Category Archive: Relying on God

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?

post by carolnl | | Closed

Heroes

Brian Rogers, Commander of American Legion Post 858

He phoned about a month and a half ago.

“This is Brian Rogers of the American Legion Post 858. Don is part of our Post, and we want to honor World War II veterans at our September meeting. Will you join us?”

We agreed, and Brian asked Don questions about his 26 months of service, including 16 months during the occupation on Okinawa toward the end of WWII, and the cleanup operations after the war.

The day was amazing.

Paulette and Al – Vietnam Veteran

We arrived at the Post, met Brian and talked with a few other people. As people gathered, we took our seats at tables under red and blue umbrellas. John and Al, Vietnam veterans, and Al’s wife Paulette, joined our table. There was a wonderful sense of cameraderie. Men and women who served in WWII, Korea, Iraq, Vietnam, all served our country. And we learned that Paulette and Al are also Jesus followers. What a joy!

As we walked to the tables we saw a group of high schoolers practice carrying framed flags to the front table. After Don and I sat down, four of the girls came over and asked how we were doing. They all wore yellow t-shirts with NAVY on them, so we asked about their goals.

ROTC Students

The Honor Guard, these NAVY-t-shirt students, and Boy Scouts are part of their school’s ROTC. Of the four girls who came to speak to us, two want to become pilots, one to be in another area of service, either Navy or Air Force. All were excited about helping protect our nation.

Lunch was hot dogs or hamburgers, chili, chips, eggrolls, cookies, and sodas or water.

As the anthem of each service branch was played, Brian asked those serving under the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard to stand when their theme song played. I was proud of my dear husband as he saluted to “While the Army Goes Rolling Along.”

Then Brian, current Commander of the Post, and Tito, who began the VSSA, handed out the framed flags.

Note Don’s, second row middle

Of five surviving WWII veterans, two were present – Don, and a 100-year old Coast Guard service member (right). Flags were also given to the families of WWII servicemen who passed in the last year.

We were deeply impressed by the services provided by the American Legion, through the Veterans Supportive Services Agency (VSSA). Tito, who started the VSSA, talked about how they fought to get congressional approval for American citizenship for those Filipinos who fought with us during WWII.

Now they are beginning a campaign to gain more support for deceased veterans’ wives. When their husbands pass away, these wives are often left pretty destitute.

It was a meaningful day. Meeting other veterans, and especially these students who are focused on joining the military, encouraged our hearts. So often we hear of divisions within our nation; yet there are those still willing to fight for the freedoms we enjoy. And whether or not you are a conscientious objector, I have a great deal of respect for so many who were, and are, willing to sacrifice to keep our nation free.

Don and John, a Vietnam vet, posing with the Jr. ROTC’ers

My confidence is not in America, our government or leaders. We are all fallible. My confidence is in the Son of God, who gave Himself to pay the penalty for my sins and yours.

One day we will all stand before the Great Commander in Chief, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Jesus Christ. He will judge us, not on how good or bad we’ve been, but on whether we’ve accepted his free gift of eternal life through his death and resurrection.

If I was so touched by this ceremony, how much more do I want to have something to give back to God in worship when I stand before him.

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

The Savor of Salt

plate of cooked meat with cooked vegetable
Photo by Jer Chung on Pexels.com

Don and I have begun ordering two meals a week from Hello Fresh. We receive a box with frozen meat and all the fixings, as well as recipes, for two meals for two. The flavor combinations are wonderful, using unique spices I don’t have in my cupboards.

I’ve always used some salt in cooking. However, almost every recipe begins with “salt and pepper the chicken,” or pork, or beef. I have never thought about how critical salt is to our taste buds until now.

Jesus says we are to be salt and light in a world that is often overcome with darkness.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. …

Matthew 5:13-16
black berries near salt
Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

Jesus used such practical examples. Salt. Light. Everyday things we often take for granted, at least in North America.

So what are some ways we can be salt and light?

  • Sending encouraging, uplifting messages to friends.
  • Watching the tone of our social media posts: are they there to build up, or to cause anger?
  • Doing an errand for a neighbor in need … shopping, weeding, taking food, sending cards.
  • Giving a needed, appropriate hug.
  • Listening to someone who needs a caring ear.
  • Giving when it is in our power to do so.
  • Telling our own story when it will help another realize that help is available, hope can be found, and he or she is not alone.
  • Sharing with others the good news of the gospel. Jesus came “to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) And without Him, we are all lost.
unrecognizable graceful ballet dancer resting on floor
Photo by Kristina Polianskaia on Pexels.com

Sometimes we lose our saltiness. I’ve experienced that during times of deep grief or chronic pain. The great news is that our saltiness can be restored as we approach the Father to ask for His help, His peace, His grace and His forgiveness as we walk through each situation. He has promised never to leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Soaking in the truth of His love letter to us restores our soul, and invites us to be honest with Him about our needs.

