A Faith Journey

When He left, Jesus gave the command to take the Good News into all the world. His time on earth showed that some people needed to rethink their idea of who was welcome into the kingdom, because Jesus did a really good job of turning them on their heads by eating with tax people, caring for those who were ill, and talking with those who had multiple husbands. God made sure the message got reinforced and shared after Jesus went back to heaven with Peter’s vision of the animals in the sheet (Acts 10-11) representing the welcoming of any nation who fears God and does right.

So it’s not a huge leap to get to the idea that anyone could get into heaven, as long as they’ve been forgiven of their sins, have a relationship with God and believe in Him. Which is why we should first and foremost be open and willing to tell whomever God puts in our path about the love that He has shown us, about how He has supported us, and how He cares for us. We should do the very best we can with each and every opportunity that God sends us, give them the care, respect and opportunity that each of us would want.

But there’s two other sides to this, neither are as hopeful. The first is the fact that you individually can’t save everyone. Even someone with the reach of a Billy Graham, Kirk Cameron, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, or Steven Furtick can’t save everyone, it’s why we are all called by the Great Commission. Sometimes we have to choose to save the one or two people that we can. The lesson applies to other areas of our lives; we should do our best and let God handle the rest. God knows the potential of that one person you may bring to God, you can only do your part.

The third side is a story that is seen in 3 of the 4 gospels (Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9 and 10) and in Acts as well. It’s the recommendation of Jesus to shake the dust off your feet when you’re not welcomed in a home or town that you’re traveling through or bringing God’s message of peace to. Basically it’s suggesting to leave them to whatever fate they may have. Maybe that means years from now something will change, maybe it doesn’t, but according to these stories, it’s not our job to be overly concerned or focused on their future. Of course we can pray for them, but each person is ultimately responsible for their own future.

So this week I encourage you to walk with faith.  Do the best you can, live a life that honors God, share your faith and don’t let the negative take you down with it.

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Reality Reflection: Tragedy, Humans and Technology

It’s been over 30 years since the disaster in Chernobyl, when there was an accident at one of the nuclear reactors. I have no personal memories of this tragedy (I was too young), but it’s a story that I’ve always followed, maybe because of the haunting images that have been appearing over the years of the homes, schools and businesses that were suddenly abandoned. We know that slowly over the past 30 years nature has been taking over where people used to live and slowly buildings and other things are decaying and returning to more original forms.

I saw an article the other day about a gentleman who flew helicopters over the site in the days after the disaster to measure the temperature and gasses. I always check out stories like these because they give very personal and personable insights into events that don’t come with a lot of details or are still impacting the world today. In the article he tells how he knew it was dangerous but there wasn’t really an option, someone had to do it because they had to get that information. Today thankfully we would be able to send a drone over the scene of the accident and let the drone get the data without having to put any human lives in harms way.

I’m thankful both for the people who go into harms way to help the rest of us like police and fire workers, as well as for the updates in technology that gives the humans a helping hand and keep them safer. We’re not yet at the place where we’re avoiding all accidents, but we have come very far in these past 30 years to where we are avoiding danger more and staying safer.

I believe that we need to support technology development more because it can help keep us safer, move resources where they can be better used, and reduce waste. But there will always be a need to be brave and courageous, to have people help people. The world is better because we have other people to share it with. If anything as technology develops and advances we need people who are more responsible and keep tabs on technology to make sure we’re using it to help and not to harm.  Both people and technology can be good and bad, it’s up to each of us to make sure that they are helping victories happen.

Victories for Now or Ever

How often do you think about the concept of forever? I was watching a show the other day and in it a character got to the point in her romantic relationship that she understood it wasn’t going to develop into anything more than it was at that point. She had to make a decision regarding whether she was going to accept the limits on the relationship and be OK with that, or if she wanted something more/different/deeper. Sometimes in a relationship you don’t want more, you’re happy with what you have, or it’s OK for the time being and there’s no real reason to push for more or make changes. Other times you’re kind of stuck and it will be a more “forever” relationship like family or the parent of your child(ren).

The same is true for victories. You don’t always have to make forever decisions, changes or moves. You can make a “for now” move or relationship to help you go in the direction of your current victory, and then move on and make changes once you’ve accomplished that victory. And of course some moves you make will result in permanent relationships and changes that will forever affect you, hopefully in a good way.

Victories are both forever victories and in-the-moment victories. It’s an in-the-moment victory to complete a project for work, but it’s more of a forever victory to become a partner or manager at your job. It’s an in-the-moment victory to make a new dish for your family, but it’s a forever victory to successfully plan a family reunion event. It’s an in-the-moment victory to run the vacuum through the house, but it’s a long-term victory to get the whole place deep cleaned and organized. It’s an in-the-moment victory to eat a healthy meal, but it’s a forever victory to daily make good food choices. It’s an in-the-moment victory to be polite to someone, but it’s a forever victory to choose a good relationship over one that causes harm.

Life is about the for-now moments and relationships as well as the forever ones. You don’t have to be on one side of the fence all the time or the other, and sometimes even forever victories are really only very memorable victories, not those that last forever. Are you placing the right amount of importance and effort into your victories?

Balance with God

I recently read an article about Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame in which she shared about some of the things she’s tried and choices she’s made when it comes to the topic of life balance. I’ve always believed in the concept of balance from a ‘you can’t just give or take all the time’ perspective and with a thought to how significantly (and negatively) many areas of your life can be affected if you only give your attention and time and resources to one area of your life (i.e. your work). Life balance doesn’t have to be defined as spending equal time in each aspect of your life, life balance can be defined as making sure that the ways you’re spending your time fulfill the different needs and wants in your life as well as meeting the commitments you make.

Going back to Joanna Gaines, one thing that was shown frequently in her TV show was the kids coming to work with her/her and her husband. The article talks about how she, like many of us, tried to put her life into neat and tidy boxes and found it didn’t work for her. She found that “balance” didn’t equal wholeness for her. Maybe that’s something you can identify with, that trying to separate out your life doesn’t work so well, because you’re not just a mother or father or sister or brother or significant other or employee or boss or homeowner or runner or biker or foodie, you’re many things all put together. Trying to separate yourself is like trying to separate the red from the purple so you can have blue.

All this goes right back to you and God. God doesn’t want to be in your life for only part of it or in certain ways, He wants to be part of all of it. He wants to celebrate with you and pace with you and struggle with you and work hard with you and succeed with you. He wants to be there for the ups and the downs. He isn’t a God of only Sunday mornings and/or Wednesday evenings, He wants to be part of the other 5 or 6 days and other 160 some hours too. God is God because He’s aware of everything and everyone and can be everywhere at the same time. He’s capable of dealing with what’s going on in my life as well as your life and 100 of our closest friends all at the same time.

God doesn’t need or want you to tuck Him into a little corner or part of your life, He wants to be part of all of it.  Think of it like taking your cell phone everywhere, He just goes where you go.  What will you do this week to help God be part of more of your life?

Reality Reflection: Alone out there?

This past week an interesting article caught my attention. The headline talks about how 22% of millenials they surveyed say they have no friends. In case you don’t remember who fits in what category, millenials are those born between the early 80’s and late 90’s (between 23 and 38 years of age today). Fitting in that age group I understand the statistic, because I really do enjoy my alone time. As much as I am OK with being around people and need people in my life, I’m also very happy to be by myself and do my own thing. To be clear, loneliness is something that every generation struggles with at different points in time, from the youngest to the oldest, because they don’t have friends yet, or all their friends have moved away or passed away, or just because of changes in situation.

The catch the article presents is that millenials seem to be caught between a strong desire to be by themselves and the desire that everyone has to be with others. So why are they lonely or alone? For those who are independent and enjoy being left to their own devices, you can fall into patterns that you forget what it’s like to make friends and how to do it and so as friends move on with their lives you have fewer friends. Others may have struggled in the past with finding people they feel comfortable with and have given up on finding those people. Yes, you can connect with people on social media and it’s better than nothing, but it’s not really the same as meeting up at a coffee house, event, or house and hanging out together and being able to be physically present with them.

The one thing the article doesn’t talk about and doesn’t indicate their research touches on is if they’re OK with not having [lots of] friends. To some degree it’s healthy to be alone and to like your own space. It’s also good to know that you prefer to be alone and to accept that. It’s harder for people who thrive in interpersonal relationships to understand the desire and interest in being alone.  But no one should be an island and everyone should belong to a circle of people, however small, they can trust and rely on.

Having spent an evening in the presence of many tens of thousands people at a baseball game and driving on roads today that were filled with cars and people headed to their weekend destinations, I’m reminded of both the fact that it can be so easy to blend in with the crowd and be alone, and that when we’re surrounded by so many other people that we really aren’t ever alone.

You’re in control of your life, spend time with the people you want to spend time with, explore the world in whatever way both challenges you and helps you feel safe, and know that you can still do your part to be kind to others and help those in need even if you aren’t friends with them.

In Everything A Victory?

Like many other people I’ve been reflecting on the horrible events over the past couple of days and weeks that resulted in the deaths of people in the US in 3 violent shootings. At least one of the incidents would have resulted in much more sorrow and lives lost if not for the quick actions of police. As I was watching one of my typical cop shows today and watched the wrap up on the screen indicating how many years people got for the murder they had committed the question popped into my mind ‘where’s the victory in this?’

No, I don’t think every single thing you do has to be about achieving a victory.  That said, if you really think about it you can attribute a victory to most things you do from showering to eating to reading to sleeping to working. But where’s the victory in shooting up a club or store or school? What do you really get from doing that? What’s the win? Is it just to show hatred? Is it to show how “powerful” someone is? Is it out of some sort of attempt at justice? I understand defending your home or hunting for food/animal population control, but where’s the sense in shooting up a place or bunch of random people?

As I said every action, every decision doesn’t have to be about a victory, but maybe if we did work on making more victories we’d be able to avoid some of these incidents. Maybe by focusing on creating victories we’d procrastinate less, make better and more thoughtful decisions, actually tackle our to-do list, and have healthier relationships.

Going back to what we talked about at the start of the post, yes, you could call it a victory that the person who committed the murder is dead or in jail for life.  But while that may fit with the definition of victory, it really isn’t a victory because victories in my mind have to be positive.  And there’s nothing positive about life lost or wasted.

If you’ve been struggling with your to-do list, goals, or victories, do I encourage you to try making everything about accomplishing a victory.   But what I really hope happens as a result of these tragedies is that more people choose to make a positive impact on the world in the time that they have.   Putting more good into the world can only do good things for each of us and the world we all share.

Thoughts on Violence, Peace and Healing

Again in the past days and week we’re struggling with three shootings and people killed and injured. It’s still in early days to know the reasons behind shootings and if there was a specific target (and we rarely get the full story), but regardless of why it’s heartbreaking and hurtful to think about.

When it comes to topics of faith we talk a lot about peace and love, but what I really wanted to talk about today was the fact that there is another side to this. Ephesians 4:25-28a, 31 says: “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing….Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”

These verses talk about the very real fact that we deal with anger, bitterness, and rage. Few if any people are truly immune to the darker emotions of life. Experiencing them from time to time doesn’t mean that we’re evil, it just means we’re human. The choice we have to make is how we deal with those emotions: do we respond to them by killing others or going to workout at the gym or talking through them with a counselor? Two of those are healthy ways of dealing with those emotions, the other isn’t.

God is the God of healing among many other things. He can heal our world, our hearts, our minds, our relationships and our emotions. But we have to be willing to let that happen and we have to invest in making that healing happening by avoiding our triggers, learning to take breaks before things escalate, doing what we know is good for us, and spending time with people who are good for us. This week I encourage you to pray for healing for our world, for people to continue to step up and admit the struggles they’ve faced and how they’ve gotten help for it or that they need help, and for everyone to be open and sensitive to the fact that what they see is likely only a small part of what’s going on in a person’s life. This is both an individual and a community battle, we can’t get it done alone but we have to start with ourselves.

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