Be A Light

I’ve had a couple of light bulbs go out in succession this past week, I suppose that’s how things happen some times. It’s always more “fun” when it happens at night in a room that doesn’t have other lights in it. Thankfully we’ve got cell phones that help us at least navigate somewhat without having to light a candle and attempt to use that light. The gift of modern lighting is one reason I would not want to have been born hundreds of years ago, I can’t imagine what it was like when we didn’t have the ability to have (safe) light whenever and wherever we wanted, we get small tastes of it when the power goes out, and that’s more than enough for me.

Those moments of darkness are important reminders of why it’s so important as a person of faith to be a light in this world. God doesn’t want us to be so optimistic and positive that we ignore the darkness, nor does it mean we should be all fire and brimstone to beat the darkness. Rather, God calls us to be a light when there are times of darkness, to be an encouragement to others and to find hope even when it doesn’t seem like there is much. It’s not about aggression, blindness or being blinding, but about love and hope and kindness.

If you’re struggling with your light and it’s not shining so brightly, it’s time to head back into the Bible and read through the Psalms or some of the other more uplifting and motivating parts of the Bible. It also may mean that God wants you to spend more time with Him in prayer and meditation. As John 8:12 says: “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”  You don’t have to be a light on your own, you’ve got God there to guide you and help fuel that light. How are you bringing light to the world?

Reality Reflection: Reactions

I’m always fascinated that some of the oldest rules in the book still apply after we’ve done all the developing and changing that we have over the years (centuries).  This would include things like how the egg shape is an incredibly strong shape, gravity still gets the best of us (fortunately and unfortunately), when you point at someone there are fingers pointing back at you, weaving things together creates incredibly strong bonds, Newton’s third law, and the idea of karma and the Biblical concept of ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you.’

The one of those I’ve been contemplating lately is Newton’s third law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  It’s a very specific statement on the idea that every thing you do and everything you say creates results.  In some cases those results are consequences, in other cases they’re victories, or at the very least steps closer to victories.

The word that’s specifically used in the law is ‘reaction.’  I like this word in this context because it’s a reminder of the impact you have on others.  There’s very little that happens in your life that doesn’t have an impact on the world around you, on the next generation or more immediately on someone who is alive today.  But beyond the impact you have on their life, they have a reaction to that impact.  Sometimes it’s an over the top reaction, sometimes it’s an unexpected reaction, sometimes the reaction is blown out of proportion with the situation, sometimes it’s exactly what you expected, and sometimes there’s a delayed reaction.

It’s not just about the impact that we can have on others, but considering how they’re going to react, and if there’s a way of doing things so there isn’t any misunderstanding or to soften the reaction so that fewer people are negatively impacted.  I encourage you to think things through before you make very public moves or life-altering decisions that may have sounded like a good idea but could very well end up kicking you in the butt.

6 Simple Steps to Victory

I read a headline the other day about how big projects must address 6 key criteria. I’m not big on clickbate, but it did interest me so I looked below the headline to see what the sub text was, and it actually said what the 6 criteria were. To my surprise they were something that I was taught at a very young age, and you may have been taught too: who, what, where, how, when, where and why! It got me thinking about how much things have changed and how little some other things have changed. In some situations that’s a good thing, and in others they’re long past due or unnecessarily changed.

We’ve complicated our lives in so many ways, and that there’s value in slowing down, in simplifying and going back to some of those tried and true methods. Whether it’s sticking with email communication instead of 6 different apps and calendars, using a paper to-do list, sitting down for coffee or a beer with friends, or doing a yard sale, they may not be the trendiest things, but if they work for you, use them! Don’t get me wrong, I love how we carry phones and mini computers in our back pockets and have so many awesome things they didn’t have a hundred years ago.

As far as who, what, where, how, when, where and why, it’s amazing how these 6 simple words can help you figure out or organize so much information so simply. Many victories aren’t as simple as it is to spell the word, they have layers and steps and many people involved. For the big victories, it can feel overwhelming to try to figure out what to do or where to start. Using these 6 words can give you a very simple framework to help you make a really great plan for many victories, whether at work, home, church, with your family or in any aspect of your own health and happiness.

If your week is too much already or you’re feeling overwhelmed by being 3 months to Christmas (and almost also to the end of the year), take a deep breath, slow down for a few minutes and make a plan, perhaps using these 6 words and a piece of paper, to get things back in control and with a good idea of how you’re moving forward.

Prayer and Restoration

School is in full swing, and while I don’t have plans to go back there are still some things that come up each year on the school calendar that I make note of for one reason or another. This week schools around the US are gearing up for See You At The Pole. It’s a student led spiritual ministry for students, by students at schools of all kinds, not just private spiritual based schools. In this day and age students have to communicate with the school about doing it, but back when it started in 1990 students would just show up around the pole and pray.

Each year they do pick a different theme to reflect on, but the ultimate goal of the event whether it’s done at a school or off campus (due to a request to disperse), is to pray for the school and students. Prayer is and has always been a central part of the Christian faith and it’s also a central part of many other religions as well. Faith and prayer is as natural together and intimately connected as peanut butter and jelly or fish and chips. This year the organization has chosen the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to be the focus for the prayers and topics of discussion on Wednesday:

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

It’s a great verse for many reasons, including the focus it has on the topic and importance of prayer. What so many people need today is restoration. But this verse, and others throughout the Bible, are clear that like many other things including the seasons, there’s a process that has to be followed. Restoration can only happen after realizing something isn’t right, admitting your part in it, making changes in your life, and asking for forgiveness.

I do pray for restoration, and also for the strength and courage to do what it takes to get to that point. Each student that stands up and joins around a flagpole on Wednesday is taking an important first step and showing great courage and strength. If we were all to stand up and pray for each other, could you imagine the healing, transformation and blessings that could occur in our lives?

Life may be just beginning for those students, but we’re still here too, so it’s not too late to say a prayer and begin a restoration process in your life as well. How will God heal you this week?

Reality Reflection: Autumn Changes

Monday we have our first official day of Autumn. The calendar switches over from summer to autumn. Many people say they love autumn because it means hot beverages, but I drink hot beverages year round, so that’s not an enticement for me. I’m cool or cold 90% of the year so the turn to cooler weather that some people enjoy isn’t enjoyable for me either. While I think the trees changing colors is magical, it’s always stood as a symbol for what comes next (snow/winter) so that doesn’t excite me much either. And yet here another autumn comes and I’m staying where I am and don’t have any plans to move to someplace where the seasons aren’t so defined or extreme (like the Carolinas or New Mexico).

As I was contemplating the fact that I haven’t had any real inclination to move despite my dislike of the cold, I got to thinking about why I don’t want to move or why I haven’t moved yet or why I’m here to begin with. Ask anyone who has done some traveling and they’ll tell you that no place is perfect for one reason or another. It may be harder to come up with reasons in some places but if you really put your mind to it you can. So when it comes down to it there’s always give and take whether it’s where you want to live, who’s in your life or how you earn your income.

But all of the discussion and contemplation in my head brought me to another point as well, that as much as this is about weather and temperature, even more it’s about change and its place in our lives. How well do you anticipate changes and work through changes both anticipated and unanticipated? You may not welcome change excitedly each time it shows up, but do you have a positive attitude towards working through it? This autumn while others are working on kids homework and sports schedules or keeping up with their favorite sports team, I’m going to work on understanding, accepting, and most of all working through change. What part of change is most challenging to you?

Peace and Gratitude

Saturday is both International Peace Day and World Gratitude Day. Both gratitude and peace are topics that we talk about a lot and are so crucial to our society becoming a healthy community rather than one fraught with tension, hatred and violence. Today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on how you can have more peace in your life and how gratitude can positively impact your life.

Let’s start with gratitude. Why? Because having more gratitude towards life and each other can help increase the amount of peace we have and spread into the world. A simple place to start infusing your life with gratitude is to say “thank you” more often. Say ‘thank you’ when someone holds the door open for you, say ‘thank you’ when you remember where you put something, say ‘thank you’ when someone helps you with a project at work, say ‘thank you’ when you get a gift, say ‘thank you’ when someone hands you a plate at a meal, say ‘thank you’ when you wake up, say ‘thank you’ when you go outside and see a beautiful blue sky with fluffy white clouds, say ‘thank you’ when you get good news, say ‘thank you’ when you get done with that day’s top priorities.

Those are just a few of the opportunities each day you may have to be thankful, but with each one comes the opportunity to say out loud or just think the words ‘thank you’ to reinforce to others and your own brain the good things that have happened. Having lots of gratitude in your life doesn’t mean that things won’t go wrong or won’t be discouraging from time to time, but if we’re more focused on being grateful we won’t be the wet rag in our relationships, at our places of employment, or on social media, the person who contributes to the violence and hatred in the world.

So how do we have more peace in our lives? Start by saying ‘no’, ending relationships, and leaving situations that hurt you physically or mentally. Making separation, however big or small especially to start, from the people and situations that tend to get us into trouble, increase our stress levels and cause us hours and days of anxiety, frustration, angst and hurt will help us create more peace in our lives. You may not be able to make full separations from some of these situations now or ever, but the more separation you can make, the more you can do to remove yourself from situations you know will trigger you, the more opportunities you’ll have to put yourself into situations that will be good for your physical and mental health and leave you with a feeling of peace.

Like many other things, gratitude and peace begin with you. You can’t make anywhere near the impact on the world around you if you don’t start with your own life first. What role do gratitude and peace play in your life?

God Is Greater

Lately one of the popular worship songs has been echoing through my head, it’s Greater than All My Regrets by Tenth Avenue North. You can listen to the song here, and the chorus goes like this:

So if I fall and if I fail
I will trust Your mercy is
Greater than all of this
And if I bend and if I break
I’ll trust the hands that hold me are
Greater than all my regrets
You are greater than all my regrets
You are
Greater than all my regrets
You are, You are

On my other blog today I shared about the struggle we have when it comes to failure. Failure is something we all deal with at one point in time or another, and at one level or another. Some will have little mistakes and failures in their lives, while others will fail in spectacular and showy fashion. This song touches on the topics that we often struggle with even if we don’t talk about them: failure, regret, misses, mistakes, and sin. Slowly over the past few years it’s been more acceptable to talk about these topics and especially to get help with these topics and the emotions that surround them, and this song echoes that.

God knows what’s going on in your life and mine. He knows how you feel about how things are going, what you’ve done, what you’ve got planned, and how it’s all going to work out. How we live our lives, the things we do each day, the people in our lives are things that matter to us and our time on earth. As much as one life and the choices one makes for breakfast each day for example seem inconsequential in the scheme of things, God still cares and still pays attention and understands how it all matters to us.

Yet we can’t forget that there’s so much more out there than what goes on in our little life. God is so much bigger, so much smarter, so much more powerful than we are able to understand. Yet He’s also more loving, caring and forgiving than we tend to remember or experience (because we don’t invite Him in to be part of our lives as intimately as we could). He is right there in your life whether you’re dealing with a broken heart, lost job or your lunch went bad before you could eat it. Our life is richer when we experience it with God.  How have you experienced the greatness of God lately?

Reality Reflection: Love and Kindness

It’s been a rough week for many people. I found out someone I greatly respected passed away recently, my partner got some bad news about his knee, we remembered another 9/11, the Amazon burned, and more lives were lost to hatred or disregard. The other day my partner had on some show that featured Dr. Phil as a guest and he questioned where the humanity has gone, how we used to be able to sit down and talk things through, and now it seems like so many people wait until they’re hitting rock bottom before they’re asking for help or choosing violence over talking. I can’t help but agree, and it’s something I frequently emphasize to my business clients: the importance of remembering we’re all people, humans with feelings and needs and people they care about.

It’s weeks like these that I’m reminded of the importance of the other people that we share this world with. Of taking time to celebrate being alive and surviving through another day. Of sharing this world with amazing creatures like koalas, dogs, turtles and tigers. Of building amazing structures and infrastructure, some that last thousands of years.

It’s so simple and yet we seem to screw it up on a regular basis. None of us are perfect, so why aren’t we able to give each other more flexibility and forgiveness? Why aren’t more of us standing for rebuilding and recovery instead of fighting and defending our little corner of the universe? Why aren’t we taking the time to ask questions instead of just judging or hating? Many have gone through more tragedy in their short lives than anyone should, I’d say it’s past time to circle back to being a community.

