Friday, March 30, 2012

A Palm Sunday Baptism


Early in the morning Dot lay in bed thinking about the special Palm Sunday ahead. She glanced out her window enjoying the sunshine, then noticed snow on a tree limb. She jumped out of bed and ran to the window. Snow covered everything in sight. Who ever heard of it snowing on Palm Sunday?

Dot and her parents and younger sister walked to their church through a foot and a half of snow. So much snow had fallen that the streets hadn't been cleared. Dot enjoyed Sunday school and worship and, though attendance was low she knew it would be an extra special day.
           
That night Dot and her family walked to church again through the snow. Dot's heart beat a little faster than usual now, in anticipation. She remembered the minister’s description of Palm Sunday with Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a little mule. The people had strewn palm branches in his path and shouted with praise and joy, "Hosanna to the King!" The minister said they should do everything with love and joy and praise for Jesus in their hearts and shout "Hosanna to the King."

When they arrived at church Dot went to a little room next to the sanctuary. Her friends were already there and women from the church helped them get dressed. Dot slipped into her white robe and just then the organist began playing the prelude. Dot's heart beat a little faster, because she knew this was such a special moment in her life - one she would always remember. Dot was going to be baptized that night.

The service began. Dot's best girl friend, Kitty, went first and came out dripping wet, but smiling. One of the boys went, and then her turn came. She stepped into the water slowly and confidently. The minister took her hands. He talked about the meaning of baptism and asked her if she loved Jesus and wanted Him as her Lord and Savior. Dot replied, "Yes" in a low whisper, but her heart was beating a loud and joyous "Yes" within her.

Dot didn't fully understand all that baptism meant, but she knew Jesus was the Son of God and died for her and rose again. She knew baptism meant she would try to do whatever Jesus wanted her to do and she would be different because Jesus would live in her heart.

The minister said, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost" as he gently let her down into the water. As she came up out of the water she heard the congregation singing "My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine" and she knew for the first time what that song meant.

After church she heard people say, "What a shame it had to snow on Palm Sunday." But Dot didn't feel that way. She knew this day couldn't be hurt by outward things like snow. That night she had proclaimed to all the members of her church that she wanted Jesus to be the King of her life - just as the people the first Palm Sunday had proclaimed him King. Dot wanted to do as the minister had said they should that morning and live with a song of love and joy and praise for Jesus in her heart always.

"Bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord!" Luke 19:38 NLT

Blessings,

Dottie

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thoughts After Seeing Schindler’s List


Schindler's List  is a 1993 American film about Oskar Schindler,  a German business man who saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. At the time of the film's release, there were fewer than 4,000 Jews left alive in Poland, but more than 6,000 descendants of the Schindler Jews throughout the world. He risked his own life to save others.

I was stunned by this movie, in shock, numb. I thought I would cry during it, but I cried only briefly. I did cry during the night. I woke up thinking about the movie and feeling very, very sad. I cried for all mankind.

The Holocaust really happened to real people. How could it have happened? How can anyone say there is no evil in the world?

This happened in the 1940’s. Is the world a better place today? Or is it worse? Could it happen again? 

It already has happened again in Bosnia and Rwanda even though world communication is very rapid now. War, brutality and killing continue today in many “hot spots” around the world.

How can God not judge mankind?  We are all guilty. We have done mean, cruel things to others. We have used power to get our own way. We have all turned our back on the suffering of others.

Jesus suffered the same indignities as those in the Holocaust. He was stripped of everything including his clothing. He was beaten, taunted, and unjustly crucified. He died a painful death. 

What can we do to heal our world?  Is letting our “light” shine enough?  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spiritual Vitamins


We have spiritual malnutrition unless we accept these vitamins:

Vitamin A – Atonement – Christ’s death atoned for our sins. Accept this vitamin and sing Alleluia!

Vitamin B –Bible - God’s Word, we are to read and feed on this vitamin and count our Blessings.

Vitamin C – Christ died on the Cross for us, rose again and established his Church. We commit our lives to Him and we are his Church. Vitamin C is powerful!

Vitamin D – Disciple – We follow Him with Dedication and Devotion and he Delivers us from evil.

Vitamin E - Everlasting Life – What a life-giving vitamin this is!

