Category Archive: Hope

Blessed to Bless Others

As promised last week, I began to keep a gratitude journal. It’s been a wonderful start to most days. Whether it’s gratitude for seeing a good movie (we watched “The Chosen”, first two episodes of Season 3, on the big screen with friends Friday evening), for my husband’s godly response and leadership in a situation, or for rich times together with family and friends, writing what I’m thankful for sets a tone for the day. And I’m grateful for that!

This morning Pastor Tim taught from Psalm 67.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us…” (v. 1)

God’s grace is the root of his favor toward us. When Moses asked to see God, God told him if he saw God’s face, Moses would die. God’s holiness was too overwhelming for man to look on. So as He passed by his servant, God turned His face so Moses would not see it and die. And yet, His face shines on us. He is FOR us!

A OnePoll survey conducted in 2022 found that two of three Americans don’t think they’ll ever see positive change in their lives. And 51% of young Americans feel hopelessness.

So how can we be a blessing in this discouraged and hurting world?

What if those of us who choose gratitude express that in how we greet others, in reaching out to help in whatever ways we can, whether with food, repairs, car rides, or a smile and a kind word?

What if we focus on praising God for His blessings rather than complaining about what we’re missing? My cousin just told me about a PBS show her husband taped of Dr. Daniel Amen, who does brain imaging. (https://www.amenclinics.com/)  She said “A friend of his said she was writing a book on gratitude and would he please image her mind while she thought about all the good things in her life. He did and said all the right places were lit up in her brain.

“Then he suggested they do it again while she meditated on all her hurts etc. All the bad places lit up. Our designer knows how to make us run well!

What we think, our focus, actually changes our brain!

How does that make you feel? I am deeply thankful that He is FOR me, that He forgives and cleanses and has a plan for my life. While that plan may not look the way I anticipated my life would look, it is a plan “for good, and not for evil; to give you hope, and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

So when life is painful because of divorce, conflict within the family, chronic or terminal illness, loss, or a stressful job, God is still FOR us. He desires a relationship with every one of us, made possible by the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross, and by His resurrection life. We may also need the help of others to deal with specific issues–physicians, surgeons, therapists, pastors/priests–but those are using their gifts to bless us as well.

Victor Frankl was a highly respected psychiatrist in Vienna when, in 1942, he and his family were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where his father perished. The remaining Frankls were moved to Auschwitz in 1944, where his mother was exterminated. His wife died in Bergen-Belsen. Degrading brutality surrounded him, and Frankl theorized that those inmates who had some meaning, some purpose in their lives, were more likely to survive than those who did not. Frankl said this:

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

Jim Hill was a new Christian when his mother-in-law became gravely ill. While Jim was driving home from work he asked God why this was happening to her. He then said words just flooded into his head. Arriving at home, he grabbed a piece of cardboard and started writing down the words in his mind. The first person he sang the song to was his mother-in-law.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.”

Lyrics and music by Jim Hill (https://namethathymn.com/christian-hymns/what-a-day-that-will-be-lyrics.html)

And one day all things will be made right, and those who trust in Christ will live forever, rejoicing and delighting in God’s presence with no more sorrow, sighing, pain, sickness, or death. Only righteousness and peace and love.

That truth gives me great hope.

Can you share any ways God has used you to bless others?

Grateful

PREVENTION magazine calls it Vitamin G. Gratitude actually makes our bodies and minds work better. “Studies have linked living a thankful life to fewer aches and pains, better sleep, and more.”

There can be a significant difference between the “thank you” of a child, prompted by his parent in response to an unexciting gift; and gratitude, which wells up when we receive something unexpected, delightful, unearned. When my husband washes the pots and pans after I’ve made dinner, I thank him. But I am also grateful for his thoughtful partnering with me. So, I can be both grateful and thankful (which is the expression of gratitude), or I can be thankful without being grateful. Gratitude is from the heart.

Robert Emmons, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and author of The Little Book of Gratitude said “Gratitude is affirming the goodness in one’s life and recognizing that its source lies outside the self.” In a study he found that keeping a gratitude journal for only five minutes a day can increase your happiness by at least 10%. Emmons says, “The sense of well-being that washes over us in our gratitude tells our bodies all is well…Feelings of gratitude trigger the parasympathetic, or calming, branch of the nervous system.”

A research study completed after the 9/11 attack reflected that gratitude played a key role in building resilience among the survivors.

