One of my favorite songs from the Disney classic, Mary Poppins, is the song Mary sings to Michael Banks entitled, Feed the Birds. Mary is trying to communicate with Michael about the importance of taking care of others with the resources he has been given. In this song, Mary tells of a lady who is on the steps of St Paul’s who calls to people to purchase bags of seed to feed the birds. Michael has a few tuppences which his dad, a banker, is trying to convince him to place in a bank account. Mary gives an alternative option for at least some of Michael’s tuppence.
The main story line in the movie is about relationships. If you have read any of my other blog posts previously, you know that I often impress upon others the importance of relationships. I believe that the whole of Scripture is about relationships. All of Jesus’ ministry was about relationships. Maybe this is why the melodic song which Mary Poppins sings resonates so strongly with me. This song speaks of relationships and the importance of using what we have for the well-being of others.
Some of you are aware that I enjoy having many bird feeders in my backyard. It brings me pleasure to see the various types of birds who come by throughout the day to eat some of the seed which I place in the feeders. I also have hummingbird feeders which contain sugar water which I change every few days. It thrills me immensely when I get to see a hummingbird come and spend time at one of my two feeders. Every time that I fill those feeders I am reminded of the passage of Scripture where Jesus is telling his disciples not to worry about so many things. (See Matthew 6:25-34) He reminds them that the birds of the air do not labor for food and yet God feeds them. When I watch the birds eat from my feeders, I believe I am one of the ways in which God feeds the birds of the air.
This concept also translates well in regard to caring for other people. I think Mary Poppins was wanting to make this point also with Michael and his sister, who was listening in. A major theme throughout Scripture is the Lord’s desire for us to care for one another, especially those who struggle to care for themselves due to society, health, or other circumstances. We are called to care for the orphans, widows, hungry, sick, poor, outsider, and aliens. Jesus tells us that when we care for others, we are caring for him. (See Matthew 25:34-40). Mary’s song might easily be entitled, Feed the Others.
In the movie, Michael Banks takes the words of Mary Poppins to heart. May we all listen to her song and not only feed the birds but care for one another as well.
One of my favorite lines from the Dreamwork’s movie, Shrek, is “Ogres are like onions! We both have layers.” Shrek tells this to Donkey during one of the moments when Donkey is irritating Shrek, which actually often happens in the movie. I like this quote because I think it applies to humans as much as it does to any ogre.
Humans have layers and those layers increase as they go through life. Experiences create these layers. Some layers are good because they provide protection. At other times these layers are created to hide behind. Whatever the cause of the layer, if you really are going to know and understand someone, you have to peel away the layers. The top layer of a person is never truly who that person is at the core.
God is able to get beyond the layers. At various points in Scripture we hear about God seeing the core of who we are with the layers removed. The story of the choosing of David is one example of this. The psalmist says, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.” (Psalm 139:1, NIV) Jeremiah speaks of God in this way, “Yet you know me, Lord; you see me and test my thoughts about you.” (Jeremiah 12:3a) Clearly the Lord is able to go past all our layers which life helps us to form.
I think it is very important for us to first of all acknowledge that what we see in a person is only the top layer. Some individuals will not let you go past that top layer. But knowing that there is more to a person than what we can see, allows us to realize there is potential in every person which may lay under the surface. God saw this in David when Benjamin and Samuel could not. Taking this viewpoint makes it difficult for us to write someone off.
When we acknowledge the existence of layers, then we can make an effort to peel those layers back. This may be resisted because some of those layers contain the scars of being hurt when the person has been vulnerable. Scars are the attempt to cover over the damaged tissue and provide better protection in whatever area has been hurt. Just as the human body creates this protective layer, our mental defenses do the same when we have been emotionally or mentally abused. Providing a safe environment built on trust allows these layers to be opened.
So the next time you are quick to judge a person or to discredit them in any way, remember that humans are like onions, we both have layers. Use the eyes of God to see beyond the layers to the potential of the person which lies under them.
One of the realities of life is that there will always be critics. It does not matter what your line of work is, someone will always stand at the ready to evaluate your work and point out where improvement is needed. This can be positive if the evaluation is fair and the manner in which the critic communicates the areas of improvement is intended to build you up and not tear you down. The attitude and goal of the critic is key in measuring the beneficial nature of what is presented to you. Critics of both types surround each of us on a daily basis.
Not only in the work environment do critics exist, but they also exist in our everyday life away from the workplace. Someone is always ready to comment on anything we post on social media. Neighbors, family members, and friends give “helpful” advice to us even when we do not solicit such advice. A person can easily feel they are constantly being evaluated in regard to choices which are made and actions which are taken.
What sadly is the case is that oftentimes our critics point out what they view as our weaknesses but are inconsistent with their thought process in regard to what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Jesus encountered this often during his ministry and life. In fact, he calls such critics out in the Gospel of Luke: “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” (Luke 7:33-34, NIV) Here the critics are not as concerned about Jesus’ actions but concerned about what Jesus represents. They were opposed to his new way of understanding God, faith leadership, and how to interact with one another.
There are critics all around us. Sometimes these critics provide helpful insight to us so that we can improve and grow. Sometimes the views are consistent with caring and wanting to help one another. Other times these critics have the intention of tearing us down. They may see in us something which they dislike in themselves. They may not even care what we are saying or doing but instead dislike what we represent.
When you encounter someone who is critical of you, examine what attitude and intention they bring to the table. Discuss it with a trusted friend. Discuss it with the Lord. Remember most of all that you are a beloved child of God who was created in the image of your Creator.
There is not a person alive who has not made at least one mistake over the course of their life. Mistakes are a part of the human experience. How we react when we make a mistake is the most telling part of who we are as a person. The human instinct when a mistake has occurred is to attempt to cover up the mistake. We want an endless supply of white-out. Okay, I realize that many young people have no idea what that product even is anymore. Maybe a better illustration would be our desire to have a backspace key on the ready at all times. The point is that we hope that no one else notices the mistake, and we can eliminate the evidence as soon as possible.
Times occur when we cannot eliminate the evidence of our mistake. So we may attempt to justify the mistake or blame someone else for it happening. We want to reduce our responsibility for the mistake as much as we possibly can. The mistake does not go away, but we feel better about ourselves if we can become a much smaller player in whatever has led to the mistake in the first place.
We deal with some mistakes by trying to repress it. Our efforts are directed toward hiding the mistake. We may choose to not talk about it with anyone and if they bring up the mistake in conversation, we change the subject as quickly as possible. Putting the mistake out of our thoughts becomes the goal. Max Lucado once described this approach in this way, “That’s like walking around with a pebble in our shoe—it causes us so much frustration that our whole body compensates for its presence, when all we have to do is take it out and toss it away.”
Some mistakes in life are minor and have little impact on others or life in general. Other mistakes have a significant impact. The key is stepping up and being honest about mistakes which we make. We have to take ownership of the mistake and where necessary apologize and seek forgiveness. This approach does not cover up the mistake but it can be a tremendous step in correcting the mistake. Healing can take place once the mistake is out in the open. We are able to move forward without having to hold on to the mistake.
God is aware of the mistakes we make whether we are willing to own them or not. God does not need us to admit our mistakes. Yet, God knows that if we are to heal after making a mistake, we need to admit it. The Church has come to term this as confession. The terminology we use is not important but the act is very important. If we do not admit our mistake, then it is just as Lucado states, it is like a pebble in our shoe which brings us discomfort, pain, and endless frustration. The promise which God gives to us is that our mistakes are forgiven and forgotten. They are tossed away as Lucado suggests.
Making a mistake is human, admitting it and then letting it be thrown away is the correct response.