A Mild Earthquake Is Good For the Soul - December 31, 2016
Earthquakes can be more unsettling than tornadoes, floods, and fires, even though the damage in the latter is usually horrifying. Earthquakes slam in unannounced—you don't see them coming. They just happen. Suddenly! There is no place to hide, no way to elude them, nowhere to go. Everything loudly shakes and rolls. Nothing stands firm and solid. Terrified, you wonder, breathlessly, is there more coming? Will it be a big one? Is this 'THE BIG ONE?'
Earthquakes shake us to the core because they short-circuit our inner security system. Our naturally developed notion of being in charge of our personal safety gets knocked off its foundation. Helplessness defines the moment. We are out of control. This explains why animals are so traumatized by earthquakes: without the ability to reason or understand, they simply experience the violation of what they have known to be secure.
The jolting and shaking of an earthquake, like burglary or rape, violently strips away our protective armor—that illusion that we are safe, and in control. Earthquakes disillusion us. They rob us of our fantasy of invulnerability. Natural disasters are terrible. The damage, death, and destruction they often bring is too sad and terrible for anything but lament and anguish.
On the other hand, an eye-opening jolt of 5.5 on the Richter Scale can awaken those of us whose denial-systems are working too well. Cruising, idling, or drifting along, completely immune and detached, thinking that bad things happen only to other people—this is like an illness itself.
And surely you have been reading between the lines that my reference to earthquakes is not limited to geology. People experience earthquakes in their relationships, their faith, their finances, their dreams and goals. These are just as shattering as feeling the ground tremble beneath their feet.
Earthquakes, for most of us, work as an effective temporary cure for an unrealistic sense of security. Sometimes we are so smug and comfortable, even our reach toward God is perfunctory and habitual. An earthquake can change that. When there is no place to hide, nothing to be done, and everything could shake apart or crash down on top of us in a few seconds, we may quickly recognize our only True Security.
Few things focus the mind as well as a middle-sized earthquake. A 5.5 earthquake instantaneously clarifies what really lasts, what cannot be broken or taken away—a Loving God.
A Christmas Joke - December 23, 2016
In a small southern town, there was a Nativity Scene that showed that great skill and talent had gone into creating it. One small feature, however, bothered me.
The three wise men were wearing firemen's helmets.
Totally unable to come up with a reason or explanation, I left. At a Quik Stop on the edge of town, I asked the lady behind the counter about the helmets.
She exploded into a rage, yelling at me, "You stupid Yankees never do read the Bible!"
I assured her that I did, but simply couldn't recall anything about firemen in the Bible.
She jerked her Bible from behind the counter and ruffled through some pages, and finally jabbed her finger at a passage. Sticking it in my face she said, "See, it says right here, the three wise man came from afar."
Is It Wrong to Write 'Xmas'? - December 16, 2016
When I was a child, I was told it was inappropriate and irreverent to write X-mas. The teachers said using the X instead of writing Christ was a way of leaving Christ out of Christmas.
I have also seen it suggested that people write it that way because they are too lazy to write that long nine-letter word: Christmas! “Merry Xmas” “Big Xmas sale!” Xmas is firmly established as a commercialism. We tend to place it in the same shorthand style as 'nite' or 'hi' (for high): abbreviations contrived largely for the convenience of advertisers.
Years later I learned the truth. Xmas is an interesting case. It is a classic example of a symbol firmly established for one purpose, having been preempted for an entirely different one. For one thing, we are not referring to the letter 'X', which is the third to the last letter of the English alphabet, as in XYZ. It is a Greek letter; it is pronounced chi (rhymes with sky). And that letter is the first letter of the word 'Christ' in its original Greek language. It legitimately represented the word Kristos or Christ. The early Christians in the catacombs marked an X on the walls, and in so doing, meant it with the greatest reverence and respect.
So Xmas is in fact Christmas. That's my message.
It is not disrespectful, lazy, or wrong to write 'Xmas'. 'X' is Christ! And so I wish for you a most joyous, blessed, holy Xmas.
& & & & & & & & & & &
(And now, for those of you who enjoy the full, in-depth background, I provide more information below. If that's not your cup of tea, you can stop right here. Merry Xmas!)
For over a thousand years X symbolized Christ.
Xmas itself has a long history as an English idiom. The Oxford English Dictionary, in about 1920, defined it simply as a "common abbreviation in writing of Christmas.” The first use cited in the OED is from 1551, spelled as X’temmas. The poet Coleridge used it twice in letters, in 1799 and 1801. The last use cited in the OED is from the popular British magazine Punch in 1884. We can see the secularizing trend at work: "He's beginning Xmassing already."
The wholesale expropriation of Xmas as a commercial term, however, has been chiefly an American phenomenon. Christmas itself had rather inauspicious beginnings in this country. In 1659 the General Court of Massachusetts passed a law which imposed a fine on "anybody who is found observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting, or any other way, any such days as Christmas Day." (These were Puritans, keep in mind, who were inclined to take evidence that anyone might be having a good time as a sign of ”popery.")
While the celebration of Christmas as a holiday was widely accepted by the time of the Revolution, Christmas as a commercial holiday had to wait until after the Civil War. Gift-giving, a rare and personal convention at the beginning of the 19th Century, started to become a social obligation. R.H. Macy’s department store in New York City stayed open until midnight on Christmas Eve for the first time in 1867. Macy's first Christmas window appeared in 1874.
Christmas grew into what has been called "a spectacular nationwide Festival of Consumption." Christmas advertising grew with it, but they did not need to invent a new abbreviation for the nine-letter word denoting the season. They simply used one that had been around for centuries. In less than 100 years, the usage of well over 1,000 years was largely reversed. What once nearly everyone took to be a religious symbol, today nearly everyone innocently regards it instead as a secular symbol.
A Wonderful Possibility - December 9, 2016
Think about these words: "... your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
What an enormous project that is — to bring the goodness of heaven to life on earth. Jesus prayer is challenging. Those words get at what Christian living is about. We are here to make the world a better place.
It is more about bringing heaven to earth than about waiting to go to heaven. Max Lucado, often called America's Pastor, wrote these words: "Jesus is interested in more than getting you into heaven; he is interested in getting heaven into you."
In heaven we will feel good about ourselves: confident, unafraid, feel loved and valued all the time. We will love everyone and understand life, nature and history, and a lot more. ‘On earth as it is in heaven’ means working at making life more peaceful, loving, and secure.
That is our task as followers of Jesus. What a wonderful assignment; and every small, medium, or large act of kindness, creativity, diligence, and perseverance contributes to the goal.
You Who Weep Will Laugh - December 2, 2016
An ancient guru is reputed to have inquired of disheartened and dispirited people, those who were knowing no pleasure or joy in life — “When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing?”
By this unique line of exploration he often arrived at the origin of their unhappiness. Their loss of vitality often harkened back to a major grief in their lives; the death of a dear one, the loss of a job or fortune, a significant illness, or some other major blow.
Some didn’t even realize they had stopped singing or dancing, which this teacher regarded as the symbols of loss of joy. Their zest for life had just quietly trickled away, leaving them dry, dispirited shadows, of their old selves.
Grief can do that. It can slowly drain us of our vitality.
Jesus says, “Blessed are you who mourn, for you shall be comforted.” That is the version in Matthew’s Gospel. Luke puts it this way: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” This is the Lord Jesus’ promise: healing and happiness can follow mourning. Proper, natural weeping, and sorrow, leads to renewal. Weep first, laugh later, Jesus implies. Psalm 30 puts it this way: “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
This teaching of Jesus creates a safe place to be real, which is a must for proper mourning. Also, knowing the Lord weeps with us is a major encourager, as we shed our tears and grieve. Jesus said “Inasmuch as it [happens] to the least of these my little ones, it happens to me.” Psalm 23 helps with these thoughts: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.”
Little comforts as much as kind people ‘walking with us’, ‘sitting with us’, ‘weeping with us’. They are the Lord’s presence, embracing the hurting. Joy then comes ‘in the morning’.
Don't Keep Everything Secret - November 25, 2016
"Rev., I want to tell you something, but you have to keep it conﬁdential. We don't want anyone else to know this."
"Sure Pete, you know I'll keep whatever you tell me strictly between us."
"Well, Rev., our son is an alcoholic. And he's only eighteen. He's getting treatment now and he's dried out at the present time, but you would not believe what hell we've gone through."
Keep it confidential?! The pastor has just agreed to keep secret something a supportive community should know about. He allowed himself to be cornered into keeping something private which belongs, not to a couple of individuals, but to many other people who would want to show love, care, support, encouragement. This is no isolated experience.
It is more common than rare. People often withhold from their friends the hurts, fears, burdens, and also joys and victories of their private lives. It is standard behavior, I'm sad to say. Pete's pain, over his son, should not be his private property. He should allow his friends to 'walk with him' through his difficulty and worry.
Pete may or may not be a church member. If he is not, there is nevertheless a group of people to whom he could, and should, be able to turn. But let's assume that he does belong to church. While Pete is the father, the alcoholic son belongs to the whole congregation. At his birth and baptism, Pete's son was incorporated into the community with promises, spoken or implied, that he would be the object of their love and concern. They pledged to take care of him, to pray for him. He was their son, too.
In the physical body, if the infected toe is not felt by the rest of the body, it is likely to go untreated and get worse. Fortunately, that rarely happens. The pain is always felt throughout the whole system and all of our physical resources are mobilized to help heal it. That is how healing happens. Every day, some of us innocently conspire to prevent The Body from taking care of its ailing parts.
We do this by requesting secrecy and agreeing to keep secret the hurts, concerns, worries, ills and tragedies occurring in various parts of Christ's body. So we hold close to our vests our own fears, heartaches, and illnesses. Instead, we should remember that one of the marks of Christ's church is bearing each other's burdens. It is a body! No part is weakened without it affecting the rest, whether they know it or not. A cut toe is never a secret to the rest of the body.
We are expected to be open with each other. This is not risk free—it creates an uncontrollable condition of vulnerability because people sometimes mishandle our information. But the blessings far out-weigh the disadvantages, and dangers. It is a key to being cared-for, a beautiful condition. Jesus’ spirit will help us in all our little ‘churches’ (classes, groups, ministries, friendship circles) to model transparency. It allows others to bear our burdens and, in doing so, strengthens us and The Body, of which we are part.
So, to be clear, let me assure you that I am fully aware of the negative feelings that prevent you from being open and vulnerable to the community of believers — shame, embarrasment, fear, a sense of privacy, worry and so forth. But, the benefits of receiving love, support, compassion, and help from others far outweigh the risk.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
Just Walk With Me - November 18, 2016
I have a problem. I want to tell you about it. No, I really don't. I'd rather keep it to myself; handle it alone. I do think it would be good for me to share it with you, though I don't want to because I'm afraid of what you'll say or how you'll act.
I'm afraid You might feel sorry for me in a way that makes me feel pathetic. Like I'm some "poor thing".
I'm afraid you will try to cheer me up. That you will give me words or text or prayers that tell me in a subtle way to stop feeling bad. If you do that I'll feel worse (but hide it behind my obedient cheerful smile). I'll feel you don't understand. I'll feel you are making light of my problem (as if it can be brushed away with some brief words of cheer).
I'm afraid you'll give me an answer. That this problem I've been wrestling with for some time now and about which I have thought endless thoughts will be belittled. You can answer in a half-minute what I've struggled with for weeks?
I'm afraid you might ignore my problem; talk quickly about other things, tell me of your own.
I'm afraid, too, you might see me stronger than I am. Not needing you to listen and care. (It's true, I can get along, but I shouldn't).
What I'd really like is if you would "just walk with me". Listen as I begin in some blundering, clumsy way to break through my fearfulness of being exposed as weak. Hold my hand and pull me gently as I falter and begin to draw back. Say a word, make a motion, or a sound that says, "I'm with you." If you've been where I am, tell me how you felt in a way that I can know you're trying to walk with me - Not change me.
But I'm afraid...
PLEASE just walk with me. All those other things seem so much brighter and sharper, smarter, and expert. But what really takes love is to "Just Walk With Me."
The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want...Psalm 23.
Yes, even when I walk through the valley, You're with me (walking with Me)."
Doing the Next Right Thing - November 11, 2016
There is almost always a risk in being a Good Samaritan. To stop by the side of the road, even when there appears to be no physical danger, always includes choosing for one thing and against another. Doing the right thing often requires neglecting something else that may be urgent. That neglect may irritate someone. That neglect may delay something you feel is important.
