Two life-changing jogs…
I love going for a run! Over the years, I have received many things while jogging–brilliant ideas, problem-solving wisdom, intercession for people, soul-refreshment, and even great friendship time with others! I have run in African villages followed by laughing kids, in Chinese streets with “acid rain”(as I affectionately called the polluted rain there), in vineyards in South Africa, in my neighborhood in Indiana and many other adventurous places in-between.
There are two jogs recently that have been life-changing–for very different reasons.
The first one is actually a “JOG”–a Journey of Generosity–a facilitated 24 hour small-group experience to encounter God’s generosity. The experience itself is often a generous gift provided by a those who are hosting it. During our time together, we experience incredible stories of generosity (of all different types), small group interactions, excerpts of readings, Bible study, and meaningful conversations over meals. It’s a transformational heart journey.
Over the last year and half, I have had the privilege of participating in catalyzing the first JOGs in South Africa. A month ago, we had our second round of JOGs in Capetown and our first JOGs ever in the Johannesburg area. It has been a joy to be with different groups of amazing people and to encounter God’s generosity in a way that has marked us all.
Here are some photos from our times together!
Here’s some more information for the curious and interested that want to see, as it’s an experience I would highly recommend for anyone: http://generousgiving.org/small-gatherings
The 2nd life-changing jog was an actual run–in Delta park in the middle of Johannesburg. To back up a little bit…as I left the USA in January, I had really felt led to bring Beth Moore’s Breaking Free Bible study materials, as the Lord seemed to have an agenda for that study during my stay here. Fast forward 2 months…a good South African friend in the US wanted me to meet a childhood friend of hers from Johannesburg, which I was delighted to do. We met for coffee and had a wonderful time together! A few days later she invited me to go for a jog in the park with her and one of her friends who, as it turns out, leads a Bible study for women in this area. In chatting on our run, this woman mentioned that their current study was finishing and that they were looking for something new. Immediately I had a strong sense that this was the reason that I had brought Breaking Free with me to SA.
In March, we started a Breaking Free Bible study with 15+ women, and it’s been amazing to watch the Lord “proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” in different ways among this group of women.
Two JOGs/jogs…unique and life-changing. Our King and His kingdom…there really is no greater joy than being about His business and watching Him work.
I have been learning about love lately…His love…a love that never fails, never gives up and never runs out. This lesson is long, hard…and rich. Truth lessons worth holding on to often are…
A favorite refrain of our God seems to be, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.” This phrase reverberates in the Psalms, was proclaimed morning and night in the temple, is a battle cry in II Chronicles, is prophetically proclaimed in Jeremiah, and will reverberate around His throne at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
“FOREVER” is a very long time for love to endure, with LOTS of patience in it (#1 in I Corinthians 13–God’s love list). My own love endures…until I get tired…until I am rejected…until I am not treated well….
In my journey lately, I am realizing again how much I need Him to infuse me with His love. HIS love ENDURES forever…it never fails, never gives up and never runs out…not ever…. HIS [perfect] love also casts out FEAR… fear of rejection, fear of tedious and indefinite repetition, fear of death to self….
This life of love is impossible without Him, I must say. Pride wants to come to all my “love” parties accompanied by the rigid bodyguard of Self-Protection! Part of my sharing in the sufferings of Christ is to love like He loves me–sacrificially and completely. No pride. No self-protection….Freely I have received and freely I can give.
Hosea experienced that. Paul experienced that. Jesus IS that. We share in the sufferings of Jesus so that we can also share in the glory of His resurrection.
His “forever,” enduring love brings resurrection (I Cor. 5:17) …makes things new…makes me new…makes others new.
So today, in the same Spirit of David’s appointees Heman and Jeduthun at the gates of the temple (I Chron 16:39-42), I give thanks to the Lord, proclaiming with my life that:
“He is good and His love endures FOREVER!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lPdtqgouCc
Go with Joy…
A couple months ago, I had an accident in my little Honda Element. I ran into someone from behind. It’s the first accident that I have ever had where I was driving. Some might find that hard to believe, given my enthusiastic nature, but it’s TRUE!!
