A Soft Answer DOES Turn Away Wrath - March 27, 2020
It's reassuring to doubters, such as I, to find science reinforcing Biblical ideas. Here's a new development I read about in a magazine:
A SOFT ANSWER DOES TURN AWAY WRATH, according to the results of a four-month study of unruly children who were discipline problems in school. Normal (and loud) teacher reprimands, that could be heard by the whole class, had no effect on the disruptive behavior of such children. When the teachers switched to soft reprimands that could be heard only by the child being corrected, most of those unruly children misbehaved less often.
A return to loud reproaches resulted in an increase in poor behavior, and a later return to soft corrections again resulted in better behavior.
K. Daniel O'Leary, associate professor of psychology, and a team of graduate students at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, conducted the study.
We, who take the Bible so literally, might try putting some of its very concrete suggestions into practice — starting with this one!
Ask yourself: How do I react when I'm criticized harshly? What words come to mind when I am ready to explode? Am I in control of my feelings, or are they controlling me?
Speaking softly. Speaking kindly.
Easier said than done, don't you think?
But I encourage you to see where you can apply this lesson and observe for yourself the result.
Do You Have Trouble Accepting Compliments? - March 6, 2020
The man had done something very helpful for me, so I gave him a small gift in appreciation. He took it, wadded it up, dropped it on the ground, stomped on it and threw it back at me. I backed away, deflated and embarrassed. Burned by that incident, gifts of gratitude have been harder to hand out since then.
The above incident is a metaphor for the common experience of paying compliments. Very often, unfortunately, they bounce off their target as if unwanted, and they are even flung back indifferently.
It sounds like the saintliest of attitudes when the appreciated preacher retorts, "Don't thank me, just praise the Lord." But the grateful parishioner feels rebuffed and straight-armed away with a 'pious' platitude.
Accepting compliments, for some strange reason, is difficult for a lot of people: The exquisite meal prepared by a hardworking homemaker is shrugged off as "something I threw together in a minute." The attractive dress, praised, is discounted as "something from a bargain basement."
Teenagers, too, seem to suffer from compliment aversion. Handling one comfortably is a rarity. They tend to shove them frantically away, as if afraid of contamination by the positive regard of an adult.
My own conversion from tending to be a gift-rejecter to learning to be a grateful accepter happened at the door of Trinity Church. I had just preached the morning sermon, and I had taken my customary position at the back door to greet the departing worshippers. A young woman stopped, shook my hand, and commented, "That was a very good message." While inwardly glowing from this endorsement, I gave my usual disclaimer along these lines: "It seemed a little long to me." To which she countered firmly, "Why can't you accept a compliment?"
Stung, I started thinking and repenting. She had given me a gift of herself and I batted it back as if unneeded. My response was dishonest and unkind. Truthfully, I deeply needed her supportive response — and any others I could get. Her words helped enormously. A better response would have been honest acceptance of her kindness and to say, "Thank you. I really appreciate hearing that." Even a simple "thank you" would be enough.
'It is better to give than to receive,' we are taught. But insensitive receivers sorely discourage generous givers.
Jesus knew how to treat a gift. When a young woman anointed him with expensive ointment, the disciples registered disapproval of the waste. But Jesus gracefully embraced both the gift and the giver, protecting her feelings, and, by his actions, saying, "Thanks, I needed that."
A compliment is a gift. Most of us, if honest about it, are needy enough to take all we can get. Kindness to those who give, and to ourselves, calls for a simple, honest "thank you." Accepting the manna of kindness is, in truth, giving thanks to God.
Act Friendly - February 21, 2020
Let me say it again . . . the same message as my previous blog. Love is not a FEELING, it is an ACTION. Don't wait until you FEEL friendly . . . instead, make a decision to BE friendly, even if you're really not in that mood. The act of your BEING friendly will be healing to other people.
A warm greeting to a stranger can be called "friendliness". And it usually has a positive effect. It feels good to be given a touch and a smile. Medical doctors even believe such gifts are equal to some kinds of pills they prescribe. They realize they are spirit-lifting, and an elevated spirit generates positive health in the cells and tissues of the human body.
In other words 'love', if we may call friendliness by that world-changing word, is medicine. Love, whether it is a smile, a touch, a pat-on-the-back, or a more profound action, is God's pharmaceutical elixer. Think of Jesus' life — God's love is everywhere. Jesus' love revolutionized the world. It changed humanities sense of worth. Jesus' love showed us that God is love, which was a monumental revelation that has literally changed the world in a very positive way.
