The Breath of Life • Prepared for God’s Business • Lessons From a Slinky
Encourage • Equip • Engage
HE KNOWS YOUR NAME
“Ma” thought she was beyond God’s grace until…
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TODAY’S On the Cover: Katie Spotz, author, speaker, record-breaking endurance athlete, and advocate for Lifewater International and other clean water organizations. Photo courtesy The Leighton Co.
LIVING JANUARY 2022
Features 6 All Things Through Christ
by Stephanie Rische Record-holding endurance athlete Katie Spotz found that her achievements left her stressed and empty. Then a friend pointed her to freedom and purpose.
VOL. 60 NUMBER 1
9 Reader Survey We need your feedback to help us help you with Today’s Christian Living content. 12 He Knows Your Name by Pam S. Walker When Linda Znachko responded to God’s prompting, she had no idea He would lead her into an ongoing, lifechanging ministry. 15 The Chosen Video Index The Chosen has hundreds of YouTube videos to take you behind the scenes of the groundbreaking television series. Download our FREE user-friendly video index and click on the hyperlinks to start the videos instantly. 18 The Breath of Life by Debra Hill Debra was in a battle for her life, but her priority was telling her nurse about Jesus.
24 Faith Over Cancer by Ginny Dent Brant Ginny was stunned by her cancer diagnosis. She had always been a “health nut.” Why was God allowing this in her life?
10 Living in Wisdom Let His Light Shine!
16 Ask Dr. Walt Set Your Heart on Cardiovascular Health
27 Quips & Quotes
28 Heaven Bound by Greg Stier Greg Stier’s violent family came to Jesus oneby-one, but “Ma” was the holdout, believing she was too far gone for God’s grace.
20 Dave Says Facing Financial Challenges
32 Prepared for God’s Business by Debra Hane Reese Kauffman was a successful Christian businessman, but he discovered his true calling when God put his skills to work in Child Evangelism Fellowship.
22 Turning Point The Place of Choice 42
Persecution Report Afghan Christians Face Increased Suffering and Executions
The Fine Print
23 Daily Bible Connection 38 Laugh Lines 40 Quick Takes 44 Kids of the Kingdom
46 Grace Notes Lessons From a Slinky
THE FINE PRINT
Forging a Link in the Chain of Faith
eople often wonder why God includes lengthy genealogies in His Word. At first glance, they might seem like boring lists of insignificant people, but they’re actually important for several reasons. First, they show that the Bible is a historical document. While fiction is intentionally crafted to include only details that enhance suspense and drama, authentic historical records include people and events that seem trivial or boring. Just as details matter to historians, they matter to God, too. Second, every person is important, whether or not we understand their role in history. Little known people can have an incredible impact on the world, either directly because of what they do, or indirectly through those they influence. For example, a relatively unknown Sunday school teacher named Edward Kimball led 18-year-old D.L. Moody to salvation more than 150 years ago. Moody’s impact for the Lord is still being felt to this day. It’s well-known that most people who accept Jesus as Savior do so before they’re 20. The older people get, the more self-sufficient they “Truly I tell you, anyone become and the less likely they are to trust in who will not receive the Jesus. That’s why it’s so important that children be introduced to Him as early in their kingdom of God life as possible. The eternal stakes are so high. like a little child will Many of the articles in this issue focus on children. They’re important to God because never enter it” of their inherent value as His creation and (Luke 18:17 NIV). because of the immense impact they can have on future generations — for good or bad. I’ve often wondered what the world would be like today if someone had led Adolph Hitler to the Lord as a child. He could have been a D.L. Moody rather than a monster responsible for the gruesome deaths of millions. And what if someone had led Gavrilo Princip to Jesus as a child? Gavrilo was the man who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which ignited World War I, which in turn set the stage for World War II and so many other wars right up to the present day. In this issue, you’ll see the blessings in the lives of those who trust Jesus when they’re young, as well as heartache for those who don’t, either because they don’t know about Jesus or they reject Him. For example, you’ll read about Reese Kauffman, president of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), which is committed to sharing the light of the gospel with children (pg. 32), and Greg Stier (pg. 28), whose family was spiritually in the dark and in turmoil until their lifechanging encounter with the Savior. We each have the opportunity to forge a strong link in the chain of faith that connects to the next generation. It’s both a great challenge and a great honor.
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Today’s Christian Living
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All Things Through Christ Endurance Athlete Katie Spotz Has Discovered Something Better than “Believe in Yourself” By Stephanie Rische
t’s a verse many people have clung to in the midst of trials and challenges: “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” For endurance athlete Katie Spotz, the idea of being strengthened by the Lord has very literal meaning, as “all things” include swimming the length of a river, running across entire states, cycling across the U.S., and even rowing across the ocean. “I carry a prayer card in my pocket with Philippians 4:13 on it. It’s now a crumpled, sweaty mess, but I know what it says!” For the past decade, Katie has been accomplishing “adventures,” as she calls them. At the age of 21, she became the first person to swim the length of Allegheny River. This 325-mile journey spanned a month, during which she averaged seven hours of swimming a day. Two years later, she rowed a boat across the Atlantic, from West Africa to South America. She covered more than 3,000 miles in just over two months, making her the youngest person to make such a journey solo and the second woman to do so. She holds the female record for the most consecutive ultramarathons, running 31 miles each day for 11 days in a row. Last year she was named the elite female athlete of the year by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Most Significant Challenge of All
With so many accomplishments to her name, it would be easy to assume that the biggest challenge in Katie’s life has been physical in nature. But in reality, the biggest trial came after her dream 6
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
had been realized. “Rowing the Atlantic for 70 days with no follow boat might sound daunting, but what I walked through after the row was more challenging than the row itself. People think that achieving something is the high. But reaching my goal was also my moment of loss. Yes, I reached my goal, but I lost my purpose.” Katie realized that she was basing her identity and sense of worth on what she could accomplish. “It was everything to me to be pursuing these challenges,” she said. “This wasn’t sustaining or life-giving.” By age 25, Katie could no longer keep hiding behind her mask of accomplishments. “I was looking to adventure as a god, and it filled me with inner turmoil,” she said. “It’s hard to enjoy anything if your sense of worth relies on it. If you don’t have God in your life, something else becomes it, whether that’s success or a job or a relationship.” Shortly after Katie’s rowing adventure, she went to a museum with a friend. When they approached an exhibit about evolution, it sparked a conversation about God as the Creator. Katie’s friend invited her to church, initiating Katie’s most fulfilling adventure of all: following Jesus. “After I became a Christian, I took a year off from doing challenges,” Katie said. “I needed to figure out how to find my sense of worth in Christ. Since then, God has shown me how I can do endurance challenges from a place of knowing my identity isn’t found there; it’s in being a child of God.” Now Katie completes
Right: Katie has helped raise more than $400,000 for clean water projects around the world. Photo courtesy Lifewater International
similar goals with a redeemed purpose. “My motivation changed from doing this for my survival to doing it out of freedom.” Katie explained that in the endurance space, there’s a lot of emphasis on putting your pain on display, but for her it’s more about joy now. “I used to be a slave to endurance, but now I’m doing it out of overflow of what God has given me.”
From Benchwarmer to Ultramarathoner
Katie doesn’t fit the profile you might expect for an endurance athlete. Although she played team sports in school, she didn’t consider herself an athlete. “I wasn’t there mentally,” she said. “When I played soccer, I ran the wrong way. When I was on the softball team, I picked dandelions in the outfield.” As a child, Katie enjoyed playing and running around outside, but she wasn’t competitive. “By middle school, I was a benchwarmer. If you sit on the bench long enough, you start to believe that story about yourself.” When Katie was a senior in high school, she decided to take a walking/running class for her final gym credit. “My goal was to expend the least amount of effort possible and get an easy A,” she said. “For the first couple of weeks, I put in the minimum. But eventually I became so bored that I wondered if I could run one mile.” One day she gave it a try, and sure enough, she ran a mile. She didn’t experience an immediate runner’s high, but she did feel a sense of awe. “I told myself this was something I could never do. When I did it, I started wondering what else I’d been wrong about.” It was just a mile, but it was a mile that changed the trajectory of her life. “That mile made me question what else is true, what else is possible.”
Over time, one mile grew to two, two grew to three. Mile after mile, Katie became curious about what else she could do. Her first endurance event was a marathon, and the challenges grew more extreme from there. “I don’t think my former coaches or teammates would have imagined that one day I would run across Ohio!” Katie said with a laugh. Katie is no longer trying to prove something to other people — or herself. Rather, she completes these adventures because she feels called to do so. “The thing I’m most resistant to or scared about is often the very thing God is calling me to. If you already know you can do it, you think you’ve accomplished it out of your own strength. If you think you can’t, you know it’s Him.”
Failure Doesn’t Define Us
One of the biggest questions Katie has wrestled with is the question, Who am I when I fail? “That’s a reality, because the bigger the challenge, the more likely you are to fail.” This idea was put to the test when Katie and a partner set out to cycle across America in an attempt to break the two-person team record. The week before the event, Katie broke her pelvis during training. “Being a Christian has shown me that God doesn’t judge me on the abilities He didn’t give me. He’s not in heaven saying, ‘I’m so disappointed in you.’” So instead of falling into despair or questioning her worth, Katie decided to complete the ride anyway — but on a hand bike. “In the past several years, I’ve learned that I don’t need to believe in myself,” Katie said. “I know that may sound discouraging, but TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
Above: Lifewater International works with local churches to ensure lasting change. Photo courtesy Lifewater International
I mean it in the most encouraging way possible.” She used to think that people who accomplish big things must never have fears and doubts — that they float from success to success. “As God has led me over the years, I’ve come to understand that I don’t need to believe in myself. It’s about God’s ability and being faithful to what He has called me to do. ‘I know God can’ is much better than ‘I know I can.’” In the endurance world, Katie hears a lot of talk about conquering. But for her, these challenges have actually prompted humility. “The bigger the adventure, the more you need to lean on something bigger than yourself,” Katie said. “Sometimes we think, I won’t do something until I’m motivated or until I’m not afraid. But God has shown me that He can handle my fear and my lack of motivation. If He has called me to do it, He will equip me to do it. And even if I fail, it doesn’t change my identity.” Katie has received recognition for her accomplishments over the years, but she’s quick to give the glory to the God who gave her the gifts and the calling in the first place. She is also adamant that every person has a significant calling. “The Creator of the universe thought you were special enough to be here. The thing you have to offer that you consider insignificant may have eternal significance. In God’s eyes, those small acts have big impact.” Whatever challenge you’re facing right now, whether you’re trying to cross a literal ocean or a metaphorical one, take a cue from Katie’s life. It’s not about our strength; it’s about Christ’s strength in us. So, keep on rowing! Stephanie Rische edits and writes in the Chicago area, where she lives with her husband and two sons. When she isn’t chasing down commas or little boys, she blogs at stephanierische.com. Her memoir, I Was Blind (Dating), but Now I See, recounts how God surprised her with his grace and love. 8
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
Katie holds the female record for the most consecutive ultramarathons. Photo courtesy the Leighton Co.
LIFEWATER Katie doesn’t seek endurance adventures merely for the sake of checking them off an athletic bucket list. Rather, her passion is fueled by supporting a good cause. To date, her efforts have raised more than $400,000 for clean water around the world. One of the nonprofits Katie supports through her adventures is Lifewater International, an organization founded by Christians committed to ending the global water and sanitation crisis, one village at a time. They currently have projects in Ethiopia, Uganda, Cambodia, and Tanzania. Lifewater works by identifying communities in low-income countries that need water access, sanitation, and hygiene. Before sending engineers to construct a new water source or rehabilitate an existing one, they provide health training for individual homes and entire communities. Then, in partnership with local churches, they offer support and maintenance to ensure lasting change. Lifewater believes a healthy village requires the participation of everyone — parents, teachers, children, church leaders, community members, staff, and donors. For more information, visit lifewater.org.
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CLARK COLLECTION I by TIFFANY BELLE CLARK
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LIVING IN WISDOM
By Jerry and Shirley Rose
Let His Light Shine! Jerry Rose is an internationally known Christian broadcaster and is former president/ CEO of the Total Living Network. He currently serves as TLN’s chairman of the board and hosts the Emmy awardwinning program Significant Living. Jerry is an ordained minister and the author of five books, including Deep Faith for Dark Valleys and Significant Living, co-authored with his wife Shirley. He is the past president of the National Religious Broadcasters and currently serves on its board of directors. Jerry is an avid golfer, equestrian, photographer, and grandfather of 20. Shirley Rose has been in ministry with her husband, Jerry, for more than 30 years. Her career in Christian television focused on hosting several programs, including the Emmy Award-winning women’s program Aspiring Women. She has authored five books, including The Eve Factor, A Wise Woman Once Said…, and Significant Living, and has contributed to numerous anthologies and periodicals. She is actively pursuing her calling to help other women through writing, speaking, and hosting women’s groups in her home. Her favorite pastimes are country line dancing, travel, and spending time with her 20 grandchildren. 10
One of the most remarkable Old Testament accounts is of Gideon, found in Judges 6 and 7. Because of national sin, the children of Israel suffered unimaginable oppression at the hands of the Midianites. Finally, in desperation after seven years of misery, they cried out to God for help. He heard their cry and answered with the most unusual plan for deliverance in the history of warfare. He chose the most unlikely leader in Israel to lead a tiny army against a massive force, and He instructed them to use trumpets, pitchers, and lamps for weapons. The strategy was brilliant and the results supernatural. The angel of the Lord appeared to lowly Gideon, who was hiding to survive, and described him as a “mighty man of valor.” The angel later sent Gideon and his servant Purah to the edge of the enemy camp, where they overheard two enemy soldiers discussing the upcoming battle. One soldier explained a dream he had had the night before. A barley loaf had rolled into the camp and knocked over a tent. The other soldier had an immediate interpretation. The barley loaf was Gideon and through him the God of Israel would defeat their massive army. The message to Gideon was that God knew who he was — like a barley loaf, made of the cheapest and most common grain — yet God would use him to deliver His children. The reason for the hopelessly small size of the army was to make sure Israel couldn’t take credit for the victory, and the unusual weapons of trumpets, pitchers, and lamps seemed almost laughable. But they proved to be the most powerful arsenal in the history of warfare. Symbolically, these weapons define an important strategy that the body of Christ must use to be a light amidst the forces of evil. On the day of the battle, Israel faced an army described as numerous as the sand of the sea. Gideon provided each soldier with a trumpet, a lamp, and a pitcher. They were to cover the lamp (a torch) with the pitcher, and on Gideon’s command, they were to blow the trumpet to wake the enemy. Some might have questioned awakening such a powerful enemy. Wouldn’t it be better to let them sleep? But this was God’s battle, and He wanted the enemy to be awak-
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
ened with the bold blast of 300 trumpets. Then, on Gideon’s command, they were to break the pitchers to reveal a blinding light. The pitchers were likely gathered from various sources. Some may have been expensive pieces crafted as works of art. Others may have been designer pitchers or heirlooms handed down for generations. And surely, many were just cheap clay pots. But they all had to be broken to reveal the light inside. Their only value was their brokenness. Gideon’s small army sneaked up on the sleeping Midianites and blew the trumpets, then shattered the pitchers, revealing a startling, blinding light. As the enemy hordes awoke in terror and confusion, they began killing each other, and Israel experienced a complete and miraculous victory that day. There’s a powerful message here for Christians. Just as Gideon’s trumpets woke the enemy, God expects us to be bold in our proclamation of the truth to a lost generation. In a “cancel culture” world where biblical values are under attack, it’s safer to be silent and let the enemy sleep. But we’re called to make some noise — to boldly stand for righteousness. I like to think of the noise of trumpets and shattered pitchers as the sound of revival. While the word “brokenness” may seem negative, it simply means being yielded completely to God’s will. It means living so that whatever good we do points away from ourselves and toward Christ. Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20 NIV). Can others see the light of Christ in us? Or do they only see the pitcher? No matter how talented or gifted or attractive we may be, we can do nothing without Him. On the other hand, you may think of yourself as just a clay pot, or a barley loaf — completely unworthy and unequipped to take on the forces of evil. But it’s not about us; it’s all about the light of Jesus. Therefore, we each must consider this question: Are we bold enough to wake up the enemy and broken enough to allow the light of Christ to shine through us? This is the secret to winning the battle and changing our world.
The Good News
A man accused of murder was brought before a judge. The man admitted to the crime, the guilty verdict was read, and the death penalty pronounced. Even though the guilty man was his own son, the judge could not dismiss the verdict or he would be a corrupt, unjust judge. So great was the judge’s love for his son that he decided to pay the debt for him. The judge stepped down from the bench, removed his robe, traded places with him, and was executed in his place. This is what Jesus has done for us. Jesus was sinless, but paid the penalty for our sin, dying on the cross in our place. This is called substitutionary atonement, but the atonement only takes effect if we are willing to accept this incredible gift; God won’t force His love on us. To receive this forgiveness, we must admit our guilt and sins and repent of them. If you have never done this, you can do it now. Tell God that you are sorry for your sins and want to turn away from them. If you truly repent, He will wash your sins away and give you a new life. He will send the Holy Spirit to live inside you and to change you from the inside out. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17 ESV)
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Above: The February 2020 funeral of baby Abigail. Linda and Steve Znachko took care of her in life and at the end of her short life. They later posthumously adopted Abigail. Photo Credit: Kelli Wilkerson
He Knows Your Name By Pam S. Walker
reaking News: Baby Found in Dumpster,” the startling headline read. While such tragic news is sure to evoke an emotional response, for Linda Znachko, a mother of four living in Indianapolis, it meant going beyond feelings. It meant taking action. Just six months earlier, she had lost her mother, whose life had been honored through a beautiful funeral and memorialized with a headstone, and she wanted the same for this baby. Sensing God’s gentle nudge, Linda contacted the reporter, who put her in touch with the coroner. “I wanted the baby to be claimed, named, and celebrated,” Linda said. “My mother was a child of God, and she deserved all that we gave her. This baby was also a child of God and I wanted to give the same to him.” As Linda waited for the criminal investigation to wrap up, she researched how to claim the abandoned baby, made plans for a funeral service, contacted a cemetery, and prayed for the baby’s mother. Every Friday, she faithfully called the coroner’s office about the child dubbed “Baby Doe.” Three months later, the coroner told Linda that they had another deceased baby and wanted to know if her “organization” could take care of this one, too. This baby was older: a 5-month-old boy, Zachary, who died of natural causes while at his grandmother’s house and had been abandoned at the coroner’s office. Since there was no criminal investigation, he could be released. The baby’s mother was homeless, and the family had not accepted responsibility for the baby’s body.
A Journey of Faith Begins
Although there was no organization behind Linda, she felt God leading her on a journey that would take her to places she never imagined. She agreed to help, and 18 days later, she signed the papers for Zachary’s release. Linda ordered a hand-
Steve Znachko carries Abigail’s casket to her grave. Photo Credit: Kelli Wilkerson
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
stitched linen burial gown and provided a funeral service that included prayers, Scripture reading, and song. The funeral was attended by his spiritual family, which included Linda’s family, church friends, some of her children’s friends, and others who had heard about Zachary’s short life. Later that summer, as she continued to call the coroner about Baby Doe, she found another opportunity to say “yes” to God when she was asked if she provided headstones for people in need. This time it was for a 13-year-old boy named Tim who had drowned in a city pool. Linda not only helped Tim’s family by providing a headstone, but she also worked with his mother, Addy, to establish a scholarship program to provide swim lessons in his honor. Tim’s legacy is no longer that he didn’t know how to swim and therefore drowned. “It’s now the smiling faces of the children who giggle with joy because they can swim and play safely at the public pool in the summer,” Linda said. “Addy nurtures other children with her mother’s heart when she sees the signup sheet filled with new names every summer, and she cheers them on to success.” As Linda continued to faithfully call the coroner’s office every Friday, she finally received word that the wait was over. Baby Doe and his mother had finally been identified. The mother, Nichole, had been a victim of a funeral home illegally disposing of her son, Nicholas, instead of cremating him as she had instructed. After waiting 13 months, Linda was able to honor Nicholas with a funeral service that included not only Linda and Nichole’s family members but also Tim’s mother, Addy.
Every Life Matters
The driving force behind Linda’s ministry has been her strong faith in God and her belief that all lives matter. “God is the author of life, He calls us, knows us by name, and He gives us value and worth,” Linda said. “Our education, status, bank account, or letters after our names do not. The circumstances around death are all different, but that event doesn’t define us…. And every life is precious and matters because God says so.” In her book, He Knows Your Name: How One Abandoned Baby Inspired Me to Say Yes to God, Linda recounts the deeply emotional stories of the many families she has helped and the lasting impact they have had on her and her family. Through her faith in Christ, Linda acknowledges that His greatest miracle was performed at the grave. And yet, she said the more she stood at the grave, the more she saw Him bring life to devastated people by bringing His love and hope. Examples include experiencing the heart of the Shepherd when she claimed an abandoned baby who was found deceased on a freezing night wearing only a sweatshirt. The driving force behind Linda’s ministry has been her strong faith in God and her belief that every baby should be treated with honor.
Becoming a Spiritual Mother to God’s Babies
With each new “yes” to God, Linda’s journey into establishing a ministry that is fittingly titled, He Knows Your Name (heknows yourname.org) was just beginning. Since 2009, Linda has become a spiritual mother to 30 of the Lord’s babies, in which she “stewards their deaths by celebrating their lives.” She has done this by giving many of them names, choosing their burial gowns and caskets, organizing funerals, designing their headstones, and praying and worshipping over each of them. Her lifelong bond with these families, she said, has expanded her idea of family. Through her ministry, Linda has seen entire families experience healing and transformation as they come together to grieve the loss of a child, bringing them closure and peace. “Closure is powerful and gives families a way to gather, remember, and not feel alone,” Linda said. “Gathering at the grave or in a church can help a family transition out of denial and onto a place of acceptance, together.” This is illustrated through the family of a baby named Kylon. The family had reached out to Linda for a donation towards a headstone. When she arrived at the cemetery office, she was greeted by three generations of family. “This family had been fractured relationally for decades,” she explained. “But when this baby died, they came together, and all pooled their money to help the parents pay for the funeral, his little life changed this family by bringing healing to the generations. He did more in his short life than anyone else to usher in forgiveness and reconciliation.” TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
Becoming an Agent of Change, Bringing Comfort and Hope
Above: Linda with a list of the names of babies they’ve commemorated. Photo Credit: Kelli Wilkerson Right: Abigail’s birth bracelet. Photo Credit: Kelli Wilkerson
She saw the goodness of God when she sang “Lullaby, Goodnight” to a baby who was never held. She felt peace like a river when justice was served, and a murderer was found guilty, so a family who waited 18 months for the judicial system could have closure after their sweet Dominique was violently taken from them. She and her husband felt deeply humbled when they adopted Abigail, a critically ill baby in the NICU who was not going to live. They parented her for 24 hours, sang over her, dressed her in white, blessed her, and gave thanks that she was with Jesus.
Safe Haven Baby Box Goes Nationwide
Linda explained that it is a mystery to her that God would use someone like her to minister in this “sacred space of life and death.” As a mother of four children, she hasn’t experienced infant loss or pregnancy. Yet, she said God selected her as an “agent of change, comfort, and hope for those who have.” Throughout her ministry, she has held meetings with CEOs from several major hospital networks, published a book, been on media outlets all over the world with this message of life, helped to change a law, spoken in the Senate chamber, visited Washington, D.C. to receive an award for her work, met with the governor of Indiana, and adopted a baby the year she turned 60. “Sometimes He uses the inexperienced to step out into His authority by equipping and qualifying us, like He did for me, to bring the gospel of light and love to His kingdom. Walking with Jesus is an adventure, and being taught by the Holy Spirit as I lean into God’s Word for my breath is all to the glory of His name,” Linda said. “He is more concerned that I love my neighbor in His name than having me be busy doing, just for the sake of doing. Walking by the power of the Holy Spirit is not a march, it is a dance.” Pam S. Walker is the former national editor of Answers magazine, a publication of Answers in Genesis. She’s a freelance writer living in the Cincinnati area, where she writes for various Christian publications.
When Linda provided a funeral for an abandoned baby that had been wrapped in a sweatshirt marked “Vincennes University, aviation department,” she decided to name her Amelia, which means Defender. She also wanted to change the legacy of this young life by helping to enhance the Safe Haven Law. Linda accomplished this by partnering with Safe Haven Box founder, Monica Kelsey. This organization provides the opportunity for mothers in crisis to surrender Safe Haven laws allow parents to legally give up custody of their their babies anonymously and safely at a hospital or babies by placing them in a monitored Safe Haven Baby Box. The fire station. She also gave testimony before the Indi- laws set specific conditions to ensure the safety of the infants. ana Senate and the House of Representatives about baby abandonment in the state and the need to enhance the law to include the anonymous safe surrender option that this safe box would provide. Amelia’s legacy now continues to educate the public about the Safe Haven Law, which promotes and protects life for at-risk moms and babies. Amelia’s footprint can be found on the Safe Haven Box logo. Linda said that because of the Safe Haven Baby Box program, no abandoned, deceased babies have been found since a hiker discovered Amelia on that cold December day in 2014. Instead, 12 babies have been safely surrendered in the boxes and all were given medical care and were adopted within 30 days. 14
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
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ASK DR. WALT
By Walt Larimore, MD
Fish Oil for Heart Health
Dear Dr. Walt, What’s your take on fish oil capsules to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease? —Pescatarian in Massachusetts Walt Larimore, MD, has been called one of America’s best-known family physicians and has been named in “The Best Doctors in America” and “Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare.” He’s also an award-winning medical journalist and the bestselling author of 30 books. You can find Dr. Walt’s health blog and free daily devotional at www.DrWalt.com. You can also watch him on Liftable TV at Liftable TV.com/ DoctorWalt. Have questions for Dr. Walt? Email them to editor@ todayschristianliving.org.
Dear Fish Lover, Fish oil comes from a variety of fish, can be a rich, concentrated source of healthful omega-3 fatty acids, and is available as a prescription drug or as a dietary supplement, although the potency and quality of the fatty acids in fish oil supplements can vary. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved qualified health claims for the use of fish oil supplements in the prevention of hypertension and coronary heart disease (CHD). Doses of up to 3 grams per day can be safely used by most people and is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) in the U.S. However, the effect of fish oil on cardiovascular disease (CVD) is controversial. Oral fish oil in doses of up to 4 grams daily does not seem to be beneficial for primary or secondary prevention of CVD. As far as hypertension, it is unclear if oral fish oil reduces blood pressure in patients with mild hypertension or in those using antihypertensive drugs. It’s also clear that fish oil does not prevent the progression of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The one area fish oil is most effective is in patients with hypertriglyceridemia [high triglycerides]. However, it is not recommended for patients with high cholesterol who have normal triglyceride levels, as fish oil may increase LDL [lethal or bad] cholesterol levels. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, which is derived from oily fish) is available as a dietary supplement or by prescription. Vascepa® is FDA approved for adults with severely high triglyceride levels (≥ 500 mg/ dL) and can significantly lower the risk of cardiovascular disease but can cost about $3,000 per year. ConsumerLab.com advises, “Fish oil in softgels is generally the least expensive way to get good-quality EPA.” Under its “Best Picks,” ConsumerLab.com recommends, “GNC ® Triple Strength EPA” which “can provide about the same amount of EPA as Vascepa® at less than one-third the cost.” I don’t recommend algal oil, calamari oil, green-lipped mussel oil, or krill oil. Natural Medicines tells physicians, “Save krill oil for patients who can’t tolerate fish oil.”
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
Red Yeast Rice for High Cholesterol
Dear Dr. Walt, Our natural food store recommends red yeast rice instead of prescription statins for high cholesterol. I’m guessing it’s a cheaper option than a prescription. —Hypercholesterolemic in Connecticut Dear Lipemic, Red yeast rice is rice on which a particular yeast has grown and produces cholesterol-lowering compounds that are red. It is a popular supplement in America, and Natural Medicines TM considers it “Possibly Effective” and “Likely Effective” for hyperlipidemia (elevated lipids). They point out, “Clinical research shows that taking certain red yeast rice products 1-5 grams daily can significantly lower total cholesterol by 11 to 23 percent and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 22 to 34 percent.” Also, “Most studies show that red yeast rice products can significantly decrease triglycerides and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL or healthy) cholesterol in patients with hyperlipidemia. It may take up to 12 weeks to see the effects of red yeast rice on lipid parameters.” But here’s the catch, “These products provide up to 10-20 mg daily of monacolin K, which is identical to the ‘statin’ drug, lovastatin” and vary in quality. For example, ConsumerLab.com advises, “The amount of lovastatins in the tested supplements ranged 1,500 percent. … When
used according to their suggested serving sizes, only two of nine products provided amounts known to lower cholesterol in clinical trials.” Therefore, ConsumerLab.com warns, “Based on the varying amounts of lovastatins in products and decreases in these amounts over time, it may be preferable to use a prescription statin drug to ensure a more consistent dose. Prescription lovastatin is also available at a lower cost than lovastatin from red yeast rice. However, red yeast rice may be effective for some people who don’t respond to statin drugs and certain side effects may be diminished.” If you decide to take red yeast rice instead of a prescription statin, ConsumerLab.com’s “Top Pick” is HPF Cholestene™. A serving of two capsules twice daily provides 12.9 mg of lovastatins — a dose likely to help lower elevated cholesterol levels at a cost of about 49 cents per 10 mg, which is less than half the cost of getting the same amount of lovastatins from the next least expensive product, Nature’s Sunshine®, at $1.03. The highest cost to get 10 mg of lovastatins is $7.60 from Nature’s Way ®.” At most drug stores you can purchase prescription lovastatin for as little as ten cents for 10 mg. This is 80% less than the lowest priced “Approved” red yeast rice products, and you are guaranteed purity and consistency of product. Natural Medicines TM tells physicians, “Don’t recommend red yeast rice products due to product consistency issues and related safety concerns.” I agree with that recommendation.
Fiber for Cardiovascular Health
Dear Dr. Walt, My family physician diagnosed that my husband and I both have high cholesterol and has recommended diet and exercise for us. He’s also recommending we increase the fiber in our diet. Why? —Wondering About Fiber in Florida Dear Ruffage Seeker, I agree with your physician. Most Americans fall far short of the recommended daily amount of fiber in their diets. Women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should target 38 grams. Fiber is found in plant foods. Eating the skin or peel of fruits and vegetables provides a greater dose of fiber, which is found naturally in these sources. Fiber also is found in beans and lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Typically, the more refined or processed a food is, the lower its fiber content. For example, one medium apple with the peel contains 4.4 grams of fiber, while ½ cup of applesauce contains 1.4 grams, and 4 ounces of apple juice contains no fiber. Fibrous foods can help lower cholesterol. The FDA permits foods that contain at least 52% whole grains (whole wheat, whole oats, dried corn, barley) to claim to reduce the risk of heart disease. It’s the fiber in whole grains that
seems to reduce heart disease. The FDA also allows the same health claims for blond psyllium and oat bran due to their soluble fiber content. ConsumerLab.com says, “Although oats don’t naturally contain gluten, oat cereals may become cross-contaminated with gluten from wheat products during processing, a potential concern for some people.” I tell my patients that a person who consumes a high amount of fiber along with a healthy-fat diet combined with regular exercise will have even greater reductions in bad cholesterol, weight, waist size, and blood sugar while increasing their good cholesterol. Adapted from The Natural Medicines Handbook: The Truth about the Most Effective Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements for Common Conditions by Walt Larimore, MD, published by Baker Publishing Group, Ada, Michigan, 49301. bakerpublishinggroup. com. Used by permission. TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
h t a e r B The
e f i ofL
How God Taught Me That He’s All I Need By Debra Hill
ike most people, I was happy to end 2020 and begin 2021 anew. Unfortunately, for about a week, I had begun to feel more and more out of breath and dizzy. I wasn’t alarmed yet because, after all, I had already survived two heart attacks. Also, I had become completely blind over the past six years from complications of diabetes. On January 2, when nearly collapsing, I weakly called out to my husband to call 911. The ambulance ride was a blur. We were diverted from one hospital because, due to COVID-19, they weren’t accepting any new patients. At the hospital, after much poking, prodding, and testing, I was put on oxygen. Along with an EKG, I had blood drawn and been notified that I tested negative for COVID. Finally, a CT scan revealed I had two huge blood clots on my lungs. I would be admitted for surgery. After a few days as I waited in the ICU for my surgery, I begin to marvel at the quality of care provided by everyone in the hospital. From the doctors and nurses to the technicians, dieticians, and janitorial workers, they all were a well-trained and caring team. On my second day in the ICU, I was casually sipping ginger ale when the liquid flooded down the wrong windpipe and I began to choke. Panicked, I pressed the button and croaked out “Help” to the nurse. The nurse immediately saw what was happening and began to talk to me in a calm voice. His profound words were, “Just breathe. All you need is already flowing into you through your nostrils. Just breathe in the oxygen.” Those simple, reassuring words brought me immediate peace. I began to breathe in slowly through my nose and exhale through my mouth. The day of my surgery finally came. I was sedated but not fully put to sleep with anesthesia, so I was awake during the procedure. Everything seemed to go smoothly. I really didn’t feel any discomfort and must have fallen asleep after being brought back to my room. “Stop the bleeding,” I heard a nurse shout, and I gasped when I felt strong fingers pressing on the sutured area on the right side of my groin. “We’re not going to let her bleed out,” another loud voice declared as a third told someone to find out if the doctor had already left the hospital. I quickly registered that I 18
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
was losing blood. Still hearing the sounds around me, I felt suddenly removed from reality. I heard the words, “I will keep you in perfect peace if you keep your mind on me” (Isa. 26:3), and I began to rest in the truth of His Word. For me, there was no consciousness of the passing of time. I was told later that it had taken 10 hours to stop the bleeding. When I fully woke, I was tired but pain-free. Recovering well in the ICU, I was alarmed when I was told that I might be moved to another room now that I was no longer in critical condition. I had grown very fond of my healthcare providers and had settled into a daily routine of meals, medications, and changing shifts. I felt somewhat selfish, knowing that now that I was doing well, I should be willing to give up this bed to someone else who was in much more need of it than I. Later, I was told that I wouldn’t be moving that day. The next morning, the voice of a new nurse greeted me. Something told me to ask her to tell me about herself, so I did. As she began to talk about her family and home life, she expressed her desire to learn more about the Bible. She wanted to rediscover the teachings she learned from the church as a child. I listened closely as she spoke and began to witness to her about Jesus and salvation. Right then and there she accepted the Lord as her Savior. After she prayed, she exclaimed that this was the best day of her life. We were both in tears of joy for what God had done. I’m home now doing well. I have two new doctors added to my medical team to care for me and monitor my health. This experience has made me treasure even more every breath I take. Debra Hill is an independent gospel singer and writer in Virginia. Although blind, she debuted her first album, “Daily Reverence” in 2018. Follow her on Facebook @debrahillsings.
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Dave Ramsey is a seven-time #1 national best-selling author, personal finance expert, and host of The Ramsey Show, heard by more than 18 million listeners each week. He has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Today Show, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business, and many more. Since 1992, Dave has helped people regain control of their money, build wealth, and enhance their lives. He also serves as CEO for Ramsey Solutions.
