Good homemakers spend time on their knees

If you already know how to build the spiritual foundation for a good home, you realized immediately that the title of this post contains a metonym for prayer and not a command to keep your floors clean.

Good homemakers pray!

It has been over ten years ago since we first began to share a mission and a vision for the homemaking ministry we eventually called Gramma’s House.  Our mission is to help make every home a holy, happy, healthy haven of hospitality.  Our vision sees homemaking  first among honorable careers, and sees communities where it is economically feasible for women to choose to work in their homes.

From the moment we first shared our vision up to the present, everyone involved has agreed that prayer lays the foundation for ministry and builds it every step of the way. Yet it is usually much easier to get women to together to cook, to clean, to garden, to sew, or to study than it is to get them together just to pray.

The women who support Gramma’s House with their time and their talents also support the ministry with their prayer.  Just because a woman is reluctant to pray aloud, in the company of others, it doesn’t mean that she never prays.  Some prayer warriors are shy by nature. And I am certain that God abundantly blesses all faithful closet prayers.

But I am also certain that if we want to receive all the riches that our Father in heaven wants to pour out daily into our lives, we must be willing to talk to Him freely and openly together at any time, in any circumstance, with anyone.

Think about the way Jesus prayed at the tomb of Lazarus:

And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” (John 11:41, 42 NKJV)

In this account (John 11:1-16) we have clear evidence that Jesus was in constant communication with His Father even if His disciples didn’t realize it.  They are confused about the whole situation, but Jesus, in silent communion with His Father, knows that Lazarus is dead. He also knows that the death will display the glory of the Son of God, but He still does not make it obvious to His disciples that He is talking with His Father.

Then, standing at the tomb with many Jews watching and listening, Jesus not only makes His conversation with His Father public, He openly acknowledges that He chose His words for the benefit of His audience.  From our Lord’s own example here, we know that when He told us to pray secretly in our closets He did not mean that we should never let anyone hear us talk to God. Christ shows us that a voice raised in prayer for all to hear can bring glory to the Lord in a very special way.

The typical attitude Christians have about talking to God together seems rather bizarre if we imagine natural children assuming the same attitude toward their own beloved father. Imagine a happy family of children. Imagine that each child will talk freely to the father about everything and anything as long as no one else is in the room.

Now imagine that another sibling comes in, and immediately they both begin to act as though their father is no longer present. They talk to each other about how much they love their father. More brothers and sisters join them, and they sing songs about their father’s goodness toward the family. They even discuss the things they plan to ask their father and agree that they will all make the same requests. But as long as there are two children in the room, no one will speak to him out loud. Well, maybe one of them will speak to the father aloud, but when they are all together, it has to be done at a clearly prescribed times.

The cause of this strange behavior among the spiritual children of God is not that we are socially challenged, and it has very little to do with shyness. If we feel anxiety, apprehension, and even panic in a situation where it should be natural for any child to speak openly to her Father, the cause can be traced to our enemy. Our adversary understands the power God has made available to His children when they talk to Him together.

That is why my next post will be “Good homemakers fight on their knees.”

Gramma’s long journey into cyberspace

Last year at this time, I would have thought I was more likely to swim the English Channel than to open a Twitter account.   But God does indeed move in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. Recently I realized that the Lord has been relentlessly leading me into cyberspace for the past twenty-five years.

It started one day in the 80s.  I was just thinking about Adam and Eve, wondering how they would have understood God’s warning: “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Since the first humans did not know any other persons who had actually died, what would “die” have meant to them?

From that point, I continued to think how completely our vocabulary has been ravaged by sin.  It seemed to me that words like death, pain, sorrow, and even words like remember and forget would have no meaning for perfect people in a perfect world. My mental exercise did not disturb me until I realized that sinless people could never understand mercy, forgiveness, or salvation.

These ideas came to me about the same time I abandoned my own books for other women’s brooms, so I spent many hours vacuuming, dusting, scouring, and visiting the unfallen planet in the universe of my imagination. I actually talked to several friends about turning my fantasy into a novel, and they were unanimously encouraging. But, as the reigning Queen of the Procrasti-nation, I just planned to start writing tomorrow for over two decades.

Then in January of 2009, I found myself in Lubbock, Texas. What I thought would be a six- week visit with my sisters turned into two and a half years of disabling cancer treatments.  I was far from home, unable to work, and equipped with a laptop.  Tomorrow had arrived with a vengeance, and I began the hard labor of translating fleeting ideas into a story on a printed page.

In the fall of 2010, I finished World Without Mercy, and I immediately started to look for a publisher. (What else can one do with a completed manuscript?)  It was then that I learned of the Catch 22 in 21st century publishing: editors only look at books represented by agents, and agents only accept authors who have already published.

It is true that many small publishers will accept proposals directly from the author.  Alas, with the notable exception of Marcher Lord Press, it seems that small Christian publishing houses have very little interest in science fiction. To tell you the truth, I’m not much interested in science fiction myself, but my story about life on another planet fits in no other genre.

