Together Is A Beautiful Word by Guest Blogger Jennie Bender


bender family
Here is a story that will reach your heart. Jennie Bender and her family walked through the fires of trial. She is wife to Shane and mother of Sabrina, Elaine, Darcy, and Davison. They are a wonderful Christian family living now in Fairborn, Ohio. The other day when I wrote a blog post called “What If Your Healing Doesn’t Come”, Jennie privately wrote my wife and I on her experiences with praying for a healing that didn’t come. In her case, it wasn’t for herself, but for her child. That is just as appropriate to the subject as any parent would realize. What she wrote was so touching, powerful, and real, I asked if I could share it as a guest blog post. Be sure to read the extra information she gave at the end. It is an honor to give her piece here. It is little edited so nothing of her heart is lost. Here it is in her words…

I just read your piece on healing. It was a blessing. I believe He can, but I have peace that He didn’t. God gives grace, mercy, and peace to go through trials. I could not do without any of those three at any given time. I have learned more, gained more, so much more. If I could go back– I’d probably selfishly choose to take away trisomy 18 (explained below) and have my daughter alive– without sleepless nights and burning tears, without knowledge of impending death, without… But I’d not know this great grace, I’d not have a strong realization of Heaven, I’d not have a measure of faith, I’d not have the blessings of brokenhearted strangers who reached out and gave me friendship through our mutual suffering, and I’d not have lifelong friendships given to me on her behalf by God’s hand…

I had so many say that God would take away this problem and it’d just go away– because He is God. Death was surely not coming to my house– according to them. They meant well; it was what we all wanted.

bender children

The Lord showed me that wasn’t the way I was going– though I wanted it badly, more than anyone passing by could fathom. I remember my own prayer– “Lord, I know you are praying for me because I don’t know what to pray.” I even went so far as to pray for her death so she could be truly safe– and hastily recanted it as soon as I spoke it– because I couldn’t believe I spoke it aloud. Only a mother dealing with a fatal disorder could understand that prayer and its depth. I wanted her more than I could bear, but my love for her wanted the fullest, happiest life for her– and with her diagnosis the best place was not with me but with God.. There was a guilt after I prayed that prayer because of my absolute humanity, but my heart later knew that prayer was because of my love for her — her grave struggles and future caused me to desire to give her to God– though it broke my heart in pieces. And I am sure someone will say that’s wrong, but the Lord knows how desperately we wanted her– with or without her so-called deformities. She was perfect to us and still is, no one dare question our love for her. Even if they did, there is no point to prove to them. We stand before God Almighty; He knew and knows our hearts. We only wanted her best– and that is love– and the greatest love is someone else’s best over your own selfish desires.

baby pic

This is a real issue, as you say. There are so many remarks you receive… some are not helpful. I am so thankful for the people who came into my life– people who were broken hearted, mended, and ministering because they had seen God. They all spoke the same words, just like a painter’s hand is recognized in every painting, you could see His hand and hear His voice through their unique stories. Others did not have that, only the broken ones. They had seen God work –they were compelled to comfort as He had personally comforted them and as they had been blessed by His people through their own sorrow.

I am changed because of those days. They are painful at times to recall, but the changes God made have only made our lives better. Every move He makes is for our good, and I trust the loving kindness of the Lord.

And as for your family and mine, our situations are not the same and not to be compared, but the Lord has made us better friends because of our trials.

(Editor’s Note: There is a hard-to-explain camaraderie in suffering.)

Trisomy 18 is a generation of an extra chromosome. It can be shattered, misplaced, or a duplicate chromosome. The simplest explanation is– it is like an extra puzzle piece. It fits, it is perfect, it is useful, fully functioning, alive. The only problem is–it is extra, therefore it destroys the whole. It can be genetic, it can be due to the age of a mother, but most of the time, as in our case, it is simply an accident at the onset of the division and multiplication of cells. Every time the bundle of life multiplies and divides it creates more problems. Since it is in the actual cells, there is nothing to do but wait. We were told she would die before her due date, she would have great struggles and die eleven days after her birth on average, and if she survived beyond those early days–she would surely be dead within a year.

