Monday, March 26, 2012

Fruitful in Affliction

Dear Friends,

This past weekend my 17-year-old daughter, Anna, sat down at the piano before a room full of onlookers. Sitting there so gracefully, so beautiful no one would have ever guessed the huge medical challenges she was facing in her life - the chronic pain that had kept her from the piano over the last month. No one would imagine by looking at her what it took to even be there, the incredible courage, perseverance, and strength. For the next several minutes they would simply enjoy the beauty of the notes as her fingers gracefully glided across the keys releasing the loveliest piece of music. As her hand hit the first key, tears filled my eyes. I was witnessing one of the most valiant displays of what it means to be “fruitful in affliction.” Anna had chosen to not let this medical setback rob her of her joy, rob her of her gift, rob her of being productive. Instead, she epitomized what it means to be fruitful in affliction. 

Anna had put her piano lessons on hold for the last month because she was just in too much pain to continue. She has sadly missed weeks of school and is living with chronic pain every day again until it is resolved.  Things we thought were part of our past – doctor appointments, tests, daily contact with the school, pain meds, heating pads, etc. – have become part of our present again.  At times, it is extremely discouraging and a continual hurt to this mother’s heart to watch her suffer with so little relief. Having missed a good chunk of her middle school years due to this kidney condition, Anna was determined to start piano lessons last year as a sophomore in high school. Talk about courage! It’s something she loves and has an obvious gifting for.  After a long silence, to my sheer delight, I heard the piano again one evening only to discover that a week ago she had called her piano teacher and went back to her lessons.  There was music in the house again! Anna had planned months ago to participate in the Solo and Ensemble Festival where she would be judged for a selected piece.  To my surprise, with only a week to practice - in the middle of her pain - she decided to go through with it. As we walked out the door of her performance that morning, a woman said, “You must have been taking piano for a long time; that was beautiful!”  To top it off, the judge gave her the highest marks. 

Genesis 41:52 says, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”   God had indeed made Anna fruitful on Saturday.  In the midst of great pain she beautifully displayed the power and grace of God.  Against overwhelming circumstances, she chose to be fruitful.  Often, the last thing we think about in affliction is being fruitful, don’t we?  I am relearning with this new affliction at our house to make Genesis 41:52 my prayer again, “Lord, make me fruitful in the midst of this tremendous disappointment, this overwhelming medical crisis, this suffering child, this land of my affliction.  Help me to be like Anna and choose fruitfulness.”

How easy it is to instead throw our pity parties and get bogged down in the darkness of our circumstances, but this focus only keeps us down in the darkness. I don’t know how long this new medical episode will go on, but I do know that one day I will stand before the Lord and give an account for what I did with my “land.” Did I use my “land” however painful and undesirable for His glory?  Or did I spend my time focusing on all the bad, failing to embrace all the fresh opportunities for growth, for trust, for prayer, for complete dependence on Him that this new “land” is giving me?  It’s so easy to be fruitful in the land of plenty, in the land where everything is going our way, but what about now in the land of our affliction, in the land of losses and hurts?  The real test of our faith comes when, even though everything in our life that we value is wiped away, we can still go on loving and serving Christ with a deep joy and passion.  The questions I find myself wrestling with at times are “Will I remain faithful to God when He now appears to be unfaithful to me?  Am I willing to be fruitful for Him even out of the depths of my brokenness and deep disappointment?”  I believe the answer is yes.

As is evidenced in Scripture, some of our greatest accomplishments for God are birthed in affliction.  That was certainly true for Anna this past weekend!  Could it be you and I are in exactly the very circumstances God wants us in right now so He can mightily use us – so He can make us even more fruitful?

With the God who imparts us with His strength, we can be fruitful even in the “land of affliction.”  And He will make our land into something beautiful – a land that will bring Him glory and be a blessing to others, a land that will give us a new song!   


Shelly Esser     
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, March 19, 2012

What Kind of Father Do You Have?

Guest blog about the new book “Lazarus Awakening”

Now a man named Lazarus was sick.
He was from Bethany, the village of
Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary,
whose brother Lazarus now lay sick,
was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord
and wiped his feet with her hair.
So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

John 11:1–3

What Kind of Father Do You Have?

So much of our understanding of God’s love is shaped by what we’ve
experienced in life. Those who are abused or misused as children often
struggle with the thought of God as a loving Parent, and even those
raised in healthy homes can have distorted views of their heavenly Father.
Which of the following misrepresentations are you most likely to struggle

Abusive Father: You never know what you are going to get with
this kind of father. Will he be nice when he walks in, or will he hit
you upside the head first chance he gets? His love is determined
by his moods. You avoid him as much as possible.

But your true Father is “gracious and compassionate, slow to
anger and rich in love” (Psalm 145:8).

He Loves Me…He Loves Me Not

You would think after accepting Christ at a young age and being raised in a loving
Christian home with a loving, gracious father, I would have been convinced from the
beginning that my heavenly Father loved me.

Me. With all my faults and failures. My silly stubbornness and pride.
But those very things kept me from really knowing Christ’s love for the majority
heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable
than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

Biased Father: You know this father loves you—or at least you think he
does. But he seems to shower affection and gifts on all the other kids,
leaving you with leftovers and hand-me-downs. Bottom line: he has
favorites, and you’re not one of them. You had better get used to it.
But your true Father “does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11).

Demanding Father: Perfect in nearly every way, this father demands
that you be perfect as well. No matter how hard you try, it’s never
enough. While there are moments when he seems proud of you, they
are few and far between. Instead, you carry a heavy sense of his

But your true Father “has compassion on his children…for he
knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust”
(Psalm 103:13–14).

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1 John 3:1

Monday, March 12, 2012

Waiting It Out

Dear Friends,

How do you deal with the waiting periods of your life – the periods of great loss or sickness or waiting for a job, a spouse, a baby, or some great deliverance in your life? How do you wait before God brings about any resolution?  The best thing we can do is to go on with our lives.  There are some things we can do during these dark periods that seem never-ending.

Keep up your routines.

Satan would paralyze us with the pain of waiting and whisper in our ears, “Wait until things are back to normal before you get back into your routine.”  But life doesn’t work that way.  We still have the intact parts of our lives demanding our attention.  Maybe we’ve lost a spouse, but we have the children to tend to.  Maybe we’ve lost a job, but there’s plenty to do at home as we job-hunt.  And no matter what we’ve lost, there is the day-to-day upkeep of our bodies and our homes.

I know that hobbies help me at such times.  Choosing to do something that has been an important part of my life and schedule – something that I enjoy doing – can relieve stress and begin the healing process.

Plants, for instance.  During particular periods of stress in my life, I’ve found myself attacking the job with added ferocity.  I repot, prune, water, and manure with frantic energy.  A friend dropped by to see me on one such day and asked, “Where is that neat tree that stood by the door?”  I pointed to the bush that sat meekly in the same place! “Stressed?” my friend inquired sympathetically, gazing at what was left of the tree. “Stressed,” I replied.  “I’ll pray for you,” she promised.  Routine helps to reestablish normal patterns of life for us and makes us feel a little bit more secure.

Keep up your relationships.

Sometimes people cannot cope with other people’s pain because they don’t want to confront their own mortality.  At other times they feel helpless or don’t know what to say, so they just keep out of the way.  For whatever reason, sometimes when we suffer, alienation comes along with it.  Are we able to wait out these difficult seasons in our relationships?  Or when we get no response, do we throw up our hands in frustration and say, “This takes too much energy. If that’s how they want it – that’s the way they can have it?” As far as it is up to us, we need to reach out and maintain our relationships.

Keep the faith.

It isn’t easy to continue going to church or do ministry during, or immediately after, a period of pain and suffering – and yet there is healing if we do so.  I know how difficult it can be to go to a worship service and hear everyone singing happy hymns.  One more happy chorus and I’ll scream! you think.  But there is a certain therapy in worship and service.  Not the least of it because in ministry we often meet a lot of people a whole lot worse off than we are.  It’s like the old saying, “I was sad because I had no shoes—until I met a man who had no feet!”  In Christian service we usually bump into a quite a few people who have no feet!  In helping and encouraging them, we find a measure of relief ourselves.

What did Jesus’ follower do while they were waiting for the Comforter to come after Jesus had ascended into heaven?  “They all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14).  They waited in faith. During their wait, all they knew to do was pray and stay together –and that’s what they did.

While I’m in God’s waiting room, I can realize that my character is under divine reconstruction.  I can try to normalize my routine (with lots of English cups of tea and a big pair of pruning shears or similar helps).  I can continue my religious disciplines, whether I am feeling “connected” or not, and keep up whatever ministry is feasible for me.  I can also try to mend whatever fences I can and try not to worry too much about the ones that only God can mend at some future date.  Persisting in all of this will help me regain my spiritual perspective.

Are you in God’s waiting room?  Are you waiting for a baby to be born?  a prodigal to return home?  a spouse to reconcile?  Are you waiting for someone to share your life with?  For a job?  for a cure?  Wait on the Lord and not on the answer.  Try to concentrate on His person, His plans, and schedule – His business.  Your growing faith will not stop the agony, but it will help you find a measure of productivity in your life.


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, March 5, 2012

Zondervan using Facebook to find Everyday Moms to Become Devotional Authors

Guest Blog

Grand Rapids, Mich., March 1, 2012 – Zondervan is updating the successful NIV Mom’s Devotional Bible, originally written in 1996, and is looking for everyday moms to add their voices to this work.  The NIV Mom’s Devotional Bible is due to release in spring 2013.

Interested contestants need to submit their 250- to 300-word original devotion at The submission must be based on one of the five following passages from the Bible:
·         Deuteronomy 6:6–9
·         Proverbs 22:6
·         Proverbs 31:10–31
·         1 Corinthians 13:4–8
·         Ephesians 2:8–9

The devotion should be written from the perspective of a mother and be encouraging or inspirational in tone. Authors of the winning submissions will have their devotion printed in the NIV Mom’s Devotional Bible, along with a short bio. The deadline for entries is March 14, 2012.

Please click here to read more:

This devotional bible is designed to be a trusted source of wisdom to help the reader as they learn how to be the kind of mom God wants them to be. It offers a year’s worth of weekday and weekend devotions that are full of good advice and encouragement from Elisa Morgan, President Emerita of Mothers of Preschoolers, International (MOPS), as well as from other notable contributors. Each day’s inspiring devotion will help readers understand and delight in their vital role of raising children. Readers will also find resources that offer insights into mothering and information about where to turn when faced with the many special challenges motherhood presents. The NIV Mom’s Devotional Bible can help moms be the very best mom they can be.

About Zondervan

Zondervan, a HarperCollins company, is a world leader in Christian communications and the leading Christian publishing brand. For more than 75 years, Zondervan has delivered transformational Christian experiences through general and academic resources by influential leaders and emerging voices, and has been honored with more Christian Book Awards than any other publisher.