Can I Practice the Presence of Jesus? With Joni Eareckson Tada [BONUS]

Practice Presence Jesus Joni Eareckson Tada

GIVEAWAY ALERT: You can win the book The Practice of the Presence of Jesus by this week’s podcast guest. Keep reading to find out how!

“Suffering has a way of heaving you beyond the shallows of life where your faith feels ankle-deep. It casts you out into the fathomless depths of God.”

These profound words were written by an incredible woman and one of my heroes of the faith, Joni Eareckson Tada, who I’m super pumped to have on the podcast today. If anybody knows about the “I Can” life of Philippians 4:13 … it’s Joni.

If you haven’t heard of Joni, she survived a diving accident when she was a teenager that left her totally paralyzed. That incident changed her life forever, but for the past several decades, God has used her to help others in similar situations and inspire countless people around the world.

And today, she’s going to inspire you and our entire 4:13 family.

Because on this very special BONUS episode, Joni talks about how you can experience the nearness of God in your life—something she does every day using the principles taught by 17th century monk Brother Lawrence in his ancient book, The Practice of the Presence of God.

Over the years, Joni has applied the timeless wisdom of Brother Lawrence to her own situation, helping her discover the peace and joy that comes from intentionally dwelling in the presence of God. And today, she’ll give you a glimpse into what that looks like as she talks about her most recent book, The Practice of the Presence of Jesus: Daily Meditations on the Nearness of Our Savior.

Joni is so special to me, and my life is so much better because of her influence, so I can’t wait for you to hear from her. This conversation is warm, wise, practical, and encouraging to the very depths of the soul—so get ready to be blessed.

Meet Joni

After a diving accident left Joni Eareckson Tada a quadriplegic at 17 years old, she emerged from rehabilitation with a determination to help others in similar situations. In 1979, she founded Joni and Friends, a ministry committed to showcasing the gospel to people living with disability. She’s the author of more than 45 books, including her latest, The Practice of the Presence of Jesus. Joni is also a radio host and fine art painter. She lives in California with her husband, Ken.

[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Practice the Presence of Jesus? With Joni Eareckson Tada [BONUS]

Joni Eareckson Tada: Most of us are satisfied with just wading in the shallows of knowing God. We skate the surface. We know a little bit of the Bible, we do a little bit of prayer, we know a little bit of a theology, and that sees us through. But I think what happens is that often God allows affliction, suffering, disappointment, grief, loss, whatever it is, and that suffering is his way of throwing us out into the depths of God where we cannot touch bottom. We cannot make it. We cannot do it on our own. We need Christ desperately.

Jennifer Rothschild: Brother Lawrence lived through the drudgeries of monastery kitchen duty in the 1,600s. Joni Eareckson Tada was in a diving accident that left her totally paralyzed when she was just a teenager. So what did these two have in common? Well, on this very special bonus episode of The 4:13, Joni is going to introduce you to Brother Lawrence. And she's going to show you how in both of their lives, they found the secret to peace, joy, and practicing the presence of God.

Joni is so special to me, and my life is so much better because of her influence, so I cannot wait to tell you about that. And I can't wait for you to hear from this inspiring, brilliant, and wise woman. So, K.C., let's do this thing.

K.C. Wright: Let's go. Welcome to a bonus episode of the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who gives you supernatural strength.

Now, welcome your host, our girl, the one sitting next to me right here shoved in the closet, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, our friends. We're glad you're in the closet with us. Thanks for letting us join you in your day, whatever you're doing. Hope it's a good day. I can tell you this, it's about to get better because -- welcome to this bonus episode with some of my very favorite people. K.C.'s sitting next to me, of course, and then Joni Eareckson Tada, who is literally one of my heroes of the faith.

And I just got to tell you a quick story before we get to Joni. And I also need to ask you a question, K.C. --

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- so don't let me forget.

Okay, but let me tell you this quick story about Joni, which will be hard to follow with your question that I'm going to ask you. But anyway, stay tuned. Okay. So when I was a teenage girl -- most of you know my story that I lost my sight when I was 15. Well, I didn't know I was going to lose my sight. It was because of a disease called retinitis pigmentosa. And I could see okay. And so that summer before I became legally blind, I read two books. One was "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom. Remember that book, K.C.?

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: And then the very last book I ever read was called "Joni." And it was Joni Eareckson -- she was just Joni Eareckson then. But it was Joni Eareckson Tada's very first book. It was telling her story of her diving accident and becoming a quadriplegic and just her faith and -- you know, she became an artist, drew and painted with her teeth, with a paintbrush and pencil between her teeth. I mean, incredible woman, y'all. Incredible.

Well, I was 15. I think most of her story began when she was around 17 or 18, and then, you know, she let you follow that story through the next decade. And I was so taken by her story, and she just really was such a hero to me. I read every page of that book. Well, I would have had no idea that Joni's would be the last book I would have ever read with my own eyes. And it was like God just tucked a hero in my heart, right?

K.C. Wright: Wow.

Jennifer Rothschild: So over the years, of course, everything she has written, I have just hung on every word. So when I have been able to partner with her in ministry, it's been the highlights of my life. But then to be able to have her on this podcast. That's why it's a bonus episode, because it is so special and I wanted you to hear it right away. Because she's talking about the secret to joy and peace and practicing God's presence. She does it every day of her life. And she's relating it to Brother Lawrence -- right? -- and his ancient book, "Practicing the Presence of God," which is a classic. I gave it actually to our son Connor for Christmas this year. Okay. So, y'all, it's about to be so good and you're about to dive straight into the deep end, and you're going to love it.

But before that, can we just splash around in the shallow end for two seconds? Because we just had Valentine's Day. If you're listening in real time, you know we just had Valentine's Day last week. And my sweet hubby, he gave me flowers.

K.C. Wright: Ooh.

Jennifer Rothschild: And I even redecorated our living room --

K.C. Wright: Yes, you did.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- as a surprise. Like, he didn't know. He came home, he did not know I had done it because he was out of town. I'm like, "Happy Valentine's Day to us." Anyway, it was a really good way to work that. Anyway...

But, K.C., I got the funniest text from you before Valentine's Day. So you got to tell me how it went. Tell our friends about Valentine's Day for you.

K.C. Wright: Oh. Well, Valentine's Day, I mean, just consists of, you know, me buying my daughter something for Valentine's Day.

Jennifer Rothschild: Which is sweet. She's your sweetheart.

K.C. Wright: She is my sweetheart. I do just want to say that you are significant with or without a significant other. That's what I want to say.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's all you want to say? You said a lot more than that.

K.C. Wright: What else do I have to say?

Jennifer Rothschild: You told me that you don't call it Valentine's Day anymore.

K.C. Wright: Oh. I call it Single Awareness Day.

Jennifer Rothschild: There you go. I love that. But, see, that's true, Single Awareness Day. But then the truth is everyone is significant.

K.C. Wright: Everyone is significant --

Jennifer Rothschild: Everyone matters.

K.C. Wright: -- with or without a spouse.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's right. We all have the lover of our soul who is singing over us every day.

K.C. Wright: Yes. Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right. Thank you. Well, I'm glad you made it through one more. Glad you made it through one more.

Okay. Anyway, let's go back to Joni. And, in fact, there is a quote from the intro of this book I wanted you to read to our friends and then introduce Joni.

K.C. Wright: Here's the quote from the introduction of this book "The Practice of the Presence of Jesus." "Suffering has a way of heaving you beyond the shallows of life where your faith feels ankle deep. It casts you out into the fathomless depths of God." Isn't that beautiful?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: Well, this is just a taste of what you are about to experience, so let me introduce our girl to you.

Jennifer Rothschild: Our girl.

K.C. Wright: A diving accident left Joni Eareckson Tada in a wheelchair at 17 years old. She emerged from all of this with a determination to help others in similar situations. In 1979 she founded Joni and Friends, a ministry committed to showcasing the Gospel to people living with disability. She's an author of more than 45 books --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Can you believe it?

K.C. Wright: -- including her latest, "The Practice of the Presence of Jesus." Joni is also a radio host and an amazing fine art painter. Brilliant.

Jennifer Rothschild: Mm-hmm.

K.C. Wright: She lives in sunny California with her precious husband, Ken.

