Reality Reflection: Weather or not

One of the things that the internet and speed at which information spreads has allowed is a more global discussion on weather. No, I’m not going in the direction of melting icebergs today, I’m talking about the hurricane that’s currently somewhere off of Florida. I tend to be more of someone who looks outside the window and guesses what the weather will be like that day, with of course a nod to what the calendar says and the season we’re in, typically looking in on the predicted weather once a week or so, unless there’s something specific going on that will be affected by the weather.

But like many other people I do check out the huge storms that develop, even if they’re not going to land anywhere near me. There’s something fascinating about a storm that big. Yes, it’s scary and terrible in terms of destruction, and you never want lives to be lost as a result of the storms, but there’s so much power that we don’t see in our lives on a regular basis that it’s really hard to ignore the news and not look into the progress and watch the videos and live streams and see the before and after pictures.

But even with all of our technology we’re still on the side of “it might not happen like that” when it comes to weather. This upcoming hurricane is a great example as it was predicted to hit Florida all along, but right now it looks like it’s going to travel up right off the coast and hit higher up in the US. Just last winter we were predicted to get maybe a few flurries and that storm ended up being one of the biggest of the season, causing tons of traffic accidents and issues. Sometimes they’ll predict rain and you won’t get any. The examples go on. I am OK when it’s not as serious as they’re predicting, but it’s frustrating when it’s way worse than what they predicted.

In some ways it’s good to have something so unpredictable with our very controlled lives. It’s also a good reminder that we certainly don’t know everything yet and really don’t have all that much control over our lives. It’s also a good reminder that we’re still so very dependent on and affected by mother nature and that she’s very independent of us and it’s wise of us to give her the respect she deserves. Sometimes the best thing we can do with our lives is to be patient, take it slow and be prepared.

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The Many Sides of Disconnect

When was the last time you thought about the term ‘disconnect?’ It’s a popular term right now with regards to separating yourself from the internet and internet-connected devices. People talk about doing tech detoxes, scheduling (limiting) their device time, and some go so far as to unsubscribe from popular sites. I appreciate technology as much as the next person, but I’m not one to be on my phone all the time, I don’t use all the popular apps and I don’t spend hours of my personal time each week on social media. I do like being able to reach out for help at any time, getting typically accurate answers with a few pushes and having a selection of books available anytime day or night and anywhere I may be.

There’s also the type of disconnect that thankfully is not very common or frequent, and that’s a power disconnect. Hopefully you don’t experience them too frequently or extensively where you are, but I experienced one recently and it reminded me, first and foremost, how blessed we are. With a few notable (mother nature related) exceptions we’re so blessed to have reliable power which brings us internet and heat and electricity to our homes and places of employment. I can’t imagine what it was like back in the years before reliable electricity where when the sun wasn’t up you only had the light of candles or a fire to depend on. Not only is it not very safe, it’s also not very illuminating and has lots of limits compared to what we have today.

There’s one more disconnect I want to talk about today, and that’s a disconnect between you and yourself and/or you and the rest of the world. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what’s going on either in our lives or in the world around us that we get disconnected from the other. Other times we get so sidelined by stress that we’re disconnected from everything and we almost would be comparable to a cat chasing their tail endlessly. It’s frustrating to feel the disconnect and it’s frustrating to see someone in our lives disconnected. If you’re continually hitting a wall in your pursuit of victories or communicating with someone, it’s likely that there’s a disconnect somewhere that you’re missing and until you see it and fix it you’ll keep struggling.

Disconnects can be good and they can be bad. If you’re feeling overwhelmed maybe it’s the right time to do a bit of disconnecting, and get some things off your plate for a time. But keep your eyes open and watch for disconnects that you don’t want or need in your life, the sooner you address them, the healthier your relationships will be and easier it will be to reach your victories.

Whispers from God

I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot, and especially about the relationship that we have with God. With each verse in the Bible I read I’m reminded of how incredible He is and how little we really understand Him. Yes, we can simplify it and wrap it in a nice package and say God is love, grace, forgiveness and salvation, but the list of characteristics could extend indefinitely, and each of us would come up with a different list of who God is to them.

The Bible gives us an in-depth look into the lives of dozens of people in different life situations and stages of their relationship with God, one of which is Elijah. Elijah was a prophet in the Old Testament, who connected God and people of all walks of life from kings to single mothers. He didn’t die of anything traditional, instead God took him away when it was his time (2 Kings 2). During his ministry he did everything from raising the dead, and calling down fire to defeat false prophets in an epic showdown.

One of the special things about the Bible is that it doesn’t just show the stories of people, it shows personal interactions between people and God. Elijah experienced a rather special supernatural event and communication from God while he was taking a bit of a sabbatical. He was feeling discouraged as many of us do, especially as we see the world moving around us and some of the terrible things that go on. During that time of rest and prayer God stopped by to speak with him and find out what he was doing, because it looked an awful lot like Elijah was doing more hiding than renewing (which he admitted he was).

So God decides to put on a bit of a show for Elijah, and sends a windstorm, earthquake and fire his way. 1 Kings 19 makes it clear that although God sent those natural events his way, God wasn’t actually in them. 1 Kings 19:12b says “And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” And in that whisper God’s presence arrived and spoke with Elijah, reassuring and encouraging him and sending him back to the mission field.

God made a point during this interaction with Elijah to show that He was more than capable of showing up in big and powerful ways, but that what was most needed, and He was capable of doing, was showing up in a still small voice. The same is true for our lives, God can show up in big and powerful ways, but He can also show up in the moments of quiet. I think God tends to show up in the moments we’re able to be quiet and pause more often because the world we live in is focused on the big and the bold (think number of likes on social media, going viral, being a celebrity etc.), so rather than attempt to compete with that or try to one-up everyone else trying to be on top, He chooses to show up in the moments we intentionally make time for Him.

I encourage you to make time regularly in your schedule to stop and spend time with God. Maybe that means going to a church that’s open for quiet prayer during the day and making that your lunch break, or starting a time of meditation after you put the kids to bed, or using the time that you spend alone in your car to talk with God (not ideal, but better than nothing). The more you make time for God, the healthier your relationship will be and the more you’ll hear from Him through prompts, peace and maybe even words.

Reality Reflection: Present Today

With as much as goes on in the world and online in this day and age, sometimes it’s not about having the best idea or doing something specific, but just about showing up. People have been standing in Hong Kong not technically doing anything and not sharing ideas, just being there, visibly showing that they exist and want to be heard. You may not have the most exciting job in the world, but your continued persistence in doing a good job day in and day out may make all the difference in the world for your company, and for your career advancement. You and your partner may not have large amounts of money or go on really extravagant dates, but lots of communication and just being together can make your relationship healthier and thrive more than many others.

Whether we’re talking family parties, holiday gatherings, or charity/non-profit events, you don’t have to know how you’re going to help get things ready or cleaned up, or the opportunities or happenings while you’re there, you just have to show up willing to help and participate and be your wonderful self.

Everyone has room for improvement, and yes, some of us do go through experiences and seasons of our lives where we have to go through major changes and overhauls that are painful, challenging and/or more extreme than the average person or family.  But often that improvement amounts to some tweaks and general age/maturity related growth, not major life changes, and for many of us just showing up and making the gradual changes that life prompts is more than enough for us to thrive in our lives and have great relationships.

Whether you’ve got a list of things to get done today or you’re just taking it easy, choose to be present with the people you meet, the places you go, the things you’re feeling and experiencing and the world around you.   Put down your phone, look around you, don’t worry too much about what’s in the past or future and just live in the moment and what is going on here and now.

“You don’t need a plan; you just need to be present.” Bob Goff

Stepping Up

It’s almost funny how we adults shy away from questions that kids sometimes ask. Yes, as adults we do know more answers than they do (for example about the birds and the bees), but there’s still a ton that we don’t know. For instance why don’t we ask or investigate when something doesn’t seem right with someone we love? Why aren’t we asking when something in our bodies doesn’t seem right or frustrates us? Why aren’t we talking with our partner before we get to the point of everything being a screaming match? Why are we still using products that are poisoning us and our world?

Why aren’t we asking for help? Are the potential answers and solutions so scary and unacceptable that we choose not to ask the questions? Or else why are we avoiding the questions, especially when asking them could do a lot of good in our lives and the world?

