Category Archive: Trust

The Grand Puzzle Master

Swirls of red and white. No specific pattern. Does this piece fit here? There? Turn it around. Nope, still didn’t fit.

During these 16+ months of isolation, I purchased several puzzles. The first was of a lady in a Venetian mask and gown. While Don and I did pretty well with her face and mask, which had more definition than the red and white fabric and gold beads of her crown and gown, we would struggle to get one piece to fit, then give up for the day.

Then our grandniece and grandnephew, Cadence and Cole, came over with their parents. These children are 6 and 10, Their eyes are younger than ours (so is the rest of them)! Cole and his father filled in the bottom of the puzzle, a mix of those red and white pieces with gold braid or beads here and there. Cadence would pick up a piece, look at it and say, “I think this goes here.” We’d try and it didn’t fit. “No, turn it around.” YES!

Amazing. We didn’t finish the puzzle that day and, without their quick eyes we finally gave up on it and put it away, perhaps for a later day. Perhaps not!

I pulled out another puzzle. Same number of pieces but much more specific detail to help identify the pieces, which are larger than in the first puzzle. Cole and Cadence helped us on this one again, but Don and I were quite successful in putting sections together. We finished it!

You may not like puzzles but, if you do, you know working on them can be quite addictive.

Would you have guessed where this piece fit? It was one of the later ones we identified. Was it a football? Did it fit with the chess pieces and orange floor? No–it was part of the tennis shoes by the door. But it took us a long time to realize those were shoelaces.

When we only see the immediate circumstance, whether it’s a loss, a humbling experience, hurtful words, or even joy, we don’t always recognize how it fits into a pattern for good in our lives.

I thought of my friend Tom, who says he loves watching God move the chess pieces. God is not arbitrary, playing a game. But he is sovereign and so often brings situations or people into our lives in unexpected ways. While we may see the back of the puzzle–all the same color and different shapes, he sees the complete picture, right side up, colors and pattern intact.

So for those I love who face special challenges this week–surgery, loss of a loved one, grief, marital discord–I urge you as I urge myself, to continue to look at our sovereign God. He knows what is happening and what good he will bring from each difficulty. And if we look at him rather than the one puzzle piece, we can walk in faith–yes, sometimes with great pain–knowing that he cares about our heart struggles. In his economy, nothing is wasted, not even our tears.

You have kept count of my tossings;
    put my tears in your bottle.
    Are they not in your book?

Psalm 56:8 ESV

I just read that God never looks over his balcony and says “Oh my!” Illness, loss, wars, fires, floods may grieve his heart, but they are no surprise to him. And he has promised never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

And he cares about our tears, even as he looks at his grand puzzle which will one day be complete.

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.

Words and lyrics by Jim Hill

Who’s in Control?

“One of the things I’ve learned this past year is that I’m really good at trusting God when I’m in control.” So said Danny Bennett, a pastor in Santa Cruz when asked what he learned during this last pandemic year. Do you resonate with that statement as I do?

Control–what an elusive idea. We like to think we’re in control, of finances, careers, families, living situations and life choices. We even have a “control” button on our computers! But often these choices are taken out of our hands, whether by illness, a pandemic and resultant shut-down, a government coup, or something else.

crop payroll clerk counting money while sitting at table
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I work best with a budget and when it looked like we were losing a specific amount of money each month, I wore that burden heavily. That night as I crawled into bed beside Don, I said “can we talk?” And as I shared with him my frustration that I couldn’t figure out why, according to the budget, we seemed to be losing money month by month, he encouraged me, told me we’d look at it together and figure it out. The next day I received news that changed the whole picture for the positive.

My budget allows me to think I’m in control, when in reality life circumstances can change it drastically. A catastrophic illness, damage to home or vehicle, any of these and a thousand more can wreak havoc on carefully thought-out financial planning.

white metal cart inside room
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

This past year many of us put plans on hold because of the pandemic. Families lost loved ones, here in the United States and around the world. Businesses that had done well closed for lack of customers. Doors were shuttered, furniture cleared out with “For Rent” signs in the windows. Locked in, unable to visit with external family and friends, fearful of contracting this virus, we felt out of control. We didn’t even want to make eye contact in the grocery stores!

Scripture says our lives are a vapor, a mist–gone in a moment. And we aren’t privy to when that moment will be.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

James 4:13-15, NIV

We’re encouraged by God to plan, to dream. But not to act like we’re in control of the details of our lives. I wasn’t in control when I was threatened with disfiguration and death while ministering in the ghetto (and God protected each of us); I wasn’t in control when I left that ministry, not knowing what was ahead for my life; I wasn’t in control when my first husband died; nor when my mother died and I went into a deep depression. I’m not in control of many of the details and circumstances of my life.

scenic view of sunset sky over sea
Photo by Ben Mack on Pexels.com
person pushing a control button
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

But I know the One who is in control, and He is trustworthy and true. All I need do is take the next step, listen for His guidance and then take the next step. But we need to admit we need His help.

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Psalm 73:28, NIV

What have you learned during this past year about yourself, God, relationships, or anything else?

The Value of Rest

Tension knotted my neck as I drove out of town. It had been a couple of busy weeks (when haven’t they been lately!) and Don and I had planned a brief getaway. I had a low-grade headache and Don felt anxious. We needed this break after a year of lockdowns.

As we drove, the muscle ache in my neck began to diminish. My headache eased. Don felt more relaxed. We drove to Napa, a lovely small town in Northern California’s wine country, wandered about and ate lunch beside the river. Then we left Napa for Sonoma on beautiful, windy country roads banded by a variety of vineyards, green trees, shrubs and grasses.

We slept about eleven hours that night. No alarm, no schedule, just rest. What a treat! We rested, walked, ate well, and were renewed together.

Wandering around Sonoma the next day we found candles, some kitchen utensils, and cute, adjustable masks. Hey, if we have to wear them for another few months they might as well be cute–and fit! These have adjustable ear straps so fit my face better than many. And they’re sparkly!

That evening we dined with our good friend, Sue and her new husband, Steve. Lovely to spend time together, enjoying a wonderful visit and opportunity to learn to know Steve.

Sometimes we just need to get away. To rest. It’s not always possible to take an overnight trip; but think of places you can go for a day. Perhaps you can walk around a nearby park. Drive into some nearby countryside. Meet with a friend, now that pandemic restrictions are slowing being lifted. Work in the garden. Lie on the couch and listen to glorious music that lifts your soul.

I heard last night that 81% of working people feel more stressed than before the pandemic. Instead of work from home giving people more time, it’s tied them into working longer hours and more days–without a break. We weren’t made to keep going and going and going. I’m not, nor are you, the Eveready Bunny!

God designed and told us to take a Sabbath, a day of REST. And if we do anything continually, without a break, we burn out. There’s a reason to change our routines–to refresh our minds, hearts and souls to follow the unique and individual purpose God has given to each of us. That’s whether we’re working full-time, writing a novel as I’m doing, or raising children. God’s wisdom is clear on this.

Do not wear yourself out to get rich …

Proverbs 23:4

I confess I’m not good at this–not for riches, but for the standard I set myself. I can get caught up in front of my computer for hours at a time, then am tired when I stop to be with my beloved husband in the evening. That’s not wise stewardship of my time or talent.

Let’s remember who we are working for. When I get bogged down in a scene I’m writing, or procrastinate because there’s so much else on my plate, I need to remember that my work is for the Lord, and he will direct my use of time and resources if I allow him to do so.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:23, 24

So I’m going to work at this. At taking more breaks during the day where I get up and move, or sitting outside with Don enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. At taking down time regularly so my spirit can be renewed and my worship and creativity increased.

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.

Psalm 23:1-3a

Question: What do you do to keep balance in the various ‘slices’ of your life–work, family, home, worship, caregiving, whatever else God has entrusted to you?

Me, right now? I’m heading for a nap with Don and Paigey!

Living in Freedom

What do you need this year? Is it confidence, hope, peace, forgiveness–either for yourself or toward someone else?

Will we shift with the changing variances of politics, economics, belief systems, hurts? If we do, our feet will slip easily, not having stood on solid ground.

Many of you will recall reading about Corrie Ten Boom, author of THE HIDING PLACE. In 1922, Corrie was the first woman licensed as a watchmaker in the Netherlands. Over the next ten years, in addition to working in her father’s watchmaking shop, she established a youth club for teenage girls, providing religious instruction and classes in performing arts, sewing, and handicrafts. The faith of Corrie and her family led them to serve their society by offering shelter, food and money to those in need.

The family determined to help the Jews during Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, which began in 1940. At great danger to themselves, they offered a haven for Jewish fugitives. The Dutch Underground Resistance learned of their activities and sent an architect to create a concealed space within their home, “the Beje.” Whenever neighborhood sweeps happened, a buzzer alerted the resident Jews to crawl into “the hiding place” and remain completely still until the raid ended.

Corrie also became involved in directing some of the underground movement to smuggle Jews to other safe homes. It’s estimated that 800 Jewish lives were saved because of her work.

What caused this family, this woman, to risk their own lives to help those less fortunate? Some important tenets of their faith included the fact that the Jews were God’s chosen people, and that all people are created equal.

In February 1944, a neighbor betrayed them and the family was arrested. Corrie’s father died ten days later. The Jews hidden in the concealed room were not discovered and were later moved, with the help of police who were part of the Resistance, to other locations.

Eventually Corrie and Betsie were taken to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where they led Bible studies at night with a Bible Corrie had been able to smuggle into the camp, despite the thorough searches of the guards. Her dear sister, Betsie, died in the camp in December 1944, telling Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”

Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.

George Macdonald, Author and Mentor to C.S. Lewis

Twelve days after Betsie’s death, Corrie was released–later learned to be due to a “clerical error.” A week later all those in her age group were sent to the gas chamber.

It would have been easy for Corrie to become bitter. After the camp was freed by the Americans, she spoke about forgiveness in a church in Germany. Afterward, a man approached her, offering his hand to shake hers. She immediately recognized him as one of the Ravensbruck guards who had been particularly cruel to Betsie.

Arm stiff at her side, would Corrie shake his hand, forgive him? Or could she not because of the horrors he and the Nazi system had perpetrated on her and her family?

She quickly asked God for strength, reached out and shook this guard’s hand. It was one of those moments where one has to think “Will I act as I believe; or as I feel.” She acted on her belief in the forgiveness of God.

Corrie ten Boom at Right with Billy Graham and others in front of the old watch shop

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

C.S. Lewis

Forgiveness. The reason Jesus Christ came to earth to live among us, to die a criminal’s death, and rise again. Because he took the penalty for our sins–yours and mine–on himself, we can be free of the weight, bondage, and penalty of sin.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

I John 1:9, NIV

I love another quote by Hannah More, an English religious writer and philanthropist who died in 1833.

Forgiveness is the economy of the heart. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.

Hannah More

Forgiveness frees us, not only from the penalty of our own sin, but from the burden of anger, hatred and a bitter spirit that grow in us when we refuse to forgive someone else.

Is there anyone you need to forgive? I thought of this on the weekend and realized I still have some resentment in my heart toward a (very) few people who have hurt me. And I choose to let that resentment go. Sometimes that takes forgiving multiple times, perhaps prayer with a deep friend, or counseling, before we’re able to really let the issue go; but isn’t living in the light of freedom, with a heart that doesn’t hold onto past hurts, worth working that through with God?

I think so. I hope you do too.

Three Weeks

Just three weeks until we celebrate the greatest event of all history–no, not the victory at the Battle of the Bulge. Not the election of whichever Presidential candidate we supported. Not man landing on the moon. In three weeks we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death, conquering it for all eternity.

light people art silhouette
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Imagine those last few weeks of Jesus’ life on earth. He knew the Cross was coming. I would think he experienced anticipatory grief. Mobs tried to throw him off a cliff, but he calmly walked through the crowd and away. Pharisees tried to catch him in a misstatement (but couldn’t–he called their bluffs). He was accused of not making his disciples follow the traditions that the Chief Priests and Rabbis had put in place, which were neither in scripture nor in Jesus’ teaching. The religious leaders wanted control. Jesus wouldn’t give it to them until it was his time.

He fed a crowd of four thousand men (plus women and children) with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Mark 8:8 says “And they ate and were satisfied.” After the meal his disciples picked up seven basketsfull of leftovers!

The religious leaders tested Him over and over again, but were astonished at his answers because they couldn’t trip him up!

He healed the blind, the lame, the woman with chronic bleeding, and many others. He foretold his death to His disciples. Peter rebuked Him for talking that way, and Jesus rebuked Peter, saying he needed to focus his mind on the things of God rather than man (Mark 8:33)!

Then he called the crowd and his disciples together.

“If any of you wants to be my follower,” he told them, “you must put aside your own pleasures and shoulder your cross, and follow me closely. If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.

“And how does a man benefit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process? For is anything worth more than his soul?”

Mark 8:34-37 TLB

As we enter this Easter season, let’s remember that we can’t be neutral about Jesus Christ. He said ““Whoever is not with me is against me…” Matthew 12:30a NIV.

Most of us aren’t in a court trial for our faith. But the reality of our confidence in Christ shows (or doesn’t) in our daily life. That’s where we’re on trial, day after day. Will we identify with Jesus? If I feel led to speak to a stranger, pray for my manicurist in her shop (and I do ask permission first), or reach out to someone in need, my thought is often “What will others think?” But isn’t that obedience the test of my faith? And how often do I fail because of unkindness, selfishness, or lack of love for others?

I want to write more about those weeks and days before Jesus’ death and resurrection. But I challenge you to join me in thinking, not just what can I give up for Lent, but how can my daily life reflect more of Jesus in my life?

I’d love to hear your reflections as you focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection.