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I’m in a very wonderful but busy season of travel and speaking.  Rather than just post fewer articles here on Kindling, I have chosen to introduce you to some of my Redbud Writers Guild friends.  I think you will love meeting them, reading their very good writing and experiencing new connections with our Savior.

Today’s post is by my friend Vivian Mabuni.  You can read more by Vivian at her blog, A Place of Abundance, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

What a wonderful wedding weekend! I’ve been turning over and over in my mind what the father of the groom shared at our table during the rehearsal dinner Friday night. He and his wife live in wine country up in Northern California. Wine is their thing, and not only do they enjoy it, they take classes to continue to grow their knowledge and appreciation of all things wine related. Here is something I learned over a sumptuous dinner accompanied by a lovely white wine that I still don’t know how to pronounce:

The best wine comes from grapes that experience an especially difficult season, be it drought or flooding. The drastic change in weather unleashes something in the grapes that produces an exceptional wine.

The parallels to life from this example are too significant to pass by. I know people who have walked through difficult seasons–with rain that doesn’t seem to end, or dryness and heat that cracks the earth. Some become bitter and resentful and die on the inside.

But others chose to

sink their roots deep into God’s Word,

show up even after reaching the end of their physical limitations and emotional capacities,

walk through, rather than run away or numb away disappointment, grief and despair,

stay abiding in the Vine (John 15) even when the environment is extreme,

and end up displaying a beauty that emanates from places as deep as they have needed to go.

They become the exceptional wine that is set apart in flavor and quality. And they stand out and are admired and appreciated for their character. This character is forged through difficulty, discipline and not giving up when surrounding circumstances threaten to take away life.

I also learned up in wine country that there are grapevines more than 125 years old. They no longer need to be watered. The root system runs 20-30 feet underground. The grapes produced from these vines are faithful, dependable, certain. And year after year the wine from these grapes is consistently exceptional.

Isn’t that a great picture of what we can become?

What about you?  What trials in your vineyard have contributed to your growth and fruitfulness?

 

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I’m heading into a very wonderful but busy season of travel and speaking.  Rather than just post fewer articles here on Kindling, I have chosen to introduce you to some of my Redbud Writers Guild friends.  I think you will love meeting them, reading their very good writing and experiencing new connections with our Savior.

In today’s post Jennifer Grant acquaints us with Amy Julia Becker’s new memoir A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny.  Amy, also a Redbud Writer, tells the story of her special daughter.

It’s more than the story of a married couple welcoming their first child, a daughter, into the world and learning that she has Down syndrome. It’s more than an account of the author’s doubts, fears, and shifting perceptions of people with disabilities. It goes deeper than merely serving as a peek into to the interventions and therapies parents of kids with special needs employ to support their children’s development. And, though the anecdotes Becker includes both enlighten and shock the reader, it’s much more than a primer on what not to say to parents about their children with special needs.

Amy Julia Becker’s new memoir A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny explores all of those topics, and more. But, through it all, her book demonstrates the nature of love – especially parental love – as the imperfect, hopeful, and expansive miracle that it is.

In the early months of her daughter Penny’s life, Becker, a life-long learner and lover of literature, wrestles with the realization that Penny will not have the same aptitude for a life of the mind that Becker herself has had. “Can she live a full life without ever solving a quadratic equation? Without reading Dostoyevsky?” Becker wonders.

Although very soon after her daughter’s birth she may have doubted that she could ever answer “yes” to those questions, by the time Penny is several months old, Becker’s perspective has shifted. She asks different questions. “Can I live a full life without learning to cherish and welcome those in this world who are different from me?” she wonders. “I’m pretty sure I can’t.”

When Penny is two, delighting her parents with her warmth and wit, her mother nears the due date for her second child. During this time, Becker is bruised by some of the reactions people express to news of her pregnancy.

“Aren’t you at risk for having another?” one person asks. The speaker’s tone and the use of the word “another” in reference to the daughter Becker loves reveals that, like so many people, this person is unable to see Penny as the full, precious person that she is, but sees her as a genetic abnormality. A cosmic mistake. “Lightning never strikes twice!” another friend says, in an attempt to reassure Becker that she is unlikely to give birth to a second child with Down syndrome.

