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?

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Reminders from God

Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we forget to stop and take a moment, or we’re so focused on one direction that we can’t see the way God is trying to lead us.  Let’s take a look at some of the reminders in the Bible:

There’s a lot we can’t see, and a lot to hope for:
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Use your words wisely:
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”  Proverbs 15:1

Live with joy:
“I will be filled with joy because of you.  I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:2

If God can forgive and be merciful, can’t we?:
“But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love.”  Nehemiah 9:7b

God saves us, leads us and teaches us:
“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”  Psalm 25:5

God is generous, gracious, and loving:
“Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.”  1 Timothy 1:14

We belong to God, and are to worship Him:
“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship…”  Acts 27:23 ESV

Choose patience:
“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.”  Ecclesiastes 7:8

Don’t give up:
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  Philippians 3:14

Each of our days include thousands of interactions, experiences and relationships, each with the potential to teach us something, help us heal in some way, make us a better person, put us in a position to help someone else, or reveal another aspect of who God is to us and who we are to Him.  It’s up to us to be open to where life takes us and where God sends us, and to pay attention to what’s going on around us.  What has God shared with you recently?

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.

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?

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