Gentle, meek, and mild?

But Jesus got angry

Mark 3:1-5 Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.

Ephesians 4:26 Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.

Hebrews 12:15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

James 3:14-15 If you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom.

All my life I’ve been afraid of anger, because in my experience anger was linked to emotional and physical violence. So when I came to this story in Mark, my first instinct was to skip over it in favor of something more positive and cheerful. I could write, for example, about the stunning rainbow that hovered over Pittsburgh Wednesday afternoon …

Shutterstock: Pushish Images

But God didn’t let me get away with that. In the background of my thoughts, I kept wrestling with the issue of anger and how I would just shrivel up or melt into a puddle on the floor if I perceived Jesus was angry with me.

I am in no way an expert on dealing with anger. Far from it! But here are a few simple guidelines that seem helpful to me at this moment in my journey.

Anger is an emotion we all feel—unless we’re in denial. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. If we don’t give it proper attention, it may instead turn inward and become a “secondary” emotion, hurting us and others through depression, bitterness, apathy, resentment, unhealed grief, or other emotional states. When anger settles in, as part of our emotional furniture, it becomes harmful. Hence the wisdom of Ephesians 4:26.

If we feel anger, we need to pay attention to it. “Primary” emotions, I’m told, surge and then recede in our bodies in about 90 seconds. Until the emotion has passed through, we shouldn’t take any action. But once the emotion has dissipated, we can ask ourselves questions: What was the source of the anger? Against what or whom was it directed? Was it appropriate, i.e. did its intensity match the severity of the provocation? What did I want to do while I was feeling the emotion? Is that action appropriate, i.e. will it reduce or escalate the perceived threat? What else is going on in my life that could intensify the feeling of anger (fear, fatigue, stress, the sense of repeated offense, a feeling of impotence, a narrative I am telling myself about this person or situation …)? Anger can show us a lot about ourselves and the condition of our souls.

Anger is our body’s response to the perception that something is wrong. We need to pay attention to this and decide what to do about it. There is always something we can do about perceived injustice, even if it is “only” relinquishing our pain to God and praying for those who have offended or hurt us. The Scriptures are full of references to God’s justice and the wisdom of entrusting to him those situations we are not properly positioned to do anything about. But often there is something positive we can do, contributing to God’s purposes of healing and redemption, rather than harm and destruction.

The energy of anger propels us to act. This can be a good thing, or it can be terrible. Good actions can be carried out calmly. The impulse of the feeling of anger, though, can often be harmful. Self-control includes hanging in there with the seemingly interminable 90 seconds so we can then evaluate possible actions with our rational brain engaged, not just our impulsive brain. If I yell and hit back when my child yells and hits, for a moment I may feel relief, but the fruit of those actions will damage my child and his or her trust in me.

Thinking about all this took me back to the story in Mark 3, and to the other references cited above. One thought I had (and I would love to hear yours!) is that Jesus’s frustration with the religious leaders opened a window of opportunity for them to see things differently. They placed enforcement of their (mis)interpretation of the law ahead of the wellbeing of one of their congregants. Had their hearts been in tune with God’s loving heart, they could have seen grace in what Jesus did, and wonderful rejoicing could have strengthened all present. Instead, they went away to plot how they could kill Jesus.

Jesus was not for one second out of control of himself and his actions. The religious leaders’ offense had become engrained. Not even Jesus could “make” them change their minds and hearts. Yet he offered them an invitation, through bringing to light the condition of their hearts. An opportunity to repent, to change, to grow. To respond positively to truth.

Your thoughts about this complex topic?

Your sacred center

But Jesus takes his orders from the Father

Mark 1:35-38 Before daybreak, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well. … That is why I came.”

John 5:19 Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing.”

Are you a people-pleaser? I certainly have been. I love knowing people are happy with me and with ways I try to serve them.

But do I shape my own sense of wellbeing around other people’s happiness with me? Ah, there’s the rub, right? Because in fact I am not responsible for whether other people feel happy.

Jesus made it clear to his disciples right away that he took his orders from the Father, not from them or from the people surrounding them. I’m sure this bothered some of the disciples.

And to understand the Father’s directions, Jesus had to spend time with him. Again and again in the Gospels we see him doing so.

I love the concept of having an audience of One, making my Father’s pleasure the center of my life. If I am spending time with him, submitting my priorities and desires to him, and following his direction as well as I can, I can better keep my balance I terms of all the other voices in my life and my natural desire to serve and care for the people I love.

Here’s another lovely passage from Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love. The meditation is titled, “Set Boundaries to Your Love”:

You give whatever people ask of you, and when they ask for more, you give more, until you find yourself exhausted, used, and manipulated. Only when you are able to set your own boundaries will you be able to acknowledge, respect, and even be grateful for the boundaries of others … The great task is to claim yourself for yourself … True mutuality in love requires people who possess themselves and who can give to each other while holding on to their own identities. … You must learn to set boundaries to your love.

Later, Nouwen says, “the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame. … Only God can fully dwell in that deepest place in you and give you a sense of safety. Don’t let others run away with your sacred center.” Amen.

Here’s a song to make you smile, a flashback to 1955. In light of this post, think of the lyrics directed to the Father.

Don’t be afraid

But God’s kingdom is glorious

Psalm 145:10-13 All of your works will thank you, Lord, and your faithful followers will praise you. They will speak of the glory of your kingdom; they will give examples of your power. They will tell about the majesty and glory of your reign.

Luke 12:30-32 Your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 God called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.

In August of 2004 I had already lived quite a long time. For fifty years I had seen God provide for me. I had seen God touch my daughter Karis and restore her many times when doctors told us there was no hope for survival from the current crisis.

Yet the evening of August 23, after watching a video of a person who died on the operating table, I was terrified. For most of the night I could not sleep, agonizing over what Karis had agreed to do: undergo a highly risky transplant. The “good, bad, and ugly” of intestinal transplant had been drilled into us, complete with examples of patients who had died. The chances of her surviving were small. Why then had we signed up for this? Should I try to persuade Karis to change her mind?

Toward morning, I fell asleep, briefly. But shortly before 7:00 a.m. I woke up, startled, as if someone had shaken me awake. I heard a voice say, “Get up, get dressed, and go to church.” I tried to ignore it, snuggling back into my pillow, but the voice spoke again: “Get up, get dressed, and go to church.” What … ??!!

Karis was still sound asleep. I got up, got dressed, and went to church. I walked into the early morning service to hear the pastor concluding the sermon by saying the words from Luke’s Gospel quoted above. Don’t be afraid.

God had told me to get out of bed and go to church just to hear those words?

Later that morning, while visiting a friend, an immigrant from the Arab world, Karis received a transplant call and said yes.

Don’t be afraid.

Hour by hour through the fourteen-hour surgery, Don’t be afraid.

Seeing her in the transplant ICU afterward, tubes and wires sprouting from her body like the quills of a porcupine, multiple machines humming, Don’t be afraid.

Skipping ahead days, weeks, months, to Karis finally emerging from coma, irreversible rejection, one lethal infection after another, total debilitation … “Mama, why were you afraid? It’s not time for me to die yet. God still has plans for me here.”

January 2005: off the vent!!!

Why was I afraid? Because I’m human and I loved my daughter. Because I’m weak, not strong. Because being back in the ICU for 75 days straight wa an eternity.

Your Father already knows your needs …

Reliving those days, weeks, and months to write the Karis book, God showed me where he had been through that eternity of time: with me in the ICU. Calling people to give me support and care. Providing basics: Food. Occasional nights or days of sleep. His word, Psalm 118:5, with the mystery of feeling the walls of the ICU recede—larger inside than outside—when I became claustrophobic. The mystery and wonder of Karis still living, one more hour, one more day.

Your Father already knows your needs. Don’t be afraid. It gives him great joy to give you the Kingdom.

The mystery of the Kingdom: The King is your Father, who loves you …

Can you receive these words today?

Close your eyes and listen.

Healing wounds and trauma, by Alexandra Hudson

But God is compassionate

Psalm 145:8-9 The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.

Psalm 103:8, 13 The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. … The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.

Ephesians 5:1 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.

Compassion: to suffer together; to recognize the suffering of others and wish or take action to help them. It’s the desire to take action to help that separates compassion from empathy.

Our ability to have compassion toward others is nurtured by the compassion we extend to ourselves, just as Jesus calls us to love others as we love ourselves. For those of us who have experienced trauma, this can be difficult. This week Alexandra Hudson (https://www.civic-renaissance.com/?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email) wrote about a book called The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk. I’m quoting an excerpt, with her permission. Another resource that I’ve found helpful is Try Softer by Aundi Kolber.

Here’s Alexandra:

Our trauma and wounds

We all have wounds that inform how we interact with others today.

Trauma is a specific kind of wound that can chronically inhibit our relationships with others and ourselves. Trauma is an upsetting experience that brings us to the point of being overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness, rage, confusion, and an inability to escape or function in the face of threat. Trauma isn’t about the event itself per se—it’s about how we respond to it, how we’re comforted after it, and how it continues to affect us.

If a child is in a horrible car accident but has a support system around him as he heals both physically and emotionally, the chances of him having long-term trauma are low.

By contrast, if a child endures sustained emotional or physical neglect or abuse growing up—and they have nowhere to turn, no one with whom they can feel safe and process their experience—the chances of long-term trauma are high.

When we encounter stress, it ends when the situation ends.

Trauma stays with us. It continues to be relived and played out in our minds and by our bodies.

Trauma begins as something that happens TO us, but then our brain begins to change: instead of smelling smoke just when there is fire, we begin to smell smoke everywhere. Everyone we meet is a possible threat to our safety and well-being.

The traumatic event is over, but we continue to react to the things around us as if we’re in survival mode. We are in a perpetual state of fight, flight, freeze, fawn, or mental collapse, which is taxing on the mind and body—“metabolically costly” as van der Kolk’s book says.

The brain and body are so preoccupied with survival—with interpreting everything around us as a life threat—that we are left with little energy to think, learn, be creative, perceive nuance, experience pleasure and joy.

We are emotionally, psychosocially and physically handicapped from bringing our best selves, and living our best lives, and bringing the fullness of ourselves to relationship with others.

The cost is not just exhaustion, but a variety of physiological issues that have no perceptible cause. The author of The Body Keeps the Score mentions chronic pain, auto-immune diseases, and headaches as just a few examples that he’s encountered in his practice.

We are not disembodied minds. We are mind, body and spirit. Too often, though, our treatments of malaise are segmented: treatments of psychological issues focus on the mind, while treatments of physiological issues focus on the body.

But seeing human beings in their fullness—as mind, body, spirit, all—and addressing the needs of each in turn and in relation to the other is the path toward fullness of life and healing.

Human beings are infinitely complex. There is so much that goes on within the human mind, body and spirit beneath the surface—beyond what people can see or understand.

Because we are uncomfortable with gaps in our knowledge—for example, “Why was my boss unnecessarily brusque to me this morning?”—we fill in those knowledge gaps with stories to help us explain things we don’t understand, even if the accounts are inaccurate or incomplete.

What would it mean to have a little more humility in our interactions with others—not presuming to know the entirety of their character and life story, reducing them to our experience with them in a single exchange—and be open to the stories that lie beneath the surface? Stories of tragedy, abuse, loss and grief that may help us better understand why people are the way they are and give us greater grace and empathy in interacting with them.

A story in three parts

But God gives joy

Psalm 145:7 Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness.

Psalm 90:14-16 Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, O Lord, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory.

A couple of weeks ago, at the beginning of a small group meeting, the leader asked us each to share in one word what we were feeling. I surprised myself by saying “joy.”

Why is that worth telling you about? Isn’t that a fairly common experience?

Well, not for me, not at this time of the year.

Since 2014, the cold, dark, gray days have put a dragging sense of foreboding in the pit of my stomach. I know what’s coming. The constant struggle to keep Karis warm as she bounces in and out of the hospital. The quickly approaching end of November date the nephrologist gave us when Karis’s kidneys would stop functioning. Her increasing lack of strength and energy. Her most-of-the-night pre-Christmas conversation with Hildete, when she and Pastor Vandeir visited us from Brazil, about her death and how it would impact her family and all she had wanted to accomplish and her sense that the Promise and the Prophecy given to her at age 16 had not been fulfilled. The aborted trip to Florida when she developed a line infection the day before we were to fly. The wrenching I felt leaving her behind in the ICU. Her middle-of-the-night call, her hoarse voice barely audible: “Mama, please come.” The diagnosis of H1N1, swine flu. And all the events leading to her death in the wee hours of Feb. 5th, the roads so icy we couldn’t make it to the hospital for several more hours.

Every other year before this one, at this time of the year, I haven’t been able to shake the waves of grief associated with the holiday season. So, yes: for me, to realize I was feeling joy and anticipation instead of grief and dread was an amazing experience, this ninth year since it all happened.

My three-part story today is one of gratitude. The first part was the thirty years of life with Karis. The second part was the long grieving of living without her. The third part is the discovery that joy can take the place of grief. It’s such a hopeful feeling. I want to say to everyone grieving a huge loss, “Don’t despair! It may take a long time. Each person’s experience is different. But I know now it’s possible to reach the third part of the story, when tears flow out of deep joy and thankfulness instead of the deep pain of mourning.” I’m tasting the joy Karis herself feels now!

Advent’s two stories

But God performs mighty acts

Psalm 145:1-4 I will exalt you, my God and King and praise your name forever and ever… No one can measure the Lord’s greatness. Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.

Advent is a time for storytelling. Not just any story, but two stories filled with complex and vulnerable characters who grow and change, amazing adventures, and awesome rescues by the greatest, most powerful, most admirable actor of all time.

One story is about what happened on planet Earth two thousand years ago: the birth of a poor baby who was actually a Prince, sent by his father, the King, to rescue the world from the clutches of an evil tyrant.

The second story foretells the Prince’s return to Earth to set everything right. It’s the happy ending which will begin a new story, a wonderful sequel.

What story am I telling my children and grandchildren?

This Advent, I want to challenge you to think as well about your own story. In Psalm 145, David repeatedly calls us to share with others our own stories of God’s power and greatness, beginning with our children and grandchildren and others of the next generations.

I want to leave you with three questions today:

  1. Does your story matter? Why should you invest in remembering, understanding, and sharing your story?
  2. Where do you see God in your story? What mighty acts has he performed for you?
  3. What impact can your response to question #2 have on your children and grandchildren and/or others of the next generations? What has your life experience shown or taught you that you would like to pass on to them?

I hope these questions will help you begin to see and value your story differently.

As I think about the legacy my husband Dave and I received from our parents and grandparents, I’m both sad and encouraged. Some parts of their stories were never resolved or healed, and we were bruised from the impact of their pain. In other ways, their stories challenge and strengthen us to move forward, to offer our descendants hope as we embrace and share God’s grace and mighty acts in our lives.

I hope you will join me in storytelling this Advent! Of both Great Stories, and the ways your experiences weave their unique part of the fabric the Great Stories continue creating.

Enough, by a friend

Psalm 32:8 The Lord says, “I will make you wise and show you where to go. I will guide you and watch over you.”

But God saved me

Shutterstock: Lukas Gojda

The sun was beaming across the Laurel Mountains of Western Pennsylvania as I cruised the Turnpike on my way to gather with a group of friends I had come to know intimately over the last two years only on Zoom. We all share a common disease and meet five mornings a week just as millions of others meet in a wide variety of other places and ways and who fight the same disease together. I had my ear buds in listening to someone share his story. I was in the far-left lane doing the speed limit of 70mph when suddenly I realized my car was veering to the right. I saw the rear corner of a trailer being towed by a pickup truck in the lane to my right coming at my car much too fast.  I knew I needed to brake, yet my foot seemed stuck to the accelerator. I slammed into the trailer full force. My car caromed off the trailer and spun around. I braked, landed on the berm of the road, drove off to the center, and came to a stop all in a matter of nanoseconds.  I unhooked my seat belt and got out of my car completely uninjured.  I stood on the side of the highway holding my cell phone in a total daze. What just happened? I thought I was going to an event at the Jersey Shore. It turns out God had other plans.

The next several hours passed quickly and included State Police, talking with the pickup driver, seeing the damage to his trailer, riding in the tow truck that would haul my car to a nearby garage, and, most of all, getting in touch with all those people I was so anxious to see face-to-face after two years of wondering…. How tall is Sammy? Is Charlotte left-handed? What does Sylvia really look like all dressed up?  Would I ever know? Over the next several hours, I sat in the garage waiting room, and I began to hear from all those Zoom connections. Word travels fast in that group. Harry, Vera, Betty, Bob, Carol, Henry, Alisa, James, Lucy, Murray, the list goes on (the names are changed to protect their anonymity). Some texted. Others made real phone calls. Some sent emails reminding me they loved me and were praying for me. Not even one said anything about my being foolish to try to drive alone the 5 ½ hours to the Jersey Shore. Never did anyone say I “should” have done anything any different. That’s not what happens with people like that. There is unconditional love and acceptance. There is complete trust in God. There is a knowledge that God has a plan for each of us and our job is to stay open to God’s plan however it comes and to trust whatever form it takes. Faith and trust in God always come first. The idea that my car was totaled, and I was left unhurt was part of a plan God has in mind for some reason. Now it remains my job to accept my circumstances, pay attention, stay willing to see what that might be. And these close “Zoom” friends where with me in spirit – unconditionally. I knew that right away. I wasn’t frightened.

I called my insurance company. As they walked me through the questions, it felt harmless and even blameless to a degree even though it was my car that went wrong, and I was at the wheel. No one else to lay any blame on. Arrangements for having the car towed from that small town an hour outside my city were made. I took a taxi back home. It cost $200.00.

The next day a friend drove me to a local hospital ER so I could get checked out. I was given lots of appropriate tests for internal bleeding, bruising, a CT scan with and w/o contrast. All testing came back negative. I was very fortunate. God has a plan, I know.  However, I also know God does not necessarily reveal His plan on my time. God’s time and my time are inevitably quite different. Coming home from the hospital ER, I began to realize that none of it felt “real” to me. I couldn’t believe I didn’t have a car. My insurance had arranged for me to get a rental car, but when Enterprise called to make those arrangements, I told them I wasn’t ready. There was a part of me that didn’t want to drive. Not yet.

The shock or trauma was slow to wear off, but eventually I got the rental car. I didn’t drive much at first and our local weather patterns presented us with unseasonal snowfall that also kept me indoors. I used that time to contemplate what God’s plan might be for me. I have one big project that is ending, and I am looking forward to what I want to do next. I like to be busy and productive. I like to be connected to others and feel useful. I know that God knows that about me. One thing for certain is that I no longer refer to what happened as a car “Accident.” I feel it was a “God Experience” that happened to involve my car. In the couple of weeks following that day, I have gone through my small apartment and removed items that are no longer necessary to my life as it is today. I am making room for whatever God has in store for me. I rearranged some furniture, got rid of two pieces and lots of books and clothing that no longer fits. I found breathing room and wall space.

Isaiah 30:21 “If you go the wrong way – to the right or to the left – you will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the right way. You should go this way.”

I spend early morning time for about an hour and a half in prayer and meditation so I can stay close to God and available when He calls or opens a door, I’m ready. When Covid came and took over our lives in one way or another, it changed the way I lived in many ways including my decisions about being in groups or socializing at all. I find it difficult to return to any former patterns or make new ones. Hence, each new encounter is an opportunity to meet God in new ways and experience Gods gifts and His presence. I got a call yesterday from the insurance people telling me the amount of settlement for my car that was totaled. It is certainly a fair amount, and I could start to look for another car. I am not certain I want to do that right now.  Maybe I’ll wait.  Maybe I’ll wait and see what God has in mind for me next. I’m content that God’s plan for me doesn’t need flashing lights or a headline. I will stay Open and Willing.  I sat in a meeting the other day – an in-person meeting – and raised my hand to say I would need a ride next week because I would no longer have a car. Afterward a woman came over and introduced herself to me and said she would love to offer to drive me. She is new to the area but lives near where I do. God’s plan can be walking down the street with New Life and Love in my Heart. Maybe that is Enough. Thank you, God.

2 Corinthians 3:18 “We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Anonymous

Even in grief

But God cares deeply

Psalm 116:15 The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die.

This weekend was unusually busy and intense. In the middle of it I learned my friend Vanessa, whose generosity I wrote about on April 4, died a month ago from cancer. Here’s what I wrote:

I struggled one whole morning to understand a series of marketing procedures new and not intuitive to me. In frustration I cried to the Lord, out loud, “I need help! I need someone who can show me what I’m doing wrong!

Within seconds of my prayer, a message flashed onto my Instagram screen from a Brazilian friend I haven’t seen or talked to for at least twenty years, a psychologist who worked with me in restoration ministry. “Debra, do you need any help with online advertising for the Karis book? I’m trained in that.”

Yeah. I was stunned. But wait—there’s more!

When I told Vanessa her offer was a direct answer to prayer, she said, “Well, your need is a direct answer to my prayer. Last week I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. I asked God to give me something to do for someone else, to divert my focus from myself and my fear and worry about this cancer. Then I saw your announcement about the Karis book being published here in Brazil and thought, that’s it! I want to do all I can to help you let people know the Karis book is available now in Portuguese. I’ve been reading other things I’ve found written about Karis, and her faith is helping to stabilize mine as I walk through this battle with cancer.”

Vanessa died on the operating table. I don’t yet know more details than that. I only found out because a friend of Vanessa’s noticed my repeated inquiries on Vanessa’s Instagram about how she was doing and took the time to tell me she had died.

Vanessa was so sure she would beat this cancer. Perhaps I won’t ever know why she couldn’t. I’ve learned, though, that in these times when I don’t understand, I need to cling even tighter to the Lord, who sees the big picture I can’t see.

