Hole in My Heart

April 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

Excited pleasure bubbled and frothed over the brim of my thirteen-year-old heart as I clasped the yearbook to my flat chest. Coach Ripley, beautiful Coach Ripley, had signed the annual, commanding me to stay sweet and pretty. I was in alt. Although I barely knew the man, I could live on this one, off-hand compliment for ages.

Of course, the following year, after a few stops on boys my own age, my affections were transfixed on Mr. Mac, the drama teacher. With his horseshoe mustache and aviator shades, he was the epitome of cool. When he brought his guitar to class and crooned John Denver’s “Lady, Are You Crying?” my romantic heart bled. For Christmas that year, a family friend who was an aide at my school obtained a four by five copy of Mr. Mac’s picture. I would stare at the photo, listen to my new Denver LP, and dream blissful dreams of a man who would cherish me.

That same year, Coach Thompson paced the aisles of my algebra class, then stopped with his speculative gaze pinned on the back of my raised textbook. He interrupted my studious pose with a raised brow and sardonic tone. “Jane Hines, what are you doing?” I blushed as I revealed the Harlequin romance tucked securely in the tome then, resigned, crammed the novel back into my purse.

Even my older brother’s mockery did not alleviate my addiction to these fantasies. He would snatch a paperback from my hands and with great drama read the back cover blurb. “Burning gaze fixed upon the wide, innocent eyes of the ravishing vixen, the pirate stalked this appealing beauty with panther-like grace.” I’d like to claim he embellished, but I’m afraid it wasn’t usually necessary.

Through high school, college, and, beyond the fluttering anticipation continued; each outing held the potential to introduce me to him, the man who would complete me. I was not alone in my expectancy. Many a giggling conversation or serious soul-searching was shared with friends who wove their own dreams of romance.

Nowadays, I chuckle when my daughter, attending college away from home, calls to share ____ sightings. (I leave the name blank both because she deserves privacy and because the name changes fairly frequently.) She, in her turn, suffers the throes of heightened awareness while she awaits the discovery of her intended mate.

Even now, after twenty-five years married to a prince among men, I thoroughly enjoy escaping reality in the pages of a romance. I willingly endure the rolled eyes and ridicule of said prince as I revel in sagas of pirates, rakes, and, yes, even vampires. I can laugh with him at their unreality, but I still get a kick out of them.

Even amidst my adolescent ferment, I usually saw through the idealistic glitter and recognized my own naiveté. I try to remember that all the wonderful scriptures about cherishing your spouse and loving sacrificially were written to people living in arranged marriages—arranged for family or monetary reasons, not usually because the girl told her dad about the good-looking carpenter she saw.

We all need to try to be aware of the illusions the world offers. Whether through romance, adventure, money, etc., humanity cannot truly provide fulfillment. “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation” Psalm 62:5-6a (NIV).

Lord, Help My Unbelief!

April 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Nina Medrano—

Yesterday was a fun day out with my youngest sister.  It was the first nice warm weather day that we’d had since winter, so we went shopping and then out for lunch.  Next we went to the lake and fed bread to the ducks.  Yes, the warmth from the sun and the relaxed fellowship with my sister did us both good.

As the time to pick up the girls from school drew near, we gathered our belongings and laughed our way back to my truck.  My little sister slid into the passenger seat, still smiling, and said, “Thanks Sis, thanks for today.”

It’s been a difficult year for our family, especially the last seven days.  Cancer cells have invaded my grandfather’s liver, throat and spinal cord.  It’s very heartbreaking to see him suffer such pain.

As we approached the school building my cell phone bleeped letting me know that I had a text message waiting.  I parked my truck and my sister ran to meet the girls.  I read my message, “Grandpa has decided to take chemo—starting today.  The doctor will discharge him from the hospital in a couple of days.  Grandpa needs all of our courage!”

I didn’t realize that I had been holding my breath until I released a heavy sigh.

Last night I could not sleep, thinking about the last part of the text message, “…Grandpa needs all our courage.”  My grandfather is saying that he wants to live longer and he wants to defeat cancer.  He is asking us to join him in faith and in fight because he does not know how long he can endure.

Unable to sleep, I lay in bed, wrestling with my unbelief.  I am reminded of the story of the boy Jesus healed, written in Mark 9:23-25 (NKJ), “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’”

Like the father of this child, I too cried out, “Lord, please take my unbelief and change it into faith—like water into wine.  Please increase what little faith I have so I may confidently speak to the mountain cells of cancer and cast them into the sea.  Lord, I believe, please help my unbelief!

