Mary’s Song

The oil lamp flickered well into the night. Martha and Lazarus were asleep, and the house was quiet as Mary took up her stylus and poured out her thoughts to the Lord. What flowed onto the page was a conversation that set her free…

O Lord, it greatly heartens me to think upon your words, for you told me you enjoyed my presence more than noble works. But I must tell you honestly, I find it very hard to know I’ve really chosen what you call “the better part.”
I envy the accomplishments, the good that others do; I don’t have much to offer to prove my love for you. The looks I get from others, my feeling of fatigue–could it be I’m not the person you think you see in me?

Child, I tell you now in stillness what I said among the din–the only thing I look for is a longing heart within. I’m not looking for performance. I don’t care if you’re the best. I desire your companionship. I want to give you rest.

That you could want my company, though I struggle so, is a greater gift of comfort than you could ever know. O Savior, take my sadness, my ever-wand’ring heart, and forever reassure me that it is the better part.

The turmoil of your inner life will rarely settle down; chaos and confusion will always come around. But you can learn to rest while striving, sit while standing tall. I promise I’ll be listening, no matter when you call. So come aside and learn of me; there’s room here at my feet. Your tender heart’s desire is the only thing I need. I tell you now in stillness what I said among the din–the only thing I look for is a longing heart within.

Luke 10:38-42

woman contemplationFOR REFLECTION: Do I give myself permission to receive Christ’s compliments even though I still struggle in my walk with Him?

[excerpt from Imagine Meeting Him, by Robert Rasmussen, 1998 Multnomah Publishers, p.57-58]

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We who silently grieve


Undesired chores emerge when tending to a loved one’s death. I call to close her cell phone number, and when asked to explain the reason, I speak around the lump in my throat that my wife is deceased. Okay, she says, let me take care of that change for you. She meant no harm by her efficiency.

I go to the bank to remove my wife’s name from an account. The officer asks for my reason. She is deceased, I say. Let me talk to my manager, she replies. I wait in my loneliness. I wait, sensing the emptiness of the chair beside me. The officer returns. We’ll need a death certificate, she announces, meaning no harm.

As I drive home to get the document, tears run down along my face and I wonder what it would cost a bank in lost time for an officer to say she is truly sorry for my loss. To save on expense she could even skip the word “truly.” Just a sorry would help.

But I must be realistic. She can’t know that I weep in bed for the space beside me that now lies empty and cold. She can’t know that I break down and weep at the kitchen sink where my wife once smiled for the joy of feeding her family.

The Facebook friend who praises his wife on their anniversary can’t care that I won’t have any more. Just as the proud engagement stings the woman who longs to get married, or the birth announcement pains the infertile couple that has hoped in vain for a child for years. Grandma’s baby pictures shown so proudly ache in the heart that never held one, or lost one.

I have no moral for this story. I intend no guilt to be felt. In fact, we need glad announcements to counter those that sadden. Perhaps I write for the one who, like me, hurts today. One who, like me, will hurt for a really long time. To you, friend, I say that they mean no harm. Please forgive me if I have said or done insensitive things to you. I am truly sorry for your pain, for your loss. And I mean the “truly.”

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My wife glimpsed heaven

Fifteen years ago our family of four returned to the USA after serving in Kenya as missionaries for 10 years. Toward the end of our time in Africa, Lyn got very sick, such that we had to get a special approval from the doctor to travel. After the eight hour flight from Nairobi to Gatwick, Lyn was completely spent and I delayed our onward flight to San Francisco by 24 hours to give Lyn a chance to sleep in the airport annex hotel.

During the night, Lyn slept fitfully. When she woke, she shared with me and our daughters that she had experienced a glimpse of a softly lit passageway beyond which she saw warmth, peace and safety. She was so weak and tired that she asked God to go through the door, but He told her it was not time. We were amazed by this, and thankful to God. We continued our journey, making it to SF on a mere thread of life remaining.

There is a lot to share about what God did in the upcoming months, but suffice it to say for now that Lyn was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and for two years fought the cancer with the help of a bone marrow transplant from her sister Cindy.

I give this as a tribute to God’s kindness, for this experience often encouraged us during Lyn’s final fight for life. She was never afraid of what lay beyond death; her only concern was what it would be like to get there! Her vision was also an encouragement to others, as she assured those who were dying or fearful of it, that in the Lord there is only joy in His presence.

I share this also as background for something that happened today. I am currently tending to my mother who seems to be a short while away from going through that portal of glory for herself. As a part of the hospice service, a chaplain contacted me by phone to get acquainted and learn some of mom’s background. I was pleased to tell him that my mother has known Jesus personally since a teen, that she served alongside my dad as a missionary in Japan and Nigeria, that she was a supportive pastor’s wife through all the highs and the lows.

