Thoughts and Prayers?

Featured

Here we go again.  

Another mass shooting.  

Another round of “thoughts and prayers.”  

I’m not denigrating thoughts and prayers – I want to be more thoughtful and prayerful.

But…

We’ve been “thinking and praying” since Columbine and the problem seems worse than ever.  

Just look at the ever-increasing numbers of mass shootings in the U.S:

  • 2019: 417
  • 2021: 693
  • In 2022?  There have been more mass shootings than there have been days in the new year – over 200.  

“Thoughts and prayers” don’t seem to be working.  I wonder if God is telling us what he told the people of Judah through Isaiah: 

I cannot bear your worthless assemblies…

When you spread out your hands in prayer

I hide my eyes from you

Even when you offer many prayers

I am not listening. 

Why is God not listening to the prayers? Glad you asked:  

Your hands are full of blood!

Take your evil deeds out of my sight; 

Stop doing wrong

Learn to do right; seek justice.

Defend the oppressed…  (Isaiah 1:11-18)

That’s like God is saying that to the U.S. today – “Hands full of blood”!

The emptiness of thoughts and prayers spread to the northern kingdom of Israel too. Speaking on God’s behalf, Amos writes: 

I get no pleasure from your religious assemblies…

Take away from me your noisy songs…

Justice must flow like torrents of water,

Righteous actions like a stream than never dries up (Amos 5:21-24)

Have the emptiness of “thoughts and prayers” spread to the United States?  I think so.  

Maybe we need to respond with “thoughts and prayers and…action.” What a novel idea!  Father Rohr gets it.  He named his organization “The Center for Action and Contemplation.”

*Contemplation helps us see the world through the eyes of God – seeing God and reflecting God.

*Action is…well, ACTION.  It’s getting off our butts, or knees, and doing something.

Father Rohr says the most important word in the name is neither “Action” or “Contemplation” but, “and”.

It takes both. 
Let’s do both. 

“Faith, by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”  James 2:17   

Maybe there wouldn’t be so many deaths if our faith was not dead.  

Living in the Now While Waiting for the Biopsy

I found another spot.  On my way to conduct a funeral Friday afternoon, I glanced in the rearview mirror while at a stop light to make sure I didn’t have anything unsightly on my face, nose, mouth before arriving at the funeral home.

That’s when I saw the spot.  A white mark on my upper lip.  It wouldn’t wipe off. “Rats,” I said to no one in particular.  I’ve seen that kind of mark before – on my arm.  

15 years ago. 

Melanoma.  

The light turned green so I drove on.  At the next red light I took a selfie and sent it to my friend and Dermatologist PA and asked, “What do you think?”  She replied within 5 minutes.  “Come in Monday.”

I went in.  I came out with a biopsied, bandaged upper lip.  

I’ve had two previous melanomas and one squamous cell carcinoma (the wound from that surgery is still healing).  

Now, I wait.  What will the biopsy show this spot to be?

I know the principles of living in the now.  But I don’t know how to live those principles all of the time. Sometimes I do it. Sometimes I don’t.  Right now, for me to live in the now, is a choice. 

It has yet to become an automatic response. 

The “right now” is this:

  • I don’t know the nature of the spot. That’s the fact.  So why worry about something that may not be?  Why let a fear of tomorrow rob me of the fun I can have today?
  • I feel good. At least until the anesthesia wears off!  
  • I have great care from the dermatology team.
  • I have this moment.  Right now.  That’s all I’m guaranteed. So, I will make this present moment, standing here typing and drinking from a straw, looking at Denise across the room, the best moment ever. 

I will live by Calvin’s philosophy when he says to Hobbs, “We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” 

 

Men Behaving ….

After watching the video of Will Smith smacking Chris Rock after the comedian told a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, how would you complete the line: Men Behaving _________?

Some commend Will Smith for “protecting his wife,” calling what he did, “beautiful,” “manly.”

Some criticize Will Smith for “toxic masculinity.”

