My Top Three (more on Walking Partners)

When it comes to having someone come alongside me in life as a valued friend, what are the three most important things I look for in a relationship? I think this is an important question to ask and it’s one I’ve asked myself many times. This is where I keep landing — I need encouragement, exhortation, and empathy based on Biblical principals that keep me pointed back to Christ. Authenticity is right up there too but, because it weaves through these first three, I’ll make it a topic of another week.

For today, I’ll share some examples of three things I value highly in my marriage relationship and the friendships that are most treasured in my life. Perhaps they can serve as an inspiration, challenge or guideline for some of our readers.

ENCOURAGEMENT — I was terribly bullied during middle school and heard a lot of messages that wore away at my confidence in myself and my trust in others. For that reason and others, I grew up craving advocacy, affirmation and affection. The Samaritans were not a well-liked people either. That’s one reason why the Samaritan woman was so shocked when Jesus talked to her at the well. I appreciate friends who value me for who I am, love me unconditionally, and are willing to help care for my deepest needs. In John 4, the woman came to the well thirsty for water. Jesus gave her so much more than that. In fact, He offered her a kind of friendship that poured out and satisfied the needs of many other Samaritans from her town too!

The world’s encouragement is fleating and based on superficial things.

Biblical encouragement means we hold unswervingly together to the hope we profess in our faithful God and “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:25).

EXHORTATION — There are some things I don’t like very much about myself so I frequently ask God to purify and re-shape me. But there are also times when I am blind to things that need re-molding in me and it can take a wake-up call from someone I trust and respect who will lovingly correct me. I can hang out with people who will tell me what I want to hear or I can choose friends who want to grow with me and won’t be afraid to rebuke me when necessary (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Together, we can help each other become an ever-increasing reflection of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The world says, “Stay out of each other’s business.”

Biblical friendship stretches us through a faith that asks, “Lord, keep me grace-filled, hungry for, and increasingly wise in handling Your Word which is powerful and effective for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

EMPATHY — Our daughter, Carly, was knocked down at day camp last week while dancing and her two front teeth were severely chipped. I was so thankful she had one of our own PCAs (personal care attendant) with her so she could be quickly comforted by someone she knew. Nobody likes to go through crisis without a friend alongside. Even Jesus brought his friends with him when He was distressed. Mark 14:32-41 describes Jesus’ expectation about how friends should stand together in the face of challenges.

Example of a common response: “You deserve to feel sorry for yourself sometimes.”

Example of a Biblical response: “In your situation, I might feel the same way. Can we pray together about this this right now?”

LORD, please plant me in relationships that are genuinely and courageously characterized by encouragement, exhortation and empathy that reflects Christ. Thank you, Jesus, that friendships like that will bless us and honor you too! AMEN

FINDING GLORY Wednesday — New Community Opportunity

Starting today, we will be posting one scripture and discussion question every Wednesday from the 7-week study resource titled Finding Glory in the Thorns: Group Discussion Guide. People around the world are learning what it means to experience God in adversity and share that within their communities facilitated by Finding Glory resources. Whether or not you’re already a reader of these resources, we hope you’ll help us get the ball rolling on this online expansion of the Finding Glory Group ministry.

Many people reading and commenting here will be current and past participants in Finding Glory Groups. They will have used the 7-week curriculum Finding Glory in the Thorns: Group Discussion Guide in a support group, book club, adult education class or small group. Others joining the conversation may have read the original book Finding Glory in the Thorns and want to explore more deeply what God has been teaching them. However, anyone is free to get involved and we hope many will! God does powerful and beautiful things through the intersections of our lives.

Here are today’s scripture and discussion question:

“The Lord told Joshua…’Give these instructions to the priests who are carrying the Ark of the Covenant: When you reach the banks of the Jordan River, take a few steps into the river and stop.’ The priests will be carrying the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth. When their feet touch the water, the flow of water will be cut off upstream, and the river will pile up there in one heap. Now it was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water began piling up in a town upstream called Adam…until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the city of Jericho.” JOSHUA 3:7-8, 13 and 3:15-16

In what way might God be challenging you, as He did Joshua, to take a step of faith? What assures you that taking that step would be God’s way to go?

