"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Today, I received the most inspiring message from my sister, Tatum. She shared with me an article that my 10-year-old niece Lily had written for a school publication; the subject is kindness. Before I received Tatum's email, I had a completely different line of thought planned for this devotional, but Lily's sentiment is too beautiful not to share with you.
If there is one thing I know that I've learned, received, heard and seen from Jesus, it's kindness. Loving kindness is at the core of Jesus' Gospel, and Lily captures its essence perfectly. Her article entitled "Kindness" is copied below.
"Kindness, a word that is very much mentioned at our school. But what exactly does it mean to be kind? You don't be kind just for show, you do it for others. You do it to make you feel good. You do it not because you are told, but because you want to. Being kind is one step to making our community a better place. 'Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see' (Mark Twain). So it doesn't matter how old someone is, if they have a disability or anything, just be kind.
Kindness is a very wonderful thing to have and spread. It can make the world a better place starting with just one person. Wouldn't it feel fantastic to be that person? To be the one who started it all? It would make the world a happier and more peaceful place. Kindness doesn't mean you have to go extremes, like changing the world. Random acts of kindness can start something beautiful. A big train of warmed hearts, and smiling faces.
Being kind is a wonderful gift to have. 'Any kindness in your heart becomes kindness in the world.' (Byron Katie). You don't have to be big and bold to make a difference, you can be shy and still have the kindest heart in the world. Kindness really isn't hard. You could simply compliment someone, and on the other hand, when you're being rude, you usually have to get everything out of your way to be rude to someone. Choosing kind might also affect how others see you as a person. If you are kind people will probably want to be your friend, because they want to be treated kindly, but if you aren't kind people probably won't want to be your friend."
After reading for the first time, I immediately recognized that what she has written is "true, ...noble...right...pure...lovely...admirable...excellent...[and] praiseworthy" (Phil 4:8). It also reminded me how frequently children can be the best source of wisdom in our lives. Even at age ten, Lily has enough of a grasp on the concept of kindness that she was able to articulate it in writing, where she broke it down into its simplest, most comprehensible terms.
This notion is addressed in the book of Matthew, "For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, 'I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me." (Matthew 18:2-5)
Jesus reiterates that the "childlike" are most like Him. He teaches us to be more like children in the way that we perceive the world and others, with delight, curiousity, trust, simplicity, open-mindedness, love...and kindness in our minds and hearts (Phil 4:7). Afterall, as my sweet niece states, "Kindness really isn't hard."
During the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, it's easy for us to get lost in the frenzy of what's expected as we "conform to the pattern of this world," losing sight of what aspects of life are most important (Romans 12:2). We stress over travel, family visitors, money and gifts; we grow weary, grouchy and unkind; and, we forget the peace, joy and light that has been gifted to us through Jesus' birth.
So, as the holidays approach, and you find yourself succumbing to stress and its side effects, I encourage you to stop, take a deep breath, and rather than reach for a glass of mulled wine, reach for the hand of a loved one or friend, and think about those things in your life that are "true...noble...right...pure...lovely...admirable...excellent...[and] praiseworthy...and the peace of God will be with you.
Holy God, we thank You for all of our blessings, even those difficult situations and relationships that we don't always recognize as blessings. We thank You for your one and only Son, the Prince of Peace, and the guarding of our hearts and minds that He does every second of every day. And Lord, we thank You so much for the gift of our children, and the humility, love and joy that they are capable of reflecting to us at such young ages. Please constantly remind us to grant patience and grace to our children, in the same way that You have granted these sentiments to each of us. Amen.
Written by Rachel Kearse. Rachel is the nursery childcare provider on Sundays, the leader of the Moms with Littles group and she also teaches Trinity Yoga here at Arcola. She is married to Matthew and they have two daughters, Stella and Olivia.