Louis Armstrong’s Life

This month we’ve been celebrating Black History month and sharing the wisdom of some wise black Americans, including Langston Hughes, Rosa Parks and Hank Aaron.  Today we finish with a thought from Louis Armstrong:

“What we play is life.”

This quote is so powerful because it sums up the essence of music, but even more so what life is all about.  Music has sweet and sour notes, songs that pour from the heart and those that take hours to perfect, musicians who play from the heart and those who are technical, and music that’s all about the music and music that’s about life.

This is what life is too.  Life is chances for us to learn who we are, for us to develop our own style, for us to learn how to work together with others, for us to have fun, and for us to work hard.

When you’re playing life, you’re playing the highs and the lows, the in’s and the out’s, the people we meet and the people you leave, and the successes you have and losses you face.  Music is just as emotionally wrought as life.

But the best thing about music as a representation of life, is that there’s always the opportunity for fun.  Much of the music in Armstrong’s day was fun and light.  Maybe it’s time to let some of that playing back into our lives.

This week, take time to enjoy the music of your life as it plays around you. Enjoy the people, enjoy the opportunities and take time to have fun.

The Heart of Happiness

In our lives much of our happiness is tied to other people, and especially the words they use in our presence.  As much as we try to deny it, we thrive or whither based on what other people say about us.  The wounds the words of others create in us can take a long time to heal.

While you may not believe that thinking positive would really have an impact on your life, it’s true, the words you hear and think do have an impact on your life.  If you think and speak positively about life you’re more likely to have friends, more likely to get the job, more likely to have better self-esteem, and have a more fulfilling life.  Granted, no one’s life is positive all the time, nor will thinking or speaking positively keep all the challenges and heartaches out of your life.

Jeremiah 15:16 says: “Your words came to me, and I ate them up. They made me very happy.”

The words Jeremiah is speaking about were words God spoke to him, but the words in the Bible can encourage each of us too.  Everyone needs a source of renewal, a way to deal with the negative and re-center ourselves and our minds.  It’s one reason we’re encouraged to read the Bible and other spiritual books, because they’re a source of encouragement and strength as we deal with the challenges and choices that we face each day.

This week I encourage you to remember that your words have power.  What words have you said lately to someone that made them happy or brought them encouragement?

Hank Aaron’s Success Smarts

Today we’re taking a look at some inspiration and wisdom from baseball great Hank Aaron.  I found 4 quotes that really spoke to me so today’s post is a bit longer, but each reflection is brief.

“I never doubted my ability, but when you hear all your life you’re inferior, it makes you wonder if the other guys have something you’ve never seen before. If they do, I’m still looking for it.”
There are lots of people in life who will tell you that you can’t accomplish anything or that your goals are too big and you’ll never make it.  These people feed on the rush that they feel when you look disappointed or give up on your dreams.  Hank realized that sometimes its up to you to believe in yourself, and never give up on learning how to be a better person.

“Failure is a part of success.”
Somewhere along the line failure became a dirty word.  People don’t like to be failures, and I can understand that because failure is not only frustrating, it doesn’t feel very good!  But Hank Aaron is absolutely right, failure is a crucial part of success.  While some people will get it right the first time, they’re in the very small minority.  Don’t give up just because you had a failure.

“The thing I like about baseball is that it’s one-on-one. You stand up there alone, and if you make a mistake, it’s your mistake. If you hit a home run, it’s your home run.”
Ultimately no one else matters, your success and happiness is totally up to you.  It’s your responsibility to make your dreams happen, not anyone else’s.  So when you’re struggling, it’s up to you to get help or move on.  In the same truth, it’s totally OK to celebrate the victories you make happen, as well as those who helped you make it happen.

“I’m hoping someday that some kid, black or white, will hit more home runs than myself. Whoever it is, I’d be pulling for him.”
This is a great and very healthy perspective for life.  Hank Aaron had big goals and did accomplish great things as a baseball player. I’m sure he was proud of what he did and celebrated his accomplishments. But he had a very realistic view of the future: he knew that there would be someone bigger and better than him, and he celebrated them.

Today I encourage you to go out there and be the best you you can be!  Listen to constructive criticism, get up after a failure knocks you down, take responsibility for your life and celebrate what you’ve done and what others will do too.

The Choices of Kindness

As I was considering today’s post on the topic of Random Acts of Kindness and friendship, I perused the Bible on the two topics and came up with some interesting connections.

Kindness and love: love can’t exist without kindness and kindness can’t exist without love.  If you do an act of kindness without a foundation of love in your heart, you won’t get the benefit from the action that the person receiving it will.

Kindness and forgiveness: it’s a whole lot easier for most of us to be kind than for us to forgive.  What is it about forgiveness that’s so difficult? With forgiveness we’re forced to recognize that we’re imperfect people and occasionally we do things wrong too.

Kindness and generosity: kindness isn’t something people typically do out of the extra in their life, they do kind acts whenever they pop up.  You can’t plan to hold a door open for someone, or schedule it into your day, when it happens, it happens.

Kindness and sacrifices: as people of faith we’re called to bear one anothers burdens.  To do an act of kindness you may have to give up leaving work early, or get home early to do a favor for your partner.

Kindness and encouragement: ultimately kindness is an encouragement.  It’s a way to share hope with the people in your life as well as be an encouragement to yourself.  The little kind acts you do could make a world of difference for someone.

What will you do this week to be kind to someone or bring new life to a friendship that has struggled of late?

Free to be Me

Today we’re taking a look at two thoughts from Rosa Parks.  Her legendary actions in not getting up from her seat on a bus when blacks were required to give their seats up to whites put her into the history books.  I hope her wisdom inspires you as it has me:

“Whatever my individual desires were to be free, I was not alone. There were many others who felt the same way.”

I love this quote because although she was part of a national movement, Rosa reveals that she realized she was not alone in her desire to be free.  So often we sit around miserable because we believe we are alone in our feelings.  But that’s just not true!!  In our diverse world there has to be someone else who can identify with what you’re going through.  You are not alone.  Even if all of the people physically around you can’t relate, you’ve got a whole internet filled with people willing to support you no matter what you’re going through.

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.”

This quote has to be one of my favorites!  I love Rosa Parks’ attitude that she didn’t want to be known just for making a statement as a person, but rather for all people.  For her it wasn’t just about personal gain, but about what all people could gain from her selfish act.  She believed that her individual actions could do more good for everyone than if she didn’t do anything.  On the bus she probably wasn’t thinking about going down in history books and becoming a household name because of her actions.  She stood up for what she believed because it was what she believed to be right for herself and others.

I encourage you to remember that you’re not alone and that you can do great things all by yourself.  Each of us has the power and ability to make a difference in this world.  What will you do?

Ashes, Ashes

This Wednesday is the day known as Ash Wednesday.  It’s the day that begins the 40 day period of Lent, a time of fasting and prayer, leading up to Good Friday and Easter.  Often people who participate in Ash Wednesday and Lent decide to give up something like Facebook, candy, coffee or some other luxury as a form of penitence or fast as a way of cleansing themselves.  Ash Wednesday is participated in by attending a religious service and having ashes placed on your forehead as a reminder and celebration of human mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance to God.

The question I frequently hear is “who participates?”  The truth is we should all participate.  These two events in the Church recognize several things that are important for all our lives regardless of which Church tradition you follow.

Let’s start with Ash Wednesday.  Personally I love the idea of people gathering together on a day that we don’t usually attend Church and remembering that we’re all human.  So many churches ignore the fact that those that attend aren’t perfect.  In fact the basis that Jesus presents in the Bible is that He loves those who are imperfect that come to Him and want to start a new life.  Under that premise, churches should recognize that the people in their pews aren’t all saints.  But that’s an aside for another week.  It’s good to have the ashes as a physical sign of imperfection and our willingness to repent and recognize that we’re imperfect people.

Lent’s 40 day period recognizes something that many people won’t acknowledge: change takes time.  You won’t and can’t make a dramatic life change in 2 days.  It takes time.  And chances are good that you may struggle with the change and back step several times before really getting it right.  God knows this which is why He gives us a whole lifetime of forgiveness and getting to know Him before bringing us to heaven.  Saints aren’t made in a day.

This Lent season, I encourage you to devote extra time in prayer and consideration of your life.  What areas do you need to work on changing?  What will God lay on your heart as important things He wants you to do with your life?  Make a list and spend the rest of 2013 making those changes that you’ll be proud of in your life.

Make it Happen

February is Black History Month in the USA, and a great opportunity to highlight some of the wisdom of great African Americans.  Our featured sage today is Langston Hughes:

“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”

This insightful quote reflects on a few things that are important to having personal victories, and accomplishing something in life.  Let’s take a look at 3 things that influence accomplishment.

First, life is a discovery.  No matter what anyone says, there’s no book, resource or manual that really says accurately all the time exactly how to live life.  It may help you live life, but it can’t be specific to your life, because no one else has lived your life in the past to be able to write about it.  So it’s up to you to work through the journey on your own.  Of course, every journey improves with a good guide, someone who can help you figure out the journey.

Second, there are ways of getting where you want to go.  Not just one, but at least 2 ways of getting to your chosen destination (and many times more).  You may be working one road, I may be taking another, and 3 years from now we’ll both end up at the same destination.  There’s always more than one way to see things, to approach situations and always another option.

Third, how motivated are you?  Do you really want to go where you’re going?  I’ve met tons of employees who are completely unsatisfied with their jobs.  Some of them know where they’re going (nowhere) and others don’t know, both resulting in unhappiness.  Some people are able to be motivated on accomplishing something even if the journey is not totally clear.  I dare say that most people however, need a clear goal or destination and focus for their work in order to have strong enough motivation to really get it done in the way that would be best.

What about you?  What have you learned from Langston Hughes and your journey??

God’s Love

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

February is a great month to talk about love.  Of course, we have to include romantic love, but there are tons of other aspects to consider.  Today though we’re going to focus on 2 things, God’s love and our theme for this month: heart.

Love that is abundant, love that is true, is love that comes from your heart.  You can’t fake real love, nor can you really enjoy or live your life without being true to your heart.  Living without heart, you’ll just end up lonely, cold and miserable, doing tasks just to get by, playing nice with other people, and going through each day like a robot.

So what is heart? Heart is love, kindness, grace, passion, purpose and hope.  Heart feels the pain of betrayal and sin, but doesn’t give up on the possibility that love can conquer all.

There’s no better example of heart than God.  He can teach us a thing or two when it comes to being generous and loving even in our darkest moments.  God knows that we’re not perfect people, that sometimes we screw up, and sometimes we even do things because we get dared to.  And yet He still chooses to call us his children.  Children are sometimes called bundles of joy, and that’s what they’re supposed to be. They represent our future, and we should be excited to help them achieve their fullest potential, just like God is about us.

This month, I encourage you to not think about the others in your life that are asking for your love, but rather live from your heart.