Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

When you are scared ...

I don’t know what you tend to do when you are scared, but I tend to freak out.

I am not a “good” scared person, whatever that means.

But I do have one thing I do that helps. I recite Psalm 23 aloud, from memory.

I am not a huge “memorize passages of the Bible” person; I just didn’t grow up that way. But I do find that I have some passages embedded in my head and my heart. Psalm 23 is one of them.

So on the morning I was flying from Iowa to Philadelphia to be with my son after he had undergone emergency surgery the night before, I was scared. A little teary …

And on the short, dark ride to the airport, my husband and I were quiet and tense. But God whispered to me, “Say Psalm 23 … for both of you.”

So with a lump in my throat, and tears streaming down my face, I started in:

“The Lord is my shepherd … I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil.

For you are with me;

Your rod and your staff they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,

You anoint my head with oil,

My cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever.”

My fear was abated a bit, my panic level dropped.

And both Chuck and I felt held, protected, loved, strengthened … for whatever was ahead of us that day.

Meanness ...

I wrote yesterday about the power of kindness.

Today, I want to write about the power of meanness.

While roaming the halls of the hospital where my son was recovering, I overheard a patient spouting the most mean-spirited, vile opinions about immigrants to a custodian who was cleaning his room. I believe the custodian was of Hispanic origin.

Later, as Will and I chatted with a young nurse in charge of the floor, she let us know that this same patient had yelled and screamed at her for 15 minutes that same day.

Two days later, I heard him yelling at the woman who brought him his food, telling her how terrible the food was and letting her know not to bring him his dinner; he was going to get his food elsewhere.

Now, I don’t know this patient’s situation. I don’t know his history. I don’t know anything about his story.

But this I do know: it seems as if our nation has become meaner.

Our radio hosts are mean.

Many of our news channels and reporters are mean.

For Lord’s sake, the political ads over the last few months were much meaner than they were factual or helpful.

People at church can sometimes be really, really mean.

It seems as if even Christians have decided that if we believe we are right about something – something cultural, or theological or political – then we have every right to be mean about it.

When we behave this way, Dallas Willard calls us  “righteously mean Christians.”

Ugh.

In the same measure that kindness is beautiful, meanness is ugly.

Just a few words from Philippians 2:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

Shine, my friends … shine!

Be kind ...

Sorry for the absence. My son had emergency surgery a couple weeks ago and I had to make an unplanned trip out east.

One major learning during this experience: Simple human kindness is a big deal.

The morning after we received the distressing phone call that our son was in surgery I was on the first flight out of our small town and headed to Philadelphia with no plan except to get to the hospital.

As I journeyed I interacted with all kinds of people, many of whom heard my story and responded with kindness … a prayer, a hug, concern for my son, a discount on my hotel, an offer of an apartment, an offer to help back at home.

I was so touched by each act …

Did you know that the early Christians were often called “the kind ones?”

This was partly because the Greek word for “Christian” and the word for “kindness” were very similar.

But it was also because the early Christians were noticeably kind.

Kind to all - but especially to the sick, the suffering, the sad.

Kind, even, to their enemies, those who persecuted them, those who oppressed them.

I wonder to myself sometimes, would Christians today ever be called “the kind ones?”

I ask this because I have come to believe that kindness, above almost all other human traits, is intensely attractive …

I ask this because I love the passage in Romans 2 where Paul asks “… do you not know that God’s kindness is what leads to repentance?”

Be kind, my friends … be kind. For in doing so, we are mirroring the heart of our Father to the world.

And we are making another person’s journey more bearable.

Stepping on toes ...

This is what I read today in Mark Labberton’s book, The Dangerous Act of Worship:

“At a worship service I attended a couple of years ago, my attention was drawn to the enthusiastic worship leader. He opened our time with prayer, asking God to meet us … Then he turned to face forward, standing just in front of the first row of worshipers with his eyes closed and the band playing. He lifted his hands to God and offered a joyful noise to the Lord.

That’s when I really took notice, for as he sang … he kept stepping all over the feet of the people behind him. Not just once or twice, but repeatedly … he kept ‘tromping in the Spirit.’  No apology. No sign of acknowledgement.

He was just praising God while oblivious to his neighbor.

This illustration metaphorically and practically depicts a significant part of our problem [with worship.]

I have no doubt the worship leader would say that what he was doing was unintentional … He was just so caught up in his own experience of worship that he lost track of others.

In worship, he lost his neighbor. That’s exactly the problem.

For all of our apparent passion about God, in the end, much of our worship seems to mostly be about us. We presume we can worship in a way that will find God but lose track of our neighbor.

Yet it was this very pattern in Israel’s worship life that brought God’s judgment.

Biblical worship that finds God will also find our neighbor.”

Have you ever thought about this?

Does your worship help you find your neighbor?

Or do you worship God, all the while figuratively stepping on your neighbor’s toes?