The Blood That Truly Saves

In 2010, my sister was diagnosed with MDS a “pre-cancer” where the bone marrow does not function properly. Without a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, it is highly likely a patient will develop an aggressive and terminal form of Leukemia (AML). My sister received medication that kept the MDS in remission for years, however, in May 2016 the same week in which my younger sister Cathy was diagnosed with a recurrence of Breast Cancer, Connie’s medication became ineffective. In the fall of 2016, Connie’s condition worsened, and it was determined without a stem cell transplant, she would not survive. My brothers and I were tested, (my older brother had died in 1988 and my sister Cathy died 6 weeks after her diagnosis). I was a 100% match, and I was overjoyed! The doctors began to prepare my sister for the transplant. She was placed in the transplant unit where she received harsh chemotherapy in an attempt to kill off the cancer cells without killing her. I also had to prepare by having several tests and blood tests (22 vials worth). A week prior to the transplant I received daily shots of Neupogen to stimulate neutrophil production. While the neutrophils are multiplying, my bone marrow worked overtime causing at times severe bone pain. This process was difficult in many ways, but the physical pain and isolation for me to remain healthy, paled in comparison to what was going on in my mind and heart. A Heavy Burden The thought that my sister’s life was in my hands was at times emotionally overwhelming. What if after being a match, I wasn’t healthy enough to donate? What if I didn’t produce enough cells? What if I needed a central line because my veins couldn’t handle the extraction (I had to get a central line). What if it doesn’t work? What if… what if… What if my blood couldn’t save her? And, why couldn’t I have done something to save my younger sister? Lord, why Connie and not Cathy? Why couldn’t I save both? At times my heart was broken and torn!...

The Blood That Truly Saves2022-05-04T23:12:38+00:00

Perfectionism, Shame, and Freedom in Christ

DUSKI VAN FLEET|GUEST Sitting in my counselor’s office the day after I lost my temper with one of my children, I shared the details of our hard day and my disappointment with how I responded. I tell her how puzzled I am when I mention my failures as a mom, because people often tell me they could never see me angry or yelling at anyone. They rave about what a wonderful mom I am and point out the ways they see me getting things right. It seems to me they think I have it all together, while all I think is, “If you only knew me. If you could only see how hurtful I can be.”  Her response takes me by surprise. “Well, why can’t both be true?  Does it really have to be one or the other? Is it possible for you to be both a really good mom and a mom who makes mistakes?” Hold please, while I let this one sink in.  Considering her questions, I began to think of other similar scenarios that trigger the same thought pattern within my brain. For instance, when I realize I forgot about a friend’s text from days ago expressing a need for help, I suddenly declare myself a thoughtless, selfish friend. When I interrupt my husband again and he becomes frustrated, I pronounce I am a terrible wife. As I thought about my roles in life throughout the rest of the day, I realized how often my failures define my identity.  Stuck in a Thought Cycle Black and white thinking keeps me stuck in a cycle of perfectionism and shame. I invest a lot of my time, thought, and emotional energy into learning how to love my people well. I also work hard to put what I am learning into practice. I love my husband and my kids so much, and I care deeply about their hearts and the stories God is writing for them. I want to be a part of those stories and impact them for good. I am a good wife and a good mom. That is one truth.  There is also another truth. I am a sinner. I carry in my body the sin passed on to me and every human when Adam and Eve chose to sin. I live in a fallen world that has broken and wounded me. Evil is hunting me and through deception, wants to obliterate the good God desires for me, my husband, and our children. There are times I choose to believe the devil’s lies, and I emotionally wound the people I love. This grieves my heart...

Perfectionism, Shame, and Freedom in Christ2022-05-04T23:12:52+00:00

Encouragement for Pastors’ Wives in the Wake of COVID

KATIE POLSKI|CONTRIBUTOR My husband is a senior pastor, and we’ve served in ministry together for almost twenty-five years. Amidst the numerous joys and challenges of church life through the years, we have not felt before the kind of spiritual and emotional fatigue that has resulted from the effects of the COVID pandemic. Everyone has been burdened in some way by the pandemic, some more so than others, but because of my perspective as a pastor’s wife, I have a tenderness toward the stories I’ve heard from various pastor’s wives during this unique time. Weeds of Discouragement I’ve talked with some who feel defeated after thinking through new and innovative ways to carry on with ministries they’re involved with only to be met with little support. Other pastor’s wives seem to have relented to the seed of bitterness after hearing polarizing views from discontented members who swarmed their opinion through email, phone calls, and texts. And one dear pastor’s wife watched as the effects of the pandemic so permeated the congregation that the doors of the young church plant were closed permanently. It’s easy to surrender to discouragement in light of the challenges in church ministry during the last year, but there are good reasons to push away the frustrated emotions. A bleak attitude can too easily lead to weeds planted in our heart, and these weeds produce buds when watered with our judgmental attitudes toward congregants. And they grow quickly when we blame our burdens on a particular decision or unwelcomed path. Satan loves to see our hearts overgrown with these weeds which cause us to forget that God is working in and through His church...

Encouragement for Pastors’ Wives in the Wake of COVID2022-05-04T23:13:05+00:00

Remember to Pray

SHERRY LANIER|GUEST COVID pandemic. Wow! This virus which was unknown until recent days has changed our daily life. It has an impact on everything we do. ‘Did you bring your mask?’ ‘Did you check to see if this business is still open?’ ‘Did you make a reservation for church?’ All of these questions and many more reflect our new reality. Yet, all that COVID has brought has not been negative. This new reality has also caused us to have new schedules that, for the most part, have given us more time to think, reflect, and remember. To remember is ‘to call back to mind what we once knew.’ For every believer, the importance and priority of prayer is something we have always known. But for many of us, we have had days where the busy-ness of a filled schedule has squeezed out prayer or reduced it to a last resort, used only when we have exhausted ourselves. During these pandemic days, I've had the opportunity to stop and remember much. A renewed excitement about the opportunity to pray has been sweet. Reflecting over those times where the Lord has answered prayers in ways that were amazing and miraculous has brought a renewed joy and excitement about prayer. Praying through this current season and for what lies ahead reminds me of my hope in Christ in all things. Three Truths to Remember About Prayer The excitement and motivation to pray has grown for me as I have reflected on a few things about prayer; that prayer is a privilege, an opportunity, and a lifestyle. First, prayer is a privilege made possible by the sacrificial work of Christ. A privilege is defined as ‘a special right’ or ‘a special honor.’ When we engage in prayer, we have the privilege of entering into the presence of God in a special way; that way, the ONLY way, is through our Redeeming Savior, Jesus Christ Who is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (Jn. 14:6). We pray in His Name as He has broken down the veil through His perfect life, sacrificial death, and life-giving resurrection which makes our opportunity of praying possible. Through Him we have been given access to the very Throne of Grace so that we might ‘find our source of help in time of need’ (Heb. 4:16).  Second, prayer is an opportunity to join our Father with what He is doing...

Remember to Pray2022-05-04T23:13:16+00:00

How to Navigate Church Conflicts

MEGAN HILL|GUEST I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Phil. 4:2–3) The Philippian church began well. Under Paul’s ministry, a prominent businesswoman and faithful prayer-meeting attendee came to Christ along with her whole family (see Acts 16:13–15). She was soon joined by a girl who had been set free from her demons (see vv. 16–18) and a corrections officer who, along with his family, was both hospitable and joyful (see vv. 32–34). From the moment of its first assembly, this little church committed itself to the spread of the gospel (see Phil. 1:5, 27–30). But it was not a perfectly peaceful church. Paul starts the fourth chapter of his letter to Philippi with these words: “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord” (v. 2)...

How to Navigate Church Conflicts2022-05-04T23:13:28+00:00

Jesus Mercifully Listens to Us

ELLEN DYKAS|CONTRIBUTOR And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42–43) She caught me. A close friend called me out when in the middle of a face-to-face conversation, I was distracted by a notification that popped up on the screen of my smartphone. In a second, I exited my real-time conversation with her and turned to my phone. Effectively, I turned away from my friend, closing my ears to her, and listened to the voice of my phone. Ugh. I’ve selfishly done this to people more often than I want to admit. I’ve also been the recipient of distracted listening and know how it feels. What?! I’m not as important as your device’s notifications? What’s so interesting out the window that you can’t stay focused on our conversation? Listening without distraction is a powerful way to love someone and we can learn so much from a scene we remember every Easter. Jesus’s brief conversation with the criminal on the cross elevates the power of loving listening. As he hung on the cross, bloodied and separated from God, Jesus showed mercy to a hurting sinner. He listened attentively to this man’s request, offered words that proved he was listening well, and gave a dying man the hope of eternal companionship with God...

Jesus Mercifully Listens to Us2022-05-04T23:13:38+00:00

The Joy of Not Being Needed

ELIZABETH GARN|GUEST There are times when I hear my name called from another room or when my phone dings with another email, that my shoulders droop and I let out a long, exhausted sigh. Someone needs me again. I don’t know if you’ve felt this way, but trying to juggle work, a pandemic, family life, and everything else that needs my attention can be exhausting. These days, I often feel like I’m needed all day long. And while being needed is wonderful, it’s also hard. Needed implies deadlines, expectations, and a constant stream of things that require my attention. It’s nice to be needed and I love the life that God has given me. But I have also found that as nice as it is to be needed, I long to be wanted more. Wanted, not for what I can do, but simply for being me. For a long time, I felt this way about my relationship with God as well. I thought he created me because he needed someone to worship him or fill some void. I thought he had a list of things he needed me to accomplish for him; that he needed me to serve him. Somewhere along the way, I came to believe that my purpose as a child of God was about what I do. It’s an exhausting, defeating, and discouraging way to live and I found myself constantly striving to do enough. I found hope, however, when I learned that we aren’t needed by God, instead, we are very, very wanted. The Beauty of “us” Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” In this verse, the Triune God pauses the creation narrative to announce what he’s about to do— he is going to create humans. It’s one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. It’s laden with hope, meaning, and purpose. God is going to create us and he’s going to do it for a very specific reason: we are going to be his images on the earth. We will reflect him, represent him, and declare his glory to the whole earth. It’s the heart of our purpose!...

The Joy of Not Being Needed2022-05-04T23:13:50+00:00
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