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Fran and Jesus on the Job – Sad News – Part II

May 6, 2017

After making sure her mom is settled at home with her sister, Fran drives herself home where her children await. Her dear aunt picked them up from school and has stayed with them through the long afternoon and evening. She has told them very little except that their mom is with their grandma and grandpa at the hospital—and she’ll be home soon. They had many questions, but her aunt has tried to deflect them and keep them busy doing homework, playing games, eating dinner—anything to keep their minds occupied.

Fran sobs as she drives. As she nears home, she knows that she has to gather herself and think of how to tell her children. She remembers the terrible day she had to tell them that their dad was killed. Alice was a baby so she doesn’t remember her dad much, but Drew was four-years old and, even at that young age, he suffered as any child would who learns his dad is gone. Now, to tell them that their grandpa is gone—how does one do that? Parenting classes didn’t prepare her for this.

She dries her eyes as she arrives and thinks of what words to say. There are no easy words; how does one soften this blow? She thanks her sweet aunt, who offers to stay, but she thinks it’s probably best if she is alone with the children. They begin to bombard her with questions: “Why were you at the hospital? Where is Grandma and Grandpa? Are they okay?”

“Drew and Alice, let’s sit down here on the sofa and I’ll explain where I was,” Fran begins.

“Have you been crying, Mom?” Alice asks. “You look like you’ve been crying.”

“Well, yes, I have, Alice, because something sad has happened and when something sad happens, we cry, don’t we? Let me explain.”

With as little drama as possible, she tells her children this sad news and tries to answer their many questions. Abundant tears are shed, and Fran realizes that she will have to learn the best way to help them deal with their emotions and their questions. Maybe she could use some counsel on how best to do that, she thinks. But that’s for another day. Now, the immediate need for burial arrangements, a memorial service—all of that and more—floods her mind. How will she get through these next few days?

Finally the kids are asleep and she falls into bed to try to rest. Sheer exhaustion takes over and she gets a few hours of uneasy sleep; however, before the dawn of day she is awake and the reality of what has happened hits her like a punch in the stomach. It’s literally a physical reaction, and she stumbles out of bed to get a cup of coffee and think about what has to now be done.

She is about to call her mom when her phone rings; it’s Mom calling her. “Fran, how are the children? I’ve been thinking about them all night. Poor babies—I should have been there when you told them. I want to come over this morning and see them. Is that okay?”

“Of course, Mom. They would love to see you! It would comfort them to see that you’re okay and that you are still here,” Fran says. “How are you, Mom? Did you sleep any?” They talk a few minutes and make plans for her mom to come over soon.

Fran now begins to just put one foot in front of the other and walk through all that has to be done. If you’ve ever been in such a situation, you know that you exist on adrenalin at first—going through the motions and doing what you have to do. Her mom arrives, the kids are so happy to see her, and they bombard her with questions, as well. She spends much time with them, holding them and reassuring them of how much their grandpa loved them.

“Why did God take Grandpa?” Drew asks. This is the question no one can adequately answer. Fran and her mom don’t try to sugar-coat it or use the clichés that you often hear. They simply say, “We don’t know,” while at the same time expressing their faith that God does all things well.

Fran looks at the clock and realizes it’s time to go to work. She doesn’t feel she can go to work today and yet there’s a presentation which was due today. Quickly she calls her assistant, explains the situation, and asks if the boss is in. “No, not yet,” is her response, “but I’ll have him call you as soon as he arrives.” Her assistant is very kind, and says that Louise, Fran’s co-worker friend, had already told them about her dad. She expresses sincere sympathy and asks if there’s anything she can do.

“Thanks for asking, but I just need to talk to John about my presentation today. You have all the handouts I prepared, right? I have the PowerPoint pretty much done. I think he could make the presentation for me,” Fran says.

“Don’t worry about it, Fran; I’ll cover all that for you. I just feel so bad for you. I mean, you lost your husband and now your father. I think that is just the worst thing. I’m really so sorry. I wish I could do something to help you. But I know you’re very religious and your faith will help you. You’re such a strong person.”

“Susan, I so appreciate your kind words. Just to hear that you are concerned means a great deal. And yes, it makes a huge difference that my faith in Jesus is strong and he will get us through this as he has done before. Jesus is that ever-present friend, Susan, and I truly could not be strong if I didn’t have a personal relationship with him. You and I talked about that once before, didn’t we?”

“We did, Fran, and I’ve thought a lot about what you said. We’ll have to talk about it again. For now, don’t worry about this office. It will survive. You just let us know what the plans are for your father’s service when you know them,” Susan says and Fran can hear tears in her voice.

As they hang up, Fran takes a minute to pray: “Jesus, in the midst of all this sorrow, I can even now see that you will use it for good. Help Susan to really think about her own eternal destiny, and please give me another opportunity to share the Good News with her that she can know you, too.”

