What is Kindness?

Recently I was asked to write an article for The Lutheran Ambassador, the magazine published by my denomination (AFLC). Their theme for June is the fruit of the Spirit, and the topic I was given was kindness. You can read it below. You can also subscribe to The Lutheran Ambassador for free by following this link https://www.aflc.org/lutheran-ambassador!

Kindness.  We know it when we see it, but it’s hard to pin down a definition.  Google it and you’ll find it described as:

“the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate”

Aren’t these three different things? Do we have to have them all simultaneously to be considered kind?  The short answer is “no.”  Kindness is both more and less than this.  We don’t have to display a certain list of attributes in order to be kind.  Kindness can be as simple as responding courteously, or as complicated as taking the time to listen to another person and help them work through a difficult situation.  It can cost nothing financially, or it can cost a great deal.  It can take a few seconds, or years. Kindness is not a particular response, it is a particular mindset:  one of looking at the one person right in front of you, empathizing with them, and then trying to meet their needs. It means getting out of the self-centered default position that normally controls our brains (in other words, sin) and putting on the mind of Christ. As we are told in the book of Philippians: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” Philippians 2:3

Jesus models this for us.  He saw that the woman at the well needed understanding; Zachaeus needed friendship; the leper needed to be touched; Thomas needed to see for himself.  Many miracles in the Bible began with a simple act of kindness.

What does that mean for us?  Well, we can’t perform miracles.  We won’t be able to heal the sick – but we can visit and pray with them.  We won’t be able to feed 5000 hungry people – but we can offer a bag of snacks to the homeless man on the corner.  We can’t give the frustrated clerk at the grocery store a new job – but we can be patient and wish him a blessed day.  Kindness isn’t a talent that only some of us have.  Anyone can be kind.  It simply involves choosing to notice the people around us and doing what we can to alleviate their suffering. 

Kindness is a humble virtue. It won’t earn you any worldly rewards.  You may not see any results.  However, on the day of judgement, you will hear:

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”  And that will be enough.

For more posts about kindness see:

The Kindness Crown

A Kind Word

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story–Movie Review

Sin Consciousness– Why We Need It

We can’t be in Christ without sin consciousness. In other words, we need to understand that we can’t save ourselves — we need a savior. As an example of this, in our last class on union with Christ, we looked at the life of the apostle, Paul. Paul had every reason to trust in his own ability to keep the law. Here’s how he describes himself in the third chapter of Philippians:

  1. He had the right pedigree –an Israelite, a member of the tribe of Benjamin
  2. He was outstanding in his performance — a Pharisee, faultless in righteousness
  3. He had been strictly raised and trained in all the Hebrew rituals — circumcised on the eighth day, and so on

He had no sin consciousness at all — and many of us have the same mindset. Although we profess our belief in Christ, we believe we are “good” people, raised in the church, who have never sinned in any significant way. We don’t want to accept the fact that our sinful nature makes it impossible to obey God.

We see in chapter 7 of the book of Romans that the sin of covetousness was the one that got Paul’s attention. (Perhaps his encounter with Stephen led his to covet the grace Stephen displayed.) He realized that the law was given, not so that he could become righteous, but to help him recognize his sin for what it was. He puts it this way:

“Did that which is good then (the law), become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” Romans 7:13

Finally accepting his inability to do good, he is able to turn to Christ. He became a man in Christ who found that nothing was more valuable to him than knowing Jesus and being united to him. As he says,

“… I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ … I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death … ” Philippians 3:8-10a

Are you sin conscious? If not, the season of Lent is a good time to ponder this.

For more about sin see:

Why to Avoid Sin

Sin and Grace

More About Sin

Be At Peace With One Another

I’m now up to chapter 9 in Mark, reading prayerfully. What stands out for me today is at the very end:

“…. be at peace with one another.” Mark 9: 49

How often this is lacking in our lives, even our lives as Christians in the church together. We become offended; we’re angry with others; they disappoint us; and so on. It can be challenging to get along. We all have different priorities, different skills, different backgrounds. We tend to think our way of doing things is the right way. We want to be noticed and appreciated. Earlier in the chapter, the disciples had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. Jesus called them together and read them the riot act. This was not the appropriate way to behave.

