Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Diagnosed with a Defect

In the midst of praying for my new little nephew, I was struck with a different perspective on his condition. On his 6th day, little Gideon was diagnosed with 5 heart defects. Our little "mighty warrior" has already been through 2 heart surgeries and is currently making baby steps of progress. We continue to pray for him daily and ask God to heal His heart. 

Yesterday as I did this, I was feeling bad for the little guy and hurting for his parents. I prayed asking God for patience and perspective. And He gave me some unexpected insight. He reminded me that I too have been diagnosed with a heart defect. And friend, you have one as well. 

Yours and mine won't show up on an x-ray or scan, but God knows they are there. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us - "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Other versions use words like wicked, sick, incurable and exceedingly corrupt. 

These aren't pretty, feel good words. Chances are they aren't ones we willingly choose to describe ourselves, but yet they are words God chose for His Word to label the hearts of His people. 

As I thought about this, I compared my situation to Gideon's - 

A defect doesn't defer a parent's love...Matt and Jackie love little Gideon just like they love their daughter Vanessa. My heart defect and the sin it leads to separates me from our holy God, but my heavenly Father poured out His love for me while I was still a sinner. He knew the condition of my heart and still sent His Son to the cross. Friend, don't let the diagnosis of a heart defect distance you from our loving Father, but instead may it draw you to Him. 

Defects can't be treated until they are diagnosed. Gideon was in the hospital with breathing difficulties shortly after his birth. He was initially treated for meconium aspiration and making great progress, but suddenly things changed. It was then they discovered the defects and were able to make a plan. When doctors knew what they were dealing with they could treat the problem. Friend, our heart problems won't show up on a echocardiogram, but we can ask God to examine our heart. (Psalm 139:23-24) While doing so we should remember these words from Mark 2:17 - "On hearing this, Jesus told them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" 

Defects can lead to death. We are so grateful Gideon hadn't been released from the hospital before they discovered the defects - we don't want to even think about what that may have meant. A baby needs his heart to function to live and friend we need hearts that our pure if we want to live eternally. Just like Gideon couldn't fix his heart on his own, we can't either. If we don't accept Jesus as Savior and confess Him as Lord our heart defect (our sin) will lead to death. Even after we've made this decision, we still have heart issues which can lead to the death of dreams, callings, relationships, so we must continually see the great physician for a heart check-up. May this line from Psalm 26:2 be a daily prayer - "Test me Lord and try me, examine my heart and my mind.

Defects can be improved. We are so thankful for the technology that is available and the doctors and nurses who are caring for Gideon - his condition is improving and we thank God for that! And friend, our heart defects can change as well. Ezekiel 36:26 says, "I will you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." God has the power to change us from the inside out! That too is something to be grateful for!!

God can be trusted with the defects. I was visiting with Gideon's mom today and it was great to hear updates and God stories. He is at work in this situation and through it. None of us can fix the little guy's heart, but we can entrust him to the One who made it and holds it. In the same way we can trust God with our defects and we must "trust Him with all of our heart and lean not on our own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5) We won't always understand the work He has to do or the way He chooses to do it, sometimes it may bring pain and often it will require patience, but in Him we can trust.

We continue to pray for Gideon and the condition of his heart and now as I do, I also pray about the condition of mine. I encourage you to do the same. Acknowledge the work God has done and praise Him for it. Ask Him where it's defected and allow Him to help you change. Let Him melt it and mold it into a heart that looks like His.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me." 
Psalm 51:10

'I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, 
and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.' 
Jeremiah 24:7

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pause & PRAISE

Friends, thank you for joining me in prayer for our little Gideon James Beran. We are once again reminded God hears and answers prayers. Doctors are pleased with how surgery went and we continue to lift our mighty warrior as recovery takes place and he moves towards healing. If you want more details on the day and thoughts from his home, visit Gideon's CaringBridge page HERE.

Today I found myself praying and waiting and wondering. I also spent some time in Judges 6-8 reading more about the Biblical character with the same name. He was a mighty warrior...a man I've studied and at times have related to - specifically with the fleece situation. I understand the struggle he dealt with and perhaps the doubt he experienced.

I'm grateful for the encouragement we glean from these few chapters -

God was with Gideon and He is always with us. In Judges 6:15-16 we read this, "Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." The LORD answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive." Alone this calling was too much for Gideon, but with God nothing is impossible. There have been times when things seemed too difficult for me, but when I depend on God, His strength and grace carry me through.

