The Choice of Love

Last week in the USA a big decision was made by the supreme court on the topic of same sex marriage.  I’m not going to get involved in the argument of right and wrong on the topic today, instead I want to share a verse in Romans:

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.” Romans 13:8

Both the Bible and the teachings of Jesus in the Bible teach lots of different things and share lots of different insights on how we’re to live our lives if we’re believers of Jesus. But there’s only one thing that Jesus makes very clear in the New Testament: to love. I’ve spent whole months talking about love before, it’s a very popular and sometimes controversial topic. And over and over again I’ve seen that love can’t be put in a box, can’t be defined and isn’t something that will follow human rules. Think about the people who adopt children they’ve never seen, those willing to put many years of their lives on hold and spend great expense to care for these children. Or those who adopt the children of their husband/wife from their first marriage. Or the way love lasts 50+ years and you see elderly couples who are just as much if not more in love now than they were when they first married.

Love doesn’t mean you don’t call people out when they’re wrong, or don’t bring people to justice for breaking the law, love is separate and outside of that. Love means that even though you don’t agree with someone on everything you can still love them. Just imagine how many relationships would end if people decided because they had a few differences they couldn’t possibly be in love. Romans 13 says we’re “obligated” to love, to love others and yourself even when you’re having a bad day, even when someone is mean to you, even when someone has different lifestyles, cultures or beliefs than you.

Love crosses the divides we have in our lives so that we can see deep down we’re all human. No one is perfect. But fighting and arguing with people won’t get anyone closer to anything good. If you’re really serious about your belief and position on this issue instead of rejecting those who have opposite beliefs become friends with them; get to know them and let them get to know you. Build a honest and open friendship that will allow you two to explore together. There’s also a much better chance of changing their mind if you get to know each other, and you may find out that they’re not so bad after all.

Productivity Plans

Summer’s here and I want you to make the most of your summer.  So today I thought I would share about productivity.  I know, it sounds strange to talk about productivity when summer is about having fun and relaxing like we talked about on Wednesday.  But let’s be honest, we’re not in school anymore where we’re guaranteed the summer off, most of us are still working.  Knowing how to be productive is important especially in the summer because it means that you’ll be able to complete your work and commitments sooner and get to the fun stuff.  Sounds good, right?!  While I don’t advocate dragging things out at anytime, summer’s the time you really don’t want to drag things out.  So let’s talk about what we can do to be more productive.

First we need to establish what productivity is: it’s really a commitment to getting stuff done.  It’s more than knowing you have deadlines and you’ll have work to do that day, it’s being committed to getting that work done.  Some people feel they’re productive if they get stuff done however it gets done, but I believe that if you want to be truly productive you have to do decent work, not a shoddy half-ass job.  If you’re really making a commitment to get something done, do it and do it right the first time.

To be more productive there are lots of things you can try.  Everyone is different so you have to find the productivity techniques that work for you.  Most people commit to working certain hours each day.  To make the most of that commitment you should schedule within those hours meetings, private time for you to get your work done, time for connecting with clients, and time for emails.  If you’re working more than 3-4 hours make sure to schedule in food and stretch breaks so you don’t get overwhelmed.  The scheduling aspect is important so you can pace yourself and make sure it all gets done (or as much as possible).

Other people find they’re more productive when they start out doing the hardest or most important and valuable tasks each day.  Once those are out of the way they can then focus on the other tasks.  Some people start by getting the easiest and quickest tasks out of the way so they feel encourage that they can get stuff done.  Lists are another great tool to being productive, they keeps you on track for what has to get done and you get the satisfaction of crossing things off the list.

What about you? What are your productivity tips?

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” Paul J. Meyer

Inspirations of Summer

Summer has officially arrived this week and I’m super excited.  It’s my favorite season despite the extra sweat, early rising of the sun and massive growth of weeds to pull.  I love not needing to walk out of the house wrapped in layers, being able to take a walk after dinner without a jacket or flashlight, the feel of the sun on my skin, the smell of a summer thunderstorm, visiting the beach and watching the waves, people being a little more laid back and patient, less traffic in the mornings because schools are closed and a hundred other reasons.  Summer reminds each of us that there’s more to life than work and that it’s good to take a break.  So this summer my challenge for you is two fold: do lots of exploring and get lots of rest.  They may seem at odds, but really they work very well together.

Growing up I read from the history books and heard about far-off lands.  With the internet and airplanes today they’ve become practically our back yards, rather than something you had to have lots of money to do or could only read about them as they were in the past. But there are lots of places to explore even in our backyards and within a day or two driving distance.  Get out there and explore the world, stop limiting yourself to the little corner of the world you see day in and day out.  Until you’ve been there, seen it, and lived it you won’t know what you’re missing out on, and I guarantee that you are missing out.

The second thing summer inspires is lazy days.  This means kicking back with a book, watching the world go by in a park, meditating, doing yoga, taking a casual walk, catching up on sleep, hanging with family or friends around the yard or pool with a cool drink, playing water games with your kids, late date nights with your partner and quiet times to consider your life and future.  It’s not bad to take time off, we used to be consistent about taking at least one day off each week, and most of us were off the whole weekend.  Now every day is packed with activities and work, and we don’t give our bodies and minds the rest they need to function fully.

So this summer, give in to the temptation to explore and chill out.  It might just be your best summer yet!

“I am Summer, come to lure you away from your computer… come dance on my fresh grass, dig your toes into my beaches.”  Oriana Green

The Power of Prejudice

This past week we’ve had to face yet again another example of our imperfections on this planet with the shooting in Charleston.  We hear about shootings where people go out and shoot people because they’re crazy or feel they’ve been wronged and it amazes me that people think it’s a good idea to take out your bad day on someone else. But then you hear about people who still hold true to old prejudices and beliefs and it amazes me that they haven’t seen and accepted the direction we’ve moved in as a world beyond those prejudices and beliefs. With the internet and tons of tech tools we’re able to connect with anyone anywhere in the world in minutes.  We’re finally seeing that we’re all part of one big world.  And then things like this happen to remind us that not everyone is in the same boat and accepting that we’re all in this together.

As I was thinking about all this I was reminded of the story in Acts 10 and 11.  In Acts 10 Peter gets a vision from God of a sheet with unclean animals and God calls him to eat them.  To which he objects because he knows they’re not clean.  God’s response is great: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.”  This strange vision came right before Peter was visited by Gentiles, people who the Israelites believe to be unclean.  Based on the dream Peter decides to go with the Gentiles, ends up doing some preaching, they accept Jesus, they were baptized by the Holy Spirit and Peter baptizes them with water.

Where the story gets even more interesting is Acts 11.  We’re familiar with the part I’ve shared, of the vision and Peter’s visit to Cornelius.  What you may not remember is that in Acts 11 when Peter gets back to his home base people immediately question his decision to be with the Gentiles; they’re really not happy that he went.  So he tells them about the dream, and the 3 men arriving and their coming to faith.  He says “And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” (v17)  The only reply Peter’s critics had at this point was praise that God worked in that way.

This month we’ve been talking about letting go. It’s not easy to let go of our prejudices and previous assumptions.  We like to be right after all.  But if we don’t let go of our prejudices we’ll never get past incidents like Charleston this week.  We’ll keep seeing them and keep grieving for more brothers, sisters, parents and friends.  So what is God challenging you to let go of this week?

The Parenting Challenge

Sunday in the USA it’s Father’s Day, the day we celebrate the Dads in our lives.  Many people don’t like celebrating these holidays (Father’s/Mother’s Day) because their parents (dads especially) have been invisible parents.  You can probably think of a few of those people.

It’s a fact that some people stink at being parents.  Sometimes we question why some people choose to have kids even.  I believe that parenting is more than just being able to create kids.  True parents love, care for, respect, teach, trust and support their kids (there’s usually some discipline in there too).  Just because you’ve made a baby doesn’t make you a parent.

You become a parent when you do your best to make a positive impact on a child’s life, or when you intentionally support them, or when you’re there to listen to them and what they’re dealing with.  With this definition of parenting I’ve got a lot more kids than I physically have, and you may too.

Many societies throughout history had practices of living out the statement “it takes a village to raise a child” by supporting each other’s kids and stepping in when help was needed.  It’s not a bad thing to help raise another person’s child, in fact, I think it’s best if you’ve got other people who can help you shape and mold the beautiful creation that is your child into all they can be.

The good news about kids is that they’re resilient.  You don’t have to get it right every time, you’ll screw up occasionally, and that’s OK.  Your reaction to your mistake is a important teaching tool for your kids to learn how to work with failures in their lives.  If you’ve been an absentee parent for a long time with lots of patience and effort I believe you can rebuild the broken relationship you have with your kid(s).

So whether you can thank your biological Dad this Father’s Day or you’d rather thank someone else, take time to appreciate the men in your life who encouraged you and taught you valuable lessons.  Who are you thankful for?

Acceptable Endings

This month the topic we’re discussing and thinking on is letting go.  It’s an important topic because we’re really good at keeping stuff and gathering stuff.  Just look at your calendar and see how overbooked you are for the next month, it’s almost like we’re afraid that if we don’t grab any and all things that come our way we’ll miss out on that golden ticket to total happiness, success and fulfillment.  However, what I’ve discovered is that it’s not in having everything that brings satisfaction.  It’s not in racking up the most song downloads, Facebook friends, or Guinness world record for things done in a day (awarded multiple times of course) that you find lasting happiness.

What I love about our topic this month is that it makes us consider that life is not just about gaining, but about losing too.  I’ve spend quite a bit of time thinking and talking about failure in the past few months, not because I’ve felt like one, but because I’ve come to accept my failings more than ever as I approach new journeys in my life.  We don’t like to be called or feel like losers or failures, we don’t like endings and partings or deaths.  We like things to be alive and thriving.  The irony is that that’s not how life works. The old saying still applies: the only guarantees in life are death and taxes.

So I choose to see endings not as a bad thing but as an opportunity.  The sooner I can recognize the ending, the sooner I can discover the failure, the sooner I can accept the loss, the better I’ll be able to deal with it and recover from it.  We’re really good at denials, but what we need to learn is acceptance; acceptance of life and the need to let go.  The sooner you work through things the less suffering you’ll go through long-term.  And if it turns out that you let go too soon, don’t berate yourself, instead look for bigger, better or just differnet opportunities that you can immerse yourself in and experience.  There’s a whole big world out there most of us never see, so it’s not worth it to waste your time holding on if an end has been reached.

What have you been denying in your life?  What are you avoiding thinking about or discussing?  Take time right now to consider your life and what you’re holding onto.

“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”  Steve Maraboli

A Leader Worth Following

Sunday coming up is Father’s Day in the USA, a chance to remember the fathers in our lives, much like we remembered our mothers last month. I know that too many people have bad experiences when it comes to fathers. I’ve been blessed to have a great dad as well as great father-figures in my life who have supported me and helped me learn valuable lessons, and just been supportive in general.

This past weekend I was thinking about the role and responsibility we each have, as parents, as partners, as sons, as daughters, as brothers, as sisters, as relatives, as friends, as people even, to each other and to the world we live in. You may feel like someone small and insignificant, but each and every one of us contributes something special to our world, something that we forget about when we get too wrapped up in our own little worlds.

One of the biggest challenges we have is setting a good example and making contributions that are good for others and the world. You don’t have to look any further than the sports world to understand exactly how hard it is to be a good example 24/7, in fact it’s almost impossible because we’re all humans who are imperfect and make mistakes. I know it’s hard, I’ve failed in the past too, and I’ll fail again in the future. But the feeling you get when knowing that you’re doing the right thing, that you’re setting the right example for someone else to see, and that what you’re doing will sit well on your conscience is amazing.

I encourage you to take a look at your life this week and the example you’re creating in your words, actions and thoughts. Are you becoming the leader you should be? The leader God has created you to be? We all have work to be done, but again it’s the journey that matters, a journey that shows day in and out that you’re doing the best you can.

O my son, give me your heart. May your eyes take delight in following my ways. Proverbs 23:26