During my childhood in times of distress, illness, worry, or just general agitation I could count on two things from my mother — a warm washcloth to the face and a steaming cup of tea with cream and sugar.
You have your stuff. I have mine.
To this day my blood pressure lowers a dozen notches when I see and smell that blessed concoction. Its powers are supernatural.
I am doubling down on its consumption both yesterday and today. As a consequence, very little sleep was had last night while thoughts and scenes from the TV news raced in circles until finally melting together for an unsettled couple of hours somewhere between midnight and 2:00. And so it goes. I’ve had my first cup of the day already.
Using my two hours of sleep wisely, I had a dream about my ninth grade Civics teacher, Mr. Wall, and how disappointed he was in us about this mess we’ve created. When I woke up I was glad he’s probably long gone from us and doesn’t know what transpired in this exquisitely designed country. Also, if I remember him even a little bit, he would be the first to say that the United States doesn’t have a corner on the market of worthiness around the world — his job was to teach us how the place worked.
It’s not exactly working that way.
Predictably, the vitriol on social media began its bitter crawl in almost perfect sync with the scaling of the Capitol building walls and flamed into fury well past the Washington D.C. overnight curfew. Okay. So that’s our 1st amendment in action I suppose. There’s probably a study out there somewhere documenting how much or how little a person’s viewpoint is changed by social media finger wagging and soapbox preaching but I am not aware of its existence. I might venture a guess though as to its conclusions.
I for one dig my heels in harder if you yell at me. It’s possible I learned this habit from my stubborn dog, but she may have learned it from me. It’s a terrier thing.
Now comes the crux of it. I call myself Christian. And so I follow Jesus who, if you are familiar with New Testament teachings, never taught that we must not feel anger. He did, however, give us specific instructions about the management, control, and exhibition of that emotion. (Here’s where I start to make that squinchy face as I’m thinking over familiar scriptures and applying them to my spirited feelings: “Oh, I reeeeealy would like to say this and that and get such-and-such off my chest, but I know discretion would be better. Ugh.”)
I’ve walked with Him a long time. He knows me and I endeavor to know Him more as I age. He is not asking the impossible, only that in my speech and actions I acknowledge the sovereignty of God as He is active in the intricacies of mankind, continue to offer a cup of cold water in His name, and keep my blessed mouth shut on most occasions.
So I’m doing that. Or trying my best. At least the dog will never tell.
Before I go, maybe you will find it as captivating as I have in my close examination of Paul’s letter to the Philippians (and to me) about our demeanor in troubling, distressful situations. Paul was not a “milk toast” kind of guy which I appreciate. Far from it. He did not paste a sappy smile on his face and let situations slide and he did not preach such an attitude to the Jesus followers of his day. Here’s what he did say though. I’ve given it to you in several translations. They’re all poignant as they speak to the hurting hearts of all of us when we are trapped between using the same types of caustic verbage the world spews and what we know to be a better way. It does not lessen our message. It adds glorious strength.
Philippians 4:5 NIV
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Philippians 4:5 NASB
Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near.
Philippians 4:5 ESV
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.
Philippians 4:5 KJV
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
Philippians 4:5 MSG
Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!
How can we argue with that? I know I can’t. The Lord is near. Celebrate God. The Master is about to arrive.
Remember a TV show from back in the 90s called NYPD Blue? It wasn’t the gentlest, that’s for sure, but there was a bristly old sergeant who did the morning roll call in the precinct, always ending with at least a nod to concern for his officers — “Let’s be careful out there.”
And grab a hot cup of tea with cream and sugar while you’re at it. I’m not kidding. It does wonders.
P.S. The word “milquetoast” came from a character named Caspar Milquetoast created by U.S. cartoonist H.T. Webster for his comic strip “The Timid Soul” which ran starting in 1924 in the New York World and the Herald Tribune. By 1930 the name was being referenced as a type of meek, timid man. Ha! Who knew.