Born for Victory

There’s little doubt that you’ll have some problems and failures during your journey in this life, after all, we’re not perfect.  But I believe that life is about a lot more than failures, and that our failures should not be what people keep count of, but rather our victories.  We spend too much time on the bad stuff and not enough time on the good stuff.  So much so that our goal isn’t to achieve victories but rather to avoid failures.  Sounds very similar right?  However, the difference is that when you’re trying to avoid failures you’re not looking for ways to be successful, or moving in that direction, you’re moving horizontally or even backwards.   You’re also not accepting failure as part of the journey to success, but rather as the enemy.

The truth is that failure is part of life as we know it.  There’s no way around it. But we’ve all got the choice of whether we want to improve the world, keep it the same or let it get worse (and there’s no promise that by leaving it as is it won’t get worse either).  So if we truly want more victories in our lives we need to start accepting the failures.  We need to let the pain sweep through us when our big project develops a hiccup, meet with a coach or counselor when our relationship becomes too much to handle, and stop putting the blame on everyone else in our lives. We need to accept that it’s OK to fail, and we need to accept that others will fail too and not to kill them for it.

But once we’ve failed it’s essential that we don’t stay stuck in the failure.  We were not created to fail, but to succeed beautifully.  We’re very good at coming up with new creations and new ideas, and part of that is failure.  But the goal we should be striving for is success and health for the world around us.  What would your world look like if you were focused more on achieving victories than drowning in your failures?

“When you fall, feel the pain. And then stand up. You were born for victory.” Robin Sharma

Problems or Symptoms?

This month we’ve been talking about being gentle.  Being gentle isn’t always easy. We tend to screw up often and spend too much time beating ourselves up about it.  We deal a lot in the emotions that are associated with anger, frustration, fear, failure, loss and betrayal, all of which are a far cry from being gentle.  But there are very few situations in which a hard hand really does the trick, such as highly at risk teens who still have a chance of turning things around.  In most cases wiping the proverbial slate clean won’t do it.  Why?  Well, let’s take a look at hoarders.

You’re probably familiar with hoarders, they’re people who keep all kinds of stuff, so much so that it impacts their, and their families, lives.  Some people may think that the thing to do is just get rid of all their junk and that will solve the problem.  But that’s not the case for most hoarders.  Hoarding in most people points to a much deeper emotional or mental problem that won’t be fixed by removing all their stuff.  Why?  Because the stuff is the presentation of the issue, not the issue itself.  Yes, the stuff needs to go, but the removal needs to be accompanied with counseling that will continue long after the stuff is gone.

So the next time you’ve got a situation, don’t get out the bulldozer before you know what’s really going on.  Chances are very good that there’s something beneath the surface you’re missing. Take the time to ask yourself some questions or talk with someone else to get a new perspective on the situation.  Sometimes it’s necessary to take quick action, but more often than not quick actions initially mean that you’ll have to fix or redo things later because what you thought was the problem actually was just another symptom.

“That inner voice has both gentleness and clarity. So to get to authenticity, you really keep going down to the bone, to the honesty, and the inevitability of something.” Meredith Monk

Take Time to Remember

Today is all about remembering in the USA; we are celebrating Memorial Day.  It’s an opportunity to honor the soldiers who have given so much for our country today and throughout history.  Throughout the Bible there are lots of examples of the people of Israel being told to remember: like the Passover celebration celebrated every year, the 10 Commandments, the celebration of Purim, and even the writing of the Bible and the events that happened to the Israelites is an aspect of remembering.

It’s important to remember so that when you struggle or are challenged by the bad stuff of life you’ll be able to look back at the memories and make it another day.  You’ll remember that lots of people have gone through rough situations and made it, and you can too because you’re made in the image of God.

Which brings us to the one thing that comes up over and over when it comes to remembering: we think God forgets us or doesn’t care, especially when it seems like we’re not getting an answer from Him about our situation.  But Genesis 9:15 says “I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”

What does this mean? It means that God promised to remember us.  And what God says, He means.  Don’t be tricked into the lies of believing that God doesn’t know exactly who you are or what you need.  He knows better than you do, and unlike us, He doesn’t forget.  So this week make sure to thank a service man or woman for what they’ve done and let them know that we haven’t forgotten them, as well as God for all He has done for you even if you don’t remember it.

Making Room for Memories

Monday in the USA is Memorial Day, a time for us to remember and thank all those who fought in wars for each of us and our freedom. I’m truly grateful for the people who have made that sacrifice, both those in the military as well as their partners and families who have made other sacrifices. Since conversations can be few and far between memories of their loved ones have to get them through the seasons of separation, and sometimes through their death too.

You may not have a loved one in the Military and deal with the struggles they face but you are probably familiar with memories.  You remember the good, the bad, the ugly and the amazing.  Unfortunately we tend to remember the bad stuff all too often and often forget the good stuff.  Why? Because we’re faced with so many more negative messages each day that our brains process that stuff quicker and pick up on it sooner.  With a little effort you can reduce the number of negative messages you see each day, but short of removing yourself from all civilization you’re not going to be able to completely eliminate them all.

So where does that leave us?  It brings us to a choice: will we continue to focus on the bad stuff or will we choose to focus more on the good stuff?  We could all sit here and stew all day long about the bad stuff, the way people have treated us, and the things that have gone wrong or ways we’ve failed.  But at the end of the day we’ll be no farther along and have nothing to show for our efforts.  However when you choose to live your life making new memories, not only to replace the bad ones, but for the sake of having fun and living a fulfilling life, then we have a chance at not all turning into miserable old Scrooges.  Memories will never replace anyone or spending time with others, but they do make our lives a little brighter when we can’t be together.

Taking in the Changes

I have been enjoying being outside this weekend so much! It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for my spring allergies to clear up so I’m able to get back outside and enjoy being free from being stuck inside with the freezing and snowy winter we had. It may have seemed like forever to me, but really it was a very short week.  I’m always amazed when people say things like “the flowers on the trees just exploded over night!” when that’s really not the case.  It’s only because we aren’t paying attention to the little shifts of nature, we’re busy and wrapped up in our lives, too busy to notice what’s going on around us. So when it seems like things happen over night, chances are pretty good that that’s not the case, you’ve just missed the earlier signs of arrival.

Unfortunately our lives can be like this too. We feel blindsided by divorces, job losses or problems with our kids, when the reality is that we’ve been turning a blind eye most of the time. Sure there will be the rare occasions when there really haven’t been signs, but most of the time there have been things that we’ve been ignoring or putting off and as a result we’ve ended up where we are.

When we’ve arrived there we have to choose to move forward if there’s nothing else we can do. We can’t let the should-have’s or the shock rule the rest of our lives. We can however choose to do things differently going forward. We can choose to be more aware, be open to seeing the truth, communicate more and do our part sooner and without complaining.  When we make that decision we’ll be able to see the little moments and not only be more prepared, but also be able to appreciate what goes on around us.

“Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.” Charles Dickens

Gentle Yet Strong

Being gentle, like many other things, starts with a conscious choice.  Maybe it comes naturally to you now, after years of caring for your kids or family, or pets, but for many people being gentle is a rather foreign concept.  Which can be understandable.  We’ve all been hurt before and it can be much easier to be standoffish, distant, cold or harsh rather than feeling vulnerable if we put ourselves out there being kind and caring.  But this month I’ve been learning that gentle doesn’t mean being a pushover or not able to take care of yourself.

If we think about the example of parents of a newborn baby, you know that they are very careful with the new and precious life while still making sure that despite all protests that little life is cared for, fed, bathed and protected.  Parents who truly love their baby don’t leave it alone, don’t ignore needs and don’t get rough around the baby.

Another example is God.  It may not have always seemed that way to you, but God manages to be caring, strong, decisive and loving all when necessary. Throughout the Bible there are lots of examples of God standing up for His chosen people during various battles, loving and caring for people in the most amazing ways (crossing the Red SeaNebuchadnezzar and the fiery furnace), and forgiving countless people when He could have washed His hands of us or chosen to be an absentee God.

So don’t be deceived when it comes to gentleness. As much as it’s about light touches and love, those things are only there because we care.

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” James 3:17

Past, Present and Future: Where Are You?

Our lives are made up of our past, present and future. Sometimes we get too focused on one of them and it really screws things up for us. We will also go through pivotal times in our lives that will bring up things from our past to either haunt or help us. Unfortunately there will be some people who will bring up stuff from our past just to annoy or hurt us. When we can’t get away from our past it limits what we can do with our future. Our past does have an impact on our future, and it should. We have pasts so we can learn from them. But we can’t live in the past and if people keep throwing them in our faces it can be very difficult to move in a new, and healthier, direction. But to never consider the past would be a mistake as well because we would miss out on many valuable lessons that can help us create better futures.

Sometimes we make mistakes in our lives and we have to learn how to be better at accepting and moving on from those failures. Our mistakes and our past don’t mean that we are a failure and we have no future or no value. Our experiences do shape who we are but it’s up to us to choose how those experiences impact our lives. Some people choose to use those experiences to constructively help others who go through similar situations. Others find it more helpful to move in a different direction and let the lesson strengthen their character. The only mistake you can make when it comes to the past and failures is to ignore them; as has been said in many history classes over the years ‘he who ignores the past is destined to repeat it.’

Take time this weekend or next week to consider if you’re stuck in the past or speeding towards the future and ignoring other aspects of your life that could greatly benefit you.

“To state the facts frankly is not to despair the future nor indict the past. The prudent heir takes careful inventory of his legacies and gives a faithful accounting to those whom he owes an obligation of trust.” John F. Kennedy