Thursday, January 12, 2017

Breathe Deeply God's Grace


  
Edith Hdz, freeimages.com
 
Imagine climbing up into the canopy in the remotest part of the Amazon rainforest and inhaling a deep breath of pristine air. Your entire body floods with life-giving and life-sustaining oxygen. While you may not be able to hop on a plane and fly to South America, you can train yourself to breathe deeply, thus providing more oxygen to your organs.
When I took voice lessons in college, my instructor taught me how to breathe from my diaphragm. Up to that point, I didn’t even know I had a diaphragm, let alone how to use one. He told me to place my hand right below my sternum or breastbone and take a deep breath. This action forced air into my lungs which helped me sustain notes and maintain better control. Babies automatically breathe this way. It’s only when we grow older that we lapse into shallow breathing habits.
            After I married, and Chuck and I started having babies, I learned the Lamaze method of breathing. I discovered that I could use these tools beyond the labor and delivery room whenever I experienced stress or serious pain.
            In my early thirties, as a young mother of three and a home educator, one afternoon I awoke from a nap feeling light-headed. My heart raced, and I broke out in a sweat. I thought I was having a heart attack, so I asked my eight-year-old daughter to call 911. A neighbor arrived to watch my kids as an ambulance rushed me off to the emergency room. Testing revealed I was not experiencing a heart attack but rather a panic attack. Over the next two years, seemingly out of nowhere, an anxiety attack would grip me, often when in the car on the interstate. I knew I had to discover how to better manage myself, so I turned once again to the deep breathing I’d learned years earlier. This tool pulled me out of many an attack. It’s almost impossible to be stressed when you breathe deeply from your diaphragm, for the action sends oxygen to every organ.
            As the years passed, I added another action to my deep breathing which I now practice on a regular basis. I stand in front of the mirror and verbally affirm these truths based on Ephesians, chapter one: I am chosen by God, redeemed by His blood, an heir to His throne, a pauper turned princess. I breathe in through my nose, hold it to the count of eight, then exhale slowly through my mouth. I call this my “Spiritual Aerobics.” The apostle Paul calls it “mind renewal” (Romans 12:2). Indeed, God created us with a body, mind, and spirit, a total package requiring a daily infusion of His grace.  
           In the latter part of 2010, God placed on my heart the desire to read through the Bible with the theme, “Breathe Deeply God’s Grace.” While the New Testament abounds with teaching on God’s grace offered through Christ, I also wanted to uncover Old Testament passages alluding to His grace. Many only see God as full of fire and wrath in the Old Testament, but careful study also reveals a God full of mercy and compassion. My journey has proved both delightful and eye-opening. I can now attest to the fact that the entire Bible does indeed spill over with God’s grace.
But what exactly is grace?
After I finished writing this devotional, I stumbled upon Harry Kraus’s book titled Breathing Grace while in the library browsing one day. Perhaps “stumbled” isn’t the appropriate word. I smile, because my discovery was no accident. I’m convinced God directed my eyes and hands to this helpful treatise on grace as He has done so many times before with various book projects. 
Kraus, a missionary surgeon and author, defines grace as “a godly characteristic that determines God’s posture toward his children whereby he generously and freely loves, forgives, favors, and exalts undeserving sinners into sonship.”
It’s vital that we approach this devotional with that working definition firmly planted in our minds. God’s truth as revealed in the Bible forms the basis for our understanding of His grace. His truth reveals who we are, who He is, what we need, and what He has done to provide for our need. We are sinners. He is Savior. We need salvation. He has provided Himself as payment for our salvation. We simply come in all our unworthiness and bow the knee to Christ, receiving His blood covering for our sin. When we realize how undeserving we really are, we place ourselves in a position of experiencing His grace in all its fullness.
Grace is not license to sin as some would have us believe. In the apostle Paul’s words: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”(Romans 6:1-2). When we truly understand God’s grace as offered through Christ, we will desire to love Him and live for Him. Each day, we will put to death the deeds of the flesh and put on Christ and His holiness. Nothing else will do. When we fail, and we will as long as we live in these earthly bodies, we run quickly to Christ, confess our sin, and receive His forgiveness. Our lives are so filled with gratitude for His sacrifice that we want to worship Him with our words, attitudes, and actions. His grace flowing through us defines our lives and directs our behavior.
 With these truths undergirding our “grace” journey, we understand that everything—God’s forgiveness, eternal life, the fruit and gifts of the Spirit, daily strength, provision, and protection—all stem from His hand. The apostle John notes that Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14c). God’s redemptive and sanctifying work in our lives incorporates both grace and truth. In John 1:16, the apostle writes, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.”   
Let these thoughts serve as the foundation for our understanding and application of grace into our lives as we travel through the pages of Scripture. Each devotional entry isolates a specific passage. However, I have done my best to unpack the verse(s) in context of Scripture as a whole. 
            Without further ado, I invite you on a journey of discovery as we travel from Genesis to Revelation and breathe deeply His grace together. I’ve found His grace is as vital as the air I breathe. I can’t survive this pilgrimage without it.
Eileen Rife  
~~
Breathe Deeply God's Grace, the devotional
Read a sample here. 

