A Lord of Compassion

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:35-40

We serve a Lord of compassion. Jesus was compassionate to everyone he met, except for the people who were being unkind or judgmental of others. Those he challenged to do better. We are expected to treat others as we would be treated, and to show compassion to those in greater need than our own, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. What we do for those, we do unto the Lord.

Compassion is defined as: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. synonyms: sympathy, care, concern, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity.

Last week I went to Little Caesar’s to pick up a cheese pizza for the kids playing in the pool at my house. A Hot ‘N Ready cheese pizza is only $5.41 with tax. It was Friday night at almost 8:00 so the place was packed. If you don’t know, Little Caesar’s is just a small lobby with a big kitchen. Everything is to go. It’s a working class joint.

The kids working were slammed and stressed. The 20 people packed in the lobby were people just getting off a hard day of work at places like Goodwill, Walmart, Auto Bell. I could tell everyone was tired and impatient. Most were looking at their phones and noticeably irritable. They all wanted to get their inexpensive pizzas and get home to their families to enjoy their Friday night after a grueling work week.

I just stood there in the crowd smiling at people and trying to make light conversation. I had been there at least 10 minutes and there were several people who had ordered ahead of me. Some were pleasant to me, some were not.

Then, in walked a very frail looking man, I’d say in his 60s, who made his way to the counter and asked for the manager. He quietly and humbly interrupted the busy manager to ask if there was any way he could get a discount on a pizza because he and his wife were very hungry and all they had was some change.

The manager politely said he was too busy at the moment serving the customers who were waiting, but that he would see what he could do once the rush died down.

The man began to ask individuals in the lobby if they could spare a couple dollars. He was shaky and very thin and he kept pointing to his wife standing outside. Every person turned him away, and every person tried to put their head down and did their best to look busy on their phone and waved him off. Some at least looked at him to tell him “No.”

He finally got to me. I knew it was coming, and I had been thinking of what I would do. Was this man an addict? Was that really his wife? I was ashamed that I even let those questions run through my head. I thought, what WOULD Jesus do if he were here? It doesn’t matter what this man’s story really is. He is in need, and I have another $5.50 in my pocket right now. Money’s tight, but I have more than this man has, and I am called to share when I am able. Plus, there is an audience watching to see what I do.

“Excuse me ma’am, do you have just a couple dollars to help me and my wife get a pizza? We are so hungry and the manager said he’d work a discount if I wait. That’s my wife right out there. We just need a meal.”

I looked him in the eye. Everyone in the lobby was watching me. This was my chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus. “Sir,” I said, “I just happen to have $5.50 in my pocket and the pizza is $5.41. I would be honored to help you get a pizza.”

Everyone watched as I handed him the money and he limped to get in line behind two others who were about to order. He finally ordered and got the 9 cents back. He walked to me and reached in his pocket to get an assortment of pennies, dimes and nickels to put with the 9 cents of change. He handed it to me with tears in his eyes and said, “THANK YOU. I worked for 25 years driving a truck and had to have a knee surgery and it took all we had. I still can’t walk well and I cannot find a job that will take care of me and my wife. This pizza will be so good. God bless you for your kindness ma’am.”

I continued talking with him as we waited. My pizza came up next. He shook my hand again and thanked me. I said, “It is a pleasure sir, and God bless you.” I smiled and waved to everyone as I left. “Have a great night everyone!” All those irritable people waved and smiled at me as I walked out the door.

Perhaps that very small act of kindness had put everyone’s frustrating wait for pizza into perspective. Perhaps it spurred some of them on to be kinder to others that night. All I know is that God gave me an opportunity to be a light, and I am glad I took it.

I cried when I got to my car. I thanked God for the opportunity He had given me and I prayed for that man and his wife, the employees, and all the patrons I had encountered that night. I don’t know any of their stories, but I do know that God showed Himself in that lobby here in East Charlotte last Friday night. He is good, all the time, and He asks us to be an extension of His love to all we meet. Opportunities abound – we just have to be aware and willing!

To Love


“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

Doesn’t that sound simple? To Love. This is all God has called us to do. Love him, and love others, but why are we making it so difficult?

We let our differences get in the way. We let our opinions get in the way. We let our selfish selves get in the way. If we want to live a life like Jesus we need to look at his model for us. 

