Reality Reflection: Strength and Beauty

This past week in the UK there was another royal wedding, Princess Eugenie married Jack Brooksbank. One of the big stories of this event was, unsurprisingly, about her dress, but not for reasons that people typically discuss it. Her dress made a point of showing her back scars from her surgery as a child.  You would have to be close to see the scar, it’s not something that’s noticeable from a distance, but it’s certainly there to see if you’re standing close to her.

Yes, it’s brave and makes a clear statement for all children who have surgery or deal with an illness. It shows them that it doesn’t matter who you are, anyone can have to deal with physical challenges, and anyone can overcome them to live a happy life and get married or be in healthy, committed relationships.  But it also shows a huge measure of confidence and self acceptance she has for herself and her body, something that many people who don’t have visible scars struggle with.

I don’t know what I would do in her situation, whether I would want to go with something that covered it or show it proudly to the world.  I might want to cover it not because I was ashamed of it but because I wouldn’t feel the need to show it off.  But at the same time it would be a part of who I am and my life story, so it might be something I would want to show, like someone would pick a dress that would show their tattoos.

Ultimately, it’s a celebration of two people committing to spend their lives together, and the outfit choices are strictly their choice and should be whatever makes them feel most comfortable and look their best on their special day.  It’s our job to celebrate with them, and love them for the people that they are.

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Free to be Honest and Open

Lately I’ve been captured by the TalkSpace commercial featuring Michael Phelps. For those who haven’t seen the commercial you can watch it here, and if you’re not familiar with TalkSpace it’s an online/phone therapy help line. Now that you’ve seen the commercial (spoiler alert) what has interested me with the commercial is how clear Phelps is with the fact that he’s struggled and that he wishes he had gotten help earlier.

I’m humbled by his willingness to speak about the issues he’s faced and may still be facing. Often we look at celebrities as people who must have their lives together, when in fact that’s not the case and their celebrity status is actually hiding serious struggles from the world, something we saw at the beginning of the summer with two celebrity suicides. It’s not easy to admit that you’re not as perfect as the world sees you or thinks you are.

But more people are speaking up about their challenges, weaknesses, failings and struggles. Why? Because we’re all human. While leaders do have a responsibility to be their best and set a good example, no one is perfect and most people have at least one ‘dark night of the soul’ in their lives. It’s not about flaunting failures or issues, but about speaking to other people with honesty and openness about your struggles so they can relate and hopefully feel comfortable getting help like you have.

Don’t let your weaknesses or challenges hold you back, choose to get the help you need so you can move on and live your life more fully. You’re not alone in the world with your issues and thanks to internet advances there are ways that you can get help without ever visiting an office or feeling forced to share parts of your life with the whole world.   Will you choose honesty today?

Dealing with Life Experiences

“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.” Byron Katie

Byron Katie is well known for “The Work.” If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a simple process anyone can do to understand and address problems with clarity. It’s a simple process but can bring honest healing to yourself and any others involved.

When we talk about personal victories, one thing that has to always come up is that before the victory comes the challenge. You can’t be victorious in something if you haven’t gone through the journey to get there. Sometimes the journey is more challenging than others, but each journey comes with the opportunity to learn something, to experience grace, to share forgiveness, and to grow personally or professionally. The sooner that we accept that life is full of challenges which bring us to victories, the easier it will be to approach those challenges.

When you fight something every step of the way it only becomes more difficult. When you complain about the terrible lot in life you’ve received it makes it more difficult. When you impatiently wait for the pot of gold to just show up in your lap instead of searching for a rainbow it makes things more difficult. One of the biggest choices we each have to make in our lives is whether we’ll accept the simplicity laid out by Byron Katie or continue to fight our lives and our journeys every step of the way.

I encourage you to see what happens in your life journey this week as a gift, not as a hardship, not as God spiting you, not as punishment, and not as a chore.

The Wisdom of Nelson Mandela

One of the great men of all time was born 100 years ago yesterday: Nelson Mandela.  He endured through many challenges and struggles, yet never gave up, never gave up hope and always tried to do the best for everyone involved.  He’s a great example of what’s possible when you do your best, be your best, and lead regardless of the challenges in your past.  So today I thought we’d honor his life by taking a look at some of the great wisdom he shared.  

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

“Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

“Even if you have a terminal disease, you don’t have to sit down and mope. Enjoy life and challenge the illness that you have.”

“People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that’s how they’ll react. But if you say, ‘We want peace, we want stability,’ we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.”

I want to close with an invitation for you to read what other people had to say about the great man.  The words they chose to honor this man reveals yet again what a distinguished, caring and exceptional man he was.  How has Nelson Mandela touched you?

From Feeling Stuck to Freedom

Feeling stuck? Yes, we all get there at different points in time during our lives. Summer is a great time to work through being stuck because we’ve typically got some extra downtime to work with, and long drives or hours on the beach with which to do the thinking. So if you’re feeling stuck here are some things to consider:

First, start with honesty. If you’re really serious about moving past being stuck, it starts with being honest about why you’re stuck and what’s making you feel stuck. Part of that honesty is knowing whether or not you’re willing to take the necessary actions to get over being stuck, or if you’re just in need of some venting time (and there’s nothing wrong with that).

