Tag Archives: faithfulness

Worship Wednesday – I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day – Casting Crowns

Blog - I Heard the Bells - Worship Wednesday

Photo Credit: CastingCrowns.com

Adapted from the Archives

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:10-11, 13-14

In December, 1863, American poet and scholar Henry W. Longfellow received his wounded son home from battle. It was Christmas time, and the U.S. Civil War raged on. Having already lost his wife years earlier, Longfellow nursed his son, Charley, back to health. His own thoughts, in turmoil over all that was happening around him, he poured out in the poem “Christmas Bells”.

Longfellow clearly took comfort from God as he wrote, ending the poem with this stanza:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”*

I Heard the Bells is a Christmas carol, not a worship anthem. Yet, given the continuing wars and hardships of our day, we must tend the fires of our hope. God is the “lifter of our heads” (Psalm 3:3). He is the One who gives strength to our “weak hands and shaking knees” (Isaiah 35:3). He will do as He’s promised. He is faithful. When you hear the bells ring where you are this Christmas season, take heart in that. We must continue to pray for His peace on earth…and in our own hearts.  We can be vessels of His good-will toward our neighbors, both very near…and far away.

Worship with me…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Lyric video)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir singing (Peace on Earth)
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep (Peace on Earth, peace on Earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (Peace on Earth)
The life the angels singing (Peace on Earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (Peace on Earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

YouTube Video – Casting Crowns performing I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall On Christmas (Teaching Vignettes)

Christmas Carol Soldier – Story of Charley Appleton Longfellow & the occasion for H. W. Longfellow’s writing of the poem/lyric

The Story Behind I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day – Tom Stewart

*Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells

Saturday Short – When Hard Gets Even Harder – God

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When you get an early morning text from your sister-in-law who is caring for your dad, and the message is “Call me”…you think the worst.

This morning…it was the worst…for her.

Not anything related to the dad she has cared for for weeks now, with the help of hospice and family…not our dad this time.img_9580

…but her dad.

Last night, her full-of-life, golfer dad – who had just dropped by for a visit earlier in the day – had a massive stroke.

This father of daughters…barbara-with-dad-and-sisters

…now surrounded by his daughters…in a hospital with nothing but bad news.

My sister-in-law and I have talked on and off through the morning…and we (and many others…thank you) have prayed since the news of his stroke.

Will God ever give us more than we can handle? How are we to manage when hard gets even harder? We know from God’s Word that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)…yet the temptation to despair can be overwhelming sometimes. Then we’re given 1 Corinthians 10:13 to comfort us through those temptations. John Piper writes kindly and plainly about that situation where God gives us more than we can handle (here).

I’m reminded of a saying: “God may give us more than we can handle, but He will not give us more than He can handle.”……I cling to that…the saying less so than the truth I know through His Word and experience of going through hard, with Him.

Then…an incredible coincidence happened as we reeled from the news of this gravely stricken father.

A dear friend messaged me on Facebook and said that I had come to mind when she was reading this morning…it was a passage from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. (Lettie Burd) Cowman. This is one of my favorite devotional books (other favorites are linked below).blog-streams-in-the-desert

Christianity.com posts online the daily devotionals from Streams in the Desert. The December 3 devotional which my friend sent me follows in total. So led by the Holy Spirit of a completely good and wholly loving God.blog-stream-in-desert-sharing-horizonsPhoto Credit: Sharing Horizons

Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well (2 Kings 4:26).

Be strong, my soul!
Thy loved ones go
Within the veil.
God’s thine, e’en so;
Be strong.
Be strong, my soul!
Death looms in view.
Lo, here thy God!
He’ll bear thee through;
Be strong.

For sixty-two years and five months I had a beloved wife, and now, in my ninety-second year I am left alone. But I turn to the ever present Jesus, as I walk up and down in my room, and say, “Lord Jesus, I am alone, and yet not alone–Thou art with me, Thou art my Friend. Now, Lord, comfort me, strengthen me, give to Thy poor servant everything Thou seest he needs.”

And we should not be satisfied till we are brought to this, that we know the Lord Jesus Christ experimentally, habitually to be our Friend: at all times, and under all circumstances, ready to prove Himself to be our Friend.
–George Mueller

Afflictions cannot injure when blended with submission.

Ice breaks many a branch, and so I see a great many persons bowed down and crushed by their afflictions. But now and then I meet one that sings in affliction, and then I thank God for my own sake as well as his. There is no such sweet singing as a song in the night. You recollect the story of the woman who, when her only child died, in rapture looking up, as with the face of an angel, said, “I give you joy, my darling.” That single sentence has gone with me years and years down through my life, quickening and comforting me.
–Henry Ward Beecher

E’en for the dead I will not bind my soul to grief;
Death cannot long divide.
For is it not as though the rose that climbed my garden wall
Has blossomed on the other, side?
Death doth hide,
But not divide;
Thou art but on Christ’s other side!
Thou art with Christ, and Christ with me;
In Christ united still are we.

Thanks for reading…hopefully you are also encouraged by the words above…they were a balm to my own soul. Appreciate your prayers for these I’ve mentioned. God is with us…through every joy and every sorrow.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Morning & Evening with Oswald Chambers – Devotions for Morning and Evening With Oswald Chambers Complete Daily Devotions of My Utmost for His Highest and Daily Thoughts for Disciples

The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall

Joy and Strength for the Pilgrim’s Day by Mary Tileston

Daily Strength for Daily Needs by Mary Tileston

Worship Wednesday – Come To Me – The Village Church

blog-come-to-me-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus – Matthew 11:28

Ever have one of those days when it feels like you’ve just got nothing? Nothing to bring to the discussion…or the relationship?

There’s this amazing group of young women in my life who gather weekly to fellowship and to open God’s Word together. We sit in a loosely shaped circle to give space for lots of children to meander through. From babies crawling around to toddlers and up weaving through us from one side of the room to the other.

These young women enrich my life more than I can say. Those years of small ones were tough years for me…challenging and fraught with the fears of not parenting well enough.

Being in this group allows me to remember the grace of God in my life in those years as I see His grace reflected in them. In fact, even on the hardest, most tiring days, I see Jesus in these women.

Today, when we gathered, I had nothing. Tired from so much travel. Way too much catching up to do for this distractible me. Lists written and rewritten. The desire just to sleep….winning.

Then an hour with sisters…and the experience of “got nothing” was profoundly changed into rest for my soul and a rallying for what was on the schedule today. Hugging babies, funny stories, resonating with each others’ situation, and praying for each other…energized and normalized.

What is that “normal” for a believer? Normal includes those days that are going to take all we’ve got and then some…and there’s grace. Normal is also remembering God early, seeking Him often, and trusting Him always. 

Today, because of friends and sisters, I faced the reality that my early morning quiet times with the Lord have frayed with travel, and fatigue, and (I’m calling it) poor choices. Not beating myself up over it…but grateful to come to the end of myself…and still find God there.

On Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang a new adaptation of an old hymn by Elizabeth Akers. In worship, in that moment of singing an unfamiliar hymn, God began opening my heart to a renewed longing for Him. Nothing else can satisfy…or give us the deep rest we so desperately need. Just Jesus.

Today, in a circle of women who love each other in a way that reminds us of how God loves us, I was held…as if God Himself was doing the holding. Be held, Dear Ones.

…Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head. From Him the whole body is fitted and held together by every supporting ligament. And as each individual part does its work, the body grows and builds itself up in love.Ephesians 4:16

Worship with me to this beautiful old hymn made new by the group The Village Church:

Weary burdened wanderer there is rest for thee
At the feet of Jesus in His love so free
Listen to His message, words of life, forever blessed
Oh, thou heavy laden, “Come to Me, come and rest.”

There is freedom, taste and see
Hear the call, “Come to Me.”
Run into His arms of grace
Your burden carried, He will take

Bring Him all thy burdens, all thy guilt and sin,
Mercy’s door is open, rise up and enter in.
Jesus there is waiting,
 patiently for thee
Hear Him gently calling,
 “Come, oh come, come to Me.”
*

There are two more verses in the original hymn. One of those follows:

Linger then no longer,
Come just now to Him;
Ere the shadows gather,
And thy light grows dim.
Thou hast long been waiting
For some better time,
But today He’s calling,
Come and claim Him thine.**

On days, when it seems we’ve got nothing…the truth is in Christ, we have all we need. Our part is to come to Him…and rest in Him. His strength is displayed perfectly in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). For those other days, when we feel pretty good about what we bring to the table and maybe we don’t have to be so brave…we can rejoice in the same way as on the “got nothing” days. The same good God equips us, and strengthens us, and cheers us on. Truth! Hallelujah!blog-burdened-i-will-give-you-rest-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

*Lyrics to Come to Me – written by Elizabeth Akers; adapted by The Village Church (Chorus and Melody by Jeff Capps and Michael Bleecker)

YouTube Video – Come to Me – (Original: The Village Church) – Sunrise Bible Church

**Full Text of Weary, Burdened Wanderer – Hymnary

Worship Wednesday – Rest, The Lord Is Near -a Reminder from Steve Green – DebMillsWriter

Sunday Schooled: King David & Uriah the Hittite – a Bible Story for Adults Only

Blog - David's Mighty Men - Uriah - keywayPhoto Credit: Keyway

David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. – 1 Kings 15:5

The story of “David and Goliath” crosses cultures and religions. The small shepherd boy who brought down a giant warrior with just a slingshot and a single stone. From the time he was a boy through all his years as King of Israel, David would fight in the strength and for the glory of God. From all we read in the Psalms as well as what history tells us of him, David truly loved God. Even the LORD Himself declared David “a man after God’s own heart“.

However, we also see that David knew great sin and brokenness in his life as well. His betrayal of Uriah the Hittite was probably the darkest period of his life and a crossroads of historic proportions.

It begins here. “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.” (2 Samuel 11:1)

King David should have been away in battle, shoulder to shoulder with his great army, which included the “mighty men” loyal to him from the rough early years of his preparation for the throne. Instead, for whatever reasons, he was at ease in his palace.

[This whole account of what follows is found in full in 2 Samuel 11.]

Standing on his rooftop, King David allowed his eyes to rest on a scene he would later regret. A woman bathing. Bathsheba, her name. The wife of his warrior, Uriah.

Unbridled lust and adultery would follow, even as one of his attendants called his attention to the fact that she belonged to Uriah the Hittite. “Uriah the Hittite, O King!” This man had been with David, fighting for him, from their days of hiding in caves, enemies of King Saul, whose place David would one day take. This man Uriah was one of David’s “mighty men“.

Not even recognition of his loyal warrior would stop David from the evil in his heart.

Then…weeks later, Bathsheba sent the news that would betray David’s great sin against Uriah. She was pregnant. What would follow was a great scheme to get Uriah home from battle and in his wife’s bed, to cover David’s sin. Uriah did come, as beckoned, but would not enjoy company with his wife out of loyalty to those still in battle.

Finally, David would do a further unthinkable act. He had Uriah placed in the line of battle where his death would be assured. After he was killed and Bathsheba’s acceptable mourning period passed, King David married her…and they would NOT live happily ever after.

Faithful Uriah. Courageous Uriah. Man of integrity, Uriah. Sacrificed by the one he followed into battle for years. Essentially murdered by the one for whom he would die…and did die.

Psalm 51 records David’s great sorrow at his sin and subsequent separation from God. He longed to be restored to a right relationship with the Lord and he knew and owned the great wrong he had done both to Uriah and to God Himself.

I am so thankful for the long-suffering forgiveness and steadfast love of God.  We should never, however, think that without confession and repentance we can presume on God’s kindness toward us…

We must remember Uriah also…and mourn, with David, those who suffer when we choose our own way and we forget God.

Dr. Rick Taylor writes poignantly and hopefully about Uriah the Hittite. In his article David’s Mighty Men: Uriah, the Overlooked Warrior:

Uriah may be overlooked and forgotten by mankind. He has never been a big name in the Bible. He is almost never looked at as a hero or man of valor. But God made it clear that his warrior integrity will be memorialized. Even in the face of every major temptation to the contrary put forth by David, in God’s estimation, Uriah was a determined man of nobility, character, integrity, purity of heart and unwavering principle…God sees and remembers – for eternity.Rick Taylor

A Tale of Three Kings – a Study in Brokenness by Gene Edwardsone of my absolute favorite books

Movement Church – Pastor Cliff Jordan – Podcast on Psalm 51 – September 4, 2016

King David – a Man After God’s Own Heart – Jack Zavada

David, a Great King, Yet With a Critical Flaw – What is the Lesson for Us Today? – Msgr. Charles Pope

David’s Mighty Men – Stewardship in Action – Hugh Whelchel

David’s Mighty Men (and the stories behind them) [Infographic] – Jeffrey Kranz

32 Years Married – a Montage of Pictures and Thoughts of Our Life Together – Thus Far

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 112 (2)

[Adapted from previous blog – August 3, 2014 – a bit of a long read – but the words keep coming sometimes.]

