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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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Disregard

Posted by on Jul 12, 2013 in Everyday Observations, July 2013 | Comments Off on Disregard

Part Four

Simmering under the surface in many marriages is a disregard and lack of appreciation, one spouse for the other. Every evening, sitcoms use this underlying disrespect as fodder for laughs as couples (married or not, heterosexual or not) battle it out with witty insults. And the unspoken message is that the winner is the one with the most dehumanizing, ourageous put downs.

Synonyms for the word disregard are: ignore, take no notice of, discount, pay no attention to, forget about, and disrespect. Do you ignore your spouse? Do you take no notice of her or pay no attention to him? Do you discount him or forget about her? Does your attitude and your behavior expose an underlying disrespect for your spouse?

I’m no marriage counselor, but I have caught myself in dismissive, bitter, and disrespectful attitudes, conversations, and behaviors toward others in my life. Try as I might to get God to fix the offending one for me, He wouldn’t budge! And then I realized it—God’s concern with me is what I do about my part, not how He and I can fix someone else! That bothered me a lot; I wanted the other person to feel how much they hurt me; I would have liked for them to get hit over the head with how wrong they were!

Go figure—God made me repent about my attitude toward my offenders! But along with the adjustment in attitude He directed me to make, He also showed me that wrong behavior is wrong behavior, and He doesn’t endorse it in anyone.

What works for me may work for you, too, when you find yourself in strife. I pull aside, allow myself to focus on the Lord, and acknowledge that He made both of us—myself and my human antagonist. I thank Him that He loves both of us and that Jesus died for both of us. And if the one who offended me is a believer, I trust that the God who dwells in me dwells in him, as well. I forgive him and then tell God, “If the veil was torn away, and he (she) could see clearly how hurt I was by his [words, actions, attitude, snubbing, etc.], I know that he (she) would fall to the ground, cry, tear his garment, and beat his hands and feet on the ground in sorrow over the pain he caused me.” Then compassion for his (her) agony of repentance rises up in me and I am able to forgive him cleanly, whether I see the fruit of it yet or not. If unforgiveness raises its ugly head within me again, I just pray the same way again and watch it flee from me. (After I’ve prayed such prayers and have truly forgiven people from the heart, I’ve experienced the softening of  attitudes toward me as well as apologies given—more than once.)

Sometimes, however, the One you are ignoring, paying no attention to, or disrespecting is God Himself.

Romans 1:20-21 states the case that humans, from antiquity on, have known God; since creation His invisible qualities and divine nature have been clearly seen and are understood through simple observation of all that He has made.

Our generation fits this description every bit as much as those alive in Bible times: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21).

Of all the undermining behaviors I’ve written about this week—role-reversal, control, and passivity—I believe that disregard for God is at the root of all of them. You know God; do you honor Him as God? You see the majesty of God in nature; do you give Him the thanks He deserves?

When you honor and thank God as a way of life, your heart and mind are guarded in Christ Jesus (see Philippians 4:6-7). This gives the act of thanking God a protective edge. When you acknowledge Him, when you give Him praise, when you thank Him in your life—especially on an ongoing basis—your human tendencies toward role-reversal, control, nagging, or passivity are less likely to dominate your personality. As you make it your business to acknowledge God with a thankful heart everyday, the deceptive, seductive, degrading suggestions by the culture and the enemy cannot find a foothold in your life. When you disregard the practice of thanking and acknowledging God, you are more likely to fall into the mindsets and behaviors described in the rest of Romans 1.

The take away from all of this is to tackle every thought, suggestion, mindset, emotion, offense, and worldview that comes your way with an eye toward the Word of God, acknowledging God as God, and thanking Him for being your God.

Keep yourself on firm footing by refusing to disregard God or His Word in your life any longer. He is God, and as you acknowledge Him as God and give Him the ongoing thanks He deserves, you will find yourself growing in wisdom and clarity about the world around you and His will for you in it.

Thanksgiving is a force that will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

Be bold in your acknowledgement of Him and stay thankful,

Dorothy

 

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Passivity

Posted by on Jul 11, 2013 in Everyday Observations, July 2013 | Comments Off on Passivity

Part Three

Passivity. I almost didn’t write about this topic because I just didn’t feel like it; I was thinking if I kept putting it off, you would do it for me.

The primary complaint concerning passivity in marriage comes from women whose husbands who have laid aside the leadership role in the household. Although he tends to lead everywhere else, she laments, he doesn’t do so at home. There are many underlying reasons for this, but passivity on the part of a man toward his God-given responsibility can be extremely harmful to a healthy marriage. For an excellent outline about this, I am including a link at the end of today’s blog.

Since passive people, due to their characteristic avoidance of conflict and submissive demeanor, don’t create waves, you might think that passivity is a key to godliness. However, passivity toward God-given responsibility is a primary cause of ineffectiveness and unfruitfulness in Christian life.

For example, you probably eat three square meals a day without giving a second thought to the big bites of your time that eating consumes. However, have you ever thought that feeding your spirit with God’s Word was too time-consuming? When you can’t spare five or ten minutes sometime during the day to read or meditate on the Bible, you just might be spiritually passive.

“Seven days without prayer makes one weak” flash signs in front of many churches. Corny? Yes. True? Yes, again. But when you can’t seem to find the time to communicate with God, you just might be spiritually passive.

Jesus called you, His disciple, the salt and light of the world. The salt in you was not meant to rest forever in the shaker; your light was never meant to sit permanently idle under a barrel. No matter how thrilling it is to hear testimonies of souls won, lives changed, and prayers answered, those miracles didn’t occur without the salt being poured out first or with the light still turned off. In every case, someone rose up out of passivity and lived boldly, spoke freely, or prayed fervently. God used someone’s salt and light to perform His wonders.

With the world squeezing in against you from every direction, you can’t afford to live  a passive life. You will never be able to address the persistent twisting and distortion of truth in our generation effectively with bland passivity or wishy-washy conviction. As the old saying goes, “If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.” Only by soaking up the nutrients of the Bible and by spending time in fellowship with your God on a daily basis will you find the ongoing strength, wisdom, and power to face off with the assignments that God will send your way.

Wishing the world would straighten up on its own won’t make it happen. Wishing the rapture would just take place now won’t make that happen, either. You are salt and you are light, and since the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He Himself will quicken  and empower you to do all that He’s calling you to do. But He cannot do these things in you without your active cooperation.

“‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’  Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”  Ephesians 5:14-17, NIV

Stay salty and shine brightly,

Dorothy

 

For an outline from bible.org on the origins and effects of passivity in marriage, see  https://bible.org/seriespage/passive-men-wild-women-part-1-genesis-31-5

 

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