remembering the life of a cousin who reflected Christ’s beauty

Yesterday I drove down rural roads which usually bring such joy, and even peace, to my heart as the beauty of the fields, trees, and farms delight my soul. This drive felt so different.

Instead of passing by green pastoral scenes, fields, and lovingly landscaped properties, what I witnessed instead grieved my heart. I had to drive carefully to avoid debris still sticking out into the road.

I knew that the recent ice storms had been brutal for many. Locally, I had seen some branches down and a few toppled trees. But I hadn’t been out for a drive since the storm hit last weekend, taking down many power grids and trees with it, and leaving so much chaos in its wake.

Now, limbs and branches, and entire logs littered the side of the road, and many trees and scenes looked as though they had survived a war zone. The natural beauty, marred by a storm causing so much havoc, now bore the marks of anguish instead.

Multiple times flaggers asked me to stop and wait while the men working to restore the electricity to these rural homes focussed on their task at hand. They must be so exhausted after a full week of working long hours outside. I prayed for them. As of today, 10% of the customers will remain without power reports say. I know that my family who have endured a full week of outages are weary, too.

I saw a few homes with a tree still on their roof and a few with tarps seeking to keep out the rain.

Seeing so many trees scattered across the landscape, and branches that had snapped during that terrifying ice storm brought back other memories of my youth–helping my family or cousins store up some wood for winter with chainsaws buzzing as we cut trees into firewood.

But I had a destination in mind on this grey, rainy morning, and when I drove past my parent’s acreage I prayed that their power would soon be restored. I would visit them after the memorial and see if I could offer any help.

Whenever I saw familiar trees which had survived the storm without much damage, I felt a sense of relief. Somehow the trees have become part of us, just as the land in this beautiful valley holds a very special place in our hearts for those of us who grew up on these farms.

But then I arrived at my destination after a little less than an hour of driving. The Apostolic Church in Central Howell had their electricity restored in time for the memorial of a very beloved man, my cousin Lynn Kuenzi.

The sweet refrains of a cappella hymns filled the narthex and sanctuary, and I instantly relaxed, thankful to be in this place that Lynn loved so much.

Memorials at this church always bring me back to my early years in life. Memories of growing up with many of these cousins come flooding back.

The loving words of the men sharing from the front about Lynn’s life followed another hymn. The man we had come to honor had lived a life that left many with warm and life-giving memories as they paid their respects and shared their sorrows together in this place.

A humble man who didn’t draw attention to himself, who loved so well. A man who had used a wheelchair for decades, but lived a life rich in meaning and relationships.

Lynn loved his Savior, and he treasured his large extended family and Swiss heritage. Most of all he lived a life characterized by joy, a focus on those things that are lovely and worthy of good report (we listened to Philippians 4), and on the gospel. Though Lynn lived with physical affliction for much of his life, he found his strength in the LORD as this passage reminds us to do.

One man, Don Sinn, recalled singing tenor with Lynn and how he loved the hymns of their faith tradition. The focus of the reflections magnified the Lord Jesus whom he lived for. Don shared how Lynn had come to know Christ as a young man, and others observed a new joy in his life. Lynn’s changed heart and life drew Don to embrace Christ and the gift of eternal life, too.

Lynn loved to share good farm cooking with his wife and kids. He loved to gather at the table with family and friends, and he savored good food. He often wrote about these times (and the menus) in his weekly missive he called the Monday Morning Mumblings. He wanted to share the things he loved with those who lived far away. He wanted to share the simple beauty of home, faith and family. He loved watching birds and the activities and beauty of the farmland around him through each season. He treasured his large extended family and his church family, which has kept many traditions and lived in ways intentionally set apart from the chaos of our times.

Completely unaffected by the events of recent days and unaware of the purpose of this gathering, a tiny girl peaked over her father’s shoulder from the pews ahead of us. She seemed to have discovered her tongue recently, and with a satisfied grin she stuck it out a bit as she made faces at other children and those of us sitting behind her. Her contagious joy reminded me of the way Lynn had managed to connect with his faith and loved ones during this sometimes tough life, and how he didn’t focus on politics or negative things. He truly focussed on what is good, honorable and noble as the passage encourages us to do.

