Kindness

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August 6

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

One of the by-products of the pandemic we are going through has been loneliness. Being cooped up, isolated, sequestered, quarantined, or just plain fearful of being around people has led to many feeling alone. There is a hankering for human interaction, but it is often slow in forthcoming. Already lonely people are even lonelier. Many have become hermits, fearful of their own shadows. Many, sadly, think they need no one else; while in truth, we desperately need other people.

Chuck Swindoll once wrote about meeting a former Marine who was converted after his discharge. This Marine was the picture of a typical Marine-touch, cussed loudly, drank heavily, chased women, and had no need for Christians or the church. When he saw Chuck he said the thing he missed was the times at the tavern when he and his buddies would sit around a pitcher of beer and laugh, joke, and let their hair down (as if a Marine could do that).  🙂  On another occasion he also wrote a quote from someone who said, “The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church.” (Dropping Your Guard-p.128)  {Note: please know I am NOT recommending someone go to a local bar or tavern for fellowship}.

What that Marine, of course, was talking about was his need for fellowship. A place he could laugh, cry, and be accepted. And that is why this pandemic has brought about so much loneliness. We have no one. Phones and computers and texting is not enough. We need face-to-face, in person contact.

How about you?  Are you isolated? Are you alone? Get outside. Find someone else who may be alone, or feeling alone. There are safe ways to make that happen if you are concerned about that.  People need people whether we realize it or not.

“Father, you are my refuge, my safe place. But sometimes we just need someone with skin. We are all made for others. Help me to search out those who are lonely and see how I can help.”

May 29

Friday, May 29th, 2020

I always have mixed emotions. I struggle between compassion and hard-heartedness. You don’t find them in our little town because we don’t have an intersection going to an interstate. Or coming off one. People who panhandle. They have signs designed to catch your attention and tug at your heartstrings. Are they really in sorry shape or are they playin’ ya? As the pastor of a church we get calls for help. One guy called and he was staying at McCormick’s Creek State Park’s Canyon Inn. Expensive, even in off-season. He said his car broke down and he was having to stay the night and would we help him by paying for his room for another night? We have a much cheaper-priced hotel in town.  Aaaahhhh No.  About a week later the same voice called asking for gas for his moped to get to work. $25? I asked him if he called last week because I recognized his voice. It was the only honest thing he said. Answer: No again. Awhile back Jo & I were on our way to Ohio and stopped for gas. A guy was sitting at a pump and asked if I had money for gas. First mistake: I should have offered to pay for gas. Second mistake: giving him money for gas. He got in his car and drove away without getting gas. (Smack my head). Ironically, we were driving the interstate and maybe 20-25 miles later and guess who was in the middle with his hood up?

I’m torn because the Bible talks about helping others. About entertaining angels unawares. It tells me to give without expecting anything back. So I struggle with helping or turning my head or just saying no. Stats show many of the panhandlers work together and shuffle around and do rather well. We shouldn’t give to get; we should give to be rewarded; we shouldn’t give to get on God’s good side.

What about you? What do you do? What do you think?

“Father, give me wisdom and discernment to know if I’m being snookered or truly helping someone in need. Help me not to become jaded to helping others.”

May 1

Friday, May 1st, 2020

WOW! May 1 already! Time flies when you are having fun. Okay…onto the devotion.

I wish it wasn’t true. But it is. I’ve seen it. Been a victim of it. You’d think it would be limited to those outside Christ, to those outside the church, but it’s not. I was reminded of it today. Here’s what I’m talking about.  It is in this statement:

THE CHURCH IS THE ONLY ARMY THAT SHOOTS ITS OWN WOUNDED.

One of the characteristics of the Marines is “No man left behind.” Too bad many churches don’t have that philosophy. It would change our whole idea of target practice. Instead of shooting at our wounded our focus would be on our real enemies: gossip, division, jealousy, envy, vindictive speech, dissension, judgmentalism, and other sins which seem to get a free pass. But let someone stumble! Then it almost appears to be an all out feeding frenzy.

David knew that. Take a moment and read Psalm 109. Just the first 5 verses give you a glimpse of his predicament. But to get an even deeper description check out verses 16-20. What a sad psalm as David laments his treatment. Was David perfect? Of course not. But he was the victim of vicious attacks.

People need encouragement not attacks. Even if they have sinned royally. Do they need to repent? Yes! But that is God’s department. He did not make me judge, jury, and executioner.

“Father, may I be an encourager not a judge.  Help me to remember a hurting person needs a helping hand not an accusing finger.”

