Reality Reflection: Present Participation

I’m a big fan of Mike Rowe.  I always enjoyed watching Dirty Jobs when the reruns are on and seeing how the world really works, how things are made, or all the behind the scenes things that go into what seems so simple to us, usually with things going on that most of us have no idea about.  This week in considering different things including life purpose, I re-read an article and video about the big lesson that he’s learned.  You can watch the video and read the article here.  In it Mike says 2 important things:

“Looking for your soul mate and looking for the right job are great ways to make sure you don’t get either.”
“It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs. Many people today resent the suggestion that they’re in charge of the way they feel…What you do, who you’re with, and how you feel about the world around you, is completely up to you.”

It was a really good reminder for me this week as I struggled with a bit of an attitude issue about some things.  It reminded me as I’ve learned before and have tried to incorporate into my life that as great as the future may be, all I have is right now.  And if I can’t learn to be happy with the right now, why will I be happy with the future?  Sure things might change, I might move, make millions, have a couple puppies or have kids, but if I can’t appreciate and work with the here and now and do my best to live fully now, I’ll never get to a happy future.

So what about you?  Do you need to take a step back from pursuing the future and work on your present?  It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, we all get swept up in the excitement of what is coming.  But I believe that part of the journey of life is learning to be in the moment and appreciate what you have and who you are.  It’s not a lesson you learn all at once, Mike admits to needing to be told it over 100 times, but one that you learn as you live.  Will you choose to live with me this week?

Reasons of the Heart

What motivates you?  Today I’m thinking about motivation as I deal with unmotivated clients and have personally struggled to find my stride again after dealing with some life and health situations. I think the biggest challenge is that we say to ourselves that we’ll deal with “x” when we’re through this challenge.  But as soon as we get through a challenge we’re hit with something else and that thing, “x”, that seemed so important still seems really important, but is just getting further buried under the challenges of life, things that seem more pressing than “x”.

So what if we backed up a whole lot and thought about why we get up in the morning. And no, I’m not really talking about the fact that you get up because the sun is up or the alarm goes off or the kids run in and bounce on the bed or because you have to go to a job or because the kids are up and may be heading to school.  Some of those things can be indicators for why you get up, but in most cases if we really were honest, they’re not the reason we get out of bed.  The unfortunate thing is that many of us don’t get out of bed because we’re excited and thankful for a new day.  We get up because we have to, or at least that’s the attitude we have about it.

Sure, you could stay in bed, and maybe your boss or kids would be willing to work with you on that.  Maybe the kids are willing to climb in bed with you with cups with lids and watch a TV show or two for an hour so you can mentally wrap your head around the day ahead or just rest with them and maybe even catch up on your emails or read a book.   Maybe your boss would love someone to come in an hour later and leave an hour later because it will help deal with the client issues that always seem to crop up at the end of the day better.  You don’t know until you ask.

But now we’ve completely gotten sidetracked.  The question, if you remember, is why do you get out of bed in the morning?  What really and truly motivates you to live your life each day?  Is there anything that you’re really feeling motivated by, or have you let life get the best of you and you’ve stopped looking forward to what the day will bring.  I believe each and every day can hold some really amazing things, but we don’t always have the open eyes or heart to receive them.

As part of what we do for the last week of the month I do want to take a look at being motivated, but I really want to work on tapping back into our hearts and listening to them again, believing in them and ourselves and opening up to the best this world has to offer, rather than just floating along.

“The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of.”  Blaise Pascal

Full of Heart

This month one of the things we’re talking about is heart.  The Bible is full of examples of heart, both the believing kind and the giving kind.  One of the greatest, most compassionate hearts is Jesus’.  There are stories recorded in the Bible and countless that didn’t make it into the official pages that show examples of how Jesus loved and cared for those He interacted with, especially those who were in need.  Sometimes we see heart displayed through grand gestures, but other times heart is displayed through the very simple things.

Tuesday was Valentine’s Day, a day that people give hearts to each other both emotionally and literally.  Some couples spent a simple day or evening together, doing rather normal things, while other couples went out and really invested in an experience for their Valentine’s Day.  That doesn’t make one couple wrong or right, or more or less romantic, it just happens that they chose to spend Valentine’s Day as they did.  Sometimes the big gestures don’t mean as much as the little ones, for example if one person does a lot of traveling the more heart-felt celebration would simply be spending time together at home, rather than being out with countless other people.

For people of faith heart can be very important because it isn’t always about how far you’ve gone for your faith or how much you’re able to contribute to your church, but rather how big your faith is.  Heart sounds like a big word, as does faith, but that really just means that there are countless opportunities for learning how to live a life of love and faith, and that we can each experience love and faith differently.

Valentine’s Day may be over, but that doesn’t mean that the love story ends, just like Jesus’ story didn’t end on the cross or the ascension.  Each and every day is filled with opportunities to have a little more heart in dealing with each other and being a little more open to having Jesus show us how He would see the world, rather than letting our personal opinions and past hurts blind us.

