In Consideration of Others

Lately much of the news has been talking about how cold it is.  Of course being winter this is something we mostly expect, but lately it’s been so cold that schools and businesses are altering their hours to help people avoid the cold. I can’t say I remember it being this cold as I was growing up, but I don’t really like the cold and never really have so it’s entirely possible that it was this cold occasionally then (it’s not relevant to this post to do the research).

Most days I check in several times with a news website home page to see if anything earth shaking has happened and a headline caught my attention: “How to survive winter weather in your car.” Over the past few years we’ve talked about a lot of things in the news and a lot of things have come to light. But something I don’t think we talk about a lot is the fact that there are over 550,000 people who are considered homeless in the US. Yes, many live where it’s typically warm, but most of the US is cold right now. Yes, there are homeless shelters, but most of them struggle with overcrowding, especially in winter.

What’s my point? My point is that it doesn’t take long to write up an article or shoot a video that can help save someone’s life. I know we often talk about big gestures and making a big impact and feel like it’s impossible to ever really fix some of the issues that are in the world, and I can see where that assumption comes from. But this article reminded me that it’s not always about the big impacts, sometimes it’s the little things that matter more, like a government business extending hours so people can stay warm a little longer or a grocery store donating what would be thrown away to a shelter or food pantry or sharing home-baked cookies with an elderly relative or neighbor or even something like being on time for an appointment. Big gestures are great too, but there are lots of other little ways you can help someone have a better day, a longer and happier life, too. I encourage you to help bring a smile to someone’s face today.

Conquering Fears

This week I read an interesting Bible verse, it was Psalm 112:7 NIV which says: “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Let’s unpack this verse a bit.

The first thing this verse talks about is not having fear. I don’t think we can truly escape fears or not experience them, fear is part of the human experience whether we’re talking heights or spiders or of broken hearts or cancer or drowning. I think it’s one of the things that’s hardwired into us. It’s also a learning experience and warning indicator for us: when we feel fear we know that we need to take a step back and evaluate what’s going on.

But the difference is that fear doesn’t have to take over our lives or make us incapable of moving through the fear. God gives us the strength to experience the fear, recognize what is scaring us and move on. Sometimes moving on means a new path or new plan (you’re making changes as a result of the fear you’re experiencing), other times it just means we recognize the fear and move on (for example not jumping into the pit of alligators but rather walking past or around).

Fear can absolutely control us, so it’s up to us to choose not to let it have the final say in what decisions we make. Instead when you’re faced with fear I would encourage you to take a deep breath, take any immediate actions necessary and/or evaluate next steps before taking action knowing that God will be with you every step of the way, and then move on to continue in the plan He has for your life.

Reality Reflection: Just a Few Minutes

Once again today I’m thinking on the power of little things and taking even just a couple of moments to do some things. Yes, sometimes it amazes me how long it takes to get something done, I’m not always accurate at my guesstimates of how long it will take to do something, but more often than not the few minutes I take to do something are worth it in the long run and I always feel better after doing it and wonder why it took me so long to do it.

Take for example taking an extra couple of minutes to run around the house with the brush attachment on the vacuum to clean the baseboards (which I totally dislike and wouldn’t put in these type if I had a choice). It turned out they didn’t need the serious cleaning I anticipated they would and instead the vacuum and brush did the job.

Another is making a fresh veggie dish in a pan on the stove which took less time than expected because I used just the veggies I had pre-cut. Which is a big motivator for purchasing pre-cut veggies, especially if you’re the type to never seem to have sufficient time around dinner time to really cook something healthy. It may cost a bit more than it would if you did it yourself, but having and eating the veggies is worth the few extra dollars than not eating the veggies because it’s too much work and they sit and rot or not buying them in the first place because you think they’re too much work.

And of course I can’t skip over the value of spending even just a couple of undistracted minutes with the people who mean the most to you each day. Yes, the big date nights are important and daytrips too, but just stopping everything for a few minutes to really check in with them and give them your full attention and vice versa is so important.

So what will you do with the minutes that you need a break or have to spare this week?

Legacies and Stories

So what’s your story?  We each have a story, it involves the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, the people who have impacted our lives even if we’ve never met, the things we’ve gone through, the choices we’ve made and the things that have happened in the world that have impacted us.  Each person’s story is different even if we’ve lived in the same place or experienced the same things, we’re all different and react differently to different things.

But the interesting thing about stories can be found in that which we most often think about when we talk about stories: books.  Sometimes the story we tell ourselves about an event or place is complete fiction.  Maybe that’s because we’ve only experienced a small portion of the full story, maybe that’s because we don’t have all the facts, or maybe it’s because we have an overactive imagination. It’s one reason that it’s important to check your facts, gut reactions and find out as much of the story as you can before you write your story.

Your story has a beginning, middle and end.  Most of us are in the middle right now, we hope we’re not too close to the end, we have more living we want to do.  So if you find that the story you’ve been writing in your life isn’t the one that you want to finish or isn’t going the way you want it to, know that you have the ability to change the direction of the story.  You can tell a new story, or make your story all you hope it will be.  Make that choice today.

“Humanity’s legacy of stories and storytelling is the most precious we have. All wisdom is in our stories and songs. A story is how we construct our experiences. At the very simplest, it can be: ‘He/she was born, lived, died.’ Probably that is the template of our stories – a beginning, middle, and end. This structure is in our minds.”  Doris Lessing

Believe God Can

Recently the phrase came to mind “believe God can.” I like the phrase because it’s empowering and encouraging at the same time. It is a reminder for us to have faith in God, to believe that God can, to believe in God’s power, and to believe in His engagement in our lives. It’s a hopeful phrase that gets us thinking beyond where we are and whatever we may be stuck in, to a healthier place hopefully with a better attitude which will help us keep going through our challenges. The phrase “believe God can” is a challenge to us, to trust in God and His plan, that He’s got it all under control even if it doesn’t seem that way to us with our mortal and limited ability to see and know.

With Martin Luther King Jr. day yesterday we were reminded of a man who inspired many others to believe, to take action and to hold out hope for a better tomorrow when we all work together. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of faith, beginning his work in churches and among faith communities. He was able to speak to the lives of many outside the church as well, but his work started with the belief that he believed God could do great things.

Psalm 20:4 says: “May He grant you your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” While God can and does do many things, including things we never see happen, most often we come to Him with a specific desire in our hearts and minds, hoping that He can (and will) do something for us. If you haven’t lately, I would encourage you to find time this week to check in with your heart and think about what you desire in your life, and if you’re working and praying to get to that point, or if the course you’re on is not going to take you where you truly want to go. God may be able to and plans may come to pass, but if they’re not truly what you desire you’ll be disappointed in the end.

A Living Legacy

Today I’m thinking a bit about legacy, as Martin Luther King Jr. Day is on Monday, and MLK was a dad (he had 4 children). Having children in and of itself contributes to the future of the world, and is necessary if we want to have a next generation to live after we die. How those children are raised has an even bigger impact on the legacy we leave and help create. Even if we don’t choose to have children ourselves, even the smallest of interactions that we have with children can have a big impact on them and their future.

MLK made a legacy for himself through all of the activism he was part of as well as the children he raised. He’s inspired countless children ever since and will continue to do so because not only was he a leader, he was an inspiring leader and left a message that’s timeless and powerful in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Few people are as well remembered and empowering to future generations as MLK.

One of the reasons we have children is because we don’t want our legacy to end, and we don’t always feel that we can make the biggest impact on the world and hope our children will have a bigger impact than us (even if we do have a big impact). While I don’t think it’s a good idea to force our kids or the next generation into our idea of ‘a big impact’, I do think we should encourage them, like MLK, to dream and want to have an impact on the world.

There are big and small ways that we can help support the next generation in having an impact on the world, including doing our best to care for the gift of the world that we’ve been given.  If we leave less of a mess for them to clean up they’ll have more resources of all kinds to make improvements instead of working to undo our damage.  How will you support the next generation?

The Power of Truth

Supposedly winter is doing its thing and sending snow to many parts of the US this week and weekend. I’m not a huge fan of snow, other than watching it fall, so I’m waiting to see how things go. One of the things that mystifies many people is the way weather people can deliver the weather and it’s OK to not be quite accurate. I know it’s not an exact science, mother nature can do whatever she wants with the weather and have things turn out in ways we never expected or wished for. Which is the only reason that they can’t fully predict exactly what is going to happen. We should be thankful for as accurate as they are.

But it got me thinking about the topic of truth, because ultimately the weather people are not being truthful, but not because they’re trying to lie, but because they don’t have the full picture and can’t have the full picture. They’re dealing with a set of data that’s constantly changing, and while it is predictable, there can be deviations from the expectation. I don’t want to be them but do appreciate that we at least typically have some type of heads up when it’s possible or likely that strong weather or significant changes are on the way.

But back to the topic of truth, sometimes we tell the truth because there’s no reason to lie, sometimes we tell the truth because it’s the right thing to do, and sometimes we tell the truth even if it’s hurtful to us. But other times we choose to lie for a variety of reasons, or we don’t tell the truth because we don’t know the truth or the full truth hasn’t been passed on to us. You may remember playing a game called ‘telephone’ as a kid where everyone sat in a circle and the first person whispered something to the next and it was passed around the circle and by the end it didn’t sound like what the first person said anymore. Sometimes that’s because someone intentionally changed it, but often it was because the truth wasn’t clearly stated (they were whispering after all) or because what they heard wasn’t the truth.

Truth is a valuable quality, something we should all work harder to live up to. That doesn’t mean we’ll be perfect or that we’re trying to be perfect, just that we’re doing our best to be truthful and honest to everyone and in all situations. If you’re not sure what you’re about to share is the truth you can choose not to share it or make a clarifying statement like “While I could be wrong, the way I heard it was…”. How will you let truth empower you today?

Living with Compassion

I love subscribing to verse of the day emails because they often send that little reminder that you needed that day, and didn’t even know you needed. Reading through the Bible is important because it’s an important part of your spiritual growth, development and relationship with God, but sometimes the Word you needed that day isn’t in your current reading, which is where the verse of the day emails come in. They’re also a great opportunity to hear the Bible in different translations than you typically read, giving you new perspectives on what’s in the Bible.

In a recent email came Ephesians 4:31-32 which says: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

We’re just over 2 weeks into the new year and already some new year’s resolutions are being let go (although I hope you’re still working on yours!). I know, it seems a bit of a waste to take the time to make them if you’re not going to keep them, right? Well, what if instead of trying for a full year you just worked on doing better today? What if you chose to work on one of the tasks Ephesians 4 lays out in the verses I shared? What if you worked this week on being less bitter, or reducing your anger, or being kinder to those you meet, or learning to forgive others or yourself?

Those may sound like big goals to accomplish (maybe even bigger than your new year’s resolutions), but just like new year’s resolutions they’re achieved one step at a time, one day at a time, one choice at a time, one interaction at a time. You may even find that working on the tasks of Ephesians 4 to be more helpful to your life than the new year’s resolutions you picked for this year.

Will you choose one of the tasks in Ephesians 4 to work on this week?

Reality Reflection: Honesty

I’m always amazed when I run across someone or something that’s not real.  I guess I’ve got a bit of a glass-half-full belief when it comes to life that I still hold out hope that people, things and companies are what they say they are.  I know no one is perfect, but I’m still amazed and surprised by those who are as dishonest as some are.

I know that for everyone the ultimate results or experiences are different, because we’re all different, so there will always be some (minor) differences for each of us.  I’m also aware of all our different preferences, which means that what I think is great you may not like at all.   Maybe you would like it some other day but that day you’re just not in the mood or something is not ‘normal.’

Since I’m not expecting perfection, I guess I’m OK with people and things being honest about the reality of a situation.   For example, there are lots of different ways that jewelry can be made, with varying costs.  But with the international developments and the ease of buying through the internet cost/expense/appearance isn’t always the best predictor of how real something or someone is.

So it’s up to each of us to own our reality.  Admit that you’re an average house cleaner, hate to make your bed, know everything about the Lord of the Rings, love golf but can’t play it, think everyone should have a dog, love to teach 7th grade (except for science), and have a beer every night while watching the news, or whatever is the truth for you.  There’s no reason to be anything except who you are, or say that you’re anything except who you are.  If we all do and say what is true we’ll all do just fine, there’s no reason to lie and make yourself bigger or different than you are.

New Year’s Analysis

I don’t do new year’s resolutions. I don’t find the new year to always be the most effective time to start something new or make such a big change. It works well for some people, but unfortunately too often the idea of new year’s resolutions doesn’t live up to the potential. Most of us do better with more concrete motivation than just a ‘new year.’ For example, people get in shape when faced with the upcoming summer outdoor season, they work on relationships when faced with a holiday or big life event, and they clean the house when they know company’s coming. That said, even if you do make a new year’s resolution, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it all year long, you may make the change in the next few weeks and not have to working on fixing it for the next 11 months.

So if you’re not into resolutions, or even if you are, the new year is a great time to evaluate where your life is at and what does need to change, whether the time is right to change things now or it’s coming up in the future. We don’t always take the time to do a serious evaluation of our lives, habits, relationships and plans, but a new year with a fresh and empty calendar, can be a great time to do so. A big part of dealing with dissatisfaction and making improvements in our lives has to do with taking the time to really evaluate where we’re at and exactly what the issue or cause is.

So this week I would encourage you to take some time to really think about what’s frustrating you or what you would like to improve or how you want to grow or ways that you’re hindering yourself. Take the time to write down each of these things and explore a little around the feelings, actions, reactions, frequency and situations of each and how they’re impacting your life. Maybe this list will motivate you to make changes or at least plan for changes in the near future, but even if it doesn’t I bet it will reveal some interesting things to you. What will you learn from a little introspection analysis?