FROM SUSAN HILLIS:
My heart is brimming with joy and awe and gratitude over the abundant blessings I have received over the last several weeks. Oh, there have been some challenges, too. Anytime you have a big family and everyone is home and largely spending unstructured time together, conflicts will inevitably rear their ugly growls. (It has been happening ever since Genesis....that classic textbook of dysfunctional family life being redeemed!) But this is not what is striking. What is overwhelmingly clear is this:
God does immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.
The first time I ever remember reading or praying this verse (Ephesians 3:20) was over 35 years ago, when I was overcome with a rather obsessive crush on Brian Hillis. I had never met anyone who loved God and loved people the way this sophomore college student at UNC did. I wanted to marry someone JUST LIKE HIM. He was way up on a high pedestal, way out of my league, but I began to pray,
'God, you can do exceedingly abundantly above and beyond all we can ask or imagine. Would you please, if it is Your will, help Brian Hillis to fall in love with me.
Well, the answer to that prayer led to so much more...'immeasurably more.' He did eventually fall in love with me (it took him six months!) and we were married. Then when people would ask me, 'how many kids do you want to have,' I would quip flippantly, 'I think I could take 12 disciples.' If I had known then what I know now, I would likely have had a different response! But the Lord has given us 12....the legal 11 (our current 10 plus our 1 son Jonny, who moved to heaven at age 9), and the 1 "illegally adopted," as he calls himself, our dear George, who moved into our family as Trevor's best friend, a nonbeliever, just before his senior year of high school, and who as a sophomore at Georgia Tech, just celebrated one year of knowing the Lord as a believer!
In these photos of most of our family, taken by my dear friend Paige Knudsen (if you have never visited Paige at Simple Thoughts, well-- you just have to!) over the holidays, I want to call your attention to my 3 lovely granddaughters.....and to the fact that the Lord is allowing all of us who have children, to equip the next generation to love their children well! The oldest of these, little Naomi, age 2, looks at me and belts out, 'this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine,' and 'I wanna see Jesus lifted high,' (as well as 'baby, baby!' by Justin Bieber!). The other two, Madison and Elyse, are also loved so well by their sweet mamas! For those of us who have adopted kids (legally or as George says, illegally!), we are being allowed to help interrupt the cycle of adversity and sow a new path towards hope. Our call is, simply, to love the next generation well, with the love we ourselves receive from our Father. It is what Jesus is talking about in John 15 when He says, "as You have loved me, so I have loved them." It is, inevitably, a costly and sacrificial type of love.
The Next Generation--60,000 of Them at Passion 2013
It was my great joy to greet January 1st in the Georgia Dome with 60,000 young people ages 18 to 25 at the Passion 2013 Conference. I am in awe of God calling this next generation to put an end to violence and abuse, as these are the very areas I work on in my job at the CDC, and they are the very areas to which God has called many of you to devote your lives. What is beyond AAAMMMMAAAAZZZZIIIINGGG! is how God is now calling those kids in the next generation whom many of us have loved well, to step out and love others in need with that same type of love they have received from the Father and seen in their families. It is so newsworthy that CNN did a special on it! In a day of sound bites, a 3 minute special - you have got to look
- this is where I was several nights ago! A central message of this conference was the challenge to all to believe that God can do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine to change the world for each of us there and for the 27 million in slavery in brothels and factories around the world.
(please go to the ENDIT-Shine a Light on Slavery as well and sign the petition to stop slavery!).
A New Goal for 2013....Loving the Next Generation More
It has long been the habit of many of us to spend some time in the New Year in thought and prayer about goals for the coming year. As I did this over the past week, loving the next generation well is a clear goal I sense God is placing before me. Let me share a little background. For the past 5 years or so, a key message in Psalm 78 has really been striking to me. The subtitle says'Tell the Next Generation.' David chronicles 5 cycles of man's rebellion and God's miracles. I felt sad to realize that all those miracles of love were not enough to stop the rebellion - it just kept happening over and over and over and over and over. What is striking is the next generation needed BOTH the stories of the miracles AND a person, David (as we see in the last verse --- I dare you to go read it for yourself!), who would 'shepherd them with an upright heart.' So, this year, as I spent some time thinking and asking God what He wanted to give me as a main goal for 2013, I sensed He showed me this (taken from an excerpt from Zachariah 11:7)..."I became a shepherd and I took two staffs, one named Favor and the other named Harmony...and I shepherded the sheep."
It is a year to love the next generation with excessive extravagance that is personally unique.
Lord, this year, help us to shepherd, to care for, those You have in our lives and bring into our lives, with the kind of favor that makes each of them feel like our favorites. Lord, give us wisdom to see the particular part of harmony that they are created to play in this symphony of life that You write, giving each of us our own voice and role. Indeed, Lord Jesus, may this be the 'year of the Lord's favor!' (Isa 61:1f) through us to all in the next generation, and particularly to the least of these who are the poor, the captives, the lonely, the lost, the straying. Lord Jesus, give us hearts passionately inclined to follow You with determination and humility. To be the kind of shepherds who know and hear Your voice of kindness and love. For us and for all. Amen.