Graduation to Heaven

nice_3_1-Lahainaluna Graduation

 “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” Hebrews 12:2 (KJV)

Lahainaluna High School-What a beautiful school nestled in the West Maui Mountains, founded originally as a seminary in 1831 and the only school in Hawaii where the Alma Mater is sung in Hawaiian.  It is considered the oldest school west of the Rockies and the oldest west of the Mississippi River. What an incredible joy it was to teach there with the beauty of the school also reflected in the precious teachers, staff and students!

Day students and boarders come from all the Hawaiian islands as well as other Pacific islands.   Boarders keep the landscape beautiful and serve in the cafeteria for free housing with meals and in return, must contribute three work hours a day.

It’s spectacular graduation is celebrated by its uniqueness in design. The official picture above from the website shares a unique, beautiful event that takes place each year.  Some of the underclassmen climb Mt. Ball located higher above with torches beforehand and in the ceremony a few have climbed it again to light the “L” at night.  All below and even all the town of Lahaina further down by the ocean can celebrate the new graduates’ accomplishments.

I, too, have a graduation date after taking all of life’s courses.  I’ve experienced difficult and pleasant experiences through this pathway where I learned invaluable lessons.  I thank the Lord that this journey has brought my heart to repent of my wrong doing and to acknowledge Christ as my Lord and Savior.  When I die or if He comes first, my graduation from life to eternity will commence.  I can only imagine the joy of seeing my loved ones, at last, sharing the beauties of Heaven with me where Christ will outshine us all as we behold Him close-up and personal.

God, I am looking forward to my graduation to Heaven.  Your brilliance in my life is nothing compared to what it will be like to see you in all Your splendor! 

 

Trade Winds of Hawaii

palm-trees-05

The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.  John 3:8 (NIV)

After our family lived in Hawaii for awhile, we became accustomed to two opposing wind patterns.  Most common were the trade winds from the north and east that generate cooling breezes, acting like a natural air conditioner.  Occasionally Kona winds from the south occur that bring remnants of the Kilauea active volcano in a form of volcanic fog (Vog).  The air becomes hot and sticky  with a plume of smoke winding up the island chain that saps the body’s strength.

So, too, is our spiritual strength depleted when our problems seem overwhelming.   We may suffer the consequences of stress, racing thoughts with physical repercussions.  Irritability and worry cause a cloud over our days as we cave in on ourselves, robbing our minds and bodies of fresh perspective and lightheartedness.  Our relationships may be marred and our entire frame of reference becomes inward rather than outward in our relationships. A heavy fog that clouds our life descends, often causing sleepless nights and tiring days.

As the desired light and refreshing trade winds that blow across the islands bring joy to all those there,  so likewise does the Spirit flow from His heavenly source.  He brings life and beauty of God’s presence to hurting, restless hearts and minds suffering under the repressive forces of darkness.  The Holy Spirit calms our minds and bodies with His glorious  presence flooding over and in us.  The focus becomes what God can and wants to do.  We breathe with His fresh thoughts and perspective that lend new insights and often problem-solving techniques.  We live the abundant life that invites our family and friends to interact positively.  His presence blows the hot, sticky air away and replaces it with His very own fresh air so that I now breathe with His strength.

Holy Spirit, You are patiently wanting me to enjoy Your journey for me over mountains and valleys.  Let me remember it is in the valleys where I can feel the God-given breezes of mountain-top experiences past and present.  You be my Life Guide and I shall willingly follow you in this path You design for me!

God’s Family Provision

God Delights in Providing for Our Needs

So she did as she was told.  Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another.  Soon every container was full to the brim. 2 Kings 4:5,6 (NLT)

Her prophet husband had died and this widow woman was in a quandary.  Her creditor had come threatening to take her two sons as slaves. All she had left in her home was a small flask of olive oil. Elisha’s direction was strange–she was to send her two sons to borrow all her friends’ and neighbors’ empty vessels. She concurred and then witnessed a miracle that from her little flask of oil, she filled all the larger vessels gathered.  She sold  the oil and thus her bill was paid in full to all her creditors.  Amazingly, she and her sons had enough left to live debt free.

