WWJD About My Tattoos?

Tattoos. Mention them, and a number of opinions are generated from one simple word. Tattoo.

“Oh, I could never.”

“You know what it says in Leviticus.”

I know what it says in Leviticus. I read the entire chapter. Every single word. It had much more to say than merely mentioning the abomination of people with tattoos.

This paradox was the topic of conversation as I sat in the latest of many tattoo chairs. The artist, who did not subscribe to a religion persay, was actually surprised I was a pastor. And we had an entire conversation about tattoos and the Bible. He had his co-worker come by, and even guess what I did for a living (which is putting it mildly, because well…I am not a paid pastor). Why was this such a big topic of conversation? Rituals? Laws? That had nothing to do with love? Nothing to do with Jesus?

So the question for today! What would Jesus do if he encountered someone with tattoos? Well, love them. He definitely would not judge the covering. Choose not to get to know their heart simply because they decided to tattoo one on their arm.

Take a listen and feel free to weigh in on what YOU think Jesus would do! 

No longer the broken one

I write to get things off my chest. I didn’t for a time. And those things, they took root in my soul and grew bitter fruit. Things I thought forgiven, lay buried underneath the surface. Waiting for a season of isolation to burst forth all that needed to come out from hiding. All that needed to be reckoned with. All that needed to finally be laid down at His feet. Surrended to the one who should really be carrying it.

Come to me. All you who carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Back in December I read a book that at the time altered my response to all the pain I was going through and feeling. When I read, I do so for pleasure, but I also try to take one sliver of something I read and apply it to my life. Otherwise, what’s the point of adding books to a “read” list. Head knowledge is no good without application. In it, the author, described her letting go of her nine year old self, and the burden of carrying that nine year old version around for most of her life.

I could totally relate, but what was the heavy burden I was carrying? It wasn’t nine year old me, but it was a 17 year old version. The version of me I could not rescue. I carried her in every kid I spoke a little too loudly for. Every student I stormed into rooms for demanding their voices be heard, even if I wasn’t invited.

She screamed out each time she felt not listened to. Was interrupted. She became a little more brazen. A little tougher in speech. A bit more bold. A bit harder to deal with and rough around the edges.

She refused to remain silent.

Silence was the driving force behind the forward motion of many events she could not be rescued from. Through each daily act of present bravery, I was taking back that 17 year olds power. Giving back what was stolen.

But it was exhausting. It cost a ton. It was anxiety filled. And it kept me stuck in the past cycle of defeat. A cycle God wanted me to release.

And I hear Him say: Surrender. Lay it down at my feet. This burden wasn’t yours to carry then, but you did brave girl. You did. Don’t carry it now. Give it to me. Let me do the recusing. He gently says, “Just give her back to me.”

So I do. In the stillness of a gray, winter morning. Christmas lights twinkling. Hot coffee in front of me. I close my eyes, and I surrender. I take her to the altar. I picture it. She doesn’t look much different than me. Still small and very fragile looking, but strong and brave in ways you wouldn’t believe. Dark, curly pony-tail bouncing, but head bowed in shame. She walks beside me. Dependent on me to protect her, speak up for her, help her hold her head high.

I whisper to her as she bows at the foot of the cross. “It’s OK. You were not asked. You weren’t given a choice. You didn’t know your voice. I’ve tried to rescue you, but He will now. He will.”

I step back. And I let God take her in His arms.

Knowing I held her, and I protected her and those like her in the best way I could.

And then I let Him hold me.

And in the that moment in the place of that dumpster, because that’s what I saw for many years; a dumpster when I thought of her. I see a cross.

Instead of a symbol of trash, I see a symbol of grace. Instead of a symbol of worthlessness, I see a symbol of my immense worth. Instead of a symbol of all the ways I was unacceptable. Unloved. I see a symbol of His unfailing love.

You’re not the worthless they made you feel
There is a Love they can never steal away
And you don’t have to stay the broken girl. Matthew West, Broken Girl

I left her there, and finally decided to honor me. All He had done for me, while I carried her around, and what He could do once I surrendered her.

No longer unworthy. Loved beyond measure. Unbroken.

I don’t own rights to video, lyrics, or music.

WWJD: Love that never ends

Love never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies. 1 Corinthians 13, MSG

In the last several weeks, I have gone through the various aspects of love that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13. Today, I wrap up the truth about that elusive and often misunderstood “Love Chapter.” We now know the love we are called to show, the love that reflects God and His Son requires patience, kindness, has no room for envy, or selfishness; and desires the truth be heard and told.

We all want love. We all want to be loved. Even more-we all want a love that never ends. But are we looking in the wrong places? Are we rejecting the One who can deliver on this?

Love. It is the thing we all crave. We all want to feel connected to someone who accepts us. Every messy part. Love is one of our deepest desires, and can also be one of our deepest hurts. Because we often focus on earthly love. The kind we desperately seek from each other. The kind that often disappoints. Too busy at times to meet our needs. It doesn’t always put up with our flaws, or even accept us. It can sometimes be selfish, and fail us.

And it fails us because we forget its source.

Its source comes from the love of the Father. Our Heavenly Father.

It’s the thing that God purposed, because it was important to Him-for us to know love. So important the word alone appears 551 times in the New International Version of the Bible. It is mentioned in relation to God’s presence. It is mentioned to describe how He expects us to love others. It is more than just a mere word.

The word “love” is thrown around between people all the time. It is used to quantify how we feel about things, and flippantly said to people. For instance, I say all the time I love tacos. I could eat tacos every day. I enjoy many versions of tacos, and I like to cook them-a lot.

Yes, love is a really strong word. Not the same as “like.” See, because I really only like tacos. I am not so sure I should be using “love” to describe how fond I am of them.

This is why: It cheapens the full extent of what love truly is. When I say I love this, or I love that; or say “I love you, too” out of obligation; It is often due to what I am getting out of that thing, or from that someone.

See, tacos feed me. They don’t provide any additional support beyond my plate. No…that kind of “love” only feeds my cravings and desires.

And it will most certainly die. When that craving or desire for that thing fades, so will the “love.”

Because love is more than mere words. It’s more than a mere desire or craving. It doesn’t die away once the need is met; and it’s not waiting around to get something in return. Jesus loved and cared for a number of people who could never give Him anything in return. There wasn’t anything Jesus needed, besides others to just know His Daddy. And His Daddy went through great lengths to make sure we knew His love was for real. Unfailing, and would never die.

God went that far for us because loves goes the distance. It goes the extra mile. And it goes after that which has been lost.

I recall this story told one Sunday morning during a missions service at church. I can’t recall the speaker, but I do recall him telling a story of a woman who would enter the church each Sunday, sit on the front row, and save a seat for her loved one. In the hopes they would one day be seated next to her.

Because love goes the distance. It shows up. Even if it is in vain each and every time, with the expectation that one day, the one we love will show up beside us, part of our Heavenly family.

She was serious about it, and He was, too. So serious about it, He has been in heavy pursuit of you since the beginning. Long before you ever knew of Him. Long before you may ever accept Him, and He continues to pursue us. To woo us, until we finally say yes.

Love goes the extra mile. It doesn’t get to this point and decide-nope. This is as far as I will come to get to that one. It goes further and further and further. Reaching and reaching and reaching, until it is finally accepted.

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” Luke 15:4-7, MSG

Like that. He pursues the one, over the 99 that already know Him, just so that lost one will know His love. Yes, it is THAT serious to Him.

It surrenders all. All its own needs, wants, and wishes. It’s hatred, jealousy, and feelings. Its own son. Its own life.

Love is often unexplainable. Not measurable. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it can seem reckless to the one who doesn’t know the unfailing love of God. They can’t understand why we would keep going, sacrifice ourselves so someone could know who He is, and how much He loves. It looks reckless to those who don’t believe. It just won’t make sense.

Because God’s love is what is referred to as “agape” love. Making a conscious choice to love someone unconditionally. Willfully desire the best for them. Place their needs above yours. Unfailingly.

Paul was right when he stated that love kept going to the end, because the love of God has no end. It reaches into the darkest places to yank us out into the light. Forgiving. Redeeming. And never bringing the past up again.

That kind of love is the kind of love that’s undying, and its offered to you from the only One who can truly keep the promise: “I will never leave you or abandon you?” (Hebrews 13:5) He is pursuing you. Everyday. Are you going to finally say “yes” to His undying love?

Sending into the void

It was like any kid conversation. A stuffed animal. Used to talk about feelings. But not a typical day. Not really sure why exactly.

I hadn’t felt God answering me. I hadn’t understood the good in many things. I was emotional.

The one place I felt effective many days was here, in one of my many counseling spaces; because I had been setting some boundaries, and after many years of taking it home, I was finally learning to leave it here. Not take it personal. Not take on too much. Too much that wasn’t mine.

Oh, no the turtles hurt.” To which I asked what exactly the turtle did once he got hurt. “He asks Jesus to heal his wounds.”

I knew this was true. But I’m a skeptic in these situations now. I don’t trust where these questions come from some days. Where these conversations lead. I don’t trust that there could be an ulterior motive.

I don’t always like my doubting spirit.

“Yes. He may take a while to answer because he’s busy. But he always answers.” That’s what the child said to me. He always answers. He just takes a while. That was a solid answer. Because it was biblical.

He will bind up your wounds. He will answer when you call on him.

But see…I had been calling on him. For a REALLY long time. But I wasn’t so convinced he was listening.

And on that morning in particular, I was only focused on the things I couldn’t see. On the answers he hadn’t given me. On the prayers I just didn’t have the heart to pray anymore that morning, because I was so frustrated with the waiting.

Until I had someone say to me the very next day when I was discussing these prayers, and his silence, “Have you asked?” Of course I had. I had asked him every morning. Hadn’t I?

So on one particular morning, I asked him this: Lord, show me. Show me that all of this wasn’t for nothing. That all this praying and anything that I did for you will work out for your good. Just show me.

And I waited. And once again I heard nothing.

Until…

That morning we had a training at church. During our training we were placed into groups to share our thoughts on a number of questions. I can’t exactly recall one of the questions…the only thing I recall is the moment she pulled out the Bible. Her Bible. The moment she said, “I write little messages in it, so when I’m gone; they (her children) will have a piece of me, and will be able to know about Him, and what this means. It’s my legacy to them.”

I heard that, and then I heard this: “I told you, my word once sent out, will not return void.” It was a promise God had given to Isaiah that His Word would accomplish what He wanted it to-changed hearts, restored souls, for good, to bring light into the darkness. And isn’t that what I had been praying for all along?

And I lost it. I ran and hid in the bathroom and had a good cry.

Why?

Well, God hadn’t been silent. I was expecting my answer when I wanted it; and He…well, He answered during His time.

See, for quite some time I had written messages in a Bible also. I had given that Bible with all its messages in the hopes that His word would be understood, clung to, and touch hearts. I just couldn’t see the fruit, and it was bugging me.

Her Bible. His still small voice. It was a reminder, that the promise that God had been repeating to me from Romans 8:28, would be seen…even if I was not completely convinced it was true in this case. The promise that all things would “work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

So back to 7 year old faith.

He is working things out for good. He is healing. His spirit is working. He does hear us, and he is working on it; it’s just not in our time, it’s in His time. What we want right now, God knows…we may just have to wait.

But it doesn’t mean we can’t attach sticky notes, and messages to Bibles and continue our legacy. Sending out His word to fill the void.

In it…he’s still at work. If we believe like a child believes, and keep asking. Keep praying. Keep sending.

WWJD: Keep on loving

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7, NLT

Ever wanted to give up on someone? Just wave your hands in the air, accept defeat, and let them go on about their (usually destructive) business?

I know I have.

But something often stops me. Yes, I am a softy. My best friend tells me I am “too nice.” I have made it a personal goal to set some hard, fast boundaries around my limits and heart; but there are some things, God will not allow me to relinquish. Even though I want to just give up.

It reminds me of a story of another woman who was persistent in the saving. The Shunamite woman. Her story begins in 2 King 4, and she is not named, she is only listed in the King James Version as a “great woman,” and in other versions, as a “wealthy woman.” She had everything she needed, but one thing-a son. Elisha would come into town, and each time he did, he would come have dinner with the wealthy family, and the woman, knowing he was a man of God, made a place for him, a place for him to stay. She took such good care of him, she was promised a child; but then something happens to that child.

One day when her child was older, he went out to help his father, who was working with the harvesters. Suddenly he cried out, “My head hurts! My head hurts!” His father said to one of the servants, “Carry him home to his mother.” So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died. She carried him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and left him there. 2 King 4:18-21, NLT

She wanted him to be saved. To be healed. She loved him dearly. And you must believe, so did God. And sometimes this is where we end up wanting to give up. The desire to save becomes too much. Too much to carry. It seems we want it more at times than the other person, and we can even grow resentful, angry, and bitter. There are also times when we give so much of ourselves we can enable others not to seek their own saving.

And don’t get me wrong here, I realize I am talking about love today. And I am writing about not giving up. Not losing hope, remaining faithful and steadfast in love. But we can do this, and let go. We can do this and give those people back to God.

Did the Shunamite woman not do this with her son? Did she not love him simply because she carried Him to the one who could truly save Him, and let him go. Let God do His work?

But how do we do this? How do we continue to be faithful, hopeful, and loving; yet not give up on the people we just can’t carry any longer? How do we lay our burdens, our “sons” at the feet of Jesus?

Prayer.

We love by praying.

We continue to remain hopeful that God hears our pleas for their salvation. We do not give up praying that they seek truth and wisdom from Him.

This is how we demonstrate faithfulness and perseverance in love to those we just have to let go.

Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Never stop. Don’t give up. Always remain hopeful that He hears you, and He cares about those you love.

Reflections on “self-love”

There’s a misconception that to love oneself, you are not surrendering yourself to God. I read somewhere recently in fact that indicated that loving oneself was wrong, and unbiblical. Selfish, is the word the writer used; stating it takes our eyes off God. That the only way to truly love oneself is to love others without boundaries.

It was on the internet. There were tons of comments. I didn’t rant underneath it. I didn’t unfollow. I agreed to disagree, moved on, and looked in the Bible instead. To what God has revealed to me over a number of months.

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses? Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:36-39

As yourselves.

So the question: How do we truly love our neighbor if we hate ourselves? Shouldn’t we know how immensely God loves us and embrace that first?

Yes. Because I have loved without boundaries, and it has left me feeling useless, unworthy, and forgotten. Totally unloveable. I didn’t know the first thing about love (I talk about that journey here and here), and I took the time to talk to God about it.

Love others as you love yourself. Love yourself. As God has loved you. Know His love, accept His love, and wear it like a crown, so you can show His love to others.

That’s what He revealed to me. And knowing whose you are, and who you are; and loving that is not selfish. Love is God’s tool for us to use to light the world, but never to the point we begin to doubt His love for us. That’s not love. Not healthy love, anyway.

Through that time I also wrote a personal mission statement. A statement to remain in His love, and honor the love He has given me, so I would never question my worth. I am here to tell you: If you don’t know the love of God, you won’t truly know what it means to love others as yourself.

Personal Manifesto

I will embrace forgiveness and grace from my Heavenly Father, and forgive myself for the mistakes I have made. I may walk with a limp, but that limp tells the story of a woman so dependant on her Father for survival, of a woman so blessed. So beautiful. Broken, but made new and whole.

I will not look to this world for approval. I will embrace the fact that I am already approved, set apart, and made great by my Maker.

I can not control the thoughts and actions of others. Only they can.

I cannot fix people. Make them nicer. Make them more respectful. Make their lives better. Only God can.

I will continue to be kind, despite unkindness. Because it’s what Jesus would do.

I will, however, honor myself and my well-being by choosing not to be in the presence any longer of people who treat others with hate. Choosing to pray for changed hearts instead.

I can choose to stay away from toxic people. Those who consistently tear down and suck the life out of me. Realizing my kindness may never make a difference in some cases. Choosing to pray for changed hearts instead.

I can and will put my needs first when it’s necessary. My desire to foster positive and healthy physical, mental and spiritual health is not at all selfish. It’s mandatory.

I can and will set boundaries around my heart. Choosing to let go of people who consistently reject and abuse them.

I will decide not to be defined by the world’s standards of success. Knowing that riches fade, but kind, loving souls and hearts don’t.

I will not lose hope. I will realize that bad things exist. People mistreat people. But there is also good in the world. I will make a point to look for the good.

I will honor who I am in Him through my words, my thoughts, and my actions. Teach others how to treat me, and model to the world what love truly is. Love for God, love of the person He has made me to be, and love for others. Even those that are unloveable.

I will be me. Unapologetically.

It’s not selfish to honor this daily. To practice habits that demonstrate your value and your worth. To care for and love yourself. These steps give us the capacity to love others in ways we never have before. Without any agenda. Without any motive. With only the love of God. That love He so freely has given to us.

Offered to all. Unselfish as He is. Worthy to be celebrated and honored in the person you were made to be! As magnificent as he/she is.

Claim it. Own it. Put your personal “stamp” on your mission to “love yourself” as He loves you!

WWJD: Just tell the truth already

Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 1 Corinthians 13:6, NLT

Have you known someone, then found out later that they hid things about themselves? Left you wondering if they were really who they seemed to be? Why they didn’t think you could hold space for their truth?

Or maybe you were the one hiding the truth. Maybe you were hiding the truth about a situation because you wanted to protect the parties involved. Thought telling the whole story would protect the ones you loved from getting hurt. Or even protect you from the consequences. Protect you from the hurt. From damage.

Does anything good come from withholding the truth?

The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. Luke 12:2, NLT

Well, God’s Word says in Proverbs 19:9 that the one who hides the truth will get caught, and that all secrets will be known; and from my own experience-His Word holds true.

Let me share the quickest version I can of a story for you skeptics.

My view was different. My methods for moving people towards change are different, and sometimes for that, I don’t see eye to eye with people. In working with kids, one thing I have learned is that not one is to be treated in my space the exact same. Sure, there are treatment plans that are written with the same language, but one method I may use with one, isn’t going to work in the next session with another. I also know that treatment plans are, well….”plans.” Plans are usually wrecked when working with kids. Fluid. And each session I have with one, is just that-fluid. In counseling-plans are for insurance billing and goal-setting. I am for the client.

This is why I don’t often see eye to eye with everyone. If I don’t think it will help the mental health of my client, I won’t do it. But, I haven’t always had the luxury of telling this truth, or to the other parties involved. And it was for a time brutal. In my desire to protect, I didn’t reveal all that occurred (nor, will I here-it could fill a book). The withholding. The hiding. It bred anger and bitterness. That was outwardly expressed. Until I finally just told the truth.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32, NLT

Healing began once the truth was told. It wasn’t anything I could really explain. But change occurred. God breathes life into relationships when truth is revealed in kindness and love, only for the purpose of mending and healing.

I haven’t always been an example of this since that time, but it’s an example I try to be each time I think back to that time. “Always. Always be an example of truth. Even if it’s messy. Even if it hurts.”

Need a further reference for how hiding the truth is the opposite of love? In 1992, the movie A Few Good Men became a box office hit. Starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson, and many others, it told the story of two lawyers defending two Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine who had fell out of favor with the others, mainly for breaking the chain of command, reporting inappropriate actions, and requesting a transfer. The murder had reportedly been ordered by the commanding Colonel, played by Jack Nicholson.

Two men. Two very different truths. One truth is based on a code of honor, dignity, and what is believed to be right from a governing force or institution. The other truth? Based on common character, integrity, truth, justice, and beliefs about what is right and fair provided by the general preservation of lives. One was searching for the truth. One was hiding it.

In the movie’s famous interrogation scene comes the most remembered line from Nicholson, “You can’t handle the truth!” Right before admitting the cold-hard truth.

It actually sounds a lot like my story…without the murder and court trial.

It’s common. We lie. We withhold the details because we can’t handle the truth. We can’t handle the consequences that the truth will create. The feelings. The ways in which the truth will affect others.

But the truth is freeing. The truth is necessary. The truth is healing. Speaking the truth is not done in an effort to limit or to judge. It is done to create change that can build character, dismantle oppression, address injustice, protect others from future hurt, teach others how to stand up in the future, and build integrity.

We teach when we reveal truth. We stand for something when we reveal truth.

We love when we reveal truth.

WWJD: Be a joy, not a jerk

Love is not rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable. 1 Corinthians 13:5, NLT

This post is a two-fer because these two principles work hand in hand. Words and the actions that come with them have power. In fact, Scripture discusses the power of words in many places. One such place is in James 3:8, when the tongue is described as “restless, evil and full of deadly poison” (NLT).

The tongue is deadly when words that are rude, mean, and filled with irritation shoot off of it like nothing. Using intentional hurtful actions driven by anger or hurt to make a point, won’t ensure a relationship will grow and flourish.

These kinds of words and actions can be hurtful. These kinds of words and actions are damaging. These words leave scars. These words and actions are deadly to relationships.

