Quick to do good

Recently I set out on a secret helping mission — the kind where you surprise someone with something they need or secretly do something to help. Secret helping missions are fun.

But this time I was on the bus home, frustrated because my mission had failed. I had a great idea, set out to do it, and it just didn’t pan out. I texted another friend, expressing my frustration and she replied, “So what do you think about the adage ‘It’s the thought that counts’?”

I replied: “Not sure. I think it’s dumb I guess.”

person using smartphone(photo by Priscilla Du Preez)

Because it’s not really the thought that counts, is it? That day on the bus home it wasn’t my thought that counted because the idea in my head meant nothing to the friend I was trying to help.

I’ve said it plenty myself. “Oh well, it’s the thought that counts,” I say when I have a great idea, try to do it, and it just doesn’t work out. It’s the thought that counts.

Or is is the trying that counts?

Good thoughts that don’t turn into action don’t count for much. In the end all the good ideas in the world do nothing to bring comfort, to relieve pain, to encourage, to help, to build up.

Thoughts turned into actions are what count, even if the effort isn’t a perfect, raging success. The trying is what counts. The obedience to do the good thing is what counts. My heart is changed and filled and, if all goes well, the people around me are changed as well.

“Every day you can do one thing you you wish you could do for everyone. We will be known for our actual fruits, not the intentions of our imaginations.” – Ann Voskamp

person washing fork(photo by Catt Liu)

It’s about the trying, the showing up, the being there, the doing, the putting thoughts into actions, even if those attempts don’t have a 100% success rate. Sometimes helping is awkward. Sometimes we don’t know what to say. It’s okay. The showing up is what matters.

A few months ago I was thinking and praying a lot about what it would mean for me to be quick to do good. Quick to help. Quick to love. Quick to serve. So that if an idea pops into my head, I won’t spend time thinking about it, coming up with why it’s inconvenient, why I don’t have time, or why it would be awkward (and my selfish heart is very good at that!).

Instead, I want to learn how to jump into action, to get right to the good that God put in my mind to do. I want to learn how to let the love of Jesus quickly compel me into action. I want to be quick to be selfless. Quick to go on lots of fun, secret helping missions.

That’s what counts, isn’t it? Being ready to do good, quick to act, efficient at turning thoughts into actions. Quick to serve and make it fun, even if it’s a little messy.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

 

 

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the here-and-now you

Your worth has nothing to do with what you will become. I grew up watching Mister Rogers and had the chance to see him again when I saw the movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Mister Rogers unequivocally made children feel appreciated, but people can be appreciated for all sorts of reasons. The movie notes that, “In this country, children are appreciated for what they will be.” It’s more true than not, isn’t it? We say we should invest in children because they’re the future leaders and because they will be the next generation responsible for our planet and because we never know which child is destined to become the next great president or musician. All of it is true – we are training up our children to be the next leaders, to care well for our planet, and we certainly don’t know which of the little hands we hold will be the next to change the world. Those things aren’t meaningless but they aren’t the main reasons we should invest into children. Everyone has the tendency to appreciate other people for who they will become or what they will do and we often appreciate or give value to children for who they will become in the future. Instead, can we appreciate them for who they are now, no strings attached, not looking ahead to what they will offer or the greatness they will contribute? Their future potential is deeply valuable and worthy of investment but it is not their worth. We look forward with great expectation to what these little twinkling eyes will one day become, but their future self is not why we love them now. We love them because they are important as the humans they are now, just as every human is important as they are. We can encourage and invest and cheer each other on so we do reach our potential (as we should) while at the same time acknowledging the innate value and importance that remains no matter what the future has for us. We push each other on toward the best we can be, not because we love only that future version but because we love the here-and-now version.

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We look forward with great expectation to what these little twinkling eyes will one day become, but their future self is not why we love them now. We love them because they are important as the humans they are now, just as every human is important as they are.

unfailing love

Psalm 107 begins with: “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story” (Psalm 107:2). In this Psalm, stories of the redeemed are told: Vignettes of people in the struggles of life, brought on by circumstances, other people, or themselves. First a wandering, homeless people, by no fault of their own, later a people bound in darkness, chained by their own rebellion and the choosing of their own plans over God’s plans. And at the end of each situation, there is a cry, a response, and a reminder. The cry repeated over and over again: “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble.” The response repeated over and over: “… and he saved them from their distress.” The reminder over and over: “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”

It doesn’t always appear that He is doing “wonderful deeds” for us and sometimes I can’t see His “unfailing love.” And I struggle with both. I’ve doubted God’s existence as well as His love and goodness. Other times, with razor-sharp vision I see His love flying at me from all directions and it’s overwhelming and fills me with joy and gratitude. It’s as if I can’t figure out why I couldn’t see the love before. Could it be that part of Christianity, this thing we call following Jesus Christ, is the healing of a blindness? In the severance of the relationship with God that we were created for, we lost our vision, our concept of love and our capacity for it. We don’t need to be good or  successful to earn love – we need our blindness to be healed, we need Jesus to make us alive. We don’t know how to recognize, much less accept, real love when we see it. Could it be that Christianity is the recovering of a sight that allows us to see an entirely different reality, a previously incomprehensible relationship? The more my eyes are healed and my vision restored, the more I see and feel Jesus’ unfailing love, and for that I (along with Psalm 107) give thanks!

