Monday, September 27, 2021

Laces Out

 Around 8:00 p.m., a nine-year-old boy came to me with a problem.

It had been a long day. It started early, around 5:30 in the morning: packing, checking, rechecking the list for all the things one might need on a 3rd and 4th grade school camp. 

  • Sleeping bag and pillow - Check
  • Towel and bathroom necessities - Check
  • Ear plugs - Check
  • Patience - Pick some up on the way
If you've ever been at camp before, there are always things one forgets, whether deodorant, toothbrush, pillow or clean socks. But what one can't (or shouldn't) forget, is an open mind ready for fun.

For many people, chaperoning camp might sound like a foray into one of Dante's circles of Hades, somewhere between Anger and Heresy. Yet for me, there is something incredible and uplifting about seeing young people away from their devices and left to their own devices to entertain themselves and others through conversations and laughter.

We arrived at the campsite on a particularly beautiful afternoon. The sun shone across a vast expanse of grass, then to the right over a rustic looking Old West village replete with hitching posts and dorms labeled "Barber, Locksmith, Saddler and Bank." In the back of the camp were two sets of adventure opportunities, a 'Tarzan' swing and a Flying Fox, both of which were underlined by woodchips for safety. I'm pretty sure those wood chips were for the adults that pretended they were still kids. The young ones tended to land on their feet whereas the older ones tended to land on their... well, you know.

Throughout the day, after various activities from rock climbing to laser tag, archery to low ropes courses, I thought for sure that the kids would be as tired as I was. By 5:30 p.m. when the dinner bell rang summoning voraciously hungry children to the dining hall, I was exhausted. Sometimes you forget the limitless batteries that kids have (and you used to have) that don't really need recharging, just cooling down.

As the decibel level in the cafeteria rose to ear-shattering proportions, one of the teachers spoke over the din with the microphone.

"After dinner, when everything is all cleaned up, you'll be allowed some free time before we have our closing calm-down."

The cheer went up. Free time, of course, was the icing on the camp cake, and I wondered in the swirling cyclone of noise how the teachers actually planned on calming them down. Other than a plane flying over head dusting the camp with tranquilizers, I had no idea how tranquility might settle. Oh well, I thought to myself, I can always sleep next year.

After dinner finished, the dishes were packed up, the last announcements made, the kids were released from their bondage of the cafeteria through a crack in the door and they burst from it like water from a dam. 

The adults, we teachers and parents, were asked to 'supervise' the free time which basically meant that we were strategically positioned around the Old West village to make sure that there was no shoot out (kids getting angry with each other) no stampede (kids getting trampled by each other) no bank robberies (kids entering other rooms and looting stashed candy and other goodies) and no jail breaks (kids running off into the night to test out the Tarzan swing or the Flying Fox). 

I was positioned like Wyatt Earp between the Livery and the Grocery Store. As free time went on, more and more children had decided to 'Ding Dong Dash' which was to rap on the door of whichever kids had barricaded themselves in the room and then run away screaming with delight that they were so clever and clandestine. 

Thus entered the boy with a problem. He was one of the 'ding dong dashers,' a bright faced, brown-eyed boy with rosy cheeks and sweaty hair. Looking up at me with pleading eyes, he asked for help.

"Pastor Reid, can you help me tie my shoes?"

"Of course," I responded without extra thought. I suppose at nine years of age he should have been able to tie his own shoes, but what difference does it make? I only have one pair of shoes anymore that actually has laces.

I could see the problem immediately. Along the tongue of both shoes, a twist had shown up not allowing the laces to be tightened, thus his impediment for dashing while ding donging. He stood above me (impatiently, but grateful) glancing around at all the frantic activity across the Old West village. I could tell he wanted me to hurry. This may have been a new occurrence in his life. Many of the young people had mentioned how little time they spent outdoors - most played video games in their off time. To run and jump and laugh and interact with other young people, not simply at school, but here in the 'real world' was a learning opportunity and he wanted to get back at it.

