The Day the Lord Has Made

As I was working on my weekly devotional this week, one of the verses that came to mind was Psalm 118:24 (ESV):

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

I think it’s a great verse to start the year off with, because it reminds us up front and center that this day, with whatever goes on in it, is a day that the Lord has made. I don’t say this to make light of whatever challenge you may be facing today, some days are absolutely brutal with their expectation of you and what they throw at you. Some days all you can do is make it through with as little damage as possible, and some days even that doesn’t go so well. As much as we might like to hope that because it’s a day God made that everything would be great, that’s just not the reality of living here on Earth.

So what can we be glad in when we face one of those days? I’d focus on the fact that there’s a day after today that hasn’t happened yet. As long as you keep living and pushing through, you’ll get to the next day, a day that is a blank slate and you can do almost anything with. You can’t erase the past, but you can build a different (better/bigger/quieter/healthier etc.) future. Today may not be a rockstar day, but it can teach you what you need going into the future. It may give you an experience you can use to help yourself or someone else in the future. It may be the motivation you need to make changes in your life.

What will you do with this day the Lord has made?

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2019: The Year of You

This year I hope will be many things for us, but what I really hope this year will be is a year for you. It’s my hope, and my goal, to make this year a year that we take the initiative, that we move ahead, that we stand up for what we want and need and what’s best for us. That doesn’t mean that we’ll exclude or not consider others, just that we’ll include and consider others less at the expense of ourselves, and with greater focus on creating all-win situations (wins for everyone).

In line with this being our year, one of the big themes that we’ll be talking about this year is that of ‘today.’ Having a ‘today’ theme means appreciating the moment, taking today for what it is, conquering challenges one day at a time, focusing on today, living today for the fullest (both for today and the future), living today and not reliving yesterday, and not leaving until tomorrow what can/should be done today.

I wouldn’t say these are resolutions, rather making a lifestyle change, choice or empowerment. Will there be change involved? Yes, because it’s not likely that you’re living as focused-and-empowered-in-the-moment as I’m hoping to this year.

So this year I’ll be focusing on today and whatever it brings, inspires, teaches, requires, motivates, empowers, or creates.  What about you?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: getting to thankful

Sometimes you’re just not in the mood to be thankful.  I know it can be hard to choose thanksgiving and gratitude when it seems like life is falling down around you, or failing you. People around the US have dealt with serious losses from hurricanes and fire these past few months, and it can be very hard to find things to be grateful for.  There are also many people around the world that are struggling with terminal illnesses either themselves or of loved ones.  Yes, every life is worth celebrating and it’s always a good day to be thankful when you’re alive, but that doesn’t mean you’re not overwhelmed by the loss and the struggle.

We should all spend time being thankful in life, but that doesn’t mean we will be thankful all the time or be thankful about everything.  Life is made up of many people, stories, experience, adventures and parts, and we’re made of many emotions and that’s the way it should be.  Life isn’t one dimensional, and neither are we.

Sometimes in these situations choosing to look for things to be grateful for helps us deal with the challenges or losses.  Choosing to focus on the good in life, however limited it may be, and the things you do have can give you the encouragement and hope you need to keep living and move forward with life.  Even taking time to think back about the good memories can help to raise your spirits.

While no one ever wants something to go wrong, it does happen.  Keeping a journal of things you’re thankful for, adding strips of paper to a jar of things you’re thankful for, and posting things you’re thankful for on social media are just a couple of ways that you can store up thoughts of thanks for the times when you need a little boost or reminder.  And seeing or hearing your thought of thanks may remind someone else of something they’re thankful for and help make their day and cheer them up.  What are you thankful for today?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: a little sweetness

There’s something magical about a little sweetness, whether of the food variety or the person variety. Sweet treats can be simple to make and they can take hours of work and years of practice. There are sweet treats for just about every person’s preferences, from chocolate to fruit to cake to pastries to caramels to cookies, just to name a few. Some people are naturally sweet, but for many people it takes a sweet treat, little kid or pet to soften them up and let their inner sweetness out.

It’s these little moments, these little treats that help to even out the challenges of the world that sometimes bombard us. If you need to take a moment to pull up your favorite cute animal video or have pictures of your kids all around you or make time for a sweet treat each day there’s no shame in that. Just because we have to deal with the challenges of life it doesn’t mean we can’t make time for the sweet stuff too.

How different would your life be if you made time for the sweet stuff, to enjoy the sweetness and be a little sweeter, on a regular basis?  Would you feel lighter, have better relationships, have more friends, enjoy life more, find life to be more rewarding, find it easier to deal with the challenges of life, have more success at work, or feel more fulfilled?  I encourage you to embrace the sweet side of life this week and see the positive impact it can have on your life

Facing Addiction as a Faith Community

There’s a serious problem in the US and other parts of the world, and it has to do with addiction to either drugs or alcohol. Whenever you turn on the TV whether to watch the news or one of the popular cop shows there’s a really good chance that something in that show will have to do with addiction. The addiction to alcohol has contributed to too many drunk driving episodes that have killed too many innocent people, and they’ve also contributed to many domestic violence charges too. The addiction to drugs is something that has been growing over the decades, from the fun and mystique of the 70’s to the epidemic it has become today.

