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Giving

Have you noticed that Christmas is the season for giving?  The bell ringers are ringing, the toy drives are driving. Coats for kids, angel trees, cans of food instead of tickets to Christmas plays — it’s the season to give.  It’s a teaching moment for kids to pick out something for a child they don’t know and not something for themselves.

Church choirs go caroling to shut-ins, walk through nursing homes singing Silent Night to Jingle Bells and exiting with “We WHISHSH you a merry Christmas” again teaching the children how to give of themselves to bring joy to the lonely.

I applaud.  I approve.  It is good, very, very good.  But when all your giving is done in one short time frame along with everyone else, it’s slam giving, one month fits all year.  It’s huge supplies at the food bank — hopefully it will last 11 months.  It’s carolers lining up at the entrance of the nursing home — too much of a good thing in a short time frame and nothing for another year.

A couple of decades ago Elaine Dollerschell brought up an interesting concept.  “Why don’t we skip Christmas caroling to the elderly in the nursing homes this Christmas and instead hold a party for them in January or March?  That way we don’t have to make an appointment, competing with all the other churches, and the residents don’t have to wait 11 months to have their spirits lifted.”

Hmmmm.  Elaine, you said a mouth full.  Within a span of 20 minutes today while I was watching a colorized Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwick movie, I witnessed two pleas from Feed the Children featuring 10 or more celebrities in each showing “real children with hopes and dream who are hungry.”  It’s good to have these drives to raise money for charity especially when people are in a mindset to give as in “strike while the iron is hot.” I’d like to see them offer a 12 month payment plan.

The hungry are hungry January through November.  The lonely are alone 11 months between groups of carolers.

I was witness to at least two occasions and many discussions of my dad giving his hard earned cash to panhandlers, of him helping someone off the sidewalk and giving him a couple of bucks for food.  The argument always was “You know he’s just going to buy more booze!”

My answer, as was my dad’s, is “So what?”  Then you just wasted your money!

No, I didn’t.  I gave with pure motives.  Don’t need a thank you, don’t need an I.O.U. note.

Choose your recipients carefully enough to know if the charity that claims to feed children actually feeds children if you can find out.  It’s good to know your giving is helping.  But if there’s no way of knowing for sure, don’t withhold your giving.

It’s your heart that benefits.  It’s your heart that God sees.  Do you give only when you know it’s a worthy cause in your estimation? More to the theme here, do you give only in December?

Is there a shelter or a food bank you can pick up a few extra cans of beans or soup for every time you shop for your family throughout the year?  Is there a ministry you can sign up for to have a certain dollar amount automatically deducted from your checking account every month? You can investigate them for their sincerity or you can pray God sends your $10 or $50 where it needs to go.

No extra bucks? Stand in the serving line of the homeless shelter.  Knit or buy  some hats, gloves, and scarves and pull over to the side of the street where the homeless hang out and give them out.  Where I live there are kids at bus stops in below freezing temperatures wearing shorts, maybe because they’re not too bright, trying to appear sexy or tough, or maybe because they don’t have warm clothes because it’s Tennessee and we don’t have all that much cold weather and it’s not cost effective to buy heavy clothes.

Instead of judging their intelligence, assume their need and meet it.  Keep some hats, gloves, and scarves in the back seat.  Maybe the local elementary school needs a supply of the same for those who lack or those who forgot to bring one and need something to keep them warm on the way home.

There are endless opportunities to give and to teach giving.  December is the top feel good month of the year.  Go for it! Reach out and teach by example.  But…. or should I say “And….”

How about using December to launch a new habit? A new habit that becomes so ingrained you don’t feel the giving surge at Christmas. A habit that inspires you to give regularly, using your imagination, or like I already said, an online automatic donation you don’t even have to think about — or talk about.

I’ve experienced a new facet to the bell ringers.  In the lobby of Shopko was a lady in a portable hospital bed wearing her ear muffs, mittens, and had blankets draped over her.  Hmmm.  Really?  I’ll bet she pulled in extra that day.  I’m not saying she was faking anything or planned on playing the Pity Card.  But it was a first for me, this new twist of the heart string.

Years ago Honey’s dad, Herb, gave a twenty to a scruffy man who walked into the store begging politely for a hand out.  He promised to pay it back.  He was not seen again.  Herb was teased relentlessly for years.  Was Herb an idiot for being taken in, fooled by a con man?  Don’t know.  If the man made a living that way, that’s between him and God.  Those who gave to him gave from their hearts.

Don’t worry if what you give won’t be appreciated or if your gift is tricked out of you or if it’s used unwisely.

God sees all hearts.  Just give.

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What’s your sign?

Not talking about the zodiac.

Preach talked about the mess in the church body.  What’s your sign? What’s your mess? Messy people, messy issues.  The phrase “nobody’s perfect” like a rock is being turned over to look at the reason why we have messes, why nobody’s perfect and exactly how imperfect the messes are.

If we  could see a yellow caution sign floating over your head, what would be written on it? Is it bold type? script? tiny font or huge? neon? flashing? rotating? What if your most dominant negative personality trait(s) that drives your relationships was advertised on a caution sign so the world would know what to expect from you and how to relate to you?

Life is messy.  People are messy.  It’s a potential mess to deal with people’s messes let alone my own.  How convenient it would be to have a sign to read before I stick my  foot in something disgusting.

As Preach preached,  I was madly drawing little caution triangles and filling them in on the back of one of my several medical bills.  Here’s a few of the characteristics I thought it would be useful to know about someone before I even open my mouth with a how-do-you-do.  Let me remind you, we’re concentrating on the messy characteristics that cause trouble.

Know-It-All, Oh-So-Important, Shields Up, Smug, Childish, Blank, Clingy, Apathetic, Dry Humor, No Humor, Odd, Weird, Witty, Dull, Sharp Tongue, Flippant, Confused, Needy, Clueless, Arrogant, Unfeeling, Contrary, Cryptic, Perpetually Crabby, Nag, Rebel, Touchy, Perfect, Proud, Doubter, Lemming, Weepy, Shallow, Sponge, Sieve, Argumentative, Cold, Loud, Victim, Professionally Depressed, Martyr, and my most recent favorite — Happy-Dappy- Clappy.

When you know your sign, or more to the point, when everybody knows everybody else’s caution sign, the Body can figure out how to deal, knowing when to walk on eggs with that one, bring along source references for him, stand back 10 ft from them, have non-stop hugs ready (actually, I like that), bring tissues, wear your helmet, and the beat goes on and on and on and on.

This is not good.  This is not right and it is definitely not productive when you consider these two things —

1. Jesus prayed we’d all be one

2. The fields are white with harvest

We’re living in the last days, time is running out, and we’re trying to figure out how to deal with each others personality glitches.  I keep coming back to something I heard Joyce Meyer say with one hand on hip and the other hand pointing toward the camera, “We need to get over our sweet little selves!  There’s work to do!”

Milk…meat…milk…meat….hm….let me think.

The Body is the hospital in which we are to be healed from the  dysfunction that grips us, through the Holy Spirit of Jehovah God.  Once you reach the point where you understand what your problem is – no, not issue, I said problem! We’ve got serious problems!  Issues get to cuddle under the blankets in the crib, problems demand resolution.  We are not commissioned to help everybody feel comfortable and all feely-fuzzy.  When you analyze your caution sign, and you figure out how your problem became a problem, you are at that point to recognize the need and source of correction and that would be God.  Then you have reached the point at which you no longer have an excuse (no longer have an excuse) to continue in the non-productive, self centered flaws that have so far resulted in your negative behavior up to that point of revelation….  In other words, grow up and trash the binky… you go to the hospital for prayer, teaching in the word, fellowship in love…

So that we will be united in faith and purpose, to grow up and out of our mess so that we can reach out as a team, arm in arm, with one mind, turning our flaws outward into talents, and fulfilling God’s plan for salvation for all we touch.

