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?

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Choosing Compassion

I always find it interesting that the Bible is so full of topics that challenge us if we take any amount of time to really study them. From love and war to relationships and faith, the Bible is filled from cover to cover with unique situations, emotions and unique people who lived real lives and faced real challenges; many of those challenges, emotions and situations are things we face in our lives today. While most of us don’t have to walk to a well or river to get water and buy bread or flour at the food store, we still have to navigate relationships, governments, war, love, hate, jealousy, death and birth just like they did.

One of the things that comes through really clearly in the Bible is how people worked through the challenges in their lives. It’s something we study in history books as we look at historic presidents and leaders and famous inventors, but we read about more of the “normal” people in the Bible. We see how they navigate through potentially thorny relationships (think about Mary being pregnant with Jesus and Joseph initially planning to divorce her in the New Testament), we learn how they deal with bad news (Eli learned that his sons weren’t good and that God was going to judge them in 1 Samuel 3 and accepted it as God’s will), and we learn how they work hard because they love their families (Ruth worked hard in the fields to care for her mother-in-law Naomi).

The question is that we’ll all face challenges, but how will we choose to work through them? Will we work through them with frustration and anger, bashing things around, shoving others and pushing just because we’re unhappy with how things are going? Or will we choose to be compassionate to yourself and the people in your life? Because even if you’re facing a challenge and you didn’t ask for that challenge or put yourself in a position to receive that challenge you’ve still got a choice with how you’re going to deal with it. Will you choose compassion and patience like Jesus so often did or will you get angry at the world for what they’ve forced on you?

“The clearest and prevailing reason why Jesus did what he did and said what he said was because of his compassion for others, his tender loving mercy. Pray for the people whom you could be glad you are not like. Pray for them until you are ready to receive them knocking at the door of your heart.” Br. Curtis Almquist

Reality Reflection: Focusing on the Real Issue

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.

Doing the Right Thing

Last week in my weekly devotional I talked about the topic of guilt.  Do you feel guilty often?  I think most of us are human enough that we do feel guilt from time to time and feel bad about the things we’ve done or choices we’ve made. We should feel guilty about sins we commit and people we hurt because it means that God is working in us, and we recognize when we do things we shouldn’t.  Today I wasn’t planning on talking about guilt, but about doing the right thing.

Do you sometimes choose to do the right thing because you know it will be the easy thing?  That rather than maybe getting caught for cutting corners or having to redo things you just do the right thing the first time? I know I do.   I like shortcuts as much as the next person, but sometimes those shortcuts aren’t so short and it’s just easier to do the right thing the first time.

What about doing the right thing because it feels good? What about treating others with respect because that’s how you want to be treated? What about doing things for the right reason period?  What about doing the right thing because God says to in the Bible?  This week I challenge you to do the right thing.  Treat others with respect, go the extra mile to do things right, do things right the first time, say ‘thank you’ and ‘bless you’ often and choose to make a difference doing right not only because it will feel good, but because it’s what God calls His people to do.

“So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”  Acts 24:16

The Win-Win-Win of Teamwork

This month’s topic is teamwork and it’s everywhere I look!  We’re seeing lots of divides and coming together over some really challenging topics and events, from the ruling on marriage to the deaths in Charleston.  Teamwork is many things: it means we’re not alone, it means we don’t have to be everything for everyone, it means that we can win more often and it means that others can win more often too.  Teamwork is one of the best ways to create more win-win-win situations.  You’ve probably heard about win-win situations, in which both parties involved can win, but when you get to win-win-win decisions it means that not only are both parties satisfied with the outcome, they’re also aware of how their wins affect others in the greater world and have done their best to make it a good thing for them too.

Some of my most satisfying teamwork experiences come from the missions/charity work I’ve done in the past.  Seeing the joy on a child’s face because you chose to partner with them or give them something they didn’t have before or the transformation you were able to make for a family who had very little by building or doing something is a huge reward.  It’s not always about what you get out of being part of the team, it’s about the difference you can make for someone else.

And it’s when you’re in it for someone else that the greatest impact can be had on your life without you even trying, which is why some of those missions/charity work made such an impact on my life.  Giving back is one of the quickest ways to remind yourself that you’re not alone but that you’re part of something much bigger than you see on a regular basis.  As connected as we are through the internet these days we’re also really isolated and in our own worlds, but it’s through teamwork that we regain our perspective and discover exactly how much world there is out there beyond us.

“Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.” Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Spirit of Service

As people of faith we’re here with a very important purpose, one that may seem insignificant at times, and others may seem too big: the purpose of being of service. Service is something I’ve made a study of over the past 10 years or so, I’ve spent time observing how different churches and parishioners view service, how individuals serve, and even the different ways we can be of service outside of spiritual boxes. Sometimes we’re of service just by being kind and greeting a neighbor, other times it’s a very spiritual service where we’re praying over someone very ill, and sometimes it doesn’t even look like service in a traditional definition, like when we make a donation to a faith-based organization.

Yet, I do believe we’re called to be of service in whatever way we can be at that time. While it may look different, the goal is always the same: to spread the love of Jesus. This is what Jesus asked us to do in the Great Commission, what He spent His time on earth showing through His actions and what He has always asked those that call themselves God’s Children to do.

It happens through a humble and willing heart, someone willing to be used to care for someone else in some, however small, way.  To do what you can to alleviate the suffering and stress of others around the world, and show them that they haven’t been forgotten. Sometimes you’ll need to pray for strength to do what God has called you to do, other times it will feel like you’re not doing enough. But that you are willing and do what God has asked you to do is what matters.

Who will you serve this week?

“Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow men and women throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them, through our hands, this day their daily bread, and by our compassionate love, give them peace and joy. Amen.” Rev. Peter Schineller

Support through the Struggle

This week more has become clear about the plane crash in Europe, apparently the man responsible was dealing with some personal things and mental health issues, and as a result chose to not only kill himself but take 149 other people with him as well. I can understand wanting to be rid of the world, especially if your body and/or mind is really at war with you. I can understand not wanting to suffer through years of debilitating illnesses, or not being able to deal with the weight of the darkness around you. There is evil in the world, there are thousands of reasons for your body’s chemistry to get messed up or your mind to get lines crossed. But what I can’t understand is being insensitive enough to take others with you.

This week is a journey in the Church from pain to healing with Good Friday and Easter. We recognize that in this imperfect world that we live in there will be pain and suffering, at least until Jesus comes back again. For now we’re given the promise of the resurrection, and that has to be enough to get us through and remind us of what Jesus really taught while on earth: loving each other.

With as big of a figure and leader as Jesus was He could have done or said anything, but He chose to teach about love. He chose to accept and love those that others saw as unlovable and unacceptable. Jesus chose not to cause suffering and spread hate, but to spread joy and peace.

It’s not unacceptable or wrong to struggle, that’s not my point at all, in fact it’s natural and we all deal with it at one point in time or another (or more than once).  If you are dealing with darkness it’s important to get help and counsel before making any really big decisions. And it’s important for those of us who aren’t struggling to not judge those who are because we’ve all been there or will be there.

What will be your choice this week? Will you choose to spread love and support or isolate with anger and narrow-minded views?

“We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.” Charlie Chaplin