Ministry

The World Needs More Kindness

“Everyone you meet is facing a battle you know nothing about, so be kind.”

That’s the admonishment we hear promulgated. The bible says to be kind. Through our life experiences we discern how well this rings with authenticity. But, I decided to test the veracity of that adage anyway, and the results were amazing. I became inclucated with an awareness that I’m not as informed about people as I previously believed.

 

In my quest to know things, as usual, I learned how far less I actually discern about people. To me, my friends were the obvious choice for study subjects, and I was jolted to discover important things about them I never knew before. It took some dilligent, yet gentle persuading to get some of them to open up to me in this way—to expose and share their vulnerabilities. I reciprocated with my own personal stuff—secret hurts. The blossoming of our resulting relationships has now filled our hearts with the essence of love, understanding and acceptance towards one another. The investigation was small in number, only seven people, eight, counting myself. What I’m about to share is highly personal, so I’ve given my solemn word to maintain their anonymity. That’s why I’ve assigned each of them a pseudonym.

 

I had no idea of the fear that my friend, Marci faces every day.  At 15 years-old, a male relative abused her trust, along with her diminuitive body. Many years later she still has difficulty trusting anyone at all. It hinders her relationships, and because she’s aware of that fact, she often cries herself to sleep. But if you met her, you’d think she was a highly confident and an easily entreated person—trusting even. Marci is kind to a fault, and she loves helping people. Every time she sees me, I know there’s a compliment coming my way—just a really sweet woman.

 

Russell is one of those nerdy guys you’d expect to meet at a gaming convention. The golden thumbed player holds several high score records on half a dozen video games. Kindness emanates from his presence. At the young age of ten, Russell’s father was killed while serving in Afghanistan. The boy retreated into the gaming world in search of solace. Today in his thirties, he seems closed off from people, unless they engage with him first. Then, he’s highly personable, obviously in search of acceptance.

 

Phillip fled from drug cartels in his country of origin, who had put out a kill order on him. He was accepted into the U.S. as a refugee, and I understand he also helped the DEA with information on the cartel. I didn’t know that, and I’ve been his friend for 8 years.

 

Life of the party types, both Marty and Allison suffer from deep bouts with depression and anxiety. They’ve both lost jobs because of it, and both said they feel a need to keep most people distant from them. You’d never surmise as much by speaking with them, or by being a casual friend, as I was: they’re both great at concealing their horrendous dilemmas. It’s not brought on because of any cirmustances—it’s a chemical imbalance, and medications only seem to make it worse. I’m so grateful to have become closer with these two beautiful souls.

 

Finally, Tina indicated her constant paralyzing fear of rejection. As a child her mother abandoned her at age two, and her father abused drugs and is still addicted to Meth. Made to feel worthless, Tina has difficulty understanding her value as a human being. Everyone deserves to be loved, accepted and cared for. But she never tells anyone about this. Silently she suffers, while her feelings of inferiority grow, being confirmed daily by mean spiritted people who only care about themselves.

 

Yes, everyone is fighting a battle of some sort. I’m fighting my own. What if all of us were to double our efforts to be kind, understanding, and caring with everyone we meet? Can we each do our part to make other people’s lives a little easier? I promise to double my own efforts. This world has plenty of hatred, judgment and animosity. What it needs is more love, and shiploads of kindness.

 

(The Bible teaching series entreating us to Join God’s Plan, promises to get good!)

Next time. Love.

 

 

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Categories: Christian Living, depression, Faith, Fighting a battle, Good People, Kindness to strangers, Love, Ministry, People, Self Improvement, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Professor Proudy Pants

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Everyone loves a good educator—unless of course they happen to be unedifying and overly didactic all the time, even towards the waitress when ordering at a restaurant. “If you cook the veggies in such-and-such a way they will retain more of their nutrients.”(I may be guilty of that particular one myself). It seems that the chances of falling victim to foolish pride increases with the number of years one attends formal schooling.