It was a bitter, freezing winter in Bradford, Pennsylvania, often temps the coldest in the  contiguous United States.  We had just moved into a new, small pastorate with two small boys.  Events began to take a nosedive.  Larry also held a full-time job with Case Cutlery but sadly, it was there one day that he cut off the tip of his finger.

Right at the end of November, I noticed that Jeff, our four-year old had a big lump under his ear that prompted a visit to the physician.  The diagnosis: mononucleosis with the worst case he had ever seen in a child. Jeff was put into a hospital  isolation room. Shortly, a  child with Chicken Pox was placed in another room and Jeff contracted this, too.  On Jeff’s release, his spleen was enlarged and could rupture so diligence was needed to restrict rough playing. We were now concerned for his brother, Chris, as well.

One day Larry called me from work and said that God had given him a promise in Revelations 3:7b (NLT) He (God) opens doors, and no one can shut them; he shuts doors, and no one can open them. We were to be encouraged by our Protector.

Money was now an issue and I had applied to the new school district with no success.  Right before Christmas, substitute jobs opened up with sometimes up to five calls.  The night before Christmas Larry went to a large store where with inventory looming, all toys were drastically reduced.  A blessed Christmas morning with toys arrayed and designed by God appeared for the boys.  (And yes, Jeff recuperated and Chris to this day has never had Chicken Pox!)

Arriving home on a snowy, blustery night, we gazed, amazed, that each step up to our second story apartment was arrayed with groceries from ministers in our section.  God had opened up the bounty of heaven to pour us out a blessing of a Christmas we’ve never forgotten by our Heavenly Father, wrapped in bows of love.

Lord when times get tough, Your care is exquisite.  You actually provided the oil of Your presence to the Biblical woman  and You will provide the oil of the Holy Spirit to be poured out for my concerns, as well. Our Heavenly Father provides for His own and I am incredibly grateful!

 

Buried Treasure

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 (KJV)

I  had accepted  teaching Ancient Hawaiian Studies among other social studies courses in my certification area  at Lahainaluna.  I hardly knew Hawaii, or its proper pronunciation of Hawaiian words, its history or culture. I learned with the gracious help of a Hawaiian staff member tutoring me during  lunch hours on pronunciation.  Another teacher friend loaned an invaluable resourceful book.  My classes chuckled at my attempt to teach them but my aim was to present unknown facts to expand their knowledge, too.  By the end of the year we were all enjoying aspects of a rich Hawaiian heritage.

Fascinating was that Hawaiians of old sometimes buried their dead in sand dunes with such skill in positioning the bodies, that tides would never hinder their placement. Loved, honored and revered through succeeding generations, they were never forgotten. Oral histories of bravery and honor followed them along with their genealogy.

We, like the Hawaiian people, see death as the end of a journey and also a crossing over to a life not yet lived in a new world, a new place.  This earthen vessel which is laid to rest still houses the treasure placed by God within.

There is a story in the Bible referring to a burial scene and it is the first and only time that the word coffin is used throughout Scripture.  It is the story of Joseph having come to the end of his life’s journey and it reads he was embalmed by the Egyptians and placed in a coffin in Egypt.  The beautiful part of this is found in the interpretation of the word ‘coffin’ which means a hope chest.  To the bride, the significance of a hope chest is invaluable for in it is contained all those precious things that will become part of her new life in marriage.

The beautiful part of death to both the Hawaiian people and ourselves is the anticipation and preparation for a rich and fulfilling afterlife.   We have this treasure contained in an earthen vessel which also like that hope chest will be opened when we stand in the presence of our beloved bridegroom, Jesus, our Savior and Lord.  Remember Joseph’s request was not to be left in Egypt but to be taken with his family when they entered the Promised Land.  According to Exodus 13:19 (NIV) “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath.  He had said, God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up (to the promised land) with you from this place.