Once you’ve decided that you are ready to make changes in your life and you’re done with being stuck it may help if you journal out your feelings and situations and examples, that way you can just dump and consider each issue after you’ve gotten it all out. You may have an idea of what’s frustrating you and holding you back, but writing it out can help reveal things you didn’t even know were an issue.

Then it’s time to talk about getting free. Freedom from being stuck will include new actions you’ll include and things you’ll remove from your life. It’s not likely that you’ll just add some things to your life (like eating more fruits and vegetables), it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be removing, decreasing or stopping some things as well (like the number of times you stop for ice cream each week).

Moving forward it may be right for you to go cold turkey and make some really big changes all at once, but for other people they’re just as successful taking it one smaller step at a time. Regardless of how you do it, make sure you’ve got the support you need to do it and you’ve told the important people in your life about the change you’re making so that they can try to be considerate of the life change you’re working on. Who knows, they may want to join you in making those changes as well!

So what’s got you feeling stuck this week and what are you going to do about it?

Fighting the Good Fight

With Independence Day a few hours away here in the US, I was thinking about what that day means and what it’s all about, and a big part of it is the battle that the new nation (the US) went through with Britain to separate from them. Often we think about our spiritual lives in terms of things like hope, peace, patience, love and eternity. But there’s the other side of it that we don’t like to think about but often is our reality: the challenges we face on a regular basis. Sometimes those challenges are fairly innocent and easy to manage, but others really test us, maybe even causing us to metaphorically ‘go to war.’

The good news is that God goes with us whether we’re enjoying a walk through His creation or fighting for our lives. God is just as capable of fighting as He is the loving and the healing. The Bible is filled with many stories of battles, in fact that’s a big part of what the Old Testament shares, whether it’s of the Israelites in battle or of other battles and conquerings that affected them. There’s certainly reference to the military in the New Testament with the centurion and his servant that Jesus healed as well as Cornelius (also a centurion) who had a memorable interaction with Peter.

And then there’s one of the more famous passages in the Bible, the Armor of God, which talks about God equipping us to fight against the devil and the evil that he would throw against us. It’s a reminder that as much as we humans fight a physical war here on earth, we’re also fighting a spiritual one up in Heaven.

So this Fourth of July, Independence Day, do something to help the good guys win the fight, whether donating to a veteran non-profit, praying with someone who is struggling, donating to the local food pantry or even something as simple as sharing encouraging words on social media.  What will you do?

Blessed by God

In thinking about what to write today I decided what I need, and what many people need, is a little more inspiration in their lives. We’re a tired world: tired of money problems, tired of cranky kids, tired of bad food, tired of terrible drivers. So in my search for inspiration, I picked up The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson and the book of Job. I hope you’ll see the inspiration and begin your own journey for living a more inspired and blessed life.

The Prayer of Jabez:
The book the Prayer of Jabez is actually about a person who’s found in the Bible, Jabez. We read Jabez’s story in 1 Chronicles 4: “There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.”
The conclusion that Wilkinson reached when he studied the prayer was that sometimes we’re not asking the right question or praying the right prayer. The fact is that great men and women of God think differently than the rest of the people. Wilkinson writes “He [Jabez] left it entirely up to God to decide what the blessings would be and where, when, and how Jabez would receive them.”

I love this statement that Wilkinson makes as well: “Even though there is no limit to God’s goodness, if you didn’t ask Him for a blessing yesterday, you didn’t get all that you were supposed to have.” WOW. It’s so true: God never said he had a limit on the number or kind of blessings we could have. Take Wilkinson’s challenge and pray Jabez’s prayer at least once every day and see what amazing things show up in your life.

Job:
Job is a book of the Bible dedicated to telling the story of a God-fearing man who lost almost everything when he was tested by satan, but the story ends with God blessing Job with more than he started with. I’m probably simplifying things calling the experience told in the book of Job a “challenge”, but what resulted was an amazing display of who God is and who we are. Job 38-41 is a massive outpouring of words directly from God. God speaks to many people throughout the Bible, but nowhere else does God really let loose like he does here. Job’s reply to God in Job 42:3 shows the incredible humility of a man totally blessed by God, and totally amazed by the blessing of God’s words in his life: “You [God] asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I [Job]-and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.” Job learned a valuable lesson: in the midst of God’s blessings, there can be challenges, but God will never leave you hanging.

When was the last time that you took time to inhale and immerse yourself in God’s wonder in nature? Maybe you did this past weekend with some Earth Day activities. We’re such driven, busy people that taking the time to be one with God in nature seems almost frivolous. But maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what we need to feel like the people God created us to be again.

We’re truly blessed to be living in the time of transformation and learning that we’re living in. Although there are many broken pieces and challenges ahead, I believe that one of the biggest keys to successful transformation is each of us stepping up and being the leaders God has created us to be. I hope that this week you’ll take time to seek God’s blessing in your life, however He decides to bless you.