It’s staggering how much change can occur in one week.
Just over a week ago we were still meeting in-person—albeit cautiously. We stared incredulously at the empty grocery store shelves formerly housing untold brands of toilet paper, antiseptic wipes, and fresh meat. We began to pay closer attention to what the COVID-19 pandemic was going to mean for Canada.
Conversely, this week, when it should have been non-stop hangouts with friends due to March Break, we were diligently social-distancing. Our extroverted nineteen-year-old daughter, Elanna, came home from Toronto to hunker down at our place. Our equally extroverted 11-year-old, Keira, couldn’t fathom why I was mandating a no playdate policy. In an extraordinary act of self-control, I kept myself away from our two-month-old grandson the entire week. Continue reading “What a Difference a Week Can Make”
Recently, my sister and I enjoyed dinner at a local Thai restaurant. While waiting for her to arrive, a woman, quite advanced in years, entered the restaurant. We smiled and exchanged a polite hello as she found her way to a table behind me. My sister arrived and soon we were caught up in conversation while consuming our curry. After some time, I noticed the woman saying her goodbyes to the staff.
She passed by the restaurant window just below us, a frail form bend over her cane. Minutes later, she was back again, and the staff spoke kindly with her. This coming and going happened three or four times in the course of our dinner. From what I deduced; the dear lady had forgotten she had come just moments before.
I was struck by the kindness and patience the owner and staff repeatedly extended toward this woman. I’m not sure if she remembered to pay for her drink, or how often they receive her throughout each day, but the dignity they offered to this woman warmed my heart.
I thought about all the unseen acts of kindness people, like this restaurant owner exhibit, who—in great and small ways—make a choice or a habit to care for others, freely and unselfishly honouring them and offering a safe, welcoming place to land. Their kindness may never be seen or repaid, but they do it, nonetheless. In this moment, I was blessed to glimpse the beauty of humanity helping another along in her journey.
What about the many ways this has played out in the past? Those who risked their lives during war to hide sacred souls within their own homes to save their lives. The soldiers, battle-weary and broken, who set one boot in front of the other and their gaze upon the horizon to secure the future we presently enjoy. Those voices of one who spoke into injustice declaring a better way than the status quo of greed, power, and control for which society has so often settled. Countless courageous and kind actions multiplied over centuries—over individual lives.
I think of the billions of people around the world, and how many beautiful, glorious, random, and unseen acts of kindness occur every day never to be seen or celebrated. What would happen if each of us took hidden or found invitations and chose to help, took time to hear, or to lighten a burden? What if we stepped out of our comfort zones and mindsets to answer a need?
What would it look like if compassion outweighed our comfort?
It could be as simple as a smile to a passing stranger, a coffee prepaid for the next person in line, finances offered to a cause, hands to serve the needy, or a proffered seat in our restaurant for a lonely or forgotten soul. It could be looking out for—or creating—opportunities to serve out of the little or abundance we’ve been given. Whether seen or unseen, our actions may soften a stranger’s journey or even save someone’s life.
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” Hebrews 6:10
Look for an opportunity this week to show kindness outside of your comfort zone.
Life is full of disappointments, hurts and hardship. When our lives don’t unfold as planned, it’s easy to become discouraged. Below are a few thoughts to encourage you to not give up, to keep going, to persevere through whatever you are facing today.
That you would always keep your joy and wonder.
That you would continue to dream big.
That you wouldn’t allow others to dilute your dreams,
Or let obstacles or disappointments crowd out those dreams—
Even when you must scale the mountain or take the long route around.
If some scoff at your goals—say it’s a long shot or that it can’t be done—smile, disregard their lack of faith, and keep going.
Someone needs to persevere. It may as well be you.
Nothing worthwhile comes without dogged effort. No effort is wasted.
Fight fear with faith.
Be brave; bring courage with you wherever you go.
Keep trying hard things.
If you fail, you’ve learned something priceless.
Be patient and kind to yourself and others.
Forgive quickly so you remain free.
