Written May 7 (not posted till now for a lack of internet that will actually load a webpage. :))
We live in a broken world. A world full of people aching to be noticed... to be worthwhile... to be loved.
Sometimes I think we forget that there are hurting people right here. When we think of a mission field, we think of starving little children living in a mud hut in Africa... little Indian girls being trafficked... wounded families in Katmandu... people on remote islands who have never heard the name of Jesus...
Thing is, there are people here who have never seen the love of Jesus. They know He exists, but they have no concept of what it means to be loved by Him.
It's easy to stand by and say that they should know better... that they should believe the promises. But really, aren't we partly responsible for their struggle to believe if we have never shown them love?
You imagine trying to explain water to someone who had never seen it? Like, how do you even start? And yet we do much the same thing when we indifferently charge people to just believe that God loves them while ignoring our own duty to love them the same way. Sure, God can do miracles to show broken people what it means to be loved by Him when they've never been loved by anyone else... but ultimately, He has placed the responsibility in our hands to show His people what love means.
A failure on the behalf of the hurting to believe that God loves them is often a reflection of the failure of His people to reveal that love to the world.
And just this week... the quiet "no" of a precious child of His in response to my question of whether or not they thought God loved them, has been reverberating through my mind ever since.
No one should ever have to say no to that question. Our love for His children should be so strong that they will have no question in their minds as to His love.
As long as there are broken people on this planet, we will have work to do. And really, what could be better than loving His hurting children with the love that He's loved us with?
Before we rebuke a dying world for having no concept of a the face of a beautiful Jesus, we have to ask ourselves what kind of concept of His face we are showing them.
Because you may be the only Bible some people ever read... the only real Christian they ever meet. Who will they think He is when they look at you?
Few pics from UKFR... (Photo credits, Eden Hanson-Bartholomew, Jehlise Woodburn, Caleb Rayne, and yours truly)
It seems like just yesterday that I gazed out my car window watching landscape speed by... moments ticking down until the first Family Retreat of the year would begin. My expectations were high, and so was my realization of my dependance on the only One who would give me grace for another season.
And almost before I knew it, I found myself on a plane headed home from the last FR of the year, amazed at all that God had done in the hearts of others and in my own.
It's been a year of blessings too numerous to count. And as my mind drifts back over all the avenues He has led me down in the process, I am filled with gratefulness for a God who is far more incredible than I could ever deserve.
Sometimes in the moment it's hard to see the gift that I have to be a servant... to travel, share, sing, pray, serve, listen, and love. But retrospect always makes that privilege more distinct, and my heart swells with thanksgiving.
I have a hundred special memories and beautiful faces etched on my heart...
The last six months have left me with a deeper realization of the pain in a hurting world... and yet, beyond that, I see even more clearly the power and beauty of hearts that will love the world the way He did.
After all... there is nothing the world craves more than love.
Addictions... crazy busy lives... obsession with fashion...
So often it is a cry for someone to notice, to care, to love.
And sure, we can tell them that Jesus is enough-- and He is--but aren't we to be His hands and feet? Aren't we to be the ones who demonstrate His love to the world?
How can they ever understand a Jesus that loves them so much He would give His life for them until they see our hearts beating with a love for them that is so great that we give our lives for them?
It's not an easy path-- to love the world like that. All of a sudden my neighbor's pain is not just his, but mine too. The griefs, losses, and joys of those we love become our own.
But when did He ever promise an easy path?
Not easy... just rich and full, and more abundant than our highest expectations.
And isn't that better than an easy life anyway?
Jesus, give me a heart like Yours. Fill it with love for a hurting world. And when I have no more to give, break me, and make me sustenance for a dying world. I just want to love like You...
I sit here on the plane and finally have a few moments to put some of the last two weeks on “paper.” It’s hard to know where to begin. God blessed abundantly and poured Himself out like we knew He would. I praise Him for His ever present strength. He is an incredibly good God.