Now, get ready to get blessed with two of my favorite gals, Jennifer and Joni.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, Joni, I've just gushed about you in the introduction, and obviously you and your story has meant so much to me. Because as I just, you know, told our friends who are listening, your book, your first book, was the last book that I ever read before losing my sight. So it's just such a gift to me anytime I get to talk to you. But I know that there might be some listening right now to us who really don't know your story. So let's start there. Could you just give us a picture of what happened to you and how it changed your life when you were a teenage girl.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Well, let me just say that there may be some listening who already know my story; there might be those who don't. And so for that reason, I was, what, 17 years old when -- I was getting ready for college, and my sister had asked if we could go down to the beach for a swim, just kind of a sisterly thing together. And, Jennifer, I didn't realize that that day would change my life so dramatically. I went out to this raft, swam out there, wasn't too far offshore, and I hoisted myself up onto it and took a reckless really stupid dive, a sharp dive into what was pretty shallow water. And, of course, I hit the bottom, it snapped my head back, crunched my cervical vertebrae, severed my spinal cord. I'm face down in the water. Thankfully my sister rescued me. And they rushed me to the hospital where doctors told me I would be paralyzed for the rest of my life, without use of my hands or my legs, and I'd live in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. And, Jennifer, as you can imagine, it plummeted me into a deep depression. I had no idea how to process this new reality. And so for a long time I laid pretty discouraged in bed.

And I look back on that now, 56 years later, and I think, God, how did you pull me through? How did you do it? Even still, I talk to young people who are newly injured, and I weep knowing what they have to face and what they will have to go through. So I'm just grateful to God that now 56 years later, although I'm paralyzed, I've got a smile that's, I don't know, straight from heaven. What can I say?

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, that is a good way -- I appreciate how honest you were about that, Joni, because your story is truthful, absolutely truthful, but it is not tidy. It has been messy and hard and hard won. And I, for one, have been so thankful to be able to have a front row seat to see the faithfulness of God.

And by the way, let me just say something that has nothing spiritual to do with any of this. I just realized some of our listeners might have heard some banging in your background over there. Can we just celebrate with Joni right now that she is getting a new kitchen put in.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: So if you hear hammers and drills, that's what it is. And listen, all of us are excited for you. So, yeah, I just wanted to put that out there in case, because I don't want that to be a distraction to this amazing conversation.

Well, you know, Joni, when people ask me who inspires me, you are always at the top of my list. And so in this new book that you've written, it seems like you have found someone who inspires you, Brother Lawrence. So I would love for you to kind of tell us a little bit about who he is and why he is an inspiration to you.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Okay. Real quickly, Brother Lawrence grew up in a peasant family in France in the 1600s. He went through a great deal of hardship, as you can imagine, being raised in a peasant family. He became injured in the Thirty Years' War in Europe, but eventually he found his way to a Carmelite Monastery in Paris, France, and he opened up his heart to Christ. He became a lay brother, a friar in that monastery, and they gave him the duty of cleaning the pots and pans and the stove and the kitchen floor. He got down on his hands and knees and scrubbed the floors throughout the monastery. Scrubbed the toilets. He had the most menial task. It was his job to take out the trash. And this is the way he lived in the monastery.

And rather than let that embitter him, he used it as a way of inviting God into his most menial tasks during the day. And so he practiced the presence of God in his ordinary duties every single day. And he wrote many letters about his experiences and what he was learning about God, and after his death these letters were compiled into a book called "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence.

And when I was in high school back in the 1960s, this book was phenomenally popular. And so I read it and I was inspired. I wanted God's help in assisting me in practicing his presence, developing spiritual disciplines during the day. It really did help me a great deal.

But then that book sat on the shelf after my diving accident, and even through my depression. In fact, it sat on my shelf for nearly 50 years. But then when COVID hit in 2020 and we were all sequestered and looking for things to read in our homes, I saw that tattered old copy of Brother Lawrence's book on my bookshelf and I thought, I'm going to reread that because it really impressed me in high school.

And, oh, my goodness, upon rereading it, I was impressed. And I was blessed because I so resonated with this Carmelite monk from centuries ago, because I too have learned the practice of the presence of Christ, of Jesus Christ. Now, maybe Brother Lawrence practiced God's presence amid pots and pans and toilets. I practice God's presence amidst catheters and leg bags and wheelchairs and the like. And so I thought, you know, I would love to write a book in which I reflect on Brother Lawrence and what I learned from his insights, and then bring all of that up to date and tell the reader how I practice the presence of Christ in my own ordinary duties throughout the day. So that's how the book came about.

And, Jennifer, it is my delight to share with the reader fresh insights about how indeed I do practice the presence of Jesus. I invite him into my moments. I sanctify those moments. I set them apart for admiring God's genius and his beauty and his grace and -- anyway, it was just great fun writing it, and it's kind of fun talking about it now too.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and it's inspiring, because what is beautiful to me is it's indicative of how all of our lives can be this showcase. You know, so who would have ever thought that you would identify, with all the trappings of quadriplegia, with all the trappings of Brother Lawrence's life. But it's just this beautiful picture that we can all identify because it's Christ in us and all of our lives can be this.

And so in your book you talk about how for more than 50 years living in this wheelchair, that you have learned to -- and I love this phrase -- swim in the depths of God. That's so beautiful. So explain how you experience the depths of God. And you just mentioned that you invite him into every moment. Tell us how you do that in a practical way.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Well, first, most of us are satisfied with just waiting in the shallows of knowing God. We skate the surface. We know a little bit of the Bible, we do a little bit of prayer, we know a little bit of theology and that sees us through. But I think what happens is that often God allows affliction, suffering, disappointment, grief, loss, whatever it is, and that suffering is his way of throwing us out into the depths of God where we cannot touch bottom. We cannot make it. We cannot do it on our own. We need Christ desperately.

And perhaps in your blindness, Jennifer -- I know in my own paralysis, I have had to need God desperately. And the way I practice the presence of Christ is that I've gotten into the habit of first asking God, "Open the eyes of my heart. Jesus, let me see things as you see them. Let me see people as you see them." And I think that's a good way to start, just asking God to open up your eyes. "Jesus, help me develop the discipline." Help me that when I am in the checkout line at the grocery store and there are five people in front of me, remind me to pray for them. Or when I'm at a stop light, remind me to pray for the children on the sidewalk waiting for the walking green. Or remind me when I'm gardening to look at the flowers and admire your creative genius in designing such beauty. I mean, these are all ways we can practice the presence of Jesus. And I call those moments sanctified moments. We can sanctify anything and everything.

The Bible says, "To the pure, all things are pure." And what that means is you can look at something -- like right now -- okay, I moved away from the hammering in the kitchen, Jennifer, and I wheeled over here to my bedroom with my headset on and I'm looking out at the most beautiful purple flowers of my Mexican sage. And as I'm looking at it, I'm sanctifying this view. Lord Jesus, I am saying that you are amazing to have designed this color purple contrasted against the green. You are a God of beauty, you are a God of order and design, and you have done this for me to enjoy this gift of this glorious bush here with these flowers, and I'm going to glorify you in it by sanctifying it, making it holy and saying that you're the one who did this, my enjoyment, and for your glory. Okay, if there is a way of sanctifying a bunch of flowers out of your bedroom window. Really. And when you get in the habit of doing that, you know, sanctifying your mealtime, dinnertime by saying a blessing over it, you've sanctified it, you've set it apart. God, this is all for your glory. My taste buds are going to be enlivened by this roast beef, and I'm so thankful for that. That you've given us the financial wherewithal to have a meal like this, because 99.9% of the world would love to have a meal like this. I mean, that's the way Christians should think about life. That's the way we should respond to life.

And when you get into that habit, when you ask God to open up your mind, your heart, your eyes to see life as he sees it, you just -- your life is filled with joy because you see God in everything. To the pure, things are pure. That's, I guess, it in a nutshell, Jennifer.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. And I love how practical that is too. It really is. It makes every moment holy.

But, Joni, what you just described does not happen if we're running 99 miles an hour and our eyes are fixed on our cell phone or whatever. I mean, you're talking about really slowing down and having this spiritual discipline to just really see and ask God to help you see. And that's a good reminder.

You know, I don't know how it is with you, but I have to move slower because I'm blind. Of course, in a wheelchair you have to move a little slower. But that doesn't mean on the inside I'm very patient. That doesn't mean on the inside I'm not racing ahead. So this is a good word for all of us, just to slow it down and ask God to open our eyes.

