Rest in, Restlessness Out

Six days each week is a blur of hustle and bustle, but I still can’t check everything off on my to-do list.  Why in the world do I think one more day would eliminate my mountain of  tasks!

As a teenager if my boss scheduled me to work at Kentucky Fried Chicken, I happily accepted the shift.  I didn’t pay the least bit of attention to what the Lord said in Exodus 34:21, “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working, even during the seasons of plowing and harvest.” I remember feeling as if God wouldn’t mind. I didn’t realize He was offering me a gift and I sure didn’t consider my response as refusing His love.

(Genesis 2:3 NLT ) And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when He rested from all his work of creation.

My busy life causes my spirit to cry out for balance. My mind races to prioritize important events and I must pace myself so I don’t explode like a stick of dynamite. When I’m a restless sea, my tongue spouts deadly poison and minor troubles are quick to dishearten me.

Only when my  frazzled mind recognizes I’m overworked, do I force myself to delegate tasks. The burnt out feeling clues me to re-examine my activities.

The Lord created me and knows every part: my body aches, the endless circle of “what am I supposed to be doing?” He knows I’m like an computer screen with all tabs open; my thinking is slooooow, my reasoning nonexistent, and my soul is screaming for rest.

Are there any “good things” that need to be omitted from my calendar?  “Best things” to prioritize even if  a few “good things” must be crossed off.

“Best things” for me means scheduling a Sabbath for worship and rest every week. I need this time to recharge my body and refocus my mind.

W. Jones, author of Rest a Future Portion of the Christian Believer, explained The Lord knew I would need rest from

  • my struggle with sin
  •  physical and mental suffering
  • laborious work
  • all that makes life weary

Dean Vaughan advises us that “present rest can only be found in absolute trust made upon the cross of Jesus. I love the phrasing Matthew Henry’s commentary states, “God has always declared man’s rest to be in him, and his love to be the only real happiness of the soul; and faith in his promises, through his son, to be the only way of entering that rest.”

But why wait for the Sabbath?   Take a deep breath in, hold, and then exhale slowly. Feel your muscles relaxing.  Allow your spirit, the deepness within you to sync in fellowship with God.  F.B. Meyer describes it as the Lord comes in, rest enters, and restlessness goes out.

Heavenly Father, we praise you because you are the real happiness of our soul. We thank you for rest from our struggles, suffering, and weariness. We confess that we don’t always prioritize Sabbath, the day you blessed and declared holy. We ask that you forgive us and help us to replace the good things on our calendars with the “best things.” In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

References:

Henry, Matthew. Commentary of Hebrew 4:1 – 10. Bible Hub.

Jones, W. Sermon. Rest a Future Portion of the Christian Believer. Bible Hub.

Meyer, F.B. Sermon. Ceasing From Self. Bible Hub.

Vaughan, Dean. Sermon. Rest in the Rest of God.  Hebrews 4:10. Bible Hub.

 

Hi!
This Monday night my friend Emily P. Freeman, co*founder of hope*writers, is hosting a live training for writers called “How to be a Working Writer Without Losing Your Mind.”
Hint: you don’t have to sell your soul, change your personality, or become a cartoon version of yourself to make it as a writer.
Emily is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author who knows how to hustle but hasn’t lost her heart. And good news! She loves talking to writers about writing.
If you are a writer but you struggle to share your work in a way that feels like you, then you don’t want to miss this free training.
Click here to save your spot!

If you would like to join Hopewriters, Click here to learn how!

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Are you Sharing Your Story?

On the Fourth of July I strolled along the beautiful blue Detroit River in Motor City, Michigan.  Although it was a national holiday, people enjoying the unusually cool afternoon were scarce along the scenic river walk.  Hart Plaza stood eerily vacant except for two skateboarders posing for a photograph.

 

As my friends admired sculptures and paintings, The Lord stirred my heart.  My confused eye rested on an unusual creation.  Although it had been designed to overflow with soothing cascades of water, the fountain appeared abandoned.  The artist’s original purpose was faintly recognizable as a dry well underneath a rusty metal structure.

