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Friday, December 24, 2010

Reconciled: A Christmas Gift

Treasured friend,


It’s Christmas. Despite the carols, the decorations, the parties, the joy-to-the-world frivolity, I’ve had a hard time feeling Christmas in my heart this year. Mom and I never did go Christmas shopping, unless you count a handful of late-night forays onto websites to choose a few necessities for each other (things we would have bought for ourselves anyway). Maybe it’s the lack of seeing children crying on the mall Santa’s lap that kept us from getting into the spirit of the season. Or the lack of hearing those “silver bells,” unless you count the one lone Salvation Army ringer at the grocery store check-out. It certainly can’t be the lack of snow—if there’s one thing the Midwest has this year, it’s a “white Christmas.” I wouldn’t mind a little less white, truth be told.

Maybe it’s the combination of all those things. But it’s probably more than that. I think the culprit is more the numbness of fatigue, thanks to a year’s worth of accumulated hours of sleep lost. That, and a drained emotional tank. The lows we’ve experienced in the health department and the bounce of a few unexpected highs have pulled the plug on our annual allotment of feelings. Our emotions haven’t known what to prepare for on any given morning, so they’ve given up, packed it in, and left the premises.

I’m under no illusion that we’re alone in these bah-humbug feelings. I suspect that most caregivers who are looking back over a year of challenges are having a hard time trumping up the Christmas spirit.

In my blue funk, I turned—where else?—to the Word. I’ve always loved Paul’s prayer for the Colossians, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light” Colossians 1:11-12 (HCSB). And I pray that prayer for our household and yours this Christmas Eve morning. May He give you power. May He multiply your endurance. May you find joy in serving Him by serving your ailing loved one.

But then I skipped down a verse and found the true source of joy. I quoted it in fancy type in the bookmark column of our family newsletter. And I’d like to quote it here for you. It speaks of the birth we celebrate in this season—and Who that child in the manger really is. Let me list it out for you. As you read it, try to meditate on this description of the Christ of Christmas, as I have.

The Centrality of Christ

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him.

He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.

He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.

For God was pleased ⌊to have⌋ all His fullness dwell in Him,

and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross— whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Colossians 1:15-20 (HCSB)


To say He’s powerful is the grossest understatement. To say He has authority is a puny way to describe Him. He is all. Everything. In it. Creator of it. Lord of it. Head of it. Beginning of it. End of it.

And how has He used that power and authority? To reconcile everything to Himself. The word picture I see is of His long and strong arms pulling me to the safety of His embrace—where I find peace and rest as He works to set all things right for the coming kingdom, even though they’ve gone woefully wrong in this world.

That’s the Christmas spirit--the spirit of not just a baby, but of the Mighty King making Himself become fragile, so He could have a peaceful relationship with you and me. It's never really been about trumped up feelings of nostalgia at seeing candy canes and shimmering tinsel and jingling bells and twinkling lights. It's all about the powered-down rest of one reconciled with her Maker and safe in His embrace because He made the effort to make it so.

My prayer for you is that you’ll find that reconciled peace in His arms today, and in the days to come. And that this picture of the Christ of Christmas will become a source of courage and strength to you.

Joyful blessings to you and your loved ones,

Julie


© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gather 'Round to Give Thanks

Treasured friend,

In honor of Thanksgiving, I share one of my favorite chapters from the new edition of Praying Like Jesus--"Gather 'Round to Give Thanks." I love it because it reminds us of the way we humans expect to receive good gifts from God--even demand them. And then when we do, we tend to forget to give the return gift of gratefulness to Him for what He provides--mercies (undeserved gifts) new every morning.



Just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.
—C. S. LEWIS

We devote a day of every year to our next subject in prayer, but Jesus never directly mentions it in John 17. That subject? Thankfulness. In two of His other recorded prayers in the Gospels, Jesus begins with the words, “I thank You, my Father, that...” (see Luke 10:21; John 11:41). In truth, Jesus’ thankfulness for the gifts of the Father is implied, if not overtly stated, throughout the high priestly prayer. His tone expresses gratitude to the Father for the gift of glory, the work assigned to Him, the provision of means to do the work, and the followers who would soon take on the mantle of fulfilling the work.

In the now-clichéd prayer acronym ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication), a thankful heart takes the third place in the prescribed pattern of prayer. This may be, in part, because many times in the Epistles, prayer is coupled with the companion principle of a thankful heart. “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” Paul told the Philippians (4:6). And when it came to advising his protégé, Timothy, Paul said, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone” (1 Timothy 2:1). Similarly the psalmist wrote, “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song” (Psalm 95:2). Go ahead and pray, but be sure to include thankfulness and appreciation as you proceed.

As we opened this study, we focused our prayer on adoring God for who He is. In thanksgiving, we focus our prayer on appreciating Him for what He does for us. It is a subtle difference. Where worship leaves our needs out of the picture, thankfulness (sometimes called praise) calls attention to God’s mercy and kindness in His dealings with us.

Apparently, thankfulness is yet another godly characteristic that doesn’t come naturally. I’d like to think if I had been one of the children of Israel traversing the wilderness behind a pillar of fire, I would have been thankful for every time He provided manna from heaven, for the fact that He saw that my shoes didn’t wear out on the journey, for every time He routed an enemy before my eyes. I’d like to think so. But it is unlikely. Instead of thankfulness, God received from the Israelites grumbling that the manna was too bland in comparison to the aromatic spices of Egypt, unfaithfulness in worshiping golden non-gods, and greediness in taking for themselves forbidden spoils from God’s victories.

I think too of the ten lepers who begged Jesus for pity.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:15-18)

Do you feel the grief in Jesus’ words? Can you empathize with the broken heart of the Healer—that His gift was received but not acknowledged with thankfulness by nine of the ten lepers? Which leper would I have been?

We like to think we are independent, self-sufficient, in control of our lives. If we amass our own fortunes and maintain our own welfare, we have no one to thank but ourselves. But as believers in Christ, we have, by definition, acknowledged that Someone greater is in control. That Someone deserves our constant gratitude.

Earlier I mentioned the holiday of Thanksgiving, a day supposedly set aside to be thankful to God. In actuality (I’m not preaching to anyone if not myself here), it is a day when we women slave from the wee hours to stuff a bird, to dice and mash and bake and boil all the requisite fixings, while the family-room television blares the Macy’s parade and a succession of football contests. I’m thankful, all right! Thanksgiving evening when it’s all over I’m thankful this holiday comes only once a year.

When President Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day (to bolster morale during the Civil War), I’m certain this isn’t what he had in mind. Throughout the history of the United States, days of prayerful thankfulness were declared by presidential order. In times of drought or emergency, they were declared for fasting and prayer. (Fasting, not overeating.) This is consistent with the biblical model of presenting our requests to God with thankful, expectant hearts. But today Thanksgiving is just another excuse for a day to take off work, to watch sports, to overeat, and to shop enticing holiday sales.

It’s not that thanksgiving can only take place on Thanksgiving. Quite the contrary. Paul says, “In every thing give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV). Not necessarily for everything—our hearts cannot be grateful for everything that happens in this life—but in every circumstance keep giving God thanks, keep doing what the old-time hymn writer suggests: Keep counting your blessings.

Prayer coupled with a thankful heart is pleasing to God. We come to Him, acknowledging our dependence on Him, asking for favors, and appreciating all the favors He already has bestowed on us. Let’s be like the Samaritan leper, rather than the wandering Israelites. Let’s place thankfulness to God for what He has done in its proper order in our prayer lives.

Personal Prayer Starter

Gracious and giving Father,

If I began to list all the gifts You have bestowed on me, I would need all of eternity to express my gratitude. But too often I grumble about the things I don’t have rather than being thankful for what I do have. Please forgive me for this sin.

I set aside time, today, to thank You especially for...

Even as I ask that You would give me... so I thank You for every blessing You already have given.
 