In my sophomore year of high school I took “Electricity” as an elective course. The teacher was a brilliant electrician, but he did not have the capacity to teach. He wasn’t even capable of teaching someone how to tie their shoes. Having knowledge is one thing, but knowing how to convey that information to others is an entirely different matter. Over half of the class received an “F”, including myself. One fellow made an “A”, but his father was an electrician and had already taught him the trade. My apologies in advance, but I can’t help but convey to you this teacher’s name, because there is such irony in the fact that it too began with an “F”—Mr. Fink. That was really his name—I’m not making this up!

But again there is irony here because I actually did learn something from Mr. Fink: One way to not teach. His problem was that he was too far above everyone else to know how to teach it to us in a language we could understand. The man’s frustration caused his anger to flare up often.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m focusing on one pandemic problem that keeps any person from being able to convince, explain and teach what they know to others. It, of course is having pride in how smart we are. When we become proud in this area we will not even realize that we are communicating that fact to others. In their minds it sounds like we calling them stupid and proclaiming ourselves to be geniuses.

Prideful teachers usually already know all they ever will, because their horse is too tall for them to dismount and study the ground any further. They feel no need to dismount because they already know all about what’s down there, even when they don’t. To think another person, especially one with a lesser degree on the wall has anything of import they could pass along to them, well that would just be ludicrous. Even though they may never say that outright, that’s the way they make people feel.

It is for this very reason that some Christians make extremely poor evangelists. We can have not only an intellectual pride from what God has taught us, but we also could develop a feeling of spiritual superiority. We know our doctrine and have studied our bibles extensively. Perhaps we have been a Christian for a very long time. We have Doctorates in Theology for goodness sakes!—or, we’ve been teaching the bible for many years. I’m feeling the heat in this next one. We have a PhD from the Holy Spirit, just like some of the early disciples had.

I’ll never forget the time the Spirit taught me some fairly deep theology through an atheist. Well…if the water wasn’t deep at least he cleared up the muddiness a bit. I’m certain it was a lesson the Lord wanted me to learn well.

“I can use anyone as an instrument to teach you, pay attention.”—God

It’s odd how the more educated one becomes the more they seem to forget some of their common sense stuff and social etiquette. So here’s a checklist for us to use before witnessing to someone else, or teaching a class, or writing a post for that matter.

  1. Never stop being a good listener.
  2. Always be open to learning something new.
  3. God can use anyone to speak through!
  4. Try to learn the feelings that lie behind the other person’s beliefs. (There’s usually some past pain that shapes their thinking)
  5. Empathize with them, love them, and then lead by example.

Yes, pride of intellect can often play a huge role in skewing our testimonies. Pride causes us to not truly hear others. But it can also cause us to unknowingly give off signals that automatically switch our hearer’s ears and hearts to the off position. A very old adage fits this situation well: “They won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

So let’s save the lectures for the classroom. Let’s actually feel what they are saying, and learn where their understanding and thinking is at. Let’s make room for their past experiences and care about their feelings. Let’s find some common ground and agree on that first. Then maybe buy them a coffee, and wait for the Spirit to show us an opening to love them into the truth.

FYI: When sharing the good news of Jesus a person must first know what the bad news is. They must first understand that we are all sinners and that the penalty is death, eternal separation from God. Then, the good news will sound as good as it truly is! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16


Categories: Christian Living, Ministry, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Warning Signs

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We’ve known the man in the above image (Doug) for many years, and have often ministered to him and his needs. He is a homeless drug addict, and he is just one of a myriad of individuals just like him that I’ve done my best to help. His sign reads “Down but not out.” To know Doug is to realize the irony of that statement. Doug gave up a long time ago.

I’d like to open a topic that’s a little different from my normal posts, just this once. So for a moment, allow me to switch hats, that I may share foundational information gleaned from Psychology classes, addiction treatment seminars and experience.

Physical pain is a faithful messenger, heralding a problem that must be addressed. It’s the harbinger of a difficulty which requires action. As infants we quickly learn to avoid pain. It took only once to discover that fire is hot, don’t touch it. Doing the wrong thing gets you a stinging swat on the behind, so do the right thing.

On into our adult lives we are programmed to recoil at the very prospect of physical pain, though most of us have learned how to live with it. These days it is not so much the pain our bodies feel that frightens us. We can tough through that, at least to some degree. Heartache and mental anguish, however, are what is most dreaded. These are far worse and quite difficult to alleviate.

Nobody is alone in this quandary of learning to deal with emotional wounds. Nearly every alcoholic and drug addict has, at the root of their addiction, some mental nightmare from which they hope to flee. So often we find ourselves numbing the pain by travelling down a rabbit hole into a dark world that offers false hope for relief. Some people may abuse sex or become addicted to pornography as a means of feeling better. Some even resort to damaging gossip addictions. Various drugs are a quick trip to an illusory wonderland. There are some who never return from the darkness, because they’ve found false relief. They’ve gone through the rabbit hole and come out the other side to find another world: A place where all their dreams come true, and fantasy becomes reality. To come back means to feel the pain all over again, only then, it is exacerbated. This world of their own making is seen only by them, and outsiders are unable to perceive their blissful paradise. Outsiders see only the reality of a lost soul suffering delusion.

In my mind this points to one glaring issue. It appears to be largely overlooked by various community organizations and agencies who work with at risk youth and adults. Early detection is essential in the prevention of drug and alcohol addictions, and more importantly in teen suicides.

Identifying life situations which activate traumatic emotional response is key to early preventative treatments. Some examples are broken homes, long term illness and many other stressors. Identifying potential markers and learning to recognize early warning signs is mandatory if we hope to offer preventative assistance.

We already know the big issues that lead to these social ills: Broken marriages, single parent homes, long term illnesses, chronic pain, bullying and psychiatric issues are among the top dilemmas which cause young people to seek artificial peace. But there are others as well. These issues activate a response, a need for relief from mental torment. How many teen suicides may have been prevented if a teacher, a counselor or doctor had recognized the key indicators of emotional upheaval and addressed them? Parents also need to be aware. We need more educational programs for parents that teach them to recognize the ‘problem-indicators’. This will help tremendously. Yes, there must be a plan of action in place. Treatment begins through conveying knowledge to the sufferer. The following three very simple, yet key pieces of information is what the potential sufferer needs.

  1. They are not alone. (There are people who care about them.)
  2. Others are experiencing the same thing they are. (They must not isolate themselves)
  3. Help is available. (Any kind of hope is better than no hope.)

These three key pieces of knowledge alone, though they seem obvious to us, are the 3 biggies which cause problems. Do not take it for granted that people know these things. Knowing these can buy enough time to get the person in contact with the right help. And maybe prevent many addictions or suicides. The difficulty is in convincing the sufferer of these truths. Support groups are highly beneficial, and in a group setting, many times the patients come up with alternative plans to soothe what’s going on inside. Isolation is the largest cause of people responding in the wrong way to their intense inner misery.

Questions to consider

What are the signs to look for that a young person may be at risk?

Who do I talk to when I notice someone is at risk?

What help for them is available in my community?

Do I have the phone numbers for help on hand?

Do I care enough to help?

 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

Categories: Addictions & Suicides, Ministry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time To Rejoice

rejoice

 

There are nearly a dozen hot button topics that have come up over the past week that I had hoped to expound. It would have drawn a lot more readers. But life kept on happening, effectively robbing me of the time I needed to plant my butt in the seat and type. But then again…

Today I want to block out all those other things bouncing around in my thinker, to relate what the Lord spoke to my heart this morning, through His word. Hold onto something now, we are entering my brain.  ☺

We hear the verse often, and most every Christian is familiar with it. I think there’s a danger in over using popular verses. When we hear them, our minds believe we’ve already received the full impact of that particular passage of scripture in the past, and so we don’t really think much about it. Opening my bible this morning, I turned to one such verse.

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

I can say with confidence, I’ve read that verse lots of times over the years, and have heard it quoted even more. But let’s dig in, and see if we can draw some deeper meaning than what appears on the surface.

First, let’s list the topics that this verse includes. Certainly it speaks of God’s sovereignty: God is in control. He can do as He pleases. I’m thankful He is a good and loving God, aren’t you?

This verse also proclaims that the Lord is the Creator of time.

Trusting God through whatever the day might bring is another grand principle we need to apply to our minds, which this verse implies.

God is working out His grand plan for mankind corporately. He also has individual, personalized plans for each one of our futures. (Jer. 29:11) He is aligning circumstances and events so that His plan for you will be brought to pass. This verse shouts the topic of Divine Providence.

We should rejoice.

When we can rejoice in the Lord, regardless of what is transpiring around us, or happening to us, God is very pleased. It reveals that we are trusting the Lord, and acknowledging His sovereignty. We are showing our understanding of His providence. We are acknowledging His provision of all we need, and we are joyful over His love. So here’s the thrust of the message I received today. God led me to the book of Job to make the connection.

“He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” Job 2:10

You should already know the story of Job, so I won’t get into that, but suffice it to say that God allowed Job to suffer horrendous tragedies in his life

Yes, it is easy to trust God in the good times of plenty and health. But what about the days when my sciatica is raging, causing terrible pain in my back? What about the days a migraine headache forces me back into bed? Can I rejoice then?

Often, I think I know what needs to be done in order for me to continue growing in holiness. I have mapped out how to best serve the Lord, and what I need to accomplish in order to minister to others. I have my days all planned out. But sometimes God interrupts my plans, with His plan. He might say, “No, Sheldon, today you need a headache.” Will I trust Him still? Will I rejoice in the fact that God knows what he’s doing, and that it’s all for my own good? Can God show love to me by allowing me to have a splitting headache? Yes! I may not enjoy the pain, but I can rest assured that God’s love for me remains intact. I can rejoice because I trust in His wisdom, which eclipses my own.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people should shout, “Praise the Lord, I have cancer!” I’m not going to actually thank God for my pain. But I am going to thank Him that He is using my pain to shape me into the image of His holy Son, just as He has promised. I will praise Him for aligning events to coincide with, and bring about His perfect will, because His will is better than good.

Another popular verse states, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

If I am going to rejoice in the Lord at all times, even during a sciatica flare up or a blasting migraine, I will need to trust God. I must accept the bad along with the good, as did Job. I must believe that in His providence He is working all things together in a way that will bring about all that is good for me. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Perhaps I needed to be reminded today that God is in control, and that He loves me very much. Maybe I required a refresher course in remaining joyful over my relationship with Jesus. But then, maybe God simply wanted me to write all of this out so that you would be reminded of these things. Whatever the case, the Lord is working.

Not perceiving or acknowledging God’s loving control does not hinder His plans from progressing, not in the least. But it will harm us, and steal off with our joy. Let’s lift up the mighty name of our glorious God today and rejoice in Him! Because, as we all know, God is good, all the time!

Pray with me:

Heavenly Father, we praise you that you are a holy God, and we praise you for your goodness and your sweet love. May your mighty name be forever exalted. We especially thank you for sending your Son, Jesus to pay for our sins and reconcile us unto Yourself. What an awesome plan of salvation! It is so wonderful that we have this precious relationship with you, and with Your Son, through Your Spirit within. We pray for your will to be done in each one of us, and across the earth. Teach us, oh God, to recognize your Lordship over all things, and to rejoice in the fact that you love us so much. Thank you for providing everything we need to grow in goodness and in godliness. We praise you for nurturing us along, as we become more and more like Jesus. We love you, Lord! We praise your mighty name, Hallelujah! In Jesus’ glorious name, Amen.

Categories: Growing in Faith, Ministry, Providence, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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