I have plenty of my own stories of God’s unfailing love – I see His love in deeply personal acts that are specific to me and my life circumstances. Recently I feel as though I see them with a vision that is clearer than ever before. I detect love in the gifts of things given as well as things taken away. I see His love as He bends into my sphere of existence and whispers in ways that my unique heart understands: “I am taking care of your soul.” I don’t just know that he cares, I feel the care, because God is personal. And this is in addition to the definitive moment in history when God came as Jesus to earth to create a way for us to be healed and made whole by grace, apart from any works or merit of our own. This unfailing love is changing me. God is just giving it to me because He delights in me, and that is changing me.

Psalm 107 began by telling us to tell our stories of redemption, our stories of recovered sight and of healed souls that are brought back into relationship with their Maker. The Psalm ends with an encouragement: “Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.” So let us tell the stories of struggle and crying out, of the God who saves through his unfailing love. Tell those stories to each other and to yourself, then ponder them. When dark days come and we cannot feel His care and love, do not let your heart forget. Behold how He loves you. Be wise and think about – wrap your heart around – the great and steadfast love of God. Ask him for healed eyes to see it.

“Now I am hidden
In the safety of your love
I trust your heart and your intentions

You are my vision
My reason for living
Your kindness leads me to repentance
I can’t explain it
This sweet assurance
But I’ve never known this kind of friend

I want to seek you first
I want to love you more
I want to give you the honor you deserve
So I bow before you
I am overcome by the beauty of this perfect love.”

-United Pursuit

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I can’t wrap my mind around what’s happening in my own country. The hatred and the rage and confusion puts cracks in my heart. It hurts to see your country nursing collective wounds. I don’t understand the terror in Barcelona, Spain. Someone intended for that blood to be on the streets. It’s frightening to listen to the video messages that promise more attacks on Spanish soil. There’s pain all around us. I feel the hardships of those I love and work through my own issues and hurts – the brokenness I see inside myself. My brokenness that breaks other people. And the broken people around me who break other people. It all hurts me and angers me.

“That hurt and anger you feel in a fallen world? It’s not because something is wrong with you. It’s because something is right with you.” – Timothy Keller

Feel the hurt over brokenness and the anger at injustice. If we add the weight of the brokenness and hurt in our own hearts to the pain we see everywhere we turn? My friend was right when she told me “That’s a lot for a heart to carry.” We all have a lot to carry in our hearts. There’s a physical weight in our chest. What can I do with it? Run it out, sweat it out, pray it out, cry it out. Then let love and a clear head drive my actions. I just want to sit in brokenhearted prayer before I do anything else. “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection” (Psalm 91:4).

Because of Psalm 92, I’ve been trying to get into two habits: every morning meditating on and reminding myself of the Lord’s love, and every night meditating on and recounting to myself his faithfulness.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
    and your faithfulness by night,
Psalm 92:1-2

A morning reminder of his steadfast love is my armor for the day – it reminds me of my identity and sends me out as a beloved daughter, sure of where my identity, peace, and joy come from. There is no need to armor myself with hardness toward the world or a “you can’t touch me” attitude just to make it through the day. If I belong to Christ, I am among “those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved” (Colossians 3:12). The surety of his love can carry me through the day and can be my constant throughout the unexpected ups and downs.

A nighttime recounting of his faithfulness is my peace and stability for the night – after the day is done, my mind may be full of thoughts and anxiety and my shoulders might carry the stress of the day. By reminding myself of God’s previous faithfulness in my life, in the lives of those around me, and as recorded in the Bible, I can rest and entrust myself and every concern I have to his proven character. After good days, I remember his faithfulness and thank him for the gifts. After bad days, I remember his faithfulness and trust him with what’s to come. He is faithful and he does not change.

 

 

Love me loudly 

She wrote back, “Thank you. I just need to be loved extra loud sometimes.” As if we don’t all need to be loved extra loud sometimes. It’s what friends do.

More love, for everyone, always. Even if it’s awkward or hard. No one ever needs less love, they may just need it in a different way.

Sometimes we need to be loved loudly, with truthful words that carry weight and come with a shake to the shoulders. Sometimes we need to be loved softly and gently, with tenderness that recognizes our fragility.

We breathe and give grace and things called chances: “I don’t require that you hit a home run. I just want you to step up to the plate.” Perfection is not what we want.

Love me loudly, because I need hard truths.
Love me softly, because my heart is tender.
Love me without conditions, because none of us can earn love.
Love me with your arms, because I am human.
Love me with sacrifice, because I know not my worth.
Love me with honor, because I am a prized possession.
Love me with words, because I cannot read your mind.
Love me despite your anger, because love is above emotions.
Love me through service, because we were made to find joy in serving one another.
Love me with your presence, because we weren’t meant to do life alone.
Love me out of the reservoir of love in Jesus Christ, because I know no other source of true love.