Reality Reflections: Face Your Life

Today I have an interesting challenge for you, inspired by the words of Colette Baron-Reid: “So many people are realizing that in spite of outer conditions we all have the capacity to choose to face our lives, turn on our light and address the shadows we have cast head on.”

The words that stood out to me when I read this was that we first and foremost have the capacity to choose to face our lives. It’s really a big wake up call to those of us who are unhappy with our lives and haven’t made any decisions about how to move forward. You’ve heard it before: the only person who can really do anything to change how happy you are with your life is you. I may be able to help you be happier or bring you things that make you happier, but you’ve got to choose to be happy about those things and welcome them into your life.

The second thing that stood out to me was the reminder that we have to “address the shadows we have cast head on.” I get it, our shadows (and what causes them) can be scary. It’s not exactly exciting to look at the mess you may be in.¬† It can be intimidating to talk with our boss, our family or our partner about our unhappiness. You may think that you know the reaction (or rejection) they’ll give you. I wish that everyone had the supportive relationships that I do in their lives. The unfortunate reality is that not everyone has someone in their life that supports them (shame on you if you’re not supportive of the people in your life).

Sometimes we can get through the mountains we face by drilling through, other times we have to take the time to go around, and sometimes we have to take what might be the most challenging route and go over those mountains. But we’ve either got to pick one of those routes or we’ll never get to the other side (it’s very unlikely that the mountain will move for you, although sometimes it does).

As you look ahead to the last few days of this month and what you’re going to do with the last 4 months of the year, I would encourage you to grab the courage and confidence to face those mountains, those challenges, those people, those fears, those things that you’ve let hold you back and choose that you’re going to move forward from this point on.

Space to Be Me

I was reminded again in an email this past week of how important it is to clear out space in your life. I like stuff as much (and maybe more) than the next person, but I also find huge value in freeing yourself from that which no longer pleases, inspires, encourages, fulfills or excites you. And yes, sometimes that can include people.

I think my line on keeping “stuff” starts with having a really good place to put everything and not having storage/organization solutions that frustrate you. For example I’m a big book lover and for the longest time I’ve been frustrated by traditional bookshelves, they’re all twice the depth of my books which leaves so much empty space, and takes up more space than it needs to. I’m looking forward in the near future to installing shelves that I can neatly store all of my books on. Another example would be using shelving spacers or stackers that help you get organized in the kitchen without stacking dishes of different types or sizes directly on top of each other. And I will never store winter clothes again without the use of space-saving bags that allow you to remove the air from them.

To an extent proper storage allows you to have a lot more stuff. It also helps you to give everything a proper place, and when everything has a place it’s not only much easier for you to find, it’s much easier for anyone who needs it to find. It also means you won’t have duplicates or triplicates of everything unless that’s what you want or need.

Do you have proper storage for everything in your home? Do you make time to go through those various storage and organization spaces and get rid of the things that you no longer want or need? It’s not just about having less, it’s about having the space to contribute in your own way to the world, to receive the best that others and the world have to offer, and having a life, people and things in it that make you feel open and comfortable about being yourself.

Will you join me in making room this week?

Listening for Encouragement

Psalm 23 is one of the most recognizable Bible passages. Many people hear it in church, but it’s also often shared at funerals or with those who are going through a challenging time in their lives. In some ways it reminds me of the Serenity Prayer which is used by countless self-help programs and groups. One of the things I love about Psalm 23 is that it brings us through the journey of our lives in just 6 short verses, talking about both high points and low points that we go through.

As I was thinking about this chapter and about our topic of the month I was reminded that sometimes what we need is to hear something as simple as Psalm 23 to find the peace, hope, encouragement, strength and perseverance to make it through another day. It’s not about having all the answers, having tons of money, having lots of friends, being well-known, or not having any issues or challenge or problems in life. That’s not the story of Faith or the Bible, despite what some people may say.

Throughout the Bible we’re reminded that there will be challenges we face and there is no guarantee of a great life on earth. However, we are assured if we’re people of faith that God will go with us through all challenges we face and that we’ve got the hope of heaven to look forward to because Jesus died for our sins and rose again. Earth is a chance for us to learn from the challenges we face, to
explore our individuality, to develop the gifts God has given each of us, to encourage each other, and to pave a better way for the next generation. Perfection isn’t expected or the goal on earth, instead it’s to live a life worthy of the God you believe in.

If you’re going through a challenging time in your life, I encourage you to print out copies of Psalm 23 and maybe even the Serenity Prayer to post in locations around your home, workplace, and car and anywhere else you go frequently. Don’t give up because it seems like the darkness is lasting for so long or the mountain seems too high. Rely on God to bring you through, and don’t forget to ask for help if you need it. After all, Jesus didn’t do His years of ministry on earth alone, He had men who worked closely with Him and women that He taught and trusted too.

Reality Reflection: A Little Communication

I was at a funeral service yesterday and it got me thinking about what my understanding of “traditional songs” are versus what other religious practices have as “traditional songs” and how my traditional songs aren’t necessarily theirs. There’s nothing wrong with each religious group or culture having their own traditions and songs, in fact it’s important because it makes them who they are. It’s also what makes people feel at home when they connect with these groups and even can be the reason they join these groups.

The challenge comes in when you’ve got people from other groups interacting with your group. In this internet accessible world it’s very easy to create a resource that visitors can tap into to be prepared for these things. To be completely honest I did do an online search to see what the typical practice was for this type of religious funeral service so that I was somewhat prepared. Had there been a helpful link to a blog post or other form of information on the funeral home’s page for the person who passed that would have been even better because in a matter of seconds I could have found out exactly what I needed to know about the specific plans for his funeral and what I should expect (and then I would worry a whole lot less about whether or not I was doing the right thing at the right time).

