Faith for the Ages

This month we celebrate(d) days that speak to a whole variety of people. We had the holidays of Labor Day on the 3rd and Grandparents’ Day on the 9th, and coming up on the 26th is See You At The Pole Day, which is a day that students gather around the flagpole at their school and pray. One of the most awesome things about faith and spirituality is that it’s something for everyone. It’s not something that only young people are interested in or only senior citizens, or only people from one country or only people of one language, it’s something that can speak to anyone at any time throughout their lives.

The Bible begins with chosen groups of people, from Noah’s family to Abraham’s family to Joseph’s family to David’s family, all part of a chosen group of people: the Israelites, as those who are “God’s people”. Then in the New Testament things get turned on their heads and we’ve suddenly got Jesus dying for everyone’s sins, and then Peter dreams of a sheet of animals in Acts 10 which blows the field open more specifically and clearly saying that anyone and everyone is able to access Eternal Life through Jesus.

All of this says there’s never a wrong time to start to get to know God or to rebuild your relationship with Him. There’s nothing going on in your life that God hasn’t been through with someone else before. There’s nothing you can tell Him that will surprise Him. You can share the Good News with anyone whenever God gives you an opportunity. You can have your new day whenever you need it. Grandparents can sit and read Bible stories with grandchildren.  Partners can read together.  Parents and children can read together.  Anyone can join a Bible study and develop their faith and their faith community.  What have you learned and how has your faith journey changed as you’ve grown?

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Raising Awareness

Whether you know it or not each month there are months, weeks and days designated to raising awareness of illnesses, cancers, or other issues that many people face, whether we talk about them or not. This week is National Suicide Prevention week, and over the next 2 months we’ve also got Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, National Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month, World Alzheimer’s Month, Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month, and Mental Illness Awareness Week, and a couple dozen other awareness events too. Simply put there are a lot of issues going on in the lives of the people around us at any given time. No one should ever feel that they’re alone in facing the issues they deal with.

In many situations there’s absolutely nothing that could have been done to prevent someone from facing the issue. You don’t really choose to deal with these issues personally, and you don’t wish that anyone in your circle of family and friends ever has to deal with these issues. There also aren’t answers to all of the issues, although each of these awareness days/weeks/months are yet another opportunity to raise awareness (and funding) to understand and conquer these issues.

Awareness is such a key step to healing and conquering the issues because there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty around many of these issues. If everyone were either more educated or more willing to be educated about these issues they wouldn’t seem quite as scary or weird and there would be a lot more friendliness and support available for everyone.

If you or someone you know is facing one of the issues I mentioned above, or any of the countless other issues there are, I encourage you to do some research so you better understand what you/they are facing and then talk about everyone getting the support that they need to live a fulfilling and rewarding life regardless of the challenges they face.

What issues are you raising awareness for?

Reality Reflection: Salute the Flag

Thursday here in the US was Flag Day. The US flag, like some of the other flags around the world is iconic. It’s a flag that many people recognize, even though it’s only looked exactly like it does since 1960. The flag has actually been redesigned 26 times since 1777, and what’s stuck around for all the versions are both the strips and the colors. The current flag is awesome because it honors the past and the present, with the 50 stars representing the 50 states, and the 13 stripes representing the original 13 colonies.

I think the fact that it’s developed and changed over time is also an important reflection on our country. It means that we’ve become our own country (the original flag looked pretty similar to the Britain one where the original colonists were from). We’ve developed our own personality, our own values, and struggled through our own challenges. And we’re still growing, learning, and changing.

Our flag is a symbol of what we’ve been and who we are now, as well as a reminder that we’re strongest and greatest when we work together. Days like Flag Day are opportunities for us to show that we’re part of that nation and proud of it. So whether you get some small flags to stick in your lawn or hang in a window, or are able to hang one from your home or garage, make sure you’re ready for the 4th of July, the next opportunity to show your pride in the USA.

Taking Time to Listen

Given the events of the last week as well as the big meeting between two world powers happening somewhere half way around the world, today I thought we’d take a look at the words of Proverbs 8:33: “Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it.”

My heart hurts whenever someone chooses to end their life before God has determined it’s their time. The world lost two public figures last week to suicide, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. While we may never know what truly caused them to make that decision, many who choose suicide do so because they don’t have hope, don’t believe life could get better, don’t feel heard or have been so beaten down they can’t take it anymore. Statistics show that on average over 100 people choose suicide each day, which is a really scary number, and means there are thousands of hurting families out there.

The Bible teaches us that we should love our neighbors, that we should be giving and support each other, that we should look out for women and children, to trust that the God who knows the petals on a flower and all the creatures of the sea could look out for the little details of our lives, and that God has a plan for good for our lives. But these are not assurances that everyone knows because not everyone knows the Bible.

These aren’t just spiritual messages, they’re life messages. Anyone can love, listen and be compassionate, regardless of race, sex, age, location, or language. Are you taking the time to listen to the people in your life? To the ways they’re trying to help you and things they’re trying to tell you? I encourage you to choose love and compassion this week, to stop and listen when people speak, to make time to listen to what God is trying to tell you, and make time for those who are most important to you.

