Category Archive: Praise

Sunshiny Sunday

It’s a lazy, sunshiny Sunday. After attending church this morning and enjoying a nap in the afternoon, I’m sitting with my feet up on our recliner couch, looking at the beauty of this day God knew about before the foundations of the earth were laid.

Warmth permeates. Sun shines. Clouds billow.

So I thought today I would share some of my favorite photos of churches, starting with this beauty in the Lexington/Concord area of our nation’s history.

Lexington/Concord

The Fall leaves, a mix of red, green and gold, gave a bright surround to the white steepled church.

And from the gallery below, left to right …

Top Left: One of the original Christian churches on Kauai, set beside the ocean, containing original hymnals, pews and pulpit. Don and I could almost feel the history housed in this building.

Top Center: Springtime blossoms blanket a cement table and benches outside the soda fountain at Mount Hermon in California’s Santa Cruz mountains. I love to retreat here to worship, learn and develop my craft at a marvelous Christian Writers’ Conference.

Top Right: This little, sagging pine green church greeted Don and me as we drove around the island of Maui. What voices has this church heard raised in praise to God over the years? And, since it was being rebuilt the last time we visited the island, what joy will once again raise its rafters in the future?

Lower Left: A replica of a slave church on a plantation in the Southern United States. Hearing about the faith of many of the slaves and enjoying some deep, heart-felt spirituals that gave strength under often horrific circumstances, was very meaningful to us.

Lower Right: To the beautiful words and melody of “The Holy City,” our tour bus entered Jerusalem a few years ago. Seeing the golden dome of the Temple while hearing “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, lift up your gates and sing … Hosannah in the highest, Hosannah to your King” was heart-stirring. Knowing our King walked these streets, carried his cross up the Via Dolorosa, died on Calvary and rose from the grave three days later raised chills as we entered the city where Jesus will one day return. And he will take all who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead, to join him in glory.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Romans 10:9-10 NIV

May you be blessed this week in the love of Jesus Christ.

Hope Realized

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV

I was on a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles to meet women I hadn’t seen for 38 years. My anticipation was high, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.

We worked together in the Los Angeles ghetto. Some of the women coming to the reunion accepted Christ through the ministry and went on to become staff members. 

Six women in this 1970’s L.A. staff photo were among the 14 present at our reunion

During my ten and a half years of service there, we worshipped, sang, taught children and adults the Bible. Our African American teens taught us white Mennonite girls, not known for dancing, the “hustle”. Our girls laughed at us, but I won the dance competition. That’s about as much dancing as I’ve done in my life, and it was fun! We taught children’s and adults’ Bible studies. We cried together when someone we loved was hurt or killed. We took in women who were abused, threatened, hurt. We watched an SLA house burn to the ground directly across from our home. When our lives were threatened we sat up late, talking and praying until we were fatigued enough to sleep.

We were close, both because of a common purpose and because we needed each other. We built tight-knit relationships within staff and in the inner city communities where we lived. We rejoiced together when another precious child, woman or man began a walk with Jesus that changed their lives and gave new hope.

Thirty-eight years later, I wondered how the women I would be with had changed. How had I changed? Would we have to work our way past years of separation and misinformation or could we pick up where we left off?

As I wrote last week, my departure was under less than optimal circumstances. Would there be questions, rehashing, resentment? Or forgiveness and love and acceptance for each person where she is now?

Were there residual areas of healing that needed to occur? I have forgiven those who hurt me. But were there still areas I needed to address?

After taking my first ever Uber ride from LAX, I knocked on Katie’s door. Entering, I was greeted with a lingering hug, which I gladly returned.

As twelve other women joined us, the extended hugs continued. Without words, we seemed to say “I’ve missed you. So very good to be with you again.”

One missing – we were 14!

I felt at home.

After a potluck lunch the 14 of us sat around the family room. We took turns updating each other on our lives. None of us are still with the organization we left, although one or two still volunteer with it. For four and a half hours we shared nonstop.

Patsy asked why I left. She had felt abandoned, another person walking away from her life. For 38 years some of these women had no idea why I left. I shared that I had lost trust in our President, with whom I’d worked very closely for 10 1/2 years. When he realized I no longer trusted him, he told me to leave town … that night. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. My sharing answered a long-held question for Pat, and I think brought some closure.

But I had not walked away from the Lord we all loved.

The ability to ask and answer questions, the vulnerability we shared with each other, reestablished a foundation of trust among us. And I realized that I was the first, but certainly not the only one who experienced rejection and hurt in leaving that ministry.

We had prayed for a time of healing, of restoration. My text to Don said it all. “Ohhhhh. Myyyyyy.”

Have you had a difficult challenge with a ministry from which you needed healing? That changed your faith? That caused you to question God or service?

You’re not alone.  Let’s talk about it.

Next week I’ll share more of what I learned and experienced this weekend. Still processing!

Abandoned … for Me

Abandoned.

Left behind.

Completely alone.

Terrified.

It was noon Sunday. I was nine years old, and I realized my parents had left church–without me! Frightened, I wondered how long it would take them to realize I wasn’t in the car.

Would they expect someone else to bring me home?

Come back for me?

Be annoyed with me?

Thankfully, my childhood abandonment was short-lived. Mom and Dad heard the silence in the car(!), realized they’d forgotten one child and, to my great relief, returned to pick me up.

I had very loving parents and I was terrified.

I grieve for the many children who are abandoned emotionally, physically, spiritually by addicted, incapable, or uncaring parents. I remember a former acquaintance who, along with his waste collection buddies, found an abandoned, live infant in a garbage can.

But for Christ, fully God and fully man, to say “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” expresses incomprehensible pain.

At that moment, Jesus, carrying all the sin of the world on Himself, identified fully with my sin, and the collective sins of the world. Although He did not sin, Christ felt the separation from God that we sense when we have unconfessed sin in our lives. In heaven, the Son was One with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The three experienced perfect communication, complete alignment, sublime love, total Oneness. Leaving all that only to feel forsaken, abandoned–how great a chasm that must have been!

Truth set me free!

After a God-honoring memorial service for my first husband, I fell into a deep pit of abandonment, aloneness, despair. I was crushed by the question “What if everything I have believed is a lie … there is no eternal life with Christ … and I will never see Jerry again …” My conclusion was that if the Bible was not true, and faith in Christ was based on a lie, life as I knew it was over. No hope. No sustenance. No future. I might as well quit now.

I was alone in another sense. Because I had experienced God’s faithfulness, presence and hope during Jerry’s illness and death, people often commented on my example of faith, and how they were learning from me how to respond in adversity. How could I now disappoint them by revealing my doubts, the anguish I felt, my separateness from God and others? So I kept my agony to myself and wandered through murky darkness for several weeks.

One day God brought Peter’s words to my mind: “Where else would we go, Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life.” And suddenly, my heart was free. Truth won out. The gap closed, and I was again in union with my Lord, who went to the deepest of all pits in order to give me hope and life eternal.

A dear friend once told me that God wants to be God even in my deepest despair; and that however low my pit, God has gone deeper still.

Where are you feeling abandoned? Where do you need to have God reach in to rescue you from your pit? Tell Him. Allow Him to touch you and renew your spirit. If you’re willing to share with me, I’d like to pray for you too.

Jesus agonized on the Cross. He suffered the greatest pain possible, both physically and emotionally, and He died. But then came Sunday, the day the world changed forever! This Easter week, let’s praise Him for His sacrifice and His resurrection, which give us forgiveness and life and hope and peace.

He is risen!

OVERFLOWING GRACE

Three years ago our church celebrated one hundred twenty-five years of ministry. The weekend was a time to celebrate God’s grace in the familial life of Twin Lakes Church. And celebrate we did!

  • Slide shows celebrating the history of TLC.
  • Rene’s memorial book of past church minutes – eleven members and 19 cents in the account, but “all bills paid”!
  • Birthday cakes (couldn’t pass that up!).
  • Remembrances past and present, many sweet, some difficult, like the nine years the church lay dormant between 1914 and 1923.
  • Pastor Rene reminded us of how God has led TLC. Only by His grace could eleven people rekindle the church during the Great Depression of the ‘30s and see it develop and nurture the community for the past eight-five consecutive years. “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” I Samuel 7:12.

Rene’s challenge? When you find yourself in a waiting room with God, not knowing what the future holds, wondering whether God will be faithful to you, remember what He has done in the past. Remember, and hope. Remember, and live.

When I joined an inner city ministry at twenty-one, I trusted God would be faithful in the midst of poverty, crime, violence, and broken families. And through the next ten years I experienced His faithfulness as He drew children, teens and adults to Himself; as He protected us in numerous volatile situations; and as He showed Himself strong in our weakness.

God’s promise encouraged my heart

When my beloved husband passed away at the age of sixty-six, I held onto God’s promises, knowing He had been faithful to me in the past and that His work for me was not complete. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 became my watchword, the first scripture God brought to my mind after Jerry passed into His loving arms. I was in the waiting room Rene talked about. Who am I now? What does God have for my future? I felt helpless, lonely, bereft. But I could reflect back on God’s faithfulness in difficult situations before, and I knew HE had not changed.

And when He brought me together with another wonderful man a few years later, I was again in His waiting room. “Is this your plan? Should I remarry or do you have work for me to do as a single person? Am I willing to risk being widowed again?” As the Father grew Don’s and my love for each other, I looked back on His faithfulness, the ways He led even in challenging times in my first marriage.  I knew I had memorial stones to rely on, reminding me of God’s grace in times of need.

Are you in a waiting room? How has God met you, provided grace, in the past? He never changes. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. “ Hebrews 13:8.  His character, His love for you and me, will never change. Despite what may come, He will be faithful to extend grace for each situation. May you experience His peace today, trusting His grace for tomorrow.

The Wisdom of Worship

According to Mayan legend, the gods who made the earth wanted someone to praise and worship them. So they created people made of clay; but the clay was soft and the clay people couldn’t stand.

So the creator made people of wood. These could stand, but had no minds or souls, and forgot to worship the gods who made them. So the gods sent a great water to wipe them out; and then made people of straw, who became the Mayans.

As Don and I listened to our tour guide at Tulum, a Mayan ruin on the stunning turquoise Caribbean coastline, I was impressed with two thoughts.

First, I was reminded of the truth of Romans 1:20-21: For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

It seems every culture has an understanding that there is a God.

And second, the parallels (like the flood, or God’s desire to be worshipped) between ancient tradition and God’s Word remind me that God has always desired to make himself known to his creation.

And He desires our worship. Psalm 9:11 exhorts us to “Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people.”  And Psalm 30:4 says “Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise His holy name.” But he longs for this to be of our own volition, in recognition of who he is and what he has done, and will do, for us.

We praise Him for:

  • Revealing Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ, through whom we have eternal life in the future, and meaningful life now.
  • Rescuing us (I’ve been rescued when I lived in the LA ghetto, and probably other times I’m not aware of). “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2). We can rely on Him.
  • Being great and glorious and above all. (Psalm 150).
  • Loving us–amazing as that is. So many cultures and belief systems focus on currying favor with the gods, whereas the God of the universe, of Creation, came to earth so we could know Him and have a relationship with him. (John 3:16).
  • His grace (Ephesians 1:6) and mercy (I Peter 1:3).
  • His faithfulness in all times (Psalm 40:11).
  • His comfort in times of sorrow, loss, distress (II Corinthians 1:3-5).
  • His guidance: Psalm 16:7 says “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.”
I pray I will always remember to praise and worship my Lord, my God, my Redeemer–not because I fear being annihilated, but because He is good and loving and worthy of all my praise.
I’d love to hear what you would add to my partial list of reasons to praise God above.