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!

Happy New Year? (A Rewrite from 2018)

Priority. This word will define the person you are and who you desire to become. It will also determine what kind of year you will have.

Many of us set goals for the new year. Or what some would call, resolutions. I suppose I’m more of a goal-setter. One of the gifts God gave me is being an organizer, or planner. But unless God oversees this gift it can become more of a burden rather than a blessing, to myself and often to others.

Distinguishing between the two, a blessing or a burden, depends upon priority. The word priority may seem like such a simple word, but it can become extremely complex as a person wrestles with its meaning. In fact, the personal definition truly defines the person we are or who we desire to become.

Brother-Lawrence-in-KitchenNicholas Herman (1611-1691), better known as Brother Lawrence, found this to be true following his conversion to Christ at the age of eighteen while serving in the military. (To read more about Brother Lawrence, his conversion and life, go to: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/lawrence Serving in menial roles, mostly in a hospital kitchen, Brother Lawrence became known for his quite remarkable and serene faith, and his simple but dynamic experience of “the presence of God*.” Thousands of lay persons and clergy desired to know the secret to his life filled with unquenchable joy, peace, love, and humility.

Happy New Year?

Brother Lawrence gave the same answers to all who sought after these inner virtues. “Stop putting your trust in human rules, devotional exercises, and acts of penance. Instead, exercise a living, obedient faith in God. Live as though he were beside you and with you all the time—as indeed he is. Seek to do what he wants, as and when he commands it, and make his command your joy and chief pleasure. The person who lives like that will be fully human, completely Christian, and genuinely happy.”

More about Brother Lawrence a little later.

As I approach the year 2018 (now 2021), I am particularly aware of a personal need to prioritize my life (once again). For me, this is an ongoing journey, of which I suppose is true for most of us. Being fully human is the easy part. Ha! It’s the other two I seem to struggle with–being completely Christian and genuinely happy. Just being honest here.

Oh, did I mention that I’m a list keeper? Sometimes a gift and other times a burden.

This new year’s list includes (the left side from 2018, the right side this year, 2021): After reflecting on the 2018 list, I decided to be more specific in my goals for 2021 and to be more intentional in my spiritual life.

  • Eating healthy and exercising regularly          Same
  • Plan/have annual Family Legacy Day             Same
  • Pre-planning funeral arrangements, etc.        Order grave marker
  • Ministry and Missions                                        Lead a discipleship group
  • Medical and dental appointments                    Take care of physical body
  • Retirement (future and ongoing…)                   Trust in the LORD for future
  • Vacation and family outings                              Same, according to God’s will
  • And so much more!                                             Faith to fulfill God’s purpose*

Of course, most if not all these things are important, but they’re not really going to ensure that I have a happy new year, even if I am able to put a checkmark next to each one. (Only the genuine abiding daily presence of God in my life will ensure my true happiness.)

So many “things” and people vie for our time, and as Solomon so eloquently penned, “there’s a time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

The modern world seems to throw everything at us, so to prevent us from living a spiritual life, one that pleases the LORD. Think about all the high-tech machinery replacing hands, computers replacing minds, psychotherapy replacing prayer. And while these things are not bad in themselves, taken together along with the accelerated advances in science, the turbulent rhythm of life, and the external tensions of world events (recently in 2019/2020 with the Coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest which is sadly continuing in 2021), they tend to produce a society that has little time for personal relationships and even less time for God.

How then, can one “practice the presence of God?” A silhouette of a young boy praying against a brilliant sunset sky.

