Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

“The God Who Sees Me”: Achu’s Hope - Blog - Eternal Perspective Ministries

AchuI hope you have time to read 15-year-old Achu's amazing story.  We are so fortunate in America to have access to healthcare, even if there aren't always answers.  Her faith...and how God pursues her, are inspiring.

You may want to steel yourself for the pictures of her leg if you are on the squeamish side, but juxtaposed with her beautiful smile full of the Lord's love and hope, it's worth it.

“The God Who Sees Me”: Achu’s Hope - Blog - Eternal Perspective Ministries

As my pastor wrote when he forwarded this:

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psa 36:7 NIV)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting Back Up

"If God doesn't give you the miracle, you will be the miracle for somebody else."
"The victory is not when I stand up.  The victory is when I know I can't do this by myself."

If you haven't seen Nick Vujicic's video, check this one out!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Star of the yard

 Today I'm so glad for my mom who bought this lovely little Star Magnolia for us!  For the last two years it only had one bloom, so this year was a great treat!

Dave is master of the bird bath and feeder, and the birds (and squirrels!) clean out the feeder regularly!  A few more years, and maybe they'll enjoy nesting in the branches of Star.
The buds open up into a beautiful, star-shaped cup initially, and then open completely and let the breeze softly flutter through the petals.  God's creation is so varied and amazing, marvel at his beauties!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lyme Disease - Back to Life

by Deborah Luce

 Isaiah said, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.”  ~Isaiah 49:4
Job said, “ My life drags by -- day after hopeless day . . . I give up; I am tired of living. Leave me alone. My life makes no sense.”  ~Job 7:6,16
“Hope is as essential to your life as air and water.”  ~Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life 

I am an art teacher and first started noticing something was wrong when my hands and feet hurt all the time.  I thought that the reason that I was often tired was because I have a job and four kids, but then I was tired on vacation too.  I got worse and worse; I would lose my balance and suddenly get very tired, and it felt like I would throw up if I didn’t lie down.

Blood tests, a CT scan, an MRI . . . family doctor, infectious disease specialist, gynecologist, endocrinologist . . . I continued to work as a very absent-minded tired art teacher.  The students probably thought that I was just a very strange art teacher, but really I was a very sick lady.

A friend of mine, to whom I owe my life, told me about a doctor she and her husband were going to for her husband’s lyme disease.  I was at the end of my rope and so I said fine, let’s drive across the country -- what do we have to lose?  It turned out that the doctor is in my health insurance network.

I was tested for lots of things and it turned out that I had Lyme Disease with some other virus that I got from teaching high schoolers for years.  I started on the antibiotic treatment and lots of supplements in April of 2002 and I did not go back to work after spring break. God provided financially throught the sick bank at work and I was able to keep my insurance.

I would lie in bed and say ok... God, take me, I am worth nothing ... He said “No.”

I have continued treatment for over a year now and have improved a lot.  I'm thinking more clearly and am regaining my motor skills.  I have gone from sleeping 14+ hours a night/day to 9 hours, my vision is no longer blurry, and my muscles and eyes don't twitch anymore.

But there are a lot of ups and downs. I have to constantly turn to Christ because you can not brace yourself for the downs--you just have to cry out to God! He is in the business of restoring souls, and that is what I need regardless of the state of health I happen to be in at the moment.

I think I had to realize that I could turn to God afresh every day and yesterday was past anyway ... I could not remember it any way! It is very important to use what energy I have on relationships with my family ...  A three year old can fold their own clothes and we only think paper plate is all they make.... Cereal is sometimes a dinner food.  That's ok.

I have learned and am still learning to turn to Christ through the ugliness of Lyme and He always meets me where I am and restores my soul if I have the guts to cry out to Him and not just melt into self pity.  Christ has mercifully given me my life back through long-term antibiotic treat ment.  I wanted to be better yesterday but God has his timing.
“So we fix our eyes not on what on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”
~II Corithinians 4:18

Deborah is an art teacher and mother to 4, and continues to get stronger each year.

