Monday, May 30, 2011

Vision Correction Needed

Like many children with neurodevelopmental challenges, our daughter Carly has vision problems. She has some of the more traditional issues like astigmatism, near-sightedness and strabismus. But one of her significant challenges involves immature and inefficient central macular vision. In other words, she has hyper-peripheral vision. It is actually a very common but under-diagnosed problem among people with autism and other learning disorders and this is tragic because there are therapies to help, problems that can be avoided and potential to be unlocked. Even if you don’t know anyone with this problem, please stick with me and keep reading. I’m developing an analogy here.

Hyper-peripheral vision creates many challenges for Carly and for us. Because of her tendency to rely too much on her peripheral vision, her depth perception is compromised (also contributing to instability when she's walking) and she is inclined to "play" with her vision in self-stimulating ways that create a ripple effect of other problems.

Twelve years ago when Carly was almost 2 years old, we began to learn about how to do some simple daily therapies designed to help her develop stronger central vision. We're so grateful for all the progress she's made in this and other areas even while we keep working the process and praying toward complete healing. In the meantime, Carly's vision therapies have provided a great opportunity for us to learn some important things about God and the way HE sees things.

One of Carly's therapies involves wearing special glasses for a few minutes a couple of times each day. The glasses restrict some of her vision while stimulating her macula. The brain receives some visual information but needs to fill in the missing pieces. I still find it fascinating to put those glasses on myself and wonder about how they work and the complexity with which God created us. Despite the fact that the glasses only allow visual input to come through a few tiny pin-sized holes, my brain takes only a few seconds to fill in the missing pieces so that what I PERCEIVE is the complete picture of what I'm looking at in the room. I’m hardly aware that something is missing.

It strikes me that we operate like this in our faith. We don't see the whole picture of life but God does.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. HEBREWS 11:1

We are taking in limited information with limited understanding and, oftentimes, with an immature spiritual perspective. Yet, because God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present, He has a different perspective about everything than we do and can be fully trusted. God's ways are higher than our ways and we don't need to see it all. But we can benefit from developing God's perspective.

Jesus, Himself, benefitted from taking God's perspective. As recorded in Mark 14:35, Jesus could say with complete confidence, "But let what you want be done, not what I want." With Jesus’ human perspective, he faced the prospects of suffering and death with an overwhelming desire to be rescued. Yet, when He viewed his circumstances through God’s eternal Kingdom perspective, Jesus could willingly surrender Himself and trust in a greater purpose.

It's tempting to go through life frustrated by unanswered questions — the things we can't easily understand or "see." One of the very best gifts that comes out of growing intimacy in our relationship with Jesus Christ is an increasing understand of God's perspective. The more deeply we know God, the more we share His eternal Kingdom perspective and appreciate that something much bigger than ourselves is at stake. Things like suffering take on new meaning and we carry into life's challenges a new kind of anticipation and appreciation.

"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." 2 CORINTHIANS 3:18

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 CORINTHIANS 4:18

LORD JESUS, no ears have ever heard nor eyes ever seen a God who is greater than You. No God but You acts for the good of those who trust You (Isaiah 64:4). Thank you for having the vision and power to create complex things and involve them for great purposes. I want to have more of a Kingdom perspective on life — in the details and in the larger picture. I want to know You more and see how You see. And, Lord, when I don’t see well, help me to trust that You are actively involved in the unseen to ensure that all things are working together for Your glory and for my good. AMEN

Friday, May 27, 2011

It's "Marriage Prayer Friday!"

As we are celebrating the Memorial Day weekend, we are also remembering loved ones and giving thanks for those who serve on behalf of our country and freedom. We are also launching a summer season that can bring a mixed bag of changes, fun, chaos, stress and opportunities for families to spend more time together. This is a good week to ask the Lord to use the change of seasons to stretch and strengthen our marriages and the marriages of those we care about.

