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Posts Tagged ‘#loveoneanother’

Just days ago the calendar turned to May … the month of warming and blooming and more light and … hope. It is the final, full month of spring.

This month, this week has a focus on mental health in Canada. This means we will see corporations and groups and individuals posting phrases, hashtags and hotline numbers to raise public awareness of mental health issues.

Mental health issues have been around since the Garden of Eden. Like any other (negatively) life-altering, life-threatening human struggles, they came into our human existence, not because God intended them, but because of the human condition originating with a woman, a man and a snake.

When we hear mental health, I think most of us think of what was depicted in black and white movie pictures of crazed people in an asylum. The reality encapsulates a far greater spectrum of disease, disorder and diagnosis.

Though we might think of depression of those melancholy people in our lives who appear to wear a dark cloud, often they are the the loudest, laughing people in a crowd (Robin Williams). Though we might think of those with anxiety as ones who stay in the shadows, the reality is that one can have significant social anxiety, yet be fully out there with people (Oprah Winfrey). Though we might think that one with bipolar disorder is too unstable to be successful in life, there are many who are legends in their fields (Carrie Fisher). These are just a few examples.

I recently became aware of a poem, by Longfellow, called, It is Not Always May. This poem is an upbeat telling of something we all know … that change is part of life, that we can not go back to past times, ages, experiences. It might seem an odd poem to connect with discussion of mental health. Yet …

in the second to last stanza,

is a line that jumped out at me …

it is not always May

and I thought to myself,

myself who, one year ago began a journey to better mental health …

yes! This is the hope that is needed.

The reminder that,

even on the darkest, hardest, most hopeless days …

if we can but look to,

focus on,

the hope of tomorrow …

There are also the words of Jesus, words that apply to all of us as we encounter others. Loving ones with mental health issues is not for the faint of heart, but it is what Jesus instructs, what Jesus modelled :

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
– John 13:34-35

It is Not Always May

The sun is bright, the air is clear, 
        The darting swallows soar and sing, 
    And from the stately elms I hear 
        The blue-bird prophesying Spring.


    So blue yon winding river flows, 
        It seems an outlet from the sky, 
    Where waiting till the west wind blows, 
        The freighted clouds at anchor lie.


    All things are new; the buds, the leaves, 
        That gild the elm-tree's nodding crest, 
    And even the nest beneath the eaves;
        There are no birds in last year's nest!


    All things rejoice in youth and love, 
        The fulness of their first delight! 
    And learn from the soft heavens above 
        The melting tenderness of night.


    Maiden, that read'st this simple rhyme, 
        Enjoy thy youth, it will not stay; 
    Enjoy the fragrance of thy prime, 
        For O! it is not always May!


    Enjoy the Spring of Love and Youth, 
        To some good angel leave the rest; 
    For Time will teach thee soon the truth, 
        There are no birds in last year's nest!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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In my neck of the Pacific Northwest woods, today is the final day of school before Spring Break.

The math teachers will all have unit ending tests (to avoid dealing with the bubbling excitement in their students), the English teachers will have silent reading as a plan for the day, the teachers of humanities will plan on videos for each class, the PE teachers will plan on dodgeball and the classes of practical application (shop, foods, textiles, film, etc.) … well, if they were wise they would call a substitute in for the day.

Today, though, my thoughts are somewhere else …

My thoughts are on this last day before Spring Break, two years ago. When the WHO (World Health Organization) declared Covid 19 a Pandemic. When things were changing … ALL OVER THE WORLD.

Words like pandemic, Covid, unprecedented, precautions, closures and cancellations became part of our everyday vernacular.

And, I wonder, two years later
what have we learned?

Have we become stronger or stressed?

Has our faith or our fear grown?

Have we grown in compassion or a critical spirit?

Have we become better or bitter?

I can only speak for myself, when I say, hard times are … hard! They squeeze me and the results are often not the most positive reactions. I can easily lean towards criticism, sarcasm, doubt, fear and even superiority.

And these past two years have been … hard.

But, one thing I have learned is that God does not allow anything to be useless in our lives … even the hard stuff. So …

what have we learned?

Here is what I hope we, as human souls have learned, during this unprecedented time :

  • to number our days … to not waste a day, a breath that God has given us
  • to look at our productivity differently … that doing is not the same as being
  • to not fill our calendars … more things to do, places to go do not make life better
  • to care for our neighbors … to check in on those who might be isolated
  • to say thank-you … to health care workers, grocery store shelf stockers, delivery workers
  • that there is more than one way to do a task … schooling and working from home can work (and, for some, might work better)
  • to be okay with our own company … maybe even enlightened by who God made us to be
  • to try new things … make bread, do a puzzle, paint a wall, try a new exercise routine
  • to love those under our roofs … who we are called to love
  • to appreciate the privilege of physical, corporate worship … maybe something many of us have taken for granted and even lost the love of this togetherness

Though the pandemic has yet to have been declared over, though anything can happen to reignite this viral spread, I think many of us are feeling like our lives are slowly returning to a more normal state. I do hope that what we move towards is not how it was, but a new and improved version … one with margin in our days, appreciation for others, an openness to trying new things and a renewed reliance on our God.

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It is a fantastic start to a movie. A simple sign indicating the town name, videos segments of various locations in the town, with individuals offering up prayers for one man. They are the prayers of those who know God intimately as well as those who do not. Who they all do know is George Bailey, the man who is in trouble, who needs an intervention by God himself.

This scene, this opening scene of the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, is actually just a Hollywood depiction of a normal, everyday event. It might seem unique, unreal, but every day, all over the world, people raise up others to God in prayer.

Why do we do this? Does it make a difference? Would God answer the prayers of those who do not know Him?

The why is easy … it is modelled by Jesus and the direction we are given in the Bible,

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

Does it make a difference? Well, consider these words,

“Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future.” 1 Timothy 4:8

Then there is the question of whether or not God would answer the prayers of those who do not know him, personally. Well, if what is being asked is within the will of God, whoever we are, it would seem that God hears the prayers of his will,

And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

Not only that, but these words, speak to the heart of anyone who is praying.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

So, prayer for others. Let the movie of our lives open and close with everyone in town praying for another, in need of intercession.

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It’s risky … trying to be real, telling the truth, showing weakness, being vulnerable … not saying “fine” to most asked question (how are you?).

And, let’s face it … we cannot be that real, that risky, with just anyone. For not all souls are comfortable, ready to hear and see and feel for themselves, the truth within another.

Last week I agonized about sharing a realty for me. Would it be

too much?
too whiny?
too downcast?
too … real?

I agonized to the point of praying about it for a significant amount of time.

But, in the end I kept coming back to the same small voice in my head,

if it is something you struggle with, Carole,
maybe there is someone out there with the same struggle
and …
to know we are not alone can be the most encouraging message to hear.

So, with an ample amount of chagrin, I wrote and posted Cry Me an Atmospheric River.

And the pms and dms and emails began to pour in …

messages of encouragement, understanding, but also of common experience with the dark days of winter. Some stated they didn’t share the same winter blues, but that they were praying. Another asked my mailing address and then proceeded to mail to me a lovely note that brought me to tears.

It reminded me that I am so blessed by the women who I call friends. It reminded me to that it is the simple, easy and inexpensive efforts that mean the most. That I need to remember to send messages that simply say, thinking of you, for, doesn’t it just send a shockwave of joy through our souls to know that we are being thought of? prayed for? appreciated? that someone cared enough to take the five minutes (tops) to send us a reminder that

we. are. not. alone.

May we support each other, holding each other up as we sag under the weight of life’s gravity. May we be the hands and feet of God himself, in watching over each other.

I wish for my children
friends like the ones I’ve collected:
flawed and forgiving,
braced for laughter,
good huggers
whose words roll like water
to the places in me
I didn’t even know
were dry.

Samantha Reynolds

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Sunrise, Wednesday, November 17, 2021

In our neck of the woods things have been saturated by rain.

This has caused drains to back up, basements to flood, land to give way, livelihoods gone amuck, transportation to be cut off and lives lost.

Currently I am watching the time. For the police detachment in the area (once a lake, before dykes and pumps) of the most significant flooding, will soon be updating the public on the situation. Last night words like escalated, significant risk to life and catastrophic were used to describe the situation.

Our hearts are heavy.

Heavy for the those who mourn, who are hurting, who do not know what tomorrow brings.

As I sat at my desk, in these early morning hours on Wednesday, I glanced out the window. Though the image (above) just doesn’t do it justice, the light creeping up the horizon was glorious. The colors streaked across the sky grew, blazing in pinks, oranges, reds.

I smiled wide, took a big lung-cleansing breath.

