Thirty-six Years and Still Climbing

5 05 2015

IMG_1719

Look at us. That was the summer of 1979, and we were newlyweds. So young. So unaware and unprepared for a journey that would include unimaginable adventures, trials, sorrows, and joys. Today marks 36 years of wedded bliss. And wedded turmoil. And wedded hanging on by our fingernails. But most of all, today marks 36 years of God’s amazing grace and faithfulness. For your viewing pleasure, here’s a little stroll down visual memory lane.

The 70s

IMG_1742

IMG_1744
IMG_1736
May 5, 1979, leaving the church on our wedding day

The 80s
IMG_1720

IMG_1723
IMG_1724
IMG_1730
IMG_1732
The 90s
IMG_1739
IMG_1749
IMG_1747

IMG_1746
The 00s
IMG_1741
IMG_1752

IMG_1750
IMG_1755
DSC00991
DSC00900
DSC00364
DSC00625
RomjueWedding_053
DSCN6467
The 10s
DSC_0002 - Version 2
DSC_0745 - Version 2

10996643_10206785431621447_626219227487901106_n


After my dad walked me down the aisle on our wedding day, before he officially gave me away, George sang a song to me. The lyrics were an invitation: Let us climb the hill together. That’s a good metaphor for marriage. Much better than a walk in the park or a stroll on the beach. The soundtrack of a marriage is beautiful music, yes. And laughter and weeping. Joyful praises shouted and agonized prayers wrung from a broken heart. Daily choices to give and forgive. And, in the end, it’s all good. All part of a symphony God orchestrates for our growth and His glory.

“I pray God will be with us night and day, guide us on our way. So, let us climb. Let us climb. Let us climb the hill together.”

Invitation accepted. Until death do us part.

* * *

Speaking of soundtracks, here’s a little vintage George and Jeanne singing “Let Us Climb,” because, why not?
Love you, George. Happy Anniversary. xo





Give and Take

2 05 2015

Let’s play a game. Try to find at least three differences in the following pairs of photos. You’re going to have to concentrate, but don’t give up.

Ready? Here we go:

water delivery truckwater delivery truck

water delivery truck2water delivery truck in South Sudan

UCF class sizeclassroom

classroom2classroom in South Sudan

waiting roomhospital waiting area

waiting room2hospital waiting area in South Sudan

grocerystoreselecting produce

grocerystore2selecting produce in South Sudan

bedmy bed at home

bed2my bed in South Sudan

kitchenmy kitchen at home

kitchen2Ruth and Briana’s kitchen in South Sudan

So, how’d you do? Okay. I confess. It was a trick game. The differences are obvious.

I think it’s safe to say most of us living in North America consider ourselves blessed — not only with the common graces God so lavishly supplies to all people everywhere, but with an exceeding abundance beyond the basic necessities. We point to our freedoms, educational and occupational opportunities, material wealth, system of government, financial institutions, medical resources, overstocked grocery shelves, reliable utilities, instant internet connectivity, drivable roads, and a thousand other goods and services at our fingertips.

If we ever take the time to pause and consider how much we possess compared to most of the world, we may wonder why God would single us out to show us such abundant favor. In our best moments we admit: we don’t deserve all this.

Or maybe we do.

Maybe we’re getting exactly what we deserve. And maybe it’s also time we reconsider what constitutes a blessing from God.

kids-cleanan American child

happychilda refugee child in South Sudan

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m thankful for clean water, nutritious food, a car that runs well, a closet full of clothes, and a comfortable home. I’m glad I can worship freely, receive medical attention when I need it, and call the police if I’m in danger, expecting a quick response. I also believe it pleases God when we receive every gift with gratitude and enjoy His material blessings.

But is it possible my possessions and conveniences have robbed me of far better blessings? Am I truly aware of my utter dependance on God? Or am I blinded by all the glitter and gold, benumbed by the constant bombardment of images and advertisements telling me I’m worth it, I need it, and I can’t live without it?

Am I cruising along in a fog, mostly oblivious to the realer Real — that nothing I achieve or own is actually mine, and every breath I take is a gift? That God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble? That “control” is a delusion, and none of my idols — the things I value, pursue, and trust — can save me?

