Why Should We Care- Part 3 The Planet

It was June of 2003 when I moved to West Virginia. I was never one to run outside much, but I decided to take it on. I mean, why not? I just moved to the Appalachian Mountains. I was in one of the most beautiful locations in the United States, with tremendous trails and hiking places. 

As I began to run, I found myself struggling to breathe. I was coughing a lot. In the beginning, I thought it was due to my lack of physical training. I was out of shape, and I could admit that. However, after I started getting more endurance and strength, I struggled to catch my breath. One day, I returned from a 5-mile run and could not quit coughing, when suddenly I coughed up a clump of black mucus. It was disgusting. 

I didn’t have medical insurance, so I was a bit nervous, but I decided to keep it to myself. I found myself having a similar experience after a few more runs, then it stopped. I spoke to a friend of mine, who is a doctor, and he suggested it was my lungs clearing out. I moved to a place with really fresh air from a town that would have smog warnings regularly in California. My lungs were releasing gross build up. I would have never thought of that as a possibility, but ever since those few months, I haven’t had an issue with my breathing, I mean, that isn’t associated with me being out of shape.

Smog was an issue I experienced in my hometown. There were days we couldn’t even see the hills when we were right next to them. Our vehicles had to get smog checks to ensure we weren’t releasing more emissions into the air than was allowed. At times, we would have to stay inside due to smog warnings. It was a reality of my childhood.

Many people doubt climate change. I am not here to argue whether or not climate change exists, but I am here to suggest we care about how we care for the planet we live on together. There are ways we can show concern for the issues affecting the inhabitants of the earth. We must remember it is not only human beings living on the globe. 

As Christians, we play an essential role in raising awareness and caring for the needs of this planet. When God created humanity, He made it clear that we had a responsibility to care for what He had created. He gave Adam the ability to name the animals. He told Adam that he had dominion over the earth. God told Adam to work the land to care for himself and his family. Essentially God wanted Adam and Eve to be involved with the planet He had placed them on, not only to use the resources but to care and maintain it.

Yet, according to dosomething.org, we can discover that we have not been living up to that responsibility well. A report by the National Academy of Sciences, over 14 billion pounds of garbage was dumped in the ocean in 1975. 1975 may seem like a long time ago; however, we must realize that things have only gotten worse over time. Fourteen billion pounds of garbage doesn’t disappear overnight; we can only predict the number is significantly higher now.

The Blacksmith Institute suggests over 3 million children under the age of five die annually due to environmental factors. We cannot brush this off and let this reality fall to the wayside. When God looks to His people, He expects them to be active in the healing and restoration of HIs creation. When children are dying due to factors that we could be working to control, yet we ignore it, I believe we will have to answer for our lack of compassion and empathy. If we genuinely care about all lives, then these children should be a part of that narrative.

Caring about the environment goes beyond worrying if it’s getting hotter or not. It goes beyond greenhouse emissions. It is really about caring about the creation. When humans are dying because water is scarce or are unable to access healthy food choices, we should care. When the animals that God created are dying because the humans He placed in charge of creation are putting billions of pounds of garbage or destroying their habitat, we should care.

Having a desire to see the world healthy is not a political issue; it is a spiritual one. We cannot ignore what is happening. We can look out the window and see trash in the bushes, air-quality worsening, and water contamination (i.e., Flynt, MI). If we care about the generation after us, we should care about the world around us now. There’s no reason for us to keep going on without concern for the future. 

The Israelites were in the desert waiting for the promised land, but they kept failing God. He was hoping they would choose the right way to go, but they were selfish. Due to their selfishness, God had to hold them back from the promised land until the next generation was ready to obtain what God promised His people. Perhaps we are in the desert. God may be waiting for His people to respond to His call, but unfortunately, many choose to ignore it due to their selfish desires. Maybe it means the next generation that is willing to stand up for the creation will experience God’s fullness? I guess only time will tell. I want to be known as one who cared enough to do my part to care for all creation, not just my interests. That is why we should care. 

Why Should We Care- Part 2 Politics

It is officially election season. Albeit an abnormal election year, it is still a year that holds significant weight for our country and the world around us. No matter what side you are on, there is tension. The unfortunate reality is that we have seen politics upend our society with anger and abusive language. People have become so bitter and have planted their flags so deep they no longer have the ability to listen to opposing views. It is hard to watch, especially from a Christian perspective. 

