Friday, July 8, 2016

Working Faithfully for Freedom



Brenda Black

On Monday, many were free from work to celebrate America's birthday. But on Tuesday the price for such freedom meant rising early after going to bed late to toil once again and get the bills paid. There is always a price to pay.

For patriots who formed this nation, and those who have followed, the price for freedom mounted up to more than just sleepiness and drudgery. It cost life and limb.

“I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” With passion, Patrick Henry implored the citizens of Virginia to join the American Revolution. But his fighting words were premised by far stronger convictions that he was not left without help. This patriot and founding father of our nation believed in unseen forces and supreme influence. “Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us,” 2 Chronicles 32:8.

Henry would later say: “It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
There is unquestionable evidence that the founding fathers governed from a biblical perspective. They founded America on faith and set their hearts on freedom. The framers of our U.S. Constitution believed in The Founding Father who created heaven and earth and “governs in the affairs of men,” as Benjamin Franklin stated, based on Daniel 4:17.

Maybe that's why I still tear up when I hear or sing “God Bless America.” He has, He is, and He will again bless this nation...IF we welcome His divine influence and fight on the right side for the right causes.

The God who existed before the foundation of the world is the One who pierced the hearts of those men and emboldened them to declare freedom to follow Him. This same God is no less present or active today. He is the Founding Father in every way. Independence Day, then, is more than just patriotic picnicking and a day free from work. It is a reminder that what the Son sets free, is free indeed!

The Founding Father charges us to come unto Him when we are weak and heavy laden. He promised rest long before Miss Liberty extended the invitation to "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Some people explored here, some people were fortunate to be born here and some risked life and limb to just touch the shores of America. Why? Because in America we have the unique freedom to fully access God and experience both liberty in the land and liberty of the soul. It took the lives of brave, young patriots. It took the dedication of forward thinking visionaries who ratified our Constitution. It took desperate times and enormous sacrifices from men, women and children in every generation to sustain such liberating status.

This Independence Day, and every day that follows, remember the price that was paid. Remember the founding fathers who intelligently launched a free nation based on biblical truths. Remember The Founding Father that gave His Son on the cross. Remember, like Patrick Henry did, that liberty is worth the fight. God help us to not lose our Independence. Without such freedom, we are tired, poor, wretched and homeless once again.

©2016 The Word's Out-Brenda Black

Friday, June 24, 2016

Now Where Did I Put That


By Brenda Black

My final task for the day was simple. Carry a few items to the truck for the kids, offer kisses and hugs and bid them adieu. The wrap up to a pleasant evening picnic to celebrate June birthdays and Father's Day ended sweetly and serenely. I was weary by day's end, but warmed in heart from the love of family.

That was Saturday. The next morning began as usual readying ourselves for worship and ministry. By late Sunday afternoon, the mission shifted. My husband and I were on the hunt for a gift bag that contained all of the well wishes we received approximately 18 hours earlier. Neither of us could determine the last place the small blue bag had been seen. I was certain Alan moved it from yard to house. After he exhausted all the probable places he could have set the sack, I began a more unorthodox approach.

He transferred the kitchen trash bag to the garage canister, I though to myself. Perhaps he carried out our cache with the trash. To the blue barrel I went, expecting to harvest our happy birthday cards and goodies sitting on top of the glad bag and then be able to poke a little fun at the trash man. Not there.

In clean-up mode, my hubby had also reclaimed unused ice from the cooler, bagged it and placed it in the freezer. I giggled to myself in anticipation of finding the gift bag among the roasts, ground beef and ice cream. Not there.

He helped our elder son tote a saddle to the basement just after dark. That must have been where he misplaced the little blue bag. Down the steps I scurried, certain to solve the mystery. Not there.

I looked in every room, perused the front porch, and finally gave up the search. “Easy come, easy go,” crossed my mind. But I'm not one to let things go that easily.

If my husband didn't lose the bag, then the kids must be the culprits. I phoned to query just what all ended up being hauled to Nevada, Missouri, by the newly marrieds. Of course, they had a great time evading my questions by asking their own: Where did you last see it? That classic momma question posed to every young whipper snapper who ever misplaced a shoe or sock or toy, came back to bite me. After ample good-humored razzing, my son and daughter-in-law informed me that I had absent-mindedly toted to our son's truck the very gifts we'd only just received, placing the little blue bag with its precious contents right on top of their heap. They were wagering with one another how long it would take us to realize the blunder. Feel the love!

All I could do was laugh with them at myself and warn them, one day you'll hit the 50's and life is never the same. If it is, you won't remember it. Happy Birthday to me and good bye memory.
 
©2016 The Word's Out-Brenda Black

Friday, June 10, 2016

Where Clouds are Far Behind


By Brenda Black

Somewhere over the rainbow, on June 10, 1922, Frances Ethel Gumm entered this world. By the ripe old age of two, the baby girl delivered her first stage performance and a star was born. Sadly, no fairy tale, award-winning movies or melodic stories sung by the dark haired lass would keep reality at bay. Gumm, better known as Judy Garland, died at 47, having performed for 45 of her fleeting years.

One writer remembered the iconic starlet this way, “Between the struggles of the Great Depression and the mayhem of World War II, Garland invited us to experience a transformed world in The Wizard of Oz where we could 'wake up where clouds are far behind.'”

While Garland sang of such a place, another woman went there. Amelia Earhart went where no woman had gone before when she flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, and reached an altitude of 18,415 feet in 1931.

Vicariously, women soared with her, applauding her gumption and envying her freedom. She invited onlookers to experience a transformed world through her courage and moxy. But her last adventure, an attempt to circumnavigate the globe in the Lockheed Electra, ended in 1936, when she disappeared over the South Pacific. A nation grieved the petite daredevil who only made it to 40.

Two talented women with two troubling destinies that sound sadly similar. The great divide in their end results is that one self destructed while the other pushed the limits. They each took risks, but one lived in fantasy while the other made dreams come true.

Many become stars for their fine performances. Few become heroes for setting lofty goals and working to achieve them. When you seek inspiration, it's fine to look far behind the clouds for prospects, but use some caution. Some are in it only for themselves. They'll sing the songs and play the parts, while behind their masks lurk dark secrets and troubling storms in lives headed for disaster rather than the end of a rainbow. True inspiration can be found in the ones who bare their souls and live with integrity and purpose.

Earhart once said, “By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly.”

Make sure you can spot the difference between those shooting for stardom and those aiming for the stars. Be certain you navigate toward great possibilities not just yellow-bricked fantasies. Most importantly, fly in such a way so that others will want to soar after you.

**Tell me -- who inspires you to do the impossible?

©2016 The Word's Out-Brenda Black

Friday, May 27, 2016

Help for the Hurting

by Brenda Black

In tragedy and grief, we come together as a community to both share and bear the weight of walking through it rightly. We do our level best to say kind things and to demonstrate loving actions. All the while, we wrestle with insufficiency and second guess our good intentions. Is there ever truly a right response? Is silence the best choice? Yes...and no to both questions. There is no perfect plan in the midst of grief. There are just humans trying to offer comfort and peace any way they know how. And therein lies the greatest challenge: we don't know what to say or do to make it better.

Accepting that reality may well provide opportunity for the greatest acts of sympathy. For when we don't have the eloquence nor vocabulary, all we can offer is love, respect and understanding.

A community expresses love often in the face of tragedy, by eagerly extending generosity. From prayers to proceeds, sometimes all folks can do is just do something.

Respect and understanding are a little harder to handle. According to grief.com, a few of the best ways to demonstrate true concern begin with admitting you simply may not know what to say. “I wish I had the right words, just know I care.” “I don't know how you feel, but I am here to help anyway I can.” Saying nothing or just offering a hug speaks volumes. Above all, the best way we can offer support is to call on the only One who truly understands and go to God in prayer.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” Psalm 34:18. The peace He brings is unparalleled and so incredibly powerful at times like this. His touch is tender. His comfort is complete. His love is what is needed most – for the grieving and the consoling. For His love is perfect and in our weakness, He proves Himself strong, and closer than ever.

Merciful and faithful Lord, because of Your great love, we are not consumed, for Your compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. God, You are our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Help us to not fear, though the earth seems to give way and a mountainous weight presses down on our aching hearts. Though waters of grief roar and in our shaken state, we feel like the ground beneath our feet quakes, we will be still and know that You are God. You, Lord Almighty, are with us. You are our fortress. (Lam. 3:22-23; Ps. 41:1-2, 10-11)

©201 The Word's Out-Brenda Black

Friday, May 13, 2016

May Day! May Day! Tears on the Way!


By Brenda Black

No matter how many years pass, no matter how far removed from the direct ties to a graduate, I still cry at commencements. I scan the audience, spotting moms who are doing their level best to just keep it all together for the moment. Instantly, I'm in their skin and I'm the mess. My heart races, tears trickle and I find myself digging through my purse for a tissue to blot damp cheeks marked by empathy.

Why, oh why, does Mother's Day have to come in the same month, and often on the same day as graduation ceremonies? The one-two punch to a maternal gut is nearly more than a momma can take standing up! I liken it to post traumatic stress, with flashbacks from birthing pains to toddler tumbles each time you attend “the last” of something. Last game, last day, last performance, last award banquet, last...last...last. All such finality causes the brain to churn up memories of all the firsts.

Numbly you go through the motions surrounded by other shell-shocked parents, pretending to be celebrating rather than grieving. The first lost tooth, the first step, the first word and that big ol' bus swallowing your five year old up on the first day of school jolts one into the awful reality that 13 years have come and gone in a flash.

And there they stand, young men and young women, taller and stronger than their folks. Still, in a mother's eyes these are infants just yesterday rocked and swaddled. Doggone it, I'm crying again just thinking about it!

