Is That A Flower Or A Weed? Who Knows? I Guess I Might As Well Go Ahead And Cut It Down Just In Case.

Few people can trim and landscape another person’s lawn without destroying at least some plants which the owner purposely set out and fondly values. This is especially true when the owner loves flowers, but the trimmer finds no delight in horticulture.

When a person appreciates the beauty of blossoming flowers and the satisfaction of caring for living plants, she will carefully choose, locate, and plant both perennials and annuals, so that her garden plots remain in bloom from early Spring till late Fall. She will energetically water these beds to prevent the beloved plants from wilting due to dehydration. She will carefully weed the beds to keep her flowers from competing with unwanted weeds for nutrition. She will continue this practice for many years, establishing several permanent beds.

Then one day, the time comes when someone else must mow the lawn and tend to the beds.  That someone else may appreciate the beauty of the flowers while they are in bloom, but he may not be able to differentiate between the emerging blades of a cherished perennial, and that of a distained grass.  He may not be able to differentiate between the broad leaves of a Holly Hock and that of an emerging gypsum weed.

That’s when difficulties arise for both.  The one envisioning the beds to be as beautiful as she once kept them, and the other not knowing for sure how to accomplish that goal.

Spiritually, the Bible clearly teaches us that we are to be our brother’s keeper.  We christians are to help one another become untangled from the world. We are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1,2). If anyone goes back into the world, we are to do our best to restore that person, thus saving his soul. (James 5:19-20)

In essence, we are to try to help one another remove the spiritual weeds from our lives, and to cultivate the spiritual flowers which make our lives beautiful.

But this is often difficult. Because many times there are disagreements about which actions and attitudes constitute flowers and which ones constitute weeds. One person may have purposely planted and lovingly nurtured an action or attitude for years within his life, believing it to be a beautiful, fragrant flower, while his brother may deem the action or attitude to be an obnoxious weed.

God has given us a difficult task.

So, what do we do in such a case?

Carefully read God’s word together.  Lovingly speak God’s word to one another.  Then allow God to aid each person to identify the flowers and the weeds within his life. Allow God to empower each person to remove the unwanted spiritual weeds from his life.

When we go beyond this, and forcefully try to “weed” another person’s life for them, we may destroy their flowers as well.

“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) ESV

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:5-7) ESV

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What Do You see In a Person? Do You See What Christ Sees? We Will See What We Have Trained Ourselves To Search For.

A hunter can spot a turkey, deer, or groundhog in the middle of a field a half mile away, many times while the hunter is driving down the highway at 55 MPH. Other people only see dark spots, if even that. Why?  The hunter is looking for game.

A fisherman can see fish, sunken logs, algae, and fish beds underneath several feet of water, while others only see the reflection of trees and the sky on the surface of the water. Why? The fisherman is looking for fish.

A real estate agent or investor can spot a potential business investment in a line of rundown shacks and buildings, while others only see eyesores that need to be destroyed. Why? The agent or investor is looking for future potential rather than historical failure.

A salesman sees everyone he meets as a potential new or repeat customer, while others only see them as friends, acquaintances, or strangers. Why? Because he is looking for people who have a need which his product can fulfill.

A disciple of Christ who has truly taken on the likeness of his teacher views everyone he meets as a valuable human being who needs Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Why? Because that’s how Jesus viewed every person in the world. He saw them as wayward sheep who needed a shepherd, lost children trying to find their way home, and sinful souls which needed saving.  For Jesus, every soul demonstrated a need which only his blood could fulfill.

May we ever be disciples of Christ, viewing ourselves and our fellow man through the eyes of Jesus.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) ESV

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) ESV

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

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Church Parking Lot Etiquette. Does It Affect The View Of The Church In The Eyes Of Those Who Are Not Members?

