Sunday, March 31, 2013

He is risen!

7:28 a.m. Today's project is to declare to one and all that JESUS IS RISEN!

Happy Easter!

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?" But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away--for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in as long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him But go, tell His disciples--and Peter--that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you." (Mark 16:1-7)

The loving loyalty of  these women who stood by Jesus until the very end of His earthly life Jesus' was greatly rewarded. They were the ones who not only had first sight of the Good News, the Gospel, but became the first to share it. From the cross to the crown--a lot can happen in three days!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Who saw Jesus through to the end?

7:56 p.m. Today's project was to post Bible verses on Facebook on the last hours of Jesus' life, His death on the cross, and His burial. These verses enable us to arrive at the character of two kinds of Christ-followers.  Mark 15:40-41:

There were also women looking on  from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to him when he was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem. 

Quick question: who were the women in addition to, since we see the word "also" repeated? (bold lettering mine). The women were in addition to the disciples who had fled from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The disciples did run away in fear, but in all fairness, the temple authorities would not have been seeking to arrest lowly women. So in a sense, the heavily shrouded women had more freedom to inconspicuously watch their beloved Jesus die. v. 42-47:

Now when the evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. (Bold lettering mine).

There is so much to commend about the Pharisee Nicodemus, "a ruler of the Jews" (John 3:1), "the teacher of Israel," as Jesus called Joseph of Arimathea, the one who came to see Him at night (John 3). We know he honestly came seeking to know and understand Jesus. In their discussion Jesus introduces the concept of being "born again," (John3:3) and  gives us John 3:16,

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

 It is widely understood that Joseph was a secret follower of Jesus, because of his public position.But scripture commends him as on who "was himself waiting for the kingdom of God." But look at the change that came over him, going to the Roman Governor Pilate in person after a day of public outcry, executions and near-insurrection! He took courage. Joseph may have stayed undercover originally, but when it mattered in a unique way, He stepped up and publicly demonstrated his belief in Jesus as Messiah.Just as believers today differ in their degree of boldness in the face of persecution, the ones out in front of the parade might wither in the heat (see the parable of the sower), while quieter believers end up coming forward later on, risking as much or more than the louder proclaimers.

Joseph then showed his commitment to Jesus by purchasing expensive, fine linen to bury Jesus in; then took our Lord's beaten body down from the cross, another very public act.Joseph's generosity continues: he buried Jesus in his own new tomb (a detail from Matthew 27:60) and not coincidentally fulfilled Isaiah 53:9, that He was "with the rich at His death." Then Joseph rolled the stone in front of the tomb. Do you want to be used of God for His eternal purposes? Be a Joseph of Arimathea: drop your obsessions with your position, possessions and privacy and follow Jesus boldly! Hold nothing back. Jesus held nothing back from you and me, did He? As Hebrews 12:3-4 says to us,

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your minds.You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.

Now, back to the women. Mark 15:47:

And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid.

The women's devoted following of Jesus until He could be seen no more; their careful observation of the location of the tomb; and the sheer, gutsy perseverance of the Marys after the longest, most frightening day in human history astounds me. These women have uniquely inspired believers for twenty centuries.If you say you believe in Jesus, live your belief, give Him your all, and follow Him to the end.

Come Easter morning, these loving women will be rewarded like no others have ever been nor will ever be! The story of Jesus' sacrificial death is very, very far from over.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Good Friday

Mark 15:33-39:

  Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" 
  Some of those who stood by, when they heard that said, "Look, He is calling for Elijah!" Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down."
 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.
  Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, "Truly this Man was the son of God!"

10:04 p.m. Today's project was to attend the 12 p.m. Good Friday service at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside. I haven't attended or served in women's ministry at Harvest for about 10 years, having found a smaller home church, Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley, which very well suited our need for my late husband Steve to be able to meet more friends and be comfortable in a less populous setting. We have really been blessed in our current church, but whenever I attend a service at Harvest, or during Steve's memorial service, I feel right at home. It's no small thing to be part of a fellowship for 22 years, and to raise your family there.

I definitely "followed the crowd" into the sanctuary, where I immediately saw pastors I know. Because I was only about 10 minutes early, it was up two flights of stairs to the balcony for me. This was actually caused fun memories for me, because Steve and I and the kids, once they were mostly past elementary age and children's church, sat in the balcony every week. Our youngest, Steven, liked to sit with us too. I still have a prayer request card he made out when he was in 2nd or 3rd grade, asking God to take away fleas from our dog, (written by the dog). At least he wasn't disturbing anyone! Our kids loved to go to church and as they got older, to youth group. Proverbs 22:6, every Christian parent's verse of hope, says,

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

As many parents know, doing our part as led by the Lord, will be rewarded by His faithfulness, though our kids may not walk as consistently as we pray for. I trust Jesus, and I suggest you do too--then leave off anxiety and live your own life for the Lord!

