Kindness

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February 8

Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

I received an email about it the other day. I can imagine you have as well.  I saw a commercial about it just within the past few days. I suspect you have also. It is becoming a scourge, a blight, on our lives. And our security.

I hope I have piqued your curiosity-meter to working overtime wondering what I’m referring to.

IT. No, not as in “I work in IT.” IT as in Identity Theft.

Seemingly more and more it is becoming an issue. Social Security #. Home ownership. Bank accounts.

There’s another kind of IT. The kind where someone tries to tell us we aren’t who we are. You are “stupid” or “fat” or “a waste” or “a junkie” or “a nobody.” There are racial slurs thrown around. There are false accusations made, though untrue, which cut deeply. And on and on.

To counteract that there are those who say we need to look within ourselves and bolster ourselves and repeat a mantra that “I am somebody.” Media influencers “preach” at us about how beautiful, smart, wise, etc. we are.

For followers of Jesus, we find our identity in Christ. We are specially made; we are important; we are who we are because we are God’s. I’m not talking about an arrogance around people as though you are better than they are. “I’m a follower of Christ and you aren’t. Na Na Na Na.” In Matthew 5:22 Jesus tells his listeners about calling someone “Raca” or “fool.” Using those words was equal to calling someone an idiot. It was used to demean someone or demote them by robbing them of their dignity and true identity. 

Let’s remember two things: 1) who we are in Christ; and 2) every person has value, no matter their color, status, wealth, or mental capacity. Our words will display whether we believe that or not.

I heard it put this way: To insult the creature is to insult the Creator.”

February 7

Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

We have been asked/commanded in the Scripture to do two things: Love God supremely and to Love Others genuinely. Jesus tells us that in Matthew 22:37-39.

We seem to work hard at getting that first one down pat because it is so important. We see loving God as the top thing we are to do…and that is absolutely, 100% true.  So we try to invest time in that-reading the Bible, praying, worshiping.

It’s the loving others that sometimes get a little bit “sticky.” Let’s face it: sometimes our relationship with others is like two porcupines trying to get close. They might be able to but it sure is a prickly situation.

So, what does it mean to love genuinely? We could say, “Be patient.” “Be forgiving.” “Be accepting.” “Be kind.” “Be considerate.”

How about this? “Be generous.” We can set an example of Jesus in us by being generous. Not stingy. Not self-absorbed.

Let’s expand on that for a moment. The Bible speaks of those who have are to share with those who don’t. If you get a moment, check out I Tim.6:17-18. Not all of us are wealthy (I’m certainly not), but hoarding, for example, is never seen as a virtue. Even if we are not wealthy, God has called us to radical generosity. Case in point: tipping at a restaurant. I know a couple who never left a tip. Never. When I asked why they said, “Because they chose that job and knew the possibility.” And that justifies what? Maybe, at that time, that is all he/she could do, while trying to raise a child as a single mom/dad. I personally believe followers of Christ should be the most generous people, especially if they have received good service.

I know I “rabbit-trailed” it today. That sometimes happen in a mind that seem to go everywhere (and no, I am not ADHD). So…long story short: be generous. Love genuinely, even in ways that go beyond financial.

December 28

Wednesday, December 28th, 2022

For the most part, except for a few vestiges of leftovers (people not food, although…), Christmas ’22 is history. At least the celebration of Christmas is over. 2023 is fast approaching and with it a year filled with uncertainty and challenges, none of which we have a clue about. 🙂

We have been hearing the Top 10 of everything. Top 10 sons. Top 10 grossing movies. Top 10 downloads. Top 10 news stories. The list goes on and on.

But here’s something novel! How about listing the Bottom 10. Bottom 10 songs. Bottom 10 grossing movies (the bombs). Bottom 10 TV shows. Etc.

