Reality Reflection: The Legacy of Ireland

Today we’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, honoring the man who was later honored with the title of Saint, as well as remembering and celebrating all things Irish. As I’ve been enjoying learning more about the world of Ireland, celebrating my Irish heritage and appreciating the beautiful products they create, I have been reminded time and again about something that isn’t really unique to the Irish but is part of who they are: history, legends and lore. Whether you believe in faeries, pots of gold, leprechauns, luck or not, these stories have been passed down through the generations, and are a big part of the culture. Also woven in with the legends and lore are symbols that are iconically Irish like the Claddagh, trinity knot, and many knitted patterns like the basket, honeybee and cable stitch.

These symbols may not be only found in Irish culture and products, but all of them have a story connecting back to Irish history that is uniquely Irish and has remained tied in to Irish beliefs and lifestyles. For example the Claddagh is based in a story of a man who was kidnapped before he was to marry, learned to create jewelry while away from his bride-to-be and came up with the Claddagh design and presented her with that ring when he returned to her and they were married. Many other connections tie in with the land and work that people do like fishing, bee keeping, and basket weaving. And we can’t forget the clover leaf, which became an icon when St. Patrick used it to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity when he came to Ireland.

I think these stories, icons, symbols and legends do more than make Ireland a place tourists visit. I think in many ways the stories and rich history has given the Irish a leg up in life where the history of some other places and cultures has been a point of contention. The joy of finding 4 leaf clovers, looking for magical fairies and pots of gold, and believing in love that lasts has taught many Irish to have a better outlook on life, to respect each other more and have more faith. That doesn’t mean they don’t have challenges, bad days and problems, it means generally they’ve learned how to bounce back better and to keep the faith. It makes me very proud to be part Irish.

What do you appreciate about the Irish, or about your heritage?


Learning to be Content

Over the weekend we in the US experienced the bi-annual time changes known as Daylight Savings Time, and in the next few days the northeast USA is also looking at another big snowstorm, and of course quickly approaching is the celebration of Easter on the 1st of April which is early. I don’t know about you but sometimes all of this just seems to add extra stress to our lives that we don’t want or need, especially because we don’t have any control over these things. As I was reflecting on these events I read Philippians 4:11 which says

“…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…”

That’s a tough statement to make, for someone back in those days and someone in these days. In some ways we’ve each got some things easier or less complicated than the other, but much of our lives is still the same and includes the same challenges of work, family, relationships, finances, weather and health. Content in and of itself is a challenge, because there’s a difference between being content and not having aspirations or goals in life. More than anything content is about having an attidue of gratittude towards the life you have and the blessings that God has sent your way.

So rather than focus on the many things going on over the past and next few days and weeks that may be stressing you out, today I encourage you to be grateful: enjoy the special blessings in your life, smile and laugh along with the little kids playing, take a moment to appreciate your evening beverage or sweet treat, celebrate that you’re another day closer to spring and summer, and/or call a friend just to chat. Once you’ve done that if you want to take a moment and pray about the stresses in your life and ask God to help you come up with a plan to manage and prepare for everything, you can, but don’t just return to stressing about things, instead work on being content with the now and plan for the future.

What will you be content and find peace in today?

Reality Reflection: Know It All

When was the last time you asked someone a question? What were you asking them about? Maybe it was directions or the location of something, or their experience or insights on a situation. Asking questions is something important that we do in our lives, and is an integral part of learning, growing and creating a life that we enjoy. Sometimes there are even the times that someone gives you an answer without you having asked a question! Sometimes it’s interesting, sometimes it’s helpful, and other times we’re frustrated by someone giving entirely too much information or showing off with the information they’ve got.

One of the most frustrating experiences is when someone asks you a question they already knew the answer to because they want to confirm they’re the smartest person in the room, or asks you a question without really being open to hearing what you have to say. There’s a difference between wanting confirmation on something and being a know-it-all about something, and a lot of it has to do with attitude. Some people who give advice for a living feel the need to know everything or be right all the time, but I try to make it really clear with potential clients that I don’t know everything and that I’m committed to growing and learning constantly both personally and professionally.

Being a know-it-all means that you can’t possibly fully experience life. I don’t think you can be exposed to or appreciate the variety and the details that others who are open to life and learning experience. You also run the risk of not being liked by people because of how you treat them or communicate with them. If you’ve ever been called a know-it-all and aren’t totally thrilled with that title, one step you could take would be to slow down and learn to really take things in before passing a judgement that you know it or outright dismissing the other person. This isn’t a step that really threatens your knowledge or IQ, it just gives you an opportunity to create better relationships with those you interact with, and gives you a chance to respect the time and effort they put in to giving you the answer you’ve asked for.

What about you? How do you deal with know-it-all people?

Where To Begin Again

Everyone needs a new beginning from time to time. New beginnings can mean starting completely over, just calling it a day and starting fresh tomorrow, taking things in a new direction you haven’t tried before or bringing someone in for a fresh perspective. Sometimes it can feel good to start fresh because you’re ready to move on and sometimes it can be discouraging and frustrating because what you were doing didn’t pan out as you expected and you were really invested in it. When you’re force to start over and it feels frustrating it can be hard to know what to do or where to turn or even how to find the strength to start over. John 1:1 says:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Sometimes you need a place to start and I think John 1 is a great reminder of where to start not only your new beginnings but each day. This verse gives us two important reminders. First, God’s been here since the beginning. He’s navigated floods, volcanos, earthquakes, drought and wars that have taken countless lives and changed the lives of countless others. There’s very little that God hasn’t had to navigate or deal with, and no people group, language or culture He doesn’t have a connection with.

