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How to be a Hero in a World Made for War

 

 

Today, the headlines I read are soaked in sorrow.

 

  • A plane shot out of the sky, stopping the heartbeats of 298 souls.
  • A four-year-old boy tossed from a  car to his death.
  • New death toll from the latest action in Gaza: +500.
  • A famous couple in the middle of a divorce, locked in a fierce, ugly battle over their $2 billion estate.

 

Someone, somewhere is always fighting.  And they’re fighting for things that they truly believe in.  They’re defending their truth which can seem almost noble – indeed, it can even be noble.  But the longer I live, the more reluctant I am to accept that we were meant to live like this. This scratching and clawing and making them pay and getting even is not the us we were born to be.  We can win fights by flexing our muscles and firing our missiles, but we will never win satisfaction that way.  And I wonder: If we were willing to stop pummeling each other, how much time, energy, intelligence and money could be rerouted to the fight against cancer and ALS and child poverty and clean water and homelessness and purposelessness.  What if we could divert this frantic need-to-win and funnel it instead toward a fervent need-to-build? Maybe then the  restless creative energy we use for retribution could be focused on developing actual solutions to the atrocities that have plagued humanity for far too long.

 

 

I love this quote by Thomas Merton.  It’s filling some broken places in my war-weary soul:

 

 

 

Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war.  It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience. -Thomas Merton

 

 

Fidelity to the truth. I want to live lashed to the altar of that sentence; stuck-like-glue to the truth that those who view peace as something worth fighting for are the happiest heroes of all.

 

 

With hope,

 

Bo

July 21, 2014 - 1:52 pm

Gordon Shaw - Bo,
You really are on target today!
With an extensive military and reserve background, I have come to realize that to follow Christ’s lead we are called to radically step outside the flow of history, from war to war, and live out Christ’s example.
Some say Christ’s example is not manly. Christ chose to go to the cross. It takes a real man to just finish that day of the cross.
Real men protect and nurture, with no apologies.

The Sterns know the path of the cross. May God renew your strength, hope, faith and love.
Gordon Shaw

Be Careful What You Pray For

 

 

Years ago, the book Prayer of Jabez took the world by storm. It was built on an obscure scripture from I Chronicles - a beautiful prayer spoken to the heavens by a man with a strange name and a difficult life. The book got people praying again and one line from that small bit of biblical text quickly took center stage in the Christian lexicon:  enlarge my territory.

 

I was thinking about that line this morning, as I’ve run to my Bible and my coffee for refuge after a string of long, hard ALS nights. (One thing I’ll say for living at extreme levels of exhaustion: it pretty much eliminates pretense. There’s no posing in my prayer life anymore.I don’t have the time or energy for it.)  I mostly mumbled gibberish through my murky mental fog until one line rose to the surface and became something of an inhale/exhale:

 

“Strengthen my resolve, increase my reserves, fill my storehouse.”

 

I breathed that prayer in and out, in and out, in and out, and it reminded me of a therapy Steve does called breath-stacking. Because the muscles in his chest are beginning to atrophy, he uses a weird device to force air into his lungs, causing them to expand and fill. So in spite of his muscles’ inability to do that work on their own, his lungs are still being enlarged and maintaining more of their functional capacity.

 

Here’s how I think all this comes together:  External pressure exhausts internal capacity. I could ask God to lessen the external pressure, or I can ask Him to step in and sovereignly fill my lungs with life. Maybe this is what “expand my territory” is all (or partially) about. Maybe it’s not so much that God is here to give me new and exciting adventures or increased authority or notoriety or whatever it is we think of when we think “expansion”. Instead, I think it might mean that He is here to grow my internal ability to draw the strength I need from Him, to endure hardship with hope, to run a long race without losing joy, to care for Steve well, to do tasks I’ve never imagined I could do before (medical stuff freaks me out a little – but I’m learning.) Maybe the territory that He is longing to enlarge for me is actually the ground inside of me – where the threat of atrophy is always lurking. Because it seems that any long term external expansion will hinge on our internal capacity to maintain it.

 

So today, this is my prayer over myself and the ALS wives that are so dear to me and over everyone who feels at the end of their rope and last of their resources:

 

Strengthen our resolve (to do Your will when it’s hard), increase our reserves (to endure this “expansion” with joy), and fill our storehouses (with all the resources we need to become the bigger, stronger people You have designed us to be.) Amen.

 

With hope for strength, increase and abundance,

 

Bo

 

 

P.S.  Please know this post in no way reflects criticism of the book Prayer of Jabez.  Great book, fantastic author, beautiful message.

 

 

July 16, 2014 - 7:53 am

Claudia Lee - Beautiful post Bo. Thank you.

July 16, 2014 - 8:57 am

brit - needed this. well said. praying the same.

July 16, 2014 - 9:09 am

kathy - Just breath taking. Much love to you sister, God’s abundance of blessings and favor on you. You shine like a morning star. Your spirit is radiant and flows over those you touch.

July 16, 2014 - 9:17 am

DyAnn - Beautifully written. Internal spiritual atrophy is so real in our busy adulterated lives! The analogy, perfect! Thank you.

July 16, 2014 - 2:12 pm

Sherri Niemeyer - May His grace continue to find you and His love and mercy shower down upon you.

July 16, 2014 - 7:43 pm

Cheri Smith - So true. We would never be able to handle the external expansion without the internal being where it needs to be-filled with God and His Word. Great word today. Continued prayers for you and your family.

July 17, 2014 - 6:44 am

Donna Root - God is so good to His people. Thank you, Bo, for your beautiful expressions of TRUE LOVE! I agree with your prayer, and thank Him for my beautiful new grand-kids that are having a tough time in a new home. I am in constant pain, but, nothing can stop me from PRAYING!

For Those Who Work The Night Shift

 

Yesterday, Steve and I had a romantic date to St. Charles emergency room. Believe it or not, it’s the first time he’s ever been in one.  Like most of our ALS misadventures so far, this one ended better than it started and we’re glad for that.  Our kids are amazing.  That fact stands alone.  But yesterday they each dropped what they were doing to care for us in a million little ways,  and when it was all done, we hunkered down at home around Chinese food and…donuts.  I know.  I can’t live this way, you guys.  I have to find a healthier comfort food.

 

We had another long night last night and as I was laying in bed, I remembered a verse a friend had sent me yesterday. I read it first thing in the morning and immediately melted into a sleep-deprived puddle of tears and worship.  I’ve never seen this verse from this angle before.  Last night I quoted it to myself a lot of times and the deeper meaning started to take root in my heart.

 

Here’s the verse:

 

“Behold, bless the Lord, all servants of the Lord, who serve by night in the house of the Lord!
Lift up your hands to the sanctuary, and bless the Lord,
May the Lord bless you from Zion, He who made heaven and earth.” Ps. 134

 

 

And here’s my paraphrase, written for all new moms and ALS wives and exhausted caregivers and parents of teenagers and everyone who has ever worked the night shift

 

Look at them!  Do you see the ones who serve the Lord when everything is dark?  

They rock babies to the sound of the stars.  

They tend to broken hearts and bodies by the light of the moon.  

They answer their phones at 2 a.m., knowing the fact that its ringing means their sleeping is probably done.

They pray on their beds for the children they used to hold through the night and can no longer reach.  

Giving up comfort, their sacrifice becomes a sanctuary - the place where God shows up.

Now, weary one, turn your affection toward the Lord. Lift your too-full hands to Him and He will bless you back. He will pick you up and hold you as you hold the pieces of your world together.  The God who made heaven and earth sees your offering and He will surely bless you.    

Psalm 134

 

 

With hope,

 

Bo

 

 

 

 

 

July 9, 2014 - 9:00 am

Whitney - Gah. This is amazing. ❤️

July 9, 2014 - 9:29 am

Sherri Gragg - Beautiful. Straight to the heart beautiful.

July 9, 2014 - 9:32 am

Lindsay - Beautiful. Standing and praying with you today. Love you Bo.

