Category Archive: Purpose

The Story I Write, Part I

Janae, my niece, was three years old when she spent that night with us. During dinner I asked my husband about his day and how he fixed the toilet. As I put my precious girl to bed, I asked her to tell me a story. Words like “wrench”, “it was really tough”, and “we finally got ahold of it” were prominent in her story–all things she’d heard over dinner.

Pastor Rene Schlaepher recently said we are all writing, living, and telling a story–not by our words, but by the way we live. And we have a choice as to what story we tell.

two babies wearing red mickey mouse shirts
Photo by Edwin Ariel Valladares on Pexels.com

Most of us have seen adorable pictures of infant twins babbling to each other. They laugh, giggle, and use “words” that to adults are meaningless. But if judged by their reactions, the twins understand each other well! I remember one in which one twin babbled something and the other almost fell over laughing. The one in the photo on the left looks unhappy that his twin is chewing his fingers!

Stories have been told throughout history in oral tradition. And those stories are still going on today.

Don and I cry at love stories. Those emotions are fanned by the storyline. Other stories about calamities like the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga this week, or about troubles we all face, can lead to fear, panic and distress.

We can’t always control the events of our lives. An accident, critical illness, death, terrorist attack…they appear on our screens as blips, or dots. But we can control the narrative we put around them. Do we look at a sequence of negative events–the pandemic, cultural and political division, loss, illness–and put those into a negative story? Or do we look at those events in light of God’s promise to bring justice and righteousness to this earth, his promise of a plan for our lives?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Contamination or Redemption?

People in despair tell contamination stories. “I got a great job but the travel destroyed my marriage.” “Yeah, I got a raise but I hate my boss.” “My wife’s feeling better, thanks, but I’m sure she’s gonna crash again soon.”

Chemo #3, Bob and Sheila

People in hope tell redemption stories. My sister-in-law, Sheila, is one of these. When diagnosed with uterine cancer, she began to realize that without those symptoms that led to her diagnosis, doctors would also not have found the precancerous cells that wandered throughout her lymphatic system and, if latched on, were extremely aggressive.

After successful surgery, she is still fighting the remaining pre-cancerous cells with chemo and radiation. But, knowing how God has led them this far, she is confident and at peace, trusting that he will continue guiding them. While there have been times of fear, God showed her this smaller issue was to prevent a larger one happening. And, as she has shared her journey openly, people with whom she had a casual relationship have re-entered her life with deeper communication, often sharing their own battles with her. Sheila has looked deeper than the scars, the fatigue, and the temporary hair loss to what God is doing as she and Bob walk this journey.

My brother Arnold, whose wife suffered a life-altering stroke years ago, has built a narrative of love and care and hope around her limitations. Following her stroke In August 2012, my sister-in-law struggled with her identity. She was a capable, intelligent and caring businesswoman; now significant changes resulted in her feeling she wasn’t the same. Arn tells of a day she wept, feeling stupid (her word) because she couldn’t communicate the way she used to. He wrote, “The challenge to her identity was significant, and it reminded me of the Exodus story of Moses receiving instructions from God to lead the people out of bondage. When Moses asks whom he should say sent him to lead the people, God said, ‘I am who I am.’ There it is–the solid unmovable identity.” Arn and Carol’s love and faith is carrying them through a major life change.

We all have “stuff”. But how we handle that stuff shows where our hope lies. And only our God is that solid, unmovable source of hope.

crop black businesswoman reading newspaper near modern building
Photo by Ono Kosuki on Pexels.com

In II Cor 10:5 the apostle Paul challenges us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” So where are we focusing our thoughts, what input do we welcome into our minds and hearts that impact the stories we live? Like Janae, we often fill our stories with what we have heard and allowed into our minds. Frankly, I’ve stopped reading a lot of news because it distresses me too much and is usually a contamination story.

I confess that much of last year, after my mother’s death, I told myself (and others) contamination stories. “I don’t understand why her death seemed so hard to me.” Overwhelmed with negative input, I complained. “I hate this political turmoil, protests, brutality, increased crime, this pandemic.”

My parents’ wedding 1944

With time and help, I’ve been able to change some of that narrative. My sweet mother was so ready to meet Jesus first, and her beloved husband of 58 years (my Dad) in heaven, to worship and glorify the name of the Almighty. Whatever difficulty I experienced in her passing was momentary in light of eternity and I am eager to see her, Dad, Jerry, and others again. And why in the world would I want her to return from the very presence of God?

As to the rest? My God has not lost control. Life is good, but often hard. I don’t understand all my Father is doing through these difficult challenges, but I know he wants us to rest in his promise that he will never leave us or forsake us. I heard David Jeremiah talk about a young woman who had walked her cancer battle with God. He said, “Recently she won her battle and went home to be with Jesus.” What a different story–yes, loss aches. It can be agonizing. But she won. Her death was not the end, and that provides hope.

The redemptive story is that, because of what Jesus did for us at Calvary, Don and I and a host of you will see our loved ones again in heaven. Not only that, we will delight with them in a face to face reality of worship and praising our God, right there with us. THAT is hope!

… we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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 5:3-5
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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.

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EDGE OF ETERNITY

As a writer working on her first novel, I’m fascinated by books that capture my mind, interest, and heart. EDGE OF ETERNITY, written by Randy Alcorn, is such a book.

My friend Susan MacKenzie loaned this to me. It took me awhile to get into the book. But the further I read, the more I was hooked. Alcorn writes of Nick, a man successful by the world’s standards but dealing with a family broken by his own choices. In this allegorical story Nick wakes up in another reality. All he had is gone. Now he has new choices.

In the far distance, he sees a glowing, shining light. Someone tells him that’s Charis (the Greek word for grace, the unmerited favor of God). We might call it heaven. It’s a place Nick wants to reach. There are many roads, and he tries several of them, hitting dead-ends or finding betrayal from those he called friends. He avoids the red road until he meets a group who invite him to travel with them on the red road. The old man leading the group is Shadrach. As they travel, Nick begins to see aspects of both Charis (heaven) and Erebus (hell), and to see the kind of man he has been.

Trials beset along the road as the evil one, disguised as a handsome, winsome young man named Joshua, tries to tempt Nick off the red road, promising him riches and power if he will follow Joshua.

At one point Nick thinks “I will never deny the King.” In his pride, he takes over leadership of the group, and plans to seduce one of the women traveling with them. Before that can happen, he is embroiled in a mighty battle between Marcus, his guardian angel, and the Usurper, battling for his soul. Here’s a sample of when Nick fights back against the Usurper, the Pretender.

I heard a terrible scream. Before my eyes fire consumed the Pretender and burnt off the remaining layers, mask after mask, until I saw evil unveiled, a putrid dripping mass of blood and pus. I smelled the stench of rotten flesh.

“‘I am royalty,’ he screamed hoarsely. ‘I was chief of all creation before your kind was made!'”

“The King is Lord of the cosmos,’ I cried. “You are lord of the flies!”

“At that moment I heard distant cheering, as if some crowd was rooting for me.

“‘I will drink your blood and skewer you like meat, miserable image-bearer!’ He shrieked the words, veins in his temples bulging. ‘I brought civil war to Charis itself…What mighty works have you done?’

Edge of Eternity, p. 278-279

And then one of my favorite lines:

“‘None. You are a fallen titan; I am but a reclaimed man. What you were makes what you are all the worse.‘”

If you and I are believers in Christ’s free gift of redemption, we are reclaimed men and women. Reclaimed by the King! What a glorious truth!

Want to find out what the red road is?

Want to know how the story ends (and it surprised me!)?

I highly recommend this book for expanding your view of Charis (heaven) and of the cosmic powers against which we fight until the Lord takes us home.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12, ESV

If you’ve read the book, I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts about it.

Blessings, and may the God of peace go with us all this week.

Visions Completed, Visions Destroyed

Don, Paige and I left home mid-morning. Carmel or Rio del Mar (both California beaches), we asked ourselves. Since we lived near Rio for six years, we decided to take a drive down memory lane by our old home.

Our formerly soft yellow country house with white trim is now dark gray with white trim. The dark gray is a more contemporary color, but we miss the brightness of our warm yellow and white home. But when you sell a house, it’s the buyers’ to change as they wish to make it their own. It was fun to see the large equipment on the property and realize they are making other changes, including installing a chicken and duck coop behind the guest house.

We left Soquel for Aptos, home of Twin Lakes Church, our church home for six years. Before we moved several years ago, the church shared a vision to build a coffee house as a ministry center to the students at Cabrillo College, next door. We loved the idea and were part of that funding campaign. “The Loft” was finished and opened several months ago and I wanted us to see the completion of this particular vision.

“The Loft” is beautiful inside and out. Drought friendly, attractive landscaping welcomes. Inside, the front has a coffee bar, tables and chairs, with a loft upstairs that holds two offices and several more tables. Every table was filled with students on laptops and friends meeting. While enjoying our lattes we ran into Pastors Rene and Adrian and told them how thrilled we are to see this vision become reality.

