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.

To Gather for Christmas

Over the past few days my partner and I have been commenting on the increasing numbers of drivers on the road during times that they aren’t usually there. It’s a reminder to be more careful while traveling because there are more people on the road during these days and also a reminder of why people are on the road, and it’s something that many of us are doing these days, and that’s traveling to gather with friends and family.

People gather during the holidays even if they don’t have gifts to give simply because it’s a time to celebrate having each other and spend time with the people that mean the most to you. There’s just something about all the tradition and stories behind the holidays that makes us reach out to people we don’t always get to be with because of time or distance, not to mention wanting to be with people even if we’re more loners.

There’s something about the holidays that tease us into having conversations we don’t usually have, wanting to fix broken relationships, desiring deeper and more meaningful relationships, thriving on being together, and being a little more bold. Maybe it’s all the festivities around us, maybe it’s the sense of community that you can’t miss because of all the bright lights of decorations, maybe it’s the need to huddle up because of the cooler temperatures, but whatever it is I’m thankful that at least one time of year we’re all encouraged and inspired to come together.

We always say that we should do these types of gatherings more often, but somehow we never get to them. So this holiday season I encourage you to make the most of it. Go ahead and accept all the invitations and create some of your own as well. Celebrate together for all this season is worth so that you have something to tide you over until the next one rolls around. Who will you gather with this year?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: The Season of Giving

Well, the holiday spending weekend is officially over, I don’t know about you but I was a little disappointed by what was (or rather wasn’t) on sale this past weekend.  It definitely wasn’t a one-and-done shopping weekend for me.  So yes, I’m a little disappointed.  Like many other people I use these shopping sale days to not only buy gifts but buy things I use all year long and appreciate getting at a great discount.  But that’s not how it worked out and so I, and many others, may be doing some bargain hunting over the next few weeks as the holidays approach.

What really surprised me was the lack of Cyber Monday deals this year and the lack of emails about any deals happening.  I got one that suggested I order early so I get the items they sell in time for the holidays, but they didn’t manage to include a coupon code so I put off considering whether I would or would not order from them.

The other surprise from this holiday shopping season kickoff was that we’re at 6pm EST and already today I’ve gotten over 300 emails today.  For what? Giving Tuesday.  Started in 2012 it’s a way to encourage people to give to non profits who aren’t in the spotlight for most of the year. I donate to organizations every month so I don’t need today as a reminder, but I do look to see if organizations that I don’t support regularly but follow closely are doing any kind of giving match.

Ultimately the holiday season, whether you’re religious or not, celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, is about giving.  It’s important to give to those who mean the most to us, but for many of us without the non-profits of the world we’d be lost and the world wouldn’t be as special a place as it is.  I give monthly because these organizations are making a difference in the world in ways I simply can’t.  So today yes, some of the money I didn’t spend over the weekend I will be donating to organizations that are making a difference in the world, helping them spread hope a little further this holiday season and in the year to come.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Do The Right Thing

Over the past few days an incredible story has been shared, going viral even. It’s great when it’s the good stories going viral and not the stories of hate. The story goes something like this: a bus hit a parked car and drove off. A little girl witnessed it, went home, wrote a note and put the note under the car’s wipers. The car’s owner came back, saw the damage, saw the note and was able to reach out to the bus company and is in the process of getting his car repaired while he drives around in a rental supplied by the bus company. The story ends with the girl receiving a commendation from her school for her community service. You can read the whole story here.

I love this story because it’s proof that people still do the right thing. No, the bus driver didn’t do the right thing, but the school girl did, and she didn’t have to do anything because she wasn’t really involved in what happened. But she knew that she could help right a wrong, doing something as simple as writing a note.

Yes, sometimes doing the right thing is a big effort, requiring a lot of time and financial investment. Sometimes the wrongs are big wrongs and it takes a lot of time and effort to heal from that. But sometimes all it takes is something really small to turn the tide in the right direction. I’m thankful that someone taught that girl to do the right thing.  She gave the driver a peace and answers that he would not have had otherwise.  It may seem like a small thing, but if you’ve ever been in his shoes you know that it means the world.

The same is true with giving thanks.  Sometimes the simple words “thank you” can make all the difference.  Have you made a point to do something simple for someone else lately?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: thankful for gifts

“Give thanks in all circumstances. Not for pain and suffering itself, but for the knowledge that God is with us in it, and that God has promised to use it for our good. Develop the habit of giving thanks for what is, rather than lamenting what is not. Look upon your life as a gift, with wonder and awe.” Br. David Vryhof

This quote took my by surprise when I read it because it starts with a sentence that is very well known, one that is said in spiritual communities as a way to encourage and strengthen us for the challenges we’re facing. It’s an attitude check for everyone, spiritual or not, one that encourages us to focus more on the things we are blessed with and not the things that hurt.

But then the quote goes on to say that we don’t have to feel like we are trying to find something to be thankful for among the challenges of our life, but rather that we should focus on thanking God for being there with us through those challenges. It’s why we take the time to be there for others when they’re going through dark times, and find comfort in having someone with us, even if they’re not saying or doing anything but being there.

The quote then ends with an encouragement to see life as a gift, which given what the quote has already talked about, is kind of like those Christmas or Hanukkah gifts you get that are really ugly or really not what you want, but the person gifting you is all excited about them. You know, those sweaters from an aunt or grandmother that are completely out of style or scratchy, or that gift that you get year in and year out that you re-gift or share with friends or donate because you’ve gotten so many of them. Sometimes the gift you get isn’t really what you want, and you have to accept that along with the gifts you do want.

So as we head into this holiday gifting season, be thankful for the gifts you get, those you are excited about and those that are requisite, and especially for the people who thought of you and wanted to bless you in that way.