A Sweet Touch of Kindness

We’re nearing the end of Lent with the arrival of the Easter holidays starting on Sunday with Palm Sunday, and today we were able to celebrate the arrival of spring. Some of us have a spiritual practice of giving something up for Lent, but spring is known for the arrival of new things and Easter is really about a fresh (forever) start. So today I thought we’d talk about something you can start fresh this spring, something that’s Kingdom inspired, as shared in Proverbs 16:24:

“Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

Kind words are one of the least expensive but sometimes most challenging things we can do. It’s easy to keep our mouths closed and a little too easy to pass on gossip or say something that’s more disparaging than constructive criticism. However, with a little practice I believe we can make kind words not only something that’s sweet, but easy going down too. I think the best place to start is with whatever is easy for you. If it’s easy for you to thank the cashiers, start with consistently thanking them. If it’s easy for you to send a nice, meaningful thought to your partner each day, start with that. If it’s to offer kind words to pets that have been severely neglected or abused by volunteering at animal shelters, start with that. Find something kind that feels good to you and you feel comfortable doing and do it every day, multiple times a day.

As anyone who has tried to lose weight or get in shape knows, one meal or one workout doesn’t an ultimate goal reach. You have to be consistently working on those meals and workouts and starting with small steps and growing to bigger ones if you want to get to your target weight or activity level. The more you’re kind in ways that are practical, normal and easy for you, the easier it will be to branch out into other ways of being kind and saying kind things to others.

What kindness practice will you start today?


Learning to be Content

Over the weekend we in the US experienced the bi-annual time changes known as Daylight Savings Time, and in the next few days the northeast USA is also looking at another big snowstorm, and of course quickly approaching is the celebration of Easter on the 1st of April which is early. I don’t know about you but sometimes all of this just seems to add extra stress to our lives that we don’t want or need, especially because we don’t have any control over these things. As I was reflecting on these events I read Philippians 4:11 which says

“…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…”

That’s a tough statement to make, for someone back in those days and someone in these days. In some ways we’ve each got some things easier or less complicated than the other, but much of our lives is still the same and includes the same challenges of work, family, relationships, finances, weather and health. Content in and of itself is a challenge, because there’s a difference between being content and not having aspirations or goals in life. More than anything content is about having an attidue of gratittude towards the life you have and the blessings that God has sent your way.

So rather than focus on the many things going on over the past and next few days and weeks that may be stressing you out, today I encourage you to be grateful: enjoy the special blessings in your life, smile and laugh along with the little kids playing, take a moment to appreciate your evening beverage or sweet treat, celebrate that you’re another day closer to spring and summer, and/or call a friend just to chat. Once you’ve done that if you want to take a moment and pray about the stresses in your life and ask God to help you come up with a plan to manage and prepare for everything, you can, but don’t just return to stressing about things, instead work on being content with the now and plan for the future.

What will you be content and find peace in today?

Plans and Victories

One of the most interesting and memorable victories in the Bible is found in the book of Joshua. To give a little background, the story of Jericho happens about 40 years after the Israelites leave Egypt and is part of their conquering of the promised land. The story begins with Joshua meeting the Commander of the Lord’s Armies, then God telling Joshua that the battle plan was to march around Jericho once a day for 6 days. On the 7th day they were to march around the city 7 times while the priests blew trumpets then shout and the walls would fall down allowing the soldiers to enter Jericho and conquer it.

We’ve learned a lot about sound since the days of Joshua and Jericho and can use it in some pretty fantastic ways, but if any of us made a plan to win a war I don’t think our first choice would be marching and yelling. It would be great if we could solve more problems with our words and a nice walk but that’s not how battles usually go. They usually start with a grand entry strategy followed more quickly by violence. No, violence wasn’t excluded from God’s plan, but it wasn’t the first part of His plan, and yes, the Israelites did conquer Jericho successfully and destroyed it like God told them to (with the exception of Rahab and her family).

Jericho was one of several tests that God gave to the Israelites to make sure they were faithful to Him and followed His instructions. The goal of the current phase of life the Israelites were in was to get to the promised land, and in order to do that they had to defeat the current occupants, including the people of Jericho. In this specific case God asked the Israelites to walk, shout, fight and then destroy Jericho, which is what they did, bringing them one step closer to owning the promised land.

In our lives God gives us instructions and sometimes He’ll give us a specific set of steps to take while other times He leaves it up to us to figure out how to get from point “a” to point “b.” If God gives you a specific set of steps to take it’s not an insult on your intelligence, it’s how He sees things going best for all who may be involved. If God leaves it up to you He knows you’re able to make a good plan up and/or you’ll learn lessons along the way that you need to learn.

If you’re struggling with victories in your life is it because you’re not following the steps God has given you or because your plan isn’t working out so well? If you’re going against God’s plan you may never get to the victory. If your plan isn’t working out well and none of the previous ones did, don’t be discouraged, maybe God has a new direction for you, you’re not quite understanding the time line for the victory, or you need to get more creative and try something you haven’t tried before. What victory are you and God working on right now?

Victories Yesterday and Today

Today ends the celebration of the Jewish holiday Purim. It’s technically an event that’s celebrated by multiple religions, including Christians, but for the Jews it’s a very important holiday. Purim is the celebration of the defeat of Haman’s plot to kill all the Jews. God, Mordecai and Esther intervened and saved the day, and I would encourage you to take time to read the whole story, it’s only 10 chapters long and more of a story than anything, in the book of Esther. Typically in the middle of the week I blog about victories, and the story of Esther is certainly a story of victories. There’s some trial and tribulation, as there is with just about every victory, but ultimately the bad guy loses and there’s a happy ending.

This is a big victory for Moredecai, Esther and the Jews. Many times you hear about the struggles that the Jewish people have gone through and don’t hear about the victories they’ve had, especially since they don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah that they’re waiting for and Jerusalem has been a hotly contested location for a very long time. But the events surrounding Purim are a very real and tangible opportunity for them (and us) to celebrate, it’s a good day any time a people group isn’t persecuted or massacred. For Esther especially it’s a victory for her personally, for women and for Jewish women because she took the opportunity God presented to her, stood up for what she believed, prepared and presented the situation to the King (her husband), and got all that she asked for.

Something else to consider is that Purim is really a remembrance celebration. I was thinking recently about the balance that it’s necessary to find in remembering the past and moving forward. Each year we celebrate the day that we were born, after all we would not be here if it was not for that day. There’s value in celebrating the recent victories as well as the victories from the past, as long as the focus on celebrating past victories don’t hold you back from celebrating future ones.

So what are you celebrating today, either from years ago or today that recently happened?

Where To Begin Again

Everyone needs a new beginning from time to time. New beginnings can mean starting completely over, just calling it a day and starting fresh tomorrow, taking things in a new direction you haven’t tried before or bringing someone in for a fresh perspective. Sometimes it can feel good to start fresh because you’re ready to move on and sometimes it can be discouraging and frustrating because what you were doing didn’t pan out as you expected and you were really invested in it. When you’re force to start over and it feels frustrating it can be hard to know what to do or where to turn or even how to find the strength to start over. John 1:1 says:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Sometimes you need a place to start and I think John 1 is a great reminder of where to start not only your new beginnings but each day. This verse gives us two important reminders. First, God’s been here since the beginning. He’s navigated floods, volcanos, earthquakes, drought and wars that have taken countless lives and changed the lives of countless others. There’s very little that God hasn’t had to navigate or deal with, and no people group, language or culture He doesn’t have a connection with.

The second reminder is that the Word has been here since the beginning. I don’t think this means all the literal words of the Bible, but rather the themes, concepts and laws God has shared through the Bible. However, many of the words in the Bible are evergreen, meaning we can turn to them at countless times throughout our lives and be encouraged by them. Yes, there are dated, century-specific, culture specific sections of the Bible but much of it teaches valuable lessons that can be applied to different portions of our lives.

If you’re facing or navigating a new beginning in your life I encourage you to check out some new spiritual books, ask God to lead you to new passages in the Bible to encourage and guide you now, and if you haven’t tapped back into the Bible and passages that have always spoken to you, I encourage you to do that too.

Relationships of Love

Last week people around the US celebrated Valentine’s Day. It was an opportunity for couples to celebrate the love they have together, for individuals to love themselves, and for those who aren’t in a relationship but want to be to recommit to doing the work that will bring them to that other person. One of the things I’ve been reminded this month as we talk about love is that love is so much more than just one thing or one definition, and when it comes to God His love is more than we could begin to imagine or understand or describe.

In my devotions last week I read 1 John 4:12 which says: “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us.”

This verse says a lot of different things about love and God. First, we should love each other. Second, God lives in us. Third, God lives in us when we love each other. Fourth, when we love others we share God’s love for us with others. Fifth, we can only begin to experience God’s full love when we let Him in our lives and love others. It almost sounds like there’s a condition to God’s love, and in some ways I think there is. But what I think this verse is really saying is that God is all about the relationship. He doesn’t want to be that dude on the throne overseeing everything, the benevolant dictator. He wants to be in relationship with us, and He wants us to have healthy, loving relationships with others too.

I think it says something really powerful that God isn’t just about the relationship He has with us, but that He cares about the relationships we have with others too. Yes, the Good News is spread through people, but I am confident that God would get the message out in other ways if He had to, so it’s about more than just the Great Commission. God has more love in Him than we could ever imagine, love that works in countless ways and reveals God in exactly the way that we need to be spoken to in that moment. God doesn’t keep His love to Himself, He wants to share His love with us and for us to share our love with others. How will you share love today?

Love from the Start

When thinking about love and Valentine’s Day one place we can begin the conversation is at the beginning. John 3:16 says:

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Before love was anywhere or anything else, love started with God. I think this is something really important to reflect on as we approach this opportunity to celebrate love and our relationships.

Love started with God loving the world. Everything was good in God’s eyes the book of Genesis tells us. He was happy with what He created, with the world that lay before Him, much like any of us would be proud of a project we completed or of the kids we have.

But a lot happened between the beginning of God’s love and Jesus ending up on the cross. We humans did some pretty not good things, made lots of mistakes and didn’t treat people all that great. And yet God still decided to send Jesus to earth. God didn’t give up on us and decide we weren’t worthy of His love anymore, He decided that we were worth more than just love from Heaven, but rather a visible, tangible person who not only showed love in life, but showed life through death and resurrection. It was a reaffirmation of God’s love for us, and that God hasn’t given up on us.

Tomorrow as you celebrate love I encourage you to take time to celebrate that first love, the love of God for you.