But God himself will cross over ahead of you

Deuteronomy 31:2-3, 6 Moses said to the people, “The Lord has told me, ‘You will not cross the Jordan River.’ But the Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. . . Joshua will lead you across the river, just as the Lord promised. . . So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

When Karis was fourteen, she wrote in her journal:

March 9, 1998 Hebrews 11:4, “By faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” Oh, Lord, isn’t that one of my greatest goals?! To speak. To be heard, to have a voice in other people’s lives, to STAND FOR SOMETHING, even when I’m gone. For people to rejoice when they think of me, to say I see God in her. You have promised I will fulfill a purpose in You.

Karis in high school

If you have read Karis, All I See Is Grace, you know that when she was sixteen, God gave her a promise and a prophecy, a north star to guide her the rest of her life.

The Promise: “Seu Amado está guardado.” Your Beloved is chosen, reserved, saved, protected, hidden, or set apart—the word “guardado” in Portuguese has multiple shades of meaning.

The Prophecy: “You will be a door many nations will walk through to find Christ. You will be given a key to this door.”

Through multiple life-threatening crises, she believed she would not die until the Promise and the Prophecy were fulfilled. For example, at 21, after her first transplant catapulted her into severe rejection and overwhelming infection, she wrote:

Oct-something 2004 I won’t stay ugly. I’ll grow into some new form of beauty and wellness. Why do I know that? Why do I know I won’t die? Because there are unfulfilled promises. It’s so simple when I remember that. Surely my friends recognized Your grace in me and were enchanted by that. That is when I can enter their lives and touch and interact. That is when the knowledge that I will leave an impact is joyous.

Shortly after her graduation from Notre Dame, confined to a wheelchair because her hip had collapsed and facing surgery considered high risk for anyone immunosuppressed, she said:

May 2008 Soon I will be able to walk, and dance; this is my hope. I have Your promises to stand on. Meu amado está guardado. My life is to be somehow a door to the nations; a key will be given me. So, I will survive the hip replacement surgery. Or at the very least, You will use this short life I have lived. That seems huge enough comfort not to fear taking the next step: I shall not fear evil. Nothing bad can happen to me. Though I die, I die to You as I have lived to You.

Did God fulfill the Promise and the Prophecy? At the end of the book I discuss that question, and I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t yet read the story. But I think, like Moses who couldn’t in the end do all he dreamed of, the Karis book can be like Joshua was for Moses, helping fulfill God’s promise. Very soon, Karis’s own words will be available for Spanish and Portuguese speakers as well as English.

On my next post, I’ll tell you about recent events in the life of “Anthony,” whom Karis believed to be her Beloved of the Promise. Today, I want to tell you more about this one way I believe God is expanding the fulfillment of the Prophecy, through Karis’s words and story translated into Portuguese and Spanish. How appropriate, since Karis’s five languages were part of the “key” she was given while alive. They allowed her to communicate Christ’s love to people who, like her, gathered from all over the world in Pittsburgh hospital waiting rooms.

Here is some initial feedback from Mexicans and Brazilians who helped me with translating and editing the text of the Karis book:

Margarita: This book has enormous potential for ministry. It was a privilege to participate in its translation into Spanish.

Elisa: Every line of this book is an invitation to dive into life with courage, faith and joy, without fear. Invitation accepted!

Ari: Prepare to learn to see the world through the lens of grace. Don’t be surprised if Karis breaks your heart and makes you smile, both at the same time.

I’ve seen God “crossing over” ahead of me to bridge into these languages. He opened a door to publish with Editora Betânia in Brazil after they initially said no. He provided excellent translators and editors in both Portuguese and Spanish, and the money to pay them. Friends prayed and believed in these projects when I was discouraged.

Now, I ask you to pray with me for the Holy Spirit to personally “cross over” into the hearts of those who read the book’s message of hope and grace. That message is more relevant than ever, as people around the world struggle and suffer through the multi-pronged challenges of our days. Pray they will find, as Karis did, amid trauma, loss, and grief, the gift of God’s love:

Sep 23, 2007 My bones are decaying. And with them, I fear, my spirit. Teach me to love, Master. May they say this of me when they say nothing else, when I am gone: she loved me. God loved me through her.

