There’s a lot of talk currently about how divided we are in the US. While I think that’s true, I also think there is a lot that still unites us.
Consider the following things that still unite us with other people:
- Church and religious beliefs
- Places we work
- Clubs and affinity groups
- Colleges and universities we’ve attended
- Civic groups
- Volunteer organizations
- Common goals
- Common experiences
- Countries or states of origin
That’s a good, yet incomplete list! We don’t realize all the things that bring unity until we pause long enough to consider them. I’m encouraged by such list.
Unity doesn’t mean “in total agreement with”. In fact, we can have unity with someone, even when we don’t agree with them. For example, you can disagree with a relative, yet still have unity with them as a member of your family.
Disagreeing, or having differing viewpoints, with someone doesn’t mean we can’t have unity with them. We’re not required to hate someone and treat them poorly, simply because we don’t agree with them on a specific topc. Why would we sacrifice unity on the altar of disagreement? Why would we throw out a relationship simply because of differing viewpoint or opinion? That seems wasteful to me.
When you have a disagreement with a friend, family member, or someone you currently have unity with, remember that you can still be united, even amidst differing opinions or viewpoints.
Unity and disagreement are not mutually exclusive.
I currently facilitate an adult Bible study group at our church. I’ve been doing it for several years, and I just love the folks that attend! They consistently show up eager to discuss the section of scripture we’re studying and share their knowledge, while also remaining open to the fact that we don’t know everything, and that we all still have much to learn. Spending time with them every Sunday is one of the highlights of my week!
I was especially encouraged by our group this week when one of the members suggested that we have a Zoom meeting during the week to further discuss a specific concept we were studying in our weekly class. (Right now, we’re in the middle of studying the book of Romans.) The class was up for it, so this person scheduled the meeting and sent out invites. We met for almost 90 minutes on Thursday evening to dig deeper into our study. It was an enjoyable and energizing time.
I love spending time with growth minded people. There’s a verse in the Bible that states, “As iron sharpens iron, so a fried sharpens a friend.” May we all look for, and spend time with, those friends that sharpen us. So too should we do our part to sharpen them as well.
When you see a natural disaster on TV or hear about people dealing with life challenges, it’s easy to think that those kinds of things only happen to other people. Until they happen to you.
In the past 2 years I’ve had some life events happen that, in the past, I would have seen as things that happen to other people, but not to me. One was some health news and another is the current wildfires burning in Oregon that is directly impacting friends and family.
Its’ quite different when these things are happening to you versus happening to others. When it happens to others we think, “That’s too bad” and then go about our business. It’s different when it’s happening to us, because we can’t just turn it off or change the channel like we do when we’re watching a disaster on the TV. When it’s happening to us, we’re living it, and there is no off switch.
I’m reminded of the importance of empathy toward others in the struggles they face. While that doesn’t mean I have to take on, and be responsible for, everyone’s burdens, it does remind me that others don’t have an off switch in the troubles they face either. With that in mind, I should offer what I can to help others in their struggles, because I know I appreciate it when others do that for me.
Last week my wife and I spent an evening at Crater Lake National Park. While the deep blue water of the lake is reason enough to visit, I was there primarily for the clear, dark, moonless sky that would prove ideal for stargazing. (The sunset and following sunrise were a delightful bonus!) Seeing the Milky Way over Crater Lake was an Oregon bucket list item I was looking forward to checking off.
Wile we were at an overlook on the east side of the lake, with our picnic dinner watching the sunset, we met a guy named Aaron from Columbus Ohio that was traveling through Oregon after a recent business trip. He was telling us that he and his wife were eager to move out to Oregon after some family obligations that wee keeping them in Ohio.
We continued taking as the sun set, until finally the darkened sky revealed the Milky Way that stretched overhead from north to south. It was absolutely beautiful.
The three of us took turns pointing out satellites, and shooting starts and unanimously agreeing that this was awesome.
It was awesome, and not just the starts. I think it was awesome that even during this season of so much division and turmoil in our country and world, my wife and I could share such a cool experience with someone who, hours before was a stranger, but someone who left as a friend.
May we all be on the lookout for opportunities to share a kind word, friendly conversation, or cool experience with those around us.
Earlier this week I was having a conversation with someone about recent events. At several times during the conversation, I felt like there was a point I could make about what they were saying. Fortunately, I decided not to, and just listened to where they were coming from. In that circumstance, I think I made the right choice.
Speaking from my own observations and experienced, it seems like people are all over the spectrum with regard to what they think, how they’re dealing with the current myriad issues and how they’re being impacted by those issues. There are so many opinions, world-views and stressors on people, and so many different ways people are handling them, that it’s unlikely you’ll find someone on the exact same place on the spectrum as you are. I certainly haven’t. As such, in our effort to make a point, we could easy turn a conversation into a divisive exchange without even meaning to.
