//Living God's Love

1969 Revisited

by Connie Vandeman Jeffery

The year 1969 wasn’t about Woodstock or the moon landing, although I remember the latter event in great detail. We watched it live on television—the Apollo 11 landing and then Neal Armstrong’s famous words as he stepped on the moon’s surface: “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I watched my dad wipe tears from his eyes and my mom sit spellbound in the rented trailer on Fenwick Island, Delaware, where we were vacationing that July. I was 13 years old and it didn’t get much better than a vacation at the beach and watching history unfold on live television. For me, though, 1969 was about learning to play the guitar, wishing I was Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary, and riding my horse, Nellie. And Vietnam—‘69 will always be about Vietnam.

Richard M. Nixon became president in 1969, and while Vietnam seemed like someone else’s war, it soon became our war, too, when my brother Bobby was drafted. Having a brother in Vietnam brought its own kind of anxiety to our family. I prayed for his safety every night and wrote letters to him and helped Mom with the care packages. He was seven years my senior and the closest brother I had. George, my oldest brother, got married and left home when I was three. Ronnie was 14 years older than me; following a complete nervous breakdown, he lived in a state hospital near our home. Bobby was all I had. He was more serious and grown-up when he came back from boot camp and headed quite quickly to Vietnam—which seemed like such a scary place. Bobby was a medic in 1969— right at the height of U. S. troop involvement. I just wanted him to come home safely.

I cried a lot about the war and about Bobby being gone. I strummed the three chords I had learned on the guitar and sang my Peter, Paul and Mary songs: “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? And how many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand? And how many times must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever banned? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” And that’s where I thought the answers were—blowing in the wind, just out of my grasp.

When the telegram arrived, hand-delivered by two uniformed men, I watched in slow motion as my dad accepted the black bordered envelope and ripped it open with mom at his side. I stood in the background, too afraid to move. When their eyes lit upon the words “not seriously wounded,” they actually fell to their knees right there at the front door and wept tears of joy. I didn’t know what to feel. Elated, of course. Bobby was coming home, and he’d only had some shrapnel in his leg. He would be at Walter Reed Hospital for several weeks. It was the best possible news.

But I was numb, too. So many conflicting emotions would follow. I was so proud of Bobby. He’d served his country, made it through with only the most minor of physical wounds, but he was so different when he returned. Something had changed. He would never talk about the war. And he wasn’t proud of his service, Purple Heart and all. He was broken, but I was too young to know why. I had Nellie, the horse, who listened to all my mixed feelings, and I had my music. I also had that simple childlike faith that would only later become something solid—my faith at age 13 felt mushy, like Jell-O. I wanted to believe everything would work out. That Bobby would be normal again. That Ronnie would be healed of schizophrenia. That Romans 8:28 was true and all things really do “work together for good to them that love God.” It just didn’t feel as if my prayers were being answered.

I was just as surprised as my parents when Bobby re-enlisted, got married, and moved to San Antonio, Texas, stationed at Fort Sam Houston. He would live in the South the rest of his life—Texas and Georgia. And he would struggle for the rest of his life with the addiction issues that had begun, I later learned, in Vietnam. Marriage, a beautiful daughter, a divorce, remarriage, a series of jobs as a car salesman for different dealerships, buying a home in Georgia, losing that home to foreclosure, two grandchildren he adored, then cancer, and a too-early death at age 60. I am grateful the story of Bobby’s life doesn’t end there. Bobby, on his deathbed, found the one Answer that wasn’t blowing in the wind. It turned out to be real, tangible, and solid.

In October of 2009, when we learned Bobby didn’t have long to live, my oldest brother George and I flew to Georgia to visit him in the hospital. We would fly back just a few weeks later for his funeral. In between the two visits, Bobby and I talked on the phone while he was still lucid. He told me he wanted to be “saved.” I explained that he just needed to “call on the name of the Lord” and he would be saved. He’d see our parents again. We’d all be together again. And he did call on the name of the Lord. He prayed a simple prayer asking for forgiveness and surrendering himself, perhaps for the first time in his life, to Jesus.

When I sat with his wife, daughter and family, our brother, and a few friends at his simple, sweet service at a military cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia, I was filled with such gratitude for the gift of Bobby to the world. And for the gift of all the wounded warriors who fought and survived the atrocities of wars. And for those who didn’t survive. I was taken back to 1969, to the girl singing, “How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky? How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry? And how many deaths will it take ‘til he knows that too many people have died?”

