Jungle Book

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I’m old-fashioned in many ways. I make muffins and soup from scratch, prefer paper books to e-readers, and am rarely willing to watch an “R” rated movie. If you interviewed any of my offspring, or their many friends who know me well, the list of ways in which my life is, shall we say, not quite up-to-date would grow exponentially. Here’s one that may surprise you:

I still own a VHS player (and a whole lot of tapes, because our home became the depository as friends and family moved on to DVD’s and streaming). Now, don’t misunderstand, I have a stack of DVD’s and Blu-ray’s in an upstairs closet. We subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime. But last week, to my great delight, 2-year-old Nick and I watched an old VHS of Jungle Book.

  • It was Walt Disney’s19th and final full length animated feature.
  • It was produced in 1967, before many of you were old enough to go see it (or were even born)!
  • And it was so very different from the animated films of today.

The graphics were simpler and somehow calmer. Far less action was crammed into every frame. The soundtrack, as well as the dialogue, was quieter, slower, and sometimes nearly non-existent.

Yes, just imagine, sometimes there was actual silence! And we loved it. It was beautiful and relaxing. And it made me wonder…

When did noise become the norm? I watch plenty of noisy movies. My most recent discovery was The Kid Who Would Be King. And just last night Steve and I were laughing and dancing to Disney Hits and One Hit Wonders via Pandora, our wireless jam box cranked up so high we probably disturbed the neighbors. But, today I’m being quiet. And I’m remembering that noise is relatively new. Think of the characters in Little House on the Prairie. Unless Pa was playing his fiddle, just how many sound waves bounced around that cabin at night?

I know the power of good music, calling me to worship or simply putting a spring in my step. I appreciate a tale well-told via modern media with plenty of sound effects. But what have we done to our brains? To our spirits? Have we become overloaded by a society saturated with sound?

Here is my challenge: Take a break from the noise sometime soon. Turn it all off. Listen. Pray. Or even let your mind lie fallow. Try it for more than an hour, maybe even half a day, or at least for your whole commute. Bring a little balance back into your noisy life. And let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear your comments! Just click the balloon at the top right or click here.

And for those of you who know me so well and are just dying to add to my old-fashioned list–go for it!

 

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Be Careful of Your Calling

 

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Years ago, I saw a movie called “The Man Who Would Be King.” It was based on a story by Rudyard Kipling and, as I recall, (spoiler alert) things didn’t turn out well for the men who sought royalty. Many of us, at one time or another, have dreamed of a fiefdom, a castle, or eight-year rights to Air Force One. The book of Judges provides a different perspective on high positions, though. It says,

“One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

“But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

“But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

“But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’” (Judges 9: 8-13),

God made some to be rulers, yes, but he made many of us for humbler tasks, just as he made the olive tree for oil, the fig tree for sweet fruit and the vine for wine.

Do you ever look at your life and find it lacking some element of grandeur you expected in your youth? Perhaps you’ve missed your calling. More likely, though, you’ve simply honed your calling and, hopefully, come to see the importance of simple tasks. We each need to ask ourselves only this question:

“Am I doing what I believe God would have me do right now, today, living the way he has called me to live?”

If your answer is yes, press on, knowing that you are giving glory to the King of Kings. (None of us were ever meant to heap up glory for ourselves anyway.) If, on the other hand, your soul searching leads you to believe you have sidestepped your calling, please don’t look back. Instead, look forward, asking God how he would have you proceed as you re-commit yourself to following him.

And if you’re willing, let me know your calling and commitment. I will pray for your strength, your courage, and your direction.

 

Photo by  jonny caspari @jonnycpic via Unsplash.

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.

Do Not Listen!

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When we listen to the chatter swirling about in the world, it often sounds like this:

  •             Be afraid.
  •             You haven’t got a chance.
  •             Give in or give up.

Hezekiah king of Judah, touted by the Old Testament as an excellent ruler who kept God’s commands, knew what to do with such chatter. Refuse to listen.

Sennacherib king of Assyria planned to destroy Hezekiah’s city, and he wanted all its inhabitants to know it. His messenger went to the city wall and called out, “Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria’… Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:29, 30, 33-35).

Hezekiah commanded his people to remain silent, ignoring the messenger. He consulted with the prophet Isaiah, who brought these encouraging words, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.  Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword’” (2 Kings 19:6, 7).

Hezekiah responded by asserting his trust in the Lord, “Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God…Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God” (2 Kings 19: 16, 19).

God delivered Hezekiah’s people in a mighty way. The end of the chapter tells us, “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king” (2 Kings 19: 35-37).

It doesn’t really matter how things look to our eyes. God is always in control. He always has the means to rescue us. When we hear discouraging chatter, we can learn from Hezekiah: Just don’t listen!

Listen! Listen

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I grew up in a delightful family. My home was filled with lots of love. I remember spirited games of chess and canasta and paddleball (think racquetball on an outdoor court). We enjoyed good food, frequent guests, and plenty of laughter. Some of the laughter was over the same jokes enjoyed time after time.

When a new and uninitiated guest joined us, my dad would ask, “What’s that coming out of your nose?” After a moment of embarrassed confusion on the part of our visitor, he would continue, “Air! There’s air coming out of your nose!”

Then sometimes he’d say, “Listen! Listen!” After an awkward pause, he would add, “Somebody’s saying ‘Listen!’” We always laughed.

The other day, as I was thinking about my dad’s funny lines, the one about listening struck me in a new way. Taken more seriously, it comes out this way:

Listen! Listen! Because there’s always someone out there practically begging that you listen!

I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately. Some of my hurting friends need me most as a prayer partner and a listening ear. In fact, I often have to remind myself that they need my ear but not my mouth, my empathy but not my advice.

Pride can lead us away from the smaller tasks the Holy Spirit hands us. Becoming a compassionate listener isn’t very glamorous. In fact, it’s a ministry of the nearly invisible. It falls into the “He must increase; I must decrease” part of the Christian walk. But it is powerful. It is a silent language of love. Today I want to encourage you to allow a part of your busy life to be eaten up by the gift of an attentive ear, because if you listen, listen, you will almost certainly hear someone crying out, “Listen!”

How are you?

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We were in Delft buying, of course, Delftware, those blue and white ceramic pieces that say, “I went to The Netherlands!” It was late in the day, and the little shop was rather crowded, probably because their prices were so good. I waited in line at the counter, ready to pay for my Christmas ornaments, impressed by the excellent English of the clerk. (I had given up on learning any Dutch.)

When my turn came, I handed the young lady my selections, smiled, and said, “Hello, how are you?” Her response caught me off guard. With nary a hint of incrimination in her voice, she simply said, “May I ask you a question? Why do you Americans ask, ‘How are you?’ when you can’t possibly care how each person really is?”

I’m sure I hesitated a bit as I struggled to come up with a sensible answer to an excellent question. “It’s a greeting we use. We actually do try to care about the response.” (My answer was lame, but the best I could come up with at the time.) Here is my question today, though. Do we care about the answer? Or, in our hurried world, do we ask without thinking, and hope for a quick, “I’m fine. How are you?” so that we can go along our way without pause.

Pause. How often do we pause? How often do we probe a bit for the real answer to the “How are you?” question? And if we do receive an honest response, how often do we take time to listen, to follow up, to offer some sort of related service beyond a quick, “I’ll keep you in my prayers”?

I want to learn to pause, to mean it when I ask the question, to listen when I’m given an answer, to look into the eyes of friend and stranger alike and care. Please, join me. And if you are so inclined, tell me about your own “How are you?” encounters.