Like a long-lost treasure—hidden in plain sight—the yellow sticky note written in my mother’s beautiful handwriting caught my eye. Alzheimer’s had stolen her handwriting several years before I found the note. Stuck to an old newspaper in her bedroom, it read, “I am fading away but Jesus is keeping me everyday.” And under that, she wrote, “Heb. 12:1-14.” A few years after she died, I traced her handwriting from her sticky note onto a yellow canvas that is now displayed in my home. It’s a poignant, beautiful reminder of His faithfulness and my mother’s unwavering faith, even in the midst of deep sorrow. My mother, Anita Bubeck, bravely endured Alzheimer’s for fifteen years while my father, Mark Bubeck, faithfully cared for her in their Phoenix home. When she passed away in 2013, I asked my dad if I could have her Bible, the one he had given her later in life. I found some more sticky notes in the front of her Bible, one referencing Hebrews 12:1-2 again. I call this my sticky note legacy. The progression of my mother’s disease is evident in the notes she scribbled throughout her Bible. She used whiteout to rewrite her first name, perhaps misspelling it the first time. Near a favorite Psalm she wrote, “Pas The Lored,” and by Philippians 4 she wrote, “Paise God. Ameen God.” Though she couldn’t spell the word, she still chose to praise Him. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand—at least this side of heaven—the “God why” behind the ravages of Alzheimer’s on my mother’s mind and body before she passed away. But I do know that the ripple effect of her faith has forever impacted my family, including generations yet to come! And I’ve chosen to cling to Hebrews 12:1-2 as the focus of my own life as I seek to run the race marked out for me… Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great could of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily untangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 I’d love to hear from you. What verses have become the focus of your life and why. Feel…Read More
Rick and I have been married thirty-two years today! We were married on August 25, 1984 on a hot summer day in Sioux City, Iowa. We spent the first 20 years of our marriage moving every two to three years, including several years in Brazil and China for Rick’s job.
Now settled in the mountains of Colorado Springs, we can both testify that these are our favorite years together.
I love this season of our empty-nest-almost-grandparents life.Read More
I don’t know what it is about Baby Boomers, but for some reason they don’t like to be called Grandpa or Grandma when they finally become grandparents. They prefer silly names like Gimo, Gaga, or even Nemo. I have to smile when my friends tell me what their new grandchildren will call them. My favorites so far are “G” and “Grand-dude” and “Pa-Pa-Boo” (you know who you are). Well, now that I am going to be a grandmother for the first time come February(!), I get it. My husband and I have decided our grandchildren will call us Papa and Mia. But I promise, if this first grandbaby wants to call me Grandma, I’ll take that, too! What about you? What do your children call their grandparents? Or if you’re a grandparent, let me know what your grandchildren call you, and why!Read More
I awoke this morning to headlines saying the “highlight” of the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in Rio was the long walk of a Brazilian supermodel on the stage. Seriously!? I don’t think the millions of viewers would agree, including that model. Instead, I think a major highlight was when ten athletes—all refugees without a country—walked into the arena together to a standing ovation. Or when Vanderlei de Lima was chosen as the one to light the Olympic cauldron to ignite the first Games in South America because he was robbed of a gold medal when a crazed fan attacked him during the race back in 2004 in Athens. But what struck me the most—in the midst of all the unrest and fear across our globe—was the joyful, unified, peaceful celebration among hundreds of nations represented by the elite athletes in that arena. I loved that Portuguese-speaking athletes from Angola were there, and a handful from the country with the whimsical name of Djibouti were there. The team from Bermuda, all in Bermuda shorts, made me smile. And the towering basketball players from America made me proud. The crescendo for me was watching the video of Kip Keino, 72, a former Olympian from Kenya who won two gold medals and is now training young athletes to run in his footsteps. That video showed children gleefully running with their hero through African fields while flying white kites shaped like doves. And then that same hero was live in the Olympic arena, running with Brazilian children with those same white kites trailing behind them (link). (Image Credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images) Even in the midst of an underlying fear that terrorists might target the arena, or the unrest outside those doors as hungry Brazilians protested such extravagant costs for the ceremony, I think I still saw a hint of heaven. The beautiful tapestry of faces from so many nations in joyful celebration together reminded me that one day we’ll be in a similar crowd, with all eyes on Him, worshiping Him together. Yes, I know it’s only the Olympics, and likening that scene to heaven is a stretch. But I found it somewhat ironic that the last camera shot that night was up by the famous statue, overlooking that city of millions covered in dazzling lights. (Fun side note: As I watched the sea of Brazilian nationals smiling in their colorful costumes and heard samba music and…Read More
