Saturday, February 28, 2015

While Rome Burned...

by Nina Benson
It's Saturday. I started off my morning with exercise. Next, I rewarded myself with a seat at the computer and a cup of coffee. On Saturdays, I catch-up with the news that I’ve only heard snippets of on the radio, on my drive home, Monday through Friday.
I tend to be a researcher when I read the news. I search for several sources on the same news item to get a varied viewpoint, hopefully, eventually getting to the truth, (Truth: something that is definitely not synonymous with the word - news). I had heard that ISIS recruits were in all fifty states and that tagging could be found everywhere. My “research” as it were, lead me down into a very dark and very deep rabbit hole – I’ve been down this road before, however, today, like most days, I could not ruminate over the subject.
...But how could I not?
The images, the words, the comments, the other news, the wars everywhere, the assassination in Russia, the governmental take-over of the internet by the FCC… This is to say nothing of my own family life concerns, nor those of my dear friends and colleagues at work and my students…
To give thought and/or participate in that, that matters so little… Still…
I had to put it all aside because I had ten teenagers coming over for an art class. I had to set up for it all… they were coming for 9… The news would have to wait – stop for the moment. (God, if it could ever stop – please let it never start again). I had been up and at it since about 5:30-6am…
The art class came and went and was successful…
I took the last young lady to her next destination at 6pm…
Sigh. I started clearing the table of the cups and cardboard and newspaper. Once it was all cleared, I thought about sitting down and eating a little something, (I forget to do this when I’m “on”). Usually after teaching/engaging youth, for a full day I usually like to turn my mind off and engage in something mindless.
Hmmm… how about putting those Monopoly game pieces from Jewel on the game board.  I had fifteen of them and a couple that I found on the ground… Then it hit me.
Then I remembered the news from this morning.
How could I do something so mindless, so meaningless; when the world is literally burning?
I’ve heard it said, that Nero fiddled while Rome burned, (Or played his cithara since the “fiddle” wasn’t invented)… Could I sit idly by and tear off the sides off Monopoly playing pieces and sort them and hope that I have the winning piece, while the world is so out of control.
The question might be: Well what can you do? At any moment, 24/7; I can pray for God’s mercy. I can beseech the throne room of Heaven and plead for Jesus’ return to come quickly. I can read God’s word and seek out His direction.
...But to be idle in times such as these – God there is so much to do … “The harvest is plentiful…” Let it not be said that I knew what was going on, but did  nothing of any consequence and watched the world burn…
Fear Not…
Soli Deo Gloria

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. :-)