Safe Passage

June 11, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

A bead of sweat courses down my spine, making it easier to dive into the chilled river. I emerge eye-level with caddis, baetis, pondering the small shucks left adrift as wings are loosed, and they discover flight. Fish careen around me. My fingers reach down to grip a mossed rock, an anchor to hold me mid-drift. The current swirls and my son grins, telling tales of moms and mermaids. My children’s laughter rings on the water, my body is cooled in the rhythm of the river, and the weight in my mind is interrupted with peaceful praise.

There is a continuous stream of need to see God’s hand in and on my life circumstances. I was born inquisitive. I think there is an added measure of grace for those of us who grapple with the “why’s.” God’s arm rests round my shoulders, He beckons me to see the love behind the courses He has put in motion. Look back daughter, don’t you see? He calls my uncertainty to remembrance.

A fresh generation of Israelites stand on the cusp of their new land, their inheritance. A mixture of excitement and fear tightens their bellies. The hello of a new adventure and a farewell to the wilderness. Roaming and wandering for forty years, the cloud and the pillar were in plain sight. What will life be like when God chooses a less direct way of providing shelter and food? It will be Him causing the rain to fall and the crops to grow. Will they remember this? When the giants stand to their full height and the city walls loom impenetrable, will they know the only battle is obedience?

Moses stood at the end of life marked with meekness: quiet confidence. This was not a man who needed to be seen. He gave palace life up in exchange for sheep herding. Hebrews 11 tells us that he would rather suffer and identify himself as one of the Lord’s than enjoy sin for a season. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king” (Hebrews 11:27a KJV).

Moses obeyed. Moses chose well. Who better to declare confident praise at the crossroad? Remember who led you. Remember who fed you. Remember who fights for you. He will lead on. He will feed you. He will fight for you. Moses stood, his voice calling a new generation to their inheritance. Was the sky charged with angels awaiting God’s command? A promise made long before was on the verge of coming to pass. God is not slow, He does not forget.

Life is composed of a million moments. And in some, God will call you to remembrance. He will remind you where you have been, strengthening you for the journey ahead. Remember Him when you are ankle deep. Remember Him when you are mid-current. Remember Him when the river rushes at flood stage. Its course runs through His divine hand.

Being a Delight

June 1, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

Diane Mayfield –

I was waiting in anticipation for my granddaughter to arrive. Dave calls out, “They are here.” I walk out to my son’s car and open the door to the back seat. My granddaughter smiles widely and giggles with delight. Her arms reach up for me to take her, which I do. We are inseparable until I put her to bed that evening.

It’s quite non-stop when my two-year-old Anna arrives. “DeDe come here. DeDe, help Anna.” I play when she wants me to and I watch her play, coming when she calls for help. Wanting nothing more than to please my Anna, I submit to her every desire to be by her side.

I walk downstairs in the morning and speak her name. She runs to me with open arms, almost flying into mine. I pick her up and we embrace for the first time that day. Truly, she lights up my day simply by being my granddaughter. I love that she loves to be with me. She delights in my presence and I in hers.

Delight is a word I ponder quite a bit. To me it is an indescribable feeling. I delight in peaches and ice cream. I scream with delight when my favorite movie plays on television. I jump with joy when I see the dolphins at the beach. Scripture says that the Lord delights in me. I often wonder how. And it says that I am to delight in Him. How does the most Holy God, perfect and complete in ways that I cannot comprehend, delight in me? In what ways do I show my delight in Him as well? I think I’m learning some of these answers from my precious granddaughter.

Anna and I are in a relationship—an unconditional love relationship, which will never change. She is my granddaughter and I her grandmother. I loved her from the day she was born, before she knew who I was. I loved her when all she did was eat and sleep. Now she interacts with me. I love to see the world through her eyes and I delight in her discoveries. Even when she’s challenging as two-year-olds can be, I welcome the interaction with her in the process. To have a relationship with this little person is one of the greatest joys of my life. She loves that I love to be with her. I enter her world and am involved in her world, just as she is.

Here’s the learning. This is how the Most Holy God of the Universe feels about me, his daughter. Even in my immaturity, He delights in my process. He loves that I call His name in the morning and rush to be with Him. He watches over me and runs to my aid when like Anna, I say, “God, help Diane.” He delights in our relationship, not my performance. He delights in me simply because I am me. I bring Him delight by wanting His involvement and presence with me. I believe being together is His delight.

Once again, from a little child I learn profound truths. My prayer is that I too delight in my Lord just as my adorable Anna delights in her DeDe. And, that I wrap myself in the truth that I too am a delight to my Lord just by being his daughter and calling His name each and every day.

Impartial Eyes

May 21, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Makenzie Allen –

Sitting beside a rosy-cheeked, bubbly little girl, I listen as she describes things about her room that bring an element of excitement to her childhood. She introduces me to her dolls one by one, who are all tucked in bed. Moving from one thing to another, she reaches her bookshelf and pulls out her favorite book. And there on the cover stands the main character. With a smile she says, “I always pretend she is you.” And in that moment I am struck by the realization that she claimed me as the living, breathing version of her favorite character. I feel a grin spread across my face that beams with happiness at her admission.

Something I’ve noticed recently is how real children are. They don’t plaster on a smile when they are upset, nor do they say things just to gain an alliance. If something is on their mind, they say it without hesitation. And the more I think about it, the more I realize how refreshing that kind of honesty is.

Scary as it can be, she looks up to me. And I wonder how many times I haven’t been the kind of example I should be for her and other children. How can I be worth looking up to? What can I do to be a true and beneficial example?

Walking along the lake with my little cousin, I look down at her tiny hand clutching mine. My heart melts at this small gesture of companionship. Peering up at me through blue eyes, she giggles at the silly face I make. And yet more laughing as I reach down and weave sticks through my hair. In her slowly improving speech, I hear her say, “Makie so silly.” Makie. I love it when she calls me that. And on we walk, everyone thinking I’m the one blessing her when really, it’s just the opposite.

Have you noticed the moment a child accepts you, a day that felt like failure practically shouts with success? For me, not many other things bring more happiness than when a child decides that I seem fun to be with. Maybe it’s because I know that the friendship they give isn’t just for show. They truly want to be with me, not because of what I look like or who I’m associated with, but because they enjoy my company. It’s as if children see things through impartial eyes, worldly qualifications don’t matter to them. And it’s so reviving to see how children look at the heart, just as God does.

Can You Read My Mind?

May 10, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

They say grooms don’t care about wedding ceremonies, passing responsibility for colors, flowers, food, and songs to the bride. Not so for my groom. Although he voiced no opinion on colors, except to lay down the law against a pink tux (darn it), he did participate fully in the music choices.

We easily settled on Friends are Friends Forever as à propos for our attendants’ entry. Although losing touch seems inevitable, we knew we would always consider these people friends. Romantically seeing rescue in each other from all emotional struggles, we agreed on Bridge over Troubled Water for one of the introductory songs.

I was excited about my latest discovery. “How about Amy Grant’s Doubly Good for your entrance?”

His brow creased and a speculative gleam entered his eye. “I don’t know.”

“Do you know the lyrics? ‘ If you find a love that’s tender, if you find someone who’s true, then thank the Lord; he’s been doubly good to you.’” Hugging him, I was a bride in alt. “It’s perfect.”

He agreed, but not with great enthusiasm. He was too modest, but I knew how wonderful God had been to me by bringing us together. I wanted the audience to think about how blessed I was in this handsome, godly man.

Anniversary night, five years later, we snuggled down on the couch with our two-year-old son to reminisce over our wedding video. Watching my dad touch my face, tears shimmered across my eyes as I remembered that shaky, excited feeling.

