The Snail Whisperer
For the last couple months it has been my joy and pleasure to be with my three-year-old granddaughter and her baby brother. We spent some of that time in her home, some in mine, and some traveling for a family gathering. My daughter, Jordyn’s mom, is very selective and careful about screen time, but when driving in the car passing the hundredth cow or the thousandth acre of flat farmland, it’s time to bring out the video entertainment. Such entertainment is also useful when every adult in the household needs some down time and the kids are still at the top of their game. During the weeks we were together, Jordyn became captivated with a particular movie and its spunky and endearing character, an ambitious little land snail who became known as Turbo. If you are unfamiliar with the story, Turbo has a dream to be a racer, and when he winds up flowing through a car’s fuel system and becomes infused with nitrous oxide, he is able to live out his wish, and he actually wins the Indy 500! I will spare you reiteration of scenes and quotes, which I definitely could do because we watched the show at least ten times. We also read and learned about land snails and their water-inhabiting cousins, and Jordyn became quite the expert in all things snail.
God, of course, was observing all of this even more intently than we were, and he chose to give Jordyn a special blessing. When we arrived at my son’s house that is in a small, gated community in southern California, much to Jordyn’s delight, the lower part of his house was a snail haven. The funny thing is, though there were snails here and there on other homes in the neighborhood, the majority of mollusks had decided to take up residence on Uncle Kris’ abode, and there were numerous sizes and choices with which Jordyn could engage. And engage she did! Of course, every snail received a name from the movie, most of them “Turbo.” Jordyn would hold one each day, and interestingly, these little creatures would reveal themselves while in Jordyn’s hands. They would stretch their mushy bodies out of their shells, and with their knobby eyes they would view this little girl that had become so enamored with them. She would talk softly and insure them that they needn’t be afraid and that they were in good hands. If you are unaware, the natural response a snail would have to ANY creature picking it up would be to take refuge inside its shell and stay there until put back into a safe environment. Somehow Jordyn had acquired the knack of making these little creatures feel comfortable enough to share time with her. To my mind, it is quite the accomplishment both on the part of Jordyn and her shell-bearing friends.
I wonder if I can be so receptive and comforting to those who are taking cover in their own shells. Not snails, of course, but individuals who are encased in armor built of shame, fear, self-degradation, addiction, or the myriad number of habits and heartaches that are not their homes but their means of incarceration. Do I have an open heart, mind, eyes, and ears to welcome a person needing to reveal inner thoughts and feelings without being threatening or judgmental? Can I be a confidant for one who may have a view that I myself do not hold? Can I be more like Jesus who sought to save the lost by meeting people where they were, helping them to have a better understanding of God, and sending them on their way healed, filled with hope, and aware of God’s unique purpose?
The Bible reminds us in James, “Know this, my beloved bothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20, ESV). It surely is an accomplishment to be able to put these things into practice and make people feel comfortable enough to open up to us and share what is inside. As we carefully engage with others and give them a place to feel safe and understood, we will bring God’s love and grace to those who are hurting. We just may be able to bring them out of their shells and set them on a path to healing, filled with hope and purpose.
Thank you for the lesson, my little snail whisperer! I look forward to watching Turbo with you again sometime soon.
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Several weeks ago I was reading Matthew’s account of the passion and resurrection of Jesus. As I contemplated his great sacrifice and the eventual victory he experienced, my thoughts brought me to Jesus’ forty-day temptation in the wilderness. The report in the book of Mark indicates that it is likely the devil sought to tempt Jesus to sin in various ways and many times more than what is written in Matthew and Luke. The three instances recorded in those books reveal temptations regarding provision, position, and power. In each case, Jesus used Scripture to combat the wiles of Satan. It occurred to me that when Jesus resisted the enemy, he exhibited two important virtues – self-control and patience. He was willing to wait on his Father’s timing in the short-term to satisfy his hunger, and for a much longer period to inherit his kingdom and to wield the authority that accompanied his rightful role. He took no shortcuts, he did not claim entitlements, nor did he push his way through to a place of ease and adulation (though legions of ministering angels were always at his disposal – from Matthew 26:53). Jesus manifested patience throughout his life and ministry, taking a much longer and harder road to the cross. His selfless act made it possible for his Father’s perfect plans to be fulfilled.
As we navigate through challenges that certainly could be characterized as those of biblical proportions, tremendous opportunities are open to believers to live out our faith in new and interesting ways. As we open our hearts fully to the workings of the Holy Spirit, we can show the same virtues that Jesus did to those around us – our children, our parents, co-workers, neighbors, and friends, even while keeping social distancing in mind. In the book of Galatians these virtues are called “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23a, ESV). Along with patience and self-control, the characteristics of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness are listed. These all testify to a genuine faith in the Lord and a willingness to yield to his ways and promote his values and principles to the world.
In the first of a series of pamphlets entitled “The American Crisis” Thomas Paine, a British-born political philosopher turned American and supporter of American independence, wrote in the midst of the revolutionary war era in 1776, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” While some of his philosophical writings are not in line with Christian doctrine, presently, we can relate to that particular statement. It is hard to live through such a time when there is so much sickness and death, businesses folding, and financial hardship in millions of households. Perhaps most heartbreaking are the accounts of people who are either ignoring authority, taking advantage of others’ needs, or willingly sacrificing civility, displaying concern only for themselves. These “works of the flesh” have been evident since Adam’s fall from grace. God desires that we his people show others the best of who he is through attitudes and actions that are counter to human nature and in line with his character. It comes down to a simple choice: selfishness vs. selflessness. Through the Holy Spirit at work in us we can be patient and self-controlled in the midst of trial as well as demonstrate true love, joy, peace, and the other fruit of the Spirit in ways big and small.
A couple weeks ago before stay-at-home procedures became the mandated norm in her state, my daughter, Katie, was at a store with her little girl. As she waited in line, a mother near her gave her young son four quarters and told him it was all he could have to get a little squishy ball from the adjacent vending machine for himself and for his little brother. My three-year-old granddaughter, not wanting to be left out of the procurement of such a valuable treasure, began to express her desire to get one too. Mama held her ground as Jordyn gave way to her emotions over the thought of leaving the store without a ball. Obviously seeing her distress, the little boy turned around to my daughter and asked, “Can I give her mine?” Not wanting to steal his joy and with tears in her eyes, Katie allowed Jordyn to receive the precious gift. This small act of kindness speaks volumes in a world that often encourages a “take what you can” mentality. As we go through what may be the biggest crisis of our lives, let’s pray that God will allow his Spirit to rise up in us so we can be more like his Son and like that little boy. May the fruit of the Spirit be so evident in each of our lives allowing selflessness to triumph over selfishness, and we will open the door for the perfect plans of the Lord to be fulfilled. “Now the works of the flesh are evident… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:19a, 22-23, ESV).
We pray you had a very blessed Easter. In spite of the times, “He has risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6b, ESV) and that gives us cause to celebrate no matter what is happening around us.
Thomas Paine,The American Crisis, Wikipedia, edited update: April 11, 2020, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
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The Heart of Communication
It is no secret that in this world filled with technology, we living in relative prosperity have become attached AND distracted by said technology. As I am writing in a busy airport terminal, in row after row of passengers I see screens of every type. Viewing cell phones, e-readers, and tablets, very few people are engaged in conversation with each other, though I will say there is a din (travelers likely in momentary discussions over seat assignments, delays, or where to find a good cup of coffee). It is apparent that while we may be sitting within spitting distance of family and friends, let alone people with whom we are unfamiliar, people in general, and particularly this younger generation, are more likely to have Herculean-strength thumbs from tapping a cell phone all day than they are able to engage in meaningful conversation for more than a nanosecond (likely to ask if they can plug into a shared outlet). It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway—what a changed world we live in! Yes, I know that in many ways there are benefits and betterments. But there are also many things we are losing due to the technological advances society has made, especially in the last fifty years.
I have a fond memory of a fourth grade unit we did in school. It was a series of lessons on the telephone. The telephone booklet, which I have saved in a scrapbook of school memorabilia, walked us fourth graders through the mechanics of the telephone including how to dial, the proper way to speak into the receiver, information and emergency calls, and use of a phone book to find both personal and business numbers. Among the pertinent information are several pages on telephone manners. It was definitely something we practiced. With two telephones in the room, each classmate had likely more than one opportunity to participate in a polite exchange. Among the booklet’s phrases are recommendations for passing on a message to another household member, letting the caller know that the intended recipient of the call will soon be available, apologizing for making a call to a wrong number, and kindly responding to someone who has made the wrong-number call. It is also interesting to see that proper phone etiquette includes hanging up the phone gently so as not to cause a banging noise in the caller’s ear.
If you and/or your children were scratching your heads throughout most of the last paragraph, let’s move into the twenty-first century. We, of course, largely communicate through the devices mentioned in the first paragraph. I’m fairly certain that schools do not teach a unit on a proper way to make calls and converse on the cell. Nor is there some sort of tutorial on polite messaging of any kind. We have largely moved away from verbal (deep) conversation on a device, and we especially lack the skills to do so face-to-face. Probably one of the oddest practices is to see people texting each other not only in the same building, but in the same room! Their messages are not only concise, but they can be downright cryptic! “BTW,” “TY,” “RTN,” “K,” and the ever-popular “LOL” are all a part of accepted text conversation. Alexander Graham Bell invented the original telephone in 1876, and he is either gleeful about the advance of his invention, or he is turning somersaults in his grave at the loss of true, heartfelt communication among members of the human race.
As with all matters, it is important to look into God’s Word to see what he has to say about communication and connection. First of all, God invites us into the most intimate relationship with him, calling us his children and making himself known as God the Father. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1, ESV). He has opened an avenue of communication with him through prayer. “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:5b-6, ESV). His desire is that we spend time with him just as Jesus modeled many times. “In these days [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12, ESV). It is clear that the Lord also wants us to have fellowship and connection with each other. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).
In Ephesians 4 and 5 we find advice to guide us in our communication: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor,” (4:25). “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” (4:26). “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (4:29). “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (4:31-32). “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (5:4). It is apparent that the Bible promotes healthy, loving, encouraging communication to develop and enrich relationships among us. We would be wise to heed the Lord’s direction.
Of course, Jesus did not carry a cell phone in the back pocket of his tunic, but he has always known the future of communication, both to the positive and negative sides of the matter. His desire has always been for us to speak in real and affectionate ways to our heavenly Father and lovingly and truthfully converse with one another. This is the essential art and the true heart of communication.
Bell Telephone System. Audio-Visual Materials Consultation Bureau, College of Education, Wayne University. The Telephone and How We Use It. Copyright © [1964?]
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