The church body cannot continue to coddle and cradle each other for fear of offending each other, afraid that somebody will have feelings hurt and expect to be productive.  I hurt easily.  But, more and more, I hear “suck it up.”  Well! How do you like that? I walk on eggs, I hear “suck it up.” It’s just not fair.

It makes me think, am I reaping the consequences of my poor decisions from the past or is somebody else sowing seeds from which they’ll reap in their own lives later?

Time is short.  Our 401k accounts will be dried up.  It will be against the law for Christians to pray in public, and has already started in our schools where our children are being trained. Our healing will default to faith in Jesus.  Period.  No doctor options within a short 10 years because some form of socialized medical care will be passed this year and no matter what is cut or adjusted, it will deteriorate rapidly against us.  Not convinced that we need to get over some stuff that’s weakening us? For cryin’ in the proverbial beer, today we learned about a bill that threatens a shut down of all non-government networks on the internet in the name of national security.  We won’t be hiding out in our church buildings forever.

The flaps are down, people! We need to learn to forgive quickly without discussion, love without conditions, learn with openness, and receive correction from each other and Holy Spirit like steel on steel polishing off the warts we don’t need.

The world is looking for solutions to problems, not a bunch of judgmental, whiney hypocrites unable to function any better than they do.

Hey, Preach! How do you preach to all that personality diversity?

Loudly, fearlessly, tirelessly.

Marking time

It’s all so surreal.  I’ve been having come and go symptoms all week, but feel fine now.  Nerves? All in my head? Monday I have chest pains, today my neck is killing me.

It’s nearly impossible not to assign a wild hair conclusion  to twinges that could be nothing more than strain.  Nerves.

I’m not the only one.

Honey and I had The Conversation tonight.  Worst case — Honey has to disburse my stuff.  Do I want heroic measures? Who gets the 200 year old family Bible? Where are the passwords? What happens if or if something else?

These are necessary conversations and they need to be had when there’s nothing wrong or nothing even suspected.  They’re conversations that need to be had just in case somebody doesn’t come back from work tomorrow. They’re conversations we’ve not had up to this point.

There is no will past when the kids were both under 8.  We talked about Mom’s books, the china pieces, my wedding ring set, the genealogy records, Grandma’s wool baby socks from 1870-something in the shadow box.

This looks like I’m scared and maudlin.  No. This illustrates our combined inability to confront issues and our chronic procrastination habit.  Nothing like a 36 hour deadline.  What if….

Possibilities —

1. Tell Jesus to leave a key under the mat.

2. Notify HR of a bypass recovery.

Probability —  I wake up Monday morning feeling clear headed, energetic, and my thigh just sore enough to call in — basking in morning sunshine.

Next stop — eternity

He whose name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire forever.

Why would a merciful and loving God create hell?

Let’s say instead….

Why would anyone reject a loving and merciful God who sacrificed so much to make a way to Heaven?  To know about Him is not knowing Him.  You have to introduce yourself.

When you choose to reject salvation, you choose to be sent to hell.

Simple.

The Light of the world came to us at Hanukkah, the festival of lights, near our celebration of Christmas.  As it was in 2008, in 19 more years Hanukkah will coincide with Christmas again.  When I say “came to us” I mean He was conceived during the festival of lights.  The light came to earth like the rest of us, hidden in the womb for 9 months.  He was born the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall.

Using the Christmas celebration as an illustration, picture the most wonderful gift you’ve ever seen or hope to see beautifully wrapped up, under the tree, with your name on it.  Now imagine you leave it sitting there.  You take down the tree and the house decorations, you put them up again next year and that gorgeous gift is still sitting there unwrapped.  You’ve ignored it, stepped over it, around it, pushed it into a corner, dutifully dusted it, thrown coats on it in winter, even used it as a coffee table.  You’ve convinced yourself that because it’s in your house, it’s serving a purpose.

You know what’s in it.  Several people have told you.  You know it doesn’t require anything more than grabbing it, literally receiving it to make it work in your life.  Deep down you know it has no function until you claim it, even when your name is printed clearly on the tag.  It’s of no use and cannot change, heal, or help you until you pick it up and open it.  Your name is not in the Book yet until you claim the gift.

There’s a hell.  We are all eternal no matter what you may have heard or thought was reasonable from someone you trusted or who you thought made sense.  It’s clearly written in scripture, in the red ink.  Our existence doesn’t just end in nothingness without Jesus and go on with Jesus.

There’s a hell.  there’s a heaven.  There’s a future with Jesus.  We will live forever.  What’s your forwarding address?  There are two to choose from.

Wanna bet?

I always thought that executive orders were issued in cases of emergency such as when there wasn’t time for legislative due process.  To skip procedure shows a profound lack of respect for our system, our traditions, our foundational fabric as a nation.  That”s what first alerted me to the possibility that the current president doesn’t value protocol.  He’ll do what he damn well wants to do.

Before the west coast hit the snooze bar on the alarm clock, before they had a chance to rub the sleep from one eye, the new president signed an executive order to open records for examination of the previous administration.

Conversely, when George W. Bush took office, he tightened access to Bill Clinton’s archives out of respect for the office.  Somebody’s a class act and it isn’t The Comrade.

Two days later, he said it’s okay to take my taxes and support international abortions with it.

What’s next?  Let’s wager.  I’ll bet something other than the money I don’t get to keep after double digit Carter style inflation the following:

  • Gas goes up first to $4 through taxation having nothing to do with the price of a barrel of crude.  We tolerated $4 last summer, so it stands to reason that the politburo can take the difference up to $4.  Any rise in price will simply add to it.  We could see $7.50 a gallon by Christmas.
  • Hate speech prosecutions will grow in strength in churches.  Not mosques, churches.  Any preacher teaching what scripture says about homosexual behavior will be charged with hate speech and be fined, serve time, or have his license to preach taken from him.
  • In the spirit of fairness and wealth distribution, churches will pay taxes.  Period.  The rate will exceed corporate rates.
  • Government will increase their ownership of prime bank stock via bailout or (don’t doubt me) executive order, setting up an easy transition to a world bank operation under a United Nations like organization if not the UN itself.
  • The fairness doctrine will gradually silence Rush, Hannity, et al, forcing them to go first to exclusively internet, then satellite, then live performances, then nothing.
  • Blogs will be given notice.
  • The two term limit will be history.

If the mold of liberal Soros funded and propagated control doesn’t drive all these scenarios close enough to completion or extinction in 4 years, it will be done in the second 4, or the 3rd.

Wanna bet?

Tune in next time to discuss what happens to the churches and within the body of believers under these circumstances.

Unplugging for a week — sort of

Saturday afternoon.  I was one click away, the finger hovering over the touch pad, the little arrow hovering over the “click here” button to upgrade the Dish satellite service from the Family plan three levels up to the 250 rainbow of variety, enrichment….everything we ever needed or wanted.  One level up, even two levels upgraded, do not include Foxnews.  Call me biased.  I like Foxnews, I trust Foxnews to be as balanced as they say.  Heck, an outside-the-conservative-world public interest group tallied the time spent left vs right and declared Foxnews is literally, 50-50, almost down to the minute, balanced between liberal and conservative.  It’s that 50% on the left that sends me over the proverbial edge, but just before the veins pop on the forehead, I know I’m going to hear at least 50% common sense and reason soon, unlike CNN of which we get only the Headline News but don’t turn to that anyway for obvious reasons, one of which is that journalism has morphed from objective to manipulative.

That said, the only way I am going to see Monk and The Closer without buying DVD sets is to subscribe to a package that includes USA and TNT.  Family does not have those two or A&E or Discover or History or Spike (you read correctly–CSI reruns), SciFi, TLC, National Geographic, need I go on?  Family has Hallmark.  I’m sick of Hallmark.  We surf between Hallmark Movie Channel, Hallmark, Foxnews, Daystar — I need Daystar, the locals, and that’s about it.  We don’t watch shopping channels and there are many. There are a couple of detective and forensic choices but do a lot of rerunning.  So does Hallmark.

