By Ellen Burany
Serving with Novo, Ellen is passionate about helping leaders around the world walk in a kind of intimacy and attunement with God that informs, impacts and transforms every aspect of their lives, work and ministries.
We can't go far in life without experiencing the impact of suffering and loss. Although we wish we were exempt, none of us are. For over a year now, the pandemic has thrown us into a swirl of chaos. We've experienced uncertainty, change, and loss, leading us to grieve what we once had, and even the expectation of how our lives would look.
For me, I’ve had to let go of some of my hopes of what my newly adopted daughter, Gianna, would experience during her second year of life. With childcare, the rhythms of ministry, motherhood and life were sustainable. Without that anchor of support, I’ve had to grieve what I once had, recognize my limits and make major adjustments. Although I’ve experienced the gift of more time with my daughter, there’s been an unprecedented level of stress, stretching and sometimes downright exhaustion. Because new losses can tap into old ones, the isolation and juggle of life have also tapped into the grief I’ve carried for a long time over not having a husband to partner with me in life.
As I look, even at the circle of people in my life, I see grief all around.. A few of my friends who are single and live alone feel like they've been hit by a truck of loneliness. My friend, Stephanie, has had to grieve missing her daughter's long-awaited college graduation because she cannot leave her country of residence. My friend Dave no longer has the lung capacity and vigor he once had due to long Covid. Several others are grieving the loss of loved ones to a disease we hadn't even heard about a year and a half ago. No matter what package the loss comes in, grief is always attached. Know this...grief matters. It matters to God because we matter to God.
The pandemic and its effects are not over. The suffering in certain parts of the world, like India or Brazil, is current and immense. And although other parts of the world are opening up more, the full impact of the pandemic has still not been realized. People are still dizzied by what they've experienced. Some have not yet been able to stop long enough to recognize their grief, but will eventually. Many are keenly aware of the people and the life they've lost. Others have been ushered into depression, anxiety, addiction, or illness and daily face the effects of coping with their new reality.
When we consider all our world is going through, it raises the question: How do we walk with others in “such a time as this”?
The thing is, we can't lead others well into places where we are not willing to go ourselves. We've got to learn the importance of acknowledging our losses and how to grieve well so that we can glean the hope and good gifts God wants to give us amid our loss. The ways we relate with loss have the potential to draw us nearer or away from Jesus. If we don't face and learn to move through our losses with God, our undealt with grief can sprout up like weeds in all kinds of unhelpful and sometimes even destructive ways, detracting from the beauty God wants to grow out of our hearts and lives.
Thankfully, Jesus, who's not just our savior, but the One who's shown us how life is to be lived, can show us the way. In Matthew 26:36-46, we see Jesus acknowledging and grappling with grief in the Garden of Gethsemane. He draws near to God and shares his heart in honesty, "My soul is crushed to the point of death," then asks, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me."
He doesn't fake happiness. Nor does he live like an ostrich with his head in the sand. He doesn't deny his feelings by shouting with joy about the victory that will happen in the end. Jesus relinquishes his will to God, but it's not without being honest with himself, the Father, and his close friends about what he's facing and feeling.
As you consider this rich passage, how might the Lord be inviting you to respond to your own losses? How you might invite others to respond to theirs?
Learning how to respond to suffering and loss is one of the most important, yet often neglected parts of our discipleship. Learning to grieve and walk with others in their grief not only offers the potential to deepen our own walks with God, but to draw others closer to Jesus and know his love.
Register for our Free Webinar through LLI Live: Discipling Others Through Grief
Date: June 30
About the Author
Ellen Burany, has over 25 years of ministry experience and has spent 19 years focused on leading, developing and ministering to Christian leaders. She holds an M.A. in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and steps alongside others to help them grow and root deeper in their walks with Jesus.
Alumnus BRIDGE training 2020
I’m truly grateful for having the chance to partake in BRIDGE Training in 2020. I had no idea what the upcoming year would bring, and spending a week in nature, surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation, and focusing on God’s Word, was the best gift and the greatest blessing I could have received as preparation for what was to come.
