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Archive for March, 2018

 

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In our society, kindness is getting good airplay. From Ellen Degeneres’ show benediction of “be kind to one another”, to The Kindness Project, to the hit movie, Wonder, to the #beccatoldmeto campaign, the work of Orly Wahba’s life vest inside movement,  or the resurgence of performing random acts of kindness, to volumes of books and a web full of videos, kindness is in.

What is kindness and what is the opposite of kindness?

Those were the two questions I asked on my FaceBook account, a few weeks ago.

Over fifty-five people responded, mostly females, varying in ages from four to … retired (I wouldn’t want to be unkind in my estimates). Those who responded live in North America, mostly in Canada.

The other day, I posted the results of the question,

why be kind?

The responses were great to read, and I loved that, in a few cases, a conversation between two or more strangers would break out (I guess you could say kindness broke out). Some said that to show kindness was innate, others firmly felt that to be kind was a conscious choice.

Many shared that it was anything but altruistic, as it “feeds their soul”, “makes one feel better about oneself”, “elicits kindness in return”.

A great many people referred directly or indirectly to the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) of:

“do to others what you would want them to do for you” 

Some said that we should be kind because it is how we want to be treated, some saying that if we are kind to others, kindness would come back us.

Others felt that to be kind is the right thing to do and it could change the world.

Still others responded that, as Christians, kindness has been offered and modelled by Christ, therefore it is expected of us.

A few mentioned the difficulty of knowing how to give and receive kindness, the struggle of giving from a place of brokenness, emptiness. Whereas another said, “kill them with kindness, it can defuse tension and transform relationships”

There were great quotes (mostly by Mother Teresa) and, from a ten year old, “well, if we weren’t kind, everyone would punch each other and hate each other and the world would go downhill.” Amen!

One person sent me a link to an article on five researched-based reasons to be kind, including:

  • it is inbuilt (there can be innate tendencies)
  • it can have positive effects on the brain (drug-free mood-enhancing effects)
  • can help you live longer (but only the one performing the act of kindness, not the one receiving it’s benefits)
  • is contagious (if you are kind, and they are kind …)
  • it can make you happier (for up to a month after committing the kindness)

As I read and reflected on the results of the question, why be kind?, I found myself reflecting on one particular response …

“why not be kind?”

Our lives are complex, demanding and sometimes downright difficult. There are so many different directions that we are pulled, so much expectation on us each day. Then there is the news … that daily onslaught of what is wrong in our world.

If each of us were to make the effort each day to show kindness to another, truly it would be doing for others as we would like to be done to ourselves. Truly it could improve the day for another sojourner on this planet … and it would probably improve our own day as well.

“why not be kind?”

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What is kindness and what is the opposite of kindness?

Those were the two questions I asked on my FaceBook account, a few weeks ago.

Over fifty-five people responded, mostly females, varying in ages from four to … retired (I wouldn’t want to be unkind in my estimates). Those who responded live in North America, mostly in Canada.

I decided to break the two questions into two posts, and reverse the questions.

What is the opposite of kindness?

To respond to what is the opposite of kindness is much more difficult than the reverse, and a number of people indicated that to be the case.

One person said that the opposite of kindness is “one who lacks patience, grace and self control letting their emotions take over to be disrespectful”. Another said, it is “anything that makes anyone feel anything but joy, self worth and loved”. Still another simply said that the opposite of kindness is “wickedness”.

We don’t have to go too far to see what an absence of kindness looks like. As long as our humanity, our world struggles, we will continue to see and experience a lack of kindness.

If I were to break all of the responses down to two words that are the opposite of kindness, they would be selfishness and apathy.

Probably half of all responses fit into those two words. Though other words, such as neglect, meanness, greed, indifference, disloyalty, cold, rude, bitterness, darkness, cruelty, self-absorption, and thoughtlessness may have been the different words used, they all communicate selfishness and apathy.

Either we are unkind because we are too concerned with ourselves, or we just don’t care about others.

A response from one friend was of an image of two wolves, with opposite characteristics, and it reminded me of this story:

A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other. 

One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.

The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”

The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feed.

