Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Incarnation

This Christmas was difficult. I wasn't in the mood to celebrate. I didn't feel joyful. I felt Heaven's Loss.* I wept as I saw images of the incarnate Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in a manger. Oh, the glory He left to redeem God's creation! The burden I felt did not lift as I prayed for understanding and talked with my husband, Earl.

I sobbed more deeply than ever before as the pain reached way into my spirit. I listened to friends mourning the loss of loved ones and saw sorrow in the eyes of a sister in Christ. There were many suffering trials.

I found a quiet place where I could think, meditate and pray. It was a balm to my spirit and I remembered my return home after my injury in 1991. To allow people to care for me was very difficult. I hated that I was dependent on others. Having someone bathe and dress me, pick me up and place me in my wheelchair, then feed me made me feel helpless, like a baby. Children often asked, "Why are you in a stroller"? Adults asked, "Oh. Can I feed her?" Others said, "I'm so sorry you have to be in that wheelchair."

I cried. I begged God to heal me.

Jesus prayed, "“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39 NIV).

Sunday, January 1, 2011, will be the 21st anniversary of my spinal cord injury. I still can't walk, shower, dress, etc., but my spirit knows healing. It came through faith and your ministry to me and evolved into my own ministry of healing through God's calling and your faith and encouragement.

Today I teach about my disability and share my story and my faith wherever God opens a door.

In Christ Alone,

*Print by Ron DiCianni referred to last month.

Comment by Earl-
Incarnation, for God to be "in the flesh," meant Jesus not only felt what we felt, HE risked what we risk. Death, disease, disability became very possible with Incarnation. Hebrews 13:3 brings home this point about you and I being incarnate, when we are advised, "Remember the prisoners as if chained with them; those who are mistreated; since you yourselves are in the body also." (NKJV)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Heaven’s Loss

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 KJV).

Here we are at Advent again. We’re waiting and preparing for the birth of God's Son, the Christ Child. He gave up glory on His majestic throne to come to earth, fully man yet fully God. He was acknowledged as the Christ while still in a virgin’s womb.

Born in a stable. Laid in a manger. Serenaded by angels. Gifted by kings.

This wasn't the beginning for In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1 KJV).

Earl and I have a print by Ron DiCianni called “Heaven’s Loss.” Focusing on the Christ Child lying in a manger, an archangel leans over Him as to have one last look.

His humanity was for our sake. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10 KJV).

I am overwhelmed by Gods' goodness. Though I deserve nothing I have everything. In His mercy and grace and by His life, death, and resurrection I have eternal life without fear or guilt or shame.

My prayer is that you too know Him and His love.

In Christ Alone,

Monday, November 28, 2011

Can You See Him?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).

A friend asked me, “Where have you seen God in this situation?”

The situation was an attack by the nurse manager of the home health agency that had been seeing me for more than five years. In three days’ she dropped me from their service and left me without help. The fourth day a state social worker showed up to evaluate my care in my home.

1) I remained calm because God had prepared me for such a loss. In fact, my sister and I had just discussed this scenario the weekend before. As A voice of one crying in the desert (Mark 1:3).

2) God has placed a loving, powerful, Christian husband at my side—most of the time he stands in front of me. And the two shall become one flesh (Mark 10:8).

3) God has girded me with the support of strong Christian friends and family. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

4) God is daily providing all that I need. But my God shall provide all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

5) He has given me peace. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).

Will you stand with me in this prayer?

Father, You know my heart. You know my wishes and my needs. You alone are my Rock and I lay myself before you humble and broken. Lord, I lift up this situation to you and pray your will be done. I pray blessings over all who seek to harm and protection for those who support me. In Jesus name, Amen

For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).

In Christ Alone,

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Do You Fit In?

I remember my first “sleep-over.” Elizabeth’s family had just moved to our small town and seemed worldly having lived elsewhere. We snuggled in sleeping bags on her front porch and she pointed out stars and constellations in the clear dark sky. Soon she guided my innocent eyes, “Look at that bright one straight above us.”

I strained to pick out the one she was talking about.

“See it?”

There were so many and I really wanted Elizabeth to be my friend so I said, “Yes.”

“Watch it close ‘cause it’s moving. It’s a UFO. Look. It’s coming right at us.”

