He Saw and Believed

Dear Cameron Joshua and Erin Marie,

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Today there is a crisis in our nation and the country is in a Stay In Place order due to a virus called Corona virus, which means we aren’t able to meet together for what for us is the most blessed celebration of our faith, Easter Sunday.  I have been missing you both so profoundly as you, Erin, turn 6 weeks old, and you, Cameron, turn 3 in a few weeks. I am missing more of your life than I ever thought I would but today Hope resurfaced.

Today my beautiful grandchildren, today, your Papa got up and made coffee for us, then he showered and put on a suit and tie. I followed his lead and dressed for church as if it was any other normal Sunday. We got in our car and drove off to the church.

John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.

Today your Papa went into an empty church, and said to the essential staff that it takes to preach an online message to and said, “The church may be empty this morning but so was the tomb and we are going to proclaim the WORD to more people than we would have reached normally.”

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Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

Your Papa met Jesus when he was not much older than you are and he has proclaimed him since. He wasn’t going to stay home and not reach anyone on this day, THE DAY,  our faith is built on. He was going to go to his pulpit and shout it out to the world. This isn’t any ordinary day and this isn’t a day to be taken casually. Is any day really?

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If you’ve ever preached to an empty room it isn’t easy. You get feedback and body language from those who are present and came to hear. It helps you move forward but your Papa has been doing this a long time. And he pushed through knowing he was called by God to give Hope and an invitation.

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So today he was a Pastor to a world who is scared that they will get a virus. He preached for you both, that you always know that Jesus is the center of our life. He preached to the ones who still don’t know about Jesus and he reminded me and himself that Jesus is the center of it all. While God has sat us all down, Papa is still doing what he has called to do.

I wrote all of this out in my bible today but just in case it is lost, technology will live on. One thing you will have forever is that Nana and Papa love you with their whole heart and you have a strong legacy of prayer and service to the Church and Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! He is Risen. We have hope and God’s Promises.

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Aiming Faithfully

Garett Kelli

The disciples were asked to watch and pray while their Shepherd soon to be Savior went off to pray. Distracted, not sensing the importance of the training and the hour they found themselves in, they quietly fell asleep. How alone Jesus must have felt. Yet in just a short while he would endure the cross and let God be famous.

Pastors feel this way sometimes too. Lonely. Yet their faithfulness to their calling keeps them steadfast knowing they are truly never alone and that Jesus is nearby. Never wavering to the allure of slumber or limelight although both sometimes seem appealing they keep moving forward. Big boisterous voices wagging fingers in condemnation or watered down gospels get applause and a sensation of grandeur for a moment while the pastors in the trenches of community work year after year to train those at the sound of their voice to listen for the voice of Jesus. Let God be famous.

Beth Moore said, “Cynicism is just arrogance pretending to be smart.” We can criticize the church and/or their leaders, tell you how we would do it, tell you that she is irrelevant but we would be exalting ourselves and not the one who reigns supreme. Let God be famous .

No, it would do us best to serve and love faithfully. When my husband was a young pastor a pastor and mentor told him, “Doug, if you want to make a difference in your community, plant deeps roots in the city, buy a pick up truck, and serve the people.” In other words, don’t quit. Make a difference where you are planted. Serve God faithfully, do what you can do for people and let God be famous.

The Custody Dispute

Lulu the Wonder Dog came to me in 2007. She stole my heart and set me right. She taught me so many lessons. Only some of which I have shared on this blog over the years.

Then just before Christmas she went down. And just like that I found myself in the middle of a custody dispute. She spent a day where she didn’t want to eat and she didn’t want to play. I called the vet and got in that very day, and bloodwork and an exam yielded no explanation. A geriatric dog they said. Lulu and I rebuked the diagnosis as she was sharp and athletic and besides who calls an old gal geriatric to her face? Oh she had a few fatty tumors that dogs of a certain age get but we dealt with it like we deal with that occasional chin hair.

I put my forehead to her forehead and we prayed. I asked God to prolong her life. I asked for wisdom and to send us the right vet who wouldn’t just call her old to her face.

We muddled through Christmas and she would rally and then set back. New Years Eve she kept getting up to clear her throat and I woke up with her several times. So New Years day we were back at the vet. Another vet saw her and diagnosed her. cancer. I refuse to capitalize it. Lymph nodes swollen, thyroid enlarged all indications of cancer. He told me she was still in decent shape. It wasn’t time to make decisions yet but to take her home and make her comfortable. He also warned me that her death would probably not be pretty. Somehow I got us both out to the car before I broke down sobbing so hard I could not catch my breath. Again, I asked the Lord for more time. The custody dispute was in full swing.

