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

Learning to Lead

Today I wanted to share a few thoughts about being a leader.  You may not want to be the biggest CEO on the planet, the person known around the world for some amazing act or the next president, but in our own small ways each of us wants to be a leader.  And, even more important, each of us does lead, even if we’re not aware of it.  Let’s briefly look at 9 ways you stand out as a leader and ways you can improve yourself and be a better leader in whatever capacity you desire.

You honestly love people: this means you’re happy to help people, encourage them, strengthen them and don’t enjoy cutting them down or hurting them.  You also aren’t putting on a show for the world around, you really love people (well, just about everyone).

You look for opportunities to help: this is one of the things that stands out to indicate that you’re a leader.  When you’re actively helping others people take notice and know you’re trustworthy and reliable.

You inspire people: leaders don’t just give orders, they inspire their people to be better, stronger, happier and lead fuller lives.

You’re available: people know that you’re just a phone call, text or Facebook message away and that you’ll answer them and help them work through the situations they face, or just be a shoulder to cry on.

You give people hope: you’re not one of those glass-half-empty people, you honestly believe that there is hope for the world, that there is a better future for the next generation and that together we can make a difference.

You’re generous: this goes beyond being available and looking for opportunities to help, this means that you’re willing to, and do, go over and above the needs of the situation.  You’re always the first one there to help, first one to bring over dinner, and first to call with support.  You also give with no intention of being repaid for your generosity.

You’re humble: this is a tough one for many people, they like their kind deeds and efforts recognized.  And we all do need recognition, it’s part of our innate needs for life and survival.  Humility doesn’t mean that you’re not recognized, it means that you don’t do things for the recognition and don’t put in the effort to make sure you’re recognized either.

You see the best in others: this is one of my favorite things about being a leader, being willing and able to see what others aren’t willing to see in themselves, and inspiring them to bring out those capabilities.

You share: the world of 2015 is a big one.  The internet and technology gives us so many more options than we had even 50 years ago.  There are fewer limits than ever on our potential.  We each have our own ways of sharing, whether sitting on a board, writing a blog or in a church group.  But each of us does share our experiences, our wisdom and our knowledge with the world.

What will you do to be a better leader today?

Trapped by Lies or Freed by Truth?

One of the things that annoys me most is when people feel they can’t make mistakes.  Let’s get this straight for once and all: no one is perfect.  Everyone makes mistakes at some point in time or another.  The issue is that we can’t accept that it’s OK to make mistakes and for others to make mistakes.  The fact that Christians are expected to be perfect is absolute garbage.  There are no perfect Christians, not in church or out.  The sooner we accept that we’re surrounded by people who make mistakes and have room for improvement the better off we will be.

But because we haven’t all accepted that it’s OK to not be perfect, some people feel it is necessary to lie or omit the truth so that they appear as if they have it all together.  This usually does more harm than any intended good, and is one of the main reasons Christians have been given the often truthful ‘hypocrite’ label.  Yes, there is value in not showing up for life in the dirty sweats that show how you really feel about things right now, and showing courage and being willing to push forward through your struggles.  The value disappears when you put on that front to create the illusion that there are no issues beyond what you may see.

Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong!  Lies don’t help you move forward in life or get closer to God, they hurt you! When you present a lie to the world or omit important details you damage your relationships, diminish your professionalism, decrease your chances for success and do the opposite of what God wants you to do.

It’s not always easy to tell the truth and be honest, I get that.  It’s not easy to tell others that you screwed up, that you need help or that you’re struggling.  But the sooner we start taking those steps, the sooner we will feel better about our lives, have healthier relationships and accomplish our goals.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32

Feeling Judged?

Over the years Christians have gotten a bad rap, and for some really good reasons. We’ve definitely not been the example of Christ that we were supposed to be. No one is perfect but some of us have tried harder over the last couple of decades to really be a better example of what it means to be Christ-like. It’s challenging though because we’re still human and have our moments of weakness and imperfection. However, instead of seeing it as something we can all relate or connect with, it’s become something wrong; as if we have to be perfect all the time or we can’t be Christians.

If you look at the Bible there are many examples of Jesus connecting with and treasuring people who were less than perfect. Why aren’t we able to follow His example? Do the judgments that we seem to hold against each other really do us that much good?

I’m pretty sure that I never got anywhere or felt good by holding a grudge, passing a very negative judgment on someone or being unforgiving. In fact, during times when I struggle with those feelings other areas of my life suffer as well. What will it take for us to realize that it’s our own fault often that we’re held back from living the lives we all dream of?

Unfortunately, as long as there are people in the world our worth will be questioned. Maybe they’ll mean well and really just want to help, but it can still hurt to be questioned. Some of the comments will help us grow as people and become closer to the person God created us to be. Other times it will be best to just let it go and get refocused on who we know we are.

When the chance comes up to hurt or help, choose to set a good example, religious or not. Be an upstanding, humble, helpful person whenever possible.