Some commend Chris Rock for showing restraint and maturity for not smacking back and for not pressing charges (at least not yet).  

Some criticize Chris Rock for bad taste in joking about someone’s health.  

What do you think?  What adverb would you use to complete the sentence? 

I think I’ll go with the title of the British sitcom – “Men Behaving Badly.”

And I think it applies to both men. 

I’m not saying they are bad men – just that their behavior was bad.  

Maybe both men need to take a step back for a little re-evaluation. 

Chris Rock:  I’ve always cringed at jokes that target health issues of people.  I just don’t see Jesus doing that.  Or maybe it was because I received my share of “teasing” as a kid for my speech impediment.  

Will Smith: Well, what he did was assault.  I wonder if we have fallen asleep to basic standards of human decency and civility.  Our leaders have been openly cruel and mean and in so doing have given us permission to be and do the same.  This is where we are. 

In his speech after receiving the Oscar for actor for his role in “King Richard” (Loved that movie!), Will said, “I’m being called on in my life, to love people and to protect people.” And then he said this: “Love will make you do crazy things.”  

Will Smith, Nope.  Just ask a victim of abuse whose abuser uses that same line.  

We all can do better.  And hopefully, when we know better, we will do better (Thank you, Maya Angelou).

Yes, We Will All Die.

I have a funeral today, Wednesday, March 2, 2022 – Ash Wednesday.  This will be the third funeral I’ve conducted this week.  

I face death regularly.  It’s part of the job.  Some humorist has said that the job of the pastor is to “Marry and Bury.” It’s a life of dealing with the “wed and the dead.”

Ash Wednesday is a reminder of death. The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are meant to represent dust.  When receiving ashes on their foreheads, they hear the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).  

Thanks, but no thanks, for the reminder.  We don’t like to be reminded of, to think about, death.  So we say just about anything to avoid saying the d-word:

  • Kicked the bucket
  • Six feet under
  • Bought the farm
  • Pushing up daisies
  • Passed away
  • Restin in peace

I get it.  Death is hard to face.  So to help us face it, we actually wear the reminder on our face. 

And that reminder is a good thing. Knowing that I will die motivates me to live a fuller life.  

After a funeral, I’m typically:

  • more “alive” – more aware of the beauty of all around me and its fragility.
  • more grateful
  • kinder
  • more affectionate
  • more loving
  • more here, now. 

My senses are sharpened.  Living with an awareness of death can make my living more loving. 

We don’t like to face death because we fear the loss brought by death. Yes, there is loss, but there is also gain.  “To die is to gain” (Philippians 1:21), Paul reminds us. It’s a trade. And it’s a trade up. 

So, I’m off to this funeral.  And I will return to a fuller life. 

Kindness Week and President’s Day

kid President kindness

Today, February 17, is both President’s Day and the beginning of Random Acts of Kindness week.  Initially, that sounds like a weird combination, but maybe not.  

Think about food combinations.  What sounds awful may actually be delicious. 

*Ice cream and French Fries.  Dip your fries into a Wendy’s Frosty.  Salty and sweet.  Hot and cold.  What’s not to love?

*Strawberries and Balsamic. Now, I’m all over that. 

*Banana and Bacon.   Thank you Elvis for this one. 

Let’s add President’s Day and Kindness Week to the list of weird but totally doable combinations.  

Our favorite President, by almost every poll every year, is Abraham Lincoln.  I wonder if his kindness is one thing that pole vaults Lincoln over the others. In Lincoln, we see a combination of strong leadership with pervasive kindness. 

We respect that.  We like someone who “leads with kindness.”

“Kindness” includes, but goes way beyond, sweet little acts of kindness.   

 “Love is kind” is what Paul writes in the “Love” poem of 1 Corinthians 13.  But he frames “kindness” in the context of relating to the “problem people” in our lives. 1 Corinthians 13 was written to a community in conflict. They were angry with each other.  They were at each others’ throats.  They were divisive. They had fallen into the dualistic thinking of “us-vs-them”.