Love is not a feeling (although much love does have intense feelings). It is much better to think of love as actions or behavior. Remember. a kind act, even when offered by a sad or angry person, is still love.
So when we are called to "love one another", we can and should do so, regardless of how we may be feeling at the moment. Our mind, or spirit, has been taught by Jesus to love one another — even when we are not feeling loving.
LOVE is our Christ Jesus modeled mandate. So, as Jesus said, "LOVE ONE ANOTHER."
Friendliness Is Not A Feeling - February 7, 2020
When you meet someone, or merely pass a person on the sidewalk, a friendly greeting is called for — most of the time. You do not have to know him, or her, to justify a word of connection. You just need to do it — clearly, warmly, and most of the time, briefly or quickly.
Delivering such gems (that is what a greeting is), is like being a Medicine Man. A kind word lifts the spirits of the recipient, Lifted spirits wash out the germs of pessimism, discouragement, depression, fear, sadness, and more. These troublesome sentiments weaken health and retard optimism and joy — which are nutrients for your own health.
Friendliness is easy! Squeezing someone's elbow, a pat on the back, a greeting, a handshake can do the job.
It is so easy; no one can excuse themselves from this activity. It is more important to be person-oriented than to be preoccupied with the task of grocery shopping, driving the car or taking care of your hunger pangs, or even looking for a parking place. Turning our spirit toward people is what Jesus was talking about when He said we should "love one another".
Friendliness is love. It is a reasonable and possible form of love. The word "love" is an enormously important theme, but it helps to show some of the forms love can take — like friendliness. "Friendliness" is love!
A greeting, a smile, a touch, a phone call, even a honk of your car horn are forms of friendliness. They warm heats, trigger smiles, heal a headache, and enhance another's health.
Jesus calls us to "love one another". Let's start today with a quadruple dose of friendliness.
Thank Someone This Week - January 25, 2020
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.
That's Phony! - January 10, 2020
"I couldn't put my arm around her and hug her if I wasn't feeling like it. That would be phony."
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 - December 28, 2019
Note to my long-time readers: You've read my thoughts on this topic before, BUT . . .
It is So important. It is a lesson that we constantly forget. So, in bringing it back before you again, I am reminding myself, and you, as well, that we need to indeed remember to check our own story at the door.
I was sitting outside the carwash 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. 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 should have been the patient — instead I was being asked to become the doctor, to attend to his hurts.
It happens all the time. "John" presents to "Bill" a challenge but Bill responds by telling his story. "Jane" brings up her fear but "Betty" moves boldly onto the stage, relating her own burdens. "Sally" phones "Carole" with news, but instead, Carole seizes the opportunity to tell her own news, with little attention to what Sally had really wanted to say.
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.
I visited "Agnes" in Memorial Hospital after her major surgery. She'd had an operation to remove a brain tumor. As I sat beside her bed, one throbbing thought was clamoring in my head — my mother's brain tumor surgery, decades earlier. I wanted badly to tell Agnes my story. Here was a point of identification to pull us together. "See, I understand this," my telling would prove.
Better judgment, however, kept my tongue still. This was Agnes' dilemma for me to reach out toward, not a time for her to minister to me, as inevitably would happen. (Even mentioning my mother's illness could not be considered. For certainly Agnes would want to know the outcome. Since my mother died of her malignant tumor, this was definitely not a tale to tell a person fresh from the operating room.)
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.
A Christmas Joke - December 13, 2019
In a small southern town, there was a Nativity Scene that showed that great skill and talent had gone into creating it. One small feature, however, bothered me.
The three wise men were wearing firemen's helmets.
Totally unable to come up with a reason or explanation, I left. At a Quik Stop on the edge of town, I asked the lady behind the counter about the helmets.
She exploded into a rage, yelling at me, "You stupid Yankees never do read the Bible!"
I assured her that I did, but simply couldn't recall anything about firemen in the Bible.
She jerked her Bible from behind the counter and ruffled through some pages, and finally jabbed her finger at a passage. Sticking it in my face she said, "See, it says right here, the three wise man came from afar."
Don't Keep Everything Secret - November 22, 2019
"Rev., I want to tell you something, but you have to keep it conﬁdential. We don't want anyone else to know this."
"Sure Pete, you know I'll keep whatever you tell me strictly between us."
"Well, Rev., our son is an alcoholic. And he's only eighteen. He's getting treatment now and he's dried out at the present time, but you would not believe what hell we've gone through."