See More Stories of Hope

Monday, March 19, 2012

Identity in Christ

Dave has always been a big believer in understanding what our Identity is in Christ.  He compiled this list from Neil Anderson's Victory Over the Darkness, and also from his own studies.

Since I am in Christ, by the Grace of God….

I am now acceptable to God (justified) and completely forgiven.

I live at peace with Him.  (Romans 5:1)

I have been forgiven of all of my sins and set free.

I have crossed over from death to eternal life with God.  (John 5:24)

The sinful person that I used to be died with Christ, and sin no longer rules my life.  (Romans 6:1-6)

I am a child of God.  I can call Him “Father.”  (John 1:12, 13, Romans 8:14-17)

I was chosen by God to be adopted as His child. (Ephesians 1:4,5)

I am God’s possession, chosen and secure in Him (sealed).

I have been given the Holy Spirit as a promise of my inheritance to come.  (2 Corinthians 1:21,22)

I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  The new life that I have because of Jesus will never go away.  (Galatians 2:20)

I am a temple – a dwelling place – for God.  His Spirit and His life live in me.  (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19)

I am God’s building project, His handiwork, created in Christ to do His work.  (Ephesians 2:10)

I am only a visitor to this world in which I temporarily live.  (1 Peter 2:11)

I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit.  He listens to my prayers.  (Ephesians 2:18)

I have the right to come boldly before the throne of God in prayer.  He will meet my needs lovingly and kindly.  (Hebrews 4:16)

I can endure all things through Christ who gives me strength.  (Philippians 4:13)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thankful Thursdays

Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long,
and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.
~ Deuteronomy 33:12 

So thankful for time to rest in the Lord, to be shielded on days when the fiery arrows seem to come from all around.  He cares for us and calls us beloved.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Grandparent's Legacy

What's the most important thing we can pass on to the next generation?  I can say without hesitation that I draw continually on the unconditional love my grandparents had for me, their faith in God, and their strength in the face of adversity.  Their strength, conviction, and love have given me a heritage to draw on as I face my husband's illness and disability.

I remember my grandma rising at 5:30 or 6 am to read her Bible—how she loved God's word!  And yet she was always willing to put it down to talk with me.  Sometimes she read to me.  I often wondered what intrigued her about the Bible, but I was willing to listen because she loved me.

Although I accepted Christ when I was seven years old, the year before my dad died of Kidney Disease, I wandered in my faith for a long time.  I know at times my grandparents must have wondered if I was truly saved at all--yet I always knew they still loved me, even if they didn't like what I was doing.  They called me, they wrote me, they spent time with me--they knew what was going on in my life.  They faithfully prayed for me for another 13 years before seeing God bring any answers.

"Who are you going to follow?" God seemed to ask when I was nineteen.  "Me—or the world?"

With the choice laid before me—and the loneliness and failure that sin and following the world had brought me so far, I knew there was only one choice to make.

My grandma died a few years after I chose to stop walking the fence between God and the world, and my grandpa died eight years later.  Now I often wish I could call one of them, ask their advice, draw on their strength—but God has said their legacy is sufficient for me.  When I question how I can continue on, I remember their faithfulness and how God sustained them—and I know He will sustain me too.

I wrote this poem for their 50th wedding anniversary:

 I remember so well those trips
through cornfields upon cornfields
or snowy midnights,
Mom and Dad pretending we were lost
on the way to your house.

Summer days full of laughter and tears,
card-playing, miniature golf,
pot roast with all the trimmings.

Then the dark shadow fell upon our house—
Dad was gone.

Grandma would say,"Why him and not me?
I would have gone in his place."
And there was Grandpa,
his tender eyes always there.

Through that sweet, sweet sadness
God revealed in His own time
His greater plan for us.
Summer days grew to years in school
impossible without you.

His Spirit has filled our house
with His love
poured out through you,
who have been ever-committed to us.

What a miracle to see
God ever-present in our family.
And even though we may sometimes squabble,
Yet now we are only a "poor reflection"
of what we then shall be.

May God's grace ever fill us
with the fullness of His love
and may we be ever-faithful servants.

Thankyou, Grandma and Grandpa
for the years you've invested in us
and the Gospel you've ingrained in our minds.
Surely God has engraved our hearts
and brought us together in His Word.