Pastor Greg was his animated and strongly spoken self just as I remembered him preaching all of those Sundays for decades, making his biblical points with firmness, humor and conviction.He went to a theme of showing one's love to others BEFORE they die, as illustrated by Mary pouring the oil of spikenard all over Jesus before His death (Mark 14:3-9). Greg spoke about losing his son 5 years ago, and how he still dreams about him. [This is where I lost it]. The dreams, he said, were the same pattern every time: Greg would be talking and spending time with Christopher, and then Christopher would have to leave. Each time, Greg said, he wakes up thinking it's all right for a fleeting moment, that his son is still alive, then with heart pounding, wakes up in a fright. Pastor Greg explained, "It's because he died suddenly [In a car accident] and I never got to say goodbye."

I just started crying, not for myself, but for the pain of a parent having to go through a tragedy like that; then, I realized how grateful I am that Steve passed peacefully, leaving behind the fear, depression, despair, physical struggles and pain of his last months here on earth. My dreams of Steve, which are fairly regular, are just like they always were: peaceful, enjoyable, the two of us just talking or in a family or friend group, doing an activity of some sort, usually outside.Perhaps I was weeping because my loss is just a couple of months old, still raw in some way. I never did manage to have a dry face the rest of the time, even through communion and while singing the final praise songs. The last time I broke down like this  was after a visit to the Harvest bookstore, while driving through that part of town where we once lived life in all its aspects.

Maybe the memory of the way our family's church life was so strongly forged at Harvest gave me tears of joy, not sorrow. Jesus knows, and that's all that matters!  

The closing invitation which Pastor Greg always gives, was answered by several people, who now have a different destiny. God has recently opened incredible doors of opportunity for the Harvest Crusades and Harvest America to reach millions more people with the Gospel.  And the Lord continues to open up opportunities for me to meet and minister to new women in new settings, ie., widows' groups and new Bible study small groups also. A personal door of witness will be opening up for me next month, and I continue to meet and share with new women in the course of my Mary Kay business. The message of hope, through Jesus Christ, no matter what you've been through, continues to go out, on a small personal scale and a massive public one! Souls are saved, encouraged and comforted, and the assignments are given to whom God chooses.

This Easter weekend remember, first and foremost: Jesus died to save all of us sinners, that we might live with Him eternally; and furthermore, for today, that He might live within us now!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Let God do the cleanup

5:04 p.m. Today's project was to check, with great anticipation, the long-awaited drying up of the leak in front of our house. Our landscaper had pulled out the 20+ year-old spider plants whose roots were heavily
and solidly entrenched, and a very good plumbing company sent three men here yesterday to dig down, pull away more roots, only to discover that a pipe fitting had "exploded!" That was why  water leaked whenever I turned on the lawn-watering stations or used the hose on the walkway plants. They advised not to flip the water switch back on for 24 hours to let the glue set. It was with great relief that I watched the lead man rinse down the mud that had gotten all over the small patio, and gave them their check. "Thank You, Lord, for sending me the professional help I needed!" was the thought in my mind as I went about my evening tasks. (I also watched a "Touched by An Angel" rerun and a Bible story movie on the life of Queen Esther, by the book of the same name).  As I took out garbage late in the evening, I noticed that the water wasn't advancing, hallelujah, so things were off to a good start!

This morning, I kept hearing predictions of windy conditions here, so I was joyful, despite the nuisance I generally consider the hot Santa Ana winds to be! Anything to dry the mud and lower the standing water would be fine with me. No more than a mild breeze here and there came up, but the sidewalk seemed to be a tad drier. Proverbs 10:28 says,

The hope of the righteous shall be gladness. 

Off I went for a very active day with my business, with a new team member wanting to ask a few final questions, banking. After handing out an eyeshadow sample to a Starbucks barista, sending a marketing email, and eating only the turkey and the Swiss cheese out of a sandwich, I took care of my 85-yer-old father's weekly grocery shopping in Redlands, about 40 miles round trip. We spent an hour or so visiting before and after I picked up his short list of items, brought his dumpster up from the street and did a little cleaning. My younger sister is going to pick Daddy up to join us for Easter dinner at my house Sunday.

Expecting a much drier scene when I returned at 4 p.m., I was sorely disappointed (see picture above taken less than an hour ago). No good, no good! So I called the company and they'll have someone over here in the morning. I was thinking to myself, "How much water is down there? Am I sitting on top of a well?!"

This season when we remember Jesus' death on the cross to save the world from our sins, and His resurrection 3 days later to give us eternal life, reminds me that no matter how I tried to dig, dig, dig, work, work, work, then rinse off and clean up my act, I could never have saved myself. As it is in the front of my house, my sin would be like muddy standing water, not about to go away naturally.  And no wonder! My--and your--natural self was born a sinner, and no cleanup efforts of my own could save my soul. And no family member or friend's efforts could lift away that muddy sin for me. Psalm 49:7-9 says of those who trust in their own strength and accomplishments,

None of them can by any means 
  redeem his brother,
Nor give to God a ransom for 
For the redemption of their souls 
  is costly,
And it shall cease forever--
That he should continue to live
And not see the Pit.

Is there a remedy? Jesus told us in Mark 10:45 that He came to pay the price for the sin of mankind:

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." 

Have you asked Jesus to forgive and take away your sins and give you eternal life? If not, please pray to Him to ask Him to save you.No fancy wording--just ask.