Keep it confidential!? The pastor has just agreed to keep secret something a supportive community should know about. He allowed himself to be cornered into keeping something private which belongs not to a couple of individuals, but to many other people who would want to show love, care, support, encouragement. This is no isolated experience.
It is more common than rare. People often withhold from their friends the hurts, fears, burdens, and also joys and victories of their private lives. It is standard behavior, I'm sad to say. Pete's pain, over his son, should not be his private property.
Pete may or may not be a church member; if not, there is nevertheless a group of people to whom he could, and should, be able to turn. But let's assume that he does belong to church. While Pete is the father, the alcoholic son belongs to the whole congregation. At his birth and baptism, Pete's son has been incorporated into the community with promises, spoken or implied, that he would be the object of their love and concern. They pledged to take care of him, to pray for him. He was their son, too. In the physical body, if the infected toe is not felt by the rest of the body, it is likely to go untreated and get worse. That rarely happens. The pain is always felt throughout the whole system and all of our physical resources are mobilized to help heal it. That is how healing happens. Every day, some of us innocently conspire to prevent The Body from taking care of its ailing parts.
We do this by requesting secrecy and agreeing to keep secret the hurts, concerns, worries, ills, tragedies, occurring in various parts of Christ's body. So we hold close to our vests our own fears, heartaches, and illnesses. One of the marks of Christ's church is bearing each other's burdens. It is a body! No part is weakened without it affecting the rest, whether they know it or not. A cut toe is never a secret to the rest of the body.
We are expected to be open with each other. This is not risk free—it creates an uncontrollable condition of vulnerability because people sometimes mishandle our information. But the blessings far out-weigh the disadvantages, and dangers. It is a key to being cared-for, a beautiful condition. Jesus’ spirit will help us in all our little ‘churches’ (classes, groups, ministries, friendship circles) to model transparency. It allows others to bear our burdens and in doing so strengthens us and The Body, of which we are part.
So, to be clear, let me assure you that I am fully aware of the negative feelings that prevent you from being open and vulnerable to the community of believers — shame, embarrasment, fear, a sense of privacy, worry and so forth. But, the benefits of receiving love, support, compassion, and help from others far outweigh the risk. Please! Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
Acts of (un)Kindness Stick, Also - November 8, 2019
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 graciously. Amen.
Terrible Circumstances - Oct 25, 2019
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 He would be 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.
Thoughts Generate Chemicals - Oct 11, 2019
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 that they must change these to positive feelings and thoughts — Love, Generosity, Courage, and Praise.
He claims that service to others is one of the best ways to move into this healthy context; and he has found that doing this has proven to be effective in producing the winning edge.
This is indeed an 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 frantic-ness, 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 changes in your feelings.
The Truth About Kindness - Sep 27, 2019
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 kindness is indeed ordinary; it is as ordinary as salt.
At the same time, it is as vital and as essential as salt. Salt enhances other flavors and seasonings; likewise kindness puts flavor into all the other virtues. Without kindliness, there is no virtue in the other virtues; without it they are insipid and tasteless; or worse, they degenerate into vices.
Love, joy, peace, good temper — without kindliness, these 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 Care and Kindness mission: Care AND Kindness! The two are so much the same and they do go together. I have seen people who actually care for another, and yet they fall short on showing kindness. On the flip side, it is pretty hard to show kindness without actually caring.
Be kind to everyone. Demonstrate in your daily living that you care what happens to people around you.
Grow in your kindliness.
Disability Builds Faith - Sep 13, 2019
Popular opinion holds that a disabling life event is likely to destroy a person's faith. If you are suffering from a disability or handicap or serious illness, you may feel that your faith is certainly being threatened.
If you are close to someone who is having to face the fact that they are not as whole as they once were, you may see that they are struggling with their faith and their trust in God.
However, 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.
Here are some of the reactions of those 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 gives 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 said they both hate it and accept it. 100% agreed that "to walk again" is a dream that never leaves. 69% (18) expressed a hopeful attitude. 8% held hopeless feelings 23% were mixed with both hopeful and helpless feelings
"Hope" means not giving up. Hope is fueled by a faith in God. Hope blossoms when friends and family are close, supportive and encouraging. I suppose that the take-away that I want to impart to those of you who are not on the disabled list is that you can be a blessing to those who are by 'showing up' for them. Being there. Being supportive. Encouraging them.
Thank Someone Today - Aug 30, 2019
"Thanksgiving" cards are great. What an appropriate time to sit down and think of a number of people who have given us something, or contributed to our lives in some major or minor way, and then make a point of a straightforward, unashamed statement of appreciation.
But . . . do we really need to wait until November to do this? Consider the suggestion that you do this every week during the year? Or once a month? Or now and then? But you don't have to wait until November!
And how many different ways can you come up with to express these 'thank you's'?
Or new technology ways:
Or an old-fashioned way:
Stop a few minutes. Trace your steps through an average day, week, year, or your life. Isn't it surprising how many people stand out as ones who have made life good, just by being part of our lives?
Thank some of them.
And also express gratitude to God for these people in your life.
How Can I Show Up? - Aug 16, 2019
You've heard me frequently repeat one of my fundamental beliefs: that 90% of Helping Is Just Showing Up. Let's explore that concept more today. What does 'showing up' mean?
People express to me that it is helpful to them when I give suggestions on how to apply my ideas in a very practical way. So here are some thoughts for you to consider.
What young people do you know that are not part of your family, or even not connected to your close friends? What activities are they involved in where you could just show up? Tee-ball, Little League, soccer games, band concerts, pick-up basketball games in the park, volley ball games, etc. . . . cheer for them. Encourage them.
I know of a married couple who had a heart for people who were the victims of serious accidents. They would go to the hospital to offer encouragement to these people whom they had never met before. That is showing up.
Are you ready for a hard one? Suppose you encounter people asking for a handout in front of a store where you shop.
What if, instead of just walking past them, you stopped and engaged them in a bit of conversation?
What if you took a few minutes to let them know that you recognize they are real people, just like you, even though their circumstances are different?
Could you do that? That is showing up.
Being Kind to Yourself? - Aug 2, 2019
We’ve been considering the role of kindness in our lives. Our Care and Kindness Campaign seeks to raise people’s awareness of how important kindness is. We have discussed kindness that we show at home. We urge that you show kindness in public. Then there’s kindness at church and kindness with your enemies.
That pretty well covers the gamut, don’t you think?
Almost! . . . Someone else needs your kindness. Who could that be?
Don’t we tend to be tough on ourselves? And rightly so. Like the young couple at the wedding in Cana, we don’t always adequately plan ahead. We’ve been self-serving. And like the woman with the illness, our world sometimes seems out of control. But did Jesus chide the wedding couple? No. Was he hard on the woman who touched his hem? No. He is kind to the forgetful. He is kind to the greedy. He is kind to the sick.
And he is kind to us. And since he is so kind to us, can’t we be a little kinder to ourselves?
Oh, but you don’t know me! You don’t know my faults and my thoughts. You don’t know the gripes that come so easily into my mind. You don’t know the complaints I so frequently mutter.
No, I don’t, but Jesus does. He made you. He knows everything about you, yet he doesn’t hold back his kindness toward you.
Has he, knowing all your secrets, retracted one promise or reclaimed one gift? No, he is kind to you.
Why don’t you be kind to yourself?
He forgives your faults.
Why don’t you do the same?
He thinks tomorrow is worth living.
Why don’t you agree?
He believes in you enough to call you his ambassador, his follower, even his child.
Why not take his cue and believe in yourself?
In other words, with all of our focus on kindness, be sure to include yourself. Say some good, encouraging words to YOU. Let your mind enjoy some thoughts about the good things that make you to be YOU.
Why Don’t People Believe Things the Right Way?? - July 12, 2019
Admittedly, that’s a rather awkward title, but I’ve been thinking about how much wasted energy we spend worrying about how other people view church, Christianity, belief systems and religious practices. We tend to think that everybody else seems to not quite understand things the way we do, and precisely BECAUSE we believe a certain way, we think it is the right way.
The disciples demonstrated this way of thinking in Mark 9 when they said, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” Now, I think they had the right intentions; they were trying to defend Jesus and his ministry. The man they saw wasn’t part of their group, so he was to be viewed with suspicion. But Jesus told them not to stop the man. He said, “Anyone who is not against us is for us.”
Another example is explained in an interesting book titled, Why Are There So Many Denominations? Who Started Them? Why? The author, C. Jack Trickler, points out that we could consider that Paul and Peter led two different denominations. They were both disciples of Jesus, but they had different opinions or different interpretations of how Jesus’ teachings should be understood.
A husband and wife might disagree on many issues, with each thinking, “Why doesn’t my spouse think like I do??” But their different viewpoints can be enriching. A wise person once said that “if they were exactly alike, one of them would be redundant!”
