Reality Reflections: What were we exploring anyway?

This month as we’ve talked about the topic of exploring and doing some exploring myself, I’ve found myself asking a kind of funny question, maybe one you’ve asked before after going through something: what were we exploring anyway? The question isn’t really about the literal “what” of what you were exploring (i.e. a hill, a battlefield, a store, a relationship etc.), but really about why we were exploring it. If you really take the time to think about it you can assign a reason or goal behind each thing you do. For example why watch cat/dog videos? Some might say to not watch the depressing news or because they love cats/dogs and others might say because it makes them happy, and those are all legitimate reasons for watching dog/cat videos. There might be a necessary follow-up question of why did you watch so many dog/cat videos that might bring up some questions to consider about how you spend your time though.

But what happens when the ‘why’ doesn’t line up with what you’re doing? For example if you watched videos of dogs playing in water but your goal is to learn about birthing puppies the exploration (watching dogs play in water) doesn’t line up with the desired result (learning about dog births). Now, we don’t always know what the desired result is and sometimes we know what a general result would be but not the specific result we were really after. For example if you watched videos of dogs playing in water and your initial/large goal was to learn about dogs, you’re doing that. But if when you really think about it your goal is to learn specifically about birthing puppies, you’re not doing the right exploration. I reached that conclusion myself when I was on a date with my partner this week, that the general result was definitely accomplished (being together and visiting a Halloween/autumn attraction), but the unknown specific goal really wasn’t, or that the chosen exploration didn’t really line up with what we needed (a slightly more intimate, less pressured, less rushed evening).

Now, just because the end result doesn’t line up with the initial goal it doesn’t mean that the exploration was pointless or wasted. It could still be a great experience and opportunity to learn. In fact sometimes it’s good to explore something simply for the practice of being curious and seeing what else our world holds. And I’m not saying that every single thing you do needs to be analyzed to this deep level (I can’t stand that), but that taking just a quick minute to really see if what you’re planning or doing is really what you want could help you manage expectations or alter plans. So this week I would encourage you to be a little more mindful about what you’re doing and why and let that help you make smarter decisions about your life and relationships, and have more fun too.

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The Expectations of Exploring

This month we’ve been talking in part about the topic of exploring, and I did some exploring with my partner to a Halloween/autumn attraction recently and either I wasn’t in the mood for the exploration or it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. I think it’s a little of both, but it got me thinking about what happens when we go out and do the brave/courageous thing and explore and don’t find what we expect, or the reality didn’t live up to the hype or we find that the destination is really just a beginning. We get to the end of the road and say something like “now what?” or “that’s it?” or “there’s more?”

I think part of the reality is that life is a journey and even when we explore we’re not necessarily going to end up at a true destination, but that what we thought were destinations are really just stops in the journey. But let’s talk about making the most of your explorations. First, know that not all explorations will be successful or awesome. Even if you put a good spin on them, there are some things that just don’t work out. Yes, they can be chalked up to learning experiences and attempts, and they’re important to have as long as that’s not all that’s happening. If it’s not a great exploration, learn what you can from it and move on.

Second, manage your expectations. Yes, you should go into everything with a positive expectation, or at least the expectation of learning something, but that doesn’t mean that your expectation will be that it’s the end-all, be-all. I can remember going on a trip to a bunch of National Parks among other things with my family as a child and being incredibly underwhelmed by the Grand Canyon, the vast canyon that countless people have raved about since it was discovered. But I’ve seen pictures of the Grand Canyon since then that have blown me away because of the cloud formations or weather that’s part of the image. It’s important to note that I clicked on the link for the picture not because I loved the Grand Canyon, or because I was expecting to see another picture of a hole in the ground, but because I hoped that maybe I would get to see something that was a glimpse of what many people experience when they look at it, and I did.

I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to the Grand Canyon or that Halloween/autumn attraction again or not, but I’m not going to let some not-so-great explorations ruin me forever. I’m still excited to visit more National Parks and more local attractions, and maybe with a little better attitude and slightly adjusted expectations, I’ll have a better time even if it’s not my pick. Sometimes it’s not even about the destination, but about the thrill of exploring. Yes, the destination is great, but sometimes the journey getting there is even better.

