Celebrating Joni’s 65th birthday- A Radiant Life in a Dark World

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I write about suffering.

I have been all too familiar with it for decades. In many ways, my life has been intensely painful but at the same time breathtakingly sweet.

The sweetness has come from walking with God. Many of you know that paradox as well, as you found the faithfulness of God in the darkest of places.

No one I’ve ever met demonstrates and lives that paradox more than Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni, who was paralyzed at age 17 in a diving accident, has a radiance that shines against the backdrop of unspeakable life challenges: quadriplegia, riveting pain, and cancer to name a few.

Joni turns 65 today, on October 15, 2014.

I marvel at this because quadriplegics generally don’t live very long. She doesn’t look 65 though; Joni looks like she’s in her 40s. Anyone who has met her would agree that she is stunningly beautiful.

But mostly I marvel at this because Joni has been faithful, blessing God and proclaiming His glory, for almost 50 years of quadriplegia.

This is why Joni is my hero. Not because Joni is so amazing, though she is, but she demonstrates what God can do in a life yielded to Him. Her life points to a magnificent God who is beyond compare, who can elicit genuine praise in the midst of deep suffering.

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Upside Down Success

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I’ve been thinking a lot about success lately.

I started blogging about nine months ago and I wasn’t sure where the Lord would take me with it.

Since then I’ve read numerous books and articles about writing, blogging, using social media and publishing. Everyone talks about how to be more successful. How to build a bigger subscriber base. How to become famous.

I struggle with that.

I struggle not because I don’t want to be famous, successful, or well-regarded. On the contrary, I want all those things. But I want to look humble when I get them.

I don’t want to look like I worked to become famous. I want it to look like I was humbly obeying God in my own little obscure corner and then surprisingly, naturally, even organically, people discovered me.

It sounds so shallow and deceitful when I write it. And it is. But it’s also the ugly truth.

I want people to read my blog or my articles and appreciate what I say. I want recognition. All too much.

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Why Is God Whispering?

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Lately, I’ve had a hard time sensing God’s presence.

Its not that my life is in crisis. On the contrary, my life has been getting a bit easier. And for that, I am grateful.

But I miss the intimate, life-giving walk I had with God when I was desperate. I don’t go to my quiet time as needy as I used to be. I want to hear from God, but it is not as though my entire day depends on it.

There were years when I pulled the covers over my head each morning, struggling to get out of bed to face the onslaught. Years when the only good part of my day was my time with God. Years when the Word was the only thing that revived me.

I lived and breathed Psalm 119, “My soul clings to the dust. Revive me according to your word.”

I experienced Jeremiah 15, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”

I discovered God’s exquisite blessing from Isaiah 45, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places.”

God faithfully met me every day. His Word revived me when I felt I could not go on. I would go to Him hungry, desperate, needy. And He would provide without fail.

He still provides without fail. But now, though life is far from perfect, I don’t feel desperate day-to-day. Now that I have so many things that occupy my attention and bring me joy, I don’t have as much joy in God alone.

So what does that mean? What do I do? Do I ask God for more suffering – so I can have more of Him?

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I’d Rather Take Care of it Myself…

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I don’t want to be like the widow of Zarephath.

I do, however, love her story in the Bible. She’s the widow in 1 Kings 17 who had just enough oil and flour for the day but no more. And she never knew if she’d have what she needed for tomorrow.  If God didn’t provide for her each day, she would die of starvation. She had no resources of her own, no cushion to fall back on, no way to see the future. But this widow had God. And God is enough.

Her story is a beautiful picture of dependence on God. A beautiful example of how God provides for us. A beautiful illustration of trusting Him for our daily needs.

Beautiful, that is, for others. I love watching God work in other people’s lives that way, but I’d prefer to live my own life differently. I don’t like living with scarcity.  I don’t like having just enough to meet my needs. I don’t like being dependent. It makes me feel vulnerable.

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