Reality Reflection: America is Awesome

As I was thinking about what to write today I discovered that National Park Week ends on Sunday.  National Park Week is a great reminder each year of the natural treasures we’ve got here in the US, and an invitation for us to not only visit them but support them too by volunteering on some upkeep and other projects at the parks.  With over 400 National Park affiliated areas around the US, there’s a really good chance that you can check out at least one in the next few months, or make one part of your summer travel plans.

Visiting National Parks as a kid with my family was definitely a highlight of the vacations we took together, especially some of the ones that aren’t household names like the Black Hills and Salem Massachusetts.  I still love getting out in nature as an adult and visiting some of these places that were discovered and enjoyed by many generations that came before me. One of the cool things about National Parks is that if you don’t want to get into the history there’s tons of great nature to explore without ever having to hear about the history side of things, but there’s lots of history if you want to get into it.

But after exploring the National Parks, you’re usually hungry, and there are some really awesome restaurants around the US to enjoy. Shows like Best Thing I Ever Ate; Diners, Drive-ins and Dives; and Food Paradise give viewers a look into some of the best and unique eats around the US. I’m always amazed when I watch shows like these because there are so many different recipes for the same food favorites and takes on classics that you could easily eat something different every day for the rest of your life and not repeat at any one restaurant (even if you might want to). There are so many chefs around America that are doing great things with food, whether you’re looking for vegan, Mexican, fried, salads, sandwiches or classics, whether you’re looking for a great sit-down meal or something on the go, that it’s impossible to give them all credit, but we can try.

I’m so thankful that we’ve got so many awesome opportunities to enjoy life and food here in America, what are your favorites?

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Where’s Your Heart?

As we get close to wrapping up another month and entering a new one, I’ve been thinking about getting a fresh perspective on life purpose. I believe that everyone needs to have some purpose to their life, maybe even several. For example part of your life purpose can be being a parent, part of it can be developing apps to help connect families in distant parts of the world, part of it can be counseling victims of domestic abuse.

But sometimes I think that we get so caught up in doing all of the things that go into living our purpose that we forget to nourish the very important core of our purpose: the passion, heart and drive that got you on that purpose path in the first place. Yes, it’s easy to break purpose down into a series of tasks to do, but then it becomes more of a job or simply a process, rather than a purpose.

Purpose is defined as the reason something exists or is done, to resolve to do something. Purpose gives you the energy, the courage, the motivation, the encouragement, the drive and belief in what you’re doing to be something that not only has to get done, but has value beyond the simple results that can occur when you do something.

If you’ve been busy doing things in life, this weekend I would encourage you to take time to get back to the heart and spirit of what got you onto this purpose path in the first place. I’m planning to re-read some books I haven’t read in a while that I read when I was first diving into my business and maybe take a quiet walk too or make some time to meditate. Why? So that I can not only “do” my purpose, but keep the flame and passion behind it alive and be a light to others.

What will you do this weekend to reignite your purpose?

Blessed by God

In thinking about what to write today I decided what I need, and what many people need, is a little more inspiration in their lives. We’re a tired world: tired of money problems, tired of cranky kids, tired of bad food, tired of terrible drivers. So in my search for inspiration, I picked up The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson and the book of Job. I hope you’ll see the inspiration and begin your own journey for living a more inspired and blessed life.

The Prayer of Jabez:
The book the Prayer of Jabez is actually about a person who’s found in the Bible, Jabez. We read Jabez’s story in 1 Chronicles 4: “There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.”
The conclusion that Wilkinson reached when he studied the prayer was that sometimes we’re not asking the right question or praying the right prayer. The fact is that great men and women of God think differently than the rest of the people. Wilkinson writes “He [Jabez] left it entirely up to God to decide what the blessings would be and where, when, and how Jabez would receive them.”

I love this statement that Wilkinson makes as well: “Even though there is no limit to God’s goodness, if you didn’t ask Him for a blessing yesterday, you didn’t get all that you were supposed to have.” WOW. It’s so true: God never said he had a limit on the number or kind of blessings we could have. Take Wilkinson’s challenge and pray Jabez’s prayer at least once every day and see what amazing things show up in your life.

Job:
Job is a book of the Bible dedicated to telling the story of a God-fearing man who lost almost everything when he was tested by satan, but the story ends with God blessing Job with more than he started with. I’m probably simplifying things calling the experience told in the book of Job a “challenge”, but what resulted was an amazing display of who God is and who we are. Job 38-41 is a massive outpouring of words directly from God. God speaks to many people throughout the Bible, but nowhere else does God really let loose like he does here. Job’s reply to God in Job 42:3 shows the incredible humility of a man totally blessed by God, and totally amazed by the blessing of God’s words in his life: “You [God] asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I [Job]-and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.” Job learned a valuable lesson: in the midst of God’s blessings, there can be challenges, but God will never leave you hanging.

When was the last time that you took time to inhale and immerse yourself in God’s wonder in nature? Maybe you did this past weekend with some Earth Day activities. We’re such driven, busy people that taking the time to be one with God in nature seems almost frivolous. But maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what we need to feel like the people God created us to be again.

We’re truly blessed to be living in the time of transformation and learning that we’re living in. Although there are many broken pieces and challenges ahead, I believe that one of the biggest keys to successful transformation is each of us stepping up and being the leaders God has created us to be. I hope that this week you’ll take time to seek God’s blessing in your life, however He decides to bless you.

Reality Reflection: Peace is Possible

I heard the phrase “peace is possible” this week and it got me thinking because as much as I believe in the possibility of peace and hope for world peace some day, sometimes it feels like it’s more of a concept than a truly possible reality.  Like the difference of seeing an architect’s plans for a building on paper versus the building actually being built and being able to touch it and walk through it.  Both are “real” but the physical building seems more real than the paper drawing.

Also I think we’ve been hurt more than once by people who have great words and ideas but never follow through with actions, so we tend to be more distrustful when it comes to the intangible things of the world, like love, honor and peace.  This is especially painful and difficult when it’s the same person or group repeatedly who says great stuff but doesn’t follow through, like the drug user or alcoholic in our life who promises to change but doesn’t, or the boss who thanks you for your honestly good ideas and those ideas end up in the garbage almost before you leave the room.

So is peace really possible?

Beyond the few people who seem to thrive off of chaos and discord in the world, I think most people really would like peace.  We’re not talking about a world without challenges or anything to stimulate us, a “perfect” world, but a world where bombs dropping and genocide or civil wars or slavery aren’t the daily reality for some people.  For those who are so busy strategizing and putting energy into planning how to kill someone (or many people), why don’t they put their talents to work on how to kill cancer or HIV or Alzheimers or resolve world hunger and the need for safe and accessible water around the world?  There are plenty of issues in the world that will only be resolved with the help of great thinkers and people with specific skills, skills that are currently not being used for the good of the most people.

I think one place peace starts is with more people believing that it’s actually possible.  Because if we believe it’s actually possible we’ll think, act and react differently, which will create a ripple effect wherein other people start to think, act, and react differently too.  While one little ripple can’t be a tidal wave, it certainly can and does start one.  You may not see an instant change in your life when you choose to believe that peace is possible, but over time the little things will add up and it will be clear that life is better with peace than without.

Dealing with Difficult People

I’ve had conversations lately with some people about interpersonal relationships, especially with regards to dealing with difficult people. Sometimes you have to deal with these people because they’re coworkers or people in leadership at your job, others you can avoid or mostly avoid by not going to the same parties or events or just not being with them at the events. But before we get into dealing with these people I thought it would be important to talk about the ‘what if’ of what if you’re that difficult person?

For some people accepting or understanding that they’re the problem is difficult. Maybe they don’t realize how their words and behaviors affect others (which is usually easier to talk through) or maybe they believe they’re entitled and should be given special treatment and can treat people however they want (which means they may not care that you’re unhappy). It’s also never an easy conversation to have with someone, to tell them that they’re mean or disrespectful or inconsiderate. These types of conversations can go really poorly, they can go well and things can improve, and the conversation can go well but not lead to any real results or make any difference.

While I think everyone has room for improvement in their life, I don’t think we always have to point out to someone that there’s an issue. If it’s an issue that you can just vent to friends or family and you can just deal with it or you don’t really plan to stick around for long, you don’t really need to address it unless you really feel strongly about it.

Most people who deal with a difficult person can’t really lay down the law and be bluntly honest.  If you do it that way it’s a great way to get yourself in a lot of trouble or ruin a lot of relationships, unless that’s something you’re allowed to do, like a tough-love coach or consultant (think of Bar Rescue or some of the other TV shows with hosts who do company renovations).  In those cases they don’t have to be delicate about telling the difficult person how difficult they are. Sometimes they are completely aggressive about it, but typically they have the experience to be able to have a constructive but eye opening conversation with the difficult person about exactly how their behaviors are negatively impacting the people in their lives.

So for the rest of us, you want to address it, you’ve got a couple of options. If you think they’re receptive or they give you the opening (“I can’t understand why no one sticks around at this job?!”), you can start to bring it up and see how it goes. If you can’t wait for the potential opening and really feel that you have to say something, I would start with why you’re bothering to bring it up (for example that you’re really committed to the relationship you have with them or to the company you’re working for), tell them you’re not sure if they’re aware of it or not and politely explain how you feel, and then share some specific situations which have impacted you negatively, and what would be helpful to improving the situation.

In all honesty everyone has their difficult moments, but some people choose to make a lifestyle out of them, and some people fall into the bad habit of being difficult frequently.  I encourage you to take a moment this weekend and apologize to some people who you’re hurt recently when you were difficult, or consider if you’re one of those frequently difficult people who needs to make some changes.

Earth Day Encouragement

Earth Day is less than a week away, and as I was reflecting on some of the earth/nature related Bible verses, the earth related events I know about coming up this weekend, about tax time, and still about Easter which is only a few weeks ago, I was reminded that it all eventually circles back to one thing: community.

Let me explain. Yes, the Bible tells of God doing things for just one or a few people, but Easter is really about everyone, not just one person or a few people. Everyone pays taxes, because it’s too big of a burden for just one person to take care of. The earth is something we all share and we’re all going to either keep it or lose it depending on how we live on it. As much as we’re all individuals and God sees us that way and has individual relationships with each of us, we’re all still part of a body of believers and called to meet together, care for each other and love each other.

Earth Day is one of those things that individually we’re responsible for doing our part to pay better attention to how we live on the earth as well as make sure we give back to the earth. But it’s only when we look at our collective effort that we can really see the difference over the years since 1970 when Earth Day officially began. It’s only when we recycle all year long, and not just on Earth Day, that we’ll make a difference. It’s only when we consistently choose the environmentally friendly choices that we begin to see a difference.

The same is true for our faith communities. You may not think you’re doing much only talking with one person about what faith means to you, but when many people are talking with others about their faith, not only does the Great commission not seem so overwhelming, but it actually looks like we’re making progress spreading the word.

So today I encourage you not to give up. Don’t be disheartedned if you don’t see your personal efforts having huge effects. Take the time to be part of your community and see what your community is doing to make a difference in the world, both your local community for Earth Day and your church community for the Great Commission. I’m not suggesting that when you see everyone else is doing the work that you let others do all the work and don’t give a personal effort, but rather be encouraged that the work you’re doing in connection with the work they’re doing is making a difference.

“Sometimes—by sheer determination–we can just kick the stone away from the door of the tomb and march out triumphantly into Resurrection Life. More often, we must wait: wait for circumstances to change, wait upon on God, wait on others for help. When Lazarus was called out of the tomb, Jesus said: “unbind him.” You –you friends and family of Lazarus—you unbind him. Sometimes we cannot unbind ourselves, but have to wait for others to help us into freedom.” Br. Mark Brown

Reality Reflections: Pictures and People

I understand that some people only respond to strength, and that’s one of the reasons that people (countries) go to war or send bombs. I wish that wasn’t the case, I wish that there was another way of making a big and clearly understandable statement without killing the people that we share the planet with, not to mention not hurting the planet either. Sometimes it seems unavoidable, like with WW2 and Hitler, or with the Rwandan Genocide in the early 90’s, those types of evil have to be stopped, and many people are willing to accept the cost of going to war or sending bombs as a result. But one of the reasons I think some people are comfortable with going to war or sending bombs in some situations that are less clear is because they don’t understand the place/people they’re attacking.

As I was thinking about what to write on today I came across this article with pictures from China. While China may not be quite the closed/secretive nation that some other countries are, I don’t think it’s a known country like France, England or the US. I certainly don’t know a lot about it outside from what I know historically or from the business side of things from the few companies I’ve advised from there. So paging through the photos I was again struck by how much China looks like other countries around the developed world, including the US. It certainly makes the people who live there seem a whole lot more like me than some unknown entity.

Every corner of the world is different, but from a few photographs some similarities are clear, maybe enough similarities that we can begin to understand that we’re not all that different after all, especially with regards to the things that matter most. We live in small homes and large high rises, we go out in nature, we worship, we spend time with family and friends, we eat, we run businesses, we work jobs, we remember history, and we work towards tomorrow. I don’t think it’s necessary to share our deepest secrets with the world or publicize everything, but if sharing photos like these can help us avoid wars in the future, or encourage us to act sooner when tragedy strikes, it’s something that should be done more often, from all around the world.

What things have helped shift your perspective or understanding of a place or culture in a positive way?