What Are These Stones For?

“Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18, NLT).

A Personal Testimony by Sharon Bushey — “Jesus is enough for me.”

Sharon’s 3 vases (left to right): Faith Confirmed: miracles, special blessings & answered prayers; Faith Confessed: confidence in what we hope for; and, Faith…Come What May: blank stones for future needs.
Faith Vases
(See below for description)

My sister-in-law Kathie and I watched the conference speaker drop stones into a large clear vase as she told how the Israelites built memorials. Their hope was that future generations would ask, “What are these stones for?” and in response they would tell the stories of God’s faithfulness (Joshua 4:21-24; I Samuel 7:12). Kathie and I decided to buy our own vases, stones, and fine-tip markers. Our stones with dates and brief messages would be permanent reminders of God’s goodness for our children and grandchildren. We also prayed, along with our conference sisters, that our children would see a modern-day miracle that showcased God’s goodness and undeniable power.

Two weeks later, Thanksgiving weekend, Kathie and my brother Wayne stood beside the ICU bed of their twenty-three-year-old daughter. Megan had congestive heart failure caused by a virus that had damaged her left ventricle at the age of fifteen. Would this be our miracle? God knew we needed one.

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By April Megan was in ICU again with her name at the top of the heart transplant list. Glad to be retired, I packed my journal and enough clothes to stay as long as Megan, Kathie, and Wayne needed my support. What I didn’t know was that it would be Megan who would support me and many others on the faith journey of our lives. Although Megan knew that she was surrounded by multiple machines that were keeping her alive, she spoke her motto that penetrated my heart: “Aunt Sharon, through this, I demonstrate that Jesus is enough…come what may.”

For twenty-five days I slept on hospital benches and documented the impossibilities that we faced as well as the calls to prayer. Kathie’s Facebook friends and Wayne’s blog followers, many of them strangers who saw Megan’s TV interview, were drawn to a new level of faith as they prayed and then read the reports of God’s miraculous interventions time and time again.

On April 17, 2010, however, Megan was in a non-responsive state. We were told that she was now too sick to receive a heart even if one became available. We called our friends and followers to prayer.

Kathie went to the hotel to privately cry out to God. Wayne paced around Megan’s bed as he prayed for the blog followers and Megan’s work associates at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel who had just come to faith that week, and for those who were so close to believing in “Megan’s God.” Wayne didn’t want God to ruin His reputation and cause these people to doubt His goodness.

I sat alone. Only the humming machines filled the eerie silence. “Would my mom’s recent nightmare come true? Would my daughter die in a fatal car accident on the way to St. Louis and her heart be given to save Megan’s life? Was I willing to participate in this miracle if my sorrow was part of God’s plan to spare Megan and spiritually save others?” When my surrender was complete, I finally had peace.

Kathie and Wayne rejoice that Megan’s new heart beats like her own, and that she loves her life in Nashville with Nathan.

It’s a long God-story that will be for another time, but after a day of prayer and fasting around the world, thanks to media exposure, God let us see an undeniable, God-given miracle. Megan’s body systems revived, her fever and pneumonia were gone, and a perfect-match heart was received in time. And my daughter arrived safely. During our rejoicing, however, we mourned the donor family’s loss. Why did one family lose their daughter and our daughters were spared? We didn’t know. All we could do was pray that Jesus would be enough for them.

During one of Megan’s post-surgery-roller-coaster days, I read, “Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18, NLT). I was surprised by my unexpected emotional response and the clear impression that my journal was to become a book and then a movie. Eighteen months later, just before Megan’s storybook wedding to the Nashville Christian musician who loved the girl who loved Jesus with her whole heart, the book, Megan’s Heart*, was released.

My next goal was to educate myself for a new writing venture. Halfway through the book, Screenwriting for Dummies, I got so sick my doctor feared that he was losing me. A diagnosis was never made, but for the next three years, I periodically was so weak that I couldn’t even read. Instead, I watched more movies than I had ever watched in my entire life. I realized that I was mentally analyzing the movies and applying what I learned.

Just as my mysterious illness began to improve, I went through several months of severe pain and immobility due to the need for a total knee replacement. Two weeks before surgery when I attended Megan’s baby shower, I was reminded of how Megan’s motto had impacted my life and faith. I vowed to write the screenplay as soon as I recuperated. Jesus had been enough for Megan, and enough for me.

After 6 years of marriage, they were a family when Eilee Megan Kate was born on June 27, 2017.

Then life crumbled. My routine knee replacement was anything but routine. I fainted from pain during therapy; something was terribly wrong. Only a few weeks later, I got the call that Megan had given birth to a beautiful baby girl but had died only hours later. How much more could I take? How could God ruin His own miracle story? How could I write a movie script since the heroin had died?

Nathan, now a single dad, brings Eilee for dedication at the close of Megan’s Celebration of Life Service.

On December 15, 2017, I underwent one of the most extensive and complicated leg revision surgeries my orthopedic team had ever done. For the next eight weeks, I was alone on my couch-bed in the sunroom with only my thoughts to occupy my time. I could only be up five minutes every hour, and pain dictated that I use even those times only as needed. I got a few cards, but almost no visitors; did my friends and family care? My husband cared, but I also sensed his exhaustion and perceived emotional withdrawal as he dutifully kept me fed, iced, and medicated. Did God even care that I was sick again? In the depth of my despair as I cried and yielded all the “come what may(s)” of my life, Jesus became enough for me. I determined that I would pick up Megan’s torch. I would demonstrate through my this that Jesus would be enough…come what may. I would finish that screenplay as soon as I could sit erect!

Megan’s story now became my personal journey of testing. I felt inadequate. The pain made it difficult to think. How could I possibly keep my baby-shower-day promise? I read, “The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears and I have not been rebellious. I have not drawn back” (Isaiah 50:4-5). God confirmed in my spirit that the screenplay was His idea; He would instruct me. All He needed was my daily obedience to write. Through my this, my seeming impossibilities, I would demonstrate that Jesus is enough…come what may.

I remembered the half-read book I hadn’t seen since we moved. I quickly found it in the first place I looked. As I opened it to the bookmark where I had stopped reading years before, I read these words, “Even when the protagonist dies, there is still a story to tell.” This was a secular book, but these were heaven-sent words, just for me.

Richard & Sharon’s 50th Wedding Anniversary August 17, 2018

During these four years of recuperation, I did finish that screenplay, but only because I held on to this promise: “The vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come…it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3, NIV).

During the years of writing and learning to walk again, I became convinced that God wants this feature film to show more than Megan’s heart story and His power to perform miracles. God wants His hurting children to see His love…by seeing our story. What is the greatest miracle? Jesus is enough even when miracles turn into grief. He is enough when grief forever coexists with our joy. God is still good…even when life doesn’t make sense and our hearts hurt to the core. In the middle of the worst that life can throw at us, we can tell our hearts to heal and beat again, only because Jesus will be enough…come what may.

