Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Loving Those Who Drive Us Up The Wall


Dear Friends,

Paul writes, “Love is patient and kind” (1 Cor. 13:4).  Most of us find that we can love those who are easy to love, but what about those who are hard to love or those who drive us up the wall?  I used to laugh at mother-in-law jokes until I became one.  Then I entered a whole new world and found this traditionally hard relationship a challenge!

Our daughter, Judy, and I have a seminar we teach together on the story of Ruth and Naomi.  I tell the story of what happened when my mother-in-law came to stay with us in America for three months and while here discovered that she had cancer.

Up to that point in our relationship, I had had no intention of anything more than a truce between us for the holidays.  Certainly I had no plans to love her as God wanted me to, not that visit anyway.   However, the discovery of her cancer changed everything.  As Mother stayed with us in America and began to undergo treatment, I knew God had to do a deep, radical work in my life if I was to be able to nurse her to the end.

I went to talk to our family doctor, who was a wonderful Christian. I was honest with him.  “Try as I might, I don’t want her to stay with us,” I blurted out.  “I can’t love her enough!”

He commended me for at least being honest about my fears of what was ahead, but he also challenged me to go for it and trust God.  So I went home, got on my knees, and committed myself to the task.

Mother was having the same qualms about staying with us, and she was certainly wondering about me!  She knew the limits I had placed on the boundaries of my love.  We both threw ourselves on the Lord and prayed for a miracle!  Over the terrible last eighteen months before she went home to England to die, God did what He does best.  Agape love got control of my pathetic attempts to love her, fueling my human love until it burned brighter than I had ever dreamed possible.  He worked the same miracle in Mother’s heart. In the end she said, “Thank you, Jill.  You have taught me how to live.”

And I said, “Dear Mother, you have taught me how to die!”

It was done.  God did it.  There was no other way it could have happened.  We had to have Jesus, and we did!

Loving people when things are good between you is a whole different ball game from loving people when things are bad.  Tough times in relationships come to all of us and indicate the caliber of our relationship with God and the extent of our love for Him.  We need to learn how to love even those who drive us crazy.

Who is it in your life that’s driving you crazy?  Especially with Christmas around the corner, are there some relatives you are dreading seeing? Ask God to do a deep, radical work in your life and commit yourself to the task of loving those difficult people as Christ does.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us



Monday, December 10, 2012

A Letter from Jill Briscoe


Dear Friend,

Just Between Us has been ministering to women around the world for the last 22 years bringing spiritual encouragement and support. It’s been our great joy and privilege to do so. We are so thankful to have been able to minister to so many of you for years and others just recently. This ministry is all about you!

What many of you might not know is that we are a faith-based ministry and the subscription price of the JBU magazine doesn’t begin to cover the costs of the ministry. That’s why we’re dependent on donations from women like you. Women who believe in what we’re doing, and whose lives have been deeply blessed, encouraged, and changed as a result of this ministry.

Today, we need your help. Especially as you consider your year-end giving, would you consider giving a gift to Just Between Us? We depend on the generosity of friends like you for sustaining this ministry.

We want to finish the year strong and right now we’re looking at a $25,000 shortfall along with the need for start-up funds as we move into 2013.

We’re hoping you’ll be able to help us out today by giving as substantial a gift as you’re able – so we can continue encouraging and equipping women all over the world for a life of faith.

Thank you for your consideration and for being a partner with us.

Blessings,





Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

P.S. Thank you for your gift, helping Just Between Us meet our 2012 budget in good shape – and ready to move forward with the many exciting endeavors God has in store for 2013!     




Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Scanning the Horizon


Dear Friends,

When you’re struggling in your prayer life, make it a habit to scan the horizon.  Start looking around the whole situation until you see a tiny answer to prayer.  Just a little one.  Sometimes we get discouraged because we don’t think anything is happening unless there is a storm-swept sky. We need to learn to discern the approach of the blessing that God will surely send our way.  Look for the little things before the big thing appears.

When Florence Nightingale went to the Crimean War with her heroic band of nurses, she believed with all her heart that God was sending them there.  But when they finally arrived after a horrendous journey, the officer in charge tried to send them away.  The soldiers didn’t want women around in that ghastly environment.  The nurses were confused and begged to stay and help, but the soldiers were adamant.  This was no place for women, they said.  The nurses prayed hard.  It had been incredibly difficult to get there.  And they had been so very sure God had sent them.

After a week or so, during which the camp commander refused to let the nurses do one thing, Florence went to him and begged him to at least let them scrub the filthy floor of the makeshift hospital.  He relented, but said, “Only the floor now, and then you have to go home.”

