Choosing Kindness

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23 

 

Have you read the book Wonder, by R.J. Palacio? I read it to my students this past school year.  It is an incredible novel about a boy born with Treacher Collins Syndrome ( http://www.treachercollins.org/tcs/Welcome.html ).  Auggie is a sixth grader entering school for the first time in his life.  His severe facial deformity makes him the center of attention wherever he goes. The themes of bullying and kindness are throughout the book.

This book centered my thoughts on kindness.  “Be kind” became my tag line.  “Be kind” just sounds so powerful!

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I questioned why people don’t  see the power of kindness.  Why don’t people understand the difference they can make in someone’s life…in EVERYONE’S life…by choosing kindness? Why are people unkind??

Then I had a realization.  Kindness isn’t just this thing that is easy to conjure up.  Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit.  My perspective shifted.  There are nine fruits listed. How selective are we at nurturing the fruits of the Spirit? What exactly is kindness? Isn’t kindness just a fancier way of saying be nice?

So…I GOOGLED it!

Strong’s #5544: Kindness is goodness in action, sweetness of disposition, gentleness in dealing with others, benevolence, kindness, affability. The word describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing your patience. The Holy Spirit removes abrasive qualities from the character of one under His control. 

Kindness is doing something and not expecting anything in return. Kindness is respecting and helping others without waiting for someone to help one back. It implies kindness no matter what. (wikipedia.org)

Let me get this straight.  I can be kind without being nice. Nice is defined as agreeable.  I don’t have to agree with someone to be kind.  In fact, I don’t even have to be friends with someone, I don’t even have to KNOW someone to be kind.  I just need to look for or be open to opportunities to do something for someone without expecting (or desiring) them to return the kindness.  And, here’s the GREAT thing about being kind, I have the ability to be kind because I am a Christian…because Christ in me gives me the strength to do all things.  Kindness is evidence that I am walking with Jesus.

I have decided to nurture the fruit of kindness this summer.  My goal is to complete 30 Acts of Kindness this summer.  They will not be random, though I will welcome opportunities to do random acts of kindness. My 30 Acts of Kindness will be INTENTIONAL . I have started 2.  I am going to share this experience, not to say, “Look at me!  I’m so kind!” but to say, “We can make a difference, brothers and sisters! Let’s choose kindness!”

Number 1 Act of Kindness:

Summertime is usually a time of reorganizing, redecorating, and rethinking the things I need and don’t need.  I have lots of games, puzzles, and movies that we never use.  Someone could be using these!  So I gathered up some movies, games, and puzzles.  I plan to take them to people who can use them.  I made my first delivery to the Summer Childcare Program at Mt. Energy Elementary School.  I gave them some movies, a game or two, and a puzzle.

Number 2 Act of Kindness:

While I was shopping at Walmart last week, I noticed they had Crayola Crayons (The best!) on sale.  I bought several boxes.  I keep one box in my purse at all times and look for opportunities to bless a little child.  It’s such a small thing, but I remember the joy of receiving a new box of crayons when I was a kid.  I still see that same joy on the faces of my students when they open their new crayons on the first day of school. I found my first recipient while I was thrift store shopping with a friend at Good Will.  This beautiful little girl was probably about 5.  I imagine she might start kindergarten this year. She spoke no English.  I first saw her as she was riding the mechanical horsey at the front of the store. Her mom spoke a little English, and I was able to get her approval to give her the crayons.  The girl smiled from ear to ear and went running to her other relatives to show them.  Later I snapped her picture in the parking lot, still holding on to the the crayons.

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Father, thank you being my strength.  Thank you for your word!  Walking with you isn’t dull or burdensome.  You have assured us that your yoke is easy, and your burden is light.  

While You’re Waiting

“But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”

                            Isaiah 40:31

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, my life was changed.  I was focused on preparing for my baby.  I worked to take care of myself.  I decorated the nursery and got clothes, diapers, a bed…everything I needed to care for my child. But I’ve got to say, it seemed like a long wait.  Especially the last few weeks!

Do you ever feel like you spend a lot of time waiting?  In line at the grocery store. At the drive-thru at McDonald’s.  Waiting for a phone call.  Waiting for your spouse to get ready. (Okay, he waits for me most of the time!) In the doctor’s office they even call it “The Waiting Room.”

One study says that people spend an average of 6 months of their lives just waiting in lines.

Christians frequently express their faith by saying, “I’m waiting on the Lord.”  But we often say this with a heavy heart.  Because, really, if we’re honest, it’s hard to wait.

BUT….

If we understand Isaiah 40:31, we might see waiting a bit differently.

Isaiah 40:31 is a promise.  It begins with a condition. “Those who wait upon the Lord…” will receive the promise.

In Hebrew, the word wait from Isaiah 40:31 is considered an active verb by many scholars.  The idea is that I am waiting expectantly, eagerly watching. Picture a waiter, prepared for service, notebook and pencil in hand, waiting by the restaurant door, expecting a customer at any second.  The opposite of that, passively waiting, might look like this:  A waiter, reluctantly goes into the restaurant, lays his notebook and his uniform on a back table and sits down.  He’ll get up if a customer comes in.

Wait expectantly!!!

Just like when I was pregnant all those years ago. Never once during the waiting did I forget that baby. I was eager to see his face and hold him in my arms.  He was on the way. I was EXPECTING!

“Lord, help us to focus on you during our times of waiting.  May we wait eagerly, with expectation!”

 

 

Releasing Our Worries

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”  Matthew 6: 26-27


Last spring I went out to the porch to water my plants and discovered that a mama bird had made her nest in the middle of my hanging impatiens.  Inside the nest were four tiny eggs. There was a flower pot setting on a table on the porch, so I transferred the nest to the pot.  Thankfully, the mama bird wasn’t upset with the change in plans, and a few weeks later,  four, fluffy baby birds hatched.  I had a front row view of them from my living room window to watch the mama bird fly in and out, feeding and caring for her babies.

 

A few weeks after the eggs hatched I sat down on the couch and looked out the window to enjoy a few minutes of bird watching.  The baby birds were chirping and moving about, more active than in previous days.  Suddenly one of the birds jumped out of the flower pot onto the table, then immediately jumped down to the porch.  I felt panicked!  I had to get it back into the nest!  I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a large spoon then ran out to the porch.  Gently, I scooped the baby bird up with the spoon and “poured” it out into the nest.  As soon as it landed, two other birds jumped out!  It was my fault!  I had scared them all, and now I’d never be able to make them stay in the nest.  I began to worry that the mama wouldn’t know where they were, that they would get eaten by a cat, that I had created this tragedy.

 

The last bird jumped out of the nest.  All four of them were now hopping aimlessly around the porch.  Even if I could get them back into the nest, it would be useless.  They would just hop right back out.  I stood back and watched as the first bird hopped right off the porch.  Running to look over the railing, I saw something unexpected.  The baby bird was starting to fly!  It was taking brief flights, flapping its wings wildly.  Hop, hop, flap, flap, fly!  Over and over, testing its skills.  Seeing their sibling moving out into the world, the other birds one by one followed suit until they were all up in the tall pine trees.

 

Sometimes it’s hard to trust what we don’t understand.  Change can happen in the blink of an eye.  We make our plans, move through our day, then suddenly something happens that changes everything.  Fear grips us and we either become immobile or we work passionately to set things back in order….our order….our plans.

 

God tells us not to worry. What can we change by worrying? He’s got this!  If He cares so much for the birds (and the bugs and yes, even the spiders), how much more does He care for us?  Even when we don’t understand why things happen the way they do, we can trust that our Father will give us what we need to deal with any situation.  Trust Him enough to move forward, confidently knowing that His timing is perfect, and He will be there to teach us to soar above any obstacle we face.

Forgetting What Lies Behind

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Have you ever tried to relive a memory?  

As I grow older, I find myself looking back a bit more than usual.  Thinking back on the days when my children were little…snuggles, vacations, holidays, summers…those moments I would love to relive, to experience once again. I also spend more time thinking back to my childhood.  For a few years now I’ve thought a lot about my summers at Camp Mary Atkinson, a Girl Scout camp I enjoyed for three summers during my childhood. 

 

This past Memorial Day, Michael and I were traveling back from a weekend at Harmony House Inn in New Bern, NC. We had just pulled into Selma when I said, “The Girl Scout camp I went to is in Selma. I would love to go by there one day.”  My husband seriously loves to make me happy.  And he is just the laid-back kind of person who is never in such a big hurry that he can’t enjoy a spur-of-the-moment change in plans.  After a few adjustments to the Garmin and the discovery that Camp Mary Atkinson was less than a mile off our route, I found myself riding through the campgrounds after a thirty-seven year absence.

 

We drove through Raccoon Loft.  This was where I spent two weeks in 1973 and two weeks in 1974.  The tents were the same as I remembered! There’s no way they could have been the same tents, but everything looked the same….only smaller.  I was bewildered at how close all of the tents were to each other.  And as an 11 year old, the trek to the bathroom (at night with a flashlight and a fear that a bear would eat me) seemed so much farther!

 

Next we pulled into the Lady’s Slipper unit where I stayed in 1975.  Here we got out and walked around a bit, me trying to piece together where “my tent” was and who my roommates had been.  Once again the realization that my memory of the size of things was way off! 

Lady’s Slipper Unit

 

 


Our last stop was at the lake where campers went swimming and canoeing. Michael stood at the edge of the woods where we came in while I walked all the way out to the water and onto the dock.  Sweet memories! I learned to swim here!  I remembered the red, white, and blue swim caps we wore to identify our swimming levels.  I remembered buddy checks and racing to grab my buddy’s hand. remembered the big campfire we had on our last night and setting sail on the water my milk carton sailboat lit up with a single candle.  And crying.  Crying because we all knew that our time together was ending, and when you’re 13, that’s a big deal. 

Down by the Lake



I looked around a bit more then stopped once again by the dock.  “Lord, help me rest in this moment and take in the sights and sounds.” I stood there, trying to capture something permanently…. something.  I nearly held my breath.  I looked and listened for a few more minutes then turned to leave.

 

That’s when I had the most significant moment of our whole weekend.


Michael was still standing by the woods, arms crossed, relaxed, a knowing smile a bit crooked on his face.  Walking towards him, I suddenly understood the tug-of-war between the past and the future.  The here-and-now is a walk of faith I take each day.  I don’t put my trust in a past that is at best a dim memory that must be explored and sorted out to have meaning. That something that I was trying to recapture wasn’t a memory…it was a feeling.  Memories will never bring back the feelings of those moments.  It’s fun and heartwarming to reminisce, but I don’t need faith to believe my camp days were wonderful.  

 

When Paul tells us in Philippians 3:13-14 to forget what lies behind, surely he didn’t expect us to be able to snap our fingers and put things out of our minds.  The word forget more clearly means to neglect.  He’s telling us not to sit around dwelling on the past! We need to get up and move forward, walk out our faith daily.  Stop dwelling on past mistakes, stop nursing past hurts, stop begrudging past disappointments! Faith is knowing that God will use all of our failures to help someone else.   Faith is trusting that our pain will ultimately be used for our good. Faith is believing that people can change. 

 

 

Yes, it was fun to reminisce, but I didn’t leave feeling any differently about my camp days.  However, I did have a renewed appreciation for my husband and an anticipation of hope for my future.  The only feeling I carried away from Camp Mary Atkinson was a feeling of being tremendously blessed!

Seeing the Beauty

“Finally, brothers, 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.” Philippians 4:8

 In our backyard there is a maple tree.  It’s not a huge tree, but decent-sized, large enough to offer some shade on a hot day.  A few years ago, I asked Michael to build a flower box around the tree so we could plant some flowers.  He built a simple box and bought some mixed flower seeds.  Now, my husband isn’t a gardener.  I’m not sure if he’s ever grown a plant in his life.  The flower seeds ended up spread out on top of the dirt.  Yes, dirt…no soil.  Yes, on top…no digging and planting.  I tried to say something but realized he wasn’t going to back down on this.  He believed they would grow.  After a couple of weeks, something did start to sprout.  Weeds.  But Michael was insistent that flowers were growing.  What do we have now?  Really tall weeds that have white “flowers” on top.

 I have laughed to myself a few times over this.  Then I gained a different perspective.

 We drove out to Coley Bunch Nursery to pick out some plants and flowers for our front yard.  One of the owners was very helpful, pointing out the flowers that would grow best in our yard, explaining how tall they would grow, etc…  As we were walking through the many flowers, there was this tall, flowering weed.  It looked an awful lot like the weeds growing under our maple tree!  Of course, Michael immediately saw this and began asking questions about it.  The owner shared the name of it, Queen Anne’s Lace, and then Michael asked THE question:  Is it a flower or a weed?  “Well,” the man explained, “it’s a weed.  But remember that one man’s weed is another man’s flower.”

I’ve thought a lot about that statement.  Do I allow the weeds to define my thoughts?  Do I tend to view the negative instead of the positive?  Do I neglect to see the beauty in things and circumstances because I’m too caught up in what went wrong?  I don’t trust people.  I expect bad things to happen.  I assume people don’t like me.  I even see weeds instead of flowers!  It’s time to replace my negative thoughts with the positive words of God!

 Today, I will focus on seeing what someone does right instead of what he does wrong.  I will spend more time thinking about the good in my circumstance instead of the bad.  I will see the value of the rain instead of my ruined plans.  Lord, help me gain a different perspective

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Cherishing Life’s Interruptions

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life.  The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.  This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it’s hard to remember it all the time.”  C. S. Lewis

Saturday mornings.  Remember when you were a kid?  Saturday mornings were hands-down the best time during the week.  No school!  Cartoons!  A slow-paced move towards the day.  I thought Saturday mornings would always be that wonderful.  Even after I became an adult I still looked forward to Saturday mornings with the same anticipation I had as a child.  That anticipation was fueled by a hope that nothing would come between me and a leisurely Saturday morning.

Then there was Katy.  My precious little girl.  As soon as she was old enough to sleep in a big-girl bed, Saturday mornings frequently began the same way.  I would wake up to tiny, two-year-old fingers pushing my eyelids open. “Mommy, wake up (insert a lot of whining), I’m hungry!”  Yes, it was cute.  Yes, it drove me crazy.  In that moment, my hope for sleeping in was gone.  I would drag myself out of bed and get breakfast for my baby-girl blessing, having faith that eventually she would allow me to sleep in on Saturday mornings.

I agree with C. S. Lewis.  Sometimes it’s hard to always remember that these “interruptions” to the life I  imagine are actually the life God has given me.  As I grow older I view interruptions much differently than I did as a young parent.  Much more often I see those interruptions as opportunities.  Maybe that’s why there is such joy in being a grandma.  Last Saturday I got a text from Katy that read, “This morning Trenton peeled my eyelids open and said, ‘Wake up Mommy.'”  Then she added, “You’re welcome!”

God, send us more interruptions!  Make us stop in our tracks and say, “Is that you, Father?”  May we be so in tune with what you are doing in our REAL lives that we are here and now in this moment, cherishing the tiny fingers and looking for the opportunities you give us to serve you.