Monday, September 30, 2013

The World That Broke God's Heart


Dear Friends,

As I have traveled this world from east to west and have seen God’s fingerprints in His marvelous creation, I have had to conclude that this is God’s world!  As I have looked with awe and delight at His creative handiwork in China, Europe, and the Americas, I could almost hear Him say to me as He said to Job:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions?  Surely you know!  Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:4-7)?

Yes, this is my Father’s world.  Yet, the pain and evil I have seen help me to understand a little bit better why this, my Father’s world, broke my Father’s heart.  I understand in a new way why it says in Genesis 6:5-6, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of His heart was only evil all the time.  The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.”

I have visited prisoners in Taiwan, stood in the killing field of Cambodia, heard a bomb blast close at hand in Croatia, watched British SWAT teams hunt for terrorists in Northern Ireland, and returned home to the “good old U.S. of A.” to hear of hundreds of our own kids killing each other on the streets.  As I look and listen in all these situations, the violence, the victimization, as well as the victory of the book of Job begins to make sense to me.  There is so much pain, not only in our extreme physical dilemmas, but also in the emotional and relational realms.  Husbands and wives beat and devour each other, children agonize over what they did wrong to cause Daddy or Mommy to leave the family, mental and verbal abuse are meted out to tiny children, the old, and infirm.  Even churches and some of their leaders self-destruct, bringing spiritual pain to hundreds of disillusioned people.

But I am a Christian.  And so I believe that this, my Father’s world that broke my Father’s heart, has not been abandoned.  This is God’s world, and He wants it back!  He will not allow it to blow itself to pieces.  As Job puts it, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).  God does have a plan – a purpose for this hurting world.  It is to reconcile people to Himself through Christ, to give humanity a chance to know Him, to be forgiven, and to learn how to forgive in return. 

Our heavenly Father wants us to live empowered by Him in this life, with the certain hope of living with Him in glory in the next.  To this end, the Father calls individuals to Himself and makes them a family, entrusting His own to make this good news known to those who have never heard it.


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine





Monday, September 9, 2013

Cultivate a Servant Spirit


Dear Friends,

Jenny, the girl who led me to Christ, told me to wake up every morning and go out into a new day looking for people to bless.  I didn’t know what she meant as I had been somewhat of a curse before my conversion!  “How do you ‘be a blessing’ instead of a curse?” I asked her.

“Just go out into each day, and every time you meet someone ask, ‘What can I do for you?’” she answered.

Now this was pretty radical for me as I was used to asking people, “What can you do for me?” not “What can I do for you?”  But I found out that it worked!  And that was the way I learned to be a blessing and cultivate a servant spirit.

One of the first times I asked the question was in a church I joined when I was a student teacher.  There was a sad-looking girl sitting in the pew in front of me.  One day I introduced myself to her, and after talking to her for a bit, I asked “the question.”

“What can I do for you?”  I inquired with a bright but somewhat false smile.

Immediately she brightened up and said, “Oh, do you really mean you want to do something for me?”

“Yes,” I answered, feeling a bit apprehensive at her eager response.

“Well,” she said, “I am my mother’s caregiver.  She is an invalid, and though I care for her, I have to work as well.  Could you come and do some housecleaning for us?  I never have time to do any of the extra things that need doing around the house.”

My heart sank.  I had never liked housecleaning.  I didn’t want to do my own, never mind hers!  I had expected her to say, “Will you come and read the Bible to my mother and tell her about the Lord?”  That would have been fine, but not this!

She didn’t seem to notice my apprehension as by now she was so excited and saying, “Tomorrow?  I’ll tell you how to get there, and I’ll leave you a list.”  And she was gone.

The next day I apprehensively approached the house.  What would she ask me to do?  I had thought a lot about the list she had promised me, and I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to go inside and read it.  The list was long, the lady was not particularly appreciative of my efforts, and I left feeling decidedly dejected.  I determined to have a word with Jenny as soon as possible and tell her what I thought about her great idea of asking “the question.”  I also decided to stay out of the girl’s way at church.

Jenny merely laughed when I told her the story, remarking that God would use the effort even if my spirit had been less than sweet!  Sure enough, the girl found me again, happily gave me another list, and said she would expect me every Tuesday from then on!

Struggling with the whole thing, I turned up the next Tuesday, and then the next and the next. One day, long after I had given up expecting it, someone thanked me.  It was the old lady’s brother.  “Why should a young lady like yourself make yourself a servant to strangers?” he asked me.

I told him, “Because I am a Christian and Jesus said we should be servants of all.”  I must admit I felt like a huge hypocrite.  But from then on, all sorts of relatives appeared when I was working through my list, and the Lord began a ministry through me that spilled out beyond the walls of the old lady’s room.

Then I understood that what was happening in me as the Spirit of God began creating a servant spirit, was just as important as what was happening through me–the witnessing to the family.  He was making me like Him.  It was a little time before I dared ask “the question” again!  But through the years I have never been out of work for the Lord by using that very simple question.

In His Love,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Being a Godly Woman in a "Ralph Girl" Culture


Dear Friends,

We suffer from a “getting” obsession fed by a “must have” culture.  Look at the advertisements. The advertisers play to the “greed need” in us. Eden’s appetite, I call it.  To see it…is to want it.  To want it…is to have to have it.  Solomon had the means to get it and as he testifies, “I never said no to myself” (2:10, MSG).  Do you know anyone who never says “no” to himself or herself? I do! Me, for one!  At least that’s how “the old me” would like to have it–and the old me tries to have her way far too often.