It’s easier than ever to find answers, even multiple answers. It’s easier than ever to connect with other people who have similar questions and experiences as you do. We could be celebrating more victories instead of dealing with more tragedies if we would just step up and ask some questions and do some research.

So go ahead and step into the coming season.  Choose to be brave and live your life to the fullest.  Choose to ask the questions that may be embarrassing or seem obvious if and when you have them.  Choose to be curious and explore what seems interesting to you.  Choose to make smarter decisions that will better support you and the world we all share.  Choose to take the best path, not (just) the fastest or easiest.  And encourage others to do the same so that we can all have more victories.

A Faith Journey

When He left, Jesus gave the command to take the Good News into all the world. His time on earth showed that some people needed to rethink their idea of who was welcome into the kingdom, because Jesus did a really good job of turning them on their heads by eating with tax people, caring for those who were ill, and talking with those who had multiple husbands. God made sure the message got reinforced and shared after Jesus went back to heaven with Peter’s vision of the animals in the sheet (Acts 10-11) representing the welcoming of any nation who fears God and does right.

So it’s not a huge leap to get to the idea that anyone could get into heaven, as long as they’ve been forgiven of their sins, have a relationship with God and believe in Him. Which is why we should first and foremost be open and willing to tell whomever God puts in our path about the love that He has shown us, about how He has supported us, and how He cares for us. We should do the very best we can with each and every opportunity that God sends us, give them the care, respect and opportunity that each of us would want.

But there’s two other sides to this, neither are as hopeful. The first is the fact that you individually can’t save everyone. Even someone with the reach of a Billy Graham, Kirk Cameron, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, or Steven Furtick can’t save everyone, it’s why we are all called by the Great Commission. Sometimes we have to choose to save the one or two people that we can. The lesson applies to other areas of our lives; we should do our best and let God handle the rest. God knows the potential of that one person you may bring to God, you can only do your part.

The third side is a story that is seen in 3 of the 4 gospels (Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9 and 10) and in Acts as well. It’s the recommendation of Jesus to shake the dust off your feet when you’re not welcomed in a home or town that you’re traveling through or bringing God’s message of peace to. Basically it’s suggesting to leave them to whatever fate they may have. Maybe that means years from now something will change, maybe it doesn’t, but according to these stories, it’s not our job to be overly concerned or focused on their future. Of course we can pray for them, but each person is ultimately responsible for their own future.

So this week I encourage you to walk with faith.  Do the best you can, live a life that honors God, share your faith and don’t let the negative take you down with it.

Reality Reflection: Tragedy, Humans and Technology

It’s been over 30 years since the disaster in Chernobyl, when there was an accident at one of the nuclear reactors. I have no personal memories of this tragedy (I was too young), but it’s a story that I’ve always followed, maybe because of the haunting images that have been appearing over the years of the homes, schools and businesses that were suddenly abandoned. We know that slowly over the past 30 years nature has been taking over where people used to live and slowly buildings and other things are decaying and returning to more original forms.

I saw an article the other day about a gentleman who flew helicopters over the site in the days after the disaster to measure the temperature and gasses. I always check out stories like these because they give very personal and personable insights into events that don’t come with a lot of details or are still impacting the world today. In the article he tells how he knew it was dangerous but there wasn’t really an option, someone had to do it because they had to get that information. Today thankfully we would be able to send a drone over the scene of the accident and let the drone get the data without having to put any human lives in harms way.

I’m thankful both for the people who go into harms way to help the rest of us like police and fire workers, as well as for the updates in technology that gives the humans a helping hand and keep them safer. We’re not yet at the place where we’re avoiding all accidents, but we have come very far in these past 30 years to where we are avoiding danger more and staying safer.

I believe that we need to support technology development more because it can help keep us safer, move resources where they can be better used, and reduce waste. But there will always be a need to be brave and courageous, to have people help people. The world is better because we have other people to share it with. If anything as technology develops and advances we need people who are more responsible and keep tabs on technology to make sure we’re using it to help and not to harm.  Both people and technology can be good and bad, it’s up to each of us to make sure that they are helping victories happen.