Just about anyone over the age of 20 can remember the US Army’s slogan “Be All You Can Be”. Some of you just read those words and the catchy jingle is in your head right now… “Be…all that you can be… in the ARRRRRRMMMMMMYYY!”
That slogan was so good the Army didn’t change it for 21 years!
If your life had a slogan… what would it be?
If your work had a slogan… what would THAT be?
Are they different? Should they be different?
I haven’t been around long enough to answer these questions definitively. In truth, I believe there are as many answers to these questions as there are people under the sun.
But let’s presume everyone’s life slogan was that old Army slogan: “Be All You Can Be”.
How different would your life be?
How different would the world be?
Imagine living to your fullest potential… without the handicap of fear. You display courage despite your insecurities. You pursue your dreams with relentless fervor. Now don’t get me wrong… fear is still there, but it doesn’t stop you in your tracks. Your insecurities exist, but they don’t dampen your spirit or devour your motivation.
To be all that you can be means you stop settling for less, and yet accept what is in the present moment at the same time. You are not adversarial with the present moment; you are accepting the past for it has brought you to this place, and you begin to create right from where you are standing. Do you run toward something everyone else is running away from in order to stand out in the crowd?
Welcome to 2021, the decade, I mean year of “WTH?!?!?!” We are 18 months into a social distancing pandemic that asks each of us to think more about others than ourselves. Like so many things it has been a matter of perception. How do we decide to look at what is right in front of us? Are your friends or family struggling with food scarcity, social isolation or even struggling to stay in their homes because of job loss due to COVID? Is there anything we can do to help even in the smallest way when all the hurt and loss seem just so BIG?! The answer is yes. Always, always, always yes.
What about something so simple as carrying a couple extra bottles of water in your car and offering a homeless person fresh water? What about giving your perfectly good umbrella to someone who seems to be pushing everything they own in a shopping cart when it’s pouring outside? What about treating someone sleeping in a park with respect enough to say “hello” and look into their eyes… SEE them.
We all have something we can contribute. Whether it’s time, talent or treasure. These are unprecedented times and they are calling for unprecedented responses. What if you offer someone a ride to go vote (of course wearing a mask)? What about sharing a homecooked meal with someone who is one of the most vulnerable and scared to go in public? What about committing to a regular pledge amount to support our church, which in turn supports so many in our community?
For congregations everywhere, 2021 has been a year of turmoil and reinvention. We cannot let fear diminish our present or our future. We cannot let fear diminish our faith or confidence in a God who has promised to provide for us. Because that spirit of fear and anxiety can cripple ministry, cripple our spiritual lives and cripple generosity, especially when we are busy just coping and surviving. I know this is really hard to hear when people’s lives have been shattered by the day to day living. When we are frightened of losing our jobs, when we are genuinely anxious about our families, when we can no longer meet debts which we thought were manageable.
In the end, we don’t get to ignore the difficulties; we don’t get to pretend they are not real. Instead, we look for the opportunities to minister to those who are struggling. The current social and political climate poses a lot of important questions: What does it mean for us to be faithful stewards in the context of recession? What are the day-to-day implications for us in living generously as a hallmark of what it means to be faithful stewards?
Begin where you are, but don’t stay there. Take inventory of the blessings in your own life so there is greater awareness of what to be thankful for. As you pray for God to open your eyes to those most in need, look for the goodness and grace of a perfect love and cultivate an attitude of gratitude within your community. Connect the opportunity to give as a response to God’s own generosity.
One of the key things I want to encourage you to think about is to sincerely ask what do we believe about giving in our church, and not only what we believe but what we teach, what we exemplify by action, what we are modeling. What are we showing to the congregation about what we believe about generosity and stewardship?
Remember that our amazing little church is first and foremost about the relationships that matter most. Those between each of us, our church and our community and God’s love for each of us no matter what station we are at presently. Generosity happens when there is trust and clear vision for the ministry of the church. Disaster and disease isolate. Financial recession and unemployment compound our crisis. Racial injustice and political conflict divide. The healing ministry role of the church has never been greater.
Today calls for the best of us, from each of us.
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