There is a Chinese proverb which says, “Talk doesn't cook rice.” In other words, actions speak louder than words. While our words have an impact, it is our actions which tell people who we really are.
This is especially true when we apologize and make commitments to do better. Talking about doing something different, but not changing our behaviour, communicates we don't really believe we need to change. It says we don't want to feel the condemnation, but we don't want to do the work either.
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1 said, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” Without loving actions to back up our words, they become noise. Words can be a clumsy way to express love, and while verbal affirmation of love is vital, it's hallow if love isn't proven through actions.
I would say a major cause, of not following our words with action, is that we're too quick to speak. We're at times quick to make apologies for actions we haven't seriously or fully considered yet.
The solution is not to be quicker and better with our words, but to be patient, thoughtful, and listening. It says in James 1:19a, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak.”
If we spend more time listening, we'll spend less time making statements we're not living out, we'll adjust our focus from selfishness to true interest and concern for others. When we do this, we'll view others more for who they are, rather than as extensions of ourselves. As a result, we can give apologies which are backed up by action and benefit the other person.
This week my challenge is, when you want to apply a temporary bandage of words, instead take some time alone to think and pray about what actions you can take to improve yourself. Once you've figured that out, don't share your plan with someone else, keep it to yourself and walk it out. Give fruit time to grow and speak for itself.
The Bible says you will know people by their “fruit” (Matthew 7:16). Fruit is an object, not an idea, when fruit grows, people will see it, we won't need to point it out.
Let's match actions with words and not be so quick to speak, so we can avoid falling short of our words.
George Samells, the grandfather of my best friend Tyler Wescott, and known to me as “Grandpa George”, passed away this past Thursday, March 22nd. He was born on a farm on Scugog Island, on Ma Brown's Road, and lived much of his life within Scugog.
The Wescott and Samells families have always made me feel welcome as one of their own, and Grandpa George was no exception to that. After first meeting Grandpa George and his wife Marilyn, known to Tyler and I as “Marnum”, I went to breakfast a few times with them. I remember Grandpa George would order his toast burnt, since he said no one ever toasted his toast enough, so this would ensure it.
Mr. Samells was a character indeed, and I found him easy to like. He was a strong supporter of the newspaper, even after his deteriorating eyesight wouldn't allow him to read it. His weakening eyes, he said, had benefits, since it meant he didn't have to see people's facial hair, something he was often humourously critical of.
During the past few years, I would often see Grandpa George and Marnum at the laundromat, or more frequently at Tim Hortons on Reach Street. About once a week I would see them at Timmies and spend a few minutes catching up and talking about Tyler, as Grandpa George made a few jokes about Tyler's beard.
One of the last times I saw Grandpa George was at his 91st birthday party. Again, he made me feel like one of the family and shared stories about his life long dedication as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.
In one story, he told us how he would listen to the hockey game on the radio with his father. The radio had one ear phone, with no other way of listening to it. He and his father had an arrangement, where George would listen to the first half of the game and his father would listen to the second. Inevitably though, his father would fall asleep before the second half started and George would get to hear the entire game.
In the Bible, in James 4:14, life is compared to a mist that quickly vanishes. We do not know how long our life will be and this can give us great pause to consider our legacy.
Unfortunately for many, rather than pausing, we become urgent and afraid our legacy will be lackluster, pushing to ensure we've done all we can to help those who will live on after us to do 'better'. The urgent and those who try hard to make a legacy or leave others better off, rarely achieve any of these goals.
Instead of worrying about our legacies, I suggest we do what Grandpa George did, during the time I knew him, make people feel welcome.
A quote I mentioned in a previous column, that can never be emphasized enough is, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou.
A welcoming heart and a gentlemanly attitude are two of the only legacies for which a man is worth being remembered. And these legacies are lived and earned. Mr. Samells exemplified these things in the time I knew him and that's the legacy I will remember him by. Thank you for making me feel like part of the family, sir.
To Marnum, Larry, Linda, Tyler, Brittney, Jake, and Bill and his girls, my sincerest sympathy. My prayers are with you now. Thank you for carrying forth Grandpa George's legacy with your warm, welcoming, gentle spirits. God bless you all.
Voters are often quick to pounce on even the slightest of missteps made by an incumbent politician, or political hopeful. Whether a slight slip of the tongue, or brief lapse in memory or minor indiscretion in judgment, like angry sports fans ready to denounce and ridicule the athletes and call the referees blind.
Why do we do this? We act as though politicians waive any right to have their basic human dignity respected, as soon as they throw their hat in the political ring.
As a Christian, I do not believe that all respect is earned, but rather that a certain level of respect is required to be given, not because of who we are as people, but because of who Jesus is. As recently stated in my column, “Judging Jesus”, we are to treat everyone as if they were deserving of some of the honour of Jesus Himself. Obviously, we all make mistakes, and I'm not asking for us to respect wrong doing, but I am asking us to treat the person like Jesus even amidst this. We shouldn't condone the action, but we should respect the human dignity of the person.
This is, sadly, a difficult concept for us to grasp. As some would half jokingly welcome the thought of the assassination of their most hated politician. How could this possibly be acceptable? Would you condone the assassination of your neighbour just because they were annoying? Would you condone the assassination of Jesus?
All human life has value, even the life of those who don't believe that all human life has value. This goes for murderers, as well as pro-abortionists. Someone's lack of care for others doesn't give us permission to become what we hate.
Hopefully, most will agree with me on the above points. Still, some may find it acceptable to mock politicians on a personal level. While it is one thing to disagree with policies, it is quite another to gossip about how much we dislike someone as a person, or how much their personality irritates us. Many politicians are guilty of doing this to each other as well. In the average person's environment, constantly throwing insults at your co-workers would likely get you fired, but this is the norm in parliament and Queen's Park.
But here we are, sitting on the sidelines. Most of us without an hour's training in political matters, and most feeding off of the internet and hear-say from a handful of people we know who fancy themselves political pundits.
When was the last time you read an entire article on a political subject from a reliable media outlet? When was the last time you verified that story, with at least three other reliable outlets?
Here are a few questions I'm trying to ask myself before ranting about a political issue:
Would I have cared about this issue before I read an article about it?
If my favourite politician had been the one who did this, instead of one I dislike, would I excuse it or still condemn it?
Am I upset just for the sake of being upset?
Am I making fun of this politician to make me feel superior?
This check up helps determine if I'm being fair or simply looking for something to be angry about.
Questions like these would be good to ask before we comment or act against anyone in our society, so why shouldn't they be good to ask in regards to those who work so hard to serve it?
I'm not trying to imply sympathy for any particular politician by writing this column. It's simply something I've observed from all sides of the political spectrum.
Whether you're a voter, a candidate, or an incumbent politician, let's remember to respectfully discuss and debate ideas and policies, but let's not try to win points by dehumanizing those we disagree with or belittle them as people. Instead let's extend an olive branch of respect and understanding.
Remember, “Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.” - Author Unknown.
Would you condemn Jesus? While it may be a provocative question, it's also one we act out the answer to regularly. And sadly, the answer for all of us, too often, is yes.
Let me explain why I can make this assertion, even though I don't know you. Jesus, while relating a parable said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV).
Jesus makes the bold claim that what we do or do not do to others, we actually do or do not do to Christ Himself. Putting our interactions into this light, how often have we actually been criticizing Jesus? Yelling at Jesus? Judging Jesus?
Jesus further solidified the connection between our actions towards others and Him, elsewhere. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a story about a servant who had a debt to pay, but was unable to. In an act of mercy, his master didn't pronounce judgment against the servant, instead he set him free, forgiving him of his burden. But the same servant went out and found someone who owed him money. Rather than showing mercy, he demanded payment. The master found this out, wasn't pleased and so reversed the mercy given to the first servant.
