It’s hard to miss all the news reports about shootings or tragic deaths or other tragic experiences that happen around the world. I’m kind of amazed that it happens day in and day out. You would think that we would finally get the picture and start doing something different with our lives instead of submitting them to drugs, alcohol, bad influences, and general destruction. Of course there are the tragedies that you have no control over and have not really caused like cancer or tsunamis or being hit by a drunk driver. But the simple fact is almost everyone, if not everyone, has been through a tragedy. Would you really ever wish that experience on someone else?
And yet every day we do and say things to others that just aren’t nice. We choose to post the negative reviews instead of contacting someone who could help resolve the situation. We send scathing emails and texts about things instead of just moving on or trying to work things out. We make up stories because we’re jealous or insecure and spread them to anyone who will listen. We grab a gun rather than avoiding someone or telling someone who could help. We don’t think through our words or actions before they happen when 2 seconds of thought could avoid serious repercussions.
I know life’s not perfect but I’m getting really tired of the nastiness, the excuses people throw out about why things happened, and the reasons why they didn’t do anything to make a difference. If you’ve been living with some of those bad habits, aren’t you tired of being nasty and holding onto the anger in your life? Does that anger really benefit you? Do we really need more tragedies in the world?
Today I’m thinking about the sometimes elusive feeling, being, and experience of hope. You may not even really recognize that it’s not in your life, but when it reappears suddenly you realize how long you’ve gone without feeling it. In that moment you might feel a little shame or discomfort, but the feeling I really want you to focus on is the joy that comes along with experiencing hope again.
There’s something almost magical about the spark, light and warmth that hope brings with it. You feel alive again, or like you’re waking up after a very long time asleep. Hope is a reminder that maybe things aren’t that bad, and even if they are, there’s something worth working towards. Hope is the encouragement to keep going even in the face of difficult odds and obstacles.
Freedom is directly connected with hope; it’s believing in something better, choosing a standard of living that’s respectful of your value and the value of others, and taking action to support those beliefs and values. Freedoms happen because people had hope in something and worked to make it a reality.
But as we all know, sometimes those freedoms and realities are a long time coming. Sometimes we don’t see the instant results that we’re hoping for (and expecting in this fast-food, fast-technology world), which discourages us. When we see things going downhill rather than upward like we want we can lose our tentative hold on hope.
If it’s been a while since you experienced hope in your life I want to encourage you to stick it out. The hope you’re waiting for may be just around the corner. Sometimes that may mean that you have to do something to find hope again or ask for help, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, hope and freedom may be waiting for you to do exactly that.
If you’re blessed to have hope in your life right now I invite you to share how hope is encouraging you below in the comments. What do you have hope for or in today?
Today I’m thinking about those screw ups that we sometimes do. A friend of mine got pulled over by the police recently for not taking sufficient time at the stop sign, and it got me thinking. Just because my friend got pulled over it doesn’t mean they’re a terrible person. The same could be said about people who cheat on their partner, those who steal, those who get into accidents, those who swear or those who are messy. No one is perfect, but sometimes we make a really big deal about the things they do that aren’t so great, regardless of how big of a deal it really was.
Of course, there are bad people out there, some people belong in jail or punished or with limited privileges. Some people can learn from their mistakes and make changes and live better going forward, while others never do. I hurt for the people who fit into that ‘bad’ category and wish they could see the light of living life a different way.
Do I think that we all could do a better job with our lives, of course. We’ve all got room for improvement. But sometimes I think we poke at and pick out those flaws because we’re scared or we want to look better than them, or because we feel we don’t measure up, or we didn’t get forgiveness when we needed it or we like to make others feel bad. While I hope you’re not the type of person who enjoys making others feel bad, those types of bullies are out there and we do deal with them on a regular basis. If you’re busy poking at someone else’s issues I encourage you to take a look at your own life, reflect on your motivations about why you do that and consider changing how you interact with others.
If you have been screwing up a lot lately or find that people point out how flaws and issues, maybe it is time for you to take a look at what you’re doing or how you’re interacting with people. I love personal growth and think that we’ve all got room to grow and improve, and sometimes we need to hear it from others how we can improve (of course there’s a nice way and a not-so-nice way to do it). So first and foremost don’t be discouraged, you’ve still got time and opportunity to improve, each day is a new opportunity to shine.
This month as we talk about the topic of freedom I thought we would start with a great verse from Galatians. Galatians 5:13 says “Use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
We’ve got a lot of choices that we have to make as we navigate through each day of our lives. Sometimes we make choices because we’re tired or frustrated or annoyed or we don’t like someone or someone was mean to us. In those cases we are known to make some snap judgments and say things that we may not necessarily mean. Yes, there are things we can do to reduce those issues and increase our freedoms, and we’ll talk about that in another post. But the question is if there’s one thing, one habit, that we can take on that will make our lives and choices better what would it be? Galatians reminds us that it’s love.
Love is a persistent theme throughout the Bible. It’s not something that the Bible is shy about or paints as one dimensional. In fact the Bible can be pretty graphic about it, certainly so for a book that’s read by kids and adults alike. And while the Bible may not offer specific advice about certain situations we find ourselves in some 2000+ years after it was written, I can confidently say that there are a few things that haven’t and won’t change, including Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection which forever changed the futures of all who believe, and the importance of love in our lives.
If you’re looking for a little freedom in your life, for your life to start improving, for your relationships to get better, or even for a way to serve God more, I would encourage you to work on creating a habit of love in your life. It’s not something you’re able to get overnight like you can get a t-shirt or other special delivery, it’s something that you have to work on developing through changes and commitments in your attitude, heart, and mind. Not only will you benefit from choosing love in your life, so will the others you interact with. Will you choose love this week?
Lately I’ve been thinking (again) about the rush that most of us live our lives being and doing. We’re so busy, trying to pack something into every second it seems. And in some ways I can understand because there’s a lot of life to be lived and lots of things to do and we’ll never be able to complete them all in our (short) life time. But I think that pressure and decision to say yes to so many things has had a negative impact on our relationships. I don’t think that we take the time often enough to really think about what we say or how we talk to people. Sometimes we’re so focused on being right or doing something our way that we’re not able to see the value in doing it another way, and we’re certainly not willing to admit that we don’t know everything.
I believe we can all learn something from everyone on the planet. Maybe it’s just one or two things, but those things can have great value. But when we go into a conversation or relationship with our minds already made up in how a conversation will go or how smart we are (and they’re not) or making a decision without really listening or getting all the facts, it’s not only hurtful to them, but can have a negative impact on us as well.
Just because someone is younger than you, is older than you, is from another country, went through a divorce, went through bankruptcy, doesn’t like pets, or likes your favorite sports team’s biggest rivals doesn’t mean that they can’t have good ideas, can’t teach you something and aren’t worth a few minutes of your time really listening to what they have to say. The same is true for advice, just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s bad or because it costs a lot it’s good.
I don’t think it’s (just) about trying to pack every minute of every day full, it’s about making sure to use your time wisely and make the most of your life. Some of the best moments of your life will be with other people. Some of those great moments will only happen if you slow down and take the time to meet someone new, take the time to build up existing relationships or make amends in one that you’ve damaged. I encourage you to take time to slow down this weekend and really watch where you’re going, listen to the full explanation or conversation before making decisions, and suspend judgment a bit longer than you do normally. What will you experience with an open mind this weekend?
This week I was visiting the Facebook page of an author I enjoy and saw that their PR person (and friend) had posted an update sharing a little on the health issues the author has had, explaining some of the delays to books being published or written and had some choice words for the people who leave negative comments about how long it takes for books to get done or why the author hasn’t written books they’ve been promising for years.
I know it’s not easy to be disappointed and to wait for things that you’re looking forward to, but no one actually schedules into their life getting sick, divorces, job loss, flat tires or rebellious kids (or any of the other things that pop up into our lives). I also understand the interest in and need for schedules and deadlines, it’s an important way to make sure things in life (including work) keep moving forward. But when you’re more concerned by the work than your own health or the health of someone else, I get worried.
I personally love to read, and of course I’m a little sad when I hear that it’s going to be another 6 months or year until one of my favorite authors is coming out with a new book, not to mention how bad I feel for the author and all they’re going through. But one, I’d rather know the author will write again, than that they’re dead or done writing. Second, there are so many authors out there in every genre to read that to say you’ve only got one author you read and be completely dependent on them for books is pretty silly. Finally, if you’re so worked up over the fact that a fiction book isn’t being published or written yet that you have to leave nasty comments, I would have serious questions about your attitude towards life and about what goes on in your life.
But this is about more than just one author or one book, it’s about how we treat each other. What gives you the right to bash on someone else? It’s one thing to give feedback to someone or a company in a private manner, it’s another to tell the whole world how they’ve failed you and how pissed you are. There are a few situations when that’s appropriate, but that’s not the typical case. There’s also a difference between helping someone move on from a person or situation in their life and being rude and nasty about how stuck they’ve gotten and how stupid you think they’re being. I know it can be a difficult line to find and not cross, especially in this very public world that we live in, but my encouragement to you would be to take a step back before you offer criticism or say what you’re thinking before you think about it.
I encourage you to choose words that will help, encourage and support this week, and look to build up your relationships, not destroy them.
I was reading a very interesting article about how rivers can be a representation of our lives. The other option is to be a stagnant pool of water. I don’t know about you but I’d rather be a moving river than a mosquito home. Throughout the Bible the topic of rivers are returned to again and again, including a very painting-worthy passage in Ezekiel 47. Rivers were often used because the people knew them to be a source of life, and in using them as a teaching example the listeners could more easily understood the concept of the living word and life of God, especially before the birth and death of Jesus (although there are lots of examples in the New Testament, too).
Where are you at in your life right now? Are you in a stagnant place? Or are you being swept away by life? Or are you moving along with life, taking it as it comes? The funny thing about rivers is that they can do a real good job of hiding the truth. What can look like a peaceful spot can be deadly to dive into or a bottomless pit or have an incredible current that will sweep you under before you know what’s happening. People too can hide the truth, there are countless people all around the globe that are hiding their real feelings, hurts, frustrations, fears and maybe even their joys. They hide because they’re afraid that if people knew the real them, they would be judged. And the unfortunate thing is many would be judged, humiliated, laughed at or not taken seriously, that’s how too much of our world works.
As people of faith we’ve got a responsibility to step up and be better people. It’s unfortunate that we too have at times fallen into the judgment zone, trying to look all perfect to the world while struggling privately. No, we’re not supposed to live as sinfully as others in the world do, but Christian or not we’re still human and have our not so great moments. We have many of the same challenges to face as others do around the world, we just know that we can go into the rushing river with an excellent rescue team on hand for us (the people at our church or Bible Study or other faith-based group, not to mention God).
Is this your week to conquer the river in your life? I encourage you to be brave and say that enough is enough, and choose to move as your life (and God) directs.