Several cars dotted the parking lot at the church building when I pulled into it. Most were parked near the fellowship building where the ladies’ Bible class was being held.  But there was one car which was sitting off to itself, parallel to the street, and very near the door of the main building which I planned to enter.  It was clear that the occupant of this car did not plan to participate in the class, and that she had conveniently pulled into the parking lot to get out of the line of traffic.

Usually, when I notice a stranger parked in the lot, I will ask them if they need help, or if they are wanting to talk with someone from the church.  The occupant of this car was speaking on her phone, so I continued past her and entered the building. Just before shutting the door, I turned to give her a southern-style wave of acknowledgement. She had ended her call and was wiping tears.

Not knowing exactly how to handle the situation, I started back out the door to see if I could help, but she put the car in gear, and headed down the street.

As she left, I couldn’t help but wonder if my arrival and actions had prompted her abruptness in ending the phone call and driving away.  Did she think she was interrupting or obstructing some church event? Did she think that I considered her a trespasser? Did she think I wanted her to leave, and that I was returning to ask her to do so?

I hope not.

And I think probably not. Probably, she had come to a stopping place in the conversation, and she needed to deal with the emotional news (whatever it was) on her own. I’m also confident that she would have been reluctant to share it with a male stranger.

But the experience did make me wonder about how outsiders view the church when they encounter its members.

Do we give them the impression that they are an obstacle parked in the way of our carrying out our daily mission, or do we give them the impression that being available to offer them support is our mission?

Do we give them the impression that we feel that they are trespassing on private, “holy” ground, or do we give them the impression that we fervently desire to help them come into the presence of the only one who can make anything holy?

Do we give them the impression that we had rather they leave us alone, or do they feel welcomed, accepted, supported, and loved in our presence?

May we, as Jesus’ representatives to the world, always exhibit the same loving concern for others as he exhibited.  May the world be drawn to Jesus because they have met us, and not in spite of the fact that they have encountered us.

“The people held them in high esteem, and more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” (Acts 5:13b, 14) ESV

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How Much Will These Words Cost Me Or Make Me?

“Words are free.  It’s how you use them, that may cost you.” (KUSHANDWISDOM via pinterest.com)

This quotation expresses a great truth which we all should heed.  Words are both free and plentiful.  Although they are free and easily passed on to others, every word possesses some type of value.  We can use our words to tear down others, or we can openly express our words with the hope of building up others.

We can spend our words or we can invest them.

To tear down another with our words is to spend our words.  Gossiping, lying, backbiting, cursing, and telling coarse jokes are all ways of spending our words. When we spend our words in these fashions, the cost will often be far more than we ever imagined.  We may lose family, friends, spiritual brethren, credibility, the respect of others, and possibly even our own souls.

Jesus said, “I tell you on the day of judgement people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37) ESV

Paul exhorted, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29) ESV

Words are free, yet every word possesses some type of value. We can either spend our words, or we can invest them.

To try to build up others is to invest our words.  When we invest our words, we will often receive far more in return than we expect. We may gain family, friends, spiritual brethren, credibility, the respect of others, and possibly even the preservation of our own souls.

Four ways that we can build up others are:

  1. To speak words of appreciation for who they are; letting them know that we appreciate their kindness, goodness, love, intelligence, etc.
  2. To speak words of thanksgiving for the things they have done; letting them know that we have noticed their actions of love and kindness.
  3. To speak words of encouragement for who they can become; exhorting them to live up to the potentials they possess.
  4. To speak words of exhortation for who they should become; encouraging them in their faith and their need to be loyal to God.

Each of us, whether we are a child, a teen, a young adult, or a mature adult, needs to hear these types of valuable words.  For each of us, the following passages prove true.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” (Proverbs 12:25) ESV

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24) ESV

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) ESV

“Words are free. It’s how you use them that may cost you.”  This expresses a great truth.

But another great truth may be expressed: “Words are free.  It’s how you invest them that may determine the bountifulness of their return.”

May we wisely invest every word we utter.