Julie-Allyson Ieron, Praying Like Jesus: Discovering the Pattern of Godly Prayer, , Updated 2nd Edition ed. (Park Ridge, IL: Joy Media, 2010), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: "Section Seven. Postlude to Prayer".

Thanksgiving Blessings to you and your loved ones,

Julie

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pietà

Treasured friend,

In keeping with the "artsy" theme of my previous entry, I'd like to share with you another Italian Art inspired devotional: this one jumps off of Michaelangelo's amazing sculpture, Pietà. It's from the pages of Names of Women of the Bible.

CALL HER “WOMAN”


Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:22–23)
The year was 1498. A twenty-three-year-old artist made a 150-mile trek from Rome to Carrara, an almost nameless village on the Ligurian Sea. According to his own word, he had been commissioned to sculpt “the most beautiful work in marble which exists today in Rome.” Only the highest quality of marble would do. And that meant Carraran marble. He would make the journey himself to assure its quality.


The artist worked with great intensity on the huge block of marble. Relentlessly, he chiseled away the excess to uncover the exceptional beauty locked within—a man and a woman. A woman of stunning delicacy, her facial features lovingly created, the detail amazingly lifelike, down to the wrinkles in her garment, the helpless gesture of her left hand, the angle of her bowed head that depicted her grief.

And the man. A symbolic representation of the shed earthly shell of the man of sorrows, intimately acquainted with grief. Eyes closed in death. Full-grown but—reminiscent of days gone by—cradled one last time in his mother’s loving arm.

Michelangelo toiled tirelessly for three years to fashion this life-sized depiction of the Savior in the arms of Mary. Arguably one of the most distinctively beautiful works in marble ever created, his Pietà (translation: pity or compassion) resides in St. Peter’s in Vatican City.

A woman and a man—lifelike yet lifeless—were formed of the finest marble with tender care by the hands of an artist, who was gifted to be a “cocreator” in the tradition of the only Creator capable of breathing life into His work.

God spoke many things into existence. Day. Night. Air. Seas. Land. Countless living creatures to be fruitful, multiply, and fill His creation. But when it came to the crowning achievements of His world, when it came to the creation of man and woman, He became intimately involved. Forming them with His own hand, breathing into them His own life. His touch created a deep and spiritual connection with them.

And from the Creator’s perspective, it wasn’t just good, it was “very good.”

As with everything in creation, these two creatures each had a special purpose to fulfill. Together. And separately.

The man, He created out of the “dust of the ground”; the woman, He created out of the man’s rib. As Matthew Henry notes, “The woman was made out of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”

The woman’s purpose was to be partner and companion with the man. She was to have her own identity and make her own choices. She had an intrinsic value, having been created in God’s image as had the man.

God gave her a tender, nurturing heart. Because of her tragic choice to sin, her heart was to be pierced by pietà, even as His own would be pierced by her pietà at the Cross—yet another connection between mankind and the loving Creator.

God’s work through the women of His creation is [worthy of study and celebration.] ... We will learn to know by name women who alternately display His grace or show the desperate need for His pietà in this fallen, groaning world.

And in so doing, we will honor the Creator, who not only chiseled and caressed our bodies, but conceived a way to redeem our souls.


I hope and pray you enjoyed this reminder of how very much God, your Creator, loves and values you. It's one of my favorite word pictures that illustrates for me how intimately Christ relates to our painful circumstances.

Blessings and prayers, Julie


Excerpted by permission from Names of Women of the Bible, © 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

For you Kindle users, click on the link above to learn how to get a copy of the entire Names of Women of the Bible ebook (updated, including a brand-new Bible study guide) on your device; for Nook, Sony, and Kobo users (I'm one of you!), you can order a copy of the ebook and study guide in PDF or EPUB format from http://www.joymediaservices.com/. These ebooks make great Christmas presents for your loved ones--or yourself!






Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mona Lisa

Patient friend,


I’m in a petulant mood. I blame my mother for it. She never let me sulk when I was a child. So I have a lot of it simmering inside—and after forty-never-mind-how-many years, it’s getting close to boiling over, like my overfilled pasta pot likes to do all over my flat-burnered stove.

With the exhaustion of not being able to sustain sleep for very long at a time (last night I was awake every 20 minutes replaying events of recent days) and the dulling sadness over diagnoses Dad has been getting (not to mention the un-tally-able count of conversations I’ve had with doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and their various and sundry assistants over his prescriptions and his restrictions), I think I have the right to a little self-indulgent petulance.

Even a search of the Psalms for words of comfort has done little to quell my bitter swell. Which is why for more than a week, now, I’ve been avoiding writing a God-is-on-your-side devotional to share with you. I know it to be true, of course. But I don’t feel it. What I do feel is, well, petulant. Or as my trusty Yahoo dictionary puts it:

Unreasonably irritable or ill-tempered; peevish. …
Or, to put it another way, I feel any number of the emotion’s trusty synonyms:

miff: a huff … offended or annoyed.
pout: To exhibit displeasure or disappointment; sulk. To protrude the lips in an expression of displeasure or sulkiness.
They’ve got it exactly—it’s like someone painted my picture with words. And even in my peevishness, I must admit it’s not the prettiest of pictures. Which, I suppose is why Mom tried to break me of the pouty habit early in life. Mona Lisa she used to call me, whenever I’d sulk. I always hated that!

So somewhere around 3 a.m. today I brought my sulk to the Lord and laid it out. It was as well-rehearsed as Elijah’s conversation with God in 1 Kings 19:9-10, and restated in vv. 13-14.

In Elijah’s case, both times it went,

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

In my case, it went:

God: What are you doing here, Julie?

Me: Life stinks, God. I’ve done it your way—and more importantly so has my dad (mom, too!); and this is where it lands him, where it lands all three of us? In a medical holding pattern with an orbit that seems to be degrading with each rotation around the sun? It’s not fair, God. It’s not fair!

Have you ever had that conversation with God? I suspect every exhausted caregiver has reached that boiling point on more than one occasion (if you haven’t, you will).

Here’s how God responded to me … He didn’t speak audibly, didn’t point me to a specific verse of Scripture. Instead He brought to mind a song I hear almost daily in my Pandora mix: “More Than Enough” sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. It speaks the names of God, that taken together assure us of His all-sufficiency for us, no matter our circumstances. So, my fatigued mind spent the wee hours rehearsing what I could recall of these names:

Jehovah Jireh: That one’s easy to remember. It’s the God who provides. (This brought to mind the one time where this name appears in Scripture—when God provided a ram for sacrifice just as Abraham was about to offer Isaac on the altar--I wrote about that one in Praying Like Jesus, so I know it well.)

Jehovah Rapha: I know that one, too: the God who heals.

Jehovah Shalom: That’s easy: God, our peace.

Jehovah Shammah: That one I had to look up. (The Lord is present)

Any one of these powerful names of God--indicators of His character and nature--would be “more than enough” to sustain you or me. But I camped out on the one name I had to look up. Once I learned its translation, I examined it, prayed it, and used my trusty Bible software to find how it’s used in the Word.

I found it one of the more frequently used compound descriptors of God, woven through both Testaments. It is the name that will one day appear on the City of God (Ezekiel 48:35, where the city is inscribed with the name YHWH is Here—talk about sufficiency, that’s the place I want to live).

And it’s the name God gave to Moses when he interceded for the people of Israel, while they were in the dire straits of the wilderness (a setting to which I can relate emotionally). Moses asked God to send someone to walk beside him in the difficult journey that was ahead (Exodus 33:12). “You have not let me know whom You will send with me,” Moses complains. And God’s reply in the next verse is the essence of Jehovah Shammah: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Because God Himself volunteers to walk beside Moses (and to do so visibly in the Pillar of Fire and the Cloud of Glory), the victorious result is sure. And so it is with us. Jesus volunteers in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always.” The writer of Hebrews assures us that the Father promises us, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

And so, in my ebbing petulant mood, I returned to God’s words to Moses. He didn’t only promise His presence—there was even more to the guarantee: “… and I will give you rest.” The Hebrew word there means that in His nearness God will settle us down, comfort us, give us soul-rest. That’s what I need, today: the full assurance of Jehovah Shammah making His way through my day alongside me; settling me down and allowing me to rest in the middle of the desert. Maybe you could use that assurance, too. Practice hearing Him respond to your complaint that way: "I'll be right there with you--I, Jehovah Shammah! And I will give you rest."

