Tag Archives: Good

Astounded by Darkness: Caving through Life

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Have you ever been in a cave? Not the tourist trap, sidewalk lined, electronically lit kind of cave; a real, native cave – the kind with headlamps and helmets and bats and mud and darkness…true darkness?

When I was in college, I was a member of a grotto (read: caving club). One beautiful North Arkansas evening we went to a native cave for some fun and exploration of God’s majestic underground creation. The entrance to this cave was at the back of a pond and the stream from the cave was that pond’s water source.

The entrance tunnel was low, so we were duck-walking while wading ankle deep in this stream. About a hundred feet into the cave we startled a group of bats. These were small like flying mice (without tails), and they were everywhere, even landing on my helmet. It was an experience I’ll never forget, but that’s not the part of this trip I want to tell you about.

When we got back in a ways, we decided to do some alone time in the cave and meet back together after a short time. I crawled along through the wet tunnels, gloved hands coated in mud, until I found a place I could sit in silence…alone. Then I did it…I turned off my light, and it was dark. Not the nighttime in the country with no moon dark – real dark. This was the darkness you can only experience underground – a subterranean darkness in which, try as you might you can’t see even your hand waving frantically six inches in front of your face. I know…I tried.

If you’ve never been in this kind of cave, it’s hard to imagine this literal kind of darkness, but maybe you CAN understand this figuratively.

As I go through life, I notice that I have to pay close attention to the perspective with which I view the world around me. If I see with a positive attitude, the world just seems to light up, but when I’m pessimistic, darkness reigns. Have you ever been there?

Back to my story…

After a few minutes, I turned my headlamp back on and decided to do a little more exploring before heading back to the rendezvous point. The tunnels were like Swiss cheese with each one connecting to the others so there shouldn’t have been a problem with me getting back.

My eyes were now accustomed to this dim light, this quasi-darkness, this twilight, so I thought I could see well enough. I crawled along at a quick pace, trying to see as much of the cave as I could before time was up, so I was looking straight ahead as I crawled. I let my hands “see” the floor. This is typical for being in darkness – using multiple senses to make up for the deficiency in one of the senses.

Up ahead, I saw a room that opened up, and I got excited. I thought it was a place I could go back and tell my crew about so they could come explore with me. What I didn’t realize was it was a room we had been in already, but that wasn’t the worst part. I didn’t stop crawling until I felt my fingers curl down. Remember, I’m “seeing” the ground with my hands. Suddenly, I stopped, heart racing, realizing I wasn’t on the floor of that room. I was actually on a small ledge about 30 feet above the floor. If I had kept crawling, even one more step, I would have gone headfirst into a painful fall that probably would have killed me. Close call.

What’s this have to do with life?

This event reminds me of what Jesus says in the bible about light and dark.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your while body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
— Matthew 6:22-23

He’s not talking about a literal light in our eyes. He’s talking about our perspective. My perspective in the cave was full of darkness, and it almost cost me my life. I was clicking along thinking I was safe, but I was in terrible danger all along and just didn’t know it.

When we have a pessimistic outlook, we see the darkness in the world, and have a fixation with that darkness. We can see the worst in any situation. How does that make us feel? The darkness consumes us. It’s not pleasant, and it can seriously danger your life. From relationships in family to friends to work, any relationship…even that with your very self can be killed when darkness is in our eyes.

BUT when we have the light in our eyes, we can see the good in circumstances. I have known many people with this attitude, and I want to be around them as much as possible…maybe it might rub off on me. When you fix your eyes on what is good, everything can be bright..even family strife and layoffs and church trouble.

Perspective is a choice. We get to choose how we look at the world, and our past definitely influences which view we take…but it is not our jailer. We can choose to see with light in our eyes even when our past has been dark.

I don’t know about you, but I want to have light in my eyes. I want others to see it in my eyes, and most of all I want to glorify God with the light in my eyes. What about you?

When we got out of the cave that night, it was about 10 pm. The sky was clear, and because we had spent so much time in the darkness, when we started looking for the lights in the sky, they astounded us. We were truly attracted to those lights. I have never been able to see so many stars in all my life because I had been in the dark so long.

As you start this journey from darkness into light, you may not be the brightest light at first, but you will grow, and you will find that people are attracted to the light that shines in you…even the smallest bit of light.

May you be full of light, and may God shine through you! If there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know at jddobbs@Verizon.net or call me at 245-1611.

God bless you all!

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If If’s and But’s Were Candy and Nuts…

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When I was growing up my mother had this saying that really annoyed me: If if’s and but’s were candy and nuts we’d all have a merry Christmas.

Back then I kind of understood it, but now I have a great appreciation for this saying.

Are you the kind of person who says, from time to time, “if only…”? What good does that do? When I was younger this was a popular habit of mine. I would beat myself up with the what if’s and tear myself down with the if only’s. These did me no good. They only made me feel worse.

So what about you? Do you have a past relationship that you’ve often wondered about? If only… Have you lost a job you loved, and you wonder “what if…”?

