Choosing Compassion

I always find it interesting that the Bible is so full of topics that challenge us if we take any amount of time to really study them. From love and war to relationships and faith, the Bible is filled from cover to cover with unique situations, emotions and unique people who lived real lives and faced real challenges; many of those challenges, emotions and situations are things we face in our lives today. While most of us don’t have to walk to a well or river to get water and buy bread or flour at the food store, we still have to navigate relationships, governments, war, love, hate, jealousy, death and birth just like they did.

One of the things that comes through really clearly in the Bible is how people worked through the challenges in their lives. It’s something we study in history books as we look at historic presidents and leaders and famous inventors, but we read about more of the “normal” people in the Bible. We see how they navigate through potentially thorny relationships (think about Mary being pregnant with Jesus and Joseph initially planning to divorce her in the New Testament), we learn how they deal with bad news (Eli learned that his sons weren’t good and that God was going to judge them in 1 Samuel 3 and accepted it as God’s will), and we learn how they work hard because they love their families (Ruth worked hard in the fields to care for her mother-in-law Naomi).

The question is that we’ll all face challenges, but how will we choose to work through them? Will we work through them with frustration and anger, bashing things around, shoving others and pushing just because we’re unhappy with how things are going? Or will we choose to be compassionate to yourself and the people in your life? Because even if you’re facing a challenge and you didn’t ask for that challenge or put yourself in a position to receive that challenge you’ve still got a choice with how you’re going to deal with it. Will you choose compassion and patience like Jesus so often did or will you get angry at the world for what they’ve forced on you?

“The clearest and prevailing reason why Jesus did what he did and said what he said was because of his compassion for others, his tender loving mercy. Pray for the people whom you could be glad you are not like. Pray for them until you are ready to receive them knocking at the door of your heart.” Br. Curtis Almquist


Do You Hear God?

Today I’ve been thinking about one of the earlier references to Samuel that we know of in the Bible. It’s when he’s bedded down for the night at the temple and he hears a voice (you can read the whole story in 1 Samuel 3). The voice calls to him, he thinks it’s the priest but it’s not. The third time this happens the priest realizes God is calling Samuel and tells him to say “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Of course what goes on to happen is God calls to Samuel again, tells him some important information and then continues to talk with Samuel for the rest of his life and ministry. I encourage you to explore the story for yourself, but I want to highlight a few things that stand out to me today.

First, God’s persistence. I find it interesting that God didn’t give up on the first or second try, He really wanted to speak with Samuel, and He was willing to be patient enough to make it happen. In some ways I think God was patient because of Samuel’s young age, but in other ways I think He would be equally patient for us if we showed active willingness to listen.

Second, the message. The message, given to this young boy (some research estimates he was about 12 at the time), wasn’t all roses and sunshine. I think what amazes me most is that God knew the plan He had for Samuel, knew he could handle a message like this and didn’t sugar coat it just because he was young. I know I’m more inclined to protect the young and not share the horrors and reality of the world with them, but at the same time I know it’s important that they don’t grow up with rose colored glasses and have a jarring reality check when they become adults.

Finally, Samuel was honest about the message. As we’ve discussed it wasn’t a fantastic message, but when he was asked about it by the priest, he was honest about it, even though there was some not great news for the priest in it. I don’t like delivering bad news as an adult, so I can’t imagine how difficult it was to deliver that news as a pre-teen. But again, God knew what He was doing and Samuel passed along the message.

As you go about your life this week I encourage you to be persistent and honest, work on trusting others, communicating with others and listening both for God and to what others have to say.

The Blessing of Quiet Reflection

This month our topic for discussion (along with a bit of talk about being thankful) is about being quiet. It’s not the easiest topic to talk about, we like taking action, living large, going places and having adventures, not sitting quietly.  So this month will probably be a big challenge for each of us. As we get started this month I wanted to look at one of the reasons why it’s important to be quiet: for reflection.

1 Samuel 12:7 says: “Now stand here quietly before the Lord as I remind you of all the great things the Lord has done for you and your ancestors.” Simply put if you’re busy talking it’s really hard to remember things or hear what other people are saying. It’s only when we take the time to be quiet and think or listen that we’re really able to make progress. Yes, progress does happen to an extent in a dictatorship or when you listen to a lecture, but not to the extent that it could everyone was listening and discussing the potential and work.

When we take time to reflect and to listen to what others have to say we’re able to get a completely different perspective on things. No, their perspective isn’t always better than yours, but it is different and sometimes that difference can spark the inspiration that we were looking for or need to get to the next level. There’s no reason in this interconnected world for us to rely solely on our own opinions, knowledge and resources, because there’s so much more available to us than we could ever know or provide by ourselves.

When we take time for reflection we’re able to remember the past. No, the past isn’t a place that we want to dwell, for most of us it holds memories that we’d rather not dig up, but there are some valuable things we can remember in the past: such as the ways we’ve been blessed. Life isn’t all rainbows and puppies, there are some rough moments too. During the moments that knock us off our feet the ability to remember the blessings in the past enables us to hold out hope that there will be blessings yet again in the future. Don’t give up because you’re in a low moment, instead, take time to be quiet and remember the blessings from your past and gain a new perspective on the good things the future could hold.

The Blessing of Health

We’ve reached the end of another month. I’ve had moments of challenge with our topic of health this month, as well as some good victories. To finish off the month I wanted to share a bit of what’s known as a benediction with you . A benediction is a blessing pronounced on someone or a group of people.  It’s something that was typically done at the end of church services, although now some churches end with a song or prayer rather than a spoken blessing.

Health is something that should definitely be seen as a blessing, but not as a curse when it’s lost.  So as this month ends I wanted to make sure we ended on a positive note, because more often than not we are blessed with good health. Sure we’ll have the occasional cold, bruise or headache, but the majority of the time we don’t even notice how healthy we are because it’s not something we usually think about unless we’re having issues. It’s one thing that we should be able to add most days to our list of things we’re thankful for.

So as we close out this month here is my benediction to you: “Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!” 1 Samuel 25:6

It’s a simple benediction and prayer, but contains some really big wishes. As you look forward to the remaining 4 months of the year, to school starting back up, businesses racing towards Christmas and goals for the year trying to be met, I encourage you to take time to celebrate your good health and the life you’ve been given, because every day truly is a gift whether we make the time to see it or not.

The Look and Feel of Health

One of the things we struggle with when it comes to health is other people’s definitions of health that we think have to apply to our lives. We think that we have to look like supermodels or fitness buffs. We think that we have to be taking all the top supplements or following the trendy diets. We think that beauty looks like whatever the magazines and social sites say is popular. The reality is that while we probably all could look like those people or follow the current most popular advice, most of us shouldn’t. We’re all created with similar bodies from a very basic appearance perspective, but that’s about where it ends because we all have different food requirements, physical capabilities and tastes which differentiate us from many other people. I don’t do well with a lot of meat, gluten or sugar in my diet, I prefer walks and the elliptical, and don’t really like flashy looks, but you may be the exact opposite.

And that’s more than OK.

The good news is that God says there’s a lot more to life than just how we look, and there’s a lot more to health than it too. No, we shouldn’t be sickly or trash our bodies or appearances, but healthy for each of us is different when it comes down to the details. Health is about looking and feeling good inside and out, in ways that we feel confident and honor the body, mind and life that God has given us.

Just because you don’t eat, look or dress like a superstar doesn’t mean that you’re not an amazing or healthy person. Make the right choices for your life in the food you eat, the daily exercise you get, the clothes you wear and what you feed your mind too.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”” 1 Samuel 16:7

A Reward for Kindness

“David, my son—is that you?” Saul asked. Then he started crying and said: “David, you’re a better person than I am. You treated me with kindness, even though I’ve been cruel to you.  You’ve told me how you were kind enough not to kill me when the Lord gave you the chance.  If you really were my enemy, you wouldn’t have let me leave here alive. I pray that the Lord will give you a big reward for what you did today.”  1 Samuel 24:16-19

David and Saul had a thing going.  Some would call it a rivalry, but David didn’t really hate Saul, he was just scared for his life because God wanted him to be king instead of Saul, and Saul didn’t like that one bit.  To add to the problems, the people of Saul’s kingdom were siding with David, and David was well-known for his military prowess, as well as his solid relationship with God.  When we meet our two main characters in 1 Samuel 24 David just had the opportunity to kill Saul but he didn’t.

It brings us to our topic of the month: kindness and the reward we get for being kind.  Sometimes it’s easy to be kind, like to the mom with her arms full with a baby carrier struggling to open the door at the coffee shop.  It’s not so easy when we’re asked to set aside a rivalry that we’ve had for years or even generations and forgive someone.

But that’s the power of kindness: it enables us and gives us the strength to be the bigger person.  And, as we’ve seen here, the kind acts we do can even teach others about kindness and transform who they are.  No, it doesn’t always work that way, nor was this the end of the interactions between David and Saul.

But it creates one of my favorite things: hope.  Yes, when that kind of kindness is introduced anything is possible.  It becomes possible to get out of your prison, it becomes possible to mend a relationship.  It becomes possible to have an impact on your family, your community, your nation, your world.  Maybe you won’t have the impact of Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King Jr, but that doesn’t mean that the kindnesses you do would go unnoticed.

God notices the kindnesses you do and will reward you for them. No, we shouldn’t do them to be rewarded, we should do them because it’s right.  But the reward we will receive is like the ice cream with apple pie.  It goes above and beyond the awesome feeling of being able to do something good for our fellow man.

This week I encourage you to do something good for someone else, maybe even someone else who can’t repay you for the kindness you’ve done. Of course, I’d love to hear all about the kind acts you do, share them in the comments so we can all celebrate together!

Help with Change

“At that time the Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them. You will be changed into a different person.”  1 Samuel 10:6

This month we’ve been talking about our ability to change and the situations we find ourselves in.  And I’ll always say that you have the power to change any situation or yourself at any time.  But sometimes there are situations that will call for greater power than you personally have and that’s when it’s time to tap into the relationship you have with God.  While God isn’t a drive-through where we can pick up what we need and get on with things, it’s more like the difference of gathering sticks, striking a match, cooking food over the fire versus putting food in the microwave or oven.

When we choose to be in a relationship with God we’re given the gift of being able to tap into His strength and power when we need it. We won’t always be able to pull the healing power we need to cure cancers and other major sicknesses, but we can always get the strength to get through tough situations with grace and peace.

Choosing to be in a relationship with God also gives us the strength to beat some of our stronger demons, habits and vices.  It gives us the courage to seek out professional help, to be honest with our partners, families and close friends, and the strength to get up each day and take one more step in the right direction.

God can take any person and turn them into their best version of themselves.  He can make us into the people we’ve caught glimpses of yet can’t pull up as we wish. He sees the best in us and can help us bring it out.  All we have to do is admit we’re ready to be the person He knows we can be.  As painful and challenging as it may be to get there, it will be worth it in the end .