Celebrate Easter with billions of other brothers and sisters in Christ this year!

Monday, March 25, 2013


7:23 p.m. Today's project was indeed a project, one of several I've undertaken here at the house since Steve died. Tearing down old, termite weakened structures, building new fencing and repairing old plumbing were just the beginning. This list does not include the cleaning, clearing out, painting and redecorating my children have been doing to facilitate their moving in with me. Next up is painting the back of the house, preparatory to building a non-wooden patio awning before the sun begins beating down mercilessly on the south-facing back slider! As I mentioned yesterday to the Christian widows' group I've been blessed to be a part of, projects Steve and I would have finished if we had both continued in our careers, are now made possible by the wise provision he made for our family. As the leader of our group put it, the "fix its" are being completed in honor of Steve, a man who was able to build or fix anything!

Today, some brothers from church did a marvelous job of hanging a new steel door to replace the dog-chewed, termite-prone wooden back door of the garage, installed in our brand-new house in 1988. They installed the trims, step plate and a new door frame. It's sharp, secure, and closes so perfectly and silently! How I praise God for skilled builders, just as Moses chose Bezalel to lead the building of the tabernacle in the wilderness, Deuteronomy 31: 1-5:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: "See, I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship."

As I looked at the door wehile the men packed up their tools, truck and trailer, I noticed that the door knob was in place, but the deadbolt wasn't--just a round hole was there!Victor, the boss, said, "The openings in new doors are much bigger than the one your old deadbolt fit into." So you'll need to replace it. " I looked a little sad, thinking of how one project leads to another, and asked if the openings are standard to fit the deadbolt assembly into, and yes they are.He even offered to come back and install it for me, but I told him that I'd ask my very handy son-in-law to help out. Victor commented, "That deadbolt is 25 years old, just like that door was!" So I did purchse a new deadbolt and made a delivery in the same part of Moreno Valley.

The Lord showed me a spiritual principle in all of this, so applicable to our "upkeep" in our walk with Jesus. If we desire to be strong in faith, a participant in the work of evangelism, and useful in ministry to the church in the ways He's created us for, we need to stir things up in our lives and

Examine yourselves, as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.(2 Corinthians 13:5)

That back door should have been replaced at least two or three other times over the last quarter century, not allowed to be chewed and rotted! But busyness, "pressing" matters with the kids, work, ministry, extended family, and public service and other bills just caused us to neglect our home. A succession of wooden doors could have sufficed, but a solid steel door at a much lower price would have been the best solution!

In this case of a structural repair, perhaps "better late than never" will do, if we don't wait for termite damage to become very costly to repair. But wisdom and wise stewardship are commended throughout scripture in Proverbs 24:3: "by wisdom a house is built;" and in I Corinthians 4:2, "Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful."

In spiritual matters, consistent attention and care are mandatory if one would be found faithful and fit for our Master's use. Just today, I spoke with a friend who had been away from the Lord and out of fellowship for probably a decade, but happily, is now back in fellowship, and realizing just how much they'd missed, is now making up time, very joyfully, but with some amount of regret mixed with her excitement!

If we would be free of regret, avoid costly spiritual and personal failings, and enjoy the sweet fellowship God intended us to have with Him,  let us be faithful, consistent, and devoted to the Lord, His word, and His people!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring sanctified

9:06 p.m. Today's project was to give God thanks for all that this season means to me as a Christian.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of visiting with author Ellen Estillai, at the Canyon Crest Car Wash while we waited for our cars to be finished. Even though it's located right down the hill from us,  I hadn't been there since my kids were little and Steve was working long hours. The Jeep needed more than an external machine washing, so there I was, having handed out lipstick samples to her and another lady in the  waiting room.

We were commenting on the cold breeze that suddenly came up, and so Ellen said, "It's probably warmer sitting on the benches in the sun!" so out we went. When the topic of our grown children graduating from North High School came up, we laughed a bit that we'd been neighbors for over 20 years and had never met. When we told each other our names, she said, "Dana Kruckenberg! From School Board! I knew I should have recognized you," in the most positive way. (Makes one realize and appreciate that the public service God called me to was not in vain).   Our conversation just flowed along, and she mentioned that she was in the editing phase of a book, and so we had even more in common. I quickly explained that Galatians was a Bible study workbook, and that the Corner Bookstore in the Towne Center was carrying it on consignment under "Local Authors."  But the background of her book was genuinely fascinating to me, so I listened with rapt attention, looking for an open door to witness to someone who may not know the Lord. In 32 years, I have learned to trust the Lord, to be ready to give my testimony anywhere, any place,

For God is my King from of
Working salvation in the midst of
 the earth. (Psalm 74:12)

Ellen and her husband, who is Persian, lived in Iran during the reign of the Shah, when the country was very pro-American. Once the Ayatollah Khomeini came into power, it was time to leave. I fully remember the hostage crisis, the weak Carter Administration response, and the immediate release of those hostages when Ronald Reagan took office. I am looking forward to reading a "birdseye view" of those pivotal international events.  In response to my question, she said she is very fluent in Farsi, and that their family keeps Persian traditions. One holiday, coming up next weekend, the same time as our Easter, features a special feast at what I gather is the exact time of the Vernal Equinox (spring), 4 a.m. this year. Their feast includes a special fried fish and rice. Her kids, now in their 40's, will be coming home to join their parents. We both agreed that what brings joy to us moms is that our kids be happily married, which four of mine are, praise God.

Ellen didn't mention any religious observance. The Jews, on the other hand, celebrate Passover worldwide, commemorating the Angel of Death "passing over" the Hebrew slaves in Egypt as he killed the firstborn of each Egyptian household. Exodus 12:23-24:

For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever.

Jesus Himself celebrated all of the religious feasts, as an observant Jew in His earthly life. Luke 22:7-8 says,

Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover [lamb] must be killed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat."  Jesus' last Passover meal became the first Communion service, as He said to His disciples, v. 19-20:

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and  said, "This is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying,"This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you."

This Sunday, Christians will celebrate Palm Sunday, when Jesus made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem a week before his crucifixion. Spring means the birth of a new season, a renewal and awakening of the elements of life on earth. But believers commemorate the New Covenant--Jesus' blood shed for our salvation, and His resurrection for our new life, the promise of eternal life!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Blessing upon blessing

3:40 p.m. Today's project was to revel in one blessing after another from my Savior!

We'd been vexed with a plumbing problem upstairs, and it made for an uneasy atmosphere around the house, where the issue would settle down for a few days, and then there'd be an "outpouring," if you will. Nobody tolerates that kind of hassle very well! Our plumbing handyman Lou had done some work, so all was well by Friday afternoon. Thank you, Lord, for talented members of the Body. But it sures makes me miss Steve, who could figure out, fix, restore or replace any kind of equipment!

After enjoying energizing inspiration, Christian fellowship and girlfriend time at Career Conference Friday through Saturday, and playing with my grandson later in the afternoon, I had much to look forward to at church on Sunday. After 2nd service, I rushed to my car with son-in-law Pavel to get my heavy tote full of teaching materials for the "Widows' Might" fellowship group, because daughter Heidi had returned to the 5th & 6th grade children's ministry rotation for 3rd service and had to get upstairs to get her lesson ready. There was a neat gratefulness in this mother's heart because we were both fulfilling our Bible teaching ministry at the same time, just a few doors down the hall from one another.

It had been exciting to receive a call Thursday from Roberta, the very precious and able leader of the widows' group, asking if I would teach the ladies on having a devotional time. This is a subject near and dear to my heart for decades, whether the audience is a gathering of  young moms, my peers, or seniors ladies. Devotions, quiet time [or going into your closet as Jesus put it in Matthew 6:6] with the Lord is a non-negotiable if one wants to grow in closeness to Jesus, be filled with His Holy Spirit daily, and know Him enough to trust Him completely. We were blessed to hear Jo, a mentor of mine and widow of 30 years, describe her daily time with the Lord with the group before I got up. So much to glean from our elders, isn't there? As Proverbs 16:31 (NLT) puts it,

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.

No sooner than we barely ended our closing prayer, I got a call from son-in-law Nick that an "overflow" had happened again, so I speedily exited church and made the purchase of a new commode on the way home. Refusing to become utterly irritated, I had lunch, watered the lawns, watched the opening segmant of The Bible, and went on to Home Fellowship, where, praise the Lord, I got a referral to a Christian family-owned plumbing company that does work for Riverside Christian Schools. I was highly encouraged by that information, and went on my way rejoicing that God was there to meet my need because I didn't give in to my urge to just stay home and stew. Like the ancient Israelites crossing the Red Sea, we need to sometimes "put our foot into the water" in faith asnd stay consistently and obediently in fellowship. Then, no matter what the enemy is hounding us with, just let God open up the dry land for us to cross over!

The morning offered a flurry of goodness from God's hand. I posted my scripture, Psalm 73:24, on Facebook,

You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.

While checking my page, I saw a note from old friend Susan that she had seen Steve's photo in the Harvest 40th anniversary book! Needless to say, I went to Harvest, and in the process of buying the book, had amazing felowship with other long-time friends. The photo is above, of Steve and other young people, on the sanctuary steps, probably from the 1980's because I seem to remember that picture. I also found a picture of a couple of our friends taken at our wedding reception in the book! I love the way that pictures can travel anywhere in this digital age.

As another wonderful show of love from my Heavenly Father, He sent Carns Rooter, a Christian family-owned business, to replace the toilet and bring an answer to prayer--no mainline damage or further leak in the walls.

What a mighty God we serve!

Saturday, March 16, 2013


8:25 p.m. Today's project was to pray for my little "adopted" daughter Niccol, a 4-year-old from Colombia. She is as cute as can be, living with her grandfather, mother and two siblings in poverty. I have the privilege of praying for her, helping to meet her basic needs, and paying for her to attend a child development program in her community.

Having never set foot in Colombia, how is it possible for me to be part of her life? The answer is a Christ-centered ministry, Compassion International. Their motto is "Releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name."
I love the scripture that is featured in their sponsor's booklet, Isaiah 58:10 (NIV):

If you spend yourself on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness.

So many of my friends have sponsored a Compassion child over the years, seeing them through their childhood, exchanging photos and letters (through Compassion's translators) that I'd always hoped to be able to sponsor a child of our own. Our family excitedly made up our shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and I even had the opportunity to help sort and pack shoe boxes at Samaritan's Purse's warehouse for Christmas 2011. But no lifelong personal connection was formed.

The Lord really began tugging on my heart when Steve and I attended a Rock & Worship Roadshow benefit concert for Compassion International in Ontario two years ago. Major Christian artists performed free of charge. All that was suggested was a sponsorship or a donation from attendees to support poverty-stricken children worldwide. We donated, but didn't commit to a monthly sponsorship. I admit that with raising 5 children, paying their extracurricular expenses through high school, supporting them through university, weddings and grand kids, then keeping focused on Steve's care and co-pays, it was just not certain that I could guarantee that an auto draft would clear each month. So our habit was to tithe to our church, and give multiple one-time donations to Christian ministries and evangelistic crusades.

Now, it seems, that with the children grown and Steve's estate settling, it is the right time to make a lifetime commitment. I was impatient, but was forgetting Psalm 27:14.

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage, 
And He shall strengthen your
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

My heart needed strengthening, and with every aspect of Steve's mounting mental and emotional issues, God formed courage in me, and confidence to step out in faith, following his call to serve others. At our Mary Kay Career Conference today in Ontario, CA, consultants and directors gained courage from the testimonies of many Christ-following women, women of prayer, faith and boldness, whose leadership opened up opportunities for scores of others, while providing for their own families. I now have the boldness to set a deadline for my goals, and to lay out a "track to run on." By God's grace and believing His spoken promise of a year ago--"I am in this for you"--I will be a Sales Director by Seminar 2013 in August!

I have goals for little Niccol, too, made possible by the ministry of Compassion International. With my monthly support through the years, she will be able to go to to a child development center where she will have a nutritious meal, learn hygiene, get homework help, participate in sports, learn vocational skills and attend Bible classes in addition to attending school.

How I look forward to praying for this little one, of whom Jesus said (Luke 18:16),

Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Stories of Faith Part II: The Energy of Hope

1:07 p.m. Today's project is to dare to hope in God's reversal of a dreadful prognosis.

Last night, as I was fellowshiping at church with lots of friends waiting for our Ladies' Night Out to begin, I noticed a slim, darling, energetic gal bipping around, with a "basketball" shape under her shirt. She came up and introduced herself to me, referencing a mutual friend. Risking a breach of etiquette, I asked, "Are you expecting?" She said, "Yes, didn't [our friend] tell you what's going on with us?" I said, "I didn't want to be nosey, so I only know a little, not the details."  The young mom then told me that her baby has no skull, has club feet, and may be developing a cleft palate. (She's due in June). She testified, "We didn't even think we could get pregnant, yet, even before I conceived, the Lord gave us a name for him, and gave me the verse that "He has blessed your children within you."(Psalm 147:13). Listening, I was overwhelmed emotionally, crying on the inside, but said, "Then we will earnestly pray to the Lord for a miracle! How many times has a surgeon opened up a patient only to say, 'There's nothing wrong with your heart!'? Or a baby that was supposed to have no arms was perfectly whole? God can create a skull, a limb, anything He wants to do is in His power!" We hugged and parted joyfully from our conversation.

In Part I, we looked at a worst case scenario out of a woman's past--physical and sexual abuse as a child. Today in Part II,  I was impressed by the Holy Spirit to write about a worst case scenario for a pregnant woman's future--delivering a baby with multiple deformities. Both women are an inspiration to me as they put one foot in front of the other daily and walk in the assurance of Jesus' love. Psalm 91:1-2 exemplifies the faith of these women:

He who dwells in the secret
  place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of
  the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, "He is
  my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in whom I will trust."

This has been a difficult year for me, caregiving in my husband's deteriorating mental state, his suffering with aspiration pneumonia, and his death. When people ask how I'm doing, as many sisters did last night, my only answer is, "God has been so good!" I really cannot think of anything else to say, or anything else to see, but Jesus, working "all things together for good" (Romans 8:28)  in my life today, as one "who loves God and is called according to His purpose." Perhaps the ministry of scriptural encouragement He called me to many years ago will be amplified; the hardships, tragedies and struggles of the women He puts in my path are certainly more intense, more in need of a miraculous touch from the God of the universe Himself, than ever before in 32 years of ministry. Yet, I am also receiving encourasgement. Jesus has used two separate groups of widows to put their physical, emotional and spiritual arms around me when I have been in the most dire need. He has brought my children and grandchildren here to my home to fill it with the laughter and commotion I love. My Jesus knows me so well!

Jesus knows you, too, no matter who you are, and He will save and carry you safely, no matter how deep the waters you are drowning in. He will be there for you in an instant--in fact, He is already awaiting your cry of "Help, Lord!" He only is your hope; He only by His Holy Spirit can energize your faith, bring you belief, and strengthen you in your trials.

