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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Stash With a Purpose


STASH WITH a PURPOSE


While discussing TV shows, a friend asked, “Do you watch the one about hoarders?”
Have You Ever Watched Hoarders?

“To be honest,” I said, “I just can’t stand to see stuff piled from wall to wall in every room.  There’s hardly any place to even sit!”

I confess that I’ve been a collector of many things over the years. I’ve even had a dedicated “junk room” now and then. It was nice to have it out of sight, out of mind.

But now and then I’d ask myself, “Why am I keeping this stuff?” Highly motivated, I would start sorting through things. I always felt good about the resulting pile of charitable donations.

Goods or Cash---Both are Worthy Donations
If you’ve ever visited a thrift store, it’s easy to see truth in the old saying one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

I’ve met people from the Depression Era who saved an endless variety of things. Some even went so far as to build extra cupboards or buy huge plastic containers for storage. When I think of what they went through, it’s not hard to understand their motivation.

It’s not wrong to do what we can to provide for future needs. God even prepared an entire country for a coming famine. You can read the full story in Genesis, Chapter Forty-One.

Pharaoh, an Egyptian king, had two troubling dreams. In searching for an interpreter, someone mentioned Joseph. He was a former slave, now in prison, but known for interpreting dreams.

Joseph listened to the king’s dreams. Then he left and asked God for the interpretation. The basic message was this: Seven years of abundant harvest would be followed by seven years of famine.
Fields of Wheat Are Full of Hope

In appreciation for this warning, Pharaoh appointed Joseph to a high leadership position.

Joseph began storing grain in the good years. When the lean years arrived, there was such an abundance he even sold grain to neighboring countries. His stash had a purpose.

There is always a certain amount of wisdom in planning ahead. But for what purpose?

Scriptures instruct us to love our neighbor as ourselves. In fact, James 2:8 calls this “the royal law.” But I have heard people describe how they would use force if someone tried to steal their stash in perilous times.

Only You Know the Answers
Who doesn’t believe hard times will come? Even among people who choose to plan ahead, results will vary.

Some will label their stash: For Me and Mine Only.

Others will stash with a broader purpose: In Case of Emergency, Open and Share.

Which label would most describe you?

Sunday, October 6, 2019

What's Wrong With Boundaries?

WHAT’S WRONG WITH BOUNDARIES?


Some people dislike limitations of any kind, even the logistical variety. But boundaries have been in place ever since the Garden of Eden.

An Apple Simply Represents Temptation 
Adam and Eve had full run of the garden except for a verbal boundary. God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:16-17).   

Read the third chapter of Genesis and you’ll see that Eve fell for a lie and ate from the tree. Adam allowed himself to be drawn in, too.

Since verbal boundaries were not enough, God set up a visible boundary.

First, Adam and Eve were banished from the garden. Then God placed cherubim and a flaming sword that flashed back and forth at the entrance (Genesis 3:24). That would be hard to miss.

Fences Illustrate Boundaries
An old western song says, “Don’t fence me in.” Personal boundaries can keep people both in and out. Lack of boundaries can cause people to become exhausted, and even resentful, of the very people they want to help.

As a caregiver for both my husband and father, hospice urged me to be sure to care for myself. It was up to me to make time to get out for a walk or run errands. When I explained what I needed, both my husband and father supported my decisions.

A wise, but anonymous, person said, “Whatever you are willing to put up with is exactly what you will have.”

Henry Cloud, author of a well-known book on BOUNDARIES, said, “You get what you tolerate.”

Think about it.

Unless we set meaningful boundaries, our life will simply keep flowing away. Instead of a spring of living water, we will become a dry well.

So, what’s wrong with boundaries?

Nothing. They are a necessary part of healthy living.                      

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Thank God for Dirty Dishes


THANK GOD FOR DIRTY DISHES


Doing dishes has never been my favorite thing. When I was growing up, mom and I made a deal. She would do the evening dishes while I would practice my piano lessons.

I was quite happy with that arrangement, but as an adult I have often wondered if mom had the last laugh? Practicing piano was not my favorite thing, either.

