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Friday, November 29, 2013

ENLIGHTENED—By Lauri Khodabandehloo


I recognized the subtle differences in my fourth and youngest daughter, first, by comparing her growth—physical and developmental—to her three older sisters. I noticed her difficulty pronouncing “dada,” saying it as if she had an accent, and her very odd way of pulling away from me even before she could walk, at ten months of age.

I recognized her total disinterest in looking at anyone, family members or strangers, almost as if we mattered very little in her life. I was sure she was hearing impaired. But not until I found myself on the bedroom floor at the side of my bed where I’d knelt to pray and then crumpled, heartbroken and crying out to God in hopeless despair did I accept the fact that she would never be like her sisters. And there on the floor beside the bed, where I’d pulled my dusty old Bible off the nightstand and turned to the book of Psalms, was where I found the words—the very truth—that would carry me every day after in peace that passes all understanding, no matter where my child’s challenges might take me.

Without thought of where to find the scripture that might ease my fears, or give me some hope to cling to, my eyes fell on the 139th Psalm. There I read the answer to those unknown’s that had haunted my days since Farema’s unexpected birth. As I read the words of the Psalmist, I found the answer to how well God knows me:

You know when I sit, and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

As I read further, I learned through the words of the Psalm, that never was there a moment when God was not near to me, and no matter the disappointments in my life, God would not leave me on my own:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Just before that day in my room, I’d come to realize that raising a child with classic autism can be a devastating endeavor, permeating every aspect of family life. I had daydreamed of future years with the “empty nest” and a chance to do my thing until, without planning or anticipation, I found I was pregnant. Disappointed and distraught, I told myself it would only be a few years longer. But as I sat there on the floor, reading the Word of the Creator, I understood that my life and that of my daughter with all her special needs and challenges had already been planned—long before my own birth. God had it all under control!

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

That day my outlook on raising my daughter changed dramatically. I no longer felt the weight of guilt that I’d secretly carried, believing that God had given me this burden, this child, as some sort of punishment for the times I’d chosen my own way instead of his. I began to look forward to each day filled with new and sometimes miraculous accomplishments that I’d been told by the doctors just wasn’t on the horizon for a girl like mine.

My freedom came with knowledge that God had made my daughter as he made each of us, exactly as he’d intentioned. For Farema and me, every day, hour and moment of our lives God has never once let us walk alone, or left us on our own; he has been faithful to hold us close to himself and guide us on this journey through life, including this amazing, puzzling, and mysterious world of autism.


clip_image004 Biography of Lauri Khodabandehloo

Lauri describes her childhood as perfect. She was raised by Christian parents, a mother who was a recording artist, nationally known as “Little Marcy” who sang about Jesus’ love in a child-like voice, and a father whose magnetic personality won him great success as a salesman for Word, Tyndale and Harvest House publishing companies. But although her early life was a road of blessings, walking the path God had designed for her, Lauri’s life took a detour, and she found herself walking the broken road of lost dreams and great sadness.

Through raising her fourth daughter, born with a devastating biological brain dysfunction known as Classic Autism, Lauri describes in her heartrending and vividly honest true life account how she found her way back to a closer, more personal relationship with her Lord.

In Lonely Girl, Gracious God, Lauri reveals the depth of autism’s devastation to family and loved ones, and the truth of God’s unfailing grace. She learns to trust Him in all things, and to see that God sometimes allows trials and pain to draw his children into a more personal relationship with Himself.

Today, Lauri hopes to bring comfort to those whose lives have been turned upside down by life’s disappointments and hardships by revealing to others what she has learned— that nothing in life is by accident for those who love the Lord.

Finding a new capacity for patience and perseverance as she struggles to find a life for her autistic daughter, Lauri comes to understand that often the sorrows of this life are God’s way of showing us that by His unfailing grace, He alone can satisfy the greatest longing of our hearts and that He will always be there to hold us steady as we walk that broken road, with newfound hope and confidence, that leads to His open, ever-loving arms.

Lauri is available to speak to women’s groups and conferences, certified by CLASSEMINARS, Inc., CLASS Communicator

Lonelygirlgraciousgod.com 2262 Dale Ave, Eugene, OR 97408 541-485-5450

Other posts you might like:

On Growth

Jake, The Encourager

Friday, November 22, 2013

God on the Line

Did you ever have a time in your life when you put God on hold to get other things done? I don’t mean momentarily, like you forgot about him during the day. I mean, more like you no longer thought you needed Him, so you left Him as an afterthought. Maybe you hung up on Him altogether.

