Saturday, August 26, 2017

Just Say 'Hi'

by Sylvia Gaston

Two years ago, I became the proud owner of a shiny, new, white Jeep Wrangler. I’ve always wanted a Jeep. Now that I had entered a phase of family life where I no longer transported mass quantities of children and because my well-worn and dearly loved SUV was in its last days, I was finally able to buy one.

As I drove home, excited about our new purchase, I became aware that I had also unknowingly become the member of a “club” I never asked to join – a Jeep-owners club.

This club doesn’t hold meetings. We don’t even know each other. We just wave to each other on the road whenever we pass one another.

I’m sure there must be other similar “clubs”. When my husband owned his Harley, I noticed motorcycle riders would acknowledge each other on the road. Are there others? I don’t know. Do Corvette-, PT Cruiser-, VW-, or Prius-owners have such a “club”? I wonder.

The realization of this “club” sunk in as I drove home and saw one after another fellow Jeep owner wave to me. My internal reaction was “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”. I don’t want to do this! I don’t want to HAVE to wave to people every time I drive my Jeep somewhere. So, I thought, “Well, I just won’t do it” then. So, for a very short time, I didn’t. But, as others waved and passed me by, I felt guilty about acting like such a snot by not simply waving.  Now I’m a waver and I am astounded by why some Jeep-owners can’t be bothered to simply wave. We’re just saying ‘hi’!

Another example of ‘just saying hi’ happened last year as I walked with my kids at their high school Back to School Night. We passed another student that my daughter had played softball with for years beginning at 8 years old. As I greeted her, I noticed that they passed one another in the hallway without any acknowledgment.

I asked my daughter about this later and she told me that they’re not really friends now.  I argued that they still knew each other and had a history with one another.  I was informed that, in high school, things like that didn’t matter. I was shocked that they would just ignore one another and, deep down, I wanted to chastise them both to ‘just say hi”!

 As I reflected on this, I remembered years ago when my family and I first began attending our church. We didn’t know many people there. We walked in, said hi to the “official” greeters and took our seats. When we left, we did just that – we left.

Flash forward six years and I find myself on that same church’s staff, wearing a nametag on Sundays. I’m now saying ‘hi’ to everyone I pass in the lobby, the hallway, the parking lot. Why didn’t I do that before? Did that insignificant little nametag give me permission to ‘just say hi’?

What gives you permission to speak to others? Do you ‘just say hi’ to strangers as you pass someone on the sidewalk, in the store aisle, at the gas station? Why not? Saying hi is simply acknowledging “I’m a human. You’re a human. Hi there, fellow human.” Do you need an insignificant little nametag to do so?

We live in a small-ish town where our culture lends itself to friendliness and familiarity. What’s the worst that could happen if you said hi to a stranger in town? Insult? Injury? Death? No! The absolute worst thing that could happen is the other person just doesn’t respond. That would be their loss, not yours.

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us to “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:1

Come on people. Let’s make our corner of the world a little friendlier. Let’s change the culture around us just as Jesus did. Just say hi. It’s a small thing that can change the very environment around you. 

While you’re at it, if you don’t currently belong to a church, why not pop into one of the many great churches we have in Kings County and ‘just say hi’ to others there and to God Himself?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Truth About Lies

by Tim Howard

If you’ve ever been caught in a lie, then you know the awkward and precarious place you find yourself in. A  study done on the campuses of several High Schools revealed the majority of students believe lying and cheating is permissible as long as no one gets caught.

Even though I understand why a person might subscribe to this belief, the truth about lies makes this opinion deadly. Being caught in a lie provides an opportunity to correct a faulty decision and right a wrong. It clears the way for building a firm foundation for a life based upon truth. 

If a person thinks that ‘telling’ a lie is acceptable, what is to be said for those who think ‘believing’ a lie is non-damaging? What you believe will set the direction you take. Solomon records this truth in Proverbs 23:7. When you believe a lie, it’s like reading a faulty road map. We all know what happens when our GPS doesn’t work properly. You get lost!

There are a lot of lost people in the world! People who have lost their identity and fail to realize how significant they are to God. Many have lost a sense of purpose and direction. Always busy, accumulating more and more stuff but not really making any progress. They amble around but go in circles. Could it be caused by a faulty belief system?

We hear lies every day! Falsehoods are sung, shouted and whispered in our ears. Falsehoods hypnotize and cajole us to buy perfume, magazines, I-phones, dish detergent, condominiums, books, fly spray, laxatives, sewing lessons, electronic gadgets, beer, vacation cruises, dating services and on and on and on...

The insidious truth is: We are told what to think and are seduced into believing false notions about who we are, what we must have, where we must go and how we ought to live in order to be happy. Many of the things being offered on the idea market are lies.

The first recorded lie in the Bible was told to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan was the liar, which is no surprise because John 8 tells us that he is the father of all lies. In other words, when you confront a lie, you are in conflict with him because he is the source of all falsehood. Eve believed the lie and acted upon it. The consequences were catastrophic! When you listen to a lie, believe a lie and act upon a lie, you can expect the same results. 

According to God’s Word the truth about lies is very clear. Lies will lead you astray but truth will keep you on the right path. Lies will create a serious fault line in your character but truth will provide a solid foundation. Lies will lead to deception and destruction but truth will develop and deliver you from much unnecessary pain. Believing lies will shatter your life but truth will put it back together. 

There are many church families in Kings County that disseminate truth on a regular basis. Why not visit one of them this weekend and commit yourself to walking in the truth.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

How Do You Smell?

by Candace Cortez

A couple of years ago, I was doing laundry (the chore that never ends) when I noticed a smell coming from the washer. I thought to myself, maybe I left the clothes in too long? Sometimes I feel like you have like 2.4 minutes to switch clothes in the summer heat before they start having that old stinky smell…you know the one right? So I added more detergent and ran the same clothes through again in an attempt to get rid of the odor. This time, hearing the buzzer, I quickly pulled the clothes out, only to still smell that smell. It was faint, but it was there. I realized that it was coming from the washer itself. EW! Troubleshooting now, I ran a load of just bleach water in hopes of eradicating the stink, unfortunately to no avail. The next day the smell was even worse! Come to find out, behind the wall of the washer, where I couldn’t see in my search for the source, there was a dead mouse! O. M. G. Thankfully my husband came to the rescue and rid our laundry room of the culprit and saved me from frustration and water wasting!

Recently this story returned to my mind during a conversation on how to have healthy relationships. I learned how, when an unmet expectation is answered in our heart with doubts about the character of another person instead of trust, resentment and even worse can begin to develop. The truth is, this resentment can go unchecked for years without being identified for what it is, but not without being noticed. Those places of hurt, when they are not surrendered or addressed, result in a rot that can be detected by the people around us. We can try to hide the resulting odor with perfumes of kindness or try to get rid of it by washing it away by holding your tongue. But the stench will remain as long as the hurt remains.

Here’s the thing. Once I knew the mouse was there, it was not easy to get rid of it. Yes, it was easy for my husband, (he’s a champion of a man) but I have zero desire to touch rodents, dead or alive. When we realize we have a hurt that can be connected to a certain person or event, it is not typically going to be an easy thing. Dealing will most likely lead to some sort of conflict. Not a fight per se, but at least a confession of a disagreement or disapproval, or at least tough questions. God’s desire for us is healthy connections with others. Love is His main game. He cares about the quality of the relationships we have and will always push us towards reconciliation versus avoidance.

Proverbs 13:5 reads “The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.” That “false” thing that the righteous hate, may very well be avoiding the issue in our lives with our co-worker, family member, or friend, pretending things are fine when there is a dead mouse in our spirits with their name on it. I know I need to regularly take stock of what sort of smell is revealed through my words, actions, and attitudes. If you feel yourself consistently struggling with someone, most likely, you have a stench to deal with. God can for sure get rid of it, but a lot of the time, you are a part of the removal process.

Ask yourself, how do you smell today? Or better yet, ask someone you love and trust to help you answer that question.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Trim Your Sails

by Andrew Cromwell

I’m not a sailor but I did take a course in college that involved learning boat terms (I don’t know why you can’t just call it the “right” side of the boat). The only thing I remember about the course is that at the end of it, we went sailing in the bay off of San Pedro. And I got seasick. And for all you judgmental characters out there, consider this, at least it wasn’t a course on underwater basket-weaving.

So if you are an accomplished yachtsmen (or yachtswoman), please do not be offended as I offer up this small lesson about sailing and life, for it is sure to be riddled with nautical negligence and maritime mistakes.

In sailing, the basic principle is that you catch the wind in a piece of fabric so that it pulls you through the water. This is fairly uncomplicated if the wind is blowing steadily in the direction you want to go and if you’re not going that far. Even I could do that! Jump in the boat, put out a sail, tie it so that it catches the wind, and steer the rudder until we reach the other side.

But of course, it is rarely that simple unless you are sailing in a bathtub.

The wind generally does not blow in the exact direction you want to travel. And it rarely blows consistently for very long. The wind has a tendency to change direction and force. Sometimes it gusts, sometimes it dies down, and sometimes it blows with hurricane force. From one day to the next it might blow in one direction and then change completely. It is changing constantly.

Jesus, when speaking about the wind, said “it blows wherever it cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.”

And this is why sailing is both a science and an art. A good sailor learns how to read the wind and react to it. When there is little wind, the wise sailor puts out many sails. When there is much wind, she puts out few. When the wind is gusty, she keeps her sails trimmed tightly so that the sails do not rip and tear.

If the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, and you can’t simply steer towards your destination, she will tack the boat back and forth in a zig zag pattern. Moving off course for a time, but then turning back in the opposite direction, all the while moving towards the destination, even if not in a straight line.

Sailing well takes great skill.

The Bible compares God’s Spirit to the wind. Like the wind, God is unseen by human eyes. You can sense the Spirit of God just as you can detect the wind, but you cannot contain it or control it. You do not tell the wind where to blow, but you respond to it.

Jesus went on to say that the people who are following the Spirit of God are like the wind, “you don’t know where they will be from one day to the next.” This is because they are putting up their spiritual sails and responding to where God’s Spirit is blowing!

Following God’s Spirit is a skill that we learn, just like sailing. It starts with paying attention to Him, studying how He operates, spending time with Him, and responding to Him. We learn when to trim our sails and when to put more sails out. We learn when to zig-zag and when to run in a straight line.

So how are your spiritual sails? Are they catching the wind of God’s Spirit? Maybe the whole idea is foreign to you, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. We all can learn more about who God is, how He works, and how to cooperate with Him. Do you need to get in the wind? Do you need to put some more sails out?

Whether you like sailing on the ocean or not, I guarantee that this kind of sailing you will love!