"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 17, 2014
During the Christmas season, many of us become busy shopping and trying to find that perfect gift for our loved ones. And that's fine! I admit, I would be very disappointed if I didn't receive any Christmas presents. But giving should be something we do throughout the entire year. There are so many different ways that we can give to others. I have been blessed so many times to be able to do something to help others; but also have been on the receiving end where I am the one who was blessed by someone.
The deaf church that my sister, Janie, pastors has been in the process of buying their own property and moving from the location they've rented for the past 28 years. A lot of stuff is accumulated in 28 years! Janie has been busy with dealing with realtors and searching for property, dealing with the seller of the property we purchased, the moving process, getting bids for various things we need at our new location, and the list goes on and on....... Needless to say, she has been under a lot of stress while making constant decisions and trying to make sure everything gets done; while homeschooling her twelve year old son, trying to finish up sewing gifts for Christmas, and take care of things at home.
This past Monday evening, those of us from the deaf church who could, met at our previous location to finish cleaning and getting the last of our things moved from the various rooms to a central location for movers to come on Wednesday morning to pick up and deliver to our new location. One of the men in the church has been having back issues, while others have not been feeling well, so we decided to hire a company to move the rest of our things, which included a lot of heavy items. We didn't want all the men in our small congregation end up hurt or sick.
Janie had been running all day, taking her twelve year old to karate and then picked him up, went to the new location so one of the men could pick up a trailer he had left there, and was headed to the old location. She decided to stop at Taco Bell to pick up dinner for her and Devin. She was tired and cranky, and Devin was giggling and obnoxious and acting so much like a twelve year old; and basically getting on her last nerve. She was very sternly telling him that she was not in the mood for his antics. In her rear view mirror she caught sight of the lady in the car behind her. She looked about Janie's age.... her shoulders were slumped and her face drawn. She was either very exhausted, sad, or just worn down by life. Janie felt a little nudge say, "Buy her meal!" Janie thought, "Okay, I will!!" She told Devin that she was feeling cranky, but instead of being grumpy, they were going to do something nice.
Janie pulled up to the window, and two young men were standing inside. One asked if the #7 was her order. Janie verified that it was, and asked if he could please add the meal of the lady behind her, because she wanted to pay for it, too. His jaw dropped! He said, "What is wrong with you people?! Do you all go to the same church?" He informed my sister that her meal had been paid for by the guy in front of her..... his meal had been paid for by the man in front of him.... and now Janie wanted to pay for the meal of the lady behind her. Janie assured him that she didn't know any of the people in line, and in fact, hadn't known that her meal had been paid for her by the man in front of her when she offered to pay for the lady behind her.
About that time his phone rang. It was his wife. He turned his back to Janie to talk to his wife, and turned back around towards Janie as he was hanging up and said, "I love you." Janie smiled really big and said, "I love you, too!" He threw back his head and laughed, and informed my sister that she was crazy!! He said, "Ma'am... you be blessed this evening!" Somehow throughout all this, Janie's tired, cranky mood dissipated.
We never know who our acts of kindness will have an effect on. What happened last night may not have been necessarily for the people in those four cars in line at Taco Bell; it may very well have been for those two young men who were working there.
There have been times in my younger years when I didn't have two nickels to rub together. If you've never heard that saying, it means I didn't have much money. There were times when I barely made it from one paycheck to another. I cannot even tell you the number of times that people randomly did things to bless me and help me out! I never asked for help or made a big deal about my lack, but people responded to the little nudge in their heart that prompted them bless me with acts of kindness.
