Friday, April 21, 2017

Drama, Trauma and Fruit

I would like to tell you more about our ten years in Houston. Ted and I were on a call-in show on KHCB radio, the traditional Christian station.. That exposure opened up many ministries, one of which was in a church whose leadership did not believe in biblical inerrancy or  that Christ is God-in-the-flesh. I called my friend: "Billie, I may be in deep doo doo if I accept this invitation. Do you want to help me?" She did, and here's what happened: I was drawn to the Book of Ecclesiastes which I had never really studied, ...a fact which makes it all-the-more amazing that in  the weeks that followed, the whole bloomin' class came to Christ. Billie and I hot-footed it to our side of town as most of those women left that church, went down the street and joined the Baptists!

Ted and I met Charlie and Ann, ..the consummate hospitable Texas couple. They had adopted four children, moved from the swanky part of Houston (and there are many "swanky parts") and moved to their ranch in Tomball. Jessie, their black Christian handyman told Charlie about Jesus and Charlie came to Christ.  He thought it would be a good thing to take his kids to Sunday School but there wasn't one ...so he bought a Bible and taught them himself.  Ann came to Christ. They opened their hearts and home to students from the University of Texas and Texas A&M. The 6T Ranch Retreat became the happenin' place for college students. C&A weren't sure they were running their ministry right, so flew to L'Abri in Switzerland to see how Francis and Edith ran their place. One day on a drive in the surrounding Alps, there was Francis, dressed in his knickers and walking along the road. They offered him a ride, he accepted and crawled into  the back seat of  their rented Fiat. Ann turned around and blurted out: "Dr. Schaeffer, What is wrong with me? Sometimes I feel so insecure".  This Ravi Zacharias of a generation ago replied: "My dear Mad-a-a-am  (rolling his "r's), " all of us feel 'insecure'. That's why we run to the Word of God!" Charlie and Ann Towery spent a chunk o' change to travel half -way around the world to ask a question and discover that they were running the 6T in Tomball, Texas exactly as they were meant to. Each of us runs our "retreat" according to His individual direction.  Take the Shattucks, for instance. They stopped by Round Top when Ted and I were speaking for a Marriage Retreat. Later, Bill and Jinny came here to our retreat, returned to Houston, then moved to North Carolina,  built their magnificent Whispering Pines Retreat on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and welcome pastors and wives who need counselling and encouragement. I am so proud of them. Pastors so desperately need a place of safety and recovery.

We joined Search Ministries for a couple of years and conducted many discussions on Life and God around the sprawling city of Houston. Sometimes we drove out to "The Barn" on a Sunday night to sing without instruments with a bunch of maverick Church of Christ folk. Their harmonies thrill the soul  There we met Buddy who had a dream about launching a radio station for young people that played only contemporary Christian music. He did it. I listened, and called him:  "You need something to break the sameness. How about letting me do an interview show?" I carted my little tape recorder around Houston and recorded the testimonies of many fascinating people.  A couple of young women drug runners heard my broadcast and called in. One lived two lives,  playing in a performing Christian band while using her cover as a UPS employee to deliver drugs. The other led only one life as the girlfriend of the leader of the whole drug running outfit in our city. She would never allow me to meet her, even sfter she came to Christ during a call from a phone booth. '"They will kill you,  I will call you at the same time each week." And she did. She bought a Bible and we studied, phone booth to my home. Then she didn't call any more. The other girl phoned:  "Her live-in caught her reading the Bible and shot her. She's dead!" I never met her. I don't even know her real name. "Aw, come on, Jo, that didn't happen." Yes, it did. All that I am telling you led eventually to a time when I became emotionally exhausted. I didn't even tell you some of the story. No wonder many Christians stay in the holy huddle their whole life and never venture out.

...and then came Gratia.. Twice, her husband Jack, was the Commander on the Columbia. We went to Canaveral to watch him lift off, then sped back to Mission Control in Houston to watch him come in. All around us was the whole launch crew. Jack was still  up in space. At the consoles in front of us sat Steve, another Christian astronaut.. "What are you doing, Jack?" "I'm opening my Bible to have devotions with my crew"." What are you reading?" "Proverbs 3:5 and 6!" The media does not report such stunning information. Long after Jack was formally out of the Space Program he continued to speak to dignitaries around the world and returns to the Cape a couple of times a year to lead tour groups.

