Soaring

On a flight this week from Atlanta, Georgia to Norfolk, Virginia, I enjoyed the window seat. The plane arrived late so we were delayed and due to a gate change, even after we boarded, we sat at the terminal for about 30 minutes while the baggage was loaded. The delays allowed for our flight to depart at dusk and as we ascended, I was amazed at the thousands of lights visible from the plane. Even after we reached our cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, the lights could be seen when there was a break in the cloud cover.

As I sat looking out the window, I began to think about each light and the people who depended on the them to illuminate the night. I wondered how many of them were happy and how many were sad. I thought about those who’s lives were in turmoil in that moment as I passed by, high overhead, oblivious to their circumstance.

As the Delta flight made it’s way along the eastern seaboard, we soared past families being torn apart by divorce and parents grieving the death of a child. I thought of people battling addictions and depression, unemployment and financial ruin, even preteens and teenagers struggling with self-esteem, some of them being bullied, some doing the bullying.

As disheartening as that may seem, I couldn’t help but feel hope as I looked at all the lights. Some were dim, others were bright, but each one was breaking the monotonous darkness. It only takes a small amount of light to pierce the gloom, no matter how dark the night may seem.

Each one of us has it within to bring that hope to someone who is hurting. In the darkness of their storm, we can be that light to pierce the darkness. Unfortunately, we get so caught up with our own lives and our circumstances that we tend to soar right over those who need us when they desperately need what we have to give. We get tunnel vision. We walk right past them as though we were wearing blinders because we don’t have time or we don’t know where to begin.

Many of us want to help, but life is moving so fast, it’s like being on a flight at night. We can see the darkness (or the need) but we feel powerless to do anything to light it or even afraid we will do the wrong thing. We see others lighting the night but we feel inadequate and incapable, or unworthy.

Honestly, those we see as shining so brightly were once dim. They probably even had a time where they had a hard time thinking they had anything of value to offer. Chances are those you admire have struggled with or are struggling with the same things you struggle with. They are looking for an opportunity to share the hope they have with you so that their light can help pierce your darkness. In turn, you take that hope and share it with someone else.

You see, you don’t have to be perfect to make a difference in this world, you just have to be willing to try. It’s that effort that starts to bring a light of hope into the darkness of those we pass each day. That effort generates a spark that can illuminate the darkest of situations. We have to be intentional and slow down long enough to recognize the needs of those around us. Then, we need to offer what we can. For some, it will be a kind word and a smile of encouragement. Some might be able to be a blessing financially or with a needed item like food or a coat. Whatever you do unconditionally for those who are hurting or in need will return a greater investment than you might think.

Yes, it will cost you something. It might be your comfort or your desires, but whatever the cost, the reward is far greater. It comes down to a choice. You can soar past the hurting and pretend they don’t exist or that their lives don’t have any impact on your own…or you can choose to see the value in that person, slow down and take a moment to shine a little light in their darkness. Each time you step out of your comfort zone and take a chance, putting the needs of others before your own, your light will grow a little brighter and bolder.

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Resolve

What an awesome word. It means to, “Decide firmly on a course of action.” From it, we get words like resolute and resolution. I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea behind the word resolve as the New Year has come.

With the New Year, people make plans to change their lives, presumably for the better. We see those areas that we don’t like and decide to change them, often without a plan or course of action to achieve what was set. We forget the true meaning of the word and, in essence, what it takes to change.

We must stand firm when it would be far easier to bend or give into the desires of our flesh. When the storms are raging, we must stand for something. In the words of the immortal country song, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything!”

Rather than setting a bunch of unreasonable expectations on the 1st of each year, I suggest you find what you believe in and stand firm. Do not waiver to the right or the left. Resolve to fight for the innocent, for those who have no voice. Decide to take up a standard and shine a light in the darkness. Decide today. Don’t wait for tomorrow or the first of the month. Resolve doesn’t require a date on a calendar, it requires a decided heart to carry through to the very end.

There will be opposition. When it comes, if you aren’t completely persuaded to stand, you will fall. People will attack your intelligence simply because they don’t agree with your position. Be resolute! Stand firm as the battle rages. I think of the scene from the movie Dances With Wolves where Kevin Costner’s character rides across a battle field while bullets fly past him on all sides. He mocked the opposing forces as he rode across their lines, not once, but twice. He had been wounded in battle but was determined to keep his leg, even if it might cost his life. His actions were rash and the consequences could have been dire, but he stood resolved to die with his boots on. His actions turned the tide of the fictitious battle and he kept his leg!

We need to be that bold! When the world comes against you and criticizes you, stand firm. Don’t bend to appease the masses. They are fickle and their opinion changes as often as the situations they find themselves in. The world needs people who aren’t afraid to stand apart. It needs people who can lead with resolve and conviction, with purpose and steadfastness of heart. It’s a scary place we find ourselves in when those who lead lack the ability to stand firm on a course of action.

One of the greatest things about this nation is the ability of the individual to be heard. Whether you agree with their opinion or not, they have a right to express it. Whether you agree with their position or not, you must honor the right the individual has to express their thoughts. My disagreeing with a person’s point of view or what an individual chooses to stand on doesn’t equate to hate. The different views coming together and finding a common interest, that’s what makes the country great.

About a month back, Christians united behind a man’s right to express his opinion. While many were respectful, some lacked the courage of their convictions. It never ceases to amaze me when I see the things that move the Christian ranks to action. We will stand upon the shoulders, or beards, of others, but rarely stand for the faith we claim to hold to. Though it does my heart good to see believers unite behind an idea, it saddens me to see the methods many use to show their faith.

When I look at Christ, He used a powerful weapon to breakdown the distrust of religion that had grown during His day. His love for the hurting, for the lonely and the lost, helped to rebuild a system that was in dire need of shaking. I wonder if we don’t find ourselves in a similar situation today. The Lord did not come for the healthy, He came for the sick and His message was one of love and forgiveness. His love established trust as He established a new system without letting go of the lessons of the old.

His love built a bridge that healed the broken hearted. His love inspired the hurting and the lost to change and see what could be if they would dare to believe. He didn’t hurl insults. He stood firmly upon His convictions. He lead with an uncommon resolve that guided a ragtag group of outcasts to follow in His footsteps and they carried on in His absence to change a world in need of that most effective tool any of us possess… Love.

So, considering all the arguments and disagreements raging in the world around us and within the church itself, I have come to a decision. I resolve to love. Not love as society would define it, but with the love that Christ Himself showed us. Through His example, we can change the world, if we will simply believe in the power love holds. With a pure love from a forgiven heart, not passing judgement on those around me, but seeking to see them through the eyes of Christ. I may disagree with you but that doesn’t mean you lack value. It means I have to look beyond the disagreement to see the potential within the heart and then offer the one thing that can mend the broken… Love.

“Love is patient and kind, not self seeking, not boastful, it doesn’t keep a record of wrong, it rejoices in the truth. Love never fails.” Think what a difference we could make if we loved the people around us like this, not just when they’re clean, but when they are dirty. Love never fails. You can gain the whole world, have everything your heart desires, people can follow you, but if you lack love, it means nothing. I resolve to love!