Anchored

It’s been a stormy summer.

And I don’t just mean the weather, although we’ve had our share of those storms too. One early summer storm was so severe it spawned tornados and spewed hail the size of baseballs, leaving shattered windshields and shredded roofs in its wake! We’re still repairing the damage.

We’ve also endured medical storms. A late-night ER visit. MRIs. Shoulder surgery. Physical therapy. A root canal. We’ve weathered emotional storms–challenging situations both personally and professionally. (And did I mention the water well line leak that bubbled up in our backyard and required a backhoe to fix?)

None of these were more than tiny blips on the radar when the summer began. We charted our course, expecting smooth sailing. But storm clouds gathered and our plans scattered.

So what do you do when you find yourself tossed by waves in the middle of an unforeseen gale?

You anchor up.

I know this from watching “Deadliest Catch.” If you’re not familiar with this reality TV show, it chronicles the dangerous work of crab fishermen on the Bering Sea. In a recent episode, the fleet was warned of an approaching hurricane. Most of the captains quickly sought shelter in the nearest harbor, where they anchored to safely ride out the storm.

During our recent storms, I took refuge in the word of God. One verse in particular helped to steady me:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19a, NIV)

An anchor’s function is pretty obvious. But for those of us non-nautical types, here’s a basic definition just in case:

An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the craft from drifting due to wind or current. The word derives…from the Greek ankura.” (Wikipedia)

In Hebrews 6:19 the anchor is a metaphor “…for that which supports or keeps one steadfast in the time of trial or of doubt. It is an emblem of hope.” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary) W.E. Vine writes that “what an anchor is to a vessel in its tossings, so the hope is to us in our times of trial, difficulty and stress.”

I was fascinated to learn that the most common early Christian symbol was, in fact, not the cross (or the fish), but the anchor. Inscriptions on first century believers’ tombs often depicted anchors along with messages of hope.* In Roman catacombs, the ancient hiding places for persecuted Christians, one symbol appeared more often than any other: the anchor.** Some scholars believe the anchor was a word play in the Greek, noting the similarity between ankura and en kurio, or “in the Lord.”*

I found comfort in the two adjectives found in Hebrews 6:19. The Greek word for “firm” is asphales, which literally means “that which cannot be thrown down, tripped up, tottered or overthrown.” Bebaios is the Greek word for “secure,” and “speaks of something that does not break down under the weight of something that steps on it.***

I liked this summary from the Hebrews Commentary:

This hope which the believing soul has in the Lord Jesus is an anchor of the soul which cannot be made to totter nor break down when put under stress and strain.”

This anchor holds. It will not slip or snap under pressure. It can support the heaviest weight and withstand the strongest current.

And indelibly etched on this trustworthy anchor is a name: Hope. An unshakeable hope. Firmly embedded in a secure salvation.

The certain hope of our future salvation is an anchor to steady our souls while we wait on God in present storms.” (Stephen J. Cole)

We can hang on because Heaven is coming! On the other side of this storm called Life is a glorious future. One so amazing the Bible says we can’t begin to imagine it (1 Corinthians 2:9) and our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with it! (Romans 8:18)

But God not only promises a future salvation, but also a present help. He’s with us in the storms! We never face them alone.

No matter how turbulent the seas get, He won’t let go. No matter how fiercely the winds blow, He will hold onto us. We won’t drift into the rocks. We will not be destroyed.

Yes, it’s been a rough ride this summer. Wave after wave have rocked our little boat. But He’s sustained us through them all.

We’re still afloat. We’re anchored by Hope.

 

When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation. (Proverbs 10:25, NLT)

 

This song has become an anthem for me in the storms. Let Hope be your anchor!

Notes:

*From an article in Christianity Today.

**Jon Courson’s Application Commentary.

***Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament.

–The above painting is called “Ships in a Gale” by Dutch painter Willem van de Velde.

Share on Facebook

Images and Imaginings

Cruz Ultrasound ii

I have become an ultrasound nerd.

I realized this last week when some friends announced their pregnancy on Facebook by posting this early ultrasound picture. Yep, there’s the yolk sac, I thought to myself. I was actually kind of obsessed with it.

Official nerd status = confirmed.

At the local pregnancy center where I work we provide free ultrasounds to help determine a viable pregnancy or estimate the gestational age. As the Client Advocate, one of my responsibilities/ privileges is to chaperon these ultrasounds. It never gets old, peering through this window into God’s workshop, the womb.