Today I’m walking a new uncharted path as I face the seeming impossibilities of getting my screenplay, Heartbeat…Come What May, to the big screen. And even so, I know Jesus will be enough. You may also be in a difficult situation. Hold on! When your trust is complete and Jesus is enough for you, then together we will spread our message of hope: Through this I demonstrate that Jesus is enough…come what may.

Nathan & Megan’s family participating in the American Heart Association Walk for Life in Nashville.
Sharon’s 3 Faith Vases (left to right) Faith Confirmed: miracles, special blessings & answered prayers; Faith Confessed: confidence in what we hope for; and Faith…Come What May: blank stones for future needs.
Sharon Bushey

Sharon Bushey lives in Lebanon, MO with her husband Richard, a retired minister. Sharon, mother of three adult children and grandmother of seven, enjoyed her years as an elementary school teacher, school counselor, and college psychology instructor. She is now grateful for the writing time that retirement provides. To contact contact Sharon and to request a copy of her book, Megan’s Heart, you may email her at sbushey7@gmail.com.

Personal thoughts about my friend and spiritual mentor

Decatur West Side Church of the Nazarene, Centennial Celebration, 2018. Pastor Richard & Sharon Bushey are second from left, Jeff & Charmé Fletcher are fourth from left.

I first met Sharon Bushey in Decatur, Illinois, when she and her husband Richard became our pastor and wife at West Side Church of the Nazarene in 1988. I immediately sensed a genuine love for Jesus and for others as Sharon ministered to our church family. Sharon’s heart for prayer has impacted my life for many years. Being reunited in 2001, Sharon and Pastor Bushey began attending our church in Camdenton, MO, where my husband Jeff was the pastor. It was such a joy to reconnect again! From that point forward, Sharon and I rejuvenated our prayer partner relationship, emailing each other often with special prayer requests and praises. While Jeff was pastoring churches in Camdenton and later in Belton, MO, Pastor Bushey and Sharon shared their speaking ministries with our church families. They provided marriage seminars, pulpit supply, and much encouragement to us personally. Sharon spoke at a women’s ministry luncheon at our Belton church, where she shared the story, “What Are These Stones For?” Through this cherished time together, my daughter Janée was moved to purchase me my own faith vases, along with stones. Since that time, I keep the jars of faith on a shelf in our office. It has been such a blessing to look at all the answers to prayers and to remember God’s faithfulness. I, too, hope that our children and grandchildren will continue to recount all the answers to prayer, including undeniable miracles in our family, and that they will retell these faith stories and their own to future generations.

Charmé’s Faith Vases

“We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands” (Psalm 78:4-7, NIV).

I’d love to see Sharon’s screenplay, Heartbeat…Come What May, become a movie. I believe that through Megan’s story, many people will discover the power of prayer and will have the opportunity to believe for themselves: Jesus is enough in all situations. Please join me in prayer for this endeavor. Thank you!

Waiting on the LORD

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Part One of Three

Part 1: A brief look at three women and one man who experienced great loss and the raw emotions they displayed during their pain. In this three-part reflection, we will begin to answer these questions:  Is there purpose in waiting on God?  Does God love me and care about me? Why do my prayers seem to go unanswered?

Waiting for the LORD to act on our behalf or answer our prayers can seem unbearable at times. And I believe even more so in this high tech, instantaneous world we live in.

I’ve been studying the life of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Both women were widowed and experienced feelings of abandonment, great loneliness, poverty, and an uncertain future. Any one of these emotions can evoke fear and a sense of hopelessness, let alone the combination of multiple struggles and hardships.

Possibly you can relate to some of these emotions or others that seemingly hit without much warning, or at other times, seem to linger much longer than we’d prefer. I know that I can relate to most.

It became clear to me that Naomi’s deep grief stemmed from not only the death of her husband, but also the death of her two sons. I personally can’t fathom the intense sorrow and pain of these multiple losses. I’ve been told from close friends who have experienced a death of a child, that this is the greatest pain they’ve ever experienced, even more so than the death of a spouse or parent.

Marriage of my mom and dad. Rev. Alvin Mueller, pastor who led my mom to Jesus during her battle with cancer.

My grandmother, grandfather, and me

I do know that the pain of losing my mother at age seven was severe, but as I look back, I realize that my pain paled in comparison with that of my paternal grandfather. He experienced the death of his only child, (my father), the death of his wife, his parents, and my mother, all within seven years.

Me and my grandfather

Being raised by my grandfather following the loss of my mother, I observed what I thought to be peculiar behavior in my grandfather, especially around certain holidays. At the time, I didn’t understand why my loving and doting grandpa would often remain in bed on Christmas mornings. Much later, as an adult, I realized that my  grandfather suffered intensely during Christmas, as he recalled cherished and happier memories of his deceased son and wife. This time of the year was also a trigger for his pain, with the birth and death dates falling during the holiday season. I now look back with great love, compassion, and empathy for my tenderhearted grandfather.

I suppose this is why I can relate to Naomi. Her anguish was intense and the way she responded was real. The following is Naomi’s response to her hometown, as they exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” Her Hebrew name means “pleasant.”

Returning to Bethlehem, after being gone for ten years, and following the loss of her husband and sons, Naomi expresses her heartache to the crowd and to God.

 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:20-21).

Mara in Hebrew means “bitter.”

Some who haven’t experienced the same type of suffering may be quick to judge Naomi for her direct response, and this is understandable. It’s often difficult to truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes unless you have worn the same shoes.

For me, it’s easy to relate to Naomi’s raw emotions because of my personal experience and the observation of my grandfather’s response to great loss.

It’s amazing how God helps us to identify with those who have experienced the same or similar losses. I believe He does this so that we can offer hope and encouragement to those who He brings into our lives.

“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. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Throughout this fascinating love story filled with a plethora of drama and suspense, we learn a lot about two women who learned to wait upon the LORD… for His divine and providential plans to unfold in their lives. From the account of Scripture, Ruth possessed a humble and faithful spirit of servanthood and obedience. Observing these attractive character traits first in her mother-in-law, Ruth began to emulate Naomi’s genuine faith. Doing so, Ruth placed her faith in the One True God, which ultimately led her to her kinsman redeemer and future husband, Boaz.

Over a relatively short time span, we see how Naomi’s trust in God revitalized as she passes along words of wisdom to Ruth.

Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today” (Ruth 3:18). This refers to Ruth waiting to hear back from Boaz, to learn if he could legally purchase Naomi’s land, and in doing so become Ruth’s husband. (Ruth 4 describes this God-ordained transaction.)

Waiting on the LORD for answers to our prayers and for a much-desired miracle can seem like “forever” in some instances. And there are times that we may feel like giving up and even blaming God for not “coming through” for us. If you’re human, you have probably felt like Naomi at one time or another. And this is perfectly okay! God understands our heart, even more than we do. He created us with a full range of emotions, and He is big enough to handle our outbursts resulting from inner strife and pain.