Gravestone

Elaine had an extra finger, water on the brain, strawberry shaped skull, a twisted foot, and three holes in her heart– nearly every marker of T18. Our marriage was given a 1% survival rate because of the stress before and after her delivery. God has been good, we’ve not been prefect, but He has led us gently all the way. We have an unexplainable daily joy and gratitude that was given to us because we put our child and our broken hearts in God’s hands. “We are better for knowing her–even if it was just for a moment.”

She is the reason we say and know, “Together” is a beautiful word.

Thanks Jennie

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

If you know anyone going through such times, please let us know –jennie@benderparty.com.

Also, Now I lay Me Down to Sleep is a non-profit organization consisting of professional photographers who photograph families whose children have been given a fatal diagnosis. They were a great blessing to us. Lori Anderson of Simply Southern Photography took pictures of Elaine through NILMDTS.org.

RELATED POSTS:

What If My Healing Doesn’t Come? The original post Jennie responded to.

Confessions of a Disability Marriage Jennie mentioned God’s grace in her marriage getting through what wrecks many marriages. It is tough and I have written on my own case.

Book Review of Joni

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This is a guest blog by my sweetheart Alicia. We both so admire Joni, and this book has been a big help to her!

I first read the book, Joni, shortly after I became paralyzed. I enjoyed the book then and found Joni Eareckson to be extremely inspirational. She wrote the book several years after she had been paralyzed so the book has a very fresh approach to the feelings and emotions that follow this kind of life changing experience. When I read the book the first time, I very much related to her physical responses, her frustrations, and her insecurities. I read with hope that one day I could learn all the things that she had learned.

After being paralyzed now for over 4 years myself, I just re-read the same book. It was so interesting for me to read the book with a whole new set of emotions now. I am into this paralysis journey myself and am at peace with it. The questions and thought processes that she had with God, how her paralysis affected her relationships with people, and how she realized that if being in a wheelchair would bring someone to Christ then it was her gift were subject matters that completely eluded me in my first reading because I had not had the time to experience these things.

Reading the book this time was refreshing and encouraging once again and after working with the Joni and Friends Ministry, I find her more inspirational than ever. I, for one, am thankful that the ministry that the Lord gave her so many years ago in the accident that broke her neck, did not break her spirit. God has used her limitations to reach and give hope to those like me. Her heart to use what has been allowed in her life to reach out to others instead of wallowing in self-pity is an example that I pray I can follow. May God use my chair to reach others like Joni has.

I finished her follow-up book, A Step Further, yesterday. I had never read it before. It was a deeper approach to the many questions and comments that you get after becoming paralyzed. Joni tackled each questions with the Word of God and was open and transparent as she shared her journey of answering these questions in her heart.

Does God still heal? Is Satan in charge of our health? If we don’t get healed, is it because our faith isn’t strong enough? Why would He heal some and not others? I have personally been asked many of these questions, I have been told where I was a spiritual failure because I am still paralyzed after 4 years, my friends and church have been accused of not having enough faith for me, and I have had people want to “heal” me several different times.

Reading this was refreshing to say the least. I loved her candid look at many Scriptures (not just a few plucked favorites) and how she compared Scripture to Scripture to give us God’s view of suffering and miracles.

I highly recommend reading her story in her first book, Joni. However, don’t stop there. Continue on in her sequel, A Step Forward. Together, you will get a clear understanding of the many emotions, thought processes, reasoning, and resolve that surrounds a devastating life change.

Related Post:
Confessions of a Disability Marriage

The Master’s Hand–Guest Blogger David Wagner

david pic (2)

What Happened to Me When I Yielded Myself to the Masters Hand

By David Wagner

[I am so glad to have David guest blog for Reagan Review. Here is a man who was a pastor and now lives a very challenging disability. His perspective is helpful as we think about disability and the church. Here is his moving story…]

I am a special person, and it is not because I am disabled. I am special because God chose me to be His son. In accepting His Sonship I also accepted His will for my life. To be honest I would not have chosen the life I now live if I had been given the opportunity. God in His amazing wisdom took a simple pastor of mountain people, and transformed him into a tool meet for the Masters use.

