The Guest List

July 13, 2021 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Hally Franz –

Entertaining can be fun. Party stores have inspired us with an endless supply of clever themes and coordinating paper products to accommodate any occasion. Food retailers offer a tempting display of dips, appetizers, gourmet desserts, and meat, fruit and veggie trays. It’s all so thrilling! That’s the fun part of hosting a party.

The more challenging part of throwing a party is the guest list, which can sometimes be quite tricky. Determining how many and who to include for your niece’s baby shower, your 10-year-old’s birthday party, your senior’s graduation gala or the family wedding can be a major dilemma, much less fun than selecting a theme and munchies.

There are so many questions to consider. Will this be an obligation rather than a privilege for the guest? How many are in the class? Am I leaving any child out? Will they wonder why they have been invited? Will they remember us? Where will I put them? Can I afford what I want with this many coming? Will this group all get along? And, so it goes…

Once a host completes the arduous process of composing a guest list and inviting everyone, then there is the RSVP issue. This is where you wait and wonder who, if anyone or everyone, will make it to the soiree. Sometimes, an estimate regarding attendance is sufficient; other times, exact numbers are needed to be fully prepared. Conscientious guests will always RSVP, not wanting to leave the host “hanging.” It can be fun, but entertaining can be a real headache, too.

Our Heavenly Father is hosting a ‘round-the-clock party. Everyone is invited, so we don’t need to keep quiet to avoid hurting an uninvited person’s feelings. Preparations have been made for as many as wish to come; we can spread the news to any and all. His party is like none we have attended before, and it goes on forever. While He would love to anticipate our attendance for years, Father God will gladly welcome us even if we fail to RSVP until the final hours.

Our Heavenly Host asks that we accept His invitation. By accepting Him as our Lord and Savior, by repenting and being forgiven of our sins, by being baptized and beginning our Christian walk with Him, we assure our place at His party. That’s one I don’t want to miss!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for planning an event unlike any we’ve been blessed with here on earth. And, thank You for an open invitation to celebrate eternally with You and Your children.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1 NIV).

Here’s to Mr. C. and Teachers Everywhere

July 6, 2021 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Family

By Hally Franz –

As I sat down to write this devotion, something happened. It’s the thing that seems to happen more frequently these days. Perhaps it is due to aging or simply cramming too many things into this taxed brain of mine. It was a case of brain freeze, and not the kind one gets when drinking a thirst-quenching, but painful, blue slush.

It’s good we are all back in school! It’s time to get those minds working again. Time for routine and order in our lives. Time for a little time apart. As I send my fifth- and ninth-grader to school, I pray that they will have productive and fun years. Then, I thank God for some peace and quiet for my taxed brain.

I recently thought about my sixth-grade teacher. He was a tall, young, black man. In the 1970’s, particularly in our rural community, that was an unlikely description for one of our teachers. The vast majority of elementary teachers were women, and even fewer African-American teachers. I’ll call him “Mr. C.”

Mr. C. was one of my favorites for a few simple reasons. First, he was cool, so no one messed with him. There were no discipline issues in his class. Of course, there weren’t many discipline issues in any classes at that time. (My second and third reasons are better.)

Secondly, Mr. C. made it a habit to announce those who had the best test grades. That practice may not be very politically correct today, but I loved it. I wasn’t always named, but it happened enough to be a motivator.

And thirdly, there was one day a couple of years later when I passed Mr. C. in the hallway. I had grown taller and thinner since sixth grade, and he paid me a nice compliment. That felt good to a chubby girl.

It’s funny what we remember about our teachers. Sometimes, it’s the smallest, seemingly insignificant things that touch the hearts and minds of students. Veteran educators have learned this. They know the importance of their words and examples to their students, and they take it seriously. Mr. C. went to his Heavenly home a few years ago, and it made me sad.

I am happy, dare I say gleeful, to have turned my children over to their new teachers. And, while I pray for their year, I will also pray for the teachers. What a blessing they are.

PRAYER: Almighty Father, please bless our children and their teachers as they begin a new school year. May they learn and grow, teach and give to the best of their abilities, honoring You in all that they do.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4 NKJV).

Conversing with Horses

June 9, 2021 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Family

By Hally Franz –

There’s a youth horse competition next week, and my daughter has been preparing under the watchful tutelage of her grandfather. I don’t ride, but have observed enough lessons and practice sessions to know that riding success and safety is largely dependent on proper communication with the animal.

The rider uses her body to let the horse know what is expected. A gentle squeeze of the legs sends a message to the horse, as does an affirming pat on the horse’s neck. Riders are trained to look beyond where they are going rather than where they are. The horse senses this slight movement of the rider, and it conveys direction. Likewise, a horse may lean into his owner when the grooming feels especially good, or resist face grooming if struck there by a previous owner. When verbal commands are used, they are simple one-word communications. Good horsemen have mastered these communication cues and signals in order to get the best from their horses.

Communicating with husbands can present different challenges. I am a counselor by profession and by nature; my husband is a military-minded mechanic. I enjoy talking and listening; Tim—not so much. In our nineteen-year marriage, I have tried to educate him on the complexities of verbal and non-verbal communications. For example, it is rude to frantically thump your fingers on the table while someone is talking to you. That tends not to build rapport. He has tried to convince me of the merits of the K.I.S.S. Method (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Typically, by the time I have finished my introductory lines in a conversation, he has cautioned me not to “beat a dead horse.”

Talking to horses mandates knowledge of a certain equine language. Communicating with husbands often requires patience and acceptance.

Talking with our Heavenly Father is much easier. He understands any language we wish to use, but enjoys a respectful approach when we come for a visit. He has offered suggestions on what to say, but will listen to anything that burdens us. We can tap our fingers and use lots of words, and it is fine with Him. We need not look for just the right moment or make an appointment. He is there, ready and willing to listen.

That’s something worth talking about!

PRAYER: Gracious Father, thank You for being available whenever I need You, for understanding my needs when they aren’t communicated just right, and for accepting my muddled prayers exactly as they are delivered.

“The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.” (Proverbs 15:29 NKJV).

Smarts and Hard Work

May 12, 2021 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Family

By Hally Franz –

There is a large Amish community about 45 minutes from my home, and my family and some friends spent a day there recently. It was fascinating to see examples of Amish craftsmanship and ingenuity within their nearly self-sustaining culture. While I am not a scholar of the Amish lifestyle and faith, it is evident that hard work is valued greatly among this group of people. We observed children helping at shops and in gardens, learning everyday skills important to both the family and community. Each family member, other than the very young, holds an important responsibility within the workings of the home. Each is relied upon to ensure success of the whole. I have to wonder if a culture that largely rejects modern ideas and conveniences of the outside world has much appreciation for the current expression “work smarter, not harder.”

On the other hand, we “English” seem always to be seeking new ways to make work and life easier. Whether it is finding the perfect tool for a tricky culinary job or subscribing to the fastest internet provider, we desire methods for increased ease and efficiency. However, our most basic appliances, machinery and comforts are far beyond what is found at an Amish home or farm.

I suppose this is not wrong, but I do question how it impacts our children. We want to raise hard-working young people, but is it possible we are making that job increasingly difficult to do?
While they might not see it as such, there is a considerable degree of hardship and suffering associate with the hard work that the Amish do in their daily lives. And, if those types of challenges build character, are we depriving our children of invaluable work experiences?

Perhaps our parenting challenge then is this: How can we prepare our children for a life that includes service and hard work, a life where things are not and should not always be easy? We can start by requiring kids to participate daily in family chores. They can be given household tasks that are dirty and gross; they still need to be done. We can make changes like having our children rake leaves rather than blow them. We can assign push-mowing instead of the more comfortable riding mower.

Where child-rearing is concerned, it is very likely smarter to make the work harder.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, grant me the wisdom to raise my children well. Help me set high expectations for them, allowing them the opportunity to learn from challenges and hard work, and resisting the urge to always make life easier.

“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6 NIV).

Sunday Inspiration

May 3, 2021 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Family

By Hally Franz –

A vibrant and beautiful spring season, middle-school kids and pop culture, good song lyrics and travel—these are a few of my inspirational things. Here’s your challenge for the day. Try singing that like Julie Andrews would have as she romped around a bedroom wrapped in drapes or flitted around Austria. I couldn’t get it quite right.

Who doesn’t savor blooms bursting forth with color and smell, like those we enjoyed during this year’s exceptional spring? How refreshing is a change of scenery? Are we not thankful for ballads that bring tears to our eyes? Young teens are full of entertaining comments, and the entertainment industry never fails to shock. These often provide things to write about. However, when these usually reliable arenas of material fail me, I can count on Sunday service for some good food for thought or a message to chew on.

This past Sunday our minister, LaMar, introduced his lesson on Acts 14 with some comments about the wonder of a child. He reminded us how toddlers find cardboard boxes and cords just as interesting as high-dollar toys and giant stuffed animals. And, he shared an experience he had in India as a young adult. He observed a young person hold a Bible with pure unadulterated excitement and joy that may never be seen in our country, where we take our Bibles for granted.

As we grow older, things that once seemed exciting become ordinary, places once grand become small. When we talk about the “eyes of a child,” we feel melancholy, because we know our adult eyes often fail to appreciate what we see or even recognize what is in our presence. Once those childhood days of discovery are behind us, we can’t get them back, but we can pray that God will help us see each day anew with a grateful and inspired heart.

Honestly, there are those dreary days when my own kids annoy me, and the outside world is just discouraging. I can’t travel more than a few times each year, and some days there isn’t anything I enjoy on the airwaves. On Sunday mornings, though, it is hard to leave worship without a feeling of hope. His word, well-written and artfully-delivered truths, and the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ; these are a few of my most wonderful blessings.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me always appreciate the wonder in Your creation, and remind me daily that the greatest inspirations come in Your Word, readily and freely available to me whenever I may need it.

“Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen” (Psalm 105:4-6 KJV).

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