Monthly archives: May, 2017

Kindness Matters

 

When you think of the world today, would the first word that pops into your head to describe it be “kind”? Yea. Not for me either. It seems like most stories we hear or read today are highlighting the most drastic, inhumane, and narcissistic behaviors that completely overshadow any good things that happen in this world. There is still good things that happen in this world, right?

 

Well, that’s exactly what Leon Logothetis set out to prove.

 

Recently, I was sitting down with our kids to try to find something family friendly to watch with them. We came across a series on Netflix called The Kindness Diaries. It’s an epic journey where Leon’s travels are powered solely by kindness. He gave up his job as a broker and his home in London for a life on the road. Leon has now visited more than 90 countries and traveled to every continent. He travels the world on his yellow motorbike named (interestingly enough) Kindness One. With nothing more than a backpack, with no money or plan for where he will sleep at night, he relies entirely on the kindness of strangers to feed him and give him a place to stay.

 

In the 13 part series, one, in particular, stood out to me. As evening was nearing, Leon approached a stranger explaining his adventure and asking if he could spend the night with him.  With tears in his eyes, this gentleman explained that he was homeless…but wanted him to go with him anyway.  This homeless man gave Leon his best. His man-made bed out of dirty blankets on a hard concrete ground. Leon was blown away by his act of kindness. When the homeless man least expected it, his kindness was returned to him as Leon had connections to help find him a place to live as well as help him get enrolled in a technical college.

 

Kindness. Whether we’re giving it or receiving it, it marks us.

 

The kindness that Jesus shows is no different.  It’s easy to think of His power, His faithfulness, and His love for mankind. But when we really pause and reflect, we see Him; and He is covered in kindness time and time again.

 

There are too many acts of kindness shown by Jesus to even begin to mention them all. Paul reminds us, “Love is kind”(I Corinthians 13); Nehemiah speaks out, “You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness” (Nehemiah 9:17 NKJV).  David goes on to say, “Your lovingkindness is better than life” (Psalm 63:3).

 

I wonder how many times that Jesus is showing us His kindness and carrying things for us that we don’t know about? We know of some…mainly the “big” ones. He paid our eternal debt. He forgives our sins. But what about the everyday things?

 

Has he carried our fears before we felt them? Has he dealt with our confusion so we wouldn’t have to? Those times when we were surprised by our own sense of peace? Could it be that Jesus placed our anxieties on His shoulders?

 

Maybe you’re thinking this kindness stuff sounds a bit too girly and soft. I mean really. You go to conferences on strategic thinking, leadership and conquering mountains (using any force that’s necessary…the more violent and ugly the better!) Have you ever heard of a seminar on kindness? Probably not.  Maybe there should be. And yet, this is at the top of the pyramid for Jesus.

 

What about us? Kindness at home. Kindness in public. It’s needed everywhere. How will we show kindness in our world? Grab your spouse or a friend, ask your kids – they tend to have the best ideas. It doesn’t have to be some big planned event. The smallest acts of kindness are just as meaningful.


Patience…It’s no Joke!

On a recent flight, I was behind “that” guy. The guy who takes his time casually, slooooooowly collecting his bag and belongings from the storage area above the seats.

 

I thought I was going to lose my mind. Seriously.

 

As the plane parked on the tarmac and the AC is turned down off, the herd of people starts gathering; and at this point, I’m feeling pretty claustrophobic. It’s been a long flight.  Was he really that oblivious to the enormous line of people behind him…all waiting on him? All I thought was, “Didn’t this guy know he’s supposed to get his stuff together before we land? Like that’s what you’re supposed to do during the invisible rollercoaster called the descent? I’ve got places to be. Things to do. Why can’t this guy get his act together?”

 

But did my impatience help move this guy along faster? Did it eliminate my current situation? Did it portray the example I want to be to my children? Did my behavior display anything that comes close to resembling Jesus?  Not at all.

 

I missed it.

 

Patience.

 

It’s a daily, moment by moment struggle. It takes lots of deep, deep breaths, several “Jesus take the wheel” prayers and going to happy places and giving yourself a time out and counting backwards. It’s no joke.

 

It’s a learned behavior. And with any learned behavior, it takes an enormous amount of effort and work; and recalling the desired end result. It takes practice, again and again. Is it just me, or does God seem to put us in recurring situations that require us to develop forbearance and patience? Nope. I’m pretty sure He does it on purpose. He helps us navigate through moments as we grow up and grow closer to Him. He places us in scenarios (whether small or big) in which we learn – sometimes kicking and screaming. But we learn.

 

Paul presents patience as the premiere expression of love. Positioned at the head of the apostle’s Love Fleet is the flagship known as patience – “Love is patient…” (I Corinthians 13:4). The Greek word used here for patience is a descriptive one. It figuratively means “taking a long time to boil”. Think about a pot of boiling water. The primary factor that determines the speed at which it boils is the intensity of the flame. Water boils quickly when the flame is high. It boils slowly when the flame is low. Patience “keeps the burner down.”

 

Helpful clarification don’t you think? Patience isn’t naïve. It doesn’t ignore misbehavior. It just keeps the flame low. It waits. It listens. It’s slow to boil. This is how God treats us. And, according to Jesus, this is how we should treat others. Why? Because “God is being patient with you” (2 Peter 3:9)


I Loved That Car

My first real car, bought with my own life’s savings, was a 1958 Ford T-Bird—white with black leather interior. At $450, it cost everything I had but was so well worth it! When it was first designed, this model was very similar to the ’57, which only had two seats in the front, similar to its biggest competitor, the Corvette. However, the Ford people threw caution to the wind, putting two more seats in the rear while maintaining the low-slung look of its predecessors. Truly, my wheels were the talk of all my friends! I loved being able to cruise our town, all four windows down, rock-and-roll blasting through the speakers, drawing envious looks from young guys and old men alike. I felt like the king of the road every time I got behind the wheel.

But, as eventually happens to all of us, life intervened and through circumstances not of my own making, I was forced to put my “Little Bird” up for sale. Now, as I said, she was very unique and was quite popular in her day. Therefore, when I put her up for sale, I was quite confident that I would at least get most of my money back and maybe even a little profit to boot. I put her up for sale at $500. There was a problem though—my time to sell her was getting short and everybody knew it, so no one was willing to pay what I wanted. In fact, only one guy approached me with a cash-in-hand offer and that was for $400. Not happy at all, I accepted his money and watched him take my Bird away.

In economics, there are two main values: face value and real value. These may sound similar, but they are quite different in real life. For example, the “face value” of a nickel is five cents, nothing more and nothing less. However, the “real value” of something is not the same. The real value is based on what someone is willing to pay for what you’re selling, sadly like the guy who bought my Bird. To me, its “real value” was at least $450 if not the $500 I was asking for it. However, because he was only willing to pay $400, that ended up being its “real value.”

1 Peter 1:18-19 says, “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (NLT). Your “real value,” that is, what God Himself was willing to pay for your freedom, is nothing less than His very life’s blood poured out on a wooden cross!

So, let’s look at this truth from the perspective of the Garden Wall: Since Christ died for all people—His blood being the price that God was willing to pay for all people—that is the “Real Value” of all people, saved and unsaved. That’s why love’s demands in I Corinthians 13 must extend to all people, because, to God, all have a “Real Value” worthy of them.

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Jerry Gongwer is our guest blogger this week. Jerry is 74-years young, a retired postal worker and has been married for 45 years to his lovely bride, Jill.


CAPITALIZE Your Life

 

 

We don’t think twice about it now. Whether a book title, the name of a city or country, a month of the year or the beginning of a sentence, we know to use a capital letter. And, without a doubt, proper names get the same treatment. Greg, Tom, Susan, Paul, Rebecca, Christine, and Bob all get capitalized because scholars somewhere at some time decided ‘people are important enough to have the first letter of their name capitalized.’ Capitalization equals importance.

 

For most of us, this includes capitalizing any form of God’s name; how He moves, works, or is manifested; or any other reference to Him in writing: Father, Yahweh, Jesus, Spirit, Son, Lord, Provider, Healer, Giver, Love, Savior, Redeemer, Almighty, Christ, Messiah, Holy, not to mention He, His, and Him. He is of utmost importance, of value unequaled by anything or anyone, and worthy of even our smallest expressions of honor, like capitalizing His name. It is certainly the least we can do. And although we probably don’t think twice about it, hopefully, it serves as a little reminder of His worthiness every time we use a ‘G’ instead of a ‘g,’ a ‘J’ instead of a ‘j,’ or an ‘S’ instead of an ‘s.’

 

Because I love writing, I have boxes, bins, and nightstand drawers full of old notebooks chronicling my thoughts about life; feelings and emotions regarding personal growth and relationships; not to mention countless prayers lifted up to God with my pen. In all my writings, God is either the recipient or referenced to, and if I ever let you read all that I have written, (I won’t, by the way), you would only find a few times I have missed capitalizing His name. Again, it’s the least I can do, and I don’t think twice about it. As I prayed with my pen the other day, capitalizing His name as I went, God said something to me that I won’t forget:

 

“Capitalize your life.”

 

Pardon?

 

“I appreciate the capital letters, but what I want is the same commitment you have in capitalizing My Name to be reflected in your life.”

 

Whoa! What does that mean?

 

“Love people. Love Me. You honor Me with capital letters, but honor Me even more by how you love people. Capitalize your life.”

 

You have my attention, God.

 

In writing, we know how to honor God—with an ‘G’ instead of an ‘g’; an ‘R’ instead of an ‘r’; a ‘C’ instead of a ‘c.’ We were taught these fundamentals first in elementary school and then probably sometime again in Sunday school. We don’t think twice about it anymore. It is second nature. Honoring God by loving people, on the other hand, isn’t second nature for most of us, so if there’s any hope of us loving others, we must first think about doing it. And before even thinking about loving them, we must think about love.

 

For many of us, while we were taught our ABCs and when to capitalize them, we were simultaneously taught that we should love people, but no one happened to mention what love actually is.

 

But we know now:

love is patient, kind, content, encouraging, humble, honoring, selfless, gentle, forgiving, truthful, protecting, trusting, hopeful, and persevering.

 

Capitalization equals importance. Continue capitalizing when you’re writing about God, but join me in capitalizing our lives by loving people in the way He defined. Your neighbor is important, your life has value, and God is worthy.


Love Always Perseveres

 

 

 

Grit.

 

Courage and resolve; strength and character. Fortitude. Toughness. Hardiness. Tenacity. Perseverance.

 

Do you have it?

 

According to Angela Duckworth, New York Times bestseller, pioneering psychologist, researcher, professor and all-around smart gal, the secret to any achievement is not the talent you’re born with or that you develop. She suggests that anyone trying to succeed – be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people – that the secret sauce is a special blend of passion and long-term perseverance she calls “grit”.

 

This grit or perseverance can make or break all of life’s scenarios.  They just seem to go hand-in-hand in reaching our desired outcomes in the trivial and significant things in our normal everyday life; but, most importantly, they have great impact on our relationships whether we love others well or not. Writer Katie Reid puts it this way:

“Persevering has more to do with your character than your time, status or audience.

Perseverance might mean that someone carries you across the finish line when you don’t have anything left to give.

Sometimes perseverance is getting last place, just showing up, trying again and not giving up.

Perseverance might even entail helping someone else break through the tape at the end of the race. You might even cross the finish line broken and bruised – like Jesus.”

 

Jesus, our ultimate standard and example for imitation, modeled persevering, enduring love so astoundingly. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) The night before his crucifixion, all of the disciples abandoned him, denying they knew him.  And yet, He washed the feet of His disciples and prayed for them. His love endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2). What amazing love.

 

Persevering for the sake of persevering really has no purpose and gets us nowhere.  It is only when we recognize that we must model perseverance motivated by love for God and others that we really catch the essence of what God’s love really looks like.
But, let’s talk real. Relationships are messy. People can seem impossible to love. We know this because we know that we can be impossible to love sometimes. Maybe you’ve been persevering in your relationships for some time and you’re understandably just ready to throw in the towel. I get it. But, keep going.

 

How we live this God version of love can’t help but change the lives of those around us…and change us.

 

Keep loving.