"Glory to God in the Highest
and on earth, peace to men
on whom His favor rests."  Luke 2:14

Happy Golden Anniversary

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Folding of the Petals

by Jerrold Ham  © 2000

The folding of the petals means that night is almost here.
The day has turned to twilight; and the sun soon disappears.
The flowers sleep in silence as they wait for morning's light.
They seem to be at peace as they rest throughout the night.

The flowers are our loved ones, whose blossoms we have shared,
They clothed and fed and taught us, they showed us that they cared.
And suddenly it seems they're in the twilight of their years.
As we watch their petals folding, we can't hold back the tears.

But their story is not over; they're only resting for awhile,
And when the dawn arrives, they'll awaken with a smile.
With a growing sense of joy, the dawn begins to break.
The birds begin to sing, and the flowers, they awake.

As they meet the Lord, it will be a beautiful sight.
Their petals will spring open to receive His glorious light.
The folding of the petals is not the end, I know.
It's just another step on the journey we must go.

Jerrold Ham is a seventy year old LPN, and his wife is an RN. They live in Spokane, and have two sons in their early thirties. For nearly six years - from late December, 1995 to September 8th, 2001 they took care of his mother who passed away due to Alzheimer's disease on September 8, 2001. Jerry quit his job as a home health care nurse to stay at home with his mother as her primary - 24/7 - caregiver. After her passing, He resumed working as a home health care nurse. He writes, “caring for a loved one can be a rather rough experience, but even in the darkest of those experiences God is at work in ways that we could never imagine.”

Saturday, March 10, 2012

God's Promises in the Desert

"Trust...does not mean hoping for the absence of pain but believing in the purpose of pain.  After all, if my almighty God is really almighty and my heavenly Father is really fatherly, then I should trust that he can and will do what is good for me in this sad world."
~Kevin DeYoung

The Good News We Almost Forgot 

I've been contemplating these words because I do find it very difficult to trust.  A friend told me she has outright told God, "I don't believe you are working for my good."  Gut-level honesty.

I've been contemplating what it means to be "in Christ" and the marriage themes throughout the Bible.  I confess and repent that in my heart I have falsely accused God of having wandering eyes, of not really looking out for us, not really helping us.  But we are his temple that he has consecrated and put his Name there forever.
My eyes and my heart will always be there. 
~1 Kings 9:3
(emphasis mine--and if this was true for the temple built by human hands, how much more for the temple he has made?!).  He has never been the adulterous one, though our eyes have wandered.  His promises are sure and true.  They are as wedding vows:
They will be my people, and I will be their God.
I will make an everlasting covenant with them:
I will never stop doing good to them, 
and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.
I will rejoice in doing them good
and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.
~Jeremiah 32:38, 40-41
(emphasis mine).  Do you hear his heart?  We are his and he is ours.  His covenant is beyond "till death do us part."  He will never stop doing good to us--even when he inspires us to fear him.  He rejoices in doing good to us.
Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
“In that day,” declares the LORD,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD. 
~Hosea 2:14-16, 19-20

The Valley of Trouble (Achor) will become a door of hope.  He has not abandoned us in the desert, but led us.  And he has not led us into the desert for evil or to let us die (as the Israelites feared in their desert wanderings).  We may not know all his purposes, but he allures us, speaks tenderly to us, covenants with heart and soul, gives all for us...for our good.  Even now.

They will be called the Holy People, 
the Redeemed of the LORD; 
and you will be called Sought After, 
the City No Longer Deserted.

~Isaiah 62:12

You, are Sought After.  You have captured his heart.  He will, he is, doing good to us even when we cannot see it.

I gave you my solemn oath 
and entered into a covenant with you, 
declares the Sovereign Lord, 
and you became mine.

~Ezekiel 16:8b

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"Behold Our God"

This song moves me so deeply.  I think of God's train filling the room, his throne encircled in sapphire, Isaiah's coal to the lips, God's kindness to us, rejoicing over us with singing, numbering the hairs on our head, Job's response to God...and I'm filled with awe and wonder.  Let his glory fill the earth!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Waiting to Fly

by Nicolette M. Dumke

When Merry asked me to write a "story of hope" for this website, I wondered if I could do it. I thought, "I don't have all the answers. No! I don't have any of the answers!" Then I realized that this fact is the basis of real hope:

Hope is not a sentimental belief that things will get better.

