Reality Reflection: Reality is Complex

Today my partner and I were out doing some grocery shopping at my favorite fresh food market (basically an indoor/winter version of a farmer’s market or farm stand) and we had a conversation about the violence in the world. We discussed if social media has been responsible for an uptick in violence (having a platform to share it with everyone) or if there isn’t really more violence and we’re just more aware of it because of social media and the news, or if there isn’t more violence but people are more apt to tell someone about the violence they’re experiencing, or if in fact the world is a more violent place, perhaps because of shorter tempers and less patience and more interaction between different people.

While we didn’t reach any real conclusions or even do any searches to see if in fact any research had been done on this topic, we settled on the fact that it’s probably a combination of these, and all of those things are really a reflection on the ways that life has changed over the decades since this country was officially founded. But as I was watching a TV show tonight and thinking about the incredibly complex and innovative things that people have done over the centuries like build the pyramids, dig tunnels, build impressive and detailed buildings, create detailed burial complexes, and endure through challenges of daily life without any of the modern technology or advantages that we often take for granted, it got me thinking about how maybe life has always been complicated and complex, but we’re only able to reveal exactly how sophisticated we’ve always been and still are now.

Yes, sometimes it’s as simple as “I was hungry so I ate the only thing I had in the house” or “I love you” (love has no real rational basis or logic as to how it’s established), but for just about everything else when it comes to people it’s not simple and there are so many sides and layers to the story, some that you may never be able to figure out or understand. Assuming that it’s as simple as face value or that someone doesn’t have a history could be a serious mistake, something that could hurt you or someone else. Maybe the safe answer is to assume it’s complicated and complex and do your best to be impatient and understand as well as you can with the information you’ve got now, and know that as more information is revealed you’ll have to adjust your understanding.

The Adventure of Endings

Over the past few years we’ve been seeing brands that we love close up shop. No brand is perfect, you won’t love everything about any brand, but it’s likely that there’s at least one thing, if not many things that you’ll miss when that brand ends. It’s never easy to say goodbye to a cherished brand that you’ve loved for years, but that’s a choice we all have to make at times, that endings are part of our lives. Sometimes we choose an ending because it’s past time and not only is there no going back, we don’t want to go back. Other times we choose an ending because we want to end on a high note and have some good memories left and not drive the brand into the ground. Other times, endings happen because even if we’re not ready to give things up, other people have made it clear that they’re done and don’t give us a choice.

If an ending has to happen, in some ways it’s a lot like facing death and going through the stages of grief. You’ll have some time of denial, possibly some time of rage, some grief, and hopefully you’ll get to the point of accepting the end and maybe even being able to remember the good parts and not feel the loss so sharply. There’s no specific time limits on the process, no one can say that it took them three weeks or three years to go through the grief process and that’s the way it should be for everyone else. You have to do it in the time that you need, but fighting the process and not being willing to go through the stages you need to go through will only keep you in the process longer, and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather think about life that continues rather than life that ends for too long.

So if you’re like me and facing an ending in your life (even something rather insignificant in the scheme of life like a TV show), choose to celebrate what was and look forward to the new adventures that life is just waiting for you to find.

Time to Leave the Mountain

I love technology in part because it’s given us the ability to access God’s word anywhere and at any time with just a few touches or clicks. Yes, it’s great to read from a physical Bible, but not only do we have access to the Bible through technology, we’re able to access devotionals, have spiritual thoughts, guidance and insight sent to us by email or in an app. These little insights that can be sent to us throughout the day are easy ways for us to keep in touch with God all day and grow our faith and spiritual knowledge.

Often the passages or insights are designed to be complete thoughts, things that while they may make you think, don’t really force you to investigate beyond what’s shared in the message. But the other day, one of the verses I got in an email was Deuteronomy 1:6: “You have stayed at this mountain long enough.” I had an inkling what this verse might refer to, but I decided to investigate and share some thoughts with you.

First, Deuteronomy 1:6 can be taken at face value, you don’t have to explore it further. Sometimes all you need to hear from God is that it’s time to move on, you’ve done what needs to be done, this part of your journey is over. You don’t always need to hear more or get more details, sometimes all you need is the permission or assurance that it’s time to move.

So when I went to get the context of this verse I found that it was from Moses reviewing history with the Israelites. In fact, the book of Deuteronomy contains the final words of Moses to the Israelites, encouraging them to remember the journey that has gotten them to this point, the journey through Egypt, 40 years wandering in the wilderness, many mistakes and episodes of disobedience, and now finally getting ready to enter the promised land. Deuteronomy 1:6 is actually what God said to the Israelites 40 years earlier, when He was ready for them to enter the promised land, but they caught a case of nerves and didn’t trust God to know what He was doing, and thus they wandered for 40 years.

Have you been fighting the command to move on or not listening to whatever God is trying to tell you? Remember the words of Deuteronomy and don’t let the Israelites be your guidance, but rather trust that God does know what He’s asking and that He will go with you even if the next steps seem scary.

Reality Reflection: I Dare You

I read a lot, both fiction and non fiction, so when I see the same topic or phrase several times in a short amount of time, I pay attention. The phrase I saw this week? “I dare you.” Hearing that phrase may have brought you back to your childhood and having your buddies dare you, or playing ‘truth or dare’ with friends. Even as adults we sometimes say it in a playful context (often when drinking) with friends. But the context I read it in this week was all about being dared to play a bigger game; being dared to live bigger; and being dared to love, care and trust more.

