The Snapping Duck

ducks annie spratt unsplash.comNick is a pro at feeding goats at petting zoos. Flat hand. Bravery. Gentle goats. No problem. Ducks are a different deal, as he discovered, and he can demonstrate the proper feeding technique now—throw the food. And if you ask him what happens when you do it the wrong way, he will stick out his index finger and say “Hurt you!” He wasn’t really injured and recovered quickly. The whole thing got me to thinking, though.

Nick learned—the hard way—that he can’t treat all animals the same way, even when he’s trying to be kind to them. Don’t we need to learn the same lesson when it comes to how we treat other people? Most parents would be quick to tell us how they have to take each child’s needs and characteristics into consideration as they relate to them each day. Surely adults aren’t any different.

But we live in a rushed society, and one-size-fits-all is faster. Today I’m trying to internalize the lesson I learned from the ducks and the goats, and from Nick. Look before you leap—or feed, or speak or…Take time to look people in the eye and listen to their voices and to assess who they are and what they need. Then respond, sometimes slowly. Some people need advice. Others need a listening ear, or silent companionship, or a true promise of prayer coverage, or a simple meal…But we don’t all need the same thing.

And a corollary lesson for me: Sometimes, if I get it wrong, perhaps by moving too fast or making an assumption too quickly, I’ll get snapped at. That duck was just doing what it thought it needed to do to eat, to survive if I stretch this analogy a bit. And so, when the response I receive isn’t the response I expect or think I deserve, well, maybe I can learn to take that in stride as I slow down and try to see the “snapper’s” point of view.

So, back to the Bible we go again: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another…” So many ways to do that! May God bless your efforts today.

 

Photo by Annie Spratt via unsplash.com.

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Keep Austin Weird

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Georgetown is a far northern almost-suburb of Austin. A few months ago, I stepped out of an elevator and found myself face to face with a friendly woman wearing a bright pink T-shirt emblazoned with the words, “Keep Georgetown normal.” That’s not what most people say around here. The T-shirts I’m more likely to see say, “Keep Austin Weird.”

Yes, my friends, that’s the slogan for my new hometown! Does it mean I must be weird to live here? Probably. Truth be told, we’re all a little weird. I’ve heard a couple of great sermons lately reminding me that, in some ways, we’ve been called to be weird:

Give away money—even if the budget is tight. Who knows how God may use your “widow’s mite”? And many times, when we give, we get to see how God provides for our needs anyway. I’ve been reading about George Muller and the miraculous way he provided for thousands of orphans without ever asking anyone for money.

Give away time—even though life is busy. There’s time enough to do all God wants us to do. (Of course, we may be caught up in a few time-consuming pleasantries that aren’t really part of his plan. I have to keep looking for those and weeding them out.)

Forgive—even when there’s no apology. Apologize—even when it’s awkward. Forgiveness isn’t a suggestion. It’s a command. Bitter grudges only harm us and dim the joy God has for us. If our bodies kept every bruise we ever received, think what a physical mess we’d all be. In the same way, imagine the mess that would come from holding on to every hurt inflicted on our inner selves.

Submit to authority—even when we don’t agree. (I don’t mean we should submit to sin or sinful edicts, of course.) Silent submission may require great strength and courage. The Bible is full of ways God has honored this: Daniel, David, Joseph, Sarah…

Speak with kindness and respect—even when we’re angry. Perhaps this is what “In your anger do not sin” means for many of us.

So, as I close, I’m wondering if there’s a market for T-shirts that say, “Keep Believers Weird.” No? In that case, I hope you’ll simply keep that slogan in the back of your mind this week, smiling as you follow Christ—even if that makes you weird.

 

Black Tea

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Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you, but especially to my husband, who never complains as I write about our lives on a public platform. (Thank you, my love!) Before I relate the story below, let me applaud the way he takes my teasing—and this blog—with humor and grace. Even after four plus decades (we were very young when we met) of friendship, we miscommunicate on occasion. Here’s one of our latest faux pas.

 

Elizabeth had flown from California to Texas to celebrate Christmas. The two hour time change was wearing on her a bit, as was a bout with a cold and the fatigue of a busy week. Having never been a coffee drinker, she asked me to add a caffeinated tea to my Christmas grocery list. I had a looonggg list, and managed to come home with a trunkful of culinary delights, including many flavors of delicious tea, but not her caffeinated request.

The next day was baking day, and we discovered a few needed items were missing. My loving husband offered to make the run to Kroger, so I added black tea to the list, sure that he would enjoy choosing a delicious flavor for our much loved child.

Oops.

Steve came home with everything on the shopping list, proud of himself for discovering that Lipton makes huge boxes of plain black tea bags that average about a nickel a serving. Yeah, that wasn’t what I had in mind. I was expecting something with pumpkin or spice or at least bergamot.

The most gracious thing I could have done, of course, would have been to drop the subject altogether. (Too much to hope for, my friends.) Instead, I teased him a bit about his frugal but boring choice. I chuckled and went on with my baking, having cited the wise writers of Driver’s Ed in a Box who taught me years ago that, when there is miscommunication, the fault generally lies with she who speaks, not he who listens, as nobody wants to misunderstand on purpose. There was no harm done. Son-in-law Jake brought home wonderful tea soon thereafter. I now have a lot of plain black tea in my pantry at home.

What does this story have to do with living as the Lord would have us to? Simply this. We need to get along. To cut each other slack. To take the blame ourselves. To swallow pride. To put up with inconvenience. To encourage one another. Petty grievances, and the discord they can create, are as old as the hills. Cain and Abel. (Okay, that’s a little extreme.) Euodia and Syntyche (Check out their story here in Philippians 4.)

