Sunday, September 29, 2019

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?


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 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


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?


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.