Stop, Look and Listen

>> Thursday, June 30, 2011

Do you remember the railroad crossing signs that urged us to Stop, Look and Listen? Not only cars, but people were to stop before crossing the tracks. Yet people continue to think they can beat the train and try to cross in front of the passing train … thus resulting in their death or disability.

What about the look part? After stopping a distance away from the tracks, we were to look both ways, searching for the telltale headlight of on oncoming train. Yet there are those who still think they can beat it and end up dead or dismembered.

And then there was the instruction to listen. That is why the train blows its whistle at the intersection. If the stop and look part didn’t work, maybe the listen would cause the observer to stop before crossing.

When you arrive at a train crossing, you are required to make a decision.

Some decisions we face in life are as dangerous as a railroad crossing. Those decisions can impact our well-being, career or relationships. If we follow the Stop, Look and Listen philosophy, we have a far better chance of reaching the other side of the crossing safely.


If we stop long enough to gather the needed information, we can make a much better decision. But the stopping needs to occur before we are on the tracks. It is just as important to look before moving onto the tracks. We must consider possible outcomes that will affect more than just us. We need to understand the options, risks and consequences if we choose to cross over. And then we need to listen to advice of others before we make a major decision. We need to hear their experiences and how the crossing affected them.

Have you arrived at a railroad crossing in your life? Take the time to Stop, Look and Listen.

“Cry out for insight and ask for understanding.” Proverbs 2:3 (NLT)

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Kennel Life ... or Freedom

>> Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My husband, John, and I sat by the fire pit, feet propped on the edge, as we watched our three-year old dog, Charlie, romp in the back yard. He would grab his toy, run back and forth on the grass, collapse to chew frantically, bounce up and repeat the running. Occasionally he would skid to a halt between our chairs and bless us with his panting … tongue hanging out. 

In other words, he was having a blast.

So different from the dog we brought home almost three months ago. That Charlie never pounced, ran, or came to stand beside us. He eyed us warily from his chosen corner. If he was lying down and one of us stood to do something, instantly he was on the alert, standing and watching. The first time we tried to put him in the car, John had to lift him in … and he didn’t know how to ride. He kept falling over and slipping off the seat. There was no head hanging out the window.

In other words, what we had was a thoroughly traumatized dog.

Charlie was a stud dog at a kennel. We can only surmise that he lived in that cage. Apparently he had no social contact with people. We were told he never barked. He existed from day to day … serving only one purpose.
As I watched him at play, I thought of the before and after Charlies … and I could identify. I used to be just like that traumatized dog. The Joy I was before eyed everyone warily. People meant hurting. I had no social skills … no running and playing. My life was to serve one purpose … being religious.

But a loving God rescued me from that cage.

You should see the “after” Joy. I no longer strive to be religious, but am now free to live life to the fullest … basically having a blast.

"This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I've revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he'll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!” John 16:23-24 (MSG)


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Old People Pride

>> Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Old People are easy to spot at sporting events: during the playing of the National Anthem, Old People remove their caps and stand at attention and sing without embarrassment. They know the words and believe in them.

Old People remember World War II, Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Normandy and Hitler. They remember the Atomic Age, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Jet Age and the Moon Landing. They remember the 50 plus Peacekeeping Missions from 1945 to 2005, not to mention Viet Nam.

If you bump into an Old People on the sidewalk, they will apologize. If you pass an Old People on the street, he will nod or tip his cap to a lady. Old People trust strangers and are courtly to women.

Old People hold the door for the next person and always, when walking, make certain the lady is on the inside for protection.

Old People get embarrassed if someone curses in front of women and children and they don’t like any filth or dirty language on TV or in movies.

Old People have moral courage and personal integrity. They seldom brag unless it’s about their children or grandchildren.

It’s the Old People who know our great country is protected, not by politicians, but by the young men and women in the military serving their country.

This country needs Old People with their work ethic, sense of responsibility, pride in their country and decent values. We need them now more than ever. Thank God for Old People.

 Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:32 (NIV)


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What Direction are You Traveling?

>> Monday, June 27, 2011

I know the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. So when I left home to drive south to John Day, Oregon, I knew I was driving south. Profound … huh? As I drove along I glanced at my GPS screen. It shows me what highway I’m on, where filling stations and restaurants are, government property and state parks, rivers and lakes.

It also shows me what direction I’m going.
As I looked at the little arrow pointing directly north … indicating I was traveling north … I quickly checked out the highway sign. Had I made a wrong turn? How could I possibly be going north?

I wasn’t.

Apparently, my GPS was no longer receiving a signal. I continued south on the highway, glancing occasionally at the GPS screen. After awhile, the arrow magically switched to point south.

Now the GPS and I agreed.