Finally, with great relish, I finished tying his shoes. His smile was as wide as the western horizon. Amazingly, he didn't run away quickly, but stopped and thanked me. And then said, 'Now, I can go play again.'

The older I get, the more I recognize that's why we're put on earth. To help the next generation 'go play again.' To provide spaces where they can learn to connect, to learn safe (calculated) risks, to be without a screen and make memories. Sometimes kids face obstacles, much greater than loose laces; whether emotional, educational, family situational or otherwise. And it would be easy for us (and often times it happens) to overlook their struggles by focusing on our own: the mortgage, work, marriage, stress, our own personal/emotional difficulties. Of course we can't disconnect from our own problems, but alleviating the distress of a child sometimes changes our perspective and brings a new dawn beyond the setting sun.

This week, if you have a chance, find ways to tie the laces of young people around you. Whether this is literal or metaphorical, watch the reaction of those who are allowed to go play again.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Music to My Ears

 Do you ever wonder if anybody listens anymore?

The current scourge of listening impairment is built upon decades long ear-plugging. Maybe it was the infuriating 'Talk to the hand 'cause the ears ain't listening,' or the equally dismissive 'Oh, no you di-n't' that started this blooming mess of social deafness. In any case, we can certainly quote an oft overlooked movie Cool Hand Luke:

"What we have here is a failure to communicate."

In a world that has ceaseless avenues of communication, from analog letter writing to digital forms of modern day social media, we fail to communicate the right things. Certainly, our digital words speak a thousand pictures, but almost always they are meant to intimidate, pressure and demonize. Take, for instance, the story of Leigh Sales, a journalist for the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) who regularly takes to task politicians keeping them honest. Here is what she said about the current culture of social media:

 "It is that the bullying and harassment now comes, not in an occasional phone call from a real person, but at a furious pace on social media from politicians' acolytes, lackeys, fans and proxies, mostly — but not always — operating anonymously. It is non-stop, personal, often vile, frequently unhinged and regularly based on fabrications. It has the effect of an angry phone call from a politician magnified thousands of times over."

( Bullying on Twitter has become unhinged. It's time to call out the personal, sexist attacks - ABC News)

Notice the 'vile, unhinged' part. Has anyone noticed how this has become the norm, not the outlier? Some would chalk this up to people who 'can't take a joke,' or 'this is part of your job, deal with it.' But harassment on this level serves no purpose other than to destroy the very thing that makes humanity human - communication. Over the last years, people have stopped talking to each other, they've stopped reasoning with each other, they've stopped caring for each other for fear that somewhere and somehow, their good intentions will be transformed into duplicitous aims. And why? 

To build a platform. Lord, I almost loathe that phrase now. And the irony is, I'm using a Blogger 'platform' to generate an idea that hopefully will help in the dark night of someone's digital misery. 

Whatever happened to the delight of something like Ephesians 4:29... 

No foul language should come out of your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. (Christian Standard Bible)

Now I know that many people view the Bible as antiquated and out of date with our current realities, but to speak well of others interpreting the things that they do in the best possible light? This is good and helpful stuff. 

Here is a miracle that I would love to see happen: Social media transformed from a platform of self-aggrandizement and political warfare, to a celebration of life together and an interpretation of others' acts in the best possible light. Still, of course, calling out injustice (but seen through the lens of communal good, not personal interpretation), so that this world can inch towards a more beautiful place for everyone. 

How about that for communication?

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Cricket Church

When I use the word 'cricket' in the United States, an image of a fiddle-playing black insect springs to mind. It brings back memories of summer evenings, windows open, a warm breeze filtering in through the screen and the crickets singing for company, a symphony of summer love.

But when I use the word 'cricket' in Australia, it has to do with a pitch (the field on which a game is played), a wicket, (not the one that lives on Endor) and bowling, (but there are not ten pins and the ball is much lighter). It is not a game I grew up with, and one with which I only have a passing interest in. For those who have mastered the art of Test Cricket (a true test of endurance and patience - FIVE DAYS of bunting and foul balls, I think) I can appreciate the skill involved.

The other day, as I was walking home from work wandering across a path I don't normally take, I stumbled across a pickup cricket game on a pitch in an isolated park. The late afternoon was bright and gloriously sunny; laughter could be heard - some heckling and a few players idling behind the wickets (a set of thin posts behind the batter with a piece of wood on top). As it is not my game, I wouldn't normally have stopped, but I walked close enough to one of the players and thought I'd have a chat.

He looked like Jesus, maybe that's why.

"Hey, you want to play?" I looked around to see if he was actually speaking to me, but his smile was wide.

"Uh, sure, I'd love to." That might have been a slight overstatement, but what I'm finding lately is, that if I've been invited to do something, I will think twice before rejecting the invitation.

There was a crack of the bat and he took off running. "Maybe next time, okay?" He laughed and inwardly I was thankful that my skills for cricket wouldn't be put on display. Although similar to baseball, cricket certainly has its own quirks that confound me. Especially hitting the ball off a bounce.

I moved down the line of fielders and stopped next to one whose arms were folded. He looked like more of a bystander than an outfielder. "Hello," his voice was soft, but welcoming. He had glasses on and his accent was open and rich. He was from India, he told me eventually. All of the guys playing were. 

"Are you good at this game?" I asked.

"Not particularly," he chuckled, "but I like being with my friends."

"What do you talk about?"

"Home."

At that moment, we felt like brothers. I think about home a lot nowadays. When there is no possible way to travel, connect and to feel the warm embrace of people you haven't seen for a while, there is an ache and an itch that cannot be soothed or scratched.

"What do you miss about it?"

His eyes stared to the west, the golden sun reflecting in his brown eyes. "Everything: sights, sounds, smells, but mostly people. But," he came back to the present, "I have these guys, my friends. It will be okay."

I nodded. It was all I could think of to do. We stood side by side, strangers on a similar journey, watching the game. For a moment we stood like that, then I turned and bid him goodbye. Suddenly, though, I remembered my manners. "I should have introduced myself. I'm Reid." He smiled and told me his name, then, almost as an illicit afterthought in our pandemic world, he reached out his hand. "Nice to meet you. I hope I see you again."

As I walked the last kilometer home, I thought about the experience and its implications for a Cricket Church. I noticed that the first instinct of the players was to invite me into the game. Even though I didn't know the rules, even though I might be seen as a hindrance to the team, even though I didn't look or sound like them, invitation without expectation is the first thought.

You see, for them, this game was about remembering - an echo of home. The Church, its worship, the way it works and lives and moves, is about remembering the echo from Home. Even as the writer of Hebrews reminds us that all the people of faith, foreigners in a land of promise, "saw (the promises) from a great distance, greeted them and confessed they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. But they now desire a better place - a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16 CSB).

There is an echo of heaven inside all of us, resounding quietly in the corners of our souls, reminding us that even though this life is good (and hard), there is something better.

What if the Church was like this? Instead of worrying about better sermons, or upbeat music, or making sure that Sunday morning worship was 'perfect', or even inviting people to come along to a building, what if we simply did what we were made to do and walk alongside fellow sojourners who are all seeking a common homeland - heaven. Along that journey, we tell the stories of the path that brought us together; along the journey, we admit that we don't know all the rules and, frankly, that the game confuses us sometimes; along the journey, we recognize that although the game will have fun moments, eventually there will be a time to put the bat down and we will be called home. What if we didn't see the Church's mission as programs, resources or 'targeting' groups, but simply a matter of connection through story?

Doesn't that sound like Church to you?

When we turn to leave from the game, the Church extends a hand of blessing, an exchange of names and the opportunity for a 'see you later.' Because in the end, that's what it all adds up to. 'I'll see you when we're all called home.'

I hope that wherever you are, you can find your own 'Cricket Church.'

Monday, August 16, 2021

Gently into that Good Night

Well, here we are, twenty-months into the incessant conversation starter, filler and finisher, that is COVID-19. Interspersed with climate change, race relations and a filled quota of natural disasters, the news certainly is not a place one wants to dwell too long.

As I watch, or listen to the media reports, I have noticed something about myself and my fellow humanity that surround me: 

We are really selfish.

Generally, I don't mind watching the news as long as it doesn't really apply to me. I hear phrases from others like, 'Thank goodness we don't live in (fill in the blank). There are so many selfish people there. You know, the ones that load into their cars and just drive everywhere. Automobile superspreaders! How dare they invade us here in (fill in the blank)!' Or, one of my favorites: 'There are some good things about the global pandemic - at least air traffic has dried up somewhat. So much better for our environment.' When questioned about how others felt who had family in some other far place, they sheepishly responded, 'Jeez, don't get offended. I'm like, just sayin..."

Surely, I am one of the offenders in my own private thoughts, as I want to rip off the mask; I want to hug my neighbor; I want to travel anywhere. Because the virus/climate/race/natural disaster hasn't affected me imminently, my selfish tendency is to tell everyone to put on their big person pants and move on. 

I am selfish, and yet that is not unprecedented. Not for me. Not for anyone. Not just because of the highly politicized and unproductive talks about COVID and its vaccines, masks and whatever.

Here is an example:

During World War II, German submarines patrolled the eastern seaboard of the United States in hopes to sink or destroy American warships. Unfortunately, as the warships steamed north and south along the coast, the background lights of the American cities illuminated the ships making them easy targets for the submarines. Thus, it should have been an easy choice for the American coastal dwellers to acquiesce to the ordered blackouts which would save the lives of the sailors.

Instead, there was an outcry from Atlantic City to Miami Beach, "If you turn off the lights, you'll ruin the tourist season!"

Does that sound familiar?

If you make me wear a mask, if you keep me at home, if you put restrictions on me, you'll ruin my tourist life! You'll ruin my entertainment! You'll drive me crazy by staying at home! You'll take away my freedom!

Do I like to wear a mask? No, not at all. Do I like that people aren't allowed to embrace each other, or are limited at funerals and weddings? No, not at all. Do I like that some members of my family have been suffering from endless lockdowns, ridiculously inconsistent restrictions, and baseless fearmongering from the media? No, not at all. But for the greater good, I will acquiesce during this time to keep people a little bit safer (except from the baseless media fearmongering. I will keep speaking out about that). 

Why will I do this? Because I think we've been called by God to 'rejoice in the Lord always,' (Philippians 4:4a) even in the midst of endless reports of tragedy. This does not mean to celebrate tragedy, but to walk with people in the midst of it to remind them that 'The Lord is near.' (Philippians 4:4c)

And what does this gentleness accomplish? It shows the world that faithful people everywhere, no matter denomination or view on vaccination, can express compassion to everyone (Philippians 4:5). This gentleness might be the only vaccination against the dread that is spreading so quickly, far more rapidly than the virus. This gentleness and selflessness might be the only thing that helps us to persevere through an unseen and difficult future, an endless night of questioning fear.

I encourage you who are reading this: Be gentle. Be patient. Be kind. 

God is near.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Church in Palliative Care

It's painful to write this.

When someone you know and love is nearing the point when they must make decisions about the end of life as we know it, we tend to desperately desire a miracle. Pleading with God, bargaining with the Fates, raging against the machinations of a seemingly fickle existence, we pray that the disease might be taken away so that we can return to normal life.

All of us know someone, maybe more than one person, who is dealing with a debilitating and (often) terminal illness. Whether cancer, motor neuron disease, Parkinson's or dementia, these painful and difficult attacks on the body push us to confront our own mortality but even more present, the mortality of those we love who are about to be moved into the dreaded realm of memory only.

