Living a “Good Deeds Life”

My life isn’t rife with so many examples of doing good deeds that I can tell you I’m always on the spot helping. To my dismay, I’m not always paying attention.

Author Henry James said, “Be the kind of person on whom nothing is lost.” This practice probably helped when he wrote fiction. But it has an amazing translation for each of us as well.

Paying attention means we see situations where we can help. We might also recognize when a person needs prayer or encouragement. If we pay attention, it might stir us to be be a cheerleader for people who are making the attempt to do better in their own lives.

I like the idea of living good deeds. It reminds me of the “One anothers” in the Bible. It reminds me of Jesus saying that the world will know we are His disciples if we love one another. Good deeds done from love reflect the love of Jesus.

While browsing the table near the entrance of my local independent bookstore, I found a little gem to introduce to you. Erin McHugh’s One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better leads you through a year of simple but effective good deeds. She didn’t start the book on January 1; she started on her birthday. What a cool idea; it was “her” day, but she hoped to put light into someone else’s.

Erin’s ideas are things she did herself every day for a year. I started reading and hoping I could put into practice the same thing she suggested for that day. I’ve also read ahead a bit to see some of the other ideas she wrote about. Her practices are the reason for the book, but her writing is extremely casual; often funny and embarrassingly relateable.

One day she gave fifteen cents to a woman who’d miscounted her change to ride the bus. Erin said she was happy to lean in and say,

“’Here, I’ve got it.’ Because anyone can miscount; she didn’t do it on purpose. And besides, what’s better than when you see a stupid hassle coming and someone steps in and just makes it go away?”

This example is typical of Erin’s book full of living a good deed life. One blurb on the back of the book says, “Erin McHugh is one wise, funny, smart woman, and her book is a blast to read.”

The title of the book suggests that when we do good deeds as a regular practice, we’ll be “a little bit better.” I like to think the motive is less about us and more about watching out for others’ needs. Even when that need is as small as needing fifteen cents more to ride the bus.

Could you be on the lookout for a way to help someone today? Pay attention and you’ll see opportunities around every corner.

8 No-Cost Gifts That Are Priceless

The gift of listening
But you must really listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your response. Just listening.

The gift of affection
Be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and handholds. Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends.

The gift of laughter
Clip cartoons. Share articles and funny stories. Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you.”note-writing

The gift of a written note
It can be a simple “Thanks for the help” note or a full letter. A handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime. It may even change a life.

The gift of a compliment
A simple and sincere, “You look great in red,” “You did a good job” or “That was a tasty meal” can make someone’s day.

The gift of a favor
Every day, go out of your way to do something kind. And keep it to yourself.

The gift of solitude
There are times when we want nothing better than to spend a little time alone. Be aware of how you can give some ‘alone time’ to someone else.

The gift of a cheerful disposition
One of the easiest ways to feel good is to extend cheerfulfulness. It’s not hard to say “Hello” or “Thank you.” And we all look better when we smile.

Foodie, Zucchini and Grace

Playing Hostess

Several years ago, when I was a member of our church’s choir, I invited four of my fellow choir members over for dinner. The main dish was Chicken Breasts Diane; I tried my hand at twice-baked potatoes for the first time; the vegetable was steamed zucchini; and the dessert was a sugar-free, fat-free cream-pie-thing I whipped up.

Everything was going well when my friends began to show up. I’d coordinated the cooking so that the food would be ready to set on the table hot from the oven and stove. The last thing I did was to steam the zucchini so it would still be hot when I placed it on the table with everything else.

You know how steamed veggies seem to get cold fast, right? I didn’t want them to be cold.

Backstory

Rewind to a couple years earlier. I’d been in a near-fatal automobile accident and came out of it with numerous injuries. One of those injuries was a fractured sphenoid sinus. (Say THAT three times fast.) The sinus was supposedly healed, but one residual effect was that I couldn’t smell odors unless I was right on top of them.

It’s caused problems more often than I like to admit.

Dinner, continued

As the zucchini steamed away, so did the water in the bottom of the pan. Carol, who had been watching things progress, said, “Paula, your pan is on fire.”

Yep, it sure was.

The pan had boiled dry and, well, it was time to turn the burner off. “Oh, wow,” I said. (Or something like that.) I took the pan off the stove, put the zucchini in a bowl and set it on the table with the rest of the meal. We sat down, said grace, and began to eat.