The multicultural context of the training helped me learn and grow: as ministry workers of different nationalities we could share our diverse experience. It also provided us with an opportunity to put to practice our gifts, all with the goal of sharing the gospel message. What made this experience even better was the chance to get away from everyday worries and challenges - at the training site at Severin na Kupi you could hear the sound of the river and the leaves rustling in the surrounding forest.
For me, the key part was the time set aside to spend alone with God, which was included in the training schedule. We were given a chance to meet with God and just listen. But to hear Him, we were encouraged to seek Him by asking questions and looking for answers in the Scripture, specifically the Book of Acts!
Other than spending quality time with the Lord and resting both body and soul, my goal was to get equipped and learn more about christian counseling.
The Christian Counseling Course that taught me basic skills and tools of counseling was beneficial for several reasons:
On one hand, I had to open up about myself and make myself vulnerable in order to see where I can grow, what I have to work on and what I have to let go. I realized that working on yourself is necessary if you want to share your knowledge and experience in a way that is effective. On the other hand, the course helped me learn how to use these tools and my experience in discipleship and serving the church and students in general.
One of the biggest blessings that I took home from training are the relationships, especially my friendship with my brother in Christ from Macedonia, Igor.
While spending time together, especially through working together during the Christian Counseling Course, God showed us that we had a lot of shared experience and shared a similar outlook on life and ministry. We also saw a chance to help each other by simply being a friend and a brother and walking together in this journey ahead of us. I’m still in contact with Igor.
We have continued to share our lives, blessings in our walk with God and new insight, as well as to encourage each other to use some of the tools we learned about at BRIDGE Training.
I learned a lot, enjoyed every part of training, found rest and let God refresh me and renew His Spirit in me. I want to emphasize that today I still use many examples and methods from the training:
One of them is the importance of active listening when I interact with people - listening to them but also to the Lord who guides this process.
Another important lesson I learned is to recognize the source of bad things and to point the people to the only real Healer.
To this day I still find these principles I learned very useful - the reminder about the importance of rest, refreshment and listening to God, as well as obeying His will. The BRIDGE Training experience still actively lives and resonates in me. Thank you LLI for this wonderful experience!
by Conny (SU Botswana)
Separated by the COVID crisis, but together for hope!
Thank you for following our story and again we greet you from your brothers and sisters in Christ in Botswana!
We might have been separated by lockdown, but we were not alone! Our God never left us, nor forsook us. COVID looked strong and yes it has a real risk, but God has been there with us every step of the way. We do have to deal with our fears and take them to our Heavenly Father who reassures our hearts He is right there with us.
During the crisis, a demand to provide counseling and fight anxiety and fear to affected and infected students arose . I must admit, I wondered, “How are we going to insure the safety of our staff? How is God, going to keep us safe as we enter the schools?”
Honestly, we stepped out in faith, took precautions, but the sacrifice is not greater than the opportunity to take God’s Good News, His message of Hope in Jesus to those who need to hear and have someone step alongside them at this time. So we go, we endure the real risk because God says He is with us and will protect us.
But there was another group God placed on our hearts and that was those stuck at home. Lockdown had a dark side to it as well as gender-based violence and abuse of women and children increased in our nation. How could we speak hope into this setting?
Here is where we were encouraged by Scripture Union Global and LLI Live. Weekly, they stepped alongside us as the pandemic continued to unfold. They spoke into relevant topics like child protection and how to use social media for discipleship.
Our supporters and volunteers listened in and were so excited after each session. These sessions provided us with tools to reach others with Hope when ministry continued to transition to online venues. We realized we needed to make this shift to get the word of God into the hands of those we were now socially distant from.
God has enabled us to reach out through our Facebook page and to address tough topics like gender violence and encourage others through daily online devotions. We are grateful for those who provided timely training through the webinars and Zoom training events. Today, we see even clearer how we are in this Together for Hope!
Conny (SU Botswana)
In the face of COVID Crisis, we choose HOPE!
Greetings from Botswana!
