Monday, May 30, 2011

What Things Has God Left in Your Hands?

Dear Friends,

What happens when you walk out of the door and into your day?  Will you walk in His way?  Do you make sure you’re ready for whatever happens?  Will you handle yourself well, as becomes a child of the King?  Will you bless the people God brings your way in the marketplace, home, or church?  Will they wonder why they felt the breath of God as you silently prayed for them in passing?  Will you encourage a friend, give a book, make a phone call, or pray with someone today?  Will you weep with those who weep?  Or will you be carrying your personal “heart concerns” with you, becoming so absorbed that you see no one, speak to no one, touch no one, bless no one?

Do you sleep restlessly, subconsciously convinced that the big bad wolf is crouching outside “day’s door,” waiting for you?  Do you have a devotional time before you venture forth? If you do, do you ever wonder to yourself, “Why did I bother to do that?  That was a waste of time.  What good did it do? Nothing’s changed!”

One night, before a busy and what promised to be a difficult day, I determined to get up early in the morning and pray for these pressing personal needs.  At the end of my time on the Steps of my Soul, I put all my heart concerns at the foot of the cross, opened the door of my day and walked out.  The proverbial wolf growled.  I knew it!

At that moment I heard a voice behind me saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  Then, “So, Jill, while I’m working with the things you left in my hands, what are the things that you will be working with that I have left in your hands?”

I stopped dead in my tracks for as soon as the door of my day had closed behind me, I was already worrying about the very things I had risen early to talk to Him about!  How silly.  And how could I tell Him I would need all my energy to worry about my things that day and didn’t think I’d have much time left over to think about anyone else’s problems? Of course, I didn’t have to tell Him anything!

“What would it feel like,” I thought, “if I walked free, leaving Him to look after the things that were important to me, while I looked after the things that were important to Him? What would my day look like if I really believed He was putting His eternal mind to the problems that had been weighing me down and that I had, supposedly, left at His feet?”

That day I decided to find out ─ and believe.  (Did I hear an angel say, “About time.”?) Jesus was, I reasoned, quite capable of sorting the problems out!  Now I could focus on my “day off” from running the universe!  Whew ─ that felt so good!

That night (nothing had changed but me); I was ready to sleep soundly.  I couldn’t wait to get up early, however late I got to sleep, and begin all over again!

With Love,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Nothing’s changed but me,
Well, not immediately!
He promised He would put His mind
To all the things I’ve left behind.
So why should I spend time in town
To tend to things that take me down?
Trust is the key.
While nothing’s changed but me!

Nothing’s changed but me,
Useless, I used to be.
I’d worry on and fuss and fret
And now, though nothing’s changing yet:
The situation looks as bad ─
The lost are lost, the found are sad,
And yet, I’m free!
Yes! Nothing’s changed but me.

I lay my deep dark fearfulness
Down at the cross, and here profess
I’ll pray, and rest, and trust my way
To Him through many a worrying day.
What liberty!
Yet nothing’s changed but me! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Are You Feeling Bruised by Life?

Dear Friends,

A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench. ~ Isaiah 42:3


You would think that the bruises the Saviour endured on earth would have crushed the spirit right out of Him.  But God helped Him.  “Behold!  My Servant whom I uphold” (v.1), He said.  Jehovah will not allow His bruised reeds to be broken or smoking flax to be quenched (see v.3).  “He will not fail nor be discouraged” (v.4).

There is no question about it.  On the cross our Saviour was bruised and battered beyond measure, and His light was almost extinguished by the deluge of our sin, but He was never broken beyond mending.  What a tender Word this is!

The reed or calamus plant has a hollow stem and grows by the sides of lakes and rivers.  It was used for making music or fashioned into pens for writing.  It is weak, fragile, and brittle.  It is easily snapped by the foot of a wild beast, by the wind, or even by a bird that lights upon it.  Once it is broken it is of no use whatsoever.  Other stems can be mended, but not the reed.

Jesus was bruised but never broken.  Jehovah looked at His precious, bruised One and said, “I must mend this reed.  It was meant for music!”  He saw His Son as smoking flax upon the cross.  He placed His hands around His flickering life and gently blew the flame of the Resurrection light alive again.

Are you bruised?  Do you feel like a flickering wick, about to go out?  Listen to the promise of Jehovah: “Bruised but never broken”!  Dare to believe it!