I can’t wait for you to come and gather us to Yourself in anticipation of the words You promised that we will be prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.   Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus. What a beautiful plan of making Your family complete.

An Alabastar Box of Radiance

 

she-anointed-his-head-matt-26-7     A Memorial Tribute of the Christ She Served

There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat…Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. Matthew 26:7 & 13 (KJV)

Vibrant, beautiful Sheila attracted friends to her with a winsome smile and glowing vitality of blessing others.  In church she was the first there on Sunday mornings praying at the altar before people arrived; the first one standing for praise and worship, singing with hands uplifted in love and reverence.  At Lahainaluna High School, I observed the bounce in her step where she was employed as a special education aide and with interactions between teachers, students and staff.

And slowly, life presented unbearable, hurting hurdles…her son, a heavy drug addict, succumbed to major mental  inadequacies; her daughter became unstable in relationships, and then her husband committed suicide. Through all the shaking and tears, a smile remained on Sheila’s face.  While carrying a broken, grieving heart, she still radiated the love of God!

The last time I saw Sheila was at the health clinic.  I was there for a routine doctor’s appointment, but she was there with a life-threatening illness.  Her verdict was swift and tragic–she had two weeks to live.  At her funeral she was dressed all in white, laid in a white-inlaid casket and encased in a white box.  My thought on seeing her…she looks truly like the bride of Christ!  Half way around the world in our next pastorate, I remembered the life dynamics of my precious friend, Sheila. Through her impact, a large group of ladies would begin a new women’s ministry called Radiance.

The Bible woman with the alabaster box of perfumed ointment knew the secret of displaying her love and beautiful devotion to the Master.  She was unafraid of taking her most costly possession to best visually demonstrate her loyalty to Jesus.  Although jeered by the men who saw her, Jesus looked into the very essence of her being to see a heart overflowing with warmth and intensity.  Her beautiful gift became a halo that she placed over Jesus head, that then oozed a fragrant oil that flowed and anointed him for a burial that would happen within the week…but the next week she witnessed her Risen Lord!

Radiance glows best in the lives of those who let you shine through them in multifaceted ways.  “What we keep for ourselves lives but for a moment. What we freely give from our hearts will last for eternity.” May I, too, reflect sacrifice of myself with an intense devotion and appreciation of the Divine. Isn’t that the very best way for You to radiate outward?

 

God’s Breath of Life

BreathofLifeLogo    ‘HA’ IN HAWAIIAN

And the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7 (KJV)

“I am just so frustrated!” Jeff lamented in a couple of months after starting Maui High School. “Former courses required now I didn’t take in Pennsylvania and courses taken there have no follow-up here.  P-l-e-a-s-e  allow me to go back to finish my education!”  God was expecting our family to be divided after moving half way around the world together? Where was God now? I wailed, but God reminded me that Jeff was his son first and ours second.

A beautiful family from our former pastorate- Mary Kay, Doug and their children-Jason, Heather and Holly-graciously opened the door of their home and their hearts to our son to become part of their family. We were very happy for Jeff, but devastated to see him leave our own family unit!

A couple of days later still in shock and sorrow, I discussed this with Ulu, my teacher’s aide.  We hardly knew each other but that day she breathed comfort and astounding wisdom into me.  She replied, “We call that hanai in Hawaii and have practiced this from ancient times.  If families were large or children were orphaned or needing fostered, other families would take a child and raise them as their own.  I did that myself of having others help me raise my children.  Jeff, too, is a hanai child and being cared for by another family.”

That first Christmas, Jeff’s hanai family and we celebrated together. Exquisite was Mary Kay’s gift to us–a journal she’d written of “our son together,” glimpsing his life each day in her family’s care.

‘Ha’, in many Hawaiian words, means breath of life. God breathed life into Adam and essentially, then, into all of us. Families, too, have life breathed into them either biologically or by design. Little did we know the beauty our sons would find in their own families, designed by God, with some biological, adopted and fostered today.