Vitamin F – Faith - We are saved by faith through grace, and we Fellowship with one another.

Vitamin G – God – our Good and Grace-filled God Gives Good Gifts!

Vitamin H – Holy Spirit – dwells in us as our Helper.

Vitamin I – Immanuel – God is with us – what Inspiration!

Vitamin J – Jesus – Our Justifying King, puts the Joy, Joy, Joy down in our hearts!

Vitamin K – King Jesus fills us with Kindness and Knowledge.

Vitamin L – Love that will not Let us go and helps us Let go.

Vitamin M – Master, Messiah and Mediator gives us Meaning, Message and Mission.

Vitamin N - New Life – we are New creations in Christ.

Vitamin O – Opens the eyes of our heart.

Vitamin P - Prayer, Purpose, and Peace fill our lives. Praise Him!

Vitamin Q - Quiet Time with Him Quells our Questions.

Vitamin R - Refuge, Response, and Resources are found in Him. Rejoice!

Vitamin S - Son, Savior, and Shepherd Saves our Soul. Sing praise!

Vitamin T – Trust in His Teachings Touches us Tenderly. Give Thanks!

Vitamin U – Unity in Him – Unveils our hearts.

Vitamin V – Vision - He is our Vision giving Victory in Jesus!

Vitamin W – Wisdom – God’s unsearchable Wisdom is revealed to the Weak.

Vitamin X – eXcellence – Perfection found only in Christ. He is our eXample.

Vitamin Y – Yes – We say Yes to Him and are Yoked with Him.

Vitamin Z - Zeal – We are Zealous (enthusiastic, passionate) for our God and His purposes.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Loyalty in Marriage


Loyalty in a marriage means putting your spouse’s feelings, wishes and needs above those of others. We love our children, we love our parents, and we love extended family and friends. But our marriage relationship is primary, first, number one. Only our relationship to God ranks above our marriage.
           
Family problems are often due to conflicting loyalties. An adult woman, for example, may try to take into consideration on any given issue, what she thinks, what her husband thinks, what her family thinks and what his family thinks. It may be difficult just to work out an agreement with her husband, much less satisfy all the other relatives. 
           
Parents must allow young couples to break away and find their own answers to life’s problems.  Parents give young couples a wonderful gift when they allow them to put their partner first; when they no longer try to control them.

Loyalty to one’s partner does not mean you must say you agree when you do not. It does mean supporting his or her view of the situation when you are with others. (If you disagree, do it in private, later.) This sense of being able to count on one’s partner for support and protection, no matter what - is vital to the feeling of comfort and safety needed in marriage.
           
Your partner’s definition of loyalty may differ from yours. It’s important to pay attention to his or her viewpoint. Remaining neutral won’t satisfy. Neutrality will appear as though you are siding with the opposition. Your partner wants and needs an ally. The issue of loyalty often comes up in relation to others or in public situations. When we are publicly challenged by our mates we feel betrayed. This can happen innocently, when one partner “corrects” the other’s way of telling something. 

It may feel safe to have one’s partner tease you or disagree with you when you are in private. In public, even in a family group, this feels quite different. This may say to the larger group that your marriage is not going well. It can create feelings of shame, embarrassment or even humiliation. When your partner sides against you, is disloyal to you, you feel very betrayed.
 
“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17 NIV

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Proofreading Scripture


Is the Bible inerrant? Are there mistakes in Scripture? Did the Bible need a proofreader? Many people today doubt its veracity. My book, Changing Churches elaborates on these troubling issues.

In the course of writing and working with a publisher I learned more than I ever knew I needed to know about proofreading. I spent days and hours and even weeks looking for mistakes. This daunting task taught me that nothing man creates is perfect.

The Christian Writer's Manual of Style says:
"The average 200 page book contains about 500,000 characters, that is a half-million letters, spaces, and punctuation marks. Each one must be in exactly the right place if the book is to be error free. A book that is 99 percent accurate will still contain five thousand typographical errors - about twenty-five errors per page. A book that is 99.9 percent accurate will still contain five hundred errors, or about two-and-a-half per page."      

Even so, I couldn't believe it when I discovered a mistake in The Message version of the Bible!

"May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!" (Romans 15:13)  

Clearly this should say "May the God of great hope fill you up with joy..."  The mistake in The Message was a minor error not picked up by spell check and it did not distort or change the basic message of the verse.

The accuracy (Truth) of the Bible has come under attack by many so-called Christian churches and groups in recent decades. Check out the Re-Imagining Conference, and the Jesus Seminar. As Christians we need to know the Scriptures and be able to defend their veracity. Lee Strobel's book, The Case for Christ, gives marvelous information along this line.

Here's a taste of Strobel's facts attesting to the truth of Scripture:

How can we be sure the biographies of Jesus are reliable? The four gospel writers give eye witness accounts of Jesus life and teachings. Their accounts, written 20 to 30 years after the crucifixion, contain accurate historical dates and are consistent with each other.

What about copying errors? The only errors are minor such as misspelling of words or putting the words in a different sequence without changing the meaning. There is no variation in the major doctrines of the church.

Did Jesus and Jesus alone match the identity of the Messiah? Dozens of Old Testament prophecies gave Israel a way to rule out impostors and validate the authentic Messiah. Against astronomical odds - one chance in trillions ­- Jesus, and only Jesus, throughout history, matched this prophetic fingerprint.

Surely, the Bible was proofread by the Holy Spirit.


Blessings, Dottie



Monday, March 19, 2012

Grief and Love


A friend told this story in Bible class one Sunday in 1991. While walking around his neighborhood he noticed a woman come out of her house and begin to put up her flag. He knew her next door neighbors were in Florida. 

He said "Hello," and asked, "When will your neighbors return? 

She replied in a whisper he couldn't hear, so he walked up the driveway. The woman apologized for not being able to speak louder and said with a grief-stricken voice, 

“I lost my husband yesterday. He always loved to have the flag up, so she I’m putting it up.”

He helped her raise the flag. He learned they had been married for 45 years. He figured her husband was a veteran.

When he continued his walk he was surprised by tears rolling down his cheeks. He hoped his presence and help raising the flag comforted her. The class prayed for the God of all comfort to comfort her. 
  
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Cor. 1:3-4


Blessings, Dottie

Friday, March 16, 2012

How can we keep our love growing?


In order to keep love growing in a marriage it’s necessary to be open and vulnerable to the other person. In other words, even though you’re uncomfortable showing your feelings this is what you must begin doing. This is especially difficult for men who were taught to appear tough and in control all the time. All of us learn to hide behind protective walls so we won’t be hurt. However, these walls keep us from connecting with each other. It’s only as we let the walls down that we are truly able to love and be intimate.

We are stronger now than we were when we put up the walls so we can survive if we are hurt. The alternative of not opening up is living life in isolation from others. Remember how you felt when you were courting your partner? To bring back that same excitement, do some of the same things you eagerly did then. You took risks then in reaching out to your love. 

Here is a list of things you can do that will help you connect with your partner in a loving way:
            •Let your eyes light up when your partner walks in the room.
            •Look into your partner’s eyes.
            •Listen to your partner, really listen.
            •Acknowledge your partner’s feelings.  “That must really hurt.” 
            •Ask for forgiveness for specific things you’ve done that have hurt your partner.
            •Hold hands in public and in private.
            •Give hugs and say “I love you.”
            •Give compliments.  “You look nice today.” 
            •Let your partner know you appreciate him or her. “I appreciate the time and effort you put into cooking dinner tonight.”
            •Cuddle while watching TV.
            •Be romantic while making love.
            •Remind your partner of specific times in the past when you were close.  Talk about these times.

Work at your marriage as you work at your job. It's worth the effort and time this takes. No one cuddles up to a job. The marriage remains when the job is over.

“My lover is mine and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 NIV

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two Ways Out of A Maze


 I go through times when I feel very confused about myself, about my life, and even about God. It’s as though I’m in a maze and I can’t find my way out. I wander back and forth, in and out, repetitiously looking for answers, looking for a path that will lead me out of the maze. 
           
One day I prayed about this and God showed me two ways to get out of my maze! He showed me that a maze has walls but no ceiling. Someone above me looking down on the maze can tell me how to get out. 


Well, guess what, there is Someone above me! I just have to listen to Him. 
           
God also told me if I jump very high I can jump over the wall of my maze. If I have “A-mazing Grace” I can jump over the wall.  


