Sunday 17 June 2018
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Melissa Mimier King, guest preacher
I am an awfully passionate person. This is the correct intensifier by the way, “awfully” but we’ll get to that later. I was taught to “Bloom where you’re planted,” like the 16th Century Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales said. In spite of the lack of sun, or water, or healthy soil, I was taught to grow. I was taught to be cheerful. I was taught to notice the good in the world and point it out to others. I have learned, as a teacher and mother that feelings will make themselves known somehow, intentionally or otherwise. It’s best to just be honest about them.
This past month I’ve been claiming that “I feel all of the feels very feelingly” in an attempt to put into words all of the emotions I keenly experience on a daily basis. I am the healthiest when I am joyful, and grateful, and exuberant, and happy. And remarkably, my feelings of optimism thanks to gratitude are backed up by research! Ahhh, I love research.
“Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.
One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.” (Harvard Health Publishing Nov. 2011). And since we always use the Harvard Medical School’s advice for planning our family conversations. Ahhh, I love sarcasm.
We say our gratitudes as a family each evening during “check-in.” It’s evolved over the past two years since the girls came home, but the idea is the same. “I am grateful to blank for blank.” Each family member gets to voice one of our blessings each day, and it makes us all feel better. It makes us focus on the positives. It helps us to see the bright side of things. It helps us be joyful. I am grateful to this church family for putting up with my loosely Biblical-based ramblings in David’s absence.
As I mentioned before, I am awfully passionate. My blessings and gratitudes are super-charged. This is fine with my friends, they get me, and none of them is put off my my enthusiasm. I learned last week, however, that this super-power of optimism is not fine all of the time. Sometimes it comes across as fake, or inauthentic.
This feedback obviously reminded me of a camp song…because most lessons do. Shall I sing it for you? OK. “Love, Love, Love…That’s what it’s all about…’Cuz God loves us we love each other… Mother, Father, Sister, Brother… Everybody scream and shout! LOVE! ‘Cuz that’s what it’s all about, it’s about Love, Love, Love… It’s about Love, Love, Love.” Ahhh, I love camp songs.
But did you catch those words? Everybody scream and shout? That’s not toned down. That’s not “even.” That’s not balanced! That’s passion.
2 Corinthians 5:6-7 says, “That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. This sounds like a “bloom where you’re planted” message to me. It sounds like noticing that I’m able to love others, because God loves me, is something to be grateful and joyful and exuberant about.
My friends get that being awfully passionate is me, and they don’t even think it’s that awful. Neither does God. In fact, God’s going to need that passion.
2 Corinthians 5:19-20 tells us, “God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking of Christ himself now: Become friends with God; God’s already a friend with you.”
Be there for God. Remember that God’s already there for you. So in order to BLOOM. First Become friends with God. Ahhh, I love mnemonic devices.
- Become friends with God
- Leave the judging to God
- avoid the Only trap
- One act
The second step in Blooming? Leave the judging to God.
When we judge, what are we measuring against? What is the benchmark? Is there a rubric for who is more or less loved by the creator? I know I feel pretty uncomfortable trying to come up with success criteria for “worthy of God’s love.” In addition, then don’t I need to use the same yardstick for myself? Yikes!
The story of 1 Samuel 16 shows a family trying to read God’s mind. The story is one of the great metaphors for availability being more important to God than ability. It’s like we contemplated earlier, being there, showing up, noticing the blessings, being a friend, these aren’t rankable, but they are what matters. When God tells Samuel in verse 7, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed by his looks and stature. God judges persons differently than humans do.” Ahhh, I love that I don’t have to give grades to others. Frankly, judging others…and yourself, is exhausting.
Have you ever noticed how God seems to use the most unlikely people to teach lessons and move mountains? The stories from the Bible about these people are numerous. Moses, David, Paul and even Jesus himself had doubts about their gifts and callings. “But I am “Only” a regular person. But I am “only” the runt of the family. But I am “only” a servant. But I am “only” here for a short time.” I can’t possibly be the person you need for this job, I can’t possibly do the thing that you need.
This faulty thinking seems to indicate that I know better than God. When I got the feedback that my enthusiasm for teaching was inauthentic, I started to believe that I was “only” fluffy happiness, fake fluffy happiness, and not a teacher. That I was only fake.
But, “Consider a mustard seed.” It is only a mustard seed. It’s pretty tiny. No one would notice it lying on the ground, but when it blooms, it can’t be missed.
