Kindness, the Daily Grace by Pat Cirrincione

It was the summer of 1954, and my family had just moved into the top floor of my paternal grandparents' two flat. I decided to take a break from all the unpacking going on inside and went outside to sit on the front porch steps. I must have looked the way I felt inside—sad and a bit lost in the new neighborhood— because a girl, who looked my age, came over from where she had been sitting and introduced herself to me. Her name was Marlene. The first thing Marlene did was introduce me to her grandmother, who drank beer for breakfast every morning and told us tales of “auld Ireland” when she was just a wee child before coming to America. I thought she was delightful.

Through my new friend, I discovered that my new neighborhood consisted of people from the Appalachians, Irish immigrants who had come from Canada, a few Italian families as well as Jewish and African-American families. We were a mixed and diverse group of people that made growing up fun and interesting.

We children either went to St. Mel Grade School on Washington Boulevard, or Tilton Grade School on West End. However, the one constant I remember the most was that everyone was kind to one another. Differences were respected. No one made fun of anyone, which was nice for me, because today, I would be considered the class nerd, a name that wasn’t even heard of back then.

Back then, and even today, my nose was always in a book. I was fairly quiet and basically a homebody. I had curly hair, wore glasses and was very tiny. The combination of all these things typically meant that I always got picked last for anything. Funny thing, though, I never felt bad because not one child I attended school with ever made fun of me. I was invited to every birthday party the other girls were invited to, and was never left out of things going on with the other children. I truly believe that because most of our neighborhood consisted of families who had just been through World War II, they were glad to just be alive. Nothing was taken for granted. Every person had value. Friendships were special and lasted a lifetime.

When did all this change? I don’t know, but when I think about it, I think it was a gradual process of people becoming more self-absorbed, mean-spirited and unkind to anyone who might get in the way of their goals, their ambitions and progress in life. When did we forget that kindness brings comfort, and builds up God’s people? When did our love change from self-giving to self-serving? If our highest purpose was to worship God, then how could we not be kind and love our neighbors? But I am getting ahead of myself.

I realize now how fortunate I was growing up in a neighborhood where kindness comforted and built up God’s people. Where no act of kindness was wasted, but treasured by the one receiving it from a friend or neighbor.

I read this post about kindness on Facebook (of all places):

Always be kind.
If you see someone falling
behind, walk beside them.
If someone is being ignored,
find a way to include them.
If someone has been
knocked down, lift them up.
Always remind people
of their worth.
Be who you needed
when you were going
through hard times.
Just one small act of
kindness could mean the
world to someone.


All around you, people are hungering for even a touch of kindness. As Rosaria Butterfield says in her book The Gospel Comes with a House Key, “it begins with recognizing people as your kin…and it can be a violent form of neglect for another’s soul.”

Kindness is a daily grace shown to another. I realize now how blessed my family and I were that summer of 1954 to have been placed in our new neighborhood by a kind and loving Father. A neighborhood where the standard was self-giving love, given freely with no strings attached. I’m not saying that living in a community is always pleasant, but in the kind of neighborhood I grew up in, it could definitely be life changing.

I leave you with this thought from Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV) After all, how else would you meet a friend’s grandmother who drinks beer for breakfast? 

The Light--Worship Music from Madagascar

College Church mid-term missionaries Caleb and Whitney Wiley live in Madagascar, where they help believers record and produce worship music. Enjoy this worship song, Lay Mazava, with English subtitles.

credits Song by Tiazara Ladiciano Recorded and Produced by Caleb and Whitney Wiley.

Here are the lyrics>

The Light

Jesus (John 8:12)

Jesus Christ told everyone

I am the light of the world

Whoever follows me,

Won’t go into darkness

(But) will have the light of life

Refrain:

Jesus Christ is the light

He is the light

Whoever follows him,

Won’t go into darkness

(But) will have the light of life

 Disciples (Matthew 5:14-16)

You all are the light of this world

You need to be light to people’s eyes

So they see the good things you do

And give glory to your Father in heaven .

Fireplace of God's Love by Jennifer Frakes

My dad was trained as a mechanical engineer and made his living as a home builder and remodeler. His education and experience translated into his ability to build a masterpiece of tightly crumpled paper, soaked in lighter fluid under small thirsty kindling sticks, beneath alternating large dry logs strategically stacked. Seemingly dead matter would arise with awesome power, and in the precise place designed for fire.  I remember being captivated by the anticipation of immanent danger, but a tamed danger—danger and safety juxtaposed. It was the place made for fire—the fireplace.  

One spark, and into reality burst the hope of warmth and comfort, and my skin and soul simultaneously felt from “good fire” the happiness one feels with a surprise visit from a faithful friend! The soon dancing, roaring blaze of white hot orange, yellow hues atop red embers, and the crackling, hissing, popping sounds sealed into my heart’s memory a feeling of family togetherness, of stillness, and there, I knew and felt my father’s care. He had created something  of ambiance for our family to enjoy. It was my father’s heart and skill and attention and gift. It was one of my fondest childhood memories of him and of his positive influence. It was intentional, purposeful, dangerous, and yet safe and comforting. The fiery gift glowed with warmth and light and spread love to others.

There is within me, a fireplace. It cannot ignite itself.

Now, heavenly Father, I pray, so ignite my heart, our hearts, with the love of God for the needs of the hurting world satisfied only in you and empowered by the Holy Spirit through Christ our Lord!

What the Prodigal Did by Sarah Burkhardt

I am discovering exactly what the prodigal did—

Who taking his father’s inheritance in pursuit of the life and the will he wanted,

Found that there is no deeper love

Than the very one he squandered.

When we learn to live beloved,

To trust the love that casts out all fear,

We learn not only how great our God is;

But that we, ourselves, in all our unique intricacies, are a gift.

A gift of creation, being made new.

We find a new identity,

And a new hope.

It is tempting to be like the older brother,

The faithful one standing above it all,

not embraced by his father’s love.

Pride itself is a fall, and self-obsession can easily plague.

Learn to let go of what you can’t hold onto. And re-learn.

We can be so close and not see,

not allow ourselves the true embrace we really need.

Be embraced by the Father. It is through Christ we can abide in his love.

It is likely exactly the key, to quench that thirst that you’ve felt for so long.

There is a fount of water that does not run out in the Spirit.

And you learn that you, yes you,

Yourself, are a gift—in your job, in your family, in your community--called to a greater mission, and a great adventure, more life-giving than you could ever find on your own.

It might mean you will go across the world, but more likely it will start in your own yard, with the Father’s embrace, saying son, daughter—you are a gift. Receive me, and my gift for you.

This gift is a true inheritance, one that will not fade away, and one that you can trust with your very life, for your entire life.

A new inheritance, one that will not be destroyed.

Word Sleuth: Lovingkindness by Wil Triggs

The word “lovingkindness” came into my head yesterday morning. A song based on Psalm 63:3 surfaced, dreamlike from my past, its chant-like 70s melody kind of annoying me. I could hear the girls' answering echo as we sang. It was sweet, but maybe a little too sweet. Nevertheless, there it popped into my head like the Wendy’s “where’s the beef?” TV commercial, or the Bears winning the Super Bowl. Did those things really happen?

But more than anything else, it got me thinking about this word.

God’s lovingkindness is better than life.

Whatever happened to lovingkindness? There aren’t too many people I could ask about this without sounding a little wonky. But one I knew would care about words like this and not laugh at me: Lee Ryken.

So I sent him a quick email. “Do you have any thoughts?" I asked. Where did the word come from and what’s happened to it?

Lee must have been on his email because he answered me right back: “William Tyndale introduced the word lovingkindness into the English language in his translation of the Bible,” and he send me a weblink with more.

