Category Archives: Opinion

Make, Model, and VIN by Carolyn Tucker

Keys to the Kingdom

As a kid in the 1960s, I liked to watch the CBS game show “To Tell the Truth” where four celebrity panelists questioned three contestants. One contestant always spoke the truth about himself/herself and the other two pretended and lied. This was very interesting to me and I was often surprised at who the “real” person out of the three turned out to be. Some of them were super-good liars and pretenders and were able to trick the celebrities and the viewing audience. God knows my name and frame and He knows my heart. He’s the God of all truth. He knows more about me than I do. I scratch my head and smile in the fact that He knows everything about me and loves me anyway! He knows the real me.

 

I find consolation in this scripture: “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13,14 NKJV). Our heavenly Father has affection, mercy, and deep compassion for His children who revere and obey Him. He knows how we’re formed and all about our weaknesses and frustrations. He never gives up on us and is sympathetic to our difficulties. God’s not looking for perfect people, He’s looking for nonpretenders with perfect hearts.

 

Sometimes a vehicle ends up with a bent frame. An individual can also have a bent frame from all the hard knocks in life. But God knows what shape we’re in. And if we’re bent out of shape, He can restore it because God is in the business of restoration. He doesn’t throw any part away, He simply works it over and uses it for His glory. God isn’t generic; He’s specific and intentional and He knows what He’s doing. We can trust Him wholeheartedly because He’s proven mile after mile that His speedway record is unbeatable. If believers stay within their God-designated lane, we’ll never crash and burn.

 

A famous musician/entertainer owned a fleet of cars and, after he died in 1977, some of these cars were eventually showcased in Memphis. Although they were meticulously  clean, not one little dent or ding was repaired because each imperfection was proof of use and told a story. Real believers can be compared to these unique vehicles. We may have some cracks in the sidewalls and dents on the body, but we’re willing to be used in the service of Christ Jesus. But it’s sure not a job for sissies! And there’s no place for a U-turn when we’re barreling down the Interstate. Once we get headed in the right direction toward heaven,  what’s the sense of slowing down and turning back? In the song lyrics of Vestal Goodman, “I’m too near my heavenly home to turn back now!”

 

There’s no restoration job too big for God. He can fix a blown head gasket (mental issues) a misfiring cylinder (emotions), or rebuild an engine (physical needs). Just imagine seeing your vehicle up on the racks and, after a quick inspection by the most-qualified mechanic, he tells you, “She can’t be fixed, just tow ‘er to the junkyard.” God will never haul us away; He’ll always restore us if we’ll ask Him to do it. King David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You” (Psalm 51:12 NLT). This was the prayer of a nonperfect regenerated man desiring a holy heart. Repentant prayers and changed hearts lead to God’s restoration. Our heavenly Father knows the real us (with all our imperfections, dents, and dings) but He still wants to use us if we’re willing to be humble and honest servants for the Kingdom of God.

 

The Key: Will the real you please stand, be restored, and get back on the road again?!

Obituary of Mattie Nelle Dixon

Mattie Nelle Dixon, 98, former resident of Fort Scott, Kansas, passed away Thursday, December 1, 2022, at the Medicalodge in Frontenac, Kansas. She was born in Pittsburg, Kansas on February 14, 1924, to John W. Gier and Mattie (Winterbower) Gier.

She married Floyd J. Dixon, Jr. on September 21, 1941. He preceded her in death May 9, 1988.

 

Mattie attended Sunrise School and graduated from Hepler High School. She was a member of Hiattville United Methodist Church, Emera Chapter #427 of Hepler, Kansas, and Ideal Chapter #369 of Hiattville, Kansas Order of the Eastern Star, and served as organist for many years.

 

She worked as a shipyard welder during World War II, and returning to a farm in the Hiattville area, she worked several years at the O’Bryan Ranch.

She also worked at Dr.’s Basham – McKenna Clinic, and retired from Fort Scott Family Physicians in December of 1989.

 

Caring for her were nieces Judy Smith, Fort Scott, Dorothy Kurth, Carrollton, Missouri, and Cleo Hilstand, Larned, Kansas. Other survivors are nephews and a niece.

Preceding her in death were her parents, half-sisters, and a half-brother, and her husband Floyd.