Becker’s fears about her unborn baby revolve around a very different fear, one that is common to mothers as they await the birth of a second child. She wonders whether she will be able to love another child as deeply as she loves her first?

She asks her husband if it’s possible. “This is not a rhetorical question,” she insists. “I can’t imagine feeling about anyone else the way I feel about her.”

“I don’t think that’s how love works,” her husband replies. “It’s not as if you have a set amount of love for Penny and now you have to slice it in half and give some of it to the baby instead. The nature of love is to expand.”

A Good and Perfect Gift is many things – an honest, compelling memoir, a glimpse into one family’s experience, and a beautifully-constructed story – but it’s even more than that. For me, the book serves as a testament to the way parental love can transform us and make us more whole.

Jennifer Grant is the author of Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter (Thomas Nelson, 2011). She is a journalist who freelances for the Chicago Tribune and writes for Christianity Today’s her.meneutics blog. Her second book, MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family will be published in May 2012 by Worthy Publishing. Find her online at jennifergrant.com.

This article first appeared in Sept. 2011 on patheos.com.

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My friend Natasha is making me jealous–she is on a 3-month sabbatical.  Her purpose is to seriously pursue the Radical Challenge in David Platt’s book Radical.  This is her next monthly installment on becoming a more radical follower of Jesus.

You can click over to her post here.

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I had the great privilege of writing and editing with Bill Bright for 14 years.  One my favorite articles of his was one about the three people who had influenced him the most in life:  his mother, a single church leader/educator and his wife, Vonette.  I am going to let him tell you about each one over the next few weeks.

The first week I posted some of his perspective on Jesus’ view of women.  Then we discovered how his mother, Mary Lee Bright, had great impact on him.  Last week we met the remarkable Henrietta Mears.  We conclude this week with what he had to say about his beloved wife, Vonette.

The third key woman in my life has been my beloved wife, Vonette.  Since 1948 she has been my partner in everything I have done, as well as my wife, lover and friend.  I value her counsel more than anyone else’s because she truly is a wise and godly woman.  Frequently we bounce ideas off each other and sometimes challenge each other’s ideas to help the other person think more clearly about his opinions.

Though God gave the vision of Campus Crusade to me, Vonette has been a vital part of the movement from the beginning.  In fact, we began this ministry

Bright wedding with parents

as partners even though Vonette was becoming an outstanding teacher.  At the same time she was writing a column to teach young men manners.  The column was picked up by the King Syndicate and featured in newspapers in different parts of the country.  But in spite of her success in teaching and writing, we both agreed that it was better to serve the Lord together rather than to go separate ways in our vocations.  And God has used her in a remarkable manner.

I remember that, as we went into different sororities and dormitories that first year at UCLA, Vonette led 50 young women to Christ through one-to-one appointments.  Not a single one said “no” to Christ.  Of course, the students were hungry to know the Lord, but still it was a phenomenal experience.  And she did not stop there, but would spend long hours each day  following up these young women.

Our partnership was especially evident in the influence she had on our two sons.  Although I was spending as much as 85 percent of my time traveling to establish the ministry in many countries of the world, she didn’t complain and made it clear to our two sons that they were a part of everything I was doing.  As I traveled they would study the geography and history of various countries I was visiting, study the Bible and follow me with their prayers.

Even to this day my sons are asked, “Do you feel cheated that your father was often away from you during your growing up years?”  Many times I’ve heard them say that they felt a vital part of my ministry.  It is obvious to me that Vonette helped to give Bradley and Zachary a positive attitude.

I often tell husbands, “Encourage your wives.”  Our wives are our number one disciples and therefore, our number one priority as our Lord commands in various portions of Scripture such as Ephesians 5:25-30.  Don’t be intimidated if you think your wife is smarter or more gifted than you – encourage her!

I have tried to do this through the years.  Vonette is a very naturally gifted, outgoing person, but at the same time her writing, speaking, organizational and leadership skills were somewhat underdeveloped in the early stages of our marriage.  I wanted to help her maximize her natural gifts and abilities, so I sought to encourage her, and she has sought to encourage me.

As she developed those skills that God had given her, she brought great blessing to the body of Christ, to the Campus Crusade ministry and to me as well.  In 1971, she began the Great Commission Prayer Crusade with my encouragement.  It is possible that through her worldwide influence she has encouraged more people to pray than almost anyone in our time.

She also has served on the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization for 10 years and served as co-chairman in the planning and success of the International Prayer Assembly in Korea in 1984.  When Vonette is honored with honorary doctorates or named International Church Woman of the Year or when God uses her to lead others to Christ, I rejoice.  In many ways I am more blessed when she receives honors than when they are given to me personally for something I have done.

Another way that Vonette has been a blessing to me is that by nature she is more of an extrovert, while I am somewhat shy and could be very happy as a hermit reading good books and listening to beautiful music.  Because Vonette is more outgoing, it has caused me to relate more to people and to deliberately be more outgoing than I would be naturally.  She has helped me to balance my reserve and shyness with her outgoing, joyful personality.

But the greatest blessing of all that I receive from Vonette is her godly walk with our Lord.  It is a great encouragement to see her in the morning reading her Bible and consulting her prayer diary, where she keeps her list of prayer requests and the names of people for whom she prays.  It is a wonderful assurance to have a godly wife who truly seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  It is a great encouragement and strength to me to know that my wife is undergirding me and this ministry with her prayers and Christ-like lifestyle.

I have been privileged to have been blessed with a godly mother, a godly teacher for my early days as a Christian and a godly wife.  It serves as a reminder again of the crucial roles God has given women in our society.

If you are a mother with little children, you may be frustrated and feel that you’re not being maximized for the glory of God.  Yet my mother, although she had a sensitive heart for our neighbors, felt her primary ministry was rearing her seven children.  And all our lives were dramatically touched by her influence.

Wives, you can have a phenomenal role in helping to maximize the effectiveness of your husbands, even as Vonette has helped to strengthen my ministry.  She has done this through her encouragement, her wise counsel and through communicating a positive, loving, gracious spirit to me and to our children.  And you can discover the ways God wants to use you.

Single women, you need to do what God has called you to do with a joyful, happy heart.  Don’t feel that the Lord has shortchanged you.  In fact, as a single person you can give even more time to loving and serving Him because you do not have the responsitibility for children or for responding to a husband.  Dr. Henrietta Mears was a single woman and was used of God to touch the lives of multitudes.

All that I am or ever hope to be is, in no small measure, because of these three women whom God has used in my life.  Without question mothers, wives and single women can make a difference in our world as they trust the Lord for His resurrection power and obey His commands.

What about you?  How is God using you in your season of life?

C1987 ccci

<<<  Jesus’ View of Women       <<  Bill’s Mother       < Dr. Henrietta Mears

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Today I have a guest post from a very special person–my sweet husband.  He wrote this article for his monthly Connection newsletter to our staff.  He has gotten much positive feedback on it, so I wanted to share it with you.

In the December Connection I mentioned an opportunity God gave me to help a Christian woman know God’s will for her life. Many have asked what I said. Here is the process I took her through:

WALK – Walk with God closely and continually.

  1. This helps assure we listen to God’s thoughts, not ours.
  2. This allows us to receive ongoing and progressive leading from God. God’s plans for us don’t usually become clear and complete all at once.
  3. This qualifies us to receive God’s opportunities and blessings (2 Chronicles 16:9).

ASK – Pray specifically for God to reveal His will.

We are promised in James 1:5 that if we ask for wisdom, God will give it to us generously. Years ago, God gave me a sense that I needed to become much more effective in doing evangelism. When I prayed that He would show me how, He brought me two tremendous learning opportunities. At the time, I was responsible for overall operations in CCC, so I might not have recognized the evangelistic opportunities as strategic if I had not prayed for and received a sense of God’s will and plan for me.

CONSIDER – Consider three factors: passions, strengths, and opportunities.

I have usually found I can see why God has a certain direction for me in light of these.

  1. Passion (What am I already motivated to do?)
  2. Strengths (Where do I have competencies which can be utilized well?)
  3. Opportunities (Which doors has God seemed to open for me at this time?)

God showed me how the plan to be more effective in evangelism represented a confluence of all three in my life.

  1. I had the passion to lead more people to Christ.
  2. God gave me a strength in teaching, which could help make coming to Christ clearer and more compelling.
  3. God led a group of students (at The International School of Theology) to invite me to the opportunity of teaching on personal development as a bridge to presenting the gospel.

Passion, strength and opportunity came together as a powerful confirmation of God’s plan for me to become more effective in evangelism.

PLAN FIRST STEPS

One barrier to pursuing God’s plan for us is that we tend to dream and wish, but often we don’t plan specifically and practically.
My fairly consistent experience is that I must be proactive in order to pursue God’s plan. He directs my thoughts and desires, but I have to cooperate with plans and action. In addition, I must find practical ways to start – to take the first step or two. Determining long-term direction is very important. Yet a crystal-clear vision often unfolds over time.

START THEN EVALUATE

The likelihood of making good long-term progress is usually directly proportional to how soon we take the first steps. If we start putting them off, we will find ways to continue doing so. I wonder how many New Year’s resolutions succumb to procrastination.
After starting, I evaluate my progress and ask God for more refinement on what I initially sensed He said.

HOW DID I LEAD THE WOMAN ON THE PLANE THROUGH THIS PROCESS?

First, we discussed how to convert her “occasional visit with God” prayer life into a constant conversation.

Second, we prayed God would give her a clear picture of His plan.

Third, we sought to discern her core motivation. Then we explored her strengths. Finally, we listed and prioritized the opportunities God had already given her. Although it took some thinking, we quickly saw how God had equipped her to pursue what He had put on her heart.

Fourth, we got very specific in planning things she could do the next week to get started.

Last, I asked her to commit to me that she would do something on this the next day. I also encouraged her to evaluate and adjust over time.

I hope this process is useful to you in helping people know what God wants them to do.

What about you?  How do you seek to discern God’s will?  What in this article might be especially helpful?

c2012 Judy Douglass

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Dr. Henrietta Mears

I had the great privilege of writing and editing with Bill Bright for 14 years.  One my favorite articles of his was one about the three people who had influenced him the most in life:  his mother, a single church leader/educator and his wife, Vonette.  I am going to let him tell you about each one over the next few weeks.

The first week I posted some of his perspective on Jesus’ view of women.  Last week we discovered how his mother, Mary Lee Bright, had great impact on him.  This week we meet the remarkable Henrietta Mears.

The second woman to greatly influence my life was Dr. Henrietta Mears, who was director of Christian education and in charge of the college and young adult people at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood.

Miss Mears built the largest Sunday school in America at that time.  Some 6,500 were involved in an efficiently run program with highly trained teachers.  Dr. Mears had written most of the curriculum for the Sunday school herself—materials that have since been used by thousands of other churches.  [She also founded Gospel Light, Regal Books and Forest Home Christian Conference Center.]

I have had the privilege of knowing many godly pastors and great Christian leaders, but no one has influenced my life more than Dr. Mears.  Many of the things that I believe and teach today were inculcated into me by watching her life and listening to her teaching.

Bill Bright as young businessman

I had come to Southern California in 1944, where I began my own business.  At First Presbyterian Church, I met several dynamic Christians after attending a number of meetings.  I began to study the Bible for myself.  I was at that time an agnostic, but very open to truth.  Though I was a seeker after truth, I pursued my quest privately for the most part.  When I did go to church, I would usually sit in the back row so I could slip out before anybody had a chance to talk to me.

One evening Dr. Mears was speaking to the college group about Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.  By this time I had become convinced that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and Savior of men.  Dr. Mears quoted Paul’s words::  “Lord, what do You want me to do?”

She challenged us to go home, get on our knees and say, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”  I did exactly that, and I trace my conversion experience to that evening.  Alone on my knees in my home, I prayed a prayer similar to the apostle Paul’s and I chose to dedicate the rest of my life to serving God.

For whatever reason, Dr. Mears felt that I had some potential for the Lord, so she encouraged me to become one of a handful who met with her regularly for prayer and study of the Scripture.  Every Saturday we met at 6 a.m. for most of the morning to read the Bible and pray.  Without my realizing it, I was being introduced to a kind of Christianity that was rare.  I discovered a vital, dynamic, personal walk with the Lord.

Though I can never remember her teaching a class in soul winning, Dr. Mears led many people to Christ in my presence.  When witnessing opportunities did come for me, it was only natural to do it the way I had observed her do it.

Dr. Mears also introduced Vonette to Christ and played an important part in discipling her.  Dr. Mears had a phenomenal impact on Vonette’s and my spiritual growth.

Billy Graham and Bill Bright at Forest Home

During the early years of the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry, Vonette and I had the privilege of sharing her home for 10 years.  Located near the UCLA campus, it was a perfect place for student meetings and all types of Christian gatherings.  The home was so designed that Vonette and I lived in one part of the home, and Dr. Mears in another.  We shared our meals together.  We also shared the costs for operating the home, where many hundreds of students met Christ and were discipled.

Dr. Mears was always attractively attired, and her humor and outgoing personality made her shine.  Many were attracted to her as she challenged them to big things.  She was a master at motivating and inspiring people to do great things for God.

At the time of her death, more than 400 people had gone into Christian service as a result of her influence.  The lives she touched included Billy Graham, Young Life founder Jim Rayburn, Navigators founder Dawson Trotman, U.S. Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson and many, many others.

Next week I will post the final article about the third woman who has influenced Bill Bright, his wife, Vonette.

c1987 CCCI

What about you?  Who has influenced you?  Whom have you influenced?

<<  Jesus’ View of Women   <  Bill’s Mother   Vonette Bright  >

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Mary Lee Bright

I had the great privilege of writing and editing with Bill Bright for 14 years.  One my favorite articles of his was one about the three people who had influenced him the most in life:  his mother, a single church leader/educator and his wife, Vonette.  I am going to let him tell you about each one over the next few weeks.

Last week I posted some of his perspective on Jesus’ view of women.  This week we discover how his mother, Mary Lee Bright, had great impact on him.  Elsewhere he has written that he attributes his finally coming to Christ to his mother’s persistent prayers.

The first of the three women [who greatly influenced my life]was my mother.  I remember her reading to our family gathered around the fire when we were snowbound at the ranch where I grew up.  She was familiar with the classics and, as we sat eating popcorn, she read to us.  With seven children in the family, there was always a book report due from one of us for school, so we all benefited year-round from her reading.

But I gained much more than an appreciation for good books from my mother.  She modeled authentic Christianity before me in dozens of ways.  Although we rose early to begin our dawn-to-dusk hard work on the ranch, my mother was always up before the rest of the family, reading the Bible and praying.  I remember her softly humming hymns of worship to the Lord all day long, and after the rest of us had gone to bed, she would again read her Bible and pray.

At the time I supposed all mothers were like that.  It never occurred to me that mine was unusual.  Now, of course, I realize that she was truly one of God’s choicest servants.

Bill Bright with his mother and father

Among the many lessons I learned from her were the importance of hard work, a gracious spirit, humility and unselfishly looking after the needs of others.  Even though our nearest neighbor was at least a half mile away and others even farther, my mother was always there when a neighbor was ill or hurting.

She also had a great love for her family.  We never felt that she singled any of us out as her favorites, but we felt as though we were all her favorites.

We lived about five miles from the nearest community, so I had quite a walk home after athletic practice or school plays.  Frequently my mother would meet me about a mile or two from home and we would walk back to the house together, talking about whatever was on my mind.

My mother had a profound spiritual influence on my life.  She dedicated me to the Lord before I was born, and her prayers, enhanced by her godly lifestyle, undergirded me daily for the next 62 years, until her death in December, 1983.

Next week we will learn how Dr. Henrietta Mears had significant impact on Bill Bright’s life.

c1987 CCCI

What about you?  How did your mother influence you?  As a parent, how are you impacting your children?

<  Jesus’ View of Women   Dr. Henrietta Mears  >   Vonette Bright  >>

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