Joni and Friends works with many wonderful like-hearted affiliates around the world as we distribute wheelchairs and Bibles, and hold International Family Retreats. And our affiliate-friends overseas are joining in on our celebration of 35 years of ministry among the world's disabled. Krupa Paulson and the staff of ProVision Asia in India sent greetings this week – please pray for the success of the Gospel among the more than 100 million people with disabilities in that great nation!
After spending time with Robert and Bobbie Wolgemuth yesterday (she’s battling cancer), I am more keenly aware of how fragile, frail, and brief life really is. Plus, I'm more aware of living courageously and boldly for my Savior in the time He allots me. Bobbie and I are the same age, 65 – and like her, I want to live full-throttle for Jesus. A little like this prayer from John Piper, "Fight for us, O God, that we not drift numb and blind and foolish into vain and empty excitements. Life is too short, too precious, too painful to waste on worldly bubbles that burst. Heaven is too great, hell is too horrible, eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity." May the Lord teach both you and me the end of our days, and how to number them so that we might apply our hearts to His wisdom (Psalm 90:12).
Although the JAF Minnesota Family Retreat is behind us, Ken and I are not flying home to LA today. Instead, we are taking a detour to Orlando, Florida to visit our friends Robert and Bobbie Wolgemuth. Over two years ago Bobbie was diagnosed with cancer (this must-see video of Bobbie's story was filmed by her hospital). Although chemotherapy and clinical trials have been unsuccessful, my friend's heaven-sent joy in Christ is her real medicine – she knows that cancer does not win if she dies; cancer only wins if she loses her confidence in Jesus. I will treasure the moments we share together today, but I think I'm going to come away with the biggest blessing. Please pray for my friend, and if you know someone who is battling cancer, share Bobbie's video with them!
Every August my friend Tim comes by the IDC with the pick of his orchard – he grows heirloom grapes, peaches, and plums near the base of the Santa Monica Mountains. I sank my teeth into one of his fresh peaches and was amazed. He winked and said, "Joni, that's what a peach should taste like – a combination of great soil, and the right amount of moisture and California sun!" (It made the peaches at the supermarket taste a little like Styrofoam :-). Galatians 5:22-23 says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Sometimes through self-effort, we try to manufacture the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, but it always comes across like Styrofoam. You can paint a veneer of joy and put up a facade of self-control; you can project false love and plastic peace, but the Spirit of Jesus will have nothing to do with it. Remember, "No branch can...
On a hot August afternoon, nothing satisfies quite like an ice-cold glass of lemonade fresh out of the refrigerator. Being satisfied means you've been filled, and you want nothing more. That's exactly how Jesus satisfies when He quenches your parched soul. To trust Him means that your needs are met. To know Him is to realize that He is your dearest, most faithful companion. It's like Psalm 145:16 says, "You [God] open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." So if it's a sultry Sunday outside, take time on this Lord's day to memorize Jeremiah 17:7-8, "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord… He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Then pour a cold drink, pause and praise Jesus for the way He quenches your spiritual thirst.
If you are in a disability line of work, study or ministry, this conference is for you. Our Global Access Conference is a four-day international event held February 17-20, 2015 here in Southern California – we'll be welcoming disability ministry leaders, pastors, and passionate individuals from around the world to come and learn, share experiences, forge strong working relationships, and discover how to practically and effectively promote disability ministry in the Christian community. You will learn how to create and pursue advanced disability initiatives within church and cultural communities, and you will share in a lasting network of support and education with other attendees from around the world. People coming to this conference are world-changers, and I want you to be there – so sign up today!
My friend Gracie is a double amputee (along with a few Africans who received prosthetics from her ministry Standing with Hope). Because Gracie wears skirts, everybody can easily see that she walks on steel rods. Several people have asked why she doesn’t cover up her artificial legs, but Gracie knows that her appearance drives home the Gospel message that she shares with everyone she meets. She puts everything out there: everything about the gutsy reality of her glaring disability, as well as everything about the Lord Jesus. Romans chapter 10 says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”—and, oh, when I see Gracie walking, I think those metal rods are beautiful! Friend, whatever your physical appearance or illness, don’t try to minimize it. Today let others see your weakness; it’s perhaps the best way to highlight how great the Good News really is!
Every summer Ken and I love traveling to as many Joni and Friends’ Family Retreats as we can – and today, we are packing up early and heading off to our JAF Minnesota Family Retreat at Castaway Club in Detroit Lakes. Romans 15:13 is the theme verse for all our Family Retreats this year: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Please pray that God will send His protective angels to go before us, keeping us safe as we travel to Minnesota… but mainly, pray that God will fill the special-needs families attending camp this week with His joy and peace as they learn to trust in Him. By the way, I memorized Romans 15:13 just recently, and I would encourage you to do the same – it’s an encouraging promise to remember when the going gets tough!
Yes, I will need your prayers as I head into the studio this morning to record 30 "Joni and Friends" radio programs, and 50 one-minute features we call "Diamonds in the Dust." I can hardly believe I've been in radio ministry for over 32 years. But before each session, I always ask God to give me "an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary" (Isaiah 50:4). Would you please ask God to give me lung-power, energy, a clear voice, anointed messages, and keep my focus on Jesus? And if you are feeling weary and are looking for a sustaining word, listen to today's program on my radio page. And as always, thanks for interceding!
For more than 22 years, my neighbor Carolyn Simons helped me get up every Monday, Friday, and Saturday morning. Carolyn loved packing and unpacking my suitcases whenever I would travel (plus, she did the laundry to prepare me for the next trip :-). To her, helping me was her "work of service to Christ." It's why Ken and I considered precious Carolyn as part of our family! Sadly, a little over a year ago, she developed lung cancer – although she courageously battled this disease with unflappable confidence in her Savior, last week she breathed her last of Earth's air and stepped into the fresh air of Heaven. If Carolyn were sitting next to me, she would encourage you to also be the "hands" of someone with special-needs. She would cite Ephesians 4:11-13, reminding us all that God prepares us "for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up." I'm so looking forward to you meeting my friend one day in Heaven! Until then, God bless you for works of service you do in Christ's kingdom!