As we began to finish the call, the chaplain, out of the blue, said, “Robert, are you an author?” I replied that I was. He asked if I had spoken at a conference of the Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association some years back. I affirmed that I had. Then he said this: I remember meeting you and your wife. We sat at a dinner table together and your wife shared the story of when you came back from Africa and she got a glimpse of heaven. (Yes, I said, that was us. I mentioned that we had come at the invitation of Jeff Funk, the HCMA president, whom we have known for years; Lyn and his wife Kathy have been dear friends for 40 years.) Then, the chaplain, named Wayne Yee, touched my heart: “I have often shared your wife’s story in my ministry and it has encouraged many, many people.” I hung up the phone and let the tear flow again.

The connections in the family of God are amazing because God is amazing. The threads of encouragement from Lyn’s life continue even now that she is with the Lord she loves.

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Gather my scattered thoughts, Lord (A prayer)

God, today my thoughts are scattered like scraps of paper across a parking lot, like leaves blown down the street on a windy day in autumn.

Help me now to release those fragments. There will be other times for brain-storming. Let this be a time for brain-calming.

I breath in — and out — slowly.

And again.

I relax my shoulders.

I begin to gather my thoughts around Jesus Christ my Savior. There is no other thought or task more important than Him. No other person or appointment rivals my Lord.

You wait to meet with Me in this hour. You know me, love me, and now You have words to give to me. Through the written Word, the Spirit of God will refocus my priorities.

You will give guidance for the major tasks of this day. You will assure me that my acceptance is based on grace not works.

I am not responsible to save the world or any part of it. But can simply hear my Master’s voice and obey as a willing child.

I rest in You. You have charge of my life. You have control of my day.

I am eager to hear Your voice, and take Your hand now, and share what is on my heart.


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Letter to the Privileged – 2

[In continuation of my first post on this topic.] Why do we need to study Romans 1-4 with new eyes?  Paul spends these chapters seeking to break the grip of privilege from the grasp of the Jews — the insiders of his day — to help them see that the gospel is given expressly for the Gentiles (the outsiders) just as fully as the Jews. Those privileged with lineage, heritage, possession of scripture (their law), a rite of identification (their circumcision) are wrong to see these as basis for acceptance by God. None are worthy. None inherit salvation from fathers. All are unworthy. Only faith in the finished work of Christ brings inclusion.

The Jews believed that Abraham, the father of their nation, gave them an inside track with God, but Paul says that even Abraham received righteousness by faith, not works. Anyone — anyone — can have Abraham as their father if they share his faith in God through Jesus Christ.

Generally, the church today has succumbed to the same error as first century Jews. We are content to believe that, by God’s grace, we have been shown the light of the gospel while others lie outside the scope of God’s saving love. This troubles us, but we have grown theologically resigned to it.

In a way, we have our own reliance on a kind of circumcision. The word has the idea of cutting around in a circle. Those so cut are marked for inclusion. Everyone else is uncut, or excluded from the circle of belonging.

Why is this important for us? Wherever we are content to enjoy inclusion for ourselves, even feeling entitled to it, we repeat the prideful judgmentalism which Paul exposed. The result is exclusion of those who are as much beloved by God as ourselves, whether by omission or commission. I believe this condition is pandemic in the church today, a life-threatening virus which spreads unchecked in the comfortable climate of ignorance and unrepentance.

And bad theology produces bad activity. That is why in these articles I make a claim that convicts me personally:

The single greatest impediment to the advance of the Christian faith among all peoples is the prideful entitlement of those who already believe — an attitude which results not only in apathy but judgmental exclusion of those whom God loves.

The good news is for those who have received bad news.  As all people, even Jews, have sinned, all people, even Gentiles, can believe and be saved. Or to paraphrase Paul’s point: As all people, even privileged believers, have sinned, all people, even despicable unbelievers, can believe and be saved.

For “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

So what must we do?

First, we must re-frame our understanding to correspond to Paul’s teaching of “Jews” and “Gentiles” and apply that truth to our current context.

Typically we see the Jew-Gentile contrast as past history which has long ago been settled and laid to rest. We figure that the gospel has come to us (the Gentiles) so Paul’s expose is now academic in its cultural and social implication. We admit it must have been a radical teaching in the first century A.D. but has less direct application now that the gospel has gone far beyond its Jewish roots.