Everyone took a little of everything, I guess, including the steamed zucchini. Dinner conversation was a little stilted after a few minutes until I took a bite of my green veggie.

smelly-zucchini-lady“This stuff is burnt!” I said. “Why are you guys eating it?” I scraped it to the side of my plate. I apologized to my friends and, you know what? They were so kind to me. I was so embarrassed. My smeller didn’t catch the scent of burnt zucchini and no one said a word.

Now that’s love in action.

“Foodie Fail”

They sat there eating that scorched zucchini and extended grace to me. Every time I think of this episode in my life––and believe me, with a nose that doesn’t work like it should, there have been many such episodes––I laugh.

In fact, I’ve been laughing out loud the whole time I’ve been writing this blog post.

But I also feel extremely grateful.

We’ve all had our cooking failures. I have some that have nothing to do with not being able to smell.

Since it’s the day after Thanksgiving, I thank Amy, Carol, Brooke and Carol for the gift of grace. You know, of course, grace is unmerited favor. I surely didn’t deserve what they offered, and friends who love like that are worth keeping.

Next time, though, I’m going to nuke the zucchini.

A Wrong Number Works Out Well

There’s always good news out there if you look for it.

Today let’s focus on one man’s effort to rescue a frightened grandmother. If you thought car salesmen don’t deserve a good word, think again. This excerpt from the story tells, in our hero’s own words, a little of what happened.

“She called our landline and got through to our receptionist, who asked me what to do. I said, ‘I’ll go and make sure she’s ok.’ At first I thought she was just across the road, it turned out she was about two miles away.”love_boom_200_167

The response just described won’t always happen if you transpose numbers. Usually, people just say, “I believe you have a wrong number” and hang up. To his credit, Dang Vuong didn’t.

Here’s the whole story from The Kindness Blog. The blog features only stories about acts of kindness. Maybe you’d like to follow them to get the occasional uplift to your spirit.

Children Learn

parenting silhouetteMany years ago when my children were small, I found this little treatise on parenting. I wanted to save it and keep it somewhere I could see it as a reminder. The craft of decoupage was popular then, so it ended up on a piece of wood.

That piece of wood with the message is gone. But I made sure to copy and save in electronic form what you see below.

I know I didn’t parent perfectly then and I struggle even now as a mom to grown children. There’s always going to be some baggage, I suppose. I carried some of my own.

But surely, one can hope.

“Children Learn What They Live”

When children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

When children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

When children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.

When children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

When children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.

When children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

When children live with security, they learn to have faith.

When children live with fairness, they learn justice.

When children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.

When children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

When children live with acceptance and friendship, they learn to find love in the world.

Be a blessing to someone today.

 

 

Conduits of God’s Love

Come Empty

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28, 29

Get Filled

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Go, Pour Out to the Worldfrenchpitcherw-bread

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:35, 36

Here, Have a Cookie

Cookies were a staple at our house just as much as bread and butter. I began dabbling in the kitchen with my older sister who, like me, enjoys cooking and baking. There were times Mom would let me help too.

To me, cookies are a basic food group (although I try not to eat as many cookies as I do fruits and veggies). They’re a finger food so they’re portable. And there are a gazillion ways to make them. How could one NOT like cookies?

A few years ago I learned a lesson in sharing from someone I thought was an unlikely person to learn the lesson from. The lesson came from my desire to share my cookies.

I made a batch of my ‘famous’ Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies and took them with me on Sunday to share with the rest of our choral worship team. It happened that day just like every other time I’d shared my cookies: people wanted the recipe.

“Oh, I don’t share my recipe,” I told them. “It has a secret ingredient.”

I thought that had put the question to rest. No one began begging for it, after all. Then our worship leader spoke.

“I remember a woman who used to come here named Jewel. Maybe some of you remember her.”

Of course I remembered her. She was one of the sweetest women I’d met since I began attending that church. I was so sad when she passed away. She had signature hugs and a smile that lit up the sanctuary.

“Jewel had a special recipe too,” our leader went on. “And whenever someone asked for it, she was quick to say yes.”

I think he said a couple more things, but by then I’d taken the hint.

Every good and perfect gift is from above. (James 1:17) Even cookies. The next Sunday I brought copies of the recipe in case there were still some who wanted it. That sure felt better than hoarding my ‘secret’ out of pride. Over the years, because of that Holy Spirit leading, I’ve shared other recipes and kitchen tips too.
Cookie Monster Our Planet

 

I certainly don’t want to give the name Cookie Monster a new meaning. So I’m sharing the recipe here for you as well.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 F

3/4 c. shortening or vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk (any kind)
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 c. rolled oats, uncooked
1.c. wheat germ
1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate morsels

In a large mixing bowl, cream together brown sugar and oil/shortening. Add eggs, vanilla, and milk and blend together thoroughly. In a small mixing bowl, blend together flour, salt, soda, cinnamon and rolled oats. Add dry mixture to the creamed mixture in the large bowl. Stir well. Add wheat germ and blend again. When adding chocolate morsels, begin with only half of package. Stir and add more if you need too. Sometimes a whole package is too many.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Remember that ovens vary. Keep an eye on the cookies through the door. They should only become lightly browned on top. Baking too long makes for a crisp rather than chewy cookie.
(Another ‘secret ingredient’ for chewiness is the wheat germ!)

 

The Letter

(The story here is a version of what might have happened when the slave Onesimus returned to his master, Philemon. Purely conjecture, it is nevertheless partly based on facts.)

I heard the door of the outer chamber open and close and went to investigate. Quartus stood with Onesimus kneeling next him. Onesimus stared down, holding out a sealed letter.

“Onesimus has returned, master,” Quartus said.

“I see that, Quartus; you may leave us.” I was full of conflicting emotions. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. Mostly relief. “The letter, Onesimus; what is this letter? Hand it to me.”

He stood and handed me the letter. He remained standing with his eyes averted while I read the whole thing through. In fact, I had to read it twice. It was from Paul, the apostle, imprisoned in Rome. The letter was a plea on behalf of my slave–a request to accept him back now that he’d become a follower of Christ.

It was a good letter and he made good arguments.

“Do you know what this means, Onesimus?” I asked him.

Onesimus nodded, his eyes still averted. “Master, I cannot speak as Paul does. His words are much more convincing. Of course, they are or I wouldn’t be here. All I know is that now I belong to Christ Jesus. I was freed from the bonds of my sin to serve Him. I suppose you could say I’m a slave in two ways; first to God and then because I’m still bound to you. That’s why I’ve returned.”

Yes, he knew exactly what it meant.

“You may go to your quarters, Onesimus.” He left and I sat down heavily on the chair by the table.

He’d made it all the way to Rome! Somehow he’d found Paul and now he was a follower of Christ and a brother. Of course, he knew what could happen to a runaway slave. But he returned.

I got up and paced the room. I pounded my fist on the table where the letter lay. I don’t know why I was so agitated. Paul’s letter requested nothing more than what my Lord would do. But forgiveness is hard, even when it’s someone you care about. And I had always cared about Onesimus. Maybe we hadn’t always seen him as anything but a house slave, but we cared about him.

I put my head in my hands and I prayed. I thanked God that Onesimus had made it safely to Rome and found Paul. It was a blessing that he could be of use to Paul so I thanked God for that as well. Then I prayed that God would give our household the willingness to accept my decision because we are bound together in love with Christ as our head. I sighed deeply before calling him to me.

“Onesimus, come!” Once again, he stood before me, his eyes cast down.

“Look at me,” I said. A man is what I saw through my eyes. But now, because of what had happened for Onesimus in Rome, I saw someone else in my heart.

I put my hands on his shoulders and squeezed. “Welcome home, Brother. It will be a pleasure having you here serving again.”

Give Gifts That Don’t Cost a Cent

The gift of really listening
But you must really listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your response. Just listening.

The gift of affection.
Be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and handholds. Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends.

The gift of laughter.
Clip cartoons. Share articles and funny stories. Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you.”

The gift of a written note.
It can be a simple “Thanks for the help” note or a full letter. A handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime, and may even change a life.

The gift of a compliment.
A simple and sincere, “You look great in red,” “You did a super job” or “That was a wonderful meal” can make someone’s day.

The gift of a favor.
Every day, go out of your way to do something kind. And keep it to yourself.

The gift of solitude.
There are times when we want nothing better than to spend a little time alone. Be aware of how you can give the gift of solitude to another.

The gift of a cheerful disposition.
The easiest way to feel good is to extend a cheerful word to someone. It’s not that hard to say “Hello” or “Thank you.” And everyone looks better with a smile on their face.