I began serving God in 9th grade working on the buses of Shawnee Baptist Church. For seven years I visited and picked up intercity kids for Church. In my final year of Bible College I was approached to take over New Hope Baptist Church in Kentucky. Over the next seven years God would build me to be a Pastor that He wanted me to be. There were many times when food and diapers were the earnest prayer request. God however was teaching me to be dependent on him.

At the end of those seven years I began to show signs of a disorder that my mom had called Dystonia. Preaching and teaching 4+ times a week and working a full time job began to take its toll. God was moving my heart back home to Beth Haven Baptist Church in Michigan. As long as I was able I wrote the S.S. material for the Elementary classes, and taught the College-age class. My form of Dystonia causes violent muscle movement for 45 minutes to 4 hours. The men of the church were gracious and helped me out of the service when that happened.

Soon the attacks became every service. I talked to my doctor, and found out that they would only get worse. I asked my Pastor to come over, and talk with me. I had to quit it all. I even had to quit going to church. I am blessed to have a Pastor with God’s heart. He understood and encouraged me to live my Christian life from home.

A life of disability is a life of losing things. I lost my job. I lost my ability to drive. I lost mobility. I became dependent on others for many things. For some people, watching me live in pain was too much, and I lost their company. Losing things for me is the hardest part of disability.

The one thing I had not lost was that fact that I was still His son. I also was still a pastor, and God had work for me to do. God had a gift for me. His gift was disability. I would live the life of someone with chronic illness, and He would give me an insight to be a blessing to others who had chronic illness. I have been blessed to publish a book, preach in several states, and talk to people that I would have never had opportunity without disability.

I am not saying you can not be a help to people with chronic illness unless you have it. What God did for me was give me the gift of disability, and the heart to help others. This is my ministry. One of the early lessons that God taught me comes from 2 Corinthians 12:9,10:  “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

It did not happen overnight, but I began to learn a valuable truth. The grace of God becomes more evident in our lives as we need it. The more we realize that we are weak and He is strong; the more His grace fills our lives. When we come to the place when we realize that the infirmities in our lives are truly His gifts His power can rest upon us. So we are strongest as a Christian when we realize that, (Philippians 4:13) “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” We can only accomplish His will with His strength.

God has firmly let me know that it is not in His will to heal me. My prayer is not for healing, but to be used for His glory. For only by Him using me will my life have value. You may not be experiencing chronic illness. My wife likes to tell people, “Our struggles are obvious, and yours may not be. However God uses different trials to make us who he wants us to be.”

So I close with this. Only by yielding to the Master’s hand will your life have eternal value. The trials of today are but for a moment. How we deal with our trials will have eternal significance.

Forever, In His Service.

David Wagner

(David is a regular contributor on Partners For Gospel. Look for his articles there).

Guest Blogger–Pastor Mike Montegomery

mike and susie montgomery

I’m glad to have my friend Pastor Mike Montegomery guest blogging on Reagan Review. I’ve learned over the last few years that he is a dedicated Pastor who loves his people, is dedicated to preaching God’s Word, and has a passion for souls. He is as true a friend as could one could be. He was the one who moved in our home while we were in Tennessee a week soon after Alicia became paralyzed and tore a closet out of our bedroom replacing it with an accessible bathroom. He even raised the funds for the project. Needless to say, his Christianity is of the real variety. We love his entire family. He is also a reader and I love to hear his take on books he has read. 

He has his own blog at

http://philippians216.blogspot.com/

Brothers We Are Not Professionals

Boardman Holman Publisher

By: John Piper

First Published in 2002

286 pages

Overview

This book is a thought provoking look at the ministry and the personal walk of the pastor. Mr. Piper writes with passion and beauty. He does a great job of keeping your interest and always makes you think.

The purpose of the book is clear in the preface. Pg. xi “The aim of this book is to spread a radical, pastoral passion for the supremacy of and centrality of the crucified and risen God-Man, Jesus Christ, in every sphere of life and ministry and culture.” As far as this reader is concerned he hits what he aims at.

High notes

Mr. Piper repeatedly encourages the study of the pastor. He challenges you to be well read and well prepared. His writing reminds me often of A.W. Tozer in that it is often passionately spiritual and deeply rooted in the Word of God. He exalts the Scripture and calls for the Scripture to speak through the preacher in the pulpit. He leaves the reader with the understanding that the source of a sermon is Scripture, not the mind of the preacher. This book is never boring and will stir your soul as well as your mind. He willingly and boldly confronts misconceptions within the local church polity and theology.  He also emphatically stands on the Scripture for men only in the pastoral ministry. Mr. Piper closes the book with a strong plea for pastors to strengthen their own marriage, and in light of times, this cannot be echoed too often.

Low Points

Mr. Piper is a staunch Calvinist and it does come through in the book. Most of his emphasis is for the sovereignty of God and of course we can agree that God is sovereign. Chapter Fifteen I felt he had waded into a realm of doctrine that I believe is quicksand. In Chapter Eighteen he covers the importance of baptism. Though we agree on the time and method I feel he gives too much wiggle room to paedobaptism.

Summary

All in all, the entire book is a great read and any pastor will walk away from each chapter with at least one convicting and stirring truth. I would put this book at the top your stack!

 

Guest Blogger Mark Fowler-The Value of a Good Book

Mark and Stephanie Fowler

I’m thrilled to have my friend Mark Fowler contribute a guest blog for us. He has worked for many years at Temple Baptist Church and Crown College in Powell, Tennessee and has now become the pastor of Pleasant Beach Baptist Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee. I am excited to see all that the Lord will do with his life in the days ahead.
  
What would you pay to attend Charles Spurgeon’s college in the height of its existence? How far would you travel to sit in the woods and listen to the birds with Vance Hanver? Would you like to pray with Andrew Murray or listen to Alexander McClaren preach? What would a seminar on money or time management cost? Would you like to talk to a dear saint of God who has gone through a great trial and found God faithful?

What would you give to sit in the study with the great theologians and be at their desk as they gather their thoughts on a Bible passage? And what would you give to spend a day with Moses or with Christ and the disciples? What Christian would not like to sit with Moody and Sankey in their great crusades?

Would you like to travel to Africa with Livingston or to India with Carey? Is there anything we can learn from those who study our culture and provide statistics and analysis? Is there any value in the great minds of our day? Can we be taught to be more effective in ministry?

Price would not be an issue for an opportunity to live a simpler life and spend time meditating with the Puritans. Imagine the great expense of traveling the sawdust trail with Billy Sunday or following Edwards and Whitfield through the Great Awakening.

Some would say this is not possible. I can not afford a trip to London, China, or the Holy Land. For a few dollars and a little of my time I have attended their colleges, listened to them preach and pray, and borrowed nuggets of wisdom in areas of life that they have mastered.

I just had a great weekend alone in the woods with Vance Havner enjoying God’s creation. I enrolled in Spurgeon’s college for less than forty dollars and spent the weekend with Havner for just five. I think I will spend the day listening to Spurgeon lecture, or McClaren preach, or Murray pray. This list could go on and you may choose different names and experiences. At times I can almost smell the leather and old books in their studies or see the dust from the earth on the aged missionaries faces. In my heart I hear to the revival singing of days gone by.

We choose who we travel with and who we learn from by the books we buy and read. There is immeasurable value in a good book. We can enter their world for a little while. Who will you travel with next?

The Man With Books–Guest Blogger Alicia Reagan

I’m excited to present a guest blog by my wife, Alicia Reagan. We came up with the idea to guest blog  for each other recently. She is the one who encouraged me to start this blog. She even designed the template and taught me how to publish a post. She is rather experienced herself having her own popular blog. Her blog has a far larger readership than mine, and I am truthfully thankful for how the Lord is using her.





The original idea for this article was a humorous one on the constantly expanding number of books in our home. What she has given me is not the humorous one we discussed, but one overly kind and generous in a few spots. So please read this with a few gallons of salt and a forbearing spirit as she is obviously blinded by love. Vice that it is, I can’t bring myself to find fault.
When Jimmy and I started dating, he was a manager for Home Federal Bank. I met him in a Sunday School class and was attracted to his genuine love for the Lord.Having been raised in the ministry, I was stuck in the mindset that to love the Lord you must be called to preach. Well, Jimmy Reagan blew that theory.

