Author

Mary Loudermilk

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“But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, New English Translation).

I grow ugly houseplants. Not intentionally—I just don’t have a green thumb. I also can’t bear to throw out a plant that still has any life showing. Even if it is misshapen, with brownish spots, and unattractive. One such plant now lives by a bright sunny window of my home.

There’s Life!

The plant in question came to me in a strange way. A friend and I offered to pick someone up following a medical test. I sat curbside while she walked inside the hospital to lead the lady to the car. A few minutes later, my friend returned with the lady and carrying a potted plant. Did she buy it in the gift shop, I wondered? And why? She explained, “I was walking down the hallway and someone just handed it to me and walked on. I don’t know why.” She, in turn, gave the plant to me. It’s not pretty, but it’s alive. And so, it sits by my window because I can’t bear to throw out something that still has some potential.

I wonder if that plant is symbolic of how God found us. Sin had made our lives ugly and scarred, and many would not see any potential for good. Yet God in His mercy did not give up on us. He knew that with loving care, we could be nurtured into a thing of beauty. He was not willing to toss us aside while there was still a chance for us to turn into something lovely.

We Can Thrive

God is the Master Gardener. He knows just the right things to do to nurture us and take away the ugliness that marred our appearance. Under His tender care we can thrive and reach our full potential.

I looked at my ugly plant again this morning as I watered it. No, I won’t throw it away. It’s a gentle reminder of God’s amazing grace in my life. God sees beyond the ugly to what I can become as I live my new life in Him.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for loving me when I was unlovable. You saw beauty when no one else did. Each day I am flooded with thanksgiving at the mercy You offer. Your love and mercy are never ending.

 

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, New English Translation).

True happiness seems elusive to many people. Part of this may result from their viewpoint on life. If we judge our happiness by what we own or our position in life, we will be disappointed. No matter what we have, it will never be enough. No matter who we know or how high our social status, that indefinable “something” will always be just out of reach. So how do we have a rich, fulfilling life? One step toward happiness is living a life of gratitude.

Can it be as simple as feeling thankful for the things we have in life? It’s certainly an important element. Developing an attitude of gratitude has many positive effects on us—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

  • Relieves Stress.

Modern life is stressful. There always seems to be too little time with too many expectations upon us. Studies show that gratitude counters these negatives we face. If we take time at the beginning of each day to thank God for the peace He offers, our stress levels go down.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, New Living Translation).

  • Changes Our Focus.

When we are thankful, our focus shifts. We are no longer consumed with our desires and our circumstances. We open ourselves up to others and feel empathy. Most of all, we open our eyes to God’s blessings our lives. Every good thing comes from Him.

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow” (James 1:17, NLT).

  • Partners with Humility.

Gratitude and humility go hand in hand. Each enhances the other. Humility reminds us we are not operating within our own strength. Whatever we accomplish in life is due to God’s help and the help of others. Gratitude allows us to acknowledge this.

The Bible warns that in the last days many will be proud and unthankful. Second Timothy 3:2 says, For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy” (English Standard Version). As a child of God, we demonstrate to an ungrateful world a better way to live. When we live a life of gratitude, we “spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume” (II Corinthians 2:14).

Suggestion for Today:

  • Begin the day by thanking God for His blessings.
  • Write a note to a loved one expressing thanks for being a part of your life.
  • Think about someone who has helped you in a special way and thank them for their time.
  • Send a note of appreciation to your pastor or pastor’s wife.
  • Verbally thank those who help you in any way throughout the day.
  • At the end of your day make a list of good things that happened today.

 

“Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel” (Proverbs 11:17, New Living Translation).

Everyone needs a little kindness in their life—to give some and to receive some. But what is kindness? Or is it even easily definable? Urbandictionary.com says it is “doing something and not expecting anything in return. Kindness is respect and helping others without waiting for someone to help one back. It implies kindness no matter what.” Someone else described it as love in action. While we may not be able to adequately define kindness, we do know it is listed as fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and should be evident in every believer’s life.

Think of the many examples of kindness told in the Bible. Ruth left her own country and people to show great kindness to her mother-in-law, Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17). King David sought to show kindness to any remaining members of Saul’s household, and Mephibosheth was brought to him (II Samuel 9). Barnabas accepted Saul, the former persecutor of the church, and defended him to the apostles (Acts 9:26-27). Dorcas made clothing (Acts 9:36-40).

We Have Stories to Tell

If I were to ask what act of kindness has been done for you, each would have a story to tell. Or many stories. While the media often focuses on the evils done to others, many good things quietly happen around us every day. I personally know someone who donated a kidney to a mother with young children. I’ve known others who anonymously paid a past due mortgage, someone’s travel expenses, and a student’s tuition. Not all acts of kindness are of this magnitude. It may be something as simple as a warm smile, holding a door, or offering an umbrella on a rainy day. They can be little things or bigger things. Regardless of their size, they make the world a nicer place.

Kindness Is a Language

Mark Twain expressed it this way: “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” So, how do we put more kindness into each day? By opening our eyes to opportunities around us. We just need to slow down long enough to notice. Acts of kindness are our way to make this world a more God-like place. It is so closely entwined with love that the two can’t be separated.

Kindness does as much (or more) for the giver as for the receiver. Proverbs 11:17 tells us when we are kind to others, we are nourishing our own soul. It enriches our lives.

We all entered this world as helpless babies dependent on the kindness and nurturing of others. This need for kindness and love does not go away once we become adults. While I suppose it may be possible to live without love and kindness, it is impossible to thrive without them. People feel valued when others show touch their lives. We have the ability—and the mandate from God—to provide that to everyone we meet.

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12, NKJV).

Your Challenge: Become intentional in looking for ways to show kindness to several each day. Make sure that at least one of those acts of kindness is for a stranger.