The Rotary Club Dictionary Project

By most any standard, I’m a pretty lousy Rotarian – having my irons in too many fires to ever see this service club make it to the front burner of my life. I’m the Rotary Club equivalent of the church person who attends once a month and expects a fine sermon from the senior pastor and an entertaining worship service!

But a Rotary Club project that I am fond of and always participate with is the Dictionary Project – where we give the 1400 students in Washington County Schools a dictionary of their own to possess and use. We break into teams and cover the schools with a little presentation.

The past several years I have really enjoyed going to Conococheague Elementary School on the National Pike west of Hagerstown. This year I was with Curt Dudda and Rev. Kevin Munroe of Zion Reformed.

I am impressed every year at every place I have gone at how attentive the children are and how well-organized and orderly are the classes. The kids really are simply a lot of fun to meet! I do the part of the program on “how to use your new dictionary.”

Salubrious Salsa

After a couple of “speed rounds” of finding common words, I talk about the primary usage of a dictionary to give us word definitions – describing as well that some words have various meanings. Since my favorite word “salubrious” is not in this elementary dictionary, the word I use to illustrate definitions is “salsa” (which as I’m sure you all know is more than just a spicy dip or sauce!). The last several years there has been a child in the class who also knew it to mean a style of dance or music. And then I always surprise one of my partners by asking him to demonstrate the dance!

Is it -ant or -ent?

I have never been a great speller, and I feel that one of the great advances in civilization not far removed from Gutenberg is the computer spell check. Yet there are times when I still use a dictionary to figure out how to spell something. Somewhere in my attention deficit disorder-afflicted educational career, I completely missed whatever spelling rules govern –ent and –ant endings. So, I put the words “pendant” and “pendent” on the board and asked the kids to choose which was correct. It was an even split of hands raised. So … to the dictionaries! I was praying that a girl would find it first … and one did, because I had a pink soccer ball pendant/pendent from my family’s Potomac Bead Company ownership to hang around her neck! She was mighty pleased indeed!!  Oh… which is correct?… you don’t know? LOOK IT UP!

The bookmarks!

Corrected by a 3rd Grader

A final moment was to also give each student a bookmark courtesy of Hagerstown Community College – which said on it “see you at HCC in 2022.”  And I mentioned as they were being distributed that the college slogan is “stay near, go far.”  But one of the little girls corrected me and said, “No it is ‘stay CLOSE, go far!’”  She is correct!  And, what does that illustrate?  (… beyond my ignorance? … and beyond that a good slogan goes a long way?)  It is an illustration of how a dictionary may be used to find synonyms (and I just had to look up how to spell that word!)!

The little girl on the left is wearing her pendant she won!

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Cat Food: The New Forbidden Fruit

Is this where we are headed in Obama’s America? Where all of us end up eating government supplied cat food as our dietary staple? Maybe it won’t be so bad …

The most sought after and fought over food on our farm is the food in the cat’s bowl!

We have sufficiently disciplined our dog to longer sneak around and steal it. But when Nathan and Allie’s dog stays with us, the cat gets little to eat – all this from a dog who rather hates eating dog food and actually eats very little of anything.

However, now our free-ranging chickens have decided they too want to eat the cat’s food. Some of them have begun to come right up on the back porch and eat it all in full view of the feline! As final evidence that the world is turned upside down in Obama’s America, the chickens today chased the cat off the porch and away from her bowl! She has to be thinking, “And this is the thanks I get for not eating you when you were the size of a chicken nugget?”

To desire to have what you are not supposed to have and possess as your own … that is a condition not limited to the animal kingdom. In fact, it goes back to the very first of human problems – the mother of all sorrows and sadness and sickness and death. Forbidden fruit.

Learning contentment within our circumstances is a great challenge. It may, in fact, be at the very center of the primary lesson that God would have us learn – to trust Him today, right NOW, and in spite of whatever is going on around us. Consider these biblical admonitions:

Philippians 4:11-12 … I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

1 Timothy 6:6 … But godliness with contentment is great gain.

Hebrews 13:5 … Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

So Close, but So Far …

I recently had the occasion to go to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore to visit someone from my church. I parked in a nearby deck and walked a couple of blocks to enter the front door of the facility. As I crossed the street to approach the entrance, lying there on the sidewalk was a man who had been rather obviously stricken with some critical medical emergency – so close to the door of the hospital that he was literally in the flower bed about 25 feet from the entrance.

At about the same time as I was walking up to this scene, from blocks away one could hear an emergency vehicle en route for the purpose of assisting this individual. By the time that the medical care arrived, he had been in that position for quite a while; and even then, he was going to be loaded into the vehicle and driven around to another side of the facility.

And so I thought – what an irony … that this man was so close to the care that he needed that he could have almost rolled over through the front door, and yet he was very, very far away from getting the assistance he so desperately required.

And I thought also – that is the spiritual condition of so many people whom I know and love. They are so close, but yet so far. They have some interests in things related to knowing God, but they really do not have a relationship with Him that is evidenced in any way by the patterns of their lives. They always intend to make this issue a matter of priority, but they never seem to bring it front and center and act upon it.

But here’s the point: rolling through the door of the hospital and being inside would do this man no good unless he also met a physician who could help him … but getting inside was a necessary first step. And likewise, getting into church is not going to really cure your disconnection from God unless you meet up with Him there – the Great Physician … but getting inside is a really good first step.

May I invite you my friends – so many of you being local people who read my writings – to come inside the doors at Tri-State Fellowship beginning this Sunday (9:30). We begin a new season of ministry with a new way of worshipping and gathering … and we begin also this Sunday in a new teaching series called “Belong.”

Do you “belong?”  Do you really know God and have a relationship with Him that informs the steps of your lives today and guarantees you an eternal future with Him? If you fear you may not “belong,” we can help you out!  Don’t just remain so close, but so far.

A physician named Luke, who wrote one of the Gospels quoted Jesus saying, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

And Jesus himself said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Talking to and Hearing from God

My 3-year-old granddaughter Bella – who is unusually verbal for her age – was recently asked by someone what she likes to do. Her answer was, “I like to talk to God. You can talk to him anywhere. He can hear you but he doesn’t talk back very loud.”

After a chuckle at the humor of such a little one saying something like this, I’m guessing that a lot of people quietly agree with the entire statement. Yes, it is true that God may be talked to at any place and any time. And I don’t think many folks really doubt that God hears them. It is the final part of it that is difficult – how does God talk back? And yes, it often does not seem to be very loud or clearly definitive.

How do we hear from God? Where do we find his guidance and his will? Of course we need to be praying and seeking his direction.

Certainly God uses our circumstances and life events to speak to us. There are times where even extraordinary events upon the pathways of life may open or close doors and thus provide guidance to us.

As well, there is what we often call “the witness of Spirit” – that inner sense of either peace or discomfort surrounding decisions and opportunities that grant some measure of leading.

But the primary method of God’s guidance is through Christ and his Word – the Scriptures. It says in Hebrews chapter1 that “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”  That would indeed be a way cool thing to hear from God through prophets and miraculous voices. But God’s truth has been revealed in the person of Christ, and of course all that we know of Christ is contained in the perfect written record of the Scriptures.

So to know God’s direction – to hear his voice a bit louder – one has to know the Bible. And that is the focus that we have at TSF – in our sermons and classes and small groups of all sorts. If you are not a part of these opportunities, now is the best time of year to jump in.

Boy Stories

Each of my five boys has a story or two from their childhood that gets repeated over and over by family members above all others.

For our fourth son, Jesse, it is the time he was about seven or eight years old – celebrating his August birthday. He was opening some presents and displaying a very snarky and totally unappreciative attitude about the whole process. So, to fix it, we took his presents away and did not give them back to him until Christmas! He’s been a thankful child ever since!

However, that story is in jeopardy of being replaced by another that happened here today.  Jesse may be about the most intense and disciplined person I’ve ever known. He is currently on pace to read about 120 books this year; he turns in written assignments to professors a week or two in advance; and he will pack for a trip about four day before departure!

McKeldin Library at UMD

Well, today he called home from the library at the University of Maryland at College Park – where he transferred just this semester to matriculate into the Smith School of Business. Apparently he was studying in a corner of the library, when after a time of encroaching darkness realized upon investigation that the library had actually closed two hours previously! So he called the campus police to come extricate him by unlocking the doors! I don’t think that happened to me at college.

So, what are the other boy stories?  Here is a sampling from each:

Nathan: His little girl Bella is taking after him with a fascination with listening to recorded Bible stories at bedtime. It is amazing what Nathan learned and recalled from this very young, pre-school-age ritual. One night after having gone to bed, he came to the top of the steps and yelled, “Daddy, back in Bible times, people had arms, right?”  And I said, “Yes, of course, why would you ask that?”  And he replied, “Because here on my Bible story tape about the Israelites escaping from Pharaoh, they said to Moses, ‘How can we fight the Egyptians, we have no arms!’”

Benjamin: Most of Benjamin’s stories involve the pilfering of forbidden foods – always containing sugar. All the boys did this to some extent, but none quite like Ben. One of their targets was stealing frozen mini-marshmallows from the chest freezer in the basement. On a particular occasion, Diana found a bag of thawed-out chicken parts that had been accidently not put back inside when a theft occurred. She gathered all the boys (only 3 at that time), and demanded to know who’d dun it! Everyone professed innocence. But Ben blew his own cover – while touching the bag and saying, “That’s funny, they felt like bones yesterday!”

Aaron: As the third oldest, he was at times the innocent bystander of conflict between the two older brothers. I know, I know – picturing the Aaron we know today as the quiet bystander of ANYTHING is difficult to believe. One night at the dinner table, there was a conflict between Nathan and Benjamin that caused me to go off on both of them rather severely … or at least such that, when I was finished, a total hush fell over the dinner table. Suddenly, Aaron simply said in a quiet, matter of fact way, “I’m always a good boy!”  Diana and I totally lost it!

Caleb: When he was quite young we were visited by some of our Texas family. We took a day to visit Washington and see the sights there. We were walking through Arlington – where Caleb ran ahead of the rest of us and jumped up and sat on a post. As we got close to him, he said with a slight grin, “I’m stuck, I can’t get down.”  His shorts had bunched up under him, and he could not move in any direction. I really did think he was kidding, and so I just told him to stop fooling around and jump down. At that point, he broke into a flood of tears, “I really am stuck here; I can’t move!!” Since you see his 6’2” presence around church, you know that I did not leave him there!  Actually, just a few weeks ago when in Philly on the way home from the Jersey shore, Caleb re-enacted the situation on a post in front of Independence Hall… and here is the picture: