With Valentine’s Day just a few days away many people are thinking about love in the US. But love and relationships aren’t exclusive to the US, they’re present around the world. As I was reading through my emails today and thinking about my partner a few rooms over from me I was reminded about one of the things that often challenge us in a relationship: unity. That’s kind of a big part of a relationship, that on multiple levels you and your partner are a good match. Even if you’re together for “political reasons” (not something that happens as often today), there are still things that bring you two together and you can agree on or talk about comfortably without the conversation feeling one sided.
The other part of unity is the feeling of being completed you have about/with/because of your partner. I don’t believe we are supposed to be alone, I believe we should be going through life together, and that everyone should be able to find the person that makes them feel like a better and more complete person. Not every couple experiences that “click” where you meet someone and it just feels right. Sometimes getting to the point of feeling that connection takes time and effort even if your intention originally was just to build a friendship. No, it doesn’t have to be for forever, but for however long you are together you should feel that connection with that other person, and work together to keep that feeling alive.
Unity is all about who you two are together, whether with family, your kids, at work or out with friends. It’s also what others see in and of you and how you interact with the world as a couple. Constantly berating your partner or telling (negative) stories about them in public doesn’t make you look unified, it hurts the relationship and may even hurt your relationship with others. Valentine’s Day does have a way of bringing people together, which is one of the reasons I love it. But this year instead of just taking time out during one day to be together, I encourage you to work on building your unity and connection throughout the year.
Yesterday was United Nations Day. Today I want to share a few verses from the Bible about the nations and a short reflection on what it means to be part of the united nations.
Psalm 67:3: “May the nations praise you O God. Yes may all the nations praise you.”
Deuteronomy 7:7: “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples..”
1 Chronicles 16:31: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!””
Psalm 9:8: “He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness.”
Psalm 9:20: “Make them tremble in fear, O Lord. Let the nations know they are merely human.”
Each and every nation has their own people, culture and history. No nation is exactly the same as any other, and even the nations who are similar have differences. Those differences are one of the reasons why it’s so important to have an organization like the United Nations, so that we can all come together in a safe environment and support each other. Because what may be seen as differences could be the solutions or insights that other nations are in need of and could benefit from. The United Nations should also be a safe place for us to talk about our challenges and and concerns that we have with other parts of the world. The United Nations is also a reminder that we all share this same planet and should be considerate of what we’re doing and how it could be affecting the future of our world.
The verses above also remind that all nations should give honor to God and that God is aware of all nations from the largest to the smallest. God doesn’t care about size or military might, but cares for all nations. We should remember that we’re visitors on this planet that He has created and that if we want to keep living here we should do better with working together to care for it.
I can remember as a child the town I lived in planting evergreen trees to hide water containment units. Some towns are proud of their water towers, but we didn’t have pretty ones or ones with our town name or mascot on it, they were simple green cylinders. While I don’t live in the town any longer I still drive through occasionally to visit with friends and work with clients, so I see how things change and grow. Some of the most remarkable growth in the town is with the trees that were planted at the edge of the property where the water units are: it’s almost impossible to see the units anymore unless you’re at the (short) driveway of the property. It’s the best result they could have hoped for when they planted them, many towns aren’t as successful with trees they plant and replant each year hoping for better results.
Sure, the town could have come up with a different plan, maybe painting the units, having the town get involved in painting them (perhaps something patriotic) or just telling people to deal with it like many other towns with a visible water unit do. But instead they took the time to think about a solution that would be visually appealing and good for the environment, even if it might take a little extra work. Trees do require some care, they need watering especially when they’re in their early years, and they could look scraggly if they aren’t cared for, which would defeat the purpose of having them. But the town has taken the time and put in the effort to care for them and grow them into trees any tree-hugger would be proud of.
These trees are a great reminder for us that some things take work and time. We may start something today that won’t show a lot of fruit until our children or grandchildren are our age. We may not even live to see some of the great results. If you think about the men and women who sailed on the Mayflower and other ships, they didn’t know all the trials and tribulations we would go through to reach this point, or the great things and people that have happened and been part of the journey thus far. Don’t give up because you’re not seeing a great result today, keep putting in the effort day by day and don’t give up on your dreams.
“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Warren Buffett
In the US we’re really gearing up for the November elections. Candidates are being finalized, sides are being chosen (or rechosen), and people are hoping that the person of their choice will look good to the rest of the country and be the person who ultimately wins. It’s gotten me thinking a lot about winners and losers, and about first and last place. I’m not big on competition. I know it can be good for some things, but personally I prefer to work together rather than against people whenever possible. I know that there isn’t one candidate that we can all agree on, that’s part of the reason it’s a democracy. But I also know that what seems like a victory for one person or one “side” doesn’t have to mean a total loss for the other.
For example, just because your team loses the game, it doesn’t mean they’ll lose the season or that they couldn’t have a personal best number of points in that game. Or just because you didn’t win the cook-off at the fair, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be picked up by a national brand or get great publicity anyway. Or just because you lost this round, it doesn’t mean you can’t win the next.
And sometimes being first isn’t a good thing, especially if you are one of the first people to try something new it might have some major flaws and you’ll experience loss or frustration instead of the great experience you were expecting.