The phone begins to ring; the word has gotten out. Her mom returns to her home, and Fran and the children join her there. Much food is brought in, but of course they have little appetite. Friends and family stream in and out throughout the day to offer sympathy and comfort. One lady from her mom’s church seems to think it’s her job to “preach a sermon” to her mom. She boldly tells her mom not to cry and not to worry, because her husband is in a better place, for all things work together for good to those who love God. Unfortunately, that brings no comfort at all. Instead, it makes Fran angry and upsets her mom even more, so she tries to find a nice way of ushering her out of the house.

Then a long-time friend of her mom’s comes in, looks at her and says, “Oh, Liz, I’m so very sorry. This is so wrong, so wrong. . . .” The two of them hold onto each other for a long time, crying and sobbing. No more words were said; the feelings went too deep and the despair was too great. But weeping and sobbing with her mom was a great comfort to her.

Paul wrote that we are to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). There are no words any of us can say to ease the grief of such a great loss, but by weeping with those who are weeping, we carry part of their burden with them; this makes it a little bit easier for them.

I’ve been reminded again that death is the enemy, and we cannot escape the sorrow that life on this planet will inevitably bring. But we can be instruments of God’s love and peace by simply weeping with those who are sorrowful, sharing their grief and pain as much as we can, and thus fulfilling the law of Christ.

Many years ago my young niece lost her husband of a year-and-a-half to an aggressive cancer that took him quickly. I remember saying to my brother, his father-in-law, “Why did this happen to one so young, with so much hope and life in front of him? How did this happen to us?” And my brother said something I’ve never forgotten: “Mary, why shouldn’t it happen to our family? We’re not exempt from the sorrows of life, and death is the enemy.”

I knew that Paul had written in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I knew that, but I had never before experienced so close to home the truth that death is the enemy—it is the result, the sting, of our sin-cursed world. But thanks be to God for the victory we can have even in the midst of sorrow when we are a Christ-follower. We have his peace and comfort to see us through.

As I’ve tried to comfort some dear friends and a close family member who are going through the valley of the shadow of death during these last couple of months, I’ve been reminded again that we are sojourners here—we’re all on a journey that will end on this earth and begin in another place. The important thing to know is that, when the number of our days comes to an end, we have done what is necessary in order to have victory over death: we have made peace with God now, on this side of death, while there is time to accept the Way, the Truth, and the Life—Jesus Christ—and believe in his redemptive death and resurrection. There’s only one way to be assured of eternal life with God, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ.

As Fran now faces the very sudden death of her dear father, she will have a new normal. She won’t have an earthly dad to run to for advice, or an earthly grandpa as a friend and role model for her children. She will need to be there for her mom, who will experience deep loneliness and need much help in adjusting to her life as a widow.  And Fran will have to work through her own stages of grief. This can be a time of total despair, or a time when she will learn to trust God in new ways, to accept the love and help her friends will offer, and to remember that this is not the end of the story. She does not sorrow as one with no hope; she’ll see her dad again because he was ready to meet Jesus.

Whatever crisis or tragedy you may be facing in your life, I hope this story will reaffirm to you that God walks with you through every step and every stage of the journey. Take one day at a time; don’t try to live in tomorrow. Know that with Jesus, you’ll make it, because he will make a way for you.

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Fran and Jesus on the Job – Sad News – Part I

Apr 29, 2017

As a single working mom, Fran has struggled, like many of us do, to live out her faith on her job, and be a good mom as well as a good daughter. She has lots of hats to wear, and it certainly hasn’t been easy. But she has learned a lot, grown in her faith, and has a deep sense that God is guiding her steps and protecting her and her children. Thankfully she has wonderful parents who live nearby who have been with her through everything, and she often phones her mom for comfort and her dad for advice.

It’s Thursday afternoon and, as Fran is busily finishing up an important presentation for tomorrow’s meeting with a new client, her cell phone rings and she notes that it’s her mom. Well, she thinks, I can just call her back on the way home. But something prompts her to answer the call. Her mom rarely calls her at work, so she figures it must be important.

“Hi, Mom,” she says cheerily, “how’s it going?”

“Fran,” her mom’s voice is shaky, “they just called me from your dad’s office and he fainted or something and they’re taking him to the hospital. I was just wondering…”

“Fainted at work? Well, that doesn’t sound good, but I’m sure it’s nothing. I’m on my way, Mom. I’ll come by and pick you up. I should be there in fifteen minutes.” She doesn’t want to alarm her mother, but she is concerned. It’s so unlike her dad—he’s always the strong, healthy one. So with her own heart skipping a few beats, she picks up her purse, leaves everything else scattered on her desk, and heads to her car.

It’s the longest fifteen-minute drive of her life as she begins to process this information. Her dad—her strong, capable, godly dad whom she relies on so often—something has happened to him. She tries to pray as she drives, but it’s more like a cry. Lord, please, please. . . . She doesn’t even know what words to use, so she simply repeats the name of Jesus over and over, knowing that the Holy Spirit is interceding for her.

If you’ve ever had a phone call that changes your life, you know how Fran feels. There are times when words just don’t work; your heart and mind are so traumatized that you can’t really pray. Romans 8:26 says, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

As she arrives at her mom’s house, she does her best to bring her own emotions under control so she can be strong for her mom. “Thanks, Fran, for driving me. I’m not sure it would be safe for me to drive right now,” her mom says, trying to be lighthearted but obviously distressed.

As they are on the way, Fran says, “Did they give you any further information, Mom? I mean, did he just faint? Was that all they told you?”

“That’s all they said to me, Fran, and they encouraged me to go to the hospital for further information,” she says, with the tears now coming down her face. “He told me this morning that he was a little dizzy, and he stumbled and almost fell coming down the stairs. He insisted it was nothing. We didn’t think anything about it. What do you think it is, Fran?”

Fran’s mind is racing. What could it be? A stroke? A heart-attack? Maybe just something he ate. “Mom, let’s not let our imaginations run wild until we see him. Let me pray.” As they drive to the hospital, Fran prays for peace for the two of them and for wisdom for those caring for her dad. Of course, she also prays it will be nothing serious.

Walking into the emergency room, they expect to see her dad right away, but they are told that he is with a medical team and someone will give them an update shortly. Shortly means five minutes, right? muses Fran. Unfortunately, this “shortly” lasted over an hour, and Fran and her mom have to sit in a room with lots of other people while not knowing exactly where her dad is or what’s happening to him. Several times Fran asks the person at the desk for information. Each time they give her the same answer: someone will be with you soon to give you an update.

She and her mom agree that the delay is not a good sign, but they try not to think or talk about the possible bad report. Instead, they silently pray for good news. While waiting, Fran makes a few calls to her aunt and other family members, and leaves a message for the pastor at her mom and dad’s church. She tries not to raise an alarm but merely to ask them to pray. But as the minutes slowly pass, their apprehension and fears increase, and it becomes very difficult to remain positive.

Finally they call her mom’s name and are directed to a private room where they meet with two doctors who have attended her dad. “Mrs. Taylor,” they address her mom, “it appears your husband has experienced a stroke and we are running several tests to get a better idea of the severity, the location, and what the best treatment should be. We just can’t give you much more information until we get some test results. We’re doing everything we can.”

They bombard the doctors with many questions, but they seem reluctant to say anything more until they have more information: it could be hours; they might be able to see him soon; not sure when the tests will be done. . . . They can get no answers to their questions, and are once again left to wait.

Fran’s aunt volunteers to pick her kids up from school and keep them until she’s home. She is very concerned about how to tell her children. Their grandpa is “the man” in their lives, since they were both very young when their dad was killed. They adore him! It will be difficult for them to understand and she doesn’t want them to be unnecessarily alarmed. The concerns seem to pile up one on top of another and her mind is unsettled.

Soon her mom’s pastor comes to sit with them, as do some other close friends and family. It’s beginning to feel very serious, very ominous, and Fran is trying to help her mom cope with this while keeping herself from falling apart.

Suddenly there seems to be a flurry of activity with doctors and nurses going in and out, and lots of dire-sounding messages on the intercom. A nurse comes to her mom and says, “Mrs. Taylor, we think you should see your husband now. Come with me.” She agrees that Fran can accompany her and they walk into a room where her dad lies with all kinds of monitors and tubes on his body. Fran notices that they are beginning to remove the tubes and turn off the monitors.

“Mrs. Taylor,” a doctor says to her, “your husband had a massive stroke which eventually led to heart failure. We have done everything we knew to do, but I’m so sorry to have to tell you that we were not able to save him. His heart just gave out, and that, very suddenly. Our efforts to revive him simply didn’t work. I am so sorry to tell you this.”

“Do you mean to tell me. . . .” her mother tries to speak, “do you mean to tell me that he’s gone—and I didn’t even get to talk to him. . . .” Her knees begin to buckle, and Fran and a nurse catch her just before she collapses; they help her to a chair. “Ma’am,” one doctor says, “we were hopeful that he would regain consciousness but it was very sudden. I am so sorry. . . .” His voice trails off as there are just no words that help.

Fran’s mind goes into denial: No, this simply is not true. They’ve made a mistake! She looks at her dad, trying to wrap her mind around the fact that he is no longer there. Her dad—her strong and loving hero, the man who made it easy for her to believe in and love her Heavenly Father—lying there lifeless. She would never speak to him again, never hear his voice. How can this be?

Then she realizes that she can’t think about herself right now; she has to be there for her mom. They want her to remain seated and they offer her some water. The nurse asks if she’d like something to calm her nerves, but she insists on being near her husband, holding his hand, and talking to him. It’s a private moment, and those in the room take a step back as she says her goodbyes to her husband of 47 years.

Their pastor and friends gather round and, with many tears and sobs, prayers are offered. Someone starts to sing a hymn. Fran stands beside her mom, holding her close. Arms are all around them, offering comfort, but Fran has no idea what they’re saying. Her mind is simply not functioning. The shock is more than she can bear. All she can think is that she has to be there for her mom.

Fran and her mom are blessed to have friends and family who stay strong for them, who help them navigate these unknown waters, who assist in making the necessary decisions. Eventually they are ready to leave the hospital. Her mother resists leaving, wanting more time with her husband, feeling like she’s abandoning him and she should take him home. But reality sets in and gently Fran and others convince her it’s time to go. Her mother’s sister will stay with her, so now Fran must go home to face her children with this terrible news.

When life throws you this kind of horrific curve ball and, in a matter of a few hours, life takes a turn into a new world—a world you never wanted or imagined—how do you survive? Many of us have walked this path in one way or another. It may be words from a doctor telling you the bad news of some tests you’ve undergone. It may be a mate saying those dreaded words that they are leaving you. It could be a call from the police station that your son or daughter has just been arrested for drunk driving. There are so many sudden happenings that can come out of the blue and bring devastating consequences and sad news that change your life forever.

How do you survive? This is when your faith is sorely tested, and you need others to have faith for you—to step in and, as it were, “loan you” some of their faith. You don’t need pat answers; you don’t need to hear trite words that, though intended to comfort, instead cause you to be angry. When life comes to a full stop and your mind and heart are unable to cope, you need fellow believers who share your burden and come alongside to hold your arms up—as Moses of old did when his strength was gone. Fran is blessed to have friends and family who are there for her and her mom.

Now she must continue to live and face her responsibilities as a mother and a daughter.

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Are You on Solid Ground or Quicksand?

Apr 20, 2017

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Are you looking for a relationship that will fulfill you and give you everything you ever wanted?  At some point in our lives many of us have an idea that if we just can find that perfect relationship, we’ll be on solid ground. I know, because I spent many years of my own life desperately searching for someone to make me happy. But I discovered, after ten long years, that I was on a slippery slope which was taking me down a path of disobedience and misery.

Building our lives on an earthly relationship or the pursuit of that perfect relationship is quicksand. Why? Because relationships are subject to change. Even good relationships can change through death or other uncontrollable variables. It’s wonderful that God has given us close and loving relationships; I certainly treasure the friends and family in my life who form my support team. And now, for the past eighteen months, I’ve been blessed to have a godly husband with whom to share my life. But none are guaranteed to be here for me tomorrow.

Many single people are fooled by this quicksand of the perfect relationship, and they spend too much of their lives waiting, hoping, and praying for that perfect mate. Certainly there is nothing wrong with wanting and praying for a partner; God created men and women for each other. But building on an earthly relationship is like building on quicksand; it is subject to lots of uncertainty and disappointment.

However, there is one relationship that we can build on without any fear, and that is, of course, the Rock, Jesus Christ. He loves us unconditionally and always will. He can guarantee us that he will never leave us or forsake us. He never changes, so we can be certain he’ll love us tomorrow, next year, and even twenty years from now, regardless of how we may change.

Thus, instead of looking for an earthly relationship to meet your needs, start building a firm relationship with Jesus. He is the Rock, and when you stand firm on him, every other relationship in your life will greatly improve.

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Fran and Jesus on the Job – Singleness

Feb 11, 2017

Part II

As we left our story, Fran attended a singles dinner at her church, and sat at a table with a single man named David, new to the city and to the church, who invited her out for a cup of coffee afterwards. She found David attractive and is hoping to hear from him again. In fact, he asked for her number and said he’d call.

It’s the next day, and Fran has had a hard time concentrating at work today, as she thinks about David and anticipates his call. She’s thought of nothing else all day and Jesus has had a hard time getting her attention throughout the day.

That evening as she’s doing a load of laundry, her phone rings, and Fran’s heart stops. Maybe it’s David! She rushes to pick up her phone, and then let’s it rings one more time. Then she tries to casually answer, only to discover it’s not David, it’s Patsy. They chat a few minutes, and she hangs up. Her mother calls and wants to chat, but Fran pretends to be busy in order to get her off the phone and free it up. Finally at 11:00 she drags herself to bed, feeling disappointed. She really thought David would call tonight.

Finally she talks to the Lord about it: “Lord, it felt so good to have that male attention,” Fran says, brushing away a couple of tears. 

“I know,” Jesus responds. “I understand your need for male attention; but you can trust me to meet your needs in other ways, if necessary, and even if there isn’t another man in your future, I am capable of fulfilling you and making your life very meaningful. Can you trust me?”

“Yes,” Fran says, with the tears trickling down her face, “I can trust you, but I can’t imagine living the rest of my life without a husband. I’m lonely; it’s not fun being a single in a married world.”

“Well, you don’t have to live the rest of your life, Fran,” Jesus says very kindly, “just today. I’ve gotten you through the last few years; I can get you through today.”

As the week progresses, Fran finds herself still thinking about David, but with more perspective. But she is still hoping he will call, and every time the phone rings, her heart skips a couple of beats. But Thursday and Friday evening come and go without a call from David.

As she’s busy cleaning house on Saturday the phone rings, and Fran picks it up absentmindedly. “Hi, Fran, this is David. Remember me?” she hears from the other end. She truly did not expect it to be David, and it catches her by surprise.

“Oh, David, hi,” she finally manages to say. “Sure I remember you, of course. I just wasn’t expecting… Yes, I enjoyed our conversation, David. What? Tonight? Well, it would be nice to have dinner with you, but you see, I have two kids and to find a baby-sitter this late—well, I don’t see how I could.”

After a pause, Fran says, “Well, sure, I guess I could try. Yeah, okay, call me back in an hour or so. I’ll let you know.”

As she hangs up the phone, her heart is beating a mile a minute. Dinner tonight! She calls a couple of her teenage sitters, but they’re busy.

Finally she gets up the nerve to ask her mother if she can bring the kids over to her house and let them sleep over. Her mother is glad to have her grandchildren for the evening, but skeptical about Fran’s last minute invitation. Fran ignores her concern, and agrees to bring the kids over at 6:00.

David calls in a few minutes, Fran confirms she can have dinner with him, and then she looks at the clock. Almost noon. Wow, she’s going to have to get busy to get everything done and be ready for dinner. As she sits down to give her nails a quick going over, for the first time since David’s call she remembers that Jesus is there. “Well, Jesus, I guess you’re not happy with my date with David, either,” she says, trying to make light of it.

“I’ve been watching you all morning Fran. You’re really excited about this date, aren’t you,” Jesus says, ignoring her other remark.

“Surely there’s nothing wrong with that, is there? Don’t I have a right to some fun?” Fran replies, defensively.

“A right?” Jesus asks. “You’re still super concerned about your rights, Fran.”

“Well, I just used the wrong word. I mean, don’t I have—uh, don’t I deserve—I mean, what’s wrong with a date? You made men and women for each other, and David and I are attracted to each other. It’s just that simple,” Fran responds.

“Oh, Fran, I understand your feelings,” Jesus responds slowly. “But what I’m not happy with is your over-reaction to this invitation—to this man. You’ve shown very little caution or discernment, and you really don’t know him.”

The air is rather heavy between them, and Fran just leaves it at that point. Pretty soon it’s time to get her shower, fix her hair and find the right thing to wear. Then she hastily gets the kids ready, puts them in the car, and heads out to her mother’s house.

Back at her house, she checks her hair one more time, and sits down to wait for David. David is thirty minutes late, but finally the doorbell rings. David makes no mention of being late, and they head out to the restaurant. The conversation goes along smoothly, picking up where they left off Tuesday evening. Fran tells David more about her family, her job. Then David starts talking about his marriage.

“My ex-wife tried to take me for everything I’m worth when we divorced. I’ve taken her to court twice to get the payments reduced, but it doesn’t work. She tells lies and they always believe what the woman says,” David says, with bitterness in his voice.

Fran is very uncomfortable with the conversation, and feels an uneasiness in her spirit about his attitude toward his ex-wife. Trying to change the subject, she says, “How about your sons? Do you get to see them often?”

“Well, before I moved here I saw them once or twice a month. Now, it’ll be a little harder,” David says, “but they’re busy teenagers. They don’t have a lot of time for anything but soccer and girls!”

Again, a bell goes off in Fran’s head. Only saw his sons once or twice a month? Wow, doesn’t say a lot for his role as a father.

“Fran,” Jesus says quietly, “I hope you’re listening.”

Fran squirms in her seat. Being reminded that Jesus is there makes her a bit uncomfortable, but there’s no denying that David is not making the best impression. However, she changes the subject, and the evening continues nicely.

In this nice setting, with the music and the good food, Fran thinks, “He really is a nice looking man.” He smiles at her warmly, and reaches for her hand.

“I’m so glad I met you, Fran,” David says, as the waiter is pouring their coffee. “You don’t know how lonely it’s been to move to a city where you don’t know anybody. I’m glad you could be with me tonight.”

The touch of his hand feels good. It’s been a long time and Fran enjoys the feeling. “Well, I’m glad we met, too, David. Since Jim’s death I’ve been terribly lonely, but I’ve also learned that Jesus can fill up some of the lonely places. He’s become more of a friend to me than ever before.”

“Yeah, right,” David responds. It’s the first reference to anything spiritual all evening and David doesn’t seem too comfortable. After paying the bill, they head out to his car. As he opens the door for her, before she realizes it, his arm goes around her and he is kissing her firmly. She tries to pull away without being obvious, but it catches her by surprise.

“Sorry if I surprised you, Fran,” David says, with his arm still around her, “but you’re a beautiful woman and I’ve wanted to do that all evening.”

“Well,” Fran stammers, “yeah, well—we better get on home, David.” All the way home, while keeping up some small talk, Fran feels that kiss. The chemistry starts fast, and from David’s rather nervous chatter, she gets the feeling that he’s thinking about it, too.

As they get to her door, she starts to say goodnight. It’s an awkward moment. She doesn’t intend for him to kiss her again, but in a way she hopes he’ll try. Fishing for her keys, she says, “Well, I hope to see you in church tomorrow. And thanks again, David. It was a really lovely evening.”

“Your kids aren’t here, are they?” David asks, as he holds the screen door.

“No, they’re at my mom’s for the night,” Fran replies.

“Well, then no reason I have to rush off, is there? Can we drum up another cup of coffee?” he asks with a disarming smile.

Fran feels obligated, but she knows it’s not smart to be alone with him. “Well, it’s kinda late; maybe another time,” she says.

“Oh, come on Fran, we’re both adults,” David says, moving closer to her. “And the house is empty. You have needs, so do I; why don’t we enjoy the evening.”

Seven hundred alarms now go off in Fran’s head. “David,” she says, “I don’t know what you have in mind, but the answer is no.”

He actually starts to push the door open as Fran unlocks it, and go in. “David,” she repeats, “I said goodnight.”

“Fran, I didn’t take you out just to have someone to eat with,” he looks her in the eyes, and the charm has vanished. “Now, come on. You got rid of the kids tonight so we could be alone—admit it.”

“David,” Fran says with alarm, “what are you saying? I certainly had no intention of anything more than dinner.”

“Fran, let’s just have some fun,” David says. “You’re single; I’m single; what difference does it make.”

“David, I thought you were a Christian,” Fran says with shock.

“I am, but that doesn’t mean I’m a monk! I am a man, after all,” he replies.

At this point, he starts to push the door open again, and Fran remembers to call for help. “Lord, help, please help!”

“Pull the door shut again, Fran. It will then automatically lock. And stay on the porch until he drives off,” Jesus whispers in her ear.

Quickly, before David realizes what she’s doing, Fran pulls the door shut. “David, I will stand here on this porch until you drive off. Goodnight,” she says, and the finality in her voice finally gets the message across.

“Fran, I’m sorry I wasted your time. I thought you were a woman who knows the score. Obviously I was wrong,” he says over his shoulder.

Fran leans against the door as her knees start to buckle. “Oh, Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you. If you hadn’t given me that idea, who knows what would have happened.”

Fran goes into the house and sinks down on the sofa. The tears start rushing down her cheeks as she realizes what happened. “Oh no, oh no, how could I have been so stupid. Oh, Lord, I think he would have raped me if I hadn’t gotten that door closed. Did you see the look in his eye?”

“I saw his heart, Fran; that’s why I wanted you to get to know him better before you were alone with him,” Jesus says to her gently.

“I’m sorry, Lord, I didn’t listen to you or mom or anybody,” Fran says sobbing. “I just wanted to be with a man so badly that I lost all reasoning and all my sensibilities. Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Now, Fran, don’t cry anymore. You’re safe. I know you never intended for the evening to go like this. You’ve learned some good lessons you won’t forget,” Jesus says.

As she crawls in bed, she surveys her room and thinks about her kids. “Oh, I love those kids. And I hardly gave them any time today,” she remembers, and the tears start to trickle again.

“Now, Fran,” Jesus says quietly, “don’t start wallowing in guilt. You made some basic mistakes; but no harm has been done. So, learn from it, grow from it, and let it go.”

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Fran and Jesus on the Job – Singleness

Feb 4, 2017

Part I 

For quite a few years I’ve been telling an on-going fictional story I call Fran and Jesus on the Job. Fran is a young widow whose husband was killed in an accident, and now she finds herself a working mom with two children. Fran is learning how to turn to Jesus for wisdom and guidance in every area of her life. She is learning to practice the presence of Jesus all the time—remember and be aware that as a Christ-follower, she has God’s Spirit resident within her. When you’re born from above, you can have conversations with Jesus just like Fran, because he is with you always. Obviously he doesn’t speak to you in verbal words, but as you get to know him better and better, his Spirit within you can certainly speak to your heart.

Since Jim’s untimely death, Fran finds that her life is consumed with just keeping her family going. For the first year after his death, she had to learn to do so many things she’d never done before, and all that in the midst of terrible grief. Now, as a working mom, her time and energy are needed to do her job and be the mother she wants to be. She’s learning how much sacrifice it takes to try to wear both of those hats.

But as several years have now passed since she became a widow, Fran is beginning to feel the desire and the need for male companionship. You may remember that she had an intense relationship with a man named Barry, which she had hoped was leading to marriage. But it didn’t, so Fran has tried to be content with being single and not think about getting married. However, she finds herself looking at attractive men, checking their ring finger out quickly to see if they’re married, daydreaming about whether she’ll ever find someone else to take Jim’s place.

Fran’s social life is pretty well centered around her church. It always has been, and she certainly intends for her children to have that firm and solid foundation of biblical teaching and good friends that they find in their church.

But now that she’s single, Fran isn’t quite sure where she fits in at church anymore. She never realized how everything in church is often so geared toward couples and families. Of course, she is a family and she wants her kids to take part in those family activities. But somehow, as a single woman, she feels awkward.

On this Tuesday evening, a new friend, Patsy, has urged her to come to church for a special singles event. She’s not sure she wants to, but figures if she’ll ever have an opportunity to meet single people, this is the best place to go. So, she has agreed to meet Patsy there.

As she and Jesus head to the church, she says, “You know, Lord, I never thought I’d be part of this singles’ scene again. And I’m not real comfortable with it.”

It’s been a difficult transition for you, Fran,” Jesus replies. “No doubt about that.”

“Well, Jesus, the hardest part is just not fitting in, especially at church. At first I went back to the couples’ class that Jim and I attended, but people didn’t seem to know what to do with me. I seemed to make them nervous, but just because I’m single doesn’t change who I am. I couldn’t understand why they treated me differently,” Fran remembers those early days of widowhood.

“Well, Fran, it seems that people are good at building walls of all kinds—walls between marrieds and singles, young and old, career and traditional moms, divorced and never-marrieds, professional and blue-collar people—all kinds of walls. You know,” Jesus says, “I came to tear down those walls, but Christians still keep putting them back up. It breaks my heart.”

“I guess I’ve done my share of building walls,” Fran replies, “but now that I know how it feels from the other side, I’m going to do my best never to do that again, and just to accept everyone as they are; an individual loved by God and very special.”

“The Church should be the one place where the walls come down,” Jesus says.

As she pulls into the parking lot, Patsy pulls in beside her. “Hi, Fran, glad you came tonight,” Patsy calls as they get out of their cars.

“Yeah, well, I decided it couldn’t hurt, but I’m a little uncomfortable, Patsy,” Fran says.

“Well, you’ll meet lots of nice people here—who knows, Fran, maybe even a man,” Patsy replies.

“Yeah, right, what man wants a woman with two kids to raise?” Fran asks with a laugh, but inwardly hoping that there might be some man here tonight who would find her interesting.

She and Patsy decide to sit together at an empty table, and as they chat away, the table begins to fill up with other singles. A man sits across from Fran and introduces himself as David, new to the city and the church. He looks about 35, not too tall but nice looking, well-dressed, and Fran enjoys their conversation.

“You know, Lord,” she whispers to Jesus, “he really seems to be interested in talking to me. And I’ve already told him I have two kids. Didn’t seem to scare him off.” Fran is a little excited.

“Fran,” Jesus responds, “you don’t have to worry about your kids. They’re great kids and the right kind of man will not find them a problem.”

“Do you think David might be that kind of man?” Fran asks.

“Oh, please Fran; don’t let your thoughts and imaginations run away with you. You’ve just met him. Just talk to him like any other person, be interested in him because he’s a person, and don’t start projecting about a possible relationship. It’s much too soon,” Jesus warns Fran.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry. But he is paying a lot of attention to me,” Fran notes.

After the dinner and program, David continues talking with Fran. He asks if she can have a cup of coffee with him at the McDonald’s down the street. She looks at her watch and knows she should get on home because she promised the sitter to be home by 10:30, but she can’t resist.

“Well, sure David, I can talk for a few minutes,” Fran replies. David suggests they go in his car. All the time Jesus is tugging at Fran’s sleeve trying to get a word in edgewise, but Fran ignores his tugs.

As they get out of the car at the restaurant, Jesus says hurriedly to Fran, “Fran, you’re not listening to me. This is not a smart thing for you to do; you promised the sitter, and besides, you don’t know this man.”

“But, Lord, it’s a public place, and I met him at church. What harm could there be?” Fran says and ignores that inner voice as she walks with David into the restaurant.

The next hour flies by, as Fran and David talk. She learns that he is an architect, just transferred to the city, and is divorced. He explains that he was married for only a few years before they both knew it was a huge mistake, but they stayed together 12 years. He has two sons, age 11 and 13, who live with their mom. He became a Christian after his wife divorced him five years ago.

