If you see something, say something

 

Tuesday was a spectacular day, high on blue sky and sunshine, low on humidity.  A perfect ten!  I was taking advantage of such great weather to repaint the steps to both my front and back porch.  By 11:30 am, the front set of steps was finished and already drying.  I moved onto the rear porch steps and began to scrape them.  As I scraped the loose paint off, I noticed a car driving by that had stopped near the top of my drive and a little boy stepped out.  He must have been about nine or ten.  He took out a phone or camera and began taking a picture or sets of pictures of the little woods on the other side of my driveway.  It seemed rather strange to me and I kept my eye on the car as I continued my scraping.  The car did leave and another car quickly stopped in their place.  A woman leaned out the window and began screaming at me.  “Get inside!!!  There’s a really large bear!!!”  She repeated her strong warning again as her words sunk into my brain.  I quickly jumped up, ran inside and looked out the window.  The biggest bear that I have ever seen was ambling down my driveway just a few feet from where I had just been.  He strolled down my driveway and into my back yard where he shuffled around a bit more before heading downhill towards another street.

Bear 6-26-18

The bear – taken from a safe distance!

As I processed the situation, several questions popped into my head.  What was the lady in the first car thinking!  Why did she allow her young child to get out of the car when there was an obviously large bear close by?!  Did she think it was a cute little puppy coming towards her and her son?  And the next thought, why did she fail to warn me?  I do think she saw me because I looked up to see what was going on several times.  Did she think that I would just figure it out as the huge bear got closer?  After those puzzling questions, it struck me about how kind the Lord is. “THANK YOU LORD for the second lady!!”  Thank you Lord for people who care enough about their fellow man to warn them of impending danger.  The bear was not looking to eat me, but who knows what he might have done had I reacted unwisely in my own fright.

I can only guess at the first woman’s motives.  Maybe she was too busy in her life to think about the consequences of her actions.  Maybe she was just ignorant of bear behavior.  Sometimes people are so involved in their own lives that they can’t see the needs of others.  Self involvement creates a total lack of compassion for what others may be feeling or needing.  Am I so self involved that I can’t see the need of another human being?  Would I stand by while my neighbor gets attacked by a bear, either actually or metaphorically?  Would I be the one to leave the Samaritan lying injured by the side of the road?

There are plenty of Scriptures that tell us that we are in fact our brothers’ keeper.  We don’t have to be overbearing about it, but there are many ways to warn, advise, counsel or discuss with our brothers and sisters without acting like we’re somehow superior.  Sometimes, when a threat is immediate, it calls for an immediate and clear trumpet blast.  Watch out!  There’s a cliff!  Don’t go down that road!  Don’t respond to those scammers!  I can’t let you drive when you’re drunk.  Give me the keys.  I’ll take you home.  Whatever it may be.  Of course, other times require a soft approach.  How can I help you?  And even sometimes, just silent prayer.  What we can’t do is just ignore people’s needs.  I am certainly grateful for the woman who observed the situation, took a moment out of her busy day to stop her car and shout her warning.

If you see something, say something.  It’s a good reminder in so many circumstances, both natural and spiritual.

Waiting for the world to change??!

This morning I heard a song on the radio.  “I’m waiting for the world to change.”  Really?  Is that like waiting for the cows to come home of their own accord?  And what if the world does change?  Where would that leave me?  Unchanged?  Left out?  There is no assurance that the world will change.  The only thing we can do in this world is change ourselves.  Jesus left us the template.  We need to change whatever doesn’t fit into that template.  God will not give us too much to do at once.  As we walk along life’s path, He brings just the right thing along that can be changed today. We can change that one thing today.  Tomorrow there will be another thing, but that can wait for tomorrow.

