Reality Reflection: Have a Little Faith

The past few weeks have really tested many people’s concepts of their safety and understanding of how the world around us is operating. From massive hurricanes to violence perpetrated by individuals in both mass-casualty situations and too many “simple” murders and other acts of violence in cities around the US and the world, we’re really seeing our world change in ways that we don’t want it to. It becomes pretty easy pretty quick to feel like giving up.  To accept that life is just this difficult and that’s how it is going to be moving forward, to accept that any home we build could be destroyed by mother nature, to accept that it’s not safe to be in large gatherings, but if we accept these things, there’s really no safe place anywhere for anyone. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that to be my future, my reality.

But then you hear about people making donations of money, food, shelter, help and even blood. You hear about people risking their lives for each other. You hear about the moms and dads who put their lives on the line to figure out what happened and protect the rest of us, from surgeons to missionaries to soldiers to police officers to those who fly weather planes, some of these people do their jobs without a guarantee of going home ever again, yet they willingly put their lives on the line every day. Why? Because they still have hope in a better future for the rest of us. They still believe that we’re worth saving, or that there are more good people than bad in the world. Some may get up each day with the purpose of defeating or beating the destruction and destroyers, but I don’t think they are able to stay sane or focused for very long. Instead, I believe that those who are able to put their lives on the line day in and day out do it because they believe there’s something and someone worth fighting for.

If you think about it, it’s not the evil or darkness that can sustain us. Without some serious scientific improvements and major changes to our world, it’s not possible for all of us to be sustained if all we knew was violence and night, war zones show that and some still struggle to recover now, decades after the bullets stopped. We need sunshine, community gatherings, schools, green pastures, safe places to work on scientific and medical challenges, and homes we can trust won’t fall down around us. It’s not about creating a perfect world or everyone having innocence, but about being safe and comfortable enough to be fulfilled in the present and be part of building a better future. More violence isn’t the answer or step forward in creating that, better, future, contribution, faith and hope in the community that we all live in is.

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Looking Beyond the Ruins

My heart hurts with the people of Vegas as they struggle to navigate the aftermath of the shooting. As much as we may try to do the right thing and encourage others to do the right thing as well, there will continue to be people who are evil and don’t have good in their hearts. With the tragedy in mind, I thought we’d take a look at the words of Isaiah 51:3:

“The Lord will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.”

No where in the Bible does God or any of the writers make light of the challenges that we face on earth. Look at Job; no matter what way you look at his situation, he experienced some really tough stuff, Elisha and Elijah were both treated to some natural and supernatural situations and disasters, Abraham didn’t doubt that God could destroy a city, and Saul/Paul accepted being shipwrecked and bitten by a snake, and those are just a few examples of the people in the Bible. Today it’s no different, whether we’re looking at attacks, genocides, money issues, economic troubles, bad leaders or natural disasters, you can’t honestly expect that you’ll “escape” this life without incident. But the good news is that God promises that even with the bad days, good days will follow.

I don’t think God sits up in heaven and shakes His finger at us and says “that’s what you deserve!!”, I think He feels our pain and knows that we’re struggling. Jesus certainly, after spending days in the desert, knows what it’s like to feel desolate and deserted by life, as many of us have seen with neighborhoods completely dark and cold after this hurricane.

What Isaiah says towards the end is what captures my attention: he says that the joy will be found in the barren, now reborn, wilderness. Where there wasn’t much promise, now there is. Where there wasn’t anything worth living for, now there is. What only brought sadness and anger, now brings joy and gladness.

The choice that Israel had to make, and we have to make today, is the choice of how we react to the wilderness. Are we going to react with frustration and anger that we’re in ruins? Are we going to go beyond the reality and see the potential in the future and reach for it with hope and thanksgiving? It’s not about ignoring the bad, or bypassing it. In truth it’s important to see the ruins and come to terms with the tragedy. Not only does that give you perspective for the future, it’s also healthy to grieve for what you’ve lost. But just like the story of Jesus doesn’t end at the sealed tomb, our stories can’t end with us grieving for what we’ve lost. We have to choose to be grateful for what and who we have in our lives.

This week I hope you’ll join me in looking for ways to turn wildernesses into gardens and bringing life back into an area, and a country, that used to be vibrant and full of hope. What are you thankful for?