For more information about Finding Glory Groups, visit http://www.findingglory.com/findingglorygrou.html.

Listen to what others are saying about their experiences in a Finding Glory Group:

“I was scared to relive heartbreaking memories but (the discussion) did the opposite…affirmed that Jesus has a purpose for my journey.”

“I am learning how to glorify God, not my problems.”

“Our Sunday School class started (a Finding Glory Group) because things from your experiences sparked a commonality…willingness to dig deep and have courage to share makes the experience richer for everyone.”

“Your question opened up some important conversation in our group about the need to recognize those who are hurting and need hope. Our group facilitator reminded us that even people within the church have struggles but may appear to have it all together on Sunday morning. We need to invest in each other’s lives.”

Lessons from the Power Fold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the Back Story? (Walking Partners Series Continued)

Sometimes we hear a story that initially sounds unremarkable. But then we hear what is behind the story and it gives insight that changes our appreciation for what we first heard. A reflective reading about a paralyzed man in scripture once brought about a change in perspective like that for our family. For Larry and I, it was the birth of our thinking about who our Walking Partners are and what they mean to us.

In short form, here’s the Bible’s recount of what happened to the paralyzed man:

Some men came, bringing to (Jesus) a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” MARK 2:3-5

What Larry and I used to remember most about this situation is that the man was physically healed (recorded later in verse 12) while Jesus claimed and proved to be God by also forgiving him. The central message of the story seemed clear, but we discovered there is so much more to be learned from this man’s experience. Reflecting on the back story deepened our faith and opened our eyes to a better way to live.

Consider this: a man’s life was forever transformed (inside and out) because there were friends who brought him to Jesus. His friends didn’t stop short at simply meeting his practical needs. They tore through somebody’s roof to get their friend in front of Jesus where more, so much more, was accomplished. Not only was the paralyzed man healed, he was saved from his sins and would spend eternity with God. To top it all off, many others witnessed it and glorified God.

I often wonder: Did this man ask his friends to take him to Jesus or did they initiate the journey with an offer to come pick him up after lunch? Did the man go willingly or did his friends have to urge him, prod him or just take up the corners of his mat saying, “You may not like it, but we’re going and you can’t do thing one about it!”

I’m glad I don’t know those details of this situation because it leaves all the options open. I’m stretched to consider many ways of walking in friendship that can be eternally meaningful — things like being willing to ask for help, initiating support even when it may not be welcomed, sacrificially giving my time, enthusiastically and tenaciously sharing my faith.

In the mid 1990s, Larry and I went through a storm in our marriage. Our small group of Bible Study friends and two Christian temperament counselors were instrumental in walking us back to a strong relationship with each other and into much deeper intimacy with our Savior Jesus Christ.

A few years later, after Carly was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome in 2000, we had friends who helped us in several practical ways (probably not unlike the friends of the paralyzed man who helped meet many of his daily needs in addition to carrying his mat from time to time). But even more valuable than supporting practical needs, we had friends who came alongside of us in grief and confusion with prayer and Christ-centered encouragement. They helped us gain insight into what God’s purposes might be in our challenges. They took us to the feet of Jesus where the deepest longings of our hearts could be fully satisfied and things of eternal value could be birthed out of our suffering.

For all the support we have received, sometimes people have let us down too. We have been disappointed many times over the years when even close friends or family seemed to forget us. But even then, there were others who helped bring our focus back where it belonged — on our infinitely perfect Heavenly Father rather than on imperfect people who will always fall short. If the world could meet all of our needs, we would forget how desperately we need God. The best Walking Partners compassionately remind us of that.

LORD, I realize there is too much at stake to miss any opportunity to build friendships like this into my life. Help me to be strategic in developing Christ-centered friendships. Show me how to give and receive the kind of friendship that bears fruit of eternal value. AMEN

Bringing HOPE to the Hurting

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord! This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!”
LUKE 2:11-14

Christmas is upon us. The joyous news that the angels delivered over 2,000 years ago is as fresh today as it was back then: “a Savior has been born to you (and me!); he is Christ the Lord!” Take a moment to picture that scene. Feel the awe of the shepherds as the sky was filled with angels singing “glory to God in the highest…” Pause and reflect on the fact that Jesus was “born to you.” Born to you. Born to me. Born to each of us.

All we have to do is accept the Gift.

I am filled with joy today at the thought of that gift. And it amazes me that, of all of the places the Lord could have chosen to announce this wonderful news, He chose pasture land on the outskirts of Bethlehem. He chose mire. He chose muck.

This week, we have had numerous opportunities in our ministry to see the reality that the mire and the muck still exist – there are so many hurting people out there. People who are facing the destruction of marriages and families due to divorce. People who are counting down the final days of life due to illness and disease. People who have recently lost loved ones. People who are unemployed or under employed. People who are dealing with disability or caring for someone with special needs. People who are feeling isolation. And those are just the situations that come quickly to mind…there are many more.

And the pain of the situation is oftentimes just the beginning, for this can be an incredibly lonely time of year for people who are hurting. Watching others enjoy celebrations and presents can cause feelings of isolation to grow into depression and even desperation.

I believe that we will each have multiple opportunities in the next few days to significantly impact the lives of hurting people around us. What can we do to help people who are hurting? How can we give into someone’s life to the point where they can truly say and feel in their hearts, “Glory to God in the highest?”

An encouraging visit…
An act of service…
A gas or grocery card…
A meal.

Let’s challenge ourselves to look at those near to us…at the grocery store…in the house next door…or across the living room floor. Let’s ask the Lord to point out people in pain. Let’s help meet a need. Let’s be creative. Let’s be bold.

Yes, the muck and the mire still exist. We are all witnesses to that. But the hope of Christ was born into that muck and laid in the manger. The good news of His birth was announced to the shepherds in that mire.

In the coming days and year, may we all be God’s agents in tangibly delivering that hope and good news.

“The King (Jesus) will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
MATTHEW 25:40

Group Discussion Guide AVAILABLE NEXT WEEK!

It’s a crazy busy week here getting ready for the launch of the “Finding Glory in the Thorns: GROUP DISCUSSION GUIDE” next week! I hope you won’t mind my giving a shameless plug here since the ministry of the original book and now the small group Bible Study comes out of Carly’s life.

Here is what a friend of ours from Canada wrote on Amazon recently:

“I have watched Larry and Lisa journey through the trials and triumphs of raising a child with Angelman Syndrome. God has truly transformed them and the community of people who have supported them along the way. Their story is powerful, but more than that, their transparency as they reflect on how God led and taught them through many difficult decisions is truly inspirational. Each of us at one time or another find ourselves living in the thorns, but the Jamiesons show us how we can live in the power of a loving God despite the challenges we face. I started reading this book, believing I knew their story. I had read their weekly prayer updates for years as they worked with their daughter Carly. I was wrong. The spiritual truths with which they frame their story challenged and inspired me beyond all expectations. Their honesty brought me to tears. Ultimately, their story equips each reader to face life’s challenges confident in the power of a loving God.”


I hope this will inspire you to READ and TELL OTHERS about the original book as well as the new Bible Study which releases on Monday for $6.99!

You can also refer people to this link which shows highlights from a national television interview Larry and I did on Canada’s “100 Huntley Street” last year. The highlight link below is only six and a half minutes long. Easy! (The complete original live interview is also on YouTube in two parts totaling about 25 minutes.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnArTDQ0nrs&feature=related

PLEASE pray with us that hearts are softened by the Holy Spirit, encouraged in Christ, and drawn into intimate personal relationship with God through these resources!