Category Archive: Mercy

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New Year’s Dreams

Happy New Year! What hopes and dreams do you have for the year ahead?

One I suspect we all share is that Omicron deals with those who get it in a more gentle manner than have Covid-19 and Delta. We pray that this pandemic will come to an end this year. I look forward to not wearing a mask; to being less isolated and spending more time with family and friends (although we’ve been blessed to have some significant times together this year despite the pandemic). To going out to an evening of dinner, a movie, the theater, church, a party again with a sense of freedom.

Hondurans dealing with the aftermath of significant flooding and destruction of infrastructure

Beyond that hope, dreams become both corporate and individual. Do we want more–more profits, more stuff, better furniture, fancier cars, more of whatever makes us feel good about ourselves? These aren’t necessarily bad. But there are so many who have significantly less than we do here in America. And while there are enormous needs here, areas of deep poverty as well as those wracked by hurricanes, floods, and the seven tornadoes in Kentucky on New Years’ Day.

One way to address these needs is to give where we can. Organizations like World Vision (worldvision.org), Samaritans’ Purse (samaritanspurse.org), and MCC (Mennonite Central Committee, MCC.org) address needs for food, medicine, and education in poverty-stricken or hard-hit areas around the world. My brother, Arnold, has become involved with Living Water World Missions (livingwaterworldmissions.org), who focus on clean water, education, and relationships with Jesus. They say over one billion people lack clean water, and about 1.5 million children will die this year from preventable water-born illnesses.

According to the World Bank, the United States had a GNI (Gross National Income per capita) of $64,610 in 2020.

  • Bolivia has a per capita GNI of $3,200
  • Mexico, $18,170
  • Sub Saharan Africa, $3,005
  • And of the Sub Saharan nations, Burundi has a GNI of only $700. And that’s an average in each country, so we know there are people who have significantly greater, as well as significantly lesser, resources.

Many churches and organizations offer opportunities to go on short-term service projects to help build, serve those in need, and understand the significant needs faced by others. And we can pray for the many in other lands who suffer from hunger, persecution, dirty water, war, and tribal infighting.

Don leading a work crew at RSM with Geronimo

For ten years before Covid hit, Don traveled with a group to Rancho Santa Marta (ranchosantamarta.org) where he managed building projects, from a small medical/dental facility for visiting physicians and dentists, to part of a new gym used for their school of about 250 children, part of the high school addition to the school, and a home for the most severely disabled, older boys who live on the premises. I joined him nine of those ten years and we learned to love the staff and children, orphans, children who had been removed from their homes due to violence and severe learning disabilities. Victor, who just turned 46, has spent almost all his life at the Ranch, and will stay there for its remainder. Teenage Cassandra, who didn’t speak when I first met her, is now talking, even raising her hand to ask for prayer or share a praise in their worship service. You can read more about the Ranch in my 2019 blogpost at https://carolshope.com/2019/05/back-to-the-ranch/

I love this scripture from the prophet Micah.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 NIV

Sounds simple, doesn’t it. But it takes courage to speak up for injustice; to express mercy, and to learn what it means to walk humbly with our God. I plan to focus on this scripture more during the year ahead, asking where God wants me to get on board with work He is doing around the world and in my own neighborhood.

May God richly bless you and yours in the new year; and may you rejoice in His blessings as you share them with others.

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.

What Does God Require of Us (Concerning Racism)

I expect many of us have wrestled this week with the question “What can I do to help root out racism and heal our land?” Our pastor, Tim Wood of Evergreen Valley Church in San Jose, wrote a post this week that I thought gave wise encouragement about what is required of us. With his permission, I am reposting his words here.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)

 But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously. (Micah 6:8 The MSG)

 3,000 years later, and these words from Micah are still relevant and powerful. These words are simple to read and challenging to live out.

What does the LORD (Yahweh) require of us? Only this, to do justice, to love people loyally and to remain humble before our God.

This is the spirit I hope you will live out in your heart and home and in our church and before our community. We cannot be a church that is true to the demands of the Gospel if we don’t act justly. We aren’t true to the Gospel if we don’t act to root out racism in the structures of our society and church. We do justice when we give all human beings their due as creations of God. We cannot achieve personal holiness if we don’t love our neighbors with steadfast love. The love and compassion of Jesus means I respect all human beings.

Only if we do these things can we expect to walk humbly with our God. For God is a God of love and justice, a God who made us all in His image. Racism is a denial of that truth. It’s an offense against God.

We know that racism exists in our culture, my prayer is that it will not continue to exist in the church. We can’t be a light that shines in the darkness, if there is darkness in our heart. We lose supernatural witness when we allow sin to abide in us. We can’t walk humbly before our God with a prideful attitude.

Dr. Tony Evans says, “It’s time for a reset in our culture. It’s time to reverse the curse of racism.” Dr. Evans makes it clear that change starts with individuals. It doesn’t start with a group, it starts with me; with you. Change my heart, O God. Change the way I think and see.

It’s practiced in your family. Transfer the godly values of justice and love to your children. Do this by reaching out and serving other people who are different than you. When changes happen in individual hearts and in family life, it brings change to the church. We can become that city set on a hill that Jesus called us to be.

What is good and what does the Lord require of me during this time of racial tension? To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly before with your God.

Let’s pray together: Lord, our hearts are heavy. Open our eyes to see what You see. Open our ears to hear what You hear. Let me see every person the way You see them. Let your love flow from us like a mighty river. Let justice roll like waters. May love and justice start with me. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Note from Carol: Thank you Pastor Tim.

Readers, I welcome your thoughts on ways we can do justice and love mercy.

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The Ragman

I listened to this yesterday and was deeply moved at the allegorical view of the Prince of Peace, my Lord Jesus Christ, who took the rags of my life and made me (is still making me) whole. I hope it touches you with a fresh vision of what He has done for you, as it did me.

Blessings!

Unswerving Hope

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

I attended another memorial service Saturday. They’re coming closer together these days.  Don N was the beloved husband (of 50 years) of a college friend with whom I’ve reconnected in the past few years.

This service was outstanding. I’ve known and admired Marilyn for fifty years. She and Don raised a beautiful family; and she has cared unceasingly for him during these past very difficult eighteen months of his battle with cancer. But I didn’t know Don much other than seeing him around campus years ago. He was always pleasant and gracious. And, from the stories we heard at his memorial, just a bit crazy and a lot of fun!

But I learned so much about Don Saturday. This gifted dentist took up art after his retirement, developing an amazing skill reflected in paintings of the nature he loved as well as a pencil self-sketch that showed incredible detail and perspective.

Don also had a beautiful singing voice, and sang with several groups, last with the Bethany Four, a men’s quartet from his church. He wanted one of the songs they pre-recorded to be a part of his service. Don soloed on “I Chose to Believe.” This was the story of his life; choosing to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, despite whatever life brought his way.

And now he is with that Lord, with the Author of Life! I took one of the complimentary CDs the family offered and listened to it at least three times en route home. I was touched each time to hear Don sing “I Chose to Believe”, knowing his faith is now reality!

This man also mentored other men in their walk with Jesus. One said Don brought him closer to Jesus and then said, tongue-in-cheek, ” …You set the bar high for me, Don … and I don’t appreciate it.”

Pastor Brian Wiebe talked about some of the hopes Don had:

  • Hope that the medicine and treatments would restore his health for long-term survival;
  • Hope that he would see his granddaughters walk the aisle on their wedding days;
  • Hope that he could once again enjoy a good meal; and
  • Hope that he could again enjoy the beauty of the mountains he loved.

Don’s cancer and suffering caused him to question whether God’s promises were true, whether He was trustworthy and could be relied upon. And Don concluded that yes, God could be trusted. While many of Don’s hopes were not realized in this life, Wiebe stated, “Don is now enjoying the greatest of all hopes, the hope of eternal life.”

I pray that when God takes me home, I too will be able to say that “I chose to believe.” That has been and is my choice–through trials, through the loss of a father and a husband and others I love. We can choose to believe in anything, whether or not that source is reliable. If the source is not reputable, our faith is worthless. But because God is faithful, I can and do choose to believe. May trust in Him be the consistent and repeated theme of my life.

*****

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:20-21 NIV)