Archive for the ‘Humility’ Category


What in the world is “bug dope,” I asked my husband. He laughed aloud at my Midwestern ignorance of the far north. Apparently, bug dope is a real product, though most of you probably know it by its proper description – insect repellent. Bug dope seems a rather odd expression to me. Where I’m from, dope is a bad thing, and you certainly don’t blatantly ask others to pass it to you in public. But there we were, on the shores of Lake Huron, watching an awesome Fourth-of-July fireworks display, and bug dope was the preferred defense against the blanket of tank-sized mosquitoes that were as thick as the smoke trailing in the air.

Bug dope isn’t the only oddity of the north, though. For instance, Midwesterners don’t wear shoes with good “gription” or wear a chuke (touke) when it’s cold outside. Truthfully, I was rather entertained for the first few years of my marriage, learning the peculiar idioms and pronunciations of my “Yooper” husband. He probably felt the same. After all, I had picked up several backwoods phrases along the way, so he had to learn such colorful words as doo-jigger and thingamabob.

Many were the times when my beloved and I were essentially saying the same thing, but I didn’t realize it because of our different vernaculars. He, noting my frustration at not being able to clearly express myself, often reminded me, “It’s just semantics!” He was really big on semantics!

From the beginning, we’ve pretty much shared one brain between the two of us, but it has been a very long time since we’ve had any miscommunications due to language traits. That’s the beautiful thing about intimacy; you really get to know each other –your idiosyncrasies, your thought processes –everything.

And that, dear reader, brings me to our beloved family in Christ. There may be many denominations, but we are all one body: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5). That being the case, we should all be pretty much sharing the same brain, or in other words, we should be like-minded; relating to each other at an intimate enough level as to really understand each other.

During the past few weeks, I’ve read several online threads in which believers were arguing over a certain doctrinal issue –and when I say arguing, I mean just that. This should not be so! …there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. (1 Corinthians 12:25).

Firstly, healthy discussions and debates can be very enlightening, useful even; but arguing is very counter-productive and not at all indicative of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Secondly –and this is the part I find amusing –most of the folks on those threads were essentially saying the same thing; they were just saying it in different ways! But they, in their zeal to prove their own stance to be the correct one, couldn’t see that they were merely locked in a battle of semantics. Had they taken the time to really listen to each other, with loving hearts rather than defensive minds, they would have found that they were basically on the same page. Bug dope vs. insect repellent. Semantics!

My dear brethren, I am in no way suggesting that we succumb to compromise within the church. Nor am I suggesting that all religions, nor all denominations for that matter, are all one body. All roads do not “lead to Heaven!”

I do, however, advocate that we take the time to really listen to each other; knowing full well that we all start our journey of faith from different places. Thus, there may be some ‘language barriers’ to overcome in relating to each other. There may be some strange idiosyncrasies and oddities to overlook, but love and intimacy overcomes all obstacles.

In closing, may I remind us all, myself included, of Jesus’ answer as to which biblical commandment is the greatest:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
–Matthew 22:37-40

“Loving relationships, though necessary for life, health, and growth, are among the most complicated skills. Before we can be successful at achieving relationships, it is necessary that we broaden our understanding of how they work, what they mean and how what we do and believe can enhance or destroy them. We can accomplish this only if we are willing to put in the energy and take the time to study failed relationships as well as examine successful ones. Loving relationships cannot be taken lightly. Unless we are looking for pain, they must not be forever approached in a trial and error fashion. Too many of us have experienced the cost of these lackadaisical approaches in terms of tears, confusion and guilt.”

–Leo Buscaglia, Loving Each Other

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Someday, Lord willing, I would love to visit Australia to experience first-hand her rich culture, rugged beauty and unique wildlife. Of course, one of the most pleasant rewards of a trip to the ‘land down under’ would certainly be the informative chats I would have with the folks living there. Meeting people of other cultures and learning of their rich heritage is, in my opinion, both fascinating and rewarding.

Too bad all Americans don’t feel the same way. Our country is so culturally diverse that we need never board an airplane to “travel” to nearly every country in the world. Yet, all too often, folks never venture too far from their own little circle of family, friends and social groups; especially when doing so would place them outside their own cultural comfort zone. If only people understood that embracing others, despite any differences they may have, is a true blessing.

Let me tell you, for example, about my most recent talk-about. If that phrase is not familiar, it is because it is one of my own. Borrowing from the Australian “Walkabout,” I dubbed one of my purposeful pastimes as a “talk-about.”

Before I explain what a talk-about is, let me assure you that I was extremely introverted in my youth. People that know me well have trouble believing this, as I am quite the talker now, but I can only attribute my affable nature to the Grace of God and the many challenges He has helped me to overcome in my life.

So what is a talk-about? It’s not a gossip session, I can tell you that. Ephesians 4:29 warns: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths. But this Scripture goes on to explain that we should speak only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And thus, the idea for the talk-about was born.

Having noticed the obvious disregard people seem to have for each other these days, I purposed in my heart to make occasional trips to various stores in our area with no other intention than striking-up conversations, and letting others talk about whatever is on their mind. If the subject of God comes up, then all the better, but it is never my intention, on these quests to proselytize. Often times, a Christian can show the love of Jesus more by just listening, and showing concern for someone, than we can by thumping them over the head with our Bibles.

And now, back to my last talk-about. It so happened, I didn’t even feel like going; that was one of those times when the Lord was more interested in encouraging others than I was. Still I went, expecting to bless someone.

Truthfully, there have been days when people were very happy  that I conversed with them, but other days they reacted with anything from rudeness to contempt; or suspicion at the very least, as though I had an ulterior motive. My last talk-about was really a mixture of both.

The best of my encounters that evening was with a man I came upon in Aisle 7 that was loudly singing –yes singing right inside the store- “It’s a beautiful morning…” It did not matter to him that morning had long since passed, or that the remaining sunlight was obscured by dark rain clouds. And it didn’t matter that his wife, for whatever reason, looked mad as a hornet and glared at him with scrunched eyes, having her arms tightly folded, and lips pursed.

“Beautiful indeed!” I verbally agreed, “Even if it isn’t morning.”

At that he laughed, and we began to chat about nothing in particular. We enjoyed such a pleasant conversation that his wife soon joined in, having exchanged her frown for a beautiful smile. Whatever her previous concerns, they melted into peace. And finally, the two walked off, arm-in-arm.

This beautiful couple was as American as apple pie, but our lives were obviously as culturally contrasting as our skin colors. But that did not matter to any of us. We three stood there, in Aisle 7 just enjoying each other’s company, oblivious to the frigid indifference prevalent in today’s world.

Dear reader, should you ever decide to try a talk-about, it is not altogether different than the Australian “Walkabout.” Theirs “is not an aimless activity but a deliberate and focussed journey connecting Aboriginal people to their traditional lands and spiritual obligations.”¹

Similarly, the Christian walk is not aimless either. It too is a deliberate and focused journey striving to connect people –in this case, all people- to their traditional land (God’s kingdom) and spiritual obligations.

May I encourage you, therefore, to never let the opportunity to bless others with a kind word or two pass you by. You never know how a single, brief encounter might change a person’s mood, their day, or even their life. Remember, you are the only Bible that some folks will ever read.

Be blessed on your journey.

¹Tourism Australia 2013. http://www.media.australia.com/en-au/factsheets/default_1438.aspx

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There are moments in every person’s life when a single image, thought or statement illuminates the mind profoundly. I had such an experience just this week. As my sons and I were conversing, my youngest spoke of “the artistic beauty of ruins.”

Immediately my own thoughts flowed in an entirely different direction. “The artistic beauty of ruins,” I pondered. What a perfect summation of Isaiah 61:3

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified .

Being an archaeology enthusiast, I long ago learned to appreciate the beauty in many of the structures made desolate over time. While it is true that some folks would view such ruins as nothing more than a heap of stones or toppled pillars, I see a work of art, once exquisitely crafted, now transformed into that which exhibits a different kind of beauty –more simplistic perhaps, but magnificent nonetheless.

Such is the essence of my own life. I was created in God’s image; a beautiful dwelling wherein His Holy Spirit could abide. But this frail, human vessel was broken down over time and made desolate –uninhabitable. So broken, in fact, that when others looked upon me, they ceased to notice that which was beautiful and were rather appalled at the shambles I had become.

Much of humanity can say the same of their own lives. Praise God, this is where “the artistic beauty of ruins” comes into fruition. No matter how broken or shattered our lives are, God still looks upon those who are His own, through eyes so filled with love that He sees only beauty. It is a more simplistic beauty because that is what brokenness does – it crumbles all the parts of us that remain lofty and impenetrable until we appear useless in the world’s sight, and yet of great value in God’s.

Perhaps, dear reader, you also feel that your life has gone from splendor to shambles. But remember, beauty and value lie in the eyes of the beholder. Had you been alive when Jesus Christ walked the earth as a man, would you have thought Him beautiful? I am certain you would have, yet this is how the Bible described Him:

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.              Isaiah 53:2-3

Of course, it was only those of this world that esteemed Him not. Those who knew Him as LORD considered Him to be the most beautiful sight on earth. Even after His body was mangled and crucified, Jesus’ followers soon saw the artistic beauty in the ruins of his crucifixion stake, for their eyes looked upon the sight with a much different understanding.

Likewise, when this world looks upon you with indifference, or even disdain,  your Father in Heaven looks at you with a different understanding, as we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory  (II Corinthians 3:18).

I would like to encourage you, then, to begin seeing yourself as Jesus does. Initially, you may see only the ruins, but eventually you will begin to appreciate the artistic beauty of the ruins until that glorious day when we shall all be perfected.

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This morning, while sorting ¹Mount Rushmore (that’s my not-so fond nickname for the laundry pile), it dawned on me that I’m a little weird. Actually, I came to that realization several decades ago. Today’s revelation had more to do with my preference for the dirty household tasks over the clean ones.

For instance, I would much rather wash dishes or fill the dishwasher than put away a load of clean ones. And I would rather sort, wash and hang Mount Rushmore than I would fold it all. I even prefer crawling around in the dirt, tending to my garden, than watering it or putting away all the tools.

That’s pretty much flip-opposite of most folks, who would rather deal with the clean stuff than the dirty. I tried to figure out why I’m wired backwards, to no avail. I’m not sure, but it might be that I simply find the dirty stuff to be more pressing. After all, leaving the dishwasher full of clean dishes is really no big deal, but it stinks to have a kitchen full of dirty dishes –pun intended. Thus, I tend to spring into action more quickly when it comes to the dirty stuff. That still doesn’t explain why I dislike some of those other tasks so much, but until I figure it out, the kids can keep doing them. (This might take a long time, wink).

Then it occurred to me, I’m not wired backward after all; at least not when it comes to the really important stuff –like reaching out to people. Don’t get me wrong, I love my fellow Christians, and I would do anything I could to help them, but they have already been washed clean (of their sins) by accepting the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Revelation 7:9-14) and they are in really good hands -His. I love spending time with them, but being there to help folks who do not know Jesus as their LORD and Savior is often more pressing. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”(Matthew 9:12).

He modeled this for us when He walked upon earth. Yes, Jesus spent plenty of time with righteous individuals, but it was when He saw the needy and the unclean, that He rolled up His sleeves and went to work. And He bids us to do the same. Consider the words of Jesus to an expert in the law (²Torah):

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10: 30-37

The expert in the law was a Jewish man and, by implication, the man traveling to Jericho was also. To the Jew, a Samaritan was vile and repulsive. Therefore, the traveler’s act of mercy and compassion was all the more praiseworthy. Not only did he tend to the injured man, he also paid for his continued care.

“Go and do Likewise,” Jesus said. Meaning, we should always go above and beyond in mercy and compassion toward others; especially those in need. Dear reader, the world is full of people who would rather deal with the “clean stuff” than the dirty. And by dirty, I mean someone whose life others deem vile and repulsive, or insignificant at the very least. Will you be the one to do as Jesus did, as the Jericho traveler did, and be moved with deep, heartfelt compassion? I truly pray that you are –that we all are.

¹I call my laundry pile Mount Rushmore because, with a large family, the pile is always roughly the size of a mountain. And I always have to rush to finish the task or else a second mountain appears before I even finish the first.
²The Torah is the Hebrew name for the first five books of the Bible as a composite work. It is called Pentateuch in the Greek.

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photo credit: alatoni.com

Black olives may not please everyone’s palate, but my family –half of us, anyway– devour them like candy. In fact, whenever we have a build your own pizza night, my daughter’s pizza is usually black when she pops it in the oven due to serious olive overload. I can’t say I blame her; I’m one of the other olive lovers.

You can only imagine how elated I was the first time I realized my relatives, who lived in Phoenix, had several black olive trees growing in their back yard. “Go ahead, eat as many as you want,” my cousin told me.

Anxiously, I bit into the first one with great expectation. But I spit it out with disgust. Unbeknownst to me, those pleasant-looking fruit are bitter enough to turn your teeth inside out –until they are cured in lye, that is. Yes, I said lye.

Do you have any idea how hazardous lye can be? It can cause chemical burns, scarring, blindness, or respiratory failure; and probably even death under certain circumstances. Yep, that sounds like the kind of substance we need to treat our food with (Uh- NOT). I was stunned further to learn that manufacturers use lye to treat several other foods as well. But let’s talk about olives for a moment.

Did you know that olives are really good for our bodies? Not only do they contain a fair amount of iron, vitamin E, copper (an essential mineral) and fiber, they also have phytonutrients,  the organic components of plants which promote human health. Olives are said to:

 Contain antioxidants to fight disease.
 Have anti-inflammatory properties.
 Help decrease high blood pressure.
 Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
 Lower bad cholesterol.
 and more

It really boggles my mind that something as caustic as lye can take the bitterness right out of the olive fruit. What astounds me even more is that the caustic attacks of other people can take the bitterness right out of us.

How? First we must understand that “The building of character is the most important business of life. It matters little what works a man may leave in the world; his real success is measured by what he has wrought along the years in his own being…. True character must be built after divine patterns…” J.R. Miller, 1894

Jesus Christ is our divine pattern. What did he teach?

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44).

Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which spitefully use you (Luke 6:28).

More profound still,  while Jesus Christ, who was falsely accused, was being led to Mount Calvary to face an unjust crucifixion, he demonstrated for us the most noble of character:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).

Why would the Son of God allow Himself to be beaten, spat upon, and ultimately murdered, without speaking one word in His own defense? It is because our Heavenly Father had a plan. Jesus Christ, our LORD and Savior, was absolutely perfect as both man and God. But with His every word and action, Jesus gave us a pattern of how to live so that we might be perfected into His own image.

However, we are mere mortal men and we fail. Sometimes we allow the unjust actions of others to cause bitterness deep within our hearts. It is in times like these, I believe, that God allows caustic men and women to “crucify” us so that we may be “cured” and our fruit (the fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23) may be sweet.  And more importantly, so that this sweetened fruit may then be used as a catalyst to help heal the spiritual diseases of others.

Dear reader, the next time you or I encounter a caustic, abrasive person, let us remember the words of our precious LORD and pray for him (or her). And in so doing, may he or she see the character of God through us.

In closing, I offer this final thought; relationship battles can often be won through peace– I wouldn’t lie.

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photo credit: The Gorilla Foundation

Back in the eighties, it was common for young people to ask each other, “What’s your sign?” They honestly believed that everyone’s “sign” revealed a lot about them.  I never bought into any of that, but I did learn a lot about people by just watching them. I’ve always believed that non-verbal communication often speaks louder than words.  Perhaps that understanding is one reason why the Lord called me to deaf ministry.

My sign today (or should I say sign language) is A.S.L, which stands for American Sign Language. I love the ability to communicate with hearing impaired individuals, and I enjoy watching the expressive way they “speak.” Knowing sign language has come in handy many times; sometimes in rather unexpected ways. For instance, I recently had a unique experience with a gorilla. Of course, we didn’t carry on a lengthy conversation, but he did tell me he was sick.

Let me first explain, some gorillas do know sign language. Have you ever heard of Koko? She is a Western Lowland Gorilla who was born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971. Placed under the tutelage of scientist Francine Patterson, Koko has learned over one-thousand signs in which to communicate with humans. She wasn’t the first gorilla to learn sign, but she has certainly excelled at it. Because of Koko’s accomplishments, scientists continue to pursue inter-species communication through the use of sign language and they are having good success.

Whether or not the sick gorilla at our local zoo had ever been formally taught sign language or not, he was clearly communicating with sign. Every time I visit the zoo, I linger at the indoor gorilla enclosure for a while and sign to those intriguing primates just to see if I can actually elicit an understandable response.

One day, as I stood there signing “How are you?” one particular gorilla caught my attention. He fixed his gaze on me and I am almost certain he was frowning. “How are you? I asked again. The gorilla then clearly signed, “Sick. Stomach-ache. Headache.” To be sure I had understood him correctly, I signed back to him, “You sick?  “Sick- stomach ache- headache,” the gorilla repeated. A closer look at the precious gorilla revealed that he did have a runny nose and puffy eyes.

I wanted very much to find one of the zoo keepers, but there wasn’t one available. As the next best option, I gave the information to one of the general staff. The message probably never got passed-on, which saddened me greatly because this gorilla was asking for help and I couldn’t give it.

There have been several times I felt that way while at my children’s high school. At one particular event, I took the time to really ‘see’ those teenagers. And rather than being disturbed at the obnoxious hair colors and styles, piercings and tattoos, and the repulsive clothing, I was able to see them through the same eyes with which I watched the gorilla.

Many of these young people were desperately trying in their own way to communicate. They weren’t using sign language, but with their body language and body image, they were clearly shouting: Look at me! I’m hurting neglected, scared and so on. I stood there wondering, how many of us are really “listening” to these young people.

Koko has many critics who insist that she may have learned to imitate some gestures but has no concept of their meaning. Likewise, there are lots of adults who look at today’s teens and think, they are not conveying any particular message; they are just a reflection of their culture. That may be the case with some, but there are a great many that are desperate for someone to notice –someone to care.

There are also countless others out there who seem to be happy and have their lives in perfect order, but looks can be deceiving. If we looked through God’s eyes, it is quite probable that we would see everyone quite differently.

When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

As God’s children, we are to have the same love and compassion as our Heavenly Father does. I pray that we all continuously strive to gain a slightly different perspective; one that will cause us to alter our perceptions in such a way that we are more aware of the needs of those around us.

Most importantly, when we do detect that someone is hurting neglected, scared and so on; may we always be quick to show them the love, mercy and compassion of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The world can sometimes be a very dark place, and there are times when we all need a ray of light to bring hope.  Jesus is that light!  Will you be the one He shines through to brighten the lives of others?


postscript: Koko has her own website. You can learn all about her and the Gorilla Foundation here:
The Gorilla Foundation -Koko

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Sticks and Stones

Whoever first said “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” was either incredibly naïve or deliberately deceitful. I have been the victim of both physical abuse and verbal, and believe me the pain of verbal abuse is far greater and longer lasting. Physical abuse can at times cause permanent damage, but verbal abuse almost always does.

Recently, someone spewed a long list of railing accusations at me which hurt very deeply. Although what she said was untrue and unjustified, I must concede that her caustic remarks were an honest reflection of her true feelings towards me.

After two days of tears, mourning the loss of this once trusted friend, I felt the need to examine myself. Whereas this woman’s accusations were false, I did have to admit that I do sometimes come across too strong; passionate people are quite often misjudged and misunderstood.

I decided, therefore, that I must work hard to be softer and try to express myself more gently. A long time ago I came across a beautiful prayer from an anonymous seventeenth century nun. I know nothing of this woman’s life, but from her simple prayer I realized that she must have been quite a joy to be around.

It is now my plan to recite this prayer every day. I have placed a copy in my Bible and elsewhere so that it will always be before my eyes. Hopefully the prayer will become such a part of me that if we ever have occasion to meet in person, you will be able to say to yourself, “My, what a pleasant person to be around.”

Since I know nothing about most of you reading this blog, I am in no way speaking to your personalities, only mine. Nevertheless, the prayer is so beautiful that I wanted to share it with you. If it touches your heart in any way, we can both praise God for the heartfelt words of an anonymous nun.

Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older and will some day be old. Keep me from getting talkative, particularly from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful, but not moody; helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end. Keep my mind from the recital of endless details- give me wings to come to the point.

I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of others’ pains. Seal my lips on my own aches and pains -they are increasing, and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. Help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally it is possible that I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint- some of them are so hard to live with- but a sour old woman is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

*This Prayer of an Aging Woman was taken from Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes. Morgan, Robert J.
Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nashville, Tennessee. 2000

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