Reality Reflection: Peace is Possible

I heard the phrase “peace is possible” this week and it got me thinking because as much as I believe in the possibility of peace and hope for world peace some day, sometimes it feels like it’s more of a concept than a truly possible reality.  Like the difference of seeing an architect’s plans for a building on paper versus the building actually being built and being able to touch it and walk through it.  Both are “real” but the physical building seems more real than the paper drawing.

Also I think we’ve been hurt more than once by people who have great words and ideas but never follow through with actions, so we tend to be more distrustful when it comes to the intangible things of the world, like love, honor and peace.  This is especially painful and difficult when it’s the same person or group repeatedly who says great stuff but doesn’t follow through, like the drug user or alcoholic in our life who promises to change but doesn’t, or the boss who thanks you for your honestly good ideas and those ideas end up in the garbage almost before you leave the room.

So is peace really possible?

Beyond the few people who seem to thrive off of chaos and discord in the world, I think most people really would like peace.  We’re not talking about a world without challenges or anything to stimulate us, a “perfect” world, but a world where bombs dropping and genocide or civil wars or slavery aren’t the daily reality for some people.  For those who are so busy strategizing and putting energy into planning how to kill someone (or many people), why don’t they put their talents to work on how to kill cancer or HIV or Alzheimers or resolve world hunger and the need for safe and accessible water around the world?  There are plenty of issues in the world that will only be resolved with the help of great thinkers and people with specific skills, skills that are currently not being used for the good of the most people.

I think one place peace starts is with more people believing that it’s actually possible.  Because if we believe it’s actually possible we’ll think, act and react differently, which will create a ripple effect wherein other people start to think, act, and react differently too.  While one little ripple can’t be a tidal wave, it certainly can and does start one.  You may not see an instant change in your life when you choose to believe that peace is possible, but over time the little things will add up and it will be clear that life is better with peace than without.

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Dealing with Difficult People

I’ve had conversations lately with some people about interpersonal relationships, especially with regards to dealing with difficult people. Sometimes you have to deal with these people because they’re coworkers or people in leadership at your job, others you can avoid or mostly avoid by not going to the same parties or events or just not being with them at the events. But before we get into dealing with these people I thought it would be important to talk about the ‘what if’ of what if you’re that difficult person?

For some people accepting or understanding that they’re the problem is difficult. Maybe they don’t realize how their words and behaviors affect others (which is usually easier to talk through) or maybe they believe they’re entitled and should be given special treatment and can treat people however they want (which means they may not care that you’re unhappy). It’s also never an easy conversation to have with someone, to tell them that they’re mean or disrespectful or inconsiderate. These types of conversations can go really poorly, they can go well and things can improve, and the conversation can go well but not lead to any real results or make any difference.

While I think everyone has room for improvement in their life, I don’t think we always have to point out to someone that there’s an issue. If it’s an issue that you can just vent to friends or family and you can just deal with it or you don’t really plan to stick around for long, you don’t really need to address it unless you really feel strongly about it.

Most people who deal with a difficult person can’t really lay down the law and be bluntly honest.  If you do it that way it’s a great way to get yourself in a lot of trouble or ruin a lot of relationships, unless that’s something you’re allowed to do, like a tough-love coach or consultant (think of Bar Rescue or some of the other TV shows with hosts who do company renovations).  In those cases they don’t have to be delicate about telling the difficult person how difficult they are. Sometimes they are completely aggressive about it, but typically they have the experience to be able to have a constructive but eye opening conversation with the difficult person about exactly how their behaviors are negatively impacting the people in their lives.

So for the rest of us, you want to address it, you’ve got a couple of options. If you think they’re receptive or they give you the opening (“I can’t understand why no one sticks around at this job?!”), you can start to bring it up and see how it goes. If you can’t wait for the potential opening and really feel that you have to say something, I would start with why you’re bothering to bring it up (for example that you’re really committed to the relationship you have with them or to the company you’re working for), tell them you’re not sure if they’re aware of it or not and politely explain how you feel, and then share some specific situations which have impacted you negatively, and what would be helpful to improving the situation.

In all honesty everyone has their difficult moments, but some people choose to make a lifestyle out of them, and some people fall into the bad habit of being difficult frequently.  I encourage you to take a moment this weekend and apologize to some people who you’re hurt recently when you were difficult, or consider if you’re one of those frequently difficult people who needs to make some changes.

Earth Day Encouragement

Earth Day is less than a week away, and as I was reflecting on some of the earth/nature related Bible verses, the earth related events I know about coming up this weekend, about tax time, and still about Easter which is only a few weeks ago, I was reminded that it all eventually circles back to one thing: community.

Let me explain. Yes, the Bible tells of God doing things for just one or a few people, but Easter is really about everyone, not just one person or a few people. Everyone pays taxes, because it’s too big of a burden for just one person to take care of. The earth is something we all share and we’re all going to either keep it or lose it depending on how we live on it. As much as we’re all individuals and God sees us that way and has individual relationships with each of us, we’re all still part of a body of believers and called to meet together, care for each other and love each other.

Earth Day is one of those things that individually we’re responsible for doing our part to pay better attention to how we live on the earth as well as make sure we give back to the earth. But it’s only when we look at our collective effort that we can really see the difference over the years since 1970 when Earth Day officially began. It’s only when we recycle all year long, and not just on Earth Day, that we’ll make a difference. It’s only when we consistently choose the environmentally friendly choices that we begin to see a difference.

The same is true for our faith communities. You may not think you’re doing much only talking with one person about what faith means to you, but when many people are talking with others about their faith, not only does the Great commission not seem so overwhelming, but it actually looks like we’re making progress spreading the word.

So today I encourage you not to give up. Don’t be disheartedned if you don’t see your personal efforts having huge effects. Take the time to be part of your community and see what your community is doing to make a difference in the world, both your local community for Earth Day and your church community for the Great Commission. I’m not suggesting that when you see everyone else is doing the work that you let others do all the work and don’t give a personal effort, but rather be encouraged that the work you’re doing in connection with the work they’re doing is making a difference.

“Sometimes—by sheer determination–we can just kick the stone away from the door of the tomb and march out triumphantly into Resurrection Life. More often, we must wait: wait for circumstances to change, wait upon on God, wait on others for help. When Lazarus was called out of the tomb, Jesus said: “unbind him.” You –you friends and family of Lazarus—you unbind him. Sometimes we cannot unbind ourselves, but have to wait for others to help us into freedom.” Br. Mark Brown

Reality Reflections: Pictures and People

I understand that some people only respond to strength, and that’s one of the reasons that people (countries) go to war or send bombs. I wish that wasn’t the case, I wish that there was another way of making a big and clearly understandable statement without killing the people that we share the planet with, not to mention not hurting the planet either. Sometimes it seems unavoidable, like with WW2 and Hitler, or with the Rwandan Genocide in the early 90’s, those types of evil have to be stopped, and many people are willing to accept the cost of going to war or sending bombs as a result. But one of the reasons I think some people are comfortable with going to war or sending bombs in some situations that are less clear is because they don’t understand the place/people they’re attacking.

As I was thinking about what to write on today I came across this article with pictures from China. While China may not be quite the closed/secretive nation that some other countries are, I don’t think it’s a known country like France, England or the US. I certainly don’t know a lot about it outside from what I know historically or from the business side of things from the few companies I’ve advised from there. So paging through the photos I was again struck by how much China looks like other countries around the developed world, including the US. It certainly makes the people who live there seem a whole lot more like me than some unknown entity.

Every corner of the world is different, but from a few photographs some similarities are clear, maybe enough similarities that we can begin to understand that we’re not all that different after all, especially with regards to the things that matter most. We live in small homes and large high rises, we go out in nature, we worship, we spend time with family and friends, we eat, we run businesses, we work jobs, we remember history, and we work towards tomorrow. I don’t think it’s necessary to share our deepest secrets with the world or publicize everything, but if sharing photos like these can help us avoid wars in the future, or encourage us to act sooner when tragedy strikes, it’s something that should be done more often, from all around the world.

What things have helped shift your perspective or understanding of a place or culture in a positive way?

Blessings for Today

Today I’m thinking about blessings. We’re a little over a week past Easter and the celebrations of Jesus rising again, certainly a huge blessing to all of us who believe. But there’s a lot more to life than just one day out of all of history. Yes, it’s a big day and certainly one worth celebrating each year, but Jesus lived for 30 some years (approximately 10,950 days) other than that one day, and most of us live for more than 30 years and more than 11,000 days. Those days contain a lot more blessings than can be summed up in just one day, not to mention all the challenges that are part of our human existence.

Challenges and blessings are interesting because if we look for them we can find them both, and sometimes we’re surprised by them as they happen to us. There are certainly things you can do with your life, heart, words and mind that can set you up for more blessings, but as long as we’re in this human experience we’ll experience challenges as well.

A phrase that I say is “this or something better.” It’s my way of accepting the reality I’m in, but always being open to something better, to a bigger blessing, a different blessing, a way to bless others or revelation God may have for me.

So if you’re in need of some blessings today, or need a little help turning the day around after some challenges met you this morning, open yourself to the good God has for you, look for the good around you and choose not to focus on the bad for longer than you have to. What blessings will you experience today?

“My cup overflows with blessings.” Psalm 23:5c

How are You Living Today?

One person I’m always learning from is the late Dr. Wayne Dyer. Today I thought we’d take a look at a quote that speaks to how he lived his life and should inspire us to live ours as well.

“Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”

This quote says to me that too many people are living as though they have forever. Regardless of any spiritual doctrines you follow, right now physical laws dictate that we all die at some point in time. Some of us will live “normal” lives and die from old age essentially, but others of us will not have the blessing to have lived a full life but will die, or be taken as people say, “before our time.”

This is a bit of an oxymoron because the reality is that when our time is up, it’s up. We may think that it’s required to have a full 80 plus years of living, and that the kids, teens, parents, and people who get deadly diseases or are killed just weren’t given that full amount as is their due. But since we’re not “due” anything when it comes to how long we have it’s important to decide how you really want to live out however much time you do have.

I’m all for preparing and planning for any financial, health and end-of-life difficulties. I believe we should anticipate being able to live that long, and that squandering all we have isn’t what living life to the fullest or living this day as the last is really about. Instead, I believe it’s about being more intentional about what will really fulfill us and we’ll want to reflect back on when our life ends. Do you really want to think about that TV show, or would you rather be able to enjoy another memory of walking with your partner or playing with your kids?

Dr. Dyer may or may not have had some idea that his end was near when he died in 2015. But throughout his life, he didn’t give up or stop living when life got tough, he kept going and kept living. Don’t give up on life, don’t give up on trying new things and don’t give up hope for a better tomorrow.

Are You Memorable?

Most of us spend a good portion of our days with other people, whether we’re talking with them thanks to technology or interacting with them in a more physical way like driving the same road, shopping in the same store, working in an office or living in the same house together. It’s both a blessing and a challenge that we’re so connected and have so many people in our lives. Some of the people that you’ll spend time with you may never really know or ever see again after that one interaction, while other people you’ll see again and again throughout your life journey. Most of us meet so many people that we don’t fully remember them, what they said, who they were, their name or where we know them from when we first met them, but if we meet up with them again we may remember them for two reasons: how they acted and how they made us feel.

Some people are just memorable people. Maybe it’s because of how they dress or the accent they have or the funny/tragic/bizarre story of how you two met. Sometimes many years later we’ll still tell the story of meeting that person and what went on even if we don’t ever see them again or know their name. But for most of us the people who seem memorable in the moment quickly become a memory. We move on and meet other memorable people, people who do add to our life journey, experience and lesson in their own way, even if we don’t really remember them.

The people we remember in crystal clarity even decades later are those who made us feel stand-out special or like dirt. Maybe it’s the school teacher who showed such love, grace and compassion on all the students in your class, and you knew that you’d always see a welcome smile on their face and cheery welcome, even if the rest of your life wasn’t great. Maybe it’s the boss who consistently talks down to you, has a nasty attitude towards you and doesn’t accept your ideas even when they asked for suggestions. Both of these situations are such that you have repeated interactions with the person and really get a good idea of who they are, not just the snapshot you get when you meet someone once. But sometimes you will only meet someone once and it’s a lifetime experience, like meeting the CEO of the really big company you work for and they make you feel like you’re not just one of thousands, but that you personally make a valuable contribution to the company.  Or you meet the person who’s been your hero from afar (sports stars, celebrities, leaders etc.) only to be completely dismissed by them.

How do you treat people? How do they feel after interacting with you? What will they remember you for? I know I would rather bring a little sunshine to someone than ruin their day, what about you?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou