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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Word for the new year ... from Our Compassionate Lord

Dear friends,

In our archives, we found this post from a number of years ago -- it's more relevant today than it was when we first entered it in our blog. Hope you enjoy this re-read of a new year's blessing:

Word from My Compassionate Lord -   

My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken.
Leading into each new year, I seek from the Lord a verse of promise, encouragement, even challenge. I reread and review that verse, along with its related passage, throughout the coming year--and it provides a growth point for my relationship with Christ. One year, the passage was John 17--my study of which eventually became my book and Bible study: Praying Like Jesus. Other years, the word has been to return to my first love (last year's) or to simply stand firm when all is falling apart around me. It's a tradition I've kept since college--and one I am continuing this year.
Also, for many years, I've kept a Bible open in various locations (something I learned from reading that Billy Graham does it!) throughout my home and office. Each time I pass the open Bible, I read a verse or a passage. It’s getting harder now that I’ve reached the age where I need reading glasses to do this—but I keep a dollar-store pair on each open book, so I have no excuse to pass by without reading. I have one open Bible that I read when I'm brushing my teeth, for example. Another on the printer beside my computer. Another on the makeup table in my bedroom.
It was that third one whose pages got blown around when I was vacuuming one day recently. So, when I looked down at it the following evening, it was open to a passage I hadn't read in a long time ... Isaiah 54.
The entire passage blew me away, as it related to some of the unique pains and sadnesses on my heart. Then I got to verse 10, and realized it was the answer to my prayer for a new year’s annual verse. I share it with you from the HCSB, because it's so vibrant and personal in that translation:
“Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says your compassionate LORD (Isaiah 54:10).
So much richness is there. So much promise. I love the adjective He chooses to describe Himself: compassionate! A word from my compassionate Lord is one I cannot ignore. One that comforts me in a way none other could.
And that promise is so vital in our topsy-turvy days. Though this world may quake and shake and all its foundations crumble, my peace with God through Jesus Christ and my position as beloved in His eyes are secure. Absolutely incredible. Only the Almighty could make that promise and keep it. And He does, and He will.
I challenge you some time in this first week of a new year to read this passage for yourself, perhaps even the whole chapter, and see whether our Lord has a word for you from its riches.
A blessed, safe, joyful, and God-filled new year to you and your loved ones!

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

 © 2012, 2015, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Monday, November 30, 2015

Sweet Holy Child















He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. John 1:10 NIV


I was thumbing through Christmas music for the choir to present to our congregation at the retirement village when I came across a tender-hearted arrangement of the spiritual “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.” One line in the lyric demanded I stop and take notice:

Sweet little Holy Child/Didn't know Who You was.

I flashed back to the moment the apostle John chose to introduce us to the Master. He could have used the birth announcement (like Luke) or the genealogy (like Matthew). He could have jumped into the action (like Mark). But there, for all to read, amid the imagery of light and life, grace and truth, beginnings and The Word is this line, consistent with the old spiritual:

He was in the world, and … the world did not recognize him.

Devastating indictment of humanity. Your Creator entered the world He made. And guess what? You didn’t know Who He was!

How could they not know?

Before I’m quick to indict them, what about me? I say I know Who He is; I recognize His authority over the universe. But what about His authority over my life? If I recognize Him, what difference does that make? Have you ever wondered the very thing?

Let’s take our lead from those who did recognize Jesus—at the first Christmas and in the 33½ years that followed. They travelled long and far, left work undone, jeopardized lives and livelihoods. They gave gifts that cost them. They claimed Him publicly even when it was dangerous. Consider Peter and John, dragged before the same religious body that just weeks before had condemned Jesus to death. Caiaphas and Annas the high priests were among those who demanded the disciples stop preaching in Jesus’ name. “But Peter and John answered … ‘We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:19-20 NASB).

We can’t stop recognizing Him once we see Him and know Him for ourselves.

In a world where it’s increasingly unpopular to claim the Christ of the Word, may we follow the lead of Peter and John and make this our hearts’ Christmas prayer:

Sweet Jesus, I know Who You are.

Because I know You, I dedicate my life to speaking truth about You.


Blessings and prayers,

Julie

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

"Sweet Little Jesus Boy," by Robert MacGimsey

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Day Before Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving Table
http://www.freeimages.com/photo/thanksgiving-table-1443940

"Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever." 
2 Chronicles 20:21

It was the day before Thanksgiving. People everywhere were preparing to loosen their belts, drinking diet shakes, and anticipating a mega-binge on the biggest meal of the year. Women were cooking all snug in their kitchens with visions of browning birds and chestnut dressing dancing in their heads. We, however, hadn't planned quite so well—so I sent Mom out to the store for a few last-minute staples—canned pumpkin and refrigerated pie crusts for, well, you know, "homemade" pie.

