Monday, December 27, 2010

Not so fast!

Christmas is over. Or is it? There may be at least a couple of reasons to be careful about moving on too quickly. And besides, they’re still playing Christmas commercials on television, so why not?

Seriously though, I’m slowing down for one very profound reason. The reality of this phrase — “God is with us.”

The phrase “God is with us” starting playing itself over and over in my mind the day before Christmas until I realized it was going to be my point of meditation for the entire week right into the new year. Here is how the meditation goes. Each time the phrase is repeated, a different word is emphasized while the layers of meaning are unpacked. Hang in here with me and see where the Lord takes it for you. Will you write us and share your own verses or insights? We’d love to hear from you and pray blessings on this reflective week for you also.

God is with us.

Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

GOD is with us.

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God IS with us.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

God is WITH us.

Romans 8:28-31 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

God is with US.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

GOD IS WITH US!

Luke 2:11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

1 John 5:20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Lord God, we cannot possibly thank you enough for your nearness and availability to us! Please keep our hearts soft toward You and contagious about how You are filling us with Yourself. Teach us and mold us progressively into Your image as You promise to do so that we enjoy and demonstrate Your love, grace and power this coming year, especially to those who have not yet experienced the reality of GOD WITH US. Together we praise You, the One True God who humbled Yourself to become flesh and then die the most gruesome of deaths that WE might LIVE. Halleluia, Emanuel! Amen

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bringing HOPE to the Hurting

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord! This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!”
LUKE 2:11-14

Christmas is upon us. The joyous news that the angels delivered over 2,000 years ago is as fresh today as it was back then: “a Savior has been born to you (and me!); he is Christ the Lord!” Take a moment to picture that scene. Feel the awe of the shepherds as the sky was filled with angels singing “glory to God in the highest…” Pause and reflect on the fact that Jesus was “born to you.” Born to you. Born to me. Born to each of us.

All we have to do is accept the Gift.

I am filled with joy today at the thought of that gift. And it amazes me that, of all of the places the Lord could have chosen to announce this wonderful news, He chose pasture land on the outskirts of Bethlehem. He chose mire. He chose muck.

This week, we have had numerous opportunities in our ministry to see the reality that the mire and the muck still exist – there are so many hurting people out there. People who are facing the destruction of marriages and families due to divorce. People who are counting down the final days of life due to illness and disease. People who have recently lost loved ones. People who are unemployed or under employed. People who are dealing with disability or caring for someone with special needs. People who are feeling isolation. And those are just the situations that come quickly to mind…there are many more.

And the pain of the situation is oftentimes just the beginning, for this can be an incredibly lonely time of year for people who are hurting. Watching others enjoy celebrations and presents can cause feelings of isolation to grow into depression and even desperation.

I believe that we will each have multiple opportunities in the next few days to significantly impact the lives of hurting people around us. What can we do to help people who are hurting? How can we give into someone’s life to the point where they can truly say and feel in their hearts, “Glory to God in the highest?”

An encouraging visit…
An act of service…
A gas or grocery card…
A meal.

Let’s challenge ourselves to look at those near to us...at the grocery store...in the house next door...or across the living room floor. Let’s ask the Lord to point out people in pain. Let’s help meet a need. Let’s be creative. Let’s be bold.

Yes, the muck and the mire still exist. We are all witnesses to that. But the hope of Christ was born into that muck and laid in the manger. The good news of His birth was announced to the shepherds in that mire.

In the coming days and year, may we all be God’s agents in tangibly delivering that hope and good news.

“The King (Jesus) will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
MATTHEW 25:40

Merry Christmas!

Fear & GLORY

—by Luke Hinrichs

Everything rests, then,
on whether you,

with spongy heart
and openmouthed meekness,

hear with aching ears
the heaven-sent announcement;

and whether you act,
taking it in like food,

making way for
your own nourishment.

Imagine yourself, then,
one of the shaken shepherds—

“Fear not, for behold,
I bring you good news

of great joy that will be
for all the people.

For unto you is born
this day in the city of David....”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Where is God?

My hope today is that you will all share with me in about 15 minutes of worship as we seek together to know God and His heart for us…

MATTHEW 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

As a couple, Larry and I have been exceedingly challenged by our daughter Carly’s medical issues and sleep deterioration this year. She has Angelman Syndrome which often, like in her case, includes a complicated sleep disorder. Our sleep deprivation and discouragement have been mounting. As ministry leaders who do a fair bit of pastoral-type care and discipleship, we are also walking alongside several families facing very dark circumstances. These situations are especially painful at Christmastime. There are certainly times when we resonate with the plea, “Where ARE You God?”

Early this week, I was pondering what Larry shared in last week’s blog about God looking at the heart and not appearances. That truth sunk deeper still as I turned it upside down in my mind. Here’s my confession: I am sometimes tempted to judge God’s love for me (his heart) by whether He answers my prayers, by how well my life is going, by whether it LOOKS like He cares about me.

Here’s a Christmas week challenge I am embracing and share with each of you:
Let’s seek hard to find God in our midst and know His true heart!
I want to really KNOW the One who dwells within me.
The better I know the heart of the One who saves me, the more I will share His eternal kingdom perspective which will change everything about who I am as well as everything about how I live and love!

So, come with me and let’s be like the magi who traveled from a far away place asking, “where is the one?” because they wanted to worship Him. God will reveal Himself to us as we seek after Him!

Beginning with a song… “You Are the One”

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. PSALM 103:8-13

“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. MATTHEW 18:21-22

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. EPHESIANS 3:14-21

And now, “Sing to the King!”

Thanks for worshipping with us folks!
And now may you continue to experience the awe and wonder of the King who reigns throughout this Christmas season and into the new year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

of Hair and Hearts...

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 SAMUEL 16:7

This has been a week for frequent reflection on 1 Samuel 16:7.

What was to be a one-night stay for my wife at her parents’ house in northern Minnesota has turned into a five-day, four-night “Mister Mom” marathon for me at our home back in the Twin Cities. And while the reason that her visit has been extended is completely legitimate, and the physical, emotional, and spiritual rest she is getting is an immense blessing, the itinerary change has resulted in a daily meditation for me on 1 Samuel 16:7.

But before I get into that, there are a couple of things I need to make clear. First, my two oldest daughters (Alex and Erin) are pretty much self-sufficient and have done a better-than-expected job of helping me out. Second, I am not in any way writing this blog entry as an attempt to get sympathy or praise for my “sacrifice”–I’m an adult and a dad and I should be able to handle it. It’s not brain surgery. So don’t get distracted…remember, 1 Samuel 16:7:

“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

So, “what has caused you to dwell repetitively on 1 Samuel 16:7 this week,” you may ask? What has me so focused on outward appearances? Nothing less than…my youngest daughter’s hair.

Yes, you read that correctly. You see, since everyone else in my family is gone when she wakes up, I’ve been solely responsible for “doing” Carly’s hair. And it hasn’t been pretty. Her hairstyle requires a ponytail on the top. There are apparently reasons for this…but as a dad, I’m not really sure what they are. In any case, each day I have attempted to re-create the beautiful ponytails that my wife and older daughters are so good at fashioning. And each day the result has been a crying girl with a ponytail that holds too much of the “wrong” hair and too little of the “right” hair. And it has looked completely different everyday. I’m quite sure her teachers at school have been thinking, “Dad must be home alone.” And they would be correct.

Which brings me back to 1 Samuel 16:7. You see, each day this week I have been reminded that the Lord looks past Carly’s multiple consecutive bad hair days and looks at the purity of her heart. Every day this week, I have been reminded that the Lord looks past my ineffective efforts and looks at my heart of love and service for my daughter. I’ve also been reminded of the importance the Lord places on the substance of my life…on what is really going on in my mind and my heart, not the external appearances that I try so hard to maintain. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” He can see right through me, to the truth that lies inside.

As we approach this Christmas season, may we all spend some time looking beyond the outward appearances of presents and trees and decorations. The heart of the matter is that God sent His Son to us as a baby in a manger. O COME LET US ADORE HIM, CHRIST THE LORD!

Monday, December 13, 2010

HOW A MOTHER PRAYS

The most agonizing moments of my experience as a mother have been those times when my youngest daughter, Carly, has been in pain — a pain she can’t explain to me and a kind of pain that I may never be able to make go away. For all the things Larry and I have tried to do for her over the years, there is increasing awareness that there is often little more that we can do but pray.

Raising a child who cannot talk and who has complex developmental and health issues has stretched me in many ways but probably, most of all, it has been teaching me to surrender things I cannot (even should not) try to control. This experience keeps teaching me to embrace the precious intimacy and power of prayer.

We can learn a lot from the way people in the Bible pray.

Samuel listened and responded decisively to God’s call.

David laid his heart bare before the Lord.

Paul prayed often for others and frequently used written prayers to encourage.

But since it’s the Christmas season and because I’ll be talking with a group of young moms tomorrow, I got to thinking about what we can learn about prayer from Mary, the mother of our Lord. Among the many reasons why I’m drawn to Mary during this season is that we have been in a prolonged season of caring for Carly through issues we’ve not been able to understand or fix.

As I watched the movie The Passion years ago, the scenes that most brought me to tears were those of the frantic Mary trying to wrap her heart around the most painful but holy moments her Son would ever endure. It’s arguable that there were numerous other scenes that should have gripped me more, but I must admit, it was resonating with Mary’s mother-heart that tore me to pieces. Even with Mary’s deep trust in God and with whatever appreciation she must have had for the eternal value of the events unfolding before her, there was nothing that could soothe her broken-heartedness in those profoundly overwhelming hours of Jesus’ suffering.

Tomorrow during my talk we’ll be unpacking several things about how Mary prays that can be helpful reflection at any time of year but especially as we consider the awe and wonder of Christmas — what it meant then and what it means today. If you’d like to dig deeper with me on that, check out the list at the end of my post.

I’m taking a couple of things away from the kind of woman Mary must have been. I think she was like our modern-day prayer walkers. She seemed to be in a constant state of prayer, attentive to all that was going on around her and quietly pondering — continuing to be a woman of persistent prayer right into the earliest days of the Christian church (Acts 2:14). I don’t know about you but I’m inspired.

Today I’m also taking notes from David’s book (metaphorically mostly, but also quite literally going to the Psalms) and praying from an anguished soul. I’m weary and battle-worn from parenting Carly and the intensity of her needs and our shared suffering. After another very rough night last night, Larry and I are in the midst of yet more prayerful pondering about what to do next while expressing raw emotions before each other and the Lord as David did. But I am also increasingly praying, as Mary did, with a quiet and pondering heart.

I would be on the fringes of sanity without prayer, without my Lord’s constant availability for conversation. I am brought to my knees with gratitude for the intimate way I have of connecting with my Savior on a most holy level.

Certainly we need a Savior to pay the penalty of sin for us but we can also claim Jesus as the One who keeps saving us from suffering that threatens to consume us — the One who extends mercy and power to us through the Holy Spirit so that we can keep a heavenly perspective and remain strengthened for the journey.

Some things Mary modeled:

AUTHENTICITY—Luke 1:34

TRUST—Luke 1:45, Luke 1:50, Luke 2:48-50

REVERENCE—Luke 1:46-49

SURRENDER—Luke 1:51-55

QUIET & PONDERING—Luke 2:19

FREQUENCY—Luke 2:41-42

FRUITFULNESS—Luke 2:52

DISCERNMENT—John 2:3-5

PERSISTENCE—Acts 2:14

Friday, December 10, 2010

HOW HANDY ARE YOU?

I changed the thermostat in my 2001 Impala last week. Now, for everyone other than mechanics and DIY aficionados, that may sound impressive. Maybe…maybe not. A couple of weeks before that, I took apart and cleaned the control unit of my constantly-discharging water softener and also replaced a faulty solenoid. The result is a well-functioning unit and a savings of at least $150 over what the repairman would have charged me. “Wow, what a handy guy,” you might think.

I often wish I possessed significant knowledge about cars and all other things mechanical. The truth of the matter is that I don’t, no matter how it might appear to others. But here’s what I do possess – access to the internet and a pretty good idea of what projects I can and cannot handle.

There is a truly astounding amount of information stored out there in the immense information aggregation we know as “the internet.” With a little persistence, one can not only get a pretty good idea of what is wrong with a 2001 Impala when the temperature gauge does not move off the lower bound of its measuring range, but also a list of any necessary tools or parts and step-by-step instructions for making the repair. All that is left is to decide whether one can or wants to handle the job. It’s pretty simple, really. Even for me.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17


Lisa and I have found ourselves in somewhat of a “funk” recently. Perhaps it is all of the stresses of life or the self-inflicted lack of sleep we have been experiencing lately. Whatever the cause or causes, we have been unusually short with one another and generally lacking in appropriate expressions of love and affection. The result is two rather tired, somewhat fragile people just trying to get through another day.

I often wish that I possessed better insight into why I do the things I do, why I continue to make mistakes and cause harm to myself and to the people I hold most dear. The truth of the matter is that I am a finite, fallible human being. And despite my best attempts to give the appearance of “having it together,” I really don’t, no matter how it might appear to others. But despite my numerous weaknesses and failures, despite high levels of fatigue and low levels of expressive love, here is what I do possess – the Word of God and a Savior who loves me and restores me no matter what messes I get myself into.

It is truly astounding how much information is packed into the Bible. One can use it not only as a diagnostic tool to help one get a pretty good idea of the condition of one’s heart and soul, but also as a list of any necessary changes and step-by-step instructions for making the repair.

"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."
HEBREWS 4:12

And as we are reminded again during this Advent season, the God of the universe gave up his heavenly position to come to earth as a man and pay the ultimate penalty for my sins and yours. All that is left is to decide whether one wants to follow the Child, the Savior – to allow Him to bring forgiveness and fullness into one’s life.

It’s pretty simple, really. Even for me.

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."
1 JOHN 4:9-12

Monday, December 6, 2010

LET US BE AMAZED!

Larry and I spent last Saturday evening at a Gala event in Chicago that raises money for Angelman Syndrome research. Three years ago this rare and severe disorder was cured — yes CURED — in a mouse model. It was recognized as the “Scientific Highlight of the Year” and all of the medical world stood amazed. It remains yet today only one of two cognitive disorders ever cured in a mouse model.

As parents of a child with Angelman Syndrome, the idea of a cure was not even on our radar when Carly was first diagnosed in November 2000. When we heard news about the ground-breaking research, we stood with other parents of children with this serious disability — AMAZED.

Another thing amazed me on Saturday night. As we have before, we met parents who are raising more than one child with this complex and overwhelming thing called Angelman Syndrome. One can only imagine the moment-by-moment challenges of a family experiencing that kind of adversity! We stood simply amazed as we listened to parents sharing about their lives in those kinds of circumstances.

The emotional reaction of amazement is deep but often fleeting. We pause momentarily to absorb the idea of something that challenges our perspective and our appreciations. Yet, most of the time, we quickly move on and forget that moment of awe and respect when something tests our ability to wrap our mind around it.

It’s the Christmas season and those moments of incredulity at the Gala got me pondering a critical question. Am I appropriately amazed by JESUS? Am I have even momentary astounded when I stop to consider what God did when He birthed His Son through a virgin and placed Him in a lowly manger for the salvation of my soul?

