Doing Nothing Makes a Difference

In Somalia people are dying of starvation as they flee their country in search of food. What can you and I do when tragedy strikes for someone else, down the street or across the world?

For tragedies close by, we send a card, bring a casserole, offer to help in very tangible ways. When the newscasts are insistent about situations far away, we choose to give money, or even travel to offer our God-given talents, rebuilding homes, digging wells, etc. Always we can pray, sending our love to bring healing.

Doing nothing is also making a choice. When we ignore the plight of others, our lack of action makes a difference. Disaster, hunger, oppression can become fertile seed beds for growing hatred and terrorism.

For me, life on this earth can be understood as an intricate and precious tapestry. Each strand that is woven belongs to a life and has an essential place in the entire pattern. Without it, the strength of the pattern would be broken. How I weave my strand is up to me. When I take action to help others, my choice brings beauty, not just to my section of the tapestry but to the whole panel. When I choose to ignore the needs of others, my strand flatlines, shrinks, its riotous colour fades. The entire picture suffers.

St. Paul describes our lives as part of a body. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1Corinthians 12: 26)

Like a stone dropped into a pail of water, there is a ripple effect from our every action and non-action. Even though only our small area of the tapestry is visible to us, we must never forget that “doing nothing” will have an effect too.

Turtle

The other day, my oldest grandson, Chris, found a large snapping turtle huddled in the middle of a busy highway. Fearing for its life, Chris put the turtle into a box in the back seat of his car.   When I saw the turtle imprisoned in that box, I could only imagine its fear and frustration. I’m sure it didn’t feel rescued, until Chris set it free in a nearby swamp.

“That turtle,” Chris said, “would have been killed. What did it see on the other side of the highway? What did it hope to gain by retreating under its shell? The cars would have crushed it.”

Often we’re like that turtle. We make decisions that take us into danger. Teens choose drugs or skip school because it sounds like a great time. Adults cheat on their income tax because they’re sure the government is wasting their money. We say yes to one more thing because we’re sure no one else will do it. We step out on that busy highway. We start across and the danger seems to come out of nowhere. We don’t have a shell to huddle in. What can we do?

Like my grandson’s turtle, we need help – compassionate hands to pick us up and carry us to safety. We cry out to God. The wonder of life is that God doesn’t zip past too busy to notice. God comes to us in our friends and in strangers. The difference is that we have the choice. God has created us with free will. Therefore, God stands there, arms reaching out to us. God searches for a crack, even just a weak spot, deep, deep down in the most reluctant soul. God seeps in and carries us to safety. Like Chris, God sets us free to try again. Regardless of the foolishness of our mistakes, God is always there, loving us, ready to give us a new beginning.

“There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”  (Matthew 15:7)

Sunsets

            We paddled down the lake and stopped for a few moments to visit with friends. Behind us the sun slipped lower. “We must go,” I said, “it’s almost time.”

Tom and I turned the canoe and cruised straight into a glorious sunset. Grey clouds edged with pink radiated out from the horizon, inviting us in. I checked behind me. Scattered across the sky, deep rose clouds stretched out like comfy arm chairs. When I turned back, the entire sky glowed with colour, silver, gold, pink, blue. Right in the centre of a fluffy cloud streaked through with purple hovering at the horizon, an angel surrounded with golden light appeared. “Look,” I cried and pointed. We rested our paddles and stared. ‘Three minutes, five minutes, the colours shifted, the brilliance darkened. Slowly, the angel shape began to change. Seven minutes and it had become a white cross in a dark cloud. Ten minutes and it was gone.

Sunsets are one of God’s everyday gifts of extravagant beauty.  Some are spectacular, some just a golden glow. All last ten maybe fifteen minutes and they are gone. Yet as we watch, time stops and our worries cease. We are enveloped in the presence of God. In the Bible the Psalmist says, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is humankind that you are mindful of us, human beings that you care for us?”  (Psalm 8:3-4)

I encourage each of you to make a date with a sunset at least once a week. Regardless of your schedule and/or your worries, give yourself a few moments of amazing beauty. Surrender to God’s free gift and give thanks. It will change your life.

Living Well

Last week, thorns jabbed through my work gloves as we pruned the roses. It seemed as if the plants were fighting back. With each scatch I received, I heard the roses cry, “This may be good for me, but it hurts. I know I’ll be healthier, stronger, more beautiful but the pain is unbearable. Leave me alone.”
We human beings also require pruning. In order to keep us strong and healthy, God sometimes uses the shears of logical consequences, the knives of reality to clear away our dead wood ideas based on false beliefs, old hurts, failures, anger. Like the roses, we reach out with our thorns and yell at God, “Leave us alone. This isn’t fair.” It’s only later, when the deadwood is gone that we realize the good God has brought forth in us. With room to breathe and to lift our branches to the “son”, we have new life.
Not every hurt we endure begins as part of God’s pruning, but out of every hurt God can bring us new life. That’s a difficult concept to understand. In our pain, it makes no sense. Yet, our faith asks us to trust God, to believe that God the master gardener will work to bring beauty even out of the darkness.
St. Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus… For I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4: 6-7, 12-13)
My friend Ellen, age one hundred, lives this trust. She says, “This is where I am in life. I will accept it and live the best I can.” Like St. Paul, in this trust, she finds God’s peace and strength for learning and living well.