God also knows that waiting on answers to our prayers can be a true test of our faith. In fact, God often uses the time of waiting to strengthen our faith. Here are a few examples from the Bible of those who found themselves in a time of waiting on the LORD.

  • Jesus had to wait until He was 30 years old (Luke 3:23) to fulfill His mission on earth, performing miracles and teaching about the Kingdom of God. Then 3 years later, Jesus completed His mission on the cross, for the redemption of the world. (John 3:16)
  • Jesus then waited 40 days after his resurrection from the grave before He ascended to the Father. (Acts 1:3)
  • The apostles had to wait 10 days after Jesus ascended before they received the promised Holy Spirit in the upper room. (Acts 1:4-5)
  • Moses, at age 80 (Exodus 7:7), had waited in the desert for 40 years (Acts 7:30) before he was sent by God to rescue the children of Israel from Pharoah.
  • The Israelites waited for 430 years before God delivered them from the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:40)
  • Abraham had to wait 25 years for the birth of his son Isaac. (Genesis 21:5)
  • Noah had to wait for 120 years from the time God told him to build the ark until the time of the flood. (Genesis 6:3)
  • And Mary and Martha waited a gut-wrenching two days before Jesus came to heal and ultimately raise their brother Lazarus from the grave. (John 11:5-6)
  • An invalid for 38 years waited by the Pool of Bethseda to be healed. (John 5:1-16) (See link to The Chosen, “The Perfect Opportunity”)

When hardships and new obstacles come our way, do we instantly turn to God for guidance and provision, or do we fret and worry, and try to fix problems with our own means and within our own time schedule? Scripture teaches that our trials teach us to trust in God and strengthens our faith in Him. It also teaches us that our trials produce a deeper intimacy with the LORD (1 Peter 4:1-2). When we accept that hardship is a part of the Christian life, we can lean on God and grow closer to Him.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

When, (not if) we find ourselves in a time of waiting, God promises to be with us and to give us His power and wisdom to navigate through these difficult seasons of life. All God asks of us is to take hold of His outstretched hand of mercy, grace, and unconditional love, and rest assured of His perfect timing. The following passages of Scripture are encouraging to me, and I hope they will be to you as well.

“For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.…” (Romans 8:24-26).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword” (Romans 8:35)?

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

As we wait upon the LORD and trust that His way is better than our plans and desires, and that He understands our needs better than we do, we will be able to rest in His perfect love and provision. Our heavenly Father sees what lies ahead and knows what He wants to accomplish in every situation of our life. And as we spend time in His Word, we will discover that our trust in God is growing as we discern His ways and plans are for our good and not for harm. (Jeremiah 29:11).

The Chosen TV Series (Season 2, episode 4) “The Perfect Opportunity” – offers a heart-wrenching rendition of someone waiting on the LORD for healing thirty-eight years, and the dance of victory he receives through Christ alone.  (The link below will give you directions for watching The Chosen.)

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https://thechosensupport.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360045859754-How-Do-I-Watch-The-Chosen-On-My-TV-

Watch for the next blog post: Part Two: Reasons for Waiting—A Time of Testing

Fleas and Lice a Blessing? Overcoming Hate Through Christ

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom – Holocaust Concentration Camp Survivor,  Humble Heroine, Vessel of Forgiveness

Cornelia Arnolda Johanna “Corrie” ten Boom was born April 15, 1892 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, near Haarlem. Carrie’s grandfather, William ten Boom, opened a watchmaker’s shop in Haarlem 1837, and led prayer services to pray specifically for Jewish people who were being discriminated against in Europe. William passed this faith tradition onto his son, Casper ten Boom, Corrie’s father, who inherited the watchmaker shop.

Mr. Casper ten Boom
Ten boom Family

 

 

 

Ten boom Legacy of Faith in Christ

Mrs. Cornelia ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom House — Kevin & AmandaThe ten Boom family (Casper and Cornelia ten Boom, Corrie, her brother Willem, and two sisters, Nollie and Betsie) lived on the second floor, above the watchmaker shop. Mrs. ten Boom nurtured her children’s faith, teaching them to love and obey Christ. Mother ten Boom made a ‘blessing box,’ instructing her children and their friends to drop coins into the box to help the poor and missionaries. And as her children matured, she instructed them how to lead Bible studies for their neighbors. Corrie’s mother died in 1921. Throughout the years (1920s – 1930s), the ten Booms cared for many refugee children and orphans.

World War II

On September 1, 1939, World War II began. And in less than two years, on May 10, 1940, the German army invaded the Netherlands and within five days of fighting, the Nazis occupied the Netherlands.

Corrie, who was 48 at the time, helped her family turn their home into a safe haven (Hiding Place) for people trying to escape Nazi tyranny. Mr. ten Boom and his daughters, Betsie and Corrie, risked their lives hiding Jews and others in their home for a few years. The ten Boom family helped save the lives of an estimated 800 Jews and other refugees.

Large wall clocks camouflaged a false wall that opened up to a secret hiding place. The secret room was only about two feet deep by eight feet long, but could hold six or seven people. The hideout was very successful, but on February 28, 1944, a traitor led the German police to the ‘hiding place’ and thirty people, including several of the ten Boom family were arrested.

Betsie and Corrie

Corrie, her father, and her sister, Betsie, were taken to Scheveningen Prison, where Corrie’s dad died ten days later.

Ten months later, Corrie and Betsi were shuttled to Ravensbruck concentration camp near Berlin, the largest camp for women in German-controlled regions. Thousands of women were executed there.

The living conditions were harsh, with little food and severe discipline. Betsie and Corrie led secret prayer services in their barracks, using a smuggled Bible.                                                                    The following story is one of my favorite ‘faith over fear’ narratives. 

Ravensbruck Concentration Camp Women’s Barracks

Fleas and Lice a Blessing?

When Corrie and Betsie entered the filthy flea invested Ravensbruck prison and they were starving, they cried out to the Lord to help them.

While laying on a bunk with several other women, Betsi turned to Corrie and shared these words, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Corrie asked, “What on earth can we give thanks for?” Betsie said, “We are together in prison and we have a Bible that wasn’t confiscated.”

Then, Betsie prayed, “And thank you, Lord, for the fleas.” Corrie told her sister that she could never give thanks for fleas, but Betsie reminded her that it is God’s will to give thanks in all circumstances.

Betsie Ten Boom and the Key to Making a Lasting Impression
Betsie ten Boom

While lying on their flea-and lice-infested beds, they gave thanks for the fleas. After several weeks passed, they noticed that the soldiers rarely came into their barracks. Initially, Betsie and Corrie did not know why, but it allowed them time to share the love of Jesus with other women. One day, Betsie asked a supervisor to come to the barracks for assistance. Betsie told Corrie, “‘The supervisor wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the other guards. And you know why?’ Betsie boasted of their unusual blessing: ‘Because of the fleas!’ That’s what the supervisor said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’”

On December 16, 1944, Betsie died at Ravensbruck of starvation and lack of medical care. Corrie recalled Betsie’s last words:

“… (we) must tell them what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.”

