Category Archive: Fear

Peace and Goodwill

Advent – the Coming. As we await the arrival of Christmas this year, we focus on hope.

Hope has been elusive this year. Our culture is very much about “now”. We’re used to fast food, getting things we want right away. At Costco, in bulk! We get irritated if we have to wait.

And now we see waiting everywhere — the line around the corner at Marshall’s; another at Petco; still another queue of customers waiting to enter the bank. We’re being stretched with the current restrictions on our activities and on how many people can be in a store at one time, whether we’re waiting for groceries, Christmas shopping, or something else.

But Jesus gives us hope. Isaiah 11:1 promises that God still has a plan. A plan that was carried out by Jesus Christ when He came to earth to walk with us, to die a horrible death and return to life three days later. God will not forget us. He will have the last word.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

Isaiah 11:1

We can trust him. He is righteous, wise, just …

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord … with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth …

Isaiah 11:2-4

And a day is coming when He will make all things right.

  • He will end injustice (11:4) and will rule in righteousness, faithfulness, and be incorruptible
  • He will end conflict (11:6-7)
  • He will end pain (11:9), and
  • He will end ‘religion’ – there will be no need to teach others because knowledge will fill the earth (11:9b).

There is an element of hope as I realize that every day I’m one day nearer to that day of righteousness and peace.

I don’t claim to know what God is up to in our nation, our world during this anxiety-laden time. I do know He wants us to turn to Him in repentance and faith, trusting that He is good, that He has a plan that ends in ultimate glory for those who trust in Him.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to “I Heard the Bells” lost his beloved wife in 1861. The American Civil War began that same year. The following year his son joined the Union army to fight in the Civil War without his father’s consent. Shortly before Christmas 1863, Longfellow learned of his son’s war injury. The poet’s pen had been dry as he suffered the agony of loss and the depression accompanying the ongoing Civil War. But friends encouraged him to write a poem.

That Christmas morning in 1863, Longfellow heard church bells and wrote this poem.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

I wish you peace and good will during this Advent season. However you celebrate, whether alone or with others, be safe, be wise, and rejoice that the Savior of the world, born in a manager so many years ago, is alive and well and working in and through us.

Joy to the World!

What are your plans for Christmas? How can you make it a special time even if not with those you usually join for time together?

Blessing in an “Annus Horribilis”

In case you missed it, I’m reposting this blog I wrote, and which my author friend Laura Bennet posted on her site when we swapped two weeks ago. May you find blessings in this season of Advent, of waiting for the arrival, the celebration, of the Christ-child, our Savior and Lord.

By Carol Nicolet Loewen

In a speech marking the 40th anniversary of her succession, Queen Elizabeth II referred to 1992 as an “annus horribilis,” a horrible year. Many of us would say the same of 2020.

Our country is in the midst of an ever-expanding pandemic as we wait and pray for an effective vaccine. We have isolated, masked, attended church, family, and business meetings on Zoom. We are hitting new highs for COVID-19 hospitalizations and are cautioned against being together with family members for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa holidays. Fires and floods have taken lives, homes, animals, property. And our election results are still in question, with the media quick to step in with their interpretation before waiting for the final electoral vote in December.

We need hope. And out of that hope we need love that goes beyond our differences.

I heard a statistic recently that more than 80% of Americans–whether Democrat or Republican, Christian or non-Christian, church-goer or non-church goer–say they have no friends who see the world differently than they see it, politically and theologically. We prefer to stay in our own comfort zones rather than deliberately choosing to know and learn to love someone who is “unlike” us. And nothing divides us like fear. Fear of loss … of control, safety, rights, freedom, health, power, economic stability, and on and on.

We look for affirmation, security, and love in a variety of ways, many of which are not only unproductive, but potentially dangerous.

  • The sexually abused daughter who grows up to become promiscuous, believing physical intimacy is the way to gain security through the approval of men.
  • The son who has never been able to please his father, continues to push himself, trying ever harder to get an “atta boy”. He becomes a workaholic who is almost an absentee parent.
  • The tycoon who thinks his business success will buy him security. 
  • The perfectionist who continually beats herself up because she could have “done it better,” never satisfied despite awards and recognition.
  • The rioters and looters who attack and destroy businesses of those they claim to defend.

What we’re looking for is a blessing. “Blessing” is defined as God’s favor and protection; a special favor, mercy or benefit. Three thousand years ago, God gave Moses a blessing for the people of Israel, which my lovely mother sang at my wedding. It has carried deep meaning for these millennia, and still does today. 

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
 Numbers 6:24-26

Only in the blessing of God do we find unconditional love which remains constant, not because of who we are or what we do, but because of who HE is.