Have my possessions taken possession of my heart and hardened it toward the better treasure?

churchtypical American sanctuary

IMG_1333sanctuary in South Sudan

In Revelation 3:17-19, Jesus spoke these words to the church at Laodicia:

Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

This wasn’t a message to pagans. It was written to people who professed faith in Jesus. The same Jesus who says He reproves and disciplines those He loves. The same Jesus who doesn’t say He gives His favorites fancier stuff.

Like stepping out of a cave into noonday sun, all of this became clear in Africa. For two weeks I left my over-stuffed closet behind and lived out of one small suitcase. Conveniences varied from place to place, but in South Sudan, we had no air conditioning, no indoor plumbing, no running water. We washed clothing by hand in a tub and hung it to dry, hiked to an out-house, and showered using a bucket system. I slept on a screened-in porch under a mosquito net, ate whatever was placed before me, and got around on foot.

And I don’t know when I’ve felt a greater depth of peace, joy, and the presence of God.

IMG_1560

IMG_1131

IMG_1123Ruth and her team leader, Bubba

In Kisses From Katie, Katie Davis wrote about her attempt to return to her comfortable life in Tennessee after a year in Uganda:

Many people asked the same question: “Isn’t life hard in Uganda?” Of course it was hard, in certain ways, but they didn’t seem to understand that what was even harder was being back in the States . . . . I hadn’t realized what a transformation had taken place while I had been in Uganda, the spiritual richness I had experienced in material poverty and spiritual poverty I felt now in a land of material wealth.

She goes on to say, “Brentwood didn’t feel like home anymore. Frederick Buchner writes, ‘The place God calls us to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’ I had been more than happy all my life in my home in Brentwood. But my deepest gladness and the world’s deep hunger met in Uganda.”

IMG_1466Ruth approaching the market

IMG_1459preparing a young mom to take her baby for surgery in Kijabe

If you hear me trying to shame the North American church for its material blessings, you’re missing my point. What I’m really trying to do is give a glimpse of a truth that I’m praying will take such deep root in my own heart, it will bear fruit a hundredfold and then some for as long as God grants me breath in this world.

My prayer for me and for you is that we will wake up. The fog will clear, and we’ll realize more stuff isn’t ever going to satisfy our heart’s hunger. We don’t need bigger or better or more. We don’t need applause or reputation. We need to pour out. To empty ourselves. To give away. And when we do, our joy is going to explode exponentially.

Katie also wrote:

“The truth is that the 143 million orphaned children and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes, or under other horrific conditions and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164.8 million needy children. And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians. The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left.”

This is what we have to give. And what do we have to take?

IMG_1273

IMG_1323

IMG_1275

If you’ve ever bought the lie that the impoverished and oppressed have nothing to offer, you haven’t attended a Nubian church service in a straw-thatch sanctuary in a refugee camp in South Sudan.

They come in their tattered clothes and bare feet — old and young and everyone in between — stooping to enter the low doorway, filing into rows of rough-hewn benches. Their voices rise with an urgent and contagious joy, and like David before the ark, they dance — clapping, jumping, worshiping with complete abandon.

There are no distractions. Instead of laser light shows, sunlight filters through the roof. Instead of a snazzy band, children play drums and tambourines and maracas. And the Lord is here, blazing with grace, pulsing with peace, igniting our worship with glorious intensity and purpose.

They don’t doubt His goodness. They don’t rush His timing. They don’t question His plan. They simply give themselves to Him.

Oh, friends. They have so much to teach us. So much that we desperately need. Gold refined by the fires of suffering. Garments washed clean from the stains of pride and self sufficiency. Eye salve to clear our vision and show us there’s a fountain of living waters, and the broken cisterns we run to again and again will never slake our thirst.

As C.S. Lewis wrote, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Jesus won’t force us. He simply invites. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

As for me and my house, we’re flinging the door wide. Come, Lord Jesus. Everything on this table belongs to You. And thank You, thank You, thank You for the better treasure. May we never be too easily pleased again.

* * *

You can support SIM’s work with refugees in South Sudan.
Click here for more information.

Thank you!





Thirsty

23 04 2015

IMG_1344“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

~ 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I spent two weeks in the Horn of Africa. By the numbers, thirteen flights landed in ten different cities at eleven different airports in six different countries. From jumbo jets to prop planes on dirt runways, every flight was on time. No connection missed. No piece of luggage lost.

