Monday, April 27, 2015

That's That!

Dear Friends,

Let’s enjoy every part of our relationship,” said Stuart with great enthusiasm.  We were discussing our engagement.  How long should we wait to get married, we wondered.  What was the point of an engagement anyway?  There had to be more to it than diamonds glistening in the sun!

Of course the diamonds were a special part of it for me.  What young girl doesn’t dream about the romantic moment Romeo proposes and slips the ring on Juliet’s finger?  And so after deciding the big issues—like the waiting period and just what we would do with it-we decided to attend to the lesser, but nonetheless exciting business of purchasing the symbol of our promises to each other.

The traditional ring in our day was one with three diamonds set in a row.  Some people would tend toward the extravagant and buy a solitaire, and others dared to vary the stones a little, but three seemed proper and right for us, not least because we wanted to remember that God was the center of our marriage and Stuart and I were set securely down each side of Him.  We were all bound up in the bundle of life’s experience together by an eternal circle of gold—speaking of the sterling quality of His commitment to us and to our marriage.

The event wasn’t quite what I had imagined it would be however, seeing it had to be fitted amid Stuart’s busy banking and speaking schedule and my teaching responsibilities.  And so we found ourselves in downtown Liverpool during rush hour buying the first pretty three—diamond ring we saw.

Never mind, I thought to myself, I’m sure Stuart will make up for the lack of atmosphere by his Wordsworthlike words as he gives it to me.  I remembered vaguely someone giving a talk about the sort of man Christian girls should look for and saying somewhat severely, “What do you want, character or atmosphere?”  Recalling this I couldn’t help wondering why a bit of both shouldn’t be a possibility!

As we tumbled back to the car through heavy traffic and unwrapped our precious parcel, Stuart gently took my hand and fitted the ring on my third finger.  Here it is, I thought excitedly. 

“Well darling,” my brand-new fiancĂ©e announced emphatically with an extraordinary amount of satisfaction, “that’s that!”  And believe it or not, that was indeed that.  So much for my romantic, poetic dreams, I thought to myself.  Never mind though, I’m sure he will improve as time goes on.
Returning home we discovered my mother talking to a friend who sold diamonds.  She was busy promising her that we would buy the ring from her.  Flashing my third finger furiously in front of her, my mother pushed the phone into my hand to explain and I stammered, “Oh Mrs. Cappell, I’m so sorry. We’ve already purchased the ring.  But—but—maybe next time!”  My mother disappeared chuckling and I said goodbye as Stuart firmly took the phone out of my hands, replaced it in the cradle, took me in his arms, and said just as enthusiastically and emphatically as the first time—

“There won’t be a next time, Jill!  Don’t you remember I told you—That’s That.”

And suddenly those two little words became the most romantic, loving incredible words in the whole wide world!

They spoke of a man who had chosen to be a man of his word and commit himself to me for all time, till death parted us.  They told me that while seedtime and harvest, winter and summer, snow and heat continued, he would continue steadfastly loving and cherishing me.  Above all they told me I could count on that faithfulness morning and evening—Monday to Sunday, January to December.  I wouldn’t need to wonder if he was flirting, or wishing he wasn’t married to me.  It wouldn’t matter if we were in the same room or 3,000 miles apart, I would be able to thoroughly trust him out of sight.  Yes, those two little words were wonderful and there have been hundreds of times in the intervening years I have repeated them to myself!

Blessings

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

When God Doesn't Seem to Answer

Dear Friends,

Often, one of the reasons we stop praying is that we’re disappointed with the whole concept of prayer.  When we urgently request something form God, and He doesn’t come through for us, we feel hurt and even betrayed that our prayers have not been answered.  That’s what happened to me when I was small.

I remember that first urgent attempt to call on the Almighty.  The need arose when I became aware that someone was trying to kill me!  The Second World War was in full swing, and I had the misfortune to live in Liverpool, a dangerous place.  Ships supplying us with food from our allies brought their precious cargo to this seaport, making it a target for the enemy.  I was very young, but I was aware that there was a God in heaven, and somewhere deep down in my heart I knew He was perfectly capable of stopping wars and conflicts.  I decided one day that I would ask Him to stop these terrible airplanes from dropping bombs all over my life.

That night the air raids were particularly vicious.  While we were huddled in our underground shelter like little moles, I confidently asked God to intervene.  The answer came immediately: The bomb dropped far too near for comfort, damaging the back of our house and sending us running for shelter in the safer environs of the English Lake District.  What went wrong? I asked myself furiously, trying in my six-year-old mind to make sense out of this nonsense.  Had God not heard?  Had I said my prayer with the wrong words or in the wrong way?  Then came the unwelcome thought: Perhaps God didn’t hear me because He was too busy doing other things, like keeping the stars in place. And last came the worst thought: Maybe He couldn’t help me because He couldn’t help me.  He wasn’t big enough or strong enough.

Well, one way or another my fervent request had been ignored, and a huge sense of betrayal gripped me.  Somewhere deep down in my six-year-old heart I determined not to try again.  Not a few adults have faced similar dilemmas.  At first disappointment they quit without finding out what is happening and what makes prayer work.

If this is the case, the first thing we should do is pray about this.  In fact, we should pray about anything that hinders our prayer life.  You might want to stop this moment and ask the Lord to identity whatever has caused you to stop talking to Him.  Then, when you have an inkling of what the blockage has been, talk to Him about it.

