Beauty Supplements

Your daily dose of true beauty advice… For those with autoimmune disorders, pain and fatigue can really make life challenging. My friend Jennifer knows this well. But Jennifer recently told me, “Joni, just knowing that the Lord is on my side … Continue reading

Sites to See

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done a post like this, but I came across a few goodies online yesterday that I wanted to share with you. I think you’ll enjoy checking them out…

Dear Moms, Jesus Wants You to Chill Out — Stephen Altrogge reminds moms that they don’t have to sew their kids’ clothing or maintain organic gardens to be godly mothers. Our calling as moms is really very simple.

Jesus Understands Loneliness — Feeling totally out of place and misunderstood in the world? In an article for Desiring God, Jon Bloom points out that no one understands loneliness better than Jesus does.

Why Abortion Is the Most Important Issue This Election — Denny Burk writes a compelling argument for why Christians should keep the sanctity of human life at the forefront of their minds as they cast their votes on November 6. If God’s children won’t take a stand for the unborn, who will?

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: A Review — I have been greatly disturbed by Thomas Nelson’s decision to publish Rachel Held Evans’s book on “biblical” womanhood. As Trilla Newbell reviews the book for Desiring God, she points out some of the major flaws present in Evans’s perspective on the Word of God and womanhood.

Cancer—Joni’s Journey — October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In a new episode of Joni and Friends, Joni Eareckson Tada talks about her recent battle against stage 3 breast cancer: “Within minutes Dr. Polan came into the room with Ken and me and announced that this was a suspicious-looking mass with irregular edges and she thought I should move right away to have it further examined. That was pretty scary.” As always, Joni’s steadfast faith in God in the midst of suffering is an incredible encouragement.

Image: Svilen Milev

Cancer & the Cosmic Battlefield

“For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.”

Psalm 72:12-13

One year after completing chemotherapy as part of her battle against breast cancer, Joni Eareckson Tada shares the lessons God taught her during that intensely difficult experience. Once again while watching this video I had to marvel at how clearly the image of Christ is reflected in Joni’s life!

Please take 10 minutes to listen to Joni’s testimony and think about how you can apply the truths she shares to the trials you’re currently facing in your own life. I have no doubt you’ll be tremendously blessed if you do.  

Dealing with quadriplegia and chemotherapy was not easy. There were times I thought, Lord, this really is too much… this cross, this wheelchair pain, cancer  and the rigors of chemo… are you sure you know what you’re doing? Where you’re leading me? The path on which you’re taking me? Yet Father I knew the answer – for who have I in heaven but you and there is nothing on earth that I desire above you; where would I go anyway? Where else would I turn? You are the one with the words of life; without you, I can do nothing. You’re the Bread of Heaven and Living Water. So soul why art thou downcast? Put your hope in God your Savior. He will come to rescue you, for He rescues the weak and the needy.

~Joni in “It’s Not Too Much

 

Visit Joni’s blog HERE.

Photo: Joni and Friends

Beauty Supplements

Your daily dose of true beauty advice…

God wants me to look like His Son. That is God’s purpose in my life; that’s why I was saved. That’s why God even allowed me to live through breast cancer. God is all about shaping people into the image of His Son.

One story that helps me more than any other is a true story of when Michelangelo was asked, “How did you create the most anatomically perfect statue of David?” Michelangelo said, “I took a flawed piece of marble, and I looked in it and I saw the man David. Then I just chiseled away everything that wasn’t him.”

God sees in me His Son. God loves me enough to use any chiseling instrument—it could be cancer; it could be rejection; it could be loss of a parent; it could be my singleness and never having children—but God’s purposes are not about my personal happiness or comfort. They are about making me look like His Son, so I can reflect His glory in a lost world.

~Margaret Ashmore in “The Image of His Son

Photo: OBMonkey

Ready for What Comes Next

“…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed,
but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body,
whether by life or by death.”

Philippians 1:20

If you knew the remainder of your life could no longer be measured in years or months, but only by weeks or perhaps even days, what would you say to the people around you? 

Yesterday, two friends drew my attention to a blog post written by a woman who is currently struggling with that very question. After battling breast cancer since 2008, Amy Bixby is preparing to see her Savior face to face. As she explained to the readers of her blog on Wednesday, she expects that meeting will take place very soon, and her heart is ready.