But this is about a much bigger conversation. There are so many ways to remove the isolation in many parts of our daily lives or at least limit it that we’re not tapping into. You hear all the time about buzz words or industry-specific terms that people don’t understand because it’s too technical or they’re new to the industry or business, or confusion over typical processes and procedures. It costs very little to put up a page on your website with all these items explained clearly. Then you’ve helped visitors feel a little more comfortable with you and you’ve established that you are someone to be trusted and that you’re willing to work with people to help them get up to speed and will do your best not to overwhelm them.

The same is true for our lives. If we took a few seconds to send out a text or call or email or write a note and communicate the details to those who need to know, we’d avoid so many fights and frustrations and our relationships would be healthier too. It’s important to set up a central communication point or method as a family so that everyone is aware of where notes would be or how best to get in touch with¬† whomever needs to be reached.

It’s amazing what a few seconds of research or considerate communication can do for someone. What will communication do for you this week?

Listen and Learn Together

Something I often say is that I don’t need to be everything to everyone. I have no problem admitting I don’t know everything about a particular topic, like spirituality, relationships or business. I can’t say I have a real interest to know everything either. However, that doesn’t mean I’m happy to be done learning or that I’m not willing to learn any more, because both of those would be big lies. I’m always interested in learning something new. I subscribe to dozens of daily newsletters on a variety of topics so that I can keep learning.

I’m curious, I like to watch TV and see how people do things, how they think, and even how crazy they are sometimes. I like to sit in a busy location and watch people go by. I like to read books and watch/listen to educational programs and so that I can be exposed to different ideas, new strategies, new ways of thinking and even things that will keep my imagination and curiosity alive.

So I’ll never give up learning and am always open to seeing things from a different perspective, trying things a different way or listening to what others have to say. But I’m not learning with the intention to be the absolutely exhaustive fount of knowledge on each and every topic. I don’t feel the need to know everything first because it’s probably not possible as we’re always learning new things and discovering new ways of exploring and analyzing. Second, there are billions of people in the world who also have great knowledge and when we bring our knowledge together not only do we combine what we know, we make the world a better place by choosing to work together.

The more you know the more connections you can make, more possibilities that will open to you and more ways you can make a difference. What will you learn today?

Choosing Compassion

I always find it interesting that the Bible is so full of topics that challenge us if we take any amount of time to really study them. From love and war to relationships and faith, the Bible is filled from cover to cover with unique situations, emotions and unique people who lived real lives and faced real challenges; many of those challenges, emotions and situations are things we face in our lives today. While most of us don’t have to walk to a well or river to get water and buy bread or flour at the food store, we still have to navigate relationships, governments, war, love, hate, jealousy, death and birth just like they did.

One of the things that comes through really clearly in the Bible is how people worked through the challenges in their lives. It’s something we study in history books as we look at historic presidents and leaders and famous inventors, but we read about more of the “normal” people in the Bible. We see how they navigate through potentially thorny relationships (think about Mary being pregnant with Jesus and Joseph initially planning to divorce her in the New Testament), we learn how they deal with bad news (Eli learned that his sons weren’t good and that God was going to judge them in 1 Samuel 3 and accepted it as God’s will), and we learn how they work hard because they love their families (Ruth worked hard in the fields to care for her mother-in-law Naomi).

The question is that we’ll all face challenges, but how will we choose to work through them? Will we work through them with frustration and anger, bashing things around, shoving others and pushing just because we’re unhappy with how things are going? Or will we choose to be compassionate to yourself and the people in your life? Because even if you’re facing a challenge and you didn’t ask for that challenge or put yourself in a position to receive that challenge you’ve still got a choice with how you’re going to deal with it. Will you choose compassion and patience like Jesus so often did or will you get angry at the world for what they’ve forced on you?

“The clearest and prevailing reason why Jesus did what he did and said what he said was because of his compassion for others, his tender loving mercy. Pray for the people whom you could be glad you are not like. Pray for them until you are ready to receive them knocking at the door of your heart.” Br. Curtis Almquist

Reality Reflection: Who wants more tragedy?

It’s hard to miss all the news reports about shootings or tragic deaths or other tragic experiences that happen around the world. I’m kind of amazed that it happens day in and day out. You would think that we would finally get the picture and start doing something different with our lives instead of submitting them to drugs, alcohol, bad influences, and general destruction. Of course there are the tragedies that you have no control over and have not really caused like cancer or tsunamis or being hit by a drunk driver. But the simple fact is almost everyone, if not everyone, has been through a tragedy. Would you really ever wish that experience on someone else?

And yet every day we do and say things to others that just aren’t nice. We choose to post the negative reviews instead of contacting someone who could help resolve the situation. We send scathing emails and texts about things instead of just moving on or trying to work things out. We make up stories because we’re jealous or insecure and spread them to anyone who will listen. We grab a gun rather than avoiding someone or telling someone who could help. We don’t think through our words or actions before they happen when 2 seconds of thought could avoid serious repercussions.

I know life’s not perfect but I’m getting really tired of the nastiness, the excuses people throw out about why things happened, and the reasons why they didn’t do anything to make a difference. If you’ve been living with some of those bad habits, aren’t you tired of being nasty and holding onto the anger in your life? Does that anger really benefit you? Do we really need more tragedies in the world?