Thursday, September 21, 2017

Time to Dream Again

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”
– Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV – 
This summer I came to a very sad realization in my personal life. Stress and busyness and accomplishments and far too many personal plates to spin had drained away all of my hope and anticipation and ability to dream. In the midst of the craziness of life and ministry and personal, my eyes were no longer focused on God and instead were focused on the storms of life. I found myself floundering on many levels, pulling away from the very foundations that I knew I needed which further contributed to my despair and hopelessness.

On the outside, everything seemed fine. I had become very good at “putting on my game face” and hiding the hurt and hopelessness and true sense of emptiness I was experiencing within on a daily basis. I filled the void with more work, more busyness, and quite honestly, more pointless idle time to assist with avoiding my reality. However, I am blessed by a wonderful wife who not only walks with Christ, but knows me well. She could tell that I was out of sorts and, after several painful discussions, she helped me see that I was floundering and could not continue to function this way much longer.

Currently, I am just beginning to slow down, to reconnect with God, and to gain some small slivers of hope. I am resolute that it is time to dream again. God’s love is steadfast, he is faithful, and he is always for me. I have known this my entire life, but had stopped living with this reality fresh in my spirit each day.

Unfortunately, I am confident that I am not alone in this process. Far too many of us become overwhelmed by exhaustion, ever-increasing priorities, and the expectations of others. We can so easily focus on the storm and forget that the God of the storm is calling us to dream, to hope, to remember that the storm will fade, yet God will never fade. In the midst of these seasons, temptation calls much louder, distraction pulls much stronger, and hopelessness grows much quicker.

We know who God is, we speak of him in glowing terms, and we can proclaim Bible verses until we are blue in the face…but do we truly live what we know? Do we run to him for refuge? For hope? For the ability to dream every day?

My soul has been desperately dry and barren for quite some time and the only way to experience the vitality that God calls me to is to lean on him and dream again.
I’m not talking big huge dreams that will change the course of human history. I’m at a place right now where my dreams are as simple as reading the Bible on a regular basis. I dream of praying more often with my wife. I dream of hearing the still small voice of the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart.

I have been tired for far too long. I have allowed the storms to distract for far too long. I have tried to live life on my own for far too long. It is time to lean on God, to trust his mercies, to remember his faithfulness, and to dream again!

Dear Lord, I am so easily distracted and overwhelmed and exhausted. I consistently let me eyes turn to the storm instead of to you. Thank you for your faithful love, for your steadfast mercy, for your incredible grace in my life. Today, I declare that you are my portion and, therefore, I will hope in you. It is time to dream again! Amen.
~ Mike 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rejoice Always? What If I Don't Feel Like It?

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ~
I type this as I am struggling through the end of a stomach virus. I am queasy and cannot do much of anything. Yet, instead of whining about it, it is God's will that I rejoice. Always. Always includes my hard times. In fact, it also says to give thanks in ALL circumstances. How in the world am I to rejoice and give thanks for a stomach bug? Why would I?

Now let's shift that question around. 

Why would I not rejoice and give thanks in it?

After all, God does will that behavior, doesn't He? But who does He will that behavior in? It says, in Christ. I cannot will myself to be thankful for what seems meaningless. But in Christ, I can by faith and trust.

I can shift my thoughts and eyes off of me and onto Him as I renew my mind in His word. If I believe that God is in absolute control of my life and that He is good, I can give thanks even in this hard time because it is about Him and not me.

Paul learned the secret of contentment in Christ when he lived in good times and bad. The secret was that he could do all things through Christ who gave him strength (Phil. 4:13). This is true for us as well. 

