Kindness

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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.”

 

April 14

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

I read a great story the other day…from the Bible. That’s right. From the Bible. 🙂  Take a moment and read 2 Kings 4:42-44.

Okay…notice any similarity?

Before I make mention of that similarity, check out the story. Shalish was a region allotted to the tribe of Benjamin. In time, when Jezebel’s Baalism reigned, the region was renamed Baal Shalisha.

There was a farmer there who labored over his fields and when the harvest came he brought the firstfruits, 20 loaves of barley and fresh ears of corn to the sick. Bringing the firstfruits was an OT principle-usually brought to the priests-but this time brought to Elisha. (The priests were corrupt).

This offering was an unexpected provision to the needy. Elisha told his servant to take what has been given and give it to the people to eat. His response? “How can I set this before 100 men?” He was saying this miniscule amount will not feed 100 hungry men. Elisha’s comment: “They shall eat and have some left.”

Hmmm. Does that sound familiar to you? Think 5 loaves and 2 fish. Think 5000 men. Think doubt of the disciples. Think Jesus.  There. Now you know. 🙂

When God gives, He gives more than enough. We can never outgive Him. We always have more than enough.

“Father, thank You for Your provision. However little or large it all comes from You. You always give enough. Help me to remember that as I go through this day and then the next.”

March 16

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

There are some people who are “fixers.” No, not fixer uppers. 🙂  You know the kind: they want to “fix” everyone’s problems.  It used to be said (and probably still is true to some extent) that most men tend to be fixers. You know how it works! The wife comes to him with an issue and instead of just listening to her, he wants to give advice, i.e. he wants to tell her how to fix the problem.

So…how did that work out?

Not very well I suspect. I found out several things: 1) Jo didn’t want me to fix her problem. She just wanted me to listen; and 2) I have enough trouble fixing my own life/issues let alone trying to offer advice on how someone can fix theirs.  Long story short: not a wise thing to do.

When Abram came away from a battle against 4 kings, he met Melchizedek. Abram was tired and worn out.  He didn’t need fixed; he needed a friend. And he got one.  Check out Gen. 14: 18-20 for that story.  Mel didn’t try to preach to him; he ministered to him with food and drink. Just what Abram needed at the moment.

I cannot fix people who come my way, but I can be a friend.  And that may be all they need. I can love them and listen to their hearts. I can pray with them if they let me.  And I can send them off with a blessing. The greatest blessing I can give them is to bring to them the ONE who is the source of every blessing.

I’m going to stop trying to fix people. I’m lousy as a fixer upper on a house. I think the same can be said about me and people. I am going to bless people with my love and by listening to them and hook them up with the One who is the source of all blessing. How about you? What will you do today to be a “lover” and listener?

“Father, help me to step aside and let people see You in me. Help me to stop trying to fix everyone and simply love them and listen to them and ultimately point them to You.”

March 11

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

I want to continue my thoughts on gratitude.

I was sitting in my chair last night unable to sleep. It was one of those nights where the combination of no gall bladder (and still learning), eating the wrong thing too late, and my mind refusing to shut off which made for a tough night for sleep to come.

But as I sat there (remember I said my mind refused to shut off) and a thought hit me.

  • A person cannot be envious of another and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be jealous of another and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be dissatisfied and be thankful.
  • A person cannot grumble and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be a complainer and be thankful.

All those examples are dichotomous. The idea of being unhappy with one’s lot in life and being overly thankful just does not gel.

I am pretty ignorant when it comes to knowing much about a monk named Brother Lawrence. I have heard of him and that is about where my knowledge ends. I know of him. But I just read something recently which gave me a whole new perspective of this unique man.  He was a monk of lowly status who spent his days washing and scrubbing pots and pans and doing menial work around the monastery. In spite of that lowly life, people loved to be in his presence. Why? Because he loved to invite God’s Presence into all he did. His heart was filled with gratitude and therefore, it had no room for grumbling, complaining, etc.

Do people like to be in your presence because you bring God’s Presence with you? I ask myself that question and tend to come up wanting.

“Father, may today be a start of something different. May it be a day where people enjoy being in my presence because I bring Your Presence in with me.”

March 4

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Several years ago-around 2006/2007-I read a book which changed my perspective on people. More specifically, on how I saw people and reached out to them.

In retrospect, I have always “prided” myself in accepting people as they were. You know, like the old song says, “Just as I am without one plea…” My thinking was if God could accept me as I am/was then surely I could do the same. And I thought I did. But I was stopped in my tracks and forced to reevaluate my ways and actions.

The book was NO Perfect People Allowed by John Burke, a pastor of a church in Austin, TX. And while I now realize some of it was the attractional church message, some of it was on the money. People can’t be expected to change before accepting the Gospel message.

Jesus never did that. He didn’t tell the woman at the well to get her act together, leave her current live in, before He would talk with her and give her hope. He didn’t tell the woman caught in adultery to “Repent sinner!” before He came to her defense and then sent her away a free and forgiven woman. He went to Zacchaeus’ house to eat without demanding a life change. That came after his encounter with Jesus. The same goes for all He came in contact with (except maybe the arrogant, self-righteous Pharisees).

No, when Jesus exhibited “Come as you are” it was genuine and sincere. Can I do any less? Do I expect people to change first or do I accept and let God change them? The latter is preferable.

“Father, You accepted me as I was and am. Can I do any less? Please teach me and help me to do as You have done for me and countless others.”

February 19

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Prequel: I had pre-posted the previous two posts because I had no clue what the day (Wednesday-the day of surgery) would bring. I knew I would have to leave for the hospital about 5:15 so my March 17th post was ready to go. Yesterday’s post was also ready simply because I didn’t know what to expect in the way of recovery. So here’s the scoop:

The surgery was successful. They removed my gravel pit of a gall bladder. Pictures do not lie! He also did a hernia repair I did not know I had. It was all done laparoscopically so I was able to come home. Big whoop whoop on that!!  I can ride inside in 2 weeks and have a weight limit of 15 pounds lifting. All in all a successful day. I’m grateful to all of you who prayed.

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Now for today’s main attraction. Okay…it is the devotion. 🙂

Bob Goff wrote something rather insightful when you stop to think about it:

We’ll be known for our opinions but remembered for our love. (p.59)

Someone may be a well-known pastor/preacher. Entrepreneur. Plumber. Teacher. Writer. Theologian. You name it. But I have conducted enough funerals to know while that may be true, the real legacy “bragged about,” talked about, reminisced about, laughed about, preached about, is the legacy of love left behind. The kind word. The out-stretched hand. The “secret” slight of hand which had money in it. The shoulder to cry on. It is our kindness not our qualifications that is remembered.

In my Bible reading yesterday I read John 11, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. But a verse stuck with me: “He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha.  This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. (Vv.1-2) Emphasis mine.

Fast-forward to my Bible reading for today and John 12:3- “Then Mary took a 12 ounce jar of expensive perfume made from the essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair.”  (Emphasis mine)

Interestingly enough, Judas complained because she could have not bought the perfume, but put the money in the treasury. He liked that arrangement better, you know, because he used to embezzle funds for himself.

Jesus came to her defense, as you would expect. Mary is known for her kindness and act of love, not her opinions. Judas? Well…’nuff said.

Seems to me we would be wiser to do than to talk. Many talk a big game, some play it. When my legacy is considered I want to be remembered for way I loved, not for the way I talked. I want to be remembered for the outstretched hand, the big shoulder, the loving arms, the grace-filled approach, rather than my (often unsolicited) opinions.

What will you be known for?

“Father, help me to be known for my love, not my opinions. Opinions die (except for the damage left behind); love lasts.”