“Say Something”

October 27th
“Say Something”
Common wisdom, usually attributed to a universal “Mom” figure, suggests that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Which is an excellent piece of advice. It’s so good, I wish more people would take it seriously and say nothing whatsoever. The world would certainly (and sadly) be a quieter place. But here’s the thing: if, in response to Mom’s wisdom, you find yourself saying nothing a great deal of the time, then maybe it’s time to worry less about saying nothing and start pondering why it is that you have nothing to say.
I get it. There are traits in other people that drive others bonkers. Simply thinking about them is enough to still even the kindest tongue. Still, not all folks call for the silent treatment all the time. Most folks are pretty decent, to say the least, and require little effort to talk about whilst still honouring Mom. But if you manage to find little that’s nice, or good, or helpful, or kind, or even totally loving to say about someone, or many someones, then maybe it’s time to think about why. Why is it you can’t find something nice to say about others? Why is it that another adage, “Silence is golden” is your go-to choice when it comes to your friends, pew-neighbour or the new family that just moved in across the street?
James, one of the Bible’s letter writers, talks about the human tongue this way: “(it) runs wild, a wanton killer” (The Message). Strong but often true words. What we say can hurt others, which is why Mom suggests that we keep quiet at times. But the tongue is not an independent operator. It is driven by our minds and our souls. What we say, whether good or bad, reflects our own hearts and how we think about the world. The tongue only speaks the truth as we feel and know it.
Jesus doesn’t mince words either. Jesus tells us quite bluntly, “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” Love one another. It’s an order, not a suggestion. And if we follow Jesus’ order truly and faithfully, then we should be talking about others very freely because we will have only nice, or good, or helpful, or kind, or even totally loving things to say about someone, or many someones. If we take Jesus’ words seriously, silence becomes a missed opportunity rather than a golden moment.
To love others as we are loved totally transforms how we understand our friends, pew-neighbours or even the new family that just moved in across the street. Such love takes us to the core of how God sees and knows us, showing us as beloved, desired children worthy of praise and support rather than tearing down or keeping silent about. It’s not the easiest path, to be sure, but it’s the one that will free us to say things about others that reflect how God loves each and every one of us.

“Tryptophan”

October 20th

I was going to write about Tryptophan, an Amino acid found in Turkey (and other meats) that can help you sleep. There’s a lot of interesting information about that particular chemical compound and how it contributes to feeling tired and ready for a nap after that big Thanksgiving dinner many of us enjoyed recently. However, in doing my research, I came across other interesting information about how the body processes Amino acids. Which opened the door to a few things about chemistry. And then science in general. Followed by scientists. Which inspired a peak at history, which, eventually led to an adventure in distraction and a whole new train of thought for my thoughts which only thought of Tryptophan in a secondary way.
So, thanks to Tryptophan, I’m actually thinking about how easily distracted we humans can be. Sure, most of the time we stick to the one task, but all too often we find ourselves travelling down the proverbial rabbit-hole, whether it’s in the course of a conversation that’s supposed to take five minutes but takes an hour, research that leads to far too many things being studied, or chores that seem to multiply as the desire to clean the house eventually leads to a trip to Toronto in search of that original Barry Manilow vinyl LP that you finally didn’t buy the last time you wandered your way to the record shop when looking for a good used Muffler and matching hat…
…anyhow…
I think that a lot of times people aren’t bad, even though they might hurt others. I think that a lot of times we’re simply distracted. I think that our own self-interest distracts us from loving others fully and without reservation. I think that our busy-ness trying to get ahead distracts us from helping others along their journey. I think that we’re so preoccupied with getting life just right that we’re distracted from simply enjoying it and doing our best.
Jesus was clearly focussed on His work. Yet he could be distracted along the way, like when a woman challenged him to help her even though she was a foreigner. He was distracted from prayer by a crowd hungry for Spiritual food and in need of a dinner midway through His teaching. Yet, as distracted as he might have been by those little side-trips each one still contributed to His primary goal of drawing us closer to God.
Distractions are normal. They are a part of life, a part of interacting with others and letting them ask questions not related to the conversation you’re already having. Distractions can relieve stress, open our minds to new ideas or maybe even take us to where we actually should be. And, like Jesus, when we’re focussed on God and what God desires of us, even our distractions can be holy moments.
And now, we should probably all get back from this little distraction to what we had actually intended to get done today…

“Destiny”

October 6th

In the dramatic, climactic scene between the evil Darth Vader and good Luke Skywalker, Vader says to the hero “It is your destiny”. Barely clinging to life and struggling
I think that’s the way of life as well. I think that we often find ourselves in one mess or another without really knowing how we got there. Was it a misspoken word said to the wrong person? Was it a gut-reaction to one situation in the past that had a negative ripple effect on our present? Are we prone to making the same messy mistake without realizing what we’re messing up or that we’re doing it all the time? Sometimes it’s hard to say where the messiness comes from. Sometimes we just have to accept that we’ve messed up and figure out how to fix it.
While we might not always be able to figure out why our non-touch screens still get covered in fingerprints or how we ended up in our current state of messiness, we can usually figure out how to tidy things up or make amends. And, if truth be told, we humans are messy creatures. We don’t always make the right choices, say the right things or do everything perfectly. Messiness might not be a way of life, but it is certainly a constant factor in our existence.
The other constant factor in our existence is the forgiveness, grace and mercy Jesus offers us. Through Him, we know that our Spiritual messiness is both forgiven and fixable. When our mistakes go against God’s will (and, let’s face it, pretty much every way we mess up dishonours our Creator), Jesus assures us of our forgiveness and models ways to not make a mess of our lives.
As careful as I am, I know that I will always have to clean my laptop’s screen of the fingerprints that mess it up. As careful as we are, we know that we will repeat some mistakes and quite likely find new ways to make a mess of things. Know, however, Jesus’ forgiveness is far greater than our messiness. While we might not always know why we mess up, we know that it is because of God’s great love for us that forgiveness is always there for us.

“Messiness”

September 29th

My lovely Macbook Pro laptop computer has many wonderful features. One that it is lacking, however, is a “touch screen”. Any work I have to do requires either using its keyboard or trackpad (the laptop equivalent of a mouse…). Here’s the weird thing, however. Despite lacking a touch screen, the screen still gets covered in fingerprints. I honestly don’t know how it happens. I don’t think I actually touch it too much, if at all, but I can’t deny the smudgy messiness I have to clean up weekly.
I think that’s the way of life as well. I think that we often find ourselves in one mess or another without really knowing how we got there. Was it a misspoken word said to the wrong person? Was it a gut-reaction to one situation in the past that had a negative ripple effect on our present? Are we prone to making the same messy mistake without realizing what we’re messing up or that we’re doing it all the time? Sometimes it’s hard to say where the messiness comes from. Sometimes we just have to accept that we’ve messed up and figure out how to fix it.
While we might not always be able to figure out why our non-touch screens still get covered in fingerprints or how we ended up in our current state of messiness, we can usually figure out how to tidy things up or make amends. And, if truth be told, we humans are messy creatures. We don’t always make the right choices, say the right things or do everything perfectly. Messiness might not be a way of life, but it is certainly a constant factor in our existence.
The other constant factor in our existence is the forgiveness, grace and mercy Jesus offers us. Through Him, we know that our Spiritual messiness is both forgiven and fixable. When our mistakes go against God’s will (and, let’s face it, pretty much every way we mess up dishonours our Creator), Jesus assures us of our forgiveness and models ways to not make a mess of our lives.
As careful as I am, I know that I will always have to clean my laptop’s screen of the fingerprints that mess it up. As careful as we are, we know that we will repeat some mistakes and quite likely find new ways to make a mess of things. Know, however, Jesus’ forgiveness is far greater than our messiness. While we might not always know why we mess up, we know that it is because of God’s great love for us that forgiveness is always there for us.

“Tricksy, Again”

September 22nd

Gollum is a fictional anti-hero from the trilogy “The Lord Of the Rings”. He is a distorted character, twisted by isolation, greed and abuse. A once proud Hobbit, Gollum fell from grace because of the dangerous attraction of the “One Ring”, an evil talisman destined to give its possessors unimaginable power, albeit at the expense of their souls. Ruined by the evil ring, Gollum is both physically and mentally changed for the worse, becoming a sad parody of a Hobbit, barely able even to speak normally.
And so I share with you Gollum’s word, “Tricksy”. Along with his favourite phrase, “my precious” to describe the “One Ring” this word becomes a means of identifying him by the way he speaks. Use “tricksy” in a sentence well any fellow nerd like myself and they will know immediately who you’re referring to.
Each of us has an identifying phrase or two, a word or expression that others identify with us. Hearing those words, from them or from others, identifies who they are and what they mean to us.
These little identifiers speak to more than reminding us of a person; they speak as well to our relationship with them, why they matter to us and even how close we are to us. Gollum’s “tricksy” instantly brings to mind his flaws and imperfections, not because of the words meaning, but because of its distortion. There is no one else quite like him, and once you meet him in J. R. R. Tolkien’s books or the movie version of “The Lord of The Rings” you will never forget this “tricksy” character.
They might seem like simple, unique phrases to us, part of the rhythm of our speech and thought process, but certain things we say identify us to others as readily as our names. They help others remember us. And, just like with Gollum’s “tricksy”, they trigger not just our faces, but our entire character.
What word or phrase do you use frequently enough that others know you when they hear it? Who is the person that comes to mind when your phrase comes up in conversation? Does a reminder of you others to smile when they are reminded of you or does it cause other reactions? Do they think of a sad Gollum, or maybe a certain special Son, whose name is synonymous with love and compassion?
I would like to think that when someone identifies me by a word or phrase, that they would find something good and Christlike within us, something loving, caring and helpful. So, what about you?

“Tricksy”

September 15th

Getting a piece of paper towel should be an easy thing, no? Well, not according to one particular paper towel dispenser in the church. When it’s first loaded with a fresh roll, sure, it works perfectly. Pull out as much or as little paper as you want, tear is off, and the dispenser will leave enough fresh paper exposed so the next user can grab it easily.
When the roll is slightly depleted, however, the dispenser gets a little tricksy, as Gollum, the creature from “The Lord Of The Rings” would say. When there is less paper in the dispenser, things change. When you pull on the paper and tear it off, the thing actually pulls the paper back up into the slot, just far enough to leave a tiny bit exposed in the emergency access hole, making it hard for the next person that has to clean up a mess.
At first, I found this very annoying. Grabbing a tiny bit of paper and carefully pushing it through the emergency access hole and back out of the slot was a nuisance. Then, one day, I noticed an interesting thing. I noticed that if I waited before tearing off the fresh sheet, the roll would not pull the paper back. Instead, there would be a clunking sound, and then the paper would stay exactly where it should be.Tricksy problem solved. Pull. Wait for the noise. Tear. The lesson in all of this? Pay attention to how a thing actually works, then work with it accordingly, and it won’t be as tricksy as if first appeared.
Relationships should be easy, things, no? Well, not always. There are some folks that can be tricksy. They can be grumpy, operate at a different speed from you, or just have an outlook that seems incompatible with yours. As a result, they may appear to be annoying or you might find them hard to work with or get along with. Of course, if they seem tricksy to you, you probably appear tricksy to them, too.
When that happens, you have to take time to figure them out. Listen to what they say as much as how they say it. Pay attention to how they act with you and with others. Learn their unique rhythms and ways of doing things. Do so to learn, not to judge. Chances are that if you take the time to figure them out, and they take the time to figure you out, you can find a way to work together that is productive rather than annoying. Who knows. You might even learn to like each other and appreciate your unique tricksy-ness, just as they might learn to appreciate yours.

“Front Of House”

September 8th

First impressions can make or break a business. A messy, disordered front office, a long wait for someone to acknowledge, let alone serve, you, or poorly displayed goods can drive customers away faster than unreasonable prices. A tidy, welcoming space, a gracious hostess or an attractive display of the products on offer can help overcome high, but reasonable prices.
Even if the prices are high, the place a bit untidy, and the goods not shown to their best advantage, a good “Front of House” person can overcome even those unappealing cues. Whether it’s the affable Maitre D’ of a large hotel, the friendly owner/operator of a tiny business or the receptionist at a busy office, the first person to make contact with the customer can make a bad day better and a good day great. And they can make all the difference in the way that customer perceives their whole experience with that business.
In the churches I’ve dealt with, the “Front of House” person is referred to as a “Greeter”. Greeters are, as the title implies, folks who greet the people coming to worship. It’s their job to make regulars feel right at home and to help new folks know they are welcome, appreciated and able to sit anywhere they like. It is a simple job, but it’s crucial in making the whole worship experience a blessing to everyone who comes, whether it’s a vacationer wandering through town or one of the stalwart pillars of the church who hasn’t missed a Sunday in decades.
Worship once a week, however, is only one aspect of our faith lives. Following Jesus isn’t only something we do Sunday mornings for an hour or when we volunteer to help at the church dinner for the homeless. Following and serving Jesus is a full-time job. Thankfully, because Jesus commands us to love one another, it’s a wonderful job that, if we do it well, makes our world a better place.
There is a catch, however, to being a follower and servant of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t really have a storefront or office. Churches are buildings devoted to His service, but they’re not the main location from which Jesus works. Jesus works through us, wherever we may be. We are the practical side of His love and everything He offers to the world. That means we’re not just His living storefronts, we’re also His Front of House people!
First impressions can make or break a business, or the way someone views Jesus. We are His Front of House personnel, and often the first, or maybe even the only, contact some folks have with Him. When someone meets you, what impression of Jesus will they get? It’s my prayer, fellow Front of House person, that their first, and lasting, impression, will be of someone that loves and cares for them, whoever they may be.