Prayer, after all, is the speaking part of our relationship with God.  Our relationship with Him depends upon our birth, while our fellowship—the quality of our relationship—depends upon our behavior.  We must be born of God—“born again”—to be able to talk to God as His children in the first place.  After that, our fellowship will be determined by our behavior.  Stuart and I have two sons and a daughter.  Our blood runs in their veins.  Our relationship with them depends upon their birth.  If they mess up, our fellowship may be disrupted, but they will always be our children—our estranged children perhaps, but still our children.  We always want to hear from them.

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, April 13, 2015

When Trials Touch Those We Love

Dear Friends,

Consider Job.  There came a day when Job awoke to a world gone mad, his world.  He would never be the same again.  God had directed Satan to contemplate Job’s life and behavior.  The Lord had boasted about His servant: “There is no one on earth like him” (Job 1:8). 

Job’s worst nightmare happened all in a day.  It was a daymare.  It had to have been a Monday!  All in a day he lost his cattle and all his wealth.  He and his flocks became victims of violence of terrorism.  A storm hit, the lightning striking Job’s animals and servants and burning up his barns and cattle sheds.  But worst of all, a tornado hit the house where his ten children were having a party, and his seven sons and three daughters died—all in a day! (Job 1:13-19).

The “everything that Satan was permitted to touch included Job’s precious children.  Possessions are one thing, but people are quite another—especially people whom we love very much.  As Henry Gariepy says in his excellent book about Job, Portraits of Perseverance:

We will not only have our own problems—the problems of those we love and care for and for whom we have such high hopes and dreams, hit us with full force as well.  When tragedy strikes them, the quakes in their lives are registered on the Richter Scale of our own hearts.

I know that in my own experience I do a halfway decent job of trusting the Lord until something touches one of our children.  In a way, our children are my Achilles heel, and Satan knows it!  I have always worried about the kids.  When they were little, I worried that they would fall into the washing machine and drown.  When they were teenagers, I worried about the friendships they made.  When they went away to college, I worried about the life partners they would choose.  When none of my worries materialized (and it has been said that 90 percent of our worries and fears never do), I began to worry all over again about their children falling into the washing machine and drowning—and so on!  Like Job, I pray fervently for them, but I have seldom been free from the “dread” Job experienced and testifies to in chapter 3:25-26.  Only recently has God released me from this fear.  Partly, the acceptance of the fact that trouble, in some measure, will come, has helped.  But more important, peace has grown out of the conviction that when, not if trouble comes, God will Himself be all that my children need in order to cope.

Blessings

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor 
Just Between Us Magazine



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Playing Games with Jesus

Dear Friends,

We were in the holy land with a group from our church, in the days when it was safe to take people on tours. One night my husband said: “Jill, why don’t you say something to the group tomorrow when we visit ’the Pavement’?  I looked at him dumbstruck.  These pavement stones he spoke about were preserved deep down under a church.  It was believed to be—with good reason—the very place, and the very pavement stones, where Jesus was scourged and mocked by the Roman soldiers before He was crucified.

What could I say?  How could I even get the words out of my mouth?  I muttered that I would “think of something.”  That night, I went to the Deep Place where nobody goes and waited with some trepidation for Him.

“Hullo.”

“Hullo.”

“Um…”.  I didn’t know where to begin.  Without speaking, He handed me the Gospel of John, opened at chapter 19.

“Read verses 1-3,” He said.  “I did it for you!”

Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged.  The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head.  They clothed Him in a purple robe and went up to Him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!”  And they struck Him in the face.

“Oh Lord, the men You made—they played games with You!”

“You have been in that place before.  Remember, the stones have a game marked out on them.”
I remembered the squares, and our guide explaining that the victim of this cruel sport would stand in the center square and wherever the dice landed, the prisoner was subjected to the torture depicted on that particular stone.

“The dice fell on the scourge, mockery, and the crown of thorns for me,” He said quietly.
I didn’t say a word, but labored far into the night to capture as best I could my heart’s response to the Pavement.  I could hardly speak the next day, but as the group gathered round I knelt down on what to me is one of the most sacred places on the planet.  The place where the human race dared to play games with Jesus.  There I offered Him my thanks:

Scourged my King, a plaited crown,
Runs the blood of Godhead down?
Ripped the flesh, the beard pulled out
Cruel the sport and rude the shout.
Scourged my King, a plaited crown,
Runs the blood of Godhead down?
Scourged my King in soldiers’ den,
Exposed to beasts who, dressed like men,
Smelled the blood of prey soon caught
Set my Jesus all at naught!
Scourged my King, and fool of made,
God in heaven, what price You paid—
And all because of my heart’s need:
Sinful thoughts and sinful deeds,
A dirty soul that dirtied Thee
O’re bloodied earth on bloodied tree.
Scourged my King, a plaited crown,
Runs the blood of Godhead down?
Scourged my King, a plaited crown,
Here I kneel a-trembling down,
Beat my fists in silent fury
While my world ignores your story:
Scourged my King, a plaited crown
Runs the blood of Godhead down?
Can I doubt Your Father’s loss?
Broken God on broken cross.
Do I bear wound or mark in me
That mirrors Thine on Calvary?
Scourged my King, a plaited crown
Runs the blood of Godhead down?

He was there—we all felt Him draw near—we heard His footsteps.  We stayed silent, overwhelmed with a sense of loss, rage, and gratitude all rolled up in one.  Then the next group of pilgrims crowded us out, and our group moved on. Meditate on the price your Savior paid for your sin.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine