Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A GOOD NAME

In Proverbs 22:1, we are told that “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

Mention the words "Red Cross" to just about anyone in this small Georgia town and people will smile and nod their heads. There is no need to mention the Chapter Manager’s name. She is the Red Cross representative who crawls out of bed at 2 A.M. and helps fire victims with temporary housing arrangements or other immediate needs.

Everyone recognizes her name. She teaches CPR in-house or on-site (church, school or workplace). She gives BAT (Basic Aid Training) to young children in local schools. She is a certified First Responder in emergencies. She is a volunteer fire fighter. She is part of the local search and rescue team. She is a weather spotter.

She is a wife and the mother of a college student.

She is a member of the First United Methodist Church.

In other words, she is involved with her community. Sometimes I wonder how she manages to remember which hat she is wearing at the moment.

"The pay isn’t great, but the rewards are," she is fond of saying.

I have yet to hear an unkind word about her. Mostly, I hear, "She is doing a terrific job; she’s a wonderful person; she really cares about people."

She reflects well on God because she lives what she believes. But no matter how much she does for the community, she can never surpass what God is accomplishing in each of us daily.

She has invested her time and talents into helping others. She doesn’t have riches, but she does have a good name.


www.mercyandpercy.com

Thursday, July 20, 2006

ONE OF THOSE DAYS

It was one of those days. You know the type I mean – everyone has them, some more frequently than others. It was the type of day where everything I touched seemed to go wrong and I had to call my brother for help.

The day started easily. I walked the dogs, fed the animals, and ran in and out the door to clean litter pans. I raced around, stomach rumbling, dreaming of hot coffee and my own breakfast. As I headed out the door to bring in the last clean litter pan, the doorknob fell into pieces that rolled across the floor. This time the circa 1920 doorknob needed more than duct tape.

The day continued in that vein. By six p.m., car loaded with puppy chow and various purchases, I returned to pick up my three dogs where they had been enjoying some freedom in a fenced yard, loaded them in the car and turned the key in the ignition.

One mile can seem like two on a sweltering July day Add a heavy purse over one shoulder, the leashes of a rambunctious hound, a four-month-old thirty-pound puppy, and a reluctant-to-walk-with-the-puppy female dog in one hand and the handle of a cooler loaded with cold packs and cold/frozen foods in the other and that mile becomes ten. We labored – or rather, I labored and they walked – up the hill, stopping frequently to set down the cooler.

My brother changed his own schedule to fix the doorknob, charge my battery and, in this debilitating heat, replace the starter in my car. He did not have to do those things; he did them willingly, offering his time and skills without charge. I am grateful. In time, other occurrences of life will move this incident to the archived incident file cabinet and it will be just a dim memory.

Jesus willingly bore our sins and paid the penalty for our sins, in full and without charge. Through him we have hope where there was no hope.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2: 1, 4-8

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The gospel of grace is free to all who will respond to it. This was made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Now, that is a reason to be thankful! I pray you and I will never file this away in the archived incident file.


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Thursday, July 13, 2006

THE GOOD SAMARITAN

I watched him from afar for a long while before I determined he would not be a threat to my dogs, but when we resumed our evening walk, he came trotting across the street and started following us. I turned and quickly walked the dogs back home. I returned alone to see if he was wearing a collar and ID tag, although is was painfully obvious he was recently abandoned.

I watched him crawl on his belly and then slowly work his way across the street. He was younger than I thought, still a puppy, and in need of rescue. I tossed him a dog biscuit and he ran away.

As I sat on a concrete slab, wondering what to do, I prayed for someone who could help him. Even if I could catch him, it was not plausible to bring him in the house. What if he fought with the dogs, attacked one of the cats or had something contagious? His face was scraped, one eye barely open, and he had a skin problem – fleas, allergy or possibly mange. Where would I find money to pay the vet?

I heard a sound, turned and watched a young couple approach with their two dogs. The puppy leaped to his feet, raced across the street and joined the group. I followed them. When they turned to retrace their route, they asked if I knew who owned the puppy. I learned their yard is fenced and if the puppy followed them home, they would hold him and call Animal Control in the morning. I watched them continue down the sidewalk, breathing a sigh of relief my prayer was answered.

In a short while, the dogs and I set out to finish our aborted walk. We passed the street where the couple always turn left, walked once around a parking lot, turned toward home, and encountered the puppy running toward us from the side street. His tail wagged furiously as he bounded back and forth between the dogs. He wanted to come inside with the dogs but he was afraid to cross the threshold.