As I absorbed the beauty of this new morning, this dry morning, I felt lighter, momentarily relieved of the constant whispering of my soul for those affected by the devastation of flood waters.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

Burden bearing … it is what we, who are Christ-followers have been instructed to do, on behalf of those who carry a weight too heavy for them to manage on their own. And so we take them meals, or send money to charitable organizations, or fill sand bags, or help them get their livestock to dry ground … or (and we all are asked of this) we lift them and their heavy burdens up to God, letting them rest in his hands.

in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ

As I dove into commentaries and writings by modern Biblical scholars, I saw that there are variations about what this law of Christ might refer to. Some thinking it refers to the Mosaic Law or the New Covenant expressed in the Sermon on the Mount.

As I read I could only come to one conclusion (and I am no expert or theologian) … the law of Christ is the new commandment that he gave his disciples. Those in the upper room on his last night, those of us who follow Him today:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

As we, who follow Christ, bear the burdens of those who suffer, we are fulfilling the law, the life of Jesus Christ. We are his hands and feet. We are the sharers of the Good News.

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Happy birthday to my firstborn.

There will be no birthday number talk, since … well, to rewrite Shakespeare,

“what’s in a number? One Mrs. Dunster’s donut would taste as sweet as two.”

I am writing this days before the day that marks your birthday. Writing just hours after being in my chlldhood home, sitting with my mum, your grandmother.

I heard your name quite a few times as I was with her. I heard stories about the months that you spent on the East Coast (the ‘other’ coast) as you did a semester at a university there a number of years ago. I heard about drives to look at the foliage, meals around your grandparent’s table, an early Christmas meal at your other grandparent’s home, your fashion advice for Grammie, the pet names you had for them. 

Mostly, maybe with the most excitement, I heard about how, since that short semester you have continued to keep in touch, with calls, texts and emails.

On this day of celebration of the gift of your very breath, this day I especially offer thanks for your very life, this day of gifts for you to unwrap … I just want to tell you how you have taught me about your great gift …

the present of intentional presence. 

If you have a gift that is wrapped especially glittery it is that of your intentional presence. When you are with someone, you are completely there, completely invested in the people, in that very moment. Not only that but you also make choices as to who you want to invest in and you apply your all to making the deposits necessary in their lives so that one day there will be dividends.

You invest in those you’ve chosen, even when there is little payback, even when the recipient has been unappreciative of your efforts. I believe you do this, because you are committed to doing that which is right, that which leaves few regrets, that which, one day, you believe in your heart will grow.

When you make those regular contacts with your ‘G-units’ (grandparents) you are ensuring that you have given them your sparkly best. Not only that, but you have also reminded them that they are a gift to you and your life. That they are still worthy of your time and effort. That they are still needed and wanted and thought of … even when they are out of sight and so far away. 

Keep doing what you’re doing girl. 

You were a gift, you are a gift, you will always be a gift as you give your intentional presence.

This you have taught me.

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If you don’t believe as I do …

then don’t talk to me,

don’t share my space.

For I do not want you in my space,

where I have to hear something

I do not agree with.

I don’t want you in my life.

If you don’t believe as I do …

then you are ignorant, uneducated, brainless.

For you don’t think as I do,

the only right way.

Me

Scrolling through social media for more than a second will convince us that the above words are the beliefs of many who post on such media platforms.

To me, such attitudes are far more dangerous to our societies, to the very survival of the human race than any far left or far right attitudes … for to reject each other based on our different perspectives is shallow, impulsive and a premeditated abandonment of a fellow human soul whose worth is, has never been and will never be based on our thoughts, attitudes or even behaviors.

I fear we are losing our grip on the value of our fellow humans, on human life itself.

To believe in the value of human life is love one another, as Christ loves us. This is the Good News of the Gospel. This is what can save our human race … it is the only thing that can. He does not love us because we agree with Him, because we do what He says, because we have it all together. As a matter of fact, He loves us in spite of the reality that don’t do or say or think as He does.

In Romans 5 we are reminded that Christ died for us, the ungodly … and this applies to us all … wherever our thinking and opinions and actions lie. Who that we know (including ourselves) will sacrifice … not for those closest, but for those who are so far on the ‘opposite’ side of whatever ideology we might hold to be true?

What brings us together … our human souls and the One who created us … is greater than what divides us. Perhaps we ought to water rather than cut down?

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Romans 12:3-5

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It is socially acceptable in our world to talk about supporting those with mental health issues. Equally we talk about supporting those who struggle and suffer with chronic physical health issues. There are many similarities in both.

Those who have physical illness that is with that person for years on end, often (if not always) also experiences pressures on their mental health. How can it not? For physical pain can exhaust, wear out and depress the one who sees no end to it.

When we read the words of Job, in the midst of his losses and sufferings, as he is questioning his very birth, his life, we can see how the physical losses and pains have affected his mental health :

” … sighing has become my daily food;
my groans pour out like water.
What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.
I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil”

Job 3:24-26

Here’s the thing about chronic illness and mental health … it doesn’t matter how much social media attention we give to such suffering, when the rubber hits the road, both are hard to watch, hard to be consistent in care, hard to stand by … and yet support. And the reason it is so hard is because both chronic and mental health issues carry with them a unifying characteristic … pain that others cannot alleviate.

So, how do we support those with chronic health issues?

As one who is in such a position of standing by, I am looking for answers too. For there is often little that we can do to make things better, no amount of there, there will ease the pain, no special Bible verse or prayer or measure of faith that will do what we most want to do …

to erase the pain and suffering.

There is, in my opinion, only one thing that we can do, only one thing in our power. It is the most difficult task. The one that often seems fruitless. Yet, it is the one modelled by Christ himself.

Be there.

Be present with the one who is suffering.

Stay near, while others turn their backs, leave …

This is such a difficult thing to do, for the only thing we can truly offer is our presence. In this we are reminding the one who suffers that they are not alone, that they are still valuable, worthy.

In just simply being there, we are the hands and feet of God. We are being the vessels through which God can be with them in their wilderness journey.

Moses words, to the Israelites, speaks to the work of our being there, not just for, but with those who suffer chronic physical illness and the mental health stresses that can accompany such agony :

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you He will not fail you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

I have to say to be there, the mire can feel like quicksand at times, for you can begin to wear their pain, weakening your own mental health. This is why we have to ensure that we, as supporters, as advocates need to hold close to God. To stay connected to Him in prayer, to remember that we cannot be a support unless we are upheld by a stronger force.

Our job is to remind those who suffer that they are not alone.

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It was overwhelming. Loving. Thoughtful. Lavish. Generous. Openhanded.

During a time of healing, my co-workers, colleagues, friends lavished love on my regularly. Each day I received texts with well wishes, updates on their lives, silly things, stories of students and queries as to how I was doing. Each week was a drop-off … flowers, meals, a puzzle, cards (even hand made ones), treats, soaps and more. They overwhelmed me with their thoughtfulness, their loving acts and hearts.

They lavished their love on me …

And that is our calling. Love is what we are … because we have been loved by the Father, we are to love others. My sweet friends showed this God-love so abundantly. They went so far beyond, beyond what I need, beyond what I deserve.

This is God-love … going beyond what we deserve.

His love exceeds expectation, it is extravagant.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God … We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:7, 19-21

What a model of God-love these amazing ladies have been to me. They have raised the bar of loving to such a height that I have a deeper understanding of the extravagant, lavish love of God.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1

Our calling
is to love the world around us
in such a way
that they will know him.
CW

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Seven days.

Seven mornings.

One week.

I lift the top of the jar, filled with paper.

Some lined.

Some floral.

Some shiny.

Some colored.

All of them with words.

That was their happy Mother’s Day gift to me last week, my three.

(because I had said, quite firmly, NO SPENDING MONEY ON ME!)

A glass jar filled with little pieces of paper … enough for one a day, for eight weeks.

Each piece of paper inked with quotes, memories, little tidbits of joy.

It is the BEST GIFT EVER!

I head to the jar early each morning, while my coffee drips. Eagerly I lift the lid, reach inside (not looking, of course), pinch a paper between my thumb and index finger, lift the paper out of the jar. Then, not too fast, as I don’t want to rush the moment, I enfold the paper, til the words face me. It is then that I begin to read the words, hearing the voice of the writer. I smile, laugh, sigh … a few times tears form in the corners of my eyes.

This is the BEST GIFT EVER!

words speak … to the heart

The Bible reminds us of the value of our words, in many places:

“Wise speech is rarer and more valuable than gold and rubies.”
Proverbs 20:15

“Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person’s lips bring satisfaction.”
Proverbs 18:20

“A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”
Proverbs 18:4

“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
Proverbs 16:24

In this past week I have been so reminded of the encouragement in words, through this simply, inexpensive gift. The written word, especially, holds great weight, for it can be read again, and again, and again … replenishing the soul each time afresh.

Speak your words to those you love. Write your words of encouragement to one who holds a special place in your heart. Leave your words for others to read, to know of their value in your eyes … to know their value.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart”
William Wordworth

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