Saturday, July 28, 2018

Everyone’s Going Through Something

by Sylvia Gaston

There is a phrase being quoted on social media. It is credited to author Wendy Mass and says:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

This sentiment is a good one that I’ve given a great deal of thought to. It has actually helped me with my (sometimes) bad attitude toward others.

There are certain things about people that drive me crazy such as when people are impolite or demonstrate entitlement. Some examples are when I stop in the middle of the road to let someone cross and they don’t even look up or acknowledge that I didn’t zoom by them as I could legally do. Or when I hear a parent talking to their child in a loud, embarrassing, mean or demeaning way. I chalk it up to rudeness or a product of poor upbringing. This is the judgmental side of me that I’m not very proud of.

However, when I remind myself that I have no idea what this person is going through, my empathy kicks in and I find myself saying a prayer for that person instead. In fact, as I drive around town, going about my busy day, I find myself praying for a lot of people – strangers that look to be sad, homeless, or disabled. I pray for the skater boys and girls I see that they would be kept safe as they roll around town. I pray for the people I see who are too poor to afford a car for their groceries. I pray for the ones gathering cans and bottles to supplement their income. I pray for the ones that appear to be struggling with mental illness.

We’ve all been, or will go through, tough times – a crisis, a health scare, a traumatic event, or some other terribly difficult incident. When I found myself in the middle of a crisis, I became so inwardly focused, or in such a state of survival mode, that I became oblivious to others. I’m not sure I can even recall how I behaved.

I need to give others the same benefit of the doubt I would want because I don’t know what their life is like. Some people are really struggling – either temporarily or their entire life is a struggle.

Perhaps that’s why God wrote hundreds of verses in the Bible about how to treat others. A few of my favorites are:

“I want all of you to agree with one another. Be understanding. Love one another. Be kind and tender. Be humble. Don’t pay back evil with evil. Don’t pay back unkind words with unkind words. Instead, pay back evil with kind words. This is what you have been chosen to do. You will receive a blessing by doing this.” – 1 Peter 3:8-9 (NIRV)

“If possible, live in peace with everyone. Do that as much as you can.” – Romans 12:18 (NIRV)
 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second most important command is this: ‘Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself. These two commands are the most important.” – Mark 12:30-31 (ERV)

Jesus even simplified it for us when he said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Luke 6:31 NIV)

Lastly, I’m reminded by Wendy Mass’ phrase about how callous, selfish, and mean our culture is becoming. I want to be counter-cultural to that. I want to try to be kinder to others than they deserve. I want to be part of a solution in the midst of a generation that is sometimes foul-mouthed, heartless, or looking for someone to take advantage of. 

Thanks, Jesus (and Wendy), for the reminder to . . . “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Leaders Worth Following

by Tim Howard
If you are a leader, you have people following you! I believe it was John Maxwell that said something to this effect: If you think you are a leader and no one is following you – you are just out for a good walk.
I‘ve followed several great men and women over the years and have been helped greatly by them in the process of my maturity. They led in such a way as to elicit from me loyalty, faithfulness, a willingness to sacrifice and a strong desire to follow them.
How do you develop a team that people want to play on? To reword the question; How do you become a leader, people want to follow?
One key word is “Environment.” We all create a certain environment, atmosphere or aura if you will, that other people can see, sense and react to. How many of you find yourself rejoicing when a certain co-worker calls the office to say they won’t be in on a specific day? Be honest!  If you rejoice when they are not present, it’s because they have created an environment that’s not very pleasant. The opposite is true as well. We miss someone because they create an atmosphere that is enjoyable.
There’s a sign that reads: “All people bring me joy, some when they enter and others when they leave.” That sums it up.
 A good atmosphere or a good environment keeps the morale high and when the morale is high, people want to follow the leader and they look forward to playing on the team. One of the greatest challenges a leader will ever face is not merely to complete a task but to create an environment conducive to love, joy, peace, and camaraderie.

Here are four ways to create an atmosphere on the job, in the home, at the school, and a myriad of other places that will help to create in people a desire to follow your leadership.

1.   Be a person of integrity. Open, upfront and honest! The environment this creates will allow openness from others and build a safe place for free expression. Authenticity is a must!