He was at work at UKFC again this year. It is such a joy to our hearts to see families hearing and getting excited about their potential to live closer to each other and God in a way they never have before… To see the joy and happiness in families who were once on the brink of disaster. If anything spurs us on to travel for weeks of the year, it that right there. Nothing beats seeing lives changed.
We went this year with the realization in the back of our mind that because of financial concerns this might be the last UKFC. To be honest, that was not something I wanted to think about. So many lives have been touched at that camp over the last six years. I hated to think of it closing down because of money. I knew God could supply if it was His will, and I trusted that He would do what was best.
Last year God did beautiful things in the hearts of the people and in our own at that camp. I know that when the plane carried me home I left part of my heart in that country. And through all the business of the year, part of me was always eagerly anticipating our next visit and the when we would see all the dear people who had crept into my heart. Going back this year was so rich… so beautiful. I treasured the moments. Even being down with a sinus infection for the second half of the trip couldn’t spoil the privilege I felt at being back for a little while.
And it struck me again this morning in a deeper way… Might what I felt about that country be just a little part of what my Father feels about being separated from His beloved children on earth? Could it be that He left part of His heart here, and that He will never feel whole again until we are with Him? Might everyday apart hurt Him? Could He be looking down on us with longing for the day when we will be ready for Him to come and take us home? Isn’t the separation far harder for Him than any separation we have ever experienced here?
It makes me pause for a minute. My little mind just can’t grasp the depths of a Love like that.
I wonder at how we can be satisfied here when He is not satisfied to leave us here. How can we be content to let day after day pass without making vigorous strides toward that glorious reunion? Why aren’t we doing all we can to hasten that moment?
Just to think that there is a part of our Father’s heart that won’t stop hurting until we’re together…
If the joy is anything like what I’ve felt in being reunited with so much that I love these last two weeks… it will be beyond anything I can imagine.
I want to end the pain in His heart.
I want that reunion to come soon.
I want to go home.
God worked in marvelous ways this year and provided the funds for next year’s UKFC. He works in ways that are beyond our imagining. The dates are booked for next year’s camp. There will be another year to watch God change lives… I praise Jesus. That puts a song in this heart.
And since I can’t really sum up the last two weeks fully in words… here are some pictures from the trip. After all— a picture paints a thousand words.
Miles pass under my feet, as I sit back in my comfortable (or not so much :)) plane seat and try to get the necessary sleep for the next few days. I'm never a very good sleeper on these red eye flights. And actually, I'm thankful for that. When the plane is dark and quiet and sleep evades, it's the perfect time for prayer.
I've felt my need of it in a special way of late. Something seems to drive me to my knees-- not as an obligation but as a necessity. And I realize more and more that it really is a necessity. Seriously.
Somehow we've had our eyes blinded to think we can live without it. And not just that... we've somehow come to think that there is a limit to the size of our requests. "Like I couldn't ask God to start a fire of revival that would sweep across the world, could I?" Why not?
I believe in a big God. One who speaks worlds into existence. I believe nothing is too big or too hard for Him. And if I really believe that... I won't be afraid to ask for big things.
Journal entry, April 30
Not for myself but for His cause... His children.
UKFC starts tommorrow... I'm praying for lives revolutionized. I'm praying for Him to start a fire in the hearts here that will not only change us, but that will be a witness to the onlooking universe and the world.
Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:17)
I do believe in a big God.
I look back on OKFR with a heart full of gratitude for the blessings God poured out... He never fails to come through.
I praise Him for the privilege of service and of being His hands here on earth... for every precious individual He placed in my path to bless (and to bless me)... for every ounce of strength He gave... for all the smiles I saw on the faces of His children... for every song sung from the heart... for giving grace and words at the moments needed... for reminding me of His glorious plans for those yielded to Him... for proving yet again that He is faithful and true...
And most of all, for showing me afresh the joy of faithfulness, even in the hard things...
Friday afternoon found me sitting on a log overlooking the lake behind the cafeteria, and pleading with Him to give me the strength for the upcoming task. I was on for the next message and my topic was the beauty and power of trust even in pain.
