Rivers of Life

I was reading a very interesting article about how rivers can be a representation of our lives.  The other option is to be a stagnant pool of water.  I don’t know about you but I’d rather be a moving river than a mosquito home.  Throughout the Bible the topic of rivers are returned to again and again, including a very painting-worthy passage in Ezekiel 47.  Rivers were often used because the people knew them to be a source of life, and in using them as a teaching example the listeners could more easily understood the concept of the living word and life of God, especially before the birth and death of Jesus (although there are lots of examples in the New Testament, too).

Where are you at in your life right now?  Are you in a stagnant place?  Or are you being swept away by life?  Or are you moving along with life, taking it as it comes?  The funny thing about rivers is that they can do a real good job of hiding the truth. What can look like a peaceful spot can be deadly to dive into or a bottomless pit or have an incredible current that will sweep you under before you know what’s happening.  People too can hide the truth, there are countless people all around the globe that are hiding their real feelings, hurts, frustrations, fears and maybe even their joys.  They hide because they’re afraid that if people knew the real them, they would be judged.  And the unfortunate thing is many would be judged, humiliated, laughed at or not taken seriously, that’s how too much of our world works.

As people of faith we’ve got a responsibility to step up and be better people.  It’s unfortunate that we too have at times fallen into the judgment zone, trying to look all perfect to the world while struggling privately.  No, we’re not supposed to live as sinfully as others in the world do, but Christian or not we’re still human and have our not so great moments.  We have many of the same challenges to face as others do around the world, we just know that we can go into the rushing river with an excellent rescue team on hand for us (the people at our church or Bible Study or other faith-based group, not to mention God).

Is this your week to conquer the river in your life?  I encourage you to be brave and say that enough is enough, and choose to move as your life (and God) directs.

Reality Reflection: The Next Generation

Today in the US is Mother’s Day.  It’s a chance we all have to celebrate the moms and mom figures in our lives. We’re not at the point that we can just create kids, they’re still born the old fashioned way, even if sometimes a little extra help is necessary to get them here.  I’m amazed with how far we have come with the technology/science we have to help kids into the world, and the technology/science we have that helps us all live longer and enjoy more time together as a family.

This week of course I’ve been reflecting on the upcoming Mother’s Day and on the state of the world and the kids of the world and the moms of the world.  From a quick glimpse at the internet or any TV news program (and many TV shows) it’s pretty evident that there are problems in the world.  Whether we try to be blind to it or not, there’s a huge problem with drugs (and I’m not talking medical marijuana use).  There are too many people dying each day from drug overdoses.  Which also says there are too many people using drugs to escape problems or reach for some high they’re not finding in life normally or doing it to be “cool.”  There are also the stories of the not-so-good moms who don’t seem to have a care in the world, especially not about raising their kids with any manners, good behavior and goals.  There are also some not so good statistics and stories about the kids of the world and some people have concerns about the ability of the next generation to run things in a responsible and thoughtful manner, regardless of their parent/parents teaching.

Can we all use some improving? Yes, absolutely.  But Mother’s Day is a great opportunity to talk about the next generation.  Do I believe that some moms need to step it up and do a much better job? Absolutely.  Some moms don’t have the resources to care for their kids and don’t make any effort to get the widely available resources for them.  They don’t feel that maternal bond or need to care for them that some moms do (the same is true for dads as well).  But if you’ve been around for a bit you know I’m a supporter of the concept of having a village raise a child.  There’s no reason for anyone to try to do it on their own.  That means that each and every one of us has a responsibility to check how we’re behaving and talking around kids, to support child related organizations and charities and to step up for our own families when they need the support.  Tomorrow can be a bright future, but only if we all step up for the next generation.

A Little Love for Everyone?

As we think about this month’s topic of love and the celebration of Earth Day later this week I wanted to share a verse that will challenge us on both topics: Psalm 24:1 says:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

First this verse reminds us that if we really care about God and are following Him, we’ll take care of what He has given us.  That means being a little more aware of what you’re buying and doing and how you’re interacting with nature and the impact you have on it.  We all have an impact, but we can make smarter choices to minimize that impact and protect the gift God has given us.

Second this verse reminds us that God created everything in the world, all of the plants, animals, creepy crawlers, and people.  I know it’s hard to imagine the God that created you and me also creating things like scorpions.  It’s also hard to imagine the God that created Billy Graham created Hitler too, but according to this verse, He did.

Which brings us to our challenge.  It can be really easy to be sloppy and lazy and not take care of the earth, after all there’s a really good chance that it will last through our lifetimes regardless of the damage we do.  It can also be really easy to just focus on the nice and good people and ignore those who display their faults and imperfections more than the rest of us do.  But this verse challenges us to remember that God has called us to care for that which is His; all of it.  That means attempting to remove our judgements, preconceived notions, prejudices and opinions and trying to see things from God’s perspective, which can be easier said than done.

But just like with caring for the earth and making earth-friendly decisions, treating all others with respect and courtesy, and maybe even love, is something you can get into the habit of doing.  God didn’t say it would be easy, but He called us to set the example for our fellow man.  So as we move away from Easter and toward Earth Day, I encourage you to consider how you can be more considerate of “everything” that the Lord has created.  What ways will you choose to show love today?

Will You Step Up?

Monday we celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Dr. King was best known for his speech at the March on Washington in 1963 and his work for the Civil Rights campaign.  What not everyone remembers is that he grew up in the church and was an American Baptist minister.  He never gave up on his faith through his short life, and spoke at his church a few months before his death.  Faith was important to him and he was very traditional in some of his beliefs and often referred to his faith during speeches.

Today I want to look at one of the more spiritual things he talked about.  He said (referring to the Good Samaritan Bible story):

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'”

It’s a question that I think Dr. King himself asked throughout his life and work with the Civil Rights movement, and it’s a question we should all be asking ourselves.  If we choose not to get involved what will happen?  I know that sometimes it seems like we’re being asked to do everything and no one else is stepping up.  We get tired of that.  We get tired of feeling like we’re the only one doing anything.  But I think two of the reasons that many people don’t step up include that they don’t want to do it alone and don’t feel they have a personal stake in the issue.  However I believe that what affects some of us will soon affect many of us.

As Dr. King and his commitment to human rights is remembered this week I encourage you to think of others and some of the causes you can support.  Yes, you may have to put forward some effort or resources, but remember back to the last person you helped that was really grateful and you could see the benefit of what you did for them.  That’s the feeling I want you to remember the next time you’re asked to help someone or with something.

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.

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?

Reality Reflection: Tax Day

In just a few days once again the day arrives for the majority of Americans to tell the government about their earnings over the past year.  It’s an annoyance for some, hassle for others and annoyingly large complication for others.  I’m thankful that we live in the day of computers and great programs we can use to figure it all out and don’t have to do it by hand, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy working through it either.

We know why taxes are necessary: so that things like police, water, sewers, roads and snowplows help us live the lives we enjoy so much.  Not to mention paying the salaries of the leaders and military who serve around the world.  I believe taxes do have a purpose, but I can also agree that sometimes they don’t seem proportionate or accurate given all factors.

But when we think about our purpose and taxes I’m reminded that there isn’t always logic involved in things, nor do they always move in the direction and speed that we expect.  That’s reality.

So while I do my share of complaining and lobbying to get them lowered, I pay my taxes.  I would much rather pay taxes than be without the services and people we often take for granted.

As already mentioned I enjoy the technology we can take advantage of to do them, and even though it’s a bit of a hassle I don’t want to pay more than I have to and I appreciate knowing the factors they use in determining taxes.  To relieve the stress of this time a bit, I make it a point to do as much work as possible to prepare for them throughout the year rather than having to deal with it all at once in February/March or, heaven forbid, April.

If you’re rushing to get your taxes done this week, or even if you’ve already finished them, I encourage you to take just a minute to appreciate all that you get as part of them or because of them.  America’s a pretty great place when you think about all we’re blessed with.