Archive for April, 2011

Where’s Your Baby Camel?

By Kathy NickersonApril 26th, 2011happy endings, mercy2 Comments

When our two-year old granddaughter Nola came to visit this week, she took her customary walk around our living room. She greeted the portrait of Aslan, the elk statues on each bookcase, and the collection of elephant figurines from her great-grandmother. Then she held up her hands and looked at me with solemn brown eyes, “Where’s ya’ baby camel?”

Her mother had been promising that “Gramma Kaffy has a baby camel at her house.” She hadn’t thought to mention it is a real baby camel just down the street from our house. Grandpa and I ignored the rainy evening and took Nola directly to the zoo!

Our zoo has five zebras plus the baby camel and her mother. We will add kangaroos and African cattle in a few weeks. And, I’m sure the collection will grow.

Exotic animals in the middle of a cornfield is an unusual sight. Bu then, our small town is pretty unusual. We are all about helping people get a fresh start in life. And, the baby camel plays a part. The gentleman who handles our zoo has a long history with exotic animals. Unfortunately, part of that history includes poor choices and serious addictions that ended up costing him everything. Including his career.

In His amazing mercy, God has restored our friend’s life, given him a family, a purpose, and a chance to help others. And, now, God has given him back the animals.

I don’t know about you, but I think that is pretty cool. Plus, I love having a baby camel.

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The World is Watching

By Kathy NickersonApril 16th, 2011mercy, The Bible3 Comments

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey on the tenth of Nissan. The Christian calendar marks that day as Palm Sunday, because the crowds waved palm branches to hail Him as King. (A few days later, some in that crowd called for His crucifixion.)

In ancient Israel, the day held a different significance, though. The tenth of Nissan was the day the sacrificial lambs were brought to town. They passed through the sheep’s gate, and bathed in the pool. Then the shepherds herded them into observation pens.

For the next five days, the priests watched the yearlings for any spot or blemish. They tested the lambs for any flaw. And, all the while, Jesus sat in the Temple courtyards, answering the questions of the lawyers, priests, and scribes. He was being tested, too.

Today, we who follow Jesus have become a representation of Him in the earth. Now, we are in the observation pens. Our sheepfolds are the mini-vans in the drive-through and the bleachers at the Little League game. And the world is watching us.

They watch to see if we curse the driver who cuts us off in line. If we keep the extra change the young clerk hands us by mistake. They listen to see if we bash our husbands between innings, or if we yell at our kids (or theirs) when somebody makes a bad play.

One group watches and hopes we will. So they can say, “We knew it wouldn’t work. Those Christians are no different than anybody else. Crucify Him again.”

Another group watches and hopes we’ll resist, hopes we will prove pure. They secretly yearn to be able to say, “Something is different about these folks. Maybe Jesus does live today.”

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The Way we Are

By Kathy NickersonApril 11th, 2011mercy10 Comments

Most of the articles I’ve published through the years fall into the category of Personal Experience. Sometimes, I worry this category is a cop-out. Too easy. No research needed. No interviews to conduct. No fictional plot to arc. (Trust me, you can’t make this stuff up.)

But then I remember the gospels are personal experience pieces. Sometimes in the first person, as in “then we sailed to Ephesus.” Sometimes in the as-told-to form. (Luke wasn’t at the Nativity, but scholars think he probably heard the story straight from Mary in her latter years.)

Experts differ on how one should approach a personal experience story. In the 1980’s, I heard a famous Guideposts author declare she never used the real names of her children in any story.

In our family of writers, we not only use their real names, we discuss their bowel habits. I have used real names in everything. Except that one time when I wrote on a delicate subject and thought I’d use a pseudonym so I changed my name and Wendell’s. Then I decided to just be me, but I forgot to change Wendell’s name back. So now our great-grandchildren may discover a book in my collection someday where I talk about intimate issues with my husband, Allen.

Sometimes Jesus and the gospel writers used real names. Like Mary Magdalene who once had seven devils in her soul. Other times, they used a general term, like the Prodigal Son, who may or may not have been an actual person.

So, I keep being transparent. And never more so than in a recent article published by Proto magazine, a publication of Massachusetts General Hospital. In the essay, I discuss our family’s struggle with addiction and the medical community’s inability to diagnose it.

Addiction is rarely a public conversation. We have a global organization devoted to Anonymity, after all. Yet, Wendell and I are fortunate to live in a community where such struggles are without stigma. Many of our friends have faced similar issues, and we continue to cheer one another on in our new lives with Christ.

Maybe, our story will help someone else man-up the way Wendell did. Maybe someone else will find the courage to take the medicine of repentance and achieve the peace that passes understanding.

Maybe using our real names will help some other family find forgiveness. Maybe by being transparent, we can help someone else see the Light.

If you are interested, you can read the story here.

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The Method and the Message

By Kathy NickersonApril 6th, 2011mercy3 Comments

Today, I heard this blurb for a church Easter program:

Lights, music, special effects, and more than forty cast members demonstrate the message of Jesus Christ.

And I thought, “Huh, Jesus only used mud.”

I am NOT against pageantry. I love a great stage production by Dan White and team. And I had a true religious moment the first time I saw both the curtain and the chandelier rise at Phantom of the Opera. But, I also love that Jesus used ordinary things and ordinary people to demonstrate the greatest story every told.

When He wanted to explain He had come to make all things new, He spit into the dirt, mixed up some mud, and fashioned new eyeballs for a blind man. When He wanted to prove He is God who provides, He divided a puny fish and served up a banquet.

I watched Him do the same thing this week through our friend, whom I’ll call Mick since I didn’t ask his permission yet to tell his story. Mick grew up right here in our neighborhood, and he lived a pretty hard life. Then Jesus got hold of him and fashioned some new eyeballs… and a new heart.

Part of Mick’s job is to drive men from the local treatment center when they need to visit the doctor. He comes at least once a week and sits in our waiting room for an hour or two before all the guys are through.

Almost every time, some other patient from the neighborhood comes in and takes a seat across the room. The patient nods and smiles at Mick before they both pick up their respective magazines. But the patient keeps glancing at Mick over the top of the page.

Eventually, the patient says, “Don’t I know you?”

And Mick says, “Yeah. You used to, but I’m a lot different now.”

Whether the patient is a former drinking buddy of Mick’s or one of the deputies who used to arrest him, they are always amazed at the transformation. Mick doesn’t preach a sermon. He just smiles and chats with his clear eyes and his shining smile.

No lights. No music. No special effects. Just a brand new man made of clay and filled with a miracle.

People get the message.



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