Even though it was just a little fender bender, my Element, which has been dubbed my Box of Joy due to my “BxofJoy” license plate, had to go into the shop for extensive and expensive repairs.
The day I was going to go and pick it up, I was driving a rental car (which was so NOT my “bxofjoy” in any way!), and I stayed in the parking lot for a bit to finish a conversation with a dear friend on the phone. As we said goodbye, she prayed for me that I would “go with joy” which was very needed.
As I walked into Enterprise Rental, I ran into a woman from church that I hadn’t seen for months. We were going in the same direction so they put us in the same shuttle to pick up our cars. As we were riding together, it suddenly struck me that her name is JOY. I was riding with Joy while I was on my way to pick up my Box of Joy. I started laughing out loud. I mean, what are the chances…really??
The Lord seemed to put an exclamation on His message to me that day: “GO with JOY! I mean it!”
How I love His sense of humor…when I have eyes to see it.
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Is 55:12
“…The Joy of the Lord is my strength!” Nehemiah 8:10
“Let there be light…”
This picture is a story that had its start almost 2 years ago now…so hold on to your seats as I share one of the “mysteries” that I am still in the middle of…
I was getting dropped off at the airport for a trip to South Africa by a dear friend, and as I was getting luggage out of the car, she said to me, “I have been praying for you, and somehow I think the Lord has a job for you in South Africa. I saw a stream of light go from the top of Africa all the way to the tip as I was praying.” I was surprised and told her I would be praying about her words, as I know she seeks the Lord and listens well.
About ten minutes later after checking in for my flight, an elder from our church called to pray with me about my trip. His small group was studying light and Jesus throughout the Bible, and before praying he shared their discovery that when God said, “Let there be light” he then designated the sun to “rule” the day and the moon to “rule” the night. It seemed to them that light and authority were connected as they studied this. Revelation states that in heaven there is no light, as Jesus is the only light–i.e. the only authority. Interesting…
It seemed like I was getting some sort of progressive revelation–one conversation right after the next. Somehow the light from the top of Africa all the way to the bottom may have something to do with the authority of Jesus’ reign and rule. I was chewing on this as I boarded my first plane.
I sat next to an engineer who was headed to Italy and he asked me where I was going (South Africa). He pointed to the Delta flight magazine, saying South Africa was highlighted on the front of the magazine that month and maybe I should read it. (Incidentally it should be noted that I had been flying with Delta regularly for about 17 years at this point, and I had never seen South Africa highlighted in the magazine.) I started to read…
The article highlighted 5 cities in South Africa, one of them being Johannesburg. In Joberg, the article highlighted a place called “The Maboneng Precinct,” a vibrant urban renewal project in a very dark and historically dangerous part of Johannesburg. The article stated that someone (a developer I think) said, “Let there be light and there was light…in downtown Johannesburg.” I about dropped the magazine, as it was the 3rd reference to light and South Africa in the last 30 minutes…very mysterious, but I was definitely paying attention now!
I arrived in Joberg and headed to “the summit” for J-life African leaders outside of Joberg. The J-life president opened the first session of the summit by sharing that the prayer team who had been interceding over our time had gotten a picture of lightning bolts emanating out from South Africa into the rest of Africa. Once again, I just about fell off my chair. What is the Lord doing here in South Africa and Africa with light/authority? What, if anything, does it have to do with me? Crazy…
Well, that’s the mystery part of it. I still don’t know the answers to all of those questions. I seem to be on a personal journey, receiving revelations for each individual step as part of some bigger plan that He alone knows. Faith…the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
Back to the Maboneng Precinct (the picture above)…. After this strange trip full of “light,” I really wanted to see this place–to taste and see for myself, even following it on Facebook for the last 2 years. In August, my South African friends Sego, Gina and Smiley took me to see the Maboneng Precinct. As we were walking around this really cool Urban renewal area right in the middle of this devastated area of Joberg, I kept asking the Lord what He wanted me to see or hear. The message I seemed to hear repeatedly was…
“I can put light and life ANYWHERE. It doesn’t matter how dead or devastated it seems, I am LIGHT and I am LIFE.” (Ezekiel 37)
The mystery of my journey of “light” continues…
I proclaim, along with our Father, “Let there be LIGHT!” May He reign and rule in South Africa and on the continent of Africa as He does in heaven!
Generations of Blessing
“One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty…” Psalm 145:4-5
This Psalm was on my heart as I prepared to pray a blessing at my brother Jared’s wedding–a joyful celebration of grace!
In preparation for the blessing, I gathered Bibles from my Grandpa Bell and my Grandpa Doden as well as my new sister-in-law’s grandparents, as both sides have a rich heritage of faith in Jesus. This stack of our grandparents’ Bibles sat on a chair in the middle of my parents and Whitney’s parents during the wedding.
As I blessed Jared and Whitney and faced that stack of Bibles, I saw in it a beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness. He promised that He will show love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands, and He is faithful to His promises. In the midst of battles and struggles of our different family members, this is a promise that we claim and remind Jesus of often as we pray together on our Tuesday night family-wide prayer call.
That picture also brought such gratefulness in my heart for the faithfulness of our grandparents and parents who have sought the Lord and talked to us about their journey with Him.
I have the honor and privilege of investing in the same way with children coming behind me, some within my family and some within the broader family of Christ. How I pray that these kids will know and testify for themselves that Jesus is GOOD, and that He is big enough to do ANYTHING!
That’s what I believe and am talking to them about these days, even in the midst of my own battle for faith sometimes!!
Believing Him for a thousand generations…
Sometimes I just need a reminder…a reminder that He is present…a reminder that He never leaves me or forsakes me…a reminder that He is good and that His love endures forever.
Last week was one of those weeks, and He sent me several reminders–some with more “drama” than others.
After getting texts from friends one morning with pictures of a rainbow, this scene greeted me as I walked out of our ladies’ Bible study that night. I actually gasped when I saw it. The picture doesn’t begin to capture the full beauty of that sky. I called back to the Bible study girls to “come out here fast” as He was showing off and I didn’t want them to miss it!
We all stood there in awe for 5 or 10 minutes as we watched Him paint…paint His love, His faithfulness and His goodness across the sky!
That may sound cheesy or romantic to some, but I take these gifts personally because I think He gives them to me personally…if/when I have eyes to see.
He loves me, and He tells me to “proclaim His love in the morning, and His faithfulness at night.”
The bookends of that day–a rainbow in the morning and the glorious sunset at night–reminded me of His love for me in the “dark”…and of my own need to proclaim what I know to be true in my head though sometimes need a reminder of for my heart.
“You are good and your love endures forever!”
The Death of Heroes…Elizabeth Elliot
Elizabeth Elliot…I never met her, but she deeply impacted my life and slowly became one of my heroes.
I started reading her books while in the Philippines on a Teen Missions trip in high school–Passion and Purity was my first read. I then moved on to In the Shadow of the Almighty and These Strange Ashes, among others, in college and throughout my 20’s. These books marked me.
I have a shelf of books that are worth rereading no matter what season of life I am in… books that have touched me deeply once, and most likely will do so again with a re-reading. Several books on that shelf are written by Elizabeth Elliot.
She went home to be with Jesus last week. Her passionate pursuit of Jesus and her unwavering faith were and still will be a source of life, nourishment and encouragement in my own journey. She walked His mysteries of suffering, grief, work that went up in flames for seemingly no purpose and unfulfilled longings and desires, and yet she stood firm…in faith, in hope and in love of Christ.
She’s a hero of faith for me. Heroes are rare, and I celebrate her life, as I know our Father does too. She finished well…fighting the fight and keeping the faith.
Elizabeth Elliot is human, just like the rest of us, so, though I didn’t get to see them firsthand, I’m sure there were areas of failure and weakness in her. We all have them. Even with those, she showed me parts of Jesus and His character as she journeyed.
I desire, in and through my own weaknesses, to reflect the same Jesus that lived and breathed in Elizabeth Elliot!
A mountain view…
The beginning of a new year….there’s something so fresh about that…a new start, a new perspective, a new opportunity…a chance to “climb to the top of the mountain” and get an arial view before realities of daily life come galloping in.
On January 1st this year as I was exercising on my elliptical machine, I listened to a song that framed my “mountain perspective” to usher in the year 2015.
