Category Archives: Jesus Christ

One year.

To our family, friends and anyone who loves Jonathan:

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Jonathan being received home by his Creator, we wanted to let you know how we plan to spend the day. All things considered, we still wish that he was here with us but we find incredible peace and even some joy knowing that he is in the presence of his Savior in a restored body. We know that we will see him again one day.

JMSOver the last year, spending time with the people closest to him has been so healing for us. We have loved to hear you share your memories of Jonathan.  Knowing about the ways he touched your lives and what he meant to you is so precious to us.

March 8 is a Wednesday this year and we know that most people have work, school and other commitments. We are planning a brief visit to the cemetery after which we are going to release some butterflies in our backyard. My friend/pastor/boss will pray a blessing over us and we will enjoy some food together. We are hoping for it to be a simple day and our intent is to mark the day with reverence – to do something to honor Jonathan’s memory. If you would like to be included in any of those parts of the day, feel free to message Noah, Josh or me and we can give you more detail about times.

For any of you who cannot be with us but would still like to do something in Jonathan’s memory, we invite you to do small acts of service that include things he was passionate about. Here are some suggestions:

  • Appreciate a service person.
    Paying for someone in line behind you for coffee is a nice gesture, but we all know that he had a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship for his time at Starbucks. A Jonathan twist on this would be to do something nice for your favorite barista (or waiter or cashier): see them, thank them, buy them lunch, etc.
  • Do something special to appreciate a first responder.
    Two of his closest friends are firefighters. Jonathan was proud of them. He also had enormous respect for police and the military. Take some cookies to your local fire or police station. Buy them lunch/coffee or just approach them to shake their hand and thank them for their service.
  • Share the road with motorcycles.
    Say a prayer for a rider’s safety as they pass you on the road. Look twice and give them a wide berth as you drive. Here is one organization that Jonathan liked. They supported us after his accident: motofam.com
  • Appreciate someone’s tattoo.
    Sometimes the first thing we see about someone is their choice to have tattoos and we frequently make assumptions about people based solely on that fact. Very often tattoos tell a personal story, not to mention that they an art form. Ask someone about his or her ink and what it means to them. Let it be a way to build a bridge to someone you might not ever talk to otherwise.
  • Adventure outside.JMS on beach
    Go on a hike, run on the beach, ride a sea-doo, go snowboarding, climb a big rock.
  • Love people.
    Tell the people in your life what they mean to you. Be a loving and loyal friend to someone who needs it.
  • Do something nice for a doctor, nurse or other medical professional.
    Jonathan spent more than his share of time in ER’s over the years for various reasons. He was in awe of the people who cared for him during those times. On March 8, 2016, there were many people in the Orange County Global Medical Center ER who worked on Jonathan in an attempt to save his life. I know that it was hard for them when they could not bring him through that night. Thank someone in Jonathan’s name.

These are just a few suggestions, surely there are many more. Let the Lord and your heart lead you in this.

We would love to hear about anything that you do, but also understand that you may prefer to do something quietly, without fanfare. Message us privately, post it on social media by tagging Jonathan in your posts or treasure it quietly in your heart. Our desire is simply to keep his memory alive.

Gratefully,

Susie (also for Noah and Josh)

P.S. A sweet friend suggested using a hashtag for this so that posts can be grouped. Keeping it very simple, use #JMSSickTricks as you share about your acts of service on or around March 8
Tag Jonathan in these feeds:  Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (does anyone besides our president still use Twitter?)

One Day Closer

Without a doubt 2016, was the hardest year of my life. As the year was drawing to a close and we began marking significant days that would not include Jonathan, part of me was just eager for the year to end. His absence at all of our holiday celebrations and even the ordinary days is an unimaginably painful hole in our lives.

Jonathan 6/2012We did some special things around Christmas to make sure Jonathan would be a part of our celebrations. There were definitely some tears on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, but we were together as a family and it was good. It was healing.

So when New Year’s Eve rolled around I was surprised that the thought of starting a new year without Jonathan was harder than spending our first Christmas without him. Somehow it felt like we were moving further and further away from him.

Here now a week into 2017 and I have not been able to shake that thought. Yesterday we marked 10 months exactly since he was received home by his Creator. So many of Jonathan’s friends are experiencing major life events like weddings, engagements, new babies, new jobs and birthdays. These are wonderful things and we are sincerely happy for the families who get to experience them. At the same time, these events are very real and painful reminders that we will never experience those things with Jonathan. Left alone with those thoughts, it would be easy to slip into a pit of despair and bitterness, but God. God is so gracious to pursue and pull me back out of that pit. Day by day, minute by minute He does not let me stay there long.

This morning the nagging thought of 10 months without him popped back into my head. In many ways, time has stood still for us since March 8, 2016. In other ways, it is moving faster than ever. I could not help but think that before we know it, it’ll be 11 months and then a full year without him here. Then two years. Then five. Further from the last time we saw Jonathan and spoke to him; heard his giggle. Further from the last time any of us received one of his super tight, warm hugs that always spoke louder than words.

Then this morning as the rain was falling outside and I was trying to shake the cobwebs out of my head to get ready for the day, God graciously gave me an epiphany. We are not moving further away from him. Today we are one day closer to seeing Jonathan again. It is so simple, yet it makes all the difference. My soul immediately felt lighter. What a gracious and merciful gift from a loving God. Praying that you also would possess this gift.

Ephesians 2:1-9

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2:1-9 ESV

Pain, Sorrow, Joy + Gratitude

Thanksgiving 2016

Today is Thanksgiving.  I have been kind of dreading this day for weeks. Jonathan loved the togetherness of Thanksgiving and the prospect of  marking our first one without him has been a bit overwhelming. We miss him terribly.

Then a few days ago God spoke into my heart through a devotional I’ve been going through:
Jesus Always.  The author, Sarah Young, speaking in first person as Jesus Himself says this:“Thanksgiving is not just a holiday celebration once a year.  It’s an attitude of the heart that produces Joy; it is also a biblical command” and “No matter what is happening, you can be joyful in God your Savior.”  That was a fairly powerful message for me and one that I obviously needed to hear.  Since then, Jesus has been drawing me in close to whisper all the things we have to be grateful for.  It’s true, thanksgiving is a choice and a position of the heart.

Every year Calvary Church has a Thanksgiving Day service where we come together as a church family and have an opportunity to share all the ways we are grateful. Due to our plans in the past, I have been to this service just once in my 14+ years at Calvary.  I had no intention to go today. My plan was to stay close to home, expecting the day to be hard and full of tears.  I guess God had other ideas, because I felt Him prompting me to attend and share what He had put on my heart these last few days. Mind you, I would rather do just about anything else but speak in public. My voice, knees and hands shake and if I am sharing anything emotional there is a good chance I will cry. Who am I kidding? Crying is basically inevitable for me.  I tried to push the thought away and rationalized all the reasons why it would be fine to stay home and ignore that gentle voice in the back of my head.  It didn’t work.  So this morning, Josh and I attended the Thanksgiving Day service and were blessed to hear people share their hearts and ways they are grateful. I jotted down some notes over the last couple of days, so that I would not forget what God had put on my heart (I also knew I would have to read it, because it’s hard to think clearly when your heart is pounding out of your chest).  This morning I texted one of the pastor’s facilitating the “pass the mic” format so that I would not chicken out, because I felt my resolve wavering as I was drying my hair.  Here is what I read/shared:

“Our 23-year-old son died this past March after a motorcycle accident. While I can’t quite stand here and say that I am thankful for that, as I lean into the love of Jesus I recognize that there is still so much to be grateful for.

I am most thankful that because of his salvation and ours we have the promise that we will see Jonathan again one day.

My husband Noah, our younger son Josh and I are thankful for the love and support of this church family that has held (and continues to hold) our family up in our darkest time over the last 8 months.

I have heard that losing a child is something that you never get over – whether you knew them for 23 years, 50 years, 6 months or even just minutes. That certainly feels true today. The additional layers of loss like a wedding that won’t ever happen, grandchildren that will never be born and an empty seat at all of our future holiday celebrations wash over us in unexpected and suffocating waves. However, in this moment I can say that as we trust in God’s perfect will, it is well with my soul.

So today I am thankful to know that pain, sorrow, joy and gratitude can simultaneously exist in a heart that even while broken is surrendered to Christ.”

And now this evening as our Thanksgiving meal is over and the dishes are done, I can honestly say that it was a good day.  I clearly see how God has carried us through today.  God is good and gracious. He deserves all of our praise.  #blessed

Waves

Strong Waves

I can’t seem to catch my breath this week. The waves of grief keep crashing over me and knocking me off of my feet. I am having so much trouble focusing, it’s almost as bad as in the first few weeks after his accident. I miss Jonathan and see reminders of him every where I look. I miss his sparkling blue eyes, his smirky smile and his contagious giggle. I would give just about anything for one of his super tight hugs and to hear his laugh again. I suspect that with the holidays just 3 weeks away things will not improve significantly in the near future. Right now I am just doing the best that I can to lean into the strong and compassionate arms of my Creator. Nothing else even comes close to calming my racing heart.

Wanting desperately to dwell on Psalm 94:19 “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul” and Psalm 16:8-9 I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely.” 

Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You. 

Sweet old story

There once was a man named George Thomas, a pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Several eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak…

“I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, ‘What you got there son?’ “Just some old birds,” came the reply. What are you gonna do with them?” I asked. “Take ’em home and have fun with ’em,” he answered. “I’m gonna tease’em and pull out their feathers to make ’em fight. I’m gonna have a real good time.”

“But you’ll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do?” “Oh, I got some cats,” said the little boy. “They like birds. I’ll take’em to them.” The pastor was silent for a moment. “How much do you want for those birds, son?” “Huh?? !!! Why, you don’t want them birds, mister. They’re just plain old field birds. They don’t sing – they ain’t even pretty!” “How much?” the pastor asked again. The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, “$10?” The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy’s hand. In a flash, the boy was gone. The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story……

One day Satan and God were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting. “Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn’t resist. Got ’em all!”

“What are you going to do with them?” God asked.

Satan replied, “Oh, I’m gonna have fun! I’m gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I’m gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I’m really gonna have fun!”

“And what will you do when you get done with them?” God asked.

“Oh, I’ll kill ’em,” Satan glared proudly.

“How much do you want for them?” God asked.

“Oh, you don’t want those people. They ain’t no good. Why, you’ll take

them and they’ll just hate you. They’ll spit on you, curse you and kill you!! You don’t want those people!!”

“How much?” He asked again. Satan looked at God and sneered, “All your tears, and all your blood.”

God said, “DONE!” Then He paid the price.

The pastor picked up the cage he opened the door and he walked from the pulpit.

Primacy Beach

Another really meaningful place for me on our Israel Tour was the Primacy. Actually, before we arrived I had no idea what significance the place had – I had never heard of it.
You might be familiar with the passage – John 21. It is after Jesus is resurrected and He appears to the disciples and makes them breakfast. This is believed to be the rock on which Jesus served that breakfast.

Church of the Primacy

Church of the Primacy

Just like most places in the Holy Land a church was built upon it – which for me takes away a little bit of the authenticity.

inside the Church of the Primacy

inside the Church of the Primacy

Nevertheless, standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee hearing about how Jesus commisioned Peter after his denial was amazing.

Sea of Galilee at Primacy Beach

Sea of Galilee at Primacy Beach

Peter’s life was changed forever once he finally realized who Jesus was. This was the moment of Peter’s true conversion. I have read this passage countless times without much thought. Standing here it was like I was hearing it for the first time. I was touched deep down in my soul.

Rock of the Primacy

Rock of the Primacy

“He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You ” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”   John 21:17

I will never read this passage the same way again.

Gethsemane

Not having the time or energy to fully debrief my Israel trip right now, I wanted to share the most meaningful spot of our trip. It has special significance today…

Gethsemane - 2000+ year old tree

Gethsemane - 2000+ year old tree

I look at this ground and this trunk of an olive tree estimated to be 2000+ years old and I wonder is this where Jesus prayed to His Father? Is it here that His sweat became like blood as He agonized over what was about to take place? Luke 22:44

Olive Tress in Gethsemane

Olive Tress in Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane was THE most moving spot of our entire trip for me. The very moment we entered the gates I was overcome with emotion. Then as Eric taught there and Matt lead worship I was almost sobbing uncontrollably. I could not breath. I tried to pray but could barely form the words. It is as if He gave me an ever so slight glimpse of what He felt as He was here. I hope that I never forget what that felt like. Thank You, Jesus
 

It’s finally time…

It is so hard to believe…  when I posted this entry almost 8 months ago a once in a lifetime Bible Study Tour of Israel seemed so far off.
Now it is here!
That’s right, in 4 days from right now I will be about 1/2 way through the 14 hour flight to Tel Aviv.

I feel so blessed that:

  • God has made this trip possible for me.
  • That my husband is the kind of man who would send me on this trip because he knows how much it will mean to me. Even though it means that his life will be a lot less comfortable for the 2 weeks I’ll be gone – and that it was no small feat to make this possible financially.
  • That I have some wonderful sisters-in-Christ who helped to make this trip possible by gifting me a portion of the cost.
  • That my sisiter-in-law and niece will help Noah by getting Joshua to school every day while I am gone.
  • That Catie Joy is going to be my roommate!
  • I will get to see the Word of God come alive by studying it in the places that it happened.
  • That I get to go on this trip with an amazing group of people, lead by godly men who have such a heart for God and for His chosen people.

Basically, this is like a dream come true and I am full of gratitude. I just wanted you to know…

Now is no time to stop praying…

 One of the editors of Charisma Magazine has published this prayer list for Mr. Obama. It is worth circulating. Whether you voted for Obama or not, we need to pray for him. Here are 10 ways to pray. 

