Gently, Please

I can tell by your writing, that you, like me, long for a gentler and more just society.

As a Sociologist, my work involved Affirmative Action issues.

I also volunteered at a shelter for women and children, and I am aware that men are also victims of domestic abuse.

One thing we can all do to make society gentler, is to recognize, challenge, and eliminate the number of violent idioms used in the English language.

Better yet, we can strive to eliminate many idioms altogether, since they are confusing , especially to speakers of English as a Second Language, or English speakers in other countries.

What follows is a little story I made up. Can you see all the implied violence contained in the idioms commonly used in North American English ?

The Visit

I had some time to kill yesterday before my appointment, so I stopped by at my friend Bill’s house.

He and I have always hit it off well together, and to be honest, I like him because he’s a straight shooter who never pulls any punches.

Bill showed me a picture of his new girlfriend, Eileen, and wow, she is drop dead gorgeous !!

I told Bill that I missed seeing him for such a long time, but I’d really been tied up at the office with so many projects. I get angry with my boss sometimes. I feel like yelling at him, but I bite my tongue. Bill understood. His life is also frantic. He told me about his long commute, and how he often gets hung up in traffic.

We had a great visit; it was really a blast.

We always enjoy shooting the breeze.

Then I looked at my watch and saw that it was getting late. I knew that I’d better hit the road. ( End of little story )

If you are listening to someone using violent idioms, I would encourage you to point out to them that this language can be considered offensive.

May we remind others of the power that their words hold.

May our gentle, clear, and uplifting speech be pleasing to the Lord.

Pixabay photo


Triangular Communication

Lorna was aghast when she saw the ‘dead’ plant in front of the altar.

We were the first of our prayer group members to arrive that Wednesday, and so she took the opportunity to tell me that Francine, whose volunteer job it was to look after the church flowers, was slacking in her duties.

She also pointed out that the carnations looked wilted too.

And then, Lorna’s habit of Triangular Communication began again ,when she said to me : ‘Sally, can you ask Francine to be more careful with the flowers ?’

Triangular Communication occurs when, instead of two people speaking directly to each other, one of the people enlists a go-between, or a messenger, to speak to the other person on their behalf. Perhaps you have experienced this.

It is a weak communication style, which can often result in confusion.

Since Lorna had asked me in the past, a few times, to be a messenger between her and Francine, I told her kindly, but assertively , that it’s best to avoid triangular communication, and that she should express her concerns to Francine directly.

While she looked perplexed, I went into the back room and returned with a pitcher of room temperature water.

I generously watered the wilted plant that had upset Lorna.

Within half an hour the plant was looking healthy again, and its leaves stretched upwards !

Had a miracle occurred ?

No, but Lorna had not realized that this was a Prayer Plant. This type of plant will droop its leaves when it needs water, thus communicating very clearly when it is thirsty.

A visitor had brought this appropriately-named plant to church.

Soon the other members of our prayer group arrived, and we began our time of praise, petition, and silent prayer.

During silent prayer , I asked the Lord to help us all improve our communication skills, and I asked Him to help us not to gossip.

Pixabay photo.

A Closer Look


These were the words I saw on a huge billboard in St. John’s, North America’s oldest city. Yesterday I visited my Dermatologist for a skin check up. I’m of Northern European descent ; my colouring is very fair, so I need to keep careful checks on my skin.

Everyone, though, especially over the age 60, is wise to check out any new, unusual skin changes with their physician.

I was so happy when I saw the billboard ! But I saw it quickly, and didn’t interpret it accurately because we were driving.

At last, I thought, it was a huge Pro-life (LIFE) message in a very public place !!

A few blocks later, we saw other copy of the same billboard message. Since we were stopped at a red light, I read the whole advertisement, and realized that it was not at all about human mothers who may feel regret and depression about losing their babies to abortion, as I initially had thought.

Instead, the billboards throughout the city are there to send the message that mother cows suffer terribly when their babies are taken away from them, and their milk is given to humans, instead of to their calves, who rightly deserve their milk.

It’s another sad commentary on society, when the rights of the unborn are ignored, while we are increasing told to consider the feelings of animals.

My husband and I have a tremendous love of cows, since my husband’s defective aortic valve was replaced with a valve made of bovine (cow) tissue.

I do wish though, that the needs of mothers-in-crisis could be considered on public bulletin boards ,rather than the emotions of mama cows.

Pixabay photo

Fists and Elbows ?

With all the recent focus on germs and viruses, handshakes may be a thing of the past.

This pleases me, since I have small hands, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my hand squashed by someone demonstrating a ‘firm handshake’.

Frightening, however, are the forms of greetings that are evolving. Fist bumps look alarmingly aggressive. I’m sure I would flinch if someone pointed a clenched fist at me!

Equally silly is touching elbows, and possibly dangerous too. People’s bones become more fragile as they age, and poking someone with one’s elbow may be unwise.

I appreciate a greeting that I learned from Harpreet, a colleague of my husband, who is from India. He came to our house and we enjoyed delightful Indian tea, with warm milk.

He also taught us his traditional greeting. With head slightly bowed, and hands folded in prayer position, the words ‘Sat Sri Akal’ are spoken, which translate as :’God is great’. It is similar to other cultures where a bow is a respectful form of greeting.

Hopefully in the future, strangers, upon meeting, will feel no need to touch each other. Bowing respectfully to each other might be good.

Imagine too, how nice it would be if we greeted each other by saying: ‘God is great’ .

Pixabay photo.

If Only…

Do you have regrets about some things, and have thoughts that begin with : ‘If only…’ ?

Mike was sitting in front of his small red house ten days ago , looking extremely dejected. We know that he has a chronic challenge with substance abuse. Beneath our village’s charming exterior, we deal with the unfortunate reality of much addiction.

We got to know Mike better last summer because when our lawnmower broke, he used to walk his mower over, from across the village, and cut our grass. He wouldn’t accept payment, but we made lunch for him.

I felt an intense desire to talk to Mike when I saw him sitting outside looking so forlorn, and I told my husband that we should go over to speak with him right away. He insisted, though, that we shop first, and then bring a pizza for Mike.

When we returned to Mike’s house he was gone, but his door was open. We called to him, but there was no response, and after a while we left.

Two days later, we learned that Mike was in the hospital, in a coma, and fighting for his life after an overdose. This tragedy had occurred just a short time after I saw him looking so despondent.

If only I’d listened my intuition to go over and speak to Mike.

Often the Holy Spirit may prompt us to act, and this prompting may feel like an intense , intuitive feeling, or a ‘gut ‘ feeling.

And, as you know, as Christ followers, we always need to be prepared for the unexpected.

After two days in intensive care, Mike recovered. If more mental health services were available here, he should have received further help, but in the village, like most places, resources are limited, and Mike was sent home.

We had another opportunity, by God’s grace, to go over to Mike’s house, to bring him food , household supplies, and above all, to tell him that God loves him, that there is always hope, and that we have been praying for him. We continue to minister to Mike.

May the Lord continue to sharpen our spiritual vision and hearing so that we can recognize people who may desperately need our help.

Red Kool-Aid ?

Are you a member of a religious denomination ?

For several decades I’ve visited and worshipped in many churches.

The varieties of worship styles and liturgy reflect our varying preferences and cultures. God, designed us all uniquely, for His purposes.

One of the most fascinating things I’ve observed is how different groups celebrate the sacrament of Communion, or The Lord’s Supper. This was instituted by Christ myself, on the night he was betrayed.

At many churches, small cubes of white bread and tiny containers of grape juice are consumed by worshippers, as they commemorate Christ’s sacrifice for us.

At one church I visited, the pastor passed around a whole loaf of bread, and everyone tore off a little piece of it. (germs…?).

At the Vatican, I received the Eucharist, the communion wafer, in a crowd of 60,000 worshippers, outside, at St. Peter’s Square.

And, memorably, there was the time a church served tiny ( and tasty) salted crackers, and tiny cups of red Kool-Aid as their Communion celebration.

What would Jesus say about this variety ? Of course, we don’t know, but what we know with absolute certainty is that Christ expects us to be united in Spirit. (John 17:21).

Although each individual worshipper is infinitely precious in God’s eyes, essentially Christianity is a faith that involves all of us working together as spiritual brothers and sisters, and members of the huge Body of Christ. We are all equally valuable as we move God’s Kingdom forward in the world, and invite others to share the Good News of Salvation. We, the believers in this age, need to be working diligently in these times of the harvest. We no longer have time for inter-denominational squabbling.

Communion styles vary considerably amongst Christ followers, but , as we partake, we agree, with the Psalmist : ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’. (Psalm 34:8)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The Best Listener

My frustration had reached a really high level.

Can you identify with this uncomfortable emotional state ?

It is a type of anger that results when our needs are not being met.

I felt I needed to talk to someone, to ‘vent’ , to have someone who would understand and comfort me in my distress.

The three best listeners I know came to mind – my husband, my friend Anne and my brother, Michael, but then I remembered instead, the Best Listener, and I decided to talk to him instead.

I went to my room overlooking the sea, closed the door, and spoke to God.

As a new Christian, I thought it was presumptuous when people claimed that they talked directly to God.