The basic spiritual disciplines remain our core: prayer and Bible study. But how must we compete with a world full of noise? The concept of silence is foreign to much of this generation, with cell phones, Facebook/Instagram/TikTok, tablets, movies on watches, and so on. Then adding to the social media, we find ourselves, as Solomon did, “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1). Many families find themselves running from one activity to the next, and purchasing things that will only ensure longer work hours or require a second job. And to be quite honest, it’s not only our young families who have fallen prey to “this world’s system,” many older adults are chasing after the wind as well. Thousands of dollars are spent on finer lifestyles, while yearning for retirement days spent listening to the ocean waves rather than the voice of our Creator. Again, there’s nothing wrong in planning for retirement or caring for our personal well-being, but if these things take on a higher priority than God’s design and purpose, then we may need to re-evaluate our goals and or resolutions for the new year. Think about (no, pray about) how you might prioritize your life this year in ways that will help to ensure a happy new year according to the sweet pleasure of our LORD and Savior.

In closing…

From a letter written by Brother Lawrence:

“We can, in fact, learn a great deal about the love of God from the way we treat our friends (and family). For example, it would be very discourteous to invite a friend to our home and then leave him to sit alone in a corner while we go ahead with our own activities, ignoring him completely. Yet that is what we do with God. We have invited him, in his Son, to enter our hearts and live there—but often we neglect him, almost forgetting that he is there at all, so distracted are we by other things and other people.

The Christian’s biggest, most important job on earth is to live and die with the LORD. He can hardly do that if the slightest diversion drives all thoughts of God out of his mind. It is all a question of priorities, really.

Yours in the LORD,

Laurie (Brother Lawrence)

Two final thoughts recorded from Brother Lawrence’s conversion experience:

Trees“Suddenly I saw what ‘providence’ is all about—it’s simply believing that God has the power and the will to do all things well for us, if we will only submit to his loving, patient rule. And that nothing we can do—beyond trusting him—will speed up his will or make things happen that he isn’t ready to do in us.”

“At that moment, sitting there on the grass, my acts of worship, my attempts at discipline—all the effort I had put into trying to please God—were swallowed up in an enormous sense of love for him. The One who patiently led the trees and the plants through their seasons would also lead me, if I would only submit to his loving and powerful hand.”

The Practice of the Presence of God—the title given to the collection of “conversations” and letters” by Brother Lawrence.

New Year Faith Challenge:

Prayerfully evaluate your life. Look over the past year and take an honest inventory on how you spent the time God blessed you with. After a time of personal reflection, determine to spend more time this year in the presence of God, at home, school, work, on vacation, and definitely “in the kitchen.” If you’re not intentional in prioritizing your life according to living in the presence of God, you will find yourself simply “chasing after the wind.” And think about it, no one ever catches the wind.

Have a very blessed New Year, trusting in God. My personal goal for life.

*”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.” (Psalm 145:13)

“Come on! You can do this!” 2017 World Series Game #2

I love watching baseball, especially when it comes to the World Series.

Ozzy 2
Ozzy Smith, St. Louis Cardinals, 1982-1996

As a young girl, my grandparents took me to watch the Decatur Commodores, a professional minor league baseball team that played in my home town, Decatur, Illinois. These were great memories, eating all the popcorn and snow cones I wanted, cheering for the hometown team, keeping an occasional foul ball; and an endearing memory of watching my grandpa pencil in all the plays on his scorecard. And on occasion, we drove about 2 hours to watch the St. Louis Cardinals. Another fond memory is recalling my grandfather listening to all the Cardinal games on his little transistor radio.

Fast forward just a “few” years. I found myself feeling the same adrenaline-fueled emotions watching game 2 of the world series last night.

Verlander pic
Justin Verlander

Being down 3 to 1 in the 6th inning, the Astros tied the Dodgers in the ninth. The Astro’s comeback had just begun. Scoring 2 runs in the top of the 10th, I’m sure the Astros thought perhaps the game was theirs to keep. But no, the Dodgers scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 10th to tie it up. At this point in the game I really thought the Dodgers would take it to the bank, as I think many of the Astros had the same gut feeling. That is, until their starting pitcher, Justin Verlander rallied his team onto victory. “Let’s go, let’s go, we can keep scoring runs. We can do this!” Sure enough, the Astros scored 2 runs in the top of the 11th and won 7-6.