The second reminder is that the Word has been here since the beginning. I don’t think this means all the literal words of the Bible, but rather the themes, concepts and laws God has shared through the Bible. However, many of the words in the Bible are evergreen, meaning we can turn to them at countless times throughout our lives and be encouraged by them. Yes, there are dated, century-specific, culture specific sections of the Bible but much of it teaches valuable lessons that can be applied to different portions of our lives.

If you’re facing or navigating a new beginning in your life I encourage you to check out some new spiritual books, ask God to lead you to new passages in the Bible to encourage and guide you now, and if you haven’t tapped back into the Bible and passages that have always spoken to you, I encourage you to do that too.

Reality Reflection: What is Normal Anyway?

A topic I’ve been contemplating this week is that of what “normal” really is. As much as many people can say that they have standards as to how they’ll be treated, how they’ll treat others or what they think is right or wrong, and as much as I think we could come up with standards about respect and how we treat others and how we share the world we live in, I don’t know that there really is a “normal” anymore. We’re such a wonderfully diverse world with wonderfully unique people who each have different aspirations, world views and passions that my “normal” won’t look like your “normal” and you and I may not even really have a “normal” in our lives!

I understand the appeal of normal, it means that things fit in nice neat boxes, are easy to understand and don’t complicate our lives.  But I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing that there isn’t really a “normal” for every life in the world anymore, or the same normal for everyone. It challenges us to think and learn how to interact with others who are different than us. It gives us the opportunity to live a much richer life. It encourages us to learn to live in the moment. It means we can love the life we individually live and allows us to be our own person and not a copy of anyone else.

I think we should stop worrying about our definition of normal not matching up with anyone else’s, or if there’s even a definition of normal that applies anymore.  Personally I think attaining normalcy should be pretty low on your list of things to accomplish.  I think we should work instead on loving better, living more wisely and being more considerate of the others that we share this world with.  Work on finding a “normal” that works for you, or don’t!

Do you have a normal or are you trying to work towards one, or are you happy with your life that doesn’t fit in a “normal” box?

Reality Reflection: Why All the Hate?

Many people are thinking about the topic of love this month, and sometimes that brings out the no-so-happy feelings. It’s not awesome to have your heart broken or for someone you trusted to break that trust, and sometimes people are nasty for no reason that we can figure out, which isn’t fun. I can understand the frustration regarding injustice and need to step up and fight that, but I can’t understand why people allow their opinions or experiences to become so tainted that ambivalence or personal opinions/preferences become hate.

To use a famous, historical example, it would be one thing to say you dislike Jewish food or don’t agree with what the religion of the Jewish people teaches, but for the Nazis to turn dislike into hatred and persecution, is an unnecessary escalation. It’s OK to not like or be passionate about everything, I’m not particularly passionate about spiders or snakes, but that doesn’t mean I hate them or want to kill them all.

Why can’t people accept that everyone and everything has their differences and that’s OK? It doesn’t mean you have to marry someone of a different race/culture/background or have kids or own a gun or love wild animals. It means that as long as what someone else is doing or believing doesn’t hurt someone else and isn’t detrimental to themselves, leave them to it.

If it’s as simple as hating something because you truly don’t understand it (or think you understand it when you may not) and you don’t want to just come out and ask your questions, you can reach out to a relevant organization anonymously online and talk with them to try to understand (create a new email address, in the message give them a little background on why you’re reaching out, promise to do your best to keep it respectful, and ask some questions), or even just do some research in your favorite search engine to learn more about something you might have an unfair or biased opinion of.

Hating something or someone takes a ton of effort and energy. Yes, over time it may feel like it’s second nature and just part of who you are, but it’s still can drain you of energy that would be much better used in other ways. For example, just because you don’t like salad there’s hundreds and maybe thousands of other ways to get greens without launching an all-out hate campaign on salad. There’s really no reason for the hate, just move on to something better.

This week ahead I encourage you to take a look and see if there are hatreds or building hate in your life, and if so choose at least one to work on moving past. Why focus on the bad when you could move forward with the bigger and better?

“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” Coretta Scott King

Choose to Love

This month one of the things we’re talking about is the topic of love, partly because February 14th is the day that the US celebrates love. I know it’s a day that some don’t like because they don’t have significant others, but we’re not just going to talk about romantic love this month, we’ll be talking about loving ourselves, each other and our significant others.

I want to start this new month of with a very simple challenge for you: choose to love someone each day this month. What does that mean? It means that you’re going to make an active decision each day to love someone.

Last month we talked about the topic of possibilities and were reminded that each moment of our days are filled with possibilities. There are many different options we could choose and ways things could go, so we have to make a decision about each and everything we do or say, even if we’re not fully conscious of the decision we’re making.

So this month as we talk about love, I wanted to start us off with a challenge to be more aware of the decisions we’re making, and to be intentional about choosing to react and live with love. For some of us this will be a challenge because we’re so used to not loving and just reacting and not thinking about what would be a win-win-win decision. But if there’s one thing that could change everyone’s life it would be to be more loving and to receive more love.

You can show some love to your partner, the mail person, the package delivery person, the neighborhood dog walker, the person who cuts your hair, your kids, your family, the pastor(s) at your church, your boss, your elderly neighbor, or anyone you meet. It doesn’t matter who you share love with, just that you do it.

Will you choose to love with me this month?

“It is the mind that makes the body.” Sojourner Truth