Reality Reflection: Celebrating Each Other

I’m not a competitive person, I like when everyone wins, or at least many people win. But I know that’s not how life works, and sometimes someone has to be on top. Such is the case for award shows, someone has to be named the top artist/person or category winner. From a music awards perspective, as you may know there are almost too many artists to count out there who share decent music, and many of that list also share great music. So I find it a bit more than frustrating when one artist’s name comes up frequently in one award ceremony [list]. I mean I can appreciate the fact that someone is doing an excellent job at something, or they’re really hot right now, but what about all the other people who are doing great things? Why can’t their work be celebrated as well?

What if we were to make it a rule that you can’t win more than one thing at an award ceremony? That no one group or artist or person or organization is able to sweep a category or even the show. It would certainly make the ceremony more interesting and I might be even a little interested to watch, it would also be more interesting for the people who attend, and more people would see their work celebrated and honored.

Few people make it to the national or world stage of any kind, most of us are just living out our lives trying to make a difference in whatever way we can, to share our talents with the world whether it’s a small audience of 10 or larger audience of hundreds or thousands. But I believe everyone should be celebrated, because everyone can contribute in one way or another. What better way to combat the hate and anger in the world than by recognizing the good other people are doing? Who will you celebrate today?

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Reality Reflection: The Hurt of Perfectionism

I’m a big believer in change, learning from mistakes, learning, and growing. What I’m not a fan of is perfectionism. I’m all for doing a good job, doing the best you can, and trying to do things the right way, but the fact is it doesn’t always work out like that. Often there are factors we’re unaware of, there are always things outside of our control, and even though many don’t like to admit it, people are not perfect. So the fact is that every day people make mistakes. They give a good effort, pay attention and try hard, but it doesn’t always work out well.

I think working for perfection often takes up valuable time and resources that could be better used to do a job well done and get more done than to try to make something perfect. It’s rare that there isn’t time or space for fine tuning something, or a chance to try again later, or a lesson that can’t be learned and applied going forward. What happens when you try to get something perfect only to redo it later or have to start all over on the next thing?

Life moves so fast and changes so much that it’s often not worth it to make things “perfect.”  As satisfying as it may be to “perfect” things or even to try to be perfect, I don’t think it’s often attainable, and setting ourselves up with the goal of attaining perfection is often a losing battle.

In line with this conversation are the choices that we make that the public may not always agree with, or feel that don’t line up with how perfect we’re supposed to be. I find it hard to understand why people expect forgiveness or allowances for their mistakes or choices, but other people aren’t allowed to have forgiveness or allowances for their choices. Why is it OK for one person to do one thing, but not for another to do the same thing? Why is one person expected to be perfect when another isn’t?

Don’t get me wrong, I think we should all live our lives in consideration of ourselves, each other and our planet. Part of that journey is learning and growing, which typically includes making mistakes. The hope is though that through those lessons and growth times, that we’ll emerge better, stronger, more considerate, smarter people. Before jumping to judgment on someone this coming week, I would encourage you to consider first and foremost if it’s really something that affects you and you need to care about (because it likely isn’t), and then how you would feel in their shoes and what you would want the world’s response to be.

The Freedom To Love

This past month I’ve been looking into a lot of church marketing, growth, health and support topics and seminars. It’s got me thinking again about how people see the Church (any faith organization that fits under the ‘Christianity’ heading), and the people who attend. The world around us has done some serious changing over the past few decades and the Church hasn’t fully caught up. I can understand because it raises fears and questions of healthy boundaries and what is/isn’t secular/spiritual and how it all works together, if it does. But in many ways these fears and the slow and lacking transformation that have accompanied them have held the church back from embracing and investing in the digital mission field.

So going back to how people outside of the church view those inside of the church as well as the church itself, many see it as a restrictive and boring thing, with serious walls between church people and those outside the church, where you can’t do anything wrong (even though forgiveness is a discussed topic). And there is some truth in all of this, especially in churches that have a very old school culture and aren’t interested in making changes. For those of us in the church, the limitations and rules sometimes may feel restrictive, but often they result in bigger and better freedoms than those outside the church ever experience.

