Perspective and Promise

Did you notice more grey hairs during the past six months of shelter in place? I did. Not that I had more, but that without going to the salon they were coming out of hiding!

I’m thrilled that nail and hair salons in our area have reopened and I can deal with those grey hairs.

But I’m even more encouraged by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.

Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:3-4

What a promise! The God of creation upheld me since conception, carried me since birth, and will sustain me to my old age. There’s another wonderful promise in Psalm 92.

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

Psalm 92:12-15

Oh, we will have difficulties and trials in this life. Jesus promised that.

Sometimes I feel I’ve had my share of challenges, between the losses of a husband, both parents and parents-in-law, and some dear friends; challenges of illnesses; Covid-19 restrictions; and leaving/healing from a legalistic ministry.

But then I think of those in countries where people are being held captive for years, separated from family who may not even know whether or not they are alive, because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Others are giving their lives rather than renounce their Lord. He said if they hated me, they will hate you. And I pray for God’s sustenance for those dear brothers and sisters. And I ask how I can help.

These are righteous, and they will be honored by God in His kingdom. And I’m humbled because I have not experienced what they have. And yet all who have trusted in Christ’s work on the cross are counted righteous–not because of what we have done, but because of his grace! (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Perspective and promise. Perspective that comes from recognizing God’s loving hand throughout my life (and trusting him for my future) and from seeing others remain faithful through extremely difficult trials.

God’s promises, which are true because he cannot lie. It would be against his character. And he has promised “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11) to all who trust in him. We may not see that hope in its fullness until we’re on the other side; but his promise is true.

How are you doing through this time of shelter in place and division in our country? I pray you will be encouraged by these two focus areas, perspective and promise.

I’d love to hear from you.

Never Forget!

Nineteen years ago on September 11th, I walked into my office building. The security guard looked flustered. “They flew into the Twin Towers.”

I hadn’t heard any news en route to work that morning, so asked what she was talking about. I rushed to my desk to turn on my computer and saw the horrors of 9-11 on my screen: planes crashing into towers, towers crumbling from the impact, people jumping out of windows to their deaths.

Then we began hearing about the heroes of that horrific day.

  • Firefighters who risked their lives to rescue people stranded on upper floors of the Twin Towers.
  • Jason Thomas (right), who was dropping his daughter off at his mother’s in Long Island when he heard what had transpired. A former Marine sergeant who had been out of the Corps for a year, he changed into the Marine Corps uniform still sitting in his trunk, and sped toward Manhattan, where he and others worked tirelessly for the next two and a half weeks to rescue survivors.
  • Policemen who searched the rubble for survivors and kept others away from the devastated area.
  • A cousin of my sister-in-law’s, who would have been on the 81st floor of one of those Towers except for running a bit late that morning. He and others loved and supported their employees through the tragedy, also sharing the comfort only Christ can give.
  • Todd Beamer who led passengers on Flight 93 to fight back when they realized the plane had been hijacked to attack the Pentagon. They, and all 44 passengers aboard the plane, gave their lives when the plane crash landed on a Pennsylvania field rather than into the Pentagon.
  • Husbands, wives, parents, children who posted pictures of their loved ones in hopes of finding them – in a hospital, with amnesia, even in a morgue; and many others.

We watched the New York Port Authority, the Police, Firefighters, Marines, and every day civilians work together to rescue survivors and recover bodies.

On 9-11 we promised never to forget!

And once again today, when our country is deeply divided and experiencing rioting, a pandemic, looting, fires, floods, murders and anti-freedom activists, we have heroes, many unsung. Let’s remember to pray for, and to thank those who are sacrificing for the good of our nation–firefighters, police, the military, medical personnel, pastors, and many other heroes who are working to bring relief where they can.

The words of Martin Luther’s old hymn still speak truth and hope, hope that goes beyond this life to the next.

1 O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.

3 Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame,

From everlasting thou art God, to endless years the same.

4 O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come,

Be thou our guide while life shall last, And our eternal home.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise–in God I trust and am not afraid.

Psalm 56:3-4a

A Different Kind of Week

I felt a bit dizzy during the night Monday. When I wakened Tuesday I was quite nauseous. I stayed in bed until about 11, then Don prepared me a very light breakfast of fresh fruit.

Back to bed to sleep – for hours! It’s years since I’ve done that. At 4 o’clock I wakened, feeling like I was going to upchuck. I got up as slowly as I could and headed toward the restroom. I hit two walls on my way and barely made it before losing everything I’d eaten (or so I thought).

I called my doctor’s office at 4:50 to ask for advice. A nurse called back shortly. “You’re too late for office hours and urgent care won’t see you if you’ve thrown up today. You need to go to the ER and get checked out.”

I knew throwing up was one possible symptom of COVID-19, but I had no others.

“You don’t sound good, and I think it’s important you be seen tonight.”

“Do you really think that’s necessary?” I asked.

“OK. I’ll go.”

I dressed and told Don what the office had said. On the way I said “I really don’t want to throw up in your car, love.”

Don pulled into the ER driveway. I opened the door, and wallah – you guessed it! A kind man pushed me inside in a wheelchair while Don went home to wait (no visitors allowed).

Over the next five hours I was poked for blood tests (great job, hardly felt it), given an EKG, gave a urine sample, and was put into a bed and given two warmed blankets to cover me (later, a third was added). The nurses and aides were gracious.

At one point I overheard the woman next to me say “Thank you for being so kind to me,” and I prayed God’s blessing on her. I heard several “Code Blues” and felt it a privilege to pray for those individuals and the medical personnel caring for them. Of course I prayed for Don, at home waiting for news. I’ve recently been anxious over fires and riots and yet, in the ER I was truly at peace the whole time and so grateful for God’s presence with me.

From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive. Kind words are like honey–-sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

Proverbs 16:23-24 

I told one of my nurses I was praying for them, and he thanked me. “I really appreciate that,” he said. “I think this is the first year that people are really thanking us–oh, here and there people have, but as a whole.”

We were very thankful with the report that all my vitals looked good, no COVID, just vertigo. I left late that night with medication and exercises to help.

I’ve been very thankful for our medical personnel before, particularly when Mom needed care over the past year plus. But somehow when it’s you in that bed and waiting for results it really sinks in how much these men and women are on the front lines – doctors, nurses, phlebotomists, aides, registrars, cleaning staff.

Thank you, each of you, for treating me with kindness and respect, and ensuring you did all possible to check whether or not I had an infection or virus. God be with you, each and every one!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

That They May be One

‘Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell’. 

Psalm 43:3

A devotion from Seeds of the Kingdom explains that in Scripture light often symbolizes well-being. So walking in the light of God’s presence illuminates the deepest secrets of our hearts, and carries with it day to day benefits for us. First, it keeps us in the truth. We live in a world of compromise and relativism and more than ever before we need to know the truth so we can walk in God’s ways. Second, it dispels our fear because His presence is always with us and we will not lose our way. Third, walking in the light of God’s presence is the way of obedience. In Scripture obedience and blessing go hand in hand. https://seedsofthekingdom.org/devotionals/0140/walking-in-the-light-of-god%E2%80%99s-presence.php

How can we walk in the light of God’s presence in a world, a country that is deeply divided right now?

Our small women’s Bible study group studied Jesus’ prayer in John 17 this week. He prays that we will be one, as He and the Father are one. He prayed for us, for me–“for those who will believe in me through their message.”

He prays for this oneness so the world may believe God sent Jesus, and that Jesus loves us even as the Father loves the Son (John 17:23)

This weekend a local pastor shared some letters he has received in the past two weeks. Each said she was questioning her relationship with God because of the divisions, the anger she sees within the church over politics.

Hearing these letters hurt. How tragic if our disagreements, my desire to be ‘right’, causes others to turn away from rather than to Christ!

So how do we move forward? We know we have political differences in the church. I think most families have some level of political difference. We don’t have to think alike. And yet Jesus prayed that we would be one.

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

1 Corinthians 12:25-27 MSG

When injustice occurs, we need to hurt with those affected, and work for justice. When righteousness blesses someone, we rejoice exuberantly with them! We can look for opportunities to be intentional about loving someone with whom we disagree, especially politically.

We can also focus on relationship. There are differences within my family, but we have agreed that our relationship is more important than our differences. We’ve agreed not to discuss politics or, if we do, we work to do it briefly and in a spirit of respect for the other’s point of view.

Politics is not our savior; a political party cannot make us right with God. His purposes go beyond what happens in the November election. We don’t have to think alike; but our focus needs to be on Jesus and on the mission He gave us to share His love and truth with the world. If we do this, we can lay some of our differences aside and love each other.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headedthat exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Hebrews 12:2-3 MSG

What are you finding in this divisive time? Is your family all on the same page politically? If not, how do you handle those disagreements?

Fires, Fear, Faith

California fire season is usually in September and October. But 2020’s fires started early, with about 400 wildfires and 5700 “incidents” (https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/) in the past week. Don and I have kept in close touch with our neighbors here, sharing updates with each other as we receive them.

We are right on the line of an evacuation area (we’re in the SCU Lightning Complex), but haven’t been told to leave as of yet. Should you need it, there’s a good evacuation map at https://nifc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=69fca73a82df4fefa7c0e48b66d0899d&extent=-123.2395,36.6849,-119.5618,38.1032

I’ve felt anxious, always watching for the next bit of news. Wednesday night I had a hard time falling asleep. Tears have been near the surface, and sometimes have fallen. Thursday I couldn’t concentrate, but kept watching for news, and registered for notification in the event we are ordered to evacuate.

We heard Thursday that Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center, where I’ve spent a good bit of time at retreats and then at writers’ conferences, had been evacuated and was in danger. Some of our family have been evacuated from that area as well, and are safe.

Meanwhile, food, meals, writing–it’s been hard to concentrate on anything else while we wait; yet life doesn’t stop. We have our “go bags” pretty ready; and my computer bag is next to my desk so I can pack my laptop quickly in the event the fire moves toward us.

According to San Jose Fire Chief, as of Sunday morning they expect winds, light rain, and possibly more dry lightning strikes–something we sure don’t need right now! Praying God will light up the world over the ocean rather than in the forests!

I am calmer now, but seem to go in cycles of fear and then release, recognizing there’s nothing we can do except be prepared and pay attention. So far, the fire seems to be moving a bit farther from us. My brother and sister-in-law have offered us a haven if we need to leave.

And we’re certainly not alone. Floods are pounding the South and East of the United States. Hurricane Marco threatens the Gulf Coast, closely followed by Tropical Storm Laura, which has already impacted Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and is expected to slam Cuba on Monday.

I hurt for the many who have lost family members, homes or structures. It’s good to grieve, to weep with friends, to sit and listen to their pain. Even Jesus, who was perfect and knew He would reverse Lazarus’ death, wept with Mary and Martha as they grieved the loss of their brother. But after He listened and wept, He called Lazarus forth out of that grave!

We are so grateful for the many who are praying for us, and for California.

  • Grateful for yesterday’s report that Mount Hermon is okay at this time. All staff are safe.
  • Twin Lakes Church’s Camp Hammer is partially burned. Some of the cabins are still there and the forest is evidently still lush and green, and all staff are safe. May God bring beauty from the ashes!
  • Grateful for loving family and friends.
  • Deeply grateful for our firefighters, as well as those coming in from other states and even other countries to help fight these massive fires; for the sheriffs and police who are helping people evacuate, working long hard hours. Thank you to each of you. We are praying for you.

Earlier this week a dear friend recommended we read Psalm 36. Yesterday I read it aloud for our morning devotions, tears coming to my eyes. What a precious scripture!

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies… How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings …

Psalm 36:5,7

I have been through several major challenges in my life and, while it’s taken time to work through those issues with God, He has never failed me. And He will not. Tim Keller said Jesus didn’t suffer so we wouldn’t suffer. He suffered for us so when we suffer — and all will! — He can REDEEM it!

Crises such as these do remind us of what’s most important–our relationship with God, family and friends. An old friend used to say the two things that last are God’s Word and people! If you’re not sure of your relationship with God, I encourage you to read John 3:16-18 and Romans 10. I welcome any questions you may have.

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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3:16-18

He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I John 5:12

California and our nation, you continue to be in our prayers.