One of the most difficult things to create in today’s world is a safe place for people. This would be a place where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or attack. This would be a place where acceptance of the individual would be paramount in spite of disagreements of philosophies and opinions. This would be a place where discussion and learning could take place without devaluing the person. This place seems so opposite of the polarizing nature of the world around us.
The world around us is convinced that sides must be taken and labels must be applied to everyone in every situation. There is very little space for any moderate approach to life. Everyone is forced into one camp or the opposite camp and with those camps come all the assumptions and stereotypes. This approach creates a world where conflicts are the norm and judgments of others is the rule. You are either Republican or Democrat. You are either liberal or conservative. You are either pro-life or pro-choice. You are either anti-gun or pro-gun. You are either anti-gay or pro-gay. The either/or dynamic is the only option provided in society.
What if there was a place where labels did not matter? What if there was a place where differing views could calmly co-exist? What if there was a place where there was neither liberal or conservative? What if there was a place where there was neither pro- or anti-? What if there was a place where there is neither Greek or Jew? What if there was a place where there was neither slave or free? What if there was a place where there was neither man or woman? What if there was a place where difference in people’s views or opinions did not separate them as a people? Wait a minute……. sounds like what the Church was intended to be.
I have a tree in my yard that still has most of its leaves. In fact, it is one of the only trees in the neighborhood which is not bare at this point in autumn. Today is another very windy day in our area with predicted wind gusts of thirty miles per hour. As I watched the wind strip the few remaining leaves from many of the trees, I thought about the tree in my yard. I wondered if this wind on this day would be too strong for the tree to hold on to the many leaves it has. I wondered if this is the day that the beautiful, red, orange, and yellow leaves will yield to the force of the wind and come flying off. Or would the tree remain strong in holding on to those leaves and when I returned home tonight the beauty would remain.
These thoughts led me to consider the times in life when we can be battered by strong winds. There are many that when the winds begin to blow, easily yield to the wind. Their beauty and part of who they are is torn away and falls around them. They become bare and dormant in their lives. There are others who are like the tree in my yard, they bend with the wind but they do not yield parts of who they are to the mighty force of the wind. They hold on.
Which am I? Which are you? I encourage us to strive to hold on when life’s wind blows hard. Hold on to who we are. Hold on to those parts of us which result in beauty. Remain strong in the resolve to not yield to the wind but to retain all that makes us the beautiful creature which the Lord created.
As I reflected back on this week, or maybe weeks, this song came to my mind. It is important to just keep moving down the road.
One of the goals that I have for my life is that I will continue to grow. Now it should be obvious that I am not wishing or expecting growth in my physical attributes (I am too old to grow taller and striving to not to grow rounder). Instead, I want my growth to occur in the areas of knowledge, perspective, and attitude. I view this type of growth as being vital to continued life. The question is how to work on continued growth. So here are some actions that I take which I perceive help me to grow:
- Read often (newspapers, books, magazines, blog posts)
- Listen to others (both those who share your views and those who disagree with your views)
- Take advantage of opportunities to see different geographical areas (in communities, in our nation, in the world)
- Experience a variety of volunteer opportunities
- Create regular times for contemplation
I believe a combination of these actions have helped me to continue a growth process in my life.
What would you add to the list?
Image provided by en.wikipedia.org
My father has entered what appears to be the last stages of his life. I had the opportunity to visit him yesterday and have some conversation. The conversation was far from normal since his ability to process thoughts is fairly limited. He quickly jumps from topic to topic which can be unrelated or jump back to the same topic over and over. There is no benefit in correcting his thoughts since he will not recall the information that you share with him. His health is a series of good days and bad days like a roller coaster. I share this information not in an attempt to seek sympathy or kind words from anyone but instead to give you information regarding how my family is experiencing this transition in my dad’s life. I also share it as a basis for the thoughts I am about to write.
With my dad’s situation, it would be very easy to be discouraged and frustrated. I could easily go into a litany of concerns which could dominate my thoughts. I could worry about the future and how disruptive to future plans dad’s precarious situation might be. I could sit in sadness and grief. I could complain about all the uncertainty. However, none of these emotions or thoughts are actually what I am experiencing. Instead, I have adopted the approach of “a day at a time.” I do not sit and ponder what tomorrow might mean in regards to my dad, instead I appreciate that today, dad is still present and I have an opportunity to be with him. I am focused on his comfort and his quality of life. I am focused on his day and what it entails.
This is an important lesson for me. I think all of us should deal with the day that is at hand and not get anxious about the days, weeks, months, years that lie ahead. There is value in planning for the future but there are drawbacks to trying to live in the future. I need to live today, plan for tomorrow, and enjoy life now. Jesus said this very eloquently:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34, NIV)
Today’s song video is based upon what is happening outside on this beautiful fall morning. (Sorry for the poor video quality)
Today I was struck by the image of the sun shining through the yellow leaves on the maple tree outside my office. So I stopped to take a picture (the one with this post). The beauty was so overwhelming. Even though it was pretty chilly this morning when I was walking into the building, this image expressed warmth to me.
How often do we go through life and miss the beauty that is around us? Some of that beauty is contained in the nature that we encounter each day. Some of that beauty is contained in the people who enter our lives each day. Some of the beauty can be found in ourselves, in our thoughts and our feelings. There seems to be an endless amount of beauty in our lives each and every day but so often it goes unnoticed.
So I encourage each of you to look for the beauty in your day today. For those who are believers in the Lord, give thanks to the Lord for the beauty which the Creator has placed in our lives. If you are not a believer in the Lord, take time to reflect upon the source of the beauty which you encounter. Either way, do not let the beauty escape your attention. You may be surprised how it will add warmth into your life.