Gradually, however, I learned that we can speak to the ruler of the universe, through our faith in Jesus, who has created a bridge between God and man. Talking to God is called praying.

Jesus told us in the scriptures, that no one can approach the Father, unless they come through Him. ( John 14:6 )

Those who believe that ‘there are many paths to God’ would probably find this message offensive, and yet, for love of neighbour, God asks us to share that He is personal and loving , and we can communicate with Him directly, but we need to come through Christ.

I spent a long time that night talking with God, and then I listened, in silence, to the impressions that came to my mind.

I realized the part that I had played in creating my frustrations. I became aware also of the tremendous frustrations that Jesus felt during his earthly life, as He tried to teach proud Pharisees, his often cowardly disciples, and fickle crowds of listeners. Jesus understands frustrations.

Since the day I decided to consult the Best Listener, I regularly bring my concerns to Him through prayer.

My frustrations have decreased, and my peace has grown.

The words of the hymn remind of us a great truth. :

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear,

What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.

Photo by Sally

Bar Ministry

The man at the ATM bank machine was wearing his pyjamas.

This was not unusual, since the machine is inside our local bar/gambling casino.

People with serious addictions are sometimes not fussy about their wardrobe choices.

We were in this establishment because it was so scorching hot this summer, and the casino is the only spot that has reliable air-conditioning.

I had a diet coke, my husband had a Stella Artois beer, and we split a club sandwich.

The kind server, Gloria, was seeking advice from my husband concerning the long wait her husband was experiencing trying to see a heart specialist.

I watched the people at the machines. They all had the same expressions on their faces, a combination of sadness, expectation, and desperation. Their focus was intense, as they thought that with the next spin their fortunes would change.

I fantasized about going over to the gamblers and telling them that Jesus loves them.

However, this remained just a fantasy. I’m bold when writing about our Lord, but less confident in telling strangers about Him.

I wondered if Christ would have entered establishments such as this if they had been available when he was on earth.

I believe he would have ministered here. He came, not for the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. He came to love, heal and forgive. Everyone is uniquely precious to God, who longs, through Jesus, to enter into a personal relationship with each of us.

I am still praying for the man in the casino in his pyjamas.

Pixabay photo.

Prayer For a Watch

Are you sometimes intimidated by technology ?

I wanted to get an Apple Watch, but I wasn’t sure whether I had the skills to get the watch to work. I ordered one anyway.

On the day it arrived, I unpackaged it, and prayed for the Lord’s help. He reminds us in John 15:5, that without Him we can do nothing.

On the second day I managed to attach the strap.

The third day was spent studying YouTube videos on how to set up an Apple Watch.

By the fourth day, the watch was running ! It is a great help in monitoring my fitness levels, and I’m still exploring all of its all amazing features. Technology can be a great help as we age, if we are able to be patient as we learn how to use it.

Just as I needed to use a slow and steady learning method to figure out this watch, I’ve needed to use the same method to learn spiritual lessons.

God understands our individual learning styles, and knows how to draw us increasingly closer to Him, if that is our desire.

For me, I need so much repetition, and some of the lessons that God has been trying to teach me are the same ones I’ve been struggling with for years.

Nevertheless, we know that our Father is a patient teacher, and always desires to draw us into closer relationship with Him, through Jesus, as long as we are teachable.

Photo by Sally

Pet Peeve and Big Trouble

Do you have a pet peeve, (something you strongly dislike) ?

Mine is artificial flowers.

My aversion to fake blooms once got me into big trouble and taught me a valuable lesson.

When we moved to the village we found that the local cemetery had not been carefully maintained. This seemed to be disrespectful to the faithful departed.

My husband and I approached the government, who graciously provided a $69,000 grant to beautify this sacred and historic space.

Eight part-time workers were hired, who planted grass, and flowers, and placed a beautiful granite bench.

We were hoping that people might come in, to rest for a while, and contemplate eternity.

We welcomed fresh flowers and plants at the sites, and I offered to plant little gardens at sites if family members would like these.

The workers complained that the bunches of artificial flowers placed on gravesites made mowing the sites more difficult. On windy days, they blew all around, and sometimes wires got caught in mowing equipment.

And so I suggested that they remove the counterfeit blooms and place them in the storage shed. We informed the community to pick them up if they wanted them.

The community was furious with us !!

They felt that we were outsiders, who had come in, and were telling them how to do things ! After this cultural blunder, we gave up our volunteer positions, and the fake flowers quickly re-appeared.

It is pride that makes us think that our opinions are best.

Indeed, our pet peeve might be someone else’s great joy.

Our pride can cause us to place our wishes above those of others, and relationships can suffer as a result.

May God, in his mercy, show us when our attitudes are prideful.

May He allow us to live in harmony with others.