Category Archive: Generosity

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

Rich Soil

I attended the recent West Coast Christian Writers’ Conference, online, October 8-10. The cost was low; and the conference was well planned with a balance between pre-recorded instruction sessions and interactive Zoom game breaks and lunch chats.

I enjoyed seeing several familiar faces and appreciated each morning’s devotions, led by one of the planning team.

Jan Kern’s devotion from Isaiah 55:1-3 spoke to me. “If you are thirsty, come–there is water for all–come closer–my words give life!”

And Kathi Lipp spoke on Rooted Marketing. Yup, marketing – an idea I dislike strongly. Let me research and write a book, but don’t ask me to market myself. However, Kathi put a different spin on this word when she reflected that the purpose of marketing is to show readers the possibilities in:

  • The Work – what the reader can expect
  • Themselves – what they can learn of or about themselves. Writing leads us to great possibilities: and
  • Their God – Expand the readers’ view of how God interacts with us. She spoke of redwood trees which have shallow roots, but intertwine their roots beneath the soil to strengthen and support each other. As writers we build those interconnections by serving others in a way that strengthens and builds them up.

There were other presentations I enjoyed and learned from. But let me close with this awesome example Kathi gave of being generous with each other, of being rooted together like those huge redwoods. Keala, the singer, was nervous. Watch the change in her demeanor as she connects with the man in the purple hoodie in the second row. He was hired just for the day – wasn’t in the movie at all – but was so generous with his support. Watch how his subtle interactions with her bring her alive. It still has me in tears even after watching it multiple times!

So you are part of my audience. I cherish your prayers as I continue writing my novel (working title OUT OF RUSSIA). Pray that I will write for God and serve my readers in ways that bring out the best in them.

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen Your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in their hearts. May love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. 

Ephesians 3:16-18, The Voice

Bless you, my reading friends!

GIVING FOR RELIEF

Two large auctions raised funds for domestic and international relief efforts this weekend. The larger was held at the State fairgrounds in Hutchinson, Kansas. That was a bit far for us to go.

But Don and I got up early Friday and drove to Fresno for the West Coast Mennonite Relief Sale and Auction on the grounds of my alma mater, Fresno Pacific University. Sale and auction items ranged from handmade crafts from third-world countries, a plethora of food choices, art, quilt, toy, and children’s auctions, a traditional Mennonite meal, and more.

The sale, held every Spring by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), is a wonderful place and time to meet old friends, watch a fabulous quilt auction, listen to live music, and buy traditional Mennonite foods like zwiebach (airy two-bun rolls), and vereneki (lip-smacking good cottage cheese dumplings).

Preliminary sale totals from the Fresno sale are at $185,000; while the larger Hutch sale was expected to raise about $500,000. We met my two older brothers, Melvyn and Arnold, and sister-in-law Carol; cousins of Don’s; school chums of mine as well as people I grew up with in our home church. I’ve always admired Professor Edmund Janzen, and was happy to meet Edmund and his lovely wife Mary in the food purchase line.

Here are a few photos of significant parts of the Sale.

We stood in line Saturday with poet Jean Janzen (no relation to Edmund) and Janet Kroeker for a vereneki lunch – cottage cheese-filled pockets, boiled and then fried and topped with a delectable white sauce, served with German (what else!) sausage and salad. Yumm! Effort-intensive, delicious. 

The quilt auctions are the highlight of the weekend; I heard the one on the right sold for almost $5,500. A beautiful quilt, with money going to help those in need. Couldn’t be better!

MCC was founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1920. While its original goal was to provide food for Mennonites starving in (and also emigrating from) the Ukraine, the organization soon realized its reach needed to extend beyond only their Mennonite brothers and sisters. MCC began to help anyone in need.

Its focus includes relief efforts, clean food and water, health and education, migration, peace efforts, and restorative justice.

While Don and I weren’t in the market for quilts, typewriters or toys (although Don was admiring that John Deere child’s tractor!), we were happy to be a small part of this event, fundraising for a worthy cause.

May you have a blessed Easter week as we thank our God for the greatest of all gifts, salvation through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

John 3:16-18, THE MESSAGE

Resting in the Father’s Love

In our morning devotions, Don and I read II Cor. 9: 6-15 today. These verses express that God loves a cheerful giver.

“Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

II Corinthians 9:6

I confess that I often think of my needs, my desires, first. And yet, when I do give generously, there is real joy in knowing that what God has given me is going beyond me to the service of others, and of the Kingdom of God.

As I read the passage, Don held our little Paigey in his lap. Her chin rested on Don’s elbow. Her big brown eyes watched me intently. Her forelegs hung loose over Don’s hip. Totally relaxed. No effort whatever.

What a picture of trust, of security, in the arms of her “daddy”.

And isn’t that just what God desires from us, whether in giving, trusting He will also supply our needs; or in walking through the ups and downs of life. He is in control. He loves me unconditionally. He is trustworthy.

Hebrews 10:23 challenges us to “ hold resolutely to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

Why then is it sometimes so hard to trust, to let all the air out of my proverbial tires and rest in Him as Paige did with Don? Is it because our culture has taught us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, to make our own way, to be independent? Or is it inherent in our natures to want to succeed (or fail) on our own?

I want to remember the beautiful picture Paigey gave me this morning. I want to rest in my Father’s arms, trusting His love and faithfulness in all the circumstances of my life.

Is it hard for you to trust this way? What helps you relax in Abba’s (Daddy’s) arms, rest in His heart?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”


Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

Hope for Women and Children in Crisis

Glass walls surrounded from floor to ceiling. With a 110-foot high domed ceiling above us, Don and I climbed the stairs to the mezzanine where h’ors d’oevres and drinks were being served. With a view of downtown San Jose all around the City Hall Rotunda, we met our friends Bonnie and Bill Fitzgerald, who had invited us to the Hearts of Gold Gala for Cityteam’s Women’s Ministries.

Following a delicious dinner and auction of donated experiences, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo spoke about the linkage of government and the faith community. San Jose has a homeless population of 4300 persons. Of those, about 1500 are women, often with children. These are among the most vulnerable, and he thanked Cityteam for their significant role in bringing hope and healing to many of these women and their children.

Cityteam President Glen Peterson also shared that the San Jose Cityteam Board just voted to add another 150 beds for women in need to the fifty currently available in their two women’s programs, Heritage Home and House of Grace.

Heritage Home helps pregnant women with both immediate needs and long-term solutions. Its structured program provides “housing, meals, clothes, strollers, car seats, and diapers in addition to mentorship, education, parenting classes, Bible studies, AA meetings, life transformation classes, and career workshops.” https://www.cityteam.org/san-jose/programs/

We heard the story of a young mother who has learned how to parent effectively and is very excited about raising her daughter with lots of love and an understanding of who Jesus is. This young woman has gained the tools necessary to move forward with hope. “My daughter never has to see me high, or stoned, any more … I can’t believe how much I love her,” she beamed.

House of Grace provides a “long-term, life transformation program” so that addicted, abused or homeless women can rebuild their lives while keeping their young children with them. The program “addresses chemical dependency, abusive relationships, and other self-destructive behaviors … women are mentored and taught how to rejoin the mainstream of community life and become productive citizens supporting themselves as well as their families.” (*) And their onsite nursery provides a safe and caring environment for newborn to five-year old children.

Both Don and I were deeply touched by the stories of lives changed because of the love of Jesus Christ and his people. Gala attendees were generous with their bids and gifts to help women in crisis find meaning, purpose, and life skills to help them reenter mainstream society.

And as Cityteam Vice President of Development, Michele Ruby, told us, each section of the Rotunda’s dome must be interlocked with its neighbor to provide the structural stability needed to hold the roof up. A beautiful analogy of the body of Christ. As Pastor Tim Wood said this morning, the shields of the Roman empire were not meant to protect only the soldier behind it; those shields interlocked so that a phalanx of guards could move forward in battle together, much stronger than any one of them alone. So when scripture talks about putting on the whole armor of God, it’s not just referring to what I do individually, but to how I am connected to others in the family of God for added strength and stability.

So last night we joined our shields together with Cityteam to serve women and children in need. May God bless them, every one!

Question: where are you linking your shield with others for added strength, stability and effectiveness?