I know now, 50 years later, that the answer is not just blowing in the wind. For me, it is my faith, stronger and more solid with each passing year. The soundtrack of my life still includes the great folk songs and ballads of 1969, but it was a different song that I sang at Bobby’s service, standing next to his flag-draped coffin: “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

 

Connie Vandeman Jeffery is the host of All God’s People, a weekly short video series highlighting the people and ministries of the Pacific Union Conference, and has had a long career in media.

2019-11-08T17:01:23-08:00November 11th, 2019|Living God's Love|

One Word

by Becky De Oliveira

I’ve done graphic design, including hundreds—perhaps thousands—of assignments for Seventh-day Adventist institutions and organizations, for more than two decades. My experience leads me to conclude that if there is an authenticity problem in the Adventist church—and the amount of discussion around this topic leads me to conclude that there is— it can be summed up in just one word: earrings.

Try to guess how many times I’ve removed earrings from a photo using Photoshop. Let me put it this way: If I had a dime for every time, I’d be—in the words of country singer Maren Morris—“sitting on a big [mild expletive] pile of dimes.”

Not only have I removed earrings (and necklaces and bracelets and nose rings and lip rings and eyebrow rings and finger rings) from stock photos of models who are not personally known to anyone in the church, but I have had to erase them from pictures of people who actually go to church every week wearing these items. Everyone can see that they are wearing them. So who are we trying to fool? And how must the photographed person feel when they see their edited photo? They certainly would be aware that their earrings and other “adornments” have been removed.

What does this communicate exactly? It doesn’t seem to say, “Come as you are.”

Malcolm Gladwell talks about how consumers say they want one thing while really wanting another. He uses coffee as an example, saying, “If I asked all of you what you want in a coffee…every one of you would say I want a dark, rich, hearty roast. What percentage of you actually like a dark, rich, hearty roast? …somewhere between 25 and 27 percent of you. Most of you like milky, weak coffee.… But you will never, ever say to someone who asks you what you want that I want a milky, weak coffee.”

I wonder sometimes if we are the same—we say we want “authenticity,” but what we really want is conformity. I had a client for several years who always insisted that she wanted a really “edgy” design, but she always chose something traditional, usually based around a navy blue color scheme.

There are many reasons we struggle with authenticity—like all people do. There is the continual sway of social media and the need to impress other people, for instance. But I don’t think we can discount the possibility that we don’t really want it or encourage it. Perhaps one reason authenticity is so hard to come by in our churches is that there is a sizeable if somewhat hidden population that is uncomfortable allowing people to exist simply as they are.

We have a great deal to gain from being ourselves and accepting others as themselves (barring, of course, violent, abusive, or criminal behavior). I have to believe that God created us each for a reason and that existing fully as the people He made us to be, rather than weak copies of a supposed ideal, is part of what we are here to do. The strength of our individual characters is what allows us to do great things in the name of God, not merely to abstain from sins or behaviors that might be frowned upon by our communities.

If we are to have faith communities that truly exist in authenticity, we have to really mean it when we say we want our “coffee” dark, rich, and hearty. Perhaps it is an acquired taste, one that we must begin learning to appreciate now. The Bible indicates that this is what God wants from us—honesty: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8, ESV). Being authentic means accepting our own imperfections along with those of others; it means cultivating a culture where authenticity is actually encouraged.

 

Becky De Oliveira is a teacher, writer, graphic designer, and doctoral student working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado. This piece was adapted from a longer article that appeared in Mountain Views, the quarterly journal of the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, based in Denver.

2019-11-04T10:03:12-08:00November 4th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Instant Answer

by Donna E. Starr

We live in a society of instant! Everything is instant. You push a button and your computer is on. You turn your phone on and it’s instantly available. You place something in the microwave and it’s instantly cooking. You turn your car on and you have instant transportation. Turn the radio on and there is instant music. Flip the light switch, instant light. (As long as the electricity bill was paid!)

We are conditioned to expect the instantaneous. We pray to God wanting instant results. As soon as we finish our prayer, we stand up and expect an instant answer to that prayer. When we take Him our deepest needs, wants, and desires, we expect instant results. However, God can use non-instant results to teach us a lesson, to make us realize that God’s timing is not our timing, that He knows the beginning to the end—and back again.

