Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Church, Be Benny

My family is notorious for one liners leaving other people feeling awkward and confused. For that, I need to take a moment to apologize. You see, we love, love, love to laugh and more often than not that one liner from Blazing Saddles is the key to break the silence in any situation. And if you can join in, we will expand the dialogue to see how deeply you can engage as if there is some sort of test.
We even measure the quality of our teachers for our kids based upon when our girls can casually mention the question of weight ratio in class and get a grin out of their instructor. (For those of you who have failed to understand that comment, see me after class.) So as we are raising the next generation of unpaid comedy relief (you’re welcome), it is imperative that they are well schooled in the classics so they, too, can understand the rationale for our sudden guffaws in restaurants and social gatherings.

This summer our return to youth has involved some childhood books and films that gave definition to our present self. I have shared with you, dear friend, that my girls have already been exposed to Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail along with all of the Christmas classics including National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and The Christmas Story AND Elf. And yes, dear reader, there cannot be proper upbringing in our society without The Princess Bride as we all want our girls to find their dear Wesley and not Prince Humperdinck.

In June, we introduced them to Smalls, Squints, Porter, Ya-Ya and Benny. This time I watched with new goggles. You see, the first time I watched the Sandlot, my little girl mind grasped the idea of acceptance and camaraderie. That was the design, right? It is a coming of age movie that reminds us to befriend the new guy and be loyal to your pals.

Yet, this time I saw the subtle challenge of the newly blended family and the anxiety of the child in that environment. This time, I saw the lonely neighbor that everyone made up stories about because nobody was brave enough to just go knock on the door.

This time I saw the girl recognize the young man’s bravery as he made a fool of himself at the pool for her (remember Squints married Wendy Peppercorn in the end).
This time I saw a future unfold for a young man simply because of the company he keeps. Smalls became a sports writer. (Insert record scratch.) Do you remember his knowledge of sports at the beginning of that summer? That was not the career path he was pursuing before he moved to this new town. Yet, because of the Crew, he grew up to write stories about his best friend and heroes like him. His life changed and turned a literal corner that summer; all because some kids, dare I say even, one kid took the time to accept him and love on him. Benny changed the trajectory of Smalls’ future simply by being kind.

This type of impact is not limited to little boys playing pick-up baseball or any other sport. This impact transcends age, gender, socioeconomics, and ethnicity. Kindness shared without expectations is an overflow of the kindness that has been lavished upon us. We hoard it and share it with only those we deem worthy. Or only with those we feel will respect it. Or only with those we feel will pour back upon us. Think about it. You chose people on your team for Red Rover who you knew were strong enough to capture the other team. You chose people on your kickball team who were athletically inclined. You chose chemistry lab partners who would do the work…and maybe your’s too. You even choose churches based upon which popular other families attend there or what programs they can provide for your child.

Benny chose Smalls because he needed another kid to complete the team KNOWING that Smalls could give NOTHING in return. Benny extended kindness to teach Smalls how to play the game without hesitation to the time it was taking away from other activities. Benny gave Smalls his own glove and his own ball cap in order to help him be better equipped for the game and be more presentable to the competition. Benny dirtied up his own out-of-the-box pair of PF Flyers to sprint for his life in order to get Smalls’ ball back and keep him from being killed by his stepfather for losing the one-of-a-kind Babe Ruth signature baseball.

Who had you invited over for dinner in your circle of influence with nothing in return expected? The coworker that seems to feel left out? The neighbor that rarely comes out because they are timid or maybe even cranky? The waitress that you see every Tuesday at Taco Tuesday who is barely making ends meet. What can you do to show kindness with nothing expected in return?

Who have you showed how to bake brownies so they can make dessert for their mom and surprise her after a hard day? Who have you showed how to change a tire because their dad is not present to teach that simple lesson? Who have you thrown the ball with that might get nobody to show them how to stop side-arming? What can you do to show kindness by pouring out what has been poured into you?

Who have you given school clothes to that is hoping to even have enough to buy socks for the winter? Who have you extended your extra dishes to that might be eating off of box lids or straight from containers? Who’s gas have you paid for at the gas station without them knowing or drive through meal of the person behind you? What can you do to change the trajectory of someone’s success simply by removing a stumbling block?

When is the last time you sweated for someone else? When is the last time you lost sleep for someone else? When is the last time you cried with someone else? When is the last time you dirtied your PF Flyers for someone else?

If you are a follower of Christ, your cup is full. He filled it. He gave you the gift of eternal life and unconditional love. He calls you His own. He calls you royal and a prized possession. With that comes responsibility. With that full cup, it will overflow. Why would you not want the excess and abundance pouring into those who are lacking a full cup? Placing yourself in the proximity of those needing a taste of His grace and a witness to His love is your responsibility. Other believers do not need you to fill their cup. They are to seek His face for that restoration - for that refill.

If you are not a follower of Christ, you are seeking to fill your cup. You are. There is a void in all of us for which we pursue closure until we find His redeeming love or no longer run the race. So if you are seeking to find grace and mercy…if you are seeking to belong to something bigger than yourself…if you are seeking to find a place where you will be encouraged, equipped, educated, and accepted…seek no further. His mercy knows no end and His love renews freely. May you encounter an overflowing source of kindness today.

Church, be Benny.