Practicing gratitude makes us more optimistic and giving. It reduces materialism and improves our relationships (can you imagine the difference between argumentative spouses and those who affirm their gratitude for each other?). It increases our social support by attracting more people to us. Gratitude improves work performance and satisfaction, and improves our mental and physical health. That’s quite a list!

Psychologist Martin Seligman asked 411 people to write a letter of gratitude to a person from their life who deserved it–and to deliver the letter personally. Those who followed through felt increased happiness and self-satisfaction, effects which lasted for a whole month. Think of it–a letter a month with quite an ROI!

Tim Wood, our pastor, challenged us yesterday to “Magnify our blessings and not our problems!” What a great way to develop an ‘attitude of gratitude’.

Israel’s King David was a man who expressed gratitude, along with his troubles (and they were many!). When the Israelites tried to bring the Ark of God back to Jerusalem, they did not follow God’s explicit directions on how to carry it. As a consequence, one man died. Fearing the power of the Ark, David refused to take it to Jerusalem but rather left it at the home of a man named Obed-Edom. During the three months it remained there, Obed-Edom’s family was greatly blessed by God (II Samuel 6:9-12).

When David heard about the blessings Obed-Edom experienced, he decided to bring the Ark to Jerusalem after all. He had learned how God wanted it transported, and his men brought the Ark to the capital city with great rejoicing. David brought together singers, dancers, trumpeters, lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals to accompany the Ark. And David danced before God.

I can make a long list of what I’m grateful for.

  • A loving husband
  • A loving and supportive family
  • Grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and greats, and the fun of watching them grow
  • Our sweet Paigey
  • The beauty of the incredible fall colors we see in the trees around us, and in the soft leafy carpets of those red, yellow, orange and gold leaves that have fallen to the ground
  • A sunset walk around the pond in our community
  • A sunshiny day with billowing clouds in a cerulean sky
  • Decaf, sugar-free vanilla lattes
  • Friends and neighbors we care about
  • Our church family
  • A nation where we can still worship God freely
  • Prayer support
  • Chocolate
  • Our home
  • Some of the difficulties I’ve experienced in life, because God brought me through them to a new place.

But my deepest gratitude wells up inside me when I think of God’s mercy,extended to me. Merriam-Webster defines mercy as

  • a. compassion or forbearance (see FORBEARANCE sense 1) shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power
    • also lenient or compassionate treatment
    • begged for mercy
  • bimprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder

I am a sinner, in a relationship with the God of the universe only by God’s mercy and grace (“unmerited favor”), through the death and resurrection of His Son.

David wanted to build a magnificent Temple to God. God told him he was not to build it because he was a warrior and had shed blood; but his son, Solomon, would build the Temple. Under God’s direction, David made very detailed plans for the Temple–its porticos, beams, altar, size, courtyard, the Holy of Holies.  He stored supplies for the building project–gold, silver, bronze, iron and wood, as well as onyx for the settings, turquoise, stones of various colors, and all kinds of fine stone and marble, in large quantities. Then David told his people that “in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple:  three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the buildings, for the gold work and the silver work, and for all the work to be done by the craftsmen.” (I Chronicles 29:3-5)

Then he invited the people to join him in giving to the Temple treasury, and they gave “freely and wholeheartedly” from their own supplies.

Afterward, David called an assembly of the people and praised God publicly, saying

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope...I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” (I Chronicles 29:14-15,17-18)

His gratitude overwhelmed him from inside out, because he recognized that the mercy, grace and blessing of God were worth far more than the gold and silver and precious stones he had. God’s mercy had covered him, protected him, blessed and led him through years of running from King Saul, who was threatened by David and tried multiple times to kill him. God had kept his Word that David would be King.

So how does this apply to me?

  1. I’ll start a gratitude journal.
  2. I’ll meditate on gratitude to God and to others I love.
  3. I’ll make it a point to express my gratitude, both to God and those who impact my life, letting them know how grateful I am for their presence in my life.

So, this Thanksgiving week, want to join me in one or all of these?

 

 

War is Hell – but God is Present

We’ve honored our United States veterans this weekend…in parades, tributes, and acknowledgements. Veterans were recognized in many churches this morning.

Some of us have seen World War II memorials or museums and the Korean War Memorial. Thirty years ago today, November 13, 1982, the Vietnam War Memorial was dedicated in Washington DC. We visited it a number of years ago. I didn’t think it would impact me too much emotionally, until I saw a family of four tracing a name on the wall, weeping together. And then it hit me afresh. The losses sustained in any war are horrific.

