12 Hope for Those
Struggling with Infertility
Womenâ€™s Ministry is in a Rut
24 Why Am I
So Afraid to be Real?
28 Is Jesus
just between us
for women with a heart for ministry
22 Help! My
by Sheri Woodruff, pg. 10
a note from Jill
“Once His Spirit resides within us, peace of mind and a feeling of the security of being “held” becomes a reality.”
I have just finished writing a book about knowing God in our innermost being. The secret of serenity in hectic times is something the whole world is seeking and not finding unless it finds Jesus Christ. Once His Spirit resides within us, peace of mind and a feeling of security becomes a reality. Moses had more reasons than any of us to feel insecure, restless, and afraid. He had no home of his own for years, yet knew a sense of “home-ness” in his heart. Here is a piece from the book that I hope blesses you and reminds you of this truth and inner refuge.
P.S. Be sure to see our new columns this issue – “Managing Your Emotions,” “Between Us Pastors’ Wives,” “Bookmark”… and from now on “What’s My Story?” will be called Real Life. We’re bringing you some changes over the next several issues thanks to your input from our readership survey in the spring! This is your magazine and we’re listening.
just between us SUMMER 2011
THE DWELLING PLACE – a prayer of Moses the man of God. Psalm 90:1 says, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations” and Rev. 21:3 says, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.” A refuge incorporates the same idea. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27). “He that dwells” incorporates the idea of sitting down and having a rest, not just physically, but spiritually, too. We are tired inside. Have you noticed? The world without Christ is on its feet. There’s absolutely nowhere for its soul to sit down. It should not be so with us. Does your soul need to sit down? To “dwell in Him” means that we are the ones whose souls are in repose and who know how to rest on faith. Years ago when I was working with kids outside the church, we were studying the book of Hebrews. Trevor, a new convert, haltingly read Heb. 4:9, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (KJV). What did this mean? Trevor wanted to know.
I did my best with this. We struggled to describe the “rest” of faith in the heart for the Christian. In the end Trevor said, “Maybe it’s like when Jesus came into my life. It was as if I’d been holding my breath all my life, and then I let it out!” I think Trevor had caught the idea of inner rest and peace well. He was talking about the “dwelling” or the sitting down of the soul in repose. There was so much to discourage those new believers, whom the writer of Hebrews was addressing. But inwardly, it was very obvious to those watching that they were “resting” in their relationship with Christ. Someone has said, “Discouragement is a tired soul with nowhere to sit down.” The believer in Jesus always has somewhere to sit down! This led me to have a “conversation” with Him who is my dwelling place. “Lord,” I said, “I’m weary in well-doing!” “Sit down, my child.” “I don’t know how! I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!” “I see you! Tell your soul to settle down on the Steps outside The Front Door. We will talk.” And so I told my soul to stop rushing around frantically and listened to Him. It took awhile. But in the end, it joined me. It has to, you know; we are sort of attached! Finally it just stopped! What a relief. “You’re dwelling,” He said! “I know! Dwelling is rest realized internally, isn’t it, Lord? A rest that only You can bestow. Thank you!” In that moment “we,” me and my soul, knew it was just as He said it would be. He indeed is our “dwelling place” and we were “home.” Talk to Him to help you to experience Him as your dwelling place. Blessings,
IN EVERY ISSUE
VOL 21 • NO 3 • SUMMER 11
Executive Editor Jill Briscoe
5 6 7 8 9 30 32 33 34 36 38
Editor Shelly Esser General Manager Mary Perso
Assistant Editor Suzan Braun Marketing Director Mary Ann Prasser Editorial Assistants Susan Brown Shannon Caroll Nancy Krull Debbie Leech Art Director Kelly Perso Circulation Manager Suzan Braun Web Debbie Wicker Renewals Manager Nancy Krull Marketing Julie Santiago Subscriptions Jeanette Kay Monica Lukas Barb Pechacek Barb Smith Software Support Rebecca Loesche Photography Jackie Sarauer Christy Schwacher ADVERTISING Lindy Mason For more information call 407.293.6636 or email email@example.com MANUSCRIPTS/QUERIES (cannot be returned) Send requests for writer’s guidelines & all manuscripts to: Just Between Us, Editor 777 S. Barker Road, Brookfield, WI 53045 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org SUBSCRIPTIONS Subscription Price: $19.95 per year for four issues. Outside US, add $6 per year prepaid US currency; $5 in Canada.
just between us SUMMER 2011
Gift Your Ministries: Group subscriptions are now available at reduced rates. Encourage and inspire the women who make ministry happen at your church or other places of outreach or service to others. Energize their relationships, refresh their faith, and become equipped as a team for facing ministry challenges through JBU. For more information, call 800-260-3342 today! Just Between Us (ISSN 1069-3459) is published quarterly by Telling the Truth Media Ministries. Make all checks and money orders payable to: Just Between Us, Subscription Orders 777 S. Barker Road, Brookfield, WI 53045 To order by phone, or for more information: call 800.260.3342. From Canada call 262.786.6478. Email: email@example.com Website: www.justbetweenus.org Periodical Postage Paid at Brookfield, WI and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Just Between Us, 777 S. Barker Road, Brookfield, WI 53045. Just Between Us is a member publication of the Evangelical Press Association. Copyright ©2011 by Telling the Truth Media Ministries. All rights reserved. Printed in USA. We occasionally share subscriber mailing addresses with select organizations. If you would like your name removed from direct mail promotional lists, please call 800-260-3342 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ON THE COVER 10 Just for the Fun of It!
Give yourself permission to play without feeling guilty. by Sheri Woodruff
12 Another Kind of Mother
God can use your pain of infertility for His greater purposes. by Andrea Stephens
22 Is Your Women’s Ministry in a Rut?
Ideas for putting purpose and pizzazz back just in time for your fall programming! by Amy Nappa
24 The Walking Wounded Among Us
Have you been putting on the perfect smile and saying you’re okay when you’re not?
by Cindy DeMoss
28 Is Jesus Enough?
When it comes to another’s suffering, we’re to walk alongside them with hope.
by Grace Cabalka
FEATURES 16 Faith at Rest
Moving from worry to peace in a hectic world. by Jill Briscoe
26 Whatever Happened to Awe?
Keeping your focus where it needs to be in worship. by Stuart Briscoe
WOMEN LIKE US INTERVIEW 18 A Surprising Inheritance
A mother and daughter share their amazing multi-generational legacy showcasing God’s glory.
by Jennie Pierce
FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS CALL toll-free 800-260-3342 or visit our website justbetweenus.org. From Canada call 262-786-6478.
A Note from Jill Briscoe In Your Words Inside View LOL Ideas to Inspire Real Life Marriage Matters Bookmark NEW Between Us Pastors’ Wives Healthy Hearts Managing Your Emotions The Last Word
he’s got my jbu! Just Between Us is such a rich blessing in my life – and when it’s found “missing” – I ask my (pastor) husband where it might be. Sure enough, it’s in his office. Many times the magazine has an article or two that matches a sermon thought or idea – so JBU is actually a double blessing in our lives. Thank you! — Debbie Brownfield Thousand Oaks, Georgia
help for mom and daughter I told a friend I was overloaded in ministry as a pastor’s wife and that my daughter in another part of Germany was struggling under a very heavy load as a young pastor’s wife as well. She led me to your website and I am so thrilled that I now have access to all of this wonderful encourage-
ment and inspiration. This is such rich material, that I bought a subscription for my daughter and until I can purchase one for myself will keep being fed by Jill Briscoe’s weekly devotional online and all the other wonderful things on your homepage. — Kornelia Shemilt Obersontheim, Germany
for the building of the body I am your brother in Kenya. I have a church with 32 members and 10 orphans that my wife and I care for along with our four children. I have been using the information and great teachings from your website for my weekly messages. We have printed some of the material from your site to share at other meetings too. Thank you. May God bless you abundantly! — Pastor Peter Kenya
Just Between Us | 777 S. Barker Road | Brookfield, WI 53045 | email@example.com
You can find hope and peace—
no matter what.
The storms of life visit us all, and at times we find ourselves ill-prepared to weather them. Where is God when everything comes crashing down? Compassionate and practical, Linda Evans Shepherd shares her own painful experiences and offers guidance for surviving difficult times, giving your troubles to God, praying through the pain, and finding peace, hope, and joy once more.
Visit www.ignitemyfaith.com to see introductory videos for your small group.
Available wherever books are sold.
just between us SUMMER 2011
inside view ministry leaders weigh in on HOT TOPICS How do you set boundaries when helping needy people who want more time than you can give?
Next Issue’s Hot Topic: How do you balance technology while maintaining the personal
just between us SUMMER 2011
This isn’t easy when you care about people who are hurting. I have two responses. First response: I immediately shoot up prayers to God. Then I use words to affirm the needy person when I hear her express a need or hurt. For example, “I can hear that…I can see that…” Then I might say, “Today, the best way I can help you is to pray for you. I have five minutes. Would you like me to do that with you now or pray for you later?” Then I will stop and pray right then. If I don’t have enough time, I will pray for her later. Second response: Christians are to care about others, but they are to care for themselves as well. Having boundaries can be a very healthy thing for both the giver and receiver. It is appropriate to set boundaries to protect yourself, your time, and your family. Setting boundaries and feeling all right is a learning process that takes much selfdiscovery, work, and time. This process still continues for me. It’s only as I honestly recognize my own sin and let the Holy Spirit reveal God’s truth of how God sees me that I am enabled to respond in a healthy way. Bible studies that dig into God’s truth can help me discover why I respond the way I do and expose some unhealthy responses. We can think we are helping needy people by loving them, when actually we may be enabling them. This can be hard to discern. We can do a helpful thing with a wrong motivation – out of guilt, people-pleasing, or works motivation. It takes deep work to see why I tend to respond the way I do and then to be proactive to change my unhealthy responses. Time with God reveals all of this, as well as trusted friends, counselors, and other Christians. As I love God, spend time with Him, and discern His voice, I can also then hear Him speak into my life so that I can give appropriate help to others. Jesus spent time with the Father so that He knew what the will of His Father was. He did not do everything others wanted Him to do. He only did the work that His Father gave Him to do. These are healthy boundaries. As I seek to do the same, then I won’t miss seeing Him do mighty things as He uses me in a healthy God-pleasing way. Sharon Zehnder; Ministry Wife, King of Kings Church | Omaha, Nebraska
What do needy people need? Jesus tells us in Matt. 22:37-39 that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s what they are pursuing – a Savior who loves perfectly and people who love in the power of the Holy Spirit. Often, their interest in me stems from their need to be connected and feel safe. Perhaps they have found themselves in a pattern of seeking, clinging, and being cast off, yet they were created to be in relationships with people so they have an unmet need. They continue seeking relationships, but continually sabotage them by clinging because they fear being abandoned again. Let’s imagine you are working in a food pantry. At the end of the day a needy woman with four children walks in. All you have left is one bag of food. Do you avoid her or send someone else to give her the bad news? No. You give her what you have and then point her to other resources. One organization is not equipped to meet all of her needs. You also tell her about Jesus and pray for her. By doing so, you have loved her. Teaching people healthy boundaries begins with showing them that they don’t need to be in crisis for you to interact with them. You can define for them that a friendship is give and take by: • Setting and keeping relationship boundaries. An example could be coffee on Saturday morning once a month; be sure to start and end on time. • Not running if you run into her unexpectedly. Your goal is to teach her by example how to have better relationships. If the conversation begins to focus on her problems, be prepared to remind her that you need her to save that conversation for your Saturday coffee time. • Not feeling sorry for her; that can lead to rescuing her and that isn’t helpful. • Encouraging involvement in a church, community, or organization. • Looking at needy people through God’s eyes; they are made in His image. Loving them means helping them become more aware of what effect their behaviors are having on others. Remember: each of us only has one bag of groceries, but God in His perfect care didn’t leave us here alone. Cathi Adams; Director of Lay Counseling/Support Groups, Elmbrook Church | Brookfield, Wisconsin
Only a mom would know… One day my mother was out and my dad was in charge of me. I was not quite three years old, and someone had given me a little tea set as a gift. It was one of my favorite toys. Daddy was in the living room engrossed in the evening news when I brought him a little cup of “tea,” which was just water. After several cups of tea and lots of praise for such yummy tea, my mom came home. My dad made her sit quietly in another room, so Mom could watch me bring Dad the cup of tea, because I was so cute. Mom waited, and sure enough, I came walking down the hall with a cup of tea for Daddy. Mom watched Dad drink from the teacup. Then she said, (as only a mother would know…) “Did it ever occur to you that the only place she can reach to get water is from the toilet?”
Humor Us! If you have a true humorous anecdote, we’d like to hear from you. They must be written by you and told in 100 words or less. Write: Laugh Out Loud, Just Between Us, 777 S. Barker Road, Brookfield, WI 53045. We regret that submissions cannot be acknowledged or returned.
laugh out loud out of the mouths of KIDS When my grandson, Billy, and I entered our vacation cabin, we kept the lights off until we were inside to keep from attracting pesky insects. Still, a few fireflies followed us in. Noticing them before I did, Billy whispered, “It’s no use, Grandpa. The mosquitoes are coming after us with flashlights.” Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispered to her mother, “Why is the bride dressed in white?” The mother replied, “Because white is the color of happiness, and today is the happiest day of her life.” The child thought about this for a moment, then said, “So why is the groom wearing black?”
Can love truly heal the past? Six months pregnant, unmarried, broke, and alone, Megan Smith doesn’t think things can get much worse—and then they do. Stuck on the road without shelter when a tornado appears, Megan barely escapes with her life. And when Will Callahan comes upon her in the road, her life will never be the same. While staying at the Callahan family ranch, she finds herself daring to love again. Can Will convince her that her past doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to love? Filled with the easy charm and warmth of Texas, Megan’s Hero will have you believing in the power of love and forgiveness.
Praise for The Callahans of Texas series “Filled with Texas charm and the healing power of love.” —Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author, for Emily’s Chance
N Available wherever books are sold.
just between us SUMMER 2011
Visit www.SharonGillenwater.com or Connect on FB Sharon Gillenwater
ideas to inspire TIPS for life and ministry
Ways to Encourage Your Missionaries
1. Ask them how they really are, not just for a prayer request. 2. Find out how you can spoil them with things from home. 3. Tell them often that you prayed for them. 4. Give them the opportunity to be involved in your small group long distance – email them next week’s discussion questions.
5. Send a photo of people who pray for them. 6. Send them birthday cards signed by friends or members of your small group. Send a family care package once a year.
7. Give them a gift subscription to Just Between Us
(justbetweenus.org) or another favorite magazine.
— Wendy Marshall Japan
Getting to Know You As a new pastor’s wife, I decided I needed to really work at getting to know people, so I started keeping a notebook. Every time I meet someone new, I write down their name and everything I learn about them, such as “moved here from the West Coast,” or “has six kids,” or “teaches second grade.” I make note of distinguishing physical characteristics such as “short gray hair,” “tall,” “expressive eyes” – anything that helps me remember the person as more than just a face or name. I review my notes periodically (at first, every Sunday before church) and it’s given me a great start in knowing and caring for the people in our church. It’s a continuing but rewarding challenge. — Karen Horgan Black Mountain, NC
Becoming a Dangerous Woman
just between us SUMMER 2011
May we be dangerous women. May we be women who acknowledge our power to change, and grow, and be radically alive for God. May we be healers of wounds and righters of wrongs. May we weep with those who weep and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. May we cherish children, embrace the elderly, and empower the poor. May we pray deeply and teach wisely. May we be strong and gentle leaders. May we sing songs of joy and talk down fear. May we never hesitate to let passion push us, conviction compel us, and righteous anger energize us. May we strike fear into all that is unjust and evil in the world. May we dismantle abusive systems and silence lies with truth. May we shine like stars in a darkened generation. May we overflow with goodness in the name of God and by the power of Jesus. And in that name, and by that power, may we change the world. Dear God, please make us dangerous women, AMEN. — Lynne Hybels Nice Girls Don’t Change the World (Zondervan)
Ways to Encourage Missionaries Home on Furlough
1. Invite them over for a traditional American meal.
2. Help fill their cupboards when they arrive.
3. Offer to host a small group where they can speak.
4. Provide them with
accommodations for a vacation.
5. Offer babysitting
if they have young children.
— Wendy Marshall Japan
Inspire others! Please send us your short (250 words or less) practical ideas on evangelism, women’s ministry programming, prayer, hospitality, small group ministries, leadership training, ministry tips, etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org with “ideas to inspire” in the subject line.
“But, how can protecting yourself be a sin?” you ask. After all, the Bible says, “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). Self-protection is a sin when it becomes the single most important thing in your life. How can we be a blessing to anyone if we don’t allow them to see who we are? Doesn’t He want the world to be allowed the privilege of seeing that He doesn’t make junk?
“I never allowed myself to let my guard down. A good friend pointed out my sin and called it ‘the sin of self-protection.’ Ugh. She was so right.” As a young pastor’s wife, I had my eye on the prize. As we toured the low-income neighborhood of the first church where Mark and I would work, I imagined the difference we would make. Yet, 14 months later, we were loading our UHaul to move to our next church. Disillusioned with the surreal experience of watching God’s people tear each other apart, I found it difficult to look forward to the next stop. Onward we went. My heart was cautious, though. I selectively reached out to people who seemed safe, but kept the walls up around others. Even as God used our time there to bring healing and strengthening in many ways, I was exhausted. Looking back, I realize I never allowed myself to let my guard down. A good friend pointed out my sin to me. She called it “the sin of self-protection.” Ugh. She was so right.
90 days of
Six years later, we moved to a new church in a new state. We both sensed God’s hand in the move and in the church and community He was calling us to. Before God, I decided that I would be myself in this church. I purposed in my heart that I would pray for two solid friends in the church whom I could be honest with and share myself with. God delivered inside of a year. He answered my prayers beyond anything I could have hoped for or imagined. He gave me two friends who allowed me the grace and freedom to share from my heart and be who I was. They also had a gracious way of letting me know when I was wrong. What a gift! Five years later, we moved again to a new ministry position in our current state. Leaving my friends behind was painful, but I’m so grateful God gave me the courage to let my walls down and to go deep with my sisters in Christ. What a rich time of friendship and spiritual intimacy. As I write this, I am three years into our new place of service. It hasn’t been easy, but my heart is free, my friends know who I am, and God is using us to begin to set our little part of the world on fire. Debbie Millman | Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
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from the ladies of The Midday Connection
just for the
just between us SUMMER 2011
Take the guilt out of having fun. by Sheri Woodruff
Imagine my friend’s dilemma. Her boys were outside playing and her baby was sleeping. Shouldn’t she sit down and enjoy the quiet? Feeling drawn to play with the boys, she told herself it was wiser to read or get something done. I’m happy to report that she went outside and soon was on the ground in a huge tickle fight! Thinking back on that day, she told me that each of her boys later brought up their hysterical laughter and thanked her several times for playing with them. She was so glad they each had a precious memory of silliness. If you’ve ever seen basset hound puppies playing, you know God has a sense of humor! He also created us with a sense of humor and a desire for lighthearted play. Sadly, we’ve all rushed around until we’re stretched too thin to play. I can hear you saying, “I feel guilty just thinking about
having fun.” But, adding more amusement and humor into our lives will bring freshness and energy to our days. Most people I know are truly longing to have more fun, but planning for it has become just another thing on their to-do list. I have found that it is worth the effort. Whenever I have planned a ladies’ game night at my home or church, the women tell me that they are really looking forward to it with excitement. They come and play and laugh together and then thank me for weeks afterward for all of the laughter and enjoyment they had. Why then, I often ask myself, are these evenings not more common? Maybe we think it takes a lot more work than it actually does. Or perhaps insecurities cause us to fear the party will flop and not be any fun at all! While I certainly relate to those feelings, I am also convinced that
the people around us need to lighten up and add some comic relief and variety to their lives. I keep working to plan fun into the lives of my family and friends. Here are a few ideas that have been successful for me.
FOR FRIENDS. Besides ladies’ game nights, I often join with my husband to have a couples’ game night. We try to invite a variety of ages and personalities, making sure there are one or two outgoing or encouraging people in the mix. I have one friend who is 91 years old and she is always a kick to have around. Friendly and talkative, she makes everyone feel welcome and happy because she just plain loves to be with people. Our goal for these parties is for our neighbors or church members to relax, have fun, and get to know each other better. Assigning each family to bring either a salty or a sweet snack keeps food at its simplest. Games like Balderdash, Taboo, or Gestures work well. If you like cards, Nertz is a great game that has a break every five minutes, and no limit to how many can play. Be creative. Think about having families over for dessert and croquet or to sit by a fire in the backyard and make S’mores. Fun is all about connecting with people around enjoyable and relaxing activities. On a smaller scale, just asking three or four women to go walking, or to an art show, or to sit in the park for an hour, can be an enjoyable break. For most people, the fun begins when they realize that someone thought of them and invited them to do something “just because.” The last time I invited a friend to see a movie with me, she shrieked through the phone with joy! Friendships bond in fresh and deeper ways as you share new experiences and see each other relaxed and real in changing contexts. Just think of something you would like to do and invite someone to do it with you.
FOR YOURSELF. What do you really look forward to doing? How can you add that to your life? If it’s hard for you to make time for private pleasure, start with little 15 minute activities. It’s okay to do something just for the fun of it; and your best friend, Jesus, would be happy to see you enjoying yourself. All of your friends would! If you take just a bit of time regularly to work on a creative project, run to the library to read a magazine, or replant your flowerbed, you will see yourself more energized. Do you remember the old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? Well, the same goes for Jill. Having a bit of amusement to look forward to is an important way to stay motivated to do all of the mundane things in our lives. It doesn’t take much. Give yourself the gift of fun.
Adding more amusement and humor into our lives will bring FRESHNESS and ENERGY to our days. I have found that most people need someone to give them permission to play and have fun, or to show them how. It makes me sad that more people don’t feel the freedom to just unwind and be silly for no reason. I’m sure God would love to see us live less burdened and more joyful lives. Working fun into your life may take some hard work and choices for a while, but I think you’ll see and feel the benefits. Many people in your church would also benefit from having some frivolity planned for them. I reason that if my friends and neighbors see me relaxed and laughing in my home, even though it is not perfectly decorated or clean, hopefully they’ll ease up on themselves. Every time we try an activity or game that is new or we’re not good at, we’re showing that “playing” is fun even if we don’t win or aren’t perfect. God has given us so many good things. Shouldn’t we enjoy them? I’m sure no one turns 90 years old and wishes they’d had less fun in life. When you’re older, will you be able to say, “I’m glad I had so much fun?” z Sheri Woodruff is a ministry wife and freelance writer who has also traveled overseas for missions. She and her husband serve at Christ Church Lake Forest in Lake Forest, Ill., and have three sons.
WANT TO KNOW MORE about summer vacations on a budget? Go to justbetweenus.org/ vacations for extensive online resources and information regarding vacationing with friends, home swaps, transportation options, staycations and vacation rental properties.
just between us SUMMER 2011
FOR FAMILY. When our boys were little, we regularly had family play times. Sometimes we went to the park for tag or played a game together. I bought a lot of soft little Nerf balls and we would have big battles of throwing them at one another in our living room. If your house is too fragile to play in, then it isn’t a fun place to grow up in! Now that our boys are teenagers, we have “Forced Family Fun” times. No amount of whining gets them out of it; believe me, they try. No one should be too busy to spend an hour having fun with their family! We go play Frisbee golf, or hike a trail, or bike to get ice cream. Think of activities that at least half of your family will enjoy and then do them. Remember, the attitudes you model are very important. This is not a time for one-upsmanship or for intense competition. You’re together to relax and have fun. We’ve had to lay down the rule that there will not be any rudeness to anyone in that hour! Encourage, encourage, encourage. Try to talk about things the kids are interested in and, by all means, don’t try to lecture or
teach anything! That is not restful for kids. It may take some work to build the fun habit into your family life, but soon your kids will learn that “Forced Family Fun” is a safe hour for everyone, and eventually they may even sheepishly admit they had a little fun. Maybe.
Another Kind of Mother Through the pain of infertility, God has a bigger plan.
just between us SUMMER 2011
by Andrea Stephens
I made a beeline to the beach where I could talk and walk with God. But the talk turned out more like a shouting match (okay, God doesn’t shout but I sure was), because one of the first things I saw in the sand were big mommy footprints next to little kid footprints. Are you kidding me, Lord? Why did I have to see these right here, right now? Could I just get a break? My escape to the beach ended up being one more reminder that I was childless. Years of doctor appointments, invasive ultrasounds, blood draws, ovulation kits, and surgeries to remove painful cysts and endometriosis – and still the hand-knit baby booties on my dresser, intended to be a symbol of hope, were becoming a source of discouragement. I already had plenty of time to work through the jealousy when sisters and friends announced their pregnancies (realizing that what God was doing in their lives had nothing to do with me helped me rejoice with them), politely declining baby shower invitations (and sending non-emotional gifts like diapers), and learning how to respond when asked if I have kids (I say no, then immediately change the topic). I had also worked through most of the basic God questions. Why won’t you give me a baby? Don’t you love me? What have I done wrong? What sin have I not confessed? Why won’t you bless me? I promise to raise my children to love and serve you (bargaining with God rarely works but I thought it would be grand if He would pull off another Hannah thing). I had peace that infertility is not a withdrawal of God’s love, not a judgment, or punishment, or proof of abandonment, or proof that God is powerless, or doesn’t answer prayer.
