Wright on Right and Wrong

September 19, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Hally Franz –

Harold Bell Wright wrote “The Shepherd of the Hills,” published in 1907, while living in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. His novel tells the story of a man named Dad Howitt, who leaves the city and trappings of success to live in the mountains where his artist son (believed dead) had worked and fallen in love years earlier. Dad goes to Mutton Hollow to right wrongs and become closer to his son, if only in spirit, but his true identity is not known to those in the community. Dad develops a friendship with Grant “Old Matt” Matthews; however, Old Matt would never have accepted Dad if he’d known who he really was. There is romance, tragedy, and a shoot-out with Baldknobbers. Ultimately, though, there is forgiveness that replaces hatred and repairs pain.

Branson, Missouri is the home of the stage production of “The Shepherd of the Hills.” The play has been seen for over fifty years now at the very homestead where Harold Bell Wright penned his famous novel. My family and I had the opportunity to see the production this past summer. Our tour guide told us more copies of “The Shepherd of the Hills” have been sold than any other work of fiction. I’m not 100% sure of that statistic, but I am certain of the enduring appeal and importance of stories like this one.

Life is about gaining and giving, learning and serving. It’s a process of growth that comes from making mistakes and making them right, both with people we’ve hurt and our Heavenly Father. Sin and repentance, forgiveness and redemption—these are themes we ALL connect with.

God gives us time in this space to have experiences landing all over the joy and pain continuums, so that we may gain wisdom and grow faith. It’s all in preparation for eternity in His place. That process is quite an adventure! It’s a romance! And, it’s real-life stories very much worth telling and hearing.

Let’s seek out stories in print and on television that offer something of value to our families. And, if I may, let me give a shout-out to Branson, MO—famously family-friendly, profoundly patriotic, and courageously Christian.

PRAYER: Merciful and Mighty God, walk with us as we encounter and endure challenges in life. May each be a cherished story in the furthering of our faith and relationship with You.

“They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:10-11 NIV).

The Morning March

August 17, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Hally Franz –

Take the “way back machine” with me to the late 70’s and early 80’s. As my younger sister primped, polished and curled, I lingered in bed as long as absolutely possible before rising to do the most basic of morning preparations. Nails? Not really my style. Make-up? My boyfriend goes to another school. Breakfast? Who needs it?

Each morning, as I slept and my sister groomed, the radio played loudly enough to be heard throughout our three-bedroom ranch. And, every morning, I heard it—the signal that I could resist rising no longer. At 7:00 a.m., that newsy a.m. station played the morning march. This was not some meaningless alliteration, a catchy program name. This was a musical march.

“The Thunderer,” “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Seventy-six Trombones” boldly blared from the living room, and I went into action. It was the faithful stirring cue that got me up and moving.

Our children, now all returned to school, are developing their own morning routines. Perhaps, it is worthwhile to consider what we can do each morning to help their days start out well.

For younger children, routines and structure are super important. We know adequate sleep and a good breakfast are critical for these little guys. At this stage, they are learning how to form their own good habits, so the routines you set are important on a daily basis and in teaching life skills.

For older children like mine, the focus is more appropriately placed on the tone or mood of the morning. Older kids can get up, dress and eat on their own. It may be the conversations that we have with them in those early hours that make the bigger impression.

It is in our daily commutes that I now find opportunities for “mom moments.” During those short drives to school, we’ve often prayed for our days. I use that time to give well wishes or bits of advice for whatever is going on with them. Sometimes, we turn on music, sing loudly and laugh.

In the spirit of full disclosure, there are also mornings that start with craziness and fussing. I’m still not a morning person, you see. Each year, though, is a new chance to develop those great morning routines that will bless and benefit our children now and in the future.

May all of our kids have a great school year!

PRAYER: Mighty and merciful Father, may your presence be known to our school children as they rise each morning, lie down at the end of each day, and in all their activities in between. That blessing is the most we parents can ask and all our children will ever need.

“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28 NKJV).

Plumbed Up or Plumb Crazy

August 15, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Hally Franz –

In a recent conversation with my mom and step-father, we casually considered my tween daughter’s progress toward maturity. I commented that she was doing better, and her grandfather concurred, but added that she needs a little “plumbing up” from time-to-time.

I’ve heard my share of old adages. However, this one was not familiar to me. Being of a certain age myself, I was easily able to gather the meaning. If the root word “plumb” and the context weren’t sufficient, I know Paw-Paw Ben’s grandfathering ways.

Ben is often stern, speaking in an authoritative, but low (pitch and volume) manner. He loves his grandchildren dearly, but expects proper table manners and respectful attitudes. Conversely, when our children were young, my mother-in-law chastised my husband and I if we dare discipline at all. She’s a frank, little German woman whose accent alone is funny, but our kids especially love when Oma’s on a rant that includes multiple uses of the words “geez” and “crap.”

Aren’t they fun! Grandparents, each with their own distinctive personalities and styles, add so much to our lives. They can be sweet and sassy or reflective and wise. Sometimes, youthful and hip; other times wonderfully old and stereotypical. They’ve grown secure in themselves and earned the right to be themselves.

This year, Grandparents Day falls on September 8th. Remember the grandparents in your life this month, and savor the time God gives us with them!

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the gift of grandparents—for history lessons they give, for unconditional love they bestow, and for gifts of themselves they leave with us all.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12 NKJV).

Playing it Safe, Sharing our Faith

July 16, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Hally Franz –

Michael Buble over The Biebs, tennis shoes over 7-inch heels, and book-club evenings over a night at the “clubs”—these preferences surely brand me a 40-something mom. I own it and am proud of it.

The thing I enjoy most about book-club gatherings is discovering differences present in our cohesive little group. While often we agree on a selection, I love times when we see things differently. When two or three of us find a main character whiny and self-absorbed, and others admire her process of self-discovery, it makes for lively conversation. If a few see the plot twist as being known by the book’s hero, but the rest feel he was as equally in the dark as we, that’s fun debate.

It’s a joy to get to know people who don’t always think like we do. I appreciate friends with interests, outlooks and personalities unlike mine. I can learn from them. But, how often do we really step out of our comfort zone?

While I enjoy the perspectives presented in book club, we are all very alike at the core. If we weren’t, we’d never have come together as a body. We all have groups in our lives. There are work-related groups, extended family groups, school-related groups, parent groups, faith groups and others. Perhaps of all those group types as a whole, I most closely align in thought and attitude with my church family. There is great safety among my brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, what expectations does God have for us to connect with those different from us? People of other cultures, near and in faraway places? Folks with opposing political views and faiths?

This is a confusing issue for me. I’d love to have a cut-and-dried rule on this, but, as with many questions we face, I think it boils down to observing an imaginary line.

Christians should take some risks to bring God’s word to people in other places and of other minds. We should be courageous enough to interact with those we might not normally, in the hopes of showing and sharing our faith with them. For me, the line may be the point at which interaction or association would further a sinful activity, or foster an ungodly belief.

More importantly, what would He do? Would Jesus observe any type of line? It’s a difficult question. How do you answer it?

PRAYER: Almighty God, when I’m faced with tough questions of faith, guide me to Your word and the example of Christ Jesus for answers, so that I may further Your kingdom and fulfill my role in it.

“I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness In the great assembly; Indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O LORD, You Yourself know” (Psalm 40:9 NKJV).

Buffalo Flies and Bunnies

July 15, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Hally Franz –

Summer 2013 has generally been a cool, wet season in the mid-west. While my husband and I do not farm, we are smack-dab in the middle of farm country. And, I empathize with those who supply America’s food. One year is insanely dry; the next is damp. One year hay is in short supply, and the next it is plentiful, but cannot be harvested because the ground is too wet. That pretty much covers my knowledge of farming. Except this—due to this year’s climate, buffalo gnats have been horrible.

I’ve heard tales of ruthless buffalo gnats. They’re from the Simuliidae family and also called black flies. They can suck blood, cut human skin, cause allergic reactions, itch, cause swelling, and kill livestock and poultry. It has been a real challenge for those with animals to adequately protect them. Some 4-H youth even lost animals they planned to show at the county fair. The internet describes a variety of commercial and homemade solutions that may help attract (and trap) or repel these annoying creatures.

Closer to town, my son has a small garden in our yard, and he tells me he can’t keep rabbits out of his vegetables. I regularly ask if his harvest will actually yield something to eat, but he assures me the cotton-tailed rodents are terrorizing his plants. My mother supports her grandson’s claim. He has used marigolds in years past to repel rabbits from his garden. Though, he contends they become accustomed to the smell, and the flowers are no longer effective.

Wouldn’t it be comforting to have a fool-proof formula or technique for keeping bad influences, evil people, sin and hate away? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a wall of protection around us, so we could not fall victim to the world? If we could buy or make that in a spray, who would not choose to?

Unfortunately, that magic mix or method does not exist. We must rely on our self-discipline, wisdom, discernment, prayer and God’s protection when faced with everyday conflicts of conscience. We must continue along doing our best to fight the enemy knowing that it won’t always work and there will be losses.

Take heart, though, struggling farmers and the faithful. When we fight battles against those who oppose us, we learn. We learn how to fend off bothersome buffalo flies and hungry rabbits. And, we grow stronger in faith.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, provide me wisdom, so I will recognize and run from evil influences in the world and in my life. Through Your word, help me to teach my children to do the same.

“Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice wicked works With men who work iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies” (Psalm 141:4 NKJV).

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