Choose to remain positive—
Don’t allow the negative voices or treatment of others to detract from what you know to be true and good and right.
When hurt, embrace the hard work of healing.
Use your unique skills, knowledge, intellect, voice, talents, and resources to help those around you, to influence and change the world for good, and to glorify God.
Keep your sense of humour. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but be serious about your intentions and integrity.
Remember life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Not everything will happen instantly.
Keep your eyes on the finish line, but enjoy the scenery on route—
Life is composed of all the moments made while you move forwards and reach your goals. Don’t miss or mistake these moments that matter for distractions;
The main event is never really the main event; it’s all the bits between.
Be thankful for everything. Even the hardships—they make you beautiful, strong, and mature.
God is your help and is cheering you on.
He has a plan.
Trust Him in everything.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11
What discouragements are you struggling with today?
Bring them to God, hand them over to him in prayer, and find his comfort, help, and peace in your time of need.
Waves, like fluid erasers, remove our imprints from the sand, dissolving them into the sea, and dismissing we ever stepped upon its granular shore.
We just returned from a vacation in the Bahamas. One of my favourite parts of a mid-winter vacation to a warm location is taking walks along the beach. I soak in the sound of the waves unfolding onto the shore, absorb the sun’s warmth on my shoulders, enjoy the feel of the sand between my toes, and glimpse back at our footprints in the sand.
I found myself comparing the impressions we leave in the sand—so quickly swallowed by sea—to the impressions we will leave behind in the places we travel in this life. What kind of mark will we leave on this earth, particularly on other’s lives? Will it be quickly dissolved, or will our actions and words leave a lasting impression? If lasting, will they be impressions of bold beauty or petrified ugliness?
With a limited number of steps, we travel here and there making many deliberate choices that form a lifetime. As sojourners, will we leave people better than we found them, or will we be as litter strewn on the shores of their lives? How will we use what we’ve been given to make a lasting difference? Will we impress upon the lives of others beauty, truth, dignity, and love, or will we scatter indents of useless or destructive debris.
With God’s help and guidance, we can walk across neighbouring shores in humility, with gentleness, kindness, and patience, while offering mercy, comfort, and generous quantities of compassion. In this way, we leave imprints of peace, joy and love, by any means that we’ve been given, upon other’s lives.
We set aside our own wounding and bitterness—from others thoughtless impressions—and receive the healing waters that dissolve those unsightly marks. The watery waves of God’s love soften our sandy shores and prepare them to collect prints of beauty once again. And afterwards, we bravely step out to do the same for others.
Our lives are lived on purpose and with a purpose. No act of kindness or gentle encouragement, however small, is wasted. With each step, we can press beauty into all we touch and leave this place, and others, positively altered. Make no mistake, you will leave an impact. Choose well the nature of its composition.
It’s my hope that you and I would be ever-aware of the brevity of our lives, and spend each day wisely and purposely, creating beauty wherever we tread.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. ~Psalm 90:12
I’ve noticed that a lot of animosity hurled toward God is misdirected.
God has become the cosmic scapegoat for many misdemeanors of mankind. He’s the fault of others’ failings. The illness for the ills injected by humans upon humans. The ugliness freely deposited by others. And this blame drags heavy, like the cross he staggered beneath and heaved up the hill to his death; unjustly accused even then.
Let’s be honest, humans are notorious for redirecting blame.
How could God allow children to starve? we exclaim as we dab our mouths, rub our bellies, and declare how stuffed we are. How could God allow women and children to be abused? while our insatiable appetite for pornography helps fuel the multi-billion dollar human trafficking industry. How can God allow mass genocide? as we welcome the supposed savior and then keep silent to save ourselves. How could God allow the homeless to freeze overnight? as we cross the street, lock our doors, and add an extra blanket to our beds.
Our hostility towards God can also be fueled by former hurt. We may have been wounded by those who should have known better; some who even claimed to know God. With that layer of proximity, there can be a propensity for the hurt to spill over and affect our perception of God. Sometimes we purposely distance ourselves from God in the aftermath of such disillusionment and disappointment, ascribing undo blame and fearing to love a God whose people behave so poorly.
But abuse and neglect, hatred and homicide, others’ judgment and exclusion, is not a reflection of God’s nature, but more accurately a picture of people who have forgotten who he is. Perhaps they never really knew him in the first place, or what they do know of him, they dislike or disregard. Possibly they prefer to pick and choose the parts they can accept and reject the rest. In all truth, often we’re so caught up being the ruler of our own little kingdoms that we sacrifice others in our self-coronation. So caught up, in fact, that we don’t really understand who God is, and often could care less.
And like any relationship, fraught with misunderstanding and confusion, fault lines and frayed edges, unscalable distance and disappointment, so too is our relationship with God. It’s difficult to know someone we’ve never really encountered or regularly spend time with.
This world, and all that’s in it, is a gift. As with all gifts, after they’ve been given, it becomes up to the receiver how they’re treated and maintained. God generously gave and let us be the caretakers. He offers help if we make room, but so often it’s too crowed in the kingdom of one. That’s when things tend to get ugly.
But every now and then, we make room and let Him in, and we begin to see beauty, and truth, and love.
We begin to realize that:
The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” ~ Psalm 145:8-9
We learn that:
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” ~Lamentations 3:22-23
We hear that:
“The LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.”. ~Deuteronomy 31:6b
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
When we encounter and accept the truth of God’s surprising love, both our heart and outlook is altered. We are sorry for our failings. We understand how we’ve misplaced blame, and learn to face our faults. Our relationships begin to shift, and instead of exploiting, we look at all the things he entrusted us with a little differently. Some of the things that formerly preoccupied us fade in significance. God’s gentle, patient, kind, healing, and unconditional love propels us, and as we grow stronger, we in turn help strengthen. Beauty ensues and love stands a fighting chance.
1. In what ways have you blamed God for the failings of others?
2. In what ways have you contributed to another’s pain or misfortune? Ask God for forgiveness, for the strength to change, and, if possible, make restitution.
3. If you sense you’ve never really known God, He is just a prayer away.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1-3
How difficult it is not to judge! I was reminded of this recently when two of my children pointed out this propensity in me. Though not nice to hear, I’m glad they did or I, once again, may not have even noticed that particular plank.
Speck finding is easy. Locating planks…not so much.
In thinking about it, when playing judge, we take on a role we were never offered. Worse, whatever measure we use to judge, the same is piled back on us. This self-proclaimed loftiness reeks of self-righteous pride and turns the gospel upside down. Sitting in the judgment seat leaves little room for the miracle of mercy and the gift of grace. It’s like lowering a partition to make grace unreachable for those who are in desperate need. I hazard a guess that many more people would desire kingdom living if its citizens reeked more of love.
Jesus loved the ones the Pharisees judged to have missed the mark. He had a beautiful way of loving people in spite of their ‘junk’ and in the midst of their sin. He didn’t embrace the sin, but instead the person. With Jesus there was no shaming or making people feel they were unfit to be in His company. Amid His loving actions, a gently deposited word – or no words at all – there remained no condemnation. Instead there were changed lives.
Matthew gives this account: “When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’? On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-13)
When we spend time with Jesus, being renewed and reminded of who we are, our inclination to judge others recedes. After all, we are among those He reached out a mercy-filled touch to heal while we were still sinning. Just being with Jesus softens our critical, hard hearts. We don’t have to agree with the choices or behaviour of others in order to love them. A person is not the sin; the sin is not the person. We can love the person in the midst of their junk. Jesus did – and does – on a daily basis for us.
Won’t you join me in using those extracted planks for bridge building?
P.S. I love the story recorded in John about the adulterous woman. If you want a smile or need words of forgiveness, take a moment to read it now. (John 8:3-12)
I bless you that you would find your strength to love others unconditionally in the One who loves you that very same way!