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)