Taking A Stand For God

September 19, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman

The world is in conflict. The scripture tells us that in the last days evil will be called good and good, evil. Anyone with spiritual eyes who follows the news is aware that this statement is true. Darkness is, indeed, falling upon the earth.

In Ezekiel the Lord talks about the watchmen on the walls, those who stand and warn the people of the danger that is coming. These are God’s people, the believers. As watchmen, our assignment is to tell what we see and know, to warn of danger when we see it coming.

And make no mistake, danger is coming. In fact many of us believe that danger is here. It behooves us as God’s people to speak out to take a stand for right, to do what is right no matter the cost. If we do not, we are complicit, and accomplices in the coming evil.

Time and space limit the many topics for which we could take a stand. But you know the issues. Take your pick. But whatever you do, pick one and speak out.

Some might say, “but I don’t know how to speak out. I don’t know where to begin; I don’t know what to take a stand on, there are so many issues.”

I say it doesn’t matter. Just begin; begin somewhere. Begin with what you know. Practice taking a stand on things that you know. Start simple Get comfortable on forming an opinion and back it up with fact. Then expand.

I began taking a stand with issues that involve my grandchildren for that is what is most dear to my heart. The topic: God being removed from schools and the public arena. Not only do I feel strongly but I also have personal experience in this area, so I know from which I speak.

As I wracked my brain to give an example, I decided to use one from my upcoming book “The Savvy Grandmother – Building A Legacy of Faith” to be released in June 2012. This is from page 162 and speaks about learning to be a savvy grandmother who stands up for what she believes.

“Whether in the political or spiritual realm, my opinion is rarely in question. Lucky for me that God gave me sons to push me to the next level. Recently one challenged me to compare news stories from opposing media outlets. For three weeks I checked the websites of eight different outlets: four liberal, four conservative. I even charted their differences for my own information.

The exercise not only solidified my own position but it also gave me clear talking points and a platform from which to debate.

A most interesting discussion transpired. As I shared my observations, I also talked about my experience of prayer in school growing up. I quickly realized this world was totally foreign to him.

“But Mom, you attended a parochial school,” he responded.

“Not so,” I replied. “This was not a church school. This was a public school. Religion and prayer were not only in the public schools, they were also at the sporting events, graduation exercises, and more. We sang ‘Fairest Lord Jesus’ and ‘God of our Fathers’ at my sixth-grade Thanksgiving program. There were no conflicting messages. Everywhere—church, school, and home—children got the same message.”

“But what about the separation of church and state?” he asked.

It hit me in the face like a ton of bricks. My son had no frame of reference for the world I grew up in. The change had been so dramatic that his generation, Generation X, had no idea of what it used to be like. How could I have let this happen?

As usually happens with God, this topic came up again not long afterward with one of my grandkids. But this time, this savvy grandmother was prepared. When Jack reported that he was getting out of school on December 22 for winter break and could come visit me, I took advantage of the teachable moment.

I carefully instructed from the other end of the phone: “You mean Christmas break.”

“No, Marme, it’s winter break,” he said.

Raising myself up to all of my five-foot-six-inches, I told him that indeed it was Christmas break. That Christ was born, that the son of God was made man and came to earth, and that is why the celebration began in the first place. Christmas started out as a religious holiday and that is what it still is.

“The school can call it anything it wants,” I said in a firm voice, “but it’s Christmas break, and that’s what I’m calling it.”

No budging for this savvy grandmother.

Shine

August 29, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

I thought being a teenager was painful. I disliked the sense of awkward vulnerability that accompanied those years. I disliked being subjected to the sheer foolishness that is public high school. And I disliked feeling torn between the numb robotic actions expected of me, so I could fit the status quo, and the desire to flip expectations upside down.

So I tell my teenager the things I wish I had understood way back then, in the olden days. I tell her not to worry who likes her, that this is the time to develop into the woman God wants her to be.The answers to her identity questions are found in scripture. I tell her loneliness is a large part of the human experience. But that it can serve a big purpose if we allow it to. It can drive us away from trying to please others and straight toward God. And when we embrace His love, flaky acceptance we experience elsewhere tastes like saccharine. Once you have tasted and seen that the Lord is good there is no substitute.

At every age we need to know God’s word is true when it says we ourselves become a well-watered garden when we focus on meeting the needs of the needy instead of our own. When we pour out, God pours in. And when we strive to fill ourselves we are emptier than before. There is no shortage of alternatives we can cram our lives with and when we do the heart grows heavier and the spirit more afflicted.

I recently heard a man I admire say salvation is not just for Heaven but Earth also. Our freedom from sin and death are for the here and now. The more I wrestle with my sin nature, the more relieved I am that God can and will clean it up. And with precision better than a surgeon His words separate the bone and marrow. I lie down peacefully, gazing up at Him through a starry sky and wonder why I ever choose anything but His presence and an obedient life. Does it make me an old soul to say all else is meaningless, “a chasing after the wind”? (Ecc. 1:14 NIV)

I grew up doing all the right things and being in all the right places. I even went on a spiritual renewal retreat, when it meant not going out with a boy I liked. I remember thinking that living right was something we did, muscling our way through life. That to shine and be a light was mostly self-driven. But when I was broken beyond human repair, God began to speak through me. He began to heal and clean me. I eagerly participated, desiring to be whole and new. I still climb up on the surgeon’s table and hand Him any tool He asks for. I hand Him my confession, my desires, my fears, and my heartache. He cuts out the disease of sin, cleans the festering wound, and stitches the cut that I tried to cover with a band-aid. He did it yesterday, and He’ll be back tomorrow. When I call Him in the middle of the night He is there.

Why trade Him for anything else? He is the only long-term satisfaction in life because He is life.
“In Him was life and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4 KJV).

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

August 18, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman

Dear Friends, let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love. I John 4:7

A popular song in the 1980’s and ‘90’s was a song by Tina Turner “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” The song calls love a second hand emotion and questions why one would want a heart when it can be broken. It won many awards and great acclaim and was included in a number of Turner’s albums.

Contrast that with scripture which states clearly that love is the answer. God is love. Everyone born of God knows God and that no one can love that does not know God. This is a pretty strong statement. One I’m sure much of the world would not agree with. But further investigation reveals God knew what he was talking about.

Recently a friend who moved from her home shared a profound word with me. Christmas was difficult for her this year – not in her nest of thirty plus years, not surrounded by her Christmas traditions and décor she felt lost and depressed. Discombobulated is how she described it.

But then a miracle happened on Christmas Eve. As she prepared for her first entertaining in her new home, she shopped for groceries and set the table for Christmas lunch. She reported that the heaviness lifted as she prepared for her extended family that was coming for lunch. “That’s what Christmas is all about,” she said. “Love, celebrating the Love that came down from heaven and lived among us; surrounding ourselves with those we love, family and friends. It has nothing to do with a house. It’s all about love.

The truth is there is nothing but love. Love is the answer, and the answer is God. God is love and makes perfect sense once you can understand this simple concept.

As we prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the day when cards and gifts measure the depth of love, let us remember that this is not true love. True love is the love of Christ, sacrificial love, a love that serves and gives. That is what we are called to be about this Valentine’s Days.

So when you walk down the aisle of the Hallmark store, keep in mind Jesus and what he did for us. Let’s be more concerned with telling others about His love than building ourselves up with expensive and important gifts. A simple “I love you”, a kind deed, a helping hand, an unexpected gift of love, that’s what Valentine’s Day should be all about.

So Happy Valentine’s Day, Jesus. Thank you for coming to earth to show us what real love is. Help us to love as you did, sacrificially and in service to others. If we all did that , the world would be a better place for everyone.

Nine Tips for Peaceful Progeny

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

By Jane Thornton –

As my son, recent college graduate, returns home for a final roost before testing his wings, I have been reflecting on our strategies in raising him. I thought I’d share some that were more successful – we’ll save stories of the less successful for another day. I don’t claim these as my own ideas; we gathered whatever worked from friends, books, and our own childhoods.

1. Either/Or –Give children options while guiding them toward your own goals. We used this often enough that four-year-old Matt mimicked our policy with his little sister. “Merry, here’s how you play this game . . . Merry, you can play the way you’re supposed to, or you can just not play. Those are your choices. Do you want to play the way you’re supposed to or not play?”

2. Odd/Even –Matt got odd days, Merry even, for both chores and privileges. Before I’d holler for a helper, I’d remember the date and address the appropriate kid. As we’d head for the car, instead of hearing “Shotgun!” and squabbling, we’d hear, “It’s the second, my day in the front.” No questions asked.

3. Change it Up – Honestly, I’m not so good at this, but my husband Wes is a master. When the kids (and I) circled around in a pointless argument, he abruptly asked some completely unrelated question. Although his tactic was glaringly obvious, we would all frequently comply.

4. No-Thank-You-Bite –Although now I only rarely turn my nose up at anything edible (still no brussel sprouts), as a child I preferred meat and potatoes only. Somewhere I heard that our taste buds change every seven years; true or not, I use it as a mantra for tasting. Although this plan doesn’t eliminate all fussing, we found requiring a bite much more manageable than a whole helping.

5. Two-Minute-Warning –We got much better cooperation with “Two more times down the slide, then we have to go.” If fussing ensued, the number decreased to one more time – or a return to that first strategy: “Two more slides or now – which do you prefer?” Same thing applies to chores: “You need to start cleaning your room in the next thirty minutes” works better than “Get in here and clean your room!”

6. Say Sorry – Not them, me. When I could hear that shrieky tone enter my voice, my kids responded with great forgiveness if I stopped and apologized for taking out frustrations on them. Sometimes a bedtime apology was called for due to a long day of grouchiness. I’m hoping they’ve picked up on this model for future relationships.

7. Nights Up – We weren’t terribly consistent with this, but I love the idea. Give each child some alone time with the parents by allowing them to stay up past bedtime once a month and choose an activity. Some things we did: bake cookies, play games, wrap Christmas presents, read a book.

8. Celebrate Spirituality – I love this tradition. We celebrate our children’s spiritual birthdays—the day they chose to follow Jesus. Each year we go out for dinner, often inviting friends. Everyone present sets a goal for spiritual growth. At each celebration, we review our old goals before we set, or reset, new ones.

9. Age and Absence – Not an idea or strategy, this point is a reality to reassure you. As the kids grow up and are not interacting daily, they learn to appreciate parents and each other. I’ve experienced the joy of maturing relationships with my own siblings, and now I get glimpses of the future of cease fire in my children’s sibling battles!

Comment Prompt: Share your parenting strategies, please.

Shattered Illusions of a Goody-Goody

July 9, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton

Confession: I captured my husband under false pretenses.

Not intentional deceit, I make every effort to be open; I strongly believe in being frank—but somehow, on first impression, most people judge me to be ladylike. This notion even lingers beyond acquaintance. Perhaps some of my traits and habits reinforce the reaction: I have a girly southern voice; I collect china cups and saucers; I tear up over Hallmark commercials and romantic movies.

Even those who are not so impressed with me have been known to categorize me as a goody-goody.

Unfortunately, as my husband discovered after our wedding day, the illusion does not hold up under day to day living. I’m often loud, silly, grouchy, and selfish to name a few not-so-ladylike attributes. Thank God, over the last twenty-five years, Wes has found other reasons to love me!

One day in the first year of our marriage, I shared with him the story of what I considered the follies of my youth:

As a freshman in college, I wanted to spread my wings and test my new freedom. I stepped outside of my moral standards and went with a group of friends to well-known strip club. (Please hold back your gasps; there’s worse to come.)

I felt daring, cosmopolitan, wild. Upon the urgings of the crowd, I even tipped a dancer a dollar and asked for a kiss. I flushed with my audacity. I managed to rationalize and smush any shame.

We tromped back to the dorm and fell into the dreamy slumber of slightly tainted innocence.

The next afternoon, I developed a scratchy throat. By evening, my glands were swelling and red. I scrambled through my mail, and, with horrified dread, I re-read the letter from my mother: “Mimi says to be careful. She read an article saying that there’s an epidemic going around of gonorrhea of the mouth.”

Fear drove spikes through my heart. Shame escaped its prison and swamped me. I cried myself to sleep, nightmares haunting me with the necessity of confessing to my parents that I had an STD.

I did not.

And, I did not confess my misdeeds until much later. In spite of my own regrets, I was surprised that when I told Wes, seven years later, he was angry. Now, with the perspective of our silver anniversary, I know that I shattered some of his illusions with that confession.

Recently, I revealed this story to a church friend. She, too, was horrified and grossed out by my peccadillo. I tumbled off the pedestal I didn’t know she had put me on. That fall is probably a good thing since I don’t belong there.

Praise the Lord that I do not have to earn the image of being good. In Romans, Paul says Jesus gave me His righteousness (3:22). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24 NIV).

Comment Prompt: What impressions – true or false – do people have of you?

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