Like many warriors of God before me, I lay at His feet, trembling in my weakness of faith, desperately crying for a supernatural intervention, seeking for a miracle to take place.

Sometime in the night, I fell asleep.  When I awoke, I felt suited up in armor and ready for battle.  May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob be with us all who battle against cancer.

Ephesians 6:10-13 (New King James Version)
The Whole Armor of God
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Nina Medrano writes for her church blog: http://www.cotrwomensministry.blogspot.com/

Pure

April 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

On this sanctification journey there are moments where I reflect on where I have been.  Sometimes I travel pretty far back, to the spot where it began: on my knees, next to my bed, at the age of six. Even as a little one I felt an internal conflict when I was asked to do something I did not want to do.  At times I disobeyed, and other times I lied. I fought with my brothers when they provoked me. For the most part I was a happy kid in a happy home.

And my world grew as I grew, and I found myself struggling with other types of sin.  The root was pretty much the same, selfishness and conceit. I think I loved God since I was a wee tot, but verbalizing that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead gave life to my heart.

A few nights ago I was reading the news headlines, our world has been set on fire.  Sexual sin is everywhere. Theft, dishonesty, and dishonorable behavior are the new norm.  At one point I closed my computer and laid flat on my face.  This is an age of deception and I am fighting to keep from being deceived.  I feel the weight of contending with sin every single day. And it is tiresome.  But then I think about all of the changes in me.  There are thousands of small, daily victories where I have not given into my wants and feelings.  And learning to deny myself has led to character change.

A friend of mine said, “We will not be pure on accident, it will be something we fight hard for.”  I think she is right.  The point of purity is not so I can look shiny and clean and it isn’t just a nice thing to say because I am a Christ follower.  It is a down and dirty all out battle against my flesh.  It shows up everywhere, even in the grocery checkout where I am assaulted by magazine cover stories featuring infidelity, selfishness, and greed.  All presented in such a photo-shopped way, that the average girl cannot help but wonder what went wrong in her genetic pool.  It is a mind game. And as a whole, one I do not see being won.

So, how do I raise my kids in this culture?  How do I raise two Daniels and one Deborah?  My solution is not youth group, or Sunday school classes.  It is not counseling or involving them in good activities. This is battle. And being involved in good things is not the same as being armed.

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:9-11 NIV).

At some point, they will, like all of us, have to choose. They will decide. But while my babies are still home, I will teach them to hide the word in their hearts. I write this knowing that hiding His word in my heart will provide the only map that keeps me from stumbling head long into the apostasy minefield that Jude spoke of. The truth is I need to be cleaned and changed and the only source I know is the Word.  It is, after all, what endures.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8 NIV).

Heather Allen spends most of her time caring for her hubby and 3 kids.  Check out her blog: http://www.theknottedapron.blogspot.com/

A Bridge Too Far

March 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

I love war movies. I don’t know what it is about them. Maybe it’s the heroism and courage. Perhaps it’s the reminder of a different time and place, when honor and integrity reigned, when a man’s handshake was his word. Either way, I try to watch them whenever they are on the movie channel.

One of my favorites is “A Bridge Too Far.”  An epic war film, it relates the failure of the Allies to break through the German lines and seize a vital bridge for the German army. Some of my favorite actors were in it: Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, James Caan. Perhaps you’ve seen it?

The scene is the Netherlands following D-Day when the Allied supply lines and troops are bogged down and speed is of the essence. The Allies are not able to move toward Germany which has been their ultimate goal and strategy for winning the war. Drastic measures are in order.

A daring plan by Field Marshal Montgomery calls for the largest air assault ever attempted: 35,000 men are dropped behind enemy lines where the Allies plan to seize the bridge at Arnem and open up a road for the invasion of Germany. The overall plan is for paratroopers to take the bridge for two to three days until ground forces arrive and secure it. Speed is if the essence since this bridge is the last means of escape for the German forces.

Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes do not work. In this case the results are disastrous. There are many complications and the rendezvous is thwarted. Many die and are captured by the failure.

But isn’t that how life is? No matter how well we plan, no matter how meticulous we are in our preparation, some things just don’t work out.

Recently I invited my grandkids to Fort Worth for our annual decorating of the gingerbread house. A yearly tradition, I acted before I knew the date. Who could have known that date would coincide with tickets I had already purchased to a Broadway play in Dallas. The best laid plans of mice and men; certainly not equivalent to a battlefield disaster, but a grandchild disappointment certainly in the making.

What to do—lose the money for the show or disappoint the grandkids and break an eight year tradition that has been a blast in the making.

But never fear; Marme is here. Putting the old thinking cap on, I was able work it out. In one fell swoop I picked them up in Austin, arranged for a Saturday morning decorating “tee time,” set up an afternoon babysitter, attended the play in Dallas and was home in time for dinner. No flies on this grandmother.

Unlike “A Bridge Too Far” it was lucky for me that I worked out the details to everyone’s satisfaction. But how often does this scenario not work out? In this day of computers, digital texting and email, best laid plans often go awry.

But what a great lesson for me on planning, expectations, and adaptability! My experience made me think of our armed forces in the field. Then and now, they handle interrupted plans and schedules with dignity. In the field, maneuvers often don’t work as planned, but these men barely bat an eye. They know how to be flexible. Turning 180 degrees, they adapt themselves to the situation and move forward.

Isn’t that how we should be, hoping for the best while planning for the worst; best not to be too rigid when inflexibility gets the best of us. Better to have plans A, B, C, D and more. Whatever is needed in order to move forward.

So now when I under plan or over schedule, I always ask myself, “What’s going on here?  Are you ready or is this a bridge too far? Better think this through one more time before someone gets hurt in the process.”

A bridge too far is now a code to me to stop, look and listen , to plan ahead but be willing to change plans at a moment’s notice. Best not to let expectations and timetables be the straw that broke this camel’s back. And most importantly, best to think about the potential and unintended consequences. When that’s done, I can move forward with confidence.

The same principle works in the spiritual realm. But with God, this plan takes surrender and letting go from the outset. Trusting and knowing that the plan is best executed and undertaken under the headship of the living God allows me to surrender to Him, rather than surrender to the enemy. Then, and only then, can no plan be thwarted by man.

If I follow my plan, it could indeed be a bridge too far. But if I follow the Lord’s plan, all will work together for good, for the Lord knows and sees the bigger picture; best to trust and obey and see how He works out the details.

Marty Norman is a wife, mother, and grandmother of five, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas.  She is the author of Generation G – Advice for Savvy Grandmothers Who Will Never Go Gray. You can learn more about her at:   www.martynorman.com, http://martynorman.blogspot.com, http://savvygrandmothers.blogspot.com.

New Wine

March 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Nina Medrano –

Life has a way of leading us to certain crossroads that turn out to be a significant turning point.

Our lives become transformed by that decision. And in our heart of hearts we lay a milestone to commemorate the day we resolve to follow a certain path.

For me, that milestone is tithing.

Like many, when I began my life with the Lord, I did not tithe. As I grew in the knowledge of God’s Word, I learned that the tithe belongs to God. I also learned that when I did not tithe I was robbing God. In the early years, I struggled to maintain a lifestyle of tithing.

However, my desire to please the Lord began to outweigh my fear of not having enough.

I can testify of the Lord’s faithfulness to supply all of my financial needs. I cannot tell you how He does it; but only that He does. Many times I have compared my expenses with my income and found myself short. Yet, by God’s faithfulness, all of my needs are met. Praise is to God.

Proverbs 3:9-10 reads, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.”

As I meditate upon these verses I realize that this is true for me and my house. Our “barn” which represents our storage of goods is full! Our fuel tanks are full, our refrigerator is full, our freezers are full, and our wallets have extra.

Then, a new revelation dawned in my spirit when I read verse 10, “And your vats will overflow with new wine.”

Wine refers to the Holy Spirit and of anointing.  New wine speaks of new experiences and encounters with the Holy Spirit. Vats are containers of wine. We are the vessels that contain the Holy Spirit of God. We are “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 6:19 NIV). We are carriers of spiritual treasures (II Cor. 4:6 NIV).

So, if I honor the Lord with my wealth AND with the best part of everything I produce (including my writing), then God will fill my storage places AND I will overflow with new experiences and encounters with the Holy Spirit of God!

Don’t you just want to increase your tithe just to get more new wine? God knows that I need more of his anointing to flow through my life. As a mentor, I depend on the Holy Spirit to reveal the places that need healing. As a writer, I depend on the Holy Spirit to unfold the mysteries of God’s Word to share with the body of Christ.

Could you use more anointing?

As you read this spirit-inspired article I pray that the “eyes of your understanding be enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18 NIV).

Nina Medrano writes for her church blog at http://www.cotrwomensministry.blogspot.com/

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