Thank Someone This Week - April 21, 2017
I think it would be a good idea if someone promoted "Thanksgiving" cards. No doubt Hallmark is trying but people don't buy the idea because they suspect commercial motivation. But what an appropriate time to sit down and think of a number of people who have given you something and then make a point of a straightforward, unashamed statement of appreciation.
The most meaningful "thank yous" would be those sent to friends and relatives who are so close they'd never expect such a card from us. I'd like to see parents say "thank you" to their children for "all you have done for us." I'd like to see us draw up some lists of old experiences from home that have stayed treasured in our memories - and thank dad or mom for them. Things they'd never suspect meant a lot to us.
Then there's your wife or husband and all those things you appreciate but are so accustomed to, you expect them. Write them down and say "thank you."
Not only relatives, however. Perhaps your neighbor whom you have always appreciated. No fantastic person in the spectacular sense. Just a neighbor who has been what a neighbor "ought to be". He won't listen when you tell him straight out how much you're thankful for him (but it's worth a try). So send him a "thank you" card. Or maybe there's a colleague or a co-worker who you should say "thank you" to.
Stop a few minutes. Trace your steps through an average day, week, year or your life 'til now . . . surprising, isn't it? how many stand out as people who have made life good just by being part of your life. Thank some of them this month and thank God for the people in your life.
Easter Means Life; Easter Shows Love - April 14, 2017
One short sentence, spoken by Jesus, is occupying my heart and mind. Jesus said this on the cross in the middle of his unspeakable pain. The words are, "It is finished." It was a profoundly important theological announcement. Certainly his suffering and his life were finished. But the three words were primarily a powerfully important spiritual announcement. His death ended the whole business of sacrifices and offerings, rituals, rules and observances, focused on covering and paying for sin. That was now finished. The debt is paid for. Every sin past, present and future has been forgiven.
Shortly thereafter, in three days, came the Resurrection—the beginning of a whole new life, a totally new future, LIFE-centered and LOVE-centered—not sin-centered. That is what Salvation is about. It is not just about going to heaven. It is about a whole new life, and a whole new purpose and goal for our lives. We are to help create a world that radiates, suggests, points toward, and anticipates Heaven: “heaven on earth”. Satisfactions, peace, joy, and more, even though incomplete, and the Presence of Jesus with us.
Easter is the beginning of life in a whole new and wonderful way. Every act of love, kindness, compassion and friendliness is a whisper of God's love. Every creative innovation, artistic act, invention or positive modification is God's beauty, God's presence and Jesus promises.
That is our mission—to bring goodness and love and beauty and healing on earth as it is in heaven. By being intentional in our everyday life to be kind to all we meet, we are sharing Jesus, even if we don't say it.
That's Phony! - April 7, 2017
"I couldn't put my arm around her and hug her if I wasn't feeling like it. That would be phony."
'If it's phony you shouldn't do it', is the logic behind this. 'Anything that is done when you don't feel like it is phony', is another part of the reasoning. Doing something that I don't feel like doing makes me uncomfortable. Therefore, it isn't genuine. Therefore, it should be avoided.
Now imagine you're a golfer, but not a good one. You finally decide to take some lessons, even though you've been playing for fifteen years. The pro says, "You're holding the club wrong. You must change your grip radically if you hope to improve."
So you put your hands as he instructs, and you swing at a ball. It feels awkward and unnatural. You think, "I can't hit that way, it's phony! It makes me very uncomfortable. I don't feel right this way."
Obviously, however, if you're going to improve, you have to endure a period of discomfort until it begins to feel good.
That's how it is with the hug in the opening quotation above. If the hug is appropriate; if it is needed and possible, it should be given! regardless of the discomfort the hugger may feel. With practice it may not feel so bad—it might even feel good.
Paying compliments, speaking up, thanking people—these action are not to await our feelings. They are part of giving. Part of being a responsible person toward others. They are often more a matter of will than of emotions. More duty than feelings. This conscientious approach to others is essential in creating a healing community. "Love One Another!" is not amended by the words "when you feel like it."
I remember a man at a State Hospital. His I.Q. was incredibly low. So low that I felt I wasn't bright enough to communicate clearly with him. After each worship service, however, he came up to me and said, "Very good. Very good." Even though I knew he didn't understand a word of the sermon, I found myself cheered by his words.
I doubt that doing good, helping someone else, cheering another person, even when you don't feel like it, can ever be called phony. Immeasurable kindness and healing is possible through supportive actions which arise willingly from people who are determined to care about others.
In spite of uncomfortable feelings!
Check Your Story At The Door - March 31, 2017
I was sitting outside the car wash waiting for my Buick to emerge. The guy next to me on the waiting bench reeked with sociability. "How ya' doing," he quipped.
"Okay, except our dog just died," I said, since I was full of that sad reality. It was more than I needed to say, since this was destined to be a one-time, fifteen-minute relationship. But I said it, in part, to keep the encounter from total superficiality.
"Oh, I've been through that," responded my new best friend. And he didn't stop with this bit of non-empathy. For the next quarter-hour, I listened to him about the demise of his two dogs, all the details, from top to bottom. Then his van was announced "ready" and he walked away. "See ya'," he said.
I was the hurting party, with fresh bereavement. He was a veteran of long-past losses. I had cracked the door of lament open, but he walked in, paying no attention to my concerns. I was the patient — but instead of being treated as such, I was being asked to become the doctor — to attend to HIS hurts.
Sensitive people must bite their tongues even when they are dying to spill their own thoughts. It is the most natural thing in the world to jump over to your own memories when another's triggers a recall of something similar. Stories evoke stories. But caring people diligently refrain from stealing another's spotlight. They know that if "Bob" brings up either a sorrow or a joy, Bob is asking to be heard — not to have the tables turned so that he has to listen while you share.
This is Cardinal Rule #1 in being a caring friend: Resist mightily the strong temptation to discontinue tuning in to another's story in order to tell your own.
Keep an Open Mind That You Can Close - March 17, 2017
In the small town of Cordova in northern California, a Roman Catholic Church one day became the center of some excitement. A glowing outline appeared on the front wall of the sanctuary. Some were certain it depicted Mary holding the Baby Jesus. Soon folks were coming from miles away to view the apparition. I think the image was caused by the sun reflecting on something in the sanctuary.
It seems wonderful to me, though, that there are plenty of people who are open to the possibility that the image could have been a spiritual phenomenon—a godly UFO. Such folks are living in an open-ended creation. For them, life is not confined to the logical, the explainable, the predictable. Reality is richer when we make ample room for the miraculous, the surprising.
Unfortunately this childlike readiness to see the divine breaking into everyday events goes hand in hand with superstition and vulnerability to those who promise, threaten, and manipulate in the name of God. I'm sure you have heard plenty of stories as evidence of such gullibility. Similarly, I am politely incredulous of those who claim God spoke to them: 'God told me to move to California' or 'God's voice told me to start a ministry to the Tujungas.'
If God does have a private conversation with you, the appropriate thing is to ponder it secretly and personally. If it involves others, you must allow its veracity and meaning to be discerned by allowing trusted Christians to sort it out and assess it.
Surprises do happen. It seems important for Christians to be cautiously open to unusual possibilities breaking through here and there, now and then. Over the years I have heard stirring stories from people of impeccable sanity. Often these stories recount edge-of-the-cliff rescues. Some have felt strong hands lifting them from a fire or auto wreck. Others have sensed a presence, whom they felt to be Christ himself, appearing in a hospital room, bringing a fresh infusion of life and an unexpected recovery.
The alternative is a closed worldview which asserts that all events depend on the canniness of humanity, ordinary processes, or the logic and luck of fate or nature. Such an outlook holds that life is totally knowable and predictable.
So my thought for today is that it is good to keep an open mind. Allow for surprises from God. (I like the term coined by SQuire Rushnell — God Winks.) But also, be ready to close it when appropriate.
