The close of another year. I learned a lot about life, love, health care, and experienced a multitude of new depths – both lovely and difficult. This has been a year of transition to dependency in almost everything. Humbling for sure, but also thankful for those who serve with care and compassion, my heroes. My best friend and love of my life has been forced into this role and I am amazed at the beauty of Gods grace on her. Bo is amazing. Watching her adjust to new challenges and take them on knowing its out of her comfort zone shows the depths of her character and love. I sure married over my head and blessed.

2014 was pretty stormy but full of grace. What will 15 bring? Not sure I’m brave enough to answer that question quite yet, but this I know. Each day I will live on purpose and depend on Jesus to give me the strength to carry on. Andre Crouch said, “through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus.” Bo and I have both grown by leaps and bounds in our trust of Him. Everyday and at times every minute we rely on Him to bring us through. How faithful he is to meet us in every moment.

I’m at peace this first day of 2015, crystal clear day reminds me of the clarity you have in life when Jesus is at the wheel and life has purpose. Contentment is great gain in our crazy world, found in a life leaning on Jesus.

Bless you friends – make 2015 a year of peace.

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Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been adjusting to some new challenges of life. We probably all have challenges of varying scales and circumstances. When I get frustrated I have to reset my thinking. Our minds can travel down roads that seem to have a destination but are really a maze of confusion. Confusion leads to uncertainty and fear is right around the corner. Fear disables faith, faith is a catalyst to right thinking. Therefore, let us set our minds on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen. By faith I’m able to handle what’s down the road. By faith things that seem impossible become possible. Faith keeps me believing in miracles.

In the past few weeks we’ve witnessed ALS taking center stage in the world with the Ice Bucket Challenge. This awakening to ALS is a movement of compassion, comfort and giving which I believe will go far in patient care and a cure. For my family this has been a breath of fresh air in our fight against ALS. A glimmer of hope that we are able to move faster with technology and testing. Thanks to everyone who participated, now let’s follow with a prayer of faith for those who can figure this thing out. See how quickly things can change? One persons idea is acted on and it spreads like wildfire.

I wholeheartedly support the ALS Association. Without their connection to my family and I, we would have felt super overwhelmed. Dealing with the day to day of the disease is hard enough, having their support available is a God send. This week is the Central Oregon Walk to Defeat ALS. It is our privilege to support this to the fullest of our capability. I’m numbered with them and all PALS in the fight of our lives.

Last Saturday my family hosted a dance to defeat ALS, hundreds turned out with support and had a blast! To watch my wife and kids smiling and enjoying a wonderful time with friends dancing the night away, was truly a blessing. As I rode home from the event I couldn’t help but think of our families position of this season in our lives. We are Alive Loved & Satisfied – by faith. Making the impossible possible.

Believing,

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Take a look around the world, chaos. We should not be surprised by the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East, we should be driven to our knees and begin to call upon The Lord to intervene. Power shifts, and currently there is a resurgence of radicals driving the persecution. Killing in the name of Religion or any other cause, simply needs to stop. Reading today, these verses jumped out at me and I began to proclaim them over the earth.

Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.

Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name Jah, and rejoice before him. A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. (‭Psalms‬ ‭68‬:‭1, 4-5‬ KJV)

I love the picture of God riding across the heavens surveying the earth and what is happening. As we pray we should ask for righteous men and women to step into leadership around the world and be the hands and feet of The Lord. As our country has stepped aside from being a recognized force of order, chaos is rising. A vacuum of leadership is producing the spreading of instability throughout our world.

I would like to encourage you to pray and also stay informed. Let’s not burry our heads in the sand but raise the bar in informed prayer and compassion. It’s time for us to rise to the challenge and see God scatter his enemies. Prayer is effective, it’s powerful and will bring down strongholds.

Prayer changes everything,

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For most of my life I didn’t really want to see morning come. I would relish sleep and squeeze every last drop of night before getting up and off to work. Seems like morning comes in waves now. I usually see 1:30, 4 and 7 before a last 2 hr sleep.

