Reality Reflection: Who will you be at 92?

With much of the world looking at England for the Royal Wedding, my ear was caught by a couple of statements made not about the royal couple, but about the Queen. I’m not a huge history person, nor am I really on top of all that goes on in England, but every statement I heard in the days surrounding the wedding regarding the queen were positive, which is a huge statement about who she is and how she has ruled.

The first statement that stood out to me was regarding her fashion choices. According to those who pay attention to these things, her fashion statement has always been “I need to be bright,” and her fashion choice for the wedding certainly was that, and you couldn’t miss her in the bright green outfit she wore. But it’s far more than just a fashion choice in my book. I think the bright fashion choices not only help her to stand out, but they’re a reminder to her, and the world if they pay attention, that we’re at our best when we’re being bright lights in the world.

The second statement was regarding that at age 21 she gave a birthday speech and in it she said I “shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family…” That’s far different than saying ‘I will lead this country’ or ‘I will be the best leader I can be’ or anything along those lines. It’s really a statement about how she chooses to put others first and considers their needs/worries/concerns/hurts. And it’s a statement that she has lived up to, and something she has passed on to her children and grandchildren.

When you’re 92 what will people say about you? Will they smile and think of the cheer you brought to the world, way you uplifted others, and the service that you led? What will they remember you for?

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Are You Memorable?

Most of us spend a good portion of our days with other people, whether we’re talking with them thanks to technology or interacting with them in a more physical way like driving the same road, shopping in the same store, working in an office or living in the same house together. It’s both a blessing and a challenge that we’re so connected and have so many people in our lives. Some of the people that you’ll spend time with you may never really know or ever see again after that one interaction, while other people you’ll see again and again throughout your life journey. Most of us meet so many people that we don’t fully remember them, what they said, who they were, their name or where we know them from when we first met them, but if we meet up with them again we may remember them for two reasons: how they acted and how they made us feel.

Some people are just memorable people. Maybe it’s because of how they dress or the accent they have or the funny/tragic/bizarre story of how you two met. Sometimes many years later we’ll still tell the story of meeting that person and what went on even if we don’t ever see them again or know their name. But for most of us the people who seem memorable in the moment quickly become a memory. We move on and meet other memorable people, people who do add to our life journey, experience and lesson in their own way, even if we don’t really remember them.

The people we remember in crystal clarity even decades later are those who made us feel stand-out special or like dirt. Maybe it’s the school teacher who showed such love, grace and compassion on all the students in your class, and you knew that you’d always see a welcome smile on their face and cheery welcome, even if the rest of your life wasn’t great. Maybe it’s the boss who consistently talks down to you, has a nasty attitude towards you and doesn’t accept your ideas even when they asked for suggestions. Both of these situations are such that you have repeated interactions with the person and really get a good idea of who they are, not just the snapshot you get when you meet someone once. But sometimes you will only meet someone once and it’s a lifetime experience, like meeting the CEO of the really big company you work for and they make you feel like you’re not just one of thousands, but that you personally make a valuable contribution to the company.  Or you meet the person who’s been your hero from afar (sports stars, celebrities, leaders etc.) only to be completely dismissed by them.

How do you treat people? How do they feel after interacting with you? What will they remember you for? I know I would rather bring a little sunshine to someone than ruin their day, what about you?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Celebrating the Saints

Today, November 1 is known as All Saints Day in some religious circles.  Technically, “saints” are all those who have attained heaven.  However, most people traditionally associate this day with remembering those officially declared as Saints (St. Patrick, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux etc.).  I think that this is an important day to recognize because the Spiritual Leaders, the people who are officially Sainted, are those who we should be looking to for guidance and wisdom about how to live our lives and grow our faith.

You may think that there isn’t a lot of point to talking about the same people all the time, whether we’re talking about Saints or people from the Bible like Abraham, David and Paul.  Or that because we spend so much time talking about them we don’t take the time to talk about the  things that the regular people are doing with their faith like you and me.  I get that, and I agree that we don’t take time to recognize the faith of the individual as we should, and sometimes feel that we’re so busy putting spiritual leaders on pedestals and figure that we could never measure up, which makes us forget that they’re human just like us.

But the simple fact is the faith of the world is built on people both large and small, people who have world-wide stages, and those who just share their faith with a few.  Yes, we’re all called to spread the word about God to the nations, but we’re not all called to do it in the same way.  We each do things differently and while we’re not all created to be a “Spiritual Leader,” we are all called to use the different gifts and talents God has given us to spread the word in our own way.

Everyone needs guidance, and the Spiritual Leaders like the Saints are there to give us the strength, courage and guidance to know how to handle situations.  Don’t be afraid to look to those who have more wisdom and experience, instead celebrate that they were given that gift, that responsibility, and take the opportunity to learn from them rather than rejecting them because they are too well known or you figure you’ve heard it all before.

Remembering The Liberator

July 18th was the birthday of one of the great men of the world: Nelson Mandela (celebrated as “Mandela Day”). No one is perfect (Mandela included), but he’s someone who showed throughout his life that he was a true leader. A 2013 article on Mandela called him a “Dissident, Liberator and Statesman.” Those are 3 big titles that all say something important about who he was, but the one I wanted to focus on today is “liberator.”

Mandela knew what it was to be not free, he spent 27 years in prison for his efforts to make South Africa a better place for people. Some people, having had his experience, would throw in the towel and spend the rest of their years quietly, thankful to be free. But Mandela never gave up on his dreams of and plans for a better life for himself and the people he loved, and people around the world too.

We take time each year to remember people like Nelson Mandela and the dreams they had for a reason, a reason that seems more important than ever with the violence over the past few weeks and months around the world. People like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, and countless other men and women who have passed on would not be proud of the people some of us have become. I think they would be happy to see that some thing have changed and are changing for the better, but sad that we are fighting on many of the same things that should have already been addressed, and creating issues that shouldn’t be issues and haven’t been in the past.

What it comes down to is that the world is always in need of more people like Nelson Mandela. You don’t have to be in a traditional position of power to make a difference, you have to decide that you’re going to give your best effort to fixing or alleviating the problem(s) you see in the world. Whether you make that effort in jail, on the street, in your office, in a school, or as a president doesn’t matter. What matters is that you choose to step up and let people know that they too can be liberated and choose what they want to make out of life.

First and Last

In the US we’re really gearing up for the November elections.  Candidates are being finalized, sides are being chosen (or rechosen), and people are hoping that the person of their choice will look good to the rest of the country and be the person who ultimately wins.  It’s gotten me thinking a lot about winners and losers, and about first and last place.  I’m not big on competition.  I know it can be good for some things, but personally I prefer to work together rather than against people whenever possible.  I know that there isn’t one candidate that we can all agree on, that’s part of the reason it’s a democracy.  But I also know that what seems like a victory for one person or one “side” doesn’t have to mean a total loss for the other.

For example, just because your team loses the game, it doesn’t mean they’ll lose the season or that they couldn’t have a personal best number of points in that game.  Or just because you didn’t win the cook-off at the fair, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be picked up by a national brand or get great publicity anyway.  Or just because you lost this round, it doesn’t mean you can’t win the next.

And sometimes being first isn’t a good thing, especially if you are one of the first people to try something new it might have some major flaws and you’ll experience loss or frustration instead of the great experience you were expecting.

What I think the US needs, and the rest of the world as well, is more working together and less violence and fighting.  Competition is one thing, hatred and senseless killing is another.  Now is not the time to see who can come out on top of whatever war is being fought, now is the time to learn to work together and bring together all our differences.  Choose not to be first or last in the war but to help others make it through to another day alive and healthy.  As brothers and sisters of Christ we’re called to lead the way to a better tomorrow, and that tomorrow doesn’t start with more violence or hatred, but with more love.

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  Matthew 20:16

A Patriotic Celebration

I’m in a patriotic mood with July 4th, Independence Day, being today in the US.  So it’s got me thinking about the nation we live in, the other nations around the world, the nation of Israel and nations of Jesus’ day, and about the nation that is yet to come when we get to Heaven/when Christ comes back.  With the exception of the nation yet to come, within every nation there are times of unrest and change. I don’t know about you but I’ve been following the news about the UK vote to leave the EU last month and you can’t help but hear about the presidential election we’re gearing up for in November here in the US.  Both are of interest to me because they indicate that people have a desire for something different, that they’re telling the world with their votes that they aren’t happy with how things currently are.  Maybe the changes that follow won’t be great or what people are really expecting, but not only is it important for us to stand up to what we think is wrong, if we can do something about improving our lives and the lives of others, we should!

What does Independence Day mean to you?  Does it remind you of the history lessons you heard years ago about the founding of the nation? Does it make you say prayers of thanksgiving for the brave people who chose to leave their homes and travel by boat to this new land?  Does it make you think about what the nation could become?  Does it make you think about and pray for the leaders that are in charge?  Are you flying a flag at your house, putting a poppy in your car or otherwise visibly displaying your patriotism?  We have this holiday for a reason: to remind us of where we’ve come from and to motivate us to make a better future.

What does Independence Day mean to us as people of faith?  It’s also a call to remember the spiritual leaders who have come before us and have made an impact on our lives.  Throughout the Bible God reminds us to celebrate Him, the good things He does for us, the great world He created for us, and each other and the good things we do.  He didn’t create us to be alone, nor to ignore each other.  Instead we’re to work together, live together, partner together and celebrate together.  What will you celebrate today?

“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.”  1 Chronicles 16:8

Reality Reflection: Being a Dad

This Sunday in the US is Father’s Day.  You’ve probably been seeing the ads on TV and maybe thinking about the experience you have had with your dad or dads or the father figures in your life.  Whether you’re reading the papers, watching TV or reading a fiction book, more often than not it’s the dad who screws things up or is “evil”.  Dads don’t have the best reputation, and it’s unfortunate that I agree that they don’t have the best reputation and that there’s a really good reason for that.

I’ve met more dads than I would like that don’t live up to the responsibility and gift that being a dad is.  These are men who don’t see any responsibility towards their children, don’t feel anything for them or about them, don’t show them any love or affection, beat them or their mothers up, and don’t try to give their kids the best chance they can have.  Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of great dads out there, and there are bad moms too, being a not-great parent isn’t limited to the dads.  And even though men have failed over and over as dads, the men of the world are the ones given the next superhero role, looked up to for their “superiority” and seen as default leaders.

Again, don’t get me wrong, women (and moms) fail too.  But like I said there’s a reason for the stereotype of men failing as dads.  As we look ahead to Father’s Day I encourage you if you’re a dad to step up and let your kids know you’re there for them, let them know you care what happens with their future, and be a good example for them now even if you haven’t been in the past.  Choose to be the man that everyone looks up to, choose to do the right thing when you could do the wrong, choose to show your kids in more ways than just buying stuff that you care about them, and don’t be ashamed to be proud to be a dad.  Who are you celebrating this Father’s Day?