Unexpected Interruptions (they’re always unexpected aren’t they!)

I walked out of my meeting, stepped into my car, and turned the key. The engine sputtered and died.

After trying to start the care several times without success, I called Triple A for a tow. I was pleased that one of their first questions was “Are you and your car in a safe place?” (We were.)

My mechanic determined the car had a fuel pump failure, then went above and beyond to ask the dealer if this defect might be covered under warranty. After haircuts and lunch with stepson Brad and his wife Cathy, I once again called Triple A.

Don and I waited about two hours at our mechanic’s until the truck arrived to tow the car to the dealership. Charlie told me if it turned out to be a defective fuel pump it would cost me nothing to repair. If it was not that, it could run me about $3000. Ouch! My car has been wonderful, reliable, well maintained. This was not something I had planned for, nor could I afford it.

So Don and I had already lost two days to wait time/ tow trucks/ car trouble. But we were thrilled when the dealer called to tell us the repair would be fully covered. Thank you, Lord!

They did find two other repairs that needed to be done and we authorized those–but at a significantly lower cost than the possible $3000 had the fuel pump repair not been covered.

Today was a full day. Don and I had an appointment, then breakfasted at Le Boulangerie. After that I took a sputum sample into a lab in Los Gatos (I give these monthly to check on a non-contagious lung infection that is very difficult to eradicate and which I’ve had for several years already).

The car dealer called and told us the car was ready for pickup, so Paige and I returned home, I picked Don up and we headed to pick up the car. Although they had projected keeping the car for five days (over the holida), waiting for delivery of the needed parts, the parts arrived Saturday morning and the repairs were complete!

I have my car again, hopefully good for many miles to come. And I’m thankful for my auto mechanic who goes beyond “We’ll fix it for $___” to research ways to help customers save money and get effective corrections made.

Thanks Bill, Fiona, and Charlie! And thank you Lord for caring for my smallest needs, ensuring this didn’t happen the day before we leave on vacation, or across the hill, or at night …

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

I Peter 5:7 NLT

May we recognize in those difficult moments the grace of God that sustains, provides, and cares for us.

Home — not a Place, but a Presence

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.

Jude 1:24, NLT

We were talking about my friend’s house, which she enjoyed with her husband for quite a few years. Now he has passed into glory and she is thinking through her next steps. “Remember,” she said, “Home is not a place, but a Presence.”

“Presence” — defined as the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. Another definition is “a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen.” Scripture adds to this one of the names of God–“Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us”.

What a promise! God, creator of heaven and earth, is with us! Psalm 139:7-10 state that

I can never get away from your presence!

If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.

If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,

even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.

I looked up some synonyms for presence at thesaurus.com:

Whereas a few antonyms for presence reflect negativity, anxiety, “apart-ness”: aspects of life when we are not living in God’s presence.

Afraid

Presence of God

The Scriptures often speak of God’s presence in human history. His presence may bring fear to man’s heart, as when Adam and Eve sinned and hid from God in the Garden of Eden.

But God’s presence also provides comfort in times of trouble or anxiety (Joshua 1:5; Psalm 42:5). So if we are actively living in the presence of God, we will know the assurance of his companionship, his promise never to leave us, to guide us, to grant us his wisdom.

The presence of God finds its greatest expression in Immanuel, God with us.

God himself came to save. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, entered a teeming humanity to give his life as a ransom for us.

In his grace, God buys us back in the most unimaginable way possible: God in Christ became a man, walked among humanity, and died for his people.

J Ryan Lister (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

And one day those who have trusted Christ’s atoning work on the Cross will be fully in His presence in heaven, rejoicing and worshiping him for all eternity. As that precious song says, “I can only imagine …”

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine…

-Mercy Me

Delight in the Lord with me as we walk this journey, knowing that His presence is the source of our strength, our peace, and our comfort; and that we are at Home there, both now and for all eternity.

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11

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

Deliver Us From Evil

Don and I were a part of Menlo Church before moving to the Pacific Coast. I requested, and received, permission from Pastor John Ortberg to reprint his letter to the Menlo family following the recent mass murders that have horrified us all. And on Thursday another angry man stabbed and killed four people, wounding two others. Ortberg speaks clearly to the evil that is present in our world, and to our response as Christ followers.

Dear Menlo Family,

One of the lines in the world’s most famous prayer says simply: “Deliver us from evil.” Evil is always present in our world. Sometimes it’s possible for some of us to forget; and then evil surfaces and we remember and shudder.

And this past week has been one of those times. We saw it here in the Bay Area touching our brothers and sisters in Gilroy. We saw it in El Paso. We saw it in Dayton, where a shooter’s victims included his own sister.

Deliver us from evil.

It is important for us to name evil. Evil is love’s opposite; it is the will-to-harm. It is what happen when hate—like the spirit of white supremacy that surfaced again in El Paso—darkens the human heart and blasphemes the image of God in human beings.

As followers of Jesus, we stand with the victims, and their families, the minority groups being targeted, and all who suffer as a result of this hatred and violence. We call on and ask God for our political leaders to be given wisdom and courage to act for justice and shalom. We seek to help however we can—as a church we’ve been in touch with the leaders of our sister church in Gilroy to give them support and rest.

And we pray. Authentic prayer is never irrelevant. It is not an alternative to action; it is a form and source of it. We ask God to make us, in our small corners of the earth, agents of his peace and love. We are reminded once again of how deeply and desperately our broken world needs God.
 
We remember, too, that deliverance from evil is not the only phrase. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus’ plan is for God’s will to be done—in Gilroy and El Paso and Dayton—and starting in the hearts and lives of those who follow him.   

We are to be—are privileged to be—agents of a kingdom far greater and more resilient than any human being can design. We do this as we pray and love and worship and learn and serve and care. We are Kingdom bringers.

I join with all of you in praying.

John Ortberg

Copyright © 2019 Menlo Church, All rights reserved.

And for suggestions on how to pray for survivors, read this excellent article by a shooting survivor, from Christianity Today: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/august-web-only/dayton-el-paso-mass-shooting-thoughts-prayers.html?utm_source=ctweekly-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=23469312&utm_content=665313077&utm_campaign=email

May we join our hearts and hands in praying for, and providing what support we can, to those who have experienced these traumatic shootings.

Agents of Peace

The harmonies of the old hymn filled the chapel with full, rich tones. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that I, and those with whom I grew up, learned to sing, to harmonize, to make beautiful music as we raised our voices and hearts in praise to God. It was a part of our culture, our worldview, our worship. Now we raised our voices together in harmony at the memorial service of a dear friend.

I’ve often thought that, while sermons and words reach my mind, music touches my soul.

And how we need something to touch our souls in these uncertain days, when mass shootings have killed 32 in the past week and a half. Many here in California, in Texas and Ohio are traumatized and fearful as they deal with the senseless loss of loved ones and the trauma of being in the line of fire.

Others have written about the solutions, and I don’t intend to take on that subject here.

But we as believers need to be salt and light in the midst of this carnage. How can we help? Can we reach out to someone who has been hurt, by these shootings or by something else, and minister peace and love to them?

Our pastor said Sunday that Christianity is not a subculture but a counterculture. We are priests who are desperately needed in a culture of hate.

One of the songs that ministered to me in a significant way when I went through a turbulent time personally says,

In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry

Keep me safe till the storm passes by
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by

Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me…

-Written by Thomas Mosie Lister

How can we be priests and agents of peace in a hate-filled world?

We can pray. Jesus turned to the Father in every circumstance, praising him, asking his help, and acting in obedience to the Father’s direction. Sometimes we think prayer is the least we can do. If we are praying along with the Father’s heart, it may be the most important thing we do.

We can be agents of peace in our own neighborhoods, seeking healthy, building relationships and encouraging others, whether they are children, younger adults, or seniors whom God brings into our lives. When there are disagreements we can look for positive resolutions that build bridges with our neighbors. When our neighbor didn’t like the solar equipment on the side of our house that she sees regularly, Don said “I think we can come up with a good solution,” and built a lovely latticed box to surround the equipment. My Don was an agent of peace and our neighbor, and the homeowners’ association, are delighted with the outcome.

What other ways have you found to be an agent of God’s peace and love in your world? I’d love to hear what solutions you’ve found.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.…”

Philippians 4:6-8, Berean Study Bible