Friday, April 19, 2013


I was teaching at a school in the Bronx yesterday, way up near Woodlawn on the number 4 train. I’ve been feeling really tired this week, wondering why I am not in a different place in my life, wondering where the promises of God have gone. Then I go to the news and there's so much bad news everywhere that I can't feel sorry for myself because at least I'm alive, at least my health is good, at least I have food on my table and a place to live that is comfortable and safe. When I’m not so tired I’m able to look at the day and look at what I have in my life and be thankful and know that God's promises are here and more are on the way, but sometimes things just start to get to me – there was an old Rosanne Rosanna Danna skit on Saturday night live when she would say, "If it’s not one thing, it’s another," and that’s how I’ve been feeling. One thing after another, and it feels sometimes when I am feeling like this that it’s been like that for a long, long time. But then I go to work with these high school students, and something in me comes alive when I am with them. Something in me is so excited that these kids want to learn about nutrition. They’re asking questions and are fully engaged in the class. It’s a long class too, two hours – that’s a long time for anyone to focus, nevermind high school students, but here they are giving me that kind of time. I was exhausted by the time I got home, and didn’t have time for a real dinner, but it didn’t matter. Even with a headache and a body that just wanted to crawl into bed, I knew it was worth it just to have these kids learning things they didn’t know, things that they can share with their families and friends, things that can help save lives and improve quality of life.

It’s a well known way of thinking in Christian circles that it’s when you’re doing God’s work, everything comes against you full force to try to stop you. God’s work is really anything that helps people in any real and lasting way. Giving them love, respect, a sense of self worth – that is enough to get all the powers of hell rising against you. Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ is not only sharing scripture, it’s helping people know that they are worth something, that they are valuable, that they have value just because of who they are. When God stepped into my life I wasn’t doing anything of worth or value, but He saw me as worth something, worth His love and His time and His care and His sacrifice. When we treat others with the care and love and respect that helps them know that they are worth something, worth our time and love and care, it’s amazing what can happen.
Recognizing that someone is worth something, recognizing the Spirit of God in them and letting them know that they have value, that they are precious, can open up gifts and talents that can change the world. We all have something of value to give, but sometimes that something gets hidden behind walls that were made by disappointments and betrayals or just someone saying too many times that you aren’t going to amount to much. The other day I heard a mother saying to her child, “What is wrong with you?!” over and over again. I don’t know what she was upset about, but I wanted to stop and tell her to find another way to deal with it. When we hear those words over and over again, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, when they are added to with a shake or a shove or a push or a slap, we grow up thinking there is something really wrong with us, that maybe everything is wrong with us, and nothing can ever be right.

The Bible tells us that we have the power of life or death in our tongue. We can use our words to help and to heal, or we can use them to tear down and destroy. We have the choice every day all day. We can find something kind to say, something encouraging, something life-giving, or we can do the opposite. Life is hard, and we get frustrated sometimes – we’re human and that’s understandable – but if we take a moment before we speak, our words may not be perfect, but at least they might not cause harm. I read a quote that was supposedly said by the Dalai Lama. It’s hard to know if he actually said all the things  people quote him as saying, but it’s a great quote whoever said it, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Kindness is always possible, whether we want to take the time to be kind is our choice. It takes time sometimes, and it may have been a long hard day in a long hard week, but if we remember it’s possible, even when we don’t feel like it is, then anything is possible, even those promises of God that we still can’t see.

Jannie Susan

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