On Compassion

Lately, I’ve been considering how desperately our world needs the Christian community to embody compassion.

In the past few weeks, I’ve read countless articles that have a spirit of condemnation and judgment. The majority of these articles have focused on “those people”. And, I’ve noticed that “those people” tend to represent all those who do not act, speak, and believe exactly like the author.

These articles tend to have an “I’m right and you are wrong” arrogance. These articles are conservatives vs. liberals…liberals vs. fundamentalists…and so on. And, let’s be honest…these labels are pretty tired, worn out, and insufficient.

Then, if someone dares to question the author’s position, all hell breaks loose and the questioner is labeled a heretic.

In the midst of this, I have been convinced that people really enjoy telling others that they are going to hell. I get the feeling that some find a great deal of satisfaction in lashing out eternal damnation to certain individuals and groups.

Of course, grace is extended. However, it tends to be on the terms of the one in authority. So, grace is extended like this…”You can be saved from the eternal fires of hell (that tends to be the definition of hell, too…not just eternal separation from God…but a lake of fire where people are burning) if you will simply admit the errors of your ways, believe exactly as I do, and never ask any questions…never!”

Now, I need to be careful because, at times, I can come down too harshly on those I disagree with. I can be extremely pious and egotistical.

I am not free from being judgmental…condemning…self-righteous. I make snap judgments each and every day. So, I’m just as guilty.

But, I’ve come to believe that our fervor for judgment often trumps our practice of compassion, mercy, grace, patience, gentleness, and kindness. Too often, we miss the point. In our great debates, often over trivial issues, we tend to forget the call to love one another…to love our enemies…to bless, not curse.

Jesus was fairly clear on the subject. In John 3:17 he says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

And, for some reason, when I read this passage, I get the feeling that Jesus never intended those who follow Him to take on a practice of “scaring the hell out of people”.

Instead, I get the feeling that He desires that His followers would love others into His Kingdom.

When Jesus saw the hurt, the hungry, the poor, the confused, the “least of these”, He was filled with compassion. Just read the Gospels and see how often Jesus had feelings of compassion fill His being.

And, today, our world is in desperate need for Christians to be filled with compassion…followed by action.

When Jesus was filled with compassion…it motivated action. Feeding the hungry. Healing the sick. Raising the dead. Sharing his life and love with the outcast.

I believe that a Christian community filled with compassion and genuine love for its neighbors could transform the world.

Rather than dismissing those we disagree with, how can we extend compassion?

Rather than condemning those we disagree with, how can we show them love, grace, and mercy?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. ~ Colossians 3:12-14

 

Sometimes Life Is Like…

I’ve come to the realization that life is a whole lot easier if you can laugh at yourself. There are times when situations arise that, if you let them, could really turn your day upside down. However, if you respond with laughter (in certain circumstances), you might just be able to see the humor, the joy, the lesson in it all.

Because…sometimes life is like a cat that relieves itself on you.

Let me back up a bit.

So, yesterday, I was rocking out to the sounds of The Clash with Sammie and Jocelyn. We have a blue beanbag chair in our front room that the girls love to dive into. Well, in the midst of dancing to The Clash’s version of “I Fought The Law and the Law Won”, I look over to see Jocelyn dive into the beanbag. I didn’t really think much of it…until I saw her splashing her hands in some kind of liquid.

My first thought was, “Oh man, the lid came off of her drink.” However, as I got closer, I noticed that the liquid sure didn’t smell like water.

I then realized that it was all over her pajamas…did she vomit? I asked her, and as any almost 17-month old would do, she nodded in affirmation.

I wish it was vomit…Instead, it was cat urine.

So, I began to go into a full rant, “Stupid cat! Why would that stupid cat pee on the beanbag chair?”

I quickly picked up Jocelyn and headed to the tub. She was totally having a great time! I continued my rant, letting Emily fully know how disgusted I was with her cat.

And, I became totally self-righteous as I protested under my breath while bathing Jocelyn. “Why am I having to clean Jocelyn up? It’s not my stupid cat. I’m not the one who shut the door to the room where the cat box is.Blah, blah, blah!!!”

So, Jocelyn was having a great time in the tub…and I couldn’t help but laugh…that is, until I had to clean up the cat.

“Why do I have to give the stupid cat a bath? It’s not my stupid cat to begin with.”

And, I sort of got what I deserved. As the cat and I headed into the bathroom, I noticed that my shirt was getting rather warm. And, the warmth was accompanied by the feeling of liquid running down my shirt and pants.

I’d been hit! The stupid cat got me! “Your stupid cat is peeing on me!”

While bathing the cat, I began to see the humor in it all.

My daughter…playing in cat urine…thinking it was tons of fun.

My fat and lazy cat…relieving herself on me…probably out of fear and confusion.

There I was, covered in stinky cat pee, and I just had to laugh.

Why the laughter? You see, all I had to deal with yesterday was a little bit of cat urine. Disgusting? You bet! But, in light of the various struggles that others face on a daily basis, this is nothing.

There are people whose bodies are being ravaged by disease, malnutrition, lack of decent hygiene and health care.

There are people who have no clue where their next meal will come from.

There are people who have no idea how they will possibly be able to make their next mortgage payment…let alone cover their utilities.

There are people who have faced a great deal of loss.

There are people who are unemployed or underemployed…and the job market isn’t really picking up.

These are not the kinds of things we laugh about…

And, I have the audacity to pitch a fit over some cat urine?

So, today, I choose to laugh. Today I choose to give thanks (for things like a daughter who thinks it’s a riot to play in the cats mess!) and not let the small things explode into big things that take my focus off the One Thing that can turn a frustrating moment into a hilarious memory.

James 1:2-3  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Pslam 30:11-12  You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

I’m Not That Important???

After reading Scott Greene’s post on putting others first, I began to do some thinking…some inward searching…

Sometimes, I believe that life is a journey to help me realize that I’m really not that important. I know, it is probably a major surprise to you because, well, I’m awesome. But, as awesome as both you and I know that I am, when it all boils down, I’m just not that important.

Now, I’m not saying that my life doesn’t matter…it does. And, I’m not saying that God doesn’t have a use for me…He does.

What I’m saying is that my self-inflated view of myself (remember, I just referred to myself as being awesome?) is off-base.

You see, while my life does in fact matter…I am not the most important person in the world (and neither are you…sorry!).

And, while God can and does use me, He can and does accomplish His will without me.

Here’s my confession: I often believe that whatever I am doing is more important than what you are doing.

So, if I am driving down the road, my destination is more important than yours…so you should politely let me pass you when you are driving at or below the speed limit.

If I am at the grocery or any other store, the items I am buying will serve a greater purpose than the items you are buying. Therefore, you should politely stop blocking  the entire aisle with your cart while trying to figure out which brand and variety of macaroni and cheese you should buy for your family.

If I am working, my work is more important than your work. So, please don’t bother me…period…I’m working…doing the Lord’s work…and that’s important stuff…and you wouldn’t understand.

Now, while most of this is “tongue-in-cheek”, there’s a bit of reality in it.

You see, too often I’m so caught up in whatever I am doing that I ignore whatever else is going on around me. I ignore the people that God has called me to love.

This evening, it hit me kind of hard when I was having a conversation with a friend.

While I truly enjoy this friend, when I received the phone call, I was in the midst of trying to get ready for this evenings rehearsal. While he was sharing some struggles that he has been dealing with, I found myself getting anxious…wondering when he was going to stop moaning and groaning so I could offer my 2 cents and get on with my business.

In the midst of this anxious feeling, I caught myself. I began to think, “Hey dummy, this friend is having a difficult time and he called you to talk through it and all you can think about is putting batteries in microphones.”

And, that’s when it hit me like the business end of a 2×4, I’m just not that important.

So, what is important? Making time for God. Making time for family. Making time for friends. Making time for others…for the hurt, the broken, the lost, the hungry, the desperate people we encounter each day who just need someone to realize that their busy schedule really isn’t that important.  Making time to just slow down for 5, 10, 15 minutes and listen…truly listen…to the person who is more important than you.

So, my hope, my prayer, and my desire is that I will become less selfish and begin to consider others first…to consider others as being better than myself…and to take my time so I can be open to the important stuff of life.

My Lenten Journey

During the season of Lent, many people will give up things (chocolate, meat, caffeine, television, sarcasm, etc.) Others will try new things during the Lenten journey…like exercising, volunteering at a mission or shelter, or praying.

The thing about Lent is that it’s a great time to consider how we live. Are there things we need to let go of? Are there things that we should really put into practice?

Generally, I do not give things up during Lent. I’ve found that when I consider what I will give up for Lent, I do so in more of a selfish way than from a perspective of fasting that will help me consider the suffering of Christ. I tend to look at fasting for Lent as something that might benefit me…not so much spiritually…but physically. If I give up sugar, I’ll drop some of those unwanted pounds. One year, I gave up eating meat…only to have someone point out one evening that I was eating noodles that were cooked in beef broth and that the beef broth contained meat/meat bi-products. I refer to that person as the Lent Nazi (harsh? yes!). And, my motivation should have been questioned. First, I really do not consume that much meat to begin with…so it wasn’t much of a sacrifice. And, in the back of my mind, I was thinking about the health benefits of avoiding greasy cheeseburgers.

So, this year, instead of giving up Cadbury Eggs (seriously, that would be a sacrifice…as I believe I could consume about 12 every single day), I am going to be taking on some new practices.

I tend to pray and read the Bible on a daily basis. However, it’s never in a structured setting…outside of reading a Psalm and saying a brief prayer before I begin my work each day. I’m more of a “pray on the fly” and “read when it’s convenient” kind of guy.

So, during the season of Lent, I will be setting aside 2-hours each day for Bible reading and prayer. I have some resources (some of which I may share on this blog) that I’ll be using to help me throughout the journey.

I’m sure it will be difficult at first. It’s hard for me to focus on something for more than a few minutes. But, I’m hoping that this will develop into a habit that goes beyond Lent.

So, what are you giving up or taking on for Lent?