The Kindness of God

children being kind

“The Lord’s loving-kindnesses indeed never cease; For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB

Who knows the story of a young man whose name is fun to say? Do you know anything about Me-phib-o-sheth? Check out Second Samuel 9. Or…..just keep reading! 🙂

King David began wondering if there were any relatives in the house of Jonathan, Saul’s son, who was also David’s very best friend; his covenant friend. Truth be told, as the king of Israel, it would have been within the culture of the day for him to kill off all the blood family from the previous dynasty. But David didn’t inquire so he could go kill them. He asked so he may show the kindness of Jonathan his friend.

The king summoned Ziba, the servant of Saul’s household. (By the way, the new king was also allowed to slay all the previous king’s servants–they hear and keep family secrets, too!). Ziba  may have quaked a bit in his dusty sandals as he fell prostrate to the floor of the palace. David gave the kingly sign for him to rise and answer him.

“Is there anyone still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” asked King David.

“There is one son of Jonathan; and by the way, he is lame in both feet,” answered Ziba. “He is Mephibosheth, living in Lo-debar.”  David had Mephibosheth brought to the palace from Lo-debar. Mephibosheth bowed low before the King. After all, he knew what David the King was allowed to do. He was aware this could be the end of his life. He was in for a total surprise.

“Don’t be afraid,” said the King. You can stop quaking in your sandals now.

“I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan.” Kindness?? But I’ve been living/hiding in Lo-debar all these years!  A dry and parched land! Hey! In case, you’ve not noticed–I’m the lame son. No one thinks I can do anything so I just subsist in Lo-debar where nothing is growing!

“I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul.” Wow. That’s a lot of land! What are you up to?

“And you will always eat at my table.” The king’s table? Here? In Jerusalem? My crippled no good feet under the table of the king? Forever? Who are you?

Mephibosheth most likely had never heard the history his dad Jonathan and this king David had with one another. He didn’t know that his dad and the king had made a covenant with one another that stretched all the way into their descendants forever. (First Samuel 20). They made a pact with one another; a binding covenant between them and the Lord God that they would not cut off the Lord’s lovingkindness from one another’s houses-from all their descendants forever.  David kept that promise that day when he had Mephibosheth brought to his palace.

David was a promise keeper.

As we, in the intimate gathering of our church, were asked to ponder this story in II Samuel 9 in yesterday’s service, the pastor challenged us to call out what part of the story jumped out at us. One member directed us to verse 3 where David said he wanted to show God’s kindness. In verse one David asks his servants if there was anyone in the house of Saul he could show kindness for Jonathan’s sake. The pastor reminded us that indeed both David and Jonathan had made a covenant between them and the Lord to show the Lord’s lovingkindness to one another’s descendants forever.

Mephibosheth did indeed move to Jerusalem where he dined at the table of the King for the rest of his life. Surely they had quite the discussions of their lives and the memories shared of Jonathan. Perhaps David described his day with Goliath; or he quoted some of his poetry from his writing days–those poems he sang as songs to the Lord–the Psalms in the middle of our Bibles.

But the Lord spoke to my heart later that afternoon. I wondered if Mephibosheth ever thanked David for bringing him up out of Lo-debar; out of the parched land into the palace for the rest of his life. The story was not about whether he thanked David. The story was about David showing God’s kindness to the last living descendant of the house of Saul. It was about David keeping his promise not only to Jonathan but to God. It was about God’s lovingkindness being shown to an undeserving young man. A man who was and would always be lame in both feet.

I had to get on my knees and ask God to forgive me. He gently reminded me that I had longed in my heart for some friends to thank me for their gifts I had given last Christmas. And when would they be giving me a gift? After all…..

The Lord disciplined me in my spirit after this message on David showing God’s lovingkindness. In giving gifts this year–whether to family, friends, ministries, strangers, it is always about showing God’s lovingkindness–not ever ours. Then it is a true God-given- no-strings-attached gift. Do you see? If the story mentioned that Mephibosheth had expressed thanks, then the story would be more about a man being kind to another man. No.

This story was about God being kind to an undeserving man. God being kind to us undeserving folks.seeking human kindness

 He shows lovingkindness to those of us living in the dry and parched no good land like Lo-debar. It’s what He does. This story and the Lord’s kind discipline to his daughter has reminded me that this year when I give it’s from His love. God’s lovingkindness always.’Tis the season to give from the heart of kindness. God’s kindness.

Lord, every single story in the Bible is for a purpose. Thank you for reminding me of Your lovingkindness shown to an undeserving young man; thank you for your gentle discipline to my heart. Giving to others as you so generously gave to me Your Son Jesus who died for my sins. Thank you, Lord, for your lovingkindness never ceases. Amen.

It Matters Not the Size

“….Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40

She held up a onsie with a bordered pink lace tutu.

Just darlin’ we chimed in.onsie with tutu two

Our pastor prayed over the mountainous piles of donated clothes,

“Lord, bless each person who comes to get what his family needs.”

A faithful church member gathered us in a holy huddle

Before we left to make home deliveries.donations

“Lord, bless each life these ladies touch.

Watch over them with Your faithful love.”

Dirty hands and sweaty t-shirt;

Her genuine smile captured my heart.

We handed her a bag of bleach, masks, and trash bags;

A bunch of snacks and a bottle of water.

Our energetic ministry leader embraced her,cleaning supplies

whispering in her ear,

“God bless you, Sweet Child.”

Rows of turkey, ham or peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunch bags

For the cleaning crew.

My new found Sister-in-Jesus prayed over the lunches

As the crew entered the building.

Lord, use these sack lunches to nourish

These precious brothers and sisters from out of town!

Thank you for bringing them here to help us!

Bless them!”

Retired from teaching but always a teacher,school supply room

She learns an abandoned school building is now home to the flooded school.

She was led to the new supply room to organize by Monday when school starts.

While sorting and shelving donations, she prayed;

“Lord, bless these wonderful teachers in this their new dwelling for the year.

Bless the children who now have a dry safe place to learn.”

My mentor friend and her husband mucked out homes til she was about to drop.mucking out a home one

Sweet single moms served hot meals to displaced families.

Yet.

My friend had family emergencies.

She prayed.

My mother, stuck in her second floor

apartment, hemmed in by flood waters, felt

useless. Until she prayed.women praying together four

A onsie or a word;

A meal or a prayer;

Manning the lunch table or driving a delivery truck;

All are needed;

Prayed over;

Blessed.

All in the name of Jesus.

Reflections on Hurricane Harvey

“…..weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

joy comes in the morningEvery place you sent me to be, You were there…..

At our home church with Dotty retrieving and checking on files of her special needs children.

On our street delivering oranges and waters to those who got water in their homes.

In a quiet little back roads community near Alvin delivering cleaning supplies, snacks and waters.

Every place you sent me to be you were there.

In the eyes of the woman who pointed to the dirty long box and said, “that’s my wedding dress. Guess I won’t be needing that anymore.” She and her sister and her husband were standing in a yard full of all her belongings and soggy sheetrock and flooring and mud and sweat. They were taking a break. It was hot and sticky and swarming with mosquitoes. We handed them some cleaning supplies,  waters and snacks, prayed and left a piece of our heart with them there on the corner of two flooded out streets in Alvin.

In the 3×5 cards with handwritten notes of encouragement from a third grade class in Atoka, OK! They were stacked on top of a box of donations they had brought to their teacher who sent it all to our coastal community church this week. The teacher said they get loss. In 2011 their tiny town was nearly destroyed by a tornado.

In the heart of a young lady who bared her soul to me while we drove to the hidden community near Alvin to deliver cleaning supplies to flooded out homes. She was tossed from one aunt to another growing up, each following a different faith from Jehovah’s Witness to Pentecostal to Baptist. You must have been confused, I remarked. Yep. I was, she responded. I suggested she read the book of John in the Bible and asked the Lord to reveal Truth to her. She is listening.delivering supplies to others

We are where God wants us to be.

With open heart and hands I ask Him, Lord, where do you want me today? And I go.

