Thursday, March 31, 2016

Volcanos and Lions and Easter

 Questions, thoughts spew like lava from an active volcano,
     Not fair!
     How can this be good?
     So, so hard!

All around grey, hot suffocating ash,
     gasping for breath.

Tears turn to sobs, chest-heaving sobs ...

     I . DON'T . GET . IT!

I'm not mad, really ... but confused,
     and so very, very sad.

It's been said,

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. The words referring to weather. (BTW, not so in Colorado!)

It's like life this year. I would amend it - 2016 came in like a lion, a dangerous, stalking lion.

In the Old Testament, David's testimony is that the Lord delivered him from the paw of the lion.
I Samuel 17:34-37.

I can list the hards, the dangerous lion-like moments.
     The list is long.
I can list the I don't get its, this doesn't seem right.
     The list is long.

Each item on the list is real.
Then there is Easter! The excruciating cross. The resurrection.

The hards intersecting with hope and the reality of resurrection.

"And David said, "'The LORD who delivered me from the paw of he lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.'"
I Samuel 17:37

David knew and trusted the character of God. God is a delivering, rescuing God.

My lions were the hards that swept through my life. Those things that could have devoured, could have killed. 

But the LORD is delivering, the LORD is rescuing and redeeming. There is Easter!

Re-covering, Redeeming,
     Lord, please let it count.

Sue, don't force, don't pretend. 

Slowly light is dawning,
     creeping in,
     shining on Truth, resurrection truth.

I Peter 2:9 says, I am God's possession. 
I think, I belong to God. God loves his people. God cares for his people.
Each of these hards, another trust opportunity.
They just don't match how I understand good. 
But I am God's possession. He loves me. He cares about me and for me.
And I know there is Easter.

C.S. Lewis, a much wiser man than I got this.
(Thank you to my friend Amy Kozlarek for her painting of Aslan.)

My neighbor and I stopped to talk yesterday. How are you? she queried. I told her of the many 2016 hards. Her counsel, be good to yourself. Get a massage. 

Now, I love massages, but recovery is more than physical. Last September I penned these words. For me beauty and quiet are key. But my prescription also includes ...

Being with Jesus, enjoying his presence.
Reviewing and reminding myself of the character of God.
Listening for the voice of God.
Journaling and praying.
Remembering Easter.

As I practiced these disciplines, I Peter 2:9 led me to Psalm 34:8, "O taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!"

I might not get it, but I will trust it. I am going to take refuge in God. I want to taste and see his goodness. Thank you God for Easter.

I wonder, what is for you that refreshes and restores you after the hards of life? What does tasting and seeing look like for you?

Picture taken by my niece on her honeymoon in South Africa, January 2016.
"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Manifesting the Life of Jesus

My husband is prone to depression. Those months in the fall of 1999 blindsided us; they were difficult, adjusting, learning times. I hope we do not experience the depth of their darkness again.

I remember our conversation over dinner the night we received his diagnosis. “Are we going to tell our friends?” I queried. Bill responded, “Let’s not use the word depression; let’s say, Bill is exhausted.” While not admitting openly to the clinical diagnosis of depression, I longed for friends with whom I could talk. I’m an extrovert; I process out-loud.

Our initial attempts at sharing—but not really—with others were comical. A pattern emerged. As we (mostly me) communicated with others using our agreed on descriptor, the response was always, “Oh Bill is depressed.” Well, yes. God pushed us to vulnerability. 

As the depression waned and Bill began sharing his story another pattern manifested itself—a telling question from others, “Are you on medication?”  “Yes.” And then the admission from the questioner (after carefully checking to make sure no-one else heard), “I’ve never told anyone this, but I am too.” The underlying belief of many, depression is something to be embarrassed about.

For us—as well as countless others, depression is one of our crosses; a pain we carry in this life.

Give your pain to God as a sacrifice.
The Garden Tomb in Israel. Thank you to my friend Carolyn Eden.
 The apostle Paul knew about pain; he spoke of it in his letter to the Corinthian church as "a thorn". (II Corinthians 12:8). He pleaded with God to take it away; it remained. 

In a letter to the church at Philippi written from his prison cell Paul says, “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not at all be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:20). 

Paul’s exhortation to the church at Rome has a similar ring, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). 