Piano chords chimed over the lawn. Sober, yet calm, Wes entered to stand under the moss-draped live oak while Amy Grant crooned the first line. I sighed, “He truly was doubly good in sending you to me.”

Wes flicked my hair. “Hmm. I thought you meant for me to think about how He’d been doubly good to me by sending you.”

Horror washed over me. With a shriek, I paused the video. “What?” My gaze flashed back and forth between the puzzled, downturned lips on his live face to the serious stare on his filmed self. “You thought I was telling you how lucky you were?” My voice rose to a squeak.

“I am lucky…blessed.” He stroked my shoulder then ruffled our son’s hair.

A gesture that would normally comfort only scraped my raw nerves. “How arrogant did you think I was?”

Honest to a fault, he shrugged. “Maybe I was a little put off at first, but the lyrics were still true.”

Amazing that he could think so when he thought he was marrying a conceited, self-righteous prig who wanted him to dwell on how blessed he was to get her. My heart mourned over the frozen image. At a time when I wanted him to be feeling adored and respected, he was feeling forced gratitude.

I punched the play button. “Watch it now, knowing that it was supposed to be about you.” My stomach churned, but I tried to calm down and enjoy his annual teasing about my forgetting part of our vows.

How many times do we think we understand or have made ourselves understood? How many miscommunications go undiscovered? We could drive ourselves crazy with the ponderings.

How many times do we misunderstand God? But He has promised His Spirit will help us with that:

“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God… no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God… we have received … not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us… ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” II Corinthians 2:10-12, 16 (NIV).

Comment prompt: Any miscommunications you’d like to share?

Joyful Noise

April 25, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

I hate exercise. People keep promising me a surge of pheromones after a workout. However, after I’ve made my quivering, jelly muscles scream for half an hour, the only part of me that feels better is my conscience. One thing makes the chore bearable—music.

This week, as I broke my eighteen-month exercise hiatus, I tuned my iPod to Soaring Favorites. Jackhammering my elbows and heel toeing my feet in a speed walk, ears plugged, I belted out Unchained Melody. A few barks, perhaps even whines, from the backyards I passed filtered in beneath the high notes, but I buried my awareness of them in the joyful power of the song. Just like the music enabled me to stuff my panting breath and stiff joints into my subconscious.

Other emotions wake to the call of music. A Facebook friend recently mentioned Taps played at a funeral. I was transported to my father’s graveside with the bugle’s clarion cry echoing in my heart. Tears of nostalgia and pride brim. Daddy’s love hugs me from beyond.

A tune will make me cry for someone else’s grief, as well. Add a melody to words, and they become a haunting tie to common sorrows. Songs have shared the pain of death, abuse, loneliness, and heartache—arousing empathy as nothing else can do.

Lyrics express so much, but a lingering note or a pounding beat sinks the words into our souls, making them resonate. Not only can I love with The Righteous Brothers and mourn with Stephen Curtis Chapman, but I can slash tires with Carrie Underwood and feel groovy with Simon and Garfunkel.

Often the music overrides the language. Several years ago, my kids—ages eight and five—and I serenaded ourselves as we drove down the road. We rolled along singing “He is exalted, the King is exalted on high.” We were obviously all on the same emotional track as we smiled and swayed. I paused a moment, and Matt’s childish, clear voice rang out, “He is exhausted, the King is exhausted on high.” I wonder why his young mind thought fatigue was a condition worthy of praise and celebration.

Honor does belong to musicians who share their gift with us, allowing us to express feelings we could never articulate through words alone, allowing us to experience emotion more fully than mere verbs and nouns permit.

The same joyous circle expands our worship—our songs both convey and foster our devotion. They have the power to bring us into God’s presence—or at least make us aware that He’s already here.

“The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: ‘He is good; his love endures forever.’ Then the temple of the LORD was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God” (II Chronicles 5:13-14 NIV).

Comment prompt: Share a time music has enriched your experience.

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