The time I got hit by a car while jogging.The time I was not awarded the scholarship to college that everyone thought was a shoe-in.The time I transferred colleges and met my husband in a biology lab I should not have had to take.These are the one-line titles of just a few of my redemption stories. If you read my blog or hang out around me long enough, you might just hear the whole story. How about you? When is the last time you told a story of how God rescued and redeemed you in a particular moment or season of your life?Asaph, the author of Psalm 78, convincingly argues that God’s people must know and share their stories of redemption. In the seventy-two verses of the Psalm, he demonstrates how far astray God’s people can go when they forget his mighty miracles and wonderful deeds. Right in the middle of the Psalm, Asaph reminds us of the surest hope of a forgetful people—our God never forgets to be merciful. Let’s look at how it breaks down:Part 1. A Call to Remember and Tell (Psalm 78:1-8)Asaph implores the Israelites to remember and tell of God’s redemptive work. When they recite his “glorious deeds” and “the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4b, ESV), the next generation will “set their hope in God…[and] keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:7, ESV). When the Israelites remember their stories of redemption, they won’t follow in the fleeing footsteps of their “stubborn, rebellious,” ancestors (Psalm 78:8, ESV).
Have you seen the Capital One Financial ads, asking the customer, “What’s in your wallet?” It’s meant to convince potential customers that we need to have a Capital One credit card in our personal wallet.I think a question we can ask each other is, “Who’s in your cloud of witnesses?” (Hebrews 11), or who are the faith heroes we look to as role models to follow for life and ministry?Helen Roseveare is one of my heroes. Her wisdom has soaked over my life as I’ve read her books and listened to talks she gave during her life. I’ve kept her words in the pocket of my heart, so to speak, and the dividends have enriched my relationship with Christ and ministry.Helen was a British missionary, doctor, and author. She worked in the Congo from 1953 to 1973, including part of the period of political instability in the early 1960’s. She practiced medicine and trained others in medical work. She remained single until she met her eternal Bridegroom face to face in 2016 at the age of ninety-one.Here are three (of many!) ways Helen has discipled me to follow Christ more faithfully:Humor can be a godly tool in our ministry tool belt. Helen was funny! She was able to poke fun at herself and life itself in a way that softened the hearts of her audience. I appreciate that she used humor not to shame others, self-exalt, or self-deprecate but rather to reveal her humanity in a way that lifted the gaze of her audience to Christ and the cross…
The church I attend recently began a small-group discipleship ministry for our women. As part of getting to know each other better, the leader of my group asked us to share a little-known fact about ourselves. I decided to tell the group about living in Argentina in the early-1970’s. The usual questions regarding life in a foreign country followed, accompanied by my well-practiced answers. Being so far away from family and friends at a time when communication was limited to snail mail was decidedly difficult, but the opportunity to experience a different culture and learn a second language was priceless.We spent two years abroad because my dad accepted a temporary transfer to work for the Argentine subsidiary of his U.S. employer. Thus, part of the pre-move preparations involved my parents’ 2-week, company-paid attendance at a local Berlitz total-immersion language school. It was a stressful, morning-to-night grind, no English allowed.Unlike my beleaguered parents, I began my language studies once we landed in Argentina. I was enrolled in an American school where I had classes in English in the morning and classes in Spanish in the afternoon. That, plus daily interaction with native speakers in our community, provided an excellent learning environment. Nonetheless, my parents hired a tutor to help me with the intricacies of sentence structure and verb tenses.Community ImmersionJust as I benefitted greatly from learning Spanish in a Spanish-speaking country, Christians thrive best when we’re part of God’s visible church. Scripture is clear that each of us has an important, God-ordained place in His body (1Corinthians 12:12-30) and that we should not neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25). Furthermore, God’s family is composed of members of varying ages, abilities, and spiritual maturities, just like biological families. We are called to do life together in compassionate covenant communities, where we rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn and come alongside each other to teach, support, and encourage according to the gifts we’ve been given (Romans 12:3-21).
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two part series on the story of Abraham. To read the other post, click here.
Amid the unspeakably gorgeous mountain setting at the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina, a simple photograph made an indelible impression on me. The photo captured a wooden desk lined with Bibles and other study helps, several open at once; the desk belonged to Ruth Graham. For nearly a year, this picture has not left my mind and it’s made me curious to learn more about Billy Graham’s beloved wife. In her book It’s My Turn, Ruth remembers striving to get her way during their early years of marriage. In his gracious but firm tone, Billy once responded, “God will lead me and you will do the following.” She closed her chapter by stating, “I’ve been following ever since.”
These remarks by Billy and Ruth beautifully depict the image of Christ and his church. As we place our faith in Christ and believe in his goodness, we will follow as he leads. In doing so, a beautiful story unfolds.
In the first nine verses of Genesis Chapter 12, God does all of the speaking. He asked Abram for a dramatic response and gave an overview of the dramatic promises to follow. There are no recorded words from Abram. Only action. “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him” recounts verse 4. God is leading and Abram is following. It is simple and difficult at the same time.
Through Abram’s first steps toward the Promised Land, there are truths to apply to the journey you and I are on today.
Last week, four of us gathered as elders’ wives to pray for our growing church-plant and our husbands. My friend, Susan, had news. She had officially registered to adopt! I felt my stomach flip. An unfamiliar mixture of joy and bitterness clouded my congratulations. I tried to shake it off, but I realized I felt (perhaps) how a woman who has been unsuccessfully trying to conceive feels when her friend announces a pregnancy. I wanted to be happy— I am happy— but a gnawing jealousy arose.
My family and I are planting a church in a “security-sensitive” country. This past year, two of our team families were deported and our own visa was put on hold (and still is). The anti-foreigner (especially “anti-foreign religion”) government has been sniffing out suspicious activity and deporting at will. It is not a stretch to say we could be asked to leave tomorrow.
At the beginning of 2018, before all the unhappy deportations started, my husband and I decided we were going to pursue adoption. A new law made it possible for foreigners to adopt, as long as the child was disabled in some way. We waited for the allotted two weeks to get our visa approved so we could start the adoption process. Two weeks turned into months, a year, and now 14 months. We continue to wait for the government to give us official permission to stay here.
On New Year’s Day, my children were splashing in the ocean while my toes were curled in the sand. It was a gift of a beach trip after weeks of gray skies and rain clouds at home. My daughter enjoyed staying an extra few days at the beach with my Mama, her Gramma, after the rest of our family headed home. Upon picking her up, the joy on both of their faces told me they had thoroughly enjoyed their time together. They recounted how they talked and played music and laughed all the way home.
I remarked to my daughter that road trips with Mama were one of my favorite childhood memories. Mama is all about a road trip. I remember the sunroof open, The Judds playing on repeat, and stopping for TCBY— back when frozen yogurt was a novelty. The destination could have been the beach, a visit to my brother in Virginia, a shopping day in Atlanta, or a whirlwind weekend in New York City. It saddens me to even consider all that I would have forsaken had I responded to her fun-loving invitations with questions or stalling. In those tender years, she was my faithful guide and my willingness to follow her has led me to find some of my favorite people, places, and possibilities.
The Road Trip of a Lifetime
In chapter 12 of Genesis, Abram received an invitation by the Lord God to “go from your country.” The God of all creation spoke into the life of this seventy-five-year-old man and invited him on a road trip.