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Word to the Wise: June 8

by Neal Windham, Spiritual Formation Pastor

Note: The devotions this week come from Musings of a Prodigal Father, written for my son Luke upon graduation from high school in the late 90s.

“Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” - Proverbs 21:21

From Musings of a Prodigal Father:
I’ve discovered that nothing endears me to people more than genuine compassion, Luke. I’ve also found out that nothing makes me feel better personally. There are so many wounded people, so many searing failures, so little compassion. When people become selfish, as so many in our culture have, they do not care to tend to the hurts of others. That’s because they spend most of their days licking their own wounds. The truly radical solution is community.  Homes with front porches. Wholesome block parties. A real presence that goes way beyond, “How ya’ doin’?”

It really should be instinctive, compassion. But we have so tailored our lives to suit ourselves that it’s all but squashed, this instinct. I have to fight the tendency of uncaring. What attempts at empathy am I making as I read the news, for example? I doubt anything is more important than kindness, and yet I have to work at it every single day of my life, checking every evil thought, every careless word, every calculated smirk. Compassion means that I really “love my neighbor” as I love myself. I’m trying to do that with one of our neighbors right now, Luke. I’ve tried to step out of my comfort zone and engage him in conversation on a regular basis. I’ve given him barbecue; I like barbecue. I’ve given him cucumbers from our garden; I like cucumbers from our garden. I’ve mentioned to him that I pray for him on Wednesdays; I like it when I know that people are praying for me.

So I keep working at compassion and pray you will too. Flannery O’Connor, twentieth-century southern novelist, once said that the world is a badly deformed place, which makes it hard to see what really is natural. Compassion is natural; God put it in place. There’s nothing natural about hate or murder or abuse.  It’s all part of the Great Deformity. Compassion is that quality of our humanity that defies this deformity and claims love as the radical way home.”

Merciful God, thank you for extending kindness and mercy toward us. It’s a beautiful thing you’ve done, and we love beauty! Please show us how to extend compassion’s beauty to the world. We’re so tired of the fighting, the ugliness. Inspire in us something so radically different that it can in no way be separated from the presence of your Spirit. We want to enter into solidarity with the poor, the forgotten, and the neglected, to feel their pain, to share it; to celebrate their joy, to live it. Help us to cross the limiting threshold of self, to enter the near country of neighbors, and there to share their burdens in Jesus’ name. It won’t be easy some days, but you are really good at handling the hard stuff, and we’re with you. Amen.