Dirty Dishes Can Be a Good Thing
Yesterday I looked at the dishes piled in the sink and said, “I guess I have to do the dishes.” Instantly I thought every dirty dish represents food. That got my attention. I’m always thankful for food.

What about some other negative attitudes I might have carelessly expressed? It wasn’t hard to think of some.

I often say, “I have to fill up with gas.” The positive side is that I have a car to drive. Saying, I “have to clean up the bathroom,” should remind me to be thankful I don’t have to clean an outhouse.

Dirty Clothes Can Be a Good Thing, Too
If I “have to do the wash,” I should be thankful I’m not wearing rags and my clothes are capable of being washed. But there’s another thing.

In past years I often had to pack up dirty clothes and haul them to a laundromat and back. You can see why it’s easy now to thank God for my home washer and dryer when I “have to do the wash.”

I always enjoy reading Proverbs, and today this one came to mind: Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest (Proverbs 14:4 NLT).

That’s not hard to understand. If we choose to have oxen, horses or animals of any kind in a stable, we “have to muck out the stalls.”

Look for Positives in Your Negatives
According to Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we are to always be thankful (Colossians 3:15). Why not include little things as well as big things?

Even people who simply load a dishwasher can thank God for dirty dishes and the food He provided. In a restaurant dirty dishes may seem overwhelming, but be thankful for the income they represent.

The scenario differs for all of us. 

Next time you say “I have to” do something, try this. Think about the positive side, and be thankful.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

What Is Today?


TODAY IS HERE



Good Morning, Sunshine!

Days of the week are not the same---not even their names. Pick one and you will find many differences as people approach it in various ways.

For example, some see Monday as the beginning of their work week---back to the same old grind. For students it's back to school and more homework. Others are happy it's a holiday, their birthday, or the start of a vacation.

In one of our pastorates, my husband opened the Sunday morning service with a song. The congregation sang heartily, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The song was based on Psalm 118:24.

He began to think they might be tired of it, so he opened with different songs. What a surprise to hear people request “This is the Day!”

Each Day Makes Use of Time
My day begins with the morning sun, but some people begin their day with work shifts in the afternoon or evening. Let’s agree that twenty-four hours make a day, and it’s up to us what we do with it.

There’s an interesting scripture which says, “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty” (Psalm 90:10 NLT). The rest of that verse indicates life passes quickly and even the best of years have pain and trouble.

Life is an unknown. Sometimes it seems like a joy ride, until suddenly we are jarred by a pothole. That draws our attention back to the road.

My biggest pothole to date was fighting cancer with surgery, chemo, and radiation in 2007. 

As I faced each day of cancer treatments with prayer and faith in God’s Word, I learned good lessons about perseverance.

I have yet to meet a person without some kind of challenges. What interests me is how they choose to meet them.


A recent newsletter proclaimed, “Every day is a new adventure!” If an adventure can be described as a “happening,” I would agree. If described as "unusual, speculative or risky,” I’d still agree.

Even Small Choices Make A Difference
Personal choices can prevent some of the pain and troubles of life. But even a day you have chosen to start in a positive way may bring something unforeseen, therefore unavoidable.

Just as days of the week have different names, each day comes with a variety of challenges.

Today is here, what will it be? Hopeless or hopeful? Make your choice, then act on it.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Friendship Factors

FRIENDSHIP FACTORS


Friendship Is World-Wide
You've probably heard that "a friend is a present you give yourself." I think that's true, as far as it goes. But a one-sided friendship wears down and fades away after while.

Amos 3:3 asks a good question: Do two walk together, except they make an appointment and have agreed? (Amplified Version)

True friendship is a two-sided connection. While you are being a friend to have a friend, they are doing the same thing in reverse. Long-lasting friendship is the giving and receiving kind.

Friends Enjoy Life Together
Let's consider some positive friendship factors:

1) A friend knows your faults, but chooses to like you anyway.
2) They encourage your dreams and listen to your problems.
3) A friend catches your humor, and you catch theirs.
4) You share mutual interests in hobbies, entertainment, and spiritual things.
5) Your friendship communication is strong both in person and by other means.
6) When traveling together you make allowances for each other's peculiarities.
7) Each of you are free to share ideas when making plans.
8) Disagreements are worked out, not left to fester.