Being on the bottom is not appealing at all. My blog, for example, could very well qualify for the Bottom 10 readers and those who respond. Sort of makes me wonder why I do this! 🙂

Anyway, I read the story of a man named John Woolman (ever heard of him? Yeah…me neither) whose commitment to Jesus influenced his tailor shop dealings. Out of his support for freeing slaves, he refused to by any cotton or dye supplies from companies that used forced labor.  He loved his neighbor and lived according to integrity and sincerity in all his dealings.  John was a Quaker who lived in the early to mid 1700s.

In 2 Cor. 1:22 Paul speaks of conducting ourselves with integrity and godly sincerity.  As we look back on 2022, what would your report card say in these areas? And as we look ahead to 2023, let’s make every effort to live with integrity and godly sincerity.

Let’s be the one who makes a difference.

December 21

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

Today is the shortest day of the year. Not that we have less hours in a day but we have less light. Some might say, “That is good. I can go to work, then come and get ready for bed and then go to bed early in order to take advantage of the longer night.” Or you might say, “Hey. That’s great! That means the days (daylight) will start staying around longer.” In either case, we still only have 24 hours in a day.

What will do with those hours?

In Matthew 25 Jesus has a conversation with His followers doing what needs to be done while we wait for Him to return.

  • I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.
  • I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.
  • I was a stranger and you invited me in.
  • I was naked and you clothed me.
  • I was sick and you visited me.
  • I was in prison and you came to me.

“And when did we see you like that?” “When you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.”

He then turns the tables and speaks about those who see all He has just talked about and do nothing.

Christmas is a time when we are bombarded by solicitations for help-St. Jude’s, Shriner’s, Coalition of Jews and Gentiles, homeless shelters, food pantries, legitimate ministries, abused pets. All of those are needy-some more than others. I”m not trying to be cold-hearted when I mute the TV. Some commercials really get to me (St. Jude’s) and some are really annoying, i.e. staged (pets).

Be discerning who you help and send your money to. I prefer to stay local, where my feet are planted in my community. I also give to those I know and trust. However, I cannot tell you who or who not to help. Just realize the importance of people over creation or animals, for example. Just give with a heart like Jesus talks about in Matthew 25: “When you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me.”

Don’t close off your heart to the needs of those around you. Just be discerning.

December 15

Thursday, December 15th, 2022

This is a hard devotion to write. It’s hard because I know not everyone can celebrate Christmas. I’m not talking about the Jewish person whose disbelief in Messiah stops them. I’m not talking about the atheist whose disbelief in a God speaks volumes. I’m not talking about the progressive politician and activist whose desire for vengeance, violent rhetoric, and anarchy shoots the whole idea of a defenseless baby in a manger who makes a difference in the foot. I’m not talking about the greedy secularist whose only reason for the season is to line his/her pockets.

I’m speaking of someone else. I’m speaking of the one whose holiday is haunted by ugly memories of past Christmases. I’m also speaking about those who have already talked to me this holiday season (started with Thanksgiving) to whom the holiday season is a time of hurt, anguish and loneliness wrapped in grief because of the loss of a loved one. (This song speaks of the reminder a holiday can bring.  And yes, it speaks of lost love but the sentiment can be applied to most cases. The lyrics are under the song in Show More if you have trouble understanding…which I don’t think you will).

I’ve had several conversations with people who are facing the Christmas season with an emptiness in their heart. They are facing the holiday without someone they love. The first of every one is the hardest. But even though time moves on and the wound begins to heal, the hurt is still there. The ache and loneliness never leaves.

One family told me yesterday they are helping out a family of 9 with Christmas because they believe their son/grandson/nephew, etc would like that. They are doing it in his honor. That is a phenomenal idea! There may be no better way to deal with hurt than to do something for someone else in honor of one you love.

My heart goes out to those who face this holiday with hurt. Do you know someone who needs a little love this Christmas? Take some of your time to give yourself away. Not only will it be meaningful to them, you will find a satisfaction in your heart you may have never felt before.

And remember the ONE who know your hurt or the ONE whom you can share.

November 28

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Thanksgiving 2022 is now history.  That is true if you only see thanksgiving as a one-day-a-year event. However, if you see thanksgiving-thankfulness-as part of your life as a follower of Jesus, then it is not over by any stretch.

The church I pastor has served a Thanksgiving meal to the community for years. I’m not exactly sure when we started it (I do remember the two ladies I asked to lead it), but except for 2020, we have offered it to the community. This past Thanksgiving was no exception.

We served, delivered, and did curbside meals for about 120 people this year. I say “about” because I’m in charge of deliveries and will sometimes miss people who come in to eat.

I’ve thought about this some. It takes a gang of people to pull something like this off: the initial set up team (five ladies who knocked it out of the park); the ones who cooked the food and brought it to the location; the ones who served; the ones who put the delivery meals together; the clean up crew; so many others. Why?

Here are my thoughts: you can choose to do something because you have/feel obligated to or you can do something because you cannot not do it.  Guilt vs want to. The latter is much more satisfying. I’m thinking of Paul’s words when he says, “The love of Christ compels me.” How much more satisfying it is to serve, to do, because your motivation is the love of Christ.

Christmas is just around the corner. Once again, we will be challenged to do for others. Ask yourself this question: “Why do I want to do this?” There is much greater joy and satisfaction because we want to than because we feel obligated to.

Your thoughts?

October 31

Monday, October 31st, 2022

Have you ever noticed how some people hide well? Some do it on purpose. They don’t want to be seen. Anonymous is the best way.  There is both good and bad in that.

There are also those who like to labor behind the scenes. Unseen by many, each week they do “their thing.” Teach children. Work in a nursery. Safety and security. Work the sound board. Do Power Point. Clean up afterwards. Collect garbage. The list could go on.

They like it that way. They want it that way. Praise and accolades is not why they do what they do.

Just before kickoff at Super Bowl XLIII, Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award-a tribute to the player who had best combined on-field excellence with off-field community service. It represents a commitment to giving and sacrificing to others.

Paying homage to those who serve is not a new concept. It isn’t that they clamor for it. A servant doesn’t do that. One who serves does just that: serves. Jesus once said, “I came not be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” He becomes the example the servant follows.

But every once in a while it is nice to be “seen” and recognized. Have you taken the time to let a volunteer know how much you appreciate what they have done?  If not, take the time today to drop them a note, text them, call them, or take them out to eat as a treat and a thank you.

You will be glad you did.

October 25

Tuesday, October 25th, 2022

Have you ever heard of Thomas Barnado? No? Well, I think it is time you did.

Thomas Barnado entered the London Hospital medical School in 1865, dreaming of life as a medical missionary in China. Barnado soon discovered a desperate need in his own front yard-the many homeless children living and dying in the streets of London. Barnado determined to do something about this horrendous situation. Developing homes for destitute children in London’s east end, Barnado rescued some 60,000 boys and girls from poverty and possible death. Theologian and pastor John Stott said, “Today we might call him the patron saint of street kids.”

Barnado is obviously an example of someone who put feet to his faith.

But what gets to me even more is who the recipients of his faith in action were. Children.  He became a person of refuge, one who sets up place of refuge for children.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge once wrote, “Friendship is a sheltering tree.” I spent time yesterday with a friend. We rode 17 miles on our bikes, mostly talking. (As Jo would say, “Imagine that.”)  He was gracious to slow down his pace for this old man (he is 47…I am not). 🙂 And then when a hill loomed in front of us we went for a short bit then he graciously turned around when I told him I’d had enough.  There is still a definite lack of strength after the back surgery. Maybe another day, another time, but yesterday was not that day or that time. 🙂  I told him it was the fist time, except when I rode with him a little over a month ago, that I have ridden with another person is easily two years.

I miss the friendship. It has continued but distance prevents a more constant contact. I miss the conversation. I miss the camaraderie.  He’s doing well in many areas of his life. Other than excelling in his walk with Jesus, he is really doing super at being a sheltering tree.

How about you? Are you someone’s sheltering tree?

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.”