My Word for 2017

We all need something to hang on to, right? It could be a routine, a promise, a plan, a ritual  – we just simply need to have a series of lifelines. That’s what gives us hope, and hope is foundational to living.

I’ve got many lifelines, plenty to hang on to. Plenty to do, lots of plans, loads of responsibilities, numerous good things going on. So why have a word? Because this just seems like the year to do it.

I know “word of the year” has been popular for some years, but I’ve had enough to do without adding something else. This just seems like a good year to do something different.

With all that goes on, I’ve been more into action items and daily life. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy what I’ve been doing. I’m all for action and living and enjoying life. Maybe the Word challenge is a way to encapsulate what I’ve been doing and thinking, rather than being something else to do. Maybe this word of the year for 2017 is actually a metamorphosis for last year’s cocooning activity.

My word for 2017 is: Why?

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Over the past year, it has become clear to me that I need to know more about why I’m doing something. Why do I make the rules that I do for my children? Why do I workout? (or, why don’t I workout?) Why do I respond to this-and-that situation in the way that I do? Why eat healthily (yes, it’s “healthily” instead of “healthy” if you wondered, but it’s not a big deal – just anticipating a question about it)? Why do I dress, or dress our kids, the way that I do? It’s also to remind myself about why I work, why I’m married, why we homeschool, etc. It’s in the reminders that I learn even more.

Not everything can be answered with a Why, but far more is made clear when I ask the question and get down to the motive.

It’s not that I’ve been doing things without knowing why – I have been to the best of my ability. But I’ve reached another point in growing up (something we all need to reach at various times throughout life). I’m at the point of refining what I do and what my reasons are for doing them.

The main principle behind this “Why?” refinement is this: Do I do what I do because I fear God? Or because I fear Man? (Matthew 10:28; Psalm 118:6; Proverbs 29:25; Hebrews 13:6)

Case in point: Have I made society’s dress code equivalent to Scripture’s code? Scripture has limited advice on how we dress, and one main point is to dress modestly. This past weekend we all stayed the night somewhere else. One of our younger ones ended up, for Sunday morning, with a dress shirt and…sweat pants. At least the pants were black – a good power color, and the goes everything. I wanted to be upset – how could he chooseTHAT?! Doesn’t the boy have any sense? He doesn’t have fashion sense (he’s like me), but AT LEAST get some decent pants.

But was his action a lack of will? Or was it lack of skill? It was a lack of skill. So what if he doesn’t have matching clothes? Any onlooker can tell he’s dressed modestly. Are my standards biblical? Or am I afraid that someone would say, “Your boy sure doesn’t know how to dress, does he?” Maybe he doesn’t know how to pick matching clothes, but that is not anywhere near a moral failing.

Why do I do things? Why do I think the things that I do? Is godliness my motivation? Is my impetus Christ-likeness? Or is it making sure that people don’t make fun of me or my family?

I want to delve into my motivations so that I can please Christ, not man.

Why am I writing this post? Am I trying to prove to someone that I can do it (wanting “man’s” praise)? No, I’m not. As any writer really wants to do, I’m writing so that I can share my burdens and encourage you, the reader, on to Christ-likeness.

Happy New Year!

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Thoughtful, Thankful, and Tense

Here’s a 2-mt. video about the destruction in Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew’s October 4th  “visitation.”

Though the hurricane occurred two months ago, things there are still precarious due to reconstruction and disease; devastation is not a singular, one-time event.

More below.