Mom stashed her few must-haves into her cart and got in her favorite checker's line. As she wished her friend a "Happy day-before-Thanksgiving," Mom asked casually, "Are you cooking this year?"
Her friend teared up—right there at her register, "I've done it every year of my marriage. But this year with my husband shut in and fighting to recover from cancer surgery, and with me dividing my time between caregiving and working here, my niece asked if I wouldn't mind letting her cook the bird and host the family this year. All I have to do is show up tomorrow. She doesn't know what a gift this is to me."

As a sometimes-caregiver myself, I teared up when Mom relayed the story to me. I know too well the fact that caregiving requires juggling, time management, and shedding all tasks except the absolutely most essential. Non-essentials like shopping for Christmas gifts, planning for (and attending) holiday parties, and preparing a holiday meal go by the wayside leaving a harried caregiver feeling a sense of loss to add to every other emotion she's experiencing. And at once, the holiday season becomes another source of guilt, another source of pain, and another source of sorrow.

Give a caregiver a gift card, and chances are it won't get spent—because she can't get out to shop for herself. Give a caregiver the gift of time, though, and you've given her the most valuable present you could buy. What do I mean? Here are four gifts of time you could give to the caregiver you know.

The Gift of a Meal
This is the gift our checker-friend received from her niece. But it doesn't have to be so extreme or so elaborate. Carrying in a nice, home-cooked meal (complete with throw-away dishware and utensils), delivering it hot, and leaving the family to enjoy it is a tangible gift of one of life's necessities to an overwhelmed caregiver. It's also a way of telling her you're "with her" in spirit—and a demonstration of your thoughtful care. It's easy to give her a quick hug and tell her you're praying for her, but in this way, she'll know you took time and thought to ease her burden, while allowing her to check one must-do off her endless to-do list.

The Gift of Sitting
Many caregivers are tied to their ailing loved ones 24/7 and can't leave without arranging for a sitter. If your caregiver friend is in this situation, a thoughtful gift of time is for you to sit with her loved one for a few hours so she can do something that will refresh and rejuvenate her.
A real splurge is to give your friend a gift card for dinner, a movie, a massage, a makeover, even an overnight stay in an area hotel—and then give the gift of time so she'll be able to use the card on a day when she needs relief from her burdening responsibilities. Church small groups or care teams can pitch in for overnight stays. You might be giving a caregiver her only full night's sleep in as long as she can remember. Talk about a gift of time. This can be one of the most beneficial.

The Gift of Housecleaning
If housecleaning is a spiritual gift, I can tell you I don't have it. But I know that when caregiving gets most intense, things like vacuuming and dusting, laundry and cleaning bathrooms lose any luster they might otherwise have for even the cleanest freaks among us. So, a perfect gift for the caregiver on your list is the gift of housecleaning.
One option is to do cleaning for her yourself. I have a friend who spends a day each week doing an elder friend's laundry. This same gift can be especially meaningful to a harried caregiver who may have confided in you that she is unnerved by her household's multiplying pile of dirty linens and unmentionables.
Another option is to give the gift of a cleaning service to work for your friend when it's most convenient for her. Prepaying or having the cleaning service bill you for the work are two ways to make this fit into the caregiver's schedule.

The Gift of Nearness
One of the saddest byproducts of long-term caregiving is that caregivers often feel detached from special events—like church Christmas concerts and family holiday gatherings. But, with technology, it's easy to "be there" even if you're not really there.

Making a digital video recording of a play where your friend's child or grandchild is performing is one way to share the event with her, even from a distance. So is setting up a web cam and letting everyone at the event talk to her live. Even making a simple telephone call during a Christmas party can make her feel more part of the festivities. Just be careful to ask whether it's a good time to talk (when an ailing father is calling out for his dinner or a recovering surgery patient needs a bandage change, a phone call wouldn't be a welcome gift of time).

The bottom line is that caregivers are easy to overlook in the busyness of the holiday season. Their circumstances may not allow them to fully participate in festivities, but they'd welcome the thoughtful gifts of time from a compassionate friend like you who hasn't forgotten them.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

 © 2010, 2015, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com. This was first published as "Merry Christmas Caregiver" in Julie's ebook: Pearls to Treasure (Joy Media, 2010)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Families of Christmas - The Family that Turns to Each Other





A personal, pre-Christmas devotional video you might enjoy today!



Blessings and prayers,

Julie



© 2015, Joy Media Productions. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Thursday, November 5, 2015

In Oblivion


But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. 

