I Have a Habit…

There are some things I cannot change. Even if I tried. I cannot change my nightly routine of making my way into all my children’s bedrooms, smoothing back hair with the palm of a hand, kissing damp-haired foreheads in the shadows of a dimly lit room. I cannot change that. I cannot change that I must needs check on each again before I retire myself to bed. Tucking in blankets under little chins, readjusting bed covers, turning out the flashing nightlight that I have so often worried would create ghastly, strobe-light dreams. I cannot change the watching. The listening. The occasional midnight prayers.

The mother cannot change her ways.

I cannot cease to keep a light lit in the gable window. That light sits on the ledge with a permanent tilt in its neck from having been handled so. It is well-loved and well-used. A Child’s comfy reading nook. Husband’s go-to at bedtime. Daughter’s favorite spot to play school. I just like to look at that cozy little lamp- a gift from a dear friend for our wedding (seventeen years it has stood by and shone a light!) and know it is there still- lighting the way. I like a light in the gable.

I’m funny like that.

The girl in me needs that there to remind her: what’s important and what is not.

I cannot seem to break these long-standing patterns- they are ingrained in me, innocuous as they might seem to be. But there are other habits that I wish I could. And try as I might, I have such a hard time changing those- for they are so much harder to turn around. For there is more at stake. More to win and more to lose. The river channels run deeper- for they are habits of the mind. And a mind is hard to un-train. I am what I am. But am I?

I cannot easily change my ways. Some I should- but others are fine just the way they are. They are part of me- and I have come to terms with that. We cannot change what makes us who we are. The essential ‘us’. That part of us that defines our personhood. That makes us uniquely and definitively who we really are. We are the composite of all that which makes us wild and wonderful. We are the whole package- take it or leave it.

How often have I looked at others and wished I could change just one, small detail. That one small detail that would make that person more likeable, more suited to my preferences. Too often, I have examined others based on minute details- forgetting that people are the sum of all their parts. We are more than just our perfectionism. Than our stubbornness. More than our illnesses and our deficiencies. We are more than our strengths. More than our shiny, fancy packaging. Our trendy clothes. Our nice cars. We are more than meets the eye.

And we are more than our idiosyncrasies. Our differences. We must never change those things about ourselves which make us fragile and precious. That make us unique and special. For without these peculiarities, who would we truly be?

There is only one thing we can change if we so choose- and that is how we decide to look at others- how we look at the people around us with their own set of quirks and eccentricities. We can accept and embrace or we can reject and turn away. Either way- it is our choice. We can choose. But is not ever ours to change.

I have a habit. And it is mine to change.
Or not.

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So. Now you know.

This was me last night at supper.
Or rather.

This was me SANE last night at supper (politely asking for a pat of the yellow stuff, since I had been so kind to make the meal): “Could someone pass the butter, please?”

Din of voices. Outright, blatant ignoring of the Mother Lode. General mayhem.
And then.

This was me INSANE last night at supper (I apologize to the good folks in Tuktoyaktok who broke an eardrum): “FAMILY, PASS.ME. THE. BUTTER. P.L.E.A.S.E.”
Our ears are still reverberating.

And to add injury to insult. This was me tonight. At witching hour, ‘er bedtime.

(Speaking voice): “M.A., time to get your books and go upstairs.”

…M.A. delaying.

(strained speaking voice, a little bit louder this time) “M.A., c’mon. I said it’s time to go upstairs and do your homework.

…M.A. running in the opposite direction.

(@85 dB): “M.A. I.SAID.GET.YOUR.BOOKS. N.O.W.”

M.A. scooting up the stairs. As if her life depended on it. Which of course. It did.

So why is it, my dear people of THE WORLD that we as parents must project ourselves SO, in order to be heard?

Why must a raspy, poorly expressed mother take out a family of six, wiping them flat on their backs because she broke the sound barrier, just so she can get a word in?

I am ready to become mute for the cause. I have actually found myself daydreaming of laryngitis, simply because I wouldn’t have to fight it anymore. I could just blatantly go on living my life- because not only would I know they were ignoring me, I would also have verification that they truly couldn’t hear me. Which is more than I can say for right now.

I am not sure which has ruined me more- using my voice everyday to direct the Gard fleet from Command Central or reading Robert Munsch books a la Bob Munsch style- complete with sound effects. All I know for sure is this: I am not able to gain attention by way of my voice as I once might have been able. And I think it just might all be downhill from here.

I found myself last fall in an ENT office in Summerside (as one of my students calls him- visiting “Dr. Compost” – which is really to say “Dr. Campos”). And there I was with a metal contraption the length of a fishing pole strung down my throat (try to look graceful in that position. I dare you). And at the end of that ordeal, the doctor looked at me and said simply. “You need to see a Speech Pathologist. You don’t know how to use your voice correctly.”

While that is obviously true due to the fact that one year later I am still finding myself talking to the wall (which is of course, better than talking to the hand, but I digress…), the prospects of ending up inside an office where I would have to practice speaking for a woman/man at the ripe old age of 39 was just too humiliating a venture for this old duck. Not to mention, I could think of a million and one other ways to spend my husband’s hard-earned dollars.

I smiled at the specialist and told him I would see him in a couple of months, and then I proceeded to spend that entire time ignoring every good bit of advice that he gave me. And then some.
So. I guess it is my own fault. Which is why I am taking to hand signals these days which are far more effective anyway. And I say all this to say THIS:
Some of you wonder why I write. It’s the only way I can get a word in edgewise around here.
‘Nuff said.

Why I don’t support Shaming…among other bad spiritual tactics.

There is a problem with the church today- a problem that runs deep and wide and long.  It’s created a chasm actually and an exodus. It’s a problem sourced by a history of church practices and traditions that serve to verify its authenticity as real and overt.  It’s a problem all right.  And that problem is shaming, specifically the shaming of people, both Christian and otherwise.  Shaming them into becoming better Christians (or at the very least, A Christian).  Shaming them for their sins.  Shaming them for their choices.  Shaming them for not living up to a certain standard.  Shaming them for not upholding expectations.  Shaming people for reasons even I can’t conjure up.  Shaming in the name of faith and religion.  Shaming for the sake of shaming. Friends, shaming people into making choices or following up on decisions or acting on their conscience or into living for Jesus is no way for the church to conduct its mandate.

I recently read an article by the Naked Pastor that was written in regards to a hoax that has been circulating around the Internet.  The hoax is about the fictional pastor Jeremiah Steepek who dresses up as a homeless man and then attends the church he will be pastoring, prior to ever showing face to the congregation formally.  In the said hoax, Pastor Steepek goes around trying to connect with various parishioners, failing to get anyone to talk to him, let alone help him with his troubles.  At the end of his charade, he reveals himself to be their new pastor from the pulpit and proceeds to shame the congregation into crying and feeling horrible for their actions toward him.  You can read more about it here. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nakedpastor/2013/07/why-i-wouldnt-attend-pastor-steepeks-church/

At first when I read the article, I personified the pastor as the homeless man.  I saw the ‘homeless man’ as the story.  What I identified with was the problem we have in our society of not seeing people as God sees them: beautiful and precious and lovely.  A work of God made even in His own image.

But after considering a wise friend of mine’s perspective, another angle emerged.  And that angle was the shaming that occurred in that church as a fall out of the rejection some of the congregation had towards this pastor-cum-homeless person.

The author of the above article, David Hayward, says this:

The church’s number one tool to get what it wants is shame. I have been the victim of shaming so many times I can’t even count. I have used it so many times I can’t even count. When I think back on the times I’ve been shamed I get angry. When I think back on the times I’ve used it I feel remorse. It’s the church’s primary language. We grow up with it in our families, our schools, our jobs and our churches. Shame is used against us every single day of our lives so persistently and sometimes so subtly that we don’t even realize it anymore.

