BE-LOVED!

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Shouts and whispers of LOVE have been swirling around from every direction recently… perhaps your ears have pricked up and heard them too?

 “ Love wins!” “It’s all about love!” “Love is all that matters!”

”Love conquers all!”

At the same time, my husband and I have begun to celebrate as our 30th wedding anniversary approaches. So I guess thoughts about LOVE are on my mind more than usual right now 🙂

Messages of LOVE, or the lack of it, are everywhere and sometimes it is hard to discern and define true LOVE when everyone seems to have a differing opinion.

As a human being, I have a deep desire to receive and give LOVE. As a follower of Jesus, I have been commanded to LOVE…

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest command. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

Great idea! Trouble is, I can’t live up to these commands on my own. When I try to, I make a mess of it.

What happens when we try to love God, others and ourselves with love we conjure up ourselves?

*When we try to love God with our own love, we end up living in one of two extreme places… the land of ‘legalistic religion’ or the realm of ‘anything goes’.

*When we attempt to love others with our own love, we tend to either idolize them or neglect (or even abuse) them in the end.

*When we seek to love ourselves with our own love, we become either self-inflated and obsessed or self-abated and dejected.

So in the process of learning about LOVE, I have discovered that I cannot LOVE properly on my own without first receiving LOVE. Here is another way to put it…

In order to have the capacity to LOVE, we must first BE-LOVED!

John, the BE-LOVED disciple, says it this way in his letter to the early followers of Jesus… We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

We have been given an impossible command to LOVE by God. Yet He, Himself, has supplied us with the power to fulfil His command to LOVE. Paul says in Romans 5: 5 that God has poured His love into the hearts of every believer In Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Friends, please read that again and let it sink in!

Sentimental love is spreading like wildfire in our world. It sounds good. It feels good. But sadly, most of us have discovered it only lasts for a while. In the end, sentimental love can leave us emptier than before we devoured it – and with a bitter taste in our mouths and spirits.

The authentic LOVE that we are actually craving for and need more than life itself is the sacrificial, sacred, selfless LOVE of God as given to us in Jesus Christ! Not a feeling based, temporary LOVE, but a factually based eternal LOVE that is constantly acting graciously toward freedom!

REAL LOVE is not sentimental selfishness – it is sacrificial selflessness!

John the Beloved also says in 1 John 4:10 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

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This first LOVE is what I am going to build my life on from now on. All other loves are secondary. I am going to keep going to the cross of Christ and keep opening up my heart to receive His first, agape, unconditional, selfless LOVE and then keep my heart soft and open so that this LOVE can flow back to HIm and others. I will also be able to LOVE myself with His LOVE!

So what can we do to further grasp the wonder that we are the BE-LOVED of God?  

Pray: “God, You are LOVE! Help me to receive the LOVE You offer in Jesus, by the power of Your Holy Spirit.”

Believe and Receive: Jesus is the BE-LOVED Son of God. John, His BE-LOVED disciple tells us that we are God’s children too! (1 John 3:1)

TO BE-LOVED BY GOD IS OUR SECURITY AND OUR IDENTITY!

Fill: your life with Scripture and meditate on God’s word of truth to you!         (The Gospel and letters of John the BE-LOVED are a great place to start!)

Soak: Make sure you take plenty of time to saturate your life with God’s LOVE in this busy world. That means taking time to stop!

Listen: We learn from others who have gone before us. Do you have someone in your life that is secure in the love of God? Perhaps you could ask them to mentor you! If not, ask God for this blessing and keep your ears open to hear and discern good voices that will build His love in your life.

One mentor that I look forward to meeting one day is Henri Nouwen. My pastor gave me his book, Life of the Beloved, sometime after Bethany went Home. It was a soul-searching time where the enemy of my soul would have me believe that God’s love is fickle and conditional. Life of the Beloved comes highly recommended and has been a significant source of healing and direction in my life. Here are a couple of nuggets of wisdom to tease you into wanting more…

 “ Becoming the Beloved is the great spiritual journey we have to make.”

“Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say or do. It entails a long and painful process of appropriation or, better, incarnation.”

Resolve: Like Jesus, like John, like Henri and the Psalmists of old, let us resolve to build our life on the never-ending LOVE of God. It is too hard to do on our own but thankfully we are not alone!

“And so, we know and rely on the love God has for us.” 1 John 4:16

A modern Psalm to encourage you…

“I WILL BUILD MY LIFE UPON YOUR LOVE IT IS A FIRM FOUNDATION AND I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN YOU ALONE AND I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN!”

