Category Archive: Hope

A Little Girl and a God who Lasts!

Masks were off at outdoor church today! The breeze stirred as we sat in the sunshine, singing “We need a fresh wind, the fragrance of Heaven. Pour your Spirit out.”

person holding white dandelions
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels.com

Do you feel, as I do, that the heaviness of the past year is lifting just a bit? And yet, countries like India are still overwhelmed with Covid cases, with hospitals that can’t hold all the sick, with deaths there aren’t enough people to handle. India’s most famous guru, Ramdev, has decided to take the vaccine after berating doctors and saying ayurvedic medicine was sufficient. https://news.yahoo.com/ramdev-india-most-famous-yoga-140805662.html

I lost a friend to Covid two and a half weeks ago. The husband of one of my college best friends. Grief and sorrow continue. Do you need, as I do, to be reminded of hope?

Don and I have been reading through the book of Isaiah. There’s so much prophecy, and we don’t understand it all or know when some of the prophesied events will happen. But oh, chapter 40 is so rich it had me in tears the other day.

Isaiah begins the chapter with the familiar line Handel used in his Messiah: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” (KJV) Isaiah writes that we need to prepare the way of the coming Lord, the Creator of everything we can see or imagine. THE MESSAGE says “Who has scooped up the ocean in his two hands, or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger…” He is a God of magnitude we cannot comprehend!

The prophet continues:

So who even comes close to being like God? To whom or what can you compare him? Some no-god idol? Ridiculous! … Have you not been paying attention? Have you not been listening? … God sits high above the round ball of earth. The people look like mere ants. He stretches out the skies like a canvas–yes, like a tent canvas to live under…

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob (or Carol, or Sue, or Rod, or …) or whine, Israel, saying ‘God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me’? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts … He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath, and he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40:18-31 (The Message)
selective focus photography of woman in pink shirt
Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

This is so precious to me. I’ve had a knee and shoulder replaced and have pain in the other parts. I don’t walk fast. I don’t run. But one day, in God’s amazing kingdom of justice and peace, I will run without tiring. I will pick up things without pain in my shoulders.

Dear friends of ours, Directors at Rancho Santa Marta, Mexico, birthed three children. They have a very full plate running a Christian school with about 250 students from up to 60 miles away. They oversee five residences for live-in children who may be orphans, removed from their homes due to abuse, or have learning difficulties. But Rod and Tina adopted another little girl from India a number of years ago.

Recently the couple was asked by the Mexican welfare system if they could take in a little deaf mute girl. They felt having her in one of the residences would add another layer of complexity to the family structures they’ve developed there, so Rod and Tina offered to foster this child. Within a week, they were in love with her and have decided to adopt her as well.

person woman music pink
Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

The God who created the heavens and all that is in them reached down to pluck this little girl up and put her in a home where she will be loved, taught, and hopefully helped medically. The family is checking into getting cochlear implants so she can learn to hear and speak and have a more normal life. But they have a short window of time. She is 5 and a half, and they evidently only perform these implants on children until the age of six. Won’t you join us in prayer for the MediCal and financial support they need to have this surgery done before their little one turns six?

Isaiah 40:27 (MSG) talks about this amazing God:

“Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.”

It’s only when we hope in God that we can impact a world that seems hopeless–sometimes, one child at a time.

“Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.

“It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

God CARES. He LASTS. He doesn’t change. He hasn’t lost track of his children, including me. That gives me hope.

Loss … and Hope

Don and I were enjoying the beauty of Hawaii, its turquoise waters, clear and sunny skies, when we heard that nine people were murdered in cold blood in our hometown of San Jose, California. Nine Valley Transportation Authority employees, leaving behind spouses, children, siblings. Men between the ages of 29 and 63. The shooter then killed himself.

According to his ex-wife, the shooter often complained about his work, feeling others got easier assignments than he did. She told the Bay Area News group “When he was in a good mood he was a great guy. When he was mad, he was mad.”

These families will grieve the loss of their loved ones deeply. Little children will grow up without their fathers. Wives are left to raise children as single parents. And we need to reach out and care for them in ways we can, even while we pray for their comfort.

So much tragedy, so much loss and pain. How can we respond to such senseless violence?

person pushing a control button
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

I just read about an eighth-grade math teacher who heard gunshots in the hallway. She told her students to run to the high school and not to look back! But the teacher went into the hallway to see how she could help. A young girl holding a gun had already shot two students (who were hurt but would recover). The teacher went to see if she could help the wounded, then looked up to see the girl pointing the gun at her.

Quietly, the teacher spoke to the girl. She approached and put her hand over the girl’s hand, which held the gun. The girl released the gun. The teacher called the police but didn’t stop there. Instead, she took the girl into her arms, holding and comforting her until help arrived. The woman’s actions took courage; they also showed compassion for a young girl just forming the rest of her life.

