The Power of A Thanksgiving Love Story

The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving 2000 were a time of profound emotion for Larry and I.  While overwhelmed with gratitude for an experience of remarkable community support, we had also just been told that our 2 1/2 year old daughter Carly had Angelman Syndrome. The news ripped our hearts. We suddenly felt strangely alone despite being surrounded by the love of friends and family.
Earlier that year, we had started an intensive home-based therapy program with Carly. Dozens of people from our church and neighborhood had stepped out sacrificially in a profound expression of practical helps and prayer. Yet for all of the developmental obstacles, a life-threatening seizure and then that devastating diagnosis, God had been using the love within that community to release miracles.
It wasn’t just about Carly. God was bringing about various kinds of unexpected healing. Carly was reaching surprising milestones but others were being shaped and changed through their intersections with each other too.  Healing was unfolding in physical, emotional and spiritual ways. It was exciting and humbling to experience such a tangible sense of God’s power and love.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  1 John 4:12

With the encouraging evidence of God’s presence among us, Larry and I were asked to share some of the story with our congregation during a 4-minute testimony at the Thanksgiving Eve service.  We had overflowing reasons to share but felt our passion would not allow us to stay within the time allotment and our tears of joy and pain would not allow us to speak.
Larry wisely suggested we use a video. It proved to be an efficient and effective way to express the depth of our gratitude and the growing passion we had to advocate for community that delights God.
That original video — Carly’s Thanksgiving Story — is posted here. (It’s now about 7 minutes long with the update Larry added in 2010.)
Tragically, there are many facing life-altering challenges without support modeled after God’s design for thriving community. Our family is blessed to know what it feels like to be embraced by God’s love through others. But we also know what it feels like to be abandoned. We have not always known such remarkable support. Thankfully, God also uses seasons of hurt and disappointment to stretch and strengthen us. Only God can do that!
Years later, in our book, Finding Glory in the Thorns, we expressed gratitude and some insights about community this way:

“The sense of community that grew out of our crisis was a treasure we’ll be hard-pressed to match in our lifetimes. We were increasingly energized to see how God was magnifying His handiwork. God was bringing a ripple effect of healing into other people’s lives because of what was going on around Carly’s situation…a beautiful picture of how He designed community to work.” (Page 73)

 “Yet for all the ways that community had the capacity for blessing, it also had the capacity to distract us from depending on Christ alone for our strength and solace.  So maybe it should be no surprise that just when God’s light on that grand collective adventure was shining brightest, God chose that time to reveal the true nature of Carly’s challenge and reinforce our need to stay completely surrendered unto Him.” (Page 75)

With every passing year, we appreciate more and more how economically God uses life’s challenges. He is teaching us that there is a privilege and grand adventure in how life unfolds when it is wrapped within the power, love and grace of Christ’s presence.
So as we begin another Thanksgiving week, we are both grateful for how God uses community to reveal Himself and we are praying that His people increasingly learn how to live sacrificially and joyfully in the kind of Christ-centered fellowship He intended. But most of all, we are grateful to experience intimate relationship with the One who holds the world in His Holy Hands.
May you, too, personally experience the joy and peace of that forever Love Story!

What’s all the fuss about STORY?



I’m excited to share a really fun story today. It will take a little setting up but stick with me because this will kick your week off with a big smile.
Have you heard? Story is all the rage these days. Everyone is talking about it. Your story. My story. God’s story. From a Christian perspective, here are some of the messages people are trying to bring across:
    Our stories matter to God.
    Our individual stories are part of God’s larger story.
    God’s glory is magnified when our stories intersect with one another.
At Walk Right In Ministries, we have focused on what we call Glory Stories. These are stories that reflect God’s presence in our lives — emphasizing the way God is active in our circumstances and the way we see Him revealing Himself through our trust and obedience. 
There is great opportunity in these story-telling trends, particularly as it relates to building awareness about our relationship with God and to the extent that it facilitates growing intimacy in that relationship. But there are a couple of things I remain prayerfully on guard about. 
In elevating the idea of story, I hope we keep in perspective Who is the star of the show. After all, our story would not exist without the Author-Creator and Savior-Redeemer. 
I also hope that by thinking about our stories in the context of God’s story we grasp the reality that the stories of the Bible are, in fact, part of our historical record. I remember the exact season in my personal faith journey when a critical transition occurred for me. Those Bible stories I had been hearing as a child were no longer just morally good or entertaining tales that educated me about God. My eyes and heart were opened to the profound reality that those people I was learning about were my ancestors and that my life story was about a relationship with the living God!

