MONDAY MORNING JOE: The Importance of Hope

This week in my faith tradition, we make a turn towards Christmas and enter a season of waiting called Advent. In the Christian tradition, Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day, followed by the 12 days of Christmas. It is a time of preparation, a time in which those who believe prepare themselves for the birth of Jesus.We wait at the manger with the shepherds, waiting for the arrival of this little one that will bring light into the world. During this time, we focus on four specific themes of Advent: hope, peace, joy, and love. Churches that practice the liturgy of Advent will light a candle each Sunday representing one of those four themes.

Today’s Monday Morning Joe will begin a series on those four themes as we make our way into Christmas. And we begin with perhaps the best of things: hope.

The season of Christmas can be a difficult time for people. It is a time when the sun is down before we get home from work. It’s a time focused on giving, buying, celebrating, and spending time with loved ones. For those who wrestle with depression, lost a loved one, or wondering how they are going to afford gifts, or anything else caused by the holiday blues, it can be very difficult to think about hope.

Perhaps that’s why we are starting with hope. Perhaps it is hope that leads to peace, to joy, and to love. Perhaps it is hope that carries us through the dark valleys. Perhaps it is hope that helps take that forces us to take the first step towards the manger.

I would like to challenge you and offer three behaviors and spiritual habits to practice hope this Advent season:

1).  Remember there is a tomorrow. 

    I have found when we place urgency in the now, we are unable to stay present and mindful. We tend to lose hope because we think tomorrow will not come. The thing is there is a tomorrow. What is unfinished today will be finished tomorrow. Find hope in knowing there is a tomorrow. Practice remembering there is a tomorrow. This doesn’t mean putting off to tomorrow what could be done today. It means do not be anxious about solving all the world’s problems by bedtime.

2)  Make a habit to practice gratitude

    Write down in your calendar specific times to take a breath and practice gratitude. Name three things that you are grateful for in that moment. Focus on those three things for 5 minutes. You have five minutes to spare. Remember there is a tomorrow, so allow yourself time to be grateful.

3)  Practice journalling

    Journalling is a way to write out our experience in the day. You can journal whatever your heart desires. Every morning, as part of my spiritual practice, I make it a part of my habit to journal what I am grateful for, what good things took place this week, and what was a struggle. I usually write four or five sentences. It doesn’t have to be long; it just needs to be on paper. This will help you hold onto hope during the season because you can look back and see all the good and see the struggles you have overcome.

MONDAY MORNING JOE: Navigate the Darkness

We all have a movie scene, lyric, quote, or something similar that lives rent free in our heads. For me there are two: One is from Casablanca, and the other from the LOTR Two Towers. As the uruk-hai descend on Helms Deep, Theoden falls into hopelessness. He had hoped the stronghold would hold out and not fall, but as the hoard beats down the door, and death’s stench fills the room, he cannot help but let his hope fall into despair. He says, perhaps to know one, “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” 

Aragorn responds, “Ride with me. Ride out and meet them.” Theoden puffs up, “For death and glory?” “No,” Aragorn says, “For Rohan, for your people.” Reminding Theoden who he is fighting for. Gimli, noticing a light, “The sun is rising.” And it is here that Aragorn is remind, “Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east.”

By the time this Monday Morning Joe airs, we should be making our turn toward the Christmas season. A time of hope. A time when the sun sets before we have left our offices, yet hope shines from houses and buildings, decorated in light.

It is a season where light and dark struggle for dominance, a struggle that lasts for months. Yet, we all have hope that the bleak winters will give way to a new spring. Darkness eventually gives way to light.

To continue my Tolkien theme, there is a scene in the Hobbit novel where The Company must traverse through the dark woods of Mirkwood. As they travel through the woods, they feel the pressure of the darkness, longing for light. We all come to a point where we feel trapped in our own Mirkwood.

 

Here are three tips to help you navigate those dark days:

1)   Stay on the path.

   Often, we begin a journey or life itself, and we begin to lose our way. When you feel you are losing your way, take a moment to find your path and stay on the path. Trust the path you are on is the one that will lead you to the light. 

2)   Get fresh air.

Again, with the Hobbit, there is a moment when the dwarves are freaking out and beg Bilbo to climb a tree to see if they are close to the end. Bilbo reluctantly climbs the tallest tree, and at the top is met with fresh air that renews his senses and renews his hope. When you find yourself suffocating from the darkness, climb the nearest tree and get yourself some fresh air, and allow the air to refill your soul.

3)    Ask for help.

I have saved what I believe to be the most important for the last. Ask for help. There are people whose calling is to help guide you out of the darkness and into the light. Reach out to a life coach, someone like Charles Gosset at Full Integration Coaching. Reach out to a local pastor like Steve Chiles at Shartel Church of God. Click on the “schedule a meeting with Joe.” Find someone trained to walk with you and guide you through the darkness. Do not feel you need to go at it alone.

MONDAY MORNING JOE: Shine the Light

I grew up in a culture that encouraged shining our light so others would see the goodness of God’s love. But that same culture got nervous when your light attracted a certain type of people or when it challenged the status quo. Being a light in a dark world can be scary because it shines on all the things we wish to keep covered up. It reveals that not all is perfect, that we all may need some grace, some kindness, and some compassion, and perhaps in need of a savior. And when you shine your light, the same people who tell you shine brightly, may tell you are shining too bright or shining in the wrong direction because your light reveals the hidden struggles in a broken world.

Jesus told his followers they were to be the world’s light. They were to shine brightly and clearly so when their conduct is seen by others, they trace the light to its source: Jesus.

I believe Jesus came to establish principles on this earth that shine the light of God’s love. It’s a light that sets prisoners free. It’s a light that reaches out and brings people into its warmth, not kick them out. It’s a light that gives good news to the poor. It’s light that comforts the mourning. It’s light that gives food to the hungry. It’s light that confronts the evil of greed. It’s light that confronts status quo. It’s light that redeems. It’s light that transforms. It’s light that is inextinguishable.

Here are a few ways you can help shine the light:

1) Go into the dark places and shine

We all have a longing to do good in this world. I believe we all have a calling to a higher purpose. Find your call by finding your desire and gifts and find where the world needs the most. Then, with humility and grace, go and shine.

2) Remember the darkness cannot overcome the light

One of my favorite scripture passages is from John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

People forget the light cannot be extinguished because we do not pass down the stories that witness to the light shining in dark places. Remember the stories and share those stories.

MONDAY MORNING JOE: We all have a Responsibility

What does scripture say about responsibility?

Here are a few key verses on responsibility to care, respect, and to be honest with your neighbors:

“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.” Exodus 22:21-22

“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:34

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 23:22

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

“Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you” when you already have it with you. Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you.” Proverbs 3:28-27

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

“The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:9-10

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal
fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” Matthew 25:34-45

MONDAY MORNING JOE: The Meaning of Respect

On August 22, 1855 in Paris, France, at first World Council of YMCAs, a global purpose agreement was adapted by leaders across the globe. What is known as the Paris Basis is an acknowledgement of the work and witness of the YMCA. The Paris Basis reads: “The Young Men’s Christian Associations seek to unite those young men who, regarding Jesus Christ as their God and Savior, according to the Holy Scriptures, desire to be his disciples in their faith and in their life, and to associate their efforts for the extension of his Kingdom amongst young men. Any differences of opinion on other subjects, however important in themselves, shall not interfere with the harmonious relations of the constituent members and associates of the World Alliance.”The Paris Basis was reaffirmed in 1973 by the 6th WorldCouncil of YMCAs and the Kampala Principles were adapted in 1973, furthering the global mission of the YMCA. In 1998, the Paris Basis and Kampala Principles were reaffirmed in 1998 with the adaptation of Challenge 21. You can read about the Kampala Principles here and Challenge 21 here.

So why the history lesson and what does it have to do with the core value of respect? The Paris Basis, Kampala Principles, and Challenge 21 all build on the core value of respect. Each principle lifts up respecting persons because those persons are made in the image of the Divine. Respect isn’t something that is earned, despite what we have been told. Respect is something we give because we want to be treated with respect. Respect is the action step of the moral foundation laid by our value of care and allows us to be truthtellers.

Here is one tip on how to treat others with respect:

The good book says, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” The Monday Morning Joe translation reads: Respect others as you would want to be respected.”

MONDAY MORNING JOE: What is Honesty?

Honesty means different things to different people, but at the Y, we define it as telling the truth. But what does telling the truth mean? Some believe it is telling people what you think. I don’t think that’s it. I have known folks who would say what’s on their mind, and say they were being honest, but they were not telling the truth. Even truth itself is often not black and white. I once heard someone say: There’s three sides to every story. There’s your side, their side, and there’s the truth.

Three ways to help you tell the truth: 

Truth telling is hard because it’s risky. It will make people uncomfortable, and it will put relationships at risk. We value telling the truth because it is important to tell the truth. Here are three ways to help you tell the truth.

1) Humble yourself. 

Truth telling comes from a place of humility. It is speaking humbly knowing that you may not have all the information. You are speaking truthfully from your perspective and your experience. Humbling yourself allows you to listen and learn as you seek to tell the truth. 

 

2) Do not make it personal.

In our tense culture, we tend to make things personal when we seek to tell the truth. We name call and put down. Telling the truth is not personal. It is not an attack on someone. It is helping course correct when our behavior is harming others and we do not see clearly. 

 

3) Seek to Encourage

Truth telling is supposed to lift others up. It is supposed to encourage others to course correct their moral compass, not tear them down. Telling the truth is hard, and our motive must be to encourage and lift others up. Telling the truth to tear others down or put them in their place does not aid in correcting our moral compass. It can harden a heart but encouraging can soften and help others see another side of the story. 

 

 

Belonging Begins With Us

The Y believes our communities are stronger when everyone feels welcome, and we can all work together for the common good. For more than 160 years, the Y has provided immigrants with support and resources to integrate well and fully participate in American society.

The Y has a long history of welcoming and engaging immigrants – from launching the nation’s first English as a Second Language class in 1856 to providing aid to thousands of new arrivals at Ellis and Angel Islands in the early 1900s. As our community continue to grow and become more diverse, the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City has focused on making our staff and programming grow and evolve to reflect the needs of the communities we serve.

13%

More that 13 percent of the U.S population (or 40 million people) is foreign born. The combined population share of foreign born individuals and their U.S.-born children is approximately 26 percent.

1 in 4

In the U.S., one in four kids under the age of six is a child of immigrants.

19.5 Million

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are approximately 19.5 million refugees in the world. Fifty-one percent of all refugees are children under the age of 18. Annually, the U.S. typically accepts less than three percent who apply for refugee status. 

This Welcoming Week, let’s declare that #BelongingBeginsWithUS – that each and every one of us has the power to help others, regardless of their background, to feel like they are seen, embraced, welcomed, and included in our communities.

MONDAY MORNING JOE: Living Into Your Potential

You have the potential to live an epic story, to create a new soundtrack, and press through the pain change, and fully live into your potential. But you need to begin listening to the voice and respond.

One night, a young man awoke to a voice calling to him. He thought it was the old priest calling for him. He got up and went to the priest, “Here I am, you called me.” The priest sent the boy away, saying, “I did not. Go back to sleep.” The boy goes back to sleep. Again, a voice calls to him and again he goes to the priest, and the priest sent him back to bed.

A voice called to the boy a third time, and went to the priest again. This time the priest recognized what was happening and told the boy, “Next time you hear the voice, respond, ‘Lord, speak for your servant is listening.” The boy did as he told and when the voice called for him again, the boy answered, “Lord, speak for your servant is listening.”

 

Here are three tips on living into your potential:

1) Pay attention to yourself. You can read all the books on living into your potential, but you won’t find the answer you’re looking for unless you begin to pay attention to yourself. What is it that you are most passionate about? What would you be able to do if you had no restrictions? Pay attention to yourself. Your ability to live into your potential already exists inside you. It is that longing for something good. Pay attention to yourself.

2) Do not be afraid to fail. I am big believer that you won’t know until you try. Perhaps it’s because my mother constantly would tell me that when I refused to eat my vegetables. But it’s true. You won’t know if you will fail until you give it a shot, and you will most likely fail. That’s okay. Failure is just learning how not to do it. Do not be afraid to fail and do not be afraid to fail big!

3) Find a support group. Find a group of people who are relentless in their support of you. I have found the greatest gift in my life are those who constantly cheer me on and support me with undying encouragement. Even when my dreams are so unrealistic, they encourage me to live into those dreams, showing me along the way, how those dreams are becoming reality in unexpected ways. Find people who are going to leave you with no excuse but to live into your potential.

 

 

MONDAY MORNING JOE: New Story & Soundtrack

Creating a new story and a new soundtrack is difficult. It is joyous and scary at the same time. It’s joyful because you have made the difficult decision to make an important change in your life. It is scary because you’ve probably attempted to make this same change before, but things did not go as planned. 

How do you stay on the path and fight the temptation to turn around? Here are four ways to help you as you go on your journey. 

1. Take bread for the journey. You need to remember to pack something to keep you nourished as you walk through the valleys of change. Find something in your life that nourishes your spirit. Prayer, mediation, exercise, friends, coaches, encouragers, or yoga, are all examples of ways to nourish your soul during this transition.

2. Remind yourself daily why you are this journey. You made the decision to write a new story and create a new soundtrack for a reason, what is that reason? Write that reason down and place somewhere where you will see it every day to remind yourself of why you are creating a new story and a new soundtrack. This will sustain you on days when your old story and your old soundtrack tempt you to come back them. 

3. Find someone to walk alongside you. You may be like me, and tend to keep things private, but when it comes to creating a new story and a new soundtrack, you cannot go at it alone. One of the best decisions I made during my transition was to find a coach whose one job was to journey with me. Find someone who will walk alongside you, encourage you, challenge you, and speak the truth of your new story and your new soundtrack.

4. Trust the process. This is a hard one to do, believe me, but you need to trust the process. Trust that you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. Trust that in time you will see the results you are longing to find. Trust that where you are now, while it may be painful, is better than where you were. Trust the journey and trust the process.


MONDAY MORNING JOE: Creating Your Soundtrack

Soundtrack? Playlist? Don’t get caught in the semantics. Whether you are on an 8-track or you’re on Spotify, the soundtrack Joe’s talking about is the one in our minds. How do you ditch the songs that have been on repeat and create the perfect playlist to accompany the epic story telling he talked about last week.  

WHAT IS A “SOUNDTRACK” AND HOW DO YOU CREATE ONE? 

What is a soundtrack and how do you create a new soundtrack? Jon Acuff, author of Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking, recommends the following:

1) Retire the broken soundtrack. A broken soundtrack is one that promote the status quo. Ask three questions about the soundtrack: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind?

2) Replace with a new soundtrack by using I am statement. An example of an “I am” statement would be I am strong. I am capable. I am qualified. 

3) Repeat until it becomes automatic. Put this new soundtrack on repeat every day until you are able to sing every word by memory.