Whether you have a relationship with Him or not, Jesus loves you! Will you pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus today, that you might give your life to Him?

This is the one decision you will never regret.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Home Fellowship

8:28 p.m. Today's project was to go happily as I do each week to Sunday night Home Fellowship. Terry and Deena are our hosts, and each week various ones of us bring a main dish, side dish, salad and the whole group brings dessert. We pray, eat, sing worship songs and enjoy the Word together.Above is as picture of the men laying hands on our leader Mark for a safe medical procedure coming up the following week. The sisters will in like manner surround one of the ladies in prayer if a need is made known.

Our church, Calvary Moreno Valley, began Home Fellowships shortly after its inception almost  30 years ago. The meetings are not Bible studies (such as I teach during the summer) with the leader teaching and group members responding or asking questions, because we all attend Bible studies on Sunday morning and Men's and Women's studies during the week. The leader reads a portion of a book of the Bible and then poses a thoughtful question, and the discussion goes from there, much to my delight, as one who is very excited by discussion and fellowship based on scripture! The home Bible study setting will always be dear to my heart, because Steve and I met at such a gathering in 1980.  All can share, ask questions, tell what the Holy Spirit is showing them, and we all are edified by one another's words.

I like two passages of scripture describing the early Church that model the Home Fellowship setting: Acts 2:42, 46-47:

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers...So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Ephesians 5:18-20 says, filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. 

Indeed, as we read of the Holy Spirit emboldening the apostles and other believers to spread the Gospel despite threats, imprisonment and beatings from the religious authorities, we become emboldened to speak up in our own corner of the world, to be faithful witnesses of what we have seen and heard of God's work in our lives--our testimony. In the home fellowship setting, each of us can share in a small conversation during the meal, what God is calling us as individuals to do; or we might share a praise report of a child brought back to Christ, or a co-worker saved, for instance, to the group, if applicable to the verses being looked at. I Corinthians 14, verses 26 and 40 remind us, if each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation or an interpretation, we are to share it, but

Let all things be done to edification...Let all things be done decently and in order.

When I hear of God's hand in the life of a brother or sister in Christ, I'm a lot more likely to take a step of faith, or even to be reassured that God loves me and all who call upon His name!

Home fellowship, with its friendly, companionable and worshipful atmosphere, and scripture-based discussion, contributes to making me more excited about being a Christian today than on the day I first gave my life to Jesus 32 years ago!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Stories of Faith Part I: The family that forms us

7:42 p.m. Today's project was to sit up and take notice of the way God had moved people and circumstances into place for me to hear a horrifying testimony from a sister in the Lord.

This morning, I'd had to deal with a plumbing problem, which our handyman/plumber fixed, and made plans for fence repair and landscaping. As I got ready for a birthday lunch party for one of my Bible study girls, I was grateful that following the lunch, a hairdresser would be stepping in for my regular gal who has kept me dyed and dolled up for decades, because she has been down with the flu. I'd allowed myself to be aggravated --ignorantly--by my calls and texts not being returned but I soon realized that God was in this the whole time!  In Isaiah 43:18-19 God tells His people,

Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old. 
Behold, I do a new thing, 
Now it shall spring forth; 
Shall you not know it?

We began talking about my recovery from Steve's death, because her former fiance is afflicted with cancer. I'm not sure how we began talking about the difficulties of childhood. She mentioned moving quite often because of her military officer father's career.My family moved a few times for the same reason, but settled in Redlands by the time I was in the 3rd grade. Even though my parents eventually divorced after 27 unhappy years, I know I have nothing to complain about, because my sister and I were loved and cared for very well. My wild pre- Jesus life occurred after I was 21 years old and had been out of the home, including 3 years at UCLA, for four years. She and her brother, on the other hand, were victims of emotional, physical and sexual abuse until their angry, violent, vicious father was shot to death by an enlisted man for perceived bigotry. Her life was a struggle, and some difficulties remain now that she is a grandmother, as they do for all of us. But she has committed her life to Jesus and is staying in fellowship with her church. When she asked me how I  managed to make it through, I said, and received nods from around the salon, "Jesus was and still is, with me every day! There is no other answer!" My friend is determined to go forward and trust Jesus, not look back. Philippians 3:13b-14 says it best:

...forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus

I've been listening to a Bible study series on honoring one's father and mother, and realize that though I have my  memories of unfortunate incidents, I also have long forgiven my parents and spent as much time as possible with each of them, while raising a family. My mother died in 2006. I now stay very involved with my dad, who is suffering from bladder cancer and now experiences shortness of breath after walking just a few steps. The two of us had a good experience working on his living trust, and I will be putting a trust in place using his attorney and my personal acquaintance next week. So we both enjoy financial planning, bargain hunting, saving, investing and critiquing local and State officials). (And we enjoy grocery shopping on sunny days). He's been a believer for many years now, and is reading books by Billy Graham and Anne Graham Lotz on aging, death, and heaven. His current aches, pains and tiredness bother him more than passing away.
May every believer have such dying grace!

