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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spontaneous Praise

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Selfish or Selfless?

Treasured friend,

By now, you know this about me. It will come as no surprise to you when I admit that I’m naturally selfish. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about putting others’ best interests ahead of my own. Not just in caregiving, but in every area of life. 

I suppose it’s the Lord’s prompting that this is an area where He plans to do some reconstruction work--yet again. 

In that frame of mind I read the first chapter of John's Gospel. That’s where four role models of pure selflessness jumped off the page and grabbed my attention:

John the Baptist—he prepares the way for the Christ to enter the scene. Then, when people question him on his feelings about Jesus outshining him, JtB makes the most unselfish statement I could imagine: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 ESV)

Then there’s Andrew. He’s with JtB and hears the proclamation of Jesus as the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.” Right away he runs to tell his brother Peter: “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41 ESV). We hear Andrew speak for himself in one other scene. He’s the one who brings the loaves and fish to Jesus (John 6). Otherwise, Andrew decreases—while his brother Peter takes over as spokesperson for the disciples.

Then there’s Nathanael and Philip. Philip tells Nathanael, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (1:45). Nathanael scoffs. But the scoffer quickly turns to faith: “Rabbi,” he says to Jesus, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Those are the only words we ever hear from him.

I’m intrigued by the fact that these first confessors of the truth about Christ's deity fade into the background as some of those they bring to Him become a sort of inner circle.

God’s Spirit showed me a lesson in the unselfishness of these who decreased so others, and more importantly, Christ, would receive all the headlines. These early believers trusted Christ, and they each served Him in everyday ways. They told others about Him—through words and obedient actions. We don’t hear of any of these disciples asking for the place of prominence in the kingdom.

Yet, I rather think God takes special notice of these servants of His. Jesus promises those who do a thousand unnoticed tasks in His name a “kingdom prepared for you.” And He calls them, "you who are blessed by My Father."

I think I can be happy trading my selfishness for that.




Blessings and prayers,

Julie

Adapted from an earlier version originally posted at womencareforagingparents.blogspot.com in 2012. This version © 2014, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Back In Synch

My dad died. He was godly. He was loving and kind. He was passionate about reaching lost souls. He also was very sick. And he didn’t get well.

He’d been very sick before—many times. Once when his heart was out of synch, God intervened supernaturally and restored his pulse to regularity moments before a scheduled cardioversion (a procedure to shock a heart back into rhythm). Other times God healed him through skilled surgeons.

So, I expected God to do something supernatural for him one more time. The fact that He didn’t, when He could have, shook me.

Most sane people go to the Psalms to find uplift when they have questions of faith. But I’ve never made any claim of sanity. My offbeat self goes to a rather unexpected place in Scripture for rejuvenation: the prophets. Weird, I know. But Isaiah and Jeremiah might as well be my best friends. Their insights astound me with accuracy, relevance and clarity.

So, when my faith crisis hit, I turned to these old friends. As I navigated the treasure map of passages I’d marked before, my eyes rested on Isaiah 56. I’ve always thought this chapter reads like God’s one-on-one response to my private thoughts. I started reading, nodding and agreeing, and kept on until I hit 57:1, which all at once became my personal cardioversion.

“Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. … No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die” (Isaiah 57:1-2 NLT).

God’s voice spoke as clearly to my soul’s ears as if He’d spoken to the ears hiding out under my blonde locks. The candor of the passage forced me to listen. This isn’t about you, Julie. It’s about your dad. He deserved peaceful rest. I didn’t fail him. I allowed him to achieve what he’d lived for all those years.

Hmm. Right. So then a lot of things aren’t about me. There’s a news flash I could have lived much longer without facing. The truth is, God has purposes only He knows—not only for me, but for my loved ones. Sometimes He chooses to move them onward and upward.

It’s no surprise to Him, though, that this offbeat, south-of-sane child of His sometimes needs a biblical cardioversion from the ancient prophets to shock me back into rhythm. And He doesn’t hesitate to use their electrically charged paddles on my spiritual heart.



Blessings and prayers,

Julie

Not one to fit neatly into one category, Julie-Allyson Ieron uses her odd assortment of talents in a way that’s all her own. She’s a violinist/author/teacher/caregiver/vocalist/friend who addresses her books and presentations to groups as varied as writers, church women, librarians, caregivers, Bible students and senior citizens. 