So let’s celebrate the fact that we have differences; that we view things differently; that there is more than one way to look at things. In spite of a few things that we don’t agree on with a person, or a group, let’s bring to mind how many things there are that we DO agree on. Let’s not spend so much energy focused on the things that separate us — there is much we can be united on.
Let’s celebrate all that unites us.
What Is Your Kindness Quotient? - June 28, 2019
How kind are you? What is your kindness quotient? There are various tests you may have taken — an I.Q. test (intelligence quotient), perhaps a Risk Quotient test (from your financial advisor), or maybe you took an Emotional Quotient test you found in a magazine. But have you given thought to what your Kindness Quotient might be?
You can do that right now by asking yourself questions such as these:
In the book of Galatians, Paul writes: “When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it.” (Gal. 6:10a).
Listening is Kindness - June 14, 2019
In the book of Mark, the story is well-known of the woman who had been bleeding for many years—she reached through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. He felt power go out from him and asked, “Who touched me?”
Can you imagine the scene? People are pressed all around Jesus in the crowd that was following him, but he was aware of the special need of one person. Many people were undoubtedly bumping against him and thus the consternation of his disciples at his question, “Who touched me?” Why would he ask such a question, when he was constantly being touched?
And yet there was something special about the touch of one person. He was aware of it. Everyone else was clueless.
When she touched his hem, she immediately felt a change in her body. His question probably frightened her somewhat, so she hung back. But when he asked again, she came forward and told her story.
This is an amazing part! She was already healed—Jesus’ power had touched her and ended her suffering. He had already performed the miracle. That could have been the end of it. But — he listened to her story. He gave his time to listen to her. He was already on his way to the house of Jairus, whose daughter had died. He was busy. He was on a mission. He was surrounded by the pressings of the crowd. And yet — he listened to her story.
That was another healing! Giving his time to her restored her dignity. This is the lesson for us! Giving people our time and our attention is healing medicine for them. We cannot do physical healings like Jesus can do, but we can give people our time. We can listen to them.
Listening is kindness. Interrupting our own busy schedule to give time to another person is a kindness. Some may think that all this talk of kindness sounds, well . . . it sounds a bit wimpy. But . . . it is powerful! It is healing! It is needed!
Take some time for someone today. Be present for them. You will both be blessed.
Actions Are More Important Than Feelings - May 24, 2019
Good deeds can start in your head, as well as in your heart. However, if they stay in either your heart or your head, and don't lead further to an action, they don't really exist. Feeling sad or caring or loving or having sympathy—they don't really count as bona fide caring, compared to trying to do something.
I mentioned a few weeks ago, in my comments here, that I put together a list of twelve secret behaviors several years ago. They are behaviors you can do, and which, if you will conscientiously do them, will make a BIG difference in the world around you. So, the second one on my list is this: Actions are more important than care and kind feelings.
Some people have said to me, “Well, you know, I don't really feel much, and I don't have many emotional responses to people’s distress.”
Well, that that's an honest, legitimate condition that some people have more than others, but feelings are not a necessary ingredient to doing something good. For example, if you see somebody's bleeding, you know that they need some help. You use your head. You can see it; you can observe it; and you can do something, regardless of how you feel about it.
So you don't have to feel for people, but you do have to act for people. If you go into a store, and there's a clerk and there's a line waiting for help, you probably have no feelings about the clerk. It’s just a person up there, and you don't know that the clerk needs something. BUT . . . your brain can tell you that she is a human being, a young woman, probably a mother, and probably has kids at home. Your brain can say to you, "I'll bet a word of appreciation or encouragement will lift her spirits." You don’t have to feel for her—you just have to think about it, and decide to give her a gift of some sort.
You can do that! It doesn't take any special skill; it doesn't require any preparation; it doesn't take much time—it only takes a mental decision to do something kind for another person while you are out and about your business.
90 Seconds? . . . or More?? - May 10, 2019
The whole point of what I am going to tell you is summarized in the words of the title above. Let me explain what I mean.
I recently read words from a scientist (a neuroanatomist!) that explained how emotions trigger a physical response in our body. Our body is actually affected physically, very specifically, by emotions. But . . . she said that from the time the emotion triggers the chemical component that goes into the blood, within 90 seconds!, that chemical component has entirely dissipated . . . and the automatic response is over.
Isn’t that interesting? It can be over and done with in only 90 seconds??
Here’s how it typically goes: something caused me to feel angry; I couldn’t help it. That was the way I automatically reacted to what happened. I could feel it in my body. My heart was beating faster; I felt my blood pressure was probably higher; I was indeed angry.