And, you know, as I'm thinking about your life and how you've learned to swim in the depths of God, I know also in your book you said that your ongoing pain -- because I think this is something maybe a lot of our listeners may not be aware of, that even with the paralysis, you still have pain, and the pain that you deal with has done some things in your life and in your heart. So can you tell us what the chronic pain has taught you.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Well, I deal with very severe neuropathic pain, and it's like a knifing knife all the time in my back and my hip and shoulders, and it keeps me awake at night at times. And there used to be a time, Jennifer, where I would lie in bed -- you know, and paralyzed, I can't get up and walk around to stretch. So I lie in bed and I'm anxious and I'm fearful. Oh, I hate this pain. I can't stand this. God, I can't do this. I mean, you don't want to talk to pain that way because it only makes it worse. Your anxiety just exacerbates your discomfort. So instead, I breathe deeply, I quiet my heart, and I ask the Lord Jesus to meet me in this pain and then I walk into that pain. And just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who walked into the fiery furnace and they found Jesus. They found the Son of Man walking amongst themselves. And I expect to see Jesus in my pain. I know he has gone before me. He has transformed that pain into a place of hope where I will encounter him. And I cannot say that it lessens the pain, but it gives me courage, strength, enablement, power, ability to get through it and do it with a smile, and just relax and say, "Jesus, thank you that you are here in my midst." Because I've often said there's nothing more heavenly than finding Christ in your most hellish experiences and emotions and circumstances. And I'm grateful for the fact that God has allowed this pain to draw me closer to him.

And I don't know about our listeners, but I would venture to say that for those of our listeners who have suffered and suffered greatly, they have a more intimate view of Christ than perhaps people who don't suffer much. So it's a matter of not resisting God's purposes and plan when he permits affliction, but finding Christ in it.

Because we have a suffering Savior. We have a Savior who was nailed to the judgment tree, who was ripped to shreds, who was tormented and tortured horribly, not to mention the spiritual pain that he went through. And, you know, God tells us if we want to know his Son, it's going to be on terms that in some measure have us suffer to some degree, as did his own beloved precious Son, so...

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, the fellowship.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Yeah, the fellowship of suffering. Absolutely. It's a matter of dying to self, our own wants and wishes, I wish life were different. Dying to that and living that resurrection hope to Jesus.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, I am reminded -- one of my favorite books ever -- that we're not talking about today, but I'm going to mention -- "The God I Love," your memoir. So beautifully written, by the way, and so meaningful. And I want to say it was near the last page -- because, of course, I'm listening to audio, so it was in the last 10 minutes, 15 minutes of the book. But I won't quote you correctly, but you'll know what I'm talking about. You said something like God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves. And that is what I'm hearing also in that remarkable grace-filled way that he's taught you to handle pain --

Joni Eareckson Tada: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- recognition that what he has not delivered you from, he is delivering you through to accomplish something even better.

Joni, it's really a hard inspiration that I thank you for living well. I really do.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Oh, you are so kind to say that. But I just pray that we all finish well, right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Amen. Amen.

Joni Eareckson Tada: It's a dark, crazy world. I know your listeners, they can look around them, and it's just bizarre how dark and evil the world has become. And we want to finish well.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, we do.

Joni Eareckson Tada: We want to keep shining the light of Jesus. We want to keep shaking his salt, right, Jennifer?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, we do. Well, in fact, when -- a lot of people who know you or know of you, they may think that you are just -- just like you were just showing us, very positive, persevering naturally. Okay, let's -- naturally joyful -- okay? -- and thankful.

But one thing that was curious to me is you wrote in your book that you cannot make yourself or you cannot make your heart feel grateful. I would love for you to explain that. That might set some people free.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Well, I think what we need to do, when we don't feel grateful, is to pursue the obedience of giving thanks, being grateful. Just saying -- mouthing the words. This happens to me sometimes when -- okay, without going into a long explanation, I get a reaction called autonomic dysreflexia. It's when I'm in a different kind of pain other than neuropathic pain. And my blood pressure skyrockets, my heart rate increases, I start sweating profusely. I'm dripping, soaking wet. It is so uncomfortable. And it's so hard to be grateful in the midst of all that because it's so distracting. I mean, it just, like, fills my world, these -- what I call sweats. And I have to start mouthing the words of thanks. I don't believe it, I don't feel grateful, but I'm going to mouth it. Jesus, I'm going to mouth the words of -- I'm going to move my mouth and I'm going to say, "I am grateful for my salvation. I am grateful I'm a citizen of heaven. I am thankful that you've given me a wonderful home, a comfortable home. I am thankful that I've got a mission to accomplish. I am" -- I just go on and I start mouthing these words of thanks.