July 9, 2014 - 9:38 am

Annie - This is so encouraging and lovely and perfect!

July 9, 2014 - 9:44 am

kathy - Night where the light shines most. Touching the hearts of those whose eyes won’t close. Watching the one that we love so close. As we do them He also does.
Hugs and blessings to you.

July 9, 2014 - 11:09 am

Claudia Lee - Bo – At a Sabbath Rest Retreat on the beautiful Oregon coast led by some ‘Friends’, God showed me that His saints were praying for me even in my hardest nights. Every evening together we closed our day with this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. The first time I prayed it I dissolved into tears. This prayer is now written into the front-leaf of my Bible:

“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for Thy love’s sake.”

July 9, 2014 - 11:38 am

Jilese - If ever there was a message I needed to read…This was it…The mountain I’m climbing looks like an ant hill compared to the one you and your incredible family are facing. Even so, my mountain is still my mountain and the past couple of days I have been so frustrated and so discouraged. This message is so powerful and it brought me to tears! Thank you so much for sharing this!!! My continuing prayers for you and your family! Big hugs!

July 9, 2014 - 12:25 pm

Teresa B. - BEAUTIFUL paraphrase. Blessed is the Lord!

And don’t worry about your comfort food. You’re allowed to cheat when you’re working hard (both mentally, emotionally and physically with your trail running.) After all, it’s good for your metabolism!

Keeping you all in my prayers :) We love you

July 9, 2014 - 12:29 pm

Sheryl - Ahhh…hits that deep place in my heart that hurts always.

July 9, 2014 - 1:30 pm

Laurie Luoma - Thank you Bo. I needed that today. ALS is hard stuff as i am so learning with caring for my mom and watching it take bite by bite out of her. Blessings to you Bo for ministering to all of us in the midst of your own storm.
You are in our prayers as well.
hugs

July 9, 2014 - 1:40 pm

Kathryn - Hugs and prayers and more hugs.

July 10, 2014 - 12:18 am

jacquelyn Strayer - Such encouragement after midnight…. I so needed this.

To the Guy in the Yellow Jeep

 

Hey there, Guy in the Yellow Jeep in Front of Me at Starbucks,

 

You don’t know me.  You don’t know the night I just lived through.  You weren’t there through the dark parts, the scary parts, the frustration and the one hour of sleep.

 

You don’t know this season I’m in, where everything seems so fragile and I don’t feel like the smart girl, just the desperate girl who’s trying to negotiate some steep slopes in the Shadowlands. 

 

You couldn’t possibly know that the longest night of my life ended in a morning of…no coffee.  I’m never out of coffee.  Except today. The one day I felt it really might be my only hope.

 

You had no way of knowing these things.  And yet you chose this day to buy a stranger’s coffee in the car behind you.  Maybe it’s the first time you ever paid it forward (backward?)  Maybe you do random acts of kindness every day and you wonder if they ever really matter.  I just want you to know that today, it mattered.  On this very murky morning, it was like Jesus Himself bought my coffee .  

 

So, thank you.  You made a difference in someone’s life today and it’s not even noon.  I hope I remember to do the same. 

 

Bo

 

 

 

 

July 8, 2014 - 9:47 am

Melissa - So wonderful…the coffee and the kindness.

If you’re looking for more random acts of kindness inspiration check out http://www.theredtricyclebrigade.com

They’re a kindness movement and also wonderful!

I think of you guys often and send prayers your way!!

July 8, 2014 - 9:52 am

Michaela Evanow - Yep, this made me cry. Although I haven’t experienced it exactly like this, I have had Starbucks gift cards given to me while in hospital with Florence. It is amazing how coffee, generosity and Jesus are all intertwined.

July 8, 2014 - 10:42 am

Claudia Lee - I want to be the guy in the yellow jeep. Thanks so much for sharing and Thank You Jesus and Yellow Jeep guy for blessing Bo! Coffee is great, but even more the encouragement and sheer knowing that Bo is seen by the compassionate eye of our Lord!

