Category Archive: Faith

Blessed to Bless Others

As promised last week, I began to keep a gratitude journal. It’s been a wonderful start to most days. Whether it’s gratitude for seeing a good movie (we watched “The Chosen”, first two episodes of Season 3, on the big screen with friends Friday evening), for my husband’s godly response and leadership in a situation, or for rich times together with family and friends, writing what I’m thankful for sets a tone for the day. And I’m grateful for that!

This morning Pastor Tim taught from Psalm 67.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us…” (v. 1)

God’s grace is the root of his favor toward us. When Moses asked to see God, God told him if he saw God’s face, Moses would die. God’s holiness was too overwhelming for man to look on. So as He passed by his servant, God turned His face so Moses would not see it and die. And yet, His face shines on us. He is FOR us!

A OnePoll survey conducted in 2022 found that two of three Americans don’t think they’ll ever see positive change in their lives. And 51% of young Americans feel hopelessness.

So how can we be a blessing in this discouraged and hurting world?

What if those of us who choose gratitude express that in how we greet others, in reaching out to help in whatever ways we can, whether with food, repairs, car rides, or a smile and a kind word?

What if we focus on praising God for His blessings rather than complaining about what we’re missing? My cousin just told me about a PBS show her husband taped of Dr. Daniel Amen, who does brain imaging. (https://www.amenclinics.com/)  She said “A friend of his said she was writing a book on gratitude and would he please image her mind while she thought about all the good things in her life. He did and said all the right places were lit up in her brain.

“Then he suggested they do it again while she meditated on all her hurts etc. All the bad places lit up. Our designer knows how to make us run well!

What we think, our focus, actually changes our brain!

How does that make you feel? I am deeply thankful that He is FOR me, that He forgives and cleanses and has a plan for my life. While that plan may not look the way I anticipated my life would look, it is a plan “for good, and not for evil; to give you hope, and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

So when life is painful because of divorce, conflict within the family, chronic or terminal illness, loss, or a stressful job, God is still FOR us. He desires a relationship with every one of us, made possible by the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross, and by His resurrection life. We may also need the help of others to deal with specific issues–physicians, surgeons, therapists, pastors/priests–but those are using their gifts to bless us as well.

Victor Frankl was a highly respected psychiatrist in Vienna when, in 1942, he and his family were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where his father perished. The remaining Frankls were moved to Auschwitz in 1944, where his mother was exterminated. His wife died in Bergen-Belsen. Degrading brutality surrounded him, and Frankl theorized that those inmates who had some meaning, some purpose in their lives, were more likely to survive than those who did not. Frankl said this:

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

Jim Hill was a new Christian when his mother-in-law became gravely ill. While Jim was driving home from work he asked God why this was happening to her. He then said words just flooded into his head. Arriving at home, he grabbed a piece of cardboard and started writing down the words in his mind. The first person he sang the song to was his mother-in-law.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.”

Lyrics and music by Jim Hill (https://namethathymn.com/christian-hymns/what-a-day-that-will-be-lyrics.html)

And one day all things will be made right, and those who trust in Christ will live forever, rejoicing and delighting in God’s presence with no more sorrow, sighing, pain, sickness, or death. Only righteousness and peace and love.

That truth gives me great hope.

Can you share any ways God has used you to bless others?

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Heroes

Brian Rogers, Commander of American Legion Post 858

He phoned about a month and a half ago.

“This is Brian Rogers of the American Legion Post 858. Don is part of our Post, and we want to honor World War II veterans at our September meeting. Will you join us?”

We agreed, and Brian asked Don questions about his 26 months of service, including 16 months during the occupation on Okinawa toward the end of WWII, and the cleanup operations after the war.

The day was amazing.

Paulette and Al – Vietnam Veteran

We arrived at the Post, met Brian and talked with a few other people. As people gathered, we took our seats at tables under red and blue umbrellas. John and Al, Vietnam veterans, and Al’s wife Paulette, joined our table. There was a wonderful sense of cameraderie. Men and women who served in WWII, Korea, Iraq, Vietnam, all served our country. And we learned that Paulette and Al are also Jesus followers. What a joy!

