Ten things I am thankful for and a few I’m not.

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10) That I don’t shop on black Friday.  Don’t know why anyone would put themselves through that pain when you can sleep in.  I personally find all the commercialism disgraceful to the holidays that surround it. Sorry to start with a Grumpy cat moment.

9) Being stupid.  If it wasn’t for my mistakes I’d have never learned.  I’d be more of an idiot than I am now.

8) People who make me think.  Whether these are professors, friends, authors etc… I am always glad to stretch my mind with new or different thoughts.  People who simply give the basic answers that seem to simply be programmed into their beliefs or thought bore me.  So the next time I ask you how you are feeling, tell me Squirrel! Or better yet, peanut butter.

7) Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Pie,  PB & J, Reese’s cups, Peanut butter cookies, Peanut butter chicken, and anything else that has peanut butter in.  I must give one “wag of the finger” to Dairy Queen.  They discontinued the Reese’s Piece’s Blizzard.  I can never forgive you.

6) Grace.  Not just my Grandma.  (Her name was Grace)  The Grace of God and the grace from others when I mess up is something I could never say thank you enough for.  It means so much to me that there are those that care so much.

5) My friends that are always there when I need you.  Those who listen to me, do things for me, have my back, and put up with my ……………  Ah there is so much I can put in that you put up with.    I don’t know what I would do without you.

4) My cats.  All 6 of them, Jack, Einstein, Spyder, Mao, Icky, and Rosie.  Though they wake me up at all hours of the night, fight over my lap, cost me mega amounts of money, eat or lick everything plastic, they bring me so much love.  How can you ever be angry when you have a cat curled up on your lap?

3) My family.  Even though we fight, have disappointments, differences in opinions, etc…  I still love you so much and care for you deeply.  I may not be the favorite (inside joke) but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is how special each and every one of you is to me.

2) My parents, who taught me so much and whom I am so like.  The older I get the more I think how much I am like them.  Especially like dad, corny jokes and all.  They gave me love for kids, reading, learning, God, and family among other things.  Without them I’d never have become the person that I am now.  Love you so much Mom and Dad!

1) My wife.  What can I say here?  She has been such a support in our 10 ½ years of marriage.  I’d be lost without her.  Even though she has been through so much physically and mentally over the past few years she has always been there for me.  She is the rattlesnake to my elephant.  Don’t think anyone else could have put up with me the way she has.  She certainly deserves a few Halos.  Love you!

Honorable mention:  My church family.  I have not been attending for very long, but you make me feel loved.  The Yankees, even though my wife is always glad when they are eliminated. My job, it is so much fun I can’t believe I get paid to work with those kids!

So what are you thankful for?

How hard is it to be kind?

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You must be the change you wish to see in the world.    Mahatma Gandhi

After I had written my first post about kindness, or the lack of it, I thought of my life and times when I was not so kind.  The first one that comes to me was an incident while I was in college.  I am a sarcastic person and with sarcasm often comes meanness.  Sarcasm often puts others down.  I feel it is because I had such low self esteem at the time I just wanted to make myself look better by making others look bad.  One day I was eating lunch with some friends and made some kind of sarcastic remark.  Several people laughed but Jen looked at me and told me how mean I could be.  I haven’t seen Jen since college, can’t even remember her last name, but her words stuck with me.  I wonder how many of my sarcastic words have stuck with others.  I have tried to cut down my sarcasm but I still have a long way to go.

I go for walks around my neighborhood.  Mostly for my health.    Sometimes this gives me opportunities to be kind to others.  I toss a stray ball back to some kids, help a gal corral her loose dog, or simply smile and say hello.  However, sometimes I just pass by opportunities to help someone fold up a canvass or tent that I can tell they are struggling with, helping someone lift something heavy into their pick up etc…  Then I feel guilty for not helping but if I go back it’s too late.  They have already accomplished the task.  What makes us some days willing to help and others unwilling?

I believe it is a daily choice.  Philippians 4: 8  and 9 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

We often quote verse eight, but the key is in verse nine.  Paul says that we need to put them into practice.  To make a new habit we cannot simply think about doing it, we actually have to do it.  Maybe that’s the hard part.  Our thoughts and actions must go together.  When I find myself faltering in areas, I try to consciously wake up thinking about changing.  When I do, I am able to find those opportunities to help others.  When I am not concentrating on helping others, I don’t.  Maybe God places those missed opportunities to remind me and you about what we really should be doing.

I could have easily gotten mad at Jen, when she told me that I was mean.  I could have ignored it and moved on.  After all, I really didn’t hang out with her that much anyway.  I don’t have to help people or be nice to them.  I could simply choose to go my own way.  However, I believe I am a better person than that and I believe you are too.

The Dalai Lama once said “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”  Since I have started to change my life from ignoring people to being involved with them I have gained self esteem.  I no longer have to put others down to make myself feel better.  Instead I lift them up and it lifts me up.  We get better together.

For those who struggle with similar issues, I encourage you to reach out to someone in need.  It will be well worth it.  A simple card, smile or opening of a door to start.  Small steps bring about big change.  I would love to hear your stories about how you made a simple difference.

Is it too hard to be kind?

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1 Colossians 3:11 & 12  Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Is it wrong to be kind, or is it too hard?  This may sound like a stupid question, but I’ve come across this several times recently.  I am not saying that I am perfect.  I certainly have missed times when I could have been nicer.  I’m trying to do better and I hope we can all look at ourselves on this issue.

One of my friends on facebook had posted a very negative picture of our president.  I thought it was a little distasteful and commented that no matter our political views we as Christians should try to be nicer and treat one another with love and respect.  Then friends of that person lambasted me for being of opposing political views and how this president was destroying America and how I was self-righteous for quoting Bible verses about treating people with love and kindness.  I was taken aback at how much hate was seemingly thrown in my direction for simply asking if we could be nicer.

This episode also reminded me of a church that my family once attended.  My family went through a very difficult time.  Within one year, we lost 4 family members, had a live power line fall on our car, and my wife was diagnosed with an immune disorder.  These seemed to be the highlights.  Every board meeting the pastor or other leaders asked how my family was doing.  I replied every time that we were hurting and having a hard time.  Several times during the church services one of us would talk about the pain that we were going through.  The response left us feeling empty.  Over the entire time my wife received 2 cards, and the church gave us a little money to help pay for the funerals.

This caused us a lot more hurt because we felt that people only seemed to care in words, because very few seemed to reach out to us beyond the times we saw them at church.  So, not too long after this we decided to leave the church and so I resigned from my position.  I told the pastor and church board it was because we needed to heal from everything that we went through. Although I don’t think the church meant to hurt us, we felt let down, unwanted, and unloved.  Later after we had left the church we tried to address these issues with leaders of the church but we felt like they simply blasted us by saying we were selfish, and liars among other things.  Again I was left asking, why is it hard to be nice?  (Some time later a few have tried to make things better).

As I write this I am home from work because of a car accident that has strained the lumbar muscle in my lower back.  My wife has an upper respiratory infection, plus some injuries from the accident.  A coworker of mine called to ask if they could do anything.  I told them that I didn’t know what they could do.  A few minutes later another call.  “I’m buying you diner, I’ll have it there at 5:00.”  Now that is nice.  What was so hard about stopping by a restaurant and bringing us dinner?  Kind people have now also brought us candy, bath salts, muscle ache pads, aspirin, another dinner on the way, raked our lawn etc. etc…  What made these people act this way?  Why did they reach out to us?

One person described those that I felt were not nice like this.  “In a worldview that is often black and white (concrete, dualist) and highly values in-group loyalty – you’re either with them or you’re against them. Your request for niceness was likely perceived as a lack of loyalty.” It’s not that I wasn’t loyal.  I REALLY thought people should simply be nice.  That is all.

This reminds me of the words in Matthew, 5:46 “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”  Christians are called to be different from the world.  Jesus tells us that even those people that you really hate are nice to their friends.  For the next couple chapters Jesus compares and contrasts how we should be. Then in chapter seven he brings his thoughts to a conclusion.   7: 12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” and  7:26 “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” (NIV)  seem to sum up his thoughts.  Do nice things to ALL people, not for rewards, but because you are following the will of God.  God will see you and that is the only reward that you need.

So I ask you, is it wrong to be kind?  Is it just too hard? Is Jesus asking too much from us? Or what is it that keeps us from doing what is right?