Reality Reflection: Helplessness

I think one of the reasons I don’t watch the news very much is because when I really think about what’s going on I feel helpless to really do anything. I’m not a cop, I can’t chase down bad guys; I’m not a medical doctor, I can’t cure crazy diseases; I’m not a politician, I can’t change or help a vote; I’m not a conservationist, I can’t save a forest from logging destruction; I’m not a political scientist or foreign emissary, I can’t help avoid WW3. But it’s not just about the big things, it’s about feeling helpless when there’s an accident near me or someone’s struggling to walk to their car or someone’s lost a dog.

Yes, we’ve talked and will continue to talk about how important and invaluable the little actions that each of us do throughout our lives. Yes I can call in a tip about a bad guy I saw from the news, I can donate to medical research facilities, I can vote in every election, I can plant trees, I can drive safer myself, or I can help someone cross the road. I can do something in each of the situations mentioned, but when they’re presented on the news or on a video and there’s nothing I can do in that moment, how can I not feel some amount of helplessness?

I think feeling that helplessness is healthy and normal. It’s a good indication that you’re still feeling and emotionally connected with the world. It means that you’ve got concern for your fellow humans and everything else that makes up this great world of ours. Unfortunately, for most of us though it also means that we have to accept being uncomfortable and unhappy with some things in life. Most of us simply can’t fix everything, no matter how much we rant, rave and feel bad.

Sometimes it helps to find what’s ‘glass half full’ in the situation, and even doing that little something like I mentioned earlier can help you feel a little less helpless. Unfortunately, until we all find that magical spider or the DNA to make us a superhero, we can’t be everything to everyone everywhere in the world. We have to stick to being superheros in our own part of the world.

Asking for Help

This month our topic is one that can be challenging for some, the topic of help. I know it’s not always easy asking for help, and we don’t always like the answer or help we get when we ask for help. But that shouldn’t scare us away from asking for help. There are a few things to consider with regards to asking for help. First, you’re asking for the help, that means you’ve come to a point that you really can’t do it alone anymore and need another person or need advice. Second, just because you ask, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to take that advice. Third, asking for help should not be seen as a weakness or point of humiliation or something wrong.

But in many situations it’s simply too much for us to do alone, for example the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey and Irma. There’s no way that anyone truly plans to recover from a natural disaster like this, but they happen. There’s also no way to plan for the death of a partner or child, no matter how long you’ve known about their condition, you’ll still have to go through the grieving process. And, there’s no way one person can lift a king sized mattress or move an extra large bookcase, you need at least 2 people. Sometimes you’re just admitting that you’re human and it’s easier with more than one person, and there’s a reason we’re all here together.

If you’ve been here for a while you know that I’m a big believer in not being everything for everyone. I know it can be tempting to try, but there’s really no reason to be everything when there are people who can do things far better or more efficiently than you can or have more knowledge than you do. I love celebrating the expertise of others and giving them the opportunity to shine at what they do best.

So today I would challenge you to go ahead and ask for help. Maybe it will be something small like asking someone to hold the door open. Maybe it will be something bigger like asking someone to look over a proposal you’ve received. Maybe you’ll be extra brave and talk with your partner about one of the things that’s challenging you in your relationship or ask how you can better fulfill their needs in your relationship. Start small or go big, but make the choice to ask for help today.

Healing and Assumptions

The past few weeks we’ve been hearing about many tragedies around the world, something that isn’t really new, but seems to have taken on another level of activity again recently. As humans we struggle to understand how people can be that violent and inconsiderate of human life. As spiritual people we struggle to understand how anyone could kill another person, or could live with the hate that’s being slung around at people regardless of whether they deserve it or not.

I know that until Jesus comes back we will continue to have wars and violence, that’s part of the sin experience. But I believe we can do a lot more to heal our country and world, and it starts with having faith that the people we share this planet with are worth working towards a better future for and are just as human as you or I.

It starts with not believing we’re just defined by our race, religion beliefs, political opinions or social status. Yes, those things do define us, but they should not be our bottom line. Using a very publicized example that means that just because you’re black not everyone is out to get you. You have to take the first step to see yourself as something other than what someone could define you as.

