Category Archives: Autobiography

“The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard”

It’s a question that has shipwrecked many on their way to faith. If God is good, it always starts, why is there suffering? Why do people hurt? Why do babies die and families fall apart and senseless things happen? Why is there so much sadness?

The question begs for an answer, but needs something deeper than a logical response. It needs hope. From someone who has weathered pain and hard and suffering, but still has hope.

Unexpected

Kara Tippetts’ story in The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard opens with a less-than-perfect childhood, with parents who loved her but didn’t always act with love. Jesus found her in high school, and forgiving her parents was an early step in her new life. Fumbling through her young Christianity, she met and married Jason, and they had plans for the future—their future—but it never went the way they expected. In her 30s, Kara was diagnosed with cancer. Their dreams of church-planting and ministry and doing life together changed with doctor visits and chemo and pain and weakness.

Kara Tippetts died of cancer on March 22, 2015. Her words are still here, though she isn’t, and her story of suffering and seeking God in the midst of it spurs us on to find Him in our own hard things—in our own whys.

We Don’t Write Our Stories

No one ever has time for cancer. Just when things seem to finally be falling into place or life has found that elusive equilibrium, the disease announces its presence and all those other things stop in their tracks. Jason and Kara had just moved with their four children to Colorado Springs to plant a church, and they were full of big dreams and plans—good dreams and plans—to drive a stake in the ground of their corner of the world and claim it for Jesus. They were going to do good things, big things.

“Before cancer, I would have said I was on the journey of seeking grace, but in truth I was manufacturing my own faith. If I found a need, I did my best to meet it. My going, doing, loving was my faith, not my nearness to Jesus. In my mind I knew my efforts weren’t the substance of my faith, but my practice betrayed me. Stripped of my ability, I saw Jesus in a new and profound way.” – Kara Tippetts

Jason and Kara would still do good things. Even some big things. Things like write a blog that eventually had 10,000-20,000 daily visits. Write books. Care for their children. Share their story—even when it wasn’t what they had planned. And it was through never-expected, never-chosen cancer that they stood toe-to-toe with the fact that they were not writing their story. The good things God had for them were not what they had picked, but they were still good.

“I come to you in these pages as a broken woman, realizing that my brokenness may be my greatest strength—that it may be the greatest strength of us all…My season of weakness has taught me the joy of receiving, the strength of brokenness, and the importance of looking for God in each moment.” – Kara Tippetts

Life. Is. Hard.

Some may blame Disney, and others Tootsie Pop Lollipops, but the desire to seek and find satisfying conclusions and happy endings is wired deeper in our humanity than inventions of the last few generations. We want things to turn out right. We want God’s presence to mean the hard things go away, like a child who knows their nighttime fear will evaporate if they could only be with Mommy or Daddy.

That’s what so many of us look for, even though that usually isn’t what happens.

And it’s there in that disappointment that we usually slip up, choose a Christianese answer, and flippantly explain away heartwrenching tragedy. We say “God has a plan” or “everything happens for a reason,” and go back to normal life if we can. We’re not wrong. But we’re far from completely right.

Life is hard, sometimes breathtakingly so. To baptize it with one-liners without feeling the depths of that pain is not only naïve, it’s—wrong.

“What if there is never an end? What if the story never improves and the tests continue to break our hearts? Is God still good? How does our story of love change when we look head-on at my absence from this life? How do you live realistically when you feel like your moments are fading, fleeting, too momentary? How do you fight for normal in the midst of the crushing daily news of more hard? How do you seek hope without forgetting reality?” – Kara Tippetts

We don’t have to deny that life hurts in order to have hope. Our hope in Jesus is firm because even when life hurts, Jesus is still there, still in control, and still good.

As Christians, we know that even if we still face our scariest scary—God is good.

“My hope is not in the absence of suffering and comfort returned. My hope is in the presence of the One who promises never to leave or forsake, the One who declares nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God” (Rom. 8:39). Nothing.” – Kara Tippetts

No Easy Answers

In this world we will have trouble. All of us. Just like everyone else who has ever lived. The whys are hard, and there is no easy answer. No complete understanding.

But we do know what God has faithfully shown us before: He is good—now and through eternity, in each and every story He has written. We can bank our hope on this, that Jesus who suffered horrific pain on that cross all those years ago will never give us a trite answer or leave us in the midst of our pain.

What we see as brokenness or tragedy will one day be reintroduced to us as His glorious redemption of our pain. Kara Tippets lives that reality in its fullest glory now, and one day we will, too. Until then, we remember how she shared her life and story with the world, inviting us to follow Jesus through all the whys and pain and hard questions to a marvelous eternity we can’t begin to imagine.

