An Unkindness

Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence or learning.                ~ Frederick W. Fabero

I took this picture in the yard outside the Tower of London. You may be familiar with the legend of the Ravens gathered there to keep watch over the monarchy. This is what the Ravenmaster told us: Each bird has a clipped wing, insuring that it will remain in its place to perform its royal duty. Ravens are highly intelligent and territorial. Stay back. They won’t hesitate to bite you if they think you’re threatening their territory.

When Ravens gather, they aren’t called a flock or a bevy or even a gaggle. If the group seems to be guarding something, they’re called a constable. If birds, seen as competitors come too close, Ravens band together to chase them off. This earns them the unfortunate name of a conspiracy or an unkindness.

It’s an inherent problem with most groups, even within the faith community. We clip wings to insure homogeneity. Easily threatened by new thoughts, we chase off those who think differently. Have we, in our zeal to become modern-day Bereans, allowed our focus to slip from knowing the God of the Bible, to knowing the text and syntax?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

I can’t remember ever hearing a church described as full of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. That’s unsurprising because I can’t always describe myself that way either and the church carries the characteristics of the bevy who’ve banded together.

I believe that the key to a life of grace is the underrated virtue of kindness. I find I have to continually check my thoughts, denying leg room to unkindness there. Only when I do that can I wear kindness on my face and express it in my words and actions.

The Tower won’t crumble without the Ravens. That’s a legend. But I will crumble and so then too, the church will crumble, if we don’t take great care about what we wear.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

38 thoughts on “An Unkindness”

  1. Some good words Deb! May God find us filled with faith grace kindness and all the fruit of the Spirit when He comes. HE will have a church when He comes and it will be a glorious church without spot or wrinkle washed in the blood of the Lamb. The question is not will it be but how large will it be?

  2. Read this before but never got back to comment. I liked this post even more this time!

    This is a little off subject but…I was in Minneapolis Wed. night and went to see James McDonald with my wife and a couple of friends. He was preaching a series he calls the Vertical church. What is Vertical church? So glad you asked! Vertical church is simply church the way it was meant to be. In our churches, the Gospel of Christ should be preached, all of it…not some, not the feel good parts, all of it. Preach God’s Word, not what you all think of it. Who should be welcome in Church??? Everyone…the guy covered in tattoos, the body piercer, the prostitute, the drug user…all people should be welcome in church.

    People should be staying in a church because God shows up there, because people treat them well…like they matter.

    People are leaving the church (hundreds a day and they are not coming back) because they are ostracized for committing a sin. Because they are not like the ones who show up with their perfect game face on. Because they are not in the click. Because they just simply aren’t good enough. Because they feel no love.

    These things should not be happening! Unfortunately the negative words used to describe the ravens seem to describe many churches. Not all, but way to many. We need only look at the Word to see whom Jesus spent time with…

    *stepping away from the pulpit now* 🙂

  3. Quakers, especially Liberal Quakers, seek to accept each other including differences of view. That is, perhaps, what we have in common in our own particular Mansion. And- it is comfortable to be with people like me: so I cannot condemn it too hard in other churches. And all Churches preach Love- we can approach it more nearly, of course, but we all preach it.

    1. Clare –
      How grand that you’ve found such a loving church!
      It hasn’t been my experience that Love is always preached.
      Sometimes love doesn’t seem to be a play a very big part in the message. Westboro Baptist might be an example.
      While I haven’t been there to hear what they “preach” on Sundays, I do see what they preach on the streets.
      The intent of this post isn’t to condemn that or any church (and my comments certainly aren’t limited to churches – they would apply to most all groups).
      My thinking is simply that we have pretty clear instructions as individuals and as a body, of how to conduct ourselves:
      “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
      Anytime we, anytime I, feel free to wear anything less, it’s a move toward the circle of An Unkindness.
      Thank you for reading and sharing such a positive example!
      ~ Debbie

      1. I am not upset that I needed to look. I am glad you quoted it again. And- when my friends’ Facebook statuses come from Thich Nhat Hanh and HH the Dalai Lama, I am pleased to do one from St Paul in one of his sweeter moods!

