When Kindness Teaches

Author: The Transformed Teacher

As a teacher, June always brings mixed emotions. Sadness creeps in as students start to hug me tight and express words of sorrow over leaving me as the end of the school year arrives. A great joy overtakes me as I ponder and reflect on all the ways students grew, especially in how they grew to love each other.

I thought this June would be unlike the others, since from the very start of September I was already yearning for summer’s respite. One boy’s strong defiance, cursing at me under his breath, and frequent distraction inducing ways, made the year ahead seem bleak.  Day after day one conflict after another peppered the classroom with chaos. His noncompliant behaviors invariably propelled me into a constant pattern of asserting myself as the authority.  Round and round in circles we would go.

Then prayer.

Prayer changed me.  Not all at once, but over time. My heart softened  towards the boy.   Originally, my prayers were for the removal of my classroom’s thorn.  But as I went to the Lord in prayer, I started to see my own depravity.  I had let pride govern my actions more than I wanted to admit.  I had been so intent on making the boy properly esteem me and my position as his instructor that I had failed to see what he really needed.  He needed kindness.  Sincere kindness. Kindness not dependent on him…or me.

My fair weather attempts had been meaningless, when anger, disappointment, and annoyance were most frequently communicated. Fortunately, we don’t go it alone as believers in Christ, for the Holy Spirit dwells within us, to lead, guide and empower us.  A surrendered heart, and ears attuned to the Holy Spirit, can bring light to the darkest of situations.

The Holy Spirit convicted me of not reflecting Jesus in how I interacted with the unruly student.  Kindness permeated Jesus’ life here on Earth, and as His follower kindness should permeate mine.

Evidence of Jesus’ kindness is lavishly spread throughout scripture. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry. And as if that wasn’t enough, He died on the cross. He took the punishment we deserve and offered us His righteousness. His every word and action is humbling, it eradicates the temptation for arrogance, and produces a desire to pour out the limitless love He has for us onto others.

Kindness can’t be manufactured, for it is a fruit of the Spirit.  True kindness is more than an outward act; it’s an inward heart change. It  transforms our character. It is a transformation of who we are.  Kindness uproots selfishness.  As a byproduct of our kindness, we experience great joy and deep freedom.

Joy is what I experienced this June. God had made something beautiful out of something ugly, for the tightest hugs and the one instigating the “I’m going to miss you!” chorus with the loudest voice, was the very boy that in September I wished to be rid of.

The Holy Spirit cultivates kindness. He grows it and gently leads us to use it, even when it is undeserved. Through His kindness to us, we have the privilege of becoming imitators of Christ.  In seeking Him, we can be empowered to follow the directives of Ephesians 4:31 – 5:2, to live a life that is holy and pleasing to the Lord. It is my prayer that the body of Christ know more and more what it means to:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:31-5:2

 

What could be taught to those who are hurting if we would pray wholeheartedly that the Lord make us kind?

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Readers, Where can you demonstrate the kindness of Christ today?

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Patience in the Small Things

I did not anticipate writing this week’s post. In fact, I was geared up, ready to write last week’s post on peace, and then life got tremendously busy, and time slipped away from me. For the first time in months, I missed a deadline.  

I’m sitting on my back deck now, writing about patience. It felt like a challenge from God. Write about patience, I could almost hear a good, loving chuckle in the background of that request. For it is goodness and love that sustains us when the small everyday happenings reveal to us how impatient we actually are. That being said, let me tell you about the ways He’s been preparing my heart to write on patience in the last 24 hours alone.

It all began when I started summer school yesterday morning at 0800. I work as a school nurse, and usually one of the perks of the job is the beloved summer vacation. As this is my third summer off, I decided to cram in as much as I could into this summer break.  

9 science credits? Sure! Immunology online and Chemistry in person? Okay! Travel to New Jersey at the end of the summer to see my handsome nephew? Sign me up!

When I opened up the syllabus to my Immunology class, panic overcame me. The exams have to be in person! The final is scheduled when I am already 3 days into my New Jersey adventure! I frantically emailed my instructor, suggesting different solutions to my final exam date conflict. I sent my email in at noon. Over the course of the next 5 hours, I checked and rechecked my inbox, willing a response. It did not come.

Frustrated, I left for the gym for my favorite exercise activities. As I stretched, downward dogged, planked, and child posed my way through yoga, I felt the tension in my shoulders and neck melt away. Breathe in. In my heart, God softly reminded me, “I’ve got this. Don’t you trust me?” Breathe out.

I went to Chemistry class the next day and checked my course email when I returned home.  The teacher responded to my email with a “Yes, you can take this course’s final exam early.”

How many times do I send my prayers like an email demanding an immediate response? How many times do I fret and fluster over things outside of my control?

Then there were lessons waiting for me in wet, cleaned carpets. One of my sweet dogs happened to have several accidents which led to an unanticipated cleaning of the carpet and an appointment with the Rug Doctor. I had to wave a slow goodbye to the leisure filled hours penciled into my head that involved Netflix, a nap, and perhaps some sort of studying. And as I sucked the foamy cleaner into the heavy machine, slowly going over each soiled area, I had to laugh. “You’re writing about patience,” a little sing-song voice hummed. Can I be patient when plans are interrupted?

Now I sit here on the back deck, typing out this post on my phone. I was going to use my Dad’s laptop…I say “going to” because Google Chrome was not updated, nor was his computer.  I stared painstakingly at the wheel of spinning death for the last 25 minutes. Patience, you say? Even when…it’s just a small thing? Even when…a little outburst wouldn’t hurt anyone? Patience even when nobody is watching?

Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

I don’t think God was messing around when He prompted Paul to write these words. Sometimes we face huge, trying moments in our lifethose which cause us to fall flat on our face and seek solely after God. Then there are the moments which are seemingly benign, like my moments above. These small trials are light-lifting used to strengthen and tone our character. They are used to remind us that God is in control, and we are not.  We have the opportunity to freak out and panic, or we can lean into our God, who is always for us, whispering, “I’ve got this. Don’t you trust me?”

~~~

Readers, When do you find it most difficult to exercise patience?

0752d-sarah2bsquareSarah believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog, and you can find her stories for Anchored Voices under the tag Sarah.

The Promise of Peace

I have had to stay off social media more than normal this week. There was too much needed discussion about “rape culture” and “hook up culture”. Every time I logged on I felt a weight of concern for so many women for whom I knew the threads of awareness would be a trigger. Who am I kidding, I had to check my own emotions as well. I am not typically susceptible to triggers. The healing I have experienced reaches deep and wide, but every once in a while old experiences and memories sneak up on me.

Then a singer was slain, and the next morning Orlando. Oh Orlando, how I wished I had words that in some way, in any way might be helpful. I wanted to cry out, but for some things there are no words.

In all the stripping away, in the weeping with those who weep, in the dark night of the soul’s grief—when the brokenness of the world has become too brazen—peace is not completely lost.

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.~ Jesus (John 16:33)

There is a God who is bigger, a story that looms larger than the horror, and a peace that meets inner turmoil with the hope that this world has been overcome. Society breaks down; people suffer (or worse, serve) terror; there is much that is troubling to the soul. Peace can still be mine. It is a promise from the Savior who knew that darkness would persistently press in.

Peace does not come from 24-hour security monitoring. It will not come because I have a gun or live in a home without one. It won’t even visit when the world accepts me just as I am, for peace is an elusive mistress when it depends on what we can give, buy, or control.

The peace that surpasses understanding comes from a deep trust in the hope that Christ offers. Hiding in His ability to overcome, and embracing the freedom of not having to rely on my own strength, keeps me from bearing the burden of self-preservation.

The Bible includes peace as a fruit of the Spirit. The peace of Christ is not an emotion human hearts can manufacture or create with circumstance. Instead, it demands a wild trust willing to risk. It boldly offers the vulnerability demanded by love as joy grows through gracewhich offers life. Peace has been left behind for us as a promise.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.~ Jesus (John 14:27)

May your satisfaction in Christ be so deep that bad news on the global, local, or personal scale doesn’t touch the promise of peace gifted to you. When challenges come and triggers tempt toward anxiety, may your heart not be troubled, for you know you belong to the Prince of Peace who has overcome the world.
~~~
Readers, When peace seems far, how do you remember that Jesus is near?

Seeds of Joy

Earlier this year when the leaves first began to turn, my family moved for the 4th(and hopefully last) time in 2 years. As this summer approaches I am seeing life I did not work for spring up. I’ve been exploring the bounty someone else planned, invested in, and hoped for in my small corner of earth.  Whoever the woman was, she loved gardening. I’ve eagerly anticipated finding out what would appear as the days grew warmer, and longer. Tulips, Crocus, Peony, Roses.  SO.MANY. ROSES.

The corner of my yard became a thorny jungle and I realized 15 rose bushes would be too much to maintain for a novice like me. I offered several bushes to anyone who wanted to come dig them up. As we chatted and dug, I realized three of the bushes I thought were roses were actually producing blueberries. Like I said, I’m a novice. Since I didn’t even know they should be producing fruit the plants had little support. I had done nothing to help them winter over, add nutrients, or even prune the dead branches. However, they were made to produce blueberries, and they automatically brought forth fruit when the season was right.

That is how fruit works. At the right time, for no reason other than the creative intent of God who fashioned them, my bushes were dripping with berries.

The natural process challenged me to think about the fruit of my life. Much of what God has called fruit, I have over time turned into striving. The biggest culprit: Joy. While it is true that joy is a trademark of the Christian life, somewhere along the way my mind had adopted a caricature of “joy” far from the truth.

Always happy. Fairly cheesy. Dependable, hard working, always excited. She doesn’t get upset, or at least doesn’t show it. The perfect friend, a listener, this woman won’t let you down. Even though she comes off as inauthentic at times, you know that she truly loves others, and loves God. She must have figured it all out. Her life runs smoothly, with plenty of time and energy to pour into everyone around her. If she faces a rare bad day, she has a perfect platitude ready and waiting. She signs up for every team, every need. When life is hard, she is happy anyway. She keeps striving.

Striving is the worst.

The very things that should be natural outpourings of being a child of God and listening to the Holy Spirit instead became a checklist—a measure to attain. In the end, it wasn’t joy at all, but a facade of cheerfulness smothered in good intentions, but without true power.

I am exhausted. Are you?

Is anyone else walking around acting like they have joy figured out, because it’s what Christians are supposed to look like?

I have good news. Joy isn’t in the circumstances, something we must scramble to obtain, or the varsity Christian team mantra.

A little digging, and I discovered that the word for joy in Greek is tied to grace. I’m no scholar, I took one class that gave me enough understanding to use the biblehub.com Greek interlinear and a concordance to study word meanings. Joy (chara) and grace (charis) are so close that if we read Greek today we’d see these cousin-words and immediately feel the connection. Deeper into definitions I determined this: joy is the ability to see God’s grace.

Did you get that? The root of joy is seeing God’s grace at work in your life. There is no joy you can produce, it is caused by noticing God’s gifts. His love. His favor. On the darkest day, as long as His grace remains, so can your joy.

Though happiness and circumstances do not induce joy, neither does working and striving. My false picture of “joy” had a lot more in common with people pleasing or attempting to earn God’s favor, than living life as an outpouring of the acceptance already found in Jesus. Joy isn’t a goal to put on a list and something to “work on” improving. It’s a fruit of the spirit; the natural product that comes forth from the Holy Spirit, not from us.

Joy growing from the seed of grace is the reason we can experience deep joy in the midst of sorrow. I look back at every season of suffering and difficulty, the times when I felt that Joy had left me forever, and I see that God had actually generously sprinkled them with seeds of grace. They did produce joy, I just didn’t realize that is what it was because I thought I needed to work to find it.

The friend who texted they’d been thinking of me and asked how to pray, when they didn’t know. He has not forgotten me.

A slice of red velvet cake, my wedding cake, that showed up on my desk on a day marriage was hard. He’s got this, do not fear.

The way that even when I could not make myself pick up my Bible, he put something in front of me that I needed. On Facebook, through a friend, the song stuck in my head. He is still working.

The magnolias blooming in the rain, when loss and grief were close and tears were never far. He is making all things beautiful in his time.

~~~

Readers, No matter what season you are in, can you see seeds of grace? How has God given you joy?

Holly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

Love for the Hurt Person

Author: Sarah Clews

I’ve been tempted to believe I am one of those people who will be betrayed. I feel it has tried to be the theme for my last year or so. People I thought were my friends really weren’t, and those I thought I could trust proved me wrong. I shouldn’t be surprised. We live in a fallen world with a fallen nature. But after you’ve given so much to something or someone, often at no cost, and then those you have come along side burn you, it’s hard to not feel hurt. I’m sure I am not alone. Many have felt the pain of turning in trust and then being stabbed in the back.

It’s  easy for me to take on the identity of a hurt person, but I find that only leads to more turmoil. When hurting, my shoulders slump as I physically try to protect myself from these emotional wounds. I withdraw, shying away from social events and finding myself unable to trust even those I rationally know I can trust. I find myself overwhelmed by paranoia and anxiety.

Recently, while driving around town, I was thinking over the last year and touching on some of the hurts I had experienced. I don’t want to be this bitter, walled off person, but it’s hard when you feel like you’re being burned over and over.

I thought of Jesus and the ways in which He was betrayed. His disciples, his 12 closest friends, wouldn’t even admit they knew him when stuff went down. One of his disciples, a friend of several years (Judas), sold him out to the Pharisees for money.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last couple years, it’s that some people will cross lines they never thought they would for money. I doubt Judas started following Jesus knowing he would betray him. But when Jesus became an obstacle to potential riches, Judas did just that.

Judas, the great betrayer, wasn’t just an acquaintance. He was a disciple of Jesus who sat at his feet and KNEW Jesus was the Messiah. He sold out Jesus for about $600 (the modern day equivalent of 30 pieces of silver).

It’s important to remember that even if Judas didn’t know he would be the betrayer, Jesus did. He KNEW, and He loved him anyway.

When it comes down to it, this is what separates Christ followers from everyone else. It’s loving anyway, over and over again. Love is the first quality listed in Galatians when Paul talks about the fruit that should overflow out of believers.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love…” Galatians 5:22

I have been hurt. And I have felt betrayed.  Those feelings don’t magically go away. I don’t have to live the rest of my life hurt. Instead, I can choose love. I will love anyway, in spite of it all, because loving with the kind of love Jesus is all about is what brings freedom to the betrayed, change to a broken world, and hope to those who have been hurt.

~~~

Readers, Where can you choose love today?

Sarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, writer and prolific reader. You can find more of her writing at Just Little Things. Interested in submitting your work? Check out our submissions page.