Two days ago God gave me one thing to change.  I was getting onto a flight to return home from a trip.  As I walked down the aisle, I realised my assigned seat was next to an enormous man.  Yes, I was in the middle seat, sandwiched between the rap man (music playing into his earphones so loudly that I could hear the words) and the fat man (who was actually using up a quarter of the space that I had paid for).  I was irritated and feeling nearly nauseous and definitely claustrophobic.  God was very merciful because it was less than a two hour flight.  However, I didn’t start thinking until well into the flight that instead of being annoyed at him and wondering whether I could be allowed to request a refund of 1/4 of my ticket price, I should be praying for both him and the rapper fellow.  In my heart, I was hating him because he was overweight and yet that was the only thing that I even knew about his life.  That was one thing that I could change that day.  I could stop the anger and irritation and just pray and it didn’t cost me anything. I feel bad that it didn’t occur to me at once, but that’s the way life is.  Something comes our way out of the blue.  We have a reaction and our reaction points us towards what we can change.

Let’s not wait for the world to change.  Let’s change the one thing that God brings into our lives today.

Shopping trumps Thanksgiving? Or can Thanksgiving trump shopping?

A quiet morning after Thanksgiving perusing the headlines that shout out to us that shopping has trumped the traditional Thanksgiving meal (cnn.com) has produced a contemplative spirit.  A little outrage too.  Why?  Why would anyone want to give up a delicious meal and relaxing moments with great conversation with friends and family to go out in the cold in order to face off with thousands of people looking for the same bargain?

The outrage comes first.  The whole media/shopping blitz is eroding our country’s family values and traditional ways of living and taking away from time spent relaxing and renewing one’s spirit.  It’s frustrating to see people falling for the media campaigns and enticing ads to constantly shop and spend more money.  To keep a person focused on shopping and attaining more in the way of personal goods is to keep that person focused on the apparent trappings of this natural world and to keep him at the same time far away from reflection on his spiritual and emotional state.  His/her mind is constantly engaged in this natural world and what he/she “needs” to continue to improve his natural surroundings.

After the outrage, more reflection creeps in.  You see, I did not spend my Thanksgiving waiting outside the doors of the local big box store, nor did I head out this morning to get the best deals at the mall.  The question returned: why would someone give up a nice, relaxing afternoon and great conversation with friends and family for …..?  The answer instantly appeared.  They did not give up a nice, relaxing afternoon with friends and family.  Many families barely tolerate each other.  Put them all in one room and the tension can be cut with the same knife used to carve the turkey.  So and so is not talking to so and so and those who are talking to so and so are just feeling sullen today because … who know the because?  Just because.

It’s easy to see in that light why so many would prefer to be out shopping.  I have not ever had to spend a holiday in such an angry environment, thank God.  I have, however, heard of such things.  It’s really a sad commentary on our society that shopping would trump a nice, relaxing afternoon spent in thoughtful conversation and childlike laughter with one’s beloved family and friends.  A lovely and loving afternoon can refresh our spirit and prepare us for the days ahead.  It can give us insight into our world that will help us for weeks and months to come.

The media and advertising campaigns are therefore not the issue.  The underlying issue is the problems in our homes and in our personal lives.  Those problems keep us from making and maintaining strong social and familial relationships.  So, instead of blasting the shoppers and the mega media moguls, we should put our strength into helping families to renew their relationships.  We cannot influence all of those with broken families, but we can influence those around us who may be struggling.  It would be so refreshing to see the shops HAVE to close up on holidays for lack of shoppers.  They will only need to do that when there is something much better going on in American homes.  We can make it happen.

An end of the year letter for 2012

This is the letter I will be sending to family and friends this year:

I started to write an end of the year letter a few weeks ago.  I even got several paragraphs written.  It has all become rather meaningless over the last few days in the light of the heart-wrenching tragedy being experienced by other families in Connecticut right now.  So, I hope you won’t mind if I send you a few paragraphs concerning some of the thoughts that come to mind over this tragedy instead of a letter about my life and about what my kids are doing these days.  We’ve been busy this year, we’re all fine, and that’s about it.