Trusting in His Promises,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hurling Your Cares on Him


Dear Friend,

Just where on earth am I and who’s in front of me?  It’s the question I ask myself as I minister all over the world.  The answers come and my stomach goes into a knot!  How can my words possibly meet the heart needs, convince the minds, and move the hearers towards God?
  
I could be standing in a strange place in front of youth of all ages, prisoners, women from different ethnicities, leaders, or followers.  I might be in front of students, hostile listeners or fans, old or young, few or many, sick or well, clever or dumb, interested or bored, friends or enemies.  Who is sufficient for these things?  Well, we know the answer to that, don’t we?
  
Yes, we do, but knowing must be translated into faith-action: obedience and trust.  In that ministry moment we must turn our knowing into experience.  At such times, I call to mind His promised, given Holy Spirit which is truly the dynamic of all He calls us to do and say and be.  Whoever and wherever we find ourselves, His Word is truth, a sword that divides bone and marrow, a hammer that breaks rock in pieces, yet is sweeter than sweetness, a distressing, healing ointment, an electric touch.  It brings rebuke or correction, encouragement or clarity to both the confused or too-clever-for-their-own-good minds.  And always – it brings life!
  
My own words, untouched by the Holy Spirit, are unintelligible to the spirits of men.  Too quiet to rise above the rude noise of unbelief.  Too unimportant to warrant a pause in someone’s busy day.  Unless His truth pierces the conscience and spurs the hearer to response, my words are useless.  But let loose His Word in the power of the Spirit, and it will do all it promises to do.  His sword will pierce.  These worlds will speed their way to the heart of the matter, doing their unique transforming and energizing work!  He it is that turns our words into soul syllables, breaking down barriers and stripping down arguments, ‘till He is acknowledged as the only truth that must be heeded and obeyed.
  
When the inadequacy overwhelms me (all the time), when the apprehension rises, and my blood pressure pounds, when my body is fighting jet lag or a migraine, or worse, I’m just plain frightened, tired or old and want to go home and hide (like now!), it’s time to STOP and quit the frantic chasing of my spiritual tail.  I need to be still, take a spiritual deep breath, and ask myself, “Why don’t you cast (hurl) all your cares on Him?  It’s time to have a hurl, girl!”  I tell my quivering heart.
  
So right there, right then, I run to the steps of my soul and find Him waiting in the garden of grace, in the deep place where nobody goes, with my present and future in His hands just smiling at me!  I love it when He does that!  Why, this moment alone is worth all the stress and strain, fear and weakness.  JOY!
  
Seeing then that “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Neh. 8:10), I have a good cry, wash my face, get up and get on with it!  What a life!
  
Why don’t you do the same?  Cast it all – go on!  HURL IT!
   “I’m here, Lord.”
   “I know!”
   “I can’t – “
   “I can – I will!”
   “So will you help me?”
   “That’s my Name.”
   “What’s your name?”
   “Helper.  It means one called alongside to help.”
   “Oh my…are you coming?”
   “I’m here.  I’m with you to walk this road of foreboding.”
   “Really?”
   “Of course.”  Then: “Throw it all on Me, Jill, I have broad shoulders.”
  
Then I remembered: “The government is on His shoulders” (Is. 9:6).  I wasn’t sure quite what that meant, but I didn’t worry about it. I shifted the weight off my back onto His.

Whew! I should have come sooner!
 
Why don’t you have a conversation about this, too?

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


        

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Time Will Come When There Will Be Justice

Dear Friends,


I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. ~ Isaiah 42:1

What is God’s elected Servant sent to accomplish?  The work Jehovah intends has to do with judging the behavior of the people of the earth.  He is going to establish justice on the earth.

Now none of us can argue against the fact that justice is the principal need of mankind!  “Justice for all,” preach the political candidates.  “Attend to the poor,” plead the social workers.  “Deal with corruption,” cry oppressed minorities.  If only people would do what is just, good, and right, instead of that which is popular, profitable, and easy, then our old world would be a better place!  The world has almost given up hope for a kingdom wherein rightness reigns.

The Servant undertook to meet this great need of the world, coming to earth and explaining quietly and confidently - “He will not cry out, nor raise His voice” (v.2) - that He had come to bring a work of rightness and salvation to the hearts of all people by a gentle inward and spiritual method.  Christ’s ministry was unhysterical, humble, and quiet.  John Calvin said, “He did not boast or forbid people to publish His message.”

God dressed His Servant in His own Spirit and sent Him forth.  “I have put My Spirit upon Him” (v.1), He said.  God’s sweet spirit of rule and judgment, with all His efficiency and authority, belongs to Christ.  The Spiritual endowment for the work required is His, and God’s immediate assistance is promised.

No wonder ‘the coastlands (a poetic expression for distant nations) shall wait for His law” (Is. 42:4).

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Sunday, May 15, 2011

External CPR


As Deacon of Evangelism at our church, I’m always on the prowl for creative ideas to reach friends and family members for Christ.  Recently I came across an attractive brochure on a visitor’s kiosk entitled, Eternal CPR.  It contained a listing of coded events and ministries offered at the church.  Events tagged with a C were programs providing an occasion to cultivate relationships with unbelievers like a shopping spree or an outing to an art museum.  Ministries marked with a P for planting offered exposure and interaction with God’s Word such as a weekly book discussion of Rick Warren’s, The Purpose Driven Life at a local coffee bar.  And finally, R stood for reaping activities where the gospel is clearly shared and the opportunity made for people to not only consider the claims of Christ, but to accept them and enter into a relationship with the Lord.  My church offers an investigative Bible which would be considered an R activity and is entitled, Clueless About Christianity.  Several times throughout this twelve week course salvation is explained and people are invited to receive Christ as their Lord.

Our women’s ministries is adopting the CPR idea this year on a trial basis to see if we can not only enhance outreach, but also measure our ministry in terms of evangelistic passion and provision.  If it is successful other church ministries may consider identifying their format in terms of Eternal CPR in the future.
The Lord Jesus’ personal ministry reflects all three aspects of Eternal CPR.  He cultivated relationships with unbelievers by spending time with them in groups and one on one.  We find Him having dinner with Matthew’s acquaintances and engaging the woman at the well in conversation.  He planted the seed of God’s Word among the crowds He often addressed and in the many parables He taught His own disciples.  He challenged His followers to consider His claims and to receive His forgiveness of sins.  And although frequently rejected He continued to cultivate, plant and reap regardless of the results of His efforts.
Is Eternal CPR reflected in my life and in yours?  Are we continually engaging non- Christians by intentionally spending time with them?  Do our children see us cultivating friendships with unbelievers?  Do they see us “hang” with sinners and tax collectors? Are we involved in planting activities in order to expose our friends to God’s Word and His love for them such as neighborhood Bible studies, MOPS, and Christmas Coffees? Finally, are we about the task of reaping?  Can we adequately share the gospel with a friend and invite them to receive the Lord Jesus?  Do we have a plan to bring a friend we are praying for and sharing with to an event or an activity where they will clearly hear the gospel and be provided with an opportunity to invite Christ into their life?
As we examine our priorities and our schedules we may need to make some adjustments to ensure we have time and energy for all three aspects of Eternal CPR.  But in this case, is not the price tag worth the sacrifice?  What greater purpose may our lives fulfill than seeing our friends spend eternity in Christ’s presence?
A portion of the Scriptures I memorized with two friends has encouraged me to consider Eternal CPR in my own life.  I thought perhaps you might like to memorize these words along with us, “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).
Cultivating Activities
·      Invite someone to make jam or can applesauce together.
·      Throw a spontaneous potluck supper together with neighbors.
·      Plan a creative memories day or evening with a friend.
·      Call a family and invite them to join you for a simple birthday celebration.
·      A friend of mine has her teenage daughter’s friends over weekly for Survivor and popcorn. Not your cup of tea? Ask your child or grandchild what their friends would like to come over for: pizza, movie, a game night?
·      Visit an amusement or water park with a family from the neighborhood.

Start a knitting, beading, or what-ever-is-in among moms at your child’s school. (I started attending a knitting group at our elementary school called Knit Wits even though I’m a novice in order to meet other moms.)


Beth Seversen
Contributing Author



Friday, May 13, 2011

Prayers for Japan


Here is a firsthand account of what’s happening in Japan by one of our JBU family – Ayako Kawasaki, a Japanese pastor’s wife there who also launched a website (JBU Japan) and is a dear friend of JBU. Please read her blog prayerfully and remember her regularly and those suffering in Japan in your prayers.