What happened when you picked up His line again? Was He still there?

Well, let me tell you, not only is He still there, but while He was waiting for you, He held the phone to His ear with his shoulder and continued to work on your behalf!

Years ago I thought I knew too much to concern myself with things of God. I had pushed my childlike faith aside for things of research. I contemplated grand ideas about the world and on occasion considered how a god might fit into it … somewhere.

This god was a small god in my mind. But even though I considered Him small, He still did big things in my life. For example, I can see many ways He’d been preparing me to be the mother of a special needs child. He led me to a story about a mute boy, which would become a favorite years before my son was born. This story taught me how to appreciate my son as nothing else could. God gave me a dog who had several chronic medical issues which required many of the same types of therapies I now use with my son. And He put me in a job with wonderful Christians at just the time I would require a faith before the coming storm.

He was on the line the whole time.

Still, it wasn’t just what he did for me, but how He used me to accomplish His Will even during my weakest (or non-existent) faith moments. There’s nothing like the feel of being an empty vessel of the Lord, even if you don’t know you’re being used at the time.

As a graduate student, I ran and lived in an all-male dorm while working on my counseling degree. This was a tenuous position and my new, all-male, staff let me know they were a little leery. Never before had a woman lived in the all-male dorms at this university. I’d been selected from the applicants who’d actually applied for the resident director position in the all-female hall.

At the first meeting I could sense my staff worried I’d paint the halls pink and hang lacey curtains in the lounges. They asked me pointed questions about my plans and showed their resistance to too much change—particularly since I’d come in mid-year.

It was my goal to develop a sense of authority, yet be sensitive (yes, I used that girly word) to their needs.

Then, my senior resident assistant informed me of a long-standing, streaking (yes, that means naked guys running) tradition the whole community had grown accustomed to and wondered what I’d planned to do about it. It was clear he expected me to do nothing, especially since that had been the protocol for the past several decades.

So here I am, The Woman in the building. I feared taking this tradition away would put me at odds with my staff before I even got started, so I did what the RA wanted. I sat on my hands.

You could say that wasn’t very Christian of me, since streaking in public is against the law and I should have trusted God to have my back while I did the right thing. However, that wasn’t even a consideration for me at the time.

You could say I was a coward for not doing the right thing and sticking to my guns. My only answer to that would be …


But there is one thing you could not say about me. You could not say God had forsaken me, because even though I’d neglected Him, He still used me as an empty vessel.

I muddled through that semester, the lone, twenty-something, woman living with hundreds of hard-partying, college-age (and hormonal) guys. To say the atmosphere was sexually charged would be a vast understatement. My building had the highest rate of Victoria Secret catalogues sent to it. The guys had to buy “lacy under-things” on a regular basis so they could continue to receive it.


While running this building, I endured being hit on in the hallways by droopy-towel-wearing men, I had to protect myself from attempts to get my white shirts wet, and shield myself from what felt like a constant x-ray body scan. On occasion, however, I planned some really cool programs, developed great relationships with guys who needed advice about women, and even got a little respect.

Though I ended up loving that job, for a number of reasons I decided not to continue the next year. Before I knew this would be the case, I worked to select my next-year’s staff. Among the candidates was a stern, thickly built, young man who wore an expression on his face that said, “Don’t mess with me.” He struck me as a man of character and I knew I wanted him working the hall known for the wildest parties. In fact, he’d already lived there. This was also the place my streakers lived.

For some reason, my boss did not like him, but I suspect it was more that she had other candidates in mind for those positions and saw him as a threat to her placing them. We went back and forth much on this issue, but I was not the one in the highest position of authority. I had to fight for this guy, but something told me I must. I did not make it a point to listen to the Holy Spirit regularly (if at all) back then, but I now believe that’s who I heard.

In the end, he got the job.

I later discovered this young man made his first order of business to end the decades-long streaking tradition. When I heard about it from one of my former staff I couldn’t help but smile. I didn’t realize then who was really responsible for this (God), but it felt good to have played a small role in it just the same (even unwittingly). This news also inspired me to be more courageous with my convictions as this young man had been. I’m sure he did not garner favor with his hall mates having taken away their “fun.”

