Miraculous Preservation

A common concern among caregivers, especially parents of children who have disabilities, is what will happen to our children if they outlive us. And as middle age comes, depending on the degree of toll in caregiving and other life circumstances, we caregivers tend to fear that our bodies may wear our long before we actually die. What then?

And so we pray a lot. As we’re able, we do some planning. Having an estate plan in place offers some peace of mind as does doing lots of documentation for those who will be inheriting the caregiving responsibilities. Our family has had many conversations about this and those are always very reassuring as well. But at the day’s end, when my body is aching and I’m weary to the bone (as they say), I’m left with taking it all to the Lord in prayer and begging him to preserve and protect my husband and I for as long has He possibly will!

Today I was reading the accounts of a missionary who travelled a ship between England and China in the 1930s. The ship’s route took them through the Red Sea with full views of the desert places where the Exodus occurred. Audrey Johnson’s pondering jumped off the page at me with reassurance that God’s capacity to preserve and protect His children is not limited by our physical bodies and minds.  

Audrey wrote:

Probably no one who reads Exodus can fully enter into that miracle of absolute dependence upon our faithful God who revealed Himself so clearly that throughout Israelite history and Psalms this miraculous preservation and protection was never forgotten. Think for instance of Deuteronomy 29:5 (which says): 

“For forty years God has led you through the wilderness, yet your clothes haven’t become old, and your shoes haven’t worn out” (TLB).

Audrey Wetherell Johnson

I want to remember this verse and the underlying promise it carries for our family too. Nothing has changed about God, His promises or His abilities. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday as He is today and forever. His character, power, goodness and accessibility remains as certain for me as it was for Moses. In fact, it’s even better because I (we) have access to God through the indwelling Holy Spirit!  

The very same God who so faithfully cared for the people of Israel makes the same kind of promise to me. His protection may look differently than I’m expecting but it remains dependable and will surprise me in the best of ways.

Whether you are a fellow sojourner down the caregiving road with me or someone who just needs reassurance, let us be confident of this — God is creatively preparing all kinds of “miraculous preservation” for us and for those we love.

Jeremiah 29:10-13
This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord.”


This post was inspired by the book Created for Commitment by A. Wetherell Johnson, founder of Bible Study Fellowship.

On Loving Each Other

Loving and praying for each other is not optional and scripture doesn’t leave room for anything but whole-hearted engagement with people who are suffering. True, it’s overwhelming, scary and messy for us as individuals and as the church trying to meet a wide array of complex needs (e.g., disability, mental illness, aging, chronic illness). But people with atypical lives are not a liability to the community or the church. They enrich our lives, communities and churches! 

No situation is too big or too complicated for God.

LORD, forgive us for showing partiality with our love and compassion. You call us to love our neighbors and pray for our enemies. Move people into our circles of influence that give us opportunity to stretch our love muscles and prove ourselves faithful to YOUR ways! This is one of our spiritual acts of worship.  AMEN


Gear Up for Good Gifts

Thanksgiving, Christmas and a New Year are right around the corner. Days will be busy for most and lonely for some. Wherever we are on that spectrum, there is opportunity. I want to paint a picture of how we can give and receive life-lifting gifts this holiday season.

And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, 
so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” Titus 3:14