So the nurses rejoiced and got to work scrubbing the floor till it was spotless.  They saw God’s hand in this “small” answer to their prayers.  They had seen a tiny cloud on the horizon, and they believed God for the rest.  Sure enough, within a few days the camp commander allowed them to do another job and then another, until the sky became black with clouds and the rain finally came.  These great women of God learned to scan the horizon for the smallest sign that the Lord was at work, and seeing that “small” cloud, they took courage to believe that God’s full answer was on the way.

What is God asking you to pray for?  Have you become discouraged by how few signs there are of His answer?  Look up, scan the horizon.  Watch for the little answers, and take heart.  Soon the sky will be full of the evidence that God hears and answers prayer.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine
  


    

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cultivating a Thankful Heart



Dear Friends,

I wonder for how many of us Thanksgiving sneaks up without the opportunity for us to take the time to reflect on what the day is all about.  Or maybe we’ve just gotten too busy with all the preparations.  As you start this Thanksgiving week, I encourage you to take some time out to cultivate a thankful heart.  Many years ago we featured an article entitled “Returning Thanks” by author Paul Thigpen that I thought would be a timely piece for us to re-visit again as it provides some help in cultivating a grateful heart, especially when the circumstances in our lives are less than ideal.  Enjoy!
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At times, we may find ourselves in wintry spiritual seasons, when a frost settles on our hearts and our sense of gratitude freezes over.  During these times, I’ve learned that gratefulness is a habit to be cultivated, a labor of the soul that seeks God.  As with the other virtues, we can’t employ a mechanical technique to make us thankful.  But we can learn to direct our attention to those things that draw us to God in appreciation for who He is and what He has done.

In that regard, here are some insights I’ve discovered along the way:
  • Give thanks as a holy discipline independent of feelings.  True gratitude involves the heart as well as the lips.  But sometimes when our hearts are cold our words can be sparks that kindle our gratitude.  That’s why the Bible repeatedly commands us to thank Him (Ps. 136, Eph. 5:19-20, Col. 3:17).
  • Give thanks for the small and ordinary things.  With blessings, as with relationships, familiarity often breeds contempt.  We should keep in mind how the world would have seemed to that grateful leper Jesus healed.  Ever after that miracle, he must have given thanks for all 20 fingers and toes, for the power to run and leap again, for the smiles of children who once would have hid in horror.
  • Look for the hidden blessings.  Paul told the Colossians to be “watchful and thankful” (Col. 4:2).  Sometimes we must keep ourselves alert to the graces God gives subtly or indirectly.       Sometimes we grumble that the gifts we have are different from the gifts we would have chosen for ourselves.  For example, we hear people complain about their physical appearance or other natural endowments, wishing they were prettier or stronger or smarter.  Sometimes we fail to realize that not every gift we seek would be to our benefit.     
  • Thank God especially in the midst of adversity.  God doesn’t ask us to be thankful for the sorrows that come our way, but He does want us to demonstrate trust in His care by thanking Him in spite of them.  The Apostle Paul said, “Give thanks in all circumstances,” not for all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18).
  • Turn your attention from your problems to God’s priorities in your life.  We may have to take a step back to see the big picture if we want to be grateful for what God is accomplishing in us.  Jesus gave the Father thanks for His last meal just hours before the horrible death He knew was waiting (Matt. 26:26).  Jesus was grateful because He saw the bigger picture of God’s plan—that “the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God” (Jn. 13:3).
  • Give your attention and care to those whose lives make your particular blessings stand out by comparison.  Have you been grumbling that you can’t afford a new couch for the living room?  Go serve in a soup kitchen for the homeless. Have you found it hard to thank God for your boss?  Talk a few minutes with the folks in the unemployment line. Do you complain about minor aches and pains?  Pray for someone with a terminal illness. Your gratitude to God is sure to grow.
  • Set aside time daily to express thanks to God.  In ancient Israel, a daily habit of thanksgiving was so important to the life of the nation that the Levites were officially appointed to stand in the temple every morning and evening to thank God (1 Chron. 23:30).  In a more private context and a later generation, we find Daniel kneeling to thank God three times a day (n. 6:10).
  • Keep a record of God’s faithfulness to you.  “Count your blessings,” as the old song says.  Try listing them in a regular journal that you review periodically. One family I know keeps a “Thank You Book,” complete with pictures, dedicated exclusively to recording answers to prayer and other blessings from the Lord.
  • Show gratitude toward others as well as God.  Make it a point to tell family and friends how grateful you are for their kindness.  Stock up on thank-you notes and use them generously, even for small favors.  Thank the folks involved in your daily affairs: the bus driver, the office janitor, the grocery store clerk.  The more you appreciate all these people, the more you’ll appreciate the One who put them in your life.

If we cultivate the discipline of gratitude, we can overcome the temptation to turn our backs on the Lord in self-absorption.  Instead, we’ll be sure to run toward the Lord, fall at His feet, and whisper often the words He delights to hear: Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us