My relationship with God through Jesus Christ has given me hope in the midst of grief and suffering. Yes, I’ve felt depressed and alone. But God never left me. He is faithful and true. Jesus said of himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)

The apostle John wrote about God’s amazing love when he said,

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

My oldest brother gave the eulogy at my father’s memorial service. He said, “For 57 years, Dad, you’ve taught me how to live. This last month, you’ve taught me how to die.” Our father died with grace and courage, trusting that the God who led him for 85 years would not abandon him in death.

What a legacy if we can teach our children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren how to live for Jesus; and how to die with confidence in his eternal salvation.

Do you know this Jesus? Want to know more about him? Let’s talk.

But God …

P1090285

Like most of us, I want to live with purpose. And yet at times I find my purpose wavering … I need a rest; I’m not equipped to deal with that issue; that person’s pain is too much for me to handle. I’m overwhelmed! Do you ever feel like that?

I pulled out a post from six years ago because I was reminded of it in our pastor’s sermon this morning.

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–

Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV

That’s the beauty of God’s empowering. Many challenges are too much for me to handle. I am inadequate. I don’t know what to do. But my God will enable me if I take one step at a time, believing He will meet me at the next one.

I experienced many God-moments when my first husband was waiting for an organ transplant in Florida. Three thousand miles from home, we needed housing, local support, and insurance approval. In one email to friends I expressed the challenges we faced, then listed some of the ways we had seen God’s love and grace. I wrote:

“We are in big trouble on our own (health, costs, housing, ongoing tests) … it isn’t a bed of roses …

BUT GOD … allowed Jerry’s test results Friday to be positive, removing a potential obstacle to transplantation …

BUT GOD … ensured final dollar authorization for the dual transplant …

crop colleagues shaking hands in office
Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

BUT GOD … led our California pastor to connect us with Pastor X here in Gainesville, with whom we’ve already started to have wonderful fellowship and support …

BUT GOD … led Pastor X to follow up with us and to allow us to share with his church body, which is actively responding to our needs.

BUT GOD … has shown us His faithfulness over and over through people we’ve met, the kindness of strangers in antique shops who’ve offered us housing or suggested resources, and by giving us incredible opportunities to connect with people and share our lives and His faithfulness with them.”

Dr. Helen Rosaveare was a single missionary working in the Congo from 1953 to 1973. During the political instability of the 1960s she was brutally gang-raped by rebels. As she tells it, during that terror one word kept recurring in her mind. “Privilege.” She had the privilege of suffering for Christ. That is truly beyond one’s own capability, strength or adequacy.

But GOD empowered her to survive that and continue to minister for Him.

Grace. It’s all God’s grace. It’s not good when someone is raped, murdered, terminally ill, depressed, or insecure. But it is grace, the grace of God that shows up when we most need it, that empowers us to take one step at a time, experiencing His presence which then empowers us to take the next step. Sometimes I think I’ve done something of value … but then I’m reminded that it is all about the grace of God. He uses our availability even more than our ability.

Here’s the rest of that wonderful passage which speaks so clearly of the “But Gods” in our lives, and of the grace he gives us day by day. We were born with a sin nature, following our own desires and impulses. And then Paul writes this message of amazing hope.

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

So what are the “But Gods” in your life? I’d love to hear.

Who’s in Control?

“One of the things I’ve learned this past year is that I’m really good at trusting God when I’m in control.” So said Danny Bennett, a pastor in Santa Cruz when asked what he learned during this last pandemic year. Do you resonate with that statement as I do?

Control–what an elusive idea. We like to think we’re in control, of finances, careers, families, living situations and life choices. We even have a “control” button on our computers! But often these choices are taken out of our hands, whether by illness, a pandemic and resultant shut-down, a government coup, or something else.

crop payroll clerk counting money while sitting at table
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I work best with a budget and when it looked like we were losing a specific amount of money each month, I wore that burden heavily. That night as I crawled into bed beside Don, I said “can we talk?” And as I shared with him my frustration that I couldn’t figure out why, according to the budget, we seemed to be losing money month by month, he encouraged me, told me we’d look at it together and figure it out. The next day I received news that changed the whole picture for the positive.

My budget allows me to think I’m in control, when in reality life circumstances can change it drastically. A catastrophic illness, damage to home or vehicle, any of these and a thousand more can wreak havoc on carefully thought-out financial planning.

white metal cart inside room
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

This past year many of us put plans on hold because of the pandemic. Families lost loved ones, here in the United States and around the world. Businesses that had done well closed for lack of customers. Doors were shuttered, furniture cleared out with “For Rent” signs in the windows. Locked in, unable to visit with external family and friends, fearful of contracting this virus, we felt out of control. We didn’t even want to make eye contact in the grocery stores!

Scripture says our lives are a vapor, a mist–gone in a moment. And we aren’t privy to when that moment will be.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

James 4:13-15, NIV

We’re encouraged by God to plan, to dream. But not to act like we’re in control of the details of our lives. I wasn’t in control when I was threatened with disfiguration and death while ministering in the ghetto (and God protected each of us); I wasn’t in control when I left that ministry, not knowing what was ahead for my life; I wasn’t in control when my first husband died; nor when my mother died and I went into a deep depression. I’m not in control of many of the details and circumstances of my life.

scenic view of sunset sky over sea
Photo by Ben Mack on Pexels.com
person pushing a control button
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

But I know the One who is in control, and He is trustworthy and true. All I need do is take the next step, listen for His guidance and then take the next step. But we need to admit we need His help.

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Psalm 73:28, NIV

What have you learned during this past year about yourself, God, relationships, or anything else?

post by carolnl | | 4

What’s Love Got to Do with It

My mother showed me unconditional love in so many ways.

I came home from kindergarten in Winnipeg, Canada one day. “Mommy, I missed you. I don’t like being away from you so long.” She looked at me, gave me a hug and said, “I’m not quite ready for you to be gone so much yet either.” So I’m a kindergarten dropout–and I think I turned out ok!

Another time when I was even younger, I spilled milk on my highchair. I expected a scolding, but instead Mom grabbed a damp towel and said, “Oh well, that can be cleaned up.” I’ve never forgotten that incident although I was only two or three at the time. Mistakes were ok, they could be fixed. (However, I’m still a recovering perfectionist!)

When I made some choices in college that differed from the way I’d been raised, I was able to explain my thought process to Mom and Dad and they didn’t question my choices.

When I broke off an engagement and went home to grieve, Mom stayed up ’til the wee hours listening to me, crying with me.

We had disagreements, sure. But after my father died twenty years ago, Mom and I took several out of town trips together. Our conversations ran the gamut, from faith to family to food to movies to sex (yes!) to hopes and dreams for the future. These relaxed times together were some of our most precious.

She loved both of my husbands. She enjoyed Jerry’s humor; and treasured Don’s hugs and kisses, freely given, as well as his help hanging pictures, building shallower steps up to her door, helping move her into Assisted Living, and pushing her wheelchair when we took her out on occasion.

Mom had a beautiful, classically trained first soprano voice. She often sang solos in church, songs I remember as being part of Mom’s signature. I loved singing next to her in the church choir because her voice always challenged me, pulled mine out stronger and more controlled.

My mother is in heaven now, singing with that heavenly chorus. And I’ll bet she can hit that ‘high C’ again with clarity! She left us shortly before Mother’s Day last year. I’ve written about her before because she has been and continues to be such an impact on my life. And I miss her. Our family has been together on Mother’s Day for years. Two years ago Mom joined in the fun when we followed nephew Kyle’s example and balanced spoons on our noses! She was able to laugh at herself, and with us.

And she modeled love for Jesus Christ. Her deepest desire was to know him better day by day. To search out truths from the Bible. To see him face to face in eternity!

I’m so thankful for my mother’s presence, love and impact in my life.

blue jeans
Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com

I’m also thankful for many other mothers. My three sisters-in-love, Vicki, Carol Ann, and Sheila. My stepdaughters-in-law. My nieces and granddaughters, by DNA and by marriage, who are embedding core values into their own children’s lives. Some homeschool. Some support their children in private or in public schools. Some have adult children already. I love watching the interactions between some of my nieces and their children as they love well, discipline wisely, and direct the interests of their children into positive outlets. And I hurt with them when they go through difficult challenges with their children.

two woman chatting
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

There are also many wise women other than my mother, who have impacted me over the years, too numerous to name. I’m grateful for you–Sunday school teachers, friends of my parents’, youth group, work and writing mentors.

And I’m grateful for the women who have become like daughters to me as I’ve mentored them in faith and life. If you’re not a biological or adoptive mother, you can still love and mentor a younger woman.

Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.

Titus 2:3-5, NET

If your mother is still alive, love her in actions and deeds, not just with words. And when her frailty provides new challenges to you in terms of time and energy, be grateful she is still with you. One day she will not be.

And if she is no longer with you, remember the precious times, the conversations, the laughter, the tears, and be thankful.

…in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thessalonians 5:18, NET

So Moms, my hat’s off to you! Your task is a great one with ramifications that will reach to eternity. So what’s love got to do with it? Just everything!

Happy Mother’s Day!