“Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

Does anyone else remember these words from Rodney King several years ago? I’ve been reminded of them recently because of some work-related “stuff.”

My work is related to my denomination, and sometimes it seems very difficult for us to be willing to look at each other through God’s eyes. If we disagree with someone–especially if our disagreements are theological in nature!–then it is very easy to demonize the other.

Bill Tammeus is a faith columnist I read regularly. In his last column, he made what I consider some comments about church. He indicated that he’s belonged to his congregation for 30 years–and could easily have found reasons to quit at various times. But, he says, “…each time I encounter some crisis, I’m obligated to think about the nature of church membership and why I was drawn to this particular congregation….I’m there because in some mysterious way I have felt called to be there, felt drawn into the responsibilities and privileges of being part of a congregation where souls are cared for, where God is worshipped and where we seek to minister to ourselves and others in times of both pain and joy.” For him, it’s about commitment, about “saying yes to a divine invitation.”

That doesn’t mean we have to agree with each other. There are going to be disagreements, because we each have our personal walk with God. But getting along with each other means (in my opinion) recognizing that–and looking for the ways in which we work together to bring healing ministry to a broken world, rather than adding to that brokenness…and letting God work through us.

“Can’t we just get along?” Seems to me that because of our unique personalities and differences, this is only going to be possible if we are willing to listen..and live…Jesus’ responses to the one who wanted to prove his “rightness” when he asked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus said,

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

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Moderation…

We started Weight Watchers a couple of weeks ago and it’s been going well…

I’d been counting points (using the Flex plan) because in many ways that seemed easier for bringing things to work. But this week I decided to go with the Core plan (eating whatever you want of some basic foods that are considered “free”).

The last two weeks I’d been watching how much cereal I’d been eating, because I had to count it. But Charlie brought home some whole-grain cereal yesterday that is free on the Core plan. So for supper last night I had a big bowl of it with some fruit. Oh, it tasted good! And I had another bowl this morning for breakfast.

Did I mention that one of the reasons he bought it was because he’d been wanting to get more fiber?

Well, I got plenty between these two bowls–and it’s creating a little bit of a challenging day!

I don’t think it would have been as much of a problem had I been moderate in my bowl size. But I decided that with that cereal, I could splurge. I did–and now I’m paying.

Weight Watchers says that there’s nothing wrong with an indulgence periodically–making an intentional choice to eat something and savor it. But what I did wasn’t an indulgence…  It wasn’t more along the lines of “I’ve been missing out–and I’m going to have all I want!”

Today’s serving as a reminder to me that in most cases there’s nothing wrong with having something I don’t normally have–but I need to do it as an intentional choice, be moderate in my selection, and savor it…not be a glutton!

Choose Joy

There was a book published by Herald House several years ago titled Choose Joy. The cover of the book had that title in bold letters, surrounded by clouds with other choices in them–happiness, despair, support, grief, anger…

My mother has it sitting in her bathroom where she (or anyone else who uses it) can pick the book up and read one of the short chapters.

Since we go out to play games with her on a weekly basis, I see the book quite frequently, and the title of it has really gotten me thinking the last few weeks…especially as I look at the other choices listed on the cover.

During the last few years, I have gone through some difficult times at my work. Not unusual, I know. But during that time I found myself making other choices–anger, bitterness, resentment, hatred. I was becoming a cynical, unhappy person who was not always someone that others enjoyed being around. My choices were justified, (at least in my eyes–and from the responses of others who were going through similar situations.

But at one point this spring I had an unexpected question pop into my mind: “Why do you want to hold on to your anger?” And I became aware it was my choice. I could continue to see myself as a victim, as someone who had been wronged–and turn into one of the toxic people I was associating with.

Or I could choose joy. That doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. It’s longer-lasting than happiness, and it’s not dependent on the actions and choices of others. Nor was it something I could do on my own. I had to be willing to let go of what seemed to others to be justified anger…to let go of hurts…so that God could step in and bring the healing that I so desperately desired. I had built a fence around myself, and I had to be the one to start tearing it down.

Once I began that process, I discovered that the power of God’s love is greater than any forces of hurt and pain…and I was willing to choose joy…

To walk with you–
     to let you be my guide–
takes me to places I would not choose.
     Winding paths
     Steep roads
          with stones in the way
     Dark roads
          that make me fearful.

I had thought
     the walk would be
          joyful
          easy
          on well-marked routes.

The sun shines–
     but dimly at times–
as I struggle
     to trust–
          even when it seems I am going the wrong way
     to hope–
          that light will break through the darkness
     to cling to the One who urges me on.

God–
     you have promised
          never to leave me completely alone
          to bring me to new heights
          new eyes to see your people with.

I trust–
     and I fear
          in equal amounts.

Be the light
     in my darkness,
the hope
     in my doubt,
the new life
     in my death.

Prisoner of hope

I just glanced down at my desk and saw those three words on a piece of paper–“Prisoner of hope”. I don’t remember why I wrote them down or what they originally dealt with, but I needed to see them this morning.

I’m discovering it’s way too easy to be a prisoner of despair–to see all the bad things that go on around you…to jump to conclusions that may not be warranted. After all, that’s what seems to sell newspapers and the TV news…

But being a prisoner of despair means that you wake up dreading the day before you, sure that something will go wrong. And since we tend to live up (or down) to our expectations, then sure enough–something does go wrong!

What would it mean to live each day as a prisoner of hope? Well, for starters, there’s the brightness that shines through the word “hope”! I would look forward to each day with excitement and expectation that life will be good…would be more likely to give people the benefit of the doubt… I would feel better physically, since emotions definitely impact the rest of me.

There’s a hymn that we used to sing when I was growing up–“Look for the beautiful, look for the true…” There’s plenty of negative stuff around; I don’t have to look for it…it finds me without even trying! But looking for the beautiful–the true… It’s like a treasure hunt, with the prize being joy.