Love Does Not Traffic

begonia sunset ch rs DSC_0864

Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor.

(1 Corinthians 13:5 TPT)

The way of love is so different than the way of self-promotion it’s almost shocking. The current way of self-promotion when seeking positions of power is to dig up as much dirt as possible, massage the truth a bit, and publicly disrespect rivals by rubbing shame in their faces via the media.

What would leadership that places the needs of others above one’s own (or one’s own tribe) even look like?

What if a political campaign was fought with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

What if honour was honoured?

I wonder. Could we handle true truth?

Choices: Hope in a Culture of Despair

DSC_0177 (2)

This time of year reminds me of a day 24 years ago when a close friend made the choice to terminate a life — her own. I still mourn. That choice ended all other choices.

She was in despair. A few weeks before graduation from her final year of university she was dropped from the program. Her supervisor said she did not have the temperament for her chosen field and would not receive certification.

It was the same temperament she exhibited the entire time and the decision so late in the process was a blow. She felt ashamed and like she had wasted nearly four years of her life. The rejection not only dashed her dreams, it became part of her identity.

Reject. Shameful failure.

When she talked about ending her life I interfered. I meddled. I made it my business, and I do not apologize for that. I arranged for professional help. I got her to the hospital.

I understand despair. I know what depression is like. I know the feeling that hope has been chased away by the ugly trio of anxiety, shame, and dismal forebodings. I know what it is like to make my failures my identity. I know what it is like to believe that the world would be better off without me.

I also know what it is like to be healed, to see the sun come out from behind the clouds and warm my heart again. I know the joy of hope restored. I know what it is to be loved for myself and not for my accomplishments. I have met the God of hope. He healed me and lifted me out of the pit of despair.

I know she told people what they wanted to hear to get out of the hospital. She still saw herself as an unwanted reject. I urged her to accept help, but she refused.

We talked on the phone a lot, frequently in the middle of the night. I told her how learning the truth of the simple child’s song, “Jesus Loves Me” rescued me from hopelessness. That story brought an angry response.

“Quit cramming religion down my throat. I’m tired of religious people condemning me. You can’t tell me what to do!”

I wasn’t condemning her, but she had grown up with a lot of legalistic religion with impossibly high standards, so that’s how she interpreted what I said. She was right that I could not tell her what to do.

I could not tell her what to do with her body. She had free will. It was her choice. One night she hung up on me and chose to overdose. She told the paramedic who transported her to hospital that she changed her mind. But it was too late. She had an allergic reaction to the antidote and died. The consequence of her choice put an end to all other choices.

Years passed before I accepted there was nothing more I could have done to change her mind. It was her body, her life, her choice. I still miss her. I still love her. I still put flowers on her grave.

I read something another young friend wrote today. (For Danika’s excellent blog “My Life, My Choice” click here.) Danika’s life was also interrupted by a change of plans. She was on her way back to college to complete a program in a chosen field in which she excelled when she learned she was pregnant.

Her doctor urged her to get an abortion. She didn’t want her “to throw away everything she had worked so hard for.”

As I thought about it, I realized the doctor accepted the same belief as Lisa. Success in this culture is achieved through hard work leading to money, status, and power. Circumstances that set us back in this competitive atmosphere, in which everyone is too busy chasing goals to quit the race and stop to help another human being, are cause for despair.

Resiliency carries less value as a character trait when hope is lost. Compassion in a world of despair can offer only a cruel kindness. Abortion may look like a kind rewind but it ends the life of a living being whether or not you believe it is human or of any value. It permanently ends the possibility of any other choices.

I began to think about the many women I know who felt coerced by partners, social workers, doctors and family members into a choice that increased their sense of being a failure, whether it was failure to produce a male child, or a perfectly healthy child, or simply remain unpregnant. Some, feeling there was no place in the world for themselves if they could not keep up in the success race, assumed there would be no place for their child either. For some, despair and hopelessness led to a kind of suicide by proxy. Someone told them the world would be better off without their child and they believed it.

Danika chose a third way. She defied the edict that declared her only choices were to “throw her life away” by remaining pregnant or terminate and become a success by finishing her degree and getting a job. Her career plans have shifted and now she has started her own successful business and is studying online. Her little girl is a bright ray of sunshine in the lives of everyone who knows her. This child will grow up with free will and the right to make her own choices.