The shepard’s response to the news of a Savior was to exclaim, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests,” And then scripture specifically points out that they “hurried off” to find the baby. I take it they were amazed.

When the wise men saw the star, they were overjoyed and went to the house to see Emmanuel. They bowed down and worshiped the baby. Then they opened their treasures and presented Jesus with gifts. Those magi were utterly amazed.

When Simeon saw the baby and realized he was gazing upon the long-awaited Messiah, he said, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation… the glory of your people Israel.” As Simeon expressed his amazement, Mary and Joseph marveled at what he said about their son. They, too, were amazed.

With evidence of a festive season all around me I’ve decided to pause more often and consider the wonder of who Jesus is and all that He has accomplished. I want more than passing moments of wonder and amazement.

I want a LIFESTYLE of awe, gratitude and passion for the One who came to do even more than save my soul. God became man to demonstrate the greatest act of love and power that will ever be known.

He gave Jesus to ensure that I experience life to the fullest— not just for some future eternity, but also for right now.

That’s amazing!
Almighty and sovereign God, YOU are amazing!

Lord, please cause our amazement with YOU to affect EVERYTHING about how we think, feel and live! AMEN

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WHAT ARE YOU SO AFRAID OF?

A woman in a very strained marriage once shared with me an important insight she had unpacked. For years she had been in an emotionally abusive relationship. Although she had grown to fear her husband, she also feared losing him. The idea of surrendering her hopes and dreams for her family was, understandably, so overwhelming that she had become stuck and unable to make decisions or take steps that God wanted her to make.

Then God prompted her with a newsflash: “You are more afraid of man and your circumstances than you are of ME.” It was as if God was asking, “How much do you really trust me? How much do you even KNOW me? Do you believe that obeying me will be worth surrendering every other fear? ”

I appreciated her humble, teachable spirit. In such extreme circumstances of suffering, it can be very tempting to justify our own comfortable and preferable strategies.

Her perspective challenged me to consider what I fear. Do my worldly concerns exceed my concern for walking according to God’s best for me?
  • Am I so afraid of having children who like me…that I fail to provide them with godly discipline and boundaries?
  • Am I so afraid of being able to pay bills…that I dwell on anxious thoughts and chase man’s wisdom without waiting on the Lord for answers and trusting Him to provide?
  • Am I so afraid that things won’t turn out the way I want them to…that I fail to consider that there will be holy consequences for my rebellion?
  • Am I so afraid of being misunderstood or rejected…that I try to keep others satisfied rather than being who God made me to be?
  • Am I so afraid of what establishing boundaries might cost…that I am unwilling to trust how God may use them for healing in my relationships?
  • Am I so afraid that following God will rob me of “fun”…that I am willing to cheapen His grace for me by taking advantage of the fact that He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love?
  • Am I so afraid of the “what ifs”…that I fail to walk in faith and risk offending God?
My list could go on and on.

My heart is divided. I waffle my way through so much of life weighing every command of the Lord like a cost-benefit analysis. I want an undivided heart! I want the Lord to be able to depend on me as someone whose obedience to His ways is swift and unwavering.
“Here I am, send me!”

HOW MUCH DO WE REALLY TRUST HIM?

PSALM 86:11 Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Are We DONE Yet?

It's a typical family meal. Larry and I find our plates half full when our teenagers are already excusing themselves and taking their dishes to the dishwasher. He and I look at each other with unspoken wonder while rhetorically thinking, "Are we done yet?"

More than once, we've challenged the kids to linger just a little longer. Contrary to popular opinion, some parents don't have cooties! We'd enjoy the chance to sit and talk a few minutes more about their day, what's on their minds, what's coming up for the evening, and so on. Understandably they have homework to do, piano to play, texts to send, tv to watch, and it might even be laundry day with a "Family Power Fold" on the evening schedule. Still, we're counting the days til college and measuring the preciousness of each moment. We crave more lingering.

It occurred to me one day recently that my time with God is like that. He wants me to linger. I'm in a hurry. He says "come near to me and I will come near to you" (James 4:8). I quickly say "gimmee gimmee" and then run for my To-Do list.

Sometimes I linger. I stay long enough to get what I wanted to get out of it. But did I stay long enough for God to give all HE wanted to give or for either of us to experience the full delight of our undistracted, unhurried nearness to one another?

What if I spent time in quiet reflection with the Lord until I was absolutely certain we were BOTH finished?

PSALM 27
3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
DWELL in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and HE WILL DO THIS:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.

7 BE STILL before the LORD
and WAIT PATIENTLY for him

With Thanksgiving, Christmas and a new year fast approaching, perhaps you would take this challenge with me:

Meet with the Lord quietly now and then, praying and reading the Bible — when you think you're done, ask the Lord, "Are we done yet?" If you sense the answer is "yes" then go forth and enjoy the rest of your day appreciating that God is always near. If you're unsure that your mutual business is done, then be still a while longer, read a little more, journal or pray and listen for more promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Who's in?

Let us know what happens, will you?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Experiencing the WHIRLWIND

After not sleeping AT ALL for the last 48 hours, Carly fell asleep about an hour ago. I'm PRAYING she stays that way for a long while!

Last night was the worst night we've had in years. Physically and emotionally very demanding. To further complicate matters, she was so sleep deprived that she tremored for hours throughout the night and early morning, then later at school also. It was very frustrating and a little scary, I have to say. I was grateful to read Psalm 77 around lunch time. It's a favorite Psalm of mine having encouraged me in similar circumstances a number of times over the years. A couple phone calls from friends, words of encouragement by text message, email and Facebook during the day, and then small group Bible Study tonight all helped Larry and I get through the SLOG of what was "today."

We expect to hear back from the neurologist in the morning after he has a pow-wow with the gastroenterologist. Something needs to change.

Incidentally, a record-breaking low pressure condition existed here yesterday and created quite a lot of chaos outside last night. The WHIRLWIND going on around our house was like a metaphor for what we were experiencing inside the house. It's no coincidence that the Psalm I read today reminds me that God meets us in the whirlwind.

How have YOU experienced God's powerful and faithful presence lately?
PSALM 77
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.

1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands
and my soul refused to be comforted.

3 I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
I mused, and my spirit grew faint.
Selah

4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.

5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;

6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart mused and my spirit inquired:

7 "Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?

8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?

9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"
Selah

10 Then I thought, "To this I will appeal:
the years of the right hand of the Most High."

11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

12 I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds.

13 Your ways, O God, are holy.
What god is so great as our God?

14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.

15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
Selah

16 The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.

17 The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.

18 Your thunder was heard in the WHIRLWIND, [my emphasis]
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.

19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.

20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pause...let's WORSHIP!


Have you encountered the love of God today? Take 8 minutes to listen/sing along and behold the Father! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoC1ec-lYps

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Group Discussion Guide AVAILABLE NEXT WEEK!

It's a crazy busy week here getting ready for the launch of the "Finding Glory in the Thorns: GROUP DISCUSSION GUIDE" next week! I hope you won't mind my giving a shameless plug here since the ministry of the original book and now the small group Bible Study comes out of Carly's life.

Here is what a friend of ours from Canada wrote on Amazon recently:
"I have watched Larry and Lisa journey through the trials and triumphs of raising a child with Angelman Syndrome. God has truly transformed them and the community of people who have supported them along the way. Their story is powerful, but more than that, their transparency as they reflect on how God led and taught them through many difficult decisions is truly inspirational. Each of us at one time or another find ourselves living in the thorns, but the Jamiesons show us how we can live in the power of a loving God despite the challenges we face. I started reading this book, believing I knew their story. I had read their weekly prayer updates for years as they worked with their daughter Carly. I was wrong. The spiritual truths with which they frame their story challenged and inspired me beyond all expectations. Their honesty brought me to tears. Ultimately, their story equips each reader to face life's challenges confident in the power of a loving God."

I hope this will inspire you to READ and TELL OTHERS about the original book as well as the new Bible Study which releases on Monday for $6.99!

You can also refer people to this link which shows highlights from a national television interview Larry and I did on Canada's "100 Huntley Street" last year. The highlight link below is only six and a half minutes long. Easy! (The complete original live interview is also on YouTube in two parts totaling about 25 minutes.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnArTDQ0nrs&feature=related

PLEASE pray with us that hearts are softened by the Holy Spirit, encouraged in Christ, and drawn into intimate personal relationship with God through these resources!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

UNEMPLOYED? ...or now fully in ministry?

Last Wednesday around noon, as I was making final preparations to speak at a Women's Retreat this weekend, Larry came home. In the first seconds after he rounded the corner of our basement office, I hoped he was just home for lunch but, since he's been in the banking industry for 9 years and the last 3 years have been very challenging, my heart tends to skip a beat whenever he comes home unexpectedly during the day. On this day, one look at his pale face said it all. His job as Vice President of Consumer Lending had been eliminated. For bank security reasons, an employee was required to watch him pack his belongings, clean personal things off of his computer and then leave.

Grief. Fear. Anger. Relief. Anticipation. Disappointment. Shame. Confusion. Hope. Exhaustion.

We were both feeling a range of emotions. And, I'll admit, we looked at each other in those first moments as the news was sinking in and said, "Really, Lord? You're going to do this too?" Honestly, we were laughing and crying. With heads shaking and tears streaming, we both found it almost comical that this would come at such a time. The last 9 months have been unusually difficult for us as a couple and family. From health issues and depression challenges not typical for us to decreased earnings and the increasing weight of old debts, this has been a long year already. It seemed we could only hold each other and wonder what delightful things the Lord was going to do next. Yes, I say delightful with some sarcasm. But I can honestly say that we really do have a certain excitement about what new thing(s) may be in store.

Several years ago, a study of Joshua 3 and 4 powerfully illustrated for us that God is FAITHFUL. The Israelites were, once again, arriving at the Promised Land. This time, however, after 40 years of wandering around in the consequences of their rebellion, they would actually enter that awesome place they had longed for. But first, God required they step into a raging river at floodstage. In fact, they were to walk right in to that river carrying the Ark of the Covenant! God was faithful to provide a way to cross. As their feet hit the water's edge, it parted and He showed them which way to go to a new life in freedom. This is a story Larry and I delight in over and over again. Our ministry — WALK RIGHT IN Ministries — is inspired from it.

The first time the Israelites' experience touched our hearts was when the Lord was prompting us to take a step of faith and begin a new therapy program with Carly. God quickly showed us a sort of "Promised Land" in that experience and we are continuing to live in the joy and progress and abundance of that yet today. But on another level, especially financially, we have yet to experience the healing and progress and joy that we have hoped for. It is very hard to believe that God has a "Promised Land" for us in that way also.

We feel at a crossroads. I want to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus' garments and have all of this go away. I want to step into the proverbial "river" and see God "fix" it all. I want a JUBILEE year! I crave the opportunity to be free from the bondage of ANYTHING that could hold Larry and I back from doing exactly what He is calling us to do, whether that is full time ministry or corporate jobs. Certainly, our heart's desires are to do as much ministry as possible. I have to say, as I stood among over 100 women this weekend sharing Christ with them, I felt BORN for that very moment. I felt the overwhelming privilege to be standing there alongside my husband having all of our talents, experience, skills as well as our relationship colliding together in an way that was being used beautifully for God's glory. I want more of that. It feels impossible.

I know many of you reading know all too well what it feels like to be in place of financial and vocational stress or confusion. We share your burden and anticipate with you that God is ready to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (see Ephesians 3:16-20)!

Larry and I desperately want to be responsible stewards of all the resources God has given us. We are prayerfully trying to understand what to do with this closed door because our hearts and minds get caught in the tug-of-war between what seems practical or responsible and what seems like it could be God's prompting to take what sometimes seems like one of the most absurd steps of faith we have ever pondered taking.

Is it no coincidence that we are within just a few weeks of releasing the Group Discussion Guide which is a companion to Finding Glory in the Thorns? Also, the original book, Finding Glory in the Thorns, will be available in Apple's iBookstore and Amazon's Kindle in October. Last night Larry wondered, are products like these and speaking engagements going to be like the "tentmaking" part of our vocations — the part that provides foundational financial support so that we can continue in ministry without being so dependent on charitable giving (which has been virtually non-existent)?

Please understand, this is NOT a guilt letter or a plea for money. Yes, we WILL be asking people for contributions towards our ministry but this "blog" is not about that. Today, it is just about sharing from the raw truth of my thoughts. It is about sharing our life vulnerably with you in hopes that you will both pray for us and be inspired by us to draw nearer to Jesus in your own needs for strength and comfort.

Would you please pray this prayer for us from Colossians 1:9-14 (NLT)?

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. THANK YOU, JESUS! —AMEN

Friday, September 3, 2010

Are We Seeking JESUS...or just Relief?

The Apostle Paul was imprisoned yet sought opportunities for ministry, not freedom. He didn't seek relief from suffering, he sought the Lord.

COLOSSIANS 2:4-6 — Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

1 PETER 3:15-17 — But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Lord Jesus, helps us to seek you first. We want to know you more and make you more known. We confess that, so often, we are more interested in asking you to make us more comfortable rather than more powerful and effective. We want to bring the hope and LIFE of the Gospel to others. Please help us. Let our devotion to you flow out of gratitude not obligation. Help us to trust in your nearness and remember your faithfulness with such joy that our lives SPILL OUT Christ! —AMEN

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Forget About "God's Will" for Your Life!?!

Yup, you read it right. This is a discussion challenge based on a book that is aimed at helping us reverse the tragedy of neglecting God. It's a sort of paradox but one well worth pondering if you are interested in having your perspectives and choices and behaviors and relationships and FRUITFULNESS radically transformed for the glory of God.

Let me quote here from Francis Chan's "Forgotten God":

"There are very few people in the Scriptures who received their life plan from God in advance (or even their five-year plan, for that matter!). Consider Abraham, who was told to pack up his family and all his possessions and start walking. He didn't know where he was going. He didn't know if he would ever be back...

I think a lot of us need to forget about God's will for my life. God cares more about our response to His Spirit's leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit RIGHT NOW, in TODAY's decisions.

...God wants us to listen to His Spirit on a daily basis, and even throughout the day, as difficult and stretching moments arise, and in the midst of the mundane. My hope is that instead of searching for "God's will for my life," each of us would learn to seek hard after "the Spirit's leading in my life today." May we learn to pray for an open and willing heart, to surrender to the Spirit's leading with that friend, child, spouse, circumstance, or decision in our lives right now."

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
--Which is harder: discovering God's will or responding to the Spirit's leading?
--Is this just a play on words or is there something here that can fundamentally change the way we live or thrive or experience God or even honor God?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Silent Summer?

"Be still, and know that I am God." PSALM 46:10

Today is the last day of school for my kids. Many others have already been finished for a few days or weeks. In any case, we're all set for a busy and fun summer. Will there be sufficient or satisfying room for quiet reflection on life and love, not to mention a holy God?

For some of us, summer is an opportunity to slow down, take a break from routine and enjoy a new pace. For others, life ramps up in a whole new routine filled with camps, lessons, vacations, summer jobs, yard projects, etc. Temptations to neglect worship are all around. As one who both works hard and plays hard, I sometimes find myself challenged between two extremes: in some moments I will settle into summer's metaphorical "armchair" and loose myself in the lemonaid and at other moments I will get very caught up in the new treadmill before me. Either way, I risk missing important quiet moments of revelation unless I am intentional about BEING STILL with God.

Only in slowing down and being silent can we come to grips with who we really are...and who God really is. No doubt, Isaiah the prophet was quiet and alone when he experienced the vision of God that inspires us all to awe yet today. "I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple...Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." ISAIAH 6:1-3

I appreciate passionate, expressive worship like David and will enjoy praising God with fervor and in fellowship with others many times this summer. But I begin this summer with one very intentional goal, to have dedicated time every day for God-honoring silence and stillness. I expect and pray for insight, encouragement, and challenge out of those times.

What about you? Is the Lord prompting you to embrace some personal spiritual goal or discipline this summer?

Please share your ideas! Let's inspire one another and hold each other accountable.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What's ENOUGH for You?

"Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory." COLOSSIANS 3:2-4

There are a lot of moments/days when I feel like I'm at the end of my rope. I'm consumed with TO DO lists, pressures, ideas, hopes, and plenty of thoughts about myself and what I need or want...and a lot of concerned prayer for others (because, through this ministry, we are contacted by people every day who are facing overwhelming circumstances).

Only because I have trust in and strength from Almighty God can I make it through. I'm so thankful for the peace I have even amidst the storms of life. Nonetheless, I often find myself craving more tangible and more frequent expressions of our loving and ever-present God in my life.

I've been blessed and stretched lately to re-consider my cravings for a more tangible experience of God. I've been convicted of being almost addicted to NEEDING to have some circumstantial or visible evidence of God's blessing or those emotional boosts that God finds occasion to provide. Yet, lately, it seems everywhere I turn, I'm being challenged to have faith that does NOT see...and does not always even FEEL. I've been prompted to just KNOW.

Yesterday's devotion in "Glorifying God" by Thomas Watson (compiled and adapted by Patti Hummel) pointed me to an important truth in a very simple way:

"Mercy coming to us in a covenant is sweetest. It was mercy that God would give Isreal rain, bread to fill them, peace, and victory over enemies, but it was a greater mercy that God would be their God."

What do you think? I know, it's a little heady and deep but well worth our taking pause to noodle it a bit.

Do you struggle between feeling like you're not getting enough of God while also having times of deep assurance that He simply IS who He says He is...and that is enough?

What do you do about it?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Where I Get STUCK

PHILIPPIANS 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is loves, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

Those of you who know me well are aware that Philippians 4:8 is a special verse for me. After a life-changing experience with that message in 1997, I have been learning more and more about the benefits of keeping my thoughts focused on positive things and especially things I am grateful for.

A grateful heart is God's Divine weapon against a consuming negative thought life.

I confess that I have a tendency to have a critical spirit. The up side of my wiring is that it is easy for me to see how things could be better in some way. Thinking creatively and finding ways to make improvements upon something come quickly and easily for me. I tend to strive for excellence and progress in life. The down side is that my busy mind and high expectations can leave me dissatisfied, discouraged, lacking hope, and putting inappropriate pressure on people around me (or at least giving them the perception of pressure which can be just as unhelpful).

There was some incredibly valuable insight for me when I looked at the Greek translation for the word THINK in this verse. I am to very intentionally KNIT my thoughts together in the direction of true, trustworthy, honorable, lovely things. What goes on in my mind must, ultimately, be woven in the direction of Christ's perspective.

Psalm 38:9 models for me that I can lay my every thought and emotion out completely bare before the Lord. How wonderful that Almighty God deeply cares about everything that concerns me! He wants me to share from the depths of my heart with Him. God absolutely cares about even the darkest, harshest realities of what goes on in my mind. He just doesn't want me to stay STUCK in the places of pain, anger, frustration, fear, hopelessness or dissatisfaction. He wants to hear my heart but then refresh my thoughts in what is TRUE and HOLY and RIGHT.

What do these verses say to you about your thought life today? Let's share what we are sensing God teaching us together!

PSALM 38:9
All my longings lie open before you, O Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.

2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.

ROMANS 8:6
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

COLOSSIANS 3:2
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

ROMANS 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

PSALM 111:2
Great are the works of the Lord; they are PONDERED by all who delight in them.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Those Nasty DRY Spells

All of us have had those times — a day or two here and there, or even a season, when getting into reading the Bible is especially tough because it doesn't seem to be "feeding" us the way we are hoping.

I was having one of those days a couple of years ago. I was reading but it felt rather pointless. I wasn't drawn anywhere in particular and whatever I read was uninteresting, and especially didn't engage me emotionally. I was a little frustrated and tempted to set my Bible down and get on to the day's TO DO list. But then I had a thought (thank you, Holy Spirit, how you guide our ideas!) which led to a discovery that was confirmed later that day.

SCRIPTURE IS POWERFUL FOR OTHERS WHEN IT COMES THROUGH US!
I prayerfully read a Psalm and just asked God if what I was reading maybe wasn't for ME at all, at least that particular day. I asked, "Lord, is what I'm reading going to be an encouragement to someone else today?" Sure enough, several hours later I got an email from someone going through something tough. That Psalm came to my mind and I was able to type out an email response with some of those verses and it was a blessing to my friend!