The Bible provides a context for this response in Mathew 7:2, “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Jesus said, “if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15).
Why is this? When we condemn others for their sins, we're actually condemning Jesus, because He is the one who took their sin, and each of ours, to the cross as his own and paid for it, for all time and eternity. While this concept sounds bizarre at first, approach it simply: when you pay for something, you own it.
The Bible takes it a step further, saying, Jesus not only took ownership, He actually became as sin for us. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This is why the concept of grace, isn't merely a sweet thought to alleviate the guilt of 'wrong-doers'.
Grace is vital to the good news. Presenting the Gospel, which means the 'good news', without grace is dangerous. I'm not just talking about presenting it without the concept of grace, but presenting it without an attitude of grace. If we don't practice what we preach, our words are meaningless.
A famous quote, often attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, says, “Share the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” Our actions and ways of speaking communicate as much, or more, than our words do.
The Apostle Paul noted to Titus, the best way to get the gospel across, was living properly, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8).
While our words are important, our conduct often impacts more deeply. Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” It's counter-intuitive to expect someone to respond positively to treating them poorly.
According to an article by The Nonverbal Group, “Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements, [such as] facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.” If this is true, the tone of our words convey more than five times what our words actually do, and our gestures and body language convey more than half of our overall message.
This concerns me when I think about how I treat people. Am I speaking the truth, but not in a loving tone or gesture? This could give the impression, I'm actually judging rather than loving, or even lying to the person. Those aren't messages I want to convey.
When we interact with others and treat them certain ways, we're actually treating Jesus that way. I believe this should be a sobering thought we shouldn't move past easily.
But, bringing it back around to grace, we need grace for ourselves too. We're going to blow this, as we attempt to practice more true tone or gestures. We also need to treat ourselves like we would Jesus. We're also one of the “least of these” He talks about, in the scriptural quote earlier. Which means when we accuse and abuse ourselves, we're actually accusing and abusing Jesus as well.
From this point forward, let's view each other as Jesus, in terms of how we treat each other. Let's also treat ourselves with grace for the times we mess this up.
I'm praying for grace and peace for you. God bless!
Laughter is good medicine. This is sage advice we are all familiar with. But sometimes it's difficult to laugh. Whether it's because of loss, grief, or trauma in your life; or less dramatically, the natural stresses that come even with good jobs or relationships, it's important to step back from the seriousness and laugh.
We need to be able to laugh at ourselves too. It's difficult to have a healthy self-opinion, without being able to laugh off the silly things we do or think. Laughing at ourselves keeps us humble, sober and less likely to be wounded when someone else criticizes us. It's not a matter of mocking ourselves to beat others to it. It's a matter of being able to not take everything so seriously.
While life has many things that need to be taken seriously, we tend to make ourselves miserable by making things more serious, emotionally, than they need to be. As William Arthur Ward said, “To make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity.”
When we can set the emotional tension aside, and look at how hilarious life often is, we can more easily move through life and decisions. Re-approaching things from a humourous angle can get our minds thinking on a different path, and open us to creative solutions to issues.
Sometimes you have to put yourself into a humourous situation to get into the spirit of things. As a personal example, I've entered the United Way annual Tour de Perry tricycle race in Port Perry a few times, and it's a hilarious event. As an adult riding a tricycle, it's difficult to take yourself too seriously, and that's a good thing. Every time I participate, and see local business owners, politicians, and pastors allowing themselves to look ridiculous all for a good cause, it's been a great reminder that it's OK to laugh at myself. This is finding dignity by throwing off foolish pride.
Our minds work like a computer. Computers need to be rebooted, or set on 'sleep mode' periodically to get them to refresh and utilize their resources properly. Whether writers block or working out a math or technical engineering problem, sometimes we need a break and a refresh.
Laughter can help us take that needed break. As comedian Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”
Here are a few ideas for ways to refresh your mind with some humour.
