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Posts Tagged ‘kindness’

mickey
Midway into our vacation last week, I interrupted all the fun-making and wallet-breaking for a brief educational interlude.  We were halfway around the “world” in Disney’s Epcot when boring old teacher-mom suggested that we go in and watch a history bit in the American building.

Three of us fell asleep and the other two went on and giggled about how boring and sleepy their parents were during this presentation.  Nevertheless, some good lessons were being taught by, as my oldest calls them, “really creepy animatronics.”

 At the conclusion of my well-needed nap, I did hear one idea that is worth talking about.

Mark Twain’s creepy robot reminded Ben Franklin’s creepy robot that no matter how strong and brave, there are some perils that have never been survived.  He named them success, comfort, leisure, and plenty.  “No dynamic people have ever survived the plight of those,”  he said.

It reminded me of a proverb which has been a cornerstone in my life.  Proverbs 24:33-34 says this, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.”

This verse is my Jiminy Cricket verse.  Whether it be work or exercise or merely rising early enough to pray before daily pandamonium sets in, my ever-faithful conscience has brought this verse to mind for the better part of the past twenty years.

This may sound crazy, but after seeing how the employees at Disney work to courteously serve hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis – and being one of them – I came back with a thankful, ready to serve heart.

These people are truly amazing.  They serve thousands of people every single day with a kind, positive, fun attitude, all while doing the very same menial tasks over and over and over again.

There was a waiter in one of our character breakfasts who was filling glasses with orange juice.  The second time he came around, my husband refused more juice, but the man actually poured more anyway.  He realized his mistake and began to apologize saying, “I pour juice in my sleep.  I have nightmares about empty cups!”

We spent the last day of our vacation in the pool where we found some empty cups of our own.  We participated in a game whose object was to fill a water jug before the other team filled their jug by passing cups of full water down relay team lines. Our team lost all three games because those at the end of line kept forgetting to send the empty cups back down for us to fill again.  Yes, those who thought they had the most important job (dumping the water into the jug) were forgetting about the rest of the team and keeping us from being able to complete our jobs.  At one point the leader tried to encourage our team by saying, “Don’t forget to send the empty cups back!  Every empty cup is an opportunity to be filled!”

With all this talk about empty cups, I got to thinking about what Mark Twain said in the program.  What if there weren’t any cups to fill?  What if all the cups were always full?  The waiter would be out of a job and there would be no game to play at the pool.  More importantly, there would be no need to serve and no team to be a part of.

 Success.  Comfort.  Leisure.  Plenty.  These are full cups.  The only way to empty them is to experience failure; discomfort; hard work; want.

We dynamic American people are so very full of everything – especially and including ourselves.  A Latino woman stood behind us in line to see Tinker Bell.  A Spanish-speaking visitor came up and began asking questions to the English-speaking people in front of us.  The language barrier was too much and even after repeating their questions several times, it was obvious they had no answers.  Finally, the lady behind us began to speak to them in Spanish.  Afterward, the Spanish-speaking people were very thankful and the Latino woman remarked to us how “we” (herself included) do not thank others enough.  She talked about how we just expect to be served and catered to and we are not as appreciative as they were to her.  That’s what years of success, comfort, leisure, and plenty do to a people.  Continuing this way is sure to lead to our own demise.

Still, I came home with a song in my heart.  I was thoroughly inspired by the excellence in work ethic and positive attitude of the employees at Disney World.  That’s the kind of worker I want to be – not for the Magic Kingdom, but for God’s Kingdom.  That’s an example I can follow.  I want to keep my cup full enough to serve others and empty enough to afford others an opportunity to fill it.  The only way to accomplish that is to pour myself out on a daily basis.  The small, repetitive, unnoticed tasks are the most important!

Mickey is a mouse, after all.  Mickey is a rodent!  If you find yourself asking how one of the smallest creatures with one of the worst reputations became the greatest attraction in the entire known world, watch the people who work for him.  They are willing to be uncomfortable, put out, hard-pressed, and unbelievably kind for his good name.

Take note, Christians.  Take note.

