Thursday’s Thread: Finishing Our Father’s Work

Dad looked forward to finishing his work more than anything else and as
his life here was coming to an end,
He was busy doing just that. 

It was a sunny and beautiful day,
Dad loved this kind of weather and so did I.
Though the steps to the street corner were each a challenge, he was anxious to get outside and feel the sun shine on the back of his neck.

As we walked, we talked.
It was what we both loved to do.
Most of the time we talked about what God was speaking to us and that day was no different.

Dad was feeling very weak and as I held his hand and he steadied himself on his cane we talked of how his earthly body seemed to be wasting away but he was inwardly being renewed day by day! <2 Cor 4.16>

It’s funny when eternity is staring you in the face, nothing else seems to matter….

The truth is…
<<<O
ur lives are fully lived, when they’re lived in what’s meaningful>>>.

In Dad’s final weeks,
he felt so close to God…he said, ‘closer and closer every day’.

He even used the description of being,
intimate with God’.

During this time, God was shifting Dad’s eyes from
…what was earthly
to… 
what was eternal.

I saw God drawing Him nearer.
Through tears Dad would split his heart wide open.
It was almost as if he thought others needed a look inside to see God.

And as he grew closer to Jesus,
he brought you closer to Jesus too!

I think that’s what I’ll miss most about Dad, is his closeness to God and his steady endurance to finish His work.

It reminded me of Christ needing to finish the work of His Father.

On our walk that day,
there was something else Dad said ever so quietly, in a weakened voice.

He told me he was sorry that he was failing physically and that he was so much work for me. I reminded him of years ago when he wrote a letter to his Mother in Illinois who was diagnosed with cancer asking her to come and live with us.
Dad wanted to walk her to Jesus…
I asked Dad if he would have done it differently now knowing how hard it was to care for his Mother-
OR
would he do it again?

He said, he’d absolutely do it again!

I squeezed Dad’s hand and said…
‘then let me do it now for you’.

From then on we did just that.
We walked through Dad’s journey to Jesus together and it was such an honor to be able to!

This is what Jesus must have felt
~the closer He walked towards the Cross,
the closer He got to His Father.

I now get it!
I understand why it was so important for Dad to finish His work…

Because…..
a Father’s work is never done until His children know they’re loved and matter.

And…
when God sent Jesus here to finish His work it was
for us to know
we are loved & we matter!

During his last month Dad was finally able to sum up how he was feeling about dying.
He found his words through the keen

words of Billy Graham who was also nearing death. 
When Billy Graham was
asked if he was afraid of death he said, 

No, I am not afraid of death I’m afraid of the process of death.‘ 
When Dad was handed these words he felt relief to finally be able to communicate how he was feeling. 
I think for many of us this is true. 
For we know where we are going,
we are just anxious about getting from
here to there. 

This too was Jesus, 
as he went to his secret place to pray.
Jesus didn’t struggle with why He was dying or even if He
should die,
Jesus’ heartache laid in the process of death…
He was in the flesh, like us. 
His burden was could He humanly make it through. 
In this small space of time, He deeply felt His flesh;
and wondered if 
He could do what He was about to do.
His reliance upon His Father was greater
during this process of His death, more than ever.

There is nothing confusing about this…

Jesus didn’t fear the Cross as the Son of God, 
His concern was as the Son of Man. 
It’s where God in Man collided in the depth of His soul!
It was here at Gethsemane Jesus fought His
last battle of His flesh with Satan, for us. 
In this fight Jesus depicts for us that Satan can
be overcome, not only as the Son of God but like us as a Man.
Through Jesus, God fully took on our sin!
This was Jesus’ struggle…
He felt the full weight of going through the process of death into life.
He did this
SO THAT….we might have this same hope and SO THAT….
we might live!

And now it’s our turn…our story,
to finish our Father’s work.

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When someone you love dies you want their life and their death to change you…

I want Jesus’ life and death to change me, like it changed my Dad.
It took a broken Man and made him whole AND only Jesus can do something like this!

We all have been given a life…
sometimes they may seem a little too broken and busted up to use,
but God has a way of taking even our shattered messes
and making them beautiful again.