I think it would serve us well to know when the time to make a point is, and when it would be more appropriate to compassionately listen to someone in order to better understand where they are coming from.
May we continually be able to discern which response is appropriate for the conversations we find ourselves in.
There’s so much going on in world and the US lately! Compared to what was happening just 6 months ago, it feels like we’ve been transported and dropped off in a whole new world. As a result, there is so much news coming at us every hour (or very often in real time) in an attempt to keep us informed. While it’s good to be informed, it’s not good to be over saturated.
When I watch too much negative news, it starts to impact my attitude and my thinking. It leaves me feeling weighted down. I’m grateful that I know this about myself, so that I can monitor my news intake and stop watching once I’ve been informed, instead of continuing to watching to the point of over saturation. It’s good to know my limit!
Do you know your oversaturation limit for negative news? If not, pay attention to your attitude and outlook based on the amount of news your consuming. If you too find yourself being weighted down by current events, perhaps throttle back on the consumption. Who knows, you might be able to improve your outlook, and free up some time, by watching less news.
This week a good friend from church told me that they’ll be moving to another state to restore an old house they’ll be living in. This friend has a real knack for restoration, interior design, and overall leaving the world better than they found it, so I’m super excited for this adventure of theirs.
I’ve been thinking of the years we’ve spent together in the same Sunday school class, the fun we’ve had playing in the worship band, and the great conversations we’ve had over the years. I also remember the often-spoken kind and encouraging words from this friend that have been a source of joy and comfort as we’ve traveled life together for several years.
There’s a song I’ve heard recently by country singer Brad Paisley titled, “Last Time for Everything”. It’s about how good things transition away, and as they go, you experience them for the last time. This song, and my friend’s move, again remind me that we’re to enjoy the people, places, things, and even the time of life we’re currently in, while we have it, because things transition.
I’m certain my friend and I will continue to stay in touch and will no doubt see each other again in the future. And I’m also reminded that while good things transition out of our life, just as often, equally good things transition in.
When you hear a discouraging word or someone says something false or unkind about you, remember this: those words only have the meaning you give them.
Unkind thoughts, words, or opinions of others are not an indictment or sentence someone else gets to place on you. You are the one who decides what meaning, if any at all you give to those words. If someone says that you’re, say, selfish, and you’re clearly not, you don’t have to be negatively impacted by theirs words or opinion. You can decide that those words don’t ring true about you, and therefore have no meaning for you. You are then free to let those words go and not carry them around with you.
If perhaps, in this scenario, you realize that you are indeed selfish, the meaning you give those words may be along the lines of agreement and that this is an area you’re going to seek to better yourself. A rebuke of who you are is not the meaning you give them, but rather it’s a picture of something you’d like (you decide) to change about yourself.
We can also give positive meaning to words of encouragement or affirmation. We can take these words to mean that we’re on track to being the person we’d like to become.
We are the ones who get to decide the meaning we give something. It is not placed on us by others but determined by us alone. What a privilege!
“Make every minute two: one to experience it, one to savor it.” ~Neal Peart
“Your gonna miss this. You’re gonna want this back. You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.” ~Trace Atkins – You’re Gonna Miss This
I’ve been thinking about the passing of time lately. Isn’t it amazing how quickly it goes by? Consider the following scenarios:
You plan a vacation and eagerly look forward to it. Before you know it, you’re actually experiencing it. Then, almost overnight, it seems, the trip is a 5-year-old memory.
You and your new spouse are just starting your lives together. You’ve got nothing but dreams for the future that you’re excitedly anticipating. You can hardly wait to move from your current situation to the life you envision. Before you know it, you’ve realized some of your dreams and you’re looking back at where you started with 2 thoughts:
- That went fast!
- Those were some good times!
Time’s march, at a 24-hour cadence, is steady and brisk. When I was in basic training for the Army National Guard (several decades ago! Like it was yesterday.) I was amazed at how slow each single day went, yet how fast the weeks and months seemed to fly by.
This steady cadence reminds me to take time to enjoy the experiences I’m having as I’m having them because they’ll be memories (and soon old memories) before I know it.
Let’s make sure to makes sure to not only experience our moments, but to savor them as well. They go so fast that it would be worth stretching them out as much as we can.
Have you ever asked someone for their input on a decision you were facing and received one of the following responses:
- I don’t know.
- It’s 50/50.
Those responses, when delivered as a complete answer, are completely useless and provide no value to the person asking for an opinion. They also reveal, of the person whose opinion is being sought, an unwillingness (or inability) to think critically and form an opinion.
When someone values our opinion enough to ask us for it, let’s honor them by turning on our wonderful brains, forming a thought, and offering it to them with the hopes that our opinion will aid them in the decision-making process they’re currently facing.