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.  – Colossians 3:15-20

How can we be as young as we are and be married 32 years? Maybe we don’t seem so young to others…but these years seem to have zoomed by.  The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us.

First encounter – at church on a Sunday in January. My first Sunday in New Haven, Ct. I thought he was from the Middle East – standing with a group of other students – tall, dark, and (yep) handsome. Later I would find he had a native American, not Middle Eastern, background.

Two friends –  walking through the snow to a Yale-Cornell basketball game – that would become our first date. I was in my early 30s by then and pretty much had put marriage out of my mind. Life was good enough. I was teaching in the nursing program at Yale University, and Dave was a graduate student in the chemistry department. We were friends…and then friendship grew into love. Debbie & Dave

A Marriage Born Out of Prayer – This young man who grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland had a praying mother. He grew up hunting and fishing and excelling academically, and she prayed for just the right wife for him. I don’t understand how all this works, but I’m thankful for Julia and for this son she raised so well.IMG_0050

Birth of our first-born – This man so unsure and almost dreading being a father. Liking life the way it was…and then she was born. She turned this bass-fishing, prison visiting, analytical chemist into a complete softie.

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That day in March, when Christie was born, he became a Dad and continues to pray and support his kids…not intrusively, but always there for them. Always there.

Life Overseas – For over 15 years, we lived in North Africa. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco. It was an incredible experience. Living, working, raising our kids, and being in community in those places and with their peoples. I will always be grateful for Dave’s leadership. From leading our little family to a time when he was leading a division (100 people or so) in his work. He takes seriously the responsibilities in his charge…

Dave’s a quiet man. Some in our lives have suggested his quietness made him seem scary, or unengaged, or disinterested. Not at all. This man in my life, this friend forever, is always thinking… I count on his thinking things through…even when he’s struggling personally or wrestling with a difficult situation. Completely approachable. He also reaches out, sometimes in very uncomfortable ways for him…as in a different language/culture and when the stakes are too high to wait for another to intervene.

From our days of dating right through to today, his heart’s desire is to do the right thing, to honor God with his life… Our years living outside the US were both wonderful and hard times of God sharpening that resolve.22Dave & Debbie & Kids in Egypt (2)IMG_0004 (14) - CopyJul 03 #2 08642

Hardest Experience Living Overseas [essential sidebar] – The search, through Egypt’s Sinai, for a precious girl, lost from us in a moment when a bus crashed. Dave’s courage and determination to do what he could to make right a terrible wrong will always be with me, as a reminder of his character and care of someone we both loved very much.2007 - Feb -- Dave & Boys2005 December - Christmas with Mills & Halls 089a (2)2009 August 25th Wedding Anniversary in Paris 128Blog - Dave & Dan

So many shared memories of good friends, beautiful spaces, happy times and sad.

These Two Years’ Experience in the US – This is really more a timeline than a singular event. Since our 30th anniversary, these two years have been a journey of rediscovering the immeasurable grace of God through both a difficult and joyous season of our lives. The joy relates to the addition to our family of two tiny persons – a granddaughter and a grandson. To watch my husband around them exactly portrays how grandchildren make us young again. The hard times relate to work – for me, “not working anymore” (early retirement? Not ready). For Dave, huge changes in his job which he also wasn’t quite ready for…but, hey, thankfully still employed . These changes come with this season of life for some of us…and they are part of God’s work in our lives, I believe.

Another hard thing for us on the eve of this anniversary was a surgery and cancer diagnosis. Now almost fully recovered, I have had another glimpse of this man’s kindness. Never before, even with years practicing cancer nursing, has it ever dawned on me what it must be like for the husband. For him to sit alone with the news of cancer that he must share with his wife on her waking after surgery. That courage and that care. God continues to use hard things to carve the heart of this man into an even more malleable thing.2005 Summer -- ILC & Delaware Family 089aDave April 2016

Whatever these 32 years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the 2 cherished engrafted children who’ve joined our family). Alongside of them is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.2012 December family snapshot 014

I will always be grateful to God for bringing Dave into my life – for our marriage and the family Dave brought with him, and for the family we have together, now including two darling grandchildren. So much joy.MomMom, MamaLu, Dave, & Christie - 4 Generations[Four Generations – Dave, his mom and MamaLu, and Christie]Mills Men - 4 generations - July 17 2016 - Dave, Nathan, PopPop, Titus[Four Generations – Dave, his dad, Nathan, and Titus]

I have no idea what is ahead, except for what is promised through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 32 years ago. He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one at his side as he extends himself to others. Dave & Debbie July 2014

Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship.  Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. He’s given me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. And whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this our 32nd. anniversary that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.

Through the Years – YouTube video of Kenny Rogers Ballad

Brad Hambrick – Great Marriage & Family Counselor – Marriage Helps Online

Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy – by Gary Thomas – Such a great book!

An example of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel to one marrying – Always forgive.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

60 Years Married – Mom & Dad – a Tribute & Photo Montage

MomMom PopPop - Wedding Day - Anniversary (2)MomMom PopPop - 50th wedding anniversary (2)John & Julia – on their wedding day and their 50th anniversary

This week we celebrate Dave’s parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. 60 years! How thankful I am to have been part of their lives for a bit over 30 years thus far. Living in the embrace of their love for God, us and each other has been a journey of constancy and intentionality.

Julia and John have been another set of parents to me. My own mom raised us four children pretty much alone, finally leaving my biological father, without looking back. She later came close to God again and wondered if she’d stayed what might have happened. After a couple of visits, right after their divorce, that dad never came again…and we grew up knowing he didn’t love us.

[I’m very, very thankful for a step-dad, who I write about, who loved us as his own. So I do know the love of both a devoted mom and dad.]

With my own mom with the Lord, and my dad dealing with Alzheimer’s, I am grateful for all the years with my mom and the years still with Dad, wherever his mind will wander.

That being said, what a joy to also have Julia and John, my “in-loves” still together, hanging in there with each other and with us. Growing older is not an easy thing. All the vows we make in our weddings become all the more vital in the days when mind and body wear down. To see the kindnesses between these two, and their enduring love, patience, and regard for each other is such a witness to what marriage is meant to be…

They teach us and our children so much through how they have both celebrated and weathered life together – the weddings, the divorces of loved ones, the births, the deaths, the distances between us, and the seasons of all our lives. All the stamps in their passports to be with us overseas…so grateful for that. They have spent long days apart because of work in the early years, and long days together in a different work in the latter years. The interruptions of illnesses and accidents. The great grace they’ve known and lavished on us. Their faith in a God who never left them; never forsook them…ever.

Pictures will tell you more than my words…let them speak for me:

John - PopPop - Dave & MarkMomMom home with us in tennesseeMomMom, MamaLu, Dave, & Christie - 4 Generations4 GenerationsMomMom, PopPop, ChristieMomMom, PopPop, Aunt nancy & Uncle BobJulia & John w/ her sister, Nancy & husband Bob – four close  friends

MomMom & PopPop - WilliamsburgMomMom, PopPop, Christie, Nathan, DanielMomMom & PopPop youngerMomMom, PopPop, DaveMomMom & PopPop earlierMomMom & PopPop 2014 (2)PopPop & ChristieMomMom, Nathan, Daniel 2015PopPop Stacie 2011 (2)MomMom & PopPop with grandkids2015 June - Mills Family PictureThe Mills Family, 2015

60 years…of faithfulness, and honoring, and loving through sweet times and hard times. So glad to be part of this journey with them…to be family with them.MomMom PopPop Nancy BobMomMom & PopPop - 60th wedding annviersary - with Dave and Mark, Stacie, and meHappy 60th Anniversary, Dear Ones. You show us what love is and how it’s done across a lifetime.MomMom & PopPop - 60th wedding anniversary

On the Passing of Elisabeth Elliot – Love is a Laid Down Life

Blog - Elisabeth Elliot - Love is a Laid Down LifeLord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever, fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit, use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt and work out Thy will in my life at any cost now and forever.”* – Betty Howard’s prayer which her daughter Elisabeth took as her own at the age of 12

To the right of my desk is a bookcase filled with some of my favorite books. These authors inspire me to live a very different life. Among them are Charles Spurgeon, John Piper, Tom Elliff, Bertha Smith, Patricia St. John, and Elisabeth Elliot.Blog - Elisabeth Elliot - 2

Elisabeth Elliot has died. Rather, she has gloriously entered into the very presence of the God whom she loved and served faithfully all her life. I am so thankful to have lived in the generation of her writing. For over a decade she has quietly lived in the shadow of Alzheimer’s, yet her writing and speaking have continued to leave their mark on generations who desire to know God as she knew Him.

I was five years old when Jim Elliot was killed along the Curaray River, in Ecuador. He left a young widow, Elisabeth Elliot, and a tiny daughter named Valerie. Elisabeth began writing to preserve Jim’s diaries and his memory for Valerie to know her dad as she grew up. Fortunately for all the rest of us, Elisabeth kept writing.

