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).

Endsummer Night’s Dream

December 17, 2019 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

A tall, lanky teen swaggers across the classroom. His defiant eyes dare me to stop his trek. “Check this out!” another boy hollers. A paper wad arcs over three rows of students. Ricocheting off the rim of the beige metal trash can, it bounces to litter the mottled blue carpet. Hoots of laughter mock the clowning thrower.

“Class, I need your attention, please.” My feeble words search for listeners in vain.

Crackling paper snaps my attention to the back corner. Earphones implanted, head swaying, a girl munches on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Weaving through the desks, I hold out my hand. “No eating in class.”

With her audacious gaze glued to mine, the girl tilts the bag to her mouth, shakes out the last crumbs, scrunches the wrapper, and drops it in my hand. “I’m done. You can throw it away.”

My fogged brain grapples for her name—blank. “That will be a discipline step,” I bark out the threat.

“Ooooh, a discipline step.” Ridicule swathes her retort.

At my hip, a neighboring student snickers. I turn my dire gaze in a new direction. The blonde hunches over her cell phone, thumbs flying.

“I’ll take that.” I jab my palm out over her desk.

She pockets the device and raises limpid eyes. “What?”

Hilarity ripples across the room. Heat flushes through my body. My heart thuds against my chest. Names. I need their names. Why don’t I know their names?

My breath catches, and I wake, sweaty and panicked. Relief floods over me. Only a dream. Then dread and doubt trickle back. I start to pray.

As summer draws to a close, this sequence hits many teachers. Our worst nightmare—a classroom out of control and a personality turned ineffective. I’ve never had a first day like the one I imagine and dread. However, in spite of years of students filing into class cooperatively, each August those fears haunt my dreams and taunt my insecurities.

The details may differ, but I’ve heard of similar attacks on most people. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b NIV). Worry is one of his best tools. Anxiety leaches joy out of the day.

When I listen to the Spirit’s whispers, I can take the devil’s assault of my sleep and use it to rest in God’s peace. Satan made me imagine the worst; now I cast it on Him (1 Peter 5:7) and claim God’s promise:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

Don’t fret about this verse as a command; rejoice in the assurance it offers when we trust Him.

Comment Prompt:  Share a time when you dreaded something. Did it turn out better or worse than you expected?

Bite Your Tongue

November 30, 2019 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

“I know everything in the world.” Matthew, age five, piped this amazing assertion from the backseat as we drove along on daily errands.

Communication experts say to repeat what you hear to ensure your understanding. Managing to mask my doubts, I questioned, “You know everything in the world?”

“Yeah.”

“How did you learn everything in the world?” By this time, I had learned that further questions often revealed a wonderfully entertaining imagination.

“Brandon met the real Jesus, and he told me everything Jesus said.”

“Brandon met the real Jesus?”

“Yeah, and he said Jesus told him everything in the world, and he told me everything Jesus said. He even told him how to work a typerwrater.”

Although we could garner some great lessons from this precocious conversation on sharing the real Jesus with others, I want to focus on that first staggering statement. Sixteen years later, I sometimes think my son would still stake that claim.

My greater fear is that people might perceive a know-it-all attitude in me. I’ve been guilty before. An unforgettably humbling moment came at the hands of a co-worker in an elevator some twenty years ago. Although her exact words are lost, I remember clearly the sarcastic sting of her accusation that I always corrected their grammar. Scarier—I had been unaware of the obnoxious habit.

And obnoxious or not, I am still tempted to be didactic at every turn. I can justify such teacherishness in the classroom, but most companions find it very irritating outside of those bounds. (Actually, my students find it irritating, too, but endure because it’s my job.) At first, I preened when my critique partners called me a grammar guru. However, on second thought, perhaps to most of the world, that phrase is an insult!

Grammar forms only the tip of this dangerous iceberg. I grew up in a church with a history of hellfire and brimstone exclusivity. Even though my own home was full of teachings on grace, I apparently managed to pick up some of those condemnatory phrases. At one late night dorm session my freshman year, I had been holding forth on Truth, Justice, and Jane’s Way. My friend said, “So, you think you’re the only ones going to heaven?”

I gasped. No, no, no. How had I communicated the very sentiment I so opposed? Somehow—word, tone, expression . . . something—conveyed  a self-righteous attitude. Yet, we are called to share our faith and convictions. “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage” (II Timothy 4:2a NIV).

As usual, we must find balance. I left off the end of that quote: “with great patience and careful instruction” (II Timothy 4:2b NIV).

Although not mentioned by that particular verse, prayer should precede our corrections. Does that public speaker really need his grammar error pointed out? Is that friend’s habit just a foible or a fault? Is it my place to be the teacher?

I pray for wisdom to balance the instructions in II Timothy with these: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19 NIV).

Comment Prompt:  Share a time when you mis-communicated. Did you have a chance to work it out?

The Hand that Nailed Itself

November 22, 2019 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

Yesterday my little boy swung his feet in rhythm with mine, as we dipped our toes in the cool lake water. He said “Mom you don’t talk as much as dad.” “Really?” I smiled.  “Well, did you want to talk about something?” I asked.  He looked out over the green blue water and then up at my face. “I just want to talk about how good God is mom.” He then listed how God has been good to him. And then in typical little boy mode, darted off.

But he left me smiling with my face lifted to the sky “God, You have been so good.”

The hand that nailed itself to the cross is the same hand that holds my life.  And the same love that sacrificed itself says I made a way for you. I am good and kind. I love you.  I am the way, the truth, the life, the only way to the Father (John 14:6). The only way to be reconciled is Christ Jesus. And contrary to popular lies, the Lord God and Allah are not one and the same.  The culture that worshiped Allah was pantheistic first. And then gradually their other gods were diminished leaving Allah the moon god and his partner the sun goddess. In time she also was diminished.

God sent his son to Earth to make it really clear that He alone is God. And He alone is able to save.

Apart from Christ, self-destruction is what humanity will tend toward every time. I know this is true like I know I need air to breathe.  God’s word is clear.  It is not because of the works we have done, but according to His mercy that we are saved (Titus 3:5).

I have been in a night season for so long I have forgotten what it feels like to be able to see the horizon. But when you walk in the dark you learn to trust. You see faith become something you do not just talk about, but rest in.

Isaiah 50:10 (KJV) says, “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.”

“And stay” in this verse means lean upon, support oneself on. And I love that because the uncertainty in my life has taught me to place my hope on what is certain. The process has been painful and slow, but He is the one I want to be my foundation. And so I find myself immensely grateful for this season because He is building a faith that holds.

God chose to make us. And when we rebelled and sinned, He chose to save us.  He is so good.  And like my darling little boy, I just want to talk about it.

Drought Duress (Part 2 of Spiritual Drought)

November 12, 2019 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Nina Medrano – 

O GOD, You are my God, earnestly will I seek You; my inner self thirsts for You, my flesh longs and is faint for You, in a dry and weary land where no water is” (Psalm 63 AMP).

In Part One of the July article, “Spiritual Drought,” I shared my experience of my search for the Lord and not finding him.

Like the Shulamite woman, from the book of Song of Solomon, I searched for the Lord.  I searched in the Scriptures, in prayer, in church gatherings and in prophetic camps, but did not find him (Song of Solomon 3).

In “Spiritual Drought” article: “Everywhere I searched I caught only whiffs of His fragrance where I knew he had been but I had just missed him.”  And, my heart ached for Him even more!  Unable to sleep, I dusted off my guitar and painstakingly pressed my tender fingers to the chords and when my fingers faltered I cried out to the Lord, “I’M LONGING!”  Suddenly, His Presence overcame me, like rushing waters.  Finally, I had “found the one my heart loves.  I held him and would not let him go,” (Song of Solomon 3:4 NIV).

In the days that followed this experience, I asked the Lord why He waited so long to let me find Him. I believe I received my answer from a guest speaker speaking about cotton farming.  That’s right, cotton farming!

I live in Lubbock, Texas, which is the largest cotton producer in the world.

I learned that when all conditions are right:  sufficient water, sunlight and good soil, the cotton plant will appear to look healthy and green but the roots are shallow.  When the roots are shallow, the cotton plant will not yield much cotton.

The farmer is not as interested in how healthy or green the plant appears on the surface.  His greater concern is the depth of the root because he knows that the deeper the root, the more fruit it will produce.

One of the key strategies in aiding the plant to produce more cotton is a method called “Duress.”

During the hottest time of the season, the farmer will withhold water from the plant causing the plant to stress and struggle.  Eventually, the root system begins to dig deeper into the soil in search for water.  The process of drought duress develops strong, deep roots, which in turn produces much cotton.

I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit say that this spiritual drought and duress that I am experiencing is part of God’s plan to grow and develop my faith.  Praise God for his Spirit who instructs us in all things!

I don’t know how much longer I will be in this drought and duress season.  But, knowing that this is part of His plan to make me more fruitful encourages me to dig deeper into His Word and not give up hope.

I find it interesting that in the natural state of things, much of Texas is in drought and duress.  Is there a connection between the natural and the spiritual?  I don’t have that answer.

But, often, the Lord uses natural events to speak prophetically to His Body regarding the things of the Spirit.

“Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV).

 

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