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?

Enjoying Our Differences

This month we’ve been talking about enjoying life, enjoying each other, enjoying our world and enjoying God.  I know that what I enjoy in life may not be what you enjoy in life, and that’s OK.  That’s one of the reasons why the world we live in is so diverse.  If it wasn’t so diverse neither would we be, in fact we’d all look, sound and act a lot the same, and I can’t believe that our world would be anywhere as awesome as it is if we were so similar.

But as different as we are we also have to have similarities or we wouldn’t be able to live in relative harmony and partnership with each other.  Sure, there are wars and disagreements and the like, sometimes because we heard things wrong or don’t know how to communicate effectively using words, sometimes words aren’t effective when it comes to defending yourself, and sometimes people prefer to hate and hurt.  But back to our similarities, we all have feelings, have families (in whatever form they may come in), have dreams and goals and gifts and talents.

This week I read a passage that reminded me about the importance of respecting other people and their preferences.  It reminded me that just because I enjoy simple things and you may enjoy much more complex and complicated things, neither of our enjoyment should be less joyful than the other, nor should we reject or not be willing to try what other people enjoy simply because it’s different from what we enjoy.

I encourage you this week to be open to the joy of others and trying new things.

“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”  Romans 12:14-16

Reality Reflection: Books are Awesome

This past Friday was Read an eBook Day and September 6th was Read a Book Day, and of course it’s back to school month so there’s lots of talk of learning!  I am a huge book lover, I love reading articles online and in my emails and think that reading is one of the best ways to learn.  Of course there are other ways of learning, but to me it’s one of the best and most enjoyable.  There’s nothing quite like holding a book in your hand, but eBooks have certainly revolutionized the book industry and made it much easier for everyone to be able to read, not just those who have access to physical books or a place to keep them.

I always check out book list posts when they come through my inbox because I like to know what other people are reading both fiction and non-fiction.  Sometimes there will be books that inspire you or give you a new perspective on something that you would have never picked up yourself but thanks to someone else’s recommendation you’re able to read.  I usually go first to my local library and see if I can get the book through there since it’s not necessarily something I want to keep a copy of.

One of the things I’ve been seeing lately on posts like these and especially others that talk about the benefits of reading is how down on fiction books they are.  I love reading books about and by great leaders that can help further my knowledge about business, people and personal growth.  I’ve even read a couple good history books.  But the majority of books I read are fiction books, as are the majority of books I read with kids.

Why do I love fiction books?  First because of their passion for adventure, curiosity, love, relationships, learning, growing, dedication and sense of accomplishment.  Many authors do extensive research before doing writing and do their best to make many of the details in their books accurate to how things are in the world and given the fictional setting and characters is often a more palatable way for people to learn things.  Second because they keep us adults connected to the passion and energy that kids go through life with.  We encourage our kids to read anything they can get their hands on and enjoy when they’re kids. But when they become adults we start telling them to read newspapers and serious publications because the fiction they used to read can’t be good for anything now as adults.  But as with other things, it’s not true.

I believe there’s a need for us as adults to spend time in worlds where things are a little less structured and a lot more fun.  We’re super serious because of all that goes on in the world and because of all we’ve seen.  But just because we need to know about the reality of the world around us, doesn’t mean that a little fun, adventure and out-of-the-box thinking can’t get us just as far or further than if we just work with the box.  So get out there this week and try a new author, read a favorite author’s latest book, or pick up one of your favorites and get lost in it for a little while.

Reality Reflection: Mysteries of the World

As I was seeing what was going on in the world during my daily visit to a popular news site I saw an update on a story I’ve been following, the disappearance of the MH370 airplane.  Did you know that the plane disappeared over 2 years ago?  It got me thinking about some of the mysteries of the world.  Some things are mysteries because they happened before there was all the technology we have today so there was no way of recording or communicating things like we do today, and certainly very few ways of making sure whatever communication tools they did have lasted until today.  Other things are mysteries that we haven’t been able to figure out no matter how much technology we apply to it, like cancer and Alzheimers.  And of course you can’t ignore the mysteries like why certain things taste good to us some days and not other days or how styles are really created and chosen.

There’s just something about a mystery that catches our interest.   There are the murder mysteries that are part of our lives and books, mysteries in the art world, and tons of events, places, and people that are mysteries throughout history that fascinate us, maybe even just because we weren’t or aren’t there and there aren’t a lot of records about them.  For example, things like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Sphinx, Genghis Khan, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  We know that these things and people exist or existed but there’s a lot we don’t know about them and are continually discovering new details.

But back to MH370.  It amazes me with all the technology and resources we have that we haven’t been able to find it yet. But of course I’m reminded of things like the Titanic which took some 86 years to find.  It’s another reminder of exactly how big our world is.  So maybe it will take another couple of years to find answers on MH370, maybe even decades.  Part of the reason that MH370, Titanic and other mysteries have remained in our discussions is because they are mysteries.  There are things we don’t know about them, they disappeared under certain circumstances, and because of them lives have (presumably) been lost, and that intrigues us and speaks to something in many of us.

Just because something is a mystery it doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t be solved. It may mean that we learn things in bits and pieces as we typically do when it comes to historical mysteries.  So if you  have a mystery in your life right now, don’t despair, keep looking for the clues that when put together will help you solve it.

Reality Reflection: The Setting Sun

This week I’ve been thinking about changes and happened to see a beautiful setting sun.  We all have seasons where the sun sets on parts of our lives.  Sometimes it’s the death of a family member or close friend, sometimes it’s a job or career change, sometimes it’s a new place to live and other times it’s smaller like the end of a brand or product we loved.  The transition time isn’t something we do well with or enjoy all the time.  Endings and partings aren’t things we always enjoy either, and they can be difficult and painful, and sometimes confusing especially if you weren’t expecting it.

Some of us get stuck in the change and transition process, others of us can’t let go of the past, and some of us are so busy moving forward that we don’t grieve and let go of the past.  I think in most cases it’s important to take time to remember the past, work through the transition and move forward.  I don’t think we should skip any of these steps, whether our past was bad or good.  Learning from a bad past is helpful, but it’s also important to take time to cement the memories of the good things you have had or experienced.  Yes, life is about moving forward and living to the fullest, but part of that fullness is the past that has brought you to this point.

This weekend, this summer, I encourage you to take time to enjoy the setting sun as well as the rising sun.  With the late summer nights and early summer mornings there are lots of opportunities to see the sun and remember it as part of your life.  I remember lots of trips as a child where we would watch the rising or setting sun while driving and a few thunderstorms too.  Those are treasured memories from my childhood and I am thankful for them.  Choose to find the beauty in the endings in your life this summer, not just the joy in the future or relief of leaving the past.

Faith for Changes

This month the topic we’re focusing on is faith. It’s a topic that challenges us and gives us hope at the same time. We’re still at the beginning of this month which means we’ve got most of the month stretched out before us yet to work through. As I was thinking about the month ahead and about the changes going on in my life, and the changes you’re going through, it got me on to the topic of how we deal with new things and changes in our lives. Each time we start a new month there’s a lot of unknown that we have to have faith will work itself out.  It may even feel like we need that trust in a bigger way as we work through each day.

Each time you buy a new phone, move to a new place, start a new relationship, or take a relationship to the next level you have to put a little (or a lot) of trust and faith into the change you’re making, the new journey you’re starting or the person you’re choosing to experience life with.  You may be excited about that new thing or that change, but of course what shows up for most of us is fear, doubt, confusion, uncertainty, and lots of questions. I get that. We all deal with those feelings to varying degrees. The people who truly succeed in life are those who experience those feelings but move forward anyway. It’s not that they don’t feel those scary and confusing emotions or have doubts, it’s that they choose to focus on what they hope the future includes and are prepared to deal with the failures and complications that may show up along the way.

Are the changes in your life worth the faith that you’re putting up for them? If they’re not maybe it’s time to reconsider the path you’re taking in your life.   Maybe the issue isn’t the changes or new things, but the amount of faith you have in them being successful.  Don’t be afraid of putting in the effort it may take as long as you know that you really want what you’re working towards.  What areas of your life are you working through in faith right now?