That Person Next To You

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I’m as guilty as anyone of being zoned out to those around me while I contemplate what I have to do next or fret about why this line is taking so long. I will admit that I’ve often ignored the person next to me while I took care of my own business. I also want to assert that we’ve got to start noticing the person next to us.

How tempted are we to start thinking in grandiose terms when someone mentions we should love our neighbor as ourselves (a teaching of Jesus!)? I start thinking about the world, cities, the community … and may even be daydreaming about that while there is a person 3 feet from me that I’m not acknowledging.

When Maggy and I travel to the Mississippi Delta to see family, we usually go on the same route. Along that route is a McDonalds restaurant which happens to appear about the same time we need a break! So we have stopped there many times. Yesterday we were taking a break on our way home and an elderly black man sat down near us.

So what was I doing? I never noticed him. I was watching Republican convention coverage on the TV monitor and also thinking about the trip home and what we had to do when we get there. That’s when I heard Maggy say:

“I like your hat.”

That’s all. Simple, sweet, acknowledgment of the human being that was right there near us. That statement broke my ‘concentration’ and I noticed it was an LSU hat. So I joined in and told him we were from Monroe and there were lots of people here who love LSU.

He beamed and said that he had a son that graduated top of his class in the engineering department there. He then added that he had a son that was in the Navy and had soared to the top of the ladder in the area where he served (he called the rank specifically what it was, my memory won’t recall that now). Then he said he had one son that wasn’t worth nothing – but he was smiling as he thought about his youngest. I told him that maybe he’d find his way before long. We complimented him on his parenting skills and he gave all the credit to his wife.

That’s when he told us that his wife passed away a few years ago. And I knew at that moment how important it was for us to acknowledge the person next to us. He wasn’t eating lunch at McDonald’s by himself for the fun of it…nor was he talking to strangers just to be kind.

To tell the truth I was the one who was blessed when we started talking to an elderly black man in McDonald’s one afternoon.

Recently on Facebook I saw a post relating to a meeting at the Hunter Hills Church of Christ near Montgomery. It said in part:

What a blessed time we had on tonight with the Hunter Hills Church Family. A great message from our minister Tim Anderson, Jr. He challenged the audience to start a conversation with some who doesn’t look like you and get to know others.

Simple, but powerful. It all starts with noticing that person next to you. They may need some encouragement or a kind word … but chances are they have something to share with you. We might not be able to fix all of the troubles of the world, but we might be able to ease the trouble of one person near us.

If that catches on, I think something beautiful might be up in the world. No surprise… it’s part of the Jesus Life to which we’re called. He didn’t pass up an opportunity to speak to the person next to Him. Neither should we.

Thanks for reading,  JD.

Cathy and Shirley

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I was drinking some late night decaf served up in the cup pictured here when a message from a friend arrived on Facebook.  Two friends had recently passed away. I was so sorry to hear this news, two ladies who made special contributions to my life.

The coffee cup was given to me by Cathy Garrison. She picked it up at a Starbucks on some trip several years ago. I think about her every time I use it. It was striking to me that I was drinking out of it when I heard she was no longer with us. I met Cathy after Hurricane Katrina. Some thoughtful group of people had come to minister to the victims. They asked for the name of someone who was sick. We sent them to one house, but no one was home. So they went to a nearby house and met Cathy and Bud. Cathy was a cancer survivor who was not feeling her best, but her spirits were lifted when they gave her a home made quilt. It wasn’t long before Cathy was at our church building asking what kind of people brought quilts to strangers … and that was the beginning of a long and wonderful friendship. Cathy gave herself to the relief effort even though her home was heavily damaged. Eventually Bud and Cathy both were baptized in to Christ. Beautiful people. She was quite a Facebook encourager, often posting hilarious pictures and sweet encouragements to others. Also very private … and I never knew she was sick. Cathy could identify with us because she lost a son, too.

