Posts Tagged ‘love

23
Oct
21

The Inexhaustible Supply Chain

Our new couch is finally HERE! 

Hip Hip HOORAY!

Last week Joan and I were finally able to get rid of that old couch – the one that was meant for a MUCH larger living room – so that we could engage in a little “furniture right-sizing.” 

And it only took EIGHT MONTHS. 

That’s right. We originally ordered our couch in early February 2021. And it finally arrived earlier this month… you know, the month named “October.”

First there was the infamous world-wide FOAM shortage. You remember that one, right? It was when workers in the foam rubber industry all decided to bounce at the same time. (Get it? Bounce?)

After the foam crisis, the world was suddenly gripped by the sky-rocketing price of lumber. I’m sure they could have gone ahead and produced our couch as planned, but they would have had to triple the asking price and then listen to our wretched hue and cry.

Once the rubber and lumber crises settled down, of course, the world’s supply of everything was stuck 20-deep on container ships in the Port of Los Angeles harbor, waiting to unload. First there weren’t enough longshoremen (longshorepersons?). Then all truck drivers decided to leave the profession on the same day. 

After that, I’m not sure what happened. But whatever it was, it was serious enough to keep the new Brown family couch jammed up in Delivery Limbo until just last week.

Please understand… I am not trying to trivialize the global supply-chain constipation problem the world is currently facing. Waiting eight months for a couch was an inconvenience, but incredibly minor in the grand scheme of things. Lots of people are dealing with much worse difficulties than living with a couch that is too big for their living room. 

In the midst of it all, I discovered that our trifling encounter with the Supply Chain Soap Opera of 2021 DID provide several teachable moments.

First, it was yet another reminder of the incredible interconnectedness of human life on Planet Earth. We often – particularly those of us living in the U.S. of A. – like to think of ourselves as independent, autonomous, utterly self-sufficient organisms, needing no one and no thing to thrive. And yet, the reality is that LIFE is connected to LIFE. I depend on YOU, and YOU depend on me for a whole host of things. 

Actually, it is the way God drew it up. Back there at the Beginning of All Things, God created all of us and said, “Relationship! Hey, y’all! It’s all about RELATIONSHIP! You humans – created in my image, after all – will not be full, complete beings unless you find ways to regularly, compassionately, and deeply CONNECT with one another. In fact, when you depend on ME and EACH OTHER, you will live life as I intend you to.”

Did it take a complete meltdown of the U.S. supply chain to wake us up to the reality of our interconnectedness? Maybe not. Maybe we can just call it an unforeseen byproduct.

This eight-month delivery time also helped me realize that while couches, semi-conductors, soccer balls, food processors, lawn mowers, and playing cards might all be in short supply these days, there is one vital commodity the world will never run out of: 

We will never, CAN never exhaust God’s supply of love and grace. That’s because the “supply chain” that produces it never runs dry, never clogs up, never constricts, never contracts. In the history of the world, there has never been a strike in God’s grace factory.

You might say, in fact, that the more grace we “consume,” the greater the supply. 

And the price – unlike that of our new couch – is always right. The bill has been marked “Paid in Full by Jesus.”

HALLELUJAH!

Abundant blessings;

30
Jul
21

Silent Encouragement

Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area

One ritual that must be observed as part of any visit to the town of Pacific City, Oregon is The Climb.

That is, The Climb to the top of the giant sand dune at Cape Kiwanda (pictured here).

I have done it several times before and was ready (or so I thought) to do it again on this visit.

Reliable sources tell me it is only 240 feet from the base to the top of that big dune. The legs and feet actually making the climb tell me it is more like 1.5 miles.

And so, early on that Monday morning, my brothers and I set out to make The Climb. As we all expected, Eric – the youngest and fittest brother – was the first one to the top. Somewhat surprisingly, Douglas, the brother who has recently picked up the smoking habit again, made it up in second place. Alan was third, while I was struggling mightily, far behind the others.

Although I have been dealing with acute lower back pain since early May, my back was not the problem. The problem was my leg strength and overall stamina. 

You see, the gym and I have been estranged since my back trouble began. And so as I strained to put one foot in front of the other, that frosty relationship began taking a serious toll.  

Crawling up on my hands and knees worked for a while. It got me as far as the little rock ledge you see there in the photo. As I attained that ledge, however, I turned to myself and said, “OK. That’s it. That’s as far as I can possibly go. I will just sit here and wait for the brothers. I will head back down when they are ready.”