Build My Life by Housefires https://youtu.be/4W-St_nxyFc

BE Blessed by the Greatest Encouragement Ever! Part 2

Recently, we looked at Romans 8 as one of the ‘jewels in the crown’ of Scripture. Countless people through the ages have found great encouragement in seasons of suffering through this portion of Paul’s ancient letter. As I reveal in this second part of my conversation with God, while meditating on Romans 8, I too have received some wonderful courage to go on and it is my hope that you will also. Please feel free to open your Bible to this precious passage and join me…images-1

Lord, I am beginning to understand more and more that I have to wait.. but the weight in the wait is so heavy! All I can do is pray – but I don’t know how to pray and I don’t always have the strength and even the desire to…

My Spirit helps you in your weakness and intercedes for you, according to My will, with groans that words alone cannot express.

Ahh… thank You Papa… I need You! Much of life is difficult and sad and does not make sense to me, but I choose to trust You…

In ALL things I am working for the good of those who love Me and are called according to My purpose – that is you, My daughter!

I am overwhelmed Lord… please keep speaking…

I know you. You are destined to become like My Son Jesus. I have called you. I have made you right with Me through His sacrifice and you share in His glory…

What can I say? This is all too wonderful for me to comprehend!

I am for you. I am not against you. I did not spare even My Son for you –             I long to graciously give you all things!

WOW! How can I ever express my gratitude? Your Son traded places with me, taking on my short-comings, suffering and shame. Now no charges can be brought against me! Your Son is interceding on my behalf before Your throne…   I am undone…

NOTHING can separate you from My love daughter – do you hear Me? NOTHING!

I know this Lord but I can feel separated from Your love when I face trouble, hardship, persecution, lack of provision, shame and dangers of all kinds. At times I do wonder where You are and if You still care…

As you prevail through all this brokenness, you can be more than victorious through the power of My love. NOTHING in all of creation can separate you from My love dear one. The revelation of My love is in the cross and resurrection of My Son – believe and live My child!

BE Blessed with the Greatest Encouragement Ever! (Part 1)

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Set in the middle of Paul’s letter to the Romans, is the magnificent jewel simply entitled ‘Chapter 8’. Romans 8 is affirmed by many as their favorite portion of Scripture and is often my ‘go to’ when I am in desperate need of some comforting truths from God. It is here that Paul presents the Good News of Jesus so clearly against the background of the ‘Bad News’… I guess this is why it shines so brightly for many!

Friends, I certainly cannot offer any new insights from the text on my own, but I hope that by sharing with you how I engaged with this ancient, living wisdom in prayer today, God’s Holy Spirit will take it and use it afresh so that you too may BE Blessed with the Greatest Encouragement Ever!

Journal 2 May 2018

Lord, I am feeling judged and ashamed of my own short-comings…

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Lord, I don’t want to be controlled by my sinful nature that keeps pulling me down into despair and poor choices… I want to please You!

Set your mind on what the Spirit desires. The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

Lord, I am weak…

The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is within you and will give you life!

Lord, I want to live but don’t know how…

If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live!

Lord, I am afraid…

You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship. You can call Me Abba Father!

Thank you Papa! I love being Your child! I really do want to share in all You have for me, but it is hard to get past all the devastating suffering that is in me and all around me…

You are My heir and co-heir with My Son… you will certainly share in My glory as you share in His sufferings.

Papa, this is all too difficult to understand and seems impossible to wait for!

The whole of creation is groaning to be liberated from the curse of My children’s rebellion, and so are you – even though you have My Spirit. But these present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in you My daughter!

Yes Papa! I sure do ache and groan… for myself, for my family, for my friends and for the world! What should I do?

HOPE in Me for all that is assuredly promised by My eternal, faithful word. You do not have it all yet, but You can wait patiently and confidently with Me as I show you how…..

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Part Two to follow soon…

BE Secure in the Liminal Space!

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I have been living in a liminal space for a long time without even knowing it!

Liminal space or liminality is a concept I have only recently been introduced to by our pastor and my lecturer in the same week. Since then, this interesting idea has captured my imagination.

The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen meaning:                            threshold, doorway, any point of entering or beginning.

Liminal space then is the place of waiting, the twilight zone in between the now and the not yet. It is seeing through a glass darkly as Paul puts in in 1 Corinthians 13:12. It is an uncertain place of transition – a state of limbo that can be quite painful, confusing and unsettling.

Liminal spaces are mostly created by great upheavals. In our case, the ongoing sense of loss and the memories of the severe suffering our Bethany endured often lands us smack bang in the land of liminality. We can’t go back – and we can’t yet go forward – know what I mean?

