Forged

Change is not certain.

Progress does not just appear.

They’re forged through intent.

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Moments

Life is made of moments.

We all know it’s true.

But know that no one episode

Defines the whole of you.

Our choices range from good to bad,

And most are in between.

Don’t let yourself be labeled by

What little most have seen.

Life’s not about perfection,

But the moments we accrue.

In every place, at your own pace,

Do the best that you can do.

Try

It’s been hard to find writing inspiration lately! I hate it, but I think I’ve figured out the source. Frankly, I’ve just been really bummed.

I try to keep abreast of what’s going on in the world. I read the news, check social media, and generally just pay attention. The downside to being informed is the content of that information.

My country is forgetting its roots and trying to base eligibility for citizenship on whether or not the person in question is rich enough to deserve it. Our president has a cult following that will follow him to hell and back because he validates their frustrations and gives them a common enemy to blame.

My fellow citizens seem content to harrass and malign each other based on their political leanings, not caring to acknowledge the fact that the party they’re fighting for couldn’t care less about them.

We are so worried about “rights” that we refuse to temper freedom with duty, endangering one another for the sake of guns, greed, or “god.”

It all makes me sick. I know I participate in these things in my own way, but I can still say I am tired of it all. So what do we do when all of this crap gets so overwhelming?

We try.

Yep. That’s it. No convoluted arguments or attempts to sound wise. Just try, dammit.

Disagree with someone politically? Not a fan of someone’s personal choices? Want a cleaner planet or fewer hungry people in the world? Hoping for more peace and less violence?

Neat.

Get started.

I was recently reminded that we are all responsible for our little corner of the world, and if everyone got on board with the notion of putting effort into what we want to see materialize, this life would look quite different. Call it idealistic, but you have to start somewhere, and having an ideal to strive for doesn’t hurt.

Now, will giving a homeless guy a buck change the nature of poverty in America? No.

Will inviting your liberal/conservative friend to safely vent their frustrations and reasoning behind their ideals lead to a sudden conversion? Nope.

Are you going to end world hunger by collecting canned goods once a month? Or will recycling save us from impending disaster? Nah.

But.

That stuff matters. Kindness, love, and light, in any context, matter. You can positively affect your surroundings every day, as God has given you everything you could possibly need to do so. The trick is consciously making the choice to utilize your gifts as means of service. It won’t happen by accident.

So there it is. Overwhelmed by the bad? Wonder how things could possibly get better? Look in the mirror. There’s your answer. Recognize the Divine in you, that of God in others, and walk your path accordingly.

Just try.

Peace be with you!

Is This Going to Help?

“Take note: even if I were never actually to perform an evil act, but still willed what is evil, then sin would be as much in me as if I had carried out the deed.” — Meister Eckhart

This quote from Eckhart ties nicely into yesterday’s post about what we entertain internally and its effects on our outward presence in the world. It should also, however, make us think about our intent in what we do or want to do.

In Matthew 25:31-46, when Jesus is addressing the righteous ones who cared for “the least of these,” it is interesting to note their intent. They respond to Jesus’ praise with the question of when they ever served Jesus in the way he describes (verses 37-39). This means they weren’t striving for a reward, nor were they attempting to serve Jesus. They chose to serve the down-trodden because it was the right thing to do.

Especially in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus gives some indication that the “last will be first, and some who are first will be last” (Luke 13:30). In Matthew 6, Jesus even criticizes the seemingly righteous for their self-aggrandizing piety. Being faithful isn’t about reward or honor, but about doing what is right because it’s right. In short, our intent matters just as much as our actions.

In today’s world, many seemingly selfless efforts are enacted as an indirect means of self-service, from mission trips to charity organizations. Likewise, many failed efforts at changing the world come from a rrue desire to help. Further, many things are said and done on a daily basis with veiled intent, but because the “front” is palatable, we don’t mind.

For example, I live in the southern U.S., which is “bless your heart” territory. If you have any southern experience, you know that the phrase “bless your heart” is typically a veiled insult that represents southern passive aggression.

If we care about intent, though, as Jesus certainly does in the Gospels, it might be best that we clean up such niceties.

For me, the message God is giving to me is to judge every word, deed, and intention by the standard of whether or not it will help.

Will this help shine the Light of Christ?

Will this help my neighbor?

Will this be an act of love and help the situation, or will it be an act of spite only to make things worse?

I am convicted by these questions, and, if we are honest, most of us probably should be. Conviction is good, though, assuming it leads to change. I pray you will join me in honestly trying to be a helpful force for love, good, and light in this world.

Just a thought.

Peace be with you!

From Within

there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defileMark 7:15, NRSV

I’ve always looked at this teaching with an emphasis on the “all foods are clean” thing (Mark 7:19). After all, it means I can enjoy bacon guilt-free and it represents a shift from religious box-checking to a more transformative spirituality. But the last part… the “defilement from within” part… that didn’t truly sink in until recently.

We as humans always look to external causes for our inappropriate actions. It’s never our fault. It’s the unclean “stuff” out there that got us.

We see this when the media crucifies an assault survivor for what they were wearing; we hear it about the victim of a careless police officer for what they may or may not have been doing out so late in that neighborhood OR we see the same logic used to justify the assault on a police officer. After all, there’s this back story…

It’s never our fault.

I’ve done this in my own life. Old habits die hard, and all the more so when changing seems too scary or painful. There was always a reason, whether it be my childhood, my losses, or my depression.

We always look for external sources of trouble and salvation. We don’t want to be responsible for our mistakes because then we might be responsible for fixing them. Jesus rightly criticizes this attitude.

Agreeing with James (4:1-3), Jesus asserts that “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly(Mark 7:21-22). Our desires and our fears produce the evil we enact in the world. Other people or situations may stimulate or add specificity to these things, but our response is ours alone.

Now this is not a guilt trip or a statement about my own perfection. I am simply indicating that this passage has taken on new life for me because I now understand that I must heal what is within rather than waiting for something from without.

When many of us entered into faith, we are taught that God is a Savior, which is true. But what often follows is the expectation that God will do it all, which is actually a blatant denial of free will. God gives us the means and awareness, and He is with us always, but to change and grow and leave behind our harmful practices is our work. We must desire it, initiate it, and see it through while relying on God’s grace to keep us moving with compassion for ourselves and each other as we all embark on our roads to healing.

For me to change, I have to want it. If any of us have habits in need of changing, it must be us that seek to enter into that process with God. God’s already where He needs to be, He’s just waiting on us to meet Him at the station.

Whatever is plaguing your life, and whatever negative habits or behaviors are manifesting in you, I pray that you will know that it is never hopeless or too late. All that you need to make the change is already with you, waiting for you to find that motivation and get started. Is it your relationship with your family, friends, or kids? Your relationship with God or yourself? Are you simply sick and tired? Whatever it is, may the grace of God light a fire within, and may we all choose to take a step into that transforming Light.

Peace be with you!