Friday, July 27, 2012

Ain't Heavy til Today

Dedicated to John and Paula, your precious children, and your beloved Mallory.

It has been a week of tears, a week of grieving unfathomable loss.

One week ago, our friends lost their fifteen-month-old daughter in a drowning accident.

I had just gotten around to a rare nap (much desired after a late night session with a sewing machine and a flurry-of-activity morning) when the phone call came. I kept adjusting the direction of my cell phone in a groggy effort to understand the urgent voice, the broken words, the long and halting pauses.

When I pieced together the sentence fragments and realized the tragedy, all I could do was cry. I held the sobbing mother in clumsy arms over a phone line as we wept together. Within fifteen minutes, and during countless hours in days to follow, I wrapped real arms around a sister with unending questions, doing my best to answer.

Some answers came from Scripture. Some came from my heart. Some will come from God in the right timing, as they may be borne. And some answers belong only to Heaven.

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
~ Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)

The "law of Christ"—His singular command—is this simply: "Love one another."

My own plate is so full. I sometimes stagger under its weight. Two weeks ago, I would have said I absolutely do not have extra hours. I'd have said I cannot take on another load.

Yet from the hand which sets divine appointments, the hours materialized. A visit to the doctor had already been rescheduled. Another commitment was easily maneuvered. All three of our employed family members were off work and home when the phone call came. On successive days, there was always someone home with my children as various opportunities arose to help smooth the way or comfort or perhaps simply weep with people I dearly love.

And although I've fallen into bed exhausted at the end of such days, (for weeping wearies a soul), the same divine hand of our loving Lord provided necessary strength in response to prayers. I cannot say that I have ministered to anyone, but rather, the Lord has ministered through me. Only God owns what is needed in such an impossible situation.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
~ Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

Today—(*sigh*)—today presents the only true burden to me. Today is the memorial service. Today the family lets go all over again.

Today, I won't be there.

Today is the one day that plans that cannot be rescheduled. Today I am a thousand miles away. Today, I cannot wrap arms around a grieving mother and help carry her burden.

Today is the only day I feel laden down.

However heavy the burden was earlier in the week, I did not feel its weight as long as I could help carry it.

words written by Bob Russell and Bobby Scott

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where

But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there

For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

If I'm laden at all
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another

It's a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we're on the way to there
Why not share

And the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy he's my brother

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Blog post Copyright 2012, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

The copyright for words of "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" could not be determined and is reserved to its holder.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Mercy of Drought

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—
after they've tried everything else."
~ Winston Churchill

Do we still live up to these words? Did we ever, truly?

: : :

"When I shut up heaven and there is no rain …"
~ 2 Chronicles 7:13 (NKJV)

In the Bible, numerous times, drought is mentioned as a specific signal of God's displeasure with wickedness. (See Leviticus 26:18-20; Deuteronomy 28:23-24; Jeremiah 14; Haggai 1:11) His intent in withholding rain, always, was that when His people became desperate during resulting famine, they would repent and return to Him.

And so, this last Sunday during prayer time, when my third and fourth grade Sunday School children listed an overnight sprinkle among the things to give thanks for, we also asked for more. We asked God, in His mercy, to send our parched land rain. And we also asked that if He's using drought to get the attention of people, would He please move them to turn toward Him.

"God thunders marvelously with His voice;
He does great things which we cannot comprehend.
For He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth';
Likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength."
~ Job 37:5-6 (NKJV)

Tuesday brought record heat to our area, bleaching brittle grass impossibly pale. That evening, as we exited the air-conditioned house of friends, we discovered the outdoor temperature had plunged. I wrongly guessed it to be no more than seventy. Eighty degrees never felt as cool and refreshing. I raised face and arms toward Heaven and declared, "Rain on us, Lord!" Another voice mentioned the torrential spring flooding and chimed in, "But not too much!"

Later, in my heart, over and over, my spirit whispered to God. Reign over us, Lord. Please change the spelling and preposition of my prayer.

The heavens whispered back intermittent sprinkles that night and Wednesday. Then yesterday, a gentle and generous rain fell almost continuously. My soul was moved by its tenderness upon fragile earth, keenly aware of God's compassion for the frailty of His creation.

Today the skies are blue. I tremble to consider the might of God and the love of God, wondering if enough people will keep their faces turned toward the Creator.

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you."
~ John 5:14 (NKJV)

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2012, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Change, Part III: No Such Thing as Normal

As I conclude three posts to explain some changes in my life, I beg your indulgence for today's extra words.

normal : adj 1 conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected

There is no such thing as a normal life. We and our lives are unique, extraordinary, and filled with the unexpected.

When events in life turn our routines upside down, we adjust to what we call "the new normal"—as if life will now become "usual, typical, expected."

