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?

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Strong with God

This week I’ve been thinking about strength and courage and how so often we talk about strength and courage as something we have to grow or be or become. But a devotional reminded me that sometimes we can be strong or find our strength because there’s someone stronger than us standing between us and whatever or whomever is challenging us. God does ask us to be brave and courageous, but never asks us to be stronger or braver than He will be for us.

Throughout the Bible there are examples of God saying that He will go with and before people as they do the work that He has called them to do. God does sometimes ask us to take a step of faith, a courageous step, but never one that He thinks we’re not ready for or able to do.

There are also countless statements throughout the Bible to how powerful, all knowing, and capable God is, from the flood to caring for the sparrows. God took the time to create each and every creature on earth, He knows them intimately and knows their beginnings and endings, their comings and goings.

Where the Bible calls us to pull on the Armor of God, it talks about pulling on tools, strength and protection from God, not anything like the physical armor that is used in wars here on earth. God gives us each the opportunity to pull on that armor, He doesn’t believe in leaving us defenseless.

This week don’t be afraid to use the tools of protection and strength that God has put in your life, you don’t have to be strong on your own.

“You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory [and my honor], and the One who lifts my head. With my voice I was crying to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. I lay down and slept [safely]; I awakened, for the Lord sustains me.” Psalm 3:3-5 AMP

4 Questions to Power Up Your Day

As I was thinking about our topic of the month, strength, and all that goes along with it, I was reminded of a powerful tool that we don’t always use enough in our lives: questions. We usually find time for blaming and yelling and talking, but not much for questions. So today I thought we’d take a look at 4 questions you can ask today, and every day.

1-what’s one courageous step I can take today?
I’m not asking you to leap, just take one step towards overcoming a challenge, conquering a fear, or making a dream a reality. For example you could watch a video on cooking a specific ingredient properly, video taken from the perspective of someone skydiving or research career options. But maybe the courageous step you need to take today is to do something big and bold and finally take a very active step forward.

2-what can I do today to help someone else feel/see/realize/understand their strength?
Strength can be used to hurt and to hoard, but I believe strength is best used for helping others. The phrase ‘together we’re better’ applies here, because when I bring my strengths to the table, and you bring yours, we’re stronger than we would be alone.

3-what will I do today to increase my strength?
Life is a learning and growing process, one that only can be successful if you not only work on your weaknesses, but also work on your strengths. Working on becoming better at what you’re good at and diving deeper into your passions not only builds your confidence, it gives you new ways you can make a difference in the world.

4-what was the most courageous, brave or strong thing I did today?
This is an important question to ask at the end of the day, it helps remind us of our victories, give us an opportunity to celebrate the ways we rocked today and give us a chance to end the day on a positive note. Yes, it’s good to go over what didn’t go well, but I would start with those as you make your to-do list for tomorrow, and end with thoughts of your successes.

What about you? What questions do you use to help you make more victories in your life?

Courage to Live Another Day

The other day I was reading one of the email updates I get from a charity that I support, Mercy Corps, and in it they were talking about the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal. I had a bit of trouble wrapping my head around the fact that they happened in 2015, and not years before that, and how long ago that actually seemed. In the very busy lives we live 3 years can seem like an eternity, and yet it all seems to go by so fast. Maybe that speed is part of the reason that the 2015 earthquake seems like it was so long ago.

This email I recieved shared about a woman, Sushma, and her family, and the difference that just $75, a few pots and some farming education made. That seems like so little to most of us, but to them it made all the difference. It gave them the support, both mental and literal, to get back on their feet after their home (and village) was destroyed. Since then Sushma, her family and her farm have grown and thrived.

Something else the email said really made me think.  One of the women who visited Nepal from the charity said she realized that not only is there courage needed to survive a crisis, but there’s courage needed to live, and thrive, after one. For some when a crisis is over, that’s the end, they’re no longer living, but for so many of us we have to figure out what comes next and how we’re going to get there. It’s a lot easier to say you’re going to rebuild, than it is to actually do it; just look at Puerto Rico still struggling with power in many areas after the hurricane hit back in September of 2017. Even choosing to pick up and move to a new state or country after a big event like the earthquake or hurricane takes a lot of courage.

But what about the “smaller” things? The tough illness, lost job, failed class or broken relationship? They hurt too, and take a lot of courage to move on from as well. Sometimes it takes a lot of strength to get through just one day, and that’s OK. All of these life events and challenges show us who we’ve been created to be, help build our strength, teach us things and give us a chance to prove to ourselves that we’re more capable than we could have ever imagined.

So what about you? Will you choose to be courageous in your life today?

Reality Reflection: Right and Wrong

Let’s be honest, no one really likes to be wrong. We sometimes find a little too much joy in others being wrong, but it’s not so much fun when we’re the issue or we did wrong. I’m secure enough in my relationship with my partner, as well as in my relationship with myself, to almost always be able to admit when I’m wrong. I’m not perfect in that if I don’t have to admit I’m wrong I may not, but when the situation calls for it I can admit I was wrong.

