Demo of Julie's Bible Reference Library

Monday, April 26, 2010

Here We Go Again!

Treasured friend,



It’s been a rough week here in our household. We’ve spent more time than we’d hoped in pungent hospital waiting rooms (you’d recognize the smell anywhere: a mingling of antiseptic, burnt coffee, and crumbling paint) and on the cold plastic chairs of specialists’ exam rooms. And it’s not going to get easier any time soon.

You know how that goes – because you’ve been there (or perhaps are there), too.

That’s why this Scripture promise from the mouth of God has been extra meaningful to me this week:

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life” (Isaiah 43:1-4; ESV).


I really don’t like that one word that keeps cropping up in the passage: when. God doesn’t say, if the waters threaten to flood you out; if you find yourself walking through fire or if flames come close to you. It’s that pesky when. These things do come close to us—they do touch our households, our loved ones, our own bodies. It’s a reality and a certainty—it’s going to happen. The question is how we’re going to make it through.

For followers of Christ, the comfort is in the companionship. It is in Who has called us by name, Who wades into the waters and Who walks alongside us to keep our feet from sliding on mossy rocks, Who knows where the invisible sand pits cut into the slimy river bed, and Who pledges to keep us from falling into them.


Like He did for the three Hebrew youths in the king’s triple-hot furnace, Christ Himself will be for us the fourth man right in there with us keeping the fire’s flames from kindling on us. I love that scene, told in Daniel 3. Because, although God allowed the fires near His faithful followers, when (I like this use of when much better!) He brought them out of the furnace, their clothes weren’t even singed—they didn’t even have the smell of smoke lingering in their hair. Their faith rings in my ears:

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18; NASB).


The similarity between Daniel 3’s action and Isaiah 43’s promise brings me comfort in the assurance that God will again be true to His Word—Fear not! … I will be with you. He has the means to follow through on His promise, and the inclination (because He loves us and because He formed us and called us His own) to do so. What He says, He will do.


It’s something to cling to when the flood of waiting and fires of uncertainty threaten to overwhelm us.

I’m holding onto that hope today; and I pray you are, as well.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

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

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Precious, Short-lived Solitude

Treasured friend,

I had a single moment of solitude on Saturday evening, although for a moment it didn’t look like it would come to be. The place of solitude: a commuter jet en route to Ohare airport. It was just a quick breather, mid-weekend. I’d kissed my folks goodbye only hours before—and now I was returning home. It had been an intense 36-hour whirlwind trip, where I’d written a chapter of my new Bible study book (I promise I’ll tell you more about it in another post!) while sitting in a noisy gate area, attended a curriculum planning meeting in Colorado Springs, and was now returning home to teach our Adult Bible Fellowship and play violin in the church orchestra on Sunday morning.

It was the last flight of the evening, so I expected it to be rather empty; judging from the gate area, I was right. So, I boarded early (I’d paid for the privilege) and nestled into seat 4a, folded my arms and began to doze. Suddenly my row (the three remaining seats of it) was accosted with a family of four—yes, four in three seats—little girl, dad, mom and toddler (with dirty diaper). I probably don’t have to describe what was going through my mind. I fumed silently for the duration of the boarding process.

But then, bless her, the flight attendant who was about to close the aircraft door made this announcement: “Anyone who wishes may move back in the plane, where there are empty seats.”

Up in a flash, I found myself the empty row 7 and sprawled across it.

Whoa! A blessing for which I was desperate. Restful moments spent with my head in my hands, praying for strength and wisdom and energy and courage and safety (for myself and for my aging parents while I was away).

I find myself in moments of solitude, rare as they are, seeking the company of my Savior. It is in His company that I, no matter how overwhelmed and exhausted, can breathe in enough heavenly oxygen to continue my heavy-laden schedule.

I was comforted in those moments by two statements from the Word that were close in my memory—comforted because they show me a reminder I absolutely need right away.