Many of our family and friends find themselves in liminal spaces of a different kind right now too…

  • My dear father in law as he waits for Alzheimer’s Disease to finish its work in his beloved wife.
  • My friends who sacrificially care for their disabled daughter while ministering to other disabled people in one of the poorest nations on earth.
  • Other precious friends as they deal with physical and mental health issues that never seem to be resolved… I could go on and on…

86Liminal spaces are usually uncomfortable and they usually catch us by surprise… yet they are a normal part of life and it is normal to feel totally disorientated while visiting there. Liminal spaces feel permanent and seem like they are going to go on forever. One can easily lose hope and perspective in the swirl of foggy clouds that liminality can bring.

But here is the good news about liminal spaces… they are temporary and they are transformative! In fact, these transitional, thresholds are where the best and most lasting transformation actually takes place!

Author and theologian Richard Rohr says this about liminality

“…where we are betwixt and between the familiar and completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin.”

 Ok, I kind of get that, but incredulously he goes on to say…

“Get there as often and stay there as often as you can by whatever means possible. This is the sacred place where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal spaces in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor.”

Yet again, God is teaching me some deep lessons to help keep me secure in Him during a difficult and uncertain season. Here I am living in the midst of liminality (where things were not as they were and things are not as they one day will be) and to be honest, I don’t like it very much! But as I accept that I am here in this God-ordained moment of time, I begin to discover the wonderful treasures He wants to show me that can only be revealed in this messy place.

When you think about it, ALL of life here on earth could be considered as a liminal space! This world we call home is just temporary and is where our faith is stretched and grown in the tangles of joy, uncertainty, pain & sorrow. This place in life hurts, but I am learning to be more at peace and secure in the liminal space – how about you?

Contemplation

It was 23 years ago this Easter Saturday that our Bethany Joy was born.

Easter Saturday… what a perfect example of a liminal space. I can’t imagine the trauma, shock, horror, confusion and disappointment the first disciples woke up to on that first Easter Saturday. It was the day in between the suffering death and the miraculous resurrection. On Easter Saturday, it seems that they had forgotten all about the promises Jesus made and the emotional pain would have been excruciating. I can be so hard on the first disciples, but I can be just like them in my grief-stricken liminality.

Yet, as they grieved upon the threshold, the twilight transformed day into night and the next sunrise ushered in Resurrection Day!

Liminal spaces can feel unsafe as often we have left what we thought was secure behind. In praying about this concept, God has given me another picture this week to help me BE secure in the liminal space

Imagine His nail-scarred hands are holding you firmly in this sacred moment in time… the Hand holding you on your left represents the sin and sufferings He entered into for us and the one on your right holds you in redemption and resurrection life. Both hands touch you in this place… both cradle you and you cannot have one without the other. He has allowed you into the fellowship of this intimate space where both the cross and the resurrection have to be part of your life if you are to be part of Him.
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Maybe right now your thoughts and feelings are burning deep, sharing with Him the searing pain of His nail wounds. Weep with Him in your losses and be grateful that this same Hand is the One shielding you from the eternal suffering of separation from life-giving relationship with Father, Son & Spirit.

Perhaps mind, body and spirit you are experiencing a closeness to the victory of the resurrection Hand of Jesus that is also holding you. If so, then also be grateful and grasp it with all you have. On your knees at the threshold, worship the One who is the Door and longs to usher you into His new beginnings filled with abundant life!

Even when the bottom has fallen out of our world,                                                       we can BE secure in the liminal spaces of life.

Dear friends, let us encourage each other as we courageously step into these liminal spaces. When you can’t go back to the way things were and you are not sure of what is ahead, you can be sure that in His perfect time and in His perfect way, He will open up a new path through the desert wilderness – a path you never knew was there! (Psalm 77:19)

Most assuredly, your liminal space in time will not last forever and it is here that you will be transformed from glory to glory as you are held by the nail-scarred, immortal hands of the crucified and risen Christ!

But I’m caught in between the now and the not yet
Sometimes it feels like forever and ever
That I’ve been reaching to be all that I am
But I’m only a few steps nearer – yet I’m nearer!
Amy Grant (based on I John 3:2)

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BE Intentional Walkers!

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Today I am going to walk. I am blessed to have legs that work and without even thinking about it, I am going to walk around the house getting needs met. I am going to walk out to the car and walk to the office where I serve. Later, I am going to walk around the supermarket and in the course of the day, will probably clock up many steps without thinking about it.

I haven’t thought a lot about how to physically walk with purpose until last year when I took up a challenge and commenced a deliberate walking plan. (Four months in and I am on target to walk 1,000 kilometres in a year – and it feels good!)

