For the Good

Yesterday began what’s known in the Christian world as Holy Week. It begins with Palm Sunday, continues with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and ends with Easter. For Jesus it was one of the biggest weeks of His life. It was also the week that He came to earth for, the week He realized His potential and fulfilled His purpose. It was also the most challenging, painful and heartbreaking weeks too. Maybe that’s where you’re at this week. Maybe you’re dreading what the week brings, thinking about the taxes that are due in a few short weeks, thinking about spring coming and having put on weight this winter, or stressing about the activities the kids want to do this spring and how much it will cost. Or maybe you’re dealing with a health challenge or the loss of a family member or close friend. But then again maybe you just woke up and wished it wasn’t a work day.

My point here is that just about every day we face a challenge. Maybe it’s a big challenge, maybe it’s insignificant in the long run. But whatever it is we will most likely face a challenge today. Jesus knew going into this week that it would be a big one. He knew that He would be facing death (unless God saw some other way to save the world).

Some of us go through challenges like Jesus did: it start off with something really good, then we go through something really challenging, and then we end up on the other side victorious. But just like Psalm 23 is about a journey that David went through, and Holy Week is the journey to the biggest challenge that Jesus faced, we too journey to and through our challenges.

Know that in all challenges you face this week there’s always a way up. You just have to make it through long enough, fight the good fight long enough, and stay strong long enough to get through and find the victory at the other end. Trust in that as Jesus trusted in Easter morning.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Finding Purpose

One of those really big life questions is “why am I here?”  It may be the question you first ask each morning when you wake up, because some days life doesn’t seem so understandable, especially if you’re dealing with a low-point in your life like a health, family or work crisis.  But the longer I live and the more experiences I have the more I learn that there are very few random things, and that coincidences aren’t really that but are confirmations and reminders of things we’re supposed to do or lessons we’re supposed to learn, or guidance on directions to go.

I believe that each of us is here with a purpose and for at least one reason.  Maybe your reason isn’t to save the world from bullies or develop a cure to cancer, maybe it’s just to show love to someone or make really yummy brownies.  Those don’t sound like serious purposes, but to someone they mean something important.

I think that finding your purpose or reason for living starts with accepting that you have one, that life isn’t random and we’re not all lemmings just running pointlessly around.  Only when you accept that you have value can that value really begin to develop.

Starting this weekend when you wake up each morning say to yourself that today will be a great day because I’m here.  Choose to live your life, choose to be fulfilled by life, choose to see life as more than an unending to-do list and as a great opportunity.  Choose to make today count.

“Maybe life is random, but I doubt it.”  Steven Tyler

The Pursuit of Success

This month one of the things we’ve been talking about has been taking action.  If we want to have success, accomplish our goals or make something of our lives thinking about it will only get us so far.  We have to take action to make our dreams a reality.  But it’s important to remember that before the action there has to be thought.  If we dive in and take action before we’ve really thought about what we want or if we’ve start doing things before we’ve thought about whether our actions will bring us to our goals, we’re wasting our time.  While there’s always an exception to the rule (like if you’ve got a speeding car bearing down on you and you’re about to be killed) generally its important to think things through before taking action.  I always start with making a list of goals and then a plan or two on how to accomplish those goals before taking action.

But once you’ve thought some and made a plan unless you take action you won’t get to your goal.  Goals don’t get accomplished by thinking, they only get accomplished by doing.  So put your plan into action, reach out to people who can support you in making your goals a reality, get and use the necessary supplies, and share your mission with the world.

But inevitably as with just about all action there are bound to be mistakes. When they happen you have to learn the lessons from them and you have to be willing to laugh at yourself.  Don’t let the shame of failing conquer you, instead accept that you’ve failed, laugh at yourself if necessary, discover the lessons, consider your plan and make changes if necessary, and then move forward taking more action.

Where are you in the steps to accomplish your goals?  Have you forgotten an important step?  If so take time to make sure you’re not missing anything in your pursuit of your goals.

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.
Reba McEntire

Praying for People

A few weeks ago I shared about this verse:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 

As I was thinking about prayer and our discussion that week it got me thinking about what we use, for lack of better term, prayer for.  Often our prayer life centers around ourselves and others. People are a big part of our lives.  We talk with God about them when things go wrong or we’re concerned about them or when we can’t understand them.  We talk with God about people because our lives are built on interactions whether in person, on the phone or over social media. And so we bring the people in our lives to God through prayer.  Usually we ask Him to fix people or situations, maybe we ask for patience to help us work with that person.

But God has a bigger purpose for prayer, beyond just us telling Him about what goes on in our lives, although that is important to Him.  God wants us to see situations as He does, be open to His leading and guidance, and see people as He does.  God’s hope is that the time we spend in prayer over them won’t add more fuel to the fire but will open us up to His heart and plan for the people in our lives and their purpose for being there.

You may remember a time when someone revealed or you found out why they were being so annoying or what was going on in their lives that caused them to be so difficult and felt guilty for being so harsh on them.  The same holds true for people we pray about: if we knew the truth that God knows we would likely be open to a change of heart about them and the situation.

So this week in your prayer time I encourage you to be open to what God wants you to know.  Don’t forget that like any other conversation there’s time for talking and time for listening, that God knows more than you could about the situation and is just waiting for you to be open to hearing about it.