Vietnam War Memorial
ID 29820217
 © Meinzahn | Dreamstime.com

Loss of life and limb, emotional scars, PTSD, disabilities that prevent returning soldiers from providing for their families and, for many, steal their hope and destroy families.

And yet, there are men who, like my husband, walked through their years of service in wartime or peace, with integrity. Yes, they came home scarred in some ways. Don doesn’t talk much about his time in Okinawa at the end of World War II, but I know he carried his New Testament in his pocket all through his deployment, that he led men with compassion and wisdom. And there are many like him.

Even where our men spent time as POWs in the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ during the Vietnam war, in a hellhole of abuse, punishment, raised and dashed hopes–God was there, available. I recall reading one man’s story of how scriptures he had learned in his childhood came back to memory and helped sustain him through that difficult time.

Luois Zamperini__Photo: Wikimedia/Floatjon

And the book “Unbroken”, by Laura Hildebrand, (Angelina Jolie produced the movie in 2014) tells the story of Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was an Olympic distance runner who competed in the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, in front of Adolf Hitler. He was slated to participate in the 1940 Olympics, which were cancelled when World War II broke out.

In 1941 Zamperini enlisted in the United States Army Air Force as a bombardier in the Army Air Corps. He was posted to the Pacific island of Funafuti. In May 1943 his plane was shot down while searching for another lost plane. He and one other airman landed on Japanese shores after having survived in a lifeboat for 47 days. They were subject to the unrelenting sun, storms, circling sharks, and Japanese bomber strafing runs. They didn’t have fresh water or food.

The men collected rainwater to drink and killed birds that lighted on their boat to survive.

On landing, they were captured and imprisoned for two years, suffering greatly at the hands of “The Bird,” a staff sargeant who saw Zamperini, a respected American Olympian, as a key propaganda tool. The Bird was psychotic in his physical and emotional torture of the men, who never knew what would set him off. He practiced judo on an appendectomy patient; he ordered a man who served under him to be hit in the face every day for three weeks; and tied a 65-year old POW to a tree for four days. He was hated throughout the camp, and Zamperini was no exception.

General MacArthur listed The Bird as number 23 on the list of 40 most-wanted war criminals. However, the man was never caught and prosecuted.

After the war ended in 1945 and Zamperini was released, he returned home to become an alcoholic and almost lost his marriage. Then in 1949 his wife invited him to a Billy Graham Crusade, where he heard the good news of God’s love, grace and forgiveness. He committed his life to Christ and began the process of healing.

Zamperini went on to found a camp for troubled youth called Victory Boys Camp, served church youth groups, and forgave his Japanese tormenters. He forgave some of them in person in 1950 when he visited a Tokyo prison where they were serving war-crime sentences. In 1998, at age 81, Zamperini returned to Japan once again to carry the torch at the Nagano Winter Games. He stated his intention to forgive the Bird, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, but Watanabe refused to meet with Louis.

Along with a very large crowd, Don and I heard Zamperini speak when he was 94 years young. In a wheelchair with a broken leg, he refused to cancel his engagement and, rather than have him fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco, his son drove him here. It was a moving and meaningful time as Zamperini shared his story of healing and redemption, and acknowledge all the veterans listening in his audience. Louis went home to be with his Savior in 2014, at age 97. The Lord who had forgiven his sins and brought him to a place of forgiving those who tortured him. He also was married to his wife, Cynthia, for 51 years!

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Psalm 1

Whatever you are challenged with today, God is with you. He has promised his children that he will “never leave you nor forsake you.” Call on him. Lean on him. Let him lift you up in his time. And let me know how I can pray for you.

Wait on the Lord

My husband, Don, had neck pain and stiffness that got worse instead of better. The stiffness had begun before he tested positive for Covid several months ago, so we called an advice nurse to see if he could get some relief. When the nurse heard neck stiffness and swollen glands, he directed us to go to an Urgent Care as soon as possible, i.e. that day!

Time was of the essence. With the nurse’s urgency, the first thing that popped into my mind was meningitis.

At Urgent Care, the doctor literally would not touch Don. He said they didn’t have the correct equipment to rule out meningitis (there was that awful word!) and if Don had that, his infection would be active. He sent us to the Emergency Room.

