By Mark Ellis
A large crowd gathered at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California to celebrate the life of author and ministry leader Anne Ortlund, one of Christendom’s brightest guiding lights for a generation of women.
“Mom and dad were great people and I feel a terrible loss,” said Ray Ortlund, Jr., Anne and Ray’s eldest son, pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville. “It’s impossible for me to read certain Scriptures without thinking of mom,” he noted. “What a magnificent life she led.”
Anne passed into the arms of her Savior on November 4th, within a month of her 90th birthday, after struggling recently with kidney disease and bone cancer.
Pastor John McClure, Ray and Anne’s son-in-law, paid tribute to a life filled with accomplishments inspired by her Lord. She reached tens of thousands for Christ through her books and by personally discipling more than 270 women over a 40-year period.
For 15 years, Anne was the organist of Dr. Charles E. Fuller’s international radio broadcasts and also wrote many of her own songs and hymns.
Ray led two significant churches in Southern California with Anne by his side: Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena and Mariners Church in Newport Beach. Later they founded Renewal Ministries, and traveled the world as a team speaking on behalf of renewal and revival among God’s people.
Ray and Anne authored more than 26 books together and several of Anne’s books were bestsellers, including Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman and Children are Wet Cement.
“Daddy was always a people person, but mom started out reserved and shy,” recalled Sherry Ortlund Harrah, Anne’s daughter. “But she became a people person because of the love of the Lord.” Sherry read from Anne’s voluminous journals, which included a passage asking, “What can I do for others?”
She answered her question with a list, which included giving clothes to the poor, taking in a homeless person (which she did), and visiting people who were housebound.
Daughter Margie Ortlund McClure remembered her mother being “rich in the Scripture,” which resulted from her practice of reading through the entire Bible once a year.
Her parents’ marriage was a great inspiration. “We observed her unrestricted love for my father and her unwavering devotion and support for him always.” Their legendary romance had a silly side to it, Margie observed. While waiting for a flight, they would move to opposite sides of the airport lobby, then move rapidly toward each other until they embraced, with passionate hugs and kisses – as if they hadn’t seen each other in months.
They also were known to have fervent displays of affection in crosswalks and elevators, she noted.
“The heavenly potter formed our mother into a vessel for honorable use,” said son Nels, referencing Romans 9:21. “She was not ordinary in any way. Dad referred to her as his Cadillac. She was high class, came with all the options, and always went full speed ahead.”
“Mom was not athletic, but she trained her mind with the rigor of an athlete,” Nels said. “She was always thinking of how to live a life worthy of Christ.”
One of the many women personally discipled by Anne in small groups, Lisa Grable, gave a loving tribute. “We are different women today because of her involvement in our lives,” Grable noted. “She modeled a fervent prayer life. At 80, she was asking the Lord for 10 more years of ministry. She truly lived for the glory of the Lord.”
Anne selected Scripture for the service that carried personal significance for her life, including Romans 8:1; 31-39; Psalm 90:10-12; Psalm 34:1-3 and 1 John 3:1-3.
She chose two songs for the service written by son-in-law Walt Harrah, “No More Night” and “Make My Life A Miracle,” along with her own anthem “Macedonia,” which carried gatherers aloft with the accompaniment of Lake Avenue’s massive pipe organ on the final stanza.
Dr. Richard Kannwischer’s closing prayer was a striking summation of a life caught up in heaven’s purpose. “We thank you God that she was both tender and tough with us, that she has countless numbers of spiritual descendants. We thank you God that her table became your table, and that she left a paper trail of encouragement and a large wake of your grace.
“We can’t read our Bibles without remembering her. She let us see the impact of Your Word on her life. We pray that we might be compelled to imitate her faith.”
“On the day that she died, she saw her Beloved from across the way and she ran into Your arms and said, ‘I can’t believe it’s You.’”