The programs we do watch are single words, some single syllables, and the acronym — CSI.  I’ll watch CSI-Anything.  Those we plan our time around are CSI, 24, House, Bones, and the new kid, Fringe.  Ex-X-Files fans, Fringe satifies the sci-fi itch.  Our one sitcom is Worst Week.  Love it.  Boston Legal is gone.

I miss Monk.

So wouldn’t you know the church leadership is encouraging us to unplug the TV, the MP3 which I don’t know how to use beyond my FM station, the IPOD which I don’t have, the cell phone on which no one calls, and the computer which I do have and use for research and curiosity, for Imdb stats during the movies the church leadership is encouraging me to leave on the shelf, for … I just love to type and click.   Click.  And type.  Love it.

I need meds.

The unplug theory actually fits in with my New Year’s monolog of the ToDo list.  We wanted to read more which meant that to get the yarn projects rolling, Honey has read aloud, not during commercials which is when I used to do my homework in high school, but with the tube off.  Except for Fringe, Bones, House, 24, etc.

Maybe tomorrow either before or after Criminal Minds and CSI: New York.  Oh, there I go again.  How about Friday?  There’s basically nothing on.  Particularly on the Family package.  Or… is the idea to sacrifice?  Is Barak the first post-American president of the new USSA?  The answers are obvious.

In a sincere effort to take that dramatic first step, I just shut off the TV.  Never mind that I wasn’t interested in what was on, nothing else was on, I’m typing anyway, it’s 10pm, Honey is crashing and won’t be reading, and I have to get some sleep as I need to get in to work early tomorrow.  But it’s a start.

This isn’t easy for a person who was introduced to the exciting world of television at the age of 3, to a medium that swept the world, a person who’s first friend was Howdy Doody.

I wonder, if I had all the hours back I’ve spent in front of the television, living in a world of someone else’s pretense, how long would I have to live to use them?

ARFcats

ARFcats are definitely not cats who wish to be dogs and proceed to arf instead of meow.  Nor are they kitties in doggy drag.  In fact, ARF Cats have zero to do with the animal kingdom.

ARFcats, or shall we shorten that to the acronym, ARFs, are found primarily, and in this conversation, exclusively behind the wheel of a car.  Some of the more calloused call them QTips but that term is bound to white hair, frizby hats, and the headless, most found in Buicks.  P.S. we have a Buick.

No, ARFs encompass a larger profile.  A large percentage bear the same characteristics of QTips, but we have to expand those boundaries to include all ages, educational levels, vocations, and experience.  Approximately 8 times a week I find myself directly behind or up to 6th in a slinky string of vehicles trailing a Bubba or Sister ARF at 10mph under the speed limit for miles.  I have mentioned before that East Tennessee’s roads are more twisty and/or hilly than straight and/or flat or even flattish-like.  Therefore, passing is seldom an option.

ARFs are consistently 5 to 10mph under the posted speed limit in ideal conditions, many times annoyingly occupying the interstate lane left of the big trucks, slow down to 1mph to make right turns, dismiss the turn signals as optional, believe parking lights suffice at dusk, won’t use the left turn lane until 2.3 yards prior to the actual turn but gradually slow to the aforementioned 1mph a half mile before the turn.  The list could go on and on.  They may not make a right turn on red but some will not hesitate to make a left turn on red.  It is truly a puzzlement.

But my favorite ARF, demonstrating the characteristic of lack of experience, is the lady at work who was still high on adrenalin on a morning following an accumulation of a dusting of snow, some of which lingered on some curves, a very tricky situation, one on which I could have advised her to “coast and keep your dang foot as far fom the brake as possible” or simply “stay home.”  She was recounting her adventure in the coffee room.  “I saw some white on the road ahead and shoved both feet on the brake as hard as I could.”  wow.

ARFcat is a partial acronystic phrase meaning Anal Retentive Fraidy Cat.  No one wants to use the A word in polite company.  I certainly am not recommending the use of a commonly selected finger displayed in an ARF’s direction, nor the claw which is my signal of choice in especially intense near death escapes.  But one thing you can do to relieve tension when you encounter ARFs is simply to…… bark.