Wednesday, December 31, 2008

When the Ball Drops

2009. Having fully recovered from the Christmas hoopla, I relish the thought of a brand new year. It arrives as an enormous present, ready to be unwrapped and enjoyed. What will it bring? No doubt, there will be both joys and heartaches.

For me, chances are good for a loss of muscle mass and an increase in body fat. One daughter will enter her senior year of college, the other her senior year of high school. According to eHarmony, it will be my year for love (but only if I purchase a minimum three month membership).

Beyond my tiny world, America will witness the swearing in of its first black president. Richard Gere and the Bionic Woman will turn sixty. On a somber note, there will be heavy bombing in the Gaza strip on New Year’s Day. More than fifteen MILLION children will ring in the New Year as AIDS orphans. The signs are ripe.

This brings me to my favorite New Year’s fantasy. What if 2009 is the year our Savior comes back to get us? What if this is the year we are caught up in the air to meet the One who loved us before time began? What if 2009 is the year we feast at the wedding supper of the Lamb?

When the clock strikes twelve tonight, I will be mapping out the inside of my eyelids. And I will be dreaming – not of sugarplums, but rather of our Lord’s return, of the day He will dry every tear, when sorrow and mourning will pass away, when the dwelling of God will be with men. With that thought, I wish you sweet dreams and a Happy New Year!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
He who sits on the throne will spread His tent over them. Never again will they hunger. Never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Revelation 7: 15-17, NIV.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Great Expectations

We don’t normally wake up the day after someone’s birthday and think, “Thank God that’s over!” I am embarrassed to admit December 26 is my second most favorite day of the year (surpassed only by the first day of school for “I’m bored” teenagers). This year, the relief I felt December 26 was so great, it warranted closer examination. Did the enormity of my relief point to something out of balance before Christmas?

You have to concede this about God: if you ask Him to reveal your flaws, He will invariably comply. I have learned not to ask unless I am willing to be humbled and to take corrective action. Mercifully, God is always willing to do the lion’s share of changing us if we but gather the courage to look. So what was my problem that I felt so much better December 26?

The truth is I worry about disappointing people at Christmas. Will the gifts be right? Will the house be clean enough, the food varied enough? Will I spend the right amount of time with the right friends and family? Will anyone’s feelings be hurt by something I say, do or fail to do? It is a lot of pressure. Of course, none of these fears has anything to do with the reason we celebrate Christmas. I believe they are part and parcel of our human condition.

The Good News is that Jesus understands my woeful lapses in faith. He doesn’t take it personally that the passing of His birthday finds me feeling like I’ve just survived a great hurdle. We serve an infinitely loving and patient God who never leaves us as He finds us. By next December, He will have done a great work in me. Of course, I won’t be where I need to be, but I know with all my heart that I won’t be where I am today. What about you? What journey of transformation is He calling you to, today?

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1: 3-6, NIV.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Twelve Days for Christmas, Days 11 and 12

I am certain that Satan did not want me to finish our study of Rick Warren’s The Purpose of Christmas. On Monday, I woke up with a fever and sinuses that a stick of dynamite couldn’t budge. On Tuesday, I woke up and our heat pump had burned out. It was a whopping forty-five degrees in the house. Several phone calls later, I realized it would be at least one more night, possibly two before we would have heat. Being sick and having to camp over at friends’ was not what I had in mind for the days leading up to Christmas. "Distracted" seems inadequate to describe my state of mind.

But by the time I finish writing this, Christmas Eve midnight will have come and gone. It will be Christmas. We got back into our house this evening. The antibiotics I’ve been taking have started to kick in. My nearly grown children are nestled snug in their beds while visions of giftcards dance in their heads.

The house is silent, save for the ticking of the clock. The Christmas tree sparkles with colored lights and tinsel. Ornaments my daughters made at school in the early nineties still hang in places of great honor. Now we are here; it is Christmas.

On this holy, silent night, I can turn to the Scriptures to relieve my distraction. I am drawn to the book of Revelation where the end is revealed from the beginning. The angels and elders are gathered around the throne of God. Just like in the night sky over Bethlehem, they all begin to sing for Jesus:

You were killed, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have caused them to become God’s kingdom and His priests. And they will reign on the earth.

The Lamb is worthy – the Lamb who was killed. He is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.

And that is what Christmas is all about.

Good night and God Bless – may you feel His grace today:
Gail W.

The last Word:
You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that we exist and were created.
Revelation 4:11, NLT.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Twelve Days for Christmas: Day 10

Reference: Warren, Rick (2008). The Purpose of Christmas. Howard Books, pp. 104-106.

Funny thing about making peace with God; it is invariably followed by the peace of God. Today’s reading reminds us that through the birth of a baby two thousand years ago, we can know the peace of God in a world ruled by darkness.

It is eighteen degrees here tonight with not a cloud in sight. Stars I don’t normally see gleam in the winter sky. By the miracle of Christmas, I can look up and know my God is in control of all that happens in the heavens and here on the earth.

Man talks a lot about peace. History yields a long list of men and women who did all they could to promote peace. Billions of dollars have been spent; thousands of lives have been taken, all in the name of peace. The joyful news of Christmas is that God knew how far afield man would go, and He made a plan before the world began.

We who believe know the peace of God. It is certainty in the face of illness, in the face of poverty and in the face of broken relationships. It is peace when it makes no human sense to have peace. Today, we pause to mark Christmas as the gate by which we can know the peace of God.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4: 6, 7, NASB.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Twelve Days for Christmas: Day 9

Reference: Warren, Rick (2008). The Purpose of Christmas. Howard Books, pp. 87-103.

Today’s reading focuses on Christmas’ purpose of reconciliation. The babe in Bethlehem came that we might have peace. Peace with God, the peace of God and peace with others.

Prince of Peace. Of all the names Isaiah listed for the coming Messiah, “Prince of Peace” touches my heart most deeply. I crave peace. I have known enough chaos to last a hundred lifetimes. Much of it was of my own making. Like the prodigal son, I took my inheritance and squandered it on riotous living. I thought I had a plan. The plan turned out to be a dead end.

But the Father knew I could never find my way back to Him on my own. So He sent His Son. He made a way for you and for me to come home, to be reunited with our Father. Peace with God means unholy man being reconciled to a holy God. Only the Son Himself could accomplish such a task. He chose to do so at a cost we may never fully grasp. At Christmas, we rejoice and mark the day His great Mercy came to dwell among us.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Isaiah 55:1, NIV.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Twelve Days for Christmas: Day 8

Reference: Warren, Rick (2008). The Purpose of Christmas. Howard Books, pp. 79-83.

Today, we view Christmas in the light of faith. Webster’s defines faith as “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”. Long before Webster penned his first tome, Paul defined faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Rick Warren puts it this way:

“Just as parents deeply desire and long for their children to trust their love, God wants you to learn to trust Him. The Bible says, ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.’ Faith makes God smile. It’s not what you do, but whom you trust, that gets you into heaven (pp. 79-80).

