Paul's Passing Thoughts

Christmas, Family, Life, and Church According to the Dohses

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 17, 2013

ppt-jpeg4Most people who read here know me simply as “paul,” but I am Paul Dohse, one of the “Dohse” family. In case anybody hasn’t noticed, the world is a crazy place, and mostly perplexing to the reasonable soul. This week, amongst the craziness that is unavoidable in this world, the word “family” came up often.

Perhaps there is not a word that is used more loosely. The usage found most incredulous is employee as “family.” The Olive Garden restaurant used to have a commercial that said you are family while you are eating there: “When you’re here, you’re family.” Motorcycle gangs are often touted as family also. Many claim that the mob or some street gang is the “family I never had.”

So, is “family” a company, an Italian gathering of gluttony, or a criminal enterprise? I think it is something much deeper. I think God wires family within us. Family must be defined by watching it over time. Family is a mystery—something deep, it can only be defined by what it does.

However, some elements of family are evident, and that’s where the confusion comes in. Families supply a need, or a perceived need; for example, money which leads to confusing a job with family. A residual need supplied by an entity does not make a family. A family is a refuge that enables one to stand against the world.

And, I have learned something about families by examining the Dohses. We have something to add to the conversation. I have noticed that some families act different from our family, and I wondered, “why?”

Many things make up the Dohses, but I think since I do not have the rest of my life to fully evaluate us, as would be the necessary discipline to evaluate any family comprehensively, I will choose the most prominent place in view at this time. I think what primarily makes the Dohses the Dohses is the Whistmans, my grandparents. A family forged by an orphan named Elwood who had little family.

Now, I will describe their motif, but we must go deeper; what forged this motif? They were just simply always there. Their little plot of land in a secluded area of southern Ohio was a refuge away from the world—if family, no reservations required. And though counseling was always available from my grandmother—no qualifications required. My grandmother was a woman of deep convictions; God is a Democrat and she would never back down from that fact, but if you were family, you could be a Republican, and many of us are. Really, she set that standard for the Dohses; you make your position known and then you get on with being family. Besides, the hope of “I told you so” always lingered in the future.

No qualifications, only hope of a better future. As a young person, I often lost touch with my grandparents, but sometimes needed a refuge, a time away from the world. I would simply pack a bag and throw it in whatever I was driving at the time. Arrival time had to be planned for 7pm, this set the scene that was as sure as the setting and rising of the sun. The clanging of the gravel driveway aroused my grandmother from her chair in front of the TV, on channel 3, and my grandfather would remove the pipe from his mouth and ask, “Who is it?” My grandmother would stand at the door and announce who was arriving. Upon walking in the door, the conversation was a continuation of the day before, whenever that was. It was 25 steps to the guest room with the suitcase, and then 15 steps to the leftovers being placed on the table: rabbit, fried potatoes, beans, marinated cucumbers, chicken, and without fail, “I’m sorry that there isn’t much to eat.” No reservations needed.

Importance of family was forged into my grandparents by life itself. My grandfather was an orphan, and married into my grandmother’s family of seventeen siblings. During those times, the formation of a large family required the courage of love. They laughed together, worked together, supported each other, and mourned together when one of their own was struck down by the world. Their family, our family, was spared no category of tragedy. My mother, as a young girl, would go to the post office daily to check the posted list of fallen soldiers during WWII. Our family members were on that list too many times. My grandparents were a perfect symphony of one rescued from loneliness into the different seasons that come part and parcel with family. Hence, family was invaluable to them.

What good is any narrative about family without a juicy confession? This isn’t off-topic, and I will explain. Being a Dohse has taught me about another entity that uses the word, “family” loosely. That entity is the church. It shouldn’t be that way, that’s not what God intends, but it is. Since becoming a Christian in 1983, the church has taught me life’s most important truths, but it has never been my family. I have observed this mystery called “family” over the years and drawn a conclusion: The Dohses are a family, not the institutional church.

