Friday, February 26, 2016

A Very Hard Precious

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."
Psalm 116:15
Joel and his much prayed for baby son, Gabe.

Today our friend Joel Helms walked into the presence of Jesus. He leaves behind his wife Kelly, their son Gabe who is not quite 3 months old, and many many friends whose tears are flowing freely along with his family this night.

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope."
I Thessalonians 4:13

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Avalanche Proportions

The avalanche of hards continues.

This most recent left me gasping for breath. Could I survive yet another hard? Inside I screamed,
I.CAN'T.WRITE.ANOTHER.TRIBUTE! Tears stained my cheeks. Life has been overwhelming.

I wiped my tears, threw on my coat, grabbed Lexie's leash (for my dog who doesn't know what sad is), and headed out. How should I pray, I prayed.

The gentle, understanding whisper was instantaneous, Sue, you're human. Pray as a human. Pray for healing, complete healing. My shoulders relaxed, I picked up my pace, and I prayed. I prayed for complete healing.

God gets it. Paul writes about this paradox of our lives as human Christians, as believers in a sovereign God.
"... and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith ..."
the middle of Galatians 2:20 (underlines mine)

Two realities, two nows, two truths captured in the middle of one sentence.
  • I now live in the flesh - I am human.
  • I live by faith - My trust is not in myself.
As a human being, I have human desires (complete healing).
                               I have human reactions (I can't take another hard).
                               I have human ideas (things I can do to help).

As a human being who lives by faith, I have a new lens.
                                                             I have a new ability.
                                                             I have a new trust.
                                                             I have a new peace.
                                                             I have a new security.

Both are true at the same time!

Will I put my weight on my humanity?
Will I put my weight on my faith?

If in the midst, I'm experiencing the peace that passes all understanding, then my weight is on my faith.

Joel and Kelly Helms
As of this writing, I do not know how God is answering my prayer for complete healing. If you wish to join in prayer for my friend Joel, his wife Kelly set up a CaringBridge page where she shares current requests.

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:7

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Living Commissioned

The plaques, the awards, the commendations, the appreciations wallpapered the place my eyes rested every day. It was impressive; it was what the company wanted me to believe - you, Sue are important to us; just look at what you've accomplished. And for a while, it worked; it fed my ego.

But I couldn't ignore the niggling feeling, the unbeckoned questions. Something wasn't right. (I wrote about it four years ago. You might remember, Taking Down the Wall.)
Many of those framed pieces of paper led me astray. They reinforced who I wasn't. I took down the wall. It's nakedness now crying, but who are you, Sue?

I knew the answer; I knew the truth.

God journaled it before I was conceived (Jeremiah 1:5). And his words have been swirling through my brain and echoing in my heart speaking the truth I need to hear; I need to remember; I need to trust.

Similar to the apostle Paul, these are important words to me ...
"... he (and me too) is a chosen instrument of mine ..." Acts 9:15, parentheses added

In the last few years, two other pieces of paper have affirmed publicly what God has been saying about me since eternity past. Yes, I had them framed. Yes, they do speak of accomplishments - but more importantly they speak truly. They speak of what God has already spoken over me.  No, my eyes do not rest on them every day.

"Our worth is not the same as our usefulness."
Henri J.J. Nouwen, Out of Solitude

They are a visible representation of the context in which I live out my worth, where I want my usefulness to flourish.

What picture has God given you of your usefulness?
What scriptures encourage you along those lines?

"In love he predestined us for adoption ...
according to the purpose of his will,"
                          Ephesians 1:5

Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Tribute to Katie

My friend Katie Hubbard walked into the arms of Jesus Monday evening January 25 bringing to conclusion a 7 year battle with breast cancer.

Katie and I were part of the same extended family, The Navigators. It's a large family and we didn't often cross paths. She was like a daughter to me, a few generations removed. Along side our husbands we both ministered among the students at the University of Illinois (Bill and I in the 70's; Katie and Norm until just recently). Anyone who labors in that harvest will always be a special to Bill and me.

A little over 4 years ago, we were visiting Norm and Katie at the U of I. Katie and I spent the morning visiting with one of our other Navstaff family members, Katie Haas and her newborn daughter, Ellie. Katie #2 and her husband Noah were doing their ministry training with Katie and Norm. What a privilege!

You know what I noticed about Katie that morning? She gave her 100% attention to whomever she was with. First to me; then to Katie and Ellie; and later when we were back at their home to Joe, their youngest who was still a pre-schooler at the time.

Katie was a woman full of faith. These words she penned earlier this fall are a tribute to that ...