That experience helped me keep more dedication to reading God's Word even when it wasn't seeming to have a lot to offer me personally. I have been on the receiving end of someone's Word-sharing emails many times and it has abundantly blessed me and helped me through some very hard days. I am so thankful God showed me how He can use my dry days to soften someone else's hard day.

READING GOD'S WORDS FROM DIFFERENT BIBLE TRANSLATIONS SPEAKS FRESH INSIGHTS TO US!
Another thing that helps me is to read a different Bible. We've got several Bibles around our house and several different translations. We also have several different children's Bibles. Alex met Jesus because of one of those Bibles. A newer one I've been reading with Carly has spoken profound new insights into me lately.

We can be sure of one thing. God's Word always does a work when it goes out. Remember the promise of that in Isaiah 55?

How about you?
Let's share some ideas folks! What has been helpful for you? How do you keep momentum with your daily time reading God's Word?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

When the Grief of Loss is RAW

On May 17, 2008, our friends Rob and Melody learned that their 21-year-old daughter, Danielle, had just been welcomed into heaven after a tragic car accident. All the angels rejoiced while a family here on earth experienced one of life's ultimate heartbreaks.

Anyone who has experienced loss knows there are some days when grief is overwhelming. Danielle's sister recently had one of those sorrow-filled days and Melody's heart broke again trying to comfort her daughter. With Melody's permission, I share here some beautiful and powerful discoveries she's made in God's Word that may speak comfort to many of us in various kinds of grief.

"February 2010 -- I received a late-night call from Ashley. She's having an emotional and teary evening missing her sister. After our phone call I prayed for comfort for Ashley and then opened my journal. I came across this entry that I wrote over a year ago.

PSALM 56:8 'You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in a bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.'

Why does God keep our tears in a bottle?

PSALM 84:6 'When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains!'

As a grieving person goes through the valley, their tears fall to mingle with the water in springs which can become a source of blessing to others. I'm picturing a pink bottle (filled with the tears from all those missing Danielle) and those tears are blessing others.

Further, in the midst of our pain, we can KNOW that He understands -- and weeps along with us."

--------

Today, God is using Danielle's story and the love of Christ in her family to spread the Gospel message, teach the consequences of choices, and share the contagious hope they have that God is using their pain for eternal value. Visit Danielle's website and learn more about the ministry that has emerged out of this mom's journey through loss:

http://www.daniellepound.com/27712.html

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How BIG is Your Prayer?

JEREMIAH 33:2-3. "This is what the Lord says, He who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it - the Lord is His name. Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know."

[This devotional was shared with us by a friend of WRIM, and taken from today's devotions of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries
http://www.hutchcraft.com/]

The One who made this promise is the one who owns it all, made it all, controls it all. God is saying, "Pray BIG." When we forget the size of God we're praying to, we under-pray, and we under-live.

Right now there are some God-sized things you need to be trusting Him for; things so big only God can do them. You're in the "God Alone Zone" - God alone can do this one! Prayer is God's access code to the unlimited resources of heaven - all the grace you need for what's going on, all the comfort you need, all the physical and emotional strength, and all the wisdom to know how to figure it out.

So pray like it!

-------------------------

Anyone want to vulnerably share about a big prayer request we can all join you in taking to the Lord...or tell us about a big answer you've seen recently from our unspeakably huge God?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Something New

ISAIAH 43:19
"See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland."

I seem to be running into a lot of people who feel STUCK lately. I've been there. Whether stuck in a relational rut, stuck in a behavior pattern (needing to kick a habit), or stuck in circumstances that are (or seem to be) out of my control, I certainly relate to what it feels like to be bone weary of living without a sense of progress that brings the kind of hope and encouragement I desire.

It seems to me that whenever I'm stuck, it's for one of two reasons: either there is disobedience to God in my life (lack of trust in Him and/or stubborn unwillingness to yield to Him) or a simple need to watch and listen to Him until things become clear (keep reading the Bible, praying, and worshipping while I wait).

With a brand new year unfolding, I'm excited about being part of God's bigger adventure of Life! I'm anticipating that He will be doing something amazing this year -- in the world and in my own heart and family. Why am I so convinced? Because God never stops doing new and good things. In fact, He is the Creator of things that are good and new:

He puts a new "song" in our mouths - PSALM 40:3
He gives us a new name - ISAIAH 62:2
He gives us a new heart and puts a new spirit in us - EZEKIAL 36:26
He brings new mercies every day - LAMENTATIONS 3:23
He makes us a totally new creation - 2 CORINTHIANS 5:17
He gives us a new birth in Christ - 1 PETER 1:3
He will bring a new heaven and a new earth - REVELATIONS 21:1

So when I read noticing the source of power behind Isaiah chapter 43 that demonstrates God's intention to bless our obedience and stay right next to us through any turmoil, I am encouraged and challenged.

Are you looking for something new, refreshing, empowering, reassuring or affirming to happen in 2010?

IT IS OUT THERE FOR US! It is coming when we take a courageous step of obedient faith. It is also coming when all we know for certain is that we must remain surrendered at the knee of our Heavenly Father waiting.

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