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Kindness observed

Posted by on Jun 1, 2015 in Everyday Observations | Comments Off on Kindness observed

My church will be launching into its annual vacation Bible school today. There will be a four-day session each week for the next two weeks for kids—from teensy-tiny to eighth grade—and it will be jam-packed with amazing kid-things to do and outstanding Bible drama and worship every day.

I’ve volunteered in this event for several years. My job for the past couple of years has been to check kids out of their cars in the morning and help to make sure they made it to their various groups safely.

This is what I wrote about my experience at my church’s kids’ camp a couple of years ago:

I just finished working with my church’s vacation Bible school this week. Now, I’m not in the state of Texas, but my church may as well be!  Almost everything it does is BIG, especially this summer outreach to kids. My job was to help direct traffic as parents dropped off their children, aiding as kids hopped out of vehicles, and directing them to “walkers”—individuals from age fifteen to eighty—who walked them to the crosswalk and then to their stations.

As I participated in this massive movement of munchkins, I was very aware of the friendliness of the volunteers serving all around me. Kind words, gentle humor, and great encouragement filled the atmosphere as hundreds—no, literally thousands—of kids said goodbye to their parents and hello to the fun-filled environment awaiting them.

And I observed parents in their cars, vans, SUVs, pickup trucks, and jeeps respond to the thoughtful smiles, waves, and well-wishes just as much as their children. I watched, in more than one case, tension just drain away from a frazzled mom when a volunteer acknowledged her with a smile and a parting word of encouragement.

And I thought, “This is how we are to operate every day.”

  • Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:5-6
  • Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.  Philippians 4:5

Despite the chaos swirling in the world, we can walk in confidence that our God is on the throne. And we can also know for a fact that He longs to show forth His love and stability through us as we engage more and more consistently in everyday random acts of kindness.

If your church is holding a VBS this summer—or you know of others that are—pray for those events. The adults and teens volunteering their time could use your prayers for strength, grace, stamina, and wisdom from God as they reach out to boys and girls and younger teens who may have never clearly heard the gospel before in their lives. Pray that God will prepare the hearts of these kids for an encounter with Him.

May the hand of God be upon every church campus involved this summer in presenting the gospel to our youngest generation.

Dorothy

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A lesson from Gideon

Posted by on Apr 14, 2015 in Everyday Observations | 2 comments

The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Psalm 145:15-16

Gideon has a personality like Barney Fife. That cat virtually sniffs with cockiness around his feline siblings, nosing his way into anyone’s food bowl whenever he pleases–even the bowl of his 19-pound brother. You see, it’s not the size of the cat that counts; it’s the size of the attitude. Gideon has attitude in spades.

But like Barney Fife, underneath Gideon’s bluster lies a great big scaredy cat. Just sneeze when he’s snoozing sweetly next to you, and up he leaps with a start, wild-eyed with terror, scrambling for cover. The mighty Gideon is first to flee with a knock on the door or the roar of the vacuum. You get the picture.

And Sunday morning before church, God used this little red cat to convey profound spiritual truth to me.

I stumbled out of bed that morning feeling like a cross between a corpse and an empty Hostess cupcake wrapper—surely the result of that humongous piece of caramel apple pie I devoured on Saturday. I ached in more places than I didn’t, and as I groped for coffee it dawned on me that God was somewhere out there…and that He wasn’t aching.

The cats, certain they would starve to death, demanded immediate attention. I obliged, feeding the girls upstairs in the kitchen, and separating the boys from each other in the basement.

They grew up eating the same thing in the same room, playing musical chairs with their food bowls—every meal, all meal long—until every bite was gobbled up. No big deal—no one starved—and I was free to do my own thing.

But now the boys both have special needs. Rowe eats specific food for urinary tract health support, and Gideon was diagnosed a few months ago with failing kidneys—as a result, he’s on a strict low-protein diet. His health and telltale behavioral issues have improved, but I hover like a hawk—he’s convinced everyone else’s food is much better than his. Frustrated with his pickiness and insistence that he search out everyone else’s bowl, I quickly learned that he would eat his food if I fed it to him with a plastic spoon. Now all I have to say when he ignores his dish is, “Wanna spoon?” and there he is, basking in the attention—lick, lick, lick. Chew, chew, chew. Shake, shake, shake—crumbles of cat food flying. And then lick, lick, lick all over again. He milks it for all it’s worth.

That morning, I was absent-mindedly aching and thinking that it had been way too long since I’d really dug into the Word as I spoon-fed my red menace. Minutes crawled by. And then Rowe wanted out of his breakfast room and Gideon wanted Rowe’s leftovers. And the girls wanted anything they could find flung around from Gideon’s mess.