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


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Take a Break!

I’m pretty sure I received an email from God.
I’d been writing all day—seven hours straight and counting. Definitely beyond the wise max for one sitting. But I had so much more to get done on this rare day without family doctor visits or other interruptions. I had to capture those hours.
My head throbbed. Unconsciously, I brought my hands up to my temples. I’m so tired.
That’s when the email dinged. I’m usually disciplined about ignoring emails until I’m finished working. But when my right hand returned to the mouse, it clicked “Open Outlook” on its own. There I found the email—a devotion with a subhead that grabbed me:
Coffee Breaks Are Not Optional

It might as well have been flashing blue neon. I read further: “We must … learn how to stop working. That’s called rest.… It was on God’s Top Ten List.”
Hmm. Is Someone looking over my shoulder? Kind of eerie.
I may not have much trouble with some of the commands on God’s Top Ten list: Don’t steal—okay, what’s not mine doesn’t belong in my sticky fingers. Honor your parents—I work at that every day. Don’t take God’s name in vain—I love that Name. But Sabbath rest? Surely, God you didn’t mean for me to get worked up about that one. Yet, it is prominent on the list, which is why I realized the devotion written by Ed Gungor was pretty much an email from God, sent via Ed’s keyboard.
I did a little homework on rest and found a pertinent challenge in Hebrews: “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” (Hebrews 4:10-11 ESV). Rest is a privilege God offers—and it’s increasingly obvious that He considers failure to accept this offer an affront—a sin every bit as appalling as failure to keep any of His other commands.
But God … I began my moan.

Just stop! You know what to do!


So, I pushed back from the keyboard and dragged myself to the family room to rest. Was it in the schedule? Nope. Was it necessary? You bet! Mostly because I never want to be on the wrong side of the Word—even when it arrives via an email from God.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

 © 2012, 2014, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Replacement

I was standing in line at the post office when my cell phone rang. It registered as one of my colleagues. That’s odd. She always emails.
“Hello? Julie?” Her voice sounded strained, panicked. She didn’t pause for me to say hello. “The speaker just cancelled for my conference; it starts tomorrow. I have hundreds of people on their way from all over the country. Please tell me you’re available to replace her.”
And so, for neither the first nor the last time, I became (trumpet flourish):The Replacement. I flew into a frenzy. I had to reshuffle appointments while creating a fresh presentation to parallel the topics the original speaker advertised. I had only hours to pack for the week-long trip before getting on the road.
Don’t think for a minute I’m complaining. I’m a willing replacement. When a conference director or TV interviewer tells me, “We’d love to have you back,” I always reply, “I’d love to be back. And, if you ever need a last-minute replacement, I’d be happy to fill in.” I mean it, too.
There might be a temptation for some to feel slighted, like, why wasn’t I invited first? But a true replacement is as Paul suggested to Timothy, “ready in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2 ESV). That’s actually a great motto. Like a backup quarterback, I never know which day I’ll get called in.
I was noodling on this as I prepared for a last-minute radio broadcast the other morning. That’s when my Bible reading took me to Acts. The followers, huddled in the upper room waiting, did a head count. Only eleven original disciples remained, since the betrayer Judas had allowed guilt to drive him to suicide.
Peter, remembering an Old-Testament prophecy, knew the disciples (learners), about to turn into apostles (witnesses), needed a twelfth man.
My eyes froze on something I’d never noticed before. The circle of Christ-followers included a crew of replacements waiting on the bench. Everywhere Jesus had gone during His ministry years, these folks had followed. They’d heard all His sermons. They’d slept where He slept and travelled the roads He trod. There had always been the big twelve—the ones we hear about. But there were others, just as faithful, just as attentive, just as available.
After identifying two of these followers with potential, Matthias and Justus, Peter voiced the group’s prayer, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry” (Acts 1:24-25 NLT).
When the answer came back as Matthias, Matthias willingly became the twelfth man replacement: “And he was numbered with the eleven apostles,” Luke reports in a matter-of-fact tone (Acts 1:26).
We know little about Matthias. Clearly, he didn’t trumpet his own publicity, but God took notice of his willingness to serve, his faithful heart, his availability. So, in honor of Matthias, and replacements near and far, I’ve prepared a Manifesto for Replacements
As a Professional Replacement I will …
  • be available
  • be enthusiastic
  • be prepared to jump in with little notice
  • check my ego at the door
  • bring a good attitude with me
  • fill in wherever I’m needed
  • seek others’ best interests over my own


Matthias gained an unparalleled privilege when he agreed to become God’s Replacement. I gained the privilege of addressing an attentive, enthusiastic crowd at my friend’s conference. And so it will go any time we agree to join God’s team as The Replacement.

