Saturday, July 29, 2017

Family Ties

by Tim Howard

When I was born in 1951 the ‘Traditional Family” consisted of a married couple with one or more children living under the same roof and in the same household. The father was the provider who went to work while the mother stayed at home. Due to the major socio-cultural changes of the past several decades, however, a great diversity has emerged and now the traditional family accounts for less than 15% of American households.

In real life, in big cities and in smaller towns, a family unit consists of single moms, single dads, stepfamilies, boyfriends and girlfriends raising children, foster parents and grandparents giving guidance to their grandchildren etc. In real life, in 2017, families come in many different forms.

With the changing times and shifting foundations, it’s difficult for parents to know how to raise children. That’s why the Word of God is so helpful to those looking for priceless, ageless and changeless truth. His words about family development and instruction for children have not changed since their inception and still provide solid and sound directives.

In Proverbs 22:6, parents are instructed to train up their children in the way they should go.

Training involves three specific components:

The first area has to do with INSTRUCTION. Our children need to know the truth about God and their own personal identity.  Parents will help their little ones if they talk to them about God’s plan and purpose He has in-store for them. A parent will prepare a child if they honestly talk to them about life and death – The agony of defeat and the joy of success – the up’s and down’s of life and principles that will position them for success down the road. Talking to and with our kids will help them know they don’t stand alone.

The second significant area is EXAMPLE. Children develop in a healthy way when parents resist the philosophy that says: “Do as I say and not as I do”. Our children need role models who are willing to live out what they say; ones who show it first and then say second. We all make mistakes and fall short of perfection but living a hypocritical life with a dual standard will not produce the results we all desire for our children.

DISCIPLINE is the third component. Proper discipline will teach children the concept of boundaries and respect. When a child is guided and guarded by the parent, he or she feels a sense of security and safety, which in turn produces lasting results. Maybe you remember the term ‘Latchkey Kid.’ It referred to the children who were left alone to discipline and fend for themselves while both parents were out doing what they deemed necessary. It wasn’t a positive thing.

Throughout human history, the family has been the foundation of society. Strong family ties provide us with the love, security and safety we need for a fruitful life. Children grow into well-adjusted adults through instruction, example and discipline.

The days of the traditional family are long gone but it’s not too late to develop strong family ties. Whether you are a single mom, a single parent, a blended family or a grandparent raising your grandchildren – You can have strong family ties.

This proverb shows the way. It is not a promise, principle or precept but it has long lasting ramifications to those who practice it.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Life Worth Living

by Sylvia Gaston

Last week, I experienced 2 events – one was routine (my birthday) and the other was extra special (my daughter, Justus, had her first child!).

As I walked through these two events, it caused me to reflect on my life. You can pause right here and hum the song, “Circle of Life” in your head, if you’d like J These normal occurrences caused me to reflect…What are the things that make a life really worth living?

Some psychologists say that what a person really needs to thrive in life are:
·      to love and be loved
·      to have a purpose

So back to the birthday - at this stage of the game I’d rather they just pass right by unnoticed. However, I must admit that it was sweetly humbling to see the number of friends and family who took time to honor me with their gifts of words, time and things. There were the usual social media “Happy Birthday, Sylvia”. But, those who took more time to reflect upon their relationship with me or to express their feelings were really special and important.

I had two great dinners with my people and some completely awesome gifts!! As I looked around the table at the ones I love and the ones who love me, I realized again how blessed I am.

Then, 3 days later, Scarlette was born! Now that’s something to live for! To see your children having children gives you a sense of mortality and perspective. And, once again, I wondered about the purpose of my life and the ripple effect it has upon others.

I definitely love and am loved. I work at a purposeful job that I believe I am called to do. But I ask myself (and God), “Am I doing all that I was created to do?”

The Bible tells us that each of us was designed in God’s image, that He planned our lives before we were even born, and we were made for His pleasure and glory.

Revelation 4:11 says, “Our Lord and God! You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power. You made all things. Everything existed and was made because you wanted it.” (ERV)

You and I are special and were created with a purpose. Most of us will never make it into history books, be widely known, or have statues or monuments in remembrance of our lives. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that the life we are living is unimportant.

The lives you touch with your words and actions are extremely important. I don’t think we fully grasp the extent of how powerfully we can impact those around us – from strangers to acquaintances to those most dear to us.

A kind word, a favor, or wisdom and compassion given in love can change the very environment you operate within. You have the power to alter the course of a person’s day, or life.

Jesus taught us how to do this by how He loved people. He loved thieves, prostitutes, tax collectors, diseased people, poor people, children and His followers and friends. He loved people who were devoted to Him and those who were different from Him. He even loved difficult and dangerous people.

And His love is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago when He walked the earth. Because we are loved by Him, we are called to love like Him.

The New Testament of the Bible contains 59 "one another" verses that teach us how to love. Some of these include “forgive one another”, “serve one another”, “honor one another” and “bear one another’s burdens”.

