Hard Decisions

The joy of the season, the smiles and giggles of the kids, the bright lights and twinkling stars, children’s giggles and animated excitement are evident in our school these days. The Christmas spirit is in high gear as the calendar speeds towards the 25th. It is a holly, jolly Christmas.

Life seems to be centered on the holiday but behind the scenes the program business is still rolling along, tough decisions are being made, business must go on even during the holidays. In my job as in every other part of my life, I try to do the right thing, even if the right thing is the hardest thing.

When you are the one in charge of making the tough choices you have to have a clear goal and realize that in any given situation where you have to make a tough decision, there are lots of “easy answers” and one very difficult, albeit, right choice.

There is no question as to what the outcome has to be, no question at all, but that does not change the fact that it will be hard, painful, challenging and scary.

Sometimes the reasoning, research, guidance and prayer that went into hard decisions are not obvious to those the decision affects. That in turn results in hard feelings (no matter how you try to explain), harsh words and hurt feelings are common reactions in situations like this.

So how do you walk through the tough choices? Well for me, I ask myself these questions. The first question I ask myself is, “How do I make this decision from a Christian perspective” for me, the easy answer to that is…………………..to make my decisions from a Christian perspective. Really.

I am called to make all decisions, in connection with my Lord Jesus Christ, in total dependence on Him, with a humble attitude, a courageous attitude and joy in my heart that He is ready and available to help me.

I took the Proverbs scripture (11:14) seriously and I covered the decision in prayer. God made me a promise, ask and it will be given, so I ask.

#1 Pray

#2 Ask myself the following questions, will this be spiritually profitable, will it glorify God, is it fair, have I done my research, is this right decision for my program, have I looked at all sides, have I taken emotion and personal desires out of it?

#3 Pray

#4 Realize that not everyone around me is going to think the same way I do and not be surprised, hurt or angered by it. There could be several reasons for this. They have not done the working through the problem process I have done, they are emotionally invested, they have blinders on, they don’t see the full picture, others make just as big sacrifices and the hardships are not just one sided, well just lots and lots of reasons.

#5, Just do it.

Listing pros and cons is always a good thing, on the surface at least, but sometimes it can be a little bit like comparing apples to Christmas trees and you can get more confused than ever. I try to stick to researchable facts that can be measured and are justifiable.

I want to do the right thing, I want to please everyone and all sides, I want no hard feelings, no angry words and a positive transition. I am finding that is impossible, we are human, I have no control over the actions of others, then there is Murphy’s Law, which comes into play at the most inopportune times.

But once again I go back to what I said earlier, the right decisions are not always the easiest decisions and doing the will of God is not necessarily the easy answer, but that doesn’t mean it is not the right answer.

The bottom line is I have faith in the process used to make tough choices and am willing to stand behind tough decisions and won’t cave to peer pressure. I know that I didn’t make uninformed decisions but more importantly I had the very best guidance available to me and I utilitzed it. Thank you God, for being my wisdom, my guidance, my biggest cheerleader and my comfort when the “leader” seat got/gets hot. I stand in the wings of God’s Greatness.

So after I have achieved #’s 1,2,3 and 4. I move to #5 and leave the rest to God.

I have come to realize that often, doing the right thing doesn’t mean others will love you for it but others opinions do not alter the fact that the right thing is the right thing.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT).

DottieImage

Who was this Child?

 Have you ever really stopped to think about what happened that night in the stable? I mean, really thought about it?

Who was this child who lay in the manger?               

Though all children are precious, this wasn’t any child. The realities of who this child was are quite breathtaking actually.

The child in the manger in Bethlehem was God  and he was man.  He was both the creator of our universe and He was God’s begotten son. This baby was an expression of the love our Father has for us. He was God’s master craftsman, He was grace and truth and beloved Son.

In short, that baby in the manger was the Light for a dark world.

Don’t think God loves you? Can there really be any doubt? God gave his very best to us who are nothing more than sinners of the worst kind. If you look at the gift of the Son, you will see the Father.

God gave me this gift, not  in spite of who I am, (and this is the part that makes me breathless) he gave me the gift of His Son, because of who I am. How cool is that. There was nothing greater He could have handed down to me. He sent this baby because He loves me.

This is not some celebrated fable, not some big screen fantasy. This is the real deal. Mary and Joseph were real people who walked upon this earth. The baby in the manger was God. I don’t think that it is possible to really know Jesus or to gain a meaningful relationship if we do not understand that He was real, He is real and He will always be real.

God gave His Son to us and for us. There is no greater gift.

DottieImageImage

Is Christmas to commercialized?