Exploring God

This month one of the things we’re talking about is the topic of exploring. I think it’s important for us to spend time exploring as part of our lives, I don’t think it’s healthy for us to stay in our little bubbles and not consider the other people and parts of the world that surround us. I don’t think that God wants us to stay in our little bubbles either, otherwise we won’t be able to share the Good News with the world. But the more I explore the world, the more I hear, the more people I meet, the more I learn that there are some things that don’t change and are universal around the world. These are things like family, enjoying sunshine, wanting to be loved, the power of love, the challenge and power of communication, and the joy of being a child are universal.

Something else that won’t change no matter where you go or what you do is God. That’s not something that I say because it sounds good or just something I believe, it’s something God has committed to. Malachi 3:6 says “I am the Lord, and I do not change…” With that verse in mind we can go through the whole Bible and explore who God is and get to know Him, knowing that what the Bible shares about Him is true and hasn’t changed. Yes, there are things that have changed from when the Bible was written to today with regard to culture/society, but that’s not the case with God. God has remained the same and that’s a good thing.

This week I would encourage you to explore the Bible on who God is and take time to explore your relationship with Him in a new way. Maybe it’s starting a lunch time devotional time or taking walks in the woods or parks to talk with God (without listening to something on your phone/audio device), maybe it’s memorizing a verse or delving into a particular aspect of who He is as the Bible shares, or maybe it’s joining a Facebook group or local group to do a devotional each week. What will you do to deepen and explore your relationship with God this week?

Open to Exploring

This month one of the topics we’re going to be talking about is the topic of exploring. There are some people who were practically out into the world on their first adventure the moment they were born, while others of us are more home-bodies. I’ve done some exploring out into the world and I’m sure I’ll do some again in the future, but I really enjoy my corner of the world. But that’s not to say that I don’t spend time exploring, because I do tons of exploring, but not usually in the physical sense. I explore online on websites, blogs and social media, I explore through books, I explore through TV shows. The exploring I do is often through the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of others. Why? Because I’m able to learn so much through what they (and you!) see in the world!

Much of the concept of exploration is about being open to what else is in the world. That means being willing to relax your preconceived opinions and experiences, and being open to seeing or experiencing things in a very different way. Of course, my exploration through your photographs of your hiking trip will be a very different exploration than you experienced. Sometimes people explore through others because they physically can’t explore, don’t have the financial means to physically explore, or don’t have enough interest to really dedicate that amount of time and resources to a true physical exploration.

The challenge that we face as we enter this new month is really about openness. How open are you to what else goes on in the world? How open are you to hearing the stories and experiences of others? How open are you to learning or experiencing something new? How open are you to doing things a different way? Are you at all open to being wrong or outdated in your knowledge? I’m not suggesting that we all pack our bags and head to NYC so that we can experience “The Big Apple,” or travel to some other destination like The Amazon, Robben Island, Chernobyl or Area 51, what we’ll be taking a look at this month is exploring ourselves, our lives, our relationships and our world. Sometimes that does mean getting up and going somewhere, but it also means making time to learn and grow and be exposed to the other people and ideas of the world. What will you explore this month?

Reality Reflections: Face Your Life

Today I have an interesting challenge for you, inspired by the words of Colette Baron-Reid: “So many people are realizing that in spite of outer conditions we all have the capacity to choose to face our lives, turn on our light and address the shadows we have cast head on.”

The words that stood out to me when I read this was that we first and foremost have the capacity to choose to face our lives. It’s really a big wake up call to those of us who are unhappy with our lives and haven’t made any decisions about how to move forward. You’ve heard it before: the only person who can really do anything to change how happy you are with your life is you. I may be able to help you be happier or bring you things that make you happier, but you’ve got to choose to be happy about those things and welcome them into your life.

The second thing that stood out to me was the reminder that we have to “address the shadows we have cast head on.” I get it, our shadows (and what causes them) can be scary. It’s not exactly exciting to look at the mess you may be in.  It can be intimidating to talk with our boss, our family or our partner about our unhappiness. You may think that you know the reaction (or rejection) they’ll give you. I wish that everyone had the supportive relationships that I do in their lives. The unfortunate reality is that not everyone has someone in their life that supports them (shame on you if you’re not supportive of the people in your life).

Sometimes we can get through the mountains we face by drilling through, other times we have to take the time to go around, and sometimes we have to take what might be the most challenging route and go over those mountains. But we’ve either got to pick one of those routes or we’ll never get to the other side (it’s very unlikely that the mountain will move for you, although sometimes it does).

As you look ahead to the last few days of this month and what you’re going to do with the last 4 months of the year, I would encourage you to grab the courage and confidence to face those mountains, those challenges, those people, those fears, those things that you’ve let hold you back and choose that you’re going to move forward from this point on.

Rivers of Life

I was reading a very interesting article about how rivers can be a representation of our lives.  The other option is to be a stagnant pool of water.  I don’t know about you but I’d rather be a moving river than a mosquito home.  Throughout the Bible the topic of rivers are returned to again and again, including a very painting-worthy passage in Ezekiel 47.  Rivers were often used because the people knew them to be a source of life, and in using them as a teaching example the listeners could more easily understood the concept of the living word and life of God, especially before the birth and death of Jesus (although there are lots of examples in the New Testament, too).

Where are you at in your life right now?  Are you in a stagnant place?  Or are you being swept away by life?  Or are you moving along with life, taking it as it comes?  The funny thing about rivers is that they can do a real good job of hiding the truth. What can look like a peaceful spot can be deadly to dive into or a bottomless pit or have an incredible current that will sweep you under before you know what’s happening.  People too can hide the truth, there are countless people all around the globe that are hiding their real feelings, hurts, frustrations, fears and maybe even their joys.  They hide because they’re afraid that if people knew the real them, they would be judged.  And the unfortunate thing is many would be judged, humiliated, laughed at or not taken seriously, that’s how too much of our world works.

As people of faith we’ve got a responsibility to step up and be better people.  It’s unfortunate that we too have at times fallen into the judgment zone, trying to look all perfect to the world while struggling privately.  No, we’re not supposed to live as sinfully as others in the world do, but Christian or not we’re still human and have our not so great moments.  We have many of the same challenges to face as others do around the world, we just know that we can go into the rushing river with an excellent rescue team on hand for us (the people at our church or Bible Study or other faith-based group, not to mention God).

Is this your week to conquer the river in your life?  I encourage you to be brave and say that enough is enough, and choose to move as your life (and God) directs.

Christmas Carol Classics: We Wish You a Merry Christmas

“We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year

Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year

Now bring us some figgy pudding
Now bring us some figgy pudding
Now bring us some figgy pudding
And a cup of good cheer

We won’t go until we get some
We won’t go until we get some
We won’t go until we get some
So bring it right here

So bring us some figgy pudding
So bring us some figgy pudding
So bring us some figgy pudding
And bring it right here

Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year”

To finish out our year and this Christmas season I’m sharing one last song, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”  It’s one of those classic songs that you do hear every year and many artists do their own version of (including Weezer).

This is yet another song that has come out of England with smashing success.  While parts of it were around from earlier years, the rendition in 1935 brought about most of what we know of as the carol today.  The lyrics “a merry Christmas and a happy New Year” have ties to the carolers that would sing outside of homes in exchange for food or drink (hence the line that talks about “figgy pudding”).

As we look into the new year just a short while away I’m excited for what’s ahead.  We’ve just about made it out of this year and into a new one.  No matter how bad or good your last year was you’ve just about made it to the new one.  One of the reasons I chose this song is because of the passion and purpose in it.  As we go into the new year we often talk about resolutions, and while I’m not going to suggest that you make one right now, I do encourage you to commit to yourself that you’re going to make it your best year yet and you don’t give up, especially if this past year wasn’t your best.  What will you make of 2017?