Reality Reflection: A Life To Be Proud Of

This year has brought with it, as many years do, a significant number of people we’ve lost who are gone before we think they should leave, or whose loss will forever be noticed. Today the US lost a fierce leader that many looked up to: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at 87.  She had lived a long life and left a mark that cannot be missed on the world. Even if you didn’t agree with all of the stances she took, you have to be impressed with her attitude, commitment and hard work, not to mention her passion that helped her work through several illnesses while continuing to fight for justice for many people in the US.

Ginsburg was a pioneering woman, who stood strong for what she believed in and thought was right, was committed to her Jewish faith, and touched countless lives through her wisdom and friendship throughout her life. You always know you’ve got a strong, true leader when people on both/all sides of the table are able to talk about her with respect. She is someone that students should study and girls should look up to as they look for role models to learn from as they navigate this challenging world that we live in.

As Jewish people around the world gathered tonight to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of their new year, the celebrations were touched with news of her loss. It’s always hard to lose someone on a holiday, and almost ironic that as much as she was able to move things forward for so many people, she passed on the new year, leaving a void for someone else to hopefully step up.

New years and new beginnings are always hard because there almost always has to be some loss to go along with the forward movement. You don’t know what the future holds, you only know what has happened in the past. So it’s our job to commit to doing our best as we move forward, and hopefully we’re able to meet life’s challenges with the same confidence, commitment and consideration that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did in her long life, and would have continued to do so should she been blessed with more years to live. I think she should be very proud of all that she did, and if we all are able to come up with even a fraction of the legacy she left to leave ourselves, I think she would be even more proud that she helped impact the world through each of us.

“Some things in life are more important than votes.” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
“And she did it all with kindness, grace, and calm, treating even her strongest adversaries with respect.” Former President Bill Clinton

“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Admitting What You Want

I have two challenging questions for you today: what are your dreams and wants, and is there a wrong time to think about your dreams and wants? While maybe the answer is that you’re happy with what you’ve got, I’d say it’s likely that you have some dreams and wants that aren’t reality in your life right now and you have thought about from time to time. As to timing, I’d argue that this time of challenge we’re going through is actually a great time to be thinking about that question because it is a good time to take active steps on making changes with so much changing anyway.

The other day my partner asked me what were some things I wanted in our future, and when I told him a couple of things he was like “we have those things already,” and while we do, it’s not ideal and there’s plenty of room to improve. Of course I’m very thankful to have what we have at this point in our lives and with the crisis going on in the world, and I’m not looking for mansions and world domination, but I want more out of life, and I’ve always known that this stage of our life is exactly that, a stage, and that there will be a next step, it’s just a question of timing.

So getting back to the first question: what do you dream about or want from life? Have you thought about dreams and wants lately or made any plans to incorporate steps into your life to get you there? Maybe you’ve been waiting on some level for a person or event in your life that’s highly likely to arrive or happen (I’m not talking about something like a big winning lottery ticket but something like the kids being out of diapers or getting to a point in your recovery or counseling). Dreams and wants aren’t like going to the grocery store and getting a container of vanilla ice cream, they typically are bigger things and do take time and/or resources you don’t currently have to get there.

The first step to making your wants and dreams more than just secret thoughts is stating and admitting, that you want those things. It says a lot about your confidence in yourself and your drive to live if you’re able to admit what you want or would like from life. So how do you express those dreams and wants? Maybe vision boards aren’t your thing, and that’s OK, they’re just one tool that you could use. It may be enough for you to just say out loud the things you want to yourself and the important people in your life. Maybe you do need to write it down in one way or another. Maybe you need to pull out a calendar and sketch out some plans, actions and ideas. Regardless, if you haven’t lately, I encourage you to take time today to be honest about your wants and dreams for life and take a step towards making them a reality, even if that step is just saying out loud what you want.

Reality Reflection: Courage Through Change

Have you ever gone into a garden and dug a shovel deep and turned the content of that shovel upside down? Or maybe stirred a pot of soup or stew a little too vigorously? Or tried to pull a carpet or table cloth out from under some stuff? The past couple of months have felt a lot like that, that just about everything we’ve known and believed about life to be thrown up in the air and come down either completely destroyed, only able to be looked at from a different perspective, maybe able to be recovered or put back together, and with a lot of emotion thrown around.

