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

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

You Okay?

My grandson toddles toward the lonely playground. He’s eighteen months old and this morning, his sights are fixed on the metal swing set. 

I watch his precarious baby steps as he navigates the gravel path. Best that I stay within arm’s reach in case Grandson falls. Sure enough, he stumbles.

“You’re okay. I got you!” 

I grasp his outstretched hand before his knees scrape the ground. Then, I lead him by the hand while we walk to the swing set.

After I settle on the swing, I lift Grandson to  my lap and wrap my arm around his waist. He leans back, fearless and content as we swing higher and faster.

This child trusts me with his safety. No whining or wiggling to suggest he’d rather be anywhere but here. Ohh, to be a carefree child!

Throughout my life, I’ve seen the Lord’s mercies. He repeatedly rescues me from danger and cushions my falls. So I know his eye is on me, and his Spirit guides me. But,

I want to trust God more. To be content with the here and now when life’s events feels like nettles in my socks.

Whenever I hear—pandemic, protests, politics—my body stiffens. I grumble about social distancing, quarantine, masks, my canceled appointments—hair today, denied tomorrow.

I raise my hands in protest rather than prayer.

This isn’t the summer vacation I bargained for. This isn’t the retired life I’d anticipated. This isn’t the lifestyle I’d envisioned for my grown children. I want to see my parents without fear of infecting them with COVID19!

Dad says, “Could be worse!”

Today is worse.

It’s nine a.m. and I’m drenched in sweat as the mercury in my outdoor thermometer inches toward a hundred. I can tolerate the heat, but rolling power outages and Red Flag Warnings (to evacuate our home) are in effect while the not-so-distant wildfires paint the sky ash grey. Yesterday, the foothills looked like they were puffing a cigarette. Today, they’re a chain-smoker.

I inhale deep, before the winds shift south and the air smells like a stale smoking lounge. I worry for the firefighters. I ponder what I’d do if my house burned down.

My body is swinging in the breeze, but my disposition is teetering on the edge of a miry pit. God intervenes like the doting Father that he is.

“Karen, you’re okay. I got you.”

I want to believe you, Lord, but…. 

From where I stand on planet earth, it feels like you’ve abandoned your creation. Not that I’d blame you. A time out, with our noses on the wall, might do everyone some good. But right now, I’m not feeling okay. 

God knows me. And yes, he is patient. He brings to mind what my mentor, Loretta, has told me repeatedly. The eternal perspective that has pulled me up by the boot straps on more than one occasion, and helped me forge ahead by God’s grace. 

She’d point to the pandemic, the wildfires and the nettles in my socks and tell me, 

“Every circumstance is an opportunity for God to teach and change us.” 

Change us? How?

To become more like Christ—more loving, compassionate, kind, patient, forgiving, willing to serve, prayerful.

I inwardly squirm. “I don’t want to learn these lessons the hard way. Can’t I sit in my recliner and read the Bible and be changed?”

My grandson points to the sky, bringing me back to this sweet spot.

I follow his wide-eyed gaze.

“That’s a Red-Tail Hawk,” I tell him. “Birds use thermals to soar without flapping their wings.”

My grandson isn’t old enough to comprehend everything I say, but he’s taking it all in—his surroundings, my words, the tone of my voice, my actions. He’s getting to know me as well as life.

Spending time with someone will do that, you know. 

Grandson scoots off my lap and heads for the tall metal slide. He’s been there before. And he’s not afraid. He knows that grandma will be right beside him. 

 That’s a God lesson . . . even in this!

Hope in the Midst of Heartache

The value of one’s life is not measured by weeks or years.

I wept when I learned that Eden Hope passed away last week. Born at 24 1/2 weeks gestation, she weighed 1 lb.13 oz. Eden steadily gained weight and lived in NICU until she drew her last breath eleven and a half weeks later.

Such a short life span, but the value of one’s life is not measured by weeks or years. Just ask the people whose lives were touched by Eden Hope’s life. I’m one of them.

I physically ached when I imagined being in her mama’s shoes, especially the last time they were together. Did Mama kiss her daughter’s pale rosebud lips? Did she softly caress her infant’s cool face, committing it to memory? Did she breathe in Eden’s scent before the nurse took her away?

I’ve never met Eden’s parents. A friend of mine asked me to pray for that family. The more I prayed and received updates, the more invested I became as though these strangers were my family. I couldn’t get them out of my mind—my heart.

“Eden going home to Jesus” isn’t what I’d prayed for when I heard she’d been scheduled for surgery last week.

I asked for a safe, successful procedure, protection and healing. I prayed that God’s peace and love would surround Eden so she wouldn’t be frightened as she lay (uncomprehending) on that operating table. I prayed that His Spirit would comfort the family while they waited for the outcome. I prayed God would use this agonizing chapter in their lives to draw them closer to Himself and impact people’s lives.

I also prayed, “Thy will be done.” 

But honestly, I didn’t want God’s will if it didn’t line up with mine. I wanted Eden to defy the odds, grow strong, and go home to play with her two sisters. 

Others prayed too for this precious soul who was wonderfully and fearfully made in the image of God. Imagine a band of prayer warriors who never gathered, but rejoiced each time Eden gained another ounce. We grew hopeful with each passing week. For every two steps forward, there was one step backwards. When her health finally took a turn for the worse, we pled for a miracle.

I can’t speak for others, but I wonder if part of me hoped for a life-giving miracle to counterbalance COVID19 and the debilitating bad blood that’s been flowing through our nation’s veins. I needed some good news. I needed some hope.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12 NIV).

My longing wasn’t fulfilled. God’s will, not mine, prevailed.

This morning, tears came when I thought about Eden and how hard she fought to live. But she no longer needs my prayers. I don’t know what her new glorified body looks like, but I know in heaven there is no pain or sorrow. She is healed. She is whole. 

Eden struggled to breathe on earth, but now I picture her inhaling heaven’s pure air and singing at the top of her lungs, “Jesus loves me this I know!”

Yes, Jesus loves her. The same way He loves Eden’s mommy and daddy, her older sisters, you and me. This is lovenot that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

God’s vast and infinite love reminds me to trust His heart when I can’t comprehend His ways. God’s sovereignty assures me that His eternal purposes for Eden’s life were fulfilled. And in the process, He used that small, delicate infant to reveal His love and grace to a hopeless world.

I consider that a miracle. Don’t you?

And a reason to trust God’s heart—even in this heartache.

Photo by: Jennifer Wrede