Secrets of Service – Danny Dodd

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Note: I’ve been working through a lot of old files and, honestly, most of it I’m throwing away. But I still find jewels along the way that I want to keep and share. This is one of those. This is from the church bulletin entitled Good Tidings From Skyway Hills Church of Christ, November 11, 1990. Their minister at the time was Danny Dodd. Enjoy.

SECRETS OF SERVITUDE

Many call themselves “servants of God.” It has become kind of a catch phrase. it sounds impressive, like a title. I once even saw these words below a name on a business card! But mere words are just empty connected letters. The proof as they say is in the pudding. James and John could call themselves God’s servants, but they had to learn what it really meant (Matthew 20:20-27). By learning and listening to Christ they found out. So too can we. Christ is the author of the Book on servitude. In it we can find out the not-so-secret secrets of servitude. Are you God’s servant? If so, you will serve…

Even Without Being Asked. Christ asked no one if His death on the cross was needed. He knew our hopelessness and had the power and ability to do something to help us. He saw our great need and He filled it. Why can’t we do the same? Why do we think we must be asked first to serve? There are many areas of ministry just waiting for servants. Jump right in! See a need and fill it. Don’t wait to be asked. “Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).

And Expect Nothing In Return. Was Christ looking for a reward for dying? He had already left the splendor of heaven. His only motive was our sins. Sometimes those who call themselves God’s servants only serve when they will be served in return. A “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” attitude. This just does not wash with God. True Godly service is motivated out of love only. Whatever blessings come as a result of such service are just icing on the cake!

Without Any Prejudice. Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34,35). Knowing this, who has the right to withhold Godly service to any person or group? A real servant knows nothing of color, social class, or political persuasion. They just know “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…” (Matthew 25:35ff).

In Humility. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; Who being in the very nature of God…made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant … He humbled Himself” (Philippians 2:6-8). These words speak volumes. Christ was not after praise or recognition. He left that up to the Pharisees who served to be seen of men. Likewise a real servant is unconcerned about who gets the credit as long as God gets the glory!

Untiringly. “Let us not become weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:9a). God’s true servants never stop, never quit, never give up! They don’t become too old, or too busy, or too stressful, or too used up. They “mount up on wings as eagles” and untiringly serve and serve the Master. They realize “for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9b). Amen!

So the not-so-secret secrets are out! Use them to get in the shape of a true servant of God. Make them a real, lasting part of your life everyday. God can only use you as His servant in this way. Believe and live it. Your service is needed!

_______________________

Danny Dodd is currently the Senior Minister for the Levy Church of Christ in North Little Rock, AR. Occasionally he posts on his blog, Adventures in Preaching.

Life Is So Good

I recently reviewed the book LIFE IS SO GOOD (link), but I decided to write some more of my reflections about the book. It is a very meaningful experience to read this account of the life of George Dawson. I hope you will take it up sometime. Oh, and there are some stories from the book below, maybe considered ‘spoiler alerts’! – John

I recently read a book entitled Life Is So Good, written by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman. It is the true story of George Dawson’s journey through the twentieth century. He was the grandson of a slave, born in Mississippi, and grew up near Marshall, Texas.

Life is so good and it gets better every day.” –George Dawson

There was one thing about Dawson’s life that seemed to attract the most attention. As the oldest son in his family, he didn’t get to go to school because he had to work on the family farm. His family was large and times were tough. His father, unable to feed the family on his meager earnings, took 12 year old George to a neighboring farm and left him there to be a field hand. He would come once a week and collect the wages his son had earned (less than two dollars). Because of their circumstances, George never learned to read. He found a way to make it though life without reading, though it was very difficult. So at age 98, George went back to school and learned to read.

An elementary school teacher, Richard Glaubman, read a news story about George learning to read at such an advanced age. He told his class about this remarkable man and they had so many questions! Richard decided to get in touch with George to see if he would answer the children’s questions. This began a friendship that over the next few years resulted in the book, Life Is So Good.

Do you think that George’s life sounds “good”? It certainly doesn’t mean that everything that happens is good. Nor does it mean we are always pleased with the outcome of our decisions and circumstances. It does mean that we have an attitude that looks above the difficulties to see the bigger picture. What are some lessons I gathered from George Dawson’s life?

People forget that a picture ain’t made from just one color. life ain’t all good or all bad. It’s full of everything.” – George Dawson

No one’s life is all good, or all bad. Once when George was asked about how difficult life was, he said, “People forget that a picture ain’t made from just one color. life ain’t all good or all bad. It’s full of everything.” George’s young life was influenced by the lynching of a childhood friend falsely accused of touching a white woman. He doesn’t shy away from the realities of his own life, both good or bad. He keeps his sights set, however, on the good.

Our attitude toward others cannot be determined by them, but only by us. George endured humiliating racism, had to learn his way through the complexity of living in a Jim Crow era, and learned the hard way that some people who pretend to be your friend really aren’t. But amazingly he doesn’t say anything negative about the people he met in his life that were cruel or deceptive. He realized early on, I think, the life is full of everything and you can see the good or the bad.

There is something to be said for someone who is willing to work. George Dawson worked for more than seven decades. Some of his jobs included breaking horses, driving spikes for the railroads, building levees on the Mississippi, and laboring on farms and in a sawmill.

George Dawson died in 2001 at the age of 103. In reflecting on his life, he said, “Son, people think one hundred years is a long time. Most folks just don’t understand. My life hasn’t been so long at all; seems short to me. It’s all gone by so fast. Life is so good and it gets better every day.” What a beautiful spirit.

The Social Dilemma

By now most of you have heard of The Social Dilemma, a documentary available on Netflix. It paints a frightening picture of how social media not only tracks and keeps up with our clicks and likes, but actually manipulates us through them. According to this documentary, we are not the customers of the businesses that buy advertising. We are the product being sold to businesses in the form of information and influence. It’s hard to argue with the concept as it is presented. It has credibility due to the people interviewed who worked for companies like Facebook, Google, Instagram, and many others.

This concept is not a new one to us in some ways. We all click “agree” when asked to agree to the terms of a website – often without reading them. Many websites we visit tell us that they use cookies, and it is necessary to agree to this in order to proceed.

I’ve read of those who have, after watching this documentary, logged off of all social media. There is probably some wisdom in that, but there is also a sacrifice.

Are We Permanently Connected?

On a personal level, how many relationships have we established … and re-established … because of Facebook. I can name several people with whom I enjoy staying in touch. Without Facebook that wouldn’t have happened. The Bible Study groups I was a part of for the years before Facebook (like Berean Spirit) provided connections I still treasure. It sounds funny, but an MSN group called Aunt Bee’s Parlor was operated by a godly Christian woman in Canada and provided a lot of encouragement and a haven for those who were hurting and needed ministry of prayer and the Word. I’m still friends with “Aunt Bee” (Yes, I do know her real name!) and some of the people in that group. Those relationships have endured because of, primarily, Facebook. Not to mention family connections, high school friends, and the groups feature that has also provided many opportunities.

On a professional level, I’m not sure how to proceed forward without Facebook. Our church’s Facebook page is the location for our video Bible studies and interactions. Newly interested people can find out about what our church is like and interact with the ministers there. We have 50 in person, but 250-350 watching online. It’s a great front door to our church – much more so than our website. Our church Facebook group is not public, so it allows us to share things there without involving the wider Facebook world. We are together in person a few hours a week (some of us) but on Facebook we are connected every day throughout the week. That’s valuable to me. I’m sure there are churches that are doing just fine without any of that, but it surely keeps them from casting the net as we hope to be doing.

The Social Dilemma isn’t all about Facebook alone. It details how Google uses their various offerings to gather information, including Gmail. Google owns YouTube, Facebook owns Instagram, and on it goes. It’s almost enough to make you want to be a social media hermit.

Almost.

Have you been uncomfortable about the amount of information available about yourself through using these kinds of social offerings? The Social Dilemma contends that it’s not just about mechanical usage, but psychological manipulation, addictive behaviors (do you keep feeding pretend cows and plowing pretend fields?), and predictive sales. We already know that there’s a thin veil between our conversations in front of our phones and computers and the ads that show up the next time we log on.

What About Young People and Children?

Another emphasis of the documentary is the effect this is having on young people and children. I didn’t grow up with the online world in front of my face. Maybe we won’t know the result of this until it’s too late. But this documentary is giving us some insights if we want to hear them.

The truth is that even if we acknowledge the facts presented by The Social Dilemma, I’m not sure many people are going to actually change anything. I’m not sure I can change much. If I switch to one of the emails they suggest, then I’ve got to pay a yearly fee for freedom from sharing my personal information. I guess that’s fair, but I use several products in the Google suite (Drive, Docs, etc.). That’s hard to give up.

So I don’t know what to do this information. I can use Safari more than Google. I can change my email and pay the fee (It’s not THAT much). I can stop playing games, even though I do enjoy them. I can try to help parents to see how this is overtaking their children’s personalities. Remember, I thought I was high tech when I got a beeper. Now, no one under 18 would know what a beeper is.

Your phones, computers, laptops, iPads, and tablets are connections to the world around you. But they are also connections of the world around you into your private world. That’s uncomfortable.

I suppose that’s why it’s a dilemma. I’d love to hear your reactions to the documentary.

In A Weary Land

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Whatever things exist to divide us (and there are plenty), there is one thing that I think we can all relate to – and that is that we are weary. It feels like a new weight comes to settle on our shoulders every single day. I am intentionally NOT a news person, but it’s hard to avoid the headlines of each day. Some days I give in and doomscroll through Twitter, and if there is a common voice on that platform it expresses that we are weary. I’m not even going to start the list, we all know it by heart. And just when we kind of feel some equilibrium with this new world in which we live, some new reality hits. We’re not waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’re watching our world drop. I sincerely wish that was an exaggeration.

Every. Single. Day.

It’s been a learning curve, this life under the weight of a pandemic. We haven’t all coped as well as we would have hoped. Drugs, alcohol, and suicide all have risen during our time with COVID. I’m going to guess that is just the tip of the melting iceberg. The failure to cope has led to its own kind of weariness.

So what I’d like to do is give you ten quick steps to overcome weariness and bounce back into the life you had before an invisible virus spread across the world. I have seen many of those lists and we should not reject them. But I think there’s something a little more basic that’s on my mind right now.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1, ESV

Weariness as a human condition is not reserved for pandemic realities. That truth alone gives me some encouragement. In a day when we are feeling alone, we are not alone at all. King David called out to God from a spirit of weariness, long before we were asked to wear masks and stay out of crowds.

Weariness is not necessarily an evil thing. If all human beings experience weariness from time to time in their lives and if David felt he could bring that before the Lord, then maybe my own weariness isn’t the worst thing. If I employ coping mechanisms that are destructive, that’s another issue. But to be weary, to acknowledge that I’m carrying some some extra weight on the shoulders of my mind, is something I need to feel free to acknowledge.

Weariness is not permanent. It’s good to know that it won’t always feel this way. Even during these past six months, there have been moments of reprieve and joy, smiles and rest. God’s mercies are new every morning. While we might be focused on the bombshells that seem to come every single day, we can also remember His mercies that come every single day. Those are not just empty words to cheer us on, they are Divine truths from a God who knows what we are facing.

Every. Single. Day.

Weariness can be a catalyst. As we have noted, sometimes it is a catalyst for destructive coping habits to develop. But that’s a choice. We can choose, instead, to let weariness be a catalyst to turn our hearts toward prayer, spending our lonely times in greater awareness of God’s faithful presence. It can shift our attention outward – there are some people who have moved beyond weariness into poverty of spirit and life. Can you help?

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;  his mercies never come to an end;  they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV

I don’t think weariness should be denied. It shouldn’t become the theme of our lives, either. It is a reality. It hurts. It looms over us at times. It comes in waves. Believe me, I know.

But weariness as our common experience can present some unexpected opportunities and move us into some unexpected platforms of service, love, and inward satisfaction. As King David expressed his spiritual thirst, he also expressed his hopeful answer. God is the One in whom we find our spiritual thirst satisfied, our weariness addressed.

I know a lot of you have been really wrestling with weariness. I just wanted to say, don’t give up. Out here, hope remains.

Review: Life Is So Good

Life Is So GoodLife Is So Good by George Dawson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have so many books I want to read that when a friend gives me a book to read, I am usually reluctant. It’s true I was this time also. But I trusted the friend and began to read. I’m so glad I did.

Richard Glaubman, an elementary school teacher in Washington State, was reading the newspaper at his table when he ran across a story of a man who learned to read at age 98. He told his class about this man and they had lots of questions. So he decided to call George Dawson, and that set in motion the events that resulted in Life Is So Good.

Reading about the life of George Dawson was revealing of the history of race relations in the South during the past century. There was something about Dawson that touched my heart. The way he talked about those who mistreated him, the perseverance of spirit that never allowed anyone to steal his true self, and the revelation toward the end of the book that demonstrated both his growth and the growth of his writing partner, Richard Glaubman.

I think most anyone would be enriched by reading this amazing life story. For many people today, to understand the conditions and boundaries of growing up impoverished and Black in Mississippi and Texas during the past century – there’s a lot to learn about the struggles of that journey. Dawson doesn’t complain about it, but he does reveal it in honesty and grit. But it’s also a family story. The principles of living he learned from his father gave him the strength to be a man committed to hard work, wisdom, honesty, and how those qualities guided him through the maze of the Jim Crow era.

Dawson’s story is a testament to perseverance and hope. I highly recommend this book to anyone, young or old. It is inspirational and instructive. Thanks, Keith, for sending me a book and encouraging me to read it. I’m glad it’s not in my too-large ‘to-read’ book pile.

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