Let Go and Let God

Like many people over the last few days I’ve been thinking about the first Thanksgiving. I’ve thought a lot about the challenges they faced, the challenges we’re facing today and how much courage it must have taken to undergo that journey so many years ago. I’ve also questioned what they were thinking and how adventurous they must have been or how bad their situation must have been to consider something that was so very dangerous and risky at those times. It may be like us contemplating going to Mars to live as part of the programs they’re contemplating and planning. The only answer I came up with was an old saying that so well describes what they must have ultimately thought and we should consider today as well: let go and let God.

It’s really hard for many of us to let go and trust that others will take care of things because we’ve been let down before. I can’t imagine what it was like back in the 15 and 1600’s and making the choice to cross the ocean on a boat that may not make it to land, let alone the right place, the extremely limited resources that will be there if you get there and the utter lack of everything familiar. Even if we were to move to somewhere new today, we’d still have our phones and social media accounts and could connect with our old life and tap into resources. We would have challenges, yes, but nothing like what they faced.

And yet here we are almost at the end of another year, but this year being so very different than those of recent memory. We’ve had the worst hurricane season in years, fire season has been bad both in the US and Australia, and the world is working through a pandemic that has completely shut down parts of the world for months on end. The uncertainty of what shoe will drop the next day or week (even though we’ve already dropped way more than the two we can technically wear at one time) brings us back to the only thing we can truly do and that’s trust that God does indeed have our lives in His hands, that He cares about us just as much as He did the early settlers, and that we can get through this challenge too, just like we’ve done with the challenges in our history.

Maybe this Thanksgiving as you’re giving thanks for your food, whether alone or with family and/or friends, you’ll choose to take the day off from concerns and worries and just let God handle things for a bit. We’re not lemmings to just give up all control, direction and effort in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all benefit from a helping hand, especially one that has proven over and over again to be so very capable.

Thanksgiving Joy

Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate all we’re thankful for and have been blessed with. This year our celebrations may be more subdued and simplified, but sometimes that’s good. Many of us have started the Christmas celebrations a little early this year, I would be one of those people, because we need a little more cheer and celebration in our lives after this year. As painful as this year has been for each of us, can you imagine how much more painful it has been for God with the depth and breadth of love that He feels for each of us? That He goes through all our experiences with us, that He’s there with us through “the valley of the shadow of death” as it says in Psalm 23, and cares specifically about each of us so that He knows the number of hairs on our heads.

When I started thinking about topics that I wanted to write about for all of the various things I do, one of the topics that’s been with me from the beginning is Thanksgiving joy. It’s an interesting topic for this year because it hasn’t been a year of joy for most of us. Between the fires and the virus and the other natural disasters that have happened and are still happening, there’s a lot of suffering going on in the world, and a whole lot of people aren’t going to be having a joyful Thanksgiving and maybe not a normal joyful Christmas.

But just because we may not be having our usual celebrations, doesn’t mean we can’t find joy. Joy is present in the simplest things of life: from the laugh of a baby, to the discovery of little green sprouts in the spring, to a puppy playing happily with a cardboard box, to laughing together over some of the crazy autocorrects our phones come up with, to getting out our favorite Christmas DVDs, to just being excited to be able to spend time with people who mean a lot to us, joy is everywhere, it may just be waiting for us to see it.

So this week, I challenge you to look for the moments of joy in your life, and to give thanks as well. Yes, it may be a true challenge for you, but I know that it will be a blessing and a positive way to spend a Thanksgiving that may not look so awesome right now.

Reality Reflection: Sharing is Caring

You’ve probably heard the saying “sharing is caring” before, and it’s also likely that you’ve said it as well. This past week I felt like baking and making some different treats, and when my partner got home he asked me who they were for and if he could eat some. And I said they’re for us and that he was welcome to them. He did ask with good reason, because we do tend to divide things up so that I get some of things before he eats them all. But generally speaking I always share the treats I make, which is why I was a little surprised by his question, and it got me thinking about what might have changed that he’s now asking if I’m sharing.

Sharing is one of the things that has always helped our world go ’round. It shows we recognize the needs that others have and reminds us not to be selfish and only think about ourselves. But this year has done some funny things to the sharing concept and it’s frustrating. I hate not being able to share a little support or assistance like getting a grocery item off a tall shelf or giving hugs or shaking hands when you meet someone new or grabbing something that someone dropped for them, because people are giving each other extra space and being careful about who touches what. This ultimately results too often in not asking for the help that they used to.

I think with the lack of supplies and support, as well as the general uncertainty of both present and future, many people have stepped further back from community and sharing and into isolation and keeping their specific problems to themselves. I do understand because on some level we’re almost all struggling right now and everyone is going through this virus experience, so it’s not likely for your or my problems to be be unique, so you might feel bad about adding your problems to those that others are experiencing. Which means people are not reaching out for mental, spiritual, and relational help like they were getting more comfortable doing.

But here’s the thing, and it goes back to the phrase I started this post off with: sharing is caring. When we choose to share with others it shows that we’re willing to ask for their support and/or knowledge, and that we are there for them when they need to do the same. We are all in this 2020 experience together, but the specific things you’re experiencing and choose to share with someone else may help them because unbeknownst to you, they’re going through the same thing as well, or they just were and have a resource they can direct you to. Also, just knowing you’re just as human as they are can help strengthen and deepen your bond and relationship.
I don’t think this life experience is a journey to perfection or trying to get it right all the time. Rather I think it’s a journey that we’re taking with so many others, including scores of people that we’ll never meet or connect with, that looks a lot more like a relay race than anything else. It’s only when all of the members of the relay team complete their part that the team can cross the finish line.

In this Thanksgiving season I’m reminded that sometimes sharing means inviting someone over for a meal, sometimes it means staying home, sometimes it means a text or call or social message, sometimes it means dropping change into a red bucket, sometimes it means adding non perishables to the donation box, and sometimes it means praying for families who are struggling with loss. How are you caring through sharing this holiday season?

“Not Yet” Opportunities

Each month I read a business book to share about on one of my other blogs, and today I wanted to share a little insight from that book here with you. This month I read Danny Meyer’s “Setting the Table.” Danny Meyer is a famous restaurateur, he’s been in the industry since 1985, and he’s known not only for his innovation, but also his focus throughout all his restaurants on hospitality. One of the things that Danny shared about in the book was being comfortable with saying “no” and “not yet” to people and opportunities.

Each month we’re met with different opportunities from relationship opportunities to food opportunities to job opportunities to entertainment opportunities and we have to make decisions about which opportunities we’re going to pursue. But what Danny highlights is that it’s not always a question of saying just yes or no, but about considering whether now is the right time, if we’re in the right place at the time, if we’ve got the right resources for it, and if we’ve got the right support for it. Sometimes, yes, it is a firm “no” because it’s just not a good fit for us, and other times it’s a solid “yes”. But far more often there’s something about it that interests us, or we wouldn’t consider it an opportunity, but we’re not 100% in either direction.

When we come upon these “not yet” opportunities they invite us to build a relationship with someone or something. Maybe you can’t eat out this week at this really great restaurant because it’s in a distant state, but that doesn’t mean you can’t subscribe to its newsletter and social accounts to learn what’s going on and be up to date when you are out there traveling around. Maybe you aren’t ready to make a move to a new city for a new job, but it’s a company that you might do exactly that for in a couple of years, so you stay in touch with the person/people who talked with you about the job in the first place, and when another position opens up because of your existing relationship they’ll bring it up again and you might be ready for it then. Maybe you’re not ready to coach a local sports team yet, but you go to the games and are friendly with the other coaches and when the opportunity arises in the future and you’re ready, you’re there and can step up.

Of course, “not yet” can go the other way and they may not yet be ready to work with you, and that’s OK too. If it’s something that you are truly interested in and could see it/them being a part of your future, it’s worth the little bit of effort to stay connected and in touch and up to date. You never know what you’ll learn, how you’ll be able to support each other, and how these open connections might benefit you and others in the future.

How Long/Are We There Yet?

Earlier this month in a blog post I brought up the age old question that always gets asked during the holidays: are we there yet!? On one hand I love the feelings of excitement and anticipation that question brings up, and of course on the other hand it encourages patience from all of us who get asked that question. I know exactly how hard it is to understand time yourself sometimes, let alone explain time to someone else.

In a devotional I read this past week the author, Sue Boldt, referenced Philippians 4:6-7, which many of us have been reading and rereading this year: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” The author talked about how we’re to “lay our every care and concern at His feet and leave it there. Yes, leave it there with Him and don’t get up until you sense His peace.” So what was my question when I read that statement? How long does it take to get to the point of feeling that peace (and do I really have that much time to stop and be still)?

It’s been a really tough year for many of us, and many of us are concerned about the upcoming holiday season and it possibly being more like how the first Christmas started out with a lot more worry and challenge than the usual celebrations. Yes, this year has taught us we can slow down and stop for a bit, and we might even like it more than we thought. It’s also taught us the value of anticipating bumps in the road of the journey of life. We’re all still working on the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference” with regard to everything we’ve experienced and are experiencing this year.

I still don’t have answers to any of these age old questions, but I was reminded that if Mary and Joseph could get through the first Christmas with such spectacular result, I have to hold out hope that we can do something similar with this part of our life’s journey that we’re working through. We’ll get there when we get there, so maybe the better question is what condition will we arrive in?

Reality Reflection: Holidays are for Kindnesses

Yesterday was World Kindness Day. In a year like we’ve had this year I was thankful to have this day to stop and think. We know that every year comes with challenges, but this year has been filled with a different set of challenges to work through as you know. I’ve always believed that one of the biggest keys to fixing a lot of what’s wrong with or hurts the world is kindness (another is love). But kindness can be a lot easier to do and show than love, and in some ways requires a lot less of a commitment from us and doesn’t have to be as personal or relationship oriented. It also can be less stressful to do the random acts of kindness as they pop up in your life.

It’s one of the things I love about the holidays, thanksgiving celebrations and gift giving, are the little ways we can bless others and show our appreciation for them, even if we aren’t the type to do that normally. I do support writing lists of requests or making suggestions or giving hints for holiday gift giving to family and friends, but I also love being able to surprise them with little somethings that I found along the way and made me think of them. I also love being able to invite people to bring their favorite dishes to holiday gatherings, even if they’re not my favorite, because it shows that we want them to be part of the celebration and want them to contribute. It’s little moments like that that show others you care, that you see them and you encourage them to be themselves.

With holiday decorations going up around us, even as we plan for quieter Thanksgiving celebrations than we’ve had in a very long time, I encourage you to invest a little time in each day remaining in this year doing a kindness for someone else or treating yourself with a little more kindness. Kindness won’t answer questions or resolve disagreements, but hopefully it will help us remember to take a step back and care a little more, listen a little better, and try a little harder as we share this world together.

A Fight for Our Future

Today in the US it is Veteran’s Day. Veteran’s Day actually started as Armistice Day and first occurred when WWI was officially ended in 1918. I think it’s important to recognize and appreciate the men, women and their families who put their lives on the line for us, even if we don’t always agree that violence and/or intercession is the right action.

But this year more than ever we’ve been reminded of the importance of the men and women who put their lives on the line, and not just the military line, but the front lines of any and every battle we face. Sometimes a battle is fought on foreign soil, but this year the battle has been fought on our own home soil, and mostly not with guns but with cleaning products, distance and hard work. We’ve been so blessed by the men and women who put their lives on the line with so many questions and so few answers in our hospitals and disease research centers to help us learn about and hopefully stop this virus that we’ve been dealing with this year. Most people were told to stay home, but some of these people were asked to postpone retirements, come out of retirement and work longer than usual hours to help save as many people as possible. We’ve also been blessed by the men and women who did their best to get food and other necessary products to those of us who stayed home. And we’ve been blessed by the men and women of the police, fire and ambulance who continue to do their jobs with not only the dangers of the virus but also the more-highly-charged-than-usual racially, culturally and politically world we’ve found ourselves in this year.

Many of the men and women who were in the military and returned home fight an incredibly difficult fight within themselves each day, something that most of us will never experience, but is probably similar with the stress, uncertainty and jumpy feelings that we’ve been facing most days this year. Maybe we can learn a lesson from the men and women of the military and how they’ve worked to acclimate once we’re past the major danger of the virus and are able to really work on recovery. If veterans can come home from years if not decades of facing incredible amounts of mental and physical stresses and work as hard as they do with as few resources and support as they do, I believe we can do the same.

The future is what we choose to make of it. I think this year has been a reality check for us that we have to do better about preparing for problems that suddenly and extensively arise like this virus did, and we have to do a better job about caring for and supporting those who need the help whether physically, mentally or both, especially including the men and women of the military and other first responders.

Lonely Leaves

This morning as I was looking out the window to see what was going on in the world, I noticed that we’ve reached the time of year in autumn that there are just a handful of colored leaves left on some of the trees. I’m not an autumn person but I can appreciate the beautiful and amazing color change the leaves go through each year. But when we get to the time of year that there aren’t leaves on the trees anymore, or they just have a couple left, it makes me sad. So as I was seeing those last few leaves on the tree outside one of my windows, I had the thought about how lonely those leaves would be if they were people (or even animals).

I know that’s not how it works, but it did get me thinking about times in our lives that we’re lonely. The tree outside my window is not the only tree in that spot of earth, and it’s not far from the buildings, but it can be true for us too, that sometimes even when it seems like we’re surrounded by others, we’re actually feeling pretty lonely. I think of some of those holiday parties we’ve all attended over the years, that everyone else seems like they’re having a great time and we’re off holding up a wall somewhere and wondering when we can be done with it. Also, as much as most of us live in communities and shop in grocery and big box stores with those we share the community with, we all go home to our apartments and houses and then we’re separated from the rest of the world (even if we can hear our neighbors downstairs or upstairs from us occasionally).

Lonely moments aren’t necessarily about us being physically alone, but not as connected mentally, emotionally or culturally/experientally to those we’re near. If those you’re with truly can’t understand or relate with the journey you’re on in life at the moment, it definitely feels lonely. It’s one of the reasons I’m thankful for social media and the opportunities it has given us to find people to connect with who are experiencing similar life journeys or have been there before and can provide a virtual shoulder and listening ear.

I’m sure that as much as Jesus was almost always surrounded by people during His years of active ministry, He had some lonely moments as well. He was so very different from those He was living with even though He had the physical body and childhood upbringing that many of them did. I’m sure many of the Apostles and those who led the early church struggled with feelings of being different and not fitting in at times too. And even in our lives today when it’s not a question or difference of faith between people, it’s OK to feel lonely.

The question is whether or not you choose to reach for support to get through that loneliness. It’s not always about joining a support group or having a therapist, sometimes all we need is the right Bible Verse, Sunday message, or kind word someone sends our way. Sometimes we just need a change of pace in our lives (or some cute puppy videos!). So this week with Veteran’s Day and the craziness surrounding the election, I encourage you to be the best friend and community member you can be, living your life in Jesus’ love example as often as possible.

Reality Reflection: Holidays of Reflection and Fun

I love that with each and every holiday there is an invitation to reflect. Yes, you can let the commercialization or details overwhelm all those opportunities, but as much as they’re commercial holidays, they also invite you to do some serious reflecting. They ask you to consider how you lived for the past year and what you want to do with the next one, what makes you love your significant other and what you love about yourself, how important life is and the treasure that is new life, the men and women and their families who put their lives on the line for our country and for our lives, the things that we’re afraid of or are holding us back, what blessings we’ve experienced this year and what we’re thankful for, and if we’ve been good or bad and how we can give to those who mean something special to us.

It’s important to make time to listen to your body, heart and mind. In past years we may have just tried to push through a day where we feel crappy, but with this virus we’re all taking more time to rest if we feel the need. I’m very thankful that more than ever it’s accepted to ask for help when we need it, especially mentally, to be able to work with professionals with just a few taps of our phone, and even silently by text. I’m thankful that this year has pushed everyone to really consider what matters most in life and to them, and that everyone’s life has value, no one should be treated as less because of their relationship or sexual preferences or the color of their skin or their cultural heritage.

Every year families around the country listen to the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and read tons of different Christmas stories. But there’s a big difference between knowing those stories, and truly understanding and living the message they include. Just like knowing that you’re able to use a holiday to reflect and grow personally versus actually doing it. No, not everyone needs to reflect deeply and extensively during every holiday, one or two each year may stand out to you, or it may be a year that you’re doing more personal growth work and each one is deeply meaningful. My hope would be that in these last two months we are able to find time for both reflection and pure enjoyment of the fun that comes with the last couple holidays of the year. I don’t think we should finish out this year without some reflection time, or without some fun. What messages have spoken to you through the holidays this year so far?

A Victory within a Victory

Ah elections. I dislike the separation and side-taking (and often name calling) that they cause, but I love being part of a democracy that gives me at least some voice in the government and people in charge. While the answers most people are waiting for are still unknown, one very big victory has been counted and that’s what inspired me for today’s post. The victory is that more people than in recent years, even many decades, chose to vote in this election. If that’s not a victory when you’re talking about a democracy, I don’t know what is.

It can be frustrating when participating in things like elections, not to mention life, that things don’t always go the way you want them to go, or the way that you think is best. It’s frustrating when you put a ton of effort and resources into a victory journey only to not get the victory you were hoping for. It’s even more frustrating when it’s a ‘skin on your nose’ factor that determines the success or failure of a victory. The good news is that rarely is it an all-or-nothing victory or failure.

I think in most situations we can find some victory to celebrate. In this case, as I mentioned, the clear winner is the American public choosing to exercise their right to vote. It doesn’t matter which side of the political world you’re on or who you voted for because that’s a victory for all of us. All of the candidates who were up for election this year should be extremely proud of the hard work that they put in that, for good or bad for them, convinced people to make the effort to vote. As all the votes come in there will also be other victories, both big and small, around the country to celebrate regarding questions answered and people elected. No, those won’t be victories that everyone celebrates, but that’s how democracy works, and victories too.

Sometimes victories don’t pan out as we want them to, which is why I believe it’s important to be celebrating little victories along the way and to be open to a victory that may not be the one you were expecting when you cross the finish line. The next time your victories don’t work out as you hoped they would, look for the silver lining that may actually be a pretty awesome victory you can celebrate instead.