Saturday, November 7, 2009

reach out a hand

"Filled with compassion,
Jesus reached out his hand
and touched the man."
Mark 1:41a (NIV)

This evening, I sent out an email to a small group of close friends and mentors asking for their prayer support. Just as I hit "send," one of those friends called me from her cell phone. She had a few minutes to talk and was calling to ask me for prayer support.

At exactly the same time, we both reached out a hand asking for support. And when we both heard each other's need, we responded by reaching out a hand offering support.

A short time later, I logged onto my email account to find a couple of responses to my email. As I began to read my friends' sweet words, I was immediately moved to tears. Through the beautiful people God has placed in my life, He is showering me with His love and faithfulness. There's nothing sweeter.

Earlier this week, my boy, Liam, had a couple of days where he would cry at the drop of the hat. We weren't quite sure what was going on. On the second night, as he was getting ready for bed, he completely fell apart and was inconsolable.

Truthfully, I was really tired and his tears were really hard to hear. He sounded like a wounded little lamb and it just broke my heart. It had been a long day and the cause of his tears didn't seem like a big deal. At the same time, I could tell that he was really hurting. And, honestly, as worn out as I was, I wasn't sure that I had it in me to give him what he needed.

I almost missed the moment, but thankfully, God was able to thump me over the head and get my attention. God wasn't calling me to fix Liam's problems. Only He is truly capable of doing that. He was, however, calling me to be present with my precious son and offer him my love and attention.

I took Liam into our office, sat down on the floor and reached my hand out to him. As I took him in my arms, he began to sob. He cried and wailed for a full hour. He had been holding in a lot of sadness and thought that he should keep it to himself for awhile. :-(

He's a sensitive boy and feels deeply for others. His heart had been wounded in different ways and he thought he needed to be strong about it.

After he cried, we talked and prayed. And finally, we laughed. I was even more wiped out; and of course, he was wide awake. It was after midnight by the time I finally got him to sleep. I'm so glad I didn't miss that moment. In the future, I'll be more aware of how my sweet boy carries his emotions.

Life can be so hard at times. Thankfully, God never calls us to walk through the valleys alone. He's given us family, friends and mentors to walk along side us, to listen to us share our struggles and bring our burdens before the Lord in prayer. It's important that we don't try to do life alone. It's also important that we don't try to carry other's burdens for them.

I'm so thankful for the people God has placed in my life. They've loved me (and my family) through some incredibly difficult times. I'm so grateful that in turn, they have allowed me to love and support them through their struggles.

Friend, please don't do life alone. If you're hurting, please don't be afraid to reach out a hand to others for support. And, of course, keep your eyes open for the people God has placed in your life who could use a hand reaching out to them as well. Life is so much richer when we do life together.

God loves you, and He is faithful. May He shower you abundantly with His goodness and grace.

Keep pressing into Him and keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thankful for His hand,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

promises

"...You know with all your heart and soul
that not one of all the good promises
the LORD your God gave you has failed.
Every promise has been fulfilled;
not one has failed."
Joshua 23:14 (NIV)

This is the Scripture verse on my calendar for today. I flipped the page, read it and felt an immediate peace come over me.

God's promises have never failed. Not one.

As I read through both the Old and New Testament, I'm astounded by all of the promises God has made. I'm even more astounded that not a single one has failed.

It's important to remember that oftentimes, God fulfills His promises in unexpected ways.

It's also important to remember that God fulfills His promises in His timing.

We need to remember that when our human flesh becomes impatient and expects instant answers.

We need to remember that when we feel as though God is ignoring us.

And, we especially need to remember it when we feel as though He has completely abandoned us.

God loves us, Friend. He has good plans for each of us. His promises never fail.

Today, I am especially thankful to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE.

Expecting God's faithfulness today and tomorrow,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

staying aware

"After seeing this poverty, I told my wife,
'If I ever complain, kick me twice. Hard.'"
Max Lucado (following his trip to Ethiopia)

Have you ever checked into a hotel and found that your room left more to be desired? Maybe the decor wasn't your style, or housekeeping didn't do a very good job at cleaning it for your stay? Have you ever gone camping and felt disappointed because your site didn't have a view of the lake? Or maybe there were too many roots and rocks where you wanted to put your tent.

Personally, I've been in both of those situations. After watching the video below of a beautiful Ethiopian widow, and hearing her story, I realized again that I desperately need to change my current perspective.

It's easy for me to stay in my comfortable and well-pampered world, knowing that there are many people who live in far greater luxury than I.
But the reality is that far more people live in complete poverty; and in comparison, I am living a life of luxury. (Even if I don't have my own chef or Town Car.)

My family enjoys being able to sponsor children through World Vision and Philip Hayden Foundation. My kids love hearing how their sisters and brother are doing half-way across the world. They are faithful to remember each of them during their nightly prayers.

Some may say, "We do also. Isn't that enough?" Yes and no. It really depends on what God is calling each of us to do.

For me, today, I'm not feeling the ache of true sacrifice. For me, I know my family can do more. I can do more.
God continues to pour out financial blessings upon us and I don't want to be the end point of those blessings. I want to stop thinking about my wants and realize that today I have far too much stuff to manage.

And so, I log onto my computer and seek out new opportunities. I pray for God to continue to grow my heart and stretch me out of my comfort zone. I long to stay aware of the great needs around me. Both in my own community and also world-wide.

It's videos like the one below of Max and Denalyn Lucado in Ethiopia that remind me of what the true reality is. It helps me to stop complaining about my current life and inspires me to be thankful for all God has given me and seek out ways to share those resources with others.



I admit that on some days, I really get it. On others days, however, I'd much rather bury my head in my excess and pretend like poverty doesn't exist. It's hard to see poverty, but I imagine, it's much harder to live. Especially on a daily basis.

Oh, Father, please give me Your eyes and Your heart. Thank You for Your faithful provision for my family. Please forgive me for my own selfishness. Help me to stay aware of reality and guide me in making a true difference in the lives around me. May my heart and my life glorify You. Daily. In the name of Your Holy Son, Jesus, Amen.

I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE and I am humbled by the joy I see in those whose lives are blessed through their poverty.

With grace and hope,

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

beauty will rise

"Out of these ashes
Beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
Out of this darkness
New light will shine
And we'll know the joy that's coming in the morning"
"Beauty Will Rise"
Steven Curtis Chapman

While I don't use this word very often, I absolutely hate to see other people hurting. Especially when the source of their pain is either the loss or suffering of a precious child.

Like so many others around the world, my heart broke when I learned of the Chapman family's devastating tragedy.

Not only are they grieving the loss of their beautiful daughter, but they are also helping their beloved son heal and recover. I can't even begin to imagine the pain they have walked through.

The family has been very open with their grieving process and healing journey. They have shared their complete brokenness, but they have also continued to trust God as He walks with them through their intense sadness and grief.

I just received an email announcing the release of Steven's latest CD, Beauty Will Rise.

I had to smile when I listened to the preview of the CD. God was just speaking to my heart yesterday about His promise to bring beauty from ashes.

You see, I've been a parent who has watched a child suffer. I've experienced complete and utter brokenness. And God came through. The journey was long and hard, in fact, it's one we still continue to walk.

I would never choose suffering, especially for my precious child. And yet, God has done a deep and mighty work within my family.

He has performed miracles and showered blessings upon us that we otherwise would never have known.

God has used our pain to minister to others. He has used our story to prevent other children from suffering. He has allowed our experience to grow a deep compassion within us, that we might give hope and encouragement to others.

Our experience is nowhere near what the Chapman family has gone through, and yet, I know what it's like to have my world come crashing down around me. I know how extremely difficult the journey of grief can be. And, I know that God never allows pain to be wasted. When we trust Him to be our Healer, new life begins to blossom in ways we could never have imagined.

I've recently found myself in another difficult season. I needed God to remind me in a tangible way of where I've been and what He has done for me. Reading about Steven's thoughts about his new CD reminded me again that I can trust God, especially on my darkest days.

I'm so thankful that death is not the end. It doesn't take away the pain, but it does give us hope for the future. Hope for our King's return. Because He will return. And, when He does, all things will truly be made new and all pain will be redeemed.

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation 21:4 (NIV)

Until then, let's continue to press into God for all that we need. We can trust Him with our pain and believe that He has good things in store for each of us.

God uses the suffering we experience in this life to refine us, stretch us, grow us and bestow upon us unbelievable blessings. (I promise!)

Friend, God's love will bring us through. Whether you are in a season of suffering and loss, or experiencing a season of peace and joy, God is still God, and He is good.

Good days or difficult days, in Christ, we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Now, off to buy that new CD,

Monday, November 2, 2009

beauty from ashes

"They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations."
Isaiah 61:4 (NIV)

The above photo was taken a few years back when Geoff hiked up to the rim of Mt. St. Helens with a group of friends from work. A lot has changed since it erupted back in 1980. Homes, bridges, railways, highways, trees and plants were destroyed that day.

Even more tragically, fifty-seven lives were lost. Families were left devastated.

I always find it breathtaking to see how God's promise of bringing beauty from ashes rings true, time after time.

After the volcano erupts. After the child becomes an orphan. After the fire is put out. After the loved one dies. After the dreams are crushed. After the family is left devastated. After the job is lost.

God comes through. While all of these scenarios seem like they would be the end, to God, they are just the beginning.

It's amazing what He can do when our "everything" has been destroyed. When it feels like we've hit rock bottom.

He is there. Always.

In some situations, God plants new life. In other situations, He plants new dreams. Out of the pain and suffering, hope and peace are always restored.

Lives that rise up from the ashes are more magnificent because they have been nurtured by the very hand and heart of God.

Friend, if you are in a season of heartache, you are not alone.

Life can be so incredibly difficult and the burdens too heavy to bear. Thankfully, Jesus has promised to carry our pain and burdens for us. All it takes is trust and surrender. (Always easier said that done, but the peace that results is so worth the courage and effort.)

I encourage you to keep pressing into Him. Allow Him to be your strength. Trust that even in the silence, He is doing a new thing. He will not leave you desolate and destroyed.

God will bring "a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." (Isaiah 61:3b, NIV)

New life is coming. Believe it and embrace it. You are loved.

Keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE, one day at a time.

Thankful for God's promises,