You invite and adopt us into your own family, God, to live forever with you. I trust you to implant your own spiritual breath into remaining family members who need to know you as Abba, Father!

 

Maui Special Needs Youth With Big Hearts

All children can learnHowever, they taught me much more!

“…With God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 KJV

Embraced by our new church family in Maui when we arrived in July, we settled into the parsonage with our two sons.  Wasting no time, I pursued employment by the Hawaii Department of Education. All positions had been filled for the upcoming school year in my areas of elementary and social studies so I offered to teach in special education, if possible.  I was honored to accept full-time employment of that with Lahainaluna High School.

Previously, I had subbed in special education in a full-time position where I met Louie and Robbie.  Louie was my energetic, vivacious young man who knew how to proceed through the locker-lined halls by taking a step, then banging both feet up on the lockers to the left, with another step before hurtling his feet to those on the right, back and forth, as he proceeded.  Robbie was dealing with traumatic issues at home and would have severe meltdowns at school. To calm him down in a chair, I would kneel behind him and just wrap my arms around while I soothingly spoke to him. These precious boys had engraved themselves on my heart.

Now with Cody, David, Becky and Mary Jane along with Ulu, my aide, the school year began.  All four had different mental challenges.  We enjoyed spending time with each other in a setting very unique  for instruction–a fully-equipped kitchen, a living room area plus the classroom .  Life skills were taught such as operating the washer, dryer and stove plus basic computer skills. Ulu, my aide, was also involved with public transportation and through her, our four students had access to the resorts in kitchen areas and with other supporting vocations there that might accommodate   interests after graduation.  Cody continued in regular gym classes.  Becky loved pecking away on the keyboard so was accommodated by being enrolled in a regular education typing class.

We continued the involvement with Special Olympics and were flown to the final competition in Honolulu to compete.  Ulu, Larry (my husband) and I plus the four students (with compliments of the state) took a fascinating trip. Our only expense of $18 a piece, flew us out of the Lahaina airport to the Big Island. Then we proceeded to the Atlantis Submarine to view fantastic aquatic life.  Land, sky and ocean travel were completed in one school day!

The uniqueness of that class with all their strengths and joys of learning has taught me that God designed each in such a splendid way. Their beauty of strength and character exhibited tenacity and joy in their individual journeys.

God, your heart is entwined within each heart of special needs youth.  Their radiance is manifested in smiles, in simple pleasures, in demonstrating their awesome personality in their individual journeys. In this fast-paced world, let me learn to manifest the simplicity of contentment wherever life finds me!

 

 

Maui Bound

MAUI Map    MAUI BOUND

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Sun, sand and surf for Larry and Ruth.  We were excited to be visiting the four major islands for rest and relaxation after sixteen years in the ministry for a vacation in Hawaii.  Our sons were staying with my parents and our church was left in capable hands during our absence.

Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island were beautifully bathed in tropical paradise.  When we arrived on Maui, however,  rain pelted the island everywhere generating bursting waterfalls, giant waves and minor flooding everywhere that we glimpsed through gray fog. Yet  the Living Water pulsated within Larry as a still, small voice quietly mentioned, “Some day this island is going to be your place of ministry.”

Two years later, Larry was invited to become part of the ministry team in Pukulani, Upcountry Maui.  This momentous decision would also need to be positively accepted with our boys, Jeff in eleventh grade and Chris in eighth.  How would they react to leaving their extended family with cousins their ages plus church, school and community friends they’d made?  For Jeff already in college prep courses, the reality of moving half a world away immediately hit hard as interrupted future goals collided in the rigors of transitions that could create chaos for his last two high school years. Yet within a very short time, Jeff said, “Who am I to interfere with the plan of ministry God has for us?”

For Chris, this was an easier decision to move half way around the world as he was the sports enthusiast, especially with baseball.  He had played on a team from the time he began middle school and made friends easily. This seemed to be more of an adventure with all kinds of water sports beckoning, as well.

And so we boarded a plane in Pennsylvania with several family members waving good-bye in the airport terminal as we began a journey that impacted each of the four of us.

Lord, it was difficult to leave our comfort zone, selling all we owned, tearing ourselves from loved ones. Yet I heard my husband say while we were 35,000 feet in the air heading towards our destination of ministry, full of unanwsered questions and an uncertain future, “I’ve never felt freer in my life as I am now!” God had called and we had answered…

 

 

 

Larry’s Transition in God’s Design

Praying-Hands-Bible

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16B  (KJV)

“Ruthie! Ruuthiee!” Was I rightly hearing my husband calling outside our second floor bedroom window? It was a beautiful snowy Christmas Eve as I hurriedly ran down the stairs and out the door.  There sprawled across the cement slab at the bottom of the steps lay Larry in excruciating pain with the inability to move. The ambulance came and transported him to the hospital. I hurriedly called a nearby family from our church to come take care of our two little boys.

The next day the doctor operated on Larry’s shattered hip. “You will always walk with a limp! It was very hard to even try to repair it with all the damage. A pin was inserted to hold it together as good as I could with a probable hip replacement needed within two years.”

Convalescing at home, Larry pondered and asked God, “Why did you let this happen? Why so much pain? How would this be your plan while I pastor  this church?” Immediately he heard within his heart the voice of God saying, “Remember when you prayed and asked for a miracle of healing? Do you have faith to believe now that I can heal you?”

On crutches, Larry finally improved enough to assume his place behind the pulpit.  Before  preaching that morning’s message, the Board surrounded him and prayed for his healing.  Larry finished the service, then placed his crutches down beside him and slowly walked down the steps of the platform to greet the people in the back of the church.  Hurriedly his former day and night nurse at the hospital who attended him and were at the church for the first time, urgently instructed him to use the crutches.  Larry reassured them that he had to do what he knew he should.

And the healing continued.  On his first visit, the surgeon said “According to these x-rays, I can’t even tell where your hip has been broken. Either I am a good surgeon or you had a miracle healing!”

Shortly afterwards, those two nurses had miracles of their own. They gave their lives to the Lord and became faithful in church attendance. One became a children’s church worker and one, a medical missionary to Alaska.

We truly become part of the answer to every prayer that we pray when we leave all the results in His capable hands!

 

 

 

Daughters-In-Law and Rubies

Adoption-Heart

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her so he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:10-12 NKJV

Rubies: They are the most rarest and precious gemstones in the world! To find a twenty-caret ruby is unusual and brings the much higher price per carat than diamonds!

God exquisitely designed two multifaceted young ladies for our sons. Jeff met his wife, Nikki at Branson Tourism where both were employed.  Her pleasant personality emanated from God within to her fellow workers and guests, putting all at ease. Working as a teacher in a Christian preschool, previously, endeared her to children of all ages.  Her stepdaughter, Jessi, became a welcomed member of their wedding party.  After hearing of a homeless couple with two children, she and Jeff adopted their one year old daughter. Now fostering her two-year old brother,  hopes are high also for his adoption.   Nikki is also a nanny to another little guy the same age. Christ through her is illuminated in all she does.

Chris met his wife, Lindsay, at Evangel University where she graduated  as an English major. She became a world traveler to Russia during this time, as well, where she taught English to a group of young people one summer.  After teaching high school, she became a homeschooling Mom for their three daughters. Birthed within Lindsay and shared with Chris, was a desire to host a young lady through New Horizons for Children over Christmas.  After three trips to Latvia as prospective parents, this sweet, young teenage girl became theirs in adoption.  Beautifully prepared while waiting for their new sister with little anxiety, were three younger sisters who enthusiastically welcomed her into the Hill family. Lindsay emanated with the love of God at home and abroad.

Both sons treasure these wives. designed by God, for them. Priceless is their value!