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.

Hunger for What?

April 16, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

Anyone who reads my books or columns knows that I’ve been boycotting violent and explicit sex movies for years. Ever since Basic Instinct, I’ve been totally horrified at what our youth are exposed to and I have refused to participate on any level.

At least until today. I’m breaking my own rules, and I’ll tell you why.

At the suggestion of my husband, I went to see The Hunger Games. At first, I was adamantly opposed. “Nope, not going. Don’t want to be a party to this trash. I’m boycotting.”

Jim insisted. “I think you ought to see this one. Everything you talk about in your blogs politically, spiritually, culturally and emotionally is in this movie.”

Good point.

So I agreed and, wow, what a thought-provoking movie. I didn’t agree with the premise or story line. And, yes, I was disturbed by the themes and visuals. But Jim was right regarding the hidden discussion opportunities. They just jumped off the big screen yelling to be tapped.

The movie is a snapshot of the world—a reflection of what society has become through competition, reality games, large government, power and control. But it’s also an opportunity for our generation to launch a discussion of the post-modern world versus the Biblical worldview. If this movie is any indication, it looks like post-modern is winning—now’s our chance to right this misconception.

In the movie, political, emotional, ethical and spiritual themes abound. Take your pick. But you have to look beyond the obvious. You have to look with eyes of wisdom and experience, with spiritual eyes that see into the deep.

An obvious theme is the conflict between good and evil. If you know anything about history, much of the imagery resembles documented textbook evil: Nazi concentration camps, the Roman Forum, chariots of gladiators, ravenous crowds hungry for blood. The images of the haves versus the have-nots were disturbing. Sound familiar?

That’s why the title—The Hunger Games—was brilliant. Hunger was on every level: the people hungry for blood; the producers hungry for control; the audience hungry for a winner; the combatants’ hungry for a savior, the sponsors hungry for victory, and the reality shows hungry for ratings.

On the political front, the government was pure evil, perhaps a modern day China, Iran or Cuba. The potential ramifications of global policy as it relates to a Hunger Games scenario is worthy of thought and discussion? Although an entire article could be written on political ramifications, I’m concentrating on reviewing the movie through spiritual eyes.

History teaches that when people move away from God, they fill that vacuum with something else: addictions, drugs, pornography, money, people, power, control or idols. But there’s a hunger implanted in each heart, a search for something greater than ourselves. In Hunger Games that hunger is filled with counterfeits and distortions, cultural and ethical mandates, as well biblical themes and principals.

Another distortion was in the area of transformation. What a great opportunity to act as a bridge between the worldview and biblical view of transformation. Clearly, the missing component was faith, specifically the Christian faith. An explanation of the presence of Jesus and how His saving grace would have transformed everything would certainly add flavor to any discussion.

The question of ethics and a moral compass is another theme worth contemplation. In the movie instead of consistency, the rules changed on a whim, leaving a trail of confusion and delusion. Can you imagine what sort of discussion you could get into on that one?

As I ponder the consequences of The Hunger Games, it is clear that God is opening a door for writers to witness to the truth through the visual arts. There seems to be a hunger for these types of movies. Look at Star Wars, ET, and Lord of the Rings. What a magnificent way to communicate Biblical values through metaphor, symbolism and science fiction. Indeed, there’s an opportunity for creative missionaries to write and produce a witness for Christ in a genre that young people understand.

So should you see the movie? I answer with a resounding yes. Not because it’s good, but because your children and grandchildren are seeing it. And not only that, it is now required reading in elementary and middle schools. Can you believe that?

All this to say, anyway you look at it, the world is changing. If you want to stay on top of the eight ball and influence what your kids and grandkids believe, if you want to present a moral, biblical worldview as an option for right living, you better speak the language of the young. Like it or not, The Hunger Games is that language.

While they are being fed mistruths and distortions, we are asleep at the wheel. Better to combat distortion with facts, figures and truth, in a language they understand, than to be left out in the cold.

It’s up to you.

Antsy for Summer

April 5, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Makenzie Allen –

Summer is quickly approaching and I wait in anticipation for the day when I can dip my toes in the cool water of our nearby river. When I can look quizzically at the lightning bugs as they twinkle back at me. With much hope that the craving for ice cream isn’t larger than my resolve to look nice in a swimsuit, I eagerly await summer.

Last summer my friend and I migrated to the warm shores of Outer Banks in North Carolina. The sand squished between my toes and the sea breeze caused ripples through the tall grass. No wonder God created the waters and said, “It is good.” And though my heart jumped in time with the waves as I wondered at all the mysteries its depths might hold, one of the things I cherished the most was unity. The way the waves swept along the shore as crabs scuttled frantically to keep up with the torrent. How the dolphins swam together, never leaving their loved ones. Laughing with my longtime friend, standing side by side, we watched the way the waves formed before falling with tremendous force.

Unity is sometimes found in the little things, but once it’s found, glory to a Creator is necessary. That’s the kind of stuff that leaves me breathless. And although it’s hard to see sometimes, everything has a purpose. Everything. From the smallest ant to the largest rodent. There has to be a reason for God suggesting we be like the ants.

Ants have unity, they have perseverance, and they have the strength it takes to preserve not just their life, but also the lives of others in the colony. Instead of looking out for only themselves, they continue collecting food until there is enough to share. Now instead of pondering why God said that, I’m pondering why we don’t act more like the ants. “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6 NIV).

I wish I always acted like an ant. I don’t mean by raiding picnic baskets and biting unsuspecting victims who have dared sit on my anthill. No, I mean by acting on what others need instead of what I want. Unfortunately, my flesh has something to say about that. “Go ahead and wallow in self-pity for how that person hurt you while others around you are suffering from the death of loved ones, nightmares from their past, and the pain it takes just to wake up in the morning and feel okay.” I have it so good, yet my flesh tempts me to view my situation as worse than it is.

So as we approach one of my favorite seasons, I pray that God will give me the endurance it takes to treat others the way I want to be treated. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be less quick to bite the person who tramples on my anthill and quicker to bring forth the food I’ve collected as well. Let’s just hope I don’t start growing antennas after all this talk of being like the ants.

True Freedom

March 24, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Diane Mayfield –

This past Memorial Day I was flooded with thoughts of those brave men and women who fought for our freedom through the years and those who choose to fight today. Then my thoughts became more personal and I thought of my dad who died almost 20 years ago.

A young man of 18, he chose to join the Marines and left for the Philippines to fight in World War II. He never talked about those years and yet I know they molded him for life. Before he left, his grandmother gave him a Bible that he carried the whole time he was there. I came upon that Bible after he died. I have it today. It’s quite a treasure to me.

Sometime before he died, not knowing at the time that my dad’s days were numbered, we had a conversation about Heaven. He said he knew where he was going; that he had made his peace with the Lord many years ago. My dad was not a religious man most of his life. When I was in eighth grade, he converted to Catholicism and then began attending church, but his faith was always very private to him.

My dad and I didn’t enjoy a close father-daughter relationship for years. In fact, I didn’t really like him or want to be with him for most of my life. It wasn’t until I trusted Christ my senior year in college that my attitude toward him changed. Many things changed for me that year as a result of Jesus in my life. My appreciation for my parents, especially my dad changed. I wanted to be with him. We had long talks about politics, history, work and other life issues. We played tennis together and went out to lunch.

He died too early, just when we were really beginning to know each other. God gave me a gift that day when my Dad and I talked about Heaven. Then after he died, I found his Bible. I believe it was God’s way of letting me know that my Dad was truly free in eternity with Him and I would see him again someday.

Now we look forward to another holiday of freedom celebration—July 4th. In this country, we have several days where we remember freedom fought and gained for us as Americans. There’s also The Emancipation Proclamation where slaves were finally declared free. In Texas, we recognize Texas Independence day. The Civil Rights movement is another celebration of freedom.

But the real beginning of freedom was that day thousands of years ago when our Lord Jesus died on a cross. The sky darkened, the temple curtain was torn in two, and the real fight for freedom began. Three days later, it was won. Jesus was raised from the dead. Death and Satan were defeated for good. True freedom was then made possible for all mankind.

Each day when I bring my heart before my Lord, I am reminded of that freedom. He continues to show me truth about this world and myself. I am set free from the power of sin and darkness to choose the light of His Spirit in me.

I join with other Americans in remembering those who fought for our earthly freedoms but I cannot stop there. I must start with my Lord Jesus who showed me the real truth as He promised and set me free for all eternity.

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32 NIV).

Waves of Joy

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

By Marty Norman –

Recently I heard a speaker describe a phenomenon he believes will manifest in the Christian community in the near future. “Waves of Joy,” he calls it. “Such joy,” he says, “that believers will just ooze and pour out Christ upon all those with whom they come in contact.”

Isn’t that a great thought, pouring out Christ on all who God puts in our path? But why wait? Isn’t this what we should be doing right now?

And isn’t that a great picture?

When I think of waves of joy, what comes to mind are fields of wheat blowing in a West Texas breeze. Anyone who’s traveled in the Midwest knows what a field of wheat, waiting for harvest, looks like. No way to describe it but magnificent. Soft stalks of yellow ebbing and flowing with each breath of air that passes over them. As waves on an ocean undulate in their own rhythm and timing, so too do waves of wheat. As they move, they create a symphony of music as the tide flows in, out, around and through them.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful, if we as followers of the Resurrected Christ lived and breathed such music? What a pronouncement of life for others, what a beacon of hope to a lost and hopeless world.

Heaven knows the world needs to experience this joy. The images people get today from a world gone awry are not only shocking, but also horrifying. And it’s not just print media or the news. It’s permeated our kids’ world.

Just this week I experienced that world as my grandkids and I watched two cartoons together. Big mistake.

The first was Scooby Doo. The story line: Scooby and his friends sneaking into an abandoned house. When we tuned in, they were being pursued by an ugly witch who cast spells and incantations on them. Are you kidding me? Spells and incantations?

I grabbed the remote and switched the channel to the Pink Panther. How harmless can that be? Wrong again.

In this segment the main character was a blue elephant. Talking through a mouth at the end of his trunk he resembled the snake in the Garden of Eden. I wasn’t far off.

His first words to a school of rapt fish students, “Remember children, animals do not leave by leaves alone.” What? Hold on a minute. This sounds like a distortion of Matthew 4:4. “Man does not live by bread alone.” Surely not?

I missed the next scene as my mind was reeling. Jolted back into reality I heard, “Out of your produce, you will give me 50% of the profit.” Was he talking about a tithe here? Surely not.
Then came the clincher. I kid you not. A sorcerer’s hat appeared on his head, with a rotating circle going round and round. Yep, he was hypnotizing the fish.

Now I don’t know about you, but I was appalled. Perhaps I’m too sensitive but I think not. Maybe, just maybe, because I have spiritual eyes of faith, as well as grandmother eyes of love, I saw if for what it was—pure unadulterated evil, a world gone awry.

So there you have it, waves of joy versus waves of unadulterated evil. It’s time for the believing community to choose, to take a stand for good, to pour out waves of God on our young people.
Let’s not sit around and wait for the children of this world to be hypnotized by the evil one disguised as a blue elephant. Let’s pour out waves of joy now before it’s too late!

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