It has not been easy. I’ve watched Danika struggle, but I’ve also watched her accept help from community resources and family and friends who genuinely care, people who by their actions told her she is loved and valued for who she is and not just her accomplishments.

There was a time when suicide was against the law. What’s the point? I don’t think abortion can be legislated away anymore than suicide (although I certainly don’t want to be a part in it anymore than I would want to supply anyone with a lethal dose of pills). You can’t tell people what to do with their own bodies. They will follow through on intentions whether or not the process is “safe.” You can only be there to help, to support, to point out other options, to let the goodness of God show through your actions, and to point to the source of hope. The abortion issue is about more than a change in laws. It’s about change in hearts. It’s about hope.

Unless those of us who value life in the womb address the problem of the lack of love, honour, forgiveness, and hope in this world and until we live in a way that exemplifies resiliency and joy in trusting God to not only get us through tough circumstances, but flourish through them, we will have no influence. Until we are willing to care for others in non-condemning, self-sacrificing practical ways, we will only spend more years laying flowers on graves on our way to protest marches.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17 NIV)

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

DSC_0163 (2)

“Christ in you” is not only your best hope of glory, it is the world’s only hope.

When Kindness Isn’t Kind

 

“PRAISE GOD! I’M FREE!” he shouted as he leapt onto the grassy bank from the back seat of my car.

poke kids fighting IMG_0047My grandson threw his arms in the air and did an enthusiastic Pentecostal two-step right there. I laughed, but I understood the feeling.

I took my young grandchildren to the splash park this week. We had a marvelous time and I was impressed with how well the children got along and looked after each other.

Then we drove home.

Securing three car seats in a space usually taken by jackets and stuff that won’t fit in the trunk of my car was a challenge, but we did it. It meant my grandson was squished in the middle seat between his sisters though. Opportunity for boundary violations abounded. All three took advantage of those opportunities.

Finally, after a useless lecture on the dangers of escalating a conflict with over-reaction, I put on my stern voice.

“No! You may not poke each other! If you continue this I am stopping the car right now!”

That was a useless threat thirty years ago and its effectiveness has not improved, but you know, tradition.

Finally I commanded, “I want you to do one kind thing for each other, right now!”

That’s when the kissing started. Big sister planted a sloppy wet one on brother’s shoulder. His eww inspired another then another. He leaned away but that put him in range of little sister who covered him with similar passive aggressive affection. The girls giggled. He protested. Loudly.

Ten blocks to go. Nine… eight…

Later, as I was telling his Dad about my amusement at his son’s actions (the joyful exclamation part, not the misbehaving part – that’s between us) I remembered times when I was equally as happy to be freed from the “kind” ministrations of people with a self-serving agenda. False kindness can be like sending truckloads of used junk to disaster areas that have no place to put it as an excuse to clean closets and feel good about ourselves at the same time. Perhaps well-meaning, but not well thought out.

Boundary violating kisses I have known often started with:
~I’m telling you this in love.. (because even I realize the action is not exactly communicating “love”).
~I have a ministry opportunity for you…
~This worked for me so it will obviously work for you…
~I know you have a weight problem, but I made these cupcakes just for you…
~I read this on paranoid tendencies.com and you need to implement the findings immediately…
~Thus saith the Lord, if you do not heed the advice of this, his servant, it will not go well for you…
~This is what you need to do because, in my opinion, this is how a good Christian dresses, or worships, or prays, or votes, or diets, or donates, or handles Hallowe’en…
~I’m just protecting you. These are the teachers/preachers who disagree with me or give me an icky feeling. Shun them.

One day I finally realized I was free to jump out of the confines of that harassment. “Praise God! I’m free!”

Kisses can be loving and kind. Sometimes these were about good things the speaker learned and wanted to pass on. He or she meant well, but, it was still a bit self-serving. It’s difficult to untangle a desire to help from a desire to be in control. I’ve done it too – and suffered the consequences. When you remove people’s power to self-govern they tend to express exasperation in unexpected ways. We with a yearning to teach also need to learn to share knowledge and still honour people’s ability to think and decide for themselves. One size does not fit all.

I have noticed in the scripture that Jesus responded to individuals differently. He didn’t heal the same way every time. He didn’t use the same tone of voice with everyone. Even now he speaks to his beloved according to their needs and temperament and meets them where they are.