“…that when you pray for anyone, you tend to modify your personal attitude toward them.” Norman Vincent Peale

The Necessity of Spring

Every day I see a few more signs of spring, this week there were tons even though on this first day of spring we’ve got snow coming down. I can’t wait until we’re all free to just leave the house and take a walk without considering how many layers we need, if it’s going to snow or where we’ll walk because there’s snow all over the roads.  I’m thankful that I live in an area of the world that has spring, I can’t imagine what I would do if I lived where there was mostly snow or only summer because spring has a very important role to play in our lives.

I do love summer, it’s one of my favorite seasons.  Summer is associated with warm temperatures and fresh produce.  It’s a great time to get out and go places as well as a time to grow things because of longer hours and warmer weather.  Because summer reminds us to grow it’s an important season.

Fall is a time of change, which is an important season for us because our lives change too. Change isn’t a topic we’re all comfortable with but it’s a fact of life, just like fall is associated with cooler temperature and changing leaves. I like fall because it reminds us that things have to change, very few things stay the same.

Winter is associated with warm fires and more time spent at home.  It’s the one season that you can really see the impact of the weather as the snow falls from the sky and fills the ground.  You can’t see the sun do that and you can’t see the direct impact of the rain usually.  But winter reminds us that sometimes we need a break and need to take time to rest and reflect.

But spring is an explosion of life.  Maybe it’s because there’s such a drastic difference between winter’s snows and spring’s life. Maybe it’s because there’s so much activity after so little. Maybe it’s the multitude of colors from white and grey. For these reasons and more spring is a time to celebrate.  Spring does something very important: it celebrates life.  I always remind my clients of how important it is to celebrate the victories, big and small, in their lives and work.  It’s not always about the finished races, big financial goals or meeting that special someone, the journey itself should be celebrated.

So today on this first day of spring, I invite you to share the things that you’re celebrating today big or little in the comments below.

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”” Robin Williams

Freedom to Fail

I love spring because it embraces our topic for this year: freedom. Some years it feels like spring doesn’t even send a heads-up message, it just explodes onto the scene and we’re shocked to turn around one morning to find ourselves knee-deep in flowers, sweet smelling green grass and little creatures. It always amazes me that we can go from the bleak world of winter into the passion that is spring, that despite how cold or snowy it was spring is just waiting for the right time to flourish.

In many ways I envy spring: it’s not waiting for more money to show up in the bank account, our partner to sign the divorce papers, to find the love of our life, our kids to head to college or the world to accept us for who we are. No, spring just says “HERE I AM!!” and expects the whole world to join in on its celebration. And many of us do; we dance around the may pole, we buy flowers, we clean things up, and it seems like we start living again. We don’t have to wait for spring to be free though. No, we can choose to try something new, make a change, do something different or live just because today is a great day to be alive.

The challenge comes in knowing that we won’t get it right like spring does every time. We might fail or make a bad judgment call or not fully get there. This is where the challenge of fully embracing freedom comes in. If you’re truly free, if you’re truly embracing freedom in your life you have to embrace that it won’t all be perfect. Spring always seems to get it right, because there has to be rain with the spring or the flowers can’t grow, there won’t be any buds for summer foods and the earth won’t be green. Spring gets it right because it’s open to everything not being sunny days and beautiful blooms.

As we enter into spring this weekend I encourage you to embrace both spring and freedom, all of it, not just the nice parts. You’ll be a stronger person because you did and you’ll find freedom as well.

“Liberty is the possibility of doubting, of making a mistake… of searching and experimenting…” Ignazio Silone

The Hope of Spring

I’m really excited that spring is beginning to peek out from beneath the snow! I’m always ready for warmer weather and more sunshine. But I’m also ready for what spring stands for: spring is the time when God renews the world and brings it back to life. We’re all experiencing our own challenges, life’s journey is full of them, and Jesus was no stranger to them. During his time on earth He experienced many challenges, challenges that made him an impressive leader, a promise keeper, a bringer of hope, a friend to many and a miracle worker, but they also made him humiliated, hated and hurt. I know that as awesome as spring is in my mind, there will be plenty of people who will be too busy talking about their sneezes or grumbling about the rain or hating on the flowers to realize the miracle that’s around them. The same was true for Jesus’ day: people were so worked up over what He was doing that went against their rules and knowledge that they totally missed how awesome and amazing it really was.

Spring is a time of potential. It’s time for us to get out of our igloos and start living again. It’s time for us to get out in nature with friends and family and find reason to enjoy living again. Time for us to lift up our heads and see the world we’re living in. Time for us to clear out the old and welcome the new. Time for us to stop limiting ourselves because it’s what we think others want to hear and start embracing all that life can be.

We will never be totally free of the evil in the world, not until Jesus comes back. But that does not mean that we have to live with the world as it is. We can choose to move on and start living life with the principles of spring and being willing to see life as more than an individual season but as one that changes, adapts, adjusts and is full of potential. Sure you can view the world as lost, hopeless and worthless as another winter storm in Boston or Capracotta, Italy, but I prefer to see the world through Jesus’ eyes: with hope.  How will you view the world today?

“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” Virgil A. Kraft