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Friday, February 26, 2016

Honor in Their Eyes

I've been talking with my friend about this very topic the past few weeks, about honor. He's an ADVANCE student, 18 years old, a senior at Fort Mill High School. He's been in our ministry for most of his high school carer. We traveled to Colombia, South America with a team two summers ago and once you travel on a global mission trip together, you have a bond. And really, the thing about being a pastor is how much you cherish, value, and cheer on those in your ministry. Truly. 

My friend has really been moved by the latest series "The Lost Art of Honor." It's been a really important one for him. The past few Sundays, he's excitedly texted and we've had some really cool conversations about what David has said the past few weeks and what honor can look like in the life of a teenager. When I asked if he'd help me with some blog thoughts, he said, "well I feel honored right now."

I loved that comment so much. Because receiving honor fuels giving honor. Those who receive honor give it. What an honorable cycle. 

I'm really proud of this student, of this newfound fire he has to value and treat others with honor. Honor for our teenagers, for our next generation, is incredibly critical. Honor is not a thing of the past, it must be the heartbeat of how we interact with one another. Honor is, at its core understanding that everyone is worthy of value and respect. It is recognizing the image of God in one another. My friend describes honor as "going out of your way," and there is something so gracious about that. Honor is not just doing what is expected, but is giving grace upon grace. It is calling out to others, "I see you, I respect you, I value you, I care about you, and I will sacrifice self to show you."

Honor is grace.

In a middle school cafeteria or a high school classroom, that can be a really tough concept to grasp. People can be unkind and cruel, dramatic and stubborn. If you remember way back (way, way back for some of us), the teenage years are tough years. They are identity altering years, a character defining time, and where God is in the midst of it is a question we have all wrestled with. The lies of a teenage mind are loud and the drum of insecurity can beat really, really loudly. So much is changing. I remind my teenage friends all the time that the core of who they are never changes - loved, belonged, worth dying for, child of God. That is the good news.

So, the question our teenagers are wrestling with and the one we're trying to help them get to is this. How can honor exist in an environment like this?

Honor starts by honoring God. Our relationship with God sets the tone for so much, for the health of our relationships and the health of our own identity. We honor God by spending time with Him, by loving one another, by seeking His help, by prioritizing faith and His way of life. When others are dishonorable, it is God who helps us honor them. My friend says that it is easy to forget where honor starts, but it starts with God. How true and right and good that is.

I think of the fruit of the spirit of kindness, and I think how much it connects with honor. Kindness can change lives, set people free, welcome people in despite who they are or what they've done. Kindness communicates value and communicates worth. The same can be said of honor, what a closely related marriage between the two. It is believing the best about one another, encouraging instead of criticizing. In it purest form, it is simply treating people right.

I had a dear friend named Tee, who embodied this kind of honor and who I look to often as my example. I met Tee when he was a senior at Fort Mill High School a few years ago. At his memorial service this past fall, I heard story after story of how his kindness had changed lives. One by one, people from all walks of life, from all cliques and social groups at Fort Mill High, stood up and shared how an encounter with Tee had made them feel safe and valuable. I remember hearing their words and their stories and thinking over and over again what a life, what a legacy. People felt honored by the way Tee treated them.

Tee understood that people matter, he understood that people are worthy to be welcomed in. His smile, his personality, his character, reflected the belief that every moment and every human being is sacred. There are no exceptions. Actions have influence, and yes, did Tee influence towards love and belonging. He impacted a community. 

Kindness and honor bring heaven to earth.

Our teenagers are reclaiming honor, they truly are. They are grappling with what it looks like to be kind in the battlefield. They are asking good questions, seeking hard after God, pursuing love and goodness in a world that is hard, sinful, and broken. They inspire me daily.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Kindness of Strangers

I am off my airport game. 

I pride myself on having flown fairly frequently. I know my way around an airport. Flying rules, regulations, appropriate time to be there. I have my traditions and rituals. Coffee, people watching, book to read.

This time, however, I was way off my game. I flew to New York with my brother last week and had quite a few misadventures. Nothing huge on the way there - a stray liquid, no time to sit before boarding - but things an amateur would do. 

On the way home, however, was another story. I casually made my way to the airport for my return flight and was shocked when the woman at the American Airlines counter told me I needed to hurry or I was going to miss my flight. wait what. 

Confused, I looked down at the time and briskly walked to the security line. To my horror, I saw it stretched 40 people deep. It sank in I am going to miss this flight. 

There are very few things worse than missing a flight. The hassle and expense, the unknown. To be avoided at all costs. 

Standing there in line, it was this moment where I knew I needed to act fast. If I didn't speak up, I was going to spend all day at JFK. It was a nerve-wracking few minutes, knowing that how my day unfolded depended on quite a few other people. 

So, I spoke up. 
I told the woman in front of me, a French woman who didn't speak much English, that my flight was literally boarding right then and could I go in front of her? She couldn't understand what I was saying, so we sought the women behind me to help translate. They immediately said YES ABSOLUTELY PLEASE GO AHEAD. Their affirmation, their enthusiasm was just so generous. 

Then it became a thing. I moved down the line, person by person, and told them my situation and that I needed their help. And one by one, they let me pass. Not begrudgingly or annoyingly, but joyfully. With empathy, they let me pass. With kindness, each person let me pass. No one questioned why I was late or gave me lecture on being prompt or responsible, but they pleasantly moved aside and urged me forward. There was even one woman who shrieked let this woman go!!!

Kindness created camaraderie in that line. The other passengers became my corner, their kindness really warming my heart. You see, that New York trip wasn't exactly an easy one. My brother was moving to NYC and that trip was to move him in and get him settled into his new home. There was a mix of great excitement, but also my heart felt a little sad. 

The small kindnesses in the airport, the kindness of strangers cheering me on, allowing me to go in front of them, was really meaningful and important to me. A very much needed kindness. It was a moment I needed great empathy. I made my flight that day by the skin on my teeth. Literally, the attendant closed the door right after I ran up there. For real.  

You never know what an act of kindness can do for someone. 
You don't know people's stories, or where people are in each moment.
But we do know that kindness can inspire and encourage, can warm and move forward. Kindness without questions asked, kindness without an explanation needed, is an incredibly valuable commodity that should be given away freely. 

Thank you, airport people!