Are You Light or Dark?

For years I prayed for opportunities to witness to nonbelievers. I berated myself if I failed to notice those opportunities or neglected to bring Christ into my conversations.  

But my spiritual mentor, Loretta, isn’t encumbered with the urgency to evangelize. She said her job is to meet with God each morning through prayer, worship, and Scripture. Then she makes herself available to God’s leading as she goes through her day. When God opens doors for Loretta to share her faith, she gladly steps into that sacred space.

“When you think about it,” Loretta said, “we choose every day whether to be light or darkness to others by our words and actions.” 

I nodded, recalling the passage where Jesus tells His followers, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). 

Loretta’s words about choosing light versus darkness made me realize . . .

Letting my light shine for others isn’t about concocting “good deeds” or cramming the gospel into someone’s heart. 

Letting my light shine means my words and behavior at any given moment and situation will reflect Christ—the Light of the world—who lives within me.

Choose Light—walk in a manner worthy of Christ.

Choose darkness—live for self and demand my own way at any cost.

Someone once told me, “People are watching.” 

That’s a scary thought if you want to be a good witness for Christ. And being a light can ‘turn off’ people who live in the dark.

Here’s an illustration from Loretta’s life:

In my fifties, God amazed me with His perfect timing and provision when I received a phone call from a company offering me a job. I was over the moon to find employment. But, shortly after being hired, my immediate supervisor told me to “get real.”

This four-foot-ten woman perceived me as a Miss Goody Two Shoes. She clearly disliked me and wasn’t afraid to let me know regardless of those around us.  She called me a fake and then added, “I’m not falling for the game you’re playing. Nor, the God stuff.”

Her words shocked me because I didn’t try to evangelize or talk about God unless it was already part of the conversation. A month into my job, I sat at my desk with my stomach in a knot and asked God, “Why am I here?”  

And God said, “For her!”

I turned my head in time to see my feisty supervisor reach for something off a shelf. A cold prickle of fear ran up my spine. “God, help me!” 

That’s when I learned to give up what I wanted (a kindhearted supervisor) and submit to whatever God wanted to accomplish in that stressful environment.

Whenever I went to work and wanted to cry, “Father, I can’t,” I knew from experience that God can. I relied on Him to breathe and carry me through me each day. 

After four months of that woman’s senseless accusations, St. Jude bought our company. They were getting rid of all contractors which included me. Each day, employees were called into the office and given their notice to leave. 

One morning my supervisor came to me in tears. She told me to report to the office. When I returned to my desk, she was in my chair. Still tearful, she pleaded, “You can’t leave until you tell me the purpose of life.” 

Can you imagine? I’d seen some softening of her heart, and now I had the opportunity to share the gospel. I sowed the seeds of faith. She didn’t accept Christ as her Savior that day, but God was in the experience for both our good. And I knew God would continue the work He’d begun. 

Is there a difficult person in your life who needs to see Christ’s Light in you?

How would you live differently if you knew God purposely placed that person in your life? 

Photo: Jennifer Wrede

Who Knew? Glad I didn’t.

Last year our family celebrated Christmas in Germany. We spent time with our son-in-law’s family who lives there, holding hands around the dinner table as we prayed. We toured Hanover and the Christmas market, rubbing elbows with happy strangers. We gathered in packed cathedrals and sang worship hymns.

“The World is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”― J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)

No masks. No social distancing. No fear or thoughts of catching a deadly disease.

I’m glad I didn’t know a world-wide pandemic would hit us like a tsunami in 2020. I’m glad I could live in the moment. Clueless to the new normal that would change life as we knew it.

I’m glad I rang in the New Year and hugged my folks in Texas without worrying that I’d unknowingly expose them to a disease I may or may not have. I’m thankful I didn’t know I wouldn’t see them again until November.

