Sunday, 26 January 2014


A pessimist doesn't make New Year’s resolutions, but this year’s “One Word” campaign appealed to me. Instead of making a list of goals, we choose one word for our focus in 2014. 
Believe me, I don’t make a habit of grabbing the next magical fix from self-help gurus but sometimes a new tool is worth a try. 
Any step we take toward knowing God’s ways can be generously used by the Spirit who made us and loves us. When I heard about the "One Word" suggestion I considered what word could serve as a touchstone for me this year. 

I chose to focus on the word, “pause”. 

I’m not a busy person; I'd bet I’m way lazier than you are. I don’t need to insert pauses into my non-existent schedule. However, I can be impulsive in both decision-making and conversation. I still regret quickly choosing a mustard-yellow winter coat only because I wanted the shopping over with. The coat-that-will-never-wear-out shows every bit of slushy dirt and the colour isn't even flattering. Grr.
As to the other weakness I mentioned, well, let's just say I’ve had lots of practice in apologizing for abrupt comments. I long to speak carefully and choose wisely when it matters. For that I need to learn to pause.

I turned for help to one of my main authorities, the bible.
Speaking of tools, thank God for the internet!  We all know the verse, “Be still and know that I am God” but what about pausing? 
When I searched for the word “pause”, I found the mysterious Hebrew word “Selah”, which is attached to some of the Psalms, without any English translation.
Because the psalms are songs, scholars guess that "Selah" could have been a musical direction. Or it could have stood for, "The End". But some experts think that it might have meant, “Pause”, “Pause and praise”, or “Pause and think about that”. Maybe we should be reminding each other, "Selah", good advice for bible reading, good advice for ordinary moments every day. Pause and think about that.

So the next time we talk, if you hear me hissing under my breath, you’ll know that I’m whispering “Selah”, hoping that Wisdom will help me pause before I say something stupid.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Winter Words

During the dead days of winter, feeling life’s dull ache, it is good to read these hopeful words, a paraphrased excerpt from Isaiah 43:

“O people, this is what the one who created you says:
Don’t be afraid, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through flood waters, I will be with you
and they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire, the flame shall not consume you.
For I am your God,
the Holy One, your Saviour.
You are precious in my sight,
and honoured,
and I love you.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

I, I am the One,
and besides me there is no saviour.
I am your Holy One,
the Creator. 
Yet you did not call upon me; you have been weary of me.
I, I am the one
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,

and I will not remember your sins.

I am about to do a new thing.
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.”


Sunday, 5 January 2014

Lowest Common Denominator

Are sexual jokes and bathroom humour your favourite kind of comedy? Do the sounds of gunshots and sirens mean must-see TV to you? If so, from what I see and hear in entertainment, you are in the majority. And I’m a total weirdo.

I learned long ago that I can’t enjoy a performance at a comedy club. Even a show billed as, “The Nice Guys of Comedy” began with a comic whose obscene jokes made me walk out, disappointed yet again. No stand-up comedy for me, apparently, despite the fact that I laugh loudly as much as anyone I know.
Television comedy, too, has devolved from clever and hilarious shows like “Mad About You”, into predictable sketches about who’s having casual sex with whom. Even the smartest writers and comedians, like Tina Fey, seem obliged to make frequent sexual references.

And then there are the serious dramas serving a combo plate of sex mixed with violent crime. Yummy! Gore, guns and strippers. Satisfy all of your appetites at once.

Many friends have recommended Netflix as a better resource than TV, so I hoped it would be the answer. I'd rather avoid the slimy mind-pollution that oozes from Hollywood and most network programming.
It is true that when I searched through mounds of muck on Netflix, I eventually found some fascinating documentaries and a brilliant independent movie or two. But in hunting for those, before I could hit STOP, I saw and heard things I'd rather never have seen or heard. 

Even the higher quality productions have startled me with, for instance, the close-up of a naked couple having sexual intercourse (does no one consider that private anymore?), and jokes about excrement in someone’s pants.
Really? Bowel movements crack you up?
And those two examples were in:
A. an otherwise excellent movie starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken
and B. a creative and poignant British comedy titled “Derek”. 

What’s the deal?
Are the rest of you out there having sex with random strangers? Do you enjoy seeing characters die from gunshot wounds? Or are you thinking frequently about your rectum? 
Are you stuck at some infantile stage of human maturity, newly discovering your clitoris/penis and learning how to use a toilet?

Here’s an option for adults only:
Let there be creative stories and belly laughs, wit and wonder. 
And at the same time, “Let there be no sexual sin, impurity or greed among you. Let no one be able to accuse you of any such things. 
Dirty stories, foul talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, remind each other of God’s goodness, and be thankful.”
“Be careful how you act; these are difficult days. 
Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good. 
Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to find out and do whatever God wants you to.
Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path; be filled instead with God’s Holy Spirit.” 
(Ephesians 5)