Shame is a motivator, but not permanently, and not in significant and meaningful ways. It gets something done now, but it destroys hope and character in the long term. Love is the best motivator. If it isn’t out of love, then it’s not a healthy motivation.

            I am a teacher of kindergarten students.  There are many times in the day when my students disappoint me for reasons based on the fact that they are four and five year olds.  They are busy.  They don’t always pay attention to everything I say.  And sometimes they outwardly ignore it.  If I was to use shaming as an instructional tactic, not only would I be out of a job, I would permanently damage these children in ways I cannot even word right in an article of this length.  I would destroy the goodwill I have set as a foundation of our classroom interactions and I would undermine my role with them as a nurturing support in the place of their parents.  As a teacher, I am mindful to always err on the side of gentleness when dealing with students.  Do I do it one hundred percent of the time?  No.  But it is the underlying goal in my mind as I go about my day.  To create an atmosphere of respect, understanding and possibility- always working within a Vygotskian theoretical framework that promotes positive, achievable growth.  Here’s Vygotsky’s mantra: “Show me what you can do, and then I’ll help you get a little better at it.”

Would that the church as an establishment would follow a little advice of this themselves.

What we need as a Church is to see God for who He really is, not for the interpretations we have of Him.  God is a Father- a perfect, loving, understanding, gracious, accepting, committed father unlike this world has ever known.  When I think of myself as a parent, I know that each day I get up in the morning I give my best self to my four precious children.  I don’t wake up dreaming of ways to shame them into following what I want them to do.  I don’t dream up ways of how I am going to coerce them into doing what I say.  And I don’t try to conjure up as many ideas as I can for how I can make their lives miserable.  I strive to not be that parent.

No.  I love them. I admire them.  I am proud of them.  And I would die for them if need be.

And so would God.  So did He.

And if we can see God that way- as Love personified, than we ought also to see his people- The Church in the same manner.  We must see the church as God sees them.  For the church is His Beloved.  They are his Bride.  He loves us i ways we can not even begin to understand.  And as a Father, we are His children.  The depths and heigths of that great love and mercy and grace and compassion for us can never, ever be underestimated. 

It is time we started loving people the way God does.

There is a beautiful passage of scripture that we recite often at weddings about love.  But friends, this passage ought to be the pulse of our hearts as Christians.  I Corinthians 13 :4- 8

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

That’s God’s kind of love.

So why do we as the backbone of the church still see Him as One who wants to make our lives miserable?  Why must the church backbone be the primary voice behind this message?  And why can’t we stop using shame as our primary motivational tool to motivate people and start living the love we know God is?

The Power of Encouragement

Cool winds blow as the sun goes down on yet another work week. I grab my laptop computer from the back seat of the van- a bag full of papers, my purse and jacket, then head for the house. Stone walkway under my feet showing signs of wear. Four cats waiting on the steps.
And I sigh. I have really been discouraged lately. So many things coming at me from all directions and they all seem to culminate during the month of November. Parent-teacher interviews, report cards, committee meetings, community and church commitments, university papers due, sickness in the family. And then there’s just the regular,old day-to-day grind- running thither and yon with kids in tow while I drag bag upon bag of STUFF everywhere I go. Grocery bags, back-packs, Zuca figure skating bags. My big, black purse. It feels sometimes like I’m living out of these bags. Add to all the above- the weather is changing and I think I just might have a touch of seasonal affective disorder.

And I’ve already mentioned my thoughts on Christmas being right around the corner.

Yesterday, I spent the better half of the morning at the dentist fixing yet another broken, worn-out tooth. Gotta love root canals. And this morning, Husband woke up with what he perceived as being a piece of gravel in his eye which turned out to actually be a wood chip. He spent the morning at the hospital and now is sporting an eye patch which gives him a slight edge over Jonny Depp as my most favorite-est pirate ever.
I arrive home to find him on the couch with Youngest sprawled over the top of him like an afghan. “I’m hunnnnngry,” she whines. And so it begins. Welcome to my Friday.

I sit down at the computer to take a peek at messages and e-mails when I find it. A letter from a woman I know vaguely. Opening the letter, I am completely taken back by the words I read. And what I read was this: the most beautiful, sweetest note I have ever received about one of my children from outside the family.

The tears started to fall as soon as I realized what the letter was about. It was a note of encouragement- completely unexpected. Apparently, I have a child who has befriended a child in class who is experiencing some difficulties; and this child of mine has used every opportunity to make a special connection with this other child- so much so, that my child’s name has been coming up at home as someone very special to this other child. Particularly in light of some of the extenuating circumstances going on with the child in mention. The letter was detailed and the closing line said this:
“I just wanted you to know that you have an amazing {child’s gender} and ask if you could please thank {your child} for me. I’m sure you’re very proud of {them}.”

I couldn’t hold back the tears. Honestly. It just blew me right out of the water.

And it reminded me yet again of the strength one can find in encouragement. Encouragement: it’s such a simple concept yet so profound. We can make the choice to say words that tear down or say words that build up. And even more significant- when we think a good thought about someone, we can choose to keep that good thought to ourselves or we can choose to share it.

How many times have I thought something about someone that made that person stand out as special and unique in my mind, but then got distracted and forgot to tell them what I was thinking? Too many times to count. And I miss out on sharing how that person has touched my life- and they miss out on feeling encouraged.

After I received that note today, I got to thinking: it wouldn’t take much to write a quick note to ten different people about either something they’ve done that I noticed as unique and important- or something someone connected to them has done that just made my day better in one way or the other. It wouldn’t take much effort. But in so doing, ten people would potentially have that same overwhelming feeling of encouragement that I had when I arrived home today. Which would be so worth it. Such a little thing to do- write a note of encouragement- but so very, very profound.

So. I want to challenge the people that read this tonight: think of ten people who have touched your life in a special way. Or not. Think of ten people that you know might just need the encouragement. Maybe they are not the kinds of people that hear nice things said about them very often: those people need encouragement the most. Or think of ten children of ten friends of your’s that you know you could say something nice about. Ten co-workers. Ten neighbors. Ten random people that you vaguely know but whom you know enough about to encourage. And just do it. Encourage them. Write something really special and see what it does for both you and them.

I’ve been discouraged lately. Maybe a lot of us have been. Anybody there? Anybody with me on this one?

Here’s what I know for sure about discouragement: it flips itself on its back when faced with an encouraging word. Discouragement doesn’t stand as much of a chance when over shadowed by encouragement. That little note tonight did more to lifts my spirits than that woman could ever imagine.

What little note could you write tonight that might make all the difference?

This Christmas: It’s About Receiving

Black, velvet sky melts into night-time darkness. It’s something below freezing. And I think to myself, ‘here we go again’. It’s another ‘up-too-late’ week-night, and I find myself driving snow-dusted roads riddled with pot-holes. This is becoming a habit I wish I could break; that is, the custom of making lesson plans in a creepy building where toilets flush spontaneously and every creak and whistle is felt like a chill. I glance at our passenger side floor mats that are gently speckled with frost. Makes me shiver. I’m glad for the double insulation tonight in the form of two pairs of pants, a warm coat, gloves and a hat.

All the houses I pass look warm and inviting. That’s where I should be right now- at home, cuddled up with a good book and a cuppa something hot. I notice to my right a curtained bay window that partially hides a glimmering Christmas tree. Seriously, I mutter. Already? White lights sparkle as if to inspire. But rather than stir the heart strings, it stresses.me.out.

I am not ready for Christmas. And I admit it: I am not at all excited about the upcoming Christmas season which lies just around the corner.

When I conjure up images of the Season, thoughts always turn to giving. That notion of giving has been ingrained in me from a child, and truly giving is something I have come to believe in as worthwhile and necessary. Of course, I learned how from the very best. My parents- the epitome of sacrificial ‘life-givers,’ having devoted their every breath and good intention to the families and people they served in full-time pastoral ministry.

My mother with a permanent curvature in her spine from having spent more hours than a person could recount on the phone, counseling women- young and old alike- she has lost years of sleep praying over women. Lifting their names heavenward when she could have been deep in slumber. Her life has been a gift freely offered to those she has mentored, prayed with, loved and befriended. She has been and continues to be an inspiration.

My dad, just released yesterday from the hospital, has Parkinson’s. A trip years ago to the Lahey Clinic in Boston confirmed that indeed, Parkinson’s is related to full-time ministry work. Many of those patients studied came from a life of stressful, full-out, service to the people they assisted. That’s my Dad. He was a wonderful pastor. Throughout my growing up years, his minutes, hours, days and weeks were devoted to The Calling. But years take their toll. And then some. What my parents had, they gave. And they gave over pretty much everything.

And what of their offspring? Are we treading similar paths? Yesterday, I found myself on the way to school yet again with the gritty taste of a broken tooth in my mouth after having pulverized yet another molar into dust. The grinding a result of stress acted out in restless dreams. The daily circus- running here, there and everywhere- and for whom? For what? And why?

It’s all getting to me.

Yes. I have seen with my own two eyes what havoc self-less living can wreak on lives that place great emphasis on generous service, duty and responsibility more so than on intentional acceptance. Even if that giving was done with the right motives. There were years when we kids waited, as hours ticked by, for a Dad who willingly made hospital calls on Christmas morning- knowing that this Calling of his and my mom’s was 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s just how it was. So when I think of Christmas, of Christmas trees- lights shimmering in the dark. Of presents underneath and happy, cheerful voices. I think of my parents. How they gave freely from the heart- year-round- and gave from what little monetary value they had. Their time, their resources, their lives. All characterized by self-less giving. And it has surely caused us as their children to be the better for it.

I am now an adult on that same side of the fence as my parents were once, and I am coming to realize indeed that giving is important. But that there are drawbacks when it comes to giving. Yes, there is amazing joy to be found in giving. And truly giving gets our eyes off ourselves and focused on others. And while I will always believe that giving is truly a worthwhile portion of the whole, I have come to believe that there’s more to the story than this. Because many of us, if we’re truthful, find this part somewhat easy. Giving- we know how to do that. It’s part of our culture. But when it comes to receiving back from others, well- that’s another story. It’s harder somehow. It’s hard to accept the gift with humility and gratitude. Shamelessly reveling in the pleasure of the offering. There is just something about a person who can with acceptance receive the gift with unabashed abandon. Just like a child seeing Christmas for the very first time.

It’s receiving that is hardest, in my books, folks. And this year, I’m just not ready yet to give more of me. Stripping my resources to the bones, wiping myself out so as to outdo what I might have done last year. I’m not sure if I’m ready yet for Christmas if what I have to look forward to is wearing myself thin, turning myself inside out, holding my emotions upside down all in the name of burning out for Christmas cheer.

If Christmas means giving more and more, then I’ll take a pass, thanks.

This year, I plan on receiving. I want Christmas to wash over me in all its glory. This year, I want to focus on receiving Christmas.

And I am coming to realize with the passing of years that there is a point of no return. A point when reached that one realizes they just can’t give anymore. Something else has got to give. But yet the paradox seems to be that while one is coming to the end of the proverbial rope with giving endlessly to seemingly worthwhile causes, that one can at the same time find it difficult to place themselves square on the receiving end of the gift.

To be sure- through the years, we’ve been inundated with the message that it’s better to give than receive. That God loves a cheerful giver. That it is in giving that we find true joy. That there is no better exercise than reaching down and lifting people up (John Holmes). That it is through giving we are blessed.

And most of us give- maybe not until it hurts, but we do know how to give. We give to charity, to community and church service. We tithe. We place ourselves on the altar of sacrifice for our children. But when it comes to receiving something back ourselves, don’t we have a hard time accepting that we’re really worthy of the gift? That we’re worth being sacrificed for, worth being the object of someone else’s blessing? It is humbling to be in the passive role, accepting that I am at times: needy, lacking and without. It is humbling to be the receiver when encountering one with something to offer me. Because I like to be in control. Being the receiver puts me at a distinct disadvantage.

Being on acceptance end of the gift-giving reminds me of my frailty. It reminds me that I don’t have everything- I’m sometimes at a disadvantage. It reminds me that in receiving, I have cause to be thankful. It reminds me that I am loved. It reminds me that I am the route to someone else’s blessing. I am the pathway to blessing for the one who gives to me.

And it is a humble reminder that I should never stand in the way of that. Of letting someone else feel the joy of giving.

It’s hard to receive. It’s hard to receive when we know the cost. When we know what it truly means. We hate to impose, to bother- to be that burden on another. For we know the price of time, of scarce resources, of money spent. We’ve been the giver so many times before. And don’t we sometimes just feel so unworthy? Not worth the offering. Such a nuisance.

As if the gift was never meant for us.

Almost 2000 years ago, God sent a gift. It was His absolute delight to do so- and what a gift that Baby was. That Child came to give so that we might receive. It was a gift, His birth. A gift to all those that witnessed the spectacle. A gift to Mary- and Joseph. A gift to the shepherds, the village people, the wise men. It was truly the Ultimate Gift- a gift that keeps on giving. Even today.

And I don’t know about you, but I am starting to feel ready to let that gift of peace and hope and love and Light and good will toward mankind wash over me this Christmas. I don’t need to give up, give out, give away or give over to receive this gift- I just need to accept it. I don’t need to burn myself out chasing after it- it already came. Hand-delivered. And the Gift is just waiting for me to unwrap it.

So I don’t want my focus to be giving this year. I don’t want to sell myself out, burn myself out, using up all my energy playing Christmas. I want to receive the gift. With absolute, awe-filled wonder.

I want to receive Christmas. As if it was my first Christmas ever.

Bring back the good ole’ days: Suppertime at the Gards

I believe we are in desperate times, people. And desperate times call for desperate measures. And so it is with great verve and energy that I issue a battle cry for action.

It is time we took back what is rightfully ours, families of the world. It is time we re-claimed our rights to that all-important evening hour- a time once known as supper, which held the power in its reach to gather together people from diverse activities and places and in so doing, press the pause button on whatever other all-important, pressing concerns might have been going on at the time.

It’s time we got our supper hour back, good families. We need to come home.

Now. I don’t know about you, but I am not issuing this campaign because I am a glutton for punishment. I am no fool. Supper hour is not fun. There are fights which break out. Children whine about food choices. I get indigestion. Yada yada yada. The list goes on. And yes. I realize that there are many, many other variables at play here, too. And to add further fuel to the fire, I also realize that supper hour is also known as witching hour in some households with children under the age of five.

To be certain, there are parents who would rather hold their head over a whirling toilet bowl full of ‘who-knows-what’ than try to make their sanity last through the first shout out to ‘gimme the ketchup…and NOW’. I know. I am that mom. But still. I feel deep inside the recesses of my stone, cold heart a calling back of sorts. And it is an ache, really, for a simpler world. One in which the family all gathers round the sprawling table for an evening spread. Easy banter. Smiling faces. The chink of silverware as it hits the plate. Gulps of milk to wash it all down.

Wheretofore did these sounds all but disappear, my dear Martha (Stewart)? Where did it all go, Good Housekeeping magazine? Have we lost them entirely, my own dear Mother?

Tonight. The girls and I arrived home to the smells of spicy sausages. Call me absolutely crazy ( I know), but the last couple of days I have forgone my lunch break so as to slip home and throw some meat into the slow-cooker. Yesterday, it was some steaks. Today, I smothered two different varieties of homemade sausages (okay, store-bought ‘homemade’) with Sweet and Spicy hot sauce and a little more of this and that. And I threw the cover on before heading back to work at my day job.

