Don’t Fear Love

Love is one of the greatest challenges of all times and has provided countless headaches over the centuries. This little word has created such a stir that I’m sure entire countries would split if someone tried to put the word in any type of legal or political documents. It’s a word we’ve become wary of, one that holds too many meanings (aka traps) and has been exhaustively over analyzed. It’s been used where it doesn’t belong, and as an inappropriate scapegoat. So we’ve run from it.

But what I realized today was that as we’ve run from our definition and application of love, we’ve run from Love. We’ve backed away from the one who can teach us what love really is, what it really means to love and be loved. We’ve put Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit in every other corner we can think of while throwing, maybe even catapulting, Love out of the ring. It’s no wonder that we’re so confused as to what love is and if we’re loved.

2 Timothy 1:7 says: “The Spirit God gave us does not make us afraid. His Spirit is a source of power and love and self-control.” Paul is reassuring Timothy here, as well as all of us that we have no reason to be afraid of what love truly is, specifically and especially when we are looking for the truth about love from Love itself.

Let’s be honest: it will be scary when you first open your heart, open your mind to love again. True love is all consuming, never ending and more patient than any of us deserve. But there are countless examples and verses of reassurance throughout the Bible that tell us that when we love God and are open to His Love we’ll get it and be glad we have it. He promises to be there for us, to support us, to affirm our beauty and value, to celebrate the great moments and comfort us in the bad ones. Feeling a little funny about all that attention, all that, dare I say it, love? It’s not easy to get used to what love really is, maybe that’s why so many of us have shied away from it.

Remember that old song you sang as a child, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…?” Life may have seemed a lot more simple back then, but the reality is that we’ve let other things get in the way of accepting that some things are just that simple. Love can be very complicated, but when you really take a look at it, it all boils down to the fact that Jesus loves us, has provided the best example, and always will be the best example of what love is for us.

This week I encourage you to take lots of deep breaths and open your heart to what God wants to tell you about love, and what it really is. He won’t rip your heart out and stomp all over it, He may have a strong dose of reality for you though. And no matter what the truth will always remain that God loves you and wants you to love Him.

Reality Reflection: At An End

This week I got the news that a family friend is getting very close to the end of his journey.  He’s had medical problems for years and things have worsened and now he and his wife are working with hospice.  The man has always had a great sense of humor, is good to his friends, loves his wife, and has really endured through serious medical issues in a positive way that you don’t often see.  He’s not perfect, none of us are, and I’m sure that he’s had his moments of anger and frustration, as well as fear and sadness, especially at this point in time.

It’s not easy to know the end is very close, whether it’s your life or that of someone you know well, especially when they’re one of those ‘good people.’  No, it’s not good to wish anyone were dead or think it’s better to lose someone who has some not so great habits (everyone has a family and a mother), but when the world loses a bright soul it seems like it’s felt even more.  What would you do if you knew that your end was near?  I would hope that you would take advantage of every moment you have with those you love, and maybe even do a splurge or two that you’ve always wanted, like take a special trip with your partner or kids, maybe even take the opportunity to try and mend a few fences.

As I was reflecting on the impending loss of this friend it got me thinking about the other side of death and loss, the side of the living.   We don’t go anywhere when someone we know or love dies, we’re still here.  And often we end up at a funeral or life celebration talking about them with other friends and family.  It’s not often that we’ve got the opportunity to let someone know what they meant to us and how thankful we are that they’ve been in our life before they pass.  It adds something to the grieving process for both sides, to be able to share that with them and support and love them, and it can make their last days very meaningful and happy, instead of painful and sad.

Loss is never easy, especially when it’s someone we’ve known for a very long time, and known on a very personal level.  But the way things work right now, everything comes to an end.  So I do encourage you to take a little time to reflect on how you want your end to go and make sure that you’ve got things clearly written down, but more so I encourage you to make as many memories as you can, to love as big as you can and to enjoy as much of life as you can.

Reality Reflection: Bad Love

Today I want to talk about a difficult topic: bad love.  Most of what we’ll talk about today may not apply to you, but I do have a message for those who experience only good love in their lives towards the end so I encourage you to read the whole post.   I know right now the world is full of good endorphins and thoughts of how you can make your sweetie happier with Valentine’s Day on Tuesday in the US.  But there’s a dark side of love that I feel should be addressed and it’s not something we’re comfortable talking about or really want to admit exists.  Now, I’m not talking about bad love as in the situation where you don’t love the person you’ve married anymore and decide to get a divorce.  That’s not necessarily bad love, that just means for whatever reason or reasons the relationship didn’t work out or it ran its course and now it’s time for you two to move on.  We’re also not talking about the type of love that some people can’t understand like multiple partners or BDSM or same-sex partnerships.  Those people are in consensual relationships, it’s just not one that everyone can fit into their box that is their understanding of love.

The bad kind of love is really not love.  It’s the date rape situations, abusive partner, abusive parent, abusive child, or even abduction/slavery situations.  There are people around the world of all ages who have to fight to stay alive, to not give up hope, who pray for a chance to get out of the situation or for someone in their life to finally say something about the bruises or broken bones.  We’re always outraged when something like this ends up in the news, but yet we seem to want to stay blissfully ignorant to how many people actually deal with this on a regular basis.  Yes, in the past few years many parts of the world have started to stand up for people in bad love situations, but there are still major obstacles and things that need to be overcome.

I can’t pretend to know what someone who’s on the receiving end of bad love experiences or is going through. I’m thankful that my life has always had good or average relationships.  From what I’ve learned or heard about I know that for the person giving the bad love it can be, to use a word we’re all familiar with, an addiction.  They are addicted to the feeling they get when they bad love someone.  They may also not have a moral compass or they may think that they’re doing the “right” thing.  Years later some people do experience some guilt about the situation or their actions, but that’s not the case for everyone.  For those on the receiving end of bad love it can be a very difficult road not only get out of the situation but to rebuild afterwards.  In some cases they’re tasked with finding help for the person who hurt them all those years, especially in the case of a parent or child.  But it’s that first step that is the most difficult for most people: getting out of the bad love situation.

If that’s you and you’re in a bad love situation, know that you’re not alone.  There are people who will help you, and are willing and able to help you, it’s just a matter of you reaching out and asking for the help.  I know that can be very difficult especially if your situation is especially serious.  But you can’t blame yourself for being in the situation or believe that you deserve whatever is being dished out to you.  That’s not the way that anyone deserves to live.  At the end of the post I’ll list some resources that you can check out if you need to get out of a bad love situation, and I invite you to share resources you know about as well.

For those of us who experience good love it’s very important that we take off our rose colored glasses and realize that as much as the world has progressed in 2017, there is still a long way to go.  Find an organization that helps fight bad love and make a donation, share a tweet or post about them, donate your time or knowledge or skills, or help raise awareness in some other way this Valentine’s Day that there are people out there who need help and that there are resources available to them.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Darkness to Light
Youth dating and abuse resources
Domestic Shelters
Dr Phil’s list of resources
Male Survivor
The Safe Alliance

Love Your Life

Every year we cover a ton of topics, from the tough stuff to enjoying life more.  There are lots of changes happening around the world, some faster than others and some seemingly slow and we feel like they’ll never happen.  Whether you’re talking about finances, the economy, politics, jobs/business/careers, the environment, energy, health or just plain relationships and families, things are changing whether people want them to or not, and we typically identify with one group’s perspective on a topic more than we do with another’s.  We read or hear the news about tragedies that happen around our world, and sometimes we get an up close and personal look at them when they happen in our part of the world.  I hurt when I see or hear about other people around the world getting hurt, even if they’re not people I know.  There are tons of reasons to be scared or worried or concerned or frustrated or anxious about life.  But is that really the way you want to live your life?

Personally I want to love my life.  I want life to be filled with things I love, things that make me happy, things that challenge me in a good way, things that I feel good about and people I care about.  I may not have control over everything, but in this day and age we do have a whole lot of options and the ability to control quite a bit and certainly the ability to make decisions about what and who we want in our lives.  I want to be able to look back and feel good about what I’ve done and the relationships I’ve had.

One of the things we’ll be talking about this year is having that kind of life and how to get it.  We’ll talk a little about what holds us back from getting that life, but as I recently talked about with a client, you don’t really need me to point out all the bad stuff and talk more about it.  I’d much rather go from the established fact that the issues exist and start working on getting past/through/over and beyond them.  Let’s start off the weekend with a simple question: what do you love about your life?

Reality Reflection: Winners and Losers

Tuesday this week in the US was election day.  When people woke up on Wednesday morning some were quite surprised with how it turned out and who won.  People were surprised for many reasons including the facts that winner has been someone who has said a lot of controversial things throughout the race and that the winner is not a traditional politician.  As with every race there has to be a winner and a loser, sometimes the underdog wins, sometimes the bad guy wins, and sometimes the winner is the one everyone thought was a shoe-in.  I’m not going to technically reflect on the result today. What I want to talk about is what we can learn from the result of the election, and there are tons of lessons regardless of which side of the very divisive fence you are on.

First and foremost I believe this is a wake-up call. If you listened to the news or lived in the US for the months and years leading up to the election you’re familiar with the unrest that is being experienced  most often as shown with shootings and between the police and minorities.  There have been countless calls for change and change has been slow moving, if it has really even happened. The reality is though that you can’t expect change to happen if you aren’t willing to do anything to change. Sometimes those changes are relatively easy like switching breads because your favorite company went out of business.  Others are much more difficult like learning how to walk again after spinal surgery or after you lost a leg.  The type of change that people have been calling for isn’t the bread type of change, it’s the learning to walk again type of change.  And as the well-known definition of insanity says: insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  (While that may work for flipping coins it doesn’t work in the situation of human life and tragedy.)

So this very real wake-up call, that the divisive non-politician would be elected, means that people are really sick of how things have been run for a very long time and are finally willing and able to step up and say so.  Maybe what we had wasn’t so bad and we were getting along OK with it, but I believe that we can do better as a people and as a country. Maybe what we need most is someone with a big set of brass balls to step up and make some changes. No one makes all good changes, but the hope is always that the majority of changes that are considered are given careful thought given to how other people will be affected by the intended result before changes are made, and that decisions aren’t made based on superficial qualities like money, skin color or sex.

The second lesson here is that there’s always a chance you’ll lose or fail.  We don’t like losing or failing especially on such a grand scale or in front of so many people, but sometimes it happens.  When the loss or failure happens it is important to take a step back and see why the loss or failure happened.  Maybe you weren’t the right person for the job, maybe you don’t have all the qualities that are needed, maybe you didn’t bring enough confidence to the table, maybe you were trying so hard to make yourself look good and fit the mold that you missed that the mold was no longer a mold, maybe you didn’t throw enough money in the ring, maybe you didn’t give it enough hours, maybe you didn’t try something new, maybe you secretly needed to fail so you could finally have a day off, maybe you needed to lose because there’s something bigger and better for you to work on, and maybe the reason you lost or failed isn’t apparent today but will be revealed years from now.

I close with a thought that I heard as part of one of the reactions to the election result: whether you agreed with the election result or not there’s nothing we can do about it now, it has been decided.  What we can do though is decide how we will live each and every day.  You still have control over the attitude you live with, the career you pursue, the people you’re in relationship with, what you do when you lose or fail, and how hard you work to accomplish your goals, dreams and purpose in life.  One leader can do a lot of good or a lot of harm, but they are only one person, just like you are only one person and I am only one person. We may not have the platform that the president has, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to do our part to make the world a better place, regardless of whatever hate or violence others around the world choose to try to throw around.  Don’t let a single loss or failure determine the rest of your life. Don’t stop working after a single victory.  Each day is a new opportunity to resolve to do your very best and make the very best impact on the world you can.

Reality Reflection: Enjoying Fears?

This month we’ve been talking a lot about the topic of enjoying life, but for the next week we’ll be getting into the other topic that everyone talks about in October: Halloween.  Today I thought we’d talk about something that can be a controversial topic, enjoying Halloween.  I know that most people, whether they admit it or not, get a little excited by a scare, or find something intriguing about all things scary.  It might be all about the mystery for people: there’s just so much we don’t know about what comes next, whether we’re talking about what’s around the corner, what’s in the dark or what’s after this life.  For others it might just be all about the adrenaline rush that they experience when they get scared.  But whatever it is, it captures our attention.

But what about enjoying the scare and enjoying feeling that fear?  Is it wrong to watch scary movies, talk about legends/myths/monsters, try to scare others or open ourselves up to considering what might be out there?  I think there are lots of scares that can be fun and are OK to be involved in, like telling scary stories, watching scary movies or visiting the Halloween attractions that open up every year in October (places with actors, not those that are reportedly haunted).  I think that some would say it’s necessary to do some investigating of places that are reportedly haunted because there is so much we don’t know, and as the saying goes, knowledge is power.  But I think we need to be careful of how far we go and of how much power we give the fear, because fears can absolutely ruin your life, and I believe there are some very bad things out there that we can’t see (not to mention the bad stuff we can see).

I think we all need things that excite us in our lives, things that make us feel alive, things that we’re curious about.  But like racing hot rods, eating or gambling, I think that scares need to be taken in moderation.  I don’t think that it’s something you should devote your life to unless you’re truly willing to face whatever consequences may show up.  I think a little fear can be good fun with friends or family, and that it’s OK to watch a scary movie or ghost show on TV occasionally.  So this Halloween, as your kids are running around in their costumes and consuming candy and other treats, if you want your treat to be a little fear, don’t feel too guilty, go ahead and enjoy.

What’s your perspective on fears, scares and Halloween?

Reality Reflection: Shine Like a Star

The adventure in Rio has begun.  Whether you enjoy watching events like the Olympics or others like the World Series or Oscars (as well as local events of the same types), or not, there’s something awesome about people coming together and showing what they’ve got.  These special or culminating events include people from a specific group or from around the world who are the best of the best at the time.  It’s a way of showing what they can do as well as an opportunity for the rest of us to celebrate what they can do.  I think these types of events are important because it’s important to celebrate the good, cool, and/or interesting things we can each do.  It’s a healthy way of pointing out and celebrating our differences and what makes each of us unique.

I believe that God has given each of us special gifts and talents, and that it hurts Him when we don’t use what He has given us.  You don’t go to the store and buy stuff you don’t like or use, you only buy what you want and need.  The same is true with the gifts and talents we have: we should use them.  Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose and what I’m doing with my life and what I want to do with my life.  It’s always good to take time to reflect on your life and what you’re doing because it means you can stop the derailments that may be happening and curb unhappiness before it becomes full blown depression or causes more problems than it needs to.

Take time to do a reality check on your life this week.  Are you unhappy?  If so, why?  Life is way too short to be stuck and unhappy.  Don’t be afraid of letting your gifts and talents shine.  Don’t worry too much about the criticisms you get for having and using your gifts and talents.  Don’t bury your gifts and talents because you don’t think you can make a living using them or that they’re not useful gifts.  Everyone has valuable gifts, it’s up to you to find out how best to use yours.

“I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 1:4

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”  Matthew 5:14, 16