Take A Break

Is it time for you to take a break? If you’re feeling frustrated or out of sorts or at a loss or pulled in too many directions, it probably is. When it comes to making victories we can be our own worst enemy, especially if our attention span won’t kick into the appropriate gear. Taking even a 10 minute break can be good for rejuvenating your creativity as well as freeing your attention span so that you can get back on track and get stuff done. I know, that sounds a bit odd, but it’s true.

Taking a break is not only good for your attention span, it’s healthy too. Many of us devote many waking hours to working and we’ve reduced our focus on fun and relaxation to almost nothing. It’s more of a dream or desire than something we actually have or make time for.  Scheduling in not only breaks but fun as well will help keep you more productive and engaged when you do sit down to work.

So what kind of breaks can you take to help you get back on track? Sometimes you can get back on track with a snack, an art/craft project, reading a book for a bit, some form of exercise including a walk, just some fresh air, or getting a change of scenery can be helpful. Sometimes the simplest thing is the best, and you can just go with whatever your brain is working on (instead of trying to push through on what you’re struggling to focus on) and get those things done first.

Planning for victories means you add in time for moments like these when you’re distracted: you schedule in breaks and buffer time and free time and play time. That way you’re not down to the wire without sufficient time, you have time to get rejuvenated and your life isn’t just work.  You may even find that you have more time for stuff and are less stressed because of adding breaks and buffer time and aren’t always trying to catch up.

Summer is a great time to get into the habit of taking breaks, taking time for yourself and becoming more focused when you need to be.  What will you do on your next break?

On a Mission of Peace

Yesterday here in the US we took the time to remember the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice and died in the line of duty to their country. It’s a solemn and serious day, one that many suffer through because we reached an unavoidable situation where it was necessary to fight and go to war and put their lives on the line. Don’t get me wrong, I know that some people only can listen when they’re practically smacked in the face by the strength that can only be stated through violence/the military. I fully support the soldiers past, present and future, and their families. But I wish that we didn’t have to resort as often to violence and war.

So as I was working on my weekly devotional over the weekend, I ran across a couple of verses that spoke not only to the real work of the men and women of the military (the men and women of the military are typically known as those who fight, but what they’re really doing is working towards peace for more people), but also to how the large percentage of the rest of the world who aren’t in the military can help us advance peace in the world too.

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6

Romans 15 is an encouragement to choose to live in harmony with each other. I really think it is a choice, it’s something we could easily skip (and many do), but I think that we would all find we enjoy life more when we’re working together on life rather than fighting or being stuck in our own ways and not considering the needs or health of others. We’re also reminded that it’s our opportunity as followers of Christ to be the ones to start that journey and turn things from potentially adversarial to supportive. But because of that relationship with Christ we also have some extra tools when it comes to making peace:

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18

James 3 lays out a whole lot of ways we can create better, healthier, happier, more peaceful relationships, using the wisdom and heart we get from God. It is a lot to take in or try to do all at once, so I would pick one or two and start with that and work up to adding more in, or if you like more variety in your life you can pick 7 and alternate through them on a daily basis each week. Even if you just picked one and worked on it for the rest of your life, you would be making a positive impact on the people you connect with and helping to create more peaceful communities. What will you do to honor our military and advance peace in [your corner of] the world?

Star Spangled Spirit

Monday in the US is Memorial Day, also known as Decoration Day. I’m proud to have had a grandfather who served and my partner has a brother who served as well, and just about everyone I know knows someone who is/was in the military or knows someone who has/had a family member who served. We don’t really like to think or talk about making the ultimate sacrifice, but that’s what men and women have been doing for several hundred years for the US. We may not even agree with all of the ways these men and women are used and the battles they fight.  But, if it weren’t for those individuals many more of us would be making sacrifices and facing more devastation as a nation.

I mentioned the other name for Monday, Decoration Day, because it is a huge opportunity to really show your pride and support for the men and women (and their families) of the military. A big part of the day is decorating our houses, streets and neighborhoods in red, white and blue. Just this morning I was out running an errand and passed a home that had to have a hundred or more flags on their yard. It looked very festive and really showed their pride for our military. Growing up I always wanted to be the one to help hang the flag outside our garage, and I look forward to the day when I can be part of the neighborhood and fly a flag in celebration and recognition of the bravery of the men and women of the military.

Until then I’ll proudly hang my red poppy from my rear view mirror in my car, donate to organizations that support warriors and their families, and use my voice to thank and support the men and women as they’re in the military and when they come home.  How will you show your support this weekend?

The Choice of Freedom

Today I’m thinking about the topic of freedom with Memorial Day on Monday. If you want freedom you can just go ahead and choose freedom and let everything else fall by the wayside, but that only works for so long before you’re out on the street or without a job or your family feels abandoned by you. The other way to get to freedom is to be very intentional about the actions you take and the relationships you build so that you build into your life the freedoms you want.

For most of us we’re not looking to be free all day to do whatever we want. We like having a purpose and making a difference in the world and helping others. If we worked harder on working together, communicating better and being more productive, we wouldn’t have to work as many hours per day to get the same or more work done. We would all probably get a great lunch break as well or be able to have more flexibility in our hours or work location. Not to mention all the benefits of better communication and more productive businesses on the rest of our lives like at the grocery store and with purchasing products and services.

This week I would encourage you to take one action each day that will help you have more of the freedom you desire in your life. Maybe that means finally committing to a budget or schedule, or saying yes or no when opportunities come up, or making the job or career changes that you’ve been avoiding, or shopping more in the fresh food aisles and not the junk food ones, or giving your kids more responsibility, or cleaning up on a daily basis. Whatever choices you make I encourage you to think about whether the choices you make will help or hurt the goals you have in your life before you make them.

“Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.” Malcolm X

A Choice of Burdens

I read a quote recently that I think really lines up well with the Biblical passage of Matthew 11:28-30 but also sheds light on it. Let’s start with the Bible passage:

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.””

It’s a very well-known passage, one that is repeated and turned to during times of stress, fear, confusion, challenge and weakness, maybe one you yourself have said or read recently.  It’s one that we turn to because Jesus is clearly saying that although there will be burdens in life He is here to help us with them. Which is where the quote I mentioned comes in:

“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” Lou Holtz

It’s very rare in life that we truly are out of option or that we have no choices. Typically we just can’t think of them or don’t like the ones that we can think of or see. But both the passage and the quote remind us to rethink that and be encouraged that the burden we bear doesn’t have to be the burden we see it as, and that there are options and hope, if only we would open our eyes.

Today I would encourage you to not only bring your current situations to God in prayer, but also take the time to really do your research and consider your options.  You’re only out of options and hope if you believe it is so or stop looking.  Maybe the one you’ve been avoiding is the answer.  Maybe it’s something you haven’t heard of before.  Maybe it’s something a friend has heard about and would be able to share with you if you share your burden with them.  Maybe today will be the day that brings hope back into your life.  But even if it isn’t, I know that God has everything under control and has a plan for everything, and He is here to carry your burdens with you.

Reality Reflection: The Animal Kingdom

I’m an animal lover. I always have been and I love whether I get to be in person with them or see them on TV or in a book or news story. I have a strong preference for dogs, but I do love all animals. I enjoy seeing them do what they do naturally in nature as well as the ways that they face and interact with the things we humans have created in the world. There does seem to be a disconnect between our needs and theirs, and our respect of their lives and their way of living, one that’s creating a crisis for them and their future.

In 1973 the Endangered Species Act was established to raise awareness about the millions of animals around the world that are at risk, threatened or endangered, and also do whatever is possible to help avoid extinction for them. Sadly some animals have gone extinct, although there are enough hidden corners still in our world that it’s possible that one day some of them may reappear and that they’re not actually extinct, just so rare they aren’t able to be found by humans.

So here’s the thing. I’m not a scientist, I can’t tell you exactly the scientific or ecological reasons that we need to have these animals on the planet, what their role is in keeping all of us alive and keeping our planet functioning as it does. But I can tell you that people have done the research and they have followed the path from the small insects to the big cats and everything in between and beyond, and they’ve shown that our lives and world would be very different if they weren’t here.

But the reason that I support and cheer for endangered species is because of how magnificent they are, how fully they live their lives and how much joy they bring to my life when I see them. I’m thankful for the men and women who are out there setting trap cameras so we can catch a glimpse of them, and especially fighting against the unnecessary and insensitive human takeovers. Everyone dies at some point in time, but I would hate to be the one who helped cause the death of an animal or a species just because I’m alive. I don’t think it’s a trade off, us vs. them, but I do think we need to be more conscious about the impact that our lives and choices have on theirs.

On this Endangered Species Day I encourage you to not only stand up for the important plants and animals of our world, but also to celebrate them. Which one or ones are your favorite?

An Appreciation of Quality and Permanence

A big part of our lives is the stuff we have and use, stuff that has to be replaced and replenished, sometimes on a daily basis. Some stuff like cars and homes most of us replace every couple of years or every couple of decades, depending on how our lives change. For homes most of us go into that purchase hoping that it will last us for many years and be a good return on investment, but for other things like shirts or steaks, we just hope that it’s going to satisfy the need we have for as long as that may be, even if it’s just a couple of hours.

We typically look at price when going to buy something, and depending on what we’re buying will depend on how seriously we get into the quality question. Sometimes we’re looking for quality that is excellent but only lasts for a day or a few hours (a hotel room or theme park visit or steak), other times we’re looking for quality that lasts a few years like shirts or cars. Sometimes we’re just looking for an experience, other times we’re looking for something that will make us feel good, other times we’re looking for the quickest suitable solution.

I know some people complain about how things break or how quality has really decreased overall in the past few years, but lately I’ve been appreciating just how long I’ve had some things like my car and some of my favorite shirts. They may not be as “perfect” as they were when I got them, but they’ve lasted a long time, longer than I planned when I made the purchases. It’s impractical to think that things will last forever, but I don’t think we truly appreciate how long things can last when treated with care.

New is great, but there’s incredible value in taking care of what you have. If we show a little more respect and appreciation for what we have, it can also inspire businesses to give more care to the products they create for us. What do you have that you’ve had for a long time that you love?

All In This Together

If you’ve been around this blog for a while you know I love to celebrate our differences. I love that the areas in which I’m not as capable there are other people who are not only capable, they really enjoy these things. It’s healthy to have differences of opinion and see things from different perspectives and to like different things. But a quote I read this week reminded me that it’s not always good to look for the differences:

“One of the most basic things we all share in spite of class, race, economic status, or age is our need to eat. It was no accident that Jesus shared a meal with his disciples in that upper room before his betrayal, death, and resurrection. It is that very meal we commemorate each Sunday in the sacrament of the altar where we hear once again Jesus say: Take, eat, this is my body. Drink this all of you, this is my blood of the New Covenant. After Jesus’ resurrection, it was in this way that his disciples came to recognize him as their risen Lord.” Br. Jim Woodrum

If we want to be alive we all have to breathe and we all have to eat and we all have to sleep. Everyone has relationships of some kind. Everyone is born young and grows up, and most die old. Most of us have dreams and goals in our lives. Most of us want to be loved. All of us have a group of people we call family, whether they’re related to us by blood or choice. And as Christians we’re all united through our faith in Jesus and His Resurrection.

It’s good to see, appreciate and even celebrate our differences. A world where everything was all the same would be boring and lack the life and depth that our current world does. I also don’t think we’d be nearly as successful with solving our problems if everyone/everything was pretty much the same. But we have to be careful to not focus so directly on our differences that we forget that we’re all human, all in this life together and that we all want to live and love just like everyone else.

So this week rather than celebrating your differences, I encourage you to celebrate your similarities and the things you all love with those you spend time with. Talk about that basketball game or TV show that you all watched, talk about the races you’re all preparing for, talk about the pets you all love, get their advice and insight on the situation you’re all working through at work, and celebrate how connected you all are.

Reality Reflection: Why me?

In thinking about Mother’s Day tomorrow, the topics of self worth and self confidence came up.  Some days we’re really confident in who we are and what we can do, but other days it seems like we can do nothing right and nothing is going our way and there doesn’t seem to be a victory or end in sight.  Are we struggling because we have doubts or are we struggling because we’re not open to the good stuff?

When we do seem to be making progress we wonder why it’s so easy. We wonder at the good things that come our way, as well as the bad things. Why is it hard for us to accept the good as well as the bad?  Why don’t we trust in, appreciate or accept the good stuff when it comes our way?

Yes, we’ve been burned by offers that promise the moon and don’t even leave the ground. We’ve been hurt by people we trust. But when it’s not life or death that we’re being offered, but a simple kindness, why do we still struggle to accept or refuse?

Unfortunately, a lot of it has to do with how we’ve been treated and how we view ourselves. Self esteem issues are rampant in our society, even those of us who have no reason whatsoever to have issues do. It’s unfortunately like walking past a smoker: you can catch it without even trying. Maybe you haven’t done anything to be worthy of the kindness of another, maybe God just chooses to bestow it on you.

This week instead of just dismissing the good stuff that comes your way, or ignoring it and pretending it didn’t approach you, I encourage you to open your arms to it and be thankful for it. When you focus on the good stuff, it’s been shown that more good stuff comes your way. What good things will fill your life when you open up to them?

On the Other Hand

One of my favorite things about this time/world we live in is the sheer number of options for just about everything. You aren’t stuck having to marry someone in your town or someone of the opposite sex. You don’t have to have kids if you don’t want to. You don’t have to buy from the grocer down the street, you can order online. You don’t have to stay in one town for your whole life, you can go almost anywhere in the world. You don’t have to stay at one job forever, you can work a whole variety of jobs with a whole variety of companies during your working years.

The question is if you can see the options that are available to you or how much you’re limiting or blocking yourself. Options are great, but only if you know they exist or are able to find them. The good news is that the more often you take a minute and consider options before just making a decision, the easier it gets to come up with them.

One way to make sure you’re seeing the options available to you is by talking things through with others. No one knows everything, but if you’re not sure what you options are but you know that you’re not thrilled with what you’re currently seeing, asking some friends or posting on social media can help you find some ideas that you may have never thought of, or help you narrow down the options you are trying to decide between.

You absolutely can get overwhelmed by the multitude of options, but I would rather have more options to choose from than not have any choices to be able to make.  There’s also nothing wrong with sticking with what works for you, as long as it still works for you.

Today I encourage you to think about one situation that’s frustrating you and come up with 5-10 options on things you could try, change, apply, or ask about that situation that might help you create a breakthrough.  What will you work on today?