I found out last fall that my rent was going up, not by $50 or even $100 but by $200 a month. I am single and my budget did not allow for an extra $200. I began to pray with earnestness. I had been given until the first of October to indicate whether I planned to move and until the end of November to vacate, so I started looking for a new place even though I loved the area where I was living and didn’t want to move. Finally, I found a place I truly liked, but that complex didn’t have an apartment available. I was told they would keep me posted. Every so often I would check in, but nothing was available. Then, after much prayer, I did something I have never done before. I gave the manager at my apartment complex my answer: I would be moving. No place to go whatsoever.

I told friends I had taken a leap of faith. I think some thought I must be crazy! But the search for a new apartment was on full speed ahead. There was a complex next door to where I was living, but the apartments were even more expensive than the new rent. Meanwhile, I kept checking with the complex that I really liked. It seemed perfect. Good location, rent was workable—but never anything available. I checked with so many other places, but nothing.

I decided to stop in one last time on October 30—one month before moving day. Still nothing. I knew God had answered so many prayers before. He knew I needed a place to live. I didn’t understand why He hadn’t opened a door for me at that complex. I totally lost it on the way home, sobbing. I didn’t sleep well that night. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I never stopped praying, but I was feeling defeated. The prospects looked extremely dim. It didn’t seem like God was hearing or answering my prayers.

The next day, several apartment complexes showed up on Facebook. One of them was the one next door to where I lived. After work, in the pouring rain, I went next door again. To my surprise, they had an apartment available and the rent was less than what I was currently paying. (Apartments always work on supply/demand. A $1, 300 apartment one week might be down to $800 the next week.) I filled out the application, provided paystubs, and left my deposit. That evening I prayed and prayed, thanking God for the door He had opened. A day later, I got the confirmation: I would be moved by my deadline, and the rent was even lower than initially quoted!

I immediately thanked God. This was nothing short of an answered prayer. None of this would have happened if I had not placed my situation in His hands. Prayer works. Sometimes God does answer instantly, but other times, when it seems like prayers are not going higher than the ceiling, God is trying to teach us a lesson. We must always lean on and trust Him. We need to fully depend on Him. There is nothing we can do of ourselves, but when we have faith as small as a mustard seed, great things happen (Matthew 17:20).

My favorite Bible text has always been Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

 

Donna E. Starr is a member of the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church in Arlington, Texas.

 

2019-10-27T16:58:01-08:00October 28th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Life Lessons

by Vanessa Alarcon

The day had finally arrived. The administrator I had admired since my first day as a therapist had agreed to interview me to become one of her mentees. As soon as I first met her, I knew she was what I strived to be. She had confidence and was a clear, effective communicator—which was exactly what I wanted. I didn’t have very much work experience. This was my first real job since graduating, and I was craving personal and professional growth. I was almost in disbelief that she agreed to meet with me.

I spent the 20-minute drive rehearsing the way I would greet her, the small talk I would make as we walked into her office, and how would I present my goals. I wanted to sound smart but also humble and willing to learn. I wanted her to like me so badly that my insecurities were making it hard to just be myself. I was so nervous.

I couldn’t tell you if I greeted her the way I envisioned or what kind of small talk we made. But I do remember her office. Large windows, mountain views, bookshelf full of psychology bestsellers—it was anyone’s dream office.

“Take a seat” she said as she pointed to a chair. “Tell me about yourself.”

So I did. I was nervous, but the more I spoke, the easier it became to share. I chatted about my upbringing and my journey to becoming a licensed therapist. I told her about my growing interest in the addiction field and my goals to increase my self-confidence and improve my communication. And like any good therapist she asked questions. Many good questions. So good that I was soon addressing my deepest insecurities. Then the tears came. I don’t know if this is a common experience for others, but I can start chatting on a superficial level and then, as soon as we hit key topics, I become a tearful mess and begin sharing what I really feel. We went so deep that I began discussing a topic I had no interest in addressing and had very much kept to myself—a current conflict with a co-worker.

She asked me how long it had been since I had spoken to this person. Cringing because I could foresee a negative reaction, I quietly muttered, “Seven months.” I could see her eyebrow raise with disbelief as she repeated my words, “Seven months?”

“Yeah— yes. I figured we’d just keep ignoring each other until it all went away.”

