Spreading Peace

Our verse this week is Psalm 29:11: “May the Lord make his people strong. May the Lord bless his people with peace.”

You can flip on any TV channel or open any newspaper or magazine and see that there’s a serious lack of peace in this world right now. If I asked you about work, your relationships and your family, at least one of those 3 topics would bring up a situation that lacks peace. I totally understand, after all there are some seriously messed up people in the world. It doesn’t really matter how they got to be that way, but they sure challenge those of us who normally are pretty decent people (no one is perfect, right?).

First, let’s talk about those difficult people. Some are totally oblivious to the damage they cause, others are fully aware of the destruction they leave in their wake. I don’t believe that they should have our sympathy or sorrow, somewhere along the line they chose to live and act the ways that they do. The best thing we can do is understand that just because they’re miserable people we don’t have to let them make our lives miserable too. Given the sheer number, it’s almost impossible to avoid them, which is why it’s important to understand them. But just because we understand that they are who they are, it doesn’t mean we should spend tons of time with them.

Second, let’s talk about spreading peace around the world. Peace spreads through peaceful people. If you want to spread peace, you can’t overreact to miserable people (including drivers). You have to remain calm and collected. You can impact people by being peaceful yourself. And, there will always be opportunities that pop up that will allow you to spread the message of hope and peace with others verbally and through actions, like going on missions trips or when friends ask about your positive attitude in the face of challenges.

Third, looking back at Jesus’ ministry on earth, there were people who didn’t like Him, and He was a really likable guy. You can’t make everyone happy nor can you know the right thing to do every time. Jesus set the example of spending time with people who wanted to spend time with Him and were good for Him. While Jesus couldn’t avoid the teachers of the law, He didn’t make a point of spending a lot of time where He wasn’t wanted.

This week I encourage you to spend time with people who lift you up and encourage you to be the best version of yourself (including Jesus). You’ll feel better about your relationships and be able to find peace and satisfaction with your life.

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Helping Others

This month the topic we’re talking about is one that’s become more appropriate with the events of the past few weeks, the topic is helping. It’s something we’re seeing in a major way in Texas and other southern states following Hurricane Harvey. It’s something we see and do as a regular part of our daily lives. We also make choices not to help those who need it, sometimes for reasonable reasons, other times because we’re lazy, selfish, or just plain mean.

There are countless ways you can be a help. You can start a business and sell something someone needs. You can raise dogs as part of a seeing eye, mobility or veteran organization. You can hold the door for someone. You can donate to a cause. You can recognize the good work someone did. You can add boxes and cans to a food drive. You can volunteer with a home building organization. You can babysit for a family who just lost a grandparent. You can plant a garden. You can offer to drive a coworker whose car is in the office to work. You can help paint a neighbor’s fence. You can do your least favorite chore to help a family member who is sick or injured out. You can tutor kids. You can run a support group.

I could probably come up with hundreds of ways someone can be a help. There are plenty of excuses that we put out about why we’re not doing something to help, but the fact is with all the technology today, something even as simple as sending out a Tweet or Facebook post can be a help to someone. The biggest thing to remember about being a help is the attitude and willingness behind it. No, you don’t have to help everyone or in every situation, but when a situation comes along that you can be a help with, you should. How will you help someone today?

Reality Reflection: Where I Belong

This past weekend I’ve been reflecting on the upcoming celebration of Independence Day here in the USA and thinking about all that it means to us even so many years later. One of the things I’ve been reflecting on are the men who signed the Declaration and the women (and kids) who were part of the country as it was being established. These people chose to come to the US because they wanted freedom from Britain’s rule and wanted to be their own people and have more say in what they could and couldn’t do. The stories we hear about are pretty clear that it was very difficult in those first years, and many people died sooner than they would have if they stayed in Britain. But they believed in what they were doing and the future that they were creating.

