Be Grateful for Being You

Happy Thanksgiving! Heading into the holidays, how are you feeling? Hopefully, you can find something for which to be grateful in this season of reflection and the beginning of the season of celebration and togetherness.

This season brings families together and while that is a good thing sometimes it can also be a challenge. I would like to encourage you to enjoy the holidays and to remember who you are and what your life is about rather than to give in to the stress of the season.

Take the time to reflect during this season upon the things and people in your life for which you are grateful. Often we get so caught up in the stress of the season that we miss the joy and connection that is possible. Set some goals and boundaries on the front end and it will be a much more enjoyable and fruitful holiday.

Take time to reflect. Set some time aside to think about what this season means to you and remind yourself to reconnect to your values. If you find that you have slipped in prioritizing your life according to your value system, this is a good time to make the adjustment. What has been good in your life and what have you done well this year? Also, what is not so good and where have you gotten off track? Maybe it is time to course correct and head into the holidays with purpose.

Focus on your goals for the season. What is important to you during this holiday season? How do you want to spend your time and with whom? Is there a tradition which you want to continue or add to this time? With whom do you want to spend some extra time? Take time to schedule what is important to you before life and someone else’s priorities take over your seasonal calendar and you find yourself wishing you had been able to do something which there was just no time for.

Be present. Whatever you decide you want to do and with whomever you decide to spend time, be there. Be there not just in body but in spirit, with your whole self, mind, body, emotions and spirit. Be mindful of your presence and the presence of others. What are you feeling? What are they showing you? The gift of being present is the most valuable gift you can give. Often we miss real connection because we are not fully present.

Don’t lose yourself. Remember who you are and don’t lose yourself as you try to meet the demands and desires of others at the expense of your own. Love is often about sacrifice but it is also about presenting your authentic self. If you have to be someone else to be accepted and loved, there is a problem and you need to reassess why you are willing to give yourself away to make someone else happy.

Enjoy yourself and your friends and family! Family can sometimes be difficult so be mindful of who you are and that life is short. Don’t allow others to steal your peace and your time. This is your holiday season, make it memorable in a good way.wp-1479836848154.jpg

Summer is Coming to an End

Summer is officially over which leads many people to a new mindset. Children are back to school and vacation season is over for most so where’s your mind taking you? Are you reassessing your life in any way? Maybe you should be? Not everyone feels the need to wait until January 1st to reassess and set new goals. Today is as good of a time as any to begin. What in your life is not working? What is making you feel stressed or over-burdened? What things or relationships are no longer serving you?

We have a limited amount of both time and space. Have you thought about it? Well, maybe you should. There are only so many hours in the day and we have only so much space in our homes, lives, and minds. Are you spending your time wisely? I am reminded of the idea that instead of dollars, we should assess the cost of things based upon how long it takes us to earn that amount. It changes your shopping and spending when you consider this. Is that handbag worth a week’s salary? Is that dinner out worth an hour of your time at work, or two? How much time would you be willing to invest into that piece of jewelry or workout equipment?

How about spending time with people either on the telephone or in person? Given your limited amount of time, is this someone with whom you want to spend your time. To some it sounds selfish but in truth, we are responsible to steward our time just like we steward our money. If you want to give some time to a person, but it is a person who often takes more of your time than you want to give, consider setting boundaries with your time. It is ok to set a time limit for telephone calls or even face to face visits.

Have you ever considered that your “stuff” could be causing you anxiety? Many of us are visual and clutter or excess can actually cause us stress. It is a great time to clean out your children’s rooms or even your own. How about your closet? How long has it been since that dress has fit you or those shoes were in style? Sometimes the things that we are holding onto that are bringing clutter and stress into our lives can actually be a blessing to someone else that really needs them. How about all of those knickknacks aka tchotchkes you are keeping because they belonged to grandma or they were from a special trip. Do you really love them and do they add to your decor or are they just clutter? If you decide you don’t want to hang onto them but they have sentimental value, consider giving them to someone else who may enjoy them or feel a similar sentimentality. If it reminds you of a great trip with family or friends, do have pictures from that trip which would do the same thing and take up less of your space? Your space should be a reflection of you and should allow you to be relaxed and peaceful not stressful.

Now to expand upon the idea of limited space, have you ever thought of your brain as having a limited amount of space? We actually do have a limited amount of grey matter and we can choose how to appropriate that brain space. If you find yourself forgetful or stressed it may be because you have too many things on your mind. There are several things that you can do if you suspect that this is the case. First, write things down. This works in two ways, one by getting things written somewhere to which you can later refer when needed and two by getting them out of the forefront of your mind. Your brain works a lot like a computer in that there is only a certain amount of bandwidth or memory and like a computer sometimes you have to clean out the junk and cookies. Some of the things that are rolling around in there, you might need to just let go of or file away for another time. Taking the time to examine your thoughts is often easier than continuing to allow them to “hang out”. Sometimes the things that you are thinking about are causing you stress and making you depressed because you are trying to figure everything out today only to feel defeated. Often, organizing our thoughts into categories, such as: what I need to look at today; what I need to look at next week or in the future and what I need to throw out as junk can be helpful. Businesses have a fiscal year which can begin at most any time and I suggest we also need a fiscal year, when we press the reset button and re-examine our time and space. We can use the time that we might have spent on the beach or at the pool to look at our life. Moving into the fall season, which is quickly followed by the holiday season, could be a good time to reassess and clear the clutter. You will feel less stressed and maybe feel ten pounds lighter.

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Hope: Where Has it Gone?

 

In light of the recent news of the apparent suicidal deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I think that this is an appropriate question. I think that these unfortunate and very sad deaths are a reminder that a lot of people have lost their hope. I am a movie buff so this sad thought takes me back to a scene from a cult favorite, The Big Chill, where old college friends reunite for the funeral of a friend who has recently committed suicide. The scene is the funeral and a pastor is asking this question, where has hope gone for this generation. That movie previewed in 1983. Losing hope is not a new idea but the increase of hopelessness is incredibly sad and must be addressed.

The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life”. There are many times in life where things appear hopeless: in times of physical and mental illness in which a cure seems impossible or a long time in coming; in times of extreme grief; in times of insurmountable indecision and confusion; in times of heartbreak, only to name a few. This list can go on, but it is a question that I think we need to ask of ourselves. Where does your hope lie?
If your hope is in the economy, in the government, in yourself, then I understand your hopelessness. I usually avoid preaching in my blogposts, but faith is a stream that runs through all of my posts. Believing in someone or something greater than yourself keeps hope alive. I choose to believe in a God who created the universe and loves each of us because we are His children. I believe that He gives us the ability to choose within the life that we live and He also intervenes at times. I believe in prayer and that prayer has the power to change things. I believe that God cares about the things that concern us and He encourages us to not lose hope. I believe that most people are inherently good, even though I have had many negative experiences with people in my lifetime. I do not put my hope in people, although God often uses them to keep my hope alive through their encouraging and truthful words and thoughtful deeds.

If you are feeling hopeless, please reach out to someone!!! I have read that there has been a 65% increase in people calling suicide hotlines since the deaths of these famous people. I hope that this is a good thing as there is also proof that when suicide is publicized that there is, indeed, an increase in the suicide rate. Sometimes hopelessness propagates more hopeless but it is my desire to increase your hope through this blogpost. There is always hope. Yes, I will say that again. There is always hope! There is hope, that is, unless you choose to end your life, in that case there is no longer any hope. There are always solutions, there are always answers, there is always comfort, there is always choice, there is always change. No situation is permanent, things change or if not then you have the power to change them. Most physical and mental conditions have solutions, treatments, medications. Grief never fully leaves but it lessens and becomes more manageable. All questions have answers. Heartbreak heals. Pain subsides. The sun always shines again.

I am not discounting deep pain or deep depression, as the hurt is real, but I am offering that there are answers and there is hope. If you think that I just don’t understand because I have never been there, you would be wrong. I have experienced several times of deep hopelessness in my life where I have actually thought about ending my own life. Those times were almost debilitating and hard to break free from and as a result of those times and my love for you guys, I want to offer hope. Hope does not spring eternal and I am not sure that hope floats but hope is alive as long as we are alive. Choose life because hope wins. Sounds like a cliché but it is true. I believe that hope is attached to love and love wins. God gives us hope because of His great love for us and our love for each other has hope attached to it. I care and therefore I want to help you to know that tomorrow is a new day, with new opportunities for positive change. If you think that no one cares, that is a lie which you choose to believe. We all have someone who cares. If you can’t name a person who cares if you live or die, please call or email me because I do. I value human life because God does and I have come to realize that each life is precious and full of potential.

 

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Retirement, Vacation and Rest

I have a coworker who is retiring today and I have just gotten home from vacation and it has me thinking about rest. We live in a society that values busyness and productivity but rarely looks at the value of rest and the seasons of life. God has given us seasons, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years not in order to just provide variety or a purpose to own a planner but in order to show us the value of the demarcation of time and seasons into times of productivity and times of rest. What we do and the product of our days is valuable but so is the allocation of times and seasons of rest.
In order to be at our best, as human beings, we need times of rest and refreshing. Ecclesiastes says there is a time for everything and there is a purpose for everything under heaven. Wise words indeed! There is a time to work and a time to rest. How are you doing on the rest part? Do you give your body and mind times of rest and refreshing by escaping from work or even from home, at times. Weekends were made for rest and play. Yes, there are times we have to work on weekends but we should set aside at least one day each week to rest and find enjoyment. Even God rested on the seventh or Sabbath day, not because He was tired but because He was giving us an example. (Yes, I stole that one from my pastor.)
What about vacation? We are a country of people who often let their paid vacation days go rather than utilize them for the purpose of getting away with friends and family. Research has shown that vacation time improves workers’ productivity and improves relationships. Vacation time can be used for elaborate vacation destinations, day trips or staycations (where you take time off and just enjoy being at home).
What about retirement? Well, I generally do not believe in retirement. I think most people need to be productive and active in order to flourish but there is a time to leave a job that you have done for years, that no longer fulfills you or that is taxing your aging body. Retirement should look different for everyone as it is an individual thing but it is a time that you cease from the “grind” of a 40 hour workweek, doing something just to pay your bills.

Maybe it is a career change, a lighter schedule, a return to school or beginning to volunteer or pursue hobbies or skills that you have always wanted to do or learn20180507_130131.jpg

I encourage you to take a rest/siesta/vacation soon. You will feel better physically, mentally and emotionally if you do and your relationships will improve if your rest includes family or friends. Go ahead, I dare you to give yourself a day, a week, who knows, you may even make it a lifestyle change. Change is good!

 

Journaling – Is it Beneficial?

We have all heard that journaling is a good thing to do but is it really beneficial and how does it benefit me when I begin to journal? We have all probably had times when we heard that journaling was a good thing and we start for a time but don’t stay with it. I am guilty! I get that it is hard to keep it up consistently but journaling, especially when you are going through a chaotic life season, is beneficial.
Journaling looks different for everyone. Some are quite the writers so journaling is beautiful, creative and often share-worthy. Me, I am a bullet point person. I was previously a creative writer but somewhere between an English teacher who basically told me to stop “being so flowery” in my writing and just say what I needed to say and graduate school where, even if you are a good writer, your professors will tear your writing to shreds as each is looking for something quite different from the other, I became a “just the facts ma’am” type of writer. When I journal, I find that just putting it down on paper, knowing no one will likely read it, is helpful. So whatever your writing style, consider giving it try.

pexels-photo-261735.jpegJournaling gives us a place to put down in words all of those things floating around in our minds and that in itself is valuable. Often journaling relieves anxiety as putting all of these thoughts to paper will free our mind to deal with what remains. When you put your thoughts down on paper, you are better able to deal with them and prioritize them into categories, such as: What do I need to Deal with Now and What Can Wait; What Can I do Something About and What is Beyond My Control; What is True and What is Not; and the list goes on depending upon your particular thoughts.

Journaling gives us a “remembrance”. Sometimes when I am struggling with a particularly hard time in life, I go back in my journals and see just how far that I have come or how I dealt with (survived) another particularly hard time. In the Old Testament often they build tabernacles or places of remembrance to reflect upon the past and encourage them in the present. God tells us to remember His faithfulness. We think that we will never forget particular times or things that have happened, but we do.
Journaling is also good for sharing with those in our support system who can help us to “sort through” and analyze those things that need our attention. That may be a counselor or a trusted friend or family member. I often have my clients journal. Some do it well and some are still trying to make it a habit. Remember, that this is ok. If you begin to journal and forget or find yourself just not that into it, begin again. It is valuable when you do it but not a reason to beat yourself up when you don’t. I once worked with a counselor that said she saw the brain as having bandwidth. You only have so much, so putting some of those thoughts onto paper allows you to use the bandwidth for the things that you need to deal with and analyzing those thoughts. I think that is wise and I know that is true!

 

Guilty as Charged: When We Become Judge, Jury and Executioner!

What happens to you when you judge others? Yes, you read that right. I did not say what happens to you when you are judged but what happens to you when you judge others. Did you ever think about it? Well, I would like to encourage you to think about it for a minute or two. People often think that Christians are the most judgmental people on the planet and often we are. I do not believe that this pleases God. In fact, I think that he hates it and I do not believe that I am using a term which is too strong in order to describe His displeasure when we judge others. We who are called to love with the love of God are actually doing just the opposite when we judge and condemn others. The Bible says that we are actually placing ourselves in a position which is only rightly reserved for God. We are, in essence, usurping His authority. When we usurp someone’s authority, we take it by force. I do not know about you but that is a place I just do not want to be.

The Bible tells us that Man views people from the outside but God looks at the heart. Jesus rightly described the Pharisees as white-washed tombs, full of dead men’s bones, because they looked “good” on the outside but their hearts were black and ugly. Their “works” appear to align with the law but in their hearts they were bitter, hateful and stingy. We are often guilty of judging others based upon their appearance or their “works”. I have even heard Christians say, “We are not called to judge but we are called to be “fruit-inspectors””. Well, I say that I do not see that term in scripture and we need to stop saying it because it really sounds foolish. There is the scripture in Matthew 7:15-20, where we are told to look at the fruit in a person’s life, but this is a specific instruction as to judging teachers and prophets as to what they are saying and doing and is not given as a license to walk around judging others but as a warning to guard our hearts against deception.

Now I do believe that we should be wise and when a person’s words and actions do not align, we are to determine a person’s intent by what they do and not just their words. Many a person has been tripped up by one who speaks words that say that which the other wants to hear but their actions are just not there in alignment with their words. I think, however, that God is quit clear when He says judge not lest you be judged. The price of judging others is high. So if you find yourself standing in the position, please reconsider.

Judging others brings judgment upon us. I believe in grace, receiving it from God, giving it to others and giving it to myself. I want to live under Grace and I want to allow you to live under it as well. When we judge, I personally feel that we are somewhat removing ourselves from a grace under which God allows us to live. This is a place where we are often allowed to escape some of the consequences of our actions and to definitely avoid God’s judgment. Now, before you stone me, I am not saying that we can just sow negatively and always reap positively. Again, God judges our hearts. So I, for one, do not want to be in a place where I have decided that I am going to do and say whatever I wish and not expect any consequences for those words and actions. However, when I judge, I open the door to receive the punishment/consequences of my actions/words upon myself. Selah (pause and calmly think about that)! Do you find yourself living hard consequences for every choice and never feeling like you “get a break”? Well, maybe you should take a look at yourself and see where you might be judging someone. Often we judge others for exactly what we do ourselves. Remember the parable about not trying to remove the splinter out of our brother’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own. If we are harsh toward someone about something, maybe we should examine ourselves for that same “flaw”.

