My top ten blog posts of 2013

top102013
I enjoy writing. It doesn’t come as naturally to me as speaking but once I force myself to begin it usually flows with minimal psychological trauma. Especially in this past year it has proved to be a cathartic experience as most of my writing has been focused on Lenya and Heaven and grief. Journaling and blogging has long been a discipline I have tried to maintain, if only to have a record of things I have been learning or musing on, even if it all doesn’t end up getting posted.

Looking back on the blog posts from this past year was challenging as there are some very strong emotions and memories that they triggered but they also contain some very powerful lessons that God taught me in difficult times. I picked out ten of them that are some of my favorites and they are presented here.

Thank you for reading this blog and for sharing my posts with other people! Knowing that God has used something I have written to give hope or encouragement blesses me greatly. I hope and pray that God, who crowns the new year with goodness, would shine His face upon you in 2014 like never before.

10. A question I don’t need answered
There has been one question I haven’t asked. That question is, “why?” I have never found my heart bubbling up with that. Even in my darkest moments of unfiltered pain and confusion: “Why did this happen?” or “Why did God let my daughter die?” wasn’t what gushed out. To be honest my lack of thirst for those answers has shocked me a little bit…

9. The honeymoon is over
When you first get married there is a newness to it that causes everything to glow. It is surreal, like living in a dream. No more saying goodbye at the end of the night. No more falling asleep with your mobile phone because after you dropped her off you still wanted to talk as you drove home and got ready for bed, brushed your teeth and drifted off together. (Thanks Verizon.) Now you get to brush your teeth together! …

8. Pastor Chuck Smith: A Life Well-Lived
Early this morning I received a text that made me pause and breathe deeply. It said, “Pastor Chuck just passed into glory a little while ago.”

7. Good Grief
At various points in the last three months I have wanted to find out whoever came up with the phrase “good grief” and do physical harm to them. Too honest? Sorry. I suppose these are the sorts of thoughts you have when you are grieving. For the record there’s nothing good about it from where I am sitting…

6. A Distant Shore
Her pink bike is in the garage with her helmet hung by its strap from one of the handlebars. It has white-walled tires. Just like mine. Every time I walk by it I take a deep breath in and let it out slowly as I think about how spring will come and the snow will melt and we will go on family bike rides in the evenings, but her bike will stay parked in that spot…

5. The Pain of Searing Loss
In the movie The Avengers there is a scene where Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are having a conversation. Bruce feels as though being the Hulk is nothing but a curse, a nightmare. He feels exposed, like a nerve, and sees no good in it. Tony, on the other hand, views being Iron Man as a responsibility…

4.The Vanishing Point
While on a recent trip to the coast Alivia snapped this polaroid of Jennie and I staring out into the mysterious and gloomy sea on a foggy day. When she showed it to me it seemed to perfectly encapsulate life for us right now. Our eyes are straining to see something that we can’t. The sun is hiding behind clouds and refusing to shine. Life is unfolding in muted colors and in a minor-key…

3. Meeting Billy Graham
Last week Jennie and I were given the opportunity to meet Billy Graham. We traveled to his mountainside home in North Carolina and were honored to sit down in his kitchen and spend some time with him…

2. There’s no such thing as a wireless anchor
The Bible tells us that we have hope as an anchor of the soul. It is both sure and steadfast. Translation: It is unmovable. A permanent anchor that will never budge. We can know this is true because it is Jesus who is our anchor. He is our hope. He has entered God’s presence and has promised to bring us to be where He is. Our hope is not dead either, it is a living hope, because He lives forever…

1. 30 Days in Heaven
It has been 30 days now since my second born child Lenya stepped into eternity. Her last breath, which she took in my arms, was immediately followed by her first breath in the arms of her Savior and Creator Jesus Christ. Scripture promises nothing less than an instant transition to Heaven for the believer–to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. In her final moment on the earth…


Merry Christmas from the Lusko family!