~ Jill Briscoe

Dear Sisters in Christ,
Two months have passed since the strongest earthquake hit of 11. Thank you for your concerns and prayers for Japan during these difficult
days. I don’t know how many times I have been weeping from both sorrow
and joy...hearing orphans' voices, experiencing scary aftershocks, reading
testimonies from churches, seeing how people are helping each other,
and sensing God’s hands at work here.
As you may know, the situation is still unstable especially around the
Fukushima nuclear plants. Radiation has leaked to some
extent from the plant. In Tokyo, vegetables and water were
polluted by such substances. Farmers had to stop shipping them and
infants had to avoid drinking Tokyo water, which is usually safe for
them. There are over 10,000 dead and nearly 20,000 still missing.
Please pray for the elderly and the handicapped and for the people
from abroad who can’t understand Japanese well. Sometimes it’s
inconvenient for them to get information and supplies.
Please pray that we can also help and provide for their needs.
Many people are staying at shelters. Members of Fukushima First Bible
Baptist Church, nearest to the nuclear plant, had to evacuate more
than 30 km from their hometown, without carrying anything with them.
They don’t know when or if they will be back and whether the church will be
opened again. But there is good news. Since the quake, some of the
members’ families have accepted Jesus Christ. One new believer has worked
at the nuclear plant and he is still working at that dangerous place. Thank God that He has provided all the needs of the members of that church so far.
Some local governments have offered housing for the victims. For
example, Osaka Prefecture has prepared 10,000 rooms (most of them are
public apartments), so that people can move and begin new lives.
Churches and volunteers are also offering rooms to stay, but the victims are
not always open to the idea.
One of the reasons is because they don’t want to leave their communities. In the
Tohoku area, the community is really strong. A community leader
even said, “Once you forsake your community to go somewhere, you will never
be accepted as our friend.” 
Another reason is that their families are still missing. In
traditional Japanese custom, the body/bones are very important. People
believe that the dead have to be cautiously buried in tombs,
otherwise he/ she will have pain or lose ways to enter heaven.
Without funerals and regular ceremonies, they feel that their loved ones
will continue suffering forever. This is why the Japanese never give up
looking for the missing after many days of accidents and disasters. In
Japanese religious customs it’s not just for their memorials, but also
for the sake of the missing themselves.
Please pray that the survivors are comforted even if they won’t be
able to find their missing loved ones. They are struggling with guilt. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTS) seems to be spreading among many Japanese. They are not the only victims, the rescue workers and ordinary people who were
shocked to watch the Tsunami and the devastated scenes on TV are also experiencing this. Here in the Kansai area, many are experiencing flashbacks of the Kobe earthquake (1995).
I think suicide will be a more serious problem, too. Even last year,
over 30,000 committed suicide in this country. When people lose hope
for the future, followed by depression, tiny things trigger suicides.
So you can imagine how dangerous this situation is.
Recently a farmer in Tohoku killed himself because he had no hope
to ship vegetables to the markets again. Please pray that people will
continue to have hope to survive. Pray that they will know that Jesus
loves them so much and they are of great worth in His eyes.
Christian networks have worked well. We are getting lots of
information from them. Many supplies and donations have been sent through
such networks. Each of the churches and Christian organizations respect one
another and are cooperating well. I believe that this will lead to revival
in Japan. There has never been such a time in Japan where so many Christians all over
the world have focused on praying for the Tohoku area. Jesus is weeping
with us, and He will never forsake us.
“...Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love
into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Rom 5:5).”
In Christ,
Ayako Kawasaki



PLEASE continue to pray for the church in Japan as they deal with this tragedy, pray for Aayko, her family and their ministry to the hurting, and for all of the men, women, boys, and girls have been touched by this terrible event. Pray that God would bring glory out of the ashes and that many would come to His saving love as a result of this tragedy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dream Bigger!

You can do it all, have it all, and be it all!  At least if you believe all the hype bombarding women in today’s culture.  Women have more opportunities today than ever before.  Women fought for the right to vote, equal opportunities in sports, and equal employment opportunities. We can now have a lucrative career, a well-adjusted family, fashions from around the world, relaxing vacations, and the latest and greatest technology toys.  We’re grateful for the progress women have made over the years – so much so that we often forget the struggle and take our opportunities for granted – but trying to have it all is a lot of pressure!

With opportunities come challenges.

What we can have isn’t necessarily what we should have.  Who we can be isn’t necessarily who we should be.  What we want isn’t necessarily what we should want. We’re in a constant struggle with who the world says we should be and who God created us to be - between what the world says we deserve and what God desires for us.

With a few tips and tools, you can meet the challenges that come your way today.  As you learn to meet challenges on a daily basis, you’ll begin to develop habits for long-term healthy decisions – decisions that will help you become the woman God intends you to be, which is way more important than the woman the world has said you can be.

