A Life of Serving Humanity

Today in the US we’re honoring the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was best known for his work in the Civil Rights Movement and his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, but what many people may not know was the key role that faith played in his life. He actually started his career of “serving humanity” as he called it, by attending seminary and becoming a pastor. While he wasn’t ‘just’ a pastor for long (although he did preach until his death), faith was a key part in how he led and the fact that he led non-violent movements to worked on advancing civil rights.

Each year we take a look at his life because there’s so much we can learn from it, and each time I read an article or hear a bit about him, I’m reminded of something I had forgotten or learn something I didn’t know. One of the things I was reminded of this year was how young he was when he died: he was only 39. When people die that young we often feel regret for the life that has been lost and what they could have done with the many years they were likely to have had they lived a life of more typical length. I have to say that I think Dr. King did very well with the few years that he had, packing more than most of us do in his last 14 years. He certainly didn’t pick an easy journey, even with the decision to be non-violent and work from a place of peace. But because of his bravery he made a lasting positive impact on countless lives, even beyond the civil rights discussion.

Additionally today I want to think on the many people who paved the way for his work, as well as supported him in his journey. The civil rights movement is something that had been building for years, and reached a boiling point with people such as Emmett Till and Rosa Parks, erupted right as King was becoming a pastor and was most active during his last 14 years. He was also supported by people such as Billy Graham, Mahalia Jackson, Jesse Jackson, and Thich Nhat Hanh, not to mention countless people who were never named but were present or supported in some way the many protests of the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King didn’t do this alone. Yes, he was a charismatic man with big dreams, a captivating presence and the willingness to do what it took to get the attention that was necessary to finally create positive change. But he didn’t do it alone while he was alive, and because he died he couldn’t continue his work, others had to pick it up, and they did.

Maybe God has called you to be a voice, maybe God has called you to play a background role. There are no small roles, just people who aren’t content with the gifts God has given them. Today I encourage you to celebrate the opportunities God has given you to contribute to the Kingdom, however large or small, and be brave in honor of Dr. King’s life.

“The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!”” Matthew 3:3

New Year, Clean Slate

There are lots of sayings that get shared around the new year, some having to do with change or resolutions, but the one I want to talk about today is starting fresh, or more precisely, starting the year with a clean slate. It’s a little early to get spring fever and get the cleaning bug, but for those of us who had people over, or the winter clouds have hidden the dirt spots and the sun this past weekend revealed them, or we’re just read to put everything away and tidy everything up after the busy holiday season while we’re stuck indoors, it’s a great time to do some cleaning and organizing.

In most cases, it’s best to start with organizing and picking through what you have, buying containers to better store things, and investing in storage that’s right for your space and needs. Organizing is time to go through what you’ve got, especially those boxes and places that you haven’t touched in years and decide if you really need to keep any or all of it any longer. Especially with all of the new items you’ve purchased or received over the holidays, it’s better to get rid of anything you want to get rid of before trying to find space for the new stuff. Don’t forget to donate as much as possible, and not just throw stuff out. Many towns do bulk pick-up and you can put your stuff out the day or night before and much of it will get picked up by neighbors and people who pass by, especially if it’s good stuff.

After you’ve done organizing and before you finalize where everything is going, it’s a great time to do some cleaning too. Often disorganized homes become dirty homes because you can’t do anything around or under or over the piles of stuff, so it’s important to make time for cleaning while you’re doing the organizing too. I was thinking as I did my laundry the other day how much better I felt about living and working in my space when it was more organized and clean, even just the little I had time for that day, and the same will be true for you as well.

So you can start with the most obvious, or go front to back, or go top to bottom, or do what frustrates you the most, or do what will free you up the most first. Seeing the result of that cleaned and organized space will likely motivate others in your household to step up and clean their spaces or help you with the rest too, because they’ll be jealous of the good work you’ve done. And if the spring cleaning bug hasn’t hit you yet, those cold winter nights are a great time to make a list of what you do need to get to and will do when the spring arrives.

Home and Family

The other day I was reading part of the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. If you remember the story, two sons live with their father, one son decides to strike out on his own, is unprepared for the realities of life, struggles greatly, hits rock bottom and decides to return home. Upon arriving home he was welcomed home by his father with open arms and a party, while his brother struggled to welcome him back because he felt deserted and was frustrated that his father welcomed his brother back so easily. If you haven’t read it lately, I’d encourage you to go check it out because there’s a lot of important emotion and description that Luke and Jesus share in the parable.

What this passage got me thinking about was the topic of home. We just went through the holiday season, which is always a time of gathering with family and friends, as well as a time that causes us to remember the loved ones we’ve lost over the years. The holidays encourage us to gather with the people who are home to us and visit the places that feel like home. Sometimes home is about the people and not the places, but most of us do have places that feel more comfortable and welcoming and make us think of home. Just like the prodigal son had hope that if he returned to the place and people who were home to him, each time we return home we go with hope that we’ll have a good visit, strengthening our relationships with those who are important to us and maybe also enjoying a good meal too.

Not all visits to the people and places we call home are good or go as expected, and like the brother in the story of the prodigal son, some relationships are works in progress. But when you think about the limited time that we have with each other, it’s important to hold out hope like the prodigal son did, that maybe this time our gathering will be good one. And from the people I’ve talked with, this year had more good experiences with family than usual, important as some of these families lost a family member before or after the holiday season.

If you are still feeling led to make a change this year or focus on something this year, maybe this year you want to focus on home, both the people and the places. Commit to spending time with the people who God has put in your life by both birth and life choices, people who you want to have stronger relationships or play a larger part in your life, and you in theirs. Commit to making your home a place you’re proud of and people feel welcome in. And finally, commit to living a life that welcomes Jesus and makes Him part of the relationships and interactions you have.

Reality Reflection: Living Today

With this new year it seems that some people have started the year being called on to the next stage of their journey. No, you don’t really want to work through a death during the holiday season, so in some ways it’s better that it’s after the holiday season, but there’s never a “good” time to lose someone. There’s also never a good time for your life to end, everyone has more living to do, more memories to make, and more they could do to make the world a better place. But as myself and others have experienced this past week, everyone has to face that transition at some point in time or another.

This week I read a quote that fit in with how this week has gone very well. Jose Ortega y Gasset said: “We cannot put off living until we are ready.” I don’t know if we’re ever truly ready for the challenges that life throws our way. Sometimes we feel more confident about facing them based on what we’ve done in the past or the teamwork we’ve got in place to support us or our current availability, but challenges almost always throw us for a loop and we’re forced to decide if we’re going to face them or give up or in.

I think the answer to how ready we are and should be goes back to two well known statements: ‘carpe diem’ (seize the day) and ‘life is meant to be lived’. Yes, some people become more famous after death than during their lives, but everything they become famous for they did during the time they were alive. The other day on the blogs I shared about another different way to look at the new year (instead of setting typical resolutions), and that would be to be more committed, and promise to do more, be more and live more.

Maybe this year is the year that you’ll finally step up and into the person you were made to be, committed to thriving and being there for the people who matter most in your life, including yourself.

A Year of Promises?

This year more than other years I’ve been seeing some backlash on the whole new year new you idea and resolutions as well, in part with people just not talking about it at all. One of the big reasons I like talking about the new year is because it naturally encourages change, and change is something we all need to work through and talk about. Change should be a year-long conversation, but if we are at least having the conversation once a year, that’s better than nothing. So for this year to be mostly back to business as usual, it’s gotten me thinking about if we’ve reached a place that we need to have a different conversation about the new year and change.

Maybe instead of talking about changes, we’re going to have conversations about promises to do more, be more and live more. In that conversation it’s as important to talk about the ‘more’ aspect as it is to talk about promises. Are we better or worse at keeping our promises from a year ago? Are we more or less committed to our relationships than a year ago? Are we more or less committed to making decisions, and smart ones at that? Or have we given up on making promises because we seem to fail so often with how quickly the world changes and how much harder it is to anticipate everything going on in the world and our lives?

The past year for me has renewed commitments and promises to family and those I care about, but in other aspects it hasn’t been as reassuring. I also see some people making and keeping promises to themselves and making commitments to themselves and the people who are good for them. Every day that we wake up we know that God is keeping His promises to be with us. We still have a long way to go on navigating promises in this new, fast paced world, but keeping our promises as best we can may be what we need in our lives right now, and not more change. There’s always room for improvement in our lives, maybe this time the improvement is about following through and not about making changes.

Do you need to make some promises or work harder to keep some promises you’ve made?  Maybe you don’t need new resolutions, you just need to commit to the ones you keep making.

Time to Praise

The new year is here, have you and God been talking about the year ahead? Has God put anything specific or different on your heart for this new year and decade? I’m excited to have another year here to talk with you about God and see where our journey together takes us. I want to start the year off by sharing a passage from the Psalms:

“Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” Psalm 103:1-2

I can’t guarantee what the year ahead will be, I can’t promise that it will be a good year, I can’t promise that this year will have better news in it than last year did, I can’t promise better income, I can’t promise better health, I can’t promise much unfortunately, as much as I would like to. What I can promise is that if you spend more time this year in praising God, you’ll have greater peace about whatever does happen.  Taking time to praise and worship God even when (especially when) you’re feeling down can lift you up because it helps to recenter and refocus your heart and mind.

I start with those statements because during this time of year we do think about what we want or our resolutions or our year ahead (if we only take one time of year to truly think about it, that’s better than never thinking about it). But we shouldn’t be praising God or doing anything that has to do with God for what we’re going to get out of it, but rather to honor, worship, love, celebrate and remember God. We can praise God for all of the things He’s done for us, all the blessings He’s shared with the world, and for just being the caring, loving, omnipresent God that He is.

What will you praise God for today?

Reality Reflection: A Little More

This past week I noticed that some people took the first few days of the year off. Many would have had to start back in some capacity after the New Year, but for some reason I didn’t see as many people out and about on the first days of the year as I remember seeing in the past. For whatever reason people decided not to dive back into life full throttle after the New Year, but instead took a step back and took a little more time for themselves and their families.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is take or give a little more for ourselves. I don’t think that 2020 is going to be about being selfish, but perhaps about being more conscious and considerate about how we’re living and what’s really important. It may be the year when we finally start making some decisions and acting on them regarding how we’re living and treating each other. Maybe this will be the year that we all get a little more aligned with what we’re here to do and how to live our purpose in such a dynamic world.

What do you need a little more of? Is it something you can just take a couple of days and be refreshed? Is it something that you have to make some sacrifices to get to? Is it something you have been avoiding for a while? Is it simply time to step up and do something different in your life? What would make you most comfortable and confident going into this new year and new decade? If you haven’t made time yet this year or leading up to this year, I encourage you to take some time for reflection and planning, and think about your life and where you really want to go from here and how to get there.