Reminders from God

Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we forget to stop and take a moment, or we’re so focused on one direction that we can’t see the way God is trying to lead us.  Let’s take a look at some of the reminders in the Bible:

There’s a lot we can’t see, and a lot to hope for:
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Use your words wisely:
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”  Proverbs 15:1

Live with joy:
“I will be filled with joy because of you.  I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:2

If God can forgive and be merciful, can’t we?:
“But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love.”  Nehemiah 9:7b

God saves us, leads us and teaches us:
“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”  Psalm 25:5

God is generous, gracious, and loving:
“Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.”  1 Timothy 1:14

We belong to God, and are to worship Him:
“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship…”  Acts 27:23 ESV

Choose patience:
“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.”  Ecclesiastes 7:8

Don’t give up:
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  Philippians 3:14

Each of our days include thousands of interactions, experiences and relationships, each with the potential to teach us something, help us heal in some way, make us a better person, put us in a position to help someone else, or reveal another aspect of who God is to us and who we are to Him.  It’s up to us to be open to where life takes us and where God sends us, and to pay attention to what’s going on around us.  What has God shared with you recently?

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Reality Reflection: Just a Little Rain

I’m sitting here today contemplating the rain that we’ve had this week and the rain it looks like we’ll be having again shortly, and thinking about those in California and along the whole west coast US that are dealing with scary wildfires. We haven’t had weeks and weeks of rain so I’m not tired of it, and it hasn’t been constant or brutal where I am, so it’s more of the summer rain that you expect and welcome. But there are people on the west coast who are again facing a season of wildfires, people in Hawaii who are still dealing with the volcano eruptions, and people all around the world who are dealing with other fires, droughts and devastation and would enjoy the rain even more than I have been.

I’ve got friends and family in locations where they’ve gotten the brunt of the storms we’ve had this past week and they have friends who have been dealing with flooding. Having been through several flood situations in the past 10 years I’m familiar with it and know it’s scary and heartbreaking. Floods today, even the small ones, make it hard not to think of the Bible story of Noah and the Ark and the flood he dealt with that wiped out the whole world. Thankfully God’s promised not to do that again though.

When there’s a forest fire while there’s initially devastation, there’s also some very healthy growth and rejuvenation that happens after that initial devastation. Floods tend to do the opposite, and instead breed mold and mildew and cause more problems after they’ve receded. It’s amazing that something so life-giving can be so destructive as well. It’s a reminder that sometimes there’s a relatively clear path back to life, but other times we have to be brave and make bigger changes or moves.

There are some pretty important lessons we can learn from nature, what has nature tried to or actually taught you recently?

Partnerships in Creation

Over the past week I’ve been watching a family of bees make a home in the building next to my office window. I’ve worked out of this office for several years and haven’t seen them build here before, but this year they found the spot and decided to build there. They’re very small creatures and have found what looks to me to be a smaller hole to work with, but apparently they can fit quite a few of them in there at one time, so there must be space.

Today as I was watching them get started in the morning for the day’s hunting and building activities and whatever else they do it got me thinking about partnerships, us and nature, and nature and God. One of the things that has been talked about since humans really started growing and building homes is that we’re displacing the animals of nature, some of which have gone extinct as a result. As I’m watching this family of bees work I realized that the animals are doing their best to work with us, but we’re not giving them the same respect.

I get it, it’s not fun to watch the rabbits eat all of your plants, or have the deer run across the road where you’re driving, or have the bears and raccoons get in your garbage, or have the bugs take over spaces where you’re actively living. But I think many of those are signs that we’re not even trying to work with them on letting them have space to exist too.

But this family of bees has been a reminder and a reassurance that God takes care of all of His creatures, big and small. Maybe it’s time that we start working with God on not only how we can help nature thrive while we live where we live, but also work on partnering better with the other people that He’s created and put in our lives. Why fight and have someone be a loser when we can work together and everyone wins?

“”Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”” Matthew 6:26

The Wisdom of Nelson Mandela

One of the great men of all time was born 100 years ago yesterday: Nelson Mandela.  He endured through many challenges and struggles, yet never gave up, never gave up hope and always tried to do the best for everyone involved.  He’s a great example of what’s possible when you do your best, be your best, and lead regardless of the challenges in your past.  So today I thought we’d honor his life by taking a look at some of the great wisdom he shared.  

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

“Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

“Even if you have a terminal disease, you don’t have to sit down and mope. Enjoy life and challenge the illness that you have.”

“People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that’s how they’ll react. But if you say, ‘We want peace, we want stability,’ we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.”

I want to close with an invitation for you to read what other people had to say about the great man.  The words they chose to honor this man reveals yet again what a distinguished, caring and exceptional man he was.  How has Nelson Mandela touched you?

Signs from God

Lately I’ve been thinking about signs, maybe you have too. There’s the commercial on TV right now about signs that people are seeing that seem to very clearly say that they should quit cable, and the commercial starts with someone wishing there was a sign for them regarding this decision they have to make. Sometimes I think we ask for those signs, not seeing the signs that are already in our lives and hearts. There are a couple of really clear signs in the Bible that I wanted to share about, signs that remind us of some important truths about life and faith.

One of the earliest signs is the sign of the rainbow. This is a sign God places in the sky from time to time to reaffirm the commitment and promise He made to Noah that He would never destroy the earth with a flood again.

The second sign to remember in the Bible is the sign of the cross. The cross is a sign of God’s love, a sign that He doesn’t give up on us and is willing to sacrifice what’s near and dear to Him for us.

While we can put the sign of the rainbow in our lives by creating pictures of it, there’s something special about seeing it appear in the sky without any influence from us. The cross isn’t something that often appears in nature like this, and we’re given the task of reminding ourselves and each other of that gift of love.

The third is a sign we see present throughout the Bible, and that’s the sign of dreams.  There are quite a few examples of dreams from Jacob to Joseph to Solomon to Daniel to Joseph (Jesus’ father).  We know from research today that there are many things that can cause you to dream, from what you eat to what you watch and listen to, but one of the things that has always been able to cause dreams is God.  It’s one of the trickier signs to watch for, but still one to learn from.

So this week as you go about your journey look for the signs that God puts in your path, signs that show He’s walking the path with you and has good plans for your life.

Reality Reflection: Light it Up

One of the things that are iconic to summer are fireworks. Whether they happen with the Fourth, Labor Day weekend, at baseball games, at local festivals/carnivals or just random weekends, around the US there are lots of opportunities to see fireworks. Whether you like to be up close and fully experience them lights, sound and all, or if you prefer to watch from a distance, there’s something special about watching light and color explode in the sky. Unless you’re in charge of setting it up there’s no predictability about what’s going to light up the sky next, but you are guaranteed that it will explode and it will be light.

I think there’s a lot that we can learn from fireworks, starting with the fact that not all of life is a lesson, sometimes it’s just meant to be enjoyed. Kids around the country are working through their summer reading lists, many reading books they’ll hate and never remember beyond a couple of months from now. I believe it’s important to keep the kids learning over the summer, but I’m not supportive of the practice of forcing lessons, looking for hidden messages and debating exactly what the author might mean by some very innocent phrase (one they may have not meant to mean anything really at all). Sometimes the best thing you can do is stop trying to find the reason in and behind everything and just enjoy.

There’s always a sound with fireworks, because there’s a chemical reaction that goes on when they’re lit, but the noise isn’t the big deal, the reason people love fireworks is because of the light. People say and do lots of things, but when it comes down to it it’s not always about what you say and do, but how you live. Is your life bringing light into the world, or are you working on creating the foggiest night ever, the kind that you can’t see more than 2 feet in front of you with a strong light?

Summer is a great time to work on lightening up your life, your attitude and your relationships. Don’t get me wrong, just like fireworks should always be taken seriously because they can be very dangerous, relationships and life should be taken very seriously because you don’t know how many tomorrows you have and being thoughtless can cause irreparable damage in your relationships. But just because you’re serious about living doesn’t mean you can’t choose to be a light even when things get tough.

The Summer of Simple Relationships

It’s summer so many of us are living slower, simpler lives. We don’t feel like eating heavy meals, we do less, we take time off and we do more of what we enjoy. All of this got me thinking about relationships and applying slower, simpler summer principles to our relationships.

It starts with the why. Why do we live in miserable or less-than-awesome relationships? Sometimes it follows the ‘boiling frog’ concept, that it snuck up on us and now it seems like it’s too late (it is too late for the frog but not necessarily your relationship). Sometimes it’s a situation of you never really being right for each other but trying hard anyway. Sometimes it’s a case of poor communication or mis-matched expectations. But really, if there are simple things we can do to fix or improve our relationships why don’t we do them?

Why do we resist doing what our partner has asked? Maybe we forget, maybe we don’t want to do it or maybe we just can’t stand that they asked us to do it the way they did. If you or your partner honestly forgets, it’s time to implement a visual to-do list, whether it’s a text, app or piece of paper. If your partner doesn’t want to do what you asked them to do but you physically can’t do what you need done, and you’ve explained why you need them to do it and they still won’t, it may be time to hire someone for that task. If you/your partner doesn’t want to do what you/they asked, see if there’s something you can trade from the other person’s to-do list so you’re both doing work but not something you don’t enjoy doing.

If you can’t stand how your partner asks you to do something it may be indicative of a larger communication issue, one that may be resolved with some dialogue regarding how you communicate with each other, how that communication (including method and tone) makes each of you feel, what’s working and not working, and what you can do to improve your communication and thus your relationship. Communication is a great topic to work with a life coach or relationship coach on, they can help the conversation go in the directions it needs to go and help keep the peace.

Getting back to the topic of simple summers, what if you just did what your partner asked you to do? What if you told them you didn’t want to do something or physically couldn’t do something instead of just letting it go? What if you took time to communicate with each other throughout the day with texts, emails, calls and in-person time? What if you talked about expectations, goals, needs and challenges on a regular (at least yearly) basis? What if we took off some of the requirements that are hurting your relationship instead of helping like they’re supposed to? What if you worked more frequently on love and forgiveness instead of stress?

Making one simple change or adjustment each day can put you on the path to a healthier and happier relationship, what will you do today?