Jesus engaged and interacted and sat with those who were “different” from everyone else. He listened to them and gave them his undivided attention. He loved them in a way no one else would. He didn’t let their differences get in the way. He is the Son of God for goodness sake and he came down to our human level to be with us and love and serve us. Why are we not doing this today? 

If you call yourself a Christian, why are you casting judgment on others? If you call yourself a Christ follower, why are you not loving your neighbor? 

He called us to love. That’s it! It’s simple and yet for us we overcomplicate it. 

I am learning what it means to love. To see those who are different than me, who have a different belief than me, who have a difference of opinion than me and sit to gain understanding of who they are and why they believe the things they do. It is not my place to cast judgement. I surely don’t have all the answers, none of us do. So we need to change our judgement to gaining understanding for the person in front of us. 

I have a constant prayer that I will see people the way God sees them. I want to see his children the way he does!

We are all unique and beautiful in our own way. Learn about the uniqueness of your neighbor. They were made in the image of God just like you were. Don’t you forget that!

Think of a person who is different than you and that you have possibly cast judgement on and rode them off. Reach out to them. Tell them you want to learn more about them and just sit and listen. Don’t offer advice. Don’t state your opinion. Just be with them and show them love the way Jesus does by giving them your undivided attention. 

If we all do this, honestly, the world would be a better place! If you call yourself a Christian and a follower of Jesus, do as he did. Love him and love your neighbor. It’s that simple. Get yourself and your selfish motives out of the way and be Jesus to the person in front of you. 

 

“Mommy, this little boy likes me!”

(We recently found a few hidden pages written by our mom & grandma. This one is especially poignant today, January 15th, the birthday of both Martin Luther King, Jr and Gladys I. Johnson. Not only did they share a birthday, but they shared God’s heart for teaching our children love and not hate. We hope you will enjoy these beautiful words.)

MOMMY, THIS LITTLE BOY LIKES ME

The vacant house across the street had been rented, and of course the neighborhood children (and their mothers) waited anxiously to see the new neighbors. Would there be a boy to play with? Would he have the two necessary ingredients for friendship – a bike and a dog? And since our neighborhood is bereft of girls, the boys all felt it would be a calamity if “one of those things” moved in.

So, in typical boy fashion, they banished such a thought from their minds. This family would have boys to play with, and to add to the football squad in the fall, and the baseball team in spring.

At last the movers’ truck pulled up and the men began unloading furnishings. But no sign of a boy. Odd, wasn’t it? thought the neighbors. If there were children, surely they would be under foot, hindering instead of helping, laughing merrily as they rediscovered things mother had hidden in packing.

A black car had been bustling back and forth over the streets, loading and unloading its cargo. The driver, obviously the woman of the house, stopping to tell the workmen where to put the furniture.

When all the furnishings were in, the black car came back, and from the front seat hobbled a small waif of a boy, walking with an effort on crutches. The few neighborhood children who had not given up their vigil, stared hard and turned away in disgust. This poor little fellow could not play football. He could never add the member needed for the baseball nine.

As the days passed, little Tommy was never included in the play of the other boys. When he got into the car that drove him to school in the mornings, passing children who would stop and stare. He was the unusual, not understood. Tommy often cried when, attracted by his toys, a small boy would enter his yard to play, only to stand and stare, not knowing quite how to cope with the thought of playing with a boy who walked with crutches. I noticed that the children, while not meaning to offend, would say cutting things – as children often do. As a result, Tommy would put up his own defense of bitterness and meanness.

One warm day, little Tommy came across the street to play with my son, and I hoped for Tommy’s sake they would be friends. My own son, while ordinarily no angel, took him in, if for no other reason than the fact that his other friends were scarce that day. But it delighted Tommy. When his mother came to get him later in the day, Tommy looked up with a smile of delight and said, “Mommy, this little boy likes me!”

In that moment I thought of all the little children in our world who suffer such injustice at the hands of others who do not understand why they seem so different. Would it not be a better world if each mother taught her children the meaning and beauty of each individual, and the willingness to accept the one who is different?

There is a little bigotry and racial hatred in all of us. It is learned, not birthed. We must teach our children that crippling the spirit is much worse than crippling the body.

written by: Gladys I. Johnson

SUFFERING

suffering/synonyms: Acute bodily or mental pain. Distress may be physical, but it is more often mental, referring to any deep anxiety, or the external circumstances that may produce it.  Misery is extreme suffering or abject hopelessness, as from sorrow, great loss, poverty, or the like.

Why is suffering allowed by God?

That question has been asked by believers and non-believers alike…….the difference is, those who know God know that He is a balance of justice and mercy.  Sin came into His perfectly created world because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve.  So because of that first sin, all of creation (including you and me) is waiting for the healing that will happen when Christ returns.

Last Sunday I sang at a church in the Tampa, Florida area.  At the fellowship meal afterwards I met a 43-year old mother of 3 who was still having therapy after a triple by-pass heart surgery 3-months ago.  She had no warning, only tightness in her chest.  She has MS, her husband travels for his job during the week, her father had just been diagnosed with cancer, and she has 3 boys ages 5-12 years old.  She thought the tightness in her chest was stress from life’s challenges.  The weekend her husband was home he encouraged her to go to the ER, but she refused….he insisted.  They sent her home.  The pain started then and she went back.  This time she was in surgery within the day with 100% blockage in one artery and 90% blockage in two others.  Post-surgically in the hospital one of her lungs collapsed.  Of course many prayer warriors were lifting her up in prayer…..and she is recovering wonderfully.  But, why would this godly young woman already dealing with MS have to suffer like that?

She is radiant with the love of Christ, and is a strong witness to her doctors, nurses and therapists.  She gives God all the glory for His healing touch.

I have experienced pain physically and emotionally in my lifetime, but I’ve never really suffered.  How about you?  If you have, according to the definition at the top of this blog, how have you handled it?

Right now there is an abundance of suffering in Texas due to the devastation of hurricane Harvey and the ensuing rainfall that is still causing flooding.  I can’t even imagine what that must be like.  There will be human suffering, distress and misery there for a long time.  Our prayers, finances and when possible, physical help, are with them.

There really is no way to end this blog on this subject because human suffering will always be with us.  But I must encourage you that God is a loving and compassionate God, and His heart is broken as He sees the ongoing suffering of human kind.

The Apostle Paul suffered much as he shared the Gospel of Christ.  He wrote in Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…”

God sent His Only Son, Jesus, to this world; part human due to His birth from a virgin, so that He could feel and understand what we go through as humans.  In the book of Isaiah, chapter 53, we read what was written about the suffering of Christ 700-years before His death on the cross.  Verse 3:  “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.”

Dear God, help us to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.  Romans 5:3-5

Photo: Gisela Giardino, Flickr Creative Commons

Ray of Life

I’ve had difficulty writing my post this week. Monday was the great North American eclipse, and the following day, August 22, would have been my friend Amy’s 41st birthday. 7 months after her passing, the physical and emotional anguish I was feeling as her birthday approached was debilitating. I just felt frozen. Add to that all the hatred presently spewing about in our country. I wasn’t feeling “Life Words.”

I decided not to drive south to a place where I could witness the total eclipse. I figured that 98% of the eclipse at my house in Charlotte would still darken the sky enough to see a star or two. I was shocked at how light it actually stayed with just 2% of the sun shining down! I was a bit disappointed, but amazed at the same time. I’m sure the anticipation of Amy’s birthday pushed me toward the disappointed side.

Then, yesterday, I noticed a Facebook friend’s post. Sally had just celebrated a birthday during the eclipse. Her post lifted me in a way that nothing else had for days as I had been locked in a bit of depression.

Please take a look at her Life Words:

“It only takes a little light!!!….it only takes a little love, kindness and gratitude to light up even the darkest situations.”

And here is how God lifted me from my dark place. A person I have never even met face to face posted these words of life.

Immediately I began to thank God for the time I had with Amy. I began to remember her love, kindness and gratitude, which she displayed even in her darkest of times. That little bit of light shined bright enough to illuminate my heart and my mind and pull me back up.

Thank you Sally Goodwin for your words. I hope to shake your hand one day!

Remember, a positive and encouraging word can reach into the darkest of places. You never know when what you say or do will touch someone who needs it. Let this remind us all of the power of our words. Be mindful of what you say AND what you post on social media! Let darkness and death words be eclipsed by light and life words!

“The power of the tongue is life and death— those who love to talk will eat what it produces.” Proverbs 18:21 (ISV)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

THE King of kings is Greater than any president

In just a few hours we will find out who will be the next President of the United States of America. This campaigning has been insanity and the country is divided in a way that I have never personally witnessed. People are fighting, calling one another names, and cutting off relationships due to this polarization in opinion and thought in a fight to join one band wagon or the other.