The following day she was semi-back to normal. Eating, running around and bossing our two year old golden retriever, Baron around.

Day 2 of the diagnosis, she eats her breakfast and just for fun, goes and eats a part of Baron’s food. And I thank God and think things are good. I go off to run errands and when I come back things are not good at all. I call the vet and we head for an emergency visit. I get the same vet from two days before and he says, “Aw man, I thought for sure we had more time with this sweet girl.”

And just like that it’s over. I lost my custody dispute. I called unfair advantage and at the same time I thanked God for the gift of Lulu The Wonder Dog and told him I guess he needed her more. For those of you who don’t believe there are dogs in heaven don’t bother with rude replies. I read about lions, and lambs, and horses and if heaven is all it is cracked up to be, and I believe that it is, then of course Lulu is there because well, heaven wouldn’t be heaven without her.

So alright Lord, you win this custody dispute but I know your promises are true and I know that I am saved and heaven bound so it’s just a matter of time.

And I know what you are asking. What about Baron? Baron is a complete love. He’s smart in a dog way, he loves to snuggle, he is thief of just about anything, and he has been known to snatch and grab off of the counter when he thinks no one is looking. He’s your typical dog though, but we have bonded more so over the last couple of days of grief. He is moping around the house. He woke me up at least three times the night Lulu didn’t come home. Now each time I walk in the door he comes up and sniffs me to see if I know of her whereabouts and walks away and plops down and sighs. I get it. I miss her too.

My husband said in his loving way to get a grip when I told him I was done with dogs and never wanted another one again. “Listen, you’ll never have another dog like Lulu because there just has never been a dog like Lulu and there can’t be. She’s one of a kind. But you’ll have to think about getting a bonehead dog for Baron because he truly is grieving.”

It’s too soon for me to think about it. Ok he answered. Maybe in five years. Maybe never.

Love hurts.

Love hurts.

Love hurts.

But I never could imagine my life without her and if I was offered the chance to do it all again with her I would say a million times yes.

Oh and the custody dispute? I resolve to deal with it because ultimately Lulu The Wonder Dog was always his and merely entrusted to me for a season. I took ownership because it”s like having kids, we think they’re possessions but they aren’t at all. I feel pretty blessed though that the Lord trusted me with her. I have to be on the top of his list to get that assignment. Or maybe she was at the top and God knew I needed help. After all, I said all the time I didn’t know who rescued who.

In the meantime, it is pretty still and quiet at the Young’s house as we begin to try to adjust. So say a little prayer for us and hug your dogs a little tighter. And if you think about it, give them a little treat in honor of Lulu. Not a dog treat as that is common and she would turn her nose up for sure and would expect your dog, if they had dignity at all, to do the same. Instead give them a big scoop of whipped cream, that would please her to no end. She loved everyone and it would make her happy to know she made someone’s day a little brighter.

Accusations Abound

A friend called to ask advice over an incident that occurred. I listened carefully, then I laughed because what do you do other than laugh? The story went like this. My friend has three dogs. As with most pet owners they are indoor/outdoor dogs and at any given moment they can be inside or outside.

The neighbor children took to daring each other to climb over the fence into my friend’s yard to see what the dogs would do. My friend’s dog’s are trained and friendly but they are dogs and therefore can react differently than anticipated if they feel threatened. My friend happened to be home to see the children climb over into her yard and her dogs, fortunately reacted accordingly without barking or acting aggressively.

Upon further thought, she walked over to the neighbor’s home and politely told the mother about the incident telling her that her dogs were trained but that dogs react differently under pressure and she didn’t want anyone to get hurt. The mother became angry and said that these dogs “better not” bite her children. Rather than apologizing for her trespassing children she went into accusation mode. My friend shouldn’t have dogs if they are going to hurt children. Needless to say the conversation didn’t go well. The mother told my friend she would call the police because her dogs were dangerous.

What do you do when there is no foundation for an accusation? I remember a similar incident when we had our cat Joy who passed away of old age a few years ago. A neighbor came to my door and said that my cat was getting the other cats pregnant on our block and I needed to do something about it. She knew this because the kittens looked like my cat she explained. I assured her that it was not my cat as my cat was female and spayed. She shouted, “Are you sure because these kittens sure look like your cat?” Believe me I am sure.

One of the 10 Commandments is that you should not lie about your neighbor. I know these sets of basic human decency boundaries are considered outdated but they still hold true today for a civilized society. How do we hold to tenants that no longer apply? For those of us in Christ the bearing of false witness is a real thing. In a world where the media reports and then fact checks later it can get confusing as to what is right and what is wrong. Friends, don’t be deceived. We will give an account to God for every word that proceeds from our mouth. In a culture where truth isn’t valued it will be important to keep yourself clean of these types of infractions. Instead keep your peace. The accusations being thrown about are truly not your concern and don’t add a minute to your day.

My advice to my friend? Guard your pearls. Matthew 7:6

Prayer For My Journey

1AC6FDBB-D623-4637-8A03-5AA9C70494EDI still look for your input and find it missing. I absentmindedly go to Facebook looking for your comments or look for our last text and email to see what you have to say about something. After years of your advice where does one go to hear wisdom from a godly sage?

Peers? No, my peers are on the same journey I am on. Maybe different circumstances but they aren’t looking back to advise their younger self as you were with me.

I remember the last time we spoke you said God had spoken and he was taking you on a new journey. You were so happy to hear and waiting in anticipating of what it might be. You said, “Oh Honey, at my age to be doing a new thing is exciting and scary all at once.” What we didn’t know was that the new thing was going to be your greatest calling.

A heart attack the very next week and the words that I didn’t want to hear, “Nothing more we can do.” But you rejoiced. Your voice was breathy and strong as you said, “Oh Honey, I so love you but don’t pray for my healing. Pray for my journey that I not tarry here. I am excited to see Jesus face to face.” Then in your sarcastic way, which maybe would have scared me if you hadn’t have said it but you said, “I have friends coming out of the woodwork wanting to pray for my healing. I don’t want them to pray for my healing, I want them to pray for my journey. Honey, tell them not to pray for my healing.”

So when Pastor Ida called to find out the details, I spoke up as you have taught, “She is ready to go. She asked that we not pray for her healing but for her journey.” Pastor Ida comforted me as only she can. She was a dear, dear friend to you and has been wonderful to me.

The last call when you assured me that they were treating you well and spoiling you rotten and that you loved me didn’t go unnoticed. You wanted us to know how much you loved us and you didn’t want us to worry.

Even in your passing from this temporal life to your eternal home you taught me to stand strong on my faith. You never ceased being a mentor in this Jesus life we live.

To always follow Jesus.

To put your fears aside.

To carry on because an unimaginable hope awaits.

To pray for our journey.

One step at a time.

So today if you are reading this, my spiritual mother, Doris Avila has gone on to be with Jesus. Never one to be shy about her faith she taught me to stand strong. Over and over again she offered advice, counseled, prayed, gave words of knowledge, heard my heart, told me when I was wrong, and loved me through it all.

If you don’t have a mentor, I urge you to get one. Then I urge you to listen. My very first visit to her home she corrected me. “We say Grace in this home before we put food in our mouth.” I was embarrassed at my misstep. I apologized and got on with the meal because as I was to find out, she was an excellent cook. To think, I would have lost all of that precious advice had I walked away offended. Instead I stayed and listened and gleaned. Find that one, my friend. She will make your journey one of blessing. As you read this, pray for my journey as I walk it out without one who always had a listening ear. That voice for me is gone in the physical realm but her words still ring strong in my heart. May it be so for you.

 

The Strong Women Beside Me

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Today we lay to rest a mighty woman of God. Terri Rivas, on the left in this picture, came to our TLC4Women bible study years ago. A quiet woman with a bible and pen in her hand, she had been invited by a pillar in our group her best friend Bernie, on the right above. Both women had been friends with each other for over 50 years. They each attended different churches but they each loved to study the word. Bernie is a solid, grounded, woman of the word and so I knew her friend would be as well. What does it say that two women are friends for 50 years? In a time when we are offended so easily and friendships tend to come and go, this was something to be admired.

It didn’t take long for me to find out that Terri was not quiet at all. She had a quick wit and would make all of us laugh with that smirk-y smile she would get right before she made a comment.  She celebrated all of our successes and she told about her escapades with Bernie. Bernie and Terri wouldn’t sit together in study because Terri would say she was afraid Bernie would get her into trouble.

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I discovered that I could go to Terri for anything and she would pray. She wasn’t about gossip and she wasn’t about drama but she could pray. I saw why she and Bernie were such great friends. Two women who stood strong on the word of God and were mentors to each of us in the group. When Terri decided to move her membership to our church, she came with a notepad, scriptures, and a word from the Lord, BUT she wanted to talk to us first to make sure that we knew she would not to be any trouble. She taught me about honor and hearing from the Lord.  She wasn’t going to walk on what she thought was the right thing to do she weighed it out, got counsel, and waited on God.

When she decided to retire from the hospital we talked about it and it turned out she didn’t have to retire she could work from home. She was thrilled to do that but again, wanted us to pray to make sure it was the right thing to do.

When Terri developed Parkinson’s she came to me with a quake in her voice and announced the news. I could tell it had shaken her and I had never seen her scared before, she had faith for so many others, in that moment I needed her to have that same faith for herself. I reminded her that the Great Physician had the final say and we prayed together. I honestly didn’t think I would lose her. I thought she would battle on. She had been through a lot in her life and I thought this would be another victory story. When she determined that she could no longer trust her driving at night she told me bible study would be out. I told her to let Bernie bring her. She instantly replied, “Have you ever been in a car with Bernie? Pastor Susan I want to live.” I answered, “Well, at least you’d go together right?” She laughed and said, “Bernie would probably survive.” But laughter or not, scared or not, there would Terri be, walking in the door of bible study with Bernie.

Terri, I love you, I will miss you. The impact you have made on my life cannot be measured. I was graced by your friendship. I was graced by your love of my children and my grandson. And even though I mourn the loss of you here on earth, you won the victory. I know that you made it home safely. That all of the promises of God are true and that we will one day be together again. I’m sure you are talking to loved ones and strangers and everyone you meet. You’re making people laugh, and you’re awaiting the time when we’re all joined together again.

Proverbs 31:29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

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What’s Coming Out?

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That’s the problem with the Pounce and Flounce isn’t it? We make definitive statements for drama’s effect only to have it boomerang.

To the significant other: “I’m leaving!”, when we know we aren’t going anywhere for long.

To the family or friend: “You hurt me and I’m not coming back until you say sorry.” Then we take every opportunity to let everyone know why we are feuding, or worse we pretend innocence and point to how people hurt us.

To anyone that will listen: “I don’t know why I stayed this long.”

Or in other words,

“You can’t tell me what to do.” 

To the Authority Figure: “Well if you’re going to do that then I’m not participating.”

Then we walk out as if we’re a commanding general who just won a war. We Pounce on the person and Flounce away to show them. Show them what though? Show them that we are masters at manipulation. This is the adult version of the two year-old trantrum being played out. 

When the trantrum is over and we calm down, and want/need, to come back, now we either have to apologize or have that awkward thing of the pounce and flounce between us that needs to be addressed.

Sometimes we pretend nothing happened. Sometimes we are violent slanderers, sometimes we are silent stew-ers, sometimes we play injured party accepting no responsibility and pointing fingers or worse we act as if all of this is so beneath us and we don’t care a bit about it in retaliation.

If we do it often enough, and with Social Media, we certainly have an easy platform, we develop a reputation of histrionics where people ignore our high drama. We become unsafe because others never know when it will turn on them and they will be the object of the next post.

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You see whatever is in our hearts comes spilling out. Now that we have a world wide platform people get to see who we really are. Hey, I’m not immune to cringe-worthy posts either. I’m not ashamed to take down posts that  I have posted which turn negative. It is not beneath me to just say no and sorry to something which may inflame people I care about.

Recently our church had 21 Days Of Prayer where prayers were written on cards and then each night we gathered together to pray for each card. There were incredible testimonies of breakthrough, miracles of healing, and in the midst of the profound and sacred some took the opportunity of prayer to chastise another. I called it the pounce and flounce of prayer. The violence of this action shows the power of our world today in which we can hide behind words not spoken face to face. Cowardly at best, the pounce and flounce has taken on new levels. The cards were quickly plucked from the pile and shredded. The Bible says that what is in the heart comes out and I wonder as believers how we think this honors God? I wonder how I honor God?

Proverbs 21:2 All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart.

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

So while I examine my heart for impure motive, I urge you to take a walk through your heart and settle the issues that so quickly ensnare us into behavior that will never lead us to victory.