O Happy Day

January 12, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

Remember the song “O Happy Day”? You know, the one about Jesus washing our sins away and teaching us how to rejoice, love and pray each day. Well those are the lyrics that came to mind as I sat down to write this article, probably because I’m in a place of joy and thanksgiving myself.

So many things I’m thankful for: Palm Sunday, Easter, Mother’ Day, my grandson’s 8th birthday, safe return from my Mercy Ships Mission trip, good friends, loving family and health. The list goes on. But today I’m thankful for the publication of my new book, and I wanted to share my joy.

God is good. I marvel at how he creates each of us, giving gifts and talents, time and treasure to help him build his kingdom. I’m more than grateful for the gifts he’s given me this year.

I’m overwhelmed with pre-release details but God is even in those. Especially the women I meet at book signings, the ones who share their heart and love for writing. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed God is raising up an army of women writers. It’s as though he’s calling many to speak up for the kingdom and has provided this season for such a time as this.

The book encourages leaving a legacy of faith, for the Lord has created each of us unique. He expects us to use his gifts for his glory. As I age, I’m drawn to scripture that exhorts us to pass on faith to the next generation.

Psalm 71:18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation. NIV

Psalm 145:4 One generation will commend your work to another, they will tell of your might acts. NIV

Proverbs 17:6 Children’s children are the crown to the aged and parents are the pride of their children. NIV

These scriptures pose the question – how are you planning to pass down your faith?

For me it’s easy – through writing. It’s my passion, my life. But there are so many other creative ways to tell our stories, to pass on our faith. I’ve met so many women with creative ideas that I never thought of.

Mary is a scrap booker. She shares her faith through combining scripture and photo journals for her grandchildren. Sharon is a quilter. She shares her love for Christ through amazing quilt works. Suzan is an artist. She paints her faith while Karen sings her faith, making up special songs for each grandchild.
I don’t know how you are sharing your faith. But I want to encourage each of you to get your stories down in some creative form. We never know how much time we have left. Once we are gone, our stories are lost forever.

So, “O Happy Day” is not just a song, it’s a mantra. A way for each of us to give thanks and glory to God who richly blesses us beyond anything we do or deserve.

A Return on Our Investment

January 1, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Diane Mayfield –

Raising children is quite a lengthy investment with no real guarantee of a certain return. It’s probably the only investment my dear husband embraced with me that had no tangible outcome. We raised three children, two years apart, all believers. That is worth the investment for sure but there have been others.

While raising them, we prayed together, read Scripture as a family and were involved with our church. We set boundaries, gave them responsibilities and established consequences for their choices. Family traditions were important to building family values and cohesiveness so we created many, like vacations to the beach and skiing. I planned evening meals together for most days. In short, we did what most Christian parents do. We did the best we could to “train them up in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

For us that meant, not only appropriate discipline and exposing them to Christian values but also discovering with them who God created them uniquely to be. That meant allowing for self-expression that wasn’t always pleasant or what we would have chosen, like the time we allowed our son to get a spike haircut. Our thought was that if we allowed choices of self- expression that were harmless, he might not feel the need to make more self-destructive choices.

Then the teenage years hit and the roller coaster began. Verbal self –expression of feelings and desires played into the discovery. I’ll never forget the day my 16 -year old- son said to my husband, “I want to punch you out right now.” My husband calmly said “You seem really angry. How come?” An honest conversation ensued. My son’s anger dissipated. Peace was restored to the family.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure what path our son would follow. A few years ago, we begin to get a return on that investment. One evening, our son and his wife were sitting with us on the back porch of our home. He had just won a big sales award and we were celebrating. Here’s the first return. He said, “You know I would never have won this if it wasn’t for you guys, especially you Dad. You gave me my work ethic and that’s what won it for me.” Wow! Dave and I were blown away. Those words were like a taste of rich, creamy homemade ice cream. A return we had only hoped for but didn’t know it would really come.

Another return came several months ago. My son called and asked if I would talk with him before I left for home. We spent the next two hours discussing the dynamics of our relationship. I was so proud of my son’s relational courage.