My Administrative Assistant arrived late one morning, which bothered me. She explained that her nephew was seriously ill and she had stopped to take him some food and encouragement. My slight irritation was unimportant because she was doing the right thing, while neglecting her office job. That is the way it is; you can't really care very extensively without bothering or neglecting something or someone else; at least some of the time. We must make choices.
A popular expression these days is, "do the next right thing." I think what that means is that at this particular moment, you have a choice about something. The next thing you are facing involves a choice. And the choice you make should be the 'right thing.' So the 'next' thing you do should be the 'right' thing.
My Assistant did just that. In the bigger picture, taking care of her nephew was more important than her job. Those words don't sit well with a boss or a manager in the workplace, but they are nevertheless true, as I said, 'in the bigger picture.' So I ask forgiveness for my being bothered at the time — I was obviously in the mindset of the 'workplace'. But I can look back at it now and easily see that she did 'the next right thing.'
Saint Thomas Edison - November 4, 2016
Thinking outside the box
What is a saint? Is not the word ‘Saint’ understood to be someone through whom God has worked to make the world a better place?
Have you ever seen the inventor of the electric light bulb called Saint? I haven’t. I have never seen his picture on the cover of a Christian periodical, either. Nor have l read anything lifting up this man as an instrument of God.
Thomas Edison was raised in a Christian home, but as he invested himself in his innumerable inventive projects, his life showed little interest in church-going or other conventional Christian activities. Is that why he is not hailed and honored by the Christian community? Is it because he wasn't a conventionally-involved ‘Man of God’.
A more appropriate regard for Thomas Edison, ‘the illuminator of the world’, is to see him as a uniquely capable Instrument of God. Christianity and all of the world should regard him as one through whom the creative wonders of God have flowed to bring an enormous blessing to humanity.
His goodness, his genius, his creative abilities, should be praised and honored by Christians. The fact that he was not a God-worshiping, church-going Christian is irrelevant. That fact is indeed unfortunate, but it does not disqualify him as one of the great 'Saints' of history.
It is easy to add a lot of names to this list of ‘Saints’ who were not necessarily aware of the goodness of God that was flowing through them. What a beautiful message the Christian Church could send by honoring, praising and commemorating the contributions of these people who have made the world a better place—Jonas Salk, Firestone, Henry Ford . . . the list is endless.
God loves the world. His presence is seen perfectly in dying for us, but beyond that his love is seen in healing, beautifying, improving facilitating, providing results that have made human life more pleasant, hopeful and enjoyable. And his instruments, whoever they are, should be seen as servants of God—or ‘Saints’—whether or not they themselves recognized that's what they were.
4 Tips for Showing Friendliness - October 28, 2016
1. Greet People Warmly — "Good morning. It is good to see you." Become an enthusiastic, habitual greeter.
Greet everybody, whether or not they make eye contact with you.
Say "Good morning."
Say "Great to see you." — anything to send a pleasant message that they are noticed.
A greeting is a connection. It is a gift. A greeting says, "I notice you, you are valued, you are somebody!" A simple greeting is a blessing everybody needs. No exceptions.
2. Make Eye Contact — Look the person in the eyes, briefly, and with warmth. Combine your eye contact with a smile and your greeting. ''The eyes are the window to the soul', says the Bible. To be looked at personally is medicine for the soul.
3. Act Friendly — The emphasis here is on ACT. We do not let our feelings determine our actions. That is, it doesn't 'depend on our mood' in order to act friendly. We do what is right; good; needed. No matter what we are feeling, we can send a message of friendliness. The amazing thing is that when we act friendly, we not only lift another's spirits, but we also end up feeling better ourselves. Such actions are agape, which is the highest form of love. It is love that expects nothing in return.
Offer Compliments — "You look good." "I like doing business with you." "You have a good attitude." "I love your smile."
Inside each and every one, are many appreciative feelings, words of admiration, and gratitude. Most of those thoughts remain unexpressed, kept inside ourselves. We must let them out! We must spray, sprinkle and spread compliments and appreciation on people.
Take two seconds after any transaction, and put into words a short sentence of thankfulness, gratitude, or admiration.
Make it simple, direct and personal.
Plan ahead to be ready to give your gift of love.
Then stand there for five seconds and say it, with a smile!
Hugging is Healthy - October 21, 2016
Share Your Story. Please! - October 14, 2016
A valuable gift every senior carries—that absolutely must be given away, especially to our families—is our story.
The following generations needs to hear our story. Not only do they need to hear it, we need to tell it. There is a wonderful healing that happens when we are invited by interested listeners to take all the time we need to share where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, known, experienced, and how we see God in all of it, too.
While at the Crystal Cathedral, I nudged story-telling into a variety of classes as part of the process. Fresh New Hope Telephone Counselors were put through 7 weeks of training, 2-1/2 hours a week. The last 1-1/2 hours of every session was devoted to listening to each other’s story. The training itself was excellent and inspiring. But almost all who participated cited that telling their story as the highlight.
People are longing to be known. And even though people may have worked together on councils, committees, or teams for decades, they find that they do not know each other’s stories.
When we tell our stories to our children, they gain:
So . . . I'm suggesting two things to you:
1. Share your own story. Go ahead, talk about yourself. There are people who would like to hear about you.
2. Get others to tell their stories. When older folks tell their stories, they come alive again. They gain a sense of completion. Sometimes telling resolves old conflicts. Endearment emerges as we see each other as persons.Share your story !!!
Now Is The Time! - September 30, 2016 Intentional Christian aging is different than slipping, sliding, coasting and idling into our senior years. That ought to be our agenda as Christians—thoughtful aging. Much of life is relatively clearly defined – infancy, toddler times, kindergarten, elementary school, high school, college or career, marriage, parenthood, are well-modeled. We know what these phases involve. but not the third quarter or the second half. Something has happened so rapidly that we lack models, traditions, patterns, and guidelines about how to live to 95 or 100 instead of to 75 or 85.
By nature or training, my dad, while a wonderful, generous, caring person, did not know how to concentrate his energies on giving encouragement, support, admiration, interest and pats on the back to the younger generation, or even his peers, the senior group.
Right there we pinpoint a major opportunity and responsibility for life after 60. Instead of conventional workplace productivity, we can step instead into relational business. Seniors need to know how much they have to offer the younger generation just in terms of paying attention to them and speaking clear messages of love, encouragement, support and kindness. The vibrancy and bravado of youth should not distract us. And 'feelings' of love are not enough – positive words heal, lift, inspire, strengthen, immunize.
Beyond our own families, here is a second career for all of us. Sending messages of care and kindness all around. SHOWING UP!! In tough and painful circumstances next door, across the street, or by phone, mail or internet to hurting strangers.
For all of my readers who are over 60 (it might also be a good idea for those who are younger), I recommend to you that you undertake a 'self check'. Consider where your focus is most of the time: are you sharing the wisdom of your life experiences and modeling for others, or are you 'slipping, sliding, coasting and idling' into your senior years? Are you outer-focused, or inner-focused?
You are filled with tons of good stuff! Please! Share it. Sprinkle it around each day.
Show Kindness Regularly - September 23, 2016
A fresh convert to the Care and Kindness campaign, or life style, asked an important question. “How often should I say something to encourage or compliment someone around me?”
I said, “now and then”. A few weeks ago, you read my explanation of what I meant by those words. I believed them at the time, and I uttered them sincerely.
However, I now regret my answer. My viewpoint has changed so that I feel what I said needs to be modified. That formula now sounds too indifferent to me, and some close friends have expressed the same feeling. What the answer should be is something like, regularly, or consistently.
The words ‘now and then’ can perhaps be interpreted as being half-hearted, too impersonal, too casual. They run the risk of being like a trinket that can be pulled out from time to time when you think of it. Rather, I so passionately want people to take on Care and Kindness as a life-style, or a way of life, that fits what Jesus modeled and asks of us.
When we seriously reflect on the meaning of life and what we are here for, it quickly becomes obvious that we have something important to contribute. Jesus’ prayer said a lot: “…Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Those words say to me that we are to show the love of Jesus in our daily living —“…on earth as it is in heaven.”
Our motto, or our plan, for loving-kindness should be to ‘Love one another’. If my earlier words of ‘now and then’ help you to live this way daily; if they help you undertake acts of kindness to others without putting yourself on a guilt trip for ‘not doing it enough’; if they are an aid to thinking along these lines more often, then I am pleased at your response.
But my belief now, years later, is that you should not let them limit you. We should strive to consistently share Jesus’ love; consistently offer ourselves to the hurting people around us; consistently find ways to provide acts of kindness. And the good Lord will help us to consistently spread and sprinkle that loving-kindness wherever we go.
Thanking and Praising the Dental Hygienist - September 16, 2016
What do you think about lying there while the dental hygienist is carefully cleaning your teeth? You can't chat with her, or even watch the TV on the wall. All you can do is think. So that is how I spent my hour.
Of course, I was amazed that anyone would like to do what she was doing—working inside someone's moist and personal mouth. And so carefully, and thoroughly! ! !
So I rehearsed my affirmation of her. I carefully planned exactly what I would say to her to express my appreciation—once I had my mouth back to be able to talk. Finally the right moment came. I was sitting up. My mouth had been rinsed and there was nothing more to distract her. It was time for me to leave.
"I am really thankful there are people like you who enjoy doing this kind of work." Then I added, "Thank you very much for doing this." She was beaming as I concluded. I felt I really touched her heart. And I meant every word of it.
That only took a moment; and it meant so much to her. You might think, 'well, she was just doing her job'. But how does she know that anyone appreciates her good work? How does she know that anyone cares?
By the same token, we deal with people every day, everywhere we go, that are 'just doing their job'. It is a valuable act of kindness to let them know that they are noticed, appreciated, and respected for their work.
Look for opportunities to do this for people who are overlooked. You'll find it to be rewarding to yourself, as well.
People Need to be Allowed to 'Feel' - September 9, 2016
That which is most helpful for people to do in grief situations is to be able to express or pour out their feelings, whatever they are. It is most helpful for friends or pastors to be able to be comfortable with a person's feelings, no matter what they are.
To allow a person to be angry, sad, hurt, even hateful toward God, allows the feelings which are ‘just feelings’ to be cleansed from the system. Perhaps they may not ever be fully gone, but the helper must learn not to be threatened by whatever the person's feelings may be.
An expression like, ‘All things work together for the good of those who love God,’ is true; but when it is said to a person at the time of intense grief, it communicates a message that says, "You shouldn't feel bad." It is not a caring, helpful thing to say just then. It tells the person, indirectly, that this is an act of God and true faith would see it as such and would not sorrow.
What someone who says that is trying to do, of course, is to cheer the other person and he thinks that when he uses that expression, it will be comforting. He doesn't believe that it is good for a person to feel bad, and he feels awkward about what to say or do for them. So he tries to find something that will make them stop showing feelings. But . . . they NEED to be able to express their feelings. We must not deny them this important step in their grief or loss.
The same may be said for an expression like, ‘It's the Lord's will.’ The grieving Christian is not helped by saying this to him. Telling it to him when he is acutely feeling loss discourages the frank and honest expression of his feelings that are so important and valuable in a healthy working out of grief.
It is far better to say to a person whom you see on the verge of tears, "Go ahead and cry. Jesus cried, too, when his friend died."
Or simply say how you feel—words like, "I feel so bad about what happened." These words communicate that you understand and accept them with their feelings of loss, sorrow, and even resentment.
There are words of faith that are important — they are certainly important to you. There are words that hold great truths. But my counsel to you is to not offer them too quickly. Saying them too soon runs the risk of making them seem trite; of giving the impression that you are not really hearing what people are saying about their hurt; of denying them their needed time to grieve, to mourn, to face their loss.
Instead, wait for a later time when they are ready to once again pick up their own faith and to be encouraged.
Now and Then - September 2, 2016
The Care and Kindness Campaign seeks to motivate you to do acts of kindness . . . Often, Jim Kok will write that you should do a certain thing ‘daily’. But . . . that can be a mighty challenge, don’t you think?
“Do I have to do that all the time? I don’t know if I can!” So, then you feel guilt creeping into your thoughts and feelings.
"Share your smile with people everywhere you go." Really? That feels strange to have a plastic smile pasted on my face all day.
