The Easter Basket

The following comes from a friend, Ann Fackler, who with her husband, Mark, often visits Nairobi, Kenya, for various aspects of mission work. I wanted to pass on her story for your Easter reflection.

I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes. I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27

Some days here are just plain difficult because of what you either see or hear. A good friend from Bible study called this week with financial needs for her daughter heading to the States for university study. A mature single friend humbly approached me for help with school fees for her epileptic son who took three medications every day. Her salary as a “casual” made it impossible. Another missionary friend shared concerns about “being at the breaking point.”

Passages of Scripture about God’s eventual justice in this inequitable world of ours hold a special place in my heart living here. I hang on them reassuring myself that one day ” he will stand upon the earth.” Those who now live in squalor and hunger will one day walk the streets of gold with stomachs that don’t ache. My heart ” yearns within me” for that day–for them.

This afternoon our “hawker friends” (street vendors) of ten years asked Mark and me both to come to the market as they had something special to give us. “Be sure to bring your camera,” Chege pleaded. As we walked down the busy street in front of Daystar University, we passed the mama sitting next to the sidewalk with her two small children–dirty, torn clothes and the familiar extended hand with the cup. I never look at their faces–it’s too hard. I just walk by pushing the emotions in my heart down deep. Half way to Hurlingham we run into “the old man” Mark has often seen over the years. Stopping to talk he tells us, “Truly I am hungry today.” He’s always hungry. We have “important business” to do in Hurlingham, “but we’ll be back.” Mark echoes. We both knew he would be waiting no matter how long it took us. When you’re hungry, you will wait a long time.

As we reached the plaza, our friends came from various corners of the mall with their bags of assorted fruits, leather belts, suit coats, and car accessories. Standing under the overhang out of the sun, Mark and I waited for “something to happen.” Finally, the spokesman moved into the crowd with these words: “We just wanted to give you two a little something for Easter since you’ve been so nice to us over the years.” From behind his back, Chege extended toward Mark and me a large wicker basket full of assorted fruits wrapped crudely with Saran. Stunned, we accepted and thanked them for the gift then posed for pictures of course. All I could think of was what a loving gesture this was. Each contributed several of their fruit items for the day in order to make this large basket.

On our way back, there wasn’t a single person (in car or passing us on the sidewalk) who didn’t look at our basket, but we’re used to being stared at–but maybe not this much. Obviously not many people have huge fruit baskets here. At the petrol station sat the old man waiting. “I think we ought to share some fruit with him,” I said. Mark already had this in mind. Breaking into the plastic wrap, Mark hauled out several pieces of fruit and set them in the man’s hands. On we walked until we approached the woman with her two children. By now we had the same idea. This time I looked into her eyes seeing a very tired and weary person. A smile appeared as we passed out a banana to each child and an orange to her.

Rounding the corner of our flat, I heard Duncan watering the flowers in our garden. “Let’s give him some fruit too,” I said reaching into the basket. Handing him several passion fruits, I said, “Happy Easter Duncan. It’s the day of Hope.” Smiling, he accepted the gift. As I looked back over my shoulder as I entered our apartment, Duncan had not wasted any time getting into his fruit, but was enjoying the sweetness immediately.

I was thankful I had worn my sunglasses for this trip as it hid the emotion I was feeling. Now back home and cutting off the Saran, the tears started to flow. “Those who have nothing–giving to those who have everything,” I said to Mark. “Something is wrong with this picture.” Putting his arms around me he said, “You can’t always be the one giving. You have to learn how to receive too.”

I knew he was right. The hawkers truly enjoyed blessing us with their gift of love and we needed to let them do it–like so many others who do the same. Unlike any others, I knew this was one Easter basket I would never forget.

Thanks, Ann Fackler, and may God bless you, your ministry, and all the people mentioned in your story.

Room for All Kinds

I was frustrated, not for the first time, by a particular person. Someone who does things very differently than me–in my opinion, too slowly, or without enough regard for reality. This person was unconcerned, in my mind, about what was important, and focused only on the negative. I did not want to deal with the person or the situation, but circumstances being what they were, I had to.

I knew it was I who probably had the wrong perspective. So I took the matter to God in prayer. And this time, I think I heard a clear word in my spirit. A clear message.

I had recently been to a church retreat called “The Kingdom and the Poor.” One of the most powerful moments of the retreat was when the leader had various people simply read the scriptures that mentioned ‘the kingdom of God” and another set that mentioned “the poor.” No comments, just the scriptures, one right after another, cascading over us, word by word constructing a picture of God’s vision and God’s heart.

When I went to prayer about my attitude toward this particular “difficult” person, the words that imprinted on my soul were,  “In my kingdom there is room for all kinds.”  And the sense was that, not only is there room, but “all kinds” were welcome, honored, cherished.

What a different perspective from the world’s! The world dictates membership into The Accepted: you must be successful, productive, rich, beautiful, powerful, productive, useful, white. The whole advertising industry, to mention only one, is built upon reinforcing this. Why do people strive so hard to look as young as possible, to acquire as many possessions as possible, to become as successful as possible? Not really to get or become the thing itself–beautiful, rich, or successful–but, I think anyway, to become Accepted.

God’s way is different. God says you’re accepted just because he made you. I think he actually likes people who are “different” in some way, who have some sort of handicap or difficulty. His compassion is activated by our need, and his nature is to be compassionate, kind, loving, gracious.

“In my kingdom there is room for all kinds.” The words changed my attitude toward my Difficult Person. Knowing God loves that person, welcomes that person without asking for any change at all, humbled me, challenged me to do the same.

It also made me look at myself, at my own lacks and faults, and feel very, very glad that “in God’s kingdom, there is room for all kinds.”

Copyright (c) 2006 by Diane Eble. All rights reserved.

Christmas–The Great Exchange

The following was written by one of my book coaching clients, Deborah Schaulis. I liked it so much I asked her for permission to publish it here.Thanks, Deborah!

You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus Christ was.
Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor,
so that by his poverty he could make you rich.
(II Corinthians 8:9, NLT)

Well, it’s that time of year again-time for the great exchange.

At the local department store, you exchange your hard-earned money for gifts to give your friends, coworkers and family. At various Christmas parties and family gatherings, you exchange the gifts you got for gifts of your own. After the holidays, you wait in long lines to exchange those items you received that were the wrong size, the wrong color or just plain wrong for you! And when it’s all over, you wonder, “Was it really worth it? Why do I spend so much time and money giving gifts that others don’t necessarily appreciate, so I can bring home a bunch of stuff I don’t really want or need?”

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to exchange what you have for something really valuable? Better yet, what if you could turn in your garbage and come home with something worth more than gold. Believe it or not, Christmas originally was all about that kind of exchange!

Over 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ exchanged His regal glory for the lowly garb of a simple peasant babe. The King of the universe was born in a simple stable–homeless–so we could look forward to a heavenly home. The One who owned “the cattle on a thousand hills” became poor to make us rich.

When He grew up, the “Wonderful Counselor” was considered crazy–even by His own family–in order to impart to us the wisdom of the universe. Christ was rejected by men, so we could be accepted by God; He was abused and wounded, so we could be healed. He took on our sin, so we could be called “the righteousness of God.” He became a curse to allow us to receive God’s blessings. He was punished, so we could be forgiven; He died in order that we might have life-forever!

Thanks to the Christ of Christmas, you and I can take all our “junk”–our sin, our sickness, our loneliness, our addictions, our depression and anxieties–and exchange them at the cross. The gifts He offers in exchange are salvation, wholeness, belonging, freedom, joy and peace–just to name a few! Now that’s a truly Great Exchange, don’t you agree?

What’s more, this Great Exchange is not a once in a lifetime, or even a once a year event. Those who trust in Christ can exchange their garbage for Christ’s goodness every day. That’s what the Bible calls “sanctification.” It means that 365.25 days of the year we can come to God with our junk and leave it at His feet. In place of irritation, He gives us patience. In place of judgment and alienation, we can experience grace and reconciliation. Whatever we have, God takes and gives us what we need, instead.

There’s nothing we can’t take to Jesus and exchange for something better. In fact, someday, those of us who trust in Him can even exchange these worn out old bodies for ones that will last forever! We get to change our address from this old fallen world to someplace more glorious than we could ever imagine! And this Great Exchange was all made possible because Jesus was born and lived and died and rose again not quite two millennia ago!

We are so glad we made the choice to participate in this Great Exchange! Have you? If not, there’s no better way to celebrate this holiday season than in taking part in the Great Exchange. Give your life and all you have to God and see what you receive in return. It’ll be the best exchange you’ve ever made-guaranteed!

© 2006 Deborah Schaulis

Two Gifts for You

Yesterday I posted about how it is just as blessed to receive as to give.

Today I want to tell you about two gifts I have for you.

One is a Digital Web Book containing 5 sample stories from Abundant Gifts.  What’s cool about it is it opens on your computer like a book. These are some of the stories readers have chosen as their favorites. If you don’t already own the whole book, this is a great way to sample what’s in store for you.

It’s also a great way for you to send something wonderful to a friend, at no cost. Why not send the Digital Web Book to all your friends who would appreciate it who are on your list? Once you have the book downloaded, you can easily send it to as many friends as you like, via email, along with your own personal message. Just right-click on the cover of the book, and you’ll see an option to send to a friend.

The other gift is a Digital Personal Journal. Like the Abundant Gifts Digital Web Book, its pages turn like a real book. You can write in it like a real diary–but it resides on your computer (not online) for your security and privacy. (If you’re concerned about privacy, you can save it anywhere on your computer–perhaps in a folder where no one would ever guess but you.)

 Sprinkled liberally throughout the journal pages are inspirational passages , quotes–and even music clips you can listen to.Digital journals like these are selling for $39.95 or more — but this one’s yours for FREE.

You will also receive the Abundant Gifts e-zine, a newsletter designed to help you develop the habit of seeing everyday gifts from a lavish God. (You may unsubscribe at any time.) To access both gifts, simply visit the Abundant Gifts web site. To download the Abundant Gifts Digital Web Book, click on any of the turning pages icons on the web site. To download the Digital Personal Journal, fill out the pop-up window form or the form on the page itself.I hope you will enjoy using the Journal for keeping track of your abundant gifts … or for whatever reason you choose.

Make my joy complete by downloading both of these gifts right now. And don’t forget to pass them on to a friend!          


Is It as Blessed to Receive as To Give?

We often hear Jesus’ words quoted, “It’s more blessed to give than receive.”

In our materialistic world, that’s a good thing to be reminded of.

But consider this: Might it be just as blessed to receive?

Imagine offering a gift to someone. You genuinely want to give that person this gift.

But she refuses. “No, thank you,” she says, even though in her eyes you sense she would really like to say yes.

How do you feel?

Now, imagine offering your gift to someone who receives it with delight and gratitude.

Don’t you feel blessed in the second case?

If we refuse a gift someone offers us, we rob them of the joy of giving. We break the cycle: gift offered, gift received, receiver blessed, giver blessed from receiver’s gratitude.

We have just come from the special day of Thanksgiving. In some ways, isn’t Thanksgiving about receiving? To acknowledge God’s blessings is to receive them fully. Our gratitude is our act of receiving that blesses God, even as He has blessed us.

In this season on giving, let us not only give with joy, but receive with joy as well. Let us remember to complete the beautiful giving cycle … whichever end we’re on.

Why Thanksgiving is the Healthiest Holiday

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What could be better than a whole day devoted to food, friendship, and gratitude?

In fact, Thanksgiving is actually the healthiest holiday we have.  And I’m not just talking about the turkey and the side dishes.

Thanksgiving is the healthiest holiday because the benefits of gratitude are measurable.

In a WebMD feature, Elizabeth Heubeck summarized some of the health benefits of giving thanks. University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons conducted a study on gratitude, finding that grateful people–those who perceive gratitude as a permanent trait rather than a temporary state of mind–have an edge on the not-so-grateful when it comes to health. “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations,” Emmons told WebMD.

Gratitude acts as a stress buster. An inability to deal with stress is attributed to up to 90 percent of all doctor visits, and is linked to several leading causes of death, including heart disease and cancer. “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have a tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress,” Emmons says.

I know this to be true in my own life. I keep what I call my “gifts journal,” noting the things that felt like gifts on a given day. As I thank God for these gifts, my focus changes from any problems I may have to the love that inspired such gifts of grace. I can tell you, this one simple action has totally transformed my life. Not only did it cure me of a postpartum depression years ago, but it has continued to relieve stress and be the source of much joy and strength.

Gratitude acts as an immune booster. When you’re grateful, you also tend to be optimistic. According to Lisa Aspinwall, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, “There are some very interesting studies linking optimism to better immune function.” In one, researchers compared the immune systems of healthy, first-year law students under stress. They round that, by midterm, the students characterized as optimistic (based on survey responses) maintained a higher number of white blood cells (which protect the immune system), compared with their more pessimistic classmates.

Optimism also has a positive health impact on people whose health is already compromised. In separate studies, patients with AIDS, as well as those preparing to undergo surgery, had better health outcomes when they maintained attitudes of optimism.

So as you partake of the wonderfully healthy foods of Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll also take time to feed your soul and strengthen your body by recounting all the things you’re grateful for.

And don’t stop at Thanksgiving Day, either! (I have s sample journal you can use to keep track of your “abundant gifts” throughout the year. )

For more health benefits of gratitude, visit my Healing Heart Issues blog for an article on the latest research:

November Abundant Gifts Newsletter is Ready–Special Thanksgiving Issue

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and in the latest issue of the Abundant Gifts newsletter I give you one “recipe” to feed your heart, and two recipes for sides dishes that will show up on my Thanksgiving table this year (spiced sweet potatoes and a cranberry relish mold).
Please go right now to view the latest newsletter that contains not only these three recipes, but also perspectives on gratitude and abundant gifts to relish in November.

There’s also a special offer as to how to get an autographed copy of Abundant Gifts for Christmas gifts. Besides signing it, I’ll even gift-wrap it–IF you get your order in on time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Amazing God Story that Can’t Be Written

The story I have to share with you today is not the story I thought God would write in my life.

You haven’t heard from me in a while, mainly because I’ve been super busy launching a book (MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths) and a business (helping people get their books written and published).

Concerning the latter, I thought it would be very useful to go to the annual Christian Booksellers convention this week in Denver to renew my publishing contacts. Gene goes because he works for a publisher. I would have been able to stay with him, no extra charge. Time away from the children, together!)As an author, my publisher could get me in. The kids had friends they could stay with for a week. My only expenses would be for transportation. Surely God would provide that.

I prayed about it. I tried to earn extra. I even asked a couple of people to help me out. The money did not seem to be forthcoming, and I felt strongly that this was not something to put on the credit card, even if it was a business expense.

The day before Gene left for the convention, a friend called. After she told me about how God provided for her at the 11th hour, I mentioned my situation.

She said, “My husband has a voucher he got when he was bumped a year ago, and I think it expires this week. Let’s see if I can find it, and if it’s transferrable.”

She did find something. We each called the airline company, described the vouther in details, and were reassured that it was usable and transferrable.

I checked flights to Denver, thinking this was God’s amazing way of providing for me to go to the convention after all.

No flights to Denver available under that voucher.

I hung up, very disappointed. Then it hit me: I have a free ticket to go anywhere! Where did I want to go?

Portland, I decided. As in Portland, Oregon. I have two sets of dear friends out there I’d love to visit.

Called the friends. They’d love to have me! Portland is so beautiful now! We’d have so much fun!

But then I checked the airline again. No flights to Portland on that voucher. No flights to Seattle, either. At least, not through Nov. 8, when she stopped checking.

But there were flights to Miami. I have a cousin in Florida I’d love to see. Called her. Debbie said it would be a fine time to visit. We’d have so much fun…. “We’ll do whatever you want to do,” she said.

The Amazing God Story I thought I’d be writing was how God knew I needed a vacation even more than I needed to be at the convention.

But it was not to be….

When my friend, who had the plane ticket, went to the airport to transfer it over to me–a trip he did not relish taking–the airline told him it was not a valid travel voucher. Despite us having called the airline at least 7 times, describing every inch of the paper and being told it was indeed a voucher and transferrable, US Air told Bill it was not valid.

Case closed.

No vacation for Diane.

Did something wonderful come up for me this week anyway? Not yet. I stayed home, got a lot done. Today I’m taking a retreat of sorts. I will try to get something done that I’ve been trying to find time for for months. (Something that will benefit my Abundant Gifts readers.)

But here’s what God did, that I can recognize. The morning my friend called about the plane ticket, right before she called in fact, I talked to a neighbor. The neighbor was having a garage sale, and I stopped by on my walk.

We got to chatting, and she told me that in April, she lost her future son-in-law. He dropped dead of a heart attack one day. Her daughter, who is 49, was devastated. She’d finally found the love of her life, and was all set for a wonderful future. Jane and her fiance had bought a house. They were to be married this summer.

Within a week of that tragedy, my neighbor, Genevieve, also lost her 33-year-old mentally handicapped son, who lived with her. She lost a son and son-in-law, her daughter Jane lost a fiance and beloved brother. All within a week.

Genevieve told me that she and Jane have a strong faith in God, and that is what is getting them through. Her faith lingered with me. I returned later that afternoon and gave her a copy of Abundant Gifts.

Genevieve’s story framed my own disppointment with a new perspective. What was my diappointment in a missed vacation compared to the crushing disappointment of losing one’s love and a future that seemed a dream come true? Of losing the son one has cared for and lived with for more than 30 years?

In a strange way, God used their story to help me. Even though I felt very disappointed in not being able to take the vacation I thought I’d take, I felt an underlying peace and sense that God is in control.

He has provided miraculously for me in the past. This time he chose not to. I may never know why, or he may reveal it. Either way, I know he’s with me.

Life is full of disappointment. But it tends to evaporate when the presence of God is trusted.

On Asking God Questions

by Diane Eble

Do you ever ask God questions?

I do, all the time. At least one per week, usually many more.

Last week, I shared with you a question I had. The question, “Why did Jesus have to die?”

At the time, it was a burning question. One I’d had for a long time. It’s not like I didn’t know the “right” answer. In my head, I did. But on a deeper level, on the level where you really know and never doubt again—on that level, I didn’t know.

But you know what? Much as I’d pondered the question, somehow, I’d never really asked it of God. Once I did, I had that deep, soul-satisfying answer I sought.

Within 24 hours.

I have heard it said that the size of the question determines the size of the results. The question of why Jesus had to die is at the heart of Christianity—a big question. The result was a deep sense of certainty, a renewed appreciation at the depth of my being of what the Savior of the world did for me. For you. For the whole world.

The answer was simple (most profound answers usually are). Though we can do much to “improve” ourselves and even the world, it’s not a question of being better.

It’s a question of a relationship with the Creator and Center of the universe, who is a personal Being and who is totally, utterly perfect in every way. That Being wants a relationship with the creatures he made in his own image.

Problem is, the creatures aren’t perfect. Many don’t care a whit about their Creator. Fact is, most of them want to be Creators themselves. And they’re very busy working very hard to try to make that happen.

We have this innate desire to be perfect, it seems. (Perhaps, because we crave the lost union with the One who is perfect?)

Somehow, we can’t quite pull it off. So far nobody’s answers have convinced me that we are capable of making ourselves perfect, or even really good (though we keep trying).

Jesus died because human beings can’t make themselves perfect enough to stand in the presence of a pure, holy God. He paid the penalty we deserved for rejecting God and choosing our own way—the penalty of death. When Jesus conquered death by rising again, he paved the way for imperfect human beings to stand before a holy God. In great joy, I might add (as Scripture does). It is the same joy that Jesus fixed his eyes on to get him through his terrible suffering (see Hebrews 12:2). And he shares it with us!

So, I asked the question, and now the answer has come to my heart, not just my head.

I have had so many other questions, personal questions that no one but God could answer. When I take them to him, I wait expectantly for an answer. It’s a wonderful thing to ask God a question, a burning question, and await the answer.

In my experience, he always does answer. Sometimes the answer is, “I can’t reveal that to you yet,” but that in itself is an answer. He’s given me that answer many times, and it brings peace to my heart as I trust in his timing.

When I was young, I suffered rather severe acne. If you can believe it, I still have oily skin and acne, in middle age! I told Gene when he buries me, he’ll have to tuck my acne cream in the casket. For years I asked God, “Why have I had acne all but 11 years of my life?”

Slowly the answer, the blessing has been revealed. Because I had acne, I read all I could about skin care. I learned at an early age that keeping in good health was one of the best things one can do. So I disciplined myself to avoid sugar and fatty foods, to enjoy eating right, to exercise. The by-product was, I didn’t struggle with a weight problem. I also learned which were the purest products to use (and saved tons of money on skin care products and cosmetics, I’m sure).

Recently, someone complimented me on my complexion. I nearly fell out of my chair. My self-image never included “nice complexion.” She asked what my secret is. I said, “Acne.” The curse turned out to be a blessing.

What are your questions? Have you taken them to God specifically? I encourage you to do so, and then to watch and wait. You never know when or how or from where the answers will come. That’s the joy of it. God has answered my questions in so many creative ways. If you’re looking expectantly for an answer, you will recognize it when it comes. And it will bring the gifts of joy and peace with it.

Copyright (c) 2006 by Diane Eble. All rights reserved.