“If I can just touch his clothes, that will be enough to heal me.” Mark 5:28

Reality Reflection: Bad Love

Today I want to talk about a difficult topic: bad love.  Most of what we’ll talk about today may not apply to you, but I do have a message for those who experience only good love in their lives towards the end so I encourage you to read the whole post.   I know right now the world is full of good endorphins and thoughts of how you can make your sweetie happier with Valentine’s Day on Tuesday in the US.  But there’s a dark side of love that I feel should be addressed and it’s not something we’re comfortable talking about or really want to admit exists.  Now, I’m not talking about bad love as in the situation where you don’t love the person you’ve married anymore and decide to get a divorce.  That’s not necessarily bad love, that just means for whatever reason or reasons the relationship didn’t work out or it ran its course and now it’s time for you two to move on.  We’re also not talking about the type of love that some people can’t understand like multiple partners or BDSM or same-sex partnerships.  Those people are in consensual relationships, it’s just not one that everyone can fit into their box that is their understanding of love.

The bad kind of love is really not love.  It’s the date rape situations, abusive partner, abusive parent, abusive child, or even abduction/slavery situations.  There are people around the world of all ages who have to fight to stay alive, to not give up hope, who pray for a chance to get out of the situation or for someone in their life to finally say something about the bruises or broken bones.  We’re always outraged when something like this ends up in the news, but yet we seem to want to stay blissfully ignorant to how many people actually deal with this on a regular basis.  Yes, in the past few years many parts of the world have started to stand up for people in bad love situations, but there are still major obstacles and things that need to be overcome.

I can’t pretend to know what someone who’s on the receiving end of bad love experiences or is going through. I’m thankful that my life has always had good or average relationships.  From what I’ve learned or heard about I know that for the person giving the bad love it can be, to use a word we’re all familiar with, an addiction.  They are addicted to the feeling they get when they bad love someone.  They may also not have a moral compass or they may think that they’re doing the “right” thing.  Years later some people do experience some guilt about the situation or their actions, but that’s not the case for everyone.  For those on the receiving end of bad love it can be a very difficult road not only get out of the situation but to rebuild afterwards.  In some cases they’re tasked with finding help for the person who hurt them all those years, especially in the case of a parent or child.  But it’s that first step that is the most difficult for most people: getting out of the bad love situation.

If that’s you and you’re in a bad love situation, know that you’re not alone.  There are people who will help you, and are willing and able to help you, it’s just a matter of you reaching out and asking for the help.  I know that can be very difficult especially if your situation is especially serious.  But you can’t blame yourself for being in the situation or believe that you deserve whatever is being dished out to you.  That’s not the way that anyone deserves to live.  At the end of the post I’ll list some resources that you can check out if you need to get out of a bad love situation, and I invite you to share resources you know about as well.

For those of us who experience good love it’s very important that we take off our rose colored glasses and realize that as much as the world has progressed in 2017, there is still a long way to go.  Find an organization that helps fight bad love and make a donation, share a tweet or post about them, donate your time or knowledge or skills, or help raise awareness in some other way this Valentine’s Day that there are people out there who need help and that there are resources available to them.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Darkness to Light
Youth dating and abuse resources
Domestic Shelters
Dr Phil’s list of resources
Male Survivor
The Safe Alliance

Together in Love

With Valentine’s Day just a few days away many people are thinking about love in the US.  But love and relationships aren’t exclusive to the US, they’re present around the world. As I was reading through my emails today and thinking about my partner a few rooms over from me I was reminded about one of the things that often challenge us in a relationship: unity.  That’s kind of a big part of a relationship, that on multiple levels you and your partner are a good match.  Even if you’re together for “political reasons” (not something that happens as often today), there are still things that bring you two together and you can agree on or talk about comfortably without the conversation feeling one sided.

The other part of unity is the feeling of being completed you have about/with/because of your partner.  I don’t believe we are supposed to be alone, I believe we should be going through life together, and that everyone should be able to find the person that makes them feel like a better and more complete person. Not every couple experiences that “click” where you meet someone and it just feels right.   Sometimes getting to the point of feeling that connection takes time and effort even if your intention originally was just to build a friendship.   No, it doesn’t have to be for forever, but for however long you are together you should feel that connection with that other person, and work together to keep that feeling alive.

Unity is all about who you two are together, whether with family, your kids, at work or out with friends.  It’s also what others see in and of you and how you interact with the world as a couple.  Constantly berating your partner or telling (negative) stories about them in public doesn’t make you look unified, it hurts the relationship and may even hurt your relationship with others.   Valentine’s Day does have a way of bringing people together, which is one of the reasons I love it.  But this year instead of just taking time out during one day to be together, I encourage you to work on building your unity and connection throughout the year.

Dimensions of Love

As we get closer and closer to Valentine’s Day the topic that most people are talking about is love.  It’s true that many people take this whole month to really focus on love and romance and I think that can be a very good thing.  It’s not a good thing when this month or these 14 days are the only time that you focus on your relationships, but sometimes it’s good to really dedicate extra time and effort to something that should be very important to you.

In thinking about the topic of love and romance it got me thinking about one of the biggest topics around love for people of faith, God’s love.  There’s a lot we can learn from His love and how He loves, so as I was working on my devotion this week I ran across a few verses that I wanted to share with you here today because they share a really important reminder about love. Take a look:

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

“…may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”  Ephesians 3:18-19a

The interesting thing about all of these verses is that they talk about love in multiple dimensions, using multiple senses and in experiencing it beyond the obvious.  The challenge many of us face in experiencing or living love is that it’s not instant.  It’s not something we can throw a bunch of money at and get what we want.  Love takes work.  It’s something that is best experienced when you fully immerse yourself in it.  It’s like many wines that it often gets better with time, but unlike wine you can’t just leave it alone and expect it to get better.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as a child loving their pet, or loving how your partner holds your hand.  But in other ways it is complicated because many of the best loves do have multiple layers and depth to them.

So this week as you think about your Valentine plans or you think about the person that God has planned for you in the future, I encourage you to try to see love outside of the box that you may have stuck it in.  What have you missed about love?

Reality Reflection: Disappointments

Last night in the US we had the Superbowl.  One team ended up being a winner and one a loser.  We’ve done a reflection on winning vs. losing before, so today I thought we’d talk about a related topic: disappointment.  Just like winning and losing disappointment usually has two sides and what is seen as a disappointment by one is often not seen as such by another.  Just take a look at all the reviews posted online about different books, shows, movies and even businesses.  Some people absolutely love something and other people are really let down by the experience they had.

Disappointment isn’t limited to winning and losing though, it’s something that applies to many areas of our lives, from our relationships to our families to our careers to the articles and books we read and show and movies we watch.  There are also shades to disappointment, it’s not black and white like winning and losing almost always is.  I might have no real opinion of a movie, you might be mildly let down by how that movie turned out, while someone else might go home and post nasty comments on every review site and board they can find and feel forever ruined by that movie.

But like winning and losing, when you experience disappointment there’s always a next step: what will you do about that?  Sometimes we just chalk it up as an experience and move on.  Other times it really motivates and inspires us to do something about it and make changes in that aspect of our lives.  And sometimes we’re so crushed by the disappointment that it shakes our very foundation and we make radical decisions and changes as a result.

If it’s someone or something else that has disappointed you that you don’t have a ton of control over, like the election or a leader or a movie or a sports game, in some situations you look for ways you can continue to support that person/group/thing even though you weren’t thrilled with the latest happenings or something you learned (die hard sports fans don’t give up on their team just because they lost the big/final game of the season).  It’s not wrong to let them know that you’re disappointed, but in this case you’d include a bit of encouragement with the message as well.  In other situations it’s hard to see beyond the disappointment, especially if you feel personally betrayed or hurt.  In these cases it benefits you to take time to really think things over and not give an immediate reaction.  After serious reflection time, and maybe talking things through with some impartial parties (without alcohol involved), then make a decision on next steps.

But before you choose to cut all ties, I encourage you to think about the last time you screwed up and disappointed someone (and don’t say it hasn’t happened, because I know we’ve all done something at sometime).  Think about whether you were hoping for some forgiveness or leniency in your situation and how the other person/people reacted.  Think about how it felt to be the cause of disappointment. And think long and hard about never having this person or thing in your life again. If you can truly then answer that you’re OK letting go, take some baby steps backwards and away from the situation or person and let go.

I don’t believe disappointment has to be the end of what had been something great.  It may be a bump in the road or a detour in the journey, but if you really believe in something or someone, don’t let a disappointment stop you.

Learning to Listen

In our lives we have lots of questions and issues that pop up.  We don’t have all the answers, nor will we ever get all the answers.  But I believe there’s a lot of good advice out there, should we only take the time to look for it or listen to it.

There are tons of people around the world who can give us advice.  That advice isn’t always right for us, the same thing doesn’t work for everyone.  But if we’re not able to see the real issue or think we’ve exhausted all possibilities and we’re stuck, getting advice from someone else is the best course of action, rather than choosing to stay stuck.  I’m a big believer in the power of education and learning, and getting outside opinions is one of the best ways to work through an issue you may have or discover what the real issue is that you weren’t even aware of.

Listening to advice is one of the hardest things to do.  It’s not easy to hear someone else’s opinions or judgments on something we worked really hard on or something we really like, but their advice may give you the motivation and freedom to do something you’ve been debating or try a course of action rather than stay stuck.  If we can get over ourselves, our pride and our self-reliance and open up to the possibility that someone else may have some good ideas and may be able to offer some good insights, there are tons of people willing to give their opinions (educated or not) about your challenges.

No, not everything is relevant to everyone.  It’s important that when you’re given advice you take time to think about it before acting on it or dismissing it.  Don’t reject it because it’s too simple or too hard or because it doesn’t sound like something you want to do or would work for your situation.  Instead ask them to clarify and give you some more insights on the aspects that particularly challenge you.  Ask them to address the specific concerns you have.  And if after you’ve really talked it through it still doesn’t seem like a good fit, then maybe you should ask for some other advice or advice from someone else.

No one knows everything, so no one can give perfect advice all of the time.  Take all the advice you receive with a grain of salt, but always be open to learning new things and seeing things from a new perspective.