I had an uncle pay for my gas once; another aunt and uncle bought me an Easter dress; someone gave me $50 when I was flat broke and needed groceries; when I finally purchased a new mobile home after living in an old dilapidated one for several years my church family, as well as my co-workers at that time, both gave me housewarming showers and I received everything I needed to set up my new house; I was given money to go out for a nice meal one time during vacation, because I had to have a lot of work done on my car the week right before vacation, which took most of the money that I'd saved for my trip; and I could go on and on........ An act of kindness that stands out in my mind is one that came from a complete stranger. I was traveling alone to Austin, TX to visit my sister, Shirley, and her family, when I had a flat tire as I was traveling down the interstate. This was back before cell phones. I didn't know what I was going to do. I was getting the spare tire out of the trunk, hoping I'd be able to figure out how to use it and get the tire on by myself. It was early evening. An older couple, who were on their way to a wedding, stopped and he changed the tire for me. He was dressed up in a suit and tie, but was willing to get dirty for a complete stranger. They had daughters and said if one of their girls was stranded beside the road with a flat, they would hope that someone would be willing to stop and help them. They wouldn't accept any money for their trouble. I have no idea who they were and didn't get their names; but I believe that God honored them someway, somehow for their willingness to stop and help someone they didn't know.
Jon and I had some tight years, financially, after we first got married. But over the years, God has abundantly blessed us, and our situation has changed from taking a calculator to the grocery store to make sure I didn't go over what we had set aside for food, to being able to live comfortably. We're not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but have been able to help others with needs from time to time. There have been times when the ones we've helped have felt bad about accepting our gift, although they needed it and were grateful. Especially when it's a young couple, I tell them this: I've been in your shoes and know what it's like to have a need and have no money to meet that need. Your situation isn't always going to be like this and isn't going to stay the same, although it may feel like it right now. There will come a time when your financial situation will turn around and you will have money left over after your bills are paid, and you'll be able to help and bless others. Just never forget what this time in your life is like, so you can encourage others later when you see them going through the same kind of struggles. There will come a day when you'll be able to pay it forward; as Jon and I are doing now.
Galatians 6:10 (NLT) says, "Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone -- especially to those in the family of faith."
That scripture doesn't say to ONLY to good to those who are in the family of faith (or other believers), but it tells us when we have opportunity that we should do good to everyone; but make sure fellow christians are taken care of.
The Amplified Version of that scripture says it like this: "So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God's family with you, the believers]."
Another scripture that goes along with this is found in Proverbs 3:27-28: "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, 'Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,' when you have it with you."
Acts of kindness are not only monetary, but can be in speaking words of encouragement to someone who is weary and discouraged, or babysitting for a tired mama to give her a break, or changing a flat tire for someone, or praying for someone, or folding a load of laundry or cooking a meal or cleaning house for someone who is working full-time and exhausted, or sending someone a card or note to let them know you're thinking of them....... Each day we can all find something to do to show kindness.
I know several people who would rather go hungry or live with a broken home or without dishes than to accept some food, repairs, or gifts from others. That's a shame in several ways. They seem to think they would be hurting others or putting them out if they accept anything. But, it isn't just a blessing for someone to receive help, it is a blessing to the ones giving help, too. Refusing the help denies them that blessing.
If the guy at the drive-through window had said that he wasn't allowed to let someone pay for someone else's meal, or insisted that it was too insulting to the next driver, it would have blocked Janie from being able to help some tired woman behind her. And she would probably have felt as run-down and frustrated as she was before, instead of cheering up.
Please be sure to allow others to help you. If they want to let you through the door first, go and say "Thank you." If they shovel snow from your sidewalk, join them if you must, but don't run them off. If they buy your dinner, give them a friendly wave.
(This was my mom's recipe. I will admit that I do not like divinity, but lots of people do, so here's the recipe.)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup syrup
2 egg whites
Cook sugar, syrup, and water until it crackles when tested in cold water. Beat two egg whites until stiff. Pour candy into egg whites very slowly. Beat until stiff. Pour into buttered dishes.
My niece was having her 7 year old daughter read the Christmas story at the dinner table to the family. When she came to the angel saying, "Peace and goodwill to all men," she stopped and said, "Hey, we have one of those stores here!!" The two younger kids chimed in, "Yeah, we have a Goodwill store here.... I've seen that store....." Their mama just agreed with them, "Yes, you're right! We do have a Goodwill store close by."
"Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full -- pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back." Luke 6:38 (NLT)
We love you!
Loretta & Jon