About a year ago, I wrote about kindness in Kindness Matters. I challenged myself to intentionally practice kindness toward myself and others. Today I want to respond to the challenge I accepted that day.

I find it most difficult to be genuinely kind to myself. Sometimes I listen to the things I say to myself and I am shocked! I would never say those things to someone else. Changing my internal dialogue is an ongoing struggle but one I am determined to win. It feels odd and slightly embarrassing to speak positively to my inner me. But I forge ahead knowing it will make a huge difference in the way I relate to the people around me.

What does this look like? I regularly force myself to look in the mirror and compliment myself. It might be about my appearance, a job well done, a character quality I exhibited, an act of kindness performed, a secret kept. I speak life to myself rather than death.

Tonight I read a post on Facebook. It said, “It’s amazing that a woman will look at the sky and proclaim the glory and beauty of God’s creation, but look in the mirror and can’t see it there even though he created both.”

Kindness toward others has taken the form of saying nothing at all when opportunity arises to speak negative words. I notice how often we engage in conversation about others that is not life giving. I can’t help but wonder if I am the subject of conversations like this when I am not in the room. I don’t want to be torn apart in this way, so I work very hard at not doing that to others. Of course, I am not always successful, but it is still my goal.

Another practice I am implementing, particularly with my husband, is open conversation when the cloud of irritation builds on the horizon. For instance, a few days before our daughter’s wedding, I could feel myself getting really irritated with him. He had done nothing…YET. I had to acknowledge that within myself and be bold enough to bring it out into the open. You see, he was really busy with work obligations the week of the wedding. I feared that when he was available to help with the final details, he would be uninformed and not helpful. I was already irritated about something that hadn’t even happened and that I held the key to avoiding.

As we talked, I realized the only way to avoid disaster was to fill him in on details that he not only did not know, but couldn’t know if I didn’t tell him. He can’t be responsible for what he doesn’t know. It made all the difference in my ability to be kind and for him to return kindness when we had open conversation.

As difficult as it may be to believe, my ability to thrive in relationships depends more on how I treat others than how I am treated. I continually find that when I treat others with kindness and respect, I am respected and treated kindly in return.

Sunday morning as I prepared for our worship service, I read Ephesians 4. This was the next text in our current sermon series, “Tethered.” Visit here to listen to all the messages in this series. I was arrested by the first few verses of the chapter, amazed at how well they fit with this post.

Read: Ephesians 4:1-6

I was especially taken by verse two.

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults, because of your love.

Ephesians 4:2

This is the hardest part about being kind to others. It is so easy to notice the faults in others and then just get annoyed and reject the person all together. Rather, Paul instructs us to make allowance for the other person’s faults. That means when I notice areas where someone really messes it up, I’m going to give her some slack, make room for his goofy, annoying mannerisms, overlook the mess and see the best.

So, I’m curious. What part of being kind is the most difficult for you? Does it make sense that thriving in relationships depends more on you than it does on others? How can you improve one relationship this week through kindness?

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

It was Friday morning in the dark hours of early morning when the phone rang. My daughter needed me to come be with the girls. Finley had a fever. I stumbled out of bed, grabbing my toothbrush on the way to feed the dog. It’s electronic (you can read about it here in Kindness Matters) with a red warning light if I brush too hard.

In the darkness of the morning and my hurried movements to get to my daughter, the red light flashed more than normal. Or perhaps I just don’t notice it in the light of the day. As I kept being reminded to brush with a lighter touch, I wondered what it would be like if we had that kind of sensor in our minds.

My tone gets too sharp – red light flashes. My words are sarcastic or unkind – red light flashes. My eyes flash hatred, my face marked with derision – red light flashes. My thoughts are cruel or unkind – red light flashes.

I wondered in those early morning hours, in the two minutes I brushed my teeth, how often a red light would flash in my every day life. Once, twice, three times? Would I stop to make adjustments?

As you begin the week, I challenge you to consider your actions not only toward others, but toward yourself? Listen to the internal flashing of the Spirit as he leads you toward life and wholeness!

I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness.

Romans 15:14

Life is like…

…a box of chocolates. –Forest Gump

…a mountain railroad. –Patsy Cline

…a camera. –Ziad K. Abdelnour

How would you describe life? Many have tried to capture life in a single phrase and at different times, all of them are correct.

This week for no apparent reason, the phrase “life is like a dance…” has been running on repeat through my mind. This song has no real spiritual undertones, but is true nonetheless. Perhaps life has become difficult for you or it seems confusing with twists and turns you didn’t anticipate. May this throwback song inspire you to relax and rest into whatever life is bringing your way right now.

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior though Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

Jude 1:24-25

Read: James 1:17-18

This scripture is a beautiful picture of God’s heart toward us. Every good and perfect thing in our lives is a gift from him. We can count on his character and divine nature.

We might use the word “shifting” to describe someone of unreliable character. Someone who is shifty goes from one side of the fence to another, never able to be counted upon.

But God is not like that. He is not a shifting shadow that can at once be there and at the same time, not there. Reliability is his name.

