Friday, May 19, 2017

Five Minute Friday: TRUTH


As I do on most Fridays, I'm joining up with Kate Motaung's Five Minute Friday linkup. 
The word this week is TRUTH.








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Someone once wrote these words to me:

"We need to get to the truth before we can find our way back to love again."

This was someone I loved. Someone who loved me. Someone with whom I had had a very difficult conflict.

When I read those words, this is what they said to me:

"You are wrong, but you are not willing to admit it. That is why we can't reconcile. Once you admit you are wrong, then maybe I will be willing to consider re-establishing a relationship with you."

I have thought about that a lot since then. Is that how relationships work: admit you're wrong (even if you don't think you are) so that the person will condescend to love you again? That doesn't sound like relationship, it sounds like judgment: assemble an agreed statement of facts and render a verdict.

I want to say that the reverse is true: love always takes the lead. It always establishes the safety and commitment of the relationship first, providing a sound foundation from which truth can be explored. That makes sense to me.

But in the end, I don't think truth and love are separate things. Maybe my finite mind needs to talk about them separately to try and make sense of them -- but they are really different ways of saying the same thing. The Bible says "God is Love," and Jesus says "I am the Truth." 

God is both of those things, all the time. He doesn't lean toward one or the other depending on which is most appropriate in the circumstances. His love is always truthful; his truth is always loving. 
  
I don't fully understand how this can be -- but I believe it. And it helps me, because now when I hear truth and love being spoken of as distinct, or opposite, or conflicting, I recognize that this is a concession to our human way of thinking. The deeper reality is this: 

Truth and Love are inseparable. 

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Five Minute Friday: MOM




I'm linking up with Kate Motaung today for Five Minute Friday. Today's word is MOM.










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This photo of my daughter (then 12 years old), me, and my mom was taken in 2010, when we were visiting Mom and Dad in PEI. This picture is precious to me now because Mom died four years later at the age of 79, just over two months after being diagnosed with liver cancer.

After our friend did the photo shoot that day, Mom confessed to me that she was a little mortified that he'd chosen the dilapidated old woodhouse as a background. This was probably before Pinterest came on the scene and before the huge burgeoning trend of having wedding photo shoots (and weddings themselves) in old barns and farmyards. 

I assured her that our photographer friend had an artistic eye and that the background was great -- but I guess Mom couldn't quite see the "chic" part of "shabby chic."

Yet I don't think it would have bothered her at all if it was someone else's old gray shed. She was probably a lot more uncomfortable with her own (supposed) imperfections than anybody else's.

But if so, she didn't let that get in the way of sharing what she had with other people -- and that is what made her so good at showing hospitality. I consider that one of my mom's best gifts. She loved to have people over. If the church needed people to host billets, she would eagerly volunteer; she loved getting to know people from different places. Whatever concern she might have had about whether things were perfect or not, she never let it stop her from giving a warm welcome.

We all have flaws we might prefer the world not see -- but they don't have to hold us back from welcoming and sharing with others. In fact, we might be surprised to find that the things we think are a little shabby actually look quite beautiful to other people.

That's something my mom taught me, not so much with her words, as with her actions.

*************** 





Friday, May 05, 2017

Five Minute Friday: SHOULD




Today I'm joining the Five Minute Friday linkup again, where we write for five minutes on a given prompt. 

This week's word is SHOULD.





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SHOULD is a very versatile word. It can make us feel lousy about the past, the present, and the future.

The past:

  • "I should have been a better mom; I made so many mistakes."
  • "I should have been kinder to that person, but now it's too late."

The present:

"I should lose weight; nothing fits me and I look awful."
"I should be doing some volunteer work. My neighbour volunteers 30 hours a week."

The future:

"I should say yes to that request, although I know I won't have the time to do it well, because So-and-So will be angry with me if I don't."
"I should set achievable goals for all areas of my life for this next year so that I'll be able to get rid of this nagging feeling of unworthiness ..."

Talk about pressure. We impose so many should's on ourselves, many of them based on comparison, shame, guilt, regret, and stress.

But God doesn't bombard us with should messages that trap and discourage us. Instead, He calls us. He invites us.

"He has shown you what is good; and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30

Not a should in sight.




Wednesday, May 03, 2017

"Blessed are the poor in spirit": encountering one of God's "little ones"


The Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-10)

[Jesus] said:
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


At the invitation/inspiration of my friend and fellow blogger Elliott Blackwell (see his post on the subject here), I am going to spend time studying the Beatitudes for the rest of 2017. 

There are eight months left in the year, and eight Beatitudes, so my aim is to focus on one each month. I don't really have any firm plan beyond that, but I do want to do some reading and writing about the Beatitudes and explore more deeply how I might observe and live out each of these statements in my own life. This won't be the only thing I'll be writing about here on the blog, of course; but I do hope to share a few of my reflections as I go along.

These eight statements of Jesus are paradoxical, confusing, comforting, and disturbing. Right from the very first one, they seem to turn reality upside down, forcing us to take notice:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

As I was pondering this statement yesterday, an incident came to mind that I've written about before on this blog as part of my "Checkout-Line Encounters" series. It was an encounter with an old man and a young woman at the grocery store a few years ago, and it has stayed with me ever since. I even wrote a poem about it:



Treasure

He stood in the grocery store line –
old face etched, smile gnome-like –
waiting for his items to move along
the belt, like all he had was time.

His cart was blocking a young woman,
who said curtly, "I need to get by here.”
He moved aside, mumbling to himself,
a private amusement twitching on his lips.

One of his boxes fell to the floor, and
I picked it up. Vachon caramel cakes –
I used to love those! Maybe I saw him,
at that moment, as a kindred spirit.

"I think these are yours,” I said. He took
the box from me, but made no reply.
The young woman snickered, "I don't think
he has a clue what's going on,” and walked off.

I don't know which way either of them went
when they left the store. But I imagined her
fifty years from now, feeble, mortified by
the contempt of a young person without patience.

And I imagined him tottering merrily home
to an underground lair, where he’d open the box
and eat his treasured cakes, laughing away
at some secret joke.



I share the incident again here because it strikes me as a living example of Jesus' "poor in spirit" pronouncement.

The 17th-century Bible commentator Matthew Henry characterizes "poor in spirit" as a state of humble self-denial: "Those who would build high must be brought low," he says. The old man I saw in the store seemed to be the epitome of poor in spirit. He was low -- in both status and stature. By all appearances he was not well-off financially, nor did he seem to have it all together intellectually. He was physically slow. To the young woman, he was barely worth consideration: she was impatient with him, talking disrespectfully at him as if he wasn't even there. 

Yet he seemed to be the blessed one, in comparison. The woman's unkindness made no lasting impression on him; he was focused on the task at hand. He was unhurried and unhurry-able. He looked happy. As I say in the poem, I imagined him taking great delight in those delicious caramel cakes. The simple pleasures of life seemed to be enough for him.

How ironic that, as Jesus says, the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. If that's so, then this strange old fellow was far closer to the kingdom than the young woman, who was so attractive, efficient, and capable looking. 

Matthew Henry's commentary says this about those who are poor in spirit:

"God looks graciously upon them. They are his little ones, and have their angels. To them he gives more grace; they live the most comfortable lives, and are easy to themselves and all about them, and nothing comes amiss to them." 

I would not be at all surprised if most of the people who get ignored, forgotten, and shoved aside in our world are included among the poor in spirit. Yet God sees them as blessed and looks on them with grace.