Suddenly Fran looks at her watch. “Oh, my goodness, it’s almost 11:30. I must go; the sitter is expecting me.” David drives her back to the church parking lot, and as she rushes to her car, he asks if he can call her. She gives him her number.

In the car on the way home, her heart is flying high. “He liked me; he really liked me. And he was so easy to talk to. Got a good job, obviously the divorce wasn’t his fault and besides he wasn’t a Christian then. Nice guy.” As Fran thinks about David, she suddenly realizes that Jesus is there, reading her thoughts, as always. There are times she wishes Jesus didn’t know every thought she had.

She says to him, “Well, there was no harm in that, Jesus, right? It felt good to have some male attention. It’s been a long time.”

“No, nothing wrong except you were somewhat inconsiderate of your sitter, since you promised to be home by 10:30,” Jesus says. “Would you have done that if Patsy had asked you to go to McDonalds?”

“Well, no, I’m sure I would have insisted I had to go home, but don’t I deserve some fun once in awhile? Good grief!” Fran expresses her frustration. “Do I have to always be the responsible mother?”

“Maybe a phone call to the sitter would have been considerate on your part, Fran,” Jesus responds. “At any rate, just think about how quickly you were willing to neglect your responsibility because of a man you have just met.”

“Yeah, you’re right, Lord,” Fran replies. “That is out of character for me. But it felt so good to be with a man.”

Jesus says, “Please remember how vulnerable you are right now, Fran. You’ve been by yourself for quite a while and any male attention is going to start the chemistry going. Don’t be fooled by feelings. And please, don’t let your need for male attention cause you to abandon all your common sense. Do you remember the advice you gave Louise?”

Louise, Fran’s friend from the office, is also single, and she fell hard and fast for a new man she met. Fran warned her not to move too fast, but Louise didn’t listen and ended up with a broken heart.

“But this is different, Lord….” Fran’s voice trails off.

Yes, it’s always different when it happens to you, isn’t it, Fran?” Jesus laughs.

“But the man Louise met was not even a Christian. David is a believer. This is different,” Fran defends herself.

“Well, that certainly is a significant difference, but it doesn’t mean you can let all your heartstrings go wild and not be cautious. Being a Christian is not the only important qualification for a potential relationship, Fran. That’s just the beginning. There are many other very important issues to consider,” Jesus says.

By now they’ve reached home, and Fran hurries in the house, apologizing to the sitter, who is obviously worried and upset. She pays her a little extra and watches as she walks home across the street, with a little guilt at her thoughtlessness tonight.

She crawls into bed, but can’t sleep. She goes over in her mind the entire evening, recalling the conversation with David, how he looked at her, what he said. And in her imagination, the importance of the occasion grows. The next morning, as soon as she shuts the alarm off, she’s thinking about the night before and how nice it was to talk to David.

She sits down with her Bible to spend some time with Jesus, but finds her mind is totally uncontrollable. She’s reading words on the page, but not comprehending anything. She tries to pray, but her mind wanders. Finally, she just gives up, and rushes to get off to work on time.

Jesus is with her all day, as usual, but Fran is too preoccupied to talk with him much. In fact, she has trouble keeping her mind on her work, and the day seems to drag on and on. Several times she finds herself staring at some papers, while daydreaming about David. Wonder if he’ll call tonight? Wonder if he really likes me? Frequently Jesus hems and haws to get her attention, but she doesn’t want to talk to him today. She’s enjoying her fantasies.

Can you see some mistakes that Fran has made already? She is struggling with being single, and it isn’t easy. But with Jesus there, as long as she keeps listening to him, she’ll know what to do.

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What Do You Do with the Hurt?

Feb 3, 2017

PROGRAM D-7765

What do you do with the hurt? It truly is important to be intentional about getting past the hurts of our lives, because when we harbor them, they become destructive forces in our lives, they rob us of joy, and they allow bitterness to take root in our hearts.

There’s one last thing I would say about how you deal with the hurt you’ve experienced. It can sometimes be very important and very necessary for you to confront the person who caused the hurt. Here’s a good suggestion: Write down on a piece of paper or type into your computer exactly what is bothering you, how you have been hurt, and what you would like to say to that person. Then put that in a safe place for two days, and during those two days pray about what God would have you do.

After two days get the paper out or open it up, re-read it, and ask for God’s wisdom. If you still believe you should go to that person and settle this thing, then decide how to tell the truth in love, make sure you’re not acting in anger or just self-interest, and then go to them at an appropriate time.

If you’re not willing to do that, or it no longer seems that important, tear up that piece of paper or delete it from your computer and say to the Lord, “I’m putting this behind me; it is in the past and you will take care of it from this point on. I will, by your grace, get over it.” The worst thing you can do is to keep brooding about it. Either do something or get over it.

Let me close with one of my favorite passages from Isaiah 61:1-3:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

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