Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Importance of Being Civil


Cities Are Civilized By People
People, whether highly educated or not, can still be civil. It is not a play on words to say that being civil is an important part of civilization.

To be civil, in all cultures, is to move beyond a primitive self-absorbed, me-first mentality.

Civilized people create positive cultural climates. Their basic respect for all peoples, enables them to interact with all levels of society. Courtesy and politeness are shown by personal choice, not social pressure.

They are not always on edge to remember rules of etiquette. Their brand of civility means relating to others through an inner thoughtfulness and consideration.

An Angry Crowd Is Like A Cyclone
Lack of civility becomes quite obvious. Rioting in the streets and random destruction of property show a lack of thoughtfulness, courtesy and respect.

An angry crowd can burn up a lot of energy. It also cancels personal choice because it does not leave time for inner thoughtfulness.

But the word “random” brings up a great reminder of how to be civil.

Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) is a great concept. Search the web and you’ll find it was launched in 1995. In fact, RAK Week seems to land in February. But do we have to wait for a special week?

Simply put, random acts of kindness are thoughtful, spontaneous and unpredictable. Reader’s Digest* had some wonderful examples.

Here’s my favorite: A three-year-old was begging for gummy treats in a store. The mom was doing her best to explain that daddy had lost his job and they could not afford any treats.

A stranger walked up and said, “You dropped this,” and handed her a fifty-dollar bill.

A random act of kindness . . . civil, thoughtful, polite and spontaneous.

Small Things Are Important
You don’t have to be an adult to be kind. As a child, I learned Be ye kind one to another (Ephesians 4:32 (KJV). Mom taught the concept by both her words and deeds.

Be civil. Be kind. You may feel like a raindrop in the desert, but a tiny seed of hope might grow in someone from what you do.

*Reader's Digest, February 2020, pp. 82-87, Inspiration, Kindness: Pass It On!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Three Important Personal Things


Provision: Green Pastures and Still Water
A couple of weeks ago my blog was titled Quiet Restoration. I shared the relaxing picture of being led to rest in green pastures and beside quiet waters (Psalm 23:2). It was such a great contrast to rushing waterfalls and fields full of weeds.

In writing Quiet Restoration, it didn't feel complete until I included the start of verse 3: He restores my soul.

The next morning, my waking thought was He restores my soul! I've never really thought much about that. I'd like to learn more. So, I set out on a quest: My soul . . . what is it?

Joyce Meyer, in her Everyday Life Bible, made a comment that really stuck with me: "We are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body."*

Her commentary on Psalm 23 got my attention with this line: "The soul is comprised of the mind, the will, and the emotions."** Think about it. Would you be a whole person if one of these was missing?
Water Can Restore Green to Dry Places

The phrase He restores my soul began to take meaningful shape for me. 

Being married to a guy who loved car shows, I was quite familiar with restoration. Some owners included pictures of their awesome autos as "junkers" before they were restored.

What I found interesting was my own need for restoration. I'm usually an "up" person, so I couldn't miss the fact that this week I was noticeably "down."

Three things clamored for attention: 1) Negative feelings, 2) negative thoughts, and 3) my personal decision on how to handle these challenges.

The choice was mine. God did not create us as robots, and He cares about every part of us . . . body, soul, and spirit.

After the Storm, A Rainbow of Hope
Are you feeling out of sorts, confused, or disappointed by life? Do you feel a need for restoration . .  a way to get back to the positive side of things?

That was me. I read Psalm 23 and asked the LORD to restore my soul. I later realized my "downers" were gone.

He'll do it for you, too. Just ask.

*The Everyday Life Bible (Amplified Version), Joyce Meyer, Faith Words, NY,NY, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Life Point, p. 1984.

**The Everyday Life Bible (as above), Psalm 23, God Restores and Leads, p. 835. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Be Healthy, Stay Connected


Masks Come In A Variety of Colors & Shapes
We're not isolated like we were even a month ago. But it's obvious we will not be getting back to our old way of life.

In fact, today I tried again to adjust to some new normal: 6 ft. social distancing and wearing a mask while shopping.

Staying home has kept life pretty simple. I've read a lot of articles about COVID-19 creating a loneliness crisis. The longer I've been isolated, the more I understand that.

The solution, in every article, was to stay connected. Of course, it's a healthy thing to do anytime. But with schools closed, people off work, and required quarantines, it's obvious isolation and loneliness go together.

It takes effort to text a friend. Emails don't send themselves, either. To hear a friend's voice on a cell phone or see them on Zoom or Skype requires action, too.

Find A Nice Shady Spot & Enjoy The Day
I'm thankful for long-term friendships. But I never stop trying to make new ones.

In fact, this week I enjoyed a picnic with a new friend from church. We tried fish'n chips take-out and had a great time getting acquainted.

She brought a red and white checkered table cloth and spice cake for dessert. It felt like we were having a party!

There's an interesting verse in Proverbs 27:10. It says when disaster strikes, it's better to go to a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.

I pondered this. I have two great brothers. One is only a few hours away, but with the virus shutdown, traveling was not an option.
Connect, Whether In Person Or By Technology

Texts or calls from my brother and his wife were much appreciated. But I was also grateful for some help from neighbors.

My take-away is this: Don't just wait for connection . . . make connection! It's a healthy thing to do!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Quiet Restoration


Still Waters Look Inviting
Dad and I used to joke around with an old cliche. I'd say, "Still waters run deep." He'd laugh and say, "Cold, too."

We had some great discussions about spirituality, and I'm thankful for that heritage.

My version of still water has changed over the years. As a teenager, I enjoyed meditating on some Bible verses before going to sleep.

I still do that, but I also have found time to enjoy deeper waters with a study Bible in the morning. Study Bibles* have a variety of helps to make things clearer.

Fog Cannot Upset Calm Waters
There have been times when I wandered away from still waters and got lost in the bubbling shallow waters of rocky times.

But as I stayed near the river, I found my way back to the spiritually refreshing quiet waters.

Psalm 23 is a good example. It starts out beautifully: The Lord is my Shepherd . . . He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.

One summer we visited Niagara Falls. It was amazing to walk under the rushing waters, but so impossible to relax. Deafening noise and wet slippery walkways threatened personal safety.

I prefer quiet waters. In the heart of our town there's a small creek I enjoy checking out after a rain.

That's when it's easiest to enjoy the reflection of blue sky and white clouds. I may be looking down, but through the reflection I'm also looking up.

That's the way it is when I read my Bible. I read by looking down. But while reflecting on what I've read, I'm looking up.

The Peace of Green Pastures & Still Waters
Life has a way of wearing us down. We need quiet restoration on a regular basis. Start today.

Sit yourself down by the quiet waters of Psalm 23. Read and reflect on what the Good Shepherd can do for you. 

*Two of my long-time favorite study Bibles: Life Application Study Bible (NLT), Tyndale House; Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible for Students (NKJV), Thomas Nelson Publishers. 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

An Option for Rest


Crowds, Rioting, Unrest
The news is never restful. In fact, watching all the rioting since the George Floyd murder has been downright stressful. I think a lot of people really wanted peaceful protests, but they were shoved aside by those with a harsher agenda.

This week I’m sharing something a little different.

Remember how teachers would have you read a story or poem in school? Reading was never enough. They asked questions to help you think more about it.

I’ve been thinking about three little verses: Matthew 11:28-30. In the light of current events, I think Jesus’ words are quite enticing. My thoughts are in black.

Come to me

An open invitation, no exclusions

All you who are weary

Has life worn you down?

And burdened

What kind of problems are you facing?

And I will give you rest

I can help ease your mind

Take My yoke upon you

Come to Me, talk to Me

And learn from Me

I have answers for life’s problems

For I am gentle

I won’t push you around

And humble in heart

I am gentle and full of peace

And you will find rest

Pour out your heart to Me

For your souls

Calmness can replace agitation

For My yoke is easy

Choose to walk beside Me

And my burden is light

I will help you, not harm you

Consider Your Options
I challenge you to go back and read all the red-letter lines. Then read only those in black.

In my experience, this option for rest has proved real. It’s available to anyone who wants it.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Hatred Has Ancient Roots


Cities Are Full of Good and Evil
I’m not a news junkie, hooked on news channels all day long. But only a hermit without TV could have missed the replays of the George Floyd murder this week.

While watching I was horrified to hear a man say, “I can’t breathe,” then silence. Why a policeman would put his knee on the neck of man already on his stomach and handcuffed, is beyond me.

Suddenly Exodus 20:13 has taken on new national importance: You shall not murder. People are crying out for justice. May it be so!

Hatred has ancient roots. It goes all the way back to the first family on earth: Adam and Eve, and their sons Cain and Abel.

As the story unfolds in Genesis 4:1-10, we are told Cain was a “tiller of the ground,” while Abel was “a keeper of sheep.” While both boys knew the requirements of sacrificial worship, Abel obeyed and Cain did not.

Cain Bypassed God's Worship Requirements
God confronted Cain about his angry look and murderous intentions. Cain was angry because his offering was not accepted. God said, “Sin lies at your door but you should rule over it.” This warning was ignored. Later, out in a field, Cain rose up and killed Abel.

Again God, who sees all things, called him on it. “Where is your brother, Abel?” Cain tried to blow him off. “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

God said, “Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.” Cain’s cavalier attitude changed when God proceeded to mete out punishment.

May Justice Prevail
Murder demands justice. Amos 5:24 says, “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness (trustworthy, equitable laws) like a never-failing stream!” This river needs to get rolling as soon as possible.

Hatred has ancient roots, but so does justice. May the truth of Proverbs 21:15 prevail: When justice is done it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evil doers.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Shadows Vs. Light


Light and Shadow Create Beauty

Shadows are created when something blocks the light. For example, I once lived in a flat desert area, but never saw the sun rise. The mountains to the east created shadows to start my day.

Now I never see the sun set. Houses on the hill above me create shadows as the sun goes down. It's a blessing, though, because it enables me to enjoy my deck in the late afternoon.

I'm now dealing with a different type of shadow, and so are you. We understand the routine of sunrise and sunset. But COVID-19 feels erratic and seems to constantly loom over us.

It's unlike the welcoming shadow of a shade tree on a hot summer's day. It's more the sinister variety, an unknown threat.

Does This Look Like a Heart?
Shadows can sometimes be fun. Have you ever tried shaping your hands and fingers to create animal shadows? Children are intrigued by that and want to try it, too.

The problem is that this pandemic shadow is scary, not entertaining. We want it to be gone from the world, yet such power is not ours. It's more of an individual thing.

It's no secret---when light meets dark, light wins! At bedtime, a child afraid of the dark gives the solution: "Leave the light on."

There is light available for our darkness, too. The Psalmist declared God's word was a lamp to his feet and a light to his path (Psalm 119:105). Light is good, but it must be activated.

Action, Not Explanation, Required
You don't have to understand how electricity works. You just turn on your lamp and darkness leaves. It's the same with God's word.

The Bible is a lamp to our challenging shadows. Turn that lamp on by reading it. There's a lot of wisdom in Proverbs, for example.

Your cell phone has a Bible app called the You Version. There are others. The key is to take action! Experience for yourself the power of light vs. shadows.