I’ve always carried a certain respect for this guy. So much so that he inspired the character, nick-named Preacher, in my manuscript entitled One Among Men. Though Preacher is not the main character of this story, it was his parallel’s courage that caused me to write about the challenges a new Christian faces in the highly secular environment of a major state university—especially one who is a mid-twenties female living with hundreds of hard-partying, college guys—Sigh!

I love how God used this man’s courage as an example to me, even at a time I did not fully appreciate it. I hope I can do the same for others one day.

Who inspired you when you weren’t looking to be inspired?

Other posts you might like:

Where Did You First Meet God in the Bible?

What Brought You to Christ?

A No-Matter-What Kind of Joy

Friday, November 15, 2013

3rdDay Rocker—Making A Ministry From A Passion

Sweet Dean and DodieIf you’ve ever searched for a Third Day song on Youtube you may have come across the name “3rdDayRocker.” I know I have. I always wondered about this guy who gave me so many hours of great Third Day video viewing pleasure before I ever had a chance to see the band live.

Then I became a Third Day Gomer … and got to e-meet, not only him (Dean Radloff), but his wonderful wife, Dodie—the people who turned their passion for great music into a ministry for Christ. I know many who’ve been blessed by Christian music in times of trouble. Dean and Dodie Radloff have made it a point to expand the reach of this art form. So glad they did.

Now, let me introduce them to you …

Connie: Dean and Dodie, tell us about this ministry to bring Christian music to the masses?

Dean: God gifted me with videography skills; a passion for video recording and a very steady hand to obtain high quality concert videos. Dodie and I love attending Christian concerts. I usually video record several songs at each concert we attend, and post them on YouTube. My 3rdDayRocker YouTube channel has blessed countless people with the ability to view a large variety of Christian artists performing live.

Connie: Oh, yes!

How long have you done this, and what prompted you to start?

Dean: I've been video recording at concerts since 2004, albeit with low grade pocket cameras. I began using better quality cameras in 2008. Videos make a great, memorable keepsake of concerts. I felt God was prompting me to share my work with the world, so I decided to open a YouTube account and started posting my videos in January 2009.With sunglasses

Connie: Thank you, Jesus!

Did it start out as a ministry? What happened?

Dean: Originally, the whole video recording hobby was just that; a hobby and a personal keepsake. When I felt God prompting me to start sharing via YouTube, I guess you could say it then developed into a ministry of sorts. A wide variety of positive comments on my videos is a testimony that God is reaching people through them. God's love, joy, peace, healing, and overall blessings received through the Christian artists' music have been conveyed through numerous comments and messages on my YouTube channel.

Connie: Can you describe how it's evolved over the years?

Dean: As anticipated, viewership was fairly small at first. As more and more videos from more and more Christian artists were added, viewership and the number of subscribers grew rapidly. My channel currently has 3,200+ subscribers and has over 3.6 million views. I refuse to monetize my channel (allowing pop-up ads). It blesses me to know others are blessed by great Christian music too. That is very rewarding.

Connie: Wow! I love that!

Dodie: It really blesses us when we are at a concert, out of town, and someone comes up to Dean and says "Are you 3rddayrocker?" It happens at almost every show we go to, and it just reinforces in our hearts that what Dean does is valuable. 

Connie: Yes it is!

With crazy Third Day

Connie: Do you have future plans for your ministry?

I simply plan to keep doing what God has gifted me to do; video record and share with the masses via YouTube and facebook.

Connie: Thank you.

How many concerts do you think you've gone to over the years?

Dean: Way too many to count or even estimate accurately. I became an avid concertgoer as a teenager. Probably at least 500 so far. Since May 2011, Dodie and I have been to 20 Third Day concerts, with 4 more scheduled for this year, and 41 non-Third Day concerts. No wonder we're semi-broke at times. For us, I guess you'd say it's not just a pastime, it's a lifestyle. ;)

Connie: Yep! I remind my husband of the expense of his golf whenever he questions the cost of my concert-going.

Ahem, back to you …

Do you know how many videos you have uploaded?

Dean: So far, 1,200+. The great majority of them are videos I personally recorded at concerts.

Connie: What goes into the process?

Dean: The process of uploading to YouTube? Depends upon the source material and video quality. The larger the video file, the longer it takes time-wise for each upload. As previously stated, the majority are concert videos I recorded. Some are album tracks (songs), some from TV broadcasts, a few from radio interviews. Some videos require some editing prior to uploading, so they take a bit longer to complete. Dodie and I store the original files on hard drives, so they can be viewed and enjoyed on our 55 inch HDTV and Surround Sound system. I've also burned videos to DVD, to share them with others.

Connie: Oh, cool!!!

Do you have a favorite story about a concert you've attended or a video you've shared (or both)?

Dean: A few favorite moments come to mind. Once, we burned 90+ DVDs of a large Gomer gathering and Third Day concert, to share the memorable event with several of our Gomer friends. (For those who don't know what a Gomer is …

Connie: Ahem, they should if they’ve read much of this blog …

… we are a community of ultra-fanatical Third Day fans.) Aside from having a large library of concert and music videos as personal keepsakes, our favorite part is simply sharing and blessing countless people everywhere. Neither of us have musical talent, but we do have the pleasure of sharing live Christian music with the world. We know God touches people in a variety of ways through the great Christian artists we promote via YouTube.

A favorite concert moment was a time when Third Day lead singer Mac Powell grabbed my camera and got some video from the stage.

If you can’t view the video imbed, check out this link.

Dodie: The most meaningful moments we have are the Third Day shows that we get to attend with some of our closest friends from other states. Dean's job blesses us with free flight benefits, so we get to spend quite a bit of time with some friends we dearly love, who live several hundred miles away. One of the most memorable experiences I can think of, though, was a Third Day show that we attended in Detroit, right after we got married, and Mac Powell dedicated a song to Dean and me during the show. That was very exciting, and very unexpected. 

Connie: Awwwww! I soooo love that! I don’t have that video on here, but I have one close to it. This one was recorded only a few days ago.

Thank you, Dean and Dodie, for visiting LBOC today. You guys are like Gomer royalty ;o).

Visit the 3rdDayRocker YouTube channel here:


Other posts you might like:

March of the Minions

When It Rains, He’s There

Where Did You First Meet God in the Bible?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Jesus Freaks

loading planeYears ago, my sister told me this story about something that happened to her on an airplane. She was traveling to different countries back then doing hair shows with a hairdresser colleague of hers who happened to be homosexual.

She and her friend were approached by two long-haired dudes on this plane. I’ll never forget how she had described them at this point of the story as “hot.” These guys were really friendly so she wondered if they were hitting on her. But they were just as friendly with her colleague, too, so she began to believe they were hitting on him.

Then, the unthinkable happened. They asked my sister and her friend if they believed in Jesus! My sister was floored. Her eyes bugged out of her head as she exclaimed, “Connie! They were Jesus Freaks!”

I was perplexed. I thought she knew I took my Christian faith seriously. In fact, she’d often gotten defensive with me about some comment I’d made as though I were judging her because of my faith when I wasn’t. And here, she’s astonished to have met other people with the same belief and called them freaks to me.

How was I supposed to respond to that?

You may say, maybe she didn’t mean “freak” in a bad way ;o). In fact, some Christians use the term with pride. Well, considering these long-haired, “hot” dudes were later described as “greasy” at the end of the same recounting of the story, I’m thinking she meant freaks in a bad way.

And there’s more …

Some years after this incident my sister came to Christ—I mean all-out, on-fire-for-the-Lord kind of coming to Christ. She had been a believer for a couple years and one day mentioned it to me. Knowing that any mention of my faith to her had made her run in the other direction in the past, I greeted this news with warm enthusiasm, though I was cautiously rejoicing inside. She told me how disappointed she had been that no one in her family had been present for her baptism. I asked her why she hadn’t invited me. She said she didn’t think my faith was the same as her faith. When I told her what mine was (now that it was safe to) she said she’d never really known me before.

She didn’t. And I was not allowed to tell her because the minute I would share the one thing most important to me it was somehow twisted into being self-righteous and judgmental, when to me, it was just my passion.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’ve never been self-righteous and judgmental—I’m no better than your average Joe. It’s just that it seemed to take on a whole new meaning because I was a Christian.

So why am I telling these stories?

First, because if you are not “a believer” and you have a tendency to think those of us who wear the term are somehow freaks, self-righteous and judgmental, please take another look. Yes, we have standards that we strive toward—only because we believe that God knows better than we, lowly humans, do. And even though we know this with our minds, we continually fail to meet those standards ourselves. It doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

We don’t believe we are better than those not of the faith. If we did, we wouldn’t need a Savior to wipe away our myriad of sins. It’s just that we sometimes want to tell the world about this great God, what He knows, and what He did for us.

Cuz it’s really cool!!!

Okay, sometimes we get a little excited about it, but for us, Jesus dying to wipe away our sins means an eternity of joy. So when you’re feeling bogged down with the complexities of life, maybe we just want to help—

So sue us ;o).

Or better yet, forgive us if we go too far.

Second, if you are a “follower of Christ” who thinks your faith is somehow more enlightened than the other person who manifests the same faith differently than you do, think again. You may be separating yourself from a different member of The Body who has something important to share with you. He or she may not be different, but complementary and just what you need to accomplish a complete ministry within your church.puzzle pieces

My sister and I are extremely different. This used to drive us apart. Now we see it as parts of a whole. We’ve learned soooooo much from each other that we’d never have learned had we only considered the others incompleteness.

Thank you, Jesus, that you allowed us to see!

Other posts you might like:

Do-ers and Be-ers

Is My Faith a Religion or a Relationship?

When Evil Says God Is Good

Friday, November 1, 2013

On Growth—By Gillian Marchenko

Gillian Marchenko, author of the recently published memoir Sun Shine Down, writes about where she and Polly are today, and the importance of noticing growth …sun shine down polly and mom

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon. My youngest daughter Evangeline (adopted from Ukraine in 2009, and who has Down syndrome and Autism) swings in the adaptive swing while her Papa dutifully pushes her back and forth. Elaina and Zoya, our two older girls, with adult-like bodies but childlike hearts, swoop and slide on the monkey bars. I shadow Polly, who also happens to have Down syndrome, to make sure she doesn’t get hurt, to help her if she asks.

An elevated Chicago train rumbles above us along the perimeter of the park. I turn to watch it push forward for a moment. The sun blinds my eyes. I look down at my shoes.

My head raises and I glance around for Polly, who seized the opportunity to rush to another activity while her Mom is momentarily preoccupied.

“Polly, where are you?” I call.

“Over here, Mom. I’m here.”


I turn around where I stand. I don’t see her.


Her voice calls from above. The knotted rope ladder to my right shakes, and catch sight of my daughter’s blue and green Velcro tennis shoes command the ropes as she scurries up.

I had no idea she could climb like that, sure-footed, easily, without any help, on weaving ropes that bend and rock as she moves.

Polly is seven years old

Her diagnosis of Down syndrome picked up my world and threw it against a brick wall. In my memoir, Sun Shine Down (published with T. S. Poetry Press in August), for about a year I stayed drippy, unglued, apart, so very sad about the presence of an extra chromosome in my child, and so very, very frightened of the future.

I was as weak as a mom as Polly was as a new baby. Her infant body resembled a bag of brown sugar. For months, her arms and legs flopped around. She was unable to hold her head up for a long time.

As was I.

But Polly and I both have grown important muscles over the last seven years. Her: muscles to stand, and then run, and jump, and climb a knotted rope ladder. And me: muscles to love without fear, to trust God, to advocate for my daughter, and beyond all else, enjoy the crap out of her.

Polly’s growth astounds me. She works hard to acquire new skills. She makes friends with anyone who comes into her sight. She cracks one-liners, causing our whole family to burst our britches with laughter, and she continues to teach me about what is really worth paying attention to in life.

I am blessed to be Polly’s mother. There have been hard times, and there will be more, but I plan to follow the footsteps of my daughter. To take a step when it is difficult, to work until I am sure-footed and able to chase after whatever God puts in front of me, and to make sure there is enough time in my days to appreciate growth; in my family, and in myself.


Gillian Marchenko headshotGillian Marchenko is an author and national speaker who lives in Chicago with her husband Sergei and four daughters. Her book, Sun Shine Down, a memoir, published with T. S. Poetry Press, was released this fall, 2013.

She writes and speaks about parenting kids with Down syndrome, faith, depression, imperfection, and adoption. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Chicago Parent, Thriving Family, Gifted for Leadership, Literary Mama, Today's Christian Woman, MomSense Magazine, Charlottesville Family, EFCA Today, and the Tri-City Record.

Gillian says the world is full of people who seem to have it all together. She speaks for the rest of us.

Connect with Gillian on her website www.gillianmarchenko.com, on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/GillianMarchenkoPage) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/GillianMarchenk).

Amazon link for Sun Shine Down: http://goo.gl/3hFdH9

Other posts you might like:

Praying for a Smile: An Ollie Story—By Melissa Tagg

God’s Amazing Kleenex

How to Treat a Child with Autism