Kindness

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12

It’s a contentious world, isn’t it? Although I’ve long been a news junkie, I can feel my attitude going south on me if I spend too much time reading or watching it. More and more, the prevailing political attitude from every side seems to be one of winning at all costs. Sometimes cooperation and its attending theme of kindness are swept away in the equation. For that, we all pay dearly. But then, there are those other stories. By contrast with tales of violence and political division, stories of sacrifice and generosity lift our hearts and cause us to remember what Christian ideals of behavior are. I don’t think we have to stick our heads in the sand or ignore the world around us, but finding ways to lighten the load of others has an amazing way of making your own challenges easier to bear. Smile, listen, compliment. Give to or advocate for those who need it. Remind others what God sees in them when they can’t see it in themselves.

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
Henry James

We are not alone, though at times we feel it.
In isolation, fear and failure seem to grow.
We are made for comforting voices,
helping hands from those we know.


But God finds and buoys us
whether through family, friend,
or stranger.
Jesus uses human hearts and hands,
being born himself in a manger.

Never alone.
No, you’re never alone.
Through joy and sorrow,
laughter and tears,
you’re never alone.


God made kindness
when He made sacrifice

and hearts that grow
by giving away.
If we hurry at all,
we should hurry to be kind.
The best time to be kind?
Today.


©Joel Tipple 1/19/2020









Disposable

“We live in a disposable society. It’s easier to throw things out than to fix them. We even give it a name – we call it recycling.”
Neil LaBute


Coffee cups, paper towels, plastic bags and bottles, glass, aluminum, diapers, medical waste. The list of things we use once and throw away goes on and on. The discussion over costs, both finance and health, continues as we attempt to find solutions to living well today without sacrificing tomorrow. Often, the discussion gets heated, and divides along political lines, as we try to figure out how much money is being spent or saved, and by whom.

But lost in the discussion over disposable “things” are even greater societal issues. At what point does our attitude toward the things in our lives spill over into other areas? What about ideas? What about people? What about God? Too great a leap? I don’t think so. At its core, our problems in a disposable society are both selfishness and a failure to count the cost. While it’s easy to see the link between, say, disposing of motor oil in a river or ocean, the disastrous effects on living things, and our access to clean drinking water, the consequences of our willingness to throw away relationships with each other and with God often fail to catch our attention.

 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
Luke 14:28 ESV


Let’s face it, commitment can be a hard sell. Saving, or giving, when it would be more fun to spend, staying when it would be easier to go, waiting on God and seeking wise counsel when you’d rather go with your “feelings.” These are all hallmarks of mature Christians choosing to live for God instead of themselves in a disposable society.

“When confronted with a challenge the committed heart will search for a solution. The undecided heart searches for an escape.”
Andy Andrews


Whether they can articulate it or not, every human being, from the homeless 30-year-old looking like he’s 50 to the outwardly successful corporate executive, is looking for something real and permanent, something beyond the easy fix or shiny car. It’s easy to become jaded in a world that constantly promises a better life for easy payments but never really delivers. Jesus does not promise us an easy road, but guarantees help in this life and eternity with Him in the next. If He died to redeem us, He must have known our true value. I am who God says I am. I am redeemed.

“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”
Isaiah 44:22 NIV


God
the great magician
author of us all
tender musician
though we were broken
fearful
feeling only fit for disposal
you bought us
and brought us
from the brink
to redemption.


©Joel Tipple 1/12/2020











Black Holes

I’m a Jesus follower. But loving Jesus, knowing God created everything, and cultivating a better grasp of what that means in your day to day life doesn’t mean you stop asking questions about all the Lord’s made, right? If anything, greater devotion to God should cause our sense of wonder to expand as we discover more about the world we know and the corners of our universe we are still coming to know. Now, the universe we’re able to observe (observe being a relative term) is estimated to contain 200 billion to two trillion galaxies. Yeah, I struggle to wrap my head around that too. Anyway, I heard in the news recently that astronomers have now spotted a record-breaking heavyweight black hole at the center of a galaxy known as Holm 15A. This black hole is estimated to weigh 40 billion times the mass of our sun. That’s heavy. That’s the kind of heavy no post-holiday diet could ever hope to put a dent in. Time for a rough definition of a black hole.
“A black hole is a place where the laws of physics as we know them break down. Einstein taught us that gravity warps space itself, causing it to curve. So given a dense enough object, space-time can become so warped that it twists in on itself, burrowing a hole through the very fabric of reality. A massive star that has run out of fuel can produce the kind of extreme density needed to create such a mangled bit of world. As it buckles under its own weight and collapses inward, space-time caves in with it. The gravitational field becomes so strong that not even light can escape, rendering the region where the star used to be profoundly dark: a black hole. You might expect to get crushed, or maybe torn to pieces. But the reality is stranger than that. The instant you entered the black hole, reality would split in two. In one, you would be instantly incinerated, and in the other you would plunge on into the black hole utterly unharmed.”
Amanda Gefter BBC Earth 5/25/2015

Up until now we’ve discussed gravity as it relates to black holes in space. And by the way, aren’t you glad you don’t live close to one? No, your neighbor’s back yard doesn’t count, no matter how out of control it is. What about the gravity (importance, or significance) of our lives? What about the black holes we experience here on earth, where our efforts and resources so often seem to be lacking, or even missing altogether? Frustration with our situation is not wrong in itself. We can use that emotion to propel ourselves to action. The key question at those trying times when we just want to do something is whether we use the emotions we’re experiencing to move closer to God or farther away.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 14:12 ESV

“I ask that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe. He displayed this power in the working of His mighty strength.”
Ephesians 1:18-19 ESV


Knowledge of God’s nature and investment in the hope He inspires can drive us toward His will for our lives. As you encourage your habit to seek Him, your focus will shift from short term struggles to long term goals. God can and will produce amazing results in your life as you shift from selfish to selfless thinking. Using His Holy Spirit, God will answer your prayers to be led and utilized by building you up, shaping you, and opening a way.

“Don’t bother to give God instructions, just report for duty.”
“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”
Corrie Ten Boom


Lord you’ve made all the worlds,
this little one,
and all those yet discovered.
You’ve filled the heavens,
surely you can fill
the black holes in our hearts.

Manufactured dreams,
focused just on me,
are short sighted and misguided.
It’s a universal problem
all we can see is our little part.

God, finish what you’ve begun
after all you sent your son
We can’t give as much as you did
you made us free.
But since in your image you made us
and paid all our sins through Jesus
I’ll follow, we’ll all follow where you lead.

© Joel Tipple 1/5/2020