2015 – No Tips to a Better You

I wonder how many late December – early January days of my life have been lost chasing that elusive bit of advice that would change my new year to the “best year ever.” During those lost moments I’ve read some wonderful articles, blog posts, and even books that have inspired me and, in many ways, paved the path to a better future. And, at some level, I’d like to be able to offer the shining clump of wisdom that would change your 2015 to an incredible adventure where all the valleys — those dry gulches and parched prairies — are but a hazy bit of memory as you gaze out from the mountaintops you will conquer.

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But I can’t.

So much of life is simply life. It’s composed of good things and bad things, deep breaths and shallow breaths, laughter and tears, health and sickness, great decisions and poor decisions, wonderful consequences and horrid consequences, and, ultimately, life and death.

Before you chalk that last sentence up to gloominess and despair, take another look. Life is filled with much good.

As part of my work, I often travel alone. When I’m eating or waiting on a plane, I many times simply listen to the conversations around me. I haven’t taken a scientific approach to it, but my best guess is that the object of my eavesdropping would end up 3 out of 4 times in the negative, “Oh woe is me!” category. Think about it. Much of our talk with friends and even strangers begins with “You won’t believe what happened to me . . .”

We glorify the bad. Doing that has some positive effect. It lets people know how we are hurting and how they can shape their prayers on our behalf. It explains why we may not be at our best. Yet, it also trains our minds to look for and exalt our perceived misery.

So, let me just list ten places where you will find good in 2015. Or better said, ten places where good will find you.

  • In 2015, good will find you in the company of little children who haven’t forgotten how to sing or to dance.
  • In 2015, good will find you in the words of a good book that takes you away to a place you’ve never been where you will enjoy people and traditions you’ve never known before.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you step outside your comfort zone to be a friend to someone who is socially, racially, and even spiritually different from you.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you pause before saying an angry word.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you consciously move to protect our world — this small planet God has given us.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you ask for favor on behalf of someone else.
  • In 2015, good will find you in tears you shed over the plight of others.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you sit shoulder-to-shoulder with a friend.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you begin to see that you are a valued and necessary part of God’s plan.
  • In 2015, good will find you when you slow down and are still and try your best to understand how much you are loved — by God and by us, your friends and your family.

In 2015, good will find you. Nothing else is really left for you to do except to share that good with others. Okay, so maybe there is one tip to a better you.

Friends . . . Actually

Years ago, my decisions about who my friends were or were not were more simply made. I simply avoided you if you said or did things that I found disturbing.

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You would think that the same principle would be involved in social media. I fully understand that it can be. I see posts all the time where people “unfriend” others and, if pushed hard enough, completely leave FaceBook or whatever their platform of choice is.

I’ve “unfriended” a few people in the past. To date, my standard has been to unfriend anyone who exhibits hate and discrimination in their personal posts. Oh, and anyone who has a fascination with the “F” bomb or taking God’s name in vain. (“OMG! Addicts,” you’re nearing the edge.)  I am “friends” with a wide array of individuals — many of them sensitive to such rubbish. Others are young and losing their innocence to what our greater society has begun to find acceptable. Enlightenment never looked so dark. I don’t choose for my internet spaces to be the place where they get further exposure to such things.

I am close to “unfriending” some others of you. You’re pushing the line by reposting things that you haven’t checked out and that are largely false or misleading. Just writing the word “Truth” by those posts doesn’t make them true. Others of you are posting things that do have truth at their base. However, by watching what you post day after day, I have to wonder if you choose to feature only stories that will escalate violence and hatred. If I unfriend you, it won’t be because of your view of what is right and wrong, but only because of the way your actions are perpetuating bad sentiment and behavior among others.

Because of my life experience, I have been honored to form friendships among diverse groups of people. Politically, racially, ethnically, spiritually. I have been stretched by that diversity and I am grateful. But lest you think that you are on the “right” side of my friend set and that you’re safe from the point I’m trying to make, I want to be clear that I’ve found people on both sides of the dividing line. The desire to incite negative outcomes seems to be an equal opportunity malady. I am not immune either.

I strongly believe that unfriending any of you (except for those who violate my standards about the personal bile and profanity) is not the best answer. No, I’m not keeping you on as friends because I think I can change you. I need my perspective to be broad. I need to have as friends those who think differently, see differently, and choose differently than I do. You make me uncomfortable sometimes. But that’s the point. I see goodness in you. And I hope you can look past my multitude of failings. Friends do that.

In fact, some of the discomfort you’ve blessed me with has caused me to pause and reconsider my position on some things. I’ve changed as a result. Thank you. Other things I don’t agree with have convinced me that I need to find ways to better understand you, because the ideas you are posting aren’t doing it.

My plea to you, my friend, is to be responsible. No matter how badly you see and know an injustice to be, remember that we, as God’s children, as peacemakers, are to be a peculiar people. Don’t escalate violence. Talk. Talk loudly if you must, but respectfully. March peacefully. Help bring change to this broken world. But please help stop this vicious cycle of retaliation and justification of the unholy — from both sides.

I say this as one friend to another.

For unto us

I’ve been tearing up a lot in recent years. It doesn’t take much. Videos about dogs on the internet. A song at church. A photograph from long ago. A bit of good news. It’s that last one that both baffles me and thrills me. When I hear of good things happening, particularly from someone I love or care about, I begin scanning the room for tissues. The news that always triggers my tears begins “For unto us a child is born . . .”

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The introduction of something new is an exciting time. Whether it is the birth of a child or the start of a new job or the opportunity to face a new year, hope springs from the promise of something new and different.

For some of us, the promise of “new” feels remote. Yet, eternal hope and deliverance is close by. We only have to reach out and touch the child. “New” is available to us all.

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  — Isaiah 9:6-7

Pass the tissues, please.