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mosquito

What in the world is “bug dope,” I asked my husband. He laughed aloud at my Midwestern ignorance of the far north. Apparently, bug dope is a real product, though most of you probably know it by its proper description – insect repellent. Bug dope seems a rather odd expression to me. Where I’m from, dope is a bad thing, and you certainly don’t blatantly ask others to pass it to you in public. But there we were, on the shores of Lake Huron, watching an awesome Fourth-of-July fireworks display, and bug dope was the preferred defense against the blanket of tank-sized mosquitoes that were as thick as the smoke trailing in the air.

Bug dope isn’t the only oddity of the north, though. For instance, Midwesterners don’t wear shoes with good “gription” or wear a chuke (touke) when it’s cold outside. Truthfully, I was rather entertained for the first few years of my marriage, learning the peculiar idioms and pronunciations of my “Yooper” husband. He probably felt the same. After all, I had picked up several backwoods phrases along the way, so he had to learn such colorful words as doo-jigger and thingamabob.

Many were the times when my beloved and I were essentially saying the same thing, but I didn’t realize it because of our different vernaculars. He, noting my frustration at not being able to clearly express myself, often reminded me, “It’s just semantics!” He was really big on semantics!

From the beginning, we’ve pretty much shared one brain between the two of us, but it has been a very long time since we’ve had any miscommunications due to language traits. That’s the beautiful thing about intimacy; you really get to know each other –your idiosyncrasies, your thought processes –everything.

And that, dear reader, brings me to our beloved family in Christ. There may be many denominations, but we are all one body: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5). That being the case, we should all be pretty much sharing the same brain, or in other words, we should be like-minded; relating to each other at an intimate enough level as to really understand each other.

During the past few weeks, I’ve read several online threads in which believers were arguing over a certain doctrinal issue –and when I say arguing, I mean just that. This should not be so! …there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. (1 Corinthians 12:25).

Firstly, healthy discussions and debates can be very enlightening, useful even; but arguing is very counter-productive and not at all indicative of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Secondly –and this is the part I find amusing –most of the folks on those threads were essentially saying the same thing; they were just saying it in different ways! But they, in their zeal to prove their own stance to be the correct one, couldn’t see that they were merely locked in a battle of semantics. Had they taken the time to really listen to each other, with loving hearts rather than defensive minds, they would have found that they were basically on the same page. Bug dope vs. insect repellent. Semantics!

My dear brethren, I am in no way suggesting that we succumb to compromise within the church. Nor am I suggesting that all religions, nor all denominations for that matter, are all one body. All roads do not “lead to Heaven!”

I do, however, advocate that we take the time to really listen to each other; knowing full well that we all start our journey of faith from different places. Thus, there may be some ‘language barriers’ to overcome in relating to each other. There may be some strange idiosyncrasies and oddities to overlook, but love and intimacy overcomes all obstacles.

In closing, may I remind us all, myself included, of Jesus’ answer as to which biblical commandment is the greatest:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
–Matthew 22:37-40

“Loving relationships, though necessary for life, health, and growth, are among the most complicated skills. Before we can be successful at achieving relationships, it is necessary that we broaden our understanding of how they work, what they mean and how what we do and believe can enhance or destroy them. We can accomplish this only if we are willing to put in the energy and take the time to study failed relationships as well as examine successful ones. Loving relationships cannot be taken lightly. Unless we are looking for pain, they must not be forever approached in a trial and error fashion. Too many of us have experienced the cost of these lackadaisical approaches in terms of tears, confusion and guilt.”

–Leo Buscaglia, Loving Each Other

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photo credit: The Gorilla Foundation

Back in the eighties, it was common for young people to ask each other, “What’s your sign?” They honestly believed that everyone’s “sign” revealed a lot about them.  I never bought into any of that, but I did learn a lot about people by just watching them. I’ve always believed that non-verbal communication often speaks louder than words.  Perhaps that understanding is one reason why the Lord called me to deaf ministry.

My sign today (or should I say sign language) is A.S.L, which stands for American Sign Language. I love the ability to communicate with hearing impaired individuals, and I enjoy watching the expressive way they “speak.” Knowing sign language has come in handy many times; sometimes in rather unexpected ways. For instance, I recently had a unique experience with a gorilla. Of course, we didn’t carry on a lengthy conversation, but he did tell me he was sick.