In early February, my husband and I flew to Georgia to celebrate our grandson’s first birthday. If you’d told me that our traveling days were over, our church services would Have to stop meeting in person, we’d rarely (if ever) see our friends, and I’d have to stop cooking/serving the homeless–I wouldn’t have believed you.

When I attended our local theater to watch a play in early March, I didn’t know that live theater would disappear indefinitely. School, sports, and ALL outdoor events like our county fair would be canceled.

Thank goodness I didn’t know in January 2020 that …

My prayer list for sick, dying, depressed, and unemployed people would grow longer.

My 15-year-old kitty would have to be euthanized.

My son-in-law’s parents wouldn’t be able to travel to the U.S. to visit.

One of my family members would need to move in with us.

My mask would become a new accessory, hand sanitizer my new lotion, and toilet paper a thing to be hoarded. The list goes on and on. Right?

But today is December 1, and I’m decorating my house for Christmas with more fanfare than normal. For everything bad that happened, I have a gratitude journal and a blessings jar to remind me of everything good that happened this past year. For one thing, my 89-year-old dad survived a major heart attack. My mom couldn’t even go into the hospital to be with him.

I get to choose each day how I see my cup. Half-full or half-empty? But I prefer to see my cup as full and overflowing because my attitude is the ONLY thing I can control. And our attitude affects our emotions and how we respond to this pandemic.

I’m especially thankful that when I don’t know what’s around the corner….God knows. He’s not only waiting on the other side, He’s with me in this moment. He’s shown me the things that I thought were important ain’t so important after all. God’s also stretching my stiff-neck ways to make me more pliable, and toning my flabby faith muscles so I’ll trust Him more.

God has a bigger plan for my life and yours. He’s not concerned about our happiness and entertainment as much as our character and the salvation of our souls. God wants us to love others and show mercy. He wants us to seek Him rather than His gifts.

Who knows. Events in 2021 might make 2020 look good. But for everything I don’t know about tomorrow, I Do Know that God Doesn’t Change.

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (1 John 4:9-10)

One day we will see our Savior face to face. “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!” (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus).

Until then, the Lord is our anchor. Our hope. And all the more reason to celebrate this Christmas with renewed focus on what matters most! Faith in the risen Savior, Family. Friends.

How are you coping with this pandemic especially during the holiday season?

Photos: K. Foster

Have You Made Up Your Mind?

I bury the sautéed spinach in the scrambled eggs—my attempt to disguise a healthy vegetable. My 20-month-old grandson isn’t fooled. He pulls out a slimy green leaf and tosses it aside.

I try a different method. 

“Grandma loves eggs. Can I have some?”

I pretend to eat some of his spinach omelet. Then I lift the spoon to his lips. He shakes his head, lips pressed together. 

Critter made up his mind. He knows what he likes (scrambled eggs) and what he presumes he doesn’t like (spinach). Today, I’m powerless to convince him otherwise.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Which got me to thinking—

Is there something I dislike or don’t want to do simply because I’ve made up my mind to do so?

If so, have I made up my mind based on my research and personal experience? Or, do my emotions and preconceived notions govern my decision?

For instance, I’ve made up my mind that I’ll never sky dive. There’s nothing anyone can say that will persuade me to jump from a plane. But, I’ve also made up my mind in areas that are less daring.

That person I avoid at work because . . . I know I won’t like her even though I never took the time to get acquainted.

That new hair salon that I won’t go to because . . . I’m a creature of habit.

Tofu because . . . who eats that stuff? Just Kidding!

Maybe that thing we think we’d dislike is an activity or event: participating in a fundraiser, attending a marriage retreat, joining a gym. Heaven help us if we try something new. Something that might benefit us—like spinach.

I met a young mom named Claire who felt isolated and struggled with depression. She said, “I’m stuck at home with a demanding toddler and a husband who works long hours. My closest friend moved away.”

“Have you thought of getting plugged into a church?” I asked. “Or joining a women’s Bible study. You could meet other like-minded moms.” 