Then she began sharing her own story. I had never had someone so successful share with me so openly about their challenges. The conflicts she has had, some ways she’s managed them. Her advice to me was simple: I needed to address the situation privately, and if that didn’t work then I needed to get a third party involved.

Oh, that sounds familiar. I almost wanted to laugh at the irony that her words echoed those of Matthew 18:15-17. The Message puts it like this:

If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.

I started to feel a little silly. I was seeking out this admired stranger to give me the ultimate answers to my problems, having ignored Jesus’ counsel on how to manage conflict. Of course I needed to address the issue. I knew this. I don’t think there was anything wrong with me seeking this mentorship relationship. I had simply put too much focus and value on this person and not enough on Jesus’ teachings.

She then shared more suggestions on how to resolve the problem—things to make sure I said, things that I should avoid saying. “If you want to continue mentorship with me,” she said with a smile, “that’s your first assignment.” My face lit up. I thanked her profusely and made sure she knew how committed I was to us working together.

That was when I learned my second lesson. My pride was getting in the way of admitting my challenges in the workplace. I had kept them private because I didn’t want to share a struggle that was embarrassing to me. I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t resolve this single conflict, and it was preventing me from growing spiritually and professionally. Let’s all share with one another. Let’s seek out His Word and grow together.

 

Vanessa Alarcon is a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on addiction treatment in Denver, Colorado. She also serves as the Faith Engagement Pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado.

 

2019-10-18T16:19:33-08:00October 21st, 2019|Living God's Love|

A Case of Good Intentions

by Faith Hoyt

A while back, I did something that created both a fair amount of embarrassment for me and a great many laughs for my colleagues.

Our department had planned an informal dinner at a nearby restaurant right after work. I offered two of my coworkers a ride to the restaurant, but after waiting in the parking lot for a while, I left with only one of them. I later learned that had I waited two more minutes to hear from him, my other coworker wouldn’t have missed out on the gathering.

Well, we’re a close-knit bunch, and our missing coworker was…missed. (He ended up deciding not to come.) I felt bad about my impatience, so later I asked our boss if he knew of something this coworker particularly liked—something that could help make amends for a failed rendezvous. The suggestion, which came with a grin now that I think back on it, was Malta, a soft drink made mostly in coastal Caribbean areas such as Haiti, Panama, or Puerto Rico.

I had tasted Malta several summers before, and although I remembered disliking the molasses flavor, I was eager to find this favorite beverage that would restore good will. (My coworkers are a great bunch, so actually losing their good will is hard to do.) Since we were in Los Angeles County, I figured the odds were good that I could find Malta at the local grocery store.

Fast forward to a scene on aisle 26 of said local grocery store, where a sales associate helped end a 10-minute search and tracked down one of the last cases of Malta in stock. I was thrilled. “Popular drink!” I mused as I headed to the checkout. Later, I triumphantly sought out the coworker whom I’d abandoned and held out the case of Malta as a peace offering. This was when my enthusiasm shifted to another state—we will call it “self-conscious distress.”

Here’s how the handoff of the Malta went down: I held out the container with a big grin and said nothing as I waited for the significance of the drink to register on my friend’s face. That look never came. Instead, he remarked, “OK, Malta!” and looked back at me with a confused expression. I felt myself mirror his look.

“But you like Malta!” I insisted.

“I do?” was his reply.

We stood there for a brief second. Then my coworker laughed, accepted my offering, and said a gracious thank you before returning to what he was doing—all with that expression of someone who is laughing inwardly.

Later, I learned that the name of this coworker’s favorite drink is Materva (something I haven’t tried—apparently a carbonated drink made from a popular tea in South America). For our office, however, the word Malta is engrained in our memories as the keyword for a running joke about good intentions.

I’m grateful each time this story comes up. Instead of resurrecting feelings of embarrassment, it makes me feel a strong sense of camaraderie with my coworkers. My community.

I’ve found that whether it’s the wrong drink, the wrong name in a bulletin, or even fabric swatches you’ve chosen for reupholstering pews that everyone else finds ugly, moments like these are an opportunity to stop taking life so seriously, laugh at ourselves, and—perhaps most importantly—laugh together.

 

Faith Hoyt is a communication specialist for the Pacific Union Conference. She lives in Riverside, California, and is earning an advanced degree from La Sierra University.

