A word to the wise…

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Wisdom teeth are interesting. They’re the last of our teeth to emerge (somewhere between the ages of 17 and 21) but they’re also the most painful and perhaps the most useless.

They tend to be impacted… meaning the tooth is blocked as it attempts to push through the gum into the mouth. But, even if they come in naturally, most people don’t have enough room in their mouth to accommodate them. The longer they stay, the more likely they’ll cause pain, swelling, infection, or crowd the other teeth.

There’s only one solution… extraction.

Why are they even called wisdom teeth in the first place? The reasoning was that they appear so late (as third teeth) … at an age when people are presumably wiser than they were as a child, when their second teeth came through.

So… that begs the question… is wisdom always painful and does it automatically come with age?

Well… yes and no. Wisdom is quite often painful and, no, it doesn’t automatically come with age.

The dictionary defines wisdom as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment”… things that take time and, often, trial and error. It’s rare that we acquire wisdom when life is going well. But, that’s not to say that wisdom is always the result of age or experience.

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Wisdom isn’t simply intellect, intelligence, or knowledge. It’s the ability to use what we know, or have learned, to think and act in such a way that common sense and good judgement prevail. We also gain valuable wisdom by surrounding ourselves with wise people. But, to gain the best kind of wisdom, we need God.

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Why God’s wisdom?

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Do you know someone who stands out because of their wisdom? Someone you look up to for that reason?

You can be that person.

It’s never too early or too late to seek wisdom.

So… go for it.

Wise up!

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Take a selfie…

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It seems like people are spending a great deal of time and energy weighing in on what others should or shouldn’t be doing or saying. Often, in so doing, their words and actions demonstrate a lack of self-control.

How often do we stop to consider whether our thoughts, words, actions, and reactions are constructive, healthy, and appropriate? Sometimes we can become so focused on what others are saying and doing that we lose sight of what we’re saying and doing.

There’s infinite merit in evaluating ourselves far more than we evaluate others.

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Frequently, people justify their lack of self-control by casting the blame on someone else, highlighting the truth that it’s easier to point the finger at someone else than it is to point it back at ourselves.

The world would be a much better place if we all started taking responsibility for our own actions and reactions.

I’m not saying we can control our feelings. I’m saying we can learn to control when and how we express them.

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I don’t know about you but I want to be someone who’s self-controlled… and to be the first to say I’m wrong whenever I’m not.

The key to self-control?

Self…

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Gentle to the max…

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A few years ago, I had a rescue dog named Max. He did not have the best life for his first 5 years, having been owned by an alcoholic and kept tethered outside. He was sometimes beaten, and his body bore the scars.

He would invariably figure out a way to slip through his collar and make a run for it but also invariably be picked up and taken back to his owner.

Except for the last time.

In the fall of 2009, he found himself at a rescue shelter, where he was adopted out and brought back… three times in short order. The note on the door to his enclosure simply said ‘too much to handle’.

Out of chances, he was scheduled to be put down the first week of January 2010. I came to the shelter the last week of December 2009.

I hadn’t planned to adopt a dog that Christmas. But, when I set eyes on Max, he was sitting quietly against the back wall of his enclosure with his ears back and a green stuffed toy in his mouth. I could sense his anxiety. I could also sense a kind and gentle soul. I could feel my heart tugging in his direction.

I decided to think about it for a couple of days. But, as I walked back to the car, a dog appeared and ran to the end of the fenced-in area to quietly but expectantly wait for me. Realizing it was Max, I bent down and put a couple of fingers through the fence. He immediately dropped to the ground and started gently licking my fingers.

Within the hour, I left the shelter with my new dog.

I can’t claim that it was an easy transition. He not only had to adjust to being an indoor dog, he had never been walked on a leash before, and he was a husky lab shepherd mix who needed a ton of exercise. He also had anxiety issues. Complicating matters was the fact that his previous owner was French, and so Max didn’t even understand English (something I didn’t find out for over a year… and it explained a lot!!). He was also seriously underweight, at only 45 pounds.

But, slowly but surely, we both adjusted. His anxiety lessened, his weight increased (to 78 pounds), and we fell into a routine of 3 one hour walks each day. His kind, funny and quirky nature overshadowed his occasional displays of stubbornness.

The one thing that consistently impressed me was his gentleness. In the beginning, he was so hungry that he would go crazy at the mere thought of food. But, even then, he would always take any treat ever so gently between his teeth, always being careful never to bite down on my fingers.

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The best illustration of his gentleness had to do with boiled eggs, his absolute favorite treat. He would gently take the egg into his mouth and then run down to the mat in front of the patio doors. Sometimes he would come and sit beside me, and we would both consider the egg as it lay there on the mat. Other times, he would just lay beside it, as if standing guard.

When he was finally ready, he would take the egg into his mouth and roll it gently around until, seconds later, he would deposit the yolk – fully intact – back onto the mat. He always made sure that I noticed and then, and only then, would he eat it.

Personally, I think he liked to prolong the experience. Savor the moment. Save the best for last.

I called it his party trick. He never got tired of doing it, and I never got tired of watching.

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Just over 2 years after adopting him, Max suddenly took very ill on Good Friday. By Easter Monday, he was gone. A massive intestinal tumor. Ironically, he’d been given a clean bill of health not even three months before. Just before he was put down, they brought him into a private room where he climbed into my lap and started gently licking my fingers as I wept.

He was gentle in life, gentle in illness, and gentle in death.

I marvel that a dog who had experienced so much hardship could be so gentle. It’s a lesson to us all that, no matter what we’ve experienced in life, it’s up to us what kind of person we will become. We can choose to rise above our circumstances and write a different ending.

Be better instead of bitter. Be gentle instead of harsh.

The moral of the story?

Gently, please…

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What a gift…

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Several weeks ago, my husband and I gifted an acquaintance of mine with a practical item they very much needed. It cost us several hundred dollars but we felt it was an important gift because this person had just gone through an extended time of unemployment and financial difficulty. We wanted to bless them.

The person was initially very appreciative but, almost immediately, problems arose. They had complaints about the gift, and they kept trying to trade it in for something better. And in their interactions with the company, they were demanding and difficult.

My husband and I actively tried to move the situation to a favorable outcome. But, four weeks later, a continuing litany of text messages made it painfully evident that our efforts had been in vain. So we decided it was wisest for extricate ourselves and let this person handle things themselves.

Their response?

They declined the gift.

The old proverb “never look a gift horse in the mouth” came to mind.  Since horses’ teeth grow over time, checking their length is a way of gauging old age, and therefore a sign of mistrust towards the giver. So, in a nutshell, the proverb conveys that, when receiving a gift, be grateful for what it is and don’t imply you wished for more by assessing its value.

It made me think about the greatest gift of all… the gift of salvation. About how many don’t see it as a gift at all. Oh, they may accept it for a period of time but they’re never really very happy with it. They want it to be something else. Or they feel it can be improved upon. Or they have difficulty accepting that it’s free.

They would feel better if they had paid something towards it or had done something to earn it because then the gift would be on their terms.

And so, they ultimately reject the gift.

It was such a terrible feeling when our gift was rejected that it pains me to think of how God must feel when literally millions of people have rejected His gift throughout history. And yet He has never withheld the gift because so many have rejected it. He still graciously and generously continues to offer the gift to everyone… without exception… in the hopes that even a few will accept it.

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It reminds me how it important it is to keep giving, no matter what. We’re not responsible for the outcome, only the opportunity.

I’ll leave you with another proverb…

“If you receive a gift, don’t measure it.”

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Faithfully…

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One example of faithfulness in the Bible is about someone who isn’t often mentioned – King Hezekiah.

20 This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. 21 In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. (2 Chronicles 31:20-21 NIV)

There is great honor in being described as someone who has the reputation of doing what is good and right, of being faithful,  and of working wholeheartedly.

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Faithfulness.

Showing true and constant support or loyalty, being deserving of trust, keeping your promises, and doing what you’re supposed to do.

As with most things, some aspects are easier than others. Some people faithfully frequent a restaurant or follow a sports team or make it a point to always attend a certain event. But, what about things like being faithful to your spouse, always doing the right thing (even and especially when it’s not popular or convenient) or keeping your promises no matter what?

Faithfulness is characterized by steady devotion to a person, thing, or concept… with emphasis on ‘steady devotion’.

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Many people have intentions of faithfulness… it’s the consistent practice of faithfulness that’s harder to maintain. Our best chance of success is to establish in advance what we’re going to be faithful to or faithful about – and why – and then set our hearts and minds in that direction.

If it’s to always do the right thing even when no one is looking, set your mind to do it. If it’s to follow God with all your heart, soul, mind, and body, set your mind to do it. If it’s to honor your marriage vows by being faithful to your spouse, set your mind to do it.

You get my point.

Anything worth pursuing is never easy. But always worth it.

So, keep the faith…

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Thank goodness…

 

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Have you ever felt that life is like a roller coaster… full of ups and downs that are nowhere near as thrilling as the actual ride?

In Psalm 27, we learn that David’s life had its ups and downs. He was transparent about his difficulties, fears, and times of testing. But, he balanced that angst with hope. In verse after verse, he spoke of his commitment to God, and confidence in His character and provision. He never once mentioned putting his hope in anyone but God.