I knew when I started planning this message several months ago that He wanted me to share the experiences I had been through with Lyme disease... and from the start, I had struggled with the thought of being so vulnerable as to share that with a whole congregation.
Now I knew in an hour I would be on the stage with 300 hundred eyes looking at me and expecting me to speak. And quite honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to. At least, not about this. But I knew what He wanted, and I knew that I really wanted what He wanted too. I was excited about sharing... It's just that this was out of my comfort zone-- by a long ways.
The question in my heart at that moment... Am I willing to do the hard things for my Master?
Sure, it might not sound very hard to you. And really, in comparison with the sacrifices He made for us, it wasn't. But at that moment, with the clock ticking down, and my heart beating faster, it didn't seem the easiest thing in the world to get up and share the deep things of my heart.
I knew my duty though, and with another prayer of surrender to His will, I left my quiet log, and went to action.
And I can tell you that when God requires something "hard" of us, He always gives the strength we need to perform it. He gave me so much freedom up front that I was actually surprised at myself for not being more nervous. He is good, always.
When the hour had passed and I walked off the stage, it was with a joy deep in my heart that only comes from the knowledge of obedience.
And since I'm not the only one who has ever been asked to do something outside of their comfort zone, let me encourage you...
The harder the task given, the deeper the joy when performed.
Here a few pics for the picture lovers...
for a bunch more, go here www.foreverafamily.org
His promise is the key
Freeze tag conversations are a blast. :)
Beautiful spot to pray
Singing with friends after sharing up front.
Let the little children come...
Sweet little guy.
Sweet praises from young hearts...
So harp is not a girls instrument after all. :)
400 or so on Sabbath
Thank you Jesus for another year...
MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY, SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.
-Sir Ernest Shackleton-
Quite a proposal. What would inspire a person to sign on to such a trip? What motive could possibly make a man want to leave his home and family for that? What if he did never come home? Could it be worth it?
Love does away with fear. In this case love of adventure...
Another quote comes to mind... this one from a famous astronaut.
"If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us, it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life." Virgil (Gus) Grissom
And later he and two friends did give their lives. While testing the Apollo 1, a fire broke out in the capsule and all three men died.
Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chafee before the fire.
What could have motivated them to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice?
Yet again we find love. In this case, not only love of adventure but love for conquest.
And it makes me think... What would motivate us to endure long months of complete darkness? What would give us the courage to live a life of constant danger? What would we deem a worthy cause for which to expend our life?
And the same answer strikes again. Love. This time capitalized.
Because that add was not just something written to inspire men to join an adventure to the South Pole. Someone much greater asks for similar courage.
And if hundreds of men could apply for that because of their love of adventure, shouldn't hundreds of Christians be willing to face the same for love of their Master?
If three men were willing to give their lives for the conquest of space, shouldn't we be willing to give our lives for the conquest of something much greater?
Shouldn't we be willing to face hardship this year?
Sometimes God uses hardship as the very means of our growth. And I say that with more confidence than ever before...
Dec. 31 2012
Lord, I want a year of growth-- if that means a hard year-- let it be a hard year. Take me out of my comfort zone. Send me trials. All I want is the year of greatest growth in you that I've ever had. That will make it my best year so far.
Little did I know what I was asking for...
After various trials and several months of fighting an unknown illness, and then being diagnosed with Lyme disease in August, I have a little more idea.The seven months of sickness and pain have been God's answer to my prayer in the above journal entry. And yet I wouldn't have that prayer unsaid, or those seven months "unlived" for anything. I can truly say that hardship was my greatest blessing.
Fast forward to another journal entry a year later...
Dec 31, 2013
...Though I now know more than ever before the heart definition of pain, I know also the heart definition of upholding Love. I may have known personally what it is like to be utterly weak, but I have also known the amazing power of sustaining grace. I might have known disappointments and confusion but it was only so that I might now truly know trust. I may have experienced darkness, but it was only so that I could now appreciate more the one true Light.