The star I chose seemed to be moving toward me and I thought my heart would stop.

When I remember the foolishness and gullibility of my childhood, I consider my ongoing desire to fit in. Not just as that little girl but as a young adult in the Navy where my lifestyle fit in with seasoned sailors. And even later as a young mother.

When I accepted Christ as my savior, I continued to fear “not fitting in.” “What if they knew of my past, would they accept me anyway?” I wondered. I kept my secrets for several years until I learned that I only had to fit in to Jesus Christ. The peoples judgement, Christians included, didn’t matter anymore as I began to tell my story of what God had done for me.

I almost fit in to several small groups, but to tell of God’s grace and forgiveness in my life I had to tell of my sin. A word or two of truth dissolved many relationships.

I continued to testify to everyone God placed on my heart and in my path. I witnessed in my home and while waiting at appointments. In department stores and bookstores. In restaurants and grocery stores. In churches, at retreats, and in Christian bookstores, too.

Do I fit in? Sometimes with people. Always with God

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord will be kept safe (Proverbs 29:25 NIV).

In Christ Alone,

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Laying in my bed over the last year, I often felt alone and isolated, even separated from God. With my paralysis and the limited use of my arms and hands, I couldn’t hold a book and soon found myself watching TV and sleeping all day. Friends called and some visited. Many sent lovely cards with words of encouragement. (I still look forward to mail call).

Then in the early days of spring when I still couldn’t get out and I was desperate for fellowship I received the best gift ever, a laptop computer. My husband, Earl, set it up on a tilt table and with my head raised I typed using a rubber-tipped stick in a splint on my right hand.

The joy of writing in my journal again excited me. However, the first thing I did was open my email. A long time subscriber to the Upper Room online for my daily devotions I began reading them again, and God was right there waiting for me.

He continues to meet me via email every morning. I often read a devotion and find that I know the author. Have you considered receiving the Upper Room online? Do you know someone who would benefit from it?

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5b NIV).

In Christ Alone,

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Nothing Before

When my nephew, Michael, was four years old, he asked his mother if he could call me. When we got on the telephone, he began to ask questions:

"Aunt Berta, you can use your one hand, right?"

"No, I can't use my one hand."

"Well, you can use the other hand can't you?"

"No Michael. I can't use my hands."

"Aunt Berta, when God heals you will you ride in my car?"

"Yes Michael. I will."

Then he asked, "Aunt Berta, did you have your accident a long, long time ago when I was a little bitty baby because I don't remember it?"

As I tried to explain to Michael that it happened before he was born, he couldn't understand. You see to him everything started when he was born and there was nothing before.

"Nothing before." It's that way with God. When you repent of your sins, die to self and give your life to Christ you are "born again" and God only sees your new self. Nothing before.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:10-12).

Jesus died for you that you might have eternal life. Gone are the sins of your past. Your future is

"In Christ Alone."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Story of Forgiveness

My father was abusive when I was growing up. When he died, I wasn’t going to attend his funeral but my husband, Earl, insisted I go. Before the service, I walked back and forth from a pew to Dad's open casket crying violently.

“Why didn't I ever tell him how much he hurt me!”

After his funeral, I felt purged of anger and hatred toward him.

I was wrong.

Thirteen years later Earl and I attended a marriage seminar called Steps to Setting Your Marriage Free in Christ (Neil T. Anderson). Going in, we each believed we had a good marital relationship. As we worked through the many issues raised, and as we prayed and asked God to show us the truth, we found ourselves discovering things about each other as well as identifying things within ourselves.

God revealed to me a lifetime of rage, anger, hurt and unforgiveness toward my earthly father. Until then I hadn’t realized how much Dad had harmed my emotions and my spirit. The tears came again, though not violently this time. They were cleansing, relieving, and Earl cried with me. We cried for how all my anger and hatred had tarnished our marriage for thirteen years. When I forgave Daddy that day I felt a peace I had never known before.

Often we don’t recognize the unforgiveness within us. We justify our attitudes. A part of making sure our life is clean and right before God has to do with forgiving other people.

Everything we do in life has eternal value that hinges on two things: loving God and loving others. It’s hard to forgive those who have hurt, offended, or mistreated us, but God wants us to love even our enemies and in the process of doing so He perfects us.

God wants you to move into all He has for you. But, if you don't forgive you're stuck where you are and shutting off God's work in your life. Forgiveness opens your heart and mind and allows the Holy Spirit to work freely in you. It releases you to love God more and feel His love in greater measure.

If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive them their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15).

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).

In Christ Alone,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

No Condemnation

Arriving at my favorite bar one afternoon, I noticed the tiny place of business next door had poster-board signs in the window. “PRAYER ROOM for JESUS.” I laughed as I entered the bar, “Did you see the sign next door?” At first, we all thought it was a joke because the woman who owned the bar owned that space as well.

When the young men started coming into the bar we were shocked and the banter began. “Look at these freaks. They must be crazy thinking we’d buy their snake oil.”

One of the men got too close to John. Throwing an arm over the young man's shoulders, John said, “Hey let me buy you a beer?”

“Sir, I don’t need alcohol. I have something better.”

John gave him a push, “Just get out of here man. We don’t want any of that Bible stuff.”

We were cruel. Whoever saw one of them come in hollered, “Jesus!” And every other drunk responded, “Freak!” We continued the cadence as loud and proud as we could until we were bored with them and turned our attention back to our beer consumption, bar talk, and pool games.

Those young men stuck it out, unashamedly approaching each person as they strived to share Jesus with every one of us. Not just once but every day, several times a day, at all hours of the day and night.

I was swept up with the crowd, as were the Jews of the day who yelled, “Crucify Him!”

God never gave up on me. Just the opposite, He sent angels in the form of men and women to show me how great His love was for me.

I praise Him and thank him for saving me and for seeing me through Christ’s Blood. And having put away my past,* I’m living each day as a “Jesus Freak,” boldly testifying to His great love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

How could I do less?

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4 NRSV).
*Ephesians 4:21-25

In Christ Alone,

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

To What Are You Called?

Reading about Jabez in Charles Swindoll’s study guide, Old Testament Characters, really got my attention. He titled this chapter, Jabez: Disabled But Not Disqualified. My first thought: “Was Jabez disabled?” Of course, I was looking at the physical. He wasn’t born blind or deaf. He could walk, run, even leap. He didn’t have a withered hand and yes, he was in his right mind. Where was his disability?

The author began with the physical as well. He compared Olympic athletes. Each prepared for their specific area of ability. Swimming. Running. Gymnastics. Not one disability.

So, what was Jabez’ disability? I read those two verses that tell us all we know about Jabez:

“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NKJV).

I still didn’t get it. I saw that his mother “bore him in pain.” I thought about it. Maybe his gestation was arduous or his delivery painful. Maybe he was another mouth to feed in a poor, already full house. So, was he small? Hungry? Mistreated? Turn the page:

His name, Jabez, meant “pain.” Whatever caused his mother to name him “Pain,” he lived every day with a reminder that he was a distress. He asked God to keep him from evil so he wouldn’t cause pain.

Next, Jabez’ reputation: verse 9 begins: “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers ....” More honorable. He rose above the name that seemed should tear him down and God was able to use him in his specific calling.

Dr. Swindoll then quoted Charles Spurgeon:
‘“It will sometimes happen that where there is the most sorrow in the antecedents, there will be the most pleasure in the sequel. As the furious storm gives place to the clear sunshine, so the night of weeping precedes the morning of joy. Sorrow the harbinger; gladness the prince it ushers in .... More honourable than his brethren was the child whom his mother bore with sorrow .... The honour [Jabez] enjoyed would not have been worth having if it had not been vigorously contested and equitably won.’”
That’s where the author got me! My entire study time focused on “Where is his disability?” My self-righteous indignation as a person with a disability had clouded my perspective! I had quietly known it was there. I would think things like, “I shouldn’t always look for disabilities when a car parks in a disabled space, but ....”

My faith rose through the cloud as I faced my prejudice: I’m not special because I’m disabled. I’m special because I’m a child of the living God. Forgiven and set free. And God has been able to use me in His specific calling on my life.

“‘The honour [Jabez] enjoyed would not have been worth having if it had not been vigorously contested and equitably won.’”