Well, when someone says “Tyndale” to me, I naturally assume that they’re talking about the publishing house. I knew that’s not what Lee meant, but my brain, having a mind of it own, just went there. It’s like academics who say “Wheaton.” They are usually talking about the college, not the city.

Tyndale House Publishers began with the Living Bible.

I first saw the Living Bible on the dining room table of one of my aunts. This was a long time ago. She listened to Frank Sinatra on her hi-fi stereo. She watched soap operas. She didn’t go to church. But she always seemed beautiful and generous to me. She lived across the street from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and I could hear them practice in the garage. I never heard this aunt talk about the Bible or Jesus or anything like that. She wasn’t part of the “religious” element of the family. (Happily, this situation has changed for the better between then and now.)

I used to go over to my aunt's house and mow her lawn Saturday mornings and play with Honeybee, her miniature white poodle. She and my mom would chat in her kitchen while I mowed and played. And she always had a can of Coke for me, which we almost never bought ourselves. So this was a treat for me in many ways.

One Saturday, suddenly, there it was—its dark green cover with engraved lettering and a design looking fresh and different. I had seen television commercials for it. The Living Bible sat prominently on her mid-century modern coffee table back when it was just a coffee table. Both Mom and I noticed it. My aunt announced that she was reading the Bible—the Living Bible—because it helped her understand and think about the Bible in a new way.

Those are my earliest recollections of Tyndale House Publishers. But before Tyndale House Publishers, there was a man named Tyndale. William Tyndale. That's who Lee was talking about.

What was it about William Tyndale that prompted Ken Taylor to name his company after him?

I asked Mark Taylor. And he replied almost as fast as Lee Ryken.

“Prior to the work of Luther (in Germany) and Tyndale (in England),” he answered, “the Bible had been available for more than 1,000 years only in the Latin Vulgate, and most people couldn’t read Latin. So the Bible was inaccessible to the common man. Ken Taylor had special appreciation for the work of William Tyndale, who made the Bible available to the English-speaking population.

“In the mid-20th century, Ken had the same concern—that the meaning of the Bible was essentially unavailable to the common man, since most people used the King James Version of 1611, which had antiquated language.

“Regarding William Tyndale, who was burned at the stake, Ken Taylor occasionally said, ‘I want to emulate William Tyndale in every way except his death.’”

Imagine a time when English-speaking people had no Bible. So William Tyndale was kind of like the Wycliffe Bible translator to English-speaking people, giving them a Bible they could read. (I’m not going to get into who Wycliffe was here, but feel free to research that if you like). Tyndale wasn’t from outside the culture; he was steeped in his native tongue plus he spoke six other languages. Before the King James Bible, there was the Tyndale translation.

So many words flowed from Tyndale’s work, phrases that are so loved by Christians that it never occurs to most of us that there was a man who first “coined” them. And that man was William Tyndale.

A link Lee sent me said that Tyndale also penned many other Bible phrases/terms. Here are just a few:
• Let there be light
• Ask and it shall be given; seek and ye shall find
• Salt of the earth
• Pearls before swine
• The patience of Job
• The Author and Finisher of our faith.

The list goes on and on. In fact, 80% of the KJV comes from Tyndale’s earlier translation.

We so easily forget history, especially when the 24-hour news cycle pushes us to disregard what happened last week or yesterday or even an hour ago, for whatever news alert is popping up on the phone right now.

Before sending my email question to Lee, I did an internet search and the always reliable search engines told me that lovingkindness is:
• associated with a Hebrew word on the one hand, but also
• some sort of eastern/Buddhist meditation practice (some kind of refinement on self-love) on the other.

Perhaps it is lost because something of God himself is easily lost. Lovingkindness as a word now seems more beautiful and amazing than ever. Just like God.

A few years ago, my Christmas gift to my wife, Lorraine, was The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. This caused a rift between me and one of my co-workers at Russian Ministries who couldn’t forgive me for giving Lorraine a dictionary for Christmas. Jewelry, yes. But a dictionary? I might as well have given her a broom my coworker scolded, looking out for Lorraine on Christmas morning. Fortunately, Lorraine loved this gift.

The definition of lovingkindness in that dictionary is “kindness arising from a deep personal love, as (in Christian use) the active love of God for his creatures.”

Perhaps, in this world where there seems to be more anger than ever, lovingkindness is a word that belongs to God way more than it belongs to his people. Yet it doesn’t have to be forgotten altogether. So thank you William Tyndale for giving us this word. I think it’s time to bring lovingkindness back into the Christian world and not surrender it to eastern thought. Can we practice lovingkindness? Can we seek to emulate the lovingkindness of God? This is something in God that, like the old song and the psalm says “is better than life.”

May this word, dare I say, this attribute of God, burn in our hearts afresh, like the words of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. (Psalm 63:1–3, King James Version)

Just Like Us by Lorraine Triggs

Throughout my summer trip to Italy with Operation Mobilization many years ago, we’d rotate days off, which translated into a few of us staying behind to do laundry for the team, shop for food and prepare the evening meal. We also had time during the day to read and write letters home on that marvelously thin par avion paper.

One day off, as my teammates and I hung wet laundry on the clothesline to dry in the church courtyard, we noticed two guys peering over the church gate.

“Hey, are you Americans?” one of them asked. We looked at each other. English? People other than teammates speaking English? We were overjoyed. In the small village in rural Italy, well, the only language we heard was Italian.

“And Canadian,” John answered, loyal to his homeland. By now, the five of us walked over to the gate and swung it open to these two Americans who talked like us, looked like us and had, what we would describe these days, as shared values.

We put their book satchels in the corner, and fed them lunch complete with cups of cold water. One of the guests asked if he could play the guitar that was lying around. We talked and sang earnest 70s folk songs. We invited them to stay for dinner. 

Soon, the rest of the team returned. We introduced our new friends to our teammates. They’re here in Italy, just like we are. We asked them to stay for dinner.

“No,” our team leader Arnie said firmly. “They need to leave.” He pointed to their satchels. “Now.” 

“But they are just like us,” we protested feebly. 

Arnie shook his head in dismay at his team.

The two young men picked up their satchels and made a hasty exit, no thank-you or good-bye.

“Why did you ask them to stay?” Arnie explained, “They are not preaching the gospel. They’re Mormon missionaries.” 

Oops. We learned that day that not all missionaries are like us no matter how much they look and sound like us.

Like it or not, I am still prone to the just-like-us mindset. I am more comfortable with people like me. It’s natural. You know, same-feathered birds being together.

But we weren’t in Italy to meet people like us. We were there to find people not like us and point them to Jesus.

I’ve been thinking about that lately, especially with this Explore God initiative that begins at church tomorrow. There’s an Explore God billboard on North Avenue that boldy declares: “We all have questions.”

Well, my question is do we only want people who are just like us to explore God, or are we ready to explore God with whoever—the weary, the wounded or the wanderer who might walk through our front doors or join our discussion group or live near us? 

It’s easy to give the right answer when it’s theoretical, but when there are real people standing before us, well, it’s different. Are we ready?

Keep Austin (I Mean Christians) Weird by Wil Triggs

At the Bible college I attended in California, we had missions festivals every year. The gym where we held chapel became a convention hall with guest speakers and inspirational preachers to motivate us to think about God’s calling to world missions. The back third of the gym showcased displays from mission agencies trying to recruit future missionaries.

As a laid-back Southern Californian, I was interested in missions as a concept, and the displays and brochures and information at many of the displays were nicely done for back then.

The question, however, that hovered, cursor-like, in my mind: Would I consider missions as a career?

It was something to think and pray about. I didn’t grow up regularly attending church, so this was new terrain for me. Why not, I thought to myself, as I wandered among the displays.

The problem was, well, the people staffing the displays. They were missionaries.

Again, the concept seemed great, but what I imagined a missionary to be and the reality of the people who were at the displays clashed. I imagined these heroic missionary people to look quite a bit different from the people I saw. To my SoCal eyes many of them just looked plain weird. The clothes were mismatched. How could caucasian skin be that white without being albino? Men in Bermuda shorts, and wearing black dress socks and shoes that didn’t match either the socks or the shorts. These days the get-up might be cool in the right coffeehouse, but back then, it just looked like multiple mistakes to me.

Would I consider missions as a career? Somehow these people were supposed to make me want to join them. It was dissonant. No way. I laughed a nervous sort of laugh, and some of my friends and I joked about the odd-looking missionaries. I couldn’t see myself doing that. I went back to my speech team and trumpet and the paper on William Faulkner.

Well, the joke turned out to be on me.

A few years later, I moved to the Midwest and lost my tan. And I did become a missionary and worked alongside people who probably looked every bit as strange as the people I met while in Bible school. I not only worked alongside them, but also grew to love them as deeply as any other humans I know.

I see their missionary lives as a fulfillment of those heroic lives I imagined missionaries to live. Only it didn’t have anything to do with the clothes they wore or how tan their skin was. It had to do more with belonging to God, possessed by him, what the King James Version called “a peculiar people” in 1 Peter 2:9.

Both Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon have slogans to keep their cities weird. The world celebrates weirdness in its own way. But God calls us to lose ourselves in something bigger and grander. My prayer now is to be less me and more Jesus. Sure, I’m his creation, but so much of me is the opposite of him. And he’s ever so much more in every way than I can ever be. In him, I’m truly different.

So, let’s go wherever he wants us to—today, this month, year, decade. Let’s be Jesus-weird together.

As I’m writing this, an email message pops up. It’s from a member of one of our past short-term teams, who is now a full-time missionary himself. What a joy to be able to support him now in prayer years after we spent time together in Russia. To me, he’s cool, what he’s doing is one of the best things imaginable. But it’s a different kind of cool. This is a like-Jesus kind of cool that is the opposite kind of values from so much of what we as earthly creatures are naturally are drawn.

Let's be peculiar enough to want to talk about Jesus, especially this month, as we think about Explore God and short-term missions trips (applications for the short-term teams are due by the end of the month).

This year, let’s explore with the people around us—neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members—or consider getting up close with one of our missionaries for a few days in North Carolina or the Dominican Republic or Czech Republic.

Keep Christians weird.

My First Orchid by Cheryce Berg

Sometimes, especially in January, I see more death than life. What is supposed to be new looks old. I think New Year’s resolutions would fare better if made in May or even June.

Last June, I received the gift of my first orchid. It stood poised like a bride on my kitchen table for months, beautiful and motionless. I resolved to keep it alive, unlike every other living thing I’ve ever owned, except for children.

All I was told was to feed it two ice cubes every Sunday morning, the first day of each new week. The day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

Months went by before a petal dropped. Then another. My neighbor told me to be patient; the blooms would return when they were spent. Even if they didn’t, I was proud of my first orchid’s endurance and my accomplishment. But guess what?

Today it blooms again, even though it is January. And the blooms are the colors of bridesmaids’ dresses.

Out of curiosity, I recently looked up the care of orchids. A true gardener would be floored by my neglect in parenting these rather tender plants. The experts say to remove and re-pot, to fertilize and fan, to mist and move, to protect and prune. I have done none of those things.

The whole watching and waiting and releasing and rejoicing reminds me of Christ. How he lived and then died and then resurrected. How it is not by what I have done or can do that I am saved. It is by grace alone.

How because of it all, what is dead in me and around me is given the promise of hope and new life. How I shouldn’t stop watching and waiting for salvation—the salvation of my friend who gave me my first orchid last June, the season when what appears dead becomes alive.

Below is Cheryce's orchid in all its bridemaids glory.

First_Orchid.jpg