Are You Living on Faith?

Today we’re wrapping up this month’s look at faith.  Have you lived this month on faith? We live on faith so much more often than we really think.  We have faith every time we get into our cars and drive that someone else won’t hit us.  We have faith every time we get into a building or skyscraper that it was constructed to code and with strong materials.  We have faith every time we go to a restaurant or the food store that the food we get will be safe to eat.  We have faith in our technologies that they will protect us when we go online and that the technologies will connect us to the people we want to connect with.  We have faith in the people who live around us that they’re not going to do something crazy and dangerous that could potentially harm us or our friends and families.  And ultimately we have faith that we will wake up again tomorrow.

Faith is something we have in today and in tomorrow and the days beyond tomorrow.  Faith is something we have in ourselves and the people we live in this world with.  When we don’t have faith in today, tomorrow, ourselves and others life becomes more challenging than it should be.  Sometimes we’re given reasons to doubt or have crisis of faith, but when we make that our life habit or practice we’re not only miserable but also missing out on many parts of life.

Faith isn’t a drive-thru meal, it’s something that may take time to create and it’s something that endures.  If you have faith as part of your life you must be patient and willing to work on developing the relationships and putting in the effort that it takes to really build a great life, because you believe there is a great life out there for you (and for others).  You aren’t blind to the challenges of today, but neither do you discount the miracles that tomorrow may have.

Do you need to strengthen your faith? You don’t have to do it all at once, choose that you will have more faith and take it a step, place, person and/or day at a time.

The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are, and look realistically at the world around you. Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.” Ralph Marston

Ready for New Things?

I don’t know about you, but the events of late really point out to me that we need to be doing something different in this world.  It’s not OK that we’re killing others as violently and frequently as we are, nor is it OK for the violence to be all we talk about or see in the news.  So all of these events have me thinking about changes that need to happen in the world, as well as the changes that we go through in our lives and maybe are going through right now.  The Bible does talk about things becoming new and the importance of new things, so today I want to take a look at some of those verses.

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!””  Revelation 21:5a

“You have heard my predictions and seen them fulfilled, but you refuse to admit it.  Now I will tell you new things, secrets you have not yet heard. They are brand new, not things from the past.”  Isaiah 48:6-7a

These verses are really important because they are clear in that God sometimes thinks that what needs to happen are new things.  Sometimes things have to change, they can’t stay the same, and even more than that, God makes plans to change things.  We as a people have always been about improving things and making things better, so if we’re all about that, wouldn’t God be too?  If you look at the New Testament stories including those about Peter and the sheet of animals in Acts 10, as well as countless stories of Jesus turning old religious beliefs and traditions on their heads, it’s pretty clear that God is interested in making things new and isn’t willing to be stuck in the old or past if it’s not what’s best or what’s right.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17

But not only is God interested in changing things, He’s interested in changing people.  When someone chooses to accept Jesus as their Lord they’re supposed to make changes in their life that include leaving hurtful practices and relationships behind, and moving into those that are in line with God’s commands and the calling He places on our lives.  Since we’re still sinners we won’t get it perfectly right, but we’re still called to do better every minute of every day and try to better follow the example Jesus gives us.

Are you going through a transition in your life right now or are you able to be of support to others who are going through transitions?  If you can, be a word of hope to all you meet,  especially those going through transitions.

Reality Reflection: What’s the Rush?

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately and it’s one of the things that reminds me the most of what a rush so many people are in around the world. We rush while driving, eating, buying, working, relating and planning, not to mention the ways we depend on the internet and travel related technologies to connect us all. I can’t imagine what people from Titanic’s day when SOS was new “technology” would have thought about our big inter-connected world, and the speed at which we do things normally now.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the internet very much, and the ability to travel by car or plane rather than foot or horse, and to not have to grow all my own food. But the need to go 100 mph, turn at the last second on yellow/red, walk anywhere (not just crosswalks), have instant replies to our emails and calls, and expect gourmet food in 10 minutes or less is getting to be a bit much for me. It almost makes me reconsider living in such a busy area.

The irony of this discussion is that the places that remind me most of how busy the world is and what a rush so many of us are in, are places like highways that are on the side of a mountain so miles can be seen beyond, jobs where people just want to finish the day and not change the world, or restaurants where people are so busy trying to stuff their faces with their partners or families, rather than taking time to build their relationships with the people they’re with.

The increasing presence of violence in the news has been a reminder to me, and many others, of how uncertain life really is. You don’t know if you’ll get to see another sunset, hold another worm, have another lazy Sunday afternoon, watch another hummingbird fly from flower to flower, meet someone from a career you’ve always been curious about, try that exotic cuisine, be in a relationship that thrills you or watch your kids do their sports (or other activities) again. Stop saying you’ll do it “tomorrow” and step up today.

Remembering The Liberator

July 18th was the birthday of one of the great men of the world: Nelson Mandela (celebrated as “Mandela Day”). No one is perfect (Mandela included), but he’s someone who showed throughout his life that he was a true leader. A 2013 article on Mandela called him a “Dissident, Liberator and Statesman.” Those are 3 big titles that all say something important about who he was, but the one I wanted to focus on today is “liberator.”