Standing Strong to Make A Difference

As I’ve been thinking about our topic of the month (strength/courage/bravery) and one of my other favorite topics, victories, I had what may seem like an obvious epiphany, but here it is: it’s through using our individual strengths that we’re able to make a difference in the world. It’s not by bringing my weaknesses to the table that I can help others, that I can make the world better for the next generation, or I can have a happier life, it’s by standing on my strengths.

I can’t avoid or completely erase my weaknesses (although I can improve on them), but I can rely on other people’s strengths to help me with my weaknesses or to support me where my skills or resources aren’t as good as theirs. I don’t believe we have to be perfect people or good at every single thing. It’s OK to bring our own skills and strengths to a project but not be able to do the entire project on our own. There are tons of short cuts and supports that have been created in our modern age from “supermarket short cuts” that help us cut cooking time down, to tech templates that allow us to do some of the online design work but not have to do it all, to search engines that give us answers with a few taps or clicks with no trips to the library required (unless you want to!).

The question really is will you bring your strengths to the table for the good of everyone, or will you keep them just for yourself? While I don’t think we have to help everyone with everything, I do think we need to give back and make a difference in the world. Lawyers can donate a couple of hours a month to helping non-profits, doctors can donate a couple of hours to free clinics, teachers can donate a couple of hours to inner city students or those with learning disabilities, parents can donate a couple of hours to single parents in their neighborhood to watch their kids, and business owners can donate a couple of hours to helping veterans learn a trade or start a business. Not to mention that everyone can recycle, plant a tree, share information with the police or crimestoppers, help someone cross the street, pay for someone’s coffee, or say something nice to someone on social media.

You know what you’re good at, you know what you enjoy. How will you take your strengths and use them for good in the world?

Reality Reflection: One Small Person

This weekend in the US we’re celebrating Memorial Day. It’s a time we take each year to remember and honor the people who have made a huge personal sacrifice, as well as remember and thank their families who have suffered too with their loss. Every so often in the news we hear about one service member being killed or having died as part of whatever conflict they were working on. And maybe we think that one doesn’t sound like a lot, or it doesn’t seem that serious. And in some ways it’s not, because it is only one person and there are many others who are still out there fighting for our country and innocent people around the world.

But the simple fact is one person can have a huge impact on the world, even if that impact seems quite small. For example one soldier may save one child’s life and it seems small in the short run, but to that child’s family and who they may become in the future it is and could be huge.

With each word, action and attitude we each choose, we can make a positive or negative difference in the world, one that can be small or large. Sometimes it’s necessary to be part of a group to really see the impact, like with the Ice Bucket Challenge a few years ago. But often we can see the difference with only our own actions, like when we help someone pick up things they’ve dropped or share some encouragement with someone.

This Memorial Day I encourage you to step up. Don’t let the sacrifice that men, women and their families have made go to waste. And don’t forget to let those you love know that you love them, because you may not get another chance to tell them.

Earth Day Encouragement

Earth Day is less than a week away, and as I was reflecting on some of the earth/nature related Bible verses, the earth related events I know about coming up this weekend, about tax time, and still about Easter which is only a few weeks ago, I was reminded that it all eventually circles back to one thing: community.

Let me explain. Yes, the Bible tells of God doing things for just one or a few people, but Easter is really about everyone, not just one person or a few people. Everyone pays taxes, because it’s too big of a burden for just one person to take care of. The earth is something we all share and we’re all going to either keep it or lose it depending on how we live on it. As much as we’re all individuals and God sees us that way and has individual relationships with each of us, we’re all still part of a body of believers and called to meet together, care for each other and love each other.

Earth Day is one of those things that individually we’re responsible for doing our part to pay better attention to how we live on the earth as well as make sure we give back to the earth. But it’s only when we look at our collective effort that we can really see the difference over the years since 1970 when Earth Day officially began. It’s only when we recycle all year long, and not just on Earth Day, that we’ll make a difference. It’s only when we consistently choose the environmentally friendly choices that we begin to see a difference.

The same is true for our faith communities. You may not think you’re doing much only talking with one person about what faith means to you, but when many people are talking with others about their faith, not only does the Great commission not seem so overwhelming, but it actually looks like we’re making progress spreading the word.

So today I encourage you not to give up. Don’t be disheartedned if you don’t see your personal efforts having huge effects. Take the time to be part of your community and see what your community is doing to make a difference in the world, both your local community for Earth Day and your church community for the Great Commission. I’m not suggesting that when you see everyone else is doing the work that you let others do all the work and don’t give a personal effort, but rather be encouraged that the work you’re doing in connection with the work they’re doing is making a difference.

“Sometimes—by sheer determination–we can just kick the stone away from the door of the tomb and march out triumphantly into Resurrection Life. More often, we must wait: wait for circumstances to change, wait upon on God, wait on others for help. When Lazarus was called out of the tomb, Jesus said: “unbind him.” You –you friends and family of Lazarus—you unbind him. Sometimes we cannot unbind ourselves, but have to wait for others to help us into freedom.” Br. Mark Brown