Harper Lee and saying goodbye

TKAM 3

Today Harper Lee died. In a way I feel like my mother, who died in September of last year, was lost all over again.

The emotions and memories that tie me to my mama have deep roots in the world of Harper Lee. My childhood, and hers, was very much like the one Lee described in To Kill A Mockingbird. I have always loved this description of Maycomb, it was the world of my mama and her mama, it was my young life’s rhythm:

Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932 when I first knew it. Somehow, it was hotter then. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon after their three o’clock naps. And by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frosting from sweating and sweet talcum. The day was twenty-four hours long, but it seemed longer. There’s no hurry, for there’s nowhere to go and nothing to buy…and no money to buy it with.

My childhood was lived to the cadence of my mother’s voice reading. From the time I was tiny until I left for college mama read to us. She read to inspire, to educate, to challenge, to infuse our world with beauty. There were hard years and rough places in our relationship, but words endured. Even after I’d left home and had my own family mama and I would read the same books and discuss them together.

The summer I was 17 she read To Kill A Mockingbird to us. I think it was actually my brother’s summer reading assignment for school, but she read it aloud to all of us. I stretched out at the foot of her oak sleigh bed and listened to her voice carry us to a different time. The window AC unit beat back the heat and dried the sweat collecting in the creases of our knees and elbows. It was an oasis.

I have to pause in the writing of this post because my middle school son just came downstairs and asked me to come read to him. Mama would be pleased the tradition of loving books lives on in my family.

As I was saying, her voice transported us to another place. I met some of the most important people I’ve known in Mockingbird’s pages. Scout, the curious barefoot girl who came alive as she saw the world through the eyes of others; Atticus, the father who didn’t know he was a hero to all of us; and Boo, the mockingbird who saw what no one else saw, and sang what no one else sang.

We all have our favorites in the story. I think mama’s was Atticus. He was the father she didn’t have. The father she wished she’d had. The father she adopted and needed. My brother and sister can speak to their favorites. My favorite is Boo. I hadn’t thought about it until now but I’ve been looking for Boo ever since. The mockingbirds of our society who don’t hurt a thing but often don’t fit in, and sadly, too often, are wounded.

A friend told me once that mockingbirds sometimes sing at midnight. One night I heard it, the strangest, sweetest sound in the pitch black. You can only hear a mockingbird sing at midnight if you wake up, and listen. The world too often sleeps through the song.

When the world said goodbye to Harper Lee today part of me said goodbye to mama, all over again.

I love Public School – Confessions of a Homeschooled Mom

Today the Thanksgiving break ends and my little munchkins head back to public school. Will you think me a bad mom if inside I did a little happy dance?!

Sweetest kids!

A post shared by Beck Gambill (@beckmgambill) on

I was homeschooled 10 of the 12 years of my school life (two years were in small Christian schools). In the 80’s. We were the jean jumper wearing, Bible Belt, conservative evangelical, Volkswagen bus driving, homeschool freaks. It really wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but I think I’m still recovering.

Actually my parents made the choice to homeschool us out of profound love. There were lots of motivating factors. I had (at the time undiagnosed) ADHD. We moved frequently due to dad’s job. Schools in rural Mississippi back then were substandard, to say the least.

That was then. This is now.

For a while I felt so guilty that I wasn’t homeschooling my kids. As I’ve traveled this parenting road, though, I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the decisions my husband and I make.

When my son reached kindergarten age, six years ago, we lived in Wyoming. It’s a wealthy state, their schools are excellent, class size is small. I had become very sick. And I had a toddler. In some ways circumstances forced the decision. God does that occasionally; he uses our weaknesses, our available resources, and other people to help us change course. I’ll confess I tried to homeschool him for the first month of kindergarten. I almost died. So did he.

The relief I felt that first day I walked him into his classroom, several streets away, and left him in the capable hands of a veteran teacher was palpable!

Our family has the tendency to move as frequently as my family of origin did. My now sixth grade son has been in public school in Wyoming, Ohio, Alabama, and Georgia (that’s another topic). And in each school I have found incredible things to celebrate.

