Sunday, February 23, 2020

God's Way or My Way?

A book* I’m reading contains a short metaphor about a fish and a seagull. The fish tired of living in the water and decided he’d rather live on land. He swam and swam to “free” himself from the environment he felt was too restrictive. Finally, he reached the shore—and died. The seagull envied the freedom he observed in the ocean below. So he plunged in—and perished.

The author concludes the metaphor by noting that we may be more like the disgruntled fish and seagull than we realize. We long to break free of the “restrictions” God has placed upon us.  We think we know better than God does what is best for us. But…we forget that true life and freedom are found in living in harmony with our Maker rather than in opposition to Him. He made us. He knows what’s best for us. Any “restrictions” He places on us are for our good since “He lays boundaries with hands of love” (p.38).

We are wise when we willingly stay within them.  

*Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures for Approaching God’s Word by Matt Smethurst, © 2019.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Love—Every Day

Valentine’s Day 2020 is over. Millions of dollars have been spent on cards, chocolates, flowers, gifts, and dinners in fancy restaurants. But what if each of us determined to express genuine love every day? Wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place to live? But we tend to forget to do that once the day is over, just like we forget about Jesus once we’ve celebrated Christmas and Easter. Likewise, by the time we’ve eaten the last of the Thanksgiving turkey, we’ve forgotten all about giving thanks for our blessings.

But I watched a video recently about a young adult who expressed love as he went about his regular day. For example, when he noticed a potted plant that was dying due to lack of water, he poured life-giving liquid on the droopy plant that very day (and in the days ahead). The plant began to thrive. When he observed an older person struggling to push a heavily-loaded cart over the curb and onto the sidewalk, he hurried to help out. When he noticed a young mother and her school-age child sitting on the sidewalk and begging for money needed to sustain their lives, he gave them some.

A friend mentioned that this Valentine’s Day she continued an 11-year-old tradition of writing one compliment on each of several paper hearts and making a trail of them from her son’s bedroom door to the kitchen. I pictured his smiling face as he picked up the hearts and read the compliments as he made his way to the breakfast table.

Perhaps you and I could also come up with creative ways to express love? Every day!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

From Sympathy to Empathy

“Pain has taught me empathy,” a friend said.

“It will definitely do that,” I replied.

That brief exchange brought to mind this old saying:  “Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” After reflecting on it, I paraphrased it this way: "Never dismiss or make light of another person's pain until you've suffered as he has."

We can never be in another person’s situation, of course, but once we’ve been in a similar one we understand far better what they’re going through and why they feel and act the way they do. 

For example, my friend, who is suffering from back pain, had no prior personal experience with excruciating and unrelenting pain. Being a caring and compassionate person, he'd felt sympathy for those who suffered from back pain. But now that he’s experiencing not only excruciating pain but also the desperation to find relief from it, he feels empathy for anyone who's suffering.

The more empathy we have for others, the greater will be our desire to help them. If we’ve been in a similar situation, we know how much receiving comfort meant to us. And since we want fellow sufferers to be comforted, too, we gladly tell them about who or what helped us in our time of need.