Why is this? It’s because Christians are not thinkers. This problem started in the Garden. God created Adam and Eve, and they talked with God face to face. Then the serpent came along and convinced Eve that thinking for herself was a bad idea.  And the institutional church also thinks the same. You are not able to reason directly with God, you need a spiritual expert. The key to revival in the American church is the thinking Christian. When God said, “Come, let us reason together,” that wasn’t a memo given to the institutional church—He is talking to you. Until Christians figure that out, the claim on family is no more relevant than the same claim posited by Wal-Mart. As a Christian, and in the darkest hours when the world sought my life, it was the Dohses that spared no sacrifice in giving me refuge. It was the Dohses who did all they could, it was the Dohses who left everything on the field except that look that said, “if only I could do more.”

Church is a family as long as you agree with them. Yes, truth is important; the love of truth defines a Christian for God is truth, but Christian truth in our culture is defined by the traditions of ecclesiastical experts and parroted by lazy thinkers obeying the commandment that supposedly thunders from Mt. Sinai: “THOU SHALT NOT THINK FOR YOURSELF!” The gospel of oligarchy produces a family that is best defined by a used car salesmen—you are family while you are buying a car from him.

The Dohses also hold forth some valuable examples that are residual. It is a family of people who have always sought to focus on something bigger than themselves. This is helpful. Failure seems to be somewhat irrelevant; the goal is what is relevant. This eliminates a lot of pettiness. Yet, I must confess, the loyalty motif among those of different religions, politics, race, and sexual preference, in essence, the Dohses, is still a mystery to me.

Recently, my wife of three years, Susan, and I have endeavored to blend her family with the Dohses. And that’s who we are, at least to the degree that I can make sense of it. We are opinionated because we think for ourselves, we are diverse, at times very annoying, but always there. No reservations needed.

So, this Christmas is a major holiday, an opportunity to recognize family, not cheap substitutes that don’t have to live with you. This is the day we raise our glasses for a toast, and say, “Us against the world.” And somewhere grandmother is with us in a spirit born of a time when the world launched a blitzkrieg against her family. And she approves.

And this is my vision for my family: that we will all live together in eternity—you know where I stand. And this is my vision for what people in our day call church: that thinking Christians would stand, and these two would kiss: family and truth.

In both, the hope of a better future, Christ in us, the hope of glory.


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Belated Thoughts On Christmas: “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 14, 2012

December 1, 2011

I’m full of anticipation.  Today is the day that we will clean the house and I will begin to put up the Christmas decorations. Please take note of the two pronouns we and I in the previously written sentence.   Originally, the anticipation was just me, myself, and I. In our new home, it appears that I am singular in feeling absolutely juvenile and crazy about Christmas.  Not store bought Christmas, but my way of celebrating Christmas. What a surprise when Paul woke me up early with coffee and announced: “After the house is cleaned, I’ll help you with the decorations.” Shut my mouth and call me speechless!

In my first marriage to Wayne, we had Christmas secrets, allowed Christmas lies, Christmas hiding places, and Christmas traditions were brought from our two families, as well as many we created ourselves. Some rules about Christmas were made up on the spot, but there were two rules that never changed:  Christmas doesn’t happen until the house is clean, and if you find the Christmas hiding places and see your presents before Christmas Day, you cannot play with them until January 25th.  My three boys who are now 24, 21, and 15 had great joy telling Paul’s son how they worked the whole Christmas scenario. You find the hiding places but keep your mouth shut.  Then on Christmas Day you give an Oscar winning performance to Mom and Dad expressing extreme happiness and surprise.

House cleaning ended up being just the living room where the Christmas presents were located.  How they cleaned their own rooms is a story in itself.   One Christmas, I worked so hard at finding Christmas hiding places I forgot where I hid the stocking stuffers. I came across them accidentally a few months later.  They became Easter basket surprises.

The one tradition I particularly love and will keep on doing until the day I die, or the Lord returns, is the selecting of Christmas ornaments.  Every year I find a Christmas ornament for each family member that reflects a special accomplishment, event, or quirky thing that happened that year.  For example, one year Ben was fascinated with wolves. I made curtains for his bedroom from a wolf print fabric. He had wolf wall paper, and had “adopted” a wolf and had its poster on the wall of his room.  A beautiful Belgian handcrafted wolf head ornament was found at an out of the way shop in Beavercreek. Every year we find that special spot on the tree for the wolf and repeat the many funny and sentimental stories about Ben’s love for wolves.  It was my oldest son, Tim’s delight to ask for his ornaments last Christmas to decorate the first tree he and his new bride would have.  I have to say, there were so many ornaments they may have to get a bigger tree in the future.   (I have their special ornament for this year ready to be wrapped.)

So, in the midst of the yawns and “here we go again” comments, what’s all of this hoop-la about, any way?  Well, friends it’s about remembering and anticipation, two very biblical concepts.  In the Old Testament when a significant event happened, a memorial was erected. The feasts and special days were established as memorials, remembering what God had done, and also as anticipatory celebrations, looking forward to what God was going to do for the nation of Israel.  The animal sacrifice requirements were set into practice in order to help His people remember their sinfulness, their total dependency upon Jehovah, and to create an anticipation for the coming Messiah/Redeemer.

My way of celebrating Christmas can be compared to the celebrating of the feasts and memorials in the Old Testament—remembering and anticipation.  As the ornaments are hung years of memories unfold.  Not all of the memories are happy ones. There are sad and lonely memories, hopeful as well as hopeless ones.  But it causes me to remember His faithfulness throughout the years. It fills my heart with anticipation. I look ahead to what He is going to do for us tomorrow and throughout this coming year. I anticipate His blessings and His return.  The ornaments I hang and decorations I arrange are my memorials of remembrance and anticipation. I hope your Christmas will be a truly memorable one and the New Year is full of anticipation for you and your family!  susan

Post Script:

It’s Beginning to Still Look a Lot Like Christmas!

January 12, 2012

Here it is almost the middle of January and all of our Christmas decorations are still up! Paul wants me to keep them up until at least February.  He claims that he is going to make plans for elaborate outdoor decorations for next year! What a change from when were still dating during Christmas last year and I couldn’t get any help or enthusiasm about the holidays. I really don’t mind the decorations still being up, but elaborate outdoor decorations are up for lots of negotiation.    


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The Christmas Gift: Wear it Well

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 25, 2010

Here we are at that time of the year, once again, when we “celebrate” the birth of Christ. We do so (even though Christ has only commanded us to remember his future return, not His birth), by exchanging gifts on a day of which the date is not documented by God’s word, though many other days in the Bible are. And the gift thing: what’s that all about? Most say that the gift-giving represents the ultimate gift given to mankind by God, the baby Jesus, but trust me, that means many different things to many different people.

Most people walking the face of the earth are familiar with the Judeo-Christian representation of the gospel. Christ came to die on the cross to satisfy God’s demand that the penalty of sin be payed for because God is a righteous, holy, judge. But why did Christ come as a baby? Well, lest you see God as judge only, this shows another side of God’s loving character towards mankind. Christ came and first lived among mankind to fully identify with us and our struggles before enduring the incomprehensible shame and suffering of the cross. That’s God. He desires to have fellowship with us, and makes that desire known by coming to us where we dwell. His children will not spend eternity in heaven; God will come and spend eternity with us. Revelation 21:1-4 states it this way:

“I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth were completely gone. There was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem. It was *coming down*[emphasis mine] *out of heaven from God.* It was prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne. It said, “Now God makes his home with people. He will live with them. They will be his people. And God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or sadness. There will be no more crying or pain. Things are no longer the way they used to be.”

Heaven first came down in the form of “Emmanuel” (God with us), but in the end, heaven will come to us, and dwell with us forever. But Christ came to offer us a gift that will make that eternal dwelling possible: the gift of righteousness; his righteousness, the only righteousness that can dwell with God. We receive this gift by faith alone because there is nothing we can do to earn it. Besides, we have all sinned in the past, and therefore, “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” That’s the issue. What can we do by ourselves to gain the righteousness God requires? I think you know the answer to that.

However, if you have accepted this gift, you have been given the true righteousness of Christ in the truest sense. But like that new sweater grandma gave you for Christmas, will you put it on? “That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:20-24).

In fact, the Bible says that those who have accepted the gift of righteousness by Christ, will put that gift on: “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.” Sure, what still needs to be “put off” will remain in a continual lesser degree until Christ comes to get us; but, because of the day that Christ does say to remember, his return, let us be wearing the Christmas gift, and wearing it well: “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming” (1John 2:28).


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