The deliberate walking I do invigorates me, and now that I have started, I am frustrated when I cannot complete my goals for some reason. The weather is often an obstacle that I have to push through, but also circumstances can change my plans and even my ability to walk in just an instant.

For instance, over the Christmas holiday period when I expected to put a lot of time into walking, a nasty leg abscess stopped me in my tracks. I am very thankful to be able to walk again and still have a healthy leg – I don’t want to take my ability to walk for granted ever again!

When I am walking with intention, I take a gift of time away from other pressures and this provides me with the opportunity to purposefully think and pray through heartfelt concerns and needs. In light of my recent setback, I have been pondering what it means to walk through life with purpose, especially when walking means painfully stirring up debilitating wounds.

The Bible talks a lot about walking… walking in the light; walking in love; walking in truth; walking with God; walking on mountains and through valleys, etc. (Please feel free to take a deeper look at some of the ‘walking’ passages for yourself that I have added to the end of this blog.)

So, the idea of walking this journey in life is not a new concept but the whole idea of how I can choose to be an intentional walker is a growing one to me 🙂

The fact that we woke up breathing in this world this morning means that we have been given the gift to walk through another day. The choice that lies before us then is this: “How am I going to walk through this day in a way that will bring life and purpose to me and to others around me?”

Without thinking about it, many of us will run flat out into a day that contains too many things to squeeze in. Without thinking about it, many of us are going to stagger around lost and lonely under the weight of grief and pain.

Without thinking it through and being intentional, sadly many of us are going to choose a path of destruction, instead of redemption, in the midst of our circumstances.

What I am talking about here is a journey with intention – walked out step by step with Jesus in the direction towards eternal life with Him!

After seven years of grieving our brown-eyed-beauty, one thing I have learned is that if I don’t make some deliberate choices about how I am going to ‘walk through the day’ and live my life journey, I tend to stumble around in circles and end up in a heap on the ground! Another thing I am coming to accept (and even beginning to embrace) is that the pain of the trauma and separation are not going to leave me in this life – this is all is part of who I am as a human being walking this earth and I have been asked by the One I love to do so alongside others who are broken and suffering in pain.

Our dear Bethany could not physically walk for the last year of her life, but she chose to ‘walk’ the pathway Home with honor and courage. With her head held high as a daughter of the King, she took His hand as her closest companion and filled her backpack with faith, hope and love. She placed the shoes of peace on her crippled feet and moved toward her ultimate destination with purpose.

Friends, there is no doubt that our life journey will be a mix of pain and rest, challenges and joys, purposeful choices and missteps whatever path we choose. Thank God that while we may not have a choice in our life circumstances, we do have the choice to BE Intentional Walkers! I pray today that you will ‘tie up your laces’ with me, stretch those ‘faith muscles’ and set your sights on the same path chosen by and paved by the Saviour and start walking – rain, hail or shine! Redemption Road may be a narrow path that few choose, but it leads to LIFE!

Choose the right path…

            …Choose the right companions…

                        …Choose the right equipment…

                                                …Choose to take one step at a time…                                                                                                                        and don’t forget to…

Choose to absorb the view, taste the feast and smell the roses along the Way!

The process of the journey is preparing us for the eternal destination!

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Climbing Higher…

God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. So here are 20 truths to guide us through our intentional walking, especially when the going gets tough!

*Walk humbly with God! (Micah 6:8) 

*Walk with Jesus! (John 8:12)

*Walk with the Holy Spirit! (Galatians 5:16-26)

*Walk with godly companions! (Psalm 101:6)

*Walk in obedience! (Deut 8:6; John 14:15)

*Walk in holiness (Isaiah 35:8)

*Walk in the Light! (1 John 1:6-7)

*Walk lightly! (Matthew 11:28)

*Walk without grumbling in the wilderness! (Numbers 14:2-4)

*Walk in thanksgiving! (Psalm 100:4; Colossians 2:6-7)

*Walk in peace! (Colossians 3:15)

*Walk in Truth! (John 16:13; 2 John 1:4)

*Walk in paths of righteousness! (Psalm 16:11; Proverbs 8:20)

*Walk in faith! (2 Corinthians 5:7)

*Walk in love! (Ephesians 5:2)

*Walk on water! (Matthew 14:22-33)

*Walk in praise! (Act 3:8-9)

*Walk with no fear! (Psalm 23; Isaiah 43:1-2)

*Walk in a manner worthing of our calling! (Ephesians 4; 2 Thess. 11-12)

*Walk for the glory of God! (Isaiah 26:8)

THANKS FOR WALKING WITH ME!

