Thursday, May 29, 2014

Coffee with a Widow (Bible Mommies series)

The Widow: A Test of Faith

The mother joining us today lost both her husband and her son. Yet, in the midst of that tragedy and a serious drought, God called her to a greater faith through His messager, Elijah. 

You demonstrated an ear to God's heart when you provided food for Elijah.

More like fear and resistance.

Why do you say that?

Well, God commanded me to provide food for Elijah when he passed through Zarephath, but when he asked, I balked. I said, "Surely as the LORD your God lives, I don't have any bread--only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it--and die." You see, I was at the point of exhaustion and despair. I certainly didn't know what God and Elijah were up to. In some ways, it seemed an ironic intrusion on me and my son. 

Did Elijah go away?

No. He nailed me from the get-go. He said, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son." Then he told me an amazing, almost unbelievable thing. He said, "The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land."

Sounds a bit selfish on Elijah's part.

It might look that way on the surface, but I now know God was testing my faith. 

What happened?

I did as Elijah said. And true to God's word, I never ran out of oil or flour.  She shook her head. Amazing!

I'll say. As I understand it, your son later died. I'm so sorry you had to go through that.

Don't misunderstand, it was difficult. But I want everyone to know that the situation turned out for the better--I gained a deeper faith in God. You see, I didn't understand why God would allow my son to grow sicker by the day. I turned on Elijah, saying, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?" I thought I was being cruelly punished for some wrong I'd done. That couldn't have been further from the truth. 

I think many feel that way when something bad happens. But this story has a happy ending, doesn't it?

Oh yes. Elijah didn't rebuke me. He simply said, "Give me your son." Then he took him upstairs to his room and laid him on the bed. He cried out to God then stretched himself on my son three times and prayed, "O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!"

Some would call that crazy.

She shrugs. Maybe so, but all I can say is the LORD heard Elijah's cry, and my son's life returned to him. He lived! Elijah brought the boy back to me. I knew beyone a doubt that he was a man of God and that the LORD's word was faithful and true.

God is indeed a God of mercy and compassion to hear and answer in this way. What lessons did you learn from this experience?

She releases a heavy sigh. That God is true to His word. That God cares about a mother's heart. He wants us all to trust Him with the dearest people in our lives: our children. And He wants us to draw close to Him and cherish relationship with Him above all else. He must be number one, over everything and everyone. 

Tough lessons to learn.

Which is why He must allow events to fall in place that will test us and stretch us. 

Thanks for sharing with my readers today! 

For more of the widow's story, read 1 Kings, chapter 17.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Coffee with Hannah (Bible Mommies series)

Hannah: True to her Word

Welcome, Hannah! Another exceptional Bible mother. You prayed, you exalted the Lord, you spoke boldly. And God answered. I'm sure at times you wondered if the LORD was listening, yet you kept coming to the temple and pouring out your heart and your tears to Him. What did you say to God?

I made a vow. I said, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."

That's quite a prayer of commitment. 

I saw no other way. My husband, Elkanah, couldn't quite understand my grief. I'm not sure most husbands really understand what it's like to be infertile. He thought his love was enough. And perhaps, it should've been. But oh, how I wanted a son. My rival, Elkanah's other wife, bitterly teased me day after day about my condition. Year after year, I endured her ridicule.

I can only imagine how difficult that must have been. What happened after you prayed?

I kept on praying, really. There was no immediate answer. And one day, the temple priest, Eli, saw me silently praying (my lips were moving). He accused me of being drunk, which only added to my pain and grief. When I told him about my prayers, he blessed me and supported me in my request. 

So, did God answer your prayer the way you wanted?

Yes, He most certainly did. Not long after that day, I discovered I was pregnant. I gave birth to a son and named him Samuel because "I asked the LORD for him." As the day approached to take Samuel to the temple, I stuck to my word and gave him back to the LORD.

That must have been hard. How could you do it? Give up your young son?

A promise is a promise. I prayed to the LORD for the child, and He granted my request. I had to give his life over to the LORD and worship Him. 

Did you ever see Samuel again?

Oh yes. Every year I made him a little coat to take to him when Elkanah and I went to offer sacrifices at the temple. 

Such a story. What lessons do you think you learned from mothering?

Don't be afraid to release God's blessings (your children) back to Him. He knows best about their future since He has a plan for their lives. 

Thanks, Hannah, for joining us today! May we all be as true to our word as you were. And may we all trust God enough to place our precious children in His loving arms.

For more of Hannah's story, read 1 Samuel, chapters one and two.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Coffee with Ruth (Bible Mommies series)

Ruth: Loyal Mother

Not much is said in the scriptures about our next Bible mommy. About motherhood, that is. However, much is said about her character, and much can be deduced about her role as a mom. Her story begins with, "In the days when the judges ruled . . ." A time when the Israelites did whatever was right in their own eyes, God profiles a young Moabite woman who chose to leave her homeland and follow her mother-in-law, Naomi, and God to Judah. Let's pull up a comfy chair and talk with Ruth now.

That must have been a very difficult time for you. You'd lost your husband and your brother-in-law and father-in-law. Wow, talk about loss hitting in threes! Which left you and Naomi since Orpah chose to go back to her family.

Yes, Naomi urged me to return to my family, but I didn't want to. I strongly believed I should stay and comfort her. Plus, I believed in her God, the one true God, and wanted to rebuild life with her and with Him. 

So, as the story goes, you packed up and traveled to Bethlehem with Naomi. How did that go?

Ruth sighs. Well, it was difficult at first. The other women welcomed Naomi back, but they weren't so sure about me, not being of their people, and all. 

I'm sorry that happened to you. People, God's people can be so harsh at times, pushing away the very ones they should draw in. But as I understand it, your character spoke for itself.

Ruth blushes. We were hungry, so I went to glean in the field of a man named, Boaz. Turns out he was a relative to Naomi, so she urged me to go to the threshing floor, wearing my best clothes and perfume, and lie down at his feet. She told me he would tell me what to do. While I didn't fully understand her request, I told her I'd do whatever she asked. 

Wow, that was bold. What happened?

In the middle of the night, something startled Boaz, and he turned and found me lying at his feet. He asked who I was. I told him and asked him to spread the corner of his garment over me, since he was a kinsman-redeemer. He was kind to me and recognized me as a woman of noble character.

Did God fan the flames of this budding romance?

Not at first. There was another man who was a closer relative and in line to marry me first, but he refused. So Boaz took me as his own. And we were very happy.

And then you gave birth to a son.

Yes, Obed. I can't quite describe how happy this little boy made Naomi. She'd called herself bitter up to that point, but now, well, she was overjoyed! She took him on her lap and cared for him, as any godly grandmother might do. In our sorrow, God brought us a sweet surprise. Ruth smiles. 

What lessons would you say you learned from this experience?

Oh, so many. But mostly, when we are faithful to the Lord, He provides for us, in ways we never dreamed possible. 

For more of Ruth's story, read the book of Ruth. :) Thanks for joining us today, Ruth! Stay tuned for our next Bible mommy, Hannah!  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Coffee with Samson's Mom (Bible Mommies series)

Samson's Mom: Set Apart to Raise a Special Son

I see a pattern in many of the Bible moms I've interviewed thus far. Infertility. Maybe you can identify with that particular and very painful heartache. Take heart: God uses the difficult circumstances of our lives to nurture spiritual growth. Often what appears like a tragedy turns out to be of great use in God's kingdom.  Which ultimately leads to our fulfillment as well.

Today, I'm drinking coffee and visiting with Samson's mom, another woman in scripture who experienced this problem. Let's see what she shares about how God set her apart to conceive and raise a special son.

Thanks for joining me today, Samson's mom. From reading your story in Judges, chapter 13, I see you experienced a personal encounter with the angel of the LORD, whom many scholars believe was the preincarnate Christ. What was that like?

Amazing, is all I can really say. He told me that even though I was sterile, I would conceive a son. Then he gave me strict instructions about what I could and couldn't eat and drink during my pregnancy. And how I should rear the boy once he was born. You see, God set apart my son from conception to deliver the Israelites from Philistine oppression.

How did your husband react?

He went to his knees and asked God to once again teach us how to bring up the boy. That's when the angel of the LORD appeared to me again. I ran to my husband and told him. He followed me to the man. My husband, Manoah, asked the LORD, "When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy's life and work?" (verse 12). I was always so proud of him for asking that question. He sought God's wisdom for our son. And God laid out His plan from the womb to the tomb, you might say. And we worked as a team in carrying out that plan. 