Family Comedy Minute
If you only have a minute to spare while working on a big project, I recommend checking out the Family Comedy Minute, at www.radioprogramsonline.com/FCM/ This one minute comedy show packs excerpts from family friendly comedy shows, so it's not only a good quick shot of comedy, it's also a nice way to find out about comedians you may have never heard of before. A few clean comedians I recommend are Nazareth and Leeland Klassen.
Sometimes nothing is as funny as 'the funnies'. Here are a few places you can find some comics that usually tickle my funny bone! Comicskingdom.com/comics is a great quick source to find comics like Dustin or Sherman's Lagoon. You can find Peanuts, Adam @ Home, Calvin & Hobbes at www.gocomics.com
The Scugog Memorial Library is full of comedy movies and humourous books. Take care of yourself, by going there and checking out some laughable literature!
So there you have it, a few sources for humour in a hurry. Whatever you face, keep a smile on your face when you honestly can. And when you can't, get some good medicine, that is laughter.
“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” - Charlie Chaplin.
Are you age 20 to 29 and live in our readership area? This column is for you. Do you have a son or daughter or grandchild in this demographic? Please get them to read this column.
I want to remind our readers that in past articles I have extolled the virtues of close families and connecting cross-generationally. Without concern of undervaluing the other types of relationships in our society, this has lain a clear foundation to write this opinion piece upon.
Do you feel isolated. Have your friends moved to cities like Oshawa, Whitby, Toronto, or even outside of the province or country? Do you often look around and feel as though you're surrounded by seniors or small children? Whether it's another turkey supper, euchre game, or pickle ball tournament, do you feel like local events don't have your age in mind?
Did you feel that Scugog was out of touch with your needs, as residents spoke out against the township's internet initiative; an initiative that not only would make your life easier but provide local jobs?
In regards to young adults, our communities are in a crisis. I'm not talking about teenagers with their high school friends and events, or those teens with cashier and stock room jobs all around town. I'm talking about those in college, fresh out of college and those that age struggling to make a life in a community that seems to have forgotten them.
Take a walk around town if you don't believe me, there seems to be a demographic black hole between the end of high school and the 30-somethings starting young families. Where are the 20-somethings?
According to statistics Canada, there are 2140 young adults ages 20 to 29, in Scugog alone, 2325 in Uxbridge, and 7360 in Kawartha Lakes. Looking at just Scugog and Uxbridge, there are apparently 4465 young adults here. Where are you gathering and in what ways do you gather besides partying? There must be other ways or groups that get together in healthy emotional ways to find common interests.
My co-worker Dan and I, both feel this same frustration and confusion over the issue. It's difficult to meet people our age here. And it's baffling when you look at the numbers, and think about how few of these people we see.
We know we're not alone. Not simply in terms of numbers, but in thought process. Night after night I see young adults frequenting Tim Hortons for hours, with nothing else to do. Is this the only existence we're offering young adults in our communities? There has to be better or additional options than staying up until 2 a.m. at Timmies, or meeting people at bars. I'm not meaning to offend anyone, but I don't drink, and I'm not interested in a bar culture. If you, like me and my colleague Dan, think there must be a better way for the young adults in our community to live, then read on.
This discussion has been going on silently in the heads of many like minded young adults across our communities. These are people hoping for some healthy social interaction, who don't even realize that two doors down, or across the street, there's another discouraged young adult who feels isolated, and also has great ideas of how to make our community better.
While I don't know the solution yet for all of us, I know we exist. It's time to come out of the woodwork and stop the internal dialogue of discouragement, and to come together for meaningful discussions and sharing of ideas, so we can help our community be a place we can enjoy living in. As much as moving away may sound easier and appealing, it's not the solution, the numbers don't lie, we're here, so why don't we make this place a home we enjoy too?
As an excellent example, Dan brought up local artist Jasmine Rutschmann. As a young metal work artist, she was rejected by an art group because of her age. Consequently, she decided to make a space for young artists and created the local “Golden Gallery”. Jasmine is an example of doing something about her situation, rather than lamenting the lack of pre-existing opportunities. Let's not lament our lack of social, economic, etc, opportunities, let's make some!
In response to this line of thinking, we at the Standard designed a survey, found at https://www.thestandardnewspaper.ca/young-adults.html, which responsible young adults, ages 20 to 29, who are abstainers (no drinking or drugs), can complete. This survey is about what type of group you would like to see developed in our reading area, for 20 to 29 year olds. This survey will tally up votes for general categories of interest among this population.
Divided by region and interest and including an email address from each participant, it will be used to inform people of their peer interest group events, with a view in mind, if none exist, they could establish a place to gather and host their given social interaction group. Any relationships developing out of these groups would be solely at the discretion of those in the group. The Standard would simply be functioning as an initial collector of information and would impart it to those interested in hosting a group or event. We would in no way be responsible for any misbehaviour stemming from the interaction of individuals in any group.
But still, this could be a great opportunity for those who would embrace it in a dignified manner. Good futures could even come out of this. Again as I wrote earlier, let's not lament our lack of social, economic, etc, opportunities, let's make some!
With all the snow, rain, freezing rain, and cold weather we've been having, you may have spent more time indoors lately. If you've become bored of the winter blahs, why not try playing a board game or card game? As someone interested in writing, it should be no surprise I like a number of word-based games. Here are a few of my favourite games.
“Apples to Apples” is a favourite card game of mine. You have two decks of cards. One deck has red cards which contain descriptive words, such as adjectives and adverbs. There is also a green deck with nouns, such as people, places, and things. There are different variations of the game, but the basic gameplay is as follows. Each player is given several red cards, and a green card is displayed on the table. Each person has to place, face down a red noun card they believe would fit well with the green descriptive card. For example, the green card may read, “loud”, and you play the red card labeled “1812 Overture”. Each round one person serves as judge, if the judge chooses the card you played, then you win that round. The first one to reach a predetermined number of winning cards wins the game!
Another great word based game is “Balderdash”. In this board game everyone makes up phony, often humourous, definitions for complicated and rarely heard words. Among these fake definitions will be the real one, and everyone votes on which one they think is real. Players earn points both by guessing the correct definition and by having people vote for their fake one. With these points, you can advance on the game board. The first one to the end of the game board path is the winner!
My family and I recently played a brand new word based game. It's called, “The game of things”. Similar to Balderdash, you write down something based on a word. In this case, however, you don't write a definition, but rather a response like 'something that is smelly', for example. Instead of guessing what answer is most accurate, you guess who wrote which answer. An excellent game to see how different people think. The real trick comes in, when those who know each other well, try to write answers which sound like someone else's way of thinking. The person with the most correct guesses wins!
Whether you are a writer, a reader, or someone else interested in words, try out these word games! You might end up learning a few new words, or a few new things about those you're playing the games with. I hope these games will help cure any winter blues.
What you fear, is what you revere. It is what we allow to influence our behaviour. What you are most afraid of, is what you believe is the most powerful thing in the moment your in, or even in your overall life. We don't like to admit that, because, most of the time, if we honestly looked at what we fear, we'd be repulsed by what we're essentially revering. But if we believe that thing is strong enough to be feared, then we've made that more powerful than God, or whatever we trust, in our minds, and consequently, in how we live our life.
Stress has been known to shorten lifespans. According to NaturalNews.com, stress damages our DNA. Independent.co.uk has even said, “a stressful workplace could take 33 years off your life expectancy”. Fear leading to stress is damaging to our health, but there is another kind of fear that doesn't bring stress.
Proverbs 10:27a says it well, “The fear of the LORD adds length to life.”