What is a Christian to do in this political climate? How are we to respond? Should we? Is there a place for politics in faith? The answer to all of these questions isn’t easy. On one-hand, our American duty is to vote. On the other hand, Christian and “American” are not necessarily synonymous, making the questions even harder to answer.

Andy Stanley once said, “We need to let our faith define our politics, and not let politics define our faith.” Many people who claim Christianity have allowed their political leanings to define how they view their Christianity. There are standpoints many have taken a firm stance on, which is necessary at times. However, Christians must realize that we have a responsibility to honor the Kingdom of God before we vocalize our political viewpoints. 

So, let’s go back to Andy Stanley’s quote. How should our faith define our politics? Where can we discover this answer? Interestingly enough, we can find the solutions from the very person our faith is defined by, Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to establish a kingdom here on earth. He walked away from groups trying to make Him a king. That was not His place, and He knew it. 

Jesus went against what the people were hoping for at that time. The Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah. They had built in their imagination a great government authority figure coming in to flip over the Roman rule. They were expecting a disruptive force that would dismantle a tyrannical government and establish a government that would empower God’s people and set them at the top. They were wrong. 

He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36). Pilate didn’t know how to handle that information, but neither did the people waiting for the Messiah. He recognized the government for what it was, a broken system established by man to bring them some comfort or control on this planet. Nothing more. 

Saul was placed as king of Israel because the people of Israel couldn’t be satisfied with what God was providing. They wanted to match up with other cultures. God tried to tell them it was a bad idea, but He allowed it by giving them a very flawed human being to lead them. God was their rescuer and providing for them regularly, yet they still searched for a savior in their presence. 

Unfortunately, this has become a reality for many Christians today. They have decided to plant their flag firmly on one political issue and are only willing to support their party. Those who have claimed Christ as their Savior and ultimate healer are searching for a savior in politics. They are voting for a human-being to bring balance and restoration to a broken world when they already have the Son of God. 

I often wonder if Christ would shrug His shoulders at political parties. I wonder if He would look at the fights and name-calling between the two groups, and ask, “How does this represent me? Both groups have members of my bride, the Church, yet they are misrepresenting me to the world around them.” This hypothetical thought is why we should care about politics.

We need to care because we have brothers and sisters on both sides. We have allowed our political views to usurp the love Christ called us to share with the world. The world is watching. They are waiting to see how we speak to each other and those who are not part of Christ’s body. They are watching who we choose to support and if we put our votes toward people who represent what our Savior claims, or if this person merely fits our desire for a human savior.

In their book, I THINK YOU’RE WRONG (BUT I’M LISTENING), Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers suggest, “Each and every one of us can exert influence in small ways in our companies, our churches, our schools, and even the media. By abdicating our authority-and ignoring our responsibilities-in the problems facing our country and our world, we begin to see politicans and politics as the only solution.” We could be agents of change, but instead, we have placed our hope in politics. 

Silvers shared, “Politics cannot be the sole source of our confidence, happiness, or self-worth. A deep well of connection holds us to one another and to the highest parts of ourselves. That connection will feed us, even in the harshest political climates.” Our politics cannot overtake our call to be united. Christians should be setting the standard for unity. We cannot allow world politics to hijack the mission of the Heavenly Kingdom. 

So, in this season, take time to learn about the people running for offices. Practice the art of listening to other perspectives. I encourage you to seek wisdom in your voting choices. However, I want to challenge you to think before you start slinging dirt or name-calling toward people on the other political line. Although they are on a different political line, they are a part of the same Church, which takes precedent over a worldly government. Let’s not lose focus. May our hope be strengthened. Let’s point to the gospel in all we do. Let’s be sure not to lose our souls because we have gained a political victory. Let’s care about politics, but let’s care about the Kingdom more.

Why Should We Care?-Part 1 Racism

I have decided to take some time to write a few pieces focused on particular issues I feel, based on scripture, Christians should care about. There are so many issues in this world that it’s hard to narrow these thoughts down to just a few, but we are experiencing a significant tension in society that Christians should see as potential to point to the Kingdom of God. In all reality, these issues should be polarizing to the world but should be unifying for those who claim Christ as their Lord and Savior. This is not going to be an attempt at shaming anyone, but to see what is shown in scripture, which should be our guide when discussing societal issues.