Jesus lived with the painful reality that every day brought him closer to Gethsemane and Mount Calvary. 

The scriptures are filled with stories of hard things: sickness, death, corruption, and more. Life is pain-filled; life is full of crosses.

Give your pain to God as a sacrifice; like Paul did, like Jesus did.

How do I do that?
·         Don’t be surprised by my pain.
·         Don’t hide my pain.
·         Allow my pain to bless; to be redemptive. 

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”
II Corinthians 4:7-12

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jerry Knew the Surpassing Worth

The afternoon that Jerry Bridges was welcomed into the arms of Jesus, I was in California attending our son's church, New Life Burbank. Jeff was in the midst of a sermon series on Philippians. That Sunday he exegeted Philippians 3:8-11. I've been pondering the phrase surpassing worth (verse 8) since. I believe like Paul, Jerry knew the beyond-everything-else-value of finding his righteousness in Jesus. (verse 9)

Five days later, Bill and I sat in our own church, Village Seven, in Colorado at Jerry's memorial service. Our pastor Mark Bates, following Jerry's request, spoke on the very same passage. Mark highlighted the references to righteousness. He spoke of sometimes needing to repent of our righteousness. Paul repented of his righteousness and found his true righteousness coming from his faith in Jesus, as did Jerry.

For the past three years I've been pondering my righteousness that results from faith in God and the implications of that for me. Mark offered new insights to my pondering.

My husband also penned two wonderful tributes to Jerry and the friendship they shared. So as a personal tribute to Jerry, I want to share Jeff's, Mark's, and Bill's words with you. - Jeff's sermon.  - Jerry's memorial service. (Mark's message starts at minute 54).  - This is Bill's post from last week. This week's post also honors Jerry.

A personal thought from the last few days:

I do not need to Rehearse my righteousness.
I do need to Reflect the righteousness I have because of Jesus.
I need to Repent of my false righteousness.

"For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh ... But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes form the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith ... "
Philippians 3:3 and 3:7-9

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Those four words nestled in Genesis 12:2 came alive for me after our Illinois Week.

In Colorado:

Dinner with Jeff and Debby on Monday set the stage. The canvas rested on the pedestal ready for God to make visible what was invisible to me for y e a r s. 

Two days later we were enjoying lunch with Garry and Sandy, students in the Nav ministry during our intern year. (Remember their names ... more coming)

Saturday we flew to Illinois. During the next five days we visited with, ate with, attended church with, cheered the Illini with friends from the seventies, our University of Illinois Nav staff years.

Trees with deep roots are appearing on the canvas, bright sun and gentle rain coloring the backdrop. Names, promises, faces are floating through the picture. I'm still unaware.

Rachel Weakly***
Our first stop was Josh and Rachel's condo. The aroma of Papa Del's, an iconic pizza parlor, as well as Josh and Rachel, current Nav staff at the U of I, welcomed us.

At first I didn't realize the deep and personal significance of Rachel's words, I meet with two students and lead a Bible study on campus. (The U of I has 32,579 undergraduates.)

I got my ministry feet wet meeting with two students and leading a Bible study. 

One of those students was Sandy. We talked about God, dorm life, boys, and how to reach our friends with the gospel.

Over the next 40+ years Sandy's godly influence continued to spread through leading Bible studies, joining Garry in ministering to young couples, to their neighbors and into their extended families. One thing I LOVE about Sandy is she always has questions. She is a learner. She still wants to grow in her ability to reach her world. In her own words, Sandy describes her ministry ...
Sandy and Garry

“Through ministry I enjoy having a front row seat to all the Lord Jesus is doing in the life of another woman.  He doesn’t need my help, but he calls me to partner with him.  When Jesus raised Lazarus, He turned to Mary, Martha, and other mourners and said, “Unbind him and let him go.”  Jesus gives life; he calls me through the privilege of discipling another person to remove strip by soiled strip of the grave clothes of the one formerly dead. What a joy!”

One evening we enjoyed a new-to-us restaurant with Bryan and Pam. They too were students the years Bill and I led the U of I ministry; Pam was in one of my Bible studies. Like Sandy, Pam has had an extremely successful ministry in leadership through their local church and through the Bible study program she developed that is reaching hundreds throughout Illinois.
Pam, back row on the right. This is part of her training group.
The canvas is developing depth and beauty.

