Learning to Be Free

Today is our last post on this month’s topic, lessons. Like so many other things in life the power of a lesson comes down to what you do with it. The choices we make determine not only what our personal futures will look like but also what the futures of all generations yet to come look like. I believe the lessons we learn should be applied so that we can make the world a better place for them and ourselves.

Yes, we can use the lessons as a reason to lash out on those that have hurt us, because it’s inevitable that we will be hurt by at least one person during our lives, after all, the concept of justice must exist for a reason. But constructively applying our lessons to our lives means that rather than destroying the world for future generations we may be seen as heroes to them. This is a lesson we have to work through during our lives, and will continue to be challenged by as long as we’re not learning it. We will be constantly challenged by things and people throughout our lives, it’s up to us to decide what to do with these lessons.

Why choose a constructive application of the lessons in your life? So you can be free. It’s that simple. When you choose to be empowered by your lessons rather than let them hold you back you open yourself up to a whole new world of possibilities that isn’t available to you unless you choose to release yourself from them. When you see things as opportunities rather than obstacles you take the actions that will bring you to new levels rather than keep you stuck where you are.

If we really want to see the world change we’ve got to do something different. If we really want to be like the heroes we watch on TV and in the movies we have to be courageous enough to learn from the lessons that life teaches us. If we want to be free and not wake up every day feeling trapped by the lives and ruts we’ve gotten stuck in we have to do something differently than we’ve been doing.

If you’re feeling stuck it’s time to reach out and ask for help. Don’t continue down that unending drain to nothingness, start fighting your way back to the surface. Decide that each and every day you will do something to make a difference for someone, and something that will make a difference in your life. Are you ready to be free?

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”  Christopher Reeve

What’s Your Focus?

Today I want to talk about our focus.  Sometimes we focus in pretty specifically on something, which is a good thing if we’re trying to finish some work or spending time with our families. But if I’m really in a groove with my writing or work to have someone call or interrupt me it can really be damaging on that focus.  If you’ve got kids you’re probably familiar with the concept of starting stuff but not finishing it for a very long time.  We live in a society of constant interruptions, one that keeps rushing past in such a fashion that you can feel like you’re missing something if you’re not paying attention.  I’m pretty good about reading and checking email only 3 times per day, and I don’t spend much time on social media, unlike many people who have almost an addiction to it. The challenge is in determining what your priorities are and then sticking to them.

As I was thinking about priorities and focus this week I read Isaiah 49:16: “I drew a picture of you on my hand. You are always before my eyes.”  This verse reminded me how valuable our attentions are.  It really matters what we put our attention on and how we interpret things, also known as our perspective.  There are lots of people who have negative or glass-half-empty perspectives on life, which, religious or not, is a waste of life.  It’s one thing to be aware of how things could go wrong, it’s another to anticipate or believe that they will more likely go wrong than right in all situations.

Maybe it’s just luck that you got that perfect parking space, there was no traffic on the road, you didn’t get into that accident, your partner did something nice for you, you got a gift just because, you got everything on your shopping list and even the things you forgot to put on the list, you reconnected with that old friend, you got that discount on your morning coffee and treat, or it didn’t rain on your big event, or maybe it was all God looking out for you.

I can’t answer that, I can’t tell you what was God and what wasn’t. Sure you can assume that it’s all God because God is everywhere at all times or none of it’s God because of free will, it could be endlessly debated.  But if we choose to see it as God working in our lives it’s really reminder after reminder that He’s looking out for us and loves blessing us in a variety of ways.  This week I encourage you to look for God in your life, look for the lessons He’s trying to teach you, and thank Him for being present when you see Him.

Learning a Lesson

This month we’ve been talking about lessons, and we’ve got 2 more blog posts yet to go in the month next week, but today I wanted to talk about the why of lessons.  Why do we have them anyway?  Why do we have to learn things?  Let’s start with the easier one: why we have to learn things: we have to learn things because we don’t know everything.  If we knew everything I think life would be pretty boring, at least with all other known factors remaining the same it would (it’s a totally different reality in Heaven so you can’t assume it would be boring just because you know everything then, and maybe even then you don’t, but that’s a discussion for another day). So because we don’t know everything, each day we’re given opportunities to learn new things, learn more about what we already know and experience different people’s perspectives on things to encourage discussion and consideration, or even evaluate the validity, of our own perspectives.

Lessons however are something different.  While learning is more of a facts thing, lessons are the experiences that shape who we are, that teach us what we see as right and wrong, and how we teach others what we know and vice versa.  So what can we learn from lessons?  That life has consequences, that we’re not always right, that others do know things, that we may only know partial truths, and that we all have room for improvement.

Yes, there are some people who see lessons as an opportunity to force their perspectives on someone, following the old saying “teach them a lesson,” which usually results in violent and nasty conclusions.  Often no real lesson was/is taught, other than to fear others. Those people aren’t really teaching lessons, and have some things to learn themselves.  And yes, some lessons can be tough to learn, like the lessons of failure and loss.

If you’re learning a lesson today that’s not easy to learn make sure to set aside time to figure out how you can turn that pain and challenge around into an opportunity and a blessing, don’t get sucked into and stuck in the frustration and hurt.

“Affliction comes to us, not to make us sad but sober; not to make us sorry but wise.”  H. G. Wells

Truth for Today

This month we’re talking about lessons and learning things and one of the biggest lessons can be learned from the seasons and their changes around us. Whether you live in a part of the world that sees big seasonal changes like I do or you’re just subject to the daily changes of warm or wet, you can’t avoid that it changes or stop the changes. It’s not easy to accept that is the norm rather than the occasional, but even the most basic of changes from alive to dead and morning to night happen without fail. Sometimes we can prolong life, and sometimes just because it’s a new day doesn’t mean it’s light out, but time has moved forward, whether we were ready or not.

But then we know all that, and we know that change happens whether we agree or participate or not. So really it comes back to our perspectives, the truth we believe and what we do with our knowledge. When we hold so tight to the truth we currently have we’re not able to accept the changes to the truth or that they may be good for us. However there are new things being discovered and uncovered each day, so to not be willing to change your perspective of what you see as truth is like saying that the world is still flat, just because it was believed to be so for years.

Does that mean we shouldn’t ever take things as fact or that there is no reality because it’s so ever changing? No, because for the time that it is today it is still today, and for the time that it is autumn, it is still autumn. It goes along with the statement of “innocent until proven guilty;” until guilt has been proven one way or the other the assumption is that innocence is the truth.

So what is your truth today? Are you living it and thriving because of it or is it time to discover some new truths?

“We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.”  Zhuangzi

United in Prayer

This week students around the USA are meeting at the flagpole of their schools for See You At The Pole.  Since 1990 students have been meeting every September near the start of the school year to pray for the school, each other, the nation and the world.  This year’s theme is about being united, as inspired by Acts 1:14: “They all met together and were constantly united in prayer.”

It’s an important theme for several reasons and one that should encourage us all, no matter what age we are.  One of the key aspects of the Christian faith has always been meeting together, whether in small groups or in churches and other large groups.  The spiritual leaders have always recognized that it’s a lot easier to stay true to your faith if you’re with others whose beliefs line up with yours, and better to go through the challenges of life with people who can encourage you in both matters of life and faith rather than just one or the other.  It’s one reason that AA chooses to meet frequently in groups: they know that when you are supported by others who have been through what you’re going through it’s much easier to deal with life’s challenges.

The theme of unity is an interesting one, because there is so little that we are truly unified over in 2015.  In many ways we’re blessed to be able to show and live our individuality to the world, but in other ways it means that we have less and less in common with other people.  Which is another reason why it’s so important that we continue to meet together in all contexts, not just those of faith.  With all the awesome technology we have it’s easier than ever to be connected, but it’s up to us to take that step and join or start a group.

The final and core aspect of this theme is prayer.  Prayer is something that should be part of our daily lives individually, but also our lives in a group context.  Prayer isn’t (just) about having God hear your needs, but about hearing and praying for the needs of others, which is why See You At the Pole and other prayer meetings each day, week, and year are so important.  How else will you know the prayers and requests of others if you don’t connect with them?

So this week I encourage you to reach out and join some groups that you can grow personally and spiritually in and spend some time praying for the students.  They face many of the same challenges each generation has faced in school in the past, but they also face some new ones and can always benefit from a few extra prayers or thoughts said on their behalf.

Learning to have Faith

As people who have spiritual beliefs one of the things we’re learning about throughout our lives is faith. It’s a concept that it takes our whole lives to truly understand and some days we don’t get anywhere close to understanding it. It’s a really simple yet really complex topic all at once which is one of the reasons it’s so challenging for us. So today I thought I would share a few thoughts about what faith could be or do for us, and invite you to share what you’ve learned about faith as well.

Faith gives the courage to keep going. When life gets to be too hard or the challenges look too big we can find courage in our faith that we can handle it and that we can see it through to the finish.

Faith gives us hope. Whether it’s hope in a better tomorrow, hope that it will all work out or hope for what is yet to come, faith is our conviction that better things are coming.

Faith brings people together. As we talked about on Wednesday we need other people in our lives, preferably those who will help us grow, not hold us back. Often we gather together because we have similar beliefs and are united on similar purposes and goals.

So what is faith? Faith is a confidence, a trust, a belief in something that’s bigger than you and me. Yes, sometimes we do put our faith in the wrong things, but that’s part of the learning process. So how’s your faith these days? Have you misplaced your faith or let it slide? Choose today to embrace faith again.

“I’m a believer in belief. Faith is something that works – it causes people to do things, it has results. It’s an intangible, indefinable, very real thing. And it moves people, sometimes to atrocity. And sometimes to survival.” Tommy Lee Jones

Your Lessons are My Lessons

This month in talking about lessons I want to make sure that we cover the very important option of learning from others.  I know there can be a lot of aggravating people in the world, but even they can teach us some valuable lessons.  Sometimes we have to learn the lessons for ourselves, but more often than not we can get some really good guidance from the people in our lives.

You are strongly influenced by the people closest to you in life.  If you don’t like how your life is looking, it’s a good indication that you should take a look at your life and what you’re doing and make changes.  If it’s not possible to get rid of those people then it’s important to decrease your exposure as much as possible and start exposing yourself in any way you can to people who will help you get going in a better direction.

One of the biggest lessons we can learn from other people is that we’re not alone.  There’s no reason for us to try and make it through this life on our own wisdom or power, there are lots of people all around the world who can help guide and encourage us.  It’s when we connect with people who make our personal world’s better that we should do something I enjoy: collaborate and work together to make the world a better place.  Yes, we can come up with some good ideas on our own, but when we work with others we’re able to see things we missed and consider options that weren’t available to us earlier because there was just one of us.

So this week I encourage you to check out the people in your life, are they good for you?  Are they helping your life grow and advance?  Or is it time for some new influences?

“As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”  Amy Poehler