Seeking Mercy, Finding Healing

I thought today we’d take a look at the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:

“Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.
But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”
So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.
“My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”
And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.”

Bartimaeus’ story reminds me of many of our lives. So many of us are crying out for some attention, even something as simple as just to get a word in edgewise. With the wonderful inventions of technology we’ve been given the ability to connect with more people than ever, which both helps and hurts our cause. It’s easier to get an apology to a family member, communicate a message of love to our partner or learn something that could further our lives. That doesn’t mean that they’ll listen of course.

Which is exactly what Bartimaeus experiences in the beginning. But Bartimaeus doesn’t give up. He persists in sharing his message, believing that he knows the truth and that Jesus can help him. Maybe Bartimaeus would have run into Jesus another time, but more likely this would be his only chance to connect with Jesus. Fortunately we usually get more than one chance to make things right.

So Jesus hears Bartimaeus and decides to listen. Then Jesus, who knows everything, asks Bartimaeus what could be considered an obvious question: what do you want? Sometimes it’s important to ask the stupid questions to make sure we’re on the same page. In Jesus’ case, He was checking Bartimaeus’ faith and heart out.

Bartimaeus just wanted a little attention from Jesus, what he got was a whole lot more. Sometimes when we turn to Jesus for help, or reach out to others, we get a whole lot more than we asked for. He may have been happy to just have been noticed by Jesus, happy for people to stop telling him to shut up and just listen to what he had to say, but I’m sure Bartimaeus’ dream was to see again. Maybe you’ve been asking Jesus for a job, but He’s got something bigger and better for you. Maybe you’ve been praying for a relationship to be fixed, when God’s got a better one in store for you. Maybe you want healing, but God wants to do something bigger with your life story. I can’t answer for what God will do in your life, but I do know that like Bartimaeus you have to get out there and start seeking if you want to find.

What about you? What are you seeking? Will you join me this week in being open to what God could have in store for you?

Reality Reflections: What were we exploring anyway?

This month as we’ve talked about the topic of exploring and doing some exploring myself, I’ve found myself asking a kind of funny question, maybe one you’ve asked before after going through something: what were we exploring anyway? The question isn’t really about the literal “what” of what you were exploring (i.e. a hill, a battlefield, a store, a relationship etc.), but really about why we were exploring it. If you really take the time to think about it you can assign a reason or goal behind each thing you do. For example why watch cat/dog videos? Some might say to not watch the depressing news or because they love cats/dogs and others might say because it makes them happy, and those are all legitimate reasons for watching dog/cat videos. There might be a necessary follow-up question of why did you watch so many dog/cat videos that might bring up some questions to consider about how you spend your time though.

But what happens when the ‘why’ doesn’t line up with what you’re doing? For example if you watched videos of dogs playing in water but your goal is to learn about birthing puppies the exploration (watching dogs play in water) doesn’t line up with the desired result (learning about dog births). Now, we don’t always know what the desired result is and sometimes we know what a general result would be but not the specific result we were really after. For example if you watched videos of dogs playing in water and your initial/large goal was to learn about dogs, you’re doing that. But if when you really think about it your goal is to learn specifically about birthing puppies, you’re not doing the right exploration. I reached that conclusion myself when I was on a date with my partner this week, that the general result was definitely accomplished (being together and visiting a Halloween/autumn attraction), but the unknown specific goal really wasn’t, or that the chosen exploration didn’t really line up with what we needed (a slightly more intimate, less pressured, less rushed evening).

Now, just because the end result doesn’t line up with the initial goal it doesn’t mean that the exploration was pointless or wasted. It could still be a great experience and opportunity to learn. In fact sometimes it’s good to explore something simply for the practice of being curious and seeing what else our world holds. And I’m not saying that every single thing you do needs to be analyzed to this deep level (I can’t stand that), but that taking just a quick minute to really see if what you’re planning or doing is really what you want could help you manage expectations or alter plans. So this week I would encourage you to be a little more mindful about what you’re doing and why and let that help you make smarter decisions about your life and relationships, and have more fun too.

The Expectations of Exploring

This month we’ve been talking in part about the topic of exploring, and I did some exploring with my partner to a Halloween/autumn attraction recently and either I wasn’t in the mood for the exploration or it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. I think it’s a little of both, but it got me thinking about what happens when we go out and do the brave/courageous thing and explore and don’t find what we expect, or the reality didn’t live up to the hype or we find that the destination is really just a beginning. We get to the end of the road and say something like “now what?” or “that’s it?” or “there’s more?”

I think part of the reality is that life is a journey and even when we explore we’re not necessarily going to end up at a true destination, but that what we thought were destinations are really just stops in the journey. But let’s talk about making the most of your explorations. First, know that not all explorations will be successful or awesome. Even if you put a good spin on them, there are some things that just don’t work out. Yes, they can be chalked up to learning experiences and attempts, and they’re important to have as long as that’s not all that’s happening. If it’s not a great exploration, learn what you can from it and move on.

Second, manage your expectations. Yes, you should go into everything with a positive expectation, or at least the expectation of learning something, but that doesn’t mean that your expectation will be that it’s the end-all, be-all. I can remember going on a trip to a bunch of National Parks among other things with my family as a child and being incredibly underwhelmed by the Grand Canyon, the vast canyon that countless people have raved about since it was discovered. But I’ve seen pictures of the Grand Canyon since then that have blown me away because of the cloud formations or weather that’s part of the image. It’s important to note that I clicked on the link for the picture not because I loved the Grand Canyon, or because I was expecting to see another picture of a hole in the ground, but because I hoped that maybe I would get to see something that was a glimpse of what many people experience when they look at it, and I did.

I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to the Grand Canyon or that Halloween/autumn attraction again or not, but I’m not going to let some not-so-great explorations ruin me forever. I’m still excited to visit more National Parks and more local attractions, and maybe with a little better attitude and slightly adjusted expectations, I’ll have a better time even if it’s not my pick. Sometimes it’s not even about the destination, but about the thrill of exploring. Yes, the destination is great, but sometimes the journey getting there is even better.

Exploring God

This month one of the things we’re talking about is the topic of exploring. I think it’s important for us to spend time exploring as part of our lives, I don’t think it’s healthy for us to stay in our little bubbles and not consider the other people and parts of the world that surround us. I don’t think that God wants us to stay in our little bubbles either, otherwise we won’t be able to share the Good News with the world. But the more I explore the world, the more I hear, the more people I meet, the more I learn that there are some things that don’t change and are universal around the world. These are things like family, enjoying sunshine, wanting to be loved, the power of love, the challenge and power of communication, and the joy of being a child are universal.

Something else that won’t change no matter where you go or what you do is God. That’s not something that I say because it sounds good or just something I believe, it’s something God has committed to. Malachi 3:6 says “I am the Lord, and I do not change…” With that verse in mind we can go through the whole Bible and explore who God is and get to know Him, knowing that what the Bible shares about Him is true and hasn’t changed. Yes, there are things that have changed from when the Bible was written to today with regard to culture/society, but that’s not the case with God. God has remained the same and that’s a good thing.

This week I would encourage you to explore the Bible on who God is and take time to explore your relationship with Him in a new way. Maybe it’s starting a lunch time devotional time or taking walks in the woods or parks to talk with God (without listening to something on your phone/audio device), maybe it’s memorizing a verse or delving into a particular aspect of who He is as the Bible shares, or maybe it’s joining a Facebook group or local group to do a devotional each week. What will you do to deepen and explore your relationship with God this week?

Have a Little Respect

Over the past week we’ve been hearing stories of #metoo, of primarily women who had unwanted attention showered on them by bosses, people of authority and other guys in general. It’s actually a campaign that’s more than 10 years old, but you and I most likely heard about it really over the past week and weekend with the news breaking from Hollywood. Many of my blog posts are about relationships. We’re all in relationships, whether of the sexual kind or the friend/coworker kind. That’s how our world runs. But not everyone is sensitive to or aware of, or caring how damaging seemingly simple things can be to a person and a relationship, not to mention the big issues like rape and domestic abuse.

As far as romantic relationships I fully support working with a counselor or therapist and trying to work things out when you and your partner hit a rough patch.  We all change as we grow up and grow older, and adding kids to the mix changes the dynamic between the two of you as well. Not to mention all the exterior challenges like work and health and other people that can be like a baseball or tennis ball automatic thrower that just keeps beating at your relationship. But sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away. It’s not always the easy thing and it’s not always the popular thing. And depending on the situation, even if it is the right thing to do you or your partner may have a season of hurting and healing ahead as you deal with the cause of the fallout and the subsequent separation.

I don’t believe that anyone should be in a relationship of any kind with someone who’s violent or demeaning. But as we’ve talked about here and overall as a nation and world, there’s a lot of growing and changing that has to happen with regards to race, violence and women, beyond all that we’ve already done to work on those issues. This most recent discussion won’t solve all the problems, but if anything, I hope it gives a few more women the strength and courage they need to stand up and get out of the not healthy situation they’re in. The violence may be all they (or you) know, all they grew up with or the only way they know men to behave.  I may not have the horrific stories that other women do, but I’ve experienced more than one uncomfortable situation with a guy.  I know that there is something on the other side of that wall. I know that each and every woman is capable of saying no, of having a say in how they’re treated and has something amazing to contribute to society other than, or in addition to, their physical capabilities as a woman and mother.

It starts with all of us women standing up and saying that it’s not right for anyone to be treated disrespectfully and doing something about it.  But nothing can happen if the men of the world won’t stand up as well and say that they’re going to treat women better and follow through on that promise.  Danny Brown shared a powerful blog post recently on the subject from a guy’s point of view and I would encourage you to check it out as well.  Let’s work together to make sure there are fewer ‘me too’ stories in the future.

The Lord Gives Me Strength

This weekend in my devotional I reflected on God’s strength, and wanted to share a few more thoughts here today based on Psalm 3:4-5:

“I will pray to the Lord
and He will answer me from His holy mountain. Selah
I can lie down and go to sleep, and I will wake up again,
because the Lord gives me strength.”

Sometimes this life just makes us tired. There are all the pressures that we face on a daily basis including those we’ve added to our pile for no reason. Many of our problems are valid problems and we should take our responsibilities seriously. But sometimes what we need to do is just stop and bask in the strength that only God has. Sometimes we need a reality check on exactly how big the world is and how small our problems are. Sometimes we need to be reminded that God is God and will take care of everything that’s under His care, which is everything.

When was the last time you just stopped for a while and reflected on God and who He is to you? When was the last time you stopped and let Him reassure you that He’s got it all under control? Maybe it’s time today that you stopped and took a break despite the long to-do list you’ve got. Maybe it’s time to delegate things that you weren’t willing to delegate in the past. Or maybe all the fear and frustration and crazy feelings are just God reminding you that you haven’t really been paying attention and have been missing out on His clues along the way.

I encourage you to take a little more time today to find that Holy Mountain spot for you and God, whether it’s a bench, your bed, a chair, the bathroom, the back deck, a hiking spot, your office, the church or wherever it is that you and God have your best and most attentive quiet time. Work on getting back into the habit of relying on and resting in God’s strength all the time rather than just when the world seems to be falling apart.

Reality Reflection: What’s Enough?

This week I’ve been contemplating a difficult topic in our world of consumerism and extreme focus on success and wealth. If you’ve been in the self-help industry for a while, especially the success and career related portions, you’ve probably run across people who say they can help you grow exponentially, and they talk about the people they’ve helped earn multi-six figures and millions (or more) each year. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making good money and with being financially well-off. Having financial resources can make many things in your life easier, and you’ve got lots of opportunities to invest in others and in our world. So here’s the question: is it OK if I don’t really want to make millions each year?

I know it may sound like a silly question, but really, there are people who would be very happy with a fraction of the money some of us make (even if we’re only making 30k per year). Yet I also understand how valuable (and powerful) someone can become when they have all those resources at their disposal. And some people find the thought of having that much wealth intimidating or even fear-inducing. Yet I understand that for some of us that by really living our life purpose we’re going to make lots of money. So is it wrong to want to (or actually) make lots of money, and/or is it wrong to not want to make lots of money?

I think it’s OK to be comfortable where you are as long as you’re covering your basic needs (and the needs of your kids or others under your direct care), and have at least a little plan for the future. It’s also OK to want to earn more and to put in the effort that will get you there. I think it comes down to two questions: are you at peace with where you are financially in your life and are you fulfilled? If you’re not at peace and not fulfilled then it’s time to make some changes to your life and start making more money. That doesn’t mean you have to make millions, just more, and while you may not be ready for millions today, there may be a day down the road that you will be. What are your thoughts on how much is “enough”?

5 Tips for Having a Great Day

Today I thought I’d share 5 things you can do to have a great day, or at least give your day a better chance than usual at being great.

1-wear something you feel good in. Obviously, for some this has to be work appropriate, but work attire has changed dramatically over the past decade and even in the more conservative industries there are still lots of ways you can wear something you feel good, confident, comfortable and maybe even sexy in but still fit the company dress code.

2-pack snacks. I looked in my bag the other day and discovered I was out of snacks and was extremely disappointed. I make it a point to always have a granola bar of some kind or trail mix in my bag, in addition to whatever snacks I pack in a separate to take with me on my adventures that day. If you bring the snacks, you control what you eat and that’s not just about eating healthy, it’s about eating happy too.

3-have your favorite drink. Is there a type of tea or coffee or juice that you keep for special occasions? Starting your day with that is a great way to remind yourself how special you are and that your day ahead is worth enjoying.

4-watch a cute animal video. Yes, I totally went there. One of the first things I do is not check my email or the news when I get to my computer, but rather to stop in and see what’s new on my favorite Explore cameras or the latest pet videos on Care2 or the latest cute selections on YouTube. The emails and (bad) news will still be there after I’ve had a smile or two.

5-tell your partner you love them. Maybe it’s a text because they leave before you get up or a quick call while you’re both driving in to work (hands free of course) or maybe even a note on your pillow or by the coffee pot for them. Starting off the day expressing love is always better than starting with a fight.

What are your secrets for setting your day up for success?

Spreading Peace

Our verse this week is Psalm 29:11: “May the Lord make his people strong. May the Lord bless his people with peace.”

You can flip on any TV channel or open any newspaper or magazine and see that there’s a serious lack of peace in this world right now. If I asked you about work, your relationships and your family, at least one of those 3 topics would bring up a situation that lacks peace. I totally understand, after all there are some seriously messed up people in the world. It doesn’t really matter how they got to be that way, but they sure challenge those of us who normally are pretty decent people (no one is perfect, right?).

First, let’s talk about those difficult people. Some are totally oblivious to the damage they cause, others are fully aware of the destruction they leave in their wake. I don’t believe that they should have our sympathy or sorrow, somewhere along the line they chose to live and act the ways that they do. The best thing we can do is understand that just because they’re miserable people we don’t have to let them make our lives miserable too. Given the sheer number, it’s almost impossible to avoid them, which is why it’s important to understand them. But just because we understand that they are who they are, it doesn’t mean we should spend tons of time with them.

Second, let’s talk about spreading peace around the world. Peace spreads through peaceful people. If you want to spread peace, you can’t overreact to miserable people (including drivers). You have to remain calm and collected. You can impact people by being peaceful yourself. And, there will always be opportunities that pop up that will allow you to spread the message of hope and peace with others verbally and through actions, like going on missions trips or when friends ask about your positive attitude in the face of challenges.

Third, looking back at Jesus’ ministry on earth, there were people who didn’t like Him, and He was a really likable guy. You can’t make everyone happy nor can you know the right thing to do every time. Jesus set the example of spending time with people who wanted to spend time with Him and were good for Him. While Jesus couldn’t avoid the teachers of the law, He didn’t make a point of spending a lot of time where He wasn’t wanted.

This week I encourage you to spend time with people who lift you up and encourage you to be the best version of yourself (including Jesus). You’ll feel better about your relationships and be able to find peace and satisfaction with your life.

Reality Reflection: Have a Little Faith

The past few weeks have really tested many people’s concepts of their safety and understanding of how the world around us is operating. From massive hurricanes to violence perpetrated by individuals in both mass-casualty situations and too many “simple” murders and other acts of violence in cities around the US and the world, we’re really seeing our world change in ways that we don’t want it to. It becomes pretty easy pretty quick to feel like giving up.  To accept that life is just this difficult and that’s how it is going to be moving forward, to accept that any home we build could be destroyed by mother nature, to accept that it’s not safe to be in large gatherings, but if we accept these things, there’s really no safe place anywhere for anyone. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that to be my future, my reality.

But then you hear about people making donations of money, food, shelter, help and even blood. You hear about people risking their lives for each other. You hear about the moms and dads who put their lives on the line to figure out what happened and protect the rest of us, from surgeons to missionaries to soldiers to police officers to those who fly weather planes, some of these people do their jobs without a guarantee of going home ever again, yet they willingly put their lives on the line every day. Why? Because they still have hope in a better future for the rest of us. They still believe that we’re worth saving, or that there are more good people than bad in the world. Some may get up each day with the purpose of defeating or beating the destruction and destroyers, but I don’t think they are able to stay sane or focused for very long. Instead, I believe that those who are able to put their lives on the line day in and day out do it because they believe there’s something and someone worth fighting for.

If you think about it, it’s not the evil or darkness that can sustain us. Without some serious scientific improvements and major changes to our world, it’s not possible for all of us to be sustained if all we knew was violence and night, war zones show that and some still struggle to recover now, decades after the bullets stopped. We need sunshine, community gatherings, schools, green pastures, safe places to work on scientific and medical challenges, and homes we can trust won’t fall down around us. It’s not about creating a perfect world or everyone having innocence, but about being safe and comfortable enough to be fulfilled in the present and be part of building a better future. More violence isn’t the answer or step forward in creating that, better, future, contribution, faith and hope in the community that we all live in is.