As I listened, the scenes of the aftermath of the storm faded away, replaced by the wholesome memories and the lives touched by Lynn’s faithful walk with God.

Even in really hard times, Lynn always seemed to find something positive to say, reminding us all to look up and to look ahead to our eternal hope.

I worked in counseling, and in the past I’ve met with people whose spirits seemed marked by the trauma they had endured. Much like the landscape littered with limbs and downed trees, their internal landscapes often lack peace. They need healing and often I led them into the Presence of the LORD who heals and restores the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Today, in the presence of many cousins and others who attend this church, we remembered a man whose life instead reflected the beauty of the LORD who saved him years ago.

Many of us reflected on our hope as my cousin Harvey spoke of the passage in Acts 3 where the man who could not walk waited by the temple gate. This man who had been lame from birth encountered the healing power of Jesus as Peter prayed for him. Rather than handing him silver or gold as he hoped, Peter prayed for him: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Then, taking him by the right hand, Peter helped him up, and “instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.”

I grew up with Harvey, and listening to him so lovingly share from God’s Word gave me peace. This story from Acts 3 means so much to me, too. I smiled as Harvey commented that Brother Lynn was now walking and jumping and praising God in the Presence of His Lord and Savior.

The cares of this life faded away in that moment. The walker beside my chair will one day be completely useless. Walking and jumping will be easy again! One day I will join Lynn in enjoying fully restored health as we who know Jesus as LORD will worship Him with deep and lasting joy.

Contentment and Seeing the Gift in Stormy Times

Powerful wind gusts keep hitting the house tonight. Rain seems to fly sideways in sheets of water on nights like this. So thankful we have warmth, shelter and His Presence with us.

When we first moved into this home, I would lay awake during big storms wondering if everything outside would withstand the surprisingly strong winds and rain battering the house. I’d go outside and check after the storm, relieved that the shingles remained on the roof, and everything looked okay.

This past year or more has been a storm of another kind. Around the globe, lives have been altered by a pandemic that has left very few untouched in one way or another.

Maybe one of the lessons for many people during this strange time in history is the opportunity to learn to be content with simple joys, with quiet time, with those God’s given us to love.

While a global pandemic tests the limits of many people psychologically as stay home orders and other restrictions impact life, and a second wave of the virus emerges in various places, many people have struggled emotionally.

The high rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide have been a serious concern. The west coast fires raging through our states also added major stressors and we have met some who lost their homes or businesses during that intense time as well. As a retired counselor and writer, I’m always concerned with how people manage to cope with tough times.

But I’ve talked to a few friends who have cultivated a different sort of mindset, one which serves them well. They’ve invested in their marriages or a few close relationships.

One friend describes this past year as a wonderful gift. She and her husband are closer than ever and she’s enjoyed being home on their beautiful century farm, living differently than usual, but joyfully.

My husband and I have come through this year closer and stronger, not without some storms along the way. However, our marriage has been ultimately strengthened by the unexpected blessing of more frequent and intensive time together.

We’ve learned how to support one another and work through conflict better. We’ve identified areas where our needs weren’t getting met very well, and we’ve worked on improving these areas.

We’ve found renewed joy in simple pursuits. We’ve healed and grown and changed. We’ll emerge from this time a better team and more aware of the gift we have in each other.

We’ve also grown closer to some of our extended family as we’ve navigated these strange times together. The issues that come along with aging parents and other life stages don’t just disappear because of the added layer of a pandemic. We sure don’t take time with loved ones for granted right now and we often pray about ways we can support them better as they face their own tough storms.

We’ve also taken time to deepen friendships that are life-giving and deeply encouraging. Having weathered some intense storms in terms of major losses to grieve and adapting to challenging health, we are reminded anew that life is a precious gift.