The first is in Mark 6:

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest a while.” For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they went away in the boat by themselves to a remote place, but many saw them leaving and recognized them. People ran there by land from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. Mark 6:30-33 (HCSB)

The second is in Deuteronomy 31:

The LORD is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (HCSB)

Why do I find comfort here—and why do I believe that perhaps you’ll find comfort here, as well?

First, we desperately need to tell Jesus all about what’s been going on in our lives. We need to lay out before Him the things that have wrung us out like the soggy sponge I left crunched up on my kitchen counter—next to the dirty dishes. They may be good things, like those the disciples reported: I’ve been about your ministry, Lord, and I’ve seen Your hand accomplish many things! Or they may be menial or frightening or tedious things. God, I can’t take another moment of watching my loved one fade away, his mind captive to dementia, her body ravaged by disease.

In those moments, we can be heartened by Jesus’ response to the disciples—because I believe He is responding to our reports similarly today.

First, note that He didn’t say Great job. I’m impressed with all you did for Me.

Instead, here’s my paraphrase of how He did respond: You don’t even have time to eat. Let me help you take care and refresh yourself. You can’t do ministry and you won’t find strength for the day by heaping exhaustion upon exhaustion.

True, the disciples’ work was waiting (perhaps even multiplied) on the other side of that lake, but for a brief moment, Jesus’ prescription for them was respite. I’m glad Mark doesn’t give us a report about some heavy teaching Jesus gave during the trip. I suspect, if I were to imagine the scene, each disciple curled up, nibbled on his packed lunch, then cradled his neck in his pack and napped.

Like the disciples, after the food and the nap, the comfort we’ll find in the Deuteronomy passage is the one that prepares us to return to the work at hand: God hasn’t forsaken us or left us—and He never will. This work to which He’s called me, challenging and difficult though it may be, is possible for that very reason. He calls. He’s faithful. He’s here with me right now. And, my treasured friend, He’s right there with you, as well.

May you find a moment of refreshment today (even in the oddest place), drinking in Christ’s instruction and His Father’s timeless promise.



Blessings and prayers for you, my friend,

Julie

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

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Our Only Source of Strength


Treasured friend,

I spent this morning teaching an adult Bible fellowship group at our church. My topic was John 15:1-10. What a beautiful and jam-packed passage that is. Our Lord, just before going to Gethsemane and then to the cross, so lovingly and intensely addressed His followers. He challenged them. He comforted them. He reminded them of all He'd been modeling before them throughout His years of ministry.

And, most relevantly for us as caregivers, He had a dire yet hope-filled diagnosis for how our lives will be measured, from His vantage point:


"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5; NIV).


Faithful caregiver, in the drudgery and life-sapping tasks, you probably have no problem with the concept that your strength isn't sufficient for the day. I know there have been many days, humanly speaking, when the demands on me have far surpassed my energy stores. You may be living one of those today.

But Jesus didn't tell us that we couldn't do much apart from being connected to Him. He didn't say, there are some things that you'll need a little help doing. He didn't say, sometimes you'll want to plug into me for a little extra something. No! He said, "Without me, your best efforts will amount to nothing."

Nothing? Really, Jesus? I'm doing so many things because it's right for me to do them. Okay, so sometimes, I forget to get recharged or to ask for Your direction. But it all counts for nothing? That's a drastic diagnosis to give me when I'm trying so hard!

Pretty discouraging stuff, if He'd left it there. But the good news is that there's more to the story—in fact, He gave us the good news ahead of the bad news. Let's look again at verse 5, this time from the NLT, because there it really pops:


"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."


In Christ, through Christ, and by Christ, our labors will be more productive than we could ever imagine. They will bear "much fruit." Not a little. But a lot of juicy, fruity, nourishing sweetness will come bursting out of our lives. That's what I want to be a part of producing, don't you?

What does this fruit look like in real life? In our prayer time in ABF this morning, we heard about a man who is battling cancer. He's a man of strong faith in Christ. And, as we were going to prayer on his behalf, we heard this report: his wife says her faith has been strengthened as she's watched him and cared for him through the illness that has him in its grasp. This brother in Christ is remaining—he is showing by a life well lived that not through human effort, but through Christ's life shining through his suffering, his branch is bearing fruit for the kingdom of God.

So, the challenge to each of us today is clear. Remain attached to the vine of Christ. It's not an option, not one thing among many to drop down the rungs of our to-do lists until we get more time. It's crucial—it's life-giving—and it makes all the difference in the world.

May we remain attached to Christ today – and in our remaining, may He bear much fruit through our lives as we give ourselves away in care for those we love.

Blessings to you on this Lord's Day afternoon,


Julie


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

Sunday, April 4, 2010

He Is Risen!

Treasured Friend,


It’s days like today that make me appreciate good friends, stable health, and time together as a family. There were six of us around the Easter supper table this afternoon: my parents and I were joined by our dear friends—two adult daughters and their widowed mom. Despite all of us having endured (even as recently as the last two weeks) various trips to surgeons, doctors, test facilities, pharmacies, emergency rooms, and more, on this day we were all together and for the moment on the better side, health-wise.

I realize for you the day may have been quite different—we around the table have been through our seasons of such intense caregiving that a holiday meal together was unthinkable. That probably made today all that much sweeter for the six of us—reflecting on how God has brought us through stormy seasons, reflecting on our loved ones who are already absent from the body and present with the Lord; reflecting on the hope that keeps us going when the weeks again become Everest-like treks devoid of Sherpa guides.

Today’s shared meal was a reminder for me to keep on encouraging you to be heartened with the knowledge that seasons pass. Your load won’t be unbearable always. The hope of Easter is exactly that. There will be a day when ...


The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples … He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:6-9 (NASB)

Imagine what that celebration will be like. Heavenly chefs placing before a gathering of saints from all nations and all generations the most lavish and bountiful spread ever tabled. And the Lord of love and grace—the Savior of Resurrection Sunday—presiding at the head as Master of the Household of Faith. Before the meal, He will come to each one and with His own nail-pierced hand brush away all tears, removing, as He does this, the last residue of sorrow and mourning and pain and suffering from our sojourn on fallen earth. With that, the joy of salvation will erupt in a magnitude never before expressed.

Looking toward this day can become our motivator—our hope—our assurance—as the long season of caregiving looms ahead of us. All this is possible, because it is Jesus’ expressed desire: “I want them to be with Me where I am.” On the night before His crucifixion Christ told the Father. “I want them to see My glory, the glory I had before the foundation of the world” (paraphrased from John 17).

That’s why there was a cross for Christ. That’s why there was a crown of thorns twisted into His brow and a spear in His side and a burial shroud draped across His battered earthly shell. That’s why there was a boulder rolled across the entrance of a borrowed tomb by hulking Roman soldiers. That’s why it took two angels in white robes to break the seal and an earthquake to roll away the hunk of solid earth and sit atop it—readying the grand announcement: HE IS NOT HERE. HE IS RISEN, AS HE SAID.

Sure the amazing news of the Resurrection stunned even His inner circle. They’d stood by helplessly—as if in the most horrid nightmare—while their Master was cruelly and brutally massacred by a crowd of easily swayed countrymen and foreigner soldiers. But with Christ’s resurrection in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:4), death would no longer win—it would never be the end for those who believe in Him. The cruelest suffering on earth will pale in that day when it’s wiped away by the loving hand of our Lord. All that will remain will be our knowledge of His faithfulness, His love, His grace, His mercy—and our undying gratitude for it.

Take hope, my friend. No matter what you’re facing today, let the empty tomb be your eternal reminder that Christ didn’t just experience your griefs beside you, didn’t just carry them with you, but He conquered them once for all time for you. The tomb is empty, so your exhaustion and your care-recipient’s suffering—these do not have the last word. He has conquered, and He will one day allow you to see that the spoils of His victory belong to you.

May the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ be your strength today.
Easter blessings from our home to yours!

Julie

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