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My Wife Does The Most Disgusting Thing! I Almost Gag Just Thinking About It.

My wife does something that is really disgusting.

It’s so gross that I almost gag just sitting here thinking about it.

I know you’re not supposed to gossip or talk about others, but I just can’t help it.

The thing my wife does is . . .

. . . put a strainer in the kitchen sink drain so that it catches all the food scraps that might clog the drain.  I hate having to empty this slimy contraption when I wash the dishes.

(Now, for those of you who eased up in your seats to get a better view of a tidbit of juicy gossip, you may settle back into your comfortable position.)

A scrap strainer placed over the sink drain is designed to keep particles from flowing through the pipes and eventually building up into a clog. The captured food appears disgusting. But I can tell you from experience, the prevention is far less gross than a repair.

When it comes to our communication with others and about others, how many times would a strainer prove abundantly useful for our mouths, our ears, our eyes, and our fingertips.

If only we could purchase an inexpensive screen to filter our communication before we pass it on to another person.  If only we could buy a wire mesh which would prevent scrap-like communication from entering our minds. If such a device existed, it would majorly decrease our troubles. And it would amaze us just how disgusting the messages we often send and receive truly are.

But we can’t purchase such a device.

All we can do is work toward being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. (James1:19).  When we realize that the things we say directly reflect the condition our hearts, then we may become more careful about what we send and receive. (Matthew 12:34-37). Being unable to restrain our communication renders our religion null and void. (James1:26).

May we ever strive to make our communication gracious, perfectly seasoned with the salt of Christlikeness. (Colossians 4:6).

(P.S. I received my wife’s permission to publish this as long as I included a disclaimer that I would not have to deal with a gross strainer if I would install a garbage disposal. But that’s another story completely.)

 

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What Difference Would It Have Made If Daddy And Mama Had Reared Us Just 1 Mile Away From Our Old Homestead?

I was born and reared in Metcalfe County, Kentucky near a small community called Center.  The settlement was at one time called Lafayette, but the name was changed to Center because it is centrally located between four county seats; Edmonton (Metcalfe County), Glasgow (Barren County), Munfordville (Hart County), and Greensburg, (Green County).  From my childhood home, one could find himself standing in any of the other three counties by walking 1- 2 miles as the crow flies in the correct direction.

Today, as I traveled home from Glasgow, I couldn’t help but wonder what my life would have been like had my parents or their ancestors decided to live just 2 miles from the family farmstead. Had I been raised in Barren, Hart, or Green Counties, what would have been different about my current life?

We would have known and developed close relationships with a totally different set of neighbors, so my childhood friends would have been totally different.  I would have gone to a different school system, so I would have probably never met my wife. Receiving a different degree of secondary education at the hands of different teachers may have prompted me to choose a different direction in my collegiate education and vocation.  My family and I may have easily gone to a different congregation of the Lord’s church so that my faith and christian attitudes may have developed differently.

The list could go on, but the point is, just a small change in my childhood life could have made all the difference in the choices I have made throughout my life which have determined much of who I am.

We need to remember this principle when it comes to trying to help others handle and overcome problems within their lives.  These people may have been reared relatively close to us.  Their racial, social, ethnic, economic, religious, and familial environment may have appeared to have been like ours in most every way.  But, throughout the years, just a small, seemingly insignificant difference between our situation and theirs may have made a vast difference between our respective viewpoints of life.

Trying to understand these small differences could easily be the key to succeeding in our desire to help one another.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14) ESV

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Convicted By My Own Kitchen Cabinet!

I pass by huge houses and often think, “Those who live in that house will one day give an account for how they have used or misused the material blessings God has given them. That house is far more extravagant than is necessary to provide for the essentials of life. Think of all the needy people that could be helped with the excess and waste.”

