Lessons of the Seasons

I don’t usually like to share things from people who are anonymous, because it takes away some of the meaning for me (can you even really call it a “quote” if you can’t quote someone about it?). I know that on particularly divisive topics people may not want to or be able to reveal their identities, but for the most part there’s no reason not to share your name and take credit for your wise words. But as we finish out this month’s look at seasons, I was touched by this quote:

“Better late than never, but never late is better.
You can’t change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future.
Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
Time is the cruelest teacher: she first gives the test, then teaches the lesson.
If you get up one more time than you fall, you will make it through.
All good things must come to an end; but some bad things can continue forever.
Time wastes our bodies and our wits, but we waste time, so we are quits.
Don’t count every hour in the day, make every hour in the day count.
Time is like a handful of sand: the tighter you grasp it, the faster it runs through your fingers.”
Author Unknown

You don’t know what tomorrow will bring, you don’t know if you’ll make it to tomorrow, let alone next season or next summer. It’s up to each of us to choose to make the most out of each and every day. You can’t get back the days that have passed, you can only live in the days that are here and yet to come. What will you do with the summer that stretches before you?

Reality Reflection: Brexit or Bust

Friday in the UK something dramatic happened: the people voted to leave the European Union.  I’m not going to talk today about whether this is good or bad or what could happen as a result.   I just want to talk about the facts today.  While it wasn’t a large majority, a majority of voters in the UK clearly stated that they are unhappy with how things are.  I had talked prior to the vote with someone who was passionately campaigning for the “leave” group.  They wanted my insights on things they could do to spread the word about why they believed leaving was the right thing to do.  Whether you agree with how the vote resulted, or not, it’s very clear that people want change.

I know we talk a lot about change here and whether we really want change and how motivated for change we are or aren’t.  Sometimes we’re not really enthusiastic about change and making it happen, so we let things slide for a while.  But there comes a point in time for most of us that we reach a tipping point that we just can’t take it anymore and change isn’t really a choice anymore, it’s a must.  When given the opportunity to say so, the people of the UK stood up and said that it is time for change.

I don’t know where you’re at in your life right now, but most of us could benefit from some changes in our lives.  We’d be better off going to bed sooner, exercising more, eating better, choosing better relationships or saving a little more each month.  The question is are we really desiring of the benefits we’ll gain from the change (or sick enough of what we’ve been going through) to make the change?

Time will tell if the vote to leave the EU was a good choice or not.  But what I hope we all take from the vote is that it’s OK to want change, and it’s important to be brave enough to step up and say that you want that change.  Will you choose to step beyond the reality that is your life this week and into a better reality, or will you let things continue as status quo?

Enjoy the Summer

I’m not the type of person who likes to rush too many things.  I love the speedy internet and not waiting hours for things to cook but the older I get the more I appreciate the value of each and every day we have, especially when it comes to summer.  I love the long daylight hours, the warm nights and hot days.  I love seeing the bright blue sky and beaming sun just about every day.  I love growing fresh vegetables and herbs outside my back door.  I don’t look forward to fall because that means snow and cold weather are coming soon.

So I’m learning to appreciate taking my time, the time that it takes things to happen and the gift of each and every day we have.  Summer makes me want to live life to the fullest and appreciate all of nature around me.  Summer encourages get-togethers with family and friends, from BBQ’s to clam bakes with fun games, activities and drinks.  Summer makes me want to live because that’s what I see going on in the world around me.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to rush just because I’m inspired to live.  I’m still going to take my time to do things right the first time, smell the roses, pet the puppies, draw with chalk with the kids, take late night walks with my partner, watch the stars come out, read books, learn from others who know things I don’t and even take time to just sit and watch the world go by.

There’s a time and place for everything, and even if you could rush it, you really shouldn’t. There are lots of things in the here and now that would benefit from your attention.

“Time is nature’s way to keep everything from happening at once.”  John Archibald Wheeler

A Summer of Celebration

Today is the summer solstice.  It’s a day of celebrating the summer ahead, reflecting on the seasons past and celebrating being alive and having the sun to warm and feed us. Many groups of people take time on days like the solstice to stop and reflect or have a practice or something they say to honor the transition, and it got me thinking about taking time to thank and honor God.  So today I thought I would share a few verses to inspire and encourage you to recognize God’s presence in your day to day life and in larger moments like the solstice.

“This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24

“Sing praises to God and to his name!  Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the Lord—rejoice in his presence! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy.”  Psalm 68:4-5

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display his craftsmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.”  Psalm 19:1-2

“O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!  Your glory is higher than the heavens…When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?”  Psalm 8:1, 3-4

“Sing out your thanks to the Lord; sing praises to our God with a harp.  He covers the heavens with clouds, provides rain for the earth, and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures.  He gives food to the wild animals and feeds the young ravens when they cry.  He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might. No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.”  Psalm 147:7-11

I encourage you to look and see where God is working this summer.  Don’t give up hope because it seems like all you see is sorrow and hate.  And if you can’t see God working, maybe He’s waiting for you to do something to share some joy and sunshine with someone.

Reality Reflection: Being a Dad

This Sunday in the US is Father’s Day.  You’ve probably been seeing the ads on TV and maybe thinking about the experience you have had with your dad or dads or the father figures in your life.  Whether you’re reading the papers, watching TV or reading a fiction book, more often than not it’s the dad who screws things up or is “evil”.  Dads don’t have the best reputation, and it’s unfortunate that I agree that they don’t have the best reputation and that there’s a really good reason for that.

I’ve met more dads than I would like that don’t live up to the responsibility and gift that being a dad is.  These are men who don’t see any responsibility towards their children, don’t feel anything for them or about them, don’t show them any love or affection, beat them or their mothers up, and don’t try to give their kids the best chance they can have.  Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of great dads out there, and there are bad moms too, being a not-great parent isn’t limited to the dads.  And even though men have failed over and over as dads, the men of the world are the ones given the next superhero role, looked up to for their “superiority” and seen as default leaders.

Again, don’t get me wrong, women (and moms) fail too.  But like I said there’s a reason for the stereotype of men failing as dads.  As we look ahead to Father’s Day I encourage you if you’re a dad to step up and let your kids know you’re there for them, let them know you care what happens with their future, and be a good example for them now even if you haven’t been in the past.  Choose to be the man that everyone looks up to, choose to do the right thing when you could do the wrong, choose to show your kids in more ways than just buying stuff that you care about them, and don’t be ashamed to be proud to be a dad.  Who are you celebrating this Father’s Day?

A Seasonal Solstice

In our discussion about seasons this month I’ve been thinking about what’s coming up on Monday, the summer solstice.  The summer solstice is when several things happen.  First, we get the longest day of the year, in other words the day with the most light.  The second thing is that the summer solstice is the day that the sun appears highest in the sky.  Third, it’s the official start to summer.  Finally, the solstice is when the sun actually comes to a stop and reverses direction so the seasons change.  Cool right?

In some ways the summer solstice is a day of celebration for me, because it marks the official beginning of the summer months and means lots of warm and sunny days.  But it’s also a reminder that we’re heading back towards winter, with cold days and dark nights, which is not my favorite season.

The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).  If I know anything, it’s that we all need some sun and light in our lives and how important it is to take time for reflection.  No, it’s not healthy to be out in the sun day in and day out without protection because of the likelihood of getting cancer(s), but there are lots of important aspects to sunlight that are essential for our health and well-being, and can’t be ignored.  It’s one reason that seasonal affective disorder exists, because most of us can’t live without sunlight.

Summer is a great time to get out early or stay out late and do some meditating and reflecting, or just relaxing and slow down from your usually busy schedule.  If the sun, which keeps all of us alive, makes it a point to stop every 6 months, I believe we can all find the time at least weekly to stop and just take a break.  I’m ready to enjoy the solstice and the summer, are you?

Doing the Right Thing

Last week in my weekly devotional I talked about the topic of guilt.  Do you feel guilty often?  I think most of us are human enough that we do feel guilt from time to time and feel bad about the things we’ve done or choices we’ve made. We should feel guilty about sins we commit and people we hurt because it means that God is working in us, and we recognize when we do things we shouldn’t.  Today I wasn’t planning on talking about guilt, but about doing the right thing.

Do you sometimes choose to do the right thing because you know it will be the easy thing?  That rather than maybe getting caught for cutting corners or having to redo things you just do the right thing the first time? I know I do.   I like shortcuts as much as the next person, but sometimes those shortcuts aren’t so short and it’s just easier to do the right thing the first time.

What about doing the right thing because it feels good? What about treating others with respect because that’s how you want to be treated? What about doing things for the right reason period?  What about doing the right thing because God says to in the Bible?  This week I challenge you to do the right thing.  Treat others with respect, go the extra mile to do things right, do things right the first time, say ‘thank you’ and ‘bless you’ often and choose to make a difference doing right not only because it will feel good, but because it’s what God calls His people to do.

“So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”  Acts 24:16

Reality Reflection: Flying Flags

This coming Tuesday in the USA is Flag Day.  It’s the day that we stop and remember the journey our flag has gone through and the people who have given their all for it and our country.  As I was thinking about Flag Day it got me thinking about lots of things about flags in general.  I shared a few on the business blog post this past week and will share a few more thoughts in my business newsletter this week, but today I wanted to talk a bit about the flag and what it means for our lives.

The concept of flags is really a simple one, it’s a visual way of bringing together people from a certain group and a way to identify those who are aligned with that group.  It’s a way we honor the past, a way of celebrating the things that unite us and a reminder for what we are working towards in the future, or of things in the past that we’re building a new future on.  Whenever we see an American flag it should remind us of the men and women who have made all kinds of sacrifices for our freedoms that we enjoy and treasure, and occasionally take for granted.

Flags that you personally relate with should be a source of pride, it shouldn’t be something that fills us with hate when we see it or ambivalence.  We should want to raise it high, know its history, and display it proudly.  We should want to support and know about the men and women who have played a role in its creation and have worked and do work to keep it flying.  That doesn’t mean that you have to salute every flag you see, have one hanging in every room or attend every parade, but on special holidays for Americans like the 4th of July, Memorial Day, 9/11, and Veteran’s Day you should fly a flag or even just put out a small one in a pot on your balcony if you can’t really hang one.

But just because you don’t know the history behind a flag and it’s not “your” flag, it doesn’t mean you can’t be respectful of it and the people who are proud of it (as long as it doesn’t represent bad things).  If you meet someone who is proudly displaying a flag you’re not familiar with I encourage you to ask them about it and hear the story behind it and what it means to them.  And I invite you to share the stories of your flag(s) in the comments section today too!

What flag will you proudly fly on Flag Day?

Faith in Fasting

This past Monday Ramadan started. It’s not a holiday I participate in, but it is one that many people around the world care about. Ramadan is a month of fasting by Muslims to celebrate, remember and honor the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.  Today though I wanted to talk a bit about the topic of fasting and what it says about Ramadan as well as the other times that people may fast.

Let’s talk about what this type of fasting is all about. It’s really a religious commitment to purify yourself, remember the founders of your faith, return to spiritual beginnings, ask for answers or intervention about something, ask for forgiveness and/or shake off the evil that may have become part of your life. Most spiritual traditions include fasting in one way or another. Depriving yourself of food, sleep, and even sometimes drink can be an effective way of helping you refocus and get reconnected spiritually in a very raw way that isn’t usually something you experience.  Other types of fasting can include taking a technology fast, chocolate fast or other type of fast, also with the goal of finding freedom, focus, or practicing sacrifice.

I’ve mentioned fasting before in talking about Ash Wednesday, but it’s not something I talk about much, nor is it something we do as much as maybe we should. What stood out to me as I was thinking about Ramadan is that Muslims give up a LOT to fast for this holiday. They fast for a whole month and not just the food as is typical of most fasting practices, but drinks as well, and they totally alter their days to partake of food before and after the daylight hours.  It shows true commitment and even gratitude towards Muhammad and their faith, but not in a way that would harm or be disrespectful to others, it’s a commitment they keep in and of themselves.

What about you?  When was the last time you made a sacrifice like that?  Maybe you didn’t think about it as a sacrifice or didn’t realize what a big sacrifice it was until you were involved in it.  Are you as committed to things in your life as the Muslims are to honoring the Quran and Muhammad?  What do you value enough in your life, physical or spiritual, that you would make such a life change for?  If there is something that is that important to you, make sure to express your gratitude today and give something back too.

An Ordinary Season

This month as we talk about seasons I wanted to make sure to express that it’s OK to not always be in your best and brightest season. Not all seasons are great and we don’t live in a perfect world. You will have bad days and days you wish you could do over. Some seasons are for learning, some for growing, some for changing, and some for letting go. We have to learn to be flexible with how the seasons change and remember that other people are going through their own seasons too.

However, I was reminded by a verse in the Bible that just because you may be going through a challenging season it doesn’t mean you can’t strive to do the best you can to be the best version of you and the best follower and sharer of Jesus you can. You won’t always get it right, some days will be too much and you’ll need others to step up and support you, but for most of us those days are few and far between.

Regardless of what others may say you’re not supposed to be anyone but the person that God created. He did equip each and every one of us with special gifts and talents that we are to use to fulfill the mission we were each born with. In addition to those gifts and talents, there are tons of resources around the world and through the internet that you can use to supplement and further develop yourself and your knowledge.

But your ability to get through a season successfully is about more than the capabilities and gifts you have, a lot has to do with your mental abilities. Do you believe that God has called you? Do you believe you’re a conqueror and able to get through the challenges the seasons send your way? Do you believe that the world is a blessed place? Do you see God in the simple and the ordinary things? Do you believe He can do anything He wants, including in your life? Do you share that hope and faith with others?  There’s a lot more to a season than just one aspect, look deeper if you’re struggling to see it.

“The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.”  Acts 4:13