Is Christmas to commercialized? I have mixed feelings on this subject but I do believe commercialism is in fact running rampant,   I also believe  that we have, at least to a certain extent, caused it by our own need to seek the perfect Christmas experience. We try to fill the perfect Christmas experience with Christmas glitter and glam instead of filling it with the one the holiday signifies.

I have  heard it said hundreds of times, Christmas is to commercialized, how we can’t believe that Christmas stuff is out in early October and that we have forgotten the reason for the season. However, that is usually uttered as we are rushing out the door to Black Friday or are hitting the stores with our Christmas lists in hand. We think Christmas has to be perfect and we contribute to said commercialism in our search for perfection.

We all long for the perfect Christmas. Maybe it is that longing that drives us to contribute to the commercialism that abounds this time of year. We go in search of the perfect Christmas tree, the perfectly cooked perfect meal, the perfect decorations.

I am even guilty of trying to make my dogs the perfectly outfitted canine Santa and Mrs Clause decorations, albeit decorations  that run around the house tearing up the other decorations.

I think I can be comfortable with a “less perfect” Christmas where there is more focus on the important details. The fact is this is a celebration to honor our King but as long as God knows I am taking the time to honor Him, He does not require perfection.

I can get a tree that is beautiful to me because of the ornaments made long ago by three very proud little boys, but it might not  be beautiful to anyone else.

I don’t have to spend all day cooking if I choose not to, a meal in a restaurant or a purchased meal will do just fine.

The cookies don’t have to be homemade and decorated, there is a bakery downtown that does a fine imitation.

What I am trying to say, in my longwinded way, is of course we all want the perfect Christmas experience and that contributes to the commercialism frenzy. The bottom line is however, that we can make Christmas whatever we need it to be, as long as what we need it to be centers on Christ.

Christmas is all about a humble Savior born in a barn, His parents were two very young adults that waded through a pregnancy that made her look dishonorable, Joseph thought about abandoning the whole situation , Jesus first bed was cold and hard, his first  clothes were rags, from all appearances it was just a baby in a barn.

It all screams imperfection,

……………………………. yet He still managed to rescue humanity.

He rescued me.

DottieImage

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I am guilty, I admit it. I get caught up in life, I forget to be thankful, I wallow in self-pity and play the oh poor me card to often. My heart gets heavy with the realities of life.

I forget that I have received the greatest gift possible.

Happily, I am up to my ears in Christmas. This is my favorite time of year. I love shopping for  the perfect gift for those on my Christmas list. I love cooking the old familiar foods that make the holiday “our Christmas” I want to make sure Christmas is as special to those around me as it is to me.

This year I want to dig deeper, to get to the real meaning of Christmas. We have all heard the saying “Jesus is the reason for the season” so often in fact that I am not sure we have taken the time to delve into what that really means.

It takes me back to the beginning. Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem to register. She was pregnant, tired, and probably desperate to find a place to rest.

Joseph inquired at an Inn, only to be told there was no room. So with great compassion the innkeeper gave them what he had, a place in the stable.  Not the ideal situation but he offered what he had. If not for the willingness of this innkeeper to give them a place in the barn, Jesus would have been born on the street.

It seems pretty generous.

I don’t know though, what if the innkeeper had known that Mary was about to give birth to The Savior of the World, the Son of God, The King of all Kings? Did the Innkeeper look back days, months or years later and say to himself, Why didn’t I try harder? Why didn’t I make room in the inn?  Maybe, just maybe the innkeeper only gave Joseph and Mary enough to feel good about helping and didn’t do all he could in the situation.

Is that what I do with Jesus every single day …………………only give Him enough of myself to make me feel good but not at all what God is asking me to give? He is knocking on my heart, there is no doubt about that, but am I giving Him the best I have to give, or just enough to make me feel good?

Am I giving Him all I have to give, does every fiber of my being crave the presence of the Most High or am I simply doing just enough to make myself happy………………..considering He alone can set me free………………….am I doing enough, am I settling for hor d’oeuvres when I can have the whole feast?

The Christmas Story

A virgin conceives,  Bethlehem, a crowded inn,  a birth in a stable, a King wrapped in rags and laid in a manger,  shepherds , a star in the east, wise men , gifts of gold, incense and myrrh, a gift of life.

The rest of the Story

Love, Calvary, crucifixion,  a cross, it is finished, a tomb, , an empty tomb, victory.

The real story

He did this for you, He did this for me.

Dottie

O Holy Night

What about Mary?

“Today in the town of David, A Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord”. Luke 2:11

That is probably one of the most famous and remembered scriptures in the Bible. But lets back up a minute.” A Savior has been born to you” ……..who birthed our Savior? This is an intriguing question to me. What about Mary? Who was she and what was her life like before this momentous event? How did it change after?