Here is why I love public school:

  • I’m not a teacher. My mother was a patient teacher, wholehearted homemaker, inquisitive. I’ve got my own style, and that’s not it. Every parent needs to engage, but that’s going to look different in every family.
  • Diversity. My kids are learning to work with and value children and adults of many colors and ethnicities, as well as unique physical and mental challenges, and belief systems. Exposure to diversity is good.
  • Discipleship opportunities. Certainly my parents discipled me and I had some very unique experiences. For our immediate family though I feel we are more intentional and consistent in teaching our kids how to approach life with truth and grace when they are in school.
  • Relationship building. We’ve gotten to know a variety of families and individuals we wouldn’t have known otherwise and have a different presence in the community than if we were homeschooling.
  • Missional opportunities. As I’ve spent time at school volunteering I’ve prayed regularly for children in obviously vulnerable situations. I’ve prayed for the teachers and staff, and I hope our family’s little light has shined.

Honestly we’ve been blessed to have some amazing teachers. Some have very actively built into our children’s spiritual life by teaching them to be spiritual leaders in the class, when they themselves can’t be. I know teachers have prayed for my kids and have nurtured their gifts. I’m beyond thankful.

We’ve also had a couple of stinky teachers. Teachers unwilling to be gentle or fair. Teachers overworked and overwhelmed who haven’t handled situations well. Which has provided opportunities for our kids to learn how to advocate for what’s best for themselves (with our help of course). In one situation we moved our daughter to a new classroom. She learned through that process that her parents were for her, that she had a voice, and that sometimes change just needs to happen. They’ve also learned healthy conflict management and to live at peace with everyone so far as it depends on them.

Recently Max had an unpleasant encounter with a fellow student. He was called names and punched. It hurt. He was embarrassed and sad. Thankfully a teacher saw what happened and got involved. The situation was an opportunity to learn that life isn’t fair. Sometimes people are mean to us, not because of us but because ugliness is in their hearts. He learned that he can only control how he responds. We talked about a kingdom response to that kind of mistreatment and how Jesus called his followers to a unique way of life. To mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. We imagined the boys circumstances. What if he’s abused at home, or his parents cuss at him? What if he doesn’t have a dad at home and he hasn’t had a right example set for him? We also signed him up for Taekwondo.

I’m proud of my kids willingness to try to respond correctly. I’m proud they care about following Jesus wherever they are.

I do realize one day we may face circumstances that warrant stepping in and protecting or removing them from a situation. Until then I’m thankful for the opportunity to help them stand on their own feet. I’m also thankful for a school system with a lot of like minded people. I think choosing to send kids to an inner city school would be a whole different decision.

Let me make sure you hear me say that I’m not knocking homeschooling. There is no wrong style to parent our kids so long as a strong foundation of love and truth is being laid. And maybe that’s my point. I’m thankful for public school because it fits our family, it’s been a great way to educate and disciple our children. But I’m also thankful for the option of homeschool. Sometimes it fits best and offers a deeper relationship with parents that kids need. We actually did homeschool Max in the second grade, and both Max and Maggie for part of last year as we were moving. But those were the exception for our family and just confirmed our decision to send them to public school.

Education is a constantly changing beast. Occasionally we all need to evaluate how things are going in our home, question why we’ve made certain decisions, and ask if adjustments need to be made.

For homeschoolers ask yourself; Am I homeschooling my kids out of fear? If the answer is no. Great! Blaze ahead making sure to engage them in the world around them. If the answer is yes, address that fear. Communicating that the world is dangerous and bad is not helpful to your kids. Of course bad things do happen and human nature has been harmed by sin. But the image of God alive in people and the beauty of creation makes the world a wonderful place, one that your children can affect for the better. Protecting them from the world is a poor motivation for homeschooling. Teaching them to interact with the world and influence it in a positive way is healthy.

For public schoolers (and private schoolers for that matter) ask yourself; Am I appropriately involved in my kids education and social life? If the answer is yes. Great? Keep on investing in your kids and community. If no, re-evaluate your level of engagement. The only way to have kids in the school system is to participate. Get to know their teachers, volunteer at school, get to know their friends, keep lines of communication open. Be careful not to assume anything, not the worst or the best. Have realistic expectations. Set a godly example for your children and help them navigate relationships and the secular arena well.

