Reality Reflection: Independence

This week coming up in the US we’ve got Independence Day. As I was reflecting on the history of the day and the topics of freedom and celebration that surround it, I circled back around to the official name of the day: independence. Just about every kid you ever meet will use the phrase “no I can do it” even if they’re really not quite capable yet, because they want to do it themselves and be on their own so badly (or be big enough like their older siblings). It’s an important stage of growth, learning to do things on your own, but as we’ve gotten older I think some of us have lost that independent spirit, or at least the important aspects of it.

Independence goes hand in hand with responsibility. Whether that means wiping up the water you spilled after trying to fill your cup as a kid, or paying bills on time and having money left over in your account for emergencies and special occasions as an adult, if you really want to stand on your own, to have more victories in your life, you have to start taking responsibility. Take responsibility for your dreams, desires and actions (or lack thereof), and start doing something different if you don’t like the direction things have been going in.

Independence is something to celebrate. There’s something incredibly satisfying about saying that you did something all by yourself, even as an adult.  So take time this coming week to celebrate the ways you’re standing on your own, and make a commitment to be responsible and own the independence that you’ve been staring at, perhaps for years.

The Gift of Strength

As I was contemplating what to write about today I was thinking about what strength allows us to do or helps us to do, even if we’re not aware of our strength in that area yet. Yes, strength helps you stand your ground, gives you the courage to try new things and makes you stand out in a crowd of average people, but strength is also a power. It’s the power to conquer, to overcome, to be victorious.

In some ways the easy thing to do in life is to just let things go and let others take care of them. To not really care about the impact your ways of living are having on the planet. To let the problems of the world be other people’s problems (it’s not your fault, why should you fix it?). But ultimately that’s a selfish way of living, and until you’re truly and completely self sufficient, it’s inconsiderate of you to believe that everyone should cater to you, and you not reciprocate in any way.

So yes, use your strengths to overcome and be victorious in your life, but then take your skills, abilities, knowledge, and resources and help someone else. Let your strength support someone who’s struggling and bring you both a great victory. There’s really no reason for suffering in the world (aside from the evil that influences the world) with all of the skills, talent and strength that we have as a community.

But the case may be that you need to use some strength in your own life first before you can share your strength with others. So this summer I encourage you to spend time conquering your bad habits, improving your productivity, doing more that fulfills you, growing your relationships and removing from your life stuff and people that are holding you back. What areas of your life are you going to work on being stronger in?

Strong with God

This week I’ve been thinking about strength and courage and how so often we talk about strength and courage as something we have to grow or be or become. But a devotional reminded me that sometimes we can be strong or find our strength because there’s someone stronger than us standing between us and whatever or whomever is challenging us. God does ask us to be brave and courageous, but never asks us to be stronger or braver than He will be for us.

Throughout the Bible there are examples of God saying that He will go with and before people as they do the work that He has called them to do. God does sometimes ask us to take a step of faith, a courageous step, but never one that He thinks we’re not ready for or able to do.

There are also countless statements throughout the Bible to how powerful, all knowing, and capable God is, from the flood to caring for the sparrows. God took the time to create each and every creature on earth, He knows them intimately and knows their beginnings and endings, their comings and goings.

Where the Bible calls us to pull on the Armor of God, it talks about pulling on tools, strength and protection from God, not anything like the physical armor that is used in wars here on earth. God gives us each the opportunity to pull on that armor, He doesn’t believe in leaving us defenseless.

This week don’t be afraid to use the tools of protection and strength that God has put in your life, you don’t have to be strong on your own.

“You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory [and my honor], and the One who lifts my head. With my voice I was crying to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. I lay down and slept [safely]; I awakened, for the Lord sustains me.” Psalm 3:3-5 AMP

Reality Reflection: Something To Smile About

Some days when the sun comes up we’re not so excited, but today as I watched the sun slowly rise and add light to the land what I was feeling was hope. It helps that yesterday was cloudy and cool, but there’s something special and exciting about summer mornings. Maybe it has to do with old memories of waking up early to drive to the beach and seeing the sun come up as we drove. Or maybe it just has to do with summer mornings being the only mornings that ever make me happy. Some days it feels like we have to focus on finding things to celebrate, but with summer mornings for some reason I’m just excited to start the day.

What about you? What will you find in your journey today that will make you smile? Will it be the discovery of flowers that have bloomed over night for the first time? Will it be the way the sun light hits some raindrops left over from the night before? Will it be that first taste of coffee today? Will it be the joy between your dog and your kids as they play on the grass? Will it be a book you’re finally making time to read? Will it be the cheerful song of a bird? Will it be a special night out with your significant other?

Sometimes at the end of the day it is hard to come up with a list of things we’re thankful for or good things that happened, but if we start the day with the expectation that good things are coming our way, that there will be things to smile about (however small), and that today can be a good day, not only are we more likely to have a better day, we’re more likely to notice those special moments that are meant for us to see.

4 Questions to Power Up Your Day

As I was thinking about our topic of the month, strength, and all that goes along with it, I was reminded of a powerful tool that we don’t always use enough in our lives: questions. We usually find time for blaming and yelling and talking, but not much for questions. So today I thought we’d take a look at 4 questions you can ask today, and every day.

1-what’s one courageous step I can take today?
I’m not asking you to leap, just take one step towards overcoming a challenge, conquering a fear, or making a dream a reality. For example you could watch a video on cooking a specific ingredient properly, video taken from the perspective of someone skydiving or research career options. But maybe the courageous step you need to take today is to do something big and bold and finally take a very active step forward.

2-what can I do today to help someone else feel/see/realize/understand their strength?
Strength can be used to hurt and to hoard, but I believe strength is best used for helping others. The phrase ‘together we’re better’ applies here, because when I bring my strengths to the table, and you bring yours, we’re stronger than we would be alone.

3-what will I do today to increase my strength?
Life is a learning and growing process, one that only can be successful if you not only work on your weaknesses, but also work on your strengths. Working on becoming better at what you’re good at and diving deeper into your passions not only builds your confidence, it gives you new ways you can make a difference in the world.

4-what was the most courageous, brave or strong thing I did today?
This is an important question to ask at the end of the day, it helps remind us of our victories, give us an opportunity to celebrate the ways we rocked today and give us a chance to end the day on a positive note. Yes, it’s good to go over what didn’t go well, but I would start with those as you make your to-do list for tomorrow, and end with thoughts of your successes.

What about you? What questions do you use to help you make more victories in your life?

For Just a Season

This week we officially enter the season of summer, and the temperatures in many parts of the US are supporting that transition.  As I was thinking about the summer season, I was reminded of the Ecclesiastes passage that talks about there being a time for every season and every thing in our lives.  It’s a reminder that everything has it’s time in our lives, that sometimes we have to be patient, and that there’s a right (and wrong) time for everything.

But as I thought about it some more I was reminded that a season is exactly that: a season. It’s not our entire lives or the only thing in our lives, it’s a part of it.  Summer for us lasts 3 or so months and then there’s a new season.  The dictionary even describes a season as “a period or time….especially a short time.”

So what if for this summer season you take it as a season for your life? A season to be proactive about making positive comments on social media, or a season to eat healthy for at least one meal a day, or a season to fight as little as possible with your kids, or a season to learn about yourself, or a season to explore the great country that we share.

That means that from the summer solstice (June 21) to the autumn equinox (September 22) you take the time to focus on doing something good for yourself or the world, doing something you’ve been meaning to do, or consistently doing something that you’ve been inconsistent with.  It’s a chance to try something new, to get to know yourself better, to grow, and to do what needs to be done in your life.

What will this summer season be for you?

Reality Reflection: Salute the Flag

Thursday here in the US was Flag Day. The US flag, like some of the other flags around the world is iconic. It’s a flag that many people recognize, even though it’s only looked exactly like it does since 1960. The flag has actually been redesigned 26 times since 1777, and what’s stuck around for all the versions are both the strips and the colors. The current flag is awesome because it honors the past and the present, with the 50 stars representing the 50 states, and the 13 stripes representing the original 13 colonies.

I think the fact that it’s developed and changed over time is also an important reflection on our country. It means that we’ve become our own country (the original flag looked pretty similar to the Britain one where the original colonists were from). We’ve developed our own personality, our own values, and struggled through our own challenges. And we’re still growing, learning, and changing.

Our flag is a symbol of what we’ve been and who we are now, as well as a reminder that we’re strongest and greatest when we work together. Days like Flag Day are opportunities for us to show that we’re part of that nation and proud of it. So whether you get some small flags to stick in your lawn or hang in a window, or are able to hang one from your home or garage, make sure you’re ready for the 4th of July, the next opportunity to show your pride in the USA.