Can you imagine? Luke 1: 26-35, lets consider these scriptures a minute. God sent the angle Gabriel to  Nazareth to visit a virgin named Mary. The first thing the angel said to her when he greeted her was, you are highly favored, the Lord is with you. Instead of bringing great joy, this troubled Mary. Gabriel reassured her, telling her not to be afraid, that she had found favor with God. Then he drops the bombshell that she will conceive and give birth to a son and she was to name him Jesus. Gabriel goes on to say that Jesus would be great and called the Son of the Most High, that God would give Him the throne of his father David and He would reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom would never end.

Mary wondered out loud how this could be given the fact that she was a virgin. Once again Gabriel spoke mighty powerful words to Mary, saying the Holy Spirit would come on her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. The Holy One to be born would be called the “Son of God”

This called for a little research on my part into what life was like for a young woman living in those times. Mary lived under her fathers authority and was trained to protect the honor of her father. She could only speak to men when spoken to, she had to dress according to social standings and behave with exceedingly good manners.. Otherwise she would bring shame upon her father.

A woman was to be veiled, to be otherwise could result in divorce, they received little or no education, friendships were limited to other women and they were not taught the Law of God. Women did not eat with male guests and men of the time were discouraged from talking to women.

A husband could divorce his wife without her consent for a variety of reasons ranging from unchastity, burning a meal, or if he simply found someone he deemed more suitable. It was a society that placed women in the same category as oxen, donkeys or other possessions.

At the same time, women managed the household, the budget, cooked, cleaned, reared and educated the children, but seemingly all under the husbands direction.

I read that Jewish men of that time, thanked God they had not been born a Gentile, not been born a slave, or had not been born a woman. Oh my, what a challenging place to live, in fact, I doubt ,many women of today would stand still for such treatment.

Is it any wonder that Mary was “greatly troubled”? How in the world would she ever explain a pregnancy? Why did the angel visit her, a lowly woman? Who in their right mind would believe that she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit?

There were obvious implications for Mary, people might reject her, to be pregnant while engaged at that time, was a scandalous thing. If she were suspected of being unfaithful it could mean being single the rest of her life, being ridiculed and even being put to death. Plus if her father did not believe her and rejected her, she could be forced into a lifetime of begging or prostitution just to survive.

However, with a dignity and grace that I respect, Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant, May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Period, it was settled in her mind.

Seriously, how does one cope as Mary did, she was soon to be the Mother of the one who redeemed us all. She was to give birth to a perfect and hold child. She was pregnant with holiness and purity but yet she could not answer the questions  and disbelief that surely had to be pounding at her from all directions.

I heard someone mention that Mary was the only person who has ever shared a vessel with God. That is a wondrous thing. We have no idea what it is like to be able to say that, let alone do that. She literally carried the Lord our God in her earthly and delicate body. That gives a whole new meaning to the term “Holy Glow”

Mary had to have struggled with the task set before her, there had to be joy yes, but just as often fear, uncertainty and a feeling on being unworthy.

It is amazing to me to ponder the fact that God chose Mary to carry within her a holy child that was to save the world, that those two heartbeats were harmonized,  for 9 months Mary’s heart and Jesus’ heart beat as one., what an incredible gift!

In giving this gift to Mary, God gave us all a gift.

Thank you God!

Marry Christmas.

Dottie

Greatest Gift

947269_525451940823303_1739071908_nLucas and I this year.

How can one near fatal accident and one fatal accident be the greatest gifts I ever received? Let me tell you.

The Christmas season makes me think of the great gifts I have received over the years and the Christmas season makes me think of miracles. The greatest gift I ever received was all wrapped up in a miracle.
It was Christmas in July, July 9th, 2009 to be exact

The Greatest Christmas Gift I ever received.

I got the call every parent dreads about midnight. When I walked into the ER in a panic I was greeted with the  devastating news that  Lucas had been in a near fatal automobile accident, his injuries were life threatening and I better say goodbye. Time stopped, everything ceased to exist for me except what was happening to my son. Something happened inside me at that moment, something unexpected. I knew without a doubt that God was in control and I knew (even if Lucas didn’t) that God would give him the courage and strength to fight back. I said to the Dr. You obviously don’t know my son and you don’t know my God. We are going to beat this.

This is part of a newspaper article that appeared in our hometown newspaper.
July 17th, 2009
By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
His doctors are calling former Imperial resident Lucas Ridlen a miracle. The 27-year old
Gillette, Wyo. resident was critically injured in a one-car accident last Thursday July 9th about 9:15 p.m.
He sustained a broken neck, broken jaw, two broken shoulder blades, broken ribs, lost part of an ear, has critically bruised lungs, lacerated spleen and liver, a leaking esophagus, a severe concussion and blood around his aorta.
The vehicle ejected Lucas, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, upon the first roll. The vehicle then rolled two to
three more times, striking him at least once. Ridlen was unconscious when first taken to Campbell County Hospital in Gillette, then flown to the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper. He was later transferred to Elkhorn Medical Rehabilitation Center in Casper. No alcohol was involved.

