“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling . . . .” Eph. 1:18A
We pray for friends, family members, and many times for those who come in the door of our pregnancy help ministries. When we do, we might pray for specific situations, such as health, relationships, employment, finances and more.
As we pray for those in our circle of influence, let’s ask this: “How would the world be different if God answered every one of my prayers this week?”
One pastor, made this point by asking his congregation, “If God answered all your prayers, what would happen? Would you merely see your food blessed, a few people get over their colds and have traveling mercies to grandmother’s house? Would that be all?”
But look at what Paul prays for his Ephesian friends. Let’s peek at Paul in his prayer closet:
“ . . . That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (Eph. 1:17-19A)
Now that’s praying. Paul goes beyond the requests we so often think of and straight to the heart of the matter. Because he knows, if his friends in Ephesus capture a clear understanding of God’s love, everything else is going to fall into place.
As he continues, Paul’s greatest desire is that those receiving his letter have eyes to see the hope of what it means to be in relationship with Jesus Christ.
Which is something for us to remember. When a friend, family member or client asks for prayer, what is our primary focus? Do we focus on the situation in front of us? Or on the greater need?
Me? I tend to see the surface need and focus my attention on whatever I’m asked to pray about. But what if I also asked for something bigger, that my friend understand, “the hope of His calling” and to effectively grasp God’s love for us?
Paul focused on the greatest needs of his friends. As I pray for others, it’s a good idea to do the same.
by Kirk Walden, Heartbeat International Advancement Specialist
“And it came about that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me.” Acts 22:6
As we know, the Bible is full of stories. The Old Testament tell us story after story of everything from the first sin, to the rise of Israel, to heroics and failures of people like Samson, David, Solomon, Ruth and so many more.
The New Testament tells us the story of Jesus, including the stories he told. And, we also see stories of those who followed Jesus . . . and the stories they told.
Do we see a pattern here? Sharing our faith almost always begins with stories. And there is no greater example of this than Paul.
Yes, the Paul, the great theologian who gave us so many New Testament letters. The Paul who gave us everything from the great doctrinal book of Romans to the love chapter in I Corinthians 13. That Paul.
His faith began with a story. One place he tells his story is in Acts 22. Defending his work before the Jewish council, Paul launches his story by recounting his advancement in Judaism. He mentions (v. 3) his education under the great Gamaliel, and his zealousness in persecuting that ragtag bunch of heretics known as The Way (v. 4).
But, Paul’s story shifts on the road to Damascus, where he met the man he was persecuting. Jesus. Paul tells of a bright light, of being blinded and falling to the ground. And, he tells of a life-changing conversation with a man he thought to be dead, which turned him from persecutor to a promoter of this new faith.
Reading Luke’s account of Paul telling his story, we see his listeners throwing fits of anger. This says much more about Paul’s listeners than his story. Because as we know, Paul told his story to people everywhere, launching churches all over the known world.
The point? While Paul’s story is more dramatic than most, all of us have a story.
We sometimes get caught up in trying to know exactly how to best share the hope within us. We search Bible verses, learn techniques and avail ourselves of trainings. None of this is wrong, but often our best approach is the simplest: Tell our story.
Just like with Paul, our story is our own. Someone could argue with Paul, but they could never take his story away. More important? Paul’s story—like ours—allows us to be transparent, which always draws in listeners.
The next time someone—whether inside our ministry’s doors or in our neighborhood—wonders why we believe what we do, perhaps it is time to do what Paul did so well: Let’s tell our story.
Our story may be a conversion story, like Paul’s. Or, it may be a story of a time when we clearly saw God’s hand in our lives. If our listener is open, our story may invite a transparent conversation—a conversation which opens the door for our listener to begin, or extend, their own story of faith.
The good news? If we have faith, we have a story. And it is often our story which may inspire the stories of others.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
And the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the multitude in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; therefore come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Luke 13:14
The synagogue official, staunch defender of tradition, must have been a fun guy to hang out with. Because after seeing the miraculous healing of a woman who spent 18 years with a sickness which kept her from ever standing upright, his first thought is to defend a man-made rule which God never intended when He created the Sabbath Day.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day voiced plenty of complaints about their Messiah. They didn’t like his friends, weren’t happy with His drinking habits, and vehemently opposed how Jesus spent His Saturdays.
In their minds, Jesus was nothing but a rule-breaker; a tradition-stomping, disrespectful insurrectionist who wanted nothing more than to thumb his nose at anyone with authority.
But we know Jesus was quite the opposite. He was—and is—the authority, a man who loves His Father so much that He defended the Father’s love . . . above the rules men created for their own benefit.
Love doesn’t care what day it is, because every day is the perfect time to love the hurting. Love doesn’t fret over the status of someone else, because everyone is worthy to be loved. Love isn’t bound by tradition because love has no shackles, no limits.
What about those of us in the pregnancy help community? Thankfully, we don’t have man-made religious rules which keep us from loving.
On that Saturday, Jesus saw a woman who was, for 18 years, beyond healing. For 18 years, her illness kept her from standing upright. Nothing helped. Likely in pain every single day, no one’s prayers made a difference. Others probably took care of her.
But somehow, on that Saturday she made it to the synagogue to see Jesus. And on that day, everything changed. It was her right time, regardless of the rules.
If we are reflections of Jesus, part of our mission is to love enough to see those who come in our door as at “just the right time” for healing of emotional, spiritual and possibly even physical wounds. Because for love, there’s no time like the present. And that’s a rule we can always live by.
by Jenn Walden, Guest Writer
At the age of 33, I met Kirk. He was a single dad of three children; ages 11, 14, and 16. I wasted no time falling in love with the four of them. In a moment only God could orchestrate, we became a family. Never married and never a mother, the moment I said, “I do,” my life was forever changed. After years of wandering, I finally found my tribe.
After six months as a family, we celebrated our first Christmas at Disney World. Moving states, building a house, enrolling in new schools, forming friendships, starting a business, step-parenting, and yes, a new marriage had sufficiently strained and tested all of us. We were ready for a break and some family bonding.
Despite the joy of our time at Disney World, by the end of the trip I was not feeling well. I couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong, but upon returning home things were no better. The voice of fear, dormant since my new marriage, surfaced again.
Five years earlier I had been diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. This led to a partial hysterectomy, heavy doses of chemotherapy and long-term medication. Now, the fear of cancer was back, and I thought, Just as I am experiencing so much joy, cancer is returning to steal it all away.
When I shared my symptoms with a friend however, she made a strange suggestion. “You need to take a pregnancy test,” she told me. My medication however, limited any possibility of pregnancy. Still, I tentatively bought a couple of tests, believing a false positive would only signal the cancer was back.
When the test was positive, I cried, convinced my worst fears were realized. When Kirk said, “Take the second test,” it too was positive. We agreed I needed to see my oncologist immediately.
The nurse did not play into my game of fears. Without hesitation she laughed and said, “You don’t need to see us; you’re pregnant!” Shocker. Despite what I read on the internet or made up in my mind, a positive pregnancy test is not an indicator of cancer; who knew?
I never once remember praying for a baby. After the miracle of meeting Kirk and his children, I was not going to be greedy. They were so much more than I ever believed I deserved. I would have told you emphatically that God does not cruelly punish His children. Yet, buried in my heart the thought brewed; Jennifer, there are natural consequences for the poor choices of your youth.
If I’m digging deep, I didn’t allow my heart to long for a baby because I didn’t think I deserved one. To this day, I still feel guilt surface when I meet precious people battling infertility. Why, I ask, did I so easily receive the longing of their hearts?
Despite the tremendous odds stacked against me, my sense of unworthiness and an absence of prayers in this direction, I gave birth to a baby boy.
When I saw my oncologist for a routine appointment, she asked about my pregnancy. As we talked, with tears in her eyes she told me, “You realize this baby is a miracle.” My doctor’s words jolted me, bringing full realization to the provision and hand of God.
Until that moment, I didn’t fully understand that in medical terms there should not be a Joshua Walden. I’m so glad God never got this memo.
Two years later, at the age of 35 I received yet another miracle. Jacob joined his brother in 2009.
Sometimes, for reasons beyond our comprehension, God gives us lost and forgotten dreams. In the process, lies which chain us to past mistakes are uncovered; our hearts suddenly freed to understand the true grace of God.
The first time I held Josh was one of the purest moments of love I’ve ever experienced. Holding that tiny life was more than my first moment with my first-born; it was my opportunity to truly embrace a testament of God’s love and mercy.
My past, for too many years, held on to me. In its grip were my deepest desires, so instead of seeking these desires, I buried them.
As a result, I truly believed God felt obligated to withhold certain blessings. I lived a life thinking that while God was kind, He sought only to correct me and make sure I understood that while I was forgiven, I was never meant to be fully worthy of His overwhelming love.
Giving me the gift of motherhood, God gave me the buried desires of my heart. And, He opened a window to help me see His boundless grace in ways I could not fathom before.
In different ways, God wants to give these gifts to each of us. For me, it was through motherhood. In the middle of my trial with cancer years earlier, I saw no possible avenue to becoming a mom. But God was there; waiting, preparing and then whispering to those around His throne, “Watch what I’m about to do in this one’s life. It will change her forever.”
Today, I’m mom to five. It’s a story I could have never written, never dreamed.
My prayer is that even if we are in the deepest of trial, we will remember that despite our pasts, God is about our present.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, I am forever grateful to the God who looked at me and said, “It’s time she saw the love I have for her–her buried desires are never too deep for Me to find.”
Jenn Walden is a mom and blogger who can be found at www.1stfaith.com/jenn, where this article first appeared. She is married to Kirk, an Advancement Specialist for Heartbeat International.
by Cindi Boston, Heartbeat Vice President
You hear the cries of the voiceless. The cries of those whose heart is beating, but whose voice may never be heard. You hear it day in and day out. You know that nearly a million unborn babies cry for help each year in the United States. (I can’t fathom that number, can you?) Choice has brought us to the place of a blood sacrifice, the sacrifice of our children, and you are steeped in this spiritual, not merely political, issue every day.
The hurting women who feel as if a pregnancy will ruin them are coming to you. They are desperate for help because an unplanned pregnancy is one of the things that creates a barrier between her and her loved ones that she usually depends on for support. Regret, shame, and fear are just a few of the barriers she faces.
The barriers you help her knock down.
The pregnancy help movement stands ready to intervene on behalf of each woman and child because of your commitment and compassion. Once a woman enters a pregnancy center, she becomes more likely by the moment to be one of women considering abortion who will carry her baby to term and make a parenting or adoption plan because you are there to help her.
I directed a life-changing pregnancy center in Missouri, and volunteers were a crucial part of the small, but mighty, gospel-centered mission we followed. The volunteers and staff at these organizations are creating a safe space for women to face their challenges and build a better life.
It’s your wisdom, knowledge, and ministry experience that is the lifeblood of this movement saving lives every day. You are the footsoldiers in an army of volunteers armed with love whether you’re answering calls on a helpline, mentoring women one-on-one, teaching classes, sorting donations, or data entry.
You hear the cries of the unborn. You spend your time caring for hurting women, children and families. Thank you for the life-saving work you do. And if you ever need a reminder about why what you’re doing is worth it, read this one more time, and check out the stories of the women who are thankful for you at PregnancyHelpNews.com.
“Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” John 13:5
Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet during His final Passover meal is only mentioned in one of the four gospels (John), but for centuries Christians have focused on this moment’s significance, impact and lessons for us today.
Clearly, this act—on Jesus’ final night before His crucifixion—is one of servanthood. We would not think the king of the coming kingdom would serve anyone. He should be served! But Jesus chose instead to paint a poignant picture of who we need to be as His followers. And He did so by washing the grimy, calloused feet of those who followed Him.
