Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Finding God-Sense

Dear Friends,
Practical down to earth “life skills” are in much demand today. Wisdom, or God-sense, is a priceless commodity. Have you ever needed to know what to do or say? I’m sure you have! In this crazy world we often find ourselves in human dilemmas that need far more than our small human effort to solve. We need wisdom.
I’m not talking about world-shattering problems, either. Family problems need as much mature diplomacy as do tribal disputes or all-out wars around the planet! For example, have you ever faced a teenager asking if he can go with his friends for a bike ride or a jaunt in a car, to a movie or party, and not known what to say? When our family came to live in the U.S., our children were eleven, nine, and seven. As they roared into their teenage years we were in a very different and, to me, frightening culture. I felt very unsure of myself. I would have known if it was safe in England. What is a mother to do when the kids learn to drive so early here and want to go cruising around town? (They didn’t even have access to a car until they were working in the UK.)  I needed wisdom from on high! I needed God-sense. Looking back on the years of winging those “Help Lord, give me wisdom” prayers heavenward, I thank God for protection, correction, and direction. He gave me wisdom well beyond my years and experience. Not that I always got it right – ask my kids!
Have you had to face a spouse who you have just discovered has betrayed you? What do you say? Where on earth do you start? Have you needed to terminate an employee? Have you anguished over a move, a letter that must be written, a church squabble that needs to be resolved? And what about sorting out things after a death in the family? Where there’s a will there’s a quarrel, so they say. Whoever “they” are – they are so often right!   
So where do we start learning these spiritual street smarts? In the spiritual realm. We can turn to the wisdom of Ecclesiastes in the Word of God. “And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16, KJV).  He is! For this we have Jesus, who is our wisdom.
To keep our heads and live lives of sanity in a world gone crazy, we need the wisdom of Solomon. Wisdom is spiritual intelligence. It’s being savvy about managing your life choices and behavior. It’s deep knowledge that copes with your fallenness, and learns how to relate to fallen people living alongside you in a fallen world. It’s down-to-earth good advice. It’s being part of working out difficult relationships and helping others to do the same. It is far more than human intelligence, people skills, or a good education. It is the “know how” to know “when and what” to say or do in a complicated situation. Wisdom is given by the Spirit of God when we are converted to Christ and become a Christian. And God is faithful to keep on increasing our wisdom as we continue asking – and studying His Word. Ask God for some God-sense as you face all of the unknowns today! 

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us magazine

Monday, May 13, 2013

"If Only" - Learning The Art of Contentment

Dear  Friends,
I was at a typical gathering of church women. I asked a leading question to get the women talking. “What would make you more content than you are at this present time? Start your answers with ‘If only,’” I suggested.
 “If only I could live in a bigger house,” a middle-aged woman sighed. I could understand that. I remembered living in a really tiny house when Stuart and I were in youth ministry, and longing for more space. After all, the other youth workers seemed to have more space than we did, and they didn’t need it as much as we did! There I was, wanting the space in my home that others had in theirs. After all, we were going to use it for ministry.
 “If only I were as pretty as my sister,” responded another woman. I could certainly relate to that! I grew up in the shadow of a stunning sister. I remembered how fed up I was with all the boys wanting to get to know me so they could get to know her!
 “If only I had the chance to go to college,” still another chipped in. “All my siblings got to go but me.” I could understand. I never had the chance to go to Bible school.
 “I’d be happy if I could go skiing with the family like my brother and his kids do instead of only being able to afford to go camping,” added a young, upwardly mobile homemaker. Who of us has not grown envious hearing about the exotic vacations someone else takes!
 “If only I had a husband and family. I’d be content never to go anywhere!” a single girl said softly. And so it went on. It seemed each woman was urged on by another’s discontent.
I thought how easy it is to live our lives in the shadow of “if only.”
But it’s high time we realized that coveting is a sin! I realized that fact when I first read the Ten Commandments. There it was in black and white for all of us spoiled, discontented people to read. God has said loudly and clearly, “Do not covet.” Every time we break the commandment, God says, “And what part of ‘do not’ do you not understand? Even if we say “if only” silently in our hearts, God hears us loud and clear!
I grew up playing the “if only” game. Not growing up as a Christian, I had never read the Bible and didn’t know Jesus could satisfy me. I had this gnawing sense of discontent, and I assumed that it was because I had not found the person, thing, or situation that would satisfy me. So I played the “if only” game. It seemed I never got to the end of the game.
And then I found Christ!
Now, many of my “if onlys” have been answered. The Son of God walked into my heart, and the day dawned! How could I have lived in so much darkness and never known it? The day dawned and the birds sang and my world was changed!
Yet it wasn’t long after I had come to faith and the first euphoria passed that I began to hear the urgent “if only” voices again. How could I still be saying, “If only”? I felt more guilt than I had ever felt before I became a Christian. Christians aren’t supposed to be unsatisfied. They are not supposed to envy other Christians who appear to have all their “if onlys” satisfied. What was wrong with me?
Wanting what other have is a disease. What’s more, it’s catching! If you are around people who are never happy and are always grumbling, you’ll find yourself infected with the same “grumble germ.” Yet love is the medicine that cures the ailment.
Paul told the Corinthians that coveting was childish and dangerous behavior and they needed to grow out of it. He wrote, “Love is not jealous” (1 Cor. 13:4); “Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have” (The Message). Love loves God supremely and one’s neighbor as oneself. This is possible because we are satisfied with the Beloved alone.
Do you struggle with the monsters of jealousy and discontent? Do you feel you have never really found true satisfaction in this life whatever your circumstances? Have you ever asked yourself, is this all there is? And are you concerned about it? Good! Then we can hope that you will pursue the art of contentment. It can be learned.
Paul wrote that he had learned the secret of contentment, and the secret was Christ. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  Or in The Message:  “Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am” (The Message).
Paul said he had learned how to be content whether full or empty, happy or sad, abased or abounding. He wrote his epistle of joy from prison! We might be in the prison of a bad marriage, of a chronic illness, of a heartbreaking circumstance. We may feel we are shut up to old age, poverty, or ignorance. Whatever prison God has allowed in our lives, His love can flood that cell and bring peace, contentment, and even joy.
Bring your “if onlys” to God and let Him teach you the art of contentment. In learning the art of contentment, your “if onlys’” will disappear as you discover Christ as the content of your contentment.
In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lessons I Learned From Mom

Dear Friends,

My mother had asked us to call her Peggy from our early childhood days, perhaps anticipating the day she would lay aside her mother role for friendship’s garments. Peggy had been the first to know when we were expecting our first baby. Her beautiful dark brown eyes had lit up with joy and excitement, and she immediately began making her own preparations for the event. She told me that she wanted to be called “Nana” instead of grandmother, a name that conjured up in her mind too austere a picture and not the friend she was determined to be to our children, even as she had been to us.

I will never forget bringing David home. I thought of a prayer that Peggy had told me she prayed every day: “Oh, God make me a good mother.” I knelt by my bed and I prayed too – adding, “like Peggy.”

Most weekends in the summer while we were living in England, Father traveled up to the nearby Lake District with friends to fish for salmon. Sometimes he brought Mother and left her with me for the day. How I used to look forward to those special visits. As we chattered together, we would laugh all day as Peggy set the pace and made the humor, constantly poking fun at herself. We busied ourselves with diapers and cleaning and cooking and bed-making, keeping up an endless repartee of recollections.

One of the most basic lessons I learned from my mother was her sense of openness and honesty. She could never bear to harbor anything and had to “have it out” as soon as possible. She always had to tell us what was on her mind and clear the air. My sister practiced a similar philosophy. But for me, it was harder. Telling half the truth, resorting to a little white lie, or taking an “anything for peace” stance never seemed to do me any harm, but, whenever she could, Peggy pushed me into being truthful in my statements and actions. She encouraged me to put things right with people immediately. It took the Lord Jesus Christ to change me and begin to help me tell my feelings and failings openly and honestly with people.

Peggy always respected Shirley and me and “trusted us twice” – a skill mothers should cultivate. To trust once requires not much more than most can give, but to trust again when trust has been abused requires another quality of confidence altogether. That needs a belief in the child, a determination to think the best, and a confidence in God’s intervention when everyone believes the worst.

What marvelous trust God placed in us, I thought in awe. And what a risk He took! Fancy allowing us the chance to build eternal values into our children’s lives. God had given us the ability as parents to guide our own, and as far as Stuart and I were concerned, that meant guiding them into the way of Jesus. I realized it was this dimension that made a Christian mother different from just a mother. She had the grand ability to know God and make Him known to her child.

Yes, I could teach our children the Eternal’s ways, I thought excitedly. But there has to be the training of example to go along with it, I mused. The do-as-I-do that I had seen in Peggy’s life and that I could seek to emulate, and not just the do-as-I-say bit.

What lessons have you learned from your mother? If your mother is still alive, send her a letter or a card telling her one lesson you learned from her example. 

Happy Mother’s Day,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine