One of my daughters teaches 4 year olds at a daycare center. She says many of the children who come into her class have not yet learned basic courtesy; they yell out when they want something, but in line, grab toys from other children. In order to teach better social behavior, she uses something she calls “the kindness crown.” Each time a child demonstrates kindness (see the list above) they get to wear the kindness crown for a while. This positive reinforcement seems to work. She says soon the kids are vying to be helpful and noticing when someone forgets to say “please” and “thank you.”
We can all learn to behave kindly, just like these youngsters. In the book of Romans, Paul tells us to “outdo one another in showing honor.” Anyone can be respectful, polite and kind. It doesn’t require special talents or abilities; it just takes a little forethought and self-control. These simple practices make all our relationships better, and in the end, we’ll win a crown also. We’ll hear these words from Jesus: “well done, good and faithful servant.”
So as soon as you get up today, remember to put on the kindness crown! Your kind behavior will influence others to be kind.
The other day, my mother-in-law tried to give me a new cat. After consulting with my husband, it was clear that he felt an extra animal was just too much to take on right now. When I broke the news to her, she replied that it didn’t matter if Nick said no. I should just bring it home anyway- lol. My response was that we are instructed in the bible to obey our husbands:
“Wives, obey your husbands as you obey the Lord.The husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church people. The church is his body and he saved it.Wives should obey their husbands in everything, just as the church people obey Christ.”
A lot of people take this quote and say that it is “backwards” or “outdated”. If I read this quote only, I might be inclined to agree. However, further in the text it states:
Ephesians 5:25-33: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, …
So while the bible does instruct us to obey our husbands, it also states that a husband should love his wife as equally as his own body, so that any decision he makes would have her best interest at heart. Most decisions in a relationship are joint decisions, but inevitably there will be times when husband and wife cannot agree. In those times, I listen to this text and respect my husband’s decisions as much as I would my own. Interested to hear what everyone else’s thoughts/interpretations of this text are?
This song has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It reminds me of a quote from one of Martin Luther’s earlier books, The Freedom of a Christian (1520). In it, he wrote,
“[A]s our heavenly Father has in Christ freely come to our aid, we also ought freely to help our neighbor through our body and its works, and each one should become as it were a Christ to the other that we may be Christs to one another “
This prayer by Rev. R.H. Raasch is from The Lutheran Prayerbook.
O Lord, I thank you for my family. You have created our lives and intentionally brought us together to live in our home. It is within the family relationship that we learn how to share Your gifts of love, forgiveness and mercy. It is here, in our home, that we learn to be patient, as You are patient; compassionate, as You are compassionate; and caring, as You care for us. Bless our relationships that we may serve You here in our home and when we go out into Your world. In the mighty name of Jesus we pray. Amen
After a Via de Cristo retreat, participants are encouraged to periodically examine their conscience. This means to think carefully over their recent words, thoughts and deeds in order to understand how they have failed and confess. Some suggestions for doing this are provided in the VDC Pilgrim’s Guide. I’m listing here just the questions pertaining to our relationships.
In Regard to Others have I:
- Loved others selfishly; wanted to monopolize other’s affections, been jealous
- Considered no one but myself. Never felt real anguish for the misery of others
- Passed by, indifferent to others’ troubles
- Had habitual contempt for others; less educated people, people of different racial, national or economic groups
- In any way stifled the personal development of another
- Sought to be respected without respecting others
- Often kept others waiting
- Not paid entire attention to a person speaking to me
- Talked too much of myself, and not given others a chance to express themselves
- Failed to try to understand others
- Out of selfishness or pride, expected to be served
- Failed to help a person in distress
- Seen only those whose friendship might prove profitable
- Abandoned my friends in their difficulties
- Said hurtful things
- Done harm, by remarks (false or true) that blacken another’s character
- Betrayed a trust; violated a confidence
- Given scandal by the split between the life I lead and the principles I advertise as mine
How do you feel after reading through this list? I am humbled and contrite. I fall down so much more than I want to admit, many times I sin against others and don’t even notice!
“For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:22-25
I’ve mentioned before that although I am not in a 12 step program, I greatly admire and think everyone could learn from them. Recently I was looking at the steps, and I realized that like the Ten Commandments, they are all about having a right relationship with God and with others. Here they are:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable. (Note: substitute here sin in general and we all have this problem)
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. (In other words, God is God, and we’re not.)
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. (Giving God His rightful place in our lives, being in right relationship with Him)
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. (Christians call this an examination of conscience)
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. (This would be confession)
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. (Now we are getting to our relationships with others)
- Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God (keeping our relationship strong) praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message(read Good News) to alcoholics (read sinners) and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The 12 step programs succeed because they teach the importance of putting our relationships in order. First must come our relationship with God. We must accept that God and His will must take first place in our lives. Then we must confess our sins against Him and against our fellow humans and take responsibility to correct things. Finally, we must acknowledge that this is no quick or one-time fix … we must be constantly vigilant and work at our relationships continually AND we must help others by passing along what we have learned.
It’s humbling and also enlightening to read through these steps. As Christians, we all admit we’re sinners, but are we willing to admit that we are POWERLESS over sin without God? (We really don’t like to think of ourselves this way) Are we ready and willing to ask God to REMOVE our shortcomings? (I think there are lots of sins we like to hold on to). We may confess every week in church, but do we honestly make efforts to MAKE AMENDS to the people we’ve injured? (Personally, I’d rather try to ignore my bad behavior and hope everyone will eventually forget it) Do we really try to CHANGE AND IMPROVE our relationships with God and others? (Or are we too lazy to make that effort). Do we CARE enough about other people to pass the gospel on to them? (If we really believe in it, we should).
This gives me a lot to think about. How about you?
“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community
Last week I went with two of my siblings to my mother’s quarterly assessment meeting at the nursing home. She has Parkinson’s, high blood pressure, dementia and heart failure. We spent a good bit of time reviewing end of life decisions …. do we want a DNR (do not resuscitate) order? do we want her transferred to a hospital for anything other than an acute injury? do we want a feeding tube or artificial hydration in any situation? These things are difficult to even think about.
The social worker gave me a booklet to read. It talked about the difficulties and guilt involved in putting a parent in a care facility. The thing that struck me most was the statement that at some point, our relationship with a parent changes: the child becomes the parent and must make hard decisions based on what is best for the parent, even when it isn’t what he or she wants. It’s especially hard in cases like my mom’s, as her dementia makes it impossible for her to understand why she cannot live at home.
Other relationships change, too. Our children grow up and we have to learn to become friends and mentors instead of parents. Friends move and we have to adjust to relating via phone calls, email or letters instead of regular socializing. Our spouse takes a new job, or retires and we need to change our daily routines and chore assignments. Sometimes changing relationships have results that are good and welcomed, but other changes are painful and difficult, and almost all change is unsettling.
It’s good at times like this to remember that there is one person whose relationship to us does not change …Jesus Christ. Oh, sometimes we may think He is ignoring us, but as a friend once told me, “if you feel further away from God than you were last year, who moved?” The author of Hebrews tells us:
“Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever” Hebrews 13:8
He is our rock and our fortress, the one we can count upon when every other relationship changes.
The song Michele posted, reminded me of this one, also about our relationship with Jesus and the church.