"Comment to the grocery store checker, call her by name (by noticing her nametag) and/or offer her a compliment." Well, sometimes that doesn’t seem appropriate. She’s very busy — there’s a long line. Surely I’m not required to do that every single time!
"Notice people’s clothing, hair style, jewelry, scars, and express interest in them." I DO notice, but do I have to comment on stuff all the time? I mean, sometimes it just feels awkward to try to do that.
And so we feel guilty about having these questions; about not doing ‘stuff’ as often as we should; about feeling that too much is being asked of us.
Take heart! Jim Kok’s teachings don’t really say that you have to do these things unendingly. He is trying to raise your awareness of people and their needs that are all around you. But he often uses the words, ‘now and then’. Find an occasion to do an act of kindness. Accept the opportunity to say something encouraging to someone.
Now and then.
In other words, don’t put yourself on a guilt trip; don’t overstress yourself; don’t overwork yourself trying to do it all the time.
Don’t fret about trying to do it for Everybody.
One of the hangups that many people run into is that they think that they need to do something GREAT for God! And they are not sure what that is at the moment! So, since they don’t feel adequate to doing something great, they feel they are falling short.
Instead, to paraphrase Mother Theresa, be happy to do something for God. Don’t worry about doing something great for God, just do something for a Great God!
Loss Comes In My Flavors - August 26, 2016
A minister told me of his entering his church one morning and coming upon the janitor. They exchanged greetings and then the pastor asked him how things were with him, and stayed to hear the answer. The janitor told how his wife had taken his dog away the day before to have it ‘put to sleep.’ It was old and blind, he said, but still every day he and the dog had taken a walk together. They always followed the same path so the old, blind dog could find her way. "But now she's gone," he bemoaned.
My friend, the minister, told me how he listened, heard, and felt this man's loss. They prayed together, standing in the middle of the church basement, about the new emptiness in this man's life.
How many parents and friends have failed to respond to situations like that, and have offered only words such as, "What's the matter with you? It's only a dog." Realizing that the death of a human is not the only loss that can bring real grief can help us to be more understanding and helpful.
Think for a minute and you will realize that there are a lot of other grief experiences that happen to us and to others (grief here means a significant change):
All of these are losses; all of these bring grief.
Being sensitive to the loss experiences of others and 'walking with them' is also a beautiful opportunity for us as we realize the wide scope of grief-like events in people's lives. You, who are my long-time readers, know what I mean by 'walking with them'. It includes not talking, when you should be listening; offering understanding responses to their hurt, instead of asking for details about what happened; touching or hugging, or just being there with them as they grieve.
As you look at the list above of various losses, think about how you can be sensitive to your friend's feelings instead of yielding to your natural instinct to try to fix it, or offer advice, or cheer them up so that they won't feel so bad. The fact is that they DO feel bad. They need time to go through those emotions. And they're not ready to hear about fixing anything.
Be their for your friends and family when they face a loss. Walk with them. Love them. Support them. Be kind to them by giving them your heartfelt concern.
Post Office Friends - August 19, 2016
Stamps.Com? No Thanks.
What a terrific idea. You can buy your U.S. postage stamps quickly and simply in your own home using your own computer. What a time saver! What a nice solution to the inconvenience of fighting the parking problem at the Post Office, and then paying for stamps there after standing and waiting in line for many minutes.
There is more at stake here than efficiency and convenience. l have chosen to continue to visit the U.S. Post Office and buy my stamps there. For one thing, I now consider the people behind the counter as my friends. I want to greet them, joke with them . . . and compliment them. I want to communicate appreciation so that they know they are valued, and even loved. I do not want to abandon them for quick generic postage stamps on the internet.
The second reason the Post Office will continue to be a part of my life is the beautiful postage stamps they sell. Sending letters and other mail with a beautiful stamp is a quiet little joy. It feels like sending a gift along with my check to pay a bill. Adding a Mickey Mouse stamp, or one showing Alaska with a beautiful snow capped Mt. Denali, is a tiny little act of beautifying the world. As I do it, I hope it will add a small touch of brightness to the recipient’s life.
The electronic world is amazing and awesome. Our lives have been profoundly blessed by the marvels of the computer and the cell phone. I thank God daily for these inventions.
But . . . Stamps.com is not for me. People are more important to me than getting my stamps quickly.
Getting Over It, or Not . . . - August 12, 2016
Frequently in the course of counseling with someone, the conversation will turn to an area of hurt and sorrow over the death of someone very close. As we talk more in this area, tears often begin to flow and the pain is relieved. And then there will be an apology: "I know I should be over it by now...I don't know what's wrong with me that I keep feeling this way."
My reply usually goes something like this: "I don't think you should expect yourself to get over it. Why get to the point where the loss of this dear person is a matter of emotionless intellectual reflection only? This person was a part of you—about whom you care deeply. You will go on without that person, but will there ever be a point in your life when the memory will not evoke feelings?"
A friend of mine told me about a conversation he had with an aged woman. She had lived a full and active life. She had two married sons, and had also given birth to a baby girl. The baby girl had died. She told about it now with tears—with pain. Even though sixty or more years had passed, the sorrow was still intense. She had never ‘gotten over it.’ But because she hadn't, she was a warm person . . . caring, compassionate, and very real; her life was authentic and meaningful.Another person told me that her friends and relatives keep saying to her, "Where's your faith?" because she is still frequently talking about and crying over the emptiness in her life since her husband died nearly two years ago. This woman sought professional counseling, in part because those around her seemed to be saying, "Don't grieve with us...There's something wrong with you if you haven't gotten over it yet." Another way of describing this is to say she had to ‘purchase friendship’ from a counselor because her friends were unable to tolerate her emotions.
The tears, empty feelings, loneliness, and guilty feelings that are part of the consequences of the death of a dear one—they will diminish with time. But it is unfair and unreal to expect them ever to be totally gone. They'll always be there.
Life must go on. That's the important thing. New friends, new dear ones, new activities, new joys, and work can come into your life. But those past hurts can still co-exist with the new life.
Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Ready to Try Something New? - August 5, 2016
All of life is a drama of balancing ourselves between security and risk. There are wonderful delights in being secure. There are special joys in taking risks. And there are dangers and hazards in both.
Traditionally, the enticements of risk win more with the younger generation. The joys of security are more attractive to us as we age. As a result there are more crashes among the young as they take risks, and more stagnation among the old, as we try to be safe and secure.
Risk taking, and indifference to security, can produce an exciting roller-coaster ride, but such adventures often end back where they started: nothing gained but it was an exciting ride. But not always is there a lack of gain. The old axiom is true: “nothing ventured nothing gained”. Most growth is the result of breaking out and trying something at least slightly unpredictable and uncertain.
Too much concern with security can add up to tidy bank accounts and neat surroundings, but they may leave the participants feeling shallow and even somewhat bored. Life and growth seem to depend on trying some new or unproven ventures.
The challenge of aging is to keep on growing. That means continuing to be enticed by the attractions of risk taking that guarantees continued growth. At the same time our health and well-being can be protected by a relatively wholesome amount of security.
When we stop growing we die. We are expected as God’s people to see life as a continual growth process right up to the time we transition to Jesus’ arms in heaven. Life is not to be a challenge up to retirement and then a time of coasting and a downhill slide to the grave. Rather than slowly disconnecting and detaching from our surroundings, we must continue to be transformed by the renewal of our minds.
We must never wholly give in to the comforts of the rocking chair and the T.V., but forever keep alive an openness to new adventures and opportunities for enjoying and brightening our world.
Sharing Your Hurts Is Good - July 29, 2016
When persons are hit by a devastating event, pastors and counselors encourage them to talk about their feelings. It is believed this is good for a positive recovery. Careful study of the book of Psalms reveals that it helps people to talk out their angers, hurts, fears and rage. The Psalms are full of cries to God about feelings of depression, sadness, anger, loneliness and rejection. They are written evidence God expects and recommends giving voice to our anguish.
Go back and reread that first paragraph. It is helpful for people to talk out their feeliings. That is why I stress the important Kindness Lesson of 'listening.' You can be an instrument in people's healing by listening to them and letting them talk. And . . . most importantly . . . let them talk about their feelings. Don't worry about the facts — they can come later. Don't offer helpful suggestions yet — that's not listening. Instead, offer encouragement for them to talk about their feelings.
For examples, look at Psalms 13, 22, 42, 88 and 109. The difference in the Psalms is that the outrage is aimed at God and then given to God and left with God. Then, in most of the Psalms, healing happens. Change occurs, and the next thing is that the devastated person is praising God.
Research in the 20th century confirms the healing power of opening up about trauma. Those who do not disclose their feelings were found to have significantly more health problems than those who talk it out. Even writing about one’s trauma is beneficial to health. Patients who wrote for fifteen minutes on four consecutive days showed short term benefits and long term decreases in health problems.
So, my message today is two-fold: I'm speaking to you who are hurting, and I'm also speaking to those who are listening. Confession is good for the soul. So is lament, crying out to God and to trusted friends. Shedding our tears and speaking our anguish can relieve us of unhealthy burdens. If you are hurting, confess it to trusted friends, or a counselor, or your pastor. But talk about it. Let it out.
If it is your friend who is hurting, give them room to lament. Encourage them to cry out. Listen to them as they confess their hurt. Bless them as you offer them your time and your caring heart.
Are You Contagious? - July 22, 2016
You are a positive person, but when you see the word 'contagious', you think of bad things, don't you? When we check the dictionary, it says that the word contagious means "likely to spread or affect others." Let's think about a couple of examples.
When you see someone yawn, you are drawn into it and you either also yawn, or you work to stifle one, right? Yawns are contagious. Even talking about one can bring forth the temptation to do it. Contagious yawning is a sign of empathy and a form of social bonding.
Or what about laughing or giggling? When a group of people are laughing, you can't help laughing as well. You can even test this yourself: start laughing (for no reason) with some friends. Laugh loudly and with enthusiasm—in moments, they will also be laughing. Laughing is contagious. It seems that it’s absolutely true that ‘laugh and the whole world laughs with you.’
There are other behaviors that are well-documented as being contagious.
Research has found that when we’re with a person and they smile, we’re likely to ‘try on’ that facial expression to get a sense of how they’re feeling. This natural phenomenon of facial mimicry allows us to not only empathize with others, but to actually experience their emotions for ourselves.
The same instinct that leads us to smile when others do also gives us the impulse to turn down the corners of our mouths when we see someone else frown. Yes, facial mimicry applies to frowns, too (and even grimaces!). You may not necessarily form a full frown in response to someone else, but there’s a good chance that your facial muscles will move slightly in that direction.
Contagiousness is exactly what the Care and Kindness Campaign is all about. We want it to spread, we want it to affect others—just as it says in the definition above. When you smile at people, it can start a domino effect that will touch people far beyond the one who received your smile.
It may not take my encouragement for you to share in the laughter with others, or to share in their frowns, but I ask you to think about how you can be more contagious. Smiling is more than just being nice, or being pleasant. It is an act of kindness that can spread out like a ripple. Make a more conscious effort to smile at people. Think about being positively contagious.
We Are Called To Leave Our Comfort Zone - July 15, 2016
I beg you to take total ownership of every room you sit in or enter. I beg you to take leadership in noticing who is there and to intentionally approach whoever might possibly be alone. Endeavor in some faulty, trembling, inarticulate way if necessary, to bring them in. Just be there!!
Whenever I walk across the room, introvert that I may be, and welcome a stranger, as ineptly as I may do it, I am dying for her. Let me explain what I mean by that:
Many of you have seen the powerful movie, The Passion of Christ. What a comfort-busting experience that is!! It calls us to suffering, too. It insists that we give our lives for others. We are called to leave our comfort zone and get hurt, if necessary, while trying to bring healing to others. We, too, must die for others.
This is also what I mean when I speak of 'going into the hard places.' When a situation is uncomfortable for us, or feels awkward, we typically hang back. But, nevertheless, being brave enough, bold enough, to do the right thing is being willing to go into a hard place.
So, in this sense, in dying for her, I am resuscitating her, raising her from the dead. In reaching out to her, or simply being there with her in support—that is going into a hard place. What a revolutionary thought! I want to push this as hard as I dare. You must take ownership to make the world a better place, to care about strangers, to reach into uncomfortable places—even places where you’d rather not be.
People Often Gloss Over Our Wounds - July 8, 2016
The statement in this title is true, but it is also very sad. Why do friends gloss over our pain?
The truth is that your friends are troubled by your sadness, your grief, your woundedness, and they want to help. So their instinctive response is to try to lift you out of that state of mind.