And then I unload the dishwasher in our own house.  I spend several minutes trying to rearrange a single kitchen cabinet devoted just to coffee making; a cabinet filled with coffee cups, large mugs, stainless steel, insulated containers, many types of sweeteners, and several different flavors of coffee and tea.  When I get ready to brew my coffee, I choose between three different brewing appliances.

And I think to myself, “Craig, one day you will give an account for how you have used or misused the material blessings God has given you. And based on this cabinet, you will fail.”

Beware of judging another person’s house based on its outward appearance, because you may very well find the inside of your own house filled with the same type of guilt.

“2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:2-5) NIV

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Thanksgiving: Is This The Holiday Which Best Expresses One’s Feelings For Having The Opportunity To Meet You?

As far back as I can remember, Thanksgiving has always been an anticipated time for family get togethers.  The earliest gatherings I can recall involved my Mom’s extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and siblings.  We would either gather at our house, which was the old homestead, or at the home of one of the aunts.  Lively conversation, early Christmas gifts from our great aunts, huge meals, tossing a football around, visiting the sheep pens, and rabbit hunting all made the day special.

As time progressed, the extension and geographical spreading of the different family branches led to an evolution of the Thanksgiving family traditions.  We began to gather with only my Mom’s immediate family; her parents, her siblings, and our first cousins.  I can still recall the different recipes for which each lady was best known and some of the containers in which they were annually served. The extracurricular activities became more centered around watching football on TV and shooting pool if we were in an urban setting, or stripping tobacco and other chores if we met on one of the farms.

When I met and married my wife, this led to a further evolution of our Thanksgiving traditions.  The food was different.  Her family liked casseroles, and “odd” vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, and Brussel sprouts.  Everyone drank tea made from a syrup. They played games such as charades, and everyone was expected to participate. The make-up of the group consisted of extended family from two or three different branches of the clan. There was also generally a couple of senior citizens who had been especially invited because they had no close family of their own with which to gather.

It took me a while to adapt to these “strange” new customs, but I learned to appreciate their value, especially that of inviting those who needed the fellowship even more than we did.

Throughout the years, as our immediate families have grown, our Thanksgiving traditions have changed and evolved.  For 4 years, Sarah and I have been privileged to share this holiday meal with our oldest daughter’s “in-law” family in Wisconsin.  This is something I would have never dreamed of 13 years ago.  Experiencing this family’s traditions has taught me much as well, especially about being truly thankful to God for all the blessings with which he has bestowed us.

If we live very many years on this earth, our lives will be filled with changes in traditions, people, and personal outlooks.  This year, as we enjoyed our meal with a beautiful christian family far from the geographical location of our own home, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the hundreds of people who have influenced my life.  Some have been family members. Some have been teachers.  Some have been fellow students and coworkers. Some have been mere acquaintances. Some have been spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ. Some are still influencing my life.  Others have gone on, either in death, or in a different direction of life.

But all have made some type of mark on my life.

I am thankful for these people and our encounters.

But if it is true that they marked me in some way, then it means that I have left some type of mark on each of their lives as well. It may have been a brief scratch or scribble, but it was a mark that can be specifically attributed to our encounter.

Knowing this makes me want to do everything I can to be sure that whatever impression I leave on the life of another person, it will be one worth fondly remembering and one for which he can always be thankful.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12) ESV

“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8:13) ESV

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6) ESV

 

 

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Fair or Not, Some People Just Need To Be Moved To The Front Of The Line.

From the time we are in preschool and kindergarten, we learn that “first come, first served” is the fair way of doing things. We are taught not to cut in line, even if our best friend saves a place for us or  let’s us in front of him, because our actions affect everyone in the line, especially those behind us.

Several years ago the front wheel drive went out of the 4 -wheel-drive Suzuki with which I twice daily rounded up my cows. This was my open-field protection from the herd bull. Like so many vehicles of it’s kind, the Suzuki  spun out in muddy fields if its 4-wheel-drive were not operational.

