Category Archive: Grace

The Judge

We sat on our couch, watching courtroom proceedings on zoom for seven hours.

It was sentencing day. The jury had already declared the defendant guilty. But both sides’ attorneys, as well as the perpetrator and the victims of his fraud were allowed to raise objections or make statements of his impact on our lives.

The Judge was consistently patient, listening to all sides. He treated each of us, including the defendant, with courtesy and respect. We were never felt rushed or like we were wasting the Court’s time. The Judge carefully expressed the rationale behind his decision to overrule or uphold each objection.

The trial has dragged on for four long years and four months. Along with quite a few others, Don and I were victims of the defendant’s fraud. We were all eager to put this behind us and move on. Some victims lost their life savings, pensions, and went into debt because they believed in the cause this man represented. Due to the stress of the fraud and trial, several probably died earlier than they would have otherwise.

We were blessed not to have fallen for “F’s” schemes longer than we did.

Even when handing down his sentence, the Judge spoke to the defendant with compassion. “You’re an intelligent man, and have done some positive things. I don’t know where it went wrong for you that made you choose to do what you did.”

BUT … the law was clear. He chose to go another way and has to pay the consequences for his crime.

We were very touched by one victim’s testimony. An articulate young man, he spoke of God’s forgiveness and desire for “F” to repent and seek forgiveness. He forgave “F,” but encouraged the Judge to give the maximum sentence in light of the loss, pain, illness, and suffering “F” put on so many.

It reminded me that one day we will each stand before the King of Kings, the fair and just Judge of all mankind. He has already provided forgiveness … but He gives us the choice of whether or not to receive it.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

John 3:16-17

God won’t ask how much we gave to this charity or that, or what good deeds we did. In love and grace, God has provided the way through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and offer of forgiveness and new life to each of us. Our choice is whether or not to receive it.

And our eternity will be based on that answer.

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.

I John 5:11-12

My only answer to the King of Kings is “I’m here with Jesus, who died and rose again that I might have life eternal.”

Questions? I’d love to talk with you.

No Alternate Plan

Paigey, our feisty little beauty

Don and I went out of town for two days this weekend, and I had arranged for a local woman to dog-sit here at the house. However, I had left several phone messages in the past three days and hadn’t received a call back. It was noon on the day before we were to leave.

I needed to find an alternative. I called another woman who did a great job taking care of Paige for a day recently. Thankfully, she was available and delighted to have our little girl overnight. I’m thankful my alternate was available and willing!

But when Jesus came to earth, the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, God provided one way to know Him. He didn’t say, “My Son gave his life for you. Grace is freely available, along with all the blessings of forgiveness, salvation, eternal life — but if you want to find me in another way — by being as good as you can, acting loving to those around you, being philanthropic, or following some other religious teacher, that’s ok. Alternatives are good.”

Instead, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6). He is the only way to the Father, God, and a relationship with Him is freely available to all who receive it. While I might try my best to live a righteous life, I’ll never meet God’s standard of holiness. He sent His Son, Jesus, to take the punishment I deserve for sin– whether that’s murder or lying or cheating or holding onto selfishness or thinking I’m better than others –on Himself and in its place, give me His righteousness, His substitutionary atonement for my sin.

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. ”
John 10:10b

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17, ESV

So this Christmas, think about whether you are trying to know God by an alternate route, or by the means He provided through His Son, Jesus.

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

I John 5:12, NIV

May you have a joy-filled Christmas.

Just Stop!

Do you feel frustrated with all the busyness of the Christmas season? We try to buy just the right gift for those we love, to decorate our homes so they are welcoming and lovely, to send Christmas cards to those we contact annually to keep in touch, to plan the perfect menu–and sometimes it all gets to be too much.

I was frustrated last week, but for another reason. Did you know you can, at least in California, look up Unclaimed Property held by the State to see if there are funds owed to you? https://www.sco.ca.gov/upd_msg.html)https://www.sco.ca.gov/upd_msg.html

One of my friends saw that there were some funds due my late husband, therefore to me. Nothing major, just a little here and there. It’s taken me several months just to get to this since I knew I would have to find backup to support my claim to these funds, and my time was limited.

Last one!

Finally I started looking for the right documentation–proof of my social security number, mailing address, death certificate, marriage certificate, etc., etc., etc. It took quite a bit of time. Don and I searched the attic for legal documents we stored there after our move a year ago. And every time I said “I think I have everything I need now,” something else popped up and the search continued. Practically grinding my teeth at having this stack of documents cluttering my desk and mind last week, I finally said “Enough. If they need more information they’ll contact me.” And I put the claims in this morning’s mail.

What if God’s grace was like that? To prove my worth I would have to provide documentation of who I am, how strong my faith is (or isn’t), and why I was entitled to this grace.

