What Do You Believe?

“Believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader, and fuller life.”  W. E. B. Du Bois

Life is really a choice.  The question you and I have to answer each and every day is if we’ll choose to live our life or pass it by.  The answer you give to that question each day determines if you’ll have a successful day, an average day or a super unfulfilling day. You can’t answer for tomorrow today and you can’t answer for yesterday tomorrow.  You have to decide for each day that day. If we choose to follow Du Bois’ view of life we’ll never be bored, we’ll always be improving and expanding and life will be ours in abundance.

When we stop believing that life can be improved, that we have potential, that we can be loved, and that we can have our desires, we grind our ability to fully experience life to a halt.  You can’t have an abundantly successful life if you don’t fully live your life.  Life was meant to be lived, not watched as it passed by.

What if the difference between the life you have now and the life you want is just a belief?  What if all it took to dramatically improve your life was to believe that you can be more?  I believe that it does start there, with our beliefs and our attitudes.  If you believe you’re trash that’s the way you’ll deal with everything in your life and how people will treat you.  If you believe you’re an amazing person with lots of potential and passion, people will meet you there too.  You have an incredible ability to transform your life experience: and it starts with your attitude.

When you put up the rules that restrict lessons from being too simple, too basic and too straightforward you limit your life potential.  Not everything has to happen at the speed of light, sometimes it’s the simple things that can make the biggest differences.  Will you believe in yourself today?

Doing Your Part

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”  Ronald Reagan

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had dreams in their life at some point in time to cure cancer, solve world hunger or radically change another world problem.  Most of us don’t live up to those sky-high dreams, but fall far shorter, or don’t even take strides to complete the dream because they just seem too big and overwhelming.  This is one of the biggest problems in changing our world problems: we all think too big.  It’s not bad to dream big, but once you dream big you have to figure out how to make it a reality in your part of the world.  Why start there?  Because once you’ve conquered your world you can start to work on the rest of the world.

A few weeks ago a friend came to me with this big dream of working with Hollywood type celebrities.  They were really excited about this prospect but didn’t know how to make it a reality.  My answer was that it was a great dream but a little impractical given the circumstances of their life.  Yes, working with celebrities would be great, but as they recognized, it would take a lot of work to get to that point.  My suggestion to them was to be a coach in their local area working with individuals, businesses, and local influencers and helping them to make decisions.  They don’t have to give up the Hollywood dream, just build up to it.

We all can’t work in Hollywood, cure cancer or solve world hunger.  But we can help the people in our immediate area and make a difference.  The biggest challenge in all of this is discovering if you’re man (or woman) enough to start small, if you can accept and thrive in working in the world you have.

Live with Love

“Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.  And do everything with love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

As we get into the home stretch of the end of February and our month of discussions about love, this benediction-type verse spoke to me.  If you’ve been in some of the more traditional churches they always end the service with a blessing to take with you into the week.  It’s a bit of encouragement, a bit of reminder and a way to tie the whole service together.  Of course, our topic for February, love, should never be closed or summed up, but like life rather than being our entire focus it can be just simmering beneath the surface for the rest of the year and brought up occasionally.

Love is tough.  There’s no other way to put it. It’s not easy to be in love with the pressures and challenges of life today.  It’s a little easier with the changes in culture to love someone unexpected or atypical, but any relationship has its moments of challenge and frustration.

It’s not easy to be a person of faith either.  Not only do spiritual relationships take work, it’s not always easy to keep them up with the pressures and provocation of life today.  This is probably one reason that spirituality and love have always been close companions; they’re so similar in many respects.

When it comes to faith, love and life there’s only one thing you can do: keep pressing on.  They cannot be made in a single moment, but in collective moments over time.  You need to press on, be persistent, be determined and be patient as things grow and develop.  You can’t learn all of life and love’s lessons in one bite, but you need to learn each lesson that is sent your way.

The one thing you have to keep in mind at all times is that it’s better to love than to not love.  Life and faith are only made stronger with love.

The Responsibility of Doing it Yourself

“Don’t bother people for help without first trying to solve the problem yourself.”  Colin Powell

I’m a big fan of both working in teams and doing it yourself.  There’s incredible power in knowing that you were able to do something amazing all by yourself.  There’s another kind of awesome power that you feel when you’re part of a team that accomplishes something amazing together.  However, I’m not a fan of those people who say “here, fix this for me” and walk away.  Those people are not only turning away an incredible lesson, they’re denying their own power.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support delegation and letting your team handle things so that you can take care of the things only you can do.  But when it crosses the line to giving them responsibility for your well-being and life and holding no responsibility for yourself, I shudder.

