Tag Archive: love

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.

Restore

Even in the midst of a new variant, Omicron, on the Covid pandemic, our lives during Christmas and New Year’s felt full. While our get-togethers were with smaller family groups, we enjoyed the times we could be together.

This week? I find myself a bit lethargic, tired, unmotivated. Do you? Seems that now that life is quieter again I’m kind of worn out. We’re tired of masking, of conflict within families and friendships, of isolation.

I think that’s normal after the holidays; perhaps more so with the continuing pandemic. Friday afternoon Don and I took a wonderful 3.5 hour nap (very unusual!), then slept a full night. After church and Starbucks this morning, we took a walk with Paigey in her stroller. She seemed very content in the beautiful sunshine and fresh air, while we got some steps in. It was a renewing time for us.

So how do we respond to a bit of a letdown after a busy and uplifting time?

Following are a few things I find restorative:

Music can soothe the soul
  • Naps are helpful but, then, I’m retired. Not everyone has room in their life for naps. I didn’t either when I worked full-time.
  • Walks in the fresh air are renewing.
  • We enjoy our Sunday ritual of church and Starbucks, hearing the Word taught, then hanging out together.
  • Reading–the scriptures or a good book.
  • Listening to a challenging podcast.
  • Listening to, or playing, music. This afternoon we listened to a number of the old hymns we grew up with and felt encouraged. I used to play piano well, but am seriously out of practice. Nevertheless, those times when I sit on the bench of my mother’s piano and play, my soul feels restored.
  • Focus on a specific scripture, like Psalm 23. Close your eyes. What does it mean to you that the Lord is your Shepherd? That he leads you beside quiet waters and refreshes your soul? I used to have a favorite mental picture of a certain valley on the drive from San Jose to Fresno. The grass was lush, trees scattered about, and a lovely, bubbling stream wended its way through the valley. I can picture myself walking with Jesus in that valley, being refreshed in His company.
  • In the same chapter, think of what it means that He walks through the valley of the shadow of death with us? I experienced that with the loss of my first husband. No, He didn’t remove the pain; but He gave purpose and presence during the loss.
  • Last, find someone who needs help, and give it! I’ve found there’s not much sweeter than meeting someone who is lonely, or hungry, whom I can help, sometimes in little ways by giving a packet of non-perishables, sometimes by listening, bringing groceries or a meal, sometimes by praying for the person(s). Giving renews the spirit.
  • Exercise thankfulness. Like a muscle, it grows with use and changes our perspective.
  • Focus on his love–for you.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

I John 4:9-11

Did I mention naps? I took a short one before finishing this. Sweet! And I’m challenging myself with this post. These are the things I need to do to renew, to step out of my lethargy and move ahead with those tasks God has given me to do.

What do you do to renew yourself?

Blessings!

Yes? No? Wait?

Most of us have seen the news: seventeen missionaries, serving Christ in Haiti, abducted. Among them are two teenagers and children aged eight months, three and six years. The missionaries had been brought back to the US and Canada after the assassination of Haiti’s President, but were recently sent back to the country.

In a letter, the families of those abducted said “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.”

The group invited people to join them in prayer for the kidnappers as well as those kidnapped. They expressed gratitude for help from “people that are knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with” such situations.

I grieve for these men and women, for mothers trying to care for an infant and two small children in captivity. These missionaries are from Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist groups, while Don’s and my roots are of Mennonite origin. And I pray for their protection, for grace in their captivity, for their release.

And God cares!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:6-8

He also brings hope.

Hope when discouragement seems to reign over the world and our hearts.

Hope when we feel lost inside, fearful.

Hope that comes from his Word, which is still so very relevant today; and from his Spirit within us that speaks truth to us.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17, ESV

In spite of abduction, war, death, fire, flood, as well as personal challenges, God promises us hope which comes from faith if we will spend time listening to, and reading or hearing his message to us. Faith that what we see is not all there is.

The Bible is God’s love letter to you and me. Who else sent His Son, the eternal Son of God and part of the Triune God, to live among us, to show us the character of God. No other religious leader has died a horrific death, rising three days later to conquer death and offer us eternal life through His sacrifice for us.

Some think God is punishing, vengeful, that he could not possibly forgive what they have done. But look at the promise in John 3:16-17, verses familiar to many of us:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17

His desire is not vengeance, but reconciliation, relationship.

And God’s answers to prayer are not always what we think is best. His answer may be “Wait”, as it was when I longed for my first husband to pop the question! It may be “No,” as it was when people around the world prayed for the release of missionaries Jim Elliott, Nate Saint and three others at the hands of the Auca Indians in 1956. No, God didn’t spare the lives of these five men who were trying to reach a tribe in Ecuador with the Good News about Jesus. But through that murder, and through the continuing faithfulness of Jim Elliott’s widow, Elizabeth and Nate Saint’s sister Rachel, that entire tribe came to faith in Christ. His is a long view, if you will. This earth is but one step in our life’s journey. Eternity will be, well, eternal!

lightning unk on green grass field
Photo by Alexandre Bringer on Pexels.com

And his answer may be “Yes.” The daughter of friends was to be married at two o’clock this afternoon, outdoors in the Santa Cruz mountains. As many of you know, we have a storm today–heavier rains in northern California and in the mountains, with evacuation orders in place for parts of Santa Cruz because of debris and the threat of falling trees.

Don and I have prayed much this week for this wedding. We’ve prayed for rain, and didn’t want to ask God to shut the windows of heaven. We also wanted this family to have a wonderful day of celebration. Impossible to have both? When they planned the wedding the weather was projected to be clear; now there were no canopies available for rent in the area, for either the outdoor wedding or reception.

brown trees under blue sky
Photo by Jelena Juhnevica on Pexels.com

Our pastor told us this morning that another wedding at the outdoor venue cancelled yesterday (Saturday), and our friends moved their wedding up by a day. Photographer, caterers, pastor, all were available a day early and the couple had a wonderful wedding day without rain. I expect many were praying for this, and give glory to God for making a way in a situation that seemed impossible.

I don’t know what God will do with these abducted missionaries. My mind is not his. But I know this. God is good, and he loves each of those seventeen adults and children. And he will work through the resolution of this horrendous situation, whatever it may be. AND, he wants us to ask! Please join me in prayer for them.

Father, good God, please grant your peace to these servants of yours as they wait in captivity. Convict the gang members and show them your love through this group. Provide the grace that's needed for each person, and especially for the parents of the small children as they help their little ones navigate captivity. I pray the group will be able to stay together so they can encourage and uplift each other. Keep your word alive in their hearts. And in your mercy, I ask for their release. Be with their families; and in whatever comes, may your name be lifted up! In Jesus' name.

Amen!

But God …

P1090285

Like most of us, I want to live with purpose. And yet at times I find my purpose wavering … I need a rest; I’m not equipped to deal with that issue; that person’s pain is too much for me to handle. I’m overwhelmed! Do you ever feel like that?

I pulled out a post from six years ago because I was reminded of it in our pastor’s sermon this morning.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–

Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV

That’s the beauty of God’s empowering. Many challenges are too much for me to handle. I am inadequate. I don’t know what to do. But my God will enable me if I take one step at a time, believing He will meet me at the next one.

I experienced many God-moments when my first husband was waiting for an organ transplant in Florida. Three thousand miles from home, we needed housing, local support, and insurance approval. In one email to friends I expressed the challenges we faced, then listed some of the ways we had seen God’s love and grace. I wrote:

“We are in big trouble on our own (health, costs, housing, ongoing tests) … it isn’t a bed of roses …

BUT GOD … allowed Jerry’s test results Friday to be positive, removing a potential obstacle to transplantation …

BUT GOD … ensured final dollar authorization for the dual transplant …

crop colleagues shaking hands in office
Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

BUT GOD … led our California pastor to connect us with Pastor X here in Gainesville, with whom we’ve already started to have wonderful fellowship and support …

BUT GOD … led Pastor X to follow up with us and to allow us to share with his church body, which is actively responding to our needs.

BUT GOD … has shown us His faithfulness over and over through people we’ve met, the kindness of strangers in antique shops who’ve offered us housing or suggested resources, and by giving us incredible opportunities to connect with people and share our lives and His faithfulness with them.”

Dr. Helen Rosaveare was a single missionary working in the Congo from 1953 to 1973. During the political instability of the 1960s she was brutally gang-raped by rebels. As she tells it, during that terror one word kept recurring in her mind. “Privilege.” She had the privilege of suffering for Christ. That is truly beyond one’s own capability, strength or adequacy.

But GOD empowered her to survive that and continue to minister for Him.

Grace. It’s all God’s grace. It’s not good when someone is raped, murdered, terminally ill, depressed, or insecure. But it is grace, the grace of God that shows up when we most need it, that empowers us to take one step at a time, experiencing His presence which then empowers us to take the next step. Sometimes I think I’ve done something of value … but then I’m reminded that it is all about the grace of God. He uses our availability even more than our ability.

Here’s the rest of that wonderful passage which speaks so clearly of the “But Gods” in our lives, and of the grace he gives us day by day. We were born with a sin nature, following our own desires and impulses. And then Paul writes this message of amazing hope.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV

So what are the “But Gods” in your life? I’d love to hear.

What is Love?

“Love is a choice of the will, not a servant to the emotions.”

Many of us are familiar with I Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul’s love chapter.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

I Corinthians 13:4-8a

These are great tests for how I’m loving my husband, my family, friends and neighbors. And those with whom I disagree!

Do I want the best for my partner, or only those lovely things he does for me?

Do I insist on my own way, and become resentful when I don’t get it?

When my husband (or wife) is discouraged, how can I come alongside to encourage and strengthen him (her) with hope?

Where do I most need patience, kindness, goodness in my relationships?

What difference does it make if I show Christ-like love when my partner or friend doesn’t?

I’m happily ensconced in my second marriage, having lost one spouse to death. HARD? No words for it! Don’t waste your moments together!

But in both marriages to men I love(d) deeply, there were times when I didn’t like them very much. Didn’t feel particularly attracted to them. No soft, snuggly warmth. More like this worn-down barn.

So what can you or I do when that is the case?

Remember that love is a choice. And its accompanying feelings cycle. At times attraction and warm, fuzzy feelings peak and we’re crazy in love with the other person. At other times something they do, which may be quite minor, tips the scales and we want to correct them, stop them, express our anger or frustration.

Love is a choice. If we wait patiently, the cycle will again change. Godly love, the kind spoken of in I Corinthians 13, chooses to upbuild and uplift the other even when circumstances are less than ideal. 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, Russell Wilson, paraphrased his father’s instruction to him…

“To the young boy or girl who has a dream, who wants to make a difference. Remember this one thing: love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love changes things.”

https://www.christianpost.com/news/russell-wilson-named-nfl-man-of-the-year-quotes-1-corinthians.html

I think of husbands who love their disabled wives, care for them, help meet their needs with understanding hearts. I read about a man who visited his wife in the Alzheimer’s Unit of a care center every day. She didn’t recognize him any more. Because of a stroke, her lip drooped on one side. Every day her husband would do his best to match the curve of her lip as he kissed her, then served her in any way he could.

I’m grateful for wives who encourage husbands who are discouraged and unsure which direction to go.

I thank God for the partners who commit to the long road of rebuilding a marriage after trust has been broken by infidelity.

And for those who, through good days and bad, support, pray for and encourage their mates.

That’s the kind of lover and friend I want to be.

My husband shows his love for me consistently and in many ways–on a cold morning he’ll start my car so it warms up before I have to leave for an appointment.

He makes breakfast every day to free me to write in the mornings.

We hug and encourage each other when one of us is discouraged, down.

We pray together for our families, friends, our nation.

And I am blessed in his love and, from what he tells me, he is in mine.

But think about the people around you who may be lonely–either married or single–but not experiencing the love and true partnership of either a spouse or a family member. What can you and I do today, this week, to reach out and extend love to someone near who may look like all is well, but inside is not?

I’m going to call my single neighbor right now.