If you feel like being a little vulnerable—you’re among friends, here—I’d love to hear how God has spoken words of sustaining grace and comfort to you in your boiling-point dialogue. So, if you’d like to post a reply to this blog, with a Scripture God uses to sustain you, I know it would be a comfort to me, and to other readers.

Thanks for allowing me to do a temporary name change to Mona Lisa this afternoon. Sometimes it helps to talk it out—with each other, and more crucially with God.


Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Degree I Don't Want

Treasured friend,


I’m pretty sure I qualified for an honorary degree courtesy of walking with Dad through his recent medical odyssey. I’ve secretly aspired to one for years. Not that I don’t appreciate the black robe, and red and white hood I earned for my MA all those years ago at Ball State. I do. I worked hard for it—anyone who’s earned one knows they’re not simply bestowed, they indicate years of effort.

But as much as I’ve wished for an honorary degree I haven’t technically earned, I’m thinking the one I qualified for this summer may not be one I ought to wear with pride. It’s a Ph.W.—you know, a Doctorate of the Philosophy of Worries. You may have qualified for one recently, too. In my waiting-room hours and especially the long nights when I lie awake imagining the absolute worst eventualities, I’m quite sure I’ve taken the study of this particular science to new heights. Oh how I’ve worried, fretted, fidgeted, and feared.

And it’s begun taking its toll. Since I’ve been living it, I haven’t been as conscious of its escalation—or of all the energies I’ve been pouring into this study. But, this afternoon we ran into a nurse who cared for Dad in one of his earlier hospitalizations. We’ve seen her frequently in the ensuing years—and she’s offered a listening ear and wise counsel more times than we could count. Today, as she celebrated with us over Dad’s great news from last week, she squeezed his shoulder. Then she looked Mom and me in the eye. “This has taken its toll on you. All this worry. All this stress. You’re feeling it, aren’t you?”

Mom and I looked at each other. She knows our little secret. She can see in our drawn faces: the color of strain. The tell-tale lines of sleepless nights. The slump of pent-up fatigue. We nodded dumbly—and changed the subject expertly. But I couldn’t get that conversation out of my mind tonight, as I tried to settle my thoughts, calm my upset gut, and un-kink my shoulder muscles in preparation for bedtime.

Something about her concern and her candor reminded me of words our Master just might have said to us in that store aisle today, had He been visibly present:

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? … Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:27-34; ESV).

Gospel writer Matthew records five instances where Jesus chides His devoted but weary and worried followers for their “little faith.” (Matthew 6, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, 17:20). I looked them up. And for some reason, tonight when I read them again, I wasn’t my usual self—quick to wag my index finger at the disciples. This time, I understood. More than I ever have before, I got the slowness of the disciples to trust the Master when circumstances look hopeless:

• The boat is tossed by relentless winds—and the infuriatingly unconcerned Master sleeps in the bow.
• Peter steps out of the boat and sinks into the waves.
• The ministry team’s tangible reserves of life’s necessities are depleted.
• The cure they pray for is slow in coming.

I get where they were finding their fears. Because I’m there. Right there. Worried, not that the Master can’t intervene. But rather that He won’t. After all, in this life, things don’t always work out with fairy tale endings. Even those who received miracles in the New Testament, eventually passed out of this world and into eternity. Nothing this side is permanent. So it’s easy to worry about that—to look around at circumstances, and waver in my faith. (I’m saying my here, but I’m guessing you’ve been here, too.)

That’s where Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 both challenge and encourage us. Once we get past His nailing me for my little faith and nod in agreement with His realistic assessment that “tomorrow will be anxious for itself” (it will certainly have its share of trouble), we can sink our weary selves into the middle of the passage. Usually, when I read it, I focus on the seeking first His kingdom. Certainly that’s the prescription—ultimately. But tonight, I gravitated more to the “why” we needn’t worry. Abba Father in Heaven knows what’s happening here. He knows what we need. And His arm is ready to act on our behalf—maybe to deliver us from the storm, more likely to support and provide for us through it. He promised He would indeed see to our needs.

So, I believe if He were to be the one to endow me with that honorary doctorate, it wouldn’t be in a joyfully pleasant ceremony. I would look into His eyes and find them disappointed in my lacking faith. I imagine He would say something close to what He told the disciples on those many occasions:  “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt? Didn’t you know I care? I love you? I’ll add to you all the things I already know you need today—and all those things I know you’ll need tomorrow. Your worry is accomplishing nothing—in fact, less than nothing. It’s hurting you. This is something I don’t want for you. You didn’t need to earn this particular degree. Cease striving, and rest like your Master in the bow of the rocking boat. Your Mighty God has it all under control.”

On second thought, maybe I’ll turn down that degree, and see if I can earn one in a more appropriate field—I think I’ll go for a Ph.F, Doctorate of Faith. As long as it’s well-placed faith in this loving and compassionate Master, it will be worth the work. Want to join me in the preparation and study?

With my prayers for you tonight,

Julie


© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Answered Prayer

Treasured Friend,

I want to offer you a glimpse into how the Lord intervened on our family's behalf today--clearly and obviously--and beyond what we expected. First, let me share a portion of the Scripture our pastors Greg and Tim read to Dad (and us) in his hospital room this morning. It's from Psalm 34. When you have time, read the whole Psalm--for it is a faith-builder. But here's a portion of it that rang true for us:

Psalm 34:1-15 (NASB) I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the LORD; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them. O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing. Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Who is the man who desires life And loves length of days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous And His ears are open to their cry.


And here's what the Lord did for Dad ... as I reported it to my email prayer team just moments ago:

You’re really not going to believe this one … We got to the hospital, went through all the admission, pre-op, our pastors came and prayed with us, and the nurse brought him down for the procedure. They hooked up IV, and put him on the pacemaker monitor and …. his heart had corrected on its own. No procedure!


They came and got Mom and me in the waiting room (I’d read exactly 2 pages of my book) and sent the three of us on our way.

What an answered prayer! I mean no disrespect to our faith here, but we simply can’t believe how God undertook in answer to your prayers and those of each of our loved ones. I have no problem expecting God to heal through doctors and meds, but I’m sure I didn’t have the faith to even ask that He’d intervene on His own without the procedure. Another of God’s special surprises.

May He be with you on your journey today, and show you the surprise of His hand evident and at work in your situation.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hannah: Grace

Treasured Friend,

I've been posting some material in the last few weeks that hasn't quite been devotional--at least not technically. But, while I'm excited to share with you these items of news--I don't want to miss out on the opportunity to open the Word of God with you. So, for this week's devotion, I'm excerpting a chapter from my newly updated ebook (first printed by Moody in 1998; and revised this year for a new millennium), Names of Women of the Bible. I chose this chapter because in it we see how God has compassion on an exhausted, hurting woman who has no recourse but to carry her burden to Him in prayer. So, enjoy this excerpt from one of my favorite chapters. It represents the story of a woman I can relate to on so many levels. I pray you can, too:


HANNAH: GRACE

I am a woman who is deeply troubled. . . . I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. (1 Samuel 1:15)

It was to be three weeks of bliss. The trip of a lifetime.


I had been chosen to join a touring choir on a mission to Europe. My dear friend Paul Yerden (our church's minister of music) and his wife, Rita Jo, would lead the tour.


While in Germany, we enjoyed the hospitality of host churches. They served us delicious cold cuts and cheese with heavily buttered hard rolls. Every afternoon we stopped at out-of-the-way bakeries for a stretch break and to enjoy luscious cream-filled pastries.


Soon after our arrival, my stomach began to complain. At first it was just a little discomfort, then the pain increased. I missed several concerts, having to lie down backstage while my friends were out front ministering. Discouragement crept in. It wasn't until five years later that my physician discovered the milk allergy—to cream, cheese, butter —that caused these symptoms. All I knew at the time was that I was missing all the good stuff by being sick.


