Wednesday, April 30, 2008


What exactly is a "Showcase"?
To me, it's similar to a trophy case.

It's a place where people can look inside to see trophies and honors and awards that have been earned.
It is a place where others can peer inside and see the result of someones discipline and hard work.
Maybe it is an exhibit of sorts,... Movable and changing.
It is usually a display of things that other people would love to have!

Our study this week has been about a subject that has haunted me for four years. The title of this weeks work was "Choosing the right response".
Woo Hoo!

How many times have you heard me ask or type the question:
"What makes one person run to God with their pain and another shake their fist at Him?"
Well I have to confess,....I am a bit disappointed! I still don't know. We studied what we are supposed to do when we experience trials, but I was given no insights into the psychology of the masses. There were no statistics or recipes for what makes some of us feel comforted and some of us feel deserted.

Back to the showcase idea.
Jennifer and Susan (authors of "Walking by Faith") agree that when we endure hard things with Faith and rejoicing, we become a walking showcase for God's glory and Grace.
Imagine that.
Right there, in the middle of our broken, messed-up, hurting selves,....we are a place where God gets to show Himself off. The trophy case is a wreck, but my my my,..will you look at what's inside?
The fact that we are broken and messed up makes the treasure inside even more amazing.

Oh! I want to talk about this more, but I'm fixing to turn into a pumpkin. We'll keep thinking about this when it is not so late for the writer.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Susan Lanford

I've been blessed by God this week to see His timing very clearly.

These past few weeks have me studying the Walking By Faith Bible study by Jennifer Rothschild, and a really special thing about this study is that the written exercises were written by a dear personal friend, Susan Lanford.
Susan was one of the BASK group that was instrumental in a tremendous spiritual growth spurt a couple of years ago.
BASK stands for Becky, Anne, Susan and Kay. (We considered SKAB, but it just didn't work for us.)
Anyway, us four girls spent hours gathered around lunch and supper tables with our heads leaned in listening to each other. Mostly just loving each other. We shared our personal selves with each other and offered viewpoints about what God was up to in our lives.
The one rule we had was that we would never try to "fix" each other.
Good thing, because there was no fixing me at all. Jae's death was still fresh and I was a emotional and spiritual mess. Anne also was engaged in a fierce battle, and I do mean battle, with Ovarian cancer.
For almost two years, we came together regularly to share, cry, rejoice, joke, prank (Kay!), pray and ponder.

BASK had our last supper way over a year ago. Our regular get-togethers would be ending as Susan accepted an exciting and much prayed-for job in Texas. I can not recall the name of fancy restaurant we were at, but I can remember the table, the window, the waiter and even the light fixture above our heads.
I wish, oh how I wish I could locate the close-up photograph that Anne took of our four hands joined together in the middle of that messy table. The entire evening was incredibly memorable as we all spoke blessings to Susan, each other and then exited the restaurant to part ways. Our embrace there on the sidewalk of the River Market was long and tearful.

Just a few months later, Susan, Kay and I gathered at Anne's funeral and memorial service.
I will always remember standing on the hill by her grave as Heaven itself opened up with a torrential rain. I know it sounds odd, but the rainfall was a beautiful moment.

This past Tuesday, unexpectedly, I had the thrill of sitting, once again, at a table with Susan and Kay.
Once again, we gathered around a lunch table and poured love into each other.
We missed Anne with every thought and word.

Susan's written exercises in the "Walking By Faith" study has impacted thousands of people by making Jennifer Rothschild's words become personal.
It was a blessing to look Susan in the eye and tell her how I am a recipient of her wisdom. I do these daily exercises at my kitchen table and am filled with amazement. My BASK friend wrote these words years ago, without knowing that they would impact me years later!
And then God, in His perfect timing, brings her to my lunch table so I can be blessed a hundredfold.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Walking By Faith pictures

Mrs. Geneva and Donna

OK this young lady was NOT at the Bible study, but
she was so pretty I decided to add her to my pictures!

Sharon and Lee

Laura and Connie

Susan and Courtney

The "group work"

These are some pics taken at our bible study tonight. We missed those who were not there. I took more pictures and I swear as I downloaded them onto my computer, some of them went to,..Bolivia or somewhere! How does that happen?
Anyway,..each session ends with us all on our knees. Tonight, we intentionally left off the prayer requests about health concerns, work issues, travel safety and such. Instead, we focused on our "Heart and Soul" request and needs. It was the best part of the night, and we will spend more time there in our next sessions.
So many needs.
Deep needs.
The study this week tells us to stop "resisting" the thorns in our lives.
Embrace the pain and learn the lessons.
Great gifts come in hard packages.

Does God really place the thorns there? On purpose?
All of us tonight agreed that, sometimes,..yes.
Why then, do we always think that all pain in our life is to eradicated?
Proverbs 3 reminds me that I am to trust in Him and not try to figure it all out.
Good thing.
'Cause I can't.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Intellectual Faith Struggles

In this study our ladies group is doing, the first week of Bible study spoke about something which I have experienced first-hand, but have not seen much written about.

I'm referring to the logical, cognitive and mental aspect of trusting God when there is no rational reason to do so.

Here is one of my journal entries after Jae Lynn's death, dated
4/8/05 :
I think all of Bro. Jim's sermons are made especially for me. Today, it was if I was reading Hebrews 11 for the very first time.
Today it occurred to me that Faith may be so richly rewarded BECAUSE it is so incredibly impossible to implement at times. THAT'S the point!
Having "Faith" when life is smooth sailing is easy. Yep. That's what I was in my other life,..."a Faithful person".
Bull crap!
Obedient maybe, but not anywhere near living a life of Faith.
Faith is hanging onto a rope that is dangling in front of you as the cliff beneath you crumbles away.
I don't have a choice.
Grab it or die.
Would I have jumped onto this rope of my own free will?
I've been pushed off the cliff.
I don't think there is any reward for that.

A character study last week led me to contemplate Abraham and God's request of him to sacrifice his son Issac. We often make much of Abraham's emotional struggle as he led his son up the mountain to the alter. But, what about the intellectual struggle Abraham must have had?
It went against God's very nature to have a child sacrificed.
Murder was wrong.
Issac was God's promise of the future.
Had he been wrong in believing God?
Did he misunderstand?
Was he crazy?

Matthew Henry, the Bible commentator describes the scene:
Abraham ties the hands that had often been lifted up to ask his blessing and stretched out to embrace him. They were now bound tightly with cords of love and duty. Having bound Issac, he laid him on the alter, and his placed his hand on the head of his sacrifice. Now, we may suppose, with a flood of tears, he gives, and takes, the final farewell of a parting kiss. With a fixed heart, and an eye lifted up to heaven, he takes the knife and stretches out his hand.
Be astonished O Heavens!
At this, and wonder O Earth!
Here is an act of Faith and obedience which deserves to be a spectacle to God, Angels and men.

Thousands of years later, it is still a spectacle.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Trusting God

This morning, Casey and I were discussing our lives and we were wishing that God would give us a few glimpses into our future. It would seem, that if we knew God's perfect plan for our lives, then we would alleviate much of our frustration and worry, and even make better choices.
We could jump right into our God ordained careers.
We could steer clear of financial pitfalls and harmful relationships.
We would seem safer, wiser and less stressed.

Think so?

What is it about Faith that makes it so wonderfully pleasing to God?
How does blind trust in Him bring us rewards?

I have pondered these questions more times than I can count. I will be honest,...there were times, when I felt as if God was being cruel to keep me in the dark.
"God, there is no explainable reason why I can't know the reason!"
"Why do you get pleasure out of my darkness?"
I bet you have felt the same way.

During these intensely horrible disorienting painful times, I felt like my name was:
Becky "Far-from-God" Russell.
I told God I loved Him, but I felt useless and weak.

My prayers usually went something like this:
Dear Lord,
(sob sob)
I don't understand this.
(cry cry)
Help me!
I can't do this.
(sigh sigh)

About 1 year after losing Jae and praying prayers like the one above, I took a personal
"Spiritual Gift Survey". To my utter surprise and amazement my number one Spiritual Gift was,......

I laughed out loud at the absurdity.
"Stupid survey", I thought.
Me? Full of Faith?
No way!
Look up spiritually puny and there was my picture.
I had never felt so useless to God.

II Corinthians 12:9 tells me that
"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

Who can understand God? Not me!
But how wonderful for all of us that His plan for our future includes loving us with
perfection and
through the worst moments of our lives.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Walking By Faith

I am privileged to be leading a Bible study entitled "Walking By Faith: Lessons Learned in the Dark. It is by Jennifer Rothschild who lost her sight at the age of 15. I love this lady even though I've never met her.

It was exciting to have approximately 20 of my sisters join me in this and I can't wait (do you hear me?,... I CAN'T WAIT!) to see what God will do with all of us as we attempt to go deeper in our Faith.

This blog for the next few weeks will reflect some of the things we will be studying and I have invited all of my "study-sisters" to join me here.
Maybe they just want to check-in and read. That's great!
But maybe,..hopefully,...some will comment here and share some of the daily insights that they are learning. Oh I hope so!

Substance of things hoped for,..evidence of things unseen.

Anyone who has heard me talk recently has heard me talk about this very verse. after losing Jae Lynn, Faith became so very mysterious to me.
Couldn't grasp it.
Did I lose my Faith?
Did I ever have it in the first place?

Chapter 11 of Hebrews lists the "Faith hall of fame". I have read it a hundred times, but was reminded tonight of the internal agony that each one of those heroes went through.
Their stories all have an obvious good outcome now, but as those individual stories were being lived out, the Faithful heroes were in deep darkness.
Emotional trauma.
Mental confusion.
They were not feeling very intelligent, heroic or Faithful.

If that's how the Faithful Heroes felt,..then take heart!
There's hope for all of us!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Wonderfully Different

Did you ever feel like you just did not belong?

Ever felt like you were,.....kind of "out there?"

This particular type of tree is actually known for it's symmetry, yet here we have a small limb which is probably irritating the owners of the land as well as motorists who pass by. I wonder if they think this small shoot of wayward leaves is "messing up" the desired appearance?

I have been observing this tiny limb grow for several seasons now and I am quite fond of it.

It reminds me to appreciate the differences in the people that I love.
It reminds me to enjoy the variety of people that I come into contact with who may not look or act like me.
It helps me to consider that I would have never seen it if it had grown like the other limbs. It is God's gift to me.

I am actually afraid for this little limb. I expect any day for some tree pruner to climb up a ladder and cut him off.

"There!" they would say as my beautiful limb falls into the ditch. "Now the tree looks better!"

This world is hard on those who are different.

"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Psalms 139:14

Thursday, April 3, 2008

S L O W learner

Finally! I am learning how to add pictures.
Learning how to do this took me an hour!

(as Abby rolls her eyes)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Middle Mile

Long time no blog! It's good to be back.

I am in mental disarray. For no real apparent reason and for no single particular thing. I'm just feeling pretty unorganized to the point that I am overwhelmed at the things I need to attend to. Do you ever get like that?

It could be that I am physically spent over a 24 hour virus that blew through my family this past weekend. All four of us.
It was ugly.

Anyway,..the feeling of "going nowhere" is also something my kids are dealing with too. I find myself being their cheerleader and encourager, but I hear them voicing the same frustrations that I feel.

One of my favorite quotes is:
"The middle mile is the hardest".

The middle mile is where our day to day lives are lived. No big battles. No big victories. Accomplishments are often not appreciated. For instance,..laundry? clean house? paying bills? They are tedious tasks, but who really sees or cares that those jobs are done? Others will surely notice if they are NOT done, but rarely are those tasks applauded. Yet, they take time.

The middle mile is where some of us are with our relational issues.
Going nowhere.
Relationships with our loved ones, friends, and especially God, are at the bottom of the our "To Do" lists.
Just no time! Got to run that errand!
Meanwhile, our priorities languish as we shop at Wal-Mart.

The middle mile is where some of us are contented.
What a great feeling to know we are in the center of His will.

The middle mile is where it seems hard to make changes.
Change-making is risky business.
Why,....What will others think?

The middle mile of parenting.
Now there's a real challenge.
Where exactly is "the middle" of raising your kids? When are we halfway there?
Us moms and dads show up every day for a job that will never end.

The Godly life may be difficult in our culture, but God expects it nonetheless.
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus gives us our real job as we live here on Earth:
Love God first, Love others second.

I am surrounded by family and friends who also are in their middle mile.
May we all travel with God's priorities and not our own!

Praise be to God for all He has done for me.
I love you friends.