St. Mary Nanoose Bay
January 19, 2020
“I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord.” (Ps 40:9)
How much bad news can a person take? We are bombarded by news on our phones, computers, TVs and radios. And I think we can agree, there often isn’t much to inspire or uplift us. In fact, too many days we can feel despair, bewildered or angry. Sometimes we’re even traumatized by what we read and hear and see. Dangerously, we can become numb and immune to the suffering of our fellow human beings. The news can flatten our passion and joy, and shapes our day.
Yet, as Christians, we have been given the Good News. Jesus asks us to consider our lives in a different way than the world does. Our suffering isn’t meaningless, our response is required, and that in trust, we work with God to re-create the world. We are needed. We are asked to respond..…. to act justly , to love mercy and to walk humbly with God. Simple things, really. But difficult to sustain.
We’re asked to start close in. With what’s happening in our lives, within our families, in our neighbourhood, in our parish. To begin where it is we belong. To care for what is nearby. Not to the exclusion of the rest of the world, but in acknowledgment that this is our part of the world to care for. We can encourage, inspire and support others to take care of their part of the world, their community. But we have to do our own part first. We have to know of what we speak.
I think of one of my aunts. As a Quaker, she was very active in protesting the Vietnam war. She spent countless hours protesting, writing letters, going to meetings, reading, speaking to the press. I love my aunt. And when I stayed with her at different times over the years, she was a rock to me. Very caring and very present to me on the several occasions I went to Holland to visit as a teen/young adult.
Yet, after she died, her children, who were grown with children of her own, began to speak of the neglect they experienced growing up. I was stunned. They had a lot of anger and bitterness towards their mother for all the moments and experiences they felt they’d been robbed of.
Alternately, I think of my dear friend Stephanie who has 4 children, and now 5 grandchildren. She has always worked at home, caring for her family and advocating for her one son with special needs. We’ve known each other since I was 17 and I remember the day she told me that after hearing about all my work in the community, she felt like she was doing nothing to contribute to the world. I didn’t have to consider my response – “Stephanie, to raise 4 children to be good citizens, loving spouses and parents, is no small feat. You do a world of good. Besides which, you’re an awesome friend.”
Our love is felt most by the people nearest us. Those are the people who form the community we live and grow in. What is our contribution? Do we pray for even those who irritate and upset us? Do we hold kindness as our highest virtue? Do we stay in our own business even when it takes all our strength not to gossip, intervene or try to fix another person?
There is so much to do in our own lives without looking to the great horizon for what needs fixing. Let God take care of that.
When Jim and I owned Island Parent Magazine, I wrote the monthly editorial. One month I imagined what it would be like if every parent chose Just One Thing to focus on for the improvement of the Victoria community. I called it “JOT.” I was really speaking to myself because I’m always off in all directions with my many inspirations and creative plans.
Just One Thing. It’s hard to do. But it can be very effective.
My sister and I had a friend in our 20’s who had this power of concentration. She decided to take up the guitar. Every day for a year she practiced faithfully and by the end of the year, she was composing and performing her own music. Then, she decided to take up photography, and signed up at the local college and by the end of the year, was a very talented photographer who took our wedding invitation photographs. Then, she decided to take up carpentry….. you get the picture. She focused and became an expert and then moved on, while still enjoying her previous accomplishments.
There’s a concept in counselling where you encourage your client to choose one small behaviour or thought they want to change. It’s about working with the 1 degree angle. You start super small. But with focus and intention, you work on that change and voila, over time, as you move farther from the moment you decided to work on a change, the degree widens and widens and becomes a bigger part of your life, a part you can sustain because you started small and worked with it. And if you ask for God’s grace to begin with, wow, who knows where you’ll end up. You won’t know starting out, but with God’s help, you will be amazed at the plans God has for you.
Then we can speak of success. Then we can speak of God’s work in our lives. Then we can share how we’ve been changed. And how we’ve allowed God to work through us to change our environment at home, at church, with our friends, and in our families.
The good news of deliverance is about sharing the honest stories of our own conversion. Of how God has taken our failures, and mistakes, and hurts, and composted them into new life…. life that builds on our past, and frees us from our past.
And gives us the gifts that the world is waiting to receive. We receive and in turn we give, because the Giver of Life involves us in the Divine exchange. It’s the pwerful way God’s presence is made known here on earth. In the miracles of daily life.