I want to be very clear, I am a Christian. I love Jesus with all my heart. I long to see His return. Yet, until He returns, I firmly believe Christians have a responsibility to demonstrate the love, compassion, grace, mercy, and justice of Jesus. We have a charge from our Creator to “Go into all the world making disciples and baptizing…” (Matthew 28). It seems when someone takes the opportunity to speak about how the Church could be doing better, people tend to instantly jump to the conclusion the writer has an issue with Christianity. This is not the case.

For the first conversation, I would like to speak about racism. If your initial reaction to hearing the word racism is, “Oh, great! Here we go again!”, then I would suggest that this is something you should continue reading. Racism is a deep sinful issue. It is a part of the sinful nature of humanity that leads them to believe they hold a superior position over another group, in particular, a group of people who have a different skin color. I want to acknowledge that an inward sin is the root of all of this and it needs to be addressed.

Yet, I would also suggest that not responding or speaking out on racism is equally as sinful. When we decide to ignore, stay silent, and/or push aside the idea of racism in the world and the Church, we are participating in a sinful act that, I believe, we will need to answer for when we are with Jesus in eternity.

Why would I say this? How can I say that this is equally as sinful? Let’s start at the beginning…

Sin came into this world in the garden of Eden. God could no longer be with His creation in perfection, so He had to step away. When Adam and Eve had their children, we find the first experience of animosity and fear leading to the ruthless act of murder. Cain and Abel were brothers bringing an offering to God. God found value in Abel’s offering and Cain was found to be wanting. In his jealousy, Cain killed Abel. When God confronts Cain asking about his brother’s whereabouts, Cain responds by asking God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The easy answer tot hat question is, “Yes!”

We are all our brother’s keeper. We are all to find ways to care for each other, serve each other, and love each other. In his jealousy and fear of inadequacy, Cain murdered Abel and held the belief that he didn’t have to worry about the needs of his brother. He was wrong.

If we think racism is not an issue to be concerned about because it’s not your problem, you’re missing the point. You are your brother’s keeper. When your brother or sister of color is suffering, it affects you. When you are a part of the Church and called to point to the kingdom of God, then we need to be doing all that we can to be sure our words and actions demonstrate the faith we proclaim.

What should it look like then? How are we to respond? How do we stand up?

Let’s look at the response of Jesus in a clear commentary on racial tension in His day. Jesus showed up at a well in the middle of the day. He had taken His disciples through an area that Jewish people, especially men, would not go. They entered Samaria as a woman was going to get water. Samaritans were known as “half-breeds”, due to people from the nation of Israel hanging out with Assyrians after being set free from captivity. They intermarried and produced a group of people known as Samaritans. They were unclean and a horrible reminder of an ugly experience of bondage for the people of Israel. Samaria was avoided at all costs. So much so that Jewish people had a road to avoid the area completely. Needless to say, Jesus and His disciples were not supposed to be there.

As the woman came to the well, she most likely saw a Jewish man, a rabbi, sitting by the well. She probably tried to come up with her eyes looking down and avoiding conversation. Then, a Jewish man asked her for a drink. At that very moment, Jesus is setting a new standard of interaction with different cultures, people, and communities. He revealed many things to this woman but ultimately helped her see that He was the One who came to provide life and freedom. The barriers were broken. The entire city came out to meet Jesus and begged Him to stay.

Why is this important? Jesus showed up when nobody would. He was not afraid of controversy and challenging cultural norms. That is how the Church should look. We are called to show up and challenge the ideas that have permeated our culture that people of different skin color are less than any other group. He came to show there is no one superior or greater. Jesus came for all who are willing to listen and accept His message.

Jesus responded without condemnation and shame. He heard the woman’s story. He knew her story. He listened to her pain. He sat with her where she was. It was hot. He was thirsty. He could have been anywhere else, yet He chose to sit at this well. Perhaps we should be responding by being where the pain is? Sitting at the table of those who are hurting? Listening to stories without judgment or condemnation or doubt could be beneficial. He didn’t tell her He doubted she needed water. He didn’t doubt her stories of her several husbands. He didn’t question her intention at the well. He pointed to His grace and His desire to provide life to those who are losing life. Her dignity was restored. When we respond with open ears and closed mouths we may experience a movement of change we would have never expected.