I find that when I have the mindset that regrets things not done that could have been then I am a miserable soul indeed. I even begin to go into conversations worried about having the right words or doing the right things to make everything go smoothly. I want the best from each moment of life, but the more I struggle to try to make each moment the best myself the more frustrated I am with the minute details of the moment that didn’t go right.

I am a big fan of the movie “The Matrix”, and I have seen all three of them multiple times. I’m not as big a fan of the second and third installments, but in the second movie there is a scene in which the trio that is out to save the world has a conversation that doesn’t go as they expected. One of them begins to complain about the situation when the character that is more prophet-like stops her and reminds her that it couldn’t have happened any other way, but there must be a reason for it to be that way.

When I saw this it reminded me of what Jesus said in Matthew 6. “Do not worry.” If I remember that God is always in control, then I can have much more peace in each situation. God has promised us to turn every situation out for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28). If I trust in that promise then I know that as long as I have surrendered my life to Him then whatever I put my hand to will turn out the way it was intended.

If I have prayed over a situation or conversation before I meet, then I can have peace that God will direct my words and actions. Even when I feel like things didn’t go as well as expected, I can trust that God used whatever was said or done to enhance the situation of all involved.

What this does is grant much more freedom. I no longer have to worry about how things are going to go. I don’t have to have regrets from the past. The things that happened happened and the things that will happen will happen. I am not in control. God is!

This also has great implications on whether or not I share the message of Jesus with others. When I am worried what they will think or whether or not I will have the right words, then I hesitate and often do not do the things which are necessary for their salvation. But when I surrender myself to God and His will, then it doesn’t matter whether or not I have the right worlds. All that matters is that I love the other person and try. God will give the blessing.

It is my prayer that you can be freed from a life of regret. May you stop saying the “what ifs” and the “if onlys”. May your life be fuller because of a lack of worry, and may you trust that God will certainly turn every situation out for your good.

If there is anything I can do for you or pray with you about, feel free to contact me at 245-1611 or via email at jddobbs@verizon.net. God bless you as you live in His freedom!


Like a Good Neighbor…

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How well do you know your neighbor?

I used to live in Arkansas on a dirt road several miles out of town. Our closest neighbor was across the street but you couldn’t see our next-door neighbors’ houses. It was nice living in the country. We would watch the sun set across the fields with the deer playing in the pastures. Our family would go for walks on the dirt road, and we knew the people that lived there. In fact, except for a couple of houses at the beginning of the road, the rest of the houses were owned by the same family.

It was a safe, wonderful place to live.

When we moved to Bay City the culture of where we lived changed dramatically. We went from living in the country to living in a subdivision. We went from having acres between us and our neighbors to having only a few feet between us.

All of a sudden we lived in a place where our we had to make a quick choice on how we would live. Would we retreat into our home and act like we still lived in the seclusion of the country, or would we get outside and meet those around us? Would we embrace the idea of living in community?

We chose the latter, and it has been a wonderful decision.

It is great to know my neighbors! I can honestly say I feel safer for our family because I know the people that live around us. In fact, they aren’t just acquaintances; they are our friends. Our children play with their children. One of our neighbors is an elderly lady who is as sweet as she can be and our children treat her like their own grandma. When we go out of town our neighbors are great about helping keep an eye on our house. Getting to know each of their personalities has been a treat!

Do you know your neighbors?

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”. But he didn’t stop there. Then he added, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Then, Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” To this, Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan. Many of you already know this story. In telling this, he opened up the scope of who is
our neighbor.

Our neighbors are not simply the other people in your particular congregation. Our neighbor isn’t just the person living next door. Our neighbor is anyone who is in need.

Often times I hear people who balk at the idea of doing evangelism because they just aren’t “gifted” to do that. What they don’t realize is that evangelism isn’t difficult at all. All we need to do is live for Jesus and keep the praise of God on our lips. But we cannot do this in a cave (we call it a house) or even inside a fort (often referred to as a church building). We must live this way in the context of neighbors. We cannot fulfill the second greatest commandment if we are never around the ones who are our neighbors. You have been placed where you live so that you can be a missionary fulfilling the great commission (Matthew 28:18-29).

So what should you do? My recommendation is to start by something simple. Maybe make some cookies and take them to the houses surrounding yours. When they answer the door, just let them know you’d like to introduce yourself. Then, every time you get the chance, talk to your neighbors. Don’t be in such a rush to drive in and shut the garage door. Do things in your front yard. Invite them over to dinner. Maybe you could even throw a Christmas party or some other gathering where your neighbors are invited to get to know one another.

In knowing and loving our neighbors we will be fulfilling the second greatest commandment, and we will be glorifying God in the process.

May you get to know your neighbors, and may your neighborhood be changed as Jesus infiltrates our community through your hospitality.

As always, if you need anything or would like to pray about something, feel free to contact me at 245-1611 or at jddobbs@verizon.net. God bless you, neighbor!


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