 

Graveside services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, December 7, 2022, at the Walnut Cemetery, in Walnut, Kansas, under the direction of the Konantz-Cheney Funeral Home.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Hiattville United Methodist Church, and may be left in the care of the Konantz-Cheney Funeral Home, 15 W. Wall Street, P.O. Box 309, Fort Scott, Kansas, 66701. Condolences may be submitted to the online guestbook at konantz-cheney.com.

 

Discipline by Patty LaRoche

I am on the Keto diet.

Unless someone puts a French fry in front of me.

Or a piece of garlic, parmesan toast.

Or onion rings.

Or chicken strips.

Or…you get the point.

On Keto, I am to fill my plate with kale, spinach, zucchini, a couple of hard-boiled eggs (which are just nasty) and some blanched almonds (also on the nasty list). Then I top all of that nonsense with a drizzle of olive oil.  Yuck!  Why don’t I just suck on a blade of poison ivy and call it good?  Same difference.

Let’s face it.  Discipline is hard work, even though it is the magic sauce that helps us get where we want to be.  In college, I was one of the most disciplined gals in my sorority.  When many of my friends skipped class to hang out at the bar and play the card game Pitch, I was frantically scribbling notes and asking questions and contemplating potential test questions.  Play cards instead of being in a classroom?  Not on my radar.

I have always been a disciplined employee.  Show up early.  Work harder than required.  Take work home with me.  My mother never preached that message, but she sure did demonstrate it, so I credit her with modeling for my two brothers and me how to be responsible.

In an odd way, being disciplined allows me to take steps to better myself…to feel as if I’m in control of my future. And that means never giving up. Pablo Casals was considered the greatest cellist to ever live. When he was 95 years old, he was asked why he continued to practice six hours a day.  “Because I think I am making progress,” he answered. Of course, he wasn’t starving himself on Keto, so that comparison sure falls flat.

The aim of Christian discipline is to tame your body, soul and spirit in the way of godliness. 1 Corinthians 10:13 is a reminder that I have a Helper waiting to support me with my eating habits.  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. In my case, I can substitute the word “craving” for “temptation” and be consoled that this is a battle I can win.

My problem is that I’ve never met an unhealthy food I didn’t like. And yes, I know that I need to put my faith where my food is, but won’t I hurt people’s feelings at the church potluck if I don’t at least “try” their goodies?  And should I invite new Christians over for dinner and feed them wheat grass and beets?  Are you feeling my pain?

A few weeks ago, I was to meet a saint-of-a-friend who was visiting from another state. We settled on Common Ground, and I asked if noon was okay so we could have lunch.  I shouldn’t have been surprised by her response: “Oh, Patty, let’s just feast on the word of God.”  My response shouldn’t have surprised her: “Can’t we do both?”

 My friend had put John 6:27a (NLT) into practice:  But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.                                                     

I’ll let you know how this Keto thing works out.  So far, not so good…but there’s always tomorrow.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving was from Scratch by Carolyn Tucker

Keys to the Kingdom

My Mom left a legacy for being one of the best country cooks in Cedar County. No brag, just fact. Hospitality was one of her gifts and she truly enjoyed loving and blessing people through her cooking and baking. One Thanksgiving, in particular, stands out in my memory. Along with everything else, Mom’s dressing was made from scratch so she had  placed a huge bowl full of torn pieces of bread, biscuits, and cornbread on the kitchen counter. Shortly afterwards she exited the kitchen and, within minutes, Dad came in from doing the chores. With his hawk-eyed attention to detail, he spotted the bowl and promptly took it outside and fed it to the bird dogs. It looked like scraps to him!

 

My brother’s favorite holiday was Thanksgiving because it’s more of a quiet day to reflect and express thanks for the goodness of God. I admit there are days when life’s not all it’s cracked up to be and the climb gets hard. But even in those times, believers are to be thankful. Why? Because in your loneliest hour of life, God is there with you. “…be content with what you have, for He has said, ’I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5 ESV). This promise gives us a reason to be thankful when life gets tough.