When we sit in the throes of a stomach virus or any other difficulty, we can shift our eyes off self and on to Christ. In that act of faith, we can learn to do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

This means we trade our moaning and groaning for thankfulness. 
  • We thank God for rest.
  • We thank God that He is giving others opportunities to serve us.
  • We thank God that we realize we are not unstoppable. We are weak and in that weakness He is strong.
  • We thank God for the amazing body that can heal itself.
  • We thank God for the dependence we are learning to faithfully trust in Christ.
There are so many other things we can learn as we rejoice in CHRIST. Whatever our present circumstances consist of does not matter. Whether they are good or bad, sickness or health, we can rejoice in the person of Christ because He cares for us. He is with us. It is in this period of dependence we learn that we can really count on Christ.

Father, thank you for telling us how to rejoice. Thank you for every life experience in the here and now because all are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. Help us keep our eyes focused Heavenward. Help us stay thankful in Christ. In Jesus name. Amen.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Thank You

For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing."    
2 Corinthians 10:10, NIV

"I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way." 
2 Corinthians 11:5,6, NIV

But Moses pleaded with the LORD, "O Lord, I'm not very good with words. I never have been, and I'm not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled." Exodus 4:10 NLT

Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. Jeremiah 1:6 KJV

I am not a gifted speaker, my words get tangled and I stumble over my point. 

I am weak with my words. 

I am weak with my words, but so were Moses and Paul. There is someone else I have the honor of walking through life with, who struggles with words, and that someone is my son. 

I have learned a very valuable lesson through him; There is more than one way to speak. 

Equally important, I have learned through watching him; Where we are weak, God is strong

I want to thank him, and share with you just a small part of what I have learned from this incredible human being that God has entrusted me with, sharing it all would simply take a lifetime...

I sit here, a million words running through my mind, because there is so much I could say. None of it seems quite enough. You, my son, are a man of few words and likewise, there are few words to adequately describe you. 

In the eyes of the world you are now an adult, 18 years old tomorrow. At six feet tall, you look every bit the part of being a grown up. But when I look at you, I still see a little boy, my buddy.

You have been my buddy your entire life. From the very beginning; waking up at the exact same time every night, we spent quality time together as I rocked you back to sleep. This is when I first discovered Martha Stewart...thank you.

You explored the world your own way and taught me that we didn't have to do things like everyone else. Why bounce a basketball when you can lick it? This is where I learned not to care what anyone else thinks...thank you.

You refused to be hidden, tucked away "out of sight and out of mind". The school superintendent knows your name, that's ok. Your light shines bright in a world that is often dark. This is where I learned the importance of standing up for what I believe in...thank you

You gave me a voice, and I have tried so hard to give you one. 

Now more than ever I realize, you have always had a voice. You have used that voice from the very beginning; it has just taken me and the rest of the world time, to learn to listen.

Autism brings with it many challenges, and some have been very hard on you, but through them all you have taught me many things:

  • Because of you, I understand someone can have a voice without speaking. 
  • Because of you, I see and hear things I never would have noticed.
  • Because of you, I have learned what it means to be patient and determined.
  • Because of you, I know the value of failure and the joy of success.
  • Because of you, I found a voice I never knew existed.
Time has moved quickly and I often feel I have failed you, that I haven't done enough. It's not that I wanted to "fix" you or "change" you... I just wanted to give you what you needed and help you understand the world around you. I think that is just what mothers instinctively do. 

I look back at the last 18 years and what I see is an indescribable gift. Everything that I so desperately wanted to give you, is exactly what you have given to me and everyone around you. 

Happy Birthday little Buddy.

Dear Heavenly Father, I am so thankful for this child, but I am even more thankful for the knowledge that You hold him in the palm of your hand. Because of You, I am not afraid. Amen.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Special Needs: Every Season Has a Purpose

To everything there is a season; a time for every purpose under heaven. 
Ecclesiastes 3:1, Berean Study Bible

Spiced pumpkin bread, apple cinnamon candles, crisp evenings, and a few bold yellow and crimson leaves signal summer is turning to autumn yet again. Like an old song by the Byrds declares, “To everything there is a season — Turn, Turn, Turn.” 

These days, it seems more like spin, spin, spin instead of turn. I can definitely miss the purpose in the turnings if I'm not intentionally aware. 

Every.Road.Trip! What parent hasn’t been asked, “Are we there, yet?”

Impatience wants the trip over to enjoy the arrival to the destination. 

Have your kids ever complained while doing chores? “Are we done, yet?”

Frustration or perhaps laziness, wants to to do life the easy way.  

Not yet. Patience. Wisdom. Work. Understanding. 

Seasons come and seasons go. I'm called to contemplate the beauty and purpose of each current season. 

When Bethany was born with Down Syndrome, I became acclimated to the “slower” turnings of life. I had more time to ponder the purposes and ultimate meaning of life. I had more time to celebrate each little victory. 

Bethany’s “turns” may be slower but when that season arrives in full, it is simply glorious. For example, when her two and three words finally became full sentences, it was like spring had sprung after a long, difficult winter. We watch her “not yets” become “now I can.” 

Each new accomplishment, every new understanding, has its thrilling “turn.”  

My takeaway? Embrace the season I'm in now, because my "not yets" will be fully realized in God's times, plans and purposes.  

photo credit:

There is a purpose under heaven for every life and every season. I can't just let life happen. I don't want to wish it away. I'm learning to dig for God’s purposes like I'm digging for gold! I've learned, every season holds some bummers but more beauty than I can contain. When I find Him in every season, I've found everything. Eureka! 

Rejoicing in the beauty of “not yet.” When Bethany asks me (50 times) if we’re there yet, my standard answer has become, “No, but we’re getting there.” 

“Mom, can I get my driver’s license?” 

“Not yet, but you’re getting closer! You’ll just have to keep practicing and learning.” 

“Mom, can I get married?” 

“Not yet. We have to pray for the right guy to come into your life at the right time. Let’s just enjoy today and trust God for your future.” 

I’m not much different. 

“God, would you please un-complicate my life? I need it to be simpler and easier, please!” 

“Not yet! I haven’t fully worked out My purposes in your life. There is a right time for everything, and I accomplish all things in My perfect time. You’re getting there – I’m with you – now let’s enjoy the journey and remember, the best is yet to come.”

Pray: Father in heaven, thank you for the turn of each season in our lives. Help us look for your purposes, embrace the lessons, and enjoy our journey. Thank you for the promise that one day our “not yets” will be fulfilled in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Cindy Barclay

Friday, September 15, 2017


‘Elijah was afraid and ran for his life… He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said.’ 
(1Kings 19:3-4, NIV)
Anyone looking in would be able to see in an instant that Elijah has pushed through some really tough situations. Conflict with King Ahab, death threats from Jezreel, and drought. He’s also of course been persistent, bold and tenacious in faith. He called the prophets of Baal to account on the mountain, in front of the crowds, and shown the power of the true God. But right here, in this moment, he has had enough.

It resonates. I imagine him at the very end of his emotional resources, he’s been through it. One thing has led relentlessly into the next; challenge after challenge; big decision after big decision; stepping up and then stepping up some more. Enemies and opposition have surrounded him at every turn. He has been faithful, and he is utterly exhausted. Curling up in a heap under a bush at the end of himself.

‘Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.’ (1Kings 19:5,6)

Within God’s protecting presence he finds exactly what he needs – sleep! There is no judgement, no telling off, no ‘pull your socks up – didn’t you see how faithful I’ve been to you in all this!.’ Immediately, an angel brings nourishment. It’s so practical, so ordinarily miraculous. Fresh baked bread, and cold refreshing water. A hand on his shoulder and words that affirm life, gently and firmly. And more sleep… this is a miracle I can relate to! I can imagine Elijah’s sheer relief at the rest, the protection, the understanding and care that God shows him in this moment.
It is a gentle and firm reminder to me to look around and see God’s provision, in it’s perfect timing and place. When I am at the end of myself yet again, needing to shut the world out for just a moment, so I can rest; God’s loving faithfulness to Elijah reassures me. His provision will be there where I need it, I just have to ‘look around’. God had provided for Elijah before in surprising ways. Ravens had brought him meat by a brook. A widow had found against all the odds that she had enough faith and flour to share. And here he sends an angel to minister to him in the ways most needed to put him back on his feet again, and carrying on faithfully following. 

God’s provision does surprise us, it never seems to come in the ways I would imagine. It is the unexpected note through the door, or the flowers left on the doorstep. It is the unexpected moment of real connection and understanding with someone, a moment of kindness, a hug, or a smile. We are invited to ‘get up and eat’, to look around and in these moments recognize God’s care and protection. He cares more than we can comprehend, and his care is for our every ordinary need…even sleep!

I am at the end of myself yet again,
feed me please,
and let me rest within your protecting presence.
Open my eyes to your provision today. Amen.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hopelessly Devoted?

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ 
teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  
Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; 
and many wonders and [c]signs were taking place through the apostles. 
Acts 2: 42-43 NASB

In 1978 Olivia Newton John made famous the song "Hopelessly Devoted to You" in the hit musical, Grease. We (the people who have seen the movie or musical) know that the thing to which she was hopelessly devoted was high-school heart-throb Danny Zuko.
The early church, the FIRST church that formed after the death and resurrection of Jesus, was devoted to THE TEACHINGS OF THE APOSTLES. That's the equivalent to US being DEVOTED to the teachings of our pastors today, right?  
They were devoted to the teachings, fellowshipping (gathering together), and taking communion together.  
I think this idea of "devotion" looks awfully different than the begrudging obligation that many of us exude when we make our way to church. This "devotion" looks quite unlike the sigh we might heave when the sermon starts and we don't want to hear this message AGAIN on joyful giving. The "devotion" of the first church was motivated by a continuous sense of AWE (v. 43) that they maintained in their faith.
The feeling you get when you realize how fortunate we were to see Hurricane Irma change paths rapidly or diminish in speed dramatically as she became a tropical storm.
The overwhelming sense that God arranged certain events in order to keep you from a dangerous situation, or saved you from something tragic.
The feeling of wonder you experience when you see someone on TV or hear someone speak about a tragic event in THEIR lives which actually brought them closer to God.  
When we are talking about things that are worthy of our DEVOTION...shouldn't God be top of the list?  

But how do we maintain awe in our daily lives when we are bogged down with a forever-pile of paperwork, frustrations, phone calls, follow ups, and FAMILY?  

I turn to a daily DEVOTIONAL (Yes, there's a reason it's called that.)  It turns our eyes to Jesus; it helps us stay DEVOTED by highlighting scripture, and helping us see it at work in our every day lives.  

There are many great devotionals out there, check out this list!

Another option for those of us who start our day on the computer, what about Billy Graham's Devotions on line?  How easy to click on the date and get a quick piece of scripture, prayer and wisdom from one of the GREATS?

Or, if you want encouragement for the "special needs parent" tied in specifically to your devotional, don't forget to check back here daily, or to visit our posts from the same days on previous years.  

Plain and simple, we've gotta do the work!  
God can't speak to us when His book lies closed on our bookshelf.  
God can't fill us with awe if we won't step foot in His house.  

Devotion to God can't be a can't be a to-do.  

It's a pulling...a calling...a yearning to be closer to the one who made us and was powerful enough to save us.  

In order to stay healthy, we DEVOTE ourselves to eating well and working out.
In order to stay on top of the best care for our children, we DEVOTE ourselves to advocacy, paperwork and follow through.
In order to stay active in our book club (or at least avoiding having to re-check out a book from the library), we DEVOTE ourselves to reading.
In order to stay up to date on our TV programs, we DEVOTE ourselves to recording them or binge watching on Netflix and Hulu.  

How can we NOT DEVOTE ourselves to our Rock, our Good Shepherd, our King?

Pray:  Father God, I'm sorry for the times I've made devotion to you seem like a chore that I just can't make time for. I will find a great way to spend time with you in devotions, prayer and by listening to your word either in a church or on-line.  Amen.

~Tammie Hefty