Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, The one who had mercy on him. Jesus told him, Go and do likewise. Luke 10:36-37
Who is our neighbor? Jesus says our neighbors are those we meet who are in need, especially the needy who are outcasts. Religious people may ignore a suffering race indifferently, or label a lifestyle as repulsive, but Jesus sees them with compassion. The individuals Jesus spent most of His time loving are the ones who were marginalized by those who felt spiritually superior. Ironically, the “Good Samaritan” loved someone who may not have done the same for him.
Furthermore, when we take time to care for those much different from ourselves,we model the love of Christ. It is easy to love those like us, but more difficult to love those from a diverse culture. We do risk rejection from religious people too busy with programs that care only for their own kind. They reason, “We don’t have the time, money or interest to care for those of a different culture, while our people still have needs.” However, love looks beyond its own and offers care!
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. Luke 6:32
Racism is a raw nerve that requires intentional investment by those of us with influence. We all have opportunities to accept those who have been rejected and bring healing to those who have been hurt. Yes, those who have been robbed of equal rights need us to make things right through education, legislation and jobs. However, the quiet generosity and engagement of Jesus followers is the most effective in affecting society for good. The sufferings of those trapped in generational cycles of cynicism desperately need our compassion. Christians are called to care for strangers.
Who in your life is beat down by their circumstances and needs you to lift them up? Who can you search out that has been robbed of their rights, that you can stand in as their advocate for justice? Perhaps for a season your generosity will give hope to someone who faces temporary setbacks. It may require you to get your hands dirty in dealing with their issues, because relationships are messy and complicated. Care for strangers can lead them to love Christ, the ultimate caregiver!
I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. Job 29:16
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me a heart of courage to care for those different from me, who are in desperate need.
Related Readings: Leviticus 25:35; Job 31:32; Matthew 25:35-44; Hebrews 13:2; 3 John 1:5
Post/Tweet today: The quiet generosity and engagement of Jesus followers is the most effective in affecting society for good. #involved
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
An eight-year-old boy named William once wrote his pastor a letter. "Dear Pastor, I know God wants us to live in peace with everybody, but He never met my sister. Sincerely, William."
I bet you and I could write similar letters. There's always someone who seems to get under our skin, isn't there? In a world filled with irritating people and problem makers, being able to bring peace in the midst of it all can feel impossible.
Because we are born into a world of sin, we don't always have automatic peacemaking reactions. One of our responses may be to engage our defense mechanisms and retaliate when provoked. Or we may turn inward and shut down, not seeking to work things out. This is why parents and schoolteachers struggle to train children to resolve their issues with each other peaceably.
While I am no longer a little girl flustered by the annoying boy pulling my pigtails on the playground, I still find myself not responding well when irritated or aggravated by someone. It's hard to want to bring peace to situations with people I don't like.
God, however, modeled the right way to seek peace. When we offended God with our disobedience, He took the initiative to reconcile a relationship with us through His Son's death on the cross. Through Jesus' sacrifice and salvation, I'm no longer subject to my defensive reactions or to shutting down. Instead, I have access to His peace, which makes being a peacemaker possible.
Recently, while going through some conflicts with people, I read Matthew 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers ..."
When I first read this I thought, "If I will just memorize this verse, boom ... I will be a peacemaker." So I did. Big surprise ... I wasn't a peacemaker the next time conflict arose.
I recognized that I needed to have a deeper understanding of what it meant to be a peacemaker, so I dug into the scripture.
If we look back to the original text, we see the word for peace here means harmony, security and rest.
These words that define peace remind me of the things Jesus brings into our lives. Because we follow Him, He gives us the ability to make peace. When we do, He promises we "will be called children of God" (Matthew 5:9). We can be a representation of the peace He gives.
So when Jesus said we are "blessed" when we bring peace, it is because being a peacemaker allows us to represent the depth of who He is as His children.
Some people will go to great lengths to prove themselves right. Pride and arrogance convince them that laying aside differences is a sign of weakness. But if we can catch God's vision of what it looks like to be a peacemaker—to bring harmony, security and rest to a difficult situation—it will allow us to feel secure and at rest in the midst of conflict. We can stand confident as children of God.
As we let go of petty stuff, we are peacemakers. When we are the first to say, "I'm sorry," we give peace. When we talk calmly, rather than yelling, we bring peace to the situation. By learning to give peace the way we receive peace from Jesus, His peace flows through our lives.
Being a peacemaker is challenging and may not come naturally. But may we be reminded today that in every conflict we have the capability to bring resolutions of peace. We can bring harmony, security and rest because Jesus' death and resurrection gave that to us.
Dear Lord, You are the ultimate peacemaker. Help me keep my eyes on You in difficult circumstances. And to bring peace to conflict with others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
How would being a peacemaker and having peaceful reactions change your relationships?
Pick three ways you can react peaceably today. Here are some examples: Changing your tone of voice. Forgiving. Being humble. Talking a situation through. Not being defensive. Choosing kind words. Believing the best, rather than assuming the worse. Not interrupting, or taking sides.
1 Corinthians 13:11, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me." (NIV)
Romans 8:16, "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God." (NIV)
No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them. Luke 8:16-18
Dormant disciples lose the Lord’s favor and are a dim reflection of what they were and what they could have become. However, those active for God burn brightly for Him. There is no shame of their service in the Kingdom of Heaven, only the desire to remain a faithful steward with God’s blessings. In their home their light of love and forgiveness outshines the dark side of selfish agendas and angry reactions. Those active for God at their work support others in their work.
Are you active for God or has the agenda of others consumed your activities? Inactivity in the eternal is the outcome of over activity in the temporal. Yes, we are wise to guard our calendars from overcommitment to good causes, but not God’s best. Do our children have to be constantly on the go, or can they learn to do one thing extremely well for Christ? Yes, be active for Jesus by engaging everyone, everyday with encouraging words and kind deeds. Be an extravagant giver!
You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. James 2:24
Have you dedicated your talents, gifts and abilities to the Almighty? When you lay your life at the altar of God the fire of the Holy Spirit falls fresh on your faith. Like a bonfire of bold belief, the world takes notice when your life, ignited by the Lord, burns brightly. Your platform at work is a natural place to express God’s supernatural grace in your relations with coworkers. Your faith in Christ is not to be concealed, but revealed by your righteous acts and your life giving words.
Lastly, listen intently during your intimate times with the Lord. Do what He says and do it quickly. Obedience delayed is disobedience. He takes from inactive and indifferent followers and gives in abundance to active and engaged followers. The Holy Spirit directs moving objects, so move out under His leadership. Adjust as you go and watch the Lord use you as a loving light for Him!
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. Psalm 19:8
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I lay my life on Your altar, ignite my faith with Your Spirit’s power!
Related Readings: 2 Samuel 22:29; Psalm 89:15; Proverbs 20:27; Acts 13:47; Revelation 22:5
Post/Tweet today: Inactivity in the eternal is the outcome of over activity in the temporal. #eternalrewards
It was the last run of their first day on the slopes, the beginning of another great family vacation for Todd and Tara Storch and their three children. But when thirteen-year-old Taylor’s life was tragically cut short in a skiing accident, the Storches were overcome by the devastating loss of their daughter. Still in shock, they were asked a question no parents ever think they will hear: “Would you be willing to donate Taylor’s organs?”
Their answer would change their family’s lives forever and provide comfort during their darkest moments. It would also save the lives of five desperate people anxiously waiting for a heart, a liver, a cornea, a pancreas, and a kidney.
What follows is a candid conversation about how all of this transpired. It's raw. It's honest. It's real. What follows is a story of how God is continuing to heal a family.
John: I’m wondering if maybe you can give us a little bit of background information about who the Storch family is. You mentioned that you’re from Dallas. Give us kind of a breakdown: kids, where you guys are profession-wise, just a little snippet into your life.
Tara: Okay, I’ll start with that one. Looking into the Storch world, to me, Todd and I met at Texas A&M University, and we’ve been married 20 years. Moved to Coppell, Texas, mainly because of the school system, knowing that we were going to be starting a family at some point.
In ’96, Taylor was born, our first-born daughter. In ’98, came Ryan, and in 2000, came Peyton. We had them right in a row.
Todd: Girl, boy, girl.
Tara: Todd had always been in media, working in sales and radio stations. Then moved up the ladder there, being general manager of stations and then started getting into consulting. After he left the consulting side, he started working with media companies all over the nation, consulting for them with a company, a small company called Center for Sales Strategy.
I have always been a stay home mom since ‘96 doing little side businesses here and there to get some mad money and help with vacations. Main profession before all this happened was that I was a home stager where I did home decorating, interior design and the like for houses being sold.
When everything happened with Taylor, life really came to a halt. Todd and I really had this strong pull that this is what we need to be doing. It was almost like, I remember Todd sitting with me saying, “This is … I feel like if I don’t try to do this, then I’m going to be disobedient.” From there, we decided to make a career change and make this our life mission.
Todd: Tara, I mean, it’s crazy, thinking back and meeting at Texas A&M our sophomore years, and we started dating our senior year. She was just something special. We got engaged maybe nine months after we graduated. Thank goodness she said “yes” when I asked her to marry me.
The career thing? We are very much like a typical family. We thought we had it all figured out and Tara being a stay home mom, and that’s what we had always wanted for our family.
I began the career chain and working at big companies and trying to do what was best for the family. Sometimes you can look at life and get to the top of the ladder, or you’re climbing a ladder and you can look and realize that you’ve been climbing the wrong one. A lot of times we saw that and just tried to adapt with what was going on with our family.
Of course, with the biggest change in our lives, with the loss of Taylor, brought lots of intentional decisions that we had to face and brought lots of …
Todd: Lots of questions and …
Tara: About our purpose.
Todd: Really challenged our faith and strengthened our faith. That’s a little bit of a history. We could talk a lot about this for a long time, but I’m sure that you have questions.
John: Sure. Let’s talk a little bit about things before Taylor’s accident. As a family, structurally wise, how did you guys lead your family toward Christ? Were you active members in your church? What was that like and how did you participate in walking with Jesus?
Tara: You know, it’s always been our priority to put God first, family second and everything else third. That’s how we’ve lived our life. We really try to be an example for that in the kids and the fact of just really leading by example with our marriage. We knew that we are constant examples to our children, of what marriage should be like. Marriage is a holy sacrament that we have, and we are a living example to them of a beautiful, holy moment.
Todd and Tara
We’re very involved in our church, St. Anne’s Catholic Parish, very involved. We teach Sunday school, teach religious education. Todd’s been involved in lots of programs, been asked to sit on boards. We have our hands in church a lot, it’s our second family.
When everything happened, that really, oh gosh, just brought it all up. We’re so thankful we were surrounded by faith and surrounded by people who were going to walk with us no matter what. It’s very challenging. Todd had mentioned our faith was strengthened. We walked on this path differently, and the fact is, my faith was very shaken when all this happened. It wasn’t broken, but it was very shaken because ifs or whys roll around and just collapse you.
Back to your question about how we led our family, we had this beautiful rhythm going. We were the perfect five-piece puzzle. We had this perfect, we thought, great rhythm in our family and God was the center of it. Prayers have always been part of our children’s lives, always. Since they’ve been little, it has been part of their nightly routine. God is who we go to when we’re struggling, trying to remind them to keep their eyes on him and not of this world. It’s a challenge, it’s not easy, but we’re trying to do the best we can.
John: Let’s talk a little about the accident, and then I want to bring up this "shaken" part again. You guys were on a family vacation, is that correct?
Todd: Yeah. It was March of 2010, and it was our spring break. It was the first time we, as an entire family, had gone on a ski trip and we were on that ski trip vacation.
John: Then, there was an accident, obviously.
Todd: Yeah. We headed off to Beaver Creek and were just really excited about it. My son and I, Ryan, used to ski every year with a father-son group. I grew up skiing. Tara and I had gone a few times before we had kids. This was the first time we all went as a family.
We headed off on just a fantastic trip. We drove; we had a really long drive from Dallas to Colorado and were just having a fantastic time. It was a fun road trip, with a lot of neat things to look forward to. A client of mine was up there, and we got to stay there.
Our very first day on the slopes, we had everything planned out. Tara and Taylor and Peyton went to ski school. Taylor was just an unbelievable athlete, amazingly athletic—a volleyball player, which was her passion. They went to ski school and after we picked them up in the afternoon, we always remember the ski instructor said, “Taylor’s never skied before?” We’re like, “No, this is her first time.” “Well, I have to keep moving her out of the classes because she just skis circles around these kids.” She was skiing with these high school kids. Taylor’s face just beamed; she was just very excited. She was tall and athletic and really starting to develop as an eighth-grader, as a young woman.
Tara: I remember the ski instructor said, "You should’ve been skiing on greens and blues all day. Y’all are going to have a great time."
Todd: Oh, yeah… so, toward the end of the day, it was about 3:30 pm and we had about an hour left, and Taylor wanted to go up and ski. Ryan, my son, he can ski 24 hours a day. Me, Ryan and Taylor went up the slopes. Peyton, being the youngest, was really tired and exhausted, and Tara was pretty tired too from the long day. I told Tara, “We’ll meet you down at the resort at 4:40 pm,” or whatever time it was. I said, “We’ll be back in an hour.”
We went up and the kids planned a route down. Ryan just couldn’t wait to ski with his sister and Taylor was just beaming. We got all the way down to the final run before we came in. On that final run, it’s when Taylor lost control a little bit and I was right behind her and filming and taking pictures the way a dad would do. She went into the trees and from that accident, this eventually would cause her to pass away.
John: In that moment, what makes you cling to Christ all the more? How does someone in such a desperate situation look to Christ? Tara, you mentioned the fact that your faith was shaken. Describe your reaction in that moment.
Tara: The reaction in that moment is your panic and shock, and you beg, is what you do, for God to save your child. Todd and Ryan were both with Taylor when this happened, so not only are they dealing with grief, but they’re dealing with trauma. It’s a whole different level of shock … of how your body handles it… I just don’t think a human is meant to go through despair like this.
Your question of how you deal with something like that, how do you keep Christ in the center? Well, it completely throws you off. You feel like you have this complete strength, this, "I can go through anything. God is with me by my side." It’s really going good because everything in your life is going good. You feel like you have this great relationship with Christ and you’re walking along and it’s not a bumpy road. You feel good about everything. Then, this throws you off into the darkness and then you feel like you’re completely grasping.
How you deal with it is that you beg and you cry out to Him, and he doesn’t always answer your prayer. He didn’t answer our prayer—His answer to us was, “No.” When we begged him to save Taylor and he said, "No," then how do you deal with that? You deal with it with the only little faith that you have, and at that very moment, for me, it became very little. I was so shaken in my faith. I was very upset with the answer or … the question of “why?” Why in the world would God take our child?
It doesn’t make any sense, and this is something you have no control over. Before, I was happy; you do feel in control. I always felt I had this great rhythm with the kids. I was in control of their social, athletic and school schedules. Todd was in control of his work schedule, and when he was going to travel, we felt in control.
This is something that completely knocked the wind out of us—the fact that we had no control. That’s where you find your faith, because you realize you never had control from the beginning.
Todd: What we also felt blessed with is that our heads and our hearts were open enough to make the choice of faith because we all have it. Every single one of us have it. Tara and I grieved completely different as most families do, as most people do just because grief is just an individualized thing.
I will tell you that we are just so blessed that we had the wherewithal, the ability in that free will moment, to whether it was conscious or unconscious, to say, “You know what Lord, I’m going to follow you here.” We eventually got to the point at different times where it wasn’t a question of “why,” it became a question of, “why not.” There’s just some things we have to accept.
Tara: The keyword that I think came to us, John, was the word, “surrender.” We had to surrender it all over to Christ.
John: Obviously, when we read through Scripture, we see the patriarchs of faith certainly moving in that direction. As a follower of Christ in the here-and-now, to be called to do just that, that is a very hard transition. That’s certainly something that I’m hearing both of you guys say today.
Todd: It’s just so beautiful how God works. Again, the decision of, as a father in the real world, I had the immediate decisions that face a husband and someone that’s working as, "Okay, what is this going to do to my family? What are we doing tomorrow? What does the next week look like?"
Tara: Try to fix it.
Todd: What do I fix? How do I get this done? How do I make this pain go away? All those things that seem natural to a protectionist father and man, it can be so exaggerated. God programs us that way, but there are times we take over and it can be harmful.
I somehow made the decision, because it wasn’t mine, but somehow I came to the decision that I’ve got to surround myself with people that know me better than anyone, and I’ve got to stay close to them. I’m going to stay faithful because my job right now is to figure out how to keep my family together in what I can imagine is the worst thing that could’ve ever happened to us.
Choices became easy. Those aren’t the right words. It’s hard to describe it, but there was almost this discernment as to what I had to do as a father. That discernment became, "God, where are you in this, and will you just please show me what my first step is, my second step and …"
Tara: Your first instinct was to run.
Todd: Yeah, my natural instinct, and we talked about this, my first natural instinct was, “I can get away from this.” I traveled like crazy, had a great job. My mind started racing to places I needed to be in the next few weeks, and it was like, “You know what, I can escape.” That’s what I remember—the memory of just how, of what that escapism looked like and how that would just separate me from God and my family. Thank goodness I recognized it and that it scared me into other decisions.
Tara: You know, we had a choice. Like Todd said, it was a free will or fate. God gives us that free will. We had a choice to either crawl up in the grief of it all and live in the darkness, or we try to find the good—and we knew God was in the good. It wasn’t easy. This is not something like a light switch goes on and you go, “Okay, I think I’m going to be okay now. I’m going to find the good now.” It’s a struggle and people say to take baby steps, and that’s exactly what it is.
God has an invisible rope tied around your waist, and He’s just slowly pulling you toward him. He pulls and carries you through it because you can’t walk on your own.
Todd: You know John, it’s also important to point out that Tara and I have a perspective now. We have a perspective now that as a couple, as a married couple, we’re at a place where we can reflect on this and have been for a little while, but we’ve got to be completely honest. This type of conversation, Tara wouldn’t be capable of having this conversation a while back. There’s just times that it wouldn’t be possible. So it’s really important to the reader, to anyone that understands our story, to know that there’s not a prescriptive path to get through something like this.
This is our path. God wanted me to do this, and God wanted Tara to grieve this way and we were going to come together at this time. For other families, for other individuals, they have their own individual paths. It’s not like if you follow the Todd and Tara Storch 10 steps to recovery, it’s going to work.
What’s constant in all of this is the communication with your wife, the communication with your friends and family. The most important one is faith, just being open to the communication that you have to have with God and how you can get through it.
John: Todd, Tara, the interesting thing, and maybe this is the grace-filled thing, was within that moment, you guys made some very interesting decisions in regards to Taylor’s organs. As parents, did you have that in the back of your head all these years? Explain how you guys decided to donate her organs.
Todd: First of all, we talk about this very freely. Here we are as organ donor advocates right now. We’re very open that the conversation about organ donation never was a part of our family, we never had any conversations about it. We never had family meetings or talked about it around the dinner table.
I think when I was 16, I checked “yes,” but I don’t have any recollection of it. When it was that moment in the hospital room and the organ procurement organizations, the physicians, told us that Taylor was an excellent candidate for an organ donor, I knew immediately inside of me that it was right. I immediately turned to Tara and we just communicated through our eyes—and the answer was “yes,” it was like “absolutely.” Tara and I both just knew immediately.
That’s part of what is fueling the work that we do with our Foundation, Taylor’s Gift, which is it could have been so simple and so easy for us to say “no.” Wracked with grief, we’ve got too much to deal with, how dare you come in here and talk about that, all the things that you can get wrapped in. For some reason, we had the ability to say “yes” immediately. From that decision, so much beauty and greatness has come from that—through lots of pain, of course, but we’re an example of that.
Tara: Yeah, it gave us purpose. It gave us purpose in the pain, is what it did. Out of all the decisions we were making and that the world had stopped, that was the easiest decision. You know what, it gave us control over something. We knew, because of who Taylor was—the giving child, the wanting to help others kind of kid—we knew this was something she would’ve wanted. Although we never had the conversation, it was impressed on both of us that “yes” was the answer. It was one of those moments that we had to hang on to. People had asked us if it had given us any sort of peace to make that decision, or if it had given us any sort of peace to have connected with her recipients. We always say it never gives us peace. It’s not like, “We’ve met you, I’m better now.” What it does, it gives us strength. It gives us strength to get out of bed in the morning and to keep going and knowing that this is part of God’s purpose for us, whether we like it or not.
When Todd and I were sitting outside, he told me, “The quote of my grandfather keeps going in my head, that it’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you react to it that does.” We had a choice of how we were going to react. That’s why we decided, and it is a choice, to look for the good and to walk towards the light. We knew that Taylor is with God. So the farther we are from God, the farther we are from her, and that’s not where we want to be.
John: Tara, you mentioned some of the recipients of Taylor’s organs. What was that like, and how soon did you start meeting these people?
Tara: We connected … there’s a process you go through, supposed to go through where you … I would write a letter, it would be sent to the middleman who is the OPO, which is Organ Procurement Organization. They will read it to make sure there’s not too much personal information in it like I’m throwing in my address and phone number in it. They send it to the recipient. If the recipient wants to write a letter back … they’re like the middleman.
Todd: It’s a good procedure because of the things surrounding it.
Tara: We’ve met, connected with our first recipient on Facebook. This was probably four weeks after we got home. Todd was on the computer, and he goes, “Oh, my gosh! I think I have just been connecting with the daughter of the person who has Taylor’s kidney and pancreas,” as if “Go reach out to Todd over at Facebook and say, “I believe my father has your daughter’s kidney and pancreas.”
Through us calling the OPO and trying to work through how we’re going to connect with them, going through the procedure of it all, we decided that we were going to connect. Taylor passed away in March, and in June, we met Jeff, who has her kidney and pancreas. He had diabetes for 40 years, and was insulin dependent. He was doing dialysis because his kidneys were failing and he got Taylor’s kidney and pancreas. He has since given away all of his insulin, and is no longer diabetic. He has given away and sent back all of his dialysis equipment. He’s living a life that he hasn’t had. It was a blessing to hear that and connect with him.
John: Yes, what is that like…?
Tara: It is so bittersweet, because it’s a position we’d never want to be in, but then it’s a position we sort of do want to be in, making a difference.
Todd: It’s every emotion, it’s every single emotion, the ones you weren’t able to talk about, the ones you haven’t felt before. It’s excitement, it’s fantastic, it’s love, it’s sad, it’s bittersweet, it’s everything. Ultimately, it’s been amazing.
Tara and I, we also realize, how blessed we are. For us to be able to connect with just one recipient is a complete blessing. For us to have connected with four of the five, is …
Tara: Very rare.
Todd: Very rare. We don’t take that lightly. We’ve met so many families in our position that would give anything to meet a recipient. We don’t take it lightly.
Tara: We’re so thankful that the recipients have allowed us in their lives. There’s so many emotions on their side when it comes to guilt because our daughter passed away for them to survive. I mean, there’s guilt, there’s fear, there’s feeling responsible in a way, of making sure in a way that they’re taking care of her. You go through these emotions of praying that the person that receives this sees it as precious. We’ve been very blessed to meet and connect with these people who truly know that their gift is precious.