Many of our friends during our Illinois week, some on the brink of retirement (really we don't feel that old) shared their stories with us. They are all making a difference for the Lord in their spheres of influence.

I sat back in wonder. I was beginning to see the beautiful painting God had been creating all along.

Back in Colorado and reflecting on our Illinois Week, God reminded me of Genesis 12 and 17 and his promise to Abram ...

"... I will bless you ... you will be a blessing ...
I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,
that I may make my covenant between me and you,
and may multiply you greatly.
I will make you exceedingly fruitful ..."
from Genesis 12:2 and 17:1-6, bolding mine 

The Ah-Ha moment; the joy; the gift; truly overwhelmed by the beauty of God's faithfulness!

It's been almost 30 years since we moved from Illinois. And from those years, from the seeds that we scattered women are walking with God and investing in their next generations. And hundreds, no thousands of women have been and are being impacted for the Lord. 

Why did it take me so long to see this amazing work of God?

For the last many years, the lies that defined me, I'm not good enough; what do I have to offer; and other similiar whispers of the enemy were the loudest words on my radar. Yes, I know truth; and yes I've often claimed truth to defeat this evil one. But still I wasn't thinking, What is God doing through my life? How is God using me? 

Too much defense; not enough offense.

It had nothing to do with how good I was or what I had to offer. It had everything to do with God and His desires, His love for me, and for the ones he allowed me to influence.
God used this cracked pot, this human being, this willing vessel. 

Often I've said, I know God's love for me because He tells me and He created me with purpose. On our trip back to our first Navigator stomping grounds, He took me on a walk showing me illustration after illustration of His love in action. 

I am part of God's blessing to Abraham. You are too. And Sandy and Pam are two of God's blessings to me.

I WILL MAKE YOU. The "I" is God. It is his vision, his ministry. He is the one who makes us fruitful.

Do you hear the big exhale?

"The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
Your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands."
Psalm 138:8

*** Will you join me in praying for Rachel that she too would experience God making her     exceedingly fruitful as she ministers with The Navigators at the University of Illinois.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

According to the Purpose

These four words, according to the purpose, buried deep in the message of Ephesians 1:3-6 reflect God's heart, his plan, and his pleasure lifting up the grace we now live because of Jesus.

God, our purposeful God, created us in his image; he created us with purpose, on purpose, and for purpose.

With Purpose: "I know the plans I have for you ..." These well-known words from God recorded in Jeremiah 29:11 offer comfort, encouragement, and hope. We have a role in God's great story. We are needed!

It was the summer of 2008. Bill and I were part of a special service of affirming our friends who were selected for a significant ministry responsibility. As we prayed, they were anointed with oil. But we, their friends surrounding them, laying our hands on them, praying God's blessing for them were also anointed with oil. Our names were voiced and we too were blessed. It was a visible and vocal affirmation, God's plans included us as well.

On Purpose: Blessed with every spiritual blessing. We were chosen on purpose to receive those blessings. It wasn't a last minute decision. God shares his since the foundation of the world plan to Jeremiah in chapter 1, verse 5: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;" God continues with Jeremiah's specific on purpose plan. And I believe there is also a since the foundation of the world plan for us.

For Purpose: Our purpose is for the carrying out of God's vision, his heart. God promised to Abram, "I will make you ... and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." Genesis 12:2 and 3. That's me; that's you.

We are part of God's promise to Abram and an essential piece of that promise continuing.

Genesis 17 fleshes this reality out. "I will make you exceedingly fruitful ... I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations ..."
Verses 6 and 7.

Recently Bill and I experienced an Illinois week. We enjoyed two meals here in Colorado with friends from our Illinois days. And as it happens, later that week we returned to the University of Illinois, the place where we officially started our Navigator ministry. What a joy!! And I want to tell you more.
Note Champaign-Urbana in central Illinois.

Next week, Echoes is sharing a piece of that Illinois story, a piece of God's purpose displayed through many who are living their stories with purpose, on purpose, and for purpose.

So come back next Thursday for part 3 of this series ... you just might see your picture.

"How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son."
Ephesians 1 3-6, The Message