Thursday, January 1, 2015

Let's Keep It Real

Let’s Keep It Real
By Nina Benson
I have a niece who is known for saying, “I’m just trying to keep it real Aunt T” aka; I’m merely being totally, unabashedly honest so that you get the full picture.
Sometimes in this walk, we need this in-your-face type of honesty, because we tend to sidestep the truth, in an effort to avoid… the pain, or doing what we supposed to do, or whatever, you fill in the blank…
The other day I had the opportunity to get on my trusty bike because temperatures rose into the 50’s for just the day. I rode for about five miles, enjoying the warmth of the sun and blue skies. I had my headphones on listening to a Christian music station and I was surprised at what I didn’t hear – not one Christmas song; even though it was just one day after Christmas. I thought surely, I would hear some reference to the day that is a pinnacle of the Christian faith – but nothing.
I confess that I am a Christmas Scrooge. Before you get worried – it’s not that I don’t believe in the Miracle – of course I do, however, the commercialism of Christmas is unbearable for me. I don’t know if it’s my advancing years, but I don’t particular enjoy seeing houses decorated with light shows that compete with the lights of Las Vegas with the Star Wars theme playing in the background. I can not stand hearing Silent Night done 101 different ways – from techno to Lil Wayne, to Lady Gaga to Disco to Mickey Mouse, and more… Really? And most folks would agree that starting Christmas in the stores after Halloween is a bit much. This year Christmas and Thanksgiving were tandem in the aisles. I don’t know why someone hasn’t come up with a turkey dressed up like Santa Claus as a centerpiece. Oh yeah, because they can still make twice the money if they keep them separate.

Okay, what’s my point? Christmas is over and everything is slowly disappearing for another year…
But that’s my point - Christmas shouldn’t be disappearing.
For nearly an hour I rode my bike and didn’t hear anything to the reference of the birth of Christ. There are songs that reference the Miracle- the unbelievable Gift of God to a sin sick world, that aren’t the traditional hymns of Christmas; but like Handel’s Messiah, which can be listened and pondered everyday from Christmas to Easter and everyday in between.
We need to consider what is real about Christmas and fall prostrate in awe when we really see what Christmas is about and how it doesn’t simply end the evening of the big family gathering.
Pastor Raj from the Oak Park Chinese Bible Church gave his congregation thoughts to ponder a couple Sundays before Christmas: Mary was real. A frighten young woman, probably barely out of her youth – pregnant under very questionable circumstances. Folks today wouldn’t bat an eye – but, back then she was supposed to be stoned, (I think her mother too). She was pregnant with her first child and was going on a camping trip with her betrothed. A two-three week journey by foot, (the Bible makes no mention of her perched on a donkey, (nice card – but not true). Ladies, you want to go on a walking trip at say, nearly eight plus months pregnant and camp out under the stars. Then there’s Joseph. Good Lord man, you believed what that girl told you? Can you imagine for a second the ridicule he got? How dumb can you be? Scripture mentions close family, other than Elizabeth, whom was pregnant in her old age, (with John the Baptist). The angel of the Lord told Mary about this miracle and suggested that she go and visit her - to help her, (I think God gave her busy work, to keep her focused on other things – Elizabeth’s pregnancy, rather than the thing that He was handling – He didn’t need Mary fretting about what was going on with her – she needed confirmation and something to keep her mind occupied). Then there’s the place to have the Baby Jesus and those shepherds showing up… The Wise men didn’t show for some time after, (again makes for cute cards but not true to the REAL story). I could go on, but I think you get the picture – the real picture.
Why can’t we keep Christmas REAL 24/7, just like Jesus’ death and resurrection? Why not be a shepherd and share this great news! Jesus is the reason for the season, so let’s keep Him REAL! 
Nichole Norderman - Real
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I Can...

Last week I went to get on my trusty trike to take my usual ride about the neighborhood, but had quite the start one particular morning. I went out to the garage to get my wheels, (I sport a Schwinn Jaguar), but there right in the middle of the driveway, between the two vehicles where I would need to roll my trike, was a squirrel curled up in a ball so that it looked like it was sleeping. I made a loud sound so that it would move, but nothing. I thought I might get a stick
Hey, are you sleeping Mr. Squirrel?
and move it, but I had opened the garage automatically from the house and I didn’t want it to run in so it could set up residence, so... I went back into the house closed the garage door, went back to the squirrel, made noises, stomped my foot – nada, so... 
I went back to the house and got Seth who was sleeping because it was a tad before 6am, (late for my ride). Why pray tell did I get Seth. I don’t generally handle animals tame or wild. Seth fancies himself as Crocodile Dundee of sorts. He was handling wild baby raccoons at three! So, Seth was the man of the hour. My sister always says, “God watches over babies and fools…”
Seth was none too happy, but intrigued, I could tell. So my words to him as we walking out the door were, ‘we’re not keeping the squirrel as a pet!’ …And just as I said, there was the squirrel… now under the car, right in line with the wheel. It had a death wish...
Why me? I can’t even move the car without…
Seth eventually got the squirrel into a bucket, because it was an injured squirrel, however, it used all of its strength and hopped around like a rabbit in the yard, but eventually succumbed to its injuries and died. We named it Bob.
I left on my bike ride before its demise and saw Carla from church, (I ride pass her house everyday on my trek). She was putting out recycling. I had put ours out the night before. Putting out the recycling and such are new duties for me. With Stephen gone on a mission trip until January, I’ve had to take on new duties. I had to share what just happened, so told Carla and she asked what did I do? I told her, I initially told myself, ‘I can do this’; but eventually, got Seth to do the job. But with Stephen gone, I just set my mine and tell myself that I can do this or that, I have to… She agreed, as she too, has had to set her mind to do this or that.
I rode away - but a light bulb came on in my head. I actually don’t “do” – God does! This HUGE fact was pointed out to me nearly 30 years ago, when a friend’s dad gave me the comeback of the century, countering my boasting of carrying for my then two very small children, working full time and working on a master’s degree. I had said, ‘I don’t know how I do it all?’ (You can almost hear my haughtiness – I was so foolish). This older gentleman said emphatically, “You don’t”. I have never forgotten that admonition.
I say, ‘I can do this!’ But in reality “I can’t ”. (Dare I say, anyone who says he can, is foolish), but truly God can and does for those who know HIM.
So Carla and anyone who is a child of the most high God, because we are His, we can indeed do whatever He directs us to do for whatever season we are in. Our Father, God has us where we are for such a time as now - equipping, (now this is a word that needs further study. What does it mean or what does it take, for us to be “equipped” by God? Chew on that for a bit.), us to do whatever it is, within our circle of influence, to further His kingdom.
I can because God does – I am simply the conduit.
Hmmm. Food for thought:
What do you do? What can you do? What are you doing instead of what you're supposed to be doing and why? And what are you going to do now?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Storms: We Must Experience the Clouds to See the Silver Lining

Be Careful for What You Pray For
By Nina Benson

Very few folks who are given over to beseeching the Lord, knowingly pray for adverse circumstances. Prayers are usually praises, and/or “wish lists”. Sadly, our prayers, my prayers; are a list of things I want, with little to no consideration for what God may want. It’s funny, God just wants to hang out with me and help me to understand and know Him better. He’s relational that way.
I asked my eighteen year old the other day, ‘Do you know anything about me?’I was thinking more than the basics, (I'm the mom: I work, I cook, I clean, etc.) I recognized our communication as being unidirectional – his way - to me - about his wants, his hopes and demands. In and of itself, this communication isn’t so bad, however, the dear boy is at an age where he is able to listen as well and we can have an exchange of ideas and grow. Likewise, I know that God listens to my crazy ramblings and suggestions/demands; however, does not need to act upon them at all. In fact I’ve been wondering, ….‘What if, I asked God, what was on His mind for me… and respond with a, ‘Let’s do this!’ But wait a minute – that’s if it’s all good… But sometime, (most times), God isn’t all about being warm and fuzzy. He’s not even really interested in what we think might make us happy, (He'll listen, however, He never promised happiness - it's so temporal - like of this earth... But joy from the Lord is eternal and has the potential to be internal!) – He’s God! And God knows exactly what we need – in order to see Him more clearly, to know Him more intimately.

Photographed by me while driving into a storm

I was coming home the other day after dropping off son number one at his place, and in front  of me, on the return trip, was a major storm. It looked frightening as it moved across the sky with lightening speed, (pun intended). As I drove straight for it – it just kept getting darker and larger and ominous – It felt like I was going to be eaten alive and what made it worse, I was willingly driving straight for it. I wanted to get home.
Driving straight for what appears to be sure harm or worse, death, is not at all recommended, however, sometimes, if the heart is ready, (and only God know this), then get ready – God is in control, and He promised that He will never leave you, nor forsake you. God has got you covered
It’s not easy at all to let go and let God, especially under crazy circumstance, but that’s the only life to live – covered by  His grace 24/7
Living recklessly, while covered under grace 
Read Romans 8:28-39 God's Word says it so much better than I. :-) 

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Image from


I visited with friends the other day, but started my journey using my cell phone’s GPS. I was out in Evanston and needed to get to Naperville, during rush hour traffic on a Friday early evening. I knew it was going to take some time, and actually, knew in theory how to get from point A to point B, but thought the added assistance of my GPS would somehow get me there faster – technology makes things simpler – therefore faster. Right? Wrong.
It was hot and there was lots of traffic. I’m just tech savvy enough to be dangerous, but I thought no problem. I got this! The first leg of my trip getting over to 294 was no problem, but there was all of this traffic and did I mention it was hot and I told my friends, ‘Sure, I can get there in about hour and half…’.
But what’s that I hear? The voice on the GPS lady is speaking – I must hearken my ear, for it is she who has wisdom… Take 90 west. That’s going towards O’Hara ? But I haven’t gone south enough. Maybe, it’s found a quicker route without all of this traffic… Should I risk following my gut – what I know? Or do I follow that nice mechanical voice? She sounds like she knows so much more than I do… Sigh! No, I better not… That route just doesn’t make sense to me.
“Stick with what you know is true Nina” - speaks the inner voice of truth.
Traffic is just as backed up on 90 – I’ll stay put and go slow and steady…
…Without boring you with the details of my very long and very arduous trip – I did mention that it was hot – even with air conditioning… I made it to me destination nearly three hours later, with me fighting with the GPS. I’d go one way, she’d say go this way, but it wasn’t any better… I knew she was laughing hysterically at me with every turn, (driving the back roads to Naperville is not fun).
Moral of this story is: Look up and see life for yourself. Trust what you know to be true. If I had taken the advice of the GPS I believe I may yet be driving about. This isn’t to say that one should never listen to the advice of others, however, if you have an inkling that something just isn’t right, get the opinions of at least two other trusted friends. Trusted is the key word here and then make a final decision based upon common sense and of course, prayer, (this goes without saying).

 A picture of my friends and I taken with my cell phone, by a passerby, that Diane said to trust, because he was wearing a pastoral collar. :-)