Eyes Open

One of the things that Jesus did throughout His time on earth was to heal people. It was often confusing or off-putting to people, because it meant that Jesus was healing those that physical doctors had given up on or were people not welcomed by society, was touching people that according to society shouldn’t be touched, or was healing them in a way or at a time that was inappropriate or unbelievable to them. But Jesus knew something that many weren’t willing to accept, and that’s that everyone is treasured by God and is loved by Him, even if they don’t love Him back.

Throughout Jesus’ time on earth, something that those of us reading Lent devotionals are exploring right now, Jesus showed time and again that we don’t always see what He did. While to some extent that has to do with the fact that He was fully divine and fully human during His time on earth and could see things as God sees them, the truth is that He was just willing to look beyond the outside and the obvious, and was able to see the truth about people. Jesus could see their faith and their hope and their deepest desires that they never shared with anyone, mostly because He took the time to look and listen, not because God told Him.

I don’t know too many people who are big on consequences or bad news, maybe that’s why we try to believe that certain things don’t go on in the world or some people don’t do the dumb things they do, or don’t think about the consequences of our/their actions before they’re done.  For some reason some of us believe that if we don’t see it or hear it, it can’t be real, but that’s definitely not the case.  But when you see it, if you’re really doing the right thing both as a follower of God and as a fellow human you really should step up and at least say something, but due to different fears we often don’t.

Jesus did many things during His time on earth, including preach on love and walk on water, but He also spent time with those that were typically dismissed or rejected by others. Maybe this Lent is challenging you to open your eyes to the reality of the world around you, to see it as Jesus may see it, or maybe God is encouraging you to adjust your response (or at least reaction time) to the world around you. What are you seeing or choosing not to see?

Reality Reflection: Wake-up Calls

The world is going a little crazy right now. Having lived in the Northeast USA for my whole life I’m familiar with a version of this type of crazy, because it happens when we’re predicted to have big snowstorms. Others who live in the Florida or Louisiana area would be able to identify with this crazy because of their frequent exposure to hurricanes. If it’s not something you’ve experienced before, there’s no comparable sensation to walk through a grocery store and see empty shelves everywhere. It’s surreal and unnerving. On some levels the crazy is expected because we’re in an unprecedented time with lots of uncertainty. It’s like a normal day but on crazy steroids.

But with this unprecedented level of uncertainty and serious health concerns, one of the biggest questions I have is what kind of wake-up call this is for us. There’s no way that this could be a global crisis with the impact that it’s currently having on our daily lives and relationships and not have an impact on how we go forward.

Wake-up calls happen in many different ways; sometimes it’s a health scare, loss of loved one, loss of job, new neighbor or family crisis. Wake-up calls are important because they help us see what we may have been blind to before, or weren’t willing to put necessary energy towards. They do initially hurt us, but are almost always there to strengthen us or make us better in the future. Quite honestly, most of us need a wake-up call more often, because we are so easily distracted by our daily lives and ruts we get into. Apparently, not only do we individually need a wake-up call, but the whole world does.

What is this wake-up call bringing to your attention? What do you think we need to be aware of as a world? I know it has reminded me how similar we all are, and also how some levels of laziness and irresponsibility are partially responsible for the situation we find ourselves in. What are you waking up to and how will it (positively) impact your future?

We Are United

Unity. It’s an interesting word, one that we’re seeing a completely different side of with the virus and connected health issues that’s sweeping the globe. Unity is often something that’s celebrated, and appreciated, but this is a unity we haven’t seen since 2001 when the 9/11 attacks happened, although we have seen it throughout the intervening years with various mass casualties and natural disasters less significant levels. What this has really reminded me is that we’re a lot more alike than some of us may want to admit.

This virus hasn’t respected a country or a nationality or a culture or a job description, it’s around the world in people of all ages, all job statuses, all backgrounds, and all levels of celebrity. It has united all of us with a common thread that can’t be denied, and yet instead of being able to celebrate that we are more similar than we may have thought or been willing to admit, it’s forcing us to keep our distance to stop/slow the spread. The only way we can beat this is if we work together as a world to find answers, direction, and support for moving forward.

There’s no clear cut answer to where we go from here, but my hope is that first and foremost, we remember how this virus united us and showed us how similar we are, and not how it destroyed our lives for however long it sticks around. Second, I do think it’s smart to take a cautionary take from this virus, since we’ve learned how similar we are, that we should be more sensitive toward and considerate of each other, both with how we live our lives and the general health practices we should do more regularly.

While it’s not appropriate at this time to gather together to encourage each other, we can use the internet and social media to share words of encouragement, strength and hope. Whatever the future holds, it’s up to us to use whatever tools we have to make a difference, show others that we care, and help each other through this time.

