Friends! I recently caught a fascinating interview with Senator Rick Santorum on the Eric Metaxas Show.
I’ve always respected Rick immensely and didn’t realize he’s currently a Senior Political Commentator on CNN. He’s on Anderson Cooper and on Chris Cuomo and one of the morning shows each week! (Which rock have I been under?)
The other wonderful discovery from Eric Metaxas’ show was learning about a book Rick and his wife, Karen, wrote called Bella’s Gift: How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation. (Their daughter, Elizabeth, helped them write the book.)
As with many of Eric’s guests who write books, upon hearing the interview, I immediately ordered the book. Reading the book is like you’re sitting down with Rick and Karen (each of them have written several chapters) while they walk us through a whale of a storm they experienced and continue to live with each day.
Parents to eight children, one of which died soon after he was born (Gabriel—his death was their first storm they encountered prior to the current one they’re enduring. Karen wrote a book about Gabriel and their experience: Letters to Gabriel), we see how their last child, Bella, impacts the entire family which is hugely miraculous.
Bella was born with Trisomy 18. Most babies born with this condition don’t survive more than a few days. You’ll be astonished at some of the doctors Bella had who never called her by name, wrote her off as untreatable, considered her not worth their time, while calling her “incompatible with life.”
The first few days of Bella’s life were frightening to say the least, charting unknown territory. Karen says, “A strong prayer chain strengthened and sustained us. Our families and friends were the hands of Christ during her hospitalization.” And you can see how they remain strong week in and week out throughout the book.
The Mama Bear in me surfaced quickly and Karen, more than once, called this instinct we moms have her “inner Grizzly Bear.” Happy with relief over finally finding docs who were on board, compassionate, and who gave Bella wonderful care, Rick and Karen brought Bella home where she’s blossomed, has six siblings who adore her and I’m happy to report is now eleven years old!
Frightening trips to the hospital keep the Santorum family on their toes, along with multi-faceted daily care for Bella. How did they survive the early years and how do they keep putting one foot forward every day? And how in the world did Rick run for President during all of this? (You must read the book to find out!)
You will be inspired by bold faith, gut-level honesty, and pearls of wisdom both Rick and Karen generously share. Additionally, you may wonder (and marvel) at how they held their marriage together. Plus you will never look at a special-needs child the same again, that I can promise. The Santorum’s teach us, “We see that value is not determined by what society calls ‘usefulness,’ but, rather, value is measured by our capacity to love.”
While each of the eighteen chapters has the word “love” in its title, each offers a glimpse at the many ways love affects us and how we can learn to emulate this beautiful kind of God-given love toward one another.
My two favorite chapters are Chapter 13: Love Unifies (by Karen) and Chapter 14: Love Encourages Selflessness (by Rick).
In Chapter 13, Karen reveals advice she gives newlyweds based on her own marriage and experiences. She says, “It’s good to understand that marriage is never 50-50. Sometimes, whether it’s emotional, physical, or spiritual, one of you will need the encouragement and strength of the other. You will give 90 %. …Believe and love each other through the imbalances. …because there’s no room for selfishness in marriage.”
She quotes Ephesians 4:26 as their go-to verse: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Karen says when they do have a conflict, Rick always says, “I’m not going anywhere, so let’s just work it out.” I love that and Karen closes with, “Amen.”
Karen and Rick emphasize the importance of family in every chapter. Because their children were old enough to take on many chores, etc., they were a huge help to Karen managing the care for Bella. She grew up in a large family and she says,
The Santorums consider Bella a gift to their family for a lot of reasons, and Karen says, “One of the most important reasons was to revisit and strengthen my understanding of love through the fear of loss…Rick and I both understood that ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.’” (I John 4:18)
Last week I wrote about a book by Lloyd John Ogilvie called Facing the Future without Fear: Prescriptions for Courageous Living in the New Millennium. Lloyd was the Chaplain to the Senate during the time Rick was a Senator. In Rick and Karen’s book, Rick credits Lloyd, along with a priest, for transforming his faith. You will see in each chapter how strong their faith is which helps them navigate this storm they’re enduring. God’s impeccable timing is nothing short of miraculous.
Karen closes Chapter 13 with, “Our love for each other and for our Lord has unified us through all the ups and downs. The twists and turns of life have brought us even closer together.” This chapter is inspirational and filled with words of wisdom on the loss of a child, on surviving a storm, and on how to preserve your marriage. As with each of the chapters, it offers multiple Bible verses (she calls them “sacred Scripture”) you’ll want to write in your journal asap.