As Pastor James MacDonald said this morning, let each of us seek ways to honor our parents that we might pass on a legacy to our children and grandchildren, and enjoy the manifold blessing of obedience to God and His word.

P.S. My substitute hairdresser may have been confiding horrid experiences, but she certainly let her creative juices flow!
Jeremiah 29:11: God assures those who know and call upon Him,

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Whom do I talk to?

9:47 p.m. Today's project was to mail gift cards to my teenage grandsons in San Diego County. The central Post Office for Riverside is a few miles away, so I'd have plenty of time to return the opposite direction for errands and then meet my friend Debi for lunch.It had been a hectic morning, exercising indoors to the  "Faithful Workouts" program with my friend Michelle instead of going for a walk. I needed to be home to greet the contractor slated to tear down my termite-and dog-chewed wooden patio cover supports.

Once the contractor and his partner arrived and began their work, I placed Jada in her crate and got myself ready to leave the house. I was amazed that it was already 11:30, but that couldn't be helped. I chose to have a peace about the clock, because God "has made all everything beautiful in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

As is my daily practice, I was listening to Bible studies on K-Wave 107.9 FM. Pastor Dave Rosales of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills was on as I drove, speaking of the way the Holy Spirit has to be the One to convict a person of his sin so that they may come to Christ for salvation; and also, that the Holy Spirit guides believers in their actions, sometimes with dramatic results. Pastor Dave was telling of a church member whom the Holy Spirit compelled to turn around on his way to their men's retreat and pick up a man walking along drinking out of a brown bag-- at 9 a.m. This man convinced the drinker to get into his truck and go with him to the retreat! Not only was there an extra lunch ticket for the newcomer to use, but he proceeded to go forward and get saved. All because one man boldly obeyed God and made a stranger get into his truck! As 2 Corinthians 6:2 says,

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

The Lord had a little test for me, too, I believe, because I was now accountable to act in faith upon what I had heard. Kind of exciting and scary at the same time!

The part of town where the Post Office is, Chicago Ave. near University, is home to an unusual cast of characters along with patrons of businesses in the strip mall across the street. Prostitutes walk home in the morning hours in their micro-miniskirts and spike heels, homeless people mosey along, young families pushing strollers jaywalk in heavy traffic. As I pulled out of the Post Office driveway, having dropped in my mail, I saw a tall, skinny elderly lady with her head wrapped in a scarf walking on the nearby sidewalk carrying what I thought was a dingily wrapped baby. On closer inspection, it was a doll she was talking to. I had to go forward, and made a U-turn, but I was on the wrong side of the street. I was praying to get a chance to speak with her when she suddenly crossed the street to where I was driving, or rather, searching my billfold and rolling down my window while moving slowly. Thankfully the traffic was light.

I rolled down the passenger side window and called, "Ma'am? Hello! How are you?" She stopped and I asked, just to make conversation, "Is that your doll?"
"What do you do with your doll?"
"Oh, I play with her."
"Where do you live?"
"Oh, I live in the shelter."
I then said, "Here, have this," and handed her a ten dollar bill.
"Oh thank you very much," she said, focused on cuddling and talking to her doll, turned the corner and walked on.I had to pull back into traffic, wishing I'd had a moment to tell her that Jesus loves her, and to ask her if she'd ever accepted Him as her Savior.

What she did, where she went, or if she even knew what denomination of bill it was, is God's business, not mine. Who knows? Maybe I'll run into her again, or better yet, maybe another believer will come to the shelter and share the Word with her soon. Someone knows her name and where she lives--God certainly does!

When it comes to street evangelism, we often won't have the privilege of finding out whether the person we shared with or took a moment to speak a pleasant word to, ever got saved.In  I Corinthians 3:6-8 the Apostle Paul says, of people who serially share the gospel with the unsaved:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God gives the increase.

I thought of a lesson for me as a Christian that hit me as I watched the woman walking, talking and cuddling an inanimate object that could never appreciate her loving care: who am I talking to instead of God, about my troubles, plans and tasks? I can talk to myself, who won't have any new ideas; and others who may have practical suggestions, but aren't inside my head and cannot know the depths of my heart, haven't lived the 61 years of life that made me who I am today, and certainly do not have time to learn the entire background of any situation I am involved in.Why consult the clueless?

We need to take the One who made us, knows us better than we know ourselves, loves us anyway, and has the almighty power and knowledge of all aspects of our lives, to be our glorious Confidant, and seek HIS word! Hebrews 4:12 says,

For the word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

...and He's listening!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Old timers

7:58 p.m. Today's project was to spend some time on the phone with my 85-year-old dad, passing a little time for him, and on my part, making sure he was all right. Daddy's doing well, always ready with a commentary on upcoming weather, or political corruption in local governments. As a past officeholder, I too, generally have a few thoughts to express! Of course, there's really nothing new to see. Jeremiah 17:9 says,

The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked--who can know it?