 

A disturbance rippled through me as I peered up at the magnificent skyline looming above.  This entire city was meant for a greater purpose.  Postcards describe Detroit as a center for travel and conventions.  However locked storefronts now display signs to call for an appointment.  Historic high rise buildings stand almost devoid of human activity compared to the hustle of a thriving city.

 

While I heard no audible words, I distinctly perceived God say, “You are like this fountain.  You have hidden My word in your heart, but My Word doesn’t flow from you.” Glancing back one last time, I remembered I had been created to “be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” Isaiah 58:11

 

While I seek The LORD to guide me, I’m hesitant to share my writing with friends.  Fears of offending a co-worker, being rejected by a friend, or being attacked for my beliefs paralyze me.  Always worrying about what might happen consumes me.  Instead, I need to be obedient to the Lord’s will.  Allow Him to unleash his power however He chooses.

 

As uncles, brothers, and cousins gathered to barbecue among the dilapidated neighborhoods with burned out windows in Detroit, I prayed for Godly leaders to arise.  Seeing the men, women, and children loitering on the road side corners all day in the hot sun bothered me. Didn’t they have families or friends to visit?

 

Anguish descended on me as the burdens of this troubled city quickly overwhelmed me.  Then I remembered, “The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.”  (Isaiah 58:11) The city of Detroit desperately needs the Lord’s strength and wisdom, but doesn’t my own city have these similar type of problems?

 

Relief calms me as I rationalize I’m only responsible for my small part.  If I’m willing to share how God has spoken to me in my small circle of friends, He will strengthen all who are burdened. All I have to do is be obedient.

 

Girlfriend, if only if were that easy.  I have struggled to share my writing for at least two years. For some reason, I’m anxiety ridden about pressing the “Publish” button and letting my words drift off into the online world.

 

I struggled internally until obedience become more important than my fear. However, I still had to overcome finding the time to write, staying motivated, and committed to the Lord.

 

A dear friend, Doris Swift, also a fantastic writer of “Using Our Gifts to Impact the World”, recommended to try Hope Writers.  The encouragement, accountability, and motivation was exactly what I needed.

 

Hope Writers have library resources for the beginner, the person revising a manuscript, or the writer launching a book. They also have a private online Facebook community, fun Instagram challenges, and smaller Hope circles. Although I’ve only been a member for a few weeks, I have already connected with women who message me throughout the week to check in on my progress. I set my own goals and move at my own pace.

 

The women’s stories of hope and inspiration appear in so many different colors and shapes. It is amazing to see how the Lord moves through all our lives.

 

So, have you ever considered writing your own story? If so, can I encourage you to take the following quiz? It will identify where you are as a writer and recognize your areas of strengths as well as weaknesses. If you are curious, go ahead and check out the quiz. Feel free to share your results in the comment section at the bottom of this page when you are done. I am as curious as you are to discover your results.

Click on Link : Quiz Hope Writer Path

When I took the quiz, I discovered that I did not identify myself as a writer. Although I had convinced numerous 4th graders during my 15 years as a teacher that they are writers, somehow that just didn’t seem to apply to me.  This post is a declaration for me to announce to “my world” I am a writer, I have a voice, and you have one too! So don’t be afraid to encourage others by sharing your experiences and hard won lessons learned.

 

The next time you hesitate to share your story, remember God only desires you to be obedient.  He is perfectly capable of providing for whatever happens next.

 

Post your thoughts about whether you have ever considered sharing your own story in the comment area below. Are there any obstacles that are standing in your way?

 

If you’re a writer or have ever thought about writing a book, you probably have more questions than you can keep track of –
“How do I find time to write?”
“Who am I to call myself a writer?”
“What’s the secret to getting my writing published?”
“What platform do publishers consider most important?”
“How do I know if I’m ready for an agent?”
Wouldn’t it be nice to have the answers to questions like that all in one place?
Well, my author friend Emily is a co-founder of hope*writers, and to teach their members they interview dozens of writing and publishing experts every year. They’ve compiled the best answers to the most asked questions and put it in one simple free pdf download.
It’s short, super helpful, and it ends your random google searches.
Expert Answers to the Top 20 Questions Writers Ask is only available for a couple of days – grab your copy here!
If you are a writer or have ever thought about writing a book, it can be confusing to try to navigate the world of publishing.
From writing a book proposal to finding an agent and a publisher, the steps can be overwhelming no matter what stage of the writing life you’re in.
My friend Emily, author and co-founder of hope*writers, has created a free downloadable e-book to help demystify the publishing process.
It’s short, it’s simple, and it explains each step of publication.
The Newbie’s Pocket Rulebook of Publishing is only available for a couple of days – grab your copy here! 