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father

“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” ~Colossians 3:21

Moving on further in Paul’s practical instructions for human relationships, we find a different sort of command.  Up until this point, Paul has given positive commands. (Wives, submit; Husbands, love; Children, obey.)  Now, we find that he has shifted gears and given a negative command, “Fathers, do not…”

His emphasis on what fathers ought not do should give us heed to stop, consider, and caution ourselves when in authority over children – be they physical or spiritual children.

Perhaps he speaks this way because what we must avoid is of greatest importance in the grand scheme.

So, what does Paul highlight as #1 for the parent to whom he has given ultimate leadership and responsibility over children?

“Do not provoke your children…”

Do not provoke them.  Do not frustrate them.  Do not make them aggravated, angry, irritated, exasperated, or upset if at all possible.  If there is any other way to teach your children, do so.  If there is any method you can utilize that does not produce these kind of feelings and attitudes in them, use that.  Do not use these feelings and attitudes toward them either.

It seems that Paul is not so much concerned with what methods are used, save that they do not injure and discourage young souls entrusted to men.  Apparently there are many right ways to raise up children in the Lord but this wrong way proves most tempting and dangerous for fathers.

Children are often difficult to be patient, kind, gentle, and loving toward.  If they are particularly disobedient and obstinate, our greatest temptation is to become disobedient and obstinate towards God’s instructions right back at them.  It is a vicious cycle which teaches them nothing less than hypocrisy.  Little wonder why Paul gives the reason as to why we must avoid provocation: “…lest they become discouraged.”

Who would not become discouraged if every time they fail, someone treats them harshly and, being an authority, fails themselves to obey their own authority?  Such discouragement gives way to apathy, indifference, and a general distaste and distrust regarding respect for authorities in general.  Dare I say the church has lost much of its credibility as a result of dealing with God’s children this way.

When fathers – spiritual or physical – accuse, berate, belittle, and deal harshly with tender children who are seeking to learn and grow, those children doubtless become discouraged.  The reason is not only the former faults, but also because they are not being encouraged.  Authorities who only comment on bad behavior, who fail to recognize and encourage small steps, good work, and personal improvement – even when it is not perfect or spectacular – who overcorrect wrongdoing by harsh and repetitive accusation; who fail to praise and pray alongside calm correction, discourage.

Dads, do what you will by way of discipline, but do not discourage.  Do not provoke.  Deal kindly and gently.  Encourage.  This is one of the most important details in fatherhood.

“The bad temper and example of imprudent parents often prove a great hindrance to their children and a stumbling block in their way.”  ~Matthew Henry

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flowers

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

Husbands are called to love, that is, to show love in their actions and speech towards their wives.  Their natural tendency and temptation is not to.  Paul wouldn’t have specified this if it were not so.

This, the second instruction given by Paul for human relationships, is obviously not for me.  But I do know something of what he is talking about.  I don’t really like to focus on things that God instructs others to do because I feel our priorities lie in searching out the things he instructs us to do.  But I can tell you what a loving husband looks like.

Despite my undeservedness, I have a husband who tries very hard to show love.  He works hard and provides for our family.  He apologizes when he is wrong.  He buys me flowers for no reason.  He sacrifices his precious little time for me and for our kids.  He says good things of me.  He asks me what I need.  He prays for me and with me daily.  He compliments me.  He tells me he loves me.  He takes care of me when I am sick or tired.  He tries to do right.  He follows Christ.  He forsakes things that cause me pain or fear.  He forgives me.  He treats me as an equal.  He is growing out of harshness and replacing it with patience, kindness, and love.  He does good to me every day and I could not be more thankful.  God has richly blessed me with a husband who proves to look more like Christ every day.

Just as my failure or success in the area of submission and respect toward him can make it easier or harder for him to love me well, his obedience to love me well can make the difference in how difficult it is for me to submit to him.  Neither is responsible for the others’ obedience, however, regardless of the other’s failure or success.  In other words, just because your spouse is not obeying God in these instructions, it does not get you off the hook as responsible for obeying God in these instructions.  Obeying might just be the catalyst for their repentance.

If your husband is not loving, do not give up.  Obey God and respect him.  If he is harsh, answer kindly.  Try not to react.  Stop expecting him to change and instead expect God to work.  Pray.  The Lord will honor your obedience and fill up where your husband lacks.  If you are a husband, find out how to love your wife.  Ask her.  She will tell you.  Obey God and trust him even when your spouse fails.

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cinder2

In her magnificent blue ball gown, Cinderella stood larger than life smack dab in the middle of New York City.  She was the first image we saw on the ubiquitous big screen advertisements near Time Square.

“Look how big she is!  Get a picture for the girls!”

While visiting a friend on Long Island, we decided to take a brief detour into the city before heading back home.  The last time we had been there together was on our honeymoon.  We ate gyros bigger than our faces and then hopped on a bus tour just to be silly.  We spent the day goofing around like the carefree twenty year-olds we’d been then.

“Welcome to New York City, the wealthiest city on earth…the most sought after shopping…the second largest library…the tallest building…the most beautiful models…the most talented performers…the most expensive condo…the most intricate architecture…”

As we passed landmark after landmark, the guide did not fail to paint each one better than the last.

We entered Greenwich Village.

“Over to the left is Grace Church, the most beautiful church in the world.”

I stopped.  I saw the church sitting sound, quiet, quaint amid the chaos.  She was beautiful; a haven of sorts constantly waiting to welcome with her elegant simplicity.  In that moment, I saw the stark contrast: man’s ignorance despite God’s immense, immense grace and beauty.

We stopped to shop in Chinatown and visited the World Trade Center memorials.  Five days later, it is not the big screens or the good food or the bustling people or the Chinese trinkets or the unique living spaces or the designer clothing that remain.  The image of that church alone is what lingers long in my mind.

After taking the girls to see the new Cinderella movie last night, I know why.  We all know the story of the girl who once was beautiful, loved, and adored but became the unfortunate orphan made to do all the dirty work; the rightful heir who was made into a slave by the evil ambition and fierce jealousy of those who hated her simply because of who she was.  Yet, after many years of difficult, humbling, harsh treatment she emerges as the most beautiful maiden the kingdom has ever seen.

“Why is it always the same story?”  asks my soon to be ten year-old daughter as we read the Bible together.

“What do you mean?”

“Every time it is the same.  There is always a good leader and a bad leader comes and gets jealous and tries to get rid of the good one.”

Ah.  The dilemma of good and evil.  Shall we ever escape its repetition?

We shall!  As Cinderella walked out to meet her king, so shall we.  Yet, Cinderella escaped before she left the place of humiliation and demoralization.  At the very end of Disney’s new old story, Cinderella does something profound.  Three simple words proved her character and the very reason why she was chosen.  Just as she turned to leave her lifelong prison, she uttered kindly, “I forgive you” to those who had done the unimaginable to her.

At the end of our story, we, too shall walk out of the most difficult life we could have imagined – that is, our own – and we, too, will be met by Our King if we prove faithful.  Not only he, but also the cheering fanfare of the most expensive and beautiful church there ever was or ever will be – that is, His people in all of their vast diversity.

If there were only one thing to see in New York City, I would will it to be Grace Church.  If there were only one movie clip to watch from Cinderella, I would choose to see her walk out in white to a million warm welcomers.  That way, I could put them together and somehow imagine just what it will be like when I, an often worn and ragged servant wandering among a sea of people, goes to be with my King to live happily ever after.

Until then, perhaps, we all ought to take Cinderella’s advice.

Have courage.  Be kind.  Forgive those who do not deserve it.  For that, friends, is how God’s beloved children experience true freedom.

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Wives, husbands, and now, children, parents, slaves and masters.  Paul is leaving the Ephesian church without excuse about Christ’s call on their relationships.  In Ephesians 6:1-9, his focus is on honor, respect, and obedience.  He begins with children.

