What is the Parable of Your Life?

par·a·ble
ˈperəb(ə)l/
noun

A simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.

If your life was a parable, what would the lesson(s) be?

That is a question I began pondering last summer. I was in the process of updating my website, finishing a new book and planning for the next season of life and ministry. I was thinking and praying a lot about how my talents, passions and time might best be used for the next few years.

I thought back over highlights (and low-lights) of my life and began considering how those experiences had shaped me, taught me things, stretched me for the better, sometimes kept me stuck yet often spurred me on. Events and circumstances that left a big impression on me were numerous but included things like moving a lot while growing up (including spending my later elementary and high school years in Canada), being bullied horribly in middle school, putting God “on a shelf” for a while in college, living the “American dream” for a while in our early years of career and marriage, running into a hard storm a few years into marriage, having a child with profound disabilities, helping two other children navigate life and dreams into adulthood and so much more.

From these memories, I realized some life lessons had risen to the surface and become themes that resonated through much of what I have been doing with my life in the last several years. Sometimes, those lessons were spilling over into my interactions with others and, by God’s grace, becoming resonating or teachable points for them too. It was deeply encouraging and humbling to recognize some ways God had mercifully orchestrated both good times and hard times for greater purposes than I could have imagined.

Isn’t that the truth? What can seem to be the simplest, even mundane, experiences in our lives can often be steeped in life lessons! As with the illustrations Jesus used for teaching, those lessons can turn our perspectives upside down and rearrange our ideas about what matters. Those “parables” have the power to point us in the direction of a new way of living — and even a new way of sharing life. That has certainly been true for me.

I believe these have become key “parables” from my life:

  • God uses adversity to move our hearts, lives and relationships to places we were quite unlikely to go if left in our comfortable places.
  • After a life crisis, things may never be the same. But maybe things were never meant to be the same.
  • Where there is human frailty, there is opportunity for grace to break through. And when grace appears, God’s nearness, accessibility, power and goodness are experienced in a whole new realm.
  • Answers aren’t always available to us but Jesus is always available. He is the perfect closure to our questions and ambiguous circumstances. (This is paraphrased from Tim Keller’s book Walking with God Through Pain & Suffering.)

Joni Eareckson Tada’s life is like a living parable, teaching the world about God’s sovereignty in suffering. Joni is the Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, is an international advocate for people with disabilities. A diving accident in 1967 left Joni, then 17, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, without the use of her hands. After two years of rehabilitation, she emerged with new skills and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. Joni has written more than 50 books on topics ranging from disability outreach to understanding the goodness of God and the problem of suffering. Her life story and teachings illustrate this truth beautifully:

God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.
— JONI

This focus for reflection has been helpful for me. Will you think about it too? When we understood how our lives are like a parable (or series of parables), it can give us some clues about where to prioritize our time, how to invest in our careers and relationships, how we can help others, whether it’s time to shift gears and find a new way to live on purpose. Reflecting on life’s lessons also helps us to see God’s faithful hand in our circumstances and empowers us with the freedom to fully live!

If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
No one.
For Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us,
and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us
from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

—Romans 8:31, 34, 37, 39

So how about you? If your life is a parable, what lessons is it teaching? 

We would love to hear from you. Please drop us a note and let us know what parables you are seeing in your own life story.


This post was authored by Lisa Jamieson and first appeared in February 2018 at LisaJamieson.org.

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.

Whole-Hearted Engagement With Those Who Suffer Isn’t Optional

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 can be overwhelming, scary and messy learning to engage in the lives of others when their needs are  complex (e.g., disability, mental illness, aging, traumatic injury, chronic illness). But people with atypical lives are not a liability to the church. They are what enrich the church! 

No situation is too big or too complicated for God.


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)

What’s in A Rescinded Academy Award Nomination?

We’re so quick to start kicking and screaming when things don’t go our way.
It’s tragic that the song “Alone Yet Not Alone” got pulled from the Oscar nomination list. Or is it?
An announcement was made yesterday that the Oscar nomination for the song “Alone Yet Not Alone” was rescinded.  Apparently, there was email exchanged between the song’s composer and the Academy and, no matter how well intentioned it was, the Board of Governors took action to protect the integrity of the process. 
It’s so easy to rush to judgment about why this should not have happened. For sure, it’s just plain sad.  Sometimes I think we worry a little too much about perceptions. In any case, there will be those who think this was an attempt to silence a message that points people to Jesus. This song was from a film that did a powerful and profound job of pointing people to the One True God!
Should composer Bruce Broughton have been more careful? I’m pretty sure he has some regrets today. But I’m also pretty sure He is taking comfort in knowing that God will do something really cool with this mess.
There’s something I’ve learned over the years. Whenever circumstances get really ugly, God does things with those messes that are bigger, better and more beautiful than anything I could have imagined, hoped for or done for myself.  In fact, it has been when my life seemed most broken, upside down or backwards that I’ve had my most intimate encounters with the power, presence and goodness of God. 
I think the singer of “Alone Yet Not Alone,” Joni Earekson Tada, would agree with me too. Joni, more than anyone, knows that God’s purposes always prevail. No weapon formed against God’s love and reign will ever prosper. Ever.
The message of this song could bless millions of people. How many million people would have gone to listen to “Alone Yet Not Alone” if it had won an Academy Award? How many would have listened if it had NOT won? How many will go listen to it today — people who would NEVER have otherwise gone to listen to it — just because they’re curious about this song that got pulled from the Oscar line-up? 
Of course, we’ll never know. Well, maybe Jesus will explain it to us in heaven. But for now, I trust something bigger is unfolding.  I think this whole thing is going down in a way that God is just chuckling about.  There will be people who hear this song today and in the coming days who will experience a hope and comfort — and possibly even life transformation —all because this song never appeared at the Academy Awards.
Let us pray… 
Listen to “Alone Yet Not Alone” here.


Glory Stories from “The Hand of God”

I want to thank Regina Steiger for giving us permission to share this video message with you today. Regina is a television and video producer of The Hand of God as well as The View from Here.  
The Hand of God is like a half hour long news broadcast — but with a difference. Each episode tells stories from folks around the country who are encountering Jesus in their lives.  If you only have time for a taste of this encouragement today, watch the first 8 minutes which shares the beautiful story of an art teacher whose classroom project triggered unexpected, powerful connections with God for both the students and their teacher.

Click for Episode 2 here if the video below isn’t functioning properly.

NOTE:
How I met Regina and learned about her ministry is a humbling and exciting Glory Story in itself. Almost a year ago, I read a message from a LinkedIn group. (It’s important to note that I almost never read my alerts from those groups.) Regina’s post to the group caught my eye because she was asking a question so close to my heart.  She wanted to hear from other women who feel a calling to tell women’s stories in film. I wrote a quick note back telling her about our Glory Story ministry and referring her to the Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival.  Regina and her daughter attended the 2013 Gideon Film Festival last July and that has led to multiple new and fruitful connections in ministry and life including the privilege for me of sharing these stories with you today.  Now that’s the hand of God!