 

We should constantly live in a state of tension. At every moment, there’s the realization that things are bad AND that things are good. As we remain aware of things outside of our personal existence, we are consistently in a state of joy AND a state of grief.
While I’m thankful, joyful, and happy for all that I have and the opportunities I’ve been presented, there’s also something like Hurricane Matthew’s devastation in Haiti that is also going on (and ongoing).
Today, while you (and I) are enjoying abundance, take time to pray for, or even give support to, those who are hurting. http://cintl.us/hearthaiti
You can help in a few ways:

  1. Pray. Pray for hope to shine in Haiti. Jesus has a treasure trove of ways to give people hope.
  2. Give a gift to Compassion to help Haiti (yes, #GivingTuesday is over, but giving is always in season):
    http://www.compassion.com/giving-tuesday.htm?referer=519502&utm_source=compassion&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=haiti_2016
  3. Sponsor a Haitian child:
    http://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/child-search-results.htm?cboArea=13%7cCentral+America+and+Caribbean&cboCountry=332%7cHaiti&ageMin=1&ageMax=22

#GivingTuesday #CompassionBloggers

Angeline

There are many times when tragedies turn into greater tragedies. It’s the norm, really.

Please take a couple minutes to watch this video from Compassion International about Angeline. And then continue reading below.

We can become inured to the news: natural disaster W hit the country of X; Y are dead, while another Z are displaced.

This is no different: On October 4th, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti. Almost 900 are dead, 90% of the west coastal homes were destroyed. But the trouble isn’t over.

We can miss the ensuing days and weeks; those weeks after the day that a tragedy grips the world’s attention. It’s easy to miss what follows – initially, we see the news, pray, provide some support, and then move on.

In the case of Hurricane Matthew’s effect on Haiti, the aftermath partially comes in the form of cholera. The need is still there.

The quick slide back into our daily routine is easy to do: we each have our own lives, and for some, if not many, their own life is hard enough on its own without dealing with or helping others.

To add to the noninclusion of others’ tragedies in our daily lives, within a couple weeks there’s another tragedy. In the meantime, we may have had our own emergencies that require our full attention. Before too long we are used to watching events happen, doing what we can immediately, then getting back to our lives and daily duties BEFORE something else happens.

This is why we need others to help us remember. We need other organizations to keep on top of things. They don’t do it to make people feel guilty for forgetting; they do it to help us remember our responsibility. Those of us who have are responsible for helping those who are in need.

1 Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” Those of us who are grown-ups need to remember or be reminded of our duty to others. Life can be hard, but that doesn’t absolve us of our responsibilities.

You can help in a few ways:

  1. Pray. Pray for hope to shine in Haiti. Jesus has a treasure trove of ways to give people hope.
  2. Give a gift to Compassion to help those like Angeline: http://www.compassion.com/giving-tuesday.htm?referer=519502&utm_source=compassion&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=haiti_2016
  3. Sponsor a Haitian child:
    http://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/child-search-results.htm?cboArea=13%7cCentral+America+and+Caribbean&cboCountry=332%7cHaiti&ageMin=1&ageMax=22

#GivingTuesday #CompassionBloggers

Thank you for staying mindful.

Hope

“If, instead of trusting in God, I trust only in my own intelligence, my own strength, and my own prudence, the means that God has given me to find my way to Him will all fail me. Nothing created is of any ultimate use without hope. To place your trust in visible things is to live in despair.”

— Thomas Merton, “No Man is an Island”

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(here’s more if you want to read more)

“And yet, if I hope in God, I must also make a confident use of the natural aids which, with grace, enable me to come to Him. If He is good, and if my intelligence is His gift, then I must show my trust in His goodness by making use of my intelligence. I must let faith elevate, heal, and transform the light of my mind. If He is merciful, and if my freedom is a gift of  His mercy, I must show my trust in His mercy by making use of my free will. I must let hope and charity purify and strengthen my human liberty and raise me to the glorious autonomy of a son of God.”

Liberty, Hope, Life

I wake up, pretty much, whenever I like. Sometimes it hurts to rise-and-shine, but my wife and I have 10 kids, including a nursing infant, to get going each day, so getting up at a proper time and setting a good example aren’t option! I have a job I have to do, though I, as most Americans, have days I can take off pretty much whenever desired. I get breakfast and coffee (home-roasted, btw!); work out (I won’t say how often); we homeschool; I work from home (which I really like). A hot shower is always available. If something breaks, I have one or more ways to get it fixed.

My family is far from what many would consider rich, but we have all that we need, plus a lot more. We have choices to make each day, though many choices such as food, activities, weekend events, and weekly church are already settled into our weekly routine. And even those “settled” things can be changed as we need.

This is all the fruit of liberty. I won’t go into any specifics about the different aspects of things such as capitalism or about the founding of the U.S.A– I’ll just leave it at liberty.

Most people reading this have liberty. You have an internet connection, a house (and mortgage?), a car (and car payment?), your choice of schooling, your choice of your place of worship. These, and so much more, are the fruits of liberty – in general, people with money have choices. There are rough spots in life for everyone, but with the financial system we have in the USA even those who are strapped for cash can buy a house or car using a loan; we can use a credit card; we can save and invest; we can get a job; we can work from home; we can own a business. You’re correct in thinking that it’s not all easy or easily accessible, but most of you reading this have liberty, and therefore you have choices.

Before they’re sponsored, Compassion children don’t have many, if any, choices. They don’t get to choose where they eat breakfast, or necessarily what and how often they eat and drink. They don’t get to put milk/honey/cream/etc. in coffee or tea (if they even have those).  As odd as it sounds, they don’t get to go into debt, because they don’t have a sound financial system upon which they can draw to even get started. Unless someone from outside reaches out to them, they are stuck.

When you sponsor a child through Compassion, you give them the one thing that underlies pretty much every good thing in life – hope. What gets you to the next day? Hope that things will be just that much better tomorrow; hope that I’ll get it right next week; hope that our kids will do better next month; hope that, with treatment, our loved one will be in remission next year.

Sponsoring a child lets them know that they’ll get good food this month. Next month, maybe a new toothbrush. Your Christmas gift to them may be the only way they get a new school uniform. As they look down the road, through the years, they see that as the support continues, they can break the cycle of poverty. And it gives their parents hope – hope that their child can live a different and better life. It gives the child the hope that he can come back and help his parents. Or that she can come back with her husband to help their village. The fruits of hope are almost boundless.

Sponsoring a child through Compassion means you give up some of the fruits of your labor and liberty. However, giving up some of the fruits of your liberty doesn’t take away your liberty, but rather gives liberty to someone else. And liberty brings hope. And hope brings life.

Vigilance, Diligence, and Banality

I wrote this piece, which was published originally at The Analogies Project

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The Knights of the Silver Shield were tasked with keeping the country safe from the giants who lived in the forest. If a knight was lazy and cowardly, the silver shield would grow dull, so dull that one could not see his reflection in it. But as a knight grew in experience, honour, and valour, two things would happen to the shield: it would grow shinier, and – after a long time of distinguished service – it would develop a golden star in its centre.

On a day when the knights had to go to battle against the giants, the youngest knight, Sir Roland, was eager to go to battle. But someone needed to stay at the castle to guard the gates, and that duty fell to Roland (whose shield was already shining due to his bravery and good deeds). Although downcast, he dutifully stayed. His charge was simple and straightforward: “Guard the gate and let no one enter.” (The castle was so well-fortified that the giants had long ago given up directly attacking it).

The knights went to battle, leaving Roland alone to guard the gate and the servants to take care of the castle.

Soon, one of the injured knights came back, asking to take a break, and offered to guard the gate so that Roland could rest. He was told by Roland to keep to his post on the battlefield, and that Roland alone was given the task to be on guard.

Before too long, an old woman came by, belittling him by saying, “You must be a knight who likes to stay safe, and are lucky to have an excuse not to go to battle.” He held back his anger as she laughed and went on her way.
Not long after, an old man approached and offered Roland a sword. The sword, he claimed, was magical, and if Roland would use it in the battle then the giants would be easily defeated. While enamoured of the idea of gaining victory in battle, Roland knew it would mean leaving his post and abandoning what was entrusted to him and to him alone. Roland had a bad feeling about this elderly man.