So, this Labor Day, I thank God for His reminder to be salt and light to the world around me. A world with a lot of grief. Cancer. Rebellious children. Hostility within our country. Friends with Alzheimers’. Homelessness. The loss of loved ones. And I thank Him for those who, despite tremendous setbacks, continue to love and serve others in Jesus’ name.

Father in heaven, as I grieve with those around me facing various kinds of pain and difficulties, I want to thank you for your reminder that I am to be salt and light among them. Often I don’t know how to help. But You do, and I can come to you, asking for your grace, peace, love and provision in their lives. And when I see a need I can meet, help me to do so willingly, gladly, asking your blessing on the giving and the receiving. In Jesus’ name.

Yes? No? Wait?

Most of us have seen the news: seventeen missionaries, serving Christ in Haiti, abducted. Among them are two teenagers and children aged eight months, three and six years. The missionaries had been brought back to the US and Canada after the assassination of Haiti’s President, but were recently sent back to the country.

In a letter, the families of those abducted said “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.”

The group invited people to join them in prayer for the kidnappers as well as those kidnapped. They expressed gratitude for help from “people that are knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with” such situations.

I grieve for these men and women, for mothers trying to care for an infant and two small children in captivity. These missionaries are from Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist groups, while Don’s and my roots are of Mennonite origin. And I pray for their protection, for grace in their captivity, for their release.

And God cares!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:6-8

He also brings hope.

Hope when discouragement seems to reign over the world and our hearts.

Hope when we feel lost inside, fearful.

Hope that comes from his Word, which is still so very relevant today; and from his Spirit within us that speaks truth to us.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17, ESV

In spite of abduction, war, death, fire, flood, as well as personal challenges, God promises us hope which comes from faith if we will spend time listening to, and reading or hearing his message to us. Faith that what we see is not all there is.

The Bible is God’s love letter to you and me. Who else sent His Son, the eternal Son of God and part of the Triune God, to live among us, to show us the character of God. No other religious leader has died a horrific death, rising three days later to conquer death and offer us eternal life through His sacrifice for us.

Some think God is punishing, vengeful, that he could not possibly forgive what they have done. But look at the promise in John 3:16-17, verses familiar to many of us:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17

His desire is not vengeance, but reconciliation, relationship.

And God’s answers to prayer are not always what we think is best. His answer may be “Wait”, as it was when I longed for my first husband to pop the question! It may be “No,” as it was when people around the world prayed for the release of missionaries Jim Elliott, Nate Saint and three others at the hands of the Auca Indians in 1956. No, God didn’t spare the lives of these five men who were trying to reach a tribe in Ecuador with the Good News about Jesus. But through that murder, and through the continuing faithfulness of Jim Elliott’s widow, Elizabeth and Nate Saint’s sister Rachel, that entire tribe came to faith in Christ. His is a long view, if you will. This earth is but one step in our life’s journey. Eternity will be, well, eternal!

lightning unk on green grass field
Photo by Alexandre Bringer on Pexels.com

And his answer may be “Yes.” The daughter of friends was to be married at two o’clock this afternoon, outdoors in the Santa Cruz mountains. As many of you know, we have a storm today–heavier rains in northern California and in the mountains, with evacuation orders in place for parts of Santa Cruz because of debris and the threat of falling trees.

Don and I have prayed much this week for this wedding. We’ve prayed for rain, and didn’t want to ask God to shut the windows of heaven. We also wanted this family to have a wonderful day of celebration. Impossible to have both? When they planned the wedding the weather was projected to be clear; now there were no canopies available for rent in the area, for either the outdoor wedding or reception.

brown trees under blue sky
Photo by Jelena Juhnevica on Pexels.com

Our pastor told us this morning that another wedding at the outdoor venue cancelled yesterday (Saturday), and our friends moved their wedding up by a day. Photographer, caterers, pastor, all were available a day early and the couple had a wonderful wedding day without rain. I expect many were praying for this, and give glory to God for making a way in a situation that seemed impossible.

I don’t know what God will do with these abducted missionaries. My mind is not his. But I know this. God is good, and he loves each of those seventeen adults and children. And he will work through the resolution of this horrendous situation, whatever it may be. AND, he wants us to ask! Please join me in prayer for them.

Father, good God, please grant your peace to these servants of yours as they wait in captivity. Convict the gang members and show them your love through this group. Provide the grace that's needed for each person, and especially for the parents of the small children as they help their little ones navigate captivity. I pray the group will be able to stay together so they can encourage and uplift each other. Keep your word alive in their hearts. And in your mercy, I ask for their release. Be with their families; and in whatever comes, may your name be lifted up! In Jesus' name.