Now, about Jack's wife, Gratia: She would call.  "Jo, I have this idea! I have a group of teenagers I want you to speak to."  I showed up and walked into a crowd!  Another time she invited wives of former astronauts for a weekend in Galveston. She had us lead discussions about Life and God for teenagers. About eight years ago her ideas lured us back to Ann Arbor where they lived at the time.  She had lined us up to speak for street kids, Chinese students, faculty and other students on the campus of one of the Big Ten. Gratia probably never will run out of "ideas".

... back to Kingwood where we lived for a year and a half. I continued an every morning interview program on KSBJ. Ted was meeting with commuting business men in early morning Bible studies as we both continued to meet and teach small groups around the city. A dear attorney named Bill Lange helped us launch Family Life Resources, my continuing non-profit ministry. The people who had rented our home in Spring Branch trashed it.  Our family labored to restore it so we could move back in, but the night before the move an  arsonist broke in and threw a lighted match in a bucket of varnish. Sticky, black soot covered every inch of our hard work. No, I didn't strike the match but the thought did cross my mind. Insurance paid. I had our contractor knock out every wall possible to open our once closed-in home to the beautiful forest that surrounded us. Oil prices were  abysmally low and had forced foreclosures all around us. We put our newly remodeled, open  home on the market and it sold to the first people who came. We were on our way back to the dry, clear  mountain air of California.

     A not-so old-hymn by John Peterson:

JESUS LED ME ALL THE WAY
Step by step along each day.
I will tell the saints and angels when I lay my burdens down:
"JESUS LED ME ALL THE WAY."

Love,  Jo

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Because He lives

...I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know, I know Who holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

I am in the winter of my life. I cannot imagine how anyone gets out of bed in the morning if they are not assured that eternity with Christ awaits them.

Love,  Jo

Friday, April 7, 2017

Moment by Moment

O.K., I took us to Southeast, East Asia and Houston, Texas last week. Let's go back to Houston. I want to talk about another part of my personal journey-to-deeper-faith in that city.  After three years in a pastorate with walls we were thrust out into the church-without walls. It was hard for me to adjust to having no structure, but then I don't adjust very fast to anything. Psalm 37:3 carried me through the first trial.  The evil one taunted me with this thought: "You no longer have a salary. You will be sitting on a corner with a tin cup" God gave me:  "Trust in the Lord and do good. So shall you dwell in th land and verily thou shalt be fed". We had one more kid to get through college. An elder and his wife from the church we just left asked us to dinner: "We will pay Dee's tuition." Oooooh!

Ted was free and flyin' high with the eagles. I, however spent some time in the chicken coop, still worrying and scrambling for personal promises from the Lord.  He had brought to Himself three fabulous women just as we were leaving the church-with walls: ... two Judy's and a Kathy. I was about to learn more about the ministry of personal discipleship without the church-with-walls to support me. Last week I told you about the encouragement I received from four men in ministry as I spoke for a conference out here in California. The Lord was working in me to trust only Him, and not to put my faith in ever-changing institutions. Christ never changes. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Remember,  we had met the District Attorney of the county, he came to Christ and later joined Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship ministry. Before leaving the visible church the Lord had brought into our lives a new Christian couple. Nick was a CPA/ part owner of a cross-country flat-bed trailer company. His beautiful wife was a well-known interior designer.  We had no idea what a major part they would play in our lives and ministry for the rest of our days on this earth. These two bought a few acres 'way west of Houston. On the acreage were a white farmhouse, an old barn and a "tank"...the Texas word for a pond or small lake.

Two young women who had been in our church came to our office. Willa was a nurse and Shari was a Delta Airline stewardess. "Ted, we have so many friends that may never go to church. If we can find a place to meet  would you come and teach us on Sunday morning?"  Of course he would. These gutsy young women found a Shakey's Pizza Parlor that was closed on Sundays, but open to us. Ted became the Pizza Pastor. Young singles came to Christ. Shari invited her stewardess friends to luncheons and asked me to come and share Christ with them. She owned a house that filled up with new Christians and some who were on their way. Both Shari and Willa continue to serve the Lord with their whole hearts...Shari, married to Lee in Cincinnati and Willa, on a farm outside Houston where she welcomes all who come.

Somehow we were invited to minister to Louisiana Tech students in Monroe (Yep, the stomping grounds of the Duck Dynasty family). Those people are a kick! They took us to a rodeo and rented a houseboat on a Sunday afternoon and we went cruisin' down the Quachita (That's Watch-i-taw)) River. When the students graduated from Louisiana (That's Looooziana") Tech  they came to Houston. One was Rae Lynn. She heads up something or other at Texas A&M. Amazing woman! What do you do with country kids on a weekend in a big city? Well, you foist them on your friends that just bought a place in the country 'way west of Houston.

The Pizza Parlor new Christians joined the Louisiana Tech grads at Euphanel and Nick's. They slept on the floor or in the barn. That bothered Nick. "Jo and Ted, if you're going to bring these kids here we've got to have a place for them to sleep. I can't even get to my own bathroom without stepping over bodies!" ...and Round Top Retreat was born. Look it up on the web. Each year thousands of folk come to these magnificent homes, gardens and grounds. Every room is decorated to perfection with old Texas antiques. Nick and Euphanel's love for Christ, their giftedness, hard, hard work and trust in our Lord welcome all with love and grace. At Round Top Retreat people find Christ,  rest, restoration, encouragement and purpose.

When I was a little girl on the farm I watched my dad, day after day guide a team of four horses up and down the furrows of the field. In the corral was a stallion. My dad would never have tried to hitch him up to a plow,  The Lord was introducing us to stallions! I will tell you about more of them next week.

There's an old song that I love.  Here it is:

         Moment by Moment.

Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear.
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment, I'm under His care.

Moment by moment, I'm kept in His love.
Moment by moment, I've life from above.
Looking to Jesus 'til glory doth shine;.
Moment by moment, O Lord,  I am Thine.

Love,  Jo


Friday, March 31, 2017

No Mistakes

Ted and I were in ministry in Houston for ten years. ...three of them in the church- with -walls, and seven in the church- without- walls. After years of serving the Lord in churches with walls in Minneapolis, Dallas, Palo Alto and Bakersfield, it was harder for me to adjust to the church-without-walls than it was for Ted. Of course!

We went to East and Southeast Asia after leaving our fruitful California pastorate. Before settling into a new pastorate in Houston God's plan for us was that we experience being in ministry in six countries where there were millions and millions of people who had never heard the Gospel even once. The last country was Viet Nam,  as it fell. We flew out of Saigon with a plane load of Catholic nuns and orphaned babies. Every passenger was given a baby to hold.

In our new church and city, we were ready for new fruit. Within three years we were out of the church-with-walls and turned loose in a city of three million people.  This is what God did: A couple of days after our last day in the church-with-walls in Houston I fulfilled a commitment to speak for the Torrey Conference at Biola/Talbot in Los Angeles, California. The subject that had been assigned to me months before was "The Hazards of Full-Time Work".  There were four other speakers...all men with big names. Mine wasn't. We met for prayer early on Monday morning. I was scheduled to be the kick-off speaker before thousands of students and faculty on a subject that was about one of those "hazards". We had just, for the first time in our lives, entered the "church-without-walls." I told the other speakers my worry about downloading my fears on these young people that were training for ministries around the world.  All of them said: "We've been there. The Lord has done this. You cannot believe the doors that will open for you and your husband!" They were right! When I returned to Houston my Ted had rented an office, hired a secretary and we were on our way into a ministry we could not have imagined. For the next seven years lost folk from every socioeconomic level.came to Christ. Many of those dear, precious people continue to bear fruit that remains. How I love them! How God loves them!

We were invited to speak to the leadership of Young Life. We had worked years before with this ministry to unchurched kids when in Dallas Seminary. Having been "unchurched" kids ourselves we were eager to encourage and teach these Houston leaders. Meeting over,  we moved across the room to meet our host couple and thank them for their hospitality. We had no idea that our host was the District Attorney of Harris County. We had been pleading our case before the D.A.!  In his Texas-gentleman's soft drawl, he said: "I have been listening to you two and I believe you may have an answer for my question. My law partner was the attorney involved in Watergate. He is not sure that Chuck Colson is truly a Christian. What do you think?" We jumped on that:. "Chuck is coming to Houston this week to speak for a breakfast. Would you and your wife be our guests and you can decide for yourself." In his message Chuck said this to a couple of thousand people, many of whom were attorneys: "The only difference between you and me is that I got caught!" Whew! The District Attorney of Harris County later resigned and joined Chuck in Prison Fellowship. He is still living.  Chuck Colson is in Heaven. His TV show, "Worldview from the Colson Center" continues as an excellent, galvanizing resource for such a time as this.

I had been very sick with allergies to mold and pine during our ten years in Houston.  We  moved to a beautiful suburb to see if I would be headache-free. It didn't help. We moved back to our home in town. I became even more ill and had to take time off from my daily radio program. I slid into a depression. I knew many scriptures but I could remember only one. The power of the Lord in that scripture and the prayers of the saints gradually brought me up and out of a dark place. The allergy clinic had no solutions and told me it wouldn't help to move back to a dry climate. ...but it did. My dear husband's agape love brought us back to lots of sunshine and humidity-free air...by way of a church-with-walls which were not yet even built. Ted and others built the church. Three years later we re-entered the church-without- walls. For nearly thirty-three years our home has hosted thousands of people who have needed to be here.  I disciple regularly, and just launched another lovely young woman to teach others in her own home in another community. That's what I do. That's what I am assigned to do: teach and let go...teach and let go. Not unlike parenting. Do I attend a church?  Yes,  but only a church whose leadership understands that discipleship is not about volume, but is about quality...working our way out of a job, then doing it again. And again. And again.

God has a Plan. He will not be dissuaded by our whines and whimpers. These writings underscore my understanding of the Truth that our Lord makes no mistakes. None whatsoever.

 A generation ago (or is it "two"?) we were singing "For Those Tears I Died." in our Young Life clubs. Some of you will remember.

            FOR THOSE TEARS I DIED

...and Jesus said, "Come to the water, stand  by my side.
I know you are thirsty; you won't be denied.
I felt every teardrop when in darkness you cried.
And I strove to remind you: "For those tears I died".

Love,  Jo














Friday, March 24, 2017

Destroyer/Deliverer

My pastor/friend/Sunday School teacher invites us to reason together. He writes books. With his permission, I quote from his latest: "The purposes for this booklet are: 1) to expose the Devil's tactics of positioning government leaders as benefactors, who bestow benefits in order to solicit support; 2) to clarify a caution of prophecy about beastly, fear-based--rather than faith-based--forms of human government, and 3) to emphasize how God expects His people to share the good news--about the superior way He runs His kingdom--until the very end of this age. I hope devout disciples will faithfully preach Jesus Christ as King, especially to whomever the elite reject, whether the loser or the deplorable".

"Larger than Life, An Expose' of the Spirit of the Antichrist" is sixty-six pages that say more than most say in hundreds.  Mike Loehrer is a Viet Nam veteran who opted to lay down his post-trauma at the Cross and spend the rest of his life pointing people to The Deliverer.

 Mike says of the Destroyer:  "With heaviness of heart, the tragic fall of Lucifer ripples through the sea of humanity as he makes beautiful beasts of all who seek to become larger than life. When Satan sought to become like the Most High, he fell to the very depths of death. Rebellion against the Source of Life demands the death penalty. Those who resist the Creator of Life walk with the destroyer. Separation from the Sustainer of Life seals in death those who love darkness. After humanity fell--following Lucifer--God purposefully left human beings as fragile, finite failures. Our surroundings persuade us we are fragile. Physical death convinces us we are finite. And our consciences condemn us as failures. God made the conclusion obvious: We are sinners in need of a Savior". 

In Mike's Sunday School class I am flanked by two women. Both are married to destroyers. For months a Millennial has come through my door every Wednesday. Her night job affords her time to study God's Word.  Long after I am in Heaven this young woman, now only two years old in Christ will be teaching people who are awakening to the horror that the Destroyer has been masking as The Deliverer.

Publisher of Mike's book: Westbow. Available on Amazon and Christian book sellers.

               HE IS ABLE TO DELIVER THEE

'Tis the grandest theme through the ages rung; 'Tis the grandest theme for a mortal tongue;
'Tis the grandest theme that the world e'er sung, "Our God is able to deliver thee."

'Tis the grandest theme, let the tidings role; To a guilty heart, to the sinful soul;
Look to God in faith, He will make thee whole. "Our God is able to deliver thee."

HE IS ABLE TO DELIVER THEE; HE IS ABLE TO DELIVER THEE;
THOUGH BY SIN OPPRESSED,  GO TO HIM FOR REST;
OUR GOD IS ABLE TO DELIVER THEE.  AMEN!

Love,

Jo










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