Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Christmas Child

My grandson, Ethan (4), cupped my chin in his hands, looked into my eyes, and said, "God wants to do great things with little children."

He reminded me of this statement two or three times throughout our Grandma/Ethan date. I couldn't help but giggle.

On reflection, I realize how powerful a line my young grandson delivered. For isn't that the very heart of Christmas?

God wants to do great things through a Child.

And so He did. 

God came down in human flesh, clothed as a baby . . . as one of us. Humble beginnings in a manger. Feeling the same soaked diapers we experience, the same hungry stomach gnawing, the same loneliness, sadness, grief.

In order to identify with mankind. With you. With me.

To know how we feel, in every way . . . physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. He became one of us. 

And then He died, for us. Because He could. Since He was also fully God, He was the only One who could bear our sin, offering redemption through His blood.

Oh, glorious Christmas Child! The One who invites each of us to become little children in the attitudes of our heart. To be humble enough to admit our sin, draw near to Him, and accept His gift.

The ultimate Christmas gift from one Child to another.


Eileen Rife, author of Second Chance, invites women to discover who they are in Christ and what part they play in His amazing story! The article above is taken from a newly-released devotional titled, Penned from the Heart, compiled by Marilyn Nutter. www.eileenrife.com, www.eileen-rife.blogspot.com,

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why Did He Die, Grandma?

Five-year-old Hannah and I colored a picture at the kitchen table. "Remind me, Grandma, why did Jesus die?"

I paused, overwhelmed for a moment by the sincerity and gravity of her question.

Through threatening tears, I managed to respond. "Because He loved us."
"To pay for our sin," her older sister sitting on the other side of me added. 

Seemingly satisfied by the answers, Hannah hummed as she picked up a yellow crayon. 

But Hannah's question continued to roll around in my mind. 
Remind me. 

We all need that reminder of why Jesus died. That God would become man in order to identify with and deliver us, to understand our hurts, our sorrows, our sickness, our sin.

The perfect God-man.

Emmanuel. God with us. Born in a lowly manger. Crucified on a cruel cross. Buried in a tomb.
Can you hear the musical crescendo?
Then with a blast of forever victory, rose from the grave!
A living Savior!
Guaranteeing eternal life to all who will believe and receive Him!
Remind me.  
Yes, Lord, remind me every day of why You came, died, and rose again for me. Help me live with gratitude for what You have done to secure my forever salvation. Help me not to hoard this amazing grace, but to share it with others!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Social Media: First Impressions

No one can argue that social media plays a high profile role in today's world. From family videos to political diatribes to marketing strategies, social media ignites a flame, sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the bad. 

But let's focus on the good social media can do in regard to marketing. As a professional writer, I am consistently on the lookout for strategies that help get the word out about my books and articles. The work I believe God has gifted me to accomplish and deliver to readers. 

In a recent webinar with Christian author, Karen Kingsbury, she reminded participants that "marketing is ministry."

I like that, because for the Christian, all of life is ministry, a sacrifice of worship (Romans 12:1). Perhaps no one feels this any greater than the Christian writer who offers her words in worship to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

With this confidence fueling her writing, she moves forward to proclaim the message God has placed on her heart to the world. At times, it feels like business, but wasn't it Jesus at age 12 who said He must be about His Father's business?

Call it what you will--ministry or business. For the Christian, it amounts to the same thing . . .

An offering to the Lord for His use in readers' lives. 

So, enter social media and first impressions. Regardless of your choice of media--Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. etc. etc.--you reach potential readers. Folks who may just be getting to know you as a person, let alone your writing. 

The way you communicate in a tweet, post, or pic speaks volumes about the writer/person you are. What do you hope to communicate about your character, your style, your message in those brief interactions?

There are many, but may I suggest five possibilities?

Communicate with care. 

Be mindful of what you type. Once your fingers hit enter, your message is in cyberspace and difficult to retrieve. You either communicate care for the reader on the other end or you don't. Virtual relationships are difficult to sustain given the lack of real face time. Physical presence affords a glimpse of body language, facial expression, voice inflection. Not so in the virtual community. Words on the page carry it all. So think before you write. Don't allow emotion, especially negative emotion, to drive your writing. Pray first, write second. The care you show toward social media readers will leave a lasting impression about who you are that may lead to further reading of your books/articles.

Show concern for the individual.

Few Christian writers do this as well as Kingsbury. In spite of her rigorous schedule, she responds to every reader who communicates with her. Her mother assists with this. She sends a personal message and prays with readers about their personal concerns. That's encouraging! Not only to the reader but to me as a writer. It affirms my heart for marketing. I want God to be glorified and readers to be blessed by His touch in their lives. If I can play a small part in that through a personal word of encouragement and/or prayer, wonderful! To God be the glory!

Be aware of your writing style. 

If you want to draw in new readers and sustain current readership, take care with not only the content of your posts, but also your mechanics. Proof your posts before hitting enter, just as you would with your manuscripts. We may not like it, but readers expect more from professional writers. We can't afford to get sloppy. What we do, we do first of all for our King, not just for the reader on the other end. Work on your craft as you design e-newsletters, blog or FB posts, or tweets. They all add to your writing portfolio. 

Focus on the message that's on your heart.

Social media is another way to get your message to the reader. Posts, videos, and links that contribute to the message God has given you may interest your readers in picking up your book/article. For example, two overriding themes fuel my work: 1) healing words for hurting hearts and 2) building awareness and moving to action. Thus, in the context of story and through nonfiction, I've written about issues such as marriage, abortion, empty nest, homosexuality, infertility, grief/loss, miscarriage, volunteering, inner city ministry, homeschooling, special needs children, death of a spouse/child, sex trafficking, and foster care. My prayer is that readers will come away with increased faith in God, renewed hope, and ever increasing love for Him that extends to others. 

Give more than you ask.  

When book sales are abysmal, it's easy to panic or get discouraged, which sometimes leads to over-promoting a book. Posting an ad every other day or more! What you're communicating is buy, buy, buy! I've been guilty of this at times. However, what I've learned is that gifting readers with my words does more to "promote" my work than asking them to buy my book. In the long run, it works in both the reader's and writer's favor. Kingsbury's rule of thumb is give three things before you ask for one thing. When you gift a book, be sure to deliver in a timely fashion with a personal message attached. You can also gift "free" words by posting an article you've written. And don't forget the gift of prayer. Huge! Your heart will be blessed as you bless others. 

If you are a writer or reader, what tip might you add concerning Social Media: First Impressions?


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What Gets You Up in the Morning?

            What gets you up in the morning? Maybe it’s the alarm clock, the kids screaming, or the dog licking your face. Perhaps, the aroma of coffee wafting from the kitchen or a poke in the ribs from your spouse stimulates a yawn and a groan.
            I’ve been thinking more about this lately, and I want my motivation for getting out of bed to be greater than someone else’s expectations for my day. I want my “get up and go” to be generated by a love for the Lord.
Indeed, 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 don’t think I’ll showcase my trophies on my mansion shelf for all to see, polishing them as I pass by. No, the supreme joy will come in presenting them to the Lord.
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 love and 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. www.eileenrife.com, www.eileen-rife.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Not a Cause, A Person

Behind every cause is a person. 

                You don’t have to browse Facebook or other social media long to discover the latest cause. From the pious to the political, causes draw us into something bigger than ourselves.
                Whether it’s building a well in Africa, rescuing a girl caught up in human trafficking, or raising money to meet the financial needs of a cancer patient, causes create buzz.
                But they also spawn criticism.
                I’ve heard skeptical Christians decry the contemporary obsession with causes. Their main fear, it seems, is that the emphasis on supporting a cause will detract from an emphasis on sharing Christ.
                A legitimate fear.
    Human nature being what it is, it’s easy to swing one way or the other: Spend time promoting a good cause (a social gospel) at the expense of verbally sharing the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, or spend time sharing Jesus at the expense of addressing physical needs.
I contend that Jesus did both.
He turned water into wine at a wedding.
He taught the multitude, then fed them on a hillside.
He healed the blind, the sick, the lame.
He did so at the Father’s direction to show people He was the Son of God, with the authority and power, not only to meet physical needs, but to forgive sin and provide eternal life.
His children, those who look to Him for salvation, long to follow in His footsteps. Like Jesus, their cause is people.
They tell others about Him; they meet physical, emotional, financial, social, marital needs.
Why? Because when they meet a need, they touch a person.
Meeting a felt need can soften the heart, preparing the way for the gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yet, let those who bear the name of Christ, take care. We must not get so wrapped up in the latest cause that we forget to share Christ’s redeeming love and grace with the person behind the cause.
Give a cup of water in Jesus’s name and quench an immediate physical thirst. Present the Living Water to the same person and quench an eternal spiritual thirst.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mission Activities You Can Do as a Family

Send a missionary child a “Birthday in a Box." Include fun things like stickers, hard candy, a small photo album of your family, etc.

Host a mission party. Select a country/theme. For example, we once hosted a Hawaiian luau complete with costumes, foods, games, and decorations. We shared native customs and wrote up interesting questions on slips of paper for attendees to answer. We concluded by praying for the spiritual needs of the Hawaiian people.

Host a missionary family during an annual church missions’ conference. Eating, sleeping, and rubbing shoulders with real live missionaries in your home is one of the best ways to expose your children to missions.
Volunteer to tutor an immigrant. My oldest daughter, Rachel, chose to peer tutor a Vietnamese girl for two years while in high school. Our entire family got involved in the process, sharing meals and outings with the Vietnamese family. This experience later led to Rachel teaching English in China for a summer.

 “Adopt” a missionary family. The children can write letters to the kids. Learn about their country by reading books from the library and preparing recipes. Send a package around Christmas time. Pray for a particular need each day of the week.

Post a missionary map on a bulletin board in a prominent area of your home. Help the children write out labels with the names of some missionaries your church supports. Then pin the labels to the map. Occasionally drill the kids to see if they can remember which missionary lives in which country.

Helpful Resources for Families

Becoming a World Changing Family, Fun & Innovative Ways to Spread the Good News, Donna S. Thomas, Baker Books, 2004.

You Can Change the World, Learning to Pray for People Around the World, Jill Johnstone, Zondervan Publishing House, 1999.

Children Around the World series, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987.

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...