John: Todd and Tara, I am amazed at your story. I think you would probably agree with this that it’s just not your story or Taylor’s story. This is really a God story.
John: The moment that I first heard about this, my mind went to the promise that is found in the book of Ezekiel, where in somewhat of a similar manner, God says to his children that he will give them a new heart.
What a beautiful gospel representation that your family has gone through that has the ability to share ultimately the gospel story with people. What a beautiful story this is, and my prayer for the Storch family is that, like we just said, this is not to make much of you guys, but hopefully to have made much of Christ and what He is doing and has done through your family. What a beautiful family and beautiful story. I’m so thankful for this time.
Tara: One of Taylor’s favorite Scripture was Luke 18:27, ”What’s impossible with man is possible with God.” We have lived by that, because there are so many situations in our life that are completely impossible; ones that we thought we could never survive… like this. It should be impossible for us to survive the death of our child, but with God it’s been possible.
Todd: Again, we just really appreciate this and the Scripture and what you just read. It’s one of the beautiful reasons we connected with Max Lucado. He wrote the foreword and just that connectivity of receiving Christ, receiving a spiritual heart transplant, it’s a beautiful connection. We know how much we’re loved, and we are fortunate to be reminded of that, not just with friends and family, but just of how God has just wrapped us up in the Holy Spirit and just clothed us with love to get through this.
The whole reason of even doing this book is, it’s not about Todd and Tara. It’s truly a love story of how we, through this tragic story, show others just how much hope and inspiration is out there for people, no matter that tragic situation. You don’t have to lose your daughter to have tragedy in your life. We just feel obligated through these blessings to help others by sharing it. We appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and just really appreciate it and thank you for doing it.
John: Thank you very much you guys. I so appreciate this time. God bless you both and your ministry, and thank you for the opportunity to chat today. I appreciate it.
"When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, 'Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.'" John 6:12 (NIV)
Sparkles from the scalloped, green glass bottle sitting in the window fill my mind with memories of my grandmother. She was the original owner of the bottle, and once it contained sweet perfume.
The bottle was once stored in Grandma's basement, where I'd go on treasure hunts as a little girl. Shelves in a dimly lit room held mysteries like my grandfather's fossil collection and my grandmother's collection of Avon perfume bottles, of which my precious green bottle was one. There were tall bottles and short ones. There were shiny glass bottles and heavy ceramic jars. My favorite one was covered with elegant ladies in 18th century voluminous dresses.
Each bottle was unique. Many were in perfect condition, but a few were chipped and worn. I can envision Grandma pouring over her catalogs choosing each bottle with time and care. Her collection carries scents and memories of people and places, some sweet and others bitter.
Those bottles are like the circumstances of my life. Some are happy, but sadness infuses others. A few have left me with scars, but lots have left me better than before. Just like the bottles, the collection of events in my life is more beautiful when viewed together than individually.
It comforts me that God doesn't waste anything. Every piece - broken, incomplete or whole - in the collections of our lives is made beautiful and significant in His hands.
Just think about the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 hungry people in John 6. The people had followed Jesus out of town to listen to His teaching and watch Him heal. They were all still gathered as mealtime approached. The disciples asked Jesus how He planned to feed the crowd, and Jesus miraculously produced enough food for the crowd from a boy's small lunch of five loaves and two fishes.
Once everyone was fed, it seemed the story would end, but Jesus had one more lesson to teach. He instructed the disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted" (John 6:12b NIV). It wasn't enough for Jesus to feed the people until they were full. He wanted every last crumb collected.
There's nothing that escapes the notice of God. Everything matters to Him. Not only does it matter, but if you are His child, He promises that every part of your life will be used for your good and His glory.
Romans 8:28 says, "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" (NIV). This verse tells us that God uses our grief, our joy, our loss, our gain, our trials and our triumphs. Nothing is wasted.
Today may hold hard things—a sick child, a grouchy boss, an unforgiving friend. Or it may hold beautiful things—a new love, a chat with a neighbor, an affectionate pet. Either way, we can trust God that He is collecting the pieces of our life in His hand and creating something more beautiful than we can imagine.
Dear Lord, I trust You with every circumstance and moment of my life. Help me to see glimpses of how You are making my life beautiful for You. I trust that You don't waste anything, but You use everything. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
We would love to join you as you grab a cup of coffee and curl up in your favorite spot to find hope and purpose within the pages of Scripture. The NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women, featuring devotions from our Proverbs 31 Ministries' writers, unpacks verses with you.
Reflect and Respond:
List some of the hard circumstances in which you've yet to see God's redemptive work. Pray and release them into God's hands. Ask Him to help you entrust them to Him.
