Monday, March 17, 2014

Stories that Ask for More

Have you ever asked yourself why you read?
        Maybe you love a good mystery simply for the delicious spine-tingling suspense, or a horror story for the sheer terror the villain evokes. Perhaps you enjoy a love story that makes you feel all warm inside. You might be a reader whose strong intellect craves material that makes you think or reason through a situation.
       I dare say, most of us read first and foremost for enjoyment or to glean information. Only students read because they have to in order to pass the test or write the paper.
          Reading can take us to faraway places we may never go to experience situations we may never encounter in real time. Because of this delightful phenomenon, some stories, whether fiction or nonfiction, tend to linger in our memories. For me, one such account told of the first blind person, Erik Weihenmayer, who reached the summit of Mount Everest on May 25, 2001. There’s just something about mastering a mountain, especially without vision, that makes me sit up and take notice. I’m fully engaged with any plot that details the rigors and dangers of such a challenge. Now, I would never undertake such a climb in reality (I rarely hike), but I enjoy doing so vicariously through a story character, real or imagined. And I can do so while curled up in bed or in front of a cozy fire while sipping tea.
         Yes, reading is one of the supreme pleasures of life. You avid readers understand this.
         On the other side of the coin, as a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I often ponder where my responsibility begins and ends with readers. Yes, I want to produce a story that keeps the reader turning pages. Yet, as a Christian writer who serves the King of Kings, is that where my job ends?
          I don’t think so. Personally, I feel compelled through my writings to build awareness and move to action. In the course of the reading, I want the reader to identify with a scripture, an insight, a character, or a situation in a way that invites change, either small or great. I also want to write words that heal hurting hearts.
          I read. A lot. In order to write effectively, one must read voraciously.
          In my book travels, I’ve read some works, even Christian books, that amount to little more than entertainment. I’m left with nothing to grapple with that stimulates personal growth. These are often books that do well, even hit the bestseller’s list. I wager a guess it’s because they require so little of the reader.
          May I challenge you—both readers and writers alike?
       Get on your face before God and ask Him to guide you in your choice of reading material. Refuse to settle for fluff, for books that merely entertain without moving you toward a decision or out of your comfort zone and toward action. Two such novels in my recent reading history are Scared and Priceless by Tom Davis, founder of Children’s HopeChest. Not only are these works great fiction, but they detail the plight of African orphans and trafficked victims. Highly recommended, by the way!
       God loves books. If He didn’t, He wouldn’t have authored the Bible. Since His desire is to transform us into the image of Christ, He wants us to choose reading material (and write words) that requires something of us, that asks for more than a fluttery heart or a good time or even gained knowledge. He delights in words that bring life and healing.
            So should we. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

If You Could Take a Missions Trip . . .

View from our plane on the way to India!

The Born for India trilogy was inspired by my travels to and experiences in India.

One woman, One God. One passion.
Could love await her, even in India?

One brother's dark secret.
Another brother's scorn.
Will family ties be strong enough to bind two wounded hearts, once the secret is revealed?

A couple in crisis.
A child taken captive.
When their worlds intersect, they each will receive a precious gift, but will they find it in their hearts to accept an outcome so different from what they expected and hoped for?

Okay, time to play!
If you could take a missions trip, where would you go?
Answer that question below for a chance to win the Born for India trilogy Kindle versions!
If you've been on a trip, where did you go and what did you see?
Hurry! Contest ends March 26! 

Monday, March 10, 2014

What Gets You Up in the Morning?

What gets you up in morning? Besides the alarm clock, the aroma of coffee wafting from the kitchen, or a poke in the ribs from your spouse?
      The older I get, the more focused I become on what’s really important: Eternity. I want to finish well. In order to do that, I must keep my gaze on the finish line. The apostle Paul states in Philippians 3:13b-14,  . . . one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
       Paul notes that the Philippian believers are his joy and crown. He was instrumental in introducing many of them to Christ. He knows that someday in heaven, he will receive awards based on his faithful service while on earth.
       In Revelation 4:9-11, the twenty-four elders lay their crowns at the feet of Jesus. Given this, there is every reason to believe that all Christians will present their crowns to Jesus. And it will be with extreme joy and fulfillment that we do so.
The Scriptures reference five crowns that believers may receive in the next life.
1)      Crown of Righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8) presented to all those who kept the faith and longed for Christ’s return.
2)      Crown of Rejoicing (1 Thess. 2:19) given to all who introduced others to Christ, as Paul did; he refers to the Philippian believers as his “crown.”
3)      Crown of Life (James 1:12) awarded to all who endured temptation and trial with love for the Lord.
4)      Crown of Glory (1 Peter 5:1-4) presented by the Chief Shepherd to those who tended His flock.
5)      Imperishable Crown (1 Cor. 9:25) presented to all those who subdued the sinful nature and ran the race well.
In keeping with this biblical teaching, two things get me up in the morning and motivate me throughout the day.
Visualizing myself placing crowns at Jesus’s feet. Not to gloat in my earthly achievements but to show my intense love and devotion for Him. I used to be happy just to know I would be with Him, but the closer I get to the finish line, the more urgency I sense and the more I desire to give back to Him for all He has done for me. Crowns at His feet are a way of giving back when I see Him face to face.
Riding out of heaven with Him. Revelation 19:11-18 tells about a time when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will ride out of heaven on His white horse accompanied by the armies of heaven (all the saints). At that time, our Prince will bring justice, destroying evil on the earth. What a day that will be! If we’re ever tempted to take vengeance, we need only remember that Christ, the One who keeps better records than we do, will make all things right one grand day!
It takes discipline to focus on eternity. No one said it was easy! The here and now too easily consumes my thoughts. But knowing that I can someday praise and exalt my Savior, not only with my words but with a life well-lived, excites me and motivates me to share Him with others, guard my tongue, put to death my sin nature, and purposely long for His return.
That’s what gets me up in the morning. How about you?