By the gate hung a bell. When it was rung, the servants would raise the drawbridge. Roland rang the bell, and the servants immediately closed the drawbridge. The old man instantly revealed himself – he took off his cloak and was transformed into one of the giants. Furious at having been outwitted, he turned and went back into the forest.

Presently, the knights returned from battle and were amazed, as was Roland, to see a golden star glimmering in the middle of his shield. The lord of the castle stated: ”Sir Roland has fought and won the hardest battle of all today.”

There’s a lot of complexity to the world of infosec – ports, hackers, firewalls, rules, protocols, laws, governance, malware, certifications, OS hardening, guarding legacy apps…the list goes on and on. But underneath the lot is something that everyone can do: protect the gates.

Like the everyday, boring, and menial habits of locking your car doors, teaching your kids to look before crossing the street, watching where you step, driving carefully, checking the expiration date on food, and even making a to-do list the night before…each person can play a role in keeping our company’s information safe by diligently keeping passwords safe, pointing out suspicious visitors, not sharing secrets, being aware of what a phishing email looks like or shredding confidential documents when they’re no longer needed. Remaining vigilant in the daily details, and not being distracted by things that take us away from keeping our post, leads to a much safer and more secure company.

CISOs want to be keenly aware of who in their castle is doing what. That way, when your own Sir Rolands do the right thing at the right time for the right reason right you’re ready to honour their valour. The reward doesn’t have to involve gold and stars, but the aware leader keeps up-to-date with the battles being fought and rewards those dutiful and brave warriors according to the company’s culture, the risk avoided, and the individual’s/team’s interests – time off, bonus, recognition.

(As an example: years ago I had been doing my daily duty of making sure backups were being done. One day, out of nowhere, my manager approached me and gave me half of the day off. Why? A database had crashed, and they were able to restore it that morning because I had been diligent with backups. I was happy as could be! Not only was I given a brief furlough from my service, but my reputation would be spread throughout the land! Well, maybe not that grand, but I really was very pleased.)

Red Noses and True Compassion

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Today – May 26, 2016 – is Red Nose Day in the USA.

It’s a day for Comic Relief to raise money and it does a really good thing by bringing to America’s attention the need to fight child poverty. The money raised goes to, “the Red Nose Day Fund which distributes the money through programs to keep children and young people safe, healthy and educated. “ (from: https://www.rednoseday.com/what-is-red-nose-day).

I’d like to highlight a better alternative to giving to this fund: Compassion International.

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Another aspect of Red Nose Day Fund is this: “vision of a just world, free from poverty” (from: https://www.rednoseday.com/what-is-red-nose-day). Yes, it sounds great. The trouble is that Christians know that this world isn’t going to become just or free from poverty. The poor will be with us always (Mark 14:7).

While many organizations have the heart to feed and educate the poor, without proper long-term goals and values, the money raised and given will only relieve some issues, difficulties, and crises such as disasters and surgeries. But in the long-run, since the poor will be with us, it’s far better to look long-term, as Compassion does.

When you give monthly to Compassion, the money goes to providing a better future specifically for the child who you sponsor. Here are some ways that you get to show love to a child through Compassion. You get to send letters to and receive them from your child (or you can sponsor multiple children!). You can send them birthday and Christmas money, or send money anytime. They, however, don’t get money, but an age, family, and culturally appropriate gift – whoever is in charge of your child’s area (e.g., local pastor) determines what is best for your child. You get to be directly involved in a child’s life!

With a long-term view for each child, we help pave the way for each child we sponsor to have a better future by providing the basics now. That child will grow up, and will prayerfully use the opportunities that he’s been given to live well. But there will still be children after her that will need help.

Compassion operates on hope for the present AND hope for the future. There’s always a child to sponsor, and we need to carry on the hope. Those you help through Compassion aren’t just a multitude – they are children with names, families, and very little help in the present.

On this Red Nose Day, you have a reminder that there really are poverty-stricken children in the world. And you can go to compassion.com and see many children (they have names and faces!) who you can help right away.