For most of my Christian walk, I expected change and even sought it, because I understood that becoming more like Jesus meant continual change away from my B.C. life. Aside from some "still learning the ropes" resistance during early years, I came to roll with the punches, accepting that whatever life threw at me was allowed by God, and His plans are always good.

Then life started throwing some serious punches. Slander. Persecution. Oppression. Personal attack from people who matter. Relationship losses. Injuries to myself and my loved ones.

I knew the right response was a balance between asking for accountability and extending grace and forgiveness. I expected things to turn out okay if I did these things. But my expectations weren't met, while the punches came harder and faster.

By spring of 2010, depression dogged me. My health suffered. I overcame the darkest depression in December 2010-January 2011 through purposeful Bible-reading and prayer (though depression still licks at my heels).

I thought I'd adjusted to stresses of "the new normal."

Then life threw its hardest punches yet. I can't say I've suffered more than anyone else. Cancer (and its debilitating pain) snuffed out the life of my bright sister-in-law and left behind her three young children. Christians are badly tortured for their faith in greater numbers than ever before. Atrocities prevail across the globe and in my neighborhood. Who am I to complain?

My precious sister reminded me that it never works to compare our circumstances to the good or bad of others. No matter how much someone else suffers, it doesn't mitigate our own suffering.

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NKJV)

The punches, for now, have mostly relented. My physical health has yet to bounce back. My cardiologist is working on ways to ease discomfort, but my characteristic stamina and drive remain at a fraction of what they were three years ago. (Good thing they started out so high, LOL!) My new reality is that I can accomplish less in a day than to what I'm accustomed.

Something had to go. The time is fitting for God to close the door to all entailed with a publishing deal for my biblical fiction. A book contract seemed within reach—my skill is polished, my writing clean, my story well-crafted, my publishing agent highly regarded. But I write real-life-messy and carve out the Bible's not-so-neat solutions. An editor dangling a book contract requested I change my style. Readers want escape and entertainment, after all. I apologetically offered, "I'm not [well-known author]." Editor replied, "Why wouldn't you want to be?"

The blow of the question didn't hurt nearly as hard as everything else I've been through. In hindsight, I see that the sting necessarily stiffened my spine.

I've written plenty about the need to die to Self for the name of Jesus Christ, and (please, Lord!) may I never refuse that invitation. But I must also be true to the person God calls me to be.

So after four-plus years with a publishing agent, I am exiting publishing circles—at least for now. Temptation suggests that my battle-weary soul go one step further and withdraw from all public activity to simply rest.

But online ministry is a door the Lord holds firmly open. I once posted and tweeted daily, and now struggle to post to my blog once or twice a week, to dialogue with the readers I dearly love, to make it over to Twitter at all.

It is sufficient.

By God's grace and strength, I will continue extolling Him and edifying His body, whether online or wherever I step, however not-normal life gets, for as long as I draw breath.

: : :

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I
may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
~ St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Change, Part II: Purpose and Place

Numerous changes are going on in my life. Three days of posts (yesterday, today, tomorrow) will share them with you.

"The purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
~ Westminster Catechism

Though this creed is not quoted from a Bible verse, it is entirely consistent with the whole of Scripture. I'd go so far as to say the purpose of God might be to glorify Himself and bring mankind to enjoy Him forever.

The goal above all goals, stated yesterday, is to become more like Jesus. The nature of Christ is to glorify the Father and enjoy Him, and thus the goal achieves the purpose.

Can we hope to obtain greater satisfaction than in achieving a goal which brings us to fulfill our purpose?

Toward these ends, the Lord entrusts us with gifts and talents. If such blessings are either squandered or buried, we may expect from our Master the due punishment for wasting what is precious. If we wisely utilize our gifts and talents, we are assured of a reward commensurate with our efforts. (Matthew 25:14-30)

To invest our blessings for temporal reward is to waste them. The only sure investment is to place our blessings where they reap spiritual returns.

My personal ministry is to edify the saints—to "build up the body of Christ." I aspire to do so with the gifts God has given me by speaking truth with love in a spirit of Christian unity, and by extending comfort and counsel where I encounter trouble and trial. I've been told I have a gift for such things—that these are my strengths.

But now, after many changes, I find I am weak.

For God made my heart weak,
And the Almighty terrifies me.
~ Job 23:16 (NKJV)

The more a person learns about a particular discipline, the easier one expects the discipline to become.

Not so for walking with God.

When I started walking with Jesus and began to comprehend the depth of my sin, my ambition became to grow out of it. I think I've been subconsciously waiting for a plateau which allows a rest from spiritual climbing. But the climb has become steeper and more arduous, filled with pitfalls, finally taxing the remnant of my strength.

