Take On: A Bit of Kindness

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Every year, I watch the posts fly about what individuals are “giving up” for Lent. The crash diets and motivation to finally clean out the closets are worthy of being posted on social media, but I question if they really challenge us to understand the meaning of Lent and the sacrifice which we remember during Holy Week. As I pondered how I would approach this Lenten season, I decided that I wanted to turn things around in my own life and rather than give something up or give something away, I will take something on, just as Christ took on the sins of the world in his own death.
Over the next several weeks, I will strive to “take on” one new thing each week, in turn striving to take on more of the love and grace which Christ exhibited throughout his life, death, and resurrection. I hope that you will join me and share your own experiences!

12 No one has ever seen God. If we love each other,
God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us.
1 John 4:12 (CEB)

I have recently become enthralled with a show on Netflix, “The Kindness Diaries.” this series documents the travels of a well off man, Leon, who has decided that his wealth is best used through helping others. As he travels across the world solely on the kindness of others (including both a boat ride across the Atlantic and a flight over the conflict ridden Middle East), Leon listens to the stories of those whom he meets and repays their kindness, even repaying the kindness of the man experiencing homelessness who offered his space to Leon for a night’s sleep. Long story short, go watch this show.

As I sat through one episode after another the other day, I wondered how I would respond to a stranger asking if they might stay in my home for the night. I realized that there are more times than I am comfortable with that I have completely ignored the request for something as simple as food and my heart broke as I took my place next to the hundreds who turned Leon away (and who I had been questioning up to that point).

Then I thought about Christ.

Christ’s journey to the cross would have been very similar to Leon’s, travelling from town to town and likely looking for a place to sleep each night and a meal to fill his belly. Even as he wondered what each day would hold, we mostly learn of his kindness toward everyone else; the same kindness that ultimately took Christ to the cross.

We never know what will happen when we open ourselves to share a bit of kindness in our world – sure, we might get “burned” but we are more likely to change a life, even our own. We never know the story behind every person’s ask, or fear of asking. When we take on kindness and share it with each person we encounter, God’s word travels into the heart of each person. God’s grace binds us together and our act of kindness shapes the future actions of all who witness it.

Kindness takes time though. Kindness takes intentionality. Kindness takes courage. Kindness is only complete when shared in a genuine, love and grace filled manner. Christ’s kindness was shared without an ask for anything in return and we should follow that example.

During this fourth week of Lent, I invite you to join me in the challenge to share a bit more kindness with those who we meet. Maybe that will mean simply helping a colleague when you are busy and maybe it will mean opening your home to someone seeking a place to eat or rest. We never know who God sends our way, but we can find confidence knowing that each and every one of us is a chosen and beloved child of God, all seeking a little extra kindness in our lives. When we share a bit of kindness with a stranger, we might as well be sharing that kindness with Christ as he makes his way to the cross.

As we seek the kindness of others,
May others find kindness through us.
As we question and challenge, offering excuse after excuse,
may our hearts be opened to difficult change.
May we follow Christ’s example,
Opening our lives to our neighbors
This and every single day.
Amen.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ‘14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

Take On: A Moment of Silence

Every year, I watch the posts fly about what individuals are “giving up” for Lent. The crash diets and motivation to finally clean out the closets are worthy of being posted on social media, but I question if they really challenge us to understand the meaning of Lent and the sacrifice which we remember during Holy Week. As I pondered how I would approach this Lenten season, I decided that I wanted to turn things around in my own life and rather than give something up or give something away, I will take something on, just as Christ took on the sins of the world in his own death.
Over the next several weeks, I will strive to “take on” one new thing each week, in turn striving to take on more of the love and grace which Christ exhibited throughout his life, death, and resurrection. I hope that you will join me and share your own experiences!

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17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message,
and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Romans 10:17 (NIV)

There are four main types of spiritual and faith practices – social justice, head, heart, and mystic. The first two practices in this series focused on heart (loving your-self) and social justice (earth care). This week, I want to move toward the mystic corner of this spirituality and faith wheel.

I have to admit that this will likely be one of the harder weeks of Lent for me. I live a very busy, noisy, and fast paced life. Even in the car, I tend to have the radio on or call my sister to talk. Mystic spirituality leads an individual to slow down and bring more focus into their life.  In some cases, it encourages the individual to find silence in the midst of chaos. It is both a dream of mine to enjoy this and a great fear!

While in seminary, a classmate made it a regular habit to take Saturday mornings to be quiet and have Sabbath time. As I think about how this might play out in my own life, I wonder how and when I can find the time to just be quiet! I think that is the challenge though – what am I doing in my life which can be set aside for a time of quiet, focused on listening to God through scripture and my life?

Over this next week, I hope to take 30 minutes of each day
to sit with one verse and simply listen –
not to the TV or radio, not to someone on the other end of the phone –
to God.

It can be quite difficult to have faith when God can’t be heard. So often we say that God isn’t listening or responding to our prayers. I have even found myself complaining about that recently. I wonder though, how much of God’s response do we miss because of the noise around us? How much of God’s Word for us do we miss because we only open the Bible on Sunday morning or when we are preparing to teach and preach?

A colleague recently suggested that the area of spirituality which makes us most uncomfortable might be where we need to spend the most time during Lent. I would venture to say that as our world grows busier and noisier, many of us might find that discomfort in the silence even as we crave it. I invite you to join me this week as we listen through the noise for God’s Word for us today! We just might be surprised at what God has been trying to say to us all along.

In the midst of the cheers and the laments,
You called back to us.
In the midst of the emails and the writing,
Your Word waited for us.
Calm our minds and open our ears,
quiet the storms and speak through silence.
We are listening, we want to hear.
Remind us that you are indeed near.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

Take on: Caring for Creation

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Every year, I watch the posts fly about what individuals are “giving up” for Lent. The crash diets and motivation to finally clean out the closets are worthy of being posted on social media, but I question if they really challenge us to understand the meaning of Lent and the sacrifice which we remember during Holy Week. As I pondered how I would approach this Lenten season, I decided that I wanted to turn things around in my own life and rather than give something up or give something away, I will take something on, just as Christ took on the sins of the world in his own death.
Over the next several weeks, I will strive to “take on” one new thing each week, in turn striving to take on more of the love and grace which Christ exhibited throughout his life, death, and resurrection. I hope that you will join me and share your own experiences!

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

27 So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

Genesis 1: 26-28 NRSV

Several years ago, I accidentally started a new Lenten practice. One beautiful Sunday afternoon, I planted the seeds for my first garden at our new home. Over the next six weeks, I watched over my seeds sitting in the dining room and celebrated every change I saw. On Easter, they were finally ready to move outside where they would eventually become the most productive garden I have had. Since then, I have tried to stay as close to this schedule as possible, even though I have yet to have the “perfect transplant” on Easter that the first garden had.

Gardening can be such a peaceful practice. There is something about working with the soil and excitedly checking the growth of the plant every day that both matches and contrasts so beautifully with the season of Lent. Just as we walk with Christ and anticipate his arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection every year, a gardener first plants the seed and then watches with anticipation for that seed to root, sprout, flower, and finally produce. There is an element of grief when sprouts die and is a sense of great excitement and praise those tiny sprouts are successfully transplanted into the garden soil where a new life will take hold and flourish.

This year, I think it is a wonderful coincidence that we celebrate the new, risen life of Christ the day before Earth Day. As those entrusted with the care of God’s creation, we are becoming more and more aware of the damage and slow death that is taking place throughout this creation. Reports and predictions about “how long” we have left with the natural resources available are grim and people all over are trying to figure out what to do to save creation. We are challenged with not only maintaining the resources we do have, but finding ways to recover what has been lost through our collective carelessness throughout all of God’s creation.

Just as we learn to love God by loving the way God has created us, we also learn to love God through working with and nurturing God’s creation. For some, that might be done through gardening while others might invest their time in cleanup efforts. How can you take on caring for creation this Lent? Maybe you are already taking several steps using “green” products and limiting waste. Maybe you are so overwhelmed you do not know where to begin. I have found this to be a great place to start as I look for my own ideas for caring for God’s creation and ways to teach about caring for creation.

In the beginning, you created the world and said that it was good.
In the midst of our lives, you came and taught us of your love and grace
through the lens of that which was good.
We have neglected that goodness for our own,
forgetting that it is dust that we are made of.
We now turn our hearts and our hands back to that dust, back to the soil.
We dust off the good and make room for new sprouts
so that we might see your love shine around us
in its fullest beauty once more.
Amen.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

Take on: Loving Yourself

0e7002088_1518705936_ash-wednesday-loveEvery year, I watch the posts fly about what individuals are “giving up” for Lent. The crash diets and motivation to finally clean out the closets are worthy of being posted on social media, but I question if they really challenge us to understand the meaning of Lent and the sacrifice which we remember during Holy Week. As I pondered how I would approach this Lenten season, I decided that I wanted to turn things around in my own life and rather than give something up or give something away, I will take something on, just as Christ took on the sins of the world in his own death.
Over the next several weeks, I will strive to “take on” one new thing each week, in turn striving to take on more of the love and grace which Christ exhibited throughout his life, death, and resurrection. I hope that you will join me and share your own experiences!

Over this past year, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the ways which God’s Word for us shapes my own self-understanding. Throughout this confirmation year, I have really sought new ways to spin the understanding of personal faith in a way that really focuses on self understanding and self love through faith. During a recent discussion about grace, we looked at the greatest commandment,

30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself.
No other commandment is greater than these.”
Mark 12: 30-31 CEB

So often we focus on “love your neighbor” and miss what I think might be the most important part here in verse 31 – “love yourself”.

As we learn to truly love God, we learn to love ourselves through the understanding that we are created in God’s image. It is an incredible thing to consider that God, the purest form of love there is, created each and every one of us in that same form of pure love. It is so simple and so complicated.

To ask an 8th grader what it means to be created in pure, beautiful, flawless love is a powerful thing. The self-critique of an adolescent is really no different from that of an adult – we focus so much on our flaws that we forget how we really came into being. We focus on everything that could be wrong with us that miss the beautiful and intentional marks which God has added to our beings through this perfectly pure love.

As we begin this Lenten season and remember the pure love from which we came and to which we will return, I pray that we can find it in ourselves to love ourselves the way God loves us. Until we learn to do this, until we see the beautifully and lovingly marked children of God that we are and embrace that, we will not be able to see and embrace the same in our neighbors.

During this first week of Lent, I challenge you to join me as we take on loving ourselves as we have been created and formed in the image of God.

From dust we have come and to dust we will return;
from pure love we come and to pure love we will return.
Embrace the dust of today, rather than sweeping it away;
Love who you are today, rather than hiding your beauty away.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)