Christmas calls us to child-like faith in our Lord. Jesus said, “Unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). I think of the certainty I felt as a child that Santa Claus was coming on Christmas Eve. There were no nagging doubts, no contingency plan in case he didn’t show. I KNEW he would be there as surely as I knew the sun would rise on Christmas day. It never occurred to me that it would not be so. Oh, to have such faith as we await His arrival!

As we approach the birth of the Christ Child, we pause to thank Him for the miracle of faith.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7: 50, NIV.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gone Fishin'

Twelve Days for Christmas: Day 8 will be posted by noon today. ------------

Twelve Days for Christmas: Day 7

Reference: Warren, Rick (2008). The Purpose of Christmas. Howard Books, pp. 67-78.

As we move closer to the birth of the Christ Child, we stop to remember that He did not have to come. There was no endearing trait in us that would justify His leaving Heaven to come and get us. He came, not because of who we are, but because of who He is. This is what we mean by grace. When there was nothing the human race could do to reconcile itself to a holy God, Christ stepped in and paid the bill for us.

Grace is a hard concept for me to grasp. I grew up believing love was something you received when you followed the rules and lost when you failed to do so. Most people I know struggle to escape that man-made mentality. We can quote Ephesians 2:8 until the cows come home (“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith”), but what does that mean, exactly? I like Rick Warren’s explanation:

“God came to earth as Jesus essentially to say: You guys have got it all wrong! Of course doing good things matters, but it doesn’t make me love you any more or any less. My love for you is unlimited, unconditional, unchanging, and undeserved. You can’t purchase it, work for it, or be good enough to merit it. It’s a gift that will cost me a lot, but it is free to you” (p. 69).

Today, we pause to ponder the miracle of grace. We revel in its expression as the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
As we know Jesus better, His divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive His own glory and goodness! And by that same mighty power, He has given us all of His rich and wonderful promises. He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in His divine nature.
2 Peter 1: 3, 4, NLT.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Twelve Days for Christmas: Day 6

Reference: Warren, Rick (2008). The Purpose of Christmas. Howard Books, pp. 61-66.

How are we doing, ladies? I hope coming by this blog is a moment of refreshing for you – remember, this mini-study is intended to help us relax amid the rush and to focus, however briefly, on the core of Christmas. If it has become one more thing you need to do, that’s Satan talking, loud and clear! (He’s the only one I know who talks more than I do – I will be so glad when God shuts him up for good).

Oh, yes, back to our study . . . .

Today, we continue our look at Christmas through the lens of salvation. If Christ only came to save us from sin and death, that would be a gift beyond measure. But that is just the beginning! The good tidings of great joy are that He not only saves us from something; He saves us for something. Warren writes, "Although God created each of us for a purpose, we’ve all taken many detours in life, thinking we knew better. [OUCH] So God had to send Jesus as our Savior – to redeem us from sin, to reset the directions of our lives, and to restore us to His original purposes for our lives" (p. 62, emphasis added).

The babe in Bethlehem’s manger holds the key to all my happiness in the here and the hereafter. Because He came, I can find relief from the sin that binds me AND I can jump into the flow of furthering His kingdom. That’s where it really gets exciting! Christmas is a time to pause and remember the things that bring me the greatest joy: my family, my work and the certainty that this life is just a precursor to eternity with the Lover of my soul.

What about you? What has Christ saved you for? Take time to think about the things that bring you the greatest joy; take time to thank a tender Baby for making it all possible!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 8: 28, 29, NIV.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Twelve Days for Christmas: Day 5

Reference: Warren, Rick (2008). The Purpose of Christmas. Howard Books, pp. 41-50.

Today, we take an expanded look at the gift of salvation that Christmas brings. In The Purpose of Christmas, Warren writes,

“When people think of spiritual salvation, they often have a very narrow concept of it: they think that salvation is being saved from hell. But God had so much more in mind than just fire insurance when He sent Jesus to be our Savior” (p. 44).

Webster’s dictionary defines “salvation” as preservation from destruction or failure; deliverance from danger or difficulty. The word “save” is to rescue or deliver from danger or harm, to preserve or guard from injury, destruction or loss.

“I am my own worst enemy.” How often do we hear this; how often do we think it of ourselves? It is no secret that many (most, speaking for myself) of our troubles are of our own making. Even when other people, places and things create chaos in our lives, we make matters worse by the way we respond.

The apostle Paul described our problem perfectly: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate is what I do . . . I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it (Romans 7: 15-20).

Sin is real, and I need to be preserved from its destruction. Every day. Salvation is not just a card to cash in at the gates to eternity. It is a tool for living every moment of every day. Through salvation, God chips away at our hearts of stone, molding us into the image of His Son. When we accept Christ as Savior, we give consent to the Sculptor to begin work with our rough materials. Through the ongoing work of salvation, God will use what we bring to create the masterpiece He knows is within us.

Christmas is for salvation.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day unto now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1: 3-6, NIV.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Twelve Days for Christmas: Day 4

Reference: Warren, Rick (2008). The Purpose of Christmas. Howard Books, pp. 29-37.

In today’s reading, we continue to ask, “What, exactly, are we celebrating at Christmas?” Using the angel’s pronouncement to the shepherds, Rick Warren focuses on the eternal Truth that God is for us.I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

For many years, I pictured God as a giant man with a flowing white beard and a ready supply of punishments for those who did not toe the line. Satan uses our guilty conscience and a wrong understanding of God to make us forget that God is on our side. At Christmas, we celebrate that God is rooting for each of us with all the love and power that heaven holds.

The apostle Paul, writing to the church at Rome, posed the question we must daily ask ourselves: If God is for us, who can be against us? Our reading points out that God plus one is always a majority! We do well to follow Moses’ advice to the children of Israel, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today . . . the Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Take time today to remember that God is for you, that Christ came not to condemn the world but to save it.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
Psalm 27: 1, 5, NIV.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sabbath Rest

Pause today to reflect on what we've been reminded of so far:

Christmas is a time to take courage.

Christmas is a time to celebrate that God loves you.

Christmas is a time to celebrate that God is with you.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.
Isaiah 30: 15, NIV.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Twelve Days for Christmas: Day 3

Reference: Warren, Rick (2008). The Purpose of Christmas. Howard Books, pp. 25-28.

Immanuel. God with us. Here we find another reason to celebrate Christmas. God is with us. God is with you. God is with me. What could be greater cause to rejoice?

I often marvel at how unbelievers can get up and face the world each day without the Savior. What gratitude comes from knowing, The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Today, you may feel alone, but feelings are not facts. The Fact is The Great I AM is with us, every day, everywhere. He has not left us here as orphans. The God who came to Bethlehem in the form of a baby still comes to us today. He is right here, right now. Sounds like time for the happy dance to me!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.
Psalm 121:4-8, NKJV.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Twelve Days for Christmas: Day 2

Today’s reference:
Warren, Rick (2008). The Purpose of Christmas. Howard Books, pp. 10-24. (Don’t panic; most of those pages are pictures!)

Based on the angel’s pronouncement, Rick Warren cites three purposes of Jesus’ birth. The greatest holiday on Earth is a time for celebration, for salvation and for reconciliation. We begin by examining Christmas as a time for celebration.

The carol asks, “Shepherds, why your jubilee?” What, exactly, will we be celebrating on December 25? A few paid days off from work? That the planning, shopping, cooking, decorating frenzy of the past month has finally come to an end? These are reasons the world celebrates Christmas. But what about those of us who know the Savior’s birth as the unfolding of God’s gracious plan?

When we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating the nature of God. The bedrock truth revealed in the manger is that God loves us. For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten son. Through the prophet Isaiah, Christ foretold His purpose in coming to Earth:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted; to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Isaiah 61: 1, 2).

The joy of Christmas is that the Creator of the universe loves us with an everlasting love. He loved us more than He loved His own life. Pause for a moment and think of the glories of nature. Now think about the fact that God’s love for you far exceeds anything our human eyes can see. Cause to celebrate, indeed.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man . . . but God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5: 6-8, NIV.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Twelve Days for Christmas: Day 1

Today’s reference:
Warren, Rick (2008). The Purpose of Christmas. Howard Books, pp. 1-9.

Rick Warren begins The Purpose of Christmas with the question, “Why is Christmas such a big deal?” He has a point. In a world that so often denies Christ, there is still a tremendous stir this time of year. With December 25 less than two weeks away, many people are feeling this stir in not-so-pleasant ways. If that is you, I have one word for you . . . breathe.

You may be reading this in the middle of a busy office or in a heap of exhaustion after a day you thought would never end. Whatever your circumstances, I invite you to stop. Just stop. Before you read another word, close your eyes and take one deep, gut-raising breath. Go ahead, be extravagant – take two!

Now, where were we? Oh, yes; I believe it was the book of Luke:
There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!

My attention goes first to the state of the shepherds. They were sore afraid. Sound like anybody you know these days? From job woes to jihad, we face many reasons to be terrified. The world seems to be spinning faster and faster – any day now, things will start flying off into space under the momentum. Evils we never dreamed possible have become the stuff of everyday headlines.

And lo, just as the light of angels cracked the darkness over Bethlehem, Christmas comes, bringing its sudden and singular message: Fear not! The purpose of Christmas will always be the bestowing of the Greatest Gift. Rick Warren points out this Gift is priceless. It lasts forever. It is indispensable in the here and the hereafter. But like any other gift, it is useless if left unwrapped beneath the tree. I pray the moments we spend together here will be an opportunity to unwrap your Gift anew, to be dazzled again by the brightness and beauty that filled the night sky so many years ago. The wonder is still ours for the pausing and asking.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2, NIV.

Discussion Suggestion:
What terrifies you these days? What do you need to stop and lay in the hands of the Savior?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Twelve Days for Christmas: A Mini-Study

The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren is a magnificent little book that seems to be on a lot of gift lists this year. I bought the book several weeks ago, toying with the idea of doing a short study for Job 19:25 He Lives.

Last week, my name was drawn for a door prize at a women’s dinner (see post 12/07/08). I was having so much fun at the dinner that I did not open the prize until I got home. As I peeled back the wrapping, I saw the red cover of Rick Warren’s new book peeking back at me. Okay, God – I get it!

On God’s behalf, I invite you to join me beginning December 11 for a twelve-day study of The Purpose of Christmas. Each day’s post will be structured to enjoy even if you have not had a chance to pick up the book. Please join me as we prayerfully approach the day that changed the history of all eternity!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
The apostles gathered around Jesus . . . Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Mark 6: 30,31, NIV.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oh Holy Night

Last Friday, I had my own holy night. No magi or livestock were involved, but Emmanuel was there as surely as He was in Bethlehem’s stable. I was invited to speak at a women’s Christmas dinner at a tiny rural church in Virginia. The night blessed my soul in ways I never expected. It was the greatest Christmas surprise I have received in many years.

I had never visited this little church before. Thankfully, a handful of women from my home church agreed to come along for moral support. As my friends and I drove through darkened back roads, not all of them paved, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. After only one wrong turn, we finally arrived. Rounding one more switchback curve, I saw the one-room church, lifted straight from a Currier and Ives Christmas card.

A buttery glow spilled from the windows into the churchyard. High above the white clapboard building, bells tolled as the clock struck seven. The rich, deep sound rang through the night, welcoming us to come in and find shelter from the cold. Shelter, indeed.

Inside, every corner of the room was filled. One corner held a Christmas tree. It was perfectly shaped yet real – we were in the country, after all. Another corner held a beautiful buffet, laden with ham, rolls, steaming green beans, baked apples and cheese potatoes. And that was before you reached the desserts! It was a feast fit for a King.

But the sweetest miracle was the greeting we received from this group of firm believers. They opened their arms and their hearts, warmly sharing the joy of Christ’s coming in song and in the Word. For a few brief hours, the world stopped. Sorrows and cares were set aside as we came into His presence with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.

I had never met these women before. But I knew every one of them. From the newly widowed bride of many years to the elfin grandmother dressed in red from head to toe to the little girl with big brown eyes and chestnut hair swept up in a festive Christmas bow.

I was home. These women believe what I believe. They have staked their lives on the same truth I have, that the Lover of our souls left behind the glories of heaven to appear in a rural one-room stable, that He suffered unspeakably so we could be with Him forever.

For now, my holy night in the country felt like a little slice of heaven, a sneak preview of the fellowship we will feel when the One we adore returns to take us home again. The joy I felt will stay with me for a very long time.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
The Word was made flesh and dwelled among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14, NIV.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Signs of the Times

First, it was London. Now it is Washington, DC. Atheist groups in these cities have launched major ad campaigns to coincide with the “religious” holidays. Buses in London will carry billboards advising, “There probably is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The DC bus ads show Santa Claus asking, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”

The wording used by the London group struck me as odd. “There probably is no God”? Were they hedging their bets by using the word "probably"? Does this provide them a loophole in case He shows up and it turns out He is real?

A spokesman for the Washington, DC group said the campaign was planned for this time of year as “non-theists feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion.” This synchs with billboards along the New Jersey turnpike proclaiming, “Don’t believe in God? You’re not alone.” If aloneness is their problem, these people are really going to hate eternity!

