Whatever Happens

It’s been interesting lately to watch people: how they drive, how they speak on TV, and how they act in public. It makes me wonder how they act around people they know or if they are different when they are around strangers. Some are young people, and some are “older” people; just like I seem to be (late baby boomer). Back in the 80’s there was a “movement” called the “me generation”. It was said that the people of that era were more concerned about themselves than anyone else and that they didn’t care what affect they had on those around them. This was how the “looking out for number 1” mantra was born. Today, people today claim that the Millennial generation does just the same; looking out only for themselves – I disagree. Studies on the Millennial generation show they want to do things that matter and make a difference. They are more concerned about social and environmental issues than most previous generations; they are compassionate and understanding. I would suggest that they have been labeled as self-centered because they want more out of life earlier that us “older” people did.

Millennials do not want to wait until later in life to travel or explore. They don’t believe that they should work themselves to death and ignore their families or friends. They have seen the tired and worn down late generation baby boomers and early generation Xers; they want more out of life. Back to people watching, I overheard a phone call at the airport this morning between a man (late 50’s) and his friend. The man’s father died on Saturday and he was relaying that he was told that dad wasn’t doing well on Thursday night and that he decided to work Friday and Saturday before flying out on Sunday – a day late. Living today is hard. I would offer that it isn’t any harder than any other time in history; the problems are just different. Where are you on this spectrum and what can you do change? Will you be one day late?

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Philippians 1:27

I wonder if we could have “take backs” for all of the times that we acted poorly, how far back would the clock turn? How many years would we get back? The verse today speaks to me in two ways – behavior and response. Our behavior drives how people act around us. If we are careless or focused only on ourselves, people around us become frustrated; even to the point where they don’t want to be around us. Small things like paying attention to drivers around us on the road, looking out for neighbors or the neighborhood and, noticing the subtle changes in others are great ways to behave. This may help others see life from a different perspective.

The other way I see this verse is through our response to events. “Whatever happens…” says to me that no matter what people say or do, act in way “worthy of the gospel”. This goes for our response to circumstances in our lives. When a medical diagnosis isn’t positive or life events hits hard, act in a way “worthy of the gospel”. Jesus didn’t complain when He was being mocked, He wasn’t “stressed out” when people wouldn’t leave him alone and He did not pity himself when He was tortured and hung on a cross to die. He conducted Himself just as honorably in His last days as He did in first days. Leave self-pity behind when things are rough and turn your thoughts to God. He is here for us in the good and the bad times, so as St. Paul reminds us – “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

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True Friendship

I hate writing the phrase “politician” when I describe myself. Even though I hold a political office, I have never considered myself a politician – I’m a public servant. So, when we talk about people telling the truth, no one ever thinks about a politician being anywhere near even the top two-thirds of any list. I think that I’m pretty truthful and I know that I am fiercely loyal as a friend and co-worker. I’m also devastated when people break that trust with me. Unfortunately it happens, especially in politics. True friends on the other hand, will always tell you the truth and rarely let you down.

I’m the logical answer guy that you can call when you need help with a problem. I’ll always listen to the issue but I’m a little more direct and emphasize logic over emotion – just what all men do! So, when a man has troubles that he is looking to share with a male friend, it is often a hard conversation for both of the friends. Its not that men are incapable, its just that we aren’t really wired that way, so emotional conversations are hard for us. True friends will always give you the hard truth, whether you want to hear it or not. We know what needs to be said and often we just say it regardless of the emotional fallout. This is why men and women fight so often in a relationship – logic vs. emotion. There is no answer to this problem but if you’re aware of it, maybe you can defuse a fight before it starts. In the end, men always appreciate honesty and friendship that they find in each other – no matter how painfully honest it can be.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Proverbs 27:6

There are a number of sayings about friends but the one that hits close to this verse is “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. False promises, false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and justifying sin are all around us these days. CS Lewis wrote a book titled “The Screwtape Letters” based on the fictional exchange of letters between two of the devils workmen – one was Uncle Screwtape. It is a fascinating point of view to look at our lives from the devil’s perspective (what can be perceived anyway).

The devil works all around us, each and every day, trying to get us to quit on God. He tempts us with perceived power, daily riches bought through sin, inattention to our relationship with God or simply getting in the way of us being with God. These are the kisses noted in Proverbs. These kisses are the distractions or the seduction of this life that we can easily get caught in. Sure, being good is hard and God doesn’t make our lives easier (for our own good) so a relationship with Him causes pain and offers joy (wounds). Our enemy (the devil) makes it all seem so simple that it can be easy to let God slide a little farther from your heart. Don’t be fooled! Like any friendship, it takes work but a relationship with God has eternal implications – eternal life with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. It’s the kind of relationship that you can only have with a true friend.

Why is this happening?

This was a tragic weekend in the United States, two mass shootings and more than 30 people are dead. We still don’t know why and there are a number of people who trying to place blame. We don’t need to blame anyone; we need solutions to the problems that are causing these acts. There are not any simple, one size fits all, answers because these deep-seated causes have complicated solutions. What we really need are people to discuss this issue like rational human beings and work together to find solutions. But hey, who am I kidding? Rational human beings? Do any even exist?

So, we find ourselves asking, “why is the happening?” We never really understand why bad things happen to people or to us for that matter. Honestly, there are some people who seem to have a huge share of the “bad things” happening to them. It doesn’t have to be “mass shooting bad” for things to seem like they are piling up. It can be a bad medical diagnosis, or a credit card being declined, and the bad things start to pile up. Maybe it’s just your mind perceiving “bad things” and you get anxious about all things. Again, it doesn’t matter what the cause is, and the answer isn’t simple; it’s complicated. We’re human and prone to interference by the devil who likes to mess with our thoughts, but I believe that the verses this week may get us closer to answering the question – why is this happening?

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

God does not give us more than we can handle. He asks us to turn to Him for strength and guidance. As humans we often turn to inward needs or we turn to an escape. We usually only turn to God as a last resort, a kind of “I’ve done all that I could think of, it’s your turn” moment. In the long run, God is building us up, He’s making us stronger because He knows that the devil will be working hard to turn us away from Him.

These troubles in our lives are small compared to the love that God has for us. If we turn from Him during these difficult times, what will we do when it really counts? God is giving us the ability to face down anything that the devil throws at us. This week’s verses tell their own story, the problem and the answer are simply contained in two verses. Perhaps we aren’t supposed to know, why is this happening? God knows why and that is all that matters. Stand up to your troubles, stop worrying about why and know that God is with you, making you stronger – every minute of every day.