Saturday, August 1, 2020 1:56 AM

Grief Brings a Suitcase

Saturday, August 1, 2020 1:56 AM
Saturday, August 1, 2020 1:56 AM

I miss my Dad.  One of my favorite pictures of him sits on a bookshelf in an upstairs bedroom—the one displayed at his memorial last year.  He’s wearing a red shirt and blue jeans and is sitting outside the group cabin where we hold our annual family reunions.  Underneath his white straw cowboy hat, his blue eyes seem to look right at me and say, “I miss you too honey, but I’m in a really good place now.”  Blue eyes is one of our shared traits.  I never thought I was the kind of person to talk to a photograph, but when I walk into that room it’s the most natural thing in the world to say, “Hi, Dad.”  Something about looking into those eyes is comforting.  But then, everyone grieves in their own way. 

Grief makes its appearance uninvited, unwelcome, not respecting holidays or the ordinary rhythm of life.  There is no way to predict how it will make you will feel or when it will end.  When Dad died, grief barged in—its weight threatening to bury my ‘normal.’  It took over, parked a suitcase, propped its feet up on the coffee table, and threatened to set up camp, demanding my full attention.

The tears came first.  A flood of full-blown sobbing, overflowing my eyelid banks.  Then they slowed to a river, flowing down my cheeks at will.  Sometimes they fell like a light rain.  Other times they were like a mist on a dreary day, dampening my spirits and making everything blah.   Later they slowed to an internal trickle, an invisible reminder of grief’s stubborn presence.

Desire to connect with those I loved most, especially my siblings, was right on the heels of the tears.  We gathered to reminisce, to cry, to poke around in every memory, and get every drop of comfort and strength from being together.   The umbrella of grief shifted just enough for the light of happy memories to filter through.  I began to gather pictures, searching not just for the best ones of Dad but for candid photos that showed our love for each other and how much we enjoyed family gatherings where the presence of unconditional love allowed for the acceptance of flaws, failures, and foolish mistakes. 

Recently my loved ones and I gathered at Dad’s parents’ gravesite to place his ashes and say our final goodbyes.  I didn’t know whether to expect a suitcase or a pocketful of grief.  It was the suitcase again, but smaller.  It parked by the door of my heart but I didn’t let it stay.  As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 4, there is a time for everything:  birth and death, weeping and laughing.  In His timing, God reaches down, tenderly gathers the pieces to put the heart back together, and sends grief packing.  In its place, He leaves a small overnight bag, replenished constantly with comfort and peace each time we open it to share our heart with Him.

BIO: Kim Robinson 

is a native Texan.  She and her husband have six children and fourteen grandchildren and enjoy spending time with family.  Passionate about parenting, she writes and speaks about a variety of issues facing parents with teenagers in crisis.   She has been a speaker at women’s retreats, local worship events, and various women’s organizations. 

Kim is active in various ministries at her church, a supporter of the Kairos prison ministry, and a past parent representative on the National Council of Juvenile Justice and Family Court Judges.  She enjoys blogging, reading, gospel and blues music, singing, and keeping her grandchildren.  Check out her blog at www.kimrobinson.co

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 8:51 PM

Our Freedom Struggles

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 8:51 PM
Tuesday, June 30, 2020 8:51 PM

Independence Day is so much more than fireworks even though they have been part of the celebration since 1777. This day in the United States is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 244 years ago on July 4, 1776 by the Continental Congress. The second paragraph of the Declaration speaks of our freedom. It says, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What is the freedom they speak of? It is the condition of a citizen to live in a free society, but not a lawless society.

In years past, July 4th has been thought of as a time for vacation and fireworks. But things are different this year. Perhaps the state of our nation as we approach Independence Day has caused us all to think deeply about what is at stake. Now more than ever is the time to bow the knee in prayer for the revival of this country that we love. As a people, we Americans have enjoyed our freedom at the expense of those who have gone before us. May we never forget the wars fought, and the lives lost to grant us this freedom. May we have the courage to stand strong in faith and justice.

The Bible talks about freedom. but it does not excuse lawless, ungodly behavior. God gave instructions for how nations were to be governed. But the greatest freedom is that which Paul talks about. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) What he is speaking of is the freedom from the burden of the rigorous demands of the Old Testament Law as the means for gaining God’s favor. This did not represent the freedom given through Christ. In fact, this demand impeded the development of the Christian life.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free exempting us from the penalty of our sinful state. This is explained further in Romans 7:4-6. “So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” This is not talking about being released from the laws of the nation. It is talking about the laws of the Old Covenant.

Freedom addresses the state of citizenship. We are born as citizens of the country of our birth, but with freedom in Christ, our citizenship is in heaven according to Philippians 3:20. Once we become citizens of heaven through Christ, we are in this world, but not of it because our eternal home will be with Jesus one day. And if we are citizens of Heaven, we should act like it by patterning our lives after Jesus.

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil, live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone. Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:16-17)

Therefore, pray for our nation as never before. Pray for another great awakening to the saving grace of God. We need revival that none should perish but all have peace and eternal life.

BIO: Virginia Grounds has a passion for God’s Word and serving in ministry. That passion is Virginia’s motivation for speaking and teaching women of all ages the wonder their faith journey. Her love for women’s ministry and passion for God’s word have given her success in speaking, teaching and writing for more than thirty years. Learning to live through difficulties and challenges in a way that honors God have given her messages of hope and encouragement for those facing challenges today. You can find out more on her website: www.majesticinspirations.com.

Monday, June 1, 2020 2:30 PM

Go Directly to Jail: Do Not Collect $200

Monday, June 1, 2020 2:30 PM
Monday, June 1, 2020 2:30 PM

I’ve never liked the board game Monopoly.  There’s so much not to like.  First and foremost, I was never any good at it.  Even if I happened to be first to land on valuable property—which I seldom was, I was too cheap to buy it.

I personally find the game extremely boring.  It takes forever to play.  I could watch ten full seasons of “SpongeBob Squarepants”—with commercials—in the time it takes to play a single game.  Around and around the board, and for what?  Financial gain.  Store up wealth with property, houses and hotels and collect from other saps playing along.  Woo-hoo.  

There have been times in my life when I’ve felt like I’ve drawn a “Go Directly to Hell” card.  Times like this morning when Lenise, my twenty-two-year-old daughter who has Downs Syndrome, had diarrhea.  She was determined not to sit on the toilet or even get in the bathtub with a handheld showerhead because she wanted to do her business in the jet tub—with the jets on.  

Instead of sitting on the toilet, she ran. The results, diarrhea all over the house. Literally.  In her bedroom.  On the back porch.  In the enclosed patio.  And all over the living room floor where I pinned her down until she stopped purging.  By this time her system was cleaned out so I relented to let her in the big tub.  Score one for Lenise.  

What appears to be a simple procedure actually involved a lot of yelling and screaming prayers for help—both on my part.  I prayed for help in getting Lenise to the guest bathroom and for help resisting the temptation to do serious bodily harm to her.  My latter prayer was answered, but not without yelling and leg slapping.  Again, both on my part.  We were both doused with feces.  The difference being, Lenise was covered externally.  I was minimally contaminated externally, but was internally saturated.   

And so, as with similar times through the course of Lenise’s life, I’ve again felt I’d received the “Go to Hell” card for ungodly display of anger.  Not to mention seriously ugly thoughts I have no wish to disclose.  Fortunately, this is not a common occurrence, but still…  

Yet, this time was vastly different.  In the past, I’d easily fall prey to the feeling like I may go to hell because of these rare episodes.  This time, however, while I received no assistance and no clue as to how to prevent further defilement throughout the house, God handed me a “GET OUT OF HELL, FREE” card.  How?  

“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” —2 Corinthians 12:9  

And as King David said, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!” —Psalm 32:1

Though I didn’t like Monopoly, there was one time when I enjoyed playing.  It’s the only time I recall our family playing any game together.  I was nine years old.  My father was the bank keeper.  My brother Alan and I were losing so every now and then Dad slipped money under the table to us.  He was cheating and I loved him for it. 

My heavenly Father is cheated on my behalf, too.  I was lost in sin.  The penalty for sin is death, but God sent His Son, Jesus, to take my place.  His resurrection cheated Satan and the grave.  He continues to cheat death not for me alone, but for everyone who puts their trust in Him.  Even when we fall short, we can come to Him in repentance and receive His loving grace.

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” —Col 1:14

That means we WIN!  We win a victor’s crown of life which makes all the wealth of this world look like phony money.   

My Father cheated death.  And I love Him for it.

BIO: Vivien Chambers spent many of her early years in Tacoma, Washington.  She moved with her husband to Texas in 1981 and now resides in the Fort Worth area.  Vivien has served as a Stephen Minister and presently enjoys volunteering as an assistant in a Multiple Sclerosis swim class.  Vivien is currently working on her first book.  She has five grown children and six grandchildren.

Friday, May 1, 2020 2:12 PM

The Endless Roll of Toilet Paper

Friday, May 1, 2020 2:12 PM
Friday, May 1, 2020 2:12 PM

The Coronavirus pandemic has led to toilet paper shortages and hoarding. Why? Is toilet paper made of silver and gold? Toilet paper is important, but it’s only temporal. It eventually gets flushed down the toilet. This phenomenon reminded me of a sermon I heard several years ago.

Visualize a roll of toilet paper that is unrolled. However, instead of ending, it goes on forever. This is like the timeline of your existence that lasts for eternity.  