 

When families and friends gather for the Thanksgiving meal, you can be sure no one will be hungry when they push away from the table. Likewise, Jesus’ kitchen is never closed, it’s always fully stocked and all partakers are satisfied. There’s no reason to look elsewhere because the best feast is at Christ‘s table. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. Come every day to Me and you will never be hungry. Believe in Me and you will never be thirsty“ (John 6:35 TPT). This promise is a reason to rejoice and be thankful.

 

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT). Some believers seem to search for God’s will all their lives, but this one plain and simple verse lays down the basics of His will. Christians are to be marked by love and thanksgiving. Being thankful is the opposite of being critical. A negative attitude and mindset causes a person to only notice what’s wrong. We’re instructed to give thanks to God no matter what happens in our lives. God is still God and worthy of our praise. We are to be thankful “in” all circumstances, not “for” all circumstances. Giving thanks to God keeps our minds  in a joy-filled perspective and proper focus. Because of Jesus, there is saving blood that will never lose its power and we can be eternally grateful and thankful for that!

 

In 2019, my late husband and I were dining in Pittsburg with a couple of our dear friends. During the meal, Linda kindly spoke to Jimmy and said, “I understand you have some health issues.” I wondered how he would respond and then he softly replied, “God’s been good to me.“ Remembering that truthful answer deeply touched my heart as I thought about writing this column. Instead of talking on and on about the diagnosis and prognosis, my husband spoke of the goodness and faithfulness of His loving heavenly Father.

 

While chained in a Roman prison, Paul wrote a strong message for all Christians: “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead…” (Ephesians 1:19,20 NLT). If our problems are no bigger than raising Christ from the dead, God will  take care of them. Therefore, we can live in victory, joy, and thanksgiving.

 

The Key: Because of the great faithfulness of God, believers should be thankful 24-7.

To Be, Or Not To Be…Thankful by Patty LaRoche

Every year at Thanksgiving I write an article about how I’m going to be more thankful, an area in which I am frequently tested.

This past week, for example, I was at the Immigration Office here in Mazatlán, 40 minutes from where we live, handing in paperwork that I had started at the Embassy in Kansas City and needed to finalize here.  It was my third trip because I just didn’t “have things completed correctly” the first two times, as didn’t several other people waiting to have their numbers called. Trying to be thankful.  Trying to be thankful.            

This trip, I had only two hours allotted because of a hair appointment (important!), but I figured I could at least hand in my latest version of paperwork and again be told what I had done wrong.  Signing in, I was given the #18 card (not good), but when the lady called out “#15,” I knew I had a chance.  And I would have, had two, selfish people not walked in the door and gone straight up to the window without being given a number. Not thankful.

I began grumbling. Not exactly to myself.  Which is where things got interesting.  You see, I had taken along my Bible to catch up on my assigned reading for my upcoming Zoom study on Proverbs.  For an hour, I underlined key phrases (most of them, actually) that would make me a better person…verses like Proverbs 12:25: Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad.   I was not glad. Or thankful. And that’s when I heard my name.

“Patty”?  I turned around to find Teresa, a friend of a friend, right behind me, smiling. She was there to help an elderly woman figure out the paperwork nightmare, as she had for several other people in the past. They had waited for a couple of hours, only to be sent to “the Coca-Cola lady” (called that because she also sells Coke products) down the street to have some copies made, one which had to be filled out in blue ink. (Mine was in black ink.) “Blue ink? Where does it say ‘blue ink’?” I groaned.  Of course, it didn’t.  Less thankful by the minute.

About that time, an elderly couple entered and struck up a conversation with Teresa.  (Even though holding a Bible, I looked as approachable as a cattle prod.)  Poor things had bussed to Mazatlán from Phoenix, but when they crossed the border, no one stamped their passports.  They had asked the bus driver about it, but he said that it wasn’t necessary.  He was wrong.

They would not be able to return home without that stamp.  Starting off at Mazatlán’s U.S Embassy, they were informed to come to Immigration for help.  Teresa told them to walk up to the window and ask.  “Proverbs” had kicked in, I guess, because even I didn’t object.  There they were advised to return to the border (11 hours away) and get their stamps.  Not even the Coca-Cola lady could help this couple. “Oh well,” the elderly man said, “I guess we’ll see a lot more of Mexico.”

He was finding something to be thankful for? And here I was, Bible in hand, fretting over making my hair appointment. What is wrong with you? I asked myself.  By the time #17 was called, I had to leave.  The next day, I was back, 45 minutes early.  Waiting outside, one of the workers—who must have recognized me—asked to see my papers. Soooo thankful.

She took them inside and quickly returned to explain that my passport has a small space between La and Roche, and when I typed it into my documents, I didn’t add the space. (I never do.)  I needed to “have things completed correctly” and return. Soooo unthankful.

That’s when someone nearby told me to go see the Coca-Cola lady down the street who (for a fee) corrected my paperwork.  Returning to Immigration, I was #10 in line, and six hours later, I had the document I needed.  Sort of thankful.

  But not really. I guess I’ll just have to work on this thankfulness thing next year.

One Standard Measuring Stick by Carolyn Tucker

Keys to the Kingdom By Carolyn Tucker

 

 

The door frame between my living room and kitchen is very special because that’s where my kids’ growth marks are recorded. Periodically, my husband would measure Mariam and Aaron’s height with a standard measuring stick or tape measure. The first measurement for Aaron was at two years of age and the last was when he was 23 years old. When he was in mid high school, he was concerned about his small stature. But between then and now, those tall Tucker genes kicked in and he’s now 6’2”. Mariam’s first measurement was at one year and the last was at 20 years of age. Both kids were always excited to see how much taller they had grown.

 

As believers, how are we measuring up spiritually? That’s a serious question only the individual can answer. It‘s our job to measure ourselves against the full and complete standard of God’s Word. It wouldn’t have done Aaron any good to have thrown a fit and demanded that we change the measuring stick just because he was shorter than he wanted to be. So if we search our heart (using God’s measuring stick) and come up short, we will need to make the necessary changes. “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ” (Ephesians 5:1,2 NLT).

 

As Christ followers, we are to live in the light and by the Holy Spirit’s power. “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. So be careful how you live. Don‘t live like fools, but like those who are wise” (Ephesians 5:8-10,15 NLT). The light makes everything visible. In fact, I couldn’t read all the markings on the doorframe, therefore, I had to use a flashlight. I simply could not see clearly without proper light. The Light of the world is Jesus, so we need to cling to Him so our spiritual eyes and heart will be illuminated.

 

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he was defending his ministry and responding to criticism. “Of course, we wouldn’t dare to put ourselves in the same class or compare ourselves with those who rate themselves so highly. They compare themselves to one another and make up their own standards to measure themselves by, and then they judge themselves by their own standards. What self-delusion!” (2 Corinthians 10:12 TPT). God has made each of us unique and given us individual spiritual gifts to use for God‘s purposes and glory. It’s never wise to compare ourselves to another believer. Paul reminds us that we should look to Christ for our supreme model of behavior.

 

Using a tape measure is a daily common practice in the construction industry. When we built our home in 1980-81, I can remember my husband whipping out his trusty tape measure all the time. He measured twice and cut once. We live our lives only once so we better get it right or we’ll wish we had. “Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told, ‘Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers‘” (Revelation 11:1 NLT).

 

The Key: Let’s examine ourselves by God’s standard measuring stick and be counted among the true worshippers.

Pay Attention by Patty LaRoche

Within a split second, I could have become a statistic when I came close to being run over by a speeding car. Dave and I were biking on a two-lane street, and the only reason I wasn’t turned into road-kill was the driver swerved into the oncoming lane.  The only reason she wasn’t killed was no one happened to be in her path.

It was my fault.  I pulled out of a side street, and instead of making a sharp right turn to stay on the edge of the road, I pedaled out too far in the direction of the car.  You know, the car with the driver with the right-of-way. The driver who fortunately was not texting or applying lipstick or smacking her kids in the back seat. The driver who was alert and paying attention.  Unlike me.

Dave was as supportive as he is capable.

“What in the world were you thinking?”

“Obviously I wasn’t. I was distracted.”

“Why didn’t you use your brakes?”

“Because I panicked.”

“Obviously.”

Sometimes, being alert is hard.  I’ve left my credit card, my favorite jacket, and even my kids when I failed to take care of what was important. I have run a red light, paid too much for a grocery item, ignored a sad waitress and waxed my eyebrows unsymmetrically. I have failed to check Google Maps before starting cross-country trips, erred in how much tomato paste I need for a recipe and mistook a stranger’s sense of humor for mine.

But unlike me pulling out in front of a car, those aren’t life-and-death issues. Life and death issues deal with…well, life and death.  Like dying and spending eternity somewhere…which, in my case, could have come from me not paying attention while peddling around that corner.  Staying alert is critical.

Look at this warning from Proverbs 4:20-26: Dear friend, listen well to my words; tune your ears to my voice. Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart! … Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts…Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you.                                                                                                   

Why do we have to be advised of something so obvious?  And why is it so difficult to pay attention to what should matter most?  God warned that the flood was coming, yet only eight people in Noah’s family believed and were saved.

As Lot’s kin fled Sodom, an angel cautioned them not to look back on their city.  Lot’s wife failed to obey and turned into a statue of salt.

Solomon was told not to worship false gods.  Did he heed the advice?  Uh, no.

God cautioned Israel through Jeremiah and Ezekiel of their impending captivity by the Babylonians.  They knew better than God…or thought they did.

The Bible gives us clear instructions as to how we need to pay attention, yet for many, that book serves only as a dust-collector instead of an instruction manual on how to remain alert and mindful of dangers ahead…  distractions that might cost them their eternal lives.

 

 

One-Hit Wonder by Carolyn Tucker

Keys to the Kingdom

 

In 1973, Vicki Lawrence became a one-hit wonder with her recording of “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.“ Her husband, Bobby Russell, wrote the song and it reached #1 on the charts in the United States and Canada. Vicky is best known and loved for her successful comedy career on The Carol Burnett Show which aired from 1967 to 1978. Vicki actually introduced and performed her one-and-only hit song on the show. And then we never heard her sing another song on the airways again. She was a flash-in-the-pan  recording artist, but I still remember her and the song as being great!    

 

There’s an interesting account in the New Testament about a one-hit wonder named Ananias. He was a believer who lived in Damascus and one day the Lord spoke to him in a vision. He told Ananias to go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for Saul of Tarsus. (Previously, Saul had been struck with blindness on the way to Damascus so his friends had to lead him on into town.)

 

Because Saul had a reputation for jailing and stoning believers, Ananias responded,  “’But Lord, I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon Your name.’ But the Lord said, ‘Go, for Saul is My chosen instrument to take My message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.’ So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight” (Acts 9:13-15,17-18 NLT).

 

The name “Ananias” means “the Lord’s gracious gift.” Saul needed this obedient believer to pray for him so he could receive his sight and be filled with the Holy  Spirit in order to fulfill the calling God had placed on his life. You might say Ananias was a New Testament flash-in-the-pan because we never hear anything about him again. I’ve wondered what would have happened if Ananias had refused to obey God‘s instructions. I’m thankful he rejected the spirit of fear and chose to obey, inspiring us to do the same.   Ananias was a man of God who didn’t let his trust rust — he used it to greatly advance God’s kingdom. His prompt obedience got Saul off the starting blocks with his ministry.

 

The important lesson to grasp is that Ananias obeyed God. As far as we know, he  was simply a believer, not a high priest, religious leader, pastor, or teacher. He received the strength and power from God to obey and perform his assignment. Any believer can be used to do God’s work. You don’t have to be qualified, you just have to be available — and willing to trust and obey.

 

Christ followers should have a full-fledged trust in God. Perhaps Ananias was quoting these verses on his way to pray for Saul: “But I trusted in, relied on, and was confident in You, O Lord; I said, You are my God. My times are in Your hands; deliver me from the hands of my foes and those who pursue me and persecute me” (Psalm 31:14,15 AMP).

 

The Key: When the Lord says, “Go,“ let’s trust Him enough to obey in a flash.

Letter to the Editor: Jordan Holdridge Family

Mrs. Autumn Durosette is a first grade teacher at Winfield Scott Elementary School.

She is the literal definition of God sent.

She is the perfect example when you hear of someone speak of how one single teacher can impact a child’s life and she did just that!

Our son is a engergic, sweet, loving boy when given the chance. He struggles with ADHD and a learning disability, so school is a tough place for him to thrive in.

Mrs. D, as he likes to call her, never once judged him or let this become an issue.

