What a terrible scene we witnessed last month as millions, from around the world, watched the Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames. Fire fighters, rescue workers, religious leaders, and local citizens sprang into action (to the degree that they could) to save the Cathedral. There is one report of a priest racing into the church to save relics and priceless paintings and treasures. Though, at that time, the cause of the fire was unknown; what was clearly known was that a part of history was "going up in flames" and that every reasonable effort should be made to save it. This scene caused me to ask myself some important questions: What is it that I value most? What is it that I would be willing to make heroic efforts to save from danger?
It finally happened! The tree in my back yard, that I was planning to cut down, fell over. I didn't even know it had happened; my grandson came in from the backyard and shouted, "Pappy, your tree fell down!" He was right. It had toppled to the ground and when I examined it, amazingly, I could find no evidence of any roots. I don't know exactly what happened to them, but without roots the tree had no chance to remain standing. It is much like that in our spiritual life as well...
One of my many interests is that of photography and one of the key principles of photography is to "protect your highlights." Now what does that mean? A highlight is usually the "brightest area of a photograph in which you can see detail." It is what gives the photo contrast and it is the portion of the photo that captures our attention. Recently I listened to photographer/philosopher Sean Tucker describe this theme of "protect your highlights" but he applied the principle to more than just photography; he said this principle also needs to be applied to life.
I attended a "wellness" event recently; it was sponsored by our Methodist Conference as a part of their strategy to encourage self-care among clergy. By attending certain events, having an annual physical, and spending some time with a "fitness coach" we are able to see a reduction in our monthly health insurance rate. But beyond the financial benefit is the hope that healthier clergy will be a more effective clergy! Overall I've found the experience to be helpful and I've heard that many organizations are now offering these types of programs. It made me wonder, however, why preventative programs aren't offered to address one's mental health?
After an almost snowless winter last year, it was nice to have snow come early in November this year. Our first snowfall was not a blizzard but it was beautiful all the same! (Pictured above is Sarah, my Administrative assistant, enjoying winter's first snow.) We didn't have much Fall this year, but I welcome the early Winter all the same. It brings an end to "rag-weed season" and the heat and dust that accompany summer. It also reminds us of "the seasons of life" of which the writer of Ecclesiastes speaks: There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens, says the writer in Ecclesiastes chapter 3.
The month of October was designated Pastor's Appreciation Month. I wasn't even aware that there was such a "season" but I was pleasantly surprised when I came into my office one day to discover approximately 150 "sticky notes" pasted throughout my office; all with kind words of appreciation and encouragement. Needless to say, this made my day.
Sometimes we forget the power of kind words, even little ones. Obviously these notes did not contain lengthy comments. They were not "letters of appreciation." But they spoke! They spoke in a powerful way. As I read them I thought about the wise use of words as emphasized in Proverbs 12. Vs. 18 reads, "The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Vs 25 says, "Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up." And in vs 6 we read, "The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them." What tremendous power resides in the way we use our words!
Who in your life needs a word of encouragement today? Your spouse? Child? Friend? I think you will know who. Our words can be used to tear others down, but they can also be used to bring healing and hope. Perhaps it is time for each of us to rediscover the power of a kind word!
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.