And God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.  Genesis 2:7

It is the breath of God that came into Adam on that day and the same breath that continued to breathe through Adam’s children and grandchildren on down through all the following generations.  Without that breath of life, he was just a lump of dust.  It’s the same with us, his many times great grandchildren and that makes us all the children of the living God.  So, what gives?  The events of this year, and especially the events of the past few days, make us pause and reflect on what on earth is going on.

You could say that there are many causes.  You could blame assault rifles and violent video games and the absenteeism of working parents who are too busy to take care of their children or to teach them the values that they themselves were taught, or were supposed to have been taught.  However, the fact of the matter is that many of God’s children either don’t know or have forgotten who they are.  They are not living like children of an awesome and loving king, God.  They’re living like derelict bums.  That is the tragedy.

It is as if the world has taken on two natures.  Part of humanity seems to be speeding towards God, hoping to find Him more each day, but increasingly more numbers are enticed by the glitz of a worldly life and are as a result speeding in the opposite direction, becoming more unlike Him every day.  To become more like God, one becomes more beautiful and more brilliant and if that’s true, then the opposite must also be true that those who are heading in the wrong direction are becoming more and more insane and hateful.  We can see that in the news on a daily basis.  Perhaps that is the meaning of “the valley of decision.”  We must all go through it and decide for ourselves which way we will go.

We have been greatly blessed in our family to have our parents and children and grandchildren finding God and seeking after Him.  We have discovered the immense power of prayer and how things absolutely change because of it.

Over the last few days, I can see how God grieves for the innocent lives snuffed out meaninglessly by one so selfish and callous.  Some call such people disturbed and say that there could be a personality disorder.  We have experienced a relative with what may have been called a “personality disorder,” but he didn’t pick up a rifle and shoot people.  In fact, through the power of prayer, he spent his last years on earth a happy and well liked person.  Prayer can do that.

This nation and this earth are in their valley of decision.  We need to turn our prayers to our greater family, the brothers and sisters with whom we share the same breath of life.  We are all brothers and sisters and it’s so sad that our brothers would hate us enough to want to kill us and more importantly that they would hate their own eternal Father.  They have no clue how much He longs for them to turn back to Him.  Above all, we need to maintain faith: faith that God will lead us if that’s what we’re praying for, faith that we will continue on this path, and faith that our children will find a way to reject this world’s evil when their day comes in that valley of decision.

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision …  Joel 3:14

So, may we all spend this season joyously in that we know who we are, gratefully because we know who it was that saved us, and yet a little bit more soberly since we know that there is yet so much lacking both in us and in our country.  Let’s pray that we all in our nation and our brothers and sisters in other nations will humble ourselves as it says so beautifully in the Scriptures:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

Thank God for the fleas

There is a line in “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom that is never too far from my mind.  While imprisoned in a concentration camp, Corrie’s sister insisted that they had to thank God for the fleas.  Corrie had a hard time with that but did it a bit begrudgingly to satisfy her beloved sister.  When you think of their situation, that took a lot of faith to carry on and even thank God for the fleas.  Eventually, they discovered that the Germans did not want to enter their particular barrack because of those fleas and that is what gave them the little bit of liberty that they had to teach others the Word of God.  With hindsight, Corrie was so grateful for those fleas and for the opportunity to help others at a time when they were in such dire circumstances.

God sometimes allows ‘fleas’ in different areas of our lives.  To us they look like dirty little inconveniences, problems, difficulties and heartaches.  However, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts.  He sees things from His eternal viewpoint.  It’s in the valley of decision and difficulty that the purest metals are forged.  Our darkest days have the potential to bring the greatest growth.  No one would voluntarily choose heartache, but we are all capable, by faith, of thanking God for the fleas in our lives and then of waiting patiently for the time when (and if) He chooses to reveal the reason for them.

It’s easy to thank God for our abundance and our all too apparent blessings, but have we thanked God for the fleas lately?  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and if there are fleas in your life, remember that God loves you with an everlasting love and is always doing everything He can to bring you closer to Him.