Unfortunately, we all do that. We want the wounds of our loved ones to go away. We want our own pain to go away, too—the pain we have because of theirs. So we suggest ideas we hope will make our friends feel better. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of this when he says, “You can't heal a wound by saying it is not there.”
Instead, in Scripture, Paul says: “Weep with those who weep.” He advises us to join with those who weep.
Consider this pleasant mental picture: Two friends, tears running down the cheeks of both, standing together feeling the pain of one. There are no easy answers; there is no denying of the pain; there is no attempt to offer advice. But there is an embrace, a listening ear, a place to rest, and an infusion of hope, peace and love. And in that way, Jesus stands there too. Jesus never fails. When it happens to one of us, it happens to him. This is an awesome reality!
And, like Jesus, a true friend cries out on our behalf instead of standing apart from our pain. In her prayers, she puts into the words the other person’s plight. She speaks to God of the conflicts that she knows are squeezing her friend. Rare, good friends weep with us. Like the example above of the two friends, the one is present with the other. A true friend shares her heart, her love, concern, care, and especially, her time.
Friends who don’t understand this gloss over our wounds. When a brother dies, his neighbor says, “Isn’t it wonderful? He is with the Lord.” That is true, but it is an unhelpful way to comfort. Conventional consolation cannot fix true sorrow. Seldom do our words help much. What help and heals most is being there and weeping with those who weep.
God Needs Your Help - July 1, 2016
Think about your friends, relatives, acquaintances, colleagues and neighbors. For two or three of them, life is difficult right now—your neighbor prays to find employment again; a colleague cries out to God about his loneliness; your relatives pray yet again about their struggle with infertility.
As I write, the newly born granddaughter of close friends of ours lies critically ill. They are terribly frightened and deeply pained by her weakness and agony. They pray for the healing of the little girl.
But not all who pray and weep receive a reprieve. It seems that their prayers are not being answered. Even so, God is always there embracing, caring, hurting, sustaining, and enabling. God’s presence helps the unacceptable become bearable.
So does your presence! This is where God needs your help. A man, whose wife died after a long difficult illness, told me about an aggravating letter he had received. A Christian woman friend wrote, apologizing for her failing to show up to visit her dying friend. “It was,” she explained, “too upsetting.” She allowed her friend to die without the gift of her presence because she was unwilling to experience some discomfort. How sad! Her presence would have meant much to her friend; it would have meant much to the husband. Both would have felt the presence of God by her showing up, and that is so much more important than her own discomfort.
Remember that showing up is 90% of helping! Seldom do our words help much, so we don’t need to worry about what to say. Just show up!
Now, back to the list of people you know. Who can you call, write or drop in on? God’s already there, but God depends on your support as well. Now conjure up courage and conviction, let yourself be uncomfortable, give some loving kindness. That’s God-like.
Your Smile Can Heal - June 24, 2016
I was walking in the shopping mall, pondering a couple of discouraging encounters I had had earlier in the day. Suddenly, a young boy was blocking my path and I slowed to step around him. He greeted me with a warm smile and a wave of his hand. I couldn’t help but smile back, and then I realized that my mood had been lifted.
I also reflected on the fact that the youth was a youngster with Down syndrome. He had healed me of my blue feelings—with a smile. My thoughts continued to explore the situation. Everyone would be in agreement that the little guy had limited abilities. And yet, he had the ability to help — to heal — a big guy like me. If he could do that for me, I certainly had the ability to do it for others. So I resolved, right there, on the spot, to be more conscious of giving my smile away.
Every one carries a smile. Too many are unused, or too rarely used. Smiles are instant inoculations of loving-kindness. And every one needs them constantly. Each of us walks through life carrying this powerful medicine, and we have the opportunity to lift spirits and heal discouraged souls everywhere we go.
1. Believe your smile can heal another person. 2. Decide to give it to people you meet—clerks, mechanics, people you work with, the mail person, your doctor, your waiter. 3. Trust that they will feel brightened by your kind act. 4. Enjoy this new agenda for everyday living.
More on Kok's Law - June 17, 2016
Last week, I introduced you to 'Kok's Law': If I am thinking something, or feeling something, at least half the others in a group or meeting are likely to be having the same thoughts or feelings! Assuming this is true, it can give us the courage to speak up when we might have been silent. Kok’s Law, used discreetly, can give us the nudge many of us need.
Of course some people don’t need help to take a risk and speak up. But, others of us do! Kok's Law reminds us of the high probability that many other people are thinking the same way that we are and support for our viewpoint will be present. That may be all some of us need to gain the courage to trust our hunches, ideas, opinions, feelings and step up to the podium, or take action.
Here is an example. Have you ever been in a room with other people when you felt very warm? What do you usually do? You look around and wonder if you're the only one feeling that way. In humility and the desire to not be disruptive, you suffer the discomfort.
But . . . you could ask, “Is it warm in here?” Kok's Law says: If you’re warm, at least half the others are warm, too (unless you’re getting the flu or catching a cold.) By speaking up, you are acknowledging the discomfort of many others, who were also too timid to speak up. By daring to raise the question, you lead the way to more comfort for everyone.
Kok’s Law has become my faithful companion. It has helped me in scores of situations where my natural self-consciousness used to limit me and hold me back.
The thesis underlying Kok’s Law is that I’m a somewhat normative human being with sensitivities and responses similar to those found in at least half of the population. And, as I said last week, I give you Kok’s Law to use carefully. I guarantee it will work at least half the time.
KOK'S LAW - June 10, 2016
‘Kok’s Law’ came into being as a means of survival in intimidating circumstances. No doubt, others have stumbled onto its genius, too, but I am going to claim to be the first to state it as a law!
Remember all the times you sat in class as a college student, tongue-tied with fear of volunteering the answer you had in mind? Then you melted in discouragement and frustration as you heard someone else speak up and say exactly what you had thought! And she received all the high praise?
Recall the many hunches, intuitions, and ideas you’ve had, but they were left unspoken or ignored because you lacked the confidence to speak about them or do something with them. Then you read or heard them stated by someone else who received admiration for their brilliance? ‘Kok’s Law’ will help.
‘Kok’s Law’ was born one Saturday morning as I sat in a committee meeting, where we were planning a conference program. The chairman was a forceful, confident-appearing person, who had a load of ideas. He was on his way toward setting up the program all by himself, as the rest of us passively agreed. Then it hit me! I was aware in my heart and in my head that I was experiencing considerable distress and unease with the way the plans were being laid out. As I listened to my ‘guts’, I felt a flood of anger and objections. I realized that I didn’t like much of what the chairman was authoritatively hammering into place. But . . .there I was, nodding assent, just like everyone else in the meeting.
Then came the second revelation: If I’m feeling this way, I’ll bet at least a couple of these other ‘yes-men’ are, too.
Assuming this was true, I thought I should speak up. If I did, I’d be sure to get support. So I spoke. Immediately, the others joined in! Amazingly, the chairman, who until then had been so dominating, listened. Then the program planning progressed in a fresh new way. Everything was changed for the better.
‘Kok’s Law’ was born: If I am thinking something, or feeling something, at least half the others in a group or meeting are likely to be having the same thoughts or feelings!
I give you Kok’s Law to use carefully. I guarantee it will work at least half the time.
Beware the Infection of Me-ism - June 3, 2016
As we grow older, there is a tendency to drift into preoccupation with ourselves: our health, our physical problems, our sleep, money, trips, grandchildren and more. Surely you agree—there is little as pleasant as another person taking interest in our lives! When someone shows interest in what we are doing and what we are thinking, it is a delight.
So it is essential, as we grow older, and the self-centered drift progresses, that we resist being so narrowly focused. That process includes showing less interest in others—their trips, interests, accomplishments, new items. I call this older-person malady me-ism, and it turns others off.
It often requires a deliberate decision to move away from being caught up in our own issues and concerns. So you know what I'm going to say next:
if someone's attention to you is so meaningful, then you must realize how it affects someone else when you turn your focus towards them. Not only does such a choice thrill the ones we show interest in, it is also an antidote against our own 'me-ism'.
It doesn’t matter who you are, or how healthy, educated, wealthy or attractive you are. You have within you the words, interests, stories and expressions that can make a wonderful positive difference in the lives of others. We are all potential healers.
Check that self-centered drift, and spill loving interest on other people. It can be life-giving to them, but it will always be spirit-lifting to you as well.
AS WE GROW OLDER, WE MUST DELIBERATELY TAKE THE SPOTLIGHT OFF OURSELVES AND TURN IT ON OTHERS.
Thank Someone Today - May 27, 2016
"Thanksgiving" cards are great. What an appropriate time to sit down and think of a number of people who have given us something, or contributed to our lives in some major or minor way, and then make a point of a straightforward, unashamed statement of appreciation.
But . . . do we really need to wait until November to do this? Consider the suggestion that you do this every week during the year? Or once a month? Or now and then? But you don't have to wait until November!
And how many different ways can you come up with to express these 'thank you's'?
Or new technology ways:
Or an old-fashioned way:
Stop a few minutes. Trace your steps through an average day, week, year, or your life. Isn't it surprising how many people stand out as ones who have made life good, just by being part of our lives?
Thank some of them.
And also express gratitude to God for these people in your life.
How Can I Show Up? - May 20, 2016
You've heard me frequently repeat one of my fundamental beliefs: that 90% of Helping Is Just Showing Up. Let's explore that concept more today. What does 'showing up' mean?
People express to me that it is helpful to them when I give suggestions on how to apply my ideas in a very practical way. So here are some thoughts for you to consider.
Showing up for your child's sports event is pretty normal, right? All parents do it, right? Well, what if you went to a soccer game of one of your friends' children or grandchildren? That's not expected, but it IS showing up. How do suppose your friend will feel if you do that with them?
If a young person from your church, or from one of your neighbor's families, is giving a recital, go to it! That is showing love that goes beyond your own family.
The elementary school in your neighborhood is putting on a talent show. You don't have any kids in school any longer, but you attend anyway. Be part of the audience that is more than just the parents of the kids.
Do any of your friends have a family member who is graduating? Go to the ceremony. That's showing up.
What young people do you know that are not part of your family, or even not connected to your close friends? What activities are they involved in where you could just show up? Tee-ball, Little League, soccer games, band concerts, pick-up basketball games in the park, volley ball games, etc. . . . cheer for them. Encourage them.
I know of a married couple who had a heart for people who were the victims of serious accidents that had been reported in the news. They would go to the hospital to offer encouragement to these people whom they had never met before.
Are you ready for a hard one? You encounter people asking for a handout in front of a store where you shop. What if, instead of just walking past them, you stopped and engaged them in a bit of conversation? What if you took a few minutes to let them know that you recognize they are real people, just like you, even though their circumstances are different? Could you do that? That is showing up.
Is Faith Healing a Placebo? - May 13, 2016
Last week's blog revealed that research has uncovered the fact that the benefit of a placebo is more than just in your head. If you haven't read that blog yet, here is a link to it.
The body heals itself. The self-healing capacity of our human system is being stressed more and more by medical sophisticates. The placebo research underscores it in a striking way. It shows that pulling the right trigger can initiate self-healing.
Throughout all of history, healing has occurred in ways that defy modern science’s self-confidence. While some may come straight from God, many others may come from Him through the mysterious miracles of faith in a practitioner, an herb, a touch, or an incantation that triggers the self-healing potential of the human body.
If the trusting patient can be helped by a placebo in the form of a medicine, it becomes obvious that it can also be helped by faith in the healing power of God, or the hand of a praying person, or a drop of olive oil. These things could also release, or speed up, the healing powers created in the person's own body.
Primitive people have always responded to ‘unscientific’ healing ventures. ‘Civilized Americans’, who have trusted science above all, could hardly profit, it seems, from anything but the productions of laboratories. But, as we learn of the scientific evidence of the body’s self-healing capacities, even we modern people may find ways in which faith can heal. We may begin again to ask that the elders lay their hands on us, pray over us, and maybe even put the oil on us, believing (with scientific basis) that such love, care, and attention, may trigger the healing process God has created within us.
Just What is a Placebo? - May 6, 2016
The mention of a placebo makes people smile the smile of a shared secret. It connotes a beneficial little trick pulled on the not-really-sick. A pill is given, tricking the complainer into thinking something truly medicinal has been prescribed. Believing that the pill will help, many have been fooled into feeling better.
At least that’s how in the past we have thought about the placebo. Recent research, however, indicates there’s much more to it than we’ve supposed.
Pla-ce’-bo (plå-sē’-bő), n. [Latin, “I shall please.”] Med. A medicine, esp. an inactive one, given merely to satisfy a patient.
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, copyright, 1961
A medication prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient than for its actual effect on his disorder.
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, copyright, 1979
Apparently, when the placebo is taken by some trusting patients, it actually causes the body to heal itself. When the sick or hurt person, with confidence in the medical profession, in medicine, and in scientific effectiveness, pops the placebo pill into his system, his body produces chemicals called endorphins. One of these is a pain killer that is more powerful than morphine. Pain is then reduced, or eliminated, by the body’s own chemicals, the production of which was stimulated by the placebo taken in faith.
However, research has uncovered the fact that the benefit of a placebo is more than just in your head. The self-healing capacity of our human system is being stressed more and more by medical sophisticates.
Think about that. Ponder this revelation. Then we will discuss it further in next week's blog.
Being Kind to Yourself - April 29, 2016
We’ve been considering the role of kindness in our lives. Our Care and Kindness Campaign seeks to raise people’s awareness of how important kindness is. We have discussed kindness that we show at home. We urge that you show kindness in public. Then there’s kindness at church and kindness with your enemies.
That pretty well covers the gamut, don’t you think? . . . Almost.
Someone else needs your kindness. Who could that be?
Don’t we tend to be tough on ourselves? And rightly so. Like the young couple at the wedding in Cana, we don’t always adequately plan ahead. We’ve been self-serving. And like the woman with the illness (see the earlier blog about that), our world sometimes seems out of control. But did Jesus chide the wedding couple? No. Was he hard on the woman who touched his hem? No. He is kind to the forgetful. He is kind to the greedy. He is kind to the sick.
And he is kind to us. And since he is so kind to us, can’t we be a little kinder to ourselves?
Oh, but you don’t know me! You don’t know my faults and my thoughts. You don’t know the gripes that come so easily into my mind. You don’t know the complaints I so frequently mutter.No, I don’t, but Jesus does. He made you. He knows everything about you, yet he doesn’t hold back his kindness toward you.
Has he, knowing all your secrets, retracted one promise or reclaimed one gift? No, he is kind to you. Why don’t you be kind to yourself? He forgives your faults. Why don’t you do the same? He thinks tomorrow is worth living. Why don’t you agree? He believes in you enough to call you his ambassador, his follower, even his child. Why not take his cue and believe in yourself?
In other words, with all of our focus on kindness, be sure to include yourself. Say some good, encouraging words to YOU. Let your mind enjoy some thoughts about the good things that make you to be YOU.
What is Your Kindness Quotient? - April 22, 2016
How kind are you? What is your kindness quotient? There are various tests you may have taken — an I.Q. test (intelligence quotient), perhaps a Risk Quotient test (from your financial advisor), or maybe you took an Emotional Quotient test you found in a magazine. But have you given thought to what your kindness quotient might be?
You can do that right now by asking yourself questions such as these:
In the book of Galatians, Paul writes: “When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it.” (Gal. 6:10a).
Listening is Kindness - April 15, 2016
In the book of Mark, the story is well-known of the woman who had been bleeding for many years—she reached through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. He felt power go out from him and asked, “Who touched me?”
Can you imagine the scene? People are pressed all around Jesus in the crowd that was following him, but he was aware of the special need of one person. Many people were undoubtedly bumping against him and thus the consternation of his disciples at his question, “Who touched me?” Why would he ask such a question, when he was constantly being touched?
And yet there was something special about the touch of one person. He was aware of it. Everyone else was clueless.
When she touched his hem, she immediately felt a change in her body. His question probably frightened her somewhat, so she hung back. But when he asked again, she came forward and told her story.
This is an amazing part! She was already healed—Jesus’ power had touched her and ended her suffering. He had already performed the miracle. That could have been the end of it. But — he listened to her story. He gave his time to listen to her. He was already on his way to the house of Jairus, whose daughter had died. He was busy. He was on a mission. He was surrounded by the pressings of the crowd. And yet — he listened to her story.
That was another healing! Giving his time to her restored her dignity. This is the lesson for us! Giving people our time and our attention is healing medicine for them. We cannot do physical healings like Jesus, but we can give people our time. We can listen to them.
Listening is kindness. Interrupting our own busy schedule to give time to another person is a kindness. Some may think that all this talk of kindness sounds, well . . . it sounds a bit wimpy. But . . . it is powerful! It is healing! It is needed!
Take some time for someone today. Be present for them. You will both be blessed.
Do Pretty Girls Know They Are Pretty? - April 8, 2016
God surrounds us with His Presence while allowing for the God-created natural process to run its course.
And that is where we come in. Be there! Be with people. Greet them. Touch them. Smile at them. Listen to them. Walk with them. Weep with those who weep.
In a Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown asks Lucy: “Do pretty girls know they are pretty?”
“Only if somebody tells them,” says Lucy.
That Peanuts cartoon is a metaphor about life in general.
A compliment to a pretty girl makes her feel even prettier. Kind words are like vitamins that nourish the spirit. A nourished spirit makes the body healthier and inspires the person to their do their own good deeds. So care and kindness is a strategic way to generate an ever-expanding chain of goodwill, spreading like a prairie fire across the world, creating much needed global warming.
What does the Lord require of you? “To act justly. To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is to look after orphans and widows (and strangers, geeks, teenagers, sick people, the walking wounded, the aged, the grieving—and everybody else struggling, hurting and handicapped, or diminished.) --adapted from James 1:27.
Just Be There - April 1, 2016
Many of you have seen the powerful movie, The Passion of Christ. What a comfort-shattering experience that is!! It calls us to suffer, too. It insists that we, too, give our lives for others. We are called to leave our comfort zones and dare to get hurt, if necessary, while trying to bring healing to others.
We must die for others. Whenever I walk across the room, (introvert that I may be) and welcome a stranger, (as ineptly as I may do it) I am dying for her. And in dying for her, I am resuscitating her, raising her a little, from the dead.
I beg you to take total ownership of every room you sit in, or enter. I beg you to take leadership in noticing who is there and intentionally approaching whoever might possibly be alone. I implore you to endeavor (in some faulty, trembling, inarticulate way, if necessary) to include them and bring them IN.
JUST BE THERE!! Though we must think of every human being as ‘the walking wounded’, our task is not to fix them. Fixing is underway when we greet a stranger, or lift the spirits of anyone. Leave the deliberate fixing to God.
I like this play on words: ‘Don’t just do something. Stand there.’
Are You Contagious - Preview
Contagiousness is exactly what the Care and Kindness Campaign is all about. We want it to spread, we want it to affect others—just as it says in the definition above. When you smile at people, it can start a domino effect that will touch people far beyond the one sho received your smile.
The Role of Enthusiasm - March 25, 2016
I love that word enTHUSiasm. As you may know, the 'thus' in the middle comes from the Greek word Theos. Theos means 'God' in the Greek language. It is the first part of the word Theology, which means God Knowledge — God-ology.
So enTHUSiasm really means to have God energy, or God inside; it means that you are a God-driven, God-centered person. Add enthusiasm to “You are the light of the world” and we have a mighty important presence.
I was told a few days ago about a women’s Bible Study to which a stranger showed up and took a seat. The meeting continued on dealing with its agenda and then adjourned. Christians who understand their role as 'lights in the world' would have seen to it that the stranger had thirty people around her — welcoming her. Instead . . . there was one.
Okay, that is all it takes. BUT, there should have been thirty concerned women, tripping over each other to get to her side. Instead of only the one.
My dear friends, YOU must take ownership of this challenge to make the world a better place, to care about strangers, to reach out into uncomfortable places where you’d rather not be. You are a light.
Do not hide your light under a basket. Let it shine. Reach out to people. Notice people. Notice the needs of people, even if they don't speak out about them. If each of you is the 'one' in the incident above, then there will be thirty as well.
Modeling Sensitive Acceptance - March 18, 2016
A temptation parents must resist is to provide a quick solution to a problem. When pets die, a bike is stolen, or toys are broken, it’s so easy to say, “Don’t worry, we’ll buy you a new one.”
We want to rescue the child from his or her pain. We don’t want them to hurt. We want to quickly fix the situation so that the uncomfortable feelings will go away—both theirs and our own.
This seems like a good thing to do, but it cheats children of an important life experience. It’s better to let them feel the pain and mourn the loss with a sense of its permanence. In this way, the child goes through a sample of real life.
Minutes, hours or days later they will emerge healed. New interests and activities will replace what was lost.
Life will go on, as it must in the future when they will have to deal with major losses, like the death of a brother, sister, father, mother or grandparent, or when divorce takes away someone dear and breaks up a home.
Allowed and encouraged to feel the hurt over small childhood losses, children learn that hurts heal, and they discover the inner resources to cope with grief on those occasions when there can be no repair or replacement.
There are frequent small bereavements in a child’s life: a friend moves away; a failing grade; a favorite teacher quits; not making a team; breaking up a friendship; valuables being stolen. We cannot “fix” these hurts. The best repair comes from support, understanding and the natural process of mending that time provides. Each offers the opportunity for parents to model sensitive acceptance of the pain.
Children and Their Grief - March 11, 2016
My son, Philip, had successfully planted a bean seed and it was growing in a clay pot at school. Warm weather had arrived, so he was moving the plant outside to the garden. In the process, it slipped from his grip. Pot and plant were smashed on the porch steps, beyond rescue.“Oooooh,” he moaned, obviously broken-hearted. At the same time, he quickly glanced at me, expecting, it appeared, for me to reproach for his apparent carelessness—or, perhaps, instead, he was needing a sympathetic response.
What should I say? Many thoughts flashed through my brain before selecting which one to say:
None of those seemed appropriate. Instead, it occurred to me that Phil had just lost a friend. He was hurt — mourning the loss of something he cared about and had invested himself in.
I felt what he needed was understanding and empathy. I finally said, “Oh, Phil, how sad! That bean meant a lot to you, didn’t it? You really cared for it.”
To which he replied, "Yes, it’s the first plant I ever grew.”
When his bean crashed, it didn’t mean the same thing to me that it did to him. My initial feelings were irritation that a mess was made, a good pot broken, a project ended. If I had let those feelings dictate my response, I would have totally missed what Phil was feeling: loss, sorrow, disappointment. Caring demanded that I ignore my first rush of irritation and tune in instead to Philip’s feelings, especially his hurt and disappointment. So I tried to put in words an expression of what I perceived to be his feelings.
A New List of Kindness Suggestions - February 26, 2016
Readers of my books and my blog postings are all familiar with my message that we can offer acts of kindness daily as we go about our daily lives. We can lift the spirits of those around us; we can show Jesus' love; we can bring joy to others, simply by taking an extra moment to be kind.
When I offer specific actions and ideas on what actions we can take, I get tremendous feedback on the helpfulness of such lists. So, in that spirit, here are some thoughts.
More Things I Forgot - February 19, 2016
I Wish I Had Remembered
When she was crying over her sudden loss, I hesitated to ask her questions about how it happened. I forgot she still needed to talk about all that. I forgot that hearing her feelings was important, but that she also had to tell the whole story.
When their child died, I tried to encourage them by reminding them that they had other children, and by suggesting that they could have another child. I forgot that this one can never be replaced.
When he lost his job, I tried to cheer him up by pointing out all the possibilities that lay ahead of him. I forgot that he wasn’t ready to think that way yet. I forgot to give him time to deal with the blow he had been dealt. I forgot to stand beside him in love and supporting care as he grieved and coped with a painful loss.
When he got that big promotion at work, I forgot to honestly enter into his joy. Instead, I teased him and downplayed it, as if it were not that big a deal. I forgot that by doing that, I was throwing water on his enthusiasm.
When she told me about her sadness when her cat died, I tried to empathize with her by telling her about a cat that I lost once. I forgot that right now she didn’t care about my cat. I forgot that she needed my sympathy about HER loss—not trying to listen to someone else’s story.
When he told me about what a hard day he had been through, I thought I was sympathizing with him by telling how hard mine had been, too. I forgot that my woes did not help him deal with his own. I forgot to ‘leave my story at the door.’
I forgot to remember the things I’ve learned to do better. I forgot to remember that the right things to say and the right things to do don’t happen automatically. I have to remember to think consciously of my words and actions. I need to remember that there are hurting people all around me, whom I can help and comfort by my caring acts and my attention. I have to remember to be thoughtfully consistent in my desire to offer care and kindness.
