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I'm Afraid Daddy

Sat, 2015-08-15 14:00
Photo: iStock I'm afraid, daddy.” My eight-year-old daughter started her nightly ritual sharing her fear to go to sleep alone in her room. She talked of hearing noises outside. She didn’t like the dark and worried that mom and dad were too far down the hall to rescue her if she needed it.

I tried, seemingly in vain, to encourage Marci that she was going to be all right. I shared that most of the noises had good explanations: A tree groaning in the wind; a branch of a bush rubbing up against the house; a cat calling another cat or deciding to defend its territory.

Then I pulled out the big guns. I talked about how Jesus was there with her. All she had to do was call out to Jesus and He’d be with her. He promised to never leave us alone. That ought to do it, I thought.

It seemed to help. I prayed with Marci and she went to bed.

Jesus understands that we get afraid in life. Otherwise why would he often tell His disciples to not be afraid?  Remember when they saw Him walking on water in the dead of night? They thought He was a ghost. They cried out to God to rescue them. Jesus called to them: Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid" (Matthew 14:27).

Letting Go of Our Fears

There are many stories in the Word that tell us that it is very human to be afraid, but God desires for us to let go of our fears and trust in Him.

Marci was trying to trust in Jesus that night. She woke up and felt afraid again. She remembered that her daddy told her to pray to Jesus. So she did. 

Then it happened. She shared with me the next morning that an bright being came to her room and filled her doorway. She just knew it was an angel. Its presence filled her with peace and enabled her to go to sleep trusting that God was with her.

She has never forgot that night. Neither have I. I was so honored that my God thought enough of my scared little girl to do something extraordinary to give her peace.

He still does for me all the time. I get myself all worked up and worried. I get afraid about all the pressures of life. I lose perspective too often. Then I’m reminded that Jesus said: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). When I finally do come to Him and ask for His help, I find peace. I’m no longer afraid.

Respond to this article
______________________________

By Chad McComas. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

Being in Love

Sat, 2015-08-15 14:00
Photo: iStock After 25 years of marriage, my wife and I were apart on Valentine’s Day this year. Our ten-month-old granddaughter, Kira, twisted out of Dad’s grasp, fell off a bed, and fractured her femur . . . so Grandma flew out to Baton Rouge for an extended stay. (Lisa has so many frequent-flyer miles to Louisiana that the airline pilots stop by our house and give her a ride to the airport.) So lately we love each other long-distance, and that’s all right, really.

Back in November of ’79, when we first met and were “in love,” we had to be together every moment. Most dates went until 2:00 a.m. with kisses on the couch and reluctant goodbyes. But, as C.S. Lewis observes in one of his Mere Christianity essays, while “being in love” is a glorious, foggy-minded state, it is a temporary feeling, not a permanent principle. And mature couples willingly give up the giddiness for the more satisfying joy of being in a deep, abiding, mature, fulfilling relationship that endures all things and weathers fractures large and small.

He goes on to laud Christian sexual connection between husband and wife as a celebrating of true oneness, of a developed, unshakable commitment. I think about (and am ashamed for knowing about it) television characters like CBS’s fictional Charlie Harper, who selfishly seeks enough bed partners, not for just two-and-a-half men, but for twenty of them. But that kind of shallow hedonism, where you want just the physical sensation, the five minutes of ecstatic “fun” without love and caring, is, Lewis writes, a sort of dysfunctional romantic bulimia. How can anybody actually cheat themselves by wanting so little?

Daughters of Eve

I was back in my hometown of Bangkok in 2002, speaking at a prayer seminar for a Christian nursing school. It was a most pleasant week, sharing the gospel with 250 very pretty young Thai girls (all the age of my younger daughter.) When an administrator unexpectedly threw one more seminar presentation at me with five minutes of notice, I scrambled around for a topic before saying this to my audience: “You young ladies are all children of the God in heaven; you are princesses. Daughters of Eve.” Even as Buddhists, they knew enough of the Bible to recognize that metaphor. 

I went on to lament the sorry reality that they lived in one of the world’s most notorious sex-trade centers; prostitution is one of Thailand’s rampant realities. It is a common street expression on Patpong Road that an American or European visitor can purchase a bar girl “short-time” for maybe thirty bucks. A “long-time” buy, where she stays all night in your hotel room . . . well, maybe double that amount.

They sat with sober faces as I said to these feminine treasures: “The Christian faith believes that you were purchased with very expensive Calvary blood; Jesus values you so far above what they pay here in Bangkok’s red-light district. Don’t ever let anyone come along and have you cheap.”
______________________________

By David Smith. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Ready for Healing

Tue, 2015-08-11 14:00
Photo: iStock Sue always had good reasons why she got herself into the messes she did. It was her younger brother’s fault when things were found broken around the house. She even blamed him for her messy room.

In high school Sue blamed her poor grades on the fact her teachers didn’t “like” her or she was too sick to go to classes or the other students didn’t treat her right.

