Truth

The amount of information we’re confronted with every day is amazing.  So many sources, figures, and organizations are vying to influence our thinking and shape our beliefs.  Therefore, it is imperative, in the midst of all this information, that we continually scrutinize what we hear by asking ourselves, “Is this true?”.

Our brain is the greatest super computers ever designed, and each of us is blessed to be in possession of one, free and clear.  With it, we can receive input, think critically about that input, and discern whether or not it’s true.  With this brain we can question, investigate, explore, and again, discern truth.  In my opinion, since we are in possession of such a remarkable and powerful tool as our brains, it is incumbent on us to use them.

Why would we allow someone else to spoon feed us their own thoughts and ideas without engaging our brains in some critical thinking to determine whether or not what they’re saying is actually true?  Why should we be so quick to disengage our own super computer brains in favor allowing someone else to “program”, if not poison them, with untruths?  To me, that seems not only irresponsible, but potentially dangerous.  Taken to it’s extreme, as we’ve seen in the US this week, it can even be criminal.

Let’s make sure that we’re taking full advantage of the brains we’ve been blessed with.  Let’s use them to wisely discern the information we’re bombarded with, to ensure that our actions and beliefs are indeed based on truth.

Learning With Others

I’ve been teaching an adult Sunday school class at our church for about 12 years.  Actually, I’m more of a discussion facilitator than an actual teacher or instructor.  I prefer this role as facilitator, because I’ve noticed that the best learning in class occurs when the participants share their knowledge and we seek answers and explore the Bible together.  As a facilitator, I simply bring interesting information about the topic we’re studying and encourage others to ask question and share any insight they might have.

If I approach a Sunday school class as the teacher, it feels like I need to have all the answers and have a lesson plan figured out that details everything we’ll discuss during the class.  I don’t like that approach because it doesn’t leave room for questions an exploration.  If I’m seen as the teacher, the class feels more like a lecture, where I’m imparting knowledge to the rest of the class while they sit quietly and listen.  This approach would be boring to me!  While I’ve got some knowledge on the topic, I also have lots of questions that I’d like to ask.  If I’m the teacher, there’s a lid on the class that only goes as far as my knowledge and understanding.

I much prefer to leverage the collective intelligence of the class.  The people who attend regularly spend time in the Bible, so they are very familiar with it.  They’re also eager to learn more, which causes them to read it with the purpose of gaining a greater understanding of what it says. 

Having a forum where we can learn together, ask questions and share our knowledge has sparked numerous conversations (as well as opportunities to learn) that would not have occurred if I were the teacher, simply giving a one-way lecture.  Our class works much better when we all have the opportunity to share the role as teacher.

I think it’s exciting to approach life as a facilitator as well.  It’s fun to encourage others to share what they know about a topic and to hear, and learn from, experiences they’ve have had.  Most people are willing to share what they know; they often just need someone to invite them to do so.

Cast Your Gaze Beyond Today

With COIVD-related restrictions and choices an omnipresent reality of the 2020 holiday season, it’s easy to become frustrated by how abnormal everything is this year.  While it’s true that things look different this year, I want to encourage you that this is not how Christmas, or any other holiday, will look forever more.  Remember that this current state is indeed temporary.  Before we know it, we will be celebrating holidays with family and friends again.

My pastor signs all his emails with a phrase that I think is especially fitting for this year, “Believing the best is yet to come”.    I think that true.  We only have to be willing to cast our gaze beyond what’s happening today.

Collectively Giving Our Best

I’m currently reading a book about the SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft.  It was developed in the 60s and was way ahead of its time, with regards to engineering and performance.  This plane could travel at altitudes of 80,000 feet with a speed greater than Mach 3 (3X the speed of sound).  Were it in service today, it would still be ahead of it’s time and considered futuristic. 

