More Gratitude, More Kindness

The world could stand some more kindness. Our world would benefit from more gratitude.

Gratitude and kindness have preoccupied my mind the past few days. In the past week, God has shown me many things to be grateful for and revealed to me numerous acts of kindness. Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to share the Gospel with several hundred homeless men sheltering in Downtown Dallas at Union Gospel Mission. It was a great night filled with high energy and tons of emotion. Afterwards, I had the privilege of praying with dozens of men, some ready to receive Jesus as their Savior, others in need of healing and restoration through the power of prayer. Believers are not immune from the travesties of life. Being a Christian isn’t a cure-all from the ill-effects of living in a lost and fallen world. Yet, there’s lots to be grateful for.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

When I got home, a little after 9 pm, I shared the events with my lovely Sweet T. We were both energized by how the Spirit of God was moving in the lives of the men down at UGMD and how we were seeing God at work in our own lives. Around 10 pm, Sweet T went to bed, while I continued to unwind from all the excitement. Seeing God at work feels good. It is good to see the Lord working in the lives of those whom He loves. I was really stoked.

Then the phone rang.

Life Alert.

My Mom had fallen and was being transported to the hospital. In that moment, I was grateful for the technology and the people who could respond to my Mom’s cry for help. I marveled at the kindness of the paramedics that rushed to her aid in the darkness of night.

I was even more grateful for the kindness of my Mom’s friends who responded to Midnight calls for help. One of her lifelong friends even sat with her at the hospital, making sure Mom was well looked after and being taken care of—and not alone.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV

Sweet T and I discussed a plan of action, knowing that I would be gone several days. We worked through our checklist as I prepared to leave town to look after Mom.

I am grateful for my loving wife and her compassion and understanding. Our world had been rocked from a huge high to a big low. But in the darkness shone the lights of gratitude and kindness. That’s what gratitude and kindness do—they shed the light of Christ onto the darkest hours, giving us hope and confidence—the faith that God will work on our behalf, our ever-present help in times of trouble.

I’m in awe of the kindness of doctors, nurses and hospital staff who make things better for others. I’m grateful for their compassion and willingness to put their skills to use to help others. They never see people at their best. They always encounter people traversing through an unexpected valley, readily intervening on their behalf.

The past few days since my Mom’s big fall, I’ve experienced gratitude and witnessed kindness at whole new levels because of a great mix of family, friends, and strangers. Gratitude and kindness must surely be two ingredients comprising goodness. Humility must be rooted in gratitude and kindness. After all, it’s hard to be full of yourself standing amid goodness.

Mom is doing better since her fall. She improves every day. Yes, the long and winding road to full recovery is fairly involved and complicated. But this too shall pass…

God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

Tending To My Garden

In my uber-busy world, tending to my own garden is challenging. But, I’ve recently been reminded that it is best to focus on what God puts in front of me, rather than looking to see what tasty morsels might be on somebody else’s plate. Being content and grateful for what the Lord has given me to watch over is more difficult at times than it seems like it should be. Perhaps, that is simply human nature.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:15 (NIV)

Had the man, Adam, simply remained faithful to tending to the garden that the Lord had put him in charge of, his life and our lives might have played out differently. But even though God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden, Scripture tells us that they were not satisfied with this and their eyes and appetites wandered. They wanted more.

book-1210029_1920

Recall the story of James and John-the Sons of Thunder—in the Gospel of Mark?

Mark 10:35-45 (NIV) 35Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 37They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” 38“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39“We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” 41When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles LORD it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Scripture informs us that James and John had the nickname “Sons of Thunder”. Imagine that. Here are two of Christ’s closest disciples and Scripture refers to them like they are WWE Tag Team wrestlers akin to the Freebirds or the Legion of Doom.

Certainly, you don’t earn the name Sons of Thunder without reason. James and John were rough around the edges. They were colorful, amazing men. They weren’t afraid of a fight. Like some of us, they might even fancy picking one from time to time. Scripture shows us that they could be aggressive.

Along with that aggressiveness, as many of us know to well, comes a degree of insensitivity. Lack of tact. Overly direct. Not concerned with how our words or deeds might impact others.

You might recall that on one occasion, James and John wanted to call down the fire of heaven on a Samaritan village who did not seem to respond to the message Jesus preached.

Here in this passage, as Jesus speaks of His own impending death about how he would be betrayed and then handed over to the Gentiles to be mocked, spit upon, scourged, and ultimately killed, James and John the Sons of Thunder blurt out: “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask—Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

desk-601540_1920 edit

Tending to our garden is not something that always comes easy to us.

Pride and envy battle humility and gratitude, struggling for control of our heart, mind, and soul. If we remain humble and grateful, we have greater chances of walking faithfully on the journey God has laid out in front of us. Pride and envy convince us that “Our Will Be Done” instead of “God’s Will Be Done”.

Adam and Eve were shunned from the Garden, bestowing the curse of Sin upon all the generations of man that followed them. I’ll bet they wished when it was all said and done, that they had tended to their garden.

Through the New Testament Scripture, we see James and John transformed, becoming more like Christ, whom they spent every day with for 3 ½ years. Even so, their transformation did not happen overnight. But eventually they learned to tend to their garden.

How about you? Are you like me, struggling to keep your mind, heart, and soul focused on the work God has given you? Have you gotten so caught up in tending to other people’s gardens that you’ve neglected your own?

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Scripture teaches us “Therefore is anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come.”

Through Jesus Christ, you and I can be transformed, no longer defined by the sins and shortcomings of our past, but free as servants of God Almighty to prosper in all that we do.

It is a struggle we must endure. Being unfaithful to what God has provided us is no solution. It is a road that leads to no good. With Christ, all things are possible.  Be humble. Be grateful. Remain faithful.

Tend to your garden.

Prayer:

Father, Lord we love you. Help us tend to our garden. Empower us with the ability to be satisfied in that which you have provided for us and entrusted into our watch-care. Help us be faithful stewards of all that you have made us accountable for, remaining humble and grateful as we serve you and your Kingdom, for your glory, and for you honor, and for your praise. Amen. Amen.

books-2158737_1920-edit