I gave him a short sponge bath on the porch. When he was finally inside, I put a used collar around his neck. Before retiring for the night, I took the dogs outside and discovered the puppy was not accustomed to a leash. He jumped backward, then stood ramrod still. Once coaxed inside again, he stood spraddle-legged, head stretched forward, immobile for a long while.

A short while later the exhausted pup was sound asleep on the floor at the foot of the bed. I knelt beside him with a pan of water and a bar of pine tar soap to clean the underside of his dirty, crusty neck, only his neck was not dirty. It was swollen, with wounds on his throat that were bleeding from the short time the collar rubbed against them.

Two mornings later, Little No Name (yes, I really called him that so I wouldn’t get attached to him) was named Samaritan. His name originates from the story in Luke 10, but not because I have any illusion of being a good Samaritan. As much as I love animals, I was a very reluctant rescuer in this instance, but taking care of this puppy has blessed me greatly. Samaritan has not growled, complained or refused to accept my help

I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted after nine years of assisting an iron-willed, elderly parent, one who desperately needs help but fights tooth and nail against even the smallest thing that should be done for her basic needs, comfort or safety. Often anger surpasses compassion on both our parts.

I was feeling lost, abandoned and confused with some wounds of my own that needed attention. After Samaritan’s name came into my mind, I began to realize that just as I was ministering physically to this puppy, God was ministering to my spirit, reminding me of His love and faithfulness.

I thought of how Jesus can be called the ultimate Good Samaritan. Often an unconverted man has to hit rock bottom before he will accept Jesus stopping to help him. Jesus binds his wounds and his sins are added to Jesus’ account, which He has already paid in full.

I could have called Animal Control and sent the puppy to the shelter where he would have lain, without hope of rescue, on a concrete floor until it was his turn to die. God could have left man to live and die in his sins, without hope of redemption or mercy. Instead, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ. What a wonderful Savior!

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

DON'T RUN WITH THE PACK

Dogs are social animals. They enjoy hanging out with a human companion, napping in front of the TV set or chasing a Frisbee. They also enjoy hanging out with canine companions, hiking the fields and swapping stories about the prey “this big” that got away.

In a group they can become a pack with primal instincts and deadly consequences. A quiet, gentle, cat-and-small-animal-loving dog will join his companions in attacking other animals – and possibly humans - for the sheer sport of killing. They easily fall into the pack mentality of doing things together each might not consider doing apart from the pack.

This same trait is exhibited in human nature, but whereas dogs as a pack will attack and kill other living creatures, human beings as a group attack and kill reputations.

In a group setting, prohibitions can disappear. Everyone wants to fit in and be one of the “guys,” accepted by the group and participating in any discussion. Small talk can take a bad turn, melding into gossip and plowing into “catty.” In the extreme, exaggerations and outright lies can flow without conscious thought. Someone’s reputation is stained or attacked and killed without viable thought and often without malevolence. Humans easily fall into the group mentality of doing things together each might not consider doing apart from the group.

This was brought home to me with several recent events. One eye-opener began as an angry meeting where the incoming president and members discussed the outgoing president and treasurer, who had used a little ingenuity to clean out the treasury. With only a few meetings under my belt, I could not participate in a conversation of broken by-laws, and I did not want to participate in the character appraisal of the outgoing officers, which wandered off the path and into the brierpatch.

The members were understandably angry, but I had nothing to contribute so I sat quietly and left when the meeting ended. I then became the topic of conversation. “Jan didn’t say anything tonight. She must be with them.”

This incident was a reminder that sometimes silence is viewed as tacit agreement or complicity. Sometimes you have to take a stand and let others know where you stand.

A week later I did, with another group, one that had lost its community focus and had become a small group that meets mainly to complain and bear tales on the neighbors. “I see your neighbor hasn’t cut his grass.” “The neighborhood is full of rentals and renters don’t care.” (Hey, folks, I’m a renter!)

The members are good, kind, Bible-believing, church-attending folks who would not even consider absconding with the treasury, and they might not have realized how far they had strayed from the original purpose of the meetings. I held no illusions that anything I said would change the direction, but I addressed my concerns to the president of the group and, sadly but resolutely, the next day I resigned as secretary.

We are admonished in 1 Peter 4:15: But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.

Of course, a loner can become a busybody, but a group seems to unconsciously egg on the timid and add bluster to the overzealous, so choose groups wisely, and avoid “running with the pack.” A Christian should stand out in a group just as much by what he does not verbalize as by what he does.


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