Push the Pause Button
Dear Dave, I’ve been following your plan, but recently I experienced a medical emergency. I’m about halfway through Baby Step 2 and paying off my debts using the debt snowball system. Considering the circumstances, should I stop doing the debt snowball for now? —Brooke Dear Brooke, That’s exactly what you should do. But make sure you’re only pressing the pause button on paying off debt. I’m talking about temporarily stopping the debt snowball, and making only minimum payments on all non-mortgage debt for now. Cash is your umbrella when it rains, and you never know just long the rain will last. Even if you have great health insurance, you might end up paying a chunk out of pocket. That’s why it’s important to save up and have plenty on hand. Things like this are often just a bump in the road, so don’t get discouraged. They can be expensive, and they’re part of life, but taking care of these kinds of issues doesn’t have to mean giving up on getting control of your finances. Emergency issues, especially a medical emergency, come first. Then, go back when things are better and pick up where you left off knocking out debt using the debt snowball system. You can do this, Brooke. God bless you! —Dave
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
By Dave Ramsey
Taking the Dread Out of Budgeting
Dear Dave, I’ve been trying to get my sister and her husband on your plan, but they’re hesitant to try living on a budget. They make good money, and both of them think doing a budget every month would be too difficult and take too much time. Do you have any suggestions I could pass along that might make them realize that making a budget isn’t so hard or time consuming? —Kelsey Dear Kelsey, Believe me, I hear those excuses all the time. In most cases, the people who say these kinds of things don’t really understand what a budget is, or how to efficiently put one together. If you’ve followed my advice, you learned first-hand that budgeting isn’t scary once you get the hang of it. Household budgets don’t need to be about hours of tedious math and complicated formulas. Like most things in life, simple is usually best. A good way to simplify budgeting, especially for couples, is by making it a team effort. It’s important to make sure your spouse is on board, and knows what’s up with the budget, because you’re just asking for problems when one spouse is doing all the planning and the other is doing all the spending. Sit down together for a few minutes, once a month, and have a budget meeting where you look at your income, your outgo, and you both give ev-
ery dollar a name and a job to do. It’s really that simple. Share your ideas, your hopes, and your dreams for the future, as well as the fears you have. The important thing is that you’re both in agreement and working together. That alone will make your lives, your budget, and your money easier to handle. Also, make sure you have cut up all your credit cards and closed the accounts. No more credit cards means fewer bills to add to the budget, fewer complications, and zero worries about fees and interest rates. Stick to using a debit card and cash. After all, they’re both part of the plan! Making a schedule for budget meetings and bill payments is a good idea, too. You can even make your budget meetings a fun time by including your favorite snacks. Set up auto drafts out of your checking account to pay bills and buy your groceries on a set day every week or twice a month. When you know what to expect and when, it takes a lot of stress and potential pitfalls out of the budgeting picture. There’s always some work and discipline that goes along with gaining control of your money. But a budget doesn’t need to be torture. A little planning, communication, and some basic math will go a long way — and it won’t be nearly as time consuming, or as difficult, as you think! —Dave
Is Umbrella Coverage Worth It?
Dear Dave, Are umbrella insurance policies worth it, or do they just entice people to sue more frequently? —Tammi Dear Tammi, I don’t think there’s any indication umbrella policies entice folks to bring lawsuits more frequently. If you hadn’t noticed, we live in a lawsuit-happy world. There are lots of greedy people out there who would try to sue for absolutely anything — no matter how ridiculous.
I think these types of policies are worth the money. You can get a $1 million umbrella policy that attaches to the top of the liability coverage on your car and homeowners for $200 to $300 a year in most places. So, if your original car and homeowners coverage was $500,000, you’d have $1.5 million in coverage with an umbrella policy. If you’ve got a substantial net worth, or if there’s just something that gives the impression someone might be able to get a lot out of you, an umbrella insurance policy is a smart buy. —Dave
Protect Against Inflation?
Dear Dave, All the talk on the news about inflation is a little scary. Is there any way to protect yourself against it on a day-to-day basis? —Garret Dear Garret, When people start talking about inflation, it seems like there are always some who want to start collecting gold, fill every container they own with gasoline and stick their cash under their mattresses. But listen, you can prepare for inflation and address the results without being panicked. You are still in control of your money, inflation or not. You’ll be able to make sure your money is going toward the right things, while being able to find places where you can cut spending, if you’re living on a written, monthly budget. If you’re noticing the prices of things like food and gas rising in your area, you’ll need to adjust your budget to account for this. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re working with, and it will help you avoid any nasty surprises. If you’re really feeling the pinch and want to save even more, look for specific ways to lower your grocery bill or save money on gas. Maybe it’s time you switched to generic brands, or started a carpool into work. If you find great deals on canned food and things you can stock your pantry with — I’m talking about stuff you’ll actually use — go ahead and buy a little extra. Just make sure you’ve budgeted for it before heading to the grocery store. You’ll want to already know exactly what you’re going to spend, so you don’t get swept up into impulse buying. Like it or not, inflation is a thing. If you plan on retiring one day, it’s pretty much guaranteed that the cost of a loaf of bread, a tank of gas and even a cup of coffee will have gone up by then. The best way to protect yourself against inflation that’s bound to happen is to invest your money — and the sooner the better. But remember, if you still have debt other than your mortgage, and don’t have an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses, you need to take care of those things first! —Dave TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
By Hadassah Treu
The Place of Choice
Hadassah Treu is an international Christian author, blogger, and speaker, and the Encouraging Blogger Award Winner of 2020. She is passionate about encouraging people in the journey of faith and a deeper walk with God. Hadassah is a contributing author to several faithbased platforms and devotional and poetry anthologies.
If you have a turning point in your life you would like to share, email your story to editor@ todayschristianliving.org. All submissions must be under 800 words. If we print your story, we will pay you $75. We reserve the right to edit for length and content. All submissions become the property of Today’s Christian Living. 22
he day to pick up the results from the blood no more medical experiments. Just give up and rest. tests prescribed by the doctor in the fertility Quit this quest. Everything you did up to now failed. clinic finally came. It’s simply too late. Full of good cheer and hope, I opened the enveThe other option was to answer God’s invitation lope and stared at a table with some numbers. Since and come to the place of total dependence on Him. I I was not familiar with the numbers, I sat at the had already a foretaste of this place. I knew the price computer and searched on the internet. Slowly, the of the ticket I needed to pay to get there. The price realization settled in. I was fighting it and pushing called surrender. What more should I surrender? it away, but it kept staring at me from the paper. My Deep down, I knew there was more. In the last value was one of the lowest possible, meaning that years, like a surgeon, God was gently opening layer my ovarian reserve was depleted. No more eggs left. after layer of my soul, exposing unhealed wounds and No chance to get pregnant. deep bruises I never knew were there. He was healI fell on the floor in our apartment, wailing hys- ing them one by one, freeing me from heavy burdens. terically. I didn’t have words, He had not yet reached “Sometimes God brings us But just the crushing pain and the core. to a place where all hope is the shock finding their way Perhaps it was all a prepaout. This was a death senration for the grand surgery given up. This is a place of tence, written on the paper. from the Great Physician My hopes to have a child total dependence on Him so and Surgeon of the human from my flesh were dying in He can demonstrate that He souls. Again, I faced the agony. So many years I have choice either to trust Him is completely dependable.” or do it my way. This was nurtured these hopes. I wrestled with God and myself that afternoon and, an invitation to the unknown, to an uncharted land. at some point, I gave up. Even though I felt mistreated This was risky and dangerous. I might lose a lot. I was by Him, I could not help but turn to Him for comfort aware already that this journey could involve danger, and strength. loss, grief, and suffering. There was also a gain, howIn the late afternoon I remembered that sometime ever: an enormous and far outweighing gain. God before, I had read a devotional and one sentence was beckoning and wooing me, gently reminding me made a great impression on me, so I wrote it down of all His loving deeds in the past, of all the smaller and tucked it in my Bible. It said, “Sometimes God and bigger miracles and transformations I witnessed. brings us to a place where all hope is given up. This is In my thoughts, I heard Him speaking. “Trust me! a place of total dependence on Him so He can dem- I am the only one who can satisfy your deepest longonstrate that He is completely dependable.” ings and bring you to your place, where you belong. These words were like a candle somebody lit in the You need to let loose of your ways, your expectations, darkness that had settled and covered all the precious your dreams, and your plans for your life. Surrender words and promises on which I built my life in the them to me. Stop struggling. My thoughts and my past years. So this is what the place looked like. The ways are so much higher. Trust me! Trust my love, place where all hope is gone. my wisdom, and power.” However, there was also the second part, that It was not possible to contain that heavy suffocatone speaking about dependence. God highlighted a ing load in my chest anymore. “I trust you!” I cried choice for me. This is what He always does. out as tears rolled uncontrollably down my cheeks. One option was that I truly give up: give up on “Please, show me you are totally dependable!” Him, give up on me, and give up on my desire to have I collapsed on the couch. It was over. From that a child. This was an easier choice. My body and my point on, I was embarking on a new level of my jourweary soul, deeply disappointed and discouraged, ney, jumping from the cliff of predictability and conwere pulling me in this direction. trol into the mighty waters of a life of faith and surEnough, they screamed. This is a safe choice: no render. I did this trusting He would make a way for more risk, no more suffering, no more uncertainty, me, a dry ground in the raging sea.
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
DAILY BIBLE CONNECTION
Developed by R. M. M’Cheyne and D. A. Carson
If you follow this reading calendar, you will read through the Old Testament in two years and the Psalms and New Testament in a year.
Genesis 2; Matthew 2
Genesis 9-10; Matthew 9
Genesis 17; Matthew 16
Genesis 24; Matthew 23
Genesis 3; Matthew 3
Genesis 11; Matthew 10
Genesis 18; Matthew 17
Genesis 25; Matthew 24
Genesis 32; Mark 3
Genesis 46; Mark 16
Exodus 3; Luke 6
Exodus 10; Luke 13
Genesis 1; Matthew 1
Genesis 4; Matthew 4
Genesis 12; Matthew 11
Genesis 19; Matthew 18
Genesis 5; Matthew 5
Genesis 13; Matthew 12
Genesis 20; Matthew 19
Genesis 6; Matthew 6
Genesis 14; Matthew 13
Genesis 21; Matthew 20
Genesis 7; Matthew 7
Genesis 15; Matthew 14
Genesis 22; Matthew 21
Genesis 8; Matthew 8
Genesis 16; Matthew 15
Genesis 23; Matthew 22
Genesis 26; Matthew 25
Genesis 27; Matthew 26
Genesis 28; Matthew 27
Genesis 29; Matthew 28
Genesis 30; Mark 1
Genesis 31; Mark 2
Genesis 39; Mark 9
Genesis 40; Mark 10
Genesis 47; Luke 1:1-38
Exodus 4; Luke 7
Genesis 33; Mark 4
Genesis 41; Mark 11
Genesis 48; Luke 1:39ff
Exodus 5; Luke 8
Genesis 34; Mark 5
Genesis 42; Mark 12
Genesis 49; Luke 2
Exodus 6; Luke 9
Genesis 35-36; Mark 6
Genesis 43; Mark 13
Genesis 50; Luke 3
Exodus 7; Luke 10
Genesis 37; Mark 7
Genesis 44; Mark 14
Exodus 1; Luke 4
Exodus 8; Luke 11
Genesis 38; Mark 8
Genesis 45; Mark 15
Exodus 2; Luke 5
Exodus 9; Luke 12
Exodus 11-12:21; Luke 14
Faith OverCancer By Ginny Dent Brant
he world stood still when I heard the words, “You have cancer.” It was just four months after the loss of my mother to breast cancer. The news of a cancer diagnosis has a profound impact on the body and immune system. The next week, the news got worse: “It’s aggressive.” But it was the news after the MRI that drove me to my knees: “It appears the cancer has spread.” “I don’t believe you. I feel great,” I responded. “Show me that MRI!” I demanded. My surgeon took me back in his office and flashed a life-size MRI up on the wall. It looked like a tornado had invaded my body. Left: Ginny learned that taking an eternal
perspective takes the sting out of fear.
Below: Ginny’s husband, Alton, was her
greatest support and loudest cheerleader in her cancer journey. Granddaughter Sullivan Brant shares the gratitude the couple have for the Lord leading them through the valley.
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
In desperation, my husband and I flew to a cancer treatment center in Chicago for a second opinion. Insurance pays for second opinions. It’s wise to get one. After a few more tests, the doctors confirmed the aggressive cancer diagnosis, but felt the tornadoappearing debris was inflammation from a biopsy gone wrong. It was clear that every weapon would need to be brought out to save my life. Doctors ordered extensive genetic testing since I had none of the American Cancer Society’s risk factors for my cancer. Results showed no genetic factors. How did I get a cancer I had no risk factors or genetics for? Before my first surgery, I made an appointment to see the chaplain at the treatment center. As I sobbed uncontrollably, Chaplain Eric Sewell gently held my hand. I had questions. I started with my real concerns. “Would all these treatments leave me disabled and negatively affect my quality of life?” I explained that the last 15 years of my life were centered on helping care for my parents and in-laws until their deaths, while managing a full-time job. Watching them decline into disability was devastating to me. “I understand your fears of being disabled,” he responded. “Chemotherapy is a doable thing. Your medical records show you are healthy with no complicating factors.” “If I’m so healthy, why did I get cancer?” I asked. “Sometimes the why is hard to know, but I do know this — patients who have healthy lifestyles, positive attitudes, and rely on their faith do much better than those who don’t. If you have underlying conditions, your body will have more problems with the chemo.” “That’s encouraging. So my good health habits that did not prevent my cancer will help me survive chemo?” “Exactly,” he replied.