I have wanted to lie down and rest, believing I have no more strength from which to minister. In confusing ministry and goals and purpose, I've even questioned if my gifts are exhausted.

I find instead that I have a deeper well of comfort from which to counsel. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) Having been broken by trial, I feel more acutely the anguish of the broken-hearted. The quality of my mercy is richer for those who are oppressed. I speak more fluently to despair now that I have been plunged beneath its murky waters.

Did I truly expect that I a spiritual walk would bring me to a place of strength, where I need God less? I have instead arrived at the place of weakness, where I know I need Him all the more.

I do not like being in the place where I am weak.

But God says such a place fulfills my purpose.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)

Amen, Lord. So be it.

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2012, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Change, Part I: Knowing the Goal

Numerous changes are going on in my life. Posts will appear for the next three days to share them with you.

When change inevitably arrives on our doorstep, our ability to accept it is directly related to our perception of whether the change brings us closer to or farther from reaching our goals.

Life has laid an extraordinary number of life changes on my doorstep in recent years. Each change brought something different: 
• fulfillment
• discipline
• relationship
• the delight of sharing something valuable
• victory
• defeat
• suffering
• weakness
• despair
• the excitement of open doors
• the disappointment of closed doors
• the agony of waiting on thresholds

My level of acceptance conincided directly with my perception of its relation to my goals. My goal was to fulfill what I believed to be my purpose, which I based on the personal ministry laid before me by the Lord about ten years ago:

… to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ …
~ Ephesians 4:12

But goals and ministry and purpose are all different things. Furthermore, even if I accurately understand my ministry, I can fail to set a primary goal that coincides with my Father's goal for me.

The Father's goal, always, is to make each of us more like His Son Jesus.

Lesser goals must dovetail into that goal. If they lead in any other direction, or if they become our higher goal, they must either be released or will eventually prove idolatrous—even if they are otherwise good and worthy goals.

And so, when change arrive—change in circumstances beyond our control—it can be examied through the lens which has its sights set on one of our lesser goals, or through a lens sighting in God's goal.

Perception makes all the difference.

Planned for Tomorrow: Change, Part II – Purpose and Place

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2012, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Defining Moments, Quiet Moments

When life imposes burdens that we have no choice but to bear, the choice we retain is the manner in which they are borne.

It is good for a man to bear
The yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone and keep silent,
Because God has laid it on him …
~ Lamentations 3:27-28 (NKJV)

The world asks how a good God could allow so much suffering. The short answer is that God allows free will, free will leads to bad decisions which invite sin and death, and it is sin and death which bring suffering.

Faith in Jesus Christ and the salvation purchased with His blood sets us free from sin's eternal penalty. The Holy Spirit teaches us to walk in liberty from the power of sin. But we obtain no free pass from the suffering which exists in a sinful world.

God could allow His own to endure a lesser degree of suffering, might lay upon His children lighter burdens. God's most faithful servants receive no such exemption.

Paul and Elijah visited the place where they despaired of life. Job and Jeremiah came to curse the days of their births.

Jeremiah had called his people to repent, lest God pour out His wrath upon them. When they refused, Jeremiah shared in their punishment and suffered along with them.

It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD.
~ Lamentations 3:26

Perhaps—perhaps—God allowed Jeremiah to suffer so that he would set an example of faith in God's goodness, of belief in God's purposes. Jeremiah's ability to praise the Lord and curse his own life in the same breath (Jeremiah 20:13-14) is proof that it can be done.

We may be proven in our defining moments,
but we are made in our quiet ones.
~ Billy Coffey

All praise to Your good and holy name, Lord God Almighty. In the place of abundance, in the place of drought, may we ever believe in Your purposes and plan.

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2012, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

USA: Prophecies Fulfilled

At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned, from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers—the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the LORD Almighty.
~ Isaiah 18:7 (NIV)

This passage seems to aptly describe the United States. Although many biblical commentators have traditionally applied it to Egypt, some did not live to see the power our nation would come to wield. Additionally, many prophecies have more than one fulfillment.

This is certainly a prophecy we are destined to yet fulfill.

Our nation has long been powerful and feared throughout the world. We can only attribute our might to fulfillment of other words—the words with which we made our Declaration of Independence. We birthed our nation with words which first established our faith in God …

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them …

… continued with the words which have compelled our nation, for two-hundred-thirty-six years, to defend liberty at home and abroad …

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.…

… made the appeal to God with which we declared ourselves a free nation …

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions …

… and closed with the prayer with which we committed ourselves …

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Almighty God, thank You for answering the prayer and appeal which gave us liberty as a nation. Please compel each of our citizens to remember and live out the words of Isaiah and the words of our founding fathers. Please continue to show us grace, and make us worthy of it.

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2012, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.