July 8, 2014 - 11:01 am

Vangi - This makes me cry in a good way. I wanna hug that guy. And I wanna hug you. And I’m thinking…maybe angels drive yellow jeeps.

July 8, 2014 - 12:05 pm

kathy - Prayers, just one away each day of being answered. To bless you and find favor for you. He is so wonderful. The day we can hug him for all he has done will be a wonderful day to have coffee and a hug from Jesus.

July 8, 2014 - 12:08 pm

Robert Mishler - Aunt Nellie and I are thinking about you this morning, asking the God of peace to hover you in a new way. We don’t always understand His ways but we know that His ways are perfect. We love you all so much and wish Gods best for you.

Uncle Robert

July 8, 2014 - 1:05 pm

Tara - What sweet testimony to God’s hugs, even in our storms. Thanks for keeping it real. I’m challenged to keep paying it forward. You never know who God needs to hug today.

July 8, 2014 - 3:04 pm

jane r williams - I agree with Vangi through my tears: I think maybe angels DO drive yellow jeeps, and that THE angel of the Lord Himself has your back. I, for one, and I know I speak for hundreds, am so humbled and down-to-the-gut thankful that you and Steve and your family have chosen to live your lives intentionally and publicly for the building up of all of us… and truly for the saving of many lives. Praying it forward, backward and all ways for you, sweet friend.

July 8, 2014 - 4:04 pm

Gina - ❤️

July 8, 2014 - 4:35 pm

Linda Johnson - Dear Bo and Steve, yes I also am writing thru tears. I for one, hate suffering; and yet know that God does His best work at those times and in those places. He is so Good, that he uses the driver of a little yellow jeep to send His love in a tangible way. Thank you for not sugar coating the suffering, but for seeing Him and revealing Him in the midst of suffering. You are greatly loved

July 8, 2014 - 5:02 pm

Terry - Ditto….to all the above comments. Tears. Warmed heart. Continued prayers for the Sterns, and for my awareness to be the “giver” when and where needed. Thank you, Bo.

July 9, 2014 - 11:52 am

Melissa - I can’t even begin to put into words what this post did in my life yesterday. My family has been going through a rough 3.5 month ordeal with no end in sight. Not even close to what you have been going through but a struggle that needs an answer none the less and is creating huge burdens on our family. The first 1.5 months of the struggle God met us in so many ways and spoke so much comfort and wisdom and encouragement into our lives. When it came time for a crucial decision God gave us very clear and miraculous direction and told us to wait on him. It couldn’t have been clearer and the way the message was delivered could only have been from God. And then…nothing. Two months later we are still waiting and God seems to have disappeared. I can’t even begin to describe the struggle as I’ve not only grappled with our situation but also with a silent God. For the first time in my entire life I have no direction, no guidance, no sense of God’s presence in my life, only his last directive which was to wait. More than anything I just needed some reminder that we weren’t alone. That He still existed and He still cared about us but more silence…until yesterday. I read your post about your overnight struggle and when I got home I brought up your blog to listen to the song you posted with my husband (he is the worship leader at our church so I thought he would appreciate it). Before playing him the song I saw this post about God showing up and meeting you through a stranger who had no way of knowing what it was that he was doing, how he was ministering. And you know what? That was what I needed also. I could hardly listen to the song with my husband through my tears. No, God has not spoken to us yet about our situation but seeing Him show up in yours gave me the hope that I have been without for what feels like an eternity. Without knowing it you also paid it forward. That guy in the yellow jeep gave you coffee and God showed up for you but your sharing the story gave me hope,a renewed strength and a sense that God was showing up for me also. For that I am so grateful to the guy in the yellow jeep and to you.

July 10, 2014 - 10:33 pm

Roxanne Cheney - You have paid it backwards, and it was us, years ago when we were very broken ;) Bless you dear lady!

