When I think about John Larson, I smile. He was my mom’s dad. He had a challenging immigrant’s life. He cleared land. He lost a wife. He married her sister, they had four daughters, they were married sixty-some years, they died the same day.
He was the township treasurer for years, he took care of property for the lake cottage people down the road. He smiled little smiles, He stood up to some legalism. He loved his family.
When I let myself stop and think about him, I can hear his voice. I can see his strength as he started the chain saw in his early 80s, working harder than I could in my early teens, harder than my dad could in his late 40s. I can see him napping after lunch every day.
And I smile. I’m inspired, of course, and I’m a little guilty that he did so much with so little. But I smile in respect and appreciation.
It’s what we need to do more of. Appreciate. We can critique, ourselves and others. We can scold, we can thank, we can do lots of things. (And we do them all the time on-line.) But to offer specific appreciation, that’s not something we do.
Paul appreciated Philemon, the one that Paul wrote the letter called “Philemon”.
He was probably a successful businessman, probably living in Colossae (a town in modern Turkey). He had a house that was spacious for a church of about 50 or so to meet in the courtyard of the house. Many of those who met together were part of his household, family, servants, slaves. All classes of people were part of the early church, all attending together.
What Paul appreciated about Philemon was his generous heart. When Paul thinks about Philemon, I’m guessing there’s a grin when he says, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.”
When you grin, your face relaxes. Your heart relaxes.
Seriously. That’s what the research says about smiling when you are in the middle of exertion like running hard.
In another letter, Paul writes, “Whatever things are true and noble . . . think about these things.” I’m guessing that in addition to all the nice thoughts Paul may have wanted us to think, Paul would also tell us that we can think about people.
Like Philemon. Like John Larson.
And we can expect to smile.