Micah 5:2 NASB


I’m fascinated (and sometimes perplexed) by what goes viral on social media. Maybe it’s a cute baby (or puppy) doing something darling. Other times it’s something troubling done by someone who should know better. Seldom, though, is it an everyday, daily task common to womankind.

Getting up before dawn to trudge out in the snow so we can make the commuter train and get to work on time. Tossing a load of clothes into the washer or running the vacuum when everything in our body screams to be on the couch snoozing. Preparing a meal for our family when we’d like—just this once—to be served instead of serving. Unless something remarkable happens during these daily comings and goings, not one person takes notice of our sacrifices in these monotonous events.

Laboring in oblivion is where most of us spend our days. Keeping a roof over the heads of our loved ones; being sure they’re fed and clothed and well-stocked in necessities. That’s where our energy tanks get drained to the dregs.

I see that kind of dailyness when I read Micah’s now-famous prophecy about Bethlehem. It’s a snapshot of tens of thousands of daily days.

But you Bethlehem …

An insignificant place, a community of dozens (maybe hundreds) of families keeping flocks fed, baking small cakes of bread in stone ovens, sweeping dust from rocky floors in dark cave-like dwellings, trying to eek a living out of sandy ground.

Too small to be noticed. Too inconsequential to warrant a second glace from outsiders.

But you Bethlehem …

Even so, for centuries this unassuming place sheltered the remnants of David’s kingly line. For it was to this tiny place that a young man with that royal birthright (see Matthew 1’s genealogy) and his pregnant bride would be called to return – to his family home for generations. And so would begin a sequence of events that would rock the planet from that generation through ours and beyond.

But you Bethlehem … you will shelter the King of kings.

This striking turn of events makes me wonder what eternal significance is taking place in the inconsequential events of our dailyest days? What person are we impacting for the kingdom of God—simply by a touch on a shoulder, an understanding smile, or a word of comfort? What post on our social media account will encourage a distant friend to keep pressing on for one more day?

But you Bethlehem … but you [fill in your name here] …

Though your day be small and insignificant … though you toil in oblivion … though your life seems spent in a million meaningless tasks. Even so, be assured that God sees you and has reserved something remarkable for you. It just may be hiding in a very small package in the Judean countryside of your life.



Blessings and prayers,
Julie

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Together


Hug
freeimages.com darinkita http://www.freeimages.com/photo/hug-1430510


That I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:12 NASB) 

Ya gotta love social media. Any time of day or night you can find a friend ready to chat. And there’s always someone clicking “like” or adding an emoji to your latest whim post—for example, a selfie of you chowing down on a midnight snack raided from the fridge. It’s good fun, often downright hilarious.

We call this connecting, and really it is that. I’ve reconnected with college friends, stayed in touch with colleagues writing in far-flung locales, even “met” new friends who share love for books, music, or ministries I value.

I think the consummate letter writer, the apostle Paul, would’ve loved social media—probably for its immediacy, if not its substantive content.

“Hashtag: #PrayerNeed – being dragged before Caesar; pray now.”
“Hashtag: #HouseArrest – could use a cloak; deliver to prison cell.”
“Hashtag: #ReadingList – new scrolls needed; have read everything here.”

Letters (albeit slightly longer than the Twitter character limit) were his way of staying connected through his travels, incarcerations, trials, and tribulations. But, apparently, corresponding wasn’t as satisfying to Paul as face to face contact. So, many times in his letters, he’d write statements like, “I long to come to you,” “I hope to be with you,” “Come, if you can, before winter,” “If the Lord wills, I will see you soon.”

There’s something about a hug, a handshake, a meeting of the eyes in person. According to his letter to the Romans, being together with beloved believers was encouraging—for him and for them. Why? He gave us a clear answer in Romans 1:12: a special measure of faith is transferred only by person-to-person, immediate contact. His faith drew strength from seeing their faith in action—up close. The arrangement was reciprocal—their faith drew strength from seeing his faith in action.

We need each other—yes, in a cyber-world brand of connection, but in one-on-one connection, as well. We need the human sensory contact of touch, to supplement sight and sound. Nothing uplifts us like a friend’s embrace. On a spiritual plane, too, my faith needs yours to grow; and your faith needs mine. I guess God was on point when He observed early in the human story—it’s not good for man (or, we might add, woman) to be alone. Without human contact in the real world, it would indeed be a lonely planet.

Blessings and prayers, 
Julie 

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

Friday, September 4, 2015

Now I Lay Me Down … to Stare at the Ceiling

Treasured Friend, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings and prayers, Julie

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

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hide and Seek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings and prayers, Julie

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Heritage


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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