Whitney, our oldest daughter recently reminded us of our family purpose. Bo and I had worked on this when the kids were young with the idea of having a purpose we all center around as a family. We chose, Exemplify Worship. In every circumstance and in all areas of life, worship God. Little did we know of the battles that were coming and how this purpose would keep the right perspective in place. Worship is a big part of our devotion to The Lord. I find myself drawn to worship, my spirit comes to life, my heart is stirred to join and my mind engages with praise to The Lord.

It’s very quiet at 1:30. After Bo helps me get settled and my head hits the pillow, I find my worship begins. Thankfulness for his presence, for going before me, for giving me peace, for healing, for hope, for Bo, for my kids, for my friends. Worship has filled my mornings like an auto response, it just happens. Worship enables me to enter into his rest. It calms my fears and restores my soul. Psalm 30 has touched my heart. David often seems to bear the same desire to worship and bring everything to The Lord. I hear the same things coming from his mouth that I’m speaking to The Lord. Worship comes in several forms. At times I’m focused on adoration, other mornings I’m focused on his power and placing above everything, Jehovah and King. I love David’s focus here in Psalm 30

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (‭Psalm‬ ‭30‬:‭1-5‬ ESV)

Night may hold some weeping, but joy comes in the morning and in my case, the mornings. Whatever you struggle with or worry about, turn it upside down with worship. Put God on top and circumstances below, this will bring your situation in a right perspective. Enter into his rest and receive his peace through worship.

Blessings,

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It’s been a long and trying week of wired ALS symptoms, a visit to ER, some sleepless nights and I’m running on empty. I remember heading to a trade show in Las Vegas with a booth in tow. Long drive from Bend and even longer when you run out of gas in the desert in August. Fortunately I was only three mile from a gas station and it wasn’t too long before an attendant showed up with some energy for the truck. Well, my body sure could use some energy right about now.

I’ve been filling my spirit in the quiet hours of the night I’ve had a few remarkable times speaking with The Lord and leaning heavily on scripture. The scriptures tell us that Jesus is the Prince of peace, I’ve needed peace this week. He calms the storm on the Sea of Galilee and says, “Peace, be still”. He has been calming my spirit. My muscles being week will begin to shake, he calms my muscles. The Psalms tell us he gives his beloved rest. I’ve worshipped through the night till dawn this week and those times have been sweet. While my body is weak my spirit is strong and it is well with my soul. So I will continue to cry out on the night and rest in him. Psalm 20 was especially good to me this morning and I hope it blesses you as well.

The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion; Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah. Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel. We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions. Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright. Save, Lord : let the king hear us when we call. (‭Psalms‬ ‭20‬:‭1-9‬ KJV)

He does hear us,

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This is a question I’m sure we have all thought and most of us have asked at some point in our life. Even if you don’t necessarily believe in God you may have looked around and asked, can someone tell me what’s going on? All of us will face a time, a situation or a diagnosis and wonder where justice is being served. I believe we have a right to ask and I believe God loves it when we do.

I was recently watching the World Cup. A player was attempting to gain an advantage in front of his opponents goal by biting his defender on the shoulder. This was unnoticed by the official even after the defender showed the bite wound. My response was, where is the justice? This is wrong, he should be disqualified! What is going on? I may have a disorder of sorts when it comes to justice. Something does not add up to me when someone gets away with a wrong or a bad thing hits a good person.

You may be wondering why God allows all the killing and wars to carry on year after year in certain parts of the world, or how He can allow North Korea to treat their own people with such little respect for humanitarian freedoms? How can a war lord get away with kidnapping children and using them as he chooses? I can get over a soccer injustice but these really bother me.

Then we have our own personal challenges that come in life. Here’s a little irony, I had rarely seen the inside of a doctors office until I was diagnosed with ALS. You can imagine the questions I asked God when I received word from the Doc. What? Why? Really? Is this a bad dream? Where is the justice? How does this fit into your plan for my life? Is this what we call life to the fullest – referencing John 10:10. Remember, I feel it’s ok to ask God and believe He welcomes the conversation and here is why.

He is our loving Father. I love my kids, do you know what really gets my attention from them? When they come to me and ask my advice. I believe we will be so surprised when we know how often God was just waiting for us to ask for him, run to him or simply just take time to wait on him. Much of what we don’t know of God is simply the difference between The Creator and creation. However much can be learned of God by asking, pursing and opening our hearts and minds to him.