“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” Barbara De Angelis

Hope and Suicide

Tuesday was World Suicide Prevention Day, and September is suicide prevention month. In line with being a leading case of death in the US, over 1 million people die from suicide each year around the world. Yesterday on my other blog I shared about 9/11 and how I couldn’t really understand the hatred or dislike that would cause people to kill others in the types of terrorist attacks we remember happening 18 years ago today. I can however understand a small portion of what people struggle with when it comes to suicide.

Depression is something I’ve worked with and on for many years, never close to considering suicide, but I do have some understanding of what it feels like to feel hopeless and lost. Unlike hatred and anger towards others, I can imagine what it feels like when these feelings reach the extremes that drive some people to suicide. I don’t think we should ever give up hope, but there comes a time when it just doesn’t seem like the miracle will be showing up. The struggle of suicide is something very personal. As much as you think about the other people in your life while you’re struggling, the things that lead you to suicide don’t leave a lot of room left in your head to navigate your way out.

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m hopeful for the first time in a long time. I’m hopeful because people of all walks of life are finally talking about their mental health struggle, even publicly on TV. I’m hopeful because it’s easier than ever to reach out for support without fanfare or sharing your situation with the world through text, email, call and messages. I’m hopeful because of everyone who gives hope to those who are lost, who listens to them and helps them connect with people who will support and not judge them. I’m hopeful because of the number of organizations, public and private, who are stepping up to share about and support help for those considering suicide. I’m hopeful because there’s more openness and understanding that anyone in any walk of life can struggle with mental illness, depression and suicide, including first responders and celebrities.

Suicide may be a personal struggle, but that doesn’t mean we give up on each other and let anyone struggle alone. The more we share, the more we support, the more we accept, the more chances we’ll have to decrease the number of suicides each year, instead of seeing them increase. Everyone faces struggles in life, but no one should struggle alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help if you’re struggling, and if someone comes to you looking for help, support them or send them to someone who can help.

How Do You Hear From God?

I think one of the biggest questions, challenges, concerns, or struggles people have when it comes to their faith, or any type of spiritual beliefs in general, has to do with hearing from God. If you ask someone of faith they will tell you that God has certainly had a hand in their lives, or that they can see God’s leading.
And yes, we’re able to pray directly to Him, we don’t have to go through an intermediary like a pastor or priest which makes it a lot more comfortable and encourages us to do it more often.

But let’s face it, saying prayers to God is not often the same as sitting down to have coffee with someone and having an actual conversation where there’s listening and speaking on both sides of the table. I say that it is rarely like that because throughout spiritual history there have been people who have spoken directly with God like Enoch, Samuel, Solomon, Jonah, and Saul/Paul from the Bible. And then there are people from more recent history who also had a close relationship and heard from God like Smith Wigglesworth, Mother Teresa, and Billy Graham, just to name a few of the more well-known people.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with God guiding us through means other than words, I will always take that over nothing at all, but there’s something so much more personal, powerful, intimate and real about hearing actual words. It’s kind of like how you can connect with someone on social media and message back and forth, but unless you meet them in person or talk on the phone/skype, you’re not really positive they’re a real person or who they say they are.

I don’t think it’s impossible to actually talk with/hear from God, and since God is all powerful He’s certainly able to talk with anyone (or everyone) at any time. But most of us don’t take the time to develop the relationship with Him that would encourage Him to speak directly to us in that way (although He certainly can speak to you that way to get your attention as He did Paul/Saul who He didn’t have a relationship with).  And while He could speak to us all with words, it might make Him seem less divine or people would feel like they’re more equal with Him, which wouldn’t be a good thing.

So what do you do if you want to hear (more) from God? Read your Bible, make time to pray and talk with God on a very regular basis, and be open to His leading and the changes of your plans. God may choose to speak words through someone else that you need to hear, He may make your path obvious in another way, He may touch your heart with an impression or direction, and He may speak to you directly with words. I believe God speaks today, and He wants to speak to each of us, it’s a question of whether we are truly listening or not.