Peace on earth? It really does begin with you and me. And now is as good a time as any to get started!

Police and Paramedics

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We are plugged into a church, and a Sunday school class to boot! I know some of you have been praying for Steve and me during this time of settling in, so thank you very much.

Here’s a catchy but convicting quote I heard last Sunday. “We often find too many police and not enough paramedics in the church.”

Huh? Allow me to explain. The lesson was on the importance of peace within the church. We can be so quick to quarrel, to forget that we are all children of our Lord and called to serve him together. Sometimes we even wrap our petty gripes in that thinly veiled phrase, “We need to pray about so-and-so.” This week’s lesson was filled with flipping, with turning from one convicting Bible verse to another, all pleading with us to stop our fussing. It’s that odd quote, though, that stuck with me.

Police: When called to the scene of a crime, it’s their job to find out who is wrong, who is the culprit, who fell out of line. Is there an arrest to be made? Potential punishment to be planned?

Paramedics: When called into service, it’s their job to look for who is hurt, who might need their life-saving attention. Where can they administer help and healing?

Now let’s take another look at that quote: “We often find too many police—the accusers, the ones looking for offense—and not enough paramedics—those waiting for a chance to bind wounds and bring comfort—in the church.”

The church, of course, doesn’t mean the church building. It means all those who call themselves a part of the community of believers. It’s time for us all to ask ourselves: Are we police or paramedics? Yes, perhaps we need both, but most of us would do well to focus on bringing peace and healing, overlooking the offenses so often of little true consequence.

Challenged? Yep, me too. But before I close, allow me to point out two favorite hymns shared by readers who missed my original deadline:

“Fairest Lord Jesus” also known as “Beautiful Savior” ends with this verse:

Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!

Son of God and Son of Man!

Glory and honor, praise, adoration,

Now and forever more be Thine.

And

“Because He Lives,” by Bill and Gloria Gaither.

You can listen to that one here:

Forgiveness Follow-Up

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The very week I posted a blog on forgiveness, my pastor preached on the same topic. Many of his words were more eloquent than mine, so I’d like to share a few of them today.

What forgiveness doesn’t promise:

A free pass. Forgiveness doesn’t always bring release from consequences, no matter what our status in life may be. King Saul still lost the throne. King David still lost a child. And we still suffer the penalties of sin.

Restored relationships. Forgiveness doesn’t always lead to restored trust. We can forgive abusive behavior without allowing it to continue. However, if restoration is going to occur, it can’t happen without forgiveness.

Why we don’t forgive:

Conviction. Sometimes we don’t forgive because we are convinced that we are right. God needs to be the only judge of rightness. No one will ever be saved because of our judgement, but perhaps our forgiveness will draw someone closer to Christ.

Vengeance. When we seek vengeance, we are stepping in to do the will of God, and we are sinning.

Why we must forgive:

Obedience. We forgive because the Bible tells us to, and when we forgive, we are used by God.  (This could be a one-sentence blog, because that last line is all we really need to know!)

Our own sin. We forgive because we have been forgiven, and because we continue to need forgiveness.

How we ought to forgive:

Quickly. The sooner we forgive, the less likely we are to give our enemy a chance to create division in our hearts or our relationships. A brick or two can be removed easily. A brick wall? Not so simple.

Prayerfully. It’s hard to stay mad at our offenders while praying for them at the same time. Pray for those who have hurt you in big ways and in small.

Without forgetting. “Forgive and forget” is rarely possible. Furthermore, the miracle of real forgiveness comes in remembering the sin or brokenness of another and choosing to love and forgive nonetheless. If we forget sin, then what does it really cost us to love someone?

Thank you, Matt, for allowing me to share your words. What about the rest of you? What have you learned about forgiveness? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Forgiveness by the Book

forgiveness pixabay 9 7 17“I forgave you the moment those words came out of your mouth.”

No, sad to say, that’s not a Brenda Koinis quote. It’s something I read in a novel a few days ago. I’ve never said those words. I’m not sure it’s ever occurred to me to think them. Until now. Why not? Why do we wait to forgive?

Should forgiveness hinge upon an apology? Romans 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Our Lord didn’t wait to forgive us. Perhaps we want to postpone our grace until the offending party seems deserving of it. We’d better watch out for that excuse. We’re never deserving of divine grace, but have—each and every one of us—received plenty of it.

Maybe we’ve convinced ourselves that we cannot forgive until our emotions allow us to do so. Wrong again. In much of life we are forced to behave counter to our feelings. (Did you feel like going to work today? Or doing the dishes last night?) Why should forgiveness be any different? Forgiveness is a choice, and we may have to commit and re-commit to that choice countless times before our feelings follow suit.

Is there underlying menace in our reluctance to forgive? Do we hope to exact some sort of punishment by our delay. We must stop. We are hurting ourselves, as well as others we have no right to hurt.

I once heard a great tip regarding life’s mishaps: “If we are going to laugh about this someday, we might as well laugh about it now.” Easily edited, this quote is at least as wise when it reads, “If we are going to forgive this transgression someday, we might as well forgive it now.”

Forgiveness never means approval. It doesn’t equate with saying, “I have decided you were right.” Forgiveness may not remove the consequences of a misstep. It is simply a matter of the heart. It opens an avenue to reconnection, and it puts us squarely on the path of walking in our Father’s steps.

 

 

Even as my Texas and Florida friends continue to repair their lives and homes after flooding, new friends in California are suffering from fires. Please take a moment now to ask the Lord to intervene, then join me in prayer throughout the coming days whenever those in peril come to mind.