Parenting is hard work! We will all mess up some time or another. Guaranteed. I learned a long time ago that the best gift we can offer our kids is healthy parents. If we are whole mentally, spiritually, emotionally, relationally, etc. our kids will have a secure place to grow from. You can homeschool them  or public school them but if you have a broken view of God,  poor relationship habits, unresolved anger, or a bitter heart it will make little difference where they get their education.

Embrace whatever choice your family has made for educating your kids, but even more so, embrace the power of God alive in you to be an example of a person growing daily in truth and grace. Your kids are watching to see how you deal with life, that is their biggest education by far!

I want to hear from you! What challenges have you faced in educating your kids?

And please feel free to pass this post on to friends or family who are wrestling with these issues. Invite them to join the conversation too!

Lullaby – How My Mother Lived With Hope In spite of Cancer

One of the last clear sentences my mama said to us was “She wants to be free – unfettered.” A few days later she flew home to be with Jesus. She had been diagnosed with cancer almost three years before. The journey was long. On the way she wrote these words. They are a comfort to me. I hope they will be to you too as you journey home.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

Winter wrapped the rawness of a cold night around our small cabin. The crisp, stark evening fell hard. Beautiful in it’s severity. But the sturdy cabin stood brave against nature, protecting us. Tucked away in a crease of the giant hill our small home was shielded against the seeing eyes of the world, neighbors, or the passerby. And except for the telltale mail box and open mouth of the driveway there would not have been a hint that life was being lived in that fold of earth. The capable wood stove of our cabin glowed red, fighting off the threatening cold just outside, and warmed us as we observed our evening habits, our ritual falling into place, like every other night.

My husband had achieved reentry from his day of hard work, and time together had been well spent around the black stove as we enjoyed the remains of the day. Dinner had been satisfying, delicious in it’s life giving. And our chatter had been satisfying as well. Our conversation had not been of much importance or of great interest, but necessary in sustaining the relationship, keeping us in touch with each other, a little like taking a pulse. We used this time to familiarize ourselves with each other after the separation of the day. I washed up dishes looking out on a view I never tired of. The almost gone sun made leafless trees and pines, which edged the ridge, appear shadowy against a deep purple sky creating my rural skyline. The angle of the meadow right out my window was a very steep grade and it’s contrast with the horizontal tree line could sometimes make me dizzy. I gave thanks for it’s beauty again as I looked at it for the last time of the day.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

Settled in our favorite, respective chairs we read aloud together. Using someone else’s words to help put meaning and description to our own feelings and thoughts. We found comfort, pleasure and amusement in another’s creativity. It was an ordinary evening, exactly the same as other evenings. It was the sameness that made if feel secure, familiar, and comfortable. All seemed right with the world, especially in our secluded, private piece of it. Troubles seemed far away if not nonexistent. The grandfather clock dutifully counted off nine strikes signaling phase two of our evening, and our flow moved upstairs seeking deeper rest. Dependent pets were taken care of, their needs of food and warmth supplied, all lights were turned off, downstairs shades drawn, doors bolted securely against evening and anything unwelcome it might hold. I usually made it upstairs first, turning back covers, covering our canine companion on his bed, and beginning my relaxing, warm shower, ready for cozy covers. He lagged behind feeding the little black stove a heaping serving of logs. Guaranteeing warmth in the depths of the cold night. I was soon followed by him, where he took his place on his side of the bed, and he checked in on the cyber world while waiting for the last of the evening’s rituals to be complete. Being in a rhythm together had given peace, now for sweet, restorative sleep. Layers of covers insulated us and the nearness of another added to the warmth of our bed.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

The silence outside so filled our sheltered nook you could almost hear it. Any sound was amplified by the cove and by the crispness of a winter night. Stillness, the partner of silence, settled on us just as the heavy, black velvet of night blanketed us. All was hushed as if the earth had put her finger to her lips and issued a slow shhhh. It was easy to imagine us all alone on the planet, but being watched by the universe. As I had pulled the last shade against the dark, I glanced up at the seamless sky seeing it full of watching, twinkling eyes. Tucked in, sleep came easily and cocooned us. Soon after darkness was allowed into our room breathing slowed and deepened, movements became involuntary and our bodies worked on auto pilot having been programed for a night setting. Visions from unknown places, funny, weird, or relating to the events of the day played in our heads while the mystery of sleep was at work holding us captives in other worlds. Dreams became our reality and there we lay. The clocks in the cabin ticked in the night and the sands of time slipped away unnoticed. The night deepened and the world whispered.

