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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
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The Wild Silence

There is a place on the Onkaparinga River, just past the chattering rapids, just beyond the clamouring spindrifts where the currents and the cataracts copulate, where the water makes no noise. Most hikers do not spend much time in this silent place. Their eyes, ears and thoughts are on far busier vistas - perhaps waterfalls around the next corner, or billowing trees swinging in the wind. No, most people do not pause at the still place where the eddies have turned and flipped making it seem as if the river is running backwards. I wondered to myself at that moment why we don't stop in these quiet places. Is it because we are so captivated by movement and sound that we cannot be bothered to stop? Or, is it because the silence speaks louder to the mortal soul, whispering, ever so slightly, that the river of time is as unstoppable as the Onkaparinga? In this wider place, the quiet seemed to catch the hands of time and slow them down, and I was grateful. I was thankful that I could find

Monger

Throughout my life I (and I'm guessing you) have encountered a lot of people who have tried to sell me something. Through this process, I've developed a pretty healthy sense of scepticism when someone says to me, 'This is not a sales call..." Yeah, right. It's not that I don't understand economics, marketing and selling, but it seems like business is so, I don't know, invasive , you know what I mean? Telemarketers, television advertisements, thousands and thousands of promotions in my email box and on the web pages I visit. Heck, supposedly my phone is listening to me (that is so weird to write) to eavesdrop so that businesses can get a headstart on what kinds of things I might buy. This is frustrating beyond belief. I've come to a point in my life when I'm pretty happy with the things (and the amount of things) that I've been fortunate enough to place into my house, but every time someone tries to see me something, I get this... itch that I ca

The Wrestler

The foam mat was semi-squishy, kind of like my nerves.  After lacing up my high top shoes, donning my plastic ear guards and turning to my coach who was doing his best to pump me for the match, I noticed that his enthusiasm lacked authenticity. His smile kind of hung lopsided on his chin and his eyes had kind of a cringy look, as if he was already thinking a little further into the future. You see, I was an undersized, underdeveloped, frightened twelve-year-old wrestler who wanted to be doing anything - anything at all, even homework, or the dishes - than facing off in a spandex singlet grappling with another twelve-year old, underdeveloped and frightened boy.  It was the last match of the year. I had participated in seven of these contests. Pretty much after the first one I wanted to quit, but quitting was not acceptable in the Matthias family. If you said you were going to do something, you did it. But the coach's reservations about my abilities were real: I had won one match.

Singing Home

It was hard not to have a tear. It's even harder to distinguish whether the tear had materialized because of sadness or joy, because both are found in equal proportion. I heard people singing this morning. Sure, I hear music on the radio. I hear heavily manipulated voices resonating beautifully, reverbed to perfection, highlighted by dulcet backing vocals. These songs play well through speakers and I tap my hands on the steering wheel to the beat. But nothing compares to human voices surrounding you in unison, singing the song of home. We had staff devotions and prayer at the school this morning. The staff, lead by a group of teachers, sang songs of hope, songs of lament, songs of joy as they were designed. I wasn't really prepared to be moved by it, nor was I completely aware of how much I missed it. I realized that I'd taken group singing for granted. Throughout history, people have always sung, and they've done this for a variety of reasons. Recently, mos

9 Criteria of Success

This poem is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: How do you measure success? To laugh often and much;  To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty; To find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a redeemed social condition or a job well done; To know even one other life has breathed because you lived - this is to have succeeded. There are times when all of us struggle with self-worth brought on by perceived valuations by other people. I don't make enough money. I haven't met a deadline. My schoolwork is lacking. I missed three notes in my recital. When I look in the mirror, I don't see beauty, I hear voices picking me to pieces. When I read the poem above, something shifted inside of me - scales-fell-from-my-eyes sort of thing, and I began to see that perhaps this is a be

Disquiet

I have many fears at this time. I fear that this disquiet will go unabated for quite some time. I fear that this disquiet will end too quickly. I fear that people all over the world will succumb to hopelessness and tear everything down - not simply physical things, not man-made temples, nor palaces built for kings, nor edifices built to reflect idols of avarice, pride, envy, anger and lust, we could throw sloth and gluttony in there, too - but a demolition of love and trust, care and community. I fear that we will live in a constant state of terror and chaos, not because we have to, but because we choose to. I fear that we will remain unmovable, stuck, frozen in the latest way to hate other people. I fear that we have reached this place in Isaiah 32:6,7 For the fool speaks folly, his mind is busy with evil.  He practices ungodliness and spreads error concerning the Lord; the hungry he leaves empty and from the thirsty he withholds water. The scoudrels methods are wicke