I now see my greatest struggles as my greatest blessings. Hardship is not our enemy. It is a gift the Master allows that we may be strengthened to fight our real enemy.
This year, I'm excited to see what new things He has in store. I know my Jesus doeth all things well. I praise Him that the last few weeks have marked improvements in my health, and the beginning of a slow, but sure, recovery.
And for the record, Lord, I am willing to endure hardship for You this year. I deem You worthy of risking my life.
After all, didn't You deem me worthy of risking Yours?
Pain is the richest backdrop for joy.
Words written in my journal three days ago when I had no idea that He had a plan to put a smile on my face in a few short hours. But there's something beautiful about trusting without seeing.
Peace found on the roughest road is sweeter than peace found because the road is smooth.
Joy because we trust His heart is deeper than joy because we see His hand.
Singing in the midst of trial means more to our Jesus than singing on the easiest day.
And Love that loves so much that it allows pain, is to be valued far more highly than any love that will only permit sunny skies.
A true friend will be willing to pray that you will be placed in the furnace of affliction so that you may come forth as pure gold. And He who loves you so much as to place you in the furnace of affliction, can be counted on to be the truest Friend of all.
We are told that He "weeps with those who weep..." (DA p. 533), and in my minds eye I can see His hot tears falling on the gold as He purifies it. Every time He puts it in the fire, it breaks His heart too.
Maybe more than it breaks ours?
Could it be, that it would be easier for Him too, if all we had were sunny skies? But He is willing to suffer Himself, to see us made whole by the fire?
"...I wound, and I heal..." (Deuteronomy 32:39)
That's the God I serve.
That's the God I trust.
Words fail me when it comes to summing up five packed days in a few paragraphs. But before anything, I want you to know how much we appreciate your prayers. Each one made a difference. I could feel it.
We set off last Thursday with my dear mother feeling very weak from her violent D & V of the night before. But God was faithful and got her through the journey and the many times that followed of speaking on an empty stomach.
By Sabbath she was feeling somewhat better, and all four of us were able to speak together for Sabbath school. But the peace was not to continue for long. Moments after the preaching the 11:00 service, Father found himself in our bathroom with the trusted bucket that mother had used, and Caleb had missed. Another attack from the devil.
And along with the news that father was down came the realization that Caleb and I were now the only ones who were feeling 100% well. It was grace, and grace alone, that was going to get us through!
Another realization hit home to me… I was the only one who hadn’t gotten sick. I could be next…
And it was that day that the miracles really happened for me. After speaking on my own that afternoon, and then leading the choir, we had to fill the parents spot that evening and speak again. There was no more than fifteen minutes to go over the notes, and my head was pounding from the incessant noise. I don’t know if I’ve ever had to rely on His strength so fully before…
But what thrilled me as Caleb and I stood in front of the people that night --and still does now-- is the power He can give when we have totally come to the end of ourselves. We could feel it holding us up, and it is like nothing I had ever known. I wonder why we don’t come to the end of ourselves sooner…
In the last few minutes of speaking, I became suddenly aware of a wave of nausea washing over me. I’ll be honest… it struck fear to my heart, at first. And yet, even in that moment, He held us up to the end.
Just minutes after we finished speaking I found myself in our little bathroom, awaiting the fate that had attended this illness for the rest of my family. I had told the Lord just that afternoon that I was perfectly willing to go through this sickness if it was His plan. I had been resisting it all week, and now I given it to Him, and here I was. But what amazed me was that the fear I always had (ever since a little girl) of stomach illness was now totally gone. I now faced it with joy because it had come through His hand. That was a work of grace.
An hour passed and nothing happened. Finally I climbed into bed, taking the necessary bucket with me. But though I didn’t fear the illness anymore, I couldn’t bear the thought of being sick in bed the next day, when I should be out with all those precious people who had crept into my heart.
Lord please help me be well in the morning. We just can’t let the devil win. I don’t mind getting sick, but please, please, let me be fine in the morning.
