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.
As we work our way into this new year I want to encourage you to make time not just to make resolutions about what you’re going to change or what you want to accomplish with this year, but really to take stock in what’s in your life, what you might be blind to and what you’ve been ignoring, and see what’s really going on around you. Part of this is about facing the things that have hurt you, the things you may do that hurt others, the things that are holding you back, and the things that you’ve let influence your life for too long. But the other part of this is about really opening your eyes to see the world around you and see what God wants you to see and what He has created.
In today’s verse God’s promising Abram all the land that He sees around him and letting him know that a thriving, plentiful life for himself and his future generations is all around him. Would Abram have know that if God hadn’t pointed it out to him or took the time to listen to God and see what God was trying to show him? I think God would have blessed him anyway but Abram would not have known the impact that he would have on future generations without taking the time to look and listen.
I know that we can get really busy in our lives, let things take over, let the concerns of others take priority and forget to take time to really look around and see the world around us, not just as others are telling us it exists, but truly seeing what God wants us to see. I encourage you to make time this week to really take a good look at your life. Don’t let any overwhelm you feel discourage you and don’t let the problems you see stop you from trusting that God has a good plan for your life (and can and will forgive you if you repent, and will help you work through the challenges). And maybe you’ll get lucky like Abram and see some really incredible promises.
“The Lord said to Abram after lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west.” Genesis 13:14
October is typically known for one thing here in the US: Halloween. I love seeing all the creative things that kids choose to wear and am still a big fan of candy even if I can’t eat it much anymore. I’ve also been known to watch a scary movie or two, as well as watch some shows about ghosts on TV. Recently I was watching one that got me thinking about the reality of ghosts. I’ve seen too many shows to not believe that there is something that we can’t see going on in the world. While I do believe that there’s Heaven and a life after this one, there’s also something that clearly interacts with us in our world, known under the common term of ‘ghosts.’ Some of the ghosts are able to interact with us, but others aren’t aware of us or how things have changed since they lived.
What got me thinking about ghosts was a comment about if they belong here with us. There are some ghosts that are happy to be here, others that are frustrated and feel trapped here, others that we’re keeping here and the group of ghosts that are unaware of being here. The ghosts I want to focus on today are those who are frustrated and trapped and those who we’re keeping here. While I don’t have personal knowledge or experience with ghosts, if ghosts are anything like people I can believe that there are ghosts like that. I can believe that there are ghosts who get stuck and act out as a result. I can also believe that some ghosts are kept here by us because we can’t let them go or we do things to keep them here like seances, Ouija boards and maybe even ghost hunting. As much as it’s cool and interesting to interact with ghosts and prove their existence, with these ghosts it sounds like it would be better if we would let them go instead of trying to keep them here with us.
This discussion on ghosts reminded me a lot about how we live our lives too. We have been known to hold ourselves back, we’ve been known to act out towards others because we’re frustrated and we’re known to hold others back as well for one reason or another (including jealousy). Just like it’s necessary to let some of the ghosts go on their way and not stay with us, it’s equally (or more) important to work on freedom in our lives.
I encourage you to take time this week to figure out if you’ve been holding yourself back, if you’ve been holding others back, if you feel trapped, and what you’re going to do to change it. Maybe it’s writing a letter to someone who has passed on that you’re letting hold you back from developing your full potential. Maybe it’s enrolling in a class to further your skills, maybe it’s getting coffee with someone to bury the hatchet. Maybe it’s just choosing to forgive someone or yourself and letting go of the past. Whatever it is I encourage you to make moves this week so that you can live your life with happiness and fulfillment.
Today in some of the religious world is Good Friday. It’s the day that people remember the death of Jesus on the cross. Many people question why we celebrate Good Friday each year. It’s not a happy event, and to an extent I understand their skepticism in our very visual and frequent honoring of the event. I mean the icon churches around the world use to show that they’re a church is the cross. They don’t use a grave or a stone or angels or a manger, no, they use the cross. People everywhere wear crucifixes and crosses as necklaces. Do we really want to commemorate a man’s death? Or is there more to it than that?
I think there’s more to it, I think that as important as Easter and Jesus’ resurrection is maybe Good Friday is just as or more important. Why? Because as awesome as eternal life is, and it’s really awesome, it would not be the same if we were carrying the baggage of sin with us. Could you imagine what forever would look like if we had to carry our sins? It would look like earth as we know it forever, rather than heaven as we have been told eternal life will be. So in order to get the future we dream of and were promised something had to happen to free us, and that something was Jesus’ death on the cross.
This shows me how important freedom and forgiveness are. Are you spending enough time in your life working on freedom and forgiveness or are you so focused on dreams and the ultimate goal that you’re missing out on what’s going on around you and how you’re reaching your goals? If you’re just focused on the end result when you get there you may find out that the damage you caused along the way makes the end result not worth it. Are there people you need to free and forgive in your life, maybe including yourself? If so choose this weekend to start the healing process.
We’ve reached a new month and this month one of the big things we’ll be talking about is the topic of love. Love is one of the most used words and concepts in the Bible, used over 700 times depending on what version you prefer. It’s an important concept, one that Jesus emphasized throughout His ministry on Earth and one that He encouraged us to rely on and share in our lives too. Love isn’t a spiritual concept like “being saved” is, it’s not something that has religious boundaries like Vedic prayers, bar/bat mitzvahs, or the cross and tomb, it’s something that crosses all boundaries that we run into in our lives from issues of language, race, color, gender, location, age and faith.
To start off the month I wanted to talk about a verse that shares about an interesting aspect of love, Ephesians 4:2: “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each others faults because of your love.”
Forgiveness is one of those really scary topics that we tend to avoid because it can be overwhelming and usually involves an amount of pain for several people, whether bad memories or other forms of mistreatment, failure or hurt. But here in Ephesians it says that we need to incorporate forgiveness and the understanding that no one is perfect into our minds and lives because of love. It sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it?
But in a way it makes sense because love is the great overcomer, as it says in Ephesians 3:18: “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” As true people of faith we should live our lives reflecting and following the love that God showed throughout the Bible and Jesus showed during His ministry. Will you choose to live a life of love not just this month but all year long?
Today in the USA is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As I was thinking about what to write I thought about the man that he was and the example that he set, one we can all learn from. He was a great leader for many reasons, one of the ones that stands out when I think of him is the kind of leader he was. You think about other leaders who were known for their military skills, or their destruction of others and then you find a guy like Dr. King who led with words, peaceful actions and love.
Dr. King set the kind of example that God would be proud of. No, he wasn’t perfect, none of us are, but he led with the goal of uniting people, of inspiring big dreams and of helping the people of the world to see each other in the way that God created us-all people of value and deserving of respect. Dr King never said it would be easy. In fact, he said “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
I encourage you to start your week inspired by the words and work of Dr. King, words that reflect those of Jesus in the Bible. Choose to be someone people can look up to. Choose to be in your relationships with love, faithfulness, and forgiveness. Choose to lead with words of compassion and unity not hatred and division. Choose to make the world a better place.
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3
One of the biggest challenges of life is one of the best things: people. Yes, they can really mess with you or they can really bless you. We’re all capable of being stupid as well as really helping others, sometimes it happens intentionally, other times it’s totally accidental and unplanned. This week I replied to an email inquiry about one of my services, I replied back to them with my answer, and they told me that my answer was rude. I certainly didn’t mean to be rude, and I honestly didn’t (and don’t) think my answer was rude. Maybe they were having a bad day, maybe they misread my comments, maybe they just thought that I was insulting them when all I was doing was answering their question. Regardless, we both could have stayed upset but instead took the time to communicate about and resolve the misunderstanding.
It’s almost impossible to go through life today without experiencing some hurt or heartbreak, whether it’s intentional or not. When a hurt has occurred it’s up to us to decide if they were being intentionally mean and we need to reconsider our association with them or if it was accidental, or was even caused by our misreading of the situation and has nothing to do with them. Regardless, in most situations I believe that it’s better to move forward with the relationship intact rather than to move backward and lose the potential of the relationship.
If we’re going to move forward with the relationship it’s important to discuss the hurt, especially if it seemed intentional, or they will forever be a distrust between the two of you rather than the solid, supportive relationship you could have. Choosing to forgive is one of the most challenging tasks in the world. But when done you can reap some amazing benefits. I choose to forgive because we’re not perfect and everyone makes mistakes. People who did mean things hurtfully can change too. I don’t believe that we should give everyone free passes, especially if they’ve hurt us in the past, but if true repentance and change is shown I do believe that forgiveness should be offered, if not for them, for you so you can move on with your life.
Choose to be the bigger person this week, the one who moves forward rather than back, the one who sees potential rather than problems.
“When you get hurt, don’t let it turn you hard hearted. A soft heart heals and is able to trust the right people again. Soft + Careful = Future.” Dr. Henry Cloud