May we take this new life we’ve been given and finish Our Father’s work…for it’s here that we let His death & life truly change us!

Thursday’s Thread: Finding the secret truth- ‘i am a child of God’


<dedicated to my 3 brothers & 6 sisters who’ve been on this journey with me>

Although I spent years knowing about God,
it wasn’t for some time that I began finding Him for myself….

I first found Him as my
Spiritual Leader at 16 when I decided to serve Him in the Inner City of Philadelphia

then I found Him as my Provider when I was 20 as He so graciously gave me a Christian husband who I had prayed for when I was only 12
I found Him as my Lord and Savior at 21 when my husband baptized meI found Him as my Healer at 21 when He began healing me from an eating disorder that I had suffered with for years
I found Him as my Sustainer when I was 23 and had our first son and then had 4 miscarriages that He brought me through and then to later have 3 more sons whom He’s given me the strength to raise up in the Lord
I found Him as my Restorer throughout the years but even greater at 44 as He is restoring me from years of sexual abuse
I found that He alone is my Peace at 46 when my Mom’s aorta was torn from top to bottom and she died and now at 49 I am currently discovering yet another significant attribute of our Great I am….   

Have you ever wondered who you are?

I think at one time or another we all wrestle with this…
what defines us,
what fills us and gives us purpose.

I remember being 16 and reading philosophy books.

What kind of teenager finds pleasure in reading that stuff?

I think the only reason I did read them was to somehow ‘find myself ‘…it was a desperate reach to discover who I was.
At that time, Psychology was just beginning to find its place in our society and seeping into our homes.
People were discovering a safe place to talk about their feelings and their pain.
I found relief in this. I’ve always been a verbal processor and this gave me a place to process the inner spaces of my heart.

It wasn’t until years later that I would discover who I was in Christ though.
Not who He says I am if I walk a rigid road of perfection, but who I am when I fall short or even when I am a complete mess.
You see, God loves us even when we are broken and limping along.
It’s here,
when our hearts are split wide open we find ourselves in some of the most holy & beautiful moments with God; where we are wide open enough for HIm to come in…it’s inside these broken & holy places we find that
Christ

is right beside us.

A year after my Mom died, my Dad got diagnosed with a type of Bone Cancer. We all were just learning to live without Mom and now Dad’s life was shortening too.

During his recent time in Dallas with me, I witnessed Dad leaning into God deeper than ever and as I cared for him I grew closer to God as well. I’ve always heard as a Christian draws nearer to their death they draw nearer to God.
I saw this with my Dad.
The shorter his time with us was, the more intimate He was becoming with God.
And yet the week my Dad was dying, I kept feeling an odd sense of being orphaned…this was a new and strange feeling for me.
I am the ninth out of ten children and I’d never experienced this before.

My mind began wondering….

If my life suddenly falls apart who was going to come and put it back together?
If I get lost who was going to send a search team out until I was found?
If I lose everything I have who would come to my rescue and restore me back to life?

This kind of stuff happens, everyday it does and somewhere in the midst of losing my Dad these questions were haunting my thoughts…

Then just a week ago Sunday as I was standing in worship,
I found myself singing the words
‘For I am a Child of God…’
and they struck up that feeling again, of being an orphan.
As I struggled to mouth the words, tears began rolling down my cheek.
Not because I was sad but because for the first time ever I realized that’s…..who I am!
These familar words took on greater meaning.

Yes, I am still a daughter of my Parents, Phil and Barbara Julian, but even more I understand how I am a Child of God too.

As I’ve recently felt God’s presence walking me intimately through this hard but beautiful time this new realization gave me a fresh understanding of who I am.
This detail especially hit close to my heart as my Dad became a Christian at 39 when some of his close friends who were visiting him daily in the hospital, told him how they were praying for him to know God as his Heavenly Father.
This idea intrigued my Dad, because he had lost his Father at 13…he was a teenage boy right in the middle of trying to figure out who he was.
And yet here he was at 39, floundering through life, laying there with a physically broken heart and God brought someone into his hospital room to tell him, he was a Child of God.
What a God we have….who meets us in our tender and broken moments to remind us who we are and whose we are!
The Great I am took time away from ruling the Universe to tell my Dad he had a Father in Heaven who loved him. And this same I am has reminded me again and again who He is throughout my life.
Knowing that I am a visual learner God has illustrated who He is to me through pivotal moments in my life. Realizing I am a Child of God has replaced the orphaned feelings with a sense of belonging, it has reassured me that I am His and it reminded me of the Inheritance and future I have in Christ.….An inheritance that we all share in as His family.

He who defines us also describes us as His own…He takes our brokenness and makes it better!

If this is striking a chord within the secret places within….
Know that you’re not alone and know that God is right beside you in your hurt and in your brokenness. And…. He wants you to knowyou are a Child of God too!
We’re never truly orphaned,
never
, ever abandoned
-for Our Heavenly Father is with us forever.
Just as He was recently beside me through my Father’s death, He is with me in my Father’s life in Heaven too.

And when we’ve forgotten who we really are, He enters into our lives and reminds us that our real identity exists in Him.

Our heart’s are restless until they’re able to rest fully in Him.

For, I am a Child of God!

Thursday’s Thread: Our Final Words

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My Dad recently came to visit me in Dallas from Maine. He was diagnosed with Cancer over a year ago and had decided if he was going to continue receiving chemo he may as well do it in a sunny place for the Winter.
He planned on staying in Dallas for three months, yet that quickly began to dwindle into weeks, then days until we only had hours and minutes together when he suddenly took a turn for the worse.

As Dad’s time began to shorten, he became closer and closer to the Lord. He described it as an intimacy with God that increased daily and felt ‘so nice’. He spoke of it as a closeness that ‘felt so good’. 

My Dad walked with the Lord for years and spent time daily with Him, but what he was experiencing now was different….As his days on earth shortened, He grew more and more intimate with God.
It was truly a beautiful thing to watch….we spoke of how his earthly body was wasting away, yet spiritually he was being renewed day by day!

As his time with us was lessening, his words increased with an incredible richness and intentionality.

Just three days prior to his passing he sent a text to each of his 22 Grandchildren-
a message that was heavy upon his heart….what he labored in prayer for them.

The text simply read…

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They were personally addressed to each one of his Grandchildren and held similar words asking them to consider their relationship with the Lord.
My Dad bore no regrets, he had scattered the seeds he was sent into their lives to sow and now it was their decision to walk and trust in the Lord.

As the Grandchildren began replying to him, you could hear their serious consideration and appreciation for his heartfelt request.  

It reminded me of how Jesus must have felt as he was preparing to leave the disciples…

how we all might feel when it’s our time to leave our earthly homes and families.

It has caused me to wonder what my final words will be?

Will they be words that cause others to dig deep within themselves and reflect upon life through a renewed lens?

Our Final Words contain the ability to impact and change the course of another’s life, yet  the life lived behind these words are what will bring life to them. 
My Dad’s life reflected a humble man who had known a wayward path yet found redemption and restoration through our Heavenly Father.
He never lived his life above others rather he found great pleasure walking beside people, he longed for others to know the freedom and life he had found in Christ.

His Grandchildren knew well of his calling, as he lived it out daily in front of them, from his deep and loving prayers to his bold conversations filled with loving compassion for them.

My Dad loved God deeply and shared Him at all costs, he scattered Jesus wherever he went. I have had the pleasure of walking beside my Dad for years and I have heard his testimony spoken whether it was to an esteemed Dr. or to the hospital staff. He didn’t see a difference when it came to their need for the Lord, he knew ALL needed JESUS!

So, as I reflect upon the power of final words I realize a truth….

Today,
I realize our final words one day,
will ultimately flow from
-the life we choose to live TODAY!

Thursday’s Thread: Trust in the Lord

‘Do you trust Him?’

God has always been someone I looked up to….someone who has provided all I need….someone I could lean into and someone I even worshiped.
Yet it wasn’t until I had walked into my thirties that this question became real to me…

And years later those words still ring boldly in my ears….

My husband was direct in his question to me that day and
I so wanted to answer him confidently,
‘Of Course I Trust God!’

But there were so many emotions running through my chest that I couldn’t even mutter the words.

So, my husband prodded a little harder….
‘Ruthann has God ever proven Himself untrustworthy to you?’

I thought hard and long about this question. It even took me years to find my answer. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen God do some amazing things in my life, it was just I held onto some hard situations and events of my past that challenged his question.

My heart was tugging against this quandary.

‘Do I trust God?….Has He ever proven Himself untrustworthy?’

These were such complicated questions….

You see,
life can be so hard, we all have desires we wish would turn out differently….
the hard, the suffering….the betrayal….the tragedies.
They all line the layers of our thoughts….
I know God didn’t create suffering, pain or even death….
None of them are part of His plan,
yet brokenness and evil creeps into all of our lives and this can cause our complete trust in Him to be threatened too.
……..like what happens when a baby dies far too soon and
a woman’s longings are left barren,
or when a defenseless life stands alone and no protection arrives or
you find yourself fighting a deadly disease that seems to be winning over your body?
…..it’s here we catch our breath, wondering where is God?

As I was searching for resolve to my husband’s inquiry I recalled a hard event from my childhood that continued to surface with this question. So I began searching for God’s protection in the loss of my innocence.
As I skimmed through the details of this memory, I caught shadows of Him there with me, I began to recognize a hint of His presence and where I once thought I was all alone, abandoned in my shame- I suddenly began seeing glimpses of His love.
Emptiness became a shield that was engulfing me, there lying curled up in my pain my Heavenly Father was covering me from…..
more.
….in my shattered mess the outlines of His fingerprints were all over me.

Rather than questioning where God was I fell onto my knees in humble worship praising God for protecting me from MORE pain, MORE hard than I could have ever had to bear.
So although the damage was done, there came an ending to my suffering as God Himself was crouched down beside me and over me as He spoke the words,
‘No More!’ to my offender and I was freed from His grasp ever again.

This truth I learned from my husband’s question that day is what is carrying me through my hard days now.

As my Dad is passing through his last days with us, he asked me to type these words to each of his 23 grandchildren…whom he’s entrusting to God……

’Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, soul and mind, so I can be with you in Heaven. Love you!’

……what words will fall from your lips as you close the last chapter of your life here?

My Dad continues to teach me in these days more than ever before and my heart cries  out with all my being, as I confidently exhale relief beside my Dad…..

’Yes, I trust you Lord more than ever  before!’

Thursday’s Thread: When Change Hits


In every coming there is a going; in every joy we find a tear; in every departure there is an arrival; and in every birth there is a death.
Life is full of changes.
Not one season lasts very long. The young look for the days ahead while those aging are longing for days gone past.

As I’ve spent my days lately in the company of a hospital room,
I’ve been reminded of how every season ceases.
I’ve been surrounded by families longing for longer days as
I’ve witnessed tears of days growing shorter.
Yet I was recently reminded in my Dad’s current circumstances;
no life leaves this earth without an eternal effect.
Eternal lives not only live an eternity with Christ,
their fingerprints are forever seen and their blood continues to
flow through those dear to them who are left behind.

What our lives bring whether we are in the midst of the busyness
or whether it is spent in a hospital bed
-both hold a grandeur purpose.

When life is peering at death, we become revitalized in life.
In death, we enjoy life for what it was meant to be…
relationships become richer,
our divine purpose to glorify God suddenly gets reborn.

Our photographs, letters and memories of the
past uncover life to us in spaces forgotten by busyness and unrest.
Suddenly the riches of our legacy reveal the beauty of heritage and renew our investment in the now.
What once held antiquity holds fresh new meaning…
life continually becomes renewed day by day.

We find richness when every departure brings an arrival.

Although we can find this in our every day life,
we don’t notice it with the exuberance of life that we live
in the threat of sickness and suffering….

I’m reminded of this in communion…..
For it’s in Christ’s death we find life!
It brings us together in a significant way.
His death not reminding us of sadness, but of hope!