  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ris'n with Healing in His Wings

Adam Lambert-Gowyn, FreeImages.com
The aroma of quiche wafted from the oven as I gazed out the window. A moment to relax, to bask in the warmth of my cozy kitchen before heading out the door to Sunday school. Yet, so many concerns pressed in. Words, in keeping with the season, filled my mind ("ris'n with healing in His wings "), immediately followed by a familiar tune.

"Hark! the Herald Angels Sing!"

I smiled, shook my head. How did Charles Wesley, hymn writer from the 18th century, know I'd need this phrase on this December morning in 2016? Whether or not he thought of those yet to be born, God did. He knew I'd need to hear these reassuring words based on Malachi 4:2 and reiterated in Luke 1:78-79 once again. Actually, over and over again. As we all do.

 
Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris'n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King!

Pondering the words and the central phrase, "Ris'n with healing in His wings," I thought of our little foster granddaughter, Mia, whose court hearing would take place the next day to determine if she would remain with my daughter and family or return to her unwed teen mom. My heart hurt for all parties involved, for no matter how the judge ruled, someone and likely several someones would leave the courtroom with a huge hole in their heart.

How we'd prayed and fasted over the months, asking the Lord for a wise judge. One who could determine the best outcome for two-year-old Mia who'd been in foster care since she was three months old.

My thoughts shifted to all those hurting over the holidays due to serious illness and loss in so many forms. My nephew grieving the sudden death of his girlfriend. Church family battling cancer. A widow missing her husband. An elderly friend weeping in a nursing home. A lonely neighbor. Friends struggling to overcome addictions.

My stomach twisted as tears stung my eyes.

Yet the faithful phrase pressed through: "Ris'n with healing in His wings."
Andy Molina, FreeImages.com
The Lord Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness rose with healing in His wings. What beautiful imagery. The Son who conquered death and darkness sheds His light into our sinful and hurting hearts, making us aware of our need for salvation and healing. He alone can bring life. Out of His great loss (leaving the glories of heaven to live among us and die for us) and through His ultimate triumph over the grave, He brought light and life to all who will receive Him.

What glory! What joy!

The timer buzzed on the oven. I retrieved my steaming quiche to feed our Sunday school class. As I passed the foyer table on my way outside, I paused by a music box shaped in the form of an angel. I'll add that to the class table decoration this morning. I grabbed it, along with my coat and hurried to the car.

After I settled inside, Chuck backed out of the driveway. For fun, I turned the key on the bottom of the music box. The tinny tune of "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing" erupted into the stillness.

I smiled. I'd forgotten the box played that carol.

A fitting affirmation to my morning reflection: "Ris'n with healing in His wings."

My heart filled with Abba Father's peace. He'd steadied my haphazard emotions with six simple yet profound words.

As He will do for all who trust in the Sun of Righteousness who has ris'n with healing in His wings.


~~

Healing is a theme close to my heart. I married a licensed professional counselor and marriage/family therapist. I joke with readers that I was so messed up I had to marry a counselor to get fixed. Yet in reality, God has used my dear husband to minister to me in so many ways. For one, he's a great listener! And problem-solver, even when I only want him to listen. :) I believe God teamed us up in a way that best uses our gifts of counseling, writing, and speaking.

Most of my books and articles revolve around healing issues, thus the name of my website, "Healing Words for Hurting Hearts." I invite you to take a few minutes and visit my Home Page. 

Whether you enjoy fiction or nonfiction, consider browsing my titles on my Amazon Author Page.  There you'll discover a young man struggling to overcome homosexuality, a little girl with a huge Christmas wish, a couple longing for a baby, a newly wed with a dark secret, an inner city teen stuck in a gang he wants to leave, a mom grieving an empty nest, and others either fictional or real who need a healing touch from the Sun of Righteousness.

Stay current on what's happening in my world of writing (book offerings, contests, helpful articles) by liking My Author FaceBook Page. 