 

2019-10-09T14:36:17-08:00October 14th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Entertaining Unawares

by Edward Motschiedler

The first Sabbath in one of my new churches turned out to be memorable for two reasons. The first reason was that the head elder, a retired physician, said while introducing me, “Well, our new young pastor just came from the seminary, and I’m sure he has some new ideas he wants to try out. But we know how to run things here and don’t need to do anything different. He can spend more time at his other churches.” I thought that this man was going to give me a lot of trouble and immediately wished someone else was the elder of the church. 
 
The second memorable thing I noticed was that two elderly men were sitting in the very last row of the church while everyone else was sitting on the opposite side in the very front. When I met them after the service, I noticed that their clothes and shoes were dirty, and I was almost overwhelmed by their strong body odor. When I visited their home later, I saw empty food cans scattered around the floors and piles of dirty clothes laying on the furniture. I couldn’t understand how people could live like that. 
 
At the time I had no idea how those two observations would affect my understanding of Christian hospitality and the role of church leadership. 
 
After I had been at the church for several weeks, the elder and his wife invited my wife and me to their home for Sabbath dinner. When we arrived, I was quite surprised to see the two elderly brothers there. While the wife got dinner ready, I tried to coax the brothers into talking, with little success.
 
After the meal, the head elder left the dining room with one of the brothers. His wife then told me about the brothers and their ministry to them over the years. She said that the men were now in their eighties. The oldest brother had come back from World War I suffering from what was then called shell shock and is now called post traumatic stress disorder. Because the older brother was not able to take care of himself, his younger brother never married and devoted his life to being his caregiver. Sadly, the younger brother was now suffering from dementia, and they were barely able to take care of themselves. She said that she and her husband had been trying to help them for years.
 
“Every Sabbath morning, we pick them up at their house, and after church we bring them to our home. After the meal is finished, my husband takes one of them into the bathroom, helps him undress and get into the bathtub, washes him from head to foot, and shampoos his hair. Afterward he has a robe for him to slip into. He then sits the brother in a chair in the bathroom, kneels in front of him, and trims and cleans his fingernails and toenails. Then it’s the other brother’s turn. While the men are getting their baths, I gather up their dirty clothes and place them in a laundry basket for future washing. I then replace them with the clothes I washed from their last visit.”
 
Every Sabbath the brothers had their only hot meal of the week, their only bath of the week, and their only set of clean clothes to wear during the week, thanks to the hospitality of this wonderful couple. They did this week after week for years without anyone knowing.
 
While she was telling me the story, I was thinking that this is exactly what Jesus would have done if He had met the brothers. I could picture Jesus helping them into the bathtub, gently washing them, and then kneeling before them to clean and clip their nails. 
 
Afterwards I regretted that I had so wrongly judged the elder, and I wished I had an elder like him in every church. Afterwards I prayed that my wife and I would be able to offer that kind of loving hospitality and encourage others to do the same.
 
Oh, and by the way, the elder was right. They did know how to run the church well, and I was able to give more time to the other churches. I also learned the valuable lesson of trusting church members to use their gifts in leading the church.
 
 
Edward Motschiedler spent 19 years as a pastor, 12 as Ohio Conference President, and 8 years as Executive Secretary of the Columbia Union Conference. He and his wife, Valeetah, a retired nursing professor, live in Riverside, California, and are leaders in the senior member ministry of the Azure Hills Church.
 
2019-10-06T16:17:48-08:00October 7th, 2019|Living God's Love|

A Longing Within

by Megan M. Elmendorf Hopson

I wonder when it is that we begin to feel a certain longing within us. When do we recognize there is a part of us missing and that we are not whole? Elementary school, middle school, high school, college, beyond? Artists of brush, pen, and clay have long sought to capture the essence of this longing. Societies across the globe have unconsciously discovered this profound longing and have tried to quench it with superficial things: looks, wealth, fame, etc. Few seem to understand that this hunger is a part of why we were born on this earth, why we wake up every day and continue living, even through troubled times.

I firmly believe this yearning is the wish that our soul has for complete acceptance, complete love, and absolute grace. Our soul desires fullness! We seek this in the oddest places: work, family, mass media/entertainment, self-promotion/recognition, friends, illicit relationships, money, food. We long desperately for someone or something to wholly love us, to embrace us as we are, and to extend grace for all our shortcomings, embracing us as individuals. We yearn for something that seems just out of our reach, and yet we regularly reach for it, even if subconsciously.

