Take My Hand

September 23, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Makenzie Allen –

When I was little, the word fear wasn’t in my vocabulary. Fear was nonexistent. Most of my childhood friends remember me as the kid who would crouch along the ground and sniff out snakes, coming home with handfuls of them. I spent my summer days with my buddy, hiding under a blanket, waiting for the squirrels to set off our homemade trap filled with irresistible peanut butter. We caught a grand total of zero squirrels, but that wasn’t what mattered. Sure, I thought it would be cool to finally hold one of those furry little critters, but in the end, I just loved the excitement when I went on adventures.

And sometimes, I wish I could be little again.

I remember when I had my critter cage in hand and grandma right beside me as I scanned my surroundings.

“Do you think this is a good spot for your little mouse friend?” Grandma asks, hope filling her face.

“No, I think we should keep looking. We have to find just the right spot to release him back into the wild,” I say.

Continuing our walk, we come across a little creek, with Indian Paint Brush flowers in bloom everywhere.

“How about here?” Grandma asks after many times of me declining other suggested spots. “He could get water from the creek and there’s plenty of plants for him to nibble on.”

Looking over every detail to make sure the home is just right for my mouse, I finally agree. “I think he’ll like it here.” Stooping down, I open the cage and the furry creature dashes out.

On our way home, I spy a long, scaly tail poking out of the brush. Excitement quickens my pace and I reach down and pull. Out comes a snake large enough to jump rope with.

“Honey, don’t you think that could be poisonous? You better put it down,” my nervous grandma says.

Propping my hand on my hip and holding the snake with the other I say, “Now grandma, there are no poisonous snakes on this side of the Wind River Range, my dad told me so.” And with that, the snake becomes my next resident to occupy the cage.

As my parents and grandparents could testify, that cage never stayed vacant for long. Years have gone by since that experience, but my heart still beats to the same rhythm it did when I was little. I couldn’t imagine life without being able to observe all that God has made.

Now I have the urge to find Never Never Land. So I don’t have to fear for the future, for the “what ifs,” and for my appearance. To be a child again and to act as if no one’s watching but God. I want to live fearless, knowing the Lord will be my rearguard and will take hold of my right hand. It’s time to be a child again, fearing nothing but the Creator, and knowing God’s protection is enough.

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13 NIV).

Simple Thoughts Matter

September 15, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Anna Cannard –

Have you ever had a simple thought that you shrugged off and ignored? Then my story of “Jonny” may be for you. One day I woke up with a Christian kids’ song playing in my head that I had not heard in years. I laughed at how random it was. Wanting to reminisce, I found it in the CD cabinet. As the songs played, an idea came to mind. I should play this in the car for my child welfare work. It was a simple thought, which ended up being a catalyst in my faith.

Jonny was an intelligent four-year-old who had not developed speech. I took him to therapy twice a week, where they tried unsuccessfully to get him to speak. He comprehended well, but everything came out of his mouth as, “Fuh-huh-zuh-juh.”

We drove to the therapist’s office as three songs played. Then the song I had awakened to that morning played. It added an upbeat tune to 2 Timothy 1:7. The chorus of the song shouted, “Fear not! Don’t be afraid.”

I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw Jonny enjoying this song. The African American child, with forty percent of his body scarred from burns of a fire that killed his entire family, had a bright smile and bopped his head along to the beat. The song ended in silence, then suddenly, to my amazement, he announced boldly, “Fear not. Shh-vuh, afraid. Fear not.”

I was absolutely shocked. The child just said his first words, and they were wonderful first words. He continued saying those words on the remainder of the drive, and the walk into the therapist’s office, stating with greater and greater confidence, “Fear not. Dun, don’t be afraid.” The therapist also gasped when she heard him speak, and speak so clearly.

Two weeks later, as I shared the story with my mom, it hit me that I needed to pray against whatever Jonny was afraid of. Several days I prayed for God to resolve what was causing his fear. Then the phone call came to the child abuse hotline. Jonny’s foster mother had started counseling sessions, and she admitted she took her frustration with her other kids out on Jonny because he could not tell on her. Her counselor, a mandatory child abuse reporter, said the foster mom stated she was afraid she was about to go too far in hurting him.

Jonny was sent to a new foster home that day. His new foster parents were amazingly pro-active with him, and in a few weeks Jonny had tripled his vocabulary and many of his behavior issues had vanished.

Surely God put that song in my head to set the string of events into action. It was God’s simple thought in me to play the CD in the car. He got Jonny to speak, revealing Jonny’s fear, and He was then able to work through prayer for the fear to go away.

It made me become very aware of God’s guidance throughout my day. I’ve had more experiences like this which I will share in future posts. I encourage you to ask yourself what simple ideas have you ignored? Could it have been God speaking? If so, listen. How do you tell if it’s from God?

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV).

Humble Pie

September 13, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

I was waiting in line at a restaurant, stomach growling and caffeine deprived. But the line was not moving. I turned hoping for a distraction at the window and three men slithered past, sliding nonchalantly in front of me. I opened my mouth and closed it. A miracle took place and I am not sure anyone noticed. I am keenly adept at looking out for myself. I like to call it concern for what is right, but sometimes it is just plain old pride.

On the way to church, my son told me a story. He and a friend had differing opinions on a historical figure. Kids voice the profound without realizing it. My son said while he and his friend disagreed, they were not trying to prove each other wrong. And to him that leads to a good discussion.

We get to church and the sermon is on unity. Similar thoughts to my son’s are being voiced. Pride looks for an argument where humility appeals. Humility is so dog-gone appealing. Humble people are great to be around, relaxed and comfortable in their own skin. It is easier to learn from the humble. It’s easier to be corrected by them too.

Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).

I lay a weary head on my pillow. Evening is when I think on the world’s problems, grieved most by the way I contribute. Jesus sees how sick and tired I am of my pride. He knows I long to be free of the cords. So during the sanctification process, He offers rest. He is gentle with sad and tired hearts. He offers a blessing for those who mourn for righteousness. He knows my deepest longing is to shed this flesh and live as a sacrifice. He leads with gentleness. Going to Him and resting, leads to humility. I see all I am not in the shadow of all that He is. Human pride falls apart in the presence of true glory.

A Must-See Movie

September 12, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Karen O’Connor –

I love the movies, I have to admit. A good story with drama, action, some love-interest, and an intriguing plot that inspires and entertains is just what I look for when I want to spend an afternoon at the cinema.

I like to talk about films with friends too. We trade stories and opinions about what’s hot and what’s not and then recommend our favorites or pan the ones we didn’t like.

As I get older, however, it’s getting more and more difficult to keep the names and storylines straight. The more time that passes between films the less apt I am to remember what I want to share with a friend.

That happened one day years ago before I had access to the Internet. I knew my friend Jane likes historical fiction so I was sure she’d enjoy one of my favorite movies. But as I started to tell her about it, I couldn’t recall the title. So I did the next best thing. Decided to name the female lead, but I couldn’t think of her name either. So then I tried to think of the name of the man she’s married to but his name escaped my memory, as well. Surely I could recall his sister because she was a famous actress a couple of decades ago and she’d written a few books too.

Well, neither of us got very far in the conversation because every time I tried to nail a detail, it dropped out of my mind. Finally, I gave up and promised to call her when all that information came back––even if it at was three o’clock in the morning!

Sure enough, the next day I remembered the female lead’s name. Annette Bening who is married to Warren Beatty whose sister is Shirley MacLaine, but I still couldn’t pull the title of the film. So I drove over to the video rental store in my neighborhood and asked for help.

The clerk, at least forty years my junior couldn’t remember it either, though he seemed to know the movie I was referring to. He then pulled out a book listing all the films available on video within the last two years. We checked under Annette Bening’s name but the list did not include the movie I was looking for––at least I don’t think it did. But then come to think of it, if I didn’t know the name how could I expect to recognize it on a printed list? Oh my, these senior moments are getting the best of me.

Goodbye Ordinary

September 6, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Makenzie Allen –

“You are right that I am also extraordinary, but let me tell you something: No matter how ordinary a person may be, put God in that person, and the ordinary becomes extraordinary” (The Indwelling Life of Christ by Major W. Ian Thomas).

You mean there is a way to fill the increasing gap that’s been forming in my mind about how I’m not good enough? That God could be the missing puzzle piece to my confusing jigsaw life? You really mean to tell me that this push from the world saying that if I act superior and dress immodestly, I will truly be extraordinary is all a hoax?

My soul longs for something with more substance. But as a human, I tend to grasp for things with less importance and reach for fillers that are more artificial. Why? Why do I lean towards the cookie instead of the salad? Because it looks so good in the moment, tastes so good most of the time too—unless there are some menacing raisins in them of course. And then that moment is over and all you have left are some extra calories. I don’t want to be the one who grabs a hold of what the world has to offer because I’m tired of chasing after a righteousness that’s just out of reach. I don’t want to be a hairsbreadth away from a relationship with God only to turn and fall into the temptations that come so naturally to us. I want the healing, not the Band-Aid.

Sitting in church, I watch as the pastor walks back and forth hands in full motion. In the background, I see the Grand Tetons and all the beauty encompassing them. God gave us such a beautiful world to inhabit. It could have been dull and gray, but instead it’s blooming with colors I don’t even know the names for. Refocusing my attention on the speaker, I hear these words, “Justification for God to love me doesn’t come from me, but Jesus.” And instead of that awkward moment I’m going to say that joyful moment. That joyful moment when your inadequacy is suddenly covered by the sacrifice of Jesus.

Yep, I had a moment. And from that moment, instead of extra baggage being added to my hunched shoulders, I had a weight lifted from my conscious as if to say, “God’s got that suitcase taken care of.” God is the essence of a true gentleman, isn’t He? As a girl, I dream of a guy who will put his life at risk because of his love for me, who will be chivalrous even after years of being married, and who will see beauty after all my youth has left. Well, Jesus already died for me. He even takes the oppression from me when it’s unbearable and He sees beauty in me even though His purity should have blocked me out. He is all the love I could have asked for and more.

So, now the question is, am I going to let God’s presence take me over in every way? Or am I going to continue on this road of fake happiness? Am I going to accept the unconditional love or am I going to continue searching for a love on earth that doesn’t exist without the presence of God? I’m tired of my petty life. I want meaning and a goal. Real love, life, and healing, only comes from Jesus. To be extraordinary you have to be filled with Him who is extraordinary.

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