Are You Listening?

listening

Praying for my day,everything was planned out.  I had traveled to Raleigh NC to help serve at the I Commit conference for Voice of the Martyrs and was on the way to the church to set up. Making a quick stop to get a bite to eat, the fast food place was fast but there was no seating. Holding my tray of food, phone in my hand, planning on making some phones calls, an older man sitting alone at a table for four motioned for me to sit with him. Thinking, “I don’t have much time to talk but just to eat”, I made my way to his table.

We introduced ourselves. Smiling, I politely told him I had to eat hurriedly because I was helping with a Christian conference. That really didn’t matter to him as he proceeded to share his story with me. I slipped my phone into my purse, realizing I was there for more than a quick meal. This man, Tommy, shared how he came to the restaurant often, and the people there knew him. He had moved to Raleigh with his wife to be near their children. Then he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the benign tumor was removed but left him with no sense of smell and sight in only one eye. Thinking he would not mentally survive, his wife divorced him and sent him to a mental hospital. His kids rescued him from the hospital and he eventually found a friend in a church near his apartment. He smiled and said, all is good and I enjoy seeing my kids even though I live alone.

We continued to have a wonderful conversation. He wanted to know more about VOM and my family. Finishing our lunches, we shook hands and gave each other a name card to stay in touch. But I walked away convicted. How many “Tommys” are there who just need someone to talk and share with?  They aren’t in my planned out schedule but need someone to hear their story.

Jesus also lived a busy life on earth. Preaching in the synagogue, teaching to the masses and to His disciples, yet, He made time to listen to people. People were his purpose. As He went about His day, Jesus listened with love, patience, kindness and gentleness to people’s stories – the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus’s questions, Martha complaining about Mary, the disciples fussing about the greatest in God’s kingdom, and more.

Thinking about my time with Tommy, I have started a habit of asking God daily who He wants me to listen to, pray for, or share His message of love with. Yet, am I willing to be inconvenienced? Jesus was often inconvenienced as He traveled from town to town listening to others.

Jesus told his disciples, “go” or “as you are going” make disciples. (Matthew 28:19)  While I am going throughout my day, going in many directions, am I listening to the hurting people around me, ready to share God’s love for them?  Next time someone needs a listening ear, I’ll put the phone down, the plan book up, and show the fruit of love, kindness, patience and gentleness as Christ would have done.  Who knows, I may change someone’s life that day just by listening.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  Colossians 3:12

(photo by Whitebeard)

Kindness of Forgiveness

Recently, there has been a surge of YouTube videos showing amazing acts of kindness.  Helping the poor, giving away one hundred dollar bills, paying for food or gasoline and even letting physically handicapped sports opponents win in a competition. To me, the most amazing acts of kindness are those directed toward others who do not deserve the kindness.  That is the definition of kindnessshowing favor, grace and mercy.

The greatest kindness is one that shows forgiveness. The apostle Paul wrote. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

Many people know the story of Corrie ten Boom who suffered in a Nazi concentration camp in Germany during WWII.  After her miraculous release, she traveled the world preaching God’s forgiveness and reconciliation.  But her kindness in forgiving was challenged when she came face-to-face with one of her tormentors in the camp after giving a talk at a church in Munich.  The man came towards Corrie and spoke:

“‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk…I was a guard in there. But since that time, I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,’ …his hand came out…‘will you forgive me?’ I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do…I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart…”Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently…I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place…this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried, ‘With all my heart!’ For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”

Through God’s kindness and love, He performed the most amazing act of kindness toward those who didn’t deserve it:

“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”  Titus 3:3-5

The kindness of forgiveness is given at the price of someone else. It is an act of kindness the receiver doesn’t deserve but freely receives.  Is there someone in my life or your life who needs your act of kindness, your forgiveness?  Jesus said, “…apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5. As we abide with Jesus and understand His kindness toward us in “washing away our sins”, He can produce the fruit of kindness in our lives. Like Corrie, I’ll ask Him to help me show kindness in forgiving others, thankful that He forgave me because of His kindness.  “Be kind to one another…forgiving one another.”

Fruitful Words

It was another Sunday morning cajoling our toddler to get ready for church.  Life was a whirlwind on Sunday mornings.  We had moved from China to Illinois for Lowe to attend Trinity Divinity School.  Having given birth to our daughter in China, I never felt I was doing everything right as a new mom.  To some Chinese I was doing everything wrong and now I didn’t feel confident in America either.  Our outgoing, active, busy, never-tired, yet sweet toddler was a challenge.  However, God sent one experienced mom from India into my life that morning who spoke words of life to me.

Serita was my neighbor on campus , attended the same church and was studying children’s ministry while her husband was getting a PhD.  She always had kind words to say and I could see the fruit in her life from her children.  She worked in the toddler Sunday school class with our daughter.  Seeing my concern she encouraged me, “Your daughter is wonderful to be with and very smart.  It will be a challenge to raise her but God has a special plan for such gifted and bright kids.  Keep doing a good job and just love her.”

I can remember those words from over 20 years ago. Why?  Because words are powerful.  Words show the fruit in our lives.  Words speak of who we really are and what we think.

Words have significant influence on our lives.  They can change the way we think and how we act. We can remember words people speak to us for decades.

When I write, I often double check grammar, delete words, or add thoughts that would be helpful.  But when I have said something I can’t change my words.  Sometimes I wish I could go back and delete something I said or change the words or just add an “I love you” or “you are special”.  Sometimes I just need to delete the whole thing and keep silent.

Instead of doing a “spell check” on my words this week, I’ll plan on a “fruit check”.  I will ask God to help me speak words which will be fruitful – full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and the gospel message.  God’s words from the Bible are a great way for me to do a “fruit check”:

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 6:24

“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”  Psalm 34:13

“Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, And I will tell of Your greatness.” Psalm 145:6

“…A time to be silent and a time to speak.”  Ecclesiastes 3:7

“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”  Colossians 4:6

“Do not let your speech cause you to sin.” Ecclesiastes 5:6