A prayer for your own marriage—

GRACIOUS LORD, thank You for holidays, vacations and breaks from routine! You know these are busy days for me and my family, God, yet You ask me to take time to rest and assure me that You will provide what we need even when we do rest. This weekend marks the beginning of a new season for us, Lord, and I want to make the most of it. Yet there is a tension. I wrestle between appreciating the things a new season brings while recognizing that change is also stressful. Help me to embrace this season for the good gift that it can be. Please use it to bring fresh perspectives and energy to my marriage and family. Help me and my husband/wife to have priorities and goals that align with Your ways this summer. Even before the season begins, show us (as individuals and as a couple) if there are things that need to be pruned from our plans. Give me a heart that craves You and Your Words in this season. Despite new routines, help me to stay consistent in seeking after You so that this season ends, most of all, with more depth and maturity in my relationship with You and with my husband/wife. Thank you, Jesus. I pray in Your name. AMEN

Something to pray for a friend's marriage—
GRACIOUS LORD, thank You for holidays, vacations and breaks from routine! You know these are busy days for families, God, yet You ask us to take time to rest and assure us that You will provide what we need even when we do rest. This weekend marks the beginning of a new season, Lord. Please help my married friends to make the most of it. I know that for many of my friends, changes and the summer season create tension and stress. Help my friends to embrace this season for the good gift that it can be. Would you especially use it to bring fresh perspectives and energy to their marriages and families? Help my married friends to have priorities and goals (as individuals and couples) that align with Your ways this summer. Even before the season begins, show them where there are things that need to be pruned from their plans. Give them hearts that crave You and Your Words in this season. Despite new routines, help them to stay consistent in seeking after You so that this season ends, most of all, with more depth and maturity in their relationships with You and each other. Thank you, Jesus, that marriage is so close to your heart and that you care deeply about my friends. I pray for them in Your name. AMEN

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Hospital Trip that Wasn’t

Carly was sick the week before Mother’s Day. It was a simple cold. But nothing is ever really simple when your child has special needs. For example, at 13 years old she doesn’t know how to blow her nose. Congestion creates mouth breathing that brings a dry throat which becomes sore and then she quits eating or drinking. Dehydration comes quickly so she’s very vulnerable to contracting a bladder infection which means a couple of days in the hospital. Without assertive caregiving and prayer, the domino effect of something “simple” wreaks havoc.

It’s taken us a handful of trips to the hospital but we have gradually learned how critical it is to stay on top of Carly’s hydration at the earliest signs of illness. Yet even our best efforts aren’t always enough. I have come to realize that God designed it that way. If our best efforts were enough, we wouldn’t need Him. Periodically, He needs to leave us hanging out there in the pit and mire so we will remember how dependent we are on Him. More importantly, we remember how dependent we can be on Him.

When we went to bed on the Saturday evening before Mother’s Day, Larry and I recognized that a day intended for pampering mom was going to start with several hours in an Emergency Room with Carly on IV fluids. We simply hoped those few hours wouldn’t stretch into days on IV antibiotics as well. I will admit that our faith was small. We went to bed ready to make the best of no ordinary Sunday. We were praying for an overnight miracle but hunkered down for the likely conclusion.

The next day, Carly dismissed our offers of juice and water but gobbled up two cups of mandarin oranges. By lunch time, she was eating like a trooper and by early afternoon she was eagerly accepting any beverage offered. Breakthrough! This was the miracle we prayed for and it brought such great encouragement that day. It encourages me again today just remembering it.

Since God doesn’t always answer prayers exactly the way we expect, it can be tempting to quit asking and quit hoping. This experience was another reminder that God wants to hear the desires of our hearts — wants us to keep asking and asking boldly — and also wants us to keep trusting Him to answer in the ways He knows will be best.

In one of my favorite Psalms, King David wrestled with His emotions before God and ultimately landed on encouragement and renewed confidence. His spirits shifted because he put His focus on God rather than his problems by persistently reflecting on the ways God had been faithful in the past. Psalm 77 says:

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.

Reflecting on the greatness of God put the size of David’s problems into perspective. It also reminded David of how deeply and personally God cared about him. We can learn a lot from his example.

