Saturday, July 27, 2013

A week of weeks

9:02 p.m. Today's project was to run my little rental car, a Yaris, out past Cal State San Bernardino to help a new consultant conduct two very lucrative Mary Kay parties for her business associates, friends, and family. Her success and the success of my whole team will propel us from Director-in Qualification to Directorship in the next two months. The Lord has literally turned the lights green at this time to make the move upward!

My schedule has been very full and hectic, but at 62, God has given me such strength and energy, even with a bad case of tennis elbow that has limited my writing, except for that which I do for the Bible study I teach on Thursdays. (That's a non-negotiable)! Psalm 92:10b describes my attitude and general being right now:

You have anointed me with fresh oil.

After Bible study on Thursday afternoon, I finally got a cortisone shot in my afflicted right elbow, and it's normal again after two months of suffering that was spreading pain to my left arm, too. However, good news came from orthopedist Dr. Rodriguez, that the x-rays showed no arthritis in either elbow. I was delighted to see that Exam Room 1 was decorated with plaques and pictures with Bible verses, too!

Now, why am I driving a rental car? Thursday afternoon on my way to my meeting through San Timoteo Canyon, I began feeling some hesitation when the Jeep's automatic transmission would shift, especially going up the small hills and down in the curves. But I went on to enjoy the meeting. That evening, while there was still a dusky light, the Jeep got into real trouble, barely making it up the last grade. Oh, how I prayed that I'd at least make it out of the Canyon and onto Redlands Boulevard, where I could stop and easily be assisted by Auto Club! I decided against the freeway route home, so stopping and starting, huffing and puffing on the Jeep's part, I made it to a big intersection, about 4 cars back from the light at Nason & Cottonwood. So, the Jeep would go no further, it was dark, I prayed and remembered to put on the emergency flashers. I contacted AAA, called my mechanic and texted every praying person and family member who came to mind and waited! I refused to think of myself as a victim of a potential crime! Psalm 91:1-2 says,

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 Him I will trust."

I had a minimum of 30 minutes to wait, and God was faithful. People just pulled up behind me as the light turned red, then as the light turned green, they noticed my emergency flashers. I don't think more than one or two drivers honked their horns, even before I fumblingly thought to start the flashers. And because the neighborhoods all face away from the signal, no naughty kids came out to bug me.  Was I ever glad the Lord didn't allow me to bring any guests to the meeting that afternoon! Texts came in continually with encouragement, and my daughter Heidi called to find out what was happening to me. One girlfriend, Michelle Tindall texted, "I love you, Dana!!! You scared me! You get home! That's an order!!! Lol"

A very nice tow truck driver hooked the Jeep up, and off we went to my house. On the way we talked about the way that even PG-13 movies have gotten so bad, and he's such a conscientious dad that he actually is going to see a movie first to approve it! This opened a door for witnessing, so I told him about the special youth events our church is having on Thursdays, and he was quite interested, because his kids are teenagers. As I rode along in the huge truck with my Jeep behind me, I kept thinking of what a pastor said on the radio earlier in the week: "You take care of God's things, and He'll take care of yours."

My mechanic came over yesterday morning to check things out. So I got the heap--or Jeep--towed out to a highly recommended transmission shop, and I believe I'll see it sometime after I return from our Mary Kay Seminar in Dallas next week. There is no room for worry--God's got me busy with finishing the backyard fence, stocking the pantries and fridge before I leave on a 6:05 a.m. flight on Tuesday, helping my consultants with their orders, and spending time with my grandsons! And I love that the Mary Kay Seminar ends on Saturday at noon--plenty of time to get back home for church from wherever in the US consultants call home!!

Let me close with Psalm 91:14-16, God speaking:

"Because he has set his love upon
  Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he
 has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will
  answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mighty Widows

7:55 p.m. Today's project was to attend the two widows' support groups I joined shortly after my husband Steve passed away in January. Interestingly enough, both groups meet on the 3rd Sunday of the month.

Calvary Chapel's "Widows' Might" is named after the widow in Luke 21:3, who came to give her offering at the temple. In that day, there was no taxpayer-financed safety net, so unless a widow had sons and or other family to support her, she could become destitute indeed. On this occasion, the wealthy gave large sums into the treasury, but Jesus commended this poor widow for giving two mites (lepta, very small copper coins):

Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.

At the Widows' Might, after enjoying a beautiful worship time, our leader Roberta focuses us on a scriptural theme or a Psalm, as she shared her learning from Psalm 37-8 today.

Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in the way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret--it only causes harm. 