Our small team got along great. No one got sick. (Or kidnapped or robbed or murdered.) No one even got cranky.

We found favor with visa and customs officials, received unbelievable hospitality, enjoyed a wide variety of local foods (including camel, goat, and a few dishes I couldn’t identify), slept well, and drank deeply of the wells of grace God supplies when His children connect around His faithfulness and eternal purposes.

We were sustained, protected, led, and encouraged, and I have no doubt we were upheld by thousands of answered prayers.

We received mercy upon mercy, and we are grateful beyond words to express it.

IMG_1366

IMG_1358I promised stories upon my return, and there are plenty of stories to tell. But one is burning like a branding iron in my soul, and even though it happened near the end of our adventures, I need to begin right here.

Our God is kind. Much too kind to let us walk in pride. And sometimes when we think our obedience is just about as complete as it could get, the kindest gift He can give is to expose the true condition of our hearts. Like Peter at the last supper, we declare our allegiance. “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death,” (Luke 22) and Jesus simply sets us straight. No, He says. You will deny me.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I promised you a story, and a story you shall have.

IMG_1400

IMG_1406The small village of Doro is located on the northern border of South Sudan. What was once the undisturbed home of the Mabaan people is now a refugee camp housing 130,000 people from a wide variety of tribes — people who’ve fled across the border from Sudan to escape violence, many of them leaving all their possessions behind. There are a number of agencies and NGOs working in the area, and one of them is SIM.

Ruth is a young, single nurse practitioner, an SIM worker stationed at the Grieve Memorial Clinic in Doro, serving the medical needs of the refugees. We traveled there to see her world, bring some requested supplies, and spend time hearing her heart and speaking into her life. Ruth being Ruth, we also ate well, laughed a lot, and played a card game or two. And there may or may not have been a late-night dance party in the hotel room Ruth and I shared in Juba. You’ll have to ask her.

IMG_1294

IMG_1301Ruth with a Nubian child

One of the highlights of our time in Doro was a feast held in our honor and hosted by Nubian refugees. Ruth attends the Nubian church and has gotten to know many of these dear souls well.

IMG_1359Ruth walking past the Nubian church building

The women began cooking early in the morning, preparing mountains of their traditional sorghum bread (like very thin injera). Working over open fires under a massive baobab tree, they also prepared various sauces for dipping, including a goat-and-potato dish, noodles in oil with tomato, a green leafy vegetable/herb concoction, and another thick sauce that I believe contained lentils.

IMG_1349

IMG_1248

IMG_1379When we arrived early in the afternoon, they began serving their traditional beverages. First we drank hot tea poured over sugar. A lot of sugar. Then, after they roasted and ground fresh coffee beans, they mixed the thick, strong coffee with a generous infusion of ginger and another shock of sugar. It was delicious, but intense. A few sips went a long way.

IMG_1230

IMG_1259

IMG_1388As we sat sipping hot beverages in the 100+ degree heat and visiting with the women, we were surrounded by a couple dozen children, at least as many pigs, and the occasional chicken or dog — a sort of happy chaos as babies were passed around, toddlers squabbled, and older children played games or sang and danced.

Everything was dust and sweat and pots boiling on hot coals and chatter in a language I didn’t understand.

IMG_1405

IMG_1341

IMG_1310Ruth and her teammates cuddled babies and conversed with mamas. Pigs were shooed away from food. I sat on a bench, taking it all in, when I felt a small presence crowd in beside me and looked down into a dusty little face.

I asked Ruth if she recognized the boy, and she said no. She also said that a feast like this is rare in the refugee community, and it’s not unusual for uninvited guests to wander in and partake.

The child didn’t look well. The whites of his eyes were thick and yellowed, and his clothes exceptionally tattered. He reached out his hand and pointed to my water bottle.

During my entire two weeks in Africa, I was never without my water bottle. And this particular afternoon, I knew it contained the only water I would have to drink until well after dark. I instinctively pulled it away and said, “No.”

Then I looked at him again. His eyes locked on mine, and he simply opened his mouth.

IMG_1237

I don’t even know how to describe my internal reaction. It was surprise, revulsion, and perhaps a small twinge of guilt. But I still shook my head no. Undeterred, he reached across my lap, placed his hand on the bottle’s mouthpiece, and opened his mouth again.

Now I was annoyed. I wouldn’t be able to drink any more until I got a chance to wash it. But I still didn’t give him a drink. I suppose I subconsciously equated it to awarding misbehavior — like letting one of my children go ahead and eat a cookie they’d grabbed after I’d already said no cookies.

So I simply turned away and ignored him until he left.

IMG_1285I didn’t think much about it again until a few days later when we were making our way home. Our return journey included five flights spanning 36 hours, and I decided to pass some of those hours reading the remarkable and inspiring book, Kisses from Katie.

If you’re not familiar with Katie Davis’ story, the short of it is that Jesus captured her heart for Uganda at the age of eighteen, and she never looked back. Not yet twenty-five, she has adopted fourteen daughters, founded Amazima Ministries (a nonprofit providing sponsors for other needy children), and lives with an open door and heart, welcoming and serving whomever God brings to her. Her philosophy in a nutshell is this: love the one God has placed in front of you right now.

I was reading along, feeling moved and blessed, when I came to this:

“…for me, the whole situation could be reduced to one question: Did I believe that Jesus was serious? Did I believe what He said was true? The answer was yes. I believe He was serious when He said to love my neighbor as myself. . . . I kept going back to Matthew 25, where Jesus said, ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people from one another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats . . . . Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink . . .whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

And there it was. Like an arrow to the heart, almost knocking the breath out of me. In an instant and with perfect clarity I saw that boy’s pleading face. I knew Jesus had asked me for a drink, and I in disgust and irritation had pulled my water away.

I said no to Jesus.

I knew this beyond doubting, and my heart was crushed. “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” It was grief like that.

Any sense of self-righteousness I might have been feeling after our two weeks in Africa evaporated. I was a noisy gong. A clanging cymbal. And for a horrifying moment, I wondered if Jesus would forgive me.

IMG_1394In the days following Jesus’ resurrection, Peter was restored and commissioned. He received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and preached a sermon that launched the newborn church. But no matter how many visions he had, souls he reached, or miracles he performed, I wonder if he always kept the memory of Jesus’ face the night he denied Him.

I think he probably did. And, like me, I expect he came to consider it a gift.

My broken-hearted prayer on that airplane was simple. “Please, Lord. Please forgive me. I never want to say ‘no’ to You again.”

IMG_1235I returned from the Horn of Africa with many images seared on my mind, but one stands out, and I’ve asked God to keep it front and center.

By God’s grace, a refugee child in South Sudan will help me keep my promise to say yes.

* * *

You can support SIM’s work with refugees in South Sudan.
Click here for more information.

Thank you!





Led forth in peace

4 04 2015

DSC_0201

If we’re allowed to have a favorite chapter in the Bible, I’m pretty sure mine is Isaiah 55. I love the combination of imagery, poetry, and promise — how God is set apart as holy and higher, yet He calls us to come and eat what is good, to seek and find, to forsake our wicked ways and run into His arms of compassion.

I can almost hear the mountains breaking forth into singing, see the trees clapping their hands, and feel the earth stirring with purpose as His word succeeds in all He has planned.

DSC_0324

This has been a profound Holy Week for me, my senses more fully alive, and my heart more deeply moved by the price Jesus paid for our redemption. I think this is true for a variety of reasons, but surely one of them is the fact that, after I gather with the Body of Christ on Easter morning to celebrate how life once and for all conquered death, I’ll get on an airplane and fly across the ocean to the Horn of Africa. Lord willing, I’ll spend the next two weeks visiting friends who work in that region. Two weeks listening to their stories and hearing their hearts. Two weeks meeting the beautiful souls they serve and seeing the image of God in their faces. Two weeks walking among people whose hardships are heavy and whose daily lives bear little resemblance to mine, and yet whose hearts cry out for the same love, hope, peace, and purpose.

I don’t know what these two weeks will hold, but as I think about going, I hear a Voice, urgently calm and fiercely tender:

Come! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

I know that my thoughts are not His thoughts, and my ways are not His ways. I know I’m utterly insufficient in myself to strengthen weak hands or feeble knees, but I also know the word that goes forth from God’s mouth will not return to Him empty. Like the rain and snow that water the earth, it will accomplish His purposes.