There were a lot of things that happened that night that indicated to me that God was with Lucas. The first was when the accident happened Lucas was thrown from the car and ended up a great distance from where the vehicle eventually landed. He lay there in the dark a long time before anyone found him. The first hero that found him and sat with him until another came along was a black dog that mysteriously disappeared when help arrived.  Despite extensive efforts at a later time to locate him and his owner,  we could not find  any trace of such a dog in the area. But we know he was there, the teenager that found Lucas told us.

Now lets talk about that teenager. What makes a young man stop when he sees a car sitting in the middle of a field and trudge out in the darkness? What gives that young man an urging that he needs to search that field until he finds Lucas. God does. What gives that young man the wisdom to call 911 and actually be patched through to the ambulance on his phone to keep Lucas alive until the ambulance arrives. God does.

I wasn’t prepared for what greeted me at the hospital but immediately, and I do mean immediately when I was blindsided by tragedy, God took over. I was given the assurance that we would make it through this, I can’t explain it but I knew.

It took Lucas awhile to fully wake up and in the interim there were times of incredible stress but also incredible humor. Though not fully conscious Lucas was able to fight through the fog and make us laugh. Apparently he didn’t like to take his medicine because one time a nurse walked in with his meds and Lucas emerged from the fog long enough to inform us that Chuck Norris was his bodyguard and he wasn’t taking any damn medicine.
Another time when I was bugging him to quit being lazy and move his right side, he struggled to get his right arm raised up enough to flip me off.

God also decided to throw us another curve while we were dealing with Lucas’ massive injuries. This one I cannot explain but I also know God had his reasons. In another separate vehicle accident in NE just five days later, God took my precious niece and Lucas’ cousin Debbie home to be with him. She was a unique and glorious young wife and Mother that God decided He needed worse than we needed her here on earth. It was a raw kind of pain to deal with given our present circumstances but I was also reminded that I still had Lucas and since Debbie was now safe with God, it was ok to concentrate on what was going on here on earth.

It was a long summer and we spent most of it in Casper Hospital then in Elkhorn rehabilitation center. They trained Lucas to do basically everything again. He fought back from death and when he left the rehabilitation center he walked out amidst two rows of dozens of staff clapping and cheering him on.

That is without doubt the greatest gift I ever received, even if it was in July.
I was given the gift of receiving peace from God, I was given strength to help Lucas fight his way back, I was given wisdom and I was given comfort. I was given my son back.

What about Debbie? Well I have thought long and hard about that. I was given the chance to know this incredible young woman in a way many didn’t. I loved her as a daughter and I lost her. But I had her for awhile, we all did. She enriched our lives in ways that only Debbie could. To say she was a breath of fresh air and a ray of sunshine would be understating it by miles and miles. She was a gift to me for the time I had her.

For both these gifts God, I thank you.

Dottie

A Personal Road Captain for the Journey.

Psalm 48:14 For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.

I ask for guidance all the time and I know God answers my prayers. I have seen it happen again and again. However, I am human to the core and I not only need guidance, I need a detailed map, that has the plan laid out step by step with landmarks, photos, directions and a road captain.

This makes me think of our 4000 mile motorcycle vacation this summer, we had all the modern technological navigation devices available to man, we had a couple of GPS devices, and everyone had a map application on their phone. But that didn’t change the fact that we ended up turning around and going back to find the right road (a lot), then finally huddled somewhere along the route with Earl, Bob Welch and John P McClelland hauling the old standard, paper maps out of the saddle bags to help us find our way.

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It would have helped if we would have had someone along the way who knew the way and the plan intimately and who made sure we interpreted the information correctly. We didn’t however and we encountered many wrong turns, detours and aggravation but we did eventually arrive at our destination!

Like I mentioned earlier, I ask for guidance all the time, for personal reasons, to guide me at work, for every situation you can imagine. What I tend to forget is that I do have a personal Road Captain, I do have someone along with me who knows the details of the plan and who knows the way.
However, that human part of me likes to strike out on my own without waiting for God, my Road Captain and that causes countless detours and at times the road gets washed out completely and I have to start over from the beginning.

Though Earl, Bob and John got us to our destination and I love all three of them dearly, God is my Road Captain, the Bible is my detailed map and the Holy Spirit is always available to nudge me back on course.

It is nice to have a personally guided tour available to me.

Dottie