In the Bible, fear is often used to denote respect, rather than terror. In this light, we see a connection between fear and respect. The difference is, whenever we fear something other than God, it inspires dread and discomfort. When we fear God, it's more a reverence of honour and warmth. It brings respect to God, and comfort to us. The comfort of knowing the most powerful being in life is more powerful than anything that wants to harm us, disarms other kinds of fear. The fear of the Lord is the only fear that leads to comfort.
My pastor said something to this effect on Sunday, “When we let go and trust God, we begin to talk about how big God is, instead of how 'big' our problems are.”
Remembering to focus on the Lord, not my circumstances or issues, starts a domino effect. First, I remember who my life is really about; God, not me. Second, I remember that He is all-powerful, so if He asks me to do something, I have the responsibility to follow through on it.
Responsibility is a good word. It means we've been given the ability to respond. I heard it put quite beautifully, as follows, “God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.” When God asks you to do something, He will give you the ability to respond. Giving God the respect He is due, and following through on what He asks, reminds us how big God is, and how tiny our fears are.
This ability is not something we conjure up ourselves. A pastor I once new, named Cindy Peck, once said, “We are not to be problem-oriented people. We're not even to be solution oriented people. We're to be God-oriented people.” In Christ, we find our solutions and answers. That doesn't mean He'll give us all the answers we want, or even all the answers. It means that within Him are the answers. We don't need to know the answers and solutions, we only need to know the one who has the answers and solutions. Because God is the answer and solution to all our problems and fears.
It is said there are two kinds of knowledge. There is the knowledge you have retained from your experiences and there is the knowing of who to go to for it when you have no experience yourself. When something is greater than our experience we can respond with fear, or, in reverence, we can go to God who has all experiences within him and knows all things.
The Bible says in 1 John 4:18, “perfect love 'drives out' fear.” To have ourselves emptied of fear, we need to be filled with love. Earlier in verse 16, we're told, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” So for us to be filled with love, and depleted of fear, we need God's Spirit living inside of us. The space has to be occupied by something.
Do your fears seem like immovable mountains? Then those fears have become your focus. What we focus on drives all our decisions and reactions. Ultimately, what we most focus on, is what we serve. The question is, do you want to serve your fears, or do you want to serve the God who is the answer and solution to all those fears? More than that, the God who sticks closer than a brother!
Those of us who are Christians will still be challenged by fear, like anybody else. The difference we have is, we have someone greater than our fears to turn to. So, what are you going to choose to fear, and therefore respect? Will you serve circumstances and problems that come and go, or the God who created us all, and who can fill us with love that drives out fear? As for me, I will fear the Lord.
Children grow up and become adults. A simple concept, but it's one we often forget to be aware of in a practical sense. When someone is a child growing up, they often imagine the day they become a “grown-up”, as some far off dream. It's like they might view Heaven, as real, but always a place you'll get to “someday”, rather than now.
Similarly, as adults, we can view children as eternally young. Oh, we know they'll grow up “someday”, but our "cherub-vision" keeps them from ever being adults in our mind. Mind you, when they misbehave, cherub-vision turns off, and we all are quite ready for them to finally “grow up”!
Joking aside, sometimes we can disassociate children, from being would-be-adults, in our mind. Unfortunately, when we forget they will be the next generation of adults, we neglect preparing them for the tasks that lie ahead.
As a single young man writing this, some might wonder what I could know about training children. Admittedly, very little. But it takes supporting parents and a community of people, to raise children. Each of us has a part to play in helping children become the adults they're created to be.
It's through this concept, and much prayer, I was led to serve in my church's children's ministry, this year. After helping the teachers for a few months, I was in charge of the class this Sunday, for the first time. It was quite an experience.
As any parent would know, better than I, being “in charge” of two to four year olds, can be a difficult thing. Finding a proper balance of patience, and refocusing a child's attention, especially when the child is not your own, can be tricky. I found this, in listening to what the child had to say, and transitioning into the Sunday School lesson organically. A lot of good conversation can come from listening.
My pupil seemed to have a fascination with talking about lava lately.