Blessings and prayers,
Julie

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

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Jesus Still Loves Me

Treasured friend,

The other day, when Mom and I were doing our music ministry at a local senior home, we were witnesses to a startling miracle. Many of the residents are quite healthy and independent, but some are succumbing to dementia. Sadly, it seems the disease steals more of who they are with each passing week. One sweet gal, in particular, is more and more lost in her own world, less and less aware of her surroundings.

Anyway, on this particular day Mom got it in her mind to try out the music box setting on the organ with a little ditty from Sunday school days, "Jesus Loves Me."

No sooner did Mom strike the first chord of the chorus that a voice rang out above the din of the room. It was very much in the range of an outside voice, not an inside voice. It also was on pitch and in perfect time. Yes, as you guessed, it was this sweet gal. "Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so."

Some memories, it seems -- and some truths -- are simple enough for a child and enduring enough to rise through dementia's cruel fog.

Jesus' love is like that. He has staying power. Listen for His amazing promise: "The one who has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him" (John 14:21 HCSB). This sweet gal reminded Mom and me of that blessed truth.

Our prayer for you is that you are able to stay aware of the amazing love of God today -- and keep looking for the little miracles He places in your path.

Blessings and prayers, Julie

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

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Servant Position Vacated, Apply Here

I learned overnight that one of my sweet, wonderful mentor/friends from the church I attended in college, Rita Jo Yerden, moved up to heaven not quite two days ago. Rita Jo exhibited a compassion and sensitivity and an ability to recognize pain in others that I never forgot. In fact, I wrote about her in my first book, Names of Women of the Bible. I’m so glad that when I went back to Anderson, IN, for my 25th college reunion a few years ago, I had a long chat with her during the intermission of a concert at Park Place Church of God.

If you’ll indulge me, then, I offer this excerpt in tribute to Rita Jo – and in hopes that each of us as caregivers can follow her example. For, as heaven gains servants like her, new servant positions are vacated down here.

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. 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.

Excerpted by permission from Names of Women of the Bible, ©1998, 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron; all rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact Joy at orders@joymediaservices.com.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bible references now easier to read

Friends,

We've added a new function to our blog. Now, whenever you encounter a Scripture reference in the text of the entries, you'll be able to fly your cursor over that reference and have the full text of the passage open in a popup window. We hope you enjoy this new benefit. It's one we've come to enjoy because of the WordSearch Bible software package we use in the office, now it's available on blogs and websites (it's called Reftagger and it comes from Logos software, in case you'd like to add it to your pages). We think it will enhance your reading experience. Enjoy!

Blessings,

Julie and the Joy Media team
3 John 1:2

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Heartfelt Prayer for Caregivers ... and those they love

Treasured friend,

It was nearly a year ago that I penned this closing prayer to my devotional booklet, Comforting Words for Caregivers. Tonight, thinking of all our family has been through in these ensuing months -- and the way God has indeed proven His name as "the God of all comfort" -- I pray this for you right now.



Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)

God of all comfort,
I carry to You in this moment, each reader and each loved one who is battling illness and discouragement. I ask that Your compassionate arms will wrap around them. May they feel the sustaining grace of Your nearness in every moment of their trial.
May You guard, guide, and light their steps. May You build them up in the faith and in the sweet knowledge of You. And may the sure future of eternity with You provide them with supernatural strength to face each tomorrow to come.
As Paul prayed for the Ephesians, I ask that this trial will drive their roots deeper into Your glorious love, where they will find in You every resource they need to press on toward the high calling of Your presence forever.
I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



If this comfort is what you need, visit our ministry website and order your own autographed copy of Comforting Words for Caregivers ... and those they love. We'd love to get it out to you right away.

Many blessings and prayers, Julie

Excerpted by permission from Comforting Words for Caregivers, © 2013, Julie-Allyson Ieron and Warner Press. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com