A different definition of kindness

I drove by a church and noticed their marquee that read “Lord show us your kindness.’ That thought has followed me around for days. I wondered what events prompted the display of a message so clear, yet so perplexing. “Lord show us your kindness.”

It’s an understandable request. There is no complicated rhetoric to decipher; the request is straight forward, so why wouldn’t it leave my mind? I may have just unraveled the tangled dilemma, though. The Lord, our God, is always kind – even when he allows unkind circumstances to come into our lives. Bad things happen to good people. If you’re buried under circumstances right now that are suffocating the kindness factor out of you, hang on and pray as David prayed in Psalm 17:7 “Show your amazing kindness and rescue those who depend on you. Use your great power and protect them from their enemies.”

Stories of great people of the Bible reveal their human character when confronted by enemies and insurmountable conflicts. These children of the Lord weren’t always pitted enemy against enemy; their most painful incidents were often self-inflicted, and other times through broken relationships. Read the transparent plea of David in Psalm 69 where he begs God in verses 16 & 17 “Answer me, Lord, from the goodness of your faithful love. Out of your great kindness turn to me and help me! Don’t turn away from your servant. I am in trouble, so hurry and help me!” While he was drowning in regret and paralyzed by fear, he recognized that even in his condition, God was kind.

That’s where I got stuck on those words “Lord, show us your kindness.”  There is nothing wrong with those words. We yearn for our definition of kindness; do good and good will return to you. Be kind and life will be kind to you. There are times though when life is heavily weighted toward suffering, even tragedy; not our definition of kindness. Right? Oppression is dark around us and we ask, “Lord, where is your kindness now?” Like David in Psalm 25:2 we have to trust God “I trust in you, Lord; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.” While this talks about enemies in pursuit of David, we can take this same truth and apply it to our own lives, our personal version of enemies.

What is your enemy, your battleground, the thing you fight against constantly? Even Job, after all he battled, recognized in Job 10:12 “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.” Hebrews 11, called the faith chapter, records this hope for those of us who struggle to remember that the Lord is kind to us, even when our trials tell us otherwise. Hebrews 11:32-24 “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” Awesome God-following soldiers whose definition of kindness was winning the battle using God’s strength.

Psalm 84:11 “The Lord God is our protector and glorious king. He blesses us with kindness and honor. The Lord freely gives every good thing to those who do what is right.”

Prayer: Lord this is your day, your designated day. Please come near to your children where your spirit touches them and brings peace to hurting hearts. Surround us with your abundant love and infuse us with your power to share it. Remind us that we belong to you and no matter what circumstances we face, you are faithful and will work all things out for good because you love us. Give us insight and faith to trust you in the dark for what you promised in the light. Show us your path and be our guide as we follow you. I love you, Lord Jesus. Thank you for loving me back. Amen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2lDqmnq2y0 Kindness – Chris Tomlin


The fallacy of loss

Before you start reading this, I have to give you an easy out. It’s going to be a long and complicated post. Fair warning …

Are you recovering from loss? We experience loss in a heartbeat, but the recovery period is what takes time.  In the past year my concentration has been on living joyfully through this practice: “Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.” It’s proven true, at least in my life, that where my thoughts are focused, my actions form. I’m sure when Proverbs 4:23 was written, God knew that loss would cause us distressing grief. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Sometimes the toughest challenge in our day is not in the act, but in the thought before it. What we think, becomes our act.

This is why allowing our thought life to be obsessively tangled in what we’ve lost or what we can’t do has treacherous outcomes.  Look how it’s so clearly defined in Proverbs 15:28 “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” I’m not saying that loss always causes us to become wicked, but when there is no constraint over demoralizing thoughts, we can follow regret on its descent into despair. We can stay there in the pit or we can find our way out.

But what about all I’ve lost? That’s my reality. I’ve lost something I need.  True.

The problem with loss is that it’s now in the past where nothing can change it. We don’t get a do-over. What we get is a chance to go on. Proverbs 12:25  expresses it well “Anxiety in a person’s heart causes depression, but an encouraging word brings him joy.” I’m not all that fond of the book of Lamentations. Even the meaning of the word settles around me like gray dissonance. But every now and then, out of the grieving comes a promise like this one in Lamentations 3:22-23 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Today, let this be your encouragement – just a small spark of hope in your search for what you have left, while you accept what you have lost. In Hebrews 10:24-25 the writer describes “Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, to gather together, and encourage each other.” How many friends do you have? How many of them would you support in their loss? How many of them would support you in yours?

You know? I love reading the books written by the Apostle Paul. He was the bull in the China shop, the fighter, the athlete, the eternal optimist. Wasn’t he? One thing I’ve learned from Paul – there are no losers in life. Huh, then what did he mean when he wrote this verse in 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  I think Paul was acknowledging that there are competitions and there are games and athletic events that can be used as analogy for life. In sports, there is loss because someone’s keeping score. There are no scorekeepers in real life. God is not keeping score.