“The Loft” – getting known by Cabrillo College students

Behind the coffee bar is a large auditorium and stage for meetings, presentations, music, etc. We pray God will use The Loft to reach college students for Jesus.

On to Rio del Mar, a great walking beach for dogs and their peeps. We walked to Seacliff beach, and onto the pier. Paigey loved chasing the pigeons and would have done more had she not been on a leash firmly held by Mummy. We sat and talked and watched the ocean come and go. To our left lay the remnants of the SS Palo Alto, called the “cement boat,” built for service in the First World War but launched May 29, 1919, too late to see service. Mothballed in Oakland until 1929, the SS Palo Alto was bought by the Seacliff Amusement Corporation and towed to Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, California.

For several years, the ship was anchored three miles from shore. This monster party boat included a casino and dance hall, arcades and entertainment until its owners went belly up when the Great Depression rocked the world in the early 1930’s. The ship now rests on the bottom of the Monterey Bay.

The Cement Boat

In the heavy storms of 1917, 34-foot crashing waves broke the stern from the rest of the boat, and eventually turned it on its side.

When I was a child, the pier connected to the boat, which was used as a fishing pier. I remember walking onto the ship, a good fishing spot and bird haven. Now, of course, the ship is very unsafe. It has weathered, deteriorated, and sections have separated from each other; and the end of the pier is gated.

Visions–whether making a home your own, reaching college students with the good news of Christ, or building a ship that could weather storms and war. Which will last?

What will I leave behind when Jesus takes me home? Will I leave memories of loving service, of caring for others in his name, of sharing the good news that God wants a relationship with each of us and has provided the bridge, Jesus, between heaven and earth, between sin and redemption? Or will I leave memories of self-centered decisions and advancement at the cost of hurting others? I know which I want to have as a legacy, but how often I fall short. I’ve been trying to remember to ask Jesus to join me in the little things–driving to an appointment, talking with others, being with my family, emptying the dishwasher. And as I do, I am more aware of his love and presence with me.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

    and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6
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Who Influenced your Philosophy of Work?

cheerful expressive woman dancing in beige studio
Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

I write, because teachers, both in person and online, taught me the joy of reading and writing. Mrs. Goolsby taught me to love history in the eighth grade. From the South, she often broke into the Charleston right there in class–and received long-stem red roses from another teacher on Robert E. Lee’s birthday. Regardless of your opinions about the Civil War, she transmitted a passion for the human side of history.

Mrs. Goolsby also took time to talk with me after I got a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ on a test (I don’t recall which). She knew that was not my norm and we talked through how I answered the True/False questions. Together we figured out that, instead of ‘x-ing’ the correct answer, I ‘x-ed’ the wrong answer, leaving the right one clean. When she re-graded my test with that understanding, I did well.

text
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A senior high teacher whose name I can’t recall, taught me to love literature and writing. My favorite was an essay on the psychological background of Lady MacBeth (“out, damn spot!”). There’s actually quite a bit of information on the subject and I enjoyed synthesizing it and putting it into an “A” essay.

In the hospital, both for my own surgeries and with my first husband, I’ve encountered kind, effective doctors and nurses who went beyond just doing their job. They checked on me as well as Jerry. They encouraged me during very difficult days. When they knew they couldn’t restore him to life, one helped me choose the most natural way for him to transition into glory.

person in a construction site
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My father and my current husband, Don, were both contractors, working hard with their heads and hands to design and build quality homes and structures that would stand.

My parents taught my brothers and me a strong work ethic, which exists to this day.

My brothers–a retired GI physician; a retired Head of a college’s Psychology department; and a police officer and expert on blood spatter analysis–all have worked hard throughout their adult lives, and continue to give to their families, churches and communities.

I’m thankful for each of these who labored in their field, performing quality work with passion and intention.

I’m thankful for colleagues at Intel who worked in the Human Resources field, and for what each brought to their business and to the team.

I’m thankful for fire fighters, gardeners, tradespeople, salespersons (well, not on the phone!), waste disposal technicians, soldiers, veterinarians, and so very many others who toil, day after day. Some love their work. There were seasons in my HR work when I thought “And I get paid to do this!” (Other times, not so much–smile).

men working in a warehouse
Photo by Tiger Lily on Pexels.com

Others work because of their need to be productive and care for their families, and trudge home at the end of a long day, having kept their commitmnets and done their best.

On this Labor Day weekend I am thankful for each of these.

Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.

Colossians 3:23, MSG

I wish you a happy celebration of Labor Day as you remember and are thankful for these individuals who impacted your view of work.