Category Archive: Relying on God

Thank you for your Service

Today is Veterans’ Day, a day to thank those who have served our country in military service. And there are many stories of veterans who have been heroes, caring for children in war zones, helping their companions, often separated from family members for long periods of time.

Like me, you’ve probably teared up at some of the TV news spots showing a serviceman or woman surprising a spouse, a child by walking into their place of work or school. Or the one where the soldier’s dog greets him with unabashed joy, whole body wiggling, tail wagging.

My favorite veteran, my husband Don Loewen, was part of the cleanup efforts in Okinawa for sixteen months at the end of WWII. While others within our Mennonite peace culture did significant alternative service like teaching or working in hospitals, building artificial limbs for returning soldiers, Don believed he had a responsibility to serve within traditional means and trusted God to guide him in that. Don was assigned to the medics and worked in mosquito abatement.

My husband doesn’t like to talk about his service. Like many who have been in war zones, he doesn’t want to relive the memories that have never left him. But there are some stories he has told me, like the time in 1945 he hung onto the bottom of a cargo truck for eight hours while a typhoon rocked the island with wind gales up to 180 mph.

Or the times he went into a bar with his best bud. Don would order a Coke while Ray drank hard liquor. But when Don told him he’d had enough, Ray stopped drinking.

Don carried his pocket Bible with him at all times. I didn’t know him then, but I like to think back of that handsome young soldier who stood for God, country and family. Who wasn’t afraid to walk into a place that was foreign to his upbringing (like a bar) and do the right thing, because of his commitment to Jesus Christ. Who was willing to confront Ray when his actions jeopardized his health and decision-making.

So while I know there are abuses of power in the service, I am thankful for those men and women who serve(d) with honor and integrity. I also ache for those who came home with tremendous scars, missing limbs, PTSD, broken families.

To each of you, starting with my husband, Don, thank you for your service!

Patience — Now!

I was responding to emails when my computer screen went black. No matter what I did, I couldn’t pull it up again, nor could I pull up any other information. Stuck!

Couldn’t access my finances. Couldn’t get into my novel work-in-progress. Not a search engine, nor a planning program. And I knew if I took my laptop into Clickaway I’d be without it for a day or two.

I looked up yahoo support and called a number that purported to be yahoo. On the phone, the rep talked me through a few things but then wanted to connect me with another party which of course would cost me money and … my brother, Arnold, was listening in the other room. Both he and I had a bad feeling about this call, so he rushed into the room while I said “I need to think about this” and ended the call.

Arn and I looked for a yahoo customer service direct number and the gentleman with whom I spoke was articulate, gracious and professional. He assured me I shouldn’t have to pay to get back online and got me going within a short period of time, then advised me to have my laptop checked for viruses. which I did.

I had also applied for renewal of my passport. I pulled the application off the web and was charged a $38 “processing fee”. About a week after mailing all the requisite paperwork, I got an email from the US Dept of State that I owed them $140 for the passport book and card. I called to clarify and the man at the other end of the line – again, gracious, clear – explained that the Department of State would never charge a processing fee, only the $140 for the book and card. The $38 I’d already spent was to a third party – and I probably can’t recover the $38. It was just frustrating to see how often others take advantage and scam us. (Lessons learned, I hope!) Reminds me of what my younger brother, Bob, said after attending a conference on white-collar crime. “People are finding more and more sophisticated ways to do evil.”

Two weeks ago I talked about bringing Christ into everything, including those annoying moments and the fatigue that sometimes crush me. These were such moments and I was ticked off! I told Don I didn’t know if I wanted to pray for patience because developing it is sometimes very hard.

So what should Pastor Tim talk about this weekend but the fruit of the Spirit which is … PATIENCE! Oh timely word!

He described biblical patience as having a “long fuse” – the ability to bear up under difficulty without giving up or giving in to bitterness. It goes beyond saying “I’m going to put up with this” to our behavior while we wait on the Lord.

One of the ways we can practice patience is to bless people. We’re told to “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). It’s pretty hard to pray for someone and hate them at the same time. And while we may pray for God to change a person’s heart, to adjust their mindset, to make him or her kinder, we are in that asking him to bless them. We may ask Him to lighten that person’s burden so they can be more loving or kind.

I’ve experienced this. In one workplace a member of my staff tried in every way to disgrace me, to hurt my reputation. Due to circumstances I won’t go into here, my ability to deal with the issue was severely restricted. Every day at lunch I sat across from a huge old oak, eating a salad, reading scripture and begging for grace to work within this very challenging situation. And it seemed every day God said, “Wait for me. I will deal with this.”

