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July 11, 2016, 12:00 AM

Small moments


I was driving down Chestnut Street yesterday and passed a young man (well, younger than I!) who was holding a sign that read: “Honk if you love Jesus!”

He flashed me a big smile when I honked my horn. And my whole mood changed. How silly, to stand out in the hot July sun with a sign. How wonderful, to proclaim his love for the Lord. How amazing that his sign could make my heart sing!

Our whole lives are made up of small moments. Phone calls. Emails. A hug in the Fellowship Hall. Laughing with a small child. Running through the rain. Small moments which have the potential to change life.

Remember the mathematician in the first Jurassic Park movie? There was a discussion about “chaos theory”. This is the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in one place could, through a series of effects on different systems, create a hurricane halfway around the world (the butterfly effect). Well, this is a very simplistic view of chaos theory, but basically there is an idea that some systems are very sensitive to small changes. Take, for example, the construction we’re enduring on I-85. One motorist who makes one small mistake can cause a backup that extends all the way past Oxford. A long line with hundreds of people who are now late. And what could be the consequences of some of those late arrivals? And so on, and so on.

If our whole lives are made up of small moments, then any one of those moments could change everything. Small acts of kindness, small efforts to reach out to others—even the small and silly act of holding up a sign on Chestnut Street—can change someone’s life.

Sometimes we can begin to feel, especially in this crazy, out-of-control world, as if our lives don’t matter. That’s a depressing thought! But we have to trust that our small words and acts are changing lives.

Remember the times that a clerk in a store noticed that you were tired and upset and took some extra time—or a stranger noticed that you were lost and gave you directions? Remember when the person you least expected came and visited when you were in the hospital?

Years ago, I had some major spinal surgery at Durham Regional Hospital, and spent about a week in the hospital recovering. I was the assistant head nurse in the Emergency Room at the time. Oddly enough, there was this one doctor—an older surgeon who was universally considered to be a strange and difficult man—who came every day and sat beside my bed and told jokes and listened to me ramble on about nothing. I was amazed and grateful. It was just pure kindness. Every person who has been kind to me has been a part of my work in ministry.

Mother Teresa said, “Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echoes are endless.” The prophet Isaiah said, “Blessed are they who sow beside every stream.” (Isaiah 32: 20). Every place we can sow a kind word, a listening ear, a visit to a hospital room—we just might change the world.

Perhaps you think this is frivolous, pie-in-the-sky talk after watching the news of events unfolding around the world this week. Violence is metastasizing in our nation like Stage 4 cancer. Perhaps you think this “kind words” stuff is insufficient to address the level of hatred we are seeing.

But small things can be transformational. Jesus himself described world-changing results from faith “as small as a mustard seed”. We all lead pretty small lives, really; I have to believe that my small impact has the potential for great significance.

So I encourage you to be on the lookout for opportunities to sow seeds of kindness and generosity wherever you go. And, at the same time, be aware of how small things are impacting your own soul. Step away from the web and the 24/7 Cable News and sit down with friends, or take a walk in the woods. Listen to the birds. Listen to your own heart.

Boris Pasternak wrote: “When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart, and it is very easy to miss it.”

Today, let us pray that great prayer, widely attributed to St. Francis:

             Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;

             Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

             Where there is injury, pardon;

             Where there is doubt, faith;

             Where there is despair, hope;

             Where there is darkness, light;

             And where there is sadness, joy.

 

             O Divine Master,

             Grant that I may not so much seek

             To be consoled as to console;

             To be understood, as to understand;

             To be loved, as to love;

             For it is in giving that we receive,

             It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

             And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

             AMEN.

 

See you in church!  We need you! ~Pastor Julia

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