Sometime in my early teens, I first became aware of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. She published his journals in 1958 and I still have a copy of that first printing – Shadow of the Almighty – The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot. I devoured Jim’s writing of his complete devotion for God and his passion for others to know Him. Elisabeth’s own burning love for God drew Jim’s heart to hers.  Their marriage would be brief, but what Elisabeth learned of God in that time set a course for her to touch lives beyond her imagining.

Elisabeth Elliot was a no-nonsense kind of woman. She was consummately honest and frank in dealing with God and the culture of our day. These days, there seems to be little tolerance for spiritualizing or moralizing. I wonder if those who pick up her books today, in the stir of publicity at her passing, will be refreshed or shocked at her writing. She wastes no words, cutting through to what it truly is to be a follower of Christ…not of someone we made up…but the One who laid down His life for us all…that One.

Her bluntness, her disciplines, and her love of God have many times, over the years, shaken me out of dullness and loss of resolve…for which I will always be thankful.

I’ve been encouraged by all the young men and women who have commented about Elisabeth Elliot on social media since she died. To put her on some sort of pedestal would be wrong; to say her life pointed us to God and to a life only possible walking with Him, would be more accurate and right.

If you don’t know Elisabeth Elliot’s writing/speaking, begin here with the quotes below. Don’t stop with them, though. The links will help you on a journey you will never regret.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot, missionary to Auca indians in Ecuador”
Elisabeth Elliot, The Journals of Jim Elliot

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.”  ― Elisabeth Elliot, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael

“Stand true to your calling to be a man. Real women will always be relieved and grateful when men are willing to be men”
Elisabeth Elliot, The Mark of a Man

“The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived – not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.”  ― Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman

“One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”
Elisabeth Elliot, Secure in the Everlasting Arms

“Think of the self that God has given as an acorn. It is a marvelous little thing, a perfect shape, perfectly designed for its purpose, perfectly functional. Think of the grand glory of an oak tree. God’s intention when He made the acorn was the oak tree. His intention for us is ‘… the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ Many deaths must go into our reaching that measure, many letting-goes. When you look at the oak tree, you don’t feel that the loss’ of the acorn is a very great loss. The more you perceive God’s purpose in your life, the less terrible the losses seem.”  ― Elisabeth Elliot

Perhaps some future day, Lord,
Thy strong hand will lead me to the place
Where I must stand utterly alone;
Alone, Oh gracious Lover, but for Thee.

I shall be satisfied if I can see Jesus only.
I do not know Thy plan for years to come.
My spirit finds in Thee its perfect home: sufficiency.
Lord, all my desire is before Thee now.
Lead on no matter where, no matter how,
I trust in Thee. – by Elisabeth Elliot, in her college years**

“You are loved with an everlasting love. And underneath are the everlasting arms.” – Thank you, Elisabeth Elliot. You’ve made it Home.

Blog - Elisabeth Elliot - photo

Blog - Elisabeth Elliot and Lars GrenThank you, Lars Gren, for loving and caring for this wife of yours. What a journey you two must have had together.

*Elisabeth Elliot 1926 – [a fast read on Elisabeth’s life by Adsideo Church]

**Elisabeth Elliot – 1926-2015 – a tribute by Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition

Peaches in Paradise – Why I Loved Elisabeth Elliot by John Piper

Goodreads.com – 164 Quotes of Elisabeth Elliot

Marriage: A Revolution & A Revelation – A Supreme Earthly Test of Discipleship (a manuscript draft by Elisabeth Elliot)

On the Subject of Forgiveness – Leaving Self Behind – Elisabeth Elliot

How to Simplify Your Life – an article by Elisabeth Elliot

30 Years Married – a Walk with God as Much as With Each Other – from the archives, on the impact of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel on living life married

The Journals of Jim Elliot compiled by Elisabeth Elliot

End of the Spear – a biopic on the lives of Elisabeth & Jim Elliot among the Auca people of Ecuador

Photo Credits: Image of Elisabeth Elliot from elisabethelliot.org

 

Sebastian Traeger on the Value of Our Work

2015 May - Blog - The Gospel at WorkFor we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.Ephesians 2:10

I had the opportunity recently to hear Sebastian Traeger speak on work. Although the auditorium was packed, he could have been speaking to one young person sorting out his future. Or to a professional in a mid-life funk wondering if what he does really matters. What he said, and the thoughtfulness of his presentation, actually surprised me. It had less a flavor of a highly successful entrepreneur’s career advice, and more that of a friend counseling a friend.

