Starting with a Commitment

As I’ve been thinking about how we can learn from this whole experience of 2020 and the experiences that people have had in the past, of course one individual that came to mind was Job, who experienced some spectacular challenges and experienced more loss in a short time than most of us do in a lifetime. I’ve lately been reading through the book of Jeremiah, and he was given some less-than-awesome tasks to do as part of getting the word out about God and getting people to take an honest look at their lives. But one of the verses that came to my inbox today was about the individual and story of Ruth. I’ve shared about her before many times during our spiritual posts, but she’s a worthy figure to look at for our victory post today as well.

If you haven’t read her story lately or ever, you can go do that here, it’s just 4 chapters long. But the short version is that the story starts with a famine in the land, Ruth gets married, doesn’t have any kids before her husband dies, she chooses to go with her mother-in-law back to where her mother-in-law is from (and she herself knows no one), does hard work at a farm type place, gets sent on a rather risky blind date of sorts, ends up married to the guy and has kids (she’s part of the genealogy of Jesus), and they all live happily ever after.

It’s a lot like the story that many of us are facing with losing our family members unexpectedly to the virus, facing unprecedented job loss and industry closures, and facing illnesses that we’ve never dealt with before. There have been some positives throughout the year, but most of them happened because we were able to work through or overcome the challenges we were experiencing. Some of us have discovered through this year’s challenges exactly how capable we really are, some of us have been extremely challenged by the loss of control and normalcy and have struggled to even keep up with the basics of life, and others of us have been able to rely on the strong foundation of hope, support, community, and commitment that we’ve made over the years both to others and to ourselves.

The commitment we make to ourselves and to others can often be the key that helps victories happen. Most victories aren’t the smooth, straightforward journey we would like them to be, rather they’re full of twists, turns, failures, delays and confusion. I don’t know anyone who would really like to live the challenges that Ruth, Job or Jeremiah experienced. No one chooses to lose family members they love or face what seem like insurmountable losses. But Job chose to be committed and faithful to himself and God, and Ruth committed to God and her mother-in-law and herself. It’s those commitments that gave them the courage and strength to make some really tough choices and push through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff.

I encourage you to choose to commit to yourself, as well as those in your life that matter most to you like God and some/all of your family/friends. It may be the difference maker that helps you get to your victories this week, or at least helps you get a strong step or two closer.

“But Ruth said, “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”” Ruth 1:16

Reality Reflection: Living Today

With this new year it seems that some people have started the year being called on to the next stage of their journey. No, you don’t really want to work through a death during the holiday season, so in some ways it’s better that it’s after the holiday season, but there’s never a “good” time to lose someone. There’s also never a good time for your life to end, everyone has more living to do, more memories to make, and more they could do to make the world a better place. But as myself and others have experienced this past week, everyone has to face that transition at some point in time or another.

This week I read a quote that fit in with how this week has gone very well. Jose Ortega y Gasset said: “We cannot put off living until we are ready.” I don’t know if we’re ever truly ready for the challenges that life throws our way. Sometimes we feel more confident about facing them based on what we’ve done in the past or the teamwork we’ve got in place to support us or our current availability, but challenges almost always throw us for a loop and we’re forced to decide if we’re going to face them or give up or in.

I think the answer to how ready we are and should be goes back to two well known statements: ‘carpe diem’ (seize the day) and ‘life is meant to be lived’. Yes, some people become more famous after death than during their lives, but everything they become famous for they did during the time they were alive. The other day on the blogs I shared about another different way to look at the new year (instead of setting typical resolutions), and that would be to be more committed, and promise to do more, be more and live more.

Maybe this year is the year that you’ll finally step up and into the person you were made to be, committed to thriving and being there for the people who matter most in your life, including yourself.

For Just a Season

This week we officially enter the season of summer, and the temperatures in many parts of the US are supporting that transition.  As I was thinking about the summer season, I was reminded of the Ecclesiastes passage that talks about there being a time for every season and every thing in our lives.  It’s a reminder that everything has it’s time in our lives, that sometimes we have to be patient, and that there’s a right (and wrong) time for everything.

But as I thought about it some more I was reminded that a season is exactly that: a season. It’s not our entire lives or the only thing in our lives, it’s a part of it.  Summer for us lasts 3 or so months and then there’s a new season.  The dictionary even describes a season as “a period or time….especially a short time.”

So what if for this summer season you take it as a season for your life? A season to be proactive about making positive comments on social media, or a season to eat healthy for at least one meal a day, or a season to fight as little as possible with your kids, or a season to learn about yourself, or a season to explore the great country that we share.

That means that from the summer solstice (June 21) to the autumn equinox (September 22) you take the time to focus on doing something good for yourself or the world, doing something you’ve been meaning to do, or consistently doing something that you’ve been inconsistent with.  It’s a chance to try something new, to get to know yourself better, to grow, and to do what needs to be done in your life.

What will this summer season be for you?

