Category Archive: Grace

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.

Unexpected Interruptions (they’re always unexpected aren’t they!)

I walked out of my meeting, stepped into my car, and turned the key. The engine sputtered and died.

After trying to start the care several times without success, I called Triple A for a tow. I was pleased that one of their first questions was “Are you and your car in a safe place?” (We were.)

My mechanic determined the car had a fuel pump failure, then went above and beyond to ask the dealer if this defect might be covered under warranty. After haircuts and lunch with stepson Brad and his wife Cathy, I once again called Triple A.

Don and I waited about two hours at our mechanic’s until the truck arrived to tow the car to the dealership. Charlie told me if it turned out to be a defective fuel pump it would cost me nothing to repair. If it was not that, it could run me about $3000. Ouch! My car has been wonderful, reliable, well maintained. This was not something I had planned for, nor could I afford it.

So Don and I had already lost two days to wait time/ tow trucks/ car trouble. But we were thrilled when the dealer called to tell us the repair would be fully covered. Thank you, Lord!

They did find two other repairs that needed to be done and we authorized those–but at a significantly lower cost than the possible $3000 had the fuel pump repair not been covered.

Today was a full day. Don and I had an appointment, then breakfasted at Le Boulangerie. After that I took a sputum sample into a lab in Los Gatos (I give these monthly to check on a non-contagious lung infection that is very difficult to eradicate and which I’ve had for several years already).

The car dealer called and told us the car was ready for pickup, so Paige and I returned home, I picked Don up and we headed to pick up the car. Although they had projected keeping the car for five days (over the holida), waiting for delivery of the needed parts, the parts arrived Saturday morning and the repairs were complete!

I have my car again, hopefully good for many miles to come. And I’m thankful for my auto mechanic who goes beyond “We’ll fix it for $___” to research ways to help customers save money and get effective corrections made.

Thanks Bill, Fiona, and Charlie! And thank you Lord for caring for my smallest needs, ensuring this didn’t happen the day before we leave on vacation, or across the hill, or at night …

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

I Peter 5:7 NLT

May we recognize in those difficult moments the grace of God that sustains, provides, and cares for us.

Agents of Peace

The harmonies of the old hymn filled the chapel with full, rich tones. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that I, and those with whom I grew up, learned to sing, to harmonize, to make beautiful music as we raised our voices and hearts in praise to God. It was a part of our culture, our worldview, our worship. Now we raised our voices together in harmony at the memorial service of a dear friend.

I’ve often thought that, while sermons and words reach my mind, music touches my soul.

And how we need something to touch our souls in these uncertain days, when mass shootings have killed 32 in the past week and a half. Many here in California, in Texas and Ohio are traumatized and fearful as they deal with the senseless loss of loved ones and the trauma of being in the line of fire.

Others have written about the solutions, and I don’t intend to take on that subject here.

But we as believers need to be salt and light in the midst of this carnage. How can we help? Can we reach out to someone who has been hurt, by these shootings or by something else, and minister peace and love to them?

Our pastor said Sunday that Christianity is not a subculture but a counterculture. We are priests who are desperately needed in a culture of hate.

One of the songs that ministered to me in a significant way when I went through a turbulent time personally says,

In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry

Keep me safe till the storm passes by
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by

Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me…

-Written by Thomas Mosie Lister

How can we be priests and agents of peace in a hate-filled world?

We can pray. Jesus turned to the Father in every circumstance, praising him, asking his help, and acting in obedience to the Father’s direction. Sometimes we think prayer is the least we can do. If we are praying along with the Father’s heart, it may be the most important thing we do.

We can be agents of peace in our own neighborhoods, seeking healthy, building relationships and encouraging others, whether they are children, younger adults, or seniors whom God brings into our lives. When there are disagreements we can look for positive resolutions that build bridges with our neighbors. When our neighbor didn’t like the solar equipment on the side of our house that she sees regularly, Don said “I think we can come up with a good solution,” and built a lovely latticed box to surround the equipment. My Don was an agent of peace and our neighbor, and the homeowners’ association, are delighted with the outcome.

What other ways have you found to be an agent of God’s peace and love in your world? I’d love to hear what solutions you’ve found.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.…”

Philippians 4:6-8, Berean Study Bible

You Never Know …

After the meeting, a blonde woman approached me.

“I wanted to meet you because we’ve driven here side by side several times,” she smiled.

I smiled back. “We have?”

“Yes, a week or so ago we were next to each other at Silver Creek Boulevard. I waved, but you didn’t see me.”

“Well, hi. I’m Carol, and now I’ll watch for you!”

As Susan and I chatted about where we live, I thought, here’s a woman who’s seen me in my car, on the road, and I was oblivious. If I had noticed her I think I would have recognized her from our weekly meetings, although it may have taken me a minute to remember where I knew her from!

We never know, do we … anyone could be watching. Was I picking my teeth? Singing along with the radio or a CD? Looking angry about some traffic impingement?