As the disciples returned, they questioned why Jesus would speak to this woman. They didn’t do it out loud, but they wondered how Jesus, a respected rabbi, would sit at a well with such unworthy people. Jesus was standing up with this woman and remained standing as the community came out to meet Him. As the crowd was coming Jesus told His disciples the harvest was ready. The potential to point to the Kingdom was arriving. The opportunity to share the truth of Jesus was marching their way. This was the opportunity to serve a group of people that had felt unworthy of being connected with the God of the Jews. At this moment, Jesus was bridging the gap between the people of Israel and the Samaritans. He was cleaning the unclean.

This is how we stand up! We should be aiming to clean up the unclean. We meet people with the truth of Jesus. We stand up to bridge the gap. We speak with honesty, openness, and with a firm understanding of what it means to stand with humanity. Jesus stood to restore dignity and identity, and the Church should do the same. If people are feeling marginalized and neglected, we step into the margin with them and show them we see them.

Racism is an ugly reality. It is not something to ignore. We cannot be complicit in what causes the pain of so many. If we see it, we speak. If we hear of it, we stand against it. You cannot be a follower of Christ and live in acceptance of separation of His creation. May we remember, that no matter what skin color a person may have, the image of God is present within them. That’s what we need to honor. Racism has no place in the Church, as the bride of Christ. If Jesus wouldn’t stand for it, then neither should we.

It is a true degradation of the gospel if we allow human dignity to be trampled upon by such a sinful ideology such as racism. May we see change come through those who follow Jesus as we await His return to eradicate this evil for good.

Too much fun in quarantine

Quarantine is tough! Who wants to be trapped in their home, wishing to be out with friends? Nobody! Even if you’re an introvert, you still want to have some social interaction on occasion. Being an introvert on your own is alright, but when it’s forced, you can’t choose when you want to socialize.

I am someone who likes to be around people. It’s been hard to be stuck inside. However, I am making the most of it by making funny, at least to me, parody songs and videos.

I am sharing them with you here, if you haven’t seen them already. I hope you enjoy them! Share them, if you do!

I Can’t Go (parody of Let It Go from Frozen) https://youtu.be/UqXJ7et1ags

Stay Six Feet Apart (parody of Listen To Your Heart by Roxette) https://youtu.be/OK5mRigAA5k

Enjoy!

Thanks! Be safe and wash your hands!

5 Things We Need to STOP Doing During This Pandemic

We are all in a tense moment in time. Just a few months ago, many of us were enjoying family and friends. We were planning vacations, on vacation, or returning home from vacations. Many were working in jobs they loved, or at least enjoyed going to. Life seemed normal.

Then, suddenly, the world got flipped upside down and we are all trying to figure out how to maintain normalcy while being told to stay at home. The virus has overtaken everyone’s thoughts. It has challenged people to be creative in lockdown. Parents are figuring out how to entertain their kids. If anything, a positive can be found in the way it has forced many of us to slow down.

Sadly, through the tension, we have also seen the dark side of humanity. Social media can be a breeding ground for hatred, anger, harsh words, and much more. A system that was developed to draw people together, has unfortunately pushed many of us apart. 

There are some things, especially during this season, we need to stop doing. I mean, a couple of them would be great to stop doing forever, but I know it will be hard enough to stop now, until we are able to interact in person again. So, how about we stop…