I thought of life. I lived many years with absolutely no idea what direction I was traveling. My church told me I was going a certain direction, but years later I discovered the information I received there was false. But I had relied on a faulty system. Just as the GPS failed to provide correct directions for me as I drove, my church had failed to provide correct directions for me as I journeyed through life. And I took them at their word, instead of checking for myself.

I now know exactly what direction I am traveling.

It’s nice to have a church home. I love having the fellowship of other believers. But when it comes to making sure I’m going the right direction, I don’t turn to a human being for that guidance. I have a GPS that never fails.

Do you know what direction you are traveling?

“Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.” Psalms 25:4 (NLT)

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Rest Areas

>> Sunday, June 26, 2011

My husband and I do quite a bit of traveling by car … and I’ve seen my share of rest areas. Most are clean, serviceable and modern enough. They have separate sides for men and women … with regular flush toilets and sinks. Many of them have vending machines. Sometimes, on heavy travel weekends, they have a table set up with cookies and coffee. A few are slick and ultramodern.

Then there is the one I stopped at on my trip down Highway 395 last week.

The sign on the highway declared it a “rest area”. Imagine my surprise when I discovered an outhouse … with a motorcycle in front. I had to wait my turn.

Rest areas are there to provide a basic service … a place to go to the bathroom. And if you are desperate enough … as I was … you are grateful for the outhouse.

As I traveled on down the road, my thoughts turned to churches. They could be seen as “rest areas”. They are there to provide a basic service … a community of caring Christians. But they come in all sizes and shapes. Some are not much more than the “outhouse” style, with wooden floors, one room and hard wooden benches. Most are modern buildings with carpet, cushioned pews or chairs and separate rooms for classes. A few are like the Crystal Cathedral, made of glass and stained windows … with room for thousands of people.
But if your need for community is strong, the building does not matter. The “outhouse” church can provide the love of God just as well as (or sometimes better than) the ultramodern ones.

On our journey of life, we all need a rest area.

“And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met.” Acts 2:44-45 (MSG)


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What's On the Other Side?

>> Saturday, June 25, 2011

A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room.

“I’m afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.”

Very quietly the doctor said, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? You’re a Christian and you don’t know what’s on the other side?

The doctor was holding the handle of the door. On the other side came a sound of scratching and whining. As he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He’s never been in this room before. He didn’t know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here. And when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death. But I do know one thing.

My Master is there and that is enough.”

“There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live.” John 14:2-3 (MSG)


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Oh to be a Monk

>> Friday, June 24, 2011

A man is driving down the road and breaks down near a monastery. He goes to the monastery, knocks on the door, and says, "My car broke down. Do you think I could stay the night?" The monks graciously accept him, feed him dinner, and even fix his car.  As the man tries to fall asleep, he hears a strange sound; a sound like no other that he has ever heard. The next morning, he asks the monks what the sound was, but they say, "We can't tell you because you're not a monk."

The man is disappointed but thanks them anyway and goes about his merry way. Some years later, the same man breaks down in front of the same monastery. The monks again accept him, feed him, and even fix his car.

That night, he hears the same strange mesmerizing sound that he had heard years earlier. The next morning, he asks what the sound was, but the monks reply, "We can't tell you because you're not a monk."

The man says, "All right, all right. I'm dying to know. If the only way I can find out what that sound was is to become a monk, how do I become a monk?" The monk’s reply, "You must travel the earth and tell us how many blades of grass there are and the exact number of sand pebbles. When you find these numbers, you will become a monk."

The man sets about his task. Some forty-five years later, he returns and knocks on the door of the monastery. He says, "I have travelled the earth and devoted my life to the task demanded and have found what you had asked for. There are 371,145,236,284,232 blades of grass and 231,281,219,999,129,382 sand pebbles on the earth.


 

The monks reply, "Congratulations, you are correct, and you are now considered a monk. We shall now show you the way to the sound." The monks lead the man to a wooden door, where the head monk says, the sound is behind that door. The man reaches for the knob, but the door is locked. He asks, "May I have the key?" The monks give him the key, and he opens the door.

Behind the wooden door is another door made of stone. The man requests the key to the stone door. The monks give him the key, and he opens it, only to find a door made of ruby. He demands another key from the monks, who provide it. Behind that door is another door, this one made of sapphire. And so it went on until the man had gone through doors of emerald, silver, topaz, and amethyst.

Finally, the monks say, "This is the key to the last door."

The man is relieved to be at the end. He unlocks the door, turns the knob, and behind that door he is astonished to find the source of that strange sound. It is truly an amazing and unbelievable sight . . . But I can't tell you what it is, because you're not a monk.

I’m still hunting for the idiot who started this!

(Author Unknown)



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Maybe It's Not So Bad After All

>> Thursday, June 23, 2011

With my music playing (a little louder than normal), singing (a little louder than normal) … I was the only car driving down Highway 395. Beautiful mountains, trees and little streams provided a backdrop for the wonderful time I was having. I came around a curve just as two motorcycles pulled onto the highway from the side of the road. As I slowed to give them time to get up to speed, I thought no problem. These are motorcycles. In no time I’ll be eating their dust.