God can use little to do much. In Judges 7:7 we read, "The LORD said to Gideon, 'With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands." It is figured the Midianites out numbered Gideon's soldiers 50 to 1 - that's not very good odds. Yet God was faithful to His Word and Gideon was victorious. Friend, when your back is against the wall and you feel defeat is a given, remember this - God can use little to do much!

I'm also humbled by the wisdom and warning we find in Judges chapter 8. This is a part of Gideon's story I'm not as familiar with, but today I found it interesting and insightful. Here we read of Gideon killing Zebah and Zalmunna - scripture is not clear if this act of revenge was God led or Gideon acting on his own. Friend, we must be sure to always seek God for direction and then be willing to obey. We may think our plan, way or method is best, but God is the One who knows - seek Him, trust Him and obey Him.

We also find Gideon giving us a powerful reminder in Judges 8:23. The people have just cried out asking him to be their ruler when he responds, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you." Friend, we must never forget God is the authority figure, He is our judge and the one we will answer to, may we surrender to Him and live to serve Him.

Gideon, one we find in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11) follows up his words of wisdom with a strange request. He asks the people for an earring from their share of the plunder. Then verse 27 tells us of the final recorded event of his life - "Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshipping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family."

Gideon may have had pure motives in making a way it may have been something similar to the stones of remembrance Joseph had the people lay down. Regardless of his motives the people took to worshipping this ephod instead of God who'd given them victory.

Friend, as I read these words earlier I thought about our call for prayer for our little Gideon. I believe our motives were pure, but I don't want it to end there. Tonight we are pausing to praise. God did much today and we want to acknowledge Him for it all. He is mighty and able. He is our provider and our peace. He is the great Physician and tonight we praise Him.

Will you join me?

Dear Heavenly Father,
Lord, you are the Prince of Peace and we thank you for filling us with it today. You Father are the One who promises to never leave us or forsake us - thank you for assuring us of your presence today. You were with Gideon, his parents, his medical team and all those praying and waiting. You are our great Provider - we asked you for much and you gave more than we even know. Thank you Lord for your goodness and grace. We are grateful for the work you did on Gideon's heart and in our's as well. Lord, we asked to see your glory and now I pray you get all the glory!! So Lord I close with these powerful words from Your Word - Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him, to You Lord be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever! In Jesus' Name, Amen

Pause & PRAY

Friends, this post doesn't include an insightful story, a powerful illustration or Biblical teaching, but yet it's important and necessary. In a few hours, our new little nephew, Gideon James Beran, will undergo his second heart surgery in just 16 days. At 7 AM on February 14th, our "Mighty Warrior" is scheduled for open heart surgery to repair a hole in the lower chambers of his heart. If you'd like more info, please visit his CaringBridge page by clicking HERE.

Now at 2 AM, I'm up attempting to do what scripture commands - pray without ceasing.  Our family would greatly appreciate you joining us in prayer and I encourage you to pause & PRAY for all God has on your heart today.

God commands us to pray, He hears our prayers and will answer according to His perfect plan! Let's go to Him now...

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Lord we approach your throne with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. We know you are our good, good Father and our great God - we trust you, help us trust you more. Right now I pause and pray for Gideon. Lord, I put him in your hands and thank you for the gift you've given. You knit him together and know exactly what is going on. I ask you to heal his heart, protect him in surgery and may you continue to breathe life into his little body. Father, Gideon means mighty warrior - thank you for the battles the little guy has already one, may you grant him continued strength for the ones yet to come.

I also lift Matt and Jackie to you now Lord. Thank you for the strength and faith you've given to them over the last 15 days. I pray you would continue to give them the grace and belief they need for the day and days to come. Assure them of your presence, fill them with your Spirit and give them peace. May they know without a doubt you are with them, Gideon and Vanessa always. And Lord, continue to be with little Vanessa - she's young and doesn't understand all that is going on, but her world has changed. Thank you that she is doing well...continue to care for and comfort her through those who are watching over her. 

I put the surgeons, doctors and nurses in your hands. Lord, you are the great physician and we ask you to work powerfully through Gideon's medical team. Give them wisdom and a steady hand. Thank you for the advances in medicine and technology; use them powerfully today we pray.

I also pray for Gideon's extended family, his church family and loved ones. May we storm the gates today, give us a heart for prayer and help us be a source of encouragement for his family. Help us be your hands and feet Father. I especially lift up the little ones and young cousins...thank you for their childlike faith - may their example encourage us all.

Lord, in this time of wait - waiting for surgery, waiting for news, waiting for recovery I ask you for patience, perspective and peace. Don't let us waste our time and be anxious, but instead be intentional and trust YOU. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts that understand. Thank you for the gift of faith and if times of doubt arise, help our unbelief. In those moments we don't know what to do, help us set our eyes on you. Through it all may we remember who you are - our faithful Father, our powerful creator and our God who sees. Lord, you have a plan and you will keep your promises. Strengthen our faith through this and increase our dependence on you. Thank you for the privilege of prayer and the power in it. Today may we see your glory Lord! In Jesus' powerful and precious Name I pray...Amen

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Now what?

"Are you ready?" a question I posed in my last post. One that obviously resonated with people and is important to consider. The main point was we must be ready to face eternity by knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior. This decision not only prepares us for life after death but equips us for the trials we will face while walking this earth.

But today as I ponder and pray about current trials, I'm reminded preparing is a great and necessary first step, but it's not enough. The Falcons and Patriots prepared 2 weeks for the Super Bowl and their lives for this moment, but they still had to take the field, play the game and fight to the finish. Think how long a woman prepares for her wedding. But, she still has to live out her vows and work on her marriage daily.

Today as my little nephew, 11 day old Gideon, faces heart surgery my heart is heavy. I think of him, his parents, the surgeons and nurses. The mom in me is often thinking of his mom, Jackie - my sister in law and friend. The gal I do ministry with and our family farms with. I can't imagine being in her shoes; sometimes I try to do that and tears fill my eyes. It's a hard place to be, a stressful one too. One that could consume and fill you with fear and anxiety.

I don't know if Matt and Jackie ever specifically prepared for a baby with 5 heart defects; none of us can possibly be ready for all the different situations life can bring. We can be ready in a spiritual sense though like I posted about previously. We can build our faith on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ and put our hope in a great and mighty God.

This preparation is vital when the winds blow and the storm hits, but when the trial comes the time for being ready is over. It is then we must cling to what we know, stand for what we believe and do what Scripture commands us to do.

Friend, I don't know what trial you are walking through, but can I share a few Truths I've been going back to as our current trial unfolds.

2 Chronicles 12:20 says, "Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah were being attacked. The leader was alarmed, but he resolved to inquire of the Lord and as he closed his prayer, he made this statement.

Chances are you aren't in a physical war, but in life we do have moments we don't know what to do - in those times we must make the king's words our own - we must keep our eyes on God. Like the song says, we are prone to wonder. For me it's often my mind, not my feet, but regardless we need to stay with the One who not only makes us ready, but is able to carry us through. And we must remember there is a spiritual battling raging...physically there may not be anyone attacking us, but Satan is always on the prowl looking to steal, kill and destroy.

Psalm 46:10 reads, "He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'" Friend, chances are this is a familiar verse, specifically the first phrase. It's a verse Christians can be quick to share, but do you know what it means when read in context? This too comes out of a moment of physical attack and war. The psalmist is in a difficult situation. The whole chapter gives insight into the trying circumstances and great understanding. This writer acknowledges God - who He is and the power He has. It's good when we do the same.

As I dug deeper into this passage and studied some of the original language, I realized there's more to this familiar verse than I realized. This "Be Still" is more than just a quieting of our mind - it's a letting go and surrendering of our heart. Going back to the Hebrew it was used when two soldiers were fighting and they wee told to drop their weapons - once the fighting stops they can let go and surrender to the one in control. Friend, that is what I need to do in a trial - whether I'm fighting with another or battling thoughts in my mind. I need to stop, so that I can be still. Another commentary I read referenced the idea of being silent as well. Being still refers to not just our physical state, but our minds and mouth as well.

John 7:37 says, "Whoever believes in me (Jesus), as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.' By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive." Friend, in moments of trial there's much we need - we may not have a physical thirst, oh but do we have a spiritual one. In those moments, we must be intentional about where we go and who we let lead us. Jesus promises to provide and meet our needs (Phil. 4:19) while God, our good Shepherd will lead us beside still waters and refresh our soul (Psalm 23:3), but we must go to them and trust them. Will you do that?

I'll close with a song that's been on my heart and another request for prayer - little Gideon is being prepped for surgery as I type, his parents are walking a road that is new, but they are trusting a Father they know - one who is powerful and faithful. If God brings them to mind, would you lift them up? Thank you from the depths of our hearts. May you meet Him at the river today...

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Are you ready??

Facebook does this thing were it shows me what I've posted on this days in the previous years and this post from 2012 spoke to my heart today and continued my thinking. I pray the following words from times in the past do the same for you. I also am asking God to use my concluding thoughts from today to stir up some thoughts of your own.

From February 5, 2012-
I typed the words, "Are you ready?" and in my mind could hear Hank Williams Jr. singing, "for some football, for a Super Bowl party!" In case you didn't know the big game is today, but chances are you do and have maybe even been getting ready for a party this afternoon.

I've put some food together and even our little Jesse man is ready for his first ever Super Bowl! He's even sporting colors of one of the teams!

But last night the title of this post was on my mind for another reason. I'd just received a call that loved ones were involved in a car accident after they'd left the hospital visiting loved ones who were sick. Thankfully it's just the vehicle that's a loss and not someone's life. I thanked God for answering specific prayers we'd prayed earlier for safety. He is good!

Though I was grateful and at peace my mind was still at work as I reflected on yet another day that didn't go as planned. It began with a loved one on life support, 6 of the 7 people in my house getting sick, a friend's mom having major surgery for a brain tumor, my dad tipping over his skid loader and then the accident yesterday. Honestly it has been quite a week and as I thought about it all I said, "Wow, could have been much worse."

I am beyond thankful that it is not, but I know this is not a perfect world and someday the news won't be what I want to hear. As I thought about this, the opening three words to this post came to mind...I could hear God whispering, "Are you ready? And the ones you love, are they ready?"

Honestly thoughts of dying are not ones I prone to ponder, but this post keeps begging me to write it, so I will.

Personally when I ask myself this, I'm not ready when I look at things from an earthly perspective - my kids are young, they need me, their mom to raise them up; my husband and I have many years in front of us; I have dreams and desires I long to see unfold, but I know that's not what God is asking.

He's asking if I've accepted His Son, Jesus, as my Lord and Savior and yes, yes I have. Romans 10:9 says, "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." That I have done and that I believe, so I know when my time comes I will be saved. I am ready.

Friend how about you? Are you ready? Remember being ready isn't accomplished by going to church, being a good person or growing up in a christian home. Matthew 7:21-23 says, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" God doesn't desire rituals or religion, He wants a relationship. Friend being ready is about knowing HIM!

Perhaps today, maybe even right now He is standing at the door of your heart and knocking. If you hear HIS voice and open the door, He will come in. (Rev. 3:20) Friend I encourage you to do that now! Make yourself past week is proof that we don't know what tomorrow will bring.

The Giants and the Patriots have spent two weeks preparing for this game and some of them will say they've spent their life working towards this goal, they are ready!! But when the whistle blows and the game ends, win or lose life will go on. Those athletes are preparing for a game, but today I pray you will apply this question to thoughts about your eternal home!

From February 5, 2017 -

Friend, we need to be ready for our eternal home, but we also need to open our hearts to Jesus to be ready for the trials that will come during our time on earth. This past week has been full of surprises...not the fun, enjoyable ones. Our newborn nephew experienced his first helicopter ride on the day he was born, little Gideon is in the NICU and undergoing more tests. We didn't see this coming. 

On a much lighter note, yesterday our oldest daughter experienced an injury at a basketball tournament. Thankfully x-rays showed no broken bones, but we're experiencing crutches for the first time and lots of ice. This was not in her plans or mine, but it happened. 

And isn't that just like life...things happen that we don't expect. Sometimes they are good, fun and rewarding surprises. Others they are hard, challenging experiences that bring tears, change and anxiety. 

Today as I listened to our pastor's sermon I was reminded of another unexpected event in history - Moses meeting with God via the burning bush. This is a picture of God's character and compassion. It's an example of His call and commission. Moses didn't expect this encounter, but he was ready for it and responded rightly to it.

Friend think about Jesus' words in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble! But take heart, I have overcome the world." It's a given hard times will and do happen on this earth. The question is - Are we ready for them?

We can't predict what they will be, but we can prepare for how we will respond. Will we allow fear, worry and panic to take over? Or will we rest in the promises God has for us? Will we run to Him and cry out to the One who knows, cares and provides?

We can't do that without knowing the One who is peace and offers it. Are you ready to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior? It will impact you for eternity and prepare you for the trials of today!

Saying "Yes" doesn't delete your troubles or change your problems, but it changes YOU! May we all be ready to walk with Jesus, trust the One who knows the way and follow Him where He knows we need to go.

Blessings my friend! If God brings it to mind, the Beran family would greatly appreciate your prayers for little Gideon James! He's a "mighty warrior" and we're entrusting Him to our great God!