Sometime in the night I woke to change my position, adjust overs. Something wasn’t right. Maybe this leg needed to move, or that pillow be shifted. Comfort had left me. Dread lay a heavy hand on me. I sensed it in the room. It moved from corner to corner and whispered uncertainty to my fear. The menacing spectral was glad to have me alone in the darkness, there it could fill me with worry. It offered me anxiousness, not of anything certain but made me guess while my fear grew. I recognized fear. The gripping you have when you smell smoke in your house but you can’t find it. It was present but wouldn’t identify itself. It laughed at me, making fun of the peace I had celebrated during the day. It lay close, up against my cheek, ridiculing the security I had found in The Faithful One. Spinning stories of failure, ruined finances, loneliness, disaster. Casting doubt on my belief in Forever, it hissed that the dark hole may be all that awaits. I felt suffocated, my heart rate increase, panic began in my chest but the darkness gave me nowhere to hide from my tormentor. A prayer formed in my heart and I cried out for reassurance.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

I heard it faint and far off. A low, easy sound broke the spell encasing me. I reached over my head to raise the window allowing the cold air to usher in my comfort. Deep in the woods of the ridge a lone owl sang it’s night song. Who, who,who,who. It sliced through the darkness of night and my soul. I lay still, listening, willing it to sing again. Needing the sound of a fellow living creature. A companion song came from across the meadow. The same song, the same tune, it’s mate in one accord. The two owls created to endure the cold, to give life to the empty night, sang in duet and I heard their words given to them by their Creator. They sang to the One who had given them voice, and to me. They sang, “I will praise the One who made me, I will be the owl He knows, I will watch over the darkness, I am not alone. He is faithful to His creatures, He is watching over all. He sees you in your darkness, He does not sleep, He hears our song, He sees you weep.” The mountain walls vibrated with their worship, it rippled through all of the wood. As the praise of the night filled my room, the blackness that sought to fill the night and my heart could not stay. I joined in the praise to Him, along with the singers of the night, until I fell asleep. Peace had returned with the lullaby.

 

The unknown has become known to my mom. What she hoped, a reality. Her hope was not in a god of her making or imagining. But in the God made known through creation and the words of the Bible. How could I have let go of her if we hadn’t received the comfort that God was present with her, with us, keeping his promises to the very end?

Regardless of what we are experiencing, God is present, he hears us, he will not leave us. And he desires the gift of our worship in those moments. It’s what all of his creatures were made for.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:1-2, 7, 14

Someone Kind

Kindness is key3In the last four weeks we’ve talked about receiving God’s kindness, being kind to ourselves, being kind to others, and receiving other’s kindness. I’m going to finish out this month of kindness with a story. It won’t surprise you, I’m sure, that it’s about my mother. (If you know me, you know my mom passed away in September.) Over a lifetime she learned all of the aspects of kindness I’ve mentioned.

Discord, anger, tension, cruelty, sarcasm, or strife caused her pain. Her heart soaked up drops of gracious beauty with a thirst akin to drought burdened soil waiting for the downpour.

At times I watched her draw in her heart, flinching with fear at the fast paced expectation of the world. It’s loud voice yelling be, do, learn, know, perform. She was just a wife, just a mom. But how can you just be anything extraordinary? You have to work at that. And she did.

It took her a long time to learn how to be kind to herself. A long time to recognize that until she had right expectations of herself it would be hard to have right expectations of anyone in her world. But, God is kindness itself. He took the time to teach her. And when she did learn that lesson, her naturally peaceful, quiet, courteous, beauty loving heart turned into a force of nature.