But, what this scientist said was that those physical symptoms were over and done within 90 seconds. I confess that usually I feel angry for longer than that. So why would this be?
The answer is that, for some reason, I have chosen to hang on to those feelings. I have made the choice to continue feeling angry. I am allowing my brain to keep telling the story over and over again about the incident that had upset me.
So the important issue here is about the choice I made. And about the choice I make each time a strong emotion affects my body.
And I know the answer to my question. If the body is done with it in 90 seconds, I want my mind to be done with it as well. If I let it go, I am going to be more pleasant to be around; I am going to be able to better show care and kindness to others; I am going to feel better in general; I will be a healthier person.
If I let it go.
A Secret Behavior - April 26, 2019
A number of years ago I put together a list of twelve secret behaviors and we printed up some pamphlets that talked about each of them. I don't know why I decided to say they were a 'secret', because there is nothing sacred about them. They are behaviors you can do, and which, if you will conscientiously do them, will make a BIG difference in the world around you. (Maybe the secret is that things so obvious on this list need to be pointed out more strongly.)
The first one on the list was to remind you to SMILE. Yes, I know you smile frequently, but do you smile intentionally? Do you smile at someone when you might not normally do it?
Do you know that they have found that if somone's frown is removed by getting botox injections, they end up feeling better? Really! When their mouth can’t frown anymore, it makes a chemical difference in their body. They also found that smiling raises your immunity level.
This is to say nothing about what it does for the persons to whom you give that smile. You will feel better and others feel better when you give them that smile. My SECRET (I'll use that word again) is that it takes a decision to smile in many circumstances. Some people are born with the inclination to smile easily; some people are genetically equipped to be easy smilers. But . . . if you aren’t a natural smiler, you can do still do it.
We must see this as an assignment in life, not just something nice to do, now and then. This is your task. That’s our job, and everybody can do it.
Smile. Mother Teresa said a smile is the beginning of peace. That’s how big a smile is.
Just Walk With Me - April 12, 2019
I have a problem. I want to tell you about it.
No, I really don't. I'd rather keep it to myself; handle it alone.
I do think it would be good for me to share it with you, though I don't want to because I'm afraid of what you'll say, or how you'll act.
I'm afraid You might feel sorry for me in a way that makes me feel pathetic. Like I'm some "poor thing".
I'm afraid you will try to cheer me up. That you will give me words or text or prayers that tell me in a subtle way to stop feeling bad. If you do that, I'll feel worse (but hide it behind my obedient, cheerful smile). I'll feel you don't understand. I'll feel you are making light of my problem (as if it can be brushed away with some brief words of cheer).
I'm afraid you'll give me an answer. That this problem I've been wrestling with for some time now, and about which I have thought endless thoughts, will be belittled.
You can answer in a half-minute what I've struggled with for weeks?
I'm afraid you might ignore my problem; talk quickly about other things, tell me of your own.
I'm afraid, too, you might see me as being stronger than I am. Not needing you to listen and care. (It's true, I can get along, but I shouldn't).
What I'd really like is, if you would "just walk with me". Listen as I begin in some blundering, clumsy way to break through my fearfulness of being exposed as weak.
Hold my hand and pull me gently as I falter and begin to draw back. Say a word, make a motion, or a sound that says, "I'm with you." If you've been where I am, tell me how you felt in a way that I can know you're trying to walk with me - Not change me.
But I'm afraid...
PLEASE just walk with me. All those other things seem so much brighter and sharper, smarter, and expert. But what really takes love is to "Just Walk With Me."
The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want...Psalm 23.
Yes, even when I walk through the valley, You're with me (walking with Me)."
Teachable Moments - March 29, 2019
The kitty lay dead in the street when we woke up. Shocked and saddened, we prepared a burial spot in the backyard. Gently and reverently, we gave thanks for the joy she had brought to our lives, then covered her tiny body. No one spoke of looking for another to take her place. Everyone took the loss seriously and somberly. Then it was over.
Our family scattered in a half-dozen directions, on to other things — fun, routine chores, sports, reading — life went on. Grief reentered from time to time, appearing more in one member of the family than in another, perhaps, but no visible interruption marked this loss.
I've been pondering how this situation, which is so common to all of us, is such a teachable moment. When a child is knocked down or bruised by loss or disappointment, the experience presents us with a prime teaching opportunity. Unfortunately, we all too easily miss our chance.
For example, we are tempted to quickly brush aside the death of our child’s pet as unimportant (because, as an experienced adult, we know that it matters little in the scheme of life.) Or we may resolve the matter too quickly by getting another pet to replace the one we lost. (You know why we do that, right? We are trying to 'fix' the situation and to cheer up the family.)
The lesson to be learned, however, is that neither of these two approaches strengthens our children or instills in them a long-range outlook that stands ready to help them in the future. Parents and teachers who respect and affirm the distress of their children listen to their feelings. They avoid quick fixes and superficial reassurances. They set a positive table for growth.
Children who are properly equipped to deal with pain discover, without realizing it, that they can face it head-on, survive it, and continue happily on with life. This happens because they have not been rescued, sheltered, or belittled; their pain has been taken with appropriate seriousness — not too much, and not too little. They’re treated as being strong enough to handle it.
Christian parents may enrich their own empathy by gently assuring their children that the Lord Jesus loves them and therefore hurts for them, too, in this, a major childhood loss. However, (another caution) we need to conscientiously avoid any suggestion that “God took the kitty.” That is crucial to the teaching here. Such a fatalistic approach lays the groundwork for some very dangerous theology.
Mature compassion allows discomfort. When we show our children that we are confident that they can face up to their pain, then we’re helping them to deal with it. We set the stage for a lifetime of dealing with tough situations head-on, rather than allowing them to deny or avoid them. Fundamental to this approach is the parent’s conviction that God has created in humankind, even children, the capacity to heal and grow stronger by facing up to hard times and by going through them.
In summary, then, may I remind you of couple of themes that you hear from me a lot.
Listen to feelings: your perspective as an adult is quite different from that of your children. Allow them to have their natural feelings.
Don't try to fix the situation: you can't undo to loss; you can't remove the pain, you can't change the circumstances. Instead, accept what has happened and deal with it in a loving way.
Reflecting on Rejuvenation - March 15, 2019
I am older than I've ever been. In fact, I've never been this age before! So, I've been thinking that we begin to get older actually before we are born. I remember that aging became an issue at age sixteen, when I longed for a driver's license, and again when I wanted a glass of wine in a restaurant.
But I've also been thinking that, while our bodies grow weightier, our friendships also enlarge, deepen, and even sometimes simplify. To simplify means to be healed, encouraged, satisfied by a smile, a pat on the back, a hug, or a postcard in the U.S. Mail.
There is a book on our mantel right now entitled "Ninety Percent of Helping is Just Showing Up". Perhaps you have heard of it. That title tells us how little it takes to be spiritually rejuvenated. Rejuvenation is the process of making someone, or something, young again. So spiritual rejuvenation means to be once again energetically active and enthusiastic.
It can start with a personal decision to be fresh, alert, physically alive. But then it depends on opening our eyes, ears and our heart to the goodness of those round us. The benefits of life itself, the wonders of creation and even human invention and performance are spiritual modifiers.
Even church attendance is a potent help. The music, the atmosphere, the message — all contribute to deepening and rejuvenation-which, surprisingly, is a synonym for being born again.
Rejuvenation is a way of life. It includes staying active, valuing your people, nourishing your mind and spirit. Remember the old saying 'prayer changes things'. Consistent, thoughtful prayer also changes those who exert themselves in that direction.
There are countless benefits to growing older, but staying young is always possible. You might take a few moments right now to consider where you are in this regard. Are you getting older? Are you doing things to stay young? Let's talk about that.
Reach Out and Touch Someone - March 1, 2019
Several years ago, many of you saw the powerful movie, The Passion of Christ. What a comfort-shattering experience that was!! The message of that movie calls us to suffer, too. It insists that we, too, give our lives for others. We are called to leave our comfort zones and dare to get hurt, if necessary, while trying to bring healing to others.
I frequently make the statement that we must die for others, but perhaps I need to explain more carefully what I mean by that. I don't mean that you literally have to 'die'. Rather, I consider that the feelings you have when you do something that is WAAAY out of your comfort zone—that is a form of dying to yourself. We quite naturally prefer to protect ourselves from hurt, discomfort, risk by staying with where we are familiar and comfortable. We don't like to move out of our comfort zones, but when we do, in the name of Jesus, we are sharing his love. (And that was WHY he died . . . to share his love.) So, whenever I walk across the room, (introvert that I may be) and welcome a stranger, (as ineptly as I may do it) I am dying for her. And in dying for her, I am resuscitating her, raising her a little, from the dead.
I beg you to take total ownership of every room you sit in, or enter.
I beg you to take leadership in noticing who is there and intentionally approaching whoever might possibly be alone.
I implore you to endeavor (in some faulty, trembling, inarticulate way, if necessary) to include them and bring them IN.
JUST BE THERE!! Though we must think of every human being as ‘the walking wounded’, our task is not to fix them. Fixing is underway when we greet the stranger, or lift the spirits of anyone. With total trust, we leave the deliberate fixing to God, who CAN fix their hurts.
Friendliness is Not a Feeling - February 1, 2019
When you meet someone, or merely pass a person on the sidewalk, a friendly greeting is called for-most of the time.
You do not have to know him, or her, to justify a word of connection. You just need to do it; clearly, warmly, and, most of the time, briefly. Or quickly. Delivering such gems (that is what a greeting is), is like being a Medicine Man.
Friendliness is not simply a feeling—it is, more importantly, an ACTION. Your perception of feeling friendly towards a a person does nothing for him or her. But the action you take, or the word that you say, will indeed have an effect on that person.
A kind word lifts the spirits of the recipient. Lifted spirits wash out the germs of pessimism, discouragement, depression, fear, sadness, and more. These troublesome sentiments weaken health, retard optimism and joy—which are nutrients for health.
Friendliness is easy! Squeezing someone's elbow, a pat on the back, a greeting, a handshake can do the job. It is so easy that no one can (or should) excuse themselves from this activity. Among other things, it is the opportunity to bring healing to another and to oneself. A friendly word, a greeting, or a gentle touch is like medicine. It heals—discouragement, sadness, fear, loneliness and a lot more.
It is more important to be person-oriented than to be preoccupied with a particular task at hand: grocery shopping, driving the car, taking care of your hunger pangs, or a finding a parking place. Turning our spirit towards people is what Jesus was talking about when He said that we should "love one another".
Friendliness is LOVE. It is a reasonable and possible form of love. The word ‘love’ is an enormously important theme, but it helps to show some of the forms that love can take—like friendliness. ‘Friendliness’ is love!
A greeting, a smile, a touch, a phone call, even a honk of your car horn are forms of friendliness. They warm hearts, trigger smiles, heal a headache, and enhance another's health.
The Role of Enthusiasm - January 18, 2019
I love that word enTHUSiasm. As you may know, the 'thus' in the middle comes from the Greek word Theos. Theos means 'God' in the Greek language. It is the first part of the word Theology, which means God Knowledge — God-ology.
So enTHUSiasm really means to have God energy, or God inside; it means that you are a God-driven, God-centered person. Add enthusiasm to “You are the light of the world” and we have a mighty important presence.
I was told a few days ago about a women’s Bible Study to which a stranger showed up and took a seat. The meeting continued on dealing with its agenda and then adjourned. Every one left . . . well, nearly everyone left. These Christians who understood their role as 'lights in the world' should have seen to it that this new stranger had thirty people around her — welcoming her. Instead . . . there was one.
Okay, that is all it takes. Blessings indeed on the one. BUT, there should have been thirty concerned women, tripping over each other to get to her side. Instead of only the one.
My dear friends, YOU must take ownership of this challenge to make the world a better place, to care about strangers, to reach out into uncomfortable places where you’d rather not be. You are a light.
Do not hide your light under a basket. Let it shine. Reach out to people. Notice people. Notice the needs of people, even if they don't speak out about them. If each of you is the 'one' in the incident above, then there will be thirty as well.
A New List of Kindness Suggestions - January 4, 2019
Readers of my books and my blog postings are all familiar with my message that we can offer acts of kindness daily as we go about our daily lives. We can lift the spirits of those around us; we can show Jesus' love; we can bring joy to others, simply by taking an extra moment to be kind.
When I offer specific actions and ideas on what actions we can take, I get tremendous feedback on the helpfulness of such lists. So, in that spirit, here are some thoughts:
Tweet or Facebook message a genuine compliment to three people right now.
Bring doughnuts (or a healthy treat, like cut-up fruit) to work.
While you’re out, compliment a parent on how well-behaved their child is.
Cook a meal or do a load of laundry for a friend who just had a baby or is going through a difficult time.
If you walk by a car with an expired parking meter, put a quarter in it.
Put your phone away.
Don’t interrupt when someone else is speaking. (Surprisingly few people master this.)
Let someone into your lane. They’re probably in a rush just like you.
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.
Maybe oxygen is slowly killing you and It just takes 75-100 years to fully work.
©2020 Care and Kindness Ministries.