1.  Pray for Obama’s protection. We already know that some weird, neo-Nazi fanatics in Tennessee plotted to kill Sen. Obama during his campaign. Let’s pray that racist hatred is not allowed to spread. Let’s cancel every assassin’s bullet in the name of Jesus. May civility triumph over bigotry.

2.  Cover his wife and daughters in prayer. It is not easy to live under constant media scrutiny. Pray for Obama’s wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, Malia and Natasha, as they face invasive cameras, nosy reporters, maniacal fans and dangerous enemies.  Obama is not only a politician but also a husband and a father.

3.  Pray that Obama will govern with God’s wisdom. God rewarded Solomon because he asked for wisdom instead of wealth, long life or vengeance on his enemies (see 1 Kings 3:11-12). Pray that Obama will order his priorities like that. Despite Solomon’s tragic character flaws, his legacy was wisdom. We can ask God to give our president the same grace.

4.  Ask God to keep our president humble. Many great American leaders became corrupt after they moved to Washington. The fatal attraction of fame, wealth and power proved irresistible. The only thing that will guard a man or woman from this pitfall is humility. May God deliver President Obama from the curse of pride.

5.  Pray for wise and righteous advisers to surround him. Godly leaders cannot do their job alone. Even the best leaders have failed because they trusted the wrong people. Pray that Obama will not select his counselors based on party, race, pedigree or political cronyism but on godly character and proven wisdom. Pray also that he will not allow secret traitors into his inner circle.

6.  Ask for the spirit of reconciliation. Some segments of our deeply divided society want nothing to do with Obama now that he has won the presidency. Even some Christians will be tempted to harbor resentment and nurse political grudges throughout his term in office.  Pray that God will grant forgiveness and healing so that leaders on all political levels can have constructive dialogue.

7.  Pray that Obama will adopt pro-life convictions. Many politicians have changed their views on key issues while in office. In the 1800s some leaders who favored slavery later denounced it. In the 1950s some who opposed racial integration later became champions of it.  Even though Obama won approval from many voters because he sanctions abortion, God could soften and change his heart.

8.  Bind all evil forces assigned to manipulate our president. The specter of Islamic terrorism looms over the United States, and dark forces are ready to infiltrate. Our only hope lies in prayer to the God who is able to expose and outwit the schemes of the wicked. This is truly a time for spiritual warfare, and intercessors must not come off the wall in this hour! Pray that no foreign government, terrorist organization or demonic principality will use Obama as a tool. We must stand strong against the spirit of antichrist that promotes dictatorship, persecution of Christians and hostility toward Israel.

9.  Pray that Obama’s door will remain open to the church. The loudest voices of secular culture-from Bill Maher in Hollywood to atheists in academia-would be happy if religion were removed from public life. Pray that Obama, who claims to have a personal faith in Jesus Christ, will unapologetically welcome Christian leaders into his company and seek their counsel. And pray that false religious leaders (who claim to know Christ but deny His power) will not have his ear.

10.  Pray that our nation will enjoy God’s peace and blessing during the Obama administration. The apostle Paul instructed early believers to pray for all in authority “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim.  2:2, NASB). God’s will is for America to experience peace and prosperity so that we can continue to export the gospel to the nations. This must happen whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House. As we  cry out for God’s mercy on our wayward nation, pray that He will allow  us to be a light to the world as we finance global missions, feed and  heal the world’s poor and share Christ’s love at home and abroad.

Powerful Video

Not that it takes much to bring tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat, but this video is very powerful and really speaks to my heart.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that Your Truth is sweeping across our nation and being firmly embedded in hearts. May the hearts of those who know You be convicted into action. Voting is our right, our duty and something we are called to do. It has never been more important to use our voices.
For those who don’t know You, Father we know You can influence them as well. Bring them to Yourself. Remove the scales from their eyes. Show them Your truth.
Allow people to look past personality flaws and personal opinions. We are ALL broken. Yet we hold dear to Your promise in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Allow the Truth of what You call us to do to penetrate hearts and minds. Help us to protect those who cannot protect themselves for today and generations to come by putting into office those who would protect life and protect marriage.
Our next president will elect members of the Supreme Court. Father we pray that he would recognize that responsibility for what it is meant to be. That members would be appointed to protect our Constitution and not to legislate from the bench and use it as a vehicle of their own agenda.
Allow the principles that our country was founded on to prevail. Our founding Fathers were guided in Your Truth Father, please allow that passion to be reignited.
I commit this election into Your hands as I recognize Your Sovereignty and know that You are in control. I pray this all in the mighty name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.
Amen.