Judging also separates us from relationship. We all know those critical, hateful people who seem to know what is best for everyone and are quick to point out everyone’s “faults”. They are usually lonely because even their friends do not enjoy being judged by them. True friends love each other and while knowing their friends are not perfect, give grace to each other. No one wants to be in relationship with someone who is always pointing out the faults of others because that person will also point out the faults of those with whom they have relationship. Those who judge are often hard and bitter and even their countenance is affected by their judgment of others. I encourage you to avoid those people or at least to limit your time with them and examine yourself as to where you might be judging others.

Typically, judgment based upon appearance or upon considering one aspect of another person is based upon ignorance and is the heart of prejudice and bigotry. If I hate/judge someone whom I do not know based upon limited knowledge of that person, I am operating in ignorance and ignorance definitely will always lead us in the wrong direction. We have to allow ourselves to view people and determine our feelings for them based upon knowledge and observance and that can not happen while viewing one aspect of a person but only by considering them, over time, in the fullness of who they are. Even once we know others, we are not encouraged to judge them but definitely when we do not know them for who they are. Judgment is weighty and hard. Others can feel the weight of our judgment of them even if the words are not spoken. I may not be able to “read” your heart but if you are judging me, I can “feel or sense” it. If you do not believe it, try it when you meet someone new. Quickly determine what you think of that person without giving yourself a chance to get to know who they are. If your determination is negative, that person will “feel” it without you saying a word and you will have lost the chance to truly get to know that person and possibly finding them to be a friend.

God says a lot about judgment in the Bible, His and ours, and He clearly tells us not to judge. If you feel a prick when you read this, examine your heart. I am not here to condemn or judge you but I would like to help you to help yourself. Judgment is hateful, ugly, evil and ignorant. Open you heart to His forgiveness and forgive yourself and move on in love. Love covers a multitude of sins and brings healing and restoration.

 

Who Has Your Ear?

Who is speaking into your life? Have you ever thought about it? It is very important whom we allow to speak into our lives because not everyone is someone whose words will encourage and support. Not everyone’s words are truth and life. The Bible says that we have the power of life and death in our tongues and we should endeavor to speak life. Well, that seems like a no-brainer but not everyone does it all of the time. Words are powerful, words spoken to us, words spoken by us and words spoken over us. Today, I want to address words spoken to us and over us.

I sometimes wish I could walk around in a bubble where only truth and life are spoken to me and over me because I can feel the difference in my body between those words of life and the negative, untruthful words. All words have weight and substance and we need to be mindful of both those we are speaking and those we are hearing. We are affected by the words spoken to us and over us, even if we try to not listen or take them to heart. A constant barrage of negative or critical words will wound our souls. The old saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”, is a lie. Often, words are more wounding than a physical strike or blow and the damage often lasts longer.

So how do we avoid those who would wound us with their words? Do we have the right to keep those people out of our lives or limit our contact? I say we owe it to ourselves to do just that. It is part of caring for ourselves well. If we are in relationship with someone who wounds with their words, we need to let them know that their words are hurtful and if they make no effort to understand and to cease from the behavior, we have every right to limit our contact. I often hear people say, “I can take it and I know that she doesn’t mean it”, well to that I say, “You are playing with a snake, hoping it won’t bite you and that is foolish”.

What about the person who speaks words which are not hurtful but are just negative? We choose the environments in which we place ourselves. Do we want to live in the country or in the city? Do we want to work in a big company or a small, mom and pop business? Do we want to spend our free time outside or inside? The choices are almost endless but have you thought about your choice when it comes to that negative coworker or family member who drains the life out of you? Do you limit your time around that person or just allow them to come by your office or cubicle or into your space and just dump on you? Have you thought about it? When a person brings their negative words/attitudes to you about nearly everything, it is like allowing your neighbor to dump their garbage in your yard. We all have those people in our lives but we can choose to limit the amount of time that we will speed listening to their words.

Another area in which we choose the types of words that are spoken to and over us is in choosing with whom we will share our lives and from whom we will glean advice. When you are dealing with an issue in your life, to whom do you go in order to get advice or to just bounce ideas off of? If you have not thought about it, I would like to challenge you to. We all need people in our lives that we can talk to and gain wisdom from. I believe we need several people in our lives that will give us wise counsel. There are those from whom you would ask financial advice, spiritual advice, or just feedback in order to insure that you are thinking clearly about a matter. If you don’t have those people in your life, begin to look for them. How do they manage their own lives? Do you admire the way that they live? Do you feel that they are mature and successful? I believe in praying for God to send those people into our lives. It is a prayer that He answers. So let’s recap.