God is the God of life, not of death! 

And when we live in a close intimacy with God,
we will feel the pain of both death and loss.
Yet, it’s in this loss He gives us an ability to notice
the beauty of life
which surrounds us.

And in Jesus’ death even when earth turned into darkness,
He brought light and life into us.
Yet His need for death was found in His desire to free us from death.
He loved us so much that He was willing to die a death of horrible pain and loss
to bring us life and experience with us all the suffering of death.

So we don’t enter any step of life alone without His presence ….
every hard day He’s walked before us and remains WITH us.
Whether our days are spent in living or dying,
He sits with us!

What sometimes seems as if it’s the end is the beginning; what at first caused anxiety brings peace; and what seems to be hopeless is filled with hope.

When we look at life through the lens of a struggle,
we are able to find a door within a wall
and all God delivers beyond the door allows clarity to bring
the healing our hearts are searching for.

I suppose this is how it is in life, in the dark and hard times it’s hard to find the light, but it’s in the light we no longer remember the darkness. 

Thursday’s Thread: How Long?

This question is one we frequently ask.
And we ask it in a variety of situations.
We ask it of our kids, we ask it of people who want us to volunteer our time, we ask it of our doctor and we even ask it of God in the hardest of times…
wondering how long we’ll have to remain in our burden-ridden season.

It’s as if we think knowing the time line of our pain would make our hours of suffering somehow easier.

We cry out in prayer…
‘God how much longer?’

Yet would we really find peace in His reply?
I suppose an end date could bring some relief in the right setting, but it might also cause us to become discouraged and want to give up when we find out how much longer we would be remaining in it.

You see as we wait
time isn’t standing still,
life isn’t frozen,
and yet it’s in these seasons of waiting we can be certain
God is working!

When we only have the breath to breathe…
even then,
God is working, there in the depths of our souls.
Our fight through the difficult days may seem dark,
frustrating and sometimes overwhelming,
but rest knowing God is fighting harder for you
then even you are.

While we wait we must remind ourselves to
collect beautiful moments
we’ve be granted.

Because although we feel like we’re merely surviving,
God is doing His miracle work too!
Waiting is not intended for us to be
hyper-focused on what’s coming next
but is a generous gift given for us to live within.
God wastes nothing!
And He certainly doesn’t waste our time in the waiting rooms of our lives.

We must use this time to fully live.

My Dad and I have been having this conversation a lot lately.
We remind one another to live fully in each moment of each day as he’s courageously fighting cancer and for me as my life is experiencing loss.
You see we may not have control over many of the details that come into our daily lives but we do have the ability to choose what we do while we wait…,

In 2011, when I visited Joplin, MO. a horrific tornado had just violently swept through their town wiping out house after house.
As we were helping people gather their belongings that were strewn all over the streets, I came across a small piece of wood that had been swept into a pile of trash.
As I took a closer look at the green wooden sign it had the words ‘long suffering’ hand painted on it.

And I wondered….
‘how long’ it was going to take for this community to not only rebuild, but heal?
How long does it take for people to heal from this kind of loss and devastation?

That tiny piece of wood became a tangible definition of
‘long suffering’.

For I knew God would rebuild Joplin I had no doubt the perseverance of its community to thrive and endure.
But I knew it would come at a cost, for healing can take years.

We like instantaneous results, quick fixes, the fastest service we can get.
But when it comes to healing, it can’t be rushed it needs time.

We need time too….
Time for our wounds to heal….time for our brokenness to be restored….time for our relationships to experience reconciliation and time for God to do His mighty work!

It’s funny how the answer we seem to be desperate for really doesn’t matter…..
You see ‘how long’ may perhaps measure the length
of our difficult days, but it doesn’t
measure the strength & miracle-working power
God provides for us in those days.

This is worth our counting!

Because when we expend our energy
on counting God’s working in our suffering,
it’s here where
God gets reflected!

Rest with God
my weary friend.

Let Him work in the
tender places
of your heart where you’re needing
care and know at

just the right time
and in the exact moment,

He will bring about
His
relief & healing!