No matter what life brought his way, David relentlessly kept his focus on God. Like most of us, he had times of despair but steadfastly believed he would see the goodness of God in the land of the living. He didn’t know how long before God would give him answers, or before He would intervene in certain situations, or before He would show His face in tangible ways. But, David knew that God’s faithfulness and goodness were certain, regardless of the outcome.

blog 6If you’ve never read the story of David’s life, it’s worth the read. He was a man after God’s own heart but he went through a lot of tough stuff in his life. He experienced betrayal, family problems, threats to his life, life on the run, loss, and times of abject moral failure.

David’s life was never once perfect, and ours never will be either.

Believing we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living doesn’t mean that our circumstances will change. But, it does mean our perspective will change.

I don’t know about you but I need that reminder a lot.

blog 7How many times have I despaired because I took my eyes off God and fixed them on my circumstances instead? How many times have I tried to figure things out on my own instead of crying out to God for help and then resting in His sustaining grace? How many times have I allowed temporal hardships to overshadow eternal hope?

How many times have I sung ‘O, Great is our God’ during praise and worship at church while focusing on ‘O, great are my problems’?

Life is going to bring its share of turmoil, struggles, and tears. There will be times it will be difficult to see past our pain or hardships to find hope in the goodness of God.

But, the goodness of God is not dependent on our circumstances or our feelings. Our circumstances are temporal but God’s goodness is eternal.

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One of the beautiful things about God is that He doesn’t require us to get our lives together before we come to Him. He wants us to come to Him just as we are. And then He comes alongside us to walk with us through whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

It’s only when we surrender everything that brought us to our knees, to the One who alone has the ability to work our circumstances together for good, that we will truly experience God’s goodness in us, for us, and through us.

Honest to goodness…

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Oh my goodness…

 

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The sixth fruit of the Spirit is goodness, which was surprisingly difficult to define. For instance, the dictionary defined it as “the quality of being good”.

What?

Since the New Testament was originally written in Greek, to gain some clarity, I looked up the Greek word for goodness, which is agathosune.

Agathosune is defined as “intrinsic goodness, especially as a personal quality, with emphasis on the kindly (rather than the righteous) side of goodness.”

To have agathosune means to have goodness for the benefit of others and not goodness simply for the sake of being virtuous.

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The four gospels in the Bible are filled with examples of Jesus doing good to everyone regardless of their social status, gender, race, political views, or moral compass. He also did good to his enemies. Even as He was being crucified on the cross, His words extended grace toward those who were putting him to death. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

Acts 10:38 sums up Jesus’ life perfectly by saying that He “went about doing good”. Jesus was the epitome of goodness.

What about me? Could I be described as being the epitome of goodness?

If I’m being honest, the answer is no. It’s not that I go about doing evil. It’s just that, all too often, I get in the way of my own good intentions. I get preoccupied with my life, my problems, my hopes, my dreams… in a word, preoccupied with me.

Doing good is not intended to be an event. True goodness should be a way of life… just as it was with Jesus. My prayer is that God’s goodness will continually flow through my life so that I will consistently – and habitually – go about doing good to others.

For goodness sake…

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Kindness & Kids…

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Where does kindness start?

I think it starts with kids. After all, the kindest adults are often the ones who were the kindest children. Or, at the very least, who were taught the principles of kindness as a child.

As with most things, kindness is best learned from the beginning.

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Many parents are preoccupied with their children’s achievements, grades or happiness but how many place the same importance on whether their child is kind? If they had to choose between the attribute or the accomplishment, which would prevail?

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One cold and snowy winter day when my son was attending university, he noticed an elderly woman struggling to get to the bus stop as the bus approached. He cried as he recounted how she would have been able to catch the bus if he had only flagged it down.

That was a proud moment as a parent… to see how it broke the heart of my child to know he had missed an opportunity to extend kindness to someone who had especially needed it.

“You will never have a completely bad day if you show kindness at least once.” Greg Henry Quinn

While I am extremely proud of my son and all that he has accomplished, I am proudest of who he is as a person. All the accomplishments in the world can’t make up for lack of character.

Cultivating kindness in our children is an investment that will always pay off.

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Need some ideas?

  • Make extending kindness toward others a priority for your child. Help them understand the importance of being kind to everyone, and hold them accountable.
  • Create opportunities for your child to show kindness. Have them participate in the regular care of a pet. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting a fish or a hamster. Taking care of another living thing encourages kids to think outside of themselves.
  • Expand your child’s range of influence. Volunteer as a family. Fill a shoebox together at Christmastime for a needy child. Suggest your child make a card to cheer up a sick friend.
  • Be your child’s role model and mentor. Kids learn kindness by watching the example of adults they look up to. As a parent, you hold a position of particular influence. There are so many teachable moments in your child’s life… take advantage of them.
  • Read your child a story from the Bible about kindness, such as the one about the Good Samaritan. Ask thought provoking questions like, “If a mean kid got hurt, would you laugh and say, ‘It serves him right!’ or would you stop and help”? or “Has there ever been a time when you’ve avoided helping someone? What would you do differently next time?”

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It’s far easier to teach kindness to a child than it is to unteach unkindness to a teenager or to an adult.

The Bible says to train up a child in the way he should go and that when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Notice that it says ‘train up‘. Train up from a young age. Train up when your child doesn’t understand kindness. Train up when your child doesn’t feel like being kind.

The practice of extending kindness to others works to soften our hearts and change us, and the same is true for kids. You can’t routinely go out of your way to be kind to others, and not have it change you in fundamental ways. Even if you’re only going through the motions, the day will come when you realize that you do, in fact, genuinely care.

No matter what your age is, kindness matters.

I kid you not…

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No kindness…

 

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We’ve all come across unkind people… some of us more than others.

And, if we’re being honest, we can all remember times when we were less than kind ourselves. Most of us look back on that with regret, wishing we had said or done things differently.

But, what about the person who’s decided that it’s justifiable to be habitually unkind to a specific person or specific people? It’s a slippery slope when someone decides that someone else is not worthy of kindness, and sets out to make their life as miserable as possible. The longer they persist in unkind words and behaviors, the more they tend to justify what they’re doing.

The result?

No remorse and a deadened conscience. They don’t consider stopping because they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.

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The news is increasingly filled with stories of people who have exacted unkindness towards others… often in the extreme. People so hate-filled that they decided the target(s) of their hatred deserved death, and that it was ultimately worth dying for themselves.

Hatred has never made anyone see things more clearly. Or changed situations for the better. Or changed lives for the better.

Not even once.

Sometimes you have no choice but to be in close proximity to someone who’s intent on extending unkindness or hatred towards you. It’s damaging, demoralizing and demeaning. And, the longer you have to deal with it, the more negatively it affects you.

Trust me, I know.

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Hear me in this… it’s no kindness to let people continue unchecked in their unkindness or hate.

Sometimes the greatness kindness we can extend is to intervene, if it’s within our power to do so. Whether we are able to intervene directly or indirectly, our kindness will be kindness toward the one(s) being targeted, and kindness toward the one doing the targeting… even if they can’t see it as being such in the moment.

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The one caveat is that, while unkind or hateful people need to be dealt with firmly, they don’t need unkindness and hatred lobbied back at them.

Don’t confuse kindness with weakness. Those who refuse to retaliate or to respond in kind demonstrate strength, not weakness. So, be that person… not just an extension of the behavior you didn’t find acceptable in the first place.

How?

It never hurts to start with prayer.

Prayer gives us the proper perspective – God’s perspective – and guides us in the right things to do and say.

Pray for yourself, pray for the hurting, pray for those who do the hurting, pray for change, and pray for healing.

It’s hard to hate someone that you pray for. In fact, try praying every day for a month for someone you hate… or simply don’t like… and see what happens.

Even if they don’t change, you will.

The moral of the story?

Act kind, not in kind

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Kindly consider…

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Kindness is something that’s not easy to define, yet somehow everyone knows when someone is being kind… or unkind.

As Christians, we’re called to do two things… love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbour as ourselves. According to the Bible, “There are no commands more important than these” (Mark 12:30-31 NCV).

Kindness is at the very heart of love, perhaps emphasized by the fact that there’s an actual word that ties the two together… loving-kindness.

The extent to which we are kind conveys the extent to which we love.

Being kind comes at a price. It requires going out of our way for someone else, and that will always cost our time, energy, or resources… sometimes all three.

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This past week, my husband and I went out of our way to do something we really didn’t want to do but something that we felt was important to do for someone close to us. Quite honestly, it didn’t feel the greatest… or even very comfortable. We don’t know if it made a difference, and we may never know. But regardless, it was the right thing to do. The kind thing to do.

The thing about kindness is that it’s what you do whether anyone notices or not. Whether it’s appreciated or not. Whether you’re given recognition for it or not. Because true kindness is never self-serving or self-important.

An act of kindness can be something as small as sending someone an encouraging note. Or helping someone carry their groceries. Or holding a door open for a senior. The options are limitless. We just need eyes to see opportunities because they’re literally all around us.

What’s the payoff?

Kind people are happier. People who focus on others are always much happier than people who focus on themselves.

The bottom line is that kindness is a necessary stop on the road to joy.

Seriously?

Yeah, kinda…

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