One day this woman was discovered to have stolen from the President (her “good friend”) and the company. And she was history. God took care of the situation and cleared my name. She was the one without integrity.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'”.

Romans 12:18-19, ESV

I can think of someone I need to bless this week. Can you?

Leaning In

A few weeks ago I bared my soul about pain experienced almost forty years ago in a ministry situation. I got many more responses to that post than usual. Encouragement from former colleagues, prayers for the coming reunion time to be above our expectations in healing and recovery, expressions of love.

I’m so grateful for each person who responded. My pain touched people. And in response, they touched me.

Mourning

Recently Pastor Tim talked about how God speaks to us in our pain. It’s something we don’t want, and which God does not author, but nevertheless uses for our good and for others.

One of the ways God uses pain in our lives is to sensitize us to others, to open our eyes to their needs, and to help us encourage them with the comfort God has given us.

And in the years I dealt with healing from the pain of separation from my former work and friends, God was there. He provided resources to help me recover. Through this and other painful circumstances in my life–

–a broken engagement,

–the deaths of a husband,

–my father,

–a nephew, and dear friends,

–concerns for my mother’s health,

–as well as workplace challenges–

I have become less judgmental and more sensitive to others’ pain. My understanding grew that we need to know someone’s story before we can understand why they make some of the choices they do.

But what resonated with me is that people are drawn to vulnerability, and relate to expressed pain.

As Pastor Tim stated, “When we talk about pain, people lean in.” Our voices are sometimes softer when we talk about pain. We don’t generally shout it from the rooftops. But people want to know what have we experienced that they can relate to, can learn from. Pain touches all of us, and when we share it, we increase our authenticity.

I like Facebook. I enjoy posting pictures of people I love, fun things I’ve done, life I’ve lived with others. But I understand that it is only a partial picture. Most of us post only good things …. those things we’re happy to share.

But others can look at those pictures of beautiful homes and decor and yards and travel and families and think, why isn’t my life like hers/his?

But when we share openly about our pain, our challenges, the bumpy roadblocks in our lives, others understand that we are all on this journey together. And while each of us has an individual path, we also walk with, encourage and strengthen, or drag down, each other along the way.

Forward by missionary Gracia Burnham

I’m reading a challenging book, Hearts of Fire, by Voice of the Martyrs. It contains the stories of eight women in different parts of the world, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured for their faith in Jesus Christ. While the stories are at times hard to read, these women’s faithfulness also challenges me. They share temptations faced, i.e. questioning God in their suffering or loss. Temptations to renounce faith, to give in to other voices that offered a strong shoulder of support, to be quiet about their faith. Despite their questions, these women continued to speak, teach about Jesus, and to be faithful to him.

Why am I drawn to these women’s voices? They’ve shared their pain and God’s faithfulness. We all go through difficulties, whether because of our faith, as they did, or because life just has its ups and downs, its tragedies as well as its joys. None of us knows what the future holds.

I hope I’ve shared God’s faithfulness to me in these posts. I hope that has encouraged you in some ways. But I too need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness, not only to me in the past, but to others who have gone through far deeper trials than I have or expect to encounter.

I’m leaning in.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
 

They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV

Reading Treasures

I’ve read two books by friends in the past three weeks, to review one and do a bit of editing on the other.

It’s such a privilege to read books friends have written. I learn more about each writer’s heart, challenges, and interests. I powered through both of these, knowing there were deadlines at the other end. Each very different from the other; each a treasure.

Rogue Wave, by Jane Carlile Baker

Available now on amazon.com, this novel, by a friend I learned to know and appreciate in a writing group with Ethel Herr, held my attention from beginning to end. Baker knows her Central Coast geography and as I read, I could picture the locations for many of this page-turner’s scenes. While Bonnie is in the grocery store, she turns to see her daughter Fallon smiling at her. But Bonnie’s best friend’s daughter, who was sitting in the grocery cart with Fallon, is nowhere to be seen! Disappeared without a trace. Guilt overwhelms, a friendship is destroyed, and Bonnie becomes a hyper-vigilant helicopter mom to Fallon, until threats begin again in the ‘safe place’ she has built around her daughter. Can safety be guaranteed anywhere? Will they find Fallon before it’s too late? Can old wounds be healed, friendships restored? Interweaving plots and strong character development will keep you reading. I loved this book. https://www.amazon.com/Rogue-Wave-Bo…/…/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1…

Haley House, by MarJean S. Peters

MarJean and I became close in college, sharing our lives, singing together, and watching each other’s romances develop – or not. I was in her wedding. We were somewhat out of touch when I married about fourteen years later so she was not in mine.

