Month: March 2019

When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn – Guest Blog by Chris Smith

Nine years ago life took an unexpected turn.

At the age of 32 I was diagnosed with cancer. Overnight I was faced with a future that was far less certain and the reality that in an instant everything in life can change.

Over the course of about 2 weeks I was tested, diagnosed, had surgery, and began radiation treatments. I distinctly remember the day after being diagnosed. It was a beautiful Saturday in May. We held a birthday party for our son, and as I walked around our backyard, chatting with family and friends, I felt like I was dreaming – living in an alternate reality.

Except it was my new reality.

This new reality came on the heels of a season where we had waited and waited for God to move us, literally, into a new chapter of life. Shortly after moving to Pennsylvania to accept the position of worship leader at Living Word, the economy collapsed, and with it the housing market. We relocated based on the assumption that we would be able to sell our home in Arizona relatively quickly and move into our own place. Wrong. What was to be a temporary housing situation, a resident …

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Life in the Midst of Famine – Guest Blog by Brian Newman

In the mid 1980s the world learned of a catastrophic famine in east Africa. It was centered in Ethiopia. In late 1984 the BBC ran a story showing tens of thousands of people in danger of starvation, and eventually the world responded with an outpouring of aid.

I had just completed college and was working as a journalist in New York. In response to the famine, I took a job with a relief and development agency and soon found myself in a far-off place called Alamata in northern Ethiopia.

My job was to report on the famine, to show the world what was happening so we all could respond in compassion and save people’s lives.

In the Alamata feeding center, thousands upon thousands of people flooded into the camp in late 1985 as they suffered from prolonged severe malnutrition. Although I went to the camp as a journalist, I quickly figured out that I was a relief worker first and put down my camera and notepad to help in any way I could.

Many people – Ethiopians and foreign aid workers – worked 12 or 14 hour per day to try to save “just one more life,” as the motto …

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Suffering as a Gift – Guest Blog by Connie Milchling

In September of 2004 my first husband died suddenly while working on a construction site at an orphanage in Guatemala. On a not-too-hot day, during a not-too-stressful moment, Brad dropped over, dying instantly at the age of 47. He had no prior signs of heart conditions, no pre-existing health issues, and no family history of coronary concerns.

He was literally serving Jesus one minute and standing in his presence the next; a great way to go home to glory, but a shocking way to become a widow. I spent months and months journaling (I call it prayer on paper) with my Bible nearby.

One week into the journey I stumbled across this verse in Philippians 1:29: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (NIV 1984). The Message version says, “There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him.  And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.” Really? The suffering is as much a gift as the trusting? How can that possibly be?

I wrestled with this text for quite some time. The imagery that …

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Learning to Pray When Life is Hard

When we are in times of difficulty, we must pray. Prayer is how we draw close to the Giver of Grace, the Comforter, the Healer, the One Who Rescues, the Deliverer.

And yet, if we have not learned how to pray, it is hard to learn to do in suffering. Sometimes, the best we can do is offer groans up toward heaven (which Paul recommends we do and encourages us that the Spirit of God helps us do just that).

To learn to pray, it can be useful to find good prayers to use as a guide.

Of course, the Psalms are always among the very best prayers you can take as your prayer guide.

When I find such prayers, I actually pray them using the actual words. And then I begin to change some words, adding my own words, but always seeking to make it “my” prayer.

Here is one of the prayers I found many decades ago. I return to it from time to time. I hope you will find this prayer just as useful.


Author Unknown,
Attributed to a battle-weary soldier near the end of the Civil War

I asked God for …

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A Grace Disguised

In the days ahead, you will be reading stories from our staff about their own difficult times and how they encountered the love and power of God. We want to tell stories, swap stories, receive stories, and grow from being a “storied” community.

And talk about stories … I have rarely found as much wisdom and grace about suffering as I found on the final pages of the magnificent, sorrowful, and full-of-hope book by Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss.

In a tragic car accident, as Jerry and his family were returning home from a day excursion, a drunk driver’s vehicle crossed the median strip and crashed headlong into the van Jerry was driving. In that crash, Jerry lost his wife, mother, and one of his daughters. He was left as a single dad to raise his surviving children.

As you can imagine, everything changed for Jerry and his family. EVERYTHING CHANGED!

Of the many books on suffering and evil, this may be my favorite (if I can use the word favorite to describe a book on suffering). How about redemptive? How about meaningful? How about wise? How about healing? All those words describe my …

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