Thank you for your faithful readership via my blog, books, and/or articles! Knowing I serve you through the ideas God lays on my heart makes this ministry worth it. 

I pray you and your family have a meaningful Christmas celebrating Jesus!

Eileen 
Luke 1:78-79 


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Faith, Friends...and Chocolate!: Holy Hospitality

Faith, Friends...and Chocolate!: Holy Hospitality: The holiday season conjures up images of family gathered around an artfully designed Thanksgiving table with turkey roasted to golden...

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Experience the Sunrise this December

Most mornings I walk in my quiet place. As the sun peeks over the Blue Ridge Mountains with a wash of amber over the valley, I pause, close my eyes, stretch out my arms, and verbally praise my Savior. The warmth I feel in my body and in my spirit recharges me and fuels me for the day.

So smitten with the sunrise am I that I've often struggled to capture its beauty on paper, mostly with pen and ink with various pastel shadings. The exercise helps me feel close to Abba Father.

Yet, at no time did His sunrise mean more to me than after the loss of our second baby, a little boy born at four months gestation. In the aftermath, I longed to make sense of the senseless.

Alone and depressed one cold morning, I knelt in front of our living room recliner. With compelling cheeriness, the winter sun poured through the double windows as I poured out my heart to God. Exhausted, I reached for my Bible on the coffee table. Flipping the pages, I landed on Luke 1:78-79.

Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us,
To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
To guide our feet into the way of peace.

I perked up. It was as though God faxed that scripture through rays of sunlight just for me that morning. Since we'd recently gone through the Christmas season, the passage was especially meaningful. My Sunrise, my Savior, had chosen to leave heaven in the form of a helpless babe in order to lift me out of my sin and darkness. On this life-changing morn, He reminded me that His light extended beyond my initial salvation to illumine every dark thing thereafter that tried to invade my soul, including depression in the aftermath of my loss.

This December Sunrise experience was a pivotal point in my healing journey in 1982.

Years later, Luke 1:78-79 continues to impact my life and prayerfully others' lives as I draw upon this scripture for my novel, December Sunrise.


 A young girl's heart for helping takes her to a dark place 
only the Light of Christmas can illumine. 

 A little girl’s Christmas wish comes at a high cost.

Emma’s Christmas list isn’t like other kids’. Instead of toys, she wants her mama’s cancer to go away, the town to stop arguing over the Ten Commandments, and nice Mr. Whitmire to reunite with his estranged daughter. Grandma Doreen holds the key to a family secret that just might fulfill some of Emma’s desires, but not before tragedy strikes.

Filled with the wonder and hope that only His December Sunrise can create . . . 

Experience the Sunrise this December!

December Sunrise available here.

 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

VOTING . . . What if?

Voting . . . what if we couldn't?

What might that look like?

Voting booths torn out of precincts?

Pad-locks on doors?

Signs posted around the country with only one face, one name, one person demanding allegiance?

Or else.

As disappointing as our current presidential candidates are, we still have an opportunity to vote. A privilege. A responsibility.
A freedom.

While neither candidate may scratch where our principles itch, one lines up more closely with the message of liberty, of which God is the author.

One who is willing to secure our borders. For without a border, we are not a country.

One who promotes free enterprise and champions small business owners. For without capitalism, socialism and communism take over.

One who supports limited governmental control in crucial areas of life, like parents' freedom to choose and guide their children's education.

One who acknowledges that life is sacred at every stage, and thus will work to protect pre-born children, the disabled, and the elderly.

One who believes a strong military is vital in establishing respect for America from both enemies and allies alike.

One who believes that a person's hard-earned money should not go to support healthcare mandates which fund abortion.

One who is closer in thought and practice to the ideas of our founding fathers and the Constitution.

One who believes that faith in God as recognized by our founding fathers is crucial to the moral fiber of our country. 

The candidate options may not be ideal on every front. I get that.

However, ONE is better. Closer to the tenets upon which our country was founded. One who will champion the liberties we hold dear, not strap Americans with more government control, ultimately and dangerously wooing us toward a dictatorship.

As a Christian citizen, I believe God directs me to be salt and light in my culture (Matt. 5: Phil. 2:15). In all areas of life, I am to shine forth Christ's grace and truth.

Ken Ham, speaker, author, and president of Answers in Genesis-USA writes that, "When Christians go to the polls, we are given the opportunity to vote for those candidates we believe will best enable us to continue to have as much freedom as possible to be light and salt in this world, as we need to be. This is particularly true today as we are seeing an increase of Christian persecution and the erosion of religious freedom and the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the US Constitution and its First Amendment."