Why? Because many people are capable of treating each other as average/ordinary human beings without a specific label, but some people escalate and force them to profile them that way. For example if a police officer pulls you over and you get all angry and curse at them saying that they pulled you over because you’re black, when the reality is the police officer may have had no idea what race you were, but pulled you over because you had a taillight out or were on your cell phone or you were speeding. If you pull the stereotype card that’s how others will often treat you.

However, we’ve got a choice to begin our lives, our days, and our attitudes in a different way.  We can choose to make fewer assumptions, choose healing and love rather than hate and judgement, and choose to listen and learn before reacting. Unfortunately there will always be people who stereotype others and treat them based on some factor like race or religion that really may have very little to do with who that person is.  But for the many people who don’t see you and me specifically or only as our race or religion, working on treating them better and making fewer assumptions could really go a long way to healing many of the issues in our world.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave for the next generation? One of perpetuated hate or one of healing, growth and opportunities?

Reality Reflection: A Little Communication

I was at a funeral service yesterday and it got me thinking about what my understanding of “traditional songs” are versus what other religious practices have as “traditional songs” and how my traditional songs aren’t necessarily theirs. There’s nothing wrong with each religious group or culture having their own traditions and songs, in fact it’s important because it makes them who they are. It’s also what makes people feel at home when they connect with these groups and even can be the reason they join these groups.

The challenge comes in when you’ve got people from other groups interacting with your group. In this internet accessible world it’s very easy to create a resource that visitors can tap into to be prepared for these things. To be completely honest I did do an online search to see what the typical practice was for this type of religious funeral service so that I was somewhat prepared. Had there been a helpful link to a blog post or other form of information on the funeral home’s page for the person who passed that would have been even better because in a matter of seconds I could have found out exactly what I needed to know about the specific plans for his funeral and what I should expect (and then I would worry a whole lot less about whether or not I was doing the right thing at the right time).

But this is about a much bigger conversation. There are so many ways to remove the isolation in many parts of our daily lives or at least limit it that we’re not tapping into. You hear all the time about buzz words or industry-specific terms that people don’t understand because it’s too technical or they’re new to the industry or business, or confusion over typical processes and procedures. It costs very little to put up a page on your website with all these items explained clearly. Then you’ve helped visitors feel a little more comfortable with you and you’ve established that you are someone to be trusted and that you’re willing to work with people to help them get up to speed and will do your best not to overwhelm them.

The same is true for our lives. If we took a few seconds to send out a text or call or email or write a note and communicate the details to those who need to know, we’d avoid so many fights and frustrations and our relationships would be healthier too. It’s important to set up a central communication point or method as a family so that everyone is aware of where notes would be or how best to get in touch with  whomever needs to be reached.

It’s amazing what a few seconds of research or considerate communication can do for someone. What will communication do for you this week?

Reality Reflection: Where I Belong

This past weekend I’ve been reflecting on the upcoming celebration of Independence Day here in the USA and thinking about all that it means to us even so many years later. One of the things I’ve been reflecting on are the men who signed the Declaration and the women (and kids) who were part of the country as it was being established. These people chose to come to the US because they wanted freedom from Britain’s rule and wanted to be their own people and have more say in what they could and couldn’t do. The stories we hear about are pretty clear that it was very difficult in those first years, and many people died sooner than they would have if they stayed in Britain. But they believed in what they were doing and the future that they were creating.

The accounts of those early years tell us that everyone had to work really hard to build a life here. They didn’t go into a new country like we do today, knowing that it’s almost guaranteed to have available housing and essentials like food and water, they had to start completely from scratch. So by the time they got to the Declaration of Independence each and every piece of the country they built had been built by their hand, with the help of the Native Americans and others who had joined over the years. I can’t imagine how proud they all were of the country they had built and the fact that they were really ready to take some pretty significant steps away from Britain. They had built a place that gave them the freedoms they were looking for, a place to be the people they wanted to be.

We don’t have to do anything nearly as significant as start a new country to experience pride and find a place to belong to in this day and age. There are countless opportunities and ways to make a difference in our world including starting a business or charity, having a family, donating time to the community, being part of a church group, donating to a charity, or starting or joining a group on social media. The important thing is that you find a place, and people, that you fit well with, feel comfortable with, that will support you and that will encourage you to grow. You just might find that in belonging to something and being an integral part of the lives of others you find the freedom and fulfillment you’ve been looking for.