I recently watched a TV comedy show in which one of the main characters, the husband, was asked by his wife to say five things that he liked about her. For men, we can instantly see the comedy potential in this premise. I’m sure the women are thinking that this is a brilliant bonding concept, but I digress. Predictably he struggles to come up with five things on his own but eventually, unconsciously, he does during the argument that follows. When we are forced to identify these types of things, we often freeze and draw blanks no matter who the subject is – a spouse, business partner, friend or family member. We never really understand how our words and actions affect those around us. What if your kind words were the only kind words that people hear in their lives? Would you go out of your way to speak them then?
There is a story called “The Blue Ribbon” that tells of a father who was given a blue ribbon by someone at work because they identified him as being important to them. He was the challenged to give the ribbon to someone else who was important to him. He struggled to find that one person, particularly at work and put the ribbon in his briefcase before heading home. Once he arrived home, he found his son sitting in his room as he walked by. He returned with the ribbon and gave it to his son, explaining what had happened that day. He explained that while their relationship hadn’t always been the greatest, he wanted him to know that he was special and important to him. The son started to break down uncontrollably. When he was able, he explained that he had been sitting there contemplating suicide because he thought that no one cared. Go out of your way today to speak a kind word to someone, you never know what your impact will be.
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25
There is a lot to be anxious about these days. I seem to be writing a lot about worry and anxiety but they are everywhere and can take over a person’s life. However, those strong in faith know to send those worries and fears to God in prayer. What about the other people in our lives who do not have the confidence or assurance to do that, what can we do to help them? Well placed kind words can mean a great deal to everyone we encounter. Last week we discussed compassion and leaving people feeling good after we see them. Consider this the warm up act for compassion. When we are simply nice, generous with ourselves and offer kind words to others, we will make a difference in people’s lives.
Jesus never spoke poorly about anyone, not even those trying to persecute and kill Him. He teaches us the real meaning of compassion. Jesus was always uplifting even in the face of terrible times. If we compare our lives to His, we have it pretty easy. Share your grace and peace with others as it has been shared with you. A kind word will cheer up an anxious heart.
In particular during these past two weeks, I’ve witnessed three people demonstrate what love is. We all say that we know when we find love it but so many of us can’t define it. Few of us are lucky enough to find that person, get married and stay married; we know love and express it in many ways. Lisa and I started dating 31 years ago this month (maybe even this week) and she has always shown me what love is. Her support of my career and of each step during my non-traditional education path, not to mention the thousands of dollars from our savings and she never said no. Not to mention the five houses we’ve had in three states because of my career. I could write all day about her but she isn’t one of examples. One is of a wife being by her husband’s side as he has his third brain tumor removed while being worried that she’ll won’t be able to meet the needs of her clients (she’s a sole proprietor), another is the best friend of our dear friend’s (Joe) wife who made sure that I knew about Joe’s retirement following his stroke 14 months ago. She also is there for Joe’s wife Kathy, to help her or to just listen because Joe needs constant care. Kathy says that everyone should have a friend just like her.
But the one most demonstrating love is Joe’s wife Kathy. We met them just over 27 years ago when Joe and I started to work together. They became great role models for Lisa and I about raising a family. Today, Joe is in a wheelchair and unable to care for himself. Kathy tirelessly cares for him and does so with a positive attitude and a smile on her face. Everyone that knows her will say that she is one of the strongest people you will ever meet. She has always been there for her friends when they had trouble. Her and Joe were there for us when our daughter was born prematurely at 27 weeks. She takes care of Joe with such love and care. She will even joke that this isn’t what she envisioned in retirement but she is grateful for what she has. To me, this is what Love is.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. 1 John 3:16
To be honest, this devotion is not ending the way I envisioned when I started it. So, what is love? I believe that we recognize love because we have seen it demonstrated to us. People like Kathy learned about love from someone else, who learned it from someone else and so on. The first real show of love came from God and has been written for us in the Old Testament. God continued to fight for His people, protect them and still cared for them even when they disobeyed. Instead of turning to anger for rejecting His commandments, God turned to Love and sent us His Son; a savior to give us all a chance to be with Him.
During His ministry, Jesus taught us about Love. He asked for forgiveness of the Soldiers crucifying Him because they did not know what they were doing. Jesus taught us to take care of each other and serve one another not ourselves. He knew what was happening to Him and yet He still gave His life for us. He could have pushed the “Easy Button” and went somewhere else to avoid His death, He didn’t. The friends that I’ve seen over these past two weeks could have found another way to deal with their situations but they didn’t, there are plenty of “Easy Buttons” to push these days. They didn’t because they all know what real Love is. We don’t know why Joe had his stroke or why my other friend’s husband has had three brain tumors, but God is showing us what love is through these amazing people.
I usually try to stick to one subject at a time but this week, these two seemed to go hand and hand – Love and Hate. Frank Sinatra sang a song made popular by the TV show “Married with Children” called Love and Marriage. The words tell us that “they go together like a horse and carriage” and often, so do the words Love and Hate. We throw them around as we generalize most things in our lives; “I love football” or “I hate spinach”. It’s when we use these words towards people that things change. Love and Hate become very powerful words that can change a situation in the blink of an eye. For anyone dating, the first time you say “I love you” is pretty powerful. The phrase is either repeated back to you in affirmation or left unreturned like an envelop with no forwarding address. The word hate is just as powerful when it’s directed at a person; to be told you are hated goes right to the core of your soul. We don’t mind if people don’t like us but no one wants to be hated. I’m not going to pretend that we will go around our lives “loving” everything or everyone but the act of love can be just as meaningful. I would submit that the “act of love” involves compassion, understanding, empathy, commitment and building a sense of community (being one). Today, we need more Love, less Hate. Use this time of the year when people are more open to acts of kindness to be more loving. Spread the joy of this season with the ones you know and then spread it with those you don’t. Say hi to someone at church for the first time, step in and help someone at work who isn’t expecting it, sit and listen to someone who needs a friend or be forgiving of past mistakes. This is the season of Love, so go out and spread the joy.
“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs” Proverbs 10:12 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9
I thought that I would share closely related verses this week since they both talk about Love and Hate. This is the last week of Advent; the week before we celebrate the birth of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ and these verses remind us of the Love that God has for us. God had so many opportunities to demonstrate his contempt with us and turn toward hate. We continued to deny Him and we disobeyed His laws until He finally took things in His own hands and sent us a Savior. He showed us the ultimate form of Love by sending His one and only Son to die for our sins. It was all Love. God’s inspired word is found in the bible, which teaches us that hatred stirs dissension. We’ve often heard about “the company we keep” and if we are around those that hate, we too soon will. We are encouraged to stay by what is good and to remember that love covers all. The wrongs of this world were covered by God’s love for us through Jesus Christ, His Son and our savior. His love is sincere and we must cling to that because it is good and righteous. No matter what you have done or what you have thought, God loves you and wants eternal life with all of His children who believe. Cling to God and nothing can separate you.