Amen!

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Anniversary and a Funeral

Have you found that joy and pain coexist in your life, that they cycle through your days, weeks, months? I was reminded of that again this week.

Last Monday I opened the front door to see a beautiful mixed bouquet of flowers and a sweet stuffed bear, along with a note from my loving husband on our eleventh anniversary.

Our marriage is a second chance at love for both of us after losing our first partners. A God thing. After being widowed awhile, I asked the Lord if He had someone else for me, to sort of “drop him into my lap.” I had no desire to be part of the dating scene after being married to a wonderful man for twenty years. Don had prayed a similar prayer.

And, at a widow and widowers’ grief recovery meeting two years after Jerry’s death, there he was…dropped into my world, as it were (and I into his). Handsome, tall, white-haired, and kind. So kind, not only to me but to both the women and the other men in the group.

Our marriage has survived the normal ups and downs, and a few extra that come with the assumptions and expectations of extended family members. We’ve experienced the delight of traveling, being in small groups together, cooking together, planning for our future, laughing at our dog, Paige’s, antics, just “being” together, and learning to know and love each other’s families. There’s been a lot of joy packed into these years.

Then yesterday I attended a zoom memorial service for Virgil, who was a teenager when I met him in the inner city of Los Angeles. He was one of the teens in our Bible clubs, teen choir, and activities. My memories of him are of a very pleasant, sweet young man.

After 38 years, I reconnected with Virgil two years ago at a World Impact women’s reunion when he came to pick up his wife, Robin. Still gracious, kind, loving his wife.

And during Virgil’s memorial service, I learned so much more about his life in those intervening years. He ministered with World Impact for twenty-seven years, then started a church. His sudden and unexpected death in late December was a shock to all of us.

I had forgotten that our staff came to know Virgil when, as a 12-year old boy, he broke into one of our staff homes. That was a turning point in his life as the men on staff took an interest in him, taught him about Jesus Christ and a new way of life. And Virgil responded with a heart that hungered to know more about his God.

So, despite tears and sorrow, his service was a celebration. A celebration of Virgil’s life, his ministry, and most of all, his love for God and his family. Friends told of his faithful follow-up by text or phone; his care for others; one said he was the first good example of a black father this younger man had seen. And I pray for comfort and healing for Virgil’s wife and children, and his loving, extended family. The lion of pain has invaded their hearts.

So, joy and sorrow, grief and gratitude, constantly in flux in our lives. I praise God for those faithful men who built into Virgil’s life, who then built into the lives of others for the glory of God.

Reminds me of Daniel, who was captive under four Babylonian kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus. Because of Daniel’s “excellent spirit” during that captivity, he served each ruler faithfully, not saying what they wanted to hear, but speaking the truth as God revealed it to him. And he kept getting promoted to higher positions.

During those years he developed a habit of kneeling to pray in front of an open window that faced Jerusalem, his home. He did this faithfully three times a day.

And when he became one of the most powerful leaders in the country under Darius, others became jealous and tried to trap him. But they realized they couldn’t accuse him of anything regarding the kingdom because he was faithful in his duties and they couldn’t find fault with him (Daniel 6:4). So they said “Let’s find a complaint against him regarding his faith in God.”

They tricked the king into writing a decree that, once sealed, could not be changed or undone. The decree stated that anyone who asked any request of someone other than the king for the next 30 days would be put into the den of lions! Whew…a terrifying thought!

close up photo of lion s head
Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

But when Daniel heard the edict, he went home, knelt and prayed in front of that open window three times a day, just as he always had (Daniel 6:10). He knew his detractors would see him. He could have prayed in his bedroom, away from the window. But he trusted his God. And when King Darius, horrified, realized the trap into which he had been led, and from which he could find no escape, he said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

Moody Publishers / FreeBibleimages.org

That night, as Daniel walked, prayed, slept–we’re not told–the king fasted, tossed and turned all night. Early in the morning he rushed to the lions’ den, groaning in anguish. He cried, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him, and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” (Daniel 6:20-22).

The short story is that Daniel was taken out of the lions’ den and his accusers thrown in and killed.

May I, may we who trust in our God, Lord, Savior, King–stand firm as Daniel did, trusting God in our times of joy or promotion; and of sorrow and loss. Grief will come; joy will brighten some of our days. But in all, our God has promised to be with us as He was with Daniel. And whether we are liberated without a scratch, as Daniel was, or our God takes us to Himself, He is with us. Blessed be the name of our God!

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

Daniel 6:4

Question: Do you know someone like Daniel? Consistent, trustworthy, faithful, walking with his or her God? I’d love to hear about that person’s impact in your life.