A Pause That Refreshed

Driving out of town recently, we discovered another family was using the same road.

While driving out of town recently, we stopped in the middle of a busy road to let a family of geese have the right of way. We were not alone on that road. Several cars were behind us. I don’t know how this cross traffic affected those behind us, but it became a welcome interruption for us.

My initial reaction was, “oh, no,” calculating the anticipated delay, but my impatience quickly changed to fascination, mesmerized by the little family waddling across the road.  Mother goose used her beak to move the stragglers along as if she were conscious that they were holding up traffic. The stately papa goose was ready to do whatever was needed to help his family arrive safely on the other side.  We worried as one gosling struggled dangerously at the edge of the road, and a couple others contended with the curb. Papa goose came to the rescue and gave them the lift they needed with his beak. These parents were not about to leave any family member behind. They waited patiently until everyone made it over the curb and onto the grass on the other side before they moved on.

Why did this feathered family capture our hearts and alter our reactions?

It was a refreshing reminder that embedded in all God’s creation is an inherent need to love and care for others. Living as we do these days, with an overload of personal attacks, counter-attacks, violence, disrespect, even disregard for others, that little family of geese showed us how it should be. We should do everything we can to see that people we know and love get safely to where they need to be. Even a goose knows that!

They also captured our hearts and altered our reactions, because they made us stop and pay attention to what was happening at that moment. We are plagued with distractions that almost constantly divide our attention. Realizing this, a great deal is being written today on the importance of mindfulness – focusing our attention on what is happening in the present moment. Whether talking with our spouse, a daughter, son, friend or grandchild, watching a sunset or taking in the majesty of a thunderstorm, life is enriched when we focus our attention on that moment. Not wanting to run over nine geese on the way out of town, forced me to stop and pay attention to what was happening right in front of me. Not only was I blessed watching that little family swagger across the busy road, I was also reminded to be more mindful at other times.

My dad told me more times that I can remember, “Take time to smell the roses.” Paused on that road that morning, we smelled the roses, we saw something we would have otherwise missed.

I saw this unreferenced quote today in keeping with this theme: “Always find time for the things that make you feel happy and alive.” How many happy, alive feelings have we forfeited because we busily ran over what was right in front of us?

What we do with the readily available opportunities to pause, greatly affects whether we have experiences of inhaling grace and exhaling gratitude. It can deeply impact our experiences with God too.  Ponder these words from Psalm 46:10, “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything” (The Message).

Maybe you’d like to pray Psalm 51:10 with me, “God make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life” (The Message).

By the way, they made it to the other side. . . .

 

A Few Thoughts on Relationships for Valentine’s Day

 

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Our great-grandchildren sharing a love moment

Always remember, love is a choice. Our culture too often thinks of love as an emotion and, thankfully, it is but that’s not the whole story. Love is a verb. We can decide to love someone, to look for the best in that person, to discover how she/he was uniquely created by God. That offers a fair, solid foundation for developing a relationship.

 

Love as you have been loved by God, unconditionally. Extend grace as God has extended grace to you. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Jesus said that and it’s recorded in Matthew 7:12, “In everything, do to others what you would want them to do to you.” That has come to be known as “The Golden Rule.” It is certainly the Golden Rule of relationships. Remember, Jesus said, “in everything.” Do everything you can to inhale grace in your relationships so you may exhale gratitude for the gift of others in your life.

Try to see life through the eyes of the other person. We see things differently. Often it’s not that we disagree, it’s simply that the other person sees things differently than we do. Many things can cause us to see things differently – past relationships or experiences, hurts, joys, hopes, etc. Work harder to understand rather than putting all your energy into wanting to be understood.

Each of us has a love language we respond to and speak. If one person speaks a language he/she understands but the other person does not speak or understand that language, there can be miscommunication, even hurts. Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages; The Secret to Love that Lasts, is a helpful resource to gain insights into which love language is ours and which love language another person hears and understands. Seek to discover the love language your spouse, son, daughter, and friends speak and respond to.

When something troubles you in your relationship with another person, be truthful, but be careful how you speak the truth. We can speak the truth in hurtful ways. That’s not a good goal. Speak the truth in love. The Bible says that’s one way we imitate Jesus. Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, . . .” The Bible tells us when Jesus came to earth, he was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). It’s difficult to strike a balance between grace and truth in relationships, but it should always be our goal. The Holy Spirit can help us be both honest and gracious.

When we do not talk about hurts or tensions in a relationship, it can harm that relationship. When we are open and honest with one another, in a loving way, it allows the relationship to grow. Part of that is also telling someone you love them, and look them in the eyes when you say it. Then show it. When another person speaks to you, look him or her in the eyes as well, pay attention to them, and listen without jumping to conclusions. Let them know she/he is important to you, and that you value what is being said.

Healthy relationships, particularly close ones in marriage and families, grow by thinking together, not thinking alike. If we think alike we miss the viewpoint of the other person that can expand our thinking. Know the difference between accepting another person and agreeing with them. You can understand what another person is saying and accept that person, without agreeing with them. That’s thinking together.

Remember a healthy marriage, family or friendship is always a union of good forgivers. Forgiveness does not overlook wrongs or willingly letting other people hurt you. It’s choosing to forgive, then moving on. The Bible points us to our mentor: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

 

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