Maybe a brother or sister needs a kiss. Maybe they need to be noticed and a friendly poke or a holy kiss, or a culturally appropriate side hug is the perfect response. But maybe they need respect and space to work it out with the Lord on their own. Maybe they need freedom.

You are perfectly free to ignore this if it doesn’t minister to you. Just sayin’.

Avoiding the Ditch

trailer mountains bw IMG_6439

We who live in the mountains often complain about how slowly tourists from the prairies drive when the road is curvy and about the way they speed up when they come to passing lanes in straight stretches. Unkind words may have been spoken about recreational vehicles that get between locals and their work sites.

The problem is that we have “ditches.” Deep ditches. Deep, deep, deep ditches. Understandably, the thought of speeding down the road a few feet away from the precipice of a gorge you can’t see the bottom of is intimidating to people not accustomed to it.

Okay, it’s intimidating to a lot of us who live here too. Driving over the Kootenay Pass still freaks me out, especially in winter. I wish they would put up barriers on the edge of the cliff, but it probably has to do with the need to shove snow from avalanches over the side.

There are not-as-high high places that used to frighten me when we first vacationed here when I was a child. I don’t even notice the height (or more accurately, the depth) now. I remember being in awe the first time I looked down on a rainbow, still white knuckling my way up a steep incline. I guess driving in these conditions does teach one to be aware of the ditches and the need to avoid going too far in either direction.

I watched one of those road accident close call videos the other day. What struck me is that many incidents of loss of control were the result of over-correction. In order to avoid going into one ditch the driver over-reacted, swerved sharply, and ended up in the other.

I’m fascinated by history and the way a reaction to one extreme ends up becoming another. When people are carried along by the momentum created by unresolved anger even a small correction can set them on a trajectory that lands them in as much trouble as the first problem.

I see this pattern repeated throughout church history. An angry group of people break away in protest to excesses in one area and within a couple of generations find themselves trying to crawl out of the opposite ditch. For example, one group, who rejected the ostentatious benefactor-backed wealth of the monasteries at the time, angrily walked out in protest and went to live in communal poverty on less arable land in remote places. Within a hundred years their work ethic and creative solutions to farming swampland and steep hillsides turned them into wealthy landowners who didn’t handle riches any more generously than the group they rejected.

I see this pattern in parenting. One generation says they will never be as rigid as their parents and the next says it will never be as laissez-faire as their parents were. Flip and repeat.

I see this pattern in the arts. One movement admires painstaking detailed rule-following workmanship and the next reacts by rejecting “derivative work” and going for free-wheeling uninhibited expression. They have labels for each other. Most of them end in “ist.”

I see this pattern in politics. But I’m not going there today. Why? Because when you are in the middle of a drastic course change motivated by angry rhetoric, shots fired from both ditches can be doubly dangerous to moderates. Cross-fire and friendly fire and collateral damage and all that. It can even start wars.

This is what I have learned observing the long view of history: Nothing that is established by reaction and rebellion lasts.

A newly formed splinter group that leaves an old group on bad terms without pursuing forgiveness and resolution to the conflict first is guaranteed to find themselves being similarly divided in time. I think it’s the reap-what-you-sow principle. Worse than that, reactors need “enemies” to continue to justify their stance. Mutual enemies become a common cause and provide a type of fuel. It is easy to create an enemy where there once was merely a friend or neighbour with a different opinion and keep them locked in that position. Hatred can be passed down like clause six in a will. Many wars have at their root unforgiveness over a dispute between neighbours who have been dead for centuries.

Sometimes righteous anger can be a good motivator for change. Often people are not willing to make corrections until the situation becomes uncomfortable enough that they have to get up and move. Anger is a secondary emotion. It is like the warning light on the dashboard that lets us know that something is not working.

The problem occurs when correction is applied in high emotion and movement is catapulted too far by angry reactive rhetoric and blame. Anger congeals into bitterness and hard-heartedness. This has the effect of pushing people further apart and entrenching them in defensive positions that are more extreme than they intended them to be. It also makes life miserable for other travellers on the road who come under pressure to choose sides.

Did you know that moderation (self-control) is a fruit of the Spirit and therefore a weapon that can fight a spiritual foe who desires to divide and conquer? The political spirit behind a lot of conflict is bent on using deceit, seduction, loyalties, alliances, mocking, manipulation, fear -oh, especially fear- to divide, conquer and gain control. It shows up in churches, businesses, charity organizations, and governments and school yards. It operates through bandits and people who mean well. Jesus called it the “the leaven of Herod.” He said to be beware of it, because, like yeast, it can permeate everything.

I remember being told over and over in a dream that it is the nature of God to be creative and not reactive. He created us to create and rather than react. That’s why we are told to return good for evil and as much as is possible with us to be at peace with all men. That’s why we look for creative solutions first (although I personally believe that protecting the innocent against outright evil might require us to sometimes physically stand in the gap.)

Moderation is not about compromising with sin or enabling evil; it is about being transparent and honest about problems without casting blame, loving whilst avoiding taking up other peoples’ offenses, protecting the weak without enabling helplessness, encouraging honourable behaviour toward everyone without forming unholy alliances, and avoiding careening across the road into opposite ditches because of angry reactions.

Because some ditches are very deep.

smokey lake ch storm mountain passIMG_0832

Save

Say Three Nice Things

3 nice things blocks ch

 

When our children were young, squabbling and tattling drove me nuts. He said… but she…and then he said…

I’d try to listen and straighten things out.

And then someone played the trump card – THAT’S NOT FAIR! Every. Single. Time.

No matter what I said, the atmosphere, which could have been perfectly cheerful only moments before, suddenly filled with anger, malice, slander, and curses. SELFISH! STUPIDHEAD!

We decided that the children themselves needed to learn to give honour and respect to their opponent, even if they disagreed. That’s where the three nice words policy started.

For every insult or negative word spoken against a brother or sister we asked the children to say three nice words about them before regaining privileges. Every protest of “But Mom, he is so…” doubled the required nice words.

Now when you are really mad at your brother it is hard to come up with three nice things to say about him. Sometimes it took a period of thinking about it in their room and they had to dig deep. You are good at tying your shoes.

After a while I realized I needed to say more nice words myself – especially after the toddler told someone he thought his middle name was Stop-it.

Words can change atmospheres. When we come in the opposite spirit we avoid getting sucked into the vortex of tit-for-tat nastiness. I changed my words from “How could you be so careless?” to “You are learning more about how to pour milk. Let’s try again.” The result was a better attitude in both of us.

I read through some of the posts on my usual social media sites today. These posters are my “friends.” Some of them are learning more about how to disagree respectfully. But honestly, sometimes I feel like going all Big Mama on them and telling some writers that now they need to say three nice things about the politician, the preacher, the journalist, the bus driver, the pharmaceutical companies, the pipeline workers, the other denomination, other party, other country, other province, other gender, other orientation, other team.

We can talk about what we believe, that God is love and that he will take care of all our needs, but if we have nothing kind to say and merely squabble and tattle to other people or try to guilt them into taking up our cause by shouting THAT’S NOT FAIR! we demonstrate that we don’t really believe in His ways. We forget we can talk to him about our problem (especially if it is caused by the choice of someone else.) We act like scared victims left to our own devices, in this case, electronic devices.

What we truly believe shows up in our words and actions when things don’t go our way.

So here’s my challenge. Discussing ideas is one thing. Tearing down people is another. If you have neglected to bless the person or institution who has you so riled up and you have posted negative things about them, say three nice things about them. (Do it on you own page — very few will read it here.) You can change atmospheres.

If you can’t think of three kind words, you have a bigger problem than they do. You might need to go to a quiet place and think about it for a while.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  – Jesus

My Home and Native Land

Jaffrey rest area autumn ch IMG_6709

Election day in Canada is almost here. You know, this one feels different from all the other elections I have voted in. It’s been downright nasty. I have seen more  personal attacks on people running for office, and those who support them, than I can remember in previous elections. There seems to be more polarization, more angry people disagreeing on social media and in public places. I wonder how long it will take to heal after the signs come down.

As a response I would like to say this: THANK YOU!

autumn N Sask river ch IMG_6086

Thank you to all you hard-working people who are brave enough to stand on a platform and smile while people interrupt or shout at you or ask questions that are not really questions.

Fisher hay ch DSC_0028

Thank you to the workers who help with campaigns and who set up secure voting sites.