I encourage you to read her entire article. It provides sobering reminders of the brevity of life and powerful evidence of the reality of God’s grace and love…

Most of you probably thought I had posted my last update, and I thought I had too. Last week there were days when I was sure I wouldn’t live ’til the end of the day, although I can’t describe what’s going on as physical pain. My body is beginning to shut down…

All that said, I do want to share some of my experience in this valley of the shadow of death before it’s too late. I want to acknowledge the struggles and let you know that God has overcome them. I want to tell all of you that He is doing and will do the same for you. Whether or not you see it is between you and God, but I want to shout from the rooftops that if you will just believe Him, even though you can’t understand now, even though some things hurt now, He will never truly hurt you. The pain we feel is a reminder that He is making it more than better – He’s redeeming things so perfectly, that the pleasure He’s preparing for me is beyond my comprehension; and so, even the pain is a grand evidence of His grace.

I have been blind-sided by some of my battles since the end of May. I went through a few days of being terrified that what I had placed my faith in was not real, that I had missed the truth somehow. God took my heart, my eyes, and my mind, and made me see how everything I have learned about Him, everything that has become dear and a comfort to me, is reinforced in every single area of our lives. He is constantly showing us His truth through what He gives us – the earth, people, and especially His Word. And suddenly, all those seeming contradictions we struggle with, all the whys, the unlikely reconciling of the effects of evil with the omniscient good, all those questions about ultimate truth, popped into focus. This is not the end. God has been preparing me for what comes next…

“He is making it more than better” What an amazing testimony of the difference Christ makes both in life and in death. Please join me in praying that God will continue to strengthen and comfort Amy and her family.

Amy’s sister-in-law provided another update yesterday. You can read it HERE.

Photo: Martin Boose

Joni–A Woman with the Joy of the Lord

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…”

Job 13:15

Joni Eareckson Tada recently shared the following good news with the readers of her blog…

Last week, Joni appeared by video at Moody’s 2011 Founder’s Week Conference in Chicago to speak on the topic of Ephesians 3:10 which she says tells her “that as we face our trials courageously, our lives are elevated onto a cosmic field of warfare where the stakes are about as high as you can get – we either make His sustaining-grace famous by trusting Him, or we make His grace appear empty by not trusting Him. I want to be in the camp that trusts in the Lord. I think you do, too…”

I hope you’ll set aside some time to watch Joni’s message. I think you’ll be challenged and inspired.

Visit Joni’s Corner at the Joni and Friends website to stay up to date on Joni’s life and ministry.

Photo: Joni and Friends via The Christian Post

Leadership in Marriage & Learning through Disability

True Woman continues to churn out helpful resources…

In a series of articles for the True Woman blog, Kimberly Wagner has been using the acrostic “APPRECIATION” to address multiple ways in which a wife can strengthen her relationship with her husband. Kimberly uses the letter “E” as an opportunity to share ideas on how wives can encourage their husband’s leadership. Her advice fits in well with issues we’ve discussed recently in “Ask Mel.” She says:

So often women lament the fact that they desire a spiritual leader; they long for their husband to lead–but he won’t! What I’ve found to be the most common factor in the high rate of male passivity is the wife’s domineering control or demeaning attitude when her husband makes any attempt to lead in a way which she doesn’t agree with.

She goes on to explain 3 ways wives can encourage their husband’s leadership:

  1. No matter how small the decision may be, commend your husband when he is decisive. 
  2. Choose your places of dissent carefully.
  3. Live each day in light of life’s momentary nature.
Read more of Kimberly’s advice on this topic in her articles:

Encouraging His Leadership
A Bit More on Encouraging His Leadership

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Also from True Woman, a new video by Jennifer Rothschild on lessons women may learn through physical suffering… 

 

Celebrating Survivors

“…in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month.

While out walking yesterday, I noticed another woman on the track. Dressed in her workout clothes, iPod strapped to her arm, and moving at a good pace, she looked like everyone else at the gym. The bit of bare scalp visible beneath the woman’s ballcap served as the only clue that she was in fact, not like everyone else casually working out that day. She was battling cancer. When Matthew West’s song “Survivors” started playing a moment later, I seriously contemplated handing my iPod over to this brave lady so she could hear it, but I worried I would disturb her. I decided to take a moment to pray for both her physical and spiritual healing instead. Still, I wish I could have shared this song with her.

Here’s the story…

The Story of Your Life is available on iTunes for $9.99.

Survivors

You’ve been dropped like a dream to the floor
You’ve been told not to try anymore
But you’re waking from yesterday’s war
‘Cause you’re a survivor
And your strength has been stolen away
And your faith has been worn to a fray
But you live to live one more day
‘Cause you’re a survivor

Nothing can stop you now
Nothing can back you down
You never give up, never give in
You’re a survivor
Whoa, Whoa, Whoa

For the phone call that tore you apart
For the fear that gripped your heart
For the moment you saw who you are
And what you’re made of
For the cancer that stole all your hair
For the smile like you just don’t care
For your hope in a midnight prayer
You’re a survivor

I’m convinced neither death nor life
Neither demons nor angels of light
Shadows present or future light
Can separate us
From the love that will lead us on
To the hope when all hope is gone
‘Til the day heaven calls us home
We are survivors

Written by Matthew West
Photo: Alice Wycklendt

Trusting God with Our Thorns

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'”

2 Corinthians 12:8-9

If you’re struggling with the pain of depression, Jennifer Rothschild encourages you to pursue God’s grace, not just thorn removal…

Related Post: Why Grace?

Photo: kliverap

Joni’s Interview on PBS

The PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly aired an interview with Joni Eareckson Tada last Friday that serves as a great reminder of how we can pray for her during this incredibly difficult time in her life. Although Joni continues to evidence tremendous faith in God’s goodness and sovereignty, she also speaks very candidly about how challenging this battle against breast cancer has been. The following is an excerpt from Joni’s interview with Kim Lawton:

LAWTON: Tada is open about her struggles. Just getting out of bed in the morning is a two-hour ordeal. A series of friends come in and help get her ready for the day.

EARECKSON TADA: And there are many days, honestly, when I can hear my girlfriends come into the front door, and they’re running water for coffee in the kitchen. I know they’re going to be in my bedroom in a few minutes with a happy hello, and I just don’t have the strength to welcome them, and so while they’re still in the kitchen I’m praying oh, God, I have no strength for this day, but you do.

LAWTON: Tada talks often about the reality of suffering—a difficult message in what she calls America’s culture of comfort.

EARECKSON TADA: We want to erase suffering out of the dictionary. We want to eradicate it, avoid it, give it ibuprofen, institutionalize is, divorce it, surgically exorcise it, do anything but live with it.

LAWTON: Even after all these years in the wheelchair, she says some fellow evangelicals still tell her if she had more faith God would heal her.

EARECKSON TADA: But sometimes healing doesn’t come, and you’ve got to live with it, and when you do you really do learn who you are. God uses suffering. He lobs it like a hand grenade and blows to smithereens these notions we have about our self and who we think we are. Blows it to smithereens until we are left raw, naked, and we have to let suffering do its work.

LAWTON: These days it seems like there is a lot of that work. After breast cancer surgery, Tada is undergoing chemotherapy, which has siphoned off much of her trademark vitality.

EARECKSON TADA: It is very hard to go on. I mean privately I’ve wondered, gee, Lord, is this cancer my ticket to heaven? Because I sure am tired of sitting in a wheelchair, and my body is aching, and I’m so weary. Could this be my ticket to heaven?

LAWTON: Her motivation for persevering, she says, is all the people she’s able to help.

EARECKSON TADA: I need a reason to get up in the morning, and my big reason is to help other families like mine, other people with disabilities, other special needs moms and dads, to encourage them and strengthen them, to help them want to face life head on.

LAWTON: She says she won’t allow herself to spiral into doubt and despair.

EARECKSON TADA: I’m not going to go there. I’m not going to go there. I went down that dark, grim path when I was a teenager and first broke my neck and wanted my girlfriends to bring in razors to slit my wrists or their mother’s sleeping pills or whatever. I’m not going to go down that path again. It’s too horrible…

LAWTON: I asked her a question she’s been asked over and over again: How can you just keep believing in a God that would let all that happen?

EARECKSON TADA: I pray a lot, and I sing a lot. I sing because I have to sing. There’s something good about talking to yourself, reminding yourself of things you believed in the light but you’re so quick to doubt in the darkness. And I’ve seen too much of the light to not choose the Lord.

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You can watch the video interview with Joni HERE.

Please continue to pray for Joni and consider encouraging her with a comment on her blog. She speaks often of how blessed she has been by reading the comments posted at Joni’s Corner.