Healthy friendships allow for differences. Take food, for example. Dietary needs for one will be accommodated by the other. Why? The value is in the friendship, not the food.

A true friend is generous with your time as well as theirs. They are not possessive. They understand when you don't have time for them due to work or family responsibilities. 

They are willing to wait until you can connect again. Their friendship door always says, "Open."

Be Alert for Chocolate Chips
I smiled when I saw this coffee cup slogan: Friends are the chocolate chips in the cookie of life. My sentiment, exactly.

Paying attention to friendship factors enriches our lives: 1) We can sweeten someone else's life, and 2) they can sweeten ours.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

How to be a Winning Listener


HOW to be a WINNING LISTENER


Hearing is Sounds in the Ear
Believe it or not, hearing and listening are two different things. Hearing is a basic physiological response. Sounds waves stimulate auditory nerves in your ear and you perceive sounds.

Listening requires more from you. While hearing sounds you make a conscious effort to get meaning from them.

When I think of hearing, I think of the popular Verizon commercial with the man moving around while saying, “Can you hear me now?”

Ducks Hear, Too
Our family used to kid Dad a lot about being deaf. When we would say something, he would often say, “What?” We would repeat it only to find out he had heard us; he just hadn’t listened for the message.

Igor Stravinsky, Russian composer of the Rite of Spring, said, “To listen is an effort . . . just to hear is no merit. A duck hears, also.”

So, let’s think about this.

People enjoy talking to someone who is really engaged with what they are hearing. Some would refer to them as “active listeners.” They might exhibit traits such as these:

1)  They listen carefully and speak in a meaningful moment. Proverbs 18:13 (NLT) says, “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.”

2)  They listen for the meaning behind the words. This is why therapists often give feed back and ask if they have heard correctly.

3)  They accept the speaker’s emotions, concerns, or experiences. Though they may not agree or fully understand, they allow the speaker to be real.

4)  They ask open-ended questions to draw out further understanding. Questions answered with a simple yes or no may not be enough.

5)  They ask permission to share a possible solution. It is a privilege to speak into someone’s life and unwanted advice is rarely heeded.

Be a Winning Listener
It’s not always easy to be an active listener. Sometimes we might become angry. Or because of hurt feelings, we would love to lash out or argue our position.  

If so, give yourself a reality check. No one is able to go through life without ever being misunderstood. Pressured as you may feel, try to remain calm.

The Apostle James had three words of advice: 1) be quick to listen, 2) be slow to speak, and 3) be slow to get angry (James 1:19, (NLT). 

Winning listeners learn how to do all three.



Sunday, September 1, 2019

How Tall Are YOU?


HOW TALL ARE YOU?


This Tool Will Measure Height
I was always tall for my age. In fact, when I was in sixth grade, I remember the teacher saying we were the tallest class in years. It was one of the few times I did not tower over my friends.

Friends have never been chosen because of their height, however. I’m more concerned with how tall they are on the inside. 

For example, are they brave enough to stand for the right when pressured to do wrong?

Are they generous enough to take time to help others? Does respect for all people flow freely in creating relationships?

Do they speak from a positive or negative viewpoint? Are they willing to speak the truth with kindness? Do they look for both sides of a story before passing judgement?

I’ve had wonderful friends over the years. But one person stood out so much that I once wrote a story about her.

I could never get into mother-in-law jokes because mine was a jewel. I called her story Five Feet of Loving Kindness. She was a blessing in my life.

Petite is About Five Feet
Mom was petite, but she did many things that made her stand tall in my opinion:

1) When her mother got cancer, after all the siblings had left home, mom faced the care giving challenge with courage.

2)  As a young mother, she contracted polio and was in an iron lung, separated from her family for many months. Mom came home with heavy leg braces but was determined to walk again. Through much prayer and persistence, it happened. She walked with no support and only a slight limp.

3)  Two elderly single women lived next door. They needed help with practical things, so mom volunteered to do their weekly wash. She did it consistently for years.

