Spiritual Togetherness

There are plenty of people around the world who enjoy debating about religion. I am not one of them. I know we each have our differences of opinion about what religion is and we choose to practice one or another based on our opinions, preferences and interests. But for me, religion and spirituality in general is all about what’s below the trappings, traditions and rules. I believe in a spiritual world: one where there’s much more than meets the eye, and we’re usually too busy comparing our differences to see and rejoice in the similarities.

I don’t know of too many spiritual backgrounds in which the spiritual being or beings exists to bring harm and discord to the people who worshiped.  The Gods/gods, real or imagined, all knew that you have to have people worship you or you can’t be god/God.  And if you’re looking at spirituality from a natural perspective even there it seems as though everything works together to make sure that things grow and work together in harmony.  Spirituality isn’t about discord, so why do we let it divide us so?

So what if instead of being angry about our differences we started focusing on the things that brought us together? Things like truth, family, love, compassion, caring, and hope? What if we all learned to work together instead of trying to do things on our own? Only the people who are truly spiritual, who truly care about the future of mankind will be willing to learn to see past our differences and into the possibilities.

“Enlightened leadership is spiritual if we understand spirituality not as some kind of religious dogma or ideology but as the domain of awareness where we experience values like truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion, and also intuition, creativity, insight and focused attention.” Deepak Chopra

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Compassionate Generosity

This month we’ve been talking about compassion. Today I thought we’d talk about compassion and how it relates to generosity. As a reminder, compassion is feeling upset about someone else’s (bad) situation and feeling the need to do something about it. I love this word because it shows that you’re not just upset and ranting about something unfair or unjust, no, you’re actually going to do something about it.

In some ways this is exactly what generosity is: giving freely to others. Generosity can be associated with grace (unexpected favor) as well as giving to right wrongs as we’re discussing it today. When compassion and generosity meet amazing things can happen. There’s no wonder that both words are ones used in reference to God frequently.

Jesus certainly tried to teach us a lot about generosity and compassion through the many miracles He did during His time on earth. He was always willing to meet someone and hear their story, and do something to help them if they were willing to accept His assistance. Not everyone was, but of course not everyone we meet is ready for for our generosity or compassion either.

But the thing that made Jesus different was that He didn’t just want to give people things to make them happy, he wanted to right wrongs so that they would be able to have a different future. When you’re faced with a situation that calls for compassion you don’t want to be generous and help them so they can go right back to being miserable, no, you want them to have the opportunity to do or be something better. Does Jesus still encourage you to be generous even if they refuse to accept the gift or change their ways? Yes, but He also knew that you couldn’t force someone to take something they didn’t want or weren’t ready for.

“If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?” 1 John 3:17

Choosing What Matters

I’ve been really busy for the past month or two, busier than usual, which is a good thing in some ways, but challenging in others. It has forced me to make choices about what I have time for and what I don’t, as well as consider if there are ways to do things quicker or better. More people than ever in this day and age are overbooked, overworked, over tired and frustrated. Unfortunately much of it comes from one thing: lack of self-discipline.

Not sure that could possibly be you? Chances are really good you have yes-itis. That’s the first issue: that you can’t say the “n” word. “No” is one of the most powerful words you can use, one that you probably don’t use enough if you’re overbooked. It can be challenging to say no if you don’t think anyone else will step up or you think it’s a great opportunity for you or your kids. However, as much as every opportunity is probably great, and as much as you might be right that no one will step up, you can’t do it all.

So what choice do we have? We have the choice, the power, and the freedom to make some rules and boundaries for ourselves. Like how late we stay up, how much TV we  watch, to exercise every day, to spend time with our partner every day, to only accept or sign up for one activity a week for the kids, or saying no to opportunities that, as great as they may be, just don’t line up with our goals or values.

Beyond just saying “no” is the concept of being disciplined to get what we have accepted done. This means showing up for practices, turning in quality work, and learning how to not procrastinate and work more efficiently. So learn what works for you, write down what’s most important to you and practice saying “no” so that you can say “yes” to the right things, the things that will fulfill you in the biggest and best way.

“With self-discipline most anything is possible.” Theodore Roosevelt

A Common Compassion Connection

Monday I finished the post with a challenge to each of us to take time to reconnect with God if we feel we’ve been distant, disconnected or if we’ve been ignoring God. Today I want to finish the conversation in a different direction and talk about taking time to reconnect with other people. We’ve done some things we may not be proud of and said some things that we really should not have. But sometimes these things just slip out or we didn’t know that what we said would offend someone. You can’t always know when someone’s had a bad day and you had to say the one thing guaranteed to make them lose the last bit of their sanity. Other times it’s totally on us because we just don’t care about how many people’s feelings we crush in our pursuit of our goals and purposes.

I’m not really someone who tries to trample on people, sometimes things accidentally slip out or I just don’t think about what I’m about to say, so I can’t say for certain, but I would think that even if you were someone who just didn’t care about others you still might feel a little guilty or bad about crushing them. Why? Because that’s how we’re built as people. I don’t believe we’re built to hurt others, fight to kill or eliminate the possibilities or hope for others. No, I believe that we were created to work together to make the world a better place even though we do mess up and hurt each other from time to time.

Why? Because we’ve got the secret to getting past the hurt: compassion. This is when we’re able to look at someone who hurt us and know that they could have hurt us because they’re hurting, or we’re able to find common ground on making change for the future on something that hurt both of us and we don’t want to hurt anyone else.

So today’s challenge is to take time this week to reconnect with friends or family that you haven’t talked with in a while and miss or want to break the ice or just need to be able to move on with your life without it hanging over you any longer.

“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” Nelson Mandela

Is God Listening?

This weekend in my Spiritual Strength newsletter I shared about why we pray and how we know what to pray, which got me thinking about God hearing us. I mean there are a lot of people around the world that He has to listen to at any given time during the day or night. Does He really hear me? I know He’s God and all powerful and all knowing and everything, but let’s face it, I’m not perfect, I’ve messed up before and will again. Does He really care about me?

There’s evidence throughout the Bible of many people asking this exact same question. And over and over God says that He does listen and does care about them, and us. Why? Because He’s compassionate and loving and gracious, and most of all, because He says so. But what about my screw-ups? Does that make a difference to God? We know that God doesn’t like when we sin or screw up. He hurts when we disappoint Him or go against Him or forget about Him. But until we are made perfect again He understand that we’ll be going through this cycle.

The challenge for us is to do what we can to not make the cycle repeat and try to be more compassionate with ourselves and the people in our lives so that we don’t sin and our relationship with God stays healthy. When we’re able to coexist and work together in ways that support each other and do good for the world we’re learning how to live in a way that is honoring to God.

But back to the question, does God ignore us? Zechariah 10:6 says:

“I will strengthen Judah and save Israel; I will restore them because of my compassion. It will be as though I had never rejected them, for I am the Lord their God, who will hear their cries.”

So God will wash His hands of us for a period the time we’re rejecting Him, but because He’s compassionate He welcomes us back and continues to work with us on doing better next time. So this week if you’ve been distant or feel like you’ve been off the path take time to reconnect with God.

Mastering Money

Something that most of us think about on a daily basis is money. Some are obsessed, some concerned, some anticipating, some stealing and some planning. Money is a big part of our lives, for most of us it’s what makes the world go ’round and how we get our wants and needs. Some parts of the world still trade, but a large part uses money to make the transaction happen. it’s a lot easier than finding someone with what you want who is willing to trade for what you have. As a result of the major role it plays in our wants, needs and desires and our ability to fulfill them it’s something many of us spend a lot of time thinking about.

Money in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. In fact, money is actually a good thing because it removes so many obstacles that we had before there was a system that is a lot easier to figure out and help us make transactions around the world with ease. It’s not necessarily bad to have lots or little money, a lot of the bad or good concept has been applied to money based on how people have used it in the past. Some people are happy with just a little money, enough to make ends meet, and others do well with lots of money.  Unfortunately we’ve equated lots of money as being something bad if it’s not us and we’ve equated little money with poverty and with the need for lots more.

However, as I’ve already said, the “how” of the money we have is really what makes a difference: how we got it and how we’re going to use it. You can have lots of money and blow it on strippers and Vegas every weekend and have a “bad” reputation for money. You can also have lots of money and spend it on charities and non profits and have a “good” reputation for money. The same holds true for the opposite end of the spectrum.  Then of course there’s the how of getting it: did you steal it or do great things in the world worthy of the amount you’ve got?

So let’s bring it home: how are you with money? Are you doing good things with what you have, taking care to track your spending, not spending every free dime on frivolous things, and planning for what the future holds? Or are you lying, stealing and cheating as much as you can into your own pocket like a modern day scrooge? Finally, what do you think and feel about money? Is it your arch enemy or are you thankful for all that what you have enables you to do and actively planning how you can earn more because you’re contributing more?  What’s your perspective on money and what money can do for you?

“It is not the creation of wealth that is wrong, but the love of money for its own sake.Margaret Thatcher

Compassion Charge

We’ve arrived at a new month, October! This month we’ll be sharing a lot about compassion. We talk about being sympathetic to people we meet, feeling sorry for them, empathizing with them and say that we understand what they’re going through. But do we really open our hearts to support them in their situations? So this month we’ll be taking a look at some of those challenges that evoke those feelings of sorrow and commiseration in us as well as the part that many people forget: doing something about our feelings, especially and specifically the ones that are focused on helping others not hurting them.

Compassion is one of the things that can be expressed around the world regardless of what culture you belong to, what beliefs you have or what language you speak. Some people and nations around the world have declared that they’re all hard-core and don’t care about the softer stuff of life, but it’s been shown over and over again that what really makes a positive difference around the world, a difference that makes the world a better place for future generations, are things like love and compassion. War, hatred and violence make a difference too, they just don’t make the type of difference I want any children growing up in.

We’ve been blessed to be so different. Being different is really a gift because it means that we need each other to live our lives in this world and when we need each other it’s much easier to open our arms to others and accept them into our lives as opposed to trying to do it all just because we can. But because some of us are so different, night and day different, in so many things it’s important to learn what really brings us together, things like natural disasters. Natural disasters are really good at leveling the playing field and bringing things into perspective; we’re all the same because we have nothing. But we quickly learn how to make it to tomorrow together because it turns out we’re really not that different after all.

So this month, as much as we’ll be talking about what makes us different and how we can better be honestly compassionate with people in different situations, we’ll also be talking about what brings us all together.  Together we’ll make the world a better place.

“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.” Dalai Lama