Photo: Joni and Friends

Update from Joni and Ken

Please pray for Joni today. She posted this update on her blog yesterday:

Early tomorrow morning Ken and I will head to the clinic for my third round of chemo (my friend Careen who is here for the week will be joining us). And when the nurse starts the infusion, Psalm 31:14-15 will be on my lips, “I trust in you O Lord; I say: ‘You are my God. My times are in your hands.’” My time battling this cancer is in His hands – I can’t think of a safer place to be! Sure, I get nervous and have questions (like, how much assault can my quadriplegic body take?), but as Julie Ackerman wrote, “Jesus knew that we would have questions. To prepare us for them, He urged us to abide in His love (John 15:9). Even when God’s ways are inexplicable, His love is reliable. So we remain doggedly devoted to Him.” And that, I am!  

Joni’s husband, Ken, joined her recently to share some encouraging thoughts in this video update:

Visit Joni’s blog HERE.

Temporary Blindness, Eternal Vision

“…this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Do your soul a favor this weekend–skip a sitcom and watch this instead! In a message given at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, Jennifer Rothschild shared her testimony and explained how her experience with blindess has taught her to see through the eyes of faith:

Though fear is real, your faith is real. Though fear is powerful, your faith is more powerful. And that which you esteem highly in your life is that which will dominate you. May we never esteem our fear more highly than our faith. But by the grace of God, we can humbly with meekness kneel before God. And when our knees kneel before God, our faith must bow to His sovereignty and power. And therefore, we walk by faith and not by sight.

Visit WomensMinistry.net.

Photo: Ziadin Givan

Christ, Cancer, & Contentment

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:10 

In a recent interview for Time magazine, Joni Eareckson Tada tackled the question for the ages: “Why does God allow suffering?” The following is an excerpt from that article:

Joni:
…In the Christian faith, God really puts suffering front and center. He doesn’t get squeamish about it. But our human inclination is to turn the other way, to assume that this person must have a bad track record with God. We just don’t want to embrace the God who can be found in the midst of pain. We’d rather listen to Jesus preach sweet sermons about lilies.
 
So why doesn’t God always heal people when they ask?
There is this verse in Matthew 18 where Jesus is delighted to heal people who come to him. But he says, if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. Now right there, it shows that Jesus has a different priority, and that is our spiritual healing. If I had been granted a miraculous physical healing back when I was 17, I know I wouldn’t be in a ministry serving other people with disabilities around the world.

So when you work with people in great pain, do you encourage them to let go of the desire to be healed?
We can certainly ask to be healed. Even I ask for healing regarding this pain, regarding this cancer. Anyone who takes the Bible seriously agrees that God hates suffering. Jesus spent most of his time relieving it. But when being healed becomes the only goal — “I’m not letting go until I get what I want” — it’s a problem. There comes a point at which if you don’t start living, your whole life is spent jumping from one healing crusade to the next. And I believe I have been healed — just not in the way that others expect.

A lot of people would look at you and find that hard to believe.
I know. But I’m happy. And on that level, I have been healed. People who have been healed in the way I think I have been healed, we don’t care about wealth, success, comfort. Having that peace makes up for any amount of walking that I have missed. One problem I have with faith-healing is that it tends to be focused only on the physical aspect of healing. But Jesus always backed away when people came to him only to get their physical needs met. My goodness, he was ready to have you lop off your hand! His real interest was in healing the soul.
 
Read the entire article HERE.
 
In the following video, Joni provides us with an update on her treatment and shares one of the lessons that cancer has taught her, “We are 100% certain to pass through great distress in this life, but our Savior is 100% certain to be with us, and to bless us in our trials, and to sanctify us through each and every one of our hardships.”
 
 
Visit Joni and Friends HERE.

Photo: Joni Eareckson Tada

Finding Hope for the Journey Home

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me…”

Psalm 23:4

In a recent biblical counseling assignment, I was asked to read Jay Adam’s booklet How to Handle Trouble and then write a letter providing advice to a woman suffering from terminal cancer. Perhaps my counsel to her from God’s Word will provide comfort for someone else who needs it…

