Kindness

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June 27

Monday, June 27th, 2022

A recent Our Daily Bread devotion (June 26) told the story of a dog whose owner broke his ankle and was using crutches to walk. Soon the dog began to hobble as well. He took the dog to the vet worrying that something was wrong, but the vet said there was nothing with him. He romped and played like all dogs until he was with his owner. That’s when he walked with a limp. I guess you could say the dog was trying to identify with his owner. 🙂

I heard some sad news yesterday. As this lady told me the news, all I could do was hold her and let her cry. NO words were needed. None were necessary to be said. They would have been a drippy faucet-annoying and serving no good. After she got herself together, we talked.

I’m a fixer. I want to fix people’s problems.

But I can’t.

That’s not my job. That’s not in my “pay grade.”

That job belongs to the only ONE who can fix it. Someone has said, “When someone is broken, don’t try to fix them. (You can’t.) When someone is hurting, don’t attempt to take away their pain. (You can’t.) Instead, love them by walking beside them in the hurt. (You can.) Because sometimes what people need is simply to know they aren’t alone.”

All those are true. For me. For you. What I did offer was that I-and the church-would walk alongside her through it all. She needs to know that more than anything right now.

Be someone’s “come along” as you come along side someone who is hurting. Don’t try to fix. Just be.

March 17

Thursday, March 17th, 2022

One word. That’s all it takes is one word and watch the reactions. Eyes glaze over. An eyebrow will be raised.  A hand will go the chin. Or you might even get a sigh, an exhale of air, and a judgmental look.

The word? Depression.

Disclaimer: I have never suffered from depression. I’ve have some down days, as have had all people from time to time. But I’ve never been one who suffers from it days, weeks, months, or even years. My first real exposure to it was in 1974 right after I had graduated from college. I visited a woman named Jane (not her real name) Doe in a psych ward. I could not understand how this woman who laughed a lot and called herself a Christian could be there.

How little I knew. Time. Maturity. Almost 50 years in ministry has shown me Jane is not alone. Some deeply spiritual people have suffered from depression. Some I know. Even pastors! (Charles Spurgeon being one of them). Some have clinical depression (it is in their DNA). Some have seasonal depression (they head south for the winter). Some have it from a past event or action. Some from guilt and shame. Some have it worse, like bi-polar. Medication is often prescribed for depression and should not be seen as a testimony to a lack of faith or a failure in their walk with Christ.

David suffered from depression upon occasion. Please stop right now and read Psalms 42 and 43 and tell me he didn’t. I soon learned depression was no laughing matter and certainly not something upon which to judge another person. I don’t always understand and may not always understand, but I must always have an understanding heart, a soft shoulder and a spirit of empathy.

“Father, teach me to be more caring. Help me not to judge a person’s closeness to you by his mental state. You are the One who knows all. Help me to be more loving.”

February 10

Thursday, February 10th, 2022

Over the past two weeks here at “Shadow” I have been posting some thoughts on Colossians.  This will be my last post from the book.

Yesterday I went to Methodist Hospital in Indy to visit a man who had a terrible accident at work this past Sunday. To enter the hospital you had to go through one of two kinds of doors, both automated. One was wide enough to walk through as well as for a wheelchair to go through. The other was like a carousel. It was constantly moving and you just had to get in the open space. That was fine except it was going so slow I felt like I was taking baby steps as I walked through it.

There are other ways to enter a building, like a house, for example. You can ring the doorbell and be let in or you can bust the door down. The former is the preferred method. 🙂

But way too often when it comes to telling the story of Jesus people want to bust the door down. That is not what Paul wanted. In Col. 4: 2-3 He encourages them to pray BUT to also ask God to open a door for the Word “so that they may proclaim the mystery of Christ.” No door-bashing, but an open door would be great! A further prayer is that he would be able to clearly present the truth. You can also tie in verses 5-6 to these verses:

  • Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders.
  • Have speech that is always with grace.

Presenting the Gospel in this day and age is a challenge. So many forces are pushing back. When we present the message of Jesus we must do it with winsomeness and grace, with a right attitude and heart, and with speech that is covered in grace.

Let’s pray for open doors and not break the door down. And when the opportunity comes, to approach the person with grace.

December 9

Thursday, December 9th, 2021

Am I alone? I think not. Here is why I ask that. In fact, I’ll answer that with a question:

Why is it that for many of us, Christmas is a mixed blessing?

I suspect some of you are saying, “What? What in the world is Bill asking that for?” Hang in there with me.

While I will smile and laugh and be jovial, there will be those who are sad, will cry, and feel as thought their heart will break.

While I will receive some gifts (I have, after all, been very good) 🙂  there will be those who will receive nothing.

While I will hopefully spend time with family and friends, there will be those who have no family or friends and will be alone.

While I will be warm and “snug and a bug in a rug” at night, there will be those who will shiver and long for a warm bed or fire.

You get my drift now? Happy. Sad. Laughter. Tears. A mixed bag. I realize life is like that. I’m not telling you anything your don’t already know. But while I am experiencing all the good of the season, there are those who have been forgotten, are forgotten, or long for what maybe once was.

The tragedy is that I’m not really sure what to do about it. I don’t live in a big town that has a homeless population or even a home for those on the street. So let me turn it to you: what do you suggest? Do you have this same dilemma? What is your solution? I’m open for suggestions.

“Father, help me not to close my eyes to the plight of others. Give me wisdom to see with Your eyes what others need.”

December 8

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021

I read a sad story this morning. Dewberry Baptist Church split in the 1800s over a chicken leg. The story goes that two men fought over the last drumstick at a church potluck.  One said God wanted him to have it; the other said God didn’t care, and he really wanted it. The battle got so heated one moved a couple kilometers down the road and started Dewberry Baptist Church #2. They have since settled their differences.

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m going to say that God could not have been pleased with that. I’m guessing He wept. Just like He does when a church splits over paint, the color of carpet, chairs or pews, style of music, or stained glass windows. Doctrine and ideology, Mission and Vision are different animals altogether. But a chicken leg? Seriously?

What we humans fight over! Totally nonsensical. Defies Jesus’ prayer in John 17 for sure. “May they be one, Father, as You and I are one.” I’m thinking God has to weep over our disregard of Jesus’ words: “By this will all men know you are my disciples if you love one another.”

There is always a good time to show love and unity, but what better time can there be than at Christmas? After all we do sing “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

“Father, help me to be a catalyst for unity and not a stumbling block for disunity. May I be one who brings people to the Source of unity, not push them away.”

November 4

Thursday, November 4th, 2021

I have been blessed in oh so many ways.  As our family grew, we have all been fairly healthy.  Other than the two babies, Jo was never in the hospital except for a hysterectomy and then a gall bladder removal. Other than my cycling accidents, I have been blessed with good health until my recent bout with long-haul COVID.  Our girls never spent a night in the hospital growing up.

I have been blessed with a personality that is outgoing, positive, and energetic (rumors of ADHD float around but I debunk those since I can sit for hours and read or work a puzzle).  Anyway, one of the hardest folks for me, and ones I have finally come to somewhat understand, are those who suffer from depression. Let me explain please.

When I was in my early 20s and still very much wet around the ears and very naive, I was a youth pastor who found himself visiting a lady (I will call her Jane) in a psych ward. I had no clue what clinical depression was. I had no clue that some had DNA that leaned that way. Jane was fine one week and the next she was in the psych ward. I didn’t understand.

Sadly, I was somewhat judgmental. I was also clueless. “How could a follower of Jesus have trouble with depression?” It has taken me years-and I do mean years-to understand the battle some face. I’ve seen how it is passed to children and grandchildren.

I think David may have had some of this. From the heights of some psalms to the depths of Psalm 42, one can see it. “Why are you in despair, my soul? And why are you restless within me?” (v.5).  “My soul is in despair within me.” (v.6) “I will say to God, my rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me?’ “ (v.9) “Why are you in despair, my soul?” (v.11)

I’m much more understanding now. We all go through hills and valleys. We all go through highs and lows. We all go through moments of joy and despair. It usually has nothing to do with something we have done (although there are exceptions). What I’m concerned with more is my patience, or lack of it, with those who are. For all of us, Psalm 42:11 rings true.

“Father, forgive me when I am impatient or judgmental toward struggles of others. Change my heart and attitude.”

November 1

Monday, November 1st, 2021

The past week or two (or is that year or two?) has brought about the endless parade…wait for it…Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. Tragically, I’m caught up in that cycle as well, because if I want to spend time with Jo when I get home, I am forced to sit in my recliner and watch them with her.

Whatever can be said of those movies-and a lot could be said (good and bad)-one word stands out: P.R.E.D.I.C.T.A.B.L.E. I have learned though that the best thing I can do is keep my mouth shut. Don’t comment. Don’t predict. Due to a heart issue, Tami has had to stay with us and even she has gotten into the act (of predicting).

November begins the approach to two of the favorite holidays-Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m not telling you anything new with that revelation. 🙂 They say that thanks to inflation this will be the most expensive dinner on record. And due to the supply chain crisis, this may be the most empty-shelved Christmas on record.

I could say all sorts of things politically but I won’t. Instead, let me say this: rather than bemoan those facts, why not pivot? Why not take a different approach? I’m not advocating doing away with with either of the holidays, but why not redirect them? Why not fix the Thanksgiving dinner but go easier? (I’m fine without pumpkin pie and anything cinnamon by the way). How about inviting others to share it with you? Why not have a pitch-in capped off with a time of gratitude? As for Christmas, why not go a little easy on the expensive gifts and stick to a more personal offering? A coupon book of monthly outings. A monthly commitment to send a gift to a ministry in someone’s honor? And here is something novel! Why not truly focus on the gift of Jesus?

Let’s use today as an on-ramp to new joy, new focus, new direction, and a new relationship with Jesus?

“Father, focus me on You. May these next two months be truly remarkable in my walk with You and the depth that is developed.”

My blogging friend, Martha, is having some serious and painful gum surgery today. Would you please say a prayer for her when you read this? Thanks.

August 9

Monday, August 9th, 2021

Okay…slap me with a wet noodle. I didn’t post last Friday. We made a quick trip to Ohio and left Wednesday morning and returned Friday. Rather than throw a devotion together AND try to do it on my phone, I decided not to do anything. But if I was going to post, the following was on my mind.

As followers of Christ we are told to:

Hurt when others hurt.

Cry when others cry.

Laugh when others laugh.

Rejoice when others rejoice.

Love because we are loved.

Show grace because we have been shown grace.

Comfort when others hurt.

The reality is that God often puts us in hard places or takes us through hard moments so that we will be ready when others go through hard moments. When their heart cries out for comfort, we are ready, because our hearts once cried out for comfort.

I think of Mordecai’s words to Esther: “For such a time as this…”  And who knows? All the junk we went through; all the pain we experienced; all the tears; were not wasted just on us. Perhaps it was for us to have a heart that hears and listens and responds to another’s heart cry. Lessons learned were never meant to be kept to ourselves. They are sometimes a path for us to guide a fellow struggler.  Don’t waste the pain or the lessons by keeping them to yourself.

“Father, may I be open to using my pain and heartache to help someone else experiencing that same difficulty.

June 11

Friday, June 11th, 2021

It was one of those “WOW!” moments as you read the Bible. It wasn’t one of the earth-shattering or ground-breaking moments. There were no explosions or neon lights. Just a simple, but essential, reveal.

I was reading Proverbs 10. I’m going to write it down for you with emphasis mine as you read:

“Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. The words of the godly are like sterling silver; the heart of a fool is worthless. The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. The lips of the godly speak helpful words, but the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words.” (verses 19-21,32)

I’m sure you notice the common thread- OUR WORDS. Elsewhere in Proverbs it says, “Well-spoken words are like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Pr.25:11)

We must not kid ourselves.  Our words carry weight-sometimes more than we would like to think. That careless word. That cutting word. That word spoken in haste. That malicious word. All devastating.

The front part of verse 21 should be our guide: “The words of the godly encourage many.”

Those of us who are Christ-followers should be the encouragers. We ought to be the one who builds people up, not tear them down. Psalm 141:3 should be true of me and of you: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

“Father, may my words build people up, not tear them down. May my words encourage, not discourage. May they bless, not curse. Let Psalm 141:3 be true of me.”

June 7

Monday, June 7th, 2021

I’ll say it right up front: I am not on any social media-but then again, some of you already know of my disdain for it. I’ll go one step further: I don’t miss it. AT. ALL.  (Want me to tell you how I really feel?) 🙂

I read an article recently that was talking about what will keep a church from growing in the coming years. Know what one of them was? A pastor who doesn’t or won’t use social media.  My first reaction was benign- neither here nor there. Then I got upset that whether I am on social media or not will determine whether the church I pastor grows. Say what? Then part of me-a very, very small part- could see his point. Presence breeds an audience. So I left it at that.

I’m still not planning on using social media (except if this blog is considered social media). I’d probably get cancelled anyway since I’m not “woke” enough.  (Don’t care either). But there is something else which comes into play for me.

I don’t need all the vitriol I hear about and sometimes have read to me, i.e. so-and-so said this, “_________.”  Filling my mind and heart with garbage is not my idea of fun.

What prompted my thoughts this morning? Try reading Colossians 4:5-6 and not feeling the same way. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (NASB 2020)

The NLT has an interesting take on that passage: “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Frankly, I don’t trust myself. People spout off the whole BLM/CRT mumbo jumbo and my blood begins to simmer. To see a “woke” culture cancel everyone who doesn’t toe the party line and spiel their putrid garbage fries me. To see blatant hypocrisy and lies only gets my dander up. What hurts even more is to see and hear about the anger and the hate and the vitriol and strong, sometimes vulgar language, and lack of love words come out of people I know makes we want to shout, “No! This is not the way! This is not the Jesus way!”

So, you see…I don’t trust myself to practice Col. 4:5-6 (no matter what translation you read it in). Better to avoid than to wallow in the slime.

“Father, may my conversation always glorify You. May it always be “with grace and seasoned with salt.” May my words be those of healing and encouragement.”