Milk-n-Honey

March 14, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Nina Medrano –

I recently had a conversation with an individual who just got out of prison. Like many inmates, this individual accepted Christ while incarcerated. This person went to prison for doing a lot of the same things I used to be involved in. We share a common understanding of life in a dark, dark world. Now that our lives are with Christ, we live differently. So much change has taken place that we spent hours just catching up.

I shared how I remember never sleeping at night. Always doing, selling, and sharing drugs with other drug dealers and users. I remember the constant phone calls from users waiting on the product to arrive.  I remember crashing hard when the product was delayed. I remember rarely leaving the house during the day. I don’t know why other than we called ourselves “people of the night,” and only the “people of the day” ventured their lives during the daylight hours.

There were always people, strangers, coming and going at all hours of the day and especially at night.  There was always pornography in the background, playing along with the music as people partied. I remember the constant feeling of paranoia, the looking over my shoulder, peering out windows, sitting huddled in the darkest corner of a room—hiding from something I thought I saw or heard. I used to hear police sirens in my head until one day I couldn’t distinguish if it was from the realm of fear or from reality. I remember getting beat up by my boyfriend. I remember thinking, “I don’t want to die in this house this way.” I remember the lies—there were many, many lies—on this side of darkness you trust no one—including yourself.

As I openly shared my personal experiences with this individual, I noticed the frequent nodding of the head, saying to me, “Yep, I know exactly what you mean!”

This is true for all people of the night. They know exactly what I mean when I describe life in that dark, dark world. They understand the constant drama that comes with that life. They learn to live with mistrust and misuse. There is no friendship, no grace, no mercy, nor family for those who live in darkness. They harden their hearts, discard their feelings, and always carry a sharp eye and a loaded gun.

More nodding of the head but this time the nod is more pronounced, saying to me, “Man, you nailed it!”

Back in those days, I used to long for a simple life with no drama, no drugs, no darkness, and no paranoia. More nods, but these nods were gentle ones, saying to me, “Yeah, I want that too.”

I shared how God has taken me out of the land of darkness and brought me into a land of milk-n-honey. Today, I have a home that is safe and peaceful. I lead a simple life filled with grace and mercy. These days the only drama in my life is sitting in my back yard watching the brilliant colors of the sunrise and sunset. And the only things I do at night are watch for shooting stars across the sky.

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:6-7 NIV).

Abba (Father), thank you for bringing me out of darkness and for keeping me in the Light of your Presence. Thank you for setting me free and for bringing me into a place of grace and mercy. I will forever praise your name.

In His Right Mind

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

By Marty Norman –

Storytelling is a gift. Some people have it and some don’t. I don’t, though 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 storytelling, my first reaction was a resounding, “Are you kidding?  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 wore me down. Relenting, I joined the group to please her. My plan: attend a couple of sessions then fade away.

Scripture tells us that we are to be hearers of the word:  “blessed are they who hear the word and obey”, Luke 11:28 NIV; and “faith comes from hearing the message.” Romans 10:17 NIV.  Storytelling is based on these scriptures. The purpose: learn the age-old tradition of storytelling 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, different from our modern techniques of video, reading and visual aids.

Was I ever surprised?

The first class was titillating, exciting and challenging. Definitely my cup of tea.  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.

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. 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, I, too, might have to change. And I don’t want to. No one does. We all like our habits, even if they are harmful to us or to others. We are comfortable in our ways, only willing to change when we are desperate. The demoniac was desperate. He was not only open but willing.

In the mystery that is God, 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 because when digested, they speak to the heart of the hearer and bring about changed lives.

This is such a story. The demoniac experienced the healing, power, love and mercy of a mighty God. As a result, he ended up in his right mind in a right relationship with the Father, through the power of Jesus Christ. In the end, isn’t that what we all really want.

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

The Ministry of the Midwife

February 14, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Nina Medrano – 

Exodus 1:15-21 (NIV)
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.  Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”   The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”   So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

Chances are, if you are a faithful member of a church you have been a midwife in a ministry.

Whether you serve in the nursery, or on a worship team, or pastor the sheep– you assist in birthing God’s plan and purpose for His Bride.

The ministry of the midwife is a position that gets to observe some of the most hidden, private, intimate parts of human nature.  It’s a position that often rewards and encourages.  And, at other times, will raise the question of whether to remain or get out!  Because of the sensitive role of the midwife, Satan and his demons, will try to entrap and threaten the midwife into aborting the purpose and plan of God.

What is the enemy’s greatest scheme?   It is offenses.

If he can get us to be offended at the one giving birth then we have given him power to stop God’s plan for the Church as well as for our lives.

What is our greatest protection?  The fear of the Lord.

Psalm 34:7 (NLT) reads, “For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.”

Psalm 61:5 (NLT) reads, “…You have given me an inheritance reserved for those who fear your name.”

The Hebrew midwives feared God more than the King and they did not succumb to the king’s threat.  God saw this and rewarded the midwives by giving them families of their own.

When we choose to stay in the fear of the Lord, God will defend us and will reward us with His intended purpose and ministry of our own.

The Apostle Paul exhorts us in his writings to the Galatian Church: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”  (Galatians 6:9).

Lord, protect me against the voices of offense that surround me and frequently point out the shortcomings of those in ministry.  Help me to stay in the presence of the fear of the Lord.  Season my heart with much grace and mercy towards myself and with others—as we continue to be transformed into the image of Christ.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Speed

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?

Home

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.

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