ListenIt first showed up in my childhood as that rather annoying, juvenile habit of interrupting. I interrupted a lot. I talked a lot. In fact I liked to talk first, and talk over others, and just in general, be the one talking. Yup, I was one of “those” kids.

Here’s the thing. It wasn’t that I was a rude, ill-mannered child in general. On the contrary, I was often described as “mature for my age.” So, what was the deal? I’m just now beginning to figure that out.

In a powerful trifecta of circumstances, I turned 30, experienced a great deal of personal loss, and discovered for the first time, the full grace of the gospel. All of this happened a few years ago and it began a powerful journey of growing in self-awareness and embarking on serious personal development to be a healthier, more effective individual and person. Processing why you do the things you do is hard, hard work! But, it’s so fruitful! And on this particular issue it’s also been very sobering.

The hard truth is that interrupting is a sign of failing to listen well and respect the value of the other person. As I got older I interrupted a little less, but the heart issue was simply manifesting itself in a different way because I still listened poorly. I listened just enough to mentally latch on to a point that I could respond to. But I had tunnel vision – hearing only the issue or argument at hand – and losing sight of the person – in front of me.

Not only is interrupting immature, but as I considered the deeper root, and its impact on my effectiveness as a leader, it became clear that I had to take a more honest look at what this little “habit” truly was:

  1. It is an indication of my natural man’s selfish tendencies – except for the grace of Jesus, I am the center of my own universe and left to myself I would prefer to do that which suits me. This usually means being in control, holding the reigns power and not necessarily having to exert a lot of control over what I’d like to have for myself.
  2. It is a revelation of my prideful disposition – the humble leader walks in the conviction that listening well to others is a tangible demonstration of the respect that is owed to others simply because we are equally created, valued and loved by our Heavenly Father.
  3. It was a serious roadblock to my ability to win trust and lead well – no matter how right I may be, it simply doesn’t matter if I haven’t invested the time to listen so that I can truly hear people, know people, and then better respond to them so that we can trust one another. In fact, I’ve had multiple situations in which I found myself so certain that I was right and so certain I could express it most effectively. But in failing to listen I failed to understand how best to meet those I was trying to convince, and in the end we all lost.
  4. It is covered by the grace of God. It is not beyond redemption. It is not beyond forgiveness. It is met by the power of the Holy Spirit to produce the gentleness, humility and patience that will cultivate new desires for Him that are greater than my desires for self.

Sobering indeed. But there is no substitute for experiencing God’s renewing work in my life. I’m so thankful He is making me “new” in this area. It’s not been easy though. In my next post I’ll share what I’ve learned in the process of being renewed and some practical tips I’ve discovered that might help you if you’re striving to become a better listener.

What habits have you been working on changing to be a more effective leader? What are the habits leaders struggle with that are the hardest to talk about?

Quesion

There is a huge difference between the leadership style of Jesus and styles that we see displayed in today’s world. If you look at the top selling christian or leadership books, you can easily see this trend. The books generally have titles that are answers to life’s problems – like 7 steps to do something or 10 steps to solving an issue. Truth be told, these books are only quick fixes that rarely address the heart of the issue. If you read the Gospels, you will find the Leadership style of Jesus is uniquely different. Most of the time, he never gave answers but rather asked a question that went to the heart of the issue. For example, he asked the blind man in Mark 10, “What do you want Me to do for you?”, he asked the disciples in Matthew 16, “Who do you say I am?” and in Matthew 15 he asked, “How many loaves do you have?

Some of these questions seem to be really bad questions to ask. You’re asking a blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?”. Here is the thing about questions – it allows us to separate solutions that are humanly possible vs. solutions that would require faith and divine intervention. Questions reveal to us, our heart of unbelief. They sometimes reveal to us our sins that we need to repent of.

Can I ask you today? Take a moment to look at that circumstance that looks helpless to you and that relationship that seems impossible to mend, and ask yourself, what would Jesus ask you if He were standing next to you? Go ahead, take out a piece of paper and write down your thoughts….

A leadership thought: Great leaders don’t give answers, they ask questions.

April 3, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: A Happy Boy: In 8 days, Joshua Luke will be 7 months old. Geez. Slow down, little man :) … It’s amazing to see our little warrior prince growing up. When we look at him, sometimes, our eyes fills up with tears – truth be told – there were times in the last 6 months, when weren’t sure we would make it this far. But God, in His amazing grace and power, spoke life and we are happy beyond measure to see Joshua Luke – our happy baby boy – growing up, smiling, giving us hugs & looking into our eyes. He is truly a miracle. Thank you to so many of you for praying  and even fasting as we walked through the tough moments. Here are some of the most recent pictures of Joshua Luke (the pic on the right is his first time on a swing, which he loved, by the way.:))

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Update: Next major CHOP appointment will be in May. We are however planning to take him down to CHOP to start his Neurology assessment. More updates to come. For now, we enjoy moments of laughter and happiness with Joshua Luke – as we continue to believe, think and pray for what lies ahead. God is authoring a story in Joshua Luke’s life and we are humbled that God considered us worthy to be Joshua Luke’s parents. He is a gift..

Special Note to our friends at Zarephath Christian Church: Joshua Luke will be coming to church for the first time on Sunday, April 13th. Many of you fasted and prayed and dropped off meals, gifts and so much encouragement during this journey. (Disclaimer: the following request this may sound crazy but over the past 6+ months, we’ve learned that we have to be wary of even the simplest of infections because they can be life-threatening for Joshua. So, thank you in advance for understanding.) We are asking that no one touches him on April 13th because his risk of infection remains a concern but we are excited to worship our God with you and Joshua Luke. Joshua Luke is looking forward to seeing you all!! :)

March 3, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: Write Your story on my heart: In 9 days, Joshua Luke will be 6 months old. Wow! Our baby boy is 1/2 year old and he has weathered many storms in the last 6 months! He fought with all his might and through it all, has stayed a happy, playful baby. God has brought us far on this journey. So today, before the update, I wanted to share a video of Joshua Luke. This video is a really a THANK YOU to all our friends and loved ones who prayed for “warrior prince”. God, not only heard your prayers and did a miracle for Joshua Luke, but your prayers gave Ann and I courage when we had none. We can never forget all those moments of brokenness, tears, laughter and celebration. With this video, we release some of the pictures NEVER seen before from the hospital and home.

Update: Last update mentioned the intervention that needed with Joshua Luke. Great News – After checking blood pressures at the cardiologist’s office, the whole team at chop – cardiologists & surgeon discussed Joshua Luke’s case and the final consensus was that it wasn’t a significant difference and shouldn’t affect him clinically.  He’s growing well and clinically looks great. It’s great to be home for this long of a period without any hospitalizations and or interventions. God has heard our hearts and answered our prayers. So the next scheduled major appointment is in May with his entire team at CHOP! Continue to pray for Joshua Luke as we head back to CHOP in March to meet with the Neuro-developmental team. More updates to come.

Feb 10, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: Pressing Forward: So it’s been 30 days since the last Joshua Luke update. Thank you for the many emails, facebook messages, phone texts inquiring about how Joshua Luke is doing. We are so blessed to have friends that don’t give up praying for our little “warrior prince”. In three days, Joshua Luke will be 5 months old. We are so very thankful for such a precious gift. He is truly a miracle and we’re reminded of that daily.

 

Thankfully, Joshua Luke has been doing very well. His oxygen levels have been great, he is hitting all his milestones, his pulses have been steady and he is growing up.  Ann and I have been extremely cautious not to let our guard down during the FLU and viral season due to the fact that congenital heart babies have serious problems if they get an infection.  So, Joshua Luke has not met many people and hasn’t yet had a play-date with all his other baby friends.

Last Tuesday was Joshua Luke’s third CHOP Cardiologist visit after his open heart surgery six weeks ago. The doctor said she thinks there is an issue.  We noticed during the visit that his blood pressures were elevated.  During the visit, they performed an ECHO of his heart, which has become routine during his cardiology visits, and upon reviewing the study, the cardiologist thinks there might be a problem with the pressures or velocity of bloodflow to the upper body.  The increased pressures are a concern as they can affect the brain.  (Remember during the first and second surgeries, the blood flow was re-routed, thereby altering pressures to the brain and body).  This upcoming week, all the other cardiologists at CHOP will review the study and determine the next step.  Joshua’s cardiologist thinks he may require a repeat study under sedation and if he truly has higher pressures in the blood vessels, then he may need another catherization.   We have been praying that another intervention will not be needed and no more hospitalizations until his third and final surgery.

Please join us in praying and believing for the same.  God has done many miracles already and we know He has will never leave Joshua Luke’s side. He promised. Thank you once again for praying and believing with our little family.

Jan 12, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: 4 months old: It’s tough to say it but it’s true…. Ann and I weren’t sure if we would be given the privilege by God to see Joshua Luke doing so well on his 4 month old birthday. We celebrate today. Joshua Luke is doing well. He is growing, his oxygen saturations are above 80, his scar are healing well, his headaches are doing down and his teething has begun. :) As terrible as teething is, he is constantly in pain, this time, we are happy that it a “normal baby” occurrence. :)

4 months

Thank you, friends for standing with us through the storm. We heard from many of you even in the last 7 days, checking up on Joshua Luke with heavy hearts. It takes a little weight off our hearts to see that you love Joshua Luke so much, that you went to war for him in prayers. It is my prayer that this will cause a chain reaction of folks prayering for each other as we share our stories boldly and ask Him to move. I leave you today with a rather confusing verse that Jesus says in Matthew but I believe he was talking about bold prayers.

Matthew 11:12 = “And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”

If you’re interested about hearing more about being a prayer warrior, click here to see a must-see video from Dr.David Ireland at Collyde Summit 2013: http://vimeo.com/71779883

Jan 4th, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: Slow Recovery: So it’s been three days that Joshua Luke has been home. Recovery is slow. Joshua Luke has been struggling with a lot of headaches and he cries a lot and puts his hands on head – as though he is trying to tell us. We also realized that he is teething and this adds much more to the recovery process. He tries so hard and he’s normally such a happy, light-hearted soul but it all is so much for a little baby to take. So, he has his good and tough moments/days.

jan 4
I, personally, [so it's Jinu's theory :)], also feel like he was over medicated with drugs like Gabapentin, which was supposed to help with pain. The over-medication (7+ drugs) that were pumped into him with all the other IVs, anesthetic drugs, etc, gave him a bad stomach ache as well. I think a little body can handle only so many chemical drugs. He still receives 3 drugs at home on a daily basis for his heart.

Please continue to pray for Joshua Luke. He has a long, hard road ahead of him. Our “warrior prince” is a fighter, though and he endures everything with tears and a smile on his face (sometimes only seconds apart). The great news is that his oxygen levels are doing ok and his surgical site across his chest is healing well. His O2 sats are above 78 percent. We pray that God would continue to keep His mighty hands on him and allow him to recover well and completely so he can be a baby for the next 2 yrs before his third & final open heart surgery. Please also pray that he will continue to reach all his development milestones and trauma of the surgeries will not hold him back. “Father, we pray that you allow Joshua Luke to grow up, physically, mentally and spiritually, in favor before God and man.”

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Friends, we’d LOVE to pray for you. If you have a prayer request for your journey or something we, the collyde team, could pray for, please send it to lynn@collyde.com or leave a comment below on the blog and we will make sure we pray for you. Our next fasting and prayer day is January 18, 2014

Jan 1st, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: Great News!!! Day 7 and we are heading home :) :) :) We still can’t believe it. In 7 days, God has done a miracle. Joshua Luke has been off oxygen machines for 24 hrs and he is doing ok. He still needs to recover and rest and come back to himself 100% but our “warrior prince” is fighting hard and his God has touched him and has shown him favor. Thank you, God.

Jan 1st

Thank you, to our friends and family, from the bottom of our hearts. Your persistent prayers and unending love & support has uplifted the three of us through this journey.

Happy New Year!! January 1, 2014 – we OVERCOME – because Jesus has overcome everything. This New Year – BELIEVE! God loves you much, much more than you can imagine. You are not alone. He fights with you. Invite Him to join your journey.

Psalm 97: “The Lord reigns; Let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad! Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. A fire goes before Him, And burns up His enemies round about. His lightnings light the world; The earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples see His glory.”

Dec 31st: Joshua Luke Update: Some wise person once said “all good things come in waves.” :) Certainly true with Joshua Luke’s story. After coming to the Cardiac Care Unit, Joshua Luke had been slightly more irritable due to the blood flow changes and his body adjusting to the new hemodynamics in his chest. Pressure building up in his head is giving him severe headaches during recovery. Lastly the most important thing: Oxygen. Joshua Luke is struggling to come off supplemental oxygen. We tried two times to wean him off but his oxygen saturation falls below 70 percent (an average person has a saturation of 97 to 99 percent – HLHS kids after the second surgery range from 75 to 92 percent).

Could you please join us in prayer for another MIRACLE, friends? We’d like to see Joshua Luke fully off supplemental oxygen and for him to breathe on his own on room air. Please pray for his headaches and upper chest blood vessel “rearrangement” so his body can adjust. The same God who did so many miracles in the Bible and in Joshua Luke’s body and life, this past year is able to heal him again. Thankful for friends who pray, fight and overcome. We will overcome together.

Dec 31

Dec 29: Joshua Luke Update : Another good day: Yay! Good News! Joshua Luke was stepped down today from the Cardiac ICU to the Cardiac Care Unit – a unbelievable recovery in 48 hrs. His oxygen saturation seem to be going in the right direction. He is eating well and sleeping well. Our prayer is that in the next 2 days he is able to maintain his oxygenation levels on room air and no supplemental oxygen is required. He smiles today and responds for us as he did before surgery. What a gift. God is so good. Thank you friends… Keep praying for his oxygen saturation and wouldn’t it be a miracle if we are home on Jan 1st. Believing. As a good friend texted us today “Man, I love God and how He is showing himself to you guys”.

dec 29

Dec 28: Joshua Luke: Through the eyes of God: As I stared into the open blue sky this afternoon, I started thinking – “what if God did not allow storms to come our way”? What if we did not have “uncertainty” and “heart-ache”? Would we truly understand the LOVE that our Father in Heaven has for us? If we did not walk through the dark moments, would we truly understand the power of walking in the light? Just some random thoughts that started crossing my mind and heart as we begin to process what truly is happening in this journey with Joshua Luke.

Dec 28

Today was a great day for Joshua Luke. Ann and I are so thankful for the direction this day has taken. It’s started with the good news of “no stroke” and ended with him coming off of some medications. Today is the 1st post-op day he slept for 2-3 hrs straight with no interruptions. The road ahead has many challenges. Tomorrow is a big test. Will Joshua Luke be able to sustain breathing normally on the newly created blood flow to his lungs? We continue to believe and walk one step at a time by holding on to the promises of God. Here is the one that began it all — Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Dec 28th: Joshua Luke: “Repeat that again”: Many of my updates began this way – so let me start off this way again. “You won’t believe it” but… the top neurologist at CHOP, Dr. Licht – arguably one of the top pediatric neurologists who specializes in cardiac babies- in the world, came at 9 AM today to review and do his own testing today. After 30 mins with a large Neuro team analyzing the “stroke” in Joshua and after looking to the CT Scan and Ultrasound and actually examining Joshua Luke’s pictures from 2 weeks ago, he turned around to us said “I don’t think he had a stroke”. Repeat that again.? Over 4 experienced cardiologists (from CHOP) concluded yesterday “he had a stroke”. But today, things turned around 180 degrees.

Miracle

Our thought: Maybe – just maybe – with an army of friends praying fervently (& violently) overnight – God in heaven had something to say about this diagnosis. Maybe the feet of the very One who created Joshua Luke walked beside His bed last night. All we can say “Thank you, God, for being our God”. His mercies are new morning. Our hearts are overwhelmed – this time – with joy. We could hardly speak. This day we celebrate. This day we overcome. #onlybelieve

(((oh man, we don’t know how to begin to say thank you to our friends… We love you all and cannot wait for you to meet and play with Joshua Luke, face to face – so you can say hello to warrior prince and he can say thank you with a smile :)))

Dec 27th: Post Op day#3- Joshua Luke Update: Something bad happened: Today was the day we wish never happened. Joshua Luke had a stroke and the left side of his face seems to droop. Another day our hearts broke- more than ever before. Seems like there are more ups and downs and we are begging at the feet of the Cross for mercy. Joshua Luke was taken immediately for a CT Scan of the head and then a brain ultrasound. So far they did not find any hemorrhage and no blood clots. They are planning to do an MRI to be conclusive. We need prayers. The name Joshua means “God is my Salvation” and tonight we pray for God to save our little”warrior prince” from any more problems.

stroke

Dec 26: Joshua Luke Post-op Day 2

post surgery day 2

Joshua Luke: Post-surgery day 2 – Update # 2: FAITH: This day continues to be a hard day as well for Joshua Luke. His recovery is really slow. He was kept pretty medicated most of the day. He still needed the CPAP machine to support his breathing. He has started to eat a little whenever he is awake for few minutes but not anywhere close to the amount he usually eats. Basically the cardiologists are taking a “wait and see” approach. Tomorrow becomes a really crucial day to see how Joshua Luke has progressed overnight. Please continue to pray for a miracle. This whole journey has been a summation of small miracles from God. His hand is evident in everything. Some days are harder than others but isn’t that what Faith is all about? You believe when things don’t look good, you fight when the storms of life come to overtake you and you press on when you have no strength left to keep going. God is there in the midst of it all. Friends, thank you for encouraging our hearts with prayers and love when we need it the most. Isn’t that what Faith is all about? We’ll keep walking and keep believing – together.

Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”

JLJPG

Joshua Luke: Post-surgery day 2 – Update # 1: Thank you dear friends for your emails, texts and FB comments of prayers and words of life. Joshua Luke had difficulty breathing last night and his oxygen saturation dropped to the 30′s, so they had to put him on a CPAP machine to help him breathe easier. It’s so hard for him. They did a lot of testing to see why he is having such a hard time but they can’t figure it out. They said today all the cardiologists are discussing his case to figure out what to do. Please pray that God would give the doctors wisdom and please pray that God would keep His almighty hands on Joshua Luke. He promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. Believing.

Psalm 91:14-16 – “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.”

Dec 25: Joshua Luke: Post-Surgery Day: Rough day for Joshua Luke: So this Christmas Day Joshua Luke had a really rough day. His face is really swollen, he currently has 2 IVs put in and 1 Arterial Line, he had over 3 Echocardiograms because the cardiologists feel there is a narrowing in the pulmonary artery, one of his lungs have collapsed small airways and his oxygen saturations fell below 55 percent (dangerously low) at least 10 times today. The cardiologists think something is wrong but they want to wait and see. Ann and I feel really heart-broken to see Joshua Luke go through this day. We pray and believe that God will move the mountains for him. Thank you for your continued fervent prayers. It gives Joshua Luke the courage the fight and Ann/I the strength to stand with him. We love you guys

post surgery

John 16:33 “… In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Dec 24th: Joshua Luke’s Update: Day of Surgery - 3 Updates from the CHOP

Update 3 surgery

Update 3 of 3 – Praying for a Miracle - Joshua Luke is making progress but is still not out of the woods. His blood drainage has decreased but he has miles to go. PWe beseech your continued prayers as we pray for a miracle for Joshua Luke. Miracles do happen to those who believe. 2000 years ago – this day – the Greatest Miracle took place – as the Savior of the world was born in Bethlehem and today in our hearts. Thank you today for standing with us and asking for a miracle for Joshua Luke. We pray that overnight he would become much better. They predict that after this procedure, each baby has a very difficult and painful first 2-3 days in recovery. Please pray for an easy, quick recovery free of complications.

Update 2 Surgery

Update 2 of 3: Prayers Needed – Joshua Luke’s surgery was a success but immediately after he began oozing blood.  We, including the doctors, are worried. He’s currently receiving blood products. We ask for our prayer warriors to continue fervent prayers and please pray with us for all bleeding to stop. We know God had His hands on our little warrior. Our “warrior prince” is fighting with all his might. Thank you for the prayers. We will keep you friends updated.

Update 1 Surgery

Update 1 of 3: Joshua Luke in OR Room – This morning at 7:10 AM they took Joshua Luke to the Operating Room. The surgery will take at least 5+ hrs. Dr. Spray informed us this morning that he will be doing the modified hemi-fontan on Joshua Luke. In this procedure, the venous blood from the upper body is connected directly to the lungs and a patch is placed from the right atrium to the pulmonary artery. They reminded us of all the risks again and in our minds, we reminded ourselves how Big our God is and the fact that He has planned out all the days of Joshua Luke before he came into our lives. Praying for our little “warrior prince” to rise and fight. He has a long road of recovery ahead. Thank you for all the prayers this Christmas Eve, friends.

Dec 23rd: Joshua Luke’s Update: T’was the night before surgery: So tomorrow at 6 AM Joshua Luke will be wheeled off again for his 2nd open heart surgery, the Glenn procedure. All the pre-tests were done today and we signed all the consent forms that all have a very long list of risks and complications. This will be a longer surgery – roughly 6 hours. Recovery is estimated to take 7 days if there are no complications. Joshua Luke is sleeping as I write this update.

2nd surgery

Jinu’s personal thoughts: Today is a hard day for me. There is a lot going on inside of me. I know I am supposed to be strong and courageous but can I be honest with you friends? I think my heart is weary. I feel like there is a lump in my throat and a fear in my heart that I have not been able to shake for the last couple of days. Just the thought of my little baby boy going through another open heart surgery overwhelms me. In the midst of the fears, I felt God’s voice whisper in my heart – “I am with you. My hand is on Joshua”. We don’t feel alone; we know there are friends praying and fasting and standing with us. This morning I was reminded by my heavenly Father  – who feels the same way for me (even much more, actually) as I feel for Joshua Luke — and who loves Joshua Luke much much more than I ever could:

Psalms 139: 7-9 : “Where can I go from Your Spirit?Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning,  And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.

Thomas 009

Dec 15th: Joshua Luke’s 1st Christmas: Open Heart Surgery # 2: Joshua Luke has been OFF oxygen since he left the hospital on Dec 7th. Yay! God is so good – He has had favor on Joshua Luke due to the prayers and love of so many friends. As most of you know by now, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome babies go through three open-heart surgeries in the first few years of their life: Norwood, Glenn and Fontan.  Joshua Luke underwent his first open heart surgery, the Norwood procedure, on Sep 16th (further down on this blog is the pics/updates from that day) and usually the next surgery, the Glenn, happens after 4 months but there is an EXCEPTION being made for Joshua Luke (now 3 month and 3 days old). We received a call last Tuesday, Dec 10th, that Joshua Luke’s second open heart surgery, the Glenn Procedure, which was scheduled to happen on January 23rd of 2014 by Dr. Spray is now on December 24th – Christmas Eve. We believe this is a GOOD thing because the Glenn procedure decreases the pressure/work load of the right ventricle, which is better for the long term.  Also, as most of you friends know that Joshua Luke’s heart was already showing signs of wear and decreased motility and so he is taking Digoxin to help his heart beat stronger.  Ann and I are happy but honestly, feel a little overwhelmed as well.

Baby Joshua Luke just came back from the hospital and this time it took him seven days to recover and get back to “normal” feeding. Now, again, seven days from now – we will be driving back to CHOP for his 2nd open heart surgery.  Our hearts are heavy for him. Please pray for us. We know and believe in Romans 8:28 - “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”. This Christmas Eve say a prayer for Joshua Luke, as our “warrior prince” weathers another storm, another battle and another fight.  We know we are not alone – that God is with us (Emmanuel) and all you friends – who read the blog, pray, text, write notes, we know you all are standing with us. As we look at Joshua Luke on Dec 24th, we will not forget another Baby who came into the world for us – to remind us – how much we are loved and how far a Father will go to whisper into our hearts, I love you. Believing for a miracle – whether it comes through the surgery or through His touch.

Dec 15

Dec 7th: Cardiac Cath Day – Update # 3: IT HAPPENED: We can hardly believe what we heard this morning – “He does NOT need Oxygen”. Wow!!!! Could it be? IT HAPPENED. Another miracle. All signs pointed the wrong way but when you are a son or daughter of the Most High God and you have 1000s praying (brother/sisters in Rwanda, Uganda, US, Australia, India, Europe, Canada) – Jesus had compassion on Joshua Luke and healed him. Our hearts and eyes weep tears of Joy today. We could NOT have walked this road without our friends/family and army of prayer warriors. Thank you – thank you – thank you – from the bottom of our hearts. We love you all. You have given us the best gift this Christmas season – your Love and Prayers. The journey still has miles to go – but today we celebrate. “Thank You, Dad. We LOVE you”.

((I know we were privileged that many of your shared stories of the storm you are going through. Just wanted to say…. Trust in Jesus – He loves us more than we can ever imagine – Make Him a close friend and He will walk with you. Ann and I and Joshua Luke love you and we are praying for you))

Dec 7

Dec 6th: Joshua Luke Update: Cardiac Cath Day – Update # 2: The “warrior prince” is out of the Cath Lab and sedated and sleeping. Joshua’s in recovery now. The Cardiac Cath Specialist said they found some narrowing close to the previous conduit (Sano Shunt) placed and he dilated the area. No new additional stent was placed. He’s extubated and we’re watching his oxygenation now. So far it looks OK but has had a few dips and needed some supplemental oxygen but not continuously. They say that could be because of anesthesia still wearing off. Please keep praying for his oxygenation, fluid status, quick recovery without complications and no need for supplemental oxygen at home. That is the miracle that we’d like to go home with this weekend – No Supplemental 24/7 oxygen at home. Thank you friends for prayers and walking with us. We know God is able and He will perfect that which concerns Joshua Luke. He was fearfully and wonderfully made by His creator.

Dec 6b

Dec 6th: Joshua Luke Update: Cardiac Cath Day – Update # 1: After an unexpectedly long wait this morning and 4 attempts to get an IV line (poor baby – but he’s a trooper), at 10:20 AM, Joshua Luke was taken to the OR for a Cardiac Cath. Ann and I don’t feel alone at all. Thank you for your texts, emails and prayers. We feel your love. Though our heart aches this morning for our “warrior prince”, we feel God’s presence with us. We are blessed to have you with us. Thank you. We will update soon.

dec 5a

Isaiah 46:4 – …. I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you”

Dec 5th: Joshua Luke update: Prayers Needed – Cardiac Cath tomorrow: Here is the latest on Joshua Luke. CHOP doctors could not figure out why his oxygen saturation is low, so Joshua Luke is having a cardiac cath tomorrow, Friday, Dec 6th tentatively at 6 AM. It is an invasive procedure with many risks but it’s necessary to get to the bottom of Joshua’s low oxygen levels. Here is the hard part – if the cardiac cath does not find anything, it’s actually really bad. This means Joshua Luke will need to stay on oxygen until his second open heart surgery (the Glenn procedure) on January 23rd. There is also a small chance that the Glenn Surgery will NOT solve the issue. This is extremely bad news because Joshua Luke will be oxygen deprived and will require a O2 tank with him permanently. We need your prayers – now more than ever. God sees and hears from Heaven. The Bible is full of stories where the prayers of His people were answered. This is no exception. God can answer our prayer. Please join us tomorrow – Dec 6 – Friday – as we seek His face – as Joshua Luke is wheeled again into the operating room. May His presence walk into that room and guide the hands of the doctors.

Cath

 

Dec 4th: Joshua Luke update: Parents at CHOP: Everyone has a story. As we walk in and out of all the buildings at CHOP, there is a common sight. It’s a mom or a dad sitting down to catch a breath – some in tears, some gazing out through an open window and some waiting for one glimpse of hope in the midst of the storm. Where do you go when your world comes crashing down?

Today I was deeply moved by a prayer request on a wall by a dad or mom. I feel strange to share a note on a wall but friends, could you pray for the person in the note that God would move and heal and restore strength and courage. Maybe our prayer will change a world today. Can you join me? ((Bonus pics of Joshua Luke))

Parents at CHOP

Dec 2nd: Joshua Luke update: 2nd – Cardiac Catheterization: Joshua Luke will be undergoing another cardiac catherterization.  After a series of tests and hypotheses, the doctors at CHOP could not figure out – why Joshua Luke’s Oxygen Saturation is still at 68% to 71%? In HLHS patients, like Joshua Luke, they’d like to maintain an oxygen saturation between 75% to 80%. (remember in kids without congenital heart disease, this should be closer to 98%). There is also a new discussion that was introduced – should Joshua Luke’s 2nd open heart surgery (the Glenn procedure) be done earlier than planned – from January 23, 2014 to sometime in December 2013.  We don’t yet know what the plan or recommendations will be. According to the doctors at CHOP, the catheterization will likely show stenosis or narrowing of the shunt that was created during Joshua Luke’s first surgery and if so, will need further intervention.  Please pray for Ann and I.  We are thankful that we caught his drop in oxygen saturation sooner rather than later but we are scared to send Joshua Luke through another invasive procedure yet again with all it’s possible complications.  But we take ONE STEP AT A TIME knowing that God has this path already mapped out for us.

During times like these, you look back and realize how far God has brought you.  Ann and I looked through the 1000′s of pictures we have taken and are reminded of how faithful and good God has been to Joshua and us.  Because we know, many of you love us and having been praying with us, here is a collage of how much our little “warrior prince” has grown in 2.5 months.

Dec 2nd

Dec 1st: Joshua Luke update: Cardiac Cath?: So Joshua Luke is still requiring oxygen and all tests so far have been negative. Depending on what Joshua Luke’s Cardiac Team (his surgeon, his interventional cardiologist, his cardiologist and his cardiac anesthesiologist) decides tomorrow, the path will move ahead. It seems like there is only one earthly option left on the table. So we wait for the Expert Team to discuss tomorrow.

Dec 12

Thank you friends for your unwavering and long-suffering prayers for Joshua Luke and us. We will update everyone soon on what this team decides. Of course, we believe there is always an heavenly option on the table :)

Nov. 30th: Joshua Luke Update: Cannot figure out what’s wrong. Thank you so much to our friends who have risen as prayer warriors alongside us. Your prayers, words and love mean the world to us.

Nov30

In the last 12 hrs, Joshua Luke has undergone many tests to figure out why his oxygen saturation is low but we still cannot figure out what’s wrong. His chest is clear of obstruction, his CBC (complete blood count) is ok and his ECHO cardiogram shows all is ok with the stent that was placed and shunt that was created in his heart. He is on 0.5 liters of oxygen. We are waiting for a test to see if he has a Viral Respiratory Infection. There is one big option we are heading towards. On Monday if all else fails, we will have to do an invasive procedure, a Cardiac Catheterization.

Please continue to pray God would give the doctors wisdom and lead them to the right solution.

Nov. 29th: Joshua Luke Update: Joshua Luke Admitted at CHOP? At 7 pm tonight, Joshua Luke was admitted to the Cardiac Care Unit at CHOP. His oxygen saturation has been fluctuating a lot and his cardiologist believes something is wrong. Please stand with us in prayer again.

Dec 1

It was very emotional to walk back into this place (many memories/many tears) but we continue to believe that God has great plans for our little warrior prince. God is Faithful.

Nov. 27th: Joshua Luke Update: Might be back at CHOP? Happy on Tuesday, November 26th, Joshua Luke went to his Cardiology appointment with a Children’s Hospital at Philadelphia specialist. The good news, first – the ECHO cardiogram showed a slight improvement since starting the medication, digoxin, but the apex of his heart is still not contracting the way we would like. The not-so-good news is, his oxygen levels are extremely LOW. We have noticed that he is eating less and has not been himself for the past 6-7 days. So we are not sure what’s going on.  After speaking with his cardiologist today, we will monitor him over the next 24 hours and if this persists,  Joshua may have to be directly admitted to CHOP on Friday for a full evaluation.  Of course, we would rather him not be in the hospital, so we beseech your prayers this Thanksgiving. We are praying his appetite increases, he gains weight and his oxygen levels go back to his normal levels.  Thank you to all our family and friends. We are thankful for Joshua Luke and our friends and families, this Thanksgiving.

back at chop

Nov. 20th: Joshua Luke Update: Trouble in Paradise. Happy two-month B’day, Joshua Luke! On November 12  - our baby boy, Joshua Luke, turned 2 months old. It was a precious day and a great reminder to cherish moments we have together and to look back and see how far God has brought us.  Prayers, emails and texts still keep pouring in for our “Warrior Prince”. It melts our hearts to feel your love for him – so, thank you friends.

photo

On Tuesday, Nov. 4th, a routine bi-weekly ECHO with Joshua Luke’s Cardiologist from Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia revealed some major concerns. It showed decreased contractility of one of walls of his ventricle. During the ECHO as Joshua Luke was crying a lot, the cardiologist noted that his heart didn’t move or contract as robustly as she would have liked.  Most babies that have Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome have some degree of decreased motility after surgery but usually they recover. Joshua Luke’s heart is not recovering as expected. We have starting him on heart medication – Digoxin – to help it pump stronger, in order to decrease the work or effort of the one ventricle, so it doesn’t tire out. Hopefully, the medication will only be need to help until the second open heart surgery, which is  scheduled as of now, for Jan. 23, 2014.

It was a hard day to say the least. Ann and I felt like the waves of despair kept hitting us and just when we thought for 30 days, all is well, this news was discouraging. But hope is never lost because His creator, our God, who specializes in mending broken hearts, physical or spiritual, has Joshua Luke in the palm of His hand.

We’re praying that God strengthens his heart muscle.  Please also pray for his feeding. He was doing well and increasing his intake but over the past 10 days, he’s eating less too. Not sure if it’s because it’s hard work for his heart and he’s tired or if he’s just being a normal baby and being fussy on and off.  So please pray about these things.  Thank you one again for all the prayers!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  (Galatians 6:9)

Oct 12th: Joshua Luke Update: Happy 1 month Birthday, Joshua Luke. Yep, it’s been 30 days since our “warrior prince” came into this world. It seems like the longest 30 days of our lives but today, we celebrate! God has been good to us. The emotions are still sometimes raw – just to think what we left behind. Today it’s tears of joy. We look ahead.

Mohawk

Joshua Luke is doing really well. You can guess what is missing in the picture above – yep, zero tubes :) :) His feeding tube is out as well. His o2 saturation is doing well and he is growing well. [(in his picture - we were experimenting with a mohawk to complete his "warrior prince" look :)] His first cardiology appointment was few days ago and the ECHO showed that everything is working as expected. As we looked through the screens to see his heart and his new aorta and archways carrying blood in and out – we realized – Joshua Luke is a miracle baby. “God has plans for Joshua Luke. He formed you and made you uniquiely and fearfully. Your journey has just begun but may you always realize, as you put your hand to your heart – He is with you and you will never walk alone”.

We know – many of you are celebrating this special moment with us. You walked this journey with us. We never felt alone because you showered us with love, support, prayers and words- words of encouragement, words of testimony and words of battles won. It strengthened us, gave us courage to look beyond and made us expectant to see His hand move. He did. And so, we rejoice, God has turned our mourning into dancing.

Invitation: Hey if you are going through a storm/hard time, can we pray for you? Use the comment feature below – to share your story or to just share your name and “please pray for me”. Go ahead. We will stand in the gap for you. This is what this journey is all about “everybody needs help and everybody can help”. We were never meant to walk alone. Let’s do life together.

Sep 29th: Joshua Luke Update: Home - Sleepless in Bridgewater. I should have listened to all you parents with newborns/kids :) – “Sleep now Jinu.. when Joshua Luke is here you can forget about sleep”! Oh, how I wish I could have stored up sleep like Sully and Mike Wazowski stored up screams in Monster’s Inc :) :) [wait... this might be my sleep talking]

mike sulley

First ride towards Home: We had a lot of emotions driving down with Joshua Luke for 1.5hrs towards home. I think at one point, we were listening to Matt Redman’s song, “Never Alone” and we literally bawling and crying. We realized we had gone through a battle, we had witnessed that God never leaves us alone and we believe God stooped down from heaven many times to wrap us up in His and reassure us that He loves us. He was always there.

What a joy to have our “Warrior Prince” at home. The feeling cannot be described in words. Joshua Luke has been doing well. He needs to gain a little weight but we are keeping a close watch over him. Everday we record his weight (he needs to gain 20-30 grams per day) and record his oxygen saturation. Every week, on an alternating schedule, he needs to meet his cardiologist (from CHOP) and pediatrician/primary care (from Hunterdon Family Practice & Obstetrics – Ann’s work place – Thank you to these awesome ladies, our friends, who loved us beyond measure with their words and love). 

Here is Joshua Luke with his mommy in his room for the first time.

jl room with mom

Hey moms and dads reading this blog – have any advice for us Newbie parents?

Sep 26th: Joshua Luke Update: It happened. You won’t believe it if I told you :) Ready?

finally

The MIRACLE we prayed for happened late last night. The doctor’s words “Joshua’s recovery has been one of the fastest we have ever seen”. His O2 saturation has been great after the stent placement. He had been growing in weight a little so we took Joshua Luke home. Super fast! Has to be God’s grace and the power of prayer of family/friends. It’s been an emotional 14+ days but we can truly say we saw His hand. It came in the form of literally hundreds of people rising up to pray with us and for us. Friends, you prayed Joshua Luke home and we cannot thank you enough. Joshua Luke still has quite a road ahead. We were discharged home with equipment to measure various parameters for our congenital heart baby. Infection is the greatest inter-stage risk before his next surgery in January so he won’t be at public places and will not have many visitors. But we know God has a plan for our “warrior prince”. We love you all so much for what you gave us: love, peace and courage.

Sep 25th: Joshua Luke’s Cardiac Cath:

Update # 1: Another long and tough day has begun. Our “warrior prince” was whisked away again for a cardiac catheterization. Our hearts are broken today. It was so hard to look at his eyes as he looked at us as we walked him towards the OR again.

cardiac cath

Thank you friends for your prayers today. We need His grace, strength and His peace today – as we continue to “only” believe. Please pray that God would move His hand and heal Joshua Luke. [one more update in few hours] [one more update in few hours]

Update # 2: Another tough day. Another battle won. Small victory but heading again in the right direction. Joshua Luke was found to have a narrowing of his heart repair (shunt) and required a stent (5mm) to be placed for increased flow to his lungs. He’s in recovery right now and doing well. Improved oxygenation but we have to pray and wait until the anesthesia wears off.

update 2

Joshua means “Yahweh is my Salvation”. Joshua Luke is learning through trials even as a baby – a promise from God – “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Ann and I are experiencing this promise and have found it to be true in this journey. Never alone. [thank you to all our prayer warrior friends]

Sep 25th Update: Joshua Luke Post-Surgery: Major Problem – Need Prayers Today.

baby pt

Two of the most critical things for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome babies during recovery is: weaning off of the OXYGEN slowly (so they can breath on their own) and the growth of these babies. So Joshua Luke has been doing well in the later. He has slowly been gaining weight. It’s been slow but the trajectory is positive. The problem however has been his oxygenation. Joshua Luke has been sitting at an O2 Saturation range of 70-74 and this is low, with low levels of supplemental oxygen.  Since early this morning, he has dipped down to the 60′s and has needed more oxygen support. So today they are planning to do another procedure: Heart Catheterization – to see if there’s some obstruction or if he needs a stent to open/dilate the vessels. This means he will need anesthesia again and another intervention with the heart.  Of course, this comes with it’s own risks and possible complications.  It is scheduled around 2 pm this afternoon. So please pray with us. Pray for wisdom for the team and God’s mercy on Joshua Luke as he’s been through so much already. Thank you all. Feel free to pass this request to others who have been praying for Joshua or will pray. Love you all.

Sep 21st Update: Joshua Luke Post-Surgery: Good news! Joshua Luke is now stepped down from Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) to Critical Care Unit (CCU). Yay!!!! “Warrior Prince” is fighting hard and winning battles one victory at a time. The Lord has been good. He still has a little fluid around his heart – so we can continue to pray for complete healing.

release

The Plan: The plan is for Joshua Luke to be weaned off of oxygen and allow him to learn how to feed while coordinating breathing. The trauma of the surgery has set him a little back on normal things he would learn in the first 10 days of his life. Joshua Luke is among the very few kids that have recovered this fast – so if all things work well and no unforeseen things happen, Joshua Luke will be HOME in 7-10 days. Once this miracle of going home happens, Joshua Luke will take some time to get accustomed to the home because he is “congenital heart disease” baby. There many things to monitor while at home and numerous follow  up appointments that need to take place on a weekly, bi-weekly and monthly basis. He has a great risk of infection so you can expect Ann and I to be “Purell” parents :) – super cautious and protective parents in keeping germs away from him. If the next 4 months are uneventful, then Joshua Luke will be back for the second-of-three open heart surgeries, the Glenn Procedure.

The road has just begun but we are so thankful to God for his favor and mercy on Joshua Luke and us. Thank you to the many friends who have joined us on this journey to pray and storm heaven’s door to plead for mercy.

Sep 20th Update: Joshua Luke Post-Surgery: It’s the 4th day since Joshua Luke’s surgery and things have been looking up. He has all this tubes/lines out except his blended oxygen tube. He has begun feeding, he’s pooping :) (yep, so important) and his vitals all look good.

We did have a little problem yesterday because the ECHO of his heart showed some blood surrounding his heart. He is under observation to see if the level of blood is increasing or decreasing as his body absorbs it. He still sometimes has some decels in his oxygen levels but it is getting better.

family

Joshua Luke will be in Cardiac ICU till Monday, Sep 23th and he will hopefully be “stepped down” into CCU(critical care unit). Everyday is a small victory. Yesterday he had milk via his mouth for the first time :) … Yesterday, Ann and I were able to hold him in our arms for the first time since his surgery. It’s amazing to see how much we feel for Joshua Luke and how we want to FIGHT his battles for him…. but we know – we can only pray and be here with him. .

Just being here at CHOP and being surrounded by sick children is heart-breaking. But you see hope and beauty in life. I look forward to posting a small blog tomorrow (Saturday) about things that are shaping my heart and things that need some RE-thinking in my own life.

“God can take the tears of yesterday and transform them into the miracles of tomorrow. He can restore to you in all abundance what you have lost. He can cause all things, even the painful events of your past, to work together for your good” – Joseph Prince

Sep 18th: Joshua Luke’s Surgery: First post-op picture of “warrior prince”:

postop

It’s been 60 hrs since Joshua Luke’s surgery and today was a good day. His swelling is down and his breathing is good today. 80 percent of all the wires/tubes are out and one important one remains: right atrial line and pacemaker wires. They are planning to remove these wires tomorrow. We were told that one complication is, if this line, that goes directly into the right upper chamber of the heart, has issues with bleeding, then they may need to open up his chest again. (Worst case scenario). Prayer warrior backup requested. [Since so many of our friends were standing with us, we wanted to post the first post-op picture attached]

Sep 17th: Joshua Luke’s Surgery: Day after Surgery: 2 Updates

Update # 1: It’s been 24 hrs since Joshua Luke’s surgery and he did extremely well through the night. Thank you for prayers. All his vitals were catching up … Except maybe Urine Production (sorry for the details :) This morning at 8 AM, the second part of his surgery started. They need to close up his chest – which was left open yesterday for swelling and bleeding issues. It’s a quick 45 min surgery. Another day … Another Fight. “Joshua Luke, be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid – for the Lord your God will be with you.”

Bridgeway

Update # 2: Update from the bridge-way at Cardiac ICU (Picture above): It’s been 36 hrs since Joshua Luke’s surgery and there is some good news Because his vitals began stabilizing, they just extubated Joshua and so far he is breathing well on his own – yay! They are watching him closely tonight to make sure he can maintain his own breathing. So Joshua Luke, our courageous one, is a FIGHTER. As they pulled out the wires, he did not even make a peep :) So as we continue to pray … we pause to CELEBRATE God’s goodness! He has Joshua Luke in the palm of His hand. Ann and I sat at the bridge-way ( picture) for a brief moment – looking up to the sky to say – “Thank you, Dad”. Please continue to pray as there are many more things we have to overcome before we can take him home.

Sep 16th: Joshua Luke’s Surgery: The Day of Surgery: 4 Updates through the Day.

surgery 1

Update # 1: This AM Joshua Luke was taken to the OR at CHOP to first get an Echo (as we had requested) and if the diagnosis remains, the 4 hr surgery will begin to mend his heart. We are praying for His Will today. We will continue to update all our friends who are praying for Joshua Luke today.

Update # 2: The ECHO shows that the diagnosis remains. Joshua Luke is a HLHS baby. At, 9:05 AM, Joshua Luke was taken into the OR for his first of three open heart surgeries. The first step of the surgery has been successful.

Update # 3: The surgery was a SUCCESS :) God is so good. We met with Dr. Thomas Spray and he said “All is well. The next 24 hrs is the critical recovery period”. Thank you, dear friends for praying for Joshua Luke. Your love and prayers mean the world to us. The journey has just begun but we are thankful to God for today’s victory. Please continue to pray for his recovery. We’ll keep updating from time to time.

Surgery 2

Update # 4: It’s been 12 hrs since Joshua Luke’s surgery and our “Warrior Prince” seems to be pulling through ok. The next 12 hrs over night is crucial. He did have a little bleeding and right now has low pressures that they’re adjusting and monitoring.

Many of you have emailed, texted and FB messaged Ann and I asking how we are doing. First, thank you for all the support & love. The last 4 days we have gone from worry to joy to worry to great shock. We are trying to process bits and pieces but seeing Joshua Luke with hundreds of wires/tubes/drains will change us forever. We are taking one tear and one victory at a time. We believe Joshua Luke has a great destiny ahead of him… he will rise. Thank you for your love with concern. We love you guys for standing with us on this tough day. Please continue to lift Joshua Luke up in prayer to our Heavenly Father.

Sep 15th Late Update: Last Step of Faith. It’s hard to describe in words how Ann and I were feeling today – 24 hrs before Joshua Luke’s scheduled first-of-three open heart surgeries. Joshua Luke is scheduled for his surgery at 6:30 AM, Monday, September 16. There was feeling of helplessness, fear, many tears, many kisses for Joshua Luke and some moments where we felt our faith rise – even though it feels like – it’s so last minute. Could God show up the way we want Him to, by healing Joshua Luke’s heart? Afterall, the Bible is full of examples when God shows up at the last moment. Lazarus was 4 days dead when Jesus raised him from the dead. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were looking at sure death by fire when suddenly the feet of the 4th person, that looked like the Son of God, landed in the midst of the fire. Paul and Silas were beaten and put into the jail when all of a sudden the gates of the most secure prison flew open. Jairus’s daughter was healed a little late – she died. So emboldened by all these stories, we did something today.

Last step of Faith: Call us foolish :) …. but today, Ann and I, sent a personal request to the Surgeon, Dr. Thomas L. Spray (Chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, CHOP), a  personal favor/request from the baby’s parents. Let’s do one last ECHO before his surgery. This is considered extremely strange but we feel like we want to take ONE LAST step. If God chooses to intervene, He can because He is almighty, we will see his heart fully funcational. If God chooses to walk with us through this surgery, He can because He is almighty, we’ll accept to walk by faith the road He has prepared for us. But one act of defiance, one last step of faith.

jl me

Please pray with us. Tomorrow is a really critical day for Joshua Luke. Thank you for the love everyone has poured on us. We have received hundreds of texts, emails, facebook messages, comments and cards. We still believe.

Sep 14th Update: Fuzzy road ahead. The verdict is in: Joshua Luke WILL undergo his first open heart surgery to fix his hypoplastic left heart on Monday, Sep 16th which was confirmed with a repeat ECHO after birth.  It is again heart-breaking news but we were purposed in our hearts to accept His soverign will – no matter where it led.

3 of us

What lies ahead for Joshua Luke is a very hard road. Three open heart surgeries in the first 4 years of his life. The first step is called the Norwood surgery. The risks are extremely high [because of the type of surgery itself, requiring cardiopulmonary bypass and what that entails, as well as Joshua being so little and will only be four days old] and his recovery may take 3-6 weeks. [For those who want to read a little more details on Joshua Luke's surgeries - here is a link]. Yesterday as we heard the very detailed description of what they will do to his body, we wept. It was hard to hold him and see his perfect face/body and think about the details of what they told us.

Jinu’s Personal thoughts: Yep, in all honesty, I have had thoughts about all those questions. Why did the God of the univserse not move his finger (just a tiny bit :) to mend Joshua Luke’s broken heart? Would he still intervene? Is He waiting till the last minute like Lazarus to surprise us like a dad does? What if He does show up the way we want Him to? What will happen if something goes wrong with the surgery? My mind has a lot of questions this morning as I sit here alone in the waiting room with my laptop looking at the sky. “I know you see me Dad. I know our eyes meet even though I cannot see you physically. If you have chosen this broken road ahead of us to perfect Your will and Joshua’s purpose, please give us courage. But I know even now Dad that you can change the course. You can show up. So I ask you this morning, I beg you this morning, please spare Joshua Luke from going down this journey. Please move and heal his heart. I still believe. The whole world is in your hands.”

Thank you: I just want to say thank you to all our friends and family who have been praying for the last 5 months. I don’t think we could have made it this far in peace without your prayers. Please continue to believe. Thank you for overwhelming us with your love, prayers and words. More updates soon.

Sep 13th – Update: Everyone has a Day 0. He arrived. Freshly wrapped from heaven. At 11:42 AM yesterday, Sep 12, Ann gave birth to our baby boy, Joshua Luke Thomas. The much prayed for and much anticipated baby boy – here he is:

Joshua Luke 1

Words cannot express what it means to see the face of the baby we have cried so many tears for. What a joy! Yesterday was a good day. All of Joshua Luke’s vitals and all the external physical signs show that Joshua Luke is perfectly made. He cried of loud when he was born [(always a good sign but in this special cardiac situation, a celebrated moment :)], he needed no oxygen to help him breathe and a physical check of his lungs/organs shows all is well.

Immediately after birth, Joshua Luke, was whisked away to the Cardiac ICU, where he was given prostaglandin to keep his small heart going. Yesterday, Joshua Luke went through an extensive ECHO Cardiogram for the Doctors Review (cardiologists & surgeons) - which happened this morning. We are still waiting to hear from the doctors. How is Joshua Luke’s heart doing? Does he need the 3 step Open Heart Surgery? (if yes, then Joshua Luke will go into his first open heart surgery in 2-3 days)

Today out of the thankfulness and praise of our hearts, Ann and I prayed, probably a similar prayer that Abraham said – “God, don’t let a BLADE touch our son’s body. Heal Joshua Luke’s tiny heart”.

Sep 10th – Update: It’s time. Joshua Luke is 39 weeks and 5 days old and as planned, he has stayed inside the “oven” :) till 40 weeks. Ann’s induction is scheduled for Thursday, Sep 12th. Yesterday, Sep 9th, Ann and I moved into the Ronald Mcdonald House in Camden. So thankful to Calvary Chapel in Philadelphia and Pastor Jerry for making the needed phonecalls and making annoucements in church. Since the day that Ann and I shared that we needed a place in Philly, close to CHOP, we have had more than 12 offers for us to stay over. Amazing. Overwhelming grace. We were deeply moved by all our friends and their friends who created options for us. Thank you.

Rmh

Today, Sep 10th, we had our Final OB Appt at the Fetal Heart Center at CHOP. The good news is that Joshua Luke went from 13th percentile to 35th percentile :) His growth is really good. We also met with our surgeon face to face, who shared with us about the surgery after Joshua Luke’s birth and the risks that are involved with this “High Risk” Surgery. As the surgeon was explaining many things, I could not help but think about these words “My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed”. Is anything too hard for the Great I AM? Yet in the following few hours, there was a little trepidation. But we celebrate with joy knowing that despite the unknown, His track record in our life has been nothing but “spotless”. Never once did we ever walk alone. He has been faithful. We have to believe. Whether He will protect us and shelter us from the storm or if He decides to walk with us through the storm, we will trust Him.

Here is another 4D image from Joshua Luke to all his friends. :)  Thank you for all the love, prayers and support!

jl7

Sep 4th – Update: Here it is! After 20-25 hrs of work – painting, re-painting, painting the molding, setting up the crib, setting up the dresser and putting on the new decals from etsy - Voila! Releasing Joshua Luke’s Room to all our dear family/friends who have walked with us for the last 5 months.

JL Room

Here is the latest on Joshua Luke:  The last four weeks we’ve had a lot of tough moments. We found out 3 weeks ago that Joshua Luke was in the 13th percentile and was not growing properly. The doctors said “This is common for babies with HLHS” – but Ann and I were really worried. Secondly, Ann was having strong contractions so she was immediately put on full bed-rest for 2 weeks but went back to work on a modified schedule soon. Scary moment. Every time we felt a little down – we were reminded of the verses of Psalm 139 (that is on Joshua Luke’s wall)

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them”

Ann is being induced on Sep 12th and we have begun packing up to leave to Philly this weekend. We will be away for 5-6 weeks. It feels like we are going on a journey (like Abraham w/Issac). We know we will encounter God when Joshua Luke is born but the question remains in our heart: Will He show up and heal Joshua Luke miraculously? Or has He chosen a different path for him? Surely God has seen our tears for the last 5 months. Surely God has heard our prayers. Will He radically intervene to heal his heart or will He whisper to us through the storm, “My grace is sufficient for you”. We wait. . . . Stay Tuned.

Aug 21st – Update: Firstly, Ann and I want to take a moment to say “Thank you” to all our friends for your prayers and words of encouragement (via emails, cards and texts). Thank you for your love and lifting up Joshua Luke with us to our Father in Heaven. Yesterday was a tough day at CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).

JL Luke

Joshua Luke’s growth is displaying concerns as he is in the 13th percentile. This is low. According to the doctors, babies with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome have growth issues during the last 3-4 weeks. Ann and I were a little concerned after the Ultrasound. We will now have weekly testing until delivery.  Having said that, we also had a  Fetal Echo Cardiogram and the good news is that the only ventricle Joshua has, right ventricle, is stable and steady with no issues. Our next appointment is next Tuesday. We continue to pray and believe that God will show up at any moment.

Though it was a tough day, just being at CHOP and seeing so many parents and kids going through storms, made us realize, there is a purpose. We are called to be “Salt” and “Light” and we are called to share the hope we find in Christ to many. So we are thankful that we get to possibly interact with parents/kids going through struggles and this journey with Joshua Luke has already changed us by making us sensitive to pray for these parents and kids.

Matthew 11:28 – “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” 

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

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July 22nd – Update: Dear Friends/Family, I want to take a moment to introduce Joshua Luke to you all. Here he is (3D ultrasound photo):

Joshua Luke

Yup!! The little guy we all have been praying for and continue to pray for is above. Ann and I were shocked to see this picture on the screen when we had our last Ultrasound/Fetal Echo at CHOP. Last Monday, we had a scary experience of Ann having pre-mature contractions at 32 weeks. We were extremely worried because we were warned early-on that it was important to keep Joshua in the womb for as long as possible to give him the best chance, to optimize everything including his lungs.  Ann has been put on complete bed-rest with increased fluid in-take to prevent early delivery that would jeapordize Joshua’s life. Ann and I are heading back tomorrow for our monthly tests at CHOP. We are eagerly and desperately praying for God to show up with a miracle. We believe. Thank you for your prayers and faith as we stand strong in Him.
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June 25  Update: Today, Ann and I, went for our 28-week “routine” ultrasound and fetal echo at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The good news is that Joshua is growing well with no other co-morbidities. He is 2.9 lbs already :) God is good. In babies with HLHS (Hypoplastic left heart syndrome), sometimes the tricuspid valve on the right side of the heart can become incompetant and allow back flow, however, thankfully Joshua’s heart is strong and everything looks good. We were also given a tour of the Special Delivery Unit (SDU) – where Joshua will be delivered [(if he is not healed :) which is what we are praying for :)] and the  Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) – where Joshua will be transferred after the surgery. It is expected that Joshua’s first of three open heart surgery’s (norwood procedure) will take place within 3 days of his birth. He will take around 4-5 weeks to recover and come home. Ann and I will be moving to Philly for 6 weeks starting the first week of September.Thank you to all our friends for your continued prayers for Joshua Luke. We believe that God is able to heal Joshua’s heart and we continue to pray for a miracle. Thank you believing with us.

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May 19, 2013: Original Blog

Joshua Luke

We couldn’t have seen it coming.  On April 29. 2013, the only thought on our minds that day as Ann and I drove to our 20 week Anatomy ultrasound was – Is it a boy or a girl? As the Ultrasound tech started the scan, we were excited, joking around, laughing and could not wait to find out who would win the bets we had placed on a boy or a girl? Little did we know that dark clouds had come around us. The tech kept saying “everything looks fine”, “everything looks fine” and then kept looking at something over and over again for 20 mins. Then with a deeply saddened face he turns around and says these words that I will never forget. “We have an issue with the baby’s heart”. Our 20 week old baby boy [(yep, it's a boy :)] was diagnosed that day with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Our little Joshua Luke Thomas – our promise baby we had been praying circles around for years in prayer – was missing the left ventricle in his heart. Our worlds came crashing down as we cried our hearts to God for the next 5 days.

Where do you go when you heart is broken in a million pieces?

There, as I lay in the middle of the floor that night crying out to God, I realized I had been sharing the story of a man named Jairus for 12 months now, whose 12 year old daugher, the apple of his eyes, was dying in front of him. As a dad, he tries everything and then as a last resort, this jewish synagogue rabbi, desperately throws himself publicly at the feet of Jesus and begs him to save His daughter. The story doen’t go as he had planned. She dies. Right before, he could break down, Jesus looks into His eyes and says “Only Believe”. The story of Jairus had become real in my life. The theme of Collyde Summit 2013 just took on a whole new meaning.  Would I believe the words of Jesus? Would I give him the broken pieces of my heart as He whispered in my ears that night “Only Believe, my son. I am here with you.”?

Read the Story of Jairus in Mark chapter 5 - here and see how this story ends. 

 

 

 

Psalm119:105

In March of last year, my husband and I knew God was preparing us for a transition period but had no idea what that would look like and when it would happen. We found ourselves desperate for God’s direction and waiting for Him to shed light on our path.

Along the way, God has given us many promises and answers to prayer but every decision has been a leap of faith.  I wish I could say I have been walking on water with Jesus and trusting him every step of the way. But to be perfectly honest, I’ve been fearful, worrisome and hesitant. However, throughout the process God has taught me much about seeking His will. I have much more to learn but I want to share with you three things that He has taught me in this season of waiting.

 1. His Voice is His Word

At times we question whether the bible will actually speak into our circumstances and into the decisions we have to make. I’ve been there. The last thing I want to do is open the bible and the only thing I want to do is complain to God that it’s not black and white and He isn’t doing things the way that make sense— my way of course!  And yet, His Word says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Do you want to hear God’s voice? We have pages upon pages filled with the outpouring of his heart, what He values, and what He loves. By this verse we know God wants a relationship with us. And when I say relationship, there’s a lot of discussion, questioning, struggling and joy!

I challenge you to ask yourself, “If I believed this verse, how would my life be different? How would my decision making be different?”

2. He is always speaking. We aren’t always listening.

Have you ever asked God, “Why are you so silent?” The Psalmist wrestles with this frustration (Ps. 83:1).

A friend once asked me, “Why do people whisper?” And I responded, “So that you’ll come closer?” “Exactly!”

Is this our God? Gently speaking? Or do we know him to usually be waving fire or writing answers in the sky to grab our attention?  I suggest to you that He wants you to come closer. He has things to share with you, but that can only be done as we leave our distractions behind and simply listen.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

 3.  He’s already called you.

One of the most beneficial reminders during these last twelve months was to immerse myself in the current ministry that He has placed me in. And to look at His Word and remember the daily calling of abiding in Him, putting to death the former ways of life, living by the Spirit, showing interest in others, choosing to forgive, extending mercy even to those who don’t deserve it, feeding the poor, praying over the sick, and loving my neighbor.

(John 15:5, Ephesians 4:22, Galatians 5:16, Philippians 2:4 Ephesians 4:32 Luke 6:29 Proverbs 14:31,James 5:14-15, Galatians 5:14)

Living by faith is hard. But take heart! He has given us….

access to His Word,

He is always speaking to us and

He already is working His purposes out of us!

These three truths fill my heart with joy knowing that the Creator of the Universe has been mindful of me and given me Himself! Our relationship with Him is not wanting and getting answers. I’m still guilty of this at times, but I know this last year was not a year of pursuing these plans He has for us—it was meant for a pursuit of Jesus.

May we not seek Our Father for His benefits to us but may we seek to know Him– The Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end. The everlasting, all-powerful, sovereign King.

man

The word “suffering” makes me flinch sometimes. It startles me, as if realizing for the first time how real it is. I don’t always like to think about it, or talk about it, because, honestly, sometimes it causes me to doubt God’s goodness. Suffice to say: I sat down to write this a few times, only to get up and do something else, feeling unwilling to go here. Here, to the places that really hurt. To the questions that surface from time to time.

With all that said, I know, and find great comfort, that our suffering is not void of meaning. And, I know we need to hear that over and over again.

The concept of suffering is all throughout the Bible. Often, hidden with a lot of other words that do not make me flinch:

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4

I’ve often wondered, when reading these verses, how/if a person could actually react that way to affliction. Glory in your sufferings? View troubles as an opportunity for great joy? It seems absurd to our minds.

But, I think that is where we find the problem—our minds. We look at our lives and circumstances through a darkened, scratched lens of depravity, and sometimes our perspective is limited to our pain. We become like David, who in his distress called out “God cannot see me!” (Psalm 31:22). That was David’s perception. The reality, however, is that God is bigger than our minds can conceive and His ways are not our own. While we offer up suggestions for a better way to do things and question His timeline, He has not wavered in knowing more than we do. Nor, in His ability to work beyond what we can see. David continues in Psalm 31, charting God’s faithfulness: “But you heard my prayer when I cried out to you for help.”

David’s cry is not blasphemy, or spiteful; it is honest to the human condition. I’m thankful I find it in the Psalms. I feel that too, sometimes. Our pain and our struggles do make it harder to see, as they blur our thinking, yet God’s faithfulness and goodness does not change. He hears our prayers when we cry out to Him for help. And, He may be doing things we don’t understand just yet. I realized: those other words mentioned in the above verses—perseverance, character, hope, and endurance—are much harder to observe than a quick change in circumstances. They are long and laborious and painful to have developed in you, but they are the things we should be after.

I know all suffering is different, and sometimes it’s hard telling the difference between struggles I’ve created on my own, ones that are a result of this fallen world, or even God-given, but I do know, whatever the situation: He promises to work everything for our good, and His glory. There is immense hope in that.  

 

A New Series!

True confession time. Learning to be a better leader has been hard. Humbling. And I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface. Sometimes my heart is a really rigid piece of clay in the Potter’s Hands. I’m learning to soften, to trust, and to let his strength and love fuel the courage to risk being cracked and broken in the process. Because it’s all worth it. My hope is built on nothing less.

It’s my desire that in sharing some of my mistakes, you’ll be encouraged to keep an open heart to whatever area God is working on in your life. None of this is brand new, earth shattering stuff. No revolutionary leadership lessons here. Just some truths and principles that I think I’m finally starting to get my hands around and, by God’s grace, do a better job with. The thing is, that if I wrote about each of them in just this post you’d think you just purchased an e-book. So, we’ll start with the first one, and see how it goes from there in successive posts, but I’m thinking this will end up to be a four part series.

collyde, leadership,Mistake Number One: Prioritizing projects and plans over people and relationships. I lean more towards a type A personality. I’m a first born and on the Meyers Briggs I usually land closer to an ENTJ by nature. So, my tendency is to fixate on lists, plans, strategy, structure, and productivity and tie a sense of achievement and value to the accomplishment of those things. Praise. the. Lord. (and I don’t say that as a cliche, I mean like were it not for Jesus and grace it would truly be impossible!) that He has opened my eyes to the pitfalls and pain of being way out of balance in this area. Cultivating relationships, intentionally pursuing people, not for what they can give you or get for you, but because they matter, has upended how I see my family, my friends, my workplace, and our entrance into a new church community. It’s still not easy for me. I have to purposefully and regularly assess the pulse of my connection with people or I’ll just stay lost in Wunderlist world. If I know my tendency is to live and breathe task efficiency, then I have a gospel-driven responsibility to let the Spirit lead me, and even push me, towards people because people matter to Jesus. I’ve started asking myself some tough questions when I find my heart resistant to conversations that may have nothing to do with the project I want to get done with a co-worker that day, but instead allow me to check in with them and their family. I’m asking myself questions like, “At the end of the day, if you’ve crossed every major goal off your list, and your task list is up to date, but that co-worker hasn’t felt one ounce of personal care and interest from you, then what have you really accomplished?” Let’s face it. Touting a list with a bunch of check marks isn’t what my friends, family, or co-workers are most interested in. And it’s not what Jesus is most interested in. It’s easy to work hard. It’s a calling to love hard. But if I’m to be a gospel driven leader, I must do hard things. Friends, release the list and pursue the people.

Part 2 Preview: Why I’ve learned that sometimes, I need to just shut. up. This is gonna be good!

Can you relate? Share your thoughts and ideas for re-adjusting priorities from projects to people. We can learn from one another!

Luke137

Let me introduce you to Baritmaeus.  Blind. A beggar. Needy. An outcast. Worthless in the eyes of his community. And on one particular day, Jesus and his disciples walk into Jericho. Little does Bartimaeus know that an encounter with Jesus will change his life. Mark 10:46-52

What stood out to me in this account was that Bartimaeus begged. So profound right? Who would have thought, a beggar— begging!

But seriously. Being blind was probably part of what led him to the act of begging as his livelihood. He probably asked for money, a meal, shelter… anything that would help his current circumstances. However, all his requests might cure the symptoms of his problem but not the root of it.

But then Jesus comes by. Unashamed, Bartimaeus loudly calls upon the name of Jesus for mercy and is even rebuked by others in his persistence.

And Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?

Bartimaeus knows of Jesus. He’s heard of His miracles. He believes Jesus is able to help him. He does not dumb down his request to the Savior of the world but asks for the very thing that is impossible with man but possible with God– to have sight.

Jesus’ response? “Go, your faith has healed you!”

