Caring for the Kingdom

Today in the US is President’s Day. It’s also George Washington’s birthday, the first US president. As I was thinking about this one of my weekly spiritual newsletters sent the verse Luke 6:20 which reads: “Looking at his disciples, He said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”” While it’s not a verse that speaks directly about politics, it did spark a thought.

This verse got me thinking about how we really see the leadership in the country and if we truly take ownership of the country we all share. Luke 6 talks about the kingdom being ours, but I don’t think we always take the ownership we should take. I don’t think our ownership of the US should be impacted by who is the current ruling political class, unless there’s truly corrupt individuals in leadership positions. Then those singular individuals should be removed, and it doesn’t have to be a reflection on the whole group of them. We do have a responsibility to be wise in who we elect, and I don’t believe that’s always done by following party lines. Party lines can be guidelines, but as we’ve seen in recent years there’s a lot of gray areas.

But back to my original thought, if the US truly is ours, the country we all share, isn’t it time to really step up? To vote, to sign petitions, to vocalize our displeasure, to celebrate the victories, to take action to make things different, to recycle more, to care for our national parks, to say something when we see an injustice? During the recent shutdown some people and companies did stand up and say that they were going to stand in the gap of missing funding, helping keep national parks open and clean, and that’s a great start.

I would say that God wants us to step up and care for our country and the people who inhabit it regardless of who is considered in charge politically. If it truly is our country and we are proud to be Americans, is there anything that should stop us from caring for our current kingdom? I’d say no. If the life we live now is supposed to be in preparation for and a reflection of the next one in Heaven, what kind of grade would you get on caring for your current kingdom?

Advertisements

Reality Reflection: safety and security

This week in the US we’ve seen the unfortunate events unfold of several bombs being delivered to leaders and politicians. The good news about this story is that no one was killed as a result. I was talking about this event with a friend and we agreed that it had been a while since bombs have been on the news, and that’s a really good thing. It’s good that we’re not using bombs on each other as much, or that we’re getting better at catching them before they can be detonated or even delivered to their destination. There’s still too much violence overall, as the shootings that happen each week continue to show, but it almost seems like we’re making progress if people aren’t going the bomb route as much anymore.

But the overall question here that again puzzles me is why people think it’s such a big deal for people to be part of one political party or be a leader of some kind, and as a result think they need to be killed. I may not agree with everyone’s views, but I don’t see that as a reason to kill them. If we were talking more along the lines of a vigilante, while I don’t agree that they should do that it would at least be more understandable from a ‘they might actually deserve it’ standpoint. With the places and people that the bombs this week were delivered to there were a lot of innocent people in harms way, people who could have been killed for no real reason other than associating with someone that someone deemed to be a threat.

As I said initially there weren’t any casualties as a result, and it really speaks to the improved training and awareness of those in law enforcement who not only diffused the bombs but also tracked the clues to a suspect. There are people around the US who put their lives on the line each day for the safety of others and don’t get to return home, so it was a victory that everyone was able to get home and they were able to do their jobs quickly and effectively.

So this weekend I would encourage you to hug your loved ones a little closer, say a prayer for those in law enforcement and be thankful for the life and blessings you have.

Reality Reflection: Educating the Voters

It’s that time of year again, election season! I don’t know about you but it is getting harder than ever to put on the TV without seeing a commercial about a politician or even just going around town there are all kinds of banners and signs up promoting different politicians. I’ve always voted, my preference is to do it by mail rather than attempt to make it to the actual polling stations on the one day that voting is done. It’s a lot less stressful that way and being that I’m not one to just vote for one specific political party by default it gives me the time to consider my decisions and know all the people up for vote before making a decision.

I love that we’re able to vote in the US for the people that we have in office. I appreciate that we’re able to have some say in who gets elected, or at least show that we care about how things get done in our country. But there’s one thing I hate about voting, especially as someone who isn’t voting by default party, is that there’s little or no information about the majority of the people who are up for election online.

Why does that matter? Because I want to know who I’m voting for, I want to know that I’m voting in the people I think will do the best job or have the relevant experience or might help bring about needed changes. But I can’t know those things unless the information about them is shared!

Sure the top candidates like senators have information online, but when you get down into the local government you’re lucky to be able to put a face to a name let alone find where they stand on issues or how they’re going to help the community. Anyone can make a free website and create free social accounts. They don’t have to be fancy or have lots of political dollars behind them to share who they are and why people should vote for them. If they want to be elected that’s the least they should do in this day and age of the internet.

Gone are the days when politicians or those desiring to hold political office can simply get into office by throwing up a few signs or holding a couple of rallies, and don’t think that you won’t be held accountable to doing work in office either. Voters have changed, it’s about time that politics and politicians understand that and start stepping up.

The Wisdom of Nelson Mandela

One of the great men of all time was born 100 years ago yesterday: Nelson Mandela.  He endured through many challenges and struggles, yet never gave up, never gave up hope and always tried to do the best for everyone involved.  He’s a great example of what’s possible when you do your best, be your best, and lead regardless of the challenges in your past.  So today I thought we’d honor his life by taking a look at some of the great wisdom he shared.  

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

“Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

“Even if you have a terminal disease, you don’t have to sit down and mope. Enjoy life and challenge the illness that you have.”

“People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that’s how they’ll react. But if you say, ‘We want peace, we want stability,’ we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.”

I want to close with an invitation for you to read what other people had to say about the great man.  The words they chose to honor this man reveals yet again what a distinguished, caring and exceptional man he was.  How has Nelson Mandela touched you?

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?

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.