Two weeks after Betsie’s death, Corrie was ‘mysteriously’ released from the prison due to a “clerical error.” Corrie always referred to this as a miracle. Shortly after her release, all of the other women in her age group at Ravensbruck were executed. 

Remembering her sister’s last words to go and tell, “there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still,” Corrie spent the rest of her life sharing their story and the gospel of Christ and his forgiveness around the world. During one of her speaking engagements, she recognized one of the guards who had cruelly mistreated her, Betsi, and the other prisoners.

Corrie Retells Meeting Her Enemy

corrie ten boom - The Tiny TwigIt was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear.

The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.

It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp where we were sent.

My Memes of Corrie ten Boom's Quotes » The Faithful WandererNow he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.

“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”

The Word For The Day • For if you forgive other people when they sin... |  Forgiveness quotes, Corrie ten boom quotes, WordsAnd I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.

Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.

“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown.

“When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.”

Louie's Lair: LOVE, FORGIVENESS, AND BLESSINGIn our deepest pain and suffering, God reaches out to us with His love and compassion. How can I do less, to those who Jesus died for on Calvary. The only true enemy we have is satan. As Jesus died on the cross, His last words stick in my mind, every time I’m tempted to withhold forgiveness to someone who has hurt me. “Father, forgive them…” (Corrie ten Boom)

Inspired by Betsie’s example of selfless love and forgiveness amid extreme cruelty and persecution, Corrie established a post-war home for other camp survivors trying to recover from the horrors they had escaped. She went on to travel around the world to 64 countries as a missionary, preaching God’s forgiveness and the need for reconciliation.

Jay Hicks on Twitter | Inspirational words, Corrie ten boom quotes, Faith  quotesCorrie ten Boom died on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983. She was buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana, California.

 

 

You will find these stories and many other inspiring incidents from the life of Corrie ten Boom in her own book, The Hiding Place, released in 1971. And later, the book made into a film in 1975 by World Wide Pictures, Billy Graham Association. https://www.christianbook.com/the-hiding-place-corrie-ten-boom/9780553256697/pd/56696?event=ESRCG

Other Favorite Resources:

Tramp For The LORD, https://www.christianbook.com/tramp-story-begins-where-hiding-place/corrie-ten-boom/9780875089867/pd/089867?event=AAI

Torchlighters DVD, The Corrie ten Boom Story: https://www.christianbook.com/torchlighters-series-corrie-ten-boom-story/pd/015385 and for other Torchlighter resources for kids: https://torchlighters.org/

Grateful During Suffering?

“A grateful spirit is what enables people to view and respond to the most painful circumstances in life with thanksgiving. As one person observed, ‘Some people complain because God put thorns on roses, while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns.’”

I borrowed this quote from Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth, who has touched the lives of millions through Revive Our Heart, True Woman movement, and through her books. (Please see Nancy’s bio at the end of this post).  

I don’t know about you, but having a grateful attitude doesn’t always come easy, especially when facing difficulties. Sure, I’m thankful when all is well and life is free from any struggles and heartache, but these times seem to be few and far between, at least for me. Oh, see there! —‘at least for me.’ I believe I need an attitude adjustment!

I recently ‘stumbled’ across a video by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth titled, Nancy Shares Her Gratitude Wall, and her article, The Attitude of Gratitude. To be honest, I didn’t just stumble across these, but rather, I located them online after learning of Nancy’s husband’s cancer diagnosis.

A brief background:

Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth

Nancy surrendered to God’s will early in her adult life, to serve the LORD as a single woman. Then, in her mid-fifties, God brought “the unexpected” into Nancy’s life. Robert Wolgemuth, a friend, whom after the loss of his first wife, Bobbi, began corresponding with Nancy. At first, Nancy hesitated to reciprocate, but as she sought God’s guidance and the counsel of close friends, Nancy and Robert began a courtship, which led to their marriage, November 14, 2015. This is a grace-filled story in its own: The Unexpected Grace: Nancy and Robert’s Story: https://www.reviveourhearts.com/videos/unexpected-grace-nancy-and-roberts-story/

Nancy continues to surrender to God’s will in her life and marriage. In March 2020, Robert was diagnosed with melanoma, and in August 2020 Robert received a second cancer diagnosis of B Cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

There are times in life when we are faced with a vitally important question. Will I choose to trust in God and His providence for my life, or will I falter and succumb to overwhelming fear and disillusionment, leading to despair and hopelessness? Nancy and Robert are choosing to trust in the faithfulness of God, as He writes their life stories. (See link below to the co-authored book by Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.)

I hope that you will find encouragement through Nancy’s Gratitude Wall. I know I did. I’m known as the Post-it queen in our family (I use post-its everywhere…on my car dashboard, mirrors, refrigerator, and at work), so I totally love this idea. And most recently, our eight-year-old granddaughter, Emeree Faith, started leaving post-its for me and her Pappy.

As you watch the Gratitude Wall video,* I hope that you will find the blessing God desires for you, whether in plenty or want.  https://www.reviveourhearts.com/videos/nancy-shares-her-gratitude-wall/

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Additional Thoughts (from Charmé)

While reading through the Bible this year, I found myself in the story of the ‘grumbling Israelites’ during their forty-year wandering in the wilderness. They always seemed to be grumbling about something! Does this sound in any way familiar, possibly in today’s culture, in your life and mine?

I chuckle embarrassingly under my breath when I think of how often I grumble about the smallest inconveniences in life, like having to wait in line at the grocery store because I’ve run out of creamer for my coffee. I can’t imagine going to bed hungry or not having any shoes to wear like so many in our world. Yet, this is how the Israelites acted when they ‘forgot’ how God delivered them from the tyranny of Egypt’s Pharoah. Did they not remember the ten plagues, and how God miraculously pushed back the waters of the Red Sea until all the Israelites escaped to dry land, and then how God instructed Moses to wave his staff, releasing the waters, and swallowing up the Egyptians?

For forty years the Israelites complained about not having ‘enough’…enough water and food, the right menu, the right leader, and so on. Yet, in God’s grace and mercy, He provided for all their needs. In Exodus 16:4-5 the Bible says God provided manna (bread) from heaven daily. Each day they collected enough for that day, but if they collected more, it rotted by the next morning! God wanted to teach His people to trust Him to provide for them. God also provided quail for the people so they would have meat to eat and later he provided water to drink (Exodus17:5-6). What’s amazing to me, is that even when the Israelites grumbled, God still chose to provide for their needs. Such a loving and compassionate Father!

The Israelites’ complaints didn’t originate in their surroundings or their circumstances, but rather, in their hearts. Their ungrateful spirits really were a result of spiritual amnesia. They neglected to recall and remember God’s gracious deliverance from bondage.