He gave His life for me, and for you

There’s a cross sticker on my car. Did I reflect the Christ I love, or did someone say “Ooh, if that’s a Christian …”

I know I sin and make mistakes and get angry inappropriately at times. But my heart wants to walk the talk, wants my actions to support my words and my professions of faith.

So next time I’m in my car, I’m going to watch for who’s around me; I’m also going to try to ensure I’m not doing anything for which I would be embarrassed if someone said “I saw you when you were …”

Most important, the Father sees me at all times. He knows, not just the embarrassing stuff that comes out at times, but my heart. He knows when my thoughts and the intent of my heart would embarrass me no end if I were standing face to face with him. And yet, I am in his presence–always. He is never far from me and knows me completely.

But he gives his grace. His love is so great that his grace covers me, whether I’m making a small, embarrassing mistake or a larger one that impacts many. A bigger mistake may cause great pain to self and others, and to the Lord, who grieves over our sin. But grace is available once I agree with God that I have sinned.

“But if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I John 1:9

Confession results, not only in forgiveness, but also in cleansing, making me like new in God’s eyes. Cleansed, forgiven, whole, accepted in the beloved! Joy!

Aftermath

I’ve reflected this week on the joy of last weekend’s reunion with former mission colleagues, of reconciliation, of hearts that never stopped loving each other despite misunderstandings, miscommunication, and directives not to talk with person(s) who left the ministry.

And while we were honest and vulnerable, this was not a leader-bashing weekend. We are all fallen sinners, saved by grace. And despite the flaws of the leadership, God used that ministry to bring hope and healing to many who chose to follow Christ. And for that I am deeply thankful.

At the time I left L.A., I think we lacked a real understanding of grace. So, from the leadership on down, we (myself included) tried to mold others into a certain image, forgetting that God has created us with minds that question, gifts that differ and cause us to view the world uniquely.

One woman talked about the hurt of feeling she never measured up because her artistic, creative temperament didn’t fit the square hole she was supposed to fill.

Another was falsely accused of stealing.

And because our system had a strict top-down heirarchy, pressure flowed downhill even as questions or doubts were passed upward. So if I said something negative to my “uplink,” she had a responsibility to report that to the President.

We were told not to discuss questions or problems outside the ministry because “‘they’ wouldn’t understand.” Burdened and feeling bound, I talked to my older brother about my concerns that last Christmas. He recommended counseling. But the response I got when I mentioned that was “I thought you promised not to talk to your family about this.” So I couldn’t get perspective on the issues that troubled me.

About ten days later my questions came to a head and I left.

But challenges don’t stop when we leave one situation for another. Their shape may change, but we must continue to lean into God because there is little that is certain in our world other than his love, grace, and presence. Pain inevitably comes. But God is able to use it, to comfort us so that with His comfort we can comfort others (II Cor. 1:3-5).

We all carry the scars of hurt, damaged relationships, of loss, unfulfilled hopes and dreams for ourselves or for family members. And as this group of women shared beyond our stories of leaving the ministry, we heard each other’s pain — wayward children, grandchildren making choices they may regret later, marriage and physical challenges — and we stopped to pray over individuals.

A few weeks after I left the ministry 38 years ago, I attended a church in northern California. From the pulpit, one of the pastors shared that there was a theological difference between the head pastors and two young ministers. After prayer and discussion with these two, they agreed this was a significant difference and the two were released from the church staff.

The pastor told the congregation the truth without sugar-coating it or demeaning these young men. He spoke with compassion and expressed continuing love for these two. I cried through the whole service because this separation was handled with love, compassion and honesty. Few of us who have separated from ministries have experienced that. Remaining staff members may be told untruths or half truths, as they were in my case. People may be told not to communicate with those who left, thereby leaving questions and misunderstandings that grow and multiply among those left behind.

But God is still sovereign. Nothing is a surprise to him. This morning I read:

“Trust that I know what I’m doing–that I can bring good out of everything you encounter, everything you endure. Don’t let your past or present suffering contaminate your view of the future. I am the Lord of your future, and I have good things in store for you. I alone know the things I am planning for you–to give you a future and a hope.

JESUS TODAY, p 40

One of my nephews was baptized on Easter Sunday a few years ago. I asked why now. What had changed. His answer? “I finally found a church where it was okay to ask questions.” We need to welcome questions and seek answers together before the Lord. We may need input from others like Board members or counselors. We may continue to serve. Or there may be good reasons to go our separate ways. But let’s be open and honest about these issues, rather than holding them in secret.

Burdens shared are lifted, as we experienced together last weekend. But we have to say yes…yes to being vulnerable, to sharing deeply with those we love, to recognizing and appreciating our differences. This reunion could have come sooner for me. I was invited to a staff wedding several years after I left. I wasn’t ready to face those who had hurt or shunned me, and declined the invitation. This time when Katie texted to ask if I had an interest, my response was immediate. “Absolutely, yes!” I was ready. And God was and is good.

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

The weekend was healing, unifying. Going forward, we will seek to understand each other, we will honor those who serve with us, we will respect differences and encourage real communication. And we will continue to love each other.