It’s not fair!

no fair

“It’s not FAIR!”

How many times we who are parents have heard these words from our children! As much as we try, they still find inequity, and they can be quick to let us know.

Not only children, but adults can also be prone to voice the same complaint. Using more mature terminology, of course, but just reading the news we find an abundance of discontent due to people’s perception of injustice done to them. Righteous or not, many causes are fueled by people’s feelings of entitlement. We have rights, you know!

The process of human maturity is simply our learning that we are not the center of the universe. A baby is born with no consciousness of others’ needs. As we grow physically, hopefully we will also mature emotionally and socially. Some children progress rapidly in their ability to respond to the needs of others, but unfortunately many adults have a hard time leaving selfishness behind.

I used to think that true maturity and unselfishness would be to accept the fact that life isn’t fair, and be able to bear a reasonable amount of unfairness toward us without acting out like a two-year-old. But I can see now that maturity goes a step further; “not fair” does have a place in our unselfish vocabulary.

  • It’s not fair that I have so much comfort when others around me have so little.
  • It’s not fair that children should be deprived of their childhood and education to help support their families.
  • It’s not fair that young girls suffer abuse that changes the course of their lives by becoming adolescent mothers.
  • It’s not fair that I should enjoy a right relationship with God when others have not even had the opportunity to meet Him.

And the list goes on.

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the needy. Open your mouth, judge righteousness, and defend the poor and needy. (Prov. 31:8-9)

True maturity and unselfishness is more than just turning the other cheek when we are wronged.  May we grow in willingness to sacrifice some of our comfort to bring comfort to others.

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Propagating the Kingdom

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I enjoy my plants. In past years I have had (some enormous) vegetable gardens and even done some landscaping. Now that I am living in an apartment, my own garden has been reduced to a patio full of containers, but it is still great therapy for me to get out and work with them. 

It’s easy for me to understand why Jesus kept referring to plants to illustrate spiritual truths. I frequently learn principles about the Kingdom of God while I am planting, pruning, pulling weeds, or harvesting. One of my greatest gardening pleasures is propagating the plants I have (and I have to admit my patio is getting quite full!). 

From my experience, I have found basically three ways that I can get more plants from the ones I have:

  1. Planting their seeds (intentionally or voluntarily)
  2. Taking cuttings and rooting them
  3. Dividing and transplanting

The other day when I was on the patio with muddy hands planting dozens of aloe vera babies (I could go into business, seriously!) it dawned on me how these methods also apply to discipleship in the Kingdom of God:

  • Seeds: An idea takes root in us and grows. It begins as something so small that we often don’t notice, but grows so large that we must investigate, follow, dedicate ourselves to it. Sometimes it is sown intentionally, or it can seem like chance – although in God there are no coincidences. A seed can be a book, a teaching, a relationship, or even just a comment. 
  • Cuttings: There are times when God will sever us from what is familiar, and insert us into new surroundings. Roots will grow and talents will develop in ways that we might never have imagined before, and instead of just being a part of something already established we find ourselves at the center of something new. Our influence in other people causes the work to branch out and grow.
  • Dividing: In the security of community, new life buds and grows alongside those already established in the faith. Through nurturing relationships these young sprouts develop strength and purpose. They will often grow to the point that they will need more space in order to be healthy, and will repeat this pattern in their relationships with others who are new in the faith. 

However it happens, the result is growth. Personal growth, community growth, Kingdom growth. 

Have you seen these principles at work in you or in those around you?

What other factors have caused you to grow and change?

All dressed up.

ImageIt’s Sunday. Time to put on our best clothes and head to the church meeting. At least that is the most common tradition…

But I have begun to really think about it; why do people dress up for church? Or I should ask, why would I dress up for church? Is God really impressed with our clothing? We say that we do it out of respect for Him, for the event, or for the special day. But He is always with us, and I imagine that if He is not offended by my Monday clothing, neither will He be impressed with my Sunday outfit.

I guess that lately I have been meditating more and more on the fact that I am always in His presence, whether I am conscious of it or not. And also, that Sunday is not a special “holy” day, but that my work is holy too. In fact, I probably have more opportunity to make a difference for the Kingdom of God from Monday to Saturday than I do on Sunday.

So about the dressing up… I would hope that people don’t consider a church meeting to be some sort of fashion show. But it does sometimes really look like many want to attract attention by the way they look. I try to dress in a way that expresses how I feel about myself, rather than what would impress others. Sometimes that means a little dressy (but not too much) but normally I’m pretty casual and comfortable.

I really don’t like to put too much emphasis on my clothing. But does God have anything to say about what we wear, to meet as a church or the rest of the time?

If our clothing does reveal our attitudes, God does have a lot to say about those. We must not be vain, competitive, or think more highly of ourselves than we ought. So here are a few articles that I need to make sure to keep in my soul’s wardrobe:

  • clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14)
  • clothe yourselves with humility (1 Peter 5:5)
  • clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Col. 3:12)

So, if you want to dress up on Sunday that’s fine with me, but I know that if my physical apparel ever hinders me from wearing these things, it’s time for me to change clothes.

As the tree is bent…

Image“We need more security guards, more police protection.” “There should be more punishment for offenders.” “The police department is too corrupt.”

So many comments, solutions offered for the problems of crime that we live with daily in Guatemala. It has gotten to the point that I rarely bother to read the local newspaper any more; page after page of murder, extortion, kidnapping, robbery, rape. Perhaps in your city it isn’t much different. (I hope yours is different.)

And the solutions? Mostly band-aids, putting out fires, struggling to keep our heads above water and survive the onslaught of violence outside our door. For many, even inside their door.

The overcrowded prisons are just a breeding ground for more violence. “UC”: University of crime. If those convicted can’t pay the amount specified to avoid imprisonment, they return to society much worse than before. Obviously this is not a solution.

But these criminals are human beings, made in the likeness of God. What happened to them? When did it happen? How can we stop focusing so much on putting out fires and do something to prevent them?

I have an idea. I’m sure it isn’t original but it is possible.

A child is born as a blank page. What is to be written on their heart and mind is determined by their family, school and society. At what age does a boy become a criminal? At what stage of life does a girl turn into a kidnapper? These changes are not conscious decisions made when a person is grown, but a result of their experiences from birth on. “As the tree is bent, so grows the twig.”

I know that this is no great revelation. It seems to me more like common sense. But I do have a proposition to do something about it.

I am working on an idea, a way to instill scriptural character and values into homes, schools, and day care centers. Scriptural concepts are powerful whether or not the chapter and verse are quoted. These concepts can be packaged in a way that we can share them not only with children, but also teachers, parents, grandparents and other caregivers. Here, most schools would be open to this type of help. We can work to convince those responsible for children’s development to promote that which will develop good character and values, and avoid the negative influences that are so prevalent in the media. Academic study is not enough.

This will not be a fast or easy process, but an investment of time and energy is necessary to make a better future. I believe we can plant seeds that over the next generation will bear fruit. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. (Matt. 5:9)