 

 

 

 

 

BE Filled With JOY!

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Try as I may, I can’t seem to keep my ‘JOY tank’ filled up on my own. The taunting resound of ‘JOY to the World’ compels me to keep seeking authentic JOY that satisfies this Christmas season and beyond. Honestly, I find it so difficult to push through my natural feelings and experience true JOY in the midst of so many undesirable circumstances. But friends, I have found a way and I hope what I share here will encourage you to choose the pathway to JOY…

Right now, memories of Bethany’s Christmas Eve ‘death sentence’ seven years ago are haunting me. I am aching for my dad and brother who will be so obviously missing as we gather around the family table. I have just finished wrapping presents and am mourning over one significant gift that I didn’t need to wrap this year… our precious Down Syndrome buddy, Andrew, will also be greatly missed. It won’t be the same without his hilarious antics and loving ways.

It’s not only the dear ones who are absent that are bringing pain to my heart this Christmas…

 * Several dear friends are facing their first Christmas without their loved ones and two good friends are in for the battle of their lives as they face intensive chemotherapy this holiday season.

 * Other brave friends are facing Christmas alone after divorce and my husband’s mum is still in nursing care after five very difficult years living in limbo with Alzheimer’s Disease.

 * On top of all this, I am feeling the loss of some previously close friendships and navigating through some family dynamics that are going to make finding Christmas JOY a challenge!

Sorry friends! I admit that there is a bit of a’ pity party’ going on here. But I think you get the picture and it is my guess that if you’re still reading, you are relating to some of the disappointments and sorrows that Christmas time can bring.

Christmas does bring a lot of nice distractions though… a bounty of food and drink, generous gifts, dazzling lights, magnificent music, fun movies, etc. etc. I love enjoying these things with my family. But if I go to these temporary things to fill my ‘JOY tank’, I am quickly left ‘running on empty’. My underlying sorrows run far too deep to be healed by Santa and tinsel.

Yes, I am more convinced than ever that it is humanly impossible for me to experience the kind of JOY my soul longs for. I need to drink from a deeper well of JOY that those glittery surface things can’t satisfy.

So, where can I go to find the real JOY that is on offer this Christmas?

How can I BE Filled With JOY – the kind of JOY that my soul is parched for and my heart needs so desperately?

If you know me at all, then you know I am going to tell you to go to Jesus – don’t you! But please hear me when I say that I am not just preachin’ this to you – I am definitely preachin’ this to myself several times a day right now!

JOY is a gift from God by means of the Holy Spirit. In fact, JOY is a fruit of God’s Spirit that is listed in the book of Galatians 5:22-23. JOY is something that I can’t conjure up on my own – what a relief! So let’s see what Jesus says about how to receive this JOY…

“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”

Now be honest – did you think I was going to give it away that easily? If you want to discover what “these things” are and know the secret to true, everlasting, overflowing JOY, then check out the rest of Jesus’ words recorded in John 15… you won’t regret it!

As I put into practice what it says in this precious passage, guess what happens? Yes, I am filled with JOY! Not JOY that comes from my own making or doing. (Actually, my circumstances have not changed much at all.) But instead of wallowing in despair, I can sing with my whole heart this Christmas about the JOY unspeakable that I am experiencing in the midst of the trials, in the middle of hardships and sorrows, in companionship with the struggles my beloved friends and family are facing. Our Bethany JOY also discovered this JOY that defies logic and has an air of security and expectancy that goes beyond understanding.

When God’s gift of JOY is received into our beings, she brings along some special companions to journey with Sorrow and Grief. No, they don’t just disappear when JOY enters, but they are welcomed and comforted by Faith, Hope & Love who enter in on the heels of JOY – with Peace following not far behind!

True JOY is all bundled up in the gift of a babe who has utterly captured my broken heart. It is my sincere prayer that you too will know Jesus and adore Him this Christmas. Whatever you are facing and feeling right now, may you remain in His love, worship Him with a thankful heart, love everyone around you and…

 BE Filled With JOY that overflows to bless many!

“BE ENCOURAGED!” A Tribute to Ed Bentley

 

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Ed Bentley was a unique character… an unforgettable person who made a deep impression on many lives over his 99+ years on earth – I am one of them.

When my husband and I joined Wycliffe Australia almost 20 years ago, Ed and his darling wife Laurel were well past the usual age of retirement, but still serving in whatever way they could.

A talented artist and musician, Ed was born with a cleft palate and other difficulties that back in 1918 were life-threatening. Baby Ed was not expected to live past his first birthday. Yet his remarkable life was gently lived out in the presence of God and the people he loved with passion and loyal devotion for almost a century!

When you met Ed, his speech challenges quickly faded into the background as the twinkle in his eye captivated the heart. Both Ed and Laurel made us feel like we were the most important people on the planet when they greeted us – what a rare and priceless gift! You never came away from a conversation with this man without feeling uplifted and encouraged. In fact, Ed’s famous tagline was “BE ENCOURAGED!”

I have been pondering why encouragement was so important to Ed. Why did this godly man who had lived so long on the earth, against all the odds, through all kinds of joys and challenges (including two world wars) realize the necessity for encouragement?

Ed knew first hand how brave we all need to be to live well in this world. He knew for sure that we all need a truckload of courage to survive and to thrive and that there is only one source of authentic courage that makes the grade.

In his lifetime, Ed wrote out thousands of cards with hope-filled Bible verses, ending of course with his famous quote “BE ENCOURAGED”. I have one and will treasure it now that he has passed into eternity and is enjoying his Lord and Saviour, Jesus, face to face as he longed for.

The source of Ed’s courage was most definitely centred around Jesus and His Word. This is why Ed and Laurel became part of the Bible translation movement around the globe – all the love and encouragement they had received was just too good to keep to themselves!

I will especially remember Ed and Laurel for their love and care for us when Bethany was ill and passed away. When they said they were praying for you, they were people of their word and you just knew you were certainly being prayed for!

I want to share with you one more inspirational lesson from Ed to take hold of. The story goes that on his 92nd birthday, Ed was asked how he felt about reaching that ripe old age. His response greatly encourages me and I hope it blesses you too…

“The first 92 years have been a preparation for what God has for me tomorrow… I can’t wait to see what He has for me tomorrow!”

On the eve of my 52nd birthday (just a little spring chicken in Ed’s sparkly eyes), I am challenged by this precious man to view life with the same kind of courage that looks forward with hope and excitement. I am painfully aware that I am totally unable to conjure up the courage I desperately need to live – so I am thankful that I don’t have to! I have the very same resource available to me as Ed. So, filled with the Spirit of God, I too can look to the future with confidence and expectant hope. I too can live courageously in the midst of all kinds of circumstances life may bring.

Our CEO in his speech honoring Ed noted that the word ENCOURAGED starts with an E and ends with a D = ED! What a great way to remember a great saint of the Lord who has gone before us and still cheers us on!

Ed, our heartfelt thanks for leaving us a beautiful example and legacy that points the way to Jesus Christ. There is only one last thing to say as I hear your voice echoing in my head…

Friends, “BE ENCOURAGED!”

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be strong and take courage. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

Used with permission from Ed’s beautiful, courageous Laurel.

BE Washed in Waves of Tears!

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” Psalm 42:7

IMG_5121 Steavenson Falls, Marysville, Victoria, Australia

Psalm 42 was written in waves of tears. In fact, the psalmist tells us in verse three that tears had been his ‘food’ both day and night. Themes of water flow through this ancient psalm of lament and it is one I strongly identify with.

A few weeks ago, I hiked on my own to one of my home state’s highest waterfalls – something new and adventurous for me. The journey was breathtaking and quite literally took my breath away as at times as I had to stop and gasp for fresh air to fill my burning lungs. I also gulped in the gorgeous sights, sounds and smells and my senses were filled as I persevered along the trail in a swirl of dewy rain.

When I finally reached my destination and stood on the bridge with a torrent of water crashing underneath my feet, I began to weep. Some of my tears fell into the whirlpool and disappeared into the magnificent cascade crashing over the rocks below. My tears seemed insignificant in the moment, lost and unnoticed.

I had just read a sign on the track that spoke about how there is never a new drop of water created in the earth and its atmosphere. Amazing when you think about it! The water we drink and expel has been filtered through countless people and animals – even earthworms according to the sign!  Each drop has been part of cyclonic storms, raging seas, still lakes, undulating rivers and yes, waterfalls.

As I stood in this place totally awash with water, I began to think about my tears in a new light. Perhaps the very same tears I had just cried were also cried by the psalmist all those years ago? The more I pondered, the more I realized that my tears do actually matter. They are significant. Have a look at this little nugget of truth proclaimed by king David…

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8

As I allowed images of the waterfall to crash over my spirit, deep called to deep. My tiny but significant tears were now added to the never-ending circle of the ‘stream of life’ thundering below me. They had become part of the billions of teardrops now travelling at break-neck pace to wash and water the needy earth.

Friends, if indeed every molecule of water has been created by God and then recycled again and again to bring new life, our tears can do that too. I have to believe that every drop totally counts! Our humble droplets of sorrow offered to God can become LIFE to the decimated and thirsty. They can become part of watering those tiny seeds of faith, hope and love sown in dry times. God can use our tears to refresh the hearts of others who are weeping out their own tears of sorrow and grief.

What I haven’t mentioned is that this waterfall is the life spring of a township that lost everything to the Black Saturday fires in 2009. This once blackened, dead land is now lush green and full of life again. It has been watered in waves of tears and beauty has arisen from the ashes.

I have a desperate need to BE Watered in Waves of Tears right now. The Living Water of Jesus Christ is constantly on tap and available to me and to us all. As deep calls to deep, I open my soul to the Maker of the waterfall and allow Him to completely wash over me. His tears, and the precious water that flowed from His side on my behalf blends with my soul… soothing, healing, cleansing, satisfying… I drink it in and I live again.

“As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after You! Take all my tears Lord and turn them into streams of living water that fall over the earth for Your glory!”

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BE Alight With Hope!

LFM_PosNormRGBThis week we had the opportunity to share a message of hope with the staff at one of the largest Christian radio stations in Australia. As we walked into the LightFM building, we could not help but notice the huge sign over the reception desk and the powerful words that assured us that God had placed us there at just the right time, for such a season as this…

LightFM every heart alight with Christian hope!

We went along to LightFM to share Bethany’s story of hope and were also interviewed in the studio in order to share this hope with our city! We talked in depth about real issues of the heart, including the faith challenges that came along with the sorrows and the joys of Bethany’s life and suffering and how she lived and died with tangible, authentic hope in Jesus Christ.

Christian hope is so unique and often poles apart from the way we think and talk about hope in our culture. Mere words from me cannot possibly explain Christian hope in a way that will set your heart on fire, so here are a few gems from the Bible that we shared with the LightFM team. May they help your body, mind and soul to BE alight with Christian hope!

CHRISTIAN HOPE IS AN ANCHOR FOR THE SOUL:

So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Hebrews 6:18-19

CHRISTIAN HOPE IS FULL OF PATIENT WAITING:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Rom 8:22-25

CHRISTIAN HOPE GROWS THROUGH TRIAL AND WILL NOT DISAPPOINT:

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5

CHRISTIAN HOPE IS BASED ON THE WORD OF GOD:

My soul waits for the Lord, and in his word I put my hope. More than the watchmen wait for the morning, yes more than the watchmen wait for the morning.  Psalm 130:5-6

CHRISTIAN HOPE EXPRESSES ITSELF IN WORSHIP:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God. Psalm 42 & 43

CHRISTIAN HOPE IS A GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Spirit. Romans 15:13

CHRISTIAN HOPE IS ALL HEADED TOWARD AND CENTRED IN A PERSON:

In his name the nations will put their hope. Matthew 12:21

There are countless verses in Scripture about authentic, unified hope in Jesus. May you keep searching for more treasures of hope if yours is wavering right now because hope doesn’t just happen – it needs to be fed, nurtured and actively taken hold of!

My hope was failing earlier in the week and through a kind friend, God reminded me of this precious diamond of hope. As I took hold of it, He again proved Himself faithful to His Word. No friends, our hope is not misplaced if it is anchored in Jesus!

THE LORD RENEWS OUR STRENGTH AS WE WAIT IN HOPE FOR HIM:

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31

To listen to the Wake’s hope-filled interview go to: http://lightfm.com.au/in-conversation-with-clayton/ ‘In Conversation with Clayton’ Sunday August 13, 2017, after 9pm or in Melbourne, tune into 89.9 FM around 8pm 🙂 

BE Tenderhearted!

Care Bears were big in the late eighties when I was dating my future husband. I thought I was being romantic on our first Valentine’s Day date when I gave him ‘Tenderheart’ – the cute Care Bear with a red heart embroidered on his tummy. Turns out it was more prophetic than romantic!

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We still have ‘Tenderheart’ as part of our bear collection and our kids have enjoyed playing with him over the years. He may be a bit battered nearly 30 years on, but the wisdom he personifies is fresh in my thoughts right now. What I didn’t know back then in the thick of our romance was that in order to survive and thrive in marriage, and indeed in all aspects of life, we would need to BE tenderhearted.

As much as we thought so at the time, it turns out that romantic feelings were not going to be enough to sustain us through all the storms of life. What we needed was an intentional mind set and an acquisition of some skills to cultivate the soil of our hearts. In order for a harvest of life and peace to shoot up from the seeds of our romantic love, we had to learn how to keep our hearts soft and open towards God and each other through all the challenges that were to come.

In the midst of the joys and tears, dreams and fears, we have learned these precious lessons by believing and living out the Word of God…

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

We passed this wisdom onto our son on his wedding day and we need to keep it in mind each day too – not just in matters of marriage, but in all our relationships because we are robbed of peace, joy and deeply satisfying connections when our hearts get hard.

Remaining tenderhearted is one of the greatest challenges of my daily life. How do I clothe myself with a tender heart when everything screams at me to protect my heart from further hurt? Jesus is calling me to a lifestyle of vulnerable surrender. He asks me to lay down my rights, take up my cross, and make a daily choice to follow Him along a path which does not allow for one iota of hard heartedness.

It sure hurts to keep my heart tender – there is a cost to it that I find I cannot bear alone. But friends, can I tell you from the benefit of personal experience that it hurts WAY more to protect my heart with the armour of blame, bitterness, condemnation, unforgiveness, hatred, unresolved grief and shame that all keep me trapped in a place where my heart ends up dead – cold and hard as stone.

In this lonely place, I may feel protected from further harm, but it is an illusion. In this dark cave, I may feel a measure of self-comfort as I lick my wounds. But what’s really going on is that I am unable to receive comfort and help from God and I end up missing the family and friends He sends to minister to me.

You know, I have been told that my facial features change when I am harboring offence and I am protecting myself. I can believe it because I see the same contortions in the facial lines of some of my loved ones who are in danger of becoming hard hearted in their pain and disappointments. The other sad fact is that our stubborn, hardened hearts not only further wound our own well-being but also damage our most treasured relationships, often hurting those we love most.

OK, so how do we keep our hearts tenderly clothed in this harsh environment we are called to live in? Like me, you too have the daily choice to put on tenderness. No, it is NOT easy to BE tenderhearted and stay that way, but it really is the only way to live in complete freedom. Paul tells us the main garments we need to put on to enjoy a life of tenderhearted liberty. His words to the first believers still kick the same punch today…

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:32

FACT AND FICTION:

FACT: tenderheartedness walks hand in hand with kindness and forgiveness. “Impossible”, you may be thinking right now. “I can’t do it! No way! I don’t even want to!” Yes, I know! It is absolutely impossible to be kind to some people and forgive some offences on our own. Indeed, to forgive fully, as Jesus requires of His followers, is utterly impossible without Him. But friends, believing that you cannot show kindness and forgive is FICTION. Here is the Good News – God is not asking us to do something that He has not done Himself and thankfully, He does not leave us to our own devices!

FACT: Our Heavenly Father is tenderhearted toward us and asks us to reflect the same kindness and forgiveness He offers us in Christ. He has given us both the example and the means to fulfil HIs command to BE tenderhearted in seemingly impossible situations.

FACT: Our Lord Jesus stayed tenderhearted right throughout His earthly life and even as He was dying He did not harden His heart. Incredibly as He was nailed to the cross in sheer agony, He showed kindness and freely forgave those who were mercilessly tormenting, torturing and executing Him.

FACT: Our Comforter, the Holy Spirit of God, is willing and able to give us a new, tender heart like His! Tenderhearted kindness and forgiveness are all possible in Him as He leads us to tenderhearted peace and freedom – what a precious gift!

Bethany has left us a wonderful example of tenderheartedness too. She had many reasons to harden her heart to God with the cruel injustice of her brain cancer. But we are so thankful that she made the choice to remain tenderhearted, just like her Saviour, and the result was beautiful. Not only could she receive all she needed from Him with her open and tender heart, she could also give out from this tenderness and minister to others as she lay dying – just as Jesus did. WOW!

Dear friends, the condition of our heart is something we must consider and treasure – for God surely does. We must never forget the ancient wisdom imploring us to guard our hearts ABOVE ALL ELSE because our heart is the very well spring of life! (Proverbs 4:23)

I would like to finish with another piece of wisdom from Peter, the friend of Jesus who believed the FICTION for a while but was overcome with the FACT that he was loved and forgiven. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he learned to love and forgive with a tender heart too.

“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. BE tenderhearted and keep a humble attitude.” 1 Peter 3:8

“SO WHAT CAN BE DONE FOR AN OLD HEART LIKE MINE? SOFTEN IT UP WITH OIL AND WINE. THE OIL IS YOU, YOUR SPIRIT OF LOVE – PLEASE WASH ME ANEW IN THE WINE OF YOUR BLOOD.” (KEITH GREEN)