My question is would I get on a bus carrying such a blasphemous message? What about bus drivers who believe? Will they get a choice to avoid driving vehicles labeled in such a way? Will there be Christians who can’t get to work without boarding these buses? Will Christian employees of the transit system be subject to discipline for noncompliance? How many taxpayer dollars (or pounds) are going to these systems?

The apostle Paul warned us about this two thousand years ago and advised us on what our approach should be. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be – the Word of God is where we find our strength. As the days grow more evil, we find our solace in the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for those who feel alone, that they would say yes to the path where we are never alone!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and imposters go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it. From infancy, you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All Scripture is God-breathed and useful. . . .
2 Timothy 3: 12-16, NIV.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Second Billing

Nothing has taught me more about God’s love than the experience of being a parent myself. On Saturday night, my daughter’s high school volleyball team won the state championship. It was the first state title in the school’s twenty year history of girls’ volleyball. “Jubilation” only hints at the excitement we all experienced. And my girl’s role in this momentous occasion? She kept stats for the team.

I could not have been more proud of my daughter if she had scored the tie-breaking point in the final match. She went into the season as a varsity team rookie. She has shown up for every practice. She has cheered through every game regardless of whether she got play time. She has provided a platform for the team stars to take the group all the way to the top. Saturday night’s victory was as much hers as it was anyone else’s.

It makes me mindful of how our perfect Father sees us. We all have different roles to play in furthering God’s kingdom. Some roles are out front with a lot of attention. Others are behind the scenes. Some may seem downright insignificant. But every role is an integral part of God’s grand and glorious plan.

God is proud of each of His children. He beams whether we are speaking to a crowd of a thousand or wiping the last crumbs off the church’s kitchen counter. He delights in each of us, just as I delight in my daughter’s small but relevant contribution. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been known to mumble, “Well, I just . . . .” Fill in the blank with any task you’ve been tempted to discount in the grand scheme of the Kingdom. Join me as I ask forgiveness from the Proud Papa who loves every effort we make, large or small!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:11, NIV.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Results Are In

Election Day is finally here. Praise Jesus! Has an election ever caused the wind and fury this one has? While there are a few more hours until the polls close, I already know the outcome. I did not hear it on a news show or read it on the web. I did not hear it in a hand-wringing session of well-intentioned but fearful believers. I found it in God's ancient text.

When we go to the Source, we find our God has a long history of using man-made governments to accomplish His purposes. Think of a king known as Pharaoh, an emperor named Caesar Augustus and the governor of a remote Roman province called Pontius Pilate. The Truth is that God planned for this election before He set the world in motion.

Whatever America chooses today, one thing will remain unchanged: God is in control. He knows exactly who will be elected, what referenda will be passed. He knows exactly how the world will react. He knows every pocket where wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famine will occur. He told us about it two thousand years ago. He knew the end from the beginning. In 2008, this remains our bedrock truth.

And Christ’s advice to us? “Take heart!” For He has overcome the world.

Tonight, the news networks can stay up, speculating, confirming, retracting and reconfirming. Tomorrow morning’s headlines will tell me what God is doing next. As exhausted as we all are by this race, I suggest we go to bed early and read a Good Book. It can tell us all we really need to know.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have the power either to free you or crucify you?”
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”
John 19: 10, 11, NIV.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith, together in one concert. Now that’s a dream come true! I “grew up” in Christ on these guys’ music. We are about the same age and have experienced many of life’s milestone events around the same time. They have both been transparent in their public lives which led me to feel I "know" them in a personal way.

Saturday night, I sat in the sixth row and saw my boys up close and personal. Before the concert, my friends wondered if my fervor would warrant any embarrassment on their part. To their surprise, I was relatively quiet and self-contained. I can explain that – it’s called rapture.

Michael W. Smith recounted his trip to Colorado ten years ago in the wake of the Columbine High School shootings. It's been a while since I remembered Cassie Bernall, the young girl who was shot in the head for affirming her belief in God. Michael still sings the song he wrote about her, “This Is Your Time”.

Steven Curtis Chapman has always looked like a youth group refugee to me. The round face, blonde hair and fair complexion make me want to pinch his cheek when I see his picture. The man who stepped on stage Saturday night was not the boyish imp I have always seen. I felt shock as I realized this thin, drawn fellow with the gray goatee and thick glasses was “Little Stevie”.

Five months ago, Steven’s five-year-old daughter died after a freak accident involving her older brother and an SUV. The family has been very public with much of their grieving, saying they want to help other families enduring similar losses. So I knew a lot about their journey over the past several months. None of that prepared me for the stark stamp of grief I saw on this wonderful man’s countenance.

Yet, his message was one of hope. He shared the pain and bewilderment he and his family have felt, but that was not the end of the story. Steven spent much more time describing the comfort God has sent them. There was not a dry eye in the house as he expressed his gratitude for the letters, emails and prayers of hundreds of “strangers” who have reached out in the wake of this tragedy.

The man had changed, and so had the music. It was richer; it was deeper. It was more intensely infused with the eternal Truth that sustains each one of us, the certain knowledge that God works all things together for good to those who love Him. I already loved Steven’s new release of “Yours”. He sang that song for years but recently added a new verse to affirm his conclusions about our God. On Saturday night, I felt a great surge of hope as I SAW and believed Steven’s message that everything is under God’s control.

I leave you with Steven's lyrics and a fervent prayer they will touch any part of your own heart that is broken today. Join me in remembering that whatever situations trouble us (and we all have them), God is on His throne and mindful of every tear. God is love, and love does not disappoint.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

I’ve walked the valley of death’s shadow,
So deep and dark that I could barely breathe.
I’ve had to let go of more than I could bear,
And I’ve questioned everything that I believe.
Still, even here in this great darkness,
Comfort and a hope come breaking through
As I can say, in life or death,
God, we belong to you.

The last Word:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Matthew 10: 29-31, NIV.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sneak Preview

My friends have threatened to bring along a straightjacket when we see Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman in concert tomorrow night. They still remember the state I was in at a Third Day concert last year. I promised that if they left the straightjacket at home, they could just pretend they don’t know me. Thirty-six hours until the concert, and I am already ten feet off the ground!

Nothing transports me to the Throne of Grace like praise and worship music does. When that takes place in an arena with thousands of other worshipers, I cannot contain myself. While I adore the Christian artists who bring messages of hope and praise, my elation is not for them. It is for the One they proclaim.

Concerts bring to mind what it will be like when we leave this broken world and stand before the One who has pursued us since before time began. What a glorious day that will be! I picture myself as a war bride whose Hero has finally returned from distant shores to begin our real life together. All the nights of loneliness and painful longing for Him will be over. He will be home for good. I will see Him with my own eyes. He will hold me and never let me go.

In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul described faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV). When I hear the lyrics of praise music and see others worshiping joyfully, it strengthens my faith. I become more sure of what I hope for and more certain of what I do not see. Now how is a girl supposed to sit still for all that?

