Like a Good Neighbor…

neighbors pixa 2 17.png

The State Farm jingle, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!” was written by Barry Manilow in 1971. Can you hear it? Are you humming yet? And are you a good neighbor? Hmmm. Am I?

Not long ago, I attended two different churches over two weeks, and listened to two different pastors give two different sermons on—you guessed it—being a good neighbor. They both used the story of the Good Samaritan, found in the book of Luke. (You can read it here on Bible Gateway.) Thanks to Ty VanHorn and Jason Dohring, I came away with quite the bullet list:

  • Be living proof of a loving God to a watching world.
  • Be neighborly.
  • Don’t wait for someone else to be neighborly.
  • Share a card. Or a wave. (Or a text? Or an email? Or a cup of soup?)
  • Get messy.
  • Be inconvenienced.
  • Pay the price.
  • Pay attention.
  • Get involved.

And may I add a simple one? Be nice! My sister describes my husband this way, “He’s nice, but he’s not a wimp.” Being nice doesn’t equate to being weak. In fact, sometimes being nice—and being neighborly—means standing up in the face of injustice or unkindness and loving the less lovely. Why? Because we were loved first. As one of those two wise pastors said, “Being friendly takes little effort. Being a friend takes much.”

How have you been friendly, neighborly this week? We could all use a few good suggestions, so I hope you’ll post one here!

A Cup of Soup

soup-1581504_1280 pix 2 17.jpg

For years this verse directed much of my life: “Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward” (Matthew 9:41). A cup of water. How we take that for granted! I used to spend hours each week helping get clean water to those who need it most. While water ministry is still dear to my heart, most of that work is done by others who are much better at it than I. Now, however, I’m re-discovering the power of a cup of soup.

When was the last time someone rang your doorbell just to bless you? When was the last time you knocked on a neighbor’s door just to share a blessing? It’s awkward, isn’t it? We live in a scheduled world where busy people value their time and their privacy. (Or at least that’s the excuse I sometimes use when trying to protect my own.) Soup helps. Or muffins. Or … Somehow, it’s just easier to walk across the street and share yourself when you have something in your hands. So today I’d like to share a recipe with you. I call it “scissor soup” because most of the ingredients are simply dumped from a bag (opened with scissors, see?) into a pot. I hope you’ll give it a try. Have some for supper, then package up the rest in disposable containers. (In a pinch, Ziploc bags will work.) Then make your way to someone who could use a little love, and pass along a bit of your soup.

Just in case you need more encouragement, here’s another passage from Matthew, Christ talking in chapter 9. “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Scissor Soup

6 cups bouillon, broth, or vegetable juice

1 bag frozen peppers and onions

3 bags frozen veggies of any variety

1 bag chopped cabbage or cole slaw mix

1 bag baby carrots or shredded carrots

1 cup salsa

1 can diced tomatoes

2-3 cans beans, rinsed.

1 can cream of mushroom soup (optional)

1 tsp. chopped garlic or garlic powder (optional)

Simmer until all veggies are tender (at least an hour)

 

The Barnabas Bunch

ewm-coverToday I’ll be sharing an essay by my mom about a famous encourager. But first, let me encourage you to check out Every Wednesday Morning by Beth Smith. If you want a copy for yourself, or want to give a few copies as Christmas gifts, you can find Every Wednesday Morning here on Etsy. It’s a collection of 65 weekly devotionals that will encourage you, challenge you, and make you laugh all at the same time. If you grab a copy, be sure to let me know what you think!

Now, back to The Barnabas Bunch by Beth Smith.

Acts 4:36 tells of a man named Joseph who encouraged the early church so much that they nicknamed him Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement. Barnabas lived up to his name. He encouraged the apostles to accept Paul, and he encouraged the new believers in Antioch to stay true to their faith.

We can be great encouragers as well. I’d like to invite you to join my new club, the Barnabus Bunch. But like any club, we have a few by-laws.

  1. We promise not to give prideful encouragement by building ourselves up, or by saying, “If you’d do what I did …” with a superior attitude. 1 Corinthians 8:1 (NIV) says, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” (So no puffin’ allowed.)
  2. We promise not to build up and tear down at the same time, sort of like the old southern cliché of saying something rotten but ending the sentence with “bless her heart.” We will concentrate on words that really do build others up.
  3. We promise to consider these questions before giving encouragement:

Will it help develop faith and hope?

Does it promote peace?

Is it spoken in love?

Will it bless the person receiving it?

Paul describes the perfect attitude of an encourager in Romans 15, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Romans 15:1-2 NIV). You can bear with my doubts and fears and weaknesses and use the strengths you have in those areas to encourage me. In turn, I use my strengths where you may be weak to build you up. We do this, not to please ourselves, but to show our love for each other. And it’s God who gives us the ability to be encouragers, even as he encourages us.

If you agree to the three rules listed, then welcome to the Barnabus Bunch! Here’s the club motto. (I hope you’ll memorize it and say it often.)

“Therefore, encourage one another and build up each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV).

Activate your new membership by encouraging someone today. You’ll find you are encouraged yourself as you help someone else. May God make each of us sensitive to the needs of others, and may he use us to express his love.

Love Kindness Part 2

510aS5svVvL._AC_US240_QL65_[1]

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.

Talk Less. Smile More.

american-963191__340[1]

About a month ago, my brother told me about Hamilton. The book, yes, but also the Broadway show. Some of you are wondering how I could have gone so long without knowing about the runaway hit. Others are wondering why I would even take time to mention the guy on our ten dollar bill.

Hamilton was our first secretary of the treasury from 1789 to 1795. He was also the chief author of The Federalist Papers, but was perhaps most famous for losing his life in a duel with Aaron Burr. Now he’s also famous for being the subject of what may become the most popular show New York has ever seen, nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tony awards.

This line from the play is making its way to tee shirts and posters,

“Talk less, smile more.”

In the play I think it means “Shut up, and keep your opinions to yourself.” In real life, I think it could mean this: Learn to listen. Encourage others. Be kind. Be friendly.

Barry Corey, president of BIOLA University, has written a book about kindness. I’m almost finished reading it and will certainly have more to say about it soon.  I love this line about listening, about simply paying full attention to the person in front of you. “Presence is more eye contact than it is saying something profound. Presence happens when you give your spouse the gift of conversation when you would rather exercise the gift of lawn mowing.”  (Corey, Barry H. Love Kindness: Discover the Power of a Forgotten Christian Virtue.    100.)

I tend toward the gift of lawn mowing. OK, actually in my case it’s the gift of clean the house, or cook, or run errands, or do laundry or write another blog. But I want to learn to talk less, and do a bit less, and smile more, and listen more. I want to get better at considering the person in front of me to be more important than the list in my pocket. I want even my face, the smile on my face, to convey full engagement to those around me, to say, “Listening to what you have to say is more important to me than asking you to hear what I have to say.” That’s a simple (maybe not easy, but simple) way to love those around us.

Talk less, smile more. Wait a week, then email Steve and ask him how I’m doing with that! (And let me know how you are doing with that as well.)