Sometimes we do things that do not make sense at the time but later make perfect sense. You wonder why you took so long getting ready for vespers, even though you are not dating, or why you even bothered to drag yourself out of bed to go teach class when your students are disengaged. I believe it is because subconsciously you are seeking affirmation, acceptance, grace, and love.

This drive for completeness can lead us astray, taking us places we never should have gone. We can end up in manipulative or broken relationships, imbalanced work/home lives, eating disorders, addictions, or spiritual estrangement. Our hearts are shredded over and over again, and we often willfully remain ignorant as to why. No matter what we do, we feel so empty. We strive for things that seem unattainable.

No matter what I do, I cannot find complete happiness on this earth. Yes, I can enjoy life to its fullest with every blessed moment I have been given. I adore my family and appreciate my work. I thrive as I learn and grow, but I always feel that something is missing. In my spiritual journey I have waxed and waned in my proximity to that which fills my soul-cup. In fact, recently my father reminded me of it, and I have once more orbited closer. I cherish it anew with all my heart, soul, and mind.

I have been raised a Christian; all my life I have known of God, Jesus, and all the founding principles of my religion. Most of the time, I felt happy and on fire for what I believed in, continually wanting to spread the happiness that I felt, and yet…I knew something was not quite right. I understood and accepted all the things that I had been taught: that God created this earth, that Adam and Eve sinned, that Jesus died and was raised for our sins, and that in the end all those saved will go to heaven and live eternally with Christ in joyous adoration with no more pain and death. However, there is more to it than just that. There is the fact that Christ offers unfailing love, divine grace, and eternal acceptance: a complete relationship. I knew of this, but so often we know things in our minds that we once knew with our hearts.

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me” (Proverbs 8:17, NIV). When was the last time I eagerly looked forward to time spent with God? Do I talk about Him and what He’s done for me, where He’s taken me, what He’s taught me, as eagerly as I talk about the movies, books, or people I populate my life with? Do I “arm” myself for loving and living with my family by first ensuring that my relationship with God is vibrant, real, and regular?

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV). Only the Creator of my inmost part, the Maker of my soul, knows my needs, my desires, my dreams in a fashion and way that is wholly good. When I put my relationship with Him first, when I regularly center my comings and goings on Him, with Him, then I taste heaven on Earth. That corner of my soul that felt bereft even when in the arms of loved ones is now filled.

My mother once told me that there is a God-sized hole in every person’s heart and people will do strange and sometimes dangerous things to fill that hole if they have decided against a relationship with God. Yet that is like the garden refusing the water (Isaiah 58:11) that the gardener brings. The psalmist declares of God in Psalm 107:9, “For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (NKJV).

Are you weary in your soul? Do you feel that your relationships are thin, lacking, unfulfilling? Have you begun to drift in your spirit from one source of entertainment to the next, nearly afraid to be in silence with your own thoughts? Return to your relationship with your Father; make it your priority. “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish” (Jeremiah 31:25, RSV). Taking time to “hang out” with a Being who says that seems like a good use of time and energy to me. Only He can replenish you and satisfy the longing within.

 

Megan M. Elemendorf Hopson is vice principal of education at Taiwan Adventist International School.

2019-09-29T18:23:10-08:00September 30th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Building the New

by Darla Lauterbach-Reeves

Are we focused on fixing the past? Or building the new?

Jesus has the power to make all things new—and one glorious day He literally and physically will. But, while we are still here, He helps us too.

He doesn’t erase the past, but He provides wisdom from it. He doesn’t change what hurt us, but He equips forgiveness for it and provides a testimony from it. He doesn’t remove the people; He teaches us new ways of relating to them.

In heaven, all our troubles will vanish. Until then, looking to Jesus in our hurts can lead to better decisions, courage, and change.

He doesn’t call us to live like our parents did. He doesn’t call us to live like our friends do. He doesn’t call us to cower to human beings. He calls us to follow Him. The King of the universe calls us to make Him the King of our hearts. And when we do, we should expect change. Changes in ourselves and in our circumstances.

The prophet Isaiah uses these words: “Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already—you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there” (Isaiah 43:19, GNT).

He goes to work on us and for us. Change is scary, but when we make Him the King of our hearts, we can also expect His help in these changes. He asks us to. Consider the words of the Psalmist: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (Psalm 32:8, NIV).

Sometimes the new things He is doing don’t seem good at first. They may even appear to be the very opposite of good. I’ve had this experience many times. What I thought was a disaster was really Him making His way. So I’ve learned to trust. I say, “Lord, I know You are working. This is how You create change. In all things.” We need to know God is still good and always good, even—and especially—when things are not.

Last week, I apologized to my daughter for mistakes I’d made. Almost immediately, Jesus lifted a burden from my heart. Today, no matter her opinion of me, I’ve done what He called me to do. And I thank God for that fresh start. May we all trust His love enough to be human. To admit where we’ve messed up. To humble ourselves, receive His mercy, and show our kids how to do that as well. I believe God put this burden on my heart to better my future relationship with my daughter. And I thank Him for that.

Building the new is exciting. With Jesus in our hearts, we can expect help when the waves crash. He may not stop the storm, but He will show us how to maneuver through whatever it may bring and how to receive His peace and strength in the midst of it.

We can’t change our past, but we can learn from it. We can’t change people’s minds, but we can love them anyway—and from a distance when necessary. We can’t force our way through circumstances, but we can ask God to lead the way and follow Him step by gracious step.

What are you doing today to better yourself? Your relationships? Your health? Your finances? Your future? Your something new? Let’s build something beautiful with God.

 

Darla Lauterbach-Reeves was raised in the church, but it wasn’t until her marriage fell apart that she came to truly know her Greatest Love—Jesus—in whom she found the relationship she had always craved. She is the author of the book He Loves Me THAT Much? available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

2019-09-22T10:10:26-08:00September 23rd, 2019|Living God's Love|

A Feast

by Ray Tetz

This afternoon we headed over to our local international grocery store, and for a few minutes I was my father—for whom a trip through the produce section of any kind of specialty market was a grand adventure.

I sauntered past the prepackaged stuff disdainfully, heading straight for the bins of vegetables and fruit that required a hand and eye well trained in their selection, and I got down to business.

We got some of those little Persian cucumbers that make great pickles but are also delicious to eat out of hand. Some local beefsteak tomatoes that will be too ripe to sell tomorrow. What they call “champagne” grapes that just look to me like the seedless grapes left on the vine behind the first picking. They are sweet beyond description. There were fleshy purple plums—soft but not too soft—and some sort of hybrid between a plum and an apricot that is just the sort of thing that would get my dad thinking about how to add a tree to his yard.

Since tomorrow marks the 16th anniversary of his passing, it’s been close to 20 years since I walked around a farmers’ market or produce department with my dad. You say that you’ll never forget all these little moments, but of course you do. At least, the way you remember changes— some moments become more memorable, even as whole years are all but forgotten. But I can still see him amidst the veggies, trading remarks with an old Asian woman who was skeptical about the quality of the cabbage, or helping a confused-looking new husband with a grocery list pick out some apples.

Driving home, I thought of how he would have riffled through the bags before he settled in behind the wheel, looking for something to taste test on the way. No doubt he would have selected the smallest of the cucumbers. After biting into it with a crack, he would offer it around the car in case any of us were so inclined.

Now I’m roasting garlic in the oven, and tonight for dinner we’ll carefully slice the Iranian flatbread we bought for no other reason than it looked like something Dad would’ve liked. We will layer it with French feta, thick slices of those fresh tomatoes, what’s left of the cucumbers, cloves of well-baked garlic mashed up into a pungent, earthy spread, with just a little salt. There’ll be some basil picked at the very last moment from the garden, and seconds on our favorites.

There will be some differences in how we do dinner. Instead of heavy sour cream, I’ll probably settle for some olive oil or maybe a bit of Japanese mayo. And we will likely sit down at the table and eat from a plate with a knife and fork, whereas he would feel most at home eating his supper standing over the sink, so if the juice from the tomato dribbled down his arms he could quickly wash up before going back for round two.

The last photo I have of my father shows him standing in the kitchen, looking for all the world as if he would be there whenever I wanted to find him. It was the day after his birthday, and we were all hoping against hope the treatments would work. We were all trying to say all the right things and do the right things and pretend that it was all just a drill. But it wasn’t.

He had looked up from packing a box of stuff from his own garden that he wanted us to take with us—even though he knew we were getting on a plane. How could we say no? They were his gifts, offered up by his own hand, as fresh and precious as the day itself. A feast.

