Freedom?

We just celebrated Independence Day in the U.S this past weekend. A time for us to reflect on being free from the control of the King of England and what being free really means. It is ironic that our road to freedom started with riots and protests. Also ironic, at this point in our history, the U.S. is still struggling to be “the land of the free”. We have racial inequality that honestly has never been resolved. Our forefathers and the founders of our democracy were slave owners; it was an unfortunate part of life in those times. No human being should ever be owned. In fact, when you look back in history, the human race was pretty barbaric towards one another. In the Roman Colosseum, they watched “man vs. beast” events for entertainment. So, owning another human being wasn’t too far removed. Sure, over time these events stopped but it was over 1800 years before slavey did.

The United States declared war on itself over this very issue in 1861. Citizen fought citizen over the “right” to own another human being. For four years, this war went on and it is estimated that as many as 750,000 people died. Despite efforts ensure that “All men are created equal” and the changes to the constitution ensuring “equality”, the reality was that things were never equal; for another 100 years, racial inequality persisted. The Civil Rights act of 1964 was supposed to “fix” it but here we are in 2020 and we still have not achieved balance.

So why this tirade, you might ask? The hypocrisy is killing me! For weeks I’ve been hearing, watching and reading “Christians” go on about statues and rioting without the slightest care toward the HUMAN BEINGS involved in this issue. No one is talking or writing about the racial inequities that exist – they never did, and they aren’t now. Myself included! None of us can truly understand the challenges of being Black in America (or the world) but we should surely be empathetic and work toward solutions that genuinely put everyone on a level playing field. I’m not talking about wealth distribution, but we’ve got to invest in strategies that will work. In leadership, I often say that a vision is needed for people to get behind a leader. What do we envision our future looking like? When you strip away all of the politics, all of the “I’ve got mine” beliefs, and the other distractions, ask yourself what is really on your heart and who put it there?

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

God knows we are easily distracted; look how long it took for Eve to get distracted/tempted from the one rule they had “Don’t eat from the tree in the middle of the garden”? God set in our minds and hearts that we will find Him when we seek Him with all of our heart. This isn’t a “microwave” solution: fast and when we want it. The lesson here is that we need to become immersed in God’s word, seek him with all of our heart; not just a minute or two and only when we need Him. The only true way forward in today’s world is with a God loving heart and spirit.

Spend time with God, everyday. If you are like everyone who receives e-mails, you’ll read 15 minutes of “funny” e-mails, check the stories on a news website or spend an hour looking at the feed on Twitter. Are you devoting that much time to seeking the Lord with all your heart? God is always accessible to hear your prayers, accept your thanks, receive your praise and forgive your sins. God can be that old friend who you tell all of your secrets to but like your dearest of friends, it doesn’t happen overnight. God has done so much for us and He just asks for us get close to Him and to seek Him with all your heart.

Cling to what is good

This marks only the second time that I have been late with a post. As they say, “best laid plans”. I usually try to stick to one subject at a time but this week, these two seemed to go hand and hand – Love and Hate. Frank Sinatra sang a song made popular by the TV show “Married with Children” called Love and Marriage. The words tell us that “they go together like a horse and carriage” and often, so do the words Love and Hate. We throw them around as we generalize most things in our lives; “I love football” or “I hate spinach”. When we use these words towards people; things change. Love and Hate become very powerful words that can change a situation in the blink of an eye. For anyone dating, the first time you say “I love you” is pretty powerful. The phrase is either repeated back to you in affirmation or left unreturned like an envelop with no forwarding address. The word hate is just as powerful when its directed at a person; to be told you are hated goes right to the core of your soul. We don’t mind if people don’t like us, but no one wants to be hated.

I’m not going to pretend that we will go around our lives “loving” everything or everyone, but the act of love can be just as meaningful. I would submit that the “act of love” involves compassion, understanding, empathy, commitment and building a sense of community (being one). Today, we need more Love, less Hate. Use this time of the year, when people are more open to acts of kindness, to be more loving. Spread the joy of this season with the ones you know and then spread it with those you don’t. Say hi to someone at church for the first time, step in and help someone at work who isn’t expecting it, sit and listen to someone who needs a friend or be forgiving of past mistakes. This is the season of Love, so go out and spread the joy.

“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs” Proverbs 10:12 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9

I thought that I would share a closely related verse this week since they both talk about Love and Hate. This is the last week of Advent; the week before we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Advent reminds us of the Love that God has for us so, it seemed fitting. God had so many opportunities to demonstrate his contempt with us and turn toward hate. We continued to deny Him, we disobeyed His laws until He finally took things in His own hands and sent us a Savior.

He showed us the ultimate form of Love by sending His one and only Son to die for our sins. There was no hate, just love. God’s inspired word is found in the bible, which teaches us that hatred stirs dissension. We’ve often heard about “the company we keep” and if we are around those that hate, we too soon will. We are encouraged to stay by what is good and to remember that love covers all wrongs. The wrongs of this world were covered by God’s love for us through Jesus Christ. His love is sincere and we must cling to that because it is good and righteous. No matter what you have done or what you have thought, God loves you and wants an eternal life with all of His children who believe. Cling to God and nothing can separate you.

Discipline and Compassion

Discipline comes in many forms. For some of us, it is the focus that drives us every day. For others, discipline means teachable moments and for a few, it means punishment. Supervisors “discipline” people as part of their duties. What do the people who you discipline take away from the experience? If the punishment was punitive, chances are they just took away a little bitterness. Our job as leaders is to be sure that the punishment fits the crime. If they didn’t know how to or were not equipped to do the job, how hard should you be on them? A friend once told me that we shouldn’t kill an ant with an anvil. It was good advice about compassion.

People often think of compassion as being soft on others or caring about them. When we say, “I feel sorry for them”, we think we’re being compassionate. The word is derived from the Latin phrase: suffer with. The thesaurus lists: empathy, care, concern, warmth, love, leniency and kindness as a few alternatives. What version of compassion do you most often associate with? Supervisors should exercise all of them. I would argue that we all should exercise a little compassion with each other rather than just suffering with a person in our minds.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him…” Psalm 103:13

Discipline takes on two roles – punishment and order. The order that discipline brings is getting out of bed every day at 5am to go to the gym for that dreaded spin class or the order that breeds commitment to seeing a job through to the end. Not wanting to repeat myself but the work we do is pleasing to God, we should have the discipline to do our best – always.

On the other side, fear and punishment are not often thought of when we think of our Father in Heaven. We all received punishment for the original sin of Adam and Eve. Child labor is now painful, we have to work the fields for our food and the price of our daily sin is death here on earth. We should fear God! The good news in this passage is that the Lord will have compassion on those of us who fear Him. God loves us and He has proven that by sending His son to die for our sins. We no longer have to fear the punishment of our sins; Jesus Christ did that for us on the cross at Calvary. God wanted His children close to him and while we will not stay in this life for eternity, we will share eternity with our Father in Heaven. A pretty fair punishment if you ask me.