Storms of Life: Learning to Trust

The disciples were fishermen and skillful at managing a boat on the Sea of Galilee, but when a sudden storm came up, they were frightened. They didn’t know what to do. When they woke Jesus, who was asleep in the boat, they had no idea how he was going to save them. The event is recorded in Matthew 8:23-27

We like to feel that we are in control—we have expectations of how our life should go. My husband and I thought this way as we began our marriage.

We thought we would have two children in our family. (That was the recommendation for our generation because of fears of over population.) But my second pregnancy was twins. We were glad to have three children.

Fast forward six years and one of the twins was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. As we prayed for his health, he underwent chemotherapy and then a bone marrow transplant. In 1989 he entered eternal life.

We grieved. I longed for another child, knowing we could not replace Steven. But after the twins were born, I had developed severe complications. By God’s grace I did not have a hysterectomy, but I was advised not to become pregnant again.

God answered our prayers and I did conceive. I had a healthy pregnancy. God gave us a second son.

We may have expectations, but God is in control. As we consider the possibilities in life, we need to walk in relationship with God, steadfast in our faith.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will straight your path. Proverbs 3:5-6

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The Greater Good

Have you heard the phrase, “the greater good”? It refers to choices for the good of society, the good of a nation, outweighing individual rights. A high priest once spoke about the greater good for Israel.

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up. “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” [John 11: 49-50] He was referring to Jesus.

There are two assumptions in Caiaphas’ statement. While it is true that the Romans were oppressing the people of Israel and there were outbursts of violence, the whole nation was not at risk of extinction. Or was he worried about the hierarchy? The priests and Sanhedrin?  

Next, he was assuming that the death of Jesus would solve the political unrest. He assumed the death of one man would be a simple solution for a complex situation.

Yet, Jesus chose to suffer and sacrifice his life to complete God’s plan of salvation. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross did not give the result that Caiaphas expected. It did not save the governing status quo. Jesus died and arose three days later to save individuals. Before his crucifixion he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” [John 11:25]

Jesus was always concerned about the individual. He engaged with people that were despised: lepers, tax collectors, the Samaritan woman. He told the parable of the Lost Sheep as recorded in Matthew’s gospel. He spoke about the value of every child.

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18: 10-14 

I am reminded of what happened in Germany leading up to WWII. The Nazi government decided that individual rights stood in the way of building a great society. Louise Fein wrote a well-researched novel, Daughter of the Reich. The story begins in 1933, at the start of the Third Reich. As the government became more and more authoritarian, the liberty of the people was increasingly limited. The Jewish people were separated from society and terrorized. It is a haunting tale. 

The determination of “the greater good” can be based on a false premise. It can be a power grab. It can involve deception. We should learn from history.

Our leaders need wisdom from God. We need to pray for our country. God is greater than the “greater good”.

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The above illustration is The Good Shepherd painted by Ruth Owen Pook. Photograph by DTGrandfield83, CC BY-SA 4.0  via Wikimedia Commons

The Best Expectation

Throughout the past year my husband and I have been reading through the Bible. Today our reading was from 1 Chronicles and Isaiah. The books we have read clearly illustrate human nature and the problem of sin in the lives of people who have gone before us.

After God chose Israel to be a nation to follow his commands—laws that would sustain them and allow them to flourish—the people wanted a king. They wanted to be like other nations.

And so they had kings. God continued to reach out to them through the prophets, promising a Savior that would redeem them from the human pattern of sin.

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be on his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forever more. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

As years went by, the people waited. When Jesus came, he was not like their expectation. They were familiar with kings and power. They were hoping for a powerful king to overthrow the heavy hand of Roman rule.

It is interesting that in Matthew 13, Jesus tells three parables to describe the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field . . .  Again, the kingdom of heaven in like a merchant in search of fine pearls . . .  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. Matthew 13: 44, 45, 47

 It had to be so difficult to understand, that the promised Prince of Peace would also be a suffering Savior.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, as one from whom men hid their faces. He was despised , and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflected. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 52: 3-5

We live in a confusing and turbulent time. We can miss God’s plan of salvation if we are not seeking God with all our heart. What are my expectations? Can I lay them aside and wait patiently, prayerfully for God?

There is one expectation that I can claim. God will fulfill his promises.

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When the King George Asked All the People to Pray

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading How to Pray by Pete Greig and discussing the chapters with friends from our church. Chapter 6 focuses on intercession.

In this chapter Greig gives an example from WWII. He recounts the events of 1940 when allied troops were trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk. The Nazi troops were advancing toward them.

It was a desperate situation.

