Category Archive: God’s Promises

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

Facing Obstacles

How do you see the obstacles in your life?

  • As hindrances to reaching a goal?
  • As stepping stones to greater learning and depth?
  • As turning points in our lives that steer us in a new direction?

When have you last faced a good-sized obstacle?

  • A sudden breakup of a relationship you thought would last.
  • An illness that derails your ability to continue building your career.
  • A demanding boss who gives you responsibility without authority, leading to burnout.
  • The death of a child, or spouse, after which you have to recreate yourself, your purpose, who you are.

My brother, newly widowed, faces one of these obstacles right now after loving his wife for 55 years. Like many of us, I’ve faced obstacles on several occasions, for example–

  • when widowed,
  • when feeling bound in a legalistic ministry, and
  • when laid off.

And yet, each of these has directed me in a way that resulted in good in the end. When Jerry died, I knew God still had a purpose and a plan for me. I began to ask what was next. I grieved deeply, but looked for purpose. I began to write articles and blogs about grief and recovery.

God gave me two precious younger women to invest in. I got a dog, Kelly, who brought me delight and laughter! And, after a time, both the dog and I fell in love with my current husband, Don, through a grief recovery group.

Becoming free of a legalistic ministry was a growth process. Learning that “no” can be a good word is still a work in progress. But after I left that ministry, I felt a new freedom to be who God called me to be rather than who someone else expected me to be.

And being laid off led me to a new position with greater responsibility…and with significant medical coverage when my late husband became ill.

Actor Ashton Kuchner recently said he is “lucky to be alive” after he dealt with a rare autoimmune disorder two years ago that left him unable to hear, see or walk.

His attitude tells us a great deal.

“The minute you start seeing your obstacles as things that are made for you, to give you what you need, then life starts to get fun, right? You start surfing on top of your problems instead of living underneath them,” he said.

So how do we deal with obstacles life throws our way?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

These words are from Solomon, considered to be the wisest man who ever lived.

He doesn’t say our paths are straight. He says that as we trust in God, He will make our paths straight–past the accidents and incidents of life, the round trips we sometimes take. Why? Because our God is trustworthy. He will not fail us. When God commanded the Israelites to take possession of the Promised Land, Moses said:

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT

Don’t lean on your own understanding.

I recently texted a group of friends about my sister-in-law’s passing. I was hurt when one didn’t respond. So I asked her about it. She was going through some difficult challenges herself at the time. She told me she immediately began to pray for us, but didn’t have the energy to text back. It’s so easy to misunder-stand others, their intent, what they are going through at any particular time. Our understanding can be very flawed, as mine was.

Submit to him in all your ways. I love to be in control. Do you? And yet, submitting to God means letting go, trusting that He knows better than I what is best for me. When I was in college, I lived across the street from a senior housing area.

As I walked through the area one night, I felt a tug to knock on a specific door.

“That doesn’t make sense, Lord. It’s already eight o’clock and they might be in bed. I don’t know these people.”

The tug got stronger.

I knocked on the door and was greeted by a lovely, elderly couple who welcomed me into their home several times over the year. We were able to talk about Jesus and about life, and the new friendship became meaningful to all of us.

I could have ignored that tug, “leaned on my own understanding.” I’m glad I didn’t!

How have you seen obstacles turned into opportunities?

Funerals, Families and Friends

We left San Jose early Wednesday morning. Following a layover in Phoenix, we were supposed to stop in Denver without a plane change and go on to Wichita. Plans changed, and both we and the flight crew changed planes in Denver. Don and I walked from Gate 63 to Gate 25 … a decent hike. But we beat the flight crew.

Arriving in Wichita, we picked up our rental car and drove to my brother Arnold’s home, where we had a bittersweet reunion – sweet because we were together; bitter because we were here for Arn’s wife, Carol’s, memorial service.

I wrote about Carol two weeks ago. When Arn asked what she wanted for her service, she said, “Treat me with respect.” And he did that in spades. The service Saturday was a meaningful celebration of her life. After Arn and Carol traveled to and became involved with friends in Guatemala and then Honduras, Carol traveled there on her own several times to learn the language. She wanted to be able to communicate with the people who had become precious to them, and she and Arnold helped in significant ways over the years, and especially after recent years’ devastating hurricanes. After Carol’s death, dear Honduran friends sent a recording of the family singing “The Lord is my Shepherd” in Spanish. That was one of several very beautiful and meaningful songs of faith and trust at my sister-in-law’s memorial.

