Monthly Archives: February 2013

Why Talk About The Weather?

Winterloghm, cropped“Can you believe it? Last Monday it was fifty degrees; today it’s minus fifteen.” Or, “Did you get much snow?” Or, “It was raining cats and dogs at our place!”

Weather is one of the first things people talk about after asking how we are. Why? Well, it’s one of the few things we all share in common. If it rains, it usually rains all over town. If the thermometer goes down to minus twenty, we all feel the chill. Weather affects all of us—even in our climate-controlled homes. Comments about the weather enable us to meet others on common ground. They show we share a common humanity.

And since we all share weather, stories about torrents of rain in Vancouver, tornadoes in the Mid-west, or minus 40 degrees in Whitehorse arouse empathy. After all it could have been us whose roof blew off. We feel compassion for those who suffer the ill effects of extreme weather.

Why talk about weather? It’s a safe topic. A discussion of religion or politics might raise our blood pressure. But who’s going to disagree when we comment on the seesaw nature of our winter weather. Of course, if we get into global warming, the discussion may heat up. If we start with weather in our conversations, we can ease into more serious matters later.

Why weather? We can usually complain about it without being thought of as a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnegative person. Of course, there are always those perennially cheerful people who would have found a silver lining in the forty days rain in Noah’s time. No, really, don’t we all need a little harmless outlet for our frustrations? The weather just is. It doesn’t have a voice. It can’t fight back or complain to our therapist. Now, if we start moaning about bunions, aching backs, creaking knees, acid reflux or any of the myriad ailments most of us struggle with, we’ll be branded with a scarlet ‘H’. He or she is a hypochondriac. Horrors! Save me from wearing the scarlet letter.

Charles Warner, not Mark Twain, said, “Everybody talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.” Well, isn’t that good? Weather is substantially beyond the reach of human manipulation.

Now that is controversial. We are told that global warming has been caused by human irresponsibility which in turn has unleashed extreme weather. I agree that we ought to stop deforestation and commit our industries to ecological responsibility. But on a micro-level, where we live, there is very little we can do but plant trees and buy more environmentally friendly cars.

SunsetA little grumbling about the weather probably doesn’t hurt us as long as we maintain an overview like that of John Ruskin. “Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of weather.” And above all, let’s remember, God sends the rain. (See Matthew 5:45.)

How Attitudes Moderate or Intensify Suffering – #5 in a series

Much as we would prefer it, no one can pass through this life without encountering trials of one kind or another. Job loss. Accidents. Disease. Rejection. “Man is boStormrn to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward”(Job 5:7). However, the attitudes with which we face troubles will profoundly affect our ability to cope victoriously; either intensifying or moderating our anguish.

Alice and Elsie and Marci, not their real names, routinely intensify their own pain. Alice wallows in unhappiness while blaming her employer and the government for the misfortunes in her life. A cheerful greeting to Elsie triggers a recitation of grievances that reflect her bitterness and anger. Marci not only looks sad and troubled, she is.

The attitudes of these three intensify their emotional distress. Consequently, they will endure greater pain than that of others who tackle life with an uplifting outlook. Their corrosive emotions may even affect their physical health. For our own wellbeing, as well as to glorify God, we need to get rid of dark and hurtful emotions such as: sadness, worry, doubt, discouragement, fear, envy, hopelessness, bitterness, wrath, discontent, wounded pridVarieties of flowerse, hatred, and the like.

The New Testament uniformly teaches that faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to his teaching delivers us from bondage to these emotions. (I’m not denying that in some cases there are physical causes for depression.)

This does not mean we should cover up our anguish. The Psalms of lament show us the pattern of David. “My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord…all night long I flood my bed with weeping”(Ps 6:3,6). “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?”(Ps. 13:1). But notice that David brought his pain to God and underlying that pain was faith. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (Ps. 13:5).

A huge part of the Christian process of sanctification involves replacing dark attitudes with those that are uplifting. This process doesn’t happen overnight. But the apostle Paul explained that through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, the transformation is certain. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control;” the very emotions that moderate suffering.

According to Jesus, happy are they who have the right attitudes. (See Matthew 5:3-12.) He taught his disciples, “Do not worry” (Matt. 6:31); “Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me”(John 14:1).

There isn’t room in this article to touch on the power of prayer, the transforming effect of thankfulness, and the uplifting outcome of worship and praise. And surely, I don’t need to mention that we engage in these activities not for therapeutic reasons, but because we have touched the hem of the Infinite, we have been transformed by the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The positive effect—joy—is incidental to the reality of salvation, but very real.

RainbowI have no doubt whatever that the Christian faith has contributed infinitely more than we can imagine to human health, social wellbeing, and international harmony. How do I know this? I know it from the teaching of the Bible, observation of others, my own experience, and the testimony of myriad Christians, some of whom suffer indescribable persecution.

Do you have doubts that Christian attitudes moderate suffering? “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” Or as Jesus said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17).

In a later blog, I’ll write about the role of encouragers in helping those who face trials.

Disguising Problems

???????????????????????????????Overnight an inch or two of snow fell, covering everything with a glistening white blanket. Yesterday, the landscape was brown and drab. Every discarded beer can along the roadway was visible, today all is hidden.

Snow hides ugliness whether it be a rusting tractor, garbage along a country road, an abandoned factory, or the toxic tailings from an old mine. Then the temperature rises. Ugliness rises again to blight the landscape.
As humans we are adept at disguising reality. We decorate the surface of our persons with facelifts, hair transplants, and designer clothing. Companies fund research facilities to find new ways to improve our appearance. We borrow to buy upscale cars and upscale homes so we can pretend to be one of the hoi paloi.

Ingrained in our societies is the drive to camouflage reality. We disguise our OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfrightening debt beneath a mumbo-jumbo of terminology. We blame others for our own choices— our parents and our government. We order research studies and Royal Commissions. We appoint committees to come up with solutions. But the root problems remain: selfishness, addiction, irresponsibility, dishonesty, evil within the heart of mankind. What we need is what happened during the Reformation and the Evangelical Revivals.

Jeremiah knew that you can’t paper over a national problem with platitudes, by crying, ” peace, peace, when there is no peace.” (See Jer. 6:14) Ezekieh realized that humans cannot be mended until God does radical surgery. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ez. 36:26).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Jesus explained to Nicodemus, “You must be born again”(John 3:7). Only the redeeming influence of the Holy Spirit who applies the blood of Christ to the inner fountains of our motivation can make us new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor.5:17)! It is these new men and women as they gradually become kind, thoughtful, loving, forgiving, patient and creative citizens who contribute to renewed societies.

I’m not saying that Christian conversion solves all problems. But expecting honest politicians and athletes and business people to just morph from the raw material of humanity is wishful thinking. The main problems of societies are moral and motivational. Convincing people about the transforming power of the gospel is the best way to contribute to good communities.