After a few minutes of sitting on the ledge, wheezing, and looking out at the view, I saw that Eric had arrived. He plopped right down beside me. 

Eric glanced over and said, “Hey!”

I looked at him and somehow managed to croak out my own, “Hey” in reply.

And then, for the next several minutes we just sat there in silence, admiring the view. Eric didn’t coax. He didn’t cajole. He didn’t remind me that he and the other bros were waiting for me to gather my strength and join them at the top of the dune.

He just sat with me. Silently.

And waited. 

And then, after a bit more time sitting there like that together, I decided it was time to rally myself and complete The Climb. 

Which I did.

Thinking back, I realized Eric gave me an incredible gift up there on that rock ledge. For one thing, he gave me the gift of silent encouragement. He also gave me the gift of non-judgmental support

And somehow – without the benefit of a single seminary class on pastoral care – Eric blessed me with the gift of presence, right there in my moment of need. 

He taught me – by his example – how to really BE WITH someone who is going through a tough time. And because of the way he went about it, I felt as if the victory of attaining the summit of the dune was completely MINE to claim.

All throughout the Bible, we are shown that God is the God of healing PRESENCE. In Genesis, God says to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:3, NRSV). In the last part of God’s speech to Moses from the burning bush, God says, I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you…” (Exodus 3:12, NRSV).

And of course, we remember the words Jesus spoke to his disciples at the top of that mountain in Galilee, after his crucifixion and resurrection; “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, NRSV).

All I can say is, thanks a lot, bro. Thank you for reminding me of the amazing power that a silent, non-judging presence can be for someone who has come to the end of their rope. 

I will be more than happy to return the favor, if and when the time comes.

Abundant blessings;

27
Jul
21

Particles of Wonder

Last weekend Joan and I went to the mountains.

It was glorious. It was majestic. It was beautiful. It was awe-inspiring.

It was a breath-taking reminder of the splendor of God’s creation. It drove me to my knees in a grateful prayer of thanksgiving and humility, reminding me of my smallness and God’s greatness.

Then this weekend we went to the Oregon coast.

It was glorious. It was majestic. It was beautiful. It was awe-inspiring.

It was a breath-taking reminder of the splendor of God’s creation. It drove me to my knees in a grateful prayer of thanksgiving and humility, reminding me of my smallness and God’s greatness.

Earlier this month, American billionaires went into space.

When they got back, they said the experience was glorious… majestic… beautiful… awe-inspiring. I suspect the experience also provided them with a vivid reminder of God’s creative genius and majesty and the smallness of human beings, though I did not hear that sentiment spoken out loud.

And of course, all of that is true. God’s creation reveals awe, majesty, splendor, and wonder. Paul makes this exact point in his letter to the Romans when he says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…” (Romans 1:20, NRSV). 

My Love!

The Psalmist somehow finds the right words to say the same thing in the 8th Psalm: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4, NRSV).

 As true as all of that might be, all that praise and palaver misses a central, glaring truth. And that truth is this: we don’t need to go to the mountains, or to the ocean, or to the limits of space to find grandeur or reminders of God’s creative genius.

All of that resides right there in the eyes of the person sitting across the table from you.

Awe is there too, coursing through the veins of that Starbucks barista, that bus driver, that TSA worker, that preschool teacher, that landscaper, and that barber you visit every fourth week.

I would venture to say that there is just as much mystery, splendor, majesty, and sheer amazingness inside the skin of your brother or sister as you can see at the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Easily.

And so, with that in mind, I offer this prayer: “Lord, today I pray that you would remind me of the on-going miracle of the universe you have created. Help me never gloss over the grandeur that can be found in every single particle of your Creation… especially the people-shaped particles.”

AMEN

Abundant blessings;

06
Jul
21

What’s At the Heart

I love Hud.

Uncle Hud, in action

True confession time: at first, I did NOT love Hud. At all.

Hud (or Uncle Hud) is the name Kansas City Royals fans have given to Rex Hudler – the  guy who does play-by-play of Royals games on TV. 

Uncle Hud is definitely an acquired taste. 

Honestly, when he first started broadcasting baseball games for the Royals, I thought Hud was a dud. He is justifiably famous for a long string of “Hud-isms.” That is, words and phrases that pop effortlessly out of his mouth during a game that leave most listeners scratching their heads and saying, “WHAAAAAATT?”

