Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Barb's Glory Story


This story brought me to happy tears — and, after a snowy day in April, I must say that happy tears were not at all the kind of tears anyone expected from me today!  Find out how God whispered sweet EVERYTHINGS to Barb.

It was the summer of 2009.  We had been living in Omaha, Nebraska for about one year.  It would take only fifty more years to equal the number we had been in Minnesota. Sigh. It was humid outside. I’d gained weight. Even my wedding ring had gotten tight. It seemed like I was taking it off every day and putting it by the computer or on the window ledge. 

Finally, fall was in the air. There was a smile on my face and a new spring in my step—except I couldn’t find my ring.  I must have set it down some place different. But where? 

I had looked everywhere—the bathroom, kitchen drawers, the pockets in all my clothes (including winter coats unworn since March), my car and basement shelves.  There was only one conclusion. It is lost.  More than likely, while in one of my multi-tasking runs through the house, I had put the ring in my hand to place it in my ring dish but also picked up a tissue or scrap of paper along the way. I had thrown my ring in the garbage bin with the trash in my hand. One would think I could remember the contents of my hand for more than 30 seconds. But it must be.

Every time I considered the lost ring, my heart would sink and I would feel sadness deep in my stomach.  How could I have been so distracted? 

As the days went by, my hubby was so comforting.  “It will be okay,” he would say, “we can get you a new ring.”  But I don’t want a new ring. I want the ring that is identical to his—the one that reminds me WE MATCH.  Part of me just did not want to have a new ring made.

I’ll just go to Wal-Mart and get a thin gold band.
That will serve the purpose.
It will be fine.

Months and years passed. I had a peace about the ring. But every few years I would find myself looking behind the books in the curio or feeling in the pocket of a long unworn sweater to see if it just might be there. It never was. Still, my heart would whisper a prayer to the Lord asking if He would help me find my ring.

I know it is probably in the city dump miles away, but You are a God of miracles, Lord—both big and small. I know You’re capable.

My husband went through a health issue in December of 2013 and it reminded us just how precious our lives and marriage really are. We talked about getting new matching rings.  We decided to find a jeweler in Omaha and pick out a new design. “Let’s do that by our next anniversary in October,” we agreed. How fun!

In March of 2014, I was in Hendersonville, North Carolina, training with RTF International.  My husband was at home with our son and while I had very busy days, I had a few hours each night to soak in the Lord’s presence and rest.  About five days into my trip I got a call from my husband. 

He started the conversation with, “You will never guess what I have in my pocket.” 

The excitement in his voice was palpable so I said, “I have no idea but you better tell me RIGHT NOW!” 

“I have your wedding ring,” he said.

What? He went out and bought new ones without me? As my thoughts raced, I questioned him.

“Nope. I have your original wedding ring,” he said (and I could see his grin in my mind’s eye).

But how? Where? Oh, praise You Jesus! 

So he told me the rest of the story:

The financial secretary at our church works in the office with the copy machine.  She had to move the copier to get at something (and that is no small task). When she did, she noticed a gold wedding band on the floor.  She went to the Office Manager and explained that she had just found a ring and she didn’t know who it belonged to. Inscribed inside were a verse (Ecclesiastes 4:12) and a date (10-14-83).  After a quick peek at the church database both exclaimed, “That’s Pastor Bruce’s anniversary date!”  Within minutes it was in his pocket.

After my husband finished explaining what had happened, we chatted about God’s amazing faithfulness and we both sensed this was a very special gift to us from our Abba Father.  After I hung up the phone, I was resting in bed and thanking the Lord for His great care and love for me. 

As I prayed and sang scripture, I sensed the Lord speaking to me saying, “My daughter, you were right to release your ring to me and to go on with the plans and purposes I had for you.  But you were also right to never give up expecting me to answer your request and believing that I would give you those things that you desire so deeply.” 

I wept.  I wept for His love for me. I wept for his favor towards me. And most of all I wept because this whisper was not just about my ring—it was about me. It was about Bruce. It was about our marriage. It was about our son. It was about our ministry. It was about our future.
Though one person may be overpowered by another, two people can resist one opponent. A triple-braided rope is not easily broken. Ecclesiasties 4:12 (GW)  
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Ephesians 1:3-6 (MSG)  
For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:12 (NIV)  
Look here. I have made you a part of Me, written you on the palms of My hands. Isaiah 49:16 (VOICE)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New Books for NOW or Your Summer Reading

  


I'm featuring two new Christ-proclaiming books today because who doesn't love a good reading recommendation—especially with summer coming? Both of these authors are friends and ministry partners with Walk Right In Ministries. Your purchase of their books directly impacts outreach in the name and power of Jesus Christ. One book will give you some kick-back-and-have-fun type of reading; the other provides memorable inspiration and encouragement. 

Christian mystery-romance author Sandra Orchard is a generous supporter of Walk Right In Ministries. I devoured yet another of her books over vacation in March and wanted to encourage friends of this ministry to check out all of her titles.  In “Deadly Devotion,” she develops curious and friendly characters in a horticulture town modeled after the area where she and I both grew up. (We met through Inter Varsity and became close friends back in high school.)  She captures the essence of small town relationships where lives seem more transparent yet vulnerable to misunderstanding. Orchard has a genius for pacing and it caught me up again in this murder mystery romance where affections heat up, cool down and heat up again amidst circumstances that are never quite what they seem.  I'm left excited to dig into “Blind Trust” (Book 2 coming in June 2014) and discover how past pain and mysteries will be redeemed. 
Click here for the Amazon link to Book 1 in the Port Aster Series. 

"Collision with Joy" is Melody Richard's first book and it reflects her passion to point people to true hope in the face of anguishing loss.  In this autobiographical reflection, you'll learn how, six years ago, Melody's oldest daughter Danielle (then 20 years old) was killed in a car accident. The despair and anguish of Melody's grief process is contrasted with a vision of Danielle's warm and profoundly joyful welcoming into heaven.  You'll be captivated in the experiences of the two stories woven together with sensitivity, insight and raw honesty.  I was personally drawn into the anticipation of heaven by Danielle's delightful personality and her sheer joy of meeting Jesus for the first time.  This book connects readers with a vision for eternal things that is both comforting and empowering.  
Order directly from Hope Renewed Counseling and mention "WRIM" in your order if you want 100% of the proceeds to go to Walk Right In Ministries.
Click here for the Amazon link to "Collision with Joy."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Remembering Paul: Jan's Glory Story

Encountering the presence and power of God can happen at unexpected times and in unexpected ways.  Today's story is heartbreaking yet a beautiful example of how one family experienced the deepest kind of shock, sorrow and loss while taking a courageous step in the grace of God.  As we read, may we all be encouraged to fix our eyes on Jesus when the storms under our feet threaten to sweep us away.  
I can still hear my sister’s voice. She called my Duluth campus apartment in January of 1981 to tell me that her son Paul had been hit and killed by the kindergarten school bus after he'd gotten off that morning. He went to get the paper he was bringing home to his mom—the one he had colored that day that had blown away from his grip. It landed just below the curb next to the bus. His friend said, "Paul, don't..." and before he could finish, Paul said, "it's ok…"

I had seen Paul exactly two weeks before at my Uncle Raino's funeral in North Dakota.  Raino was a giant of a man to me, a gregarious Finn and a farmer who let me feed the lambs with a bottle when I was a little girl, and I loved him. He had a heart attack and was gone. At the dinner for the family, Paul was wearing the new cowboy boots he had gotten for Christmas a few weeks before. I had cowboy boots on too, and I remember the smile on his face when I showed him mine. 
It was surreal. I was completely in a fog. I was still in shock during the 22 hour Greyhound bus ride to Montana, riding along with my brother, Ric. We talked about how unreal this was, how we couldn’t imagine how this could happen, and about our mom's indescribable grief over her grandson. We talked about God and how He was undoubtedly present with our sister right now.  
When we arrived at my sister, Renee, and brother-in-law, Brian’s house in Billings, many relatives were already there. I didn’t know what to say to anyone.  Nothing was fitting for this event. Later that day, any of us who wanted to see Paul were invited to a private viewing at the funeral home. Paul had on his cowboy boots but nothing else looked familiar about that sweet little boy. There would be no memorial service or open casket, just the funeral.  
My sister fainted when she saw Paul.  It was all so unbelievable.  Every sound was amplified, especially the sound of our hugs and tears. 
The next day, something happened that impacted me forever. Renee and Brian, along with their pastor, asked the bus driver, Dianna, to come over to their home with her own pastor, to pray with them. Diana was devastated. While I was still trying to comprehend Paul's death, I witnessed this amazing grace given to the person who was responsible for their son’s death.  
They told her that they forgave her. It was profound to me. I will never forget it. God’s light was shining through them, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Their act made me think of these words from 1 Corinthians 2:5-7. I know the context of this verse is church discipline but the words are fitting for any situation where we ought to forgive and comfort:  
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent--not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow…" 
My shock wore off at the funeral when, as we all walked into the sanctuary together, the church was singing Away in a Manger. The reality of all this finally hit me and I wept so hard I could barely walk to our pew. Yet I still couldn't fathom what my sister was going through. Hopefully I will never know.  
Once I became a mother, more than 18 years later, I finally understood the kind of love she had for her son. My empathy and compassion for her and her family grew even stronger than at the time of Paul's death because I now understood that kind of love.  
I've asked God why he would allow this to happen, and I know Renee and her family have asked God many times over.  In the weeks and months that followed, their grief didn’t leave.  They were suffering. But their obedience to God spoke to others.  
I know God didn't make Paul die. When tragedy strikes, however, He will use the situation to show us His love and grace. I saw His love and grace through the selflessness of Renee and Brian. So did Diana, the school bus driver.  Even in their pain, they allowed God to work through them, so His glory could be seen to give us hope for the day we’ll all be together again. 
“…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” John 9:3 
See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.” Isaiah 48:10.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the example from this family and others who persevere through sorrow today. Thank you that nothing about sorrow like this is wasted when we experience it in the grip of Your love.  Please continue to comfort and strengthen these loved ones as the years go by teaching them how to rediscover your power, presence and goodness.  Thank you that when everything’s falling apart on us, you put us back together again with your Word.  AMEN


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