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Discerning Whether Or Not To Give Empathy…

 

We should be careful not to choose to give a mini-sermon to a friend or family member when they are longing for a kind word.  People sometimes share incidents that discourage or upset them. While they may be hoping for an understanding response,  sometimes we hit them with a totally unsympathetic response.  They then feel even more discouraged.

It may very well be that the painful incident was brought about because of their own careless words or behavior. A gentle word brings healing. At the right time, a word of advice may be welcomed and even appreciated.

Often, well meaning family members or friends are too quick to point out a fault of yours that they believe caused the incident.  Right or wrong, it doesn’t help a bit but actually causes deeper pain and discouragement.  Recently a very painful situation came back to my mind, not because of the hurt but because a person in my aerobic dance class said a simple but kind thing to me. Here it is, thirty five years later and I still remember it as a healing balm that brought tears to my eyes. It restored my soul.

So, next time we are tempted to react to someone’s report of a disappointment, let our first words be kind and gentle.   We can later help them sort out the situation.  It is always possible they were unfairly accused or lost a promotion through no fault of their own.   And if it was due to their own attitude or negligent behavior, there are ways to help them figure it out for themselves.  Or perhaps they already know but are upset and frustrated with their own mistakes.

If we take a few minutes to meditate on this, chances are an incident will come to  mind.  I doubt the woman in my aerobic dance class remembers her kind words, even though several times in the next few weeks I did tell her how they helped me.

We tend to focus on the negative rather than appreciate the “good advice” we have received. Therefore I have made up my mind to keep my comments encouraging.

dm

 

 

Featured

Are you happy. . . or contented? Or still seeking?

What makes you happy?  Is it a momentary feeling or a state of mind?

Some experts describe happiness as a decision, while others say  it is well-worth

a determined search, no matter how long it takes.

“I have decided to be content in every situation”.  This takes concentration

and deliberation.   And it wasn’t my idea, it originated with someone who

suffered a lot, including surviving a shipwreck and enduring unfair

beatings.  But it works!

Yes, it takes a lot of practice and beginning again and again.  In time, it even

gets a little easier.

The best part is, happiness frequently drops in and real joy overcomes us.

DM

Maria’s Main Message

One day back in the late sixties, my friend, Lois, called to ask if I was free that evening.  I am so glad I was, as she invited me, and my 9 year old daughter, Pammy,  to attend a talk by Maria Von Trapp.  She was appearing at nearby Triton College.  Of course, I did have to explain to Pammy that we were not going to see and hear Julie Andrews and she did understand that.  Sound of Music had become her favorite movie, next to Mary Poppins.

Maria was entertaining and even more remarkably inspiring.  She had her audience laughing and singing.  Many were students of this community college but most were fans of Baroness Maria Von Trapp, coming from all around the western suburbs of Chicago.  Even back then, before it became “politically correct” not to mix religion with public events, Maria did not allow the fact she was not in a church to prevent her from giving a very inspiring faith message.

I can still see her now, dynamically and boldly proclaiming how important it is for every person to “know and to do the Will of God.”  She pointed out how, when she had been planning to be a nun and was sent on a temporary, short time assignment to teach children who had lost their mother, she was guided to seek what God’s Will was.

Maria discovered God’s Will was for her to become stepmother of these seven children, and not to be a nun. It is not always easy to know the Will of God, but it is worth seeking. Once we know what He wants us to do, it is important to do it. As Maria herself said ” to know and to do the will of God”.

dm

 

When Things are Black and White.

It was a sunny Sunday in June, 1960, when 2 other youth workers and I left the Chicago area to spend a week at a Youth Leadership Training School at Wartburg Lutheran Seminary in Dubuque. Iowa.  Being the youngest and least experienced in youth work, I was eager to learn as much as possible to improve my skills so had a healthy sense of anticipation.   Never did I imagine the education that awaited me!

As we were getting close to the seminary, the thought of going somewhere enjoyable for lunch was uppermost in our minds. On a small hill, overlooking the road, an affordable but home-style oking restaurant caught our eye.  In fact, it had been recommended by others who had previously attended this Leadership Training School.  As we entered, we were greeted warmly by two tables of pastors and youth leaders who had arrived just minutes ahead of us.   The home cooking signs and delicious smelling aromas convinced us we were at the right place to satisfy our hunger pangs.

We seated ourselves near the others we knew and glanced at the menus in the napkin holders.  But the waitress curtly informed us we could not be served as “we do not serve people of color,” so one of us would have to leave. Shocked, we tried to convince the waitress we were all just fine but the manager then ushered us out.  The other two tables of friends immediately got up and also tried to convince the manager to let us stay.  He threatened to call the police so everyone left, at least a dozen hungry customers.  This was a dreadful situation and we all decided to eat at the seminary cafeteria. Neither Ruth or I knew what to say to Fanny.  We suspected this was not the first time she had been treated so unfairly and rudely.  But for me, it was my first experience with outright racial prejudice.  It affected me deeply.

