Posts Tagged ‘resolution

07
Sep
20

Picking Your Battles

“You have to pick your battles.”

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard this sage advice?

Parents of young children have learned and lived the wisdom of this phrase. 

Most married couples I know have it tattooed on the inside of their eyelids. 

And wonder of wonders, it turns out that this advice is highly relevant to 68-year-old retirees, too!

By now you know the drill; there you are… going about your day, minding your own business when suddenly… IT happens. Something as trivial as the location of the salt-and-pepper shakers – that you know are always on that shelf over THERE – has been altered. 

You begin calmly trying out alternative solutions… without success. The frustration and tension begin to build. And then suddenly, before you can say, “Global pandemic,” this minor inconvenience has blown up to epic dimensions, usurping The Apocalypse as the single biggest threat to human existence.

Frustrations get expressed. Emotions get vented. Voices – sometimes – get raised. And somewhere in the middle of the fray, that advice to, “… pick your battles,” echoes in your head.

Has anything like that ever happened to you? Clearly it has happened to me. And embarrassed as I am to admit it, most of the time I remember this great advice only AFTER picking the absolutely wrongest battle possible. 

Not surprisingly at all, Jesus never had this problem. Every one of the battles we see him fighting were perfectly picked. And the battles he avoided were likewise perfectly avoided. 

In Luke 18:15-17, Jesus wisely avoids the argument about whether children should be pestering him and taking up his valuable time. He told his disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:16, NRSV). 

In the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus skillfully sidesteps the argument about the proper punishment for the woman caught in adultery. He tells her sanctimonious antagonists, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7, NRSV). 

But for anyone who might be under the impression that Jesus was some kind of milquetoast peacenik, open up your Bible and read the withering tongue-lashing he gives the religious leaders in Matthew 23:13-29, including this devastating truth-bomb: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” (Matthew 23:27, NRSV). 

And let’s not forget the scene in the courtyard of the Jerusalem Temple where we see Our Hero throwing over the tables of the moneychangers, driving out their sacrificial animals, and hurling every insult under the sun at them. 

Some battles – as Jesus well knew – were worth fighting. I suspect that for him, these were the battles that had a bearing on the eternal condition of people’s souls. 

Other battles – if the stakes were anything short of eternal – really weren’t worth the energy it took to fight them. 

For me personally, it is not difficult at all to apply the “WORTH FIGHTING” and the “NOT WORTH FIGHTING” label to my own battles…

… that is, after they’ve been fought.

The real challenge is to know the difference BEFORE fighting them.

Abundant blessings;

27
Dec
17

An Inside Job…

“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.“
Luke 19:42, NRSV

Jesus lamentLooking toward the year ahead, I see a whole bunch of stuff on the horizon.

I see “wannas.”

I see “gottas.”

I see a TON of “oughtas.”

But I see just a small handful of “MUSTS.”

And right there at the top of the “must” list is the MUST of heeding Jesus’ sentiment in the verse from Luke there at the top of the page.

You might know that these are the words he spoke as he lamented over the city of Jerusalem, a mere 48 hours before his arrest, torture, and crucifixion.

As Jesus spoke these words, he looked out on a city that was in a deep state of division and political unrest. It was a city that seemed to have lost its primary, faith-centered identity in a quest to appease the leaders of the status quo.

Does any of that ring a familiar bell?

Jesus laments Jerusalem’s failure to recognize “the things that make for peace.” But I like to suggest that today we are called to go a step further.

We are called not to just recognize the things that make for peace… we are called to act on them as well.

And to take it a step further, I am called to recognize that all of this has to begin with ME.

It doesn’t start with new laws… It doesn’t start with a different president… or with a whole new slate of state or civic leaders. It doesn’t even start with better attendance in our churches, synagogues, or other places of worship.

It starts with ME.

It starts with me looking deeply in the mirror and recognizing that I am a lot angrier man today than I was a few years ago.

Then I have to recognize the fact that angry people are usually not very effective peacemakers. In fact, neurological studies have shown that our brains undergo physiological change the more often we allow anger to take over and rule our approach to the world.

And as much as I would like to explain away and excuse my heightened state of anger; the truth is that none of those explanations really matter.

What matters is doing something different.

What matters is mapping a different response to the things that push my buttons… that is, to work on becoming the initiator of the response rather than the reactor to the stimulus.

Unless you are in either a natural or chemically induced state of bliss 24/7, we all see things happening around us that push our buttons, rub us the wrong way, or outrage us.

It comes with the territory of being awake.

The question is: what will you DO with your outrage?

I was scratching my head over this very question the other day when I came across this very interesting article from the Edutopia website. It was written by Laura Thomas and addresses what she sees as a growing state of anger toward others in this country.

In the course of the article, Ms. Thomas suggests three questions we each might ask when some new “button pushing” stimulus comes to our attention. She suggests we pause (often a challenge in and of itself) and ask:

  1. Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
  3. How do you react or what happens when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

So often – at least for me – when I am busy being outraged, I can spin myself into a rapidly escalating spiral of righteous indignation that perpetuates its own energy. I’ve heard enough and I’m READY TO RUMBLE!

The idea of pulling back and asking these questions would not just be helpful to me and my spirit… it might even be healing for the WORLD.

I know at this point that I am supposed to reach out and invite you to join me in my resolve to be a peacemaker in the year ahead… and start a social media “chain letter” of peacemaking.

And all of that would be great.

But whether you do or not, I am clear that I need to let peace begin with me.

Hey! Wouldn’t that be a cool song?

 

Abundant blessings to you;

 




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