 

March 26

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

Years ago I remember reading the story of Kitty Genovese. (I can’t remember the name of the book but the author was Fritz Ridenour.  It was a book on evangelism. I also remember he used the story in John 4 to show how Jesus did evangelism with the woman at the well and how it served as a good example for us). Okay…back to Kitty. 🙂 Anyway, Kitty was brutally knifed, raped and murdered outside her apartment one evening. I googled it this morning and recent updates say she was knifed 13 times and no one lifted a finger to help or even call the police.  As an aside, her story helped institute 9-1-1 and also what was called The Bystander Effect.

That kind of apathy and “unfeelingness” stuns us. It should stun those who talk about the goodness of man and how we are all basically good inside. I simply cannot fathom that no one came forward to rescue her, to help her or to even call.

Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is beaten, left for dead and two religious people walk on by as though they see nothing. It took a foreigner- a Samaritan- to stop, bind his wounds and take him to a hostel where he could recover. Jesus’ teaching was easy to see-for them and for us. What I need to ask myself, what you need to ask yourself, is who will I choose to be in that story? We live in a time where so many are living in fear and panic.  So let me issue this challenge: instead of asking yourself who will I choose to be, why not BE the answer! Why not ask God how you can BE someone’s answer?  Pray for God to lead you to someone-especially in this time of fear-who could use your help. Instead of being a need; why not meet a need? And yes, I know we are to take precautions. And we should. There are other ways-creative ways-we can help reach someone’s need. 

“Father, you have not asked me to sit idly by or to pass by on the other side. You have given me the challenge to be an answer. Lead me to someone whom I can help.”

March 4

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

All of us want and need someone to care about us. Without exception. Oh, I know there are people who say they don’t need anyone else.  I want to say to them “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” And I know there are those who pretend to be “hard” and try to push people away, but they aren’t kidding anyone. We all need and want someone to care. Our world is filled with people who go through life feeling hopeless, abandoned, empty, and lost.

Sadly, just as there are many who go through life feeling that way, there are those- many who call themselves followers of Jesus- who basically say, “I don’t care.”  They have cocooned themselves in a cloak that says, “My world” and have tried to shut themselves out from others.They give off the air of “I don’t care” and “Don’t bother me.”

That philosophy goes against the very teachings of Jesus in Matthew 25 when Jesus talks about the sheep and the goats and who would inherit the kingdom. Our response to those who are hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and in prison will go a long way in determining if we are a sheep or a  goat. Will we, as followers of Christ, reach out or hunker down?

I recently read that Stephen Foster, the writer of “O Susanna” and “Camptown Races”-songs that made the world sing- died at the age of 36 as a derelict in a 25-cents-a-night flophouse, looking twice his age. I can’t help but wonder what got him there? How does someone with so much going for him/her end up lost and hopeless, a slave to drink? Then I ask myself did no one care?  Did no one reach out?  (I can’t answer that honestly because I don’t know).  It might be easy to say, “Alcohol did it” and that may be true. But what drove him to the alcohol? Was it loneliness? Hopelessness?

“Father, give me a heart for the hopeless, the lost, the hurting, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the sick. Help me give hope where there is none.”

February 5

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Giver vs Taker.

There are tons of different people in this world. You know that.  We all do.  There are Go-getters and there are lazy people. There are Dreamers and there are “Today-ers.” There are Leaders and there are Followers.

There are Givers and there are Takers.

Now to clarify: I’m not speaking about money. I’m not talking about those who want handouts. I’m not even talking about selfish vs unselfish people.

I want to look at it from a different angle. I want to look at it from the standpoint of encouragement, of what you or I do when it comes to the emotional need of another. Paul says encouragement is a spiritual gift (Rom.12:8; I Cor.14:3-4). How cool would it be to have Joseph? No, not that Joseph. Another one. You might know him as Barnabas? (See…we don’t even know him by his real name).  This quality was so evident in his life the apostles gave him the name Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.”

We live in an age when encouragement is needed. My sister-in-law is living in a long-term care facility at this writing. I wonder how many there never see any family or hear a kind word? Remember the old song “Home, Home on the Range?” It has the lyrics: “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word/And the skies are not cloudy all day.” Many people cannot sing that song because they don’t hear an encouraging word at all.

So…are you a giver or taker of encouragement? Do you sit around wanting it and expecting it or do you make an effort to give it? Wouldn’t it be cool to be known as “the son (or daughter) of encouragement?”

“Father, life is hard enough as it is without living in discouragement. When I see someone today who looks lonely or is all by themselves and alone, help me to practice encouragement. Help me to be an encourager to someone today.”

January 13

Monday, January 13th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Life vs Death.

It’s been “one of those weekends.” Now…when those kinds of words are used we tend to think, “Oh boy. Here it comes. He’s going to lay out his sob story about all that went bad, how his weekend was the weekend from h-e-double hockey sticks.”

Relax!  It’s not that at all! Since Friday’s devotion-January 10-I have continued reading Proverbs 10-11-12-13. All weekend long a common theme ran through my reading.

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” 10:11

“When words are many, transgressions in not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” 10:19

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” 11:12

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” 12:25

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” 13:14

See what I mean? Notice a common theme? Words. All weekend long I read about my words. Bookended by 10:11 and 13:14. My words can build up or tear down. My words reveal who is in control within me. My words can either lift someone’s burden or make it heavier. There was no way I got off the hook this weekend. It culminated in today’s Scripture- 13:14.

To be honest though, the one that struck me the hardest was actually 12:25. Do I realize; do I remember; do I remind myself that my words can either add to or lift a burden? “Words fitly spoken are like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” 25:11

“Father, touche’. Your sword struck paydirt. My heart. My mouth. One day at a time-may my words be words of life to someone, not words of hurt, despair, discouragement, or even death.”

December 25

Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

You SHOULD NOT be reading this today! You should be with your family and friends, not on the computer.  🙂  And I know what you are thinking: “If I should not be reading this you should not be writing this.”  True that. Except for the fact I still got up early to have my Quiet Time and to get my “mind juices” flowing before starting my day.

This morning the church I pastor will be offering a hot breakfast to the community. We typically have less than on Thanksgiving, but as Jo and I talked yesterday, it is a “crap shoot” to plan on how many to expect. We will still deliver breakfast to those who have requested it, plus to the civil servants and gas station workers who have to work this morning. At this point, we have about 30 deliveries to make to individuals and the number of workers is usually in the 30 range. So my drivers (I’m in charge of deliveries) will stay busy. We have generally served close to 20-30 on a typical Christmas morning. Who knows today?

Why do we do it?  For several reasons actually. One, several years ago I was asked by the Chamber of Commerce (of which I’m a board member) if the church does anything for Christmas. The local UMC does a lunch so we certainly weren’t going to reinvent the wheel. Don’t need two churches competing over that. So we offered a breakfast. Two, it had already been on my heart to do something so I took it as confirmation we were to take this step. Three, and this is my motivation: I don’t believe anyone should spend Christmas alone. For various reasons people do. I want to give them an opportunity to not be. Some are down and out on their life situations and are alone because of loss or because they have no family left locally. NO ONE should spend Christmas alone. And four, I believe it is what Jesus would do. His famous words “When I was hungry, sick, in prison…” motivate me to reach out. Those who help, those who give up some time on Christmas morning to help, are showing that same spirit.  I’m not opposed to but am not part of the social justice crowd. I prefer to do it one person at a time.

So very soon I will be heading off to the Lion’s Club where we offer the breakfast. It is right in the heart of the town and can be easily accessed by walking.  If you happen to be reading this, I would appreciate your prayers for safety for my drivers and for someone to not feel so alone this Christmas.

And I pray God’s blessing on your day of celebration of the birth of our Savior.

December 5

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Kindness vs Own World.

I read a story today in Our Daily Bread of the kindness of a stranger.  A mother of two boarded a plane. The 3 y/o began kicking and crying and her 4 month old need to eat. A traveler seated next to her offered to hold the baby while she got the 3 y/o buckled in and then proceeded to color with the 3 y/o while mom fed the baby. On the connecting flight he offered his help again if needed. (For the full devotion please check out the link).

Some will say, “That’s creepy.” I would answer, “Why? Just because our culture is so wrapped up in the #MeToo issue?” While it’s true there are shady people, don’t you think it’s somewhat sad that we have gotten to this point that all acts of kindness are suspect?

We often hear and are encouraged to do Random Acts of Kindness. Why not do them? Philippians 2 tells us to “have this mind (attitude) which was also in Christ Jesus, that He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.”  The coming of Jesus was not just an act of love, and of a willingness to become a servant. It was also a great act of kindness, an act of the kindness of God.

Kindness involves getting out of our world and getting into the world of another.  Kindness means a baby in a manger. Kindness means caring. Kindness means coloring with a 3 y/o while you may have something else to do. Kindness is a meal. A note. A thoughtful gesture. Not just at Christmas time but all year. Do random acts for others.

“Father, you came out of your world to come to earth as a baby.  You came into my world. Help me to follow your example by sharing and being kind.”