Sound familiar? 

To that group of fighting folks then and to the fighting folks today, Paul says “Love is kind.”  

In an environment of hate we are to love, and that love looks like kindness – kindness to all.  

We see such kindness in President Lincoln.  

Historian, Paul Boller Jr, writes about Lincoln that, “No president has been vilified the way Lincoln was during the Civil War.  He was attacked by all sides: by abolitionists, Negro-phobes, states’ righters, strict constructionists, radicals, conservatives and by people who just did not like his looks or resented his storytelling…”

Yet, the direction of his life and response was kindness.  “Kindness was,” Donald T. Phillips writes “the very foundation of his personality.”

Here are two examples out of a life-time of examples:

Some weeks after the 1860 election, Springfield banker John W. Bunn met Senator Salmon P Chase coming out of Lincoln’s law office in Springfield.   

“You don’t want put that man in your cabinet,” he told Lincoln.
“Why do you say that?” Lincoln asked.
“Because,” said Bunn, “he thinks he is a great deal bigger than you are.”
“Well,” said Lincoln, “do you know of any other men who think they are bigger than I am?”
“I don’t know that I do,” said Bunn,  “but why do you ask?”
“Because,” said Lincoln, “I want to put them all in my cabinet.” 

Ok, that story is more about “humility” than “kindness,” but I like it.  Humility and kindness is a natural combo – like peanut butter and jelly.

At the end of the Civil War, Lincoln refused to execute Confederate Generals for treason.  Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman once asks Lincoln explicitly whether he wanted Jefferson Davis captured or allowed to escape. Here’s Lincoln’s response.  It’s a good one:

“I’ll tell you, General, what I think of taking Jeff Davis.  Out in Illinois there was an old temperance lecturer who was very strict in the doctrine and practice of total abstinence.  One day, after a long ride in the hot sun, he stopped at the house of a friend, who proposed making him a lemonade.  When the friend asked if he wouldn’t like a drop of something stronger int he drink, he replied that he couldn’t think of it.  ‘I’m opposed to it on principle, ‘ he said. ‘But,’ he added with a longing glance at the bottle, ‘if you could manage to put in a drop unbeknownst to me, I guess it wouldn’t hurt me much.’  

Now General I am bound to oppose the escape of Jeff Davis; but if you could manage to let him slip out unbeknownst-like, I guess it wouldn’t hurt much.” 

Abraham Lincoln was not a vengeful person.   And in his Second Inaugural Address he challenged the nation to move on “with malice toward none; with charity for all.”  

In February 1865, Lincoln told his friend Joshua Speed, “Speed, die when I may, I want it said of me by those who know me best to say that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower when I thought a flower would grow.”  

He died from an assassin’s bullet 2 months later, April 15, 1865.  

In honor of President Lincoln, let’s plant flowers of kindness, not just this week, but every week until we are united with Love.  

A Kindness Comeback

MAKA

A member of the church I pastor, The Venues, gave me for Christmas this year, “Dr. Seuss’s You Are Kind.”  The book is an ode to Kindness.  

The book both humbled me (it is a “thank-you” book) and challenged me – to everyday, in every way, be kind.

Just a few days ago we were singing “Silver Bells” that has this insightful line: “In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas.” 

We live and move in an atmosphere.

We breathe in and breathe out certain types of air.

We feel feelings.

Today, there is a feeling of meanness. 

We breathe it.

We move in it.

America is becoming a meaner place. 

Hate crimes have soared. Americans have become more polarized.  Average Americans say and do things to people they disagree with that in a different time would have been unthinkable.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) reminded us of that different time when she released a letter written by her late husband, Congressman John Dingell, upon the death of George H.W. Bush.  She released the letter as a response to the “Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know” slur that was made about her deceased husband, inferring that he maybe was in hell instead of heaven. 

Here is an excerpt of Mr. Dingell’s letter: 

George Bush came from a time (as did I) when we believed that American equality demands that we treat one another with the same dignity and respect with which we expect to be treated. He was horrified at the harshness our national discourse has taken and deeply disturbed at watching too many people speak past each other. We both shared deep concern about the hateful taunts, the despicable actions and language that plague our political culture.”

What can we do to improve the atmosphere? 

Congresswoman Dingell gave an answer to that question when she introduced the release of her husband’s letter:

“As an antidote to the last week, I found John Dingell’s own words from last December. He was alive at the time and wrote these words about his friend George H.W. Bush. His words were about him and his friend, who both worried about the direction of this country. Happy Holidays and may we take their message to heart.” 

“An antidote” to the poison of meanness is kindness.  

Denise and I went to the movies Christmas night and saw “Little Women.”  I really liked it. Seeing it made me want to read the book. In the book version, there is this exchange between Amy and her mom: 

Amy: “Because they are mean is no reason why I should be.  I hate such things, and though I’ve a right to be hurt, I don’t intend to show it…”

Marmee (Mom): “That’s the right spirit, my dear; a kiss for a blow is always best, though it’s not very easy to give it sometimes.”

The author, Louisa May Alcott, added that Marmee said this “with the air of one who had learned the difference between preaching and practicing.”  

Three writers – Dr. Seuss, Louisa May Alcott, John Dingell – one message:  Rise above the meanness with kindness.  

Marmee is right.  It’s easier to preach kindness than practice kindness.  I should know!

Robert Sutton, PhD, put it like this: “The more assholes you’re around the more asshole-y you get.”  

Here’s my plan for changing the atmosphere.

-Spend more time contemplating Jesus.  My dad used to say, “You become like that to which you pay attention.”  

-Live in that atmosphere of the Spirit of the Christ.  Breathe it in. That’s the only way to breathe it out. “Walk in the spirit and you will not do what your old self desires” (Galatians 5:16).

-Choose not to perpetuate the cycle of meanness. 

-Give a kiss for a curse. 

-Eat more cookies.  I always feel more nice when I eat cookies.  

Bringing Kindness Back in Style

Kindness Stories

I read two stories Monday, October 7, about kindness. 

Story #1 was from USA Today.  The story in the print edition is titled: “Kindness is trying to make a comeback.”   

 

It’s kind of like that Ella Moss Bell-Bottom Button Down Jumpsuit that I bought for Denise last Christmas, 2018.  The fashion world said Bell-Bottoms were making a comeback. Not for Denise.  They’re hanging in her closet with the price tag still attached. 

 

Well, she’ll be ready for Halloween!

 

Kindness has been out of style for a while.  But a few people are bringing it back.  

 

A Los Angeles police officer recently posted a video of a homeless woman singing a Purccini aria in a deserted subway station.  The video went viral.  Emily Zamourka, the “subway soprano” is a classically trained violinist from Russia.  She moved to the United States about 30 years ago. Three years ago she became seriously ill.  That illness bankrupted her, forcing her to the streets.  

 

Now, thanks to that video taken by the police officer, Emily, with a recording contract in hand, is on her way to becoming a professional singer.  In the wake of this overnight turnaround, Emily said,

 

“I want to thank the police officer who was so kind to me and  made me gosh, I don’t know, so famous.”  

 

Then she gives us all a sobering perspective and challenge:

 

“I am so grateful, but I also wish that the kindness I am experiencing now I might  have felt when no one knew of my singing…There are people out there and do need to be reached out to, and they’re waiting to be helped.  We’re all the same, and some just need to be reached out to and given an opportunity.”

 

Story #2 is the story of Megan Phelps-Roper, the granddaughter of Fred Phelps, the famous Preacher of Hate at the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.  Megan, in a Ted Talk, reminds us that “We are all a product of our upbringing and our experiences.”

 

Her upbringing was in a religion of:

  • “Us vs. Them.”  The “good guys” were her church.  Everyone else made up the group of “bad guys.”
  • Fear. Her mother summed up the Bible in three words, “Obey. Obey. Obey.”
  • And hate.  Such hate. Megan joined her family on a picket line for the first time when she was five years.  In her little hands, she held up a sign that she was too young to read, much less understand: “Gays are worthy of death.”  Maybe you remember other signs: “God is Your Enemy,” “Your Rabbi is a Whore,”   “God Hates Jews.” God Hates________Just fill in the blank), on and on.  

 

The hate coming out of her family and church was so vicious and disgusting that even   the KKK called them extreme!  Now when the KKK calls you hateful, that’s saying something.  

 

Megan has written a book, “Unfollow” – her story of growing up in hate but choosing love. What turned Megan around? Kindness.  

 

Megan was in charge of the church’s Twitter account.  While others attacked with protests and signs, Megan would attack with Tweets.  

 

She said she was prepared to argue online with the same passion, anger, and self-righteous assurance she was used to when picketing.

 

“What I wasn’t prepared for was kindness,” she said. 

 

She reached out to David Abitbol, the founder of Jewlicious.  

 

She says, “I got to tweeting about how Jews really need to repent for their sins…I accused the Jews of killing Jesus.  David’s response was swift, cunning and angry, exactly the response I expected…but soon after his initial foray, something changed.”  

 

She said she kept sending hateful messages, but he replied differently.  “His responses went from angry insults to friendly bars.  He started asking me questions, and I started asking him questions about Jewish theology, both of us genuinely curious how the other had come to such different conclusions about the Bible.”  

 

Kindness led Megan from hate to love.  

 

Here’s another story of kindness from the life of St. Francis of Assisi.  Francis was riding his horse in the countryside when he saw a leper walking toward him.   His instinct was ours – to turn around and head the other way – to avoid the leper at all cost.  But something happened within Francis. He rode directly toward the man with parts of his face and hands eaten away by the horrible diseases.  Fancis got off his horse, walked to the man and then, hugged him and kissed him – on the lips.

 

Francis writes, “When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure, but then God himself led me into their company, and I had pity on them…After that I did not wait long before leaving the world.”  

 

No, he didn’t die.  That’s not what he meant by “leaving the world.”  St. Francis left the world of meanness to live in the world of kindness. 

We live in a mean world of harsh words and rude behaviors.  

Let’s leave that world (kingdom) and become residents of another.  

Let’s write our own stories of kindness.

…of kissing the leper.

…of listening.

…of seeking to understand.

…of showing kindness.

 

Let’s bring kindness back in style.  

 

“A Kinder-Gentler Nation and Person”

bush-service-dog-casket-today-main-181203_9de5b5e8b8fb1b3fdd67537267a2cc5a.1200;630;7;70;2The above pic is of Sully, the service dog who belonged to President George H.W. Bush.

 

On August 19, 1988, George H.W. Bush received the Republican party’s nomination for President of the United States.  In his acceptance speech, he called for a “kinder, gentler, nation.”

On November 30, 2018, “43” (George W. Bush), in a phone call, said to his dad, “41,”  “I love you.”  And President George H.W. Bush replied, “I love you, too.” And those were the last words he ever spoke. 

Our 41st President led the country, led his family, led his own life, with kindness.  Sure, there were moments of unkindness.  In the final days of the 1992 campaign, President Bush, running for re-election,  unleased this remark against candidate Bill Clinton and his running mate Al Gore, “My dog Millie knows more about foreign affairs than these two bozos.”  

The voters didn’t buy it.  Clinton beat Bush 43% to 37%.  Third-party candidate Ross Perot swung the election with 19% of the vote.  

But kindness prevailed.  In a handwritten note to Clinton dated January 20, 1993, Bush wrote, “You will be our President when you read this note.  I wish you well.  I wish your family well.  Your success is now our country’s success.  I am rooting hard for you.  Good Luck – George”

Kindness and humility.  General Colin Powell said of President Bush (41), “…He was a man of great humility.  He was humble.”  “Bush,” he added, “was a product of his parents, who told him, you know, ‘Don’t show off George; just always remember, you’re humble, you work for people, you serve people.’”  

His parents’ teaching  took.  Bush was so self-effacing that he hated to use the personal pronoun. “Don’t be talking about yourself,” his mother instructed him.  

Maybe humility and kindness are teammates.  Maybe my failure or refusal to show kindness reflects the pride in my  heart – a sense that I’m better than others and that they deserve to be treated unkindly.  I mean if they didn’t deserve it, I wouldn’t treat them unkindly, would I? At least that’s how we justify our unkindness.  Unkindness and put downs go hand in hand.  

“Kindness” is a spiritual trait.  It is used over and over again in the New Testament:

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be the children  of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and evil” (Luke 6:35).

“…and be kind to one another, tenderhearted…” (Ephesians 4:32).

“clothes yourselves with kindness…” (Colossians 3:12).  

“Love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Jesus’ yoke is called “chrestos” (the Greek word for “kind”), in Matthew 11:30:  “For my yoke is easy (kind)…”  It does not chafe. It does not irritate.  No splinters, no callouses from Jesus’ yoke.  

W.E. Vine defines “chrestos” as “mild, pleasant, in contrast to what is harsh, sharp, bitter.”  

Kindness needs to be the calling-card for Christ-followers. 

Kindness, though, crosses all religions.  Kindness knows no race, religion or gender.  

It is universal.  It is internal.  

Christians call this the indwelling of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  

Buddhists call this maitri – a kindness to oneself that then leads to a kindness toward others.

Take a close look at rude, unkind people.  What we might see behind their bullying behavior is a deeply insecure person.  People with low self-esteem often hide their own insecurities behind a mask of superiority and meanness. 

Maybe we need to be kinder to ourselves before we are kind to others?  

Meditation helps me do this.  In meditation, I can sense God’s love and kindness to me (In Loving-kindness Jesus Came).

From that place of kindness within my spirit, I can embrace in concentric circles, in ripples of kindness, those that I love dearly and deeply, casual friends, strangers, then finally, I can let that ripple include someone who has hurt me.  

All can be objects of the kindness that resides in the spirit within – in my true self.

It’s Christmas time.  The season of giving and all of that.  If you’re looking for ideas on what to give, here’s one: 

“Kindness is a gift everyone can afford to give.”  

Thank you President Bush 41 for the ripple of kindness.  

Hate in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

Mr Rogers_BowersI read yesterday that the hate-filled act Saturday was committed in the neighborhood in which Fred Rogers had lived.  His home was three blocks from Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill.  It was there, in his Squirrel Hill home, where Mr. Rogers chose to die.  

It was there, in this neighborhood, that Robert Bowers chose to take the lives of as many worshippers as he could.  Eleven people died.  

Two men.  Two ways of living.  Both basing their ways on Scripture.

Robert Bowers’ profile page included this bit of Scripture, commentary and doctrinal statement:  “jews are the children of Satan (John 8:44) — the lord jesus christ is come in the flesh.”  (Does he not realize that Jesus was a Jew?)

How many times do we see people use Scripture to justify hate or hateful actions? How much hurt has been inflicted on others in the name of Jesus?

Mister Rogers also included  Scripture in his life.  He followed Jesus and built his life on the love of Jesus, “…the greatest thing we can do is to help somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving.”  Mr. Rogers’ theological messages could be traced to Jesus’ idea of neighbor.  

It was a radical idea.  We find it in his story of the Good Samaritan.

It’s about being kind. 

It’s about helping people in need.

It’s about sacrificing for others.

But it’s about SO MUCH MORE!!

It’s about loving instead of hating.  It’s about:

being kind to,  

helping people who, 

sacrificing for, 

the ones who are hated.  

Robert Bowers hates Jews.

In Jesus’ day, Samaritans hated Jews and Jews hated Samaritans.  

To the Jews, there was no such thing as a “Good Samaritan.”  It’s like there’s no such thing as bad chocolate.

In the chapter before Luke’s record of Jesus’ story of neighbors and neighborhood, he writes about James and John suggesting to Jesus that they call down consuming fire from heaven on a group of Samaritans (Luke 9:51-56).  Jesus rebuked them.  That’s not how Jesus rolls.  

The very Samaritans the disciples wanted to kill, are held up in Jesus’ story as role models on how to live. The ones who were hated were the ones, Jesus said, had it right – had eternal life.  

Jesus’ neighborhood is different.  

Jesus told this story as an answer to a question posed by an expert in the Law of Moses:  “Who is my neighbor?”  At the end of the story, Jesus turned it around by asking the expert, “Which of these three (the two religious leaders or the Samaritan) proved to be a neighbor to the man in need?”  

I’d love to have seen the look on the expert’s face as he had to state the obvious, “The one who showed him mercy (compassion).”  The Message translates it like this: “The one who treated him kindly.”    

Kindness.  Mister Rogers invites us to dream:  “Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”

In the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill we see two men.  Two ways of living.  Two ways of seeing and treating others.

Mister Rogers and Robert Bowers.

It’s easy to love Mister Rogers more than we love Robert Bowers.  How would Mister Rogers treat Robert Bowers?  Would Mister Rogers follow his own philosophy and help Bowers know that he is loved and is capable of loving?   I think so.

A dear friend and wise woman gave me a note Sunday after service in which she said,  “I am reminded daily that God loves the man who killed 11 Jews just as much as me.”  

She’s a good neighbor.

I want a neighbor like that.  I want to be a neighbor like that.

 

 

Karma and the DMV

patricia_belcher_geico-1

I had a great time at the DMV this week.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I had a great time at the DMV this week.

“Great time” and the DMV don’t usually go together.

Frustration and the DMV

Irritation and the DMV

Annoyance and the DMV

Time Vacuum and the DMV

But not “Great Time” and the DMV.

I was late, by 8 months, in renewing the tags on my 1973 VW Super Beetle.  I know.  I feel ashamed.  I was prepared for a big fine and a big lecture – or at least a condescending look.

On top of being late, when I handed my insurance document to the DMV clerk, she informed me that It was missing the VW’s VIN.  Rats!!! Maxwell the Geico pig in the above pic, had all the pertinents.  I didn’t.  I knew what that meant.    No renewal tags for me.  Time wasted.  Frustration. Irritation.

I had a choice.  How will I respond?  I thought before I spoke – which doesn’t happen a lot!

I have been studying “Karma.”   I know, a lot of Christians blow a Bible gasket when karma is mentioned.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because the word comes from faith expressions they think as wrong.  But is it wrong?

Karma means action.  It’s the old, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” law of Newton.

“Karma” is defined by Urban Dictionary as “getting what you give” or “reaping what you sow.”  Whoa.  Urban Dictionary is using the Bible to define karma.  Hmmmm.

“Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the spirit, from the spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:7-10).

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you.  Forgive others, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37).  

And then, the part of this passage that most preachers read right before the offering, while skipping the most convicting part above:

“Give and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).  

Jesus applies the “karma” principle to how we treat people.  How we treat others is how we’ll be treated.  I tried it at the DMV.

“Thank you for being so thorough,” I told the clerk.  “You’re good at what you do.”

I intentionally chose against irritation in favor of appreciation.

The result?  The clerk said, “You’re a nice guy.  We can figure out a way to make this work.”

I walked out with the new stickers for my old Beetle.

Did Karma work?  Was she nice to me because I was nice to her?
I don’t know.  Maybe she was jus a nice gal.

But, I do know that being nice made me feel better inside.

Being nice may be its own reward.

Call it Karma.  Don’t call it Karma.  But be kind.