Learning to Listen

In our lives we have lots of questions and issues that pop up.  We don’t have all the answers, nor will we ever get all the answers.  But I believe there’s a lot of good advice out there, should we only take the time to look for it or listen to it.

There are tons of people around the world who can give us advice.  That advice isn’t always right for us, the same thing doesn’t work for everyone.  But if we’re not able to see the real issue or think we’ve exhausted all possibilities and we’re stuck, getting advice from someone else is the best course of action, rather than choosing to stay stuck.  I’m a big believer in the power of education and learning, and getting outside opinions is one of the best ways to work through an issue you may have or discover what the real issue is that you weren’t even aware of.

Listening to advice is one of the hardest things to do.  It’s not easy to hear someone else’s opinions or judgments on something we worked really hard on or something we really like, but their advice may give you the motivation and freedom to do something you’ve been debating or try a course of action rather than stay stuck.  If we can get over ourselves, our pride and our self-reliance and open up to the possibility that someone else may have some good ideas and may be able to offer some good insights, there are tons of people willing to give their opinions (educated or not) about your challenges.

No, not everything is relevant to everyone.  It’s important that when you’re given advice you take time to think about it before acting on it or dismissing it.  Don’t reject it because it’s too simple or too hard or because it doesn’t sound like something you want to do or would work for your situation.  Instead ask them to clarify and give you some more insights on the aspects that particularly challenge you.  Ask them to address the specific concerns you have.  And if after you’ve really talked it through it still doesn’t seem like a good fit, then maybe you should ask for some other advice or advice from someone else.

No one knows everything, so no one can give perfect advice all of the time.  Take all the advice you receive with a grain of salt, but always be open to learning new things and seeing things from a new perspective.

Supporting Each Other

This week I’ve been thinking again about my place in this world, and yours too. It’s challenged me to really consider who I am, what I’m good at, why I’m here and how my imperfections work into all of it.  If you can’t admit that you struggled with something this week, shame on you.  Unless you buried your head in the sand for the whole week, I know that you’ve been challenged by something this week.  I’ve really been challenged by how much I can’t do.  I’m OK with it, but at the same time, not being able to excel at everything gets to me occasionally.  If I’ve had a particularly bad day lists of my faults and failures can parade through my mind without my permission.   Maybe you’ve dealt with some of these insecurities too.

These struggles really reminded me why it’s so important that we let others in our lives, that we not try to get through this life alone, that we make the effort to build relationships and support those we come in contact with.  Often it’s those relationships and those other people that challenge us the most, but they also make life the most rewarding.  So how do we get past the challenges and let others into our lives, let others take control in areas that we’re not so strong or capable in and they are?

First, I think we have to be humble and admit that we aren’t alone in the world and need others. It’s not easy to admit that you have weaknesses, especially if you have an image with someone.  But opening up and admitting that you’re not perfect creates an opportunity for you to grow a deeper relationship with them.

Second, Galatians 5:22 says “But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.”  When we choose to enter into relationships, and sustain relationships, with the fruit of the spirit, not only will we pave the way for a satisfying relationship on our end, the other person will benefit too.

Finally, find the point of reference, point of unity, or common ground you two have.  Everyone has something in common.  It may take a while to discover it, but it’s there.  For many people, a common point of interest is faith, especially faith in Christ.

Our relationships should make us stronger because they force us to work together, make us learn how to work together, and to learn how to communicate what we need and want.  This week I encourage you to be honest with yourself and the people who matter most to you in life about what’s going on in your life, where you stand and what you need.  Most people would be thrilled to step up to the plate for you and give you a hand if you would just ask.

Love Your Life

Every year we cover a ton of topics, from the tough stuff to enjoying life more.  There are lots of changes happening around the world, some faster than others and some seemingly slow and we feel like they’ll never happen.  Whether you’re talking about finances, the economy, politics, jobs/business/careers, the environment, energy, health or just plain relationships and families, things are changing whether people want them to or not, and we typically identify with one group’s perspective on a topic more than we do with another’s.  We read or hear the news about tragedies that happen around our world, and sometimes we get an up close and personal look at them when they happen in our part of the world.  I hurt when I see or hear about other people around the world getting hurt, even if they’re not people I know.  There are tons of reasons to be scared or worried or concerned or frustrated or anxious about life.  But is that really the way you want to live your life?

Personally I want to love my life.  I want life to be filled with things I love, things that make me happy, things that challenge me in a good way, things that I feel good about and people I care about.  I may not have control over everything, but in this day and age we do have a whole lot of options and the ability to control quite a bit and certainly the ability to make decisions about what and who we want in our lives.  I want to be able to look back and feel good about what I’ve done and the relationships I’ve had.

One of the things we’ll be talking about this year is having that kind of life and how to get it.  We’ll talk a little about what holds us back from getting that life, but as I recently talked about with a client, you don’t really need me to point out all the bad stuff and talk more about it.  I’d much rather go from the established fact that the issues exist and start working on getting past/through/over and beyond them.  Let’s start off the weekend with a simple question: what do you love about your life?

Making Choices in 2016

As we head towards the end of this year rapidly, I’m torn between wanting to sweep this year under the rug and say ‘good riddance’ and ‘thank God it’s done,’ or focusing on the good steps that did happen and celebrating them.  But this isn’t just a choice we make at the end of the year (or in the beginning of one when we’re considering resolutions), it’s something we really do each day.  Each day is filled with choices that we have to make as to how we’re going to think about and react to something.

Sometimes things slip through our defenses and we end up spending way more time or effort on them than we should.  Maybe it ends up working out and you learned something valuable or you make a valuable connection through it or you finally hit your breaking point and are able to get the help you need and have been putting off for a while.  But too often it ends up being a waste of time, a waste of effort, an unnecessary distraction or leads you down a rabbit hole that you didn’t want to go down again.

This past year has been an interesting one as far as showing our choices and what we get from making those choices.  Some were really surprised with the election, others were shocked that Britain voted to leave the EU, relationships began and ended and yet the world continues to turn.  I don’t know what the year ahead holds but I do know that we’ll have lots of choices to make and some will end well and others won’t.  What has 2016 taught you about making choices?

“I can promise you right now that both good and bad things are going to happen to you in your life. Good and bad things happen to everybody. Some people are good at finding the miserable things in life, and some are good at finding the joy. No matter what happens to you, what you remember is up to you.”  Matthew Buckley

Counting it Joy

We’re less than a week away from the new year and I’m ready.  2016 had lots of new starts for me and taught me lots of lessons. I’m looking forward to a 2017 that in many ways is better than 2016 and contains opportunities to implement what I learned in 2016.  As we finish out the month and the year this week I want to take one last spiritual look at our topic of the month: joy.  It’s a great month to talk about this topic because we’ve celebrated Christmas and are in the midst of celebrating Hanukkah as well if that’s your holiday.  We take this month to celebrate the year we’re putting behind us and the people in our lives, no matter how often we see them, or whether or not we tell them what they mean to us.

As we head towards the finish line of this year, let’s consider James 1:2-4: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” 

If you’ve been tested this year I encourage you to not give up.  Faith isn’t a guarantee of a stress-and-problem-free life, it’s a guarantee that you’ve got Someone going with you through everything, and the promise of something great at the end for those who believe and are saved.  Second, look for the joy. Sometimes it’s obvious that there’s joy happening around you and there are things to celebrate.  Other times you have to look a little harder to find it or make the joy yourself.

If you’re looking for some joy, we do have the new year just a few days away with 365 new days to find joy, but in all honesty each and every day is a new opportunity for you to find, create and share some joy.  So if you’re facing trouble or you meet someone who is facing trouble, I encourage you to not get dragged down by the challenges but instead to look for or share joy.  Even just choosing to share joy with someone in need can help you through your challenge as well.