Which creates a question. What is a modern-day equivalent of foot-washing?
While many still practice actual foot-washing as a reminder and example, because we aren’t as likely to wear sandals (well, we do wear Chacos) and walk on dirt roads all day, what is 21st century practice which follows Jesus’ powerful act of service?
May I offer one, which I often overlook? Listening.
Here is why.
In today’s world, society is wedded to IPhones, Droids, laptops. We’re texting, Facebooking, Twittering, Instagramming and Linking In. Any conversation is easily derailed by the distraction of a call, a “Let me just text him/her back really quickly” or a need to rush off to the next thing in our busy lives.
Today, we don’t worry about dirty feet too much. Still, our lives get messy. And sometimes, the only way to wash off the dirt in our lives is to vent to a friend who listens, as we try to make sense of it all.
Our modern dirt is often found in a metaphorical desert, where our spiritual life converges with the challenge of trying to live out our faith in a mixed-up world. When the wind and rain of circumstances hits us from all directions as we try to walk out this faith, our spiritual feet get dirty.
Our dirt may not be a sin with which we are struggling, and it may not be a situation which demands fixing. In fact, because social media and first-world standards almost force us to hide our grime, it’s difficult for anyone to see the muck and mire which clutters our lives.
And, we try to ignore our messes as we rush to keep up with the frenetic pace at which we live.
Still, we need someone around who will listen. Because for all of us, that moment comes when we look down at our feet—trying to walk forward in this path of faith—and see they are covered with the cares of life. They need washing.
Jesus, on his final night with his disciples, stopped. He took the time needed to thoroughly wash each man’s feet. He listened as Peter asked, mistakenly, for more. And we can be sure He listened to others as He carefully cleaned those feet which had taken the journey with Him over three years.
Sometimes, the best example of servanthood we can offer to another is the gift of listening. No judgment, no quick fixes, no pat answers. Just. Listening.
If we offer this gift, perhaps our friend will experience a refreshing rain as the overwhelming circumstances of life wash away. And the feet our friend needs to walk this journey are once again clean, ready for another next step toward the One who loves us.
by Wendy Giancola, Guest Writer
As I was reading in my Bible the story of the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-30), I was drawn to verse six: “Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.” (NLT) Jesus, the Son of God, was tired and weary from the long walk from Judea to the well in Samaria. I thought of how we who serve in abortion recovery grow tired and weary from the long walk with those who have been broken by abortion to their healing place at the well of Living Water.
Did the Divine Man’s human flesh crave a break from the pressing Pharisees, or the work of teaching, discipling, and healing? Don’t I sometimes crave a break from the pro-abortion rhetoric or listening to the pain of someone who experienced abortion?
I continue to read that when this woman from a different cultural view came to the place where Jesus sat wearily, he did not close his eyes, hoping she would go away. Instead, he engaged her in conversation, acknowledging her humanity. As he spoke with her, he recognized her deeper thirst or need for Living Water and stepped into her brokenness. He validated her deeper thirst without denying the truth of her reality.
I don’t know exactly what led this woman from Samaria to have five husbands or a current live in boyfriend. Perhaps she was fearful of the judgment around her, perhaps she was pressured by others or the culture, perhaps she was looking for love. I don’t know, but I think Jesus knew. Yet, he did not judge or condemn her for those life choices, but instead looked deeper into her heart and saw her thirst and need for something greater. Something that perhaps propelled those choices. As he listened deeply to her heart, he offered her hope. The hope of a savior who entered into her world of brokenness to reveal a new kingdom full of living, healing water for her to drink deeply and be fully satisfied forever.
Can I model Jesus in my weariness? Can I acknowledge a broken person’s story without judgement, recognize their deeper needs and offer the hope of living water? The hope of transformation found in a Messiah who has entered her world to reveal a new kingdom of healing?
