Monday, August 31, 2020

Breakfast for Jesus


Courtesy of Pexels, Valeria Boltneva 

My husband’s early morning prayer meeting at our home brought one young man to our door. Intense spiritual warfare threatened him and his family. While my husband prayed with him downstairs, I prayed for them upstairs. 

As I interceded, the Holy Spirit prompted me to fix them breakfast. A sudden awareness flashed across my mind that the breakfast I would prepare was first and foremost for Jesus, not for the two men who knelt by our sofa. 

Never had I experienced more clarity concerning the truth of Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (NASB). 

So many times I’d served others with abandon, but when it came to my husband, I grumbled and hesitated. I pushed from the floor with joy as I prepared and served eggs, sausage, and smoothies to “Jesus” that quiet Saturday morning.


Monday, August 24, 2020

Home Alone? A Wife Grows Up During COVID


I admit it, I was spoiled. An introvert, I’d grown content after 14 years of working at home alone as a freelance writer, author, and creative writing tutor. I had my system down. Carrot juice in hand (yeah, no coffee for this writer gal), I’d shuffle off to my separate office after I kissed hubby Chuck, sending him off and out of the house to counsel clients at his group office.

Then COVID-19 hit and sent the proverbial best-laid plans of mice and men scurrying out the door, too. Home alone quickly morphed into two at home when Chuck started conducting teletherapy at home fulltime. Sacrificial wife that I am, I gave up my office and set up a card table in the living room for the laptop while Chuck used the desktop for sessions in a quiet, confidential space where the door could be closed.

And thus, it was. A closed door to my space. The one I had taken for granted yet soon realized I cherished.  

Still, I rallied my spirit around a new plan with resolve to make the best of things, which meant helping Chuck set up a new workspace with books and other resources carted from his group office. It required megadoses of patience as I guided him through the technological challenges of teletherapy, sometimes at the most inopportune moments, while I also mastered Zoom for student sessions. A learning curve for both of us, but since I’d learned a few things from my techy kids over the years, I was able to assist. Thankfully. Though I didn’t always view it with gratitude. Never mind that my grown children had patiently tutored me multiple times as I learned how to use Word processing, navigate the web, and diagnose computer issues.   

Enter negative and sinful behavior patterns that I knew existed, but I’d never fully dealt with. Under the careful tutelage of the Holy Spirit, I detected areas, one by one, that needed attention. For years, Chuck had insisted that those we discipled needed some practical way to measure growth. The professional counselor speaking, after all. Why not try a measurement system myself? So, I asked Chuck to join me in prayer as I sought the Lord.

Call it readiness, disgust with myself, desperation, old age (well, older), or all the above, but I seemed ripe for some solid spiritual formation. What emerged was a journaling exercise that I’m still doing. I’m now on my third refining area with a prayer, a serious prayer, to become more like my Jesus, my Savior and Lord, but also my gentle, humble Teacher.

The specific daily journaling over a three-week period (I advise at least that amount of time) on one growth area has helped me see how well I’m doing listening, trusting, and obeying my Teacher. A brief note for each day indicates the trigger situation and/or person and my response to the trigger, whether good or bad. The exercise provides its own form of accountability, but I’ve also alerted my special women prayer warriors to lift me up to the Throne as I work with the Holy Spirit in each area.

Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God” has powered me through many pivotal choice moments when the scales could tip either way (obey or disobey). The reminder brings pause, a spiritual breather, if not a physical and emotional one as well. God assures me in that moment that I can trust Him even when things seem out of control for this obsessive-compulsive-prone gal. Rather than react—blurt out whatever’s in my head—I grow quiet, even if only for a few moments to consider a godly response.

The happy news—Chuck says I’m making progress in my journaled areas! Since we are pretty much together 24/7, his is the feedback I desire the most. After all, we are the most real with the people we live with. My love and respect toward my husband are the true indicators of how well I really love and respect my Lord. That’s painful to hear, but so necessary for growth. I’m learning in a deeper way that submitting to the discipline of the Lord really does produce the peaceful fruit of right living, especially with the one closest to me, my spouse.   

Home alone? Yeah, nice, has its perks. But I think I’m finally growing up, which is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. And having extra laundry and yard help isn’t a bad perk, either.


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Where are the Sounds of Children?

On a neighborhood mid-morning walk, it dawned on me that other than cheery birds carrying on, it was all too quiet. Normally, I would appreciate the stillness. Time to refresh and reflect.

But on that day, I just got sad. Where were the sounds of children playing in their back yards?

I suppose in part that's why my two hours at my daughter's house that afternoon was so special--their back yard was alive with kid activity (with neighbor kids included)! Bikes flying over homemade ramps. A game of HORSE. "I Spy" while swinging in hammocks. One child's intrigue with the black accordion drain pipe led to three more investigating. The thrill of discovering that pipe attached to the gutter, then following the pipe buried underground to its outlet in the yard. A cup of chai on the stone ledge while chatting with my daughter.

The rest of the block was quiet.

Parents afraid to let kids outside?

Kids in front of computer or cell phone screens?

Kids in daycare?

Guess I am getting old (along with neighbor friends, I spent the entire summer with screen door slapping, I'm sure to my mother's chagrin), but oh, the happy banter, even the unhappy banter, of childhood play. A shared activity, a shared conflict. Learning to team create (great stuff out of castoffs, rocks, sand, bushes), relate, to resolve problems, to move on. 

And at the end of the day, to fall into bed richly exhausted with the moon peeking in through a starlit window.

As I drove home, I basked in the memory of the simple pleasures playing outside with kids provides. It took me back to my childhood.

That night as I tucked the sheet under my chin, I smiled at the moon shining through my window and fell into a deep sleep.


What do you think, Readers? 

Are kids today missing out?

Are today's techy kids at an advantage?

Leave a comment below. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

God's Creative Comfort

During an Abba Walk the other day, I thanked my Good Shepherd that as His little (often trembling) lamb, He has me nestled under His loving arm. 
On my way back home, I rounded the corner and lo and behold--Lamb's Ear! A bumper crop! 
I had to smile as I plucked a woolly soft petal as a souvenir to press in my journal beside the entry I would write, 
the one about how God shows up with His sweet and often simple gifts that reassure my heart with His presence. 

How about you, dear reader? How has God shown up to comfort you in sweet and unexpected ways lately?

Share your anecdote to encourage my readers.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Celebrate Mom!

Celebrating Mom! 
A few weeks ago while rummaging through the utility room, I discovered a tattered notebook my mom started when she was a teenager. When I opened the cover and stopped sneezing :), I noticed the first entry, a poem titled, "God's Word Endures" based on Isaiah 40:8. Mama loved to read, study, and teach the scriptures, from junior-age boys to maturing women. She told me once that she used to line up her dolls when she was little and teach them Bible stories. 
Her contagious love for the Bible rippled down to me, and now I try to pass on that love to others, especially my kids and grandkids. 
Moms, whether still living or now deceased, leave all kinds of legacies. Prayerfully your mom left a faithful legacy that reflected a love for God's Word that led to a love for Jesus. 
But I realize not all of us had mothers who adhered to the scripture and modeled a love for Christ. Still, all our mothers gave us life. For that alone we can thank God, especially in a culture where pre-born life is not viewed as created in God's image and thus not treated as precious and valuable (Psalm 139). 
Our moms gave us physical life regardless of how that played out while we were growing up. God gave us spiritual life. That is an even greater gift. In the mystery of His workings, He used the moms we were given to shape us into the people we are. Even the negative experiences He can and will turn around for His glory and His use as we allow Him to point out the painful areas, apply His surgeon's scalpel, and ultimately bring healing that can then impact other lives for the Kingdom. 
If you're a mom or grandma, you can be that faithful lover of Jesus and God's Word for your children and grandchildren, whatever their ages. 
It's no surprise that we're living through difficult times. Jesus said we would. But Moms and Grandmas, we can make a difference right now, right where God's placed us. 
I'm comforted by stories like the one about the faithful grandmothers during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 that led to the formation of the Soviet Union. Lenin and his cronies thought they'd completely stamped out any trace of Christianity. However, in quiet places, tucked away, were little old grandmas rocking cradles, singing "Jesus Loves Me" and quoting scripture to babes and toddlers. Their behind-the-scene efforts spawned a new generation of believers.  
We can celebrate our moms, and we can be the moms and grandmothers that Jesus wants us to be right now, even in the midst of COVID isolation. 
What will that look like for you?
For me, it will look like a Zoom "Mother/Daughter Virtual Tea" with my three daughters. We will meet via video wearing our favorite frock (or not:) with beverage of choice in hand. 
Each of us will take 10 minutes to share our responses to the following questions.
1.) What is your chief mothering joy right now?
2.) What is your chief mothering challenge right now?
3.) What is your chief mothering scripture right now?
4.) What is your chief mothering prayer right now?
As you look ahead to Celebrating Mom this year, consider what you can do to both reflect and reach out to your kids, grandkids, or others who may need a "mom-touch" right now.

Friday, April 10, 2020

In the Garden with Mary

Courtesy of M Nota, Free Images

I hide among the olive trees, gazing at the weeping woman, Mary Magdalene. She stoops, peers into Jesus’ tomb. Her chest and abdomen shudder with every sob.

I want to run to her, take her in my arms, tell her what I already know, but something restrains me. So I wait in wonder for the moment I know is coming.

Then she spins around and sees Him! But sadly, through tear-filled eyes, she doesn’t recognize Him.

Jesus realizes this and plays along. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” A mix of tenderness and firmness fills His voice.

Thinking He is the gardener, she says, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

I smile from my hiding place. My heart swells at her persistence, much like another woman, Anne Graham Lotz, who generations later would write, “Just give me Jesus; you can have this whole world but give me Jesus!”

I wonder where Mary will take Jesus if she finds Him. I get the impression in her crazed grief, in her frantic search, she will do anything. She’s not thought through all the details; she simply wants her Lord. She wants the security of knowing where He is, so at least she can be close to His body.

“Mary!” The one word that breaks through her grief and ends her search. The one word from the Voice she knows and loves, the Voice that quiets the singing birds who lean in to listen to their Creator. The loving Voice of authority which she’s chosen to follow. The Voice that spoke to her troubled soul, delivered her from sin, and established her identity in Him.

“Rabboni, Teacher!” is her joyful cry as she falls to her knees, grips his feet, and washes them with her thankful tears. She peers into His reassuring face. His hand extends, lifting her.

“Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”

I shrink into the shelter of the trees, pondering His words. Clearly, He loves Mary, but He redirects her display of physical affection with a commission. Time to focus, Mary, on the task at hand. There will be plenty of time for embracing when I call you to my heavenly Kingdom; for now, go and tell what you have seen and heard. Tell them, remind them, that I must go and prepare a place for them, but I will come back for them, for you, Mary, and take you to heaven to be with Me.

I touch my cheek. It’s wet. I’m weeping! Are my tears a result of watching this tender, personal encounter that I’ve read so often in Scripture unfold before my eyes?

Or do I weep because the risen Christ chose to first appear to a woman, one who clearly sought Him with her whole heart, who loved Him much because He forgave her much?

Or do I cry joyful tears at Jesus’ promise to her, to all His followers . . . to me?

Yes, on all counts. Yet, I sense an even deeper reason for my tears: Holy Spirit conviction. The gift Jesus would soon give Mary and the other disciples. The member of the Godhead who would fill her with power from on high, who would be closer “than breathing and nearer than hands and feet,” writes poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. Her Comforter, Teacher, Counselor, Helper . . . Friend. The Holy Spirit—Jesus’ down payment on her heavenly inheritance.

Among the shadows, I sigh, thankful that though conviction stings, it’s also a comfort, affirming that I, too, am one of His disciples. I breathe deeply, square my shoulders. I must stop hoarding Jesus in my house. I must go and tell others what I have seen and heard, assured by His Spirit within me that Jesus is with me wherever I go.

With robe lifted, Mary sprints past me. Our eyes lock for a moment. Is that a twinkle in her eye? I cock my head. She knows something. Something more. 

I blink, sweep the tears from my cheeks. For a second, it seems she wants to run to me, take me in her arms, tell me what she now knows from her heavenly grandstand, centuries removed from this garden encounter. Things I do not yet fully know as I look through a glass dimly. But she presses on, perhaps in wonder, waiting too for the moment when her Lord and my Lord will break through the blue to gather all His redeemed children to Himself for all eternity.

So, I too run.

And tell.

For further reflection, read John, chapter 20 and John 14:3.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

A Good God?

This whole maddening affair with the Coronavirus which originated in China but now has become a global pandemic, has left me with an odd peace, not in its wake but as it barges through, stirring up troubled waters for me and all around me.

In the midst of the horrific swell, God whispers His care. "Be still, Eileen, just be still. You are under my wings, sheltered as a hen shelters her chicks from harm."

In this knowledge, I choose to dwell, for as a friend noted on Facebook: "It's a win-win situation. If I don't get COVID-19, I win; if I do get it and die, I'm ushered into the presence of my Savior for all eternity."

Yet what of those who do not know Him personally, who have not cried out to Him for salvation in the midst of their lostness? With Isaiah, with Paul, with so many other faithful servants of the ages, I must be faithful to boldly share the love of Jesus.

It may not be with words at first, for as I noticed while reading neighbor posts on "Nextdoor Neighbor" online forum, some are not tolerating quips about prayer and trust in God. "How can I believe in a benevolent God?" one person challenges. Another retorts: "Trust in God. Yeah, right!" The cynicism drips off the page. And I cringe at Satan's age-old lie: "God is not good."

The question that bubbles to the surface throughout history is "How can a good God allow suffering?"

So we are sent back into our cocoons for the pondering. While I don't presume to fathom the deep mysterious workings of God, I do know the inspired, inerrant, infallible Scriptures speak truth, whether I choose to believe it or not. But it will be to my favor and my ultimate good if I do. And that truth is that God is good, but man is not.

With Eve's first gullible latch onto Satan's lie, sin entered the world. So did sickness, sorrow, and death. The perfect world God created fell under a sad and terrifying curse that can only be redeemed by His perfect Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

God is the remedy we seek, though the present world system, the depraved flesh, and the devil blind our eyes to Him.

But into our profound darkness, God speaks, "Let there be light!" The light of His invisible attributes revealed in creation, His written Word, and the Living Word--Jesus Christ--shines into our dismal selves through His Holy Spirit, we who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, and guides us onto the path of peace, so Luke notes in chapter 1:78-79.

This is our only Hope, the blessed Sunrise from on High, who lifts our faces heavenward as we live through and in a still cursed world.

For some, hearing these words is like breathing in a sweet aroma, readily received; for others these words are the aroma of death. For the latter, I would hope that the gospel in action--"For God so loved that He gave . . . . " would connect with the giving actions of their believing neighbors, folks who deliver groceries to doorsteps, send cards, check on neighbors via FB, email, phone calls, and video chats. Who show they care more than merely say they do, because as God's children they imitate their Father. They give!

That's what love does in crisis and out of crisis. Love gives, for God is love. We who know and love God can't help but love others. His goodness flows through our veins, and if for no other reason than that, I'm assured that indeed God is good. 

Breakfast for Jesus

  Courtesy of Pexels, Valeria Boltneva  My husband’s early morning prayer meeting at our home brought one young man to our door. Intense spi...