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

I am excited and grateful to say I had received a touch from the Holy Spirit that forever changed the way I experienced scripture and my relationship with God. The Word of God had come alive to me. God had taken the more limited perspectives and attitudes of my childhood and grown them up into a soul-changing, life-altering understanding of the Bible’s stories. That is a process of enlightenment that continues for me yet today and what a precious adventure it is.
Now here’s the treat. Watch Peter recount this great story from the Bible and ask God to show you how you connect with it. Ask the Holy Spirit for an historical awakening within your soul.
FATHER GOD, thank you for being the author and perfecter of my faith. Please continue to work in my mind and heart deepening my sense of the truth of who I am in the history of Your creation. Increase my appreciation for how my story fits into the larger story of “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.”  And, Lord Jesus, I want to pray for the children I know who are learning the great stories of the Bible.  Awaken them to the truth of their history in relation to You. God, please cause my story to intersect with someone else’s story this week in such a way that You are made known and glorified!  AMEN

A Glory Story Interview with Melody Richards

A Glory Story tells how you are seeing or experiencing the presence of God in your life. In the Bible, the word “glory” means a couple of different things. Sometimes it refers to the Lord’s fame and renown. Other times, it is rooted in the Hebrew word “shekinah” which refers to a visible manifestation of God’s Divine Presence.  For example, that word “shekinah” is the one used when referring to the presence of God resting or dwelling between the cherubim on the Mercy Seat in the Tabernacle and in the Temple of Solomon.  It is also the term used in connection with the pillar of cloud and fire that led the Israelites to the Promised Land.  This understanding of the word glory sheds critical light on the reality of who Jesus is when we see it in Hebrews 1:3 where it says “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”
When we talk about “finding glory” at Walk Right In Ministries we are aiming to discover how God is present and active in our lives today.  Through a relationship with Jesus Christ we can personally and intimately experience the Divine presence of the living God.  Every time you see God at work in your life, there is an opportunity to tell a Glory Story.  It is your opportunity to bring honor and fame to God by making the reality of His presence known to others.
Today’s Glory Story interview with my friend Melody Richards will encourage you but it may also challenge you.  Melody’s story causes us to ask hard questions about how God reveals His presence to us even in life’s most difficult circumstances.
On May 17, 2008, Melody and her family experienced a tragedy that changed their lives forever.  They were awakened by the sound of a knock on their door. Melody faced a mom’s worst nightmare as a police officer explained to Melody and her husband that their lovely daughter Danielle had been in a car accident and did not survive. This devastating news rocked Melody’s world. Initially, she did not think she would be able to survive.
Melody’s experience has profoundly affected me and many others who know her.  To be sure, Melody and her family still struggle mightily with their grief and yet Melody is increasingly assured in God’s peace and purposes despite her pain.  I am grateful she is willing to share her deepest sorrow because it helps us to better understand God’s heart for our grief and it inspires us to draw near to Him when our hearts are breaking.
How has what happened to your family affected your relationship with God?
It’s common for individuals to react with anger against God when tragedies occur.  The untimely death of a loved one can elicit feelings of being abandoned and forsaken by God. But He never abandons us.  Personally, I did not have feelings of anger against God.  He became my source of comfort and healing as He gave me the hope, the assurance that I would see my precious Danielle again as she had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.  I clung to God’s promises in His word that He would never leave me. 
Second Corinthians 1:3-5 states that we receive comfort from the Holy Spirit SO THAT we can share that same comfort with others.  How have you experienced this promise in your circumstances — others sharing the Holy Spirit with you and you having opportunity to share Him with others?
I find that one of the best healing factors for grief is finding some way to touch somebody else’s life, This helps to change the focus of your thoughts from yourself to other people. God has provided me with many opportunities to comfort others through my counseling practice, through Danielle’s website, and through speaking opportunities.  I have a passion to help others who are struggling with the significant grief associated with losing a loved one. 
Many have said, “God doesn’t waste anything.” Given the tragedy you have faced, what does that statement mean to you?
God has given me opportunities to reach many people who I never would have encountered without this tragedy.  God has also used this tragedy to strengthen my faith and help me to focus on priorities that have eternal consequences.
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33 NIV) He also said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV)  What have you learned about experiencing abundance while also in the midst of trouble?
Even though my heart was breaking, God gave me something worth trusting – and that’s Him, and Him alone.  “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24).
Have you struggled with confusion, doubt, anger, fear or other difficult emotions as a result of the crisis?  
Absolutely. The unpredictable timing and odd combinations of emotions that hit you during grief can leave you confused and despairing.
What has been helpful for you in processing those feelings? 
Taking them to Jesus. David, in the Psalms, provided an excellent example of one who expressed his highs and lows to God.  Bring all your questions and feelings honestly to God. Appeal to Him; cry to Him; and then sit back in His arms and trust.
From a Kingdom perspective, what do you believe are the two or three most urgent things people need to learn about facing life’s struggles?
An eternal perspective — God has given me an eternal perspective to help me overcome the grief of such a shattering loss.  When you start seeing heaven as your true home, you begin to develop an eternal perspective that understands all sorrow as transient. Looking at life’s tragedies through this eternal view provides us with hope to face the future. 
Truly believing in the sovereignty of God – that everything that happens to us is filtered by His hands.  It was important for me to continue to believe that God is good and He never makes mistakes even though this was the most devastating experience I’ve been through. 
The number one most urgent thing is “Are You Ready? When you take your last breath on this earth, do you know with 100% confidence that you will spend eternity with God in heaven?  According to God’s Word, only those who have received Christ can go to heaven.
 _________________________________________
Thank you, Melody, for sharing what God is teaching you.  May God increasingly give you and your family deep and lasting comfort while encouraging all of us about His powerful and loving presence among us.  We are grateful for every opportunity to see the reality of His nearness!
To learn more about Melody’s story and read her daughter’s testimony of faith, go to www.daniellepound.com.

FINDING GLORY Wednesday

What a wonderful summer it’s been reflecting together on the presence, love, power, and purposes of God. Especially when life is hard, it is easy to get confused or angry and tempting to question our faith. It is such a privilege to have God’s Word to keep us rooted in the Truth! These weekly reflections have been designed to keep us all focused on those Truths while providing an opportunity to explore how they apply to us personally and how they relate to the circumstances of our lives. Being able to discuss these things with an online community of people from all over the world is another of God’s great gifts. We certainly pray that this summer’s study has been that for you — a gift.

As we wrap up this cycle of “FINDING GLORY Wednesdays,” we hope you’ll continue to join us on Wednesdays as we circle back to the beginning and start a new discussion series this fall? In churches from Apple Valley, Minnesota to Brooksville, Florida, we are hearing about new groups starting, old groups continuing and some individuals just joining us as part of this “cyber group” online. We are praying new friends will join us and we hope you will help spread the word. If this has been a helpful process for you, please tell us about your experience and talk about it with others. May the Lord use it to encourage and bless many in their walk with Him.

Your “Glory Story” has influence with others by the power of the Holy Spirit. Talking about how God is present in Your life and heart has the power to change eternity for someone else. And besides that, sharing a faith story is part of your spiritual act of worship! Consider today’s scriptures and discussion questions:
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” Revelation 12:10-12
In this passage, what two things have the power to conquer the accuser?
If you had 60 seconds to give someone the “word of your testimony” today (knowing it has this kind of power), what might you say? In other words, what would your Glory Story be?
Please consider sharing a Glory Story right here in the comments section below today’s post or by writing us at info@walkrightin.org. I can already envision God’s enemy shuddering at the idea that we are all sharing boldly of Christ’s power and presence in our lives!
This series has been based on the Finding Glory collection of resources by Larry and Lisa Jamieson and has included copyrighted excerpts taken from Finding Glory in the Thorns: Group Discussion Guide. For more information about Finding Glory Groups, visit http://www.findingglory.com/findingglorygrou.html.