What about you? What brings you into view of our joyful arrival Home? I invite you to crank up the music and join me in remembering that this earth is not our home, that a day grander than anything we can imagine lies ahead if we will just hold on!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.
1 Corinthians 2:9, NIV.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Step Away From the Binky

Self-pity has been called the great emotional pacifier. If that’s true, I probably have a cleft in my lip from sucking on mine. Last week, I experienced disappointment as a humdinger sinus infection kept me from a much anticipated conference. A few other “calamities” coincided. Just enough to send me spiraling into a royal case of “Woe is me”.

The problem with a pacifier is that it may soothe for a while, but not a drop of milk comes out of it. After a while, it just becomes a rubbery mess that doesn’t satisfy. I finally reached that point, feeling miserable enough to change what I was doing. I’ve felt sorry for myself often enough to know exactly the antidote I needed. It always involves less me time, more knee time and reaching out to help someone else.

On Friday, I went to see my friend Dorothy. Dorothy is eighty years old. Her world consists mainly of her tiny living room, cramped on every side by old newspapers, broken furniture and dime store reminders of days long gone. Dorothy consistently refuses to let anyone clear out her living space. At her age, ties to the past are too fragile for the blunt edge of a cleanup. She has made herself quite content with the sofa she lays on and one questionable chair reserved for visitors.

While Dorothy’s surroundings are meager, her love is lavish. She always greets me as if I’d just been rescued from years on a deserted island. Face beaming, she reaches out to embrace me, exclaiming, “God bless you, Baby! Oh, I am so glad to see you. How you been? How’s dem girls?” News of our simplest goings on can send her into fits of rapture. I will risk the rickety chair any day just to bask in her affection.

When I left Dorothy’s, I stopped by to check on my friend Catherine. Catherine is a single mom with two children and a growing case of cancer. Her pocket-sized apartment sits in a neighborhood where you don’t let your children play outside, day or night. She gets a disability check the first of each month, but the money always seems to run out before the month does. When she had a visitor last week, she prayed the person would not ask to use the bathroom since she had no money to buy toilet paper and was relying on torn napkins from McDonald’s until the first.

Pulling out of Catherine’s, I felt like a different person. Here I had been fretting over missing a trip I will likely make next year. Dorothy won’t be making any such trip, and Catherine may not have a next year. Yet, both of them radiate a joy that’s contagious. Thank God they are willing to let me come and drink from their waters whenever I need the boost. I don’t know what I would do without them.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?
James 2:5, NIV.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bench Warming

This year, my daughter moved up to the varsity team in high school volleyball. She went from the proverbial big fish to the new kid behind a dozen ultra-talented girls. Coach talked to her about it before the season started. He warned that she would see very little court time this year but would be positioned as a starter for next year. She said she understood and could accept that. Slugging it out in practice day after day, knowing she will likely warm the bench the entire game didn’t sound so bad in theory. A third of the way into the season, she finds living this challenge harder than she expected.

I know just how she feels. For decades, I've been an expert in my professional field. After twenty years, motherhood is mostly familiar territory. But now God has called me to something new in this writing and speaking business. Now, I am the new kid behind dozens of ultra-talented ladies in the game. Like my daughter, I was warned at the beginning that there would be a long period of practice with little or no court time along the way.

God really thinks He’s funny. It is just like Him to put me in a position to advise my daughter on her frustration. What will I suggest she do? Go back to something that isn’t so hard? Change sports to improve her chances of visibility? I don't think so.

I am always amused when my kids back themselves into a corner where they have to answer their own question. Today, I feel God smiling. He has to be amused, watching me squirm and knowing that in the end I will do the right thing. Just like my daughter. So let the endless practices roll on—for both of us.

What about you? What waiting room are you in today? Is there something you keep practicing only because you know there will one day be a harvest? I would love to hear from you. It's much more fun to travel when others are on the same road.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6, NIV.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Merrill's Been Lynched

The financial headlines this week have a lot of folks worried. My nest egg currently looks like a wool sweater inadvertently tossed in the dryer. But it wasn’t long ago when the only eggs I knew about came in a carton of twelve. When I worry about where money will come from, I do well to take the apostle Paul’s advice and, “think of what you were when you were called” (1 Corinthians 1:26).

Several years ago, God told me to quit a full-time job with benefits to start a Christ-centered business. At the time, I had two clients, two school-aged children and two hundred dollars in the bank. Literally. Today, I know where next month’s groceries are coming from. My daughters will likely graduate college without a crippling load of debt.

The world’s assessment would be that my “gamble” paid off. I know better. I know that God delights in using impossible situations to demonstrate His sovereignty. The years have taught me that even if I lose every dime tomorrow, my needs will all be met.

God has promised to supply all our needs (note He didn’t say “wants”), according to His glorious riches (Phillipians 4:19). Not according to Wall Street. Not according to the Federal Reserve. Not according to the price of a barrel of oil. So when we hear the financial sky is falling, we can remember that God is planning something far greater than our golden years. And we know that, "He who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23). In that thought, we can always find the peace that surpasses our human understanding. We can leave it to the world to panic.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
Psalm 37:25, NIV.

Monday, September 15, 2008


The trajectory I’ve felt in the past five days would shame Busch Garden’s highest roller coaster. On Wednesday, I sat with a friend and her husband overnight as she lay dying. On Friday and Saturday, I sat in an arena with six thousand other women praising God at the Extraordinary Women Conference in Lynchburg. On Sunday, I traveled to Richmond where my parents and all three of my brothers had gathered. It was the second time in fifteen years we have all been together.

Today, I took the dog for a walk. That was about all I could handle. What a relief that Christ often spoke of withdrawing to a quiet place to rest. If the Son of God needed a break, it would be arrogant to think we mortals can go without it. So an extra nap is in order this afternoon.

If you are visiting this page, you are someone I love whether or not we have met. Please come back again this week when I have regained consciousness. The words are stuck for now, but I know there is much to relay when the thaw comes.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Mark 6:31, NIV.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fear of Failing, Part II

Recent weeks have seen a fizzle in my writing momentum. Satan has been running tapes in my head that are not true (see post 09/05/08 for details). When truth eludes me, my best bet is to go to God’s Word. When fear is the problem, I turn to the first chapter of Joshua.

As the Book of Joshua opens, Moses has just died. God has appointed Joshua to take Moses' place and lead Israel. Joshua’s first assignment leaves no time to reflect on the new limelight. God commands him to move the nation into the Promised Land within a matter of days. No pressure here! So what does God tell Joshua (read, Gail/insert your name here)?

“I will give you every place where you set your foot.” (v. 3)

“No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (v. 5)

“Be strong and courageous.” (v. 6)

“Be strong and very courageous.” (v.7)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (v. 9)

God did not repeat Himself because Joshua was hard of hearing. He said it over and over again because Joshua needed to hear it over and over again. Hmmm . . . sounds like someone else I know.

God’s question to Joshua was, “Have I not commanded you?” I need that reminder. “HELLO?!! Who commanded you to write? Was it Satan? Was it some mere mortal? NO! It was the Creator of the universe, the Great Jehovah, the God of Israel, the One who swallowed up death. Now, what was it you were afraid of?”

I forget. At least for now, which is all I need to get started again.

Come back later this week as we look at more strategies for moving ahead when the fear beast is calling.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the (wo)man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3: 15, 16 (NIV).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fear of Failing, Part I

When I see planes flying, I daydream about where they might be going and what adventures await their passengers. I will jump on an airplane at the drop of a hat. I once got on a plane in New York, flew half way around the world and moved to a country where I knew neither the language nor a single human being. That honestly did not scare me.

Yet somehow, this tough cookie has found herself in a paralyzing bout of fear over the past several days. With another writers’ conference just weeks away, I find myself balking to the point of inertia. What if my writing dreams are no more than dreams? Perhaps it is better to not look than to look and find out I am deluded about my ability to craft words. My keyboard sits silent, taunting me as an enemy rather than the old friend I know it to be.

The Evil One has been working me over with the shadow of doubt. “Who are you kidding? You know you can’t do this. You are different from all those other people God used. They were worthy. They were persistent. They were chosen. You are none of those things.” I really do hate that guy.

Since he first sowed seeds of doubt in the mind of Eve, Satan has stuck with this powerful strategy. What’s a girl to do when fear sets in like a thick morning fog? Join me over the next few posts as we explore the ways of the Son who can burn away the most tenacious mist.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
He [Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
John 8:44, NIV.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Walking on Water

You’ve heard the story. It is three o’clock in the morning. A storm is raging on the lake where Jesus’ disciples are sailing without Him. Jesus walks across the turbulent waters toward the boat. When Peter sees Him, he offers to step out onto the water. At Jesus’ command, “Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus” (Matthew 14:29, NIV).

It is easy to rush through this passage in Matthew. I know how the story turns out. Peter takes his eyes off Christ, his faith falters and he promptly sinks. But today, one verse caught my attention, “Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” Maybe it was because someone remarked that we have never walked on water. I respectfully beg to differ.

Walking on water is a miraculous feat that defies the laws of man and nature. I see believers walk on water every day. Each time someone picks up their cross and moves in the direction God would have them go, they are defying the laws of man and nature.

When a woman reaches out once again to an aging father who has wounded her deeply, she is walking on water. When an expectant mother chooses life for her child with special needs, she is walking on water. When a betrayed wife commits to doing her part to repair a marriage, she is walking on water. When a woman bolsters her family in the wake of bad news from her doctor, she is walking on water.

We have all had those bright and shining moments when we leaned on our Lord and got it right. We have all done things, great or small that were humanly impossible. I am guilty of rushing past those memories to fret over the rest of the story, the part where my faith falters and I sink. Today, I feel called to pause, to savor the times I fell into step with God and got a taste of what it will be like when I am made like Him. I invite you to join me for a moment of joy and hope, to consider when you or those around you truly have walked on water.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9, NIV.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I Stand in Awe

Pens, check. Notebook paper, check. That’s it for me. If my children show up at school with something to write with and on, my job is done. Back-to-school and Christmas are my favorite seasons for minimalism. As things are, forging through WalMart in August has come to resemble December’s mania. When did back-to-school shopping become a blood sport? When did a school supply list become a two page downloadable document? Holy cow, when did I start longing for the “good old days”?

This season brings to mind the gratitude I feel for those who teach, especially those who homeschool. When my youngest started kindergarten, I was dancing in the street as the school bus pulled away with my precious cargo. The patience required to teach children is a trait I only hope to have in heaven. For now, I praise God for others with the gift of leading children through the maze of becoming educated. To nurture the heart and mind of a child is a pearl of greatest price in my book.

As America’s youth relinquish the remote(s), get their heads out of the fridge and head back to school, I thank God for the men and women who teach them. I will think of them as my grocery bills shrink back to their pre-summer baseline. With each afternoon of uninterrupted work time, I will sing, "Hosanna!" on their behalf. For those who are homeschooling, please know there’s a nurse in Virginia who would empty a dozen bedpans to sidestep the tasks before you this week. How great is our God who has gifted each of us for the many and varied tasks required to build His Kingdom!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
Romans 12: 4-6, NIV.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My iTune Prayer

In 1972, I was in junior high school. That year, Bill Withers recorded a hit song, “Use Me”. I don’t remember much about ninth grade, but I know every word of the lyrics to “Use Me”. Decades of listening to Oldies Radio will do that for you.

Bill Withers’ lyrics came to mind today when a friend informed me that God was using me to help her. The chorus of “Use Me” goes,

“I want to spread the news,
If it feels this good getting used,
You just keep on using me
Until you use me up.”

I would like to say this is my prayer for being used by God. Lord, just keep on using me until You use me up. In my heart of hearts, such a prayer terrifies me. Truthfully, I have spent many a moment resenting being used up. You may know that place where commitments and good intentions outpace human time and energy.

But when I am spiritually fit, this idea fills me with joy and expectation. What could be better than being used by the Creator of the universe until there is nothing left of us? The relief on my friend’s face when I suggested an answer to a difficult problem reminded me of Bill Withers’ lyrics, “If it feels this good getting used . . . .”

What about you? Where would God use you today? If you are like me, you may want to start by praying to rely on Him rather than self to get the job done. Then we can willingly, even joyfully, ask, “Keep on using me until You use me up.”

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
For it is by grace you have been saved. . . for we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 4: 8, 10 NIV.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Easily Amused: It's a Gift

“119 Illegal African Clawed Frogs Seized in Nevada,” read the headline. According to the Associated Press, wildlife officials raided three homes in the Reno area and captured the frogs in question. It seems that these hooligan frogs can destroy native frogs and “entire ecosystems”. No charges have been filed so far. Thankfully, the people in possession of the illegal frogs are fully cooperating with law enforcement to “get any and all prohibited frogs off the streets,” the Nevada Department of Wildlife stated on Wednesday.

If you think this story is funny, you should knock it off. It is actually based on one of the earliest biblical mandates. Remember when God gave man dominion "over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1: 26)? He was probably thinking about African clawed frogs when He said that.

The prophet Zechariah warned against despising “the day of small things” (4:10). The news is filled with wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes. I was grateful to come across this happy story of the brave men and women keeping the streets of Nevada safe for law-abiding frogs and people alike. What small but significant job has God assigned to you today? Let us embrace the tasks that lie before us, no matter how inconsequential they seem at the time.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
A merry heart doeth good like medicine.
Proverbs 17:22, KJV.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mark the Date

Good morning, Friends!

