A Spectacle of Glory (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016)

I’m always excited about receiving a new devotional book, and this book by Joni Eareckson Tada is no exception. In my opinion, she is one of the most qualified individuals to write about showcasing God’s glory. Joni Eareckson Tada devotional bookShe has done this beautifully as she has learned, by God’s grace, how to live with the chronic pain and suffering of quadriplegia for nearly 50 years. I can’t imagine…

Her inspiration touched my life profoundly when I read her book, Joni, in the late 1970s. She wrote about the diving accident that left her paralyzed as a teen and how she wrestled to accept that God could use her life more  to impact others from a wheelchair than if she could walk. Her faith and wisdom has only matured through the years. Her latest book, A Spectacle of Glory, is a 365-day devotional that offers comfort and hope to anyone who is struggling with difficult circumstances.

Each devotional focuses on a Bible verse, followed by a short reading that encourages readers to allow God’s light to shine through them, no matter what they’re going through. The daily offering ends with a heartfelt prayer.

In one reading, Joni refers to Psalm 46:1. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” She writes: When you are in trouble, God doesn’t just send help; He is your help. And this help is ever-present.

Joni’s writing is transparent, real, and encouraging. There’s a calmness and simplicity in what she shares, yet a gentle authority. Her daily insights will help you discover how to put God’s glory on display–how to say “no” to complaining and “yes” to following God as you walk the most difficult paths. I like this book because I feel like I have a friend accompanying me on the journey–someone who really knows the ropes when it comes to dealing with pain and suffering.

Handlebar Media provided a free copy of this book for my honest review.

Forgiven: Accepting God’s Amazing Grace

In 1992, artist Thomas Blackshear II, painted a picture titled Forgiven. It took my breath away the first time I saw it. The image is a contemporary man wearing a T-shirt and dirty jeans, holding a mallet in one hand and a nail in the other. The expression on his face is desperation and exhaustion. Standing behind him and holding him up, is Jesus. His nail-scarred hands appear large and strong. His face is tender as he embraces this man, a picture of God’s love and forgiveness, the real message of Easter.      He-is-Risen-from-StudioJRU

Tears welled up in my eyes. The man in the painting reminded me of my husband Randy. He had tried over and over to stop the deadly spiral of alcoholism that he was caught in. Sometimes he broke down in sobs of desperation and anger. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop drinking–even though it was destroying him.

But this painting gave me hope. Though Randy’s addiction seemed hopeless, as a Christian, I had to believe that Jesus was right there loving Randy, and that his arms wrapped around him would never let him go.

One week before Easter in the early 1990s, Randy agreed to have our pastor and others pray for him. Pastor Mark and several others placed their hands on Randy’s head and shoulders and prayed. It was powerful. We all felt the intensity of God’s presence. Pastor Mark turned to me and said, “Deb, here’s your husband back.”

I noticed Randy’s eyes seemed clear and at peace, no longer tormented. He felt free! Sadly, after a week of experiencing this miraculous freedom, the old patterns crept back in. Randy struggled with his addiction until 1998 when he finally came to believe that God loved him and had forgiven him. Grasping that truth made all the difference for him. He has been free in Christ since then!

Today, on Good Friday, my thoughts have turned to this painting and the picture of a defeated and desperate man. Tears come to my eyes as I realize once again, the power of forgiveness. Maybe Randy needed that very real taste of freedom he experienced in order to ultimately be able to accept God’s unconditional love for him.

Really, Randy is no different from any of us. We all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. We all have held the mallet and nail in our hands, demanding our own way, instead of humbly submitting to God. I like to think I would never have been part of the crowd shouting, Crucify him! I know better, though. Without God’s amazing gift of grace and forgiveness, I’d never have submitted my life to Him. Only through the pain and heartache of Randy’s struggle with alcoholism, was I finally able to surrender.

I can’t do this.

God can.

I will let Him.

Whatever challenges you may be facing today, the promise and hope of Easter always follow the desperate darkness of Good Friday.

God can do anything, you know–far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Ephesians 3:20,21 (MSG)

 

God’s ways are mysterious and our faith develops strong muscles as we negotiate the twists and turns of our lives.

-Elisabeth Elliot

World Magazine

Do Not Grow Weary and Lose Heart

Tonight when I was browsing on Facebook, I saw a post that I immediately shared on my timeline… words to a song by Laura Story called Blessings…What if your blessings come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

My heart was touched…not only by this artist’s insights into the questions we all struggle with…the whys of tragedies like Boston, West, Texas, Newtown, Aurora and countless other arenas closer to home, but no less painful. But I was also moved by the hundreds of comments that flooded in. The person who posted this message, Teresa Allissa Citro, asked people to share their prayer needs, where they were feeling weary and losing heart. I scrolled through the endless requests. I realized this wasn’t just any social media post. On this ordinary Thursday night, I took time out from the kitchen clean-up. I laid the dish towel on the counter. I prayed for the woman whose son took his life in December, the single mom trying to make ends meet, though she’s homeless and jobless. I prayed for others with chronic medical problems and financial concerns. I asked God to help those who feel despair, pain, and heartache. I prayed for hope.

I felt immersed in this extraordinary circle of prayer. I felt in awe for technology that allows us to come together across continents and countries as sisters in Christ. Even when we don’t understand and we have more questions than answers, our hope is still in God…the One who is strength in our weakness, calm in the storm, comfort in our sorrow.

Laura Story’s song speaks to this. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen. You’ll be blessed!

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16   

  

 

Keep Calm and Carry On!

Not long ago, I was browsing through Nordstrom’s with some friends. A tee-shirt with a slogan printed on it, Keep Calm and Carry On, caught my eye. What great words of encouragement and wisdom. Simple, but profound.

I was curious about this pithy statement and looked it up online. I found out the British government produced three morale-boosting posters at the onset of World War II in 1939. The first two posters, Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Victory and Freedom is in Peril were posted on public transport, in shop windows and on notice boards. The Keep Calm and Carry On poster was to be issued only if Britain was invaded by Germany. Since this never happened, the poster was never officially seen by the public. It is believed most of the Keep Calm posters were destroyed at the end of the war, in 1945. Some 60 years later, a bookseller found a poster in a pile of old books purchased at an auction. The straight-forward/to-the-point message has been revived and graces tee-shirts, mugs, stationery, and other memorabilia.

It’s good advice–especially in times of duress and uncertainty. Keep Calm and Carry On is reassuring when the cost of living continues climbing, but incomes remain the same, or even more distressing, when jobs disappear, leaving thousands of people unemployed. Random acts of nature have occurred this year with a vengeance as unprecedented tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis have wreaked havoc on communities and countries. It’s helpful to be reminded to put one foot in front of the other and not give in to panic.

I’ve experienced a number of times in my life, when Keep Calm and Carry On could have been my mantra. For me, it’s much more than a stoic determination to do this in my own strength. I realize the One who keeps me calm and gives me strength to carry on is Jesus Christ. A verse from the book of Philippians says: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I appreciate the succinctness of this British slogan now making a comeback, but I’m thankful we aren’t left alone to carry on.

How about you? How do you keep on keeping on?