I hope we’ll never take for granted the gift of those God has given us to love.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen

Ouch!

I watered the succulents on our front porch this morning and as I was returning, I sprained my ankle as I fell. I landed in the flowerbed and couldn’t get up. My face rested softly in the mulch and pain shot up my ankle.

Concerned that no one would know I’d fallen for awhile, I waited. My husband was working on the other side of a window located down the front porch but I didn’t think he’d see me. As I laid in the dirt, I noticed the front door was still open. So I called for my husband, Jerry, and my friend who was helping clean the house, and they came and helped me up. Olive went and got the manual wheelchair from the garage.

I was frustrated about falling, and having more injuries to contend with. This is the fourth time this year, and living with MS sure doesn’t get easier over time.

Unlike last time when I fell on a sidewalk in Salem, hitting my face on the concrete (and no one helped), I was home and they heard me and helped me.

My husband took a break from work and he got a bucket of warm water, and with a towel, he gently washed the dirt off. His kindness touched my heart. I thought of the Savior washing the feet of His disciples. I am thankful God picks us up from the dirt and brings a warm cloth too and washes us off, tending our wounds.

This evening we heard the doorbell. Jerry went to answer the door, and I joined him soon, using my manual wheelchair since I can’t stand on that ankle yet. A young boy from the neighborhood with Christmas lights shining on his cap handed us a tin of cookies, a Christmas card, and a glass jar of hot chocolate mix with a festive ribbon over the top. We were so touched by the kindness of these neighbors. His grandma was with him, and I think his mom was pulling a wagon and waited out by the sidewalk.

This brought back memories of when we were kids and Mom would make all kinds of cookies and goodies and put them on a tray (with our help), and we’d deliver them to many of our neighbors out in the country. This kind gesture meant so much, and when I asked if they lived nearby, his Grandma said, “This is Bailey’s younger brother.” Then I recognized him. Bailey helped me plant succulents and more than once she came to the door with other girls this summer asking if we needed help with anything. She’s a treasure, and we have such great kids in this neighborhood.

This family touched our hearts this evening on a dark winter day. Thank You, Father, for the beautiful ways you remind us of Your Presence and love.

a new passion

Today I began a new adventure–I took my first quilting lesson from a talented friend in her cozy farmhouse quilting room.

For many years I have admired quilters, but never really had the opportunity or time to learn how to quilt. When I was a young girl, my mom sewed some of our clothes and I loved her thoughtfulness and skill. I felt loved when she created something new for me to wear. Mom also milked her Jersey cow, Sunshine, twice a day to provide milk and cream for our family. She grew gardens and her cooking was legendary. She made delicious homemade ice cream, and she prepared waffles with strawberries we raised, adding fresh whipping cream and homemade butter. We caught the school bus with content tummies, happy to head off to our country school despite the hour long bus ride each way.

When my mother graduated from high school, her parents gave her a Singer Featherweight. I’m sure my Grandma sacrificed a lot to buy this sewing machine. With a large family, they didn’t have much extra cash to spare. Within a few years, mom married my father, and by the time she was 22 I was born. My older sister joined this young family a few years prior to me. A few years after me, my brother came into the world.

My mom wanted to be sure that my sister and I learned to sew. Mom loved to share things that she had a passion for, so she negotiated with us. I either had to take a sewing class or sit down and learn to sew something to show her that I had learned this vital skill. So I sewed a light pink terry cloth nightshirt to prove that I could sew. Then I went out to the barn and never picked up this machine sewing process again. Except I did sew up burlap gunnysacks after I carefully filled them with grass seed and weighed them in at fifty pounds. I liked sewing those bags as I ran the big dusty grass seed cleaner around the clock. We had to stencil the lot number onto the bags with this black ink brush.

Over the years, I enjoyed mending things by hand with a needle and thread. However, my first attempts using that Singer sewing machine caused a bit of motion sickness. So I would rather go ride a horse or chase cows, or spend time outdoors. On a farm, we had plenty to keep us occupied. Leave the domestic stuff to other girls.

