Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tough skin, Norman Rockwell, and a big serving of poisonous darts

Little do these happy people realize, but that turkey is about to explode.

Feelings are about to get hurt.  A well-meaning remark is ready to be taken the wrong way.  An entire bottle of vintage bitterness just got knocked over.  Watch out, someone is already reaching for caustic words that he has prepared since the last time you were together.  And don't forget the side dishes of petty jealousies (mom always gave you the biggest cookie), resentments from birth, and zingers designed to maim.

What's packed in your suitcase or stuffed in your pockets for when -- not if -- the opportunity arises this holiday season?

Ironically, it is the one with the tough skin who is typically most sensitive to carefully-crafted poisonous darts, aimed for the jugular.  But a tender heart is the one whose feelings are not easily hurt.  A tender heart comes prepared with grace and healing, not insensitive to stress but gracious in it.  A tender heart initiates a conversation instead of a confrontation.  A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15.1)

As most siblings growing up, our daughters knew what their sisters' hot buttons were.  On many occasions, particularly on road trips, I would pull aside one of the girls and say, "Let's play,  You can't make me mad."  For the next hour without the "attacker" knowing, the object of the "game" was to rise above the fray, divert the fiery darts, respond graciously, try to distract, and sometimes flat out ignore actions which were designed to create an uprising.  With this response, it doesn't take long for the attacker to tire, feel rather ridiculous, and move on to another recreational sport.

Family competition?  Outdo one another in showing honor.(Romans 12.10)  Try "playing" that one.

Your clearest presentation of the Gospel
       is not a memorized script,
but sitting where no one else wants to sit,
listening compassionately to that old grumpy uncle,
and doing what needs to be done
                    without being asked
                    without recognition
       diapers, dishes, and other nasty stuff
          that no one wants to do.

Don't just say grace at the table,
                               live it.
Don't just ask His blessing,
                               be it.
That is why God has you there.

Jesus does not make me love others.
He empowers me not just to love,
                            but to love more,
   beyond what I can do myself,
   beyond what
         would even occur to me to do.

Sometimes it just takes one word to set ablaze
           a family gathering.
But often it just takes
                     one act of grace
       to diffuse the flame.

Above all
     hold unfailing your love for one another,
since love covers a multitude of sins.
                               1 Peter 4.8

Happy Thanksgiving!

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