Mayook pond autum dark water reflect 2 chDSC_0035

Thank you to all the people who have served faithfully in public office in this land, at all levels, no matter what their party affiliations.

Edmonton street IMG_6114

Thank you for the hours spent in boring meetings, for making phone calls to help people caught in crisis, for negotiating both peace and prosperity with other nations, for protecting our rights to live by our conscience and beliefs, for being willing to live far from  friends and families to represent your constituency, for being vulnerable in front of cameras, for working for the welfare and safety of all your constituents.

Mayook pond autumn ch

Thank you for honouring our heritage by encouraging us to maintain the best parts of our cultures.

norbury mountains path autumn IMG_7537

Thank you for loving my country as much as I do.

Norbury lake rock water autumn IMG_7461

And to all the people who will be elected to parliament next week I say God bless you. My prayers are for you, not against you, that you will have vision for a peaceful, caring, unified, prosperous nation that works together to build an even  better country for generations to follow.

Lazy Lake reflect ch IMG_6323

I thank you and honour you for your willingness to serve.

Elk river autumn Fernie ch IMG_6680

God keep our land glorious and free.

maple red yellow autumn ch

Praise the Lord! We get to pay taxes!

trophy business metal man ch nr

I once had a friend who started filling out his tax return with the bottom line – the amount of taxes he was willing to pay: $0.00. It always took him a few weeks, but in the end he paid $0.00. Did I mention he owned a Ferrari and a few hotels and bragged about his off-shore accounts?

Alas he died a few years ago, still a relatively young man in his late forties. He left no heirs. I don’t know who got his money, but it wasn’t me, so I don’t think about it much except at tax time. It’s too sad.

We have a problem. My husband, who is retired, took on a few projects last year and they were more successful than he anticipated. The accountant called us into his office to sign our tax returns and said he was sorry to deliver bad news, but we owed the government more money. I have a few friends who are accountants and they hate this part of the job, especially when they are fighting tax season sleep deprivation.

This time I had to smile. After some lean years and whining and complaining at tax time I am changing. I now consider it a privilege to pay taxes. I am grateful for what our government provides. We live in a safe country with clean air and clean water. Our children are well-educated. Our roads are maintained and our airports are safe. We have freedom to believe what we choose. And after the trials of the past couple of years can I tell you how utterly grateful I am for disaster aid and especially Canadian medical care?

I spent some time with my son’s family in the government-sponsored mobile home camp in High River after the flood which was the biggest natural disaster in our history. There were good people there helping through very tough times.

When our son-in-law was discharged from the hospital after being given a 0% chance of surviving the necrotizing fasciitis that sent him into toxic shock, he walked out not owing a penny for the superb care he received for two months. The cost was well into seven figures and his family still has their home and can continue life as before. Everyday I receive prayer requests from people who are not so favoured.

I do not begrudge helping to pay for a neighbour’s education, or healthcare, or for snowplows and sanding trucks that make his journey easier. I appreciate trade delegations and police and fire and ambulance services. I honour the court system and food safety inspectors. I thank both the military and the peace negotiators and the thousands of secretaries who really keep this country moving.

I realized that I have accepted complaining about taxes and listening to complaints about paying taxes this time of year for so long that it has seemed normal. When I vote I cast my ballot for the person I think might be the most capable of being a good public servant and administering the government fairly. I am not voting for God. That position is filled. Humans will make mistakes and be tempted to misuse power and sometimes I am disappointed. ‘Tis the nature of humans, so we do need to pray for them, be attentive, write letters and keep up with maintaining the privileges we enjoy, but we also need to honour those who serve in government – and that includes the tax man (or woman).

So today I salute you, much maligned revenue services. We give you this cheque with our blessing. You are welcome. Use it well. We count it a privilege to be able to work and pay taxes at our age. Thank you for your faithful service. We honour you for your hard work and diligence.

A reminder. When the Apostle Paul (and also the Apostle Peter) admonished believers to honour governing authorities they were talking about people like Nero who used Christians as party lights, and Herod who had Jesus flogged. None of our leaders have sunk to that level. Our leaders, whether we voted for them or not, whether we approve of them or not, are owed revenue, respect, and honor. They can’t do the jobs they are supposed to do without it. And it’s the way of love.

“This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”   (Romans 13:6-8)