A Little Quiet Health

When it comes to health we spend a lot of time talking about what to do, or the actions to take to become healthier.  In 2016 that’s a really important thing to do because of all our technology, desk jobs, TV habits and other sedentary pleasures.  Don’t get me wrong, I love those activities (I love reading), do them myself and spend a lot of my day sitting or being less mobile (it’s not great to be huffing and puffing on the phone with a client).  So it’s important that during the hours we are mobile and “doing” health activities that we really do make the most of it.

That said, just doing, blindly or not, isn’t the goal with health.  Health isn’t just about “doing” the right thing (though sometimes actions are required), it’s about a state of being, about how you feel and about how you see and interact with the world.  If you have your day scheduled from one health activity to the next you may be missing out on the opportunity to find peace and mental health.  That’s only found when you take breaks and have fun.

I know it may not seem fun to do things like meditating, napping and sitting quietly, but those times of peace and reflection help you understand your goals and if they’re really what you want or if you need to make an adjustment, and work through the challenges and situations you are experiencing in your life (rather than just reacting to them), as well as take a break from the action of the world.  Let’s be honest: when was the last time you had a good break?  Do you make time for them on a regular basis?  If not you should, even if it means you have to get a sitter for the kids or trade off with another family or your partner.  Some people choose to get up early or stay up late because that’s the best time they know to find quiet.

The other thing I mentioned was fun.  Having health means you have more opportunities for fun, and health isn’t just about ‘chores’ that have to be done.  You can make them fun family activities, like getting dinner ready together, taking hikes in the national parks near you or visiting farmer’s markets to check out new foods to try.  Health is also a great couple’s activity, like long walks, cooking classes and quiet time together.

But before you run off and get active this weekend, take some time to consider how you can work a little rest, reflection and relaxation into your life.  You’ll find it easier to get through the challenges as they happen and feel better about all the things you have to do to be healthy or become healthier.

“Ceaseless activity, constant mental and emotional commotion, is not just the avoidance of our unwanted sense of emptiness, but (it is) also complicit in its continuing cause.” Guy Finley

When God Takes Too Long

This month one of the topics we’ve been talking about is patience. The big question around patience is always “but what if things are taking too long?”  I agree, sometimes it seems like things are taking too long, especially in our fast paced, fast food, high speed internet world.  While I think by far and large we can slow down with most things, some things definitely benefit from being attended to as quickly as things can be in this day and age, like national disasters, missing people and health issues like Zika.  But waiting 30 minutes to get quality food, especially if you don’t have to cook or grow it yourself seems to seriously pain some people.  I understand we all have things going on in our lives, but sometimes the only thing that can be done is to wait and see.

One of the biggest challenges around waiting is when we’re waiting on God for something.  It can seem like God is taking forever to respond to our prayers, especially since He hears them instantly.  Sometimes God is waiting for us to do something, but all too often it’s just not time.  It’s not easy to wait, especially if you think the answer God is sending is that He’s not sending that miracle cure/job/person/child/freedom or whatever it is you’re praying for or would be an answer to your prayers.  Sometimes the answer is “no.”  Hearing the “no” is almost easier than hearing “wait” because it means we’ve been given an answer and aren’t waiting for things to happen or work in perfect order.

Fortunately or unfortunately, more often it seems like the answer is to wait.  Yes, that gives us hope that a solution is coming, but still challenges us to work on our patience and do what God has called us to do in the meantime.  If you’re in a waiting period, find comfort and hope in the words of Isaiah 60:22: “When the time is right, I, the Lord, will come quickly. I will make these things happen.”  You’ve probably experienced it at least once, that when God gets going, things really move. Sometimes things are revealed over time, other times it’s so fast you almost can’t see it happen.  So if you’re praying and waiting today I encourage you to continue to live your life and to be prepared for things to happen when God’s time is right.  Don’t be discouraged by the “wait”, instead, prepare for what is coming.