You can be powerful.  Whether you call it power, influence or leadership, we’re basically talking about the impact we have on other people’s lives.  And we all have it! Some of us embrace it more fully than others; some of us are proud and even brag it.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that someone watches what we’re doing to get our approval, asks for our opinion or follows our advice.  Leadership influences people and impacts lives. Leadership has power.

The world says the more power you have, the better.  I agree…but not exactly in the same way the world promotes.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Cor. 2:4-5, NIV).

Ask yourself: Where do I have power in my life?  Once you identify areas of leadership and influence, rank yourself in each role on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 indicating the roles in which the power is “all about me” and 10 indicating roles in which the power is “all about God.”

The power you have because of your work position, family, or elected position can easily become about you, and it’s fleeting.  You might have worked really hard to acquire it or it might have come easily to you. Either way, it’s fleeting.  You can be stripped of it in an instant.  But when you rid yourself of self, and you access God’s power, you’ll have the influence God intends you to have, and He’ll maximize the impact you’ll have on people’s lives.  It’s not about today.  It’s about eternity.

You can balance it all.  Women are stereotypically good at multi-tasking, so we can juggle a dozen things at once, balancing everything with grace, organization, and excellence. Really?  Then I must be an epic failure at being a woman.  I like organization and multi-tasking, but I certainly can’t balance everything the world throws at me.

First, realize we can’t do it all.  There aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week. We must prioritize and make choices.  Even when you’re not prioritizing, feeling spontaneous and uninhibited, you’re making choices to live that way!

Second, you can’t do many things at once and do them well.  You can certainly do several things at once, but your effectiveness will suffer as you multiply your to-do list.

The struggle is knowing what’s supposed to be on your list and what isn’t.

The purpose of this command is for people to have love, a love that comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a true faith (1 Tim. 1:5, NCV).

This verse isn’t specifically about finding the purpose of your life, but it provides a few guidelines to help you determine what should be on your to-do list and what shouldn’t (or at least what can fall way down the prioritized list).

So take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself:
Am I doing this out of a pure heart? (as opposed to selfish ambitions, desires, or guilt)
Can I do this in good conscience? (without excuses and rationalizations)
Am I being faithful? (in this moment and in my relationship with God)

It’s going to take some practice to relearn how to make your daily and weekly to-do lists, but one step at a time, you’ll develop new, better habits.

You can be who you want to be.  My dad was great at dreaming up possibilities for me. He could imagine just about any role, career, or adventure.  The reality is I couldn’t do all the things he said I could, but he taught me to dream.

We’ve been taught that if we imagine it, we can become it.  Not so.  I imagined many dreams as a child that, while I won’t say were impossible, they certainly weren’t practical, and I’m glad I didn’t chase every single one.  If I had, I doubt I would have ever fully accomplished a single one, because I’d always be chasing another dream!  Imagining something doesn’t make it reality.  But if we never imagine it, it won’t happen either!

We put the brakes on what God can accomplish through us, and we pursue things God didn’t include in His plans for us.  Sure, He’ll work through all the choices we make, but it doesn’t mean there wasn’t a better way…His way.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11, NIV).

This is perhaps one of the most misconstrued verses in Scripture.  We rationalize that God has only great, positive, warm and fuzzy things planned for us.  Take another look at the same verse in context.

This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you” (Jer. 29:10-13, NIV).

1.     The plans to “prosper us” follow a time of distance.  Guess what?  We’re not the first ones that have chosen something that distances us from God!
2.     Despite the time of distance, God listens to us as we call on Him.  I’m so thankful we can always restore our relationship with God.

What does this tell you about God’s purpose and plan for you?
What do you need to change in your life – today – in order to be the person God wants you to be?

You can be the person you want to be…as long as your “want to be” is the woman God created you to be.  When you untangle your worldly desires from the desires of God’s heart, you’ll be and have it all…right in the center of God’s will.

So take a hard look at who you’re listening to.  As accommodating as the world around you is in assuring you the world is yours for the taking, it’s essential you’re honest with the inundating pressures surrounding you.  The sooner you face the reality of what tangled messes you might have in your life, the sooner you can accept the dreams God created you to have and live out!