I am a believer in change, I think it has a very important place in our lives. But it’s extremely rare to have your whole world be changed in practically an instant like our world has over the past few months. We’ve been forced to seriously question what we knew about health and the ability of the medical community to fight anything well, about our ability to work and provide for our families, and about our ability to move our society as a whole forward.

With little notice before our whole world was completely topsy turvy, we’ve struggled greatly to manage our emotions and figure out how to deal with all of this emotionally. Of course, this has completely rocked what little confidence and strength some people had and as a result they’re heading to the dark end of the spectrum and expressing a lot of hate. Yes, there’s also been a lot of support shared, but with many (most?) of us around the world affected by the virus it’s a lot harder to support each other because we don’t have the resources to tap into that we’ve had in past situations (those in one state affected by a flood can be supported by those that aren’t in that state and not struggling with it).

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that we should accept and spend some time with these challenging emotions and situations, because we’re going to continue to struggle for at least a little longer. It doesn’t benefit us to completely shut off or avoid these negative emotions and challenging situations. We shouldn’t dwell on them, but it’s OK to admit you’re struggling.

But I have faith that if we’ve pulled ourselves out of as many challenges as we have as a nation and world, we can do it again. As I’ve said before, I’ve never believed that anything is going to be achieved that is sustainable or truly able to support people when we’re nasty to each other or trying to drag each other down because we’re miserable and unhappy. The struggle will stick around for a while yet, but even while it’s here we’ve got a choice to make about how we deal with it for the most part. I expect setbacks and struggles, but I also plan to approach them with as much courage and patience as I can muster.

Reality Reflection: I Dare You

I read a lot, both fiction and non fiction, so when I see the same topic or phrase several times in a short amount of time, I pay attention. The phrase I saw this week? “I dare you.” Hearing that phrase may have brought you back to your childhood and having your buddies dare you, or playing ‘truth or dare’ with friends. Even as adults we sometimes say it in a playful context (often when drinking) with friends. But the context I read it in this week was all about being dared to play a bigger game; being dared to live bigger; and being dared to love, care and trust more.

When you’re challenged to take a dare, that’s exactly what it is: a challenge. It’s giving you the opportunity to do something bigger, different, unique, fun, strange, and out of the ordinary for you. Most of the time it’s silly and probably won’t have a lot of consequences or any impact on your future, because dares are usually about having a little ‘outside the box’ fun.

But what if we turned this childhood idea into something that could be beneficial for adults? Just like we find benefit in asking questions and having a strong imagination as adults and kids? What if a little (or big) dare could help us become the people we dreamed we would be as kids? No, it’s not likely you’ll be able to realize your childhood dream of being the next Superman or Superwoman, but you can definitely become a better significant other, have a job that excites you at least on some level, be generally happy with life, and make a difference with your life.

If you’ve got some not great memories of dares from your younger days, you do need to conquer that fear first, so start with something small and not super threatening to see that dares can be healthy and beneficial, just like you start small with learning a new skill or losing weight or working out. Once you’ve got a few victories under your belt, then you can dare yourself bigger and bolder things. What will you dare to dream or do?

Christmas Courage

We’ve reached the end of another holiday season, the end of another year, and also the end of a decade. Unless you’re an unreformed Grinch or Scrooge, you probably don’t want the holidays to end anymore than I do. I’m always sad when December 26 rolls around and every store and radio station packs away the Christmas stuff for another year. As I shared about with my devotion readers this week, Christmas is a beginning, not an end, so for everything to just end so abruptly, it’s sad and not a real reflection on the Reason for the Season.

Today I want to share one last thought on Christmas, and it’s also something that will be relevant as we move into the new year and decade. We can learn a lot from the Christmas story, about God, about how God interacts with us, about God’s plan for the world, about love, and about our fellow humans. The Biblical Christmas story is an intimate look into the lives of 4 key players and several other supporting characters, and we get to see the emotions they work through and their experiences and reactions to how everything goes down and the birth of Jesus. It’s reassuring to know that God has a plan for everyone, that He’s willing to share some reassuring and encouraging words when we’re unsure of the situation (as we saw with Joseph and the dream he had), God wants everyone to be part of the celebrations from the wisest to the average joes, and something very small can really bring hope.