Being a Blessing to Little People - March 10, 2017
I tried to speak to some of my childhood heroes and heroines, now, after forty-five to fifty years. I tried to tell them how much they still mean to me. It didn't seem to register. Maybe they were being modest in brushing my compliments aside. But it's more likely that each of them has had so much life that their brief, fleeting, contacts with this little kid (me) were insignificant.
None of these laid hands on my head and blessed me. I recall no prophetic words or predictions of success or happiness. Such pronouncements would have been indelibly tattooed on my soul because of their importance to me. But, as it is, they nourished my spirit and positively modeled adulthood by just being kind, interested, attentive, genuine people. They told me the world is safe, caring, and enjoyable and that God is good.
Children are always formed by those a step or two ahead of them. Young ones watch their brothers and sisters and the friends these older ones bring home. They listen, notice, and observe uncles, aunts, and neighbors. They copy, learn, react. They take everything in. Their values, attitudes, and theology are being molded. Their spirits are lifted or deflated.
This is what the Body of Christ is about—the word of encouragement, of interest shown, advice offered to others, whether small children, teenagers, or young adults, is a wonderful responsibility—not just a chance bonus.
I thank God today for Gemt and Harry. Marty and John. "Aunty Anne" and Dr. Jack. Elsie, Clarence, the Spoelstras. the Huizengas, and the Struikmans— and many more whose faces are clear but whose names have faded. Their care is in my soul forever.
Big People Mean a Lot to Little People - March 3, 2017
A few days ago, I met several people who had important influences on my life. None had any idea that they had played a valued role in my development. Most of them were men (some were women) who had been nice to me when I was young. Each is now well past retirement age. I knew them before I was a teenager; so they must have been in their early twenties.
As might be expected, I had made only enough of an impression on them to give them a vague memory of me. But, to me, they are still unforgettable characters — my heroes.
One was surprised to learn that I had spent the day with him when the Japanese surrendered, ending World War II. He did remember, though, exactly where he had been. On August 14,1945, his cattle truck had burned out a wheel bearing a long way from home. He had spent much of that day working on the truck at the livestock-sale barn where it had happened. News of VJ Day came through on the radio in the truck cab.
While he had no recall of my being there, the day is clear in my own memory. It was one of many wonderful days on which he had invited me to enjoy the high adventure of riding with him in his big sixteen-wheeler!
Another of my heroes was a career Navy man who would show up at our house from time to time with gifts from distant places for the adults. He thrilled us small boys by giving us rides on his motorcycle.
There are many people I remember fondly: families and homes where sleeping overnight was fun, warm, and comforting; individuals who kidded us in the Dutch language; some who were unique and fascinating because of mannerisms, handicaps, or eccentricities.
It dawned on me what a character-shaping effect we can have on other people's children. My childhood environment was thoroughly seasoned with kind, attentive folks from outside my family. Their natures were inclusive. They drew people in. They made sure young ones were noticed, nurtured—and nourished too.
And so, I ask you. Have you paused to think of the influence you may be having on other people? Perhaps not simply children, but all whom you encounter. In your busy-ness, in your attention to the details of your own life, other folks are nevertheless being influenced by you. That is not to make you feel self-conscious, but rather that you celebrate the fact that you mean something to people — even when you may not realize it.
Acts of (un)Kindness Stick - February 24, 2017
We speak of how an act of kindness sticks in our memory. But . . . acts of unkindness also stick.
A writer tells of going down a lane with a nursemaid in England when two village children ran out and shyly offered him some wild flowers they had plucked. He remembers bitterly how he haughtily rejected the flowers from the children and ran to take the hand of his nursemaid. When he looked back, he saw the two children still standing and looking at him, with tears running down their faces. He remembers that. Undoubtedly, they remember it, too.
On the other hand, another man long ago will not forget this: A bus was crowded in a Southern city, and the Black section of the bus was overcrowded, so a white Texan invited the man who was standing to share his seat in the white section. The bus driver objected and the Black man got up to leave. But the white man, in protest, stood up with him, refusing to be seated while the Black man stood.
In Japan, it does something to you, while traveling by train, to hear music over the loud-speaker as the trains pulls out. Then when you arrive at your destination, over the loud-speaker a voice graciously says, "You must be tired. We are sorry the train is two minutes late. Please see that you have left no parcels. Good-bye." It makes you feel that there is something more to traveling than the mechanics and logistics of it. As you wash your hands in the train lavatory, there is a bunch of fresh cut flowers, probably carnations. These touches affect you. A lot of it is superficial, but superficial or not, it nevertheless puts a good taste in your mouth.
I smiled once at a little girl and boy as they came through the train in Japan, and then they came through the car again and again to get another smile — and give a bigger smile.
Paul, looking back upon the shipwreck experience on Malta, remembered one thing especially: "The natives showed us uncommon kindness" (Acts 28:2).
Dear Father, help me today to search out someone who needs my kindness and give it — and give it graciously.
Terrible Circumstances - February 17, 2017
Annie Dillard, a Christian writer, says this:
God is no more blinding people with glaucoma or testing them with diabetes or purifying them with spinal pain or choreographing the seeding of tumor cells through lymph or fiddling with chromosomes than is he jimmying flood waters or pitching tornadoes at towns.
God is no more cogitating which among us He plans to place here as bird-headed dwarfs or elephant men or to kill by AIDS or kidney failure or heart disease, childhood leukemia, or sudden infant death syndrome, than He is pitching lightning bolts at pedestrians, triggering rock slides or setting fires.
The very least likely things for which God might be responsible are what insurers call "acts of God".
So Annie Dillard takes a very strong stand against the notion that we can blame God for the bad things of life. And I agree with her. It troubles me when people so frequently say, "It is God's will," in tragic circumstances. They usually mean well when they say it; they are trying to acknowledge God's omnipotence.
But I believe that God is not only all-powerful, but is he also a loving God. I don't believe it is His will to bring tragedy, heartache, and grief to the people he loves.
Here is a quotation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that speaks to this:
We know, of course, that God and the devil are engaged in battle in the world and that the devil also has a say in death. In the face of death, we cannot simply speak in a simplistic way, 'God wills it', but we must juxtapose it with the other reality: 'God does not will it.'
Death reveals that the world is not as it should be, but that it stands in need of redemption. Christ alone is the conquering of death. Here, the sharp antithesis between 'God wills it' and 'God does not will it' come to a head and also find its resolution. God accedes to that which God does not will, and from now on, death itself must therefore serve God.
Though Bonhoeffer's statement is focused on death, I believe he would agree with me that so many things that the secular world places in the convenient box of 'God's will' are more likely to be things that God does NOT will.
God loves us.
You Can Affect the Health of Others - February 10, 2017
Last week, I waxed eloquently (click here)
(I hope you thought so!) on the benefit to your own health from smiling. But the other half of this reality is that a smile sends well-being to others. The gift of a smile is equivalent to, or greater than, handing someone a pep-pill or a vitamin. Sometimes it is the best medicine a sick soul can swallow.
Jesus calls us to “love one another”. A smile to the person in the car next to yours, waiting for the same light to turn green, is love. Love is not a feeling — it is an action. Love is giving to someone else an ingredient that lifts their spirits, enhances their health, improves their heartbeat. A smile is that kind of medicine.
A smile does not have to flow out of a happy heart. A smile can be generated or turned on by a personal decision, regardless of how opposite we may be feeling. Smiles can be generated even when we are feeling hurt, afraid, anxious or pre-occupied with a heavy assignment.
There are a lot of ways to give or show love — all efforts to encourage, motivate, heal, and inspire people who have been knocked down or stymied, are love. Love can be ‘showing up’, listening to another’s heartache, baking a cake or lending a dollar. But the one easy — and guaranteed — slice of love, possible for everybody, is sharing a smile.
Whether you feel like it or not, SMILE A LOT.
A Simple Action to Improve Your Health - February 4, 2017
Smiling is important, I say. Does the Bible back me up on that?