Mandela knew what it was to be not free, he spent 27 years in prison for his efforts to make South Africa a better place for people. Some people, having had his experience, would throw in the towel and spend the rest of their years quietly, thankful to be free. But Mandela never gave up on his dreams of and plans for a better life for himself and the people he loved, and people around the world too.

We take time each year to remember people like Nelson Mandela and the dreams they had for a reason, a reason that seems more important than ever with the violence over the past few weeks and months around the world. People like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, and countless other men and women who have passed on would not be proud of the people some of us have become. I think they would be happy to see that some thing have changed and are changing for the better, but sad that we are fighting on many of the same things that should have already been addressed, and creating issues that shouldn’t be issues and haven’t been in the past.

What it comes down to is that the world is always in need of more people like Nelson Mandela. You don’t have to be in a traditional position of power to make a difference, you have to decide that you’re going to give your best effort to fixing or alleviating the problem(s) you see in the world. Whether you make that effort in jail, on the street, in your office, in a school, or as a president doesn’t matter. What matters is that you choose to step up and let people know that they too can be liberated and choose what they want to make out of life.

First and Last

In the US we’re really gearing up for the November elections.  Candidates are being finalized, sides are being chosen (or rechosen), and people are hoping that the person of their choice will look good to the rest of the country and be the person who ultimately wins.  It’s gotten me thinking a lot about winners and losers, and about first and last place.  I’m not big on competition.  I know it can be good for some things, but personally I prefer to work together rather than against people whenever possible.  I know that there isn’t one candidate that we can all agree on, that’s part of the reason it’s a democracy.  But I also know that what seems like a victory for one person or one “side” doesn’t have to mean a total loss for the other.

For example, just because your team loses the game, it doesn’t mean they’ll lose the season or that they couldn’t have a personal best number of points in that game.  Or just because you didn’t win the cook-off at the fair, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be picked up by a national brand or get great publicity anyway.  Or just because you lost this round, it doesn’t mean you can’t win the next.

And sometimes being first isn’t a good thing, especially if you are one of the first people to try something new it might have some major flaws and you’ll experience loss or frustration instead of the great experience you were expecting.

What I think the US needs, and the rest of the world as well, is more working together and less violence and fighting.  Competition is one thing, hatred and senseless killing is another.  Now is not the time to see who can come out on top of whatever war is being fought, now is the time to learn to work together and bring together all our differences.  Choose not to be first or last in the war but to help others make it through to another day alive and healthy.  As brothers and sisters of Christ we’re called to lead the way to a better tomorrow, and that tomorrow doesn’t start with more violence or hatred, but with more love.

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  Matthew 20:16

Reality Reflection: The Setting Sun

This week I’ve been thinking about changes and happened to see a beautiful setting sun.  We all have seasons where the sun sets on parts of our lives.  Sometimes it’s the death of a family member or close friend, sometimes it’s a job or career change, sometimes it’s a new place to live and other times it’s smaller like the end of a brand or product we loved.  The transition time isn’t something we do well with or enjoy all the time.  Endings and partings aren’t things we always enjoy either, and they can be difficult and painful, and sometimes confusing especially if you weren’t expecting it.

Some of us get stuck in the change and transition process, others of us can’t let go of the past, and some of us are so busy moving forward that we don’t grieve and let go of the past.  I think in most cases it’s important to take time to remember the past, work through the transition and move forward.  I don’t think we should skip any of these steps, whether our past was bad or good.  Learning from a bad past is helpful, but it’s also important to take time to cement the memories of the good things you have had or experienced.  Yes, life is about moving forward and living to the fullest, but part of that fullness is the past that has brought you to this point.

This weekend, this summer, I encourage you to take time to enjoy the setting sun as well as the rising sun.  With the late summer nights and early summer mornings there are lots of opportunities to see the sun and remember it as part of your life.  I remember lots of trips as a child where we would watch the rising or setting sun while driving and a few thunderstorms too.  Those are treasured memories from my childhood and I am thankful for them.  Choose to find the beauty in the endings in your life this summer, not just the joy in the future or relief of leaving the past.

Do You See What I See?

I love writing and reading, it’s something I’ve always loved. I enjoy the story as well as the process of doing the writing, and creative outlets like writing are an important part of my life and health. You may be familiar with the debate that’s been raging for some time about how many blogs and books there are and how sometimes it seems like everyone is saying or writing the same thing. Maybe there aren’t any new ideas, but I haven’t read too many books or blog posts that were exactly the same. Everyone and just about everything is different in at least a couple of ways, and I believe we can keep writing and reading because everyone sees things a little differently, and, even more importantly, I believe that there are still some new things and thoughts to come.

If you had asked someone in the 1800’s about what they thought the future would hold, they might have come up with some interesting ideas, but I have my doubts that they would come up with laptops and iPads, or the ability of the internet to connect different parts of the world instantly. So I don’t think it’s possible for us to run out of ideas, we’re just in a phase where we’re working with what we have and not ready to make a big upgrade yet. When it comes to the concepts that people say are overdone and overrated and overused, I’m always amazed when I read a new author or article about a topic and see things differently because I’m seeing things through a new perspective, their perspective.

Yes, there will always be someone who sees too many similarities and can’t appreciate the creative output. There will always be a critic in your life that you can’t stand. Why? Because some people just can’t see beyond their personal box. That’s not wrong, it’s just how they are. But I believe life is to be lived and can’t be fully lived if you’re not willing to see beyond where you are.

“Faith is raising the sail of our little boat until it is caught up in the soft winds above and picks up speed, not from anything within itself, but from the vast resources of the universe around us.” W. Ralph Ward

Keeping the Faith

I don’t know about you but sometimes I need some encouragement and a reminder that God is aware of what’s going on in the world and in my life.  One of the ways I get those reminders sometimes are through one of several verse of the day emails I subscribe to.  Recently a verse that was shared was from Genesis 50.  If you remember, the last part of Genesis is all about the amazing leader Joseph who started his life loved by his father and subject to the jealousy of his brothers.  As a result of that jealousy, the brothers shipped Joseph off to Egypt to work as a slave (or whatever, they didn’t care).  The story turns out however, that after much struggle and years of just trying to get by and stay alive, Joseph became a leader and hero and saved lots of people’s lives.  The verse goes:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.  Genesis 50:20

I love this verse because it’s such a reminder of God’s ability to turn anything into good.  There’s very little that God can’t fix, but sometimes He chooses not to fix it right away, or to let us exercise our freedom of choice and lets the bad decisions we make stand as a record and reminder.  That said, it’s not to say that the bad things that we’ve done or were done to us can’t be turned into good.  I’ve heard countless stories of people who were really falling down in life and reached their rock bottom to finally turn their life around and help others do the same.  The people who aren’t able to turn their lives around are sad reminders that we live in a sinful world.

If you’re going through a rough patch in your life, make sure to ask God for guidance and to give you the strength to get through it to the other side.  Don’t give up before you’ve seen what God has waiting for you on the other side.

Faith for Changes

This month the topic we’re focusing on is faith. It’s a topic that challenges us and gives us hope at the same time. We’re still at the beginning of this month which means we’ve got most of the month stretched out before us yet to work through. As I was thinking about the month ahead and about the changes going on in my life, and the changes you’re going through, it got me on to the topic of how we deal with new things and changes in our lives. Each time we start a new month there’s a lot of unknown that we have to have faith will work itself out.  It may even feel like we need that trust in a bigger way as we work through each day.

Each time you buy a new phone, move to a new place, start a new relationship, or take a relationship to the next level you have to put a little (or a lot) of trust and faith into the change you’re making, the new journey you’re starting or the person you’re choosing to experience life with.  You may be excited about that new thing or that change, but of course what shows up for most of us is fear, doubt, confusion, uncertainty, and lots of questions. I get that. We all deal with those feelings to varying degrees. The people who truly succeed in life are those who experience those feelings but move forward anyway. It’s not that they don’t feel those scary and confusing emotions or have doubts, it’s that they choose to focus on what they hope the future includes and are prepared to deal with the failures and complications that may show up along the way.

Are the changes in your life worth the faith that you’re putting up for them? If they’re not maybe it’s time to reconsider the path you’re taking in your life.   Maybe the issue isn’t the changes or new things, but the amount of faith you have in them being successful.  Don’t be afraid of putting in the effort it may take as long as you know that you really want what you’re working towards.  What areas of your life are you working through in faith right now?

A Patriotic Celebration

I’m in a patriotic mood with July 4th, Independence Day, being today in the US.  So it’s got me thinking about the nation we live in, the other nations around the world, the nation of Israel and nations of Jesus’ day, and about the nation that is yet to come when we get to Heaven/when Christ comes back.  With the exception of the nation yet to come, within every nation there are times of unrest and change. I don’t know about you but I’ve been following the news about the UK vote to leave the EU last month and you can’t help but hear about the presidential election we’re gearing up for in November here in the US.  Both are of interest to me because they indicate that people have a desire for something different, that they’re telling the world with their votes that they aren’t happy with how things currently are.  Maybe the changes that follow won’t be great or what people are really expecting, but not only is it important for us to stand up to what we think is wrong, if we can do something about improving our lives and the lives of others, we should!

What does Independence Day mean to you?  Does it remind you of the history lessons you heard years ago about the founding of the nation? Does it make you say prayers of thanksgiving for the brave people who chose to leave their homes and travel by boat to this new land?  Does it make you think about what the nation could become?  Does it make you think about and pray for the leaders that are in charge?  Are you flying a flag at your house, putting a poppy in your car or otherwise visibly displaying your patriotism?  We have this holiday for a reason: to remind us of where we’ve come from and to motivate us to make a better future.

What does Independence Day mean to us as people of faith?  It’s also a call to remember the spiritual leaders who have come before us and have made an impact on our lives.  Throughout the Bible God reminds us to celebrate Him, the good things He does for us, the great world He created for us, and each other and the good things we do.  He didn’t create us to be alone, nor to ignore each other.  Instead we’re to work together, live together, partner together and celebrate together.  What will you celebrate today?

“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.”  1 Chronicles 16:8