And sooner or later, Jennifer, our hearts catch up with that. Facts always go first before feelings. You can't put your feelings first and expect the facts to (audio glitch). No. Start just saying it. Proverbs says the power of life and death is in the tongue. And what we say and what we say out loud -- because remember, we live in a spiritual world that is populated by unseen beings, angels and demons and the heavenly hosts and the dark forces of wickedness. We live in a spiritual world, and these unseen beings are itching to know how we're going to respond to a trial.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

Joni Eareckson Tada: They just want to know, is this girl's -- is this woman's faith strong enough to persevere through this trial? Let's see how she responds to all this.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Well, I'm going to not let them second guess. I'm going to mouth my words of thanks until my heart catches up with it.

Jennifer Rothschild: That is the best kind of mouthing off I've ever heard. I like that.

Well, you describe in your book -- and this reminds me of it. You describe your life as a cosmic battlefield. And so you say that you stay alert to the commands of Christ. And so I'm hearing that's kind of what you're talking about here, so that's how it helps by letting the spiritual realm know, "Hey, devil, watch out."

Joni Eareckson Tada: Yep.

Jennifer Rothschild: But I want you to kind of just unpack that a little bit more. What do you mean by calling your own life a cosmic battlefield, and is that true about every believer?

Joni Eareckson Tada: Absolutely it's true about every believer. Absolutely. This is why we're told in the New Testament, endure hardship like a good soldier. I mean, we are waking up every morning and entering a war, a spiritual war. And the devil doesn't care about you if you go willy-nilly about your day and barely give God a thought. The devil doesn't care if you call yourself a Christian and yet your heart is seething with resentment or bitterness. The devil knows he's gotcha. But what he's concerned about are people who, when their feet hit the floor, open up God's Word and invite Christ to energize them through the day. Open my eyes, Lord, help me to participate and practice the presence of Christ in all my menial tasks today. Those are the people that God is -- or that the devil is worried about.

So every person listening right now, your life is a cosmic battlefield every day upon which the mightiest forces of the universe converge in warfare. Whose side are you going to be on? You can't straddle the fence because the fence is the devil's territory. You can't do that. You've got to be on the side of Jesus Christ. He's the one who is for you.

And so when we endure hardship as a good soldier, when we gain victories for Christ, all of this is not for naught. It enlarges our eternal estate. We are accruing for ourselves more joy and worship and service in heaven if we would but drastically obey God and believe him and trust him through the hardest of things.

So I don't want to minimize, I don't want to jeopardize, I don't want to just squander my hardships. I want to capitalize on them and optimize on them by obeying Christ, being grateful, and knowing that when I get to heaven, oh, my goodness, I'm going to have so much capacity to worship Christ, to serve him, and to enjoy him. So that's what I mean about the cosmic stakes being so high. They just don't impact us in this world; they impact us in the world to come, the cosmic world.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's such a good word and such a good perspective we need to be reminded of.

One of the things also I wanted to talk to you about, Joni -- and we're leaving the cosmic battlefield and we're going to the Shepherd and the sheep right now, okay?

Joni Eareckson Tada: Okay.

Jennifer Rothschild: Because one of the things you and I have in common is a love for Psalm 23. So I know that you love Psalm 23, I think it's verse 6, the verse about goodness and mercy following us all the days of our lives. Unpack that verse for us. Tell us why that verse particularly is meaningful to you.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Well, it's been translated various ways. And I love -- I believe it's the King James Version -- not the New American Standard -- where it says, "Goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life." Not just follow me, but pursue me. Goodness and mercy are out to find us. And to me, this showcases the love of Christ and how, oh, my goodness, you give God an inch and he'll break open the reservoir of heaven, he'll crack the floodgate, and he will flood so much love into your life, so much enablement and grace and joy. God's love is constantly pursuing us. His goodness and mercy are running after us, and all we need to do -- and you mentioned it earlier, Jennifer -- we need to pause, stop, wait upon the Lord. Open our eyes, open our arms. I receive this love, Lord Jesus, now. Show me how beautiful you are and thereby fill my heart and transform me as I adore you for all that you are.

