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?
Faith, Miracles and Babies
What a joy and privilege it has been this year to be an eye witness to two miracles of our God in the form of babies–my sister and my dear friend Alair.
Caleb and Alair Mitchell have been married for 16 years and, though God has given them two amazing and beautiful boys through adoption–Nico and Nate, they have not been able to conceive biologically. Caleb and the boys started praying for a baby sometime last winter, and I joined them in that prayer in April, around Alair’s birthday.
I was at a mutual friend’s house on a Sunday last June, and we got an unexpected knock at the door. Caleb and Alair and the boys stood outside, and Alair was weeping holding a positive pregnancy test in her hand. The JOY!!
As the Lord would have it, I got to be present, along with our friend Kim, for the birth of precious little Nora Jean in a bush hospital in Uganda, where Caleb and Alair serve as missionaries. I had a front row seat to a miracle of grace! Here are some pictures of this beautiful and miraculous experience:
A day after Alair found out she was pregnant, I had previously arranged a meeting between Alair and my sister Kara, who also struggled with infertility and was given a 3% chance to conceive naturally. Kara was in the process of starting a ministry to other families walking through that same pain and struggle, which is what the reason for meeting with Alair. Our family had started praying with Kara and Duce on our weekly family prayer call in April for the miracle of a baby, and we even had all the kids in our family lay hands on and pray for Kara and Duce’s miracle baby during our annual July 4th celebration!
Two weeks later, as I got back from a trip, there was a knock on my door at 10:30 at night. I opened the door and saw no one, but there was a stork in my yard. I was so confused until…Kara and Duce jumped out of my bushes and shared THEIR news! Another miracle and MORE joy!!!
Just last week I got to witness the precious birth of this little boy born in faith and prayer. Our little Race Sterling Bishop. Words cannot describe my awe or my celebration in seeing our God’s design in the miracle of life or in tasting of this sweet answer to the faith-filled prayers of our entire family–from the 3 year old up to the almost 80 year old–in the person of this little boy. Here are some pictures of God’s beautiful answer to our requests:
Miracles…some have already come and thankfulness is overflowing, and some are still on their way and are waited for in faith and hope.