Anne Ortlund ascends to heavenly joy, reunited with Jesus and her beloved Ray

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By Mark Ellis

Ray & Anne Ortlund
Ray & Anne Ortlund

Popular author and Christian ministry leader Anne Ortlund passed into the arms of her Savior last night, one month away from her 90th birthday.

She faced several health issues in the last few years – including kidney disease and bone cancer — with grace, courage, and a longing for heaven that inspired friends and family.

The daughter of U.S. Army Brigadier General Joseph B. Sweet, she became a ‘general’ in God’s army, influencing a generation of younger women in the faith through small group discipleship, and her writing and speaking.

“Mom reached tens of thousands of people for Christ through her books and more intimately through the more than 270 women she personally discipled,” wrote son Nels, after her passing.

Her husband, Pastor Ray Ortlund, 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 went to be with Jesus on July 22, 2007, due to complications of pulmonary fibrosis.

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.

Anne’s ministry included speaking at women’s retreats, home gatherings, disciples’ group, and mentoring one-on-one. She and Ray often spoke side-by-side at conferences locally and worldwide.

For 15 years, Anne was the organist of Dr. Charles E. Fuller’s international radio broadcasts. Her hymn “Macedonia” was chosen to be the theme hymn of Dr. Billy Graham’s World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin.

A romance with Jesus at the center

Ray and Anne were deeply in love with each other, and the strength of their marriage inspired many other couples. They met in a prayer group at the University of Redlands. As they listened to each other talk to God, the beginnings of a passionate love affair began to stir.

“The first few weeks we talked to the Lord more than we talked to each other,” Anne said in an interview last February, Ray had joined the group with 22 other sailors waiting for deployment in World War II.

Two weeks after joining the group, Ray asked Anne out on their first date – a moonlit horseback ride in San Bernardino, California. With their horses sauntering along the trail on a balmy night, and moonbeams lighting up the rocks, Ray sang this hymn to his new sweetheart:

“Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight,

rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;

In celestial strains it unceasingly falls

O’er my soul like an infinite calm.

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,

Coming down from the Father above!

Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray

In fathomless billows of love!”

Ray went home that night and wrote to his parents, telling them he found the girl he would marry.

They dated every weekend for the next few months. Then shortly before Christmas 1944, as war raged in far-flung corners of the world, Ray proposed. He dropped to his knee, pulled a pocket New Testament and Psalms from the breast pocket of his Navy uniform, and recited Psalm 34:3: “Come magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together.”

After the war ended, they married at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C., and honeymooned in the Shenandoah Valley.

Their romance extended from the very beginning to Ray’s last breath.

“Do you know what elevators are for?” Anne once asked. “They are for kissing – if nobody else is in the elevator.”  It was one of the reasons they chose a high-rise condo for their final years.

In their fifties, the Ortlunds were eating in a restaurant when Ray suddenly put his fork down, stared at Anne for a few seconds, then began to cry.

“Ray, what’s the matter,” Anne asked.

“You’re just so beautiful,” he told her.

Often when Ray preached, he would lean over from the pulpit and say to Anne, “Do you have any idea how much I love you?”

Their best years

Anne says their best years were the 23 years at the end of Ray’s life. After Ray retired from active church ministry and they started Renewal Ministries, they found more time for each other. “In ministry, the church is a rival to the wife,” Anne noted.

“From age 58 on, we were never separated,” she said. “We always spoke side-by-side. He always wanted me beside him.”

They often advised other married couples, “The closer you get to Christ, the closer you get to each other and the less there will be between you.”

From 1970 until just recently, Anne read through the entire Bible once a year, following a daily schedule.

Before they went to sleep each night, they prayed together. In Anne’s eyes, Ray grew “happier and happier, wiser and wiser, sexier and sexier.”

Earlier this year, Anne said she still felt very close to Ray. “I’m still his soulmate,” she said. “I talk out loud to him because I miss him.”

She acknowledged they won’t be married in heaven, but prayed they would be dearest friends. “The exciting marriage is between Christ and the church,” she observes. “That wedding will be off the charts.”

Before Ray’s passing in 2007, he wrote several love notes to Anne and hid them around their house for her to find later. One note she found in 2012 said, “How can I thank you for all you mean to me?”

Another note said, “I was born to love you.”

“That’s a good Presbyterian for you,” she laughed.

“He always had me on his mind,” Anne said. “He was so happy because he lived in the presence of God, but he was conscious of me too.”

Anne has two daughters and two sons. Their family is continuing to grow with 15 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. Details for a memorial celebration are pending.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Thank-you for this beautiful tribute to a woman to be admired. I was 19 years old and at a tremendously important crossroads when a copy of The Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman “accidentally” ended up in my hands and I was so impacted. I long considered her a spiritual mentor, though I never got to meet her. So thankful that she used inspiring and powerful written words to cheer us “dear readers” on in the faith! Love her life’s stories and complete abandon to being faithful to Jesus. Thank-you for sharing this important news.

    • They were my first Pastor. Their son, Buddy, once walked down the center aisle with this hair cut in a Mohawk carrying a sack lunch and sat in the front row.?

  2. The first pastor’s wife I remember as I grew up at LACC. Classy Lady! Welcome Home good and faithful servant.

  3. I am so thankful for the teaching, discipling & modeling of beautiful Anne(with an e) Ortlund. My inadequate words can’t even express the impact she has had in my life as a wife, mother & Christian pilgrim. I will always be so grateful to God for her Christlike fervor in serving Jesus. What an amazing woman!! What a tremendous team Ray & Anne were here on Earth!

  4. Living in the north of Scotland, I never had an opportunity to meet Anne Ortlund, but I enjoyed listening to the series of radio broadcasts she made on Revive our Hearts many times, often during sleepless nights. She was a truly inspirational lady. I give God thanks today for her.

  5. Ray & Anne were our pastors but we became friends during a
    Caribbean cruise when they were the speakers. We got to know them and their love for each other and our God in the relaxing atmosphere aboard a cruise ship. Anne and Ray, you will always be a part of our lives.

  6. Ray and Anne each spoke into my life on a number of occasions. Each of them with such big and tender hearts for God and for the lost.
    Ray was one of my heroes. I am truly a blessed man to have known them.
    Well done good and faithful servants now rejoicing in the presence of our Lord! We shall see you there!

  7. I was 21 and engaged to be married to a ministry student when I happened upon Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman. Over the past 28 years I have read this book many, many times. Anne was such a precious person to me and definitely changed my life for the better. I often think of her. I occasionally check her website and when I did tonight, I learned that she had gone to be with the Lord. How sad for us but how exciting for her! I am so thankful for her life!

  8. I read Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman more than 20 years ago and this book has influenced me in many ways. I am from Indonesia and I am blessed by Anne’s book. Today, the same old book is in my hand and I always love to read it. This book is one of my precious favorite book ever. Like Jima, I also check her on internet today to see how Anne looks like and learn that she had gone to be with Jesus now..

    For Anne’s family, I wanna say that Anne Ortlund was trully a blessing to this world.

  9. Ray spoke on “The Haven of Rest” radio …. Their final ascending 7th chord on “God be with you till we meet A G A I N … nnnnnn”. …. is an abiding favorite in our weekly prayer cycle. We replay it often … I can hear it now … They came to Sydney twice, and we loved their ministry: they did us good. And we stayed with them at Newport Beach, …. in jet lag …coming’ and going …

    I flew those two precious people in a Saratoga, to our Capitol Canberra, for a tour and lunch from Sydney. In the 8os, I think, and overnight with us. They were Mike Dennis’s guests. He is OK, around 83. We are too.

    Thanks for the blog. We are only sad with you, for a little while …

    Till Jesus Comes ….

    Les and Martha …

  10. I love the writing of Anne Ortlund.
    How blessed they were to live their entire lives together in His service.
    Such a wonderful way to live, and a blessing to others.

  11. I have read Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman many times. What a blessing it has been. She was beautiful inside out. May The Lord bless her legacy.

  12. When Elisabeth Elliot recently went home to be with JESUS, I recalled I hadn’t looked up Anne Ortlund in awhile to see how she was doing. I’m so happy for her that she and Ray have now been together awhile with our Beloved Savior.
    The trilogy, ‘The Gentle Ways of the Beautiful Woman’ has been read and reread by me
    for years, and has been a favorite on my gift list to give to other women I love. I can
    highly recommend all of Anne’s books. With many, I thank God for Anne’s life and
    ministry.

  13. I am knowing Anne for the first time and I am half way reading through Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman. It is amazing how words never grow old fashioned as I am recalling the teaching manual that my Pastor, Pastor Esau Banda, developed on Work Ethics of a leader. Anne’s book has just brought in a woman’s perspective to it. I bless God for her.

  14. As an overworked music teacher,I read daily from her book, My Sacrifice his Fire.
    She asked the question” Why are you working so hard? To please your ego? Give it to God” …and I did. I love her abd cant wait to meet her in Heaven..Bless her ..evelyn

  15. Anne came to Guatemala for a women’s missionary conference as the guest speaker. Afterwards, 2 of us asked her out to lunch, and she paid. We were young single missionaries, and she said she wanted to support us for a few minutes. She made a lasting impression on me. I had her book “Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman” that had a great impact on me.

  16. It’s 11:26 pm March 29, 2016 — and just finished Anne Ortlund’s amazingly wonderful book “Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman”. It was laying on a side table by a friend’s front door, as I was leaving from having lunch with her. I was instantly drawn to it, though never having heard her name or read anything about their ministry. I asked my friend if I could borrow it — Oh, Thank you Lord!! What a glorious blessing. I will be 87 in 10 days or so, and now praying that I have at least 3 more years to put many of her teachings and prayerful suggestions to work. I was married to two pastors, the first a theological student who became an Air Force Chaplain serving in the Korean and Viet Nam conflicts. He is now in heaven. Years later, I met a former pastor, we later married and had 30 years together, joyfully serving the Lord in whatever capacity He led us to, which included marriage counseling for a large, precious Body and moving to a small island in the Caribbean and sharing the Gospel. He, too, is now with the Lord. I wish we had known the Ortlund’s — we would have benefited greatly from their anointed writings. I can’t wait to share their books with many, many friends and family — and pray more discipleship will occur from these encounters with the Ortlund’s. Jesus is returning soon and we’re encouraged to “number our days”. I will “number my hours and minutes!”

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