How do other people recognize the difference between delegating and a lack of responsibility?  A lot of it shows up in your attitude and actions.  If you’re cavalier about your life, your kid’s lives, how you respond to others, and what is apparent to everyone around you as your true responsibilities, people see this.  People will instinctively shy away from you, quit working for you and not give you any more trust than they can quickly regain.  When this happens you’ve got a choice to make: continue down this path or change.  Most people won’t change because they like not being responsible and not having to do anything for themselves.

However, this attitude towards life, relationships and work is one of the worst you can have.  You’re not only giving everyone the power over you, you’re choosing to not make choices about your own life.  You can never become the man Colin Power is or the woman Mother Teresa was without making your own choices in your life.  Will you choose today to take on the responsibilities you’ve been ignoring, or continue down the path of willful ignorance?

A Legacy of Freedom

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

I’m young enough that I don’t think every day about my death, but it is in the back of my mind.  I know that life is very temporary and can end at any time without warning.  I do have relatives and friends much older than I who I do reflect on their passing or inevitable passing from time to time. Since a relative passed away unexpectedly over the Christmas holidays this year it really made me focus more on spending time with those I do have in my life and want to spend more time with before they pass on.  It’s healthy to occasionally think about what comes next, and what the world will say about you after you’ve gone on.

Knowing all that you may about who Rosa Parks was, this quote is so in line with everything that’s been said about her.  She stood up for her rights on that bus so many years ago, probably not even considering that her name would be revered through the ages.  She didn’t sit in that seat for the notoriety, it just happened that way.  But instead of saying that she wanted to be remembered for being the lady on the bus who refused to give up her seat, she focused on the larger goal of her actions: freedom.

Who doesn’t want freedom? In one way or another we’re all striving to be free.  Free from fear, hatred, pain, mistreatment, loneliness, the list could go on.  But only the bravest of us actually stay in that seat in that critical moment.  Most of us look longingly at that freedom as it runs past us and we turn away.  Maybe it’s simply fear, maybe it’s worry about the changes that freedom would bring us.  But whatever it is, it’s time to stop running.  As Rosa Parks pointed out, if not for ourselves then for others.

Is Love Inconsequential?

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

This is one of those many passages that you’ve probably heard repeatedly throughout your time spent with other people who read the Bible or attend Church. It’s not a straightforward verse like John 3:16, instead, it is deceptively simple.  It uses terms that we can all relate with yet it tells us that those terms are never going to be sufficient to properly and wholly communicate the power of God’s love.

There are few things that we can’t explain away, or at least begin to explain in this modern world we live in.  Yes there are some miracle healings, new creatures and a few other things that give us pause, but not for long.  We’re incredibly blessed with abilities to comprehend and analyze just about everything we meet.  But love is the one topic that continues to boggle us after centuries of studying it. Even the great poets seem to conclude that there are no words to accurately describe it to the fullest.  So if human love boggles our minds, how much more incredible must the love of God be?

Love like this can’t be put in a box, can’t be ever fully understood and shouldn’t be dismissed as inconsequential.  In fact, love is one of the things that we should most revere and respect, and God’s love even more so.  So if we can’t begin to fully understand it, what are we to do?

As with many things we need to first accept love for the power it has and the ability it has to bring us together.   It may seem like love separates us when it brings two people together away from their families, but in fact it brings two families together, or it should.  Love should be used to heal, to bridge gaps, to find common ground and to unite our world.  Instead we’ve often relegated it to being a stupid teen emotion, which is the farthest thing from the truth.

If God puts such emphasis on love that it can’t be described, shouldn’t it have a place of importance in our lives?

Being Human

Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff.  Sojourner Truth

I love Twitter because bits of wisdom like this pop up all the time.  Today I thought I’d share a little secret with you.  If you listen closely it will totally transform your life.  Ready?  OK: your life will be made or broken, helped or hurt, happy or miserable, satisfying or unfulfilled based on the people in your life and your treatment of people.

What does this mean?  Simply put this means that one size does not fit all.  We don’t all like the same clothes, respond the same way to the same stories, believe the same things, have the same perspectives about work and life, and shouldn’t be treated as mindless robots.

To bring this directly to the topic of religion that Sojourner Truth brings up, when you take the people out of the faith equation, you’re basically finding the cure to every disease and throwing it off a cliff into a rushing raging river never to be seen again.  Your impersonal, inconsiderate portrayal of your religion turns people off not because they don’t believe the message but because of your delivery.

Love is the same way.  On this love-centric day of the year it’s important to recognize that everyone wants to be loved, no matter how much they may deny it.  Everyone wants to feel treasured, protected, chosen, accepted and connected with in the ways that make love speak directly to them.  You may be familiar with the book The 5 Love Languages.  This is the same concept: everyone loves and wants to be loved differently, but what doesn’t change is that that we all want to be loved.

If you’ve struggled to find love for years, perhaps Sojourner Truth reveals the problem here: you’re ignoring the human aspect of love.  Love isn’t just a feeling, it’s about what happens between people.  It’s about the magic they can create not because they’re in love but because they’ve learned how to accept each other for who they are, not an ideal or for misguided reasons. Have you been missing the point of love all along?

Worth the Work

“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”  John F. Kennedy

Some things in life are worth the wait, like love and peace.  We often wish for things to happen instantly, and in our world of technology and advancements, many things are available instantly.  The unfortunate thing about this advancement is that we don’t appreciate the things that take time as much as people used to.  People don’t appreciate a meal that took days to create, they just want it to taste good right here, right now.  People constantly question relationships and wonder why they fail or succeed.

Sometimes things just don’t work out; that’s the way of life.  It’s OK if things are failures or don’t work out as expected.  What’s not OK is expecting everything to be fast-food easy.  That’s not the reality of life.  The reality is that the best jobs, businesses, families and relationships have their ups and downs, but they only succeed in the long run if all or most of the people involved are willing to work on them on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.

Sometimes change happens with the click of a mouse or the words from our mouths.  But in most cases, enduring, successful, positive changes have to happen as Kennedy says over time with lots of hard work.

If your life is not the life you want it’s time to stop kidding yourself, stop lying to yourself and start making little steps each day towards the life you do want.  There will be some big wrenching changes, but most will happen with little steps each day towards your goals.  It’s essential to have a goal in mind or all your little steps will seem like too much work and not worth the effort. What step will you make towards the peace and life goals you have today?

Agreement of Love

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:37-39

We’ve heard this passage recounted countless times.  It sounds simple but we all know that both loving God and loving our neighbors can be challenging.  Matter of fact, loving ourselves can be challenging too.

Let’s start with the simple part first.  When you’re a kid love is pretty simple: you love everything almost (except broccoli).  Somehow as we go through life and get our hearts broken we stop believing in simple love.  Even our parents, it seems, fail us at times.  But if we take the time to remember back to being kids we can remember how easy it was for us to fall for our first crush, love mac-n-cheese, and simply trust and openly love our parent(s).  If we want love to be simple as adults it starts with remembering love as we knew and believed when we were kids.

The challenging parts are that none of us humans are perfect, and while God is perfect and can’t fail, He isn’t right here to answer us in the way I might answer you either in person or via the internet.  Instead we’re left to struggle with our self-doubt, fears, loneliness, worries and losses when things don’t work out like we hoped.

As I was considering all that this week I ran across a verse that changed my perspective on the first part of that passage: the loving God part.  Deuteronomy 7:12 says:

“If you listen to these laws, and if you are careful to obey them, the Lord your God will keep his agreement of love with you.” 

What’s this agreement of love?  It’s God’s promise to love us for who we are, at any time, any place and for as long as we’ll accept that love.  He’ll love us beyond our faults and failings, from the lowest lows to highest highs.  Yes, He always hopes we’ll live up to the sky-high hopes He has for us, but His love is unconditional.

Know as you begin this week and celebrate love, that whatever else happens God will not let you down for loving Him.  He’s agreed to love you for who you are.

Simply Doing the Right Thing

“There are no easy answers but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.” Ronald Reagan

I’m a big believer in simplicity.  I know that there are some good things that are complex, like some recipes and foods, but I’m always amazed by the complications some people add to things totally unnecessarily.  Why do we insist on taking a complicated road when a simpler road will do just as well, or even better?  I’m not talking about taking a hard or easy road, that’s another aspect entirely, we’re just talking here about making things more difficult or tied up than is necessary.  When we add unnecessary rules, hoops and levels to jump to it does several things to our journey.

First, it hinders it.  Let’s get this out of the way first.  It’s important to recognize the delaying tactics as exactly that.  Some structure and rules are good to have, but when it becomes ridiculous you’re only doing your very best to halt forward progress.   Yes, you’re holding up your own success.

Second, we have an opportunity to learn.  When we add all the rules and fluff to our journeys we often just complain about how bad they are (even though it’s our fault that it’s that way).  When in fact it’s a huge learning opportunity. If you have to go through it that way, you might as well make the journey worth it.

It all comes down, however, to taking action on what is right for the biggest number of people.  If we don’t have each other’s best interests at heart we’re failing our fellow man.  We can complicate our lives all we like but when we start to complicate other people’s lives is when we cross a line.

As I said in the beginning, simple answers aren’t always easy.  It takes a very courageous and strong person to step up and do the right thing.  Are you ready to simply do the right thing?