HOPE Network Ministries founder Lynn Anderson dies at 85
ABILENE, Texas — Lynn Anderson, beloved minister, mentor to three…
Lynn Anderson, former minister at the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, is battling lung cancer. He’ll debut his new book, Talking Back to God: Speaking Your Heart to God through the Psalms, at the 67th annual Pepperdine University Bible Lectures in Malibu, Calif.
Via Abilene Christian University (Anderson’s book is published by Leafwood/ACU Press) come these excerpts from an interview by ACU’s Grant Rampy with Anderson last week:
“I definitely am getting help from the Psalms — more than I could have expected — as I’ve been battling cancer. But my readings aren’t a new thing. For several decades I’ve been reading and praying a psalm every day and also memorizing a psalm every month. The Psalms have always been food for my God-hunger.
“The people of God have used this ancient book of song and prayer for 3,000 years. The Psalms have been read, sung, prayed, studied and memorized. Through the years, these songs in all their power have been bringing us into a deeper relationship with God, helping each of us in our personal ministries by the way we apply them.
“I started writing the book years ago, long before my diagnosis. I have been teaching this material in mentoring groups with ministers and elders for more than a dozen years, so the book isn’t really a reflection on my current situation.
“I can’t, however, fail to address my current situation through this project. At different times in my treatment, there have been different psalms from which I’ve gained strength. There were the early stages, with the shock that came with my diagnosis and then facing chemo and radiation, and now I face the possibility of my own death.
“At first I went to the psalms where God promised over and over again he would provide his presence. I don’t believe God gave me this disease, and he didn’t tell me why I got it. He just tells me that he’ll be there through it, and he will use it in some way.
“My problem was that I would keep reading these psalms, like Psalm 121. It reminds us over and over again that the Lord watches over you and he will protect you from all harm; he won’t let your foot slip; he watches over you day and night and he will be so now and forever more. In my head I believe that, but in the dark morose feeling that came on in the early stages, I kept saying, ‘So God, you’re saying you’re with me – but I can’t see you and I can’t hear you.’
“The big psalm for me then became the 13th. It basically says, ‘How long, oh Lord, will you forsake me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will you let my enemies triumph over me? Hear, oh Lord, and answer me. Be light to my eyes or I will sleep in death, and my enemies will say I have been overcome and my foes will rejoice when I fall.’ That’s how it starts, and I have really lived in that for a long time.
“And then I began to move more to the second half of the psalm which says, ‘But I will trust in your unfailing love, and my heart rejoices in your salvation, and I will sing and make music to the Lord.’
“There was a time when I didn’t know what I was asking for. I would wake up in the middle of the night and look into the dark corner of the room and think, God is lying in that dark corner. ‘Why don’t you come out of there? Why don’t you show me your glory? Why don’t you in some way assure me of your presence, besides just saying in an old document that you’ll be there?’
“I don’t know what I was expecting — maybe something glowing in the dark or a voice from heaven — but God began to gently help me see that he is there, to see the evidences all around me; I just took them for granted.
“There’s the blessing of having a wife like mine. I fell in love with her the first time I saw her, but I had no idea what I was getting. I just took her for granted, until, with this illness, I’ve been able to realize what she is, that she’s a.gif?Action=thumbnail&Width=460&algorithm=proportionalt from God. And my kids — the intimacy with them has grown by fathoms.
“There are the thousands of people praying for us. When I can’t pray myself, I have the knowledge that they’re there, and that God’s there through them.
‘The elders from Highland (Church of Christ in Abilene) came down and visited. I hadn’t worked there in 20 years. It’s those kind of things that are really helping me through. I notice the everyday things of life that I had missed: cardinals nesting outside our kitchen window, how many wildflowers there are in Texas in the spring — all manifestations of God’s grace.
‘I began to see that every good and perfect thing comes down from the Father. Man, I love a thunderstorm. I can hear God shouting at me. I can see him sending me fire signals. I hear the rain on the roof, and I’m reminded that he’s whispering to me: ‘Of course I’m there. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.’ In that sense, the second half of Psalm 13 has become even more true to me; so I’ve been able to pick up on more of the other assurances.
“You’ve got to remember: 60 percent of the psalms are not happy; they’re laments; they’re about anger. And I began to feel God’s permission to speak out my anger at him and lament my lot, even though, when it comes down to it, I’ve never been able to think of a good reason why I should be exempt from suffering when so many other people suffer worse. ‘Why do I have to suffer God?’ — the psalms are full of that.
“Psalm 88 doesn’t have a happy ending. It closes, after many verses of bemoaning, ‘My friends have turned from me. My bones ache.” The last line reads, “Darkness is my only friend.’ How’s that for cheering a guy up?
“The psalms have helped me identify with the fact that God knows the reality of those feelings. And he doesn’t want any of us to pretend they’re not there.
“You begin to see the enormous resources we can take from the Psalms, which most people shy away from because they can’t pick up on abstract metaphorical language. You can’t interpret a psalm like you can Acts 2:38. It’s not meant to be interpreted; it’s meant to be experienced and expressed.
“Virtually all of the Bible is about God talking to us. The Psalms give us a voice to talk back to him in every circumstance we’re in.”
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