Ready for Change

autumn GR

The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
The plans of His heart from generation to generation.
Psalm 33:11

On the last Wednesday of October, I took Mom for a little drive. The trees, dressed in fabulous fall colors, put on quite a show. Every so often Mom would point and say, “There’s a pretty one,” or “Look at the color on that one.” The day was lovely and our time together was a delight, but the autumn colors were a reminder that winter, my least favorite season, is coming, and I can’t do a thing about it.

The weather isn’t the only thing changing this fall. Our country will soon have a new president and new members of Congress. State and local governments will welcome new faces, too. Our family faces changes, too, as we prepare to move to a new home in a new town. And our church is preparing for the changes that will accompany the arrival of a new associate pastor.

We all respond differently to change. I dread the arrival of winter’s cold and snow. Hiram looks forward to putting in cross country ski trails after each big snow. Voters who vote for this year’s winning candidates will be pleased on November 9, while those whose candidates lose will be disconcerted. And even though God has made it clear that our upcoming move is part of his plan for our family, Hiram and I vacillate daily between the excitement of watching God’s plan unfold and panic about the downsizing, packing, paperwork, and the million little details that are part of our adventure.

As a church body, we are eager to welcome a new associate pastor. We are ready for the guidance of a godly man who will be a support to Pastor Tim by providing vision and leadership as our church grows. But how will we respond when the changes he recommends are different from the way things have always been done? When we are pushed beyond our comfort zones and complacency? When change is welcomed by some and painful for others?

How can we respond to change in ways that honor God and draw onlookers closer to him? That is a question God wants us to ponder. It’s the question he brings to mind each day while I sort through old family treasures and photographs. When I think of leaving the house where my children grew up, where we made 25 years of family history.

“Your memories are enough, and I am enough,” he whispers gently and insistently. “I will not change, and I will never leave you,” he promises. “I am still good. My ways are good, and I will accomplish my good purposes within you wherever I take you.”

His words give me the power to part with material things and a home I hols dear. His words will be our nation’s source of hope the day after the 2016 election. His words can fill us with grace and confidence to welcome the changes God has planned for our church body through the work of a new associate pastor. His words are the unchanging beacon of truth that allow us to respond to changes, good and bad, in ways that honor God and make him irresistible to a watching world.

His words are enough.
He is enough.

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Keep Kindness Alive

Are you wondering how to keep kindness alive in this political season? Aibileen Clark has some good advice.

But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;
against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22–23

You is smart. You is kind. You is important. Aibileen Clark says these powerful words over and over to little Mae Mobley in the 2011 movie The Help. The context in which the words are spoken only make them stronger. The year is 1963. Aibileen is an African American maid in Jacksonville, Mississippi. She works for Mae Mobley’s parents. Though the little girl is a privileged white child, her looks fall far short of her socialite mother’s standards. But Aibileen loves the little girl. Every day she affirms Mae Mobley’s worth by holding her and saying the same three sentences. You is smart. You is kind. You is important.

Every child needs an Aibileen. I certainly did, and I the memories of my Aibileens are dear to me–Dad watching TV with me when I was sick, an uncle and aunt who took me camping, a second grade teacher who encouraged my creativity, a neighbor who helped me with 4-H projects. Not only did those precious people affirm my worth, they showed that kindness has a greater impact than being smart or important.

If your childhood was blessed by an Aibileen, you know the value of kindness, too. You know isn’t taught through books or lectures. It can’t be mandated. It is taught and caught by example. One reason Jesus came to earth was to demonstrate the power of kindness. His example was and is crucial. Because when kindness isn’t passed down from the faithful of one generation to the next, it dies. And our world suffers.

Politics and kindness are rarely bedfellows. But this political season has been marked by an appalling lack of kindness. Maybe it’s because technology makes it too easy to pass along crude sound bites and disparaging images. Maybe it’s because our presidential candidates value being important and smart more than being kind. Maybe it’s because cruelty gets better ratings than kindness.

The reason for the lack of kindness doesn’t really matter. What matters is the effect the dearth of kindness is having on the next generation. When we rip into people who venture opinions different from ours, when we pass along Facebook memes and articles that destroy people instead of confronting issues, when we use language we scold our children for using, the world is observing what we say and do. Our example shows the world that feeling important and sounding smart is of greater value than kindness. Our example teaches them how to kill kindness. Worse yet, when we call ourselves Christians while our behaviors and words are devoid of kindness, we crucify Christ and put him to open shame (Hebrews 6:6). Such examples increase the likelihood that those watching us will turn away from a faith so lacking in kindness.

So when we are tempted to wade into the political fray, let’s honor our Aibileens by asking ourselves a few questions before we speak or act. Is what I want to say or do kind? Will my words and actions make me look smart and important by making someone else look stupid and worthless?

If your answer isn’t worthy of your Aibileens or the Lord Jesus Christ, abandon your plan. Pause and ask the Lord to plant the seeds of kindness in your heart. Ask Him to make you into an Aibileen who passes the precious harvest of kindness along to a new generation.

Three Thoughts for Thursday

Everybody's Fool, Sesame Street, and peach season in this week's 3 thoughts.

  1. I’m reading Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool and loving it. What’s not to love to hate about Sully, the down-and-out character first introduced in Nobody’s Fool?
  2. Sesame Street wouldn’t be the same without Bob, Gordon, and Luis. Thanks to the powers that be for redacting the decision to mess with perfection.
  3. Peach season is here and presidential convention season is over. I’m not sure which one makes me happier. You?

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Three Thoughts for Thursday

Gavels, the 24/7 news cycle, Jeanne Calment, and middle age in this week's 3 thoughts.

  1. The fact that media news outlets spent almost an entire day hashing, rehashing, and hashtagging who would gavel in a major political party convention is proof that 24/7 news coverage is a bad idea.
  2. In 1997 the oldest woman in the world, Jeanne Calment, died at age 122. Which means that if I meet or surpass her goal, I am in the prime of middle age.
  3. Then again, in light of the present political climate and the 24/7 news cycle, who wants to live that long? Do you?

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Three Thoughts for Thursday

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  1. As of this writing Barack Obama is not following me on Twitter, nor has Hilliary Clinton asked to connect with me on LinkedIn. I will issue a press release as the situation progresses.
  2. On the Republican side of things, none of the candidates attending Iowa straw poll have responded to my free housing invitation. To add insult to injury Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee didn’t even call to say they won’t even be attending.
  3. Apparently, running for class president in fifth grade and losing to my opponent only because he was a boy and our class had more boys than girls does not give a person enough political credibility to be taken seriously in the run up to the 2016 presidential election.

Three Creepy, Crawly Thoughts for Thursday

Box elder bugs, presidential politics and Halloween hijinks led to these three creepy, crawly thoughts for Thursday.

  1. This fall, I’m not sure what we have more of at our house–box elder bugs crawling around the foundation or political flyers in the mailbox.
  2. I wonder if the Republican or Democrat parties will release statistics about how may box elder and other kinds of trees gave their lives to made into political flyers.
  3. Favorite Halloween memory: I was seven and dressed as a flower girl (the best Halloween costume ever) when some big boys tried to steal my candy during Trick or Treating. Fortunately, they couldn’t find it because the candy was stored beneath the fake flowers in my flower girl basket.

Iowa Who?

I feel like a high school homecoming queen the day after graduation. Washed up, dated and insignificant. It’s like I don’t matter anymore. Don’t get me wrong. I was never a homecoming queen. But today, the morning after the Iowa caucuses, I have a great deal of empathy for all of them.

For the last couple of months, the citizens of our state were popular. Our phones rang nonstop. Everyone wanted our opinions on everything. Famous people called us daily – former presidents, senators, congressmen, family and friends of the wannabe movers and shakers of our country. Our mailboxes were stuffed with glossy flyers and Christmas cards from total strangers.  Radio talk show hosts begged us to call in. Our state, not Idaho or Ohio but IOWA, was mentioned on the national news every night for weeks. Even out here on our icy gravel road, a few potential suitors braved tromped through the snow and rang my doorbell. We were important. We really mattered. The nation worshipped at the feet of little old Iowa.

Today I’ve gotten one phone call. It was my Minnesota sister. “Iowa who?” she kept saying. “Iowa who? I hear New Hampshire is the place to be.” She gets so miffed when I get all the attention. But she made a valid point.

Though my state’s present tumble from the national throne has thrown me into the depths of despair, I’m reaching out to the people of New Hampshire. They need to know that popularity is fleeting in our political system.  It’s pretty heady stuff for innocent country folk. It can kinda turn heads, all the attention from important people with their fancy hair, great dental work and tailored suits with matching shoes.

Don’t fall for it, New Hampshire. No matter how pretty the candidates are, don’t dispense your political favors to every John, Mike or Hilary who sashays through the state. Come January 9, those sweet-talking, love ‘em and leave ‘em politicians will drop you like hot potatoes and move on.

I don’t want you to get hurt like we Iowans did. It’s not worth it. Stay home. Turn off the TV. Throw away your mail. Bar the door. Save yourselves for the general election. It’s the only way you’ll be able to live with yourselves tomorrow.

Three last words: New Hampshire who?