And I know that I will go out in joy and be led forth in peace — that no matter what happens, in the realest Real, the mountains will be singing and the trees keeping the beat. That all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

DSC_0251

How do I know this? Because Easter happened. Because even though Jesus could have called down a legion of angels to take Him off the cross, He didn’t. He stayed there. And it wasn’t the nails that held him. It was love.

DSC_0126

Friends, will you pray with me over these next two weeks? I’d be so grateful. And have a beautiful, worshipful Easter! Jesus is risen. He really is. May we never lose the wonder.

 





Twenty-One Grains of Wheat

17 02 2015

enhanced-21590-1424029250-1

They were good men by pretty much any standard.

Able-bodied, hard workers who only wanted to provide for their families, but there was no work available. So they counted the cost, took a big risk, and crossed a border into dangerous territory in search of jobs.

And we all know what happened. We’ve seen the photos. Twenty-one men kneeling on a beach, each with a black-clad, faceless executioner standing at his back. Like lambs that are led to the slaughter, and like sheep that before their shearers are silent, they opened not their mouths. And their captors knew no mercy.

Good men as the world counts goodness. But much more than that. Christians. Servants of God. Knit together in their mother’s wombs, set apart, adopted, chosen, beloved. Purchased with the blood of Christ, redeemed for His pleasure and glory.

And what their captors can’t know is that not one word God spoke concerning those beloved sons failed. All were brought to pass.

And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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.

Evil is never going to learn. Arrogance can’t understand the power of the laid-down life. And hate can’t fathom the greater love. When satan entered into Judas at the Last Supper, he tipped the first domino in the final chain of events that crushed his own head.

And so they knelt, men of whom the world is not worthy, twenty-one grains of wheat violently planted on that beach before the eyes of a watching world. And if you think for one minute that evil won, you don’t know the law of the upside-down kingdom.

They were portrayed as powerless victims before the eyes of a watching world, but in the realer Real, they were ushered as overcoming conquerors into the presence of their Lord, who found them faithful and counted them worthy to suffer for His Name.

They were good men who only wanted to provide for their families, but God had a higher calling in mind. And He will never leave or forsake the families they left behind. Their plight is on the radar of every believer now. We are their family.

When ISIS called the execution, “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross,” they might as well have said, “Hey, Christians. You say you’re blood-bought. A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Well, prove it. Are you willing to count the cost and take up your crosses, too?”

And once again, evil plays into God’s hand. Because it’s a question we must answer, and must not answer lightly. If I claim that God counted these men worthy — that their deaths were purposeful and their reward is great — then I must be prepared to take the same stand if it’s my husband or son or grandson kneeling on that beach.

The cost is real.

 

G_golden-wheat-field

Twenty-one grains of wheat, never meant to remain alone, but rather to bear much fruit — a harvest of fellow servants stirred from slumber and self-indulgence to follow Jesus with joyful abandon wherever He leads, whatever the price.

And we don’t have the luxury of ignoring the call, because to not choose is to choose.

The seeds have been planted, and the harvest will come.

Will we be part of it?

 





Choosing to See

4 02 2015

DSC00158pm

I haven’t watched the videos. Or looked at the photos. And I don’t intend to. But my imagination is alive and well, and that’s enough.

A man trapped in a cage, watching as the flames approach. Every measure calculated to ensure he experiences the maximum amount of terror and pain for the longest possible period of time before dying.

Then the brazen broadcast to a gaping world, and we all react as expected, with shock and horror and disbelief that any human with a soul could perpetrate this kind of evil against another human.

And then?

We have a choice.

We can question God’s power and goodness. We can harden our hearts and shut our eyes and refuse to let it be about us. We can throw up our hands in despair and indulge our flesh to numb the pain. We can cheer for acts of retribution and stock our basements with food and firearms. We can surrender to terror and live in fear.

“Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’” ~ Malachi 3:13-15

Or we can stand squarely in the presence of the living God, who sees when a sparrow falls, and numbers the hairs on every head, and reigns sovereign over the affairs of men, and we can choose to see.

treesparrow

DSC_0014

Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” ~ Malachi 3:16-18

We can fear the Lord, building each other up in Him, even as we weep with those who weep.

Because He is working out plans formed long ago with perfect faithfulness. And He was there. In that cage. As surely as He was in the fiery furnace with Daniel’s friends. I don’t know if the Jordanian pilot knew Him or saw Him, but I know Jesus was there, willing to be seen and to give the grace that has enabled martyrs through the ages to sing even as the flames rose around them.