We were shaken by the news of the COVID crisis and how this invisible disease had entered Botswana and was impacting the world. God had brought us to a crossroads with our faith. Would we choose to throw in the towel, to give up, or choose a path of growth, a path drawing closer to Jesus?
This was a defining moment for us, a critical decision needed to be made. One path led to shipwreck and the other to transformation. We chose the path of HOPE!
Across the nation, Christians in different platforms, such as National Intercession and Transformation groups, began to pray through WhatsApp groups throughout the day. There was a call to prayer and fasting during this crisis and even though we couldn’t go to church, this movement of mobilizing prayer around the country sustained us and continues to this day.
We pray not only for ourselves, but for the nations during this COVID-19 crisis. In Botswana, the numbers have not sky rocketed and the death toll to this point is low. We accredit this to the intervention of God and not the work of human hands.
At the same time, we give Jesus praise for all who are serving to find a cure and the medical personnel around the world who faithfully care for those infected by this disease. This crisis of 2020 has been a wakeup call for our nation. Many realize they need to seek God and truly live for Him. God is using this hour of decision to allow us to take His word to others so they too can choose HOPE!
by Joanne Thompson
Joanne reflects on the Amazing Joy we experience when we choose to follow Jesus!
“Do we or don’t we?” That question danced around the edges of my mind for weeks. I so wanted to celebrate our grandson Noah’s High School graduation in Texas. Though we knew attending the ceremony wasn’t an option (restricted tickets because of Covid ), my compelling desire was to be with the family. So YES, I pushed through my fears to make reservations.
Our daughter’s white Suburban pulled up to the airport’s arrival lane with only seven-year-old Ellie. (So typical! Teenagers are done with airport trips for grandparents.) I scooted close to Ellie in the back seat and with the sweetest dimpled grin she said, “This is so much better than Facetime!” Oh, that girl’s words melted my heart! Not only was she revealing her desire. (She wanted me!) She was describing my desire for that deep joy of face-to-face time together.
All image-bearers (from little girls to grandmas) crave the connection of the joyful presence of another. For sure, I was chasing joy when I got on that airplane.
Our faith walk with Jesus is a path that leads to outrageous joy in the presence of Christ, eternally! Though our 2020 world is filled with trials and struggles, Jesus clearly doesn’t want us to be devoid of joy now. He isn’t asking us to hold our breath ‘til heaven! But we need to pay attention to the path that provides that here-and-now-joy. Listen to Jesus: “I have told you these things so that MY JOY maybe in you and YOUR JOY may be complete.” What are these things?
The “these things” Jesus refers to is REMAINING in his LOVE. Jesus talks about it over and over. (Read John 15.) The LORD’S divine design goes like this: His love produces our joy. Our job is one thing: REMAIN! In the midst of frustration, fatigue, fear and anger that storm our hearts, we need to choose mindfulness that there is more love coming our way today from Jesus. Look for it. Receive it. Remain in it. Choose this practice daily. But how? Here is where Jesus goes “counter-cultural” with the world’s thinking.
He said, “If you obey my commands, you remain in my love.”
Don’t let the enemy deceive you into thinking that obeying Jesus is dutiful drudgery with no reward.
Don’t let the enemy accuse you with inevitable daily failures.
Reframe each day with wisdom: Obeying Jesus is chasing joy! The “have to” transforms into a “want to” as we learn to respond to the faithful, whispered prompts of the Holy Spirit. My prayer for all of us is that as we pay attention to those “little prompts” we will notice our joy grow.
As the Psalmist wrote: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32).
by Emily Twigg
Emily shares with our community 5 sporting games & activities to bring out Christmas story themes!
Christmas is a time where everyone loves to come together to eat, catch-up and play games with family and friends. Within sports ministry we love to use sport, games and play to share the Christian faith. The story and message of Christmas is not only an important one but is also a fun one we can share especially amongst children and young people.
Below are 5 sporting games and activities which can be used to bring out themes from the Christmas story and can be adapted to be used with both children and youth. Enjoy!
1) Christmas Dodgeball
Set up a dodgeball court as normal and divide your group into two teams. Give each team 5 skittles (or pointed cones) which must be placed within their side of the court. On labels, ask the group to write down four things which are important to them at Christmas (e.g presents, time with family etc.) and stick one label onto each of their skittles. The fifth label should have ‘Jesus’ written on it and placed on the fifth skittle.
Play the game of dodgeball as normal, but instead of trying to hit the players, the teams must try and hit the skittles on the other side of the court. Players must try and defend their cones, however they cannot just stand still in front of a cone. Each time a skittle is hit, it is taken out of the game until none are left, however if the ‘Jesus skittle’ is hit then that team automatically loses instantly. The idea of this game is that without Jesus, all the other parts of Christmas wouldn’t exist and a greater value should be placed on Jesus at Christmas than the other parts, just like players were probably more careful about defending the ‘Jesus skittle’ than the others.
Which of the labels on the skittles do you think is most important at Christmas?
What do other people value?
Why did the team instantly lose if the ‘Jesus skittle’ was hit?
Do you think people who don’t believe in Jesus should celebrate Christmas if it’s meant to be all about him?
2) Wait for it….
Split your group into teams and have them line up one behind each other at one end of a room. At the other end of the room have 5 pieces of paper with Biblical prophecies about Jesus on and 5 which have written down Jesus fulfilling the prophecy on them. In the middle of the room set out an obstacle course for each team (the same course but multiplied). One at a time, teams must send one person out to complete the course and get 1 piece of paper before bringing it back to the team and tagging the next person and so on. Once all 10 pieces of paper are brought back the team must match up the prophecies and the fulfillment.
Ask the team members what they were having to do whilst in the line. Hopefully they will reply ‘waiting’ for the team mate to come back and tag them and to have their turn.
Ask them how they found waiting, was it easy, hard?
Would it have been frustrating if for example you were turned the opposite way and so didn’t know how far away your team-mate was?
Check over the matched prophesies to make sure they’re correct. Share with the children that the prophecies were written hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth but were about him and he fulfilled hundreds of them during his lifetime!
Why were people waiting for Jesus to come?
Did they know exactly when he was coming?
Do you think they were frustrated at times when they were still waiting?
The Jews were waiting for a Messiah, the chosen one who would come to save them and Jesus was that person. (If you want to, you can talk about how Christians today are waiting for Jesus to return and to fulfill the prophecies of the second coming).
3) All change (cat and mouse)
Divide the group into two or more lines of equal length and stand one line in front of the other.
E.g. If you have 15 young people you could have 5 lines of 3 or three lines of 5 – see below
x x x x x x x x
x x x. x x x x x
x x x or x x x x x
x x x
x x x
Ask all the group to face the same direction and then to hold out their arms, so that they touch the finger tips of those next to them. When you say change, everyone must turn 90° so that now their finger tips are touching with the people who were previously in front and behind them but are
now to their right and left.
Choose 2 young people, 1 to be a cat and the other to be a mouse. The mouse must run up and down the lines created by the groups’ arms and the cat should try and catch them by tagging them. As the two players run, call out ‘change’ at which point the group must turn 90o. Neither the cat or mouse can run through the group’s arms, only down the lines. Play until the mouse is caught or a good amount of time has passed.
What word was being called a lot? (Change).
What does change mean?
How did change feel for the cat and mouse? (frustrating, worrying, uncertain etc.)
Who has had something change in their life?
Is change easy, difficult or both?
Ask the group whose lives were changed during the Christmas story? E.g.
- Mary as she was suddenly pregnant at a young age and to God’s son!
- King Herod as he was alerted to this new king who he then wanted to kill
- The shepherds who were outcasts, yet valued and invited to this special occasion Etc.
4) Follow the star
Split your group into small teams and have one person blind-folded. Around the room have coloured stars laid out, a different colour for each team with each team having the same number of stars.
E.g. 10 x blue, yellow, red, green etc.
Each group has to navigate their blindfolded team mate to star number 1, being careful of other teams. Once there, they pick up the star and change the blindfolded team member and head for star number 2. Repeat until all teams reach their final star.
