Exploring with God

Monday in the US was the day that’s historically celebrated Christopher Columbus, and in recent years has also been called Indigenous Peoples Day. Personally I would make Indigenous Peoples Day another day in the year, and if we’re not wanting to name a day specifically after Columbus, to name this past Monday Explorer’s Day or something like that because the men (and women) who were part of the great exploration of the world should be recognized, because without them many of us in the US and around the world wouldn’t be where we are without them.

As I was thinking about explorers like Columbus, I got to thinking about how many people throughout the Bible traveled or were called by God to travel. Abraham traveled, Joseph traveled, the Israelites traveled, Ruth traveled, the prophets traveled, Jonah traveled, Jesus traveled, Saul/Paul traveled, many other disciples traveled, just to name a few of the well-known figures in the Bible. Some of these people traveled because their life necessitated it, others traveled because God called them to travel for reasons of ministry.

Sometimes what’s necessary for us to really discover who we are and to see the plan of God for our lives, is for us to get out of our comfort zones. Yes, God sends us wherever we are told to go to share about Him with the people there, but as Jonah learned, the journey can sometimes be as much for us as it is for them. Exploring can be fun and exciting, it can also cause some stress and discomfort, especially if you’ve got the wrong attitude or a closed heart going into the adventure.

Most of us will come to at least one point in our journey where we’re faced with the option to go out into the world and open ourselves to others and possible changes, or choose to stay where we’re at. I think we should all choose to take the opportunity to explore at least once in our lives and see what God wants to teach us or how He wants to use us through that experience. There’s nothing technically wrong with sticking with the status quo in your life and not wanting changes, but often changes happen whether we want them to or not. Being open to changes and to the experiences God has in store for us will help smooth our explorations and help us better connect with those we meet along the way.

If you’re exploring right now I invite you to share your experiences and words of wisdom for those who may be struggling with their own journey.

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Reality Reflection: Out of control

It’s amazing how quickly things can sometimes spiral out of control. You say you’re just going to do one more thing and six more pop up that really need to be done that day. Or you mis-speak about something or someone mis-hears you and someone feels offended and it gets blown completely out of proportion. Or one person struggles with slick roads and it turns into a 5 car pile up. Or the weather is completely unseasonal and your family reunion plans are ruined. Or you use one wrong ingredient and the whole dish is ruined. Some of these things we have an easier time avoiding or fixing or dealing with, but for many of them we have to give recovery our best effort.

The thing about control is that you can try and be in control, and you can in fact be in control, but if someone else gets out of control you can’t do much about that except try to react or respond in the best way. In the example of communication I used earlier, it’s so easy to get caught up in a conversation and think you hear something and react instead of pausing and thinking about if you really heard what you heard and asking for clarification before forming an opinion or reacting negatively. So when it comes down to it, the better control you have, the easier it will be to stop a situation before it does spiral out of control.

It’s not about trying to be in control all of the time, if you try for that you’ll end up crazy and live such a regimented life that you miss out on a lot of adventures that the world has to offer, not to mention you won’t meet some of the cool people out there if you only focus on controlling yourself. So the question is, how good is your control? Can you stop yourself from watching another TV episode if you know you really should to do something else? Are you able to get focused on something when you really need to? Are you able to say both no and yes depending on which a situation calls for?  Are you able to let go of that control and be free and fun as the occasion calls for?  Is control a tool you use or is it controlling you?

Reality Reflection: Faithful to the Moment

For the past couple of days I’ve been thinking about the topic of being faithful. I’ve also been dealing with a headache that just won’t seem to give up, no matter what I try. As I had a tiny bit of relief tonight and was still reflecting on the topic of being faithful, I realized that sometimes being faithful means that you have to not be the person you usually are. Sometimes being faithful means doing what’s needed or right, even if it means taking some time off or turning down a responsibility or opportunity you would normally jump at.

Are you being faithful in your life right now or stubborn? It’s OK to push through sometimes, but other times what you really need to do is something different. As much as faithful is about being “true to one’s word,” “reliable,” and “dependable,” faithful is also about being steady in allegiance. So sometimes that allegiance can be with regards to being faithful to who you typically are, the responsible, caring, considerate, outgoing, giving person. But other times that allegiance needs to be to your needs at that moment.

This week I encourage you to be open to hearing, believing and doing more than just what you typically do. Break away from the patterns that normally serve you well and embrace spontaneity, do what feels right in the moment, or just explore something that you’ve taken for granted for a long time. Your life won’t fall apart for doing things differently for an hour or two or even a day or two, and you might even learn something from being faithful to the moment.

Reality Reflection: America is Awesome

As I was thinking about what to write today I discovered that National Park Week ends on Sunday.  National Park Week is a great reminder each year of the natural treasures we’ve got here in the US, and an invitation for us to not only visit them but support them too by volunteering on some upkeep and other projects at the parks.  With over 400 National Park affiliated areas around the US, there’s a really good chance that you can check out at least one in the next few months, or make one part of your summer travel plans.

Visiting National Parks as a kid with my family was definitely a highlight of the vacations we took together, especially some of the ones that aren’t household names like the Black Hills and Salem Massachusetts.  I still love getting out in nature as an adult and visiting some of these places that were discovered and enjoyed by many generations that came before me. One of the cool things about National Parks is that if you don’t want to get into the history there’s tons of great nature to explore without ever having to hear about the history side of things, but there’s lots of history if you want to get into it.