For more information about joining a writing community, visit  Hope Writers.

Always do what pleases Him

NIV John 8:29 “So Jesus said… He who sent me is with me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases Him. ”

On a sunny day a little girl kneeled down to pick pretty white flowers growing amid sticker plants. The roots dangled from her small fist as the sandy bouquet was presented to her Grandma. Wrinkled hands drew her close in a warm strong hug and she felt loved.

Even when she started elementary school, she carried little trinkets to Mrs. Dorothy. Her teacher’s appreciative gaze made her feel special.

But it didn’t stop with merely gift giving. She desired for her peers to invite her to birthday parties, to sit at their lunch table, and play with her at recess.  She would listen quietly to their conversation and agree with them.

Giving gifts and listening are great social skills. The trouble began when she did these actions because she want to be liked. Especially when she found herself violating her own beliefs or allowing others to hurt her physically.

Many people pleasers may relate to Shirley Dobson’s story:

“As I look back on the painful experience of my childhood, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for answering my early prayers. He heard the desperate cries of a ten-year-old girl who could offer him nothing in return. I had no status, no special abilities, no money to contribute. I was totally without dignity or social influence. Yet the Creator of the universe entered my little room and communed with me about the difficulties I was experiencing. It was awesome to realize that he loved me just as I was, and my pain became his pain. What a magnificent God we serve!”

Isaiah 40:10 – 11 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. … He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

If only she had believed she is a child of God and is held in the palm of his hand.

That He listens to her as fascinated by her discoveries as she will listen to her own son’s description of his first day to school.

If only she had believed her Heavenly Father eagerly awaits for her to ask Him for counsel in the same way she one day will wait for her own son’s phone call.

She gave all she had, but still failed to please the people who mattered the most in her life.

Now she looks to her Heavenly Father with sorrow in her heart.

If she can’t please people certainly she can’t please God?

Turning the pages in her bible to Isaiah Chapter 32, she notes several actions that please God:

I please God every morning when I allow Him to be my strength. He wraps me in his arms when I  accept him as my salvation in time of distress. He comforts me, gently lifting me and guiding me to a safe place to rest. He restores my broken places and pulls me up to a standing position. He smiles when I exalt the Lord as a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.

When I lift up the Lord’s name in a song, acknowledge his power during a friendly conversation, and speak what is right to children, He is pleased.

When I praise Him for who he is and thank Him for all the ways I am grateful for His presence, He is pleased.

When I admire the pink and blue skies of the dawn rising above the blanket of fog over calm blue waters, He is pleased.

If we desire to please God, we would avoid things that cause him pain. As a parent it is painful for us to watch our children make poor decisions.

But, do we value God enough to exercise self control in our own lives?

If we want God to treat us as a chosen and prized daughter, we need to treat him as a chosen and prized Father.

Think about the following:

Is your relationship with God a priority in your life?

Is there a task that God has laid upon your heart?

Ask God to reveal what may displease him.

Heavenly Father, we praise you because you are our shepherd who carries us in your arms. We thank you for giving us wisdom, knowledge, and happiness. We ask you to forgive us when we do not place you as a priority in our life. Give us courage to complete the task that you have laid upon our heart. Forgive us for not avoiding those things that cause you pain Father. Thank you for sending Jesus who always does what pleases you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

NIV Ecclesiastes 2:26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness.

References:

Taken from LET’S MAKE A MEMORY by Gloria Gaither and Shirley Dobson. Copyright 1983 by Gloria Gaither, Shirely Dobson, and James Dobson, Inc. Published by Word, Incl, Dallas, Texas.

Morin, A. (2017). Psychology Today. 10 Signs You Are a People Pleaser. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201708/10-signs-youre-people-pleaser

Battling Bad Thoughts

thought

In our culture, we are bombarded by bad thoughts about ourselves.

The TV model’s hair glistens and we frown at our own frayed frizzy split ends.

Our children say they hate getting up early every morning to go to school and we silently agree.

Our friends vent “She’s so aggravating” and we nod in approval. 

Yep, all bad thoughts. 

S. Baring – Gould explained that bad thoughts may distract us when we close our eyes to pray. They may even disturb a friendly conversation or keep us awake at night. He believes bad thoughts merely entering our mind is not sin, until we allow it to remain in our minds. He described evil thoughts as envious, discontented, profane, unkind, angry, or impure.

According to Matthew Henry we should strive against evil thoughts. He continues to say that we often speak the words, “I forgive you.” However, we struggle to forget.

In fact, I tend to hold onto the hurt. I call it learning from my mistakes but really it is hardening my heart. Building a wall to protect myself from being hurt again instead of trusting God. 

However Matthew Henry states, “But when God forgives, he remembers it no more.”

What? He doesn’t play it over and over in his mind analyzing it from every perspective possible? Just forgets? Like it never happened?

But what do I do when I’m having trouble forgiving and forgetting?

Matthew Henry suggests that reading God’s sacred truth and applying it in our daily life will create a spiritual change in our minds. He explains that we have been delivered from wrath and have found peace as a forgiven sinner.

This means my mind will be at peace if I completely forgive and forget.

But what happens when I attempt to forgive, but my mind is not at peace?

Matthew 9:4 (NIV) Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?”

According to Matthew Henry our Lord Jesus Christ has perfect knowledge of all that we say in our inner being. Sinful thoughts are offensive to the Lord.

But how do we recognize sinful thoughts?

Matthew 15:19 (NIV) For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander.

Seems easy enough to spot these types of sinful thoughts, but consider the scenario below. 

In the Publix parking lot a bumper sticker on a car says, “I don’t need a higher power, I have a cat.” 

An initial reaction may be a smirk because it is funny that cats act as if they are the supreme authority in a home. However, when I think of my husband saying to his work buddies, “I don’t need a wife, I have a cat.”

All of a sudden, it doesn’t seem so funny. It seems disrespectful. So although the person may not have meant to be offensive, perhaps the Lord may consider this to be false testimony or slander.  

So, now that I realize that evil or sinful thoughts are troubling my mind and robbing me of my peace, now what?

George Eliot wrote the following, “Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

Praise God that we are blessed with such a friend in Jesus Christ. He came to save sinners, so we can always look to him.

Matthew Henry encourages us “to seek the grace of the Holy Spirit to keep down evil thoughts that work within” us.  He continues to say that Jesus searches our heart , knows our anxious thoughts, and still has precious thoughts of love for us.

So how do we seek the Holy Spirit’s grace?

Mark 12:30 (NIV) And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.

  1. Set your mind on things of the Spirit so that you can love Him with all your mind. It may be a good idea to carefully avoid everything that would “trigger” you  to “dwell” on bad thoughts.  This may even include Christian songs that focuses too much on your own desires. Instead, choose worship songs that focus on God’s attributes.

Everyone’s triggers are different. So when you discover your mind wandering to dwell on bad thoughts, make a note if something in particular sets you down “that path where you know you don’t want to go.” It could be a book, TV show, or even a movie.

If it is a book, stop reading. If it is a TV show, change the channel.  If it is not possible to replace the activity with a better choice, you may consider going for a walk to refocus your mind. Or find a quiet spot where you can reflect on God’s attributes.

2. Increase the amount of time reading the bible. It may be helpful to write down scripture that resonates with you, then read it out loud whenever you find yourself dwelling on unhealthy thoughts.

3. Spend more time praying. If you are easily distracted when praying silently, writing down your prayers may help you focus.  Random thoughts may still plague you, but rereading helps to get you back on track.

4. Lean into your church community. Find a small group of women from church who will stand by you to encourage, love, and listen. It may be helpful to get an accountability partner to join you by reading the same portion of scripture. Even texting phrases to a friend is also handy, so you have your favorite verses within your fingertips.

We praise you Lord because you are pure, holy, and noble. We thank you for helping us recognize unhealthy thoughts.  Teach us to reject bad thoughts and replace them with your truth. Lord,  with you all things are possible. Empower us to forgive others completely, so that we don’t remember what needs to be forgiven. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. 

If you have other ideas about how to battle bad thoughts that haven’t been listed, please leave a comment.  I would love to hear strategies that have been helpful to battle bad thoughts.

 

 

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Overcoming Selfishness

selfishness

Recently I shopped for Christmas gifts with two dear friends. Humming joyful melodies set the festive mood, but my heart was unwilling to rack up credit card charges for unneeded purchases.

My hopeful spirit skillfully maneuvered crowded shops, looking for the perfect item that spoke the name of my loved ones. I spent hours searching the mall’s  nooks and crannies for gift items. I desired to find treasures that would bring countless hours of  happiness.

When I returned home in anticipation of wrapping my newly purchased items, I discovered that I had only bought a beautiful red sweater and art supplies for me. I had nothing to wrap and place under the tree for anyone other than myself!

It is easy for me to spot selfishness in a young child rejecting a gift or pouting because their sibling received a toy they had wished for.  But usually it is harder to spot it in myself.

As I measured flour, stirred, and rolled out cookie dough I carefully considered who I am really baking cookies for.  Is my willingness to sweep up sprinkles simply because I like to eat sugar cookies?  That it makes the house smell like Grandma’s house?

This Christmas I carefully considered the activities I desired to complete: whether it was  meant as a gift for others or myself?

Phillipians 2:4 (NIV) gives us advice to look after the interest of others. This takes intentional effort to consider what other people actually need, like, or want. To resist filling in the blanks for what I think people need, would like, or might want.  Instead I need to carefully listen, to hear what they are saying.

Even on my best days when I intentionally listen, I often still don’t have a clue what someone really needs. I’m not a rocket scientist but even I realize only our Heavenly Father can determine what truly benefits others.

Since determining the best course of action requires wisdom and the only place to find true wisdom is by asking our Heavenly Father, whisper to him your request.  Then  search the nooks and crannies of your bible for the perfect gifts that your loved ones really need.   A word of encouragement, comfort during a difficult season, or spiritual healing that only Jesus Christ himself can provide may be located in His word.

Deuteronomy 15:10 (NIV) says that we should give generously without a grudging heart. To open our hand wide to the needy. To give for the glory of God for Him to use as He sees fit.

As I looked carefully at my gift list, I am thankful for the blessings that the Lord has entrusted to my family. But am I being a good steward of the financial resources that the Lord has provided?

Several years ago I attended a conference where I heard about an organization named Compassion International. They partner with indigenous local churches in order to meet the needs of the children in poverty situations. Although I had carelessly tossed the flyer into the trash can on that particular day, the name stuck with me.

After a thoughtful research and prayerful consideration, I committed to sponsor a young girl in Indonesia. Her Dad works as an unskilled agricultural workers and travels a long distance to work. He earns very little.

For the price of one of my gifts on my list, I can help this young girl attend school twice a week. A gift that makes a lasting impact for her entire future. One that would be treasured all year long!

If you too have been searching for a gift that really makes a difference in the lives of others,  consider various ways to look to the interest of others.

It may be as simple as lifting up your loves ones to the Lord and asking for wisdom. Or you may seek direction how to invest the limited financial resources that has been entrusted to you.

Perhaps this year has been high in medical bills due to cancer treatments, automobile repairs, and natural disaster home repair.  Even then, you can still make a difference.

Starting a fundraiser, volunteering at a Compassion event near your home, or completing activities with your own children to learn more about others in different parts of the world are just a few quick ideas that you can find on the Compassion website. If you are a blogger, you can join their network to receive monthly writing prompts to spread the word.

Please join me in praying for the children of this world who are living in poverty:

Heavenly Father, we praise you because you are wisdom. You know the needs of every child and have a wonderful plan for each life. We thank you for the financial resources that your hand has provided for us this year. We confess any selfishness that may hinder us and ask you to help us open our hands wide to the children of this world who so desperately need you. In Jesus name we pray, Amen. 