Perhaps we need to feed love, bravery and … kindness, in every day of our lives. And to feed these things might just change the world around us.

 

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Today is Palm Sunday, and in churches all over the world, talk of a parade was paramount.

Recorded in all four of the New Testament gospels, is the event of Jesus riding on a donkey, as he entered the city of Jerusalem (the City of Peace … ironic don’t you think, that a City, so very mired, today, in conflict was named a city of peace? … but, I digress).

Some in the crowd laid down their cloaks for his donkey to walk on (maybe this was the first red carpet event in history?), some in the crowd waved palm branches as he went by, and many called out, “Hosanna (meaning ‘save now’) to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)

This all happened as the festival of Passover was beginning. Exodus 12 tells the story of the original Passover (Passover). The Israelites had been enslaved by Egypt, for many generations. God instructed Moses to have His people slaughter lambs, and cover their door frames with the blood. Then, in the night, the firstborn of every family would be killed, except for the households whose door frames are covered in the lambs blood, because the destroyer would ‘pass over’ those homes (this was the final of the ten plagues used to convince Pharaoh to let the people go). 

Moses did as God asked, the Israelites obeyed, and the Passover story came to be. Even in the home of Pharaoh, the firstborn of every Egyptian household was slaughtered. But the people in the homes that were covered by the blood of the lamb, were spared, and Pharaoh set the Israelites free.

Later this week, on Good Friday, in churches all over the world, talk of a parade will be, again, paramount. Again there were crowds of people. Again there was shouting. This time, there was no “Hosanna”, there was no ‘save now’, being sung out. Instead the shouts were “crucify him.” This time it was all a parody, all a mockery of the earlier parade.

Each of the gospels mentions his walk to Golgotha (the place of the skulls), where Jesus was nailed to the cross that he and Simone of Cyrene carried there. That walk, that parade, was after being wrongly tried, convicted, flogged, and had a crown of thrones pushed onto (into) his head.

This parade was the parade of the lamb of God (the Son of God) to the slaughter. And his blood, shed for all of humanity, is what sets us free.

“And when your children ask you,
‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’
then tell them,
‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD,
who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt
and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'”
Exodus 12:26-27

Watch the Lamb

 

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Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 11.07.08 AMWhat is the meaning of life? What gives meaning to life? What makes life meaningful?

Those are the questions of a life … my life … at forty-nine years into this life.

We look forward, we look back, realizing that once that which was was forward, is now back. Tomorrow, this day will be past. The clock ticks, the calendar flips. Our inhales are the past as the freshness of that breath is exhaled. Our days move so slowly, looking forward, so quickly, looking back.

“You don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
What is life?
You are a mist that is seen for a moment and then disappears.”
James 4:14

You are a mist …

If my life, if I am a mist, than what can any of us accomplish or do for anyone, for this world, for our God?

Yet, as I awakened this morning the grass was damp with a mist-like dew, giving me more margin before watering the new seed in the ground. That mist-like dew, watering and giving life to that seed that I spread … that dead seed, hard and lifeless. That mist-like dew, bringing breath back into that hard shell, reminding it who it is, who it is meant to be, what it’s job on this Earth, in this Earth, is to do.

I am to be more than just a mirage in the dessert.

So, if I, if my life is a mist, that is seen for a moment (a morning) then disappears, I guess all I am required to do is water, bringing life to that, to those who have been hardened by their circumstances, beat down by the winds of life, brining refreshment and hope to those who think there is no more hope.

I don’t think I do that every day, I know I don’t, yet I know people who have done that, who do that for me. People who love and care and water my soul each and every day. People who encourage and inspire me. My family and friends who show love with their hugs, warm words and laughter. People who are really real, and who open the door that others, that I, can be really me.

So, I am a mist … may I bring relief.

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Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 8.18.25 AM.pngAs the Spring Break is underway for myself, and others, in my neck of the schooling woods, we get to also take in the signs of Spring.

Already I have examined the bulb plants growing, daily from their warming soil, Magnolia trees with flower pods getting heavy, the Forsythia blossoms starting to peek out, and buds on every tree. Even the grass is starting to dart up.

The gardening stores and nurseries are becoming the hubs of spring seekers, Seeds are being started, colour being added to the beds, pots and gardens. New gloves and clippers purchased to replace the broken and missing (no doubt to be found only days after new ones purchased). The blades are being cleaned and sharpened for trimming.

We breath in the air, fresh and clean, reviving our senses, our imaginations and dreams.

There is no sweeter start to any season. In a sense, spring is a sanctuary … a season of rebirth, renewal. A season of wide-eyed excitement and wonder. A time apart from the day to day of the rest of the year.

It is no coincidence that Easter also falls in the spring of the year. It, too, is a season of renewal, a season of wide-eyed excitement and wonder. It marks the end of waiting for the risen Messiah.

It reminds us that he rose once … that, like the crocuses, tulips and daffodils, he will rise again.

“Let not your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God; believe also in me.

In my Father’s house are many rooms.
If it were not so,
would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also.”
John 14:1-3

 

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staff

I have a love-hate relationship with our property.

When we first bought it we did so knowing that we would need to pour blood, sweat and tears into the property, for it was a visual disaster.

Almost fourteen years later, we are still bleeding, sweating and the tears are ever-flowing.

Much our time here, I have hated what it has taken from us, in terms of money, time and energy. Now, as we are preparing the property to sell, I find myself looking around at all that we have done, at how it is now looking as we had dreamed, and bemoaning the fact that we are about to leave it, for someone else to enjoy.

I have found my longing thoughts to be interrupted by a whisper in my mind,

don’t hold too tightly to the things of Earth

It was then that I remembered a speaker once talking about the staff that Moses carried.

Moses was a shepherd, and his staff was the tool of his trade. It was what helped him in protection of his sheep, but the staff would only do it’s job when under his control.

When Moses met God in the burning bush, “the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.” (Exodus 4:2)

I am pretty certain that God knew what was in Moses hand, but, I think, he wanted Moses to acknowledge it as it was, a staff, a tool when in his expert hand.

God gets Moses to throw down his staff, and God shows him what his staff can do when it is God who is in it’s control.

Later in the passage, we learn that the staff of Moses is to become the staff of God: “take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.” (Exodus 4:17).

And he does. That staff, once the tool of Moses, is transformed into a snake, plagues, splits the Red Sea, and helps the Israelites defeat their enemy, when under the control of God.

The thing is, for God to operate that staff, Moses had to throw it down and allow God to take control …

he had to loosen his grip.

Whatever we are holding onto, if it can be used by God, he will leave it in our hands, if not, he will still use us in ways we cannot even imagine.

What is in our hands that God is asking us to throw down? loosen our grip? let go? If we can trust him with our souls, surely we can trust him with the things he has provided.

 

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“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”

I hadn’t read, heard of thought of those words in months … months.

A common benediction, a blessing that hubby would frequently give at the end of a Sunday sermon, a church service.

Here it was, on a Monday morning, in a classroom devotion.

The blessing is not owned, not possessed by my hubby alone. It is known as the Aaronic or Priestly blessing, given, by God, to Moses, to instruct Aaron and his sons on how to bless the Israelites.

This was a great honour, for the Priests words were viewed as God’s message to them.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary says  “though the priests could do no more than beg a blessing, yet being an intercessor by office, and doing that in his name who commands the blessing, the prayer carried with it a promise, and he pronounced it as one having authority with his hands lifted up and his face towards the people.”

You see, the blessing was not one from the Priests, but through them, from God himself, for the Israelite people … in a sense skipping the Priests completely, as if they were just the vessel through which God lay his hand of blessing, on his chosen people.

But it was not necessarily a group or community blessing, but one through the lips of the priests, directly to each individual, from God. It was a personal and individual blessing … a whisper of the personal and individual Blessing (Blesser) to come.

The Lord bless you

Three times the Lord is mentioned. Representing God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Likened to 2 Corinthians 13:14:

“The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.”

This blessing is also an endless, eternal blessing. It is not solely present tense, but also future, as if it were to say: the Lord will bless you.

What a good reminder of the story and blessing of God on and for his people, available now for all people (Jews and Gentiles).

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