One afternoon Rita Jo pushed a folded piece of paper into my hand. On it she had handwritten the words to the hymn "He Giveth More Grace." I read and reread those words, contemplating their meaning, desiring the grace they bespoke.


Hannah, whose name means grace, came to know that grace intimately during her deep distress. She experienced the miracle-working grace of God, because she carried her burden right to Him.


Hannah had good reason to be depressed. You and I certainly would have been troubled in her circumstance. Peninnah, her husband's other wife, had many children; Hannah had none. Peninnah, the Scriptures say, tormented her rival for Elkanah's attention: "Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat" (1 Samuel 1:7). In her pain and in utter disregard for anyone who might be watching, Hannah bared her soul to the Lord, begging Him to give her a son, vowing to give that child back to Him for His service.


In response, the Scriptures record a beautiful phrase, "and the Lord remembered her" (1 Samuel 1:19). She touched the Father's heart with her tears and prayers, and He extended His hand to her. God honored Hannah's sincerity and fervency. He granted her not only that baby, but later He also gave her other sons and daughters.


The American Heritage Dictionary defines grace as "A favor rendered by one who need not do so." God acted graciously on Hannah's behalf, not because He was obligated to do so, but because He chose to do so. Moreover, He displayed His graciousness through her, by using her firstborn son (whom she named Samuel, which means, "heard of God") to rule His people in justice and honor. In his old age, long after his mother was gone, Samuel had the privilege of anointing Israel's greatest king, David.


Hannah's response to the Lord's provision was as exemplary as her request. First, she did as she had promised. She gave the child Samuel to minister in the Lord's temple to become a blessing back to the Lord. Second, she gave all the glory to God, her heart overflowing into a poetic prayer of acknowledgment and thanks. "My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. . . . There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God" (1 Samuel 2:1–2).


In some obvious ways, we are unlike Hannah. In few of our homes do two wives of the same man live together (although if they did, feuding would not be unthinkable). And in our culture, inability to have children is not thought to be a curse from God, as it was in Hannah's day.


But in the ways that count, we are very much alike. Our needs, our heavy burdens, the demands of life, and our tormentors and problems too often threaten to overwhelm us. Like I did on my college bus trip, we often suffer alone, when with just a prayer we can call upon the one who will "remember us" as He remembered Hannah all those centuries ago.


The writer of Proverbs noted that God "mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble" (3:34). It is a truth James quotes in his epistle (4:6).


It was in humbly pouring out her heart to God that Hannah found her burden lifted. Her life can be an example to us of what God can do—if we do our part. We are told in Scripture what that part is: "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).


It has been many years since Rita Jo handed me that paper, but I'll never forget its effect upon me. Those words reminded me that God, through His only Son Jesus whom He graciously sacrificed to meet the ultimate need of humanity, stands ready to provide for all my needs through His abundant, overflowing supply. And He does this not because of any obligation, but because He chooses to do so.

My dear, loving Father, I need a portion of that overflowing supply of grace today, and I know so many others around me have that same need. Please provide for me, and equip me to be a conduit of Your grace in the lives of those I love. Amen.


Blessings and prayers, Julie

© 1998, 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. Excerpted by permission from Names of Women of the Bible. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Hey Detroit, Windsor -- and Internet Radio Listeners

Hi friends,

I'll be live on WMUZ, Radio, on Wednesday, September 29 -- doing a call-in show on caring for aging parents with Dr. Kenya, Prescriptions for Hope.


I hope you'll tune in--either on air, or by internet. WMUZ is 103.5 in Detroit. http://www.wmuz.com/. Local time for the broadcast is: 9:45-11 a.m. (8:45 Central).

Hope to talk with you on Wednesday!
 
 
Blessings and prayers, Julie © 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'm a Guest Blogger at WordSearch Bible Software Blog

As you've probably noticed by reading the sidebar we put up on this page late last week, my new Bible software collaboration with WORDsearch Bible Software--marking the launch of WS's Women's product line--is in stock and ready for release. To coincide with the launch of this fabulous collection of more than 75 Bible reference resources for only $50, they've invited me to be a guest blogger on their website.

Here's the url: http://www.wordsearchbible.com/blog/

Check it out. Oh, and the free ebook invite in the blog entry goes for you, too.

This is software I've used both devotionally and as an invaluable reference tool in my writing. If you've benefited from what I've written over the years, it's in part due to the research capabilities of WORDsearch. It's a product you'll love, too. I'm both thrilled and humbled to see this particular package of resources (including 9 of my own books) launch.

Just in case you want to place an order, here's where you can learn more about it: http://www.joymediaservices.com/28212.html

Or you can email me at orders@joymediaservices.com


Blessings and prayers, Julie

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hefty Price to Pay

Treasured friend,


Please permit me a bit of musing today—as I work through something that’s been troubling me. Perhaps you’ll see yourself in my dilemma.

One of the most bothersome biblical commands for me has always been the Sabbath rest command.

“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (ESV).
Rest for me, one day in seven. Yeah, right, God, rest? Really? A whole day? Sounds like a luxury, a pipe dream.

Dad’s shots and meds don’t take a rest. Logging his vital signs doesn’t take a rest. The need to get his food to him—the right kind at the right time intervals—none of that rests. The need to make a living so I can, let me see, keep the roof over my head and pay my exorbitant health insurance costs every month—that doesn’t take a rest. So, how can I afford to lose an entire day to something as nonessential as rest? When I have the odd moment to actually get some paying work done, I can’t be bothered worrying about whether that moment comes around on some other day of the week, or on the day of rest set aside for worshipping the Lord and letting my mind reorder and refresh.

Surely, God, You aren’t asking me to rest. Not now! Must be someone else You’re talking to about this.

Perhaps that line of thinking sounds familiar. I know it’s a practiced and oft-repeated monologue I’ve given ad nauseum, in case God is listening. (I suspect He’s not only been listening, but counting the times I’ve defied the command.)

I was giving that monologue, quite by rote, this morning, as I read the Scripture in my devotions—who says I can’t talk and listen at the same time? I’d just completed writing a booklet on the life of one of the last of Judah’s kings, Josiah—so my Bible was still open to his story in 2 Chronicles 34. I read past it to the rest of the chronicler's account, where I found a fast-forward report of what happened to Israel’s monarchy as Josiah’s kids and grandkids, and the people they ruled, ignored God’s commands. And I came across this passage that I can’t recall ever having noticed quite this way before:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy. Therefore he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or aged. He gave them all into his hand. … And they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its palaces with fire and destroyed all its precious vessels. He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years (2 Chronicles 36:15-21; ESV).

And here’s what jumped out at me:

• Sabbath wasn’t a punishment, but a privilege. Like all God’s commands, it was given because of His compassion for His people.

• Failure to keep Sabbath had consequences. Maybe it wasn’t only ignoring Sabbath, but breaking other commands, as well, that caused the people’s exile. But surely flouting God’s expressed direction, no matter which command, meant breaking the whole of the law.

• And look at that last verse—the land had to enjoy its Sabbaths. God would see to it. No one would or could live on the land (witness the utter destruction: the wall, the palaces, the precious vessels, even the very house of God all burned, broken down, uninhabitable.) The Lord would see to it that the land got its Sabbath—down to the last year that it had endured the transgression of ignored Sabbaths.

• This fulfilled a promise God had made through Moses back in Leviticus, which I found when I used my ESV’s cross-reference: “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it" (Leviticus 26:34-35; ESV).

Now, the only conclusion we can draw from seeing this truth from God’s Word is that for some reason the provision of a one-in-seven (days and years) rest is of vital importance to Him. It’s something He built into creation. And it’s something that—while it doesn’t come to us naturally, lay itself out for us for the easy taking—we can't risk ignoring.

