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

The Gift of Humility

“The triumph of grace is that we accept the humiliation of failure, which is indeed a triumph, a greater triumph than external success. In actual fact, the experience of failure in ministry teaches us in the long run how to do it, which is with complete dependence on God.”

Thomas Keating

Thomas Keating (March 7, 1923 – October 25, 2018) was an American Catholic monk and priest of the Trappist order. Keating was known as one of the principal developers a contemporary method of contemplative prayer known as Centering prayer.

For more about humility see these posts:

Rest in Humility

It’s Hard to be Humble!

Be Patient And Humble?

When You’re Sick #2

If you’ve been sick (as I have recently When You’re Sick), you may feel depressed and have trouble praying. If so, you can rely on “other peoples’ prayers” (Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren–Book Review) like this one. I found it helpful and comforting.

Lord, the day is drawing to a close, and like all the other days, it leaves me the impression of utter defeat. I have done nothing for You: neither have I said conscious prayers, nor performed works of charity, nor any work at all, work that is sacred for every Christian who understands its significance. I have not even been able to control that childish impatience and those foolish rancours which so often occupy the place that should be Yours in rhe “no man’s land” of my emotions. It is in vain that I promise You to do better. I shall be no different tomorrow, nor on the day that follows.

When I retrace the course of my life, I am overwhelmed by the same impression of inadequacy. I have sought you in prayer and in the service of my neighbor, for we cannot separate You from our brothers any more than we can we our body from our spirit. But in seeking You do I not find myself? Do I not wish to satisfy myself? Those works that I secretly termed good and saintly, dissolve in the light of approaching eternity, and I dare no longer lean on these supports that have lost their stability.

Even actual sufferings bring me no joy because I bear them so badly. Perhaps we are all like this: incapable of discerning anything but our own wretchedness and our own despairing cowardice before the light of the Beyond that waxes on our horizon.

But it may be, O Lord, that this impression of privation is part of a divine plan. It may be that in Your eyes, self-complacency is the most obnoxious of all fripperies, and that we must come before You naked so that You, You alone, may clothe us.

Marguerite Teilhard de Chardin

Mme. de Chardin was foundress of Union of the Sick in France during the 1930s.

For More prayers see:

Prayer to the Holy Spirit #2

Great and Small Prayers for Babies — Book Review

A Prayer of Surrender

Be Patient And Humble?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Colossians 3:12

Yes, there it is.  We’re commanded by God to be patient.  Patience is not one of my strong suits.  And humble?  That’s even more difficult.  Yet when I am feeling impatient with others, a good dose of humility is in order.  I’m sure there are plenty of people I irritate on a daily basis.  I know I exasperate God constantly.  If I’m honest, I even find my failure to live up to my ideals pretty annoying.  This quote from Thomas A Kempis was in my devotional reading this morning, and it really spoke to me.  Maybe it will resonate with you as well.

“Endeavor to be patient in bearing with the defects and infirmities of others, of what sort soever they be;  for that thyself also hast many failings which must be borne with by others. If thou canst not make thyself such a one as thou wouldst, how canst thou expect to have another in all things to thy liking?”

Make Me a Servant

When Kelly Willard was asked how her song, Make Me A Servant, came to be written, this is how she answered:

“Well, it’s pretty simple, what happened. I was at home, and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart saying very gently, “You know, you could stand to have a little more of a servant heart.” I went straight to my piano and began playing and singing this prayer…”Make me a servant, humble and meek, Lord let me lift up those who are weak…And, may the prayer of my heart always be, make me a servant, make me a servant, make me a servant today.” I still pray for a servant’s heart.”

Let Kelly’s plea sink into your heart and make you a servant today!

Mi Casa Uptown – a review

Mi Casa Uptown: Learning to Love Again by Rich Pérez is a good read if you are thinking, or are in, a urban setting or if you are thinking about doing missions work in the city.

Rich Pérez is from New York City; Washington Heights to be exact.  He left there to go to college and seminary and then returned to his neighborhood because he feels deeply about connecting with neighbors.  In this book he explains how we’ve become disconnected to our neighbors and how, with God’s help, we can become connected again.

One point that Rich makes that hit with me was that to engage in any community, humility is needed:

“Humility is a posture that demands intentionality and sacrifice; it demands a compelling example.  It’s sacrifice and not entitlement that inspires authentic relationship.  In the end, thriving communities are not monolithic communities, where one group or culture runs the show.  Instead, the kind of humility I’m referring to is revolutionary – quite literally helping to shift the way neighborhoods exist.  Humility inspires people to live differently toward on another and, more important, honors the stories that have existed before your own by dignifying them rather disregarding them.”

Even though I enjoyed this book, I had a hard time relating to it.  I come from a rural background and have never really engaged the Hispanic community.  Even so, I found quite a few “take-aways” about how to live in community.  I give this book a solid three stars.

Who Me?

Maybe you don’t think you’re not good enough to lead.  You have sins in your past (not to mention present);  you don’t have the right skill set;  you aren’t educated enough and so on.  If you feel this way, take a closer look at some of the great leaders of the Bible.

Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossip, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sara was impatient, Elijah was moody, Moses stuttered, Abraham was old,… and Lazarus was dead. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the CALLED!

I’m not sure where this quote originated, but it hits the nail on the head.  Those Biblical heroes we admire had plenty of problems and flaws.  They weren’t perfect.  They didn’t get it right the first time. They often messed up more than once. They did have one big thing in common:  they loved God and they followed Him.  They allowed Him to take their lives, warts and all, and mold them into vessels He could use.  If you have that quality, you, too can be used by God to lead somebody.  Humility and dependence upon God are key qualities of Christian leadership.

I am reminded of a hymn written by Monsenor Cesareo Gabarin,  who was a  well known composer of Spanish liturgical music.  It’s called “Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore” and expresses Gabrains’ admiration for the humble Christians he encountered during his ministry.  Here it is.  I think you’ll love it like I do:

Fanning the Flame #10 — Creating a Culture For Change

“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel;  instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:24

This past Saturday, the Fanning the Flame team gathered to listen to a talk on a CD, given by Pastor Harry Reeder, author of From Embers to a Flame.  The title was “Creating a Culture For Change” and it dealt with leaders and how they are to deal with the difficulty of leading a congregation through transitional times.

HUMILITY is the watchword.  People are not won over by force and impatience.  They will be won over by leaders who exhibit the teaching methods of Jesus, leaders who see themselves as servants.  Leaders must earn the right to lead by their own behavior.

Here were some of his suggestions for the Pastor:

  • Believe the gospel
  • Exemplify in his own life a dedication to the disciplines of prayer, study, worship and the means of grace
  • Pay close attention to himself and his teaching — be stable, share what is going on in bite-size nuggets
  • Keep watch on his words and attitude
  • Let people know that he is committed to them and to his call
  • Be appropriately committed to his spouse and children
  • Do not make excuses or become defensive.

Suggestions to the leadership team included:

  • Pray for the team
  • Be ready for the team to change
  • Develop a meaningful relationship with the Pastor
  • Spend time together in fellowship and prayer
  • Find ways to encourage and empower each other

To be continued …..

Celebrating Christmas Correctly

See the source imageI originally planned to simply post this quote, but I found it so challenging personally that I decided to blog about it.  I have to admit that Christmas is often a time when I want to impress others, at least a little.  There are those family members and friends I don’t see or hear from too often during the year so ….when we get together I’d like them to see me at my best.  I take care with how I look and what I wear, and even what I tell them about how my life is going.

Then there are the gifts …I prefer to be the giver, rather than humbly receiving.  I enjoy giving gifts and feeling generous.  Isn’t there some pride in this?  I don’t like others to see that I need them or what they have to offer.

What about food?  Instead of a simple meal together, Christmas has to be a feast … in fact, a series of feasts and parties and excess.  Through it all, I’m hoping that my culinary contributions will measure up and be appreciated as “the best.”

I can give myself a pass on decorating, probably because I simply don’t have that talent or inclination.  However, for many of us, it’s worthwhile to consider:  am I decorating to welcome the King?  Or to impress my visitors with ‘house beautiful’?

Jesus came on Christmas as a helpless infant.  He was born in a dirty stable to poor parents.  He left honor and glory behind to become one of us, one of the least of us… and why?  Simply out of love.  The least we can do is love others and receive His sacrifice in humility and grateful worship. I see clearly how things should be, but understanding it is much easier than living it.  Authors and readers have you found ways to celebrate Christmas correctly?  I’d like to hear some suggestions.

 

Martin Luther on Christmas

Luther’s writings contain a multitude of references to Advent and Christmas. The following excerpt comes from a sermon on the Nativity that he preached in 1530:

See the source image

If Christ had arrived with trumpets and lain in a cradle of gold, his birth would have been a splendid affair. But it would not be a comfort to me. He was rather to lie in the lap of a poor maiden and be thought of little significance in the eyes of the world. Now I can come to him. Now he reveals himself to the miserable in order not to give any impression that he arrives with great power, splendor, wisdom, and aristocratic manners. But upon his return on that Day, when he will oppose the high and the mighty, it will be different. Now he comes to the poor, who need a Savior, but then he will come as a Judge against those who are persecuting him now.