Happy New Year!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

(James 1:2-4)

If you have been following this Journey for some time, you will recognize this verse. About this time last year I was just in the middle of my first round of treatments and trying to adjust to the challenges and realities ahead. Then, with the grace of God, we were carried through the year and experienced wonderful blessings in the midst of unexpected trials. Now, with surgery and my second round of treatments behind me, I have enjoyed a season of renewal and celebration, following the clear scan of October. Your incredible support, prayers, messages and shared joy has given us one of the best years of our lives….. in spite of the many undesirable aspects of such a “journey”.

Now, I am surprised to report that during my latest PET scan in Houston a few days ago, the doctors found yet another sign of the “invader”. So not expected and so not wanted! We were actually planning to go from Houston on to California for a week, and a Conference, and yet now I am instead back in Atlanta preparing for a return to the hospital for my next battle. Please stand with us in the knowledge that God has already won the battle! This is unacceptable and we are preparing to fight once again, but with even more confidence and determination that God is in control and the prayers of so many will be honored.

I am hesitant to share much detail in this blog as it is mostly relevant that you know what I am thinking and learning, and to stand with our family in prayer for the doctors and for wisdom in the decisions we must continue to make. This invader has now moved to the brain and there are two specific lesions that must be dealt with next week. Radiation, surgery and chemo are all potentials and I will be trusting God and the doctors to choose the right path. Again….we will resist the enemy and he will flee. Our Lord is stronger than any disease and he already has His plan for me so I can rest and fight by accepting what he has offered and promised and even done on the cross…and then rest in Him. You can too (while you pray).

Joshua 1:9 (NIV) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I read this from Chuck Swindoll as he was teaching from the book of Job:

Choosing God’s Will:

When trouble comes we have two options. We can view it as an intrusion, an outrage, or we can see it as an opportunity to respond in specific obedience to God’s will—that rugged virtue James calls “endurance.”

Endurance is not jaw-clenched resignation, nor is it passive acquiescence. It’s “a long obedience in the same direction.” It’s staying on the path of obedience despite counter-indications. It’s a dogged determination to pursue holiness when the conditions of holiness are not favorable. It’s a choice in the midst of our suffering to do what God has asked us to do, whatever it is, and for as long as He asks us to do it. As Oswald Chambers wrote, “To choose suffering makes no sense at all; to choose God’s will in the midst of our suffering makes all the sense in the world.”

Where are you today? Where is your journey leading you? More important, which option have you chosen? Are you viewing your trial as an outrage or an opportunity? Try hard not to forget the lessons Job teaches us about ourselves. It will make an enormous difference. As you grow older, keep growing up. And, instead of simply reading about the life of Job, begin living that kind of life.

As James says in the passage above about considering it joy when you have trials, there are benefits and blessings in adversity. We discover the power of faith and we are “forced” to rely on God….the only real answer anyway. We can emerge “mature and complete, not lacking in anything”. I would like that! It is easy and tempting to ask “why”? It can certainly be discouraging and even frightening to face things for which there are no easy answers and no “guarantees” in this life. Some of you may even be wondering what happened to the “good news”? Maybe you (like us) were trying to get “back to normal” now that Jim’s “trial is over”. Remember, what we see is rarely what God sees. As our recent memory verse said: As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).

I am still learning to seek His will and purpose and to resist the temptation to follow my own emotions or feelings or desires apart from His leading and grace and wisdom. As we each pursue our lives when these “trials” are at a minimum and things seem good and “under control”, we can miss His purpose and His blessings and His refining of us.

Another memory verse was Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

And in Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

So as I (and you) seek his will for us, and his purpose in the things that He allows, let me share something else I read in a recent devotional piece by Swindoll from his study of the life of Job:

I’ve come to the end of my understanding, and I leave it at that. My very existence is Yours, O God. It’s Yours to unravel the mystery, to track the labyrinthine ways, to handle the profound, to know the reasons behind the inexplicable events of my life.” In full surrender Job backs off and bows down.

This is Job’s way of acknowledging his inability to understand why, with no further argument, harboring no bitterness. There is no thought of How dare you do this to me? What do we see in Job instead? A broken and contrite spirit. Do you know what Job finally realized? It’s all about God, not me. Job got it! And what does that mean?

God’s purpose is unfolding, and I cannot hinder it.

God’s plan is incredible, and I will not comprehend it.

God’s reproof is reliable, and I dare not ignore it.

God’s way is best, and I must not resist it.

Have you learned those things yet? Have you come to realize that your business is about your God? Your family is about your God. Everything you claim to possess, He owns. Every privilege you enjoy is granted by His grace. None of it is deserved. Job got all that. The question is, have you?

And something from Os Hilman:

“Establishing this relationship with God is vital to understanding your purpose. If you don’t have this relationship with God, you will seek to fulfill your purpose out of wrong motives; such as fear, insecurity, pride, money, relationships, guilt, or unresolved anger. God’s desire is for you to be motivated out of love for Him and to desire to worship Him in all that you do. As you develop your relationship with God, He will begin to reveal His purpose for your life”.

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11).

Today, ask God to help you discover your unique purpose.

First and foremost, God created us to know Him and to have an intimate relationship with Him. In fact, God says that if a man is going to boast about anything in life, “boast about this: that he understands and knows me” (Jer. 9:24). I am working on that, and thankfully, God is working on me still.

At the risk of going on too long, I want to also share a wonderful story that shows just how faithful our Lord is if we simply trust and wait for his perfect timing. You will remember that Heather and Ashley-Kate went to Budapest in November. Let me give you a bit of the “back-story” so you can appreciate what the Lord has directed and how we can all continue to put our faith in Him…not in what we see or feel.

For a variety of complex reasons, all communications stopped about 9 years ago between Heather, A-K and her dad. As we now have learned, this all came as a result of some very unfortunate miscommunications and misunderstandings….all significantly complicated by the language barrier. Through these years, all of us spoke well of him and his love for his daughter, but were certainly praying for some return to communication, or clarity about what was interfering with their ability to communicate. We knew that such communications can be a critical part of one’s development as a person of confidence.

So A-K was approaching the age of 11 and still had zero communication with her father in Romania. Heather and we all continued to pray for him, and keep up with his life. We learned that he eventually married a girl who as it turns out in in a wheelchair from a car accident some years before (Somewhat ironic considering our family).  We were sure happy for them.

We knew that they spoke very limited English and all attempts to connect were unsuccessful over the years. But, we simply prayed and trusted that somehow God would make it right in His time. A-K was certainly getting confused by the inability to even write to him, but we lifted them up and asked her to be patient as he would reconnect “soon”. Finally, last year, Nancy decided to draft a letter to him after we learned about the potential source of the disconnection. Her letter was filled with sincere apologies for what had happened (perceived or real), and made it clear that we understood their reason for the separation, but simply wished for him to have the chance to know this amazing young girl he fathered. We sent it and prayed.

What we didn’t know at first (but God did) is that George’ and his wife had recently become quite committed Christians as a result of a connection where he works ( a great story as well). So God was perhaps waiting until we had this deep love of a savior in common to allow for a re-birth of the relationship and communication, without fear. When we received the response from our letter, we were clear that God was now fully in the picture. Suddenly, he and AK were talking by phone (his English had improved greatly since we last spoke), and e-mailing, and Facebooking…what a blessing. What a smile on her face. Can you imagine? Next we planned a trip for them to meet in person and Budapest was chosen.

It could not have gone any better in any way! We received a phone video of their meeting and first “hug”, and Heather kept us up to date on all their activities for those precious days together. They laughed, shopped, played games in their room, shared stories, and prayed. His wife, Anisoara, is as delightful and spirit-filled and warm as anyone could have hoped…. and she got along great with both Heather and A-K…they were like old friends immediately. Only God!

Before they left, he asked if he could read a “father’s Blessing” from Deuteronomy over AK and this was so special….we may not have yet “recovered” from the emotion of that moment. The plans are underway for them to visit us here, and for AK to return to Romania for another visit. I am additionally grateful as they have shared my “Journey” with their church in Romania and all there have been praying as well. What a privilege to share such a bond and blessing, as believers can “ask and receive” from anywhere. I do not know how to measure the impact that this restored relationship and spirit-filled connection will have on Ashley-Kate as she grows to maturity. It happened just as it should at just the right time….but not as we would have designed. It is God’s way.

He is always there, always at work, never dismayed or unable, all powerful, and all knowing, and available if and when we ask.

That same God who created us is working His will in me, and my family. He is in yours too if you will invite him in, and trust his promises, and obey his teaching. In sickness and in health, good times and bad, for rich or poor, now and forever.

I am still on my journey and a new chapter is opening…but I am trusting in the ONE. That is my story and I love you all for listening. God is at work…lets trust him.


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