Do you remember how it felt when you were the kid who got picked last because you ran a little slower than the rest, weren’t quick enough with your times tables or just weren’t wearing the right color shirt that day?  How about that time when a sprained ankle kept you on the bench? Your mom made you go to the game saying, “you’re still part of the team and need to show your support even if you can’t play!” Some part of you wanted to be there with your friends but another part would just rather have stayed home alone than be trapped on the sidelines unable to fully participate. 
The holiday season stirs very similar tensions for folks who are wrestling with something that is challenging or seems to differentiate them from the crowd.  Imagine these holiday scenarios:
You are the parent of a child with autism who has been invited to attend the family Thanksgiving. The atmosphere will create stress for your child — and so for you too. You anticipate being exhausted trying to manage your child’s disruptive behaviors. You will spend a lot of time on the periphery of the group watching other parents enjoying the freedom to relax in conversations and play traditional holiday games. You’ll probably spend the afternoon trying to help your child avoid a myriad of scene-causing possibilities from sensory overload to a toileting catastrophe or seizure.  Knowing you’ll get depressed and feel guilty for resenting others who will sip a drink and casually balance a full dinner plate in their lap, you consider staying home.
You have been having some difficulty remembering names and staying focused in conversations. It is frightening to go out in public. You aren’t comfortable speaking in case someone hears that you are struggling. You regret that you’ll miss seeing the grandchildren play but your mounting fears remind you that staying home feels safer.
You’d like to be with family for the upcoming holiday dinner but you don’t want to drag everyone down. You wish you could sit quietly on the couch just soaking up some of the joy around the room but you’ll feel pressure to participate and look happy. You suspect the family has wearied of your moods and just wants you to snap out of it. You feel misunderstood, unwanted and unsafe.
Going to church for the special holiday services has always been a joy for you but now it feels overwhelming. Seeing happy families reminds you of that loved one who won’t be with you this year. Unexpected moments of raw grief quickly spiral out of control. The last thing you want to do is draw attention, feel out of control or cast a shadow on someone else’s joy.
When Carly was first diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, I suddenly found myself experiencing a paradox — surrounded by people who loved me yet feeling very alone. Some part of me knew these were not rational feelings. Yet I still encounter too many triggers for feelings of disappointment and isolation, especially during the holidays.  
Nobody likes to feel different, undervalued, isolated, last or lonely. Yet there is heartache and longing to feel included all around us. Whether you’re the one feeling sidelined during these holidays or someone who is enthusiastically gearing up for the celebrations, I hope you’ll pray for radar to recognize the Divine promises and opportunities.
4 Promises that Anchor and Encourage People
1.      Nobody is immune to trouble but we have hope.
Jesus said “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)
2.      God remains your most faithful advocate.
The Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them.”  Exodus 2:23-25, 3:7-8 (NLT)
So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:3-7 (NLT)

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  Romans 8:26-27 (NLT)

3.      You are never alone.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:6-10 (NLT)
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT)
4.      When you suffer, God’s comfort will be multiplied to you and through you.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NLT)
5 Ways to Ease Someone’s Heartache During the Holidays
  1. Notice someone who may be hurting — Reassure someone who feels isolated that they are not invisible. Let a simple word or act of kindness speak clearly that people matter to you and to God. “Tithe” a few moments of each day to send a kind email or hand-written note, make a phone call, do an act of service or give a grocery/gas card. While you’re out in the community, be intentional and generous with your eye contact and a smile.
  2. Just BE — Come over and hang out next to someone (whether it’s across the room or across town). You don’t have to know what to say. Resist pulling back from relationships that feel awkward or too complicated. Your presence ministers so much more than you know.
  3. Listen first, then listen some more — Ask what somebody is thinking, feeling or wanting. Take time to understand what the person is experiencing and, without analyzing or judging them, learn how they are coping with life’s challenges.
  4. Remind someone of God’s sure promise — Share one of the examples above or describe one of God’s promises that has been tangible for you recently.
  5. Express appreciation and affirmation — Thank people for sharing their heart with you, for helping you learn something, or for coming to the party even though it was hard. Let someone know that their patient endurance through hardship inspires you. Tell a caregiver that they are doing a good, important and beautiful work.
Have you believed the lie that you are too busy to be used by God in sharing someone’s burden this holiday season? Or are you someone who is feeling too stuck or too broken to experience God’s touch? 
Here’s the truth:
God will generously provide all you need.
Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT)
Let’s remember together that we live and move and have our being by the grace and power of God, not ourselves (lest we might boast about it). 
What wonderful inspiration and opportunity to carry us through these holidays and into a new year!


The Little Red Chair


‘Tis is the season of transition to summer routines. School and church activities like Bible studies, small groups and children’s programs are wrapping up.  It’s a perfect time of year to reflect on those who have had influence on our faith.  There are official “volunteer recognition” parties and fellowship lunches, gift cards given and Hallmark cards signed.   Whether our expressions of gratitude are official or spontaneous, they are important and powerful encouragement to volunteers who lead Bible studies, teach Sunday School, hold babies in the nursery, serve on worship teams, facilitate small groups, preach and inspire, make coffee, maintain our church buildings, be a buddy to a child with special needs, make meals for families when someone is hospitalized, speak or write words or encouragement, mentor youth, lead our congregations, administrate our offices and pray faithfully on our prayer chains.  The list of those who could be thanked and how we might do that goes on and on.  

Rhonda Roe and her Bible study friends recently found a creative way to thank their Bible study leader, Jan Christofferson. They have so valued the way Jan teaches and inspires them. I want to thank Rhonda for sharing today’s story and poem reminding us to give thanks and inspiring us share our Glory Stories of how we are personally encountering the Living God in His precious presence, power and goodness.

My Bible study leader, Jan Christofferson, often refers to what she learned in Sunday school as a small child.  She tells us about sitting in little red chairs and learning simple truths about Jesus and stories of faith. 

I have often thought how neat it would be to give Jan a little red wooden chair as a reminder of those special days in Sunday school.  This year I was able to make that dream a reality.  I found a small wooden chair at an antique store and purchased it.  My friend, Karen, painted it red and wrote a poem to give to Jan.  We recently gave it to Jan at our end-of-the-year brunch. 

I hope this story and the poem inspire you to share your faith with the children in your lives.  You never know if one of them will grow up to have a servant heart and a desire to lead a Bible study.

The Little Red Chair
by Karen Johnson
A little red chair, so tiny and sweet, 
with paint a bit chipped and wear from small feet. 
All week in the dark and lined up on the wall, 
but oh! Sunday mornings, that changes it all!
All proud in a circle, we sit in a state, 
for very small people to be quiet and to wait, 
for stories and singing, and maybe a treat, 
for words about Jesus, and God’s love so sweet.
A little red chair, a Sunday in church,
a small little girl using it for a perch. 
A love for our Lord, a kindness of heart, 
like most great achievements, had a small start.
A little red chair, now beat up and worn, 
abandoned, forgotten—but what of it born? 
A wee little child to hear and in turn, 
a life full of teaching so others might learn.
A little red chair, so cheerful and dear, 
with our thankful hearts we look at it here. 
A symbol for us, they make such a pair, 
our wonderful Jan and her little red chair!

Who might you thank today or this week? 
How could you do that in a way that is personally meaningful?

LORD GOD, thank you for putting people in my life who have pointed me toward You and helped me grasp my opportunity for relationship with you.  Thank you for using the stories I hear about how others are encountering You. Those stories re-assure me of your presence. They encourage me when I need to know someone else has walked in my shoes and found You to be faithful.  They spur me on when it’s hard to persevere.  They remind me that I have great value in your Kingdom.  Help me to hear what You have to say to me through friends, mentors, my spouse, my children and my parents.  Please help me to have a teachable spirit as well as a heart to serve and share how I see You at work in and around me.  I offer myself to you today (or recommit) to be used for Your unimaginable purposes.  Please bless the people I am thinking of now and minister to their needs as only You can.  I ask these things and give You my thanks in Jesus’ name. AMEN

Barb’s Glory Story

This story brought me to happy tears — and, after a snowy day in April, I must say that happy tears were not at all the kind of tears anyone expected from me today!  Find out how God whispered sweet EVERYTHINGS to Barb.
It was the summer of 2009.  We had been living in Omaha, Nebraska for about one year.  It would take only fifty more years to equal the number we had been in Minnesota. Sigh.It was humid outside. I’d gained weight. Even my wedding ring had gotten tight. It seemed like I was taking it off every day and putting it by the computer or on the window ledge. 

Finally, fall was in the air. There was a smile on my face and a new spring in my step—except I couldn’t find my ring.  I must have set it down some place different. But where? 

I had looked everywhere—the bathroom, kitchen drawers, the pockets in all my clothes (including winter coats unworn since March), my car and basement shelves.  There was only one conclusion. It is lost.  More than likely, while in one of my multi-tasking runs through the house, I had put the ring in my hand to place it in my ring dish but also picked up a tissue or scrap of paper along the way. I had thrown my ring in the garbage bin with the trash in my hand. One would think I could remember the contents of my hand for more than 30 seconds. But it must be.

Every time I considered the lost ring, my heart would sink and I would feel sadness deep in my stomach.  How could I have been so distracted? 

As the days went by, my hubby was so comforting.  “It will be okay,” he would say, “we can get you a new ring.”  But I don’t want a new ring. I want the ring that is identical to his—the one that reminds me WE MATCH.  Part of me just did not want to have a new ring made.

I’ll just go to Wal-Mart and get a thin gold band.
That will serve the purpose.
It will be fine.

