Monday, March 28, 2011

Suffering Can MULTIPLY Life!

Lord Jesus, we hold before You today so many friends who are weary under the burden of disability, health crisis, marriage storms, financial strain or other kinds of suffering. Our comfort comes from knowing You are always present and loving with a Plan to use all circumstances for our good and Your glory when we trust You. Thank you, Almighty God, for the countless reassurances in Your Word that the Good News of Your grace and power are MULTIPLIED through suffering — and this is just as true today as it was in days long ago when the earliest Christians were being persecuted. As we ponder these few verses right now, Lord, enlighten us to catch a clearer vision of Your perspective and purposes in our own personal challenges. Strengthen us to press on with hope, peace, and joy even when things aren't going the way we would like them to. Thank You, precious Holy Spirit, for the gift of Your comfort, counsel and might! AMEN

Acts 6:7
"And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith."

Acts 8:1
"And Saul approved of (Stephen’s) execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles."

Acts 8:4
"Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word."

Acts 9:16
"For I (God) will show him (Paul) how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."

Acts 9:31
"So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied."

Friday, March 25, 2011

It's "Marriage Prayer Friday!"

Last week we committed to join with you every Friday in praying for marriages to be refreshed, renewed, healed, restored and thriving. Whether you are praying for your own marriage or for the relationships of others you know, we hope you appreciate the value of this frontline weaponry in the battle for strength in this sacred union.

A prayer for your own marriage—
MERCIFUL GOD, your Word tells me to ponder things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8). Yet I confess that, when it comes to my marriage, I am often fixated on why I feel disrespected, discouraged, irritated, misunderstood or just under-loved. Thank you that I can lay the longings of my heart openly before you but help me to share them with others more sparingly and respectfully. Please strengthen my resolve to celebrate the good things more and criticize less. Make me an encouragement to my spouse, Lord Jesus, rather than a resounding gong or clanging symbol (1 Cor. 13:1). Help me to bring more of Your Light into my marriage so that this family experiences more joy and the kind of health that flows out of a marriage anchored in the Good News (Prov. 15:30)! AMEN

Something to pray for a friend's marriage—
MERCIFUL GOD, your Word tells us to ponder things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8). Yet I have a friend who sometimes feels disrespected, discouraged, irritated, misunderstood or under-loved in his/her marriage, Lord. Help me to be a good listener when my friend is struggling but keep me from enabling gossip or slander. Give me courage and gentleness to point my hurting friend back to You (2 Cor. 1:3-5). Show me how to help my friend celebrate more about what is good in his/her marriage in a way that doesn’t make him/her feel like I am minimizing the pain. Let my conversation be full of grace and seasoned with the salt of Your love and wisdom so that I know how to contribute to the health and strength of the families around me (Col. 4:6). All of this is for Your glory, Lord! AMEN

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hope for A Generation Embracing Life!

Our daughter Alex is 18 today. Of course it’s a monumental moment for her and one we are celebrating as parents too. Yes, it’s a little scary to think about sending her out into the world as an adult but that’s not because we don’t trust Alex. It is because we know how dangerous and painful the world can be.

People often ask us how our older girls have handled being siblings to Carly (12) whose life with disability has consumed so much attention from us and others. While we know we cannot predict what might come out in counseling when she’s 32, Larry and I have always felt a tremendous sense of privilege about raising Alex. Yes, there have been tears over pulled hair and occasional resentment about our “high maintenance life,” but Alex and Erin (who is almost 16) have embraced their sister and their lives in this family with gratitude, hope and vision.

Today, Alex is a young woman who is contagiously influencing her world in many positive ways. In fact, her growing vision for community service was a factor in her college selection for next fall.

As I take this day (and Blog space) to indulge in celebrating Alex, I hope this can be more than a mom’s nostalgic and grateful ponderings. I hope young families enduring the moment-to-moment pressures of raising their children might be reassured that our young people can grow up joyful, strong and influential leaders despite the enormous burdens that having a handicapped sibling can bring.

Alex is a well-rounded young woman who has actively engaged in her academics, athletics, the arts and her faith. From National Honor Society and competitive soccer to school and community theatre productions, band, choir, church worship leading and Bible study, Alex has maintained valued friendships and learned to keep balance even with a very busy schedule.

Alex may be best known for her enthusiastic, positive attitude and love for learning. In 9th grade she was honored with the District Award for “Taking Responsibility for Your Own Learning.” She also has a reputation for being well organized that started when she was only nine months old — she arranged magnetic alphabet letters in color categories on the refrigerator door. This still cracks me up today. She even taught herself to ride a unicycle!

Given that her youngest sister Carly has Angelman Syndrome and many special needs, Alex has grown up in a home environment that has often been physically demanding and emotionally stressful. Nonetheless, she has allowed these circumstances to stretch her. She was only 6 years old when she enthusiastically started helping with Carly’s therapies. Carly’s unexpected progress has come, in part, because her sisters were supportive, creative and persistent.

As a teenager, Alex began working a few hours each week providing respite care. It’s a challenging role to function in your own home with the same expectations given to other staff. Nonetheless, she's appreciated the opportunity and pressed on despite circumstances that were often more than frustrating.

Alex is a deeply sensitive young woman who shows great respect and compassion towards people with disabilities but, more than that, she appreciates individuals for their character and personality without being distracted or intimidated by any physical or cognitive challenges they may have. On a number of occasions throughout her school years, Alex has befriended students with special needs and even helped them in practical ways through their limitations. That kind of respect and inclusiveness comes so naturally to her that she will be a bit offended to see I’ve taken note of it here. Isn’t that the kind of generation we want to see leading the future for families experiencing disabilities — a generation that takes for granted that people with special needs are integral to a life that thrives!

Several years ago I framed a photo of each of my children and hand painted a Bible verse on the matte. I tried to select a verse that I felt reflected some fundamental characteristic about each one of them individually. I am so grateful to see daily evidence of how this verse describes Alex:

My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul. PSALM 108:1

Thank you, Jesus.

Happy Birthday, Alex!

We love you,

Mom & Dad

Friday, March 18, 2011

Introducing "Marriage Prayer Friday!"

Marriage is one of life's most thrilling and challenging relationships. It has enormous potential to bring deep satisfaction and joy for individuals while influencing a culture and world in gorgeous ways. On the other hand, a marriage in breakdown brings greater heartbreak than few other things do.

The number of couples in crisis is reaching tragic proportions. It seems like someone needs to sound an alarm and give a shout out for being PROACTIVE in the marriage relationship. Each of our marriages is vulnerable because the temptations are many, the battle is long, encouragement is sparse, accountability from others is shy, and recognition that God can fix ANYTHING is often based on shaky belief.

Starting today, we want to join with you every Friday in praying for marriages. Larry and I believe prayer is the first and most powerful step that any of us can take if we want to be proactive about strong marriages. Why Fridays? Because, in most of our homes, spouses are separated for many hours during the weekdays but have more time together on the weekend — for better or for worse.

So whether you are praying for your own marriage or for the relationships of others you know, let's hook arms and band together with superior weaponry in the battle for marriages to be refreshed, renewed, healed, restored and thriving!

ALMIGHTY GOD, You have the power to intervene on any journey through strain and storms like disability, chronic illness, financial insecurity, grief over loss, infidelity, and addiction. Renew my confidence that You can overcome the most hopeless situations (mine or someone else's) and bring unexpected joy.

Open my eyes to see what is good in my marriage and celebrate it out loud. Give me insights about how to respond positively and constructively where things are broken. Help me and my spouse to extend Your pure grace to one another — over and over again. Help me to support this in the marriages around me as well.

Lord, please cause my marriage to be an example to others (especially children, mine and others) of Your enduring love. Even when things in my marriage are not well, God, please use hardship to turn each person in my family toward You rather than away.

Thank you, Jesus, that I am Your child before I am anything else. I am not defined by my role as husband, wife, parent, son, daughter, illness, weakness, addiction, shame, hurts, career, or obstacle I may be facing. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on You who, with joy set before You, endured the cross, scorned its shame, and finished the race victoriously by keeping Your vision on the eternal perspectives of Your Heavenly Father.

Put Your grace and joy in my heart, Lord, and let it spill out on my spouse this weekend!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Who Are Your Walking Partners?

Minnesota winters require creativity if you like to keep fit by walking. Locally, we're fortunate to have a dome-covered soccer field with a walking track around it where I regularly meet friends to catch up on life. It's a terrific way to multi-task. I am so thankful for the exercise but even more appreciative of the conversation. These are times of mutual encouragement, reflection, shared insights, and even prayer.

My experience with “walking partners” is both literal and metaphorical. Often these friends help me stay spiritually fit and challenge me to grow. Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate to have friends who were like disciples to me. They persistently helped keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. Whether they sent a timely email, prayed with me on the telephone, chatted on a soccer sideline or listened from a chair on a dock at the cabin, these precious women have carried me to Jesus through good times and bad.

Friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts. Having a trusted and encouraging friend to confide in during a time of crisis is particularly valuable. Yet for some people in the midst of challenges, the sense of loneliness and isolation can feel more overwhelming than the crisis itself. Sometimes we just need to talk with someone who “gets it.”

“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.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Larry and I are strongly in favor of seeking professional Christian counseling, particularly in the face of challenges such as grief or loss, disability, chronic/terminal illness, strained marriage, and addiction. We ourselves have benefited tremendously from Christian temperament counseling and 12 Step-style Bible study groups. Yet we also believe that professional counselors would be needed in far fewer circumstances if more Christians lived out their calling to be disciples — in a lifestyle of walking shoulder-to-shoulder with one another listening, encouraging, exhorting and empowering in relationships where Christ is central to the conversation.

What kind of Walking Partner are you?

Do you need to be more intentional about developing these mutually-discipling kinds of relationships in your life?

When we started Walk Right In Ministries, we were acutely aware of this deep and broad need around the world — an even more critical need when people are facing adversity. We wanted to support people in getting connected with others who had “been in their shoes” but would do more than just empathize. Today our goal remains the same: to ensure you are connected with others who will pray with you and encourage you in your walk with God. We call friends like that “Walking Partners.”

A Walking Partner is someone who will cheer you on while helping you maintain a clear plum line against which to measure your relationships, choices, goals and dreams. You can get “social networking” and good mentoring in lots of places but a biblical, disciple-growing kind of friendship like this is soul-reaching and can change your life for eternity. Walking Partners celebrate the Living God and will respectfully and lovingly share Him.

LORD, please teach me how to be this kind of friend. Help me find and connect with others who will be Walking Partners with me for Your glory. Starting this week, help me to be more aware and intentional about making You a central part of my relationships so that anything I have to offer my friendships is not dependent on ME but flows out of YOUR love, truth, hope, and comfort. AMEN

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

“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

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:16-17

Watch for upcoming posts about Walking Partners! We'll explore these questions and more:

  • What are the qualities of a Walking Partner according to the Bible?
  • Who are our Biblical models for being good Walking Partners?
  • How many Walking Partners should a person have?
  • What are the "Do's" and "Don'ts" of being a good Walking Partner?
  • What does a good Walking Partner look like today?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Our Constant in the Chaos

I smiled knowingly as I read a friend’s Facebook status recently. I’ve changed the names but this is how it read:

“Needs a break from the chaos, aka my life…Husband missing in action, Cindy chasing dog around and around in circles, then dog chasing Cindy, Jan acting like she has never had a friend over in her life, Marcia texting how she isn’t getting enough time with Matt (awww, young love) and then there is me watching it all happen in slow mo…I am exhausted.”

Each of our lives tends to ebb and flow through seasons and degrees of chaos. Some days it’s easier to smile through it than others. Sometimes the chaos is largely external, other times it’s a chaos of the soul that leaves a feeling like life is falling apart at the seams. Having a child with severe disabilities has certainly brought external chaos into my life but I’m grateful for what it is teaching me about how to experience internal rest.

Chaos can have one of two effects on us. It can draw us deeper into our understanding of God and our relationship with Him or it can distract us from exploring the truth about who God is. Any response but drawing nearer to God will ultimately have the affect of increasing and perpetuating the chaos.

We tend to live on a treadmill of effort trying to discover the latest and greatest tips, tools and techniques that will help us. We try to learn better parenting methods, explore tips for better cooking or household management, seek out marriage strengthening techniques, study money management strategies, and develop new career skills. While there are many good resources available, we are prone to becoming overwhelmed and distracted in the details trying to keep up, buck up, and measure up.

I don’t believe that God intends for us to get caught up in learning a myriad of tips and techniques. The Bible keeps pointing us back to core principles and shows us that by living according to certain basics, we will thrive because the Holy Spirit empowers us!

REST IN GOD’S NEARNESS Psalm 139 reminds us that there is nowhere we can go to get away from God’s Spirit (Psalm 139:7-10) and He will fill us with joy in His presence (Psalm 16:11). God promises that if we draw near to Him, he will draw near to us (James 4:8). He is our ever-present help (Psalm 46:1)!

REST IN GOD’S FAITHFULNESS Throughout the Bible we find encouragement that God responds favorably to our trust in Him. For example, when the Israelites stepped into the Jordan River in obedience to God’s prompting, He piled the flood-stage waters into a heap and made a way for millions of people to cross over to the Promised Land. Even when sin has brought chaos that seems un-calmable, God is faithful and just to bring cleansing, healing and freedom when it is confessed (1 John 1:9 and James 5:16).

REST IN GOD’S SUFFICIENCY Despite our best efforts to do enough, be good enough, afford enough and say the right things, God alone holds the power to equip us and make us fruitful (2 Corinthians 3:4-5). God alone is able to fill us (John 7:37-38, Ephesians 1:22-23) and to make more of things than we ever can (Ephesians 3:20-21).

REST IN GOD’S PERSPECTIVE — All of our circumstances, relationships, and attitudes take on a different meaning when viewed through the perspective of an all-knowing and all-powerful God who always has a bigger picture in mind (Colossians 3:1-4 and Romans 8:18). Christ himself endured the cross because He trusted that there was something much bigger than His own comfort at stake (Hebrews 12:2-3).

If we truly make it a priority to seek the Living God FIRST and embrace the truths of God’s nearness, faithfulness, sufficiency and perspective, we will experience a kind of “rest” in life that goes far beyond comprehension and this world’s understanding of rest. God will bear in us the fruit of a thriving life and a restful soul.

Reprinted with permission from the women’s retreat titled Our Constant in the Chaos by Lisa Jamieson, author of Finding Glory in the Thorns and Executive Director of Walk Right In Ministries. Copyright © 2009 Lisa Jamieson. All rights reserved.

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