It’s the Little Things That Matter

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31 Days of Philippians 4:8

The most sincere compliment is the one passed on to us by others.

This truth has stayed in my mind for years (and here I owe a big thanks to Pastor Doug Moore).  The affirmation I share via a relayed compliment just might be the salve that someone’s soul desperately needs, or, less dramatically, might simply be a bright spot in a person’s rather blasé day. Either way, there’s power there–all the more so because when the words arrive indirectly there’s less doubt about the original speaker’s sincerity.

And that’s just one way to share joy and lift spirits.

This afternoon, my dear photographer friend, Wendell, sent me a photo of my daughter. It’s a photo that I’ll cherish for years because it portrays a certain depth of character that I’ve long recognized but which isn’t always obvious to the casual observer. Wendell truly made my day.

Then there’s my friend Cecy. I’ve noticed that rather than simply clicking the Facebook “like” button, she often takes the time to post affirming comments on people’s posts. Through that one act, her kind, thoughtful words bring smiles to many hearts.

And printed out right here in front of me I have Ann Voskamp’s latest challenge—her November calendar suggesting ways for all of us to “live broken & given, like bread.” For November 1 she writes, “It’s the month of thankfulness—so think of three gifts each day you are thankful for—and then reach out to thank the three people who directly or indirectly make that gift possible!” (You can download the calendar by going to annvoskamp.com/sticky-notes/.)

The kindnesses of my friends Wendell and Cecy.

The truths articulated by Doug Moore.

The challenges put out there by Ann Voskamp.

These dear folks and their examples do for me what the writer of Hebrews exhorts us all to do: spur one another on to love and good deeds. The desire of my heart is to lean into this, to embrace it, to live it. I hope you’ll join me.

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The Two-Way Street of Thanks

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31 Days of Philippians 4:8

Some things are just hard to throw away, like a treasured collection of particularly-meaningful thank-you cards that have come to me over the years–cards reminding me that somewhere along the way, in one manner or another, I’ve made a small difference in someone’s life.

Yet last night at parent conferences, when I went out of my way to tell the art teacher how much my daughter appreciates her class, I was struck afresh by the deep sense of joy I experience in expressing gratitude to others.

I didn’t really need to visit this teacher, but it occurred to me that her room probably wasn’t of high priority for many parents. Their most urgent business, more than likely, was with teachers of more academic courses–or with teachers of courses that were threatening to irreparably damage their kids’ GPA’s. But my daughter had mentioned her fondness for this class and for the teacher, and I wanted to pass on the gratitude. After all, I figured, who wouldn’t want to know that they’re appreciated?

But I wasn’t prepared for the response my few little words evoked on the face of this particular instructor. I could tell she was touched, and knowing I’d added just a bit to her happiness gave me a deep sense of fulfillment as well.

Whatever is right…pure…excellent.

Thankfulness–it’s the right kind of mindset.

And thanking those who bless us–it’s a pure, excellent thing to do.

That Admirable Expression of Love

31 Days of Philippians 4:8

I’m pretty sure my dad set a record with the number of care packages he sent my way during my college years.

He’d send snacks of all kinds and numerous odds and ends to facilitate life or brighten my day. Enclosed would be a brief note that always ended with the words “Let us hear from you.” And to make it easy for me to stay in touch, he kept me equipped with one of those calling cards we all used back in the day.

I always had illusions of following in my dad’s footsteps, of being that same kind of faithful, attentive parent once my kids headed to college.  But my son’s been away for more than a year now, and while I’ve mailed him a couple of boxes, the care package thing hasn’t gone quite the way I’d envisioned.

Today, though, I’m renewing my efforts, because I remember how loved and cared for I used to feel when I’d find a package notice in my Biola mailbox. I’d join the line waiting at the window and then head eagerly back to the dorm, anticipating the novelties I’d find nestled inside the box so thoughtfully put together by my dad. And almost always, I’d receive a few envious looks or comments from friends who weren’t loved on in quite the same way as my dad loved on me.

So as my son gets ready to turn 23, I’m sending a few treats his way, hoping that the same affection showered on me in that thoughtful, tangible way so many years ago will be felt in turn by this young man I love so dearly.

Whatever is Lovely, part 2

31 Days of Philippians 4:8

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The mixture of friendship and nature is one of the most delightful combinations on this earth, and when that friend is Jane (Lundgren) Sirianni–the very first person I met at Biola–and the view of nature is one found along Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, well, my heart is beyond happy.

The amazing thing is that this friendship is just one of several that I’ve seen rekindled of late, and the blessing of reconnecting with these friends from long ago has brought me much unexpected joy.

Here’s to renewed friendships, road trips, and memories old and new.

 

 

 

The Fragrant Offering

31 Days of Philippians 4:8

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Over the years, church has been a place where I have been loved on and prayed for—and a place where I have been wronged and offended.

It’s a place where I have encouraged and served people dear to me—and a place where I have hurt those very same people.

It’s a place where I have been embraced with unconditional love—and a place where I have been pierced by harsh, judgmental attitudes.

It’s a place where I have received forgiveness—and a place where I have been called to forgive.

Heeding this call to love and forgiveness is integral to my participation in the mystical body of Christ because—need I say it?—not one of us is perfect. We’re all human. We fail, we sin. But in Christ we have a deeper call—that of living out what Paul tells us in Ephesians, “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.”

Just as the sacrifice of Jesus draws me to new life in Him, the way of love lived out by my brothers and sisters in Christ is a fragrant offering calling me to continued communion and community with people dear to my soul. Theirs, too, is a sacrifice that has spoken volumes to this heart of mine–

through the forgiveness freely given by women I’ve wronged by speaking thoughtless words or repeating idle gossip.

through the prayers of those who have helped me fight temptation and persevere through dark nights of the soul.

through the laughter and tears shared with dear friends as we have rejoiced over and lamented the things life has thrown our way, learning to believe that God’s got a purpose in all this, that He’s not abandoning us.

through the faithfulness of my pastors, who practice what they preach, consistently modeling how to love God and love people, who listen to the deep yearnings of my heart, who see patterns and offer suggestions on how I can open up my soul to the life-giving grace of Jesus.

through the hospital visits made by brothers and sisters in the Lord throughout my daughter’s illness and eventual death.

through the ministry of presence, through gifts of time, food and even money shared with my family when life was at its hardest.

For me, these examples of love in action are what God talks about in the book of Hosea. “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.” These cords are strong. They tie me to God and to my brothers and sisters. For when I see this kind of sacrificial kindness, I’m seeing God, I’m seeing Christ. I’m receiving His love while learning from the examples of those around me. And I, too, am giving, serving, forgiving, loving.

May the aroma created by such kindness, compassion, and forgiveness play at least a small part in drawing people in all corners, in all communities, into God’s fold.

 

Whatever is true…

31 Days of Philippians 4:8

When I think of all that is true, one thing that comes to mind is the loyalty of canine friends. In fact, my brother–who’s occasionally known for waxing philosophical–is always reminding us of the unconditional love of pets. And so in honor of our Aussie, Logan, here are a few images that remind us of the true nature of his friendship over the years.

Whatever is pure…

31 Days of Philippians 4:8

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There are few things so pure and joyful as a mother’s love for her babe–unless it’s this same love in triplicate!

Jen and Mavria, Emily and Teddy, Shara and Dignan–all were spreading delight at church today, bringing smiles to our faces and bursts of joy to our hearts.