He called me to be a person who would boldly proclaim what He does for me.

In Christ Alone,

Charles R. Swindoll, Old Testament Characters Bible Study Guide (1986 pgs. 51-52)
Charles H. Sturgeon, The Treasury of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI,: Zondervan Publishing House, 1968), vol. 2, p. 1.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What Can One Person Do?

Lost and alone, living in the turmoil of self-hatred and despair I worked in a hospital full of strangers and retreated to a bar each night. I had abandoned my daughter to her abusive, alcoholic father because I believed his words, “You can’t make it without me. You’ll either be back in two weeks or you’ll be dead.” I walked away.

One evening at work, I saw a man in a blue lab coat walking down the hall and asked a fellow nurse, “Who is that?”

“Earl? He’s the chaplain for our floor.”

Anger filled me. How could I be attracted to a preacher? We became friends despite our differences. Then we dated. Then we married. Baptism seemed the right next step for a preacher’s wife, but I didn’t feel “saved.”

Earl’s appointment to a local church helped me get custody of my daughter. As a pastor’s wife, I lived in guilt over my past. My lack of Christian faith and knowledge sent me into a tailspin of insecurity and isolation. Earl struggled with my behavior until I went on a Walk to Emmaus where God ministered His forgiveness of my past and healing for my spirit. Earl continued to love me as he helped me learn about the Savior who died for me.

What can one person do? As I’ve grown in Christian faith, God has placed people in my life who have needed Christian love and guidance. Most recently, I’ve befriended a young mother in need. Her love and dedication to her family and her willingness to share her family’s meager supplies with neighbors who have less has blessed me.

As Christ gave everything for me, if I could do one thing to change a person, I would be like Him and love them.

Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6 NKJV).

In Christ Alone,

Friday, July 29, 2011

God of the Old Testament

Today's post is provided by my husband, Earl Dickerson

My bride, the amazing Berta, asked me about the Old Testament several times recently. Other persons had been questioning her. Their doubts had managed to raise thoughts.

For example, "Is the God of the Old Testament really our God?" What about the violence and murder and stuff? Why did God go through all the heartaches of Hebrew Scripture? Was all of it necessary or was part of it God's mistake? Why not jump directly to Jesus and the good stuff?
Berta answered them in faith, but then came to me for confirmation.

Jesus makes it very clear in Scripture that He is a continuation of what His Daddy had been doing in the Old Testament. (Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:17, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” Or in Luke 16:17, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped.”)

Jesus believed in the whole Bible, Old and New. But still we question. Was all that happened in the Old Testament necessary? Was God just finding what really works?

The best explanation I've heard of what God has done since humanity's Fall in to Sin at the Garden of Eden comes from Sandra Richter, professor of Old Testament at Wesley Biblical Seminary. Dr. Richter says God has been acting in a sequence of steps or increments represented by the five major figures of Hebrew Scripture. Increments were required because of the effects of Sin and the weakness of our humanity. Each increment offered God something lost through the Fall.

Before the Fall, every person on earth (both of them) was God's person. After the Fall, no one was God’s person, represented by the fallen Adam. In Noah, God gained a man. In Abraham, a family. In Moses, a people. In David, a leader, the forerunner of the Messiah. Each step was necessary to build to the crescendo where God could complete the Salvation Act in Jesus Christ.

Dr. Richter writes, “Genesis 1-2 essentially provides a blueprint to God’s original intent for humanity: God’s people dwelling in God’s place with full access to his presence.*” To get there, God took us through the incremental covenants of Noah, Abraham, Moses and David.
Finally, we have the New Covenant with Jesus - which by the way was first spoken of in the Old Testament:

“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. {32} It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt--a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. {33} But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. {34} No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.{35} Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar-- the LORD of hosts is his name:” (Jeremiah 31:31-35)

Hebrew Scripture turns out to be part of God’s grand rescue plan for me (and you, if you want it). As I see it, humanity started in a garden, Eden. We end in a garden, New Jerusalem. And a garden runs through the middle, Gethsemane. Our story has to account for all three gardens or it is inaccurate.

There were never any missteps by God, no intentional cruelty or second tries. The only way of humanity’s salvation was by the long and diligent investment on our behalf by a loving God in Christ Jesus. This is the Bible, the whole of it!

“Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." (Revelation 21:5)

In Christ Alone, Earl

End note: * The Epic of Eden, A Christian Entry into the Old Testament by Sandra L. Richter, copyright 2008 IVP.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Receiving Grace

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

My youngest sister called me not long ago. She was under a lot of stress and asked if she could visit for a week. I was on bedrest, weak from illness, and believed she needed something from me that I didn’t have to give. I was up for a limited amount of time each day and I really wanted to concentrate my time on my own desires.

Was I being selfish? Did I not appreciate my sister’s need to be with me. Though, I was unable to do the simplest of tasks for myself I could love her. I recalled how I visited her during her yearlong fight with breast cancer. I couldn’t fix her problem, but I could cheer her on as she reached for the prize—healing.

I decided to have her come. Each day she was here she sat by my bedside and we talked about our families, our illnesses, our joys, and our blessings in Christ. She even gave me a manicure and a pedicure.

As we talked, I confessed how I had struggled with her visit and how happy I was that she was with me. She said that for her, spending this time with me blessed her. My emotional pain and discouragement began to melt away as my sister gracefully shared Christ’s love and brought comfort to me.

Are you denying your friends and family members opportunities to serve you?

In Christ Alone,

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reflect God

I remember the first person I saw in a wheelchair. I was at the doctor’s office for my kindergarten physical. Who was in the chair? The doctor. (Polio) Then there was Dale, a young man who slobbered and walked funny. He taught me to dance the two-step. (Cerebral Palsy) I didn't know the diseases nor did I know they were disabled. They were my friends.

In seventeen years as a nurse, I saw a multitude of persons with physical disabilities. Some had accepted their disability and functioned well in society, like my childhood friends. Others hadn't. They were angry and depressed.

In 1991, an automobile accident injured my spinal cord paralyzing me from my neck down. Three months into an ICU stay, my neurosurgeon spoke to my husband. “Earl, she'll be bedridden, ventilator-dependent, and a vegetable. You're too young to be saddled with an invalid wife. We can let her die comfortably.”

Earl refused and arranged my transfer to a spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Once stable, off the ventilator, and using a power wheelchair I went to the gym. My neighbors and I shared our stories. We were alike.

Back home no one was like me. Strangers and friends petted me and called me a “poor thing.” Many ignored my injury, as if it would go away, or ignored me, hoping I'd go away. I became angry and bitter.

After years of struggling with the reality that I wasn't going to be healed, and studying God's Word, I learned that He didn't call me to be an invalid. He called me to be Christ-centered and bold in my faith as I shared what He had done for me.

Henri J. M. Nouwen called this type of ministry “The Wounded Healer.” Steve Seamands, Professor of Christian Doctrine at Asbury Seminary, and author of “Wounds That Heal,” told me years ago, “His wounds have healed you. Now he's using your wounds to heal others.”

Peter said it this way: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another” (1 Peter 4:10).

As we strive to reflect Gods nature, others will see God's love in us.

In Christ Alone,

Monday, June 13, 2011

Strive For Perfection

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10, (NIV)

Recently a friend and I were sharing our phobias. She spoke of certain fears in her youth and how they were crippling her as a young adult. I could relate to that. Childhood fears were well founded in my dysfunctional family. I either isolated myself—playing alone under the stairwell—or became a people-pleaser toward the adults in my life.

As I grew into an adult, my fears were transformed into self-consciousness and perfectionism. If I couldn’t do it right I simply wouldn’t do it. I feared both people I knew and strangers as I performed everyday tasks, afraid someone might tell me I was doing them wrong.

When I became a Christian, my insecurities multiplied. I was so afraid of judgment over my sinful past and lack of biblical knowledge that I rarely attended Sunday school or Bible studies,

Then, on a Walk to Emmaus, I heard about Jesus mercy, grace, love and forgiveness, He told me He died for me, a sinner. He took away my fears and forgave me of my sins. He redeemed my soul and gave me life everlasting. He led me to His word and began teaching me His ways. He is growing me into the person He desires and I am His willing servant.

Strive for perfection and don’t let the fear of man separate you from God.

In Christ Alone,