Waking up this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Astro’s comeback and how possibly the stirring words of Verlander inspired his team on to victory.

During our lives, there are times when we feel like we’re losing the game and are down to our last out. Possibly an illness has zapped our energy, or someone we love deeply has thrown us a curve by walking out. In one form or fashion, we’ve all been there, right? And what often makes the difference in whether we’re ready to throw in the towel or not, is having someone who is willing to step in and “yell” at us, “Come on! You can do this!” Well, maybe not yell…although at times, this is exactly what we need. An in your face reminder, that God is in control, He loves you, and you can be victorious with His love, grace, and power in your life.

I’ve recently been praying for several children who are battling some form of cancer. It breaks my heart to think of the agony and pain they are going through as they fight this horrible disease, and likewise, their loving parents and family. While these life-threatening battles have seemed insurmountable, I have observed how the power of God infuses hope into the lives of these children and their families, through the outpouring of love and support from friends and family, and their communities.

The scripture that comes to my mind is from Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Closing thought:

Charlie pic
Charlie Cox

Think about how you can be an encourager to someone in your life. Maybe it’s a neighbor who is going through a difficult time, or it could be a family member who simply needs a hug around the neck. (One of our greatest encouragers who gave the tightest and most sincere hugs went home to receive his reward from our Heavenly Father three years ago. His name is Charlie Cox.) Possibly someone will remember you after you have breathed your last, as someone who cared enough to “yell” into your life, “Come on! You can do this!”

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.

In the Face of Death, God has a Plan

Personal Testimony Written by Katie Finn

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” James 1:2-8.

Did you know that God always answers prayer? His timing is always perfect and He has a beautiful plan for each person He has ever created.

I was born blue in the face. One doctor tried to give me oxygen but it wasn’t helping me, and another doctor suggested that they check my blood sugar. My blood sugar was extremely low, in the single digits. They found out that the illness I had was rare and only a few children in history had been born with it. The child who survived the longest lived to age 14 and was unable to sit up, walk, talk, or feed them self. The doctors told my parents, in this condition, I would only live to age 21. Throughout my childhood I spent a lot of time in the hospital. My parents and churches from all over the world were praying for me and for the doctors to have wisdom. They prayed that the Lord would work through them.

Mike & Katie Celebrating their Anniversary
Mike & Katie Celebrating their Anniversary

At age 2 the doctors decided to remove half of my pancreas which had been producing too much insulin. I was healthy for about two and a half years and then I started to get very sick again. The doctors discovered that my pancreas had grown back and was producing more insulin than it had before, so at age 5 my pancreas was completely removed. I have been a diabetic ever since. Today I am nearly 30. God answered the prayers of so many people. I have had the experience of graduating high school, college, and am now married! These are three wonderful experiences that my parents didn’t know I would ever have.

God is so good! I thank Him for each day that He blesses me with. Each day is a beautiful gift from God. As I wake up each morning and begin to tear away the paper, I can’t wait to see what He will unfold before me as I open the box. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11.

I’ve had some very hard days which have strengthened my faith in God. I’ve come to realize I don’t have to go through these times alone because I have Jesus! I know that there will never come a day in my life that will present challenges that He can’t handle through me. My goal each day is to stay as close to God as I possibly can.

Through every surgery, hospital stay, and seizure, I’ve never had to face it alone. God is there. I believe that He always has a plan. All I must do is obey if He asks me to do something, and trust Him for the results. I’m so glad my life is in His hands. I know I would not be here today without Him!

No matter what challenges you may be facing, know that you don’t have to go through them alone. God loves you and if you will trust Him and believe that He has a plan, He will be with you through any challenge, any sickness, or any struggle you may ever have to face.

About Katie Finn:

Katie Finn
Katie Finn

I met Katie a year ago, when my husband and I accepted a call to pastor a church where Katie and Mike are members and serve God faithfully. After only a few conversations with Katie, I learned of her life-threatening illness and unshakeable faith in Christ. Her desire to please God in all areas of life is demonstrated by her humble and gentle spirit.

