Archive for the ‘Servanthood’ Category

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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Is there any greater tragedy than the loss of human life, especially if that loss could have been prevented? Let’s revisit history for a moment.

The magnificent, “unsinkable” Titanic, the world’s largest passenger steamship of its time, quickly sank into the icy waters of the Atlantic on April 15th, 1912 after its encounter with an iceberg. More than fifteen-hundred lives were lost including those of innocent children. The scars of this devastation were only deepened when it was made known that so many of those lives could have been spared.

Several mistakes had been made, all of which contributed to the profusion of death and destruction –any one of which could have been easily corrected. For example, there weren’t enough lifeboats to accommodate all the people on board, and those lifeboats that were employed were not filled to capacity. There has been a lot written about those various mistakes and what could have –should have– been done differently, but I would prefer to focus for a moment on the heroes instead.

We may not be familiar with their names, but there were many people aboard Titanic that gave their lives in order that others might be saved. The men in the engine room, for example, never abandoned their posts; they worked feverishly to keep the ship afloat as long as possible and keep the lights on so others could find their way to safety.

That is a rather good picture of the church. We’ve seen the news. Our world is being ravaged by turmoil, famine, pestilence and war. These devastations are sweeping over every continent like a tsunami, and people are beginning to drown in the despair of it all. It is our duty, therefore, to keep working till Jesus returns (Luke 19:13) and to keep the gospel light burning in order to give direction to those who are perishing.

According to survivor reports, there was a minister aboard the Titanic who gave his life doing exactly that. After placing his daughter in a lifeboat and saying his final goodbye, Reverend John Harper returned to deck helping “Women, children and unsaved into the lifeboats!”

Even in his final moments of life, he continued to do God’s work. Once in the icy waters, Reverend Harper swam from person to person searching for the unsaved so that he might lead them to Jesus. His last words before sinking into the ocean’s depths –he had given his life vest to another—was “Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!”

A few years ago, our local science and exploration center hosted a Titanic exhibition. Hollywood may have capitalized on the untimely demise of fifteen-hundred people, but the exhibition humanized it. Until then, it was easy for me to think of the sunken Titanic as just another heart-breaking historical event. But when I placed my hand on the display wall which had been cooled to the temperature of the icy Atlantic waters into which the terrified passengers were plunged, the whole catastrophe became more real to me. I was then able to view the various other displays from an entirely different perspective.

The personal belongings exhibits, for example, were very sobering. The ship’s victims were not just statistics; they were real people. Beyond that, the immeasurable loss of human life seemed all the more grievous when viewing the actual photographs of several passengers. Putting faces to the names of those who died, especially, made everything more relevant.

I thought about the survivors too. How many of these people carried the burden of guilt to their graves? Yes, mistakes were made. But rather than pointing fingers of blame, we should instead learn from those mistakes and not repeat them.

Most of Titanic’s mistakes were made only because it was believed by the vast majority that the Titanic was completely unsinkable. Likewise, many people today think that regardless of isolated global disasters, the world as we know it will never be destroyed. The body of Christ knows better. Scripture foretells what will befall this earth; and we know the destiny of those who do not accept Jesus as their Messiah when it does. These people are, as one old hymn says, “sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore –very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more….”

I ask you again, is there any greater tragedy than the loss of human life, especially if that loss could have been prevented? Absolutely not! To stand-by and let someone perish without trying to save them is unthinkable. I pray that we, the Body of Christ, never become apathetic to the plight of those who are lost.

Like Reverend Harper, we must be diligently about the Father’s business until the very end. The world learned of the Reverend’s unfailing devotion from the testimony of a Titanic survivor. He was floating atop debris when the Reverend swam up to him and asked if he was saved. Not only did the young man reply ‘no,’ he refused the offer of salvation. Reverend Harper then removed his life vest and gave it to the young man. “Then you need this more than I,” he said, and swam to the next person.

Shortly before he sank to his watery grave, the reverend swam back to this young man and offered him one last chance to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior. Deeply touched by Reverend Harper’s act of compassion, the young man softened his heart and accepted Jesus. Of the fifteen-hundred people that went into the icy water, only six were rescued; he was one of them.