In the wake of New York’s new abortion law and other legislative threats, I believe the number of individuals in need of hope and help after an abortion experience will be increasing. Even though the enemy, the culture and the law tell people that abortion is good, the human heart which is created by God may feel otherwise after an abortion experience.
The Lord reminds me that even He needed to withdraw and pray to be ready to meet more needs (Luke 5:16). We, too, need to rest and pray to be ready to meet more of those who are wounded from abortion and offer them Hope.
Wendy Giancola will be presenting a workshop at the 2019 Heartbeat International Annual Conference titled "Path to Life After Abortion Recovery." She has also written a book called Transforming Your Story: A Path to Healing after Abortion.
by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat President
There’s an old adage, “May you live in interesting times.” Whether it’s a curse, a warning, or a call to adventure, depends on how you read it, receive it, or respond to it.
The brazen political ploy to secure abortion rights, even over other constitutional rights, that just happened in the New York state assembly, followed by several other states, points to the fact that these are, at the least, “interesting times.” The politics of Big Abortion haven’t been this overtly obvious to the nation than since the 1970s and early 80s as the wicked reality of the Roe v. Wade decision. Held at bay for years, the New York politicos beholding to Big Abortion for a big win last November wasted no time in legitimizing the very things that the lead to the conviction of the abortionist, Kermit Gosnell (Philadelphia, PA).
There are three things this tells us about pro-abortion forces.
They’re scared. The recent changes at the Supreme Court of the United States, namely new justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and decisions highlighting protections of liberties, suggest that Roe v. Wade is truly in danger of being reversed for the failed legal framework it is. This is the core reason advanced by Governor Cuomo in order to ensure abortion rights in New York state.
They’re serious. They wasted no time ramming this major constitutional change through. They seized upon the increasing polarization by implementing the far left reality of abortion on demand for any reason, at any age. This is a stark reality that Roe currently protects. And even a simple reversal of Roe, will likely not provide the legal footing to address the egregious moves by the Big Abortion allies in New York and other blue states.
They’re stealing. In elevating abortion so radically they are actually stealing rights not just from the unborn who are obviously “viable” (have the ability to survive outside the womb), but also from women by gutting protections for women from domestic violence. They are stealing the protections provided by previous, and some long-standing, laws that carried these protections.
There is much to be disappointed about. But that misses the larger story in our nation.
When politics, and politicians, fail us (as they inevitably seem to do), the practical remains our primary impact area. The practical manifests in the faithful actions of the pregnancy help movement. From pregnancy centers to maternity homes, from pregnancy tests to parenting classes, we have many practical methods to reach at-risk women and men. New York politicians didn’t inspire the mission field created by abortion—but they did expand it.
In the wake of New York, what do we do?
Get busy. Or more precisely, busier. We need to examine our own service capacity to ensure that we’re optimizing our ministry outreach and impact. Do we have unfilled counseling rooms during current business hours? Do we have under-utilized ultrasound services? Quick gains can be made by getting busy filling unused capacity with more life-saving impact. That likely means looking more closely at our marketing effectiveness in reaching those at-risk for abortions in our community.
Get better. Just like the call to grow in Christ, the call to be better is one of intentional examination and evaluation. We need to be better in reaching those at-risk, stronger in serving those we can, and deepening our commitment to intervention impact. We won’t achieve new results by only doing what we’ve always done. Remember, the manual typewriter and the buggy whip were, at one time, deemed “best practices.” Actively re-think processes and programs for greater effectiveness.
Get bolder. Despite the false accusations that we “only care about the unborn baby,” the pregnancy help movement is positively impacting millions of people each year. We need to be bold about engaging the “mushy middle” that has been reminded that Roe’s full effect is not something to be “moderate” about. Every Christ-follower should be involved in overcoming Roe. Whether directly ministering to clients in the “valley of decision,” supporting those who do, or voting our values, there is something every believer can do. And let’s be bold to invite greater involvement for current supporters. We can, and must, do more. Let’s boldly proclaim the great work of pregnancy help!
