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Memorable Mondays: Blessing Others When You’re Hurting 

Today’s Memorable Monday book review and memorable quotes are from the book Soaring Above the Circumstances, by Dean Kilmer.

“More than 117 million people in our country are living with chronic illnesses. Taking into account their family members who provide them with care, almost everyone in our country is dealing with some form of serious illness.”

In spite of the fact that this book is primarily about chronic illness, it is an easy to read book, packed full of encouraging Bible verses and examples of several people in the Bible who “soared like an eagle” above their difficult circumstances by becoming a blessing to someone else.

The author, pastor of a church in Waxahachie, Texas, says he decided to write this book because “everywhere I look I see evidence of faith’s life-changing power.” This includes many from his own congregation “who are weary from years of fighting serious illnesses and yet are living victoriously.” Many of the true-life stories are filled with both faith and humor, and I throughly enjoyed reading it.

Pastor Kilmer gives four common characteristics of these men and women, young and old, whom he calls his heroes of faith:

  1. They all inspire others with their faith and actions.
  2. They all have great faith in God.
  3. They are all involved in serving other people in spite of their problems.
  4. They all know that God has a purpose for their lives.

I hope others can see all of these characteristics in my life, but honestly this book challenged me to look for more ways to bless others. Because of my physical problems, I can’t go and clean someone’s house. I can’t take someone to a doctor’s appointment. But I can send someone a card to encourage them. When someone is hurting or in the hospital, I can pray with them and send them a card to help them turn their focus upon the Lord. I don’t know where you are physically, but there are very few people who are too sick to be a blessing to someone else.

A COUPLE MEMORABLE QUOTES FROM THIS BOOK:

“The eagle does not fight the storm; it uses the wind to climb to safety. We need to learn not to be distressed by our illnesses; instead, we can use our struggles to fly closer to our God.”

 

 

 

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Memorable Monday: Choose Joy

A couple weeks ago, I started doing these Memorable Monday posts, on books I had recently finished reading. This week, I’m choosing a book I read in January, shortly after deciding that God wanted me to make JOY my word for 2016. This was the first book I read on walking in Biblical JOY.

To better understand joy, I started reading Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough, by Kay Warren, wife of Pastor Rick Warren. A free 30-day devotions with the same title is also available, at the following link: http://kaywarren.com/devotions.

Kay begins by clarifying that joy isn’t “feeling good all the time.” Joy is not about our feelings or circumstances. Joy is a choice, a decision we make no matter how we feel or what circumstances we are currently facing. Then she gives her own definition of joy, one of the better ones I’ve read:

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Another point that stood out to me from this book is that no matter what we are currently facing, it is never all good or all bad. In a difficult situation, there is also good if we look for it. And even in a good situation, there are things we would like to change. 

A few more quotes that stood out to me from Choose Joy:

  • “An untested faith is an unreliable faith.”
  • “We want the product of trials – maturity – without having to go through the process.
  • “By how we act under trials, we can earn the right to testify to who God is.”

As you read the above quotes, you may be asking yourself what this has to do with JOY. This is primarily a book that teaches us how to walk in joy when our faith is being tested. Some personal testimony is given, but the focus is on teaching. If you want to better understand how to choose joy regardless of your circumstances, it’s an excellent source of instruction. It was a good choice for me as I stepped out in January to really understand how to walk in a way that pleases God in the midst of chronic illness and pain. It built a good foundation, on which I’m now building by reading books that are more experience oriented.

Memorable Monday: Trusting God in the Hard Places

It’s Memorable Monday again, and this week’s book review and memorable quotes come from When God Doesn’t Fix It, by recording artist and worship leader Laura Story.

When they married in 2004, Martin and Laura (Story) Elvington had plans for a perfect life. Their intention was to move to Savannah, Georgia, where Martin would finish his degree at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). He would also continue as campus director and Bible study leader for a college ministry and do graphic design and web development for Wofford College, while Laura toured with a traveling band and wrote music for their concerts. When Martin completed his training, their hope was that he would find a well-paying job in the graphic arts field and move back to Spartanburg, South Carolina, to be near their parents. Laura would then become a stay-at-home mom and raise the children they both wanted to have someday.

The first detour in their plans came in 2005, when Laura was offered a job as worship leader at Perimeter Church in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. At first, Laura was hesitant to accept the job since she had no experience leading worship. But when a friend of their’s from the church kept encouraging them, and they learned the church was offering a steady income and health insurance, and that SCAD had just opened an Atlanta campus where Martin could complete his schooling, they decided to make this move.

But as they prepared to move, Laura became aware of some things that concerned her. Martin was more forgetful than usual. And some days, he wanted to do nothing but sleep. He was also having symptoms of panic attacks, but none of his doctors had been able to pinpoint the cause of all of this. Laura spoke by phone with her boss-to-be, Randy Schlichting, telling him something was wrong with her husband and she was having second thoughts about taking the job. Randy encouraged them to load up their belongings and come to Atlanta as soon as possible, promising that the church would take care of whatever was wrong with Martin once they got there. So in August of 2oo5, Martin and Laura moved to Atlanta and she began learning how to be a worship leader.

To not give away the rest of the story, in a nutshell Martin required major surgery. It was scheduled, but things didn’t go as hoped. Martin and Laura’s story was forever changed. Instead of God performing a miracle and fixing Martin’s problems, God was more interested in building his and Laura’s relationship with Him. This is a “not to be missed” book, especially if you’re going through a hard time yourself or are a fan of Laura Story’s music.

