7 things you can do to bless the poor in your community

 

Don’t lump everyone into one pile. That is, don’t allow your mind to become darkened toward those in need. Yes, some people are merely scam artists (who may actually be poor, too), but a great many are genuinely in need. Consequently, when you deal with someone who claims to be in need, don’t act like you have all the pieces to the puzzle or even the picture on the puzzle box to work with, for you don’t. You simply don’t know all that is regarding the person with whom you’re dealing. Truly, even what you think you do know about them can be only partially true, for appearances can be deceiving. So why not default toward the merciful, not the judgmental. Bless the needy by refusing to judge.

Don’t make degrading remarks about those in poverty or laugh at the jokes made by others regarding them. Go further: grow to consider the “subtle” slights or insinuations as the most vile of things. After all, how would you want people to see you if you were in their shoes? Try this: when you encounter the poor, consider that you’re meeting Jesus. Our Lord had nowhere to lay his head and had no change of clothes. Truly, the way you treat the poor says everything about the way you respect the God of rich and poor alike. Give the poor you encounter your respect, whether they’re present at the moment or not.

Don’t believe everything you hear and question what you think you know. When it comes to the world of misinformation, misunderstanding of poverty and the poor surely comes near the top of the list. Mistaken impressions, false assumptions, and outright lies abound. And such commonly pops up not merely in everyday conversation, but in “official” sources such as the news media, politicians, etc., too. Help change a bit of that by wielding some healthy skepticism not toward the poor, but toward what you commonly hear or read about them. Few are more poorly understood than the poor so deliberately go the second (and third and fourth) mile in seeking improved understanding, not settling for superficial thought or merely swallowing whatever you hear said about them by others. Bless those who have not by thinking critically of them, but by using your critical thinking for them.

Empower them completely with whatever you give them. Picture this. You’re stopped at the traffic light and someone on the median beside you is holding a sign that reads: “Hungry. God bless you.” What do you do? Curse the light that you didn’t get through? Avoid eye contact and pretend to be oblivious to them due to your looking for, or at, something? Root out a a couple of one dollar bills and silently hand them to the person, all the while thinking, “They’ll probably just go blow it on beer or a lottery ticket?” How about considering another option instead? Carry some gift cards to fast food joints in the area with you at all times. The next time you’re at the light, hand the person one of those cards, tell them, “I know this isn’t much, but it’s supper. May God bless you!” And mean it. Then, as you drive away, pray for that person (see # 6 below). They can’t blow the gift card on a beer or lottery ticket and they just might be amazed that someone actually respected them enough to acknowledge their existence and speak to them. Such is all too rare. Bless the poor by maximizing what you do give them.

Understand, and respect the fact, that the values of the have nots are not the values of those who have. If you were underemployed and/or underpaid for your employment, what would be your sense of priorities? Keeping the job you have would be supreme, no? And jobs that don’t pay a wage on which a person can live without assistance from others typically demand far more than jobs which many others hold (i.e. – more drive time, longer and odder hours, etc.). So transportation becomes even more important a value to one so employed, right? After all, if you’re poor, you don’t have a second car to fall back on and your friends may not have transportation at all and so, look to you for such for themselves. If you can’t get to work, you can’t keep that all-important job. Being in the situation you are, you can’t scrap up the money for a decent place to live and your life is work, so there’s no real time or money for leisure activities. So, if you were in that situation, what you put your money into that was beyond what was needed to eat and survive? Reliable transportation, of course! Now remember that the next time you see someone who says they’re need driving a newer model car than your own. Odds are, that car has twice the mileage your car has on it, too, even though it appears to be in good shape. Bless the oppressed by refusing to measure them by your own set of priorities.

Petition God on their behalf. Some of them have never known God. Pray for them. Some of them who have known him have stopped praying to him because their situation has caused them to lose faith that he hears them. Pray for them. Some have gotten themselves into dark ways because their having little (if anything) surrounds them with temptations that have no real attraction to the rest of us (cf. Prov. 30.7-9). Pray for them. Bless the burdened with your intercession with God for them.

Get to know them. Do whatever it takes to deliberately place yourself in a position where you will no longer be insulated from interacting with them. Bless the poor by befriending, not distancing yourself from, them. By doing so, you just might be befriending an angel, unaware.

7 things you can do to bless your church family

 

Officially place membership. That is, put down roots in a particular congregation and let the leadership know you want to be considered a part of the flock there. Your decisiveness in doing so will not only help you in your development of a sense of belonging and responsibility, but will aid that congregation’s leaders as they seek to lead the flock there well and to shepherd your life with purpose.

Know that where you park makes a difference to others. Don’t park close to the building unless you must. Deliberately park in the back half of the parking lot, leaving the half closest to the building available for guests, the handicapped, and others. Are your knees and hips still good? Good, park a little further and leave the closer spots for those whose joints aren’t nearly so good as yours. It doesn’t just make good sense to do so, it’s a part of considering others before yourself, right (Rom. 12)?

What’s true for parking also holds true for seating. Unless you have a special need, deliberately sit further in on the pew or the row, deliberately leaving the aisle seats available for guests and those who truly need such. Sit a little closer to the front, too, deliberately leaving seating at the rear available for latecomers, etc. That simple, physical act will help impress on your mind that as Christ served/serves you, you’re to be a servant of others in every way. Your obvious display of attention and interest will also strongly encourage all who lead the gatherings, too. This is a win-win-win for all.

Take five. Meaning take the first five minutes following the conclusion of a gathering to either greet newcomers, to encourage those who are there that day, but who are rarely there on other occasions, or to be present with those you’ve just learned of having a deep need in their life. Pray tell, what could possibly be more important during those five minutes?

Keep folks in the loop as to where you are. How many times have you has a conversation like the following? “Where’s Joe & Suzanne?” ” I don’t know.” “Me neither.” “Been a couple of weeks, hasn’t it?” “Seems like it.” “I hope everything’s good.” “Me too.” “Maybe we’ll see them next week.” “Maybe so.” Or maybe not. Better, when you let folks know where you’re at, you not only do right by your own need for accountability and prayer, you do right by those who care for you by removing a concern and replacing it with knowledge, love, and care. Not many folks deliberately try to slip through the cracks into inactivity or invisibility and though you might think such could never be you, it could. So be pro-active in building up your defenses against becoming so. Instead of just being there when you can or waiting on others to seek you out when you’re not, make the first move yourself. Keep church leaders posted as to your whereabouts.

Remember that money matters. So either double-up ahead of time before you go out-of-town or make up your contribution when you come back home from that business trip, vacation, or wherever life takes you. Do it without fail for while you were gone, the bills continued on. No, it’s not all about money, but it is about being a responsible, dependable steward of, and support to, all ministry done in the name of Christ.

Spend regular time interceding with God. Everyone in your church family needs your prayers, not just those who are on the sick list this week. Every ministry in the congregation can benefit from your praise to, and intercession with, the Father, not just the one that’s in the spotlight at the moment. Every action your church helps support elsewhere – be it a mission point, a benevolent work or whatever – should be included in your conversations with Christ, not just the ones that are clearly experiencing a harvest time at this time. As you make yourself aware of the good efforts and actions of others, you’ll find yourself more motivated and stimulated, as well as sharpened and made wiser, as to your own. And a better you makes for a healthier body of Christ overall.

7 things you can do to bless those whose life is a beach

 

Thank God. Such a time in life is a gift and should be treated as such. It could be a time of rest from difficult times past. It could be a time for preparation for more trying times ahead. In either case, thank God for your friend’s blessing. They need it, as you do, too.

Rejoice with them. Inquire as to the good things you see God bringing into their life. Take the time to genuinely, deeply, and repeatedly listen to their stories of the times of refreshing. In doing so, you will not only heighten their joy, but will open the door to greater light into your own life.

Spread the joy around. This world isn’t short on dark and difficult news on a daily basis. Share the good things they share with you that are shareable with others. Deliberately set out to fill the world with some of the good news you know. You just don’t know whose life you might brighten as a result and how powerful that light might be to them.

Don’t succumb to the green monster. No one ever plans to become jealous or green with envy, but turning green starts with nurturing little, seemingly harmless questions. “Why can’t things be for me the way it is for them?” Show such thoughts no mercy. Pull them up by the roots, roots that could spread to others and work real harm.

Grow in gratitude. Sometimes it takes seeing someone else being blessed to awaken us to our own blessings. Let this time of overhearing others count their blessings prompt you to do the same. You will be made a better person in so doing and will, as a result, bless all you know.

Call attention to the future. Your friend will certainly recall how much more pleasant these times are now than some of those past, but you can bless them a bit now by reminding them of what is to be. Blessings we enjoy now are tiny glimpses into the infinitely greater jubilation and glory of being in God’s presence forever, nothing hindering. Such a reminder will likely stir up all the more gratitude and depth of appreciation for the good times now as well as the astounding times to come.

Continue to pray for them. Our natural tendency is to pray in, and perhaps even only in, the tough times. We storm heaven’s gates and petition God to bless. While God certainly encourages us to make request of him, how much more fitting it is that we’re even more passionate about rushing to his throne to praise him for who he is and his goodness at all times! By praying in times of plenty, not merely in times of need, you’ll grow in your awareness and appreciation of God, coming to love him and adore him all the more. Such can’t help but be contagious.

10 things you can do to bless the children around you

 

In caring for children now, you’re shaping the present and the future in powerful ways. You’re molding a child’s impression of adults and adulthood. You’re modeling how to communicate with someone very different than yourself. And so much more. So deliberately make this world a better place, and the future a potentially brighter thing, by actively caring for the children around you. Here are ten practical ways you can do so.

Babysit them for their parents. As you care for those who care for them, you bless the lives of both.

Learn their name and call them by name. Not just the next time you see them, but every time thereafter. You get bonus points if you can remember the name of one of their closest friends.

Give them a moment of your undivided attention. Bend over or drop down to one knee to be on their level, if possible. This is often such a rare thing for a child to experience, outside of their kin or closest friends, it will make a real impression on them. They’ll be thinking: “Here’s a grown up that looks at me, not just through me or around me? Amazing!”

Virtually banish comparisons with “the good old days” from your vocabulary. The operative word is “comparison.” Oh, it’s fine to occasionally bring up how things were done back in the day, but don’t make a habit of making or preaching moral comparisons (i.e. – then = good; today = bad). Not only do we all live in the present now, but often “the good old days” were actually, in many ways, what an octogenarian friend of mine calls “the so-called good old days.” Live in the present, not the past, for their sake and your own.

Take note of things children give their attention to these days, be it movies, games, activities, books, or whatever. These things will often serve as talking points you can call up and use in your conversations with them. As you learn what they’re tuned into, you can step into their world and not always expect it to be the other way around.

Adopt their technology. What? They can whiz around a smartphone or iPad and you don’t even have a clue how to use one? They’ll think Granny is hip if she creates a Facebook page and actually uses it for something beyond lurking. Imagine how surprised they’ll be to receive a text from Gramps ever so often. Be the grown up and engage children by embracing the world of technology. Even better, let them teach you. Don’t allow the thought to even rest in their head for a minute that adults aren’t open to new ideas or different ways of doing things.

Write them a brief, handwritten letter. A card is good for little ones, but just a plain, handwritten letter is even better for ones now past single-digit age. Word it with the present in mind, but pen it with how they would understand it if they read it again thirty years from now … because they just might. Yes, that’s old school technology, but that’s part of your job description: to introduce the younger set to old school ways while simultaneously adopting new ways.

Ask their opinion of things and try to see the world through their eyes. As you do so, you’re nurturing their sensitivity toward, and respect for, others, as well as modeling the importance and value of asking questions and listening deeply.

Build your relationship not on giving them presents, but on being present with them. In doing so, you’ll show respect to other family members who may not be able to give, though they’d like to do so. You’ll help allay any hint of an “arms race” as to who can give the most. You’ll subtly declare the true place of material things in life. And you’ll teach them by vivid example that the far greater gift is simply being with and for each other, whether things are present or not.

Introduce them to another adult who will treat them as you have treated them in any of the previous ways. Remember, you’re in the construction business, busy about about building bridges spanning generations.

10 things you can do to bless strangers

 

Learn to carry a slight smile on your face all of the time. You’ll brighten up the atmosphere wherever you go by doing so.

Make using your turn signal an unconscious habit. Not at the last minute, either. It just might save someone a lot of grief, or even a life. Similarly, don’t drive below the speed limit in the fast lane.

Be done with leaving 15-20% for a tip at the restaurant; bump it up to 50%. If it’s an outdoor/carhop, make it 100%. When they say, “I’ll be right back with your change,” drink in the look in their eyes when you shake your head and, with a smile, simply say, “Keep it. That’s for you.” For the person busing the table (who usually receives no tip), stack your plates and cups. Collect your silverware into a single pile, too.

Put the Boy Scouts to shame with the frequency and natural ease with which you open doors for others everywhere you go.

When you’re standing in a checkout line, give up your place in line for the person behind you. Do this for whoever happens to be there, not just for the little old ladies.

Strike up a positive conversation when you chit-chat with someone. Don’t complain about the weather, government, other people, or whatever. Instead, deliberately point out something good or praiseworthy and express gratitude for such. Set the conversation’s altitude on “high.”

When in public, either mute your cell phone or turn the ringer nearly off whenever possible. Similarly, avoid phone conversations in populated contexts such as restaurants, post offices, stores, etc. If you must converse on the phone in such a setting, keep your voice down, keep it brief, and consider taking it outside.

Invite a co-worker you don’t know to join you and your cadre for lunch together one day. Don’t consider inviting someone who appears they could be the life of the party, but take in someone who appears to be shouldering a bit of a burden of some kind these days. Who knows what future friend wears the mask of a stranger today.

When a friend mentions in passing they have a friend in the hospital (whom you don’t know), find out where they are and pay them a brief visit. Even pagans visit their friends. What do you do more than they?

Attend the funeral of service of someone unknown to you. If possible, choose a service that might not have a large attendance. Sign the guest registry. You need not say a word to anyone; your presence will say more than your words ever could. If anyone asks you why you’re there say: “I’m here simply to pray for all who grieve. Though I didn’t know ___ (the name of the deceased), I know we shared in the life of this community together and so, their passing diminishes me and surely many more.”

10 things you can do to bless your neighbors

 

Mow a neighbor’s yard. Sweep up after you finish. If at all possible, do it when they can’t possibly know who did it.

Do a “sneak attack” wash job of a neighbor’s vehicle when you know they’re away. Run the hose from your faucet, not their spigot.

Adopt that nearby vacant lot, picking up the trash that has slowly accumulated in it over time. Keep the weeds knocked down a bit, too.

Get to know the kids in the neighborhood a bit and join in with them in a friendly game of wiffle ball, frisbee, or PIG or HORSE. What? They haven’t even heard of PIG or HORSE? Teach ‘em.

Go for a walk or a bike ride around the neighborhood, silently praying for every person you see. Deliberately smile at and greet every person, no exceptions.

Systematically pray for every household in your neighborhood. Select a different house each day as you drive out to go to work, or wherever, and intercede with God for all of the people who make up that home.

Give a cold bottle of water or GatorAid to the folks who pick up your trash. Share it with a word of appreciation for the service they do. Remember the driver as well.

Stop by the meat department the next time you’re at the grocery store and ask for a big bone you can give to that neighbor’s dog that barks incessantly. Present it to the neighbor as a gift for Rover without mentioning the barking. It won’t just keep the dog’s trap shut more often, but will bless everyone who doesn’t have to listen to the barking for awhile.

Keep a stash of one dollar coins you can withdraw from to give to the wee ones in the neighborhood. Whether it’s a great report card, perfect attendance, or you just catch them doing something good, reward the good you see.

Leave your porch lights on at night, doing it not merely for your own benefit, but to deliberately share that light with others for the increased security of all.

fresh bread: in word and deed

About that time, while the number of disciples continued to increase, a complaint arose. Greek-speaking disciples accused the Aramaic-speaking disciples because their widows were being overlooked in the daily food service. The Twelve called a meeting of all the disciples and said, “It isn’t right for us to set aside proclamation of God’s word in order to serve tables. Brothers and sisters, carefully choose seven well-respected men from among you. They must be well-respected and endowed by the Spirit with exceptional wisdom. We will put them in charge of this concern. As for us, we will devote ourselves to prayer and the service of proclaiming the word.” (Acts 6:1-4 CEB)

We’ve all heard it and perhaps have said it, likely more than once:

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.”

The genius of this statement is that it works on so many levels at the same time. Is the statement saying: (a) sermons aren’t necessarily the most pleasant of things to sit through, (b) it’s all well and good to talk about faith, but religion that isn’t lived is useless, (c) the integrity of the preacher isn’t found so much in what they say, but what they do, (d) a great deal of what passes for religion is just hot air, (e) or let the preacher do it since he seems to be the one all fired up to talk about it?

Answer? Yes.

But to say “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one anyday” is to only look at one side of the coin. In order to appreciate the full value of it all, I submit we need to flip it over and look at the other side of things. And so:

Unless you hear a sermon someday, you’ll never see one.”

After all, where would you be without the message? If you never encountered the message, how would you know what to live or how to live it? Living may be more pleasant than listening, but without listening, how will anyone know hot to live? Or even if somehow you know of the Christ, where is the integrity of living for him if you will not speak to him or of him?

And so, when it comes to practicing Christian faith, what could possibly be at least as important as feeding starving widows? Prayer and preaching. When it comes to making sure Christian faith continues, which is most crucial: to love in word or deed? Both are essential. How will we give genuine witness of the living God to a world gone mad? By living a life of dependence on God in prayer, a declaration of God in preaching, and a demonstration of God in practice.

It’s a matter of balance and respect and the forces that ever threaten to throw us out of balance or breed disrespect must always be confronted. When we find ourselves neglecting talking with God for all that we’re doing, we’re doing too much and must find our true center once more. When we find ourselves impatient with receiving, or unwittingly hindering the proper preparation to preach God’s word, we must re-examine our priorities. When we find ourselves occupied with many words and few deeds, we do neither those who hear our words or the Author who gives us the words any great honor.

Holy Father, direct our ways with the words you make sure get shared with us. Deliver us from unshouldering our personal responsibilities to you and placing them on the shoulders of others. Grow in us as at least as great a respect for the service of the word as we have in us to minister to others. When we busy ourselves so much that we forget to even speak with you, bring us to our senses and bring us to our knees that we might cry out to you. In the name of the Word who went about doing good, we pray. Amen.