Eileen Rife, author of Second Chance, speaks to women’s groups, encouraging them to discover who they are in Christ and what part they play in His amazing story.,

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Shall We Dance?

The lights dimmed. The room began to spin as my husband and I glided across the floor as if in a dream. Then the alarm rang. It had been a dream. As I lay in bed getting the resolve to move and face the day, I thought about the previous Friday evening when my husband, Chuck, and I had gone dancing for our date night. “T-A-NG-O” rang in my ears as I heard the instructor teach us the dance steps.

Actually, we were getting pretty good. Only I always left the studio somewhat perturbed with myself for getting so antsy with Chuck. “Don’t be so wooden,” I’d fuss. “Be more graceful; make sure you’re arms are positioned in the right way.” Then, to make things worse, I’d try to lead. After all, I was doing it right! Wasn’t I?

After a barrage of criticism, I would look at Chuck’s face, only to discover I had dampened his spirits and ruined an otherwise fun evening. I’ll do better next week, I’d tell myself. I’m still trying to do better next week.

I’ve learned something about myself through dance. I’m still trying to control our relationship, not just in the tango, but in other areas of our marriage as well. It hurts to admit, but it’s true. But admission is a good place for change to start.

The divine Instructor’s words in Ephesians 5:22 ring in my ears, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Another word for submit is respect. When I ignore my husband’s lead and try to take control, I am showing disrespect for him as my head. Sure, he needs and wants my input, but he doesn’t need me to grab the reins and start running with them. In my struggle to be a respectful wife, here are some things I have learned. Perhaps you will find them helpful, too.

My respect for the Lord is mirrored in my relationship with my husband. 

I will only respect my husband as much as I respect the Lord. I don’t know about you, but that realization hurts. The times I truly grasp this principle, I have had to look beyond my husband’s behavior and look straight into the eyes of my Lord and say, “Yes, I honor you. I will listen and respond with a godly attitude.” I was tested on this front just last night. I have to say I flunked the test. Oh, I responded in action, but my attitude was far from positive. Thankfully, my husband and I talked through the scenario and are on the same page at the moment.

Respect for my husband should be unconditional.  

In our society, we are bombarded with the message that respect is something one earns. Paul’s message in Ephesians is drastically opposed to that philosophy, for he says in chapter five, verse 33, “let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.” Period. Not if he is a good provider. Not if he loves her unconditionally. Not if he steps in to help with the kids. No, Paul’s exhortation is simply that she respect her husband.

Wife, your husband needs your unconditional respect. This may be new to you or you may have sensed all along that something just wasn't quite right in your relationship but you couldn't put your finger on it. Well, here it is. THIS IS THE BIG ONE: He desperately hungers for your respect. This is not an arrogant ploy. This is how God wired him. Begin by respecting that. Appreciate that your husband chose you over everyone else and in his heart of hearts he means no malice toward you, only good will. He needs to know and to hear that you appreciate his work and achievements. He needs to know you appreciate his desire to protect and provide for you and the family, to serve, to lead, to problem-solve. And you need to appreciate his desire for sexual intimacy and friendship with you.

I can show my husband respect in practical ways.  

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, ladies. It’s all good and well to say that we should respect our husbands. That sounds nice in theory, but how do we do that? Here are some pointers, courtesy of Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in his book, Love & Respect.

Tell him or write a letter expressing that you value his work.
Tell him you believe in him.
Thank him for providing for you.
Praise him when he makes a good decision and be gracious when he makes a bad one.
Speak gently and thoughtfully when you have a differing opinion.
Appreciate his need for space at times.
Spend time with him doing something he enjoys.
Tell him you enjoy his company.
Admit when you are wrong and ask forgiveness.
Be open to him sexually and understand that he needs sexual release just as you need emotional release.

Tonight when your husband comes home from work, tell him you respect him, and leave it at that. Let him think over your statement for awhile. When my husband and I have suggested this experiment to ladies at marriage retreats, we have been intrigued by the feedback. Some women said their husbands came back a few days later and said, “Remember when you said you respected me; tell me more.” Another lady said her husband began to tear up and said, “I don’t know why you would respect me. I’ve done nothing to deserve it.” Again, a victim of society’s mentality. Others reported that their husbands just laughed at them. All in all, the experiment proved beneficial. And when the husbands came back to their wives for feedback, the women were prepared to let them know at least one way they respected them.

Furthermore, we encouraged husbands who felt disrespected to share their feelings with their wives, saying, “Honey, I feel disrespected by you. Am I being insensitive or unloving toward you?” This honest, yet loving approach typically yielded better results than suppressing feelings or spewing out angry words. And since wives will often nag or lash out when they are feeling unloved, the husband’s question addresses this need head-on.

Respecting your husband’s leadership in the home will keep you dancing in rhythm right up to the 50th anniversary mark. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want!

The End of One Story, the Beginning of Another

I flip through the calendar, a gift from my missionary daughter. Family face after family face jump off the pages. Grandkids roasting mar...