Where do you go for refuge?

But God cannot lie  March 17, 2022

Hebrews 6:18-19 It is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.

Jeremiah 17:7 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

I love what this image communicates to me about resilience. I took it Monday beside our front steps.

The world is full of misinformation, and no one is smart enough or wise enough to figure it all out. So, I love this word from Hebrews. There is a place where we can relax and rest, a place to anchor our souls with confidence: God’s strong and loving heart. A place to anchor our resilience in the face of all the challenges we each face.

I want to share with you today the “But God” story of Lawrence Chewning. I don’t know him, but he’s made his story public through youtube.

And I think you’ll be encouraged with me by singing “We have an anchor” along with Loretta Adjetey from Ghana (“Lor” is her stage name). Priscilla Jane Owens, 1829-1907, wrote this song. I’ve been to Accra and have worshiped with and been blessed by the generous hospitality of Ghanaian people. Listening to Lor took me right back there. If you know any of their history, you’ll appreciate even more the beauty of this song in their context. It’s an amazing story of resilience.

But God’s Kingdom includes hardship

Acts 14:21-28 After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. … Finally, they returned by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey had begun. … They reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. And they stayed there with the believers for a long time.

It’s hardly a “health and wealth” message, is it. I suspect the “long time” Paul and Barnabas spent in Antioch of Syria after their first missionary journey relates to their need for healing, both physical and emotional. Besides the hardships of travel by ship and by land, they were misunderstood, slandered, run out of towns, stoned and left for dead. Paul’s strong feeling that John Mark abandoned them (BEFORE the stonings, etc.) will fracture his relationship with Barnabas. No wonder they needed time for rest and renewal before Paul set out again—with Silas this time—in chapter 16.

Reading this passage, I flashed on furloughs my parents took from their mission work in Guatemala, when I was six and eleven and eighteen. My little brother Danny could give a perfect rendition of Dad’s “furlough talk,” complete with gestures and inflections. The memory makes me laugh, because our son Dan did the same thing with Dave’s—“It’s Kairos time!” I bet he still could. (No, not a good idea to give your brother’s name to your son. But I love the name Daniel.)

Today is Dan’s birthday (son, not brother—see what I mean?). I want to honor my son for his resilience through many hardships as he grew up,. Some related to having a chronically ill sister, but our call to mission included Dave traveling constantly, using our home intensively as a “ministry center,” giving away more money than we should have at the expense of providing for Dan the kind of clothes, etc. the other kids had at his school. And much more. If I could do it all over again, I would spend less time and energy in “ministry” and more time caring for our kids.

Dan, I love you, admire profoundly the wise, generous, perceptive, kind, visionary man you are, and pray God’s rich blessing on this special next year of your life, as you and April marry and you develop Dignity Best Practices, whose time clearly is now.


But God gave joy in a time of trouble

Acts 8:1, 4-8, 26-39 A great wave of persecution began that day [with the stoning of Stephen], sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers were scattered. … But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. Philip, for example, went to Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. … So there was great joy in that city. … [Then God sent Philip to walk down a desert road.] He met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority … Philip told him the Good News about Jesus. … The Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch ever saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.

“Karis my joy,” Dave used to call her, since we’d named her Karis Joy. And bringing joy to others delighted her.

“I wonder who God has for me in the hospital this time.”

Karis loved, loved, loved being home, having “a life.” So each time she had to be hospitalized she was bummed—if she was still conscious, that is. Usually, by the time we arrived at the ER, she had shifted into anticipation of who she might meet. Her dozens and dozens of hospitalizations were peppered with special encounters. As soon as she was well enough to be out of bed, she’d be out discovering who was there. Fellow transplant patients from a variety of nations, their children and other relatives, nurses, doctors, therapists—I could tell a thousand stories.

December, 2008 with one of Karis’s favorite doctors. She had been in the hospital for weeks. Finally we celebrated her homecoming, but the very next day she had to return, with bleeding from her intestine too severe to manage at home.

This attitude was not unique to Karis. Other patients also reached out, sharing life and encouragement. I remember Crysta’s little girl bringing Karis brightly colored and stickered cards. Angie shared a movie with us. Carissa brought modeling clay and books and what Karis called “intelligent conversation.” Some patients were one-timers, in Pittsburgh for special procedures. But the “regular” intestinal transplant crew, because most of them were long-term-care patients, became a family. Again, I could tell a zillion stories.

I’m smiling as I think about this. We laughed and wept, rejoiced and grieved for each other. Our nurses and doctors and therapists were wrapped into this community of love. Each loss—and there were so many—was cushioned within the blanket of comfort and understanding of others facing the same overwhelming challenges.

Karis had her eye out particularly for the international patients. With her five languages she could communicate with almost anyone, and the intestinal transplant world was truly a “united nations.” Everything we faced, they dealt with through the confusion of a foreign language and perplexing customs, far away from their usual support systems. Karis befriended them, in the hospital and out.


But God made Jesus Lord and Messiah, by Ken Seigel

Acts 2:22, 36-38 God publicly endorsed Jesus by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him. … Let everyone know for certain that God has made Jesus to be both Lord and Messiah! … Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Note from Debra: When Ken told me the name of my blog caught his attention because his dad titled his autobiography “But God,” I asked him to tell me more. The story Ken told me (below) matches what’s going on in Acts 2: It’s all about Jesus, Messiah and Lord. Messias and christos have the same meaning: the anointed king who has God’s authority and approval.

When I woke up in the middle of the night, three deer were cuddled together in our front yard. But so far they haven't re-attacked the pansies. Look at what's happening!! And in the photo you can see the pot beside this one, planted with the same type of pansies and decimated by the deer in the same way, hasn't grown back at all. The mystery of resilience...

First, the mystery of resilience

Look at what’s happening to the pansies!!

When I woke up in the middle of the night, three deer were cuddled together in our front yard, but so far they haven’t re-attacked the pansies. And in the photo you can see the pot beside this one, planted with the same type of pansies and decimated by the deer in the same way, hasn’t grown back at all. There’s a parable here…

And now, Ken’s story:

I guess the biggest “But God” event I recognize from Dad’s life is that when my parents got married, it was a mixed marriage. My Mom was raised Catholic, and my Dad was a Lutheran. They married against their parent’s wishes, and decided that to avoid conflict, they would simply never discuss religion or God in their marriage. Dad would go to his church on Sundays and Mom (and the kids) would go to the Catholic church.

In the early 1970’s my Mom got caught up in the Catholic Charismatic movement and was born again. She began reading the Bible and felt led to submit her will to Dad as the spiritual leader of the home. Bible verses that Mom put into practice (and that are not at all popular today) are 1 Peter 3:1-7.

Mom’s life changed dramatically, and Dad noticed. He began asking questions, but as a “good person” he didn’t see his need for Jesus for a few more years. He eventually gave his heart to the Lord though as well, and one by one, their children (including me) met Jesus.

I just marvel how good God is, and how He revealed himself to my parents and myself despite their plans to avoid Him.

Thank you, Ken. It’s all about Jesus.

What’s YOUR But God story?