This was one of my mom’s favorite parables, and she shared it with me a lot growing up. She, in high school, had had a bracelet with a small, sealed compartment containing a mustard seed. Over time and wear, some water got to the seed and it sprouted. The strength in the tiny seed shattered the capsule and could no longer be contained.
So on our way to BLOOMing, we should consider the mustard seed. And notice the “only’ trap. Remember Jesus’ parable in Mark 4: 31-32. “Consider a mustard seed. When scattered on the ground, it’s the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; but when it’s planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all vegetable plants. It produces such large branches that the birds in the sky are able to nest in its shade.”
There are modern day parables too.
[Read The Wonderful Happens]
Ahh, I love picture books.
So while we ourselves are a miracle, so can our actions be miracles that make a difference. Sometimes principals send out a book in the summer for their staff to read and learn from in anticipation of the upcoming year. Celi, one of my 21 principals (did I mention that I Bloom Where I’m Planted?) did this with a book by Andy Andrews. He wrote The Noticer, that the women’s ministry team used so effectively at a retreat a few years back, but this summer reading book was The Butterfly Effect. It traces One act through a chain of events to the food solution to famine.
Norman Borlaug hybridized high yield, disease resistant corn and wheat for arid climates in the 1940s and saved billions of lives. But, Henry Wallace was Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president and created a place for this purpose and hired the young scientist Norman Borlaug to run it. Without that post, he never would have saved billions from hunger and earned a Presidential Medal of Freedom. But George Washington Carver had an impact too.
You see, Henry Wallace got to attend botanical expeditions with the brilliant 19 year-old when he was only 6. It was George Washington Carver that pointed out the miracles of botany. But baby George wouldn’t have survived a fire and kidnapping as an infant if not for the love of his adoptive parents Moses and Susan Carver. Ahh, I love adoption.
So… smile. Listen. Offer a glass of water. Be kind. Pay the expired parking meter. Teach the child. Learn. Because while we’re blooming… One act is all it takes to make a major difference in this world.
And so we come to my favorite. Miracles everywhere.
When I start to get overwhelmed with the icky, yucky, miserable parts of our world, I head to the massive amounts of metaphors in nature to try to make sense of it all. The book Lab Girl by Hope Jahren points out the miracles of trees…which are pretty easy to set eyes on in this neck of the woods. Ahhh, I love puns.
Here’s a quote from the beginning. “Do you see something green? If you did, you saw one of the few things left in the world that people cannot make. What you saw was invented more than four hundred million years ago near the equator. Perhaps you were lucky enough to see a tree.
“That tree was designed about three hundred million years ago. The mining of the atmosphere, the cell-laying, the wax-spackling, plumbing, and pigmentation took a few months at most, giving rise to nothing more or less perfect than a leaf. There are about as many leaves on one tree as there are hairs on your head. It’s really impressive.” It’s a miracle. We just have to notice it.
This happens to me all….of…..the……time. I often joke that it’s my great liberal arts education that can connect anything to anything, but I think it’s more than that.
There’s a possible explanation in Mark 4:33-34. “With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.”
Have you ever experienced one of these miracles yourself? Just when you needed that advice, that reminder, that metaphor, that parable, it showed up in your inbox. You saw it on a friend’s facebook wall? You read it in a novel? You heard it on the radio? You saw it on a hike? Ahh, I love hiking.
This happened to me after my awfully passionate,“enthusiasm comes across as inauthentic” feedback. I wallowed in it for a while. I tried to not smile at anyone, for fear of making them uncomfortable with my friendliness. I even tried to not connect gratitudes with happiness, and failed pretty miserably.
God sent me a message though. When I say “God sent me a message” I actually mean a friend posted a facebook meme on their wall that reminded me that I am a learner, and passion for learning is as perfectly authentic as I can be.
The meme said, “Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” I didn’t know that people could be uncomfortable with my enthusiasm. I hadn’t contemplated that being a friend sometimes requires a calm presence. I wasn’t aware of differing views on the impact of a single lesson, a single conversation, a single celebration. I wasn’t ready to give up my passion in order to fit in. If I’m going to bloom where I’m planted, I probably needed to plant myself somewhere else. Ahhh, I love being ok with the outcome.
I am enthusiastically grateful to God for the stories and people and miracles planted in our lives each day.