One more stands out to me happened a few weeks ago. He sent a forward from a friend. He wrote in his e-mail “this really speaks to me.” It was a verse from the book of Phillippians.

There have been other sweet returns from the invested years of parenting. All our children practice some of our family traditions. The beach is still very important in their lives. They are all believers though they express their faith differently. Our son and his wife lead a small group last year in their church. His wife told me he seems to have the gift of teaching. What a sweet return.

I really had no idea if our parenting years would reap the investment I longed for. But, we have received abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined, as only the Lord would do.

The Gift in Alzheimer’s

December 21, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Diane Mayfield –

My mother has Alzheimer’s. She can’t recall common nouns, like shampoo. She doesn’t remember that leaves fall off trees in winter. She no longer recalls the names of my children. She thinks my brother and his wife still live in town when they’ve lived in East Texas for 20 years. She counts and recounts the money in her wallet a dozen times in the three mile drive to her beauty shop because she can’t remember how much she has. She can’t read a menu and she wonders what a taco is. Parts of her brain are being destroyed but she doesn’t know it. For Mom, there is nothing wrong with her memory.

I’m the oldest of three children and the one who lives nearest my mother so I’m the primary caretaker. I raised three children who are now young adults, working and starting families of their own. I’ve been married for 35 years. I have a Master’s Degree in Counseling and I’m a certified Life Coach. I’ve worked with survivors of sexual abuse. I taught classes to police officers, teachers, counselors, and other helping professionals. I was a Bible Study Fellowship leader, Sunday school teacher, and small group leader. But nothing prepared me for walking this journey with my mom.

Often times I’m angry that this responsibility has fallen on me. My brother and sister are willing to help whenever I ask, but they are too far away to be involved in the day-to-day caretaking. When I leave town, I have to make sure she can get to the beauty shop. I pay her bills, keep up with her money, make sure her clothes are clean and meet whatever other need that arises. I resent that I’m the one who has to do this. There are times I think about just walking out and leaving it to the others to figure out. But I can’t. This is my mom and I want to honor her. Beyond the obvious physical proximity to her, I believe God has another reason this has fallen on me.

The other day she had an appointment with a new neurologist. I dreaded it. I didn’t know how she’d react. I wondered if she’d lash out at me in anger and refuse to go. I just didn’t want to do it. I tried to get out of it. I actually was hoping I wouldn’t be over my cold. But I was. I’d just finished the book “A Thousand Gifts’ by Ann Vosscamp. She believes that there is a gift from our Sovereign God in everything. So I asked Him “what is the gift in this disease called Alzheimer’s? What is the gift in my having to deal with my diseased mother and take her to the doctor today?” I thought I’d really stumped God on this one for sure.

Then the Holy Spirit reminded me “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV). Off the couch I sprang to pick up my mother for that doctor’s appointment.

Later that day the Lord reminded me of my prayer to serve Him and my desire to serve His way, not my own. He answered my prayer. This was His way for me to serve Him. Serving Him His way was my second gift in Alzheimer’s.

Halls of Jericho

December 7, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

Warning: Joking during the sermon may have unexpected repercussions.

Recently, as our preacher, Russell, circled the audience, speculating over the Israelites’ reaction to God’s command to march around Jericho, I whispered to Wes, “Maybe I should march around the school seven times.” Ha, ha – sarcasm duly noted.

Backstory: I have found this school year particularly stressful. My longsuffering family would testify to a rise in work load, complaint level, and tears. Under this pressure, I began to seriously consider blowing the dust off the accounting degree which I set aside many years ago to pursue education—for a kind of instant gratification of the desire to feel worthwhile. In recent months, that worth has been buried under paperwork, testing, and student apathy.

Thus, the joke, emphasis on lack of serious intent. I never intended to walk around the school.

But the idea didn’t fade; it kept popping into my thoughts. I echoed Russell’s imaginary Israelite, “Really, God? Why? What good will walking around the school do?” I will admit that a teensy, evil portion of my soul was tantalized by a vision of crumbling bricks in clouds of dust. Still, the scheme nagged until I decided it was a prompting from the Spirit.

Monday morning, when I had to don my rain boots and ward off drizzle with an umbrella to trudge through the lack of dawn’s early light, doubts mocked me. What was I trying to prove? Was the weather a test of my resolve? Was I just an over-imaginative Jesus freak?

I didn’t know, but I carried on. Praying over each portion of the building and my own future for a fifteen minute romp certainly couldn’t hurt although my frizzy hair might argue the point.

Each of the following six work days, I tramped in a loop around campus, wavering back and forth from prayer to misgiving. I met an occasional colleague on my wanderings. My quest was unclear in my own mind, so I was leery of sharing it. Most assumed I was exercising, and I allowed the mistaken credit, feeling a little deceitful at my caginess.

On the seventh day, I rose earlier than normal and started my trek in full dark. I managed six rounds of prayer and questions before school. I’d make my final march in the afternoon. I laughed at alternating dreams of suddenly cooperative students versus a profitable business career.

The sun shone as I started my final trip past the gym. Students lingered in the courtyard. One called out, “Hi, Mrs. Thornton!” Then another flagged me down for a simple question about an assignment. Nothing earth-shattering. I shared no deep insight about life’s purpose—but I connected, and the link resonated.

As I rounded a corner, my shadow stretched several yards before me. I chuckled at my own grasping for symbolism. Yet, a peace descended along with a new confidence in my purpose here. God sent an epiphany: for now, I am to teach, and, by the way, try not to complain about it so much. For the last ten minutes of my pilgrimage, I probed my subconscious for forced meaning. The conviction remained firm.

Climbing into my car to head home, I sheepishly gave a semi-shout of “Amen” and tooted the car horn to cement the deal. “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands…” (Joshua 6:2b).

Comment Prompt: What Jericho has the Lord conquered for you?

Oh How He Loves

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

By Makenzie Allen –

When I was little, I didn’t really get the concept of Jesus dying for me. He’s God right? That means He should be able to beat the bad guys, He’s indestructible. What I didn’t realize is that it was a choice. Jesus chose to die for us so we could be clean in the sight of God.

Can you imagine waking up in the morning and knowing you were going to die that day? That your closest friends were going to turn their backs on you and trade you for money? They would deny that they ever knew you and watch as you breathed your last. This was Jesus’ reality. He gave his friends unconditional love, and they turned away from Him. What amazes me about this is that we expect our friends to take our hand and be with us every step of the way, when the God of the universe did not even find that kind of companionship.

Jesus chose to go through complete abandonment, and death, for us. Now I’m sure your thinking, this is just the classic story of Jesus. Not quite. When you think of one of your closest friends, do you think of someone with redeeming qualities? A friend is someone who’s got your back, someone who cares about what’s going on in your life. So what about Judas, or Peter? One handed Him over for crucifixion, the other denied Him. I’ve had friends I look up to, friends that encourage me, friends that I encourage, and friends who aren’t really who I thought they were. But if my friends turned against me I would be devastated. So why is it that Jesus gave in to men He could easily overpower? I wouldn’t want to give up my life for people who did not appreciate me.

Another childhood misconception I had about God was that my parents could protect me better than He could. One night I was in my room, scared from a nightmare. Walking quickly to my parent’s room, I tapped my dad on the shoulder and told him I was afraid.

My mom rolled over to face me and said, “It’s ok, Jesus will protect you.”

My response had been to put my hand on my hip and say, “What’s he gonna do? He’s just a baby away in a manger!”

Since then I’ve come to see Jesus as my protector. I can walk through my faith knowing that God will be the friend who gives me what everyone longs for; love that isn’t contingent on what they’ve done or who they are.

So that’s not the end of the story.

After Jesus’ friends left Him to face crucifixion alone, He conquered death itself and did another remarkable thing. He forgave. Instead of leaving earth immediately to go home to His Father, Jesus went and saw His disciples. These men who rejected Jesus were shown the kind of love everyone talks about and longs for. If only everyone knew that the love they crave is easily given. There are no requirements you have to reach in order to gain the love and support of God.

So yes, I once questioned why Jesus died for us, I once pondered why He protected better than my parents, but I think I’ve found the answer. He loves us enough to die for our sins, and protects us through our greatest fears.

Oh how He loves.

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