May 14, 2016

Be the Unifier in the Midst of Divisiveness

There are many times in the day-to-day we hear talk that divides.

It may be a leader, for example, who states something that he or she knows others disagree with. Perhaps the person feels genuinely strong in favor of a particular cause, and are hoping that by their statement, they and others who agree with them will convince others of the rightness of their belief.  But their approach breeds discord, even hate, among those who choose to be caught in the passion of the debate.

Whatever the person's motive for making that divisive statement, the rest of social media and the news reporters and those they interview erupt passionately with either criticism or support.  And in so doing, the division has been made.

But what really divides us?  A disagreement over something we each only know partially about?  Often most who join the raucous clamor on either side haven't even taken the time to understand the situation fully.

I propose that division is unnecessary.

There ARE issues that are important, and deserve passionate debate.  But there is a beauty in being able to have that debate with respect for the other person, learn the perspective of the other side, learn about each other in the process, and remain part of a mutually respectful community.  How I long to see this skill appreciated and practiced among my fellow citizens, and especially among more of my fellow Christians.

God made us to live in community - with Him, and with others.  But what is our community?  A select group of people we have found who agree with us on most everything?  People with whom we have much in common?  Being drawn to those who have things in common is normal.  But I don't think ignoring or avoiding those with more differences of opinion or different life experiences is healthy.

We can learn so much from each other.  We need each other.  As an example, I have dozens of friends from all over the country who have a commitment to Jesus Christ in common with me.  They are my spiritual brothers and sisters.  However, they are from different denominations of all kinds.  Some even hold different political views than I do!  (Gasp!)  However, because we agree that Jesus Christ is Lord, and He is worthy of our praise and our devotion, I find that it's very easy to worship with them, study God's Word with them, and pray with them.  I'm grateful for some of them who have prayed for me at the times I have needed it.

But what if there is a divisive issue on which we disagree?  Together, unified, we can work toward mutually beneficial solutions.  First, by praying together, asking God for direction, wisdom, understanding, and peace.  Second, by listening to each other, understanding all the hard parts of both sides of an issue.  Third, by reminding each other that this world is not our home, but that we are placed here to be a light in the darkness.  So whatever issues we may disagree on, we can agree that there are people who need God's love and salvation, and it is our job to tell them about it.

There are things that shouldn't be discussed on social media.

There are days turning off the news and choosing to pray about it is better than listening to everyone's opinions and stewing over it.

Jesus prayed for unity among believers.  This is the greatest witness we can have.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." - John 17:20-23 (NIV)

Don't let divisive leaders sway you.  Know what is most important.  Be a community of people who share life in love, grace and a desire to understand one another better.  And above all, keep your light shining bright into the dark places, so those without hope will find Jesus, the real Hope.

May 08, 2016

PCS Time Musings

In two short months, we'll be PCSing, which is military speak for moving to a new duty station for the sake of the soldier's job.

I love the adventure of living in a new place.  It means a new house to arrange, new surroundings to explore, new people to meet, new opportunities for activities and involvement we may not have tried before.  It suits me perfectly because when I was young, it was hard for me to pinpoint what I wanted to be when I grew up because many things interested me.

Inevitably, I meet the neatest people just before we move.  It happens every time.  That really stinks, because I know I'd really enjoy getting to know them better, but I won't have the chance.  But I don't avoid the opportunity to spend even a short time around them.  Even if I just meet a person for a day, I enjoy learning about them and learning from them.

The neat people I knew longer before we move are hard to leave.  I wish I could gather up all my favorite people from around the country and we could all live in the same place.  At least we hope to cross paths again, either by chance of assignment, or by a planned visit.

The people we serve with in ministry have a hard time letting us go.  We love serving in ministry, and we love the people who serve alongside us in volunteer positions as well as vocational positions.  Serving God's people is one of the best things about this adventure.  But I have learned that God's church is worldwide, and He takes care of it by bringing people to fill the gaps when some leave.  And if a gap is not filled, that ministry may be either not needed for a time, or the opening will inspire someone to step into it who otherwise may not have had the courage to step up.  We don't like to leave gaps, but we look ahead to filling gaps in the next place.

Anticipating a move is full of wonder and sometimes anxiety about whether the house we'll find will be in a good location and have good features that meet our family's needs.  Having lived in 8 places during our marriage so far, we have come to know our preferences.  We spend a lot of time looking at the floor plan of housing on post, and at rental listings off post, bookmarking our favorites, and imagining our furniture and selves in each one, trying to assess if it works or not.  We get excited when new listings come available and get disappointed when one of our favorites gets rented before we get a chance at it.  I told myself I would not be obsessed with the place we'll live, but that I'll trust God to provide us with just the right place.  I keep having to go back to that plan, because I tend toward obsessing and worrying.

I love going to the local library and finding books about the state we'll move to and let the kids read about it themselves, and see what they're excited about.  Websites and facebook pages get scoured for interesting restaurants, homeschool groups, PWOC and chapel events, sightseeing attractions, shopping we're accustomed to, farmer's market times and locations, activities and extracurricular activities for our children, and more.  We try to picture ourselves there, and find things to look forward to.

School needs to hurry up and finish so I can compile our records and be complete with that, then have time for a break before I get a new mailing address and have to order the next bunch of curriculum.

Sometimes it's a struggle for me not to detach from the place we are currently living, and the events and activities that are offered.  But getting involved in what's available here and now really helps the time go by more quickly, and gives us a chance to have closure in saying goodbye to the people we've enjoyed being around.

I don't dare buy more of anything than I can use up before the PCS date.  This time I started way too early in using up things in my pantry and freezer.  My cupboards were nearly bare before my latest shopping trip.  Now I'm stocked up for a couple weeks.  I have a mental and physical list of things I want to use up, sell, donate, and throw away before we move.  Everything else will need sorting and organizing.

So life for us right now is a mixed bag of anticipation and concern.  We don't like leaving, but we do like going.

May 07, 2016

Don't Just Watch Life. Direct Life.

There are people in my life who inspire me.  They're ordinary people, but with an extraordinary perception, insight or wisdom, and they share it.  And when they do, I'm grateful.  But also, I wish I'd heard what they shared the day before, the week before, or longer, because when I was without that thing they shared and needed it, I did not have it myself.  I did not inspire myself toward that perspective when I wish I could have.  But I know I never could have inspired myself, nor did these people who inspire me get their inspiration from themselves, but from God.

So my inspiration wanes when my time listening to God wanes.  My time listening to God wanes too often these days - my days full of children and husband and school and home.  And at those times, I'm grateful for the inspirational people who are listening to God, and for their willingness to share it so I can benefit from it.  Isn't this what the church - the Body of Christ - is for?  Sharing encouragement and building each other up?  Yes indeed.  And praising God together for the relationships we have with Him and each other that keep us moving forward in hope.

Direct TV has a slogan, "Don't just watch T.V.  Direct T.V."  That comes to mind because it seems like these inspiring people direct their lives, rather than just watch it happen to them.  Life has a way of happening to me, pleasant or frustrating, and I sort of go through my day meeting needs as I see them, and reacting to the people around me as they affect me.  That often results in me being grumpy and irritable, though sometimes I can maintain my joy in spite of what goes awry.  And I wonder if I were to invest more time in listening to God, He would inspire me to the thoughts and perspectives and wisdom I need to navigate the plans that fail, the people (read: children) that don't cooperate, and the overwhelming input my five senses (mostly ears and eyes) are assaulted with.  If I could start my day with a Scriptural mantra, or a reminder of God's purpose for my day, or a worship song stuck (thankfully) in my head, perhaps it would lead to me being an inspiration to others.

That's really what I want to be, and in such a way that they turn to God themselves for their inspiration as well.