It won't surprise you that I’m not ready to shut down my computer and give it a Sabbath year (actually, it would have to be a couple of Sabbath years—I’ve been in the writing ministry for 25 years without one; mathematicians, help me out here, that would be how many Sabbath years missed?). But I’m ready to commit to taking a day a week completely out of the office—away from voicemail, email, blogging, Facebook, Microsoft Office, the whole lot of it. Maybe it’ll be Sunday, traditionally the day of worship for those who celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. Maybe Saturday, as the Israelites celebrated it back in the chronicler’s day. Maybe another day—gasp—when clients may be in their offices and clamoring for my attention.

But it seems to me I’ve been playing with fire by ignoring this command. And I’d be well advised (after seeing the enormity of the price His people paid for ignoring any or all of His commands) to repent, to agree to change my ways, and to do it—as Christ gives me the strength to comply.

Does any of this self-correcting musing ring true for you? If it does, will you take up the challenge to do something about it? And ... if you don't mind, could I ask you to help hold me accountable to do what I've promised? I'm willing to do the same for you, if you ask.

Sheepishly and prayerfully,

Julie


A personal note:
Next week I’ll be guest blogger on the WORDsearch website’s blog, as part of the roll-out of my brand new Bible software package: The Julie-Allyson Ieron Bible Reference Collection, powered by WORDsearch 9.0. Please visit my website to learn more about this fantastic product that could revolutionize and energize your reading of God’s Word. Here’s the link to find out more: http://www.joymediaservices.com/28212.html

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Friday, September 3, 2010

Apt Accompaniment to Work

Treasured friend,


I’ve often noticed that the quality of my work (often the quantity, too) is enhanced by what I’m hearing while I’m at work. For example, when I write, I listen to instrumental praise, jazz, blues or symphonic music—with tunes I recognize, but few words to distract me.

Then there is the music I save for tasks I hate—scrubbing the bathroom, vacuuming, dusting, anything that requires the wafting fragrance of bleach, detergents or ammonia. For those moments when I can’t procrastinate those tasks any longer, I have a selection of music on my MP3 player and a station on my Pandora favorites, both of which feature music to clean by. It’s all upbeat, energetic, pulsing and thrumming; and it moves me right along with it. It’s music that makes me smile. It engages my attention so that, instead of grumbling about what I have to do, I’m swinging and bopping and (forgive me for saying it) even dancing to it.

The same goes for my three-times-weekly workout. If I hate cleaning, well, there’s no word in the English language strong enough to describe how I feel about sweating. But the music DVDs on our workout room TV (including Michael W. Smith’s Worship) so capture my attention, that I nearly (I did say nearly) forget about the drudgery of pacing mile after mile on the black rubber belt of the treadmill, “passing” the same scenery. Doing what’s good for me, what’s expedient, is easier because of music.

I hadn’t realized it until today, but as I was reading 2 Chronicles 34 in preparation for a writing project (related to the upcoming release of my new software package, The Julie-Allyson Ieron Bible Reference Collection on WORDsearch 9), I came across a passage that makes my practice of matching music to my daily tasks positively biblical.

The setting is that King Josiah has collected money to repair God’s house, after it had been defiled and profaned by a string of godless kings who preceded him. (The “it” in the passage, is this money earmarked for the repairs):

Then they entrusted it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the LORD's temple. These men paid the workers who repaired and restored the temple. They also gave money to the carpenters and builders to purchase dressed stone, and timber for joists and beams for the buildings that the kings of Judah had allowed to fall into ruin. The men did the work faithfully. Over them to direct them were Jahath and Obadiah, Levites descended from Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam, descended from Kohath. The Levites--all who were skilled in playing musical instruments-- had charge of the laborers and supervised all the workers from job to job (2 Chronicles 34:10-13a, NIV).
The passage connects the faithful work (other translations add the concept of working with integrity)¸ with the leadership offered by skilled musicians. Music to work by. To hoist joists and beams; to dress the stones, to polish the door knobs, whatever needed to be done. These folks composed and played music appropriate to the tasks. God gifted them with music to accompany the work.

I suppose that translates well to the difficult tasks related to caregiving. Dispensing meds. Cleaning up messes. Bathing wounds. Holding someone’s hand while softly humming away the pain. This music probably won’t be the boisterous tune I dance my way through as I vacuum. It may be a soothing instrumental, passionate blues, or—perhaps best of all—inspiring worship that leads us to lift our eyes, minds, and hearts to the Creator and Sustainer, Who offers us the hope that this aging process, this physical pain or deterioration, isn’t all there is. There is a reality clouded for us now, but it’s more real than anything that touches us here—and it’s more lasting than anything we see or hear or feel in this realm. It’s a world with no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more good-byes at all. A place of all joy, health, companionship, and “hellos.” A place of endless music to make work fulfilling and energized.

Even if it’s music heard only by you, in the privacy of your own heart, I encourage you to sing to the Lord today—from a worshipping heart, as you go about your caregiving tasks. I promise it’ll help you do your work with faithfulness, energy—even God-pleasing integrity—as it did for the workers in God’s house during Josiah’s reign.

My prayer for you is a song in your heart all day long.


Blessings and prayers, Julie

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Monday, August 23, 2010

Talking to Myself

Treasured friend,

Tell me you've never done it--talk to yourself, I mean. Commit me to a rubber room if you want to, but I have to confess that I do it from time to time. Mostly to bolster my courage--mostly to remind myself that this is only a season, and that grace to survive comes to those who ask.

It seems I'm in good company. Not just you, I mean. But also at least one hero of the faith: David. Don't believe me? Read it for yourself. Psalm 27. It's a passage we've examined before, but it's worth revisiting today.

It opens with David's self talk. We don't know why he wrote this psalm--what circumstance he found himself in that required him to say outloud that the Lord is still faithful--even when life conspires to make us think otherwise. But he did need this reminder, which he makes obvious right from the opening:

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1; ESV).

Tell me, soul--
you know God and His faithfulness,
His fairness,
His strength and His sustaining grace.
So, compared to Him and all His attributes,
what are these pesky little circumstances
and why are you allowing them to frighten you?

That's a question I had to ask myself this week. Because circumstances were conspiring against me. I felt I was in the enemy's crosshairs--and was being shot down from at least three directions. Amid the caregiving responsibilities that have been marking my days, I've been trying to conduct my business and personal affairs as "business as usual." If you're a caregiver you've been there, most certainly. Your loved one has been fed, medications adminstered, and you have an hour during his rest time (before the next mealtime and medication) to do what would normally take 8 hours--or 10 or 12.

It's a precarious balance. And when one element unfolds differently than expected, the scale tips--and creates a soul-toxic mess. When someone challenges, expresses disappointment, even worse falsely accuses--well I know last week I felt like changing my name to Hannah Hurnard's classic main character, "Much Afraid" (from Hinds Feet on High Places). Overwhelmed didn't even begin to describe what I was feeling. It was debilitating and abject fear. The kind that keeps you up nights, clammy, shivering, and quivering with anxious thoughts.

That's why David's self-talk spoke directly to me. The entire psalm is full of it.
When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple (Psalm 27:2-4; ESV).
Then there's the end--the last self-reminder:
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! (Psalm 27:13-14; ESV).
It is a powerful statement of faith ... I believe that something other than what I see and feel is the whole, unmitigated truth.

Reminding myself of the circumstances that might have prompted David to speak this truth aloud, I began to take courage. David was hunted down mercilessly and forced to live in deserts and caves. Anointed king by a wanted man. Betrayed by a family member. Forgiven a debt he couldn't repay. And yet, he could say, "I believe I'll be able to look at God's goodness once again in this life."

And I found myself speaking it to my own soul.

The Lord saves. The Lord delivers.
No one can challenge Him.
Oh my frightened soul, be strong and courageous.
God will work on your behalf once again.
Take refuge in His strength,
in His comfort and companionship,
in His absolute sufficiency and goodness.

My friend, if this is a message you needed to hear today--take heart. Because the Lord hasn't changed. The God of David--the faithful one, the God of salvation--He is mine and He is yours. He offers you His faithfulness, He wants to be the God of your salvation today. Remind yourself of the one who is on your side, fighting your battles beside you--for you and with you.

If you need to, give yourself a good talking to as I did to myself: This is the one you serve, so there's no reason to panic. Be strong, take courage, wait for the Lord.

Blessings and prayers,
Julie

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Earth-shaking Pray-ers

Treasured friend,


If you read this blog regularly, you know that I am several days delinquent in posting this devotional thought. It has been a harrowing 10 days in our household—a blur of ER cubicles, hospital wards, nurses, needles, tests, specialists, frightening words like diabetes and heart failure, and long words like cardioversion and tachycardia. At the moment, we are fully in the caregiving mode, but are seeing good results--from the meds, and more likely, from the prayers of our friends and family who once again are supporting us through these crisis moments.

Perhaps that’s one reason this Scripture passage in the book of Acts struck me in a new way this morning. It’s found in Acts 4. And I don’t think I ever read it quite this way before. The setting is that, in Jesus’ name, Peter and John have delivered God’s miraculous healing to a crippled beggar in the crowded streets of Jerusalem. Throngs of everyday people were in awe, and they praised God. But the religious elite felt their influence slipping away—and they were livid. They dragged the disciples in and rebuked them for preaching in the name of Jesus. (Yes, His name will always be an offense to the enemy—it was in New Testament times, and it is yet today.)

Peter and John responded with the classic line, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

That’s typically where I leave off the reading—and stand in wonder at the wisdom and courage God gives to His faithful followers in a time of great challenge. And it’s true, He does give it in abundance. But that’s not the end of the scene. Just a few moments later, when the rulers can’t decide on a course of action, they release Peter and John.

Where do these godly men turn in this moment? They go back to the gathered believers and report on this frightening turn of events. And that’s where the story picks up energy:

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: "'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Acts 4:24-31 (NIV)

When they were challenged beyond their ability, when they were frightened and maybe even quaking a bit inside, Peter and John didn’t retreat to neutral corners. Not at all. They retreated home—home where the believers were gathered—for encouragement and strength. In the communion of fellow followers of Christ, they found their first and only true refuge.

And what did the believers do? Immediately, they turned to the Father in prayer. Together. With voices “raised.” This wasn’t a timid prayer. An if-You-wanted-to-You-might-want-to-get-involved-here approach to the Holy Throne.

When they heard all about the crisis in their brothers’ lives, they prayed with authority.

God, you have the power. God, you even prepared us with King David’s words about the plots of the rulers against God’s anointed written so many millennia ago. It’s happening here and now. So, we ask You to equip us—and our brothers in Christ. Encourage us. Let us speak boldly. Confirm our words with Your blessing, even Your miracles.
In the solace of the gathered faithful and in the beauty of corporate prayer, God’s Spirit moved with power and answered their prayer by granting all of them boldness of speech they’d never have been able to conjure up on their own.

Which brings me back to the events of the week in our household. When it became apparent we needed to rush Dad to ER, I zapped a really short, crisis email to a caregiver prayer circle to which I belong. I CC’d a few select colleagues. And an inexplicable peace came over me. Sure, I prayed. We three prayed in the car on the way to the hospital. But we needed more. We needed the prayers of the saints joined with us. One friend put us on her church’s prayer chain. Others sent emails throughout the day, just letting us know they were standing with us in prayer.

And God’s hand moved—by giving Dad favor with the triage team (where other times we’ve had to wait hours to be seen by ER doctors, this day we were ushered in and cared for in the blink of an eye), by assigning the right doctors, by giving wisdom to take the right tests and know what to do with the answers. We weren’t delivered from the crisis, but we were given courage, wisdom, boldness and God’s equipping presence through it. I’m quite certain this came as a result of the united prayers of the saints.

Look back at how Luke reports God's response to the united prayers in Acts: the Spirit actually came down and shook the room where the believers were united in intercessory prayer. And He is the same, today. He moves on the scene supernaturally, in response to the prayers of His righteous ones. We saw it firsthand this week.

Where does that leave us as caregivers—as those who may often feel like we’re all alone in the crisis du jour? I think it gives us a powerful reminder of how much we need fellow believers, praying believers, those whose hotline to heaven is open on both ends all day, every day. Let’s be that praying support group for each other—and let’s turn quickly and immediately to that support when we hit our next moment of challenge.

Blessings and prayers for you today, in your moments of special challenge,

Julie



© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Prison Praise

Treasured friend,

Today, a lovely rendition of the Selah song, "I Bless Your Name" sent me back to Scripture, to the book of Acts, chapter 16. The scene, during the early days of the church, is one where Christians were under intense persecution--particularly those Christians on the front lines of ministry who were working in the strength of the Holy Spirit to push back the gates of hell and set spiritual prisoners free.

It wasn't a pretty scene. In fact two prominent leaders, Paul and Silas had been beaten with rods, thrown into a primitive jail and bound tightly, with their feet confined to stocks.

Now, let me stop and say that most of us in the free world aren't subjected to these extremes of suffering or persecution for the cause of Christ (although some have suffered the loss of prestige, a voice in popular culture, even possibly a job or a loved one--simply because they claim the name of Christ). But, even most of us who are exhausted, overworked, underappreciated caregivers aren't in as dire a position as Paul and Silas were that night.

And so, we pick up the story at midnight ... the darkest hour, the farthest from daylight--the time when the problems of the day grow disproportionately large and loom like overwhelming shadows in the gloom ... and so at midnight, let's let the Word take us into the scene:

About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them ... (v. 25, HCSB)

Two things strike me here. For the first observation, let's look at the end of the verse--the other prisoners were paying attention to what was going on in Paul's cell. There were others, in chains. While there might have been other believers chained up for the cause of Christ, it's more likely those other prisoners were guilty of crimes against Rome that from a human perspective deserved severe punishment. And these worldly guys, I picture them rough and seething with anger--vile and smelly from their sinful ways and their grungy cells--these guys are hushed and listening to what Paul and Silas are saying and doing down the cell block.

And what are they doing? That's the amazing second observation. The situation is hopeless, right? God let them be captured by heathens and abused. They're really gonna let Him have a piece of their minds, right?

Nope!

They're praying and singing hymns. What? Oh, come on. Nobody could be that spiritual. Praising God and worshipping Him from that smelly, stinky, vile cell? Their only crime doing His work?

But that's what people attuned to God's higher purposes do. They praise Him and bless His name even when they don't understand the extreme circumstances He's allowing to unfold in their lives.

The end of the story is that while they're praising and praying, God shakes the earth to the foundation of the jail, and everything changes. Prison doors shake open--can you imagine the force of that quake?

Anyway, the doors shake open--all of them, the ones confining the guilty and the ones confining God's servants--and the chains shackeling everyone in the prison come undone. Doesn't seem like just a run-of-the-mill earthquake could do that. Kinda gives you a new appreciation for the power of the hand of God.

Paul and Silas and the other prisoners were all loosed--at the moment when God's praises were ringing out in the abject darkness.

Rather than escaping (that's what I'd have done--I'd have high-tailed it out of there and allowed myself to fade back into the midnight darkness under cover of the chaos that would certainly follow), Paul and Silas stayed around.

Acts 16:29-34 (HCSB) Then the jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he escorted them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the message of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house. He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized. He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had believed God with his entire household.

Because they stayed rather than running, they both saved the jailer's life and led him (and his household) to faith in Christ. The jailer who'd abused them became their brother in Christ, because they didn't bail out and save themselves. And the night they began in chains, ended in a baptismal service--with a whole household professing faith in Christ.

God orchestrated a tremendously trying set of circumstances, and He used the faithfulness of His servants despite their own suffering to move the kingdom of heaven forward--and to storm the gates of the spiritual prison holding onto the many souls who came to faith as a result.

I suppose this passage indicts me so powerfully today because I'm much more of a complainer than a praiser. I get it that the prisoners were still up at midnight--frequently I'm up at midnight and beyond, too. But usually, I'm up worrying. I might pray when my midnight circumstances (though much more cushy then Paul and Silas') seem out of control--but my prayer would likely come off more like a two-year-old's whining than a mature believer's prayer of faith and worship of the Almighty.

Yet, this passage has issued a challenge for me today. Perhaps you'll hold me accountable, so that the next time I'm awake and in trouble at the midnight hour, I'm going to make an effort to be praising instead of whining. And, while an earthquake-sized change in my circumstances might sound appealing, even if it doesn't come, I'll praise Him just the same.

May this passage of the Word challenge and encourage you today, as well.

Blessings and prayers,
Julie

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Wet Walk

Treasured friend,

A few weeks ago I intended to get us back to Matthew 14--to the scene where Jesus walks on the water in the middle of a storm to get to His disciples. I got sidetracked on a couple of other meaningful passages (not the least of which was last week's between-the-eyes hit on the necessity of rest--which I needed desperately--I suspect you might have needed it, as well). But I do want to come back to Matthew 14 today.

Here's the passage:

Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear.
Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.”
“Come!” He said.
And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!” Matthew 14:22-33 (HCSB)
I guess I love this passage so much because I see both what I am (in Peter leaping out in faith, thinking better of it, sinking, and crying out for Christ's help) and what I could be (in Jesus creating a space for His quiet, intimate, personal relationship with His Father in the midst of a chaotic and exhausting season of life).

More often I'm sinking and crying out in desperation than intentionally carving out a time and place for communing with my Father in heaven. Perhaps you are too. Reacting to the crises roiling around you. Leaping out on the water and praying there will be rocks under foot to keep you from drowning--not realizing there was no trick to walking on water--only well-placed, unwavering faith in the Son of God.

I love that Jesus works with the little faith of Peter--and of each of us. He doesn't chide Peter ahead of time for not having enough faith to follow through with the whole walk. Even though He knows how it's going to unfold, He doesn't keep Peter from making the leap. He sustains the miracle so Peter does indeed take a few steps out there on the water (the only other human ever recorded to have done so, other than Jesus Himself).

And when Peter's faith peters out (it had to be said), He doesn't say, Peter, you have no faith, or your faith is of absolutely no use. Just , my friend you have small faith, weak faith, "little" faith -- enough to start, which is good (better than the others still cowering in the rocking and rolling boat) -- but not enough to finish. It's great, though, that Christ does have the supply of what we lack. He simply reached out and lifted His disciple to safety. And, do note that Peter knew enough to call out for Christ to save him as he sunk into the white caps of the stormy lake.

That, I suppose is the most powerful observation from the scene. Jesus has the power to lift us to safety--not just barely, as if the effort of it will put Him in peril or drain His strength supplies--but plenty of power to lift each of us out of the waves, limitless power, unsappable power, uninterruptible power to carry us to safety in the storm and through the storm. Ultimately, as with the end of this scene, to overcome and calm the storm--and in so doing to bring honor and glory to Himself. And He is as near to us as to Peter--near enough to hear us when we call; near enough to offer His strong arm to keep us from sinking in defeat.

Another passage I've been reading for a writing project I'm doing today is from the Gospel of John (chapter 9) where Jesus heals the man born blind--after His disciples want to know whether the man's sins or his parents' caused his blindness. I love that Jesus sluffs off that question entirely and points out that the man's suffering will result in ultimate glory for the Son and His Father in heaven. It's nobody's business what got him there. Only that God has a plan in and through it--one that's good for the man and good for the King's reputation.

That's the way I want to see the storms I'm facing today--through the eyes of faith--even if it is Peter's "little" faith. Even then, it's well-placed faith in the Christ Who not only walks on the water to meet the disciples in the storm, but holds the power to bring them through safely and restore calm to all the forces of nature at work against them.

Perhaps the key to that healthy and God-centered outlook comes at the opening of the scene: in getting away quietly to be alone with God. To seek His perspective. To ask His wise counsel. To submit to His ultimate authority over my life and that of my loved ones.

If you have more thoughts on this passage and how it speaks to you, I'd love to hear them. Post a comment here, or drop me an email at conferences@joymediaservices.com. I'd love to know how God is at work in your life through the challenge and encouragement of His Word.

Blessings,

Julie

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Email from God

Treasured friend,


I know that title must sound rather odd—especially coming from me. But I’m pretty sure I received one last week--an email from God, that is.


I know I’ve mentioned it to you on many occasions, but it bears repeating here that my work load has been heavy since mid-winter. I’ve been juggling project deadlines in between shuttling my dad to doctor visits and trying to do my share of household work—including a portion of what used to be “his” work.


It was Thursday around 2 o’clock. I had been writing all day—about seven hours at that point. That’s a pretty intense assignment. And it probably surpassed the wise max for one sitting. But all I knew was I had so much more to get done—it was a rare day without doctors or other interruptions (even the dinner was made already), so I had to capture those hours to move the paying work forward.


The only problem was I was slowing down from fatigue. No, more than that—I was weary to the bone. My head was throbbing. Unconsciously, I brought my hands up to massage my throbbing temples. I’m so tired, I moaned.


That’s when the email dinged. Now, I’m usually pretty disciplined about letting it ding all it wants and ignoring it until I’m done writing. But for some reason, when my right hand returned to the mouse, I clicked open Outlook and found the new email. It was a weekly devotional I receive from the Assemblies of God Women’s Ministries department—designed especially for Women @ Work. The headline read:


The Rest of Your Life


And the subhead read:


Coffee Breaks Are Not Optional

It might as well have been flashing neon. I read on:


Learning to work well is great, but working well is not sufficient to create a balanced life; we must also learn how to stop working. That’s called rest. … It was on God’s Top Ten List.


You know, I found myself thinking, I may not have too much trouble with some of the commands on that list: don’t murder—sure, no problem. Don’t steal—okay, what’s not mine doesn’t belong in my sticky fingers. Honor your parents—I’m working at that every day. Don’t take God’s name in vain—got it—I love that Name, and will work not to do or say anything that would discredit that Name. But Sabbath rest? I’m pretty-much too busy to get that one covered. Surely, God you didn’t mean for me to worry about that one.


As I read more of the devotional, I was reminded of the command from God that all of us rest—regularly and intentionally. And I found a bullet-list of warning signs that I’m not up to snuff on that particular command: mental fatigue (check); irritability (check); anxiety (check). Kinda like looking in the mirror.


So, I considered the emailed article, written by Ed Gungor, pretty much an email from God, sent from Ed’s keyboard. And I did a little homework on rest. I found a great challenge in the book of Hebrews.



So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:9-13 (ESV)


This passage attributes to God an invitation to His children to enter the gift of His rest. Rest is a privilege He offers—and a failure to accept this offer He considers an affront—a sin, every bit as appalling to Him as our failure to keep any of the other commands. Failure to rest is disobedience—plain and simple. It amounts to crossing the Word—and it will pierce me to the bone. God won’t let it slide.


But God …I began. Then I stopped. No “buts” allowed. I pushed back from the keyboard; shut off the monitor; and went to the family room to rest. Was it convenient? Nope. Was it in the schedule? Nope. Was it without cost? Nope. Was is necessary? You bet! Because I never want to be found on the wrong side of the Word—and when I give account to God one day, I want it to be a joyful moment, not a shameful one.


My prayer is that this challenge will be one you’ll take to heart, as well.


Blessings and prayers,


Julie


© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Relentless Pursuit of God

Treasured friend,

I had intended to return to Matthew 14 for this week’s devotional thought – but as I was reading devotionally myself in Isaiah 26, a passage jumped out and ministered to my heart – so I thought I’d share it with you today. (Perhaps next week we’ll return to Matthew 14—where Jesus walks on the water—because there’s some meat there to sustain us, as well.)

Now, on to Isaiah 26, beginning with v. 7:

The path of the righteous is level; You clear a straight path for the righteous. Yes, Yahweh, we wait for You in the path of Your judgments. Our desire is for Your name and renown. I long for You in the night; yes, my spirit within me diligently seeks You, for when Your judgments are ⌊in⌋ the land, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:7-9, HCSB).

The heading for the section in my translation is “God’s People Vindicated.” And I love that. The injustice and suffering that swirls around us in this world of exhaustion isn’t getting the last word. And it isn’t as out of control as it feels. God is at work—sometimes, as in the case of His faithful servant Job, His hand clearing a path for our feet is deeply hidden behind the scenes—but He is there, at work and ready to meet the righteous on their path of seeking Him.

I love that the passage gives us a defining picture of the abstract concept of righteousness. It’s not sinless perfection—none of us could ever claim that. But it is a passionate desire for God’s renown—God’s reputation. It is an adoring, zealous seeking of Him—even in desperate times when He seems so tragically far removed from us. A pursuit of Him leads us in the paths of righteousness—the paths that are level and straight. It sounds a lot like Psalm 23: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (NKJV).

The picture in my mind is of a bruised but persistent hunter: panting, gasping, wheezing through the dark underbrush of a dense forest in the dead of night—even then undeterred because she’s hot on the trail of God. Never giving up the pursuit—not when scarred by thorns or thistles; not when chewed up by deep-woods insects; not when tailed by blood-thirsty predators.
I want to be that brand of righteous person, whose path God can ultimately level, as I seek Him that ardently.

As I read and studied further, I went to my Life Application Bible Notes on the passage, where I found this comment:

At times the "path" of the righteous doesn't seem smooth, and it isn't easy to do God's will, but we are never alone when we face tough times. God is there to help us, to comfort us, and to lead us. God does this by giving us a purpose (keeping our mind centered on him, 26:3 [we studied that verse on Father’s Day; Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because He trusteth in Thee.]) and giving us provisions as we travel. God provides us with relationships of family, friends, and mentors. God gives us wisdom to make decisions and faith to trust him. Don't despair; stay on God's path.

I suppose I needed that challenge and encouragement this week, as our family suffered the terrible shock of the unexpected death of one of our own—my dear aunt. As all of you who have suffered a similar loss know, in those hours, we are more obviously desperate for God’s face, for His wisdom, for His provision of faith to battle the crouching enemy of despair.

I know this passage encouraged me to keep pursuing God in righteousness, even when I don’t understand what He’s “up to” in my life, and in the lives of my beloved ones.

May you find hope there today, as well.

Blessings,

Julie


© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Monday, June 28, 2010

Jesus, the Caregiver

Treasured friend,

Jesus is sad, grieving, exhausted. He has received word that His forerunner and cousin John the Baptist was brutally beheaded by Herod. In His grief he tries to go away privately to a solitary place, so He boards a boat. And yet the crowd won't let Him go. They are needy. They are demanding. They are persistent. They are quick--for they follow on foot, by land, arriving as He does by boat. They number into the many thousands (five thousand men, alone, not to mention women and children).

If you or I had been in that situation, I wonder whether we'd have stayed on the boat and put out to another place-- even to the middle of the lake -- anywhere to get away and lick our wounds.

But not our Lord. Listen for the way eyewitness Matthew records His response:

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Matthew 14:14; NIV).

He saw their need and set aside His human weakness to serve them--to meet their needs. All because of His compassion. Imagine the depth of love that would allow Him to transcend His grief to reach out to the people who trudged through the sands and dust to the solitary place--just to be near Him. It's a love I confess I don't understand. For when I'm grieving, I understand the drive to get to the solitary place--to that point, I'm with my Lord. But unlike His gracious, loving response--woe to anyone who gets in the way of my private moments of sorrow--I demand the right of indulging in a protracted season of sulky depression.

But not our Lord. He heals. He teaches. He touches. Because of that overflowing heart of compassion for His desperate creatures.

The next surprise comes that He keeps on healing and teaching and touching late into the evening. Far past His own meal time -- and theirs. The disciples, ever practical, see it, although the Lord seems to ignore the obvious. Finally, after trying to signal Him from their perches around the perimeter, they come up close. They stage-whisper to Him, "Send the people away. They need food -- and the village shops around here will be closing soon." Their own stomachs are growling--and they know just what resources they have--just enough food for them to have a bite each. A little to share with the Master and the inner circle. But it would be rude to eat in front of the crowd.

Imagine their shock when Jesus commands them, "You, give them something to eat" (v. 16).

What? We have barely enough for a bit each for ourselves! What are you thinking?

Jesus, the compassionate is also Jesus, the Master. And in His role as Master of the Universe, He takes charge (probably with a disappointed shake of His head at the doltish responses of those who have walked closest to Him all these months). "Bring them to me," He tells the disciples when they show Him a teensy supply of loaves and fishes. You know the story, Jesus taps into the resources of Heaven to multiply five loaves and two fish to meet and surpass the need--for after everyone is full to capacity, twelve baskets full remain (one for each disciple, ironically).

It's not the supply that makes this story, though. It is the heart of the Master that is so willing to provide for the needs of those who seek Him out. He's still the same, today. Although the food and healing touch may come to us in different forms, all the provision of resources we so desperately need as we care for our loved ones, all of it comes from His willing, compassionate, gracious hand.

Yet (I speak only for myself, now; take from it what you will for your own life) as I receive those resources from Him, I am tempted to hoard them like the disciples, rather than giving them away like Christ did. I see only the limits of my abilities--of my resources--and seeing the limits, I'm miserly in releasing them, lest I run out and starve myself. Again, like the disciples. Be reasonable, Jesus! You can't expect me to give them what I don't have.

His response echoes down the hall to my office this morning, Bring what you do have to Me. That's when He will bless it and multiply it and make it more than enough to meet the need around me. But I have to be willing to share. I have to be willing to take on the selfless compassion of the heart of our Heavenly Caregiver -- only then will I be the conduit for the Lord's miraculous provision to those around me who desperately need a touch, a word of kindness, and many acts of loving service.

Jesus, the Caregiver of Matthew 14, has much to teach me -- and perhaps you, as well. Today, it was a lesson about selflessness I guess I needed most.

Take a moment to read the entire passage, Matthew 14:13-21, and see what He has to offer you today.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Father's Favorite Scripture

Treasured Friend,

I'd like to share with you once again a post I originally issued on Father's Day 2010. It centers around my dad's life-Scripture. When I was a child, we used to sing it as a chorus in our church. In fact, I learned it that way before I ever knew it was straight out of the Word. When I wanted to do something nice for Daddy on Sunday evening, I'd summon my courage during the song and testimony service and with all the effort my little introverted heart could muster I'd call out the number of the chorus -- Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace. The congregation would sing it (Mom would be beaming away at the piano!), and Daddy would snuggle me close under his arm.

The Scripture in the old King James version says this:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3)

I, of course, prefer a contemporary translation ... but the truth remains unchanged. These days, I really enjoy reading the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) -- because its fresh turn of phrase attracts and holds my attention -- leaving me less likely to gloss over what I've read so often, leaving me less sure that I already know what the Word has to say to me. Here is the way HCSB translates this timeless truth:

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.

A mind in perfect peace -- made possible through child-like trust in the dependable Creator/Savior/Father/Friend.

In our household, we've appropriated that Scripture in countless ways. In pre-op wards, when we didn't know whether we'd see each other again this side of eternity. In times of financial challenge. In times of physical separation due to work-related travel or (in days gone by) when miles separated us while I was away getting my education.

What a testimony of a life lived for Christ -- sure trouble and trials and challenges come, but the mind doesn't need to be in turmoil. It can stay in peace -- even perfect peace -- because of well-placed trust. Trust in the only One worthy of our dependence.

I can't think of a more appropriate life verse -- or one with a greater legacy attached to it. God is faithful. Not only does He provide His presence in us and with us, His direction, His love and grace and forgiveness -- but He offers us the sure dependability of His peace guarding our hearts and minds -- through Christ Jesus our Lord.

May the truth here in Isaiah's prophecy about God's unchanging nature be a source of comfort -- and especially of peace -- to you no matter what challenges face you today.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com