Difficult Realities

 

I’ve wandered to my keyboard today, wanting to write out some sort of something.  Emotions, memories-in-the-making, fears, failures, frustrations, wins, wounds.  Maybe I feel a little behind in my processing or maybe there is no such thing. Maybe we’re on a  new stretch of road in the journey and my head is spinning with all the ways I feel inadequate to shepherd my little flock through this unmarked place. I don’t know, exactly, all the things happening in my head, but I do know I am loaded up with thoughts and just a little nervous about what might flow out of my fingertips.

 

And yet, I’ve committed to authenticity – as much as I can muster and as much as I feel the world outside our window can handle. So, here I am, landing hard on the grace of Jesus today and using my words to share some random thoughts that really may be only for me.  Feel free to jump off the train right here if you’d like.

 

  •  Steve has been dealing with a strange ALS phenomenon that I won’t describe here because it’s complicated and involves the word “mucous” which is never going to draw readers to a blog.  Suffice to say, he feels like he’s drowning a lot of the time, especially at night.  We use meds to try to combat it right now, but meds-through-a-feeding-tube-at-night involves so much more time and energy than one would imagine.  We’ll be getting a cough assist machine this week and I hope that’s a better solution. All that to say: we’re pretty tired.  This is a weary, sometimes scary, season.

 

  • I’ve been trail running for several months now and I love it.  I’ve realized recently that one of the reasons I love it is because it’s a microcosm of life. A trail has pretty and ugly and sunny and shady and downhill and uphill.  It has parts that are exhilarating and parts that are exhausting and parts where you think you can’t go on, but you have to because you’re not going to spend the night on a trail, three miles from home. That feels like life right now.

 

  • Our grandson, Greyson, has what I believe might be a supernaturally-fueled love for his grandpa (Papa).  It. Is. Beautiful.  And sort of heartbreaking.  It’s like a lot of things right now (and a lot of things today, because I’m tired and tears just roll so easily.)

 

  • Sometimes, when I talk about the beauty we’re finding in our battle, I feel like people suspect I’m in some sort of denial. Please understand: finding the upside in this thing is not some clever marketing ploy for my book or a “good Christian girl” response.  It is, simply, my only survival.  It is my anchor in a tsunami.  Remember Tom Hanks’ attachment to Wilson, the volleyball, in the movie “Castaway”?  That volleyball was his only hope, his only friend, his only reason to keep moving.  It’s not a great analogy, but that’s how I feel about our hold on the reality of eternal life right now.  Those who feel it’s a shabby consolation prize are certainly welcome to their opinion, but we won’t have much to talk about.  Because, again: it is our only lasting hope.  It’s all we have and it is enough. Some day I might have the energy to defend that position to the naysayers, but for today, I’m just holding to my anchor.

 

  • Even as I sit here writing these swirling thoughts, friends showed up my door with a care package which includes orange flowers.  Orange flowers are my love language.  Jesus knows.  And cares.  And sends people to remind me

 

In conclusion, this song, these words on repeat in my life:

 

 

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see

 

And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

 

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

 

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

 

 

If you’re facing a mountain (and most of us are, right?) you can find the whole glorious song right here.

 

 

 

I love you,

 

Bo

July 6, 2014 - 5:56 pm

Sue Hinrichs - Thank you Bo, for sharing a glimpse into your tired and weary soul;and whether you know it or not, you are being carried above the waves by the life-ring of love and prayers supplied by those whose lives you have touched in your candidness of sharing. Steve and you are in my prayers through this time of difficult reality. Much love to you both from a friend you have met, but have not known.

July 7, 2014 - 5:42 am

brit - your holding on to hope is as real as jesus, let naysayers nay. they’ll remember your willingness to admit defeat but still accept hope when they walk through their own valley, and they will be grateful. i love the song.

July 7, 2014 - 8:08 am

Claudia Lee - I get it Bo. Thanks for being real. Praying for you and yours.

July 7, 2014 - 8:17 am

DeDe - Even in your weakest moment, you ARE strong. He ‘IS’ your strong tower. Keep ‘tower’ dwelling! Loving you.