The cleanup will take weeks. May we here in this part of Texas continue to pray, be patient, and love. God will encourage our hearts and give us the strength we need.

home after the storm

Hey! Unto you a child is born!

It’s all Beejai’s fault. My all time favorite blogger of The River Walk has prompted me to write this response to his series  “Twenty-five songs of Christmas.” In Song #7 – “Angels We Have Heard on High” he talks about how he would prefer another word than “sweetly” to describe the angels’ singing. I agree. If, as the Scriptures indicate, the heavens were filled with the mighty angels proclaiming the birth of the Son of God, surely they wouldn’t be “sweetly” singing as if they were cooing a baby to sleep! They made some noise! Loud noise! They woke the shepherds up! They frightened them!

It does seem like we have sweetened up the whole Christmas story over the centuries with saccharine images and messages. We’ve watered down the story  to a comfortable, safe milk toast middle class America in the 50’s view.

After reading Beejai’s very well-written blog,  I picked up my all-time favorite Christmas story, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson to freshen up my memory of how six street-smart kids learned of the Christmas Story and took it out of its starched stuffy church play and into believable characters!the-best-christmas-pageant-ever-cover

Singer, song-writer and author, Michael Card said that there are stories in the Bible that should bother you. Bother in the sense of mystery, of not making any sense. It bothered the Herdman children that Joseph and Mary were led to the back of the inn to the barn to stay the night they arrived in Bethlehem, even though she was pregnant (as opposed to “great with child.”) And, they learned to their complete horror, that Mary had nothing to lay her new born baby in but a feed trough! “We laid Gladys in the bureau drawer ,” Imogene volunteered. It bothered them that the gifts the Wise Men brought were “not practical.” What is the baby going to do with oils? they had cried out in alarm. We get a ham every year from the fire department.

What makes this story so timeless to so many of us is that there truly are children all around us who have absolutely no idea what the real meaning of Christmas is. They see Santa Claus’s everywhere that they’re supposed to believe in, sitting right beside a plastic nativity scene with figurines all dressed in some centuries old costumes that have no meaning to them and some are told at church that they’re supposed to believe in them. Really? Why, they wonder. The Herdman’s had not been taken to church all their lives. They demanded that the  director of the Christmas play tell them the story. And so much of it bothered them. Did it bother the rest of the church children who had heard the story all their lives, that Mary had to lay her baby in a feed trough? Did they get that the Angel of the Lord, played by Gladys, broke through the pre-school angels from the back of the stage that night and hollered out, “Hey! Unto you a child is born?”

We who’ve been around awhile think we know the story and the way it’s supposed to be told as if it was a layout for Southern Living Magazine. Everything in its crisp,starched, perfect, most proper place. But not people friendly. Made to be a picture to just look at but not be moved by.  The Herdman children remind me to look at the story from a fresh “I never heard the story before” approach and consider that Jesus was indeed born for us. All of us. Into this very unfair, imperfect world to bring us His salvation from our own sins and to love us just as we are. I believe He came! I want to know the child who was born! Thank you, Barbara Robinson, for bringing the Herdman’s to life and to question what really happened that night so long ago. Hey! Unto YOU a child is born!cast-of-best-christmas-pageant-ever

 

 

Simply touching the Soul

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40

Generally, I’m not a great shopper. I have to be “in the mood.” Especially in this season. For the better part of Saturday I was content to unwrap the decorations and place them around our home. I had Keith and Kristyn Getty singing their Christmas music at full throttle.

Finally, needing to just get out of the house, I made a short list and headed out to the store. Now, my lists are not necessarily accurate and rarely do I look at a list oncesmiling-shopper I’m in the store, because I can surely remember everything I need. Right. I got to one store and after a few minutes of looking at literally every aisle for something that was clearly not on the short list, but suddenly I was reminded that I would eventually need that item, I went about looking for it all over the store. It wasn’t long before I was overwhelmed at the materialism. Eventually, I found something (on my short list!) to go on the tree that made me smile. I did turn to the young teen beside me and wished her a Merry Christmas since she had helped me get the item off its hanger without knocking anything else to the floor!

Next stop, the Dollar Store where the cashier was actually smiling at each one who passed through her line! Suddenly someone rocked her merry boat a little and the smile slightly faded. I heard her tell someone she had only been there about a week. No wonder she could still smile! She hadn’t gotten jaded by the long hours of constant standing or the whiney customers or the endless stocking! As I took my bags I looked at her darling young face and encouraged her keep it up! You’re bringing some joy to these folks, I had said.

A smile costs nothing! It’s amazing at how the corners of the mouths of nearly every person I make eye contact with and smile at begins to turn up their mouth! And their eyes dance a little. This time of year can get even the most optimistic down! It’s hectic. It’s sometimes pointless. It’s endless. but……it’s what we Americans do this time of year.

I wonder  what  simple simple gifts that touch the soul look like:

a smile, eye contact, genuine

a song, sung outloud with abandon! Or hummed softly in the quiet

a prayer, a blessing

a touch on the hand, rubbing those gnarled hands with lotionrubbing-an-elderly-hand

an act of kindness,  a kind word in gentle tone of voice

a ride to the store, the hospital, the mall, or the doctor then…….going inside and staying with them til you take them home

a drive to see the Christmas lights!

hot chocolate and perhaps a plate of cookies?

extra tip, whether deserved or not

a phone call – my husband reached out to his 93 year old aunt just now who lives in another state. I could just see her smile on the other end of the line!

A Christmas card, personally signed with a note!

Forgiveness

Who would receive such simple gifts? Anyone. The folks in the highways and hedges; those in whom we’ve lost touch; not necessarily those regular Facebook folks. Or even those relatives who are “expecting” something under the tree. The blessings come from the unexpected. And the serendipity comes when we aren’t looking for it! Unaware.

These are simple thoughts for making our Christmas more. More than the commercialism  it seems to become whether we like it or not. More than laissez faire, but intentional in sharing the inner Jesus joy with whomever comes before us. More than staying in the safe places, but venturing out to those places where folks are struggling and joy is hard to come by. Even a smile. More. Together. You and me. sharing-christmas-with-a-homeless-man

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

 

 

They see, but don’t truly “see.”

“For in Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:16

You’ve seen it, too, haven’t you, that our American culture is plummeting head first into total elimination of anything and everything that speaks the name of God. Yet. God is so there. Right in their faces!

Why did I not shake this little article in the Parade Magazine entitled “Awe” ( written by Paula Spencer Scott, Sunday, October 9, 2016).  It seemed to lead the reader to believe that this so called new emotion psychologists are supposedly spending millions of dollars studying is merely the “feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale that transcends our current understanding of things.”  (page 6). What?

“For years, only the “big six” emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, surprise) got much scientific attention. “Awe was thought of as the Gucci of the emotion world – cool if you have it, but a luxury item,” says Arizona State University psychologist Michelle Shiota. “But it’s now thought to be a basic part of being human that we all need.” (page7).

druid-archThe writer names several “awe-inspiring” experiences such as the view of the sunset through the Druid Arch in the middle of the Canyonlands National Park; Niagara Falls; a newborn’s tiny finger nails. I won’t ever deny that any of these events are awe-inspiring, but  never a mention made to the possible Source of awe in the article. Thus, my concern.

The One who allows us to even experience the emotion of awe is the One in whose image we are created! “Then God said,”Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26). We are gifted with the ability to see and experience all these amazing wonders that are clearly not necessarily man-made because God wants us to enjoy them. He wants us to see that it is He who created the Druid Arches; it is He who allowed such a massive flow of water to cascade down the cliff called the Niagara Falls! He wants us, His creatures to see Him. He is the Creator to whom we should be amazed.

Last night my cousin shared a video from “Sandbrero,” The video, called “Ocean Explorer,” as of this writing, has garnered 7.3K comments! After viewing the absolutely amazing fish and water life in the depths of the ocean, I became curious as to the comments and discovered that after one man posted the verse from Romans 1:20 he received 88 comments! I read on. Many were reactionary responses to his mentioning that God was the creator of these amazing fish. Those who were not in agreement with his view were, to say the least, most unkind. The takeaway personally, was the evidence I needed to see that yes, our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to the mention of God, especially when one gives Him credit for how the world is made. The God, Creator of the Universe, made the heavens and the seas and all that is swimming in them.  But they can’t go there. Man is in control, they contend.

We are each encountering folks in our everyday lives who don’t want to give credit where it is due; because if they did, they would have to admit that somehow that means that man is not ultimately in control of their own destiny. And that would mean that they don’t have all the true power. We examine our heart for whether we truly believe that God did indeed make all the earth and everything in it, including us; and that when we are able to have a discussion with those who are not of this persuasion, to pray. Pray for the right words. Pray for their heart. We just may be the only one who has ever led them to see who their Creator God is and how very much He loves them and sent His Son, Jesus, to die for their sins and to offer them eternal life. So let’s see with His heart the opportunities before us. I leave you with these seven ideas – from the Parade magazine with personal enhancements.

  1. Drop the devices and gaze at the clouds or the stars – and sing the Doxology. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1
  2. Visit a local, state, or national park and just wander around the trails and area with an attitude of wonder. “Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth” and it was so.” Genesis 1:11.
  3. Take an “Awe Walk” in your neighborhood and notice the nature for the first time – better with a friend so you both can be amazed at what one another sees and give Him the credit for making such a smart bird! “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you….That the hand of the Lord has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” Job 12:7-9.
  4. Describe to a friend about a time you once felt awe. Or, just go with a friend on a sunset walk and describe the beauty to one another! “Stand and consider the wonders of God. Do you know how God established them, and makes the lightning of His cloud to shine?” Job 37:14-15.
  5. Visit a museum or planetarium; but filter the evolutionary rhetoric.
  6. Get up early to watch the sunrise. So much fun with a friend! “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the starts, which Thou has ordained; What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him?” Psalm 8:3.
  7. Play amazing music – such as Beethoven’s Fifth. Or Handel’s Messiah or any of the Hymns of the ages.

759

Give freely, or…..be disappointed

What were you teaching me, Lord, when you brought me into an encounter with a woman in need?

She had hoped to be offered a ten, perhaps, if I were generous, a twenty and I would be on my way, so she could be on her way.

She wasn’t prepared to be offered to shop together! How dare I intrude upon her own personal choices with the money she would receive. The handout. The unearned gift.

But she gazed into my eyes, a brief moment of hesitancy, before she said, “Yes! Thank you.”

I didn’t think I had any expectations. I had no idea what she would choose to buy, or how much. I was totally open to whatever she put in the basket. The family sized lasagna, the day old French bread, the six pack of Root Beer, and the dozen and a half eggs.food-shopping

Willingly I paid. Returned the bags to the cart and hugged her. We each said we would pray for one another. Her pastor and she would pray for me, she said. I told her God bless you and walked away. No strings. No expectations for a return……..or was there?

Why did my stomach churn when I saw her moments later walk over to the Starbucks and order a tall cold drink? Why did I watch her from a distance as she studied the many packages of fresh coffee on the shelves? Was I stunned that she would have enough pocket change to purchase a drink normally above her means? Did I feel I had been taken advantage of? Conned? Did she really have a twenty in her purse to spend on dinner for her grandkids?

Father, I pray, examine my heart. My own motives. I guess I had some strings hanging on to my debit card. She was supposed to walk out to a bus or a beaten up old car, get in and feed her grandchildren with what I had purchased for her and be grateful!

Forgive me, Lord, for holding on to preconceived notions that the poor were penniless. That when someone asked me for a handout they were supposed to be grateful! Forgive me, Lord, for being ungrateful to you! You, who gave completely all that you had for my life whether I thanked you or not!

There were no strings on that cross! No preconceived expectations! You gave freely. Oh, Father, may I grasp what You did for me and why. You gave. Out of love. For me. You ask only that I love you and revere You as my Lord and then to love my neighbor as you love me. No strings. No expectations. No worries. Freely I give. Lesson learned. For today.  God bless Yolanda and her grandchildren.

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. And do not pass judgment and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you shall not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return.” Luke 6:36-38