King George addressed the nation and asked people to go to church on Sunday, to pray for deliverance. As a result three amazing things happened. Citizens who possessed any size of boat prepared to make trips across the English Channel to rescue the soldiers—hundreds of boats assembled. The weather, clouds and storms, helped conceal their rescue mission and prevented an attack from the air. And for an unknown reason Hitler halted his ground troops. The soldiers were rescued.

We face a great challenge in our country with the pandemic and political strife. In the discussion of intercession, Grieg titles one section–Get informed: Engaging with the Facts.

With so much censorship taking place it is a challenge to get to the facts.

We have fear of covid, pressure to get vaccinated and cases of vaccine injury. There are protests over the vaccine mandate. Nurses, EMTs, pilots, firefighters and police are choosing to leave their jobs when their religious exemption is denied. 

Next week, November 8 to 11, truckers will strike, protesting the mandate.

My heart goes out to the vaccine injured who have been pretty much abandoned by our health care system. Recently a conference was held in Washington D.C. with vaccine injured people, Senator Ron Johnson and Dr. Peter Doshi. A young woman who was in a vaccine trial explained how her data was removed from the trial when she developed neurologic systems. A teenage girl was in the Pfizer trials and she in now in a wheelchair and has a feeding tube. A Pilot explained his symptoms and what happened when he was piloting a plane. A surgeon told his story. 

In order to have a deeper understanding of the vaccine issue I have been tuning into theHighWire.com. Del Bigtree was once part of the team that directed the medical talk show, The Doctors. He now has a team of lawyers and a medical journalist doing a deep dive into research. He has interviewed doctors and scientists who are raising questions. You can view the conference I mentioned on the High Wire.

When we are informed, we can ask for God’s help and guidance. 

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Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Still Believing in Difficult Times

During a difficult season of life our faith in God can be shaken. What has helped people in the past? We have examples in the Bible that point to communication/relationship with God and the experience of love and acceptance. We are blessed to have God’s word—the Bible.

Moses and Elijah led the people of Israel through very difficult situations. They spoke with God and listened for his guidance.

Moses received direction again and again from God as he led Israel out of slavery. Sometimes his nerves were frayed but he continued to seek God and obey.

Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight’. Now therefore if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Exodus 33: 12-13, 17

Elijah was called to be a prophet but endured times of great hardship. 

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives , before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word. And the word of the Lord came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. 1 Kings 17: 1-5a

Ruth, the Moabite, chose to leave her country and travel with Naomi to Israel after her husband died. Neither Ruth nor Naomi had a living son or daughter. I believe that Ruth experienced loving acceptance from her mother-in-law. 

Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Ruth 1: 16

The Bible was a sustaining resource for my son, Steven. He learned many Bible verses, encouraged by the Awana program at church. During the final weeks of his life he was comforted by these verses.

And I heard a loud verse from the throne saying, “Behold the dwelling place of of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev. 21:3-4

Relationship with Jesus and access to God in prayer. Experience of love–giving and receiving. The Bible. These are the tools we have for a difficult season.

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Pause to Pray

A small group in our church is reading and discussing the book, How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People by Pete Grieg. Grieg introduces the acronym P.R.A.Y. Pause, Rejoice, Ask, Yield.

Why do we need to pause? Perhaps that is a silly question when we consider our hectic lives and the issues that we are currently confronting. Grieg writes:

The best way to start praying, therefore is actually to stop praying. To pause. To be still. To put down your prayer list and surrender your personal agenda. To stop talking at God long enough to focus on the wonder of who he actually is. To be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.

Our discussion was stimulating. I wondered about the pressure in our society to achieve, to accomplish goals. What if our prayers are about getting to know God? Is it more important to grow our relationship with Him than achieve goals?

The time that we are living in is challenging. I desire to grow my prayer life. Perhaps you do too.

The prayer course that is a supplement to the book is available online: https://prayercourse.org/sessions/

Linking this post to the Five Minute Friday writing community. Kate’s prompt is: QUIET Also sharing this post with Legacy Link-up and with Anita’s Inspire Me Monday .

Timeless Truth

The Bible has books that praise God, record His interaction in the world and report the words of Jesus. The Psalms have both praise and lament and I feel that I am in the company of people who have struggled with their faith.

The gospel of John gives me a close-up view of Jesus ministry on earth and the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. Paul’s letters to the churches provide instruction.

And then there is the book of the prophet, Amos. God’s judgement. God is holy and He will judge sin. The book details the judgement that God has for the nations that have come against Israel and also Israel.

As I have studied Amos, the description of the decline of God’s people has weighed heavily on me. What can I take away from this book?

God brings about judgement, but His purpose is to call people to repentance. 

Seek the Lord and live . . . Seek good, and not evil that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts will be with you, as you have said. Amos 5: 4b, 14

As I noted the direction offered by Amos, I began to look for additional verses in scripture with the word, seek. There are many references. Here are some.