Earlier this year, my mom offered me her Singer Featherweight. She lives with vision impairment which makes sewing no longer feasible. So, she gave her treasured machine to me. In the small rural town where we live, and in the surrounding countryside, many women love to quilt. So several women have offered to teach me some basics. When I showed Karen Wells my featherweight, she offered to set it up for me and teach me how to quilt. She has known my parents for many years, and Karen has a wonderful gift for teaching and encouraging others. During this pandemic, one wonderful blessing has been getting to know her.

So today I arrived at her farmhouse across the field from where we live excited to get started. She showed me her stacks of fabric pieces which I could use for learning with this first project. She had an example of a table runner which is a good initial effort. Then she told me how to get started. I laid out all of the pieces of adequate size for the elements of this project in the color theme that I liked. She told me to arrange them all according to lighter, medium and darker colors. Just handling these pretty fabrics gave me joy. I found myself smiling often.

Then Karen showed me how to iron, spray starch, and then iron the fabrics one more time. After that, she taught me how to cut the pieces using her tools. I loved being around Karen and the other woman she is teaching, listening to peaceful music and sharing our lives a bit. I felt like part of centuries of this wonderful tradition of quilting, even on this first exposure to the task.

Recently I put together a puzzle. I do that about once a year, and enjoy praying as I do so. This first step of learning to quilt reminds me a bit of doing a puzzle, except at the end of the process I’ll have something lasting to enjoy or share with others. It’s also a more creative endeavor. As Karen said, if I ever need to make a quilt to keep us warm, I’ll be able to do that. Pandemics bring out the pioneer in many of us as our normal rhythms of life face ongoing disruption. On the bright side, the slower pace of life has allowed some of us to try new things. Just as importantly, I’m excited to have a creative outlet which is life-giving. Oregon winters are often cloudy and dark. The fun colors will lift our spirits, and having time with these two women will be really enjoyable.

I’m excited to have embarked on this journey today. One day, when I’m wrapped up in my first quilt, I’ll see a dream fulfilled. Thank You, Abba Father for this new adventure.

Psalm 90:17 (NASB)

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes,  confirm the work of our hands.

Feeling Overwhelmed? These ideas might help:

I heard from a friend yesterday who shared that she felt overwhelmed with all that’s going on right now. I think this is common. In terms of major stressors, most of us have a fairly significant list right now. Here are a few thoughts on things you can do which might help:

Be kind to yourself and others.

Recognize that some people are grieving significant losses.

Honor the grieving process and don’t invalidate the emotions others feel, or which you are experiencing.

Be curious. Look into the truth and go beyond the surface. Don’t assume.

Some people feel very concerned about what’s going on politically, morally, and in many other ways right now in the world. Validate those concerns.

Take an interest in learning the truth–go beyond the narratives that the world is pushing so hard.

Many voices clamor for your attention. Listen for God’s still small voice. Ask Him for wisdom and discernment.

Disengage from the news, social media and instead connect with loved ones face to face. If that’s not possible because of the pandemic or life circumstances, find ways to connect which are life-giving to you.

Journal. Pray. Re-create.

Spend time in solitude and nature. Today fog hangs in the air outside. I’m going to take a shower and then go for a drive with my camera. Fog creates some beautiful scenes in the countryside all around us. Barns and trees hold a mysterious beauty as the mist shrouds some of the landscape.

I’ll listen to some worship music and God’s Word.

I’ll allow Him to infuse my spirit with His hope, His transcendent peace, His joy.

The joy of the LORD is my strength.

the verboten TV

Long ago, I remember sitting with my Swiss Grandma Tillie in their farmhouse up on the hill. The sound of her clock ticking on the fireplace mantel marked the seconds audibly. Her long silver hair always looked tidy under the net that kept it styled neatly above her shoulders. That evening, she asked me to turn on the verboten TV (I pulled the button out as remotes weren’t how she operated that black and white screen), and after a few minutes of world news, Grandma made a face and said, ‘That’s ugly! Turn that thing off!”

