A Life of Mindfulness

One of the things I enjoy about Lent is how it encourages us to really be mindful about our lives and what goes on in them, where we go, what we say, how we live, the choices we make. People talk about the importance of taking time to meditate, and I certainly believe that quiet time can help you work thoughts or problems out or just help to find a little peace in all the chaos of life today. But some people struggle to find time to meditate and some struggle with the concept of sitting and being still and quiet. Which is where being mindful comes in.

Being mindful means that you’re attentive and aware according to the dictionary. Mindfulness is an opportunity for anyone to be more present in the moment, to be more conscious about what’s going on around them and what they’re doing and how they’re treating others, to think more before speaking or acting, and to be more appreciative both to the universe/God and others.

While most of us have (many) more tomorrows in front of us all we’re promised is the moment we’re living now. Being mindful can help you enjoy today and all yoru days more thoroughly, to make better decisions that will serve you both presently and in the future, to invest in the relationships that add the most value to your life, and make decisions that will positively impact the people and world around you. It can also help you be more even tempered and more at peace even with the chaos of the world and all the commitments we take on.

If “right now counts forever” as Dr. R.C. Sproul said, what are you doing with your right now? Is it something that you want to look back on forever? Will it help you build a better tomorrow? Are you working for more peace in your life and the world? What are you doing with your day today?

Advertisements

The Highway of Life

The other day I was driving down a 3 lane highway and had multiple cars come up quickly behind me in the middle lane and stay behind me. I was driving a little above the speed limit similar to other cars on the road, and while there were other cars on the road there weren’t so many that they couldn’t easily move to another lanes. You’ve probably experienced this, right? That there just doesn’t really seem to be a good reason for someone to be that close to the back of your car, not moving into another available lane, not to mention the drivers who consistently weave fast through several lanes of traffic.

Having this happen several times throughout a course of several days got me thinking about how we live our lives. We could talk about the issue some people have of rushing and never being on time for things. We could talk about how fast-paced life is and how much faster some people try to live it. We could talk about the inconsiderate nature of people expecting others to just get out of their way. Today what I wanted to talk about is in line with that last one, it’s about having multiple lanes in the highway of life.

I believe that there’s almost always more than one way to get things done, to get to a destination, to become successful, to improve yourself, or to work through an issue, with the most obvious exception being that of salvation through Jesus (that’s a one-way street). I believe that we should always have a ‘plan b’ and an alternative plan or direction if things don’t go as expected (and sometimes a ‘plan c’ and ‘plan d’). I don’t believe it’s smart to rely on one source of income unless you’re in an absolutely recession proof career. I believe you can be committed to just one partner (one marriage) as long as you are both on the same page about being committed to really working things through, tackling necessary changes, talking often, and working together.

With as many resources and options as are available to us, there’s no reason for us to force others to live our way or get in line with how we do things, nor should we expect them to. We also should not feel cornered or stuck in one option and not, at the very least, be aware of the options. Our life journeys can be full and rich, or they can be filled with frustration because we tried to do things one way and only one way when the fact of the matter is life is changing at a very rapid pace that doesn’t allow us to live in the past.

I would encourage you to take a minute and consider if you’re living life trying to force others into your way of living, if you’re feeling restricted by your current life path or if you’re trying to get things done in a way that isn’t truly productive. If any of those are true, I would encourage you to look into options and start opening up your mind to alternatives that are healthier and more satisfying for you and others.

Still Here Living

Everyone struggles at some point in time in their lives. Every people group experiences struggles, whether with religious or cultural persecution, judgments based on actions that some don’t agree with, or judgments based on their beliefs, skin color, sex or who their parents are, just to name a few. One of the groups that has been given a gift even through their struggles is the African American community. Each year schools and communities take time during the month of February to talk about Black History Month and profile some of the African American men and women who have done some amazing things throughout history, both past and more recent. Yes, you could be frustrated that we feel the need to recognize African Americans and especially highlight the challenges they’ve faced, but there’s another way to look at it, and that’s to see the honor that’s being bestowed.

In past years I’ve highlighted some of the African American men and women who have lived and died, and shared some of their wisdom with you. I don’t think the color of skin has an impact on how smart someone is, what they’re capable of doing or the impact they can have on our future. As I mentioned already there are countless reasons why people are persecuted or judged, and many are absolutely inconsequential to how amazing they are. In fact, some of the people who have struggled greatly are those that we remember most and can directly connect some amazing innovations and discoveries to them. There are many people who could have chosen to give up or not try to share their gift with the world, but they chose to persevere through.

This month I would encourage you to not only celebrate the African American community’s contributions to making the world we live in a better, richer, more diverse place, but also to recognize that there’s more to life than the struggle, that it’s worth pushing through the struggle to what is beyond. Life is worth living, it’s up to you what you make of life though.

“…So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve died for love—
But for livin’ I was born…”

Langston Hughes

Legacies and Stories

So what’s your story?  We each have a story, it involves the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, the people who have impacted our lives even if we’ve never met, the things we’ve gone through, the choices we’ve made and the things that have happened in the world that have impacted us.  Each person’s story is different even if we’ve lived in the same place or experienced the same things, we’re all different and react differently to different things.

But the interesting thing about stories can be found in that which we most often think about when we talk about stories: books.  Sometimes the story we tell ourselves about an event or place is complete fiction.  Maybe that’s because we’ve only experienced a small portion of the full story, maybe that’s because we don’t have all the facts, or maybe it’s because we have an overactive imagination. It’s one reason that it’s important to check your facts, gut reactions and find out as much of the story as you can before you write your story.

Your story has a beginning, middle and end.  Most of us are in the middle right now, we hope we’re not too close to the end, we have more living we want to do.  So if you find that the story you’ve been writing in your life isn’t the one that you want to finish or isn’t going the way you want it to, know that you have the ability to change the direction of the story.  You can tell a new story, or make your story all you hope it will be.  Make that choice today.

“Humanity’s legacy of stories and storytelling is the most precious we have. All wisdom is in our stories and songs. A story is how we construct our experiences. At the very simplest, it can be: ‘He/she was born, lived, died.’ Probably that is the template of our stories – a beginning, middle, and end. This structure is in our minds.”  Doris Lessing

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?

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?