Questions of Life and Heart

Everyone goes through a time (or two) in their life where they question everything they’ve come to know about themselves.  In this holiday season, it’s especially easy to put aside your concerns and struggles and just put forward a happy face.  But deep down inside, your heart doesn’t really care if it’s a holiday or not, it just knows it’s unhappy.  So if you’re struggling with some less than desired feelings at this festive season of the year, I encourage you to stop fighting them.  Instead, it’s better to address them and try to figure them out.  Ignoring them will only make things worse as time goes on.  So today I share with you four questions from Neale Donald Walsh in Conversations with God.  He calls them the Four Fundamental Questions:

Who am I?

Where am I?

Why am I where I am?

What do I intend to do about that?

If you can find the answers to these questions deep inside yourself, I believe you’ll be closer to grasping that special holiday peace that everyone talks about.  Living the answers to those questions will help you actually create that peace.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait any longer.  I want to be able to enjoy the holidays with a true smile and light heart, not a forced smile and heavy heart.

One more thought, if the answers you discover deep inside you in answer to those questions scares you, don’t run.  Big scary answers means that you’ve got a really awesome life ahead of you should you choose to act on those answers.  Don’t give up and move on just because answers scare you, instead, find those who can support you and have their own scary path on which to walk.

What do you intend to do with your life this year?

Living Legacies

This month, November, in addition to talking about being thankful, we’ve talked about legacy.  It’s an important topic because if people were more intentional about their lives and their legacies, this generation would not only be better off, instead of having to fix our mistakes, the next generation could just build from our successes.  Psalm 78:4a says:

“We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation.”

It’s important to be honest about the mistakes we’ve made, bad judgment calls we’ve had and lessons we’ve learned.  It’s important to tell our children why we value having a spiritual relationship and the truth about God and what He means to us. Sharing not only the highs of our spiritual relationship, but the lows and our sins, can be important to teaching lessons and being honest with the next generation. Being honest is often the most important thing we can do for our legacy and the next generation.

It’s not about sharing our dark secrets or showing our failures, it’s about not creating more problems with lies for the next generation to deal with.  We’re dealing with things that people in previous generations tried to hide and are now complicating our lives.  These complications mean it’s harder for us to intentionally create our legacies.

Do you spend time with the next generation? What can you do to not only create a great legacy, but help the next generation leave a better legacy then we received?

November Inspirations

This month we’ve been thinking about 3 themes: kindness, thanksgiving and legacy.  If you’re out shopping this weekend or need a break from the relatives, I thought today would be a great day to share some inspiring and encouraging quotes on our 3 themes.

“What this world needs is a new kind of army – the army of the kind.” Cleveland Amory
“Don’t be yourself – be someone a little nicer.”  Mignon McLaughlin
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Mark Twain
“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” Seneca
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy
“Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.” Robert Caspar Lintner
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say “thank you?”” William A. Ward
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” Epictetus
“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” William Faulkner

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” Shannon L. Alder
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies . . . Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die . . . It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.” Ray Bradbury
“We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” David Brower
“Your story is the greatest legacy that you will leave to your friends.It’s the longest-lasting legacy you will leave to your heirs.” Steve Saint
“With a hint of good judgment, to fear nothing, not failure or suffering or even death, indicates that you value life the most. You live to the extreme; you push limits; you spend your time building legacies. Those do not die.” Criss Jami

God’s in Control

“May God be gracious to us and bless us, and make His face to shine upon us…Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for You judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.” Psalm 67:1-5

With Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be thankful.  Being thankful is an exercise in something we’re not very good at as humans: humility.  It’s about recognizing that we’re not in total control of our lives and being happy about it.  For us to intentionally set aside time each year to be humble and recognize how fortunate we are as people almost boggles my mind.  And yet that intrusion into our lives is something that God, and we humans if we would admit it, crave.  These verses in Psalms are filled with reminders that God is completely connected to our every reason to be happy and thankful, and that we’re not alone in this journey called life.

Every year since 1621 officially, and for centuries before that unofficially, people have been gathering together on Thanksgiving Day to recognize ways their lives have been blessed by intrusions from God and the other people and things in their lives.

This Thanksgiving as you hopefully gather around a table with friends and family, thank God for being in control of your life.  God knows what you need, what I need, what we need as a nation and what we need as a world. God hasn’t let us down yet and I don’t think He has plans to anytime soon.

Celebrating Kindness

You’re probably tired of hearing about the presidential election, and the other thing you’re probably tired of hearing about is Hurricane Sandy which struck the East Coast a few weeks ago.  Personally, I’m tired of it as well, but what I’m not tired of are the abundance of ways that I’ve seen and heard about people helping others with kindness in wake of this natural disaster.  Why bring this up?  Well, besides wanting to express my gratitude for people doing a good deed, November 13th was World Kindness Day.

Over the past few weeks I’ve seen trucks from all across the US in my little part of the world.  I’ve seen trucks from Indiana and Texas blocks away from my house helping us all return to what we’ve come to take for granted as normal.  I’m always so grateful when I pass those trucks because men and women have left their homes and families to help us with ours.

Countless people have donated money and food and resources to help those most affected by the wind and water.  I’ve heard stories of people making 600 pb&j sandwiches for communities, people cleaning out their food pantry to help,and donating clothing and toys, not to mention the people who have opened their homes and cars to help those in need or who lost everything.

What I’d love to see is the US coming together more often.  I wish that it wasn’t a natural disaster that brought us all together.  But I’m thankful that people found in their hearts and lives the ability to be kind to neighbors thousands of miles away.

I’m certainly going to do my best to pay it back as so many have paid it forward for us.  Whether you’re in a tough situation or not, you can, and should, show kindness to those you meet.  I encourage you to look for one person that you can share some kindness with today, and everyday!

The Why of Kindness

November 13th is National Kindness Day.  It’s an opportunity for all of us to reflect on being kind to our fellow men.  As I was perusing the Bible for stories of kindness and was reminded of the story of Ruth.

In brief, Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, return to Bethlehem, after the death of Naomi’s sons and husband.  There Ruth goes to work in a local field to make money to have food for herself and her mother-in-law.  While there she meets the field’s owner, Boaz, who shows great kindness to Ruth. In Ruth 2:10 we find Ruth’s response to his kindness:

“Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.””

Ruth was having trouble accepting the kindness of strangers, and wondered why anyone would show her any form of kindness.  Often this is how I think we feel when shown kindness that isn’t anticipated.  We feel that someone wants something from us or is just trying to look good.  Truthfully, that’s not what kindness is supposed to be.  Kindness is generosity and charity, not an in-kind action.

Boaz proved to Ruth and Naomi that he only wanted to help, and God rewarded his kindness.  You may or may not get an immediate blessing from God for your kindness, but God certainly knows when you do something kind.

This week I encourage you to do something kind for someone else, not because you have to or because you’ll be able to get something good in return, but because you can.

Getting Back on Track

This week is all about picking up the pieces of lives that have been scattered and shattered here on the east coast.  It could be easy to ignore the people hurt by the hurricane because you live in another part of the USA or the world, but I hope that you don’t.  Maybe you weren’t touched by a hurricane but you’ve got other things going on in your life that make your heart hurt. If so, I think David’s words in Psalm 138:8 will be of encouragement:

“The Lord will work out his plans for my life-for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.”

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the bad stuff that goes on in our lives, by the people who know how to push our buttons or the devastation by that which we can’t control.  In this verse you can hear both David’s fear and his hope.  He, just like you and me, worries about being alone and without help.  But he remembers that God loves him.  David with all his faults and human indiscretions, is loved by God.

I know I’m not perfect, I’ve got lots of things that God has forgiven me for over the years, and there will be more to come.  But I have faith that even when I make a mistake, God can still get me back on track to living my purpose and fulfilling the plans He has for my life.

What about you?  Does it feel like you’ve been sidetracked from God’s plans, or abandoned? Let today be a fresh start for you and God.  He’s ready to encourage you and help you get back on track as soon as you ask.