Archive for the ‘Judging Correctly’ Category

Barking enraged shepherd dog outdoors

Our outdoor dog raised quite a ruckus at about two o’clock this morning. Clearly, someone (or something), was in the yard because she was loudly sounding her full-out intruder alert; ready to attack. As three of us hurried outside to confront this unseen foe, I couldn’t help but think how foolish a person would have to be to jump a fence and prowl around a yard that housed a German Shepherd –and yes, there are guard dog signs up to warn any would-be intruders.

Oddly, our girl kept running in and out of the pool yard in full-attack mode, but she didn’t tear into anyone. Clearly she wasn’t after a coon or a possum because she has a distinctly different bark for those. Her bark is also different when alerting us to people on the road just outside our property. No, this was different —more vicious— but it didn’t seem that anyone was in the yard after all.

At first I was puzzled. Then I saw it, MOVEMENT! And to be honest, I chuckled. Had our dog been as tall as me, she might have figured out what the movement was; but she is only half my height, so the top of the (above ground) pool is way above her head. From the porch she could see the pool float moving about in the current, but she could only see the pillow portion, and that on the dark side of the pool.

Normally we don’t leave floats or toys in the pool so the sight, more specifically the movement, would certainly have been alarming for our ever-vigilant watch dog. Had I taken the float out, as per our custom, I might have spared our household, and probably three others, from being disturbed in the middle of the night, but I’ll just chalk it off as a lesson learned and hope the neighbors didn’t mind the urgent barking too much —better safe than sorry, after all.

After loving on our girl for awhile, I patted her on the head and told her what a good job she was doing then came inside to wind down before going back to bed. As I sat in my chair, this scripture came to mind:

Abstain from all appearance of evil. I Thessalonians 5:22

Our dog doesn’t really avoid every appearance of “evil,” She attacks it head-on. To her way of thinking, any creature, two-legged or four, that enters her yard, is an enemy to be slain.

If only God’s children would have kept that attitude in regards to compromise, I thought, this country might still be a Christian nation. But sadly, we have let too many evils creep in —into our churches, our society, our culture—because we didn’t recognize those evils for what they truly were. We also made too many compromises with many of the more subtle evils in our attempt to reach the unchurched with the Gospel. Sure, we meant well, but rather than succeeding in pulling people up, we slowly, but surely, allowed our own standards of holiness to be lowered, both in our churches and in our nation.

I have, over the course of time, asked several pastors the following question: Does the end (higher church attendance) ever justify the means (seeker-friendly gimmicks) if the means violates God’s instruction? I have seldom heard a pastor answer no. “Yes,” they say. “So long as we are getting people into the church, God will understand.” I DISAGREE! Why? Our god told us to abstain from the very appearance of evil. He tells us from cover-to-cover in our Bibles that we are absolutely forbidden from mixing the holy with the profane. If our church services look more like worldly concerts or pep rallies, we must ask ourselves if we are being obedient to God’s word. There are other examples I could use as well, but you get the point.

Where do we draw the line? You may ask. Well, if we don’t know the answer to that question, perhaps it is time for us to pray until we do. Meanwhile, it would be in our best interest to be on full-out intruder alert when it comes to even the appearance of evil. True, we may sometimes bark at something that isn’t truly a danger, but again, it is better to be safe than sorry. If we, God’s people, don’t stand up for what is right, who will? Friends, when it comes to sin and evil, let us learn a lesson from our canine protectors and attack them head-on!

As I always say, the people who care the most are they who care enough to speak the truth; in love, of course.

pencil lady

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In loving tribute to my dear friend, Barbara “Hugs” Hammond, who crossed into eternity January 7, 2015


Everyone needs to have some “hugs” in their life. I am so grateful that Barbara was mine for so many years. 


fried worms 3

Years ago, while I was still single, I served as an assistant manager for a rather large truck stop restaurant. One particular evening, while the place was unusually noisy and crowded, a rather weary family arrived.

One look at the parents’ faces told me that the day had already been very taxing for them and chaos was the last thing they needed. while I couldn’t do much about that at the time, I determined to ease the situation any way I could. Although it took some effort, I seated them more quickly than they had expected.

“I’ll go ahead and take your order,” I offered. “As you can see, all of our waitresses are swamped and I don’t want you to have to wait too long; you look exhausted.”

“Bless you,” the mother exhaled as she melted onto her chair. “We have been driving all day and to be honest, the whole trip has been one big nightmare! All we want to do is eat a good hot meal and then get home as quickly as possible so we can sleep in our own beds.”

After hurriedly scanning the menu, she asked her youngest son if he knew what he would like to eat. “FRIED WORMS!” he insisted. That was cute enough the first time but after the fourth time his parents were irate and very close to applying the board of education to the seat of learning right there in that dining room.

“Just bring us all a cheeseburger and fries please.”

I certainly didn’t know what it was like to deal with an obstinate child like that. But his mother’s face said it all, and I was determined to help her out just a bit. Did I mention that I was somewhat prankish when I was younger?

Returning from the kitchen a short time later, I walked over and placed a heaping plate of chewy little treats before the annoying little worm lover. His insolence quickly changed to anxiety. “Wha – what is that?”

“Fried worms,” I answered slyly. “That’s what you asked for, and we always try to make our customers happy.”

Even his parents looked a little nervous, they didn’t have a clue what I was up to but they could tell from my impish grin that they should just play along, and so they did. “You ordered those.” his father said sternly, “Now you eat them- all of them!” The boy didn’t move, though, because his body was rigid with disbelief and probably nausea at the thought of eating fried worms for real.

“Are those really worms?” his older brother asked hesitantly.

“Of course,” I answered. “And they’re pretty tasty; you should try one.”

He was a bit skeptical, though obviously a tad more daring. He slowly raised one to his mouth and ever so gingerly bit the end off of the critter. All eyes were fixed on him as a smile gradually overtook him. “Hey- these are good!” His father agreed.

Little Mr.” I want fried worms!” was not convinced, but after a bit of parental persuasion he finally braved his first bite. His eyes grew wide again, this time from surprise; he actually liked the worms very much. By this time everyone was munching on them and they polished off the whole basket-full in no time.

As the family was leaving, the boy’s mother hung back and quietly asked me what I had fed her family; she honestly didn’t have a clue. “I know they weren’t real worms,” she confessed, “but they really looked like they were.”

The stress that this woman had upon arrival had long since melted away, and she and I both shared a good laugh when I explained that her son had just tasted his first deep-fried clam strips. “Well, you sure taught him a lesson,” she said with great satisfaction. Then, with every ounce of motherly appreciation she could muster, she thanked me and left to rejoin her husband and children, who were hopefully better behaved for the remainder of their journey.

Interestingly, I was really trying to teach that little boy a lesson, yet I learned an important lesson as well. That incident helped me to realize that I was a lot like that boy. There were so many times I had wanted something so badly that I pitched a fit till I got it, only to find in the end it wasn’t really what I wanted after all. And the opposite was true also. There were times when I could not see what wonderful blessings were right there in front of me.

One such example was my friend whom I  lovingly called “Hugs.” I had only known this woman a short time before she felt inclined to give me a big ole’ bear hug. “You needed that,” she informed me. I really wanted to respond with “No, I didn’t, but you need this – SMACK!” Back then I still had a lot of emotional healing to do and I was not at all comfortable being hugged by someone I barely knew. I’ve changed a lot, though. I’m a lot more outgoing now, and hugs are just fine.

As time passed, I got to know “Hugs” better, yet  I still couldn’t help but think at first, “This woman really irritates me. Friendship, no thank you, I pass.” However, I had prejudged her just as the boy had with his fried worms. God had placed this woman in my life knowing what a blessing she would be, but I let my opinions get in the way and nearly rejected this precious gift.

Hugs and I were friends for nearly twenty years and she was always  there for me through the good times and bad. Her friendship was the real deal —one of those once-in-a-lifetime friendships— and I thank God that He knew what I needed even when I didn’t.

One of the most important things I have finally learned in life is that the decisions I make on my own are almost always the wrong ones. Without God’s help I often desire the things that are not in my best interest and fail to recognize those that are. But, when I pray and seek direction from my Heavenly Father through prayer and through Scripture, I can be confident that I am headed in the right direction and everything will work together for my good for the remainder of my journey.

God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
I John 3:20

*** Postscript: I believe there are certain things which are not to be eaten, as instructed in God’s Holy Word. Clams are one of those items. This event, however, happened nearly twenty-five years ago before I came to this understanding. I thought I would clarify this for those of you who know me personally and may have wondered what on earth I was doing feeding clams to a child. I now have much better food to feed those I encounter; the Bread of Life, but I do not in any way judge or condemn anyone who has a different understanding and eats those chewy little critters.

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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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The Pied Piper was supposed to be a savior of sorts to the people of Hamelin. He would rid the town of its rat infestation once and for all and charge only one-thousand guilders for doing so. The mayor, in a moment of elation, offered more coin than that, but he didn’t really mean it.

If you are familiar with the story, you will know that the piper did free the town of its four-legged rats, but the rats that ran the town council cheated him of his pay. Bent on revenge, therefore, the pied piper then lured all of the children away –never to return. This was easily accomplished. As the piper had previously told the council, “I’m able, by means of a secret charm, to draw all creatures living beneath the sun…”

I have often thought the tale of the Pied Piper to be an excellent metaphor of how easily God’s children are led astray. Let’s consider, for a moment, some of the similarities.

Our adversary, the devil, wanted “payment” for his self-perceived greatness, but God refused. Angry, and bent on revenge, that old devil sought to lead God’s children away from Him forever. Like the pied piper, he arrogantly believes that he is able, by means of a secret charm, to draw all creatures living beneath the sun.

If the devil were to show his true colors, none of God’s children would ever be foolish enough to follow him. Therefore, he clothes himself brightly, and deceitfully appears as an angel of light, enticing those who are willing to follow him with enchantments hard to refuse.

“Into the street the Piper stept,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while…”

You wouldn’t think that God’s children could be so easily beguiled, but the devil has been sharpening his skills from the dawn of time. Therefore, he knows full well how to appeal to mankind’s carnal natures. Ironically, the devil’s deceptions often come in religious wrappings.

Scripture aptly teaches that the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3 NIV). Obviously, this passage is speaking of those believers who willfully follow the sweet music of certain theological pied pipers.

Sadly, some believers earnestly seek truth yet fail to discern unsound doctrine simply because they trust in the undeserved “credibility” of those false teachers. I certainly don’t want to speak against any of God’s truly appointed ministers, but I do want to encourage you, dear reader, to make sure that those ‘big name’ ministers, from whose tables you have been dining, are truly men and women of God!

Again, Scripture says: Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15).

We have been warned! There are pied pipers (aka wolves) out there, wearing minister’s garb, who are leading people astray. It is quite easy to follow these kinds of leaders because they are very charismatic. Furthermore, most of their teachings are biblically based; which explains why these ‘ministers’ gain such popularity despite their spiritual corruption.

Nevertheless, being deceived is certainly no sin and it can happen to all of us at some time or another. How, then, do we guard against the deception of these false “ministers of righteousness.”

First: Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). If you KNOW the truth, you won’t be easily deceived by that which isn’t.

Second: It is important that we know those who labor among us; we should carefully examine the teachings of every spiritual leader we are inclined to follow. If any of those teachings fail to line-up with scripture, we should seriously reconsider our affiliation with that person, no matter who they are -or how spiritual they seem to be.

Please understand, I am not talking about those who maintain a slightly different interpretation of Scripture than ours; that is to be expected to a certain degree. Rather, I am talking about those whose teachings are in direct contradiction of Scripture.

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16: 17 18). Like the pied piper of Hamelin, these false teachers have the gift of charm and they are using it for their own profit.

Praise God for the faithful ministers who unashamedly preach and teach the truth of God’s word! Let us give them our full support. As to supporting these spiritual pied pipers, however, let us say no. We should tell them the same thing the good people of Hamelin told their city council:

“Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking,
To find the remedy [you are] lacking,
Or, sure as fate, we’ll send you packing!”

Browning, Robert. The Pied Piper of Hamelin. London: Frederick Warne and Co., Ltd., 1888
*book quotes are on pages 14, 17, and 13 consecutively. Photo taken from page 41

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Butt Dust

Feeling a bit weak? God understands: For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.(Psalm 103:14 NASV)

The Pastor’s message was solemn and serious, but my husband was (discreetly) laughing so much he could barely catch a breath. I was completely stunned. If you only knew how quiet and unexcitable Bryan normally is, you would have been surprised as well.

The pastor was puzzled, my husband was overcome, and I was dumbfounded at the unusual display. What could have possibly caused this astonishing laughter, which was certain to erupt in an audible guffaw at any moment? About the time Bryan composed himself enough to quietly whisper a few words of explanation the pastor said it again, this time with deliberate emphasis: “We- Are- But- Dust!”

Now tears of laughter were really streaming down his reddened face. “Butt dust,” he cackled softly. “We are Butt dust!” I’m not sure if anyone actually heard the comment or not, but Bryan’s struggle to maintain composure infected about three rows of people. The Pastor’s dramatic statement had been diminished by the center section, piano side.

As humorous as the incident was, it is a great reminder that we can at times hear something that wasn’t actually said. My stepfather wasn’t the wisest of men but he always repeated one thing that is well-worth remembering. He said, “Never believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.”

Look at the well-known ink blot above. Which do you see, two faces or a vase? It is possible that two people can observe the same particulars and see or hear something entirely different. That is why clear communication is crucial in our relationships with others.

Heaven knows we fallible humans can certainly misinterpret things easily enough. This is especially true when we only have a limited amount of information, or if that information comes through a secondary source. That is why I often find myself pleading with others to talk directly with me if they are concerned about any issue, real or perceived, that involves me, lest there be any misunderstandings.

Even then, I find that people sometimes listen to the words spoken but do not really hear what was said. It’s kind of like the ink blot; the words are specific, but the ‘interpretation’ of them can vary from person to person. Is it possible that we sometimes hear what we want to hear –good or bad?

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find myself asking others: “Please don’t hear what I am not saying!” Additionally, I try to show the same courtesy to others. As I said before, clear communication is crucial. Relationships are too important to allow simple misperceptions to strain them.

On a final note, I may have just permanently ruined your ability to act sane the next time you hear a humble servant of God tell you that “we are but dust,” but hopefully you will remember not to judge a matter too quickly.

Be blessed and be happy. After all, life is short and we are butt dust, but dust.

                   He who answers before listening–that is his folly and his shame.   (Proverbs 18:13 NIV).

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