We are endlessly thankful for Jesus who has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel! Merry Christmas from our home to yours.


The Year of the Eagle

Lenya Lion

“I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Exodus 19:4

The other night at bed time we were tucking Alivia and Daisy in. We were talking about how we were close to the one year mark of Lenya being in Heaven. Alivia said, “Wait, how many days will that be?” “Three hundred and sixty five days,” I said. She looked surprised and sighed deeply. I asked, “How many days does it feel like it’s been to you?” She thought about it for a moment and then said, “Sometimes it feels like it’s only been two days and sometimes it feels like it’s been a thousand.”

She is exactly right. In some ways time has stood still. It seems like it was just a moment ago that we were clutching Lenya’s hands crying out to Jesus to send her back to us. The adrenaline, panic, hope and peace of that night seared all of that so deeply into my memory I can go there, whether I want to or not, very easily. In other ways it feels like we have lived a lifetime of grief and sadness, faith and worship in the last year and it is difficult to remember ever not having this thorn in the flesh.

As of today, Lenya has been in Heaven for exactly one year. She broke camp on December 20, 2012. Her earthly house, this tent, dissolved and she got to go Home. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. By earthly time, she has been there in Paradise for 12 months. The Bible says that to the Lord a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day so whether it has seemed as a moment to her, or an eternity, I don’t know. Perhaps like in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” she has experienced more in this year than could fill 100 books, or maybe we will enter into eternity just moments after her.

There have been moments of unbelievable, incomprehensible pain in the last year. Having to walk into the waiting room and tell Alivia that her little sister and best friend is with Jesus. Standing in a snowy cemetery on the day after Christmas, watching as an all-too-small box is lowered into the earth. Coming across her favorite pair of boots, scuffed and beautiful. Seeing the notch marks on the pantry door where we measure the girls height continue to shoot up for her sisters while Lenya’s stays still, frozen in time at December 15, the last time she put her back to the door and giggled (and tried to get away with standing tiptoed) while we drew a line. I get sick to my stomach and nearly hyperventilate whenever I see someone giving CPR in a movie. Ambulance sirens make me lightheaded too.

But there has been breathtaking beauty too. God’s presence has been palpable. I have never known Him so closely or sensed His Spirit so strong as in this season of sorrow. If it weren’t for this pain I would not understand His strength the same way. I have screamed in the night and sunk to my knees in despair only to rise to my feet with supernatural strength that was not my own. We have felt Him hold us and breathe life into us while our hands were shaking and our hearts were aching. The name of the Lord has been a tower to run to, a shield to hide behind, a song to sing and a banner over us. The Spirit of Jesus has wet cracked lips, dried wet eyes, and defanged our fears.

Added to that is the way we have seen the Lord use our story and Lenya’s life. Our pain has been a microphone. The more it hurts the louder it gets. We have not only been able to minister to many other hurting and suffering people who are facing similar waters, but the Lord has broken us in ways that has allowed us to speak to people who might not have ever listened otherwise. We believe that nothing is wasted. Jesus has put to use what He has put us through and we know He will continue to.

The ramp-up for Christmas has been very hard because all around us are reminders of painful moments, but they are also reminders of God’s goodness and His faithfulness. Yes, when I see a lit-up tree or hear a Christmas carol it makes me remember what we lost one year ago today, the fact that we set up decorations with Lenya for a Christmas that we never got to experience. But I also remember the way He sustained us, anchored us and gave us peace. Besides, the reason there ever was a Christmas in the first place is because of death. That’s why Jesus came — to defeat the grave. I choose to remember that because of Christmas, our life with Lenya is not over, it is just on hold for now. Until we see her again she is with the Prince of Peace, urging us on in this race of faith, reminding us to cue the eagle whenever we grow weak and reminding us to make it count.

If you didn’t have the chance to meet Lenya, the celebration of her life is available to watch online here. Through it you can really get a sense of the amazing person she is and what an impact she has had on so many people.