She and Grandpa and Aunt Velma didn’t usually watch TV. Grandma had a little electric organ she played hymns on. We would gather around and sing off key. Happy memories with my family. Now that Grandpa had passed away, her organ and the TV were still considered worldly, but she kept them around anyway. She understood God’s grace, and she wasn’t bound by all of those legalistic ideas. But unless you turned on that TV, it simply collected dust. She preferred it that way. The violence and chaos of the world beyond their hillside farm didn’t often reach her eyes and ears.

Unlike most people nowadays, Grandma hadn’t grown desensitized to the images and noise of this world. She simply couldn’t endure watching much news. I feel that way about social media and some of our news nowadays. I seldom turn on our TV. I can read enough articles to stay abreast of things well enough to pray. My husband informs me of major things in his good natured way, inserting humor to lighten the mood as needed. Life’s too short to spend all of our time captivated by images and words on a screen. I’d rather look into the eyes of someone I love, and plant succulents, and spend time with lambs in the spring. I love to go for a drive and look at the fall colors with my Sweetie.

If Grandma Tillie were alive today and saw all that’s going on in our state and world, she wouldn’t be spending much time with the news on. She’d read her Bible. She liked to grow African violets. She’d visit over a cup of tea with her large extended family and neighbors. She liked to ask us to weigh on her old scales when we came in the sliding glass door. She probably missed her calling as a nurse. Grandma never learned to drive a car. She had Mr. Kuenzi drive her around in their huge old light green Chevy Impala (with a white hard top and 400 engine) until he died. Then she’d get rides from family or have us pick up groceries for her in Silverton. She would rather can green beans and serve up some vanilla wafers with pudding. She’d lift the lid of her cookie jar and offer us an oatmeal cookie (often a little hard), and visit about something positive, like the new baby a cousin just added to the family. Somehow she kept track of our hundreds of cousins and delighted in their news, sharing this joy with a twinkle in her grey blue eyes.

Grandma understood that what we focus on influences our outlook and quality of life. Granted, we need to understand what’s going on and do what we can, and certainly pray. We are called to pray continuously. But, we live in a fallen world, and our hope just isn’t here. In Christ, we have a hope that transcends all of the things going on. One day, this upcoming election won’t be so crucial. Fires won’t fill the sky with dark clouds of smoke and ashes. None of the social chaos and pandemic will be able to disturb us. Not when we see Jesus face to face. The things of earth really will grow strangely dim as the hymn says. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we’re passing through this life as we hopefully grow to be more like our Beloved Savior, by His grace. Left to our own devices we’d be such a mess.

Even if you feel like a mess, take heart. God is in the transformation business…from ashes, He brings beauty. From filthy rags, emerges a garment white as snow because of His sacrificial gift of eternal life and forgiveness. We have reason for joy and peace despite this very messy world we live in. As Abbott Marmion wrote, “Joy is the echo of Christ’s life in us.” Now that’s beautiful.

after the rains

This evening, for the first time in about two weeks, the air was fresh enough to breathe outside without a mask. I saw the sky after the heavy rains, the lightening and thunder that rumbled through our area last night, and I felt so relieved. I went out to get some fresh air and watched the sunset at my friends’ waterfront, enjoying the clean Oregon air with a very grateful heart.

The air quality in our area has been among the worst in the world these past two weeks. So, the big storm with heavy torrential rains and water washing away that smoke, and hopefully putting out more of the remaining fires that have been ravaging our state….that storm felt so welcome.

Last night the thunder and lightening lit up the sky so brightly that people said it hurt their eyes. I had room darkening shades and an extremely tired body. I slept through it all. The loud rumbling thunder. The bright lightening strikes, and the winds…none of it woke me.