Regarding their storm, Karen said, “Venturing into uncharted, stormy seas, my vessel was my faith, and it separated me from the sea of madness and sorrow.”
In Chapter 14, Rick speaks about the importance of family and shows us how “Love Encourages Selflessness.” He says, “Families are the foundation of society, so when families are healthy, so is the country.” We get to learn of Rick’s childhood and how he saw what it meant for family to come first.
Rick addresses selflessness both in families and in marriage. He teaches us the acronym for FAMILY: “Forget About Me I Love You.”
Rick once had the opportunity to meet Saint Teresa of Calcutta. She said something he never forgot, “God does not call on you to do great things; He calls on you to do little things with great love.”
Chapter 15, “Love Begets Peace,” opens with a lovely quote from Madeline L’Engle:
I am certain Rick and Karen have been a beautiful visual of the light of Christ to scores of people they’ve encountered. Whether it was in the political arena, or in hospitals or doctors offices where they’ve been with Bella, their light from our Lord is causing many to want what they have.
It’s no coincidence Karen used to be a neonatal intensive care nurse. More than once, when they had to call 911 for Bella, Rick and the children chime in it was Karen who saved Bella. Any time Bella gets a simple cold, it usually goes into her chest, causing breathing to be difficult and a downward spiral to her health.
What Karen and Rick have done for Bella, not just for her as their child, but for thousands of children with special-needs, fighting for their rights and the perfect care, is above and beyond, making all of us realize afresh we are all created by the same God who loves each and every one of us, each with our own purpose to glorify God as He would orchestrate. Amen and amen and thank you, Rick and Karen Santorum for this beautiful, eye-opening book. God Bless you and your family!
‘Til next time!
Friends! Any insomniacs out there? Waking up in the wee hours of the night and can’t go back to sleep? Having wild nightmares? WHY is this happening to so many of us?
Old age is one petite charming cause. Others include depression. Hormones. Stress. Anxiety. Yada, yada, yada…
According to federal health officials, “Nearly half of Americans get less sleep than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a day.” The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention says 40.6 million Americans sleep six or fewer hours a day.
John and I struggle with consistently getting a good night’s sleep. Approaching our sixth decades, I understand this is super common. However, this is NOT GOOD long-term for our bodies to not get enough rest. The question is, do we diligently try to catch up/nap/recharge? Do we ever consider our dreams and how they affect our sleep? Do we forget to pray for a good night’s sleep every night?
I’m happy to report on a fascinating book I discovered thanks to Eric Metaxas, on his radio show, Metaxas Talk. (www.metaxastalk.com)
Eric interviewed author Faith Blatchford about her eye-opening book, Winning the Battle for the Night: God’s Plan for Sleep, Dreams and Revelation. She is a pastoral counselor at Bethel Church in Redding, California. (www.faithblatchford.com )
Checkout these tidbits from her endorsers:
Winning the Battle for the Night…
– “inspires the reader to reconnect with God’s purpose for sleep—communion and rest…our yielded imaginations become a sanctified imagination, positioned for visions and dreams.”
Bill Johnson, Bethel Church
– “ignites hunger to be saturated in the last-days language of the Holy Spirit. We can no longer say, ‘It was just a dream. It was the roar of the Lord!’”
Lou Engle, co-founder of The Call
– “shows us how sleep can become our friend to help us grow spiritually.”
Beni Johnson, author
– “explains the spiritual science behind sleep. It arms us with relevant and practical information about the physiological, psychological and spiritual roots to sleeplessness. It helps us reclaim God’s design for rejuvenation and revelation through sleep.”
Margaret Nagib, Psy.D., clinical psychologist
– “offers practical solutions to finding the peace of God, which can guard our hearts and minds, interacting on a spiritual level with the Prince of Peace.”
Peter Carter, M.D., family practioner in the U.K.
– “reminds us of the importance of adequate sleep and rest both from a biblical and a medical perspective, integrating key Scriptures with evidence-based medical practice to address sleep and rest deprivation.”
Brenda B. Jones, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing
Those of us not getting enough sleep can be prone to many battles that are terrible for our health, i.e. anxiety, depression, inability to focus, heart problems, poor judgment, among others. We’d be wise to sit up and take notice of a concept known as “the theology of dreams.”