I knew of the Scriptures testifying that children were a blessing of the Lord and how blessed is the man (and woman) whose quiver was full. So what was I missing? What piece of the big picture was not in my puzzle? I launched into the New Testament hunting for clues. Jesus’ teaching was my starting point. The Gospel of John would be first. Like a CSI pro, I got to work. Chapter one: Jesus is the Word, the Creator, the Life, the Light. John the Baptist bore witness of Jesus, told people to repent and be baptized, and knew he was on a mission from God. Then the disciples were chosen. Got it. Chapter two: the wedding at Cana, the miracle of turning water into wine, the big mess Jesus made in the temple because He was ticked, the prediction of His resurrection, many new believers. Cool. Chapter three: the nighttime chat with Nicodemus about being born again, born of the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, and believing in Jesus, God’s Son, brings eternal life. Hmmm. The eternal. The kingdom of God. A different kind of birth. I continued on, reading, searching, and taking note of things Jesus emphasized. Finally, in chapter fifteen it happened. A huge clue was uncovered. Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches; we are to bear fruit, more fruit, much fruit, eternal fruit! I was starting to get it. Fruitfulness was being given a new definition. In the Old Testament, fruitfulness referred to bearing earthly children. In the New Testament, it was about abiding in Christ and producing spiritual fruit.
WANT TO KNOW MORE about dealing with infertility? Go to justbetweenus. org/infertility for online and print resources providing education, encouragement, and hope for those struggling with infertility and those who love them.
It seems that on some level all women meet the definition of a mom... We love, we teach, we train, we coach, we encourage. We parent. We mother. We are an important part of building God’s forever family. God, does this mean that Jesus brought a new focus, a new sense of purpose? Could it be that being fruitful was not connected with having kids? Jesus’ focus was not on the earthly development of the family of God, but the spiritual development of the Kingdom of God. How? Share the good news of saving grace found in Christ alone, so others might receive Him into their lives and be born again, born spiritually into the Kingdom of God, into His forever family.
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But that day standing in the sand looking toward the vastness of the ocean, I sensed a whispering in my heart. It’s time to focus on the bigger picture. The next few hours took me in search of what “the bigger picture” might mean to God. After all, what was bigger than God’s instructions to mankind to be fruitful and multiply? What was bigger than the accounts I had read of barren women like Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, Rachel, Manoah’s wife, and others whose wombs were eventually opened to birth babies?
Fulfillment in Infertility Thoughts of New Testament people without children or without mention of children flooded my mind: John the Baptist, Martha and Mary, Priscilla, Dorcas, Mary of Magdela and Joanna who traveled with Jesus, and the disciples, the Apostle Paul, and Jesus Himself! If having biological children was the end-all, then, as my husband exclaimed, “God would owe Jesus, John, Paul, and others an apology for leaving their lives unfulfilled and incomplete!” Not possible. God was at work in each of their lives. He loved them, had an obvious plan for them, and they fully completed their calling before heading to heaven. Whew. As the idea of spiritual children twirled around in my heart, my head realized that according to this definition, I had lots of kids. Through my years in youth ministry and writing for teen girls, I had indeed seen many be born spiritually and had the joy of discipling them – growing them up in Jesus! There was Jodi, with whom I spent many hours talking about Jesus while riding horses (which I’m deathly afraid of ). There was Krista, who prayed with me to receive Jesus her junior year of high school, then went on to seminary and the mission field with the goal of sharing the gospel with youth in Romania. There was that sweet girl from France, who sent me an email telling me that she asked Jesus into her life as a result of reading one of my books. Another who said that learning who she was “in Christ” changed her life. I had the pleasure of helping Meghan learn how
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I’ll never forget the Mother’s Day when the pastor asked all mothers to stand. I was the only one sitting; I wanted to hide. Then I looked up to a smiling seven-year-old girl holding a beautiful pink plant. “This is for you, Mrs. Fink. You are a mom!” A woman’s fulfillment and contentment is not measured by childbirth, but by responding to opportunities to give to others. This is the essence of a mother’s heart, so I celebrate Mother’s Day!
How to Help a Friend Cope with Infertility DON’TS Don’t tease or pressure her: “When are we going to see a little one?” (wink-wink). Don’t judge: “There’s probably some sin in your life. Confess it and everything will work out.” Don’t try to fix it: “Just relax” or “Have you thought of adoption?” Don’t compare with others: “I had a friend who got pregnant after they adopted…” Don’t pretend to understand: “I know how you feel,” unless you’ve experienced infertility.
Now I celebrate each Mother’s Day in a fresh way. I celebrate all the ways God has used me to be a mom in the lives of teen girls during the previous year. Then I pray for Him to show me who needs me to come alongside to help them grow in the days ahead.
This Mother’s Day I won’t celebrate like most women. My ears will never hear a child call me, “Mommy.” My arms will never feel the contented wiggle of a nursing baby. My dream of “Mother of the Bride” will never be realized. The pain of childbirth is felt in the body; the pain of childlessness is felt in the heart.
Don’t always talk or complain about your kids when with a childless friend.
DO’S Do acknowledge that her loss of a dream is real — be patient with her through the grieving process. Do encourage her to express her feelings — and don’t judge her. Do encourage her to write a letter to the child she dreams of. Do promise to pray for her and do it. Do continually encourage her to trust God’s character and promises. Do remind her of how precious she is to God. Do send a friendship card to her on Mother’s Day. ~Connie Fink
to deal with being depressed over her alcoholic brother. And over the years, there were hundreds of unknown girls who have been birthed into God’s family at my events for teen girls. I began to take note of some awesome women God had put in my life throughout my baby journey, other childless but Kingdom-focused women. He had used them to help me see there was a bigger picture. Rhonda had a local Christian TV show for women and taught a seminary class for soon-to-be pastors’ wives. Susie was editor of a teen magazine and led groups of girls on mission trips. Gail had a puppet ministry that told little ones about God’s love. Rebecca had a worldwide music ministry. Lori was an award-winning second-grade teacher who developed a mentoring program. It seems that on some level all women meet the definition of a mom. The dictionary says that part of being a mother is providing affection, protection, nurture, and guidance. It’s what many of us childless women do. We love, we teach, we train, we coach, we encourage. We parent. We mother. We are an important part of building God’s forever family.
The various clues had come together! This is the “big picture” God wanted me to see. My trip that day to the beach did not end as devastatingly as it began. I drove home grateful for the truths God had revealed to me and grateful for grasping an eternal perspective. Now I celebrate each Mother’s Day in a fresh way. I celebrate all the ways God has used me to be a mom in the lives of teen girls during the previous year. Then I pray for Him to show me who needs me to come alongside to help them grow in the days ahead. I focus forward knowing that I am a mother – just another kind. z
Andrea Stephens has authored 16 books for teen girls and founded The B.A.B.E. Event, which teaches women of all ages that in Christ they are beautiful, accepted, blessed, and eternally significant. Additionally, she holds a degree in Biblical Studies. She and her husband, Rev. Dr. Bill Stephens, live in southwest Florida. You can contact her at andreastephens.com.
Wave to crosswalk patrol people.
So Long, Insecurity Group Experience
Leader’s guide also available. For more information, visit
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The new So Long Insecurity, Group Experience guide is the perfect companion to Beth Moore’s bestselling book. now you and your friends can form a group to dig deeper into what it means to have soul-deep security.
Rest Faith at
Finding peace in a hectic world.
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by Jill Briscoe
Peace is faith resting. Faith in a God who doesn’t make mistakes, who has the whole world in His hands – including my worried world – releasing us to laugh at dark days and to dance in the rain. Peace is faith resting in the fact that God will carry our worries for us. Faith counts on it. It is our soul saying, “I will trust and not be afraid” (Isa. 12:2), and, “Though the mountains fall down and my world disintegrates, I won’t fall down and disintegrate, for I am banking on a God who is my refuge and strength, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 46:1-2; 19:14, my translation). The promise of a trustworthy God is this: “He will keep us in perfect peace if our minds are stayed on Him – because we trust Him” (Is. 26:3, my translation). Paul’s letter to the Philippians ends on such a high note. How can there be more and more things to rejoice about in situations in which there are more and more things to be concerned about? Paul, who had everything in the world to worry about, says to people who have a whole lot less to worry about than he did, “Take it from me; you don’t need to worry about anything.” It’s not a question of things that we worry about disappearing off the radar screen, but rather a question of who is going to do the worrying about these things.
“Are there worrisome things around me?” asks the apostle Paul. “Oh, yes – like the trial I’m facing for my life, the care of all the churches I’ve planted, people I love who are dying for their faith in Jesus, old age and sickness, and sorrow upon sorrow. But I’m resting. I have perfect peace, because I have put it all on God’s shoulders, and He is carrying the crushing weight for me.” Such tranquility of thought and mind is priceless. The Spirit’s work is to provide His serenity in the midst of a storm; our work is to stop trying to manufacture it ourselves and to be at peace, to rest.
Don’t Worry About Anything
Paul says we are not to worry about anything (see Phil. 4:6). I have been a worrier since childhood. When I became a Christian, I looked at what the Bible said about my chronic anxiety: “Do not be anxious about anything.” Worry now became a sin!
It’s important to draw a distinction here. There is worry and then there is concern. Concern is a given for a Christian. Concern is “right” worry. It looks for a way to relieve other people’s worries, not add to them. And it is a “worry” that turns itself into prayers. Worry that is forbidden to the believer is that grinding, blinding obsession that slays your spirit, destroys your appetite, and kills your hope. It is an emotional flu that never gets better. But a worry that is turned into a positive heart concern – one that looks for solutions and makes us more sensitive to people’s heart needs – is what God wants us to have. In Philippians you see Paul’s concern for his friends, but he doesn’t allow the problems of those he loves to dictate every waking moment of his life or obsess him or paralyze him. To do that, he knows, is wrong.
He will keep us in perfect peace if our minds are stayed on Him – because we trust Him.
Jesus Has Forbidden Me to Worry
It really helps me to understand that anxiety is forbidden. “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (Jn. 14:1). Jesus tells us not to let worry dominate our lives. Don’t let it? That means we can do something to stop it – and that something is trust. To the people of His day – and to us today – Jesus declared, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matt. 6:34, MSG). If you trust, you do not worry; if you worry, you do not trust. Ask the Lord for the grace to trust Him.
Worry Distracts Us from the Essentials
1. Prayer is Where You Start. Avoid the tempta-
tion to say, “But I can’t seem to pray when I’m worried.” Prayer is simply verbalizing your worry to God. You can verbalize your worries out loud or silently, for God’s ears are not too dull to hear (see Is. 59:1). “Instead of worrying, pray,” says Paul (Phil. 4:6, MSG). Prayer combats worry by building trust.
2. Prayer Changes Things Sometimes but Prayer Changes You Always. A common idea is that trusting
God with our anxieties will make them disappear. Here’s what the thought process typically sounds like: • If I pray hard enough, the sickness will be healed. • If I pray long enough, my spouse will come back. • If I pray with more faith, the threat will go away. • If I pray with real faith, the situation will change overnight. God may well decide to work this way. So, by all means, ask, but prayer itself is so much more than specific requests. Prayer is just being with God, enjoying Him, and absorbing His will for you. Prayer isn’t just something you do; it’s somewhere you go to experience the presence of God. Prayer is where God may well say, “This illness will not be healed,” (as the Lord told Paul when the apostle asked that his thorn in the flesh be removed). Or God may say, “The danger will be ever present” – for example, if you live in a war-torn area or in “tornado alley.” The cause of concern doesn’t necessarily immediately disappear, but the worry over it can. Then, after telling God, “Your will be done,” the prayers of petition can be prayed for endurance and strength. God is always going to answer such requests, as he did for Paul in the case of his thorn in the flesh. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” the Lord said (2 Cor. 12:9). So the cause of concern may still be out there after an intense season of prayer. The situation may not be one bit different, but your mind-set has changed. You look at the concern in a totally different way. So prayer changes things – sometimes – but prayer changes you always. Paul says that we are to pray about our worries with thanksgiving: “In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). What does he mean? Thank God for worries? No. Thank God for who He is in the midst of the worries. Thank God for His strong eternal shoulders that are perfectly capable of carrying all the burdens of worry in the world – yours included. continued on p 39
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The Greek word used for the bad sort of worry is merimnao – the anxiety that obsesses. It means “to be distracted,” “to have a divided mind.” And isn’t that just what worry does? It divides your mind and distracts you from everything else going on around you.
Let me walk you through Paul’s formula for winning the worry war.
A Surprising Inheritance A multi-generational legacy showcases Godâ€™s glory!
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Photos by: Jackie Sarauer
by Jennie Pierce
women like us interview
Although her story is now seven generations removed, it is as fresh and miraculous as a blossoming tulip after a warm spring rain. For Shanthini Baskaran, sharing this story never becomes old or mundane, because it is truly a To-God-Be-the-Glory story. This legacy, full of seeming improbabilities and impossibilities, clearly declares God’s power, redemption, and love. Rooted deeply in their native country of India, it all started 250 years ago with Shanthini’s mother’s greatgreat grandmother’s great-great grandmother. As a common cultural practice at the time, this ancestor, a mere six year old, was already married to an eight-year-old boy. When her husband died unexpectedly, the Hindu custom required that the widowed bride, although only six years old, be thrown into the funeral fire with her deceased husband. Desiring to save his sister and willing to defy cultural customs, the bride’s fifteen-year-old brother sought the help of Reverend Friedrich Schwarz, an evangelical German missionary, who secretly took her away, saving her from death. As a result, she grew up at the missionary’s boarding school where she freely heard about the love and saving grace of Jesus. It was there that she gave her heart and life to Christ and it was there that she, at age fifteen, met and eventually married a young man who also loved Jesus. Now, centuries later, Shanthini carries on this godly legacy as a seventh-generation recipient of God’s amazing grace to her own children. JBU had the pleasure of sitting down with Shanthini and her mother recently to hear the rest of the story.
JBU: When did you trust Christ as your personal Savior?
Shanthini: I was five years old. My dad was an itinerant evangelist, but he also ran Bible clubs all over India for YFC (Youth for Christ). My dad organized a meeting for an evangelist who was a magician. He came and talked about Jesus, and I accepted Christ at his meeting. JBU: What was it like growing up in a ministry home?
Shanthini: At the time, YFC had a unique way of funding its programs. There would be times when we would get 25 percent, 50 percent, or 75 percent of the cost of living. My parents moved to Bombay which is an expensive city to live in, so to live on 50 percent of a salary was kind of hard at times. Shanthini: Every time there was a need, my parents prayed about it and we saw God at work. God provided in the most incredible ways! My dad would always quote
JBU: Was there a time in your life when your Christian walk was difficult?
Shanthini: I attended a secular college in Bangalore where I studied psychology. They would not say they were anti-Christian, but the feeling was that you couldn’t be a good psychologist if you were a Christian because Christians have this whole concept of sin that goes against psychology. There were three of us who were believers and we were baited and targeted. Our workload was heavy; we could barely find time to go to church or get together to pray. That was a time when all my supports were taken away, but it was also one of the times when I grew the most. I had to just depend on God and He was there. JBU: Why did you move to the States and how did you like being here?
Shanthini: Vinod, my husband, worked for General Electric (GE) in India, and he was asked to come here and join GE USA. I felt very strongly that I was called to be a Christian witness in India. So when my husband was called here, it went against everything I believed in. The first three years here were torture. I didn’t have a church family and I didn’t have my own family. Back then I couldn’t call home because it was too expensive. I felt completely shut off. I didn’t know how to drive so I couldn’t even get around. I really felt like God had taken me and said, “Stay there.” JBU: How did you work through this struggle?
Shanthini: I felt like God was disciplining me, like He had just shut me in a corner. Because we didn’t know how long we were going to be here, we couldn’t commit to anything. At the time, I was going through the book of Exodus and the message was so clear. God said to me, “Shanthini, I have not called you to be a house builder. I’ve called you to be a tent dweller and a tent dweller moves wherever I move. Your purpose and your goal are to be where I want you to be.” So I handed it over to God saying, “Whatever You say; I’m sorry; I’ll be joyful here in America, if this is where You want me to be.” Then I apologized to my husband for making his life miserable for three-and-a-half years. 19
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JBU: How did you see God provide?
the song, “God is always four days late, but always on time. God doesn’t do it according to your plan; according to your schedule. But He always works! You can trust that.” Almost every day we saw miracles happen – miracles of God’s provision and miracles of peoples’ lives being changed. People who had problems – either drug, relational, or problems with their parents – would come to be counseled and we’d see their lives transformed. We saw God work on a regular basis.
JBU: How did you see God work through this process of surrender?
JBU: What is the best gift this legacy has given you? Your marriage? Your children?
Shanthini: This whole drama unfolded in just one night. A week later my husband came to me and said that GE wanted us back in India on a permanent basis! I think God brings us to a place of surrender. When I gave it up, He revealed the next step in His plan.
Shanthini: The privilege of a godly upbringing, parents and grandparents, grand uncles and aunts whose own faith stories impacted my life at an early stage. For my marriage and children, the knowledge that the seeds we sow have an impact on generations to come, that discipling our children is not something we do so that they can become good kids, but that the generations to come will be blessed by the lives they lead and the choices they make, just as ours has been by my great-great-grandmother.
JBU: How did God continue to grow you after that?
Shanthini: We went back to India and we were there for one-and-a-half years. We were looking for houses to buy; our kids were settled in their schools; we got back to the church we were in – we loved it! We were in charge of the young people. Life was good. I was reading through Genesis that January when a verse in chapter twelve jumped out at me, “Leave your father’s house and your family and go to the place I tell you to go.” I thought, “Oh, no! Here we go again!” That evening my husband came home and said, “GE wants us to go back to America, and I know how difficult it was for you. What do you think?” And I said, “God has already spoken. It’s okay. We’ll go!’”
JBU: How has your past influenced your involvement with the mission work?
Shanthini: Yes. So we packed up our things which was really hard because I knew my dad’s health wasn’t good. And this time, since this was a permanent assignment, it would mean really leaving India, family, and friends. Going back the next time would be on our dime, and it’s too expensive to go back as a family. But again, the promise was, “I’ll go before you. I will prepare a place. And you will be a blessing.”
Shanthini: Being involved with missionaries and short-termers who worked with my parents’ mission helped me to see the needs of missionaries on the field and the struggles that they went through. I understand the challenges and joys of ministry from watching my parents’ counsel many Christian leaders in our living room. But above all, my parents’ commitment to the Great Commission – that became our purpose.
Shanthini: We haven’t gotten to see our siblings and their families as often as we’d like to. And that was a real worry – that we wouldn’t have generational influences in our children’s lives which is so important, and to have our kids grow up with only occasional visits from grandparents. But, it’s amazing how God has brought people into our lives who stand in as my children’s grandparents, other friends have taken on the roles of aunts and uncles in their lives, and God has brought in technology just when we needed it – they email and Facebook each other. The distance has not been as much of a barrier as I feared it would be. JBU: How has your legacy affected you personally?
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Shanthini: I am on the missions team co-chairing mission care. We are responsible for the care of all of our missionaries. I also help out in women’s ministry as well as teach a junior high class which has been a passion for me even in India.
JBU: So this time your heart was ready to respond and say yes to God?
JBU: Where has God helped fill the void for you in the States?
Shanthini: My family are all Christians because of this legacy. It means a whole different way of thinking, living, and growing up than we would have had if we had not been Christians and had the family stayed Hindu. Furthermore, the years of a Christian heritage mean that our family friendships, activities, everything – from the things we get involved in to our diet – is different from most families around us. It makes us think about the ways in which God had His hand on our lives generations ago. You take a verse like Eph. 1:4 and a legacy like ours makes that so much more understandable: “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.”
JBU: How are you involved in your church?
JBU: Setting cultural backgrounds aside, what do Indian and American women have in common? How are we alike?
Shanthini: Life happens to all of us, irrespective of culture or background, or where you are from, or how much money you have in the bank – you get married, you struggle with widowhood, you struggle with family, you struggle with what’s going to happen next, you die. Our attitudes, our anxieties – they are the same. But the thing that is also the same is that God is the same irrespective of where we come from, because He is one God; sovereign over the nations. One day we will all come before Him and it won’t matter whether we are Indian or American, because when we stand before God, what will matter is that we worshipped Him and gave Him the glory! z Jennie Pierce is a ministry wife and office manager. Additionally, she loves photography, scrapbooking, and singing. She and her husband live in Oconomowoc, Wis., with their three teenage children.
A Mother’s Promise It’s a promise she and her husband claimed on their wedding day – a promise she has seen to be true over and over again. For Tara Theyagaraj, Prov.10:22 continues to remind her of the awesome God she serves: “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.” Being the sixth-generation recipient of God’s amazing grace, and the mother of Shanthini Baskaran, Tara Theyagaraj was born and brought up in the city of Madras (now called Chennai) in India. Her father worked as a “Manager of Postal Stock Depot,” and Tara remembers her mother as being “an industrious lady” managing a little farm in their backyard. Tara claims a “normal” routine in her home included going to church, participating in morning and evening family prayer at home, reading through the Bible once a year, and memorizing a passage from the Bible every Sunday. Her father served as a Sunday school teacher and later served on the church committee. While Tara recounts that her mother “often used to say that she dedicated me to serve the Lord even while she was expecting me during her pregnancy,” she explains that “both my parents were not born again, but brought us up in the way they thought was a good Christian upbringing.” Tara’s realization of her own need for the Savior would come during her college days. “I became a friend of a believing girl. She witnessed to me and I committed my life to Jesus when I was 17 years old.” Later on, in 1958, Tara joined Youth for Christ as full-time staff. It was there Tara met her future husband, who was also an employee of Youth for Christ. Tara fondly remembers, “Every summer we worked together and we always had that sister-brother relationship, but he was very talented, very musical, a good preacher, and Bible student. I thought this man was something very fantastic!” After college, Tara felt a
two-fold tugging on her heart strings: from the Lord to serve in full-time ministry; another from her future husband, claiming God said she was the one for him. However, receiving her parents’ approval on the latter would take nothing short of a miracle. Tara would be marrying a man of a lower caste system, of a lower educational status, and one who was younger than she. Two years later, through a unique set of circumstances, God got hold of Tara’s father’s heart and he more than willingly offered his consent and blessing for them to be married. Together, Tara and her husband faithfully served the Lord through Youth for Christ until 1975, and would later join Global Outreach Mission to have a wider ministry. He traveled all over India, preached in Cambodia, Africa, Sri Lanka, and twice he was selected to represent India in the Amsterdam Evangelists Conference conducted by Dr. Billy Graham. Tara and her husband were eventually blessed with two children: a daughter, Shanthini, and a son, Navin, both of whom actively serve the Lord today. When their children were small, Tara and her husband dedicated both of them to the Lord. However, Tara explained, “We decided never to tell them about our commitment to God. We wanted the Lord to work in their hearts to fulfill our desires.” At a young age, both children accepted Christ and were an active part of their parents’ ministry from their early years. Tara’s husband suddenly passed away in 2004, and now her son Navin and his wife Ayang have joined Tara to carry on his ministry. Tara asserts that “Our joy knew no bounds to see our children serving the Lord just as we desired.” Little did they know that the verse they claimed on their wedding day would continue to ring loud and true, as a result of two people choosing to faithfully serve a faithful God. ~Jennie Pierce
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Is YourWomen’s Ministry in a Rut? Climb out and blaze a new path with renewed purpose and pizzazz! by Amy Nappa
Fall is just around the corner. And while in nature this means things are slowing down and preparing for winter’s rest, in ministry it’s just the opposite. We’re gearing up for new Bible studies, new activities, and new friendships with women. But many of us are in a rut, doing the same old thing over and over. This fall make a fresh start with your Bible studies. Use these tips to kick off your fall with both purpose and pizzazz!
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Planning with Purpose Have you done the same Bible study format, with the same author/speaker or series for more than three years? Some churches have done the exact same thing for much longer than that! It’s easy to choose the same thing over and over because you’ve done it so often and know what to expect, but there may be women who are not attending simply because they’re tired of the same old thing or because you’re not offering a study that’s relevant to them. Consider: • Reviewing several studies that you’ve never tried before. Yes, you’re looking for Bible depth, but keep in mind the other needs of women such as the need they have to connect with others in meaningful ways. Does the study allow for and even encourage discussion? Does it allow women to share about their own lives and what God is doing or does it only focus on a speaker? Does it focus on filling in the blanks on a page or filling the needs of women’s hearts? • Inviting new women to be leaders or small group facilitators. Expand your Bible study leadership
team by inviting younger women – those who have been on the periphery, and especially those God has put on your heart! Make your invitations in person instead of just placing a note in the bulletin. It’s hard to say “no” when you’ve been asked face to face. • Plan for variety. Even though many women now work during the day, most churches continue to offer Bible studies only on a weekday morning. Can you offer studies at different times of the day or at various locations like at a coffee shop, the library, homes, or a bookstore? Can you offer one study that is homework intensive and another that isn’t? The more variety you can offer, the more likely women will be able to attend. • Keep groups small to allow for better discussion and more honest sharing. Small is good! A group with just six members will have opportunities to go deep with each other!