One of the most notable is one that’s very prevalent this week, and that’s the topic of love. One of the things we’re called to do, and free to do as much as we want, is to love others with the love that God teaches us about and Jesus modeled for us during His ministry. The word love is used throughout the Bible over 600 times depending on the translation, and is something that Jesus specifically challenges us to do. So as you work through the rest of this week including Valentine’s Day, I would encourage you to pick up that challenge and show love to those you interact with, in both big and little ways.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

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

In Consideration of Others

Lately much of the news has been talking about how cold it is.  Of course being winter this is something we mostly expect, but lately it’s been so cold that schools and businesses are altering their hours to help people avoid the cold. I can’t say I remember it being this cold as I was growing up, but I don’t really like the cold and never really have so it’s entirely possible that it was this cold occasionally then (it’s not relevant to this post to do the research).

Most days I check in several times with a news website home page to see if anything earth shaking has happened and a headline caught my attention: “How to survive winter weather in your car.” Over the past few years we’ve talked about a lot of things in the news and a lot of things have come to light. But something I don’t think we talk about a lot is the fact that there are over 550,000 people who are considered homeless in the US. Yes, many live where it’s typically warm, but most of the US is cold right now. Yes, there are homeless shelters, but most of them struggle with overcrowding, especially in winter.

What’s my point? My point is that it doesn’t take long to write up an article or shoot a video that can help save someone’s life. I know we often talk about big gestures and making a big impact and feel like it’s impossible to ever really fix some of the issues that are in the world, and I can see where that assumption comes from. But this article reminded me that it’s not always about the big impacts, sometimes it’s the little things that matter more, like a government business extending hours so people can stay warm a little longer or a grocery store donating what would be thrown away to a shelter or food pantry or sharing home-baked cookies with an elderly relative or neighbor or even something like being on time for an appointment. Big gestures are great too, but there are lots of other little ways you can help someone have a better day, a longer and happier life, too. I encourage you to help bring a smile to someone’s face today.

To Gather for Christmas

Over the past few days my partner and I have been commenting on the increasing numbers of drivers on the road during times that they aren’t usually there. It’s a reminder to be more careful while traveling because there are more people on the road during these days and also a reminder of why people are on the road, and it’s something that many of us are doing these days, and that’s traveling to gather with friends and family.

People gather during the holidays even if they don’t have gifts to give simply because it’s a time to celebrate having each other and spend time with the people that mean the most to you. There’s just something about all the tradition and stories behind the holidays that makes us reach out to people we don’t always get to be with because of time or distance, not to mention wanting to be with people even if we’re more loners.

There’s something about the holidays that tease us into having conversations we don’t usually have, wanting to fix broken relationships, desiring deeper and more meaningful relationships, thriving on being together, and being a little more bold. Maybe it’s all the festivities around us, maybe it’s the sense of community that you can’t miss because of all the bright lights of decorations, maybe it’s the need to huddle up because of the cooler temperatures, but whatever it is I’m thankful that at least one time of year we’re all encouraged and inspired to come together.

We always say that we should do these types of gatherings more often, but somehow we never get to them. So this holiday season I encourage you to make the most of it. Go ahead and accept all the invitations and create some of your own as well. Celebrate together for all this season is worth so that you have something to tide you over until the next one rolls around. Who will you gather with this year?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: The Season of Giving

Well, the holiday spending weekend is officially over, I don’t know about you but I was a little disappointed by what was (or rather wasn’t) on sale this past weekend.  It definitely wasn’t a one-and-done shopping weekend for me.  So yes, I’m a little disappointed.  Like many other people I use these shopping sale days to not only buy gifts but buy things I use all year long and appreciate getting at a great discount.  But that’s not how it worked out and so I, and many others, may be doing some bargain hunting over the next few weeks as the holidays approach.

What really surprised me was the lack of Cyber Monday deals this year and the lack of emails about any deals happening.  I got one that suggested I order early so I get the items they sell in time for the holidays, but they didn’t manage to include a coupon code so I put off considering whether I would or would not order from them.

The other surprise from this holiday shopping season kickoff was that we’re at 6pm EST and already today I’ve gotten over 300 emails today.  For what? Giving Tuesday.  Started in 2012 it’s a way to encourage people to give to non profits who aren’t in the spotlight for most of the year. I donate to organizations every month so I don’t need today as a reminder, but I do look to see if organizations that I don’t support regularly but follow closely are doing any kind of giving match.

Ultimately the holiday season, whether you’re religious or not, celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, is about giving.  It’s important to give to those who mean the most to us, but for many of us without the non-profits of the world we’d be lost and the world wouldn’t be as special a place as it is.  I give monthly because these organizations are making a difference in the world in ways I simply can’t.  So today yes, some of the money I didn’t spend over the weekend I will be donating to organizations that are making a difference in the world, helping them spread hope a little further this holiday season and in the year to come.