In Revelation Chapter 5, Christ the King is depicted as a Lamb who has been slaughtered. All the magnificence of Heaven bows down and worships this Lamb.
In Isaiah 53 we are told “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
Then why do we continually seek the pretty, the popular, the powerful, the persuasive, and the polished to emulate, venerate, and follow?
More questions: Have we ever given thanks to God for entering into our humanity and suffering with us and for us? Have we given thanks for the privilege of suffering with him and for him? Are we giving our hearts, our allegiance, our lives to the slaughtered Lamb who lives? the wounded one who heals? Are we willing to bring our wounds to the Lamb for healing? to transform us into wounded healers?
This Thanksgiving I want to join my thanks giving and praise with the angels and those who “fell down and worshiped” the lamb as they held aloft bowls filled with “the prayers of the saints” and as they sang a “new song”:
You are worthy …
for you were slaughtered
and by your blood you ransomed,
saints from every tribe and language
and people and nation….
To the one seated on the throne
and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory
and might forever and ever!
(Rev. 5:9-13, NRSV)
Photo: Photo: “Thanksgiving” Stained-Glass Windows used by permission of Library of Congress
It takes courage to be an author, to declare and publish to a busy, perhaps skeptical world what you have experienced privately … to tell in “bright lights” what you have seen and learned in dark places.
Long ago in Bethlehem, shepherds waiting and watching on a dark hillside experienced a wondrous awakening and illumination. Then, even as they stood there in awe of the heavenly hosts, the shepherds must have needed courage and bravery to leave their flocks in the care of their guard dogs and run into the dark, crowded city of Bethlehem to look for a newborn baby “in a manger” and then worship him as the promised king. Surely there were more qualified and famous individuals to use as messengers.
I think the needed courage gripped the shepherds because the authenticity of their experience and their certainty of it overcame their trepidation. They obeyed, they went, they told. And their story was full of immediacy and hope.
Sometimes we authors feel that way.
Though angels didn’t exactly appear to us in the night sky and declare wonderful tidings of great joy for us to write, Christian writers do sense a call from God and we experience wonder and the help of God (and perhaps even of angels) as we write. We certainly have good tidings to share.
Janyne McConnaughey is an example of one writer who has a life-changing story of hope and is compelled to write and tell her story to encourage others. I don’t know whether she has been “touched by an angel” but I know she has been touched by God with the courage to share her story. The title of her first book, BRAVE, tells that. And these comments from readers and reviewers on Amazon.com tell us of the authenticity and immediacy and hope in her story.
“There is hope!”
“A compelling journey”
“A very important book”
“A road less traveled … a path to healing”
“Kept me on the edge of my seat”
“Healing from complex trauma”
“A roadmap to freedom”
“Brave is a fitting title for this true story.”
“A beautiful soul shows us the way to hope and healing.”
“A book every person who has struggled with trauma should read.”
“This book can be your path to healing from childhood trauma.”
Whatever your place of waiting ‘in the night’—or journey in the dark— be encouraged. A savior is born and he brings good news to the oppressed, including those suffering from complex trauma.
“Does the day’s long journey take the whole long day?”
“From morn to night, my friend.”
This poem by Christina Rossetti has often given me encouragement to keep stepping onward and upward on my own life’s journey. Just recently, Rossetti’s poem came to mind again— when I noticed that many Cladach book titles allude to various aspects and dimensions of this journey called ‘life.’
On that up-hill road, we often WALK:
As we walk, we will inevitably need to TRUST:
We may need to RUN (from SHAME and toward LOVE):
Our journey may lead to ESCAPE:
We may have to release and LEAVE BEHIND:
Our journey will be fraught with DANGERS:
Our journey will involve SEARCHING and finding:
We will COME to oases that bid us to STAY awhile and CELEBRATE:
The journey provides stretches of solitude for pondering and REMEMBERING:
The journey includes places for PAUSING, letting others pass, and finding renewed perspective:
Judy is an American-born Israeli Jewish Christian. From their home and ministry in Eilat, Israel, she and her husband, John, have a unique perspective on the Middle East—and the world—especially because thousands of travelers stay in their hostel (The Shelter) each year. And because the Pexes are “Trail Angels” who help people who are walking the 600-mile Israel National Trail. Judy wrote a book (Walk the Land) about her and John’s experience of walking the famous and challenging Trail from one end of Israel to the other.