  1. NAME CALLING: Look, we are all stressed. We are all getting overwhelmed with information that may or not be true. People have different ideas on how this situation is supposed to be handled, and some of the ideas are pretty good. The reality is, many of us are just trying to figure out how to cope with a situation out of our control. We need to remember we are all in this together. This is not a time to beat people down for their political views. It is not a time to make people feel less than because they are not as financially secure as you. It is a time for us to come together. Let us truly be united, and that can be demonstrated by using kind words and encouragement for all. Ultimately, this could make us stronger in a time of collective weakness.
  2. SHARING FALSE INFORMATION:  I know, instantly you’re probably thinking, “How can we know? What if my sources are different than yours, and they have different facts?” That has actually been an argument toward me recently when I challenged people to fact check. Anyway, we can always find sources that fit our narrative. We can easily find things that share negative words about people we don’t like. We need to ask ourselves, “Is this okay? Can we settle for one-sided information?” “Should we be supporting false narratives?” “Should we continue to share stories that we are choosing not to research, just because it fits what we believe?” I submit we are causing more harm than good when we click share before reading different perspectives, or take the time to read the full article. We need to be aware of our own bias. We all have it. We can’t be a part of the problem. Let’s be better, especially now, when people are trying to figure out what is true.
  3. POLITICIZING EVERYTHING: Even in this pandemic we can’t get past drawing lines in the sand. IT’S A PANDEMIC!! Everyone is hurting. Everyone is struggling. We are all trying to make sense of it all. We may want to point fingers and blame people, but honestly, it won’t do any good. It doesn’t change anything. So, why do it? This virus doesn’t care whether you vote blue or red. It doesn’t care whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice. It couldn’t care less if you like Trump or Pelosi. If it doesn’t care, then maybe we should put our petty politics aside and work together to serve each other. Find a way to listen to each other and care for your neighbor. Maybe you need to ask yourself, if someone who votes differently than you got this virus, would you care for them, or wish them the worst? If the answer is the former, great, keep reading. If it’s the latter, stop reading and figure out why you care more about your politics than humanity.
  4. RACISM: I read that there was actually a group of white supremacists who wanted to get the virus and spread it to people of color. Who does that?! People with so much hatred and hurt in their heart that they would want to see others suffer. We are hearing stories of people being mistreated due to their ethnicity or perceived connection with where the virus was first detected. I am not even going to write it, because I know you know, and also I don’t want to feed into that rhetoric. Again, who cares where it began because it is everywhere. If we find ourselves feeling anger toward people who may come from the region just because they come from there, we need to be willing to humble ourselves and admit we are wrong. Let’s end the idea that people are inferior based on the color of their skin. Let’s realize we all are impacted by this, so we need each other. If you have fear or hatred toward a person of a different ethnicity, put yourself in the situation where you need one of “them” to help you. Would you accept their service, or push them away? What if “they” come up with the cure, would you take it? We are not so different. Quit allowing yourself to believe the lie that we are.
  5. IGNORING EACH OTHER: This is a historic event. This will define a generation. This will be in our memories forever. We will never be able to escape this. Don’t take this time for granted. Focus on your neighbors. Learn their faces. Pay attention to the needs of your family. Take time to listen. Focus on the struggles and fears being shared by others. You are not the only one effected by this, so take the opportunity to consider others beyond yourself. Quit ignoring each other. We will no longer be able to believe we have nothing in common with our fellow person. This has united us. In a weird, unfortunate way, we have been connected. This is our new reality and we need to hold on to each other through the process. 

I wonder what life will be like after all of this? I keep thinking people are going to be timid when they hear someone sneeze or cough. I imagine people being afraid to eat out. I believe, for a period of time, people will hesitate to gather together, wondering if they can get sick. It may only be for a moment, but this will have lasting effects on our society going forward.

Yet, I believe if we can start to stop these few things, perhaps we will be closer together at the end of this. It’s up to us. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and we are all going to be reaching it at the same time. My hope is, we will be closer than six feet apart when we exit the darkness, into the light. I guess, only time will tell.

What The Church Can Learn From Disney

Photo by Zichuan Han from Pexels

My family and I took a trip to DisneyWorld about a month ago. It was a great trip. Of course, it was tiring, but ultimately, a wonderful experience. My daughter was able to ride Big Thunder Mountain as her first “real” roller coaster ride. My sons and I were able to ride the cars together. So many memories were made. 

The great thing about DisneyWorld is the fact that they try to make the experience memorable from the very beginning. Once you enter the park, something magical occurs that brings you into your childhood, or enhances our childhood. As I was discussing the magical moments of our experience, I came to this thought: The Church can learn a thing or two from Disney.

Let’s start from the beginning…

1) BE WELCOMING:  The thing about Disney is they seriously try to make it seem like you’re in a whole new world (pun intended). They want to make your reality disappear, so the magic you experience brings you out of what you know, into what you wish the world could be. It seemed like everywhere you would go, the cast members would be extremely happy to see you, like you were the only one in the park. Obviously, all the non-cast members helped you realize very quickly that wasn’t the case, but the members did their best to welcome you with a smile, assist with any questions, and make you feel important. In an article in pastors.com , Rick Warren shared the number one reason people return to a church is when they feel loved. They need to know you care. By just saying, “Have a great day!”, listening to concerns, answering questions, etc. a person can feel valued. When someone enters the church doors, they should feel as if they are seen, welcomed, and know that there is someone who wants them to be there. The Disney welcoming crew is on it, and we need to learn how to bring that experience to our local churches. 