As is so often true for me, I need to be reminded frequently of my Father–His character, His work, HIs truth that NOTHING is impossible with Him. Hope almost always follows on the heels of His powerful reminders breathed over me in song or word, and this was His word to me on January 1st, 2015…
This is who He is…
You hear the cry of every broken heart
You give the hopeless soul a brand new start
You lead the captive in Your freedom song
This is who you are…
And in the night when all our hope is lost
You are the one who won’t give up on us
You hold the orphan in your loving arms
This is who you are…
I know this is who You are
I believe this is who You are
A daughter of my Father, The King of Kings. This is who He is…
A piano, Poland and Grandma Bell
What in the world do a Piano, Poland and my Grandma have in common? Well, there’s a story…
I knew my Grandma Bell as a gentle, sweet and lovely woman, even though her children sometimes affectionately refer to her as the “sergeant.” She was a homemaker extraordinaire, and our childhood was filled with wonderful smells of pies, cookies and fresh or canned garden vegetables at Grandma’s house.
In addition to her culinary skills, Grandma Bell was also was an accomplished pianist and a diligent student of God’s Word. She was trained at Moody Bible Institute and up until her death in her 80’s, my Grandma used her piano and her weekly Sunday School class to disciple young students and young adults. She left her family quite a legacy.
After my Grandma went to be with Jesus, she left me her treasured piano–one of her main discipleship tools. As I was living with roommates in a smaller condo at the time, I did not have the space for her piano. So, I asked dear friends of mine, Korban and Tanya Miller, if they would like to have a piano temporarily, knowing that it would be loved and used by Korban in both playing and teaching music, as he is an accomplished musician himself and was the lead worshiper at my home church.
About ten years went by, and in an amazing turn of events, Korban and Tanya and their kids made the life-changing decision to move to Poland to be part of a movement of God among the youth of Central and Eastern Europe with an organization called Josiah Venture. Together, Korban and Tanya are leading the launch of Poland’s evangelistic and discipleship music club called Fusion.
As they were packing a container of items to be shipped to Poland, they thought about Grandma’s piano and called me. What to do…a family heirloom with lots of memories, and a group of young people in Poland who would learn about music and Jesus using Grandma Bell’s piano. After some consideration and talking with some family, I decided that Grandma’s piano needed to go to Poland as her legacy was going international!
I visited Korban and Tanya in Poland for the first time this last November, and I got to see and celebrate Grandma’s piano in action. Grandma Bell’s gentle smile must light up her face in heaven as she and Jesus celebrate the use of her piano to disciple youth in Eastern Europe. She loved Europe. I’m so grateful for our heritage of faith in Grandma Bell and the joy of one generation “declaring His works to yet another.”
There’s nothing that moves our God like the faith of His people–believing God for who He says He is and all that He says He can do. He esteems it. He requires it. It moves Him.
Hebrews 11 is legendary in celebrating some of the “heroes of faith” in the pages of God’s story.
As the Lord has sent me to different corners of the world, I have had the honor and privilege of meeting Hebrews 11 “extension” heroes–people that would definitely be included if the chapter kept going. By faith, Svonko…
In November, I was in Slovenia, a former communist country in which the Spirit of God is moving in some powerful ways today. However, there was a time, not so long ago, when Slovenia was very dark, very foggy, and almost devoid of any overt sign of spiritual life. In the midst of the overwhelming hopelessness of communism and post-communism, there was at least one man, among others, who stood in FAITH–believing God can and would change the atmosphere–do the impossible. Svonko….
I’ve known Svonko for about 14 years now, and every time I enter the church where He serves in Ljubljana, Slovenia, I breathe life–faith, hope and love. Though he and I have had very few personal conversations, I’m so grateful for his life…for the way his bold faith challenges my own. God has honored his faith. He has seen Jesus move in power and is still believing Him to do more.
I needed fresh wind for my own faith journey that day in November, and Jesus gave me “manna” through this hero of faith as he spoke words of life from Ezekiel 37, “Prophecy to these dry bones….”
As I have the privilege of meeting, hearing about and reading many stories about heroes of faith, I choose to claim my spot in that lineage–the lineage of Abraham, my Grandpa and Svonko.
By faith, Laurie…for the glory and honor of my King.