Let me first explain, some gorillas do know sign language. Have you ever heard of Koko? She is a Western Lowland Gorilla who was born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971. Placed under the tutelage of scientist Francine Patterson, Koko has learned over one-thousand signs in which to communicate with humans. She wasn’t the first gorilla to learn sign, but she has certainly excelled at it. Because of Koko’s accomplishments, scientists continue to pursue inter-species communication through the use of sign language and they are having good success.

Whether or not the sick gorilla at our local zoo had ever been formally taught sign language or not, he was clearly communicating with sign. Every time I visit the zoo, I linger at the indoor gorilla enclosure for a while and sign to those intriguing primates just to see if I can actually elicit an understandable response.

One day, as I stood there signing “How are you?” one particular gorilla caught my attention. He fixed his gaze on me and I am almost certain he was frowning. “How are you? I asked again. The gorilla then clearly signed, “Sick. Stomach-ache. Headache.” To be sure I had understood him correctly, I signed back to him, “You sick?  “Sick- stomach ache- headache,” the gorilla repeated. A closer look at the precious gorilla revealed that he did have a runny nose and puffy eyes.

I wanted very much to find one of the zoo keepers, but there wasn’t one available. As the next best option, I gave the information to one of the general staff. The message probably never got passed-on, which saddened me greatly because this gorilla was asking for help and I couldn’t give it.

There have been several times I felt that way while at my children’s high school. At one particular event, I took the time to really ‘see’ those teenagers. And rather than being disturbed at the obnoxious hair colors and styles, piercings and tattoos, and the repulsive clothing, I was able to see them through the same eyes with which I watched the gorilla.

Many of these young people were desperately trying in their own way to communicate. They weren’t using sign language, but with their body language and body image, they were clearly shouting: Look at me! I’m hurting neglected, scared and so on. I stood there wondering, how many of us are really “listening” to these young people.

Koko has many critics who insist that she may have learned to imitate some gestures but has no concept of their meaning. Likewise, there are lots of adults who look at today’s teens and think, they are not conveying any particular message; they are just a reflection of their culture. That may be the case with some, but there are a great many that are desperate for someone to notice –someone to care.

There are also countless others out there who seem to be happy and have their lives in perfect order, but looks can be deceiving. If we looked through God’s eyes, it is quite probable that we would see everyone quite differently.

When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

As God’s children, we are to have the same love and compassion as our Heavenly Father does. I pray that we all continuously strive to gain a slightly different perspective; one that will cause us to alter our perceptions in such a way that we are more aware of the needs of those around us.

Most importantly, when we do detect that someone is hurting neglected, scared and so on; may we always be quick to show them the love, mercy and compassion of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The world can sometimes be a very dark place, and there are times when we all need a ray of light to bring hope.  Jesus is that light!  Will you be the one He shines through to brighten the lives of others?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlRK1vqcuvg

postscript: Koko has her own website. You can learn all about her and the Gorilla Foundation here:
The Gorilla Foundation -Koko

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About the only time I experience the manly phenomenon of being “compartmentalized” is when I am in cleaning mode. I’m not talking about the fifth round of counter wiping and floor sweeping. Rather, I mean the all-out offensive war on grime.

Some of you women know what I’m talking about. When in that mode, we rigorously clean and sanitize everything in sight including the dog if it gets in the way. We are focused!

My son once caught me in the middle of one of those cleaning sprees and asked if he could have one of the apples on the table. They were wooden apples and he knew it, so this was obviously his cute little attempt to pull one over on mom while she was preoccupied. And he did.

“Go for it” I said, calling his bluff.

I stopped scrubbing sticky stuff long enough to watch him bite off a big chunk and chew on it with glee. Normally his ear-to-ear grin would have given him away instantly, but I was focused. It took a short while for my brain to process the fact that he had earlier switched the fake apple for a real one.

Having succeeded in his endeavor to make me laugh, he really enjoyed that apple and I’m glad he did! After all, he gets his sense of humor from his mama so what can I say?

Today was kind of the opposite. I picked a nicely colored apple –a real one — and bit into it expecting the sweet flavor of apple. I might as well have bit into one of those wooden look-alikes though, because it probably tasted about the same. Even caramel wouldn’t have helped this one.