She made his ADHA his super power. She built his confidence up and helped him thrive. She took the time to get to know the little things about him that made the biggest differences. She strives to build a relationship with him so he could be his best self at school. She took a struggling little boy out of his shell and helped him thrive and loved him through the tough days. She went above and beyond for him in and out of school and kept in close contact with his parents.

We prayed for someone with a kind heart to help him in school and God heard our prayers and delivered Mrs. D.

Our son has since moved on to second grade and she continues to check in on him and care about him. We are beyond blessed to have had Mrs. D enter our lives and she deserves the world for her kind heart. Winfield Scott is full of amazing teachers that we have had the privilege of getting to know over the years but Mrs. D is God sent and should never go unnoticed. She deserves all the recognition for her dedication towards all of her students!

Thank you Mrs. D for everything!

The Jordan Holdridge Family

Getting Rid of Moths and Cloaks by Patty LaRoche

A beekeeper once told author/pastor F.B. Meyer how some of the young bees are nurtured to ensure their healthy development. The queen lays each egg in a six-sided cell which is filled with enough pollen and honey to nourish the egg until it reaches a certain stage of maturity. The top is then sealed with a capsule of wax.

When the food is gone, it is time for the tiny creature to be released. The wax is so hard to penetrate that the bee can make only a very narrow opening. It is so narrow that in the agony of exit, the bee rubs off the membrane that encases its wings. When it finally does emerge, it is able to fly.

The man telling the story said that one time a moth got into the hive and devoured the wax capsules. As a result, the young bees crawled out without any effort or trouble. But they could not fly.                                                                                                                                                           F.B. Meyer said this: “Remember, it is through the struggle of the trial—the journey out of the pit—that the very best part of us takes flight. One day soon, you will look around to see that you are coming out of the dark.”

In Mark 10, we read about Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, who, when Jesus passed by, recognized him as the Messiah and called on him to show him mercy. Jesus’ disciples rebuked the beggar for such a display, but Bartimaeus continued to cry out.   How was it possible for a blind man to recognize what others did not?  Perhaps his spiritual eyes, the ones that really matter, were open, even though his physical eyes were not.  Bartimaeus recognized that he was a sinner in need of a touch from his Savior. Which is exactly what he got.

Verse 49-52 explains what happened next.  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they (the disciples) called to the blind man, “Cheer up!  On your feet!  He’s calling you.”      Throwing his cloak aside, the beggar jumped to his feet and neared Jesus who asked what he wanted.  “Rabbi,” he said, “I want to see.” Jesus’ response had to still the crowd. “Go, your faith has healed you.” Immediately, the blind man could see and followed Jesus down the road.

This man was in such a hurry to meet Jesus, he flung his outer cloak away.  Nothing would impede his haste to meet the one who would change his life forever.

Missionary Elizabeth Elliott once wrote, “Long-suffering is sometimes the only means by which the greater glory of God will be served.” Whatever you are going through, however dark your journey might appear, remember that the struggle can lead to your victory.  We all will go through dark periods…some much darker than others. Many times, all we need to do is choose light and get rid of whatever hinders us (like moths or cloaks). We need to look at our problems in the light of Jesus’ power instead of looking at Jesus in the darkness of our problems.

Yes, it can be as simple as that.

Toadstool Incognito by Carolyn Tucker

Keys to the Kingdom By Carolyn Tucker

 

As I backed the Chrysler out of the garage, I looked to my left and saw a piece of trash in the pasture that had blown across the fence.  When I returned home, I spotted it again but didn’t bother to take the time to retrieve it. After a couple more days of repeating this scenario, it finally dawned on me what I was actually seeing. As I walked toward the “trash” with my tape measure, I squatted down and measured an amazing 11”-diameter toadstool. Judging only by looks, things are not always what we think they are.

 

The next day, I had an entertaining conversation with my mother-in-law. It was Sunday and I had gone to the 9:30 a.m. service, returned home, ate lunch, and changed into work clothes because I wanted to pick up the sticks in my yard. But first, I grabbed my mother-in-law’s mail and headed to her house across the lane. When I entered the back door around noon, she looked at me and asked, “Didn’t you go to church today?“ I grinned and responded, “I went to the early service.” I don’t blame her for assuming I hadn’t gone to church because I looked like the grapes of wrath from the top of my head to my dirty tennis shoes. I was a Christian incognito — just like the disguised toadstool.