“Grace; it’s all grace. Jesus will be there; He will be wooing, loving, meeting my love, my babies, my community, my family, and you long past the day my words run out that beg you to look for grace—that long for you to know Jesus. Really know His love. It’s His story, not mine. It’s His grace extended, not mine. I have only been a steward of that grace, a simple namer of His unbelievably reckless love that shows up for one broken woman every single day.” – Kara Tippetts

“Safer Than a Known Way: Discover How Liberty in Christ Lies in Surrender”

Pamela Rosewell had three reasons to hesitate. The twenty-one-year-old from Hastings, England, worried that if she followed God completely, He would call her to great lengths in her newfound faith. She could not risk being called to 1) travel outside her native England, 2) speak in public, or 3) be single for the rest of her life.

Anything but that.

Unlikely Stories

When I first cracked the cover of The Hiding Place and finished its last page that same night, I was hooked. Since then I’ve been thrilled to find each new glimpse into the incredible story of the watch shop on the Barteljorisstraat and the unassuming family who lived upstairs.

After devouring several resources on the most exciting points of Corrie’s life, I read The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom, learning for the first time in detail of the stroke-induced silence of Corrie’s last years. What a surprising ending to such a vibrant life. The Five Silent Years was written by Pam Rosewell, Corrie’s personal travel assistant and eventual caregiver, who later wrote a second book: Safer Than a Known Way.

Corrie’s story is an unlikely one of an ordinary family of middle-aged and elderly Christians simply trusting and obeying God—and spearheading Haarlem’s resistance to Nazi horrors. Pam’s story is of an ordinary young woman intent on leading a normal and easy Christian life—and finding excitement and joy in parting with what she thought she could never give up.

For both of them, their lives were much different than their expectations. For both of them, their God was faithful.

“There Were Changes Ahead That I Could Never Have Imagined”

It really started with Sylvia.

Pam’s eighteen-year-old sister Sylvia begged her to attend a Christian conference. At 21, Pam wasn’t interested in her sister’s religious enthusiasm. “I wanted to follow Christ from a distance,” she wrote later. “To follow closely might mean He would ask of me something I could never do.”

But she went anyway, determined to participate as little as possible.

It was a determination she would not be able to keep. Despite her strongest intentions, just a few hours into the event, Pam wholeheartedly surrendered every part of her life to God. “I knew that [my surrender] was real and that it would last…God had revealed His love to me and had moved into my life on this particular night, giving me grace to surrender.”

But this was only the beginning.

Always an Adventure

Pam’s first international trip was a year-long mission assignment in Africa. Soon after, she began working with Brother Andrew in Holland and eventually agreed to accompany Corrie ten Boom on her travels all over the world. Her earlier commitment to never leave England’s shores had given way to an exciting life full of new people and places—and Pam was surprised to find that, most of the time, she actually enjoyed it.

Years into her travels, churches began inviting her to speak about her experiences to their congregations. “Although I continued to be nervous,” Pam wrote, “public speaking had lost its terror. People listened and responded. I saw that God used me and this fulfilled me deeply.”

Pam had now faced two of her three fears. God had been with her in her fears, and He had used those experiences she had dreaded to enrich her life more than she could have expected.

Through all of these things, Pam was single. She spent years caring for a woman who had been single all her life, and, in light of all she had learned through facing her first two fears, lifelong singleness was very possible for Pam.

Once Tante Corrie (as many called her) asked Pam if she was content to be single. Pam realized she was. Whether or not her singleness would be lifelong (and you’ll have to read the book to find out!), “I had to believe that this difficult way that I was now taking was…His perfect way for me.”

Safer Than a Known Way

Why do we always give our surrenders with caveats? Why do we think we have any right to ask God to meet our stipulations?

Even when we think we have surrendered wholeheartedly, we usually haven’t. As soon as things start unraveling, we grumble and question and give our human reasons as to why we shouldn’t be in this situation.

This isn’t what I had in mind. This isn’t what I expected. This isn’t what I signed up for.

If we would only give it all away—all the doubts, all the questions, all the fears.

Pam did. Soon she found herself facing the very things she had vowed to never risk. But in that road, in that way, she found so much more than just a neat and comfortable little Christian life. This life was so much better.

“Yet God has fulfilled my life through the very things I feared…I would so much like to tell people that they have nothing to lose in trusting God with all their lives…Only the Lord sees the end of my story. It is not in my control. But I do know this: when I surrender to Him, I am safer than if I had chosen a known way.”