One of the highlights of the book, in my opinion, is a summary at the end of most chapters, presenting a myth we often believe, contrasted to the corresponding truth from Scripture. These are red also presented in a chart at the end of the book. I see this as a helpful tool for me personally, and for anyone who is facing difficult circumstances. One of these in particular stool out to me:

  • MYTH: The plan I have for my life is much better than the place where God has me right now.
  • TRUTH: Where God has me right now is the best place for me.

The book is filled with MEMORABLE quotes, making it difficult to choose just one.  I choose a rather long one from the same chapter as the above myth and truth, and then I’ll close with a graphic of a shorter quote.

“If you find yourself struggling in a situation you didn’t see coming, consider it an opportunity to trust God. When we trust God is for us and not against us, we can see our future as he sees it. It is a future filled with plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. And plans that will ultimately draw you closer to him.”  

Contentment and Joy

I’ve always thought of contentment as simply being satisfied with the THINGS I have and not always wanting more. And until last year, I believed joy and happiness were basically the same thing. But this year, I’ve been studying joy and contentment, in the sense in which they’re used in the Bible, and I’m learning the meanings are much deeper than I  previously understood. 

The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible defines CONTENTMENT as “the acceptance of ‘things as they are’ as the wise and loving providence of a God who knows what is good for us, who so loves us as always to seek our good. Being content when troubles are flooding our souls, but if we truly do believe our Heavenly a father is always loving, faithful. And wise, and that He does the very best for us in every situation, contentment is possible.

Finding a clear definition of joy was more difficult, but I found an excellent one in a book I’m currently reading, Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts, by Sara Frank and Mary Carver. Sara was a blogger who suffered almost twenty years with a degenerative disease called ankyling spondylitis, which causes inflammation of the spinal joints, leading to severe pain and discomfort.  As time progressed, she faced the loss of one ability after another, until she was no longer able to leave her house. Of all people, Sara had the “right” to complain and become angry at God.  But this wasn’t the choice Sara made.

The introduction of her book says, “But rather than dwell on her pain and her loss, Sara chose to trust in a God Who is good all the time and to be filled with gratitude, hope, and joy…When asked how she defined joy, Sara said:’Joy is the unwavering trust that God knows what He’s doing and has blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of it – not despite what’s happening in my life, but because of it.'”

 This book couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Since last July, increased neck, upper and lower back problems have made me unable to stand or walk (with a walker) for more than five minutes without extreme pain. This all started immediately after an epidural steroid injection in my cervical spine. Then, about a month ago, severe dizziness, nausea, occasional vomiting, and frequent headaches were added to my symptoms. I was ready for some answers – and still am.

I’ve seen six doctors, had two MRIs and a CT scan since this started. At my most recent doctor’s visit (with an ENT), a problem with my ears was ruled out as a cause. He suggested I see a neuro-surgeon, saying it sounds like I may have a damaged or pinched nerve in my neck or upper back that is causing the headaches, dizziness and related symptoms.  Fortunately, I already had an appointment scheduled with a neuro-surgeon, since the neurologist had also confirmed two ruptured discs in the lumbar spine. 

 

As Sara said she realized that the primary purpose of this life is to glorify God, I also believe this. As she  wanted to be available to Him to live out her purpose even in the midst of chronic illness and intense pain, I feel the same. But one thing Sara didn’t hide was that she sometimes wished she could “run far away. But that’s the thing about illness…there’s nowhere to run.”  

I never would have chosen this situation I’m personally facing, but my heart is resting in the Lord. That doesn’t mean my emotions are always at rest. When they make me feel like I want to run away, I have to acknowledge that isn’t an answer. God is showing me ways to walk “in the deep,” and making those choices gets a little easier every time I obey. Thanks to a terrific God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness support group, led by Laurie Shoquist Miller, I have a safe place to go when I need prayer or encouragement. And the two Bible studies I’ve done with this group have given me the tools I need to overcome the desire to run away, or give into fear, anger, or discouragement.  When I start feeling overwhelmed, I’m learning to reach out for help, either to the Lord or to a friend. And then I’m making the choice to trust the Lord, be content where He has me, to give thanks for all the good things in the midst of this situation,and before long my spirit is joyful and at rest again.

Memorable Mondays: JOY

I’ve been reading some outstanding books recently, and starting today I’ll be sharing a brief book review and a memorable quote every Monday from a book I recommend. Today’s quote is from One More Step: Finding Strength When You Feel Like Giving Up, by Rachel Wojo. 

This book definitely was my favorite read in 2015, and I still find myself going back to it frequently.  Last year was a difficult one for me, as I dealt with chronic pain and a growing list of chronic illnesses. Before reading this book, I was close to the point of giving into despair. This book literally changed my life, starting me on the pathway of looking for JOY in the midst of my circumstances.

Rachel Wojo also knows what it is to face devastating situations. In this book, she transparently shares some of the heartbreak she has faced, and gives practical steps that helped her keep moving forward, one step at a time. She reminds us that God is in control, even if our lives appear to be out of control. If you want to learn how to persevere in less than ideal circumstances, taking hold of hope and finding joy in the Lord even if He does not bring miraculous deliverance, I highly recommend this book.

One More Step is filled with memorable quotes, and choosing one to focus on was my hardest task.  I chose a quote about JOY, since this is my word for this year. If you haven’t read this book yet, don’t delay any longer. I truly believe it has the potential to change your life.

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