Sue’s didn’t keep a job very long. She blamed her coworkers, the shift manager, the company policies. It was always a surprise when she was let go.

The Blame Game Continues

Sue’s marriage with Frank started good, but soon they were facing painful, financial struggles. Frank discovered “surprise” charges on the credit card and checks written on an empty account. When he confronted her she blamed him for not making enough money to take care of their home and needs. Besides, he was too controlling” about finances. It was his fault.

Tension in the marriage grew stronger and the gap bigger. Sue was angry she married such a loser and began to use alcohol to deal with the pain. She believed it was Frank’s fault she drank.

Sue drank to get up, drank to get through the morning, the afternoon, the evening and to get ready for bed. She was driving under the influence. That led to a DUI. There were court problems, fines, probation and a few days in jail. Of course, it was everyone else’s fault.

Sue left Frank or Frank left Sue. It was a mutual agreement. Her family distanced themselves. She lost her friends and eventually her respect. She was isolated and got angry at everyone who put her in the situation she was in. Her denial ran very deep.

When Sue finally hit bottom and got sick and tired, her denial stopped. She cried out to God. “I can’t take it any more. I’m out of control and I need help. I’m ready to change. Please God just take over.”

Ready for Help

That was the beginning of a new life. From that moment God stepped into Sue’s life and led her on a life-changing course that totally transformed her attitude. It started when she admitted she needed help.

Jesus talked about how vital it is to admit one’s fault and need. He started his famous Beatitudes: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

When we are “poor in spirit” we realize we need help. We admit we can’t do life on our own. We don’t have all the answers. The “poor in spirit” lose arrogance. They stop sticking their noses up in the air, but stick their hands up to God.

Being “poor in spirit” is a good thing. It is a healing thing. Admitting is the first step to healing. It breaks the power that blaming has to keep us stuck in thinking it’s everyone else’s fault.

Respond to this article
______________________________

By Chad McComas. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

Outside the Box

Tue, 2015-08-11 14:00
Photo: Gabriella Fabbri My husband bought me a new cookbook for my birthday after I not-so-subtly hinted that I wanted it. It’s a brand new book -- all about stewing, steaming and even baking in a crock pot. The author owns 25 slow cookers of different sizes and temperature settings, and has spent the past five years preparing most of her family’s food in one or another of these pots. I have ONE crock pot, and thought it was for soup.

However, as I eagerly perused my new book, the advantages of using a slow cooker immediately appealed to me – no more standing over a hot stove, stirring stuff, no more cleaning up boiled-over messes, being able to keep food warm for several hours without burning it, cooking and serving in the same container –so efficient!

Enthusiastically, I began trying new recipes. The baked potatoes turned out perfectly, with petal-soft skins and just the right texture. The crusty whole wheat bread was delicious, and the oatmeal raisin rolls were even better. My kids devoured the sloppy joes before they even had a chance to be sloppy. We’re having the Easy Does It Spaghetti tonight (which is how I have time to be writing.) I can hardly wait to try the Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

My Conversion

I have owned a crock pot for 20 years. Why did I never think to utilize it this way before? Only when someone pointed out (in an attractive, tried-and-true way) all the great reasons to avail myself of this easy, efficient method was I convinced and converted.

Perhaps, for some of us, the gospel is like this. We’ve had a Bible sitting around for ages, and maybe have even read it now and then. But until someone who has been immersed in the Word presents it in an appealing, yet simple and efficient manner, we don’t realize all the situations to which it applies, all the solutions it provides. We don’t know what a treasure we possess.

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______________________________

By Brenda Dickerson. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines

Forty Winks

Tue, 2015-08-11 14:00
Photo: Maarten Thiebou It was the week prior to the 4th of July and all the kids in our apartment complex were stockpiling their fireworks. My own two children, who were 9 and 11 at the time, had been visiting the neighborhood stands daily, making selections of their favorite pyrotechnics.

This particular afternoon, it was blazing hot in California’s central valley, and I lay down on the bed to rest. The kids were playing safely, outside in the back yard (or, so I thought). Now, I’ve never been a “day sleeper.” But, perhaps it was the warm temperatures, or maybe the demands of single parenting catching up with me. Whatever the reason, I slipped into a deep slumber and was gone.

Suddenly I awoke to children’s screams. I bolted from the bed and dashed to the window to see fire shooting up from the vacant field directly behind our apartment. Flames hungrily swallowed the tinder-dry grass. Racing out the door to the side of the house, I grabbed a garden hose and began spraying. Surprisingly, it did the trick and within a few moments the blackened field was smoldering.

Sleeping On the Job

Obviously frightened by the traumatic event, the story spilled from the mouths of my children. Virginia, my 9-year- old, had ignited a “flash ray gun” and somehow the parched grass had caught fire. Thank God, neither of them were hurt, and the apartment complex didn’t burn down! But, I blamed myself for “sleeping on the job.”

One time it appeared Jesus was “sleeping on the job.” While crossing the sea with the disciples, he nestled his head on a pillow in the stern of the boat and fell asleep. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was filling with water. The disciples woke their Teacher, petrified the boat would capsize and they would drown. "Then Jesus arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace, be still!' And the wind ceased and there was a great calm" (Mark 4:39). The disciples marveled that even the wind and the sea obeyed their Master.

Whatever crisis you may be facing today, rest assured that God is not “sleeping on the job.” The Creator of the universe is in control. And, even the elements obey the Almighty when commanded.

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______________________________

By Kathy A. Lewis. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION © 1982.

The Friendship Factor

Sat, 2015-08-08 14:00
Photo: Marja Flick-Buijs “I always felt that the great high privilege, relief, and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing.” --Katherine Mansfield

Got friends? At various times throughout my life I’ve heard people complain they don’t have friends, or that people at church, in the community, or at a local barbecue aren’t friendly enough to them. Some people sit back and expect others to come to them and fulfill their every need. I must say I’ve been guilty of that complaint myself at times.

When I moved from one side of the country (where all people were friendly!) to the opposite side of the country (where I was quite sure people had an attitude problem and were very unfriendly!), I complained to my one and only local friend that this town was full of unfriendly people. I was certain it was not me that had the problem of unfriendliness.

A verse in the Bible points out that “if you expect to have friends, you have to be the one to take responsibility to reach out and be the friendly one” (paraphrased).

My happiest moments

After Thanksgiving dinner the other day while sitting in front of the crackling fire, my best friend asked me to recall the happiest moments of my life. Interesting that every happy moment I could recall had been while in the company of close friends and family members. No memory of sufficient happiness had been while sitting alone in front of the TV, or computer, or while reading a book. Wow! I thought, the happiest moments of my life have been in the flow of affection among friends!

Full joy comes from within, and from sharing that joy with those around you, whether it be in giving, receiving or equal exchange of sharing of lives and fun times together. You can’t do that alone. Everybody needs relationships involving friends.

God didn’t create us to be alone. He didn’t create Adam to spend the rest of his life naming and playing with the animals (this article is not intended to offend those of you who depend solely on your house pet for your social life). God made people to enjoy, support and encourage each other. Make it a point to be the friendly person today. Reach out, and feel the joy spread throughout your entire soul!

“Treat your friends as you do your pictures, and place them in their best light.” – Jennie Jerome Churchill
______________________________

By Denise Taylor, pseudonym. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

God's Love Manual

Sat, 2015-08-08 14:00
Photo: Carien van Hest Sometimes I think that if people only knew what the Bible had to say, they would read it more. As wives and husbands, we often wish we knew how to fix our marital differences. We wish there was a book, a person, or something that could tell us what we were doing wrong, because honestly, much of the time it feels like we are walking a fine line between happiness and misery. One word, one misunderstanding, one thoughtless moment can lead to a lot of angry feelings in any relationship, if we haven’t gone to the right source to find out just what it is we should be doing.

The Bible has a lot to say about love and romance. Marriages can really benefit if both husband and wife read the Bible and put its instructions into practice. We all know how wonderful it is to first fall in love. Did you know that the Bible has a whole book devoted to romantic love?

Bring back the romance

Song of Solomon 1:2 begins the tale of two lovers with the words, “Kiss me again and again, for your love is sweeter than wine.” Think back to the time you first fell in love with your wife or your husband – their sweet kisses probably made your knees knock and your heart pound. God does understand this kind of romantic love! In fact, God created you to feel that way about your beloved.

One of the biggest problems spouses face today is that feelings of “romantic love” have dwindled away and they long for them to return. Too often, men and women fall into the trap of looking outside of their marriages for romantic love and are later filled with regret and feelings of betrayal. Proverbs 5:18-19 gives this advice, “Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving doe, a graceful deer. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love.” What wife doesn’t want her husband to feel that way about her? And women are told to, “…respect [their] husbands.” Ephesians 5:33 Most husbands would be thrilled if their wives offered respect on a daily basis!

So, why not try going to the original love manual when you have questions or marital problems. You might be surprised at how much good advice you'll find!

Tip: Want to spice up your marriage? Try reading a chapter of Song of Solomon each evening with your spouse before turning out the lights!
______________________________

By Melissa Ringstaff. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the New Living Translation ®.

Family Hate

Sat, 2015-08-08 14:00
Photo: iStock They were all there…father, mother, two sons, a daughter with her newborn son. It was a family reunion. But, the gathering was in court.

The mother sat with the children in one row and the father sat alone in another row. There was tension so thick it felt like a heavy fog settling over the group. There were definite sides drawn up that no one could cross without feeling like they were betraying the side they came from.

It was a hard scene to watch. Dad had been out of the family for several years. The teenage boys didn’t have a relationship with dad because mom and dad were fighting. You could see in their eyes they wanted to go up to dad and give him a hug, but it might hurt mom, so they refrained. The daughter wanted her dad to hold his newborn grandchild, but she didn’t approach him because she was afraid to hurt her mother.

Dad didn’t approach any of his children because of the deep wounds he felt with mom. He didn’t know how to let go of his pain to reach out to his family. He was missing so much, too much, but he just didn’t see it.

A Turn For the Worse

I saw it. I saw it all and it broke my heart. At one time this was a Christian family. Dad and mom were Christian believers. The children had grown up attending a Christian church. Now…Christ was outside. The kids were no longer attending a church or praying at home. The boys had gotten mixed up in drugs and gangs. Their school attendance and production dropped off the charts. They didn’t have any clue where they were going or how to get there. Dad wasn’t there for them.

Families are being torn apart by divorce. The pain is real. It is pervasive. “Hate” ruins relationships. Resentment settles in and stubbornness refuses to accept healing.

Jesus came to heal people. Perhaps the most important healing is the healing of the heart. Jesus wants to heal hurting hearts. He tells us to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44). That “enemy” can be about husbands and wives.

Satan knows how powerful a loving family can be. He is making every effort to pit family members against each other. But, God has a counter plan to bring families back together. He promises: "…He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers..."  (Malachi 4:5,6).

All we have to do is let go of our resentments, bitterness and hate and let God bring the love back. We need to pray that God will fulfill His promises in our families one relationship at a time.
  Respond to this article: ______________________________

By Chad McComas. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

The Friendship Factor

Sat, 2015-08-08 14:00
Photo: Marja Flick-Buijs “I always felt that the great high privilege, relief, and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing.” --Katherine Mansfield

Got friends? At various times throughout my life I’ve heard people complain they don’t have friends, or that people at church, in the community, or at a local barbecue aren’t friendly enough to them. Some people sit back and expect others to come to them and fulfill their every need. I must say I’ve been guilty of that complaint myself at times.

When I moved from one side of the country (where all people were friendly!) to the opposite side of the country (where I was quite sure people had an attitude problem and were very unfriendly!), I complained to my one and only local friend that this town was full of unfriendly people. I was certain it was not me that had the problem of unfriendliness.

A verse in the Bible points out that “if you expect to have friends, you have to be the one to take responsibility to reach out and be the friendly one” (paraphrased).

My happiest moments

After Thanksgiving dinner the other day while sitting in front of the crackling fire, my best friend asked me to recall the happiest moments of my life. Interesting that every happy moment I could recall had been while in the company of close friends and family members. No memory of sufficient happiness had been while sitting alone in front of the TV, or computer, or while reading a book. Wow! I thought, the happiest moments of my life have been in the flow of affection among friends!

Full joy comes from within, and from sharing that joy with those around you, whether it be in giving, receiving or equal exchange of sharing of lives and fun times together. You can’t do that alone. Everybody needs relationships involving friends.

God didn’t create us to be alone. He didn’t create Adam to spend the rest of his life naming and playing with the animals (this article is not intended to offend those of you who depend solely on your house pet for your social life). God made people to enjoy, support and encourage each other. Make it a point to be the friendly person today. Reach out, and feel the joy spread throughout your entire soul!

“Treat your friends as you do your pictures, and place them in their best light.” – Jennie Jerome Churchill
______________________________

By Denise Taylor, pseudonym. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

God's Love Manual

Sat, 2015-08-08 14:00
Photo: Carien van Hest Sometimes I think that if people only knew what the Bible had to say, they would read it more. As wives and husbands, we often wish we knew how to fix our marital differences. We wish there was a book, a person, or something that could tell us what we were doing wrong, because honestly, much of the time it feels like we are walking a fine line between happiness and misery. One word, one misunderstanding, one thoughtless moment can lead to a lot of angry feelings in any relationship, if we haven’t gone to the right source to find out just what it is we should be doing.

The Bible has a lot to say about love and romance. Marriages can really benefit if both husband and wife read the Bible and put its instructions into practice. We all know how wonderful it is to first fall in love. Did you know that the Bible has a whole book devoted to romantic love?

Bring back the romance

Song of Solomon 1:2 begins the tale of two lovers with the words, “Kiss me again and again, for your love is sweeter than wine.” Think back to the time you first fell in love with your wife or your husband – their sweet kisses probably made your knees knock and your heart pound. God does understand this kind of romantic love! In fact, God created you to feel that way about your beloved.

One of the biggest problems spouses face today is that feelings of “romantic love” have dwindled away and they long for them to return. Too often, men and women fall into the trap of looking outside of their marriages for romantic love and are later filled with regret and feelings of betrayal. Proverbs 5:18-19 gives this advice, “Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving doe, a graceful deer. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love.” What wife doesn’t want her husband to feel that way about her? And women are told to, “…respect [their] husbands.” Ephesians 5:33 Most husbands would be thrilled if their wives offered respect on a daily basis!

So, why not try going to the original love manual when you have questions or marital problems. You might be surprised at how much good advice you'll find!

Tip: Want to spice up your marriage? Try reading a chapter of Song of Solomon each evening with your spouse before turning out the lights!
______________________________

By Melissa Ringstaff. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the New Living Translation ®.

Family Hate

Sat, 2015-08-08 14:00
Photo: iStock They were all there…father, mother, two sons, a daughter with her newborn son. It was a family reunion. But, the gathering was in court.

The mother sat with the children in one row and the father sat alone in another row. There was tension so thick it felt like a heavy fog settling over the group. There were definite sides drawn up that no one could cross without feeling like they were betraying the side they came from.

It was a hard scene to watch. Dad had been out of the family for several years. The teenage boys didn’t have a relationship with dad because mom and dad were fighting. You could see in their eyes they wanted to go up to dad and give him a hug, but it might hurt mom, so they refrained. The daughter wanted her dad to hold his newborn grandchild, but she didn’t approach him because she was afraid to hurt her mother.

Dad didn’t approach any of his children because of the deep wounds he felt with mom. He didn’t know how to let go of his pain to reach out to his family. He was missing so much, too much, but he just didn’t see it.

A Turn For the Worse

I saw it. I saw it all and it broke my heart. At one time this was a Christian family. Dad and mom were Christian believers. The children had grown up attending a Christian church. Now…Christ was outside. The kids were no longer attending a church or praying at home. The boys had gotten mixed up in drugs and gangs. Their school attendance and production dropped off the charts. They didn’t have any clue where they were going or how to get there. Dad wasn’t there for them.

Families are being torn apart by divorce. The pain is real. It is pervasive. “Hate” ruins relationships. Resentment settles in and stubbornness refuses to accept healing.

Jesus came to heal people. Perhaps the most important healing is the healing of the heart. Jesus wants to heal hurting hearts. He tells us to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44). That “enemy” can be about husbands and wives.

Satan knows how powerful a loving family can be. He is making every effort to pit family members against each other. But, God has a counter plan to bring families back together. He promises: "…He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers..."  (Malachi 4:5,6).

All we have to do is let go of our resentments, bitterness and hate and let God bring the love back. We need to pray that God will fulfill His promises in our families one relationship at a time.
  Respond to this article: ______________________________

By Chad McComas. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

Twisted Constraints

Tue, 2015-08-04 14:00
Photo: iStock “Don’t deny yourself a sense of play—a chance to step down, relax, refresh yourself, put your molehills in perspective and not let them become mountains.” –Unknown

Webster defines stress as a, “Constraining force or influence as in a force exerted when one body presses on, pulls on, pushes against, or twists another body part. The deformation caused in a body by such a force such as a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation ….a state resulting from a mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium to the point of collapse.” 1

Feeling stressed, frazzled, overwhelmed by your life today?

I’m always healthy I told myself. Happy, healthy and life is great!

Then within the duration of a couple of months, I experienced the deep pain of a dissolution of a serious relationship, I contracted four different viruses one after the other which resulted in my being ill for eight weeks, which led to loss of work; and when I returned to work I was notified I would be suspended without pay from work because I had followed my ethics which smacked heartily against agency policies. And I turned 50 years old. Gasp!

A call for help!

As Webster points out… too much stress all at once leads to collapse! I telephoned my younger sister; I told her I needed a life-jacket to keep me from drowning. She came 3,000 miles to spend time with me.

We ate out, shopped, talked for hours, we laughed, we cried, we took long brisk walks (all uphill); we went to the mountains and built a snowman. We took goofy pictures of each other. When she left to return to her home a week later, I was ready to face life again. I had found peace and joy in play. My sister helped me find the sanctuary inside of me.

“Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself. This sanctuary is a simple awareness of comfort, which can’t be violated by the turmoil of events. This place feels no trauma and stores no hurt. It is the healing mental space that one seeks to find in meditation.” --Hermann Hess, Siddharta

By Denise Taylor, pseudonym. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.
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1 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 1999.

Doing It Alone

Tue, 2015-08-04 14:00
Photo: iStock “In the final analysis it is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.” --Ann Landers

Single parenting can appear and feel like an overwhelming, never-ending task.

I had been a full time wife and mother for twelve years. One day it all changed. After the divorce I had to support myself and the children. I was good at being a mom, but it didn’t pay the bills. So I moved 3,000 miles away from my entire family to complete my college education, begin a career in the working world and start a new life with two small children in tow.

It wasn’t easy, but we did it. The kids and I made a pact. We wouldn’t dwell on the past, we wouldn’t talk negative. We would just work as a team to keep the home environment clean and running smoothly. We talked to each other a lot, about anything and everything. We helped each other with everything that needed to be done. We respected each other and appreciated each other. We left love notes for each other, or notes of encouragement. We made a list of responsibilities and all shared them.

My kids are 27 and 24 now. As I look back over the past 14 years, I know that God was watching us and we got through it all because we depended on Him, and on each other.

Give and get support

Offer your children structure and consistency. Find joy in daily activities with them. Catch them doing good. Give them positive reinforcement often. Recognize their skills and talents. Encourage them. Make friends with other single parents and get together often.

When you stop trying to make your children fit your fantasy of who you think they should be, only then will you begin to see who they really are, and be able to appreciate them. When you relax about your situation; your life will immediately become easier.

Allow your children freedom to think for themselves, and to be who they were born to be. Always be there for them. The rewards are innumerable in all they will give back to you.

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” --Hodding Carter
______________________________

By Denise Taylor, pseudonym. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Hope in Despair

Tue, 2015-08-04 14:00
Photo: iStock Tom was overcome with despair. His orderly world was crashing in all around him. He had lost total control. He was spinning with thoughts running rampant through his mind. He was crying out for help inside, but didn’t know where to turn.

And who could he believe? He’d known something was wrong with his wife, Susan. Her behavior had been different. He hadn’t been able to put his finger on it, but she had definitely changed. She had been more secretive. She was gone for long periods of time and he wasn’t sure where she had gone. Her answers made sense, but didn’t make sense.

Tom had good friends coming to him suggesting that Susan was taking pills from them. Some said she had asked for something for headaches. Others said she had rummaged through their medicine cabinets at their homes. None of it made any sense.

When Tom confronted Susan she quickly made an explanation and laughed it off to misunderstanding or totally absurdity. But, something was wrong.

Then it happened. An early morning phone call. Susan was in jail. She had been caught taking narcotics from a medicine cabinet at an open house. All his fears had come true. Susan was caught in an addiction.

Now what was Tom to do? What next? He was paralyzed. What about the kids? What about their friends? What about her parents? What could he share and not share? Who could he turn to?

Touched by a friend

He reached out to God, but couldn’t feel the reach back. He needed flesh and blood to talk to. He decided to call Randy. Randy was a friend. He was a counselor. He was a believer. Randy came right over and helped Tom make each move that day. He helped him retrieve Susan’s car. He helped him talk with the police. He helped him calm down. He helped him see that this wasn’t the end of the world. In fact, it might just be the best thing that could happen. Getting the truth out in the open could lead to help. Keeping the addiction covered up would only lead to more problems.

Randy shared James’ instructions for healing: “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray…And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:13, 15, 16).

Tom realized that just talking to Randy about the problem already made it better. Somehow getting the truth out took away its power to control. The despair wasn’t as bad. There was renewed hope that something could change.

They prayed…Randy and Tom. That day was Tom’s worst day and it was Tom’s first day of hope because the truth was setting him free.
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By Chad McComas. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

Twisted Constraints

Tue, 2015-08-04 14:00
Photo: iStock “Don’t deny yourself a sense of play—a chance to step down, relax, refresh yourself, put your molehills in perspective and not let them become mountains.” –Unknown

Webster defines stress as a, “Constraining force or influence as in a force exerted when one body presses on, pulls on, pushes against, or twists another body part. The deformation caused in a body by such a force such as a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation ….a state resulting from a mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium to the point of collapse.” 1

Feeling stressed, frazzled, overwhelmed by your life today?

I’m always healthy I told myself. Happy, healthy and life is great!

Then within the duration of a couple of months, I experienced the deep pain of a dissolution of a serious relationship, I contracted four different viruses one after the other which resulted in my being ill for eight weeks, which led to loss of work; and when I returned to work I was notified I would be suspended without pay from work because I had followed my ethics which smacked heartily against agency policies. And I turned 50 years old. Gasp!

A call for help!

As Webster points out… too much stress all at once leads to collapse! I telephoned my younger sister; I told her I needed a life-jacket to keep me from drowning. She came 3,000 miles to spend time with me.

We ate out, shopped, talked for hours, we laughed, we cried, we took long brisk walks (all uphill); we went to the mountains and built a snowman. We took goofy pictures of each other. When she left to return to her home a week later, I was ready to face life again. I had found peace and joy in play. My sister helped me find the sanctuary inside of me.

“Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself. This sanctuary is a simple awareness of comfort, which can’t be violated by the turmoil of events. This place feels no trauma and stores no hurt. It is the healing mental space that one seeks to find in meditation.” --Hermann Hess, Siddharta

By Denise Taylor, pseudonym. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.
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1 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 1999.

Doing It Alone

Tue, 2015-08-04 14:00
Photo: iStock “In the final analysis it is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.” --Ann Landers

Single parenting can appear and feel like an overwhelming, never-ending task.

I had been a full time wife and mother for twelve years. One day it all changed. After the divorce I had to support myself and the children. I was good at being a mom, but it didn’t pay the bills. So I moved 3,000 miles away from my entire family to complete my college education, begin a career in the working world and start a new life with two small children in tow.

It wasn’t easy, but we did it. The kids and I made a pact. We wouldn’t dwell on the past, we wouldn’t talk negative. We would just work as a team to keep the home environment clean and running smoothly. We talked to each other a lot, about anything and everything. We helped each other with everything that needed to be done. We respected each other and appreciated each other. We left love notes for each other, or notes of encouragement. We made a list of responsibilities and all shared them.

My kids are 27 and 24 now. As I look back over the past 14 years, I know that God was watching us and we got through it all because we depended on Him, and on each other.

Give and get support

Offer your children structure and consistency. Find joy in daily activities with them. Catch them doing good. Give them positive reinforcement often. Recognize their skills and talents. Encourage them. Make friends with other single parents and get together often.

When you stop trying to make your children fit your fantasy of who you think they should be, only then will you begin to see who they really are, and be able to appreciate them. When you relax about your situation; your life will immediately become easier.

Allow your children freedom to think for themselves, and to be who they were born to be. Always be there for them. The rewards are innumerable in all they will give back to you.

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” --Hodding Carter
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By Denise Taylor, pseudonym. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Hope in Despair

Tue, 2015-08-04 14:00
Photo: iStock Tom was overcome with despair. His orderly world was crashing in all around him. He had lost total control. He was spinning with thoughts running rampant through his mind. He was crying out for help inside, but didn’t know where to turn.

And who could he believe? He’d known something was wrong with his wife, Susan. Her behavior had been different. He hadn’t been able to put his finger on it, but she had definitely changed. She had been more secretive. She was gone for long periods of time and he wasn’t sure where she had gone. Her answers made sense, but didn’t make sense.

Tom had good friends coming to him suggesting that Susan was taking pills from them. Some said she had asked for something for headaches. Others said she had rummaged through their medicine cabinets at their homes. None of it made any sense.

When Tom confronted Susan she quickly made an explanation and laughed it off to misunderstanding or totally absurdity. But, something was wrong.

Then it happened. An early morning phone call. Susan was in jail. She had been caught taking narcotics from a medicine cabinet at an open house. All his fears had come true. Susan was caught in an addiction.

Now what was Tom to do? What next? He was paralyzed. What about the kids? What about their friends? What about her parents? What could he share and not share? Who could he turn to?

Touched by a friend

He reached out to God, but couldn’t feel the reach back. He needed flesh and blood to talk to. He decided to call Randy. Randy was a friend. He was a counselor. He was a believer. Randy came right over and helped Tom make each move that day. He helped him retrieve Susan’s car. He helped him talk with the police. He helped him calm down. He helped him see that this wasn’t the end of the world. In fact, it might just be the best thing that could happen. Getting the truth out in the open could lead to help. Keeping the addiction covered up would only lead to more problems.

Randy shared James’ instructions for healing: “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray…And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:13, 15, 16).

Tom realized that just talking to Randy about the problem already made it better. Somehow getting the truth out took away its power to control. The despair wasn’t as bad. There was renewed hope that something could change.

They prayed…Randy and Tom. That day was Tom’s worst day and it was Tom’s first day of hope because the truth was setting him free.
______________________________

By Chad McComas. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

My Breaking Heart

Sat, 2015-08-01 14:00
Photo: iStock My heart is breaking. My child is in a difficult and unhappy marriage. Like most parents, I wanted her to unite with a partner who would protect her and affirm her talents, gifts and beauty. Someone who would challenge her own personal growth, yet share her values. And mostly, a person who would listen to the Holy Spirit and tenderly draw her closer to an experience with Jesus Christ. I did not really expect a marriage made in heaven, yet I hoped for one that would prepare them both for an eternity in Heaven.

I listen to her messages and her phone calls and I wait for the tone of her voice. Have they been arguing again? Has he been unkind or threatened her in some way? I shudder at descriptions of mean-spirited, controlling and selfish behaviors. How much does she not tell me so I will not worry too much? Should we insist that she separate and return home? When will she know she has tried long enough?

I pray for both of them. I really do care about my son-in-law. He possesses positive attributes and much potential. Yet, I do not know if he is capable of providing a safe, loving home for my daughter. His is a lifetime of deficits in nurturing, and a lack of spiritual upbringing--arrested development. At the same time, I am aware of my own child’s shortcomings. In a healthy relationship, this would call for much patience, sacrifice and finesse.

Part of me sometimes thinks--this is what she wanted! She always valued friends who were different or exotic. She met him on the Internet. We were very careful about allowing her to meet him in person. He stayed in our home for many visits, and then actually lived with us before getting married. He splurged on her with gifts, meals, outings. He seemed to value her in his life. Then we talked about the warning signs in the relationship. Even the pastor and a counselor tried to warn her after their pre-marital sessions. Yet she stayed committed to something that seemed destined for a promise that she must have known was not in her best interest. What inherited or modeled flaw was she acting out? Did she think that there were no other choices in life? That no one else would love her? My precious child.

Now, like two very different horses harnessed for a lifetime pulling match, their timing is off, pulling at different times, in different directions. Straining against the traces, digging into the dirt, wild eyed with effort yet weighed down with an incredible burden. I cannot see how they will ever make it to the finish line without hurting themselves.

Painful parenting

Out of my sorrow and frustration, I pray and read God’s Word, and ask others to pray. I try to listen, and gently counsel. I know that I have made my own mistakes in marriage, so I am sometimes speechless. I know that unhappiness can result in moments of spiritual triumph.

We are human. We are God’s precious children. This painful parenting from the sidelines, reminds me of a huge earthly dilemma. Each day we create/choose marriages filled with disaster. Marriages that will make our time on earth more difficult, and possibly affect our eternity. Generations of wandering children, failed governments, feeble leaders, and broken promises are our heritage.

Dear God, now I understand another part of your broken heart, and I thank you for your grace toward all your children.
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By Gracie Peters, pseudonym. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines

Success By Degrees

Sat, 2015-08-01 14:00
Photo: iStock Get a four-year degree. It is the path to a successful career.

That was true once. Today many young adults graduate from four-year colleges with a five or six-figure student loan debts. It cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. Worse, they cannot find jobs paying enough to repay that debt. The debt accumulates interest, blighting their future.

Even if successful later, the fruits of their labor go to pay off school debt. Doomed to spend most of their lives working for others, without benefiting from their own hard work, many give up. They accept failure. Failure beats working long hours without reward. Is that the future you want for your children?

Education has benefits beyond being the path to a successful career. If the object of education is a successful career however, the objective is a successful career, not a four year degree. Education becomes a capital investment. With capital investments, never borrow more than you can pay back with a reasonable return from the investment. What is a reasonable limit for a degree? Up to one year’s salary at entry level. Why? Because there are other expenses besides paying off the investment, but devoting one-tenth to retiring debt is doable. A newly-minted engineer can reasonably expect to earn $65,000 right out of college. A social worker? Perhaps $30,000. Expenses at public universities runs $30,000 to $40,000 a year, including living expenses. Do you see the problem?

The Alternative

There is an alternative: an associate degree in a high-paying technical field. Heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration techs can expect $40,000-$50,000 annually. Dental technicians earn up to $70,000. Folks with the right associate degree get jobs in the chemical plants near where I live paying up to $80,000 annually. That is good money. These jobs cannot be easily outsourced, either.

You qualify with an associate degree from a community college. It takes only two years, tuition is lower and often your child can live at home.

They can get that four-year degree after entering the workforce. Do it part-time, evenings and weekends (I earned an MBA that way), or after saving enough to cover expenses. Pay as you go. You can chip in, too. There is time to do that nowadays. People live longer. Skilled trades are not sweatshop jobs, either. They provide leisure for education. Attending college as an adult – after experiencing the real world, with real-life experiences – allows most to get more from their education.

What about the low prestige of “blue-collar jobs?” At worst, a technician is a franklin (look it up). An unemployed BA with student loan debt is a serf, bound to the debt. Folks can move into professions later, unburdened by debt. A co-worker began as an auto-mechanic, later got a computer science degree, and is now a technical writer. He has no debt, either. His mechanic’s income paid for his house and education.

What do your really want for your children? A secure future or bragging rights about Your Child the College Graduate? It's worth some consideration.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

I’m the Mother

Sat, 2015-08-01 14:00
Photo: iStock If I had a dollar for every time I said that to my daughter … . She was an easy-going happy child, but with a mind of her own that sometimes got her in trouble. Joelle “knew” how things should be done” and if her little brother didn’t toe her line, she’d correct him. That’s when I’d say, “I’m the mother.“

Now that she has three children. with a little girl much like she was, Joelle can be heard saying the same thing to 4-year-old Kira. But I never imagined she’d say it to me. In June, we planned a trip together. From Phoenix, Joelle and I and my five grandchildren (her three and my son’s two) headed to Flagstaff, camped in a yurt, toured the Grand Canyon and Sedona, rode horses, floated on a river, and hiked.

It may have been the heat or the 7,000-foot elevation, but each evening I could barely move and sometimes apologized for not helping much. That’s when I heard, “I’m the mother.” She said it again the next day when I needed assistance over big boulders. In my pride, I apologized again. She smiled and said that it was the first time she’d ever helped me with anything and was glad to do it.

Give Me a Hand

It’s a fact of life that roles often become reversed as the nurturer, the mother, becomes the one being cared for by her children, but I’m resistant. I’m certainly not ready for a full-time caregiver, but I admit that I occasionally need help — but I’m reticent to ask. Is it pride? Fear that I’ll be turned down or resented? A friend told me that I’m denying my children a blessing when they give me a hand.

I don’t know about that, but. I do know that the Bible is specific about honoring our elders/parents: Exodus 20:12 and Leviticus 19:32. There’s also the example of Jesus. While on the cross, he asked John to care for his mother Mary. Clearly this indicated that, had he remained on earth, his mother was a priority.

So, it’s biblical and it’s probably inevitable. May I accept whatever comes my way with love, thankfulness and grace.

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By Dee Litten Reed. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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