Some examples:

  • How about a doink, a bloop, or a blast right here.
  • Players, really, are property.
  • I say, “Bruce, I watch you chew that gum, man. It’s amazing how you chomp that thing!”
  • I get hungry when you throw that accent out there!
  • I had a license at one time, but they’ve taken it from me.
  • That had too much hair on it.
  • Be a fountain, not a drain
  • Oh, that was nice. How ‘bout just a thing. Throw a little thing out there, Moose.
  • He wants to try to shoot that hole anywhere. Any hole.
  • Did you know that’s a video game now? Angry Birds?
  • Maybe Billy can wake those ducks up.
  • That’s not just a circle change! He curls that thing all the way up into a little donut!
  • He brings a lunch pail to work, even though he probably really doesn’t.
  • Everything went well but the loss.
  • His teammates call him Wader. I’ll say! Wader, check please!

True fans will also recount Uncle Hud’s live, on-air, in-game debate with Ryan Lefebvre – his broadcast partner – about whether or not the moon is a planet.

Hud arrived in the KC broadcast booth in 2012. The first strike against him was that he came from California… never a plus with Kansas Citians. Strike two was that he came to replace a beloved and long-time KC baseball announcing legend. 

The third – and final – strike for most people was the list I just showed you above. 

But here it is, July 6, 2021, and Uncle Hud is still behind the microphone, broadcasting every home and away game for the stumbling, fourth-place Kansas City Royals. 

The thing that turned most doubters (I’ll admit, including me) into believers can be summed up in one word: 

LOVE

Hud LOVES the game of baseball. In fact, he is regularly effusive, and gooey, and downright mooshy about his love of the game. During every game he keeps a baseball with him… spinning it in his fingers and bouncing it back and forth from one hand to the other as he describes a perfect 6-4-3 double play.

His devotion to the history, the traditions, the nuances, the aura, and the rules of the game borders on religious reverence. Probably because he spent 20 years – divided between six different Major League teams, including the Japanese League – playing The Great Game.

Hud LOVES the Kansas City community.

He LOVES his wife and his four children and rarely passes up an opportunity to talk about them… whether it is pertinent to the moment or not.

Hud LOVES his broadcast partners, the Royals organization, the fans who write him letters (positive or not), the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (located in Kansas City), the weather, the visiting team, the umpiring crew, the off-season, the chair he sits in…

… in fact, there really does not seem to be anything Rex Hudler doesn’t love in this wide world… with the possible exception of mean, unloving people. 

And so, in return, the people of Kansas City have finally come to love Uncle Hud…

[… well, most of them, anyway.]

I take particular encouragement from Hud’s story because – in a way – it is my story. During my career as a pastor, I screwed up a lot of things. I committed a lot of verbal gaffes. I slighted people I didn’t intend to slight. I missed deadlines. I overcommitted. I had bad ideas. I failed to follow through on commitments. I occasionally employed shaky theology. 

But despite my myriad flaws and black marks, I tried to keep LOVE at the heart of everything I did. 

Personally, I am counting on the truth of the verse in 1 Peter that says, “… for love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8, NRSV). 

Maybe you are, too.

Abundant blessings;

19
May
21

Tennis anyone?

Watch out for his wicked backhand!

I am not a huge tennis fan, but I do love watching a good, sustained, competitive tennis volley. Each player is moving to the ball… returning their opponent’s shot with confidence… probing to find the perfect angle to sneak the ball past the opponent… hustling to get in position for the return shot…

It reminds me of a few conversations I’ve had lately.

I am sure you know what I’m talking about. The settings are eerily similar; first, there is something in play, only in the case of the conversation it is a Topic of Mutual Interest (TMI for short) instead of a tennis ball. Second, instead of high-performance rackets, the combatants are wielding Perceptions

Custom-built, finely tuned Perceptions

Back and forth flies the TMI, vigorously batted from one side to the other. Sweat begins dripping down the face of each player as they grunt with the exertion of each stroke. Finally, one player breaks through and hits a screaming, utterly unreturnable shot past the flagging defenses of the person on the other side.

Game. Set. Match. On one side, a winner. On the other, a sad, deflated loser.

Flipping back to the tennis setting, we almost always experience great joy and satisfaction when we are the one standing on the winning side of the net. But when we shift our focus to the playing field of the person-to-person conversation, that moment of victory can sometimes ring a little hollow, can’t it?  

 Let’s all confess this right now, in unison: “I LIKE TO BE RIGHT!”

This is certainly true of me. Anytime a person makes a statement that exhibits deep, factual flaws [statements like, for example, “This whole COVID thing is a sham,” or “I’m really not sure these vaccines are safe, so I’m not getting one.” You know… dumb stuff like that] I feel a compulsion to rush in and set the record straight by lobbing a truth bomb and blowing away such blatant tomfoolery. 

But is that always needed? Are there times when there are higher values to uphold than factual correctness?

The Bible speaks frequently about the need to be “righteous,” (also translated as “right”).  By my quick count, the Good Book uses the words “righteous” or “righteousness” a total of 493 times. God is regularly quoted as saying – in effect – “It’s got to be MY way or the HIGHWAY.”

Jesus’ take on righteousness, in contrast, is markedly different than the one we find in the Old Testament. His call was for a right adherence to not necessarily all 613 commandments of the Torah, but to the Two Great Commandments: love God and love your neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-40, NRSV). 

Here is what Jesus has to say about the relationship of LOVE and RIGHTEOUSNESS, as he quotes Proverbs 21:3: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13, NRSV).

Being so brash as to interpret Jesus’ direct words to you, he seems to be saying here that he is more concerned with right RELATIONSHIP rather than factual or scriptural rightness. In other words, I think Jesus would be totally cool with you if – while stumbling to quote a passage of scripture accurately – you fed a hungry person. 

Which brings me back to my original question; are there times when you and I need to adhere to a higher value than our need to be right all the time? 

If you are married, you already know the answer to this one.

If you are NOT married, the answer is: YES…. there absolutely are times when you need to bite your tongue, refusing to return that shot for the sake of the relationship. 

Much easier said than done, I’m afraid. 

Abundant blessings;

07
May
21

Listening to The Voice

“I love you,” she said.

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She paused. And then added, “Always have… always will.”

And although he’d heard those words from her thousands of times during the 24 years of their relationship, it was different this time.

That word – aimed squarely at HIM – set off little vibrations at the center of his spine… Vibrations that rippled up, down, and out through his toes and his fingertips. 

It was like he was hearing it fresh and new… in a way he had never heard it before. 

It jolted him.

It excited him.

And frankly, it also scared him a little.

He raised his chin. Her eyes met his. And stayed there. Unwavering… Soft… Steady.

He walked through the door she had opened and tumbled headfirst into something wild and holy and fresh.

In that moment, she welcomed him into a place of DEVOTION. 

In her eyes he saw COMMITMENT. 

In her demeanor he felt the full weight of UNCONDITIONALITY.

As he gazed, frozen and utterly moonstruck, fear melted… purpose congealed… doubt dissolved.

“THIS!” he whispered. “This.”

His arms stopped flailing. His legs churned no more. His feet landed on bedrock and stuck.

Homesick no longer, he knew he had arrived… nestled finally in the place where he had always belonged.

As he looked around, The Voice spoke. It came from inside and outside at the same time. It enveloped and caressed him and said, “This is all for you, yes. Every bit of it. But you need to know you did nothing to earn it. True, it is your birthright. But it is also the birthright of every person who has ever lived.”

The Voice continued; “As you stand there, soaking in the reassurance of a love that will not let you go, please know this: the buttery soft blanket you now feel wrapped around your shoulders is also the very foundation of the world. It is the substratum of life itself. It is the Petri dish from which All of Creation grew.”

“When you love, we connect. When you fail or refuse to love, you summon the Void.”

“I thought that my dying for you would add enough emphasis to my message that it would prove the point [see, for example, The Gospel According to John, chapter 3, verse 16]. 

“Clearly, it didn’t.”

“So now the task is yours. Go forth and give. Give love. Give life. Stand on the foundation I’ve provided and don’t expect anything in return.” 

“Do this, my son, ‘… And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’” (Philippians 4:7 NRSV).

Abundant blessings;

10
Mar
21

Check Your Fear

Every morning, right before Patrick the dog and I head out on our morning walk, I check the temperature outside. I usually do that by pulling out my iPhone and saying, “Hey Sirii… what’s the temperature?”

Secure with Sirii’s answer, I then know what kind of coat to put on. Or whether.

I also like to check the humidity, the likelihood of precipitation, and maybe even the barometric pressure if I can.

But there is something else I should check every morning just as religiously… and so should you.

Before setting out in the morning I also need to check my Fear-O-Meter. That is, I need to ask – and honestly answer – the question, “How big of a role is fear playing in my life today?”

It is an easier question to answer than you might imagine at first. There are a few readily identifiable “tells” that will tip you off to the level of fear you carry on any given day.

For example, I can check and see how much energy am I spending DEFENDING myself. Am I doing a lot of work staking out a position – on any given topic – and then building impenetrable bulwarks of RIGHTNESS around that position? [The fact is, most forms of social media offer us nearly limitless opportunities to engage in this very fear-based defensive activity, don’t they?]

Or I can quickly measure my fear index by calibrating the amount of weight I am giving to others’ opinions of me… and how much I am allowing those opinions to shape my words, actions, or wardrobe. 

I can also choose to come at the question from the other side. I can choose to measure my fear using The Jesus Scale. The Jesus Scale was obviously developed by Jesus (duh!!), but was eloquently articulated some 70 years later by John the Evangelizer. John said, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18, NRSV).

In other words, the more my daily thoughts and actions are driven by LOVE, the lower the reading on my FEAR-O-METER will be. The converse is also true… the higher my level of fear, the less my life will be driven by love.

I can also tell when fear is running my show when I try to recruit you to join me here in Fearsylvania, USA. I will usually start by saying something like, “Well, if you’re not afraid, you’re just not paying attention.” 

There are plenty of reasons to look around and declare that we live in scary times, aren’t there? I mean, just look at our current American political situation; look what THEY are trying to do to US!

Look at the environment… look at the world’s geopolitical muddle… look at the tattered state of our ethical and moral framework… look at the sorry state of the NFC East, for crying out loud! [OK, sorry… superfluous and impertinent football reference there. Unnecessary. Irrelevant. Truth.]

It is all enough to send the Fear-O-Meter quivering into the red zone!

But here is the thing: Yes… all of that scary stuff is true. All of it is cause for concern. But each of us has to ask: is IT going to be the thing that shapes the way I live today? Or am I going to choose to cast out that fear with Christ-like love?

It’s a choice that is available to all of us, every day.

Abundant blessings;

25
Feb
21

Knowing You… Loving You

They know me so well.

” No endorsement of this product should be implied from this ad.

They know I drive a 2009 Nissan Altima.

They know I play the guitar. (Fortunately, they aren’t terribly clued in about my fumbling, stumbling skill level).

They know I am a grandfather.

They know I originally hail from Hilliard, Ohio. 

They are intimately familiar with my on-line purchasing habits, regularly offering me similar items at lower prices (and better quality). 

They know my political persuasions, my religious preferences, my sexual orientation, and my favored color palette. 

Heck, the marketing trolls of the internet somehow even know that I have chronic right shoulder pain and occasionally (when I eat too late) experience nighttime bouts of acid reflux … a fact I have only ever discussed with Joan behind our closed bedroom door. 

“How is it possible…” I ask, shaking my fist toward the heavens, “… that such total, uncaring strangers know me so WELL?”

But we all know the answer to that question, don’t we? This kind of deep, granular-level reconnaissance on each one of us is today’s coin of the realm. 

Nothing is hidden from BIG DATA. BIG DATA is in charge of our lives. Your phone listens in on the conversation you had with your next door neighbor and then **SHAZAM!!** up pops an ad for beekeeping equipment on your news feed.*

It is a scary and unsettling reality of Life in the Connected Age.

And yet, in a perverse and twisted way, isn’t this also the answer to a prayer? What I mean is, haven’t each of us, starting at a very young age, yearned for someone to KNOW us? 

No… we didn’t seek to be known for the purpose of being marketed at. But haven’t we each longed for someone to know us completely – head to toe – in order that we might have the experience of being LOVED… totally and unconditionally?

Because let’s face it; it takes no great depth of soul to take a shine to the online dating profile version of a person. But it takes something very close to divinity to love someone when every wart, freckle, and character flaw is exposed.

But THAT is exactly the love God offers us.

It is exactly the love we are wired to crave.

It is also exactly the love we are called to offer one another. 

Abundant blessings;

  • an actual event in my life
07
Feb
21

RED SUNDAY

Greetings, friends. As some of you are aware, it is SUPER BOWL SUNDAY here in the U.S. 

For others, the above phrase might as well have been spoken in a completely foreign language. 

In case you are wondering, the SUPER BOWL is the culmination of the professional American football season… an annual ritual involving food, fun, friends, and frivolity. 

[According to prevailing copyright rules, the only people allowed to use the words SUPER BOWL together like that are the owners of the phrase. I am not one of those owners, so by using it so flagrantly, I am in danger of having the pants sued off of me. Nevertheless, I soldier on…]

For a lot of folks (WAAAY too many, honestly) this day is an excuse to crowd together and overindulge while being entertained by slickly produced TV commercials sandwiched between bouts of a football game they have little to no interest in.