I believe Paul meant we all must keep focusing on the goal ahead of us – not what we had in the past.  In fact, he writes it out for us not once but twice in Philippians. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize …” Philippians 3:12 and 3:14 He also told us to “Forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead.” It’s impossible to be a loser when we ““Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.”

In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul writes as a mentor to Timothy “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I wish I could mentor everyone who needs encouragement like Paul did. What a hero he would be by today’s standards. Faithful warrior for truth, leader, mentor, challenger, athlete, friend – The Apostle Paul

If you’re struggling with loss and need encouragement while you get your footing and drag yourself into your new normal, I pray that you will remember to focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost and capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot. Remember the same God who protected and lead David makes the same offer to you.  Psalm 139:5 “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”

Bonus thought to contemplate

Have you ever wondered why there isn’t a book of Paul? He wrote many of the books in the New Testament and may have been the ghost writer of the book of Hebrews. I’m no *Bible scholar, but I think God didn’t give Paul permission to have a book named for him because he struggled with pride.  OK so I have not justification for that, but remember when Paul said he was given a thorn in his flesh?   2 Corinthians 12:7 “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”  I’ve heard people say the thorn was having to deal with certain irritating people sent to serve with him and others have said it was poor eyesight. I’m taking creative license and saying – what if it was his proclivity to thinking that he was the poster child for gifted, talented, and handsome? What if God didn’t title any of his books The Book of Paul because it would have made him prideful and useless in God’s kingdom?

Prayer: Lord protect my thoughts, put a shield around my heart, help me accept what I have lost and reach out for what I can do with what I have left. Keep my attitude one of gratitude and give me a new appreciation for your provision in my life. Empty my mind of negative thoughts and replace them with your promises. I love you Lord. Be first in my life. Amen

*Footnote: If it weren’t for my trusty study Bibles and the efficient look up available at BibleGateway, I wouldn’t be able to share the number of scriptures that I do. I remember scripture from past hours of reading and memorization, but the address, where to find it, requires the help of a concordance or online keyword look-ups.

If you want to read this in a different venue, these posts are available 24/7 at http://talkkindnesstome.com

Desperate for more

Have you ever glanced at something, and in a flash had a creeping feeling of dread? How can a split second of visual make such a powerful connection with your brain that, in a snap, moods are altered? This morning, I bounced down the stairs to my office – not in a falling down the stairs bounce, but in true Tigger fashion, a joyful bounce. As I turned on the light my eyes were drawn to an open magazine article with a huge elegantly printed title “Desperate for more” – an instant, a connection, a cascade of thought. Desperate for more …. Am I desperate? I don’t think so, but what if I am and just don’t admit it? Temperature check – desperate. Desperate. Desperate for more ….

Walking further into my office, God spoke to me about that insinuation and the demoralizing effects that an innocent title on a page can have. Coffee in hand, I picked up my ‘Thankful’ journal and pen to write a daily entry for February 21st. Thankful for – where do I start. My journal has an entry for every day and my Joy jar has a note for each day too. Desperate for more – of what? Here’s what I arrived at when I spent some quiet time with the controller and provider of all things I think I’m desperate for.

LovePsalm 90:14&17 “Satisfy us in the morning with your loyal love! Then we will shout for joy and be happy all our days! May our sovereign God extend his favor to us! Make our endeavors successful! Yes, make them successful!”

WisdomEphesians 1:17 “I pray that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” The best way to avoid feelings of desperation is pray that you will know God better.

Peace – These comforting words from Luke 1:78-79 “Because of the tender mercy of our God, there is light in darkness and He guides our feet into the path of peace.” I’ve found the perfect instruction manual for peace in Philippians, although the Bible speaks extensively about peace what it is, how to get it, how to keep it, why you never need to be desperate for it. Philippians 4:8&9 “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. And the God of peace will be with you.”

HopeRomans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Contentment – I know what you’re going to say already. “You sound like a broken record.” But I have to remind myself and maybe you won’t mind a little reinforcement. Comparison is the opposite of contentment. When I think of contentment, I remember the 6th chapter of 1 Timothy.  I could copy the whole thing right here for you, but let’s start here with 1 Timothy 6:6 “godliness with contentment is great gain. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. “  If you want to read the remainder, here’s a handy link. 1 Timothy 6

I could reveal more areas where God fed my conscience with warnings of being vulnerable to suggestion and not fully trusting Him to meet my desperate needs.

God knows we are a desperate people. Our emotions are ripped apart and pieced back together. The happy face of one moment becomes the frown of defeat the next. The optimist can sink to pessimist when the burden is too heavy to carry. Desperate for more ….

The magazine article’s title which I didn’t see at first pass, was Desperate for more time? The article refuted the idea that we are slaves to time and that our schedules are fused so tightly there is no time for leisure. It’s a common statements. What would you say? The flash of insight I had when looking at just part of the title, sent me into contemplation about desperation. Was that wasted energy, wasted time? I learned something today. I’m not desperate for anything.

Philippians 4:19 “God will provide everything you need according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

How about you? Are you ready to turn in your desperate wants for peace and contentment?  I’ll meet you out there.

Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd. That’s all I want.”

Life without desperation –  Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.

That enticing new car scent

Would it surprise you to learn that one of the top enticing scents, when put to a vote, is ‘that new car smell’? I know. I’m skeptical too. Which segment of the population chose new car scent over cinnamon or pine, right? When I heard of that ‘tested result’ the wheels in my head started turning. As part of the older generation, I have wheels, not kernels in my brain. I wondered what is so alluring about ‘that new car smell’ that individuals actually purchase the fragrance in a bottle. In years past, it could have been the musky aroma of genuine leather wrapped and stitched around seat cushions; sometimes even affixed to the dashboard. Genuine, real, authentic, durable leather – ‘that new car scent’. If you long to enter your automobile and breathe in the essence of new car, it’s available in a bottle at a cost of under $10 – and there is no need to ever ride in your car without it, because you can sign up for auto-ship….just subscribe.

I’m not sure when we crossed over to the new car scent of today. Wikipedia describes a new version of ‘that new car scent’. “Most of the interior of an automobile consists of plastic held together with a number of adhesives and sealers..these materials are left slightly unstable, and continue to release volatile organic compounds into the air afterward…fumes may also come from phthalates and other plastic-softening chemicals that evaporate over time. Scientists recommend keeping new cars well ventilated while driving due to the emitted chemicals.” Wikipedia also proclaims that there is a significant reduction in chemical breakdown after about two months. Interesting that the suggested auto-ship frequency for a bottled new car smell is two months.

We are immersed in lifestyles that combine the authentic with the artificial. When we can’t get the real thing, we find a substitute. Don’t get me wrong. We need substitutes; many of them critical to sustaining life. I can think of several; pacemakers, insulin, heart valves, or the whole heart. But this is different. There are times when artificial comes to us indistinguishable from what is real. We question what to believe, what to support, what acts to perform, or what to do with the next few hours in our day. We listen to the news or read a compelling article that has all the components of believability. Facts are cited, credible opinions given; it’s solid. Then it happens. In the next hour, the flipside is presented and suddenly what seemed solid crumbles. Which side is authentic and which is artificial? It’s not as easy as picking side one or side two, is it? Our minds become a sorting algorithm: searching what we know to be true, adding opinions we have formed, mixing in outside perspectives, then merging it with our values – mix well, pour into pans and bake till golden.

The debates are heavy in the world. I’ve adopted a motto of sorts that says “I can’t change the world, but I can make a difference, one attitude at a time.” The heat of debate doesn’t interest me, but being an authentic carrier of faith does. This debate dilemma has followed humankind since the beginning of time when Eve encountered the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Remember that God clearly told Adam and Eve not to eat fruit from the tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil because they would “surely die”. That sounds pretty authentic to me. But then the serpent slithered up and mockingly announced oh for cryin’ out loud. God is not going to kill you. Forget about it. ““You will not certainly die!” (Genesis 3:4) Artificial factoid from the insidious lies of the enemy. We all know how that story ended. God shut down the garden and kicked Adam and Eve into their new reality. Now that is authentic!

I’ve been thinking a lot about things artificial and things authentic lately. Not so much in the manufactured products that attempt to replace real with a suitable facsimile. That aspect is a matter of educated (or opinionated) choices. I know the sensuous aroma of genuine leather can never be replicated in an artificial environment. What appears to be authentic is, in fact completely artificial and in some cases, even toxic. That’s where this new insight forms a pattern in what I strive to ingrain in my mind and becomes an act of my heart. 2 Timothy 2:15 says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who authentically handles the word of truth.” In the King James Version, it says to study – study to be approved. I don’t study enough or spend enough time alone with God to know in an instant if what I’m perceiving is His authentic word or my artificial interpretation. Recently I ran across this verse while reading the Message translation. I wrote it down so I would remember it when the cacophony of opinions are battling in my head. John 7:24 “Don’t be nitpickers; use your head—and heart!—to discern what is right, to test what is authentically right.”

Did you catch that? Use your head and your heart to discern. That’s how to be authentic, to sort out what is good. Romans 12:12 describes the process of becoming authentic “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” If you’re looking for perfect, you won’t find it in me. But I hope day by day I become more and more authentic in my faith and prove it by my acts. James must have known some of us would be slow to get his point so in the 2nd chapter of James he gives it to us straight in verses 17, 20, and 26. “Faith without deeds is dead.” If you’re reading this, you’re alive. How is your faith? Is it authentic and approved?  Or is it artificial and toxic?  1 Corinthians 16:13Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”