Kindness for April

Yesterday was one of my least favorite holidays of the year: April Fool’s Day. I have no problem with having fun in life and having fun with each other, but to play pranks on others and tell half truths or lies to people is just cruel on top of all that the world throws at you. I did hear one person’s rules on it for their kid that I could almost get behind and that was there could be no permanent damage, personal injury or cruelty in any of their pranks. That almost makes it OK but I’m still not a fan.

The past few days in my Lent and other devotionals there’s been a lot of talk of the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Luke 15 also shares the story of a lost coin and a lost sheep. These devotionals reminded me of how much we can lose in life, from the seemingly small to the life-altering and how that loss affects each of us differently. Some may not have felt so strongly about a lost coin or sheep as the people in Luke 15 did, but to these people those individual coins and sheep were important.

We can screw up our lives on our own without help from anyone else. We rely on the honesty, predictability, and reliability of other people and businesses to run our lives as easily and peacefully as possible and with the least amount of stress. So when we’re faced with something like April Fool’s that gives the not-so-nice people of the world leave to play jokes (regardless of how many ‘just kidding’s’ that are said or sent with the joke), it almost makes me want to stay in bed all day and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, I think we’re a lot closer to getting rid of the time change than we are of April Fool’s Day (I’d like to get rid of both). So my suggestion to help with the darkness, bad energy and bad karma that was added to the world yesterday, is that we all share a little more kindness and compassion with the world for the rest of the week. We should always have it in our minds and actions to be helpful and considerate to others, but with how yesterday may have gone for some people I think it’s more important than ever.

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Live with Heart

Tuesday on my family and business blog I shared a little inspiration from one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost, and today I thought we’d talk about another bit of his wisdom.

“There never was any heart truly great and generous, that was not also tender and compassionate.”

As we head into the Lent season and eventually reach Easter, it’s a time of both personal reflection as well as an opportunity for us to work on our spiritual health and deepen our relationship with Jesus. This bit of inspiration from Robert Frost is a great way to start the journey and give us a positive perspective to focus on, rather than one of loss, sacrifice or quiet introspection, which is often how we approach the Lent season through Good Friday. It’s a reminder of who Jesus was and who He continues to be, as well as an encouragement to follow His lead.

If you really want to make an impact in this world, one of the best ways is by being a person of and with heart. Having heart can give you a major edge over others because it gives you the opportunity to connect with them on a very human and personal level and allows people to connect with you in the same way. It reminds you that no one is perfect, that sometimes people have bad days, that sometimes people get down on their luck, that sometimes people make mistakes, that it’s easier to get cooperation and support with honey than a stick, that listening should come before talking, and a smile can make all the difference.

Having more victories in your life could be as simple (and challenging) as choosing to live with heart. If you’re looking for something to work on this Lent, I would challenge you to work on living with heart like Jesus did. Choose to let your thoughts, words and actions be of compassion, humility, generosity and thoughtfulness.

Living with Compassion

I love subscribing to verse of the day emails because they often send that little reminder that you needed that day, and didn’t even know you needed. Reading through the Bible is important because it’s an important part of your spiritual growth, development and relationship with God, but sometimes the Word you needed that day isn’t in your current reading, which is where the verse of the day emails come in. They’re also a great opportunity to hear the Bible in different translations than you typically read, giving you new perspectives on what’s in the Bible.

In a recent email came Ephesians 4:31-32 which says: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

We’re just over 2 weeks into the new year and already some new year’s resolutions are being let go (although I hope you’re still working on yours!). I know, it seems a bit of a waste to take the time to make them if you’re not going to keep them, right? Well, what if instead of trying for a full year you just worked on doing better today? What if you chose to work on one of the tasks Ephesians 4 lays out in the verses I shared? What if you worked this week on being less bitter, or reducing your anger, or being kinder to those you meet, or learning to forgive others or yourself?

Those may sound like big goals to accomplish (maybe even bigger than your new year’s resolutions), but just like new year’s resolutions they’re achieved one step at a time, one day at a time, one choice at a time, one interaction at a time. You may even find that working on the tasks of Ephesians 4 to be more helpful to your life than the new year’s resolutions you picked for this year.

Will you choose one of the tasks in Ephesians 4 to work on this week?

Raising Awareness

Whether you know it or not each month there are months, weeks and days designated to raising awareness of illnesses, cancers, or other issues that many people face, whether we talk about them or not. This week is National Suicide Prevention week, and over the next 2 months we’ve also got Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, National Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month, World Alzheimer’s Month, Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month, and Mental Illness Awareness Week, and a couple dozen other awareness events too. Simply put there are a lot of issues going on in the lives of the people around us at any given time. No one should ever feel that they’re alone in facing the issues they deal with.

In many situations there’s absolutely nothing that could have been done to prevent someone from facing the issue. You don’t really choose to deal with these issues personally, and you don’t wish that anyone in your circle of family and friends ever has to deal with these issues. There also aren’t answers to all of the issues, although each of these awareness days/weeks/months are yet another opportunity to raise awareness (and funding) to understand and conquer these issues.

Awareness is such a key step to healing and conquering the issues because there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty around many of these issues. If everyone were either more educated or more willing to be educated about these issues they wouldn’t seem quite as scary or weird and there would be a lot more friendliness and support available for everyone.

If you or someone you know is facing one of the issues I mentioned above, or any of the countless other issues there are, I encourage you to do some research so you better understand what you/they are facing and then talk about everyone getting the support that they need to live a fulfilling and rewarding life regardless of the challenges they face.

What issues are you raising awareness for?

Reminders from God

Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we forget to stop and take a moment, or we’re so focused on one direction that we can’t see the way God is trying to lead us.  Let’s take a look at some of the reminders in the Bible:

There’s a lot we can’t see, and a lot to hope for:
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Use your words wisely:
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”  Proverbs 15:1

Live with joy:
“I will be filled with joy because of you.  I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:2

If God can forgive and be merciful, can’t we?:
“But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love.”  Nehemiah 9:7b

God saves us, leads us and teaches us:
“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”  Psalm 25:5

God is generous, gracious, and loving:
“Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.”  1 Timothy 1:14

We belong to God, and are to worship Him:
“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship…”  Acts 27:23 ESV

Choose patience:
“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.”  Ecclesiastes 7:8

Don’t give up:
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  Philippians 3:14

Each of our days include thousands of interactions, experiences and relationships, each with the potential to teach us something, help us heal in some way, make us a better person, put us in a position to help someone else, or reveal another aspect of who God is to us and who we are to Him.  It’s up to us to be open to where life takes us and where God sends us, and to pay attention to what’s going on around us.  What has God shared with you recently?

Taking Time to Listen

Given the events of the last week as well as the big meeting between two world powers happening somewhere half way around the world, today I thought we’d take a look at the words of Proverbs 8:33: “Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it.”

My heart hurts whenever someone chooses to end their life before God has determined it’s their time. The world lost two public figures last week to suicide, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. While we may never know what truly caused them to make that decision, many who choose suicide do so because they don’t have hope, don’t believe life could get better, don’t feel heard or have been so beaten down they can’t take it anymore. Statistics show that on average over 100 people choose suicide each day, which is a really scary number, and means there are thousands of hurting families out there.

The Bible teaches us that we should love our neighbors, that we should be giving and support each other, that we should look out for women and children, to trust that the God who knows the petals on a flower and all the creatures of the sea could look out for the little details of our lives, and that God has a plan for good for our lives. But these are not assurances that everyone knows because not everyone knows the Bible.

These aren’t just spiritual messages, they’re life messages. Anyone can love, listen and be compassionate, regardless of race, sex, age, location, or language. Are you taking the time to listen to the people in your life? To the ways they’re trying to help you and things they’re trying to tell you? I encourage you to choose love and compassion this week, to stop and listen when people speak, to make time to listen to what God is trying to tell you, and make time for those who are most important to you.

Reality Reflection: A Little Communication

I was at a funeral service yesterday and it got me thinking about what my understanding of “traditional songs” are versus what other religious practices have as “traditional songs” and how my traditional songs aren’t necessarily theirs. There’s nothing wrong with each religious group or culture having their own traditions and songs, in fact it’s important because it makes them who they are. It’s also what makes people feel at home when they connect with these groups and even can be the reason they join these groups.

The challenge comes in when you’ve got people from other groups interacting with your group. In this internet accessible world it’s very easy to create a resource that visitors can tap into to be prepared for these things. To be completely honest I did do an online search to see what the typical practice was for this type of religious funeral service so that I was somewhat prepared. Had there been a helpful link to a blog post or other form of information on the funeral home’s page for the person who passed that would have been even better because in a matter of seconds I could have found out exactly what I needed to know about the specific plans for his funeral and what I should expect (and then I would worry a whole lot less about whether or not I was doing the right thing at the right time).

But this is about a much bigger conversation. There are so many ways to remove the isolation in many parts of our daily lives or at least limit it that we’re not tapping into. You hear all the time about buzz words or industry-specific terms that people don’t understand because it’s too technical or they’re new to the industry or business, or confusion over typical processes and procedures. It costs very little to put up a page on your website with all these items explained clearly. Then you’ve helped visitors feel a little more comfortable with you and you’ve established that you are someone to be trusted and that you’re willing to work with people to help them get up to speed and will do your best not to overwhelm them.

The same is true for our lives. If we took a few seconds to send out a text or call or email or write a note and communicate the details to those who need to know, we’d avoid so many fights and frustrations and our relationships would be healthier too. It’s important to set up a central communication point or method as a family so that everyone is aware of where notes would be or how best to get in touch with  whomever needs to be reached.

It’s amazing what a few seconds of research or considerate communication can do for someone. What will communication do for you this week?