Friday, September 14, 2007


In everything do to others as you would have them do to you. (Matthew 7:12) Forgive, if you have anything against anyone. (Mark 11:25) Love your neighbour as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbour. (Romans 13:9,10)

We urge you... to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 1:1-2) Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5)

Be angry but do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your anger. (Ephesians 4:26)

No one should wrong or exploit a brother or sister... For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another. (1 Thessalonians 4:6,7,9)

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness. (Micah 6:8)

And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples. (John 13:34,35)

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called - that you might inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9)

We were created by God to enjoy him, appreciate our own and others' uniqueness, and to grow in community, or fellowship with others.

In the brilliant film Kramer vs. Kramer the divorced father has to explain to his five-year-old son that he's just lost the custody battle between himself and the boy's mother. Soon the child will be going to live with her. The little boy sobs out what for him are questions of ultimate concern: 'Where will I sleep? Where will I put my toys? Why can't I stay with you too?'

The movie is about three people. Two grown-ups - a man and a woman - have needs that aren't being met by the other. Their little boy, therefore, has to have his life messed up too. Where does such a vicious circle begin? Why is it not possible for humans to live together without conflict? What can we do to stop the chain reaction of grief being handed on to another generation?

Oscar Wilde believed that 'other people are quite dreadful; the only possible society is oneself.' Wrong, Oscar, and sad. (There is more wisdom in something else he said: 'In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.') How can we get along with those we live with?

You begin by knowing who the real 'me' is. If you don't like yourself you won't enjoy living with others either. When I ask people in counseling 'What do you like about yourself?' I often get a 'nothing' response. Some of us avoid responsibility for our behaviour with the excuse 'Well, nobody's perfect.' True, but you don't have to opt out of growing; nor do you have to live with the negative self-fulfilling prophecies you or others have heaped on yourself. At the deepest level your identity, your perception of who you are, has derived from what others have communicated to you about you. It's on the esteem of others that you base your own self-esteem. With the help of a caring friend, learn to accept yourself. You are an unrepeatable miracle of God's creation. If you want to get along with others, you had better start with the person inside your own skin!

Then, affirm the uniqueness of others. They, too, are who they are as a result of the mix of verbal inputs into their lives by significant others, plus the accidents of life they have experienced, plus their own success or otherwise in determining to become a whole person. The Christian approach here is simple, and it works: pray to your and their Creator God for a gift of love: to view the other as one precious to God and made in his image. You can't pray this prayer sincerely for too long without beginning to appreciate the other!

Then, let's be lovingly honest with one another. One of the great middle-class sicknesses of our time is affability. We are so nice to each other it's sickening. We play games to cover our true feelings. Rather than 'walking in the light' we leave one another to stumble in the darkness about who we are and they are. But then, if we cannot 'speak the truth in love' without the risk of creating greater hurt rather than healing, we might have to (a) learn 'win-win' conflict resolution skills, and/or (b) follow the advice on my desk calendar the other day: 'Never miss an opportunity to make others happy, even if you have to leave them alone to do it.' (Marcel Proust once said, 'The one thing more difficult than following a regimen is not imposing it on others').

We exist in homes, families, communities, to 'care' for each other, as well as being cared for by others. However, 'care' has ambiguous connotations, as Henri Nouwen has pointed out. For example, when a Mafia boss tells his henchmen to 'go take care of somebody' that somebody had better watch out. He is about to be made an offer he can't refuse! Actually, our English word 'care' goes back to a Gothic root, kara, meaning to 'lament, weep with, grieve'. So caring should mean we become aware of the other in ways that stir deep feelings, and out of these feelings resolve is born to care for them in appropriate ways. This means breaking out of the circle of selfishness and making our lives a resource to others.

This is the meaning of the Good Samaritan story. Every 'good Samaritan' says to the other: 'What happens to you makes a difference to me.' Just as God makes an unconditional covenant to commit himself to us no matter what happens, so we forgive 'seventy times seven' and serve the other, even if we are not thanked, or such labours are not returned. This is authentic caring.

Again, let us take a journey back to the first few chapters of Genesis. There's a wonderful story about God's desiring communion with the creature man/woman he had made. When Adam sinned, that fellowship was broken. God arrived in the garden for their usual fellowship-time, but Adam was hiding. The 'Fall' was a fall from fellowship, not only between us and God, but between humans themselves. Cain killed his brother Abel, and we've had to work very hard to maintain fellowship, particularly where our fallenness has led us to create barriers between persons and groups. And yet, though God in the Old Testament is characteristically sovereign, and holy, in his 'apartness' from sinners, his statement to Moses - 'I will be with you' (Exodus 3:12) - indicates his desire to commune with his covenant people. The Divine Presence within Israel was symbolized in the ark, the cloud, the guiding angel, and later in the Jerusalem Temple. But, as Psalm 23 tells us, he feeds us, cares for us, protects us, guides us and encourages us.

In the New Testament the Greek noun koinonia simply means 'sharing', and is translated variously as 'communion', 'communication', 'community', 'fellowship', 'partaking', 'contribution', etc. An ancient inscription put up by a husband in memory of his wife said: 'I shared all life with you, alone'. Thus 'fellowship' in New Testament usage is the sharing of something with others in a community, not merely the act of associating with them. The outpoured Spirit had created a community that broke through the barriers of language, culture, race, sex - even possessions (see Acts 2:42, 4:32, 35, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).

This new joy, and mutual love, emanated not from a Divine mandate, but from their high conception of being 'in fellowship'. It was nothing short of a miracle! These early Christians experienced a sense of oneness, unity, togetherness, unlike anything they had known before. People didn't just associate with a few 'cronies': Jesus said tax-collectors and other disreputable people did that. The foundation of koinonia is nothing less than the Incarnation: Jesus sharing his life with us.

Again, we repeat: the Christian good news is about God's acceptance of us even before we change. He loves us unconditionally. This was essentially the difference between Jesus and the pharisees. Jesus 'accepted', loved people before they had changed, he loved them into change; the pharisees rejected people who were alien, sinners, until they had changed and mended their ways. With Jesus, acceptance preceded repentance, with the pharisees it was the other way around. So we are to accept one another, as God accepts us - as people who are made in his image, who are like him! (Romans 5:6-8, 15:7). This does not mean we ignore or gloss over others' mistakes or sins: it does mean we will recognize their Godlikeness before we barge in to 'fix' things. Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery 'I do not condemn you' before he said 'Go and sin no more' (John 8:11). Jesus understood others. Two proverbs express it well: To understand all is to forgive all; if you can understand the other person you can stand them.

We'll all meet difficult people from time to time. Jesus did. He didn't get along with everybody. He condemned injustice and godlessness and if you're going to do that you're going to get crucified by the unjust and the godless. If we are 'change agents', then we'll suffer at the hands of those who benefit by things staying the way they are. (But then, some of us want to change things because we ourselves are not at ease with ourselves.)

Many interpersonal conflicts result from our idealised picture of who the other should be. Others' incompleteness reminds us of our own. It's sometimes called 'transference' - transferring emotions to a person or situation which belong somewhere else. He married to escape a dominant mother, so when his wife 'nags' and reminds him of a bitter past, he over-reacts. She's trying to make him like her father, who was so helpful around the house, and he does nothing.

Acceptance is helped by empathy. Empathy is 'the imaginative projection of one's personality into that of another person' - putting yourself into the other's shoes, listening deeply with mind, heart and soul. It's not sympathy, which can sometimes be a selfish emotion, where you're hooked because of some unresolved emotional conflict in your own life. And it's the opposite of antipathy, where you judge the other for not measuring up to what you want them to be.

And after all, what do we mean by a 'difficult person'? Who of us is not abnormal in some sense? Who decides what is normal, who is difficult? Maybe schizophrenics are sometimes the sane ones! Perhaps we have to work harder at dealing with the log in our own eye, before we take splinters out of others' eyes!

The church is meant to be a therapeutic or 'salvific' community, a community of people-helpers. But to be a people-helper, one must be committed to one's own growth - physical, intellectual, social- emotional, and spiritual. It is a community of people who practise faith, hope and love: faith that people are loved already in spite of their crabbiness; hope that with patience and acceptance we and others can grow and change; love which covers a multitude of faults and we desire only the good of others. The challenge is to see Jesus in others, and practise 'being Christ' to others. And that's tough work: overcoming prejudices is the hardest work of all!

Mary Claerout, in her book Friday She Gave Him Flowers, tells the story of Willings, a confirmed bachelor. Every Friday his maid would put flowers on his breakfast table. The white roses on the table must have cost her a fortune, so he imagined 'she must simply adore me,' As he sat back and contemplated the flowers, a warm feeling swept through him. He thought, 'The woman is a blessing; if only she weren't so ugly.'

He thought about himself. He was a lady's man. He had himself. As a boy he loathed looking at his peer group with pimples and acne and blackheads. He abhorred their wrinkles and warts. His stomach turned over when he saw hair growing out of noses and ears. He could hardly bear to look at others' mouths. All his life he had seen only one flawless mouth, his own. He enjoyed himself, being alone... He decided to thank Emily for the flowers and called her in.

She said, 'Oh, it's nothing to speak of really Mr Willings. It's just that I feel so sorry for the flowers. Hardly used they are, when the undertaker puts them out for Friday's rubbish collection. So I always pick a few out when I go by. I wouldn't want them at home, you know, seeing where they come from. That's why I put them in your vase. I mean, it's not your own choosing that you are all alone and don't have any friends. At least you should have a few flowers.'

From what I have learned in my own marriage, and seen in others, there are not many questions more important than this: 'Am I willing to train myself away from selfishness toward the point where I honestly care how the other person feels?'

Charlie W. Shedd, Letters to Philip on how to treat a Woman, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1968, p. 19 [43]

If you share your bread in fear, mistrustfully, undaringly, in a trice your bread will fail. Try sharing it without looking ahead, not thinking of the cost, unstintingly, like a child of the Lord of all the harvests in the world.

Dom Helder Camara, A Thousand Reasons for Living, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1984, p.98 [41]

A famous English preacher named Alexander Whyte was very disturbed one night because his closest friend was at the point of death. Whyte was praying earnestly to God that this man might be spared when suddenly a Voice said to him, 'How serious are you about this one's survival? Would you be willing to divide with him the number of years you have left to live upon this earth?' With that, Whyte reports getting up off his knees in a cold sweat for suddenly intercession had become more than a matter of words. Now it was the precious substance of his own life that was at stake. He pondered this question very deliberately for a while and dropped back to his knees and said, 'Yes! I hereby relinquish half of the time I have left, if this will enable my friend to survive.' He got up with no idea what the ultimate outcome of this agreement would be... Here I am with a given pool of physical and emotional and psychic vitality. How will I spend it? How much of it will I keep for myself and how much of it will I make available to others?

John Claypool, from an unpublished sermon, 'How Much of Yourself Will You Give?' [197]

Carl Sandburg talks about the 'zoo' inside each of us - there's a pig, and a lion, and a tiger, and a gentle deer. We have all kinds of feelings within us: we are responsible for some of them and not others. But although there is a zoo in me, I am keeper of that zoo!

For example, it is not wrong to be angry, but what you do with your anger could be very harmful. Jesus got angry sometimes. And if you want to get mad at me, that's O.K. I should pray for the maturity to handle our conflicts constructively. Just as friction between certain types of rocks produces sparks of light, so it is the friction of our individualities rubbing against each other that illuminates who we really are. There is a sense in which I do not really know you nor you me until we get to a point where we differ...

So the words 'ought' or 'should' mustn't generally be used in relation to feelings. Our feelings are like toothache - they're there - and no amount of exhorting will make a toothache or the feelings go away...

When you are more in touch with your own feelings, you'll be more compassionate with others. Here's Frederick Buechner's definition of compassion: 'The sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.'

True community is born from love that risks the sorrow of rejection for the love of acceptance. Community implies participation; participation implies action. True community means walking in the light, being open, and perhaps vulnerable with one another. Perfect love casts out fear. The root of war, Thomas Merton has taught us, is fear.

Rowland Croucher, from an unpublished sermon, 'Getting along with the people you live with.'

To Victor, who agrees with me in nothing and is my friend in everything.

Carlyle Marney's dedication at the beginning of his book Faith in Conflict. [14]

Some families readily express hostility and anger, but fail to express tenderness, love and appreciation. Other families appear to have unwritten rules that allow the expression of kindness, concern and positive feelings, but then suppress irritation and exasperation, shame, self-doubt and expressions of disagreement, dislike and requests for what one wants for oneself. Healthier families [are] able to express a wide range of feelings...

'Letting it all hang out' [is not recommended]. It is the range of feelings that can be expressed without attacking other members that seems to create human development and intimacy. It may be because the family members can modulate the intensity of their negative feelings that they are able to express whatever they wish. In fact, the modulation of intense feeling is one of the prerequisites of effective conflict management.

Moira Eastman, Family: The Vital Factor, Blackburn: Collins Dove, 1989, pp. 65-67 [132]

A generous mind does not consider itself as belonging to itself alone, but to the whole human race (Ulrich Zwingli). A friend adds to your joy, divides your burdens, multiplies your happiness (Anon). If two people doing a job agree all the time, then one is useless. If they disagree all the time, then both are useless (Darryl F. Zanuck). We are invited to be thermostats, not thermometers - affecting our environment, not merely reflecting it (Charles Hembree). We keep passing unseen through little moments of other people's lives (Robert T. Pirsig). I am part of all that I have met (Ulysses). If you wish to please people, you must begin by understanding them (Charles Reade). People must help one another: it is nature's law (Jean de la Fontaine). If you are gracious and courteous to strangers, you are a citizen of the world (Francis Bacon). If your Christianity is not contagious, it may be contaminated (Chester Johnson). I am as close to God as I am from the person from whom I am most divided (Anon.) The nobler your heart is, the more you will be inclined to make allowance for others (F W Robertson). Kindness is one thing you can't give away: it always comes back (Anon).

Desk calendar quotes

Christianity is a community event. As Christians we have always believed that the life of faith is not a private enterprise but a communal venture. Over the past several decades in the Church we have come to renewed awareness of this fact. One of the most significant efforts within the Church today is the movement of Christians to understand themselves as the people of God and to experience their relations with one another as a life together in community. We rejoice in this vision of Christian life, taking hope in its challenge to the formality and bureaucracy that can find their way into church structures. But, gradually, many of us have come to sense that this goal of life together as Christians is both a gift and a most difficult ambition.

The language of ministry today is filled with the vocabulary of mutuality: mutual support, shared decision-making, collegiality, and collaboration.

Evelyn Eaton Whitehead and James D. Whitehead, Community of Faith: Models and Strategies for Developing Christian Communities, New York: Seabury Press, 1982, p.xi. [151]

Christian community is... a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as [Christians] should not be constantly feeling [their] spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.

Christian [community] is not an ideal we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1954, p. 30. [122]

The gospel tells of the triumph of the personal in the silence of a technological world. The Word became flesh. The Word dwells among us. The metaphor of the personal is carried in the stories of Jesus again and again. The shepherd seeks for a lost sheep, a father looks for a lost son. Here is a parent who gives not a stone but a loaf of bread, not a serpent but a fish. Here five thousand sit down together to share a simple meal. Two men travel on a road and are joined by a third. In deep conversation they end their journey with the breaking of bread and what is hidden is revealed, what is a mystery penetrated with the joy and wonder of communion.

Denham Grierson, A People on the Way: Congregational Mission & Australian Culture, Melbourne: David Lovell Publishing, 1991, pp. 89-90. [127]

An Irish tenant farmer who died last century left a widow and three little children. This was before the days of social security. The man who owned the farm needed the house to get another field hand, and so this poor widow was literally turned out into the road with no resource whatsoever for herself and her family. She went to the nearest town and began to go from door to door explaining her plight and offering to do any work to provide for her children. However, person after person turned her away, saying, 'I have problems of my own. What happens to you is of no concern to me.' After four days of no food and sleeping out of doors in the park, the youngest child's body was weakened and she woke up with a burning fever. By noon all three of the children were sick, and before the sun went down this little neglected family was the centre of an epidemic of diphtheria that spread to the whole town. Only at that point did it become clear that this woman's plight was the concern of the larger community. Their failure to deal with the problem at one point in time meant they had to deal with it later in a worse form.

Source unknown

'Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad...'

One important rule for being happy and successful is - don't let things agitate you. This is vital... People get sick largely because they cannot control and discipline their minds...

Imagine that Jesus Christ is actually by your side. When you start worrying, stop and say: 'Lord, you are with me; everything is all right.' At night, before you turn out the light have a word with him and say, 'Lord, I'll not worry, for I know you are watching over me and will give me peace.'