It's no secret that Samson took some wrong turns in life, in spite of your godly teaching and example. What was that like for you?

Manoah and I were totally flabbergasted when Samson insisted we choose a bride for him from the Philistines. Of all things. They were our enemies and the very people He'd been raised to deliver us from. His request seemed to us like the whim of a spoiled child. But God had something else in mind. I don't fully understand it, but God used Samson's poor choice as an opportunity to confront the Philistines through events that spiraled out of control and led to the death of a thousand Philistine men. Yet, this was part of God's ultimate plan. Again, amazing how God works.  

Still, it must have grieved you to see Samson's weakness for women, and the ultimate result of his indiscretions.

She sighs. Yes, indeed it did. But again, God got the final word, but it cost my son's life. He remembered our godly instruction and called upon his God, and the LORD fulfilled His divine mission through his life with one final blow to the Philistines. Which is exactly what we trained him to do.  

What lessons would you say you learned from this experience?

That God has His hand on our children from conception--even before that, our children are on His mind. Parents must adopt a teachable spirit. We had to follow careful instructions to train Samson for his future role. And perhaps the biggest lesson: It is through worship that we hear from God. There He provides instruction and affirmation concerning our role in training our children.  Even when we don't understand God's ways, we must trust Him with our children.

What an encouragement to all moms! Stay connected to the LORD so that He can guide us in nurturing our children's hearts for His service. Thanks for joining us!

For more of Samson's mom's story, read Judges, chapters 13 - 16. Next time, we'll visit with Ruth, the great grandmother of King David.  Until then, happy mothering!

 




Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Coffee with Jochebed (Bible Mommies series)

Jochebed: Faith in the Face of Fear

I don't know about you, but I've enjoyed meeting for coffee with Sarah, Hagar, and Rebekah thus far. Today, we have Jochebed, Moses' mother, joining us. I'm intrigued with this Bible mommy who showed great faith in the face of fear. Imagine living in a time period when the head governing official mandated the killing of every male baby. Unthinkable. Yet, in the midst of this horror, God spared the life of one babe in order to raise up a leader to deliver His people. And He used an ordinary woman to accomplish His purpose. 

Jochebed, I can only imagine that it took a lot of faith to place your baby in the Nile, along with crocodiles and who knew what else. You put your child in the very river where Pharaoh's murders took place.

Yes, it was daunting. But I didn't feel I had much of a choice. Moses' cry grew stronger by the day. I declare, that child had quite the set of lungs. Jochebed smiles. But I truly believe God showed the way of escape by giving me the idea of the basket. Still, it wasn't easy placing my precious baby boy inside and closing the lid.  And launching the basket into the river, well, that took prayer and trust. 

I'm sure you were glad to have his older sister, Miriam, stand guard.

Oh, yes. Miriam was always such a helper. When the Princess came to bathe in the Nile, along with her maidens, of course she spotted the basket. But Miriam thought quickly and asked the Princess if she could get a nurse from the Hebrews for the baby. You see, the Princess knew the child was a Hebrew slave. But she felt compassion for the babe and wanted to take him as her own. 

How did that make you feel? That she wanted to take Moses to be her child?

Jochebed sighs. I felt both relief and grief. Relieved that God had saved my baby but sad that eventually, I would have to let him go. After he was weaned. But in truth, isn't that what every mother must do? Whether it's when a child is young, or when he's grown, we still have to let go.

So true. In rearing my three daughters, I came to understand that there was a "letting go"process at each stage of life. Birth released the baby from my body so that now I was not the only one interacting with my child. That first trip on the school bus proved another agonizing release. And so forth. But I grew with the child and learned to let go a little bit more with each phase. Thankfully, God never asked me to give up my child as you did Moses, at such a young age. He did ask me to surrender them emotionally and mentally to serve around the world in missions as adults. But God gave me some sweet surprises in return. Seven grandchildren to date are a few. 

Oh, how special. Certainly a special gift for me was seeing how God trained and used my son, in fact, all my children, to serve Him for such a compelling purpose: the deliverance of our people. I couldn't have been more proud. 

What would you say you learned from being a mother?

