CLEF Newsletter - January 2018

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself…’ For the fruit of the Spirit is love; joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:13-14, 22-23)

End-of-the-year holidays celebrating Thanksgiving, Christ-mas and Hanukkah work in a wonderful way to give us perspective, hope and a certain peace despite the turmoil our world almost constantly finds itself in. Indeed, there is always a tragic or regrettable state of affairs near or afar that easily troubles our soul. However, the holidays do bring us back to the awareness that not only do we have reason to be grateful, hopeful, even joyful, but to take heart as well bringing such blessings to bear upon those bereft and between such life-bearing basics. We are never without something to give, and when we do, the capital of our own emotional and spiritual resource multiplies. We’re beginning another year with a lot of unknowns and few guarantees. Yet whether life goes north or south for us or those around us, we can still have cheer, as well as the peace and joy of what makes human life so utterly worth living and experiencing by knowing and doing what makes us truly shaped in God’s image. We are surrounded by life in all of its dimensions not to feel threatened or closed in by it, but to be challenged and inspired to lean into it and engage its declaration however it is encountered. When we do, we act on faith instead of fear, to build confidence, clarity, conviction, and the compassion that reflects the likeness of our Creator. Life has no meaning beyond that.

So what is our mindset having advanced through the holidays and standing now on the precipice of another year? I hope as such we continue to be troubled by calamitous events, and not so “compassion fatigued” that we cease to care. Granted we hear and are exposed to too much news at times. Being confronted with such profuse tragedy all around can have a certain effect of locking up our heart and empathy for unfortunate sufferers of adversity, at fault or no. But turning away from tragedy doesn’t make it go away, whether it is our own or another’s. The book of Job states “Man is born for calamity as surely as sparks fly upward” (5:70). We’re all broken to one degree or another and that brokenness leads us into trouble more often than not. But there is an antithesis to this that provides saving grace and glory.

Dr. Travis Bradberry, cofounder of TalentSmart, an organization that supplies emotional intelligence tests and training, and co-author of the book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” writes in his November article “Five Things That Will Make You Much Happier.” In it he emphasizes the intentionality of happiness, and lists the attributes and benefits of engaging in such happiness inducing practices as ongoing gratitude (a serious neural antidepressant), recognizing negative emotions (not avoiding them or allowing them to unconsciously control you), being decisive (not always perfectly, but good enough to keep things moving along), lending a hand (helping others gets your eyes off self and connected with real life), and pursuing touch (appropriately of course but the human brain construes touch as social acceptance and approval). These five particular items actually create a positive brain chemistry that stimulate feelings of security, satisfaction and significance. I think it’s interesting that God has so designed us to feel at our best when we’re doing things which have a positive impact on others. Viewing ourselves as a resource for the benefit of others rather than merely leveraging off their assets places us in a position to be enlarged by their ensuing security, satisfaction and significance. As others grow, we grow stronger with them.

I listened to a former Special Forces soldier being interviewed about how the deepest fulfillment in life comes, not by the acquisition of ease and comfort (what is mostly advertised by our consumer culture), but by the hard pursuit of service and sacrifice. When we crave the very thing which keeps us small, naïve, shallow and narrow-minded and become deluded by passions and aspirations of vain pursuits and illusory pipe-dreams, we stagnate, much like the worthless servant in Jesus’ parable who took his talent and buried it because he was afraid of losing it. Life is rather made to be locked and loaded for serious warfare against the darkness of this world’s lies and deceit. When we expend our means into others, we extend ourselves into lavish providence.

God is infinite, and He created us to reflect His image. And His law of love determines that when we do, we inherit the reality of His passion for us to know what is the breath and length and height and depth of His abundance… filled up with all the fullness of His Spirit (Eph.3:18). That has adventure and success written all over it. We can live in the fear of our own shadow, cowered by the anxiety and terror of unease, or we can choose the freedom of loving the people and times that surround us. 2018, a year of adversity, or a year of adventure? Choose service and sacrifice.