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Showing God’s Love

by Velma Amundson

First, a Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the mom’s and grandmother’s out there. I also want to remember those women who have been like a mom to me. I’m sure we have all had a woman who mentored or helped us along the way.

I know I’ve mentioned that my husband had a knee replacement on April 9th. He’s doing very well. But we noticed something…he has a therapy kitty. Yep, this is another of the lessons I’ve learned from my cats. John has a therapy kitty. Every time he goes to do his physical therapy, our orange girl runs down with him and crawls up on his chest and stays with him. She comes out and sits with him while he works on the bike too. And, when I was sick to my stomach recently, she sat beside me, pressed up against my leg with her paw on my thigh the whole time. She obviously knows when we are not right and she offers as much support and sympathy as she can.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”  1 Peter 3:8  (ESV)

We are told throughout the Bible that we are to help, support and have sympathy for our neighbors, our friends and families and even our enemies (feed them!) I know that we have prayer chains for those in need. In our community, when needed, we have provided meals to people who are temporarily unable to cook due to injuries or illness. We also make quilts, some of which go to World Relief, but often go to nursing home patients, people who have lost possessions to a fire, the local “boys ranch” for “troubled” youth, and several other charities. These are all examples of the charity that Jesus showed and that we are to show. Just like my cat, we are to reach out to those around us. May God richly bless and keep you, and may you show God’s love to those around you.

It’s Not Because of the Work

by Sarah Langness

I’m not a big birthday person. I’m okay with your birthday and his birthday or her birthday. Just not mine. And it has nothing to do with the fact that a birthday means I’m older. It’s all the attention. What are you supposed to do when a group of people sings “Happy Birthday” to you? Opening up presents in front of other people? That’s one of my least favorite things to do. And really, it’s just my birthday. Frankly, I didn’t do anything. My mom did all the work; I was just . . . born.

Mother’s Day, on the other hand, I like. Yesterday I celebrated my second Mother’s Day (and my little man’s first birthday- hooray!). I suppose if you applied my same “anti-birthday” logic to Mother’s Day, you’d think I didn’t care for this May holiday much either. But it’s much different in my mind. Sure, there’s attention – but it’s not all on me. There are LOTS of people being celebrated on Mother’s Day. There’s no song in which you sit awkwardly in front of a cake and stack of presents. And Mother’s Day – I feel like I earned it. Like it’s a day of recognition and appreciation for all I do as a mom. And I think it’s a pretty great idea!

I guess, what it all boils down to is this: I didn’t work for my birthday, so the love and greetings I receive seem undeserved. But for Mother’s Day – yeah, I do a lot of work. So I guess I feel like I deserve to be appreciated and loved. Make sense?

As I was sorting this through in my head last night, I couldn’t help but compare my “anti-birthday” and “pro-Mother’s Day” stance to God’s love and His abundant grace and freely given salvation.

God loves us. But not because of anything we’ve done. His grace extended towards us is not a payment for deeds completed. Salvation is given not because of the hard work I’ve put in at the church or the long hours at the food packing facility. I do not work for His love, His grace, His mercy. I am given His love. I am given His grace. I am given His mercy.

He loves us because we are His (Isaiah 43:3-4).
In fact, He loved us when we hated Him (Romans 5:6, 8)
He saved me as a gift. Because of His grace. He gave that which I do not deserve (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Because of His love – not because of anything I have done – I am a child of God(1 John 3:1)

I think that’s pretty awesome.

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved usnot on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” – Titus 3:4-7 (NASB, emphasis mine)

Going Home?

by Velma Amundson

“DAY O, Day ay ay oh, Daylight come and me wan’ go home”. Ok, I know, strange way to start this blog. But then again, why not? This song is about banana workers who have finished their shift, done their work and want to go home. My mother has been with us for a month. We’ve had a great time together. But, as it gets closer to the time for her to go home, I can see her missing her home, her friends and my brother and sisters more and more. She wants to go home.

There is an old gospel hymn that says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” I think of that song often. It reminds me that I have a heavenly home waiting for me. Somewhere that I’m promised every tear will be wiped away and I will get to be in the presence of my Lord and Savior forever. It keeps me going when the way gets rough and I feel like nothing is working. It also keeps me going when everything is going my way. It reminds me that the things of this earth are temporary and not all that important. What is important is the treasure I “lay up in heaven”. When I allow God to use me as His witness, showing His love and compassion to those around me, I lay up treasure in Heaven. And someday, when my work here is done, I will get to go there. Not because of the work, but because of God’s grace and mercy.

God Goes Before Us

by Lynn Wellumson

We have enjoyed for years getting Christmas cards and letters from friends and family.  They, without exception, highlight the good times had by the family through the past year.  This has included new births, job promotions, children with stellar grades, new homes, and exotic vacations.  We have most years written a letter of our own recalling the blessings and joys of the past year.

One author, after a glowing report, of unusually gifted and talented children, job promotions, and a dog with perfect manners closed his letter with a P.S which read “other things happened too, but they don’t look good in print”.

How thankful we are that God has gone before us in 2013.  We can trust His mercy and grace will not only be sufficient but will cover us.  We are thankful for His promise of forgiveness and mercy to those who call upon His name and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  In our humanness we need His promise of eternal life and the joy of entering His kingdom.  We can face the future with optimism and hope even with the knowledge that things will happen that wouldn’t look good in print.

Love Mercy: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey from the American Dream to the Kingdom of God

Book Review by Faith Nelson

Caution!  This book may be hazardous to your lifestyle

It’s the story of a journey:  a vision trip to Swaziland undertaken by Christian novelist Lisa Samson and her teenage daughter, Ty.  They want to “look beyond their borders,” “see the hard things of the world” and “be exposed …remember and record.”

Swaziland, South Africa has the highest rate of AIDS infection in the world.  Robbery is epidemic and basics, such as blankets, are precious.  The Samsons meet twelve year olds, elderly relatives and even neighbors raising children who have been orphaned by AIDS and other diseases.  Ty compares her experience to “having someone wake me up with a baseball bat” and Lisa says “less than a week into our trip, suffering was beginning to look so normal.”

As life changing as this journey is, the book documents a second journey that is just as transforming.  It begins and ends with a journey of sanctification as the Samson family struggles to replace “the American dream with dreams of the kingdom.”  They go from living the typical suburban life in a 5000 square foot house to a home in downtown Lexington, Kentucky where they live as part of an intentional religious community.  According to Lisa, “we buy most of our clothing used … a full-on trip to the (beauty) salon is out of reach.  …We keep our heat down to 60 degrees in the winter to lower our utility bills.”  The trip to Swaziland was “a single chapter in the longer story of God snatching us out of our complacent, consumerist Christianity.”

Lisa and Ty are open and honest in their struggles to live a more Christlike life.  Lisa says, “After the trip, I’d planned to eat only beans, rice and fresh vegetables for Lent … my Lenten fast lasted three days.  So much for eating the same thing every day and being thankful.”  She realizes we are all called to different places spiritually and cannot judge others for not being where we are.  But she does not hesitate to ask hard questions that none of us should ignore.   “… Where do you think God might be calling you?”  “What can I do?”  “Who is my church keeping out?” and finally “What if every Christian in the world reached out in love and deed to one sick AIDS patient, one lonely orphan, one poor widow, one hungry family? Why does that sound impossibly hard to us?  What if we did it anyway?”

You will find this book challenging and thought provoking.  Since it alternates between the viewpoints of Lisa and Ty, it would be a great choice to read with a youth group or with a young adult son or daughter.