When you’re challenged to take a dare, that’s exactly what it is: a challenge. It’s giving you the opportunity to do something bigger, different, unique, fun, strange, and out of the ordinary for you. Most of the time it’s silly and probably won’t have a lot of consequences or any impact on your future, because dares are usually about having a little ‘outside the box’ fun.

But what if we turned this childhood idea into something that could be beneficial for adults? Just like we find benefit in asking questions and having a strong imagination as adults and kids? What if a little (or big) dare could help us become the people we dreamed we would be as kids? No, it’s not likely you’ll be able to realize your childhood dream of being the next Superman or Superwoman, but you can definitely become a better significant other, have a job that excites you at least on some level, be generally happy with life, and make a difference with your life.

If you’ve got some not great memories of dares from your younger days, you do need to conquer that fear first, so start with something small and not super threatening to see that dares can be healthy and beneficial, just like you start small with learning a new skill or losing weight or working out. Once you’ve got a few victories under your belt, then you can dare yourself bigger and bolder things. What will you dare to dream or do?

Open to Love

Today I want to reflect on two verses/passages that you may have heard shared on the radio or read in a recent email or heard in a sermon about love:

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5
Love isn’t something everyone is comfortable with, and many people have been hurt by what was supposed to be love. If love is challenging for you, this is a great place to start with learning what love is, healing your relationship with love, and experiencing what it’s like to be loved. God has chosen to love us, and never gives up on us even when we make silly mistakes or big failures. God teaches us through moments of peace, patience, rescue, comfort, strength, and presence what love really is, how to have a healthy relationship and about building trust with each experience and connection.

“”If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” ” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
This is one of the iconic love Bible passages, and I think it shares an important reminder for us as we look to the day focused all about love and face the daily stresses that often are present with love. This passage definitely talks about how important love is, but it talks about love as a partner with every other aspect of life and faith. Love works best when we weave it into all other aspects of our lives, when we allow it to add some flavor and support to our lives, and when we invite it to not take over, but be part of our lives.

This Valentine’s Day I would encourage you to be open to seeing or experiencing love from a perspective you haven’t in the past. Be open to learning about your partner and opening a new chapter of your relationship, be open to finding new ways to incorporate love into your life, and be open to hearing what others and God love about you.

Reality Reflection: Only One Day for Love

In this month of love I’m saddened by how many reminders we’re getting of just how fragile life is. There’s the virus that countries around the world are now dealing with and is adding to the illnesses and things like flu that many deal with in this time of year, there’s the plane crashes that have taken the lives of other people, and then there’s the regular and irregular weather we’re dealing with and hurts not only property but people and animals as well. It’s been just reminder after reminder that it’s so important to make your moments count, invest in what really matters to you, and let the people you love know that you love them.

We only devote one day each year to remembering love. We’ve got several devoted to the military and our country, several that are faith based, some that are cultural, and several that are family based, but only one day that focuses on love, and that day isn’t always met with the best reaction. Why don’t we celebrate love like we should?

Over the years I think we’ve been shamed so frequently when it comes to love that we struggle to give love the place in our lives that it should have, both with regard to loving ourselves and loving others. Love can be this incredibly powerful aspect of our lives and relationships, but like many other things like exercise and eating, we have to actively decide that we’re going to let love have a role in our lives. It can be scary, it can be a rough ride, there will be failures and mistakes, but it can also be instrumental in creating some of the best moments and experiences of our lives.

Life is better with love in it, it’s that simple. Don’t let this Valentine’s Day pass without sharing some love with the people that are important to you, from your neighbors to your customers, to your fans, to your family, to your significant other, and to yourself as well.

Less Stress for Your Heart

February is the month of love, it’s also heart month. Like other body parts, it’s so easy to forget about what keeps us alive, unless it pounds after you’ve done something strenuous or something’s wrong with it. Stress is something that affects our whole bodies including our hearts, so it’s important to try to learn to manage our stress. Even if it’s not possible in this world we live in to be completely stress free, I still think there are some choices we can make that help us better manage our stress, and better control how much stress-inducing things have access to us.

The other day on the radio I heard a lady sharing about how she had turned off more of the notifications on her phone. I love silent notifications (no sound, no vibration), because they’re not as intrusive, but they do communicate updates to you that you can see instantly when you check your phone. If you’re looking at your phone you’ll know they’re there, but otherwise you aren’t constantly interrupted (or stressed out) by pings and other sounds. Yes, it’s important to be part of a community and stay connected, and we do have phones today because of how connected and in-touch with each other we are. But let’s be honest, if you’re expecting an important email or other message, there’s a good chance you’re checking your phone every 5 minutes anyway and the ping won’t be necessary. And if there’s something you absolutely need to know about like an sick child you would get a phone call. Just about everything else that comes with a notification can wait an hour or six until you’ve got a minute to check.

The idea here is that rather than letting the world control you, you take back some of the control. Much of how stress is created has to do with feeling out of control and overwhelmed, and when you let the world (or your phone) run everything, it’s easy to increase stress. So go ahead and make your own rules for how often you check the news and what news you see and how much you see. Make your own rules for your phone and what notifications you get and how much you do on it. Make your own rules for emails and other communication (as long as you’re productive, of course). Make your own rules for social media and how much time you spend there, the people you’re connected to and the content you see. Taking control of even these little things can help you reduce some of your stress and make more victories in your life.