Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Giving Quotient


Some people think of giving only in terms of money. But it’s so much more than that.

Consider these words by Fred Rogers (of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood):  . . .Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away.

Share from a Happy Heart
I knew a family generous in spirit, in spite of personal lack. Needy neighbors would come for a handout and the mom would always respond.

One time when she was gone, someone came and asked for food. The daughter simply said, “Sorry, we can’t help you,” and closed the door.

Returning home, the mom was appalled. “Didn’t you even check the refrigerator or the cupboards?” The girl said, “Mom, our cupboards are bare!”

“No,” the mom replied, “there’s always something we can give.” She looked around and produced a few items to prove her point.

But giving is not limited to money or food.

Consider this thought by movie producer, Vince Allen: I have learned the true value of kindness and persistence in everything I do . . . Some people may not be deserving of this kindness, but at the end of the day, we have to realize that we are all equal.

Did you ever stop to think that you can give a good attitude? Sometimes a smile or simple kindness can really brighten someone’s day.

I read this thought in my Daily Bread devotional: “You don’t have to feed the five thousand. You just have to bring your loaves and fishes.”

Which Face Is You?
It’s based on the story of a little boy who tagged along with a crowd to see Jesus. When Jesus asked if there was any food, the little boy gave his five loaves and two fish. All four gospels, (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) record the miracle of Jesus multiplying these few items to feed an enormous crowd.

Wise King Solomon said: The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped (Proverbs 11: 24-25, The Message). 

Giving quotient results are always up to you.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Beware the Bitter Root


One day, out of curiosity, I asked mom, “What’s your favorite verse?”

Curiosity Creates Questions
Without hesitating she replied, “Great peace have they which love thy law; and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165 KJV).

She had been a minister's wife for many years, but this surprised me. “Why is that important to you, now, Mom? You haven’t worked with a congregation for several years.”

She just said, “It’s very important to me.” No further explanation was given and I respected her privacy.

You Don't Have to be an Owl to be Wise
Anyone who has worked with people knows there are plenty of opportunities to lose your peace by becoming offended. 

I haven’t met a perfect person yet. Neither have I nominated myself for that category!

If we think of life like a garden, we are constantly planting seeds of contentment or discontentment. Rarely, however, do we consider the relational roots of the seeds we plant.

There is some wisdom in Hebrews 12:15 that I think underscores mom’s verse. It says, “See to it that . . . no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

Bitterness is not a very pleasant character trait and it never leads to peace. Bitter people often come across as angry, harsh or vindictive.

Like a taproot, bitterness can remain hidden yet affect everything which can be seen above it.

Roots Are Important to Life
Pull up a baby carrot with a thread-like root and you think that’s nothing. But left to grow, the root becomes stronger. 

Eventually you have to pull harder to get it out. Even then, you won’t enjoy the carrot until the dirt is removed.

Self-absorption is fertile soil for a toxic root of offense. That’s why I say, “Beware the bitter root.”

Awareness and forgiveness both go a long way toward producing a harvest of personal peace.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Communication: Proceed With Caution


Two-way Communication 
Counselors try to follow this rule. That’s why they often give feedback on what they think they heard. Even the short range from your lips to their ears leaves room for miscommunication.

Whether we choose to talk things out or write them out, there is a catch. It’s our eyes and ears. Sometimes they fail us.

For example, you may not listen extremely carefully while talking with a person you fully trust. That’s what happened in a story I wrote called *Duped by One Letter. 

Listen Carefully
Years ago, between places of ministry, my husband was seeking some temporary work. After prayer, he met with a Christian business man regarding a job that would fit his non-ministry skills.

After hearing the job requirements, my husband shared what he was looking for in the way of an hourly wage. When the man said, “We could do that,” my husband accepted the job.

On pay day my husband received less than expected. He went to talk to the owner and was shocked to hear him say, “I said we COULD do that. I didn’t say we WOULD do that.”