2) BE CLEAR: There was never a way for us to not know what was going on at certain times or in particular areas at Disney. The signs pointed us in the right directions. The parades were happening and we could look it up in the app or on a map to see where and when they were happening. When you were on a ride, everything was clearly marked and the staff was on the same page. When a ride shut down, there were people there to explain to the best of their ability what was expected to happen next. You see, when people come to church. they should have clarity. They should not be left wondering if they can drink the coffee during the sermon. They shouldn’t be expected to know where everything is right when they walk in the door. There should be some signage or someone available to assist them in their requests. The team should be clear on expectations, not just the worship team and pastor, but the welcoming team all the way to the children’s ministry. If you don’t have teams, then your key leaders should have answers for the biggest questions. Explain why you’re taking communion. Explain your service occasionally, but especially when you have new faces. Help people understand the process and what they should be expecting. Clarity brings peace in chaos. Disney is chaotic, but when you know where you’re going, and how to get there, it is easier to maneuver through the crowd. 

3) BE INCLUSIVE: Now, don’t shut this down just yet. This is a call to consider what you might need to shift to make people feel more comfortable in your space. While waiting in the line for “It’s A Small World”, it was amazing to see the boats come up that were wheelchair accessible. There were grandparents entering the ride with their grandchildren, that perhaps wouldn’t have been able to ride before. All the bathrooms had baby changing tables in them. I mean, I’m assuming the women’s room did, because my wife didn’t say otherwise. Having a baby changing table for dads is valuable. There were nursing stations for women who needed to breastfeed. Then, of course, there wasn’t anyone making people feel unwelcome if they didn’t believe in Mickey Mouse. What I’m trying to say is, churches need to find ways to make sure all who enter the doors feel valued and have dignity. The small thing of having a changing table in the men’s room means fathers can assist with the needs of the children. Make sure you have ways to assist those who have physical disabilities, or at least make it easier for them to access the facility. Don’t make people feel like they don’t belong because they don’t believe like you. Make the place comfortable. 

I want to share something else I found to be pretty incredible. There was a sing-along show for FROZEN.The show retells the story of Anna and Elsa with funny characters and, of course, the FROZEN stars. The show is totally worth sitting through if you’re a fan. What I found to be wonderful about the show was their sign language team. Yes, you read that right, there was a team. Two people in unison doing sign language to interpret the characters words. People who were unable to hear the characters were actually able to experience the show through their work. It was fantastic! If possible, the church should find ways to make their services more accessible. 

4) BE OWNERS: With all the people present in the park, it’s incredible to me how clean the place is. Disney has so much potential to be incredibly dirty, but they have a crew of people who own their roles. They see that they have a duty to keep the place clean, and they do it to the best of their ability. They don’t look to team leaders, owners, or managers. They don’t wait to be told. They see it and do it. The people behind the kiosks know they play a role in keeping the attendee happy, so they do it with a smile. Far too often, people in the churches wait for the leaders to guide their mission. They wait for leaders to take the initiative. They see something that needs to get done, but do nothing until someone says, “do it”. We need to learn how to own the church we attend. Help to clean up. Help to set up. Help to serve. Don’t just walk in to hear a message, because that’s not your only duty. Your real duty is to assist the church in its growth, maintenance, and mission. Find a way to make your church better. Don’t stand back and feel like you only have one role to play, you can play multiple roles which helps make the church better, and the experience more comfortable for the people entering the doors.

Much of this really shouldn’t seem like brand new news, but we still need to be better. We should have churches that people come into knowing they are welcome. People shouldn’t come into the churches we worship in, and be confused when we worship a God of clarity. Let’s be better at inviting, encouraging, and developing our church for the sake of those who have felt like they couldn’t enter through our gates. 

This New School Year, Feel Good About YOU!

Dear Student,

As you get ready for school, you will find yourself looking in the mirror to make sure you look good for the first day. That is completely understandable. You want to make a good impression and look like you have things together. 