We have all been rude. Displayed bad manners, forgotten to speak to someone, cut someone off in traffic, interrupted someone, or said something hurtful unintentionally. I am not talking about bad manners.

I am talking about intentional hurt because we are irritated, or hurt ourselves. Provoking anger because we are angry. Retaliating because we are in our feelings, so we do something that will trigger a deep wound in another person. Ouch, you got me. Well, ha! I got you. now. Take that! A rude remark here. A silly response there. You lose your cool. You lack total self-control, come up out of your holy character, and before you know it, you have done things, and said things that have cut too deep to ever take back.

This is not an expression of love. Not at all.

According to the Kendrick brothers in The Love Dare, “When under pressure, love doesn’t turn sour. If you are walking under the influence of love, you will be a joy, not a jerk.”

Even when you are hurting, you can still be a joy to the person you love, and the ole brothers give three ways to honor our loved ones without being rude and irritable.

The first of these is putting into practice the Golden Rule. You know the one: “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” (Luke 6:31, NLT). Would you want to be called crazy? Would you want to be dismissed when you had a concern? Ignored? Yelled at? Treated like a nuisance? Ridiculed? Criticized? Would you want someone to rage at you when you made a mistake, or use your weaknesses against you? Or would you want someone to treat you with compassion, listen when you had a concern with reassurance and patience, and accept your faults with grace?

The second, is thinking of how we treat others-like strangers. Think about it. Do we treat the UPS man, the grocer, the person we pass on the street, or our co-worker better than the people in our home? Or the person we profess to love? Do we offer them smiles, and the best of us, and then give those we cherish our leftovers, grunts, moans, or nothing at all? Let’s ensure we treat the people that mean the most to us with the utmost respect and honor.

Last, are you doing something you were asked not to do? Are you responding in a way you were previously asked not to, or doing something you know will trigger a negative response because you are upset? If a request has been made of you, or you know something bothers someone, just don’t do it. Doing otherwise is the opposite of a loving response. It’s actually pretty rude and nasty.

Want to be a joy, and not a jerk?

I think this pretty much sums it up. It is one of the greatest commandments provided by Jesus: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39, NLT

So, if you are waving “hello” to your neighbor, all smiles and joy…well, save a little for the ones closest to you as well. To the “neighbors” you spend time with behind closed doors. Those you interact with when you think no one else may be watching. Or listening. Give them all your joy, happiness, kind words, and loving responses, and a little less of your sarcastic quips, hurtful words, dismissive tones, and critical remarks.

Love is not rude. Love is not irritable. Love simply has no room to be a jerk.

Love is a joy.

WWJD: Envy

Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV

“Must be nice.”

I was taken aback. This was my favorite show. Grey’s. One of my favorite characters. Bailey. Who always supported other women. Now, spewing these words about a woman who decided she wanted to follow her dreams and chart a new course for her life. “Must be nice.”

Why was I taken aback? Because I have said them before. Haven’t you?

Must be nice to be able to get a new car. Must be nice to quit your job and not work. Must be nice to be able to go on vacation. Must be nice to have summers off. Must be nice to… You can insert whatever object, whatever lifestyle, whatever luxury you believe a person relishes in, that you wish you had here…

What is this? This “must be nice” kind of vibe we have when we encounter someone who has more? Has done more? Maybe even just wants more? It’s our human, flesh-bound desire for more. More stuff. More praise. More of this world. The ways of jealousy are mentioned in James 4:2-3, and it’s a powerful statement of how it can breed not so very wholesome things in our hearts:

You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. (NLT)

“Must be nice.”

But, there’s nothing nice about jealousy. It is the very opposite of love. It is the very opposite of showing love of God. It is how we show love of status, things, money, sometimes people, and prestige.

And, when we don’t have these. If we know someone, or are around someone who has something we don’t have….think about. These have to ring a bell (I am talking to myself, too..I have not been immune): Why did she get that job? I was WAY more qualified? Why do they always get the praise and awards? Wonder who they are sucking up to. She is so skinny, and dresses so nice. I bet she is a stuck up, snob.

And if you are feeling bad, the Bible has examples of these very types of things. We come from a long line of jealous peeps. Cain murdered his brother Abel because God liked his sacrifice better. Sarah sent Hagar away because she could have children and Sarah could not (after she schemed for the child..that’s a whole other story). And Jesus…come on, the Pharisees did everything they could to trick Jesus, because he was smarter and kinder. And well, Judas. Let’s not forget Jesus and Judas.

But we don’t have to stay jealous. Walking around and lacking love for another just because they were gifted differently. Given something you weren’t.

Live differently than you do, in a way you have no clue and are merely judging from appearance. Because yes, that car is nice…but it could be paid for. Yes, it would be nice to not work, but they could be in forced unemployment. And yes, I can attest…summers are nice to have off, but the time between August and June is oh-so-hard.

We may do different things we think are nice, but we all have God.

And while they may have more things. More awards. More whatever you may want here on earth. There is something God is really jealous of, too. His love.

You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. Exodus 20:5

Those other gods? You may consider them to be those golden statues people bowed down to in the Old Testament. But these days those idols are anything that keeps us from loving God fully. Because He wants ALL our love. And we can’t love Him fully if we are coveting our neighbor’s car, job status, new promotion, new accolades, or lifestyle. If we are striving for love from other things like money, fame, or people.

Turn your attentions to Him. Turn your envy to Him. Ask God to come and fill you with what you need and desire. He longs for this attention, and He wants ALL of you.

“Must be nice.”

Yes. Yes, it most certainly is.

WWJD: Kindness

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
    Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
    Write them deep within your heart. Proverbs 3:3, NLT

Kindness. What do we often think of when we think of random acts of kindness? Pretty words? Random gifts?

The second portion of 1 Corinthians 13:4 states that LOVE is kind. But think about it…can someone give really good gifts, and speak charming and prettied up words, and not have any loving motive behind them? Of course they can. Paul addresses this in the first three verses of that famous chapter, when he says: If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. 1 Corinthians 13:1,3, MSG

Yes. We can speak beautifully. We can give great gifts. And not be loving, or even very kind.

So then…what is kindness? What does it mean to express kindness in ways that show love to others?

According to Stephen and Alex Kendrick, authors of the book The Love Dare, “Kindness is love in action.” Action. How we SHOW kindness. Yes, it is how we speak, and what we give, but it is more than those things. It is how we make others feel. How we express love to others in what we DO. And it encompasses a number of things that sometimes have nothing to do with the words we say, or the things we can give with our money.

Kindness is also tenderness, which in other words is the care and concern for the welfare of another person. It is sensitivity to their needs. Compassion and warmth. We are not harsh when we speak, even if we have to correct. And let’s be real-kind people do have to correct, but they do so with a soft tone of voice; while speaking the truth.

Kindness is willingness, or goodwill and a desire to serve another to meet their needs, the ones we are sensitive to. It is going out of ones way to provide assistance, even if it may mean we have to put our desires to the side. It is not just giving money or material things, but giving of one’s time and attention.

Kindness moves. It doesn’t sit around and wait for someone to act first. To make the first move. “Well, I will show compassion and take care of his/her needs, when mine are taken care of.” It sees a need, and takes the initiative to meet it, whether that person asks or not. It hears of someone’s strife or heartache, and lends an ear whether that person seeks you out first or not. It gets off the couch and moves towards the hurting. Towards the broken. Towards the suffering. Towards the object of one’s concern and love-not away.

It’s like this story we have probably heard many times, one found in Luke 10:25-27. It’s the story of the Good Samaritan. We know the gist of the story. The headline today would read: “Jewish man harmed in vicious attack, and left for dead.” Two men walked by him. Upstanding men. One a priest, the other an assistant in the temple. Neither stopped to take care of him because it would inconvenience them. Surely thinking, “Oh, poor thing. He’s hurt. Sorry about that. But…it’s really not my concern. Nothing I can really do about it. Moving on with what I got to do today. Don’t really have time for this.”

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.” Luke 10: 34-35, NLT

A despised man. Who wasn’t even supposed to talk to a Jew. He was the example of kindness. Tenderness. Willingness. Initiative. Action.

Love.

So now the question is-which one are we? The one not willing to be inconvenienced or bothered with someone else’s trouble; or the one moving to act? To show kindness? To show love?

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” 1 John 3:18

Let’s not be rusty gates with what we believe are the words people want to hear, then doing the opposite. Lets move in love. Act in love. Show our love.

Remember-“Kindness is love in action,” so as that song mentioned long ago…perhaps it’s time for a little less talk and a lot more action. A lot more love. A lot more kindness.