Letters Come Before Words
Young children can be excited to learn that cat can be turned into bat, pat, or sat. But in the adult world, changing one letter can lead to large consequences.

Filling the financial gap was a challenge, but so was dealing with our attitudes. We felt deceived. But we had our own one-letter challenge. We needed to turn bitter into better.

Thumbs Up to a NEW Year 
Anyone familiar with the Lord’s Prayer knows that as we forgive those who do us wrong, God forgives us the wrong we do against Him. On that basis we chose to forgive. We prayed over our finances, my husband did his best on the job every day and the money stretched to meet our needs.

In this NEW year of communication, proceed with caution. Listen carefully, speak truthfully, and if deceived don’t be bitter. Move forward with forgiveness and make it better.

*REFLECTIONS: Inspirational Stories from Everyday Life
Darlis Sailors,, 2016, ISBN: 978-1-63491—730-8.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Happy NEW Year

Happy NEW Year!

It's a New Year All Around the World
I'm always glad when a NEW year rolls around. It means I have survived all the challenges and joys of the previous year. Out with the old and in with the NEW!

New can apply to many things. Consider these examples:

1)   Solomon said, "There's nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). If you just finished a season of Hallmark movies you might tend to agree. Writers know there are basic life themes and what keeps any story going is giving it an unexpected twist. So, don't be a cynic. Just look for some new favorites.

2)   As a care giver, I opened each new day by quoting the promise in Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV): "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." I'm happy to say my personal experience proved this to be true.

Share a Little Kindness
3)   Remember singing What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love? It sounds good,doesn't it? But how many of us put it into practice? Too many people write love off as being mushy and emotional. Not true! Read First Corinthians Chapter 13 for a practical definition. In this new year, let's show love by simply being kind to one another. It's a choice, not a feeling.

Consider these definitions of new: 1) Something that existed before but is now known or discovered for the first time, and 2) something uncontaminated, unspoiled or undecayed. In other words, it's still fresh.

I'm facing the new year with fresh hope as expressed in Psalm 33:22: May Your unfailing love rest upon (me), O Lord, even as (I) put (my) hope in You.

That hope can be yours, too. Best wishes for a happy NEW Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Community Christmas


Poinsettias are Christmas Beauties
I spent many years, along with my husband, rehearsing choir Christmas productions. They required a lot of energy and commitment from everyone involved.

My husband had many responsibilities besides music, so he just enjoyed our Christmas productions. I, on the other hand, always wanted to explore other events.

No matter where we lived, I pursued Community Christmas.

I’m still reveling in the events I’ve gotten to attend this year:  
·        *A Women’s Christmas Dinner with a pottery demonstration by the speaker
·          *Christmas Indoors and Out, hosted by a church from 4 to 9 p.m.
·          *Christmas Fantasia by a University’s Music Departments
·          *Combined Christmas by a choir, orchestra, bell choir and pipe organ
·          *An Irish Christmas Cantata
·          *A Christmas luncheon hosted by a member of my women’s Bible study group

What makes Christmas for you? 

This poem came from one of those events. May you have a blessed Christmas!

(I was told it came from the internet, author unknown)

If you look for me at Christmas,
You won’t need a special star.
I’m no longer just in Bethlehem;
I’m right there where you are.

You may not be aware of Me
Amid the celebrations.
You’ll have to look beyond the stores
And all the decorations.

But if you take a moment
From your list of things to do,
And listen to your heart, you’ll find
I’m waiting there for you.

You’re the one I want to be with.
You’re the reason that I came,
And you’ll find Me in the stillness,
As I’m whispering your name.
Love, Jesus

Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Choice in Time


December---Last Month of the Year
End-of-year holidays have arrived, ready or not. Perhaps you are thinking we just completed Thanksgiving---give me a break!

The calendar just keeps turning its pages and the holidays get closer and closer. It’s time to make some choices. Will this be a year of holiday blahs, or blessings?

I once attended a Christmas holiday workshop. The topic was How to Reduce Holiday Stress. I attended as a skeptic, but came away with some helpful ideas.

One main idea---it’s OK to share. That means, as adults, we must be willing to let others know we would like some help. That’s not always easy, for a couple of reasons: 1) You have always enjoyed doing it all, and 2) people have enjoyed letting you do it.

But it’s a change for the better---pursue it!

Every Family Has Their Own Traditions
Holidays put undue stress on family dynamics. Children may have grown up and moved away, or perhaps there’s a new child to celebrate. Newly married couples try to decide which in-laws get them for which holidays. A loved one may be seriously ill or in the hospital.

Life’s losses also create new challenges. A loved one may have died, or someone decided to divorce or separate. No matter how it comes, changes in life are inevitable. Anyone choosing not to be flexible only makes life harder for themselves.

Do you make Christmas, or does it make you? How many cultural traditions, family expectations or community events can you handle? How many gifts do you need to keep giving? How many favorites do you need to keep baking? How many ways can you simplify Christmas cheer?

From You to You
Christmas is a time of giving. God started it by giving His Son, a baby full of promise and hope for the world (John 3:16). The wise men also exemplified giving by honoring Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

This choice in time is positive and personal. Just remember---while giving to others, gift some time to yourself.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Has There Always Been a Christmas?


Sights and Sounds of Christmas
For several years I collected books about Christmas. I enjoyed learning about cultural traditions around the world and reading a variety of Christmas stories and folklore.

My favorite book is Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. On the cover the author is listed as Ace Collins, but I’ll give you the inside scoop. The publisher is Zondervan of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the copyright date is 2003 by Andrew Collins.

The Introduction shares a short history of how Christmas came to be on December 25th. That is followed by information on twenty-six Christmas traditions from Advent to Yule Logs.

I found many surprises. For example, in 320 A.D Pope Julius 1 declared December 25th to be celebrated as Christ Mass. Prior to that, churches celebrated Christ’s birth on any day they chose.

December 25th gained acceptance when Constantine The Great, a Roman Emperor, declared it the official day to celebrate the birth of Christ. He also declared Sunday as a holy day on the first day of a newly-created seven-day week.

Candles Add Christmas Cheer
Prior to this, almost every culture had festivals to celebrate the rebirth of the sun during the shortest days of the year. December was the month for these Mardi-Gras-like celebrations.

Have you ever wondered why We Wish You A Merry Christmas contains the line “oh, bring us some figgy pudding” and “we won’t go until we get some?” Commoners in England would go to palatial homes, stand outside and sing. The owners knew if they did not respond, the singers would riot and break in, taking what they wanted.

Even in America “The Lords of Disorder” took over the streets of New York in the early 1800’s. Germany was the first country to honor December 25th as the second most holy day in the year, after Easter.

When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Germany, he brought the reverent and German-oriented family traditions with him. English citizens started to copy the royal family, but Christmas as a holy day was still not established worldwide for many more years.

St. Nick Has Helpers
Two authors had a great influence on December 25th traditions. In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, minister and educator, wrote a poem for his children called “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” now known as The Night Before Christmas. Printed the next year in The New York Sentinel, it reshaped the holiday as one for children to enjoy.

In 1843, the already famous author, Charles Dickens, penned A Christmas Carol. Written during the Industrial Age, when men worked twelve hours six days a week and children were put to work for long hours at age eight or nine, it made people take another look at their values. It still does.

Celebrate The Holiday & Holy Day
In the next twenty to thirty years in America, states gradually declared December 25th a holiday. Moore’s poem started a commercial tradition, but churches also began to celebrate it as a holy day in honor of Christ’s birth.

Christmas has now become a season. It’s easy to become jaded by all the sights and sounds so many weeks before December 25th. This year don’t just grit your teeth and wish it were over. I challenge you to be purposeful in your celebration of both the holiday and the holy day.