Can I challenge and encourage you today?

Don’t. 

I’m not saying show up to school not feeling good about yourself, in fact, it’s the complete opposite. I want you to feel good about YOU! 

The struggle we face on many first days of anything is getting caught in the comparison trap. We start to look at other people and measuring ourselves up against who they are, what they are wearing, and/or what they have accomplished. 

[tweetshare tweet= “The struggle we face on many first days of anything is getting caught in the comparison trap.”]

As I was writing this, I saw a commercial that declared, “You need to make sure your gear is on point, especially if you want to look good on Instagram.” This is what you are facing. I get it. You need to look good. The truth is, the reason why you want to look good on the first day, is because you don’t want to be the lowest comparison.

Again, I want you to feel good about YOU! 

You need to hear this: no matter how good you look, how happy you seem, or what filter you put on, there will always be someone who has a better look, filter, or happy experience.

This is why I want you to feel good about YOU! When you feel good about you, you don’t compare yourself in a negative way. You find joy in others accomplishments and style because you find joy in your own. 

[tweetshare tweet=”When you feel good about you, you don’t compare yourself in a negative way. You find joy in others accomplishments and style because you find joy in your own.”]

You are enough. It doesn’t matter what you look like or have accomplished. What really matters, is how you treat yourself and others. 

Don’t hide behind a filter. Be you. Don’t hide behind make-up, but let your face shine. Be real. Be you.

Don’t allow your peers to determine your identity or shape your self-image. You are beautifully and wonderfully made, and I hope you can walk in that today. 

Start school well, but not because you look good, but because you feel good…about YOU!

Welcome back to school! Be safe! Be well! 

Do You See Them?

Photo by Nishant Vyas via Pexels

The conversation is being had right now about children who are separated from their families due to the immigration process. Now, I know that this first sentence has already caused a response inside. You are either ready to stop reading, or you are compelled to keep going. I truly hope the latter is true.

The hard part about this argument is the fact that we instantly go to the idea of “illegal immigration”, when the conversation should be pointed toward the seeking of asylum. These parents, and other adults, are running from something. Yes, not all, but most are.

There are children who are being hurt in the process. This is the bigeest issue at hand, in my opinion. We have children, who have no control of the situation, who are being brought across the border to seek a better life. They may be being used, or they may actually be the children of the people who are being detained. We don’t know the full story.

Whatever the situation might be, these are still children. Children who are being influenced by the decisions of adults. Whether it is the adult bringing them across or the adults who are making decisions to place them on concrete floors without soap, adults are making the decisions for them. These children are hurting.

What bothers me the most is the fact that there are Christian people who sit back and say, “Well, if they didn’t want the children to be in this position, they shouldn’t have broken the law.” Again, not all of them are breaking the law.

There are Christians who are saying, “Well, this is our country. We need to protect it.” Is this really our country? Where is our kingdom? Where are we really supposed to be protecting? The image of God and the kingdom of God should be our answer, if we claim Christianity. When we are making claims like the statements I have mentioned, we are turning away those who are made in the image of God and claiming a kingdom that we do not own or belong to.

What does this all mean?

I don’t have all the answers. I also won’t write too much trying to claim I do. However, I will say, before we jump to pushing these people away or ignoring the issue, may we turn to scripture and see what God would want our hearts to do.

[tweetshareinline tweet="...before we jump to pushing these people away or ignoring the issue, may we turn to scripture and  see what God would want our hearts to do."]

The Good Samaritan is a parable Jesus told to speak about loving our neighbor. The Samaritan is actually the one who helped a Hebrew man who was beaten and left for dead. He was ignored by religious leaders and people who were like him. He needed help and an unlikely helper came on the scene and saved his life.

What if we are supposed to be the unlikely helpers? Actually, take away the what if, we are supposed to be the unlikely helpers. What if the people we turn away are supposed to be our unlikely helpers? Again, take away the what if, they are unlikely helpers.

Another instance, Jesus is eating dinner with a Pharisee, and a sinful woman came into the dinner and began to weep and wash Jesus’ feet with her tears. She then proceeded to pour a jar of expensive perfume over Him to anoint Him in the house.