But after exploring the National Parks, you’re usually hungry, and there are some really awesome restaurants around the US to enjoy. Shows like Best Thing I Ever Ate; Diners, Drive-ins and Dives; and Food Paradise give viewers a look into some of the best and unique eats around the US. I’m always amazed when I watch shows like these because there are so many different recipes for the same food favorites and takes on classics that you could easily eat something different every day for the rest of your life and not repeat at any one restaurant (even if you might want to). There are so many chefs around America that are doing great things with food, whether you’re looking for vegan, Mexican, fried, salads, sandwiches or classics, whether you’re looking for a great sit-down meal or something on the go, that it’s impossible to give them all credit, but we can try.

I’m so thankful that we’ve got so many awesome opportunities to enjoy life and food here in America, what are your favorites?

Reality Reflections: Pictures and People

I understand that some people only respond to strength, and that’s one of the reasons that people (countries) go to war or send bombs. I wish that wasn’t the case, I wish that there was another way of making a big and clearly understandable statement without killing the people that we share the planet with, not to mention not hurting the planet either. Sometimes it seems unavoidable, like with WW2 and Hitler, or with the Rwandan Genocide in the early 90’s, those types of evil have to be stopped, and many people are willing to accept the cost of going to war or sending bombs as a result. But one of the reasons I think some people are comfortable with going to war or sending bombs in some situations that are less clear is because they don’t understand the place/people they’re attacking.

As I was thinking about what to write on today I came across this article with pictures from China. While China may not be quite the closed/secretive nation that some other countries are, I don’t think it’s a known country like France, England or the US. I certainly don’t know a lot about it outside from what I know historically or from the business side of things from the few companies I’ve advised from there. So paging through the photos I was again struck by how much China looks like other countries around the developed world, including the US. It certainly makes the people who live there seem a whole lot more like me than some unknown entity.

Every corner of the world is different, but from a few photographs some similarities are clear, maybe enough similarities that we can begin to understand that we’re not all that different after all, especially with regards to the things that matter most. We live in small homes and large high rises, we go out in nature, we worship, we spend time with family and friends, we eat, we run businesses, we work jobs, we remember history, and we work towards tomorrow. I don’t think it’s necessary to share our deepest secrets with the world or publicize everything, but if sharing photos like these can help us avoid wars in the future, or encourage us to act sooner when tragedy strikes, it’s something that should be done more often, from all around the world.

What things have helped shift your perspective or understanding of a place or culture in a positive way?

The Adventure of Easter Eggs

As many people are, I’m thinking about Easter coming up on Sunday. Whether you celebrate it more as a spring holiday and just get together with friends and family, or it’s a religious day for you, something that’s very traditional and well-known are Easter eggs. People, churches and towns around the US will gather up little plastic eggs of bright colors and hide pieces of chocolate or candy and little stickers and toys inside of them and then scatter or hide them around the house and yard for little boys and girls to find.  Maybe you’ve had the fun opportunity of filling the empty eggs with the surprises for the boys and girls.

If you think about it, Easter eggs are a lot like each of us: you never know what’s inside until you open up the egg. Sometimes you’ll find it filled with treats that you would rather trade with someone else and sometimes you’ll be thrilled with the surprise inside. Part of the gift of Easter eggs though, are the adventure of finding them, or of getting to know the other people that we share this world with. Just because the egg is yellow on the outside doesn’t mean that you’ll find the same thing on the inside all the time, or that it will always be your favorite filling because you love yellow.

As you finish this week working on victories, I encourage you to not judge people before you get to know them. Apply the breaks a bit to your speed through life and take the time to get to know someone before you jump to a conclusion about who they are or what role they may play in your life and success.  Maybe even take the time to get to know someone that you’ve not connected with in a long time or never really took the time to develop the relationship beyond a surface level.  The way you treat others can have a big impact on your ability to achieve victories, personally I’d rather have a team I can work with than find myself alone trying to be everything for everyone.

Celebrating St. Patrick

Saturday in the US (and in Ireland) we’ve celebrated St. Patrick‘s Day.  While many people celebrate it by drinking, eating and wearing green, the holiday itself is named for a Saint.  So I thought we’d take a look at who the individual was and why he’s honored on this holiday.

He, Patrick, was a missionary back in the 5th century to Ireland.  He is one of the primary saints of Ireland and many credit him as having brought Christianity to Ireland.  Of all the holidays that are celebrated in the US today, St. Patrick is one of the few people that a holiday is named for specifically, and not as part of a larger celebration or remembrance.

I don’t think it ruins the memory or honoring of St. Patrick to have a drink and wear a little green, just like decorating a tree, having cookies or hunting for eggs doesn’t hurt Jesus or the true meaning of Christmas/Easter.  One of the reasons we celebrate St. Patrick is to honor our heritage if we’re Irish, and to honor and remember our heritage in general.  St. Patrick’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate whatever heritage you have, and especially to pass traditions, stories and icons on to the next generation so they’re not lost.

But it is also important to take time to remember what the stories of Jesus and St. Patrick are all about: their faith.  Both men are known because they chose to step up for their faith and the faith of countless others.  It’s not necessary to go to another country and share your faith like St. Patrick did, that’s just one way to do it.  You can practice the countless much smaller but not less significant examples of faith that Jesus showed through every kind word, loving touch, and prayer you pray.

How will your faith and heritage live today?