Oddly, the same kind of thing happened this past week. While grocery shopping, I noted how paltry all of the produce looked. Nevertheless, the nectarines looked pleasing enough so I bought one to nibble on while making dinner. What a disappointment! When I bit into that pitiful thing there was zero taste. None!

I said to my husband, “Well, they finally did it; they managed to geneticallly engineer something which resembles fruit –but they forgot to give it any flavor.” He took one bite and realized I was not exaggerating the least bit. Then, wanting to check-out this peculiarity for himself, my youngest son took a bite. Even his taste buds manifested their confusion through the expression on his face as he tossed the remainder of the ‘nectarine’ into the trash.

Later that evening, I was thinking about that flavorless piece of ‘fruit’ and bemoaned the fact that I haven’t enjoyed a really good apple, pear or peach for many years. certain types of fruit have retained some of their flavor but certainly not all.

Then it hit me! Is any of my spiritual fruit tasteless? The fruit of the spirit, according to the fifth chapter of Galatians, are these:

Love * Joy * Peace * Patience * Kindness * Goodness * Faithfulness
* Gentleness *Self-control

Notice these nine attributes of fruit, according to scripture, are singular. This is significant. If someone is living according to God’s word, they shouldn’t exhibit only some of these attributes in their lives–they should exhibit them all.

I truly desire that my own fruit basket be overflowing with every one of the tasty, nutritious fruit of the Spirit. But truthfully, I have to admit that some of my fruit is less flavorful than others. I trust that none of my fruit may be likened to a wooden decoration but even so, real fruit is of little value to others if it is merely a tasteless hybrid.

Heaven forbid that any person every be confused by my testimony of faith because they realize that the fruit I attempt to share has absolutely no flavor. But how do I ensure that my fruit is really good?

First, I am willing to confess to myself, and to you, that some of my fruit is not fully ripe. Therefore, I ask my heavenly Father often that He cultivate me in whichever way He sees fit until my fruit is all HE desires it to be. Once it is, I must be willing to share my fruit with everyone I encounter. After all, fruit is meant to be consumed not merely displayed. The more fruit we share with others, the more they can see God’s goodness –that should be our focus.

My son’s fun little prank helped me learn an important lesson that day. We should all honestly examine our own fruit baskets to see if the fruit is real or artificial. After all, when someone comes to us expecting to find tasty, nutritious fruit, we don’t want them biting into wood.

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15:8)

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Sticks and Stones

Whoever first said “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” was either incredibly naïve or deliberately deceitful. I have been the victim of both physical abuse and verbal, and believe me the pain of verbal abuse is far greater and longer lasting. Physical abuse can at times cause permanent damage, but verbal abuse almost always does.

Recently, someone spewed a long list of railing accusations at me which hurt very deeply. Although what she said was untrue and unjustified, I must concede that her caustic remarks were an honest reflection of her true feelings towards me.

After two days of tears, mourning the loss of this once trusted friend, I felt the need to examine myself. Whereas this woman’s accusations were false, I did have to admit that I do sometimes come across too strong; passionate people are quite often misjudged and misunderstood.

I decided, therefore, that I must work hard to be softer and try to express myself more gently. A long time ago I came across a beautiful prayer from an anonymous seventeenth century nun. I know nothing of this woman’s life, but from her simple prayer I realized that she must have been quite a joy to be around.

It is now my plan to recite this prayer every day. I have placed a copy in my Bible and elsewhere so that it will always be before my eyes. Hopefully the prayer will become such a part of me that if we ever have occasion to meet in person, you will be able to say to yourself, “My, what a pleasant person to be around.”

Since I know nothing about most of you reading this blog, I am in no way speaking to your personalities, only mine. Nevertheless, the prayer is so beautiful that I wanted to share it with you. If it touches your heart in any way, we can both praise God for the heartfelt words of an anonymous nun.

Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older and will some day be old. Keep me from getting talkative, particularly from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful, but not moody; helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end. Keep my mind from the recital of endless details- give me wings to come to the point.

I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of others’ pains. Seal my lips on my own aches and pains -they are increasing, and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. Help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally it is possible that I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint- some of them are so hard to live with- but a sour old woman is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

*This Prayer of an Aging Woman was taken from Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes. Morgan, Robert J.
Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nashville, Tennessee. 2000

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