Posts Tagged ‘Values’

HomelessIt is the most natural thing in the world to be self-centered – from the time we enter the world completely dependent on others (yet focused only on our needs), to the time we draw our final breath (most likely still clinging to what we want). It’s natural. But not everything natural is good.

As I observe the world around me this Christmas season, I see the usual uptick in charitable activity – bells ringing beside buckets of coins at store entrances, more volunteers than any of the other 11 months of the year at homeless shelters and elsewhere, Christmas baskets given for the needy, and angel trees with names of those who can use a little boost from other generous, kind souls. That is all good, and I am grateful for giving hearts that make a positive difference in the lives of others at any time of the year, but especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

You and I both probably know some remarkable people who live their lives as models of generosity – not just during December, but year-round. It’s just the kind of people they are. Some that come to my mind are my parents and grandparents and some dear souls I’ve known from churches I’ve been a part of through the years. I like to think I’m the giving type, but compared to some others I’ve seen in my life, I know I have a long way to go.

It’s no easy transition to make from that perfectly natural self-centeredness to one that takes more pleasure in focusing on others. Consider just a few scenarios that illustrate what I mean…

  • Someone is talking to you with the expectation that you are listening, but your mind is wandering about other things, perhaps about what you’re about to say, but maybe about things far removed from the conversation. How do you shift your attention back to the one talking?
  • You’re approached on the street by someone asking for spare change, but you’re in a hurry, you don’t want to get involved, you don’t have any change or small bills, and you don’t want to part with the larger bills you just got from the ATM. Do you get involved or just shake your head “no” and walk away?
  • Your child or grandchild approaches you with something he/she wants to do for a few minutes, but you have a long list of things you were hoping to get done before bed. What do you do?
  • A coworker asks for help with a project and your own to-do list is just as long for work as it is for home, but you’re the best person to help. Will you put in those overtime hours to help others succeed and not just get your own work done?
  • Your spouse has had a hard day or week and could use some tender loving care. Do you come through or do you just carry on as usual?

Being other-centered isn’t natural. In fact, it’s hard. Very hard. It takes time. It’s inconvenient. It costs you something – effort, time, money, emotions. But it’s worth the price. It makes us more of who we were put on this earth to be. It makes a real difference in the lives of others, leaving our world a little better than we found it.

Moving toward other-centeredness is a continuous effort. We won’t arrive at the final destination this side of heaven, but it behooves us to keep working at it.

How other-centered are you? What can you do today to move one small step in that direction?

earthWhat is your worldview? Can you articulate it? Do you understand what the term means?

Here’s one definition: “The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world” ( That perspective may center around a philosophy, religious faith, self-constructed set of ethics or other criteria an individual deems most right and valuable in understanding and living life.

As I sit back and observe the differences between people, the frequent and openly hostile conflicts in the realms of politics and social issues, it comes down as I see it to a matter of conflicting worldviews and the resulting differences in values and actions consistent with those worldviews. How we see things around us and how we interpret what is happening in the world depends on our worldview. We then act (usually) in sync with our own worldview.

Naturally, worldviews can collide just as easily as some can live in relative harmony with others. I agree with the following from Michael Lind:

“A worldview is a more or less coherent understanding of the nature of reality, which permits its holders to interpret new information in light of their preconceptions. Clashes among worldviews cannot be ended by a simple appeal to facts. Even if rival sides agree on the facts, people may disagree on conclusions because of their different premises.”

As a Christian, I try to have a biblical worldview. Like anyone else, I’m sure I stray from my ideal at times. I don’t claim to have and know the biblical worldview. Mine is informed by my understanding of what the Scriptures teach and the firm belief in the absolute authority of those Scriptures as truth for all people for all time. The values that guide my life therefore are drawn from that worldview and the actions that result day in and day out should be consistent with that way of seeing and interpreting the world around me. (If you’re curious about whether you have a biblical worldview or not, you might be interested in this quiz on the topic.)

It is important for me to remember daily that it is unreasonable for me to expect others who do not share my worldview to believe or act in accordance with my worldview. They are living lives consistent with their worldview – not mine. Likewise, those with worldviews conflicting with mine do not have the right to expect me to adjust my beliefs and actions to accommodate their worldview. That is not to say that all worldviews are equally worthy of adoption. It is just an acknowledgement that we don’t all share the same one.

So rather than shout past one another in the midst of differences, rather than beat up others verbally, emotionally or in other ways to advance our own cause, perhaps we would do well to spend more time trying to understand one another’s worldviews that are at the core of why we believe and act as we do. That doesn’t mean we have to like or agree with anyone else’s beliefs or actions, but I think our world could benefit from more civil discourse that gets at understanding one another – maybe even learning to like or love one another in spite of differences – than continuing toxic exchanges that neither side hears nor understands because their worldviews just don’t filter life in the same way.

worthwhileIf you’re like me, you do a lot of different things throughout the day. Some you do out of habit without thinking. Others you do because you must. Yet others you choose to do because you find great joy, comfort or satisfaction in them. Then there are some moments that happen unexpectedly because of what others do that affect you.

As I reflect on what tends to bring the greatest satisfaction to my days, it is usually the smaller, simpler moments – unplanned, unexpected and serendipitous – that are more meaningful. Most of our days, though, are focused on the big, time-consuming aspects of work or other ongoing, major responsibilities. If we aren’t careful, we may miss the smaller and potentially more significant moments.

For example, here are some moments that have made a few of my recent days meaningful and memorable:

  • My 2.5-year-old granddaughter feeding me a tiny piece of a French fry she dipped in ketchup;
  • Getting an email from a colleague saying that my blog post on reconciliation motivated him to take action to repair a relationship with a family member;
  • Hearing a funny story from my Dad on the phone;
  • Being told by a colleague in the midst of changing jobs that another recent blog post about taking chances helped her in the days surrounding that change.

As I look at the above list, none of the meaningful moments directly deal with the work I spend 10 hours a day performing. None are connected with anything I’m paid to do. Rather, they relate to relationships and/or making a positive difference in the lives of others. I didn’t plan any of them – they all happened at the initiative of someone else. I may have played some role in the chain of events that led to the moments, but the meaningful moments themselves were handed to me by others.

My fear is this – that I will be so consumed some days with the big blocks of time-consuming, planned activities that I either don’t allow time for the simple, meaningful moments like those above, or that in my rush of activity I will miss them.

A reminder to myself and anyone else who may need to hear it: make room and time in your life for what brings meaning to your days. Remember that success as the world defines it and true significance may be (and probably are) very different realities.

Know what makes your days worthwhile.

In Essentials UnityAround the year 1627 a German Lutheran theologian named Rupertus Meldenius wrote a small tract on the subject of Christian unity. The tract was written, according to an article by Dr. Mark Ross, “during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), a bloody time in European history in which religious tensions played a significant role.” From that tract written by a theologian otherwise unknown to most of us came a phrase I have heard many times in my life: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” It is a wise bit of advice we would do well to remember today, and not just in the context of religious beliefs and practice.

To break the phrase down a bit just to make sure we understand, the first part – “in essentials unity” – assumes that there are some things on which we must agree and around which we must be unified. In the original context, this contains the most basic elements of the Christian faith. This is no small task to define, even for Christians who find themselves divided from other expressions of the Christian faith around the world to varying degrees. The challenge, then, is to define what those non-negotiable essentials are and to hold firm to them regardless of what nonbelievers and others may say. The unity sought is not unity for the sake of unity, but unity around a common core belief and experience.

The second part of the phrase is “in non-essentials liberty.” This means that we must willingly admit that there are some beliefs and practices of lesser importance about which we can legitimately disagree but still get along with one another and not feel compelled to condemn or force others into our way of thinking and behaving. We might call it agreeing to disagree. It is important to note that this is not a replacement for the first phrase above; there is still that core component on which we should agree, but there are many gray areas where people of equal faith and motive should be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to practice as they deem best.

The final part of the phrase is “in all things charity.” In this case, charity means love and comes from the Latin word for love, caritas. Bottom line: whether we agree or disagree with others in matters of faith or practice, we are to demonstrate love in our attitudes and in our actions. We do not have the biblical option of being unloving.

As I consider the wisdom of “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity,” my thoughts first go to application of that wisdom in the Christian context originally intended by Meldenius. For a brief but good discussion from that angle, I refer you to the article by Mark Ross. It seems to me, though, that there is great value in the phrase today apart from a religious context as well.