As we walked to the tables we saw a group of high schoolers practice carrying framed flags to the front table. After Don and I sat down, four of the girls came over and asked how we were doing. They all wore yellow t-shirts with NAVY on them, so we asked about their goals.

ROTC Students

The Honor Guard, these NAVY-t-shirt students, and Boy Scouts are part of their school’s ROTC. Of the four girls who came to speak to us, two want to become pilots, one to be in another area of service, either Navy or Air Force. All were excited about helping protect our nation.

Lunch was hot dogs or hamburgers, chili, chips, eggrolls, cookies, and sodas or water.

As the anthem of each service branch was played, Brian asked those serving under the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard to stand when their theme song played. I was proud of my dear husband as he saluted to “While the Army Goes Rolling Along.”

Then Brian, current Commander of the Post, and Tito, who began the VSSA, handed out the framed flags.

Note Don’s, second row middle

Of five surviving WWII veterans, two were present – Don, and a 100-year old Coast Guard service member (right). Flags were also given to the families of WWII servicemen who passed in the last year.

We were deeply impressed by the services provided by the American Legion, through the Veterans Supportive Services Agency (VSSA). Tito, who started the VSSA, talked about how they fought to get congressional approval for American citizenship for those Filipinos who fought with us during WWII.

Now they are beginning a campaign to gain more support for deceased veterans’ wives. When their husbands pass away, these wives are often left pretty destitute.

It was a meaningful day. Meeting other veterans, and especially these students who are focused on joining the military, encouraged our hearts. So often we hear of divisions within our nation; yet there are those still willing to fight for the freedoms we enjoy. And whether or not you are a conscientious objector, I have a great deal of respect for so many who were, and are, willing to sacrifice to keep our nation free.

Don and John, a Vietnam vet, posing with the Jr. ROTC’ers

My confidence is not in America, our government or leaders. We are all fallible. My confidence is in the Son of God, who gave Himself to pay the penalty for my sins and yours.

One day we will all stand before the Great Commander in Chief, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Jesus Christ. He will judge us, not on how good or bad we’ve been, but on whether we’ve accepted his free gift of eternal life through his death and resurrection.

If I was so touched by this ceremony, how much more do I want to have something to give back to God in worship when I stand before him.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17, NIV

The Queen who Relied on the King of Kings

King Charles III greets members of the public outside Clarence House in London after he was formally proclaimed monarch by the Privy Council, Saturday Sept. 10, 2022. ( James Manning/PA via AP)

Queen Elizabeth II has passed from death to new life. Long live the King!

Since childhood, I have been a fan of the Queen’s. Growing up in Canada, we began each day’s class with the singing of “God Save the Queen” and a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.

Queen Elizabeth visited Winnipeg once when I was probably two or three years old. I have a vague memory of sitting on my Dad’s shoulders as we stood in a crowd of thousands, watching the Queen pass in front of us.

I kept a scrapbook with pictures and newsclippings about the Queen and her family. King Charles and I are about the same age, and I used to imagine I would marry him (the fantasies of a child–thankful that one was never fulfilled. I got my own prince!)

Billy Graham with Queen Elizabeth II in 1989

I was glad to see that The Crown, which I know is fiction inspired by fact, included scenes of the Queen meeting with Billy Graham and listening to his sermons on the tellie. Evidently the two of them built a real friendship over the years.

The Queen was a symbol of stability in the UK. The longest serving monarch in British history “reigned on the British throne for seven decades while relying on Jesus Christ, the King of kings.” (BGEA)

Was she perfect? No. Did her family face extremely difficult challenges? Yes indeed. Was she universally loved by those who experienced subjugation of one sort or another from the UK? No. But I heard that a recent poll of Britons, asked their most admired person, showed 98% listed the Queen. And from what I have read, the Queen’s faith sustained and guided her throughout her life.

A woman places flowers at Buckingham Palace in tribute to the queen. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves—from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique Person—neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Savior, with the power to forgive. … It is my prayer that on this Christmas Day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.”

Queen elizabeth ii
christmas message, 2011

I am saddened by the loss of this gracious, funny, wise woman from the world stage. In King Charles’ speech acceptance speech he asked for the help of Almighty God. I pray he will follow in his mother’s footsteps, allowing God to guide him even while he works to modernize the monarchy.