I can only imagine how that man must’ve felt the first time he heard the words to the aforementioned hymn, “….But the master of the sea heard my despairing cry, from the waters lifted me, now safe am I. Love lifted me… When nothing else could help, love lifted me.”

I wonder, is it possible that after such a miraculous rescue the man’s faith was sinkable? Unthinkable!

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The man was not home when they came to assassinate him for his faith in Jesus Christ, but his family was. Why they did not kill his wife is uncertain. Perhaps they thought it a far crueler “punishment” to kill his sons and force their mother to watch as they were shot to death by bullets which were far less steely than their own hearts. And so they did just that.

“When will you flee this place?” the woman was asked after this life-shattering tragedy.

“Not until I see God’s revenge on these men,” she answered. “These were my children; I changed their diapers I fed them and nurtured them. I loved them, and I had hopes that they would grow to be pastors or doctors; men who would help our people. And now, their lives have been cut off –they will never grow to be men.”

Concerned, her fellow Christian asked, “What do you mean by God’s revenge? What revenge?”

“I need God’s revenge!” she reiterated. “Please ask the churches to pray God’s revenge on these men that killed my sons — I need to see these men go to Heaven. I want the churches to pray for their salvation!”

Her statements seemed odd to me at first. Then I realized what she meant: our Lord said, Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” (Romans 12:19 NAS). This mother knew that God would avenge her sons’ blood and was therefore seeking mercy on their behalf. She had forgiven those men and prayed that God would as well. Like Jesus upon His cross of crucifixion, she was pleading, ‘Father, forgive them; they know not what they do!’ As I listened to this account of the persecuted church, the Lord spoke to my heart. “Would you – could you –forgive even this?”

I wanted to say, without hesitation, “Yes Lord!” But the truth is, I am not certain whether I could or not. One never knows what they will do in certain situations until faced with it. My childhood and adolescence was excruciatingly painful, yet I learned to completely forgive my tormenters. However, my own experiences pale in comparison to those of the persecuted church in other lands. How would I handle this kind of agony – the cold-blooded murder of my precious children? Could I truly forgive and ask that God’s revenge for them be salvation and eternal life in Heaven for their murderers? I pray so.

Then, I listened intently to the speaker’s own powerful testimony. He was born and raised in the same hate-riddled part of the world as this woman was. In fact, it was he who encouraged her to flee. He managed to do so himself, but not until he was imprisoned five times and inflicted with such inhumane tortures as being hung upside down, beaten with metal cable, and having boiling oil poured on his feet.

Yet he more than forgave –he learned to see them through God’s eyes and love them as He does! For the past thirty-plus years of his life, this man has been involved with an evangelistic ministry and continues to minister to the people in and around his homeland – even those barbaric non-believers who torture and kill Christians.

As he recounted his own sufferings, I couldn’t help but smile every time he said, “We must continue to have the faith of Jesus!” You see, with his still-thick accent, he pronounced the word faith as ‘face.’

Yes, my brother, we desperately need the face of Jesus! I was reminded, as he spoke, of Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”

It is only by the grace of God, by His countenance upon us, that we can ever find healing for a heart that has been shattered. It is only by forgiveness that we can find true peace. And it is only by loving our enemies that we can pray with utmost sincerity, ‘Forgive them Father; they know what they do.’

May we, the body of Christ, never forget to pray daily for the persecuted church AND for those who persecute us!

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About the only time I experience the manly phenomenon of being “compartmentalized” is when I am in cleaning mode. I’m not talking about the fifth round of counter wiping and floor sweeping. Rather, I mean the all-out offensive war on grime.

Some of you women know what I’m talking about. When in that mode, we rigorously clean and sanitize everything in sight including the dog if it gets in the way. We are focused!

My son once caught me in the middle of one of those cleaning sprees and asked if he could have one of the apples on the table. They were wooden apples and he knew it, so this was obviously his cute little attempt to pull one over on mom while she was preoccupied. And he did.

“Go for it” I said, calling his bluff.

I stopped scrubbing sticky stuff long enough to watch him bite off a big chunk and chew on it with glee. Normally his ear-to-ear grin would have given him away instantly, but I was focused. It took a short while for my brain to process the fact that he had earlier switched the fake apple for a real one.

Having succeeded in his endeavor to make me laugh, he really enjoyed that apple and I’m glad he did! After all, he gets his sense of humor from his mama so what can I say?

Today was kind of the opposite. I picked a nicely colored apple –a real one — and bit into it expecting the sweet flavor of apple. I might as well have bit into one of those wooden look-alikes though, because it probably tasted about the same. Even caramel wouldn’t have helped this one.

Oddly, the same kind of thing happened this past week. While grocery shopping, I noted how paltry all of the produce looked. Nevertheless, the nectarines looked pleasing enough so I bought one to nibble on while making dinner. What a disappointment! When I bit into that pitiful thing there was zero taste. None!

I said to my husband, “Well, they finally did it; they managed to geneticallly engineer something which resembles fruit –but they forgot to give it any flavor.” He took one bite and realized I was not exaggerating the least bit. Then, wanting to check-out this peculiarity for himself, my youngest son took a bite. Even his taste buds manifested their confusion through the expression on his face as he tossed the remainder of the ‘nectarine’ into the trash.

Later that evening, I was thinking about that flavorless piece of ‘fruit’ and bemoaned the fact that I haven’t enjoyed a really good apple, pear or peach for many years. certain types of fruit have retained some of their flavor but certainly not all.

Then it hit me! Is any of my spiritual fruit tasteless? The fruit of the spirit, according to the fifth chapter of Galatians, are these:

Love * Joy * Peace * Patience * Kindness * Goodness * Faithfulness
* Gentleness *Self-control

Notice these nine attributes of fruit, according to scripture, are singular. This is significant. If someone is living according to God’s word, they shouldn’t exhibit only some of these attributes in their lives–they should exhibit them all.

I truly desire that my own fruit basket be overflowing with every one of the tasty, nutritious fruit of the Spirit. But truthfully, I have to admit that some of my fruit is less flavorful than others. I trust that none of my fruit may be likened to a wooden decoration but even so, real fruit is of little value to others if it is merely a tasteless hybrid.

Heaven forbid that any person every be confused by my testimony of faith because they realize that the fruit I attempt to share has absolutely no flavor. But how do I ensure that my fruit is really good?

First, I am willing to confess to myself, and to you, that some of my fruit is not fully ripe. Therefore, I ask my heavenly Father often that He cultivate me in whichever way He sees fit until my fruit is all HE desires it to be. Once it is, I must be willing to share my fruit with everyone I encounter. After all, fruit is meant to be consumed not merely displayed. The more fruit we share with others, the more they can see God’s goodness –that should be our focus.

My son’s fun little prank helped me learn an important lesson that day. We should all honestly examine our own fruit baskets to see if the fruit is real or artificial. After all, when someone comes to us expecting to find tasty, nutritious fruit, we don’t want them biting into wood.

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15:8)

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Photo Credit: yhsBiology

What do peanut butter and jellyfish have to do with each other? Nothing really, but I thought it made for a catchy title. Although, people do eat jellyfish –even here in the good ole U.S.A. –but I cannot imagine why. I’ll just take God’s word for it that jellyfish is not food and steer clear of it altogether!

I have had jellyfish on my mind ever since I read a really fascinating article in the Smithsonian 40th Anniversary edition magazine entitled The New King of the Sea by Abigail Tucker. She starts by reporting that 40 million people lost their power in the Philippines in December,1999 because “Some 50 dump trucks’ worth (of jellyfish) had been sucked into the cooling pipes of a coal-fired power plant, causing a cascading power failure.”

Jellyfish, it seems, are becoming so prolific that they are literally taking over the oceans. I couldn’t help but think back to my high school days when the term jellyfish was the popular dig to taunt a coward. But there weren’t too many jellyfish in high school. Back then you never heard reports of the oceans’ “Jellyfish Gone Wild” either (National Science Foundation Report 2008).

There are many theories as to why the oceans are now teeming with jellyfish to the point that the waters are no longer safe and these mobs have become unmanageable. The most logical explanation seems to be the ever-increasing pollution of the waters which cause ‘dead zones.’ Most marine life cannot live in a dead zone but jellyfish can thrive there. Sadly, the number of coastal dead zones, according to Tucker, has doubled every decade since the 1960’s.

After reading the magazine article, I couldn’t help but compare myself to a jellyfish during the days of my life before Christ. Not just because I was afraid of my own shadow, but because I fit the general description of a jellyfish. These creatures are not only boneless, they are also brainless. They don’t think about where they are going but rather drift aimlessly at the mercy of the currents and simply survive. Yes, I was a jellyfish, living in a dead zone.

But Jesus said I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10). I am living proof that He does just that. The very moment I accepted Him and His free gift of salvation, he changed me forever. And if He did that for me, He can certainly do it for you as well.

However, too many people today –those who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal savior — are frustrated and frightened. They are watching helplessly as our world plummets into the depths of despair and becomes more unmanageable all the time. And they, like jellyfish, seem to be drifting aimlessly without hope, without courage. But we have the answers to the problems they face and it is our responsibility to share them.

Now, more than ever, the world needs to find the house of God in order and free of this world’s pollution. The Bible speaks metaphorically of people being a ‘sea.’ But much of the sea is polluted and therefore the spiritual dead zones are multiplying just like the physical ones are.

That is why God’s people have been commissioned to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)

Real jellyfish cannot ever be anything but jellyfish; they will never be more than a dangerous nuisance or a piece of sushi on someone’s plate. People, on the other hand, can most assuredly become a new creation.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Tucker stated that “Jellyfish reproduce and move into new niches so rapidly that even within 40 years, some experts predict “regime shifts” in which jellyfish assume dominance in one marine ecosystem after another.”

Sadly, we are beginning to see regime shifts in America as well and we will lose our power if we are not careful. We used to be a Christian nation that sent missionaries to foreign countries to preach the gospel. To our shame, missionaries are now coming to America to preach the gospel to us. We must never let down on our foreign missions endeavors, but we must also march boldly into America’s dead zones and reclaim them for Jesus Christ!

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37 NIV). Let’s go round-up some jellyfish but rather than eating them, let’s feed them the words of life so Jesus Christ can make them into a new creation. Who’s with me?

footnote: Tucker, Abigail. The New King of the Sea. Smithsonian magazine, 40th Anniversary edition. July/Aug 2010
photo at http://yhsbiology.wikispaces.com/Scyphozoa
~~For those of you who are interested in nature, the article is very informative and well-written; the website is a wonderful resource to learn about jellyfish.

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My husband and I were once exiting a restaurant with our four small children in tow when we realized one of them had wandered off. After a quick scan of the crowded dining room, we spotted her at the table of an elderly couple. She and the woman were chatting away like two old school chums.

Back then our little golden-haired beauty was a real people-person whom didn’t know a stranger. She had walked right up to the couple’s table and began to entertain them with her natural charm.

Just as our small clan reached the table, I heard miss sunshine say, “Watch what I can do!” In an instant she turned and did the splits right there in the aisle. My heart skipped a few beats because one of the wait staff was walking towards her lugging a huge tray of hot food. Fortunately, her daddy was able to scoop her up in the nick of time, to the amusement and giggles of all.

It was quite obvious that our little girl had brightened the day for that motherly old woman. Turning her gaze towards my baby boy, she sweetly asked, “What do you do, you cute little thing?”

Without hesitation he replied, “I can count to ten in Spanish. Uno, dos, tres……”

“Splendid!” she chirped. “And what about you?” she then asked my oldest.

“I can count to ten in French. Un, deux, trois…”

My oldest daughter, anticipating her turn to impress the friendly couple, was already thinking. “What do I do?” she responded, as though asking herself the question. After a brief pause, her pensive look melted into a toothy grin.

“I TALK!” she proudly answered.

Periodically, a friend will say to me, “I really want to do something special for the Lord, but I don’t have any special talents or gifting.” First, let me say that I believe everyone has some type of spiritual endowment with which to bless others, even if it is not easily recognizable.

Second, and this is very important, everyone has the ability to share their faith. You may not be the outgoing, social type but that’s okay. Even an introvert can find occasion to talk to others about the Lord.

This may be very surprising to those who know me personally, but I used to have great difficulty talking to anyone. However, it eventually occurred to me that I could better serve my Lord and Master if I were a bit more sociable (okay, maybe a lot more). I prayed about the situation and asked for help in taking steps towards this goal.

Slowly, but surely, the Lord not only enabled me to talk to others, but to enjoy doing so. Now, by the Grace of God, I too am a people-person who does not know a stranger. I engage others in conversation every chance I get and look for opportunities to speak an encouraging word into their lives, especially those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior.

If you, dear reader, are uncertain as to what your spiritual endowment is, pray about it until you know then serve with confidence. Each of us have a different job to do, but every laborer is valuable and every job important. Finally, remember, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23 NIV).

Above all, let us all continue to share the Gospel with others. Jesus said if we don’t praise Him, the rocks will cry out. I’m sure the same is true about sharing our faith. No matter what, the Lord will find someone who is willing to speak out on His behalf. Will you be the one to say, “I TALK?”

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Nestled snugly on a mountaintop in the Tonto National forest, is a small, cozy house which I had the privilege of calling home for one summer during my youth. There, the Arizona sky is swirled with turquoise and tangerine, and the ever-present fragrance of fresh air and pine exhilarates the senses. It is no wonder that so many Native Americans and pioneers chose to settle this area and never leave.

I had plans to attend college in the fall or else I might have planted my roots there as well. Being an adventurer, I could have easily spent every moment of every summer exploring the vast display of nature’s treasures throughout Tonto’s three-million acres.

Admittedly, winters would have been a little more challenging for an outdoorsman like me because there isn’t much to do when you are completely snowed in. I would have managed quite contentedly though. Until one has experienced first-hand the solitude of living apart from the pandemonium of this world, it is hard to imagine the inexpressible tranquility that such a quiet life affords.

I had never experienced the harsh winters of the mountain, but my grandmother told me many stories about them. Tonight, as I watched orange and amber flames dance atop the logs inside my fireplace, I fondly recalled one of them.

Each night, after the dinner dishes were cleared, Grandpa would build a fire large enough to thoroughly warm the house until long past bedtime. The house had electricity but it was always turned low during sleeping hours. Nestling under two or three hand-made quilts atop a feather bed usually kept everyone warm, but I’m told that stepping out of bed into the frosty morning was rather unpleasant.

One morning after a particularly heavy snow, Grandpa awoke to find a big raccoon curled-up on the rug in front of the fireplace. How it got there was a mystery at first. He wasn’t an especially feisty coon, though. Grandpa simply opened the door and the coon walked out without a fuss.

The following morning the coon was back on its self-assigned rug in front of the fireplace, and the next morning, and the one after that. Each morning, just like the first, Grandpa opened the door and the critter headed outside as if he were a beloved household pet merely going out for his morning business.

The mystery was solved by day three when Grandma noticed little ashy footprints coming from the fireplace. Apparently the coon had waited for the fire to go completely out then managed to work his way down the fireplace, leap over the hot ashes and settle in for the night.

Because of this, my grandparents nicknamed him “Jack” from the old Mother Goose rhyme:

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick.

A simple metal mesh would have thwarted the cunning houseguest, but apparently he had become such a welcome diversion to the monotony of winter he was allowed to continue his nightly visits.

Jack slept in the house for about three weeks then stopped coming around for reasons unknown. Knowing my grandparents, they would have let him sleep on the rug for the rest of his life because they were very warm and caring like that. After all, they welcomed me there for a whole summer when I needed a place to stay.

I guess that is why I sometimes think of that old raccoon story. My world at the time was as bleak and cold as a frozen winter and yet, like Jack, I was offered a warm place to rest my cold, weary soul with no strings attached. Beyond that, I was loved and cared for by people I barely knew.

A great many summers have passed since the one spent on the mountain and most of my memories of those days have faded. Even so, in the same way that the old coon was able to stay warm by the ashes of those long-ago fires, I still have enough memories remaining to warm my heart when I think-back on them.

Dear reader, never underestimate how deeply a kind word or deed can impact others. There are many people in today’s world who’s hearts have grown cold -wounded souls looking only for a warm place to rest. Let us be swift to offer them that refuge.

> Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.(Matthew 25:34-40)

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Unusual Animal Friendships

While filling out a job application, my friend marked an X through all the “race” choices and wrote HUMAN. He didn’t get the job, but I gave him an ‘A’ for bravado. I wonder, is it really that burdensome to use the correct, five-syllable word nationality instead of the incorrect, one-syllable term race?

True, there were races in antiquity, but those generally involved chariots or feet. Biblically speaking, the word race is only found four times in Scripture and never in reference to a people group.The word nation(s), however is used hundreds of times.

Semantics, semantics, some would say. What difference does it make if we use the word race to distinguish ethnicity? Whether we use the word race for ethnicity, contest of speed, or even a political campaign, the word gives rise to thoughts of competition and superiority. Sadly, this is why some folks feel justified in ranking others as “inferior.”

Nothing could be more unscriptural. The Bible says God created MAN in His image not His images. He distinguished them male and female, and by that distinction alone.

Prejudice is, therefore, one of my pet peeves. My family and I have always been colorblind and have no tolerance for racism. Nevertheless, I must ashamedly admit that I learned just today that my otherwise angelic little doggie is prejudice (insert imagination here). This will never do in my family!

This will never do in God’s family either. Unbelievably, prejudice and racism actually take place even in the church. When I first learned this, I was utterly shocked. Mankind, all six-billion plus, are family regardless of our skin colors. Those of us who call upon Jesus Christ as Lord are immediate family, everyone else is extended family, but family just the same.

Let me add for clarity, I do not believe that all roads lead to heaven. I know, speaking of Jesus, that there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12) Those who have not accepted the Lord’s salvation are prodigal siblings. As such, we must love them and pray for them all the more.

Jesus said:

..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. (Matthew 22:37-39).

Notice, there is no loophole which allows for discrimination. I don’t know about you, but many of my friends and neighbors are of a different skin color than I. So what! As I said, we are all part of one great big family, one great “race” if you will-the human race. If we are going to have antipathy for color brothers and sisters, let it be towards the blackness of sin not skin!

Perhaps you are a believer and yet struggle with intolerance issues, skin color or otherwise. I am not judging you; I simply pray that we all, myself included, allow the Lord to break any chains which have bound us and prevented us from loving others as we truly should.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us… (Hebrews 12:1)

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Could anyone ever doubt the artistic brilliance of Michelangelo? Though his architectural and engineering feats were prodigious, the paintings and sculptures of this Italian Renaissance man are yet considered to be amongst the most treasured works in all of art history.

It is rumored that the Pope, while admiring Michelangelo’s sculpture of David, asked “How do you know what to cut away?” To which the sculptor supposedly replied, “It’s simple. I just remove everything that doesn’t look like David.”

Whether this dialogue is true or not is uncertain, but it seems this principle was surely applied by Gutzon Borglum, whose artistic vision equaled Michelangelo’s, or possibly exceeded it. Borglum is the creative mastermind who gave South Dakota its legendary Mt. Rushmore National Memorial.

Four of America’s presidents have been immortalized there. Their granite faces gaze eternally over breathtaking South Dakota. And they are gazed upon. More than three-million tourists visit Mount Rushmore each year to marvel at America’s “Shrine of Democracy.”

The tourists are eager to learn of Gutzon Borglum, Rushmore’s fiercely determined sculptor. If not for his artistic genius and ingenuity, the Memorial may never have become a reality. But is it possible that one man could have single-handedly accomplished such a feat? Hardly.

Borglum may have been the brain of the project, and he may get the lion’s share of the glory, but let’s not forget the whole body of Americans who embraced the dream and worked towards its fulfillment. The first name on the Mount Rushmore roster is Doane Robinson. As secretary and historian of the South Dakota Historical Society, he was eager to draw sightseers to his beautiful state.

While thoughts of tourism were freshly churning in his mind, Robinson read that Gutzon Borglum had been commissioned to carve a tribute to the confederacy into Georgia’s Stone Mountain. He thought of South Dakota’s grand mountains and envisioned “all the heroes of the old west peering out from them.” Fortunately for South Dakota, the Stone Mountain project washed out and Gutzon Borglum was free to sculpt elsewhere.

State forester, Theodore Shoemaker, escorted Borglum into the heart of the Black Hills. He felt that the renowned artist would be captivated by Mount Rushmore. Shoemaker was right on the mark. Once Borglum saw this “garden of the gods,” no other mountain would do. “Here is the place!” he announced. “American history shall march along that skyline!”

The dream took wings. From school children’s pennies to philanthropist contributions, monies and resources slowly trickled in. These invaluable contributions were the fuel that kept Borglum’s dream burning, as were the labors of the men who worked for Borglum: the men who drilled, blasted, and polished the Memorial into its present greatness.

When the plans to sculpt Mount Rushmore were first announced, unemployment was very high. Borglum easily gathered a beginning crew of twenty-two men. Most of them, being loggers, ranchers, and miners, knew nothing at all about carving. Yet they not only mastered the skill of stone carving, they did so while hanging over the side of the mountain in small chair-like “saddles.”

Even though the saddles were sturdy and dependable, the work was dangerous and stressful. Each day started with a taxing 506-step climb to the top of the mountain. The men, who were already exhausted, were then lowered down the side of the mountain to drill and chip the rock away bit by bit.

Borglum originally believed that the Memorial could be carved without dynamite, but he was wrong. Before Rushmore’s completion, 450,000 tons of rock was blasted off the mountain. “We have literally carved with dynamite,” Borglum later confessed.

Most of the men who worked on the mountain earned little pay and gained no recognition. So why did they do it? Initially, the men simply wanted to feed their families. Times were hard, jobs were scarce, and men were desperate. At some point, though, the men caught a glimpse of Borglum’s dream. ‘Red’ Anderson explained, “The longer we were there, the more we began to sense that we were building a truly great thing, and after a while all of us old hands became truly dedicated to it.” Through the years, more than 400 men would share the satisfaction of laboring to create the Memorial.

Gutzon Borglum certainly deserves a place of honor in the annals of artistic achievement. “I want somewhere in America,” he said, “ a few feet of stone that bears witness (to) the great things we accomplished as a nation, placed so high it won’t pay to pull it down for lesser purposes.” The Mount Rushmore National Memorial serves its purpose well.

For me, the past week has been life-changing. Many events, some good, some tragic, have caused me to reflect on my own life. In the end, I want my life to count for something. I don’t want to be famous and admired like the Mount Rushmore memorial, but I want to leave a legacy that encourages people to trust the Lord Jesus Christ. And, I want my life to bear witness of the inexpressibly wondrous things that the Lord has accomplished in me and through me.

I thought about the many people whom God has allowed to impact my life. Like the Rushmore workers, some have helped to gently chisel away some of my pain and imperfections. As Scripture says: As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (Proverbs 27:17).

The Lord has used less gentile people to shape me as well, some were believers and some were not. They, being tools in the Master Sculptor’s hands, were often more like a forceful blast of dynamite because the Lord was using them to reach the places where my heart was harder. Though I could not always see it, the Lord was working all things out for my good (Romans 8:28).

Circumstances, both good and bad, have also helped define me. More often than not, the circumstances have been those which leave me feeling blessed and enriched, but there have been more occasions than I care to remember, when the circumstances of life were also like the explosive charges that carved Mount Rushmore.

It never ceases to amaze me that Borglum was able to assess a mountain and, at the hands of his workers, blast away everything that did not look like a president. One misplaced charge and Washington could have lost his nose, or Roosevelt his ear. But every time the rubble crashed to the ground and the dust smoke cleared, it was evident that the extraordinary masterpiece was one step closer to its completion.

Look closely at the Rushmore Memorial, however, and you will note that it is not quite finished. I think that is a perfect analogy of the human life. We are all works in progress; and we will never be fully perfected in this life.

Even so, let us show forth God’s excellent craftsmanship in our lives by submitting to the Master Sculptor, Jesus. He knows how to skillfully chisel and dynamite all the hardened places in our hearts and lives until we show forth His glory.

Borglum said, “The purpose of the (Rushmore) memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States…” However, we have an even greater calling than Borglum did. Our calling, our legacy to mankind, is to allow the Lord Jesus to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of His kingdom through us.

Finally, let us never forget that His is a kingdom of people. I for one am thankful for all the people who God has used, whether chisel or dynamite, to help refine me. When I think of the rubble lying at my feet, which has been chipped and blasted away in order to make my life into something beautiful, I realize that the Lord’s masterpiece is one step closer to completion.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17).

As such, we are living memorials of our blessed redeemer. Praise God!

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Six O’Clock Charlie is hanging out with me this weekend while his folks are gone. The affectionate addition of “Six O’clock” to his name was my idea. Charlie knows that my house is his home-away-from-home and he really loves his weekend stays here, but he is especially devoted to his papa, who apparently returned home from work habitually at six o’clock in the evening during Charlie’s formative years.

Charlie’s internal clock is set at six o’clock sharp. I seldom get up before six o’clock in the morning, but that is precisely the time when Charlie, who is determined to awaken me, exhales his hot breath onto my face and nudges me with his cold, wet nose. Like it or not, I am up at six to let Charlie out for his morning business.

Then, after a long day of tailing me and sleeping, mostly sleeping, Charlie gets a bit anxious. At precisely six o’clock in the evening, that lovable old lug moves to the door, which I try to keep open at that time, and intently watches out the screen door for his papa; thus his nickname, “Six O’clock Charlie.” Morning or evening, when six o’clock comes, Charlie is ready for action.

After a while, when Charlie realizes that he is probably going to bunk down for another night at my house, he heads into the kitchen in hopes that I will feel sorry for him and slip him a little something. I usually do; a little treat now and then goes a long way in keeping Charlie content.

Ole Six O’clock always knows his papa will come to get him soon, and he gets really excited any time he hears anything as promising as a car door. Even so, when things don’t go the way he had hoped, Charlie still knows how to make the best of it while he is here. And no matter what, he always lets me know that as long as he stays here, in my home, he is going to dutifully watch out for me and be my loyal ‘best friend.’ (Shhh, don’t tell Dazie Mae!)

Today, a friend of mine earnestly stated “Oh Christ Jesus come back soon!” I’ve felt that way for some time and so have countless others. We are all a bit like Six O’clock Charlie; we know that our Master is coming for us soon, we just don’t know exactly when. And like Charlie, we too must make the best of it while we are still here. After all, this world is our own home-away-from-home. However, what matters most is not in knowing when our Master is coming for us, but whether or not we are ready when He does come and whether or not He will find us faithful and diligent.

Jesus Christ himself said “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9:4) Until that glorious day when Jesus returns, let us all be about the Father’s business as well. As children and loyal bondservants of our Heavenly Father, we must dutifully ‘watch out’ for mankind and proclaim the Gospel message of salvation and of hope.

Unlike Charlie, though, we don’t have the luxury of sleeping most of our time away. Scripture warns:

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (Mark 13:32-37)

A few hours ago, my husband came home from an errand and was greeted by a rather disappointed Charlie. I heard my husband tell him, “I can see the disappointment in your eyes. I know- you were hoping I was your daddy; don’t worry he’s coming soon!”

God’s children may be tired and frustrated with this present world. And we may be disappointed that the Lord has not yet returned. But we can be absolutely sure of this one thing, He is coming soon! Furthermore, He promised “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching…” (Luke 12:37)

We cannot just sit at the door watching for our Master like Charlie does, that’s not what the Lord meant. Rather, we awaken each morning with the expectation that it is time to get busy with the work at hand, knowing full well that our Master is coming soon to take us home- to our real and permanent home. And there, we shall find eternal rest in Him.

Speaking of sitting at the door, it is after five. It’s time to go open the door of expectation for good ole Six O’clock Charlie and then go make supper.

If by chance you are reading this, but do not know the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior and Master, I would like to encourage you to open a door also. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Even so Lord Jesus, come quickly!

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