Asking for Help

This month our topic is one that can be challenging for some, the topic of help. I know it’s not always easy asking for help, and we don’t always like the answer or help we get when we ask for help. But that shouldn’t scare us away from asking for help. There are a few things to consider with regards to asking for help. First, you’re asking for the help, that means you’ve come to a point that you really can’t do it alone anymore and need another person or need advice. Second, just because you ask, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to take that advice. Third, asking for help should not be seen as a weakness or point of humiliation or something wrong.

But in many situations it’s simply too much for us to do alone, for example the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey and Irma. There’s no way that anyone truly plans to recover from a natural disaster like this, but they happen. There’s also no way to plan for the death of a partner or child, no matter how long you’ve known about their condition, you’ll still have to go through the grieving process. And, there’s no way one person can lift a king sized mattress or move an extra large bookcase, you need at least 2 people. Sometimes you’re just admitting that you’re human and it’s easier with more than one person, and there’s a reason we’re all here together.

If you’ve been here for a while you know that I’m a big believer in not being everything for everyone. I know it can be tempting to try, but there’s really no reason to be everything when there are people who can do things far better or more efficiently than you can or have more knowledge than you do. I love celebrating the expertise of others and giving them the opportunity to shine at what they do best.

So today I would challenge you to go ahead and ask for help. Maybe it will be something small like asking someone to hold the door open. Maybe it will be something bigger like asking someone to look over a proposal you’ve received. Maybe you’ll be extra brave and talk with your partner about one of the things that’s challenging you in your relationship or ask how you can better fulfill their needs in your relationship. Start small or go big, but make the choice to ask for help today.

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The Choice of Unity

As we think about this month’s topic of help and of all that is going on around the US and the world, today I want to take a minute to talk about the topic of unity. It’s where people come together over something that essentially erases barriers. It’s when people who are rich and poor are both affected by a flood. It’s when people who are of multiple spiritual practices come together to say a prayer for healing in a city after a violent attack. It’s even when kids of various cultures, races, and sexes come together to play on a playground before school. Unity doesn’t mean that the differences don’t exist, it means that they’re ignored for a reason and/or for a time.

The Bible is interesting because there were some pretty clear divisions in the early books, but after the birth and death of Jesus some things changed. Take a look at these passages from Ephesians and Galatians:

“So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” Ephesians 2:19

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

What became clear after Jesus death, and what Jesus emphasized through His ministry, is that faith is more important than your heritage, your race, your political beliefs, your economic status or where you call home. Being different is the way God made us, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t focus more on the things that bring us together, and the things that God has called us to, than the things that would separate us.

This week I encourage you to look for and encourage opportunities of unity, opportunities to work together and help each other. If we want to see more unity and more teamwork in the world, that has to be our focus instead of our differences.

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: A Little Communication

I was at a funeral service yesterday and it got me thinking about what my understanding of “traditional songs” are versus what other religious practices have as “traditional songs” and how my traditional songs aren’t necessarily theirs. There’s nothing wrong with each religious group or culture having their own traditions and songs, in fact it’s important because it makes them who they are. It’s also what makes people feel at home when they connect with these groups and even can be the reason they join these groups.

The challenge comes in when you’ve got people from other groups interacting with your group. In this internet accessible world it’s very easy to create a resource that visitors can tap into to be prepared for these things. To be completely honest I did do an online search to see what the typical practice was for this type of religious funeral service so that I was somewhat prepared. Had there been a helpful link to a blog post or other form of information on the funeral home’s page for the person who passed that would have been even better because in a matter of seconds I could have found out exactly what I needed to know about the specific plans for his funeral and what I should expect (and then I would worry a whole lot less about whether or not I was doing the right thing at the right time).

But this is about a much bigger conversation. There are so many ways to remove the isolation in many parts of our daily lives or at least limit it that we’re not tapping into. You hear all the time about buzz words or industry-specific terms that people don’t understand because it’s too technical or they’re new to the industry or business, or confusion over typical processes and procedures. It costs very little to put up a page on your website with all these items explained clearly. Then you’ve helped visitors feel a little more comfortable with you and you’ve established that you are someone to be trusted and that you’re willing to work with people to help them get up to speed and will do your best not to overwhelm them.

The same is true for our lives. If we took a few seconds to send out a text or call or email or write a note and communicate the details to those who need to know, we’d avoid so many fights and frustrations and our relationships would be healthier too. It’s important to set up a central communication point or method as a family so that everyone is aware of where notes would be or how best to get in touch with  whomever needs to be reached.

It’s amazing what a few seconds of research or considerate communication can do for someone. What will communication do for you this week?

Faith and Imperfections

Last month we spent a lot of time talking about relationships and this month one of the things we’ll be talking about is freedom. As I was thinking about these two topics I read these words:

“We’re all broken in one way or another. So let’s be kind” Mary Carver

People of faith are often seen as perfect. Maybe we seem that way because we make people think that, or because we talk about being forgiven and freed all the time. But the fact is just because we’re people of faith, it doesn’t make us perfect. We still need other people, we still have faults and failures, we still screw up and hurt others. Even the people who are living a life of faith that God is proud of (the people who everyone looks up to because of how spiritual and well-behaved they are) aren’t perfect and struggle with the same human experience and emotions that the rest of us do.

People who are “good” are important because they show the rest of us how to live in a way that honors God and reminds us that it is possible and that it isn’t something reserved for people in the Bible or people with an official church title. For those of us who aren’t quite so perfect, it’s not easy to show both sides of this to the world, because we want to be a good reflection on God. But being truthful about the struggles we face on a daily basis or about the challenges God has brought us through not only help those who don’t share our faith better identify with us, it’s a reminder that we’re still people in need of God.

Over and over throughout the Bible there are examples of Jesus and other people of faith who choose to show love and compassion in the face of sin and suffering. Jesus made a point throughout His ministry to show love to those who were suffering or fallen and knew they needed help, but when faced with those who thought they were without reproach or had lost sight of what their faith was supposed to be all about, He didn’t show interest or have mercy (He even lost His temper a time or two).

No one really wants to admit how flawed they are or how badly they screw up, but it’s only in those moments that we can really take account of where our life is and what changes need to be made going forward. It’s also in those moments that we’re given the ability to reach out to others for their support and encouragement. Are you honest with yourself about how broken you are? If so what are you doing about it? And what happens when someone who feels broken comes to you for support?  Are you there for them to support them or just judge them?

This week I encourage you to choose kindness and support, both for others and yourself, when faced with failures and struggles.   Choose to be the person who loves and doesn’t condemn, and the person who’s honest about the help they need.

Reality Reflection: I Need, You Need, We All Need

This month we’ve been talking about relationships and something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the topic of needs. We all have needs, some of us meet them pretty well while others aren’t as good at realizing, communicating, or acting on those needs. My partner recently said that he wished he could do more to meet my needs and I said that he does meet my needs, I just may not need him in the same way he’s been needed in past relationships. It’s an important fact to remember because while we all have the same basic needs (food, shelter, love), how we meet those needs and the levels of those needs are different for all of us, not to mention the other needs (and passions and interests) we have individually.

But going back to the topic of relationships, when you choose to enter a relationship you go in with the intention of bringing something to that relationship and hoping to get something out as well. So while the word “need” doesn’t have to be the one that’s applied here, because you may already have food, shelter and love, there’s still something missing in your life that you think you can gain by entering into that relationship.

I don’t think ‘needs’ is a dirty word, unless you’re content to have serious needs and not do something about them (dumping them on someone else isn’t “doing something about them”).  It’s perfectly normal to have them, and also perfectly normal to ask for help with them. I’m not a believer in knowing and being everything to everyone. I don’t have to be able to fix a pipe or rewire a house or fix a broken bone, there are other people who are very good at those things and actually enjoy them.

I think it’s time we stop seeing our needs as an embarrassment or something we should hide. I think it’s time we step up and ask for the help we need, ask for the direction we need and ask for the support we need, and above all do something about the needs we have. Yes, sometimes you’ll have others turn you down, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how many people are willing to step up for you, especially if they know you’ll step up for them in their time of need.

Where Do We Start?

I’m not the type of person to really watch or listen to the news but I do check in and skim headlines each day so I’m at least somewhat aware of what goes on in the world. There’s been a lot of hate in the news of late, and to an extent you can understand some of it: there are people around the world who suffer greatly and as a result of their suffering they believe that the only way to deal with it is to obliterate anyone in their path to showing the world who they are and making a statement about how hurt they are, even if they won’t admit it that that’s why they’re doing it. Too many people hide their pain behind bitterness, nastiness, brutality, humor and sarcasm, or just plain hide.

I can’t imagine how God felt after the Garden of Eden incident when He knew that there would be so much pain and suffering in the world; knowing that we would suffer so much as a result. The worst part was probably knowing that most of our suffering and pain to the degree that we experience it is because we’re too stubborn to get help, to be vulnerable and admit that we’re not perfect, that we have our failures and weaknesses, and because we can’t accept that it’s OK to fail or be imperfect.

In some ways it’s totally understandable that we don’t want to admit our vulnerabilities to others, that we don’t want to be honest about how we feel deep inside because we’ve been hurt or seen others experience the wrath, laughter, criticism and hate for not measuring up to other people’s expectations, unrealistic or not. It makes us question our relationships, question people’s motives, curb or go overboard in our thoughts, actions and reactions, and not choose to fulfill our potential.

There are lots of reasons to doubt and question other people, and we think that we’ve got some good reasons to question God as well. We think that because God hasn’t responded to our call immediately that He’s busy or doesn’t care, and when it’s been long enough we think that He’s forgotten about us or what we shared with Him about or that He doesn’t want us to have good things in our lives. But I think we’ve forgotten who God is.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 says “But there are some things that you cannot be sure of. You must take a chance. If you wait for perfect weather, you will never plant your seeds. If you are afraid that every cloud will bring rain, you will never harvest your crops.”

The thing about people and God and our lives after Eden is that we have to be willing to take chances if we really want to live. We have to take a chance in trusting God and opening up to other people and asking for help, not just complaining. We have to believe, and even more than that know, that God cares for us and that not only is God interested and cares about us, but He cares about other people too, and He wants us to as well. We need to take the chance that God really does have a plan for our lives and to be open to God’s creative purposes and plans for us, and not box ourselves up before we have a chance to explore the potential He placed inside of us. We need to accept God and the person He has created us to be, and the people He has created and placed around us. We need to be honest with God and with ourselves and with each other. And we need to make sure that we honor each other with the respect and knowledge that God created each of us so each of us deserves to be treated as such.