Here are the highlights from his talk:

  • Is fulltime ministry more valuable than my job? Are some jobs more valuable to God than others? No.
  • Who we work for is more valuable that what we do. Whatever is our work, as believers, we work for God. He is our boss. We are servants of the King.
  • God deploys each of us to do what He has for us to do – and what He means for us to do is always beyond our competence. We need Him.
  • What God values is not always obvious to us (Matthew 20:1-16).
  • God deploys us. Be fully where He has you until it’s clear He has a next assignment for you. He deploys us both inside our workplace and beyond, in our communities and to the nations.
  • Desire, abilities, opportunity – these three factors work together under His guidance. You may have one or more but not all three where you are. Don’t be discouraged. Trust God and do whatever you can to be faithful in hearing and obeying God in your desire, abilities, and opportunities.
  • What assignment has God given you? Be faithful.
  • Paul’s example in his letter to Philemon about Onesimus – one can seek freedom (a change) from his (work) situation but he must strive to be faithful in the meantime.
  • There is mystery in God’s purposes. Trust Him.
  • Finally, in sorting out your work situation, remember 3 things:     1. We live in a fallen world. Take this into account in dealing with your expectations.  2. Pray for opportunity (within your work and outside your workplace).   3. Trust God.

Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert go deeper into these concepts in their book The Gospel at Work. They present a revelationary teaching on the issues of idleness and idolatry in our work and how to “pursue faithfulness, then fruitfulness”.

“The answer to fighting complacency is recognizing that you work for the Lord in all that you do. He’s not primarily calling you to your job; He’s calling you to belong to Him. Understanding the gospel in light of our work helps us to understand that we are to be sold-out disciples in all things.”*

Blog - Gospel at Work - Sebastian TraegerBlog - The Gospel at Work - Greg Gilbert - from cbmw.org

Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert

The Gospel at Work – A Conversation with Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger (ERLC)

The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger & Greg Gilbert

The Gospel at Work Website

*Q&A: Sebastian Traeger on the Ministry of Work at ValuesandCapitalism.com

The Gospel at Work – A Conversation with Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger (ERLC)

Skybridge Community

Photo Credits: Images of Sebastian Traeger (bpnews.net) and Greg Gilbert (cbmw.org)

Cancer, Hospice…and All Those Beautiful Moments

Blog - Hospice - Kara TippettsA good writer does more than draw you into her story. A good writer can illuminate parts of your own story, as you resonate with hers. Kara Tippetts is a young woman I only know through her writing, but, because of her writing, my understanding of God and life and love has become even richer. It’s improbable that we will meet this side of Heaven, but I know her as if she were a good neighbor…or even a close friend. She is that transparent…and more. Kara is luminous; she is full of light and shines that light into a dark place.

For you see, Kara has a breast cancer that will not let go of her. Still she will also not let go of God. She was diagnosed not long ago, just in 2012, but not two years later, and all the treatments have been exhausted. Barring a miraculous touch from God, she will die of this disease. Yet, Kara is one of the most alive women I have ever encountered. Read more of her story for yourself.

Where I resonate with her story, at this moment of my life, relates to her experience with hospice. When you think of someone needing hospice, you might not think of a young mom, deeply in love with her husband and four children who is still writing and squeezing every bit of good out of life. However, this is where Kara is…needing hospice.

My mom, only in the last 3 days of her life, had hospice support at home, and we were so thankful. Even after many years as a cancer nurse, it meant everything having those good and kind people around us. We leaned on them, especially I leaned on them. No matter what competency I had in care-giving…it was my mama this time, and my mind was numb. Now, years later, my dad has his turn with hospice. His cancer, diagnosed 10 years ago, has returned, and no more tests or treatments are planned for our dear 92 years young dad. Hospice is again our (and his) strong support.

Back to Kara, I want to leave you with her beautiful insight about having no more treatment options and fully supported by hospice:

It felt like a huge blow when my oncologist said it was time for me to enter hospice care. It felt like quitting. I felt like my body had failed and I was being pulled from the team and being benched. Benched in an awful permanent way…I was wrong. Hospice care has been truly amazing…It’s just an adjustment. A hard adjustment to go from treatment, tests, and fighting to not knowing and comfort…Now my fight is a passive one, now I’m fighting for good moments. My fight is for time and tenderness with my loves. My fight is to embrace the good moments hospice is giving me and loving my people well. It’s important – these moments.