A force that stood up in the face of the loss, neglect, ignorance, selfishness, brokenness, and abandonment she found in others. She smoothed out rough feathers and quenched fire with a word. She could do that without fear or threat to herself because she knew who she belonged to. She knew she was loved. She had learned kindness at the core level.

I know I’ve worried her, watching me dance and leap and run and pout trying to figure out who to be. She tried to tell me, you’re extraordinary, you’re a mom, you’re a leader, you’re wonderful just being you. But I have listened too often to the fast paced expectation of the world; be, do, learn, know, perform. In part because I saw her struggle with not being enough. I wanted to be more, for her, because she never felt she could be. But that’s a lie too. That’s not what kindness says, that’s not what she really wanted.

Now I know the truth. Even though I have imagined conversing with great minds, writing award winning words, inspiring thousands of people, the truth is – none of that is enough. At the end. When I slip from this world and am measured against eternity I want one word to define me. Kindness. People could say all sorts of things about me but as long as they can say I’m kind, it’s enough.

And now I have the hard task ahead of learning that lesson. To put down rocks of judgement. To elevate the life of another over my own. To have the power of love lit in my heart so that kindness becomes a force of nature, able to stand in the face of misunderstanding, injustice, fear, pride, longing, and even whining.

My mother was kind. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Who do you know that is kind, who has the well-being and good of others in mind? How have they impacted you? 

Let’s pray:
Father, thank you for the kindness of your Son. He is our ultimate inspiration. Thank you too for the truly kind people you have put in our lives. We want to be like them. We’ve received encouragement, forgiveness, and hope at their hands and we want to turn around and give it away ourselves. Ignite your kind nature in our hearts we pray. Amen.

Kindness ~ A gift worth receiving

Kindness is key3So far this month we’ve talked about kindness as a gift from God, to ourselves, and to others. This week we’re going to talk about receiving kindness. That may seem a little odd. How hard is it to receive someone’s kindness? But stick with me.

Have you ever had someone offer to clean your house when you had had a surgery, or watch your kids, or bring a meal, or drive you to a doctor’s appointment, or any number of things and brushed them off because you were too uncomfortable to let them that close.

I have. My pride has kept me from letting people near enough to help.

We American’s like to lean hard on our own independence. We will {fill in the blank} if it kills us!

I’ve been guilty of keeping people at arms length when they just wanted to express love to me and my family. And I’ve been frustrated when people have done the same thing to me.

Here’s the tricky thing about kindness, it needs a recipient. It’s hard to do good if there isn’t a person on the receiving end. That’s true of God’s kindness to us as well. He has stretched out his offer of forgiveness and reconciliation to the whole world. The problem – many people refuse it. “No, no God, I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you. I got this. It’s no trouble, I can handle it on my own!” But that’s not how life works. Everyone is in need of God’s kindness, and very often we’re in need of each other’s kindness as well.

It’s funny how life works that way. Give and take, need and gift, loneliness and love, brokenness and healing, hurt and forgiveness. It’s the nature of our humanity. We rail against it, in our thoughts and our actions. But it doesn’t change a thing. We are needy people.

I get it. I dislike being in need. I have lived a total of three years and seven months in other family’s homes. That is a long time. I didn’t plan it. But our family has needed a place to stay at various times for various reasons. And every one of those needs has been met with kindness.

Here’s what I’ve learned from being in need: Receiving is as much a spiritual discipline as giving. You can be a great giver and a lousy receiver. But both matter. Here’s why.

We reflect the nature of Jesus in both aspects. Jesus not only came to give great gifts, he also put himself in a place of need. During his ministry he was poor and allowed women to travel with him to meet his needs. Give and take creates a sense of community.

When we refuse someone’s gift of kindness pride is often at the root of the refusal. On the other hand humility and gratitude are at the heart of a gracious receiver.

Also, when we rely on the body of Christ to meet our physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs we are telling God we trust him. The body is God’s primary tool for meeting the needs of his people. When we recognize that we honor him.

Are you a gracious recipient of kindness? Or do you brush people off, embarrassed by the attention and determined to care for things on your own? You can reflect the heart of Jesus not only by being kind, but also by graciously receiving kindness from others.