Yesterday the Lord comforted me very personally. Not just through my tears and my husband sitting with me as I cried. And by giving me a vision of Karis hanging out with Vanessa in Heaven. The Lord also cared for me through a friend who unexpectedly offered to help me solve yet another computer issue I find perplexing. A touch of kindness in my landscape of grief that means so much to me because it touches another area in which I’m weak and vulnerable.

So I’m praying God will touch each of Vanessa’s loved ones—her husband, her parents, her extended family, her friends, even her beloved dogs—with whatever specific kindness will let them feel how deeply he cares about each one of them, even in their grief.

Perhaps he already has.

God held my hand, by Meredith Dobson, Pittsburgh (Muddy Boots in the Hallway)

But God’s unfailing love supported me

Psalm 94:18-19 I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

How did summer go by so fast??

Today I decided to take Uber to a doctor’s appointment. I waited outside my building in the rain, watching my phone for his arrival. I saw a car pull into the circle in front of our building the wrong way and immediately thought it must be my Uber driver. It was getting late and I was nervous, in part, because the doctor’s office had provided a same-day appointment and I was already afraid of being late.

When I got in the car, I was very nervous because I was seeing an unfamiliar doctor about a condition I was frightened to learn about and I was alone in doing this. I am 84 years old, I live alone, and get fearful of unknown things I have to do alone. I was rude and voiced admonishment to the driver for entering the driveway the wrong way and another car also let him know how much he was at fault. When he got in the car, I told him I was late already and to go fast that I needed to get there. This prompted a harsh response from him about his not wanting traffic violations and how he had to drop someone off and did I know my way around the city and he was as loud and abusive as I had been. Finally, I said I was already upset about a doctor visit and I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. In my mind, I thought of how I would rate him as a driver with a big old “O” and add a comment about rudeness.

As we got closer to the area, I gave him the actual address since I thought it was a medical building, not the actual hospital. He said, in a very calm, polite voice, he would take me wherever I needed to go. Then I said that I was sorry I had been so rude to him when I first got in. I said that I had talked to him in a way that was not called for, that I was way out of line, and I was sorry. He said he was sorry also and it was all OK. I briefly said that I was going to see a doctor I had never seen before about a condition I was really frightened about and being nervous about all that probably made me speak to him in a way I shouldn’t have. He said, Oh that’s OK. I’m sorry to hear that.  Then he added, “Do you want me to wait here to be sure you are in the right place? I will gladly do that.” I told him no, that I was pretty sure this was the right place. I said something about how things change and I hardly recognize it.

God was present with me all along. God was the one sitting beside me as we rode through the rain drops and the water splashing against the car. God held my hand in the back seat and gently whispered to me about forgiveness and speaking with the spirit of Love. God reminded me that this driver did not have an easy job and he was doing me a service. I was grateful I did not have to park or drive or bother with umbrellas or anything. I became grateful sitting there beside God and I wanted the driver to know.

Does slander matter?

But God cares about our words

Psalm 50:7, 14-23 “O my people, listen as I speak … Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God and keep the vows you made to the Most High.” … But God says: “You refuse my discipline and treat my words like trash. … Your mouth is filled with wickedness, and your tongue is full of lies. You sit around and slander your brother—your own mother’s son. While you did all this, I remained silent, and you thought I didn’t care. But now I will rebuke you … Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.”

Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

Hebrews 13:14-16 This world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

James 3:9-10 Sometimes the tongue praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

Thanksgiving is a few weeks away, but we can pull out our thankfulness and dust it off now. It matters to our Lord! And so do the other words we say, and our attitude when he speaks to us.

In just a few verses, Psalm 50 references:

  • God speaking to us personally and to all humanity
  • His desire that we pay attention when he speaks
  • The value he places on our thanksgiving, above any other sacrifice
  • The value of our vows
  • His promise to hear us
  • How it hurts him when we treat his words like trash, when we lie, when we wound others with our words, when other kinds of wickedness fill our mouths
  • A final reminder about how much our thanks matters to him

We can’t change our national culture. But we can change ourselves and what comes out of our mouths. We can influence our families, our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends, simply by speaking truth with an attitude of thankfulness and a desire to bless.

I’m setting this goal for myself, from now until Thanksgiving Day. Will you join me?

P.S. I’m waiting to receive your “But God” contribution!

I tried to catch the loveliness of the raindrops on the ornamental grasses outside my kitchen window this morning.
Wish you could see them as I do!