Thursday, August 20, 2015

Unusual Kindness

In the reading schedule we are doing at church this year, we read the section today that describes the inhabitants on the island of Malta showing the Apostle Paul and his companions “unusual kindness.”  (Acts 28:2).  My immediate reaction?  I want do that…I want to show people “unusual kindness.” But what does that look like? I tried to remember times that others have showed me such unusual kindness. It didn’t take long to remember…

In 1998, my family attended a church reunion in Wichita Falls.  It was one of the rare Sunday’s that I took off from my normal preaching duties at the church I served in Woodward, OK at that time.  We were on our way home in our 1992 Chevy Suburban, when that high mileage SUV threw an engine rod.  We were in the middle of nowhere. I mean the sticks. The boondocks…There was no cell service on that stretch of rural Oklahoma road.  There we were with three little boys. Our youngest was two years old at the time.
A lady happened along fairly soon and offered to take us to her home in Clinton, OK.  She could have been ax-murderer for all I knew, but from all appearances she looked and sounded very normal.  We went to her home….And we soon discovered that she was caring for her dying mother with the assistance of hospice. I was stunned. This lady’s life was in an uproar. She taking care of her mother right there in her home! And she still chose to stop and help us late on a Sunday afternoon as darkness was about to fall.

I think what she did can be classified as “unusual kindness.”  When someone chooses to serve total strangers even when things in their life are far from perfect that automatically qualifies the kindness to be unusual.  It’s good to remember events from nearly 17 years ago. I wonder how many other lives that compassionate woman has touched since then.  My old Suburban has probably is probably fair game for spare parts in an auto salvage yard somewhere by now.  But we have not forgotten here kindness. 
When have you experienced “unusual kindness?”  How did it shape the way you treat others today?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Do YOU Feel Valued?

Every day on my way to work I am being tortured.  There are no breaks.  It happens every single day.  Some sadistic individual has placed a 1972 Chevy El Camino with a for sale sign right in my line of vision.  I can’t not look at it.  It is a beauty.  The body is perfect and I suspect the interior is equally flawless. I try not to think what is under the hood.  And I remind myself that it could be worse.  There could be a 1970 Pontiac GTO in similar condition parked in the same spot. 

I don’t dare get out of the car to inspect further, because I have a pretty good inkling what the asking price would be for such a beauty.  And naturally people would think I was terribly odd if I went up to the El Camino and told her how beautiful she is.  After examining her price-tag on the for-sale sign, I might even express to her that she is indeed priceless in my classic car loving mind. 

When I snap out of my self-induced classic car trance, I realize that people are more valuable than El-Caminos or GTO’s or even older model Camaro’s.  The people that we are blessed to associate with each day are truly priceless.  Even my dream car could not come close to comparing with the inherent value of the people that I love and care about.

I am consistently reminded that people often don’t feel valued.  And they certainly don’t view themselves as being priceless.  People feel devalued, demeaned, and cast aside.  A ministry colleague of mine in a distant city was recently terminated.  Church leaders gave him ample time to find a new place to minister. The bottom line is that they wanted someone else. He had not failed morally.  He was doing his job to the best of his ability.  The church simply wanted someone else.  They succeeded. He has moved on to a similar role in another state, but I suspect he feels devalued. Good ministers put their heart into their efforts. They make themselves vulnerable. And then they suffer the consequences.

I am determined to get my eyes off the El Camino and refocus on the people that I am blessed to associate with each day. I tend to be too pragmatic.  I thank people for something they have “done.”  That is going to cease for now. I am determined to express to others their inherent value as people.  I need to convey that I appreciate “them” and not just something they have done. 

There are a lot of good people serving behind the scenes.  I have friends that are taking 911 calls long after I fall asleep at night, and sending help to those in desperate need every single day of the year.  I wonder if they feel valued. I have friends placing their life on the line as they carry a badge and a sidearm. I know they are often devalued.  And I have friends working on an ambulance on the ground or in the air who are providing emergency medical services for those that are all too often unappreciative. Have I told them I value them?  And what about my colleagues in ministry?  The churches they serve may decide tomorrow that someone else could do their job better. As a seasoned veteran, I have a profound obligation to remind them of their value.

Now…as far as that sadist who put that El Camino in my line of vision….I have a few words for that person too!  Tell those that you love how priceless they are in your eyes. We never know when tomorrow could be too late.