Searching for a Church

Searching for a church can get pretty rough:
This one’s too soft, this one’s too tough;
This one’s too proud, this one’s too loud,
This one’s too stuffy, this one’s too fluffy.
= – =
We just want a teacher without any bling,
And a friendly congregation where we can sing.
We’re really not picky, we don’t ask for much,
But so often there are factions, judgments, and such.
= – =
We need the fellowship, accountability, and the wise,
To exalt God, edify saints, and to evangelize.
But I guess that’s the earth, with its ego and leaven;
We won’t find a perfected one until we get to heaven!

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A Visit at Dollar Tree

= – =

I ran into someone I knew,

While shopping at Dollar Tree.

Years had added a distance,

But I engaged her anyway.

= – =

Someone told her that we aren’t friends;

So it was awkward for awhile.

But we’d always had great rapport,

And, like old times, I made her smile.

= – =

I have walked in her awkward shoes,

(Sadly, I, too, used to shun).

So I spoke with grace and friendship,

(As we should with everyone!)

= – =

We shared about our families,

Neither of us held back much;

And chatted of holiday busy-ness,

Travel, grandkids, and such.

= – =

All the while, I was wondering:

It’s not the same: what’s the deal?

We used to be so very close,

So kindred, so loving, so real.

= – =

But this time it was different:

“I’ll let you go…”  — “I’d better get…”

I begged strength in Christ to ask her:

“Are you still at that place we met?”

= – =

“Yes,” she responded cleanly,

Touting their accomplishments.

It was all I could do to keep quiet,

And not share a long lament!

= – =

Her so-called church teaches shunning,

Unforgiveness, bitterness, and hate.

But we’ve spoken about this before,

So I just keep on praying, and wait.

= – =

Then, after a nice, long visit,

I breathed an audible sigh,

Shuffled my awkward shoes a bit

And quietly said, “Good-bye.”

= – =

 

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Skunks & Magpies

My husband just got back from a camping trip. While there, he and his buddy found themselves up-close and personal with a skunk. (Note to Self: Don’t spread out breadcrumbs for the magpies; odorous mammals are one notch up on the food chain.)

So our curious campers kept their cool as they carefully considered the cute, crunching critter. After awhile, my husband had the wherewithal to crawl into his tent to retrieve his pistol. But he wisely predicted an attack on all the senses, and settled on a flashlight. (Still risky, IMHO.) But it worked, and the hungry little intruder wiggled away.

This isn’t our first run-in with one of these stinkers. A few years back, our daughter’s dog got skunked!  I had her keep him outside while I rushed to the Internet. “Okay, Honey, get the hose and soak him down—keep him wet. I have to wake Dad up and send him to the store.”  So, picture this: in the middle of the night, this middle-aged, bleary-eyed dude places on the grocery counter a very sketchy collection of items! Hydrogen peroxide, a bottle with a long, rubber tip, baking soda, feminine hygiene douche, and latex gloves. The checker looks at the stuff, slowly moves her gaze up to Dave, then back down. She looks scared. He scrambles to find the words: “It’s for the dog! A skunk sprayed him!”

….Bwahahaha!

But I digress. My favorite part of this week’s story is how David tells it. I had already known he was infatuated with magpies: their rich coloring, chatty banter, and an affinity for collecting anything with Bling. (And I read that they’re one of the few non-mammal species that can recognize themselves in a mirror!)  Anyway, on this occasion David was especially enamored with the skunk. He said it was really cute.  (Hmm. I wasn’t convinced. Okay, so I Googled it. Yeah, he’s got a point.)

I think even cuter was Dave’s excited storytelling of all the assorted black-and-white beggars at their campsite. He’s always had a soft spot for animals and birds.

Had he not married the queen bee (“I don’t HAVE a dog”), I could see David with a couple of pets. He did bring home a dog once; it didn’t work out.

Now that we’re in this empty nest, the thought has crossed my mind. But, “yeah, no.” Dave can enjoy nature (even in our backyard!), then return to a house devoid of paw-prints, hair on the couch, tickley allergens, and other surprises.

Unless he reads this blog post and gets an idea. [NOOOOOO….!]

 

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Apply It!

I’ve been greatly benefiting from using the Life Journal. But now I’ve added a step, and it’s a game-changer!  I’m copying applications I notate each morning to… wait for it…. my calendar!

[ !!!!!! ]

This seems like a no-brainer. But evidently I have no brain.

[ “Thick as a Brick:  Adjective. 1. Very stupid; slow to learn or understand. 2. Album by Jethro Tull. See also: Dumb as an ox. ]

Anyway, here’s the deal: After the “S.O.A.P.” process (see March 6 post), the half-sheet of notes is given a title.

Examples:

  • Pursue Peace and Build Up
  • Mind Your Own Business
  • Confess & Forsake
  • Remember Your Redemption
  • Manifest His Grace
  • Strengthen Love
  • Wisdom in Mourning
  • Defeat the Devil
  • Let God Keep Perfecting
  • Empty Yourself
  • Press On
  • Think Good Thoughts
  • Persevere
  • Work Heartily
  • Grace to Unbelievers
  • Justice to the Afflicted
  • Submissive and Quiet
  • Behave Yourself
  • Pay Attention
  • Good Old Lady
  • Keep the Commandment
  • Vessel of Honor
  • Count on the Rescuer
  • Pray for Revival
  • Good Leader / Bad Leader
  • Titus 2 Woman
  • Show Mercy

Now, the calendar part: I consider these general applications (and the Scripture itself), and then—on my monthly planner—I write specific action items. Here are a few examples:

Pursue Peace and Build Up Plan an outing with friends this month

Help someone at Bible study

Remember Your Redemption Memorize a verse on assurance

Testify of your hope to someone this week

Manifest His Grace Pick a friend to bless this month

Write an encouragement card

Empty Yourself Tackle a dirty task every week

Pray on your knees

Work Heartily On To Do list items, notate the joy factor

Each day ask God, “What can I do for You today?”

Justice to the Afflicted Give to the Benevolent Fund

Listen for needs and team up with someone to meet them

Count on the Rescuer Be more logical in responses to worldly people

Respond graciously, counting on God to refill you

Show Mercy Show mercy to doubters

Bring the Gospel to spare some from  wrath

Show mercy, but disdain being polluted by the flesh

Over this last month, I’ve done lots of things I might not have without this simple process. I think I’m onto something big. ‘Hope it helps you, too. ❤

 

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The Garbage Can Stinks

HATS OFF to all the garbage collectors! (err—excuse me, “waste management professionals”). It’s a dirty job. Dangerous, too: they get hit by cars. 😦 …. As a courtesy to these jaded and brave laborers, we really should sanitize our trash can: Yikes! P.U.!  It’s gotten so I just pop, drop, and run. [Note Honey-Do List.]

Why, you ask, am I even talking about this? Well, it’s from the Bible. Yup, today I read 2Tim 2: 20-21: “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”

My garbage can is a very dishonorable vessel! But my “pop, drop, and run” technique works just as well in the rest of life. Paul exhorts Timothy to avoid youthful lusts and the “dishonorable vessels” who practice them. So, if I want to be useful to God, I really need to monitor how much time I spend with these types. Paul is also describing people whose empty chatter “spreads like gangrene.” In my many years on this pilgrimage, sorry but yeah: there have been several people that have caused me to “pop, drop, and run.”

The crux of the matter is to know God’s Word well enough to tell the difference. v. 15: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 

The flower vase on my kitchen counter smells better than the trash can. So the “vessel of honor” gets to hang with me. The smelly one? Not-so-much. Are you catching my drift? 😉

 

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To My Mom

At your new house, you can’t taste,

When I try to cook your style:

But your recipes are delicious, Mom,

They drive everybody wild.

 

Nor can you really smell,

When a bonfire’s burning out back:

And folks are talking and singing,

While under the trees we relax.

 

From there, you don’t hear the sound

Of the songbirds all over our yard;

But now, enjoying them without you—

Sometimes can be very hard.

 

You don’t see the flowers I planted

(I learned everything from you),

Or the trees that I’m now pruning

(Because you told me to!)

