Tag Archives: kindness

Musing: Be Merciful

Shadows on Path. Photo: TLClark, 9/15/19.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

“Happy the kind — because they shall find kindness.”

– Matthew 5:7 New Revised Standard Version (merciful/mercy) and Young’s Literal Translation (kind/kindness)

I’ve been humming a song off and on since worship Sunday morning. Every once in awhile I sing a few words of the refrain: “So be merciful, just as our God is merciful.” It’s a newish hymn – published in 2015 – by Ed Bolduc. The tune is new and the refrain is new. But the verses are from a hymn first published in 1854: “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” by Frederick W. Faber.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in [God’s] justice, Which is more than liberty.

For the love of God is broader Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal Is most wonderfully kind.

– Frederick W. Faber, “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy,” stanzas 1, 5

According to Hymnary.org, one version or another of Faber’s hymn has been published in at least 757 hymnals. Faber’s other famous hymn – “Faith of Our Fathers” – shows up in at least 728.

From what I can see there were at 12 stanzas in the original “There’s a Wideness to God’s Mercy.” Different folks mix and match the stanzas into verses (typically two per verse), usually leaving out a few. There are, of course, several different tunes to which it can be sung – which is exactly the sort of thing that can lead to my confusion when leading worship in a new (to me) place!

I began this blogpost thinking about mercy – hence the beatitude at the top – and was delighted to discover Young’s Literal Translation of kindness. The dictionary at the back of my Greek New Testament lists both mercy and compassion as suitable translations. Whatever word we use, we are called to be merciful / kind / compassionate in response to God’s mercy / kindness / compassion.

So be merciful, just as our God is merciful.
Be merciful, just as our God is merciful to us.
Let there be a wideness in our mercy.
Let there be a kindness in our hearts.
Oh, may our lives be merciful.

Ed Bolduc, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy / Be Merciful,” Refrain (c) 2015. World Library Publications.

My you know mercy, compassion and kindness.
May you be merciful, compassionate, kind.
Teressa

p.s. There is a YouTube video of Bolduc’s version.

Photo Challenge: Connections

Connections - CROP

CROP Hunger Walk,  Mississippi Waterfront, Muscatine, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 10/2/11.

Searching my memories I finally thought of an occasion when I might have taken a picture that shows the connections we share as human beings on planet earth.  Searching my digital files, I found pictures of several CROP Hunger Walks [1].  I chose this particular picture because it shows:

  • people of all ages from a variety of backgrounds making connections to raise funds to stop hunger locally and around the world;
  • the Mississippi River connecting communities from its source (Lake Itasca) to its mouth (Gulf of Mexico);
  • and trees with roots connecting to the earth and branches reaching out reminding us of our connection to all of nature.

[1]  “CROP Hunger Walks help to provide food and water, as well as resources that empower people to meet their own needs. From seeds and tools, to wells and water systems, to technical training and micro-enterprise loans, the key is people working together to identify their own development priorities, their strengths and their needs… .”       – http://www.crophungerwalk.org  (click here to learn more.)

The Golden Rule at Church

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 7:12 NRSV

“Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.” – Luke 6:31 CEB

Love is kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)  But sometimes what we call kindness or think is a kindness is not experienced by another as such because it is not kind.  It is an insisting on our own way (see 1 Corinthians 13:5).

I’ve long said church – my church, your church, all church – would be perfect if it didn’t have any people.  But then it wouldn’t be church.  (sigh)

We human beings are a contentious lot.  We are eager to get our own way.  We frequently forget – and too often choose to ignore – the Golden Rule:  do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Getting church right is hard, hard work.  It’s been that way for a long, long time.  Just read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians to get a glimpse of the turmoil in the early church.

And yet the church – the body of Christ – in all its imperfection continues.  There are many faithful leaders – ordained and lay.  There are countless loyal followers of Jesus.  The Holy Spirit still sheds wisdom on those who have ears to hear and hearts to heed her teaching.   The same God who created “in the beginning” is still at work doing a new thing.

Some days I believe it.  Other days I don’t.

Which is why we need each other.  Some days I keep the faith for those who struggle.  Other days I’m held through the struggle by those keeping the faith.

May it be so for you.

Love does not … Love does …

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Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.  – 1 Corinthians 13:5b-8a  NRSV

Love insists that every way be loving.  A person acting with love – living love’s way – will not insist on his or her own way.  Usually.  Particularly when the other options available are expressions of love.  But sometimes love means speaking up or speaking out or speaking against a way that is not loving.

Love does not believe all things.  Especially if we are talking about believing everything you hear or everything you read.  Real love believes the best about another, looks for the good, seeks out the inspiring.  True love harbors doubts about second-hand stories and rumors that in any way disparage another; love grieves when such stories and rumors are accurate.

Even if we are talking about believing as giving our heart to and orienting our lives toward, then love still does not believe all things.  Love believes – sets its heart on and orients its life toward – all things life giving.

When one is treated without love in the name of love – say, being beaten or belittled or isolated or controlled – love does not bear it or endure it or simply hope for better.  Love leaves.

When you share life – in all its glorious messiness – with one who truly supports you and wants only the best for you, who would do anything to see you smile or hear you laugh, who can sit in the silence with you when there are no words and share your tears in the midst of the heart-wrenching, then love does indeed bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.  Whether parent or partner or friend, that kind of love that never ends.

May you love and be loved in all ways life giving.

Love is …. love is not …

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.   – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5a NRSV

Yes, this is the beginning of a Biblical text used at many, many Christian weddings.

But it’s not just for two consenting adults who are freely making vows to mutually support and encourage and care for one another through the valleys and peaks of life.

This text is for everyone.  (Paul probably borrowed it from his culture and adapted it for the church.)

Love is not a feeling.  Love is an action.  Love is how we treat one another.

We all live in relationship to other human beings every day of our lives.  Friends.  Family.  Neighbors.  Strangers.  Colleagues.  Coaches.  Teammates.  Employers.  Employees.  Customers.  Caregivers.  Care receivers.  Teachers.  Students.  Fill in the blank:  _____________ .  People just like us – even when they seem as different as can be imagined.

We are all called to be patient and kind.  Patient with ourselves; patient with others.  Kind to ourselves; kind to others.  That’s what love is.  It’s what love does.

Sounds so simple.  Yet can be so hard.  Particularly in a culture that seems to admire and even celebrate hurry-up, get-it-done, look-out-for-oneself, take-advantage-of-everyone, what’s-in-it-for-me attitudes and actions.

Love is patient.  Love is kind.

At the same time, none of us are called to be envious, boastful, arrogant or rude.  Not envious about what another has or has accomplished.  Not boastful of our own or a loved one’s accomplishments.  Not arrogant about whatever or however we might think we are superior.  Not rude – ever.

Love is patient.  Love is kind.

May it be so in my life.

 

 

Christmas: Shepherds

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I’ve been thinking about Shepherds since Christmas Eve.

Shepherds.  Providing for every need:  clean water, good food, safe shelter.

Not just the men (and women?) who seemed to simply leave their flocks in the fields to rush off in search of a baby in a manger.

Shepherds.  The men and the women who shepherd congregations.  Through the high holy days and the mundane every days, through great joy and deep sorrow – providing water and food and shelter.  Offering rest and healing, play and opportunities to learn.  Sharing story and art and music and movement and so much more.

Shepherds.  The women and men who care for our children – at home, in day care, at school and more – providing water and food and shelter.  Offering rest and healing, play and opportunities to learn.  Leading and teaching with story and art and music and movement and so much more.

Shepherds.  The women and men who care for our elders – at home, at care centers, in hospice and more – providing water and food and shelter.  Offering rest and healing, play and opportunities to learn.  Using story and art and music and movement and so much more.

Shepherds.  Feeding and sheltering and caring for others.  And being fed and sheltered and cared for by others (including the Great Shepherd)!

Thanks be to God.

 

Elevator Talk

img_2056.jpgFor the record, I prefer taking the stairs to riding an elevator – when my destination is just a floor or two away.

Also for the record, I believe in kindness.  I try to make eye contact and smile at strangers when in public places.  And when I’m taking the elevator I (gasp) talk to the other occupants.

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“What floor?” is the easy question when standing near the control panel and someone gets on the elevator.

The weather can be a good topic – especially when carrying an umbrella.

Remarking on what is being carried might work.

There are generally three reactions:

  1. Being ignored, sometimes preceded by a glance that says “you’re crazy.”  A cell phone in hand makes it really easy for the other to ignore you.
  2. Politeness even if a bit uncomfortable.  People raised with any kind of manners will give at least a half a smile and a simple response.
  3. Engagement, maybe with enthusiasm.  This response is my favorite.

“What floor?” the lady asked.

“Five,” we replied.

“Winner, winner chicken dinner!” she said.

“Are you cooking?” I asked.

She wasn’t sure about making fried chicken.  But told us she worked in a bakery and could certainly whip up something sweet.

The conversation didn’t last long.  It happened at least a month ago.  But it still makes me smile.