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Rev's Reflections for August

One of the many joys I have of being a parent are the opportunities my 13 year old son gives me to help grow him into a trustworthy, contributing, and productive adult. Maybe you've felt this with your own children, or maybe you were the kid providing mentors plenty of chances to mentor you!


In Guntersville, the high school marching band allows select 8th graders from the middle school to march with the high school students. My son was one of those 8th graders and he participated in the annual band camp this summer. Another 8th grade student named "Jason" was also part of the camp. Jason's instrument is the tuba. We've known Jason for a few years now, and although he's a pretty good kid, he has some struggles. On the way home from one of the band practices, my son told me that he and several of the kids had been keeping track of the number of times the band director had to correct Jason during the practices that week - and it was in the double digits. Apparently, this was entertaining for the kids who were counting. I asked him what Jason thought of this. He replied Jason said he didn't care. Sensing a teaching moment, I asked him if he believed Jason. I asked him how he would feel if other, older, more experienced band members kept track of every time he messed up. Of course, he said he wouldn't feel very good about it, and came to realize those actions probably hurt Jason's feelings, too. This is when I reiterated the idea of giving grace to Jason. Surely Jason was not trying to mess up and was probably doing the best he could. He had never been in a marching band prior to this summer, and trying to march around with a heavy metal instrument wrapped around him in the July heat would be challenging for anyone. My son agreed and decided he would try to steer the group's attention away from Jason at the next day's practice and to spend time encouraging Jason when he could.


We all have stuff in our lives that we carry around with us that may affect our behavior and performance. If we keep this one truth in mind, it is easy for us to give grace to others. It is very easy to pile on and succumb to peer pressure or group think in situations like this. As a father of four with only one still in school, I have been taught over and over to watch for bullying, cyber-bullying, and all the ways children can say and do things that hurt other kids; and I know it takes maturity and intention to stay clear of it.


Does everyone deserve grace? Does that panhandler at the intersection deserve my grace? Does the jerk that just cut me off in traffic in his expensive sports car deserve my grace? I do not know. But I do know that the Psalmist wrote, "How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!" (Psalms 133:1 NIV)


Volunteering at the Food Basket in Killeen, Texas years ago, I asked the director how she felt about giving food to people showing up with fancy cars, carrying cell phones, and by all appearance not being "poor". Did they deserve the free food that others had donated? I remember she responded, "It is not for me to decide. If God brings them to me, I will feed them."


Paul wrote in Philippians 4-8, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." This sure links to what the Psalmist observed.


As an Army Aviator, I am all about checklists. One I share with you for these situations is the Four Way Test from Rotary International. It reads:


Of the things I think, say, or do:

1. Is it the Truth?

2. Is it fair to all concerned?

3. Will it build good will and better friendships?

4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”


So in application, if what I am about to think, say, or do does not pass this test, then I make the choice to not think, say, or do that thing.


Who out there in this world can we give grace? Certainly our family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances are on the list. But why stop there? I encourage you to apply the Four Way Test and practice giving grace to anyone and everyone you come into contact with in your everyday life.


And one of the best parts of giving grace? It is free! Give it a try!


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