“So what's lava?” I asked.
“Hot stuff,” he replied, as scientifically as you can be at four years old.
“Hot stuff? So is coffee lava?” I posed humorously.
“No. Lava is orange stuff that is in Bowser's castle,” he replied very specifically.
“Oh, I see, Bowser from the Mario games.” I pointed out, realizing his lava fascination came from the popular Nintendo series.
“Ya. He's mean. He's a bad guy.”
This led to an interesting discussion, about God wanting us to pray for our enemies, not retaliate. And what makes a “bad guy” a “bad guy”, and a “good guy” a “good guy”.
I wasn't sure whether he was fully grasping the idea. But later I was encouraged to hear his answer to a question during our formal lesson.
“What are some ways we can learn more about God?” I asked.
“We can go home and pray for bad guys to become good guys.” he replied.
The simplistic beauty of his answer made me smile. But really, his answer wasn't simple at all. I could see throughout the morning, how much he thought about the idea of praying for those who hurt us, as Jesus told us to, in Luke 6:28.
We can each find healthy ways to make a positive difference in children's lives. They're listening, whether we like it or not. Let's take some time to think about the world we're letting them overhear, and the world we hope they'll preserve and build upon. As much as we want children to rise above our mistakes, and in many ways they will, they can only do so if we give them a solid foundation. Let's point them to the solid foundation.
The little things are so often under-appreciated. Even my previous sentence has become somewhat cliche and under-appreciated itself.
Recently I was speaking with world traveller Jonathan van Bilsen, who said he appreciates the slow pace of non-western nations. He said, many don't have televisions or other gadgetry to distract their focus. In the West, a culture of overworking ourselves to buy the updated version of something we already own, persists. But in many other cultures, people work hard for one purpose, to provide for their families. They spend all their free time socializing with family and friends.
Amidst this Western cultural mindset, I've come to see a negative side effect of our hobbies. As we've been able to move away from being workaholics, we've replaced work with equally burdensome hobbies. In this area, the idiom “a change is as good as a rest” doesn't fully apply. Change helps us, with a form of rest, but whatever happened to the good old-fashioned art of plain old resting? When was the last time you did “nothing”?
I'm not advocating laziness. We should work hard, even above and beyond expectations. We should pull our weight, and be responsible. In fact, I enjoy working hard, when I get into the rhythm of things. I like to-do lists, and checking off their contents as I go. I've been known to skip meals and delay sleep when working on a project. But that's the problem! Working hard isn't an issue, but there's a time and place for everything.
King Solomon, often considered one of the wisest men who ever lived, said these words in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”. Further on in the chapter, he mentions there is a time for building, and for laughing and embracing.
What are you building, and what did you build it for? Have you lost sight of why you are building your life, or who you've been working for? Have you spent so much time working to support your family, that you don't spend time with them? Have you worked so hard in your ministry, you don't have time to do face to face outreach, to touch another life one on one?
Some of us have imagined unreachable dollar figures around our expectations for happiness. Some of us have let unrealistic levels of productivity become our obsession. Have we begun to seek goals in our work, other than the reasons we started working in the first place?
Your family doesn't need a big screen 4K television. You don't need the brand new iPhone. Your family will get by without multiple cars, a cottage, a boat, or a yearly trip to Florida. They don't need those things, they need you. Set reasonable working hours, and limit, or eliminate altogether, hobbies that keep you away from those you love.
Each of us comes across a unique set of people in our lives. Many other people will come across those same people, but you're the only you they'll ever know. There's something specific you can give them of yourself. It isn't your hard work, or money, or the things those monies can buy, that they need you to give them. It's you yourself.
We are in the midst of, what my Dad likes to call, the “Season of Giving”. This starts with Remembrance Day and continues all through the Christmas season. During this time, let's focus on putting our work and hobbies back where they belong. Instead of letting those become our primary focus, let's enjoy the people we've been blessed to call our own.