As I was reading a chapter last night about the people involved in the design stage of the SR-71, I was impressed how all these people came together and gave the best of their abilities to bring this aircraft from an idea to a reality.  The technology to build an SR-71 didn’t exist, so they had to figure it out as they went.  When you consider all the obstacles, it’s an amazing feat that the SR-71 became a reality.  

Imagine if the members of this group didn’t give the best they were capable of.  Suppose people on the team just gave minimal effort that was far below their intellectual capacity.  If that were the case, the SR-71 would have fallen far short of the requirements presented to the team.  Even more likely, this project would have been canceled and considered an impossible feat, if not an outright failure.  The difference was the people on the team collectively gave their best.

While we my not be part of a team designing supersonic reconnaissance aircraft, we are all a part of some team where we have an opportunity to give our best effort.  That team may consist of a family, a group of co-workers, a band, a sports team, or any other group of people brought together to achieve a common goal.  Regardless of the type of team we’re on, the members of the team counting on us to give our best.  In my opinion, if we’re willing to be on a team, we should also be willing to bring the best effort we’re capable of.

So why should we bother to bring our best effort?  There a several good answers to this question, but for me, there is one reason that stands above all others.  During the Christmas season, I’m again reminded that God gave His best for me in his son Jesus.  Out of gratitude, how could I offer anything less than my best back to Him?

Looking Beyond Today

I like Thanksgiving.  It’s a fun time of year, the sights and smells of the holiday are great, plus it’s a fun time to get together with people we’re thankful for.  This year’s holidays will likely be very different than holidays past for many people. 

While that may be frustrating, I think it’s important not to spend too much time lamenting what we don’t have this year, but rather focus on what we still do have.  In addition, it would help us to begin to eager look ahead to the holidays yet to come that won’t be impacted by a global pandemic. 

Those days are coming.  We just need to look past today to see them.

The Best You’re Capable Of

Whenever time or effort is required of me, either voluntarily, for work, or just for fun, I think it’s important to give the best effort I’m capable of within the given conditions.  I’m not a big fan of mailing it in.

Whether it’s carving a turkey at Thanksgiving, giving a presentation, or anything in between, why would we want to give anything less than our bet effort?  The effort we give our tasks sets the tone for how we approach life.  When we decide to offer our best, we are deciding that we want to show up and engage life.  We expect more than the minimum daily requirements, from life as well as from ourselves.

Besides, when we offer our best to the world, we are encouraging others to do the same.

A Thought On Unity

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:

  • Family
  • Friendships
  • Church and religious beliefs
  • Hobbies
  • Places we work
  • Clubs and affinity groups
  • Colleges and universities we’ve attended
  • Civic groups
  • Volunteer organizations
  • Common goals
  • Neighborhoods
  • 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.

Friends Sharpening Friends

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.

It’s Not Always Someone Else

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.

Enjoying What We Have When We Have It

I’ve really been enjoying summer this year, which seems odd due to this being the Summer of COVID.  Like many people, I’ve been working from home since late March, so my morning commute has morphed from a 20-minute drive into a walk through the neighborhood with my wife.  It’s been great!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I love early sunny mornings in the summer.  The bright, calm, cool skies, coupled with the quiet, slow pace that exists before the world starts to wake up and get busy, is one of my favorite parts of summer.

As September has arrived, I am keenly aware that these beautiful mornings will soon give way to the gray, cold, rainy events that describe many late fall and winter mornings in the Pacific Northwest.  This certainty fills me with a sense of urgency to take advantage of these sunny mornings as much as I can before they’re gone for the season.  I don’t want to waste a single remaining morning, because as soon as rainy mornings are the norm, I’ll wish I had taken advantage of any sunny mornings I might have squandered in the summer.

Therefore, my plan is to enjoy them as much as I can while I still have them.  I want to look back on them this fall and winter with the satisfied feeling that comes from knowing I appreciated what I had when I had it. 

Is there anything currently in your life that will soon be gone, either for a season or for good?  If so, enjoy it while you have it.