And that's what I mean by goodness and mercy pursuing us. God is after us. He wants to engage us. He is for us, never against us. And, oh, my goodness, what a delight when you sense that God's love has found you. He has found you. Isn't that a wonderful thing?

I know we don't have much more time left, Jennifer, but I'd love to hear from you. You and I don't get a chance to talk often. But share some of the thoughts, insights, whatever that have helped you the most. That would inspire me.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, my goodness. Well, part of the reason I brought up Psalm 23 is because that does inspire me so much. And, you know, Joni, as I was thinking, if you turned your neck and were able to look behind you -- you know, some may say me becoming blind at 15, you becoming quadriplegic at 17, we of all people would not be able to turn around and go, well, yeah, I see a whole bunch of goodness and mercy pursuing me. No. They might say, no, there's just loss and grief and brokenness that has followed you your whole life. And that's not true --

Joni Eareckson Tada: It's not true.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- because of the redemption of Christ. It doesn't mean that the hard things aren't hard, but there is such a goodness that comes. There's such a mercy. I don't know about you, Joni, but sometimes I think, you know, even on my worst days, I don't know how bad it could be. I don't know what God is sparing me from. I know what I'm experiencing, but I don't know what God is sparing me from, so I'm going to celebrate that mercy right now --

Joni Eareckson Tada: Oh, my goodness.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- you know? So, yeah.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Real quickly I've got to interrupt here, because it's like I'm one of your listeners, I'm one of your followers, I'm one of your subscribers. I can see why you are so loved in the kingdom.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, gosh. You're sweet.

Joni Eareckson Tada: No, I'm serious. No, listen. To say what you just said and have the visual impairment that you have, your blind issue, is to me so encouraging sitting in this wheelchair. Oh, my goodness. It's the blind leading the paralyzed. What can I say? And I love it. I love it. It helps me, it energizes me, it animates my spirit. Truly this is an example of what we've experienced right here of edification, building one another up through our hardships, right?

Jennifer Rothschild: It's exactly right. That's what it should be.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Yep.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and, you know, like -- because you and I could go on maybe with a little bit too much mutual admiration. But I will tell you one more thing for our audience's sake, because I have shared this publicly and it blessed me so much. Because, Joni, you know, sometimes the burden of having any kind of handicap -- you know, I'm always having to ask for help, and I hate it. I mean, I'll never get over it probably. I tried to. I asked the Lord for humility. But I would just rather not feel like I am a burden to someone. And I can imagine that you would identify, because even one time you said something like needing to ask someone to open a door for you and kind of feeling the angst of that. And you framed it as but the fact that you asking them to help you was giving them a chance to feel esteemed because they're able to step outside themselves and help someone else. That has helped me so much, so that's why I want to share it with you and our listeners right now.

Because like I said earlier about Brother Lawrence, you know, here's this 16th century monk influencing this 20th century woman in a wheelchair, who has influenced another younger woman, who's just slightly younger than you, with blindness. And it's amazing how when we live out our lives with obedience, vulnerability, honesty, and authenticity, how God can use us. But when we try to get all into ourselves and pull it off with independence, I just think we stifle the work of God in our lives.

Joni Eareckson Tada: We certainly do.

Jennifer Rothschild: We do, don't we? I mean, it's hard, and it's not fun, but it's such a better life.

Joni Eareckson Tada: It really is. In fact, sometimes when I've asked for help -- real quickly. I know we've got to go soon. But I was shopping not long ago, it's about a year or two ago, and my batteries gave out. My chair went dead. I had to ask somebody, "Would you please push me over to J.C. Crew because that's where my husband is." And he kind of looked at me. He was like -- and I said, "Look, this will help you. Believe me, helping me is really going to help you. It will make you a better person." And that's my perspective about anybody who helps me, so...

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Oh, Jennifer, I --

Jennifer Rothschild: That's so good. Well, okay, listen, sister -- I know, we do have to go. Clearly, we just need to go to coffee sometime. But let's get to our last question here. Okay?

In this new book, "On This Side of Eternity," you're talking about practicing the presence of the Lord. But one day, sister, you will be in the presence of Jesus in heaven, right in front of him. So what does that mean to you, and how can the reality of that day -- how is that going to impact this day on earth for you?

Joni Eareckson Tada: Oh, my goodness, you've just painted a most marvelous picture. Because I imagine at that point I'll be standing up --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

Joni Eareckson Tada: -- and I can hold the hands of my Savior, and I will feel the nail prints in his hand. And I will say to him -- looking in his eyes, I'll say, "Jesus, thank you, thank you for giving me grace, grace all those years I was paralyzed. Thank you so much." And you know what? When I say that, I know Jesus will know that I mean it, because he will know that I'm the one who for 56 years came to him every day hammering human strength, "I can't do this," and he will know that my gratitude is sincere and from the heart. And nothing could please me more than that.

And as I said earlier, I want to do everything down here on earth that I can to enlarge my eternal estate, to stretch it. And we know that if we have the perspective that our light and momentary afflictions are just that, light and momentary, and have a godly response to it, then they are accruing for us an eternal weight of glory that is far more significant than the inconvenience of blindness, of paralysis, whatever else our listeners might be struggling with. I mean, it just far outweighs it. So I don't want to diminish it, I want to enlarge it. I want to work for that day. I cannot wait to see the Lord Jesus and tell him thank you from the heart. I won't be mouthing my thankfulness, it will be a river of living gratitude poured out upon him for glory upon glory forevermore.

K.C. Wright: You know, there are just some people, and Joni is one of them, that God uses so powerfully for a generation. Her faith, her perseverance, her wisdom, all of it has made a huge, huge impact in this generation. There's just only one Joni Eareckson Tada. Only one.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well said, K.C. I totally agree. And her influence is going to be felt for generations to come also, just like Brother Lawrence's has been. Y'all, it is all about faithfulness, isn't it?

K.C. Wright: Yes. And this book, which by the way -- this is so cool -- includes some of her art which she draws with a pencil between her teeth, will totally bless you. And it can also be a wonderful, wonderful gift. So we are actually giving one away right now on Jennifer's Instagram. Simply go to @jennrothchild. And you can also go, as always, to the Show Notes at -- that's j-o-n-i -- to enter to win or buy the book. All right?

You can also read a full transcript there as well of this powerful conversation that I can't wait to listen to again.

Jennifer Rothschild: I know, right? I agree.

Well, thanks, you guys, for hanging out with us and getting to hear from one of my heroes today. And I know that her words and her life blessed you as much as she blesses me. So until our next episode, let's practice the presence of Jesus. We can because we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. I can.

K.C. Wright: I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: And you can.

K.C. Wright: You can.

Jennifer Rothschild: (Singing) Thank you, Lord.

K.C. Wright: And I'm not trying to put any condemnation on you --

Jennifer Rothschild: Me?

K.C. Wright: -- but I feel like I'm single still to this moment in life, in time, because you're just not --

Jennifer Rothschild: I haven't done my job?

K.C. Wright: You're not stepping up.

Jennifer Rothschild: I know, I haven't done my job.

K.C. Wright: You are surrounded with all these ladies --

Jennifer Rothschild: (singing) Hey to all the single ladies.

K.C. Wright: -- and I feel like the Lord's going to use you, J.R.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Well, I tell you all the time you're so funny.

K.C. Wright: Well, number one --

Jennifer Rothschild: Like, that alone is worth marrying you.

K.C. Wright: Well --

Jennifer Rothschild: Even though you're cute and smart and all that good stuff, and godly, but you're funny as can be.

K.C. Wright: Well, I'm never going to get on an app. Okay?

Jennifer Rothschild: No. Okay.

K.C. Wright: And I can't date anyone in my church because I don't want to be a gospel gigolo. So it's going to take someone like a mediator who knows me and knows the gal.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay.

K.C. Wright: And I'm convinced that's you.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, my gosh, no pressure.


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