What I think the US needs, and the rest of the world as well, is more working together and less violence and fighting. Competition is one thing, hatred and senseless killing is another. Now is not the time to see who can come out on top of whatever war is being fought, now is the time to learn to work together and bring together all our differences. Choose not to be first or last in the war but to help others make it through to another day alive and healthy. As brothers and sisters of Christ we’re called to lead the way to a better tomorrow, and that tomorrow doesn’t start with more violence or hatred, but with more love.
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:16
I’m in a patriotic mood with July 4th, Independence Day, being today in the US. So it’s got me thinking about the nation we live in, the other nations around the world, the nation of Israel and nations of Jesus’ day, and about the nation that is yet to come when we get to Heaven/when Christ comes back. With the exception of the nation yet to come, within every nation there are times of unrest and change. I don’t know about you but I’ve been following the news about the UK vote to leave the EU last month and you can’t help but hear about the presidential election we’re gearing up for in November here in the US. Both are of interest to me because they indicate that people have a desire for something different, that they’re telling the world with their votes that they aren’t happy with how things currently are. Maybe the changes that follow won’t be great or what people are really expecting, but not only is it important for us to stand up to what we think is wrong, if we can do something about improving our lives and the lives of others, we should!
What does Independence Day mean to you? Does it remind you of the history lessons you heard years ago about the founding of the nation? Does it make you say prayers of thanksgiving for the brave people who chose to leave their homes and travel by boat to this new land? Does it make you think about what the nation could become? Does it make you think about and pray for the leaders that are in charge? Are you flying a flag at your house, putting a poppy in your car or otherwise visibly displaying your patriotism? We have this holiday for a reason: to remind us of where we’ve come from and to motivate us to make a better future.
What does Independence Day mean to us as people of faith? It’s also a call to remember the spiritual leaders who have come before us and have made an impact on our lives. Throughout the Bible God reminds us to celebrate Him, the good things He does for us, the great world He created for us, and each other and the good things we do. He didn’t create us to be alone, nor to ignore each other. Instead we’re to work together, live together, partner together and celebrate together. What will you celebrate today?
“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:8
There’s something that most of us do but don’t really have the right things in mind when doing it. What am I talking about? Wanting. Do you really want that jelly doughnut, or do you want something sweet in general (could be healthy like summer raspberries) but the doughnut happens to be handy, are you trying to procrastinate or avoid something by eating it, or are you ignoring what your body really wants to eat by having the doughnut? I know, it’s a really simple example, but food is one of the areas that we’re most confused in about our real wants.
Every day we use the word “want” countless times. ‘I want to do this.’ ‘I want that one.’ ‘I want this more than you.’ ‘I want you to do it.’ The list could go on. And on the surface the question I bring up today is about whether or not you really want what you think you want. But it’s also about something so much bigger and deeper.
Last Friday was the Brexit vote, something that’s still being talked about and debated, and will be for some time. And coming up on Monday in the US we’ve got Independence Day, the day we remember when in 1776 the people of the US signed the Declaration of Independence from Britain. My point? It would be easy for people in pre-Brexit UK or Pre-Independence Day US to say ‘I want a better job’ or ‘I want a better house’ or ‘I want to make things work better between our countries.’ And none of those things are wrong. But the people of the UK and US in 1776 made some really big choices that they don’t want to just work on improving in the current (or what was current) situation, they want a new set of rules, new set of opportunities and future that doesn’t line up with how things are (were) going in the present.
As I said, it’s not wrong to want to improve within the confines of your current situation. But if you have the ability to want for something more, something bigger, something different, something new, something better for not just you but many people, why wouldn’t you want that? As we look towards the 4th in the US and the future of the UK, I encourage you to consider your life. What do you really want from and in your life?
This coming Tuesday in the USA is Flag Day. It’s the day that we stop and remember the journey our flag has gone through and the people who have given their all for it and our country. As I was thinking about Flag Day it got me thinking about lots of things about flags in general. I shared a few on the business blog post this past week and will share a few more thoughts in my business newsletter this week, but today I wanted to talk a bit about the flag and what it means for our lives.
The concept of flags is really a simple one, it’s a visual way of bringing together people from a certain group and a way to identify those who are aligned with that group. It’s a way we honor the past, a way of celebrating the things that unite us and a reminder for what we are working towards in the future, or of things in the past that we’re building a new future on. Whenever we see an American flag it should remind us of the men and women who have made all kinds of sacrifices for our freedoms that we enjoy and treasure, and occasionally take for granted.
Flags that you personally relate with should be a source of pride, it shouldn’t be something that fills us with hate when we see it or ambivalence. We should want to raise it high, know its history, and display it proudly. We should want to support and know about the men and women who have played a role in its creation and have worked and do work to keep it flying. That doesn’t mean that you have to salute every flag you see, have one hanging in every room or attend every parade, but on special holidays for Americans like the 4th of July, Memorial Day, 9/11, and Veteran’s Day you should fly a flag or even just put out a small one in a pot on your balcony if you can’t really hang one.
But just because you don’t know the history behind a flag and it’s not “your” flag, it doesn’t mean you can’t be respectful of it and the people who are proud of it (as long as it doesn’t represent bad things). If you meet someone who is proudly displaying a flag you’re not familiar with I encourage you to ask them about it and hear the story behind it and what it means to them. And I invite you to share the stories of your flag(s) in the comments section today too!
What flag will you proudly fly on Flag Day?