Category Archive: Grace

post by carolnl | | 2

MIRACLES … AND NEEDS

Friends of ours invited parents of a former refugee and immigrant to Canada to stay with them when they came to visit their M*slm background Christian son in Canada. That was two years and 10 months ago. This family comes from a nation where persecution against Christians is strong and violent. Previously, a brother and sister chose to become believers and suffered heavy persecution in their homeland. When life became too dangerous, they fled to a nearby country, where they have been living as refugees.

An aerial view of a Refugee Camp
Aerial view of one refugee camp

When the parents left their country to visit their son in Canada, they were allowed to leave with the stipulation that they give poison pills to their Christian children who had become apostate. They took the pills with them, but disposed of them and didn’t act on those orders.

Another son back in their country has been badly beaten and suffered much because of his siblings choosing to follow Jesus, and possibly because he himself has now become a believer.  The parents think that he is a believer because he had been so eager to learn about Jesus and later, after the police stopped and searched him one time, he told his parents, “They don’t know that what I have is on the inside.”

Through conversations with their children, with our friends (through translation), and through the love of Christian community, the parents have both become Christians. Their immigration hearing was Friday this week. As they and our friends met with their lawyer, she thought their testimony was not very good (because of their poor memories and communication… possibly because of the trauma and PTSD) and they might lose the case. She was not encouraging and actually made the process difficult and frustrating for all of them.

Thursday night many of us joined a zoom prayer meeting where we “met” the parents online for the first time. What a joy to pray together with other believers that S and T would be able to remain in Canada, but above that, that God’s will be done, even if that meant a return to their country to be a witness and suffer for Jesus’ sake. We didn’t know which way the hearing would go, but knew already that one obstacle had been removed. A key government figure who planned to oppose their asylum request was no longer going to be involved.

The next morning, at least 106 of us had committed to pray during the hearing, many at specific times. Don and I prayed for those who would hear their testimony, that the parents would receive grace and favor and be at peace in this situation. Early in the afternoon, we received an email with a YAAAAAAAAAY Victory! in the subject line. I ran to find Don. The female decision maker had read all of the documentation our friend prepared (over 300 pages) the day before the hearing, and realized this couple would indeed be persecuted if they returned to their country. She granted them Permanent Residency and after five years they can apply to become citizens.

We were in tears, and we certainly know they were!! Tears of joy, of watching a miracle of God take place. There are lots of steps ahead–our friends’ church has hired them as janitors. They need to learn more English and at some point probably move out on their own. Our friends have worked tirelessly to help them, and they need respite.

But God is so gracious in granting this huge miracle!

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:7, NIV

So we see God’s mighty hand at work on the one hand; and we plead for his mercy and care for so many other needs. God is a good Father and his ways are higher than ours. But we know there is significant pain all around us.

What can we do?

First, pray. Pray for those you know who are hurting, in need, lonely, afraid, sick. We so often think of prayer as a last resort when it should be our first. I love the way THE MESSAGE often refers to God’s name: God-of-Angel-Armies! Wow, to think our prayers can help move that mighty army!

Reminds me of a true story of an escape from Russia to China over the Amur River in 1929 Bolshevik Russia. The 26 escapees watched for times of shift change, when the smallest number of guards were on duty. They left at midnight, trying to keep babies from crying, horses from whinnying. They were never fired on and reached China safely. When the superiors questioned the two guards the next morning, they said “There were armed guards all around the group. We had no chance.”

Second, step in where you can. Visit, listen, share the love of Jesus with those who are open, bring cards, food or flowers–the list will vary depending on your life circumstances, location, etc.

Third, if you can, give to organizations that have integrity in reaching desperate needs…

  • worldvision.org
  • samaritanspurse.org
  • mcc.org
  • mercyships.org

Or to on-campus ministries to reach our students:

  • intervarsity.org
  • cru.org

And your local church likely gives a portion of its budget to missions and to community needs. We were part of one church which has given over a million meals to Second Harvest Food Bank; and joined with other local churches after a local tragedy shook our community. Together, the churches provided resources for counseling for the mothers of both the 15-year-old boy and of the eight-year-old girl he murdered.

We are the Church, Christ’s body here on earth. We’re in a spiritual battle and need to engage as he leads us. My way may be different than yours; and yours, than your neighbors’.

So let’s rejoice in God’s still-miraculous work, and pray for his guidance, his heart in us for the world around us.

New Life

Spring has arrived in all its glory. Don and I walk through the hilly woods near us and see blue lupen and bright orange California poppies in the fields. Paigey stops to sniff, picking up scents of deer and other wild critters.

Nature illumines my soul. As we begin to emerge from the cocoon of Covid-19 this past year, I feel hope in the new life of all around me. The 12-18″ wild, bright green grasses growing on the hillside. The trees crisscrossing over the dirt road on which we walk, giving us sweet shade beneath the warming sun.

We have a small back yard, but see the breadth and width of the nearby hills, with no houses between. Don and I often enjoy a light lunch as we sit on our patio watching flowers, squirrels, iceplant, and a great variety of birds. And when we look out between the large oak trees to the hills, I feel at peace.

God’s nature, always renewing, refreshing, the darkness of winter superseded by the glories of spring, bringing life and hope to a newly budding world, and heart.

I want to share with you this beautiful rendition of AMAZING GRACE, by a group called Il Divo. AMAZING GRACE was written by John Newton, a former slave trader who met the Master who changed his life and calling. Newton was transformed from a captain of slave ships to an abolitionist and priest of the Anglican parish at Olney, Buckinghamshire, England for two decades.

This song is one of many Newton wrote, but is his most famous, probably because it speaks to the marvelous grace of God that can change a stony heart to soft, a hard heart to one that is open to both receiving, and granting grace.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-norton-ext_onb&ei=UTF-8&hsimp=yhs-ext_onb&hspart=norton&param1=0a6ef5af-06c6-4c78-90af-877a4392b851_2020-06-18_cr&param2=ds_nag_may20&param3=ngc_22.20.2.57_wk25_2020&param4=1000&source=nag&p=il+divo&type=cr_ds_may20_wk25_2020#id=3&vid=a8ebd5953f837cb5a8f9bda275712176&action=click

What renews your soul? Is it God’s creativity in nature? Time with family and friends (in person)? Solitary time? Time spent alone with God and his Word? Let’s talk about it.

Rooted

What a year 2020 has been! We headed into a rather restricted Thanksgiving week, limiting connections (as we’ve done for some time), meeting outdoors if at all. But I am thankful for YOU, my readers. I pray that my thoughts have shown you hope in some small way. You have certainly encouraged me during some difficult emotional times.

WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH US … Don rebuilt much of our deck, which had a great deal of dry rot beneath; and built a lovely waterfall along the pathway to our front door. He makes breakfast in the mornings to allow me more time to write, and is a great sounding board for ideas.

I’m still writing, working on my historical novel, and occasionally talking with friends in person outside, by zoom or phone.

We’ve had an apartment vacated (after thirteen years!) and updated it with some significant help from my nephew and his 9-year old son. We’re praying for just the right person or family to move in.

Like many of you, we haven’t seen as much of our family as we would like. But we have gotten together outside with another couple, or several, on rare occasions. Do you find, as I do, that this time of isolation makes our families and friends even more precious, the joy in times or talks together multiplied because of their rarity?

Don and I walked in the sunshine in our neighborhood yesterday morning, enjoying the multi-colored leaves (these are just five I picked up–I think the one with the prominent rust-colored veins is stunning!) and watching Paigey explore and sniff along the way.

We put up our Christmas tree and decorated it after a wonderful drive-in church service this morning, then enjoyed talking with each other while sitting and looking at the beauty of the tree. Paigey goes with us to drive-in church–we call her a “pup who praises.” Don’s put up the outside lights and I’ll decorate the mantle later.

ON THANKSGIVING, we took time to remember our Mom, who passed away in April of this year. While I am still grieving her loss, I am so grateful she is not alone and isolated during this pandemic. Instead, she is enjoying inexpressible delight in the presence of Jesus, our King.

We laughed as we shared different memories. Mom always felt she and Dad were too serious, so it was a joy to see and hear her relax and laugh more in her later years. We delighted in (and enjoyed) some of the baking traditions she passed on to family members; and talked about her gracious, giving spirit and the years she prayed for each of her family members.

We have much for which to be thankful. A vaccine for Covid-19 is on the horizon, we have precious family and friends, we can walk and enjoy the beauty of Creation. And, despite divisions and uncertainty about the future, we can have confidence in the God who is There! I need Him more than ever, and work to focus my mind on Him rather than on the chaos surrounding us.

AND I’M THANKFUL FOR YOU!  You’re important to me.   

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. 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 3:16-19

How was your Thanksgiving?

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.