From one who's been there and survived, my heart goes out to each of you dying a little inside. Trust me when I tell you, there are more great days ahead. There will be phone calls home late in the night when mom's voice is the only one those big kids want to hear. Through the grogginess and worries, your heart will be filled. You'll be squeezed hard and lifted off the floor with bear hugs and big sighs, accompanied by all that college laundry when they come home for a visit. Your world will widen with them. New people, new places, new topics of conversation are just around the bend.

And then one day you sense the greatest change; without warning you've become dear friends. Oh, you will always be their mama, but this shift is something magical. As they transform into independent adults, you are escorted past another milestone. There you'll be ushered to a front row seat to enjoy the fruit of your labor. Smiles will come again, but there is one caveat. You'll still cry.

It's just part of the mother phenomenon.

©2016 The Word's Out-Brenda Black

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Wonder of It All

By Brenda Black

My heart skipped a beat when first my toes touched the powdery soft sand that gradually sloped toward the Pacific. A ferry ride and a two-mile hike in cowboy boots landed me the closest I've ever been to salt water and sea weed. I couldn't peel those boots and socks fast enough!
Boots in the sand

Toes in the sea
The air was fresh, the sky and water blending together in hues of blue. Then it happened. A wave rushed in faster than we had imagined and billowed up our rolled up pant legs, leaving my husband and me wet, shocked and giddy! I'm not a beach girl. Don't really have any desire to set sail across the deep blue seas. I've seen pictures of the creatures they continue to discover under all that water, and frankly it gives me the heebie jeebies! After my first encounter this past week with real sand and ocean water on my feet, I've come to understand the appeal. But as for me, I plan to keep on the shore.

Pacific Ocean Blue

Our visit was delightful, but Missouri and solid earth beckoned. So with the imagery of foamy waves and sea gulls lingering on my mind, we boarded a plane and took flight, homeward bound. Between the coast and the Heartland, stretches a whole lot of territory! From 37,000 feet up, the immensity of our country and its incredible diversity is incomprehensible. Each mountain range and desert, every winding river, barren rock and snow-covered peak heralds individuality and the thumbprint of a divine Creator.

From 7 miles up

Finger Paint Compliments of God

Just a little puddle 37,000 feet away

Las Vegas strip 
From ground level, they look the same. From a bird's eye view, not a single boulder or sparkling lake is shaped alike. The colors are remarkably varied with stripes of orange, green, red, blue, brown and yellow painting carved out bluffs. Others will “oohh” and “aahh” over the Las Vegas strip with all its man made lights and glitz. As for me, that massive city seemed insignificant in the middle of God's great wilderness. From seven miles above both city and rugged landscapes, I have to grant the wow factor to the Rockies, the Painted Desert, the Sierras and the Grand Canyon!

Grandeur as far as the eye can see
For many, a stroll on the beach or a plane ride for a thousand miles is common place. But even if you're an expert on sea shells and have been up in the air a hundred times, there should remain a sense of wonder. That is how I choose to live on this great and gorgeous planet! Whether by land or by sea, she is lovely and masterfully designed. This I have seen and I remain amazed and moved by its grandeur.

 photos by Brenda Black





Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Football Feelings


By Brenda Black

Oh, for the love of football. I've seen people weep over wins and losses. Heard of people losing thousands of dollars on risky bets. Folks will sit and scream at a 42-inch screen or suffer through blizzards to cheer their teams. What's the hold this sport wields over millions? Surely there's some sensible reason.

Columnist Andy Rooney once asked, “How could any normal, reasonably intelligent human being be sad or wildly happy over the outcome of a football game between two professional football teams?”
He concluded at the close of his 1986 syndicated article, “If I can be made happy by a victory by a team of strangers because they wear blue uniforms instead of red and represent New York instead of Washington, why should I bother to work for real success?

“I have a heart, the poet Robert Browning would have said, 'too soon made glad.'”

Is there nothing more lasting or personally pertinent from which we can enjoy such delight? Are there not more significant tragedies other than the loss of a game that should grieve us so deeply?
Sure there are! Still, the game itself is symbolic of such things in life and often helps us to stay emotionally alert so we are practiced up for feeling.

On the field it looks like uninhibited joy over simply crossing a little white chalk line. Such a feat will make a man dance like a fool. Ever celebrated the birth of a child? The victory dance looks similar for some daddies.

On the sidelines it looks like great sorrow when grown men bow their heads and drop tears as well as helmets as the clock ticks down to one more year without a title. Ever stood in an airport telling the love of your life goodbye and dreading the last call to board? Both the loss and the loneliness feel like a kick in the gut.

You see, football is about feeling. It's feeling hopeful when the season starts. Feeling confident in players you've never met, but trust more than your own Grandma Betsy. It's feeling shame and pride. The coaches, the team, the fans, the critics – they're all a community where football fanatics feel they fit.



“Upon further review,” it just makes sense to get excited, depressed, thrilled, defeated, grateful, broken, elated and deflated. As humans and football fans, we are made to feel. Besides, football is a good excuse for a man to cry and woman to rail and get away with it! Better in front of the big screen than on the freeway.