Maybe I felt a bit exhausted from these two long weeks. Praying for God to spare the homes of people I knew, to spare our family farm and my hometown, and the farms and homes of cousins and friends…I felt like I fought the fires along with the brave men and women who were out there on the front lines, but I fought through prayer. God heard our prayers, and in His sovereignty we saw Him answer many of those heartfelt prayers. Homes were spared. Lives were spared. Winds turned the fires, miraculously sparing the Christian Renewal Center and other very beloved places like my friends’ cabin up on the mountain.

So does it mean God did not hear the prayers of those who lost their homes? Does it mean He does not care? God loves each one of us, and somehow, in His sovereignty, He sometimes allows people to experience very painful losses. He doesn’t love them any less. In fact, I think we confuse the reality of His unconditional love with our human nature. We’re finite in our perspectives and often don’t see beyond today and beyond ourselves. He’s eternal. He’s never in crisis, never worried or scared. He is Almighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

If you have lost your home and things very dear to you, I am so sorry. I visited my parents last weekend. My husband and I took them a pizza and salad for dinner. My Dutch Father, Arie, sat and wept over the loss of homes and properties. He felt so sad about the losses people were experiencing. I was touched by the compassion of this godly man. He cried, and many of us felt like crying often these past two weeks. Our beautiful state has been ablaze. By God’s grace, some of the fires are now under control or contained. Some homes were spared. Lives were spared. But our vulnerability as human beings remains vivid in our minds.

Two weeks ago, on Friday night, not many suspected these weeks would hold so much tragedy. Not many suspected that we were going to be at war with infernos blazing across our state, and that some of those fires would be lit by arsons. We were about to hear about a huge windstorm, blowing in the opposite direction as usual, and dry hot conditions that would soon place many of us in the path of danger.

So often life is like this…we don’t know what is around the corner. A resilient person knows that something bad might happen at any time, but just as likely, something good might just happen, too. Despite all of the fires and sad stories I heard, I saw God move mightily. Often in hearts and families.

Tonight the sunset spoke volumes to my heart. The beauty along the waterfront, the beaver swimming across the waters, the geese and hummingbirds flying around in the newly washed fresh air…all of it seemed to worship the Creator. In front of me, a hummingbird paused midair, hovering with its wings moving so fast they were almost invisible. All creation testifies to His goodness and grace.

Thank You, Father, for sparing our home and community. Thank You for your promises that you will never leave us or forsake us. Thank you that you instill hope in our hearts and renew us in Your love, just as the torrential rains washed the smoke out of the air. You wash our filthy hearts clean. You make us white as snow by the cleansing blood of Christ. We worship You tonight, and thank You for Your enduring steadfast love and care.

The Oregon Spirit

This is Oregon, my friend said when she came to pick up some clothing for friends who have evacuated and still don’t know if their house remains standing. Not the things that hit the news across the nation, like the unrest, the politics, and other things. Somehow the things that loomed so large a few weeks ago pale in significance. Instead of stories of crime rates rising, we hear of the beautiful hearts of folks. People helping others. Rescuing horses, cattle and other livestock, sharing quilts, eye drops, and shampoo for those evacuated. Loaning a barn or a trailer to help evacuate some cows or a border collie. Privately owned excavation companies sending men and heavy equipment to save whole communities from the consuming flames, and the Redneck Crew fighting fires because somebody has to save these homes. Helping others even when they might have suffered profound loss themselves.

This is our beloved Oregon. Pulling together to fight fires and then to recover afterwards, when the smoke begins to clear, and some are able to return home. Those with pioneering spirits and a work ethic, who live faithful lives and love their families and others well. Those who pray through the night hours for the winds to shift and for safety for those fighting fires, and for homes to be spared. They are the salt of the earth who don’t assume the government needs to take care of their every need, and who sacrificially care for others and accept responsibility for the people and land they love…who roll up their flannel sleeves and get ‘er done, trusting God for the endurance needed in times of crisis….this is Oregon.