In that game what were you following? (Star and voices)
What did the blindfolded player have to do? (Trust and follow – just like the Magi and shepherds)
Did the blindfolded person know where they were heading? (Unlikely, just like the shepherds and Magi)
Was there any danger on the way? (bumping into other groups, listening to the wrong voices)
What danger did the Magi encounter? (Herod who wanted Jesus killed)
Did the Magi listen to Herod and return with information about Jesus? (No, just like you didn’t listen to the ‘wrong’ voices in that game)
Who was the one guiding the star (God), how does he guide us today? By stars?
Start by asking children to jump forwards or jump backwards, whilst also repeating the words. Then change it so that when you say ‘jump forwards’ they repeat the same but just backwards. Then change it so that when you say ‘jump forwards’ they say ‘jump backwards’ and say ‘jump backwards’.
What made it tricky as that game went along?
Was it hard getting your head around doing the opposite?
Were there things you weren’t expecting?
Were there things which happened in the nativity story which you or people then didn’t expect? (Jesus to be born in a stable, Mary being pregnant as a first time mum and young)
Did anything happen which was the opposite (inviting shepherds to a royal birth instead of important people)
Why do you think God chose those people? People we wouldn’t perhaps expect or are the opposite? Why was Jesus born in this way? What does it tell us about God?
You might want to explain how God welcomes and includes everyone, even those society says are less important. He choses us! Jesus coming as a baby to humble beginnings meant that all the people could relate and it showed more greatly God’s power at work. Sometimes God works strangely in our lives too, but Christians believe that God is best and follow and trust him as they live their lives.
By Naomi Bosch
May this encourage you to be a blessing wherever you are.
I was born in Germany, grew up in Croatia, then recently moved back to Germany for my studies. I moved 7 times in 21 years, with several shorter stations in between. And I tell you: I know the feeling of homelessness very well. And even when I moved to Rostock it was quite clear from the beginning that I would only stay here for 3 years and I wondered if it’s even worth settling down and investing myself.
One day I read a story in the Bible that completely changed my attitude. There the Jewish people were in a situation that was not entirely different from mine. Far away from their beloved land, they lived in the city of Babylon, which was foreign to them. Then the prophet Jeremiah writes the following letter to the Jewish people living in exile:
“Build houses and settle down; cultivate gardens and eat what they produce. Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because your future depends on its welfare.”
There is no talk of “Pray that you will get out of this terrible place as soon as possible!” No, “settle down and be a blessing to this city,” God directs to his people. So, I gradually let God change my point of view – and experienced some amazing things!
Last summer, I had a crazy thought: “Why not take the Bible literally and actually plant a garden?” And the simple act of gardening became a new spiritual attitude: I am here where God has just planted me and I’m a blessing to others wherever I can.
So I decided, even in this short time I had left, to become a permanent member in a local church. I became part of a local scout’s group, even if it was “only” three years I would invest there. I made my room the most enjoyable and bright place in the world and invited people to it. I read about the history of the city. I got to know the people here. And suddenly, I am happy to be living in Rostock!
Interestingly, Jesus also had almost exactly three years for his world-changing mission in Israel. I’ll leave the part of saving the world to Jesus. But I can imitate him in the way he lived on earth. Jesus was not busy all day preaching and healing people. He spent many hours a day just talking to God, like to a friend. We often see him eating with friends or partying (the very beginning of his mission was a wedding on which he made sure they wouldn’t run out of good wine!). Wherever he went, he left traces of blessing for everyone around him.
Sometimes we act like tourists. We don’t like to make commitments. Why invest in “worldly things” when God will one day bring us to Heaven anyway? Is it worth “wasting” my time on relationships?
Leviticus 25:23 puts things back into perspective. There God says to the Israelites “… the land belongs to God, and you are like foreigners who are allowed to make use of it.”
We are guests in God’s beautiful world. We can enjoy its wealth and goodness. But God also gave us the responsibility to “maintain and protect the garden” (see Genesis 2:15). God “planted” us in a certain place so that we can be a blessing where we are, in every area of life.
Here, too, Jesus is a wonderful example to us. (see Matthew 14:13-21) He had deep compassion for the people around him.
At the same time, he also knew when it was time to withdraw and to spend time with God in solitude. He knew the culture around him and was deeply rooted in it. He read the scriptures and liked to discuss them with the Jewish law teachers, but also clearly distinguished himself on contentious issues.
Jesus had good friends with whom he spent a lot of time (such as Mary, Marta, and Lazarus). He could celebrate and gratefully enjoy God’s good gifts. But he wasted none of it. With his life, Jesus shows what it means to live in a deeply rooted way, and at the same time to see things in eternity’s perspective.
We are citizens of the heaven, but we are also all citizens of the earth. Through deep, local relationships, through care for God’s creation, through a grounded trust in God, and through passing on blessings in the very place we are in, we bring a piece of heaven to earth.
And if God should replant me, I will just grow new, deep roots. Because I know that the groundwater – God’s presence – is the same at every point of the earth. Then, as the Psalmist so beautifully says, we are “like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.”
By Steve Meeker
Praying you will know Jesus' rest in the midst of the coronavirus crisis and learn to trust Him more.
In the current worldwide crisis, how do we keep going as wave one gives way to a second wave of a pandemic? What may have looked far off to us at the beginning of the year now has impacted those we personally know. Worldwide, life has been altered and coronavirus has squeezed us like a tube of toothpaste as the months drag on in 2020.
Stuck at home, minds wander to, “Will this ever end? When I wake up, where can I go or should I go as I might catch COVID-19? If I catch it, will I spread it to the ones I love? What do I hold onto as our world is shaken?”
My emotions might cry out to running away or fighting for my rights in the midst of the anxiety, frustration or even fear; however, my heart calls me back to words of comfort in crisis.
Walking down to a river and hearing a chorus of birds these life-giving words calm my soul, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight,” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB).
Awakening a renewed perspective, the weight of the crisis begins to fall from my shoulders as I lift my voice up to God in delight that He knows, He sees, and He guides. This crisis is not bigger than Jesus who loves me. What does He want me to learn?
My meditation on these verses leads me to the answer, “TRUST GOD!”
Meandering further down this river trail, I sit down gazing into the water and another passage fills my mind, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart,” (Psalm 37:4 NASB).
Lord, how do I delight in You in a world struggling with fear? Walking in our community, behind the masks I see it in their eyes. Teach me to delight in You. Help me to not forget what it means to draw close to you no matter what life brings.
A twitch of a fin catches my eye as I spy a trout resting behind a stone protected from the current. Then in an instant it happens, nourishment floats into its view and with a snap of its tail it propels forward and is satisfied resting back in place behind the rock.
Again, I raise my voice and praise God for this picture in His creation. God takes care of even the fish and how much more He loves and takes care of His children. In waiting through today’s turmoil, He calls us to meet Him in a safe place and to learn to delight in Him.
Do I trust You Lord?
Lead me into those quiet places where I am satisfied only in You. Teach me to walk in faith day by day and to focus on the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Remind us that these passing circumstances give way to opportunity to grow our trust as we learn to wait on You.
Although we don’t understand the why behind our worldwide crisis, may this encourage you to find time to get away and wait on the One who knows, sees and provides as we take time to delight in Him. Lord Jesus, align our hearts with Your will, comfort those who are hurting and fill us with Your peace.
Teach us to rest and trust You more!
By Tamara Stannard
Tamara has served on our LLI team and is studying to be a teacher.
A few weeks ago, in psychology class, a professor asked us if we knew what the only two fears are that we are all born with. We made a lot of guesses, but we didn't guess right. The only two fears are the fear of falling or losing ground under your feet and the fear of a strong, sudden or surprising sound. All other fears that we have, have been acquired throughout our lives. That's when I first heard this information. I stored it in a drawer and forgot about it.
One Sunday, at 6:24 a.m., that drawer opened. The powerful earthquake that hit Zagreb and its surroundings triggered both of those fears, but also many others! The powerful sound and feeling of losing the ground under my feet shook me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. For the first few minutes I was just sitting on the bed, in shock looking at the wall and shaking with fear, not knowing if this was just another nightmare or reality. "Please, God, say it’s not real!"
But it was. And then, after an hour, that reality happened again. And a few more times during the day too. I'd be lying if I said I fell asleep peacefully the next night. Because I didn't. And when in the midst of the earthquake and corona virus a snowstorm came too, my heart filled with worry and my mind began to doubt and question. God, are you really in control? Oh, how many times have I asked Him that question!
Nobody really prepares us for situations like these, do they? Even if we try to prepare, until a storm like that comes and turns our lives around, we can't quite be ready. Remember what Jesus did when the storm raged? He was asleep. He didn't sleep because He didn't care about His friends in danger. He was asleep because He knew who was in control, and He knew that if His disciples called Him for help now, He was there and He would calm the storm.
A friend posted this picture of the storm and a text alongside it that I read on Monday when my heart was still agitated and I couldn't sleep. At first you don't see Jesus in this dark picture of the storm. I didn't see Him at 6:24 on Sunday. But zoom in on the picture and you'll see the outline of His raised hands calming the storm.
That evening, the day after the earthquake, Jesus calmed down my storm. I don't know what tomorrow brings. I don't even know what the next moment brings me, but I know whose hands hold it! I know whose hands I'm in! When everything around me changes, when I lose the ground beneath my feet and my world is shaken, when the strong sounds deafen me and my worst fears come true—my Jesus, my Lord is with me! Whether I feel Him or not. Whether I hear His voice or not. This truth is unchangeable. His promises are steadfast!
As I write this, I’m listening to a song by JJ Heller, and I want these truths to be as reassuring to you as much as they are to me, and that's why I’m sharing them with you today! Wherever you are now and wherever you will be — Jesus is with you!
“Everything around me seems uncertain, my weary heart can’t take much more surprise.
I wish there was a point on the horizon, something I could see with my own eyes.
I need to tell you that I’m scared, I feel completely unprepared.
And nothing’s what it was two weeks ago.
You already know. You already know everything I’m scared of, everything I hope.
You hold my tomorrow and all tomorrow holds – You already know.
I can’t seem to find the easy answers, someday I hope the suffering makes sense.
I just need to know that you are with me even if you keep me in suspense.
And we talk so much these days because I have so much to say.
You stay and listen to me closely even though You already know.
You already know. You already know everything I’m scared of, everything I hope.
You hold my tomorrow and all tomorrow holds – You already know.
Whatever I’m feeling, whatever is coming, whenever the ending – You’re already there.
You go before me, You go behind me. Wherever I’m going – You’re already there.”
from SU Global News
“I had been leading a bible study group of girls 12-16 years old for about 5-6 years before I came to LLI,” said Carri. “It was one of the main reasons I came to LLI. I wanted to gain more skills and increase my knowledge of how to lead a bible study and better serve Christ in ministry. I also had a lot of my girls graduating and moving on the next year so I wanted to spend time with God and praying about if I needed to build a new group.”
Time at LLI taught Carri about how to teach different types of people within a group it also helped her see the signs of burnout, the danger of leading others without support and without relying on God.
Carri said, “After attending LLI, I was able to bring back the skill of debriefing, which made discussions in bible study much more fruitful and deep. I learned about leaders and teams and, once my original group of girls moved on to college and life, I started a leadership group for 17-20 year-olds that incorporates a lot of what I learned through LLI. I am teaching these young women about biblical leadership qualities, not only in a bible study group, but also in life. Then they are applying it while they teach a young girls’ bible study. It is fun to see them continue to grow.”
“I hope to lead this group for at least two years, and then see where God leads me. Whether the same ministry, a new one or even moving on to women’s ministry.
Carri says, “I am super thankful to LLI. God led me to it at the right time and knew exactly what I needed to learn and let go of that summer. He glorified himself so much by sanding and shaping me into what he wanted me to look like and planted me in the place where he wanted. I was broken, repaired, stretched and filled through my experience with LLI.”