  4. Wow, Debbie–this was so good, I feel like I must whisper. I love the info about ravens, very educational. And the rest was delivered with your usual full measure of grace–I think you should be a pastor in your next career. Or in your spare time–oh wait, you already are! God bless you abundantly this day–much love, sis Caddo

    1. Caddo –
      Have I already mentioned (probably) that I took the MMPI twice in college and both times they determined the career I was best suited for was that of a Catholic priest.
      If I’d only been Catholic … well and there is that one other small problem… 😉
      By the way, since you’re interested, I did quite a bit a reading about ravens – which didn’t really fit in the post – and found that they often surpass chimpanzees in problem solving and logic skills.
      Smart birds that have been given a most unfortunate moniker. Of course, a group of crows are called a murder. I don’t think I’ll write about that one, but it might be poetic?
      ~ Debbie

  5. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. if a group of people, a family, a congregation live by this verse and this verse alone, our world would become a truly holy place, filled with grace.

    1. Joss –
      I would be remarkable, wouldn’t it?
      I just watched a flash mob (You Tube) in Barcelona playing Ode’ to Joy.
      Everyone gathered to watch and it seemed their hearts were lightened.
      I think it would be a bit like that – surprising and so rare, folks would begin to gather!
      ~ Debbie

    1. Linda –
      Always so good to see you. I have almost zero internet so I’m not getting ‘out’ much these days.
      Thank you for reading and for your kind words.
      ~ Debbie

  6. “Believe as I believe–no more, no less;
    That I am right (and no one else) confess.
    Feel as I feel, think only as I think;
    Eat what I eat, and drink but what I drink.
    Look as I look, do always as I do;
    And then–and only then–I’ll fellowship with you.”

    Well said, Debbie! Blessings, good friend.

    1. Brilliant, by friend!
      You made me look. 😀

      ” ‘Twere better that the sick should die than live,
      Unless they take the medicine I give;
      ‘Twere better sinners perish than refuse
      To be conformed to my peculiar views;
      ‘Twere better that the world stood still than move
      In ANY way that I DO NOT APPROVE.”

      May God save us from ourselves!
      ~ Debbie

  7. This whole paragraph is speaks so much –

    “It’s an inherent problem with most groups, even within the faith community. We clip wings to insure homogeneity. Easily threatened by new thoughts, we chase off those who think differently. Have we, in our zeal to become modern-day Bereans, allowed our focus to slip from knowing the God of the Bible, to knowing the text and syntax?”

    Actions speak much louder than our words. Great post!!

    1. Oh Judi –
      They do and I’m praying that mine become more and more of a matched set.
      It’s no mystery why the saying “Talk is cheap” is so popular,
      Thank you, my friend,
      ~ Debbie

  8. Every time i read your posts i take my inventory to make sure i’m living in grace. I have been spending more time with dogs than people since D is at Nationals with his softball team. I find that kindness is much simpler when judgment of my “being” is out of the equation. Kindness is accepted at face value, and never questioned or judged. My mom loved dogs more than people, and i’ve been missing her lately. I can’t believe she’s gone, and i have had a period of obsessive painting and “dog stalking” to comfort myself. Mom thought i was a good painter and she would approve that i have become a crazy-ass dog mama! OK, that’s WAY off topic.

    I try to practice the principles of grace … but i am not perfect. THERE, i’m on the subject now!!! Love to you! Thanks for posting when i KNOW your Internet is not terribly graceFul. xoxo Mel

    1. Mel –
      I’m getting internet sparks from time to time! 😉
      Of course you know that no one applies the principles of grace all the time.
      One of the things that makes you extra special is that you want to!
      ~ Debbie

    1. Carlarenee –
      Thank you and thank you for reading!
      I don’t think it describes all churches (or all groups) but I did want to highlight how natural it is for us, individually and collectively, to gradually conform and in subtle ways, until we don’t notice that we have a clipped wing.
      At the very least, it’s a reminder to me to keep my focus on how I dress! 😉
      ~ Debbie

  9. Gracious one . .. this is perfect and makes me cry. But I cry alot, especially when grace is shown, and compassion, humility and kindness. 🙂 I read a post on humility and some of the comments today. Sorry, I didn’t save the address, but will come back with it or email it to you. The author talked about how the opposite of humility was boldness, assertiveness, confidence. Those seem more like things the church wants to be. But her point became that we are those things naturally when we are kind, humble and compassionate. There is a boldness in kindness and gentleness, an assertiveness that says no matter what, this is what is needed most. . .a confidence in being humble in Christ.
    Well, I wrote too much! Sorry! God bless you as you wear Him well, sweet friend! love and prayers!

    1. Deb –
      Lovely comment – thank you!
      Your words remind me of a great C.S. Lewis quote:
      “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”
      Hopefully, thinking of ourselves less will move us out of the circle of An Unkindness into one known as a place of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience individually first – so that it can happen collectively! 😀
      Thursday prayers were said,
      ~ Debbie

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