July 7, 2014 - 8:28 am

She Marken - Precious Bo. I am behind you praying. Thank you for touching my soul this morning and once again reflecting our dear Lords love, grace and mercy.

July 7, 2014 - 8:34 am

Rene - Oh, Bo. It is so clear that you are not in denial. Your periphery has fallen away, and your focus is crystal clear. There is beauty in that, even in the hardest parts. Bless you. I am so deeply moved by your heart.

July 7, 2014 - 9:20 am

Betty Yoder - Thanks for sharing your heart Bo. Sometimes I wish I had the perfect word to encourage you & Steve and as I’m writing this I guess I do and that is we love you all and are praying for you.”Perfect Love” cast out all fear and “He is that perfect love. We see Him in your lives big time.

July 7, 2014 - 9:30 am

Dede Miller - My heart well remembers the ALS road with my Dad. Holding on to Isaiah 43:1-2 for you all.

July 7, 2014 - 10:34 am

Tori's mom - Dear Bo – it is a beautiful battlefield and our God is enough! The song says it all so well and I love it. Keep holding on to your anchor. Holding you and Steve up in prayer from across the world in Israel. I love you.

July 7, 2014 - 10:46 am

Gina O. - Geesh, a lot of hard stuff. Chris & I think about you & Steve everyday. We hold our breaths often & count our blessings & thank God for everyday Steve is alive but pray he doesn’t suffer. Don’t know if I should say that. We just love you & are glad we know you & pray for you everyday & a day doesn’t pass when we don’t wonder how you all really are. We just love you & are just so sorry.

July 7, 2014 - 12:00 pm

Jeannie hignell - Bo, I continue to pray for Team Stern. I know your are not in denial … It is through Him that we find our strength to face that which is impossible to face without Him. And my sis-in-law, who is battling her 2nd bout with breast cancer which has metastasized to her bones is also holding on to the song, “It Is Well”. We live you all!!

July 7, 2014 - 12:05 pm

Jane Lellman - Whoa! For a minute there I was back on the roller coaster! I don’t envy you being there at the same time I envy you being there…..confusing I suppose. But one thing I am not confused about is how God spoke to me through our ALS experience, through mucous, through fear and through you Bo, and so many others. I do not have the ability to express myself very well but please know I am praying for you, praying for Steve, praying for your family, praying for a cure….

July 7, 2014 - 12:20 pm

Nancy Ring - Hoping our meager prayers will carry you and Steve “through it all”. We love, respect and put our trust in the One who gives Hope, Grace & Mercy to all. Love you guys.

July 7, 2014 - 12:30 pm

Julie - Jeremiah 17:7 Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord; whose confidence is in him. May you FEEL and SEE God’s blessing Bo and Steve. Praying!
Julie Creek

July 7, 2014 - 12:51 pm

jacquelyn Strayer - Rene’s comment is exactly what I would have said.

July 7, 2014 - 1:07 pm

Michaela Evanow - That is my song, my manna from heaven, my Wilson, my anchor. I can’t tell you how many times it’s made me whole. The beauty you choose to hold onto to, it is holy and real and never denial. It is, as you say, all we have sometimes.
Oh, Steve, I am so sorry to hear of your suffering. I don’t know much about the cough assist, but I do know kids with SMA use it in the States (for some reason we don’t get offered it here).
There are medications you can use too. We’re tried one. Anyway, if you’re curious how it went for us and what it is, let me know, Bo.
xoxo

July 7, 2014 - 8:08 pm

Phil - Love and grace to you and Steve.

July 7, 2014 - 10:25 pm

Randa Wolf - I read your blogs regularly because you are real. You are authentic and you don’t sugar coat. You try and find the upside Which isn’t easy. Your trail seems hard and grueling at the moment. I used to run marathons so I know how much life and running parallel. I’m just so glad you have an anchor. I wish I could say everything is going to be ok and it will all turn out the way you want it to. But the truth is, it doesn’t always. One thing I know from my own hard trail is God gives beauty for ashes, strength for fears, gladness for mourning and peace for despair. Thanks for being real and sharing the hard times with the promises.