Willards', Wilder, & Hayford, . . . Oh My!

In recent months, during some critical life-style changes due to a diagnosis of Celiac, I had bouts of illness. In becoming physically weak my emotional capacity dropped, which plunged me into depression. When I realized my condition I asked Abba to bring to my mind memories that help me remember who He is and how He sees me. He blessed me with these life-giving memories . . .

In the spring of 2012, after 8 months of dealing with a challenging recovery from devastating injuries, I confessed to Abba I felt crushed & lost & would He please speak into my mind, body, & spirit to help me with His relationship with me & remind me of His purpose in our lives. I began delving into the Word, expectant of His help.

Within weeks we received a flier inviting us to attend the Heart and Soul Conference in South Pasadena, CA. The main speaker was Dallas Willard, who, years earlier, had a profound impact on my life that catalyzed my interest to find out more about God in a personal way.

Though I was still in a painful fog of 12 hour days of physical therapy, Noel took care of all arrangements for a week’s stay at a romantic B&B above the smog in South Pasadena, California, a short driving distance to La Cañada Presbyterian Church. I had progressed my daily therapy into a routine that I could do anywhere, so I let Noel whisk me away to California to have my first trip since I fell in July of 2011.

I immersed myself into those supernatural days beginning with the joy of having lunch with Sandy Coursey & Heidi Smith [Heidi had gotten down on the floor alongside me when I fell 9 months earlier. She coached me while demonstrating a rhythm in breathing that helped me slow my panicked heart, which lowered my blood pressure, helping me stay relational in spite of screaming pain].

The following day was full with Dallas's teaching. The sanctuary was filled with God's presence, His Glory shown around. Supernatural life flowed back into my broken heart, body, and spirit. Scarcely able to speak I soaked, absorbing every life-giving concept as the finest wine Jesus set at the bridegroom’s table. My body, mind, & spirit was refreshed & restored. The brokenness, hurt, fracture, & rupture transformed in the Laser Love of Jesus. Every encounter with the brilliance in all who had entered into the community of holy love gave me a jolt of joy and revelation: I am with my people!

When we arrived at the dinner to honor both Dallas & Jane Willard, I found myself in delightful wonder at how God made it possible for me to be in one of the most amazing events that could have occurred in my life? 

Getting us all settled at our tables was challenging and we were moved several times in various rearrangements. My old habit was to complain, but the graciousness of all the worldly “greatness”[i]  in the room altered my view, inspiring me to realize the gift of our placement among “our people,” which included being among Dallas’s people. I noticed a familiar face in the room with a youngster in tow, which turned out to be his grandson. Jack Hayford sat down next to Jim Wilder & I felt a deep “A-ha,” and a sense of the full circle of life. Jim Wilder calls this Shalom. 

Through the next couple hours many of these “great” people went to a podium and spoke informally about their personal relationships with Dallas & Jane and how that informed their intimacy with God. It was exquisite to be part of a cloud of witnesses to the inspiring testimonies of God’s power through a gentle, kind, intelligent servant of Our King, whose own voice was expressed well in countless books, my favorite: “The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God.” The main topic of conversation was about the need for transformative healing & re-formation in the whole church. Each person who rose to speak shared how, with the influence of the ways the Willard’s “knew God,” as well as having a collaborative, connected community, they creatively developed many avenues to facilitate people to be in vital relationship with God.


When Jack Hayford went to the podium he first announced he wouldn’t be staying as he and his grandson had other plans, but he wanted to stop by (everyone laughed) to honor his good friends in the celebration of their work and lives. Most of what Jack shared has become a blurr, except his exhortations that all churches must be willing to engage in a re-formation of what it means to be church. That the Life Model, Renovare, and other vital ways of looking at discipleship are critical needs for the church to pursue to remain relevant in a time of great need.                                                                                                                                                                                                              


[photo is of the Willard family with Jack Hayford standing behind]

Hearing Jack Hayford's stirring exhortation reminded me of the Father's of Faith talks that had made an impression on me regarding transparent, open-hearted, yet sure faith & what that looked like in several men whose lives were committed to God in Christ. God knew that my seeing Jack while hearing his support for the devotion of many people to bringing God's ways of healing into our present time, was refreshing my wounded heart. 

Re-experiencing these wonderful memories necessarily brings me to how Noel & I came to know James Wilder who is one of the co-authors of the remarkable book, “The Life Model: Living From The Heart Jesus Gave You.” Noel & I led a small group through a portion of that book in 2006, after my mother had died & my sister suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The tragedy and loss, and other painful events, had knocked my feet from under me. I needed help with understanding how I could get lost and not feel I could find my way back. That book inspired my call to Shepherd’s House and in early 2007 Noel & I began a 10-year journey that brought about radical changes in our lives, which then began to bring us into the fullness of the possibilities written about in the Bible. Jim Wilder was at the heart of those 10 years as the co-author of “The Life Model,” author of The Complete Guide to Living With Men,” and now, the book I have been praying for: “Rare Leadership.”

Each year in the last 10, has been full of radical changes in every aspect of our lives. I have become elastic and joy oriented. Perhaps the best description is that I have become more like what God meant me to be: a playful, loving, empowering, curious & interested person who genuinely loves God’s creation, especially His people. And, all people are His.

I love God for His amazing surprises and how much life He pours over His beloved. He knew exactlywhat I needed in June of 2012 that would sing my broken heart, mind, and body back to life. I know that the best is yet to come. It’s true every single day I choose life in love with Jesus.

[i] “Greatness” being those students of Dallas’s, now known adults, who are leaders, authors, professors, counselors, pastors who were the largest numbers of people present both at, and in, the conference as well as at the dinner to honor the lives of Dallas and Jane Willard.