And then the familiar little voice…
Child, are you willing to give even your desire to minister to me, and let me do whatever I know is best for the people?
Silence. Yes Jesus. Just do what is best for them.
I was sure I had resigned to my fate, and yet as soon as I said those words, I had a consciousness that the storm had passed. Instantly I started feeling better. So much better, that I went to my bed and turned to “Peace be Still” in DA. It seemed like it was written for me. And by the time I was done reading, I knew He had calmed the storm that had been raging in my stomach. Praise God, I never needed that bucket.
I was thoroughly exhausted physically, but sleep evaded me for hours. He had just performed a miracle for me! Every other member of my family (and my grandmother) had been down for several days with this, and it passed in a few short hours for me! And when I finally did fall asleep, my heart was bursting for joy.
The day before I had written in my journal the words the Lord impressed on my heart. As I looked back at them that Sunday morning, my heart skipped a beat.
Today will be a day you will look back on and see my hand. I will bless. I will strengthen. I will do miracles, pour out my Spirit, and open the hearts of the people. I will be there. “Greater is He that is with you…”
He was faithful to the end. It may not have been our typical UK campmeeting, with mother having to do three solo messages back to back with a bad stomach and on two yogurts-- but it was what He knew we all needed, and there were signs of His working everywhere. Just the fact that father didn’t get sick a moment before the 11:00 message, or during, but right after, is proof that He was in control.
And I am even more convinced than ever that Satan is very upset that the work is going forward. Sunday morning we found out that the father of one of the helper families had been rushed to the hospital that same night with chest pain, and had a heart attack. And there have been many more things… Satan is trying to crush out God’s work. We cannot let him triumph.
But what I love is that even though the devil may fire his darts to weaken us, he cannot win if we trust in God, for it is in weakness that we are made strong.
Can I plead with you… Don’t let him win in anything. Even when you find yourself utterly weak. We must fight and win this battle together. Grace will always be there to strengthen us—for it is in weakness that we are made strong.
So glad he could be up there with me!
Family Panel Sunday night. All together even if some were very weak.
Leading the choir (just love these children).
Some of our dear UK friends
My long time little friend (he never ceases to make me smile).
Men's singing Sabbath night
Some of our many young friends we've come to love.
So grateful for my dear brother.
We're off to start the next camp--this time in England-- and again the devil's not happy. Yesterday afternoon had the second member of the family go down with some very nasty stomach illness.
And that was enough to cause some fear and trepidation in the rest of us. If charcoal indeed works as a preventative, we've had our fair share.
But it struck me as we went to bed last night... this is the second time. Just a few weeks ago it was a broken down car. This time it's sickness. And to add to it, there's only the four if us over here to speak at the camp. None of us can afford to be down. This is probably our busiest camp of the year.
And yet a reassuring voice whispers in my ear...
I'm not going to leave you, child. This is my work, and it will go forward. "The Lord will fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace."
I'm learning slowly. It's another chance to trust. And by grace I will...
This family camp starts tonight and runs through Monday morning. And I know that we will need every ounce of strength He gives us. And yet... "My grace is sufficient for thee, because my strength is made perfect in weakness."
Thank you Jesus, thank you.
Alone--helpless. With Him--invincible.
I'm excited. I don't know what Grace is going to do this week, but I know that He does all things well.
If you think of it, would you please keep us, and all the precious people attending camp in your prayers? I know there's four hearts over here who would be very grateful.
The car hums quietly as the sights of home drift behind us. I pull my old computer out, well aware of my great need of Him. The journey has begun! Not just the journey to OK Family Camp, but the beginning of the 2013 camp meeting season, and for me the journey of writing book number two. Excitement is hanging in the air.
Ear buds in, I start typing. But not for long. I haven’t even finished the first paragraph before the car slowly glides to the side of the interstate. I pull my ear buds out. I don’t hardly need to ask what’s going wrong. We all know.