Thank You, Father, for the vision You granted me of the woman breaking her perfume over Your feet. Teach me to accept the brokenness of my clay jar that used to contain so much joy and articulation and grace. Teach me to offer it up anew each morning.

And for this new vision—You with arms outstretched to hug me to Yourself, my wounds on your body . . . I will treasure it always. May it grow in me until I begin to really understand Your love for me. For the world. Your fellowship in our sufferings and the grace of our fellowship in Yours.

The Portuguese may not be published until next year. Editora Betânia hasn’t yet given me a date. But Karis, Todo lo que veo es gracia should be available on Amazon within a couple of weeks! I’ll let you know! Start thinking about who you know who speaks Spanish . . .

But Jesus touched them

Matthew 17:6-7 [At the Transfiguration] The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”

Last night I finished the rough draft of my first novel, Horse Thief 1898. Then I tried to sleep, but my novel-world was still too much with me. After trying to “turn over and go to sleep,” as my dad used to instruct us, I gave up and returned to my laptop and read back over the last few chapters, tweaking here, adding there, rearranging the order of events in a couple of places.

Finally, glancing at the clock, I realized I needed sleep. I decided to read a chapter of someone else’s novel, in that moment less compelling to me than my own, to get me out of the Horse Thief world. It worked well enough to get me back to bed. But then, as I tried not to touch my husband (he’s a light sleeper), touch is what I kept thinking about. How important touch is to Cally. How it hurts her to go long periods without a friendly embrace. And then—how devastating the abusive touch that upends her world. And how much, after that, she desperately needed safe touch in order to begin to heal.

Image From Shutterstock by Puppy 4

I thought too about a part of Karis, All I See Is Grace, near the end of the book. I’ve just read through the entire manuscript in Portuguese, as I prepare to submit it to a Brazilian publisher by the end of this week. Writing about the day before Karis died, I noted, After our family time with Karis, I moved her leg to make it more comfortable, and her skin split. Even the gentlest touch caused immediate bruising. I had cared intimately for this body for more than thirty years, and now my touch was no longer a blessing; it only did her harm. I could do no more for my precious girl. Father, take her home.

As I turned over (again) and tried to sleep, I breathed, Thank you, Lord, for taking her home. Jesus’ touch never causes harm. It only brings healing.

Horse Thief 1898 ends with touch. It is both the culmination of a long separation and a promise of more to come. As I tried to sleep, I found myself writing in my head the beginning of the next book in the series, which will be Cally’s healing journey. But no. I’ve promised myself I’ll catch up on other parts of my life before plunging into book 2. There are others who need Jesus’ touch, even that mediated by the imperfection of my hands.

But God calls us to unity

Ephesians 2:13-14, 4:1-3 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus . . . For Christ himself has brought peace to us. . . I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

Laughter feels so good, doesn’t it? I laughed this morning, watching this recording of the Braver Angels theme song:

In case you’re confused: they started as Better Angels, taken from a speech by Abraham Lincoln, but someone else had already claimed that name, so they switched to Braver Angels. Believing people basically want the same things despite their political affiliations, or should at least be able to talk with each other, they are working hard to bridge the divide that separates people in our present rancorous environment.

I’ve had the experience—maybe you have too?—of feeling deeply hurt by people I love who have attacked me or attacked other people I love because of something said touching politics. The attacks came with what feels more like hatred than love. Hatred is a strong word, but that’s how it has felt—that our friendship could be destroyed by a single statement of political preference or even curiosity.

These are Christian friends. How is it possible that our unity in Christ, rooted in common membership in the eternal Kingdom, can be so vulnerable to emotions connected to temporal, temporary realities? Because in the long run—in eternity—who wins this election in this country (we forget how small a part we are of the history of the world!) won’t matter in the least. But whether I have broken relationships with brothers and sisters will matter, both now and in the future.

So I’m challenged by these words written by Paul almost two thousand years ago, Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

Part of what this means to me is realizing how much our unity matters to our Lord, and being willing to do the hard work of letting the hurt go, forgiving, cherishing all I have in common with these beloved ones, and building bridges instead of walls.

Braver Angels helps by giving me perspective and giving me tools for building those bridges. Though there are many Christians involved with BA, it is a secular organization. Jesus prayed just before he was betrayed and arrested, May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me (John 17:23). Can we in the Body of Christ, called to unity, do any less?