We will not fear, because the God who orders our days is with us — the same God who opened Stephen’s eyes to the truer true, where instead of seeing rage-filled faces and jagged stones, he saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of the Father. Instead of fear, he felt compassion and forgiveness for those whose hearts were darkened and filled with hate.

Evil has always been and — as long as this earth endures — always will be. But it will never win. Terrorists and tyrants have no authority except that which God allows for His kingdom purposes. It was true when Pilate condemned the Savior of the world to death on the cross, and it is true today.

DSC_0157

We have a choice.

We can return hate for hate, or we can pray to a God who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, and ask Him to take even this extremity of evil and redeem it for good. We can love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And when He calls us to suffer, we can be sure it is purposeful, and He will carry us in it with grace overwhelmingly, abundantly, and extravagantly sufficient.

Those who fear the Lord speak with one another, and heaven takes notes. He may not spare us from the flames, but He will spare us in the exact same way He spared His Son. And evil will again be the means of its own undoing.

This is what I will choose to see.





A Word for 2015: Abide

6 01 2015

Abide2015

I don’t know who originally started it, but I like the trend of choosing one word as a focus for the year. It feels less rigid than New Year’s resolutions, and as Anne-with-an-e would say, offers more scope for the imagination — like I’m standing on the edge of a vast meadow, scanning the horizon, catching a misty glimpse of glorious design, then moving forward into an adventure certain to hold many challenges and delightful surprises along the way.

This is my fifth year to choose one word. 2011 was Rest. 2012 Contentment. 2013 Receive. And 2014 Known. The progression has felt more like building on a foundation than jumping from one stepping stone to another. Rest leading to contentment, preparing my heart to receive all God’s gifts with humble and trusting gratitude, discovering again and again that He opens and closes doors for my good (even when I don’t get what I think I wanted), reinforcing the assurance that I am deeply, intimately known and loved beyond my capacity to comprehend it.

Which brings me to a new year and a new word.

I considered the word Small, because I am. And Sufficient, because He is. I also considered Light, because the darkness cannot overcome it (and the darkness these days is getting awfully dark). And Purpose, because everything we see (even the darkness) must ultimately serve His eternal plan. I love these words and all the depths of meaning they embody, and perhaps I’ll choose one or more of them another year.

But when I thought of the word Abide, it was like all that I loved most about the other words distilled and blended and absorbed into those five little letters.

DSC_0093

DSC_0094

DSC_0100

By dictionary definition, Abide can mean stay, live, tolerate, endure, or wait. All of those meanings have substance and are worth pondering. But the picture that came to mind when I landed on the word was the one Jesus painted in John 15, specifically verses 4-5:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

He is the true vine. I am only a branch. A chosen, grafted-in, beloved branch, but still, only a branch. I can do nothing apart from Him, but the more connected I am to Him, the more freely His life flows into and through me, and the result is much fruit for the nourishment and delight and eternal good of others.

A branch makes no demands. It has no agenda. It doesn’t choose where it grows or how visible it is or what kind of fruit it produces. A branch simply abides in the vine. And His roots reach deep into the eternal purposes of God, and the sap rises with holy urgency, and the branch that stays in His Word, lives in His light, tolerates the gnawing teeth of pain, endures the oppressive heat and bitter cold, and waits patiently for His good timing? That branch explodes with fruit.

DSC_0082

When I abide, my eyes are on Him, my ears are tuned to His voice, and my heart aligns with His. People may misunderstand, accuse, mock, or persecute, but they can’t sever that connection. And the fruit will come. And the Father will be glorified.

Because that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Shouldn’t that be the “why” for everything I do? If my primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then I need to learn how to abide in Him, to lean on His wisdom, and to walk in His light. And when I do? Jesus said His joy will be in me, and my joy will be full.

I can’t think of a better life or better reward than that.

So, the journey of 2015 begins. Only God knows what it will hold and how life will look when it ends.

Hopefully we’ll need lots of baskets.

DSC_0105

Do you choose a word for the year? If so, I’d love to hear yours. And if you’ve written about it, please share the link along with your comment!








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,641 other followers

%d bloggers like this: