Beyond a Ballad

October 17, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Makenzie Allen –

I once heard true love was such a beautiful thing that it’s impossible to write about because it is so full, so complex, and so delicate, words just don’t do justice. That’s why for centuries, people have attempted to portray love’s depth through poetry, music, dialogue, stories, and on the list goes.

I feel like this trying to explain my walk with the Lord. The relationship’s richness is indescribable; when I stay near to Him. I truly want to give God my heart, my full heart, but it’s so hard to do. Add all the distractions found in this world, and giving my life over fully to the Lord can be challenging. Especially with how strong willed I can be.

I picture myself standing on a bank. Shoulders pressed back, chin up, eyes determinedly watching the swirling waters. Today’s the day I prove my strength. I will cross this river. Hair secure? Feels tight ponytail. Check. Warm towel for the return landing? A glance over my shoulder. Check. Last minute fears subdued? Blocks out all possible imagination for a watery death. Check. As I watch the water, my eyes sweep up and suddenly, the distant shore seems a little too distant. The liquid rushing past me looks like the jaws of a lion, taunting me to enter if I dare. Or is that just my imagination? No matter, this should be easy for someone as strong and determined as you. I inhale deeply, having the thought this could be the last time I use my lungs, and take the plunge. Cold, paralyzing, breathless. I’m so petrified my legs are useless, as are my arms. Helplessly, I watch the light fade above me, beautiful light shining like a flare on tiny crests in the water. Down, down, down, my heart sinks along with my body. God was more than willing to help you cross this. Why do you try so hard and fail to accomplish what man cannot do alone? Then, all is black.

“Why do you drown in the watery depths when you could be up here with Me, walking on top of them?”

I open my eyes and there I am, above the adversity I had tried so hard to conquer on my own. Tendrils of water run down my back, reminding me of the cool waters embrace.

“I ask again, why do you turn from My strength to your own weakness?”

In that moment, I cleanse my heart of all prideful notions and let the Lord lead me across, on top of the waters I was unable to overcome on my own.

For me, this is a picture of how real and indescribable God’s mercy and strength is. May I always have a faith so real, so full, and so steadfast, that even the best writers won’t be able to put into words the relationship I have with my Lord. As a sister in Christ, I dare us all to have a love and faith that reaches beyond any language ever taught, any ballad ever sung, any story ever written. What’s your river? Don’t let it pull you down, let God raise you up to walk beside Him.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (Isaiah 43:1-2 NIV).

Pushing Buttons

October 9, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

You’re trying to help. You’re trying to explain. Your point is crucial to your students’ success. But, the room full of teens blithely ignores you. Their conversation about who threw the paper wad looms more vitally in their psyches than tomorrow’s test.

You remind them they must pass this class this year to graduate with their peers.

You conspicuously jot names of the top offenders for disciplinary action. The chaos increases as fellow students jeer at your targets.

You calmly point out that time wasted in class engenders more burdensome homework.

A mouthy youth smarts off, “You just want us to fail.”

What do you do? What do you do?

My reaction was not effective. Frustration stewed. Anger rose. Bile in the form of truth erupted.

“I am so irritated with you.” I ground the words out through my teeth.

Mild bile, it seemed to me—an understatement, in fact. Perhaps my tone implied the more cutting remarks brewing in my brain because the response I gained echoed my words in a belligerent, disrespectful timbre. “Well, you’re irritating me.”

A similar incident occurred within the week.

This student had mastered the art of pushing my buttons. She knew how to shut down my brain and my training and, from my jaundiced perspective, set out to do so purposely on a daily basis.

I added her to my prayer list. I tried hard for sincerity to pray for her success and not just ask God to have her transferred out of my class. I forced myself to request wisdom in dealing with her instead of entreating Him for her deserved dire days.

God sent me a Bible class on confession and a sermon on controlling my tongue.

Yes, she was sassy. Yes, she was disobedient. Yes, she was defiant. But my response was attack not leadership. Therefore, last Sunday when the lessons sparked the idea to apologize, I believe the Holy Spirit was lending His guidance.

I sought my student out. Without excusing her behavior, I apologized for mine. Her eyes watered along with mine. She explained some of the stress she was experiencing. And when class time rolled around, she told her noisy classmates to get quiet.

On God’s prompting, I think I pushed the right buttons.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV).

Comment prompt: How has an apology soothed rough seas in your life?

Light Penetrates the Darkness

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

By Diane Mayfield –

I don’t often get up early enough to see the sunrise. I really only do that here at the beach where I don’t want to miss a moment of my time in this splendid demonstration of His glory. So, I get up. Every time I’m mesmerized by the drama plays out when the sun rises to send the darkness of the night away. This morning is no different.

After a night of lightening, thunder and storming, there was silence. No more rain and no rumblings of thunder, but dark clouds remained. In fact, darkness prevailed until I saw the sun peek out from the left of those dark clouds. It was as if there was a battle for space. Who would win? As the light burst through with its illuminating rays and warmth, darkness fades. Where it goes, I don’t know. Once again, light penetrated darkness.

At that moment, I’m reminded of the spiritual battles we face each day between the truth of the Light and the lies of darkness. It is often an unseen but very present battle. This morning I witness a vivid picture of such drama.

Today, guilt and shame plague me. I have a sense that I’m never enough. That what I do is not good enough, not quite “high-end enough.” Whatever that means. I feel guilty for this vacation when someone close to me is in such pain. How could I be here for ten days when my dear friend is struggling so much? What do I have to offer as a writer that people haven’t already heard? Negative thoughts bombard me, robbing me of the joy and peace that comes from knowing and belonging to Jesus. It’s a subtle attack. Not like a barrage of hailstones, but effective nevertheless. It starts slowly like the sprinkles of rain until it grows into the noise of a raging storm and beyond all reason.

The good news is Truth and Light prevails, just like in the cosmic battle between the sun and the darkness from the night. In Jesus, the Light of Truth penetrates and sends the messages of darkness retreating into the abyss. That’s what happened to me this morning when I saw the sun rise in victory over the dark cloud from the storm.

I remembered that I could choose what I wanted to believe, whom I wanted to believe in.

I’m filled with overflowing gratitude that I belong to Jesus. His truth and the light of His presence and who I am in Him sent the false guilt and shame of accusatory lies away. I suffer no condemnation in Him and I live free to worship Him with all my heart, soul and mind. I do that now, on this beach, watching wave upon wave roll in as I praise Him for the majesty of His creation. I can trust Him for my struggling friend. I don’t know if what I have to write matters, but I will obey is call to do so. The truth is I’m not enough, but in Him, I have all that I need for this life and all eternity. Thank you, Jesus.

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).

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