Our much-loved car has developed an annoying trait of not starting some of the time, which has been turning into half the time lately. Normally father or Caleb can fix it and we’re fine in five minutes.
But it’s never stopped while running before. We conclude that it happened because we were driving up a hill. (I’m thinking, this won’t be the only hill between here and OKFC). Praise God it starts first time and we’re back on the road… for about a minute. This time as we drift to the side of the interstate, we know something is really wrong. That becomes even clearer after we try and start it ten times without success. Many prayers go up. But the points clear—the car won’t start, the battery is dead, and we’re on the interstate 30 minutes from home, and over an hour from the nearest reasonable size town.
After about an hour, a wrecker is on the way to take the car to the auto repair for the week, meanwhile father calls every rental company he can think of in Flagstaff. They all answer the same way. "We can give you a full size car, but not an SUV." Just try putting four personal suitcases, a lever harp, a full size cello, and all the sound and video equipment in a little car! It didn’t even fit in our Tahoe without a pod and rack on the back. J
I try to ignore the battle in my mind. I want to get to camp so much. I don’t want this to interfere with our plans. I don’t want to be stranded in Flagstaff with no way to leave.
But another voice penetrates my thoughts… Trust me. You have been praying for trials to help you grow.. Now you need to trust that I will work this out.
I put my computer away and forget about book writing at this point. I have the distinct thought to go read my daily devotional for the day. I almost know before I get there that it will be just for me. But I never dreamed how much.
Let the words sink in. They weren’t just for me…
“That ye may know what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Thou knowest what is best; And who but Thee, O God, hath power to know? In Thy great will my trusting heart shall rest; beneath that will my humble head shall bow.
To those who are His, all things are not only easy to be born, but even to be gladly chosen. Their will is united to that will which moves heaven and earth, (thinking… then He can move our car if He wants to, right?) which gives laws to angels, and rules the courses of the world. It is a wonderful gift of God to man…To be at the center of that motion, where is everlasting rest; to be sheltered in the peace of God; even now to dwell in heaven, where all hearts are stayed, and all hopes fulfilled. ‘Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace because his mind is stayed on Thee.”
Study to follow His will in all, to have no will but His. This is thy duty, and thy wisdom. Nothing is gained by spurning and struggling but to hurt and vex thyself; (that one really hits me hard) but by complying all is gained—sweet peace. It is the very secret, the mystery of solid peace within, to resign all to His will, to be disposed of at His pleasure, without the least contrary thought.
Oh Jesus, You are so good.
I read that over and over. I have full confidence that His heart understands the desires of my heart, and will do what is best. The peace I find on the side of the interstate is even sweeter than the peace I have when we’re breezing along at seventy. Peace in the storm is always sweeter than peace in the calm.
After trying almost every imaginable option, father finds a Suburban in Flagstaff, and as soon as the car is dropped off at the auto repair, father and I head to the airport in the cab of the wrecker to pick up the car.
“We’ve come to pick up the Suburban we booked through the 800 number.”
“I’m sorry sir, we don’t have a Suburban here. The 800 number doesn’t really know what we have here. I can give you a full sized car.”
Sigh. We rent a compact, go pick up the rest of the clan, and head to the hotel for the night.
Before we go to bed father has another Suburban booked from another rental company. We’re a little dubious.
Another phone call Monday morning reveals the same answer as night before. No Suburban.
Oh Jesus, help me trust. I've read that devotional again and again in the last few hours.
Finally, father found a car that will fit our stuff—hopefully. After an hour of moving everything between cars, we’re on the road.
We’re a bit behind schedule, but I’m grateful. He knew I needed that wake up call to trust Him with my plans. The devil is not happy about this year of family camps, or the beginning of another writing journey for me. But if God be for us, who can be against us?
Jesus, thank You for being trustworthy. Thank You for teaching me to trust, even if it’s on the side of interstate 40.
20. Lover of Jesus. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Servant. Fan of the kitchen. Graduate of Masters of Biblical Counseling.
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