 

I’ve always been fond of the Old Testament account where the prophet Samuel is at Jesse’s place trying to find the right son to anoint as the next king of Israel. Like the rest of us, Samuel thought a king should have a certain “look” about him. “…Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, ’Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ’Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:6,7 NLT). (The heart is the center of our inner life, the place of thinking, feeling, and choosing.)

 

The outward appearance of a believer is all anyone can literally see. So we need to remember that our everyday born-again lifestyle needs to correspond with our born-again  heart that obeys God and loves others. It’s good protocol to do a self-checkup on our heart quite often. What kind of facial expressions do we carry around? Have you ever had someone ask, “Why are you looking at me like that?” I have, and it wasn‘t a compliment either. The Bible describes our facial expressions as our countenance. What’s in the heart will show up on the face. “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance…” (Proverbs 15:13 NKJV). And after Cain murdered his brother, “So the Lord said to Cain, ’Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?’” (Genesis 4:6 NKJV). Either way, your face will surely show it.

 

Just as Jesus taught His followers 2,000 years ago, we find that it’s still all about the heart. “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45 NLT). At that time, the religious leaders were only concerned with outward appearances and were completely neglecting inward purity, which was/is a big “No No” to Jesus. He spoke to them bluntly, “…You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy — full of greed and self-indulgence! …First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too” (Matthew 23:25 NLT).

 

The Key: Next time you wash the dishes, do your part and examine your heart.

Par For God’s Course by Patty LaRoche

Last Sunday, Randy, a pastor at the church Dave and I attended in Florida, stunned the congregation when he walked onto the stage with his arm in a sling.  He explained that the previous Sunday he had left the third church service early to go golfing.  His admission was met with laughter when he announced, “I know what you all are thinking.  Surely this couldn’t be part of God’s plan.”  He continued, saying that this was the first time he ever had exited church before dismissal and that he had a lot of guilt when he did…but not enough to miss his golf outing.

I admit, my first thought was that his priorities were out of whack and God had taught him a lesson the hard, painful way. He now would share that lesson with us and explain that as one of the pastors, his first obligation was to his church and he had erred in choosing sports over spiritual matters.

Not even close.

Randy was on the second hole when he heard two youngsters screaming for help.  He left his tee spot, followed the cries and was shocked to find the brothers drowning.  Somehow, in the middle of the rescue, he tore his rotator cuff.  Thus, the sling.

No longer were we congregants laughing or tsk-tsking his decision.  Actually, we gasped.  Suddenly, it became apparent that God had orchestrated Randy’s first-ever, early church departure in order to save two young boys’ lives.

Someone once said, “Nothing is easier than faultfinding: no talent, no self-denial, no brains, and no character are required to set up in the judging business.” So why is that our default button?  Why do we act in an ungenerous manner and make quick interpretations of a person’s motives? Jesus himself spoke about this behavior: Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  (Luke 6:37a)

Obviously, Jesus is not ruling out the legitimate place of judging others.  Judges must render verdicts in courts of law, elders must decide discipline cases in the church, managers must judge their employees’ performance, teachers must assess their students, etc. A few verses later, Jesus calls his disciples to judge people by their fruit (6:43-45). There are times when judging is appropriate.                                                                                                                                                            What is not appropriate is when our judgment is unwarranted or improper or haughty.  As commentator Darrell Bock says, “The idea is rather a judgmental and censorious perspective toward others that holds them down in guilt and never seeks to encourage them toward God. What is commanded is an attitude that is hesitant to condemn and quick to forgive. What is prohibited is an arrogance that reacts with hostility to the worldly and morally lax, viewing such people as beyond God’s reach.”

Dear Readers, we have to be careful and check our motives. When you first read my opening paragraph, did you not think—like I did—that God was teaching Randy a lesson?  That he got what he deserved?  Or were you happy that he had managed to find some time to relax and hang with friends?  Your answer—and mine—to that question determines the merciful (or merciless) attitude of our hearts.

To me, it seems that Randy’s lesson was a profound one from which we can learn much: God can show up anywhere He is needed…even on a golf course.