Here’s one experience Judy shared in a recent update:
“Last night John and I slept out at a camp site on the Israel Trail. In the morning we met a group with 50 participants called ‘Walk about Love.’ They enable people to do the Trail by providing meals and taking their bags from camp to camp. One of the women, a Reform Jewish rabbi, from New York City [in the picture above with Judy] immediately recognized me from Walk the Land, and very excitedly told me she had read my book and wanted a picture with me. Another woman was eager to have a copy in Hebrew. The organizers of the group knew the Shelter. … In preparing for her trip she came across my book on one of the sites and ordered it on Amazon. She used a Yiddish word to mean “preordained” when she realized she was meeting the author.”
And here’s another recent experience Judy had, this time at The Shelter:
“A tour group with 25 people from New Zealand led by a couple we know and guided by a friend of ours came to the Shelter today to hear about the work here and we sold fourteen books, a mixture of all three books.”
Judy receives emails from readers all over the world who have read her book(s). Here are examples of recent messages she has received and shared with me:
“I have just enjoyed reading your book “Walk the Land.” It was lent to me by Astrid and Craig who are friends at our church and who met at your Hostel and were saved through your ministry. Like Astrid I am Jewish, in fact I am a child survivor of the holocaust.”
–(a reader in Australia)
“Shalom Judy. I am currently reading your book Come Stay Celebrate. I’m only on chapter 9 and I can’t put it down. Your stories have reminded me of when I first believed in Jesus in 1986. How my life changed and how exciting it was to learn and grow. It’s created a hunger in me to keep learning and growing! Thank you for writing this book and sharing your faith and leading so many to Jesus!!”
I was editing a novel about mountain rescue about the time of Hurricane Harvey. Reading the fictional story set in Colorado’s mountains and watching videos of flood victims rescued from the rising waters in Houston, got me thinking about the rescues I’ve experienced or witnessed.
I lived most of my life near the mountains and rivers of Northern California and near rivers flowing down from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. In both places I have witnessed major floods where many people had to be rescued from rooftops, bridges, and floating logs.
Random tragedies happen. And they have victims—people, livestock, pets, wildlife.
I have been on the victim end of tragedy waiting for someone to rescue me. When I was four years old our house burned down in the night. I woke in a back bedroom to smoke filling the room and the sound of crackling fire quickly moving through the house. My mother came in her nightgown, took my hand, and led me through the burning house and out the front door in the nick of time. I tell some of that story in Journeys to Mother Love.
My mother herself was rescued at the age of 21 months. Her mother had died of TB and her father had abandoned the children to go find work. The county took the children into custody and declared them neglected and sent them to a state orphanage until age 21. But my mother, the youngest child, was rescued by the doctor who did a medical exam of the children for the court. He knew a childless couple who wanted a child and overnight arranged an adoption. So my mother was rescued from an institutional childhood and brought into a loving, nurturing home.
These types of tragic experiences can cause emotional trauma from which God’s love and grace is seeking to rescue us. Janyne McConnaughey‘s memoir, Brave, describes the process of healing from childhood trauma. Physa Chanmany‘s experience of extreme trauma as a child in the killing fields of Cambodia is described in his memoir, No More Fear. It’s hard to imagine anything more tragic than the genocide perpetrated by Pol Pot’s regime. But God’s physical and spiritual rescue of Physa is a story you won’t soon forget.
Speaking of God’s gracious love, the greatest rescue of all happened on the cross where Jesus revealed the extent of God’s love for us, making a way for us to have fellowship with the Father and to be set free from sin and death. I grew up as a preacher’s kid, spending a lot of time on a church pew and singing gospel songs such as, “There’s a sweet and blessed story of the Christ who came from glory just to rescue me from sin and misery. He in loving kindness sought me, and from sin and shame hath brought me…”
Rescue costs. It involves risk and compassion. Theologian Thomas Jay Oord teaches that God’s nature is essentially “self-giving, others-empowering” love that doesn’t seek to control the creatures whom he has created with free will. That means we can resist rescue—or we can choose to cooperate with God’s rescue work and ministry.
For a person buried in an avalanche in the mountains, one can hardly imagine they would resist help when a rescue team finds their location and digs through the snow to reach them. The risk involved in such a rescue is displayed by teams in our mountains here in Colorado—mountain rescue teams who answer the call to go into avalanche, blizzard, and sheer-cliff conditions to rescue and save mountain adventurers from deadly situations—often at risk of their own lives.
The latest Cladach fiction release—a debut novel by Jeanie Flierl—To Conquer A Mountain—brings together light romance and suspenseful adventure with high-mountain rescue set in the Rocky Mountains. Reviewers have commented that the descriptions of the rescues were their favorite parts of the story. I know Jeanie did a lot of research to make those scenes realistic.