Let’s pray:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the kindness you have showered on us, help us also to receive the gift of kindness from others. Give us hearts of humility and gratitude. We want to be healthy members of your body, learning to give and receive. Thank you. Amen.

Kindness ~ A gift for others

Kindness is key3For the last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about kindness. First focusing on God’s gift of kindness to us and next the importance of giving the gift of kindness to ourselves. God’s kindness to us and our ability to be kind to ourselves, are important building blocks to being kind to each other. They pave the way.

I have struggled with writing this post far more than I expected. Which surprises me. How hard is it to say be kind!

In our day of media saturation, diversity, and polarized politics, kindness seems illusive. It’s seen as weakness, or acquiescing, or even losing faith. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our relationships spread out in ripples starting with those closest to us, family, and moving out broader and broader; co-workers, church, community, region, country, world. We cannot neglect kindness close to home any more than in how we treat humanity broadly.

I would like to say I’ve learned this lesson, of passing kindness out to everyone as if it were as free and plentiful as air. But I haven’t. My face burns with shame at the fire hot words that all too often seer my children’s hearts. I can be stingy with the gift of kindness, even when I’ve received it in abundance.

Until we understand our absolute need for God’s kindness to us, and how little we actually deserve it, kindness will clog in our hearts at important moments. 

Kindness is crucial. It shapes hearts. Our kids are thirsty for it. Our spouses crave it. The lady in the checkout with the sad eyes would welcome it. The hard heart is surprised by it. We cannot neglect kindness. (I am preaching to myself right there, if you need the sermon too, then you’re welcome!)

I think the hardest people to be kind to is those who see life very differently than we do.

Romans 2:4, Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

That’s a shocking concept isn’t it. What leads people to repentance? Judgement, fear, condemnation, shame a sound talking to? No, kindness. If God is content to approach the world’s sin problem with kindness instead of an angry fist, shouldn’t we as his followers be also? Don’t get me wrong, I recognize other passages in scripture talk about God’s wrath. And I believe he will judge and punish all who have not received his gift of forgiveness. But this is the age of mercy, the age of wrath is yet to come.

Mercy is at the heart of all God does. We are most like God when we are merciful. – Alice Smith

I have been in many situations that have shown me the value of kindness. None more clearly than one late summer day in Alabama. Taking my son to school I passed a young person walking in the same direction. A twinge in my heart said, “give them a ride.” I said, “no way!” But after dropping Max off and heading back home I knew I had to obey. As the person, whom I assumed to be a tall, willowy young woman, came into sight the song “Jesus Friend of Sinners” came on the radio. I pulled over.

When the young man looked into the car window my heart skipped a beat. I offered a ride. Which he accepted. And I drove him to Wal-Mart in the next town over. At the time North Carolina was boiling with the debate of gay marriage. My family was at odds. Members firmly on opposite sides. And here sat this young man, painted fingernails, eyeliner, and a broken heart. He told me a story of abandonment. It cracked my heart and my pride wide open.

After dropping him off, and inviting him to our church potluck, I headed back home. My mind was reeling. My ideology had been confronted by a person. On the drive home I prayed, and this is what God said as clearly as if he had spoken. “I wanted you to see my plan of kindness in that young man’s life. He had prayed for a ride and I used you as the answer. You were meant to serve him, because I had purposed to serve him. I have chosen him for my kindness.”

This young man broke the mold of who I thought deserved God’s kindness, of whose prayers God would answer. God had called me to be a witness of his love.

I wanted to fall on my face in shame and worship. The God who loves everyone, not just a select few, was bigger than I had ever seen before.

Now, my understanding of God’s plan for human sexuality according to his word has not changed. If anything I am more passionate about holding out the truth of reconciliation with God, ourselves, others, and all of creation. But my understanding of what that looks like changed radically. Kindness. Mercy. Compassion. They took on new meaning.

Can I tell you; I would have baked the wedding cake in Oregon for the gay couple, and I would have asked to attend. If we believe the gospel accounts of Jesus, then I think it’s very possible he would have too. Not because he doesn’t call people to holy living, but because he shows up where they are first.

And that’s the heart of kindness. Showing up. Show up for the conversation at the dinner table with your precious family and use words of love. Show up at the hospital and cheer your friend. Show up in the orphanage and listen to the orphan and the worker doing a harder job than you can imagine. Show up to the jail, the run down house, the food stamp office. Show up to the boss’ Christmas party and spread gratitude, joy, and when necessary sobriety. Show up. Not to correct or criticize or condemn. Show up to be kind.

Can I also say; the strength of the church’s kindness is more important than whether we “win” this country back or not. The country was never actually ours. Every kingdom rests solely in God’s hands. The kingdom of heaven is ours, and that’s better than any country. We are not responsible for the government. We are responsible to living lives of faith, of praying for leaders, of clinging to hope, of overflowing with joy, of loving our spouses and children well, of sharing the good news that Jesus came not to condemn but to save, of being KIND.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25

Please no more posts about those “idiots” in any political camp. No more outrage or shock when broken, sin sick, people act like it. No more pointing fingers and calling outs. No more zingers, and poking fun. No more claiming “my rights!” If we tend to our own holiness, and goodness knows we need to, and offer kindness in Jesus name our light will be radiant.

No one is going to have a conversation with a person shouting at them. If you want to make a difference. Set the table for conversation. Be kind.

Are there people it’s hard for you to be kind to? Black, white, foreign, conservative, liberal, Muslim, atheist, Pentecostal, poor, rich, sister-in-law, husband? It can be anyone, we all have our prejudices and weaknesses. If so, have you accepted God’s generous gift of kindness to you? Are you willing to extend kindness to yourself? Maybe you need to start there.

Let’s pray: Father, the evidence of walking by your Spirit is kindness. We can not live kind lives on our own. I know I can’t. It’s only by your Spirit. Won’t you inspire us with your kindness, help us be kind to ourselves, and give us eyes to see opportunities to be kind to others this week. Thank you. Amen.

{Next week we’ll be talking about receiving kindness from others.}

Goodbye

Two and a half years ago I wrote these words as part of Lisa Jo’s Five Minute Friday writing prompt (the word prompt was goodbye). It was April. Mom had been diagnosed with cancer for barely five months. Our conversations were deep and rich and filled with the meaning of things. We weren’t saying goodbye yet, but we were getting ready. 
Generations
Why does goodbye hurt so much? What makes it hard? Stretching thin the fibers of hearts, pulling the bond taught between them. So tight you could pluck and twang their cords. Goodbye. Relocation tests the metal of relationships. The fast paced frenzy of our culture, taking us hither and yon, has prompted creative ways to touch hearts and minds like never before. It’s amazing the ways we’ve found to stretch our goodbyes into long distance hellos.
But there’s a goodbye that hurts like a birth and won’t be satisfied. It burns and aches for decades. No connection prolongs that goodbye from a distance. Even though we celebrate and anticipate those leaving us for Heaven’s wonders, the ache still comes. Why, when we know we’ll see them again, do we grieve so long?

Unity. We were made for this. Separation is unnatural. Death speaks a final word. We were meant to be together. Meant to be joined at the heart to Father God, joined at the heart with brother man. Hear death’s warning: We were made for unity. The bride here and the bride there cannot be complete until we’re together, eternal, and we long and ache and twist until it’s done.

The Spirit and the Bride say come, unify us, Lord Jesus! My Mom and I have been talking about unity a lot lately. This week we talked about what death is saying to us, about unity in light of eternity. Death is calling out; embrace unity with God and each other, hold out unity while there is time. Death is God’s final warning. A reminder that we were made for unity with him. This life is an invitation. What will you do with the call to unity?

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:22-23
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There were times, especially toward the end, that it looked like mom was a victim. A victim of cancer. To an extent that may have been true. But the deeper truth is that she was an active, willing participant to reconciliation. One of mom’s favorite verses was 2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

Sometimes we stop too short though. If we keep reading we will realize the purpose of the new creation. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Her illness meant nothing if it didn’t participate in the work of reconciliation in her family, or community, or even the world around her. Reconciliation is the means to unity. Reconciliation says come home.

What broken areas of your life can you surrender to Jesus for him to use as the means of reconciliation? How have you responded to God’s call for unity?