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Hallmarks of Care

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy." I like how the Message interprets this passage as 'at the moment you are "care-full" - you find yourselves cared for'. There is a saying in both scripture and common day that reminds us we reap what we sow. There is a direct link between us sowing seeds of "care" and reaping a reward of being cared for. As many of you have discovered over the years of following this blog, I am in the role of a caregiver - mom having come to live with me about 11 years ago. It has been a lot harder than I imagined at times, but it has equally been as rewarding! There are lots of ways we sow into the lives of others - not just to receive something in return - but because we sense how blessed we really are when we begin to reach out to sow into the lives of another. It might not seem like we'd receive much blessing in the 'toil' of sowing, but remember that the farmer only receives the crop because he has done a whole lot of work to realize any harvest!

Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. (James 3:17-18)

When we are "care-filled" (full of care), we are looking out for the other person, not just ourselves. There is an extension of our lives that looks beyond what is in it for us and sees that there are others around us that need to be "cared for" in the midst of today's challenges. True "community" is built upon living right with God - but never forget that this is HARD WORK that requires consistency and integrity. Lives of 'care' don't just happen - they are built. The heart doesn't just determine to love others - it learns to love others. The mind doesn't just create goodness at every turn - it is persuaded to find goodness because the heart is turned toward Christ!

Extending mercy - being able to care about another's thoughts, opinions, or desires - in the midst of not understanding why it is that they are acting a particularly harsh way is sometimes quite challenging. We don't "naturally" want to respond with "care" or "mercy"! In fact, if we were totally honest here, we'd probably like to tell them off! The moment we realize there are some "community-traits" that need our attention we will be more apt to help one another to always be "care-full" in dealing with each other - regardless of how our 'help' is received at that moment. Sometimes our parents won't be patient with us - not understanding why it is we don't want to stop what we are doing to do what they want done, or listen when they want to tell us the story that will take some time for them to fully explain. Even in those moments, we have the opportunity to be 'care-full' with one another!

We are to be gentle with each other. Two words to describe this trait - compassionate and considerate. We avoid severe, rough, condescending responses - even when the other guy may be struggling with these responses themselves. This is the idea of turning the other cheek. Rising above the emotion of the moment and extending a kindness where it may be least deserved is hard, but the sowing of kindness instead of harshness will yield a positive reward. We are to be reasonable in our dealings. This means that we exercise sound judgment at all times. We don't respond "out of proportion" to the circumstances at hand. In other words, we don't get caught up in the emotion and allow those emotions to stir us into responses that are disproportionate to the facts! Emotion often outruns reason! We respond out of emotion, without all the facts, and then wonder why we have no sense of "community" or harmony in our relationships!

We are to be consistent with each other - for nothing bespeaks 'care' more than consistency. Not being hot one day and cold the next, up and down in our 'carefulness' with each other. Whenever we ride the roller-coaster of being okay one day and then out of sync with each other the next, we always struggle to keep our "community" together. Learning to bring balance, order, and proportionate response to circumstances goes a long way to keeping us on even ground in our daily relationships. Dignity and honor - the hallmarks of a strong community relationship - are the outcome of learning to live "care-full" lives. It isn't easy work, but 'work' rarely is! Just sayin!

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