by Japhet De Oliveira—
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, ESV).
I had booked a flight from Denver to Sacramento in the middle of the Super Bowl. Passengers were bumping into one another, their eyes fixed on their cell phones as they tried to follow the game. Crowds huddled around tables in restaurants offering a live broadcast of the game. I sat in a corner, just out of earshot of the game, waiting for my flight and working on my laptop to create a presentation for later that week. I enjoyed the occasional noisy distraction when one of the teams had clearly scored or had a near miss. I felt closer to the other 102 million viewers just by being in the airport. I felt I belonged.
The last professional American football game I had seen was with my friend, Terry Swenson, a lifelong fan of the 49ers. We sat in BJ’s Brewhouse, ordered too many fries, caught up on life, and watched the game (49ers vs. Saints) on multiple big screens. It was easy to see which of our fellow patrons were 49ers fans and which were Saints fans. They cheered, laughed, and applauded the tension. One group of eight adults sitting next to us was made up of fans from both sides who were still friends at the end of that game.
This feeling of community was quite different from what I observed in the office the week following Super Bowl LIV. Bob—a fake name I use in all my stories when anonymity is required—was passing by my desk when we struck up a conversation. Bob’s partner is a really keen 49ers fan, so Bob has also become a 49ers fan. The week before the Super Bowl, Bob decided to wear a 49ers jersey in support. As Bob moved around the building, there were all sorts of wonderful comments by fans of other teams. But there were also some genuinely hostile comments. These took Bob by surprise. Some people physically turned away in disdain or made snide remarks under their breath. If not for the fact that there was work to do, Bob would have avoided certain areas. The week after the Super Bowl was even harder because the 49ers lost, and the comments from the “winners” were sometimes hostile and hurtful.
I am from England, where football (soccer) is also a passionate sport. Some fans, often known as “football hooligans,” have started riots and perpetuated all kinds of violence. When you buy a ticket for a game, you want to make sure you are sitting on the side of the team you support. Once, when I was in Australia, I attended a State of Origin rugby match with the NSW Blues against the QLD Maroons. Good idea to keep the correct colors on in your seating area! The culture of the fans (excluding some of those sitting near me) seemed to dictate tense slanderous teasing. Yet, I also saw fans congratulate the winning competition after the match was over. I felt I belonged.
This is not always the case. There are people who take competition too far and don’t understand what they are doing. They make other people feel as if they don’t belong. What happened to Bob happens to all of us at some point. Others may think they are only teasing, or they may very well be being intentionally hurtful—either way, the effect is the same. It cuts to the core of who we are. We feel we do not belong, as if the same jokes are made about us all the time. We remember what it was like to be the last one to be asked to join a sports team during recess at kindergarten. This feeling weighs us down.
What do we do? What should we tell Bob? What should we tell the little kid who gets picked last every time? What should we tell the friend who feels they are the butt of all the jokes? Grow a thick skin. Give as good as you get. Just ignore them. Or could there be a better way for us to live God’s love? Could we pause and listen more? Could we grow our capacity for empathy? Could we, like Jesus, see the potential in others and make space for everyone to belong?
My friend, Lisa Clark Diller, shared a phenomenal reflection at the One project gathering in Boulder, Colorado, in mid-February. The entire message was groundbreaking, but there was a single thought that I need to share with you today. In addition to all that the Incarnation was, it was also Jesus taking on a disabled body. Because every single human is disabled in some shape or form. We all need help. Listening to her speak, with hundreds of other people, I felt I belonged.
When I read John 1:14, I see that Jesus chose to live among us so that we would understand what it is to live love. Try it today. Live God’s love by lifting up the person next to you instead of tearing them down.
Japhet De Oliveira is administrative director for the Center for Mission at Adventist Health in Roseville, California.
All God’s People S4:E7
In this week’s episode—
Stockton Teen Battling Cancer uses Make-a-Wish to Help Community; Bite Size Talks Comes to the Central California Conference; Health Tips for Coronavirus; Black History Month: Yolanda Clarke’s Story
Links to these stories on our website: https://adventistfaith.com/blog/all-gods-people/
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In the Desire of Ages, Sister White wrote, “Every individual has a life distinct from all others, and an experience differing essentially from theirs. God desires that our praise shall ascend to Him, marked by our own individuality.” –Desire of Ages, page 347
by Becky De Oliveira—
“Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14, NIV).
Today at church, a casual acquaintance confessed his feeling of being completely overwhelmed by the needs of others. He works in one of the “caring” professions, and his office is understaffed. He is all things to all people—and while he enjoys being useful in this way, he is lately finding the experience draining. He’s approaching burnout and doesn’t know what to do about it.
I can relate. My belief—more or less—has always been that God sends people to me. That is to say, anyone who comes within my orbit was likely sent my way because they need something that perhaps only I can—or am willing to—provide. On top of that, I am a natural people pleaser. According to Psychology Today, this means I am driven by fear of rejection and fear of failure. Yup, sounds about right.
As pathological as it may sound, this is usually a fun way to live and very rewarding. God seems to send problems I actually have the capacity to deal with. He has never sent me anyone whose problems seem insurmountable or that will threaten to bury me. And yet, I sometimes feel fed up and exhausted when people ask me for favors. This last week, a fellow student in one of my classes asked me to take notes for him since he had medical appointments and would miss two classes. Fine. No problem. Happy to do it. But then another friend asked me to read and check the APA style on her 59-page research paper. Sure. Someone else wrote to ask if I could give an opinion on an essay they’d written. An hour later I received another request—almost identical—from someone else. And then I discovered I needed to begin editing a joint paper for publication and tracking down the contributors who had not yet contributed. Before I knew it, there went my spare time over the weekend—used up reading and editing other people’s writing. This on top of the reading and editing I do for money. I do not—to be honest—even think I’m all that good at reading and editing. “Who cares what I think?” I fumed to myself as I looked at my ever-growing to-do list, made up primarily of tasks that I do not super enjoy, and thinking about how there are some people who watch TV on Saturday nights, people who make popcorn.
I had recently begun to put my foot down on requests for my time. I had a firm policy and I enforced it for a few weeks. (This must have been a short-lived New Year’s Resolution.) I do things for only one of three reasons, I told myself: 1) Money to pay for my son’s college tuition, 2) Professional growth, or 3) Because I really want to do it. It’s ideal if the task in question ticks all three boxes, and really, it should knock off at least two of them. I’ve said “no” to a few friends in recent weeks and even felt proud of myself for creating boundaries and sticking to them. But then here I am, fallen off the wagon. I said “yes” to all these recent requests even though I have a growing backlog of my own work that never seems to get any smaller. Even though not a single one of the tasks fulfils even one of my requirements. There’s nothing in doing this work for me—except, of course, that warm glowing feeling, that sense of having achieved some kind of purpose in the world. There’s that.
So here I am, taking a break from all the editing, to compose a blog about finding balance. Is there anyone who gets this right? Well, me—some of the time and only through God’s enormous grace. Even as I type these words, I find myself growing stronger. I remind myself how honored I feel that people choose to ask me for help, what a privilege it is to have another person care what I think, actively seek my opinion and guidance. I know these thoughts are God, whispering in my ear. He’s saying, “You have asked to be of use in this world. Right now, this is all I’m asking of you. Read a few pieces of paper. Respond with a mix of warm affirmation and constructive criticism. What else do you have going on?” And really, nothing. It’s been a long time since I’ve cared much about TV. And nothing’s stopping me from making some popcorn and having a little editing party. Thank you, God, for speaking into my life. Again.
Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student in research methods working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.
by Faith Hoyt
This April, the Church Support Services (CSS) department of the Pacific Union Conference will sponsor and organize the sixth annual inSpire, a weekend gathering for Adventist creatives.
“Our purpose is to let the creatives within our church know that we value their presence and expertise as photographers, poets, singers and songwriters, videographers, visual artists, and more because of the clarity they can add to storytelling and sharing God’s story,” said Rich DuBose, director of CSS.
DuBose is eager to see the arts take a more prominent role in helping share the essence of God’s story in the Pacific Southwest. “Instead of creativity being a source of suspicion and fear, it is something Seventh-day Adventists should celebrate and encourage,” DuBose added. “Because we are fashioned in God’s image, who is Himself the master Creator, we cannot help but build, explore, and create.”
The goal of inSpire is to “bring good to life” through all forms of media and creative expression—to use the arts as a vehicle for truth telling. Those interested in songwriting, drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, poetry, videography, and other art forms are invited to attend.
Part of this year’s inSpire event will include the viewing of an exclusive, award-winning documentary by Alan Lacy, an Adventist communicator and cinematographer. The film explores the habitat of Mexican gray wolves and the dangers they face from extinction.