In times like these, the dying process can be helped by utilising palliative care where the 'aims are to give the best possible quality of life to someone who is seriously ill or about to die. It helps people live life as comfortably as possible.' (Health Direct definition)

During the palliative process, the dying and their families are given options. In palliative care, the patient and family do not necessarily end all treatments, but they do get to select which treatments are important and which are not.'

The Church, as we know it, is dying. There are many diseases that have ravaged the body over the centuries and it has survived. I won't list the cancers or syndromes that have been chronicled ad nauseum by a particularly virulent anti-religious world press. But it feels like in the last twenty-five years or so, the writing has been on the wall. The Church that we've known and loved, the place of relationship and connection, of spiritual health and healing, of music and ministry to the joyful and the bereaved, is waiting for the end.

There are options of course. Treatments will not end. Worship in buildings will continue. We will share the stories of the past with great fondness. Just like getting together with a loved one as they move on from this life to the next sharing humorous moments, loving times of connection, we, the Church, will gather to reminisce about the time Jane accidentally tipped the communion cup onto the floor, Ezra knocked out a window playing baseball in the church hall or those wonderful Christmas services where we came together to celebrate a God who descended to us as Immanuel - a baby born for all people.

Yes, we will still share the stories and we'll make the church feel comfortable as the pain overtakes it. As it writhes intermittently in agony with the shock and fear of what comes next, we will attempt to treat it with loving kindness, hold its hand and tell it we loved everything about it - the good, the bad and the exquisite.

The statistics don't lie.

We don't need to be spiritual doctors to read the charts. All metrics for church 'attendance' are down. Buildings are being closed and repurposed. Financial donations are shrinking. A secular world that has no interest in the things of the Spirit tears down faithful, caring and serving communities because of their financial mania.

The building is crumbling.

And yet isn't this the very thing that Jesus spoke about when they were on a lovely morning walk? "As he was going out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, 'Teacher, look! What impressive buildings!' Jesus said to him, 'Do you see great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another - all will be thrown down.' (Mark 13:1,2)

In John 2:19-21, "Jesus answered (the Jewish officials), 'Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days.' Therefore they responded, 'This temple took forty-six years to build, and will you raise it up in three days?' But Jesus was speaking the temple of his body.

Isn't Jesus still speaking about the temple of his body? Isn't the body of Christ still the people of Christ, the living, moving and breathing church? The people who, from the very beginning, '...were God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared ahead of time for us to do? (Ephesians 2:10)

As the buildings of churches around the world enter the final phase of their existence, the next generation of faithful, those who have received the stories of a loving God from the faithful before them, must have 'their eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.' (Hebrews 12:2)

The living, moving and breathing Church, the people, must seek God's vision for the people post-church building/temple age. 

What does this look like?

Well, we have the opportunity to treat the building-centric church with dignity, care and respect. We continue treatments of joy and celebration for all that God has done. We remember. Simultaneously, we engage the collective energy and wisdom of new generations of believers who are chomping at the bit to understand both their faith and how it is employed into the same world that has brought about the last gasp of the building-centric church. We, as older members of the body, diligently take a step back to hear and to be led by the newest church full of what John Perry Barlow calls 'Digital Natives' who understand the next phase of building up the Church and reinforcing it with spiritual pillars rather than those of stone.

Next week, we'll have an interview with some young people about what it means to be part of the 'Resurrected Church' and what priorities are for the future.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Bicycle Shop

A man wanted to get his bicycle fixed. There was something wrong with the gears - they wouldn't switch properly and they kept catching so that his foot kept slipping and he was tipping over. Years ago (it had been many years since the bike had a tune-up) the man took the bike to a repair shop in the city. The repairman had done such a good job: not only were the gears lubed and rusty parts exchanged, but the brakes worked without screaming and tire tubes were replaced and inflated.

"I'll go back there," the man said and loaded up his bike in the car.

When he reached the address, the man pulled the bicycle from the car and wheeled it up to the front door where he noticed a large sign written in block letters on the door:

Moved to 371 1st Street - great new location!

Sorry for the inconvenience, but thank you in advance for your business!

The man was very frustrated. He'd stuffed his bicycle into the back end of the car, he'd driven all the way into the city and then wheeled it up to the front door. This is where bicycle repairs took place - not somewhere else.

The man had options at his disposal, though:

1. In his frustration, he could pack the bike back up and take it home. To heck with getting it fixed. He didn't need it anyway.

2. Even though he thought the shop owner did a really good job, he could disparage him online for inconveniencing him. Then, when he really needed the bicycle, he could take it to the new location.

3. Or, he could just wait at the old repair shop hoping for his bicycle to be miraculously changed simply by staying where the old shop was.

4. He could pack the bike back up and take it to the new location and get his bike fixed. It was even closer to home than the city!

This scenario, allegorically speaking, works really well for the 21st century Church. For a long time it feels as if the Church hasn't been moving as smoothly as it used to. Switching gears is hard, our feet slip and, maybe, the tires feel a little flat. Making disciples has always been hard, but in the contemporary world of digital communication and information gathering, we struggle to find ways to stimulate the imagination of a world that is overstimulated by everything else.

The Church does have a choice for the future and they can come from the analogies above:

1. The Church can just pack it in now. Worship used to be the main draw card for people to encounter Jesus - invite people to a Sunday morning 'experience,' let them (hopefully) hear a good, uplifting sermon that helps them to feel good about themselves, sing with the band (or organ, for that fact) some popular Christian songs, have a cup of coffee with your friends and then go home for a roast dinner that you put in the oven before you left for church. 

I hear some saying, 'Those were the good days of Christianity, when it was easier.' We can't do that now, so let's just wait until the church doors close and then pray for Jesus' return.

2. God was so good when he was blessing us with all the new families, and the new programs, and a budget in the black, but now that things have turned - 2020 hit us, COVID blasted away at all the things that were good - maybe God is struggling with this omniscience and omnipotence. We know what humans are like in the 21st century. We know that they need a quick worship service, some online social media memes and a gentle encouragement to live better lives. But if things get really bad... he promised he'd never leave us, right?

3. Many churches choose this option because it seems to be the easiest. Twenty, thirty or forty years ago, God fixed all our problems by showing us contemporary worship, youth bowling nights and Sunday School. But it's too hard to do that now - everyone's so busy, and there is soccer on Sundays, and, oh, football games tend to get in the way. Maybe if we just change the service times, people will start coming back.

If we just stay where we are, the Spirit will eventually find us again.

4. Or, we could move to the address where God has called us to be and it might not even look like the traditional Church. More thoughts on that next week...

So, I'm leaving you with this fill in the blank statement: When I came to know Jesus it was because of ________.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Leaving Offense: Three Ways to Live a Life Free of the Chains of Offense

My daughter, Josephine, went to the Post Office the other day. As she stood in line, socially distanced, waiting to top up her MetroCard, she noticed that the attendant was a conversationalist. Because conversation in public is on the endangered list, Josephine took the time to have a chat. Here is a recap of the interaction (as best as I can write it down from Josephine's descriptions).

Post Office Employee: Good morning! How are you today?

Josephine: Very good, thank you. A beautiful morning outside today.

POE: Wonderful. Now, what are wanting to do today?

Josephine: I'd like to top up my MetroCard.

POE: (typing in the computer) So you go into the city a lot?

Josephine: I'm at university.

POE: What are you studying?

Josephine: Chemical engineering.

POE: Wow. Not many girls in that, are there?

Josephine: (stays quiet but grinds her teeth and smiles)

POE: Are you passing?

Now, everyone person who reads this, or even hears the story, has already had the narrative prepared in advance for that which should occur next. This is just what we do in the 21st century.

Step 1: Be offended.

Step 2: Take offense and tell the Postal Employee that his outdated, ageist, misogynistic ideas are shameful in the current century. Half of the students in her class are women, than you very much.

Step 3: Post her frustration and outrage online. Everyone should know about this episode. Social media should be invited to take part in the outrage party and eventually, if  there is enough public shame frenzy whipped up, this postal employee should get fired (or cancelled, in this present age).

Step 4: Continue to stew over the event and feel victimised by the moment. 

Step 5: Perpetuate the pain of offense inwardly until it alters the way she looks at other people, especially men, in general.

Okay, so you've followed with me in this over-exaggerated, step-filled process. When I first heard her retell the story, I found myself wanting to march down to the Post and give him a piece of a father's mind: women have every opportunity and every ability to do chemical engineering. But when I looked into my daughter's face, I found wisdom well beyond a parent's protective response.

Josephine had stopped the narrative after step 1.

Josephine had every right to be offended. She had every right to be angry and affronted by the naivete of this man and his outdated understanding. Being offended is one of the few ways that we experience enough frustration to speak out and change what's actually wrong.

But step 2 is the killer.

Once you take the offense, you pack it into your bag and you carry it with you. The offense is acidic and it eats away at the entirety of your joy. When you take offense and worry over it in your mind, it becomes something even more significant in your daily life. You find that what used to bring you happiness sits chained in the shadow of that offending moment.

Thus, here are three ways to break the chains of offense in life: (these are not exhaustive)

Leave the Offense Where You Found It

Like a coin glittering in the pit of an outhouse, the offense is nice and shiny and seems to have value. But really, retrieving it and polishing it up is actually not worth the effort. It just makes you holding... well, something covered in... um... someone else's issues.

In Josephine's story, imagine if Josephine would have gone off on the postal employee who, in some ways, was just asking a question about how Josephine was doing in university with her classes. In berating him, she leaves herself wide open for a negative response. She also slams the door on being able to offer a moment of education to him - like women in engineering was not just a thing of the present, but also of the past. She might even begin the next part of the conversation with, "Yes, I'm passing, and I love it. I want to follow in the footsteps of great chemical engineers like Joan Berkowitz who helped solve problems with pollution and waste." This might even intrigue the Postal Employee to immediately Google 'Joan Berkowitz' right after she leaves (which I hope you do also).

Solomon had something to say about this, too. Proverbs 19:11 A person's insight gives him or her patience, and their virtue is to overlook the offense.

A helpful virtue to have.

Kick the Offense into the Gutter

Taking offense serves no purpose whatsoever other than to stir up difficulty in one's own life. Once you have moved on to Steps 3-5, you open yourself up for hypocrisy. 

And, hypocrisy is a murderer of most good things.

All of our lives are exposed to media, recording, visual reminders that we are being watched constantly. The moment we post something entirely negative about an offense taken, there is always a person we have offended in the past who rolls their eyes, points a finger and says, 'Yeah, poor baby, but what about the time you...'

Ecclesiastes 7:21,22  Don't pay attention to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you, for in your heart you know that many times you yourself have cursed others.

Soon, the offense you took and posted online has suddenly become a dagger in the hands of an old enemy and it is plunged straight at your back. You never even saw it coming.

Kick that offense right into the sewer so that you can...

Move On

It's forgiveness, not forgetness. When we move on, we are allowed the gift of forgiveness which might be less for the other person and more for ourselves. We won't forget that moment of offense. We won't forget the times when someone said something inconsiderate or unconscionable.

But it can be a henna tattoo rather than an ink one.

Move on. 

Don't stare into the gutter where you've kicked the offense. Keep going. Enjoy the very things and gifts that God has given you to do. 

Colossians 3:12,13 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.

If God can move on, we can too.

I pray that you can break all chains of offense in your life.

Laces Out

 Around 8:00 p.m., a nine-year-old boy came to me with a problem. It had been a long day. It started early, around 5:30 in the morning: pack...