It is coming to the end of your rope, to the end of your ability to cope with a problem, and giving up and surrendering yourself and the problem to God, to El Shaddai - God All Sufficient - and knowing that He is in control and can handle the problem - and indeed your whole life.

For several years, my food allergies were so severe that I was literally allergic to all foods.  I had headaches, diarhea, dizziness, and joint pain, among other symptoms. To stay alive, I ate the most exotic things and reacted even to them. God led me to knowledge, people, and treatment that helped over several years time so that I now have a nutritionally adequate diet, and He disciplined me to trust Him more in the process.

You can learn quickly what I learned slowly about food allergies at my Food Allergy website where you can also read my complete story Our Family's Story of Food Allergies and read about the book that came out of this experience, The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide.

While on a walk this week, I saw a sparrow that had perched on a barbed-wire fence and gotten one of its talons caught in a twist of the wires. It was hanging upside down by its foot. Every minute or so it would flap its wings furiously and try to fly away.

We are often like this bird when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem. We furiously and ineffectually flap our wings. Instead, we need to stop and cry out to our Heavenly Father. He will hear us and respond. His response could be to miraculously and instantly solve the problem - He can reach up and untangle us from the wires. Or he might show us how to get perched topside on the wire so our talons are at the right angle to pull out ourselves. However, it seems to me that most often He works on our problems slowly. He says, "Wait and learn to trust Me."

When God says, "Wait," if we cooperate with Him, there is produced a "harvest of righteousness and peace" in our lives. (Hebrews 12:11) We grow spiritually, mature, and become more like Jesus. These changes in us have eternal value. Temporal problems are just that - temporal and temporary, even if we live with them for the rest of our lives. When things are dark and desperate, we learn to cling to what we know about God - that He is in absolute control, and that He loves us and seeks only our highest good.
"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life: you stretch out your hands against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever." (Psalm 138:7-8)
When you are faced with problems that threaten to overwhelm you, remember and cling to these verses:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." (Isaiah 43: 1-3)
 "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12)

See more Stories of Hope
See links for Food Allergies and Chemical Sensitivities

Monday, March 5, 2012

Polishing the Pavers and Other Life Pursuits

In her book Around the Table: Connecting with Your Family at Mealtimes, author Sharon Fleming writes:

Around the Table BookIn Bogota we live in an enclosed community with seventy-five townhouses squeezed onto five acres.  Each house comes with a brick-tiled parking spot out front.  The day we moved into our house, our neighbor’s “driveway” was torn up.  I asked her if there had been a problem.  “I can’t get the old tiles to keep a shine,” she told me, “so I’m replacing them with a better quality.  Hopefully these will stay nice looking.”  I had never heard of shining a driveway, so I wasn’t sure what kind of a community I was moving into.
Every morning she comes out armed with a bucket, mop, and hot soapy water to wash her parking spot.  Then, with a rag pushed by a broom, she dries the driveway tiles.  After that she uses her electric floor polisher to bring up the luster of the wax.  When her husband comes home, he has to wipe his feet on their patch of grass and then on a mat at the bottom of the driveway before walking the ten paces to the front door. 
One day my children got out their sidewalk chalk and decorated our parking space, filling in each brick with a different color until it looked like a patchwork quilt.  After I admired it with them they ran off to the park to play.  A short while later, my neighbor came to my door to tell me that the unthinkable had happened:  my children had left chalk dust footprints on her driveway. 
She scolded me for their thoughtlessness and complained about how much work it is to clean her driveway and that she had already done it for the day.  Later as I hosed away the work of art, she lugged out the bucket, mop, water, and floor polisher again:  crash, swish, whirr.  And that is just how she cares for the driveway! 
That house is my neighbor’s life devotion.  It’s what she talks about “when she sits in her house and when she walks by the way.”  It’s what she is thinking about when she gets up at 5 a.m., and it is what she is consumed with until 11 p.m. when she turns off the news to go to sleep.
What is your life’s devotion? 
I want my life’s devotion to be the person of God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.  My “devotions” or “devotional times” are the food for the devotion of my life, but my devotion to God continues all day.
*     *     *
(Shared with permission)

It’s so easy, in the busy-ness of life, to get caught up in other things.  Pretty things, important things, even good things.  What do we think about when we rise, when we’re sitting or walking along the way, when we lay down at night?  Are we consumed with things of this world, even good things? 

I confess I didn’t have a lot of hope when I first sat down to read this book.  I thought it might be helpful for others and was hoping to share about it for that reason, but thought it probably wouldn't offer much for our family.  After all, things that “work” in “normal” families, don’t usually work for us.  The structure of our days often revolves around the uniqueness of my husband’s disability rather than things we can “plan” and “count on.”  That makes meal times with all of us together difficult to accomplish.

But I came away renewed by her encouraging tone and the variety of creative solutions she has, especially:

  1. Hospitality can happen anywhere
  2. Meals together, even when some are missing, have value and significance
  3. Ideas for special celebrations (with Easter coming up, I think I’ll try to make this meal more special this year)
  4. Spending a little time ahead of time thinking about topics for deeper conversations (and she presents lots of ideas).

I found the first and second points especially encouraging.  Hospitality is hard when you have a family member with chemical sensitivities, but I can be warm and hospitable in other situations too—it’s not just about “home.”  

Meals together have great value—even if my husband isn’t up when the kids and I eat, I can eat with them, and sit down with a cup of coffee or tea when he is up, and still share time together.  And on days when we don’t all eat breakfast or lunch together—I can take a few moments to sit with a child or with Dave.  I can treasure those moments instead of lamenting that we are not “all” together, we can still make them special.  I can create a home atmosphere that encourages together time, even if it's not always "all together."  

This book has a lot of hope for families who struggle against the cultural constraints of our society to find time together--activities, work obligations, and so on.  And in those moments we carve out, we can share windows into our faith journey, the One we are devoted to.  I often hear parents asking for a "curriculum" to teach character qualities and those have value, but I think most character training happens in times together such as mealtimes.  I hope when my kids are grown that we will be "Still Talking" and talking deeply about the things of life that are important. 

It’s easy to get caught up in "polishing pavers"—but how much more meaningful it is to capture those moments here and there with someone and remember together, marvel together, about Christ who has captured our hearts.  

May God bless your homes and families.

If you'd like to find out more about this book, it is available for a 25% discount.  The author, Sharon Fleming, is also sponsoring a giveaway.  Read her blog entry here for more details.

Friday, March 2, 2012

You Say, God Says

author unknown

You say: "It's impossible"
God says: All things are possible
(Luke 18:27)

You say: "I'm too tired"
God says: I will give you rest
(Matthew 11:28-30)

You say: "Nobody really loves me"
God says: I love you
(John 3:16 & John 3:34 )

You say: "I can't go on"
God says: My grace is sufficient
(II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)

You say: "I can't figure things out"
God says: I will direct your steps
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

You say: "I can't do it"
God says: You can do all things
(Philippians 4:13)

You say: "I'm not able"
God says: I am able
(II Corinthians 9:8)

You say: "It's not worth it"
God says: It will be worth it
(Roman 8:28 )

You say: "I can't forgive myself"
God says: I Forgive you
(I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)

You say: "I can't manage"
God says: I will supply all your needs
(Philippians 4:19)

You say: "I'm afraid"
God says: Do not fear, for I am with you
(Isaiah 41:10)

You say: "I'm always worried and frustrated"
God says: Cast all your cares on ME
(I Peter 5:7 & Matthew 6:25-34)

You say: "I'm not smart enough"
God says: I give you wisdom
(I Corinthians 1:30 & James 1)

You say: "I feel all alone"
God says: I will never leave you or forsake you
(Hebrews 13:5)

I received this as an email forward and don't know who compiled these, but I thought it was worthy of posting.  May God speak to you through His word.

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