Sin and Love

June 23, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

Heather Allen –

Last week my son Noah and I had a conflict of interests. I was interested in him obeying. He was interested in playing and ignored what I asked him to do. After ten minutes of discussion and internal prayer, I sat him down. I looked into his bright teary eyes and told him the consequences of his continued disobedience: a week without any video games.

The week before this fairly normal event, I read a few parenting tips. On occasion I have given a consequence for Noah’s action and then released my child in order to model mercy . But one of the tips I read took that idea a step further, encouraging parents to take their children’s consequences from time to time. As much as I like Tetris, it is a rarity for me to play video games. But my, oh my, how I love a hot bath after a long day.

I looked at my son’s sad face and felt compassion. I said I would take his discipline. I would forego a pleasure bath for one week. Honestly, I am not sure what response I was hoping for, but he smiled and said, “You mean I can play video games?” I reminded him about redemption, and why we need it. I thought about pulling out a dry erase board for some illustrations. He looked so happy. Surely, he does not understand how much I like baths!

I did not expect my older children, lingering nearby, to offer to take the consequences by giving up what was important to them. One thought ran through my head as I asked them to join me at the table—I should have thought this through more. I felt we were standing on the brink of great spiritual understanding and I was not sure which direction to go.

If I were having this conversation with God, what would he emphasize? I spent moments throughout the day thinking about this.

I talked to my husband about it as I climbed into bed and kept talking as he snored. Do I remind Noah that his sin costs more than a bath and an apology? Does God remind me of my sin to reveal his salvation?

Romans 7:7 says we know what sin is because of the law. The Ten Commandments are the law. If we break one of these, we have broken them all. Saying sorry does not cover it.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:23-25, NIV).

Sometimes I will be able to carry my children’s consequences, but I cannot atone for their sin. Correction done well teaches children about their inherent value and their need for a Savior.

In our case, it meant reminding Noah that God’s word says children are to obey their parents. When he chooses not to, he not only disobeys us, he disobeys God.

When he understands he has sinned against God, he can also understand there is a consequence. The consequence of sin is death. The one who covered this debt is Christ.

God exposes sin, to reveal his love. Salvation is miraculous and beautiful for those who know how badly they need it.

“Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him” (Romans 4:7-8, NIV).

You’re Out

June 20, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Mary Sefzik  –

I was never much of a sports watcher until the Texas Rangers made their first appearance in the World Series in 2010. Dad wanted me to join him in engaging in America’s favorite pastime so we watched the last several innings together. We counted down the outs hoping for victory.

Since I am blind, I can follow the action better by listening to the games on the radio. I prefer to come in during the last several innings—usually the most exciting part of the game. A recent Friday night game really captured my attention and taught me a lesson about life.

It was the bottom of the eighth. The Rangers were at bat and the bases were loaded. The batter swung on the first pitch and missed—strike one. The crowd booed. Pitches two and three were balls and were met with cheers. The next pitch was a strike, followed by another ball. The count had gone full-three balls, two strikes. The crowd was on its feet. The next pitch came and the batter fouled it back. The runners were in position ready to move. The batter swung and finally made contact with the ball. The crowd cheered, the runners took off, but the joy was short-lived. The ball landed in reach of an opposing team member who scooped it up and tagged the batter out. The inning was over and the scoring opportunity was lost.

Life can be like that sometimes. You are given an opportunity, but despite your best efforts you still strike out. A job is eliminated because of economic troubles, retirement savings are lost in a stock market crash, a new home is damaged by a spring tornado. Or maybe you blank out on the most important test of the semester, or the sale you thought was a done deal fell through at the last minute. How do you handle those times when you strike out of the game of life? Some will boo while others smile at your failures. Fear of another humiliating strike out threatens to keep you sidelined for the rest of the season. Each day you are given represents another chance to try and get back in the game. Grab your glove and get in line. Today an opportunity might be pitched to you which only you can nail. This may be the day you knock it out of the park. The bases are loaded. Let’s play ball!

BLACKBERRIES, STICKERS AND COBBLER

June 5, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By DiAne Gates –

PRAYER: Father in Heaven, thank you for the miracle of Your creation, the love of family and friends and memories; but most of all, thank you for loving us and sending Jesus to die for our sins.

Springtime in Florida was a multi-colored landscape of green, buttercup yellow, and pastel pink. Delicate white blooms dotted prickly vines along roadsides and covered fence lines. Transparent flowers with pollen-filled centers, swayed in the breeze. Honey bees buzzed.

Lumpy, green balls replaced blossoms to confirm this was the perfect patch. We watched those hard green spheres balloon into hundreds of scarlet berries. And sunny days and spring rains urged their transformation into plump, luminous, blackberries.

The berries ripened. Our family piled into our ‘57 Ford, and headed toward our berry patch alongside a country road near the marshes of the St. Johns River, outside Jacksonville, Florida. The Gooding family joined this annual first-blackberry-picking-day.

Parents set boundaries and issued warnings about snakes, stickers and sandspurs. They might as well-a’-been-talkin’ to the wind. We grabbed our buckets and raced down the slope to be first to find the biggest blackberry in the patch.

We scrambled here and there, hoping to find the berry of the day—waiting to be picked by someone—hopefully me. Truth is, we ate as many as we picked, evidenced by toothy grins smeared with tell-tale black juice tinting our lips, our tongues, and grimy fingers.

During one of those scrambles Elaine lost her balance, bounced bottom first down the sandy slope, and landed right in the middle of a sticker-filled-cactus-patch.

Her wails brought an end to this event. Two dads carried the wounded berry-picker to the car where she laid, face-down across our laps, and cried all the way home.

Moms washed the black treasures, then mixed ingredients for the anticipated cobbler. My dad churned homemade vanilla ice cream that would crown the scrumptious berries already bubbling in the oven.

Elaine’s dad had the unpleasant task of removing those nasty stickers from her backside.

I’ll admit, we were not sympathetic onlookers. She had spoiled our fun. We snickered and giggled, sneaking peeks around the corner with every shriek of pain—secretly grateful it wasn’t one of us.

Glasses of iced tea, lemonade with mint sprigs, warm bowls filled with black-berry cobbler, piled with homemade ice cream, however, proved our berry picking day a success.

We lingered in the backyard, swaying in wooden swings hanging by gnarled ropes from aged oak trees as the last moments of the day slipped away. But fireflies flashed in the hedges and a new chase was on, to see who could capture the biggest, brightest insect.

Everyone but Elaine, who stood with her bowl of cobbler.

I no longer search country lanes, but drive to Walmart and buy expensive, tasteless berries, picked before they’re ripe, packed in plastic—not a kid’s bucket—only to find a layer of moldy ones on the bottom.

These days I sit on the patio to watch the day fade into evening while the latest accounts of troubling information blare on the evening news and my grandchildren text me in three word sentences.

I recall these joyful memories while one or two fireflies dart in the bushes around our pond and marvel that times change but God is forever sovereign and on the Throne.

My grandchildren will never experience the excitement of beating friends to the biggest blackberry in the patch, or catching the brightest firefly in their jar, or joining lighthearted conversation with grown-ups.

Memories of a tummy full of cobbler and fresh homemade ice cream, wrapped in the blanket of love family and friends provide, holding my jar full of God’s miraculous lights, are tucked into the secret places of my heart.

Precious memories this world of technology will never duplicate.

Yielding Your Right Away

May 28, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Diane Mayfield –

Once again, I find myself learning important lessons in this laboratory of life called the family. When I was a young mother, I knew children were God’s way of revealing my impurities and bringing me to my knees. But that was before adolescence. Those years were about running the race of endurance, perseverance, and prayer.

Now that my children are young adults, two married and one a parent, I think I imagined personal growth through my family was over for me. Well, I was wrong.

I just finished Beth Moore’s Bible Study on James. One of the lessons from that study was “ to yield your right away.” It’s all part of one of James’ major themes on proving to others that your faith matters, being a doer of the Word.

Picture the red and white yield sign on the frontage road helping to control traffic and prevent collisions. I’ve seen cars completely ignore those signs and I’ve been guilty of it too. If I think I can beat the other car, I’ll put my foot to the pedal and speed up.

That’s not Beth Moore’s idea of yielding the right away according to James. True to His way, God has given me several opportunities to learn this lesson. At 58, I still am not thrilled about growth opportunities. It’s just not natural. And I suspect that is the point.

My daughter and son-in-law came to town for a visit. It was suppose to be my Mother’s Day celebration with them. Prior to their arrival, my daughter and I had talked about plans for the weekend, both of us conferring together. Saturday the guys were going to play golf and the girls got to shop. We were having lunch at the club before that.

Lunch came and the plans shifted completely. After playing in a work golf tournament, my son-in-law was not sure he wanted to play golf, at least not eighteen holes. So after much discussion between the men, eighteen holes of golf changed to possibly nine later in the afternoon. Lunch was now at a local Mexican food place.

After lunch, we returned home and the guys are still discussing their plans. Suddenly golf was out and, consequently, so was shopping. My son-in-law wanted us all to hang out. I think he really wanted to be with his wife. Up popped that red and white yield sign.

I had a choice. By all rights, it was my Mother’s Day celebration. “Yield your right way,” the voice in my head said. When I saw that yield sign in my head and heard these words, “a sign of wisdom from God is to yield your right away,” I knew this was a God moment. I could choose to be a doer of the Word or just a reader of it. Praise God I did not put my pedal to the medal but yielded my rights away.

I’ve decided that’s what being an “in-law” is all about-yielding my right away. This is a new family member interrupting the “family system.” I can compete for control or yield, whether or not the yield sign is for me or not. In doing so, I prevent a collision, openly or behind closed doors. In doing that this time, we had a restful, relaxed afternoon watching a movie before going to dinner

It’s not natural for me this yielding. I take the lead in making plans. I look forward to experiencing what is planned. I learned though that those plans, being in the right, having it my way, means nothing in the light of being a doer of God’s Word.

“But the wisdom that comes from Heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere” (James 3:17 NIV).

Provider

May 21, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

You do not like your job. He does not like his car. She does not like her yard. I really dislike my kitchen. Add the small things. Scuffed shoes, gray hair peeking out at the root, a belly where there once was toned muscle. Look in the mirror. Wrinkles, receding gums, loose skin. The discontentment builds. Pause to take inventory of what goals have been met, and the tally falls short. But the years are clipping along, sailing faster than it takes to get your life preserver on.

Maybe it is turning forty. Maybe it is having teenagers and remembering when my parents were forty. Mid-life crisis jokes are something we grow up with. We might smirk at the fifty-year-old who has decided to grow a ponytail, get an earring, and buy the Mustang he always wanted.

The only sense I can make of this bittersweet pilgrimage is in scripture. I turn to Psalm 84. “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (KJV, Psalm 84:11).

I keep reading.

“O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee” (KJV, Psalm 84:12).

“Define good,” I say to myself.

I meditate on the passage longer. Mentally I have re-worked it to read “no comfortable thing” rather than “no good thing.”

Costs are up. I weave a plan to compensate. I ask God to bless it. The plan unravels. I go back to the drawing board and ask God to look over the plan with me. I do not get a definitive answer. It comes out like this “it is good to wait for the Lord.” And for some reason this makes me cranky, from my gray roots to my chipping pink polished toes.

I start to analyze the situation. I narrow the problem down to my righteousness. Maybe I do not qualify for good things. Perhaps I have not walked uprightly enough. I start thinking about volunteer opportunities and supporting an orphan. And then in the quiet of my plotting a new more righteous course, I am softly reminded that my works will never qualify me for anything good. Verses packed with the truth flow from my lips as I remind myself that Christ is my righteousness. He came to save the lost because we could not save ourselves.

I ask my husband to walk with me. His quiet strength modeling meekness. God provides. Whether it is provisions or righteousness, He always provides.

And almost to punctuate this learning experience, the vise tightens. Expenses grow, the river floods, fishing trips cancel. My fisherman by trade glances at the rivers view from our back deck gauging the flows. I stand next to him, placing my shaky hand in his. He kisses me “trust God.” The river is swollen and muddy, and like all creation, in God’s hand.

I go back to Psalm 84 and think on verse twelve. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.”

And while I am still uncomfortable, I know the truth. Trusting God means waiting on Him to use what looks bad, or scary, or hazy for my good. It means finding my safe spot in Him not in what I have stored up or can manufacture. It is choosing to believe God is love, when Satan tempts me, as he did Eve, to question His goodness toward me.

I choose to believe He does not withhold any good thing from His own.

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