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…
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.
She can laugh…
Proverbs 31 uses “she can laugh at the days to come…” to describe this “famous” (or infamous some tired women might say!) wife of noble character.” My aunt also wrote a book by that title when I was in college, so it has been a significant phrase to me!
As I was standing in my kitchen a couple mornings ago, getting ready to have tea and chocolate with Jesus, I looked up and saw this:
I had bought the sunflowers as a gift for some women in a summer discipleship group as a visual reminder that our beauty comes as we turn our faces and strain toward the Son, just as sunflowers do. “Those who look to Him are radiant and their faces are never covered with shame.”
The plaque behind that was a gift from a friend and is one of my favorite names of God…The God of Angel Armies. “I know who goes before me. I know who stands behind. The God of Angel Armies is always by my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine. The God of Angel Armies is always by my side….”
It struck me that morning that, if the first picture is happening in my life–I am turning my face toward the Son and gaining His beauty–and then by faith I’m believing that He is The God of Angel Armies who is always by my side…
I really CAN laugh at the days to come!!!
My desire is to live as a Proverbs 31 woman–a radiant face, a BIG God and lots of laughter at the days to come.
Faith…from the classroom to the field
Faith…BELIEVING God for who He is, what He says, and what He does.
A new favorite faith song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YJ4vddbJJo
I have been in “school” learning about faith recently, and this class has been a tough graduate level course. Having known and walked with Jesus since I was 5 years old, I thought my “faith” education was pretty well-rounded, but I was moved from the classroom to “the field” in this last season. Here are some of my lessons–some new insights along with some known truths that have been under “divine review,” as I like to call it.
- Is grown in the darkness of no “sight.” “…Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” Isaiah 50:10 “We live by faith, not by sight.” II Corinthians 5:7
- Waits…ALOT and often for a LONG time. Hebrews 11 has many accounts of waiting. Not a favorite for me.
- Is in some way foundational to my healing and the answering of my requests. “Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.” Matthew 9:22
- Is proved genuine through suffering. “These [suffering of grief in trials] have come so that your faith…may be proved genuine…” I Peter 1:7
- Is a mystery. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Heb. 11:1
- Is not legitimized by the “outcome” but by the process of faith itself. “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised….”
- Is NOT the same as reason and often isn’t “reasonable”: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead…and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God…” Rom. 4:18-21
- Is a HUGE weapon in times of battle–a shield. “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16
- Is VERY pleasing to God. In fact, “without faith, it’s impossible to please God.” “…But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” Heb. 11:6 and Heb. 10:38
- Is ultimately in the person of Jesus Christ and for His glory. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23, I Peter 1:7
His love and commitment to teaching me is amazing and persistent. I’m thankful for my Father’s “hands-on” classroom, even though it’s often “pain that brings gain.”
Miracles of grief…
One year ago in April, I experienced a death.
While not a physical death, which has a permanency that is both devastating and irreversible, yet still a death, as a person I respect and love suddenly disappeared from my life with little explanation, ushering me into a year of pain, grief, darkness, questioning, and deep–and sometimes even unwanted–lessons of faith.
It’s been that kind of year….
In encountering the unexpected length, depth and nature of grief, how grateful I am for family/friends who have walked this journey with me and for Jesus–Jesus as Hebrews describes Him–One who is familiar with my weaknesses and who experienced and sympathizes with my pain. He lost those He loved and mourned for them as well. Those stories are well-worn in the pages of my Bible this year as I have sought His presence, comfort and love–the death of Lazarus, the beheading of John the Baptist, the weeping over Jerusalem.
In walking through a recent event/season marked by the presence and special memories of my lost loved one, I happened to be reading the story of Jesus’ grief and the death of John the Baptist yet again. A profound realization struck me….
Miracles often followed or attended Jesus’ grief.
The death of Lazarus, marked with weeping and questions, ended in the revelation of Jesus as THE Resurrection and THE Life, bringing joy and amazement to the hearts of Mary and Martha and great glory to God, as Jesus proclaimed in advance that it would.
Jesus’ time alone with His Father after hearing the news of His cousin John’s death was interrupted by the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes–the Bread of Life for well over 5000 people.
His broken heart over His children in Jerusalem led Jesus straight to the cross where His miraculous victory over death, sin, and hell has become our victory as well. He is RISEN. He is risen INDEED.
Miracles. HIS miracles that came in/through grief. I’m asking for those too. Resurrection and Life. Kingdom food for lots of people. Victory.
My Father says that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”
I’m counting on His promises…and…I’m asking for His miracles.
Have you ever had one of those gifts that only you knew you really wanted or were looking for, but then all the sudden it showed up, as a gift straight from Jesus? Well, that was my recent experience in South Africa.
Journals have always been important to me–special. I am not one who journals every day, but some things just need to be recorded–life journeys, journeys with God, stones of remembrance. Those are the sorts of things that make their way into my journals. Each journal marks a season of life somehow. I can look at a journal and am reminded about so many things in that particular season. Some of my journals are just a “purchase” but others are really a stone of remembrance.
Last August, I had just finished a journal recording some very dark and hard places, and I felt like the Lord had a special journal for me for the next leg of the journey. He had put a particular store on my mind for a journal, but when I got there, the store was actually out of business and there was a second hand store there instead. I thought it was strange that He put that store on my heart and then it didn’t exist, so I just decided to go into the second hand store and look anyway. Would you believe that there was ONE journal. I didn’t even know that these stores would sell a journal, but they did AND it was new and not written in. I just knew it had been specially picked for me–for this season. Here it is:
Funny thing, but when I saw it, I wasn’t that excited. It was monochrome. It wasn’t very pretty, and “growing things in silence” didn’t sound very fun to me. Truth be told, it hasn’t been fun–at all–but in coming to the end of this journal I wrote in ink in a circle around that tree, “…They will be called OAKS of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:3. That’s my prayer…that this season and the roots that grow in deep places in sorrow and suffering will produce strength and fruit from Jesus like none other and that I will display His splendor somehow.
As I closed out this journal during my trip to Africa, I felt like the Lord had a new journal for me specifically from South Africa for this next season for some reason. When I was there in early March, I had asked one of the women at the conference if she knew where I could buy a South African journal in Johannesburg. She gave me a couple of great ideas, and I was heading to the city that next Saturday and was going to look.
Right before I left Camp Eden, I had breakfast with John and Lorna Abrahmse, two dear friends that run a ministry called J-life where I was staying and participating in their annual summit. As breakfast was being prepared I was talking with Lorna and saw a bar of chocolate on the table–a kind I had never seen before. I asked about that flavor, and she said, “Oh, that’s actually for you, and this is too,” and she handed me a journal–a South African journal.
I was actually somewhat speechless, because, as many of you know, I always have tea and chocolate every morning with Jesus–even in Africa, though it’s a little melty there sometimes :-), and I had just run out that very morning. And…the journal. Lorna had no idea that I was planning to go to Johannesburg to buy a South African journal, but the Giver of all good gifts did. He amazes me. In addition to the gift of a South African journal, He even gave me one that is fun and colorful for this next season! I’m so excited about that, let me just tell you!
His gifts–He knows us and provides for us in intimate ways if we have eyes to see–sometimes before we even ask. Thank you, Lorna, for your sweet generosity and for being the conduit of His good gifts to me! I’m so grateful…
God’s got an army…
Having just spent two weeks in Africa, I came back with significant things on my heart and mind–kingdom things.
It has to do with Light and Darkness and an army that God is raising up, and I would love to invite you to be a part of this army!
Before leaving for Africa, a couple friends shared about light. One had been praying for my trip and shared that she saw a stream of light move across Africa. An elder at our church and a friend, not even two hours later, shared that he was reading Genesis with Jesus constantly in mind. God’s first command is “let there be light.” The sun was commanded “to govern” the day and the moon “to govern” the night. He noted that “light” brings governance and authority. Having just completed a study of Revelation, he further noted that Jesus is the ONLY light in heaven, proclaiming that no other authority/light is needed. Jesus is it!
“What does that have to do with Africa?” you might ask! Great question!
(Pictured below are some of the warriors in hand to hand combat on the ground throughout Africa. I met and spent time with many of them on this last trip and some of them I have known for years!)
In attending a “summit” of African ministry leaders in February, our South African leader shared a picture that had come from their intercessory team praying over Africa and our time together. It was a picture of streams of light, sort of like lightning bolts, shooting throughout the continent of Africa.
Now call me crazy, but it seems like Jesus is sending some sort of message about LIGHT in Africa through all different sources, and light has to do with authority! Much of Africa has a foundation of witchcraft, demonic, dead men’s bones, corruption, fear, and ancestor worship. As many times as I have been in Africa and spent time with my loved African brothers and sisters, I had NO IDEA some of the things that are accepted as absolutely normal in a cultural setting, even a Christian African setting, until this trip as generational sin and bondage were addressed.
The enemy has held authority in some of these areas for generations–FAR TOO LONG. I believe that our King Jesus wants to expose some of these dark things, bringing His light and authority to the foundations of the African continent. If that’s true, then we have a WAR on our hands, though the Victor is assured and absolute!
I believe the Lord is calling the church to battle more actively for freedom from the tyranny of the enemy’s authority in Africa. Even though I don’t understand it fully, prayer holds POWER in the heavenly realms and brings His kingdom on EARTH as it is in heaven. (Read Revelation 8:1-5 if you have any doubts about that. Wow!).
Would you be willing to be one of the warriors of light that will pray His light and authority into the foundations of the African continent in this season? Will you commit one time a day, one time a week, one time a month–some sort of true commitment marked on your calendar–to pray for Africa by yourself, with your family, with your small group?
If so, it would be wonderful to hear from you, just for encouragement. I am serious about being part of God’s army recruitment in this season as “Aslan is on the move” in Africa and I want to join Him. Will you?
Beauty in Dying
Last weekend I had the honor of attending the funeral of Judy Fisher, the mom of my elementary and high school friends, Wyatt and Eric. Her death was so very unexpected–a tragic car accident days after celebrating their 50th anniversary and 4 days before the actual anniversary date. Death. So hard. So unexpected. So NOT the way it was supposed to be.
As I was driving to the funeral, it was pouring down rain–flash flood pouring. It seemed like Jesus’ tears to me–weeping at death. Lazarus’ death–Judy’s death. It’s personal to Him. I know that, and I believe this dear family does too. It’s not His plan.
As we were heading to the gravesite, the sun started shining. While driving, I noticed the incredible beauty of the trees with the sun on their leaves. It’s fall. The leaves are dying…going into hibernation, awaiting His breath that brings life to spring–kind of like Judy, although her spring was also immediate. Jesus. Joy. Laughter. Perfection. It’s us that await the breath of spring, not really her.
Even so, as I looked at the trees, I was thinking how like God it is to put beauty in dying. Doesn’t seem like there is much about dying that’s good, and yet there’s beauty, which means He’s present in it, as there is no beauty apart from Him. In nature, the beauty comes through changing leaves, fall colors and fading flowers, but with Judy’s death, it came through words of honor from her oldest son, the testimony of Christ in song and word in the service, a tribute by a dear family friend, the reflection of Christ’s resurrection’s power spoken by her younger son, and the grief of friends and family who deeply mourned and loved Judy, as she lived beautifully.
There was beauty there–in the midst of darkness and death. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art WITH me.” There’s no beauty apart from Him.
Beauty in dying…how very like Him.
Dancing On Ashes
For any of you who have ever sat in a pit of darkness or despair, needing just a taste of faith or hope–a touch of Jesus, I write of my current journey for you…
A couple months ago, I had a “fire”–a time where something very precious and valuable was suddenly gone–burned up quickly and unexpectedly, taking my breath away. It often still does. This loss has shaken my core and my faith like nothing else ever has.
Since the “fire,” I’ve been sitting in ashes, trying to sort through remnants of things. There are so many questions that have no answers. I have cried out, sometimes hourly, asking the Lord to answer me, to rescue me, to fill me, to comfort me, to speak to me, and to hold me. He has faithfully met me in so many different ways–friends/family, nature, His word, songs, notes–and yet, the questions have still plagued me. I often smell like smoke, tasting the ashes along with the saltiness of many tears.
Recently, in a time of seeking Him with my sister, Jesus gave me a picture–an image in my mind…I was clothed in a white dress and I was sitting on a pile of ashes with a house burned down all around me. Ashes…ashes everywhere. As I lifted my face from sifting hopelessly through the ashes, I saw Jesus standing right in front of me with His hand outstretched. He was asking me to dance…DANCE of all things. Seriously?? Can He not see that things are a little messy right now…and dark…and hopeless and that the last thing I feel like doing is dancing?? He does see, and He’s still asking. He wants me to dance…to dance on the ashes…with Him.
I cannot describe what the Lord did in my heart in that moment and the hope that flooded my soul…Immanuel. He’s here.
He will not leave me here in the ashes. He has a plan, and it includes DANCING! There’s joy somewhere ahead. I can’t quite see it yet, but it’s coming. He says it is. I just have to stand up, trust Him, take His hand and…dance. What does that mean practically? I don’t know exactly, but He’s teaching me.
As we started to dance, He picked up a handful of ashes and started to breathe on them, and when GOD breathes…there’s LIFE!!
My heart is different, even though my circumstances are not…yet. Peace…Joy….
Following this picture, He brought the line of a song to my mind–“beauty will rise.” Once I found it, I played the entire song, sobbing my way through. I didn’t know the full lyrics to this song–only the one phrase that He had brought to my mind, The words could not have been a more vivid portrayal of the picture He had just given: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJynET3b3PM
“Out of these ashes, beauty will rise and we will dance among the ruins and we will see him with our own eyes…”
I accept your outstretched hand, Jesus. I choose faith. I choose to dance with You among the ashes….Beauty will rise (Is 61:3). You ARE the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25) Behold, You are making all things new (Rev. 21:5). I believe, help me in my unbelief…
I’m still mid-journey at the moment, and though your journey may be very different from mine, how I pray that Jesus’ touch in my dark, lonely place, will multiply like loaves and fishes of faith and hope in the lives of some of you who may still be sitting in the midst of “ashes.” Others’ stories of faith are doing the same for me.