4)  Her half-sister became widowed and developed dementia. As it worsened, mom would take her a daily lunch and check on her meds. Later, in a care center, mom visited her regularly.


5)  Though a wife and mother of two, mom worked full time. She was active in her church, given to hospitality, and respected in the community.

6)  I enjoyed her sense of humor and her interest in my life. In my ministry, I worked with many volunteers and mom gave me a helpful word: If you know where you are going, people are willing to help you get there.

Hearts are Measured by Attitudes & Actions
Mom exemplified Philippians 2:4 (AMP): Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not (merely) his own interests, but also each for the interests of others.

She also lived Ephesians 4:32 (AMP): And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted) . . .

My question is, “How tall are YOU?” Not just on the outside, but the inside, too.



Sunday, August 25, 2019

Scrapple or Scruples?


SCRAPPLE or SCRUPLES?


Amish Country has Beautiful Simplicity
We were on vacation in Amish country when I decided to try scrapple. I like to try new things, so I asked the waitress to describe it. After her explanation I placed my order.

I discovered that although I like the ingredients in scrapple, I do NOT like them together. It’s been years since that experience, but I never forgot it.

I struggled to give myself permission to leave the scrapple mostly untouched. You can understand my dilemma if you were trained as a child, like I was, to always clean my plate!

If you are unfamiliar with scrapple, it’s a frugal way to use leftovers. I’ve seen it described as a mush made from pork scraps, cornmeal, wheat or buckwheat flour and spices. Sometimes it’s cooked, cooled and sliced, but my order reminded me of hash.

As I was thinking of scrapple the word scruples popped into my head. I liked the alliteration, so I stopped to think about it.   

Just as not everyone likes scrapple, some people ignore scruples. 

While growing up we get a mixture of scruples from parents, teachers, and religious leaders. It’s a mushy mixture of moral training from which we must select parts to become our own.

People with scruples care about right and wrong. If they have qualms, misgivings or uneasiness about something they generally choose to avoid it.

The value of that is described in Proverbs 2:11: Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you (NIV). The New Living Translation puts it this way: Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.

Feel free to avoid scrapple, if you want to, but do NOT forget to pay attention to your scruples.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Alive With the Big Five


ALIVE WITH the BIG FIVE


I Love to Walk in the Forest, Too
It’s a beautiful day for a walk outdoors. I enjoy feeling the wind in my face and seeing all the shades of green on the trees in summer. In winter, I enjoy blue sky peeking through their leafless branches. 

Downtown I walk Historic Whiskey Row across from the courthouse square. As I window shop, I smell leather here and popcorn there. A store being refurbished gives off paint smells and alcohol odors float out of darkened bars.

Like me, you may think we learned about the Five Senses in primary grades. But don't most parents delight in teaching their toddler the “Point and Name” game? How excited they are to see their child name his toes, nose or other body parts as he points to them. 

It's not a body part, but I'm amazed by touch. Often it is represented by a hand, but it's really a function of the entire body. For example, we can sit down and feel the cold metal of a chair. And if we pluck even one stray eyebrow hair, we feel an immediate twinge of pain.

World-Wide We Have Five Senses
There are many amazing things about our body, but I love the balance and order in God's Big Five. Think about this:

1. We have peripheral vision, but we do not have EYES in the back of our head. 

2. Our EARS are like cups to catch surround sound, with a balance between noise in foreground and background. So far, I have not had a person with a hearing device ever tell me it balances sound as well as their original hearing.

3. One NOSE is all we need to smell the difference between light fragrances and noxious odors. 

4. One TONGUE is all we need to enjoy a variety of tastes such as salty, sour or sweet. 

Five Senses Counted on Five Fingers
5. The TOUCH of one finger can determine hot or cold. The touch of one hand lovingly holding another is a source of satisfaction. 

Aren’t we amazing? Five senses help us connect to our world. Psalm 100 mentions being thankful and giving God praise. 

If you can’t think of anything else, just tell God you’re glad to be “Alive With the Big Five.”                                      


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Birds of a Feather

BIRDS of a FEATHER


Birds of a feather flock together may be truer than we humans think. People are into their independence these days and it’s harder to gather a flock.

“Let’s have a meeting” doesn’t always mean there is complete unity. It can be healthy to share different viewpoints and ask questions of one another before a decision is made.

It's not always business, however. Sometimes people gather to enjoy a special event. Discussing a shared football game or stage performance can build up relationships and create a sense of community.

Birds in "V" Formation
Have you ever looked up to watch birds flying in a “V” formation? I’ve heard it gives them more flying power, no drag on their aerodynamics.

Groups have their time and place, but there are times to be alone. On the ground, for example, each bird must hunt for its own food. The group will be affected by how well they do that.

We live in a time when personal gatherings happen less often. I worked for one company where the boss loved communicating by email. I often thought if we could just meet face-to-face, we’d clear this up much quicker.     

A couple of weeks ago I had the same thought in a cell phone company’s chat room. After texting back and forth for twenty minutes, "Charlie Chat" did not solve my problem. In fact, he finally texted I lost you and hung up.

I got in my car and drove about fifteen miles to the company’s physical store. There were several birds of a feather behind the tech desk, and one of them solved my problem in less than five minutes.

Face-to-face is still my favorite way to meet with people. It can be two or three, ten or twenty . . . it doesn’t matter. I like the personal connection.

These are Spoonbill Cranes
Birds of a feather flock together in small or large groups. All my life I’ve enjoyed being part of a faith community. I flocked into a variety of settings, such as small groups, large congregations, staff meetings, potlucks and special events.

Group size is not the issue. What matters is the fulfillment of purpose expressed in Hebrews 10:24 and 25: Meeting to love and encourage one another through long days and hard times.

Be, or become, part of a flock with a positive purpose. We can never have too much encouragement to keep the faith and continue doing good.            

Sunday, August 4, 2019

A Meaningless Re-do


A MEANINGLESS RE-DO


It never would have happened if my husband had not insisted that we must cooperate.

What was the problem?

His and Her Wedding Rings
Our Pastor had decided to have a day to honor marriages. No problem there. I’m fully in favor of celebrating commitment.

I was fine until I heard the plan for ending the service.

Not only was the pastor going to ask all married couples in the audience to stand, he was going to call the staff to the platform. We would all repeat our vows after him.

There was the problem.

I said, “I love you, Honey, but I can’t do it.”

He said, “I know you love me, but we have to do this.”

“Maybe I can be gone that Sunday,” I said, knowing full well I would be there. I thought I’d probably feel worse as a deserter than a target on stage.

Daily routines kept me busy. I tried to forget that Sunday was coming. I usually enjoyed going to church because the people were very friendly and accepting.

Make a List -- Get It Done
Working with this pastor and his wife was a joy to me, too. But I couldn’t ask to be excused because of loyalty to my husband.

The dreaded Sunday arrived. As planned, the pastor concluded his sermon and called the staff forward.  On the platform, as we faced each other, my husband quietly said, “We’ll be OK.”

I had always said, “I meant my vows the first time and I don’t ever intend to repeat them.” I strongly felt that for me it would take something precious away from the original.

As we started to repeat the vows, I started crying. How embarrassing!

I was happy in my marriage, but what would people think? I was thankful my husband kindly escorted me off stage. I wished I could disappear.

My father-in-law saved the day. As I tried to slip out the back door he said, “Well, Dar, it was just like the first time.”  He smiled and laid a hand on my shoulder. What a relief. I knew Dad understood and life could go on.

Love and Understanding Help A Day Go Better
No one ever mentioned my tears, not even the pastor. And I’ve never again been asked to repeat my vows. I’d have to be true to myself and refuse.

I'm sure my husband would agree for a couple of reasons: 1) It would be nice to avoid another embarrassing moment, and 2) he knows repeating my vows would be, for me, a meaningless re-do.

Any couple choosing to repeat their vows has my full support. We all need to be free to choose what means the most to us.

Solomon had some good advice: When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it (keep your word) . . . Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 NKJV).

It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time around, or a re-do.