Whose words do you limit being spoken into and over your life?

• Those Who Regularly Use Their Words as Daggers
• Negative Nellys Who Rarely have Anything Positive to Say
• Those Who Do not Give Wise Counsel

If you find yourself feeling hurt, down or exhausted after a conversation with someone, remember this litmus test. Maybe, just maybe that person is not speaking Truth and Life to you and only you have the power to change that. Don’t allow anyone to dump their garbage onto your lawn or into your life!

Seasons of Life

seasons

If you haven’t realized it yet, life is comprised of seasons just as our calendar is divided by months, days, hours and those divided by: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. Moving into and out of new life seasons is often difficult. We typically enjoy certain seasons of the calendar year more than others, I prefer Spring and Summer and often enjoy Fall but dislike Winter because in my area we still suffer through some cold weather, which is not my preference. Likewise, we often enjoy certain seasons of life more than others. The book in the Bible, Ecclesiastes, says there is a time and purpose for everything under heaven and goes on to list the various times of life, including a time to live and a time to die. Many in my generation will remember the song by the Byrds, Turn! Turn! Turn!, which lyrically quotes Ecclesiastes and helps us to memorize that particular scripture. I digress, but truly life is broken into seasons as well.
So what do you do with that and how do you maximize your particular season and get the most from it that you possibly can?
1) Recognize what season you are in. Have you recently experienced a transition? Often transitions are upon us and we don’t even realize that we have stepped from one season into another. We can feel out of sorts and think that something is seriously wrong with either our mental or physical health only to realize that, of course, we feel differently as we have transitioned into a new life season.
2) Acknowledge the new season. By celebrating the previous season and reflecting upon all of the good things that came from that season, as well as, the not so good things that you have no problem leaving behind, you will get more from the current season.
3) Consider the new season. What might this new place bring to your life which is new and exciting and can provide fulfillment in areas of your life? What challenges might this new season bring?
4) Dress appropriately! Now it is winter in my area and if I were to go out in my favorite outfit, tank top, shorts and flip flops, I would be quite unhappy and find that I quickly would hate myself, my day and just about everyone around me, but if I choose my coat and new warm boots I will be happier and a little more tolerant. What new outfit or equipment does this new season require? Maybe I need to make some changes in order to be more comfortable in the new season.
5) Enjoy it! Seasons pass quickly, whether they are good or bad they will end. If it is a great season, squeeze every bit of joy from it. If it is a challenging season, hold on tight and know that this too will pass.
Often our seasons follow our age or the ages of our children and family. I hear parents lamenting their children growing older or moving out on their own. I find that each season of parenthood provides both challenges and joys. Part of being a good parent is adjusting to these seasons and asking myself, what do I need in this season and what does my child need from me during this season. I also ask my adult child what she needs from me. If I go into automatic, MOM mode, I will overstep her boundaries and compromise our relationship if I am not careful. (I wish I had this one down already but I am still new to this season.) I hear people, as well, struggling with a new season in relationship with their aging parents. I am new to this season as well but I am observing my friends who do it well and those who struggle in the hope that I will learn some things. I believe the questions that we ask ourselves are similar to the childhood seasons, what do I need from this season and what does my parent(s) need from me during this season. How do I care for my parents without trampling over their boundaries and treating them like children? Even if I feel that they are acting like children, I must remember that they are still adults (if they are still enjoying mental health) and they are the final authority over their lives and their decisions. My input may or may not be welcome.
There are also our personal seasons based upon age to consider. There is a time when the world is new and everything is a choice. Do I go to college or not? Do I marry or not? Do I live in the city or country, this state or that one? What career do I want to pursue? Do I see myself having children? The list of choices goes on and on during the early adult season. Once we are a little older there are jobs, spouses, children, housing, and the career and lifestyle ladder. Still there are choices but they are certainly beginning to narrow. Then there is the stage where children are leaving the nest, parents are aging, career is on the downhill slide or has changed and other choices are less important as we seeing our lives in a whole new light. Wherever you find yourself, if you are looking at or entering a new season, BREATHE! There are really no good or bad seasons, just different ones and as long as you prepare and adjust you can enjoy each one. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: (Ecc. 3:1) He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecc 3:11)

