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.

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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.

A Better Future Begins with Change Today

There are lots of bad things that happen in the world.  Some say that a violent offensive and approach is appropriate, others say that the way to change is peaceful discussions.  Regardless, something has to be done so that the future is less scary than the past and we worry less about bringing another generation into the world.

The first place to start is the cause.  If we don’t know what the cause of the unhappiness it’s very difficult to fix it or do anything about it in any way that will have lasting and positive results.  Trying to fix a leak without going to the source will always lead to more problems in the future rather than a resolution now.

Once the cause is known practical, logical and doable measures must be put into place that everyone can work with.  That doesn’t mean a free ride, or throwing a bomb to start fresh, it means tools, resources and education to empower the people to do things differently along with good leaders who can support them through the transition and into a better future, as well as judgments and punishments for those who committed crimes against humanity.

The biggest challenge of this though is that not everyone wants everyone healthy and happy.  Some people have serious issues with people groups for whatever reason and don’t have world peace as their goal but rather destruction and chaos.  Why they think that the world will be a better place with destruction and chaos I haven’t figured out yet, but I do know that the more people who choose the side of making positive change the harder it will be for those people groups to keep a foothold in the world.

Maybe the change won’t be seen today or even in your or my lifetime but if we don’t start today there’s no hope of a better future for anyone.

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”  Nelson Henderson

Who’s Responsible for Team Victories?

Today I want to share some encouragement with you because the world can be a very challenging, and sometimes draining experience. This is one reason we’ve been talking about teamwork this month: because we’re part of a bigger team as people of faith as well as people on earth. There’s no reason for us to do everything on our own, absolutely none. It’s not a pride thing, it’s a common sense thing: why do it all when you don’t have to? Unless you can provide a serious advantage or gain significant benefits from doing it all on your own there’s no shame in saying “no”, in passing things off to others and in taking advantage of the wisdom and experience other people have to offer or contribute.

That’s not to say that you have no responsibility. The thing about a team is that you’re part of it and not only do you have people to support you, you’re there to support them too; it’s not all on them. You’re there to encourage each other and help everyone get to the finish line by putting in your own effort and contribution. If you’re not putting in your own effort you’re risking the work of the rest of the team and potentially compromising the victory you’re working towards.

So what’s my encouragement for you this week? First, don’t give up on life, your dreams or what God has called you to. Work hard to accomplish them and enjoy them when you do. Second, I believe that you are capable of just about anything you would want to work towards. We’re incredibly gifted people and with the help of the internet it seems like almost anything is possible. I believe you’re able to do more than you could ever dream, especially if you’ve got a solid team and the support and power of God behind you as you work through your journey. God hasn’t given up on you, don’t give up on yourself.

“Be strong and brave and finish this work. Don’t be afraid, because the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will help you until all the work is finished. He will not leave you.'”  I Chronicles 28:20

A Leader Worth Following

Sunday coming up is Father’s Day in the USA, a chance to remember the fathers in our lives, much like we remembered our mothers last month. I know that too many people have bad experiences when it comes to fathers. I’ve been blessed to have a great dad as well as great father-figures in my life who have supported me and helped me learn valuable lessons, and just been supportive in general.

This past weekend I was thinking about the role and responsibility we each have, as parents, as partners, as sons, as daughters, as brothers, as sisters, as relatives, as friends, as people even, to each other and to the world we live in. You may feel like someone small and insignificant, but each and every one of us contributes something special to our world, something that we forget about when we get too wrapped up in our own little worlds.

One of the biggest challenges we have is setting a good example and making contributions that are good for others and the world. You don’t have to look any further than the sports world to understand exactly how hard it is to be a good example 24/7, in fact it’s almost impossible because we’re all humans who are imperfect and make mistakes. I know it’s hard, I’ve failed in the past too, and I’ll fail again in the future. But the feeling you get when knowing that you’re doing the right thing, that you’re setting the right example for someone else to see, and that what you’re doing will sit well on your conscience is amazing.

I encourage you to take a look at your life this week and the example you’re creating in your words, actions and thoughts. Are you becoming the leader you should be? The leader God has created you to be? We all have work to be done, but again it’s the journey that matters, a journey that shows day in and out that you’re doing the best you can.

O my son, give me your heart. May your eyes take delight in following my ways. Proverbs 23:26