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


Who gets to decide whether my daughter’s life is worth fighting for?

I heard some alarming but empowering news last week during a meeting of the Twin Cities Disability Ministry Connection. Prenatal Partners for Life founder Mary Kellett explained the dangers and opportunities involved with healthcare policies that threaten the very lives of people like my daughter Carly.

You see, Carly has Angelman Syndrome so some people believe her to be a burden on society. Because she is cognitively and developmentally challenged, her life is considered by some to have less value than mine. While I’ve been well aware of this fact, I was rather naive about how that could impact the care she receives when she is hospitalized. But then I read Bella’s Gift by Rick and Karen Santorum earlier this year. And then I heard Mary Kellett talk about how her son died. And WHY he died. Bear with me while I try to explain the issue here.

Many hospitals have policies granting themselves rights to decide when it is time to discontinue all treatments and “allow” a patient to die. Regardless of a patient or family’s right to make their own healthcare decisions, physicians and hospitals are being given the right to make “medical futility” decisions based on their own judgments about the value or quality of patients’ lives rather than the efficacy of specific treatments or therapies available. “These policies and laws have been crafted to shield physicians and hospitals from legal liability for hastening patients’ deaths,” according to the Human Life Alliance (HLA).

It is not just people with disabilities or special needs who are at risk.  Patients who have experienced serious medical crisis after things like gunshot wounds or motor vehicle accidents have also become vulnerable to the dangers of these policies. There are numerous cases reported where medical staff focused on the quality of a patient’s life if he/she did recover instead of focusing on treatments and surgeries that would foster healing and recovery.

The HLA cautions, “before you or a loved one are admitted to any hospital, ask for a copy of the hospital’s ‘medical futility policy’” so that you are not caught unaware and unprepared.

Mary Kellett shares her powerful personal story about how these policies tragically impacted her family. You can read Mary’s testimony before the Minnesota legislature about Minnesota Senate bill SF2238, titled “Hospital Futility Policy Disclosure.” Although the bill passed the house and senate in 2012, it was voted down by the Governor at that time.

Let’s pray that bill will be successfully reintroduced in a future session!

In addition to asking to see a provider’s policy, Mary encourages families, “you can invite your pastor or priest to attend a Care Coordination Meeting when significant life and care decisions are in the balance.” Their presence gives a family comfort and confidence while conveying a powerful message about how the family values life as they advocate for a loved one.

To learn more about prolife healthcare issues, look for more information at the Human Life Alliance  and Hope Network.


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!


Arla’s Glory Story

Today’s story is shared by Arla who has been facing many of the changes and challenges that can come with aging.  Last fall, Arla’s husband needed to move into a nursing home and, shortly after, Arla took a bad fall fracturing her pelvis. Unfortunately, she wasn’t wearing her Lifeline Medical Alert so she lay on the floor for four and a half hours before help came. Thankfully, Arla is recovering and has been blessed by tremendous support from family and friends throughout.  Nonetheless, it’s been a time for hard adjustments when she has needed to lean in to her relationship with Jesus for much strength and comfort.  I know you’ll find her perseverance and joyful spirit an encouragement today.

I am so thankful to all who have pitched in to help and pray for me during this year of changes. I feel so blessed and want to tell you how God’s wonders have played out for me. The Psalms are such a source of comfort and healing for me. This verse has become a vivid reality during these times:

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10


I am getting around very well with a cane. The pain is minimal and I’m stronger every day. Now I have to remind myself to put into practice my resolve to “not waste my energy fretting about things” I have no control over (finances now) and continue to meditate on God’s Word. I want to trust Him as He is always faithful.  

In hindsight, I realize all the blessings heaped on me from the time of the accident and continuing on right now. 

Blessing #1 — how all of my children stepped up to the plate.  I had quality time with each of them as they lovingly took care of me. 

Blessing #2 — the many friends who came to help out with their time and food in abundance.  I had quality time with them also!  

Blessing #3 — a slowing down (self-incurred). I’ve had more time in God’s Word and adjusting to this period of Harold and my life without him here. I’m reflecting on all the good times and many years of our marriage.  


