Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 19, 1995

Photography by Ken Kniskern, K2Pro.com
Timothy’s hands were trembling, but resolved as he completed the last step to his plan. He calmly walked away from a delivery truck as its cab filled with smoke coming from the end of a burning fuse.
      The downtown traffic was gradually beginning to subside after the morning rush hour. Coffee mugs were finding their familiar places on corners of desks. Computers hummed in unison as the users typed in passwords and hit the “Enter” keys. Phones began to ring with morning wake-up calls for employees. Downstairs, muted giggles filtered into the hallways.
      Those familiar sounds came to a horrific stop when the force equivalent to three tons of dynamite exploded and became the second shot heard around the world.
      Oklahoma City would never be the same. America would never be the same. The lives of one hundred sixty-eight families, including those of parents who had just kissed the soft cheeks of their precious little ones, would never be the same. The only life that seemed untouched was that of Timothy McVeigh, at least for now.
      What was once a federal office building filled with FBI agents and other employees, local citizens, and a day care center was now a gaping hole in the Heartland. Electrical cables hung like spaghetti, and roofing materials waved like shredded curtains hung from melted and twisted iron. Shards of glass exploded and penetrated unsuspecting bystanders.
      Television screens around the world carried the indescribable wreckage and carnage brought to the Bible Belt by hatred of the most demonic proportion.
      Timothy may have calculated the required amount of explosive ingredients, the best time of the day to destroy the most lives, and the deadliest available parking place in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, but there was one calculation he missed completely: He could never have comprehended what would become the “Oklahoma Standard”.
      Volunteerism had its finest moments in the aftermath of the explosion. Lines formed across the state with people who waited hours to donate blood. Rescue workers from around the state, the nation, and the globe arrived daily for weeks. Specially trained dogs became heroes. Every conceivable need for the rescue and recovery teams was donated, mostly by Oklahomans.

* * * * *

      Twenty years later, in the shadow of The Survivor Tree, a gentle breeze barely skims the still water in the Reflecting Pool. As the sun sets, the soft lights beneath the glass chairs begin to glow. Each chair has been strategically placed and named to correspond with the deceased’s final place in and around the nine-story building. They provide a tangible area where one can rest, place flowers, and even kneel in a quest for comfort and understanding.
      Twin bronze gates stand majestically at each end of the memorial, one engraved with 9:01 AM, the other with 9:03 AM. An inscription on the outside of each gate reads:

 “We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived 
and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. 
                         May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”

      The peaceful setting that replaced the remains of terrorism speaks to moving on, but never forgetting. Visitors still leave gifts in a 200-foot remnant of chain link fence that will forever be available for special touches of kindness and remembrance.
      In a place as far away as Israel, a large painted mural of a firefighter tenderly looking into the quiet face of the child he is carrying covers the side of a concrete building, an image of an incredible moment in time.
      The web page that hosts the site of the Oklahoma City National Memorial now shines with smiling faces of over comers and their stories of restored and victorious lives. They choose to face each new day in the light of a different kind of joy.
      Oklahomans have shown extraordinary resilience through the rough-and-tumble days of the Land Rush, early statehood, the Dust Bowl coupled with the Great Depression, two world wars, and an oil boom that turned into a bust. April 19, 1995 was our biggest devastation. A plaque near the Survivor Tree reads:

                             “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated;
                                            our deeply rooted faith sustains us”

     Out of the rubble came strength and greatness. A state engulfed in mourning but enmeshed in faith as she watches in anticipation for the arrival of the Prince of Peace Who will, once and for all, end the touch of terror.

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying,
'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men,
and He will dwell among them, and
they shall be His people, and God
Himself will be among them, and
He will wipe away every tear from their eye;
and there will no longer be any death;
there will no longer be any mourning, or crying,
or pain; the first things have passed away.'
And He who sits on the throne said,
'Behold I am making all things new.'"
Revelation 21:3-5a,NASB

Photography by Ken Kniskern, K2Pro.com


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Supertaster

When I was a high school teacher, the room across the hall from mine was a science classroom. One day when I was in my room alone, a girl popped her head in the doorway. “Mrs. Ackerson?” she said. “Can I ask you a favor?”

“You can ask,” I said. “What’s up?”

“We’re doing a lesson in genetics, and we’re making a graph of how many people are tasters and how many are non-tasters. I need a few more people in my sample. Could you put this little piece of paper on your tongue and tell me if you taste it?”

I took the paper strip from her. “What does it taste like?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m not a taster. But if you are a taster, it’s just a little bit bitter, I guess. To me, it just tastes like paper.”

I shrugged. No big deal. I touched the paper to my tongue.

Have you ever had an aspirin start to dissolve on your tongue before you could wash it down with water? Let’s start with that taste. Try to remember the astringency of those dissolving granules—then multiply it by about 700. Then just for kicks, imagine that you grab something to wash down the aspirin—maybe a bottle of water—only to discover that you’ve grabbed vinegar instead, and you’ve taken a nice big gulp. So now you’ve got a mouthful of dissolving aspirin and vinegar—but don’t swallow. Just swish it around in there for a while. Maybe even gargle.

That’s not even close to an accurate description of how bitter that little piece of paper was.

I am sometimes prone to hyperbole; I’ve never met an illustration that can’t be made better by a slight bit of exaggeration. But I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that after just the tiniest touch of that paper to my tongue, I could literally taste the bitterness, even in my throat, for three days. Three days. And for as much as a week afterward, if I searched for it, I could find a spot of that bitterness somewhere in my mouth.

As it turns out, there’s another category of people: there are tasters and non-tasters, and then there are supertasters. That’s what I am: a supertaster.

Psalm 34:8 (NRSV) says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.”

It is my nature to be on the gloomy side, so that when something goes awry in my life, it’d be easy for me to hold on to that bitterness, to swish it aound in my mouth for a bit—to say that the Lord has been unloving, or unkind, or unfair. But that bitter taste is not from the Lord; it is in my own spirit. Even if time has faded the taste, when I search for it, I can find it again in the recesses of my soul.


I need to be a supertaster of the Lord’s goodness—to taste it so deeply and so thoroughly that the goodness lingers for days, and can easily be found whenever I search for it in times of distress.

ChurchArtPro

Friday, April 10, 2015

Nehemiah's Example

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame. Psalm 119:45-46

Sharing my faith with others - and even just my convictions - has always been difficult for me. I am praying about and working hard to fix it, but I am WAY too dependent on other people's opinions. It's incredible what I will do to avoid getting on people's "bad side," or even getting them a bit irritated.

So, when I spied the verses above, they got me thinking. Mostly, surprisingly, about Nehemiah. Remember him? He was the cupbearer to the king - and not just any king: Artaxerxes, king of Babylon. And if there was anything the Babylonians were known for, it was their many gods. They had a god for everything.
Detail of the Ishtar Gate

Now Nehemiah's job was an important one, and one given only to the most trustworthy of servants. So this cupbearer was clearly respected by the king.

Now, one might think that Nehemiah would have had to compromise--or at least hide--his beliefs to be on such good terms with a monarch who had conquered the Hebrews. But he didn't. When Nehemiah "spoke of [His] statues before kings," requesting assistance to rebuild the walls of Judah (Nehemiah 2:1-9), Artaxerxes was not surprised at the request. He knew Nehemiah's devotion, because his cupbearer had sought God's precepts.

Nehemiah had no care for his impression with the king - only with his devotion to his King.  Despite being in servitude to Artaxerxes, he walked in freedom--the freedom of God's love and adherence to His precepts--freedom from sin.

Shouldn't we all follow Nehemiah's example?


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Friday, April 3, 2015

Resurrecting the Cross

For a few weeks now, I've been missing the wooden cross necklace that hangs on the left-hand corner of my bathroom mirror. Even more so the other day when I wanted to wear it with the outfit I had on. I never really bothered to look for it even though I kept noticing it wasn't there. Then that empty corner became the new norm, and I pretty much forgot about it.

Today I decided it was time to get rid of my birthday flowers. The only blooms still looking halfway decent were the roses, and even they were awfully sorry. I slogged through the long put off task of disposing of the crumbling fauna and the water-logged florist's foam. and I was proud of myself for taking time to move aside some clutter and sweep away all of the dead leaves and debris that had fallen from the once beautiful basket

My eyes lit up when I uncovered my long-lost wooden cross necklace. I blew off some dust, shined it on my shirt and hung it around my neck so I couldn't lay it down and let it get buried again. As I looked down at the old beloved cross hanging over my chest, the Holy Spirit convicted me.

Much like that necklace, I have allowed the Cross of Christ get buried under a lot of debris that should have been removed and the detritus swept away long ago. (It's been 26 days since my birthday. Really? Really.)

So what has kept me from keeping my eyes on the Cross, and remembering to respect and revere the sacrifice and gift God gave us when He condemned His own Son, Jesus, to die in my place?

The Lord is still revealing junk and mess I have buried the Cross under, but there  are a few things that were made immediately evident... and they all have a common theme:  I've let "life" in this world, with it's worries, distractions, and fears overshadow the truth - my God is sufficient. He is the One who gives me life, breath, and freedom from the very things I allow to hold me back from experiencing the peace in my soul that comes from putting Jesus and His Cross first.


Lord, my God, forgive me for letting the trash of my life cover the glory, majesty, and wonder of the Cross of Your Son. Thank you for loving me and calling me Your child. I am unworthy and humbled by Your great Love and Your sacrifice- Jesus, my Savior and King. Help me remember that I live in His strength, that Your Holy Spirit lives through me because of Jesus. The least I can do is keep the way to the Cross clear. 


Catrina Bradley



Thursday, April 2, 2015

You Have a Fork in Your Purse

Our Courthouse has a security system similar to an airport. But I had no worries.  I carried no weapons or drugs, so no problem. My purse, however, seemed to have an issue. The scanner reversed the conveyer belt and looked at the contents of my purse a second time. What on earth do they see in there?