Susan Lawrence
Contributing Author

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teaching Your Kids to Pray

Dear Friends,


Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. ~ 1 Samuel 12:23

“I’ve figured out why my attitude towards school has changed-it’s because I’m praying about it,” our daughter informed us at supper.  “School’s the same, but I’m different,” she added.  Prayer changes things, and prayer changes people!
Our youngest said he needed praying for, too.  “What for?” we inquired, pleased that he would ask.  “Pray I get first chair clarinet,” Pete requested earnestly.  “But you never practice,” I protested.  “I wouldn’t need to pray if I practiced!” he retorted.  We needed to explain a few prayer rules to Pete, and to encourage Judy in her growing experience of intercession.  Through the years Stuart and I have counted it a priority not only to pray for our children, but to make sure they knew we were praying for them.
Samuel made sure the children of Israel knew he was praying for them, and that was important to them.  But by far the most important thing we can do for our children is to help them develop a real prayer life for themselves.  Somehow we have to help them catch the importance of praying for themselves rather than leaving it all up to Mom and Dad.
My kids consider Mom to be the pray-er in the family and I’m honored they should think that way; but I know I have failed them if I have not taught them how to become pray-ers in their own right.  After all, I will not be around forever!
Still Praying,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Making Your Home a Teenage Hangout

“Is there anything you need, anything at all to make your stay more comfortable? Please tell us now, we’d feel awful to learn about it after your visit with us.”  These were some of the words our hostess, Darina Allen, greeted us with at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Ireland. Kate and I were on a mother-daughter trip enjoying a few days cooking together and then on to Belfast to visit missionary friends and tour northern Ireland.

Everything about the school was inviting: our charming suite decorated in bright colors and warm d├ęcor, the fresh eggs, warm bread and jam delivered each morning to the door of our self-keeping cottage, invitations to extra-curricular drawing classes, and outings to listen to authentic Irish music by local artists.

Our needs were anticipated at every turn.  Would we like to send an e-mail? Would Kate like to play her violin for the luncheon guests?  Please tour the gardens. Have we found our way to the beach?  And, of course, tea anyone?

Surprisingly, much of the cookery course evolved around preparing snacks and foods our teenagers might like.  I couldn’t help thinking -Christia what a great idea to entice our children to bring their friends home.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, as the course we chose was entitled, “Simply Delicious Cooking for Family and Friends.” Darina constantly referred to serving such-and-such when her son showed up with 20 “lads” in tow.  The course was fabulous and our trip magical.

I want my house to be the teen hangout.  I do think part of the mystery of making this happen has to do with food.  There’s nothing like being fed and knowing when you walk into so-and-so’s home unannounced you can count on a delicious snack being served. My friends Craig and Lee possess one of the keys to this mystery.  Thursday nights you’ll find Craig popping a batch of his famous popcorn on the stove and Lee serving beverages to a house packed with teenagers flopped on the family room furniture and floor, crowding around the TV watching a favorite weekly program.  If you must know what show could possibly captivate a roomful of teens, it’s Survivor.  Probably not your cup of tea!  I doubt if it is Craig or Lee’s either.  But they’ve gotten over it and have this incredible thing happening at their home ─ kids hanging out, dropping over uninvited, and relationships developing with their children’s friends.  Wow!  What I’d give to have that going on at my house! 

Just think - down the road, who will those kids know who they can turn to when they need advice or when they’re in trouble?  How do we make it happen at your house and mine?  Perchance we can cultivate that kind of hospitality over time, little by little, starting with where we are and what we have available to us.  Yesterday my nine-year-old asked to have a friend over after school.  I pulled out a box of brownies and when the kids walked in set them to cracking eggs and measuring oil.  Of course, the three of us shared a few giggles while licking the bowl.

You may be at a different stage of life, but I can remember choosing to bring my friends home to my grandmother’s over my own house because I knew she not only would feed us, but be eager to feed us.  Lord, make me eager to be hospitable to my children’s friends.  To be honest, I’m not sure my kids always know that I’m eager to be hospitable to their friends, that my schedule allows for it, and that I’m planning on it.

Where are you in life?  What has God made available to you?  Madeleine, my retired next door neighbor, made my children feel welcome at her home anytime.  She set up the basement with her college daughter’s old toys for my children.  She dragged out bins of books and Barbies she had stored away, making them accessible to the kids.  Her refrigerator held their favorite snacks and the girls were permitted to help themselves at any time.  She played Sorry and reviewed math facts with them.  She was willing to give to the children and build into their lives.

One thing I observed about the Irish “generosity of spirit” is they have this marvelous way of intentionally anticipating guests’ needs.  I observe this same quality in my friends, Craig, Lee, and Madeleine.  They all exhibit the grace of anticipating the needs of young people.  I want to be more like them.  I want my home to anticipate the needs of our guests, especially those not yet Christ followers.  

Roman’s 12:9-13 reminds us, “Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

By Beth Serversen
Contributing Author