Take a minute and do inventory in your life. Everything good and perfect is from him. Give thanks.

We asked. Katlyn asked for “golden.” I asked for dry. We both asked for the weather to cooperate for an outdoor ceremony. We didn’t get it.

Instead we received the worst storm I have experienced this summer. The rain pounded, the lightening flashed, the wind blew. But we celebrated. Celebrated a covenant of love!

Read: Isaiah 55:8-9

Sometimes we don’t receive what we ask for. But what we receive is magical and wonderful and completely okay! Katlyn says the day was perfect, perhaps even golden. Inside the barn we were protected and dry. Even though the storm raged, it didn’t keep us from celebrating.

Why did it rain? I don’t know. I don’t feel cheated or that my prayers went unheard. I only know that inside the barn we were dry and safe. The storm raged and we celebrated.

Ask. Keep asking. Ask with bold confidence. Remember that his ways are higher and his thoughts are wiser. Live with gratitude.

Read: Hebrews 4:14-16

Because Jesus gets it, he understands everything about what you are experiencing, we can approach confidently.

The writer of Hebrews says we should, “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help when we need it most.”

Our asking should be characterized by confident boldness. Have you ever been in a crowd and there is that person who boldly moves through the crowd to get to the front? Not rudely, but boldly, confidently approaching the one who can help? It’s annoying. I want to say, “wait your turn” even when there isn’t a “turn” system. And then I am jealous because the one who approached boldy received. I am still waiting to be noticed.

How does your approach to God need to change? We have every reason to boldly approach our God. We have a High Priest, Jesus, who runs intercession for us. He speaks on our behalf. He paid the price. We are already in line. It is our turn.

So speak up. Be bold. Approach with confidence.

Read: Hebrews 4:14-16

How do I access the grace of God to persist in asking? The scripture for today reminds me that I have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven ahead of me. He is Jesus. He completely gets it.

When I have something come up in my life and I need to talk with someone about it, you know who I look for? Someone who has already been there. I want to know how it worked out for someone else. That guy is Jesus.

He understands physical weakness because he experienced it. He understands spiritual struggle because he fought it and won. He understands what it means to face something that is bigger than yourself.

So, ask and keep asking!

Last week was my daughter’s birthday. On Monday she sent me a text with a recipe attached and asked if I would make pumpkin muffins for her birthday. Later that day while running errands, she gave me a printed copy of the recipe and asked again if I would make the muffins. While shopping, she asked if I bought the pumpkin for the muffins.

Tuesday morning I drove to the store and bought pumpkin and made muffins. I didn’t feel like I had the time and I left some other tasks undone, but I made them and dropped them off at her office on my way to other appointments. Why did I make them?

Because she asked. I don’t usually make muffins for my children on their birthdays and deliver them to their offices. But she asked. And she persisted in asking.

The Sunday before the Big Day – that is, my daughter’s wedding – I developed some kind of bug. I started with the aches, a sore throat, headache. I didn’t feel well. Sunday evening I took Advil and forged ahead.

Monday I still didn’t feel well. I didn’t sleep well the night before, I hurt all over, my joints screamed at me. I decided to ask my siblings and mom to pray for me. I put the request on our group text and was soon rewarded with prayers and well wishes coming my way. It felt good to know I wasn’t carrying this by myself. I really didn’t want to be sick for the wedding.

And I asked the Lord to touch my body. But my thoughts were not coinciding with my prayers. I heard, “why would God heal me? After all, this is just a little achiness. It will resolve without bothering God.” And my faithless thoughts continued all while asking him to heal me.

Tuesday I called my sister. I shared my thoughts. She said, “That is so stupid!” And she was right. She apologized later for using that word.

We talked for a long time about healing. Why are some people healed and others are not? Does God have favorites? Did I not do something right? (If that is so, then healing is dependent on me, not on him.) We did not solve all the mysteries of God and how and when he chooses to heal, but we did agree on this: you have to ask. And keep on asking.

James 4:1-3 talks about why we don’t have what we want. He says quite plainly it is because we don’t ask. Jesus tells a story of persistence in Luke 11:1-13, reminding us that we need to ask and keep on asking. For those who continue, who shamelessly persist, they will receive. God knows how to give good gifts to those who ask.

From the moment my daughter sent me the recipe, I already decided I would make the muffins. But she didn’t know that. And she persisted in asking. She trusted in my love for her, she wasn’t afraid to approach confidently, and she received.

What is it you are needing today? Have you asked? What keeps you from shamelessly persisting in knocking on the doors of heaven?

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious toyou.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

Read: I John 5:13-15

Asking for what I need. Why is that difficult? I think it’s because, in asking, I admit that I am not self-sufficient. Acknowledging weakness isn’t a trait admired in our world. And, to be honest, it wasn’t a trait I learned as a child.

What about you? Does asking for help feel like weakness? Are you trained to be self-sufficient?

If you could ask for anything and be guaranteed to receive it, what does your soul most want? More than anything…what is it you really need at the depths of your being?

Listen…

What do you want to be remembered for?

May your day be blessed with the presence of Jesus and the hope his name brings.