Months and years passed. I had a peace about the ring. But every few years I would find myself looking behind the books in the curio or feeling in the pocket of a long unworn sweater to see if it just might be there. It never was. Still, my heart would whisper a prayer to the Lord asking if He would help me find my ring.

I know it is probably in the city dump miles away, but You are a God of miracles, Lord—both big and small. I know You’re capable.

My husband went through a health issue in December of 2013 and it reminded us just how precious our lives and marriage really are. We talked about getting new matching rings.  We decided to find a jeweler in Omaha and pick out a new design. “Let’s do that by our next anniversary in October,” we agreed. How fun!

In March of 2014, I was in Hendersonville, North Carolina, training with RTF International.  My husband was at home with our son and while I had very busy days, I had a few hours each night to soak in the Lord’s presence and rest.  About five days into my trip I got a call from my husband. 

He started the conversation with, “You will never guess what I have in my pocket.” 

The excitement in his voice was palpable so I said, “I have no idea but you better tell me RIGHT NOW!” 

“I have your wedding ring,” he said.

What? He went out and bought new ones without me? As my thoughts raced, I questioned him.

“Nope. I have your original wedding ring,” he said (and I could see his grin in my mind’s eye).

But how? Where? Oh, praise You Jesus! 

So he told me the rest of the story:

The financial secretary at our church works in the office with the copy machine.  She had to move the copier to get at something (and that is no small task). When she did, she noticed a gold wedding band on the floor.  She went to the Office Manager and explained that she had just found a ring and she didn’t know who it belonged to. Inscribed inside were a verse (Ecclesiastes 4:12) and a date (10-14-83).  After a quick peek at the church database both exclaimed, “That’s Pastor Bruce’s anniversary date!”  Within minutes it was in his pocket.

After my husband finished explaining what had happened, we chatted about God’s amazing faithfulness and we both sensed this was a very special gift to us from our Abba Father.  After I hung up the phone, I was resting in bed and thanking the Lord for His great care and love for me. 

As I prayed and sang scripture, I sensed the Lord speaking to me saying, “My daughter, you were right to release your ring to me and to go on with the plans and purposes I had for you.  But you were also right to never give up expecting me to answer your request and believing that I would give you those things that you desire so deeply.” 

I wept.  I wept for His love for me. I wept for his favor towards me. And most of all I wept because this whisper was not just about my ring—it was about me. It was about Bruce. It was about our marriage. It was about our son. It was about our ministry. It was about our future.

Though one person may be overpowered by another, two people can resist one opponent. A triple-braided rope is not easily broken. Ecclesiasties 4:12 (GW)  

How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Ephesians 1:3-6 (MSG)  

For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:12 (NIV)  

Look here. I have made you a part of Me, written you on the palms of My hands. Isaiah 49:16 (VOICE)

Katherine’s Glory Story


I want to thank Katherine Kotila from Nebraska for sharing this story.  Katherine attended International House of Prayer (IHOP) University, was a “Fire in the Night” intern and served on IHOP’s staff “Strike Team” for seven months. She is currently a youth group leader and hospital nursing assistant while helping to establish Bound4LIFE in Bellevue, a nationwide effort to see the end of abortion. Katherine plans to become an ultrasound technician.  God’s ways are beautifully evident through this young woman.

“Something amazing happened today! 

At youth group tonight I noticed a new guy and girl kind of sitting off to themselves for most of the night. Well, at one point I was leading a little bit of discussion. I mentioned this crazy place in Kansas City where people worship and pray 24/7. 

This new girl gasps and says, “IHOP-KC? That’s where I’m from!” 

“What?!” I could hardly believe what I was hearing. The personal nature and timing of this connection was so significant. Crazy! I thought.

So we talked for a while afterwards. She and her brother had moved here to help their grandparents. 

We hit it off right away. They explained that they had visited my church once but weren’t really planning on coming again except the brother felt like they needed to come to the youth thing tonight. 

I’m not gonna lie. I’ve been in a really difficult place lately feeling really lonely and missing all my Kansas City friends and community. I told them I was SO so encouraged to talk to someone in Omaha with a similar background as me. 

It just goes to show that even in your darkest times, Jesus is never going to leave you hanging and will do something for you right when you feel like you’ve got nothing left. 

OH, HOW HE LOVES!”

Thank you, Katherine, for transparently sharing how God lifted you out of discouragement and for reminding all of us of God’s marvelous and personal love!

Now — let’s continue in worship!