“The Great Omission: Fulfilling Christ’s Commission Completely”

greatomissionIn 1956, the world was horrified at the spearing deaths of five missionaries at the hands of a native Ecuadorian tribe. The story of Jim Eliot, Pete Fleming, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, and Nate Saint was spread around the world. Three years later, some of the same families made the news again, when Rachel Saint (Nate Saint’s sister) and Elisabeth Elliot (Jim Elliot’s wife) returned to Waodani territory to live among them and continue the mission of those five men.

Nate Saint’s son Steve was only four years old when his father died in the Ecuadorian jungle. Growing up, he sometimes visited his Aunt Rachel and even spent summers with her and the Waodani. Eventually, Steve and his sister were baptized by Waodani elders where their father had been killed a few years earlier. Rachel Saint stayed with the Waodani for the rest of her life.

After Rachel’s death, the Waodani asked Steve to come and live with them. He was shocked at what was left of the Waodani church. As more outsiders and “help” had been flowing in to a now-safer environment, the church was worse off that it had been before. The church building—built by outsiders—was in disarray as the Waodani waited for “permission” they thought they needed to repair it. The functioning church whose elders had baptized Steve as a teenager now had no elders.

As Steve began living and working among the Waodani again, he searched for answers. In The Great Omission: Fulfilling Christ’s Commission Completely, Saint shares what he discovered and important truths that every missionary—every Christian—should consider.

“We must bravely and honestly face the fact that good intentions are not an excuse for poor execution. When, in the name of Christ’s commission, we do for indigenous believers what they can and should do for themselves, we undermine the very church that God has sent us to plant.

 

Not Good Enough

Our approach, Steve decided, isn’t effective enough. The need is just too great. “[If] you could adequately explain God’s offer to one person every second, one day would be enough to reach a small city…it would take 100 years to reach all the people living today who haven’t heard that Jesus died to set them free!” Steve heard from missionaries that short-term mission trips often did more harm than good, creating a sense of dependency and even false responses from the people they wanted to help. One missionary told Steve they had stumbled onto a meeting where people were deciding who would “go up” during the next altar call, to keep the missionaries coming back and to get the gifts, without missionaries calling their bluff.

Typically, modern missions approaches tend to involve sending out Western missionaries to different cultures and starting from the ground up. Sometimes this is necessary—like in the case of Nate and Rachel Saint. But too often, we rely only on those Western missionaries, discounting huge numbers of possible recruits. Who are these secret weapon recruits?

Indigenous believers.

“When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He was talking to eleven disciples…If He had been commissioning just them, that would really have been a ‘mission impossible’! But if He was commissioning all believers, then Mincaye, Tementa, Kimo, Dawa and the rest of the Waodani believers have the same commission that you and I do.”

stevesaintwaodani
Steve Saint with Waodani tribesmen. epm.org

The same commission. The same. The Waodani don’t have a different Bible. They don’t have a different God. They don’t have different spiritual responsibilities. Once they become born-again believers, they were ready to begin taking over the responsibilities missionaries had filled up until then.

As Steve points out, all believers are called to be missionaries in some way. And all believers can be.

 

Yes, They Can

As the early Waodani church began to grow, well-meaning outsiders swooped in to help. Or so they thought. They brought their education, their official credentials—and their Western ideas of “church.” Soon the Waodani had a church building that didn’t fit their culture and didn’t even feel like their own. As Steve points out, the Waodani didn’t really need all that “help.” They had Christ. They had the Holy Spirit. They didn’t need anything Westerners considered official.

“[M]any indigenous believers are being intimidated into backing down from what God has called them to do. They are overwhelmed by outsiders’ superior technology, formal education, and wealth. They frequently come to the conclusion that they don’t have what it takes. But they do! It doesn’t come from being able to read markings on paper, from college degrees on a wall, or from their knowledge of world affairs. Instead, it comes from the Holy Spirit, their knowledge of God’s Word, and the experience of committing themselves to Him.”

 

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Steve Saint and his wife Ginny. itecusa.org

Everyone Plays a Part

Steve now lives in Florida, where he works for his company, I-TEC (Indigenous People’s Technology and Education Center). Through creative thinking and innovation, Steve hopes to benefit the mission field by providing technology that advances their work. He has visited the Waodani many times over the years, and some of them have visited him and even traveled with him, sharing the story God has written with both of their lives.

We are called to be a part of missions. All of us.

“The purpose of missions is not to evangelize the world. Christ gave that commission to eleven simple but dedicated men who represented the church. The commission to the church is to evangelize the world. The purpose of missions is to plant the church where it doesn’t exist so it can evangelize its world.”

“Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up”

eighttwentyeightIn May 2012, a video of an outdoor wedding started showing up in my Facebook feed. Bridesmaids bearing flowers and wearing cowgirl boots, young families juggling children, ladies turning around to find a glimpse of the bride. She came down the aisle—in her own cowgirl boots—while leaning on her daddy’s arm. Just like any other wedding. Except for maybe the cowgirl boots.

But there was something different. A few years earlier, her groom had survived a car accident—barely, and after months in the hospital, he reemerged into normal life anything but normal. Their new reality included his severe brain injury that never took a break and therapy that never seemed to be enough. Even at their wedding ceremony, it took the bride and a groomsman to help the groom up on his feet.

Ian and Larissa’s wedding video, produced by Desiring God, has been viewed over 1 million times.   But a common drawback of viral videos held true for this one, too: you can’t tell the whole story in 9 minutes.

So Larissa wrote it down.

Continue reading “Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up”

“The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom”

silentyearsCome to think of it, I mused as we drove home, I have never seen Tante Corrie embarrassed. She always expected that people would take her just as she was­­. And now, after her stroke she still expects it. It was the result of a deep confidence that God accepted her just as she was and it had not been shaken now that she could not speak. She was accepted, and so she could accept people just as they were.”

Corrie ten Boom of the 1970s was a worldwide traveler and speaker, telling thousands of people from all walks of life about her World War II experiences and how God had sustained her through those years. Accompanying her was her personal assistant, a younger woman who could help with the rigors of travel and constantly being on the move. It could be a draining and demanding job, combining the exhaustion of travel with the uncertainty that came with accompanying a woman who followed God’s will wherever it led—however unexpected. Two women, Connie and Ellen, had already spent a few years with “Tante” (Aunt) Corrie before moving on to get married and begin their families, and now Corrie’s third—and final—assistant would be Pamela Moore, a young British woman who had lived in The Netherlands for several years.

Corrie ten Boom left concentration camp life when she was fifty-two years old. Her family’s experiences would inspire a book and a movie, and she would eventually write over twenty-five books and travel to over 60 countries sharing her story. Corrie died on April 15, 1983, her 91st birthday.

What many people don’t know is that a series of strokes halted Corrie’s public work and ministry several years before her death. For the last two-and-a-half years of her life, the woman who had endured so much and emerged victorious was not physically able to leave her room.

It was not the story anyone expected for the strong and persevering Corrie ten Boom. But Pam was there and, as Corrie’s final personal assistant, she chronicled those last years of Corrie’s earthly life. She also shared her own spiritual wrestling as she watched her friend and mentor endure the pain and frustration of her abilities slipping away. What was the point of this pain? How can God possibly find good in it?

In The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom, Pam works through that age-old question: Why would a good and sovereign God allow His child to suffer?

“The days went slowly by. We heard the familiar whirring of the electric bed as we lowered it to change her position, the metallic clicking of the rails as we raised and lowered them to turn our patient, the ticking of the brown clock. Nine months passed. It was not easy for her or for us. It was very hard sometimes. There were days when the routine seemed endless and the hours seemed to last for days.”

It was in that suffering that Pam saw Him work. She saw lives touched and gained a front-row seat to Corrie’s own experiences through the ordeal. Could it be that God was using this, too? Just like He had used Corrie’s concentration camp experience? God had brought good from the horrors of Nazi cruelty. Could He – would He – bring good of this, too?

“Up until this time, in common with a large part of the western world, I had set great store by strength and achievement. A sense of satisfaction was gained by having a goal and employing all faculties, strength, and input from others in order to reach that goal. Particularly in America, I had found ‘self-image,’ or our view of ourselves, was related directly to what a person achieves. But what happens when a person becomes old, frail, brain-damaged, and in some eyes, apparently useless? How does God view that? How should society view that? I had been learning that our real selves can be discovered only in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that He died to save us from our sins, that we are ‘precious, holy, beloved, dear children, hidden in the hollow of His hand.’ And in that hand He also holds our times.”

People brought to her bedside were greeted with the same love and warmth (albeit quieter) that Corrie had shown to prisoners and audiences in her travels. Caretakers who spent hours with this incapacitated Corrie but had never met her before were impacted by her life—even as an invalid. Her consistent patience and kindness in the midst of suffering was not lost on the people around her.

The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom tells the last chapter of Corrie’s life on earth, how a soldier for God endured her final battle. And it reminds us that no matter where life finds us right now, our times are in His hands, too.