In this way, with those close to us and those we encounter each day, we begin to live a life with purpose that God created us for. Then, we can see and feel that we are living a life worth living. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Ultimate Cell Phone

by Tim Howard

In a conversation some time ago the topic of prayer came up and the person I was speaking with said emphatically: “ I don’t believe in prayer, I believe in luck!” I jokingly said in response: “I too believe in luck but it seems the more I pray, the luckier I get!”

In it’s broadest definition, prayer is simply talking to God. This can be done audibly as God hears our words or silently as God knows our thoughts. And because communication is a two-way connection, prayer includes both speaking to God and listening to God as He speaks to us.

Prayer is like having a built-in cell phone that allows you to connect at any time and from any place. At times the reception may be less than desirable and you might not hear God as clearly as you might anticipate but just having the privilege of talking to God and Him talking to you is an awesome gift.

Prayer is the ultimate cell-phone and many are taking advantage of this amazing gift. According to surveys by Barna Research Ltd. over a 10-year period, 82% of adults and 89% of teenagers pray to some ‘Higher Power’ in a normal week. 88% of women and 75% men pray. 96% of professing Christians pray weekly, while 72% of people not describing themselves as Christians pray as well.

I pray because Jesus prayed. He kept an open line to the Father and stayed in constant contact. He prayed daily, He prayed over meals, He prayed early in the morning and sometimes all night long.  He prayed short prayers and long prayers. He prayed for His enemies, His friends and His followers. He prayed in private and in public. Just like an airline pilot who never takes his headset off while in flight due to the extreme importance of maintaining constant contact with the tower; so too Jesus shows us how significant it is to maintain constant communication with the Father as we go on our journey throughout life.

When I pray – I talk to God our Father in ‘Jesus Name’ because Jesus made relationship with the Father possible. Because of His love for us – His willingness to live and die for our sin – We have access to God.  Plus, God the Father gave Jesus all authority so when I am in need – I go to the one who has the final answer.

According to the Bible the future has not yet been written and prayer is our way to become God’s pen that He uses to write our tomorrows. When people pray, God moves! Prayer, however, does not negate God’s divine prerogative nor does it override His purposes. We have the privilege of asking and He retains the right to answer on the basis of His wisdom, foresight and love. His answers sometimes defy logic or analysis but when we pray, He hears and always responds.

A cell phone will set you back $$$$$ but the ultimate cell phone is free! No upfront fee, no monthly service charge and no hidden cost. It truly does provide real security because when you fall, make a call to Him – saying I’ve fallen and I can’t get up – God hears and helps you get back on your feet! 

B.T.W. Everyone has been given the ‘Ultimate Cell Phone.’ It’s not just for emergencies and It has unlimited talk time. It’s your free gift to use daily!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

I Heart Hanford

by Candace Cortez

I moved to Hanford in 2002, which seems like forever ago. My father is in the military and when we got our orders to move here we were living near the coast of Virginia Beach. It was beautiful there! But I thought to myself, California has beaches and Hollywood, so it’s probably gonna be the same if not better. When I arrived here, I was disappointed by more than a few things.

Remember the title of this article is I heart Hanford, which is absolutely true! But if I could be totally honest, especially as a young teenage girl, I was totally annoyed with living here. It was small, frankly a bit stinky, and way too far from the beach in my opinion.

As I grew up, and opportunities began to present themselves for me to leave, escape, run away, get a fresh start somewhere “cooler,” I was so ready. Yes I had found an incredible group of people to call mine I was still not in love. Literally weeks before I was to move to Santa Barbara, a series of events forced me to stay. Key word: forced. During that next season of my life I felt stuck and therefore began to resent my town more than ever.

During this stuck season, I did some really dumb things. I made shallow friendships just to have a good time and eventually burned those bridges when those individuals got too needy. I spent a ton of money on nothing at all. I stopped trying to push myself to grow, learn, and help others.

Have you ever felt stuck in your situation? Celebrating our nation’s independence day reminded me of Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” We are free. Freedom is such a powerful thing. About a year into being “stuck” here, I made a choice to stay, at least until I finished my first two years of college. Making the decision to stay made me feel so different than being forced to stay. I began to love my town.

This is one of the powers of choice. God has given us choice in loving Him or not. We are not forced, or stuck in situations and therefore coerced into relationship with Him. When we get to chose to love, even though it’s not easy, or perfect, or the obvious choice, it can deepen our devotion.

I did end up leaving Hanford for a short time. But I chose to come back. I don’t think this area is perfect, and I head to the beach and the mountains as often as I can. But choosing to live here, grow here, and invest here has changed my heart. I now see the good more than the bad. I now want to help the things that need some attention. Apathy is diminished because choice has given me freedom to love this community.

Take a moment today and sit in your freedoms. Some of you may be stuck in your situation. Your job, marriage, home, or finances may feel like areas of force or confinement. But some of being stuck is more of a mentality than an actuality. We still have choice in so many ways. Make a choice to love someone today. To love your neighbor, the person in line in front of you, even if they are not choosing the same for you. 

I am so thankful to be free. I am free to choose love.