“You have a fork in your purse.”

Of course I didn’t. Who would carry a fork in their purse? So I denied it. Once again they sent my purse through the scanning machine.

“You have a fork in your purse.”

And so began the search of my purse. Sure enough, I had a fork in my purse. Then I remembered the day weeks before when I had leftovers in the refrigerator at work and only needed a fork to eat them. I placed a fork in my purse. I hadn’t worked past lunch that day, so took the leftovers home.

I’ve known people like me…who deny what is obvious to others. Perhaps it’s an anger problem. But if anger is all they knew growing up, they are unaware of how they appear to others. I’ve known parents who believed they were in control, but their children were running the show. When confronted, they would declare adamantly that they had no fork in their purse.

Do you have a fork in your purse?



“It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.” Matthew 7:3 (MSG)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

3 Ways to Reclaim Balance


Confession: I’m an all or nothing person. It’s easy for me to get so focused on one thing that I lose sight of the other things I’m responsible for. As a result, my life gets out of balance and things can go downhill quickly.

How do we live?

We’re all familiar with the first commandment,
 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3 
But are we careful to live it out on a daily basis? We may not bow down to gods of wood or stone, but anything we put ahead of the one true God becomes an idol in our lives: money, work, things, etc.

God first

The first thing I can do to reclaim balance in my life is to give God His rightful place: first place. I can’t afford to minimize Him, or forget who He is.
…that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior. Isaiah 43:10b-11

Family second 


Another thing I can do to regain balance is follow the order God established for the family. God designed the man to be the head of the household with the wife to be his helpmeet.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; Ephesians 5:22-23,25
Recently, my husband Steve brought a problem to my attention – I was spending the majority of my time pursuing my writing goals. He’s super supportive of my work, but when I began working late into the evenings, and missing quality family time – he mentioned it to me.

My initial reaction was to defend myself, but the Lord allowed me to see things from Steve’s perspective. The truth was that I had let my other responsibilities slip in order to have more time to write. As a result, my family felt neglected adding stress to our relationships. Definitely not what God intended.

Prioritize

Finally, I can revisit how I’m spending my time. Taking a look at the big picture helps me avoid the tendency to devote all of my time to one project. When I know in advance that I have an article to write, bills to pay, laundry to do, dinner to make, and a book to read, I can schedule the necessary amount of time for each task.

The Lord places value on being a good steward of what He’s given us, which includes time:

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Your turn

Does your life lack balance? What step will you take today to regain the balance that’s necessary?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for showing me the importance of a balanced life. Help me evaluate what I’m doing and be willing to change the things I need to. I’m so grateful for your grace and patience with me. Thank You for Your Word that shows me how to live. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Maria I. Morgan was born with an active imagination that shows up in her endearing stories for children. Originally an inspirational author and speaker for adults, Maria has widened her circle to include kids. She lives in the muggy South with her husband, two retrievers, and two Maine Coon kitties – the perfect mix to fuel her creativity for years to come!

(You can find her devotionals and download a free copy of her eBook, God Speaking, at www.mariaimorgan.com)



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Freedom of Speech?


            I had never heard of Charlie Hebdo, until this satirical French weekly set off a firestorm with yet another one of its irreverent attacks on the Muslim faith. This January, terrorists injured and murdered people in the Hebdo offices in a fierce reprisal for the magazine’s latest poke at this ancient faith.

            The world responded immediately with cries of “freedom of speech” and nations of all political stripes locked arms in strident protest against this heinous terrorist response to an offensive attempt at humor.

            But is this, at its core, really about freedom of speech?  Maybe this is a gruesome display of what happens when we ignore Jesus’ command to love (and forgive) our neighbors – and not just the good ‘ol boy next door, but that foreign guy wearing a turban or the woman covered in a burka.

 


 

 It really goes back to Jesus’ injunction to love your enemy, even if your enemy doesn’t love you. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.”  (Matthew 5:44-45 NKJV)

Perhaps we have gotten away from that in today’s world because the world has gotten away from the Word of God.


 

While we have a right to say what is on our minds, isn’t there an obligation to first consider how our speech will affect others?  Not everything that is thought needs to be said. Perhaps we should love before we speak.

“But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it, we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”  (James 3 8-10 NKJV)

            And perhaps there is a payment for this freedom of speech. I may not like what I hear; it may be offensive, hurtful, or just plain wrong. If a person uses freedom of speech to say something I don’t like to hear, it will cost me something to let it go. Am I willing to pay that price?  As someone once said, “I disagree with what you said, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it.”

            Do we really believe that?  Can we forgive hurtful, mocking remarks aimed at us or our beliefs in order to honor God and protect freedom of speech?

At the birth of our nation, the founding fathers listed our freedoms in the Constitution and called them “God given.”  If they come from God, shouldn’t they be used in a Godly manner? 


 

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20 NIV)

            Perhaps we all need to relearn how to speak with love and to forgive each other when that doesn’t happen.

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