Wednesday, April 26, 2006


The title was intriguing – “New glasses can improve your hearing” – but I did not have time to click on the link to read the article. I should have taken the time. Then I might know how to help all the folks I come across who obviously need a prescription for new eyeglasses. Of course, I don’t fit in the hard of hearing category. I hear everyone fine (as long as you speak up). I’m more “hard of understanding” with some conversations.

For example, I met a sweet Southern lady a few months after I moved to Georgia, and she always ends our conversations with, “We (her and her daughter) love you. Come see us sometime.” But she is nearly ninety now, her eyesight is rapidly deteriorating, and she is almost “as deaf as a door post,” so our conversations these last few years tend to be a bit strange.

SL (This stands for Southern Lady): “How are all your animals?”

JP: “My oldest cat died the other day.”

SL (She always draws out this response to emphasize her pleasure.): “Well, go-o-o-od, go-o-o-od. I’m glad all your animals are doing so well. And how’s your mama? Is she doing all right in this awful weather?”

JP: “No, she’s really feeling the heat and humidity.” I shake my head to emphasize my concern.

SL: “Well, go-o-o-od, go-o-o-od. I’m glad your mama is doing so well. And how are you doing? Are you still taking your dogs on those long walks?”

JP: “No. I injured my knee when I twisted my ankle and fell on the sidewalk yesterday. I won’t be taking the dogs on any long walks for a while.”

SL: “Well, go-o-o-od, go-o-o-od. I’m glad you’re all doing so well.”

I realize she is elderly and she does not give these inappropriate responses deliberately. I let them roll off my back. My mother is also elderly, with impaired vision and hearing, and we have had similar exchanges.

JP: A veterans’ group is using my story, ‘The Lesson of the Poppy.’” (Mother has a copy of this story.)

MAMA (I always thought her name was “Mother,” but, hey, when in Georgia -): “That’s nice. The pictures will be cute.”

JP: “What pictures?”

MAMA: “The animal pictures.”

JP: “What animal pictures?”

MAMA: “The pictures of the puppies.”

JP: (Totally bewildered.) “Puppies? What puppies?”

MAMA: “The puppies in your story.”

This was our “mis”-communication a few nights ago. This one tickled both of us, but usually we are not quite as forgiving with one another. We each tend to take what the other says personally. It hurts more to be misunderstood by family or friends than by strangers or acquaintances.

In the same vein, it hurts to be misunderstood by our brothers and sisters in Christ. Unfortunately, many times when someone asks, “How are you?” or “Is everything okay?” there really is no interest in hearing an honest answer. Family or friends, whether in the church or not, can suffer from avoid-the-truth-aphobia. This often happens when one gets the notion those in Christ should wear a mask separating them (I’ll wear a smile if it kills me) from the pain and anxiety of anyone who dares to be unmasked and in need of a listening ear. It can also happen when a Christian develops a critical spirit, and even though he is deaf and blind to the truth of others’ circumstances, he believes it is his place to set everyone straight.

I have felt the sting of do-gooders who “know what your problem is” and vocalize it in an angry, accusatory manner. I hate to admit it, but I am human and I have dished out some “I know it all” myself. The truth is we don’t know everything about anyone, not even about ourselves. The heart is deceitful above all things, remember. When we “know it all,” we do not listen and further mis-communication results, inflicting pain and perhaps resulting in estrangement. Too often we hear what we want to hear or what we expect to hear because we are not really paying attention.

People do not always talk directly about how they are doing, or explain to everyone they meet why they are overly emotional, talk excessively, act angry or withdraw. There might be physical or emotional abuse in the home, a chronic illness with symptoms that are not apparent to the casual observer, a terminally ill parent or child, or some other reason a person needs someone to listen and understand, even if nothing is vocalized. We should be sensitive to the expressions of others and not try to read our own fears, failures or dreams between the lines.

Yes, sometimes mis-communication can be funny or easily forgiven. Other times it can leave lasting scars and cause division. If anyone could complain about His words being misunderstood and misinterpreted, it would be Jesus. His words have been quoted and argued over for centuries. Can you picture it if He walked among us today?

Jesus: “We’re going to be late for the wedding if you make another wrong turn, Fred. We only have ten minutes before the ceremony. Turn right at the 7-11 on Ridgemont.”

C1 (Christian #1): “You heard him, Fred. Turn right at the Sunoco station.”

C2: “No, don’t turn right at the Sunoco station. He said to turn right at the Shell Service Center.”

C3: “He did not. I distinctly heard him say to turn right past the 7-11 on Riverdale.”

C4: “Well, he may have said to turn right at the Wal-mart Super Center, but he really meant for you to turn left.”

C5: “How do you come up with a left turn when I recorded him on my cell phone and he said just as clear as a bell to make a U-turn at Symphony Hall on Rockford?”

Can new glasses improve your hearing? I have no idea. But if anyone recognizes himself or herself in this story, you might want to ask God for new spiritual eyeglasses in order to see and hear clearly what the Word of God actually says.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

I was walking home from a nearby grocery store one evening when I noticed a great tree limb from next door was no longer hanging above my tree. Its branches were now entangled with the branches of my tree. Either that huge branch was coming down or my tree had a phenomenal growth spurt.

The previous Sunday a big tree limb fell on the electric lines over the house across the street. It was the day of the booming explosions and the fireballs directly over that neighbor's roof.

He was fortunate. His compost heap caught fire but his roof did not. The event did knock out all the power in the extended neighborhood. It was the final day of the Fire Department's boot drive and there were two firemen and a fire truck less than a block away. It did not take long for the fire truck to arrive or for the electric company to follow.

If the large branch from the tree next door snapped, it could do extensive damage. The power lines to my meter run through my tree branches. The tree is too close to the house. Besides terrorizing the neighborhood, a close-up performance of that weekend’s fireworks could set my tree on fire and I would be able to barbecue hot dogs on the roof.

This experience reminded me of how blind we can be to sin, not realizing its branches are enveloping us. We listen to gossip and repeat it. We ask a child to tell someone we aren’t home and then confuse the issue by telling the child that lying is wrong – except when mommy or daddy gives permission. We adopt pets and then take them to the pound when they outgrow the “cute stage” or become an inconvenience. And then we wonder why our children cart us off to nursing homes when we become an inconvenience to them.

It seemed reasonable to assume the electric company might prefer helping me now to repairing any emergency damage to their lines later. I called them and was assured they would. They were here within the hour, even though it was well past sundown. They checked the trees and lopped off the offending branches.

God is also amenable to helping us before we have an emergency situation. He will disentangle us from the branches of sin if we call on Him in prayer.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


I looked for an Easter animation gif to make a card and scrolled through an endless array of bunnies and decorated eggs before I finally found one gif that even alludes to the true meaning of the day. Please, don’t forget to place Christ where He belongs - in the center of your celebration of His resurrection.