Notice that toilet paper is divided into squares. Think of that first square as your time on earth. Assorted brands of toilet paper have different lengths of squares, just like people’s lives on earth have different lengths. The average human life expectancy is 78.6 years. Yet we do not know how long our life will be because it can end at any second. Our bodies will fail. They are temporal like the first square. The world and all its temptations is not anyone’s home forever.

Eternity is much longer than the first square. However, the first square is the most important. Why? Because you get only one chance with the first square. There are no do-overs. Some people don’t realize that what you do in the first square determines what happens to you in eternity. Many people live life partying and sinning and think: I will clean my act up when I get old. This strategy will not work because we are not promised tomorrow. I told my son many times that once you graduate from high school your life speeds up. It’s like stepping on the accelerator of a car. According to Psalm 39:5, You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.  My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath. Time flies by and is a blip in eternity. The temptations and pleasures of this world are not worth gambling your eternal security.

Ask yourself, Am I storing up treasure in this world or in heaven?  After the Apostle Paul met Jesus, he lived for eternal rewards that last and not for those that will be consumed by fire. He said, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” - 2 Corinthians 4:18. Set your sites on salvation and being a citizen of heaven.

Hebrews 9:27-28 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

BIO: Mark Cragle is a blogger and retired Field Sale Engineer. He earned his Mechanical Engineering degree at RIT and worked in that capacity for many years living in upstate New York. Mark is married to his wife Teri and they feel blessed to travel together. They have 2 sons, and daughters-in-law, and 2 adorable grandsons. Mark likes volunteering with special needs kids at his church and advocates for people suffering from brain diseases and injuries. 

 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020 2:46 PM

Shut-In and Strengthened

Wednesday, April 1, 2020 2:46 PM
Wednesday, April 1, 2020 2:46 PM

No matter where you are today, chances are hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes and Lysol spray are nearby. Just days ago, we were minding our own business, making summer plans and looking forward to springtime carelessly. And suddenly, those plans took a disturbing turn where you find yourself held hostage by the cable network news. These networks constantly feed us updates on our dire situation and warn us that we may never leave our homes again. Let’s all scream, STOP!!! Stop feeding our fears and just report the facts, please.

Our homes created to be our safe haven are starting to take on their own personality. The walls are alive and moving closer. The dust is hissing and staring from the ceiling fan. It used to be so well behaved. Sharing space with family members (whom we love dearly) is becoming crowded – gentle reminders of the social distancing policy. If you choose to embrace this thinking, you are in for a very long haul. Is there really any other way to approach this madness?

Let’s face it, we are shut-in and shut-down from our typical hectic and sometimes stressful lives. How do we maneuver our present-day new reality? In times of uncertainty, as believers, our first frame of reference is the Bible. What were the outcomes from Bible figures who found themselves shut-in? If we look to the Bible, we will gain insight into how best to handle our situation. 

Daniel was faithful in serving the living God, refusing to alter his worship in any manner in order to honor King Darius. As a result, Daniel found himself shut-in the lions’ den for destruction. Surely, Daniel was not expected to survive his shut-in period. Daniel, the king, and other men witnessed a truly miraculous experience. God didn’t leave Daniel shut-in with the lions alone. God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and dismissed any harm to Daniel. Did Daniel, the king, or the others anticipate God to reveal His power in such an unprecedented way? Absolutely not. Daniel did not resort to grumbling or complaining about his untimely circumstances. Instead, he humbly trusted God which yielded supernatural protection.

Rahab, a harlot, chose wisely in aligning herself with the spies from Israel. The word spread on how the Lord dried up the Red Sea and permitted the Israelites to cross. Rahab received these words as a powerful truth. Her alignment indicated that she wanted to experience that supernatural power personally. She believed that the Lord’s limitless power was available to her and her family. The spies gave her specific instructions to gather her loved ones, display the scarlet cord and shut-in. Careful adherence to these instructions was the difference between life and death. Rahab followed the instructions precisely. As a result of her obedience during shut-in, lives were spared and faith in the living God was proclaimed.

Daniel and Rahab are speaking to us today. Let our shut-in be an opportunity to experience God’s protection and strengthen our faith. Grumbling, complaining and entertaining discontentment enhance the enemy’s territory. Follow Daniel’s strategy: “The people who know their God will display strength and take action (Dan 11:32). Commit to using your shut-in to becoming a stronger and bolder witness upon your release. Blessings!

BIO: Gwen Burno is the founder of Wisdom & Wellness LLC, an organization that provides sound principles and strategies which equip others to pursue a well-ordered life. In this capacity, she serves as a Life Coach, Ramsey Preferred Financial Coach and Christian Speaker helping others to reach their God-given potential. She is a contributing writer in Stories of Roaring Faith, Volume 3. Her passion is encouraging and supporting others to live intentionally and purposefully according to tried and true principles. Contact Gwen at www.displaystrength.com or gwen@displaystrength.com

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