“As I read your letter telling me of your recent diagnosis and the doctor’s belief that there was no longer any hope of recovery, I was deeply saddened to think of the tremendous grief that you and your family members must be feeling. I would imagine you feel as though your world has been turned upside down by this unexpected news, and I want you to know that I am grieving with you and praying for you. You wrote to ask me for help to make it through this time of suffering, and by God’s grace, I will do my best to provide you with reassurance from His precious Word. He has not left you alone in this battle; He is your refuge and strength, your ever present help in time of trouble, and therefore, you have no need to fear (Ps. 46:1). Even though the doctors can no longer provide you with hope, I want to encourage you to turn your eyes to the God of all hope as we ask Him to “fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Suffering is the common experience of all human beings, whether saved or unsaved, righteous or unrighteous. Although your present suffering will bring with it much pain and sadness, as a believer in Jesus Christ you will also experience a level of joy and peace in the midst of your suffering that the unbeliever can never know. For the one apart from Christ, suffering is meaningless. He can never know, nor hope to know the reasons behind his suffering. But for you, a child of God, there is hope and comfort in knowing that God will not allow your suffering to go to waste. Romans 8:28-29 provides a foundation upon which you can securely stand during this difficult time, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” In this passage, God has revealed a comforting truth about His sovereignty over suffering—every pain has a part in His plan.

The first and most important truth for you to remember in this trying time is that God is at work in your pain. Believing this truth will be an act of faith on your part, since it will often be difficult to see how God’s hand could be at work when you are experiencing such grief and pain. That is when you must believe by faith that what God’s Word declares to be true is true for you regardless of what your feelings tell you to believe. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Cry out to God for the strength to interpret your circumstances through your faith, instead of evaluating your faith based upon your circumstances. Look to the examples of Joseph and Job in the Old Testament. Neither man’s circumstances gave him any logical reason to believe God was still at work in his life, yet each clung to his trust in the character of God. After losing his livestock, servants, children, and his own health, Job remained confident in the faithfulness of the Lord, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another!” (Job 19:25-27). Even though Job had no earthly reason to believe God was at work in his suffering, he continued to view his life through the eyes of faith.

The second important truth for you to remember is that God will not fail to produce good from your suffering. God’s sovereignty alone would be of little comfort if we had no assurance that He was also good, but the Scriptures provide us with multiple assurances that our God is both completely sovereign and perfectly good. When you struggle with feeling that God is no longer good to you, remember Nahum 1:7, “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” As you seek His strength, you will probably be allowed glimpses of the good plans that He is fulfilling through your battle with cancer. These glimpses will come through your growth in Christlikeness as your faith is tested and tried and comes forth as gold (1 Pet. 1:7), or perhaps through opportunities you have to share the gospel with doctors, nurses, friends, and family members who ask you to explain the reason for the hope that is in you (1 Pet. 3:15), or through the joyous experience of seeing another come to faith in Christ after observing His power at work in your life.

God’s goodness may be seen in many forms here on this earth, but it will only be fully displayed once we pass from this life into His presence. Paul, who experienced far greater suffering in his life than most Christians will ever know, found tremendous comfort in the knowledge that every bit of earthly pain he felt would be vastly outweighed by eternal joy, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Knowing that Paul had experienced persecution, slander, beatings, imprisonment, abandonment, and shipwrecks during his ministry, it is almost shocking to hear him describe his suffering as being “light and momentary,” yet because of his confidence in God’s goodness, Paul knew this description was accurate. Ask God to help you view your future through the same eternal perspective that enabled Paul to say, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). We often refer to a person’s death as the loss of life, yet for the Christian who knows that to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord,” death is not the loss of life, but the gaining of eternal life.

Although your battle with cancer brings with it many causes for sorrow, it will also offer you countless opportunities to bring glory to God in your remaining days. Not one of us is promised tomorrow, but we often live as though our tomorrows are guaranteed. Your diagnosis has brought you face to face with the fleeting nature of your earthly existence and has freed you from the illusion that your time on earth is unlimited. I want to encourage you to follow our Lord’s example as He faced His darkest moments on earth, yet continued to pray “not my will, but yours be done.” Christ’s greatest desire was to glorify His Father through His life and death, and our desire should be the same (2 Cor. 5:9). As you seek His strength in your weakness, you will discover that His grace is sufficient for your every need (2 Cor. 12:9).”

Praying for you and looking forward to that day when our faith will be sight,

Melissa

Related Post: When Weeping Isn’t Enough

Photo: Martin Boose

Why Grace?

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
   the conviction of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

I’m sure you won’t mind if we end the workweek in the same way that we started it, right? This new True Woman video of Jennifer Rothschild is just too good for me not to share. Listen as she explains the importance of maintaining spiritual integrity when we ask God “Why?”

Visit WomensMinistry.net.

Illustration: Chris Baker