Above from left: What a blessing for Ginny to be able to be a
part of her son’s wedding. Alton, Kailen (bride), Jonathan, and Ginny Brant. • Ginny dances with her son at his wedding, which was held three months after her chemotherapy ended. That led me to my final question, “How could a health nut like me end up with an aggressive cancer like this?” “Ginny, consider it a gift from God. Sometimes God allows things in your life for you to help others. As an author and speaker, your experience in this journey can be a guiding light to others.” “But it’s the gift I never wanted.” I blurted. “No thanks. I don’t want to write or speak about cancer.” “Yes, I can see it now — your next book with this inscription — the book I never wanted to write,” he chuckled. After leaving his office, I examined my lifestyle habits. Was I really a health nut? I knew I needed the daily power of prayer to dispel the dense fog of fear and stress surrounding me. I’d been through difficult times before, but this was a trial by fire. And stress was ruling my days. Stress and emotions. We all have them, but how we manage these aspects of our lives can determine our health and wellbeing. Cancer is a roller-coaster ride, and fear is a normal part of the journey. But we can’t let fear or any negative emotion constantly rule our lives. Why? Unresolved conflict, anger, unforgiveness, grief, abandonment, and fear all have a negative impact on our health. Anything that continually activates our stress response elevates our cortisol. This hormone elevates estrogen and blood sugar levels and can wreak havoc on the immune system. I immediately realized I had to dive deeper into my faith and use it to manage my stress and roller-coaster emotions. The Bible is clear; He is with us in the trials of our lives. And according to God’s Word, the worst thing that can happen in this TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
journey is that I might die and graduate to heaven! The eternal perspective takes the sting out of fear. God knew stress would wreak havoc on our bodies, but in His wisdom, He has given us remedies — things we can do to help our bodies restore during troubling times. In the book of Philippians, Paul instructs us from prison how to deal with difficult times that cause stress to rear its ugly head. He first points us to prayer and gratitude in Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV): “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We are to pray about everything and be thankful in all things. Even during 2020? Even in a cancer journey? Paul continued his disciplines of prayer and gratitude while imprisoned. Then he challenges us in Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) to refocus our mind and attention: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.” While writing Philippians, Paul is confined to a prison cell, yet his mind is not focused on the negative circumstances around him. He instructs us to meditate on the things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and those things that are worthy of praise. I call these “the good things.” Paul admonishes us to refocus on “the good things” not the adverse circumstances around us. Paul’s advice is well taken. Drowning in the negative circumstances of our lives provides no benefit. It provided no benefit for me as a cancer patient. Meditating on the truth of God’s Word, laying my concerns at His feet in prayer, praising Him for the blessings in my life, and refocusing on “the good things” are all productive actions that gave me hope. And hope promotes healing. In addition, Romans 8:28 tells us that God will use all things for my good and for His eternal purposes. Ginny was able to ski, hike mountains, and complete the Cooper River Bridge Run (walking) during her treatments.
Above: After three years of research and writing, Ginny finished the book she never wanted to write about her cancer journey and what she learned. Paul’s imprisonment meant sharing the gospel in ways he could not anticipate. That prison cell also gave him opportunities to witness, time away from the world to refocus, and solitude to write God’s Word. My cancer journey gave me time to refocus my life and eventually use my journey as a gift to help others. Trials don’t last forever, but they do make us stronger. Research shows that people who practice a lifestyle of prayer, gratitude, and refocusing their thoughts on the “good things” daily are healthier and heal better. These practices promote peace in the middle of the storms of life. They also calm the emotional brain, which prevents the release of those stress-related hormones. So what did I do in the middle of a deadly and aggressive cancer journey? I prayed more, I meditated on the truth in His Word, I sang His praises, I thanked Him for all the blessings, and I refocused on “the good things” along the way. I even laughed a lot! What’s good for the cancer patient is good for everyone. Even in the middle of unrest and a pandemic, a life bathed in prayer, gratitude, and focusing on “the good things” can experience peace in the middle of the storms. Attitude and faith matter in the cancer journey. When I allowed my faith to manage my emotions, the resulting healing helped my doctors beat my cancer. Six weeks after chemotherapy ended, my red and white blood cells returned to normal ranges, prompting my doctor to call me a “rock star” cancer patient. This usually takes several years. And that chaplain’s words were prophetic. I did write the book I never wanted to write, and these words are inscribed on the first pages: “This is the book I never wanted to write.” God truly uses all things for His glory and our good. Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker, writer, educator, and wellness advocate who grew up in Washington, D.C. Her Golden Scrolls Award Winning book, Unleash Your God-Given Healing: Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer, was written with commentary from an oncologist. More information and cancer prevention blog at ginnybrant.com.
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
QUIPS & QUOTES
The Christian life is not slightly Abiding fully better, but completely different. —Clarence Sexton means praying Most people want to serve God, but only in an advisory capacity. —Adrian Rogers
much. —Andrew Murray
cant fi i n g i s is in o h w e o on n s i d. e gg o r e G B f r T he o i a e t Alis urpos — p e h t in
The supreme test of service is this: For whom am I doing this? Much that we call service to Christ is not such at all.... If we are doing this for Christ, we shall not care for human reward or even recognition. —A.T. Pierson The bottom line in the Christian life is obedience and most people don’t even like the word. —Charles Stanley
The permanence of God’s character guarantees the fulfillment of his promises. —A.W. Pink
It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. —Timothy Keller
How the Clear Gospel Reached My Shame-Filled, Rage-Fueled Mom By Greg Stier
or years I wondered why my mom — or Ma, as I called her — was filled with so much guilt, shame, and rage. By the time I was 12, I had already seen a lot of bloodshed, much of it a result of her violent tendencies. Her anger was usually aimed at the men who had used her and abused her — and then tried to flee the scene of the crime. She was constantly fighting back her tears or fighting back with her fists. Once I witnessed her use a baseball bat to demolish the car of one of her future ex-husbands. He made the mistake of getting out of his brand-new ride to try to stop her. Bad idea. In a split-second, she stopped beating the car and started beating him. Ma had five street-fighting brothers, who ranged from bodybuilders to martial artists to take-you-apartists. And, to add insult to the prospect of serious bodily injury, she fought with an unparalleled fury, using whatever potential weaponry was within her reach (sharp utensils, lamps, and, of course, baseball bats). 28
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My whole family seemed like a lost cause. But miraculously, by the time I was in middle school, most of my violent uncles had become Christians. It happened through a series of God-ordained, teetering-on-unbelievable interventions — starting with a Southern-drawled preacher nicknamed Yankee, who on a dare shared the gospel with my toughest uncle, Jack. Jack literally responded with a “Hell, yeah,” and that unconventional sinner’s prayer sent shock waves through our family. One by one, most of my family members followed Jack in coming to Christ, with the glaring exceptions of one of my out-ofstate uncles — and my shame-filled mom. After Yankee taught me how to share my faith, I focused on reaching Ma with the gospel. But every single time I started sharing the message with her, she’d shut down the conversation by saying things like “God could never forgive me for the sins I’ve committed” or “You don’t know the things I’ve done wrong.”
Greg preaching at a Dare 2 Share Ministries event. He founded the ministry to train youth leaders and students to share the gospel.
But I did know them. My grandma had secretly told me everything. She told me how when Ma found out she was pregnant by a guy she had met at a party, she packed her suitcases and drove across the country to Boston. Her plan was to have an illegal abortion. This was long before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal. Thankfully, my uncle Tommy and aunt Carol talked her out of it. Ma eventually came back to Denver, eight months pregnant, with a suitcase full of maternity clothes and a heart full of shame. She had that baby. I was that baby. When my grandma confided all this to me, things started to make more sense. I now understood why Ma would often break out in tears when she looked at me. I was a flesh-and-blood reminder of her own personal transgressions and the fact that she almost took my life.
It also helped me understand why Ma was so angry toward men. She had been relentlessly burned by men over the years, and my biological father was no different. When he found out that Ma, who to him was just some girl he’d met at a party, was pregnant, he moved across the country to get away from her. Although I was a quiet, bookish kid who didn’t fit into my muscular, violent family, I did inherit one quality from them: I was relentless. I started sharing the gospel with Ma, and I never gave up. I consistently shared the Good News of Jesus with her from the time I was 12 until the time I was 15. Most people need to be convinced they’re sinners, so they see the need for a Savior. Not Ma. She knew she was a sinner. But she thought she was too sinful for Jesus to forgive. I just kept taking her back to the Cross of Christ. I kept telling her how Jesus had paid the price for everyone’s sins on the Cross. Countless times I reminded her that the whole reason Jesus came to earth was to die for our sins. “What about the really bad sins?” she would ask me. “All of our sins are ‘really bad’ to God,” I would explain. “And He died for them all when He died on the Cross.” After three years of gospel conversations with Ma, I’d had enough. Her constant smoking (two packs a day of Benson & Hedges Gold 100s) made me worry she would die anytime of cancer. So, one day, I hatched a plan for when she got home from work. That day, I met her in the kitchen, sat her down at the table, and told her bluntly that I didn’t want her to go to hell or live through hell anymore. I wanted her to believe the gospel message. She said, “Okay, tell me again.” I laid it out as clearly as I could. I told her that God loved her, that her sins had separated her from God, that being good could never get rid of her sin. Then, once again, I explained that, to pay the price for her sin (and everyone’s) God sent His own Son into the world to live the perfect life we could never live and die the horrible death we deserve. Through the smoke from her cigarette, I looked in her big, blue eyes and said, “Ma, all you have to do is believe that Jesus died for your sins and that He rose from the dead. Simply put your faith in Jesus right now, and you are forgiven for all your sins — past, present, future.” Before she could protest with her same old reasoning, I said, “Yes, even your bad sins, Ma. They are all nailed to the Cross.” After a few moments, in between puffs on her cigarette, she looked at me and said, “Okay, I’m in.” And when Ma said she was in, she was in. It had taken years of effort, but it was worth it. I don’t exactly know what made it click for her. Maybe, for the first time in her life, she understood that she wasn’t beyond God’s reach. Maybe she realized that, although I was a living reminder of her sinful decision, God was speaking mercy and grace through my lips straight to her soul. Maybe, she was just tired of fighting. She had been fighting men all her life and decided to stop fighting Jesus, the only one who truly and fully loved her. Whatever the reason, I am indescribably grateful to God that Ma put her faith in Jesus and received His forgiveness. God TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