Just moments before his murder, God peeled back the curtain of heaven to give Stephen a glimpse of where he was headed. As Stephen looked up, he saw Jesus standing at His Father’s side. I can’t find anywhere else in the Bible where we’re told Jesus is standing at the right hand of the Father. It was if Jesus stood in Stephen’s honor, letting him know He was right there waiting for him. The mob—intent on killing Stephen—was raging, terrifying, insane. One moment they looked like schoolyard bullies with gnashing teeth, rocks in hand. The next like monstrous demons being let out of hell to kill an innocent man. Anyone stumbling onto the scene might have thought it was from a tragic play. It couldn’t be real. But even in the midst of such terror, Stephen was desperate for the crowd not to miss what he was seeing. He tried to get them to look up. We can only hope that he never took his eyes off of Jesus while the rocks pummeled his broken body. While dying, Stephen cried out for God to forgive his murderers. Perhaps he got that idea from Someone else just a few weeks before as He hung on a cross dying for us. Saul, later called Paul, was there when Stephen was being stoned. But he hadn’t yet been blinded by Truth, so he was giving his approval of the murder. I can’t help but imagine that Paul’s life was forever impacted by Stephen’s death. How could a man ever forget such a scene? Perhaps that’s why Paul listened to the One who confronted him on a dusty road just a few days later. Perhaps Stephen’s last words echoed in Paul’s heart when he later faced his own chains, prisons, and beatings. I wonder if God opens up the heavens for all martyrs just before they die. Not all martyrs die like Stephen, with the glow of glory and witnesses to canonize their courage. Some pass quickly in the night or alone in a prison. Some in dusty explosions or crowded camps. I can’t help but wonder if all who die for Christ meet a standing Jesus, welcoming them Home. ___________________________________________________________________________ (I never paid much attention to Stephen’s death until I did a Bible study on the life of Paul several years ago and came upon Acts 7:54-60. When I got to Stephen’s story I couldn’t leave it or skim over…Read More
The pastor and his young family spoke in hushed tones while we met in their small apartment in Bucharest, Romania on a cold winter’s night. They knew that the Communist government placed their apartment under surveillance, and openly discussing the translation of our curriculum could lead to arrest and imprisonment. I was just twenty-three years old, fresh out of college, and part of a mission to write and translate seminary-level curriculum for pastors in Eastern Europe. The year was 1983, when Nicolae Ceaușescu—who was likened to Stalin—ruled Romania, then a Soviet-bloc country. His Communist regime was one of the most brutal and repressive, especially toward Christians. As a result, any type of seminary-level training was forbidden except for one government-controlled seminary where only five students were allowed to enroll every two years. Our publishing office was based in Vienna, where we wrote theology and Bible curriculum to train pastors in Eastern Europe. I was asked to go into Romania to teach Christians how to use our floppy disks (remember, it was 1983) to access the files for translating our curriculum. I’ll never forget crossing the border with those disks hidden in my luggage. I tried to act like a nonchalant tourist as the guard looked through my bags. Thankfully, the disks weren’t discovered, and I made it through customs. The next morning we had prearranged that I would go to a neighborhood park and wait on a park bench. A man was going to come up to me with a newspaper under his arm, briefly greet me, and then I was to follow him to his car. True story. As a mother now of twentysomething daughters, I can’t believe it either! That man was the pastor who would later invite me to his family’s home for dinner. He had sacrificed so much to make God and His Word known in Romania. He had given up his medical practice to pastor at least five small underground churches. He had been arrested and beaten many times before I met him. And yet he was risking further persecution just to get our curriculum into the hearts and minds of other pastors and leaders. Decades later, the impact of my visit stays with me. How do you ever forget young families willing to risk beatings, imprisonment, and even death to disciple others? How do you take for granted the freedom to gather openly to worship…Read More
There was a time—not so long ago—when the only way I could fall asleep at night was with worship music playing in my ears. I would try to keep my thoughts captive to the truths of the lyrics instead of being overwhelmed by the storms raging in my life. One night, right before bed, I said aloud to my husband, but really more to God, “This wasn’t supposed to be my story!” I felt that I had been faithfully following and serving God for decades, and I didn’t think it was fair that He seemed to be cueing one storm after another, storms that threatened to pull me under in despair. Right after saying “this wasn’t supposed to be my story,” out came the headphones so I could try to fall asleep by listening to a new worship album. I soon heard these lyrics being sung over me . . . Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long; This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long. Perfect submission, perfect delight, Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; Angels, descending, bring from above Echoes of mercy, sweet whispers of love. This is my story, this is my song . . . As those beautiful promises washed over me, I started singing the song out loud, tears streaming down my face. I looked over at my sweet husband and tears were in his eyes, too, as he held me close. Just after crying out to God, “This wasn’t supposed to be my story,” He was saying to my heart, “Judy, your true story is that you are an heir of My salvation. You were purchased and washed by My blood. You are born of My Spirit. THIS is your story, this is your song! Even though storms are raging right now, all is at rest . . . because of Me!” “Blessed Assurance” was written in 1873 by one of my heroes, Fanny Crosby (1820–1915). Fanny was blinded in infancy by a botched medical procedure, later married, and had only one child, who died in her sleep soon after birth. Fanny could have easily cried out to God, “This wasn’t supposed…Read More