But God’s grace is free to us–certainly at great cost to His Son, Jesus Christ, who gave His life for our salvation. Grace means good will, loving-kindness, and favor, often undeserved. And we receive God’s grace simply by faith.

“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. “

Ephesians 2:7-9, The Message

His grace, His way … through Jesus, our Savior who came to this earth as a wee babe in a manger, grew up to perform miracles among those who knew they needed help, died on the Cross and rose again, conquering death for all who trust in Him. So when we feel harried and overwhelmed, let’s stop. Just stop. And refocus on the Christ who gave Himself for us. For that’s the greatest gift of Christmas.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16, NIV

Blessed Christmas season to you!

Joy and Pain in Tandem

I was part of an extended family who lived together in the ghetto, in men’s and women’s staff homes. We ate together, worshipped together, and ministered together. When one of us, or of those to whom we ministered, was hurting, we all hurt. When we learned of incest, of some of our young teens selling their bodies, of the death of some we loved, we shared the pain.

  • In case you don’t recognize me, I’m the one sitting on the floor, top right photo; and the blonde on the right, lower left photo.

When gang members threw bricks through the women’s staff windows and we received threats of death or mutilation, our staff guys came and sat with us ’til two or three in the morning, until we were calm enough to sleep for a few hours.

When our teen girls taught us white Mennonite girls (who didn’t dance) their moves, I was the proud winner of the dance contest. Yes, there were only three of us in competition, but still …

When a few of us drove down the street and saw a woman in a phone booth, bleeding, we stopped to help.

We laughed and shared retreats, Bible studies, and music together, within our staff and with our teen choir. We prayed and saw God answer prayers for us, and for community members. We led Bible studies, teen and children’s clubs, distributed food and clothing as we became aware of specific needs.

Many teens, and some adults, committed their lives to Christ during the ten years I served there. And while it was a time that eventually resulted in burnout, fatigue, a decimated immune system, and some long-lasting painful effects, there is still so much for which I am thankful.

I’m thankful for …

  • The God whose heart is for reconciliation, so much so that He sent His Son, Jesus, to be sacrificed to provide the way of reconciliation between God and mankind … for me, for the world.
  • Co-workers who ministered together amid fear, joy, and the reward of seeing children, teens and adults reconciled to God through Christ.
  • These dear friends who challenged me, and each other, to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
  • Those who came to faith in Jesus Christ, who now have established Christian homes and are living out their faith in their communities.
  • The opportunity to serve, to rely on God in unfamiliar situations, to watch Him work through my weakness.
  • Deep friendships that were broken for a time, but have been renewed, reconciled, and are meaningful and rich with love.
  • Family and friends who prayed for and supported us in the ministry and its challenges (and after!), and for the wise, godly counselor who helped me heal after leaving this ministry.

So, sometimes joy and pain co-exist. The loss of a dear spouse, when there is joy for the years spent together and that suffering is over, alongside the agony of loss.

The pain of illness along with the joy of growing nearer to Christ.

The loss of a friendship along with thankfulness for God’s presence within the pain. And sometimes, the reconciliation of those friendships.

Can you think of a time when you felt both pain and joy in a situation? When you experienced reconciliation? How did that encourage your heart?

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

II Corinthians 5:18-21; II Corinthians 12:9-10

How Beautiful Heaven will Be

Dad had just received the news that he was terminally ill with leukemia and had only a short time to live. I walked gingerly into his room to see him gazing out the window at the flowers outside.

One of my favorite photos of Dad and Mom. Dad’s been in heaven seventeen years already.

My father turned back to look at me. My eyes were wet with tears. “How beautiful heaven will be,” Dad said with his wonderful smile. I wept.

Don and I attended a wedding reception this weekend for a lovely couple. We saw friends we hadn’t seen in awhile. We met others we’d heard much about. As we spent time talking, we had some rich, meaningful conversations about how we were all connected through Karen and Jerry, parents of the groom, and about God’s work in our lives. Everyone has a story and it was a privilege to hear, and share those, from the widows to the divorced to those impacted by critical illness … but with confidence in the goodness of God.

We had a marvelous time, and hung out beyond the stated end time of the party. I thought, if it is such a joy to meet both old and new friends at a reception on a Saturday afternoon in Saratoga, California — what will our joy meter read in heaven when we meet Jesus face to face, and are reunited with those we love who have preceded us into glory?

Scripture promises that one day Jesus will return to take his followers to heaven for eternity. Some of us will be called home through death before he returns. But we have a choice. That choice is to take him at his word, to accept his forgiveness and acknowledge him as our Lord and Savior; or to reject the grace he offers and be separated from him for all eternity.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17 ESV

If you have never committed your life to Jesus Christ, please consider his great sacrifice and his offer of forgiveness, hope, peace, and eternal life with him.

“How beautiful heaven will be!” I’m looking forward to it.

I’d love to talk about any questions you may have.