Pope Francis Calls James Foley Family

Pope Francis shocked the family of slain photojournalist James Foley by calling them at home.

The family released a statement saying they were shocked by the surprise call but “moved and grateful” that the Pope would take the time to minister to them personally over the killing of their son.

The family also said they had permission from the Vatican to release the news of the call.

John and Diane Foley made a statement regarding the death of their son where they said they were proud of their son for exposing the suffering of the Syrian people to the world.

“[James is] finally free,” John Foley said to reporters.  “And we know he’s in God’s hands.  And we know he’s in heaven.”

Pope Francis released a statement saying that the international community needs to “stop unjust aggression” in Iraq.

Caught in the Closet

Private moments made public – they happen a lot in large families, and it helps to keep a sense of humor when it does! One such moment happened recently when I was going about my daily business with routine household tasks, thinking the house was empty. I was meditating on the Lord and all that He has called Jim and me to do, and I guess I was talking to myself when I heard a voice from the other room:

“Mom, who are you talking to?

“Mom, is there somebody in there with you?” Continue reading

Greatness Comes From the Valley

When you think of the greatest inspirations in music, or in a sermon, or in a book, or in a testimony, you rarely think of those inspirations coming from the mountaintop of life, though the mountaintop provides some encouragement. But greatness comes from the valley of a life lived in triumph through the face of trouble and adversity. Greatness comes from the dark night of the soul experiences in the valleys of life. The only thing that can speak to the sorrows of others is the fellowship of their suffering.

BeBe Winans was with me this week on the occasion of celebrating my 50th year in ministry. BeBe is a friend who loves at all times, and a brother born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17) He is a man that is priceless in his loyalty and his integrity. Though he has spent a great deal of his life on the mountaintop, BeBe knows what it means to struggle in the valley. Through BeBe’s songs, you find his testimony.

On the show BeBe told of a time when he was with the renowned poet, Maya Angelou and she offered this advice: “BeBe, promise me that you will learn to enjoy the struggle.”

Simplistic? Yes, but be very sure that there is more wisdom in those few words than many long, flowing dissertations and even countless books written by those who have not been in the valley and know not its struggles and its triumphs. It’s in the valley that the Word of God becomes your rhema. It’s in the valley that you are given the understanding that in your weakness, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

During the show, BeBe sang a song by Donnie McClurkin, “Stand” which he and CeCe have performed many times. A key line in the chorus of this song says “after you’ve done all you can… Stand!” You can’t sing this song with the fervor and believability BeBe sings it with – without having been to the valley. If you didn’t catch this show on our ‘live-streaming’ internet, be sure you watch next week when it airs on regular television programming.

BeBe told me “You have been an example and a blessing to me and my entire family.” It doesn’t get any better than that, except to hear: “Well done, Good and Faithful Servant.”

We All Need Hope and Encouragement

Lori and I and our Master’s Media group recently attended a Master’s Commission conference in Dallas where we met so many wonderful people!  While we were there, over 100 kids wanted information for the Master’s Media training here at Morningside.

In Dallas, we met a Master’s Commission group from North Pole, Alaska that just knocked our socks off.  There was an immediate connection – hearts to hearts – and we invited them to come to Missouri to visit us on the set to get a feel for what we do here in our Master’s Media training.

So, our friends from North Pole came to see us this week, and there was instant magic in our midst!  While they may have come to receive information about our media training, they also brought us an invaluable gift.  They encouraged us greatly!

The gift of exhortation always brings hope – not false hope, but hope based on the promises of God.  The world is longing for such a message.  While we try every day to bring a message of hope and encouragement to our viewers, we also need to receive hope and encouragement now and then!

I’m convinced that as we draw closer to our Lord’s return, this world is going to experience many upheavals.  As we have said before, everything that can be shaken will be shaken, including many people’s faith.  If ever there was a time when we needed the ministry of encouragement, it is now.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25 NASB)

What day is the author of Hebrews talking about?  The day when Jesus returns!  Between now and that day, we need to be encouraging each other as never before.  Whether you have a ministry of encouragement or not, we can all stimulate each other to love each other more, to help each other by doing simple, good deeds, and by gathering together to worship and praise the Lord as we see the day of the Lord approaching.



Becoming a Hope Craftswoman (Pt. 3)

That afternoon at the Dream Center, I looked out at the women and saw brown faces, black faces, and white faces.  The color of their skin varied, but the pain in their eyes was the same.  Hard living had aged many of them beyond their years:  a girl grows up way too fast in the ghetto.  They were listening intently, and I knew they understood my sorrow when I admitted that my bad choices far from ended with my decision to marry Jesse.

As I shared even more of my life story with the women at the Dream Center, I could tell that many of them related to the deep personal pain that stemmed from my bad choices.  Some of them were sobbing openly; many had tears in their eyes.  The joy is that I was able to share not just the pain and brokenness but the fact that God had loved me back to wholeness.

“God can only heal what you are willing to reveal,” I told the audience.  When I gave an invitation to come forward for prayer, the response was overwhelming.  Most of these women had already committed their lives to Christ, but there were still so many deep hurts that needed healing.  One woman who wanted prayer shared with me that she had had five abortions.  She was praying and sobbing to the point of having dry heaves.  Some of the other ladies were afraid she was going to throw up and wanted to help her, but I asked them to leave her alone.  It doesn’t happen that often, but sometimes a woman’s grief can be so intense that she gets physically sick.  In that case, it’s actually best to let her get that out.

As I had sensed in my spirit, God did something powerful that day for these women.  I was honored that He would use me as his chosen vessel.

Over the years, God has presented the opportunity over and over again to share my story with hurting women.  While His healing power has worked in my life to restore me to wholeness, there are many still suffering.

I share my story because it makes Jesus real to others who are hurting.

My story isn’t pretty – it isn’t easy to hear.  I am not proud of it – but it’s my TESTIMONY and it is holy unto God.

What I brag about today is not the past – but the future in Christ that I now have and others can have through the loving, forgiving, healing, covering Blood of Jesus!

HE took my sin to that Cross at Calvary so long ago.

HE will take yours too!  Receive Christ today as your Savior!


~ Lori

Becoming a Hope Craftswoman – Part 1
Becoming a Hope Craftswoman – Part 2

Becoming a Hope Craftswoman (Pt. 2)

About eighty women attended the meeting that Friday afternoon.  It was a treat to have my “girls” there—not only Kelli, Morgan, and Nicks, but Nina Atuatasi, my Samoan “daughter,” who showed up just before the meeting.  Nina, a gifted musician, had arrived in the Los Angeles area a few hours earlier and surprised me by driving over for the meeting.  Before I preached, she sang two songs and ushered in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

“I don’t trust people who haven’t been through something,” I told the ladies.  “And I have a feeling that most of you have been through adversity.  You’ve known some deep pain and heartache.”  Many women responded vocally.  As I began recounting my personal story, I also preached about making choices—how bad choices get us into trouble, but “God choices” get us out.

In the back of my mind, I could hear my father—who sounded just like Archie Bunker on the old All in the Family TV show—saying, “You’re a bad picker, Little Girl.”  Dad was so right about that.  My teenage years were full of bad choices, with disastrous and far –reaching consequences.

I told the women at the Dream Center how Jesse and I had decided we would get married in the summer, after I graduated.  My last year in high school, I was in the DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) program, so I only went to class for half a day, and then I went to my job.  One afternoon in late April, Jesse picked me up after work, and he had an engagement ring for me. Standing there in from t of Diamond’s department store, he put a diamond on my finger.

My mother was devastated when I told her I was going to marry Jesse.  “Lori, please wait,” she begged me. “You’re too young.”

“I’m older than you were,” I snapped.

“That’s true—and it’s why I know firsthand how hard it is.”

She looked pained.  Mom had been just sixteen when Dad , who was eighteen, pressured her to get married.

“Besides, you can’t stop me.  I’ll be eighteen at the end of August, and then I won’t need your permission.”  I was stubborn and determined.  “So either you sign the papers for me to get married, or we’ll go to another state and elope.”

Mom kept trying to talk sense into me, but I wouldn’t listen.  She knew that Jesse hated his mother, and that was a huge warning sign for her.  “He doesn’t have a good family relationship,” she said, “and he won’t be good to you.” I turned a deaf ear to every reason why the marriage wouldn’t work.

(to be continued)

Becoming a Hope Craftswoman – Part 1
Becoming a Hope Craftswoman – Part 3

Becoming a Hope Craftswoman (Pt. 1)

I opened my Bible to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, which I had often prayed over in my ministry: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

“Heavenly Father,” I prayed, “please help me to show my wounds today, so that you may use them as a source of healing.”

It is never pleasant to relive the past when I share my testimony.  But I do it because God uses it to comfort others.  A hurting woman knows I understand her pain and suffering when she hears that I have been down the same road.  And when she receives healing from God, she will extend that same comfort to yet others so that the circle of wounded healers widens.

I’ll never forget the first time I shared a short testimony before a group of women at Phoenix First in the fall of 1990.  I had panicked at the thought of standing before the pastors’ wives and the matriarchs of the church and telling them even the briefest highlights of my sordid past.  I had been a Christian for only about eighteen months, and I still carried a dump truck size load of shame about my past sins, even though I knew God had forgiven me and completely changed my life—in fact, he had called me into full-time ministry.

They’re going to shun me, I thought.  They’ll talk about me, and I’ll never be able to hold my head high.  I’ll have to leave the church.  They think I’m the perfect little Christian, but when they find out. . .

On and on the accusing voice assaulted my mind.  My stomach was so tied in knots; I didn’t think I could go through with it.  I nearly backed out at the last minute, but I managed to battle my fear and honor my commitment to give a five-minute testimony.

I was petrified as I stepped behind the pulpit—the spot usually occupied by Tommy Barnett, one of the most respected pastors in America.  What an incredible honor.  Some one thousand women were in the audience, about six or seven hundred from the inner city and three or four hundred ladies from Phoenix First.  The lights were dimmed, so I couldn’t see their faces.  But I definitely heard them respond when I took the microphone and said, “From the time I was seventeen to the time I was twenty-one, I had five abortions.”  The loud gasps throughout the audience paralyzed me for a moment, but I finished my story and then sat down to listen to the other testimonies.  Well, now they know, I thought.  I wondered if anybody would even speak to me, or if they would just avoid me.

One of the first people I saw afterward was Marja Barnett, my pastor’s wife.  Phoenix Fist Assembly is a huge church, and as I recall, she had never spoken to me before, except perhaps to say hello.  This beautiful, gracious woman came over to me, kissed me on the cheek, and then clasped my hands.  “Oh, Lori, you poor thing,” she said in her lilting Swedish accent. “I never know you have such a horrible life—I can’t believe what you go through.  I’m so happy you are in our church.  I love you so much!”

I don’t remember exactly what she said after that.  All I know is that Marja’s love and acceptance flowed over my soul that day like a healing balm.  Now, eight years later, she had invited me to the Dream Center, and my heart’s desire was to extend the same encouragement to those who needed it.

(to be continued)

Becoming a Hope Craftswoman – Part 2
Becoming a Hope Craftswoman – Part 3