Actually, there are no words that give us a clue whether the Apostles or Jesus himself ever smiled. I believe that they certainly did, but there is no positive anecdote telling us that smiling happened. Most translations of the New Testament do not include the word ‘smile’. But my conclusion is that we should ‘smile anyway.’
Smiling is not the same for everybody. The muscles of our faces are not all alike. For some, a smile is natural and automatic. For others, it takes a little effort, and even a decision, to pull the muscles of their face in an upward direction that puts a grin or a smile on their face.
Today we know that smiling is a health-invoking action. A smile is a positive activity that nourishes our physical and intellectual system. Putting a smile on our face is like taking into our body a positive food or drink.
Consider this analogy: It is customary for a mom or dad to hand a youngster a glass of milk and ask them to drink it. Parents know that milk is good for the body, making us healthier and stronger. Expecting one’s child to drink milk is a non-debatable parental action. No one disagrees with that.
So I suggest that teaching a child to smile — or training ourselves to smile— is a similar good parental action.
We don’t have to have the phenomenon explained or analyzed, so that we can know exactly what is happening in order to get the benefits. But extensive research has observed and recorded the fact that smiling has measurable positive results! This nearly automatic activity, when evident on our face, nourishes our spirit, enhances our mental well-being, and generates healing ingredients in our physical system. Smiling improves our lives!
Thoughts Generate Chemicals - January 27, 2017
An Olympic Athlete Trainer says this:
There are four negative feelings or thoughts that produce toxic chemicals in the brain. They are Hate, Greed, Fear, and Jealousy. To get his athletes to do better, he says they must change these to Love, Generosity, Courage, and Praise.
He claims that service to others is one of the best ways to move into the healthy context. Doing this has proven to be effective in producing the winning edge.
Interesting discovery. Thoughts produce chemicals, and positive thoughts produce positive chemicals. Of course, there is a time for sorrow and vexation, but they must not dominate, or they will infect.
So we would do well to ponder this and to reflect on what our own thoughts are. Granted, we cannot control our feelings. We may have a feeling of sadness come upon us. We didn't seek to feel sad, but it is nevertheless how we are feeling. Likewise, we cannot control a feeling of urgency, or franticness, or frustration, or anger. These feeling come unbidden.
But . . . and this is the key! . . . we CAN control our thoughts. Our thoughts can change our feelings. Thoughts produce chemicals. Consciously entertaining a thought of Love can absolutely affect your feelings toward another person. Deciding to think thoughts of praise about another person, of God, or of particular circumstances will — they WILL — begin changing in your feelings.
The Truth about Kindness - January 20, 2017
Kindness is a very homely virtue. This is using the word 'homely' in the British sense of belonging to the home—a very commonplace, ordinary virtue. And yet it is as ordinary as salt, and as essential as salt. Without kindliness, there is no virtue in the other virtues. It puts a flavor into all the other virtues; without it they are insipid and tasteless; or worse, they degenerate into vices.
Love, joy, peace, good temper—without kindliness, they are very doubtful virtues.
To grow in kindliness is to grow in virtues that are flavored with a certain spirit. The spirit of kindliness pervades everything. A little boy explained the difference between kindness and loving-kindness this way: "Kindness is when your mother gives you a piece of bread and butter, but it is loving-kindness when she puts jam on it as well."
Jesus expressed it this way: "Treat one another with the same spirit as you experience in Christ Jesus" Not merely the same actions, but the same spirit in the actions as was in Jesus' actions. This is the high water of morality in this universe. Beyond this, the human race will not, and cannot, progress. This is character and conduct ultimate. This gives kindness a plus—an infinite plus.
Thus, kindness is not mere maudlin sentimentality. Kindness is a vital, must-have ingredient of all we do. To be kind to a person is to care for the person. That's what we emphasize in our mission: Care AND Kindness! The two are so much the same and they do go together.
God's kindness to us can sometimes seem severe—severe because He loves so deeply; He cares so much. But with His severity, there is security. He loves us too much to let us go.
"Go Thou and do likewise." Someone said that once! Be kind to everyone. Demonstrate in your daily living that you care what happens to people around you. Grow in your kindliness.
Hopeful vs Hopeless - January 13, 2017
Popular opinion holds that a disabling life event is likely to destroy a person's faith. A research project studying 26 men and women who had acquired permanent disabilities relegating them to wheelchair living revealed the opposite: 53% found their faith was increased by their disability. 31% "kept their faith" despite the challenges of disability. 8% found faith through their disability. 8% described their faith as "uncertain". 0% lost their faith.
Reactions of the individuals:
1. God-believers experienced God as a 'presence' - someone to talk to, to question, someone who listens.
2. God's help was described as providing, protecting, giving strength, endurance and patience, and understanding their struggles and caring about them.
3. Several believed that God somehow gave them their disability but they did not feel bitter or betrayed.
4. All indicated that 'talking to people gave meaning to their lives.' They agreed that feeling 'lonely' and 'different' is common.
The Wheelchair: 46% (12) hate the wheelchair and want to get out of it. 31% (8) said they accepted wheelchair living. 23% (6) were ambivalent. They both hate it and accept it. 100% agreed that "to walk again" is a dream that never leaves. 69% (18) express a hopeful attitude. 8% held hopeless feelings 23% were mixed with both hopeful and helpless feelings
I find this information to be very interesting. We sympathize with, and feel sorry for, people we see who are dealing with a disability of some sort. This is a natural first reaction. But we should not let those thoughts create a barrier for communication and relationship between us. That would be the sad part. Too often, we feel awkward, and we feel sorry for a person and leave it at that. We don't pursue a connection.
What can you do?
Well, note #4 above: they all felt that meaning was added to their lives by being able to talk to people. So . . . you can talk to them, listen to them, draw them out. And always keep in mind that most of these folks have a sense of hope (not hopelessness.) 'Hope' means not giving up. Hope is fueled by a faith in God. Hope blossoms when friends and family are close, supportive and encouraging.
Your Role in God’s Healing Touch - January 7, 2017
There is more to prayer than talking and crying out to Jesus. Often there is a hurting friend we are thinking of and concerned about when we bow our heads or lift up our faces God-ward. What happens is that our Christ–directed concerns, pleas, and anxieties not only touch the Lord, but, while impacting the heart of Jesus, they also flow through us to the one for whom we are praying.
In other words, it is the Spirit of Jesus flowing through each of us as we thoughtfully ask the good Lord for help and healing. Such helping is not only coming directly from the good Lord — it is flowing from Jesus back to and through each of us as we care for a hurting person.
The reality of the Spirit of Jesus living with us and in us calls us to prayer, but also loving kindness to those around us. We are His instruments, his care-givers. We are not just people who cry for help—we are carriers of Jesus’ healing love. A personal prayer for a troubled friend is sending the healing love of Jesus into them.
This is a profound concept: Jesus is the one doing the healing, but we also play a role by praying for our friend. Our prayers call down God’s healing love. You are a vital link in the process.
May I say it again?! You are vital link in the process. Of course, God knows the situation already. Of course, God cares for the hurting person already. But your prayers connect you, the person, and God in a wonderful three-fold relationship. He can work wonders that you cannot imagine as you share with God your concerns for the person. God wants you to be a part of the process.
We were speeding along in the car pool lane when I noticed a motorcycle coming up behind us. I moved a little over to the left to allow him to pass more comfortably. As he passed he raised the three fingers on his left hand, as he held on to the handle bars. It was a signal of appreciation. It was love! That small gesture lifted my spirits for the next half hour or more. He might have been an ex-convict, or a bum of some kind. He might have been a godless atheist. Nevertheless, he has the love of God inside him and he sprinkled a little of that love on us as he passed.
That is how easy it is to be an instrument of the Lord Jesus. And a person can be that even if he doesn't know it. We do want him to know, but he may not be open to that truth for a while.
But he is far more than he thinks he is.
How do you find Will Smith in the snow? You look for the fresh prints.
©2017 Care and Kindness Ministries.