Promoting with Pizzazz Of course you can do the tried and true publicity efforts such as putting fliers in the bathrooms or adding a bulletin insert with information about your study, but freshen it up and stay relevant by reaching women with these ideas as well: • Create an email blast. Include information about the studies and blast it out to all the women in your church. Don’t forget to send it to the college girls! • Start a Facebook page for your women’s ministry. Post information about all the studies there. Start “friending” women in your church and get the word out through social media. If you’re not savvy with web technology, invite a younger woman to handle this for you. • Think of fun and creative ideas to spread the word. This will keep your fliers from being quickly tossed in the trash. Make new labels for water bottles with all the information about your studies (“Quench your thirst at our Bible study!”). Or put that information on a colorful wrap-
On the Road per for chocolate bars (“Discover how sweet God’s Word is!”). Or tape your information to a bag of trail mix (“We’re nuts about God and you!”). • Consider subscribing to The Spice. This customizable newsletter allows you to connect with women in your church through a professionally-designed newsletter and calendar. Check it out at group.com/women.
Perk It Up with a Party
Amy Nappa is champion for women’s ministry at Group Publishing (group.com/women).
This can end up being both a huge encouragement for those who can’t make weekly meetings during this season and an outreach opportunity as well. Other moms who are also at practice may be curious about what’s going on, and since they don’t have to have a lot of Bible knowledge to participate, can simply be invited to join in. After a few weeks of being included they might start asking how they can know more about Jesus!
All Girls Allowed It’s a common complaint among women’s ministry leaders: “The younger women won’t come!” or “None of the older women ever attend!” It can be a challenge to reach both ends of the age spectrum. Instead of tearing your hair out in frustration or making wild guesses at what might attract all ages, simply start talking—and listening. Invite two or three of the older women and two or three of the younger women to join you for coffee. Go around the table and let each woman complete sentences like: I wish our church offered… I’d love the opportunity to serve by… We could get more women like me to participate if we… Use the time to listen and take notes. Encourage open and honest sharing. Letting women of all ages hear from each other helps everyone see that we have more in common than we think and it builds bridges with each other that lead to solutions. It’s likely that even during this conversation, walls will come down and assumptions will change as younger and older women talk together. You don’t have to make any promises at this meeting and you might want to repeat the process with a different group of women to learn more. These conversations can help you gain insight, get ideas, and discover new leaders within your midst. ~Amy Nappa
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Most churches kick off their programs with the first week of Bible study. Think again! You’d be surprised to discover how many women don’t know much more than the names of a few other women at your church. Let your first week be one where women get to know each other. They need time to connect, share their stories with each other, and get an idea of what to expect before they’ll be ready to open up their hearts and share honestly with each other. It’s best to do this in smaller groups since the idea is to get women personally connected. So first, invite all your small group leaders or facilitators to join you in doing the following things together. You’ll model your expectations and let them see for themselves how important this step is for the women they’ll be guiding. Plus your leaders will connect like never before! Here’s what to do: • Make a memory together! Easy: have the leaders of each small group invite their women over for coffee, go out to dinner or dessert together, or even meet at a park and go for a walk together. This time together in a different setting makes conversation more natural. Over-the-top: encourage small group leaders to get their group together for an adventure that’s sure to bond them. Horseback riding, canoeing, a behind-the-scenes tour of a local attraction, painting pottery together – anything that’s out-of-the ordinary, takes a few hours, and will provide a connection they’ll talk about for years to come. • Ask women to think back to when they were young girls and then have them share a memory of what they most enjoyed during those years. Or have women share about how they became Christians. Or invite them to tell one dream they still have for their lives. Giving a specific topic for sharing includes everyone – and questions like these allow women to share as deeply as they are comfortable with. • Use this time to go over group expectations. For example, will your group start on time and end on time? Is it okay to bring kids along or not? And, most importantly, who’s bringing snacks? • Go over group boundaries at this time as well. Discuss what accountability to each other looks like, why being accepting of each other’s differences is important, and how critical it is that confidentially is maintained. Women need to know that what they share won’t become the topic of conversation and gossip! You may want to create a simple group agreement that everyone signs to convey how important these points are. So freshen your attitude, your perspective, and your ministry starting right now! Climb out of that rut and blaze a new path leading women closer to each other and to Jesus! z
Fall brings the start of the school year and the kick off (often literally!) of many sports programs for children – soccer, football, dance, and more. Being at their children’s sports practices and games can prevent mothers from getting involved in a Bible study. Here’s a fresh idea! Invite a few of those mothers to use one practice a week to share prayer needs and read a short devotion together. While their kids are exercising their bodies, they can be exercising their faith. It doesn’t have to be long and involved with lots of homework—anyone who shows up can join in.
Have you ever had one of those days when you felt surrounded by darkness, when everything you touched seemed to go haywire? I sure have, more than I care to count. And, of course, someone comes up to you, smiling, and says, “Hey! How are you?” You put on your best smile and reply “I’m fine. How are you?” After all, no one wants to hear about your problems, right? And so, the cycle begins… Here’s something I want you to remember the next time this happens to you. A counselor once told me that “I’m F.I.N.E.” really means “I’m Feeling Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotionally unstable.” Now – how are you, really? We are doing ourselves and each other a great disservice when we only look at the surface. In today’s hustle and bustle, no one seems to have time (or wants to take the time) to look past this façade. Instead, we accept each other’s “I’m fine” at face value, when really there are hundreds and thousands of “walking wounded” among us – women (and men) who are struggling in our midst, but too afraid to say anything or ask for help, most are too afraid of being judged. Consequently, we talk about things like the weather, what room we’re decorating, a new haircut, our kid’s little league game – whatever the case may be – but it rarely goes deeper to the relationship-building, soulsearching, or God-pleasing issues that our lives are really made of.
Perhaps we don’t want to ask, because we’re afraid that someone might ask us. We don’t want to face our “junk” either, unless we can hide it in the privacy of our own homes with the door locked and the curtains drawn. We don’t want people to see our imperfections, our sins, our struggles, and our pain. Why is that? Simple. It’s our PRIDE. I use “our” here, because I am definitely among you. I am the worst when it comes to letting pride get in the way – God’s way! Does this sound familiar? “I don’t want to let people get too close because I don’t want to get hurt again. I don’t want people to see my pain. I don’t want to ask for help, because… I’M FINE!” Ouch! I’m guilty. Today I ask for God’s forgiveness and your forgiveness, for not letting people see beyond the surface where the real me resides, for not letting anyone see the dark places I’ve been so they’ll see how far God has brought me, for not letting people see my brokenness so they can see the power of God’s healing.
The Walking Wounded Among Us HOW ARE YOU, REALLY?
just between us SUMMER 2011
by Cindy DeMoss
We all need to break the vicious cycle, to never say “I’m fine” again, and to never accept someone else’s “I’m fine.” Together, let’s vow to look deeper and truly see the person we’re talking to, the real person, the one who might be struggling – whatever that struggle may be – and let us minister to each other as God has called us to do.
“ The Lord wants us to share our lives and our testimonies so others can see His glory. “ Sometimes we need a reminder that we are so much more than our haircuts, our decorating skills, or even our kids. We are created in the image of Christ and He wants to use us for His glory. The Lord wants us to share our lives and our testimonies so others can see His glory. What is your story? Have you surrendered everything to Him to use or are you still holding out saying, “You can use everything else, but not this”? Our gracious God never ceases to amaze me with what He can do and I am humbled that He wants to use me at all. Be a vessel. Be one that God can use – to help someone who may feel surrounded by darkness, to show compassion and not condemnation, to comfort and to show the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. It was no accident that God made women to be compassionate and nurturing creatures. He knew all along how He would use us – as vessels for His work. Arise and go! Shine His light in the darkness so the “walking wounded” can see. You won’t regret it! z Cindy DeMoss is a homemaker, freelance writer, and has a passion for women’s and children’s ministry. Additionally, she volunteers at a local crisis pregnancy center. She and her husband live in Chattanooga, Tenn., with their adopted son. To find abortion recovery help in your area or for more resources visit www.saveone.org, www.nationalhelpline.org, or call 1-866482-5433. You can get Surrendering the Secret by Pat Layton (Lifeway), a Bible study for post abortive healing at lifeway.com.
Feed a stranger’s expired parking meter.
just between us SUMMER 2011
I’ve learned one of my most important lessons this year during a Bible study, specifically a post-abortion recovery study, where I learned what a gift it is to hear someone’s testimony! It’s a huge blessing when someone shares an intimate story about herself in such an open and honest way, making herself vulnerable to others simply for the sake of sharing so that others might see the glory of God and His gift of grace. I dare say, we don’t share that gift with people often enough. When I was 20 years old, I made a horrible decision to have an abortion – a decision I would take back today if I could. But through God’s grace, He is able to turn the mess I made into good and use it for His glory. Until last year, I always gave a testimony that excluded this one area of my life. I didn’t mind sharing as long as I didn’t have to talk about this. I didn’t want to face my sin or admit I was wrong, fearing others would judge me. As with all things we don’t surrender to God, it became a stronghold in my life and I was enslaved by it, which ultimately led to shutting everyone out. Thankfully, our gracious Father works on us and through others in order to set us free from the prisons we have created. Even though I knew Jesus died for my sins and I had been forgiven, I was unable to realize the fullness of His forgiveness. As a result, I was one of the “walking wounded” that everyone thought was “fine.” Oh, what masks we wear and how well we wear them! Amazingly, the Lord had prepared the way, partly by using my husband as a vessel not only to bring me to a saving faith in Christ, but also to challenge me to lovingly question my “wrong” thinking and help me come to terms with what I had done. God worked through him to give me the support and encouragement I needed at a time when I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) ask for help on my own. I am grateful to have a God-fearing husband who was willing to be used by God to bear my burdens and to clean up a mess made long before he knew me. When it became evident that God was working through my husband and other circumstances to get my attention, I knew He wanted me to ask for help. That was such a humbling experience for me – asking others for help. Yet it had never been clearer that this is what the Lord wanted me to do. And bless it, He did! The recovery study provided an outlet as well as healing, a place to share with “like-minded” women who had shared a similar experience. While our backgrounds and situations may have varied, we had a bond like none I’ve shared with any other. We laughed together and cried together and, more importantly, we shared our lives together, not just our abortion stories. Through this study, the Lord humbled me further by giving me a glimpse through His eyes of the daughter I lost, whom I named Grace, a name fitting for the lessons that my Redeemer taught me about His free gift of grace – the gift I didn’t deserve but He gave me anyway – and His abounding love. Although it was not an easy time, the Lord carried me through it to the other side. My pastor says, “God never wastes a hurt!” I believe that to be true, because I am living proof. The Lord continues His work by changing the wrong thinking that got me here in the first place. Once a pro-choice supporter, I realize now that the choice is not ours to make. You and I are leaders, mothers, daughters, sisters, or friends in the Body of Christ, and among us every day are the “walking wounded.” Perhaps you’re even one of them, possibly by no fault of your own. If you’re not, you likely know someone who is. If one out of three women have personally experienced an abortion; imagine how many more are out there struggling with other issues like death, divorce, addictions, or abuse…just to name a few!
