You Have It, But Do You Use It?

Today one of the topics I’m reflecting on is the topic of goodness.  We’ve got a long way to go before we’d be considered “good,” yet there is much goodness in the world.  Pablo Casals said:

“Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness. If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a person to listen to his own goodness and act on it.”

As with many things this is where goodness starts: with each of us.  We have so many abilities, capabilities and choices in our lives.  We truly don’t have to remain where we are or who we are.  We’ve all got the ability to create a better today and a better tomorrow.  But, as Casals points out, we have to listen to and act on it, or it’s pointless.  You can have all the dreams, desires and hopes in the world, be given the best education, read thousands of books, but without doing anything with all of them what good are they?  The people who we are impressed with are those who have had big dreams and done something about it.

Goodness, like anything else in the world only happens when we take courageous action to fulfill it and bring alive in the world.  I don’t know about you but I believe the world needs more people doing the right thing, doing random acts of kindness, making things right and making a difference wherever they can.  As I’ve said countless times before and will say again, it starts with each of us.  We may not be able to change the entire world by ourselves, but without each of us doing our part the world will never get anywhere close to the world we dream of.

A Celebration of Produce

The other day I commented to my partner how much I miss the summer. I love the summer for many reasons but one of the biggest reasons is because of all of the readily available produce. I love fruits and vegetables, and while I’m not a vegetarian, I definitely have more interest in produce than some. It’s something I regularly incorporate into my diet and into my partner’s as well, fortunately we both enjoy fruits and vegetables. Today I stopped in at one of my favorite food stores, a grocery store that is kind of like an indoor farmer’s market. It’s open all year and not only do they have great prices on produce, their produce is often better than what I see at many other grocery stores. It always makes me feel good to go there and I find it exciting and satisfying to fill up my refrigerator with lots of different fruits and vegetables.

Even though there are many baked/cooked dishes you can make with vegetables, and lots you can do with fruits, you still have to have a good source for them and you have to buy them. There’s definitely such a thing as seasonal produce, and living in a place that can have freezing temperatures throughout as many as 6 months per year means that if it were up to the location I live in I’d be eating canned (from a can at the store or homemade in mason jars) fruits and vegetables, or I’d have to have a greenhouse. But thanks to all of the sharing we do as a country and world, I’m able to have fresh (and tasty) strawberries, zucchini and peppers in February almost as conveniently as I do in the warm months.

As I was washing off some strawberries tonight I was reminded how thankful and blessed I am and we are. We’re able to tap into resources and people around the world to make our lives better and the future better for the next generation. I’m also thankful that God created the variety of produce that He did and as a result we’re able to have a choice in what we eat. It also feels good to eat foods that are good for the body that God has entrusted me with.

I know it may sound simple or silly to be thankful for strawberries in February, but why would God have taken the time to create each thing He did in the Garden of Eden if He didn’t want us to appreciate, enjoy or have a healthy respect for it? This week I would encourage you to open eyes to all that God has created, and appreciate the abundance He has given you.

Reality Reflection: The Hurt of Perfectionism

I’m a big believer in change, learning from mistakes, learning, and growing. What I’m not a fan of is perfectionism. I’m all for doing a good job, doing the best you can, and trying to do things the right way, but the fact is it doesn’t always work out like that. Often there are factors we’re unaware of, there are always things outside of our control, and even though many don’t like to admit it, people are not perfect. So the fact is that every day people make mistakes. They give a good effort, pay attention and try hard, but it doesn’t always work out well.

I think working for perfection often takes up valuable time and resources that could be better used to do a job well done and get more done than to try to make something perfect. It’s rare that there isn’t time or space for fine tuning something, or a chance to try again later, or a lesson that can’t be learned and applied going forward. What happens when you try to get something perfect only to redo it later or have to start all over on the next thing?

Life moves so fast and changes so much that it’s often not worth it to make things “perfect.”  As satisfying as it may be to “perfect” things or even to try to be perfect, I don’t think it’s often attainable, and setting ourselves up with the goal of attaining perfection is often a losing battle.

In line with this conversation are the choices that we make that the public may not always agree with, or feel that don’t line up with how perfect we’re supposed to be. I find it hard to understand why people expect forgiveness or allowances for their mistakes or choices, but other people aren’t allowed to have forgiveness or allowances for their choices. Why is it OK for one person to do one thing, but not for another to do the same thing? Why is one person expected to be perfect when another isn’t?

Don’t get me wrong, I think we should all live our lives in consideration of ourselves, each other and our planet. Part of that journey is learning and growing, which typically includes making mistakes. The hope is though that through those lessons and growth times, that we’ll emerge better, stronger, more considerate, smarter people. Before jumping to judgment on someone this coming week, I would encourage you to consider first and foremost if it’s really something that affects you and you need to care about (because it likely isn’t), and then how you would feel in their shoes and what you would want the world’s response to be.

The Highway of Life

The other day I was driving down a 3 lane highway and had multiple cars come up quickly behind me in the middle lane and stay behind me. I was driving a little above the speed limit similar to other cars on the road, and while there were other cars on the road there weren’t so many that they couldn’t easily move to another lanes. You’ve probably experienced this, right? That there just doesn’t really seem to be a good reason for someone to be that close to the back of your car, not moving into another available lane, not to mention the drivers who consistently weave fast through several lanes of traffic.

Having this happen several times throughout a course of several days got me thinking about how we live our lives. We could talk about the issue some people have of rushing and never being on time for things. We could talk about how fast-paced life is and how much faster some people try to live it. We could talk about the inconsiderate nature of people expecting others to just get out of their way. Today what I wanted to talk about is in line with that last one, it’s about having multiple lanes in the highway of life.

I believe that there’s almost always more than one way to get things done, to get to a destination, to become successful, to improve yourself, or to work through an issue, with the most obvious exception being that of salvation through Jesus (that’s a one-way street). I believe that we should always have a ‘plan b’ and an alternative plan or direction if things don’t go as expected (and sometimes a ‘plan c’ and ‘plan d’). I don’t believe it’s smart to rely on one source of income unless you’re in an absolutely recession proof career. I believe you can be committed to just one partner (one marriage) as long as you are both on the same page about being committed to really working things through, tackling necessary changes, talking often, and working together.

With as many resources and options as are available to us, there’s no reason for us to force others to live our way or get in line with how we do things, nor should we expect them to. We also should not feel cornered or stuck in one option and not, at the very least, be aware of the options. Our life journeys can be full and rich, or they can be filled with frustration because we tried to do things one way and only one way when the fact of the matter is life is changing at a very rapid pace that doesn’t allow us to live in the past.

I would encourage you to take a minute and consider if you’re living life trying to force others into your way of living, if you’re feeling restricted by your current life path or if you’re trying to get things done in a way that isn’t truly productive. If any of those are true, I would encourage you to look into options and start opening up your mind to alternatives that are healthier and more satisfying for you and others.

Caring for the Kingdom

Today in the US is President’s Day. It’s also George Washington’s birthday, the first US president. As I was thinking about this one of my weekly spiritual newsletters sent the verse Luke 6:20 which reads: “Looking at his disciples, He said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”” While it’s not a verse that speaks directly about politics, it did spark a thought.

This verse got me thinking about how we really see the leadership in the country and if we truly take ownership of the country we all share. Luke 6 talks about the kingdom being ours, but I don’t think we always take the ownership we should take. I don’t think our ownership of the US should be impacted by who is the current ruling political class, unless there’s truly corrupt individuals in leadership positions. Then those singular individuals should be removed, and it doesn’t have to be a reflection on the whole group of them. We do have a responsibility to be wise in who we elect, and I don’t believe that’s always done by following party lines. Party lines can be guidelines, but as we’ve seen in recent years there’s a lot of gray areas.

But back to my original thought, if the US truly is ours, the country we all share, isn’t it time to really step up? To vote, to sign petitions, to vocalize our displeasure, to celebrate the victories, to take action to make things different, to recycle more, to care for our national parks, to say something when we see an injustice? During the recent shutdown some people and companies did stand up and say that they were going to stand in the gap of missing funding, helping keep national parks open and clean, and that’s a great start.

I would say that God wants us to step up and care for our country and the people who inhabit it regardless of who is considered in charge politically. If it truly is our country and we are proud to be Americans, is there anything that should stop us from caring for our current kingdom? I’d say no. If the life we live now is supposed to be in preparation for and a reflection of the next one in Heaven, what kind of grade would you get on caring for your current kingdom?

Reality Reflection: Be Kind

In just a few hours it becomes National Random Acts of Kindness Day.  It’s an important day for many reasons, but most of all because it reminds us to be kind.  We need to talk about the bad stuff that happens so that we’re aware of it and can hopefully work on changing/fixing it in the future, but dealing with the bad stuff (robberies, murder, hate crimes etc.) will only fix a small portion of the issues in the world, whereas working on spreading kindness can do much more.

I know we dedicate days to lots of different and specific things, Monday is President’s Day, we just had Valentine’s Day, there’s Memorial Day and Pizza Day, but by the very name “National Random Acts of Kindness Day,” this event encourages us to do something many of us do well, and that’s be random.

Being kind doesn’t have to happen on a schedule, and it shouldn’t. I mean you can plan to do 5 acts of kindness every day, but with all that goes on in our lives it’s hard to really plan out specifically what kind things you’ll do. It’s great if you can commit to helping people in 5 different ways each day, the world would greatly benefit if we all chose to be kind with the same commitment that most check their social streams.

But if we’re honest, part of the magic of being kind is the randomness of it, and doing what needs to be done when the situation arises, which isn’t something you can really plan.  Being consistently kind hearted is a great way to live, but not how most people live, which is why those little moments of empathy, of listening, of opening doors, of getting items off the top shelf, of watching out for others, of letting others know you care are so important and carry such impact.

So especially this Sunday, I would encourage you to live with kindness at the front of your mind.  See what impact it makes on your life and the lives of those around you when you choose to be kind first and foremost.

What Love Really Is

Today is Valentine’s Day in the US. I always love talking about relationships and the potential of romantic love. I’m thankful to have been with my significant other for as long as we have been together, he blesses me in so many ways. Today technically is a day to focus on relationships, but I did share about romantic love on my other blog. Today I want to talk about what love really is.

The dictionary defines love as ‘affection for another person,’ ‘a feeling of warm personal attachment,’ and ‘wholehearted liking for or pleasure in something.’ Through these definitions we’re reminded that love is a good thing, that it should make the world a better place when we choose love. It doesn’t say that love is the easiest thing in the world or that there won’t be tough days, but overall having love in your life should make your life better as well as the lives of those around you. When you choose to live with love it should inspire and encourage others to live with love as well.

Love is also incredible because it crosses many boundaries and makes things possible that aren’t possible without love. Love is also eternal, it surpasses any and all time and location and even life limits we put on many other things. Love can make loss a little less painful, knowing that we were blessed to love them and them us for the time that we did.

Today, quite simply, whether you’re in a relationship or not, I want you to know that you’re loved and lovable. There’s nothing wrong with you that can’t be fixed, resolved, overcome or accepted with love and the support of those who love you. There’s almost nothing going on in your life that can’t be made better with a little love. Love is a choice, I hope that you choose to live with love today.

“When we know that we are loved, we will quite naturally love in return…” Br. David Vryhof