Wednesday, November 30, 2016


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


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


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


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