At about 4:45, the two youngest and I arrived home to the smells of supper. And I felt this internal release as if I was a wind-up toy and the key had finally been released. I was home. It was supper. Let the games begin.

Now. You might be asking. Where was the other half of the good ole’ fam-damily. Well, one child was at gymnastics. And two others were at hockey. And what time was this, pray tell? Um…, you got it: 5:00 until 6:00. Supper hour.

So, I know. This is our life. We are on the road. In a rink. At a meeting. In a club. At school. Anywhere but home. Guilty as charged. I am writing this one for ME.

I need me some old-fashioned suppertime charm.

So here’s what really happened. While we waited for the other half of the family to return home, the girls and I ate our supper. And the plan was that the other three would eat when they arrived home at 6:00. But again, there was this knowing feeling inside me that I just couldn’t shake: is this what I want to do with my life? Is this the way supper was meant to be? Is there any chance that supper hour can be taken back and reclaimed as lost territory?

So here’s what happened next. I had to leave at 5:45 p.m. to pick up the one who was at gymnastics, and when I got home Husband mistakenly thought we all hadn’t eaten and had the table set for 6 (“Dreamer, nothin’ but a dreamer…”).

And that’s when the thought crossed my mind: we can do this. We can have ‘something’ together. It doesn’t have to be supper to make this work. So I thought fast and came up with the perfect plan. Hot chocolate. We could all have hot chocolate together. And isn’t that just the perfect replacement anyway for the evening meal?

Let.them.eat.chocolate.

Works like a charm.

And while there really is no substitute for that all-important evening meal, hot chocolate works in a pinch. And it’s really all about the gathering anyway, is it not?

At least that’s the view from here.

Let Mercy Fall

What if we truly heard the message people spoke instead of listening for what we think they are saying? What if we stopped trying to project onto other people the ideas we have formed about them and instead listened intently to the messages they send us and let those messages simply be our guide?
I am so guilty of this. Someone will say something to me and instead of listening, I will interpret what they are saying to me to fit what I think they mean. To fit the pre-existing ideas I have already formed about them. To ‘jive’ with what I think I know is true. About them. About their “stuff”. About the ways in which they relate to the world.
When it comes to people- to humans (and believe me when I say this in the most positive way possible), do we ever really know anything for sure? If this can sometimes be true in the negative, then it surely can also be true in the positive. If we think that our stereotypes of them truly fit, then there really isn’t any other truth than our own. Because we all know, our truth about someone is the best, most spot-on judgement call. Right? We are pretty good at figuring people out.
I think we’ve all been there at one time or another: when we think we’ve got someone pegged. We say that they are “this way” or “that way” because that’s how we see it in our mind’s eye. But really. Do we know for sure? Do we have privileged access to that person’s soul? Can we judge the intentions of their heart?
Only One I know has this exquisite access to the inner workings of my heart, and it has been my experience that this One always acts in love. Always upholds us in the most gracious, kindest compassion. And that is surely the kind of Person I want reading my thoughts. Watching my actions. Reading my body language. Listening to those words of mine that fall between the lines. Viewing me based on truths I don’t even understand about myself.
Because I know His intention is to hold, not crush. To protect, not expose. To cherish, not betray. To love with everlasting, undying love. To fail to do these would be to betray His character. And the God I love is who is says He is.
In and of myself, I have not this kind of love. But I am striving for bits and pieces of it. Striving to live even if but only in the reflection of it. I am striving to know love; indeed, to show love through my offerings, humble and insignificant as those might seem to be.
Others have found the great paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love (Newsboys Official Website). The challenge for us: to live with abandon. To love freely. To move from a critical spirit toward one that offers encouragement. That offers hope. Understanding. Mercy. Because everyone needs compassion- a love that’s never failing.
And don’t we find more often than not that mercy falls down on us just when we need it the most.