LORD, I want to take a few moments right now to recall the times and ways that You have heard my heart’s cries and met my needs in surprising but perfect ways. Thank you that, when I do this, my hope and trust grows because I appreciate Your power and wisdom to do what is best, no matter what the answer to my prayer looks like. Help me to embrace life as an adventure of anticipating how You will surprise me next with Your faithfulness. Because of Your power and love expressed through the cross, I can trust that Your purposes will prevail in Jesus’ name. AMEN

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's "Marriage Prayer Friday!"

We all know of marriages that need an injection of energy and strength. Maybe it's even your own. Be encouraged to pray for your marriage and stand in the gap for friends' marriages. Please join us every Friday for this weekly focus. God delights in hearing our collective voices and wants our marriages to be a display of His power and love.

A prayer for your own marriage—
LORD OF PEACE, fill me with the power of Your Holy Spirit so that I am both motivated and energized to love my husband/wife in ways that reflect You to him/her and to others.
I don't ever want to be considered a sluggard, especially when it comes to blessing my husband/wife. Please help me to discover practical and genuine ways of expressing my respect, appreciation and affection — and help me to do it frequently.
I confess that my tongue is sometimes sharp and my body is slow to move in the direction of serving my husband/wife. Lord, is there something unfinished? Has a promise been broken? Is there a chore I can do cheerfully to lift a load for him/her? Are there specific words that my husband/wife needs to hear directly from me? I want to recognize Your prompting in the small things every day as well as the things that seem more significant. Give me Your grace and strength to express myself positively in word and deed so that my marriage is refreshed and grows. Help me to grab hold of opportunities for laughter, encouragement, and lovemaking. Yes, Lord, even that! In Your great mercy and goodness, hear my prayer as I pray in Jesus' name. AMEN

Something to pray for a friend's marriage—
LORD OF PEACE, You have the power to both motivate and energize my married friends to love each other in ways that reflect You. Please shine through the marriages of my friends and family so that people will see the power of the Holy Spirit and believe in Christ!
Please help my friends to discover practical and genuine ways of expressing their respect, appreciation and affection for their spouses — and help them to do it frequently.
Soften their hearts to serve and bless one another in new ways. Lord, open their eyes to things that are unfinished or broken in their relationships so these things can be given the attention they need under Your grace. Enlighten my friends to speak tender, affirming and respectful words to their spouses. Please refresh these marriages I care about, Lord, and help them to grow. Prompt my married friends and family to grab hold of opportunities for laughter, encouragement, and lovemaking. Yes, Lord, even that! In Your great mercy and goodness, hear my prayer as I pray in Jesus' name. AMEN

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Read Carly's Story

You can't beat this folks! Our book, Finding Glory in the Thorns, is on sale this month. Whether you get the paperback or eBook, both are available right now at the same low price of $4.99!

And while you're thinking about it, consider picking up a copy of the companion Group Discussion Guide. The 7-week format would make a great summer Bible study for your small group or book club.

I'm already gathering a stack of books to take to the beach and my hammock this summer. We hope you'll make Finding Glory resources part of your summer reading!

What readers are saying about Finding Glory in the Thorns...

Finding Glory in the Thorns is not just a book for the parents of hurting and challenged children. It is an honest, insightful and valuable tool for everyone attempting to understand what it really means to surrender to God’s will.
—Robert J. Doman Jr.
Founder and Director, National Association for Child Development

The challenges of raising a child with Angelman Syndrome are numerous and daunting. I applaud Larry and Lisa for the honesty in the telling of their story. As the parents of a child with Angelman Syndrome, Yolanda and I are tenaciously hopeful about our daughter’s future and unwavering in our belief that God is guiding our steps. Larry and Lisa have written a book that bolsters that hope and conviction.
—Regie and Yolanda Hamm
2008 American Idol Songwriter Winner; “SESAC Songwriter of the Year” in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2000. Multiple Grammy® and Dove Award nominations as both a producer and writer. Author of Angels and Idols.

Refreshing to hear from people unashamed to be human.
—Parent of a child with Autism

Finding Glory in the Thorns is transformational as well as inspirational...I, for one, need the hope, the vision, the taste of glory this rare book provides.
—Howard Baker
Instructor of Christian Formation/Campus Chaplain, Denver Seminary. Author of The One True Thing.

Finding Glory in the Thorns is a lovely and transparent telling of the Jamieson's discovery of the power of God hidden in weakness - the power of God in community, prayer, and family...where we meet God and learn compassion to reach out to other wounded people.
—Joel Warne
Founder, Wellspring Life Resources
Author of Soul Craving and How to Eat Your Bible.

I started reading Finding Glory in the Thorns thinking it was just going to be another story of parents in their struggle with a disabled child. From the very first page I found my preconceived notions were wrong. This is the story of real people sharing their lives genuinely — their tiredness, their frustrations, their questions, their doubts, their search for answers — in such a real way that I could relate it to my own life.
—Marilyn Haugen
Board Member, Walk Right In Ministries

I'm going to have my mom, my husband, my sister, and my mother-in-law read it. I'm going to recommend it to all the members of my son's playgroup. And then I'm going to re-read it myself.
—Member of the Angelman Syndrome Foundation

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lessons from the Power Fold

Mondays are “Power Fold Day” at the Jamieson house. It’s a tradition that started several years ago when this mom was both stretched to the limit with stuff to do and also watching two pre-teens sloughing their responsibilities on the family team.

Since our youngest of three daughters, Carly, has severe disabilities, the older two girls have grown up in an environment where there have been others in and out helping to care for their sister. Sometimes, that has included helping with household chores. If Carly is sleeping, a caregiver may empty a dishwasher, fold a few clothes or sweep a floor. For that reason and some others (including mom and dad just plain failing to put their foot down), I began to notice we might inadvertently be raising two girls who largely expected to be served.

And so was birthed The Power Fold experience that changed more than we ever expected it would.

One evening I announced to my family at dinner (husband included) that we were going to spend 20 minutes together folding nine or ten loads of laundry that I had washed and dried during the day. They were collected in baskets in the dining room waiting to be placed in orderly piles. After the meal, the kitchen table was washed and cleared for the big event. No one was to leave the room until the job was done. I promised them it would only take 20 minutes and though I got eye rolls, harrumphs and verbal push-back about urgent homework, I walked over to the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. I assured them the job was doable in that amount of time if everyone focused and I invited them to leave early if the job was done more quickly than expected. We were finished in 18 minutes.

A few minutes later, Larry and I went for a glorious walk in the neighborhood sunshine and I was working hard to keep my self-satisfaction (okay, call it pride) to myself. Fortunately, before I succumbed to gloating, my husband made a simple statement that made me want to jump into his arms right there in front of passers-by on the busy street. He said, “We’re going to do that again next week. In fact, that’s the way we’re going to do it from now on.”

The quality of the folding, in some cases, was pathetic. With time and a little coaching, this improved. Sometimes it took 27 minutes instead of 20. We eventually started adding an episode of a favorite tv show to the experience which meant it took more time but it kept our teenagers in the same room with us longer too. Bonus.

Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned from The Power Fold:

  • Each of us is an important part of a team with responsibilities and opportunities to bless others on the team.
  • A relatively small investment of time can go a long way. (Twenty minutes from each of them bought mom 2 or more hours of sleep.)
  • A creative, consistent and calmly administered plan prevents a mother from becoming whiny and quarrelsome like a “continuing drip of rain.”
  • Working shoulder-to-shoulder makes for valuable bonding. (When schedules don’t allow us to put in our 20 minutes simultaneously, each of us puts in our 20 minutes independently. The job gets done but we miss out on the blessing of fellowship and collaboration.)
  • Doing some of the family chores together (rather than independently) creates an opportunity for my husband to be our leader and for the two of us to display our unity in front of the children. (I initially proposed the Power Fold without disclosing my secretly prayerful intention that it become a regular event. Fortunately, my husband saw its tremendous value and declared it weekly tradition. He is now frequently known to text the girls a reminder in the afternoon that they’ll need to reserve time that evening for the special event.)

Let us know — what are some ways your family is serving one another and learning lessons with eternal value?

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. ECCLESIASTES 4:9

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. JOHN 13:14-17

Friday, May 13, 2011

It's "Marriage Prayer Friday!"

This week, we are praying for parents and spouses who need a break as they give full-time care to a loved one with special needs.

A prayer for your own marriage—
MERCIFUL GOD, thank you for the cross which not only saves me but proves your understanding of every burden that I carry each day. You know that our family experiences great joy in caring for our loved one(s) with special needs. Thank you, Jesus, for the privilege of experiencing a servant's heart as we care for each other. But you also know that my spouse and I grow weary. Lord, the burden is often heavy and lonely. Show me ways to come alongside my spouse as a team sharing the burden. Forgive me for making this a solo sport sometimes! Help me to better understand how my spouse is experiencing the emotional and physical weight of the caregiving responsibilities. Help us to communicate better about our needs, concerns, and hopes. Help me to listen — and listen with my heart. Bind us together in fresh ways. Show me some practical things I can do to nurture my spouse so that he/she is encouraged and strengthened to do his/her part. Help me to leave my own neediness with You and empower me, by the strength and wisdom of your Holy Spirit, to bless my husband/wife. In ways that only You can, Lord, would you also make a way for my husband/wife to get some breaks. Create a way for us to get a break together as well!
Please use the disabilities in our family to strengthen us, not weaken us. You are God. You can do this! Thank You, in Jesus' name. AMEN

Something to pray for a friend's marriage—
MERCIFUL GOD, thank you for the cross which not only saves us but proves your understanding of every burden that we carry each day. Today I lift up the families I know who are caring for a loved one(s) with special needs. Thank you, Jesus, for their servant hearts and for the joys they gain from their experiences. But Lord, You also know the burden is often heavy and lonely. It can be a great weight on a marriage. Please strengthen these friends of mine helping them to share the joys and responsibilities as a team.
Refresh them with energy and discernment to share burdens and nurture each other more effectively.
Help them to communicate with each other freely and listen to each other with their hearts. Would you please make a way for them to get some breaks, Lord? You know how critical it is for them — individually and together — to get some time away. Show me what role I might play in lightening their load or supporting their marriage.
Please use the disabilities in my friends' families to strengthen them, not weaken them. You are God. You can do this! Thank You, in Jesus' name. AMEN

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Carly's Golden Birthday!

Tomorrow — May 13, 2011 — our youngest daughter Carly is 13 years old! She’s going to have a sand castle birthday cake because she loves swimming. I might even add an icing drizzle this year. Usually, I try to minimize the sugar that can upset her system but because it’s such a special year and because continued healing has made her less vulnerable, we’re going to cut loose and live it up!

Birthdays for the parents of a child with special needs are often a bittersweet celebration. Some years are harder than others and sometimes at unexpected moments or for unexpected reasons. After Carly was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome at 2 1/2 years old, Larry and I began to notice an ebb and flow of emotions as each birthday would come and go. These are some of the ways we make Carly’s birthday experiences sweet for the whole family.

· Do something to celebrate the day that brings encouragement for each member of the family. Birthdays are usually focused solely on the person having the birthday. In a family with special needs, the celebration may need to extend blessing to the whole family, especially if it’s a year that has been more challenging or when someone is struggling with more grief than usual. I like to survey each member of the family with this question: What is one special way that YOU would like to celebrate Carly’s birthday this year?

· Honor the feelings and expectations of the siblings. Over the years, I discovered that Carly’s siblings felt sorry for her if I didn’t put much effort into her birthday. My justification for reserving my energy or downplaying the occasion to avoid triggering my grief was that Carly wouldn’t notice whether we had a party or not. I didn’t realize that her sisters would care. They wanted the party and needed the family celebration experience more than I realized.

· Stack the day with her favorite simple things. The simplest things that bring Carly joy can be so easily taken for granted as part of the routine. But when it comes time for her birthday, we stack the day with as many of those things as possible. She gets to have a bath, go on the swings, eat more fruit, enjoy a chicken and veggie penne pasta dinner, play Tickle, snuggle up for an episode of Veggie Tales and dance with the whole family for a while all in the same day!

· We give Carly the “ROYAL birthday bumps!” This is a tradition I learned while growing up in Canada. The bumps can take many forms from an affectionate spanking representing each year in age to a full-fledged bouncing on the bed. Carly can’t appreciate its meaning but certainly enjoys the rough-housing! Greeting Carly in the morning with such a silly start to the day sets a helpful tone for Larry and I. Standing on each side of her holding her arms and legs while bouncing her like a sack of potatoes on the bed is a joyful metaphor for the partnership we share in parenting her. Those giggles (and sometimes tears as we lock eyes across the wiggly bundle of smiles) are like a healing salve to our souls.

· Spend some time before the big day bearing my soul with Jesus. One of the most valuable ways I’ve learned to prepare myself for the big day happens in the few days or even weeks leading up to the actual birthday. It helps me to sit down a time or two with my journal and prayerfully make a list to God of all the things on my heart about Carly — hopes, dreams, longings, disappointments, discouragement, challenges, fears, ways God has surprised us with gifts from her life, things I am grateful for about Carly, needs (hers, mine and ours), and things I’m excited about as it relates to parenting Carly. Sometimes I will sit down at our piano and tearfully sing songs that remind me of God’s deep love for me. These special one-to-one times with my Savior are a precious freedom of expression and bring comfort to me through the Holy Spirit. Giving my grief full release with the only One who fully understands and doing it prior to Carly’s birthday means that once the day arrives, I am more fully able to genuinely celebrate. In fact, my celebration becomes as much about who Carly is as it is about who God is — and that is truly a gift!

Psalm 139 expresses a couple of very important things for anyone celebrating a bittersweet birthday. It reminds us that God knew EXACTLY what He was doing when He carefully, lovingly and gorgeously created each one of us. It also reassures us that God is fully present to each of us and is deeply concerned about our most intimate thoughts and feelings.

Highlights from Psalm 139…

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Happy Birthday, Carly! Mommy loves you so much.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Life on the Bumpy Road #1

It always amazes me how full our lives get. We live in a culture frantic to keep up with “The List,” the Joneses, our needs, the kids, the high expectations. After a mission trip to a very laid back culture in 2008, I became even more aware of how my personality and culture repeatedly drives me toward my calendar and steady doses of urgent matters.

I feel justified but frequently frustrated to find myself staying up late into the evenings because there are so many “worthy” and urgent things on my plate. You know what I mean. Your list looks different than mine but we all have one that challenges us. I have a child with severe disabilities, three teenagers and a graduation coming up, a husband prone to life-threatening infection due to a chronic health condition, a vulnerable back that requires me to make a simple work-out regimen a regular part of most days, a non-profit ministry to run, and our family is now into eight months of unemployment. For Larry and I, it’s a crazy pace to keep up.

I stumbled onto this verse the other day and it brought me, once again, a good reminder about where I place my priorities — and TRUST.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. PSALM 127:2

To me, this verse begs the question: “How much do you trust God, Lisa?”

It is good to be continually evaluating priorities and pruning out of my life anything that keeps me from bearing the best possible fruit. John 15 has been a great guide for me. Jesus said (with my emphasis):

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit….the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

First and foremost, I must take time to remain firmly rooted in the relationship that anchors and nourishes me. Then I have to periodically cut some things loose or life just keeps adding more and more. A life without regular pruning is an unreasonable and undoable way to live.

God created the whole universe and life itself and then He RESTED. God provided enough manna for the Israelites in the desert each day for six days of the week but commanded them not to try to save any for the next day. He expected them to trust Him to supply enough, one day at a time. But on the last day of the week, he would give them enough for two days so that they could rest for a day. On every other day of the week, if they tried to save any manna, it would spoil by morning. But at the end of the week, God kept the manna fresh overnight so that they could stop gathering and just enjoy His provision and each other.

I suggest here that we’re all being stretched to consider how much we trust our God who repeatedly urges us to rest in Him and to take breaks from our toil. If we have our priorities straight and are working on them in a focused manner while plugged into a relationship with our Savior, has He not promised to honor our best effort and make that enough?

There will always be more work to be done, more time to be given to a worthy cause, more people to help, more emails to read and more great stuff to plug the kids into. I see marriages and families being ripped apart every day and the slow, subtle deterioration started, at least in part, because folks were so stretched doing good and valuable things like ministry and community service and countless activities for their kids while their marriages were getting the last dregs of their energy and passion. You know what? Satan LOVES that!

Let us receive the gift of rest from a holy God who is always sufficient — and we are not. He doesn’t allow us to be entirely self-sufficient because if we were, we wouldn’t need to trust in Him.

Do you trust Him enough to let some things go?

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's "Marriage Prayer Friday!"

By God’s design, marriages have the power to bear children. Sometimes those children are biologically born and sometimes they are spiritually born. Please join us today in praying for marriages that are spiritually fruitful.

A prayer for your own marriage—

FATHER GOD, thank you for the opportunities you have provided for my marriage to bear children in both physical and spiritual ways. Help me to never measure my own value by the number of children I have or by how well behaved my children are. Prevent me from parenting out of fear or pride about my children’s morality. Keep me focused squarely on what matters most, their relationship with You. Strengthen my marriage to be one that compels people — my children and others — toward deeper faith in Christ. AMEN

Something to pray for a friend's marriage—

FATHER GOD, thank you for creating marriage as Your instrument for bearing children in both physical and spiritual ways. Please help my married friends to make the spiritual health of their children of utmost importance. Keep them from any temptation to parent their children out of fear or pride. Strengthen my friends' relationships with their spouses so that their marriages compel people — their own children and others too — toward deeper faith in Christ. AMEN

Monday, May 2, 2011

Are you in the midst of a STORM?

On a bright, sunny Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem, whole-heartedly welcomed by the people and hailed as a conquering king.

Within a few days, He had been betrayed by one of His closest friends (and abandoned by the rest), handed over to authorities that trampled his rights under the weight of false testimony, subjected to beatings and torture that you and I cannot even begin to imagine, and killed in one of the most excruciating ways known to man—crucifixion. The clouds rolled in quickly to replace those clear skies, and in the end the darkness was almost overwhelming.

And I think I’ve had some bad weeks.

It amazes me how swiftly blue skies can turn to gray. Conditions that appear conducive to smooth sailing can rapidly deteriorate into squalls that bring wind and waves that would threaten to capsize us. The beautiful blue-green color of the spray becomes an angry grayish-black. What began as a comfortable ride is transformed into a hold-on-with-all-your-strength struggle of endurance.

Some of you know what I’m talking about. You’ve been there. You’ve experienced it.

Some of you are in the midst of it right now.

In John 16:33, Jesus told His disciples, “in this world you will have trouble.” We can see that trouble all around us—financial strain, unemployment, relationship struggles, illness, death…the list goes on and on. But Jesus completes His statement in that verse by saying, “but take heart! I have overcome the world.”

God wants us to know that whatever trials we are facing, whatever trouble we are experiencing, He can get us through. For as quickly as the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday gave way to the seemingly-utter defeat of the cross on Good Friday, so too did that despair turn full-circle into Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday, His ultimate victory over sin and death. He is risen for me, and He is risen for you.

For those of you who don’t know what it is to put your trust in Jesus, Lisa and I would love to explore what the Bible says with you and share about how Jesus is working in our lives.

For those of you in the midst of the storm, we and friends at Walk Right In Ministries offer to be Walking Partners with you. We have experienced many of the hardships of life ourselves and have walked with a large number of people to support them and help them to see how God is working even in the trials of our lives.

Please don’t hesitate to share your story and/or prayer request with us. You can email us at

As the clouds gather and the darkness builds, don’t lose hope. Just as Jesus is there for you in the sunshine, He is there for you in the rain. “But take heart! I have overcome the world!”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. JOHN 3:16

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