 

Ray Tetz is the director of communication and community engagement for the Pacific Union Conference.

2019-09-16T09:29:48-08:00September 16th, 2019|Living God's Love|

The Right Way

by Becky De Oliveira

A few weeks ago, my son and I left home at 3:00 a.m. to climb Mount Massive, the third tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. Normally I wear my hiking shoes while I drive, but this time I felt like being extra clever. I wore a pair of soft and flexible Keen slip-ons with my socks and threw the hiking shoes in the backseat. I’d put them on at the trailhead and enjoy the comfort of the drive both there and back with softer shoes.

It was still dark when we arrived, and the parking lot was nearly full. I was lucky to snag the last space, next to a minivan whose driver had all his doors open making it hard for us to maneuver into the space at all. I felt a little stressed and anxious to remember everything. I’d neglected to hang my headlamp around my neck the way I usually do, so I had to dig through the pack to find it. One of my water bottles was leaking. I had some trouble seeing my extra strap well enough to tighten it sufficiently to keep my water bottles from tipping out of their pockets. The previous day I’d read a recent trail report citing early-morning mountain lions stalking hikers on this particular trail, so there was that. But, finally, we were ready to begin, and we headed up the trail chatting cheerfully—considering it was not yet 6:00 a.m. I hit “outdoor walk” on my Apple Watch so I could track our distance and time.

We were about 0.6 miles up the trail—an uphill section—when dawn illuminated the landscape enough that we could turn off our headlamps. I happened to glance down at my feet at this point, and—you guessed it—to my horror I saw that I was still wearing the Keens. In my rush to get everything together and get moving, I’d completely forgotten the hiking shoes resting peacefully on the backseat of the car.

It’s important to note that on many occasions I’ve noticed the inappropriate gear—sometimes specifically footwear—I’ve seen on Colorado’s fourteeners (mountains with an elevation of at least 14, 000 feet). There was the guy at the summit of Bierstadt wearing a pair of shiny lace-up leather dress shoes. The guy on Longs Peak wearing a black zippered leather jacket like The Fonz. “What do these jokers think this is?” I’ve asked, rhetorically. Obviously, they aren’t thinking. Obviously, they’re idiots. And now I’m one of them.

I already feel shame when hiking because I rarely have more than perhaps four of the ten essentials in my pack (Shh, don’t tell my dad!) but at least that incompetence is hidden. Who’s to know? My feet, on the other hand, are out there for anyone passing by to see.

I considered going back to the car to get the shoes, but that would have added 1.2 miles to an already 13-mile hike—one in which the threat of early afternoon lightning is always present, making an early start essential.

I made a judgement call; I hiked Mount Massive in bendy slip-on flat-style shoes—what the Keen company calls “Mary Janes.” I cringed every time we encountered another group of hikers—especially at the summit where we lingered for some time listening to a group of men from Texas or Missouri debate whether Massive was the tallest mountain in the United States (well, no) or whether it was Mount Shasta (again, no), but I couldn’t even bring myself to be particularly judgmental about it. They were having fun. My son and I were too. The weather was perfect—bright blue sky, not too much wind. We basked in the sun and in the panoramic 360-degree view of the Rockies. We shared a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. We were back at the car by 1:45 p.m., and my feet didn’t bother me one bit the whole way.

Yesterday, in a church discussion group, someone mentioned how much they wish there was a model of someone who actually lives life in a way that is good and admirable—the implication being that, in their view, no such model exists. I had two thoughts: first, that our model is supposed to be Jesus, and second—the more interesting thought, in my opinion—that I see models all around me, every day. Sure, not many of us are doing it “the right way.” We’re wearing the wrong shoes; we don’t know which mountains are the tallest; we come from Texas (kidding). But so what? Most of the time we muddle through, half-cocked and unprepared, and we do a reasonable job of life all the same. I look around and mostly I feel proud of us.

Paul writes, in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (ESV). Doesn’t that mean that we can live with boldness and courage and stop worrying about whether we have our ducks in a row? We don’t—and we never will. We’ll climb the mountain anyway. We will live happily ever after.

 

Becky De Oliveira is a teacher, writer, and graphic designer working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.

2019-09-09T09:56:30-08:00September 9th, 2019|Living God's Love|