A Willing Heart in a Time of Profound Loss

Last evening, I saw an ad posted on-line for a local man building planter boxes. Since I have some bamboo I am going to plant soon, that caught my eye. I sent a virtual note asking for more info. This morning, I got a message back from him, and we chatted a bit. He knew how to create boxes for bamboo, and offered to come help. I soon learned he lost his home and almost everything he owned in the recent fires up by Lyons. We will have him over to help out, and in turn be able to help him in some practical ways. I thought about how God uses small things to connect us with others who need some care, help and encouragement. In this case, he was offering me some help I needed for a very reasonable rate. I know that God will allow my husband and me to bless him during this very tough time in his life. When I asked if had lost his home, he responded simply, “I am safe.” I invited him to come over this evening and give me a hand with some things outside as we recover from the recent windstorms and to clean up some ashes with me. Compared to what he just lost, our needs seem very small. However, our needs led me to reach out and ask about his planter boxes, allowing us to make a connection.

Our needs bring us together. I trust that Jay will become our friend, and that we can provide a little income for him even as he helps us out with his skills and willing heart. We exist to bless others and to glorify God by living out His love and grace in our generation. We will pray for Jay as he rebuilds his life. Because I have MS and my husband has some health limitations currently, we need to depend on others sometimes to give us a hand. But that allows us to listen to others, care for them, and help the in practical ways in exchange while they help us. We form community. Family. During COVID, our youth pastor brought us groceries a number of times so we could avoid exposure. In turn we could pray for him and his family, and perhaps bless them in others ways. Interdependence honors God. Praying for Jay, this kind fellow who is willing to work hard to help others as he begins to rebuild his life after this devastation. Here’s a link to a Go Fund Me set up to help him get back on his feet.

Fires and other major stressors? Here’s some help:

Feel like you’ve been through the wringer? Well most of us in Oregon have been in fight or flight all week, and although in some areas things are calming down a bit, it’s not over yet. The fires continue in many parts of the state and the air quality is very poor. Take time to breathe deeply (indoors with air purifiers on if possible) and connect with the LORD. This calms your nervous system. Take time to hug your family or loved ones or ride an indoor exercise bike. This produces endorphins and bonding hormones that make you feel better. Drink lots of water. This helps flush the toxins from breathing smoky air. Your mental health matters too. There are some simple things you can do to help. Gratitude helps you to turn on the relational circuits in the brain. Even giving thanks for simple things, like the fact that you woke up to another day, can help. Pain turns off relational circuits, making it hard to relate to God and other people well. But you can turn those circuits on with interactive gratitude and worship or thanking God, so these tips might help.


There’s also an exercise we call the “Five Bar.” When your phone or laptop has a strong connection, you can see five bars signifying that. If you have a few minutes, close your eyes, pray and think of a time when you felt a strong connection to God. (If you don’t believe there’s a God, you can improvise, but this is more powerful because God’s Presence in healing and powerful. He is love.) Then when He brings a memory to mind, remember that time of deeper connection with God. Marinate in those memories, using all five senses if you can. Take as long as you want. Then, once you feel connected, share this with someone else out loud if you can. This will help create better neural pathways in your brain as it turns on relational circuits, too. A simple thing you can do also at this point is ask the LORD, “Is there something you’d like me to understand?” Or you can invite Him to come with you to the thoughts that are troubling you. He may minister to your heart in a way that can be very healing. These principles come from something called the Immanuel Approach, which Janet Taylor and I taught to some counselors in Asia a few years ago. I still offer Immanuel prayer ministry to others sometimes. Remember God is with you. He is mighty to save!

Just had a shower and washed the ashes and smoke out of my hair, enjoying the warm water and emerging clean and fresh. Now I have God’s Word playing in the background as I get some daily chores done. Feels like being washed and renewed, too. In a very distracting time, we need His Word more than ever. In a time of crisis, His Word is a light unto our feet…a refuge, a source of power and strength. We can rest on His promises, and where faith and promises unite, we see God move powerfully and lovingly.