This year’s inSpire gathering will be held April 17-19 at the Advent Worship Center located at 15220 N 39th Ave., Phoenix, Ariz. The event is free and open to the public. For more details about this gathering, go to visitinspire.org.
Photo: Alan Lacy, an award-winning filmmaker, is passionate about the natural world. His fascination with the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf—and his desire to do something to help—spurred him on to produce his first film about the endangered species. His film, Gray Area: Wolves of the Southwest has screened internationally and will be part of this year’s inSpire gathering.
by Rajmund Dabrowski—
“Keep watch over me and keep me out of trouble” (Psalm 25:20, MSG).
Christians have their prayers. All of us do. Our prayers are not always original or even heartfelt. Most of us will have to admit to having prayed a prayer or two that we learned by heart and repeated more out of duty than need. I enjoy listening to how people pray. I love prayers that make me think. I crave prayers full of fresh expressions. Such prayers are not driven by a routine of formality.
If ever there was a time to pray, it is now. We all need a shake-up regarding our spiritual center. How clear is our morality? How pure is our speech? Is it perceived as divisive, hateful, and toxic—or does it bless even those we may regard as enemies? Each of us is vying for power—to move faster, be more important, be on top, be louder, be somebody. We need readjustment. If Jesus is the answer, as we profess, we need to reject that which is bad and redundant.
Henri J. M. Nouwen is instructive when he puts his finger on the issue:
“Against my own best intentions, I find myself continually striving to acquire power. When I give advice, I want to know whether it is being followed; when I offer help, I want to be thanked; when I give money, I want it to be used my way; when I do something good, I want to be remembered.”
“Can I give without wanting anything in return, love without putting any conditions on my love? Considering my immense need for human recognition and affection, I realize that it will be a lifelong struggle. But I am also convinced that each time I step over this need and act free of my concern for return, I can trust that my life can truly bear the fruits of God’s Spirit.” (The Return of the Prodigal Son, pp. 127-128.)
So, have you rattled off a prayer lately? What was it about?
I will always remember the prayers of my parental home. Prayer was a time of family warmth. These were the moments upon which we hinged our own social and faith life in the present as well as the future. And there she was, my mother, praying for God’s guidance over our childhood days. “Dear God, protect us from all evil,” she prayed. “From people who are bad and needless.”
I wondered what she meant by these simple yet puzzling words. Did she mean needless as in redundant? Why was this important to her? I recall asking her to explain, and she said that she prayed for protection of our young lives from people who might introduce us to undesirable, wrong choices. Dozens of people marched through our home and our young feet often entered the trail of someone else’s life. Perhaps one of these individuals was “bad and needless.” She was praying that our future be built in a wholesome, values-driven way.
How does one recognize a bad person, anyway? How do you reject someone and deem them as being redundant or needless? When does value turn into uselessness?
When no one is around, most of us are bothered by our loneliness. When we are surrounded by people, we seek to be alone. How human this is! Perhaps some of our fellow-sojourners are those in the category from my mother’s prayer—bad and needless. Yet…
Look around. You will come into contact with someone who will take away your time, strength, goodness, or values. Yes, even your hope. Some may love you for profit. You may hang out with people whom you regard as members of your weekly feel-good club, where growth is optional, and the environment is rich with protective space.
Our naïveté may prevent us from noticing that we are at their disposal—until we realize that our soul has been stolen, along with our goodness, leaving only emptiness. Or could it be that some of us are making ourselves redundant in the world of others?
Life is rich with challenges and opportunities. There is a dire need for people whose values can embrace the needs of others. There are people to avoid because of the way they look, people who are different and whose love is hidden and needs to come out! But we have not placed ourselves in their circle of need.
My mother’s other prayers called for God to help us be kind, compassionate, and loving. It is that angle that challenged me when I heard former Seventh-day Adventist World Church President Jan Paulsen, my former boss, say in one of his sermons:
“It is our anxieties which erect the barriers between people. In order to experience hope and an attractive future we must be secure and strong and open enough to step outside of our protected space and take part in the lives of people who are different from us—different nationally, racially, and religiously. How is your and my social circle composed? If I am incapable of showing warmth to a stranger, I will also be incapable of feeling pain and distress at his or her suffering. There is nothing noble in accepting people who are replicas of ourselves.”
That little prayer of my mother’s was her caring interest in my dignity, her plea that no one would rob me of it. The price was too big: to lose one’s dignity. Could it be taken away by someone useless and bad?
Rajmund Dabrowski is director of communication for the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Denver, Colorado.
Pacific Union Designates Five Million in California Workers Compensation Employee Safety Funds for School Improvement Projects
by Faith Hoyt
Adventist academies and elementary schools are putting unused California Workers Compensation funds to good use through projects that increase campus and workplace safety.
In 2015, the required reserves in the Self-Insured California Workers Compensation exceeded the requirement from the State of California, meaning excess monies were available to be returned or designated for special projects. The Workers Comp Board for the Pacific Union decided to create a renovation fund and made the funds available to schools within the four California conferences for safety enhancement projects.
“This program has been a real blessing as there is more than one benefit; yes, the primary goal is improving employee safety, but along with that it also improves student safety and additionally, many of the projects visually improve the look of the campus,” said Stephen Mayer, treasurer of the Pacific Union. “In many cases, it has a three-fold benefit to our schools.”
According to Mayer, data reveals that schools incur the most claims to the fund, and academies comprised 79 percent of the those claims. The highest claim category for the Pacific Union are slips, trips, and falls. “The Workers Comp board really wants to see the amount of injuries reduced and since there was extra funding, why not use these funds to try to prevent injuries?” Mayer said.
The Union designated 2 million dollars for Workers Compensation Employee Safety Funds in 2015, and in 2016, the Workers Compensation Board voted that 1 million more be made available for school employee safety projects. Due to the success of the program and ongoing successful reduction of claim costs, the board continued to allocate 1 million dollars in 2018 and in 2019. Altogether, 5 million dollars has been reinvested back into Employee Safety Projects.
Each of the four conferences in California received a portion of the 5 million dollars. The Central California Conference was allocated $930, 164, of which $629, 094 has been utilized; the Northern California Conference was allocated $1, 269, 359, of which $916, 092 has been utilized; the Southeastern California Conference was allocated $1, 704, 360, of which $1, 338, 352 has been utilized; and finally, the Southern California Conference was allocated $1, 077, 605, of which $756, 952 has been utilized.*
Recent renovation projects include sidewalk and flooring repairs, replacement of AC units, lighting upgrades, asphalt blacktop repairs and installation of fences around school property.
Schools who received funding include San Francisco Adventist School, Templeton Hills Adventist School, Central Valley Christian Academy, Redlands Adventist Academy, Simi Valley SDA School, Moreno Valley Christian School, Needles SDA School, Antelope Valley Adventist School, Linda Vista Elementary, Loma Linda Academy, and Newbury Park Adventist Academy.
“At NPAA, the safety of our students is of the utmost importance,” said Sheldon Parris, principal at Newbury Park Adventist Academy. “Our sidewalks had been lifted and uneven for some time and posed a risk for those who walk our campus. The workers’ compensation fund allowed us to redo our sidewalks and make our campus safer. We are certainly grateful.”
California schools interested in funds for employee safety renovations should submit a request through their local conference. Projects must be started, and the first draw taken within a 12-month timeframe, or the project allocation will be returned to the Workers Compensation Safety Fund pool. Projects that qualify for funding include repairing walkways and uneven or broken pavement, broken or hazardous fixtures, purchase of safety equipment to prevent injury and enhance personal safety, broken or damaged glass and/or upgrades to safety glass in high frequency areas, handrail installation, stairway repairs, and other improvements to employee safety.
“The number one goal of this program is to protect the life and safety of our most important asset, our employees!” Mayer added. “Every injury prevented is funding that can be spent on our primary mission, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ!”
*Amounts as of December 2019—some monies will be distributed upon completion of projects currently underway.
Top of page: Loma Linda Academy in Loma Linda, Calif., received approximately $12, 000 from the renovation fund for a scissor lift to safely enable employees to safely change light bulbs.
Rio Lindo Academy launched a road repair project in 2017 which utilized $130, 000 of the Pacific Union’s renovation fund.
The San Antonio Christian School in Ontario, Calif., utilized approximately $48, 000 of the Pacific Union renovation fund to install fencing on the school property.
“20/20 Kingdom Vision” is the theme if this year’s 11th Annual Adventist WestPoint. Come be inspired and recharged!
Planning to attend?
Early Bird Discount: $40 until Feb. 6.
Reg. Rate: $80 until April 7.
Bulletin Registration link: https://adventistwestpoint.org/
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