The kingdom of God is a mystery, and its’ growth is a mystery.  God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts.  Jesus assures us in Mark 4 that His kingdom grows even while we are sleeping!
And Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how." Mark 4: 26-27
Norman and I love these verses!  They are our favorite “ministry verses.”  Oftentimes when we climb in bed at night, we laugh and say, “The kingdom of God is growing over there on campus while we sleep!”  What a fantastic thought.  What a relief! (underline mine)

What is your favorite ministry verse?

Every time I was with Katie, she was surrounded by family, Norm and/or her children. Her family
was never an interruption - they were her priority. In her own words, "As always my chief concern is my kids. there is just no way to shield them from the intense difficulty and upheaval that my illness brings. And as a parent it is agony to know that my circumstances cause my kids stress and pain. I have no control over that. But I have so much assurance from scripture that God has them. These circumstances are Father filtered and He will use it for their good ..."

Katie's heart was for the next generation, the next generation of laborers, the next generation of young mom's, the next generation growing up under her roof. Her life demonstrated that great influence can happen during the mommy years. Last spring she wrote these words ...

"I don’t want recognition, fame. I don’t want the big selling book, I don’t want a thousand people at Nav Nite…I want laborers.  And if that means that my little cup of cold water in Jesus’ name is one gal, right here, right now, then so be it.  Because that one little gal is, by God’s grace, going to grow into an oak of righteousness and God is going to take her places and do things in her life and bring people across her path that I could never imagine or conceive." Mommy Missionaries blog.

Katie regularly contributed to The collegiate Navs Mommy Missionaries blog. Her wisdom born of years of walking with God and years of ministry encouraged and blessed many. These words will live on and continue to minister.

Katie loved and prayed even when her home consisted of the four walls of her bedroom. Right up to the end of her time here on earth, Katie prayed for and with those prayers blessed other young Nav moms in their hards.

In her writing, she securely shared her humanity. She was transparent and open with her words, an indication of how she lived her life. She shared her own insecurities about vocational ministry and support raising. I laughed when I read one of her stories of not knowing how to explain what a Navigator was. I laughed because I identified!

One of C. S. Lewis's roles was that of spiritual director. He fulfilled that role primarily through letter writing. Lewis died in 1963. His life continues to minister deeply around the world through his penned words.

Katie was a writer too. I'm confident that her penned words will also continue to minister deeply. Those words will echo her heart for Jesus for many years to come.

As I read Katie Haas' eulogy for Katie Hubbard, she shared one of the lines she often heard Katie say,
Be ruthless with your words and gentle with your emotions.

That was a balm to my soul. I knew Katie from a distance, but in her words she loved me well. I needed to know it was okay to cry A-GAIN.
"Truly, truly, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone;
but if it dies, it bears much fruit."
John 12:24 (italics  and bolding mine)

Just recently I was introduced to this song. My guess is that Katie would say YES and AMEN. May it bless you.

I know Norm and the children would be so appreciative of your prayers for them.

"And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above;
 and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever"
Daniel 12:3


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Believing, Receiving, Blessing

The foundation of our friend's home
I've always believed in God. Sunday school, youth group, church were all pieces of my growing up culture; it was a culture that traveled with me to college. My parents poured a strong foundation.

Believing, the foundation that readied me to receive.

"But to all who did receive him,
who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God,"
John 1:12 (italics mine)

Listening to my peers that Sunday evening in the college-aged youth group, I realized that a foundation is poured to support something greater. Believing was a foundation. That was the night my words reached to God, I opened my heart and my hands, and received my child of God identity. Something greater had begun.

It was the first step of many receivings.

D.L. Moody puts it this way, "Faith is the gift of God. So is the air, but you have to breathe it; so is bread, but you have to eat it; so is water but you have to drink it." (The Way to God, p.53)

Jesus encourages, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in (receive) my love." John 15:9 (parentheses mine)

My child of God journey is a journey of receiving. Only then do I have something to offer my world. Ann Voskamp calls this the order of grace. "You will be experienced as a blessing -- to the extent you have first experienced yourself as blessed. You must feel the fullness of your own pitcher before you trust the pouring out of yourself." (The Greatest Gift p.40)

As I read the scriptures, do Bible study, attend church, live in community, I'm always asking,
what am I receiving that is allowing me to bleed grace,
to love with the love I'm receiving?

Receiving built on the foundation of believing leads to blessing.

What questions do you ask to assure that you're receiving from God?
What does bleeding grace look like for you? 

"For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid,
which is Jesus Christ."
I Corinthians 3:11