Above: The Stiers family (l. to r.): Jeremy, Debbrought hope into her life that day at the Ma and her brothers became bie, Greg, and Kailey. kitchen table so many years ago. witnesses of God’s grace to Jesus powerfully invaded her life and the This is the gospel. It’s the message that everyone they knew. lives of my entire family. Ma and her brothsaved Ma. It’s the message that saved me. It’s An unparalleled gospel ers became witnesses of God’s grace to evboldness replaced the violent the message that can save anyone. eryone they knew. An unparalleled gospel After Ma professed faith in Jesus at that streak that had seemed boldness replaced the violent streak that kitchen table, I asked her the question: infused in each of their souls. had seemed infused in each of their souls. “So, Ma, where are you going to go when Hundreds, if not thousands, Hundreds, if not thousands, heard the gosyou die?” heard the gospel from their pel from their lips and watched the gospel She looked at me and with a half-smile lips and watched the gospel break the power of sin that had dominated said, “I’m going to heaven, cigarettes and all.” break the power of sin that had their lives, replacing it with a passion to see “Yes, Ma,” I shot back. “But heaven’s nondominated their lives, replacing others know Jesus as well. smoking.” it with a passion to see others Perhaps you have a friend or family memWe both laughed. know Jesus as well. ber who doesn’t yet know Jesus. Whether the Seventeen years ago, Ma entered the roadblock to their salvation is shame (as it was with Ma) or getting presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, shame-free, sin-free, and burned by religion (as it is with so many) or something else, know smoke-free. this: our job is to pray for them, care for them, and keep sharing I can’t wait to see her again. the simple gospel message with them as clearly as we can. As Paul stated in Colossians 4:4, “Pray that I may present it Greg Stier is a champion for unleashing this generation with the clearly, as I should.” gospel. As the founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries, (dare2share. Over the past 30 years at Dare 2 Share, I’ve used an acrostic to org), he is driven to help the church activate Christian train millions of teenagers to clearly share the gospel message with teenagers to reach their friends. In the last 30 years, Greg their friends: has trained millions of youth leaders and students how to God created us to be with Him. relationally engage their world with the Good News of Jesus. Our sins separate us from God. A much-sought-after speaker, Greg is a former pastor, church Sins cannot be removed by good deeds. planter, and youth leader, as well as the author of numerous Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. books including his latest, Unlikely Fighter: The Story of Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. How a Fatherless Street Kid Overcame Violence, Chaos & Life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever. Confusion to Become a Radical Christ Follower. 30
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GOD’S BUSINESS By Debra Hane
t age 14, Reese Kauffman wanted his own company, but he also wanted to be a missionary. How could these two professions come together? As a pastor’s son, Reese heard exciting stories from visiting missionaries — they became his heroes. He also enjoyed listening to businessmen and women at church. They were responsible, independent, and their own bosses — Reese identified with them. Always optimistic, Reese worked hard and showed himself faithful even in little things. During high school, he began working for Best Lock Company cleaning restrooms Friday and Saturday nights from midnight to 8 a.m. His goal was to get those restrooms so clean someone would notice. On Sunday mornings he never missed church. Through summer months, Reese worked full time on the maintenance crew. When he saw the foreman watching, Reese was determined to outwork the other crewmen. He developed the habit of working as though someone was always watching. Mr. Frank Best, the then 70-year-old inventor and business owner, took notice of Reese and promoted him to his assistant. Reese learned about the design and production of metal prodTop: When Reese Kauffman began working with Child Evangelism ucts over two years. Then Mr. Best put Reese, at age 19, in charge Fellowship, he put his business and leadership experience into practice of building a new plant. Reese learned how to build a factory to improve the ministry’s financial position and increase unity. Here he — design, materials, equipment, collaborating, financing, purstands in front of CEF world headquarters in Warrenton, Missouri. chasing, hiring. Then at 21, Reese was named vice president of Best Products, a new division of Best Lock Company. After Mr. Above: Reese Kauffman at 14. Reese developed a strong work ethic Best died, Reese left the company and started Kauffman Prodat a young age, which God used to help him develop the skills he needed later to lead CEF in its important mission. ucts, Inc. at age 24. 32
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
As the business expanded, God prepared Reese for ministry. He began weekly men’s Bible studies on applying biblical principles to the business world. He also taught Sunday school at church. Reese often studied into the night to prepare. Three specific experiences dramatically influenced his life. One night while reading Psalm 139:17, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!,” Reese pondered the vastness of God’s thoughts toward him. He realized, “Should I not be seeking to intimately know the God who so intimately knows me?” He concluded, “It’s insane to try to do anything on our own if we really believe God oversees our lives, down to the last details.” This motivated Reese to seek God in every area of his life, especially business. It deepened his love for knowing God’s Word. One evening as Reese listened to evangelist Fred Brown preach on prayer, he took the challenge to use his drive time to work to talk with God. Noticing such a difference in his day, Reese used his drive home to pray for his time with family. This spurred his desire to grow deeper in his relationship with God by prioritizing prayer. One Sunday Reese became restless as he listened to a missionary from Latin America. He saw a man passionate about his ministry. Reese began to sense something important missing from his life. Desiring to dedicate his life to serving God wholeheartedly, he yearned for a ministry he could believe in. When Reese responded to the invitation and expressed his desire to serve God, he was encouraged to become involved with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). Reese didn’t see himself as a children’s missionary, but as he learned more, God affirmed his preparation for a place in this ministry. Just as Reese focused on high production to build a successful business, he realized child evangelism also yields high production in the Kingdom of God. Reese heard ministry reports and saw firsthand how local CEF missionaries led more to Christ than all the churches in the city. Reese was amazed to learn that children are the most fruitful mission field, with most Christians coming to Christ before age 15. This was a ministry he could believe in. Although he couldn’t directly minister to children, he could support the work and encourage the workers. It wasn’t long before he became the local CEF committee chair.
Above: At just 19, Reese was put in charge of building a company factory, with all that entails: design, materials, equipment, collaborating, financing, purchasing, hiring. At 21, he was promoted to vice president of the company, preparing him for his leadership position at CEF. Below Left: A Good News Club leader in Senegal presents the gospel to local children.
Although Reese significantly invested in ministry, leading his business still took precedence. God put Reese in situations at work where he’d have to turn to God and trust Him to work things out. What looked to Reese to be disasters, God turned into great blessings. Peace in the storms of life were found by trusting in God. The drive to bring glory and not shame to God motivated Reese to work harder and trust God more. Even when it appeared the business would fail, he acted with integrity. When a customer treated him poorly, he showed respect. Calmness prevailed when he was betrayed by an employee. Reese grew in his understanding of authority, enduring under trials, and allowing his life to be a witness. These valuable lessons on integrity and trust prepared Reese to lead the world’s largest evangelistic mission to children. During his first visit to CEF’s international headquarters in Warrenton, Missouri, Reese came as a prospective International Board of Trustees member. He quickly realized the ministry suffered from financial constraints and disunity. His business expertise gave him valuable insight to the problems. In 1981, Reese was appointed vice-chair, then chair two years later. His attentions began to shift from business to ministry. He wondered, How can I help CEF reach more children for Christ? Reese spent two weeks behind the Iron Curtain, wary of secret police and learning more about the theological and organizational issues stewing among CEF missionaries. These insights showed him the need to build unity throughout the global work. But the problems were far more serious than he realized. As a board member, Reese only knew a fraction of what was happening within the ministry. His eyes were opened in 1989 when he became president of Child Evangelism Fellowship as TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
Reese visiting a CEF Good News Club in Ghana.
a volunteer for one year. He arrived at the international headquarters having been warned problems were mounting and finances were lacking. The disintegrating facilities, discouraged staff, and lack of supplies didn’t keep Reese from seeing the great potential and vital need for the ministry to flourish. As a successful businessman, Reese’s lifestyle stood in stark contrast amid the faithful workers who sacrificed greatly for the sake of reaching boys and girls for Christ, so he declined a salary and paid his own airfare and other expenses. Reese reassured them of his commitment and worked diligently. His love for the ministry, the workers, and the facilities blossomed as he used the skills and contacts he gained from business to survive yet another day. Reese’s stint as president continued beyond one year to 32 as he implemented changes and developed a culture of prayer, trust in God, and commitment to excellence for the glory of God. Although waves of financial struggles continued to plague the ministry, God sustained and blessed it. Stories of God’s miraculous provisions at the most critical of hours scatter across the years. Reese traversed the globe hundreds of times and God used many people to partner with CEF to fulfill His Great Commission. The purpose of CEF grew deeper roots under Reese’s leadership, which provided vision, structure, and strategy. With the goal to reach “Every Child, Every Nation, Every Day,” God opened new doors for the ministry to expand and His gospel to reach even more children. To reach Every Child, the ministry needed more workers around the world. As Reese studied the Scriptures, he realized God’s solution was in Luke 10:2; we’re to ask God to send 34
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workers. This prayer focus quickly spread around the globe, and God has been answering. To reach Every Nation, national CEF missionaries needed training, equipping, and support. Specialized training is offered around the world and online. Through the Boxes of Books program, materials are put in the hands of workers who could never afford them. Missionaries from areas where it’s difficult to raise their own support are helped through the Sponsor-ANational fund. To the glory of God, the sun never sets on the ministry of CEF, as missionaries around the globe teach children. But Reese became burdened for the children to have an Every Day walk with God. So, an emphasis to teach children about personal quiet time grew, and 30-day devotionals for children were created and distributed. Under 2 million children were reached annually when Reese became president of CEF. In 2020, the year of the global pandemic, more than 16 million children were reached (over 25 million in face-to-face ministry pre-pandemic). Reese continues to keep busy with the business God has given him — leading CEF to reach the most fruitful mission field — children of the world. Debra Hane is an editor with Child Evangelism Fellowship. She helps produce Christian literature and biblical video resources for children and their quarterly IMPACT magazine. Her passion for reaching boys and girls with the gospel of Christ has kept her involved in children’s ministries for over 30 years. For more information about CEF and Reese Kauffman, read Every Child, Every Nation, Every Day by Robert J. Morgan and visit cefonline.com.
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RELATIONSHIPS RESOURCE GUIDE Our Western society is dominated by a secular worldview that focuses on individualism, materialism, and competitive personal achievement rather than relationships and community. The popular bumper sticker adage “He who dies with the most toys wins” underscores why our world is in such turmoil. God puts so much emphasis on relationships in His Word, as the most important thing in life is having healthy relationships with both God and people. That’s why the Ten Commandments are devoted to relationships. The first four cover our relationship with God, while the remaining six deal with our relationship with people. Those commandments are defined in more detail in the Mosaic law given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai and repeated in the book of Deuteronomy. They gave guidance on all kinds of relationships: spouses, children, parents, extended family, neighbors, government leaders, religious leaders, employers, employees, coworkers, etc. Contrary to what many people think, God didn’t give the laws to be a burden but to provide guidance for good relationships. They function like guardrails on a steep mountain road. They’re not intended to stifle freedom but to protect us from going over a cliff.
NIV Bride’s Bible
Many religious leaders of Jesus’ day misused the Mosaic law, wielding them like a weapon to control and condemn people. Jesus valued the law but demonstrated through His life how He intended the principles of the law to be implemented. And He pointed out that the law would not be abolished but rather fulfilled in Him. The principles of healthy relationships are eternal, but with our fallen sin nature, we can’t obey God’s laws as we should. When we put our trust in Jesus to wash our sins away, we find salvation and right standing with God (justification). “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24 KJV). At that point, the Holy Spirit comes to permanently indwell us and, when we surrender control to Him, He gives us the desire and ability to live out those principles. Since the Word of God is the primary source of relationship principles, it’s imperative that we treasure His Word and mine its riches. The church has gifted communicators to help teach and explain those principles through helpful materials like those featured in this resource guide, and it’s good to take advantage of their wisdom and insights. It can take a lifetime to become proficient in relationship skills, but it’s worth the investment of time and effort.