 

You can’t feel the early sunrise

On the tomatoes and blackberries,

How they’re ripened by blessed rays

The morning sunshine carries.

 

But, Mom, I know that you feel

The dear love we all have for you.

You are the dearest in our hearts:

We love you, through and through!

 

Your life is a legacy of love,

Of charity, and assistance,

Giving whatever you had,

Up close, or from a distance.

 

You were misunderstood by many

Who didn’t appreciate your heart;

But any who are close to you—

You showed us how to do our part.

 

You dug into the trenches, Mom,

Hoping the best in others;

This sent an important message

To daughters from their mother.

 

And the care and help you’ve given

Especially to us three,

Is very greatly appreciated!

And the results, many now can see.

 

So as you walk through the shadow,

We each consider our days:

What did we do in the Lord?

And what did we do our own way?

 

Entering into eternal glory,

Our only hope, because of our fall,

Is to rest alone in His offering,

And trust Him to forgive us all.

 

This is how God works in our lives

For change, for love, and for good:

He provided the way for peace

By giving His own Son’s blood.

 

I just wanted to write this poem

‘Cause I love you, Mom, my friend,

And when you’re with God I’ll be happy

‘Cause I know it isn’t the end!

 

There’ll be sunshine & people & trees,

And flowers like you’ve never seen.

And I’d even bet there’ll be berries

With shortcake and heavenly cream!

 

There’ll be happiness and comfort,

And plenty of things to do;

You’ll be so glad to be going there—

(And someday I get to go too!!)

 

 

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1,000 Weeds

Priorities. We set them—then we tweak them. We love them—then we hate them.  We categorize them—we even judge others by them.  I knew a woman who, during pregnancy, reserved her caffeine allotment for chocolate.  Now **that’s** a priority! As I set foot into my 60s, I find myself making similar decisions.  Sure, my caffeine intake only affects one human life—but other choices could reap more prolific consequences.

When I was working full time, each day still left me 8 hours to play with. I now have double that!  Should I live 80 years (yikes), that could be 120,000 more hours left! So yeah, maybe I should set some priorities.

Here’s a shocker: I tossed the time management system I used for 40 years. Hey. Don’t judge.  “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!”  Each day, I get to decide how hungry I am:  1,000 people to love, 1,000 pages to read, 1,000 tasks to do, 1,000 weeds to pull.  So I divide my time: planning parties, helping the helpless; studying the Scriptures, teaching the teachable; preparing the property, readying for retirement. A plethora of possibilities!

No, I don’t always get it right: after a lousy night’s sleep, I might binge on Netflix the next morning. After week of backbreaking yard work, I might fall asleep early on Friday. But, so far, it’s working okay.

Being a semi-retired empty-nester has its sad moments. But one positive is the freedom to set priorities. To practice hospitality, it’s nice to have a weed-free garden. But by the same token, I can better mentor others and move forward in my walk with God if I don’t slack on my class studies. Both have eternal value. It seems to me, life needs a little bit of each.

P.S. Check it:

THINGS TO DO TODAY    from Romans 12

—     Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice

—     Do not be conformed to this world

—     Be transformed by the renewing of your mind

—     Not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think

—     One body in Christ

—     individually members one of another

—     Gifts … each of us is to exercise them accordingly, e.g.:

—     service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy

—     Let love be without hypocrisy

—     Abhor what is evil

—     Cling to what is good

—     Be devoted to one another in brotherly love

—     Give preference to one another in honor

—     Not lagging behind in diligence

—     Fervent in spirit

—     Serving the Lord

—     Rejoicing in hope

—     Persevering in tribulation

—     Devoted to prayer

—     Contributing to the needs of the saints

—     Practicing hospitality

—     Bless those who persecute you

—     Rejoice with those who rejoice

—     Weep with those who weep

—     Be of the same mind toward one another

—     Do not be haughty in mind

—     Associate with the lowly

—     Do not be wise in your own estimation

—     Never pay back evil for evil to anyone

—     Respect what is right in the sight of all men

—     If possible… be at peace with all men

—     Never take your own revenge

—     If your enemy is hungry, feed him

—     and if he is thirsty, give him a drink

—     Do not be overcome by evil

—     overcome evil with good

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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