Building Relationships with Respect

With yesterday being Mother’s Day here in the US, I’ve been reflecting on families and relationships. Every day in the news there are stories of relationships gone wrong, of people letting others down, of people hurting other people and ways that people are destroying our world. But at the same time you can’t ignore the fact that some of those people are bad people. They’re not people you want in your life or around your kids, and they can’t be “fixed” unless there’s an Act of God. But fortunately, there aren’t as many of those people as the news makes it out to be. Most of us just have issues, quirks and traits that may or may not mesh with the people around us.

I do believe that we can learn to get along with just about everyone, whether it’s having a civil conversation or actually developing a friendship with them. But that does take a lot of work, typically from both parties. For some reason some people choose to hold grudges or make snap judgments about some people, and aren’t open in the future to changing those opinions, despite how they or the other person may have changed over the years. And no matter how kind or polite you may be to them, they’re just nasty. I’m not suggesting that you need to be best friends with everyone, but I don’t think we need to have the poor interactions and relationships many people have.

Does it take superhuman effort in some cases to get to that point? Yes, but that’s part of what God can help you with. Yes, the Bible talks about loving everyone, but for some of us loving is a big stretch. So let’s start with two things that are a lot simpler: treating others as you want to be treated and respecting others. God made them just like He made you and I, and I haven’t known God to make anything that was wrong or without purpose. So if for no other reason, choose to respect and treat them based on how you want to be treated, because God loves them. Not all moms are perfect examples, but many moms can run circles around us when it comes to loving and accepting their kids in a way that we struggle to accept and understand others.

This week I encourage you to think about your attitude and how you treat and interact with others, and spend time in prayer with God asking for His strength and guidance in how you can build more relationships and have more interactions that will honor Him.

“Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:17

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Praying for Unity

Thursday in the US is National Day of Prayer. It’s an opportunity to come together as a nation and pray for some of the many needs in the country, and especially for our leadership. This year the committee is going with a theme of praying for unity, and the verse they’ve chosen is Ephesians 4:3:

“Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

The great thing about prayer is that it doesn’t take sides, it doesn’t matter if you’re old or young, a man or a woman, a morning person or a night person, how you like your coffee or if you like coffee, if you have a green thumb, if you prefer dogs or cats, or if you’re good with numbers. Prayer is something everyone and anyone can do. It’s also something that doesn’t have to take a long time to do or be something you have to do with others, although it’s good to pray with others.

So in a way just participating in National Day of Prayer is a way to unify many people around the US. Last week there was also some big news relating to the topic of peace and unity, North and South Korea stated that they were going to put aside their differences and try to work together for a better future.

Unity and peace both begin with a step. They not usually things that happen in one day, they are built over many days and weeks with work, communication, time and effort. Trust has to be established and it has to be shown that everyone is going to keep up their end of the partnership before unity and peace become a regular and expected thing.

So today what step will you take for peace and unity? That step can be as simple as prayer, or as big a step as you want to take.

Devoted to Positive Steps

As we continue our journey through the first month of a new year I thought we’d continue to look at some ways we can do better, be better and make this year better.

Prayer: one of the interesting things about prayer is that there are so many ways that it can be done, that it shouldn’t feel stressful or like a responsibility. Yes, it’s good to sit and do traditional prayers like are done in church, but you can also take a minute to pray before/during/after different parts of your day, and you can also keep up a running conversation with God (it doesn’t have to be this formal thing). The important thing to remember is to do it, to do it by yourslef, to do it in a group, and to do it regularly. It’s not just an expression of faith, it’s your time to talk with God, which is an incredible gift.

Pay Attention: there are lots of things that demand our attention these days, and some of us have taken to seeing the world as though we’re wearing blinders. All of us have opinions, beliefs and experiences that color how we see and interact with the world, and we’re also usually preoccupied by what’s going on in our lives. In many respects the reason the world looks the way it does to you is because of what you choose to see. The challenge for each of us is to take off those blinders and let ourselves be exposed to and open to experiencing other parts of the world. Are you open to seeing what God would show you, or stuck seeing just what you can’t ignore?

Give Thanks: one of the most powerful tools we’ve got in our lives is our ability to be thankful. Regularly expressing our thanks, showing appreciation and finding things to be thankful for can all improve your attitude, make you feel better and make you more likable and personable too. If you’re struggling with being thankful, try just walking outside your door and finding something to be thankful for. Maybe it’s the fact that snow’s not brown usually or that the sun is out or we’re one more day closer to spring or for the evergreen tree that reminds you of happy Christmas memories or the cute bunny prints in the snow. Sure, you could talk about all the not-so-great stuff and you could just see the cool/cold winter world outside your door, but why would you spend a lot of time thinking about that when you could thing on the positive?

So today I encourage you to pick one, or all of these, and commit to working on them in your life this week. Spending more time in prayer, being more open and aware and giving thanks more often can all have a really positive impact on your life, and your faith.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

Eyes on Jesus

This Wednesday in the US is See You At the Pole, a day honored by high school and college aged students gathering for prayer around the flag pole at their schools. As adults we can certainly pray for them as they gather, and we can also reflect on the verse they’ll be focusing on: Hebrews 12:2: “We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete.”

This is a great reminder verse for all of us, believers of all ages. We all can benefit from the reminder to keep our eyes on Jesus because there are so many distractions, responsibilities and dreams that fill our days and nights, often not specifically focused on Jesus and the work He is doing and has us doing. Having done the human experience Jesus understands some of what we’re going through and trying to manage in our lives today, so we should not be completely discouraged or frustrated by the fact that we get distracted, that’s part of the life we live.

But as people of faith we should always be working to strengthen, grow and share our faith. We should be listening and learning and praying and sharing as we all work through the challenge that is 2017 and beyond. We should be more understanding of the pressures each of us face, and be more encouraging as we try to figure out what it looks like to live a life of faith in 2017.

So as students around the country gather to pray and remind each other to look to Jesus, I encourage you to pray this week for that generation.  Pray that they’ll gain the wisdom, knowledge and experience that the world needs to lead it into the future, that they’ll be good stewards of the world we share, and that they’ll share the love, compassion, consideration and faith the world needs to hear today.

Celebrating A New Year Everyday

This week is the celebration of Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year. It celebrates something that Christians are familiar with, the creation of Adam and Eve. More than anything else it’s a period of celebration, of joy and of prayers for peace, prosperity and blessing for the new year. While it’s not a day that Christians celebrate, it is one that can teach us a few important lessons about life, faith/spirituality and our journey.

One of the most interesting things to note is that it is a celebration of Adam and Eve. If you remember they’re the people the Bible begins with, the people everyone can trace their roots back to. They’re also the people who connected this world and our lives with sin when they ate from the tree that God told them not to eat from. It’s not exactly the best moment in our collective spiritual history is it? And yet we can all agree these people are worth remembering, and their creation worth celebrating.

The other thing that I’m reminded of by the celebration of a new year in September, what is known to many as the 9th month of the given year, is that everyone has different beginnings. If you’re familiar with the business world at all you know that many businesses start their year at some time other than January 1st. Personally, it would drive me nuts to try and balance more than one calendar. But if you really think about it we’ve all got a different calendar we could go by, because very few of us were born on January 1st (technically my year begins in October).

So what can we learn from the celebration of Rosh Hashanah? First and foremost that you don’t have to be perfect, do perfect things or get it right all the time to celebrate. Sometimes the little moments and victories should be celebrated more than the big ones. Second, any day is a great day for a fresh start. Don’t say that you have to wait for 2018 to make changes in your life, you can begin today, or tomorrow, or whenever you feel inspired. Third, if God says that Adam and Eve are worth remembering, even with their really big mistake, I would say that each of us are worth remembering and celebrating as well. Finally, take time today to celebrate, and if you can’t come up with anything to celebrate, you can celebrate that you’re alive and have another day to live, learn, and love.   What will you do with today?

Personal Prayer

In just a few days we’ve got the National Day of Prayer in the US (always the first Thursday of May, this year it’s May 4). Each year it’s a chance for people around the US to come together and pray, or at the very least be more intentional about making (extra) time for personal prayers on Thursday.  Prayer is something we should do on a regular basis, and more than just the popcorn prayers that some or most of us do when things happen or we’re made aware of needs throughout our days. Prayer is something we do individually and as a faith community.

Prayer is an interesting thing because in some ways you could say it’s irrelevant, because God doesn’t need us to tell Him anything because He knows everything, and He can choose to perform a miracle even if we don’t pray about it.  However, throughout the Bible, and especially the New Testament, it’s reminded that God wants us to pray anyway because it’s one of our best opportunities to connect and communicate with Him.  God isn’t the type of god to be all about lording over his people, He’s interested in building personal, intimate relationships with each of us.  It’s pretty awesome that God wants a personal relationship with you and me in my book.

This year the theme and verse for the National Day of Prayer are:

“For Your Great Name’s Sake! Hear Us… Forgive Us…Heal Us!”
“O Lord, Listen! O Lord, Forgive! O Lord, Hear and Act! For Your Sake, O My God…” Daniel 9:19

Daniel was known for his prayer times, prayer times that got him sent to and saved in the lion’s den.  It’s a powerful reminder that even something as simple as praying can have a big impact.  If you’re looking for a miracle in your life or the life of someone else, or are ready to really see the world around you change for the better, one of the things you can do is pray more.

If you’re already planning to attend a National Day of Prayer event this Thursday, great!  If not, the National Day of Prayer website has lots of events listed from around the country you can join.

A Generation Cries Out

This week we have two unique opportunities for students with regards to faith: See You At The Pole on Wednesday, and The Global Week of Student Prayer which began on Sunday.  See You At The Pole has been a practice for the past 25 years and is now done in countries around the world.  This year’s theme is “We Cry Out.”  I think it’s a fitting theme for the things we’re going through as a world, and the pressures that teens are experiencing now more than ever.

Each generation has their own challenges, but thanks to social media and other various kinds of technology around the world it’s easier than ever to know about the challenges that teens today are experiencing, but it’s also made the challenges increase.  For example it’s easier to communicate a secret drug buy with all the apps and text scramblers, and it’s easier than ever to bully or talk bad about someone thanks to social media.  But with that there are also more ways than ever to make your mark on the world, even among all the other people of the world that have great skills, abilities, talents and gifts, so it’s not all bad news for this generation.

Some say that See You At The Pole is more about appearances than actual faith, and that the numbers that show up at the pole don’t reflect or support spirituality all year long among students.  While I know this can be true for some, I think it’s still an important practice, especially if done by people of year-long (and life-long) faith.  I do believe it’s important to stand up and show that you believe at events like See You At The Pole, especially if it’s a practice that stretches your personal comfort zone a bit.  If it’s done by people of faith that actively live their faith, it’s also an opportunity for those who don’t have faith but are dealing with challenges personally or at home to know which of their peers they could turn to for some support and an open ear.

So to follow this year’s theme I encourage you to speak up for those who can’t as well as those who can, speak out against the practices that are harming the world we live in and the people we share it with, and pray for the wisdom to know how to lead as we move forward into the future.  There can only be change if we choose to speak out against the wrong in the world and speak up and make change for a better future.  What’s your cry for this teen generation or even your own?

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?  Who may stand in his holy place?  The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.  They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior.  Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.”  Psalm 24:3-6