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Friday, September 4, 2015

Now I Lay Me Down … to Stare at the Ceiling

Treasured Friend, 

If you care to listen, I am prepared to recite, by memory, the complete TV listing for midnight through five a.m. – weekday and weekend, satellite and over-the-air, network and local. I know which (few) channels are safe to leave yammering in the background in the unlikely event that I drift off for a few moments of sweet slumber. I also can posit with a fair degree of accuracy the percentage by which the number of commercials for sleep aids, space-age mattresses, and CPAP equipment multiplies exponentially during that time slot. Those and cancer-center ads.

Ask me how I know. Ask me how I know you know.

You tell me if it’s our age, our stage of life, or our frenetic place in history that makes insomnia epidemic to our generation.

I succumbed while my dad was in the cancer ward. Late-night updates from his nurses or calls from him begging us to come, quick, to intercede with the medical team became routine during those months. Sleep patterns changed—and I learned that now, as when I was a co-ed, I can survive long-term on mere snatches of stolen shut-eye.

Mom succumbed when we brought Dad home between bouts—and she rose several times a night to check on him. What she didn’t know was that I’d rise several times a night to check on her, checking on Dad.

Even since Dad transferred on up to heaven, Mom and I have continued to keep the night watch. Sometimes together. More often each alone with her own troubling thoughts.

Recently, I began wondering whether any old-time Bible folks ever battled this malady. After a search of Bible passages, I’m here to tell you that they did. It seems the torture techniques of our mortal enemy haven’t changed over the millennia. Since we have to find a way to cope, I’d bet we could learn a fair bit from how those folks handled the terrors of the interminable hours between sunset and dawn.

Both Job and the Psalmists chronicled many instances of lying awake on their beds. Worse, yet, King David got himself (and Bathsheba and a slew of supporting players) into heaps of trouble because of his sleeplessness.

By contrast, Jesus had no trouble snatching forty winks in the stern of a boat that was rockin’ and rollin’ in a dynamite storm. Because Jesus trusted His Father’s loving care, He slept peacefully in the middle of the chaos. The disciples, not so much. When they woke Him, Jesus cut to the heart of their panic and ours: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40, NASB). He nailed ’em. And He nailed me. You too?

I suppose the reason those hours drag on for us is our fears loom larger in the dark, at the exact moment when deprivation of light makes our faith shrivel. Joseph Bayly, grieving the loss of three sons, wrote this challenge: “Don’t forget in the darkness what you learned in the light.” What is it that we’re supposed to have learned in the light? The Psalmist, after begging God to listen to his panicked prayer, gives us a faith-building answer:

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself;
The LORD hears when I call to Him.
Tremble, and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. …
In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety (Psalm 4:3-4, 8 NASB).

To paraphrase, here’s what he called to mind to calm his worried, wide-awake mind:
God knows me.
God listens to me.
My safety (and that of my loved ones) isn’t in my hands. It’s in the hands of the God Who knows me, loves me, and hears my prayer.
So, then, I can lie still on my bed. I can even dare to sleep.

It seems simplistic—unless you’ve learned in the light of many years that God can be trusted. The loving God of the Old and New Testaments always was faithful to His people—and He never changes.

I don’t know whether this will help us actually sleep, but it can keep us from flailing through the post-midnight hours, fearing the lurking shadows.
I’m willing to give it a try. Let me know if you going to try it too.

Blessings and prayers, Julie

© 2015, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hide and Seek

He who has my laws and keeps them, he it is who has love for me: and he who has love for me will be loved by my Father, and I will have love for him and will let myself be seen clearly by him. John 14:21 BBE

One of my favorite Daddy times was in our old house, when I was a tiny tot. Daddy commuted downtown, so he was gone thirteen exhausting hours every day. But he was just a very tall little boy, at heart. He loved to play. So, no matter how weary he felt, he always was up for a game of hide and seek while Mom finished preparing supper.

Daddy was creative in his hiding places. It took me lots of giggles, restarts, and slammed closet doors before he’d jump out of his hiding place and scare me. More giggles. When I’d hide, though, odds were better than 50/50 I’d be behind the bathtub curtain. My goal, you see, wasn’t so much to hide, as to be found. My game was about the tickles, hugs and laughter of being lifted into Daddy’s arms.

This memory flooded my mind today as I read John 14: 21 (quoted above). Jesus promised to those who love and obey Him the greatest gift of all: He’ll reveal Himself to us. The Greek word could be translated as “disclose.” He’s not playing hide and seek with us – but the minute we seek Him, He begins to unfold to us His amazing grace and mercy, not to mention His magnificent, holy presence.

This perplexed the disciples, because Jude asked, “How is it that you will let yourself be seen clearly by us and not by the world?” (v. 22). Why do we get to see You, but the world doesn’t? Why don’t You show Your power and establish Your global reign right now?

Jesus had a ready answer: “If anyone has love for me, he will keep my words: and he will be dear to my Father; and we will come to him and make our living-place with him.” (v. 23).

Just like my moment of being lifted into Daddy’s arms, our Heavenly Father longs to lift His loving children into His mighty, compassionate arms. He loves us. And He’s waiting only for us to love and seek Him. When we do, an amazing relationship of unspeakable joy awaits.

Julie-Allyson Ieron is the author of 37 books, including Gentle Hugs for Grieving Hearts where she uses modern-day stories and Bible passage studies to encourage readers to remember with tears and look joyfully toward God’s ultimate reward.

Blessings and prayers, Julie

© 2015, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Heritage


Psalm 118:28 Thou art my God, and I will praise Thee: Thou art my God, I will exalt Thee.

Yes, I know that’s quoted in old King James English. With good reason. It’s part of my inheritance. And if that means it sounds Shakespearean, then that will simply have to do. Why? Let me tell you the story.

Mom and I have spent the better part of two years sorting through a lifetime of papers. Dad’s lifetime. We’ve found snatches of keepers among the minutiae. Like the calendar page from the day I was born—with the scrawl: Julie came. The tickets from our first trip to Disney World. A tiny face shot clipped from an old photo id. (He couldn’t bear to shred a picture of me, no matter how unflattering.)

But yesterday morning, Mom came down to breakfast with a treasure in hand. A tiny, leather-bound New Testament and Psalms—pocket sized book. We read the inscription together—dated January 15, 1951—the week Dad accepted Uncle Sam’s invitation to basic training for the U.S. Army. It was inscribed from Dad’s Sunday school teacher, an elder of our old family church. “May God bless you and keep you.”

In itself that’s a nice gesture—probably one that was duplicated tens of thousands of times as men and women trudged off to the Korean conflict in those years. But from the state of the cover and the pages, this book obviously wasn’t tucked away in a duffle somewhere. It was handled; it was loved; it was read.

I spent the better part of the next hour flipping through it, page by page. As I did, I noticed checkmarks on every one. As he read each chapter, each Psalm, each verse, he checked it off. He read over the course of many days. Not a one-time thing, but a pattern of consistency. When one phrase or passage spoke to him, he circled it or starred it. Psalm 118:28 is one of those that must have been extra special—because he drew a bracket around it.

It didn’t take me long to realize that this Bible I’ve inherited isn’t just a dusty old book. It’s the testimony of a young life touched and changed by an up-close God. I have other Bibles of Daddy’s from later years—years when I knew him and can attest to the fact that he listened for God’s voice at every turn. But this is from his youth—his first time away from family and church, when he could have made any number of choices. This shows the choice he made—he chose Christ.

I love that this passage Daddy marked wasn’t a detached “He is God” statement. Even non-believers will one day have to acknowledge that fact. No. Daddy’s verse that got him through the unimaginable hours of challenging military maneuvers was up-close, heartfelt, personal.

·         Thou (You, the one I address right now)
·         art (no doubt about it—a surety)
·         my (not someone else’s faith, but the one that lives in this heart You gave me)
·         God (in charge—completely powerful and absolutely present).
·         So, I’ll praise (give honor) and
·         exalt (lift up)
·         Thee.

What a testimony! What a heritage. You are My God, and I will praise and exalt You. A great hand-me-down I’m proud to keep close to my heart today and always.


Julie-Allyson Ieron is the author of 37 books, including a Bible Study and Devotional combo titled Gentle Hugs for Grieving Hearts that releases this fall. http://womencareforagingparents.com


© 2015, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spontaneous Praise

Treasured friend,
Not long after Daddy’s move to heaven, Mom and I got a request we tried everything to turn down. But God was having none of our obstinance. The invitation was for us to become the new worship leaders of a congregation. That was something we’ve done before—something we love doing. Mom on the organ and piano, me on the violin, vocals and leading a small choir. With our caregiving task faithfully completed, it was the exact right time for us to take on this new mission. Even we knew that.
But it wasn’t the “what” that had us feeling ambivalent. It was the “where.” The request came from the congregation that meets at a senior citizen village a few miles down the road.
Now, we love seniors. In fact Mom is one. (Don’t tell her I admitted that for her!) But having just spent so many months beside Daddy in places where people are ill and dying, we didn’t feel emotionally ready to take on this challenge.
We agreed only to this much: “We’ll help you out until you find someone else.”
Yet Chaplain George insisted. “I don’t want someone else; I want you two.” His persistence won us over. Somewhere in those first few visits as fill-in temps, we realized that the folks in this congregation were our fellow worshippers with names and concerns we began to pray for – as they came to know and pray for us.
Many of the residents are independent and active—vibrant and energetic. Drawing them out and helping them participate in ministry has become our joy. Then again many aren’t independent or able-bodied. They need help adjusting their lap blankets or turning on their hearing devices or remembering to turn a page when they’re reading. Others are ill unto death—like Daddy was. So we sing with them songs they can carry into eternity, and we choose music to sooth their grieving loved ones at their memorial services.
Another part of our joy is hearing the choir that’s grown to 30 singers make a joyful noise as they sing old hymns of the faith no one else seems to be playing anymore. Our saddest moments come when choir members or other residents move on up to heaven.
Some days a resident touches our hearts in a special way. Like today. We played a prelude that combined a beloved hymn in medley with worship choruses. It had a finale tagged onto the end, and we leaned into it. The organ swelled, the violin sang.
Then in the silence that was supposed to hang after the last note, a voice rang out, clear and powerful: HAL-LE-LU-JAH! No stronger word of spontaneous praise was ever heard in any holiness church anywhere in the Bible belt. Funny thing, though. The voice belonged not to a strapping youth but to a man strapped into one of those tall specialty wheelchairs. He can’t move much; he often sits in the service slumped, with his eyes closed; and his speech, what there is of it, is not usually intelligible. But I assure you, not one person in the room missed a vowel or a consonant of his affirmation.
In his own way, this brother in the faith reminded Mom and me of just how much these fellow believers are supporting us through our grief. Surrounded by their challenges and their willingness to push through into praise and worship, we find ourselves drawn out, willing to connect again, grateful to be useful to Christ in this new season.

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25, NASB

Blessings and prayers, Julie © 2014, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com