What are your thoughts on the death of the Queen?

Connections

Had a couple interesting interactions this week and always enjoy small connections with others.

While at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, I asked for my free Covid test kits (covered by Medicare). Because the pharmacist wasn’t there, I wasn’t able to get those that day, which meant a return trip.

man doing a sample test in the laboratory
Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

At the cashier to my right, an older Indian gentleman asked for something (I didn’t hear whether it was the same as I had asked or something else). The young man explained to him, as he had to me, that he couldn’t release that without the pharmacist’s sign-off, and she was out to lunch. The man would have to come back.

“But I’m in front of you now.”

I got such a chuckle out of his straightforward response–not a typical American way of phrasing his thought, but the man’s point was very clear. I leaned over and said “I can’t get mine either. I have to come back too.”

The gentleman looked at me and said, “OK, I’ll come back.”

selective focus photo of a woman touching yellow bananas
Photo by Los Muertos Crew on Pexels.com

Then I stopped at Lucky’s to pick up bananas. I had only a few items, but hadn’t thought to use a cart or basket. So I stood in line for the self service checkout with my purchases in my arms. One of the boxed items fell to the floor. An African American gentleman quickly picked it up and returned it to me.

“Thank you so much.” I smiled at him. “I would have dropped everything if I’d tried to pick that up.”

“You’re welcome. It happens to all of us.”

And when at dinner with my brother, sister-in-law, their daughter, her husband and their son, three-year old Titus looked me in the eye.

“Why are your eyes red?”

I had to think. “I guess because I’m tired.”

Titus’ clear eyes at age two

Then I looked at his child eyes – no red lines, no reddened inner corners – except for the iris and pupil themselves, his eyes are pure white!

Maybe I haven’t been around enough three-year-olds recently, but I was amazed at Titus’ attention to detail.

Why is it that these tiny interactions stay with us? I think it’s a combination of kindness, and simple human connection. After having worn masks for two years, we’re looking each other in the eye again. Yippee!

Then I drive and get so busy talking or ruminating about something that my dear husband will say “Uh, I think you need to get over for the next exit.” What would I do without him by my side!

Somehow these connections energize me. We’re created by God to be in community. Pastor Jeremiah Johnston said isolation is the worst punishment for a human being. These last two weekends Don and I have “attended” church online. The sermons have been wonderfully challenging, the music uplifting, and I’m grateful for technology that allows us to be a part of the services from a distance. But there is nothing like being present in person, connecting with others of like mind and spirit, worshipping God together.

Evergreen Church, San Jose, on July 4, 2022

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

We need each other. Those in our family, our faith community, our neighbors, and those we meet in kindness in everyday life. These last two years have been very difficult emotionally. Suicide rates were up, especially among teenagers. Depression has increased. I encourage you to be in groups in whatever ways you feel comfortable – perhaps sitting outdoors for a church service; meeting friends for a meal outside; or finding another way to be with others, especially those you love and who love you. Let us follow the instruction in Hebrews to encourage one another, to be together again, to reject isolation and welcome community!

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Where does the Lack of Absolute Truth Leave Us?

four assorted perfume glass bottles
Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

I went into the store to make an exchange yesterday. As I stood at the counter, the manager picked up the phone. “This is Store XXX; two people just came in and ran out with about $500 of perfumes.” She described the male and female, who she said were only in the store about a minute. They knew exactly what they wanted, grabbed it and ran.

They didn’t live by absolute truth.

Teen friends Elizabeth and Jennifer took a shortcut home after a party. It was 11:30 pm on a humid June night in Houston, Texas. They called their parents to tell them they were on their way. But the seventeen and fourteen-year-old girls never got home.

In a wooded area, they stumbled onto a gang initiation night. The gang had just started to break up when they saw the girls.

“Let’s get ’em!”

anonymous stylish woman strolling in green forest
Photo by jasmin chew on Pexels.com

Elizabeth and Jennifer’s naked bodies were found four days later. After repeated rapes and strangulation, which didn’t kill the girls quickly enough, each neck was stepped on to complete the murders.

Six gang members, all participants, were arrested. They ranged in age from fourteen to eighteen.

The day before the killings, one of the gang members had appeared on a local TV show, where he hoisted a beer and boasted “Human…life…means…nothing.”

Relative, rather than Absolute, Truth

These cases are not isolated. University administrators misuse funds or engage in inappropriate intimate relationships with students. Our news shouts sordid stories about politicians, professional athletes, business leaders, and clergy who are involved in adultery, theft, drugs, or domestic violence. We read in “Nextdoor” about catalytic converters, packages, and cars being stolen…sometimes in midday! School and mall shootings have become more frequent, leaving us to wonder what has happened to our country.

What is Truth?

When I grew up, there seemed to be a common understanding of right and wrong. Courtesy, kindness, helpfulness, honesty and loyalty were right. Lying, cheating, stealing, and unfaithfulness were wrong. Of course, since the beginning of time, there have always been those outside the norm who chose evil rather than good.

Don and I are reading CULTURE SHOCK, by Chip Ingram. He explains that absolute truth used to be something outside ourselves, guiding our actions. We didn’t always live up to the standard, but the idea of absolute truth impacted our lives and behaviors, and we knew whether they were good or bad.

However, over the years many seem to have absorbed the mantra that “whatever works for me” is truth.

Ingram traces the changes in our belief systems throughout history, from the Middle, or Dark Ages to the Renaissance, where many intellectual thinkers returned to both classic Greek literature and historic Christianity. That was followed by the Reformation, where Martin Luther studied the scriptures for himself and learned that many of the Church’s teachings were in conflict with the Bible.

The Enlightenment, or Age of Reason, followed. It brought another intellectual shift toward reason, eventually setting Biblical truth against man’s reason.

In the late 1700s, the Industrial Revolution produced some of the greatest inventions in the history of the world. Now man felt he had things under control and didn’t need God.

Then Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein introduced the ideas of pragmatism and relativity, although Einstein never claimed or taught a relative moral system.

Do you recall conversations about Situational Ethics, as I do?

I recall when the eight-year-old daughter of good friends came home with an assignment. “There are seven of you in a lifeboat. You know the boat cannot sustain all seven. Who would you choose to push out of the boat? The 85-year old who’s lived a full life? The 30-year old who was known to have stolen from other passengers? The single woman who has never married and thus has no offspring to worry about?” Questions like these helped move us toward a system based on relative moral rules, rather than moral truth.

Jim and Linda fought back, telling the teacher this was an inappropriate question and their daughter would not complete the assignment. How I respected them for standing up to this moral relativity.

Existentialism heralded the call to “do your own thing,” a blatant rejection of absolute truth. “If it feels good, do it!” became the mantra of many.

Today it seems many are pushing the envelope with multiple sexual partners, unfaithulness, multiple marriages, excessive alcohol and drug use, and white-collar and other theft. And then parents get upset when their children push the envelope just a bit further.

So where do we find truth today?

  • In the “It’s all good” mentality? (It’s NOT all good.)
  • “If that works for you, that’s great, but I’m not into it.”
  • “The Bible–that’s an antiquated book that has no relevance for me.”

Many, including myself, find the Bible to be very relevant. The issues with which we deal today aren’t very different from what the Israelites and early Christians faced. Immorality, jealousy, factions, class divisions, persecution, lying, and property seizures.

Jesus said there is absolute truth. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6, NLT

From the guidance of the Ten Commandments to a relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, we learn absolute truth.

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
    and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”

So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.  Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.

But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

I Corinthians 1:14-25, NLT

We are created in God’s image, and He is all wise. He has bestowed reason and great wisdom on some, varying amounts on the rest of us.

He says “Follow me.” When we do, our life may be filled with wisdom that is used for the good of others. Or it may be a difficult, winding path that He promises to walk alongside us.

If we follow the North Star, we will not lose our way. In similar fashion, if we follow Jesus Christ, we have a truth North compass, both through good times and difficult. Instead of saying “this is my truth”, we will say “This is truth.”

What is your view of absolute versus relative truth? I’d love to hear from you, whether or not you agree with me.