During Holy week, leading up to Easter, the celebration of our resurrected Savior, I encourage ‘us’ to take time to thank God for His daily provisions, and most importantly, the provision of His Son, Jesus Christ, who became our ‘substitutionary atonement.’ This refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners. The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners (Romans 3:23). And that the penalty for our sinfulness is death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, I encourage you to NOT wait another day. Please click on the above tab in the header of this blog, Private: Receive Jesus.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth Bio:

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them FreeSeeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband) https://www.reviveourhearts.com/books/you-can-trust-god/. Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

The Attitude of Gratitude* article, by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth, may be located through the Gratitude Wall Video, and here: https://www.reviveourhearts.com/articles/the-attitude-of-gratitude/

  • Nancy Shares Her Gratitude Wall video and The Attitude of Gratitude article is used by permission.
  • Copyright Revive Our Hearts. by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Used with permission. www.ReviveOurHearts.com.

Closing Thoughts

Now don’t get me wrong, I realize there are times that the severity of pain and suffering warrant a definite, “Help me God, I can’t do this” or “I don’t understand why!” God understands our human frailty and limitations apart from His mighty hand and outstretched arms. God is desiring this type of response, so that He can prove Himself faithful in our lives, for ‘His love endures forever.’

I’ve included Psalm 136 at the end of the blog, to read, meditate on, and to make it your own, as you offer praise and thanksgiving to our loving Heavenly Father who cares for you.

Let this act of remembering awaken in you joy in God and a deep sense of gratitude that God loves you, knows you, and keeps you.

Psalm 136 (NIV)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.

17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—
His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—
His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

God Was Purposeful in Our Pain

Personal Testimony of Natalie Faith Johnson

natalie-pic-1Growing up, I sang many songs that assured me it was “so sweet to trust in Jesus” and “God can make a way when there seems to be no way.” My favorite movie as a kid was Sister Act 2 (don’t judge!) and I would sing along with Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount as they sang “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” I sounded exactly like them!

The lyrics of all these songs are so beautiful and TRUE…but sometimes they are hard to sing. What if you’re not happy and things don’t feel so sweet? What if you don’t feel free but instead are trapped in a life you never saw for yourself? What if you know God is watching but you don’t feel Him actively working?

Deciding to be a Christian is life changing. However, as you the reader knows, it doesn’t spare you from all the junk that can happen. I love the verse:

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:4).

The word rampart means “a protective barrier.” God is faithful and even though life can throw some pretty crazy stuff our way, we are sheltered under His wings and can make it through any storm!

I’m about to tell you a story about becoming a mother that has the best ending. Just you wait! However, I do want to preface the story by saying that for years I thought over and over again that I was in the lowest valley I’d ever walk through…but then it would get lower. I thought circumstances would get better but then they got worse. Has that ever happened to you? I’ve heard ‘bad things come in threes’ but sometimes it seems like bad things come by the dozen!

Martin Luther once said, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” His quote was pertaining to temptation and our thought life. There will always be storms that come, dark valleys we walk through, and squawking birds over our heads. We were never promised that this world would be fun or easy. However, we can find shelter within our Refuge (the Lord!), we can walk beside Him through the valley (He promises that!), and we can take every thought captive in Jesus’ name!

When I was younger my parents got divorced. It was painful, messy, and didn’t end well. My dad, who was a pastor and charismatic man lived a double life by having multiple affairs, abusive behavior, and strong mental health issues. My mom wrote a book about her healing process called “Secrets in the Sanctuary*.” Their marriage never recovered, and in fact, my dad went on to have even stronger issues over the years and he sadly passed away when I was 19 years old.

What’s bizarre, is that growing up I knew very little of my dad’s unhealthy behavior. My dad was extremely intentional when he saw my sister and me. He took us on the best vacations, had thought provoking conversations, and challenged us to be strong in our faith. I can look back on my parents’ divorce and grieve over the things that were destroyed and at the same time be thankful for the years I had with my dad and the good seeds he planted in my life. We don’t have to be 100% happy with how things turn out. We can have joy and pain at the same time. Let me repeat that…joy and pain can coexist at the same time. It’s what makes us strong and makes us long for Heaven.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

I really hoped that growing through my dad’s death and the divorce of my parents would be my full testimony. I wish hard times were like lightening striking once, but like we all know, we need God every hour to help us through this life!

natalie in hospitalLike I said earlier, sometimes bad things come by the dozen. My parents’ marriage began to turn toward divorce when I was 4 years old. In the thick of their struggles, I was having some health issues, and through multiple doctors’ visits, led to the unexpected. I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in my pelvis. It was wrapped around my organs and blocked my body from functioning like it should. Thankfully, through two years of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and a great team of doctors, I was healed at 6 years old from cancer!  My mom, sister, and I started a new life with the help of our family, church, and the Lord’s provision.

The doctors warned us that there would be limits of how my body would function as I grew up, but every single limit they gave was surpassed and overcome!

God was faithful over the years and eventually I met and married Adam when I was 20. We started a fun life together and moved to Spring Hill, KS in 2009.

Confident of what the Lord had done in my body, I became pregnant at 24, and I knew this was another victory of His healing touch. Adam and I were so excited to share with everyone about our baby! I was getting ready to graduate dental hygiene school and Adam was established in his job as a Worship and Creative Arts Pastor. We were thrilled to start the next chapter of our lives.

Unfortunately, I miscarried our first baby at 9 weeks and a year later I miscarried another baby at 14 weeks. Both pregnancies started off great but because of the radiation treatment to my pelvis during my childhood cancer, my body would not stretch enough to make room for a growing baby. We would have tried to keep getting pregnant but both miscarriages revealed that my body was unable to clot blood normally and I would be hospitalized for days to stop the bleeding. I was told the next pregnancy would end in a hysterectomy.

I never kept any of our journey to be parents or the grief that I felt a secret. My poor mother, sister, and best friends heard it all! One day, Katie, my closest friend, graciously offered to try surrogacy, since carrying the baby was our main battle. With prayer and research, we decided to go for it!

“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” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).

The first surrogacy attempt failed, and we had depleted all our money. With encouragement from our friends and family, surrogacy fundraisers were held, giving us another opportunity to try again. By this time everyone in our circle and Katie’s knew about our journey. It failed again.

I started going to counseling. The idea of carrying a child myself was gone, and now the idea of having a biological child was also gone. My heart was not ready for any other option. Grief was a daily friend.

But God can make a way when there seems to be no way. Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful. A family at our church that we didn’t really know heard our story and invited us to a birthday party they were having for one-year-old twins, a brother and sister. The twins had come into their lives through foster care. Our new friends hoped we could be the twins’ future parents.

In one fell swoop, these babies wiped out every stigma I had toward fostering. It was easy to connect with them. God was changing my heart on how I could be a mom.

We decided to get our foster care license and after taking classes the twins became a part of our lives. But then several months later a family member stepped in to be their guardian and they left our home.