At the beginning of the novel, the main character, Tatum, avoids risk and stays away from heights and situations she can’t in some way control. But after she experiences a series of unexpected, tragic events and relationships, later in the story we see her high on a 14,000-foot mountain peak, both rescuing and being rescued.
If you’d like some easy reading for long winter evenings, get To Conquer A Mountain. It might also get you thinking about love, risk, and rescue.
There are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today, more than ever before in history.
There are more natural disasters occurring than ever before in recorded history.
There is a growing spirit of division among people, as evidenced in current discourse, events, politics and elections. So much of this division seems fueled by fear, anger, and distrust.
There have been horrific times before in history. We humans like to think we have learned from those experiences and that we wouldn’t let such things happen again. Can we learn from history? Will we? Or must history repeat itself?
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) And he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Cladach has released books that feature true stories of God—and his people—at work even during the most horrific historical times. For instance:
Pol Pot’s genocidal regime in Cambodia (in the book, NO MORE FEAR).
Spiritual hunger during the Communist revolution in Russia (in the book, PAPER POPPIES).
Jewish children and their pets during the Holocaust (in the book, FAITHFUL FRIENDS).
All these personal memoirs happened in extremely tumultuous times and circumstances. Each describes injustices, cruelty, and evil forces unleashed on nations, people groups, and individuals. Each of these stories also gives witness to God’s personal presence, providence, and grace.
We offer these stories in the hope that readers will find renewed perspective, faith, and love.
We can each do something this day to increase shalom, well-being, and flourishing in our world—to participate in “God’s kingdom come.”
I like the quote by Anne Frank, that I photographed summer 2017 when I was visiting Birmingham, Alabama. This monument was erected in the context of the Civil Rights struggles of that city, quoting a young Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis. If she could think and pen such words, shouldn’t we—as followers of the Messiah—who revealed to us God’s heart of Love and compassion—be looking for ways to “improve the world” that God created, Christ gave his life for, ever lives to intercede for, and is coming back to reclaim and re-create? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” John 3:16.
As a believer and follower of Jesus, the Creator and Redeemer, I want to reflect his character of holy love into this groaning, strife-filled world.
One way I seek to do that is by publishing books that offer hope. I believe that hope is what sets “Christian books” apart among general book publishing. Whether through fiction, nonfiction, memoir, or poetry; a story, essay, or poem may portray a context of brokenness, sin, and conflict. But into that milieu will shine a ray of hope that gives the reader renewed courage to reach up and take hold of “the helping hand at the end of God’s long arm of love.”
Lang with her brother and three sons in our backyard
On this World Refugee Day (June 20) I think of the refugees I have known. First, years ago my family helped sponsor a family of Vietnamese “boat people.” Lang, a South Vietnamese Army officer’s widow, and her brother and her three sons, escaped for their lives off the shore of Vietnam in a small boat to wander the sea along with many others. They gave everything they owned to the boat’s owner. They suffered on the sea. But they were fortunate that a ship picked them up and took them to a refugee camp.
Lang with my daughter
They arrived in our town frightened, slightly sick, “lost” in a completely different culture. While we waited for an apartment to open for them, this sad little family stayed in our home. Our little girl gave up her bedroom for them. Our way of living was so different from theirs. I showed them the glasses in the cupboard. They took one and drank water from it, then returned it to the cupboard. I bought five plastic glasses and wrote their names on them and lined them up on the counter for them to use.
They had experienced dangers and horrors that I could barely imagine. Even though I made beds on the floor, at night they all slept side by side on one double bed.
The word “refugees” changed in my mind from strange, almost-suspect stories into warm, real human beings.
Using gestures and a Vietnamese-English dictionary, I tried to tell Lang about Jesus’ love. Tears welled in her eyes. I tutored her in “English as a second language” for a short time. Eventually they moved to another city and I lost track of them. But I’ll never forget all I learned from them. And I have prayed that the welcome we gave them, and the bit of God’s love we tried to show them across cultural and language barriers, would grow like a seed planted—and that I will see Lang and her family again in Heaven. I look forward to worshiping around the throne the One who gave us freedom, who rescues us from sin and evil and death, and gives us the opportunity of new life and hope and peace.
Physa also had some things in common with many refugees today. As a boy, Physa saw indescribable horror and genocide. Taught to fear Westerners, especially Americans, he had never heard the truth of Jesus. But as a lost and traumatized refugee, he had a dream in which he encountered Christ, who set his life on a new course of hope.