Pacific Union “All God’s People,” February 21, 2020 S4:E7

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

#HappySabbath #AllGodsPeople

2020-02-20T18:49:32-08:00February 20th, 2020|All Gods People|

When God Calls

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.

2020-02-16T17:51:59-08:00February 17th, 2020|Living God's Love|

Bad, Redundant, and Needless People?

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.”

He continues:

“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.

2020-02-09T15:21:08-08:00February 10th, 2020|Living God's Love|

Adventist WestPoint 2020 | Early Bird Registration

“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/
Follow us on Twitter @AdvWestPoint and use our hashtags: #AdventistWestPoint #2020KingdomVision

2020-02-04T18:48:41-08:00February 4th, 2020|All Gods People|

To Literally Try

by Becky De Oliveira

“I don’t understand what I am doing. For I don’t practice what I want to do, but instead do what I hate” (Romans 7:15, ISV).

The word literally almost always means figuratively—based on the way it is actually used in the majority of everyday conversation. “I literally died.” “My head literally exploded.” It is pretty much guaranteed that anything the speaker claims “literally” happened or will happen did not or will not. Ever. You didn’t literally starve when you were stuck without snacks and your flight was delayed at the airport. You are not going to literally rip anyone’s head off if you have to wait one minute longer in this slow-moving post office line. It’s nice—if a bit obvious—that those who help us define what we mean when we use language (in this case, dictionaries) have officially acknowledged what everyone has known for a long time: Literally almost never literally means literally. It is probably enormously helpful—and something of a relief, I suspect—for those learning English as a second language to discover, upon anxiously scouring the dictionary, that no one will be literally eating a horse. The jury is still out on whether or not anyone ever literally “freaks out,” because it is very difficult to define precisely what behaviors or states of mind constitute a freak out. Most people who claim to be literally freaking out are laughing and smiling in a good-humored manner. But who knows what might be roiling beneath the surface?

I would like to see the same acknowledgement of redefined meaning based on actual usage extended to the word try and most of its variations, most specifically the phrase “I’ll try,” which almost always means “I will not try.” If you ask a friend if he or she is coming to your birthday party this Saturday night and he or she responds, “Yeah, I’ll definitely try to be there,” this means (literally): “Five minutes from now I will have forgotten we even had this conversation. No, I’m not coming to your party. And you can forget about a card too.” And there is an inverse correlation between how hard people say they are going to try and how hard they will actually try. You’re more likely to get a no-show from someone indicating that they will try their “hardest” or, worse, the guy who will “try everything in my power.” The harder people insist that they are going to try to do something, the less hard they actually seem to try. The superlatives are probably thrown in unconsciously as a way of assuaging a guilty conscience. When we say we’ll try, what we really mean is that we would like to try. Or even that we would like to be the kind of people who would like to try. It’s more an expression of an attitude or of a vague sort of good will than an expression of actual intent to follow through on a course of action.

So, what does all this mean in the life of faith, a life in which perhaps all we can do is try? My friend Nathan Brown published a book a few years ago called Why I Try to Believe. I wrote a review of it in which I made the following observation:

The cry of the man in the Gospel of Mark, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (9:24) is one to which we can all relate. Sometimes a commitment to trying is the best we can muster—in our relationships, our work, our faith. Circumstances cause the ground to shift beneath our feet. Most of us will hit spiritual lows, or experience setbacks and tragedies that make us wonder what life is all about—and if our faith in God is pure foolishness. What we choose to do at that point—and Brown makes it very clear faith is an active choice— marks a clear fork in the road.

We often do have good intentions that we forget about or lose sight of along the way. I, for example, try to say only positive things about other people—to their faces, behind their backs. This is my intention. But then I’ll have a bad day and feel weak, frustrated, and annoyed, and before I know it, I’ve griped about someone for no good reason at all. To make myself feel better? To make myself look better? I have no idea. This is where the earnest definition of “try” should be put into practice. I will try to do better. I will remind myself that perhaps the positive words I put out into the world will harness the winds, clear the clouds—if only for a moment, an hour, a day. That trying is not futile and neither should it be taken lightly. It is the work of a lifetime and the most important work there is.

 

Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student in research methods working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.

2020-02-02T19:13:53-08:00February 3rd, 2020|Living God's Love|

Dressing for the Weather

by Becky De Oliveira

My grandmother came to pick me up for breakfast one morning when I was visiting Seattle from my home in England. I was at least 30 years old. It was a dreary day, overcast, maybe drizzling a bit. Not warm but not bitterly cold. I chose to leave the house in a long-sleeved t-shirt.

“Where’s your coat?” grandma asked.

“I don’t need it,” I said.

“It’s cold!”

“I don’t feel all that cold.”

My grandmother rarely lost an argument. This was down to her unique set of dialectical skills. “Don’t be stupid,” she barked. “It’s snowing in New Jersey!”

Left speechless by her unassailable logic, I went inside and got my coat. Zipped it up to my chin. Would have donned a pair of mittens and perhaps a thick wool scarf if I’d been able to find any. Grumbled—half laughing at the absurdity of the whole situation—in my head, “Why does she treat me like such a child?” (She yelled at me in Hawaii for wearing the wrong shoes on the beach once too, when I was 20.)

How many times do these kinds of scenarios play out in interactions between the generations? Behind door number one, we have an older person with wisdom to dispense who gets angry or hurt when it is disregarded. What do you know about life? You’re only a kid. People die of pneumonia. Behind door number two, a younger person who kicks against the unmistakable feeling of bondage and disrespect. What do you know about life? Times have changed. Ever heard of a miraculous invention called penicillin? Nothing good comes of this. We talk across each other. Dig our heels in. Either someone gets bullied or someone else’s feelings get hurt.

I few years ago, I came across a simple printed sheet of paper with a row of tear-off contact details on a community bulletin board, wedged between flyers for eco-friendly house cleaning services and yoga classes. The advertiser, a 75-year-old man, offered to share the “wisdom collected over a lifetime” in about 15 different areas ranging from “staying married for 50 years” and being a “published author” to “gun control” and “auto mechanics.” The man promised that this service was entirely free, that he had no intention of selling anything, and that he guaranteed he had no “get-rich-quick schemes” to suggest. This last point, I must confess, I found enormously disappointing. Still, I gazed at this ad for a long time, feeling suddenly and desperately sad at the idea of an old man alone by the phone, hoping for a call from a stranger in need of advice. I felt so sad I actually contemplated ringing him up myself, but I couldn’t think of a good question to ask. It’s not that I feel I have all the answers, but few of my big questions concern gun control and even fewer relate in any way to auto mechanics. Anything else seemed too personal—and far too specific to my own circumstances. Knowledge is not always directly transferable; how one couple stayed married for 50 years might not work at all for another. Also, I was only passing through this town. No possibility for establishing a permanent relationship with this individual (probably not the smartest thing to do via an anonymous flyer anyway)—which I sensed was the thing he was really looking for.

Genuine relationships between the generations are, I think, extremely valuable—but not so much in terms of the giving and receiving of wisdom or advice. While this can sometimes work out rather well, more often it is the love, acceptance, and understanding between people that gives us strength, in spite of our different experiences and world views. It is about abiding together through whatever life throws in our way. What I learned most from my grandmother—what I’ll remember as I grow older myself—are all the things she never talked about at all but simply did. She denied herself treats so she could treat others. She made herself presentable and put on a cheerful face no matter what kind of day it was. She bragged—shamelessly—about the people she loved. She adopted people that no one else cared about and acted as though they mattered. I’m sometimes bad about remembering my coat—and utterly hopeless at selecting the right footwear for the beach in Hawaii—and I have probably failed to do most of the things my elders in general have ordered, but I’ve been watching and learning all the same. I still believe it’s within me to do them proud.

 

Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student in research methods working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.

2020-01-26T10:39:45-08:00January 27th, 2020|Living God's Love|