Ready to Recommit?

We’re almost at the end of the month now, this month has had lots of ups and downs including the official end of winter and start of spring.  One of the reasons I like spring is because it is all about new beginnings.  This month one of the things we’ve talked about is commitment.  I know that sometimes, even if you’re committed to something it’s necessary to recommit yourself to it.  Sometimes we recommit because we’ve not been the most committed, but other times we recommit to reinforce and restate our commitment, but not because of failure or mistake.

Recommitting to something or someone isn’t a bad thing, it means you’ve recognized how important that thing or person is in your life and you want to make that clear to yourself or others.  Recommitting yourself can give that motivation, that fresh breath of air, that burst of energy you’d been missing.  It can also be the chance you’ve been needing to ask for the help or make the changes you’ve been struggling with or contemplating or even avoiding.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having or choosing to recommit. The issue comes when the recommitting isn’t taken to heart, if you don’t follow through on the reasons and purpose behind the recommitting.  There’s no point to recommitting if you’re not going to do what it will take to make it work or keep working.  So before we end this month I encourage you to make a firm decision about your future.  What does it hold?  Are you committed to seeing through the path your on or is it time to make a new commitment?

The Lord is my Strength

I saw another advertising sign this week reminding people that there’s no guarantee that life is easy.  Just because we have faith or beliefs in God, that doesn’t change for us either.  We too are challenged by daily life.  The figureheads of the Bible (Paul/Saul, Abraham, David, Moses, Jesus) didn’t have it easy just because they were who they were.  They were each met with challenges, discouragement, frustrations and, with the exception of Jesus, failures too.  As I was considering this all, the Bible passage that popped into mind was a familiar one, Psalm 23:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

We’re not guaranteed smooth sailing to heaven but we are given the gift of God’s open arms and presence with us as we meet our daily challenges and stretch to meet the opportunities.  This week when you’re confronted by situations out of your control read Psalm 23, or another Bible passage that helps encourage you, and take a few deep breaths.  Just because we don’t live an easy life it doesn’t mean we have to make things harder on ourselves.  Take a time out when you need one, send your kids on a play date, make a family outing this weekend for a hike in nature, tell someone you need to think things over before giving an answer you may regret later, choose to make the most of this life and not get sucked into the negativity and pettiness that can be part of our lives. When you take the time to be centered and relaxed and choose to think things through rather than just react, you’ll find you had more strength and courage than you believed.

Reality Reflection: The Luck of the Irish

Friday in the US, Ireland and other countries around the world St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated.  So of course in addition to thinking about drinks and pots of gold and Celtic crosses I’m thinking about the topic of luck. Honestly, I think there is something to it.  I think that sometimes fortune shines on us.  If you’re not comfortable with the topic of luck or believing it could be real, you could call it karma and see it as a return of a good thing you did in your past or a gift that you can make good on later.

Why am I convinced it exists? Because things happen that had no reason to happen.  People don’t intentionally lose pennies for other people to find, parking spots don’t just wait for you, perfect jobs don’t come with labels on them “held for you”, deals aren’t waiting for you to take advantage of them, people don’t hang around doors just to open them for you (unless they’re doormen/women :)), perfect quotes don’t show up because they knew you needed some encouragement, the list goes on.

If we do think of luck as a karma thing, there are definitely things you can do to make luck show up more in your life.  Karma runs on the principle that what you do is returned to you, so if you’re acting in ways that help others and the world, you’ll see the same returned to you.  If you want more luck in your life, show up in ways for others and the world that give them blessings, are considerate and open the door for something good to happen to them.

The other thing about luck is that you have to be open to receiving it.  I think it’s much harder to be lucky if you’ve totally ruled it out as a reality and don’t think that it’s something that can happen to/for you.  Like many other things in life, if you’re closed off to the possibilities you’ll only receive what you’re open to.  So this weekend with a lucky clover in your yard or a bit of Irish soda bread on your plate I encourage you to let a little luck into your life, whether you’re Irish or not.

The Purim Journey

This past week was the celebration of Purim in Jewish communities around the world.  It’s a celebration that anyone who has read the Christian Bible is familiar with as well because the story is told in the book of Esther.  The story is noteworthy for many reasons, but it all boils down to a queen (a woman) stepping up for her people (Jews) and stopping an evil plot that would have been one of the earlier examples of genocide. Because of her bravery she has been remembered throughout the spiritual histories of both Christians and Jews.

This story of deliverance is an excellent example of the way that one person can step up and do something great for many people.  Esther took a big risk by pleading for not only her life but the life of her people before the king.  While most of us are not in the position of great power and responsibility that she was, we can still learn from her courage and her story.

Royalty in that day and age wasn’t always a by-birth thing.  Esther grew up a normal girl who got picked to be queen, she didn’t know her life would take that turn.  We don’t know where the journey we’re on will take us. We can make some educated guesses based on the decisions we’re making and things we see showing up in our lives.  Most of us do have the power to change that path if we’re not happy with it or if we want something different/better/else. If an ordinary girl can become queen, I have to believe that the options for the rest of us are just about endless.  What will you choose to do with your future?

Committed to Success

When is the best time to start doing something you’ve been meaning to do?  The joke answer to that would be yesterday, but that’s not really helpful to anyone.  It’s not helpful to sit around and judge yourself or beat yourself up for not doing what you’ve been meaning to do or what you keep putting off.  Yes, most of us do struggle with some guilt in our lives, but a life lived from a perspective of guilt and failure isn’t one that is healthy or encourages productivity.  In fact the more time you spend in that place, the more likely you’ll become depressed and do even less with your life.

The real answer to the question of the best time to start something you’ve been meaning to do is today, or even better: right now.  Don’t put off until another day what you can and should accomplish today.  The longer you put things off the less likely you are to get them done, and the more likely you’ll end up putting out fires instead of preventing them.

I know it can seem overwhelming sometimes, especially if it’s a big task, but there are more healthy ways of dealing with it than procrastinating.  First or second, make a step-by-step game plan.  If you can’t do that step then the first step is to become educated about your task.  The internet is filled with tons of educational materials including videos and different people’s perspectives on tackling hard activities.  So once you know what steps you should be taking, write them out.  Making a visible plan on how you’re going to accomplish your overwhelming task removes another barrier to actually completing it.  Then once you’ve got your game plan it’s time for some action!

The past is what it is.  Yes, it’s good to reflect on it from time to time, but spending tons of time in or on it isn’t helpful (unless you’re a historian).  Instead of reliving the past or wading through guilt, focus instead on how good it will feel to have completed that task, and how much you’ll have accomplished in your life by achieving that task.  What will you work on today?

“If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.” John Mayer

Priorities and Perspectives

One of the biggest problems in our society today is being over-committed.  We’ve been told that we have to be successful, do x, y and z in our lives, be this type of person, live in that type of house, eat this kind of food, watch that type of TV, give 110% at our jobs, be socially and communally responsible, and do it all while looking like attractive movie stars.  And they expect us to be happy while doing all that?!  Somehow everything has become a priority in our lives and if we’re prioritizing everything, nothing will get done, let alone the truly important stuff.

I love the concept of Lent being a time for fasting (or giving something up) and prayer.  My only issue with it is it doesn’t free us from all that holds us back from living the lives of freedom we could be living if we would de-prioritize things in our life that aren’t actually priorities, and re-prioritize things that should be priorities in our lives.  I’m not suggesting we all become missionaries, pastors, spiritual teachers and people who don’t talk about anything except spiritual stuff.  What I am suggesting is that most of us have way more baggage than is necessary in our lives and it’s time to get rid of it.

With all our priorities and commitments we can easily forget about the one thing that’s really important: being alive and living the life God has given you.  You can’t be truly living your life in a fulfilling way if you’re scheduled 118 out of 168 hours every week.  When we have less stress and more time in our lives, we’re able to enjoy ourselves again, and able to apply the eternal perspective we as Christians should have to our lives in an enjoyable and meaningful way.

This week I challenge you to take a look at your life and make sure that not only do you have good priorities, you’ve got room in your life to be alive and fulfill the destiny God has given you.  Letting go of even a little will free you up in ways you can’t imagine!  God has bigger and better plans for you, are you ready to make room for them in your life?

Reality Reflection: Funerals

This week as I was driving to a client’s I was passed on the other side of the highway by a funeral procession.  I’m always touched when I see such a large outpouring of presence for a family like was evident with this procession.  It got me thinking about funerals and death and what comes next a bit more than I usually do.

To be honest, I’m not really a fan of funerals.  I really don’t like them: I don’t like the somber room, I don’t like seeing the dead person, I don’t like waiting in line to say the same thing the last however many people said to the mourning family, I don’t like pretending to be happy to be with distant relatives or people I don’t know or like.  Yes, I’ve lost close family members before and have done the funeral thing, but I still debate if I want one or not. Of course, this does come from someone on this side of the grave, not the other.

But seeing the procession this past week reminded me that for maybe ever we’ve been doing something when someone dies.  Whether it was mummification, a funeral pyre, being sent down the river, or the current forms of burial and funerals that we do now, we’ve been doing something for the dead as far back as I know.  I get that it’s a way to support the family of the dead, a way to honor the dead, and can be a way of sending them off to what’s next.  But while I didn’t live back in the days of mummification or funeral pyres, I don’t feel like those people would have appreciated our current traditions or found them as meaningful as their traditions were.

Yes, there is a purpose to our current funeral practices.  But for too many situations I find them to be lacking in meaning.  Too often people show up because it’s the “right” thing to do according to society.  They’re not there because of love, they’re there because society dictates it.  That’s not a good motivating reason for me.   I can support a graveside service (or a similar ash-scattering ceremony), it’s got more meaning in my opinion, and can be a less overwhelming responsibility to the family, while giving the community connected to the person an opportunity to show up in a more visible way and have time to grieve and say goodbye as well.

But so often the grieving process isn’t a public one (or isn’t one you want to do in public), so rather than forcing it at a funeral home, why not do something else to honor or remember the person who has passed on?  I’d much rather see that person respected by helping the family deal with the affairs, or donating time or money to a cause the person cared about, or finding a way to continue their legacy, rather than milling about a funeral home.

The bottom line is that just about every death is a sad one, and that person’s life should be honored and remembered.  I think there’s a better way to do that than at a funeral home though.

Personal Commitment

This month one of the topics we’ll be talking about is commitment.  We’re into our third month of the year-are you seeing the results you wanted to see in your life? If not that may be because you aren’t really committed to those results. Maybe that’s because they’re results others want to see you achieve, and not those that you’re truly interested in.  Or maybe that’s because you don’t have the resources necessary to achieve those results and aren’t doing everything you can to gain them or figure out a way to bypass them.  Or maybe you’ve been so committed to something or several things for so long that you’re completely burnt out and are really struggling to even get through the day, let alone create victories.

Commitment isn’t something you can do once and be done with, it’s something we do throughout our lives.  Today I want to encourage you to commit to yourself.  Commit to learning who you are and what you love.  Commit to caring for yourself mind, body and spirit.  Commit to spending time on the relationships that matter most to you.  Commit to making the choices that support you and your needs.

If you’re committed to yourself and your future you’ll make the choices and take the actions that are necessary to achieve your dreams and goals.  It’s not always easy to make the decisions and take the necessary actions, but you’ll find you have more interest and drive in actually accomplishing things when you’re really committed.  Yes, you’ll always have things in your life that you’re not super passionate or completely committed to (I’m not committed to winter but it seems to show up every year).  But if you make the choice to do the best for yourself you’ll never regret it.

Closer to God

This week I was challenged by the words of 2 Peter 1:3: “As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.”  What is this verse telling us about our lives, and how do we live a godly life?

First and foremost we have to know Jesus, and be getting to know him better.  I’ve been friends with some people for a very long time, and I’m still learning new things about them! The great thing about Jesus, God and reading the Bible is that there is always something new to learn or discover.  They never get old, worn out or outdated.  It’s just a matter of learning how it all fits in with our present lives.  So, if you’re not getting to know Jesus better, you’re going to have a hard time living a godly life.

So what has Jesus taught us, and given us, to help us live a godly life?  Some things include:

If we have everything we need, the big question is why don’t we live a godly life?  Although I can’t answer for everyone, a couple of popular answers may be “it’s too hard” “tough choices” “life gets in the way” and “the devil made me do it.”  Are those valid answers? Yes.  But striving to live a godly life brings so many more opportunities and blessings into your life, opportunities and blessings of power, gifts, and eternal futures.

Life is a journey filled with choices at every turn.  God knows that we’re still human as long as we live on this earth and prone to mistakes.  But he also knows that he’s given us the gift of forgiveness for use between people, as well as between God and us.  God’s ready to give us a clean slate for the next leg of our journey, if we commit to making better choices the next time around.

This week I encourage you to make at least one choice each day that will help you live a more godly life.  Maybe you’ll choose to delete that email you’ve been holding on to for a bad day.  Maybe you’ll call your church and tell them you’re ready to lead a small group.  Maybe you’ll go to work and share a kind word with your coworkers.   Whatever you do this week, make it a choice that takes your journey one step closer to God.