Tag Archive: Hope

post by carolnl | | Closed

Meaningful Days

I looked out the back window as our car pulled into the Fresno parking lot Saturday after a three-hour drive. A lovely, white-haired woman in a striking blue outfit walked toward the buildings behind us.

“That’s Judy,” I told Don. “Now we know where to go.”

Golden Grads

My 50th college reunion should have been two years ago. However, due to Covid, it has been postponed two years, so this luncheon included my class and the two following.

We were greeted by Glen. He looked familiar.

“Do I know you?” I asked. “Were we in the same class? I was in ’70.”

Can you tell we enjoyed being together again?

“Oh no.” He chuckled. “I was in the 1990s.”

Embarrassed, I apologized! But I expected folks from my college years–and Glen has lovely white hair, as does my husband.

Later my thoughts melded. Glen had mentioned his older brother Mark. He and my younger brother Bob were close friends. Not only that, Glen was in the church high school youth group when Bob and Sheila were advisors. So, we found our history, and I think he forgave me for initially thinking him significantly older than he is.

Two of my best college buds, Judy and Shirley, were present, along with Pat, Shirley’s husband Jim, and a few others I recognized or reconnected with. One I dated when I was fourteen (chuckle) and his wife.

As the “Golden Grads” introduced themselves, I delighted in hearing how my Fresno Pacific University colleagues have been used by God, and seen him at work, over the years.

Pastoring, teaching, mission work, farming, and human resources have filled these years for most, along with training their children to walk in God’s ways. More recently, my colleagues continue to contribute to the Kingdom through volunteering in a variety of charities and service agencies, serving on boards, organizing a group to tutor children, and writing.

It was heartwarming to be in the company of these long-time and dear friends, and we hated to say goodbye.

Family Visits

From the reunion Don and I drove to a Little League park where my brother Mel’s grandson had a game. By the time we got there the game was over, but we sat at a picnic table and talked, with Mel, Marcy and Bryan and their children, Avery and Asher; and Gail. While Bryan took the worn-out children home, Marcy and Gail stayed and visited with Mel, Don and me.

Last, we met Don’s nephew and niece for dinner. While the sound in the restaurant was loud, the food was great–Don and I shared shish-ke-babs with very tender beef. We hadn’t seen John and Norma in several years and enjoyed catching up with them.

Receiving, and Finding, Blessings

As we enjoyed the three-hour drive back home, I reminisced about the friends I’d seen, the memories they evoked, the warmth of reuniting with them, Mel and part of his family, and John and Norma.

What a blessing to have the foundation of a Christian home, college, family, and long-term friends.

If you’re missing some of that blessing, I encourage you to find a group–or to reconnect with one–with whom you can share God stories, hear echoes of his faithfulness, pray for and support each other.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

That group may be among your co-workers.

It may be within your church or parish.

It may be people you’ve known for a long time.

The triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are a community of three in one. We are created in his image, therefore, we are meant to be in community for support, encouragement, healing, challenge.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

Mother’s Day

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I miss my sweet, gracious Mom. But she and my dear Dad are in heaven, rejoicing and worshipping our Creator, the Lover of our Souls.

I have not borne children. And yet God has gifted me, not only with Don’s family, but also daughters in faith. My God gave me love for others and I received several Mother’s Day notes that touched my heart. You know who you are, and I love you and pray God will continue the good work he started in each of you (Philippians 1:6).

Pakistani child amid rubble Department for International Development_Russell Watkins. License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

My heart is full this weekend. And yet I ache for those mothers around the world who have lost or been separated from their children, are refugees, are trying to feed their children. In our thankfulness, let’s not forget to pray for them!

So, my gratitude goes out, not only to my own mother, but to all the good mothers in the world who love, train, correct, protect, and guide their children while caring for a myriad of other tasks in or outside the home.

“My mother was my role model before I even knew what that word was.” 

Lisa Leslie
Photo by Squiggle; License, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Do you recall special moments with your mother? Or with old friends? I’d love to hear about them.

All Nations, Tribes, People, and Languages

Don and I had the privilege this morning of watching a daughter in the faith baptized, a public confession of her faith in Jesus Christ.

I am encouraged as I watch what God is doing, here in America and around the world.

This week I’ve been especially challenged by two articles in the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) magazine. I confess I have my prejudices. I don’t want them, but they are there. So often I’ve thought of people in third-world countries who can’t read as being less intelligent than me. And yet, I just read about two men who upend that stereotype with their faith and outreach to thousands in the name of Jesus.

Bahmin, a Tuareg, was in prison in the Sahara Desert for three years for his participation in a crime. No windows, just openings in the walls.

Sweltering heat.

photo of desert
Photo by Ali Abdel Radi on Pexels.com

No AC.

Filth.

Then a group of men came into the prison. They installed windows in the openings, put fans in every cell, cleaned the bathrooms and even brought in a TV for the prisoners. These men were not associated with the prison. They were Christians who came to serve. Then they came on Sundays to share the gospel.

Bahmin says that before they even spoke about Jesus he was open to the good news of salvation because he saw their love in action. After his release, he studied with a pastor, led his family to Christ and then many of his relatives.

rear view of a silhouette man in window
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

“The truth I discovered is about Jesus,” he told them plainly. “He is the way. He is the light. Whoever does not follow Him cannot meet God.” (VOM, March 2022/Vol 56 No 3, p 7). (From the Gospel of John 14:6).

Mahmud, a Fulani, moved away from Niger because he didn’t want to be involved with a Christian missionary there. Twenty years later he returned to Niger and finally requested help from another missionary to enroll his eleven children in school. Soon he and his family committed their lives to Christ. His wife had already become a believer, but had been afraid to tell Mahmud for fear of being beaten.

Mahmud lived and worked alongside the missionary for the next sixteen years and, as his children became adults, five of them joined their father in sharing the gospel with the Fulani. They teach groups that are often more than 100 at a time. Since many Fulani are unable to read, they begin their presentation playing a section of an audio Bible, teach, then leave the audio Bible and return later to answer questions.

These men have a goal of reaching all the Tuareg and Fulani tribes for Jesus. Both have led hundreds to Christ over the past years. Bahmin, his son and cousin have established 33 churches in three years.

Bahmin and Mahmud are committed to sharing the gospel, whatever the cost. They have experienced some persecution and tell new believers to expect it. “If Christ Himself was persecuted, it is natural [that his followers will be persecuted]”, said Mahmud.

These stories remind me that God is at work both here in America and around the world. One day all men will acknowledge Jesus Christ, the sacrificial lamb, as Lord. As scripture tells us,

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne,

and to the Lamb.”

Revelation 7:9-10

I’m so glad for these men who teach about Jesus in countries far from where I live. God’s Word transcends language and culture. Where I have the benefit of education and literacy, they have the benefit of realizing in a very deep way that only through Jesus can they have peace and the hope of eternity.

I’m reminded of a trip we took to Israel. Several in our group wanted to be baptized in the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized. They had sectioned off areas for the individual groups. One one side I heard praise songs in English; on another, in an Asian language and still another, in rich, deep African voices. And I thought “This is a little taste of heaven.”

God bless you, Bahram, Mahmud and your families. We’ll celebrate together in heaven for all eternity.

He Calls Us by Name

A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

John 14:19

There will be many posts about Easter this weekend. The celebration means different things to different people … family time, Easter egg hunts, bunny rabbits, chocolate. But the greatest gift ever given was the sacrifice of God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross on that Good Friday two thousand years ago.

black cross on top of mountain
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.co

As Don and I have read parts of the Easter story in several of the gospels this year, Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection have held even more meaning than in the past. Perhaps it’s because of interring Mom’s ashes two weeks ago. Perhaps it’s because of the tension in our world. But I’ve teared up multiple times … the Cross was empty; the tomb was empty. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb on Sunday morning and, seeing Jesus, thought he was the gardener.

“Please sir, if you’ve moved him, tell me where you’ve put him.”

Then Jesus spoke one word to her.

Her name.

“Mary.”

And she recognized him.

And ran to tell the disciples. “I have seen Jesus!”

Talk about a moment!

When I ministered in the LA ghetto, our lives were frequently threatened. Often I went to bed and prayed, not knowing whether I’d waken there on Juliet Street or in heaven. One night I was especially tired, and asked God to wake me in time to go to work.

At 6:30 am I heard my name.

“Carol.”

I looked around. There was no visible presence in the room. No more words. But the voice was the sweetest, most loving sound I have ever heard. It rumbled like the rush of many waters and enclosed me in its warmth and beauty. And I wakened to the gift of another day.

So I can imagine just a bit of what Mary must have felt when Jesus called her by name.

Jesus knows you and me by name! When God called Samuel to become his priest, He called him in the night. “Samuel.” Three times.

Every time Samuel got up, thinking it was his mentor, Eli, calling him. Finally Eli realized it was the Lord speaking to Samuel. He advised the boy, and the third time Samuel heard his name, he said “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:9).

And Luke tells us to “…rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20b, NKJV)

What a glorious truth.

Because He lives, all those who have received His free gift of salvation will live with Him in eternity.

Jesus is risen. He calls me by name. And He is coming again.

Hallelujah!

Mom Was Not There

Last week I was concerned about how our small interment service for my mother would turn out, with a positive Covid test within the family, and possible concerns about being together.

I could not have been more at peace and joyful at how the day played out. While several could not attend because of illness, my oldest brother Mel drove, and nephew Josiah flew in for the service. I shared some of my sweet memories of Mom, then talked about the depression I fell into after her death. It was the perfect storm–losing Mom, Covid lockdowns, and violence in our own country. Fear clutched my heart for some time, but with the love of Don, family, wise counseling and a new medication, I was able to return to trust in the One who holds us fast. The One who held my mother in her dying, her body’s fight to hold onto life even though she was so eager to meet Jesus.

I have created you and cared for you since before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you!

Isaiah 46:3 NLT

Mom was quite healthy all her life, and mentally acute. However, there were times, especially in her last year or so, when her hearing was very poor. Once in awhile she’d catch something I said and a sparkle would light her eyes. I cherished those times. “There’s my Mom.”

Some of Mom’s grandchildren read a few of her favorite scriptures, including the one above. One played a copy of her singing “All in the April Evening” with my brother Arnold. Mel, Bob and Sheila, and Don each recalled memories of Mom, and Bob closed in prayer.

We put the box of Mom’s ashes into a pretty basket with love notes to her around it. Sheila, my very creative sister-in-law, brought a rose and a wereneki (that sweet Mennonite/ Ukrainian specialty I mentioned last week which was one of our favorite family meals) to put into the basket. I mean, when my brothers and I were younger they could down 22 or 23 of these at a time–no mean feat!

Sheila’s kids told her Mom (Grandma) would say putting those in the basket was a waste, but I could see Mom laughing in delight. “That’s great, Sheila. Thank you.”

The basket was placed above Dad’s coffin. We tossed roses into the grave and left a bouquet in the vase that would remain outside the grave.

Mom was not there. As Billy Graham once said, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

And so we leave Mom’s ashes along with Dad’s grave, a place we can visit and remember. But we leave them, knowing both Mom and Dad have gone into the presence of God.

When Plans Change …

This is not what we planned. I was in Marshall’s, looking for a basket to hold the urn with my mother’s ashes, when my sister-in-law told me her daughter had tested positive for Covid. Tears welled up in my eyes and I fought them back.

We had planned an intimate gathering to inter my mother’s ashes this Sunday. She passed into glory two years ago, but with Covid, family schedules, etc. my brother and sister-in-law still have the urn.

My niece was going to help make the after-meal–wereneki and German sausage, salad, zwieback.

  • Wereneki – cottage cheese dumplings (larger than ravioli), covered with a wonderful cream gravy
  • Zwieback – two-layer rolls, the top smaller than the bottom.

Both, along with German sausage, are part of our Mennonite / Ukrainian heritage and are delicious. Mom made them periodically and since she taught her daughter-in-law and several nieces, they have made them since. Quite labor-intensive, but so good! How would a positive Covid test impact our gathering?

Then I stopped and prayed and thought about my response. Yes, we’d made plans. Now we needed to flex. It’s possible someone else will test positive before Sunday. Some may be uncomfortable being together. The group may be composed differently than we expected. And we’ve decided, in light of possible other infections, to postpone the traditional family meal and rather enjoy lunch at an outdoor restaurant. But we’ve planned this time to honor Mom and her Lord for months, and I need to trust that, however it plays out, it will accomplish that. And we’ll go with what we can.

Mom, who loved the scriptures and prayed for her family daily

So this week, every day Sheila and I are talking by phone.

Yesterday and today I’ve felt unfocused, had a hard time knowing where to begin. I started to tear up again when I took a return package back to DHL. It’s amazing how grief can sweep over you at any trigger, and I guess this final act is a trigger for me. I know it’s not Mom we’re putting into the ground. She is just, as Billy Graham said, at a new address, and more alive than ever!

I need to remember that as we celebrate her life Sunday and say this farewell to the Mom who helped me gain the assurance of my faith in Christ, who consistently prayed for us, who graciously modeled being a wife and mother who constantly sought God’s heart. Not goodbye, Mom, but “until we meet again”.

I look forward to that day with great anticipation!

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

John 17:3 NIV