Who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong?

It’s been the battle from the very beginning: good vs. evil, right vs. wrong.

In the garden of Eden, Satan only wanted to advance his purposes; God wanted to provide a path that would bring more joy and happiness than could be conceived.

And Adam and Eve were left to choose.

In the story of Cain and Abel, everyone knows that Cain chose evil and self-gratification while Abel simply wanted to do as he was commanded. The lesson from history would be that we are always better off doing what we are commanded by our loving Father in Heaven; harkening to Satan and his temptations will lead to loneliness and pain.

Fast forward the roughly 6000 years since then. The same battle is being waged.

But for some reason we can’t see it with the same clarity and simplicity.

I guess that many would say “it’s complicated.”

What complicated it?

Continue reading Who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong?

Pray. Listen. Act.

  

War in the Ukraine.Wild fires throughout the United States.School girls taken from their dormitories in Nigeria and sold.What can I do?I think there is frustration when we hear of horrible things happening around the world but we are in effect helpless to make a difference.

Or are we?

When I was in college I was given a poem based on the text from Matthew 25:35-36 which had a deep impact on me. It went through each of the admonishments in the verses where the sufferer was still suffering because we weren’t acting. At the end, the message came through that we may seem holy because we pray, but we haven’t in fact helped anyone out of the hole they are in.

I have agreed with the premise of the poem and shared it with many people over the years. Its message is powerful.

Now I wonder if we have gone too far, and only think our actions will do any good.

What really is prayer?

I’m sure that across the globe there are many different interpretations of the correct process. Some prayers may be more heartfelt than others, some more full of desperation than hope, some full of bitterness and anger rather than humility.

I would think the efficacy of prayer has more to do with the person offering the prayer than the One we know is at the other end, listening.

Why?

I certainly would never infer that God only listens to some while ignoring others. I understand far too much of life to ever allow that thought to be bandied about. He hears every prayer.

But prayer is communication, not recitation. Communication demands two participating parties. When one speaks, the other must listen.

I know when we speak, He listens.

When He speaks, do we listen?

Do we really believe that He will speak?

Really?

What happens when I pray?

I acknowledge that Someone knows more and has more control over things than I do. I humble myself to ask for help. My mind is focused on the problem at hand, and I am more likely to have ideas come to me that may provide solutions. With my mind focused, I am ready to get up and do something about it.

Pray. Listen. Act.

Kind of a simple mantra, but a pretty effective one, nonetheless.

So, let’s go back to the horrific things happening across the globe currently. What possible good could come from me praying about the situation in the Ukraine? Will my prayers put out the fires? Can praying return the stolen girls to their families?

My singular prayers may not have a huge effect on these happenings.

But I am still a member of the human race and while that brings many rights and privileges, it brings with it responsibility. The responsibility to not just stand by. The responsibility to not push it off as “not my problem.”

We’ve heard the story of the little boy on the beach who is standing amidst thousands and thousands of starfish that have washed up with the tide and are left on the dry sand. He bends down and picks one up and throws it back into the sea.

When asked what he is doing, he replies that he is saving the starfish.

“But you can’t possibly expect to throw enough back to make a difference, you can never get to them all.”

He bends over and picks one up. “Yeah, but it will make a difference to this one.” He reaches back and throws as hard as he can.

My prayer, combined with your prayer, and our friend’s prayers help us to get our minds focused that there is indeed Someone who knows more, who has a solution to the problem at hand. Rather than demanding the problem be solved, we ask for the best way and the guidance for each of us to do our part.

And we pray for each other. We pray for those in a position to help in the Ukraine. We pray for those fighting the forest fires. We pray for those searching for the stolen girls.

Because we know Someone does know more and has a solution for the problem at hand.

In the process, we find ourselves blessed with thoughts and ideas, things that just may help make a difference.

And we get up off our knees and get to work.

We may not be able to bring peace to the Ukraine on our own, but we can help build bridges between opposite sides of a position in our community.

We may not be able to hold the hose on the flames, but we can help conserve the water we have to make sure there is enough to go around.

We may not directly be able to bring home the kidnapped girls, but we can help a struggling neighbor child with her homework.

Kind of like throwing back a starfish.

Who knows if working for the resolution between opposing sides here locally will help lead to peace on a global scale?

But who knows that it won’t?

Pray. Listen. Act.

Each step is pretty important and is only a force for good when combined with the others.

Why do we wash windows?

Probably the warmest day of the season so far today. That’s music to my soul. I kind of hibernate and move slower during the cold months. I’m sure I look and sound like an 85-year-old, crotchety man complaining about the winter. Just ask my kids.

Truth be told, I can look out the window and be truly appreciative of the beauty of snow and ice. Thank heaven for that thick window and insulation in the walls and blowing heat from a furnace on my side of the glass. Makes it much easier to see the wonder of it all when my bones don’t feel like they are going to snap in half from being frozen.

But those wonderful, protective windows that I spent appreciating the cold through, have suffered the majesty of the wind and rain and snow storms that we survived these past months. To take a deep breath and enjoy the view was getting harder and harder – my long vision of the world was being stopped right in front of my face and the spots and dirt on the windows took on more and more of the picture.

So today, in the warmth and bright sun, with some good music in my ears, I set about to wash all 24 windows in our house. As things usually go with me, I was soon also washing down the siding and making sure any evidence of birds was gone. While I had the ladder out, it seemed just one extra step to climb up and pull dead branches out of the gutters. That last storm had especially reminded us of just how puny we really are compared to the forces out there.

After putting away the ladder and washing my hands, I climbed the stairs and walked over to the tall window from the second floor. The bright sun filled the room and I looked out the now, very clean window. Nothing impeded my vision and I could clearly see out, into the world.

It may rain tomorrow. I hope it doesn’t, but that is always a possibility. If so, the windows will only have been clean and clear for a day.

Would it have been worth it?

Continue reading Why do we wash windows?

Aren’t we all insecure? Can we be securely insecure?

In-se-cure
1. Not confident: anxious and lacking self-confidence
2. Not safe: unsafe and unprotected
3. Unstable: not firm or steady

Have you ever had the experience where you were sitting in a meeting or presentation and all of a sudden you realized that you knew as much about the subject as the people who were talking?

For some, this may happen quite frequently; for others, it can be a pretty rare occurrence. But everyone deserves to have it happen at least once.

At any rate, it usually will bring a subtle smile to our face while our body relaxes almost imperceptibly. Our mind becomes free to focus on the solution and pretty soon we find ourselves part of the discussion.

Those are good days.

But we’ve all had the bad ones, haven’t we?

We are sitting at the same conference room table and we feel like everyone is just a step ahead and we aren’t quite sure what is going on. Time to duck and cover. Hope no one notices us. Time stands still as we wait for the end to come and we can escape.

Ah yes, we can all probably share an experience or two like that.

The thing is, over the years I have learned that most of the people in the room are in the same boat, and just doing the best they can with what they know. Often times we are prepared just as well as they are, and we have just as much experience in the matter as they do.

So, why are we so sure that they know more than we do?

I think it is pretty normal, and to a certain degree, pretty healthy. Can you imagine someone who walks into the room and is ALWAYS certain that they know more than everyone else? All right, we don’t have to imagine, we’ve all met one.

So, a little humility is a good thing.

Are humility and insecurity the same thing?

No.

Let’s go back to the definition up at the top: anxious and lacking self-confidence; unsafe and unprotected; unstable: not firm or steady.

As I read through these words, the same concept keeps filling my mind: alone.

When we feel insecure, we feel alone.

In the middle of a crowded meeting around the conference table we are miles away, on a deserted island, all by ourselves.

No boat.

No solution in sight.

It seems more often than not, our most basic instincts kick in and we cry out, if even only inside our minds.

Help me. Please.

Because the truth is that we are never left completely alone. There is always safety and protection for us, even if not in the exact manner we would like it to come.

How do we open our eyes to be able to see it?

We close our eyes and trust.

Very, very rarely is the whole escape route from our current problems outlined in detail so that we know the beginning to the end.

Usually, it is just the first step that is made known.

And usually, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

To us.

Will we do it anyway?

This is where we have a choice to make, a choice that will affect many choices to come. We can stand alone and do what we think makes the most sense, seems the smartest thing to do.

Or we can stand up and follow the first step, listening closely for the next, moving forward slowly, but forward nonetheless.

Glancing back we can see more than just our footprints in our path.

We don’t know what the outcome will be, or what the entire plan is. But we do know that it will work out great.

And we know we are not alone.

Suddenly in our insecurity we have become secure. Safe. Protected. Stable.

We walk on firm ground, our foundation solid enough to hold us up even on the days that we feel two steps behind everyone else in the meeting.

Because we will close our eyes, call out with our spirit, and trust.

And when we open our eyes, we will usually see a way forward, even if it is only the first step.