Our Heavenly Father is universally supreme. I’ve been studying some Old Testament books and the supremacy of God is a reoccurring theme. Often we see authors asking the same questions we ask of God. Where is your justice? How long will you wait to save us? Why do the wicked flourish? Where is your justice? What is going on? In the books of Job, Psalms, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Habakkuk, Jonah, I see each one come to the understanding that God is supreme. Unlike the soccer official, our Father doesn’t miss a thing. My Dad used to say, “Steve, God keeps good books”. Dad had a lifetime of experience serving people in Africa, Romania, Germany and Hungary. He saw injustice, he brought faith to the down and out, he encouraged the beaten and forgotten. He knew God would have the last word in everyone’s situation.

We will certainly see the unexplainable and injustice in our lifetime, but know what we see and what seems wrong, will be made right by a righteous Father. I love the final words of Habakkuk, the way he sums up and determines how he will choose to handle what seems unjust.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV)

I can relate. Though my arms will no longer lift, though my legs will not carry me far, though my breath is faint, though my speech is unclear, yet will I rejoice in The Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, The Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

Oh how I love this! I still have questions and a justice thing going on, but I know where I need to be to live life to the fullest. Some aspects of his love we find through desperate times. I don’t think tough times are necessarily the catalyst to moving us toward God, but often they are. Certainly a desperate attraction to know him more will set our finding him in motion.

In motion and finding,

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This weekend we honor our fathers. I was privileged to have a wonderful Dad who loved his kids, worked hard, showed us how to serve and make a mark in our world for good. He gave his life to bring the good news of the gospel to every nation his feet walked. He was a father to many in the kingdom of God. I’d like to think a lot of him rubbed off on me and I’m grateful for all I learned from him. Proud to be Paul Stern’s son.

When I married Bo it didn’t take long to realize my Father in Law was cut from the same stone as my Dad. They were different in personality but had very similar ethics and passions in life, namely making a difference wherever their roads in life took them. Stan Mishler taught me how to be a blessing to people I work with and to do something you really love. Stan is also a father to many on the kingdom of God. Love you Stan. Lucky guy here, two Dads that showed me what real life is all about and how to make a difference in our world.

I am a blessed Dad. I have five kids and a grandson that tell me they love me all the time. The good fathering I received has had an impact on my life because it made me a good Dad. I’m not perfect by any means and short comings are a part of learning as well. I think the emphasis of serving others in love that I’ve seen in my Dad and Father in Law has made its way through Bo and I to our kids. The core values we were parented with have found their way through our family.

Since it’s Fathers Day weekend I am going to share with you an award my son received graduating from middle school this week. I’m so proud of Josiah for making an impact in his world.

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There have been some pleasant surprises over the past three years of retirement and the challenges of ALS. You’ve heard it said you can always find something good in every situation. Well, it’s true, sometimes you just have to look harder than other times, or even be willing to look for something good. That could be the hardest part of finding the good.

I’ve found time with my kids has been a good that has come from ALS. We don’t spend hours talking and hanging out, but we have had significant meaningful times that spontaneously have happened because I am home. As I’ve looked back over my adult life, I can’t believe how much time I spent away from home. Mostly for all good reasons and some selfish, but add them up and I had very little time for spontaneous moments with my kids. Add in their busy life, mostly learned from my busy life, there are very few points where our paths were crossing.

The other day my 14 year old and I had a great discussion about work ethic and practical application to every day life. Being able to have a discussion like that within the normal flow of life is a blessing. Most of the time we have a talk with our kids about a certain topic because it’s become apparent they need our input or because of a failure. Perhaps this happens primarily because our lives are so full we don’t have the time to talk within the normal flow of day to day life.

Take a little time to look at your schedule and your kids schedule. Find the time to have meaningful moments with them. They will look back on those moments and remember the time they received your input, your wisdom of life and your attention. Besides our love, this is one of the greatest things we can give our children.

Being less mobile has given me the opportunity to be more available. Funny how that works.

Find the good,

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Not sure there are natural events more beautiful than sunsets. The end of the day, the red ball in the sky dropping quickly below the horizon. What lies beyond that horizon is a good nights sleep and the dawning of a new day. I’ve lived a little over 19,000 sunsets in my life, seems like a lot. Is it too much to ask for another 10,000 or so?

This sunset is pretty amazing yet it seems like its position in the sky is about where my life is. I find myself in the sunset of life. Hard for a 52 yr old to admit and even though the final chapter is not written, it’s hard not to sense time is ticking and the red ball in the sky is falling quicker than I would like. While it’s a heavy time for me I know the heaviness weighs on my wife and kids as well. So good to see this beautiful sight as we have at our favorite beach for many years, yet things have changed. Change is a guarantee in life, as are sunsets. While there is a heavy side to this there are some new additions that balance the scales of emotions for me. While watching this event I hear a faint, “Hi Pappa”! My grandson Greyson, perhaps the voice of God to my ears this evening, reminding me of His amazing blessings in our life. Floods of memories, our young children in my arms, running on the beach, playing in the sand, flying a kite. It’s come full circle and there he is, blue eyed, blond curly hair, full of life and a smile that melts my heart. Not far behind Greyson is a little black and white one eared furry Mycroft. Tail in full motion, always happy to see ya, another addition to the family. My girls are all adults now and so beautiful, my boy growing faster than corn in Illinois and my handsome son in law and friend. My beautiful Bo, the love of my life, my you should have seen them all dancing tonight, so full of life. These are visions and memories that fill my cup and show the goodness of God to me.

Notice that big rock in the forefront of the dawning sun? It reminds me of the Rock my life is built upon. The everlasting life that comes from the Son is on the other side of that sunset. The dawning of a new day, new life, new heaven and new earth. The promise of what lies ahead is greater than where and what we’ve come through. No more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain, life to the fullest. I will be there someday but for now I’m enjoying the amazing gifts the Father has surrounded me with. Ah, the promise of a new day and the sunsets of life.

Blessed!

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The book of Jonah keeps popping up in my life. Truth is we all deal with Jonah tendencies more than we probably would like to admit. We seem to get distracted with the whale part of the story and debates on whether this was a literal event or allegorical. I think we would rather argue what we don’t understand rather than deal with heart issues of mankind regarding justice. Here is what keeps ringing in my ears and heart from Jonah.

“And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. (Jonah 4:2 ESV)”

The Assyrians were enemies of The Jews, often raiding Jewish settlements and taking slaves back to Nineveh. Jonah was from the area where this occurred, and he is reminding God that is why he fled away to Tarshish, to get as far away from Nineveh as he could. He did not want to even make the possibility of Gods mercy and grace available for Assyria. Sometimes I look at the horrible injustices in our world and wonder if God will do anything about them, will he remove the evil and bring justice? That is a Jonah reaction, not what God is asking us to be. Tough to hear but true. If Gods intent was to right the wrongs of men by force He would have done it along time ago, but God is showing us a sign of things to come in the book of Jonah.

This book is full of types and shadows, it’s an amazing view into the complexity of God and his main message, grace. Let me be clear, I believe our actions and the actions of nations are judged by God. I also believe he provides opportunities for the ministry of grace. What I’ve been recently aware of is how I am so like Jonah and this has caused me to check my heart. Am I an agent of judgement or His agent of grace? God was asking Jonah to be His agent of grace. It would be similar if God would ask you to personally take grace to someone who enslaved your relatives. This was a tough assignment and I can see why Jonah resisted.

I can become adversarial in my heart with agendas, ideas, campaigns, political movements and ways of living that are contrary to how I’ve chosen to live life. I have to remember Gods grace trumps my judgement of people. How can we judge someone to be deplorable in their lifestyle and be able to love them and represent God to them? The King of Righteousness took sin upon himself so we may be saved by grace. When I find myself unwilling to be a messenger of grace I am Jonah. When I begin to decide who is eligible for Gods grace I am Jonah. Question is, do we want to be Jonah or Jesus to our world?

Through all his resistance, Jonah delivers the message. The people of Nineveh turn from their ways and turn to God, it is an amazing turn of events. We never see the end result of Jonah’s life, we do see the heart of God to deliver grace. I would like to think and some scholars believe that Jonah lived the remainder of his life in Nineveh, giving the remainder of his life to Gods mission. My takeaway from Jonah is this, God is gracious, abounding in love and slow to anger. I should live likewise.

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