Practise taking a detached attitude towards irritating things. Practise lifting your mind above the confusion and irritation around you. One way to do that is to hang pictures [of nature] on the walls of your mind and think about them habitually...

Robert Louis Stevenson made a wise statement: 'Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or in misfortune at their own private pace like the ticking of a clock during a thunderstorm.'

One of the surest methods for overcoming agitation is to put yourself in contact with the re-creative process of nature.

Norman Vincent Peale, 'How to Avoid Getting Upset' in A Guide to Confident Living, Kingswood, Surrey: The World's Work, 1955, pp. 128-142. [193]

An apology,

Is a friendship preserver, Is often a debt of honour, Is never a sign of weakness, Is an antidote for hatred, Costs nothing but one's pride, Always saves more than it costs, Is a device needed in every home.

Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because the one who forgives you - out of love - takes upon themselves the consequences of what you have done. Forgiveness, therefore, always entails sacrifice.

The price you must pay for your own liberation through another's sacrifice, is that you in turn must be willing to liberate in the same way, irrespective of the consequences to yourself.

Dag Hammarskjold, Markings, Faber, 1964, in Michael Hollings, Hearts Not Garments, London, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1982, p.82. [103]

When you stand praying, forgive.

If you are not getting answers to your prayers, check yourself very thoroughly and honestly as to whether you have resentments on your mind.

Spiritual power cannot pass through a personality where resentment exists. Hate is a non-conductor of spiritual energy.

I suggest that every time you pray you add this phrase, `Lord take from my thought all ill will, grudges, hates, jealousies'. Then practise casting these things from your thoughts.

Norman Vincent Peale, Thought Conditioners, New York: Foundation for Christian Living, p.24. [77]

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savour to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back - in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, London, Collins, 1973, p.2. [86]

According to the Bible, we are to love others as ourselves (Luke 10:27), and as God loves us (John 4:11). In other words, there is an intimate connection between our love for ourselves and our love and esteem for God and others. When we fail to love ourselves, all of our relationships suffer. We fail to love our mates, our children, or our neighbors properly. Think of your own life . Remember the last time you were feeling miserable and were angry with yourself, discouraged, or depressed? How did you relate to your mate, children, and friends at that time? Were you loving, sensitive, and kind? I doubt it. When we are uptight about ourselves, we are usually uptight with others. We take our frustrations out on them.

Bruce Narramore, You're Someone Special, Michigan: Zondervan, 1978, p.119. [125]

The past is, perhaps, not totally lost, but it is no longer ours; it is in the hands of God and is his business. It will be retrieved in the tota simul possessio of eternity, but should not be stored away on earth. As far as we are concerned, we must realize that we are like children, at the beginning, not the end, of a road. Whatever past achievements might bring us honour, whatever past disgraces might make us blush, all of these have been crucified with Christ; they exist no more except in the deep recesses of God's eternity, where good is enhanced into glory and evil miraculously established as part of the greater good.

John Garvey (Ed), Modern Spirituality, an Anthology, London, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1985, p.65. [116]

I was amused to read of the adjustments Paul and Nellie Tournier worked through in their first years of marriage. 'I'm an optimist and she's a pessimist,' Paul Tournier reported in Faith at Work magazine (April, 1972). 'She thinks of every difficulty, misfortune, and catastrophe that might happen, and I cannot promise her that such things will not happen. But God is neither optimist nor pessimist. The search for him leads one beyond his own personality and temperament to a path that is neither optimism nor pessimism.

'Little by little I have learned that God speaks to everybody - men and women, adults and children, blacks and whites, the rich and the poor. To discover the will of God, you must listen to him in everyone. Of course, I prefer to have God speak directly to me, rather than through my wife, and yet in truly seeking his will I must be persuaded that he speaks as much through her as through me; to her as much as to me.'

Quoted in Philip Yancey, 'Marriage: Minefields on the Way to Paradise', Chrisianity Today, February 18, 1977, p. 27. [168]

Abba Theodotus said, `Do not judge a fornicator if you are chaste, otherwise you will be transgressing the law too. For he who said, "Do not fornicate", also said, "Do not judge".'

We are all, equally, privileged but not unentitled beggars before the door of God's mercy.

John Garvey (Ed), Modern Spirituality, an Anthology, London, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1985, p. 67. [47]

In the Ravensbruck Nazi concentration camp - where an estimated 92,000 men, women and children were murdered - a piece of wrapping paper was found near the body of a dead child. On the paper was written this prayer:

O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not only remember the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember the fruits we bought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this. And when they come to judgement, let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.

Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, Kent: Hodder and Stoughton, 1992. p.238 [113]

Why do we look a the speck in someone else's eye but ignore the log in our own? The measure we use for others, God will use for us.

If we do not judge others, God will not judge us; if we do not condemn others, God will not condemn us; if we forgive, God forgives us even more; so let us give, and God will give to us a full measure, a generous helping, poured into our hands, more than we can hold.

The measure we use for others, God will use for us.

Jesus, you are the giver and the gift.

A New Zealand Prayer Book, Auckland: Collins, 1989, p.131. [103]

Accompany me to-day, O Spirit invisible, in all my goings, but stay with me also when I am in my own home and among my kindred. Forbid that I should fail to show to those nearest to me the sympathy and consideration which thy grace enables me to show to others with whom I have to do. Forbid that I should refuse to my own household the courtesy and politeness which I think proper to show to strangers. Let charity to-day begin at home.

John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer, London: OUP, 1936, p.89. [86]

Jesus, friend of sinners, you call us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, and pray for those who treat us badly.

Jesus, reconciler, when someone slaps us on the cheek, you call us to offer the other; when someone takes our coat, you bid us give our shirt as well; when someone takes what is ours, we may not demand it back.

Jesus, Son of God, our friend and brother, when we love our enemies and do good we are children of God, who is kind to the wicked and ungrateful.

Jesus, teacher without peer, you have turned the world upside down.

A New Zealand Prayer Book
, Auckland: Collins, 1989, pp.121-122. [114]

Lord, we come before you, not alone, but in the company of one another.
We share our happiness with each other - and it becomes greater.
We share our troubles with each other - and they become smaller.
We share one another's griefs and burdens - and their weight becomes possible to heal.
May we never be too mean to give, nor too proud to receive.
For in giving and receiving we learn to love and be loved; We encounter the meaning of life, the mystery of existence -
and discover you.

Terry C. Falla, Be Our Freedom Lord, Adelaide: Lutheran Publishing House, 1981, p.158. [88]

Lord Jesus, we hold our families before you; we are ashamed because so many of them are broken or are about to break. How foolish we must look in your sight as we express ourselves so harshly to one another! Lord, forgive us, and help us to make the necessary repairs on our families. We know that we cannot do much by ourselves, we need the help of your Holy Spirit. So please bring his power into our hearts. And, O Holy Spirit of Christ, work mightily among those who have heard the gospel again, and bring many of them to faith.

God the Father, look with your compassion and pity upon those who are living within families in which there is much tension and suffering. Use the message of your grace to help those who are discouraged, and enable them to see that through your power there is hope that their families can become good places to live.

We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

'A Good Place to Live', The Radio Pulpit (publisher and date unknown). [167]

O God the Father, good beyond all that is good, fair beyond all that is fair, in whom is calmness, peace and harmony; make up the divisions which keep us apart and bring us back into a unity of love which may bear some likeness to your divine nature. And as you are above all things make us one by the unity of a good mind, that through charity and affection we may be spiritually one, through that peace of yours which makes all things peaceful, and through the grace, mercy and tenderness of your Son, Jesus Christ.

Dionysius, cited in Praying with the Saints, Dublin: Veritas Publications, 1989, p.37. [98]

Lord, speak to me, that I may speak in living echoes of your tone; as you have sought, so let me seek your erring children... Freely I have received, may I freely give.

Help me to remember that a cancerous cell expects the rest of the body to nourish it: may I nourish others, and contribute to their well-being, without being concerned too much about any reciprocity.

In relating to others, help me to adjust to them sometimes, to be flexible when I ought to adapt to them; to be courageous when I am called upon to do or say something difficult to help another; to live in hope, that little by little I can have a part in the ongoing process of the divine redemption of the human race.

Reveal your gifts to me, and the limits of my abilities. I can't do everything to help everyone, but I can do something to help someone. Give me, please, wisdom to know how to help without getting all messed up; and how to help without messing others up.

Thank you Lord. Amen.

A Benediction

May God grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Rowland Croucher

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