 

 

Us and Them

I have just been contemplating the many ways that our society seeks to separate us and how detrimental the practice is to us as a community. We were created for community. Even scripture tells us that God made us male and female and that woman was actually taken from man. The segregation was our idea, not His.  In society, we are separated by age, sex, by race, by socioeconomic level, by education level, and even the church separates us by” the church and the world”.

I would like to encourage you to look at how we are the same rather than how we are different and how we can come together rather than to remain apart. Now, even God did not make us into “cookie-cutter people” nor does He want that.  I believe that He enjoys our uniqueness but He never intended for us to use it to separate us. When we view it as us and them, we not only divide but have a tendency to determine worth. Women are smarter/weaker/fill in the blank than men or one race is more likely to commit crime/live on government assistance/have children outside of marriage than another. Socioeconomic differences also cause us to determine worth when often lack of finances has nothing to do with either worth and value or intelligence. Each generation struggles with the younger one and the younger often thinks the older knows nothing at all.

How about the education piece? Well, definitely those with more degrees and letters behind their names are smarter and more valuable than those who don’t possess that. It is just not true. Tell that to the person who has a Master’s degree and works at McDonald’s when he is communicating with a plumber who runs his own business.  So why do we insist on classification? It is human nature. If I can meet a certain standard and you do not, well I must be better than you. But what if it is just not true? What if different is just different and not better or worse?

Then there is the church, which should be known by our love. Is love the banner under which we operate as we consider and encounter those “in the world”? Now, I am not encouraging anyone to go against what they know is true or to ignore what they see as contrary to godliness but I am encouraging people to stop differentiating and start opening their minds. We are all people, young and old, men and women, all nationalities, all economic and education levels and Christian and non-Christian and we all have those among us who are good and bad, intelligent and not so much, loving and mean, caring and selfish. I would like to encourage you to look around this week and find someone who appears different from you and take a chance to get to know them. You may find there are more similarities than there are differences and you may even find the differences interesting and challenging. The older I get and the more people that I meet, the more I see how much alike we are rather than how different. 

Organically Grown 

Today a lot of people are all about organic things, such as: organic foods, organic cosmetics, and other organic substances but I would like us to consider organic relationships. What are they and how do we go about them? Organic relationships develop naturally without manipulation or pursuit. Now, I would never advocate complacency or passivity but sometimes we need to just allow relationships to develop without pushing or controlling them.

Organic relationships develop and progress naturally. I am not saying that you don’t have to make an effort. All good relationships require that we spend time together, encourage and support one another and sometimes step out of our comfort zone in order to be there for the other person. This can be anywhere from inconveniencing ourselves for the other’s benefit to letting that person know that we are glad that we have them in our lives and we want them to know that we are in their corner.

There is a difference, however, in an organic relationship and in one that we must manipulate in order to benefit from the relationship or to keep it going when it would otherwise fall apart. Organic relationships are those in which two people find that their lives are better because of having the other person in their lives. Yes, that sounds selfish but if a relationship is mutually beneficial then the needs of both people are met and a relationship blossoms like a flower. All relationships have times where one person’s needs are put ahead of another, such as when one person is struggling and the other has to sacrifice in order to help the other or when one person just doesn’t have what it takes to be there for a bit and the friend just understands that this is a temporary situation. These occasions should not be the normal, however, or you have a one-sided relationship.

Organic relationships should grow and develop. If a relationship in your life is stagnant then it just may be that the organic path of that relationship has led you to examine if there is still a real relationship there or if this person has become an acquaintance. Organic relationships do, at times, cease to grow and that is ok too because it is the natural course and not all relationships are forever.