When finally we found the seminary and the cafeteria, it was Fanny who helped get us back to our mood of anticipation.  Her delightful sense of humor had us laughing and we actually enjoyed the cafeteria food and our friends who also congregated there.  She did not want us to be so disturbed that a damper was put on the upcoming week.

During the week, Fanny had a significant role in the training.  For several years she had been serving as parish worker in a poor inner city church and was able to give her perspective on many aspects of reaching young people with the love of God.   Prior to attending this leadership school, I had driven carloads of youth from my church to activities at her church. We had brought food and pizza and helped paint and decorate their youth meeting room.  I knew it was a rough neighborhood and on one trip, my tire was slashed. Fanny had to be very careful never to walk home alone. Fanny’s youth group had previously come to meetings at our church as well. But obviously we had not walked in her footsteps.

Since this time, over 65 years ago, it has been my sincere desire to be aware and actively involved in interracial causes and activities.  I enjoyed teaching youth and serving on the church board of a church in Tampa that is predominantly black. Now, living back on Florida’s East Coast, I love attending a church that is an amazing mix of African American, Hispanic, Asian, and White.  Thank God, some things have improved but there is still much to do.

dm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Decision

Six months after beginning my first job in the publishing business,  an unexpected difficult decision landed in my lap (actually on my desk).

As production editor of a magazine serving the booksellers’ industry, the annual convention issue was ready to go to press. Then a dock worker’s strike intruded, threatening our ability to get the magazine to the post office on time. The urgent problem was getting a very expensive insert to the printer immediately.  Unfortunately, the many boxes containing it were stranded on a semi truck on a dock where workers were striking.

Our printer was urging us to go to press without the insert, informing me that unless I approved getting it to press immediately it may miss getting to the booksellers before the convention.  Most publishers invested extra time and money in this most circulated issue, and this center insert was very valuable and expensive.  It was announcing and describing a new version of the Bible.

The pressure was on and the decision was all mine, especially since the owner/managing editor was in a hospital having serious surgery.  His doctor did not allow any calls.

My prayers were unceasing that the strike would end but when I called the shipping company they said there was no way of knowing and the strike probably would go on for days.

My coworkers were glad the decision was mine and not theirs.  Of course, most offered their opinion, but all said it was up to me.  The printer called several times a day urging us to go to press.  And I kept praying for the strike to end.

Then it did end … our boxes were unloaded with speed and delivered to the printer.  The magazines arrived before the convention and things were back on track.  My prayers were thanking God for getting all things resolved.  The pressure was off.

Or so I thought.  My boss asked his secretary to tell me he was well enough now to meet with me.  He was home from the hospital and wanted me to come to his home.  I was worried as I drove there. He told me others on his staff had felt I should not have held up the printing and he asked if I knew that.

”Yes,” I admitted.

“Why didn’t you take their advice?” he asked in a firm voice.  Even though he was in bed, recovering from surgery, he still had a way of intimidating me.  At that moment, I feared I had made a mistake and would lose my job.

“Very glad you didn’t. You made the right decision,” he continued before I could answer.  We could have lost a good, long-time customer and we would have been out a lot of money.  I wanted to thank you in person.”

As I returned to work, I again said a prayer of thanks.  Then tackled the next challenge with a bit more confidence.

dm

confident woman

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Farm . . . Or A Winter Wonderland?

Living in the North Woods of Wisconsin was exciting, exhausting and challenging.  It was not easy with three youngsters who were absolutely full of energy and always ‘raring’ to go do something.  Especially during the cold, early winter months, before the snow falls.  We lived on a lake and once it was frozen the fun began.

Until then, however, we all suffered from cabin fever.  Our log home was rustic and not too big.  We played games, read books and did creative art projects. But my children all seemed to have very short attention spans.  Some days I felt like I was at my wit’s end, trying to entertain my family.

family projects
When Its Too Cold To Think Of Being Outside

One day, the wall phone rang and since this was before portable or cell phones, I had to answer it in the kitchen.  Although I did have a very long cord, my ability to watch what the children were doing was limited.  That call was important.  I was trying to listen and sound professional while worrying about what was going on in their play area.  Sure enough, the middle child, my most rambunctious one, had got into mischief.  As I hung up the phone to survey the damage, I muttered, “You guys are going to drive me to the funny farm.”

Big mistake!  Not recommended positive reinforcement.

“Can I go with?  Please?”  My middle son kept begging for a very long time.

“Me, too, me too,” sobbed his younger brother, while their older sister looked confused.    It took much too long to explain. I doubt they ever realized it was just a silly comment.

Finally, a few days later, it began snowing and soon we were  snowed in.  Now we were in a winter wonderland and the fun began.  There was lots to do and the price was right!

man ice fishing

We ice fished for supper and enjoyed healthy hot cocoa out on the lake.  One has to drink it rather fast, of course, before it froze right before our eyes.

young boy ice fishig

Kids Hot Cocoa

So much fun in the snow.  My daughter spent hours building sturdy igloos.  One day I was pulling my young sons on a toboggan across the lake and met another woman walking over to my side. We became lifelong friends.

Then came the day when I suffered from frost bitten toes. Really suffered when I got stuck driving on a stretch of road the snowplow had neglected to clear.  It wasn’t long before Florida began sounding wonderful.  I have been here now 30 years and it is wonderful.

Those memorable days in a winter wonderland are permanently etched in my heart.  My daughter and her family spend a lot of time snowmobiling in Wisconsin and sometimes send me photos.  I enjoy seeing them all bundled up when i am relaxing on the beach or at the pool.

dm

A Grandmother’s Perspective

Several times when my granddaughters were visiting me with their parents, I noticed a recognizable difference between parents and grandparents.  It had to do with the laughter coming from the bathtub when my two youngest granddaughters were supposed to be washing their hair and scrubbing their knees.

“How sweet,”  I thought, enjoying listening to their playful fun. But then. . .

“Girls, you are making too much noise.  I have a headache,” their dad called to them.

“Just get your hair washed and get in bed,” chimed in their mom.

Silence!

Then, rather sadly, I remembered times years ago when my own two little boys were having pillow fights in their bedroom, laughing instead of falling asleep.

pillowfight

”Boys, get to sleep now. It has been a very long day.  I am so tired.”  I would firmly call from my bedroom.  Usually I needed to repeat myself.

“But Mom, we are not tired.”

“Well, I am.”

Finally, silence!

Amazing how, now that I am much older, kids laughing in the evening is music to my ears.

I suspect I’m not alone in acquiring a fondness for children’s laughter later in life.

dm

Not Just Hope So . . . Rather Believe So!

 In her post,  It’s Personal, seasoned blogger, Rebekah Beene, wrote, “The King has heard your petition.  You are not whispering ‘hope so’s’ into the atmosphere.  You have an audience with the only living God.”

Over and over in the written Word of God, believers are assured that God hears our prayers.  Yes, we have probably been reminded that His answer may be yes, no or not yet.  Many times in my life, friends have reminded me, ‘delay is not denial’.   Difficult as it is, trusting that the answer to our prayer may take many days, weeks, months or even years is not easy.  Yet, a certain peace often comforts us as we ‘keep the faith’.

There are even times when, as we wait, our mind changes and we realize the particular prayer request we so fervently repeated, is no longer what we really want.  In fact, we may be very glad that prayer was answered a definite “no.” We don’t always know what is right for us so oftentimes we may pray for things that would hinder not help, harm not heal. However there is a promise in scripture that can solve the problem of what is and is not the best for us. Psalm 37:4  says ” Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart”. Now that is an entirely different idea than us tossing prayers up and seeing how things turn out.

Notice it does not say ” I will give you the desires of your heart, then you can delight yourself in me” . No it actually means that when we draw close to the Lord, or delight ourselves in Him, He WILL give us the desires of our heart. Why though are we guaranteed the desires of our hearts if we ” delight” or draw close to Him? It is because when we walk closely with Him, the desires of our heart will line up with the desires of His. That is the secret. It is not about heaving endless prayers to see what hits and what does not. It is about staying so close to the Lord that we know what to pray and when we pray our prayers will be answered.

Watchman Nee put it something like this- we walk in close with fellowship with Him, the Spirit Impresses upon us those things we are to pray, or those people we are to pray for, and God answers those prayers. It is a matter of discipline to stay close to the Lord so we can hear His voice through the Spirit. It is a matter of obedience to then pray for those things we know to pray.

Save some time and energy and find out what He is thinking before you pray. You are likely to have more answered prayer, and that’s a promise!

DM

Art from the Heart

When my two sons were young, often while I was working on a writing assignment at home, I sat them down to do their own writing assignment.  (After they wrote their story, they could then creatively illustrate it.)  Thankfully, it kept them busy for quite some time.  Then we all had fun hearing them read their “masterpieces”.  I still chuckle, remembering how surprised my oldest son was when he realized that all moms are not writers.  Now days, of course, many more moms are writers on blogs.

Those years sped by too quickly, but did seem to have an impact on all of us. It helped them do well in reading and writing in school, though none of us excelled in  arithmetic.

After our television was struck by lightning, we survived over a year without a new one.  One project I will always remember was their drawing and secretly delivering valentine hearts to elderly neighbors.  Years later, I was at our corner drug store when a really old neighbor lady struck up a conversation with me.

“I still have that sweet Valentine heart your boys made for me,” she smiled as my mind was recapturing the incident.  I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to share her words with my now teenage sons.  They did remember that secret kind act.

animated13

 

dm