Solomon indulged himself with wine, women, and song–but his wine only chloroformed his conscience, his women promised more than they delivered, and he ended up singing a very sad song.  “I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains,” he laments (7:28).  He had all the women he wanted and also the means to possess every object he desired in his world.  Still, he was not fulfilled.

Our own “must have” culture isn’t only obsessed with getting everything we crave, it is obsessed with “being” the sort of person we each want to be.  I must “be” the sort of person my culture promises will bring the greatest rewards.  It’s not only a matter of having everything our greedy hearts want, but of defining and shaping ourselves into the person we want to become – the one who will win the most prizes.  The devil assures us we can do this all by our clever little selves. Self-indulgence, self-expression, self-fulfillment, and self-actualization lie at the heart of our cultural agenda as we travel the path toward superhuman status through self-empowerment.  Recently I was struck by a typical advertisement to this end.

It concerned Ralph Lauren’s new perfume for young women–specifically for carefree, confident teens and twentysomethings he calls “Ralph Girls.”  The advertising copy for the fragrance reads, “Ralph Lauren was inspired to create RALPH by his daughter Dylan and her friends.  Girls today believe in themselves, they have hopes, dreams, promise, possibilities…and the power to make it happen” (italics mine).

Does the “Ralph Girl” and her sisters in our generation really believe she has the power to make her dreams happen?  According to Ecclesiastes, “time and chance happen to them all” (9:11).  Chance events can be both pleasant and unpleasant–and they certainly can determine whether or not we achieve our “dreams”!  When I first came across this advertisement, I thought about how it reflected the beliefs of our culture.  A common adage spouted by secular “motivational speakers” goes something like this: “You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it come true.”  Really?  Hearing it actually makes me incredulous.  But this is what our society chooses to believe.

Is life all about being a “Ralph Girl”?  Does perfume really aid you in getting what you want? You may go to your coffin smelling beautiful and with the smoothest skin and even be buried in the trendiest of clothes, but what then?  According to the Teacher, “the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (12:7).  I’m all for smelling nice and looking nice.  But I’m more for “being nice and doing nice.”  Whether it’s perfume or pleasure, the delusion permeates our world: this is what life is all about!

No.

The whole thing, as we have already learned, the whole plan for fulfillment and meaning, is to “fear God and keep his commandments.”  Fulfillment is found in knowing a God who in the knowing gives meaning and joy to the simple things of life.


Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I'll Bring the Meatloaf": Tangible Love in a Casserole


(Becky) One of my best friends, Lindsey, and I share a private joke: “I’ll bring meatloaf.”

It all began when a major problem of overwhelming proportions dropped into her lap one day, and, on my way out the door to meet her at a restaurant for a crisis management discussion, I looked in my fridge and grabbed what I had on handsome leftover meatloaf.  Others might have stopped to pick up flowers or a card or perhaps a book to encourage their hurting friend.  Leave it to me to grab leftover meatloaf.  Someone is hurting?  My auto-response is to feed them.  When people are in pain, I turn into a character not unlike the mothers from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  “You no feel happy?  No worry, I make you meatloaf.”

I listened empathically as my good friend shared her heart-wrenching dilemma, hopefully creating a soft, safe space for her pain to land.  As we parted, I reached down to my bag and pulled out a Tupperware container.

“I’m so sorry you are going through this.  With all my heart, I wish I could fix everything.  But since I can’t, I brought meatloaf.”

We both laughed, even through the misty tears.  And that’s how “meatloaf” became a symbol of tangible caring between us.  As in most friendships, Lindsey and I have taken turns being in crisis, so it wasn’t long before something tough happened in my life, and I was the one in emotional agony.  This time my friend brought me the “meatloaf”which evolved to mean comfort food in any form: from a bottle of wine to a home-cooked meal to guacamole and chips at a favorite Mexican joint.  After a recent minor surgery, she showed up at the door with a feast to put any Greek mother to shame: marinated grilled chicken on pita bread, accompanied by homemade tzatziki and a mint-feta-watermelon salad.  Forget the pain pills; this food had healing powers.  With every bite, I felt physically, emotionally, and spiritually nourished in body and soul, for such is the power of a meal prepared with love.

Recently a friend who was walking through a painful crisis came to stay the night, have supper, and enjoy some much needed TLC.  She and I visited over wine as I chopped, grilled, and roasted.  Out of the mess that was now my kitchen came a beautiful spread: fresh Norwegian salmon, topped with a salsa of peaches and avocados with a little lime, salt, and sugar, surrounded by roasted mushrooms, sweet peppers, and summer squash.  To the side sat Lindsey’s famous Greek watermelon salad.  My friend surveyed both the damage and the outcome and said, “Becky, just standing in your kitchen is healing to me.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  The kitchen has become a place for nurturing souls as well as coaxing good meals into being.  Cooking also serves as a living metaphor, for beauty and delight does not appear in a vacuum of a perfectly ordered and clean life, or kitchen.  It takes a lot of messes, small and large, to create a lifeand a feastworth its weight in goodness.



Excerpt from We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook: A Mom andDaughter Dish About the Food that Delights Them and the Love that Binds Them  by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph.  Used with permission.