Out of our Comfort Zone

What does bringing bread to a neighbour, going for a walk, and going to a house of mourning (shiva) all have in common?

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Well…last Friday, we noticed our neighbour snow blowing our driveway to clear it of snow (we don’t own a snow blower and do it the manual way, with a shovel). The next day I decided that giving our neighbour’s family a nice homemade loaf of Challah (Jewish braided Sabbath bread) would be a nice way to say “Thank you.” I asked my eleven-year-old son to take the loaf over. He objected. He pleaded. He moaned and groaned. He just couldn’t do this thing.

He didn’t say it like this, but for some reason, this was out of his comfort zone.

That same Saturday, I thought (objectively speaking) that I should take a walk for fresh air, exercise, and Vitamin D. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and it was -20 C (-4 F) with a wind chill factor (which means it feels like) -28 C (-28.4 F).

I didn’t feel like leaving my nice, warm home. It was physically out of my comfort zone.

Recently the mother of a good friend of someone I know died. It is Jewish custom to “sit shiva” for seven days – it is a time when the close family members of the deceased gather together in one of their homes and people come and pay their respects, and pray with them. This person I know felt rather uncomfortable in going (don’t most people feel some degree of discomfort in situations involving death?) and asked me what to bring.

Going to the shiva of her good friend’s mother was the right thing to do, but it was out of my friend’s comfort zone.

So how do we handle situations which are out of our comfort zone?

Be prepared: I don’t know why my son felt that he couldn’t possibly bring this bread to our neighbours. He knows them. They are nice people. And I felt that it was very important that I not give in to his pleading and emphatic declaring that he could not do this thing. I suggested a couple of different things he could say when someone answered the door. I offered to practice with him.

As for the walk that I objectively speaking though I should take, I pulled out the heavy duty winter jacket that is for super-frigid weather, I put on snow-pants, my warmest gloves, and a warm hat. I was prepared.

I told my friend what to bring to the house of shiva (and looked it up on Google, just for confirmation and to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. So handy, that Google). She felt more prepared.

Do it: After I insist that my son leave with the challah, I put on all the above mentioned heavy gear and left for my walk. My son, who had left our home several minutes before me, was still standing at the end of our driveway with the challah. “What are you doing?” I asked him. “Trying to get up my courage,” was the reply. I encouraged him again, and went on my walk, praying for him. When I returned, he had delivered the challah and felt wonderful for having conquered that task. He told me he danced home (he also told me I can share this story).

My walk, prepared as I was with extra warm clothing, was wonderful! In fact, I was so warm at one point that I considered unzipping my jacket. The fresh air and the sunshine were great!

My friend visited the shiva house with the appropriate “what to bring” in hand and had the satisfaction of doing the right thing.

And when all else fails, God doesn’t. Preparation is good. “Just doing it” or “going for it” is necessary. But in and through it all, we look to God. Unexpected things happen, so we can never prepare for everything; life just doesn’t work like that. But God is able to give us whatever we need (words to say, ideas of how to deal with a situation or a person, etc.), when we need it in the moment and not necessarily beforehand.

This is easy to say (or write), but not always easy to do. But that’s no excuse for when we need to get out of our comfort zone.

Wow!

In my last blog that I posted, I wrote about how on occasion I am aware of how small I am in the vastness of creation among the 7.28 billion people in this world, and in light of eternity – like a grain of sand.

King David, in Psalm 8 asks, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

He asks this in the context of the vastness of the constellations in the sky and of God’s majesty – in all the created splendor…what is man that he is so important to God?

Yet”, David writes:

“You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
   and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

   you have put all things under his feet.”

So while on occasion I feel so tiny in this vast universe, the reality is that God has made man just a little lower than the heavenly beings. Elsewhere in the Bible we read that mankind was made in God’s image.

If you have ever wondered at the creativity and ingenuity of mankind, the amazing inventions (I still marvel at the telephone, being able to speak to someone halfway across the world), not to mention advanced medical procedures, the capacity to create beautiful art, music, choreography, culinary wonders – it all makes sense in the light of these verses.

I – you – we are not simply grains of sand, nor simply a whole bunch of cells, but we are beings made in the image of God, just a little lower than the heavenly beings, endowed with creativity and intelligence.

There are two responses to this:

I believe the correct response is King David’s – to acknowledge and worship God: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Another response, which I believe is a harmful one, is described in the first chapter of Romans:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools… they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (Romans 1: 21, 23,)

So, fellow human beings who are not actually grains of sand but people made in God’s image, people endowed with creativity and intelligence, I encourage you to marvel with me at the wonders of creation, including mankind, and say,

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

I am including a link to a beautiful song in Hebrew (but showing the English words) called “Adon Olam”, meaning “Eternal Lord” or “Sovereign of the Universe,” which really fits this theme:

So Vast…and so Teeny!

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge. (Psalm 19:1 -2)

For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived ever snce the Creation of the world, in the things that have been made, so they are without excuse (Rom. 1: 19 – 20).

What we call “nature,” or more accurately “creation,” is enough for us to know that there is a Creator.

From the vastness of the skies above with its planets, stars, and galaxies, to the depths of the oceans with their countless incredible creatures, from the majestic mountain peaks, to the flora and fauna in the valleys below, from forests to jungles to desert to plains, all these things speak of a Creator.

And then there is mankind 7.28 billion of us – each with our own individual DNA. No two identical.

While I usually go about my day, contentedly living my life, and conscious of how each person can make a difference and be an influence for good on occasion I become overwhelmed by the vastness of God, by the concept of eternity, and by my own smallness in the universe. On those occasions I feel like a grain of sand.

But then I resolve to be the best, the shiniest, grain of sand that I could be to the glory of God.

New

freshjournal_600_01There is something about new things – whether I am opening up a new journal to that first blank page or about to try a new and delicious looking recipe or putting on a new item of clothing or opening a brand new book by an author I love.

Then there are deeper new things – a new friendship with someone who seems like a kindred spirit, a new marriage, a new baby.

Such things bring a lot of positive anticipation of things to come.

And so we begin a new year: 2015. The year lies before us full of potential – there is anticipation for many as to what this year holds.

But I want to point out that God’s mercies are new every morning. New every morning! Not just on New Year’s Day.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,                                                                                                         his mercies never come to an end,                                                                                                                they are new every morning,                                                                                                                                         great is your faithfulness.                                                                                                                               “The LORD is my portion” says my soul,                                                                                                                  “therefore I will hope in him.”

Each and every morning I can wake up to a new day with new mercies from God. Let’s take that into the New Year.

Words that Hurt

While I do not have a degree in psychology, in the last 33 years I have raised 10 kids, which means I have a lot of “field experience.”  Wouldn’t you say? (I mean along with experience as a cook, cleaning lady, chauffeur, educator, social recreation director, event planner, arbitrator, nurse, doctor, etc.)

Over the years various ones of my children have come to me at one time or another and expressed their hurt over what an acquaintance or friend has said to them.

The first thing I do (after I give them appropriate hugs, sympathy,  and words of comfort) is point out that the first lesson that they can learn from this hurtful experience is to not ever treat others in the same way, as they know how much it hurts.

The second thing that I point out is that they need to forgive this person, whether or not this person deserves to be forgiven, because God commands us to forgive others, since He forgives us so much. They don’t have to feel forgiveness, they only have to choose to forgive.

When we have covered those things, I tell them that “hurting people hurt people.” People that feel bad about themselves, insecure, who have had people hurt them in some way, hurt others.

So when they are hurt because of someone who is hurting, they can 1) know that it is often not personal; it is the other person who has a problem, and 2) have compassion that this person has some hurts, so we can 3) pray for them, and 4) treat them in a kinder manner than they (my child) have been treated.

People who are healthy inside, people who know they are loved and are at peace with who they are, have no need to hurt others.

True, some people say hurtful things out of sheer ignorance or insensitivity – my children have sometimes been dumbfounded as they have witnessed such things as a thin teenager telling a heavier teenager that she, herself, (the thin one) is so fat. How is that supposed to make the not-quite-so-thin teenager feel? Or someone making a racial/ethnic/religious comment to someone of that race/ethnicity/religion.

I have found that my children have been somewhat helped by learning that hurting people hurt people and we can actually look on them with compassion. Yes, it still hurts. And I do give my children my sympathy.

But they (and we) don’t have to let those darts sink in. And we can be diligent to guard our own words and not be a person that hurts others, but rather a person that brings healing, speaking words that give life and encouragement.

Proverbs 12:18 “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

 

Life Is Precious! (Repost) – Corrected

teresa01I originally wrote and posted this in March of this year when the father of my best friend from high school passed away. I am reposting this in honour of my dear friend, Teresa, who passed away 1 1/2 weeks ago from cancer. Her life – one life – touched so many others: her husband of 33 years, her five children, her thirteen grandchildren, and the 400 or so who attended the memorial service for her, so many speaking of what she meant to them, how she listened to them, encouraged them, positively influenced them, etc. One life…meaningful, important, precious.


This past weekend I attended the funeral of the father of my best friend from high school. He and his wife were like second parents to me in those days, as they welcomed me into their home, took time to answer my questions, and to pray with me.Walter Nelson Thomson

This man not only touched the lives of his wife and five children, but mine and many, many, many others.

One life…so valuable!

Lababygilmanultrasoundst month I saw the ultrasound of my first grand-baby, growing in my daughter-in-law’s womb: I was filled with awe! This little life will be born, will love, and will touch lives.

One life…a miracle! Full of potential.

A couple of weeks ago I took my daughter to a pediatrician. The nurse ushered us into a room and oriented us. She was very kind and helpful. At some point I mentioned that my daughter Abigail was the ninth  out of our ten children. Instead of the usual surprised reaction, she casually responded that she was the seventeenth child in her family! I told Abigail on the way home, “She was such a blessing to us and I’m sure she blesses so many every day! I’m glad her parents didn’t stop at sixteen!”

One life…blessing many!

In my post from January 5, entitled Making a Difference I recount two stories, of two different women  with extreme physical challenges who made a difference in many lives. My point then was to show that we can all make a difference. My point now is that life is precious – all life is precious, no matter how old, or young, or healthy or unhealthy!

The God-given reason that life is so valued, is that mankind was made in God’s image.

That is good enough, but at this time when I have been touched with a loved one’s death, and a loved one’s new life, and realize each day how each person’s life touches so many others, I am made so aware of how precious life is…each life…your life!

Your life touches many others. And if it doesn’t, it can. It doesn’t depend on what you do or how well you perform.  You are valuable. Because you are God’s very good idea made in His image. Wow! Be inspired! Value life…yours and others’!