Another thing that is interesting to me is this intense message that has kept running through my brain:

In an impossible situation, don’t waste energy fretting about it. 
Instead, meditate on God’s Word.

I was sure that thought came from a recent devotional reading but I have retraced my past devotional and scripture readings and have not come up with that succinct thought. Could it have come directly from God? 

The answer is, YES!

Kenny Saylors on Hearing the Still Small Voice


It’s my privilege to introduce you to the faith and work of Kenny Saylors today. I came to know Kenny through his brother and sister-in-law, Kyle Saylors and singer-songwriter Erica Lane. Together, these two gentleman are successfully using quality films to tell purposeful and powerful stories, many that feature the redemptive work of God. This is a talented and inspiring family folks!

The Saylors Brothers are the creative force behind more than 18 years of industry success with award-winning national and international hit music videos, motion pictures, television series and critically-acclaimed documentary films. Their works have been featured on and in Fox News, Newsweek, BBC, Time Magazine, NY Times, LA Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, Huffington Post, Indie Wire, Charisma, Christianity Today, among many others.  Last fall, the Saylors Brothers produced and directed the successful FOX Sports Television Docu-Series “The Gamebreaker” featuring NFL stars like Reggie Bush and DeMarcus Ware. You will definitely want to see their latest project, Veil of Tears, which hits theaters next month. But more on that in a moment.

First, I want you to hear something important and inspiring Kenny has to say about how we can experience God’s voice in our lives.

Sadly, I hear many Christians say that they’ve never heard God speak to them. More commonly, I hear “it’s been a long time” or something to that effect. After a few minutes of conversation, I find out that they spend maybe 5 or 10 minutes reading the Bible in a day, or even in an week. Many say they don’t really read the Bible at all. It is the same with prayer. The time they spend with God is so minimal that it’s difficult for them to recall the last time they spent more than a few minutes in prayer. And most of those minutes were spent in ‘request mode’ or times of desperation.

It’s no wonder so many who say they believe in the Almighty God are bound by so much adversity in their lives and live in a state of perpetual worry and fear. How can one expect to live victoriously in Christ without hearing from Him? How can we know that we are where our place is in His will? How can we follow someone we never hear? How can we successfully attain our purpose for His Kingdom if we do not even hear His voice to know where He is leading?

You see, the Bible is the gateway to hearing from the Lord.  It’s not called the Word of God in title only.  It still speaks to you and I today where we are. IT IS HIS WORD. Once you learn to hear the Lord through His words, then can you begin to hear Him more clearly with your heart. The Bible says in John 10:27 that “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” 

Following Jesus Christ is MORE than just knowing who Jesus is. It is HIM knowing each and every one of us in an intimate relationship—hearing His voice, knowing.

I am reminded of an incredible passage in 1 Kings:
“Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”  1 Kings 19:11-12  

As believers in Jesus, we often look for God in the thunder, in the lightening, in the fantastic and extraordinary circumstances. But it is often by these things we are distracted from hearing the true voice of the Lord. It is in the silence—alone, in the Word, in His presence—that He speaks in that still small voice to us.

My friend, don’t expect to hear from the Lord if you’re unwilling to “study to show yourself approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15) or unwilling to bow before Him—not with your requests but in denial of self to completely lay before Him your will in exchange for His.

My prayer today is that each of us reflect upon ourselves. If you have neglected your first love, I implore you to dust off that Bible and set aside time each day, not just to read a book but to experience a God who desperately wants to talk to you. He won’t take the step to you until you make the first move and you’ll never hear Him until you quiet your world to hear his precious voice. 

Thank you, Kenny, for urging us to be intentional about stillness with God and drawing near to Him through His Word.  Word of God, speak!

Now don’t miss the opportunity to see the Saylor Brothers’ gripping new documentary film, Veil of Tears.  It shares the untold story of millions of women in India who are culturally persecuted for no other reason than the fact that they are women. Narrated by Grammy-Nominated Recording Artist Natalie Grant, this film journeys where few outsiders have gone before to tell personal stories of tragedy, triumph and the resiliance of the human spirit.

“Veil of Tears” Official Movie Trailer 


Visit SEATZY to find out where Veil of Tears can be seen in a theatre near you and reserve your seats today!

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!