However, we must apply the sin of exclusiveness to our day by seeing that now, we who rest contentedly in our faith without a passion for lost people fill the role of “Jews” in Romans one through four. The “Gentiles,” by application, are the likes of Arabs, “terrorists” posing as refugees, the undocumented immigrants, the atheistic evolutionists, and those of an alternate lifestyle whom we have assigned a place outside the circle of favor and inclusion.

I will reserve three more recommendations for the next post….

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The gift of fragrance that lingers

In my daily reading of the Bible, I came unsuspectingly upon the story of the woman and her perfume. I say unsuspectingly because I did not foresee the depth which her example would carve out in my soul.

anointing oilYou recall the incident. Jesus was in the village of Bethany staying in the home of a man named Simon who had contracted leprosy. That’s a significant side story in and of itself. Anyway, the woman (Mary, according to John 12:3) came to Jesus holding a flask made of alabaster stone, opened it up and respectfully anointed Jesus’ head and feet with very costly ointment (spikenard). At the time Jesus was sitting at the table, and He clearly understood what and why the woman was doing this.

She was already mourning His death.

But the disciples didn’t get it. They calculated the monetary value of the perfume, and were indignant at such a waste. Their idea was that poor people would have appreciated a donation of food and clothing — a much more useful purpose than perfuming a man, even their Master.

It is an understatement to say that Jesus had the gift of discernment. He knew what His disciples were reasoning, and gave them another perspective. Bear in mind, this incident happened on the eve of the crucifixion. So Jesus gave His guys a bit of a lecture, and you know the woman was standing right there wondering if she had done the wrong thing. Jesus said that helping the poor was noble, but that the poor would always be there to receive help. Different, though, was the opportunity to do something kind for Jesus the Christ. Then came the clincher,

“For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Matt. 26:12-13).

I was never able to buy really expensive perfume for my wife, but I do know that the fragrance of expensive perfume lasts much longer than cheaper varieties. With that in mind, consider that the rich fragrance on Jesus’ head and feet must have lingered throughout the night, into the next horrible day, even into the tomb. As He sat with His disciples in the upper room and celebrated His final meal with them, He filled the room with His fragrance. The Lord’s table carried the aroma of burial.

When Jesus led them in a melodic psalm and took them to Gethsemane, the sweat of blood intermingled on His skin with the woman’s ointment. The high priest who judged Him, Pilate who condemned Him, Peter who denied Him, Judas who betrayed Him, the soldiers who pierced Him — all caught the scent of one woman’s worship.

I do not know exactly how to bring the import of all of this over to you. It is a profound and chaotic picture. Jesus and His band of followers having their meal in the home of an untouchable man. The practical ministry need of poverty clashing with the impractical “waste” of a worshipper. And the contrast between Jesus’ awareness of His impending ordeal and the significance of the woman’s kindness — perhaps her sacrificial spirit reminding Him of the sacrifice required of Him — contrasted with the disciple’s ignorance (which we often share) of death, burial and resurrection happening in our very own experience.

My daughters and I received an unexpected package one day. Opening it we discovered an array of tiny bottles containing different essential oils, sent us by my niece, Alison. I had not known about these fragrant oils before, nor of their expense and usefulness. I was intrigued that one of them was frankincense. So we began exploring the world of essential oils.

This is very poignant to me because the reason Alison so kindly shared these oils with us is because my two daughters, my son, and I were providing hospice care for my wife who lay in the next room of our home with terminal cancer. It was an unexpected treat to be able to apply those healing fragrances on my wife’s wrist or back. We ministered comfort to her. She felt special. Pampered.

A few days later Lyn died in our home and went to be with Jesus. We washed her body and again applied fragrance to her skin, and dressed her in clean clothes. We said goodbye. We wept.

As you follow Jesus, you answer His call to deny yourself and take up His cross. You surrender to God’s will. You endure times of loss, grief, and waiting — all reminiscent of burial. I wonder, in going through these renditions of Jesus’ life and death, could we bring His fragrance with us? Could we become purveyors of the essence of Jesus — an aroma of life to life, or death to death (2 Cor. 2:14-16)?

There is a need for practical frugality. Bless the disciples for their compassion. But deeper still is that whisper of the Father, into our souls, to lavish what is costly on the Son He loves so dearly.

I must pause today and reflect on what I may offer Him. I must slow down, sit in silence for awhile, and let the Holy Spirit show me how extravagant worship must linger in the air no matter where Jesus leads me.

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Frightening prospect of an understandable God

The man said he could not understand why God allows suffering, war, and disease.

I agreed that the ways of God are often a mystery to us.

He declared that He could not put his faith in a God who did not make a greater effort to be understood.

bird in flightSo I asked the man how well he was doing at flying. “In an airplane?” he queried. “No, by flapping your arms,” I replied. He frowned, mocking my ridiculous question.




Again I asked, “How is your deep sea diving coming along?” He replied, “I’ve never learned how, nor do I have the equipment.” I explained that I wasn’t talking about scuba diving but about plying the deep waters like a shark or whale.whale

Disdaining my stupidity, the man made moves to leave the conversation. So I concluded: “Since you accept the fact that your body has neither the ability to fly like a bird nor dive like a whale, why can you not accept the fact that your brain cannot fathom the depths of God’s mind?”

He stared, unconvinced.

“We live on a planet that is a small speck in a universe of galaxies. Yet we cannot prevent countries from fighting each other. We cannot even keep our citizens from shooting each other. Do you really want to blame the God of the universe for our dysfunction? And more than that, would you really want to put your faith in a God who is no more intelligent than the human mind? For that is what you are requesting when you complain that God cannot be understood.”

He walked away, little realizing that he was at a crucial fork in the road that might not ever appear again.

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Death, Burial, Resurrection

a crossDeath.



This was the path Jesus chose to do the will of His Father. It became the path for all who would follow Him. The passion of the Christian is fueled by the passion of the Christ.

The disciple will become very familiar with this path, for death, burial and resurrection will form a pattern which repeats itself in a variety of ways all throughout life. The pattern has at least three basic expressions:

VOLUNTARY CALLING TO SELF-SACRIFICE — To the degree the disciple loses his life, he gains Christ’s life. And as he trains himself for the purpose of godliness, putting lusts of the flesh to death, he aligns himself to experience the overcoming power of resurrection.

NECESSARY ROAD TO RECOVERY FROM SIN — At other times, the path leads through failure due to self-inflicted “death” resulting from sin. Through confession and repentance, the pattern emerges in cleansing and freedom

REQUIRED RESPONSE TO SUFFERING — Then, we find ourselves on the path due to suffering that comes upon us. Pain and loss cause a death to self-reliance. In a kind of burial, we experience loss and grief. But surrender to God’s purposes results in conformity to Christ and greater dependence on Him.

Why is it important that the disciple discover this pattern?

1. The death-burial-resurrection pattern gives understanding of often-confusing events which otherwise seem to have no purpose.

2. Understanding leads to hope, for we realize that there is a purpose and a way forward.

3. We do not feel alone in the struggle, for we know that Christ walked this path before us, and that the Father is glorified as we follow this pattern of discipleship.

4. We see value in the process, for by faith we grow in Christ-likeness and attain to His passion.

5. We are honored to be able to share the experience of Christ, realizing this is the privilege of only those disciples who choose the path of obedience.

Throughout our lives, after countless variations of this pattern, we see the beauty of Christ becoming beautiful in us. I have written previously, likening this to “gospel fractals.”

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A wife who lived and finished well

Arlinda RasmussenIt has been several months since I have been able to come back to my website due to my taking, for the second time, the cancer journey with my wife. God delivered her back from the precipice of death in her first encounter with cancer, in that case leukemia. This time, He allowed her to enter His presence. Since she died, I have been grieving our loss, and will continue to do so for a long time — to some degree, for the rest of my life.

In hopes that it may encourages others, I want to share a bit of our story. Here are two excerpts:

SAFELY HOME. “Early in the morning on April 21st my wonderful wife Lyn Rasmussen took her final breath here on earth, only an instant later to inhale the essence of eternal life! She finished her life faithfully, and never lapsed for a moment in her love for God and all of you whom she knew. Lyn’s dad has said well, “There are no words to sufficiently express our grief over the loss of Lyn nor to express our joy that Lyn’s suffering is over and she’s in the presence of our Savior.” Thank you to all who have stood with us during this time. We are grateful that we were able to have Lyn at home for the final weeks of her life.


” I spent time yesterday going through photo albums, choosing pictures of Lyn over the years; it was hard; made me miss her so much. Yet how blessed to have had so many good times with so many family and friends! She was so knock-out gorgeous! And just a beautiful person, so loving of others, so tender and needing protection, so sensitive yet tough and matter-of-fact. What a treasure she was! So often in these final months she would reaffirm, “God is in charge. All we can do is trust Him.”
God encouraged me this morning from scripture: “the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14). I reflected on the fact that Lyn was purchased by the blood of the cross, and became God’s possession by the finished work of Christ, and from that moment onward was sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise until just a few days ago she was actually and fully redeemed, according to the promise of God, and to the praise of His glory! So yes I feel very sad that I have lost the daily companionship of my dear wife, but I can be sincerely glad that God has fulfilled His promise to her and granted her every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places! There, now, God is showing her “the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). I am so happy for her!

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