When it comes to being wrong, we’re not usually completely wrong, typically we’re at least partially right or moving in the right direction. Which brings me to the questions that I wanted to talk about today: “what if you were right?” and “what if you were wrong?”

The reason I want to spend time talking about these questions is because they can really open up your perspective and get you to think more creatively about what is possible. What if you were right about how perfect you and your partner are for each other? What if you were right that the weather won’t be too bad tomorrow? What if you were right that you’re worth more as an employee? What if you were right that dogs are the best animal on the planet? What if you were right that you’ve got a dream worth pursuing? What if you were right about your boss being a sexist jerk? What if you were right about the bad direction one of your kids was going in? What if you were right about your partner never changing into the person you thought they were? If you were right what would you do or what would be different in your life?

But what if you were wrong? Would your life fall apart? Would you be able to repair a relationship? Would you spiral into a depression? Would you be able to keep your head high? Would you be able to move away? Would you be able to start over? Would you be able to make new friends? Would you be able to try something new? Would you be able to pay the fine? Would you be able to admit you’re wrong and move on to making changes so you can be right?

What would change in your attitude, your perspective or your hope if you were right or wrong? I encourage you to take time considering these questions as we begin this new week, and seeing how they can open your mind to a different, hopefully better, future.

Reality Reflection: Have a Little Faith

The past few weeks have really tested many people’s concepts of their safety and understanding of how the world around us is operating. From massive hurricanes to violence perpetrated by individuals in both mass-casualty situations and too many “simple” murders and other acts of violence in cities around the US and the world, we’re really seeing our world change in ways that we don’t want it to. It becomes pretty easy pretty quick to feel like giving up.  To accept that life is just this difficult and that’s how it is going to be moving forward, to accept that any home we build could be destroyed by mother nature, to accept that it’s not safe to be in large gatherings, but if we accept these things, there’s really no safe place anywhere for anyone. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that to be my future, my reality.

But then you hear about people making donations of money, food, shelter, help and even blood. You hear about people risking their lives for each other. You hear about the moms and dads who put their lives on the line to figure out what happened and protect the rest of us, from surgeons to missionaries to soldiers to police officers to those who fly weather planes, some of these people do their jobs without a guarantee of going home ever again, yet they willingly put their lives on the line every day. Why? Because they still have hope in a better future for the rest of us. They still believe that we’re worth saving, or that there are more good people than bad in the world. Some may get up each day with the purpose of defeating or beating the destruction and destroyers, but I don’t think they are able to stay sane or focused for very long. Instead, I believe that those who are able to put their lives on the line day in and day out do it because they believe there’s something and someone worth fighting for.

If you think about it, it’s not the evil or darkness that can sustain us. Without some serious scientific improvements and major changes to our world, it’s not possible for all of us to be sustained if all we knew was violence and night, war zones show that and some still struggle to recover now, decades after the bullets stopped. We need sunshine, community gatherings, schools, green pastures, safe places to work on scientific and medical challenges, and homes we can trust won’t fall down around us. It’s not about creating a perfect world or everyone having innocence, but about being safe and comfortable enough to be fulfilled in the present and be part of building a better future. More violence isn’t the answer or step forward in creating that, better, future, contribution, faith and hope in the community that we all live in is.

The Truth?

How often do you tell the truth? Do you try to tell the truth most of the time? Do you give the full truth to people most of the time or do you only give partial truths, holding back some things either for yourself or for them? Over the past few years honesty and truth have been given an increasingly important position in our lives and it’s a lot harder to hide things now with all the live video and phones that go everywhere with us. I don’t believe that the truth should be used to hurt someone, but truth can be an educational and self-improvement tool, especially when shared with love and good intentions.

However I know that sometimes we choose to hide from the truth. Maybe we’re scared of the answer we’ll receive, maybe we don’t want to know how far out of proportions we’ve blown something, maybe we would rather continue living in the little bubble we’ve created for ourselves, and maybe we know that if we were to receive the truth we would have to do something about it. I know the truth can sometimes be intimidating and overwhelming, but neither of those are reasons to shut yourself off from the truth.  But ultimately truth should free us to move from the lies and hiding into a better future, or at least give us the motivation to take action on moving past where we are.

Sometimes the truth is unquestionable. You can’t change the fact that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. But what my truth is regarding the best dog in the world may differ from your truth regarding the best dog in the world. Some truths can be swayed by personal opinions and experiences. However, I don’t think you can really apply the title of ‘truth’ to something unless you’ve got some solid reasons to back it up, more than just “I don’t like it.” I don’t think that this should dissuade us from sharing truth, but we should be more willing to acknowledge when something is “the” truth versus “our” or “my” truth.

Today I encourage you to step up and be open to learning the truth. Whether you are dealing with opinion truths or fact truths, the real focus should be whether it’s honest or not. Don’t ask someone to lie to you or give you partial truth, ask them for the whole truth, and ask them for their reasons or understandings that led them to that truth when appropriate. I don’t believe our world can be improved if we’re not willing to ask for the truth, share the truth and apply the truth to our lives and our world.

“The object of the superior man is truth.”  Confucius