Reality Reflection: Memories and Reality

Tomorrow in the USA we celebrate Memorial Day.  It’s one of the days we take each year to honor the men and women who have fought for the country we call home, some paying the ultimate price.  I believe that whether you agree with the concept of war, or even with a specific war, or not, it’s our honor and responsibility as Americans to respect and remember these men and women and their families.

There have been some things that have happened throughout the years that some people more than others have questioned how real they were or what the actual story was (for example the moon landing, Bigfoot and Flight 370 from Malaysia). Unfortunately I don’t think we can ever say that the wars didn’t happen.  There is too much evidence, too many stories and too many people were killed.  The reality is these wars have happened and will continue to happen for the foreseeable future (as much as I wish they wouldn’t).  The reality is there will be men and women who will continue to go to war and their loved ones who will stay home and pray they’ll see them again.

I’ve never joined the military and while my grandfather did he was never one for telling those stories, which is totally understandable.  However, I believe some of the stories should be told.  We should hear how horrible war is occasionally, maybe we’ll fight a few less of them then.  But also, the men and women who fought should feel comfortable telling their stories rather than feeling like they have to keep it to themselves or the only person who “wants” to hear it is their appointed shrink.

So for those of us who aren’t directly part of the war effort, our job is to support those who are.  You can donate to any number of charities who support veterans from employment related ones to those who raise service dogs.  As business owners we can make it a policy to hire veterans and offer discounts to veterans.  And anyone can sign veteran support petitions or volunteer their time for veteran related causes.

The worst thing we can do though is forget (or try to forget) the wars and the men and women who were part of them.  No one deserves to be forgotten, ignored, disrespected or rejected, especially not those who have made such large sacrifices.  Who do you remember on Memorial Day?

Ready to Recommit?

We’re almost at the end of the month now, this month has had lots of ups and downs including the official end of winter and start of spring.  One of the reasons I like spring is because it is all about new beginnings.  This month one of the things we’ve talked about is commitment.  I know that sometimes, even if you’re committed to something it’s necessary to recommit yourself to it.  Sometimes we recommit because we’ve not been the most committed, but other times we recommit to reinforce and restate our commitment, but not because of failure or mistake.

Recommitting to something or someone isn’t a bad thing, it means you’ve recognized how important that thing or person is in your life and you want to make that clear to yourself or others.  Recommitting yourself can give that motivation, that fresh breath of air, that burst of energy you’d been missing.  It can also be the chance you’ve been needing to ask for the help or make the changes you’ve been struggling with or contemplating or even avoiding.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having or choosing to recommit. The issue comes when the recommitting isn’t taken to heart, if you don’t follow through on the reasons and purpose behind the recommitting.  There’s no point to recommitting if you’re not going to do what it will take to make it work or keep working.  So before we end this month I encourage you to make a firm decision about your future.  What does it hold?  Are you committed to seeing through the path your on or is it time to make a new commitment?

Committed to Success

When is the best time to start doing something you’ve been meaning to do?  The joke answer to that would be yesterday, but that’s not really helpful to anyone.  It’s not helpful to sit around and judge yourself or beat yourself up for not doing what you’ve been meaning to do or what you keep putting off.  Yes, most of us do struggle with some guilt in our lives, but a life lived from a perspective of guilt and failure isn’t one that is healthy or encourages productivity.  In fact the more time you spend in that place, the more likely you’ll become depressed and do even less with your life.

The real answer to the question of the best time to start something you’ve been meaning to do is today, or even better: right now.  Don’t put off until another day what you can and should accomplish today.  The longer you put things off the less likely you are to get them done, and the more likely you’ll end up putting out fires instead of preventing them.

I know it can seem overwhelming sometimes, especially if it’s a big task, but there are more healthy ways of dealing with it than procrastinating.  First or second, make a step-by-step game plan.  If you can’t do that step then the first step is to become educated about your task.  The internet is filled with tons of educational materials including videos and different people’s perspectives on tackling hard activities.  So once you know what steps you should be taking, write them out.  Making a visible plan on how you’re going to accomplish your overwhelming task removes another barrier to actually completing it.  Then once you’ve got your game plan it’s time for some action!

The past is what it is.  Yes, it’s good to reflect on it from time to time, but spending tons of time in or on it isn’t helpful (unless you’re a historian).  Instead of reliving the past or wading through guilt, focus instead on how good it will feel to have completed that task, and how much you’ll have accomplished in your life by achieving that task.  What will you work on today?

“If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.” John Mayer

Priorities and Perspectives

One of the biggest problems in our society today is being over-committed.  We’ve been told that we have to be successful, do x, y and z in our lives, be this type of person, live in that type of house, eat this kind of food, watch that type of TV, give 110% at our jobs, be socially and communally responsible, and do it all while looking like attractive movie stars.  And they expect us to be happy while doing all that?!  Somehow everything has become a priority in our lives and if we’re prioritizing everything, nothing will get done, let alone the truly important stuff.

I love the concept of Lent being a time for fasting (or giving something up) and prayer.  My only issue with it is it doesn’t free us from all that holds us back from living the lives of freedom we could be living if we would de-prioritize things in our life that aren’t actually priorities, and re-prioritize things that should be priorities in our lives.  I’m not suggesting we all become missionaries, pastors, spiritual teachers and people who don’t talk about anything except spiritual stuff.  What I am suggesting is that most of us have way more baggage than is necessary in our lives and it’s time to get rid of it.

With all our priorities and commitments we can easily forget about the one thing that’s really important: being alive and living the life God has given you.  You can’t be truly living your life in a fulfilling way if you’re scheduled 118 out of 168 hours every week.  When we have less stress and more time in our lives, we’re able to enjoy ourselves again, and able to apply the eternal perspective we as Christians should have to our lives in an enjoyable and meaningful way.

This week I challenge you to take a look at your life and make sure that not only do you have good priorities, you’ve got room in your life to be alive and fulfill the destiny God has given you.  Letting go of even a little will free you up in ways you can’t imagine!  God has bigger and better plans for you, are you ready to make room for them in your life?

Personal Commitment

This month one of the topics we’ll be talking about is commitment.  We’re into our third month of the year-are you seeing the results you wanted to see in your life? If not that may be because you aren’t really committed to those results. Maybe that’s because they’re results others want to see you achieve, and not those that you’re truly interested in.  Or maybe that’s because you don’t have the resources necessary to achieve those results and aren’t doing everything you can to gain them or figure out a way to bypass them.  Or maybe you’ve been so committed to something or several things for so long that you’re completely burnt out and are really struggling to even get through the day, let alone create victories.

Commitment isn’t something you can do once and be done with, it’s something we do throughout our lives.  Today I want to encourage you to commit to yourself.  Commit to learning who you are and what you love.  Commit to caring for yourself mind, body and spirit.  Commit to spending time on the relationships that matter most to you.  Commit to making the choices that support you and your needs.

If you’re committed to yourself and your future you’ll make the choices and take the actions that are necessary to achieve your dreams and goals.  It’s not always easy to make the decisions and take the necessary actions, but you’ll find you have more interest and drive in actually accomplishing things when you’re really committed.  Yes, you’ll always have things in your life that you’re not super passionate or completely committed to (I’m not committed to winter but it seems to show up every year).  But if you make the choice to do the best for yourself you’ll never regret it.

Closer to God

This week I was challenged by the words of 2 Peter 1:3: “As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.”  What is this verse telling us about our lives, and how do we live a godly life?

First and foremost we have to know Jesus, and be getting to know him better.  I’ve been friends with some people for a very long time, and I’m still learning new things about them! The great thing about Jesus, God and reading the Bible is that there is always something new to learn or discover.  They never get old, worn out or outdated.  It’s just a matter of learning how it all fits in with our present lives.  So, if you’re not getting to know Jesus better, you’re going to have a hard time living a godly life.

So what has Jesus taught us, and given us, to help us live a godly life?  Some things include:

If we have everything we need, the big question is why don’t we live a godly life?  Although I can’t answer for everyone, a couple of popular answers may be “it’s too hard” “tough choices” “life gets in the way” and “the devil made me do it.”  Are those valid answers? Yes.  But striving to live a godly life brings so many more opportunities and blessings into your life, opportunities and blessings of power, gifts, and eternal futures.

Life is a journey filled with choices at every turn.  God knows that we’re still human as long as we live on this earth and prone to mistakes.  But he also knows that he’s given us the gift of forgiveness for use between people, as well as between God and us.  God’s ready to give us a clean slate for the next leg of our journey, if we commit to making better choices the next time around.

This week I encourage you to make at least one choice each day that will help you live a more godly life.  Maybe you’ll choose to delete that email you’ve been holding on to for a bad day.  Maybe you’ll call your church and tell them you’re ready to lead a small group.  Maybe you’ll go to work and share a kind word with your coworkers.   Whatever you do this week, make it a choice that takes your journey one step closer to God.

Making the New Year Matter

What’s important to you? Is it that you meet your responsibilities, hang out and have fun, see the world, have lots of friends, your job or business, your pet(s), your kids, your health?  There’s no wrong answer really, unless it’s your passion for overeating or other really bad habits.  Everyone should find things in their own lives that matter to them and they would feel less fulfilled if they were without.

What matters to you doesn’t have to matter as much to me.  We don’t have to have the same interests or ways that we spend our time.  That’s one of the reasons why the world is great, the diversity of the people of the world makes it great.  But just because you like different things than I do, it doesn’t mean that some of the same things shouldn’t be important to both of us like family, contributing to the world and supporting ourselves.

As we get into this new year I encourage you to take time to think about what’s really important to you and if the way you’re spending your days  really backs that up.  Are you really spending your time and money on the things that matter to you?  Are you making choices that support the things and people that matter to you? Are you really aware of what goes on in your life or are you just trying to make it through the day?  If you’re ready to do more than just live day to day, I encourage you to start lining up your habits and life with the things that really matter to you.