I Forgot - February 12, 2016
Things I Forgot When My Friend Was Hurting
I forgot that when her crisis occurred, she needed someone right away, not hours or days later.
I forgot that my presence with her was important. I thought a quick phone call would take care of it.
I forgot that when she stopped crying, it didn’t mean that she had stopped hurting. I forgot and tried to resume our normal conversational style of the past and moved on to other things.
When the funeral services were over, I mentally and emotionally moved on to other things. I forgot that her grief was not over.
When she came home from the hospital, I forgot that she still needed support and help.
When I saw her again several months later, I tried to avoid mentioning her husband who had died. I forgot that she still wanted to talk about him.
I forgot to remember the things I’ve learned to do better. I forgot toremember that the right things to say and the right things to do don’t happen automatically. I have toremember to think consciously of my words and actions. I need toremember that there are hurting people all around me, whom I can help and comfort by my caring acts and my attention. I have to remember to be thoughtfully consistent in my desire to offer care and kindness.
Accept and Support People - February 5, 2016
Excerpt from 'Thirteen Secret Behaviors' section of Jim Kok's book, Transform Belief Into Behavior. Available here from Amazon.
These ‘Secret Behaviors’ are not truly secret—but they are far too often overlooked. The humble effectiveness of being friendly cannot be over-emphasized. People all around us are hungry for a touch of care, concern, love, even simple acknowledgement.
Focus On People - January 29, 2016
These Things Make A Difference - January 22, 2016
More Simple, Kind Ideas - January 15, 2016
Can You Believe It's So Simple? - January 8, 2016
1. Greet people, whether they are looking at you or not. “Good morning. It is good to see you”.
Become an enthusiastic and fanatic greeter. Greet everybody—say “Hello”, “Good Morning”, “Great to see you!”—anything, to send a pleasant message. A greeting is a connection. It is knocking at a door saying, “I notice you. You are valued. You are somebody!”
That is a simple, clean blessing everybody needs. There are no exceptions.
2. Make eye contact. If possible, look the person in the eyes briefly, with warmth. Look at their face. Combine your eye contact with a greeting and a smile. “The eyes are the windows of our soul,” the Bible says. We must look in them.
To be looked at, personally, is medicine for the soul.
3. Act friendly. The emphasis here is on the word ‘act’. We do not just follow our feelings — we show friendliness, whether we feel that way or not. We do what is good, right, needed, necessary, and mature. Regardless of what we may be feeling, we can send a message of friendliness.
The amazing thing is that when we act friendly, we not only lift another’s spirits, but we, also, end up feeling better.
You Can Change The World - January 1, 2016
It doesn’t require wealth, talent, or a huge investment of time. Right now, you, with your current limitations and abilities, have tremendous power to impact others and change the world.
Have you ever had a day in which everything you touched went wrong? When you were at the end of your rope, but then someone spoke a kind word, or helped you? Do you remember how it warmed your heart and perked up your spirit? Small, loving acts make a profound difference. Everyone longs to feel noticed, appreciated, supported. That’s why it means so much when someone surprises us with a simple act of caring. It reassures us that we matter.
Discouraged people are everywhere. They need us. Don’t overlook opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life. A smile, a note, or a phone call won’t take much effort, but they can make someone’s day. Not only will your kindness be appreciated by the recipient and rewarded by God, but it will enrich your own life as well. Many say, “I’m just one person. I can’t make a difference.” If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a hug just when it’s needed, you know one person’s concern is powerful. Do you compare your contribution to a tiny drop of water in the huge ocean? Mother Theresa’s view was that the ocean would be less without that one drop.
There could be no mountains, if not for the tiny grains of sand from which the mountains are made. Little things pack a big punch. Encouragement takes only a moment to give but it delivers an important message of love and concern to the recipient, and it could last a lifetime. Your empathy, interest, and encouragement can lessen someone’s load and make their life journey easier. You can change their world— and that makes the whole world better.
A Kindness Suggestion for Christmas Time - December 22, 2015
Last night, at about 8:00, I stopped at a home, the residents of which were strangers to me. I rang the door bell and a man came to the door. He looked puzzled by my presence, which he understandably should have been. I greeted him and simply said, "I just stopped to tell you how much I appreciate the Christmas lights on your house and bushes. This is the most beautiful display in the neighborhood. Thank you!"
He smiled in appreciation and explained a little about how long he has been doing it and how he got started. But the main thing is that he had been patted on the back by a stranger for making the world, at Christmas, a more beautiful place.
Go and do likewise, my friends. I felt like a million dollars after that stop. And I think he did, too.
Act Like You are Glad to See Me - December 11, 2015
There are at least six major supermarkets to choose from when I contemplate my weekly foray into the grocery world. Sales and specials attract me toward one. 'Double coupons' seduce me toward another. The free blood pressure machine draws, too.
But usually I gravitate toward the store where there is an employee who regularly acts as if she is glad to see me. She stands out like a Lighthouse on a rocky, barren coastline. She radiates hospitality.
There are few like her in the marketplace. The rest offer the mandatory eye-contact and "hello" required by the management. Eye-contact is better than nothing, but not much. Mostly they appear as grim functionaries, making a living.
One day I lingered to investigate the source and power shining from the Lighthouse. I complimented her, telling her how much I appreciated the warmth she exuded, and what a difference it made.
Then I pushed a little further, inquiring how it was that she gave so much, so warmly. I was hoping, of course, that she would say "Well, I'm a Christian." Instead, "Oh I get it from my dad,"she quipped breezily. "He's the same way."
"Oh," I replied, "I thought maybe it came from being a Christian."
"Well, I'm Catholic, but it comes from my dad," she said.
True, some traits are carved in the genes, or learned by example. They're natural. But as Children of Hope, we must go beyond that, to display something extraordinary in the marketplace. We can and must see our place in this world as a calling to be different. Merely doing what comes naturally may not be good enough.
While traveling in Utah a few years ago we stopped at a gas station. The car was serviced, the family refreshed, and we sped on our way again. A family member commented, "Those people running that station sure seemed different." Everyone agreed. They exuded conscientiousness, courtesy, kindness and helpfulness. Then it dawned on me—"We're in Mormon country. Their religion makes them different." As unacceptable as their theology is to me, they nonetheless blessed us by their lives.
The world hungers for personal attention, caring service and unsolicited kindness. The drought deepens. Showers of such blessings sprinkle down rarely. Loneliness and hardness, harshness and indifference, fear and worry—all of these describe humanity. There is so much need for spirit-lifting, heartache healing, attitude adjusting, confidence building warmth and friendliness.
A friend of mine told me of a customer in his store one day who was wearing a colorful button on her lapel. It read, 'Act Like You're Glad To See Me.' I like that! That is a great button! The human race cries for more such performances.
Beware of the Infection of Self-Centeredness - December 4, 2015
As we grow older, there is a tendency to drift into preoccupation with ourselves: our health, our physical problems, our sleep, money, trips, grandchildren and more. The process also may include losing interest in others—their trips, interests, accomplishments, new items.
There is little as pleasant as another person taking interest in our lives. So it is essential that, as we grow older, and the self-centered drift progresses, that we resist it. It often requires a deliberate decision to move in that direction.
Not only does such a choice thrill the ones we show interest in, it is also an antidote against an older-person malady (me-ism) that turns others off.
Becoming a giver may require upgrading our self-concept. We must believe this truth—“I am a reservoir of blessings”. We are all full of goodness and must be ready to overflow with nourishment for the souls of younger folks.
It doesn’t matter who you are, or how healthy, educated, wealthy or attractive. You have within you words, interest, stories and expressions that can make a wonderful positive difference in the lives of younger men and women. We are all potential healers. Check that self-centered drift, and spill loving interest on some young ones. It can be life-giving to them, but it will always be spirit-lifting to us as well.
How To Deal With Your Aging - November 20, 2015
At my 80th birthday party, I was honored very pleasantly and humorously. Then I was asked to make my own responsive remarks. Among my appreciative remarks, I also facetiously said, “I'm 80, but I plan to live to 105.”
My quip about living 25 more years turned out to be a very meaningful statement. Since the party, when I said those words, I have been firming up something in my senior spirit. Now, instead of wondering and puzzling about what the future holds and how the schedule will work out, I have the number 105 in my psyche. Instead of an open-ended wondering, I am strolling forward with a 25-year agenda. And I feel very good about that. Instead of a vague uncertainty, there is a time line to live by.
Certainly life-span realities have changed a lot in my life time. When I was a youth, women mostly worked at home and men punched the clock daily until they were age 65. Then they went home, sat in their soft chair, and died by the age of 70. Today life is totally different. Both men and women are working in the marketplace or industries, and retirement is an option for almost any year of life. It does not have a specific age, and it is less often now to be at age 65.
Health and life-span are clearly helped by having meaningful work, hobbies, or challenges of any kind. For myself, although officially retired, I am constantly preoccupied with being in touch with people, pastorally teaching, listening, visiting, writing, competing (golf), being kind — in other words, “giving”. The fascinating discovery—announced by a variety of educational resources—is that giving is not only helpful to the recipients; it is health-enhancing for the givers too. Giving is good for us!
As you can see, my setting of age 105 as an age goal has inspired me to learn how to live healthier and better. Living another 25 years is not just a passive expectation. It is a challenging goal I must think about accomplishing. And I trust the good Lord is smiling supportively at my life goal and my thoughts about how to get there.
A Random Number Changed Our Lives - November 13, 2015
When the helpful addition to our lives of Social Security pensions happened, government officials did not know the age to set for a person becoming eligible. How old should people be, they wondered?
Somehow, they settled on age 65. At that age you could retire, and the U.S. Government would supplement your income with a monthly check.
It was a world-changing decision. Suddenly there was a set age that declared your agedness, your end of youthfulness. Age 65, somewhat arbitrarily picked, marked the official beginning of being a Senior Citizen.
Before that, millions kept their hands in some kind of remunerative activity to keep food on the table, as long as they could. There was, for many, no alternative. Now there was. There was a government pension starting at age 65.
The selecting of that age has been a major life issue. For many, reaching age 65 means the end of working for a living. It is now time to kick back and let life trickle wherever it may. A deep sigh of relief symbolizes what age 65 means to many — ‘now I sit back and enjoy, watch, receive.’
There is a lot of wonderful payoff in the Social Security system. There are also some arguable negative features. But the most important feature God’s people have to win control over is the tendency to have age 65 be a quitting point.
There is no stopping date, or retirement time, in our call to be actively improving our world and responding helpfully to those in need. Age 65 means nothing as far as Christian living is concerned. If anything, it should mean gearing up to be more personally active in loving-kindness, and other helpful spiritual activities.
I remember a conversation with a man who had been nominated to be an Elder of the church. He had served before, but now he was resisting on the basis of his age. He argued that he was retired and he had made his contribution in his younger years. Since he was receiving a monthly government retirement check, he believed his work as a church leader was also over.
It has not been declared, but it should be, that there is no such thing as retirement in our world of Christian service. The ex-Elder was a perfect example of one who was probably outstanding in what he had to offer, but was leaning on retirement age nonsense as if that should be considered.
Recently, I visited a 97-year-old woman in the Artesia Christian Home. In parting, she said to me, “You are really a nice man.” I was stunned by her affirmation, because, though she did not remember my name, she nevertheless blessed me. She made me a healthier and happier person — on the spot. Thank God she never considered retiring from loving-kindness.
The 3rd Age (Part 2) - November 6, 2015
The 3rd Age can be a brand new and refreshing experience. Often it begins with formal retirement. We see Octogenarians and even older, everywhere we look. Even living to age 100 is not so rare anymore. So now life is no longer just two halves—preparation and production. A fresh new third has opened to us.
Nose-to-the-grindstone days are over. Now we must notice people, give ourselves to them, and find ways to know and be known by others. This is true in regard to our peers, those of our own age, but even more so, it calls for connecting with the younger generation. We have so much to give them! Love, appreciation, admiration, encouragement, smiles. These are easy to pass around, and they nourish another’s soul like nothing else. We also have ideas, wisdom, insights, experience that can be shared. We have skills, interests, and abilities that can be passed on to grandchildren and other youth. Little builds a child up as much as praise and appreciation from older folks unrelated to them. These are gifts that should steadily flow from our lips into the hearts of those we meet.