Not true for me last year. And not true this year for me, either. 

Because now, for the second year in a row, you see, MY TEAM – the Kansas City Chiefs – is actually playing in the Super Bowl! 

And as much as I keep reminding myself that it is just a game and that games are a minor, inconsequential part of life, my excitement and adrenaline continue to grow. 

Of course it is ridiculous and borderline blasphemous to draw any parallels between my 40+ years waiting for the Chiefs to make it to the Super Bowl and the 40 years the Israelites spent meandering toward the promised land. The suggestion that a life without an NFL championship bears even a REMOTE resemblance to a life without fundamental freedoms is morally indefensible and outlandish. 

So please understand… that is NOT what I am saying.

What I am saying is: DANG it is fun when your favorite team makes it to the BIG GAME

Yes… it is good to remind myself that God loves Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans just as much as God loves Chiefs fans. I am also clear that God unconditionally loves people who don’t give a flying flip about what happens later today in the Super Bowl. 

But for right now I am going to close with a totally partisan, non-inclusive “GO CHIEFS! BEAT THOSE BUCS! RUN IT BACK!”

Now… can somebody please pass the nachos?

Abundant blessings

02
Feb
21

Should we be nice?

Today, while taking the dogs for a walk in the park, I saw a hand-painted sign leaning against a fence. It was big… probably four feet high and six feet wide. Every letter on the sign was painted a different color, and it said:

“BE KIND.”

As the dogs and I finished our walk, I looked at the minivan across the parking lot and saw a message there in white letters across the back window. It said:

“I HOPE SOMETHING GOOD HAPPENS TO YOU TODAY.”

“Wow!” I thought to myself. “How cool is THAT! I go out and find myself surrounded by positive, uplifting messages. With everything going on in the world today, those people have decided they are going to be positivity evangelists!”

“Well done, y’all!” (In case you are not aware, “y’all” is the plural of “you” in many parts of the country.)

There was nothing complicated about either message. They weren’t inviting me to join a club. They weren’t trying to sell me on a complex doctrine. They didn’t want me to give them a percentage of my income every month. They didn’t have a sneaky pyramid scheme that required me to enlist friends and family members. 

They were just putting the good juju out there in the atmosphere, hoping it connected with someone.

And then I had to stop and wonder, “Why can’t the Christian faith be simple and straightforward like that? Why do we have to muddy it up with all those convoluted theological dogmas and ‘rules of engagement’? Don’t we want to entice people and not repel them?”

“I mean, couldn’t Christians just say we are part of the ‘BE KIND CLUB’ and let it go at that?” 

For a lot of folks, it seems like a pretty big leap to say they believe in a deity who became a human being, died, and then came back from the dead three days later. But it is not hard at all to encourage them to say, “I believe in being kind to other people.”

So, what’s the problem? Why are we (Christians) so hung up on whether someone speaks the exact “phrase that pays” instead of just worrying about what they DO?

In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess that I am trolling you here a bit. I actually DO believe that confessing Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of one’s life DOES make a qualitative difference in that life. I also believe that a person’s actions and words are much more important than their professed systems of belief… even though those actions and words flow directly FROM those systems of belief. And I ABSOLUTELY believe that there is much more to the Christian faith than just being kind to other people.

In fact, would it surprise you to hear me say that I don’t believe that the Christian faith has much at all to do with being nice to people?

Loving them? Yes. Absolutely. Unconditionally, even. But as Jesus demonstrated over and over again, LOVING another person doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with BEING NICE to them.

Jesus gave a very succinct summary of his mission on earth in John’s gospel when he said, “… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NRSV). 

In other words, he came to revive relationships, break cycles of addiction, lift up the downtrodden, snap chains of injustice, bring hope, infuse possibility. In short, he came break down every barrier that separates people from the abundant life God always intended for them (us). 

If being kind, gentle, and sweet to a person helped connect them with that “abundant life,” so be it! Jesus would be like, “Bring on the kind, gentle, and sweet.” If, on the other hand, bringing about abundant life meant employing the proverbial “swift kick in the pants” approach, he would not hesitate to administer that.

So yes, let’s redouble our efforts. Let’s offer a smile to a total stranger on the sidewalk. Let’s make eye contact and give a kind word to the cashier at the convenience store. Let’s pay for the person behind us in the McDonald’s drive-through. Let’s call someone on the phone, “just because…”

But let’s also join Team Jesus and help bring the abundant life he was after. 

Abundant blessings;




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