In all of this we should not let our “hearts be troubled.” But, instead, we should take heart that where sin does abound, grace that much more abounds. It is that abundant grace that this ministry is built upon, and will thrive upon.
And when they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also;” Acts 17:6
Paul, Silas, Jason and others caused quite a stir in Thessalonica, where Paul spent three weeks with the Jewish community, convincing many of the good news of Jesus’ identity and mission.
Yet, whenever there is good news some will find a problem. So it was in Thessalonica, where the Jewish leaders became jealous as more and more were persuaded Paul was right by saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” (Acts 17:3)
Because of their jealousy, the religious leaders of the day formed a mob (Acts 17:5), then dragged Jason and some of Paul’s friends in front of the city authorities, falsely accusing that “. . . they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” (Acts 17:7)
Paul probably made it clear that Jesus was not on earthly king, so why the false accusation? What was the real problem?
The real problem was about power. The religious leaders enjoyed being served by those they ruled over. They had full authority to make proclamations regarding not only religion, but about how the world around them (in this case, the Jewish community) would function.
No one was allowed to question their leadership or their authority. In short, they had a great life—and all of the power they could ask for. Until Paul showed up.
Paul, Silas, Jason and others were offering something new. This good news challenged the one thing the leadership held dear: Their power base. For if Jesus is king, the religious leaders were subject to him and suddenly, everyone was on equal footing.
To the religious leaders, this “turned the world upside down,” – their world.
It’s no wonder they were angry and jealous, creating mobs and making false accusations. They would do anything to protect their personal kingdoms.
For us and those we serve however, the good news is truly Good News. When we see Jesus as King, there is joy in knowing our King is one of reconciliation, hope and promise. Our King’s decrees aren’t those of a dictator (“Do this or else!”) but one of love (“Love your neighbor as yourself”).
And just like Paul and his friends, when we embrace this good news and share it with others, some—like in Paul’s day—won’t be happy. But if we’re faithful, we might see the results Paul did, where many choose instead to join with us in proclaiming the greatest news ever told.
by Terri Fox, Grant Writer
On a recent trip to Israel to participate in the L’Chaim 2018 International Pro-Life Conference, I had the opportunity to tour some historical biblical sites. We floated on the Dead Sea; sailed on the Sea of Galilee singing songs of praise; and saw the Dan stream that is fed by rain and snow from Mt. Hermon which feeds the Jordan River.
One of our stops was to the presumed site of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.
Approaching the baptismal site, there are signs in different languages instructing one to respect the site and obey the listed rules. Two of the rules were unexpected and caught my attention:
Down the center of the river is a rope-like barrier that identifies the border between the two countries.
Two armed Israeli soldiers stood guard on the Israel side of the river and two armed Jordanian soldiers stood guard on the Jordanian side of the river. I thought about the great divide between them, even though the distance before them wasn’t that great.
Several of our group stepped into the waters of the Jordan for a full immersion baptism; some sprinkled water over their heads and on their arms, while others just stood in the water.
I walked the grounds, being mindful to stay behind the fencing, pondering the significance of this site. It was okay if I wasn’t standing in the exact spot where Jesus was baptized, but I was in the neighborhood.
Then I thought about the neighborhood: two countries, four armed soldiers, a rope, a fence, landmines dividing. In a place that brings Scripture to life I was fascinated by the contrast of reverence and rivalry.
As I sat down on a step to further reflect, I thought about Jesus’ birth in this land, how he walked this land, how he lived in community in this land, how he suffered and died in this land, and how he rose to new life defeating death.
I thought about how Jesus did this for the soldiers on both sides of the Jordan River.
And then I thought about what we face in our work in pregnancy help: two sides, lies used as weapons, a dividing line of choosing life over death.
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, let’s try to think about our neighbors. Let’s try to remember what brings us together. And let’s remember that Jesus was born to bring reconciliation to even those who oppose us.
Let’s not be afraid but share the “good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10
Who knows, maybe someone will lay down their weapon, cross the barrier that divides and walk into great joy.
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