Other Good Words

journal

I keep a little red moleskin journal in my purse. It helps me remember the names of new friends, the list of calls I need to make or items I need to buy. Best of all, it becomes a depository for inspiring quotes. I’d like to share some of those today, credited where possible.[i] (Next week begins a five week description of an unexpected journey.)

“Don’t make obedience exhausting. You need the help of heaven to understand the things of heaven. Ask God to help you.”

“Be careful. What was miraculous can become mundane.”

“As to forgiveness, St. Stephen did not pick up the stones and hurl them back at his executioners.”

“Do we squander our forgiveness?”

“Letting your sinful nature control you mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (Romans 8: 6 NLT).

“Pray the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.) throughout the day, and keep Christ at the center of your existence.”

“The pains of this world are temporary.”

“This is the prayer that never fails, ‘Thy will be done.’” (Father Tim in Jan Karon’s Mitford Series)

 

And how about you. Do you have a favorite quote scribbled somewhere? I’d love for you to share it here.

[i] If you can identify the source of an uncredited quote, please let me know!

I GOOFED

I have been writing a series of blogs all week, and spent today carefully posting them in the order in which they are meant to be read. However, when I was editing the fourth entry, I clicked “Publish” instead of “Preview.” If you have received “Careless” in your inbox, or caught it on Facebook before I deleted it, you may be a bit confused. My apologies. You are reading end of the story before the beginning. Eventually, as the rest of the series is posted on schedule, it will all make sense.

No More Excuses by Beth Smith

tankI once heard a preacher say, “An excuse is a reason wrapped up in a lie.” Are you as good at finding excuses for your actions, or lack of action, as I am? We are not alone. Let me give you a few examples from the Bible. Even though these people went on to obey, their first reactions were excuses.

In Chapter 6 of Judges, the Israelites were in deep trouble (again). They were being starved to death by the Midianites. God called Gideon to the rescue, addressing him as a mighty man of fearless courage. Gideon answered with an excuse, “Lord, I can’t rescue Israel. I come from the weakest tribe…” We do that, don’t we? We tell God we can’t because we’re just nobodies. We don’t come from a very good background. We’re not well educated. We’re the poorest of the poor. In other words, we tell God he’s not able to use us.

God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the Israelites, saying to him, “Before you were ever born, I planned on making you my spokesman.” Wow, that would inspire and convince anyone, right? Nope. Jeremiah’s first response was an excuse. “I can’t speak for you. I’m too young.” Does that excuse sound familiar? Sometimes we think we’re too young and inexperienced or (as in my case) too old and worn out. That’s just a flimsy excuse, if we’ve been called by God to do something.

In the book of Exodus, God even spoke from a burning bush, assigning Moses the task of going to Pharaoh and leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses immediately offered two excuses: They won’t believe me, and I’m not a good speaker. Do we dare to tell God that we don’t have the talents or skills to do what he wants us to do? In the light of God’s power and God’s grace, we stand without excuse for our disobedience.

How do we break our habit of making excuses? Try starting here. Do the last thing you remember thinking God wanted you to do, but that you didn’t do. Perhaps it’s something that offers a great challenge. Maybe it’s something as simple as writing a letter or making a phone call. We may think we can’t go through with whatever those things are, but God’s Word tells us that:

  • He knows us.
  • He has empowered us with his Holy Spirit.
  • He never leaves us or forsakes us.
  • We can do anything he asks us to do, because he will make us able.

I heard a story about a group of Marines who were using war games for training. Instead of using weapons, the men were told to use verbal cues. For example, when they “fired” their unloaded rifles, they were to say “Bang! Bang!” They said “Boom” when lobbing an imaginary grenade.

A young soldier spotted a member of the enemy team, but all of his shouts of “Bang!” and “Boom!” did nothing. The other soldier simply held his ground. When asked for an explanation, the unmovable Marine simply said, “Rumble, Rumble! I’m a tank!”[1]

With Christ we’re tanks. Next time we’re about to offer excuses for avoiding what we know we should do, we could say to ourselves, “Rumble! Rumble!” Then move forward and do it. Write “Rumble! Rumble!” someplace where you can see it this week. Let those words remind you that we can do anything God wants us to do through Christ who gives us strength.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Inspired by a skit found at http://www.scoutorama.com/skit/sk_display.cfm?sk_id=104 accessed 5/14/15.

 

YOUARENOWHERE

Youarenowhere

How do you read the sentence above? Where do you insert the necessary spaces? Perhaps you see “You are now here.” On the other hand, you may have read “You are nowhere.”

I saw those letters inscribed in the pavement on a path around Town Lake in Austin not long ago. Most likely, my thoughts were wandering away from the moment, as they tend to do far too often. (I know, I’ve written about this before. It’s a point worth driving home yet again.) Here is how that cemented scribble struck me.

Perhaps we have a choice between the two interpretations. Either we are now here or we are nowhere. Perhaps if we are not living in the present moment, we aren’t really, fully living at all.

It’s so easy to leave the here and now. We look backwards, asking the could’ve, should’ve, would’ve questions that send us down a judgmental path of evaluating our own now finished words, choices, and accomplishments (or lack thereof). And for what? Does it help anything to rehash last night’s conversation and wonder if we were foolish or intelligent in our comments? Does it help to wonder endlessly what might have happened if we had chosen a different course of work or study in our youth, or settled in a different town or…

And then, of course, there’s all the “what if’s” and “how-am-I-going-to’s” that can draw us into a future that hasn’t yet arrived—another waste of time, most of the time.

I’ve been faced with a surprising set of health challenges lately. Boy, talk about the temptation to look behind! Could I have prevented this? Should I have gone to the doctor sooner? Would I have done something different if I had had more information? And then there are the future “worries” that try to sneak in and steal my joy. A dear friend, one facing similar challenges, said it best: “I wake up every morning and I say to myself, ‘This is the day the Lord has made, and I’m going to rejoice in it.'”

Do you feel good today? Praise God for that. If yesterday was a “disaster” or tomorrow is going to be tough, so be it. TODAY you feel good. Is today one of the tough days? Never mind what might have been done differently in the past. Time travel is not an option. Never mind whether or not you will face the same, or even greater, difficulty tomorrow. TODAY, God’s grace is sufficient. Always, He is kind, loving, and enough. So, today, you are now here!

Love Kindness Part 2

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Last week, I promised you more great quotes from Barry H. Corey’s new book. Here they are, with corresponding page numbers listed. I’d like to know how they hit you. Agree? Disagree? Challenged? Encouraged? Let’s dialog. The comment box awaits!

 

 

  • Christians often bypass kindness to begin a shouting match, or we just talk among ourselves about how awful the other side is. We have ranted before we’ve related, deeming the latter too soft on sin. (xii)
  • Kindness is not incompatible with courage. (xiv).
  • It’s time for followers of Jesus to rediscover the power of kindness. (xv)
  • As my home church pastor said, “God is totally reliable but hardly predictable.” (30)
  • The challenge accompanying the life of kindness is that it calls us to the way of the meek and not the way of the proud. Pride gives us a shield to hide behind. Meekness exposes our weaknesses. It is the difficult but healthier road to follow. (37)
  • May the proportions of Christ in me wax as my ego wanes. When civility and humility stop being marks of a Christian, the salt has lost its savor and the light has been hidden under a bushel. (46)
  • Listening is a dimension of loving. (69)
  • One of the beautiful dimensions of kindness is presence. It is the quiet gift of being there. (84)
  • Kindness sometimes shows up more powerfully in silence than it does in words. Kindness is sometimes seen in selfless acts of presence. (99)
  • Presence is more eye contact than it is saying something profound. (100)
  • When we cease to proclaim Christ in how we live, we profane Christ in those who watch. (132)
  • And when we mess up, which we inevitably will, defaulting to denial only pours kerosene on the flames of hypocrisy. (133)
  • Mentoring is a gracious act of kindness. (144)
  • Hospitality is inviting someone into our space where life happens, and it’s intimate and healing. Opening our table to those who wouldn’t typically be invited is among the most radical acts of kindness…Hospitality is a Christian imperative, not an option. See Hebrews 13:2 (163)
  • If we are kind simply to receive kindness back, then our kindness will wither when it gets the stiff arm or even the fist. If our kindness goes in just one direction and does not expect to be returned, then our kindness won’t recoil at rejection. Then we are obeying Christ, who called us to be receivable and never promised us we’d be received. (173)
  • Pride more than anything else gets in the way of kindness, and it shows up in our aversion to being scorned. (192)
  • Those outside the church will never be won over by watching evangelicals clad in razor wire lobbing accusations at each other or at the secular culture. (196)
  • Life in Christ is less about our results and more about our character. (198)
  • If we are not opening our homes for others to come, and if we are not accepting offers when others open theirs, we will be increasingly isolated without much opportunity to be the aroma of Christ. (205)

Thanks for reading! Your thoughts?

Love Kindness

fruit of spirit“Kindness frees us to hold deep moral convictions, minus the vitriol.” Barry H. Corey

Barry H. Corey is the eight president of BIOLA University, the alma mater of three of my four “kids.” His newly published book, Love Kindness, is filled with so many quote-worthy words that I’ll spend two blogs sharing his thoughts with you. Consider this my version of a book review. I offer it with my recommendation that you pick up a copy of the book. But if you don’t, at least you’ll have my highlights.

First, though, a few words a Washington Post interview with President Corey, published on Feb 24, 2016:

“As president of a Christian university, I am watching with worry how the rising generation perceives incivility from the evangelical tribe. I have been guilty of lobbing my own acerbic one-liners at people who have ideas I don’t like…when we could be on the streets serving neighbors, we are on social media rattling sabers. We have used our hands less to serve than to shake our fists. We’ve used our voices far more than we’ve used our ears…

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for how often Christians have disregarded God’s call for his people to ‘do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your god’ (Micah 6:8).”

But lest you think that Dr. Corey is ready to sacrifice his spiritual and moral convictions on the altar of “getting along,” here’s one more quote from that interview:

“Kindness that bends to accept as valid everyone else’s viewpoint is not kindness. We can be kind and strong in our perspective. Kindness is not built thoughtlessly on the cliché that we should “agree to disagree,” never engaging in conversation. Kindness opens doors and transforms minds more often than a bullhorn ever could.”

Here, now, is just one of the quotes I wish to share, with more to come next week. The pages where they are found are indicated in parentheses. As you read, you’ll get the false impression that Love Kindness is a highly philosophical treatise. Hardly. The pages are filled with honesty, transparency, and humor as Dr. Corey takes readers along on his journey from Boston to California, teenage son in tow, and climbs the learning curve unavoidable in his first weeks as a college president. Somehow, by the time he is settled in the L.A. suburbs, we’ve learned a whole lot about living out Micah 6:8.

“‘Love kindness’ is the partner of ‘do justice.’ If doing justice is the firm center, then loving kindness is the soft edges. Both are what God expects of us, not one or the other.” (xxii)

I hope that whets your appetite. “Tune in” next week for two dozen more bits of wisdom from Kindness.