Given our topic of discussion over the past week, I wanted to pass along news I heard today. On Thursday, 8/7/08 at 9pmET, Christian troubador Steven Curtis Chapman has an hour-long interview on CNN's Larry King Live. Earlier this summer, Steven's five year old daughter was killed when her teenage brother backed into her in the driveway of their home. Thursday's interview focuses on God showing the family how to live in a world that will never be the same again for them. I highly recommend watching or taping this interview if you are able.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:25, NIV.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Long and Winding Road: Conclusion

Eli, Bill and Z started out well in comforting their grieving friend Job (see post 07/31/08). Let him who has ears, hear: they were on a roll until they opened their mouths. From there, the whole thing went south faster than you can say “toasted foot sandwich”.

What can you say to someone who has suffered a great loss? Eli, Bill and Z teach us what not to say. They tried to come up with a reason for what had happened. Eli started with an admonition that Job’s tragedy must have resulted from sin, “Who, being innocent, has ever perished?” (Job 4:7). Even if someone dies with needle tracks and a syringe in their arm, this is not the way to approach a grieving family.

Bill chimes in with a strategy for Job to alleviate his suffering, “If you are pure and upright, even now he [God] will rouse himself on your behalf” (Job 8:6). Z agrees that Job just needs to “Put away the sin that is in your hand” (Job 11:14). Is God’s comfort something the broken-hearted must earn by responding correctly to their loss?

The danger is the kernel of truth behind the guys’ advice. Yes, we can draw closer to God by examining our lives and repenting of anything that separates us from full intimacy with Him. But when we are crushed beyond measure, God is full of grace and mercy. He longs to attend His children in their sorrow. Our sacred task as believers is to reflect this to our fellows.

When approaching the bereaved, we do well to always ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom. The greatest gifts we may bring are our presence, our unedited sorrow and a welcoming silence even when it feels uncomfortable. More harm than good results when we try to explain the inexplicable. The full account of Job’s journey demonstrates that there is ALWAYS more to the story than we mere mortals are apt to know or understand.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55: 8, 9 (NIV).

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Long and Winding Road: Part II

Seven sons and three daughters, gone in an instant. One minute they are celebrating at their brother’s house, the next “a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead” (Job 1:19). This was the news Job faced only moments after learning his worldly wealth had been destroyed by marauders.

News of Job’s loss reached three friends who travelled to mourn with him. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar (Eli, Bill and “Z” for our purposes) had the right idea. No doubt Eli, Bill and Z had pressing commitments at home. They probably worked overtime to prepare for being gone several days. The cost of camel food may have doubled over the past few years. How could they get it all done; how could they afford to make the trip? Despite these concerns, the guys headed for Job's place. Gift number one was their presence.

Upon their arrival, the guys barely recognized stricken Job. All three burst into tears when they saw the state of him. Gift number two was their unedited sorrow. “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2: 13).

At the time, Job needed what bereavement professionals refer to as the silent witness. He was not ready to hear any words of wisdom. He needed a welcoming place to begin to process what had happened. Eli, Bill and Z waited for Job to begin the discussion; until then, they sat in the uncomfortable quiet. Gift number three was their silence.

Sadly, Job’s friends did not stay on their path of helpful action. Join us tomorrow as we return to our story just as the guys blow everything they have done right so far.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Proverbs 4: 7b, NIV.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Long and Winding Road: Part I

Long after their father’s sudden and unexpected death, my children were both finally ready to go through his belongings. One daughter was eager to see what forgotten memorabilia we might find; my other daughter had delayed this task over a year and was still dreading it. We had agreed we would only go through Mr. W’s things when all three of us were ready to do it together. That day came last week.

A few days later, I spoke with a friend who is grieving the sudden death of her mother six years ago to the day. Her mourning was compounded when only a few years later, her forty-something sibling passed away in the night of an apparent heart attack. Years later, she is still reeling.

I don’t know what the timeline on mourning is supposed to look like. My friend says she was told the Bible says that after thirty days, one is supposed to move on. I cannot find the passage that was referenced to her for still being prostrate many months later.

In my work with families, I have seen the devastation that results when well-intentioned church folk offer simple explanations about God’s will and the need to trust and rejoice. I know I will be able to do just that when I am made like Him on the Other Side. Until then, death and grief are hard.

Join us later this week as we examine the story of Job, including the account of where his friends missed the boat in comforting him. As always, God’s Word offers us wisdom on handling life’s most difficult tasks. Until then . . . .

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud.
Romans 12: 15, 16, NIV.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mild, Medium or Extra Hot

In my twenty years of motherhood, a merciful God has shown me a few things that seem to work. Years ago, a dear, wise friend introduced me to one of the secrets of my success. It is what I fondly refer to as the flamethrower principle.

The flamethrower principle states this: every mother worth her salt keeps an imaginary flamethrower close at hand. And she’s not afraid to use it! Of course, this is only on condition of never disclosing to the child that one has such thoughts. Since when does a Christian women's blog talk about roasting children? Let me explain.

All around the globe, mothers will tell you their children are their greatest treasure in life. This is not false piety; it is true. But as best as I can tell, any mother who denies ever envying the animal kingdom mode of eating one’s young has an honesty issue.

Hurting a child betrays every foundation of Christian parenting. However, wanting to hurt a child is another story. If moms could be convicted on their thoughts, I would have rightfully gotten the electric chair a long time ago. But by acknowledging my occasional desire to hurt my little darlings, I head off ever actually doing so.

Thankfully, God never asks us to be more than He enables us to deliver. When I concede my human failings, I can rely more heavily on my Lord to run the show. So I say we make room to admit our losses of patience, our frustrations and downright bafflement when it comes to being moms. God is more than able to take up the slack.

Disclaimer: I solemnly swear no children were harmed in the writing of this blog today.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses . . . for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12: 9, 10, NIV.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Finding Fire

Years ago, the movie Chariots of Fire told the true story of Scottish minister Eric Liddell. In the early 1920's, Liddell had a thriving evangelistic ministry. He set aside that ministry to compete in the 1924 Olympics. There is a line from the movie that is seared in my memory. Liddell is trying to explain to his bewildered sister why he would give up his platform to devote everything to running. He explains, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

God made me creative. And when I write, I feel His pleasure. I think of all the women I am blessed to know. I think about how God made each one of them into something unique. I smile to think of the lightning that occurs when a woman finds the arena where she most feels God’s pleasure.

For one woman, it is in nurturing a child. For another, it is solving a baffling computer problem. For one that I know, it is writing limericks that she shares with friends. For still another, it is in the act of hospitality. What about you? Where do you feel God’s pleasure? If your answer is nowhere, you may not be listening closely enough.

Christian author Max Lucado calls this place a person's sweet spot. I encourage you to take a few quiet moments to consider your own sweet spot. If nothing comes to mind, ask a trusted friend. It is often easier for us women to see the gifts in each other than in ourselves. Wherever your sweet spot lies, make time to go there today. The pleasure of the King awaits you!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the knowledge of the Son of God.
Ephesians 4: 11-13, NIV.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Small Favors

Down to two rolls. That’s cause for concern in my house. Three women or soon-to-be women live here. Eighty percent of our guests are women. There is too much at stake for carelessness. I like to keep the toilet tissue sitting out in a basket in my bathroom. It decreases the odds I will run out unexpectedly.

Okay, I realize that a few days ago I was talking about poverty in America (see post 7/13/08), and now I am talking about toilet paper. This dichotomy in my thinking is biblical. It’s laugh or cry, and Christ was known to do both.

God did not design us to think about the serious stuff all the time. He made the day and the night, giving us a cycle of activity balanced with a period of rest. What tragedy could we live through without a time of relief, if we could not laugh often from the deepest part of our souls?

Our God has a sense of humor. Jesus wasn’t necessarily being stern when He talked about shoving a camel through the eye of a needle or about the Pharisees who would strain out a gnat but swallow a small farm animal. Picture our Lord with a bemused smile as He delivers these teachings.

In his book Jesus: Man of Joy, Sherwood Wirt writes, “Jesus was a man of such gladness of Spirit, such freedom and openness and magnetism in His attitude, that He was irresistible.” I don’t think Jesus minds if we take a break today and think about a basket of toilet tissue as the critical lifeline it can sometimes be.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.
Luke 10: 21, NIV (emphasis added).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I Got No Problems

My friend Lorraine (not her real name) lives in the projects. She is the diligent mother of a school-aged child. She loves God and works hard to bring up her son in the way he should go. Lorraine’s heart was severely, permanently damaged several years ago. She is on disability and sometimes needs help to make ends meet.

This week, Lorraine called for help. Apparently, now that her son’s father is paying a token for child support, she no longer qualifies for the same food stamp assistance. So instead of getting $60 per month to feed herself and a growing child, she will now receive $52 per month. In the process of changing Lorraine’s food stamp account, the government office accidentally deleted all her stamps for this month.

Off goes Lorraine with a heart condition into the heat and humidity of summer. She needs to find out why her food stamp voucher is being declined. She meets with a woman who finds the error. The woman tells Lorraine not to worry as it should only take seven to ten days to correct the problem. Now if Lorraine and her son could just wait that long to eat.

This story is true but not isolated. It is hard to handle poverty until Christ comes back. I don’t know where the line belongs between compassion and encouraging unwarranted dependence. I do know that I can spend $52 in an unguarded, aimless trip to the mall. I also know that during His earthly journey, Christ was poor. If He came today, His family would likely live in the projects. It makes a Christian think.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear.
Isaiah 58: 6-8, NIV.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Love Comes Knocking

Sometimes I need to hear from God with skin on to fully appreciate the message. God used other women to dispute my old ideas about how He feels about me. Could they be telling the truth, that I am actually His beloved whom He longs to embrace? To my amazement, the Bible was full of references that confirmed this truth. Today, I can read the Song of Solomon and know that these words of romance and desire are my Savior’s direct message to me. Now that’s hot!

God’s Word is for you too. You are His lily among thorns, His dove in the clefts of the mountainside. Don’t take my word for it. Pull that Bible off the shelf or wherever you keep it. Skip the guilty feelings if you don’t have a Bible; lots of people don’t. Just get one.

At almost any bookstore, look for “The Holy Bible”. I study best using the New International Version (NIV). You will find a table of contents that lists all the books in the Bible. Use it. Satan will tell you that you are the only one who doesn’t know where Ecclesiastes or Jude or the Psalms sit in the Bible. Ignore that jerk.

You’re with us now; we are going down a different path. Read a few verses in the Song of Solomon, aka the Song of Songs. Envision the King who loves you as He whispers sweet nothings into the deepest corners of your soul. Sisters, we are headed to the Promised Land. It is closer than you think!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come. Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.
Song of Solomon 2: 10-14, NIV.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Take Heart

As I explained on Friday (see post 07/04/08), I carried a distorted view of God for a long time. The teachings of my early years focused on God as judge and on humans as, well, sub-human creatures mired in sin and corruption. Obedience, not relationship, was the objective.

Our home mirrored this mindset with father as judge, children as cisterns of disobedience that needed to be brought and kept under control. That was how God saw us as His children, right? It was right there in the Bible. The truth is that Satan loves to dress his lies in light to snare the believer. My well-intentioned parents fully believed they were acting biblically.

Satan is clever, but God is faithful. Even as I listened to messages of condemnation, there was a Still Small Voice whispering in my ear, “This is not who I am.” Eventually, God revealed the fullness of His true feelings for me. He did this primarily through the love of other women sharing their own journeys. Women who had been touched by God said to me, “We were like you, full of doubt and self-loathing. Come along with us and we will love you until you learn to love yourself.”

I invite you to join in that same quest to know God’s love in the here and now. The Good News of the Gospel is that His love is all around us. But we have to do a few things to see and feel it. Come back later this week, and we’ll talk about some ways to experience the eternal in this life we now live. I promise you that it is possible!

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

The last Word:
Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father's house. The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. (Psalm 45: 10, 11, NIV)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Letting Go of Old Ideas

For many years, I knew God as a Merlin-like old man with the power to throw thunder bolts and create tidal waves. Each day, He sat on His throne making note of everyone's wrong moves. The Bible said God never slept which was bad for me. I could mess up at any hour, night or day, and He would know. Given my long list of failures, I could never dig my way up to tolerable, let alone becoming His beloved. There was just too much evidence against me. When I accepted Christ and was baptized, I merely thought that now He would help me be a little less terrible.

Today, I know God as Wonderful Counselor and Savior. Every day, I feel His delight in me. I know that when God looks at me, He does not see me in the light of my mistakes. He sees me in the light of His Son who stands in the gap for me in all my weakness. That’s quite a transformation in my thinking. How did I get from point A to point B? That will be the focus of our discussion over the next few posts.

I would love to hear from you. How has your understanding of God changed over time? Whom and what did He use to create that change in you? Please comment. As we share our stories, we can encourage one another wherever we are on the long road to Home.

May you feel His grace today,
Gail W.

According to The Word:
Two are better than one. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. If two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Ecclesiastes 4: 9-11, NIV.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Unknown Territory

God approves of blogging. The apostle Paul spread the Gospel by writing letters that were distributed and read to large groups of people. He used a public means of communication to spread the Good News and to counsel God's people on how to live. If Paul had DSL, he would have been a blogger. I am new to this world of blogging and am excited to be here. It is a lot to take in, so it seems prudent to go slowly for now. Thanks for stopping by; we'll see where the road leads us.

Love, love and then some more love,

According to The Word:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.
(1 John 4: 1-3, NIV)