February 5, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

Sun glinted off my handlebars, the wind whispered around my goggles, and the leather seat jounced under my rear as my ATV slewed to a stop on the side of the sandy road. Grinning around my gritted teeth, I jerked the kerchief away from my face. “Wes! We’ve found our new retirement activity!”

I was ready to sell his ’67 Mustang, buy a pair of four-wheelers, and hit the road. For three hours, my family zipped and bounced along the mountain trails, relishing the speed, admiring God’s magnificence, and laughing at each other’s antics.

Toward the end of our jaunt, we had tracked down the wandering youngsters and were aiming for our rendezvous with the tour company. Our group had strung out along the trail to avoid dirt in our eyes. I careened into the parking lot with five minutes to spare. My niece was two minutes behind me. Wes should be pulling up the rear in a moment.

The owner of the company checked in our vehicles and nodded his understanding when we explained, “The dust was really getting to him, so he was hanging back. He’ll be right here.”

Minutes ticked by. Conversation grew awkward. Jokes about turning down the guided tour fell flat—maybe as flat as a tire? My brother Mark took off to find my husband. More time dragged by. Cell phones don’t work in the mountains. The boss sent an employee with a flat repair kit.

Rationalizations ricocheted through my brain and out of my mouth. The whole family endorsed all my possible reasons for the delay. The owner and his family waived away our apologies for holding up their excursion.

A rumbling motor announced the return of the company rescuer. With a serious face, he went straight to his boss. We heard the words “off the cliff.”

My heart went numb.

Robin, my sister-in-law echoed the pronouncement. “He said off the cliff.” Sound jabbered around my ears with no meaning. Off the cliff.

My thoughts flew to hospitals, lonely years, and funerals. I prayed, no, no, no. Reason told me God never promised life. No, no, no.

My gaze desperately followed the muted conversation. Finally, the owner approached. “He’s all right. He was walking.” Two short, amazing, powerful sentences.

When Mark putted back with Wes perched and clinging behind, we found him bloody and bruised, perhaps with cracked ribs. He told his tale:  he hit a boulder in the road, rebounded off an unbending tree, rolled down an eight-foot embankment, splashed into a creek, and lay dazed as the heavy machine landed across his shoulders. By nightfall the bank was twelve feet and the creek was a river. Two months later, I think he says he fell fifty feet into roaring rapids.

That evening as he tried to break the chill from shock and snowmelt, I hovered. He shuddered in the cramped bathtub, and I laid warm handcloths over him. I mopped up blood and ruined several butterfly bandages. I flitted out to the kitchen for boiling water. Reminded myself of every frantic birthing scene in movies through the years.

Depending on how you measure, five to fifteen minutes of terror can bring presumption to a shrieking halt and slap you in the face with perspective. Life is good. It goes fast. Every minute is a blessing.

“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath” (Psalm 39:4-5 NIV).

Comment Prompt:  Share a time when you were struck by the fleeting quality of life?


January 25, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen-

When I reminisce about my childhood home I can practically smell the fresh baked, chocolate chip cookies. Running home from the bus, I could not wait to be at the kitchen table, even though an hour of piano practice followed. I am the quintessential homebody. I even opted out of Prom for a night relaxing with my favorite people, most of who were family members.

A few weeks ago, as I was prepping dinner, my son leaned over the discarded sweatshirt I had tossed on a kitchen chair. He sniffed unaware that I was watching him, a bemused smile on my face.  He met my smile. “This smells like you mom.” My grin widened “What do I smell like?”  “Home” he said, meeting my instantly teary eyes with a bright smile.

For over a year I have worked at wrapping my brain around Psalm 91 (NIV). Verse one says: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

My son could not have guessed the mystery he helped unravel in his casual comment. I pulled paper and pen and began listing adjectives that describe my ideal shelter. Security, protection from the elements, peace, warmth and unconditional acceptance topped my list.

My suitcase has seen more travel & dust than I could have imagined. If I had realized my belongings would stay in boxes these many years, perhaps I would have decided to travel lighter. Like the Israelites, I too have journeyed through a wilderness and seen God move on my behalf. The places where He rescued me have become altars of praise.

My security and peace came from what was familiar; physical objects attached to warm memories. That has slowly begun to change. The Lord is becoming my shelter. And when I think that the world is His & all its fullness, I am reminded that our ownership is nothing more than an illusion.

Making the Lord my dwelling place is walking in His presence. And that is where I am safest. Nearness to Him is protection and peace. This is an appealing thought for a homebody nomad. A home away from any home, one that never requires moving. I am accepted, loved, and chosen. I will hold on to Him tightly and let my grip on the rest, go.

In His Right Mind

January 16, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

Story telling is a gift. Some people have it and some don’t. I don’t, though secretly I’ve wished for it since I was a child. I just never felt equipped.

That’s why, when invited to join a Bible Study on Story Telling, my first reaction was a resounding, “Are you kidding. No. Not me – it’s not my cup of tea.”

“Why, it’s right up your alley”, my friend argued pressing her point again and again. Finally she just wore me out. Relenting, I joined the group to please her. My plan: attend a couple of sessions then fade away.

Scripture tells us that “blessed are they who hear the word and obey”, Luke 11:28 NIV . It also tells us that “faith comes from hearing the message.” Romans 10:17 NIV.  Story telling is based on that premise. The purpose: to learn the age-old tradition of story telling practiced by the patriarchs and early civilizations from the American Indian to the Himalayan people groups. Based on biblical tradition, the good news of the gospel is told through oral tradition, so different from our modern way of video, reading and visual aids.

Was I ever surprised?

The first class was titillating, exciting, challenging and even more so, definitely my cup of tea. Transfixed I sat mesmerized as Sharon, the leader, told the Story of Jesus and The Demoniac. The story was more than familiar; I’d read it numerous times but hearing it told in this manner brought a whole new perspective.

Literally, I visualized the demoniac cutting himself with stones and throwing fits. I could see the 2000 pigs as they raced to the lake and drowned. I joined the herdsmen as they stood amazed at what they saw.

The turning point hit me hard. When the townspeople saw the demoniac “dressed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus” they became afraid. Suddenly I understood the aversion of many to the truth of the gospel. When faced with the might and power of this man Jesus people are afraid. They wonder what kind of man this is that heals a demoniac from evil spirits. They shy away from one who commands the wind and waves to cease. They see the demoniac’s transformation and understand that being in a right mind is all about being in a right relationship with God.

Somewhere deep inside, the question lurks for the hearer. If the demoniac changed, even though in a good way, he might also have to change and he doesn’t want to. As a people we like our habits, even if they are harmful to us or to others. We are all just comfortable in our ways. We are only willing to change when we are desperate. The demoniac was desperate. He was not only open but willing.

In a mysterious way the story of the demoniac, when told without visual aid, reached deep into the hearts of the hearers in a profound way. Perhaps that’s why Jesus told so many stories and parables perhaps because they speak to the heart and bring about changed lives.

This is such a story. The demoniac experienced healing, power, love and mercy. As a result, he ends up in his right mind in a right relationship with the Father, through the power of Jesus Christ.

If that’s not a perfect cup of tea – I don’t know what is.

Waiting for the Fall

January 8, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

As we prep our fall schedule I am reminded that life is swift as a current. I relish the last scents of summer as they float on the cooling breeze. New seasons somehow hold all the possibility for change and growth. This is an opportunity to glance over my shoulder, pausing to bless His name for all He has done. And although busy I will indulge the urge to sit longer recounting His ways.

Tonight I balanced the story of Jonah on my knee while scratching a small itchy back. My son, like many a child, is drawn to this story. And as I read I find myself hanging on each word. I close the book, remembering a time when the end of Jonah’s story was my story.  God is enduring, if there is a truth He wants me to learn, He will teach me in multiple ways.

Years ago my hubby and I were part of a ministry that ended in a sad, hard way.  I was disillusioned.  I had intently worked to come out of the mess clean, and I was angry that things were ending the way they were.  I believed there should be some consequences for the bad things that had gone down. Somebody needed a good hard spanking and I wanted to watch the smack down.

I looked for justice but ran head long into conviction. It started with the book of Jonah. I get Jonah. The people of Nineveh were evil and he thought there should be consequences. God wanted to offer forgiveness instead and Jonah was pretty mad about it. So he sat waiting and watching and hoping that Nineveh would still pay.

God laid that example in front of me. But I was too focused on how we might be blessed for doing right and really did not want to face my pride.  So one evening, He led me to Matthew 7:21-23 (KJV). This is a pretty scary passage: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”.

I dropped down on my face, a holy fear coursed through my body. I laid there for what felt like hours, and in the stillness that lingered, I knew. I was to long for salvation for those who had wounded me the way I longed for my own. It was time to pray for grace and mercy for someone else. No more sitting in the hot wind above Nineveh watching eagerly for destruction.

The years have sped along, and I still pray for those involved. The anger and hurt are gone. God alone knows tomorrow, but I will endeavor to live it free from bitterness. I breathe easier knowing my assignment here does not involve being my own defense. I step in time with Him, knowing my back and my heart are covered.

Autumn Seasons of Life

December 28, 2019 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Nina Medrano –

The first day of autumn  is the day of the year when the sun crosses over the equator.  The reason for our seasonal changes has to do with Earth’s yearly trip around the sun.

If our planet did not take a yearly trip around the sun, then life on Earth would be off balance.

The land would not experience the cycle of death and new growth. In fact, parts of the earth would only experience a hot or cold season eternally. The seas would become stale without the changing of waters and temperature. We would lose a large amount of plant and animal life, because many animals breed only in summer. There would be no relief of seasons.

I find this very interesting that Abba Father would design the earth to take an annual vacation, if you will. This prompts me to think about the importance of annually taking a trip—a vacation away from our busy seasons of life.

Just as Earth needs relief and time to heal and rejuvenate itself, we, too, need relief of our seasons of life.

On the first day of autumn, day and night are nearly the same amounts of time. There are about 12 hours of daylight on this day. On this day there is an equal balance of time.

God is a God of order and balance. He establishes changing seasons for the earth as well as for our lives.

By God’s design, each season has a specific purpose and effect on the Earth. So do the seasons in our lives.

As the first day of autumn approaches, I am mindful of God’s purpose and effects of this new season in my life. I ask myself what areas in my life need to be put to death so that the seed of life might grow in my spring season. How can I partner with God in balancing my time spent with Him and with my part in this world? And lastly, when should I plan a yearly get-away and bring intentional relief into my seasons of life?

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven”(Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV).

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