Thank you for your prayers, and feel free to list any other ways you have discovered to regard others as more important than ourselves.

 

 

 

 

young boy holding a doll

An Unexpected Gift

Mysterious guests arrive at Mamaw’s house every year on Christmas Eve.  The men and women usually stay on the outskirts of the family conversation.   They are quiet observers of all the excitement the season stirs up.  People call it hospitality in the South.  And it is fast becoming a lost tradition.  But every child born in our family learns to welcome, talk, and accept Christmas strangers.  

It’s important to arrive before dark.  Minutes stretch endlessly as our Ford Taurus gobbles the miles.  The vibrating wheels lull me to close my weary eyes.  Glancing in the rear view mirror, I smile.  Both my sons snuggle their special blanket against their chubby cheeks.  Cars seats and toys sprawl the entire back seat. Not daring to wake the slumbering bears, I quickly turn the volume dial as “The Little Drummer Boy” reaches my ears. 

My sons’ eyes pop open as my nose detects a smoked turkey scent on the breeze.  Our silver station wagon pulls into the sandy driveway at Mamaw’s house.  Before the car engine quiets my sons’ car seats open, and they awkwardly tumble out.  

Twinkling colors sparkle red, blue, and green. A single strand of Christmas lights haphazardly wraps around the front porch posts.  Papaw’s welder hat rests crooked on his head as he stoops down to pick up both boys.  One secured in each arm, their legs dangle as they giggle.  After a quick hug, their red cowboy boots bounce down the hall.  

“Santa is bringing presents tonight!” They exclaim.  The buzzer on the stove chimes in agreement.  My lips form a tight line while I watch my boys eye the multitude of presents like predators. 

 

Before I have the opportunity to inquire about the identities of my Mother-in-law’s guests, she parades around the living room placing one present into their outstretched hands.  Although unannounced guests are part of our family tradition, I’m nervous; have I packed enough presents this year? 

She disappears from the room, and then returns carrying a mountain of presents.  An uneasiness washes over my facial features as I ask in disbelief, “Are those ALL for the boys?” 

Shaking her head she sheepishly laughs.  “I’d forgotten just how much I picked up here and there until I started wrapping them.” 

My cheeks redden at the sight of the extravagant towers of shiny packages higher than my five year old son.  I sigh.  How do I teach my young sons Christmas means more than receiving new toys? 

Aunts, uncles, and friends crowd together on the leather couches in the tiny living room.  Papaw nods his head. My boys scramble to their knees violently shaking each package before ripping the crinkly paper to shreds.  Shirts, socks, and trousers fly over their small shoulders as they race on to the next colorful gift.  My mouth opens aghast, but no words form.  Papaw sticks metallic bows on top of Matthew’s brown hair as he uncovers new discoveries. 

On my hands and knees, I scoop up discarded paper.   Overwhelmed by the speed of two young boys, I scramble to keep up.  Bows, boxes, and red candy cane paper completely covers both little bodies.  Lifting the debris, I hear Matt whoop and holler.  Brad squeals in delight as he scoots along the tile floor after a whirring police car.  Sirens wail as red lights flash an ominous warning. Victoriously holding up a giant candy cane filled with M&M’s, Brad flashes a million dollar smile at his brother.

With worried eyes I ponder how to teach my little ones the true meaning of Christmas. 

Later that night I sit on the front porch with my sons peering up at the black night sky.  As we search for the brightest star one of the guests say, “Wise men long ago actually followed the Star of Bethlehem until it led them to the best Christmas present ever! The same God who created all those stars sent His own son to Earth as a baby because he loves us so much.” My son’s eyes open wide as he runs to the life size nativity scene in the front yard. 

Staring down at the baby Jesus figure in the manager he questions, “Why does Santa come the same night baby Jesus was born?”  Surprise flits across the stranger’s face.  A picture of Santa kneeling to Baby Jesus beside a manger flashes into my mind.  Without hesitation the elderly lady answers, “Santa is a man who wants to honor Jesus by giving gifts to others.  It is fun to receive toys as gifts, but there is one precious gift that God wants to give you.” Tears well in my eyes as I hope my sons aren’t too young to understand how the most important gift they will ever receive is our Lord Jesus Christ.  

The lady continues, “God’s special gift isn’t wrapped in shiny paper.  In fact you can’t even see or touch it. But when you believe in His Son, Jesus, God’s gift of grace saves you.” The silence is deafening as his mind processes her words.  Picking up the baby Jesus figure from the manager, he cradles the tiny doll in his arms.   

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- Ephesians 2:8 

 

Kindness During Rush Hour?

traffic

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4: 32 (ESV)

Is it unrealistic to expect kindness during rush hour?

What does kindness even look like on our early morning commutes to work, school, or medical visits? If I am intentional about looking  for it, what will I see?

I expect to hear drivers cursing, horns honking, and see angry hand gestures if the traffic stops. To feel the hair rise on the back of my neck as drivers ride the tail wind of my bumper until they risk a head on collision.

How in the world can I be kind to drivers, much less tenderhearted? Biting my tongue, I focus on forgiving all the annoying weaving drivers. After all, God in Christ forgave me so I will do my best to forgive others.

Am I exhibiting kindness if I avoid muttering under my breath, resist the temptation to honk, and ignore the rude hand gestures? Is it whispering a prayer of safety as reckless drivers jeopardize others? Or praising God that the oncoming traffic stops without screeching tires?

Proverbs 3: 3-4 (NASB) states , “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, so you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.”

Kindness is so important that the bible instructs for us to bind it around our neck. To write it on the tablet of our heart.

Early Jews carefully copied Scripture and enclosed it in a leather case.  They tied the pouch to their arm which is similar to the way I clasp a necklace around my neck. They wore scripture around their arm, so they would have it accessible. I wear my necklace, so I won’t forget that “I am blessed.”

If we write kindness on our hearts, our feelings, attitude, and actions should magnify it. We may be annoyed by reckless drivers, but we can choose to redirect our thoughts towards kinder actions. We can yield and allow the tail-gaters to zoom on down the road.

When we show kindness we find favor in the eyes of God.

I’m no expert on spotting kindness. But I think kind drivers may actually avoid the lanes frequently traveled by weaving drivers. When fast cars approach from the rear,  they shift to the right lane when allowed. They don’t wait until a car is riding their bumper, honking or worse.

Kind drivers slowed as other vehicles maneuvered in tight spaces.  They stopped completely for school buses and moved out of the path of firetrucks and ambulances.  They were smiling, yielding, and forgiving others’ misjudgments without even one honk!

Kind drivers are pleasant to ride with on this journey called life.

As my vehicle was locked in a traffic standstill, I saw an elderly couple in the Wal-Green’s parking lot. The gray haired lady was pushing a man in a wheelchair and positioning it just right so that he could stand holding on to the roof’s edge of the 2 door sedan.

The man’s leg lurched and he fell back towards the wheelchair. But the wheelchair rolled away and he fell.  His wife leaned forward and stopped his body from hitting the pavement. They remained in that position as if time had frozen.

A car parked,  a truck backed up, and people walked out of the store passing the couple….but nobody seemed to notice.

For some reason the couple didn’t shout out for help. They concentrated on the struggle to lift his leg toward the passenger seat.

The woman’s arms were dropping towards the pavement when a homeless man dropped his bundles of black garbage bags onto the sidewalk.  He walked through the bushes separating the sidewalk from the parking lot.  He respectfully and gently lifted the man into the passenger seat of the car.

The poorly dressed man was willing, gentle, and helpful to the couple.  When the lady reached into her purse and stretched out her hand towards him, he didn’t accept her gift. Just picked up his bags and sauntered on down the busy street.

When people show kindness, the ride is pleasant and everyone safely arrives to their destination with a smile on their face.

Heavenly Father, you are kind, tenderhearted and forgiving. Thank you for showing me how I can apply kindness even during rush hour traffic. For softening my heart towards others who are running late. For reminding me not to rush past people who need help. To drive respectfully and to remember that I have been forgiven for much. Help me to forgive others. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.