I couldn’t take anymore loss. The idea of never mothering, of never feeling this way again was sounding like the best idea…but God had a different idea in mind.

Aren’t you thankful that God is always working behind the scenes and knows the desires of our hearts?

  • In 2013, when I miscarried my first baby, Jaedyn Faith Johnson was born.
  • In 2014, when I miscarried my second baby, Neila Kate Johnson was born.
  • Because of our surrogacy fundraising event, a couple who had attended mentioned our names when a relative of theirs was looking for adoptive parents for Jaedyn and Neila.
  • Katie, our dear friend, and surrogate was the connecting person to that couple and called to ask if we’d be willing to meet the girls.
  • We met our daughters on Adam’s 31st birthday. God was about to show us the most incredible gifts he had ever made.
  • Years before we met the girls, we got our foster care license. We needed this license to be candidates to adopt them.
  • There were 12 couples who wanted to adopt the girls. We were the only ones out of state and yet we were picked as one of the final two couples.
  • When the board (Best Interest Staffing) met and interviewed us and the other couple, the majority of the board was going to vote for the older couple with a child. One woman on the board, however, swayed the whole vote toward us when she said that when we spoke, she could feel God’s presence and assurance that we were supposed to be the girls’ parents.

judge And in December of 2018, we became the overjoyed, emotional, grateful parents of two of the coolest girls we have ever known. Every detail of who they are, from their personalities, their interests, and even their eye color meshes with our family as a beautiful reminder that God was working. God was purposeful in our pain and nothing was wasted. He redeems and restores what we think is beyond his control. God is faithful!

Johnson family
The Johnson Family. Neila, Natalie, Adam, Jaedyn

“He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 113:9).

Natalie and Mom*Book written by Natalie’s mom, Julie E. Davenport, “Secrets in the Sanctuary” – https://julieedavenport.com/

God is Faithful in All He Does

“Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things” (Isaiah 25:1).

My personal testimony from 2020:

Looking back over 2020, my one word.

Surrender…to God’s healing in my life, trusting His methods, doctors, medicine, physical therapy; and accepting things I couldn’t change…including COVID-19. I praise God for bringing peace to my heart and mind.

I started the year (February 2020) with extreme pain in my left shoulder. After visits to doctors and trying several medications, the pain continued to severely affect my sleep and daily routine. At the same time, my blood pressure began rising to stroke level. After consulting with my physicians, Jeff and our daughter Jennifer took me to the ER, where they admitted me and ran tests for two days.

Prior to my cardiac stress test, Jennifer asked the technician if she could pray for me before they started. I immediately felt peace and assurance that God was with me. After running all the tests, they said everything looked good, but they still couldn’t regulate my blood pressure. Finally, my cardiologist was able to stabilize my blood pressure with two new medications.

After being released from the hospital I saw an orthopedic doctor for my shoulder, which I couldn’t move without severe pain. He quickly diagnosed me with Adhesive Capsulitis (Frozen Shoulder) and ordered physical therapy. I was skeptical, but at this point would try anything. God knew exactly what He was doing!

After a few sessions with my physical therapist, Mike, I started to see some results. Mike not only treated me for frozen shoulder, but he also attended to my emotional and spiritual needs. He recited Scripture over me, prayed, and encouraged me. At the end of my treatment Mike said he felt that it was amazing that my recovery went so well, and then he told me about the One Word* book ministry.

After listening to his passion for God during my eight weeks of therapy, I decided to remember the One Word ministry. I also shared with Mike about our Family Legacy Day* and he said that he would like to start doing this with his wife and two daughters.

Almost a year later, I had kind of forgotten about the One Word ministry until just prior to the new year, January 2021. God kept impressing upon me the word “faithful.” Then I kept seeing the word faith and faithful show up in my daily devotions and Bible reading. I also re-read my prayer journal which testified to God’s faithfulness over the years (in my life and life of our family). So many answers to prayer over twenty years of journaling.

2 Timothy 2:13 Faithful God — Tell the Lord Thank You

Faithful! Yes, God has always been faithful to me and to His Word and promises. I desire to be faithful to God because He’s been so faithful to me. Even when I’ve been unfaithful, God has showered me with His love, mercy, and grace.

Grandpa, Me, & my Mom

As a child, God was faithful to care for me as an orphan (loss of both parents by age seven). God placed me in the home of my loving grandparents. Faithful to heal me from so many illnesses (two life-threatening) over all these years. Faithful to bring me into a personal relationship with Jesus as a young wife and mother, faithful to watch over our three children (protecting their lives, sparing them from serious illnesses and accidents, etc.) And faithful to bless me with six wonderful grandchildren.

I’d like to clarify that God does not always show His faithfulness to me by answering my prayers in the exact way or timing that I’d like. Yes, God does choose to intervene in this way at times and I’m forever grateful. There are other times, however, when through His divine sovereignty, God chooses not to remove or exclude hardships from my life. Instead, He has used these difficult times in my life to help me learn to trust in Him and strengthen my faith. I’ve come to relish and recognize God’s faithfulness through His loving and caring hand of comfort, inner peace, and unconditional love in the midst of suffering and pain. His ways are greater and higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9), and I am thankful God knows what’s best for me.

This Year: Faithful – My One Word

Scripture: Psalm 145

My One Verse: Psalm 145:13

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.”

God is teaching me the importance of living a life of faithfulness to Him and His Word. So, I’m excited about spending this year meditating, contemplating, and living out the word “faithful.” 1). God’s Faithfulness And 2). God equipping me to be faithful to Him.

This blog site, Holding His Hand, is dedicated to my mother, Audrey, who learned to trust in Jesus as her personal Savior during her battle with cancer.

On occasion, God will direct my attention to others who have personal testimonies of God’s faithfulness in their lives. And from time to time I will post their stories on this blog site. Please watch for upcoming testimonies.

Upcoming Testimony

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is natalie-pic.jpg
Natalie Johnson

Natalie Johnson, a worship pastor’s wife, and mother of two precious daughters will share how God’s faithfulness walked her through the most dark and painful days in her life. God’s hand of grace has lovingly held Natalie close throughout her life. Her story will move you from tears to joy as she bravely and openly details living through childhood cancer, the divorce of her parents, and an infertility journey that included miscarriage, surrogacy with a close friend, and foster care. If you’ve ever been sorely broken in life, you won’t want to miss reading Natalie’s testimony of God’s amazing faithfulness. It will encourage you to seek God during heartache and suffering because God’s promises are true. He promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), give us His strength when we are weak (Isaiah 41:10), and He promises to carry our burdens (Matthew 11:28-30).

When all the world is loud, God whispers.

dark cave“After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper” 1 Kings 19:12.

Listen…so you may hear His loving and gentle voice.

For me, His voice whispered through a Bear Hugger.

Nearly nine years ago, at age 51, I experienced severe shortness of breath. Undiagnosed for a few months, I became increasingly more anxious and frightened with reoccurring incidents. Two that stand out to me:

Playing outdoors with our young granddaughter (4), I found myself gasping for breath, while wondering if I would even live through the moment, or get to see my granddaughter grow up. (She’s now 13.)

On another occasion, I found myself clinging to a sales clerk’s counter at Walmart. She probably should have called for an ambulance. Well, maybe not, since God’s timing is always perfect.

A few weeks later, I was finally admitted into the hospital with a suspected coronary artery blockage. My family surrounded me while I awaited my turn for a heart catheterization. I remember my biggest worry was not so much the impending procedure, since I desperately wanted relief from the inability to breath, but of being cold. I’m always cold!

After my family prayed with me, the nurses wheeled me into the surgical room. It’s there, I knew I was being cared for, not just by the medical staff, but by God.

After being transferred onto the surgical bed, I immediately experienced being embraced by a comfy warm apparatus. It was a large inflatable blanket-type device which blew warm air onto my cold body. Wow! I couldn’t believe my simple fear of being cold was eliminated in an instant. The nurses later told me the technical name of the device: Bair Hugger, or as I now affectionately refer to it as Bear Hugger.

I ended up having a stent inserted into my artery, which was nearly 100% blocked. And nine months later, a second stent was placed in the same artery. I think of it as God giving me double protection.

God held my hand during some serious health issues over the years and it gives me great joy to share this one with my blogger friends.

Holding His Hand:

I believe we will always experience God during fearful moments of life, if we will simply listen and watch for His unfailing presence in times of darkness. Recently, I was trapped by myself in an elevator during a storm. It was pitch dark! I couldn’t even see my hand in front of me. I began to panic, thinking I would be stuck for hours…and possibly plunge to the basement floor. Then, within minutes, the doors opened and I was free to escape the darkness. God often allows us to experience darkness in our lives (illness, a job loss, sin, etc.) so that we will experience His undeniable presence. A presence of peace, calm, and warmth…all culminating in God’s perfect love and protection during our fear.

Take Elijah for instance. Elijah had demonstrated courage before Ahab in the king’s palace and on Mount Carmel. He had also witnessed God’s supply by the brook, in the home of the widow, in the years of famine, in the fire from heaven that consumed the sacrifice, in the coming of the rain, and in the ability to outrun Ahab back to Jezreel. However, when faced with the threat of Jezebel and the obvious fact there would be no immediate revival in the land, he suddenly became fearful and discouraged. Elijah was exhausted, and found himself in a dark cave, hiding from Jezebel’s death threat. But wait! It was in this dark and quiet place that Elijah heard God’s voice.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

For a deeper understanding of this Scripture passage, I invite you to follow the link to Bible.org ministry.

https://bible.org/seriespage/16-restoration-elijah-1-kings-195-18

Possibly you have found yourself in a dark place like Elijah or like me, facing a life-threatening situation, or it could be another fear that’s gripping your heart. If so, I encourage you to quiet your spirit and listen for God’s gentle whisper. It’s not easy in this extremely loud world, so it will take intentionality. Turn off all social media devices and find a place of solitude. It may not be a cave or a surgical room, or it may, but wherever it is for you, know that God’s presence is with you…just listen.

Does God allow rape?

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.Revelation 21:4

Personal testimony written by Joy Pedrow.  Used by permission*

 As a victim of rape, I thought the rape was my fault. I did not fully understand that I was experiencing the result of sin until years later. No matter the reason for the rape, it still wounded me deeply. Because of my hurt and pain, I often wondered why God would allow His children to suffer.

my-tearsDuring the months following my abuse, God felt closer than ever before. He never moved. When I cried out in agony, He was by my side. When I prayed with tears streaming down my cheeks, He was there. When I begged Him to take away the pain, He held my hand.

He was there.

Right beside me, holding my hand, and helping me find healing. He was there and He knew this would happen. Even David knew that God was present and active in his life.

 “For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began Psalm 139:13-16

 I never would wish the pain I experienced on anyone, but you know what, God used that pain for His good and taught me a few valuable lessons.

First of all, God revealed to me that I did not know Him. I did not know the gospel. I thought I had to work for my salvation. I did not know about Grace. I did not know that I could experience God’s love in an intimate way. I thought God was a big guy up in the sky, telling me what to do, but never telling me why.

God used rape to bring me to my knees, see my need for Him, and fully surrender my life to Christ.

Secondly, God constantly uses my story for His glory. My ministry is built on authenticity and vulnerability. God gave me a story and I share it with the world, because sharing my story brings others freedom.

I experienced pain, but God has redeemed every single tear I cried.

Sin is ugly.

Pain is ugly.

Rape is ugly.

But God is beautiful.

Redemption is beautiful.

YOU are beautiful.

God may allow rape, but He is not distant, uncaring or uninvolved. If you are a victim, He is painfully aware of your suffering. I believe that night I was raped, that God was in the room. He was standing, angry, and pacing. He was MAD.

God HATES rape and will punish those who commit that sin. Read what His Word says about sexual sin:

“In this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 4:6-8

 I believe that Jesus was there too. He was just as angry. Jesus felt the pain I was feeling. At that moment, the sin of the man who was hurting me was the sin that Jesus paid the price for on the cross. The immense pain I was experiencing as a result of sin was the same immense pain Jesus felt on the cross as the result of sin.

We are not alone in our suffering.

Good news, one day Jesus will bring suffering to an end.

You can choose to blame God for rape, since He allows suffering to happen, or you can blame sin. But if you choose to blame God, remember that He gave up His one and only Son for YOU. Do not place blame somewhere other than where it rightly belongs. We can choose to feel angry at God, or we can turn to Him for peace, comfort and healing. Does anger really help us find healing anyway?

God was present then and God is here now, ready to welcome you home, ready to love you and ready to help you find healing. In the midst of pain, choose to run to Him, instead of from Him, and trust in His perfect love.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed awayRevelation 21:4.

 ______________

 About Joy Pedrow

joy-pedrow*Joy Pedrow is a second year student, pursuing a Masters of Art in Christian Education degree in women’s ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary. To know more about Joy, please visit JoyPedrow.com http://joypedrow.com/, where she points women to Christ so he can bring them healing from addiction and freedom from shame.

*Joy’s testimony was first posted by Sue Edwards on Thu, 01/19/2017. Follow this link for the original blog entry on Engage, a Ministry of Bible.org, posted by Dr. Sue Edwards.   http://blogs.bible.org/engage/sue_edwards/does_god_allow_rape

sue-edwardsDr. Sue Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women’s Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women’s Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women’s ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.

Some of my favorite quotes from Joy

When I cried out in agony, He (God) was by my side. When I prayed with tears streaming down my cheeks, He was there. When I begged Him to take away the pain, He held my hand.

 I never would wish the pain I experienced on anyone, but you know what, God used that pain for His good and taught me a few valuable lessons.

 I experienced pain, but God has redeemed every single tear I cried. 

 Holding His Hand

Only God knows the pain we will suffer while living on Earth. I can’t imagine knowing in advance the pain and suffering my children would incur. And if I did, I would do everything humanly possible to prevent each one.

God did know, and planned for His Son to suffer and die on the cross, to redeem the entire world from the power of sin and death. I cannot fathom this at all! However, I know this is true because I have received the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus by faith. Christ’s great and amazing love for me is what takes me through each painful occurrence, with the assurance that He is always with me. Praise be to our LORD and Savior.

 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8.

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.

If you have experienced rape or any other type of severe suffering, I want you to know God desires to hold your hand and lead you to complete healing and wholeness. Like Joy, prior to her rape, you may not know Jesus as your Savior. If not, I pray that you will receive Him now. Please click on this link: https://holdinghishand.org/receive-jesus/

I encourage you to share your pain with a trustworthy Christian (friend, pastor, counselor). God places people in our lives to love and support us when we need them the most. Joy shares her personal journey of healing from sexual abuse on her website at: http://joypedrow.com/2017/01/how-to-heal-from-sexual-abuse/

“You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book” Psalm 56:8.

You can make your own choices, but you can’t choose your consequences.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

This is a true story of an unshakable faith in the midst of great sorrow, grief, and suffering.

After returning from a week’s vacation with my husband, Jeff, I wrote the following in my journal.

“I can’t even imagine the grief, sorrow, pain, and hurt they are going through, and yet, their faith in Christ is secure.”

SAM_1280Jeff and I had the opportunity to attend a pastors and wives retreat in Buchanan, Michigan, at a beautiful facility called The Lodge. We spent four nights and five days with three other pastoral couples and our host couple, Ed and Gayle, who facilitated our sharing sessions.

Prior to beginning our sessions, we sensed a spirit of love and grace within the lodge. We are thankful for our prayer team who were praying for us, along with others. I know now that these prayers were not only meant for us, but also for our host couple.

We quickly learned that Ed and Gayle lost their precious adult son six months prior, through a tragic death. I don’t feel led to share any details, for they seem inconsequential in relation to the deep loss this dear couple has experienced. I will say that I’ve never been with anyone who has demonstrated such grace and faith in the midst of severe suffering. I didn’t mention the second part to their faith journey. Ed learned he had a large cancerous tumor in his bladder just a few months following his son’s death.

Ironically, I heard the following statement twice during our vacation/retreat week, “You can make your own choices, but you can’t choose your consequences.” This was spoken first by our retreat host and the second time by my sister-in-law. Both were restating what they had originally spoken to their adult sons.

I think this statement grabbed me to my core, as I thought of how God allows us to freely make our own choices in life and how these choices will either result in pleasing God or the folly of our own flesh. When we choose to go our own way, apart from God’s direction and leading in our lives, we really are saying to God, “I know what’s best for my life and I really don’t need your guidance or authority to rule over me.” Sounds familiar doesn’t it…the first sin in the garden.

Fletcher 2My thoughts quickly race back to our retreat hosts. Although they feel that their son made some wrong choices toward the end of his life, they also know and testify to the unmerited favor of God in their lives. Throughout our week together, they shared how in the midst of heartache over the loss of their son, they are choosing to hold God’s hand as they continue to serve faithfully in the ministry God has called them to. Their unwavering faith and commitment to Christ brings hope, healing, and encouragement to pastors and wives through Life Action Ministries https://lifeaction.org/. For more information about The Lodge, please go to: http://www.retreatatthelodge.org/.

Holding His Hand

In the deepest despairs of life, God is near. His promises are true. If you are overtaken with grief and sorrow over the loss of a loved one, I encourage you to cry out to Jesus. The Psalmist declares: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18).

For those wrestling with decisions, please consider the words of the Apostle Paul.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:7-10).

“Now my wheelchair symbolizes independence.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni w therapist“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

JoniDad-Beach2_2_jpg_500x500_max_q85
Joni at the beach with her dad.

“One hot July afternoon in 1967, I dove into a shallow lake and my life changed forever. I suffered a spinal cord fracture that left me paralyzed from the neck down, without use of my hands and legs. Lying in my hospital bed, I tried desperately to make sense of the horrible turn of events. I begged friends to assist me in suicide. Slit my wrists, dump pills down my throat, anything to end my misery!”

While angry with God and questioning His power, Joni Eareckson Tada’s friend, Steve, pointed Joni to Christ.

Joni believes God’s purpose in her accident was to “turn a stubborn kid into a woman who would reflect patience, endurance and a lively, optimistic hope of the heavenly glories above.”

Joni with friendsIf anyone knows what it’s like to suffer, Joni does. And yet, throughout the fifty plus years she’s lived as a paraplegic, Joni has given God full permission to use her life to help othersjoni painting and to honor Him. Joni is an artist (painting with her teeth), she’s authored over 50 books, and is the Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, an international advocate for people with disabilities. To learn more about this lovely woman and her ministry, please check out Joni’s website: http://www.joniandfriends.org/

Most of us won’t experience the same type of suffering as Joni, but everyone will eventually face some form of suffering. It could come through a broken relationship, a wayward child, indebtedness, a serious illness, and the list continues. When suffering comes, we too, have a choice to make… to hold God’s hand and allow Him to fill us with His unfailing love, grace, peace, and power to fulfill His purpose in our lives, or remain helpless and hopeless.

Holding His Hand

“My wheelchair used to symbolize alienation and confinement. But God has changed its meaning because I have trusted in Him. Now my wheelchair symbolizes independence. It is a choice I made and one that anyone can make.”  – Joni Eareckson Tada

Recommended Reading: Romans 8:18-39

The words of this song capture the thrilling perspective Joni has come to know in the years since her accident:

I rejoice with him whose pain my Saviour heals. And I weep with him who still his anguish feels. But earthly joys and earthly tears are confined to earthly years, And greater good, the Word of God reveals. In this life we have a cross that we must bear; It’s just a tiny part of Jesus’ death that we can share. And one day we’ll lay it down, ’cause He’s promised us a crown To which our suffering can never be compared.

That’s why Heaven is nearer to me, and at times it is all I can see. Sweet music I hear, coming down to my ear, And I know that it’s playing for me. For I am Christ the Saviour’s own bride, And redeemed I shall stand by His side. He will say, “Shall we dance?” and our endless romance Will be worth all the tears I have cried.

Heaven Your Real Home is one of my favorite books about living for eternity.

Heaven Your Real Home

Another book authored by Joni, Making Sense of Suffering.

suffering

Joni’s Corner: Weekly (Each Monday) encouraging thoughts shared by Joni, and her Diamonds In The Dust video series. See link below.

http://www.joniandfriends.org/jonis-corner/

Holding His Hand story of Joni, and photos are used by permission. Joni and Friends International Disability Center www.joniandfriends.org