I will never forget on one day, he wanted to show me his house that he owned. We went to his house and on the “tour” he showed me his second bedroom which he had converted to an office. There was a desk, a couch and more books than I had ever seen in someone’s home! Wall to wall there were books everywhere! Books were stacked all over the floor, along the walls, on the desk, up on the file cabinet and when you opened the closet guess what? Yes -books! I looked at these books and most of them were about the Bible or about great Christian men.

I will never forget that day because it was the day I confirmed in my heart that I had met a man who truly loved the Word of God and wanted to glean all he could from it. I used to say to him, “Why do you need all these books? You have the Bible and that is all you need!” I heard a preacher say that and it sounded real spiritual. He then replied, “I would never assume to think I know everything. I am more than willing to learn from those who have walked before me.” It was then I realized that the preacher who had said that maybe wasn’t as spiritual as he might have been lazy.

I married that man with the books and I love him for loving them. However, there are times I did not share his love for his books. When they started overrunning my home, I did not like them. When they were stored in boxes with no place to go, I felt they were useless.  When I tried to have a conversation and he would answer me behind the pages of a book, I was ready to throw them in the trash! He has learned how to keep me happy with his books though and has built shelves, organized them nicely and put them away when I need his attention. So, his books and I are back on reading terms again.

If you enter our home now, you will find some books in our bedroom in a specific place, a book shelf in the living room that mostly has my pretty books on it and then you enter his office. You will find wall to wall bookshelves that are double stacked and if you ask him about a book, he can immediately reach to shelf number six, second row and give you the fifth book from the left. I don’t know how he does that! He knows his books! If you dare approach our family room downstairs which is also the play room for our children, you will again find beautiful shelves filled with books that completely wrap our downstairs and they are carefully organized by topic.

He is not a collector of books. He is a reader. He reads portions of 40-50 books to prepare for one sermon and he preaches 3 times a week! When you hear him preach, you can tell. I can’t even stand to listen to shallow preaching anymore. I know who has studied a portion of Scripture and learned everything they could about that portion, or who just picked a topic they want to preach about and dug around until they found a couple of verses to go with it. I am a sermon snob now and I will gladly admit it. It is not my fault though. It is because I married the man with books.

Guest Blogger-Kyle Shearin-“The Life of St. Paul” by James Stalker

I am glad to have as guest blogger my friend, Kyle Shearin. We first met when he and his wife brought a summer singing group from Crown College through our area. He is a sharp, dedicated young man. He teaches at Crown College and is actively involved at Temple Baptist Church. I remember once talking to him as he shared how burdened he was for the Singles Ministry he was leading at Temple Baptist Church. Ironically, it was in that same ministry I met my wife 13 years ago. I gave him the choice of blogging on any book of his choice. His reading has been heavily leaning toward the Apostle Paul of late. He read several on that subject and it turns out an old one was his favorite. Thanks Kyle. Here’s what he had to say….

Many are the books that arebeneficial on the life of the Apostle Paul but few are the books that areconsidered “Classics” on the life of Paul. Stalker’s book is not the mostthorough you will find on the topic but it is among the most respected.
Somebooks on Paul leave you thinking that he was not only the “Apostle Paul” butalso the “Savior Paul”. The author walks you through the soaring ministry ofPaul as well as the stumbling ministry of Paul.
Highlight of the Book
Stalker’schapter on the missionary journeys of Paul is second to none. The chronology ofevents brought to life will have you walking the streets with Paul and seeingGod made strong through weakness.
Chapter Titles
His Place in History
His Unconscious Preparationfor His Work
His Conversion
His Gospel
The Work Awaiting the Worker
His Missionary Travels
His Writings and HisCharacter
Picture of a Pauline Church
His Great Controversy
The End (Paul’s End)
Author:
      James Stalker was born in Scotland in1848. He graduated from Edinburgh University and New College and served formany years as a pastor in the Free Church in Scotland. His most renowned bookis the “Life of Christ”.
Title– The Life of St. Paul
ISNB – 0-310-44181-1
Est. price – $16.00