I told Claire that having women friends and developing a deeper relationship with God preserved my sanity at her age. It still does.

She shook her head. “No thanks.”

Claire had made up her mind that church fellowship and Bible study weren’t the answers. In her mind, how could she make friends or study her Bible when she didn’t have the mental or emotional energy? How could she make time for God and pray when she had no time for herself?

I empathize with Claire. But I recognize that her fatigue and volatile emotions govern her mind right now. Unless her need for positive change outweighs her complacency for status quo, I doubt I’ll change her mind.

What say you?

Can you think of someone or something that might be good for you, but you’ve made up your mind that’s not happening?

Have you ever questioned why you think the way you do? And then asked, “Is this true?”

What keeps you from changing your mind?

How To Ruin a Bad Mood

I’m in a bad mood. 

Just when I thought 2020 couldn’t get worse—the entire west coast became an inferno. My flammable neighborhood is within spitting distance of some of these wildfires. And the smoke is so horrendous that I’ve developed a smoker’s cough.

I’m not alone in this.

Some of my friends had to evacuate their homes. Others fear for the safety of their loved ones who are firefighters. School kids stuck at home, due to the pandemic, are now stuck indoors due to the poor air quality.

People who grumbled about wearing masks in public, now wear masks outdoors so they can breathe. Even restaurant owners can’t get a break. Customers have to dine outside, but who wants to eat in the smokey section?

So yeah, I’m in a bad mood.  

When COVID-19 entered the world and rocked my personal axis, I considered myself a patient soul, but … my patience is treading thin ice.

Living in uncertain times (indefinitely) is difficult even when we try to be patient, grateful, eternal minded.

I’m also tired.

Tired of encouraging others to keep “a stiff upper lip” while I mask my sulky expression.

Tired of people glaring at me over their masks and standing six feet away like I’m a leper. 

I could shake this bad mood if I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or, know for sure there’s an end to this tunnel. And I don’t mean heaven.

Even so, I asked God to use the events of 2020 to teach and change me for the better. I didn’t expect Him to reveal the dross inside of me. There’s nothing pretty about it. And yet, if I want to be more Christlike, I need the Refiner’s fire to purge the worthless rubbish.  

“Take away the dross from the silver, And there comes out a vessel for the smith” (Proverbs 25:4).

I’d rather God purify my heart with a cooler method, but dross removal takes heat.

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10).

My mentor, Loretta, describes how she endured the furnace of affliction when four of her family members died in a twelve-month span.

“I hated the night. Dark thoughts and death consumed my mind. When morning came, I had no energy or desire to get out of bed. I’d stick my leg out of the covers and say, ‘Father, I can’t. Help me! That’s when I learned that when I can’t, He can. God’s strength is perfected in weakness. God enabled me to get out of bed and get on with my day.” 

Loretta Chalfant

When I consider what Loretta endured (and how people are suffering now) I’m challenged once again to follow her advice,

“I get to choose, like Job, how to respond to my circumstances. I can either bend and let God work in my life and change me. Or I can resist and lose out on His lessons.” 

Time for me to surrender what I can’t control and bend so God’s refining fire can work . . . even in this bad-mood day.

You can read how Loretta learned these faith lessons in my book Lunch with Loretta: Discover the Power of a Mentoring Friendship.

Photo: Karen Foster

Are You Hungry for God?

I’ve written a nonfiction narrative called Lunch with Loretta: Discover the Power of a Mentoring Friendship. This is not a how-to mentor book. Rather it’s the warm re-telling of the lunch conversations between my mentor, Loretta Chalfant, and myself as we explored a deeper relationship with God.

Some of our conversations concern seeking God, how to cope with adversity and pain, owning God’s love, spiritual indifference, how to pray for our loved ones, and worshipping the Lord with a full heart. Pull up a chair and listen to our conversations that are sometimes humorous, sometimes messy, but always transparent.

Click here to pre-order Kindle or paperback