Unable to drive because of her illness and having other limitations with her vision, Katie doesn’t let this deter her from living a life of purpose and joy.

God has gifted Katie with many talents, including the ministry of music. She skillfully plays the piano and the flute, and sings beautifully unto the Lord. Katie also enjoys sewing, making many of her own clothes, and preparing healthy recipes.

Katie serves alongside of her husband, Mike, as Outreach Pastors at our church (St. Paul’s Church of the Nazarene, KC, MO). They both have a tremendous heart for reaching people with the Gospel of Christ. Mike is completing his bachelor’s in biblical studies degree at MidAmerica Nazarene University, as he and Katie prepare for full-time ministry.

One of my favorite quotes from Katie’s testimony: Each day is a beautiful gift from God. As I wake up each morning and begin to tear away the paper, I can’t wait to see what He will unfold before me as I open the box.

Holding His Hand:

Mike and Katie Celebrating Christmas with Katie's family
Mike and Katie Celebrating Christmas with Katie’s Family

When all seems dark and hopeless, Jesus is there. While talking with Katie’s dad, tears filled my eyes as he retold the frightening hours/years following Katie’s birth. He said the doctors gave little to no hope of survival for their precious little girl. Katie’s parents spent endless hours lifting their hearts to God. And while confessing their anguish and fearfulness, they came to an altar of total relinquishment and trust, by praying for God’s will to be accomplished through Katie’s fragile life. The physicians’ non-encouraging consultations continued throughout Katie’s young childhood, and yet, hope and peace came through an ever-present awareness of Christ’s nearness and faithfulness.

Recommended Reading: 1 Kings 17:7-24 – Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath

 

Cast your net on the right side

He (Jesus) said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:6)

When we respond to life’s difficult, and at times, reoccurring situations the same way over and over again, and keep getting the same undesirable results—possibly it’s time to cast our net on the right side.

One evening, following the resurrection of Jesus, Peter decided to go fishing. Several other disciples joined him. The Lord had instructed His disciples to meet Him in Galilee, which helps to explain why they were at the Sea of Galilee.

The Scripture tells us that the seasoned fishermen came up empty after fishing all night. I imagine they were exasperated, not to mention, tired and hungry. Then it happened! A voice from the shoreline shouted out, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” They replied, “No.” Then He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” “When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish” (John 21:5-6).

God spoke this same message to me recently. No, He didn’t tell me that I would catch a lot of fish, but He did clearly tell me that I’d been fishing on the wrong side for a very long time and coming up empty.

The parallel to Peter’s fish story:

For quite some time now I’ve been trying to fix some problem areas in my life by using my own strategies. Yes, they were prayed over and well-thought out, of course. But just like Peter, my net kept coming out of the sea of human effort totally empty.

Whatever you may be dealing with, an unsaved loved one, a difficult boss/coworker, financial woes, fear of an uncertain future, or XYZ, you don’t have to end up with an empty net.

John, the beloved follower of Christ, was the first one to recognize his Savior’s voice. “It’s the Lord!” And with this jubilant exclamation, Peter grabbed his garments and jumped in the water to meet Jesus at the water’s edge. (John 21:7)

Sometimes others will recognize the Lord’s tender voice before we do. God places these people in our lives, to give us that little extra support and encouragement…at just the right timing.

Jesus is teaching me to “really” listen to his voice when He speaks to me from His Word, or in the quietness of my spirit during prayer. He then waits for me to respond in obedience. Did I wait long enough, or did I rush off to work or jump right into the next project on my list?

Ways to clearly hear the Savior’s voice:

  • Pray
  • Listen intently – through His Word, in the quietness of your spirit
  • Pray
  • Listen intently – through those God appoints in your life, a pastor, godly spouse, friend, etc.
  • Act upon His command and guidance
  • Pray
  • Wait expectantly for the Big Catch!

Remember, if you keep doing the same thing over and over and over again, and continue getting the same undesirable negative results, maybe it’s time to try God’s way…even if it doesn’t make sense.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Our greatest weaknesses (either real or perceived) can become our greatest strength, when we fully surrender them to God.

Identify your weaknesses:

  • Fear
  • Insecurities
  • Worry
  • Doubt
  • Lack of education
  • Past Sins
  • Failures
  • Little or no resources
  • Worldly desires
  • Other

When you fully surrender your weaknesses to God, through prayer, He will teach you to cast your net on the right side, and will fill your net with His abundant and gracious provision.

Holding His Hand:

jesus-providesI love the fact that Jesus not only waits patiently for us to follow His instructions, but He blesses our obedience by warmly nourishing our souls.

The rest of the story:

The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[c] When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:8-12)

For further study: Judges 6-7

Read the story of Gideon, “the weakest in his family.” Going to battle against the numerous Midianites with only 300 men definitely didn’t make sense, but Gideon chose to fish on the right side and defeated the Midianites.

Blinded by a Quack

“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). (NKJV)

Fannie Crosby ContentedBorn in Putnam County, New York, Fanny Crosby became ill within two months. Unfortunately, the family doctor was away, and another man—pretending to be a certified doctor—treated her by prescribing hot mustard poultices to be applied to her eyes. Her illness eventually relented, but the treatment left her blind. When the doctor was revealed to be a quack, he disappeared. A few months later, Crosby’s father died. Her mother was forced to find work as a maid to support the family, and Fanny was mostly raised by her Christian grandmother.

While she enjoyed her poetry, she zealously memorized the Bible. Memorizing five chapters a week, even as a child she could recite the Pentateuch, the Gospels, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many psalms chapter and verse.

Fanny’s love of Scripture was attributed to her grandmother who cared for Fanny while her mother worked, following the death of Fanny’s father, just six months after being blinded. The faithfulness of Fanny’s Christian grandmother laid a strong foundation of faith in Christ.

Her mother’s hard work paid off. Shortly before her fifteenth birthday, Crosby was sent to the recently founded New York Institute for the Blind, which would be her home for 23 years: 12 as a student, 11 as a teacher. She initially indulged in her own poetry and was called upon to pen verses for various occasions. In time the principal asked her to avoid such “distractions” in favor of her general instruction. “We have no right to be vain in the presence of the Owner and Creator of all things,” he said.

Her love of poetry began early—her first verse, written at age 8, echoed her lifelong refusal to feel sorry for herself:

Oh, what a happy soul I am, although I cannot see! I am resolved that in this world Contented I will be.

“How many blessings I enjoy That other people don’t, To weep and sigh because I’m blind I cannot, and I won’t!”

Francis Jane Crosby went on to write more than 9,000 hymns, some of which are among the most popular in every Christian denomination. She wrote so many that she was forced to use pen names lest the hymnals be filled with her name above all others. And, for many people, the most remarkable thing about her was that she had done so in spite of her blindness.

“I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you,” remarked one well-meaning preacher.

Fanny Crosby responded at once, as she had heard such comments before. “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind?” said the poet, who had been able to see only for her first six weeks of life. “Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

Holding His Hand

Rather than feeling sorry for herself, Fannie Crosby chose to walk by faith in Christ, not by sight. When we place our trust in the hands of the Savior, we can rest fully upon His guidance without fail. Yes, there will be times when we stumble and fall because we live in a broken world. Crises come, failure is inevitable, unfair and unkind words wound deeply, and yet, the Saving grace of Jesus tenderly walks us through times of darkness and bewilderment.

Listen to All the Way My Savior Leads Me, Written by Fannie Crosby. Sung by The Haven Quartet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEOtFEs0Jos

Philippians 4:11-13, (NIV)

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Francis Jane Crosby (Fanny Crosby) — Excerpt from Christianity Today (Christian History, People) http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/poets/fanny-crosby.html

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