During those first few months of publisher/agent hunting, I also learned that it is my duty as a 21st century author to attend writer’s conferences, establish a website, create a Facebook page, and fully exploit the social media to build a platform that will impress agents, editors, and/or publishers whenever I describe it in a book proposal. In other words, I had to line up potential buyers for my book before I could ever convince anyone that it might be worth publishing.

I attended my first writer’s workshop in Amarillo in April, joined Facebook in May, and started this blog (on Blogspot) in June of 2011. But absolutely nothing could motivate me to begin deliberate self-promotion of a book that only one of my eight siblings had taken the time to read.  (Just to be accurate, even if they all had read it and loved it, I still would never have promoted it online because I would have been dead from shock.)

In July of 2011, I came home to Pennsylvania and attended the Montrose Christian Writers Conference. There I met media expert and avid gardener Daniel Gasteiger.  He told us that Twitter was at the top of his list of social media tools, but…..and this is a wonderful but….it would be very annoying if all we did was tweet about our books.  He encouraged us all to go online to meet like-minded people and have fun. He gave us three rules: be yourself, be kind, and be helpful.   I thought, “I can do that!  I can go online to promote the ministry that I helped to incorporate in 2008.”

So in November of 2011, I finally set up a Twitter account, but it wasn’t until a few short weeks ago when I found #mkbiblechat that I really began to enjoy myself.  A whole new range of retweets began to appear in my home stream by way of #mkbiblechat (ters) that I happily follow.  I quickly discovered that many profiles were dedicated entirely to sharing Bible verses, prayer requests, and quotes from the saints both living and dead.

I’ve placed those accounts on my “Retweetable” list, where I now go for quick inspiration.  It was just that type of account that inspired me to begin my own “TIP” (Twitter Intercession Project).  On March 6, I started daily tweeting from Andrew Murray’s “Helps to Intercession” with the hashtag #amintercessionhelp.

I pray that God will use this post (and the next one) to connect me with intercessors to join in daily prayer in one accord.  Now that I have blogged about my TIP, I will switch to #amhti to conserve thirteen precious characters.

May the Lord abundantly bless my effort to tweet for His glory.

Whenever I read OMG, I silently sing ITIT!

In my last post I wondered how often people who write LOL have literally done so. I confessed that I don’t use the term because, for me, it would be dishonest when I don’t LOL reading chats, tweets, and email.  However, the conviction that I would feel if I used LOL  when it is not literally true pales in comparison to the guilt that would stab me if I ever typed OMG as a casual exclamation.

I am blessed beyond measure that the vast majority of my friends hold the name of the Lord to be just as sacred as I do.  I praise that precious name that I rarely see those three letters in a way that offends in any text or email. Alas, since I joined the wonderful world of Twitter in November, all too often I see them flow by in my home stream.

I dedicate this post to Charles Monroe and his sweet praise song “Unto Thee O Lord.” I learned it years ago, and now the simple words come back to comfort me each time I read OMG in a tweet.  First, I mentally echo “O my God,” and then I automatically add “I Trust In Thee.”  Sometimes I continue with “Let me not be ashamed, let not my enemies triumph over me!”

And instead of taking offense I offer prayer and praise. OMG is just one more opportunity to do what mankind was created to do: worship and enjoy the Creator whose name is blessed forever! OMG is a cry from my heart to the Savior who died to set me free from the bondage of sin. OMG is an introduction to a song that lifts me to the throne of grace where I find mercy and help in my time of need.

OMG also is my prompt to intercede for the person behind the tweet. Just think of the influence we will have in the spiritual realm, if all of us who do not use OMG frivolously begin to consistently pray for those who do:

OMG! We long for You to touch every heart that banters Your name in a careless acronym.  We want each one to know You and love You so much that it becomes impossible to use Your name without thinking of You.

When I finished the fourth entry in Grammas’ Guide to the Universe, I was looking for a way to move naturally toward a series of posts on prayer, because I believe that talking to God is the secret of successful homemaking.  But then, I was suddenly distracted by a tweet that greatly amused me but didn’t cause me to LOL, and I wrote my previous post. Now I rejoice to see that God has used what I saw as only a distraction to lead me exactly where He wants me to be. Next time I will share the joy I have found in tweeting to the Lord.

TIF but I didn’t LOL

I suppose this post could be categorized under “Gramma’s Guide to Textese,” since I want to address two terms commonly used in texting that make me uncomfortable.

The first term is LOL. So far I’ve never actually had an occasion to use it.  While I am frequently amused by things I read in email, in a chat, or on Twitter, they never make me laugh out loud, and it just seems dishonest to acknowledge the humor with LOL.  Whenever I read that familiar trio of letters in response to something I have posted, I am tempted to reply, “Really? It didn’t seem that funny to me.”

I would genuinely like to know how often LOL expresses a literal truth.  Through my intimate acquaintance with Lynette, Kelly, Bob, and others, I have learned that there are many people who do indeed LOL over almost anything.  Those are the people who stand-up comics want in the audience.  I, on the other hand, identify with the scowling curmudgeon I saw years ago in a New Yorker cartoon.  He answered two bewildered people with the caption, “Just because I’m not laughing, it doesn’t mean that I don’t get it!”  And in my case, a failure to laugh doesn’t necessarily mean that I am not amused.  I just don’t LOL easily, and I never do so when I am alone reading–whether from a book, magazine, or computer screen.

In solitude I might smile, perhaps even broadly.  In company the degree of my amusement is directly proportional to the depth of the curve in my smile, but more often than not that amusement is silent.  For me, laughing out loud is a special communal experience that requires two elements: excessive amusement and someone I trust.  In the company of the beloved, the silliest joke can suddenly explode into an irresistible wave of laughter that grows and crests and finally breaks, leaving in its wake helpless victims holding sides and wiping eyes. Then with just a look or a word the flow can start all over again.

That is LOL to me.  I can’t use it lightly. Still, I need some way to communicate via social media that I appreciate humor whenever I see it.  So I have decided to introduce my own acronym: TIF for That Is Funny.  Sometimes I may even think “very” and make it TIVF.

It is important to respond appropriately because behind every email, behind every line in a chat, and behind every tweet is a real person with feelings.  And the relationships we develop with other people have eternal value and eternal consequences. The ability to form relationships and share humor is part of the image of God that all humans carry whether they recognize it or not.

It is because I do recognize that I bear God’s image, and because He has made it possible for me to have a relationship with Him that I am uncomfortable with the second texting term.  Each time I see OMG, I am compelled to mentally add ITIT to relieve my distress. But that is the subject for another post.

Books to Brooms Part II

In 1987 when my obsessive-compulsive study habits had reached a peak, I was a member of Purchase Line Church of the Brethren.  PLCOB was then (and is now) one of those little, rural congregations where everyone knows everyone else.  We fell quite nicely into the category that Rick Warren (of purpose-driven fame) calls “the family reunion church.” Fellowship was important, covered-dish dinners were frequent, and family connections provided stability.

Because the church was small, and I was active in the ministry, I knew of many deep, serious problems in relationships.  In my intellectual arrogance, I thought I had the answer to all our woes: BIBLE STUDY.   I naively believed that if every Christian made Bible study a top priority, problems that had plagued the church for two millennia would just disappear like so much morning mist.

How blessed we are that the Lord is gracious to His children!  He does not condemn us for our ignorance.  He only requires that we keep our hearts open to receive Truth, and over the next few years He gently exposed the error in my thinking.

Through my job as Activity Director in the nursing home, I met the pastor of a local assembly (a term preferred over church) that fit perfectly into Rick Warren’s description of “the classroom church:”  they placed an emphasis on study, right doctrine, and understanding the original languages of the text.    Pastor Tim was a gifted scholar, and I joined his Tuesday and Thursday night exegetical Bible studies.   The Bible Speaks Assembly (as it was then known) was absolutely devoted to the study of God’s word.  I had found the church/fellowship/assembly of my dreams!  Although I never experienced the phenomenon personally, I certainly approved when I heard that even at baby showers they searched the scriptures together.

Looking back over the three or four years I faithfully attended Greater Grace (the assembly name was changed), I am fascinated by the way God revealed Himself to me both through His people and in the circumstances He allowed.

My first surprise came in the friendships He gave me.  At every Tuesday and Thursday evening Bible study I saw the same three single people: two women and a man.   I soon learned that on Wednesdays they traveled together  to a Bible study in Pittsburgh (an hour or so one way). Now those three were really my kind of people!  Or so I thought at the time. Now I can’t even remember their names.  Instead the Lord bound my heart first to Liz, then to Marianne and Joan, and eventually to Leslie and Susan: five mothers with small children.  They all loved the Lord and His word, but they had neither the opportunity nor the inclination to devote all their time to attending Bible studies.

The next unexpected thing God did was use my intimate communion with happily married women and their sweet children to teach me why the apostle Paul so enthusiastically endorsed the single state. (1 Corinthians 7:34, 35)  No longer did I simply accept my singleness as part of God’s plan for me, I rejoiced in the freedom it allowed me.

But the most surprising thing the Lord taught me in those days of intensive, corporate Bible study was that my simple solution to the problems in the church had missed the mark.  Greater Grace was just as vulnerable to the kind of trouble I saw at Purchase Line, the same kind of trouble that the enemy uses in every community of believers to divide those who desire to serve the Lord.

And so it was that in 1989 when I started spending less time with books and more time with brooms that I also started thinking deeply about the indispensable role that mothers, grandmothers, and all homemakers play in creating faithful disciples for Jesus Christ.