With the advent of modern ultrasound technology, we’ve been granted unprecedented access to the heretofore hidden world of the unborn. As early as four weeks post-conception, we can visualize and measure a miniature beating heart! And I’ll never forget the time I witnessed a tiny six-week-old embryo move. MOVE. I had no idea.

But as amazing as this technology is, it has its limitations. Sometimes the image is fuzzy and undefined. Our eyes strain to identify the structures on the screen, in varying shades of gray. It’s an inexact science, an imperfect medium.

Much like our Christian life. Jesus has come and opened our eyes to an unseen spiritual realm we never knew existed. We now have some understanding of His activity. We get glimpses of His glory. But they are limited and incomplete. Like hazy pewter images pixelating on a distant screen.

The apostle Paul, despite the glorious revelations he received,* experienced this obscurity in his own spiritual journey. Listen to how he described the struggle in these different translations of 1 Corinthians 13:12:

…we see only an indistinct image in a mirror…what I know is incomplete…(ISV)

…we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror..all that I know now is partial and incomplete…(NLT)

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. (MSG)

Life on this side of heaven is like that. We strain to bring focus to our spiritual vision. We long for a clear and unobstructed view.

This past month, two clients graciously returned to our center to introduce us to their newborn babies. I had “met” these babies on the ultrasound screen some months ago, as they waved and kicked in grainy gray. But to see the color and definition of their perfect features, and to feel their warm bodies breathing on my chest was to know them in another realm entirely.

A day is coming when we will see Jesus face to face. Now we trace His image in black and white on the pages of His Word; some day we will touch the Living Word Himself. Now we “squint in a fog”; soon we will behold the Son in vibrant color, in all of His radiant glory. Now we sense His Spirit moving mysteriously in our midst; then we will feel the very breath of God on our faces as we melt into His enveloping embrace.

YES.

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul also shared the certainty of this hope:

Now we see only an indistinct image in a mirror, but then we will be face to face. Now what I know is incomplete, but then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (ISV)

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (NLT)

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! (MSG)

One day our faith will be made sight. The mist will clear and clarity will reign. This earthly womb we call “home” will give birth to a heavenly reality so beautiful we cannot even conceive of it.

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9, NLT)

So squint if you must. Imagine if you can. But hope always.

And remember, anything good in this life is just a faint echo, an imperfect image of unimaginably wonderful things to come.

*See 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 for more of Paul’s story.

**This song by Hillsong Worship, “Transfiguration,” has resonated with me lately along these lines:

Share on Facebook

For Good

WickedTheir facial expressions were difficult to distinguish from our perch in the upper balcony during last Saturday’s matinee performance of “Wicked.”  But even from that distance there was no mistaking Elphaba’s green face and Glinda’s golden curls as they began their farewell duet on the stage below.  In perfect harmony their voices intertwined, lifted and filled the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway.

“For Good” is a song about friendship and the difference one life can make in another.  I couldn’t help but think of some of the people I had been blessed to know in my lifetime who had helped to change ME for the better.  My heart pulsed with gratitude and my eyes pooled with tears as I pictured their familiar, loved faces.

Three days later, as our flight from La Guardia touched down at DIA and taxied to the gate, I took my iPhone off of airplane mode to check for messages.  Waiting for me was a text from my dear friend Bridget, letting me know that a mutual friend of ours had passed away that day.  His name was Doug.

Doug was one of those people.

He had the build of a teddy bear and the heart of a servant.  His laugh was infectious.  He possessed the rare kind of wisdom obtained only through enduring trials and hardship.  He was Godly.

I was a young Arizona college girl majoring more in Sorority Life than in Spiritual Life when I met him.  But he believed in me, gently but persistently encouraging me to attend campus ministry events and conferences.  I showed up at one conference to discover my registration had been anonymously paid in full.  I always suspected it was him.

Doug had incredible faith.  Following graduation we both felt called into full-time ministry.  Inspired by the biblical story of Nehemiah, who rebuilt the wall surrounding Jerusalem in 52 days, Doug believed God would raise his financial support in just 52 days.  He did.  (Mine took seven months.  But Doug cheered me on and helped me persevere.)

