, telling Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”

Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.

George Macdonald, Author and Mentor to C.S. Lewis

Twelve days after Betsie’s death, Corrie was released–later learned to be due to a “clerical error.” A week later all those in her age group were sent to the gas chamber.

It would have been easy for Corrie to become bitter. After the camp was freed by the Americans, she spoke about forgiveness in a church in Germany. Afterward, a man approached her, offering his hand to shake hers. She immediately recognized him as one of the Ravensbruck guards who had been particularly cruel to Betsie.

Arm stiff at her side, would Corrie shake his hand, forgive him? Or could she not because of the horrors he and the Nazi system had perpetrated on her and her family?

She quickly asked God for strength, reached out and shook this guard’s hand. It was one of those moments where one has to think “Will I act as I believe; or as I feel.” She acted on her belief in the forgiveness of God.

Corrie ten Boom at Right with Billy Graham and others in front of the old watch shop

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

C.S. Lewis

Forgiveness. The reason Jesus Christ came to earth to live among us, to die a criminal’s death, and rise again. Because he took the penalty for our sins–yours and mine–on himself, we can be free of the weight, bondage, and penalty of sin.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

I John 1:9, NIV

I love another quote by Hannah More, an English religious writer and philanthropist who died in 1833.

Forgiveness is the economy of the heart. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.

Hannah More

Forgiveness frees us, not only from the penalty of our own sin, but from the burden of anger, hatred and a bitter spirit that grow in us when we refuse to forgive someone else.

Is there anyone you need to forgive? I thought of this on the weekend and realized I still have some resentment in my heart toward a (very) few people who have hurt me. And I choose to let that resentment go. Sometimes that takes forgiving multiple times, perhaps prayer with a deep friend, or counseling, before we’re able to really let the issue go; but isn’t living in the light of freedom, with a heart that doesn’t hold onto past hurts, worth working that through with God?

I think so. I hope you do too.

On the First Day

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Luke 24:1-3, NIV
He is Risen – Just as He promised

Don and I shared this morning in worship and praise for the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus. I thought of all the resurrections that have happened since, because Jesus conquered death. Most prominent is my mother’s homegoing on April 4th last year, Easter Sunday this year. Today is the first anniversary of her Resurrection Morning!

Jesus’ cross was framed by criminals, one on either side of him. One mocked Jesus, saying “You say you’re the Son of God. Save yourself and us.” The other said, “Don’t you fear God…since you are under the same sentence?…We are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he turned to Jesus. “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied to that criminal, dying in agony on the cross next to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43, NIV)

In John 10:14-18, Jesus tells his disciples that he is the Good Shepherd, who gives his life for his sheep.

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.

John 10:18a, NIV
silhouette image of person praying
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

While there’s a lot of talk about who is to blame for Jesus’ death–

  • Herod, who wanted to release him but gave in to the crowd;
  • Judas, who betrayed him;
  • the chief priests and elders, who caused the crowd to riot and demand his crucifixion;
  • the Romans, who nailed the Son of God to that blistering, rugged cross–

Jesus says he lay down his life by his choice, in obedience to his Father. And he did that because of his love for you and me. All we need do is receive that gift.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Romans 10:9-10, NIV

So how shall we live in response to God’s great love?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV

I think of that great cloud of witnesses–Moses, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, the apostles, and also the ordinary people like me who put their trust in the Savior and are now with him in glory. And I think of those near and dear to me. My first husband, my father and mother, parents-in-law, nephew Greg, grandparents, and several dear and precious friends.

I’m sure you can add your own to this list, those for whom you grieve, yet with the hope of heaven! Below is a stunning, poignant Easter duet sung by two sisters. I hope you will take three minutes to listen to the beauty of this song. May it, and the Jesus for whom we celebrate this Resurrection Sunday, give you great hope today.

https://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=1C911JNU
https://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=1C911JNU