All the while we are modeling something few of us had much of, namely, how to be happy, healthy and enjoyable in the days often regarded as elderly. The young need to see us living radiantly. We are leading the way, setting the standards, creating images of how to be in the third quarter of life. It is an exciting challenge God has given us. It is one in which we all can be active.
The 3rd Age - October 30, 2015
Life can now be appropriately divided into thirds. The first third roughly starts with infancy and extends to about age 30. It is preparation time, or getting started. Birth, education, spiritual guidance, growing physically stronger, and learning about being a good person happens here.
Then, around age 30, we are usually well into a time of productivity. Jobs, colleagues, friends and families are the clearest example of this. By age thirty, we are typically solidly underway, enjoying measurable, enjoyable companionship, offspring, income, and other rewards. Hard work often characterizes this part of life. There are numerous exceptions to the rule but, for most, the years from age 30 to 60 are high energy, hardworking decades of building and refining important products and resources.
Then there is the 3rd Age. It can be a brand new and refreshing experience. In the past, retirement offered only a few years of relief after a career of tedious employment. It was not, as now, a whole new decades-long opportunity for something different.
For many, the third quarter offers options that may not have been possible earlier in life. Some slide into new occupations that fit their passions. Others finally have the opportunity to see the world or enjoy travel. Many choose volunteer work helping, assisting, pitching in, on causes and projects that are clearly helpful to others.
Regardless of the many specific ways we can contribute, or enjoy life, there is one vital thread to be woven with special intentionality through these years. In one word, it is RELATIONSHIPS. This word defines God’s mandate for us throughout our lives, but the 3rd Age is a time when it is uniquely possible and important.
In the past, few lived into their late seventies and eighties. There were no patterns or styles for being an older person, because they were so exceptional. Today is different, and we are leading the way, setting the standards, creating images of how to be in the third quarter of life. It is an exciting challenge God has given us. It is one in which we all can be active.
(More on this next week . . .)
So what do we do? How do we respond? - October 23, 2015
Last week's Thoughts From Jim presented twelve 'Stupid Phrases for People in Crisis' Read it now. that were written by Marilyn R. Gardner. Today's posting continues her words that follow that article.
I think those are difficult questions, but the best analogy I have for people in acute crisis is looking at them as burn victims. Caring for burn victims is divided into three stages that overlap.
The first is the emergent or resuscitative stage. At this stage priority is given to removing the person from the source of the burn and stopping the burning process. The big things to think about are fluid replacement, nutrition, and pain management. Translated into crisis care, this means we’ll bring meals, coffee money, and pick up children from day care.
The second stage is the acute or wound healing stage. At this stage, the body is trying to reach a state of balance, while remaining free from infection. During this stage, patients can become withdrawn, combative, or agitated. This stage can be a lengthy and unpredictable stage. Burn victims, like people in crisis, often lash out at those closest to them. Translate this into listening, listening, and listening some more.
The final stage is the rehabilitative or restorative stage. The goal at this stage is for a patient to resume a functional role within their family and community. Reconstruction surgery may be needed. Encouragement and reassurance are critical to the person at this stage. This would translate into going on walks with the person, taking them out to a movie or dinner, having them over for coffee or a meal.
We offer deep thanks to Ms. Gardner for her permitting us to pass on to our readers what she has written on her page (communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com).
Stupid Phrases for People in Crisis - October 16, 2015
The following blog was written by Marilyn R. Gardner on her page (communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com) and we are appreciative of her permission to pass on what she has written to our readers. Her words come from the same wisdom taught by Jim Kok on 'what to say' and 'what not to say'.
1. God will never give you more than you can handle. While some may believe it is theologically correct, depending on your definitions, it is singularly unhelpful to the person who is neck-deep in a crisis, trying to swim against a Tsunami. A wonderful phrase recently came from Support for Special Needs. They suggest changing this from “God will never give you more than you can handle” to “Let me come over and help you do some laundry." This strikes me as even more theologically correct.
2. It gets better. Yes, yes it does. But right then, it’s not better. And before it gets better, it may get way worse.
3. When God shuts a door, he opens a window. Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe he just shuts a door. Maybe there is no window. There was no window for Job. There was a cosmic battle that raged as he sat in distress. There might not be a window. And if Job’s friends had kept their silence, perhaps God would not have told Job to pray for them at the end of the narrative.
4. Did you pray about it? Again – theologically correct. “Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything…” but in a crisis, you don’t heap guilt onto pain and suffering. At a time of deep pain in my life, someone said this to me. I looked at him in silence, and then with a shaky voice I said: “We haven’t been able to pray in three months–so no, we haven’t prayed about it.” I was in so much pain– it was like he had slapped me. Pray for the person, but please, please leave the clichés at home.
5. God is good – all the time. Another one that is technically theologically correct. But is it helpful to say this when someone has just lost a child and is screaming at Heaven? Is it helpful to say this to the person who just had their fifth miscarriage? Is it helpful to say this to the woman going through a divorce, because her marriage could not hold up under the stress of a special needs child? They may say it, and we can nod our heads in agreement. But for us to say this from a place that is calm and safe will probably not be helpful.
6. But for the grace of God go I. “But why you? Why do you get that grace and not me? Why am I the one in the crisis? Was God’s grace witheld from me?” Those are valid responses to that phrase. I understand the phrase, and I’ve used it myself, but it doesn’t help the person who is in deep pain.
7. Don’t worry. God’s in Charge.Yeah? Well, he’s not doing a very good job then is he? God is in control, but it brings up some serious theological implications about God’s role in the crisis. Instead of a theology of suffering, we might want to think about a fellowship of suffering.
8. Maybe God needed to get your attention. Thank God no one ever said this to me during times of crisis – because I might have to punch them in the face with a knife. That’s all.
9. Maybe it happened for a reason. Remember what I said about punching someone in the face with a knife? Yeah – that.
10. Just call me if you need anything. While I want to appreciate this, the fact is that people in crisis usually don’t have the ability to call, so they won’t. Even if you don’t know someone well, you can bring them a meal or drive them somewhere.
11. I could never go through what you’re going through.Come again my friend?? This does not comfort. A false elevation of the character and ability to cope of the person going through the crisis only serves to further wound and isolate. The one who is going through a crisis longs to be on the other side. They wake up and breathe deeply, only to remember the awful reality of their situation, and wish they didn’t have to go through it.
12. When I think of your situation, I’m reminded how blessed I am. No. No. No. First off, this is theologically completely incorrect. The beatitudes heap blessing on those that mourn, on those who are meek, on those who are poor in spirit — not on those who are safe, secure, financially stable, and proud. Those in crisis are not an illustration of how blessed everyone else is. In the counter intuitive, upside down way of the Kingdom of God, blessing looks completely different than what we in the West have made it to mean. There are big problems with our use of the word and concept of blessing. See the original article on Marilyn's blog
When Did You Stop Dancing? - October 9, 2015
An ancient guru is reputed to have inquired of the disheartened and dispirited people, those who were knowing no pleasure or joy in life—“When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing?”
By this unique line of exploration, he often arrived at the origin of their unhappiness. The cause of their loss of vitality very often harked back to a major grief in their lives. It may have been the death of a dear one, loss of a fortune, a significant illness, or some other major blow in their lives.
Some people didn’t even realize they had stopped singing or dancing, which this teacher regarded as the symbols of loss of joy. Zest for life often just quietly seeped away, leaving them dry, dispirited shadows of their old selves.
Grief can do that. It can slowly drain survivors of their vitality.
Jesus says, “Blessed are you who mourn for you shall be comforted.” That is the version in Matthew’s Gospel. Luke puts it this way: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” This is the Lord Jesus’ promise: healing and happiness follow mourning.
Proper, natural weeping and sorrow leads to renewal. Weep first, laugh later, Jesus implies. Psalm 30 puts it this way: “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Understanding Jesus creates a safe place to be real, which is a prerequisite for proper mourning. Knowing the Lord weeps with us is a major encourager as we shed our tears and grieve. Psalm 23 helps with these thoughts: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.”
Little comforts people as much as loving them: “walking with”, “sitting with”, “weeping with”, those who are hurting. That is the presence of the Lord, in the flesh. Joy then comes “in the morning”. That is what we can do for people: walk with them, sit with them, weep with them. These gifts are comforts.
Theology From An Astronaut - October 2, 2015
Getting away from it all works wonders, experience teaches us. Quiet-time, being alone, solitude, creates space for reality to regain proper perspective.
There is a way of knowing that goes beyond logic and deductive reasoning. In a scientific age, such knowledge is seldom given much official credence. Still, of all we believe and hold true, a great deal comes from the anecdotal accounts of other people. Unproven, untested, but believable because “it happened.”
Knowing God, and such phenomena as the resurrection of Jesus, fall into that category of knowledge for many.
Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell talks of his confrontation with knowledge that transcends reason:
When I went to the moon, I was as pragmatic a scientist-engineer as any of my colleagues. I’d spent more than a quarter of a century learning the rational-objective-experimental approach to dealing with the universe. But my experience during Apollo 14 had another aspect. It showed me certain limitations of science and technology
It began with the breathtaking experience of seeing planet earth floating in the immensity of space – the incredible beauty of a splendid blue-and-white jewel floating in the vast, black sky. I underwent a religious-like peak experience, in which the presence of divinity became almost palpable. Then I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes. This knowledge, which came directly, intuitively, was not a matter of discursive reasoning or logical abstraction. It was not deduced from information perceptible by the sensory organs. The realization was subjective. It was knowledge every bit as real and compelling as the objective data the navigational program or the communications system was based on. Clearly, the universe has meaning and direction—an unseen dimension behind the visible creation that gives it an intelligent design and gives life purpose.
The Price Of An Unpaid Speeding Ticket - September 25, 2015
FEAR AND ILL-HEALTH
In 1958 I left Kalamazoo, Michigan, where I was working as a vocational rehabilitation counselor to go to seminary in Philadelphia. Irked by an “improper passing” ticket a state trooper issued shortly before, I departed with the fine unpaid. They won’t come to Pennsylvania to get me, I reasoned. But I also knew my name would be on the great Michigan police computer and that I would be returning or passing through. Nevertheless, I ignored my summons and forgot about it.
Then, a year later, came the first occasion to return to Michigan. As I approached Toledo, Ohio, I suddenly recalled that I was a 'wanted' person in Michigan. FEAR!! My whole body changed. Muscles tightened, stomach churned, heart raced, mouth dried, and my mind worked feverishly while my eyes were hyper-vigilant.
What havoc and damage fear can do to the human person! Fear is now recognized as one of the greatest accelerators of disease. To rightly work at prevention and cure of some illnesses, then, we do well to look at the presence of fear in our hearts.
Some fear, such as mine back then, can be eliminated by repenting and making proper amends to remove the real threat. What a foolish high price we often pay for a few dollars or some momentary pleasure. We actually jeopardize our health in exchange.
Beyond our foolish fears from sins and errors, real or imagined, there are the deep existential fears. We might even call them terrors. The question of death is the root of some. But also the fear of meaninglessness. Is my life worthwhile? Do I matter? Am I a good person?
There are spiritual answers for these potentially health-eroding agonies. One immediate spiritual resource is the love and reassurance of people. The care and kindness of others can heal and help enormously. The ultimate healer is a thorough immersion in perfect love. God is love. Perfect love drives out fear. (I John 4:18) Reduce fear, feel better!
PS: Yes, I was caught. The great computer got me a couple of years later when I renewed my driver’s license in Michigan.
And, yes . . . I did pay a price much more than the dollars for carrying that unpaid ticket so long!
An Angel Experience? - September 18, 2015
Or a Coincidence?
We were sleeping at a cottage at Cobmoosa Shores, near Stony Lake, and facing Lake Michigan. Only Linda and I were there to sleep that night, but the previous day a couple of little grandchildren had been around. Their toys were lying here and there.
Early that Saturday morning we awakened to the music of one of the little wind-up toys. It played “Are you sleeping, are you sleeping, Brother John, Brother John, morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing, Ding Ding Dong, Ding Ding Dong.” It played it through completely, then stopped. Since it had awakened us, to smiles, I checked the time, saw it was 6:00 A.M., and decided to get up and make coffee.
At 9:00 that morning the telephone rang. It was Nancy, Linda’s step-mother. Linda answered the phone, and she seemed rather serious in her manner as she listened and responded. When she hung up, Linda told me,“My Dad died this morning at 6:00 o’clock.”
Immediately I thought of the way we had awakened at 6:00 A.M. It was with a happy little song at the moment of Leo’s death.
Were the Angels playing with the toys?
God Heals. You Show Up. - September 11, 2015
(But God sincerely requests your gracious assistance)
It should be engraved on the mind of every warmhearted and softhearted follower of Jesus that God heals the brokenhearted and you do not have to try to do it. If there is healing needed, God will take care of it. All we have to do is 'show up.'
We know stories of those who have come back to a full life after having been 'hit by a freight train.' Some have come through the most dreadful tragedies imaginable and now, years later, they once again smile, laugh, dance, and sing.
It is never right away. And their singing is not without a deep pain in one corner of their heart. But they do come back to life.
Our place is to be there with them, alongside them, confidently and patiently allowing God's healing to work, while we listen, mingle our tears with theirs, pray, and hug.
This means resisting our impulses to try to fix them. It means resisting our logical explanations and theological perspectives that proclaim why this happened, or how it can be softened.
It is not what we say. But it is very important that we 'show up' !
God Is Moved by Human Heartache - August 28, 2015
Look at this Biblical text: "In those days Hezekiah (king) became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah said to him: 'This is what the Lord says - Put your house in order ... you are going to die; you will not recover.'" II Kings 20:1-11
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed these words: "Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with whole-hearted devotion. I have done what is good in your eyes." Then Hezekiah wept.
Before Isaiah had left the temple, the word of the Lord came to him: "Go back and tell Hezekiah...'I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you from the hand of the King of Assyria.'"
The most remarkable revelation here is that God is saying, "I have seen your tears." The important bottom line is that God is touched by our distress. God is moved by human cries and heartache.
The love and life of Jesus is all about that enormous reality—God loves us so much that our distress, our confusion, our anguish breaks his heart. And he gives us his love totally for our healing and well-being.
To Fight . . . or To Let Go - August 21, 2015
Hospice care is one of the most helpful and wonderful gifts to human life imaginable. Hospice care brings pain relief, loving-kindness and dignity to those whose life is coming to an end. Instead of tubes, machines and desperate procedures trying to keep a person alive, the person rests comfortably in familiar surroundings encircled by loving friends and family.
Stories have trickled in for decades about the beautiful moments surrounding death-angels, comforting voices, warmth, love and more. The end of life for many is not bleak and difficult.
But King Hezekiah wasn’t ready for death. Life in this world challenged and called him. So he cried and cried out to God for a reprieve. The tears of the King touched the heart of God and God granted him an additional fifteen years.
There is a time to fight for life and there is a time to let go. Jesus also cried out to God, but He knew it was time to let go.
That is where I met Joyce. She was already well along in her life-ending illness. But we talked. Her mind was clear and her smile cheering, but she was thin and ebbing away. Then, as I held her hand, a beautiful scene flashed into my mind. I suddenly saw Joyce as a cocoon and then, emerging and floating upward, as a beautiful butterfly. A sad ending turned into a pleasant beginning.
Carpe Diem - August 14, 2015
by Judy Gustum
“Carpe Diem”, a memorable phrase from the movie “Dead Poets Society”, means to grab an opportunity when it presents itself. Carpe Diem is a phrase that we can apply as ambassadors of Care and Kindness. Carpe Diem is what we have to do—or all our good works will never happen. Carpe Diem! I challenge you to turn your good intentions into deeds!
We all have gifts and we are all called to use them. We must resolve to employ those gifts and to actively observe and respond to the critical needs of people around us. Here are a few practical steps to get you started on the path that leads to feeling more comfortable with Carpe Diem. Follow these steps and you’ll find it easier to just do it.
First, pray about your talents; and pray for opportunities to use them, and then make a commitment—a commitment to God and to yourself that you will live your life differently, so that you can be a light in another person’s life.
Your commitment should have three parts to it: Observe, Respondand Pay it Forward.
Basically, Observe means to lift your head up, look around, and see what is really happening around you.
Careful observation will reveal to you people who are alone, in the dark, and needing someone else’s strength to get them through the day. These are your daily opportunities to share the love of God.
After you’ve gotten better at Observing, push yourself to Respond. When you see a need, big or small, then leap into action and do something about it. And, if you are uncertain or afraid (as we all are), pray first, get professional help, if needed, but then get to it with an appropriate response!
To prepare yourself in advance for being better at responding, make a list of the ways you could do it. Here are some suggested tools for responding—see if you can add to the list. Although they are simple and easy to do, we frequently don’t do them! We simply are not intentional or we are too preoccupied, or else we have forgotten what a boost our behavior can be for others.
Smile. Not enough people do this; they frown. Often they don’t even realize that they are frowning. Think about your normal expression. How about right now? If someone looked at you, what would he read from your face? I sometimes have a “set” to my jaw. I clench my teeth and when people see it, they know something is wrong in my world. Sometimes when I am engrossed in thinking about something, others assume that I am upset because of the furrow across my brow. As a result, I consciously work to create a more pleasant look on my face. I try to keep the edge of my mouth upturned rather than too relaxed, which appears down or frowning.
Practice common courtesy. Common courtesy is NOT common! Thank strangers as well as friends, when they do something nice. Speak to people. Say hello. Use eye contact in order to connect and to observe more about people and their feelings. Use compliments liberally; rejoice with another who has done well at something, big or small. Also, don’t forget about courtesy on the road. Slow down and practice the same good manners behind the wheel that you would on a sidewalk.
Build UP, Not Tear Down. Last fall, I asked my 5-year-old granddaughter, Hannah, what she learned on her first day in Kindergarten. She thought for a moment; then with big saucer eyes, she told me, “No put-downs!” To her, that meant to be respectful and courteous of her fellow classmates. WOW! On the very first day of school they were being taught a crucial life lesson.
Share. Whatever you have—a joke, a smile, yourself, your time, your tears, your support—share it. Share your joy, because it’s infectious. Your joy will build others up when they are short on joy. You will be a light for them.
Pray. Pray for opportunities to share Care and Kindness and to pray for those in need. I have learned there is a big difference in the response I get when I tell someone I will pray for them, rather than that secular phrase, “I’ll be thinking of you.” But when you promise to pray, you must do it.
Communicate. Communication is a two-way process, NOT just one-way. People are starved for real communication that is done with others. Communication is a “take turns” game—you speak, I speak, and we share ideas, feelings, and stories back and forth.
It is sad to note that we do too many things alone. When we e-mail friends, we are typically having a one-sided conversation, a monologue, or narration—unless we ask questions, inquire about them, and invite MORE dialogue. If e-mails are a primary source of contact in your family, remember—there needs to be a reply. Even “forwards” need to be acknowledged at some point.
We need to invite communication, whether it is face-to-face, in a card, or a letter, or on the computer. We will succeed at communicating if we engage the other person. But we have to have an interest in people and their lives and then create the environment for them in which they will be comfortable enough to respond and to share more of themselves.
Another tip for successful responding is to use the written word! Send letters, thank you notes, and cards when you cannot be face-to-face. (The simple act of writing a letter, putting a stamp on it, and mailing it, is a lost art.) Read the obituaries in the newspaper or your church bulletin or whenever you get news that calls for an immediate response—and then make contact.
Always have sympathy and get well cards on hand, because you must be timely when an accident, surgery, illness, or a death occurs. If you don’t have cards, it’s far too easy to put off, to forget, or worse, to not to do it at all. And these are those Care and Kindness opportunities that you prayed for.
I recommend you buy BLANK note cards. And while you’re at it, select more than one pattern or style. It doesn’t seem right to send a note card with spring flowers on it in the dead of winter! Why blank cards? Because you can say far better and more sincerely your wishes and greetings than the Hallmark card makers. Buy blank ones (so you are ready) and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, if you use a card that has a poem or greeting already in it, add a personal note.
When someone has died, nearly every sympathy card at the store speaks of cherished times with that person and that relationships and special moments will live on in your memories. But…think about this! There is nothing more poignant than a hand-written recollection from someone who knew your loved one—a note from someone who cared enough to tell you by writing it down and to share that unique memory. Your handwritten words might be cherished enough to be saved and reread again and again. Practice writing these notes and become accomplished. Just do it! The responses you will receive will warm your heart for a long time and soon the art of the handwritten note will be second nature to you.
The third part of our commitment is the concept of Paying it Forward. The phrase 'Pay It Forward' is well known. (It was first a book, and then a movie.) It has been the literary project adopted by many cities and towns across America. The concept of Pay It Forward is that a person does something nice for three people and they each do something nice for three more. As the chain continues, good things grow exponentially and the world becomes a better place. And that is what we as Ambassadors of Care and Kindness are after, right?
I challenge you to consider how you can Pay it Forward. We need to teach our family members, our children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends, how to pass on good Christian behavior. We need to model this behavior—ever mindful that we are someone’s role model, whether we know it or not. We influence people’s lives every day, and our goal should be that our influence will be positive—not negative. If we Pay It Forward, modeling positive behaviors, and emulating Jesus, we are evangelizing and showing the world that we are Christians by our love.
Let’s make the commitment to live our lives differently—starting now—to change our priorities from self to others—to be a light for someone in darkness and to use our gifts in service. Carpe Diem!
Life is a Gift - We Must Use Every Day and Cherish with all Our Heart - August 7, 2015
Our earthly life is not a mere passing-through. We are "the light of the world" and we are expected to work at and enjoy brightening the world —in any small way we can. We are to fight for life — Heaven can wait. There is work to do here, now; relationships to tend to; beauty to be celebrated; wonders to behold; and innovations and improvements to conceive.Life is a gift and an assignment.
There is nothing like facing one's own death. The focus of one's mind at such times can be amazing. I have observed this as a Pastor walking alongside them. Most, however, embrace death the same way that they embrace life. Some are matter-of-fact, or see it as a challenge. Others live in denial, acting like it isn't really going to happen. Many spiritualize the prospect of moving into the presence of Jesus, and smile (often smiling through their tears). A few are depressed and resentful. Most quietly resign themselves and accept what is coming.
Death challenges God's people like walking on a high-wire. We need to balance love of life as we know it with the incredible prospect of heaven. Life is a gift, and we are entrusted with it as partners with Jesus in making the world a better place.
Life Is God's Gift - July 31, 2015
Disbelief, shock, then anger are the initial responses to a personal announcement of imminent death. It is rarely an acceptable diagnosis. I want to live! Here! Physically!
Some time ago, my wife and I traveled over the rocky road of her breast cancer, which carried a major surgical part, then chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery. Never did she, or I, regard this as a death warrant. We responded with aggressive tactics aimed to deny death any chance of winning. Hezekiah, too, fought as best he knew how to live. He, too, had a powerful love of life and wanted badly to go on living.
Life is God's gift. It is not an insignificant holding time. There will come a time when, with a sigh, approaching death may be acceptable, maybe a relief welcomed and even longed for. Until then, however, death is an enemy to be opposed, stalled, and blocked every way we can.
Therefore, I urge you, enjoy each new day as another gift from God. Thank him for it and make good use of it. Fill it with wonderful things — we are not people who believe in 'killing time'. Time is an unrenewable resource: the moment that we waste cannot be recovered.
Jim Kok Interview on Hour of Power - July 24, 2015
This week, rather than share a brief thought from Jim, we have a 7 1/2 minute video for you to view.
Jim Kok was interviewed on the Hour of Power broadcast (which is shown not only nationally, but world wide) and in his remarks you hear him describe his views on how offering care and offering kindness are so effective (as well as affective!) View the video. Read a transcript of the interview.
What is Good About Life? - July 17, 2015
I made a quick mental run through my week just ending and made a striking discovery. Although intensely involved in some important projects and sensitive pastoral concerns, the heart-warming points in my week took place in our back yard.
Two tidbits stood out.
- One was the discovery of delicious figs ripening on our tree. It happens every year, but here it is happening again! - The second pleasing moment occurred when I turned over a heavy, broken chunk of concrete and stood looking eye-to-eye at a little lizard.
A jam-packed week of relationships, challenges, struggling and thriving people — and my highlights were ripening figs and a creepy crawler! The last two won the prize.
The heavy things of life move us, teach us and deepen us, sometimes profoundly. But singing God's goodness, celebrating life's richness, skipping for joy over God's faithfulness — these things often spring from the small joys of everyday. A flower, a friendship, a child, music, or a little lizard can sometimes spark our joy like nothing else.
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