Furthermore, he notes that "Christians should judge what candidates believe, say, and do against the absolute authority of the Word of God and vote accordingly . . . As Christians, we need to be active in preaching, and 'to contend earnestly for the faith' (Jude 1:3). As part of our contending for the faith, I suggest we should be active in taking every opportunity we can (such as voting) to be an influence of good in this earthly world's affairs."

Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family adds: "As citizens of the United States, we are both decision-makers for our government and stewards of our nation's values and heritage. There is no getting around it: voting is both a right and a responsibility for each one of us in our representative form of government. So please, commit to vote in 2016!"

I echo his plea!

For the Christian, all of life is sacred. God expects us to influence all aspects of society, including the governmental process. To quote Edmund Burke, statesman, orator, and political thinker of the 1700s, "We are part of a contract between those who are dead, those who are living, and those who are to be born."

One way we can fulfill our contract to the community of the past, present, and future is to step into our privilege and responsibility of voting.

Voting may be a simple thing. But it's a precious freedom that we must not take for granted.

 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Name that Hymn

I love the book of Psalms. The largest book in the Bible is actually a music book. I like to call it a HIM book, because it's all about exalting and worshiping God! Many of our modern day praise and worship lyrics are taken from the Psalms.

In Colossians 3:16, the apostle Paul instructs, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God" (NIV).

One way the word of Christ can dwell in us richly is through song!

Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

During my quiet time walks with Abba Father in the morning, I sometimes take my hymnbook. I like to thoughtfully, prayerfully read the words out loud as I walk. Sometimes, I break out with the melody. What a special time entering into the heart of the hymn writer as s/he exalts God.

Revisiting old hymns may seem archaic for some Christians nowadays. How sad, since hymnology is rife with biblical doctrine about God, salvation (redemption), sanctification (growth in Christ), and the believer's future glorification. Hymns center in who God is and what He has done for us. When so much Christian music today focuses on self, hymns focus on God--the place to begin if we are ever to experience victory and the joy and peace we desire. 

In addition, hymns make us think. We're called upon to stop and ponder, chew on the words and the meaning. No burger and fries meal here; hymns offer a full course meal to digest and to satisfy. Don't get me wrong--I'm one of those Christian music lovers who likes variety (modern praise choruses, spiritual songs, and hymns), but once in a while, I like to pull out that old hymnal and sing a few tunes.  

As I revisit a five hymns in this post, perhaps you'd like to play along. Can you guess the name of the hymn from the line below?

1. " . . . . how sweet the sound; that saved a wretch like me." 

2. "There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not."

3. "I trust the Ever-living One--His wounds for me shall plead. I need no other argument,"

4. "Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,"

5. "I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me,"

So, any of the above lines ring a bell? Post your answers in the comments section below. 

 

 



 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Living He Loved

The other day while walking in my quiet place and chewing on Philippians 2:1-8 (why God left heaven in the person of Jesus), an old hymn came to mind: "Living He loved me, dying He saved me, buried He carried my sins far away. Rising He justified, freely forever. One day He's coming, oh glorious day!" (One Day).

The phrase "living He loved me" kept rolling around in my head. Yes, He died, was buried, and rose again for my redemption and eternal life, but He lived for 33 years prior to that. Thirty-three years of living to show love to those around Him. Living in a human body with weakness and limitation, subject to ridicule and rejection (after all, in most eyes, He was the bastard boy of Mary). And He did so by choice . . . . because He loved. He knew His purpose and He glorified the Father by living out that purpose.

As Abba Father reminded me of this in the morning hour during my walk, I sensed Him speaking to my heart: "Eileen, I just want you to live. Live . . . and love as I loved while on earth. I have given you My purpose--to glorify Me by sharing Jesus's love with others."
That sharing of His love occurred when I stopped to engage the teens waiting at the street corner for the bus.

And that sharing continued with Chuck as soon as I walked back in the door; however on this morn, I addressed his needs with a greater strength and sensitivity.

That sharing progressed as I moved upstairs to interact with two-year-old Rivers and five-year-old Gabe. With just enough attention given to satisfy them and to release me to go back downstairs to my office and begin my morning work day.

All I could say in response was "Thank You, Abba! I can live and love because You continue to show me how, by Your mercy, grace, and strength."

What's God been showing you through His Word lately? Perhaps a take away from a sermon, a Sunday school lesson, a radio speaker, or your quiet time in the Word?