Contrast and Kindness

Life is full of contrasts. We start small and grow big. We are young and get old. We have good days and bad days. We are weak and we are strong. We feel sad and we feel glad. Days and nights pass into years and decades and we continue to go through moments of contrast. The dictionary describes contrast as “ being strikingly different” from something else. You can be in a state of contrast (noun) or in the middle of it (verb). Yep, life is definitely full of contrasts.

Have you been feeling it this week, my friend? I used to worry that if all was going well, it meant something bad was just creeping around the next corner. It’s easy to feel that way because often it happens just like that…. One day you’re smelling the roses and Boom! Thorns attack and the pain is felt strong and steady.

Recently, I read a little object lesson for kids about contrast. Think about cotton balls and stones. One is soft and fluffy… like puffy clouds in the sky. Rocks, on the other hand, are hard. Rocks are solid and full. You can”t stretch a stone like the fluffy clouds. Rocks sit. Now imagine I wound up and hit you with a handful of each. How would you feel? Now pretend the cotton balls are kind words and the rocks are unkind and mean words. Which hit harder?

It’s a simple object lesson – but effective for even us big kids. As we get older, we are not immune to the consequences of our words. We cannot excuse our verbal spewing because we are older or wiser. Hard and harsh words still land solidly on the ears of others… and they can hurt. Like rocks pelted in the playground.

In contrast, kind words are soft, soothing and tend to spread wider. When we build up one another in love and affirmation, it spreads beyond the first set of ears, like the fluffy clouds spreading across the blue sky.

So, even in this life full of contrasts, we must always remember to be kind. Our words are powerful and can have a “strikingly different” effect on those who hear them. It’s wise to “think before we speak”. I hope that my musings do that each week as I share words on a page. Now, go have a cotton ball snowball fight this week!

Map Musing

Greetings beloveds! What have you been up to recently? Are you back to moving and shaking again? Have you been out and about? Perhaps even travelling again? It’s been on my mind and what I’ve been musing about this week. Okay, maybe not the travelling itself… but the mapping and planning. We’ve been driving around a lot lately … no big trips, but we are constantly plugging destinations into the ol’ Phone GPS. The “Global Positioning System” (yes, I had to look it up) contains 3 parts… the space system that uses something way out there to find your position in comparison to the whole world, the control system, that makes sense out of all that space place data, and then the user component (that’s you and me) who plug in what we want to know into our little personal maps. It’s a complex system but ever so helpful — until it’s not.

Have you ever entered an address only to “arrive at your destination” and not be where you wanted to be? It happened to us once across the border. Somehow we got led under a bridge underpass and down a dirt road to a dead-end stop next to a big chain link fence. Not the address we were hoping for. Or entered a setting with no tolls or highways and get wandering in circles because the most direct route was avoided? Or like me, with no data coverage and your GPS is useless because it is missing one of the “space” or “control” components? I know, I know, some days the old method of paper maps folded out on the roof of the car and highlighted or sharpie markered routes were easier and better. Or CAA “triptics”. Or what were those big yellow spiral-bound map books called that everyone had stashed in the sides of their car doors? Those were fun.

Cartography is generally considered to be the science and art of designing, constructing and producing maps. It includes almost every operation from original fieldwork to the final printing and marketing of maps.  I have visions of great pirates marking islands on ships as master seafarers of old. Or trailblazers traipsing through thick forests hacking away at overgrowth. Did you read my post about Dashrath Manijhi? He was a trailblazer. (Read about it here) I think Google does it now. Art or computer — it is for sure a needed skill. When they were younger, our kids loved to create and participate in scavenger hunts and treasure mapping. They even dabbled a little in geocaching and finding treasures hidden there by someone else. There is value in knowing about maps and how to get to where you need to be.

If you are like me, you like to know the route. You like to see what’s coming and when it’s coming. You want to be prepared for obstacles and time delays. You want to be in control of your final destination. You want to have a plan. We all know that that is not always the case. Space, controls, and often the end users invariably make mistakes or miss something. We enter bad data and get unfinished or incomplete results. Sometimes this means we miss the treasure at the end of the rainbow. Sometimes it means we have great adventures and discover new things. I suppose it depends on your perspective on the journey. The road less travelled, or the predictable and safe route?

Don’t you love it when there are clearly marked paths with signage and direction? We know that our Bible is God’s handbook in life. We understand that God has “given us the Way” through His scriptures, lessons and promises. We read verses about preparing a place for us and knowing the plans to prosper you and give hope to your future. If we look around we can also see the landmarks that God has placed along the path: a chance meeting here, a phone call there, a “circumstance” that leads us in one direction or another. We have to look for them as markers though. And sometimes we drive by too quickly to notice them.

How many times have I prayed for myself and others that God would show us a clear path, a distinct open or closed door, a sign to know which route is the best. Often I am out of range or have little data available on that life GPS… and I don’t get my controlled and direct route marked out in yellow highlighter. So I wait. And I try and look around and gather my bearings and read the signs as best I can. Then, the only way to know is to move forward and see where the path leads. A great adventure? Or a chain link fence under a concrete underpass? You can always re-calculate, re-calibrate and turn around. The final destination may just take a little longer. It’s worth the trip. Happy trails, friends!

LOVE

We’ve made it beloveds! Countdown to Christmas and we’ve come to the last Advent candle (okay, Christmas Eve to go, but you know what I mean): LOVE. Such a powerful word so full of meaning. And the subject of so many stories… but I thought I’d share this one I found. It’s a true story about a man named Dashrath Manijhi who lived in a small village in India, who managed to carve his way into the history books — literally.

Dashrath was born in 1929 into a poor family. As a young man, he had his eye on a pretty girl named Falguni Devi, but she was beyond his caste and “out of his league”. Her father refused to let the two marry. Yet, love is a stronger force than man-made prejudices, and the couple ran off and married alone, and raised two children near the base of a giant mountain. One day when Falguni was walking along the rocky edge of the mountain carrying a meager lunch for her day labourer husband, she slipped and fell and seriously injured herself. Her beloved husband rushed to her aid and made the incredible journey around the mountainside to the only hospital nearby. Unfortunately, the journey was just too long and Falguni succumbed to her injuries and died.

Dashrath was obviously devastated and vowed to “move a mountain” in response. Like Noah building an ark in the middle of a drought, he was mocked and ridiculed for chiselling his way through the rocky mountain, forming a direct route to the neighbouring town’s hospital! Dashrath attempted to seek help from India’s government at one point and took a train to Delhi to meet with leadership and plead his case, but was kicked off the car because he didn’t have a paid ticket! Legend says he walked the remaining 1000km. It took 22 years (from 1960-1982) to single-handedly carve his way through the mountain, using only a chisel and hammer, but the “mountain man” eventually created a path 360 feet in length, 30 feet high and 25 feet wide. Because of his determination and love for his wife, the distance between the districts of Atri and Wazirganj has been reduced from 55 km to a mere 15km. A gate marks the original pathway carved “with love”.

The gateway to the path carved through a mountain!

And so we reflect on the final advent candle. A powerful reminder of God’s love for a broken world. A love so deep He sent His only son to earth to heal our brokenness. This is what Advent anticipation is … waiting for the Savior to arrive. Our paths were not promised to be easy. There are falls, hurts, and even death along the road, but love makes a way. He chisels through our hardened hearts and quickens the path to safety. As we enter the final countdown to Christmas, let us be reminded that this season is not about trees, presents and good food (as much as I love good food!) it is truly about God’s love for us. Be blessed!