Faith shows us many instances in the Bible where dreams occur. Joseph was one who paid attention to the angel’s warning which had been prophesied by Jeremiah (31:15) six hundred years before Herod’s order to murder every male child under two in Bethlehem.
One person who did NOT pay attention to a dream he had, to his own detriment and ultimate demise, is President Abraham Lincoln. I never knew he’d dreamed that he was killed by an assassin. He told his wife about it and she said she was glad she didn’t believe in dreams and President Lincoln said they shouldn’t think anymore about it.
President Lincoln even acknowledged the frequency of dreams occurring in the Bible and yet he didn’t take his own dream seriously. The evening he was shot, Lincoln’s bodyguard was out of town. He’d begged Lincoln not to go out, however he and his wife went to Ford’s theater and we all know he was shot that night, on April 14, 1865. This, of course, makes us think, “What if he had paid attention to that dream?”
Each chapter of Winning the Battle for the Night is more fascinating than the next. Chapter Four includes “Five Historic Encounters with God at Night.” Faith shows us how these encounters with God “changed not only these people’s lives, but ours as well.” We’re reminded about God’s encounters with Adam, Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon. Don’t miss the “Songs Downloaded” section!
Faith reminds us,
In later chapters, we readers get to explore the GIFT of sleep. Did you know King David said, “He gives His beloved sleep.”(NKJV). The ESV says, “God gives rest to His loved ones.” Thinking of sleep and rest as a gift from God can and realistically should be transformational for us!
But…in 2013 (SIX years ago!), CBS reported “nine million Americans are currently on prescription medication for insomnia.” Staggering and I’m sure that figure’s higher today. Faith reminds us, “the most important sleep aid of all is God!” We must remind ourselves to ask Him, praying before our heads hit our pillows.
Along with that prayer, one of the biggest robbers of sleep comes from our enemy, Satan. “Paul declared that he was not going to be taken advantage of by Satan because he was ‘not ignorant of his schemes.’” (2 Corinthians 2:11 NASB)
We’re reminded of the acronym for fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. We must remember Satan is the “prince of darkness.” However, it’s our God who created day and night, and He has dominion over the darkness.
Faith points out that our winning the battle for the night is directly related to our “understanding that God created, dwells in, and has authority over all the darkness.”
One of my favorite take-aways from this book is Faith closes each chapter with a prayer. Let’s read this one together:
Not only are we readers gifted with prayers, we also are given practical ways to combat distractions (Chapter 9 is “Weapons to Win the Battle.”) and other things which rob us of our sleep. Chapter 11 helps us when our children or grandchildren are having nightmares, etc.: “Teach Children to Say ‘Bye-Bye, Boogeyman.’” For example, I had no idea that the word nightmare means “night demon.”
Finally, in the exploration of dreams, Faith closes the book with thirty-one questions we may have about our dreams. This is fascinating and makes for a great resource to return to over and over. Equipping Scripture accompanies her points all throughout the book which I find reassuring. (Don’t miss the Appendix with Twenty Declarations straight out of the Bible!)
If you struggle with getting enough sleep, having nightmares, or are curious about what your dreams mean, run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and grab this book! You’ll refer to it often and be encouraged and best of all, “armored up”.
‘Til next time!
P.S. This is another book by Faith which looks like it would be a good resource as well:
Friends! I pray this post finds you skipping and singing, altho’ by the looks of some shoppers at the mall yesterday, several Scrooges were spotted. Sigh…
Good news is if you need a couple of last minute things, I’ve got three ideas for you. One devotional for, say teens to centenarians, another for wee ones, plus a very cool way to help you and your friends get your face in the Word every day. (And in a perfect world, perhaps memorize a Scripture or two. Hey, no groaning now, it’s Christmas time!)
First up, allow me to give you a glimpse of a gorgeous coffee table book that’s also a lovely devotional. Artist and author Ruth Chou Simons’ book, Gracelaced—Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart will bless the socks off you and anyone else you happen to give it to.
From its’ beautiful cover and on into the book, you’ll be met with splendid artwork and photographs divided into the four seasons of the year. Each season has eight words/entries for you to pour over, including extra Scriptures to look up to help you “delve deeper” as well as a section at the end with questions to help you consider how you’ll respond once you’ve read it.
For example, in the Winter section, Ruth shows us what resting in God’s character looks like, “reminding us that true rest comes when we rest in Him.” The next eight entries help us:
“Rest in God our Refuge,
Rest in God’s Faithfulness,(two different times)
Rest in Christ’s Sufficient Grace,
Rest in God’s Nearness,
Rest in God’s Wisdom,
Rest in God’s Mercy, and
Rest in God’s Power.”
I was stunned to discover Ruth and her husband, Troy, have quite the full quiver: SIX BOYS. After raising three, I can only imagine TWO three-ring circuses!!!
Ruth’s down to earth writing style is relatable and she tells on herself more than once. She gifts readers with the courage to press on.
Don’t miss her website. She includes opportunities to order her artwork in the form of printables, notecards, journals, along with some fun recipes. Go to her Shoppe and see what’s available!
Second idea is a devotional for wee ones entitled Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones. My friend, Aletia, gifted me with this when our first granddaughter, Claire, was born. While it’s for children, I’m enjoying reading it before Claire’s old enough to understand it!
There are 101 thoughts on faith which include spiritual truths straight out of the Bible. One of many favorites is “Bless You!”. Sally teaches, “When God promises to bless you, He is saying,’I’m going to make you into everything I ever meant for you to be!’ It means God is taking every day and every single thing that happens in it—good or bad—to make you stronger, to mend whatever is broken inside, to change you into the person you were always meant to be.”
Tim Keller wrote the Foreword saying this book “may be the best, first introduction for children to have their own time with Jesus which has long been a missing piece that has direct effect on whether a child grows up with a balanced spiritual life or one that is dangerously one sided.”
Many of you know Sally from her infamous Jesus Storybook Bible. Jago did the illustrations for both of these books. I learned of this book from our middle son, Gordy, when he was in college. Campus Outreach leaders introduced the kids to it. When he asked for a copy I bought one for us too. Kathy Keller, Tim’s wife, says she gives college students and many visitors to their church copies as it’s so easy to understand.
Sally has also written other numerous children’s books, my favorite being Skip to the Loo, My Darling! Grand for potty training your kiddos and it’s illustrated by Anita Jeram who also illustrated Guess How Much I Love You. The book is beyond clever. Whether you’re successful at potty training or not, you’ll find yourself howling.
I’ve caught Sally on the Eric Metaxas show several times. They’re good friends and are hilarious in each of the interviews they’ve done. Many times she’ll read one of her children’s books which is delightful getting to hear her British accent. (www.metaxastalk.net)
Checkout Sally’s website to see all the books she’s written:
The third gift idea was discovered at a store here in Louisville called Lulubelle’s in Norton Commons, thanks to our daughter-in-love, LT. It’s called “Small Squares with Mighty Words…” I bought all they had(!!!), but LT tells me they’re getting more in. I gave these to my friends at our Favorite Things party, plus got more for stocking stuffers, and well, figured I could use one too.
I found two of a few color options in these little square boxes. You get 50 multi-colored cards with Scripture verses on the front and back. (You math geniuses have already figured out you’ll get to read 100 verses.)
The white box includes a clear acrylic stand, with Scripture cards in muted, pastel colors, packaged as “Small Squares with Mighty Words of Love.” The brown box includes a brown, wooden stand with primary colored cards.
I’ve placed mine on my bathroom vanity where I’ll see it every morning. Others have put theirs in their kitchen window or by the kitchen sink.
Finally, while I’ve talked about gifts all month, the fact is we’re fast approaching Christmas and the birth of our Savior… Here’s your killer question to keep you focused in the midst of the mayhem (I heard this on the radio and it stopped me in my tracks.):
What are YOU giving YOUR KING this year for His birthday? (Share your answer with friends and family.)
May you and your family and friends have a most blessed Merry Christmas as you savor the season and have a lovely, healthy, Happy New Year as well!
‘Til next time!
FYI: This computer and its’ operator (Moi) are shutting down for a couple of weeks…on purpose. We’ll do a fun series come the second week of January on starting the New Year off slowly. No stress allowed!
Friends! Anyone besides me ready for the political hoopla to cease and desist? Who knows where we’ll be come November 9th, post-election, but the good news is the commercials will be off the air. Better yet, as our daughter-in-love, Diana, reminded us the other night, God will still be on the throne.
No worries, I refuse to talk politics. Even better news: There is one wonderful, blissful way to stay distracted from all of it: prayer. Fervent prayer at that.
I recently was blessed to read Anne Graham Lotz’ newest book: The Daniel Prayer—Prayer that Moves Heaven and Changes Nations. It’s become my favorite manual on prayer.
A forever fan of the Graham family, Anne in particular holds a special place in my heart. Years ago when we read The Magnificent Obsession—Embracing the God-Filled Life by her for Book Club, she agreed to Skype with us from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina. Unfortunately a few days prior to that she learned her husband, Danny, had been scheduled for a procedure on his heart the very day we were to Skype.
He’s since gone to be with the Lord, God bless him and their family. At the time, however, he wasn’t in good health and this procedure was needed as soon as possible. Anne’s hands were tied. We, of course, understood.
Anne went above and beyond to record a video message for us, personally addressing our Book Club gals, that we got to show that evening. The fact she took the time to do that for us in the midst of all she was juggling still tugs at my heart.
Anne begins The Daniel Prayer by discussing the dire condition of our world. She says, “There are three reasons I believe God’s patience may be running out. One: We have willingly intentionally, deliberately taken the lives of almost 60 million children. Most of these abortions were not done for medical reasons, but for the convenience of the mother as a means of birth control.”
“Two: Our defiance of God’s institution of marriage.”
“Three: Our abandonment of the nation of Israel.”
Anne adds, “…it is especially concerning to see the United States of America, a nation founded on faith in God and dedicated to His glory by our first President and the Continental Congress, defy Him, seek to remove Him from public life, and rebel against His ways.”
Her solution? (Which is available to us all…) PRAYER. Prayer straight from Daniel in the Bible. (See Daniel 9:1-23) Daniel’s prayer gives us a beautiful model which Anne walks us through, giving us excellent examples we can use anywhere at any time.
The book’s divided into four parts: Preparing for Prayer, Pleading in Prayer, Prevailing in Prayer and Patterns for Prayer. It’s the Patterns for Prayer that are my absolute favorite. They include prayer that’s “centered, compelled, confident, contrite, and clear,” plus a prayer for battle.
She especially addresses (and warns us about) spiritual warfare. Throughout the book she gives beautiful Scripture to help us with our prayers.
She dots humor throughout each chapter which is a welcomed relief from the serious subject matter. I got tickled at her confession about having trouble waking earlier each morning to pray.
She finally marched out and bought an obnoxious alarm clock which so severely startled her and Danny the next morning, they nearly each had a heart attack! It was that same clock, tho’, that helped her conquer what she called her “blanket victory.” Hey, whatever it takes, right?
She said, “Prayer helps us anchor our faith in God. It’s like setting our spiritual compass so that regardless of the twists and turns during the day, the needle of our focused faith always turns to God.”
While the humor is fun, Anne’s pressing questions are not! (Oh, but they’re good medicine!!!) For example, she says, “When Daniel bowed his knees to God, it was an outward gesture that revealed his inner attitude of humility, reverence, submission, and allegiance to the One so much greater than himself or any earthly king or world ruler.”
Then she poses, “When was the last time you prayed on your knees? Try it. The difference your outward position makes in your inner attitude as you pray may surprise you.”
Anne believes the Daniel Prayer is “a 911 call for urgent help. The Daniel Prayer is storming the gates of Heaven with what Eugene Peterson calls ‘reversed thunder’—praying God’s Word back to Him…” (The prayers in the back of the book walk you straight thru’ Scripture.)
She shows us five characteristics of the Daniel Prayer we can all strive for in our prayers. Check these out:
Anne’s writing is so filled with passion, you’ll be beyond blessed by reading this. I’ve literally highlighted and dog-eared her book to death.
I’m praying she’ll make a Bible study from it, however, your small group could easily go chapter by chapter and turn it into one. It’s a resource you’ll return to over and over.
To close, let’s receive Anne’s encouragement from chapter 7:
This very week our Tuesday Bible study group was discussing the political frenzy surrounding us. We agreed to pray more and worry less. Thankfully at the same time Max Lucado wrote a piece about his prediction for November 9th.
Like only Max can do, his words bring further comfort: “Understanding God’s sovereignty over the nations opens the door to peace. When we realize that God influences the hearts of all rulers, we can choose to pray for them rather than fret about them. Rather than wring our hands we bend our knees, we select prayer over despair.” (Don’t miss his article from 10/13/16 in the Opinion section of Fox News.)
‘Til next time!
P.S. Fun fact: I first learned about Anne Graham Lotz’ book thanks to an entertaining and educational interview done by Eric Metaxas with Anne on his show this past May. It aired on 5/9/16. You can listen to the interview by going to Eric’s website: www.metaxastalk.com