Sunday, January 16, 2011

Let's Wave Our Swords!

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips, meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. JOSHUA 1:8

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

I started 2011 on an unexpected reading adventure. Perhaps knowing how this process is blessing me will also inspire you in some way. As I share my own experience, please consider adding your voice to the discussion. Larry and I want this blogging experience to be an interactive discussion for the purposes of spurring one another on while also bringing glory to God our Father.

Somewhere around the first of January I made the spontaneous decision to read the entire Bible in 90 days. Since I’m a bit of a realist, I have never seriously considered attempting this before. My decision was made, in part, out of anger — anger with the enemy. I’ve been desperate for progress with Carly’s challenges lately and am trusting that my “waving of the sword” will incline the Lord to respond powerfully, decisively and mercifully. Since Carly’s nights have been extraordinarily challenging, I have also had ample opportunity to lay beside her for hours on end in the quiet glow of my iPod reading from an “app” that guides and tracks my daily readings. Sometimes we both even listen to lullabies based on scripture from a CD my sister gave her for Christmas. I could practically be an Apple commercial cuddled there multi-tasking like that from my iTouch!

I’m finding this an exciting journey! Right there in the middle of the night — in the middle of a dark room and sometimes very dark circumstances — I can email myself verses that are enlightening, challenging or comforting. During the day, I’ve been compiling these verses into a list that will be like a “pillar of fire” to continue guiding and strengthening me for each twist and turn. This will be something I’m going to remember for years to come.

Do you find yourself grappling to understand God’s leading in some area of your life?

What strategies do you use most often when trying to figure out the way to God’s will and satisfying living? Though we can be tempted to lean on family, friends, a self-help book, a long walk or lakeside sunset for enlightenment, God assures there is great reward in saturating ourselves in His Word.

If you haven’t already considered it, know that from the Bible you will hear God’s voice more clearly and better recognize His promptings. Consider beginning and/or ending every day feasting on His Word. Maybe a 90-Day Reading Plan isn’t something you can tackle right now but how about a Psalm-a-Day plan or reading the book of John?

Tell Us! — In what ways is God watering your life with his Words lately?

ISAIAH 55:10-13

10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Let Grace Break Through!

I’ve been looking back on some notes on marriage lately. There are so many couples, particularly those in Christian leadership, who are facing serious battles because the enemy is working hard to strike strategically. We must stand firm, folks! We must band together in prayer, encouragement, and even exhortation with one another.

In his book, “This Momentary Marriage,” John Piper wrote something that I think is absolutely critical for us to grasp:

“…the main meaning of marriage is to display the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church. In other words, marriage was designed by God, most deeply and most importantly, to be a parable or a drama of the way Christ loves his church and the way he calls the church to love him.”

Due to sleep deprivation at our house, grace has sometimes been more difficult for Larry and I to extend towards each other lately. I certainly resonate with Pastor Piper’s description that marriage is a DRAMA!

Piper cautions us against becoming so familiar with a passage like Ephesians 5:23-25 that we fail to see how amazing it is!

Look at Ephesians 5:23-25:

The husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

And now look at how Piper expounds upon it:

“What is the most important meaning of marriage? It is found in the words: “as Christ…as the church…as Christ.” The ultimate meaning of marriage is not in marriage itself. It is not in the husband and not the wife and not the offspring. The ultimate meaning of marriage is in “as Christ,” “as the church,” “as Christ.” Marriage is a magnificent thing because it is modeled on something magnificent and points to something magnificent. And the love that binds this man and woman in marriage is a magnificent love because it portrays something magnificent…The greatness of marriage is not in itself. The greatness of marriage is that it diplays something unspeakably great, namely, Christ and the church.”

There are some reading this now who will say, “but my spouse has treated me so poorly, even abusively, that it is time for the end of anyone’s reasonable extension of grace.” To this I must remind us all that God’s love is rarely REASONABLE and that the whole point of grace is that it is UNDESERVED! What was that Jesus said, “…seventy TIMES seven…?”

This is not to say that we throw away healthy boundaries or completely ignore sin. It is simply to challenge those who are hurting to reconsider that the ugly drama unfolding in your marriage is portraying the same kind of ugly drama that unfolded when Christ was crucified. Our battle isn’t against our spouse. It’s against SIN. Mankind sinned — over and over again, in fact — and yet Jesus surrendered Himself so that we might live. He loved us FIRST — BEFORE we loved Him.

When we do battle on behalf of our marriages, it’s about so much more than preserving a family unit or making some heroic comeback. It’s about fighting a magnificent battle to display the greatest picture available of what Christ’s love for His church looks like. It is EVIDENCE to a hurting and torn-up world that Christ’s love BREAKS THROUGH and ALWAYS WINS.

I will even be bold enough to say, we all need to go have some intimacy with our spouses tonight if for no other reason than to claim one of Christ’s most powerful tools in our arsenal for strong marriage. And that kind of WARFARE is the battle at its most gorgeous!

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Carly Update: We Humbly Request Your Prayers

This is a very difficult update for me to write. We are desperate for your prayers.

[NOTE: Ordinarily, we would post something of such a personal nature only on Carly's Care Page. But I felt prompted to share this update and our need for prayer more publicly at this time. Thank you for bearing with us by the power and common connection of the Holy Spirit!]