“A Christian reveals true humility by showing the gentleness of Christ, by being always ready to help others, by speaking kind words and performing unselfish acts, which elevate and ennoble the most sacred message that has come to our world.” Ellen G. White

Fruit of Freedom

This past week in the USA we’ve celebrated Independence Day, and the freedoms we’re blessed with as a nation.  As I was thinking about who we are as a nation and those freedoms, I was reminded of Galatians 5:1, 22-23 which reads:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery….But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Faith in Christ is based on some very simple concepts, concepts seen in these verses, concepts that should be fairly easy to incorporate into and be guided by in our lives.  The Fruit of the Spirit are a big part of what makes us free as believers.  They’re also qualities that should be part of every human life, not just those with faith in Jesus.  What has happened that these aren’t essential to who we are anymore, but instead our bank accounts and job successes are?

Like this verse says, I think we’ve gotten ourselves tied down with things that ultimately don’t matter, and have forgotten what really does.  Yes, to an extent I’m talking about spiritual truths. But I’m really talking about basic concepts of human nature that seem to be missing in many relationships and individuals’ lives.    Many of us don’t know how to speak with another person with decency and courtesy, don’t seem to care about consequences of their actions, and don’t do their part in spreading peace.

This week I encourage you to put these qualities back in your life.  I’m not assuming you’re someone who doesn’t live by these, maybe you are.  But I am confident that you have  moments of weakness and forgetfulness like I do.  Maybe a reminder like these cool stair decals or this plaque are just what you need.  I don’t know about you, but I think the world would be a better place if we all lived more by these Fruit.  And the only way to make that happen is if we first start living that way ourselves.

Accepting Abundance

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

These verses speak about one of the hardest challenges we face throughout our lives: acceptance.  It’s very hard for us to accept the truth about someone, the truth about what we believe, the truth about ourselves and the truth about our future.  One of the hardest acts of acceptance is related to abundance and receiving what is given to us.  Whether pride gets in our way or we just refuse to accept good stuff when it comes to us, we’ve gotten bad at accepting reality when we’re approached by it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in hope and second chances.  I believe we all have the strength and ability to make drastic changes in our lives so we don’t need charity and we can be generous with others.  I encourage you to be able to be self sufficient, not needing others to provide for your needs.

The challenge then comes in when we do have needs and can’t meet them by ourselves.  I believe the one of the biggest blessings in this world comes from the people around us. It’s relieving, even thrilling, to know that I don’t have to know how my computer works when I turn it on in the morning, or how to fix my car if it isn’t working right, there are others who can take care of that.  But it’s up to me to accept that I need their help and ask for it when the situation arises.

Accepting who you are, where you are, what you are, and what you can and can’t change about life are challenging. It’s not easy to get past or through that pride and sufficiency to relying on others. But when you know they can be depended on and have built a network where it’s not a burden for you to rely on each other, but rather a joy, the abundance that will fill your life and theirs will be such a blessing.

Hank Aaron’s Success Smarts

Today we’re taking a look at some inspiration and wisdom from baseball great Hank Aaron.  I found 4 quotes that really spoke to me so today’s post is a bit longer, but each reflection is brief.

“I never doubted my ability, but when you hear all your life you’re inferior, it makes you wonder if the other guys have something you’ve never seen before. If they do, I’m still looking for it.”
There are lots of people in life who will tell you that you can’t accomplish anything or that your goals are too big and you’ll never make it.  These people feed on the rush that they feel when you look disappointed or give up on your dreams.  Hank realized that sometimes its up to you to believe in yourself, and never give up on learning how to be a better person.

“Failure is a part of success.”
Somewhere along the line failure became a dirty word.  People don’t like to be failures, and I can understand that because failure is not only frustrating, it doesn’t feel very good!  But Hank Aaron is absolutely right, failure is a crucial part of success.  While some people will get it right the first time, they’re in the very small minority.  Don’t give up just because you had a failure.

“The thing I like about baseball is that it’s one-on-one. You stand up there alone, and if you make a mistake, it’s your mistake. If you hit a home run, it’s your home run.”
Ultimately no one else matters, your success and happiness is totally up to you.  It’s your responsibility to make your dreams happen, not anyone else’s.  So when you’re struggling, it’s up to you to get help or move on.  In the same truth, it’s totally OK to celebrate the victories you make happen, as well as those who helped you make it happen.

“I’m hoping someday that some kid, black or white, will hit more home runs than myself. Whoever it is, I’d be pulling for him.”
This is a great and very healthy perspective for life.  Hank Aaron had big goals and did accomplish great things as a baseball player. I’m sure he was proud of what he did and celebrated his accomplishments. But he had a very realistic view of the future: he knew that there would be someone bigger and better than him, and he celebrated them.

Today I encourage you to go out there and be the best you you can be!  Listen to constructive criticism, get up after a failure knocks you down, take responsibility for your life and celebrate what you’ve done and what others will do too.