What Kind of a Welcome?

Welcome

Many years ago we repainted our front door. Finding the right colour was challenging. I was on a ‘green kick’, as anyone who has been inside the house can attest, but green with the bluish-gray trim didn’t seem quite right. Plus, green is considered a cool colour, and I wanted something warm and welcoming. I didn’t think red would be an option with the salmon tinge of the bricks. I even considered black, which would have looked fine but definitely wouldn’t have been welcoming. The door remained its original sickly off-white during the months of my indecision.

In desperation I finally decided “it’s just paint”, and tried a red. I was surprised at how much I liked it, and I have never been tempted to change it to any other colour. Last June, while attending a garden tour at writer-friend, Katherine Wagner’s home, I discovered she also has a red door and her home is clad in brick almost identical to ours. Her home seems very welcoming to me, and seeing that front door validated my own colour choice.

How we welcome people into our homes says a lot about us and about the hospitality that we plan to extend to visitors. People don’t generally approach a home where they expect to encounter hostility. Of course, painting a front door red isn’t going to change what a visitor will find inside. That’s up to us.

Sunday will be the first day of Winter — the shortest, darkest day of the year — and the beginning of Christmas week. We come face to face with Advent IV, where the focus is on Love. I’ve been thinking about how the world is waiting. We say we’re waiting to celebrate the birth of Christ, but the nature of the world into which God sent His Son isn’t very loving or welcoming.

With 185 villagers kidnapped and 35 killed in northeastern Nigeria, 132 schoolchildren killed by Taliban insurgents in Pakistan, an economic crisis happening in Russia, eight children dead in Australia, the Sony cyber-hacking giving rise to discussions of cyber-war with North Korea — no, I’d say it isn’t a very loving world at all.

We are devastated by the terror, cruelty, pain and poverty of the world, and frustrated because our cries of protest aren’t heard by the perpetrators of hatred. While a few people are able to physically or financially make a significant difference to victims, others are consumed by helplessness.

Then I hear of the $3800 raised by kind-hearted people to pay for prosthetic legs for a dog who lost his back legs when they were frozen to the ground; and others who came forward to help replace the belongings of a family whose house was demolished in a mud slide.

Money is donated to relief agencies, food is given to food banks, people volunteer to cook and feed the hungry — seemingly small and insignificant gestures from a global perspective, but life-changing to individuals in need.

We may not be able to change the entire world, but we can make a difference. As we prepare to welcome the Christ back into our hearts and homes this week, I hope He will approve of our love and how we are demonstrating it.

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Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say,
‘Master, what are you talking about?
When did we ever see you hungry and feed you,
thirsty and give you a drink?
And when did we ever see you sick
or in prison and come to you?’
Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth:
Whenever you did one of these things
to someone overlooked or ignored,
that was me—you did it to me.’

[Matthew 25:37-40, MSG]

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Making an Impact

“A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth.
The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water.
Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts.
And the consequences whether good or bad of even the least of them are far-reaching.”

Sivananda
(Indian Scientist, 1887-1963)

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We’ve all said it at one time or another: “What difference can I make? I’m just one person.”

I recently came across a 2007 article by author and personal life coach Jo Middlemiss, where she reflected on a book she had received for Christmas — Change The World 9 to 5. It offered many small yet effective ways we can make a difference to the environment and to the lives of people. She listed several, and then said:

Bacopa blossoms, each barely the size of a fingernail.

Please don’t think for one minute that I do all of these things, I don’t. I know I could do so much more, but for a long time I really did believe that it didn’t matter what I did – how could one little person make a difference? Then I heard a story about someone questioning Mother Teresa about her work with the homeless in India.

“Surely Mother, the work you are doing is but a drop in the ocean?”

“Yes” said the wise one, “But isn’t the ocean made up of drops?” Of course it is, and everything we do, say or think has an impact somewhere, somehow.

Ann Voskamp has recently returned from Haiti. Her heart is angry at the poverty, angry at the inequality between the life she saw there and her life at home, angry at her inability to change it all. But she does make a difference. She goes to them, demonstrates God’s love to them, helps the few she can, then shares her concerns in a way that convicts others of the need to also help. If you have a few moments to click over to Ann’s post, read her words, see her photos… oh, how it pierces!

We are but a single drop of moisture, a single drop in an ocean of hatred, hunger, fear, oppression, pain, injustice and apathy. The need overwhelms.

I remember how a single drop of water, a sliver of ice, on a parched tongue after surgery was such a blessing.

I have a small fridge magnet that displays a tiny flower and the words, “Bloom where you are planted.”

Each of us is only one… but God can use us to meet a need, if we will open our eyes to see it, distant or close to home — if we will allow him to convict and convince us into action. Each small gesture will join with others to make an impact.

I see what Ann is doing. What meaningful things have you noticed others around you doing, perhaps unobtrusively, that is making a difference in some way?

~

“The king will answer them, ‘I tell you with certainty,
since you did it for one of the least important of these brothers of mine,
you did it for me.'”

Matthew 25:40

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“Jesus said, “The first [commandment] in importance is,
‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one;
so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’
And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’
There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”

Mark 12:29-31

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Making a Difference


I doubt Janeece Edroff had any idea of the impact her young life was going to make.

At age three she was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis type 1, with tumors growing off almost every nerve root from her spine. By age seven, after multiple surgeries, she knew her family had been receiving financial assistance from Variety, The Children’s Charity and she decided she wanted to give back.

Her penny drive at her elementary school that year netted $164 and was presented to Variety during their annual Telethon. The next year she got others involved and collected $27,000! By age fourteen she had raised a million dollars; by sixteen, $1.5 million. Janeece is now eighteen and has inspired more than $6.7 million in donations. When she’s not in school or in hospital she spends her time fundraising for various organizations and inspires others to do the same.

Janeece Place, a temporary home for families to stay while a family member is in Victoria General Hospital was one of her dreams, and she saw it become a reality this spring. She has been presented with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Changing Our World/Simms Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, Ages 5-17.

And this weekend the girl who doctors said would probably never walk, or even live to see her teens, will graduate from secondary school.

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A few years ago I mentioned Janeece in a blog post entitled Tenacity Despite the Odds. I’m not sure why I thought of it this morning, but as I was considering what to write about on this fourth anniversary of my blog, the idea of tenacity lodged in my writerly brain and refused to budge. Have you noticed how some ideas are stubborn like that?

My early posts were an effort to accustom myself to online visibility. Then they morphed into a commitment… mostly to myself, because there weren’t a lot of readers.

Four years later, after 658 posts and 70,000 views, I’m amazed at the cyber friends I’ve made, and how important this regular bit of writing has become to me.  Has it accomplished anything significant? Not likely, although I’ve received occasional messages from readers who were encouraged by something God had prodded me to say on a particular day.

That’s the thing about blogging. While we might have a few regular readers who are kind enough to leave a comment, the statistics don’t let us know who the silent majority are… the ones who not only don’t comment, but don’t subscribe, and simply drop in on the way through from somewhere else in cyberspace. There’s no way to prove our inspirations are meaningful to anyone. It’s hard not to question whether the words really make a difference.

I look back at the tenacity that has kept me here and realize it has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with God. He’s the only one who sees the entire picture and provides the words that are meant to reach an unknown-to-me but specific someone. I trust in his judgment.

I also trust in his direction for me and my writing. It may not include publication of my novels, or perhaps it will, but only when the timing is right. For now, as I step off into my fifth year of blogging, it’s enough that I carry on with tenacity and trust. My job is to turn up here and write. If there’s a difference to be made, it will be up to God. Is that called ‘passing the buck’? Sorry, God, but that’s the way I see it!

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“Cause me to hear Your loving-kindness in the morning,
for on You do I lean and in You do I trust.
Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk,
for I lift up my inner self to You.”

Psalm 143: 8

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