Because of the increase in Covid cases, I couldn’t even go into the waiting area with Don. So he went inside and I stayed outside. I called my brother, Melvyn, who told me he didn’t think meningitis would be that long-standing before needing to be diagnosed. Friends Karen and Jerry prayed. I found a folding chair outside the ER and prayed, then turned to the Bible app on my phone. I began reading some of the Psalms (always good for times of trial).

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged: bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.

Psalm 25:16-18

I sat in the sun’s warmth for about an hour, asking God to give both Don and me his peace. And as I read the scripture, God did just that. The message that stayed with me was this.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Psalm 27:13-14

Then Don called to say they were going to do a CT of his head, blood tests, etc. and I should go home. It would be several hours before he was finished.

I came home to feed Paigey. When Don called later, I knew by the timbre of his voice that it was good news! The CT scan showed his Covid, and the physician said the stiff neck was still an effect of his infection, which impacts people in different ways. Paige and I jumped into the car and drove to the ER. I was already uplifted in heart, and when Don came out of the emergency room, we rejoiced together!

What a joy when a potential threat is eliminated. Yes, severe illness and/or death will happen to all of us at one time or another. As my mother-in-law used to say, we don’t get out of this life any other way! But this was not that time for us. Our love deepened as we faced the possibility of a very serious illness, and we delighted in and praised God all weekend.

The answer isn’t always one we desire. My first husband and Don’s first wife, both passed away. And we each had to wait on the Lord then, trusting that his plan for us was not finished. We have friends dealing with significant issues…Alzheimers, family members caught in Ukraine’s turmoil, challenges within the family. We lost my sister-in-law to death a number of months ago, our neighbor a week ago. Other family members fight cancer. Life is not easy–but God never promised us ease. He promised us his presence.

You, too, may face severe illness, family disagreements, job loss, or even the prospect of death. My heart goes out to you, and I pray God’s peace be with you as you wait on him.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

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Hope, a Confident Assurance

She passed a few hours ago.

man love people woman
Photo by Green_grey Darya on Pexels.com

After her daughter notified us, Don and I went over to say our final goodbye to our neighbor and friend, Sue (name changed for privacy).

Sue was a gifted woman. She taught zookeepers in various parts of the world–Singapore, Paris, others — how to care for and provide a healthy environment for their animals.

She fought glioblastoma for about two years, but declined significantly in the past two months. I loved going over to give her a hug and kiss and tell her I loved her, just a quick visit here and there. Despite the challenges she faced, despite the waning of her body, it is hard to say goodbye.

Her daughter said Sue’s passing was peaceful.

Awhile back, in the context of our conversation, I asked our friend why she was opposed to God. Sue had a negative experience in the church of her youth, and said “I think my heart left God when I was nine years old.” The church told her there were sins God couldn’t/wouldn’t forgive.

Over these two years we’ve had several brief conversations about God’s love, and his forgiveness which is available to all.

Straw Inlay Cross

Look at the Bible.

  • Moses was shy and afraid to confront Pharoah.
  • David was an adulterer and a murderer.
  • Saul murdered Christians.
  • Peter denied Jesus.

And yet, all were forgiven, changed by, and became leaders of the faith.

Two weeks ago I asked Sue if she wanted to be sure of her salvation and God’s promise of eternal life. She said “yes.”

Because of her brain tumor, I wasn’t sure how much she grasped, but her prayer was sincere.

And this morning Pastor Tim gave me a new insight.

In our world, “hope” is based on something we’re unsure about. “I hope the 49’ers will win” (but I don’t know if they will–although today they did!).

In contrast, in scripture hope does not imply uncertainty or lack of assurance. Instead, biblical hope is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.

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 5:5

For more on hope, go to the Billy Graham library at: https://billygrahamlibrary.org/blog-5-things-the-bible-says-about hope/#:~:text=And%20hope%20does%20not%20put%20us%20to%20shame%2C%20because%20God%E2%80%99s%20love%20has%20been%20poured%20out%20into%20our%20hearts%20through%20the%20Holy%20Spirit%2C%20who%20has%20been%20given%20to%20us.%E2%80%9D%20Romans%205%3A5

The great chapter on love, I Corinthians 13, says “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (v. 13). When we reach eternity, we won’t need faith or hope.

  • We won’t need faith any longer because we will experience the reality we’ve hoped for.
  • We also won’t need hope, because our hope will be fulfilled.
  • But love will continue forever.

So, in confident expectation that Sue became God’s child, I look forward to seeing her again in eternity with Jesus. Farewell for now, dear friend.

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”

Romans 8:24