My friend had a beautiful soprano voice, thick, dark brown hair, sparkling brown eyes and a warm, winsome smile. An artist, Jeannie has an eye for beauty. We’ve reconnected in the past few years and five college girlfriends have even shared a few reunions since. Jeannie’s hair, still thick and lustrous, is now white. She is still absolutely lovely.

Jeannie and her husband have raised four gifted, committed Christian children who are in different walks of life and service. She and Conrad have been pastors and missionaries. At one point, they lived bel
ow the poverty line and moved into Haley House, a moldy, rat-infested shack.

Her book is the story of that house, told from the point of view of a 12-year old son. I was touched as I thought of my lovely friend who enjoys beauty and creativity living in horrible surroundings for several years. And yet, I saw also the grace of God as MarJean found the good in their circumstances. Even as she brought in added income by cleaning houses for wealthy women, Jeannie recognized that having money or grand homes did not bring happiness or prevent marriages from breaking up. She was able to remind her family that in that tiny house they had to communicate, they had to work things through–and they were CLOSE (in more ways than one).

I chuckled when I read about one of the children complaining that his eggs were getting covered in pancake syrup because the floor sloped. My dear friend told her kids to turn their plates so the eggs would be on the upside of the slope, and the syrup would stay off the eggs! Understanding some of the valleys God took MarJean and Conrad through, seeing her faith amid confusion and questions and tears and hardship, challenged me in my own faith. 

Haley House will be available this week on amazon.com.

What have you read recently that you enjoyed, that challenged you, or that opened your eyes to someone else’s life, struggles and victories?

Waiting …

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Where’s my next step?

Don and I moved to a lovely over-55 community in September last year. Since October, the beautiful home we left behind has been on the market. We’ve had many people come through the house; comments have been extremely positive about both the main and the guest houses and the property itself, in a beautiful little hill valley five miles above Capitola Beach.

But to date we’ve received only one low-ball written offer. Dear friends are in the same situation, also waiting for a sale. This has become a stressor, and yes, we’ve been discouraged.

Don still maintains the property, pays taxes, insurance, and energy bills. We had hoped and prayed that the house would sell before he felt obliged to plant new spring flowers and re-beautify the yard. After all, we moved to simplify our lives and reduce some of those demands.

We’ve prayed for a good buyer–oh yes, we’ve prayed, as have friends and family. But at times it feels like our prayers have gone unheard.

Have you ever been there, wondering why God appears not to answer?

I prayed for my late husband’s recovery following dual transplant surgery, along with hundreds of others who knew and loved us. God’s answer was “not here.” Because he had accepted God’s promise of eternal life to those who accept the forgiveness and new life promised through Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am confident that Jerry is healed, whole, and is rejoicing in the presence of God. And while that gave me great hope, it did not remove the pain of loss.

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For God so loved the world that He gave His only . . . Son, that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life. John 3:16

And now, Don and I are again being stretched. Will I trust God in this long season of waiting, knowing many have far greater needs than ours? Or will I choose not to trust because things aren’t going according to my plan?

Will I believe and act on the truth that God is still, and always will be, my loving Father, or will I complain and allow bitterness to creep into my spirit?

I look back and recall God’s faithfulness in all the seasons of my life:

  • The times I’ve made mistakes that God has redeemed, and through which he has brought something good.
  • The breakup of a relationship I believed would lead to marriage but didn’t –and how grateful I am for that “no”!
  • Ten years of service and God’s protection as I served with a team in the L.A. inner city.
  • Healing from the stresses of those ten years.
  • Marriage to a wonderful man at the ripe old age of 36.
  • God’s faithfulness and strength and mercy and comfort, as we faced his death twenty years later.
  • In grief at other losses–of my nephew, grandparents, dear friends, my father.
  • The marvelous gift of a second love and life with my Don.
  • God’s promises of eternal life, of comfort and peace and Presence in all circumstances.

So if I complain now, it seems a bit–well, more than a bit–selfish. As I look back I can see how God led in each situation. Minister and author V. Raymond Edman once said “Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.”

Life is hard sometimes. It can be confusing. And we were created to love and serve and honor our God–not to understand Him. But He has given us His great and precious promises to help us in just such times as this.

So, despite moments of stress and lack of understanding; despite concerns about the house still being unsold, I will choose to trust for His best, knowing He loves me more than I can comprehend, and that His purpose for me goes far beyond the sale of a piece of property.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

Are you questioning why your prayers seem to be unheard in any certain area? I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with your questions and doubts.

May you be encouraged by the peace and Presence of God.