Some months, we have a Bible study taught by one of the group. We share prayer requests, our own testimonies of the way the Lord is upholding us through the Word,  His faithfulness through very hard trials, and even the amazing way He may be using us, the majority ladies in their 80's, to witness and reach out to others. As we close in a circle of prayer, we are assured by the Lord that He is with and among us, even if the world might see us as occupying a very disadvantageous position! I don't generally join the others for lunch, because I need to go home, rest a bit, and today, for example, deal with a plumbing problem, before heading out to another wonderful widows/bereavement group, "Mending Hearts: Building a Network of Support."

Mending Hearts meets in the home of Kathy Potts, a widow of five years, and adopted mom of handicapped teens. Most of the ladies, of all ages and stages of loss, attend Palm Canyon Church. I first joined the group on February 10 for a lavish Valentines Day luncheon, only a month after losing Steve. We do very specific sharing and ministry to one another, building strong bonds of love, and end with a potluck meal. On February 24, we put together "Care Packages" in large bins meant to last a crisis-stricken family for a week, until they can get their bearings after a tragedy or loss.

March's topic was "Alphabet Soup" of pertinent healing scriptures and frank discussion. "The Power of Empathy," in April, led to an emotional discussion of the way Jesus empathizes--"Jesus wept," John 11:35--as one of us, with our hurts and sorrows. Hebrews 4:15 says,

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  

We shared the empathy we have received and given in our journey of loss. May's topic, "Please Don't Say That!" says it all.What we don't want is quick quips or false hopes. We need to recognize that "we live in a fallen world, and it often falls on us." We want what Jesus told us in John 16:33:

I have told you these things that in Me you might have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.

"Peace. With one word Jesus quiets the quest of our soul. We thirst for peace--shalom, wholeness, stillness, rest, healing. Take heart. Hope. Come alive again....If all we do is talk about life's losses, then that too fails to tell the whole story. We need to be able to deal with life's losses in the context of God's healing."

The June 15 meeting (which I missed due to my Chicago trip with son Steven) was a balloon launch in honor of our loved ones who have gone to heaven before us.

Today we discussed, "Don't Let Grief be Contagious." and we discussed this contrast: grief is a wound, not a sickness, and loss isn't contagious. We were asked to color in the emotions that best describe us--today.

I colored in three choices in the "Tangled Ball of Grief," whereas many of the ladies selected several. I first colored "Yearning," because I wish that my "Original Steve" was still with me. But I had to admit "Relief," because of the tormented, anguished, lost, helpless person he became in his last years.Then I had to acknowledge "Loneliness'" because I don't have a certain, intimate, soul mate to do life with any more. That doesn't mean I am not joyful and happy with the life God has designed for me most of the time, it's just a fact. I am now single, not married.

As we talked, some shared their feeling of being lost, others had wise counsel for relating to others who want to know how to talk with you about your loved one. Let them know it's all right to talk about them. One gal found it wonderfully comforting to re-read her sympathy cards, and others concurred. I believe I will do that tonight!

Our lesson ended with Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV):

Do not be anxious for anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Beloved of the Lord, sleep well

10:20 p.m. Today's project was to teach our summer Bible study on II Samuel 17, where David narrowly escapes the army of his traitorous son Absalom, who has seized the throne. As with every week's gathering, we enjoy rich gleanings from the Word of God, and lively discussion. As much as I anticipated sheer enjoyment of our study time,  a major commemoration preoccupied my mind when I arose several hours earlier.

This day, July 11th, would have been my late husband Steve's and my 32nd wedding anniversary. He died 6 months ago in his bed in the assisted living residence where he had lived comfortably and well since September 2012. Despite our grief, my children and grandchildren and I have moved forward, experiencing accomplishments, trials, as well as the mental and emotional adjustments that must be made when the father and husband of the family is just--gone.

Behold, I will do a new thing we are reminded in Isaiah 43:19, and God has made that abundantly clear. Two of my kids, their spouses and little ones are living here now; a new grandson was born on June 9, then took ill with spinal meningitis within two weeks. Desmond is home now, after 2 weeks in the NICU, completely healthy and normal, thanks to the prayers of hundreds of Christians for his healing..

I have set up a trust for  all of Steve's and my estate. The yards and property are now being landscaped and properly fenced; my business is growing rapidly as God is literally bringing the women who want to join me in the effort to become a Sales Unit with me as Director. I'm pictured below with one of my team members.

Steve won't enjoy the earthly rewards, such as travel and career cars, that my business will provide. He was always so supportive, and would be my loudest cheerleader if he were here and in his right mind. But, his sojourn on this earth ended, reminding me of Hebrews 11:8-10:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Steve is now living the promise of eternal life, having gone to be with the Lord Jesus he loves. And while God is anointing my work and ministry, answering prayers, and being the central presence in my life, I have so much to look forward to when my time comes to leave--prayerfully with all other Christians in the Rapture --(I Thessalonians 4:13-18), if God wills it during my lifetime.

God blessed me with a lovely dream the other night! Steve and I were younger, enjoying our time together, including a visit to Harvest Christian Fellowship where we attended for 22 years. All was bright, beautifully decorated, and the worship and fellowship were sweet. What a peace I always wake up with when I dream of Steve! I am living proof that when we honor what God honors, faithful marriage, He has a reward for us:

 ...the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 

Additionally, God gave me this verse when I awoke after the sweet dream, Psalm 127:2b:

For so He gives His beloved sleep.

Thank You, Lord Jesus!!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Essentials for ministry

8:53 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy sweet fellowship. Midday, I picked up a friend's daughter from the Amtrak train station in Riverside. Emily wanted to surprise her mom by arriving all the way from Germany, where she and her husband are stationed, to help her recuperate from surgery. You should have seen  Emily's parents' faces when they opened the door! Priceless! It's not often that I have the privilege of blessing Debi, who's been there for me so devotedly throughout Steve's illness and since I became a widow this year. As Proverbs 17:17 says,

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

After a few hours at home with my kids, and taking care of a few chores in the yard, I headed off to Perris with a head of iceberg lettuce and my Bible to join Karen Morales and several good friends at her home for her bi-monthly "Ladies Only Fellowship," featuring taco salad and multiple desserts. Upon entering, Karen has us each write the address of a Bible verse on a square of paper, fold it, no name, and drop it into a  jar. Later in the evening, we pick a different one than we brought, look it up, read it to the group, and spontaneously explain what it means to you. It's always fascinating to see which scripture the Holy Spirit has for each of us, because He knows the need of each woman there! One need was met early on: laughter! Proverbs 15:15b (NIV) says,

...the cheerful heart has a continual feast.

I couldn't stay for the entire evening because Kathy Potts, who leads one of the monthly widows' groups I attend, had invited me to the Christian bikers' clubs' monthly outreach event at the Farmer Boys restaurant not far from my house. The clubs host the event, and open it to bikers from everywhere as an evangelistic outreach.

Kathy's adopted teenage son Daniel, once in a band, was the featured drum soloist for the evening, playing even the most complicated rock beats to popular Christian tunes.Nothing unusual about a talented young man entertaining a crowd--my son Kriss plays his drums still, after a stellar career in high school marching band, and drumming for his own bands. But you'll see Daniel's uniqueness below.

Daniel was born without arms! His adopted parents and older siblings taught him to do life without arms, much as Nick Vujicic, who has neither arms nor legs, was taught to make his way in life. He became head of an international evangelical ministry, "Life without Limits," with a 5 minute devotional heard on radio stations throughout the world. I have seen Nick at the Harvest Crusade, using his testimony to give a stirring challenge to thousands to drop their sin and excuses, come forward and be born again. 

Daniel played for two hours, with only small breaks to drink water. His mom Kathy told me, "His abs are like steel from leaning back and holding his legs up that long!" And Daniel plays well. He's been contacted by bands  looking for drummers to play the clubs in LA. But that's not his kind of scene, his mom remarked.In fact, the tip jar he had in front of his drum set had a believer's purpose--to help raise money to attend a youth retreat later this month.

So, what are the essentials for evangelism? Nice clothes? You should have seen the bikers in their gaudy black vests, graying braided hair and tattoos! Hear Jesus' comment about the expectations the Jews of His day had for the forerunner of the Messiah, Matthew 11:8-9:

But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.

Mark 1:6 tells us that John the Baptist wore camel's hair shirts, a leather belt, and ate locusts and wild honey! Yet his ministry became so famous, so truthful and so convicting that all of Judea, including Pharisees and Roman soldiers, came to the Jordan River to be baptized by him. Ultimately, John was beheaded by King Herod for telling too much truth!

Does a Christian need to spare no expense or time to minister grace and encouragement to a fellow believer? I don't think I spent more that an hour from leaving to returning home, taking Emily to see her parents, and traveled perhaps 10 miles round trip. My "works" were hardly noticeable compared with God's plan to bless Debi so abundantly today! Karen blessed a roomful of women today, in a simple but tidy house, with mutually shared, everyday food. That's true koinonia!

Let's look at Romans 10:14-15 for the requirements to be used by God to save souls:

  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
  And how shall they preach, unless they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them who preach the gospel and bring glad tidings of good things!

I don't see anything mandatory there about arms, legs, hands, lovely clothing, mansions, or long distance travel, do you?

Let us do what is at hand and do it faithfully. This is not only the best way to reach others, but our simple daily efforts, performed prayerfully, are well pleasing to God.