With God’s love in my heart I do have “A-mazing Grace” and jumping over that wall is fun.
                                                                                                                
Blessings, Dottie

Monday, March 12, 2012

Vocation and the Beatitudes


Webster’s defines vocation as a strong feeling of being destined or called to undertake a specific type of work, especially a sense of being chosen by God. I wrote this adaptation of the beatitudes when I was in my twenties. I discovered it on my computer and thought others would find this of interest.

Blessed is the one who chooses his vocation wisely, for he shall help build the Kingdom of God.

Blessed is the one who chooses his vocation in terms of the needs of the world rather than the money it pays, for he shall find joy in serving.

Blessed is the one who evaluates his abilities and talents before choosing his vocation for he shall be well suited to his job.

Blessed is the one who adequately prepares himself for his life work for he shall do a more competent job.

Blessed is the one whose work is a joy and a delight for he shall be truly happy.

Blessed is the one who, having made a mistake in choosing his life work has the courage to find his vocation for he shall be satisfied.

Blessed is the one who seeks to discover the will of God for his life work, for he shall know the meaning of vocation.

Blessed are you when you carefully and prayerfully evaluate your capacities and interests before choosing your life work; when you diligently and purposefully prepare yourself for your chosen vocation; when you throw yourself unreservedly into your chosen work – to meet the challenges and the needs presented as best you can.

Rejoice and be exceeding glad for your life will be a meaningful adventure.  

Blessings, Dottie

"Commit your work to the Lord, and then your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3



Friday, March 9, 2012

“I’M RIGHT, YOU’RE WRONG”


Couples often argue over minor issues attempting to have the last word. Many of us over react to an opinion that differs from our own.  So we jump in and disagree. We believe we’re always right. Some couples who argue could replace all their words and simply say “I’m right,” (So you’re wrong.) “No, I’m right.” (So you’re wrong.) In other words, this kind of argument gets no where and is destructive to relationships. 
           
A minister decided to become a doctor because he realized people would pay more to heal their body than their soul. After some years he decided to become an attorney realizing people would pay more to prove they are right than to heal either their body or their soul. A lawyer approach can wreck havoc in a marriage. It’s difficult to admit we’re wrong. It’s hard to be humble. We think we’re right and we think we know what’s best. We know others aren’t always right, but we think we are!
           
We want to be RIGHT. When we disagree we want to win the argument - some times at any cost. And there are costs to having to be right. It hurts our relationships. We become angry and defensive when our viewpoint is questioned. We nurse hurt feelings when someone disagrees with us. We become resentful and bitter as a result. Defensiveness stops communication and so does arguing.     

We need to learn to listen to each other without arguing. Listening is the key. Listen without disagreeing. Rephrase what your partner says. “So what you’re saying is …” This lets your spouse know you understand their viewpoint. It doesn’t mean you agree. Be clear on what your partner means before stating your own opinion.
           
Don’t expect your spouse to think the way you do. We have different personalities, different viewpoints and different experiences in life. We need to listen to and attempt to understand how the other person thinks and feels; how they view things. It will take work to change a pattern of arguing and let go of the need to be right. If you stop arguing and work at understanding each other’s point of view this will help. Even if only one person does this it will help. It takes two to argue.

“Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel.” Proverbs 13:10 The Message

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Writing is a Daredevil Sport


Please note: A version of this post appeared here in August 2008 and this version went out in my Changing Churches: News and Views e-mail newsletter today

Writing a book is a daredevil sport!  I liken it to being out on a limb or jumping off a cliff.  Changing Churches: A View from the Pew is the name of my book. The outline dropped into my mind in my quiet time in August 2008. I prayed about it and began to write early in 2009.

I have new respect for writers and I’ve learned many ways to improve my writing. I’ve learned to avoid “to be verbs” and use active verbs. I’ve learned to eliminate most adverbs. I’ve learned to be creative, avoid clich├ęs, use word pictures and illustrations. I’ve learned to show rather than tell.

Many times I was ready to quit. I sought God's will repeatedly, daily, as he's the one who got me into this! I gave the book to him over and over again. I never heard him say "You can stop now." So I kept going. The book will soon be in print!

Out of My Comfort Zone
Writing a book has repeatedly taken me out of my comfort zone. This is both scary and exciting. It has brought me to tears and to my knees. It has compelled me to share my work and seek feedback from friends, pastors, elders, and writers. Every step of the way, each morsel of feedback I received showed me another viewpoint and led to more revision and also spurred me on. 

Now I must focus on marketing – a whole new area to both scare and excite me. I’ve had a blog for a year and a half and I joined Facebook nearly a year ago. At the time these also were scary and new, but they connected me mostly with friends and acquaintances. Recently I joined Twitter and Linkedin – open to everyone and anyone! Will I do it right? How do I learn to do all this? Many questions fill my mind and keep me awake at night.

My respect for writers increased with the realization that virtually all writers must market their books. So now I must tell everyone about my book. I’m an introvert by nature and I do things slowly and methodically. All of this is challenging my comfort zones. God loves to stretch us.

Readers, please pray for me. Pray that the marketing and the book will be to God's glory. Pray the book will reach those who need to receive its message. Pray the book will help Christians navigate church changes while remaining true to Christ. Pray the book will help build up the church.

What’s the book about? Changing Churches describes through the eyes of one couple the difficult journey “church switchers” travel; a journey often precipitated by disruptive church changes. Changing Churches encourages Christ-like transformative change in churches rather than man-devised makeovers.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Blessings, Dottie 

Monday, March 5, 2012

CARING FOR A DYING LOVED ONE


Caring for a dying family member can be overwhelming for caregivers. Often for example, two sisters will share the care for their dying mother. They want to provide care, but the added responsibilities along with the emotions involved create major stress. Both sisters must meet the needs of their own families and may also have full time jobs. As a result marriages suffer from neglect and time for oneself is only a fleeting memory. 
                             
When Mom lingers for a long time exhaustion sets in. The sisters may wish the loved one would die, but then feel shame for thinking this. Not to worry. This is a normal part of the grieving process. This does not indicate a lack of care. In fact, it may be a sign of love for Mom since her quality of life is minimal now. Here are some things caregivers can do that will help.
                             
1.  Allow yourselves to grieve, each in your own way. Be accepting of each other’s grieving styles. Grieving isn’t a one time event, it’s a process. Though grieving is painful it will relieve some of the stress you’re under. Face your loved one’s coming death and let your tears flow as you feel the sadness. 
                             
2.  Grieve together. Share your tears with your husband, your siblings, other close family members and close friends. Talk about your concerns and fears about the loved one’s care. Don’t ignore any issue. However, don’t dwell only on the pain and problems. Talk also about happy and humorous memories of your loved one.
                             
3.  If your loved one is mentally alert, talk with her about her dying. Listen for her to bring this up or gently do so yourself. It can relieve the dying person to know you are facing this loss and accepting her passing. It may even give her permission to stop fighting for life when there is no hope. 
                             
4.  Tell your Mom how much you love her and what you appreciate about her. Ask her for forgiveness for ways you’ve hurt her and tell her you have forgiven her for any hurts she’s caused you. Settle all accounts with her. It will help you both. Tell her all this even if you’re not sure she can now understand you. Her spirit will hear you.
                             
5.  Take time off from caring for your Mom without feeling guilty. If you’re attempting to help on a daily basis over a lengthy period of time, ask other family members or close friends to relieve you for a day or two each week. Maintain outside interests. Make time for yourself and for your marriage. 
                             
6.  Share your pain with God. We are conditioned to pray for health and healing so it seems wrong to ask God to take our loved one. But it’s not. God knows our hearts and accepts our deepest emotions. 
                             
7.  Hang onto your faith. We don’t understand God’s ways. Ask him to help you through these tough times.  Read and meditate on Psalm 23. He’s with us even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

Blessings, Dottie

Friday, March 2, 2012

WARNING LABEL NEEDED


We hear a great deal about truth in advertising.  Labels on medication and on cigarettes for example must be accurate and must warn of any side effects. 

Well, does your church need a warning label? All churches should need one saying:
 
Coming here may be hazardous to your secular way of life; to your status quo, to the rut you're in.  There are side effects to coming here:

You may discover your soul.
You may discover meaning and purpose in life. 
You may get in touch with feelings of joy, wonder, gratitude, and love. 
You may feel the presence of God.
You may be touched by the Holy Spirit
And you may fall on your knees at Jesus feet. 
I know because all these side effects happened to me.