Pure Love

Last Sunday, in a small Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a lone gunman entered, and in an act of pure evil, massacred twenty-six individuals and wounded twenty more of the congregants there.  Most of those killed and wounded were children.  One cannot fathom the level of depravity that would drive someone to senselessly murder innocents like that.

A week ago, we came home from attending worship services at our church in Cochrane, Alberta, to learn of the shootings through social media and through the heart-breaking texts sent to my husband from his field operations man who lives and works in Sutherland Springs.  In one chilling text Nick wrote: “I’ve lost 8 of my family members in the shooting.”

How does one respond to that kind of announcement? My husband and I have had a week to process it all, though physically removed from the reality of the horrific events, distance still does not numb the shock. The only thing my husband and I could do was to pray! We wept for Nick, and the other families who had suffered so much loss, and then we prayed for them. Sometimes we faltered, not knowing what to pray, but we knew that Christ was groaning and interceding for us when we couldn’t find the words! (Romans 8:26) We have not stopped praying. My husband, Charles, has spoken at length with Nick over this past week, and Charles and another work colleague will fly from Calgary to San Antonio to attend the funeral(s) representing the oil company they all work for.

Scripture tells us that pure “love” is the willingness to lay down one’s own life for someone else.  (John 15:13)  Christ did just that when He laid down His Life by dying on the Cross for us, while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)  He was our Ultimate Sacrifice.  A sacrifice that the writer of Hebrews says is a “once and for all” act.  (Hebrews 10:10)  We, as Christians, can never thank Him enough for that act of pure love.  It was a gift freely given so none should perish.  (John 3:16)  It is an eternal gift, bought at a great price!

This past week, as we’ve all come to a kind of unwilling acceptance of the horror of the tragedy, we have learned much about the victims, the heroes, and the heart-wrenching stories of self-sacrifice inside that church and after the shooting. One story in particular hit a nerve with me: a Sunday School teacher shielding her teenaged grandson with her own body sacrificing her own life to protect him. What exceptional bravery on her part, and what an act of pure love!

Even in the midst of such profound suffering in that community, numerous testimonies of God’s faithfulness and goodness are already being told all over the media.  It indicates to me that although it seems that darkness threatens to overwhelm the world, the Gospel message will never be squelched!  To prove my point, the Texas Governor Gregg Abbott proclaimed Sunday, November 12th as “… a day of prayer across the state for Texans to unite to pray for those affected by the “horrific, inexplicable evil.”

“Even though anguish and sorrow hang over the community, we will not be overcome by evil. Together we will overcome evil with good. You all have already shown that,” Abbott said at last Sunday night’s prayer vigil.

“Love will conquer evil. You left me inspired. Hours before that [vigil] your community saw the very face of evil. Hours later, you reflected the very grace of God. You are a demonstration of God’s grace across this entire world,” Abbott said.

Of course there will always be those people who want to use this horrific event to politicize it, or to make light of prayer, or to use the tragedy for their own worldly agendas. I am not going to comment on that. Instead, I applaud what Vice President Pence said when he attended a vigil in Texas Wednesday for those killed, “We mourn with those who mourn, and we grieve with those who grieve, but we do not grieve like those who have no hope – for our faith, and our heroes, give us hope.”

Some have pointedly asked in the aftermath of this, “Where was God?” “Why would God allow this to happen?”  We all cry out to God for the answers to those questions when our human experience cannot explain the evil of this world.  I understand.  It is natural to ask the “Why?” questions but when we ask we must also be willing to accept the answer, even if we don’t fully understand or even agree with it.  Max Lucado said last week: “Life is a dangerous endeavor. We pass our days in the shadows of ominous realities. The power to annihilate humanity has, it seems, been placed in the hands of people who are happy to do so.

Contrary to what we’d hope, good people aren’t exempt from violence. Murderers don’t give the godly a pass. Terrorists don’t vet out victims according to spiritual resumes. The bloodthirsty and wicked don’t skip over the heavenbound. We aren’t insulated. But neither are we intimidated. Jesus has a word or two about this brutal world. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28).”

He continued, “We Christians trace the source of violence back to the devil. We place the fault of bloodshed at the feet of the one whose days are numbered; Satan. We find our hope in the sure victory of Jesus.”

For those walking in darkness, this truth from Scripture may seem ludicrous and insensitive, but for those of us who believe in our Risen Saviour, this is our Hope! Christians are not exempt from the violence of this world. God may choose to spare us, or He will deliver us into His loving, eternal arms, either way, we are delivered. We are guaranteed entrance into Heaven because of His Act of Pure Love.  As long as we accept His sacrifice and as long as we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ we are saved.

In the presence of such evil in this world, we are confident that God will always be with us, no matter the circumstance, no matter the opposition.  We must never lose hope, and we must not let fear defeat us in times of tribulation.

I ask that you continue to pray next week as the funerals are held for the victims of this senseless shooting. Pray for those who are still recovering in hospital and for all those families directly impacted by this event.

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Bloom Where You’re Planted

The snow is lightly falling outside this 1st day of November.  Winter isn’t just coming, it’s here!  On the Ponderosa, we’ve brought in the lawn furniture, winterized the trailer, stacked the firewood (we need to get more), and turned up the heat in the house.  On Saturday we’ll turn the clocks back and then look forward to our days getting shorter and shorter.  I’ll be honest that I’m not looking forward to nightfall beginning around 4 p.m.

In the last two days I’ve had two mice try to escape the cold outside to pass the winter indoors with us.  Their lives were sadly cut short in the attempt thanks to well-placed traps, but I fear there may be more varmints sharing our living space!  Unwelcome guests indeed!

I’m not a fan of winter, as I’ve lamented before, but we make the best of it here in Alberta and look forward to when the frost lifts around April.  A friend told me years ago, “You have to bloom where you’re planted.”  Great advice from someone who lives in Florida!  She’s never experienced bone chilling cold, and snow drifts three feet deep!  That said, the sentiment is sound.  “Bloom where you are planted.”  Regardless of where you live, or the circumstances you find yourself, it is important to shine before all men!  (Matthew 5:16)  In other words, BLOOM where God plants you!

I have a couple of friends now who are going through the darkest of seasons right now.  The cold reality of cancer is taking its toll on them and on their families.  They have challenging times ahead of them but they are facing their mortality head on and seem to blossom in the midst of their struggles.  Giving Glory to God, in the harshest of circumstances, they know what it means to BLOOM!  They are heroes to me!

I have a young friend, a brilliant writer, who is confined to a wheelchair.  She has shown such courage and stamina over the past few years coming to terms with her new reality.  I had the privilege to see that beautiful, young woman get baptized.  It’s not an easy road ahead for her but she continues to BLOOM in the face of such adversity!

Are you facing a winter of uncertainty?  Is Winter Coming, or is it already here?  Do the next few months look cold and daunting for you?  Whatever circumstances you find yourself, know that God is Sovereign.  He’s got you in the palm of His Hand!  (Isaiah 49:16)  He will never leave you or forsake you!  (Deuteronomy 31:6)  He has a plan and a purpose for all you are going through today and in the future.  (Jeremiah 29:11)  Continue to shine, and BLOOM wherever God plants you!

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo Memories

Now that our adult children are living on their own, I have felt the need to claw back the space that they once occupied in our home.  It is amazing how much we have accumulated in the 23 years we have lived here on The Ponderosa (the name we chose for our homestead just north of Cochrane, AB., Canada) – Kudo’s to Bonanza!  My kids, bless their hearts, are all minimalist when it comes to decorating their own homes, but that’s only because most of their “stuff” is still being stored here!  *sigh*

So, for the past two months I have gone on a purge of epic proportions, to get rid of, donate or sell stuff we haven’t used in years.  As stated in my last post, it hasn’t always been easy to get rid of things but now I feel like I’ve made huge strides in reclaiming back our space.  It also includes boxing up my kid’s items to drop off at their minimalist homes in the near future.  Fair warning kids!

One of the most pleasant chores over this past month has been my going through boxes of family memorabilia.  I’ve saved a lot of precious “stuff” that my children have made for me, and now I’ve got another box started with Grandbaby things.  I know it’s silly, but as a Mom, I just can’t let go of those sentimental things.  My kids think it’s gross, but I’ve saved their baby teeth.  Am I the only Mom who’s done that?  I don’t think so.  My mother-in-law saved my husband’s beard when he shaved it off before joining the army.  Now that’s gross!

As I started the gargantuan task of sorting through our family pictures, at times I smiled, cried or laughed out loud at the memories and emotion each photo evoked in me.  My kids are right, I take WAY too many pictures, but it is so worth it to see our family history come alive in pictures.  Pictures do indeed speak a thousand words, and bring back thousands of memories!  I have noted that this current “selfie” generation of millennials snap pictures and post them for instant gratification and “likes”.  They seem to think that their Snapchats or Instagram photos don’t have any real staying power.  They don’t make photo albums other than what can be stored on their smart phones or downloaded onto Facebook.  Some photos may haunt them later,…I keep telling young people NOT to post pictures of themselves doing things that they wouldn’t want their grandmother to see.  Am I right?  Not so with these thousands of photos I have taken over these many, many years.  My next project is to scan all my photographs and make digital photo albums.  That task alone may take me a lifetime to complete based on my picture-taking prowess, but it will be a labour of love, because my pictures commemorate the Dove family from birth to adulthood and provide a testimony of God’s provision and faithfulness to us throughout those years.

There is something particularly poignant looking at pictures and remembering the kids as babies, toddlers and children.  Taking photos at sporting events, concerts, Christmas pageants, birthday parties, holidays and all the zaniness associated with raising three very active teenagers.  Then there are the professional photos of their graduations, weddings and the first snapshots of my grandbabies.  Even as I am writing, the tears well up in my eyes as I think of how fast the time has flown by.  I don’t get to photograph my children as much now that they are adults, but I “steal” their pictures from Facebook once in a while and store them away in files on my computer.  It’s not nearly as satisfying for me because I am not there in person when some pictures are taken of them, but that’s what happens when kids grow up, and grow away.

Still, I won’t stop taking pictures as long as there are future memories to be made and smiles to be captured.  I love this quote I saw on Pinterest: “Life is a collection of photographs and memories, and we are the container that holds them.”  As a memory container, my heart will never be full.

 

 

 

 

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