Pray with us all for Kara and her family. She even signed a contract recently to write another book (or two). I so want to read that book. Also I want to express gratitude for all you who care for patients and families “in the midst of life’s hard“*. For many years, it was my joy to work alongside you. You extend the hands of God to those who need His loving touch.Blog - hospice - hero - from Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups

Photo Credits – Kara Tippetts’ Blog & Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups Facebook page

Kara’s Breast Cancer Story

*Kara Tippetts’ Book The Hardest Peace – Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard

Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups – a life-affirming cancer support system in Kingsport, Tn. Many, many years ago, I helped lead a support group called Take Time…to Help, to Heal.  Really, those patients, families, nurses, and friends taught me so much more than I did them. The Survive and Thrive groups came out of that earlier group, under the continuing leadership of Kathryn Whitt Visneski.

Blog - Blessings & Hospice

A Young Friend of Mine Turned 40 Today – and Because She Asked: 5 Bits of Advice

Blog - Beth Wayland

I have never seen anyone else take on the turn of a decade like my friend, Beth. Surrounded by friends and family, she danced and laughed and ate ice cream and danced some more. That was this weekend, then she jumped on a plane to spend her actual birthday, today, in New York City. Read more about that here.

Blog - Beth Turns 40 Ice Cream Bar

About six months ago, I received a letter from her. She wrote 40 women, older than her, about her fortieth birthday coming up and asked their counsel on these middle years of life. I am sure she heard back from all of them (us) because that was a small thing to do for someone as lovely as Beth.

I thought for weeks and weeks about what to write…What did I learn after 40? What could I tell her that might make a difference in an already amazing life? What could I say that she didn’t already know. Well, I gave it a shot…and finally sent that letter to her just before her birthday weekend.

Following are ___ of the bits of advice I gave to beautiful Beth.

1) “Love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”. This is key to everything. It was essentially the message of Jesus to Martha (Luke 10:38-42) which seems harsh except that we recognize how much He loved Martha. In ministry, we default to “love your neighbor as yourself”. We serve and serve and serve (like Martha did). Then there comes a time, if we’re not careful that we serve on empty. We keep those commands in right order because that’s what He intended for our sakes, and His glory. My nature is to be Mary, but the needs all around drives me to be a Martha. Folks around us don’t need a Martha; they need GOD.

2) Be a woman of prayer. Prayer is not a project or part of a program. It is meant to be our covering for every moment and circumstance of life. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thess. 5:16-18. Whatever our situation, we need prayer and perspective that comes with prayer. Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of God” was a great help to me in those earlier years.

3) Don’t wait for “life” to happen. Some unmet longings are beyond our control – that “right guy”, the healing of a friend, reconciliation that didn’t happen yet, that opportunity that went to another. However, I think we struggle with hammering through this season, longing for the next. I find it a discipline requiring my attention daily to LIVE the life I want…and to which God has called me.

4) Have men in your life – fathers, brothers, whomever. There were both single and married women in the company of Christ & the apostles. It helps us with perspective. In the Christian community, we too often separate out by gender. I understand how that happens, but we should figure out how to be in company with each other in wholesome and holy ways. It makes a difference…for us…and for them.

5) Keep Writing. We can’t all be in your life every day, but when you write, we are there. Thank you for your transparency and generosity, your gentleness and humor, and your deep love. Keep writing.

Any who read this blog of mine know I offered more than 5 bits of advice, but this is all I will repeat today.

Happy Birthday, Beth. You are a prize!

Blog - Beth Turns 40 Blessed

By the way, if you have any counsel for all of us as we course through this life, feel free to share in the comments section below. You, too, Beth.

I will leave you with what Beth shared on this morning of her 40th.:

“When you enter in to the places you thought you would never recover from, you will find something solid. The lie is that there won’t be anything solid for you to stand on. Your fear will tell you to avoid, but when you “go there” you will find yourself more anchored and trusting.  You will learn about God and his heart for you and here’s the kicker, your heart for Him.  If you follow Jesus, he gave you a new heart.  This is the unshakeable foundation of your life – that no matter what does or doesn’t happen, He is trustworthy and has bigger dreams than you could ever dream for yourself, even in the midst of longing, loss, gains, and waiting.  Especially in the waiting.” 

Photo Credits – Beth Wayland

Beth Wayland Blog