Tucked away in Psalm 18:16 are these words: He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. Almost every time I read those words I tear up. That is exactly what God did for me in the midst of some severe storms in my life that threatened to overtake me a few years ago. Our extended family was facing some serious health issues, I was reeling from the betrayal of a loved one, and my faith was shaken. But my all-powerful, holy, magnificent God cared enough about me to reach down, take hold of me, and draw me out of the deep waters. When I first discovered this verse, I pictured my water-walking God reaching down with powerful arms and hands and pulling me out of a raging sea. Oh, seaweed was still wrapped around my feet; the storm was still raging; I was gasping for air, but He had come for me. He took hold of me, and His Presence began to calm the storm in my heart and mind. I think that’s what the disciples saw, too, when Jesus pushed through the stormy seas to walk on water to get to them. I don’t think He looked like the flannel-graph Jesus of my 60’s Sunday school class, the one that appeared in every scene. Whether He was confronting Pharisees for their legalism, healing the sick, weeping at a friend’s grave, or walking on water, flannel-graph Jesus always had the same smiling face, white robe without spot or wrinkle, and hands folded serenely. That is not the Jesus of the New Testament or the God that I’ve come to know. It’s more likely that Jesus—lightning flashing around Him, waves and wind swirling about Him—marched on with a face of relentless determination, charging through the storm to get to His disciples. I am so grateful that God continues to tread the stormy waves of our own lives to rescue us with His calming presence, even when the storms keep raging. That’s the message of the song “Praise You in the Storm” by Casting Crowns. In this link of the song the lead singer introduces the song with these words: “Sometimes God calms the storms in our lives and sometimes He just rides them with us, but either way, blessed be the name of the Lord.” The lion image was painted by my friend Rita: My Stormy God, 48×48″ Acrylic…Read More
In my “about” link I promised that I would occasionally write short “can’t take me anywhere” posts. So, here you go… One cold, wintry night—which was actually just last May because we live in the mountains of Colorado—I was standing by a space heater in our garage talking with my husband while he worked on his dirt bike. I was wearing my long, down winter coat but still finding it hard to stay warm and huddled close to the space heater. Later that night we went to the Saturday night worship service at our church. Since we were running late, I was hoping we could make a subtle, quiet entrance. But the service had already started and the place was packed in the back, so the usher led us to seats all the way up to the second row. As I took my seat, still wearing my down coat, I quickly realized two women behind us were kind of glancing at me, then looking at each other as if to say, “did you see her?” Wondering why, I took a quick look at myself and was startled to see feathers all over the front of my coat and sweater. Cringing as I took off my coat, I examined the back of it, and saw hundreds of white and gray feathers covering the back of my coat—some were even floating into the air. Apparently I had gotten too close to the space heater earlier and it had burned a small hole in my down coat. My husband was looking amused, probably thinking, “yet another I-can’t-take-her-anywhere moment.” While trying to gather up feathers—those that had escaped and were drifting away and those still stuck on my coat and sweater—I began to quietly laugh. You know the kind of laughter that only happens in church where you must make no sound, but your shoulders shake and you can’t stop? I realized that I must have looked like the crazy church lady who had plucked a chicken right before going to church that night. I imagined feathers flew behind me, leaving a trail down the aisle, as we marched late into church. For some reason Pig-Pen’s dramatic and messy entrances from the Peanuts cartoons came to mind and made me laugh even more. If you tend toward being clumsy or somewhat scattered at times, you have to have a sense of humor and laugh…Read More
During the past few years I’ve met several mothers who have had to say good-bye to their children this side of heaven. All of them have a deep and abiding love for Jesus, and their faith is like none other I have ever seen. None of them take the power of His resurrection and the promise of eternity with Him for granted. Many are Bible teachers, writers, and some are worship leaders, even in the midst of unspeakable sorrow. This Easter weekend, I want to honor these moms: Shirley, Katie, Santha, three Gails, Lindsay, Elizabeth, Derika, Kathe, and Kim. Your faith has forever impacted my own faith walk and I hope it’s okay that I see you all as heroes of the faith, much like those in Hebrews 11:1–2: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” I met one of these moms just a few years ago at a writers’ conference. Her name is Kim Erickson and her son Austin would have turned twelve years old today. The ninth anniversary of his death, due to complications from strep throat, is on April 25. Kim shares more of her story and her passion for Jesus and His Word on her website at LoveMyWord.com. I asked Kim to write a message for us for this Easter weekend . . . Bow Down, Beloved Kim Erickson How do we respond when terrible turns in our direction? Our greatest chance to lead people to Christ hinges on our answer to this question. Pointing to God when things are good is easily written off by others as good luck, talent, or hard work. Pointing to God when our lives fall apart is where searching eyes can see how God works in our lives. When the “train wreck” happens, our relationship with God becomes like the response team—sirens unmistakable, rushing to help, healing acts. Jesus can become visible in our response to difficult situations. My “train wreck” is losing our three-year-old son to strep throat. The tragedy of losing a child is deep, dark, and never-ending. How I get through it is to remember my position before God—beloved, but bowed before His Majesty. My position is child of God, daughter of the King; beloved, yet in submission to the One True God who created me, heaven and earth. I belong…Read More