I want to share something with you from one of my favorite and frequent reads…

“I am the Lord thy God. I know no limitations. I know no lack. I need not reserve My stores, for I always have fresh supply. You cannot by any means exhaust My resources. Let thy heart run wild. Let thine imagination go vagabond. No extravagance of human thought can ever plumb the depths of My planning and provision for My children.” – Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved

Do we realize the extent of what Our Father can offer us? And I’m not talking about a bigger salary, a larger home, a newer car or any luxuries. I’m talking about life-altering, radical, transforming provision from the Maker of the Heavens and the earth. He can restore your marriage, father the orphan, remove your heart of stone, free you from addiction, loose the chains of captivity, heal the sick– “You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.” Psalm 77:14

If Jesus were to ask you today, “What do you want me to do for you?” How would you respond?

God wants us to encounter Him. To experience Him. To expect Him to move in our everyday life. If He didn’t, He would not ask us this question. And He certainly would not have sent His Son to die for us.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

I wish I had reacted differently to her words; I was defensive and made excuses for my behavior. Over coffee one winter morning, my sister had exposed some areas of selfishness and defensiveness in my life, and I writhed, while trying to cover my tracks. I was defensive of my defensiveness. Even now, I find it a whole lot easier to acknowledge on this end of the conversation. And, I’m not convinced I wouldn’t do it again.

There’s a term in psychology called “transference.” It was established, or discovered, by Freud and describes client overreactivity to their therapist. The idea is that clients will relate to therapists in ways they have related to authority figures in their past. In that, overreactivity can highlight areas of emotional trauma. For instance: a therapist’s demeanor could remind you of your dad, or the phrases a therapist uses could be the same your mom used to say to you. Though you’re reacting in the present, you’re really reacting to something from the past. Therapists can learn so much from these reactions that help to heal the clients of these wounds. It, too, exposes.

The connection between exposure and healing is undeniable. Tim Keller said it well of marriage, in “The Meaning of Marriage:”

“Marriage shows you a realistic, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it. This may sound discouraging, but it is really the road to liberation… the only flaws that can enslave you are the ones that you are blind to… marriage blows the lid off, turns the lights on. Now there is hope.”

On many levels, it seems counterintuitive. Often, I react negatively to the thing I need most. I need for my sister to say difficult things to me because it keeps me in check. It removes my blinders and helps me to see areas in my life where I need to grow. She is a good sister.

There are other things in my life that expose me: anger, despair, trying circumstances, and times when I don’t get what I want. My reactions speak of the condition of my heart—they speak of how I know God. I’m more and more inclined to believe that God cares less about how it’s exposed, so much as that it’s exposed. I need for wrong thinking of God to be dismantled, for past wounds to be healed, and to take a good, honest look at my heart. It’s the best thing for us; our hearts and our minds need to be exposed to the light of day. And, though our friends and families might not always speak the whole truth, and we will have bad days, we need to be open to how God wants to speak to us through the comings and goings of our lives and let the Spirit illumine those areas.

“Till sin be bitter; Christ will not be sweet.” —Thomas Watson

I believe the great news of the gospel is that we no longer have to live in hiding. Jesus came because we were helpless and weak and flawed to our very core (Col. 1:21). He knows that more than we know that. Yet, He blew the lid off, turned the lights on and now there is hope (Col. 1:22). He is not surprised by us—His grace covers all. I believe that if I understood this to the extent that Jesus meant it, I would have shook my head when my sister spoke and told her that she was right. I wouldn’t have been afraid that it was in me. I believe Jesus is in the work of exposing us to ourselves—not so we would writhe or try to hide—rather, so we would acknowledge the depth of the problem and be healed. “We are more wicked than we ever dared believe,” said Tim Keller, “but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope.”

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” 

I can’t remember how many times I’ve read and heard that verse over the years. But it wasn’t until recently when I better understood God’s work in making things new, that this verse began to be more life giving, than guilt-tripping.

How many times did my words, thoughts, actions and decisions reflect an old man? The flesh. Wasn’t I supposed to be a new creature? Why did I keep failing? Why couldn’t I just be all new, all done?  

God has graciously brought friends into my life to help me better understand the meaning of “new” in regards the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. He’s allowed me to see that we are continually being renewed. God is making us new all the time. Like a gardener, He is pruning, tilling the soil, planting seeds, watering. He is always at work breathing new life in us and through us. Getting rid of what’s dead, making room for another new branch or blossom. As we sit in the belly of winter, blanketed by another blizzard in the northeast today, we look forward to spring when everything feels new again. Old plants giving birth to new buds – new life. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

Embracing renewal means embracing a process – one that is often way more inefficient than we are comfortable with in our efficiency focused American culture. It means allowing the Spirit to work the soil of my heart to make new life.  And as I consider what’s behind and what’s before, this has become very clear for me in one area:

Peaceful perseverance cultivates the soil of Christ-like patience.

You see, I find myself in a season of perseverance. Needing to diligently honor the trust placed in me and be faithful to a commitment, even though I’d prefer it to be over sooner than later. Many would say that God is trying to “teach me patience.” But I’ve realized how misleading that can be. Patience is not a one time achievement that I then possess, nor a lesson to be learned and marked off as accomplished. Instead, I believe it’s like everything else that God is renewing and working in me. It’s a journey, a life cycle of learning.

collyde, new life, renewalThis portion of new life can grow in soil that is rooted in the peace of Christ. That kind of soil allows the work of the Spirit to cultivate patience that reflects Christ.

Facing a hard assignment? Tension filled workplace? Strife filled church left you wondering how much longer you can hold on? And, do you want to hold on to “the church” at all? Strained marriage testing you to your core? Maybe it’s a difficult child making you want to throw in the towel on parenting the way God calls us to.

Been there.

Let us not grow weary in doing good. For in due time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Gal. 6:9

The harvest isn’t a promise of some great reward and earthly treasure. Just like the verse “God works all things together for the good of those that love Him” the “good” – the harvest – is that we are made like Christ. That is our ULTIMATE good. The Spirit enables us to live by this promise, persevering through even the most trying situations with the peace of Christ, which renewed life characterized more by the patience of Christ than it was before. It’s a process.

What’s your place of perseverance?

Collyde, perseverance,

Their perseverance has been for but a few hours. Anticipating the joy to come. They’ve waited, wanting so badly for the waiting to end. Thankfully, today, they chose the path of peacefully persevering their time indoors together.

But other loved ones? Their time of perseverance has stretched from weeks to months to years. Years of walking in the peace of Christ while they wait for the ache and longing of their hearts for a child to be fulfilled…

And that friend over there? The one who has peacefully persevered to faithfully love her husband unconditionally while yearning for that love to be returned. Her wait continues…

Then there’s the precious ones giving their lives for Jesus in the hardest of places. Persevering to see even one soul follow Him. Months, sometimes years, go by…

The weary pastor, the disheartened leader, or the wounded youth…

Wherever you are. Whatever you’re enduring. Whatever you’re anticipating. Whomever you’re waiting for.

Peaceful perseverance cultivates the soil of Christ-like patience. God is at work. God is doing a new thing. When the circumstances have gotten really “old”, He is still making new.

When you journey with someone who is persevering with the peace of Christ, you get the privilege of witnessing the renewal of Christ happen right in front of your eyes. You see the Father working the soil as we peacefully persevere. These loved ones…they’ve been changed. There is more Jesus. More Christ. New life. When the child finally comes, they won’t check the box for “patience”…when the project is finally complete, the commitment seen through, the trust honored, I’m not going to receive a certificate of achievement for patience. But we’ll all be different because we’ll have all been changed by the renewing work of the Spirit to make us more like Christ.

That is the harvest. That is the reward. That is the good He is working. That is the hope that gives me peace to persevere.

North Star

Typical day at the hospital volunteering:: organizing! I was focusing intensely on categorizing the patient care cart I forgot that the other volunteer was in the room with me organizing clothes. As I remembered, I asked her if she heard about the shooting at Short Hills Mall where a man was murdered in front of his wife over a car. She came closer to me and expressed her feelings of uneasiness and not understanding why this kind of thing happens.

After we verbally affirmed how awful and tragic and heart-wrenching this is we returned to our task at hand. As I was elbow deep in varieties of bar soap, I thought to myself, “Ask her about after life. No, Christine, she’ll think you’re crazy. Seriously, this is the perfect opportunity. But how do I explain this kind of situation? She isn’t going to understand. Just say something!”

Then she speaks before I do. And says, “I think I’m going to go back to the playroom and clean up before the ice cream social. I think I really need to do that.” As I watched her leave, I immediately realized the opportunity that I missed. And I thought, this is why these things happen.

Bear with me.

Our God is not a God who wanted this to happen or intended it to happen. He is a loving and kind God who is also angry at this situation and I can guarantee you, grieving over this. (Genesis 6:6-8) But, He will use this for good (Romans 8:28) and I could have been a part of that today. I could have shared the gospel with my Jewish friend. I could have let her know that it’s OK to be sad, and it’s OK to be angry but we have hope because Christ has come. He offers the peace and security that our souls crave in this crazy world we live in. We don’t need to fear death because He came to overcome death!

This man did not deserve this. And yet in his death, God can use it in a million different ways to draw people closer to Himself. Like today. I had the chance to share the Good News in response to this man’s story. We need to take these opportunities of suffering to share that if we receive Christ as Lord we will live with Him in eternity! And it’s not just a promise for when we die, but abundant life until we die (John10:10). When evil strikes, we have the assurance that as difficult as it is to live on this earth, we’re just passing through.
 
Friends, please do not lose sight of those around you who need the Gospel. As we meditate this week on the amazing act of Jesus coming into this world, don’t contain this joy just for your own heart! Share the Good News. Be bold. Be willing to look foolish so that God’s Word, His story and the truth of how he can change our lives would save and restore another soul.

“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given. And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor
Mighty God
Everlasting Father
Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:1,6