We spent a summer ministering in Turkey together.  I would never have had the courage to go overseas without his strong leadership and secure companionship.  He carried my unwieldy hard-sided suitcase all over that country and stood quietly by while I suffered the unpleasant effects of food poisoning.  He later returned to the Middle East, where he faithfully served the Lord alongside his family for many years.

Heaven will be a more populated place because of him.

I have no doubt he is there now.  I can just imagine him waiting patiently at the pearly gates to welcome his countless friends and spiritual children as they arrive, one by one.  He’ll greet them with a twinkle in his eye and wrap them in a warm bear hug.  Then he’ll grab their suitcase and take the lead, showing them around his Father’s kingdom, just like he did on earth.

For Good

I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.
 
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you.
I have been changed for good.
 
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part:
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you’ll have rewritten mine
By being my friend.
 

Thank you, Doug.  You and God changed so many lives for good.  I am eternally grateful to be one of them.

*Excerpt from “For Good” by Stephen Schwartz

Share on Facebook

Just Passing Through

I first met Diane when she joined our weekly “Moms in Touch” prayer group.  She and her family had recently moved to the prairies of Wyoming from the beaches of Georgia, where she had belonged to a similar group.  She knew the value of consistent, focused times of prayer for her children and quickly sought out a group to pray with here.

It’s funny how you can feel like you’ve known someone for awhile even though you’ve just met.  Fellowship in the Lord is like that.  Mothering children of similar ages and stages also creates an instant connection.  But opening up your heart and soul in prayer develops an understanding and an intimacy that goes even deeper.

I’m thankful for the time I had with Diane, for she and her family moved back to Georgia within a year, preferring the humid coast to the arid high plains. (And who could blame them?)  Wyoming was not their home.  It was almost as if they were just passing through, never meant to stay here permanently.

Today I received a call telling me that Diane had been diagnosed with cancer this past fall, and had passed away last month.  I hadn’t picked up on the one or two subtle references to health issues and difficulties on her Facebook page during that time.  But then, Diane wasn’t one to draw attention to herself.  Her focus, during the brief time I knew her, was always on others, especially her three kids.

And just like that, she’s gone.

I bet she prefers the crystal seas of heaven to the barren, in comparison, landscape of this earth.  (And who could blame her?)  This world was not her home.  She was just passing through.  She was never meant to stay here permanently.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20)

And now I’ve got another friend waiting for me there.

Beautiful Diane, on her GA beach

Share on Facebook

Safely Home

We anticipated some snow as we returned home from Colorado yesterday afternoon.  We just didn’t expect the roads to be this bad.  Cars were off the road on both sides of the highway.  Emergency vehicles, red lights flashing, were arriving at a couple of accident scenes.  Traffic in our northbound lane of the highway slowed to a crawl.

I gripped the wheel more tightly and began praying, out loud, since I was alone in the van.  Chris was a few miles ahead of me driving our daughter Emily’s car, which we had taken to the closest dealer for some repairs.  We had decided to forego our dinner plans as the snow began coming down there.  When we received the call that the car was ready we headed out in hopes of beating the worst of this winter storm.

The drive took twice as long as it normally did.  Going 30 mph for 30 miles would account for the extra time.  At one point I noticed my foot was shaking as I tried to keep even pressure on the accelerator and not cause the tires to lose traction.  I literally “prayed without ceasing,” and breathed a huge sigh of relief when the sign for our exit finally came into view.  As I eased the van off the highway, I was tired, tense and pitted out.

And very thankful to be safely home.

A couple of hours later we received another phone call.

“What I’m about to tell you is going to rock your world,” my friend said.  She proceeded to inform us that a mutual friend of ours was also traveling back to Wyoming that evening, from Colorado, on that same stretch of highway.  Only there had been a fatal accident.

And she didn’t make it home.

Shock.  Grief.  And…Guilt.  We were out there earlier.  Why did we arrive home safely when she didn’t?  Why had God answered our prayers for protection but not hers?  I spent the next few hours trying to wrap my brain around what had just happened, seeking to make some sense out of it all.

As I was getting ready for bed, it hit me.

She HAD made it home.

She was with Jesus, after all, the One who promised to prepare a place for us.  The One who said He would come and get us when it was ready.  The One who assured us that we would be with Him forever.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.  If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”  (John 14:1-3, NLT)

She was home.

Safely Home.

SNOW_CABIN

(Goodbye, dear Liz.  Please set a place for me at your table.  I will look forward to having tea together again with you someday.)

Share on Facebook