“Thy love is uncaused and undeserved. Thou art Thyself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved.” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 97)

God has chosen to delight in me. What an amazing, life-altering fact! I don’t have to earn His love. I can’t. I simply need to receive it, bask in it, find my security in it. And when I am secure in His love, I am able to love others and fear begins to evaporate.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4:18

So then how can I GIVE a blessing to others? In a video, an impatient man is given a pair of “all-seeing” glasses. People who before were irritants or interruptions are seen through a new lens—recognizing one needs a hug, a woman just lost a dear friend, a man lost his job. Seeing their pain, the man responds very differently than before.

I pray for eyes to see and ears to hear, so I can bless those around me … with a warm smile, a listening heart, a “thank you” to store clerks, health care professionals, and others. I want to intentionally affirm those I love and those who need encouragement.

I have needed a blessing these past weeks. Have you?

What choices will you make this week to receive and give the blessing? I’d love to interact with you at carolshope.com.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19

Fear

We arrived at our drive-in church service early last week, as we always do, to get a spot from which we can hear and see our pastor teach. The precious old hymns of the faith were uplifting.

Then Pastor Tim began to speak.

“As the elders and I prayed together this morning, each of the seven prayed about the fear people are feeling in these days of insecurity! Each of the seven. And I thought, ‘this needs to be addressed.'”

Fear is prevalent in our world, with the coronavirus, political divisions and hatemongering, ongoing fires, a country divided, and many unknowns.

  • What will be the results of the upcoming election, and how will those impact us and our society?
  • When will our current fires get controlled, and how many more fires will begin before fire season ends?
  • Will I, or someone I love, become ill with Covid-19? Will someone I love be hospitalized and die while I can’t be with him/her?
  • Will my child be able to learn remotely? And when will our children, and we, return to a more normal life?
  • When can our children return to Sunday school, Kids Club, and other after school activities?
  • If I teach remotely, will my teaching be effective?

Tim had a sermon prepared; but he set that aside and spoke to us about fear instead. He said that in the Bible, we’re told not to fear 365 times – that’s once for every day of the year!

Tim reminded us that if we live in fear, we cannot be a light to those around us. And if we don’t check anxiety, it runs us! Meaningful words for me.

II Timothy 1:7 tells us “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Fear is not from God and we need to rebuke it in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Oh, fear can be a warning; but God never meant for us to live in fear for the future.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 

I John 4:18-19

When Jesus’ disciples watched Him die in agony on the cross, they thought their world had collapsed. Hopes were dashed. They were in despair, depressed, downhearted. Their leader, the one they believed to be the Messiah, was dead. Hopes dashed. Reality set in.

But three days later reality was upended when there was resurrection, just as He had promised! Even though Jesus had told them He would rise again, they were shocked and, at first, unbelieving that this could be their Savior, their Messiah, risen from the dead.

How like us when we face critical times. God has promised never to leave nor forsake us, to carry and sustain us. But when things look darkest, we forget that resurrection is coming. Christ WILL take us home to be with Him, regardless of what comes before. We can’t SEE that, don’t KNOW that because we’ve not been there yet.

But that’s where faith comes in, doesn’t it? The disciples despaired at Jesus’ death. But they they were filled with joy at His resurrection. He had spoken truth, had been fully faithful in all He told them before His death.

It is critical that we seek our God during this very uncomfortable year! He who has told us to bring all our burdens to Him, is the One who sustains, upholds, rescues, and delivers us from fear. As we focus our eyes on Him rather than the problems around us, we can experience His peace in whatever situation He allows to come our way.

For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:9b-10

How are you experiencing God’s peace in the storm around us? I’d love to hear about it. And if you are dealing with fear, I’d love to pray for you. May God bless you as you enter a new week with the Presence and Power of Jesus in all you do.

Fires, Fear, Faith

California fire season is usually in September and October. But 2020’s fires started early, with about 400 wildfires and 5700 “incidents” (https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/) in the past week. Don and I have kept in close touch with our neighbors here, sharing updates with each other as we receive them.

We are right on the line of an evacuation area (we’re in the SCU Lightning Complex), but haven’t been told to leave as of yet. Should you need it, there’s a good evacuation map at https://nifc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=69fca73a82df4fefa7c0e48b66d0899d&extent=-123.2395,36.6849,-119.5618,38.1032

I’ve felt anxious, always watching for the next bit of news. Wednesday night I had a hard time falling asleep. Tears have been near the surface, and sometimes have fallen. Thursday I couldn’t concentrate, but kept watching for news, and registered for notification in the event we are ordered to evacuate.

We heard Thursday that Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center, where I’ve spent a good bit of time at retreats and then at writers’ conferences, had been evacuated and was in danger. Some of our family have been evacuated from that area as well, and are safe.

Meanwhile, food, meals, writing–it’s been hard to concentrate on anything else while we wait; yet life doesn’t stop. We have our “go bags” pretty ready; and my computer bag is next to my desk so I can pack my laptop quickly in the event the fire moves toward us.

According to San Jose Fire Chief, as of Sunday morning they expect winds, light rain, and possibly more dry lightning strikes–something we sure don’t need right now! Praying God will light up the world over the ocean rather than in the forests!

I am calmer now, but seem to go in cycles of fear and then release, recognizing there’s nothing we can do except be prepared and pay attention. So far, the fire seems to be moving a bit farther from us. My brother and sister-in-law have offered us a haven if we need to leave.

And we’re certainly not alone. Floods are pounding the South and East of the United States. Hurricane Marco threatens the Gulf Coast, closely followed by Tropical Storm Laura, which has already impacted Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and is expected to slam Cuba on Monday.

I hurt for the many who have lost family members, homes or structures. It’s good to grieve, to weep with friends, to sit and listen to their pain. Even Jesus, who was perfect and knew He would reverse Lazarus’ death, wept with Mary and Martha as they grieved the loss of their brother. But after He listened and wept, He called Lazarus forth out of that grave!

We are so grateful for the many who are praying for us, and for California.

  • Grateful for yesterday’s report that Mount Hermon is okay at this time. All staff are safe.
  • Twin Lakes Church’s Camp Hammer is partially burned. Some of the cabins are still there and the forest is evidently still lush and green, and all staff are safe. May God bring beauty from the ashes!
  • Grateful for loving family and friends.
  • Deeply grateful for our firefighters, as well as those coming in from other states and even other countries to help fight these massive fires; for the sheriffs and police who are helping people evacuate, working long hard hours. Thank you to each of you. We are praying for you.

Earlier this week a dear friend recommended we read Psalm 36. Yesterday I read it aloud for our morning devotions, tears coming to my eyes. What a precious scripture!

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies… How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings …

Psalm 36:5,7

I have been through several major challenges in my life and, while it’s taken time to work through those issues with God, He has never failed me. And He will not. Tim Keller said Jesus didn’t suffer so we wouldn’t suffer. He suffered for us so when we suffer — and all will! — He can REDEEM it!

Crises such as these do remind us of what’s most important–our relationship with God, family and friends. An old friend used to say the two things that last are God’s Word and people! If you’re not sure of your relationship with God, I encourage you to read John 3:16-18 and Romans 10. I welcome any questions you may have.

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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3:16-18

He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I John 5:12

California and our nation, you continue to be in our prayers.

What’s your Family History?

In researching Mennonite history for a novel I’m writing, I found the story of a whole village that escaped Russia through Siberia and over the Amur River to China, from where they went to Canada, the United States, and South America.

This was 1929, when the anti-God Communist government was imposing collectivization. They took property from individuals, leaving them barely able to provide for their families. They arrested and executed or sent to labor camps those who owned a horse or cow, machinery—or taught Sunday school or wrote letters to family in North America or Europe.

My grandfather was a minister/farmer; his family, including my father, was in the last group to receive exit visas from Moscow in 1929.

My grandfather, 3rd from left, back row, before he was married. Photo taken about 1900 in the Ukraine.

Others were desperate enough to escape illegally. One such route was over the Amur River in Siberia into China, and from there to the Americas.

Border guards were constantly on the lookout as the Amur was only about a mile wide at the point they planned to cross to China. Escape attempts were fraught with tension. Leaders tried to time their escapes in mid-day when they thought no sane person would cross the river; later in the afternoon when the guards were less well staffed; in the brilliance of the setting sun which they hoped would blind the guards temporarily; or at shift change between 11 and 12 pm.

The entire village of Shumanovsk (Siberia) planned to leave together–a very risky business with 60 sleighs and 217 people. They had to cross the Amur when it was frozen over. Villagers had been hiding sleighs and goods in their barns in preparation. The leaders knew there were several in the village they couldn’t trust to keep the plans to themselves. So they waited until late one night, then went door to door, knocking softly. “We leave in one hour.”

They approached the two homes of those they didn’t fully trust. “We leave in one hour. You come with us, or not, but we are going.” No time to warn the border guards.

There were some tragedies on the journey–several sleighs broke down and had to be repaired or their occupants shifted to other sleighs while crossing the river; and at least one baby was smothered as his mother tried to keep him from crying out. But the group reached China, across the river, as a whole.

In stories from two sources I read that the group learned later that the two border guards who were supposed to be watching for nighttime crossings were arrested. They were asked why they didn’t stop the group or call for help.

The men’s response was that they saw a large group of armed men around the group and supposed they could not overpower them, so they left them alone. The refugees thanked God for the guardian angels protecting them.

I think in these days we need to hear stories like this. I need them! While many have suffered and still do suffer for their faith, we need to be reminded of stories of God’s deliverance as well. And we need to remember that whatever comes, He will be with us–whether that’s by guardian angels surrounding us or by taking us Home to heaven.

Our pastor reminded us this morning that GOD IS GOOD. His character is good, and He does not change. So whether it’s Coronavirus, divisive politics, or anything else stressing us, we can rely on His goodness, knowing He uses even bad things for His own purposes.

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100:5