Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Best Books Read in 2016

In 2016 I read a total of fifty-three books. Forty were new to me and thirteen were books I reread. I’ve selected the best of the books I first read in 2016:
1. A novel about the plight of Christians in China.
2. A biography about a doctor’s help to poverty stricken people in Haiti.
3. A book by a black woman about the negative effects of government help to the poor. 
4. A book on hearing God speak to us.

Each book is well written and each is packed with information and wisdom. Enjoy!

Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

Safely Home is a profound and brilliant novel about the plight of Christians in the house churches in China. The story revolves around an American executive and his Chinese college roommate – twenty years after they have graduated from Harvard. Woven throughout are delightful Chinese proverbs, intense meaningful conversations between the two roommates, the truth of the Bible, and many trials and adventures. The book gives insights into various Chinese eras and subjects including Buddhism, the Dali Lama, Mao, the Boxer rebellion, and Tiananmen Square. The corruption of people in power and the blind collusion of big business are vividly shown. Safely Home beautifully depicts the humble acceptance of suffering for Christ by the Chinese house churches. The ending gives a thrilling view of the doorway to heaven.

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World

By Tracy Kidder

This is an amazing book about an amazing man. Dr. Paul Farmer is a unique and fascinating person; he is brilliant, kind, funny and tireless in his pursuit of health care for the poor people of the world. The book gives excellent detail about Farmer’s life and work. His unusual childhood and family of origin set the stage for his adaptability to living with poverty stricken people and truly connecting with them.

Paul Farmer is a Harvard professor, infectious disease expert and an anthropologist. He lives and works in a remote town in Haiti and develops a health center there lifting the health of the region and saving many lives, though utter poverty continues. As an infectious disease specialist he and his organization, Partners in Health, create many changes worldwide in the policies for treating TB and Aids. The struggles around this are detailed.

Farmer seems to thrive in all environments and to have unlimited energy – sleeping little and working always to serve the poor. He hikes for seven hours to see two patients. If anyone questions this he says, “You’re saying that their lives matter less than some others, and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.” Pg 294

Mountains Beyond Mountains takes you through Farmer’s experiences in Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia. Though not a professing Christian he lives out a life of service given with love and respect. He has been called a saint and I would say he is close to this yet more fun than you would expect a saint to be! This book will change your views and may unsettle you.


Uncle Sam’s Plantation:
How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What to Do About It
By Star Parker

Uncle Sam’s Plantation is a very important and comprehensive book about the negative effects government help has on the poor. Star Parker gives historical background on Roosevelt’s New Deal, President Johnson’s War on Poverty and about current government programs. She offers facts and figures that clearly show government programs do not help. In fact, they are keeping the poor from freedom and personal responsibility and wasting tax dollars.

Parker writes “In multiple studies for the Heritage Foundation, means-tested welfare spending in America exceeds $400 billion annually. That’s a whopping 14 percent of the federal budget. That’s more than a billion tax dollars per day being spent on various poverty programs yet…the data shows that less than twenty cents of each dollar actually gets into the hands of the people society is trying to help. Eighty percent is bureaucracy.” Pg 5

The author, Star Parker, has been there herself. She tells of her rebellious youth in which she stole, did drugs, had random sex, four abortions and didn’t care about life. She lived on welfare and knew how to work the system. Parker turned her life around and is now helping others do this. She is a champion for changing the system.

Toward the end of the book she writes about protecting freedom. Regarding education she says: “Our country needs to be free but not value-free. I don’t want to force my views on my neighbor. What I do want, and what is essential for the future of our country, is the freedom for my neighbor and me to choose where to send our children to school, and for our children to learn there is such a thing as right and wrong.” Pg. 233 This book shows us how to restore freedom with responsibility to our way of life.

Hearing God in Conversation: How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere

By Samuel C. Williamson

Samuel Williamson in his book Hearing God in Conversation affirms the primary importance of hearing from God via Scripture but goes on to encourage believers to cultivate an ear for hearing from God and having conversations with God in a variety of ways. His parents taught him how to hear God and he assumed everyone expected to hear from God directly.