Children, obey your parents; honor your mother and father.  This command was one of God’s ten most important laws ever given.  It even comes with a promise of wellness.  What it does not come with is conditions.  It does not say, “Obey your parents when you agree with them” or “Honor your father and mother when they have been honorable to you.”  It says nothing about obeying when we feel like it, when we’re not busy, or after we have finished whatever it is we were doing before they instructed us.  The most difficult times to obey and honor our parents is when we think we know better than they.  Unfortunately, we often think so from birth.  Ere goes the curse.  God’s Word offers no concessions in this command by way of age, intellect, busyness, or stress.  He does graciously offer a promise of well-being if we obey Him in this.

Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, no matter how old we are, God commands obedience and respect towards our parents.  Children who do not obey and honor their earthly parents are often hard-pressed to be found honoring and obeying God.  It is a prerequisite to learning obedience and respect towards him.  Why?

Because God said so.  In turn, he will take care of their tendency to be harsh, impatient, and unkind with us.  God’s command to fathers is just as clear as his command to children.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Paul wouldn’t have to say this if it were not a man’s tendency to err in this way.  Children expose our immaturity in the areas of patience, self-control, selfishness, love, kindness, gentleness, peace, etc.  God is also interested in mothers’ action towards their children, but it is understood here that their role is to follow the lead of their husbands in all things.  God laid the primary responsibility of patience, correction, and Godly instruction of children on the shoulders of fathers.  Because dad is the leader, the buck stops with him.  His wife and his children alike will often behave as he has led and shown them to do.  Therefore, God warns fathers not to discourage, frustrate, or otherwise purposefully anger their children.  Kindness counts, dads.  Teach your children well.  Fathers who do not obey God often raise children who do not obey God.

Finally, slaves.  In our culture, employees.  Do your work honestly, with subordinance, and genuinely.  Recognize that you are working for God, and God will repay you for your excellence.  Likewise, masters, or employers; bosses.  Do not rule with a heavy hand or abuse your authority.  Remember that you, too, have a master and he will not favor you for any earthly reason on the day of judgement.

And this is often my daily prayer:

God, help me to be a better child.  I know I do not honor you when I fail to honor my parents.  Help me to be a better parent.  I know my children will not grow up and obey you if I do not deal kindly, patiently, lovingly, and gently with them now.  God forbid they turn away from you because of my disobedience!  Help me to be a better worker in all that which I have been given to do.  I fall so short so often wasting time and sloughing off into an attitude of selfish laziness.  Help me be a better manager over that which I’ve been given charge.  Redeem my relationships at home, at work, and in the church.  Forgive me; forgive me; forgive me; forgive me.  God, give me grace where I have so often erred in these most important matters.  Amen.

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cowgirl

Gentleness.

I fold my fairly drawn from a baseball hat piece of paper back up and place it in my Bible.  My husband’s newly instituted family devotion time is already proving its potential to keep me honest about my own failures. Not only that, but I’ve got a five-year old who, if I didn’t know better, could most definitely pass as the Holy Spirit incarnate.

Without reservation, every time Mommy begins to lose her patience, her temper, or even so much as her tender tone, Miss Maylee rearranges her five-year old face indignantly and asks, “Mommy, are you forgetting your gentleness?!”

“Yes.  And your sisters are forgetting their love and kindness towards each other.”

Little wonder why Daddy drew patience.  Even the Lord must lie lenient on a businessman picked to preside over a five female filled household.

We were doing a lesson on what the Bible terms “the fruit of the Spirit.”  These nine character traits are tangible evidence of God the Holy Spirit working in and out of the lives of believers.

Daddy drew patience; Mia, self-control; Addie, love; Maylee, kindness; Mom, peace; me, gentleness.

Ah, gentleness, how you elude me.  I’ll be the first to admit that this has certainly never been my strong suit.  If it were literal fruit I’m sure my gentleness might resemble more of a raisin than a grape.  For a first-class faulting finding, fact feeding, wanna-be fighter, the closest I ever come to gentleness is just being quiet.  If you don’t have anything nice to say…right.  But what is gentleness, really?

One definition describes gentleness as, “The value and quality of one’s character.  The quality of gentleness is colloquially understood to be that of kindness, consideration, and amiability.  Aristotle used it in a technical sense as the virtue that strikes the man with regard to anger: being too quick to anger is a vice, but so is being detached in a situation where anger is appropriate.  Justified and properly focused anger is named mildness or gentleness.” ~Jan Garrett

I’m an extremist.  Too quick to anger or too quiet where proper anger is appropriate.  Yep.  Sounds about right.  That’s Lori in a nutshell.

I had the pleasure of attending the Fayette County Fair with my husband, along with Little Miss Holy Spirit, and her sisters, Little Miss No Self Control and Little Miss Lack of Love.  They were climbing up a knotted rope to get to a slide.  When Little Miss Holy Spirit got to the “tippy top” (as she calls it), she decided it was the perfect time to readjust her getting-too-small-had-to-wear-them-sister’s-hand-me-down-cowgirl-boots.  Mister Growing in Patience and I watched helplessly as she nearly fell backward down onto the five climbing children behind her and metal platform below.  No casualties, though.  Thankfully, we were spared a trip to the ER by mere virtue of her fortunate ballerina balancing act.  Mister Growing in Patience got quite mad at my poor shoe choice and I did what I always do in these kind of awkward moments – as the five-year olds say, “I B-ed quiet.”

It got me to thinking…

Maybe this gentleness gig  isn’t an either/or kind of choice.  Maybe it isn’t an either flip out or say nothing kind of prerogative.  Maybe, just maybe, it’s supposed to be more like pray about what makes us angry, find a focused way to deal with it and take appropriate, albeit affectionate, action.  Balance.

All of the Christian life, practically, is about balance.  Balance.  So, I don’t know about you, but I’m putting on a pair of boots – I mean fruits – that actually fit before I try to walk the line.

” But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” ~Galatians 5:22

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Image

When I read the post about our church’s forthcoming sermon, I have to admit I was tempted to tuck my turtle-head inside Sunday’s list of better things to do and stay as far away as possible.  It read this way:

“This Sunday at 9 & 11 Pastor Chris is teaching on ‘The City that God Builds – The Wrath of the Lamb.’ “

Wrath.  Who could blame me for not buying advance tickets for that one, right?  I envisioned either a strict, I’m-gonna-yell-at-you-until-you-become-incontinent or a fear-instilling, you’ll-never-avoid-hell-being-the-clown-you-are lecture.  You know what I’m talking about.  Anyone who’s ever attended an angry, guilt-inducing church hears me.  Let’s just say I got that message a few too many times.

So, here I was conflicted about whether I was spiritually and emotionally willing, much less prepared, to bear the brunt of that beating again.

After a few strong drinks, (aka orange juice and bottled water) I suited up in my combat boots, (aka army green dress and black heels) sweating all the way (literally – you try getting three small children bathed, dressed, and fed before 8 am!) and I braced myself for the worst.

But the message I heard was not the message I expected.  The message I heard was kind.  It was loving.  It was, amazingly, attractive.

The truth of the coming judgement of God was not shortchanged, but rather, cast in the light of a welcoming, drawing, saving Lamb.  And lamb’s aren’t inherently angry.  Their nature is not hostile.  They are not violent or bent upon beating up their brothers – even when their brothers are nothing less than butt-holes.

Chris captured the person of Christ and successfully preached the truth about the coming judgement and wrath of God not by avoiding the hard parts of the text or glossing over them.  He didn’t do it by being filled with his own wrath and anger.  Chris successfully preached the truth about the coming judgement and wrath of God by showing up with the kindness and love of God; with mercy (Titus 3:4.)

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you, Pastor, for being kind.  I hope I can learn to do as much.

Chris urged us to repent because he loves us; not because he’s angry with or disgusted by us.  He never raised his voice.  He never pointed his finger.  He never pounded his fist on the pulpit.  And, even though he and Jesus may indeed have every right and reason to the latter, he chose instead to highlight the former.  I guess that’s just what a lamb does.

Maybe I really can trust a guy who positions love over top of anger.  Maybe I can trust his Savior, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m2R6CLkvyQ

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