After securing the leftovers for their rightful owners later on, I wrote in my journal, “I’m craving my relationship with the Word, Lord. I’ve gotta do that for which I was created—feast on Your Word and receive food and revelation by Your hand.”

And then it hit me: God wants me to become like Gideon! That cat didn’t just want food—he insisted that I spoon-feed him. He wanted his food and closeness with me. In the same way, God didn’t want me to ignore Him while I downed verse after verse, chapter after chapter (shaking off chunks of Scripture before I wolfed down some more)—that wasn’t the way He wanted me to feed on His Word. He wanted me to sit with Him—like Gideon did with me—and feed on the portions of Scripture that He saw fit to feed me by His hand.

Even though I get annoyed with Gideon’s “love of the spoon”, I am noticing great improvements in his feline quality of life. Gideon is a living example of how all of us should become in our relationship with the Lord and His Word.

And the amazing thing is this: God will never get annoyed when any of us persistently push in for closeness with Him while feeding on His Word! He enjoys it!

Gotta go—the cats are telling me it’s dinnertime.

Dorothy

…like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation… 1 Peter 2:2

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Kindness observed

Posted by on Jun 2, 2014 in Everyday Observations | Comments Off on Kindness observed

My church will be launching into its annual vacation Bible school today. There will be a four-day session each week for the next two weeks for kids from teensy-tiny to eighth grade, and it will be jam-packed with amazing kid-things to do and outstanding Bible drama and worship every day.

Last year I was one of a multitude of volunteers. My job was to check kids out of their cars in the morning and help to make sure they made it to their various groups safely.

This is what I wrote about my experience at my church’s kids’ camp last year:

I just finished working with my church’s vacation Bible school this week. Now, I’m not in the state of Texas, but my church may as well be!  Almost everything it does is BIG, especially this summer outreach to kids. My job was to help direct traffic as parents dropped off their children, aiding as kids hopped out of vehicles, and directing them to “walkers”—individuals from age fifteen to eighty—who walked them to the crosswalk and then to their stations.

As I participated in this massive movement of munchkins, I was very aware of the friendliness of the volunteers serving all around me. Kind words, gentle humor, and great encouragement filled the atmosphere as hundreds—no, literally thousands—of kids said goodbye to their parents and hello to the fun-filled environment awaiting them.

And I observed parents in their cars, vans, SUVs, pickup trucks, and jeeps respond to the thoughtful smiles, waves, and well-wishes just as much as their children. I watched, in more than one case, as tension seemed to drain away from a frazzled mom when a volunteer acknowledged her with a smile and a parting word of encouragement.

And I thought, “This is how we are to operate every day.”

  • Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:5-6
  • Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.  Philippians 4:5

Despite the chaos swirling in the world, we can walk in confidence that our God is on the throne. And we can also know for a fact that He longs to show forth His love and stability through us as we engage more and more consistently in everyday random acts of kindness.

If your church is holding a VBS this summer—or you know of others that are—pray for those events. The adults and teens volunteering their time could use your prayers for strength, grace, stamina, and wisdom from God as they reach out to boys and girls and younger teens who may have never clearly heard the gospel before in their lives. Pray that God will prepare the hearts of these kids for an encounter with Him.

May the hand of God be upon every church campus involved this summer in presenting the gospel to our newest generation.

Dorothy

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On accuracy, the love walk, and joy

Posted by on Jul 24, 2013 in Everyday Observations, July 2013 | Comments Off on On accuracy, the love walk, and joy

Yesterday’s blog was about joy, but I didn’t plan to write on that subject. I intended to continue Monday’s topic by investigating ways to overcome obstacles that arise when believers don’t see eye to eye on points of doctrine.

Instead, I was attacked out of the blue with a migraine and couldn’t get my mind to think about much of anything. That’s why I wrote about joy. When I undergo a physical attack, I’m learning to relax, trust God, smile, and laugh a lot. So, aided by the Word of God and a migraine-busting ice pack, I rejoiced in God and wrote about joy. And the joy of the Lord was my strength. No more ice pack!

As I thought about the unconnectedness of Monday’s and Tuesday’s blogs, it dawned on me—they are very connected in a way that can help us to stay on track.

Christian life is about doctrine. Christian life is also about the attitude of the heart. Yet where do we as believers get gummed-up so much of the time in church life? In the areas of doctrine and attitude! When we think someone’s doctrine is off, if we don’t catch ourselves first, we’re liable to push Jesus off His seat at God’s right hand and pronounce judgment on the offender ourselves!

However, as you endeavor to be accurate both doctrinally and spiritually, the Father also holds you accountable to pursue and excel in love as well (see 1 Corinthians 14:1 and 1 Thessalonians 4:10). You are called to walk in both accuracy of discernment and a high level of love, but this takes a lifetime of practice.