This is an excellent book, true to the Word and also citing the fact that God wants a personal relationship with us. This means we can converse with him daily; we can dialog with God, not just share our thoughts but “hear” (in our minds) from him as well. The author’s convincing unfolding of this idea is inspiring. He weaves his own life stories thorough out as well as citing many biblical examples.

Chapter titles include: The First Time I Heard God’s Voice, Conversation is the Point, How to Recognize the Voice of God, What are Scriptures for?, Brainstorming with God, God Speaks in Our Detours, Hearing God in the Ordinary, God Shouts in His Silence and The God Who Guides and more. He also includes two excellent appendixes Answers to the Arguments and Questionable and Excessive Practices.

Williamson says that sometimes God will nudge us to make a phone call, sometimes we’ll hear a verbal message and sometimes we see a picture. He tells of his grandfather in 1915 seeing red capital letters which spelled the name of a province in China. He prayed and felt called to be a missionary. He lived in that very province for two decades and planted four China inland churches. Pg 31

Williamson notes that God guides us with his voice in conversation but he also carefully orchestrates our lives. There is much good information in this book that can teach us how to hear God in conversation and recognize and better know our mighty God.

“Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding.” Proverbs 3:13 NRSV

Blessings, Dottie






Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Changes at Christmas

About ten years ago our church worship morphed from blended traditional to out right contemporary music and worship. We adapted as best we could most of the time. We sang the choruses, listened to the praise team, focused on the repetitive words, praising God. And an occasional hymn or hymn phrase fed our souls. "Amazing Grace..."


At Christmas we were further challenged. Contemporary worship at Christmas left even more to be desired. We experienced two Christmas seasons with no traditional Christmas carols and no classical Christmas music. Instead we were "entertained" by contemporary music.  

Adapting to seekers is a common strategy in today's churches. This seems misguided at Christmas. Many seekers grew up in church. Most everyone holds these Christmas songs, music and Scripture secreted in the inner recesses of their heart, mind and soul. These songs, music and Scripture tell the amazing story of the birth of Christ. They tell the Reason for the Season. God came to earth as a babe in a manger. He came down to us to show us who He is and to redeem us. God intersected history in person. Why are churches deleting Christmas carols that tell about this marvelous event?     
   
"O Come, All Ye Faithful . . ." O Little Town of Bethlehem. . ." "Silent Night, Holy Night. . ." Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. . ." "Joy to the World. . ." All missing!

We were unbelievers for years, but we enjoyed Christmas carols playing in stores as we shopped or on the radio as we traveled. We also watched Christmas TV programs, especially Charlie Brown's Christmas. In this well known story Charlie Brown is depressed. He visits Lucy's psychiatric booth and she recommends he get involved in a nativity play. Twists and turns in the plot include Snoopy's elaborate decoration of his dog house (commercialization of Christmas by a dog) and the other children attempting to modernize the play (messing with tradition). 

Charlie Brown searches for a Christmas tree determined to focus on the traditional side of the story. The children laugh at the scrawny tree he finds, throwing Charlie Brown back into despair about discovering the real meaning of Christmas. Linus then takes center stage and quotes the second chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, verses 8 through 14 from the King James Version.

"'And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'"

Pastors and Churches: Take a lesson from Charlie Brown. Keep the Christmas worship traditional. Sing the carols. Read the Christmas scripture. As Linus said,

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Christmas Blessings, Dottie



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

HELPING CHILDREN GRIEVE AT CHRISTMAS

Q. My husband died this past year after a brief illness. Until recently I thought my kids were handling their loss OK. Since Thanksgiving, however, each child has shown signs of grieving but none of them talk much about their Dad or about how they feel. 

Now I’m dreading the Holidays. How should I handle things so we won't be sad throughout December? What can I do to help the kids enjoy Christmas? I knew it would take time to recover and to grieve but when does it end?

A. Grieving is intensified during holidays, birthdays and anniversaries because of the memories from the past that involve the person we’ve lost. This is especially true the first Christmas after a loss. Christmas is a family time and a time when we enjoy being together. The absence of Dad accentuates the loss.
         
Grief is a process. It takes time to work through all the feelings involved in the loss of a primary relationship. We cannot just grieve for two weeks or even for six weeks. For most people it takes at least two years to grieve a major loss. 

This doesn’t mean you must be sad every day for two years. The sadness and depression of grief are cyclical. They come and go. It would be too painful to experience all the feelings at once. The stages of grieving - denial, anger, guilt, depression and acceptance allow us to work through our feelings little by little. We may move back and forth between these stages, each time resolving a bit more.
         
Your children are working through their grief each in their own way. This Christmas can be an important time for them to experience more of the depth of their loss and it can be a time to let go; to recognize that their father really is gone.
         
Talk with the children together and individually about Christmas. Listen carefully to how they’re feeling and what they would like to do both to remember and honor their Dad and to enjoy Christmas. Tell them it’s OK to enjoy Christmas; that their Dad would want them to do so. 
         
Don’t worry too much about avoiding grief or about making the day happy. While it’s OK to be happy in spite of your loss, it’s more important to allow yourself to feel your grief. It’s more important to be real than to pretend. You can model this to your children, letting them see some of your sadness while not overwhelming them with your feelings.
         
Plan one special time during the holidays in which you talk together about your loss.  Each of you might write a Christmas letter to your husband. Younger children could draw him a picture. Then share these with each other. A candle could be lit in his memory and all could share a favorite memory of him as you laugh and cry together.
         
You and the children don’t have to go through your grief alone. Take your children to a group for grieving children. There are a number of grief support groups available for children in various locations around the country. These grief support groups are child friendly, divided by age, with knowledgeable and caring leaders. Crafts and games encourage children to express their feelings about their loss. A concurrent parent’s group may also be available. A grief support group will help you and the children understand and express grief in a safe environment with the support of others. Then your future Christmases will be brighter.

If you and your family are Christians, your faith in life after death can also help you and the children work through your grief. As Christians you believe God had a good reason for taking him and you know you will see him again.

“I am the resurrection and the life, anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25

“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Blessings, Dottie

See also Be The Miracle http://deloresliesner.com/2016/12/09/after-losing-a-child-christmas-and-new-traditions/

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Christmas Story for Families

Q.  Our families will be with us on Christmas day including a number of children. My wife and I want to recognize the birth of Christ in addition to our usual gift exchange and feast. Any ideas?

A. The best idea I can think of is to read the Christmas Scripture. We have done this with our family, including the children in the reading. We assigned roles to a Narrator, Angels, the Prophet, Shepherds, the Magi, Priests and Teachers and Herod. Children enjoy this, learn from this and like being involved. Our NIV script is below.

The Birth of Christ as told in the Bible
Matthew 1:18-24
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

ANGEL:  "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
PROPHET: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."
 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Luke 2: 1-10                                                                                             
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,

ANGEL: "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."          

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,                                                                           

ANGELS: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,

SHEPHERDS: "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.

Matthew 1:1- 12 
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked,
MAGI: "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.

PRIESTS & TEACHERS: "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: " 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said,

HEROD: "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Christmas Blessings, Dottie



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

ANGER WITH GOD AT CHRISTMAS

Q. I hate Christmas. It all seems meaningless. We’re encouraged to spend beyond what we can afford, eat more than we should and visit relatives we could do without. Even the religious part seems like bunk to me. Faith sure hasn’t helped me with my life. I’ve had to struggle to make a living, but I’ve done it on my own. My wife says I’m angry with God. What do you think?

A. Christmas has lost its meaning for many people. For some of us the Holiday season heightens our focus on material gain and we spend too much. We are too busy during the holidays and we eat too much. We visit friends and family out of a sense of duty and these get togethers fail to touch our hearts.
        
However, your basic question goes deeper than this. You seem to be finding no meaning or purpose in life; no faith in a higher purpose or power. I understand that life is difficult and complex. Everyone faces problems and heartache. Without faith in God, life can seem empty and Christmas will seem meaningless.
        
Many of us turn away from the spiritual dimensions of Christmas because of hurt or anger. Most of us have days or periods in our life when we doubt the beliefs we’ve previously held dear. We feel disillusioned and let down by life. When our anger or disillusionment is chronic we shut our hearts to the wonder, beauty, love and joy of the season. We shut faith, hope and love out.
        