Arn and Carol’s daughter, Nicholee, brought some fabric home from Honduras years ago, from which Carol sewed herself a dress. After her mother’s death, Nicholee found the dress in Carol’s closet. It didn’t fit her in either size or style, so Nicholee pulled the whole dress apart, remade it and wore it at the service in honor of her mother.

Jerram and Arn at family dinner following Carol’s service

Their son, Jerram, engaged the audience and spoke of Carol’s impact on his life and on many others. He spoke of her life of service, her pragmatism, and her curiosity and creativity. Both children articulated lessons their mother taught them through her life.

The pastor give a message of hope and resurrection.

We spent time together with family and new and old friends who have served them faithfully–their housecleaner/ friend, who prepared special vegan meals for Nicholee. Tammy, who cut Carol and Arnold’s hair in their home for the past few years. The retired attorney who, with his wife, met Arn and Carol at a concert in Wichita and built a solid friendship over the past twenty or so years. Jenny, Arnold’s former student who was hired into his position at Sterling College after Arnold’s retirement. Gordon and Diane, Judy and her daughter Heidi, and Lila, who have been close friends for many years. Their pastor, Melissa.

Arnold’s siblings Melvyn, Bob, Don and I were present, as were Carol’s sister Judy and her husband Jim, their son James and his Jenny. Arnold’s two children and a spouse; five grandchildren and two boyfriends.

Arnold is greatly loved by his grands

A sense of warmth and love cocooned us throughout the entire weekend as we shared memories, laughter, and loss.

I’m reminded once again of the importance of family, and of presence. We need each other – for prayer, for love, for support and encouragement. I hate to think of my brother being widowed, but he will survive with the love of God, family, and friends who can step in for those of us who live further away.

My hope is in Jesus Christ, who promised that, for those who trust Him, He is preparing a home beyond this life. A home of rest, peace, productivity, worship, joy unspeakable. No more pain. No sorrow. No grief.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4, NIV

So we say goodbye to our dear Carol for now, and look forward to reunion later.

Love Stories

couple elderly man old
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

They sat outside Starbucks, a balding man and graying woman. I happened to glance at them just as she leaned across the table to give him a bite of whatever she was enjoying.

“That’s seasoned love,” I thought.

So what is love? The term is used lightly in our culture.

“I love chocolate.”

“I love my new boots.”

“I love this sushi!”

But when we see the real thing, we recognize it as something precious, irreplaceable. The Apostle Paul wrote these well-known words that define the meaning of love.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

I Corinthians 13:4-9. ESV

Love is shown in the patience of a spouse or parent when the loved one makes a mistake.

It is shown in the caring, patient support of a spouse with a disability or with Alzheimer’s. Challenges can be many, and the care is sometimes very difficult, but the love resets forgiveness when needed and continues to support, encourage, uplift, and desire the best for the other.

Love is expressed by the spouse who does everything for his or her partner, from feeding, to dressing, to bathing, to brushing teeth, to lying close in bed with the assurance of presence.

Love is when one partner has a crazy, preventable accident and the first question from her spouse is “Oh honey, are you ok?”

Love is my husband starting my car on a cold morning so it will be warm when I get in.

Love is the backrub when one enters the room, “just because.”

Love is forgiveness.

Love may be speaking truth to one who is walking a destructive path … or taking advantage … or crossing righteous boundaries.

Love is giving up your rights because of a preference your partner has. It’s compromise over the small things and respect for the person to whom it’s more important on the big things.

It is enjoying being alone together or with a group of friends; talking to each other or sitting quietly, side by side.

One of my favorite definitions of love is from a young boy, who responded to the question about how you know someone loves you. He said “You know someone loves you when your name is safe in their mouth.” That’s a beautiful description. I have known that kind of love with both my late and current husbands. I knew they would not talk down about me, and that is very precious.

Love desires the best for the loved one. In His love, God desires to have a relationship with us. His love is far above and beyond ours.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV

What, or who, are some of the examples of love you have seen?

And, if you don’t know God’s personal love for you, you can. I’d love to communicate with you if you’re interested.

The Story I Write, Part I

Janae, my niece, was three years old when she spent that night with us. During dinner I asked my husband about his day and how he fixed the toilet. As I put my precious girl to bed, I asked her to tell me a story. Words like “wrench”, “it was really tough”, and “we finally got ahold of it” were prominent in her story–all things she’d heard over dinner.

Pastor Rene Schlaepher recently said we are all writing, living, and telling a story–not by our words, but by the way we live. And we have a choice as to what story we tell.

two babies wearing red mickey mouse shirts
Photo by Edwin Ariel Valladares on Pexels.com

Most of us have seen adorable pictures of infant twins babbling to each other. They laugh, giggle, and use “words” that to adults are meaningless. But if judged by their reactions, the twins understand each other well! I remember one in which one twin babbled something and the other almost fell over laughing. The one in the photo on the left looks unhappy that his twin is chewing his fingers!

Stories have been told throughout history in oral tradition. And those stories are still going on today.

Don and I cry at love stories. Those emotions are fanned by the storyline. Other stories about calamities like the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga this week, or about troubles we all face, can lead to fear, panic and distress.

We can’t always control the events of our lives. An accident, critical illness, death, terrorist attack…they appear on our screens as blips, or dots. But we can control the narrative we put around them. Do we look at a sequence of negative events–the pandemic, cultural and political division, loss, illness–and put those into a negative story? Or do we look at those events in light of God’s promise to bring justice and righteousness to this earth, his promise of a plan for our lives?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Contamination or Redemption?

People in despair tell contamination stories. “I got a great job but the travel destroyed my marriage.” “Yeah, I got a raise but I hate my boss.” “My wife’s feeling better, thanks, but I’m sure she’s gonna crash again soon.”

Chemo #3, Bob and Sheila

People in hope tell redemption stories. My sister-in-law, Sheila, is one of these. When diagnosed with uterine cancer, she began to realize that without those symptoms that led to her diagnosis, doctors would also not have found the precancerous cells that wandered throughout her lymphatic system and, if latched on, were extremely aggressive.

After successful surgery, she is still fighting the remaining pre-cancerous cells with chemo and radiation. But, knowing how God has led them this far, she is confident and at peace, trusting that he will continue guiding them. While there have been times of fear, God showed her this smaller issue was to prevent a larger one happening. And, as she has shared her journey openly, people with whom she had a casual relationship have re-entered her life with deeper communication, often sharing their own battles with her. Sheila has looked deeper than the scars, the fatigue, and the temporary hair loss to what God is doing as she and Bob walk this journey.

My brother Arnold, whose wife suffered a life-altering stroke years ago, has built a narrative of love and care and hope around her limitations. Following her stroke In August 2012, my sister-in-law struggled with her identity. She was a capable, intelligent and caring businesswoman; now significant changes resulted in her feeling she wasn’t the same. Arn tells of a day she wept, feeling stupid (her word) because she couldn’t communicate the way she used to. He wrote, “The challenge to her identity was significant, and it reminded me of the Exodus story of Moses receiving instructions from God to lead the people out of bondage. When Moses asks whom he should say sent him to lead the people, God said, ‘I am who I am.’ There it is–the solid unmovable identity.” Arn and Carol’s love and faith is carrying them through a major life change.

We all have “stuff”. But how we handle that stuff shows where our hope lies. And only our God is that solid, unmovable source of hope.

crop black businesswoman reading newspaper near modern building
Photo by Ono Kosuki on Pexels.com

In II Cor 10:5 the apostle Paul challenges us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” So where are we focusing our thoughts, what input do we welcome into our minds and hearts that impact the stories we live? Like Janae, we often fill our stories with what we have heard and allowed into our minds. Frankly, I’ve stopped reading a lot of news because it distresses me too much and is usually a contamination story.

I confess that much of last year, after my mother’s death, I told myself (and others) contamination stories. “I don’t understand why her death seemed so hard to me.” Overwhelmed with negative input, I complained. “I hate this political turmoil, protests, brutality, increased crime, this pandemic.”

My parents’ wedding 1944

With time and help, I’ve been able to change some of that narrative. My sweet mother was so ready to meet Jesus first, and her beloved husband of 58 years (my Dad) in heaven, to worship and glorify the name of the Almighty. Whatever difficulty I experienced in her passing was momentary in light of eternity and I am eager to see her, Dad, Jerry, and others again. And why in the world would I want her to return from the very presence of God?

As to the rest? My God has not lost control. Life is good, but often hard. I don’t understand all my Father is doing through these difficult challenges, but I know he wants us to rest in his promise that he will never leave us or forsake us. I heard David Jeremiah talk about a young woman who had walked her cancer battle with God. He said, “Recently she won her battle and went home to be with Jesus.” What a different story–yes, loss aches. It can be agonizing. But she won. Her death was not the end, and that provides hope.

The redemptive story is that, because of what Jesus did for us at Calvary, Don and I and a host of you will see our loved ones again in heaven. Not only that, we will delight with them in a face to face reality of worship and praising our God, right there with us. THAT is hope!

… we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5