I went to our local mechanics shop to get my name on his repair list. I expected to have to wait several days before he could get to my vehicle. After explaining the situation, he told me that if he could get the part, he could repair it the next day. There were many cars in front of mine, and I told him I understood if he couldn’t get to it until he had repaired those vehicles. He responded that my situation was more of an emergency since I used my vehicle every day, and the other owners had backups available.

As promised, I used the Suzuki to herd the cows the following evening.

Today, my family and I experienced something very similar to this. Someone very dear to us needed emergency surgery.  There were others already scheduled, but she was moved to the front of the line.  This kindness may very well have saved her life, or at the very least aided in her recovery.

These examples raise the question,  “Is first come, first serve always the fair way of doing things? Or is it a basic principle that, like so many other principles, must be tempered and adapted with love, grace, and compassion?

Maybe we didn’t learn everything we needed to know about life in kindergarten, because sometimes life just cannot be fit into a one-size-fits-all set of rules.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! ” (Matthew 23:23-24)

 

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Each One of Us Has At Least One Bull In His Life!

I always wanted to trust my bulls the way I trusted my cows.

I continuously kept at least one adult bull with my milking herd throughout the years that I operated our dairy.  Everyday, I openly walked unprotected in the midst of the herd.  Every day, I made myself venerable to 30 or 40 fifteen-hundred pound animals who were much stronger and faster than I was. Everyday I felt safe around every animal except one.  That was the bull.

Why?

Due to all the horror stories I had heard about farmers being unexpectedly attacked, maimed , and killed by these powerful creatures.  In many cases, no provocation or unusual circumstances were involved; the dairyman was simply going through the normal everyday routines, and out of the blue, the bull viciously attacked. Some of the attackers had been treated like pets. The owners bottle fed them as calves, then daily hand fed and petted them when they matured into adults. But in spite of the mutual friendship and respect the owner and the bull shared, one fateful day, for no reason, the pet maimed or killed the hand that fed it.

Dairy cows  (females) on the other hand are different. They are more submissive. True, a dairyman always needs to respect a cows speed and strength, and there may be stressful times when a farmer needs to keep a closer eye on them, but for the most part, dairy cows can be trusted to remain docile.

I always wanted to trust my bulls the way I trusted my cows, but I just couldn’t. I fed each bull daily and cared for his health to the degree that he would allow me to.  I tried to be his friend.  But almost every bull would eventually reach a stage in his life when each time I walked in the midst of the herd, he would stand away from it, head lowered, bellowing, and pawing the ground.  It’s hard to trust something like that.

I believe all of us have bulls in our lives; people that we just cannot convince ourselves to trust.

We  want to call these people our friends. We honestly care for them, trying our best to love them and care for them as Jesus cares for us.  We truly respect them as our fellow man.  But try as we might, we can never overcome that distrusting, leery feeling that spreads through our being each time we encounter them.

These feelings may be the result of things we were taught as children.  Horror stories, both true and fictional, may be the source of our distrust. These feelings may have infiltrated our psyche through reading social media posts, shared “news” stories, and viciously opinionated emotional blogs.  Highly prejudiced speakers and educators may have served as one source of our fear and distrust. Sometimes these feelings are the result of personal experiences and encounters.

The criteria for feeling distrustful and afraid of a group of people may range from race, nationality, religion, family name, sexual practices, their peers, appearances, addictions, or prison records.

We feel shame for our distrust.  We truly want to overcome it. But each time we personally encounter someone from our “selected” group, we find ourselves keeping a proper distance between us and them, always keeping a watchful eye on our back, and never walking in their midst.

I believe all of us have at least one bull in our lives; a group of people whom we intuitively fear and distrust. Even the most open-minded and most tolerant protester has at least one bull in his life; his bull is usually the group against which he is protesting. We may not admit it.  Probably most of us won’t. But the quicker we are willing to pull away our blindfolds, the sooner we can confront the problem, and the sooner we can truly become more like our Savior.

“14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:14-21) ESV

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