Fresh Life Christmas Online

From Billings to Missoula, Kalispell to Whitefish, in all we are having eighteen Fresh Life Christmas worship experiences across the state of Montana! There will be five different that will be streaming online. If you know someone who is unable to make it to church in person this Christmas invite them to join us online.

Here at the Fresh Life Christmas page you can find all times and locations, send out twitter and facebook invites and even get the Fresh Life Christmas advent videos sent to you so you can post them on instagram.


Why I love to give

At one point in my life I attended a church that was extremely laid-back about the subject of giving. It wasn’t talked about much at all. There was no offering of any kind and the issue of money came up extremely infrequently. It was downplayed to the point of being out of sight, out of mind. Whether this was in response to an overemphasis that had left a bad taste in the pastor’s mouth or the desire to rely fully on the Lord’s provision I am not sure. I certainly am not judging that ministry decision, but what I do know is that it wouldn’t be until later on that I would discover the richness of all that the Bible has to say about the subject and it floored me.

Consequently, during that period I sporadically gave when I felt “lead,” which, if I’m honest, wasn’t all that often. It was more like a “tip” for a good sermon, or when I felt extra generous. I might have called it a tithe but it wasn’t, it was nowhere near a tenth of my earnings. Things certainly seemed to be humming along at the church though, and for all I knew the congregation was full of millionaires that gave so much that it really didn’t matter if I contributed or not. Also, I made very little in my job at that time and so I felt justified in keeping almost all of what I earned for myself.

Looking back, I am horrified that I would enjoy teaching that I didn’t support, be lead in worship by a team using equipment that I did nothing to offset the cost of, and bring friends to church, taking for granted that a chair was there for them to sit in and hear about Jesus but not help cover the costs to make it all happen. If I could go back in time I would tell a younger version of myself that only having a little to give doesn’t let you off the hook either. God expects us to honor Him with what He has entrusted to us and He is able to do a lot with a little. Yes, the amount I would have given (if I had been tithing) would have been a relatively insignificant amount compared to the staggering costs of all these things, but what I would later learn is that giving is less about my money being needed, and more about me needing to give it.

I could give many, many more but here are five reasons why I love to give and why there is nothing on earth that could stop me from returning the first and the best of all God puts in my hand right back to Him.

1. You only get to keep what you give away
Every penny I keep and everything I buy here on earth I will eventually walk away from when I die. Naked I was born and naked I will return, but every cent I have given to God is waiting for me in Heaven with serious interest. My daughter Lenya who is in Heaven left all her toys and clothes behind, but everything she gave to God is hers to keep forever.

2. It breaks down idolatry and greed
When your hand is clenched and you hold on to things tightly it is easy for your possessions to possess you. When you open your hand to give it is easier to keep a light touch on things. Worshipping God through giving money away is the only way I know to keep myself from worshipping money as god.

3. You get equity in the only thing that will outlast everything
No earthly companies, businesses, institutions or non-profit organizations will be in Heaven, but the church that Jesus Christ is building on earth will go marching on. The church is the only thing that exists today that will be here forever. By helping fund the building of the House of the Lord, as Jesus constructs it out of living stones, there is fruit that abounds in your account.

4. It causes you to be obsessed with the things of God
When you invest in the stock market, be it technology or agriculture, you don’t have to remind yourself to check up on it. You automatically think about it. To a degree that is borderline OCD if you have an obsessive personality like me. It’s the same way with giving to God. Where your treasure goes, there goes your heart. The fastest way to have a greater heart for God is to invest in His Kingdom.

5 You are opened up to God’s blessing
This has been the biggest surprise to me. It shouldn’t really, because He is God after all. I have found that He can’t be out-given. No matter how much I have increased my giving over the years above tithing (fair warning—giving is addictive) He has boomeranged it back to me and then some. Not just in entrusting me with more money to steward, but with opportunities, answered prayers, peace in storms, and dreams that have come true far beyond what I could ask, think or imagine.