Jesus asked the Pharisee if he saw the woman. What a powerful question. Do you see this woman, in her brokenness and her pain, and do you see that you should be welcoming her in? She took steps to acknowledge who Jesus was and is. She needed to hear His words, “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” The people who are running. The children who are stuck in cages. They need us to see them.

[tweetshareinline tweet="The people who are running. The children who are stuck in cages. They need us to see them."]

They need us to see their humanity. They need us to see the image of God in them. They need us to remember what kingdom we claim and what hope we carry. They need us to remember they are our neighbors, and they may need us to be an unlikely helper to save their life.

The children need us. We cannot ignore their struggle. Their mental health needs us to step in and care. They need to see a “Christian nation” (If that could even be a thing), step up and do what Christ would have done: Welcome in the broken and lost and point them to rescue.

That’s the heart of our Savior and it should be our heart if we follow Him.

Giving It YOUR All

I remember when I played sports, regularly, I would always hear the coaches say things like, “Go hard or go home!” or “Give 110%” (because that’s possible). No matter what the phrase was, it was always implying this basic concept, “Give it your all!”

The fact of the matter is, at times I didn’t want to. If I saw someone who was bigger, or faster, I would step back and wonder, “Is it worth it?”. I can go hard. I can give 110%. The question was, would I still achieve my ultimate goal. If the odds seemed against me, my willingness to give more than 80% dwindled.

I’m not proud to say that. I wish I could say I always went hard. I just couldn’t. There were many times I stepped up to the challenge, but far too often, I shut down at the first sign of adversity.

At one time, I found myself doing the same thing as an adult. As I wrote books, I looked at other successful authors and think, “Well, they are famous, they will sell more, why should I try?”. As I began to pastor a church, I found myself looking at other pastors thinking, “Well, they have a nice building and a bunch of money, how can I match up? I can’t. So, why should I keep going?”

Again, not proud to say it, but this was a reality. Many of you reading have possibly held this same view. The struggle is real, so why struggle?

I have done a workout that had a trainer use the phrase, “Do your best, and forget the rest.” The problem was, my best wasn’t his best, so I would quit before I realized what my best really was.

I have come to realize that I have been trying to give my all, if it fit with the “all” of others. Does that make sense? Basically, I am comparing myself, and failing miserably.

I now have embraced the idea, that I need to give MY all, not someone else’s. I cannot expect to match up to people who have been doing things for a longer period of time than I have, or live in a different context than me. I cannot base my success on the success of another. I have to do what I can do, to achieve my best performance. My best, is MY best.

I will celebrate the best of others, but not define myself based on their success. We need to celebrate the success of others. It actually should only push us to be better. Not to match up to them, but for ourselves to achieve the best we can achieve.

[tweetshare tweet= “We need to celebrate the success of others. It actually should only push us to be better. Not to match up to them, but for ourselves to achieve the best we can achieve.”]

You need to give it YOUR all. It is not about how good another person is. It is not about the success they are achieving. It is about how good YOU are doing. It is about you being satisfied with your results. Not allowing yourself to fall back when the first sign of adversity comes your way.

[tweetshare tweet= “It is about you being satisfied with your results. Not allowing yourself to fall back when the first sign of adversity comes your way.”]

There will always be someone better, someone stronger, someone cuter, someone braver, someone smarter, and the list can go on and on. So, don’t try to be that person, just try to be the better, stronger, braver, smarter, and secure YOU!

That’s all we can give.

KEEP SMILING

I love when people smile when I walk into a place. It makes me feel appreciated. It makes me feel like I have brought some sort of joy into their life.

There’s something about seeing someone smile, that makes me feel better. I could be having the worst day, but if I see someone smile, I feel a little less crummy.

What if we smiled more at each other? What if we found a way to give a kind look toward someone else? What would that do for them? More importantly, what would that do for you?

You may actually feel happier, knowing that you may have brightened someone else’s day.

Take time to smile. Keep a smile on your face. Bring joy into the life of another.

This could be the pay it forward movement we need.

We see people paying for food for cars behind them in the drive thru. Those are great gestures. However, it may add pressure to someone with little to no extra money, to pay for someone else.

[tweetshare tweet= “A smile costs nothing, but could be worth everything to someone in need of a little love to be shown. You could be that person. Keep smiling.”]

A smile costs nothing, but could be worth everything to someone in need of a little love to be shown. You could be that person. Keep smiling.

Have a great day!