NIV Busy Mom’s Bible
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Throughout this Bible, you’ll find 52 one-minute “Thought Starters” that let you dip into God’s Word for a minute. Each is followed by a five-minute “Reflect and Pray” or a 10-minute “Study.” Devotional thoughts are written specifically for busy moms and cover topics from kids to marriage to your identity in Christ. FaithGateway.com/busymom TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
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Complement: The Surprising Beauty of Choosing Together over Separate in Marriage
By Bob Lepine [B&H Publishing]
By Aaron and Jamie Ivey [B&H Publishing]
Bob Lepine, marriage and family expert and host of the nationally syndicated radio program FamilyLife Today, helps husbands and wives discover that it’s not primarily emotions that define marital love, but actions and decisions that fuel emotions and cause marital love to grow, based on 1 Corinthians 13. lovelikeyoumeanitbook.com
Best-selling authors Aaron and Jamie Ivey write about God’s design for a healthy, flourishing marriage. This book set includes a book for the husband and a book for the wife, designed for them to read individually and together. aaronandjamieivey.com
Christ-Centered Conflict Resolution: A Guide for Turbulent Times
Love Like You Mean It: The Heart of a Marriage that Honors God
Cultivating a Good Family Heritage
By Tony Merida [B&H Publishing]
By Armand and Kathy Tiffe [Focus Publishing]
In this short, biblical, practical book, pastor and author Tony Merida helps resolve the relational conflicts that inevitably crop up in our daily lives, showing how to stop wishing for peace and go make it in the power and pattern of Christ, our ultimate peacemaker. bit.ly/CCCR-BH
What kind of family heritage are you passing down to your children? God desires that we leave a rich legacy consisting of close family ties, cherished memories, and biblical values. This book offers concrete, practical ways to cultivate a good, solid family heritage your children will carry into adulthood.bit.ly/Focus-CAGFH
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Special Advertising Section
Marriage Rocks for Christian Couples
Before We Say I Do: 7 Steps to a Healthy Marriage
By Harold L. Arnold Jr. , PhD [Judson Press]
By Marvin A. McMickle [Judson Press]
A 12-step model for couples at all levels of relational intimacy, leading them on a journey to discover how marriage develops the human capacity to experience the fullness of God’s love and becomes a ministry through which to share God’s love with others. www.judsonpress.com
Based on the premise that a healthy marriage is the result of what happens before a couple says, “I do,” this sevenstep resource for premarital counseling can be used by couples with or without the involvement of a clergy member or counselor. www.judsonpress.com
Jesus Stories: Traveling Towards Testimony
Josh McDowell Ministry
By H. Stephen Shoemaker [Judson Press]
Get to know the “real” Jesus at work in your life and faith. Brings together the critical research of “historical Jesus” scholars, the four Gospels, and the Spirit of Jesus alive and present with us to usher you on a journey that moves from history into testimony. www.judsonpress.com
Begin the new year with a committed heart for God! Josh McDowell’s Daily Devotions for Families and Youth will help your family discover how to do the right thing during the ups and downs of daily life. Be challenged and inspired to live for God like never before! Josh.org/Devotion
LAUGH LINES A tour guide was showing a tourist around Washington, D.C. The guide pointed out the place where George Washington supposedly threw a dollar across the Potomac River. “That’s impossible,” said the tourist. “No one could throw a coin that far!” “You have to remember,” answered the guide. “A dollar went a lot farther in those days.” —From Mikey’s Funnies (www.mikeysfunnies.com) Driving to work, a gentleman had to swerve to avoid a box that fell out of a truck in front of him. Seconds later, a policeman pulled him over for reckless driving. Fortunately, another officer had seen the carton in the road. The policemen stopped traffic and recovered the box. It was found to contain large upholstery tacks. “I’m sorry sir,” the first trooper told the driver, “but I am still going to have to write you a ticket.” Amazed, the driver asked for what. The trooper replied, “Tacks evasion.” —From Mikey’s Funnies (www.mikeysfunnies.com) If you have a joke or funny story you’d like to share, email editor@ todayschristianliving.org. If we print your joke, we’ll pay you $25.
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Divine Disruption: Holding on to Faith When Life Breaks Your Heart
Spouse in the House: Rearranging Our Attitudes to Make Room for Each Other
Divine Disruption explores the many hardships we experience in life and how God breaks through with the power of hope. In this insightful book, Dr. Tony Evans and his four children discuss their faith-shaking experiences: from the deep grief of losing six loved ones in less than two years’ time, with the most devastating blow being the death of Lois Evans, the matriarch of the family, to a deep dive into dealing with the various hard, unexpected things we all face. Life throws many curves — whether the loss of a job or health due to the ongoing worldwide pandemic, or marriage and relationship issues, problems with children, even the recent racial and political unrest. The authors step into a unique Kingdom Legacy partnership, opening themselves to the honest questions, raw emotions, and solutions they learned to cling to amid their struggles. Through their bond and individual strengths, they demonstrate how even the most devastating tragedies can bring glory to God as He continues to meet their needs and build their faith.
Two’s company, especially for those who love each other. So what happens when — due to retirement, working from home, or even running a business together — spouses find that being in the same space all the time is awkward, complex, annoying, and just plain challenging? How can partners co-exist without coexhausting each other? Cynthia Ruchti and Becky Melby know all too well how adjusting to a new, all-the-time closeness can cause the bliss of marriage to form blisters. Drawing from their experiences, and from men and women across the country in the same situation, the authors dive into the root causes of the discomfort. They dig into God’s Word and offer practical tips for learning the spiritual, emotional, relational, and even physical steps that can help readers replace irritation with peace. For any Christian who wants their home to be a refuge of peace and know they aren’t alone in the mental and physical claustrophobia of too much togetherness, Spouse in the House is a vulnerable, funny, and pragmatic breath of hope.
By Dr. Tony Evans, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Priscilla Shirer, Anthony Evans, and Jonathan Evans [Thomas Nelson]
Bury Your Ordinary: Practical Habits of a Heart Fully Alive By Justin Kendrick [David C Cook]
Many Christians wonder why they’re stuck spiritually even when they read their Bible, pray, and go to church. In Bury Your Ordinary, Pastor Justin Kendrick offers a clear map for overcoming this roadblock. He reveals seven crucial habits that lead to spiritual depth; what God looks for in a disciple maker; how to share your faith; and how to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and live out the truth that God is deeply satisfied with who you are. Bury Your Ordinary is a field manual to discovering an entirely different way of life as a transformed person. Through intentional changes to your habits, you’ll discover a deeper love for God and a heart fully alive. Chapters include: • The Ache to Be Great • How Christians Grow • The Habit of Relationship • The Habit of Radiance • The Habit of Receptivity • The Habit of Righteousness • The Habit of Resources • The Habit of Rhythm • The Habit of Replication 40
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By Cynthia Ruchti and Becky Melby [Kregel]
When God Feels Far Away: 8 Ways to Navigate Divine Distance By Jamie Rasmussen [Baker Books]
Have you ever felt far away from God? Though many Christians are convinced they can’t admit that, if you’re feeling distant from God, you’re not alone. In fact, honesty about divine distance is an important first step back to the presence of God. The truth is, we all go through seasons when prayers seem futile, worship feels empty, or we feel lonely, wondering if God cares or even knows what we’re facing. When those seasons come and our familiar spiritual routines are no longer working, how can we recover the closeness with God that we crave? With transparency and a pastoral heart, Jamie Rasmussen reveals eight ways to navigate divine distance and experience the nearness of God again. After unpacking why God sometimes feels so far away, he mines the riches of the book of Esther for principles that are available to us today. The result is an intimate and practical guide to navigating seasons of divine distance so we can once again feel closer to God. Chapters include: • Trusting in God’s Providence • Choosing Humility Over Pride • Creating God Room in Your Life
Bread of Life: Savoring the All-Satisfying Goodness of Jesus through the Art of Bread Making
The Right Kind of Confident: The Remarkable Grit of a God-Fearing Woman By Mary A. Kassian [Thomas Nelson]
Millions of people have rediscovered the joy of homemade breadmaking. A quick search on Pinterest or Instagram brings up step-by-step instructions and captivating photos for everything from sourdough to naan. Bread satisfies our bodies, but our spirits cry out for even greater sustenance. In Bread of Life, Abigail Dodds — an avid baker and mother of five — invites readers to ponder and celebrate God’s spiritual and physical provision in Christ through the hands-on art of bread making. Offering readers easy-to-follow directions for everything from focaccia to chocolate babka, along with fullcolor photographs throughout, this unique book is an enriching blend of devotional meditations and recipes that invites readers to ponder the true bread of life as they bake for their families and friends. Chapters include: • Baking in Discipleship • Kneaded and Shaped by Every Word
What if we stopped placing our confidence in the things of this world and instead put our trust in the only one who is truly trustworthy? Be honest: Who among us isn’t plagued with fears, insecurities, and self-doubt? Popular wisdom says the solution is to simply believe more strongly in ourselves. But author Mary A. Kassian explains that the way to combat fear is with more fear — but fear of a different kind. In this follow-up to her book The Right Kind of Strong, Kassian again draws on her vast biblical knowledge to show us a better way to navigate life. She compares the Bible’s definition of confidence with the world’s well-worn self-help formulas and sets us on the right path. As you apply each chapter’s material, you’ll discover the true meaning of confidence, the difference between negative and positive fear, and how to disarm the Enemy’s tool of fear. If you’re seeking more confidence, you’ll discover that when you lean into the true source, which is unchanging, firm, and trustworthy, you’ll become more like the bold, courageous woman God created you to be.
The Power of Place: Choosing Stability in a Rootless Age
Stop Chasing Happy: And Start Pursuing Your Purpose
Acclaimed teaching pastor Daniel Grothe speaks to the loneliness that many feel in today’s age of hypermobility and noncommittal wandering, reminding us of the ancient vow of stability and teaching us how we can lead a richer life of friendship, community, and purpose. Unlike previous generations that had to stay put, many people today have unprecedented access to a lifestyle of mobility. We can explore and bounce from place to place, never settling down or making anywhere home. And while it feels freeing to be able to try something new whenever we want — whether it’s a new job, a new city, a new group of friends, or even a new church — somewhere along the way, we discover we’re missing something. We may be paying our bills and have a roof over our heads, but we’re lonely and unfulfilled, disconnected, and unsatisfied. What’s that all about? What is the missing piece? The Power of Place delves into the human ache for home and makes a countercultural case for staying put. He calls us to reject the myth of Christian individuality and instead embrace the richness of commitment and community, arguing that we must stay in one place as long as we can, plant our lives, and let roots take hold. Because only then can we experience the deep fulfillment, friendship, and fruitfulness God created us for.
The world wants you to believe a person, product, or lifestyle can bring you fulfillment. Even as a Christian, it’s easy to fall for these empty promises and find yourself frustrated when they bring you to a dead end. So how can you experience soul-deep peace that endures beyond the sugar rush of earthly distractions? In Stop Chasing Happy, author Phil Waldrep will help you find the meaning God wants for your life. As you examine the principles of Christlike joy, you’ll understand the incredible mission you share with every believer and the unique purpose God gave only to you. Meanwhile, you’ll learn habits you can use daily to brighten your outlook and uplift your spirit. For anyone feeling beat up and burned out, Stop Chasing Happy is a guidebook to living the life of intention and hope God created you to have. Get ready to get past the cultural obsession with fleeting happiness and start seeking the satisfaction that lasts forever. Chapters include: • Purpose Offers Perspective • Purpose Overcomes Pain • Purpose Produces Security • Purpose Clarifies Your Past
By Abigail Dodds [Crossway]
By Daniel Grothe [Thomas Nelson]
By Phil Waldrep [Harvest House]
TODAY’S CHRISTIAN LIVING
By Jerry Dykstra and Open Doors contributors By Jeff M. Sellers
Afghan Christians Face Increased Suffering and Executions Jeff M. Sellers is founder and editor of Morning Star News morningstarnews.org, the only independent news service exclusively covering persecution of Christians. Previously he was an associate editor at Christianity Today magazine, where he wrote a regular column on persecuted Christians for five years. He worked seven years as an editor at Open Doors International and three years as a writer at World Vision. With a journalism degree from Arizona State University and a Master’s in Marketplace Theology from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, he has also reported on persecution, economy, politics, and cultural issues for USA Today, The Globe and Mail, and other media as a journalist in Mexico City, Mexico, and Madrid, Spain.
When your country is second only to North Korea as a hostile place for Christians, there aren’t many things that can happen to make conditions worse. The return of the Taliban to power in midAugust after a 20-year hiatus was one of them. Christians in Afghanistan are terrified at how the Taliban has been seeking them out for elimination. With Taliban thugs going door-to-door looking for Christians and sending threatening notes to underground church leaders, Christians are burning their literature of faith and wiping phones and other devices of evidence of their belief. The sad reality, however, is that the lives of Christians are not that much worse than under the previous regime. In December 2020, a 23-year-old secret Christian in Afghanistan was reading the Bible at her home when neighbors intruded in saying, “We will kill you…You are a Kafir [infidel], we cannot stay with you in the same locality,” she told Morning Star News. A few days later, she said, the family found a message on their house gate — “Stop or we will kill you and your family” — and she received other warnings in text messages, including threats of rape. In June, she said, her 7-year-old sister said friends wouldn’t walk with her to and from school anymore because their parents had told them her older sister was not Muslim and that they would kill her. At that point her mother, a widowed secret Christian, decided the family had to leave the country. Her 23-year-old daughter made it out a few days before the Taliban took power, but the other Christian family members were scheduled to leave on a day when all flights were suspended. They went into hiding until airports reopened, catching a flight to another country in October.
Prayer Points: • For the safety of the indigenous Christian communities that have sprouted underground in Afghanistan in the last 20 years. • That the Lord will provide wise ways for the Christian community to expand God’s kingdom even while under Taliban rule. • That God will do away with oppressive Islamist rule in Afghanistan.
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As fearful as Christians in Afghanistan are of the Taliban, they are not strangers to life under sharia (Islamic law). The U.S. State Department’s 2020 report on International Religious Freedom (IRF) regarding the now-ousted regime looks a lot like the present under the Taliban: “Christians and Ahmadi Muslims reported they continued to worship only privately, at home or in nondescript places of worship, to avoid discrimination and persecution…Baha’is and Christians lived in constant fear of exposure and were reluctant to reveal their religious identities to anyone.” Christian converts under the previous government most feared violence by Muslim relatives that authorities would condone. The web of collusion between officials and those hostile to neighbors and relatives who left Islam was thick under the previous government, and everyone knew the sharia grounds for legal punishment, which in turn granted tacit approval of vigilante violence: “Conversion from Islam to another religion is considered apostasy, punishable by death, imprisonment, or confiscation of property, according to the Sunni Islam Hanafi school of jurisprudence,” the IRF report said. “The constitution states the Hanafi school of jurisprudence shall apply ‘if there is no provision in the constitution or other laws about a case.’” While apostasy was not specifically addressed under the prior regime’s penal code, it fell under the seven offenses making up hudood crimes as defined by sharia — punishable under Hanafi jurisprudence by beheading for male apostates and life imprisonment for females. The State Department notes there were no reports of government prosecutions for blasphemy or apostasy in 2020, but that people converting from Islam said they continued to risk annulment of marriages, rejection by families and communities, loss of employment, and possible death. The report said public sentiment, as expressed in social media and elsewhere, remained hostile towards converts and to evangelism: “Individuals who converted or were studying Christianity reported receiving threats, including death threats, from family members.” Andrew Boyd, of the United Kingdom-based relief and advocacy group Release International, told a local news outlet that the Taliban coming to
power made Afghanistan “even more firebrand” as Christians feared for their lives, but that their reality under the former government was similar. “Christians lived in hiding before the Taliban came to power,” Boyd said. “We are talking about an invisible group of people who are hidden because they have to be. To become a Christian in Afghanistan is an act of apostasy punishable by death, imprisonment, or deportation.” Among the predominantly Shia Hazara community — as Shiites, already previously targeted by the Sunni Muslim Taliban — a number have put their faith in Christ, Boyd noted. Now in power, the Taliban have continued targeting the Hazara, checking their phones to detect who has downloaded Bibles or other content indicating they had become Christian, he said. “We have a report that at least one Hazara has been killed as a result of this,” Boyd said. Voice of the Martyrs and other aid agencies know well the dangers that Christians faced under the previous government. Before the Taliban seized power, VoM reported, “A small number of Christians are martyred every year in Afghanistan, but their deaths generally occur without public knowledge.” A few Christians are imprisoned, the organization added, but “Christian converts from Islam are often killed by family members or other radicalized Muslims before any legal proceedings can begin.” There was good reason Afghanistan ranked No. 2 on Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, even before the Taliban took over. What makes the current dangers more urgent is that there are more Christians in Afghanistan now than during the previous Taliban reign of 1996–2001. The past 20 years of non-Taliban rule have allowed greater international presence in the country, such as Christian aid organizations, which has increased Afghans’ exposure to Christianity. Along with digital access to the gospel, the international presence is one reason it is believed there are as many as 10,000 Christians in Afghanistan now, though most estimates are lower. The international presence has all but evaporated under the new Taliban rule, but the last 20 years have left an indigenous church of roots and trunk. They struggle to survive, much less thrive, in a new degree of darkness. An Afghan woman wearing a burqa. (Photo Courtesy Open Doors USA)
LIFE IN PRIOR TALIBANCONTROLLED AREAS Even before they took control of Afghanistan in mid-August,
Taliban militants were applying harsh punishments in areas of the country under their control. After the Taliban were driven from power in 2001, by 2016 they were estimated to control 20% of Afghanistan in the southernmost province, with other areas contested. Imposing a parallel system of justice, the Taliban had wrongdoers flogged, chopped off their hands, or stoned them to death. Determined to carry out the harsh punishments of sharia (Islamic law), the Taliban shot and killed a pregnant woman accused of adultery in Baghlan Province in February 2020 (the man escaped), and later that year, the militants killed a singer in Takhar Province, presumably for performing at the wedding he had just been to, according to the U.S. State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom report. While punishments meted out to Christians in such areas, if any, would have gone largely unreported in recent years, in July 2007 the Taliban’s capture of 23 South Korean missionaries in Ghazni Province was widely publicized. The 16 women and seven men were traveling from Kandahar to Kabul by bus on a trip sponsored by the Saemmul Presbyterian Church. The 42-year-old pastor of Saemmul Church, Bae Hyeong-gyu, was executed, along with Shim Seong-min, a 29-year-old man. The remaining hostages were released after negotiations in August of that year. The Taliban’s treatment of other minority religions and Muslims supporting the government portend equally severe dangers for Christians. Since seizing all major cities in Afghanistan in August, Taliban militants have beaten women and children failing to comply with dress codes. Commanders have demanded unmarried women and girls be turned over to militants as “wives.” Like others they deem undesirables, Christians are also targeted as the Taliban seizes girls as sex slaves or to be forcibly married. “I listened as an Afghan pastor spoke through tears about his friend, a faithful believer, whose village was taken by the Taliban three days earlier,” Mark Morris, director of urban theological studies at Union University’s Memphis College of Urban and Theological Studies, wrote for The Gospel Coalition on Aug. 16. “This dear brother’s 14-year-old daughter was ripped from his arms and forced into sexual servitude in what the Taliban would dub as ‘marriage’ and her ‘dutiful Islamic privilege and responsibility.’” Government officials certainly played a role in clan persecution; the report notes that one mullah in Herat detained and punished with beatings more than 100 persons for violations of Islamic law, with authorities doing nothing to restrain him. Under the previous government, Christians along with Shiites, Sikhs, and other religious minorities were also targeted by the Taliban or Islamic State affiliate ISIS-K, according to the state department. It reported both terrorist groups “continued to target and kill members of minority religious communities,” and that the Taliban “targeted and killed individuals because of their religious beliefs or their links to the government.” TODAYSCHRISTIANLIVING.ORG
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STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP MANAGEMENT AND CIRCULATION 1. Publication Title: Today’s Christian Living. 2. Publication Number: 000-700. 3. Filing Date: 10/01/2021. 4. Issue Frequency: Bimonthly. 5. Number of Issues Published Annually: 6. 6. Annual Subscription Price: $19.95. 7. Complete Mailing Address of Known Office of Publication: JP Media LLC, N7528 Aanstad Rd., P.O. Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945-5000. 8: Complete Mailing Address of Headquarters or General Business Office of Publication: JP Media LLC, N7528 Aanstad Rd., P.O. Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945-5000. 9: Full Names and Complete Mailing Address of Publisher, Editor, and Managing Editor: Diana Jones, Publisher, Same as Office of Publication; Dan Brownell, Editor, Same as Office of Publication. 10: Owner: JP Media LLC, N7528 Aanstad Rd., P.O. Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945-5000. Diana Jones, N7528 Aanstad Rd., P.O. Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945-5000. 11. Known Bondholders, Mortgagees and Other Security Holders: Waukesha State Bank, 151 E. St. Paul Ave., Waukesha, WI 53187; Diana Jones, N7528 Aanstad Rd., Iola, PO Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945. 12. N/A. 13. Today’s Christian Living. 14. Issue Date for Circulation Data Below: October/ November 2021. 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation:
Total # of Copies Paid &/or Required Circulation: Paid/Requested Outside-County Mail Subscriptions (3541) Paid/Requested In-County Mail Subscriptions (3541) Sales through Dealers & Carriers Other Classes Mailed Through USPS Total Paid/Requested Circ: Free Distribution by Mail: Outside County (as stated in form 3541) In-County (as stated in form 3541) Other Classes Mailed through USPS Free Distribution Outside the Mail Total Free Distribution Total Distribution Copies Not Distributed Total Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation 16. Electronic Copy Circulation: Paid Electronic Copies Total Paid Print+Paid Electronic Copies Total Print Distribution+Paid Electronic Copies Percent Paid (Both Print & Electronic Copies)
2021 Average Single issue12 Months Oct/Nov 2021 14899 17713 10398
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135 0 214 0 349 14797 102 14899
136 0 645 0 781 17607 106 17713
2021 Average Single issue12 Months Oct/Nov 2021 49 61 14497 16887 14846 17668 97.65%
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By Manndi DeBoef
Lessons From a Slinky Manndi Maphies DeBoef works full time at the UMKC School of Pharmacy at Missouri State University. Her greatest passion is being a boy mom to her two rambunctious, creative, endearing sons, William, age 10, and Waylan, age 8. Her sons never fail to provide daily entertainment, which inspires many of her writings.
Not long ago, my youngest son got his Slinky stuck in our dog’s crate. If you’re a boy mom, you know these things simply happen. All the time. No rhyme or reason. They just do. Waylan used his hard-earned peso bucks (a bartering system in his third-grade Spanish class) to purchase his very own old-school, all-metal, silver Slinky. I’ve scarcely seen this kid so happy, all from such a simple pleasure I knew in my own youth. He and his brother fought over this new shiny toy all the way home from school. I threatened to take it from them both if they couldn’t figure out a way to share. Secretly, I wanted to play with it myself, as Slinkies are just … fun. Early one morning, as I was preparing for work and the boys were getting ready for school (or supposed to be getting ready for school), Waylan was still hyped up over this new toy and the many possibilities of playing with it. He said to me, “Mom, it’s too bad we don’t have stairs, so I could let my Slinky walk down each step” (as if he invented this age-old childhood pastime). Smiling to myself as I thought of the timeless toys that never seem to grow old, I heard a distressing sound coming from the kitchen minutes later. Uh oh. Time to investigate… I walked into the kitchen to find Waylan, with his Slinky in hand, bent over the dog crate and his older brother mere feet away, daring him to stuff the Slinky through the bars on top of the dog crate. In a mad rush to get to work on time, I simply told the boys to stop messing around and specifically told Waylan, “That looks like a really bad idea; if it gets stuck, you may lose it.” Famous last words… The next thing I know, Waylan is in tears and his brother is furiously trying to free the mischievous Slinky from the dog crate in which it’s stuck tighter than a … Slinky stuck in a dog crate. (To be fair, it was my first experience witnessing this particular conundrum.) I walked over to the crime scene to investigate. Sure enough, there was no budging the Slinky from the dog crate. How on earth it was stuck that way was a mystery. Waylan was quickly becoming infuriated, and his older brother — offering assistance, since he dared
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him in the first place — was trying to calm him down in hopes that Big-Bad-I-Told-You-So-mom would not step in. Too late. I stepped in. Long story short, after a major meltdown, we had to abort the mission and wait for their dad, who picks them up for school every morning, to arrive and break the Slinky to free it from the dog crate. Seeing my sweet son — with his little boy head held low and tears streaming down his face — throw his precious, hard-earned new toy away, produced an arrow of hurt straight to my tender mommy heart. How many times have I taken a metaphorical toy (a relationship, job, hobby, friend, family member, child, passion, desire, etc.) that my Heavenly Father gave me as a blessing and I’ve mistreated or abused it, to the point it was irrevocably broken? I hesitate to count the number of times this has happened in my life, whether I was the culprit or the victim. We’re all guilty of not listening to God’s voice telling us to wait, be gentle, be patient, stop pushing, give it time…. Yet, like a child who simply can’t deny his curiosity, we go ahead and do things our way, which often leads to a disastrous, heartbreaking, and regretful end. The very first story in the Bible tells of the disobedience of God’s very first children. That tempting perfectly indulgent apple… The serpent daring them to take a bite. And what ensued was the absolute, total, and complete fall of mankind. All because of that disobedience. The Bible is chock full of stories of God’s children who chose to do things their own way, rather than obediently listen to their beloved Creator. As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” The answer is always … not good. As I bent down that morning and looked into the tear-filled eyes of my soon-to-be-9-year-old son, I couldn’t help but think how God must feel when I mess up and fall to my knees in frustration and heartbreaking regret. He wipes away my tears, and even though He has the right to say, “I told you so,” He doesn’t and loves me back from the edge of my disobedience to the foot of His Son’s cross, where my sins have been forgiven and my salvation has been assured.
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