But I really called to tell him about my Saturday afternoon. I'd had a fine time visiting with several ladies and gents my dad's age at the assisted living facility where he stayed while recovering from a hospitalization last summer. Each month, I offer group facial sessions at Emeritus Villa De Anza. Julie, the Activities Director, trims fingernails for the men and paints the ladies' nails. While they await their turn for manicures, I give the ladies Mary Kay facials (or more accurately, they give themselves facials following my directions). These girls have the best time pampering themselves a bit, and if they want to purchase an item, they may.

Bill, a gentleman I'd never seen there before, kept us informed and entertained speaking of his long career working in the citrus industry in Redlands, Highland, Riverside and Corona. The Inland Empire, particularly my hometown Redlands, was known as the citrus capital of the world. Even the encyclopedia I read as an second grade student had a picture of a Redlands orange grove. [Our town was also known for having more churches per capita than any other city in the US in the 1950's, again, according to the encyclopedia. Wonder if that's the case now?] We talked at length about Riverside's Citrus Heritage State Park in which he helped plant trees.I learned about the  the old Planters who owned and ran the packing sheds in the area, where he once applied the colorful, now-collectible labels on wooden crates. Conversation among us at the table ranged from Redlands' Morey House pictured above to the original Parent Washington Navel Tree displayed and still growing at the corner of Arlington and Magnolia Streets in Riverside. Since my dad had a small orange grove on his property for years, I found all of these "inside industry" details fascinating, as did the rest of the group.

The Bible tells us to honor our fathers, and learn from our elders while they are still alive. In Judges 2:7-8, 10-12 we read of the Israelites who had fought and won territory for their 12 tribes in the days of Joshua, and of the generation that followed.

So the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD which He had done for Israel. Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died when he was one hundred and ten years old.
When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.

Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; and they forsook the LORD of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the people who were all around them and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger.

Would that Joshua's generation had diligently heeded and acted upon Moses' words in Deuteronomy 6:4-7 :

Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

May we listen, take to heart and pass on to our children and grandchildren the God-given values of respect, honesty, hard work and patient perseverance that our elders lived by, and above all, may we lead future generations to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ! For, as Proverbs 11:30 says,

He who wins souls is wise.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Two lost hours

8:22 p.m. Today's project was to go walking with my girlfriend around a park in the next neighborhood over from mine, and then browse the enormous rummage sale put on by the church across the street where Michelle attends. Our walks have been fun and companionable, and I especially like my friend's spiritual growth over the years. She was one of the moms with preschoolers who attended the "Moms' Mornings" gatherings I headed up a few years ago. It's more than a Titus 2:3 relationship where the older woman is to model and teach the younger one to be a reverent and loving wife and mother, but a sisterly one where we share in the issues of our different stages of life while helping our bodies. We have a lot of laughs, and probably don't walk nearly as fast as we should!

The opening morning of the two-day rummage sale saw thousands of bargain hunters in rooms at The Grove featuring everything from knickknacks and clothing to to furniture and skis. scores of volunteers ran things smoothly, and from what we heard, the lines were moving fast.Michelle and I were "line-phobic," so we speedily toured the rooms so she could get back home, eat and return to work at a nearby elementary school as a yard supervisor. Many hugs, greetings and for me, condolences, were exchanged with old and new friends as we made our way through the crowds. When we've found a good thing, don't we ladies like to share it? Nothing new here, considering that Jesus told this parable in Luke 15:8-9:

What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!"

When I arrived home, I remembered that the Terminix technician was coming between 12 and 2 p.m., so I speedily showered and dressed and went downstairs to the sound of tapping. He was working his way around the outside of the house to start. Jada was none too happy, so I crated her in the garage so he could finish his work. One task needing done was (and still is) organizing and putting away a very large order of Mary Kay products to fill the 8 orders that God sent me over the last three days. I've been pondering this, and as I've explained to a few friends, it's as if the moment is right--just as I began to be more upbeat, enthusiastic and allowed Jesus to lift the burden of sorrow off my shoulders, He knew I was ready to get excited and active with my business, with an excitement that comes through in my eyes, smile, and even my voice over the phone.As Psalm 139:2-4 says,

You know my sitting down and
  my rising up;
You understand my thought afar
You comprehend my path and 
  my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my
For there is not a word on my
But behold, O LORD, you know
  it altogether.

In all of this happy busywork, I'd forgotten that I'd only consumed a small portion of scrambled eggs with my coffee all day, so I figured out why I felt faint. I made sure to have my emergency alert lanyard on, and remembered the biblical case that it is possible to faint from hunger (Lamentations 2:19). So after the technician  left, I prepared and ate a roast beef and broccoli Lean Cuisine.

Still didn't feel quite right, so I went upstairs, lay down, and got up quickly to violently rid myself of that meal by "upchucking" in my bathroom! The sharp pain in the back of my head let me know that this was one of the migraines I used to be afflicted with 4 times a year. Thus the lost two hours as I slept away the afternoon.

At 4 p.m., I sat up and was fine, waking up with my cell phone alarm. I talked with my daughter Heather for a bit, collected her rent check, and went on with my business plans.

Getting sick is never pleasant, and lost time for a business owner is not productive. But God has a way of redeeming time that we think we've lost, and all of my projects were actually completed.

As I prepare to go to bed for the night, I thank the Lord for a much-needed rest!