Psalm 36:5, "Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies." (NIV)
Psalm 78:35, "They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer." (NIV)
Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more? Luke 7:41-42
There is a greater forgiveness that accompanies greater sins. The generous grace of God covers the multiple sins of an adult reprobate, as fully as He forgives a sinful child raised in church. However, the Lord’s greater forgiveness invites a greater gratitude. Forgiveness that is fresh on the mind thinks of ways to show love and appreciation. A grateful Christ follower rushes to give good, even expensive gifts to God. Public appreciation flows from a personal transformation.
Those who become too familiar with their faith can forget the generous grace of God. One sin condemns us to hell, but one act of faith in Jesus delivers us to heaven, now and forevermore. Glory to God; whether it's our extravagant sins or our modest sins we are forgiven by the lavish love of the Lord! Therefore, there is no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. Yes, our gratitude toward God keeps the greater forgiveness of God at the forefront of our faith.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2
Moreover, make a big deal out of your forgiveness from your Heavenly Father. Celebrate your conversion by publicly illustrating your life change with baptism. Come out of the closet for Christ and He will bless your boldness. He died publicly for your sins, so you could publicly confess your sins. Encourage those in your community who have recently left much of the world’s trappings behind to follow Jesus. Invite them to study the Bible and serve with you.
Gratitude to God is unashamed to show love for God. Perhaps you share something expensive with someone who loves the Lord and in the process you honor the Lord. You give back to Jesus, not to pay back Jesus, but to worship Him, so others might follow Him. Gifts to God are an opportunity to get people to God. Yes, your love for the Lord leads those you influence to love the Lord. Be generous with those around you, so they’ll desire intimacy with your generous God!
But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. 1 John 2:5-6
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your greater forgiveness that motivates my greater love!
Related Readings: Jonah 2:9; Romans 6:4; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philemon 1:18-19; 1 John 2:15-17
Post/Tweet today: We give back to Jesus, not to pay back Jesus, but to worship Him, so others might follow Him. #generousgiving
"For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?" Psalm 18:31 (NIV)
To someone else, it may have been just a simple two-letter word. But to me, it was a divine message from a holy God.
During an activity at a women's retreat, we were to pull from an envelope a specific name of God from Scripture. We were given time to journal about it, and what that particular name meant to us personally in that moment.
Snuggled up on a comfy couch, I opened my envelope and slipped out a piece of paper with the word El, meaning "The Strong One." I looked up the Bible verses at the bottom of the paper, which included today's key verse Psalm 18:31.
As I prayed, my heart began to stir as this name of God sunk in. Words poured into my journal: "Jesus, I'm tired. I confess that I always try to be the strong one. Strong for my mom ... my dad ... my sister and brother ... my husband and children ... my friends. Trying be strong for everyone is exhausting and stressful."
I jotted down the names of loved ones I felt obligated to be strong for and the reasons why. It was as if justifying why I tried to be their rock made it okay. I also journaled about being strong regarding my own circumstances ... relying on my own strength while wearing a mask that I could shoulder the weight of everyone's burdens.
Exhausted, I turned to God for help. It was then I felt Him assure me I didn't have to be strong all the time-because He is "El," The Strong One. I realized I had tried to be the rock for those I loved, instead of leaning on the Rock who is the true strength they need.
In Psalm 18, David praises God for being his source of strength. He looks back and reflects on all God has done, thanking the Lord for not only delivering him from the hands of his enemies, but for giving him strength to overcome them. In Psalm 18:31, David acknowledges the only reason he experiences victory is because God is his Rock. His Strong One. His strength.
I felt my heart lighten. With a sigh of relief and gratitude I journaled words of praise. Just like David, I thanked God for being my strength and my Rock.
Although He didn't deliver me from the hands of physical enemies like David faced, God helped me find victory over the habit of being strong on my own. He reminded me I needed to rely on "El" for strength, whether I am carrying the weight of other's burdens and hurts, or just making it through another stressful day.
We can offer support, prayers and a listening ear to others, but we can't be someone else's rock. It is God's job to be the Rock. He's capable and willing if we give Him room to be.
Dear Lord, forgive me for thinking I can live in my own strength or that my strength is sufficient to support those I love. Remind me to fully lean on You. Thank You for being "El", our One, while paving the way for victory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer is not easy to come by in stressful situations. Financial pressures tend to push buttons that arouse my flesh, and in my own strength I say things I later regret. It is hard not to be harsh when the weight of the world weighs us down or when we feel misunderstood or under appreciated. Indeed, this is when the gentleness of Jesus can replace our juvenile gestures. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
Harshness seems to hibernate in a heavy heart, awakening when it feels violated or disturbed. However, by God’s grace, a soft reply allows reason to run its course rather than passionate words that provoke insult. Emotion is kept in check by calm communication that promotes peace and understanding. Consider reaching out patiently.
“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (Proverbs 12:25).
If you find yourself in a heated argument, take a deep breath and pray together. It is hard to remain angry when you are on your knees confessing sin and sorrow to your Savior Jesus. Take the lead to apologize and ask forgiveness. Humility disarms explosive conversations and brings back the calm of Christ. Remind each other of Jesus’ words, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).
Lastly, a gentle word from God lowers your blood pressure and gives you a peaceful perspective. Listen to the Lord before you lash out, and His Spirit will restrain you from stupid stunts. The work of the Holy Spirit in your heart moves you from harshness to holiness. Pray, “Lord, forgive me and fill me.” It is the fullness of the Spirit that frees you from the foul flesh. As a Spirit-filled believer, you smell sweet to your Savior Jesus and all who love Him.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23).
Prayer: Lord, my heart desires a daily surrender and refreshing of Your life-giving Spirit.
Related Readings: 1 Kings 9:11–13; Proverbs 25:15; Matthew 12:36–37; Colossians 3:12
Post/Tweet: The Spirit’s fullness frees you from the foul flesh and you smell sweet to your Savior Jesus. #Spiritfilled
“After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:5).
Adversity invites leaders to lead. It is your time to trust the Lord and lead by faith, not fear. In hard times a leader asks, “Will I panic or pray?” “Will I stay calm or be sucked into the chaos?” “Will I serve the team or stay secluded in silence?” Jesus faced death, but He was determined to stay focused on His heavenly Father and the mission at hand. Adversity is an opportunity to prove the point of Providence. Christ is in control.
How can you use adversity to your advantage as a leader? One way is to unify the team around common objectives and goals. There is no better way to bring people together than in the fires of hardship and difficulty. In fact, you probably will not succeed without the team rising to its next level of leadership and team support. So reward creativity, because limitations lead to innovation. Lead the team to accomplish more with less. Paul said, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses” (2 Corinthians 6:3–4).
Moreover, use hard times to create a culture of hard work and honesty. It may mean longer hours and less pay, but sacrifice is the price to be paid for productivity. Invite honest feedback so you accurately and effectively improve process and products. Raise team expectations beyond just surviving to thriving. They look to you for leadership; so lead.
Lastly, serve at home and work with appreciation. It is easy to demand more and more while under pressure and forget to say “Thank you.” Perhaps you give the team a day off, leave a grateful voicemail, buy everyone lunch, or send flowers. Wise leaders honestly inquire, “How can I out serve others, especially in the face of misfortune?” “Where do I need to take responsibility, not blaming outside forces?” Leaders model the way.
Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15).
Related Readings: Exodus 4:28–30; 1 Samuel 17:22–24; Acts 10:4–8
Post/Tweet: Adversity invites leaders to lead. It is your time to trust the Lord and lead by faith, not fear. #leadershipinadversity
This is what the kingdom of God is like.A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. Mark 4:26-27
God’s work is not rushed or rattled. He quietly gets things done. While man sleeps, the Lord neither sleeps nor slumbers. The effective work of the Holy Spirit is not bound by human efforts. Indeed, the Spirt softens the heart, so when the word of God is sown, it grows. There is a divine dynamic taking place that may seem delayed in its outcome. For example, a small child who hides hymns in his precious heart, will result in music to their ears as teenagers.
We do not always understand how or where God is at work, but we can be confident that His Spirit is on the move to grow His kingdom. He is at work in your work, since you have sown seeds of integrity; He has harvested a culture of honesty. He is at work in your single adult life: since you have sown seeds of purity, He has harvested a relationship of respect. He is at work in your finances; since you have sown seeds of generosity, He has harvested a heart of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126:6
You may feel frustrated by the lack of progress in your personal finances. If so, remain faithful in sowing seeds of wise stewardship, because God is at work growing good habits in your giving, saving and spending. Consequences from unhealthy money decisions that took years to accumulate, will take time to correct. However, the Lord is working, so surround yourself with wise money managers and loving friends who model generosity. Give your way out of worry.
God is working in the hearts of friends and family who do not know Jesus. You keep sowing a life of love and one day they may love to know the Lord. As you comfort those whose hearts have been crushed, plant the seed of their need for a Savior. Tragedy makes a mind teachable to spiritual truths. Each day scatter the seed of a committed life to Christ. The Spirit will grow those around you to be more like Jesus. His quiet work never ends, one day it brings a holy harvest.
It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. 1 Corinthians 3:7, The Message
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the courage to sow Your seed and trust You for the harvest.
Related Readings: Psalm 62:12, 121:4; Isaiah 55:10; Mark 16:20; 1 Corinthians 9:11
Post/Tweet today: Keep sowing a life of love and one day the lost may love to know the Lord. #lovethelost
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