My husband and I spent February driving to and from Florida, away from New England cold.

A strong motivator for this trip was the relatively new Museum of the Bible in DC. Great reviews, and I badly wanted to experience it. Had it all planned out, down to the purchase of a parking slot—# 14 on G Street, near the museum. The museum hours were 10:00 to 4:00, so we left our hotel with plenty of time for the half-hour trip.

As we drove, tension crawled up my neck. Why was the GPS taking us in the wrong direction? I reprogrammed several times. No change. Finally, I tried the museum address instead of Parking Slot # 14 and was informed we had eighty-four miles still to go!

Given the time wasted, we couldn’t possibly make it back with enough time for the museum. Sadly, we gave up and headed south.

I grieved…deeply. Many tears. An enormous disappointment.

Today, I received a communication from friend Steve who has Multiple Myeloma, a serious cancer for which he underwent multiple chemos. He had gone to a scheduled appointment to plan for a promising stem-cell treatment. Instead, though—bad news. He still had too many cancer cells and would need more chemo.

Disappointment put in perspective—my small, mosquito-sized grief next to a raging tiger.

After the GPS fiasco, I did not ask, “Why, God?” as though I had a right to question Him. I did, however, poke around for what I might learn from it. God doesn’t arbitrarily dump grief on us for no good reason. Steve’s post today gave me my answer: whatever I learn in handling mosquito bites prepares me for the tigers that prowl my murky future.

I still have plenty of tears, but I’m trying to redirect them toward disappointments that matter.

Ellie Gustafson, a graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, has been actively involved in church life as a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Additional experiences include gardening, house construction, tree farming, and parenting—all of which have helped bring color and humor to her fiction. One of her major writing goals has been to make Scriptural principles understandable and relevant for today’s readers through the undeniable power of story. In An Unpresentable Glory, a noted gardener from snobbish Westchester County in New York, finds a stranger, obviously ill, sprawled near her delphiniums. She takes him into her house and cares for him an entire week before learning who he is. An investigative reporter uncovers the secret week, and both Linda and her guest become a spectacle in the eyes of the world. More about An Unpresentable Glory https://tinyurl.com/y9lpft6a; Dynamo  http://tinyurl.com/otdxwad; The Stones  http://tinyurl.com/nf5o63d. Amazon Page: www.amazon.com/author/eleanorgustafson; Twitter: @EgusEllie; Facebook: Ellie Gustafson. https://www.facebook.com/ellie.gustafson.7

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How do you deal with daily crises? Mine seem to cluster around my computer, which affects my writing.

Any day now, I’m expecting a friendly response from the Apple folk: “Oh, hi, Ellie. How’s it going? What’s your issue today?”

I recently went through two levels of their techies, and even an operating-system upgrade didn’t fix it. The problems are seldom simple, and I find it unnerving when a techie says, “This is really odd!”

One day, my multiplying issues involved Apple, Microsoft, and Google Chrome. The following day, a second-tier Microsoft tech did a screen-share and fixed that one! I am grateful for these servants.

My golden rule is to remain calm, polite, and appreciative. One techie whose English was difficult to understand got a little testy with me. But at the end of our conversation, he said, “God bless you.”

Every day, every crisis, I say, “Why, Lord? What do I need to learn here?” Then I try to focus on two things:

  • God loves me.
  • He desires for me to love Him—totally, in all circumstances.

I am reading—for the second time—a small book, Surrender to Love by David Benner. It underscores these points—in neon. Life often gets annoying, but the God who loves is even more elemental than the God who saves.

What is your crisis du jour? Wallow in God’s love.

That sure beats emotional meltdowns. And yes, I have those, too!

Ellie Gustafson began thinking up stories at a young age but did not write or publish until 1978. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, she was active in church life as a minister’s wife, musician, writer, and encourager. Throw in gardening, house construction, and tree farming as splashes of color and humor, and you have the makings of good fiction. Through the undeniable power of story, she wants to make the Bible understandable and relevant for today’s readers.

 

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Two books (beside the Bible) have had enormous influence on my spiritual life.

One is an unlikely source, about a ministry to gang homies, that is laced with profanity—Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle. G (as he’s called) interacts with Scrappy, who begins to see the worthlessness of his life. Scrappy says, “I have spent the last twenty years building a reputation for myself . . . and now . . . I regret . . . that I even have one.”

Father G comments, “Scrappy discovered, as Scripture has it, ‘that where he is standing is holy ground.’ He found the narrow gate that leads to life. God’s voice was not of restriction, to ‘shape up or ship out.’ Scrappy found himself in the center of vastness and right in the expansive heart of God. The sacred place toward which God had nudged Scrappy all his life is not to be arrived at, but discovered. Scrappy did not knock on the door so God would notice him. No need for doors at all. Scrappy was already inside.”

The other book, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, is a collection of Eugene Peterson sermons. Speaking on Philippians 4:13, he says, “There are a great many things we can do little or nothing about. The weather, other people’s emotions, the economy—all are out of our hands. . . . But one enormous difference is in our hands: We can offer up the center of our lives to the great revealed action of God’s love for us. . . . We can cultivate the vitality and centering of life that develops out of risking our lives in a relationship with God. When we do that, we find Paul’s statement neither extravagant nor fanciful: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’”  (Peterson quotation edited)

Two totally different pastors, both saying the same thing.

Eleanor Gustafson is a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Her passion is God, and then loving people and writing. Her short stories and articles have appeared in national and local magazines. Her pallet of experiences helps bring color and humor to her fiction. In many of her stories, Ellie explores the cosmic struggle between good and evil in light of God’s overarching work of redemption. Her books include Dynamo, a story about a man, his horse, his faith, and his God, and An Unpresentable Glory about a mysterious man, sick and begging for secrecy, and the woman who ignores all alarm bells to care for him. Ellie has three children and eight grandchildren. Visit her at http://www.eleanorgustafson.com

 

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Saint Gregory

What country was the first Christian nation?

I couldn’t have told you, either, until I read about St. Gregory the Illuminator.

Gregory was born in Armenia, and following a Christian upbringing, he returned to Armenia, where the king appointed him secretary. After a major military victory, the king instructed Gregory to lay wreaths and laurels in a pagan temple as thanks to the gods.

The young man refused.

The king was ticked. “If you don’t worship the idols, I’ll have to kill you.”

Gregory stood his ground. “I believe in Jesus and can’t worship anyone but the Lord God.”

Furious, the king had Gregory tortured and thrown into a deep pit to die.

But God….

A lady up top began lowering food to him—and kept it up for thirteen years! She also passed along news from the upper world, and Gregory started praying for the nation and for sick individuals. Folks began paying attention to this man in a pit. He prayed; they were healed.

Thirteen years later the king himself became ill. Doctors could do nothing for him. His sister had a dream about Gregory and persuaded the court to fetch the pit dweller.

Hauling him up by ropes, they said, “You pray for people, and they are healed. Can you heal the king?”

He prayed, and sure enough, the king was healed. The grateful monarch sent Gregory out to evangelize the entire country. Led by Gregory, the Armenians destroyed their pagan temples and built churches on their sites. Before long, Christianity was adopted as the national religion. Armenia became the first Christian nation in the world.

Are you in a pit? Look up. God’s light and provision sometimes come in unexpected ways.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! (See Philippians 4:13).

Eleanor K. Gustafson, author

Eleanor Gustafson is a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Her passion is God, and then loving people and writing. Her short stories and articles have appeared in national and local magazines. Her pallet of experiences has helped bring color and humor to her fiction. In many of her stories, Ellie explores the cosmic struggle between good and evil in light of God’s overarching work of redemption. Her books include Dynamo, a story about a man, his horse, his faith, and his God. Ellie has three children and eight grandchildren. Visit her at http://www.eleanorgustafson.com.

 

Dynamo, a Novel by Eleanor Gustafson

Dynamo, a Novel by Eleanor Gustafson

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