This is what I know:

– The God I serve is bigger than any person or election process.

– Life will continue no matter who sits in the White House for the next four years, and it is my duty to live a life that Christ would approve of by loving all people as much as myself, practicing gratitude and giving of my time and resources to make the world a better place.

– Many people are now at least using their right to vote in what appears to be record numbers. This means more people are paying attention to the issues, which is great news. When life rolls along “well enough” we become complacent and lazy. I see a new spark.

If you read through the Old Testament you will see a roller coaster ride of good and bad kings. God would give the people a good king and there would be wealth and prosperity in the land. Then, the people would rebel in some way and beg for a different king. Then, God would allow the people to have what they wanted so that the new generation would learn and come back to Him. It is a definite pattern.

Perhaps this is happening now. We can see in the candidates a culmination of the collective views and values that citizens in the U.S. share. We will reap what we sow, always. This election has put a lot of topics in the spotlight that need to be there. Regardless of the outcome, we will push forward. The sun will come up every day and will shine on the righteous and the wicked and eventually we will finally come to that most glorious day when we see Christ return.

We shall not fear or waver because our God is King of kings and Lord of lords.

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“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome….” Deuteronomy 10:17

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith…. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus….I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:11-16

“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:16

Note: Do yourself a favor and go back and re-read the last post by my Aunt Tami as well: “Which ‘One Another’ Are You?”

Which “One Another” Are You?

It’s hard to remember a more divisive time during an election season in my lifetime. The name calling and questioning the security of another’s faith just because they disagree is beyond crazy these days. I’m especially saddened that Christians are polarized against one another.

That’s not the kind of “one another” God had in mind when He included some 59 scriptures in the Bible with those words.

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Seriously. It’s in there. Maybe we all could use a review:

Romans 12:16 tells us to “live in harmony with one another.” Mark 9:50 says to “be at peace with each other.” Romans 14:13 says “stop passing judgment on one another.” The phrase, “Love one another” shows up 14 times in the New Testament. Other verses say to “encourage each other” (1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11), to “live in harmony with one another” (I Peter 3:8) and to “encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13).

Oh, and my personal favorite, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

Insert gritting teeth emoji here.

I long for the days when a good old fashioned political discourse took place face to face. Live. In real time. The common decency of humans towards one another prevailed most of the time. Speaking as one who used to love politics, it was all in good fun & very few true friendships were lost over such discussions.

Fast forward to today when social media is our proverbial hiding place. We say things we would at one time never have said to someone to their face, hiding behind the veil of protection that we are just typing the words and they somehow aren’t as vile.

But they are vile. Words hurt whether they are slung from a loose and careless tongue or typed by angry hands. I’ve seen far too many of my friends become nasty word slingers in the past several weeks and if it breaks my heart I can only imagine how God must be feeling as he watches us escalate into hysteria and confusion.

As far as I’m concerned, November 8th cannot come and go soon enough. I pray the damage done is not permanent, and that we are as quick to repair relationships as we were to wound them.

 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

 

LOVE Your Enemies

Ouch. This is a tall order.

But, Jesus Himself tells us to pray for and love our enemies. UGH.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27, 28

At this time of great political dissension in the USA, not to mention riots, hate crimes, and general unrest, it is pertinent that we as Christians not only remember these direct words from Jesus, but that we actively participate in them daily. If there has ever been a time to love and pray for our enemies, it is now.

Our enemies range from ISIS to the “Frenemies” that permeate our daily lives. From that deadbeat Father that refuses to pay child support and tries to intimidate, to the head of a country who threatens nuclear war. Jesus makes no distinction. We must love and pray for them all.

Without fail.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

We did not deserve it, but He loved us anyway. And He loves us now and forever despite our constant shortcomings. We must think of loving our enemies in this way. We expect nothing in return, but give the unconditional love of God to those who don’t deserve it. It is only when we can turn our hearts from hatred to this kind of love that we can truly pray for our enemies and hope the very best for them – that they will also come to know the love and salvation of God on a personal level that will change them from the inside out.

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Regardless of our political views, we are to pray for our President and the leaders of the nations. Regardless of our personal disappointments and hurts, we are to pray for those who mistreat us.

This is truly a challenge. Will you take it with me? Will you commit to this kind of prayer and love? The world needs us now. Let us stand by humbling ourselves on our knees in authentic prayer and love for all.

Slow to Anger

“STOP THAT! STOP BEING SO BAD!” she said as she smacked her child’s hand and grabbed him, continuing to pull him through the store aisle. He had been trying to grab a box of cereal from the shelf, like ALL kids do!

I must have seen that 5 times in my short grocery trip. Not one time did she stop what she was doing, look him in the eye and explain to him how she expected him to behave.

What a contrast with another Mom whose little girl did the exact same thing. The little girl grabbed something off the shelf, and with great poise and patience, her Mom put the package back on the shelf and stopped her cart. She knelt down and looked in her child’s eyes and said, “I know it’s so exciting to see things you like and it is tempting to grab them! But, when we shop I need you to keep your hands to yourself and be a good girl. Mommy loves you!” She ended with a hug and then they continued on her way.

That little girl held her head up high. She had been very gently reprimanded and she knew how much her Mommy loved her. By contrast the little boy who had been smacked and dragged through the store continued to grab things and never behaved properly. He pointed his eyes toward the floor and walked with a posture of anger and defeat.

Thankfully our God is like that second Mom! He is slow to anger and quick to forgive. He loves us and carefully and lovingly corrects us. He is patient and makes sure we know how much he cares for us. Imagine what life would be like if He were like that first Mom!

He wants us to be slow to anger and take time to process our circumstances before we act. I used to be much more of a “reactor” than a patient processor. With some time, usually the issue becomes much more manageable and seems less dramatic.

GraceYes, I am still perfecting this skill. The better I get at it, the less reparations I have to make in my relationships and the less stress I have to manage within myself. It is fabulous!

Let us all remember the great patience and love our Heavenly Father has for each and every one of us despite our glaring imperfections! And, let us pass this same grace on to others.

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalm 103:8 NIV

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” Psalm 86:5 NASB

Listen More, Speak Less

I struggle with this one. I am doing better the older I get, but I sometimes have this drive to win my case or be right above listening, understanding, and being compassionate. It is something I have to consciously fight against. Even if I am not right, I sometimes fight until I can make my case seem plausible. I am ashamed to admit it.

We are meant to listen to one another and show love and compassion to one another, not to constantly criticize and judge one another.

It seems that these days a lot of “Christian” organizations use a lot of time and expense to “fight” against issues that really should not concern them. We are all free to have our own opinions and causes, but I don’t believe God wants us to use our time and resources to fight against things that are truly not our concern while also putting Him and his people in a bad light.

Our energy should be put toward showing love, peace, patience, kindness, self-control: the fruits of our beliefs. It is by showing these things that we change the world. We don’t win by judging and criticizing, we win by listening, loving and caring enough for others to want what we have.

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Time and time again I see people and groups lashing out at other people and groups with whom they disagree. This takes so much energy! And it’s a waste. It’s a total veering off of the track set before us.

Billy Graham once said,“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and our job to love.”

Obviously the groups I am referring to are extremists and do not represent Christ or his true followers. But, I think if we are all honest with ourselves, we may see that in some small way we all do a bit of this. We may pick fights or take the time to side with fights that really give more ground to the enemy than gain it for Christ. (The NC bathroom law situation and Target stores for instance.) We may do this on a larger scale, and/or with the ones closest to us.

The main goal in the life of a Christ-follower should be to show love and compassion to others – to ALL others, even those with opposing views – and to live a life of example. Spending time and money to picket an abortion clinic for instance is not showing the love of Christ. Those women have been through enough and what they need is a hug and to know that Jesus loves them as much as he loved them before, and that nothing can change that. Those women know what they have done. What would it look like if we showed God’s love by standing outside a clinic to give hugs and share information about support groups? What if we invited them to come to church with us the next Sunday? Perhaps this behavior would show them compassion and cause them to make a different choice in the future, or influence an onlooker to make another choice. Then they would know there would be someone to love them through their choice, whatever that may be.

What would that look like? I think you get the idea.

None of us knows exactly what another’s set of life circumstances is. Our job is to listen,  show love and compassion. Period. God doesn’t “need” us to put people in their place – he knows our hearts, and that job is His.

How about this quote from Dale Carnegie in his book How To Win Friends & Influence People: “Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

If we want to show people another way, we do that by example and with love – not by spouting hate and judgment.

And even better, I’ll close with a few scriptures straight from God’s Word:

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Romans 2:1

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1