Posted by: kennyt212 | July 20, 2010

Keeping Watch over the Gulf: True Freedom and Change we can Believe In (Part 3)

Hello again everyone,

I hope this finds you well! As promised, below is the GRAND FINALE in my 3-part blog series (sorry for the slight delay).  I’ll definitely be posting more entries in the future, just not necessarily as a continuation of these thoughts.  Enjoy, and thanks again for following ((here’s a link to my previous entry in case you need a reference)):

Believe it or not, when we become “poor in spirit,” a lot of things change.  Instead of focusing on all the problems in our lives (which we often think are big, but are often insignificant) and finding items to complain about, we start to live in a spirit of gratitude and praise.  We attempt to use our creativity and wisdom to help make society better, and we take our time and enjoy the small moments in life.  We learn to get along better with each other and we learn that we can protect Creation, be sustainable, and enjoy the experience at the same time.  We learn that life is much more fulfilling if you get to build relationships with other people and have the opportunity to share your gifts and talents with the community.  We learn that community is a big source of strength that Christians have in society, because people have a greater impact on society living together as one than they do when living in isolation (especially if the people in the group share a common belief system and are dedicated to living out this belief system).  Christian communities are just local communities in the sense that they are the best at understanding what their needs are and how they can best respond to situations effectively-in fact, there’s a lot that the faith community provides to the environmental movement.

When we’re “poor in spirit” and live together in a community of believers, we have less of a desire to “get away” and escape from our communities (i.e. travel) because our source of rest comes from within ourselves and we will feel secure and comfortable being around each other.  As we learn to develop community,  live with an attitude of gratitude, and stay focused on Godly priorities, we learn to embrace, not fight against the lifestyle changes that make us more connected with each other.  We start to “redefine” things in our life, such as looking at our “work” as more than just work (or focusing less on our “work” depending on what your circumstances are) or looking at “worship” as a lifestyle-not just the service we attend on Sunday mornings.  Most importantly, when we become “poor in spirit” we find the same richness, faith, and freedom that is present in those who God has chosen to inherit his Kingdom, and we realize that our new way of life is the way we were meant to live in the first place.

The need to become “poor in spirit” and “rich in faith” is a key message that the oil spill is sending to the Christian community.  Becoming “poor in spirit” requires us to admit that we are the “poor” ones in the eyes of God, and we really need our Creator wherever we go.  Becoming “poor in spirit” encourages us to develop a much stronger faith, take risks, and reach out to the “poor” around us (aka: our neighbors).  We start to realize that there are always ways that we can be more loving and can grow our faith, and we realize that its often times the people right in front of us who are the ones in the most need of a “gift” (hint hint: not necessarily a financial one).  Becoming “poor in spirit” changes our thinking, especially in regards to spiritual and physical “richness.”  As a well-known pastor once said, there are two ways of looking at “richness:” having a lot or needing a little.  When we’re “poor in spirit,” we don’t need a lot to fulfill us both from a spiritual perspective as well as a physical perspective, and we have a lot of joy and faith.  We are disciplined to use our gifts wisely and take care of even the small things so that God can trust us for bigger tasks.  Our lifestyle seems less of a sacrifice and more of a joyful challenge.  When we become “poor in spirit,” we realize that focusing on a “spiritual” response to the oil spill (as well as other disasters we’ve experienced in the past) does make a difference, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Why? Well, because our actions and behaviors (outer self) aren’t going to improve unless our heart, thoughts and attitudes are right (inner self). When we are genuine and are committed to being the loving people we are called to be, God uses us as instruments of change.  When we’re “poor in spirit” we learn how to ask the right questions and turn to God to give us the strength on how we can reduce our dependency on worldly goals and items (such as oil, money, and power) and resist temptations (spiritual and worldly ones) so that we can live sustainable lives and take care of Creation.

As cliché and simple as becoming “poor in spirit” might sound, I’ve experienced it for myself (on a small level) and I’ve noticed an improvement in my life from both a spiritual and physical perspective.  Even though I’m not a theological expert or an oil spill expert, I’ve learned a lot from my experiences and I have a lot of basic truths to share.  The past couple years, I’ve been placed in a situation where I don’t have easy access to a car (or-where doing so would be expensive) and I’ve been forced to rely more upon public transportation.  Even though I love driving and thought that not having a car would take away my freedom, I was completely wrong. Instead, I’ve seen God fulfill his promise of opening doors (and opening my eyes) for those who ask, and I have found a renewed sense of purpose and passion in my life.   I’ve developed a great sense of freedom, and more importantly, I feel less attached to other aspects of life that aren’t as important.  I’ve started to appreciate my friends and family more and other possessions less.  Throughout my process, I’ve felt a greater sense of peace, and I’ve realized that I actually have less to be concerned about, not more (should I mention that I also consume less gas (oil), reduce my emissions, and get better exercise (especially when I have a bike)?).  I feel much more connected to my Creator, and the community in general and I’ve gained wealth (both material and spiritual) that I can use for more important priorities, such as helping advance the Kingdom.  I think twice about a lot of choices I have to make, because I realize that I’m sending a strong message with my actions.  I find myself asking, “Do I really need (to do) this?” wherever I go (see the previous paragraph about needing less) and I’ve noticed that I start to participate in more sustainable, loving, peaceful actions as a result of my change in thoughts.  Of course, while I realize that 1) this is not an exhaustive list of the benefits that have come from my experience, 2) everyone might be in the same situation as I am and 3) while my actions are not the only ones that people can take, I know that my simple experience can serve as a small, but important example of how we all have the ability to become “poor in spirit.”

The oil spill has changed my thoughts and perspective on a lot of things and I’m sure it can do the same for you.  Maybe you can be one who designs a cap that can stop future oil leaks from occurring.  Maybe you can be the one is inspired to run for a Congressional office so that you can bring strong character to our nation’s leadership.   Maybe you can put political pressure on our government to obligate oil companies to invest in better safety practices or require them pay for investments in renewable energy sources.  Maybe you can be the one who prevents the next disaster from occurring by standing up for what you believe is right.  Maybe you can find a great volunteer program to get involved with or start your own program to help take care of Creation.  Maybe you can rise up as a leader in your community and help bring people together.   Maybe you can be the one who isn’t afraid to stand up for any injustice you see in society, even if no one else (besides your Creator) is there to stand with you.   While this list is by no means inclusive either, these are the types of actions that come forth when we respond with an attitude of faith and ask God for the strength and wisdom to help take care of Creation and pave the way for a brighter future.

A change of heart can’t just be limited to the oil spill or the Gulf Coast region in general, because the disaster and region in general are just a small representation of the bigger challenges before us.  The lessons we learn from the disaster and the renewed attitude we take from it can be carried into all aspects of our life and into society in general.  Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (among other things) inspired me to take a trip to New Orleans and witness the disaster first hand, and doing so profoundly reshaped my attitude, career interests, and general way of life.  Wherever I go, and whatever I do, I try to think about the Gulf Coast area and remind myself that I don’t need to physically be there to understand what they are going through, since their pain is my pain.  This change in attitude has improved my habits and actions, provided me a greater sense of freedom, and brought me a greater sense of peace knowing that I am making a difference and helping take care of God’s Creation, even if I can’t directly see it.  My hope and prayer is that this same attitude and spirit becomes a part of who you are as well. Then we can go out and “shine a light” together!

Thanks again for reading and stay strong!! Please take a minute to help those impacted by the oil spill!

Matthew 6:33: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

PS: Check out this poster and these photos and share them with others!

PPS: Here’s another website with a projection of where the oil will go!

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