On a Mission of Peace

Yesterday here in the US we took the time to remember the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice and died in the line of duty to their country. It’s a solemn and serious day, one that many suffer through because we reached an unavoidable situation where it was necessary to fight and go to war and put their lives on the line. Don’t get me wrong, I know that some people only can listen when they’re practically smacked in the face by the strength that can only be stated through violence/the military. I fully support the soldiers past, present and future, and their families. But I wish that we didn’t have to resort as often to violence and war.

So as I was working on my weekly devotional over the weekend, I ran across a couple of verses that spoke not only to the real work of the men and women of the military (the men and women of the military are typically known as those who fight, but what they’re really doing is working towards peace for more people), but also to how the large percentage of the rest of the world who aren’t in the military can help us advance peace in the world too.

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6

Romans 15 is an encouragement to choose to live in harmony with each other. I really think it is a choice, it’s something we could easily skip (and many do), but I think that we would all find we enjoy life more when we’re working together on life rather than fighting or being stuck in our own ways and not considering the needs or health of others. We’re also reminded that it’s our opportunity as followers of Christ to be the ones to start that journey and turn things from potentially adversarial to supportive. But because of that relationship with Christ we also have some extra tools when it comes to making peace:

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18

James 3 lays out a whole lot of ways we can create better, healthier, happier, more peaceful relationships, using the wisdom and heart we get from God. It is a lot to take in or try to do all at once, so I would pick one or two and start with that and work up to adding more in, or if you like more variety in your life you can pick 7 and alternate through them on a daily basis each week. Even if you just picked one and worked on it for the rest of your life, you would be making a positive impact on the people you connect with and helping to create more peaceful communities. What will you do to honor our military and advance peace in [your corner of] the world?

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All In This Together

If you’ve been around this blog for a while you know I love to celebrate our differences. I love that the areas in which I’m not as capable there are other people who are not only capable, they really enjoy these things. It’s healthy to have differences of opinion and see things from different perspectives and to like different things. But a quote I read this week reminded me that it’s not always good to look for the differences:

“One of the most basic things we all share in spite of class, race, economic status, or age is our need to eat. It was no accident that Jesus shared a meal with his disciples in that upper room before his betrayal, death, and resurrection. It is that very meal we commemorate each Sunday in the sacrament of the altar where we hear once again Jesus say: Take, eat, this is my body. Drink this all of you, this is my blood of the New Covenant. After Jesus’ resurrection, it was in this way that his disciples came to recognize him as their risen Lord.” Br. Jim Woodrum

If we want to be alive we all have to breathe and we all have to eat and we all have to sleep. Everyone has relationships of some kind. Everyone is born young and grows up, and most die old. Most of us have dreams and goals in our lives. Most of us want to be loved. All of us have a group of people we call family, whether they’re related to us by blood or choice. And as Christians we’re all united through our faith in Jesus and His Resurrection.

It’s good to see, appreciate and even celebrate our differences. A world where everything was all the same would be boring and lack the life and depth that our current world does. I also don’t think we’d be nearly as successful with solving our problems if everyone/everything was pretty much the same. But we have to be careful to not focus so directly on our differences that we forget that we’re all human, all in this life together and that we all want to live and love just like everyone else.

So this week rather than celebrating your differences, I encourage you to celebrate your similarities and the things you all love with those you spend time with. Talk about that basketball game or TV show that you all watched, talk about the races you’re all preparing for, talk about the pets you all love, get their advice and insight on the situation you’re all working through at work, and celebrate how connected you all are.

Reality Reflection: Celebrating Each Other

I’m not a competitive person, I like when everyone wins, or at least many people win. But I know that’s not how life works, and sometimes someone has to be on top. Such is the case for award shows, someone has to be named the top artist/person or category winner. From a music awards perspective, as you may know there are almost too many artists to count out there who share decent music, and many of that list also share great music. So I find it a bit more than frustrating when one artist’s name comes up frequently in one award ceremony [list]. I mean I can appreciate the fact that someone is doing an excellent job at something, or they’re really hot right now, but what about all the other people who are doing great things? Why can’t their work be celebrated as well?

What if we were to make it a rule that you can’t win more than one thing at an award ceremony? That no one group or artist or person or organization is able to sweep a category or even the show. It would certainly make the ceremony more interesting and I might be even a little interested to watch, it would also be more interesting for the people who attend, and more people would see their work celebrated and honored.

Few people make it to the national or world stage of any kind, most of us are just living out our lives trying to make a difference in whatever way we can, to share our talents with the world whether it’s a small audience of 10 or larger audience of hundreds or thousands. But I believe everyone should be celebrated, because everyone can contribute in one way or another. What better way to combat the hate and anger in the world than by recognizing the good other people are doing? Who will you celebrate today?

Reality Reflection: The Hurt of Perfectionism

I’m a big believer in change, learning from mistakes, learning, and growing. What I’m not a fan of is perfectionism. I’m all for doing a good job, doing the best you can, and trying to do things the right way, but the fact is it doesn’t always work out like that. Often there are factors we’re unaware of, there are always things outside of our control, and even though many don’t like to admit it, people are not perfect. So the fact is that every day people make mistakes. They give a good effort, pay attention and try hard, but it doesn’t always work out well.

I think working for perfection often takes up valuable time and resources that could be better used to do a job well done and get more done than to try to make something perfect. It’s rare that there isn’t time or space for fine tuning something, or a chance to try again later, or a lesson that can’t be learned and applied going forward. What happens when you try to get something perfect only to redo it later or have to start all over on the next thing?

Life moves so fast and changes so much that it’s often not worth it to make things “perfect.”  As satisfying as it may be to “perfect” things or even to try to be perfect, I don’t think it’s often attainable, and setting ourselves up with the goal of attaining perfection is often a losing battle.

In line with this conversation are the choices that we make that the public may not always agree with, or feel that don’t line up with how perfect we’re supposed to be. I find it hard to understand why people expect forgiveness or allowances for their mistakes or choices, but other people aren’t allowed to have forgiveness or allowances for their choices. Why is it OK for one person to do one thing, but not for another to do the same thing? Why is one person expected to be perfect when another isn’t?

Don’t get me wrong, I think we should all live our lives in consideration of ourselves, each other and our planet. Part of that journey is learning and growing, which typically includes making mistakes. The hope is though that through those lessons and growth times, that we’ll emerge better, stronger, more considerate, smarter people. Before jumping to judgment on someone this coming week, I would encourage you to consider first and foremost if it’s really something that affects you and you need to care about (because it likely isn’t), and then how you would feel in their shoes and what you would want the world’s response to be.

The Freedom To Love

This past month I’ve been looking into a lot of church marketing, growth, health and support topics and seminars. It’s got me thinking again about how people see the Church (any faith organization that fits under the ‘Christianity’ heading), and the people who attend. The world around us has done some serious changing over the past few decades and the Church hasn’t fully caught up. I can understand because it raises fears and questions of healthy boundaries and what is/isn’t secular/spiritual and how it all works together, if it does. But in many ways these fears and the slow and lacking transformation that have accompanied them have held the church back from embracing and investing in the digital mission field.

So going back to how people outside of the church view those inside of the church as well as the church itself, many see it as a restrictive and boring thing, with serious walls between church people and those outside the church, where you can’t do anything wrong (even though forgiveness is a discussed topic). And there is some truth in all of this, especially in churches that have a very old school culture and aren’t interested in making changes. For those of us in the church, the limitations and rules sometimes may feel restrictive, but often they result in bigger and better freedoms than those outside the church ever experience.

One of the most notable is one that’s very prevalent this week, and that’s the topic of love. One of the things we’re called to do, and free to do as much as we want, is to love others with the love that God teaches us about and Jesus modeled for us during His ministry. The word love is used throughout the Bible over 600 times depending on the translation, and is something that Jesus specifically challenges us to do. So as you work through the rest of this week including Valentine’s Day, I would encourage you to pick up that challenge and show love to those you interact with, in both big and little ways.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

Still Here Living

Everyone struggles at some point in time in their lives. Every people group experiences struggles, whether with religious or cultural persecution, judgments based on actions that some don’t agree with, or judgments based on their beliefs, skin color, sex or who their parents are, just to name a few. One of the groups that has been given a gift even through their struggles is the African American community. Each year schools and communities take time during the month of February to talk about Black History Month and profile some of the African American men and women who have done some amazing things throughout history, both past and more recent. Yes, you could be frustrated that we feel the need to recognize African Americans and especially highlight the challenges they’ve faced, but there’s another way to look at it, and that’s to see the honor that’s being bestowed.

In past years I’ve highlighted some of the African American men and women who have lived and died, and shared some of their wisdom with you. I don’t think the color of skin has an impact on how smart someone is, what they’re capable of doing or the impact they can have on our future. As I mentioned already there are countless reasons why people are persecuted or judged, and many are absolutely inconsequential to how amazing they are. In fact, some of the people who have struggled greatly are those that we remember most and can directly connect some amazing innovations and discoveries to them. There are many people who could have chosen to give up or not try to share their gift with the world, but they chose to persevere through.

This month I would encourage you to not only celebrate the African American community’s contributions to making the world we live in a better, richer, more diverse place, but also to recognize that there’s more to life than the struggle, that it’s worth pushing through the struggle to what is beyond. Life is worth living, it’s up to you what you make of life though.

“…So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve died for love—
But for livin’ I was born…”

Langston Hughes

In Consideration of Others

Lately much of the news has been talking about how cold it is.  Of course being winter this is something we mostly expect, but lately it’s been so cold that schools and businesses are altering their hours to help people avoid the cold. I can’t say I remember it being this cold as I was growing up, but I don’t really like the cold and never really have so it’s entirely possible that it was this cold occasionally then (it’s not relevant to this post to do the research).

Most days I check in several times with a news website home page to see if anything earth shaking has happened and a headline caught my attention: “How to survive winter weather in your car.” Over the past few years we’ve talked about a lot of things in the news and a lot of things have come to light. But something I don’t think we talk about a lot is the fact that there are over 550,000 people who are considered homeless in the US. Yes, many live where it’s typically warm, but most of the US is cold right now. Yes, there are homeless shelters, but most of them struggle with overcrowding, especially in winter.

What’s my point? My point is that it doesn’t take long to write up an article or shoot a video that can help save someone’s life. I know we often talk about big gestures and making a big impact and feel like it’s impossible to ever really fix some of the issues that are in the world, and I can see where that assumption comes from. But this article reminded me that it’s not always about the big impacts, sometimes it’s the little things that matter more, like a government business extending hours so people can stay warm a little longer or a grocery store donating what would be thrown away to a shelter or food pantry or sharing home-baked cookies with an elderly relative or neighbor or even something like being on time for an appointment. Big gestures are great too, but there are lots of other little ways you can help someone have a better day, a longer and happier life, too. I encourage you to help bring a smile to someone’s face today.