Whatever Happened to
KEEPING THE FOCUS IN WORSHIP.
just between us SUMMER 2011
By Stuart Briscoe
In a scene from the Oscar-winning movie The King’s Speech the wife of the Duke of York (King George V’s second son) visits a speech therapist. To hide her identity she assumes the pseudonym “Mrs. Johnson.” The Duke, who is destined to become Britain’s war-time King George VI, suffers from a debilitating speech impediment and his wife is anxiously seeking help. Unaware of his visitor’s true identity the therapist casually extends his hand in welcome. The Duchess promptly withdraws her hand and takes a step backwards. He is taken aback! She is “royalty” and that means she expects commoners to approach her with diffidence and courtesy and to “keep their distance.” There are two words used in the New Testament that literally mean ���to approach cautiously” and “to take a step back.” They appear in Heb. 12:2829, “Let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” Reverence (to approach cautiously) and awe (to take a step back) are dominant aspects of acceptable worship. I know that worship styles vary dramatically. My earliest days were spent in a Brethren assembly gathered around the Lord’s Table Sunday after Sunday spending time in “reverent silence” which to this young boy seemed like an eternity of nothing happening. Once I started preaching in Methodist chapels, worship certainly became a lot livelier as “hallelujahs” and “amens” regularly rent the air. Then I worshipped in the Church of England where services were conducted in sonorous tones by gentlemen clad in mediaeval vestments beneath soaring arches where a sense of the mysterious and wonderful was almost palpable. Nor will I forget times of worship with clandestine groups of believers meeting in secret in cellars or boisterous times with Congolese believers dancing in the aisles in a shack. Talking to believers about these differences I have concluded that all of them can find a rationale for their worship styles in Scripture. The Psalms alone give plenty of encouragement to those who prefer, for instance, joyous celebration, quiet meditation, deep reflection, loud music, orderly ritual, lengthy intercession, heartfelt confession, or liturgical familiarity. But should “prefer,” however biblically authenticated, be the operative word? Worship activities reflect personalities that in turn are a reflection of culture and environment. This brings me to the 21st century Western church and its evangelical expression of worship, which I know best. My experiences
have led me to ask, “I wonder what happened to reverence and awe?” There is an intentional connection in my thinking between “wonder,” “reverence,” and “awe.” They are closely related. In fact in Scripture “fear” is also regularly found in the same context. The Old Testament is full of stories of people being confronted with God’s power, glory, character, and being overwhelmed. Adam wasn’t at all anxious to rush into God’s presence in the garden – he preferred hiding. Moses saw a burning bush and realized he was on holy ground. David caught a sense of majesty in the night sky and wondered why such a Creator bothers with men! In the New Testament we read repeatedly that Jesus’ actions, presence, and words resulted in “wonder.” We might say, “But they saw all these things and if we had been there we would have the same sense of wonder, awe, and reverence.” But the writer to the Hebrews was not admonishing his readers to worship acceptably because they were eye witnesses. They were to worship reverently and in awe in light of what happened centuries before and would happen in the unknown future. So what’s happened? Here are a few observations.
THE LOSS OF MYSTERY. G.K. Chesterton got it right when he said, “This world will never starve through lack of wonders, only through lack of wonder.” Before they become sophisticated, children have no problems with wonder but when they discover a scientific rationale for everything the wonder disappears and skepticism becomes cool. We may have rationalized biblical truth to the point that we are so ignorant of it that we don’t even know that we should be wondering!
2. THE NEGLECT OF THE DIVINE CHARACTER.
In the movie, the Australian therapist would have behaved differently when meeting the Duchess had he known who she really was. Our writer in Hebrews talks about the Lord as a “consuming fire” who will eventually “shake” the created order so that only His kingdom will remain. Holiness, power, and righteousness predominate in this portrait. A healthy biblical view of these divine dimensions goes a long way toward creating a spirit of acceptable worship.
CASUAL ENVIRONMENT. Related to the above perhaps a word about worship style might be appropriate. During the heady days of the Silicon Valley “dot.com” boom, college dropouts became billionaires seemingly overnight, having a profound influence on culture. They showed up for work dressed in sneakers, jeans with holes in the knees, and with shirts hanging out. Amazingly, 40-and-50-year old men followed suit and in no time “casual” became the buzz word. The church followed. I am well aware that God looks on the inside, not the outside, so dress may not be a big issue with Him, but dress reflects attitude and when “casual” is the dress of worship, “casual” easily becomes the attitude of worship. Then there’s a big “reverence and awe” problem. So what should we do? We need to present a full-orbed portrait of God so that, like Lionel, the therapist, if we don’t know who we’re approaching we may not approach God appropriately. We should look realistically at the way we do things, noting what is a hindrance to acknowledging who God is and responding accordingly. But before revolutionary zeal overtakes us, let’s listen to some more wise words from G.K.Chesterton, “Never take down a fence without discovering why it was erected.” We should bear in mind the words of author Dean Inge before we become so “contemporary” oriented that we head in directions that may prove counterproductive: “He who marries the spirit of the age will be widowed in the next.” Change is seductive; innovation is appealing. The one may be necessary, the other advantageous. But there is also the possibility that the upside may prove in the long run to be a downside – an innovation a shortlived novelty, a change but a change for the worse. We must recognize the value of contemporary art forms, modern technology, and innovative communication techniques as aids to arresting attention, maintaining interest, and effectively communicating, while not ignoring the danger that they can become so absorbing that they become counterproductive. Instead of pointing people to the Lord they draw attention to themselves, leaving people in awe of a preacher, musician, or lighting technician. Let’s avoid at all costs giving people the impression that God’s main objective is to make us comfortable and happy. His Son did not die and rise again with that in mind. He had redemption, re-creation, and an eternal kingdom in mind, and He calls men and women to join Him in the outworking of His purposes. We “commoners” have become His co-workers – more than that, we have been installed as His friends, His servants, and His adopted sons and daughters. And this is truly awesome! z Stuart Briscoe is a minister-at-large at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wis., serving ministry couples and missionaries around the world. He and his wife, Jill, have three grown children and 13 grandchildren.
just between us SUMMER 2011
OVER-FAMILIARITY WITH GOD. Towards the end of the movie there is a touching scene where the King (formerly the Duke) says to his therapist, “Thank you, my friend,” to which the therapist replies quietly, “Thank you, your Majesty.” During therapy their relationship had been fraught with tension and conflict. But after the King, with the therapist’s help, had delivered his speech he called him friend. The therapist called him “Majesty.” We must get the balance right. We come to God in all His majesty not as equals, but as undeserving sinners whom God chooses to call His friends. He is God and we are not. He says “Friend;” we say “Majesty.” Overfamiliarity with God robs Him of the reverence that is His due.
MAN-CENTERED WORSHIP. Churches can take on the same characteristics of businesses. Both are put under pressure to compete for and satisfy customers. I hope I am not being unkind when I say there is a tendency in the modern church to be so intent on attracting the uncommitted people and addressing their needs that worship can become man-centered rather than God-centered. Should this happen, men and women may arrive for worship not focused on God and approaching Him in reverence and awe; rather they come thinking of their needs and what they want God to do about them.
Is Jesus Enough? When it comes to suffering, we are to enter into it.
just between us SUMMER 2011
by Grace Cabalka
“What do I have to say to them?” This question consumed my thinking for weeks as I was preparing to speak to women in Goma, DR Congo – women who have been displaced from their homes, many have been brutally raped, and nearly all having suffered the loss of loved ones. As I sipped my warm coffee in my cozy home, it was hard to think of what to say, to relate to women who live in a state of constant trauma, pain, and fear as civil war continues year after year. This wouldn’t be my first trip to the DRC. My husband and I lived there for a year while he taught in the American school and I tried (and failed) to begin a ministry with women. I had seen the wounded, tired, confused, and desperate faces of hurting people… and I wanted to run away. I struggled greatly that year with the question of God’s sovereignty and goodness. Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to going back to a refugee camp to counsel and encourage women who had experienced trauma. Are you kidding, Lord? Impossible! But years ago I told the Lord “anytime, anywhere” and I sensed this was one of those times He was saying go.
Some of these camps have 30,000 hungry people in them! I’ve seen the beauty of healing in the lives of many hurting women in other places as they’ve faced their pain, worked through forgiveness, joined support groups, and received godly counsel. But what if none of that is available? I couldn’t see our American way working in that setting. It seemed pointless to try. One morning as I was praying and trying to write down some thoughts, I sensed the Lord speaking to my heart with these simple instructions from His Word: “Go and give them a drink of living water. Go and give them the bread of life. Go and give out the seed of My Kingdom, and I will do the rest.” In my mind I argued with the Lord, “They’re hungry, Lord! They’re homeless! They’re deeply wounded! They need help! How can I just go and tritely talk about You?” “Trite? Who said anything about trite? Gently, boldly, humbly, give them the truth of My Word. I am enough. You teach that – do you believe it?” Stinging a bit, I hesitantly replied, “Yes, I know, but…who am I to speak to them? One look at me and they will tune me out and I would, too, if I were them.” “This isn’t about you. You are simply a donkey I love whom I have allowed to take my message. You can’t relate to them, but I can. Give them Me. Are you ashamed of Me?”
“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in You.”
Congolese women and children living in an Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in Goma.
Grace Cabalka is currently on staff at Laurelglen Bible Church in Bakersfield, Calif., where she is serving as the Director of Community Connections. Additionally, she served as women’s ministry director for two years before moving to the Congo in 2006 for a year. She is also a Bible teacher and retreat and conference speaker. She and her husband have four children and three grandchildren. For an explanation on the state of Congo, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_ Lakes_refugee_crisis
just between us SUMMER 2011
That was a turning point for me. Instead of worrying about “what to say,” I started praying for the wounded sheep and began asking the Good Shepherd to guide me and give me His words prepared specifically for them. I had to choose to believe in Jesus and trust that His living water would flow through me (Jn. 7:37-38). As I looked into the hollow faces of 300 women crammed onto wobbly wooden benches or sitting on the hard dirt floor, I was overwhelmed at the incredible privilege handed to me by the wounded Savior. I saw women from many different African tribes, women who have suffered in ways that I can’t begin to imagine, women whose lives probably won’t change in the near future, if ever in their lifetime. My heart was overtaken by the love of Christ. All of a sudden I wanted to gather them in my arms and weep with them. I knew for the first time how Jesus felt as He wept over Jerusalem, longing for them to know His love. I wanted to disappear and let Jesus speak. So that is what I prayed. Surprisingly (even to me), I began with Psalm 33:18-22:
I then went on to explain that this only makes sense because in God there is no death, no hunger, and no thirst. So what can it mean, other than God has a different perspective on what living means? No notes, no outline, no agenda. I simply asked God to reveal Himself as He wanted. I started in the garden, where the first war was waged, and ended at the resurrection, where the final war was won. I talked about heaven and the rewards that await these blessed women who have suffered like Jesus, and He like them. I have never felt so close to Him. Their smiles comforted and broke my heart. In that moment, standing in the darkest place I had ever been, I knew Jesus is enough and I was not ashamed to tell them. In a place that makes no sense, this message made perfect sense. His love covers a multitude of sin. I have no idea if the women sitting there learned anything that day, but I know I did. So what do we do with the suffering of the world? We don’t turn away and avoid the pain; we enter into it. Whether it’s our loved ones facing crisis or people thousands of miles away living in horrendous conditions, the truth is the same. The cross is enough. Jesus is sufficient and His love never fails. We pray, we wait, and we unashamedly speak the truth in love when the Holy Spirit gives us an open door. We won’t all go to the dark corners of the world, but we are all called to pray for the lost, the least, and the suffering. I believe if each of us would adopt one suffering sister into our hearts through prayer, the kingdom would be impacted. Before I drove away from that refugee camp, I bent over and picked up a piece of rock from the ground that these women sleep on every night (the ground is covered with layers of lava rock as a result of nearby volcanoes). Here is a challenge for you: go outside, pick up a rock, and set it by your bed. Every night, pray for a woman in another part of the world that sleeps on the hard ground, maybe even on rocks, because of injustice and evil. God cares deeply and He wants us to as well. When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. Will you embrace the pain of a suffering sister and allow the Holy Spirit to pray for her while you are on your knees holding her rock? z
learning to LOL again by Pam and Bill Farrel
How to LOL with the One You Love Here are a few ideas we have used to bring more joy into our marriage: SEND IT: • Mail humorous cards to the office. • Send email jokes. WATCH IT • Have a YouTube humor coffee break. • Go on a date to enjoy a clean comedian. WALK IT • Take a praise walk. Walk and pray, thanking God for blessings. • Walk and trade motivational sayings and slogans. GIFT IT • Create a coffee mug or bumper sticker with a humorous twist. • Find gifts of hilarity and absurdity.
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PLAY IT • Play a fun board game. • See how long you can trade puns. FLIRT IT • Tease (without sarcasm). • Tickle your mate – or at least tickle his or her funny bone! —Pam Farrel
It’s a story we have heard too many times to count. A ministry couple came up to us at a large conference and said, “Thank you! We had forgotten how to laugh – or even smile. Here we are supposed to be the ones with the happy marriage. Everyone is supposed to follow our lead and we came here hating each other! We were so stressed, so unhappy, so burned out. It’s like we were strangers in the same house and we’d spiraled down to being coworkers who didn’t even like each other. It’s nice to smile again and remember why we fell in love in the first place!” Many couples, including ministry couples, are not laughing out loud; they are not happy and they are not smiling at the future. Here are a few helpful guidelines for learning to LOL again:
then you’ll be fine in the cockpit. Likewise, love works better with good training, especially for the unique obstacles and challenges life and ministry bring.
1. Get honest. Own it. Declare to yourself and your
6. Get new habits. Look for your mate’s positive traits and compliment him or her. Be nice. Create a weekly date night. Answer your mate’s cell calls. Kiss and embrace when you greet at home.
spouse that things aren’t right. Face up to your issues and your personal contributions to the state of your marriage. Together, discuss options for tackling the obstacles you face. We (Pam and Bill) encourage couples in crisis to “layer in love” using the rest of the tools on this list.
2. Get with a mentor couple. Find a cou-
ple who overcame the same struggles you’re having – financial problems, infidelity, poor communication, addictions, ministry time struggles, whatever – and meet together regularly. Many couples have made it through to the other side of marital problems, finding their way back to love and creating happiness again. So can you with help!
3. Get professional help. See a counselor to discuss your marital issues. Contact national Christian counseling associations that list professional Christian counselors by geographical locations. A list of ministries that specialize in helping ministry couples can be found at www.parsonage.org or by calling Focus on the Family. 4. Get some resources. Invest in books, CDs, and DVDs on marriage. Your marriage may not be working because you lack tools. If you climbed into an F-14 fighter jet, chances are most of you wouldn’t have a clue about what to do. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean your marriage was prepared for the rigors, pressures, and challenges of life. Enlist in flight training, and
5. Get in a group. Small group Bible studies for
married couples or marital intensives in small group settings can help you form friendships with couples who believe in working things out. Often when couples begin to get busy or their schedules fill up, they allow their own marriage enrichment to be sacrificed. Follow your own advice: get into a small group, attend marriage conferences, and listen to marriage and family radio programs, etc. Especially when you are busy, choose to invest your time with people who will provide the support and encouragement you and your spouse need to strengthen your marriage in this hectic world.
7. Get on your knees. Pray together daily. Bill
and I have never seen a couple divorce who pray together regularly. Cry out to God individually—and as a couple, even for just a few minutes each day. We have a habit of praying over a meal and then kissing, praying before we fall asleep in each others’ arms, and praying in the morning before we head out for the day. Plan prayer into your day.
8. Get laughing. Sometimes we forget how to laugh, how to play, or how to have fun! But if we are to obey God, we need to remember Prov. 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Recently, Lifeway interviewed us on how to keep the fun in marriage. The sidebar explains a few of the ideas we shared which will help you to laugh out loud again. The first step is to decide you will do anything it takes, including the above list of things, until you get to the place where you want to LOL with each other again. Pam and Bill Farrel are international speakers and bestselling authors of nearly 30 books including Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti. They live in LaMesa, Calif. Visit farrel.communications.com.
New from Bestselling Author Lord, Send Me! Lord, here am I – send me. Not my sister or my brother, my pastor, doctor, missionary or social worker. Me! As God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself so You are in me. I know where to start – I’ll respond to a need and when I get there I’ll know what to say! I’ll say, “I just had to come!” and that’s where I’ll begin! May they be glad we came – You and I. Walk out of my life to bless these people, Lord.
Amen © Jill Briscoe 2007
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just between us SUMMER 2011
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Perri Singleton and Mary “Dobbs” Dillard are opposites in every way. But when tragedy strikes their elite Atlanta boarding school, the girls forge an unlikely friendship. As loyalties are tested and secrets are betrayed, can they overcome their differences to survive tumultuous change?
off our shelf:
just between us SUMMER 2011
With astonishing vulnerability that engages readers from the first page, John and Stasi Eldredge openly discuss their marriage and the breakthroughs they have won. Each talks to the reader about what he/she has learned, providing a balance between male and female perspectives that has been absent from previous books on this topic. John and Stasi begin Love & War (WaterBrook Press) with an obvious confession: Marriage is fabulously hard. But behind the inevitable tensions a man and woman are going to have, the real battle is against the work of the Enemy, who schemes to tear love apart. The Eldredges show how couples can win “by fighting for each other, instead of against each other.” As they say, “We live in a great love story, set in the midst of war.” EXCERPT Marriage is fabulously hard. Everybody who has been married knows this. Though years into marriage it still catches us off guard. And newly married couples, when they discover how hard it is seem genuinely surprised. Are we doing something wrong? The sirens that lure us into marriage – romance, love, passion, sex, longing, companionship – seem so far from the actual reality of married life we fear we have made a colossal mistake. And so the hardness comes as something of an embarrassment. The sooner we get the shame and confusion off our backs, the sooner we will find our way through. Bring together a man and a woman who think, act, and feel so differently and ask them to get along for the rest of their lives under the same roof. What did you think would happen? Things become hard; we are at first surprised, then dismayed. Eventually, if the situation doesn’t improve, we fall into resignation. We check out, we disappear – emotionally, mentally, sometimes physically. He watches television all weekend; she eats or goes shopping. When through the prophet Malachi the Lord God of Israel says, “I hate divorce,” we hear it with a shudder. But it ought to be with a surge of hope – the passion conveyed in those three words reveal how deeply He loves marriage, how strong His vested interests are in its success. Therefore, we have all the resources of God’s heart toward us, and all the resources of His kingdom for the restoration of what was lost in our hearts, our lives, and our marriages. Because marriage is hard your first Great Battle is not to lose heart. That begins with recovering desire – the desire for the love that is written on your heart. Let desire return. Let it remind you of all that you wanted, all that you were created for. And then consider this – what if God could bring you your heart’s desire? It’s not too late. It isn’t too hard. Nor are you and your spouse too set in your ways. God is after all, the God of the Resurrection. Nothing is impossible for Him. So give your heart’s desire some room to breathe. What if the two of you could find your way to something beautiful? That would be worth fighting for. Excerpted from Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge Copyright © 2009 by John and Stasi Eldredge. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Personality Plus at Work by Florence Littauer and Rose Sweet (Revell Publishing). In this follow-
up book from Littauer’s original “Personality Plus,” the authors take readers along with them to a personality class in which they learn about Hippocrates’ four personality types: sanguine, choleric, melancholy, and phlegmatic and how they translate into modern situations. The reader joins a “cast of characters” as each personality type is explained – how they typically behave in the workplace and how one can interact respectfully and successfully with each in order to create harmonious workplaces.
LOL with God by Pam Farrel and Dawn Wilson (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.).
This book of devotional messages for women is an encouraging guide for women to incorporate laughter and humor into their daily Scripture reading. The book is filled with light-hearted, yet profound, stories from real-life best friends Pam and Dawn about growing older, and being moms, friends, wives, and daughters of God. Pam and Dawn explain how to “textmessage” with God, and how to communicate with Him purposefully and cheerfully.
The Sacred Moment
by Albert Haase (InterVarsity Press). Father Albert Haase
presents challenging wisdom about transforming your “ordinary” life into one that is “holy.” Father Haase writes that “any and every situation holds the grace for the transformation called holiness.” He describes how you can know holiness and discern it in your spiritual and ordinary lives through selflessness and by imitating Christ. This book is a combination of stories, Scripture, reflections, and gentle reminders of how we can make decisions that will lead us to holiness.
between us pastors’ wives
my name isn’t PASTOR’S WIFE! by Sally Ferguson
When you see someone alone, make it a point to speak to them.
Sally Ferguson is a ministry wife and freelance writer, publishing a coloring book entitled, What Will I Be When I Grow Up? (Warner Press). Additionally, she enjoys women’s retreats and getaways. She and her husband serve in Jamestown, NY.
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Arrgh! Someone just introduced me as “The Pastor’s Wife” again. Did you see the expression change on that lady’s face when the introductions were made? I often wonder if I would be perceived differently if I were simply introduced by my name. The first requirement of being a pastor’s wife is to be a Christian. Therefore, I must pursue an understanding of my role as a “Christ follower.” Romans 12:4-8 says that each Christian has particular gifts that contribute to the whole body. Take a peek at the varied expertise displayed by friends who are also in the pastorate: • Ginger excels in music. • Michelle has a burden for youth. • Claudia hungers to disciple the young married women in her congregation. • DeeAnn is a wizard with crafts and thrills others with her gifts. Viva la Difference! If I tried to copy the talents given to these women, I would negate God’s plan for me! I must therefore pursue my own identity. In Home Sweet Fishbowl, Denise Turner affirms that “the ministers’ wives who realize their potentials are the ministers’ wives who have broken free from all of those smothering molds.” Sometimes, the process of understanding my gifts involves trial and error. I can try many things before I might find my own niche. I struggled with the decision to get involved in our Thanksgiving banquet. Because of the Lord’s tugging at my heart (not because I felt obligated as “The Pastor’s Wife”), I plunged in with both feet. Afterward, my aching feet were not jumping for joy, but in my heart I knew I had done the right thing. The oddity about facing a question of obedience in the ministry is that the issues are not so cut and dried. Who can complain about the workaholic husband? Isn’t he doing God’s work? If I have a bitter spirit, I am only blocking my relationship with the Lord. True, my husband needs to find balance, but I am responsible for my own attitude.
One of the privileges of being in ministry is helping others realize their potential. What fun it is to see another gain self-confidence while pursuing her God-given gifts. In my role as a pastor’s wife, I am fortunate to be able to use my gifts to mentor others and offer positive feedback. When I am thrown into leadership positions because I am married to the pastor, I am faced with two choices: I can do it all myself or I can learn to delegate and equip others to reach their potential. When I see myself as the only one who knows how to get the job done right, I cheat others out of the opportunity to develop their own gifts. There is a fine line when it comes to taking on jobs in the church. As I learn balance in my walk with the Lord, I gain discernment for the time to step in, and the time to bow out. I am finding that people don’t want a “perfect” pastor’s wife. On one occasion, when a parishioner dropped in unexpectedly, she found a house strewn with toys and the couch cushions arranged as a fort for my two preschoolers. “What a relief,” she said, “to find out that you live like the rest of us!” People are looking for down-to-earth leaders with real problems, who will love them unconditionally. When they see how we deal with difficulties, it reaffirms that they can make it through hard times, too. We could rewrite 1 Tim. 4:12 to say, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are a pastor’s wife, but set an example for the believers in what you say, in your lifestyle, in how you love them, in your walk with the Lord, and in innocence.” As a pastor’s wife, it’s not my job to fulfill a role expectation, but to be an example of how a Christian applies her faith to everyday life. The next time I am introduced as “The Pastor’s Wife,” I’ll remember to just be myself and laugh over the preconceived notions of titles. What better way to begin as friends than over the music of shared laughter?
so, you’ve got a PICKY EATER? by Rebecca Mueller, MS, RD
just between us SUMMER 2011
When going through the checkout line, always ask the cashier how she’s doing.
I recently had a major lifestyle change rock my daily routine. My husband and I felt God calling us to open our home to foster children. Currently we have two little girls; one is four years old and her younger sibling is 15 months. One of the biggest paradigm switches children have brought to our routine comes at mealtime. I used to cook whatever I felt in the mood for or whatever I had in my cupboard. Not anymore! These two sweet children are very sure about what they like and what they don’t like. This can lead to some frustrating moments for me at mealtime. I have a strong desire to serve healthy foods but, honestly, these girls don’t care about that nearly as much as I do. As I share conversations about mealtime adventures with other mothers, I feel assured that our two adorable picky eaters are typical toddlers. However, in the back of my mind I continually think: “I will not let my quest for healthy living be conquered by two small children!” The four-year-old’s starting lineup of favorite foods is grilled cheese, cheese pizza, chocolate flavored Goldfish, mac and cheese, cereal, cookies, and ice cream. This is not exactly a balanced diet. I want to make mealtime a pleasant experience, so I started thinking about ways I could squeeze healthy foods into their routine without making too much of a fuss about food. Here is what I came up with: • Grilled cheese. Our four-year-old would tear it apart in a quest to remove the crust, so I looked for a healthy bread alternative that reduced the waste. She likes eating 100 percent whole grain flour tortillas, so I warm up the tortilla and cheese on our grill or microwave, then roll it up and serve. Honestly, she did not like the idea at first – it took some persuading to get her to try it, but soon she started requesting her grilled cheese on the “circle bread.” Now she eats the entire tortilla! • Our four-year-old loves to bake cookies and muffins. I modify every muffin recipe by cutting the butter or oil in half and adding pumpkin, applesauce, or prune puree. When baking cookies, I typically substitute oats or wheat flour for the base white flour of the recipe. I also prefer mini chocolate chips, using fewer chips because the chocolate disperses better in smaller bits, and it still tastes like you have yummy cookies loaded with chocolate.
• If your toddler loves sweets – particularly chocolate – make Nutella, a cocoa-flavored hazelnut spread, your best friend if your child is not allergic to hazelnuts. It does have a fair amount of sugar in it, but if you’re using this product as an alternative to candy, cookies, and other processed sweet treats, this is a nutritional step in the right direction. I put Nutella on waffles at breakfast or on whole grain bread as a snack. • The number one thing that affects a child’s eating habits is simply sitting down and eating with them. If I’m walking around during their mealtime, I notice the children have a difficult time focusing on eating. They end up playing with their food. Our girls are much more likely to try new things if I’m enjoying the new item with them. I’m amazed at some of the food our little girls have the desire to try just because it’s on our plates and not theirs. They may not like everything they eat, but oftentimes the four-year-old will request the new foods later in the week. My husband and I have a long way to go in understanding the life of a parent. I often tell myself that I don’t want to major on the minor issues of child rearing – especially food battles. With a little creativity and thought you can make mealtime a healthy and pleasant time at your house – even for your picky eater! Rebecca Mueller is a ministry wife, registered dietitian, and founder of Healthy Horizons, a nutrition and wellness coaching business. Additionally, she has experience providing preventative healthcare and nutrition education for individuals and businesses nationwide. Rebecca and her husband, John, live in Wauwatosa, Wis. Visit www.HealthyHorizonsCoaching.com.
visit our new website www.briscoeministriesinc.com International Authors and Speakers Stuart and Jill Briscoe invite you to visit their new website. There you’ll be able to find special offers on their books and other resources – giving you access to the biblical teaching you have come to know and love.
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As a special gift to you all merchandise will be offered at a 20% discount for a limited time only. You simply need to enter the code: B1020 when you purchase something from the site at briscoeministriesinc.com. All proceeds go to support their ministry throughout the world – so your purchase is making a difference!
managing your emotions
the freedom of FORGIVENESS by Florence MacKenzie
the “ Invite Holy Spirit’s help as you begin the process of forgiveness.
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“If you don’t come to tea with Amy on Friday, I’ll never forgive you!” Even at ten, I thought this outburst from my friend’s aunt was rather extreme. Never to be forgiven if I refused an invitation to tea? Apparently not, as Aunt Millie had decided that forgiving such an offense was not an option. I’m guessing that most of us probably don’t find it too difficult to forgive minor upsets but we draw the line at forgiving people who’ve really hurt us. Perhaps we try to rationalize this by saying, “But he/she doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.” Well, you’re probably right. But if people are forgiven only if they deserve it, none of us would qualify! As I grapple with this issue in my own life, I’m discovering that forgiveness is not what I thought it was. For example: • Forgiveness is not saying my hurts don’t matter. Forgiving my offender doesn’t minimize the seriousness of the offense against me. • Forgiveness is not letting the offender “get away with it.” If someone wrongs me, he/she is answerable to God, and He will deal with that person in the right way. • Forgiveness is not forgetting. Only God has the capacity to forgive and forget and Jer. 31:34 tells us that His “forgetfulness” is a deliberate choice not to remember. • Forgiveness is not a weapon. Forgiving someone doesn’t give me the right to manipulate them at a later date by dredging up reminders of their “forgiven” offense. • Forgiveness is not reconciliation. I can forgive, but I might never be brought into a right relationship with the person who has wronged me because he/she might not be willing to cooperate. • Forgiveness is not easy. I can’t do this on my own and need God’s Spirit to see me through. I like to think of forgiveness as giving up my right to pay back or get even with someone who has wronged me. When I see it this way, I find a freedom that I otherwise wouldn’t have. “I forgive you” no longer implies my hurts are insignificant, nor does it indicate the one who wronged me is “off the hook.” It forces me to face up to the reality that I don’t have to live in denial by pretending the offense never happened and it removes the responsibility for reconciliation from me alone. It also draws me closer to God as I seek His help in extending forgiveness. Forgiveness is our call. We can choose to forgive or, like Aunt Millie, we can choose to address our offender
by thinking, “I’ll never forgive you!” However, there’s a problem with the latter option. Refusing to forgive someone has serious consequences for our spiritual and emotional well-being because it keeps us in bondage to that person for the rest of our lives. Instead of experiencing the freedom that forgiveness brings, we’ll find ourselves increasingly bound by anger, bitterness, and resentment. It’s not unusual to feel angry when someone has hurt us deeply. Neither is it always wrong to be angry. But, if we allow that anger to continue unresolved, we make it easy for bitterness to take root deep in our souls. This “root” of bitterness can then show itself in the “weed” of resentment where we find ourselves keeping a record of wrongs that only intensifies our hurt as we keep rehearsing our offense. Perhaps it’s time to apply the “weed-killer” of forgiveness! But how do we do this? The letters of the word FORGIVE give us some pointers.
ace the fact that withholding forgiveness feeds anger, bitterness, and resentment.
Openly admit these feelings to God. Remind yourself that God, in Christ, has forgiven you. Give up your right to pay back your offender. Invite the Holy Spirit’s help as you begin the process
View your offender as one whom God will deal with justly.
mbrace the freedom that forgiving your offender brings. When I treat weeds in my yard, one application of weed-killer is not usually sufficient and I need to repeat the process, sometimes several times. The same is true in extending forgiveness. Those bitter roots will put up a fight, but don’t give up. Aunt Millie may not have discovered the freedom of forgiveness, but we can – by choosing to forgive. Let’s go for it! Florence MacKenzie has taught most of her career in the School of Psychology at Aberdeen University in Scotland. Additionally, she is the author of several books, including Destructive Emotions: Facing Up to Guilt, Fear and Anger (Pleasant Word, 2007), a teacher at her home church, and is studying expository preaching. She is married to James and they founded the internet-based Christian ministry, Equipped for Living (www.equippedfor living.org).
Choosing God in the Frustrations of Life Flat tires, wounding words, a troubled marriage . . . we all struggle, but few people have learned to struggle well. When trouble comes, how do you respond? Do you turn north to God or south to the gods of this world?
Choose North. True North offers biblical insight, personal stories, discussion questions, and compelling examples to encourage you to turn to God with every frustration in life. Find us on
Bloggers: Want to review the book on your blog? Register for the True North blog tour at www.kregel.com/blogtours and get a free copy of the book!
978-0-8254-2751-0 • $15.99
Visit www.truenorthministries.net for excerpts, author information, and free small group resources.
Available wherever fine books are sold or from Kregel at www.kregel.com or 1-800-733-2607
Elim Retreat Ministries Renewal Retreats for Single & Married Missionaries & Pastors low cost • multiple sites • beautiful and safe • abundant personal time • renewal emphasis • based in the Spirit and the Word • many recreational choices • 2011 dates now posted on web
call: 815.395.1335 | www.elimretreats.org
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mission: to encourage leaders in ministry to rest and abide more deeply in Christ’s life
the last word
TREASURES in darkness
just between us SUMMER 2011
by Shelly Esser Two years ago, I received a manuscript from a woman whose son was battling leukemia. He was in the early stages of the disease and Lisa’s article shared their journey up until that point. Immediately, my mother’s heart identified with the words on the page and the anguish only a mother knows as she helplessly watches her child suffer. At the time, my own daughter was battling an illness and so began a friendship – a treasure – that the darkness in both of our lives gave us. Isaiah 45:3 says, “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord…” We never think, especially at the time, of treasures or riches coming out of the dark places in our lives, but they do. God uniquely desires to use the darkness in our lives to make something extraordinarily beautiful. In fact, it is in these various dark places of brokenness, heartbreak, and loss that God brings forth His light so that even the darkness is illuminated. And it’s not only illuminated, it’s full of treasures and riches – in abundance. We need God’s treasures in the darkness because they turn our hearts toward Him. When I look back into the archives of the dark places in my life I see all kinds of treasures – treasures of comforting messages from friends and even strangers, a unique intimacy with Christ, God’s Word that reached into my pain birthing comfort and daily strength, a fresh sense of hope, God’s creation reminding me of His power, and unexpected friendships like Lisa’s. A friend of the great missionary to India, Amy Carmichael, once said, “The woman who has no experiences in the dark has no secrets to share in the light.” Lisa and I became friends through our common darkness. As we continued to journey through our children’s illnesses, God brought us both hidden riches in the secret places. To my great sadness, Lisa’s son, Ben, eventually lost his year-long battle with leukemia months after we met. One of the treasures that God gave Lisa and her husband, Dave, in the aftermath of their dark night
of grief was a little bird that began visiting them the week of what would have been Ben’s 20th birthday. This was no ordinary bird! Lisa had never seen one like it before. The bird literally hung out with Lisa and Dave, hopping along with them and plopping himself right on the table as they ate. He began pecking at their toes, eating whatever food they threw at him (he was especially fond of watermelon!) As soon as either of them came out into the backyard…there was that bird! And he stayed until they left. He remained “their bird” for an entire week! Fondly, they gave him the name B.B. for (Ben’s Bird). God’s grace was right there in their backyard. Signs, symbols, and touches of His grace are everywhere especially in our deepest darkness. God had sent them a treasure in the form of all things – a bird – to let them know how personally He loved and cared for them, and to put a smile on their grief-stricken faces when the magnitude of their loss was especially great. Then the bird was gone. They never saw it again until…a package arrived weeks later. Knowing that the first anniversary of Ben’s death would be especially difficult, I sent Lisa a small gift to let her know that she wasn’t alone and that I was praying for her. God led me to give her the Willow “Angel of Healing” figurine. The package arrived and with her girls sitting around the kitchen table, Lisa opened it. In amazement, the girls said, “Look! She’s holding B.B.!” I had no idea about the bird until after the fact and never noticed that the angel was holding a bird. But God knew. Treasures in darkness! He knew what Lisa and her family needed at that moment to turn their hearts towards Him, reminding them that no matter what, He was there – His grace was there. He saw their tears, He saw their grief, and He so personally cared about it. Who would have thought – a friendship, a bird, and a gift – would become some of the treasures God would use to bring forth His luminous light in the darkness in both of our lives. Treasures in darkness – they are all around us, riches stored in the secret places of our souls that are meant to be shared in the light so that our hearts might be turned toward God! What treasures has God placed in your darkness? It’s only in that place of darkness that we get to experience such riches, such treasures. And what a privilege it is to be able to share His secrets in the light! Shelly Esser is editor of Just Between Us. Additionally, she serves on the board of the Pastoral Leadership Institute. She and her husband live in Menomonee Falls, Wis., and have four daughters.
The peace of God, which transcends all
will guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus. —Phil. 4:7
Faith at Rest (continued from p 17)
Pause right now and bring to mind a difficult situation you face. What can you find to thank God for in this instance? It may take a little time, but work at it. When you’ve thought of something, just tell God, “Thank you.” It takes discipline to practice this attitude. It’s an art to diligently look for something to thank God for. You need to focus. You need to “mind your mind” and not allow it to be distracted. Paul talks about setting your mind to do this work (see Phil. 4:8). Our part is to do this “mind work.” Paul found something in his circumstances for which to give thanks, however grim the circumstances were. He occupied his mind with Godward thoughts. He tells us to program our minds with true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy things (4:8). Then, he says, “The God of peace will be with you” (4:9). When praise and positive thoughts go hand in hand, you discover something to praise God for – even from a dirty prison cell.
3. God Does the Guarding. When we refuse to worry about anything
Excerpt from Spiritual Arts by Jill Briscoe ©2007, Zondervan. Jill Briscoe is executive editor of Just Between Us magazine. Additionally, she has served on the board of directors for World Relief and Christianity Today, Inc., and is a popular speaker around the world. Jill and her husband, Stuart, have three grown children and 13 grandchildren.
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and commit to pray about everything, when we thank God for His dear and abiding self inside our heart, then, Paul says, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). Peace is something that enters the heart and makes it able to rise above all outside conditions. The word “guard” brings into focus the image of a stronghold. God puts a garrison of soldiers around our hearts to face the enemy that besieges us. How does it happen? It happens when we respond to fear with faith and
to worry with worship. It happens when we are deep in God’s Word on a daily basis, hiding verses of promise away for a rainy day. Do you suffer from perpetual uneasiness? Do you have a chronic low-grade spiritual headache? You need to listen to Paul. Logic says that 10 percent of things you worry about actually happen – and that leaves 90 percent of things you worry about that don’t happen. Guess what I worry about? The 10 percent that will. The problem is that I waste today worrying about tomorrows that in most instances never come. Though logic can’t keep me from worrying, God can. As J.B. Phillips writes in his translation of 1 Pet. 5:6, “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon Him, for you are His personal concern.” The secret of the spiritual art of serenity and its resulting freedom from anxiety starts and ends here – in God’s loving arms.
First Lady Conference a Safe Place for Pastors’ Wives
Walk Through to
October 3–7, 2011
Featuring Guest Speakers:
Register online today at LoisEvans.org or by phone at 1-800-800-3222
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• • • • • • •
Workshops designed for the needs of Pastors’ Wives Anniversary Luncheon Concert of Prayer Networking Sessions Breakfast for Champions Pre-Conference Spa Day And much more!
Who Should Attend? • • • •
Senior Pastors’ Wives Assistant Pastors’ Wives Associate Pastors’ Wives Widows of Pastors-Women in
Wives of Seminary Students Studying for the Pastorate
a New Season of Life and Ministry
Presented by The Urban Alternative, the national ministry of Dr. Tony Evans
Dr. Lois Evans, Host