“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35

So it’s clear. In order to live at peace with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I must put aside any feelings of entitlement. My part (everyone’s part) in the body is to serve, not to be a big shot. Not to get my way all the time. Not to boss others around. To do this, I must put others first. I must not dwell on my own feelings, but honor those around me. As Paul says in the book of Philippians:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves ,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

This isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. It’s the only way to live in peace.

For more study on the book of Mark see:

The Commandment of God or the Tradition of Men? ]

Rest a While

Why Are You So Afraid?

Mind Your Mind

I recently received a publication from a local mental health organization. One article talked about the stressful, challenging times in which we are living and the need to control our thoughts. It’s easy to become negative, dwelling on ideas that may not even be true or likely. As the author puts it:

“Every action, decision and spoke word originates with a thought. The idea of minding our thoughts can quite literally be life changing.”

Negative thoughts can lead us to negative words and actions. They can take us to places we really don’t want to go.

The Bible talks about this too. Jesus Himself said:

there is nothing outside a man [such as food] which by going into him can defile him [morally or spiritually]; but the things which come out of [the heart of] a man are what defile and dishonor him.” Mark 7:15 Amplified Bible

In other words, our thoughts, which come from our mind and our heart, have a lasting effect on our moral and spiritual life.

The apostle, Paul, echoes this truth in his letter to the Philippians:

 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

Minding our mind is one way to survive times of fear, doubt, grief and more. Instead of imaging a catastrophe, remind yourself that God is in control. Instead of listing the things that may go wrong, repeat the promises of God. The Bible is God’s love letter to His people. Study it. Hold it in your heart. It will help you to mind your mind.

For more on being healthy spiritually see:

Improve Your Health, Make a Friend

Choose Spiritual Health

The Good Old Days?

After reading chapters 6 & 7 of Ecclesiastes, this is what stood out for me:

“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”  Ecclesiastes 7:10”

It seems that I hear many people my age bemoaning the present, and longing for the past.  Things were better then;  people were more courteous;  more people went to church;  children were not so spoiled, and so on. Some of these things may be true, but bad things are always going on (I talked about this in a previous post– Hoping for Something New?. It also depends upon your particular situation and perspective.  For example, somebody recently who is a bit older than I am said she grew up in the best of times — however, if you were a person of color during that era, you probably wouldn’t look back on those days so fondly.  Jim Crow laws, segregation, and discrimination were widespread.

God calls us to look forward, not back.  When He punished His Old Testament people by exiling them to Babylon, they were told by the prophet Jeremiah:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:5-7


In other words, make the best of things in the place and time where God has placed you.  He has work for you to do. Stop complaining and concentrate on being a blessing to others.

In the New Testament Paul echoes the same sentiment:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

Yearning for the good old days is not helpful or God-pleasing.  It is not wise.  It is not even realistic!  Instead  look forward to the future God has prepared for you.




For more posts about the book of Ecclesiastes see:

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 3:3

Two Are Better Than One

New Month/New Year/No Theme

It’s January, and we’re ringing in a new year.  2020 has been a difficult time for many of us.  We’ll remember it as the year of the pandemic.  People have been isolated and afraid;  many have been sick and some have died.  Churches are suffering from low attendance and decreased giving.  Businesses have failed and some have lost their jobs.  Employees and students are learning to work from home.  We’re wearing masks and social distancing.  It’s the “new normal.”

Like many, I’m hoping that in 2021, we can put some of the bad things behind us.  I’m reminded of Paul’s statement in the book of Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

Our circumstances may change, but our goal does not;  our hope does not;  the promises of God do not.  We can’t give up, because Christ is counting on us;  we must continue to be His people and His voice and hands and feet in the world.

There is no theme, because right now we have no idea what 2021 will bring.  We only know that we must keep running the race with our eyes focused on the goal — eternity with the One Who called us.

Wishing you peace in the coming year because He loves and so do I!

Philippians Chapter 4–What Stands Out

I’ve come to the end of my lectio divina study of the book of Philippians, and here’s what stands out for me in the last chapter.

“…. my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown ….”  Phil. 4:1

When our children were young my husband used to tell them, “people are more important than things.”  In other words, we should never sacrifice our relationships with others in order to attain some temporal item or reward.  I also remember James Dobson saying in a talk that when his father died, he did not mourn for the way his dad had provided for him materially;  he missed and remembered the things they had done together, like fishing.

In this verse, Paul is expressing his love for the Christians of Philippi.  This is what gives him joy, this is what makes his life meaningful.  I believe when we come before God, and are judged (which we all will be), He will not be especially interested in the goals we have reached, the pious acts we can tote up, or the dollars we have donated.  What will be important is how we have shown love to others.  Have we served people sacrificially?  Have we invested time in their well-being and spiritual growth?  Have we helped them and listened to them in times of need?  Have we prayed for them even (especially) when they are difficult?  Have we been the face of Christ to others?

The book of Matthew tells us:

…. store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matt. 6:20-21

Paul’s treasure was the people he loved and served.  What is your treasure?  It’s worth thinking about.

Philippians Chapter 3 –What Stands Out

This is the third in my series of lectio divina meditations on Philippians.  What stood out for me in this chapter is:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”  Philippians 3:12

The “this” the apostle Paul is speaking of, is his attempt to imitate Christ, his master.  He wants to:

“… know him and the power of his resurrection …. share his sufferings …. (and become) like him in his death ….” Philippians 3:10

In other words, Paul is describing the process that Lutherans call sanctification.

Like Paul, I am far from completing this process.  I’m still pressing on, and will be until the day of my death.  Some days, I’m all too aware of my failures and shortfalls.  Strangely, this doesn’t make me feel hopeless, but hopeful.  After all, in the end, I do not have:

“…. a righteousness of my own that comes from the law; but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…”Philippians 3:9

The race is already won, but running gives my life meaning.  I want to imitate Jesus who saved me.  I want to meet Him and hear these words:

‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” Matthew 25:21

I want to persevere.  It’s my “one thing” — for more about this see: Bulls Eye!

For more on the book of Philippians visit these posts:

The Theme of Joy in Philippians

Philippians Chapter 1 — What Stands Out

Philippians Chapter 2 — What Stands Out


Philippians Chapter 2 — What Stands Out

This is the second post in my series on lectio divina and Philippians.  Here’s what stood out for me in Chapter 2

“….complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”  Phil. 2:2

I’m a peacemaker.  Teamwork is one of my core values (L. A. T. C. H. On To Your Core Values). Nothing gives me more pleasure than to get a group of people together, work on a project and feel good when it is completed successfully.  On the other hand, it’s exhausting and painful when those around me are at odds with one another.  I’ve been in situations where I’ve felt like the little boy with his finger in the dam, trying to hold things together while the flood waters keep rising.  It’s not a good place to be.

The hard lesson I’ve learned over time is this:   I can’t control others  Sometimes the dam breaks and all I can do is get out of the way and wait for flood to subside.  Still, I pray for and desire unity, especially in the body of Christ.  I guess the apostle Paul felt the same way  He had invested in this group of believers, he loved each one of them, and he wanted them to love each other.  This was his hope for them.

I’m reminded of one of the Psalms that I also love:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
    life forevermore.  Psalm 133

For more on Christian unity see these posts:

Unity in the Spirit

Unity Not Uniformity

Dwelling In Unity




Philippians Chapter 1 — What Stands Out

Recently I read a book about spiritual disciplines (Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review) that made me think about something I haven’t done for a while –lection divina.  This is a practice of reading a short portion of Scripture prayerfully, several times, and noticing what word or phrase stands out for you– what’s going on in your life, and what might God be saying to you through this right now.

Here’s what jumped out for me in the first chapter of Philippians:

“I thank God every time I remember you.”  Philippians 1:3

I’m seventy now, so I have a lot of people to remember;  family members and friends from my youth who are still important to me;  my husband, Terry, who has been my life companion;  spiritual mentors and soul friends who have walked with me through different parts of my journey with Jesus; co-workers who helped me and taught me about teamwork;  my children and grandchildren who have made joyful memories for me;  even difficult people who caused me pain have been part of shaping my life, and through them I have learned to be humble, understanding, empathetic and forgiving– after all, I have sometimes been a difficult person, too.

This month of Thanksgiving is a good time to remember and give thanks for all the people God has sent into our lives, whether they’ve been there for a reason, a season or a lifetime. We are not meant to live alone.  Every person in your life is a gift. Pray for them.  Cherish them.  Remember them.

“It is right for me to feel this way about you, since I have you in my heart; …. all of you share in God’s grace with me  God can testify how I long for you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:7-8

For more lectia divina see these posts:

What Stands Out–Jude

What Stands Out? Hebrews Chapter 10

What Stands Out?