The accounts of those early years tell us that everyone had to work really hard to build a life here. They didn’t go into a new country like we do today, knowing that it’s almost guaranteed to have available housing and essentials like food and water, they had to start completely from scratch. So by the time they got to the Declaration of Independence each and every piece of the country they built had been built by their hand, with the help of the Native Americans and others who had joined over the years. I can’t imagine how proud they all were of the country they had built and the fact that they were really ready to take some pretty significant steps away from Britain. They had built a place that gave them the freedoms they were looking for, a place to be the people they wanted to be.

We don’t have to do anything nearly as significant as start a new country to experience pride and find a place to belong to in this day and age. There are countless opportunities and ways to make a difference in our world including starting a business or charity, having a family, donating time to the community, being part of a church group, donating to a charity, or starting or joining a group on social media. The important thing is that you find a place, and people, that you fit well with, feel comfortable with, that will support you and that will encourage you to grow. You just might find that in belonging to something and being an integral part of the lives of others you find the freedom and fulfillment you’ve been looking for.

Reality Reflection: Everything to Everyone

I’m a fan of saying no to people, you know why? Because you don’t have to be everything to everyone. Not only is is about being honest to who you are and not putting yourself in positions that you’re completely unqualified for or incapable of doing, but because every time you take on something that you’re only slightly capable of (or not at all), you take away an opportunity from someone else who is qualified. If we really want this world to be all it can be, I think we have to be willing to share a little of the control with others, have to be willing to let them do their thing, and not get in the way when they take charge.

Yes, there are time when you’ll go a little outside your preferred box to help a friend or to try something new, and that’s a good thing. We should be trying new things to keep our minds engaged and learning. But we have our safe zones for a reason. The good news is that my safe zone isn’t the same zone as yours. You’ve got talents I don’t have and don’t have any inclination for developing. I believe there are plenty of opportunities for us within the things that interest and drive us that we should never have to take work, resources or life away from someone else.

But that does mean that we all have to step up in that which we are gifted in, and a whole lot less slacking, hiding or letting someone else’s sub-par job suffice. You need to take responsibility for what you can do in this world with your unique talents. Be proud of who you are and what you can do. That doesn’t mean you have to start a business or blog, it may just mean finding a company to work with and bring your unique talents to (one that fits better than your current one), or donating your time on weekends or vacations.

This week I encourage you to give others the chance to do what they do best, and choose to do what you do best. Who knows, you may not cure cancer today, but you certainly may bring a smile to someone’s face or relief to their life in some other way.

Supporting Each Other

This week I’ve been thinking again about my place in this world, and yours too. It’s challenged me to really consider who I am, what I’m good at, why I’m here and how my imperfections work into all of it.  If you can’t admit that you struggled with something this week, shame on you.  Unless you buried your head in the sand for the whole week, I know that you’ve been challenged by something this week.  I’ve really been challenged by how much I can’t do.  I’m OK with it, but at the same time, not being able to excel at everything gets to me occasionally.  If I’ve had a particularly bad day lists of my faults and failures can parade through my mind without my permission.   Maybe you’ve dealt with some of these insecurities too.

These struggles really reminded me why it’s so important that we let others in our lives, that we not try to get through this life alone, that we make the effort to build relationships and support those we come in contact with.  Often it’s those relationships and those other people that challenge us the most, but they also make life the most rewarding.  So how do we get past the challenges and let others into our lives, let others take control in areas that we’re not so strong or capable in and they are?

First, I think we have to be humble and admit that we aren’t alone in the world and need others. It’s not easy to admit that you have weaknesses, especially if you have an image with someone.  But opening up and admitting that you’re not perfect creates an opportunity for you to grow a deeper relationship with them.

Second, Galatians 5:22 says “But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.”  When we choose to enter into relationships, and sustain relationships, with the fruit of the spirit, not only will we pave the way for a satisfying relationship on our end, the other person will benefit too.

Finally, find the point of reference, point of unity, or common ground you two have.  Everyone has something in common.  It may take a while to discover it, but it’s there.  For many people, a common point of interest is faith, especially faith in Christ.

Our relationships should make us stronger because they force us to work together, make us learn how to work together, and to learn how to communicate what we need and want.  This week I encourage you to be honest with yourself and the people who matter most to you in life about what’s going on in your life, where you stand and what you need.  Most people would be thrilled to step up to the plate for you and give you a hand if you would just ask.

Thankful for God

We’re almost at the end of the month and I want to take time over the next few days to talk some more about our topic of being thankful.  One of the biggest challenges we face in life is in dealing with other people.  We’re constantly challenged, disagreed with, hear conflicting statements, see conflicting actions, and have our trust in others challenged because of things they say or do or things that others say about them and who they are or what they do.  While you can’t be too wrong about what they say or do in your presence, the same isn’t true for what others say about them.  That’s not to say that they didn’t do or say something, but it means that you can’t always take what others say as fact, especially when they’re talking about someone else.

It’s pretty much fact that at some point in time or another someone else will let you down.  Maybe they don’t mean to, maybe they were overtired and something stupid slipped out of their mouth, maybe they said or did something without thinking, maybe they thought about it and thought something different would happen as a result, maybe they thought it would be funny, or maybe they thought you were someone else, but one way or another the trust you had in them was broken or you got a glimpse of them in a totally different light than you were used to seeing them in.

The thoughts of thanksgiving that I’ve been reading over the past few days surrounding the holiday have been a reminder, even if they haven’t talked about it directly, of how awesome God is because He doesn’t do stuff like that. Even though He’s perfect and doesn’t have to earn our trust, He has in countless ways and continues to reinforce it each day.  Even on the days that we’re challenged by our faith and the things going on in our lives, we can still trust that He’ll be there, He’ll never give up on us, He’ll always have our best interests at heart, He’ll always remember us, He’ll never give up on us, and He’ll always be the God of Love.

As we head into this Christmas season I encourage you to take time this week to thank God for all He has done, is doing and will do in your life and in the lives of those around you, especially for sending His son on Christmas.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

How Would You React?

It’s not something everyone does, but when I’m out driving, whether running errands or heading to meet with a client, I listen to the radio.  I’m one of those annoying radio control freaks who constantly changes the channel and only listens to commercials if there isn’t a better option.  As I was driving yesterday I heard that it was National Sandwich Day.  The radio personality said that he called a few sandwich shops in the city where he works (a major US city) to wish them a happy sandwich day.  He went on to mention the name of a sandwich shop and said that they had hung up on him when he called and delivered his cheerful greeting.  Yes, on a major radio station a deli was called out as a grumpy (which leads one to assume they’re not customer-friendly) business.

The other day while driving I heard another story of a little child who started up a conversation with a senior gentleman at the grocery store while she and her mom were shopping.  She told the gentleman that it was her birthday and she talked to/with him for a few minutes and before heading on to do the rest of their shopping the girl asked if she could take a picture with the man.  He agreed, and her mom posted it on Facebook.  After seeing the post a friend of a friend shared that they knew the man and that the man’s wife had recently died and he’d been lonely and struggling to adjust.   The mom reached out to the man through their mutual friends and since that incident they’ve had visits and the gentleman is now part of the little girl’s family.

Why do I share these 2 stories today? I share them because the differing reactions of the people really spoke to me.  Sure, we can react like the deli did and shut people down because we think they’re rude or weird or making fun of us.  Or we can choose to say even just a simple thank you “thank you” or do a little more and be willing to meet a new person and not just judge them for how they look, how old they are or a quirk they may have.

As you finish out this week I encourage you to take a breath before going with your initial reaction in situations that aren’t the norm for you (like in these 2 stories).  Don’t just react and be a jerk or dismiss someone as silly or not important.  That deli could have gotten great publicity, but instead they’re possibly losing business as a result of a snap judgment.  There’s now another family learning from the wisdom that seniors have to offer and sharing the gift of being alive and enjoying life with each other across multiple generations.  What will your reaction be today?