Choose to Engage

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As the conversation continues concerning racism in our culture, I want to offer a few simple solutions. I know that the problem of racial division is deeply complex, but I do think that there are steps each of us can take to work toward harmony and unity.

It’s not just the government’s responsibility to ease racial tensions, it is also every individual’s responsibility. It begins in our own heart. It begins with a new focus of love and understanding within each one of us. How can you and I make a difference? Here are a few thoughts:

Mindset. Let’s ask God to put a love in our heart for all people, not just those who look like us and think like us. Psalms 145:9 says, “The Lord is good to all. He has compassion on all He has made.”  If the Lord has compassion on all that He has made, shouldn’t we do the same? Let’s ask God to open our eyes to see each person as a creation of God, to see their value and worth, rather than seeing their outward appearance. As we pray, let’s ask God to open our eyes to new friendships and seek His direction in connecting with people different than ourselves.

Action. We must be deliberate if we want to get to know people of other cultures and communities. It takes stepping out of our comfortable little world and intentionally reaching into the lives of others. How do we do that? Getting involved or volunteering in our own city is a good place to start. Let’s look for ways, not simply to give a handout (making ourselves feel good), but rather give a hand up by building relationships and connecting with people. Let’s be aware of the opportunities to develop friendships with people of other cultures at work, at church or at places we tend to visit on a regular basis.

Love. The word “love” is used in such a flippant manner in today’s culture it seems to have lost its depth and meaning. When we love someone, we sincerely want the best for them. We see the potential in them and encourage them in their journey. We listen. We care. We persevere. We lift up. Love requires time and commitment. Love breaks down the barriers of us/them and simply says, “We are all in this together.”

Racial reconciliation begins with us. It begins as each of us takes a step outside our comfort zone and into community, engaging with people whose lives may be very different than our own.

Will you take the first step?

 

If you are looking for a way to serve in your community, prayerfully consider joining the Engage Positive Parenting Initiative team of volunteers. Click here for more information.

Are You Stretching?

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My daughter Joy is a  fitness trainer, and she would be the first to tell you the importance of stretching both before and after a workout. In fact, the Harvard Health newsletter noted, “Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight.” Just as stretching is vital for the healthy functioning of our muscles, so stretching is vital to the social structure of our society and to our own personal well-being.

Our body’s muscles shorten and become tight without stretching, and in a similar way we can become short-sighted and inflexible when we choose to only interact with people who look like us and think like us. Sure we love to cling to what we already know and love. That’s fun and safe! But if we really want to build bridges of unity in our cities and communities, we need to open up and be willing to have conversations beyond our own cultural circle.

Stretching may look different for each of us. Just as some find it stretching to talk to a new neighbor or employee, while others may find it stretching to begin a conversation with a woman at the check-out line at the grocery store or a waiter at the restaurant. There are opportunities all around us to reach beyond our comfort circle and engage with someone new, whether it is at work or in your neighborhood or school or city.

In his book, Welcome Homeless, Alan Graham reminds us that we are all born for relationship. He writes, “To see people, we have to engage. We have to get out of our cars and talk to people. To understand the street, we have to walk the street…You can’t understand the heart of people from a car. You’ve got to get out of the car. You’ve got to crawl on your hands and knees. You’ve got to make desperate attempts to truly connect and learn someone’s story.” Through his work with the homeless community in Austin, Texas, Alan Graham is stretching others to go beyond the comfortable.

And that’s what stretching does, it makes us slightly uncomfortable, but it strengthens us and makes us healthy as human beings. We become fully alive as we step beyond what is easy and reach into the lives of others. Where do you need to stretch? Where do you need to start a conversation?

 

 

Photo by Nick Hillier on Unsplash

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching

Alan Graham, Welcome Homeless, (Nashville, TN: W Publishing, 2017) pp. 16 -17.