For example, we just witnessed the failure of both major political parties in the U. S. House and Senate (and White House) as they spent weeks calling each other names and acting like immature children rather than doing the job they are elected and are paid very generously to do. Unity? Not in this political theater. Liberty? No way. The prevailing attitude is “it’s my way or the highway.” Charity (love)? Nothing about political life hints of that. We ought to have the right to expect of our politicians that some core, basic beliefs as Americans unite us. We ought to expect them to be civil as they agree to disagree. They ought to have the decency we try to teach preschoolers to treat others along the way with basic goodness and kindness, if not heart-felt love. Is that too much to ask? I realize that I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen, but is it too much to ask? I think not.

My encouragement to you today is to consider those groups, affiliations, memberships, etc. that you share with others and then consider the wisdom of “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” How might your attitude and behavior be positively shaped by following that advice? What would happen if we determined to treat others around us with kindness – even love – in the midst of our differences?

Our world would be a better place.

GlassesI want to say “thank you” to some mystery person at the Kentucky State Fair today for doing the simple, right thing.  I have no idea who it was or anything about this person other than that it was a female.

Here is what happened…

I enjoyed a morning at the fair in Louisville with my parents who drove up today from Winchester, KY.  After we walked through the many exhibits, it was time to eat some of that famous fair food.  Dad and I each had donut burgers (burgers that use Krispy Kreme donuts for the bun) and Mom had a chicken pita.  I followed the donut burger with a jalapeno corn dog just because I can.  (Hey, it’s the fair.  Don’t judge.)  We sat on a bench to eat and I, of course, had to take a picture of Mom and Dad with their food.  Dad removed his eyeglasses and sat them on the bench while I took the photo.

Fast forward about 30 minutes and Dad realized when we were nearly home that he had left his glasses on that bench.  He didn’t want to go back and see if they were still there, so we went on to my house from where Mom and Dad then headed back to Winchester.  Of course, there was no way I was going to stay home and not try to get Dad’s glasses, so I returned to the fair.

I went first to the bench where we ate, but the glasses weren’t there.  An information booth was nearby, so I asked the lady there about them in hopes that some kind soul took a few steps out of his or her way and turned them in.  Fortunately, the lady had been given the glasses by some other woman, and then the information booth lady turned them in to the security office nearby.  She pointed me in the direction of that office and a couple of minutes later I had the glasses in hand.  (Then I got a cherry funnel cake, but that’s another story.  I said, don’t judge.)  I tried to offer the kind lady at the information booth a reward, but she wouldn’t take it.

So I was soon on my way home again, thankful that some mystery lady had taken a little effort to do something kind for someone she didn’t know in hopes that a pair of eyeglasses and their owner would somehow reunite.

I wonder what went through that lady’s mind when she saw the glasses on the bench?  I suppose a few options quickly presented themselves:

  • Leave them there in hopes that the person who lost them would come back and find them.
  • Take them for herself.
  • Throw them away (I know that’s a strange thought, but a trash can was within reach of the bench and some people are just plain mean.)
  • Turn them in to someone official.

Fortunately, she did the simple, right thing and turned them in.

Doing the right thing isn’t always simple, of course.  She could have been in some far off corner of the fair nowhere close to an information booth, making the decision much harder.  The glasses could have been found in an animal stall half covered in manure, making the decision to handle them much tougher.  She could have needed a pair of glasses herself and discovered that the prescription was perfect for what she needed, choosing to keep them while thinking “Finders keepers, losers weepers.”  If doing the right thing is simple, though – a few extra steps, some simple action, a little time, a phone call or a few words spoken – then the cost to the individual is minimal and the reward can be great.

Of course, we ought to do the right thing, whether it’s simple or not.  I believe most of us know right from wrong.  We have God-given consciences according to Romans 2.  Those consciences kick in regardless of education, religion, or other factors unless, of course, we have violated that still, small voice so many times that we no longer even hear it, much less let it guide us.  In a world where people can kill others for the fun of it as we heard this week regarding some conscience-seared teens in Oklahoma, it’s refreshing to be on the receiving end of someone doing something nice for a stranger.

Thank you, mystery fair goer, who turned in the glasses.  Thank you, information booth lady, who gave them to security.  Thank you, security, who gave them to me.

May each of us be that person for someone else daily by making the conscious choice of doing the simple (or not-so-simple), right thing.