Negative emotions prevent us from enjoying life. Often we blame other people or even God for things we have brought on ourselves. We wonder why we have no friends yet we are not friendly toward others. We wonder why our marriage is unhappy yet we put little effort into making our partner happy. 
        
We also feel hurt and anger because of things others have done to us but we fail to notice when we ourselves hurt others. Often we’re angry because of the suffering we go through or because life seems unfair. No one knows why God allows suffering in this world. We do know that suffering often teaches us lessons and the suffering of others prompts us to give help.
        
Our anger and pessimism can be a declaration of independence. In effect we’re saying we don’t need anyone - not even God. And so we shut our hearts and our souls and refuse to give, refuse to love. 

We think that in this way we remain in control. We suppress our longings, our loneliness, and we deny our vulnerability and our inner pain. Actually, in this world no one can live independent of others and no one is in control except God.  

Open your Bible and read about the first Christmas. (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12)  This is a true, historical report about God coming to the world in the form of a baby born to a virgin. This baby grew up, taught his followers to love God and each other, healed the sick, performed miracles, said he was God, said he had to die for us, died on a cross, was buried in a tomb, arose three days later, was seen by 500 people, met with his disciples many times over a period of 40 days, then said he had to leave. They witnessed him rising up to heaven. Many eyewitnesses and historians attest to these facts. He is the only true God of the universe.

You won’t find joy in Christmas until you believe this. Joy over gifts and food and family visits can’t compare to the joy of knowing God and knowing he came to earth to save us and he lives and will return. If you want to love Christmas instead of hating the “Holidays” you will need to change, to open your heart, ask for forgiveness and forgive those who have hurt you. Focus on the truth of the gospel.
                  
Seek Christ through prayer, reading Scripture, and returning to your church. If you want help with this ask to talk with your pastor. When we open our hearts even a little, God will join us and lift our spirits - especially at this holy time of year. I pray you will have a Holy Christmas!

The angel said, "Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10  

Blessings, Dottie



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

GIVING THANKS

Q.  Thanksgiving seems to hold little meaning for most people today. It’s just a holiday from work, an excuse to eat too much and a chance to relax before the holiday shopping begins. Shouldn’t Thanksgiving mean more to us than this?

A.  Most of us know the story of the first Thanksgiving but we haven’t learned its meaningful lessons. The pilgrims were grateful for surviving a bitter winter though some of their number did not survive. They also were grateful for the religious freedom they enjoyed here. And they were thankful for the corn the Indians had given them. They had planted and harvested the corn and this enabled them to make it through the winter.

The pilgrims lived very primitively, faced many hardships, and had little materially, but they counted their blessings and thanked God for what they did have.

Our materialistic, cynical and fast-paced world has lost touch with the practice of giving thanks. The pilgrims, I suspect, gave thanks every day, not just on Thanksgiving. They had a habit of counting their blessings. They also weren’t in a big hurry all the time. They had fewer distractions. They could relax and enjoy the present moment.
         
We marvel at their ability to give thanks in the midst of great physical hardships.  Instead, we grumble and complain when we’re delayed by traffic or have to stand in line at the grocery store. The pilgrims were a hardier bunch. Or were they? Perhaps their ability to enjoy each moment and to withstand hardships stemmed from their constant prayerfulness. They were able to be positive and to rise above the difficulties because they gave thanks routinely.
         
If this is true, we need to take a lesson from the pilgrims and make a practice of giving thanks. They lived a simple but difficult life one day at a time. We, in contrast are so focused on getting ahead, making more money, buying a better house or a better car. Are we forgetting what’s really important? 
         
Gratitude helps us notice little kindnesses we take for granted. Gratitude helps us notice blue skies, sunny days, a beautiful sunset, autumn leaves. Gratitude helps us remember what’s right with our relationships, ourselves, our work, and our life.  Gratitude focuses us on positives. Gratitude focuses us on God.

To develop a habit of thanksgiving and make Thanksgiving Day more meaningful:
1. Read stories about the first Thanksgiving and notice the lessons we can learn from the Pilgrims.

2. Take time during or after Thanksgiving dinner for each person to tell the three things they are most thankful for. 

3. Give thanks to the “Indians” in your life; those unexpected people who have helped you. Invite them to dinner.

4. Make a habit of asking a blessing at meals every day. Teach your children a prayer or encourage them to make up one. Invite each member of the family to take turns offering the blessing.

5. Keep a daily Gratitude Journal in which you write down five things you’re thankful for. This practice will help you become a more positive person. It will make you aware of many blessings we take for granted. It will most importantly bring you closer to God.

6. When frustrations occur give thanks for what they can teach you. For example, having to wait in line can teach us patience, if we will let it. If we consistently count our blessings we will live happier and more positively in any circumstance. 

7. Read Thanksgiving Scripture on Thanksgiving Day.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7 

Psalm 100
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
For the Lord is good;

His loving kindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
         
This Thanksgiving Day make plans to give thanks every day of the year.

Blessings, Dottie



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Waiting in Silence


The hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving and Christmas soon will be upon us. The plans and preparations for the holidays are good and necessary, but we all need to remember to breathe. We need to remember to slow down and pray. In all the noise and busy-ness we need some silence. We need to wait on God.

Scripture says:
·       Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps 46:10 NIV)

·       “They who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isa. 40:31 ESV)

·       “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken.” (Ps. 62:5-6 NASB)

When we wait in silence we sense the presence of God. Our culture avoids silence. Noise saturates our daily lives and over stimulates us. Noise and busyness dominate our days. Most of us carry many responsibilities that keep us busy or even stressed. Television, cell phones, radio, and computers also consume time and distract our minds. We need silence to slow down and breathe.

But do we avoid silence? Is silence uncomfortable? We need silence to release our cares and concerns to God and focus on Him. We must be still. Silence brings us in touch with inner longings and needs. Silence touches our deepest feelings and brings to mind our flaws. We would rather run away from these. Silence confronts us with our sins.

Without silence our connection with our Holy God can be jammed – like a radio broadcast with interference.
We need silence to face our troubled emotions and our sins. In the silence we sense His presence. Scripture says our strength is renewed. We’re no longer weary. We’re no longer shaken. And we know God. What amazing thoughts!

Friends, to deepen our relationship with Christ let’s spend ten minutes or more in silence every day. Even the busiest person can find ten minutes. Take time for this period of silence and stillness. The longer we do this the more meaningful this time will become.

We might also try a little silence at the beginning of our worship. We need at least brief silence during worship to face our sins and wait for the presence of God. Matt Redman, well known worship leader and author, says:

“The God of glory who thunders over the mighty waters, reveals Himself intimately and quietly to the depths of our heart. When alone and when gathered as a worship community, we must learn to listen for Him­ - in the sound of sheer silence.”

The hymn below expresses beautifully our need for silence to let go of our cares and come into His presence.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways,
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives thy service find,
In deeper reverence praise.

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire,
Thy coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm.

Blessings, Dottie Parish




Wednesday, November 9, 2016

RUN AROUND FRIEND WANTED


Q.  I read an article on finding a close friend. It presented some interesting ideas but I still don't know how to find an old fashioned, down to earth, run-around friend. It seems to me that nobody wants one. 


A.  A run-around friend is a wonderful thing to have but is not always easy to find in today's fast paced world. I know that many people do want friends. Many want friends but are afraid to open up or reach out. Perhaps your acquaintances are waiting for you to make the first move, or the second or third move. Reach out to those around you showing them you want to be friends. Do this over and over again. If one person is cool to you, try someone else. Don't give up.

Friendship takes more effort and more time than we think it will. So be prepared to work at finding "a run around friend." Often we overlook the most obvious source of friends, the people we already know. Family members can be good friends. There may be a second cousin, an aunt or a niece we only know casually who would like to be better friends. We may dismiss people we already know because we just haven't connected with them. If we show more interest in them a friendship may develop. 
         
Listed below are some additional ways you can look for a run around friend: 
1. Become active in a church. Look for one that is friendly and that meets your spiritual needs. Join small groups in the church and reach out to get to know other members. 

2. Talk to your neighbors. Share vegetables from your garden with them; show an interest in their activities and their family. 

3. Talk to clerks and cashiers where you regularly shop. You will gradually get to know them and a friendship may develop.

4. Join a support group. There are support groups for a variety of needs and these groups become very close and personal. Watch the newspapers for listings of these.

5. Join a special interest group such as a hiking club, or sewing club or join the Y or Senior Citizens for a variety of activities.

6. Volunteer to help at a hospital or nursing home or with any of the many social agencies who need help.

7. Start an interest group of your own and invite the people you know to join you. You might also advertise this to Facebook friends.

8. Join a group in connection with your work or career such as a union group or a professional group.

9. Volunteer to work in a political campaign.

10. Throw a party for all your acquaintances.

11. Invite an acquaintance over for coffee.

12. Invite an acquaintance to go shopping, out to lunch or to a movie with you.

13. Sell Avon door to door in your neighborhood.

14. Send cards and notes to anyone you know who is sick or lonely or shut in.

In all these connections that you try out follow the Ten Ways to Love listed above in order to grow a casual friendship into a deeper one.
   
I hope these ideas will help you find "a run around friend."

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17 NLT

“There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs18:24 NLT

Blessings, Dottie




Wednesday, November 2, 2016

SIBLING BONDS

Q. I have three siblings who are scattered across the country. Since college we have drifted away from each other. We’ve all been busy with our own families and careers. In recent years we’ve hardly even seen or talked to each other. Our parents passed away seven years ago and since then we have no reason to get together. I miss the connections we once had and I wish we were closer. Does this disconnection happen with most adult siblings? How can I change things?

A. Relationships with siblings can last longer than all other relationships but it is often a relationship that is taken for granted, ignored and neglected. Often the interaction between siblings is negligible. This is especially true after parents have passed away and no longer are the reason to see each other. 

Our ties to our parents carry a different emotional weight and a different sense of responsibility than our ties to our siblings. We know we must see and connect with our parents on some regular basis as they age. Perhaps this is because we know we will eventually lose them.

Sibling ties are different. We don’t expect to lose them - at least not for a long time.  Distance contributes to our lack of contact. We also may carry competitive or jealous feelings toward our siblings. Or even resentment. We may have been hurt by our siblings, or seen them as loved more by Mom or Dad. We may wonder why they are so different from us even though they were raised in the same home. We wonder why he isn’t more successful. Or why she lets her kids get by with so much. We need to realize that even in the same family there can be vast personality differences, some inborn. We also have had different influences in life which have given us differing political views, differing values and even differing faiths. We may keep our distance for all these reasons.

Society also doesn’t expect a close connection with siblings. It’s almost a voluntary relationship. It’s different than the parent/child relationship or the relationship with a spouse. These relationships carry responsibility for each other. 

Though all of this is reason for the distance, we are missing some valuable relationships and their benefits if we neglect to connect with our siblings. Our siblings are the only people who have known us all or most of our life. They share a family history which no one else does. We can laugh about childhood memories together and also gain a new perspective on our family by talking with our siblings. Another reason to stay in touch with siblings is so cousins will know their aunts and uncles and cousins. Don’t deprive your children of these special relationships.

There is a gender difference in the connections siblings maintain with each other.  Sisters are more tuned into how necessary it is to nurture a relationship and so they usually do stay in touch. Brothers often do not stay in touch with their siblings and need to be pursued.

Here are some things you can do to connect with your siblings:
1.  Reach out to your siblings by letter, e-mail or telephone on a regular basis.  Show an interest in their life and what they’re doing. The social media is also a way to stay in touch.

2.  Invite your siblings to visit you or plan a family reunion. If possible, plan to see each sibling at least once a year.

3.  If the distance has been due to resentment or past conflict talk things over, forgive each other, and let it go.

4.  Solve any current problems as quickly as possible by communicating about these issues. 

5.  Avoid competing, arguing or proving your point. Be loving and humble.

6.  Show your love by being a good listener and by reaching out to help in times of need. 

The Bible asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I believe the answer is “Yes.”

On a personal note:  I began calling my oldest sister regularly when one of her sons became tragically ill. I wanted to support her through this. He passed away a year later and I continued to call her weekly. Some time later I also began calling my younger sister weekly. These calls have blessed each of us tremendously. We also see each other yearly. Take the initiative and keep in touch with your siblings.

“Be devoted to one another in love; give preference to one another in honor.” Romans 12:10

Blessings, Dottie