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:9

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! 1 Chronicles 16: 10-11

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Luke 11:9

John records the words of Jesus. “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” John 5:30

Amazing Microbiome

This is great encouragement to me. God knows our human nature and proclivity to sin. He has prepared a way for us to live in relationship with Him. He asks us to seek Him. Even Jesus was seeking the will of God the Father.

It helps my prayer life in this unusual time. Will you join me in praying for the people of the United States, Israel, Gaza, India and all around the world? Is there a person or nation that God has put on your heart?

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She Asked Me to Pray

After working in hospital labor/delivery units for many years, I had the opportunity to join a home birth practice. I attended healthy women in labor at home. During the active phase of labor the doctor or midwife arrived. Approximately ten percent of the women were transferred to the hospital for interventions–less than ten percent required a cesarean section. I am grateful that I was able to observe the natural progression of labor in the home setting. The following poem reflects combined experiences. The poem and is an edited version of one previously published on my blog..

Labor pains came gently through the night.

Morning light streamed on her rocking chair.

Her labor intensified. She walked slowly,

hand on my arm and listened for encouraging words.

Her movements were intuitive. She labored,

finding comfort in firm back massage.

She knelt down and asked me to pray.

No pain medication. She asked me to pray.

I prayed as she moaned and released her body to

Waves of pain and pressure. Her cries filled the air.

Her body pushed. The midwife supported

the baby and lifted her to welcoming arms.

I recorded the time of birth.

Morning light was now an afternoon glow.

I marveled at God’s design.

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Broken Cisterns

As I read through the Old Testament of the Bible, the words tell me about God’s holiness and justice. He has made a way for us to dwell with Him. God has given us precepts for living; his laws are good. But it is human nature to disobey. 

The prophet Jeremiah was directed by God to warn Israel. 

for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:13

Currently my women’s Bible study is using a study guide titled, Discovering the God of Second Chances. Our nation needs a second chance. God is merciful and patient.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Join me in praying for revival.

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The Gospel in Guatemala

After completing a year of employment as a nurse in a Detroit hospital I went on a mission trip. I served as a guest helper for Wycliffe Bible translators in Guatemala. I went to a little village, two hours or more from Guatemala City.

The village of Cubulco was surrounded by mountains. I remember unpaved streets and adobe type houses. Early in the morning the roosters were crowing. Some nights I could hear the sound of a marimba.

Mary Shaw and Helen Neuenswander were translating the New Testament into the Achi language. Helen was a nurse, also providing health care to the Mayan Indians at a clinic—the Indians had no other place to get help for health problems.  I assisted at the clinic.

Whenever Helen was in the village men, women and children began lining up at the clinic early in the morning. They came on foot from the surrounding area. Helen continued to see patients until dark.

I helped with medications, talked with patients in my limited Spanish (and their limited Spanish) and did whatever Helen asked. The days were long and exhausting.

For a couple of weeks, a midwife and I stayed at the clinic open while Helen was away. We did not see nearly as many people at the clinic, but we were called out to a house in the mountains where a woman had been in labor a long time. Eventually she had to be carried down from the mountain on a stretcher and transported to a hospital.

After four months I returned home and made plans to attend the Summer Institute of Linguistics to prepare for work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. I completed the first summer of training, but then family needs took me on a different life path. 

Recently I heard a speaker who stimulated memories of Guatemala. The Ambassador to the United Nations from Guatemala, Luis Lam, was talking about a bit of history. In 1948 the United States was the first country to recognize the provisional government of Israel, Guatemala was next. During the previous administration the United States moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Under President Morales, Guatemala followed our lead. The Ambassador is a man of faith and he alluded to others in the government. You can hear his message on the World Prayer Network. The growing Christian movement in Guatemala warms my heart. 

There is some fascinating history in Guatemala. Cameron Townsend was the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators. His initial translation of the New Testament into an Indian language (Cakchiquel) took place in Guatemala during the 1920s. Townsend believed that when people had the Bible in their own language it would lead them to faith in God. You can read about Cameron Townsend’s vision here.

What is the effect of God’s Word on a community? On a country?

I wondered what had happened to the clinic in Cubulco. I did an internet search and found several articles written by Mary Shaw on a blog. In 1984 the Achi New Testament was completed and printed. The town held a great celebration. In 1990 a hospital was opened in Cubulco, Centro Medico Christiano, La Senorita Elena (as Helen was known in the village). 

This week is Holy Week. The New Testament records the Passover, Jesus’ crucifixion, His sacrifice for our sin and His resurrection. The gospel is a message for all people. God loves us and offers to redeem us through Jesus.

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