Reality Reflection: Letting Love In

This month one of the things we’ve been talking about is love.  As I was thinking about love I thought about all the different ways we can see love, feel love, express love, share love and define love.  Love isn’t black and white, it’s something that evolves, changes, grows, multiplies, and can be different for each and every person.  There’s a lot more to love than just saying “read a romance novel” or “get married.”  Love isn’t something you can really put in a box.  Plenty of people have tried though, and I think more often than not it’s those people who have the worst experiences when it comes to love (and try to ruin it for the rest of us).

If you want the best experience possible when it comes to love I think you have to be open to seeing where it takes you.  You have to be willing to take the good with the bad, to listen to the experiences of others, to try new things, and to work for it.  Sometimes it is effortless, but if you let it go for too long without contributing or exploring, the overall quality and longevity of love may begin to suffer, especially when it comes to relationships.

Yes, some people can go through life with a very narrow view of the world, very limited skill set or very limited interaction with others.  However, now more than ever people are wanting to get more out of their lives and actually have the opportunity to get more out of their lives.  We aren’t as limited as we were even 5 or 10 years ago in many regards, let alone 50 or 100, now more than ever we have the ability to become our best self ever and get the most out of our lives and the world we share.

The same is true for love.  Some people have very limited interactions with love and they leave it at that. However, I don’t believe that’s the way to live life.  I believe that our lives are better when they have love in them and that we’re better people when we choose love.  Love isn’t always easy, but in some ways it can be much easier if we’re willing to be open to how it changes and reveals itself to us and the teaching/learning opportunities that are presented to us.  There are tons of ways to have more love in your life, the question is are you willing to experience all that you may feel and see when you really let love into your life?

Earth Day Wisdom

Yesterday was Earth Day, I hope you spent some time in nature or made time to help nature.  Since Earth Day is really about all of us coming together to support the world we all share, I thought I’d share a few quotes about the earth with you today.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”  John Muir

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”  Gandhi

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Rachel Carson

“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.”  Einstein

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”  Henry David Thoreau

“Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”  Walt Whitman

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”  Lady Bird Johnson

“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

“He that plants trees loves others beside himself.”  Thomas Fuller

“The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

“Man is still the greatest miracle and the greatest problem on this earth.”  David Sarnoff

“Dear old world…You are very lovely, And I am glad to be alive in you.”  Lucy Maud Montgomery

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  Albert Einstein

“Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.”  Karle Wilson Baker

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair.”  Khalil Gibran

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

A Little Love for Everyone?

As we think about this month’s topic of love and the celebration of Earth Day later this week I wanted to share a verse that will challenge us on both topics: Psalm 24:1 says:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

First this verse reminds us that if we really care about God and are following Him, we’ll take care of what He has given us.  That means being a little more aware of what you’re buying and doing and how you’re interacting with nature and the impact you have on it.  We all have an impact, but we can make smarter choices to minimize that impact and protect the gift God has given us.

Second this verse reminds us that God created everything in the world, all of the plants, animals, creepy crawlers, and people.  I know it’s hard to imagine the God that created you and me also creating things like scorpions.  It’s also hard to imagine the God that created Billy Graham created Hitler too, but according to this verse, He did.

Which brings us to our challenge.  It can be really easy to be sloppy and lazy and not take care of the earth, after all there’s a really good chance that it will last through our lifetimes regardless of the damage we do.  It can also be really easy to just focus on the nice and good people and ignore those who display their faults and imperfections more than the rest of us do.  But this verse challenges us to remember that God has called us to care for that which is His; all of it.  That means attempting to remove our judgements, preconceived notions, prejudices and opinions and trying to see things from God’s perspective, which can be easier said than done.

But just like with caring for the earth and making earth-friendly decisions, treating all others with respect and courtesy, and maybe even love, is something you can get into the habit of doing.  God didn’t say it would be easy, but He called us to set the example for our fellow man.  So as we move away from Easter and toward Earth Day, I encourage you to consider how you can be more considerate of “everything” that the Lord has created.  What ways will you choose to show love today?