Didn’t happen.

They barely accelerated to the speed limit, dropping below occasionally. And they had spaced themselves one behind the other with not enough room to pass one at a time. I would have to pass both. The road was continuous curves with a solid yellow line on my side.

I checked the speedometer. 45 MPH. What was their problem? At this rate, it would take much longer to reach my destination. Even more than that, they had taken away my pleasure in driving. Not only was I going slowly, but I was on the alert, in case one of them bobbled.

Finally … finally … they pulled over at a turnout and allowed me to pass. I resumed the music, singing and having a blast. That is until I rounded a curve and there … in front of me … was a logging truck.

I groaned.

As I drove slowly behind it … 25 MPH … I recalled my frustration at the slowness of the 45 MPH motorcycles. That was much better than this. Mile after mile I drove 25 MPH … mentally tapping my fingers with impatience. There was no passing lane and no turnout big enough for the truck to pull over. I glanced in my rear view mirror, expecting to see my motorcycle friends. Soon they would catch up.

What seemed like hours later the truck turned on its right turn signal, slowed almost to a stop and then turned down a road to the right.

Liberated, I picked up speed. But before I returned to my music, my thoughts turned to life.

How like humans to think we have it bad. Maybe we want a bigger house, or we have a health issue we are struggling with. But just around the curve, we see a much larger family than ours living in a smaller house than we have. Or maybe we meet someone with a terminal illness.

Maybe we don’t have it so bad after all.

“…..for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Phil. 4:11-13 (NLT)


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Tested by a Quarter

>> Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Several years ago, a preacher accepted a call to a church in Houston, Texas. Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much in change. As he considered what to do, he thought, you’d better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.
Then he thought, oh, forget it. It’s only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway the bus company gets too much fare. They will never miss it. Accept it as a gift from God and just keep quiet.

When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver. “Here, you gave me too much change.”

The driver, with a smile, replied, “Aren’t you the new preacher in town?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I’ll see you at church on Sunday.”

When the preacher stepped off the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, “Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.”

(Author Unknown)

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10 (NIV)


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Passing Power

>> Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Driving on two-lane highways used to concern me. It took all the nerve I had to stick my nose out from behind a slow moving vehicle to check and see if I could pass. I needed a long straight stretch for me to have time to get out … pass … and tuck back in. Driving was what I did to get from Point A to Point B.

Then I purchased an Acura TL.

The first time I poked my nose out … waited for my chance … and passed, I was very aware something was drastically different. It was as though I decided to pass and suddenly it had occurred. When I pushed on the accelerator, I had power. Driving … even on two-lane roads … became a delightful experience.

The first half of my life, my two-lane highways concerned me. I would occasionally stick my nose out, but would quickly decide it was just too dangerous out there … and withdraw. I traveled from Point A to Point B with no joy or pleasure in living. The journey was just a mandatory part of life.


Then I discovered God loves me.

The very first time I stuck my nose out, I had Someone right beside me … helping me sail past the obstacle in my road. The problem didn’t go away, but now I had access to a Power I had never had before. No longer did life consist of just trying to get from Point A to Point B.

Since I’ve tapped into an unending Source of power … life is a delightful experience.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Acts 1:8a (NLT)


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My Quest for Jeans

>> Monday, June 20, 2011

Wearing pants was a sin. That was just a fact in my growing up world. I was in my 30’s before I re-considered that premise … by looking at some dress slacks … and then actually wearing them. But jeans … that would be a stretch.

A few years ago I became friends with Linda … who seemed to live in jeans. One day she asked me why I never wore jeans. I had no really good answer. And so began my quest to find some jeans I liked.

I went shopping (which is one of my least favorite things to do).

Over the next few years I would try on a pair … think they would work … buy them … wear them a few times … and then they would hang in my closet. Finally, off they would go to Goodwill or maybe a friend who could use them.

My quest continued.

Occasionally Linda and I would return to the conversation about jeans. She was delighted I was searching for a pair I was comfortable in. Then the unthinkable happened. Linda was murdered. The quest for jeans was pushed aside. Eventually I began looking again … and it seemed as though Linda was right beside me.

A few weeks ago I needed to purchase something totally unrelated to jeans. I planned to hurry in … purchase it … and hurry out (my shopping style). I just happened to walk by a display of jeans. Pausing, I recognized the brand as something I was comfortable in with other kinds of pants. What if these were the ones?

Not even bothering to try them on, I bought a pair and took them home. My husband and I were planning to attend a motorcycle rally … which involved camping out. Jeans would be a good thing to have.

They fit. I returned to the store and bought a second pair.

Today I’m sitting in the campground … wearing my jeans … and I can just see Linda smiling.

“And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,” Matthew 6:28 (NASB)


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