Shirley Willard was a Realtor that worked for several years to sell our home in Pascagoula. She was never able to do so … truthfully the housing market bottomed out all across the country during that time and in post-Katrina Pascagoula there were lots of homes cheaper than ours. Shirley was our Realtor because she was an aunt of our next door neighbor friend, Roger. Although she was an award-winning Realtor, that’s not why I remember her. She was a woman of prayer … praying with us about the house. But it was on that day when our lives changed forever … when John Robert died … that she came (along with many others) to our house. I don’t remember a lot about that day but I do remember that when Shirley gave me a hug she whispered a prayer into my ear … asking the Father to send his greatest comfort and presence. No, I don’t remember the words, just the gist.

Two women who had their own losses … a son … a husband. Both were women of God who loved the Lord. Both were survivors and used their experiences to encourage other. They both blessed my life. Shirley died early Christmas morning, and Cathy died the next day.

In the presence of God they are no longer in pain, but their absence stings. Prayers for both families continue. Thanks for reading my reflections on the loss of these two special friends. JD

Two Friends Now With Jesus

This week brought news of two dear Saints of God who are now with Jesus following long lives. I know both of them because of the time I spent preaching on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Virginia Kounovsky

Virginia was a true Southern lady. Her gentle spirit and delightful accent endeared her to everyone who spent time with her. This is a picture I took of her not too long after Hurricane Katrina. Though Katrina was a formidable force, Virginia stayed in her Moss Point home during the storm. She watched as her ceiling began to bulge from incoming water. She used a broomstick to poke holes where it may have broken. She stayed up all night emptying buckets and poking holes – likely saving her home from thousands of dollars of damage. That’s just one example of the kind of spirit this wonderful Christian woman possessed. She was a survivor, having lost her husband and her daughter, her parents and her sister. I can count on one hand the Sunday mornings that she was absent. She always made to church carrying her Bible and sitting toward the front. She was an independent sister with a spark in her eye and a smile on her face. Heaven’s gain, for certain. Obituary.

Olear Sonny Lowe

Sonny Lowe won his battle against pancreatic cancer early Thursday morning by claiming his victory in Jesus. I like this picture of Sonny because he was a smiling brother, always with a kind greeting and a great story. He was an encouraging person who often offered a homespun story that a conversation reminded him. Sonny was most at home … at home. He loved his garden and his country home. I know he was proud of his family, as he often spoke of them and gave updates on his outstanding grandchildren. A testimony to the kind of spirit that Sonny engendered is to be found in his children – all grown with exceptional families. I don’t think anyone could disagree, though, that the spark of life in the Lowe home is Bobbie, Sonny’s colorful and always sparkly attired wife. Our prayers and love are expressed to the Lowe family as they adjust to life without Sonny. They are a passionate people who love God and I know that they will be leaning heavily upon His promises during this heartbreaking experience.

Bobbie Lowe, John Dobbs


I’m thankful for Facebook, which has allowed us to stay in touch with Bobbie. Always giving of herself and serving others, Bobbie has volunteered for years at cancer survivor Camp Bluebird. She is, herself, a survivor. Bobbie often travels to help take care of her brothers and sisters, and I pray that many are surrounding her now during her time of need. 

It is sad to know that old friends are now no longer with us. But in both of these circumstances I am reminded of the precious promises of Christ. I look forward to seeing Virginia and Sonny again someday. I hope they will be able to visit with John Robert.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  ~Jesus, John 14

 Thanks for reading,

John

Roll With It!

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Today I got a nice Facebook notice from my friend Amanda Sanders that the link to her blog on my blog roll was incorrect. I appreciated that. Honestly it’s been a long time since I took a look at that page.

Blog Rolls used to be a really big thing. For one, they gave us some new blogs to read. Once upon a time there were only thousands of blogs, now there are millions (and millions of dead ones!). So reading the recommendations of trusted bloggers was good. Blog Rolls also allow us to give a list of blogs that address a particular theme.

But now that we have readers (such as Google Reader and Bloglines, among others) and can read our favorite blogs all in one place. That’s quite a time saver, but it does almost eliminate the need for blog rolls.

Almost. It’s still great to get recommendations from others. So my Blog Roll is now named Awesome Bloggers. I recommend each one of them. Some that were on there had outdated links that I believe I have now fixed. I also eliminated those who haven’t blogged in several months. If you want to be added, just let me know in the comments on that page.

Oh – to get there just look at the tabs above and click on Awesome Bloggers. Haven’t started a blog yet? Who knows…maybe YOU are the next Awesome Blogger!

Do you utilize blog rolls? Have a blog roll on your blog? Thoughts?

Thanks for reading!

JD

When The Water Leaves

In the Bible following Noah’s flood, there seems to be a sense of serenity and peace as the water recedes to reveal a new world. In the setting of a disaster, the water recedes to reveal many secondary disasters. That’s what happened at my house during Katrina, and that’s what is happening now in Nashville as the flood waters of last week recede.

It really is hard to imagine the impact of a flood unless you have been through it. It is hard to know the heartache of watching all of your belongings being hauled to the curb. And if you have no help, it is a feeling of numbness that almost prevents you from helping yourself.

Right now in Nashville there are needs for money and manpower. There are many organizations working there that you can help. Below are some of the ones I was able to put together from online searches. I limited my search to those from my tribe – and some with whom they have connected. This is almost certainly not a complete list. Feel free to leave other links in the comments. But whomever you choose to help, please do so generously.

Northside Church of Christ

Hilltop Rescue

Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort

Donelson Church of Christ

Lipscomb University / Service International

Crieve Hall Church of Christ

Hillsboro Church of Christ

Otter Creek Church of Christ

Tusculum Church of Christ

Some of these churches came to our rescue on the Gulf Coast following Katrina. I will never forget them.

Thanks for reading,

JD

Beyond Indecision

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by Josh Linton

You pray. Like a nervous, first-time father you pray.

And you pray some more, compiling hours pondering, questioning, seeking God’s direction as your mind floods with a multitude of probable answers. You honestly feel that God is pulling you in four directions at once. You’ve talked to others about it and can’t find any consensus. What do you do when you can’t find clarity about the way you need to go in life or about the choices you need to make?

If one wants to live corresponding to reality and beyond a world of ideals then she needs to finally accept that life decisions often reach a level of complication too difficult to unravel. When every scenario seems to reveal God’s favor and every one of your friends sees the kingdom at work in whatever you decide, life’s potential adventures backlash into a nasty web of maybe. It’s back to pulling out hair, calling on angels.

At this complicated mix-master of indecision I suggest moving forward by doing what you want. What decision puts your desires most at ease? I understand that this advice sounds very self-oriented, but what are you supposed to do? You can’t stay frozen in indecision, biting your nails, wondering when God will show up with a Powerpoint presentation bulleting the steps to the rest of your life.

God’s kingdom is breaking in everywhere and will ultimately reconcile and encompass each inch of existence. Fueled by this reality you can move in the direction that suits your gifts, abilities and ambitions knowing that God gazes with interest at and provides his grace for every possible moment ahead of you. When things aren’t as clear as Acts 16, just go. You can’t possibly venture into an area of your potential future that catches God off-guard, surprising him as if he never considered that possibility. Just maybe the unquenchable lust for God’s will isn’t about finding God at all.

Perhaps the life-halting intensity to discern his will is simply another mechanism used to earn his favor. We like the right answers, don’t we? The conditioned intuition that right answers equal good grades becomes our guiding motivation. But this can become a futile exercise in trying to correctly guess God’s next move for the reward of an A+ situation. Maybe we need to consider that the confusing silence is a way of letting us know we need to trust God wherever we find ourselves, no matter where that may be. As long as we keep seeking him we may never see him…right there, next to us.

Trust God’s present presence. Knowing him in the now will illuminate his reality for a then. He empowers and consumes every possible situation and potential circumstance. Believing in his infinite reach and unlimited adaptability will free us to move on, wherever that may lead.

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Josh Linton will be contributing to this blog every other Friday. More of his writings can be found HERE.  Follow Josh Linton on Twitter HERE.