Easter Today and Tomorrow

Today around the world people will be celebrating Easter.  People who rarely attend church will wake up early, families who don’t always see each other will travel distances, and countless eggs will be hidden and later found (sometimes even days or weeks later).  For people of the Christian faith we celebrate with a specific reason: Jesus is alive.  And more than that, Jesus died, rose again and has taken away the sins of the world.  I’d say those are some really good reasons to celebrate.

As I was thinking about what Easter means, it got me thinking about the word tomorrow.  Easter really is all about the concept of tomorrows, and all the tomorrows we’ll have, because with Easter we’re offered a tomorrow that’s promising, and filled with hope and worth living for.  Before Easter happened we had hope that someday maybe God had a good plan for us, and we worked through each day and the challenges therein clinging to that hope.  But with Easter that promise is partially fulfilled, or at the very least revealed.

So today as we celebrate Easter we’re each given the opportunity to accept that hope and believe in that revelation and resurrection.  To accept that God is with us in the here and now and celebrating with us. That He knows what’s going on in our lives, both good and bad, and that He knows what our future holds too.  We have a choice with how we choose to live our lives today and what we do with the time we’re given while we’re here on earth waiting to be called Home.  For the time being the challenges will remain, but we can choose to focus on the hope of Easter and the promises that Jesus brought to life when we have to face them and the not-so-good days.  I’m celebrating today, are you?

“We are the resurrection people.  We have hope.  We choose joy.  We overcome, always.”
“I want to live well in the here and now.”
Holley Gerth

Working on Wait

Today in some religious circles is the day known as Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified on the cross.  It’s a difficult day for us to think about, and it was a difficult thing for the people Jesus lived with to witness, and even more difficult for Jesus who was human to experience.  He felt what we would feel if we were crucified, He didn’t hide from the pain or use his powers as the Son of God to deflect or bypass it.  From all the records we know it was a brutal experience, which was kind of the point.  But Jesus knew what He was getting into going in because He’s Gods’ Son, and He also knew what was yet to come: the Resurrection and Easter Sunday.

We don’t always know what the end result will be in situations in our lives.  Sometimes we hope that the end we want is what will happen, sometimes we just hope for some kind of good result, other times we’re resigned to what is most likely to come.  There will always be a result, sometimes it will be what we want or hope for, other times it’s not.  But what we have to do is what Jesus did for 3 days: wait.

It’s not easy to wait, especially when we’re anticipating good things like Easter baskets or Christmas morning.  It’s also hard to wait when we know we’re faced with a not so good ending like the death of a loved one from a disease or the loss of our job when a company takes ours the one we work for.  In our fast paced world we like when things move at the speed of the internet or a fast food restaurant.  One of the reasons we wait is because while we could have a result quicker, sometimes to get to the best result it takes more time.  We’ve managed to do a lot to make things work better and happen faster in the world with all of our innovations, but two of the things we haven’t affected yet is the ability to affect the days and the time.  We’re still bound by the rules of the universe when it comes to them.

But there’s no rule that says you have to be miserable while you wait or not work towards good outcomes even if the only likely result that can occur is not a happy one. But we can make all the moments up to and following that event good ones.  I think one of the things that helped Jesus through His suffering was knowing what was on the other side of it.  We may not know what’s on the other side of our pains and life challenges, but we can certainly have the attitude that whatever it is, we’ll be able to work through it with God’s help and the help of the people in our lives.

God is Good

This week we’ll be deviating from the usual topic schedule slightly in anticipation of Easter on Sunday and this being Holy Week.  I was reading my emails today and up popped a blog post with a phrase just about every Christian has heard before.  Sometimes when we hear it we roll our eyes or feel tempted to, sometimes hearing it frustrates us, and other times we’re thankful for the reminder.  The saying?

“God is Good All the Time”

In considering Holy Week I thought this was an important topic for us to talk about.  Yes, Holy Week happened because of how good/generous/loving God is, but I know I have a hard time connecting the pain and suffering that Jesus went through with “good”.  I also have trouble with this topic thinking about all the suffering and hate in the world.  Can God really be good all the time if there’s this much pain?  The technical answer is yes, God is God, He can be good all the time.  It’s hard for us to understand how a “good” God can let us go through what we do though.

Is it technically our fault that Jesus suffered as He did and we suffer as we do, yes, it is.  But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it or intentionally choose to torture myself with suffering. Bad doesn’t have to be the in and out and up and down of my life.  So how can we see God’s goodness through something as difficult as a crucifixion?

We may not see it in the crucifixion, but we do see it in the hope that is presented through Easter Sunday and the Resurrection.  Many people have questioned as to why the cross has become the recognizable symbol for the church rather than one that’s more in line with a positive message.  One reason is that the cross certainly is a recognizable icon while something that represents the tomb would look more like a piece of jewelry or just a rock.  The cross is also a beginning, it’s the beginning of hope for everyone who believes, but that hope is only fulfilled by the resurrection.  In a way the cross is a reminder of how life is, that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but that we need the rain and rest times too.

So as we begin Maundy Thursday and head into Good Friday, if you’re dealing with some dark nights here as Jesus was so many years ago, I encourage you to keep pushing through, God doesn’t give up on His people and does have an amazing hope and future planned for you.

Reality Reflection: Passover People

This coming week as some are readying for the celebration of Easter, others are celebrating the holiday of Passover.  Originally Passover was a celebration of freedom from slavery in Egypt for the Israelites, for many years after that it was also a spring celebration of the “first fruits of the barley” which was the first growth of the new growing season (you can read about the origin of Passover here).  Both of these are big reasons for celebration, let’s talk a bit about each.

Passover is important to anyone who has religious connections to the Israelites.  While Christians don’t typically celebrate it and it’s usually celebrated by Jewish people, it’s something that is important to both groups because it’s one of the formative stories of faith. It’s the start of an important journey of freedom, unity, faith and individuality for the Israelites.  It also began many traditions that are still in practice today as part of the present-day Passover celebration.  But Passover is about more than just eating Matzo, participating in the Seder and other present-day practices, the focus should be on the freedom that was so important and gained through this event so many years ago.  If that first Passover hadn’t happened, as tragic as it was for some people, our world today would look very different.  Yes, the Israelites were in slavery for a reason God planned, and He rescued them for other reasons.  But like any other rescue, it’s important to take the gift that was handed to them (and down through the centuries to us) and not only honor God with our lives, but live the lives that we’re able to live because we’ve been given that freedom.

The First Fruits aspect of the Passover celebration is another important part of this story, because it’s a reminder to thank God for the ways He continues to provide for us.  In this modern age we just go to the grocery store and find food, and even if we can’t find fresh there’s usually frozen that’s almost just as good. But for many people in the early days of Passover and for many people around the world they’re completely dependent on having good growth and being able to feed their families.  Even if the rest of us wouldn’t notice initially, eventually our food supply at the stores would run low as well.  We could survive without many things we take for granted today, but we’re still just as dependent on food and water as the Israelites were back then.

This week whether you’re Jewish or not I encourage you to take time to be thankful for the freedom and food you have.  Many people have sacrificed in one way or another to bring us to this point and  mother nature has continued to provide for us even if we haven’t taken such good care of her.  And if you find an opportunity to share a little blessing with someone else this week I would encourage you to do that as well.

Love and Happiness

This month one of the topics we’re talking about is love.  It’s a big topic and one that impacts all of us on a regular basis.  Today I want to talk about one aspect of love that’s always controversial, the topic of happiness.  Some people see love as the answer to their everlasting happiness, and that’s not surprising given the number of happy endings and happily ever afters we’re seeing on TV and movies or reading about.  And love can play a role in happiness, some of the happiest people I know have love in their lives.  But there are also people who expect love to bring them that happiness or create happiness in their life and don’t experience it.  In some cases love did exist and then life happened and the love changed or died.  That happens, but it’s not the full answer to the love/happiness debate.

Let’s start with the good side of love and happiness: it works.  People who have love in their life, whether the love of a pet, a family member, a significant other or a career that they love and truly fulfills them are often happier than those who don’t.  Those bonds of love can be part of the reason that they’re happy and give them the courage and strength to work through challenges that happen as a natural part of life, meaning they’re unhappy less often than other people.  Of course the reverse can be true as well: those who are happy tend to have more love in their life.  It’s not really easy to love a grump, but it is easier to love those who have a good attitude towards life.

That’s not to say that love or happiness means you’ll never have problems or that life will be perfect.  That’s not true for anyone, not even the happiest or most in-love person.  Everyone has bad days.  Those who depend on the love of another for their happiness are taking a big risk and putting a lot of responsibility where it doesn’t really belong.  It’s no one’s job but yours to ensure your happiness, health or satisfaction with life.  If you’re not in a situation that makes you happy and you’ve really given it a full effort to make it work you should leave.  I’m not encouraging that you chase every rainbow or every bit of greener grass, but if you’re not in a good situation and you can’t make it better and the other people in the situation won’t help you make it better, then be encouraged that there are many other opportunities and people out there.  You may find that you have to kiss a few frogs first as the saying goes though.

We’ll be talking on the Life and Business blog tomorrow more about the relationship between love, happiness and relationships, but for today I want to finish here with a bit of encouragement.  Love can be messy, as can life. But I believe there is hope and happiness to be found in each and every day if we’re open to it and willing to work for it.

A Love for Justice?

This month the topic we’ll be talking about a lot is the topic of love.  It may not be February, but with Passover, Good Friday and Easter this month, I think there are plenty of reasons to talk about the topic of love from a spiritual perspective.  And you just have to turn on the TV to a news station for a few minutes and see reasons why it’s always a good idea to talk about love from a life perspective. As I was looking for a verse to write about today I came across one that isn’t really what you think of when you think of love.  Psalm 37:28 reads:

“The Lord loves justice, and he won’t ever desert his faithful people. He always protects them, but destroys the children of the wicked.”

In truth most of us do love justice.  We love when the good guys win and the bad guys lose and go to jail (or worse).  It’s why fairy tales are so loved and shared, and what countless TV shows and episodes and written stories each year are based on.  Then there are the stories of people who overcome the challenges in their past, having left the past and those situations.  In those stories we’re not reflecting on the past or getting justice for the past, but celebrating the life that this person has chosen to make regardless of the past.  In some ways I think that’s justice too because there’s always a portion of “right” involved in justice.

As long as there’s evil in the world I think it’s important that we do love justice.  We should want good to prevail, victories to be achieved and happiness to flourish.  I think the biggest struggle we have is the violence that’s often attached to justice.  Sometimes justice is violent, there were many examples throughout the Bible of God’s justice being violent.  I think one of the best ways we can look at justice is not from the point of how ‘justice was served’ or the loss the bad guys experienced, but rather to celebrate the new potential that is now unleashed for the future.  I have a feeling that the tales of conquering heroes will continue, but rather than go over again how the victory was achieved, I’m going to encourage that we focus more on the happily ever after and start a new chapter to the story.

Reality Reflection: April Fool’s Day

April 1 is also known as April Fool’s Day.  It’s never been a holiday I’ve enjoyed, I’m not the type to play pranks on others or find any enjoyment when they’re played on me. It’s not that I don’t enjoy having fun, I just don’t enjoy any malicious types of humor.  Yet there are people who even make careers out of playing pranks and doing things that aren’t really helpful or friendly.  Jokes can be funny, sarcasm has a place, and there’s never too much laughter in the world.  But I believe in helping, not hurting, and the scars that are caused by pranks can leave very lasting results.

The name of the day itself raises an interesting point if looked at another way.  April Fool’s Day is a reminder that each and every one of us have been foolish at some point in time.  Maybe we’ve made a silly mistake, maybe we’ve trusted without due diligence, maybe we’ve been swindled or conned, but it’s a reminder that we’re not perfect and shouldn’t judge others for being foolish either.  It’s never fun to look back on those mistakes or failures or errors, nor do we want to look back on them again and again.  In fact, they hold the most power over us when we don’t take action to not make them again.  If you do something wrong once, that’s a mistake, but in repeating the mistake you venture into ‘fool’ territory.

Another April Fool’s Day has passed so you can breathe easier about the tricks being done hopefully for another year.  If you were played a trick on this year, maybe it’s the motivation you needed to find a little fun in your life and not take things so seriously.  Pranks are often played on those who forget that fun should be had in life and every moment doesn’t have to be serious or productive.  It may also be a reminder that you need to get your life on track and take things more seriously if you’ve been the fool of late.  And if you played some pranks I’d encourage you to reconsider next year because I know people who have been seriously hurt by what seemed to be a very simple prank, which makes you the fool, not them.