Reality Reflections: Conversations about Trust and Health

I don’t know about you but I’m getting to a point of serious frustration. I was very excited by all of the progress that I was seeing with how people were working together and being more considerate of each other, and now with this new virus growing and impacting lives around the globe, it’s got great potential to hurt the progress we’ve been very slowly making. My concern is that after the virus has run the course for this time, one of two things will happen: either we’ll be thrilled to go back to life as normal and get back to our regular relationships and activities, or the worse case scenario would be that we’ll see serious damage done to our cultural fabric.

As much as the issue would be one of health concerns, the bigger issue is that we’re very possibly destroying the trust we have in our fellow humans. I got to thinking about this in recent conversations with my partner and some other people about issues they were having with other family members or others in general. How these people were disrespecting them or disregarding them or not following through on conversations and requests. Having experienced this myself, it makes it very hard to want to put any extra effort out for those people in the future, which ultimately goes back to underlying trust issues, or completely destroyed trust altogether. Trust is so very easy to break and so very hard to rebuild. It only takes one or two situations before trust starts to erode, and can take dozens before any trust begins to be reestablished.

I think a lot of how this goes depends on the leadership and how well they manage things as they develop, as well as the medical and scientific community and how they are able to catch on and respond to the spread. If both of those communities respond well and are supportive and strong as we work through this virus, I think we’ll have a better chance of keeping the trust we have in our fellow humans and returning to life as normal after. If not, I dread to think about having fear as the underlying emotion when we interact with each other.

Regardless, it could be a lot of work to rebuild our world after this virus passes, and my hope is that we’re up for the challenge and not going to let it beat us down. Long after the virus passes though we’ll still have to work on our relationships and the trust or lack thereof in them. Is it an honesty issue? Is it a (simple) communication issue? Is it a fear issue? It’s so easy to hurt others and so hard to fix those relationships. I’d say it’s more important than ever to work on our relationships and our consciousness of how we are when we’re with others.

United by Destiny

One of the ways that we can create more victories in our lives and in the world is by working together. For some this is a large challenge, because they’re more independent and often do their best work alone. I totally understand, because I prefer to do a lot on my own rather than working with others. But as I’ve said before, we weren’t created to be alone, we were created to live with others, not to mention that most of us wouldn’t survive without the others who contribute with things like food or gas or home construction.

But there’s a big difference between needing someone to contribute to (your) lifestyle or make the world work better, and giving everyone a voice and everyone thriving. And, as has become more evident over the past few decades what one person or business does greatly affects the other people living on the planet, not to mention the natural resources and animals of the planet as well. Destruction of natural resources without any replacement or sustainability plan brings us closer to systematic failure of life as we know it. So it’s important that we learn how to work together.

Therein comes the challenge often though, is that we don’t want to work with everyone, and we don’t like everyone, and we don’t work well with everyone. If you can get along with everyone on some level, great, but that’s not the reality for most people. So what if instead of worrying over the need to work with everyone to make the world a better place, you worked with the people you work best with and let others work with those they work best with? The great thing about being so connected and so diverse is that we’ve got lots of people and ways to connect and make the world not only more sustainable, but help everyone thrive. There’s no way you could do everything to save the world, so why not focus and let your individuality and uniqueness and passions work for you, and let others do the same?

Maybe by doing our own parts and making our own networks, as we connect those networks together, maybe even relying on the theory of the 6 degrees of separation, we’ll finally be able to achieve a more consistent level of peace and unity.

“We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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

Reality Reflection: Tit for Tat

Sometimes I wonder if we ever grow up, or if we are just children in bigger bodies. In addition to pondering this topic because of seasonal activities, I was reading the morning headlines the other day and it talked about how the US was planning some tariffs, which could result in a tit-for-tat trade war. I understand the concept of credit card fees, loan fees, repayment schedules, jail, probation, time outs, restrictions, trial runs, and contracts, just to name a few. We need rules and guidelines to make this world run without everyone doing whatever they want, to make sure that no one is persecuted or abused, and give everyone access to freedoms (unless they prove they’re not able to respect them). There’s really no such thing as a free ride, and we should be better at accepting that the only guarantees in life are death, taxes and change.

Getting back to the topic for today, there are different ways of dealing with things that don’t go our way or don’t go as expected. There’s the pointing finger, childishly high voice, throwing dirt way of telling on someone or dealing with a problem, and then there’s the mostly calm and rational discussion and negotiation option. A company may advertise that a product is back in stock, but there are limits to everything and a company certainly can’t guarantee unlimited supplies of a season’s most popular product, food or beverage, regardless of how much people may request it, or the tantrums they throw when it’s not available.

Bottom line, tit-for-tat rarely works out in anyone’s favor. Most often it ends up in more hurt feelings, more damage to undo and a mountain of new problems that weren’t there in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with going after what you want or what you think is right, or standing up for what you believe in. But if you’re really working towards a better future for not just yourself and your family but those you share the planet with, you can’t let hurt feelings, any sense of entitlement or inflated pride take a starring role in the efforts.  The next time you think about doing tit for tat, think twice about how it could come flying back in your face.