But something that we don’t talk about much with regard to the Christmas story is about courage. Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, and Zechariah were all fully human, and while they were all likely people of faith (we know Zechariah was), the story still tells of the doubt and confusion that these four faced when the angel first came to each of them. They knew that despite it being God’s plan, other people wouldn’t necessarily understand or agree with their choices to accept the babies and that they would always have to accept that as much as the babies were theirs, they were first and foremost God’s. It took courage to step up and say yes to the angel and welcome in those babies.

If the last decade has been rough for you, I can understand why you might be looking at the new one ahead with trepidation, although for the same reason you may be looking at it with excitement. Those mixed emotions are probably exactly what the people of the First Christmas experienced. Just like them we’ve each got the choice to find our courage and move into the new year and decade excited that Jesus has come and is part of our lives, or focus on something more negative. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather move into the new year with a courageous stride than be pulled kicking and screaming over the line. If you’re not sure what to make of or do about the year ahead, maybe you want to focus on living a courageous year.

“”Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”” Deuteronomy 31:8

Let’s Be Brave Together

Back in January I shared that this year I’d be focusing on 2019 being a year of you and living in each day (as opposed to yesterday or tomorrow). We’ll be continuing that for the last 3 months of the year, and this month as we think about Halloween and related topics, I want to spend some time talking about bravery. The dictionary explains bravery and brave as possessing or exhibiting courage or courageous endurance; valor; to defy; to challenge; to dare; boldness; and heroic. But there’s also another word that I see, and that’s magnificence.

That word is one of the reasons why I want to talk about bravery this month, because bravery makes you a better person. It makes you have some extra shine in your countenance, pep in your step, and an almost magnetic quality about you. Bravery not only motivates, inspires, encourages and empowers you, it can do the same for others in your circle or that come into contact with you or hear about your story.

Bravery can positively impact all areas of your life, from the TV you choose to watch to the company you keep to the career you have to the places you choose to go to the shopping choices you make. Bravery isn’t about blindly acting or even about doing dangerous stuff or going dangerous places, but about breaking through what holds you back, ending bad habits, making healthier decisions even if they’re hard, and finding the courage to try new things.

Being brave starts with one step, one action, one decision or one word. It can be as simple as saying no, asking for help, cleaning out a closet, opening your bills, or taking the time to talk with your partner each day (about more than the weather and not as an argument). How will you be brave today?

Prayer and Restoration

School is in full swing, and while I don’t have plans to go back there are still some things that come up each year on the school calendar that I make note of for one reason or another. This week schools around the US are gearing up for See You At The Pole. It’s a student led spiritual ministry for students, by students at schools of all kinds, not just private spiritual based schools. In this day and age students have to communicate with the school about doing it, but back when it started in 1990 students would just show up around the pole and pray.

Each year they do pick a different theme to reflect on, but the ultimate goal of the event whether it’s done at a school or off campus (due to a request to disperse), is to pray for the school and students. Prayer is and has always been a central part of the Christian faith and it’s also a central part of many other religions as well. Faith and prayer is as natural together and intimately connected as peanut butter and jelly or fish and chips. This year the organization has chosen the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to be the focus for the prayers and topics of discussion on Wednesday:

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

It’s a great verse for many reasons, including the focus it has on the topic and importance of prayer. What so many people need today is restoration. But this verse, and others throughout the Bible, are clear that like many other things including the seasons, there’s a process that has to be followed. Restoration can only happen after realizing something isn’t right, admitting your part in it, making changes in your life, and asking for forgiveness.

I do pray for restoration, and also for the strength and courage to do what it takes to get to that point. Each student that stands up and joins around a flagpole on Wednesday is taking an important first step and showing great courage and strength. If we were all to stand up and pray for each other, could you imagine the healing, transformation and blessings that could occur in our lives?

Life may be just beginning for those students, but we’re still here too, so it’s not too late to say a prayer and begin a restoration process in your life as well. How will God heal you this week?

When People Stand Up

Today on one of my other blogs I shared about how CNN and MSNBC are stepping up to host climate crisis town halls with some of the 2020 presidential candidates. If you follow the news at all you know that a lot of people are talking about climate and climate issues, how there’s tons of melting up at the poles, how temperatures are fluctuating and hitting extremes that they haven’t before and how there’s increased concern over the earth’s ability to host us for as many years as we want to stay here.

What impressed me about the town halls is that CNN and MSNBC stepped up when it had been made clear that the regular conventions weren’t willing to have any type of discussion about climate, despite thousands of people asking them to. CNN and MSNBC had to work to find a loophole in the rules that allowed them to have these conversations, but they did the work and now there is political and very public conversation happening about climate.

This has reminded me about the power of many individuals standing up for what’s important and how crucial it is to stand up for what’s important. If we don’t make the effort to decide what’s important and stand up for it we’ll never make progress on the big issues in our world, rather they’ll continue to compile. It also gives me hope that someone is hearing what the masses are saying and doing what it takes to step up and actually respond.

We don’t have any answers on the climate crisis nor has there been a revolution of politics, but for the first time in a long time it feels like finally there has been a victory for the people. On the heels of some tragic shootings over the summer and in the middle of a devastating hurricane, it’s encouraging to have a victory. It shows that the voices of thousands spoken together do have an impact, that if we keep going, keep up the pressure, keep speaking up, and get a little creative, maybe we can finally make changes in our world that give our kids a safer and happier place to live and make our world healthier too.

Reality Reflection: Tragedy, Humans and Technology

It’s been over 30 years since the disaster in Chernobyl, when there was an accident at one of the nuclear reactors. I have no personal memories of this tragedy (I was too young), but it’s a story that I’ve always followed, maybe because of the haunting images that have been appearing over the years of the homes, schools and businesses that were suddenly abandoned. We know that slowly over the past 30 years nature has been taking over where people used to live and slowly buildings and other things are decaying and returning to more original forms.

I saw an article the other day about a gentleman who flew helicopters over the site in the days after the disaster to measure the temperature and gasses. I always check out stories like these because they give very personal and personable insights into events that don’t come with a lot of details or are still impacting the world today. In the article he tells how he knew it was dangerous but there wasn’t really an option, someone had to do it because they had to get that information. Today thankfully we would be able to send a drone over the scene of the accident and let the drone get the data without having to put any human lives in harms way.

I’m thankful both for the people who go into harms way to help the rest of us like police and fire workers, as well as for the updates in technology that gives the humans a helping hand and keep them safer. We’re not yet at the place where we’re avoiding all accidents, but we have come very far in these past 30 years to where we are avoiding danger more and staying safer.

I believe that we need to support technology development more because it can help keep us safer, move resources where they can be better used, and reduce waste. But there will always be a need to be brave and courageous, to have people help people. The world is better because we have other people to share it with. If anything as technology develops and advances we need people who are more responsible and keep tabs on technology to make sure we’re using it to help and not to harm.  Both people and technology can be good and bad, it’s up to each of us to make sure that they are helping victories happen.

Victories and Independence

Like many I’m contemplating Independence Day on Thursday this week, and reflecting on the topic of independence. Independence is something we strive for from a very early age, first wanting to walk on our own, then do stuff in the kitchen on our own, and as we get older we have more independence, but with that independence comes more responsibility. And as adults we’ve got a different network of support than we do as a child (where we’ve got more support and others who expect to help you carry the burden).

A topic that has to be considered alongside that of independence, would be that of acceptance and being content. When we think about the pilgrims and first European settlers of the US we’re talking about people who wanted something different for their lives and their future. As the eventual Independence Day and Declaration of Independence shows, they truly wanted independence, separation, from their current existence. However, for many complete independence isn’t necessary if you’re comfortable in general or overall with where things are/how things are going. Sometimes independence only means, to use the earlier example, being able to walk on your own, not to start completely over.

What does that look like as an adult, and more importantly how do you know what you need? One of the biggest keys to not only making steps into your future, but knowing what steps are right for you is being aware of your life and what’s going on around you. How often do you really stop to look at your life, your words, your actions, your relationships, your world? Just taking a moment each day, or several quick moments throughout the day, can help you make sure you’re going in the direction you want to go, and be more aware of potential issues others are having, and may be having with you.

And if you do need to declare an independence day for yourself? Keep your eyes open and take a couple of initial steps to determine if it’s necessary to take drastic action, or if some smaller steps will get you to the point of being content with life and the victories you can create.