2.   Treat people in the same way you want to be treated and don’t show favoritism. Everyone has value and is uniquely made. In Genesis 37, Jacob showed favoritism by loving one son more than the others. Result: The family members resented each other and negativity grew. A competitive and comparative spirit enters and the temperature becomes very cold when you favor some over others.

3.   Compliment your followers more than you criticize them. How many of you would admit: When the boss asks you to step into his or her office, the first thing to go through your mind is this question: “What did I do wrong?” Focusing on the good and giving some praise now and then can build the morale and create a positive attitude.  Look for the Gold. You will never find the gold in people if you only focus on the dirt surrounding them. And by the way, we all get dirty. 

4.   Talk WITH people, not TO them! You can talk to people, at people or with people but when you do the latter of the three, people will respect you because you are actually listening to them. Communication was always intended to be a dialogue, not a monologue.

I encourage you to be a leader worth following!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Life On Mission

by Candace Cortez

When this article reaches you, I will be on a short-term mission trip to Central America with 9 other young people from my church family. As a church, we believe in both local and global missions, because Jesus told us to ‘go unto all the world and make disciples.” As I mentally and physically prepare for another experience serving and sharing Jesus’ love with another community, I am counting the lessons learned by saying yes to these opportunities.

Loving is easy when you’re not in your regular context.
There’s something special about getting out of your regularl scheduled life to focus on love others. This lets me know that sometimes I have made my life too busy to be aware of opportunities to love “in real life.” I am reminded to slow down.

God is everywhere.
I do not have the edge on what living for the Lord looks like, and how He chooses to reveal Himself. When you get to worship, serve, and create communities in places different than what you’re used to, it is a great reminder that God is in places you least expect Him.

Living on mission is a mixture of intentionality and sensitivity.
If we don’t make it a priority, caring for others will not often make its way into our lives because caring for others is not always convenient. It often took Jesus out of His way, and we need to expect the same for ourselves. But even in the unplanned moments, are we staying sensitive to when God is giving us a window to shine through in someone else’s life? Do it on purpose, and make sure to stay open to those unexpected moments to serve.

Loving people is work.
That is all I have to say about that!

The work of loving people gives life.
Some of my favorite moments in life have been the feelings of joy and comradery of a time of hard work for someone else. Those conversations when I was able to encourage, help or share the gospel make life feel at it’s best.

My neighbor is both next door and across the globe.
I love loving the people in the communities in other countries, and it reminds me how easy it can be. I am reminded that showing love to those in close proximity is often a challenge, but is just as valuable as loving those around the globe.

I have enough time to love others if it is a priority.
Just like everything else, if it matters, there is time. Some people confess to being too busy to pause to help, serve, or encourage others. But I think there is something incorrect about our pace or priority if helping others doesn’t make the cut, and we may need to make some adjustments.

I am able to do more than I thought I could.
I feel so limited by my lack of knowledge, actual skills, etc. During these mission trips, when you are squeezed without the normal resources of our comfort zone, I am surprised by what I am actually able to do. I have poured concrete, bandaged wounds, taught messages in different languages, and worked past exhaustion to help others, none of which would have happened if I didn’t say yes to doing whatever it takes for the mission.

In my failures, God is still making things happen.
Because we are often asked to do those things beyond our own abilities, mistakes will be plentiful. I am so reassured, that even if I slip up, if bad attitudes reside, if I say the wrong thing if I forget things, God does His thing, sometimes even more beautifully than if I got it right.

Serving next to people creates community on a new level.
I have memories with people that I will remember for the rest of my life. We may not always connect in our normal context, but serving in a focused way together brings the Church together. 

My prayer for all of us is that we wake up each morning, with the intention of making disciples of those in our world. This may be your children, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers. Making disciples is sometimes slow work, but it literally changes the world. God has called you today, to love someone in a way shows them Jesus. For some of you, God has placed a big idea, one that is sort of scary, and may be bigger than you. Start working on it! For some of you, God has placed a burden in your heart for a certain situation, or group of people. Find out how to serve them! You are the only you He made, and He desires to use all of us in this mission.