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Incongruous

5 Jul

Back in the 70s, my boys watched Sesame Street, and we’d sing this song: “One of these things is not like the others, One of these things just doesn’t belong….” They learned early on to recognize incongruous things.SandSnowman_HoHoAloha

You’ve probably seen some incongruous things in life.

One of my favorite “incongruous” sightings is a sand snowman on the beach.  We certainly don’t expect to see a “snowman” there! Vacationers in beautiful Hawaii, Aruba and other tropical isles get creative building and decorating these sand snowmen in December.

[A side noteJenn, a dear woman who still grieves the loss of a little baby, Noah, built a happy little snowman on vacation some time later. She allowed me to adapt it for this photo.]

Some other incongruous things:

A pig wearing lipstick (made famous by Sarah Palin) … a baseball player pitching an avocado … a cake mix box in the middle of a row of cookbooks … a kitty in a lineup of Meerkats … a very loud belch at a formal dinner….

You get the idea.

Congruous means “what is suitable or proper.” It’s things that make sense together. When something is incongruous, we might say it is “not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings” or other aspects of something.

Incongruity is a key element in good humor, but it’s not such a good thing in life.

I was thinking of the word “incongruous” as I read some familiar scriptures.

Romans 6:2 says, “… How can we who died to sin still live in it?” This entire chapter reminds the believer that we no longer need to obey our passions and impulses to sin. We are to consider ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (v. 11).

It was incongruous to Paul that a Christian should “continue in sin that grace may abound” (v. 1),  present their bodies to unrighteousness (v. 13) or live as slaves to sin (vv. 17-18).

Yes, there is an ongoing struggle with the presence of sin (Romans 7:15-23), but the power of sin over us is broken (v. 25) because Christ has redeemed us. We have life in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-11) and are heirs with Christ (8:12-17).

Our reality is, we are headed for glory with Him (8:18). We are “conquerors (overcomers) through him who loved us” (8:37) and will never be separated from God’s love in Christ (8:38-39).

I’m grieved by Christians’ light-hearted attitude toward sin today.  I grieve that I accept my own sinning so easily. I forget I’m a foot-soldier in the Lord’s army, obliged to obey His every command.

We need to remember the battle we’re in. We need to:

  1. Take Up Our Armor (put on every piece, Ephesians 6:11-13);
  2. Endure Hardship and strive to please our Commander-in-Chief, Jesus! (2 Timothy 2:3-4, 9-10; Matthew 16:24);
  3. Fight the Good Fight (1 Timothy 1:18-19; 6:12), proclaim the truth of God’s Word and living for Him – no matter how difficult;
  4. And Stand firm against the attacks of Satan (1 Peter 5:8-9; 1 Corinthians 10:12; James 4:7; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

The world needs to see Jesus’ life manifested, demonstrated, in our day-to-day circumstances. Too often, all it sees is an incongruous picture – “Sinning Saints.” This should not be.  The Holy One calls us to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-17a; Leviticus 11:44-45).

Yes, I know. We won’t be perfect until we get to heaven. But that’s no excuse to continue in disobedience. We have hundreds of opportunities to decide for God every day, and we need to stay engaged.The battle is the Lord’s, but He expects us not to slink away from the battlefield!

What could be more incongruous than a soldier sitting out the biggest battle of his life, fiddling with lesser things and failing to obey his Commander’s instructions?

You might want to ask, with me: “Father, is my life a picture of incongruous living? Where am I a hypocrite? Where am I not obeying your commands?”

Let’s recommit to taking those four steps to become victorious in Christ!

  – Dawn

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On Chiefs, Indians … and Servants

5 Apr

I laughed at the grocery store the other day. A frustrated mom, pushing one child in a stroller, scolded her other child – a misbehaving little girl.GrumpyChild_Freedigital_cropped

“Knock it off, Angela,” the mom yelled.

The little girl folded her arms across her chest and pouted. Then, as her mom resumed shopping, little Angela walked to the front of the stroller and pointed her finger at her wide-eyed brother.

“Well, I’m the boss of YOU!” she said with a sharp nod of her head.

Clearly, this disgruntled child wanted to be in charge … of something or someone!

I once worked in a busy office. Everyone around me wanted to get ahead – to climb the ladder of success. The problem was, no one wanted to do the detail work. They avoided the menial “service tasks” that had to get done in every department. Their attitude was, “Let the other guy do it; I’m too busy.”

One day my boss fumed, so fed up with everyone’s attitudes.

“This office has too many chiefs,” he said, “and not enough Indians.”

We’d all heard that before, but coming from the boss, the words stung and we hung our heads.

He then gave every one of us extra “busy work,” as some called it … but in other people’s departments. He said it was to teach us to serve one another. It was a shock to those who were puffed up with their leadership. File clerks scrubbed toilets. Executives swept floors. It was a humbling, critical lesson.

This kind of attitude crops up on athletic teams too.

John Wooden once described players on a struggling team as more concerned with improving their own statistics than improving the overall success of the team. There isn’t anything wrong with strong individual leadership, but as Wooden acknowledged, successful teamwork requires people who know how to work together. Unselfish players – even if they have strong individual leadership skills – must understand the importance of service to the group in order to accomplish team goals.

Years ago, when I ministered on a revival team, our director noticed the same “I don’t have to do this; let someone else serve” responses. He went right to the heart of the problem in a pointed team meeting, saying,

Pride is the enemy of servanthood.”

Whether in an office setting, on a sports team or even in a ministry the greatest leaders are servant leaders.

Leadership pride is an age-old, human nature problem. Even Jesus had to address  it in His disciples.

Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest,” the scriptures say, “But Jesus intervened: ‘Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It’s not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant'” (Luke 22:24-26, The Message).

God called His Son, “My Servant” (Matthew 12:18a), and indeed, Jesus is our prime example of servant leadership – illustrating service by washing the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). He has a right to demand service of His followers (Luke 22:27). There’s a difference between serving God by serving others, and trying to gather power for ourselves (see Romans WashingFeet16:17-18).

Christ’s service cost Him something (Philippians 2:5-8; Mark 10:45). True servant leadership always does, but those who follow Christ are willing to pay the price. Following Christ is a part of our service, and when we serve Him, the Father honors us (John 12:26).

It’s never a matter of Chiefs and Indians – who’s in charge and who’s not.

It’s a matter of serving others as we all serve the Lord God. It’s a matter of humble obedience; doing our duty as servants (Luke 17:7-10). It’s a matter of loving, sacrificial giving – the willingness to go the extra mile and serve with fervency (Galatians 5:13b; Matthew 5:40-41; Romans 12:11).

Is the Master calling you to a higher level of servicethe kind that requires bent knees?

Dawn

Graphic of little girl: adapted Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Towel and Basin graphic: source unknown

Exporting Morale: A Lesson from North Platte

9 Sep

The following humorous story is reportedly true, shared by a man on his way to war:

“During the Persian Gulf War, I was assigned to go to Saudi Arabia. As I was saying good-bye to my family, my three-year-old son, Christopher, was holding on to my leg and pleading with me not to leave. ‘No, Daddy, please don’t go!’ he kept repeating.

“We were beginning to make a scene when my wife, desperate to calm him, said, ‘Let Daddy go and I’ll take you to get a pizza.’

“Immediately, Christopher loosened his death grip, stepped back and in a calm voice said, ‘Bye, Daddy.'” *

Although that story is sweet and funny, war isn’t. It never is. Yet we still can find moments of light in terrible  darkness, and reasons for hope.

My husband’s mother recently sent me a video about the North Platte Canteen in Nebraska. I’d never heard about this special place.

According to a site detailing the story, the North Platte Canteen encouraged more than six million servicemen and women who traveled through Nebraska via train during World War II. Volunteers, led by Rae Wilson, prepared and served sandwiches, coffee, cookies, cakes, and other homemade goodies during quick troop stops there.

A similar canteen operated during World War I ~ an operation associated with the American Red Cross for 18 months in the Union Pacific freight house in North Platte ~ serving about 113,190 men. Many of these “Sammy Girls” served in the 1940s canteen as well.

Many other smaller canteens operated in Omaha, Norfolk, and McCook (where troop trains also paused), but the North Platte Canteen was a dramatic, patriotic outpouring of regular American citizens to give encouragement and sustenance to US troops on their way to war.

(Rae Wilson, left, organizer of the North Butte Canteen. Photo, Lincoln County Historical Museum)

Rae Wilson (age 26), wrote a letter to the North Platte Bulletin, sparking interest for her idea to give small gifts and snacks to soldiers traveling through North Platte on Christmas Day, 1941. Wilson organized a canteen committee a few days before the soldiers arrived.

In time, the volunteers provided simple entertainment (a donated piano, jukebox, and radio), a magazine table, birthday celebrations for soldiers who passed through on their birthday, platform girls (on the train station platform with baskets of food) and words of encouragement to the troops. Years later, soldiers who survived the war wrote back expressing thanks to the volunteers. Memories of their stop in North Butte encouraged them during battle, and lingered long after the war.

(Rae Wilson gives men a happy send-off. Photo from Lincoln County Historical Museum.)

What struck me in reading this story was some words by Rae Wilson said. “North Platte hasn’t any big war industries,” she said. “I guess you could say we’ve started our own ~ exporting morale.

I like that. Exporting morale. Boy, could we use more of that in the Body of Christ as we fight the battle against the unseen enemy and for our Lord. The Bible says we are to “encourage one another” (Hebrews 3:13) and to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

How can I export morale? How can I encourage those new Christian “recruits” ~ born again and  just beginning to fight? How can I bless and motivate battle-weary saints?

These are questions we all might ask.

Rae Wilson’s vision motivated people to help her bless millions. I keep thinking, “Lord, I’ll be content to sit at my desk and encourage others through writing; but is there something more you would have me do?” I think it’s a question we all need to ask.

Let me hear from you. How can we “export morale” in the church today?

* From AhaJokes.com, http://www.ahajokes.com/war024.html

For more about the North Platte Canteen, click on the “A Pictoral History” at http://npcanteen.net

– Dawn

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