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.,

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.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Refreshment in the Quiet Places

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." Mark 1:35
When my father was alive, he faithfully and quietly slipped from the house every day for his hour walk around our Tennessee mountain, thus the name of our small town, Mountain City. Though I don't think I ever heard him say as much, I'm confident he talked with God as he hiked. Knowing Daddy as I do, I'm sure he poured out his heart to the Lord, sometimes wept, other times laughed. Even grumbled, complained at times. But most of all, I'm certain he remembered his God in all His wonder and faithfulness. 
The Scripture notes that Jesus often slipped away to a lonely place to commune with His Father, sometimes all night long.
If He needed to do this on a regular basis, how much more do I need to do it!
When I think about Jesus alone on the mountain or in a desert place, I most often imagine Him on His knees, pouring His heart out to His Father, seeking His direction.
But lately, during my quiet time in my new quiet place, I've pondered other possibilities.
Perhaps He listened as much as He talked. Basked in the sights, sounds, even smells He created. Marveled in the wonder of the stars He flung into space.
Agonized with gut-wrenching longing to restore what He'd made. Tempted to turn the pages and skip to the triumph--the overwhelmingly satisfying conclusion to all things. An ending to time as we know it, and the beginning of forever.
Hard to wrap the mind around. But I wonder . . .
Did He stroll and talk with His Father?

Did He rest on occasion, simply breathing in the Father's love?

Did He pull out His prayer scroll and methodically work through each name?

Did He ever fall asleep, weary from His interaction with the multitudes, too weary to pray?

Other passages help us clarify Jesus's routine.

"When Jesus heard what had happened (John the Baptist, his cousin, beheaded), he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick . . . After he had dismissed them (the crowd), he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it." Matthew 14:13-14, 23-24 NIV (parentheses mine). 

From this passage, we can see that after receiving the tragic news of his cousin's death, Jesus withdraws. Bad news warrants prayer and reflection. But even in the midst of retiring, Jesus pauses to tend to the crowd's needs, afterwards picking up with His prayer retreat. 

On another occasion, "at daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.'" Luke 4:42-43 NIV

In this passage, it would appear Jesus' time with the Father affirmed specific direction to other towns to preach the gospel. Oh, how we need this daily time with God to seek direction for our day!

Luke 5:16 once again notes in spite of the tug on His time, "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." 

Talking with His Father was as natural and as necessary as breathing in air. He hungered for it; He depended on it; He reveled in it.

And discovered refreshment, reaffirmation, and redirection. 

If Jesus needed these things, I need them even more. 


Thursday, July 30, 2015

My Personal Retreat Day

Yesterday, I enjoyed a personal rejuvenation retreat at the Peaks of Otter in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. For 35 years, this peaceful place has served as a respite for me and my family.

Camp outs when the children were young
Nature walks
Hiking to Sharp Top
Anniversary dinners overlooking the lake
Meeting friends to share a quiet breakfast
More picnics than I can count

Grandchildren forging new territory in the rippling creek beds
Ranger talks
Early Sunday morning church services in the amphitheater
Long, lazy talks around a crackling campfire
Gooey Smores
Hunter's Stew
BBQ chicken wrapped in foil and placed in hot embers
A raccoon sneaking Cheese Nips from my husband's hand
A banana peel neatly left on the stone table (also the work of a raccoon)

Laughter in the tent.
Awkward trips up the gravel path to the bathroom, a single flashlight beam piercing the darkness.
Thoughts processed, Scripture read, favorite book highlights discussed while gazing into the fire.
Tears of joy at the Creator's work in and through our lives.
A deer family frozen in the brush, eyeing us, we eyeing them.
Then a graceful bound, rustling leaves, and no more deer.
A snake warming itself on a rock in early spring.
A spontaneious escape from cabin fever in February. Patches of snow. Garbage bags retrieved from the car trunk. Multiple runs down the small slope. Squeals of delight. Cheeks ruddy and plump.
Hot cocoa in the lounge, fire blazing, checkers waiting.

So many rich memories! My personal retreat day welcomed them all back, savoring them like a fine chocolate.

In need of rest and refreshment, I packed a water bottle, lunch, satchel filled with my Bible, journal, camera, other enriching books, camping chair, and good shoes, and set out.

Forty minutes later, I pulled into a quiet spot overlooking the serene lake. Overcast skies gradually cleared to blue while I read, slept, jotted notes, prayed, and reflected on my journey over the past year and a half--a rich time of housing our grown missionary children, each family in various stages of their ministry. With seven grandchildren and two foster grands adding excitement to the mix.

What laughter, joy, and yes, frustration and exhaustion at times.

But I wouldn't trade any of it for any amount of money!

Yet, an intentional day away proved exhilarating . . .

Placid water with gentle current.
Lush greenery.
Rambling trails.
Gift shop full of locally-designed and fired pottery, cards, lavender saches, and miscellaneous confections.
A walk. A pause to study a fern leaf or a giant oak with branches stretched heavenward.
A yearning. A cry to God. A filling.
Peace. Joy. Love.
A new dream that only God can bring to light.
A calm assurance in God's hand at work in those I love.

Ah..h.h.h.h.h.h.......a perfect personal retreat day. 

Peaks of Otter official website

For your personal retreat or group retreat

Friday, July 24, 2015

Winnable War: Major Companies Reject Planned Parenthood

From my first college debate on the Supreme Court ruling of Roe vs. Wade in 1973, I felt passionate about preborn life. A few years later, my passion increased after I lost two babies at four months gestation.  As I held those tiny, perfectly formed bodies, my heart wept for women who were duped into thinking the babies they carried were merely globs of tissue easily discarded. 

My concern led me to volunteer as a phone counselor for the Liberty Godparent Home in Lynchburg, VA. I talked to several young moms calling from phone booths while their mothers stepped into a store. Secretly, they reached out for help, not knowing where to turn. Thankfully, they’d picked up a card with our number on it. 

On the heels of this effort, my family and I teamed up with other concerned Christians to pray at abortion mills, a.k.a Planned Parenthood. This opportunity led to several face-to-face encounters with girls coming to the clinic to discuss terminating their pregnancies. Again, thankfully, our team was present to stand in the gap between life and death for these babies, and to assure these hurting and confused moms that other options existed. 

In more recent history, my burden increased for post-abortive mothers and their babies, which led me to write a novel titled, Laughing with Lily. This story profiles a special ed teacher who's hiding a past abortion from her husband. He desperately wants children, but she can't bring herself to tell him she's infertile due to the horrendous procedure used in the killing of her baby. She can barely come to terms with it herself. Her struggle to release the past involves disturbing dreams, painful flashbacks, an unexpected encounter with a person from her past, a special friendship with an older woman, a new romance, and another surprise (I won't give it away) that she definitely doesn't see coming, nor do many readers.

When all is said and done, in this case written, my heart is to reach out to women hurting physically, emotionally, and spiritually as a result of abortion, to exalt human life at every stage and in every circumstance, and to help those who haven't experienced abortion offer grace to those who have. 

Check out the article below for one take on 
the current cultural atmosphere concerning this front-line issue.