So many lessons. But I would say the three biggest: 1) Trust God. He knows what He's doing with your child. 2) Sometimes a parent must defy a civil authority in deference to God's will. 3) It's important to teach your child early on that God has a special purpose for his life that only he can fulfill. In short, teach your children then release them to do what God wants. 

I've enjoyed our time together, Jochebed. Thank you for being a wonderful example of motherhood.

Jochebed blushes. Only by God's grace, that's for sure. 

For more of Jochebad's story, read Exodus, chapter two and Hebrews 11:23. Next time, we'll pull up a chair and drink coffee with Samson's mom. Until next time, praying you grow as a Bible mommy.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Coffee with Rebekah (Bible Mommies series)

Rebekah: Playing Favorites

Today, we're visiting with Rebekah over coffee. So pull up a comfy chair and listen in! I believe this Bible mommy has some wisdom to share about avoiding common mistakes in parenting. 

Good to have you with us today, Rebekah! Seems to be a pattern in Scripture of infertility. You experienced this as well, didn't you?

Yes, but my husband, Isaac, prayed to the LORD on my behalf. God answered with twins! I remember how much they thrashed about in my belly. So much so, it concerned me. The LORD told me that two nations warred in my womb, and that the older would serve the younger. Even at birth, the younger was grabbing onto his brother's heel.

What was it like as the mother of twin boys?

Rebekah giggles.Never a dull moment, I can tell you that. The oldest, Esau, loved to hunt. But the younger, Jacob, liked to stay home. I know it's not right to pick favorites, but Isaac loved Esau because of the game he brought home. I, on the other hand, loved Jacob because he was a quiet boy, preferring to stay by my side in the tent. He liked to cook, too. What woman doesn't like that? Sadly, though, that's the very thing that led to trouble.

Tell us about that.

Rebekah sighs. Well, one day Esau came in from hunting, all hungry. He saw Jacob cooking stew, and he told his brother to give him some. Jacob, born with a cunning nature, said, "First sell me your birthright." You see, the oldest child was in line to inherit from his father. But Esau, ever the impulsive one, said, "Look, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me?"  So he sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. 

Oh dear. That would spell trouble, I suppose. 

Yes, and grief seemed to follow us into their adult years. When Esau married Judith, they gave us nothing but heartache. Perhaps I didn't do the job I should've when he was little. At any rate, they made life miserable for Isaac and me. 

I'm sorry to hear that. But I'm sure many of my readers can identify. Often, grown children can vex their parents, in one way or another. 

So true. Later, when Isaac was on his death bed, he called for Esau and asked him to prepare some game for him and he would bless him before he died. I was listening in and got an idea. Rebekah hangs her head. I told Jacob to prepare tasty food from our flock, using the hairy skins to cover his neck and arms so that Isaac would think he was Esau. You see, Isaac couldn't see well. Not at all. Like Sarah, I took matters into my own hands to assure that the LORD's prophecy to me would work out--that the older would serve the younger. Sadly, my example of trickery rubbed off on Jacob and followed him throughout life. 

Did Isaac fall for the scheme?

Oh, yes, with no problem. As I said, he was quite unable to see in his old age. He blessed Jacob, and when Esau came in from the field and asked for his blessing, there was none to give. This upset both Isaac and Esau greatly! But nothing could be done.

Ooh, I can only imagine how angry Esau must have been.

Yes, quite so. He held a grudge against his brother and wanted to kill him. But I sent Jacob away to my brother Laban. Eventually, many years later, Esau did let go of the grudge, for God provided for him too, in many ways. Wives. Flocks. Children. And such. And even though Jacob received the blessing, he struggled in many ways, for a long time. Even with God. 

What would you say you learned from your experiences, Rebekah?

Never play favorites. Never take matters into your own hands. The LORD will do as He promised, in His time and in His way. And perhaps the biggest lesson of all: a mother's influence is powerful. Live a godly example before your children, because your words and actions will come back on you, whether good or bad. 

Thanks for joining me today, Rebekah! Next time on Bible Mommies, we'll talk with Rebekah's daughters-in-law who have an interesting story to share too.

For more of Rebekah's story, read Genesis, chapters 26 and 27.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Coffee with Hagar (Bible Mommies series)

Hagar: Single Mom

Like Sarah, Hagar's point of pain revolved around a child. But as a result, she met the pre-incarnate Jesus in a most unexpected way. Let's spend a few minutes visiting with Hagar and hear her amazing story!

Hagar, great to have you for coffee today!What was it like for you when Sarah stepped outside God's plan and drew you into her plan? 

Thanks for inviting me. I'm honored to be with you. Since I was Sarah's maid, her request did not come as a surprise to me. Having a child through one's maid was not unusual in our time period. 

I see. But what did it feel like to be a single mom?

Exciting at first, I mean, to have a child. But also very difficult, as in reality, I was bearing the child for Sarah. I'll admit, I despised Sarah. Then things turned ugly. My mistress treated me harshly, and Abraham allowed it, so I ran away.

As I understand it, at the worst moment, God intervened. How did that come about?

Well, I ended up near a spring in the desert. The LORD came to me and asked where I was going. He told me to go back to Sarah and do what she told me. Even though I balked at the thought of submitting to her, the LORD promised He would increase my descendants through the child I carried. 

What was it like to "meet" God?

Amazing! I realized I'd seen the God who sees me.

Did Sarah treat you differently once the child was born?

She was fond of my son, Ishmael--her son really. But she never quite treated me with kindness. And rumor had it that Abraham insisted God had told him he would have a child directly through Sarah, but I don't think Sarah quite believed it. Being past the age for bearing children, she laughed about the whole thing.

Well, this story's heating up! What happened after that?

Years later, God did enable Sarah to bear a son. They named him Isaac, "God laughs." On the day Isaac was weaned, Abraham held a great feast. Unfortunately, Ishmael publicly mocked Isaac. This only made Sarah angry, and she told Abraham to get rid of me and Ishmael. I could tell this made Abraham sad. After all, Ishmael was his son, too. But nevertheless, he sent us away with some food and water. 

Oh my, how did you manage?

I was an emotional basket case, to tell you the truth. When we finished the water, I put Ishmael under a bush and slipped away, not too far. But I couldn't bear to watch him die. We both cried. It was awful. Then God called to me. Again. I couldn't believe my ears. But what a comfort. He said, "Don't be afraid. I've heard the boy's cries. Take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation." Then I looked, and there was a well! Amazing! We filled the water skin, drank, and lived. When Ishmael grew up, I took a wife for him from Egypt. 

You had quite an experience, Hagar. What would you say you learned from all this?

That God sees and hears our cries. He seeks out the unloved, the undesirable. At the point of death, God intervened and reminded me of His promise. I was in an impossible circumstance, beyond my control. But that was God's way of getting my attention. As a single mom, I despaired, even of life. But God heard my cry and provided what I needed to care for my son. 

Thanks so much for drinking coffee with me today and sharing a piece of your story, Hagar.

Thanks for listening. 

~~

Remember when we spoke with Sarah--the most important thing in her life became the point of greatest testing. But God's plan was bigger than her imagination. His plan for Isaac exceeded Sarah's. And God can turn sorrow into laughter. 

Today, we learned that a blessing for Hagar became a curse for Sarah, and ultimately pushed Hagar to the breaking point. But God, in His relentless mercy, intervened.

Read Genesis, chapters 16 and 21, to get the complete flow of this story. 

* What does this account show us about the importance God places on names?
* What part did God play in Hagar's deliverance?
* What part did she play?
* What lessons can we learn from this Bible mommy? 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Coffee with Sarah (Bible Mommies series)

Sarah: From Barren to Blessed

When a client steps into my counselor husband's office, one of the first things my husband asks is, "What's your probelm?" or "What brought you here today?"

Interestingly enough, the presenting problem represents a deeper issue in the person's life or surroundings. Would you say that's true for you, Sarah?

Definitely. I was desperate to have a child, but I think the real issue in my life was releasing control and allowing God to build my faith.  And of course, at this point in human history, mankind in general suffered from barren hearts. They'd walked away from God and exalted themselves.

In reading your story in Genesis, you enter the scene as a new bride with one distinction: you're barren. Short bio for the future mother of God's chosen people.

Sarah laughs. Yes, I guess you could say that.

Tell us a little of what it was like to be married to Abraham. He always seems like such a bigger than life figure. 

Yes, Abram was a good man. A righteous man. But he wasn't perfect. God had to chisel him into a patriarch of faith. And one of the first tests: the promise of a son, even in his old age. And not just any son, mind you, an heir through which God would build a great nation with descendants as plentiful as the stars. Sadly, what started out as faith in God's promise turned to doubt and impatience. And I certainly didn't help matters.

What do you mean?

Well, in hindsight, I now know God always has a reason for His delays. Sometimes, He withholds blessing long enough for us to come to the end of ourselves and our resources, then in grace, He acts. I believe that's what he did in mine and Abram's case. But I insisted on doing things my way rather than waiting on God. I pulled in Hagar to conceive a child on my behalf, thinking her son could be the promised heir. But that was so far from what God intended. He promised a child through Abram and me. 

What did you learn from your experience that you might pass along to my readers?

Sarah sighs. I struggled with infertility my entire life, well past the age for bearing children. And you know what I finally realized? The thing I struggled with the most is where God met me with laughter. You might recall that I named our son, Isaac, meaning "God laughs." Even in my disobedience, God graciously stuck to His promise. I love how God works! Such a blessing!

Yes. So true, Sarah. From barren to blessed. Thanks for joining me today and providing a glimpse into your life and lessons learned. 

Glad to be with you! 

So, dear reader, as you think about our time with Sarah, consider the following questions based on Genesis 11:30, chapters 15-18:15; 21:1-12.

* What qualities proved both strengths and weaknesses in Sarah's life?

* In what ways can you identify with Sarah?

* What areas feel barren in your life right now?

* Has God made any promises to you?

* What lessons can you learn from Sarah's faith journey?

We'll be visiting with Hagar next time to hear her side of the story! We'll keep the coffee hot. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bible Mommies: What They Teach Us (Intro)

God's story is epic, the sweeping saga of redemption. A chosen nation spawned through a chosen vessel--Abraham. Weakness mingled with strength. Faith overcoming unbelief. Rebellion colliding with God's Law. Wars. Famine. Kings and paupers. Prophets, priests, and poets. The coming Messiah.  The birth of God's Son. His teaching, rejection, and cruel death--all necessary for the fulfillment of God's redemption. His resurrection and promise to return. The spread of His Church through His followers. His Kingdom come, and Satan's ultimate defeat. Then everlasting life, peace, and joy as believers rule and reign with Him.

In the midst of this grand story, God dropped individuals, key players, in His drama. And many of those players were Bible mothers who left their mark on history.

What might it have been like to rear children in the early years of man's existence? During the cruelty of Pharaoh or Herod? During the wilderness journey? Or when Jesus walked the earth? 

Have you ever wondered what you might ask these special women if they were sitting in front of you?

Well, now you can. Pull up a comfy chair--two chairs, in fact--pour some coffee, and step into the lives of several Bible mommies and discover what you can learn.

As you visit with each Bible mommy, study the Scriptures, and reflect on the questions. Imagine what she would tell you if she were sharing her story with you.

First invitation: Sarah, From Barren to Blessed. We'll be visiting with Sarah tomorrow. Make plans to drop by!

 


Monday, May 12, 2014

An Unexpected Blessing

Her gutteral German accent accompanied by the characteristic roll of the "R" endeared the old woman to my heart from the start of the evening. 

With soft grandmotherly face and barely a wrinkle, she shared how God had introduced her to her soldier husband during the 60s and led her to America to begin a new life. Little did she know, her new life would literally change her life. Thanks to a praying German grandmother on one side of the ocean and an American grandma on the other side who consistently told her about Jesus, even though she didn't speak German. The army wife eventually accepted the Lord. Though America seemed strange, she experienced peace and joy as she puttered about her garden, singing hymns in a mix of German and broken English.

As I sat next to Margot, peppering her with questions about life in Frankfurt, Germany under Nazi regime, she kept taking me back to Jesus, her love for Him as natural as breathing. 

I came with Chuck to speak on the blessing of discovering the person God designed you to be, and He provided a beautiful example in seventy-five year old Margot, as young and vibrant a woman as I've ever met, in spite of her years.

Our desire to bless the audience was returned a hundred-fold in Margot, a true follower and lover of Jesus.

Truly, an unexpected blessing. 

Maybe you've set out to be a blessing and God surprised you with a blessing in return. What unexpected blessing has God brought your way lately?

 Our hosts at Cornerstone Farm concluding the program.

 




Our very attentive audience of sixty.








Chuck posing for my ever ready camera.






Visiting at the book table after the program






 
 
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A final hug from Margot after she purchased a copy of Journey to Judah






By the way, you might be interested in checking out Cornerstone Farm, a Christian-owned and operated, 92 acre working farm, complete with B & B and event center in beautiful Red Oak, Virginia!



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Releasing Rachel

With Mother's Day upon us in a few days, I thought I'd post an article close to my heart that revolves around my oldest daughter's adventure as a single missionary gal and my journey to let go.

(This article first appeared in Discipleship Journal/Nov.-Dec.2004 issue, and later adapted for Psychology for Living/June 2006).




My daughter Rachel, a missionary to India, was addressing a conference luncheon. As she spoke, my mind drifted to earlier days and the ways God had prepared her for this moment. Rachel hadn’t been the only one with lessons to learn from God. I, too, was in God’s school of preparation. And one of the hardest courses was learning to relinquish my single daughter to God’s service on the other side of the world. Through the lives of biblical women who had released their children to fulfill His divine plan, God taught me to release Rachel into His arms.

HANNAH’S SURRENDER TO GOD’S WILL
My first mentor was Hannah. Barren Hannah promised to give her child to God if He would enable her to conceive (1 Samuel 1). God provided Samuel, and Hannah kept her promise. When Samuel was weaned, she took him to the temple to live with the priest Eli. Samuel grew to be a godly judge over Israel, fulfilling God’s mission for his life.

I remember dreaming of the day I would be a mother. My husband, Chuck, and I prayed for children, and God answered by sending Rachel. We committed Rachel to the Lord before her birth, praying she would know Jesus as her Savior and Lord—and that He would use her for His kingdom’s glory. How naive I had been. Yes, my highest aspiration was to see Rachel walk with God. But when she chose a missionary’s life in India, I became nervous. I had imagined her meeting a nice young Christian man and settling down in local ministry. Yet, Hannah reminded me there is no surrender apart from full surrender. God takes our prayers and commitments seriously. He means us no harm, only good all the days of our lives as we walk in His will (Psalm 84:11). The highest good is to be conformed to the image of His Son (Ro. 8:28-29). This, I realized, was not only Rachel’s calling, but my own.

SARAH’S TRUST IN GOD’S PROVISION

During my years of adjustment, Sarah’s life reminded me that God would supply all of Rachel’s needs—and mine. This encouragement grew out of one of the most dramatic stories in Scripture. God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac, his and Sarah’s long-awaited son, as a sacrifice on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22). I imagined Sarah kissing Abraham and Isaac goodbye that fateful morning. Perhaps not fully knowing what God had instructed Abraham, she trusted her mate to care for the beloved son of their old age, the son God would bless and whose offspring would be as plentiful as the stars in the heavens (Gen. 15:5). No harm could ever befall him, for God had promised. And God did provide! At the moment Abraham lifted the knife to strike his son, “the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ . . . ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy.’ . . . ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son’” (Gen. 22:11-12). In the thicket was a ram God had placed there to be the sacrifice.



After Rachel completed candidate school, she went on field assignment with a native missionary couple serving in a remote Indian village. During that time I would awaken around four every morning thinking, What will she do for electricity? How will we contact one another? What about medical care? What if she is bitten by a snake and not enough antivenin is available? What about loneliness and depression? The “what ifs” continued until I relinquished my thoughts to God and allowed Him to bring peace. He reminded me: “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands” (Ps. 138:8). I slept soundly from then on.

MARY’S CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S LOVE
I also needed to learn that Rachel does not belong to me: She belongs to God, and He loves her more than I ever could. Tears would come when I least expected them, but I guarded my emotions around Rachel because I didn’t want to upset her. God tested my surrender to His will on several occasions. Rarely could I walk into a room of women without one of them asking, “How can you let Rachel go to India? The world is more dangerous now than ever! Aren’t you concerned for her safety? What if something happens to her?” 
I would clear my throat and calmly give this trained reply: “Rachel doesn’t belong to me. She belongs to God. If it were up to me, I probably wouldn’t let her
go. I ache because she will never stop being my little girl. But she is grown now, and I must let her go. Her purpose in life is not up to me. Her Father has called her, and He knows best. He can care for her far better than I can with my finite abilities.”
To further assure my heart, God gave me a dream one night. My little red-headed toddler was running across the lawn straight for the busy road. Cars were zooming this way and that. I ran after her, arms stretched out, reaching, grabbing desperately, but as is often the case in a dream, I could never quite get to her. At last, she plunged into the street. I knew for sure my precious baby would be killed. However, when the traffic cleared, I saw a lovely Indian woman clad in colorful sari on the other side of the road stooping and holding my little Rachel. She was safe. And my heart was comforted.  
Yes, God had loaned her to me for a time to love, train, and help prepare for His work, but she was never mine to control. Rachel belongs to God. Her purpose is to fulfill His mission for her. Jesus’ mother gave me a gentle reminder to let go. Mary testified in Luke 1 of God’s glorious purpose in sending Jesus to be conceived and reared by her.
 
With God’s help, Mary persisted in a lifetime of letting go, which ultimately led to the most painful release of all—the cross. Although Mary did not understand God’s ways, she was able to release Jesus into the safekeeping of His heavenly Father because she knew His love for Jesus was greater than her own. Through Jesus’ agony, God brought about good. Mary witnessed her Son’s resurrection, and later she joined Him in glory.
We find renewed meaning in life when we encourage our children to pursue what God has called them to do. Rachel’s commissioning service brought this truth home to me. As her father and I watched our daughter approach the platform and calmly testify before her sending church and mission family, our tears flowed freely. Rachel knelt and veteran missionaries, her pastor, and deacons surrounded her, laying hands on her and offering her up to her Father in prayer. After the service a woman hugged me and said, “It’s hard when your kids leave you!”

“It’s bittersweet,” I replied, wiping my eyes. “We trained Rachel to answer God’s call, no matter what that might mean, but nothing could have prepared us for the pain we would endure in actually letting her go. Certainly, knowing that she has a wonderful mission family to love her and watch out for her helps settle my mind and heart.”

“Yes, we will look out for her. And remember, in heaven, it will only be sweet.” 
True, I thought, no sad good-byes. No letting go. All will be sweet.  
That evening, I learned that God’s plan for Rachel was bigger than me, bigger than her. Resting in His loving plan is the best and safest place she could be. 
That commissioning service was eight years ago. As God would have it, there have been many Indian "mamas" over the last few years who have taken Rachel under their wings. In addition, the Lord provided my girl with a godly husband only two months after arriving in India. Nathan, a third generation missionary kid who had returned to the States, sensed God leading him back to India to serve. While there he met Rachel and they were married in June, 2005. Their love story inspired Book One, JOURNEY TO JUDAH, in my Born for India trilogy. Through this account, God has reaffirmed Psalm 84:11 in my heart: "The Lord God is a sun and a shield; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly."

Eileen Rife is the author of the Born for India trilogy. All three of her daughters are involved in mission work around the world. She and her husband, Chuck, conduct marriage seminars in the states and overseas.  www.eileenrife.com.
 One woman. One God. One passion. In an exotic culture of 7.5 million people and over 3 million gods, one woman resolves to make the journey. Could love await her, even in India?













Saturday, May 3, 2014

Motherhood

Every life is a story full of chapters. One of my favorite chapters is titled, "Motherhood." Of all the words I've written, the ones I hope will have the most lasting impact are the ones inscribed on my children's hearts. Because let's face it--a mother's words carry power, and prayerfully, truth that will bathe and direct a child's mind and heart all the days of his life. One such saying I carry around from my mother is, "Always leave a room better than you found it." I think of that bit of maternal wisdom whenever I'm working in the church kitchen or visiting someone. In addition to cleaning up my messes, I sometimes add a special touch, like a flower or a note, to lift the person's spirits.

Are you a mother? A grandmother? What words can you leave your child/grandchild that will reap results for eternity? My counselor husband often jokes that parents can nag their children from the grave. It's true! What you say is that powerful and that memorable. Your words will outlive you. So let's make our words godly ones that build up our children and help write their life stories.
 
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Check out my Amazon author page for some Mother's Day gifts!