Larry and I are physically and emotionally exhausted after an unusually difficult year with Carly but also a December that has us, quite literally, at our wits end. Life is always ebbing and flowing through challenge here with Angelman Syndrome but things got significantly DERAILED starting in March 2010. I know, I’m worried about sounding overly-dramatic but this is the honest-to-goodness truth. Life is feeling about as hard right now as it has since Carly was 9 months old and we were grappling to understand what was going on and what it meant for our future. We’ve spent the last few days trying to regroup and determine next steps for a new year but find ourselves struggling even to feel confident in our own discernment and decision-making abilities.

For so many reasons, I am finding it nearly impossible to put this situation to words. Perhaps most of all, it’s just plain complicated. Of course we are very tired. But it is more than that. (And, by the way, when I am tired I tend to ramble which I don’t want to do so please accept my apology for this lengthy update.) Part of me wants to curl up and hide and yet I also desperately want people to understand. In trying to articulate what’s going on, Larry and I feel vulnerable about miscommunicating, being misunderstood, judged, even neglected.

Despite the frequency with which we encourage others to ASK for help when they are in a crisis, I confess that it never gets easier for us to do it ourselves. Of course, there must be a layer of pride to it. But honestly, it so much more than that. For Larry and I, asking for help has usually been most hard because we just aren’t always sure what anyone could do to be helpful. But I’ll confess that we are also afraid people will say “no” — simply not respond at all. We are afraid of needing something from you (from anyone) that you cannot or will not give.

Most of all, of course, it’s your prayers that we desperately need. I suppose there may be things we need in a practical sense also, but that would be one of those categories of things we can’t even put into words right now. We aren’t sure what we need, or what would help.

So all of that said, I will simply press on and summarize some facts:

  • Carly is experiencing chronic pain and the source is currently speculative (most things have been ruled out so we are down to a likely ongoing case of gastritis and/or growing pains)
  • After concerns about lack of growth and weight gain for so long, Carly has grown almost 2 inches in the last 2 months and gained about 4 pounds
  • Since her last upper endoscopy (June ‘10) showed no healing, a follow-up is scheduled for this Wednesday (January 5th) at Children’s Hospital under general anesthesia
  • She has an appointment with the palliative care (pain) specialist again on January 11th
  • She has an appointment for a consultation with a new sleep specialist on January 17th

Please understand this is about more than just sleep deprivation. Carly is experiencing pain and it’s affecting her behavior NIGHT AND DAY — 24/7. It’s one thing to be facing night after night without more than a couple of hours of sleep at a time and knowing that when we are not sleeping, things are very intense physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s another thing when the daytime hours demand someone’s constant attention toward keeping Carly comfortable or at least distracted from her pain. Thankfully, she is often fairly distractable it’s just that this requires so much time and energy. We have had to seatbelting her into a chair just to leave the room to use the bathroom or shower unless someone is right there to keep her busy and safe. That means it’s a constant tag-team effort here between Larry and I with short breaks when the other girls or staff support is around. And holidays mean even less staff help is available. In the meantime, we’ve also had to minimize staff support since Larry lost his job in order to keep as much of that income for me as possible. It’s a “Catch 22.”

We are barely functioning right now. The daytime is nearly consumed with trying to recover from the night while also grabbing at anything that makes us feel like we have a “normal” life for moments here and there. This means that things like a job search for Larry and ministry efforts are happening in fragmented and inefficient bursts. Neither of us feels like we are doing anything very well.

Please pray specifically for (in no particular order):

  • HEALING
  • Clear answers about what is going on
  • Clear THINKING/FEELING about what is going on
  • Physicians who will really HEAR us (Carly’s behavior/appearance can often be very misleading when you only see her for short periods of time and when she’s engaged in a novel environment…which is why our staff keep taking her on “field trips” to walk at Target or Home Depot)
  • Effective pain management strategy
  • Effective behavior intervention
  • Consistent effectiveness in keeping her bowels cleaned out
  • Falling asleep quickly in the evenings and STAYING ASLEEP (because something…maybe pain…has been waking her up after about 3 or 4 hours almost every night and then she gets VERY distressed and cannot go back to sleep)
  • Satisfying emotional and spiritual support
  • Patience, hope, strength
  • NO FEAR
  • Opportunity and self-discipline to take care of ourselves (resting, eating right, getting adequate exercise, connecting relationally)
  • Comfort/healing for Larry and I as our own aches and pains are increasing with the stress (neck and back pain, stomach pain, headaches)
  • Peace and strength for Alex and Erin as they patiently endure and kindly step in to help whenever they can
  • Protection on every level

When there is so much that is confusing and chaotic about our circumstances, we are clinging very tightly to anything we know FOR SURE. We are trying to take one step at a time. When we KNOW there is something we clearly should do, we are trying to muster the energy to do it. When we are uncertain about a next step, we are trying to walk cautiously.

One thing we know for certain is that we need keep WAVING OUR SWORD — keeping reading, praying, and SPEAKING OUT LOUD from God’s Word as often as possible. That includes reading from the scripture during the middle of the night when we are lost as to how to stop the downward spiral of attitude, confidence, emotion, effectiveness in soothing Carly, etc. I’ll close by sharing something Larry was reading last night that gave us both some comfort.

PSALM 6

1 LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony. 3 My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long?

4 Turn, LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. 5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?

6 I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. 7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.

8 Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. 9 The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. 10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Thank you so much for reading all the way to the end. You are beloved friends.

Larry & Lisa

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Hebrews 10:19-25

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

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