It’s not something I have personal experience with nor do I have someone in my immediate circle who is dependent on drugs or alcohol, but I’ve followed the epidemic all the same, in part because of how deadly it is. For many people it starts innocently with a prescription and then snowballs into something more serious. I know that there are people whose lives have been made better because of the drugs that have been developed, and that there are people who are finding relief from medical marijuana. I support the use of drugs and other medical aides, but only with careful supervision and only for those who really need it. There is no reason anyone needs the addiction, and it doesn’t do anything good for anyone.

And yet the addiction grows. But over the past few months there have been a few stories of communities and people who are doing their part to not only combat the addiction but get the people who are addicted help including a small Washington community, and a family doctor in Iowa. Instead of viewing the addicts as a “dirty population” or “homeless” these people and communities are taking a step back and seeing them as people, humans just like themselves. Because while there are some addicts who don’t care, there’s a significant portion of the population who does care and just can’t break free for any number of reasons. Maybe it’s because they don’t have the resources to get clean, they don’t have the support to get or stay clean, or they’re trapped in the community and can’t get free, just to name a few.

Choosing drugs or staying addicted to them certainly isn’t treating your body like a temple, it’s not respecting the gift of a body that God gave you. For those of us who don’t have personal experience with an addiction we can’t understand what they’re feeling, thinking or really going through. We also have to accept that we can’t help everyone and everyone won’t want help. But for those who are willing to get help and be freed from their addiction, we should be open to extending them the same grace, patience and love that God does to us when we experience failings or sin. It’s not our place to judge or criticize them for their failings, just to extend the friendship and help that God would extend to us.

If you’re struggling to understand this whole topic I would encourage you to read some of the articles and stories from the communities and people around the country who have been addicts, are trying to make a difference in the lives of addicts, or are on the front lines interacting with addicts like police and emergency medical technicians. Understanding is one of the first steps to being able to help, or at the very least pray about this epidemic. After that we need to take a real hard look at our communities and whether we’re working to resolve this epidemic or not, and the damage it’s doing to our world.  What are your thoughts and experiences with addiction?

The Best Version of You

Self improvement has been a thing for quite a few years now, and something that people have always done even if there wasn’t an official name for it.  I think it’s part of who we are that we try to improve ourselves and become better people, that as we physically grow it’s part of that process or journey to grow mentally as well.  It’s good to want to improve our skills, knowledge and productivity, but sometimes there’s something else we have to focus on first.

Sometimes in our life journey we pick up some bad habits and sometimes our bodies or minds get the best of us and as a result we may struggle with ourselves, our self confidence, and our relationships with others. As a result people may think of you as an “angry person,” a “debbie downer,” a “serial dater,” a “violent person,” someone with a short temper, or someone can’t hold down a job. It’s not easy to admit that these titles may fit you, and for many it’s even harder to get over being them, especially when being angry or violent or just throwing away relationships is your default.

It may not be easy, but it will not only improve your life but also the lives of those around you. Think about the last time you were out at a store and listened to someone lose their temper at their kid or at someone they’re on the phone with. It was probably embarrassing for you to listen to, but it may also hurt to think about how the person on the receiving end may be feeling. Yes, self improvement is about growing personally and making your life better, but in this case it’s also about being aware of the world around you and how you are impacting the lives of others.

This week I encourage you to work on the habit or personal challenge that’s not only holding you back from victories, but also is negatively impacting others.  Addressing this issue will not only help get you on the path to a better you, but also improve your relationships and the perceptions that other people have of you.

It’s OK to Admit You’re Not OK

Wednesday was World Mental Health Day. Your mental health is one of the most important aspects of who you are and it’s also one of the most challenging. It’s one of the most important because even if you have physical challenges if you’re mentally healthy and sharp you can still live a really fulfilling life and have really great relationships. But if you’re struggling mentally, you may struggle in many other areas of your life.

As I was thinking about what to write for World Mental Health Day and being that we’re at the tail end of what’s typically a long day each week for me, Thursday, my partner asked me if I was doing OK, and I said ‘not really but I’ll get there.’ One of the biggest and best steps we can take for our mental health is to admit when we need help. It may seem a little scary and intimidating to take that first step and admit to yourself that you’re struggling, or take an even bigger step and seek help from a professional for your struggles, but it’s one of the best steps you can ever take in your life, health and happiness.

You shouldn’t feel shame that you’re struggling, we all struggle at one point in time or another. Just this morning I was listening to the radio and the lady admitted that she had thoughts of suicide years ago and almost followed through on it, but God stayed her hand and she sought help and now she’s here to encourage others and share her story.

Yes, it may be a long road to recovery and it may be something you struggle with through your whole life, but I whole heartedly believe that each and every one of us can be healthier mentally, feel better and more confident about ourselves and break the focus from what’s wrong to getting better.  How will you become healthier mentally today?