Conflicts will  arise between Christians over doctrine. You will observe from time to time that someone is not behaving according to Scripture. You may even recognize that different ministers of the gospel are over-balanced in one direction or the other. Do you address any of it? Should you remain silent? What if someone else wants to discuss it with you? How do you guard your discernment and desire for accuracy without violating the law of love?

This is where the joy of the Lord comes in. It is your strength. Conflicts like these can weigh you down and wear you out over time if you don’t hold tightly to your joy. As you navigate through what can feel like shark-infested waters, you are not alone; Jesus is by your side. You have every right in the midst of conflict to praise Him; you have permission in the storms of strife to think on His goodness and rejoice, and you have the privilege when all hell breaks loose to ask Him to intervene in the situation and show you what to do. It is His good pleasure–His joy and delight–to come on the scene of your conflict when you ask Him to.

The Lord may lead you to confront someone about their error; the Lord may direct you to keep quiet. He may even correct you on the issue! But know this: the Lord is for you and not against you. As you seek Him in your pursuit of both doctrinal purity and love, He will instruct and teach you in the way which you should go; He will counsel you with His eye upon you (see Psalm 32:8).

And through it all, remember this: the joy of the Lord will always be your strength.

Dorothy

 

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The power of joy

Posted by on Jul 23, 2013 in Everyday Observations, July 2013 | Comments Off on The power of joy

One of the most unsung pieces of artillery in the war chest bequeathed to us by God is joy and good humor. As a melancholic personality-type (someone with a natural tendency to view the glass as half-empty and then to agonize over it long after the glass has been washed and put away), the good humor of joy has pulled me out of quite a few downward spirals. Does it sound odd to you that a melancholic-type can use joy as a weapon of warfare? It works—that’s why I use it!

As with every good thing we receive from God, Satan has devised a clever counterfeit for true humor and joy. Although I’m not addressing joy’s counterfeit here, suffice it to say that no one—including the devil—counterfeits worthless items. It is obvious, then that joy and good humor are very valuable when used in the right way.

A much-quoted Scripture declares at the end of Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

How does this joy—and its sidekick, good humor—work to strengthen you? Well, first of all, let me state something very clearly. I’m not referring to pretend “smiley-ness” and “praise the Lord-iness” that we can sometimes hide behind (I’ve been guilty, too) to make others think we’ve got it all together. No. The joy of the Lord which releases the strength of God is confrontational joy and humor—not exercised to impress others—but exerted in confrontation against the enemy—and against your own negativity, pain, or depression.

When you confront the devil with the joy of the Lord, he cannot stand against the strength that God imparts through it. Joy released during times of stress, pain, torment, or any other negative mindset or emotion empowers you to resist the devil, forcing him to flee from you.

However, sometimes an even more formidable foe stands between you and the attainment of God’s promises—you. How can you operate in joy when your mind or emotions scream in agony against the universe–or your neighbor–or your boss–or your body, racked with pain? It is at times like these when joy–and more simply, humor–can be among your most valuable assets.

When I catch myself becoming uptight and taking myself too seriously, I’ve learned that the quickest path out the inevitable downward spiral is through exercising the joy of the Lord and good humor. At first I have to force myself to participate in the process, but when I do, true joy always takes over and I am strengthened and refreshed. Remember—this is confrontational joy, and the target of this confrontation is yourself.

I have exercised this confrontational form of joy against my own negativity more times than I can count. Allow me to embarrass myself as I share some examples.

  • During times of emotional overload in my twenties, I accidentally discovered that if I forced myself to look in the mirror when I was crying, I would end up laughing—especially if I made faces at myself. And as I laughed at myself in the mirror, I got tickled by the absurdity of it all, and stress and pain seemed to fade away. Then trust in God would return to me along with real joy. I challenge you to try this technique if you feel yourself sinking into self-pity. It has worked for me.

 

  • Driving home after one of those days as an eighth-grade teacher when no one would listen and the paperwork piled as high as Mount Rushmore, the Spirit of God prompted me to smile. I did so, then stopped, and resumed complaining to Him. No, He urged; keep smiling—all the way home. I felt like an idiot with a big fake grin plastered on my face for the next few minutes. But it wasn’t long until the power of those smile muscles started oozing sunshine down into my grumpy soul, and by the time I reached my driveway, I was rejoicing. Again, I have exercised this technique often since then. It is extremely powerful when used against frustration, stress, or an overall negative attitude; and I guarantee that if you stick with it, you’ll end up smiling for real.

 

  • At times in bed when pain attacked my body and I couldn’t sleep, I realized that surely I must have stirred up a hornet’s nest somehow by my life or prayers, and that the physical symptoms were a clue to me that my enemy was not pleased. And I laughed. And laughed. And laughed. As I laughed big, hearty, belly laughs there in bed, pain-induced anxiety lifted and symptoms subsided. I laughed big laughs one night not too long ago at pain immobilizing one of my hands—and that pain simply drained out and vanished, and I fell asleep, a happy camper.

The joy of the Lord is your strength. As counter-intuitive as it may feel—especially to a melancholic personality-type—confronting yourself with joy and good humor when in the pit of despair, self-pity, or pain is exactly what the Great Physician ordered. And as you allow yourself to participate in confrontational joy, you will find the negativity fade away, and in its place will be the strength that can only come when you exercise the joy of the Lord.

May you be strengthened as you confront negativity with joy!

Dorothy

 

 

 

 

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What’s in your coffee?

Posted by on Jul 22, 2013 in Everyday Observations, July 2013 | Comments Off on What’s in your coffee?

Yesterday morning I enjoyed a cup of coffee as I prayed in my prayer room. I usually share this room and my morning prayer time with one of my cats who is on a special diet. Although he’s humungous, he’s the youngest and my smaller male pulls rank every time and barges right in, gobbling down that inticingly forbidden special food. To avoid that, my prayer room doubles as a private feline cafe.

As I was finishing my time with the Lord, I drained the last gulp or two from my coffee mug. Something with the texture of a crumbled dunked cookie flowed into my mouth with the last slurp. That’s odd, I thought; I didn’t dunk anything.

I spit out the remaining liquid and crumbly stuff into a napkin over the sink. And there, right before my eyes, were small chunks of cat food. Yikes! And contrary to the label, it did not taste like chicken.

As I spit and rinsed, spit and rinsed, and spit and rinsed again, I wondered how it happened to find its way into my coffee. Earlier in the morning, I had dished out the chow for my cats while simultaneously making my coffee. Evidently, something went terribly wrong in the preparation.

And two thoughts came to me.

1.  In our own lives as we go about our daily routines, things can get misdirected, lines might get crossed by accident, and we end up with less than pure intake. In fact, at times we eat “cat food” in life without even knowing it. Things may not seem quite right with what you’re hearing; the input from others may seem funny to the taste, but on you roll at the speed of light without giving it a second thought.

This is why it’s so important for you, in your busy life, to test all of your intake with the Spirit of God and His Word. If something doesn’t “taste”, “smell” or “feel” right to you, lift up a quick prayer and ask God to sort it out for you. Then later, if the Lord hasn’t brought clarity to you yet, spend some more time in prayer and look into the Word to find out what God says about it.

A man of God I highly respect used to say that when we listen to sermons or read Christian literature, we were to “have as much sense as an old cow; eat the hay and spit out the stubble.” I would add, this pertains to everyday life as well.

There’s a lot of cat food out there and there’s a lot of stubble. That’s why you need to be spiritually alert. Know what you’re hearing; know what you’re receiving as “the way it is”.

2.  You will survive with cat food in your stomach; you will survive some stubble. You just won’t receive the pure nutrients of the Word of God by consuming these things, and therefore, you’re not going to be nearly as strong as you could be in your walk with God.

If you go to church and find that you’ve been fed some stubble with your hay, just spit it out; don’t blast the messenger as a false teacher. Does Flossie the cow start an email campaign alerting the other cattle that Farmer Smith is a false farmer because she found some stubble in her hay last week? No, she eats her hay and spits out the stubble.

There’s a difference between stubble and poison. There’s a difference between cat food accidentally dropped in a cup of coffee and the intentional twisting of doctrine. You’re not only responsible to train your senses to discern between true food and stubble or cat food; but you also need to train your senses to discern between stubble and poison, cat food and toxins. The differences may seem subtle to you, but to God the differences are huge—as different as human misunderstanding versus the purposeful twisting of truth.

You are accountable every day you mature in Christ to develop discernment and to walk in it. When you are presented with stubble in your hay–or cat food in your coffee–spit it out! However, if you are fed a constant diet of stubble or cat food, you may want to find another place to dine.

On the other hand, don’t make the mistake of labeling those who have served some stubble or cat food in their messages as false prophets or teachers, or as those who preach “another Jesus”. Maybe they just had a bad week or a rough year. If you spend some time praying for them in love, you just might be blessed to learn how powerfully on-target they can preach.

It is my conviction that, as Christians, we need to refrain from labeling ministers and other believers in a knee-jerk reaction. Yes, we are to discern what we hear, but not everything that contains some stubble or bits of cat food is heresy; and not everyone out there who is labeled as false is, indeed, false.

And if you drop by my house for coffee, I’ll do my best to give you the straight stuff, cat food-free.

Dorothy

 

 

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