Contributing with Compassion

There are some people who die before anyone really acknowledges their potential, but others have already made a great contribution and their loss seems more significant because it’s not possible to know what else they could have done with their life. This month is the birthday of someone who made a positive impact on the world mostly by being who she was, and not necessarily because of the number of tangible contributions she made, although she certainly did make those. Princess Diana died when she was only 36, and this year she would have turned 59.

The world has changed much since Princess Diana (and Mother Teresa who also died the same year) lived. But much of what they’re both known for is the heart they had and kindness they shared with others regardless of illness or social standing. This is one of the biggest freedoms you can have in the world: that you’re free to treat others with respect, without fear, without judgment, and with the belief that they’re just as worthy of a good life as you are.

I’ve often said that the best victories are win-win-win victories. Sometimes there’s good to be found in knowing who can come out on top (i.e. first place) but more often that not it’s those types of competitions only hurt others and don’t truly foster a community of growth and teamwork towards a better future for many instead of just a few.

As we think about Independence Day this weekend and celebrate the freedoms we have and are working hard to develop for more people, I think it’s important to reflect on the victories that people like Mother Teresa and Princess Diana were able to achieve in their lifetimes through kindness and consideration of others. As selfish as the move to America was, it was also done out of selflessness and the desire to create a different and better future for future generations, something that many people believed in over the years and still believe in because they’ve chosen to immigrate here. So this Fourth of July, I encourage you to follow in the footsteps of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa and work to not only better support yourself, but the communities you’re part of as well.

“Everyone of us needs to show how much we care for each other and, in the process, care for ourselves.” Princess Diana

Reality Reflection: A Discussion on Freedom

As we get closer to this month wrapping up, I have been thinking about the topic that opened this month: freedom. It’s a topic we all crave, we certainly talk about having freedoms or wanting more freedoms. There is a balance to be found between structure and freedom, between limits and freedom though, because we’re not alone in this world. Part of that structure and those limits have to deal with the other people that we share this planet with. These are people that we not only share space and air with, they’re people who we impact with our decisions and the way we live.

Each of us define freedom and what we want for freedoms differently. You may want the freedom to eat pizza every day or marry the person you want to marry or just stay home with your kids and not work or get a divorce or quit/change your job or take a vacation every year or order whatever you want on the menu and not worry about price. Freedom means different things to different people, the question that has to be addressed is regarding our freedoms vs. the freedoms of others.

Can we accept what others want as freedoms? What about the freedom to hunt? Can we accept it as long as they’re respectful of the animals and the rules, aren’t wasteful and do their part to help the species thrive? What about relationships that have messy lines? Can we accept someone loving someone of the same sex or more than one person at the same time or more than one person throughout their life or not wanting to be in a relationship at all?

No, we may never understand why people want the freedoms that they want. We certainly won’t claim to want all the freedoms that others want. But with a little patience, good communication (not arguments or laying down the law), and respect for others and their beliefs, I believe we can all have at least some of the freedoms we desire. Why is this important? Because sometimes we judge, block, fight and criticize what we don’t understand, especially if we think there’s wrongdoing or hurt happening, or we think the freedom will be destructive in the future. And sometimes that is the truth, which is why it’s important to talk about our freedoms and desires and go into them with eyes wide open as well as a willingness to hear others out before passing judgement or just journeying into a freedom without considering the costs.

Star Spangled Spirit

Monday in the US is Memorial Day, also known as Decoration Day. I’m proud to have had a grandfather who served and my partner has a brother who served as well, and just about everyone I know knows someone who is/was in the military or knows someone who has/had a family member who served. We don’t really like to think or talk about making the ultimate sacrifice, but that’s what men and women have been doing for several hundred years for the US. We may not even agree with all of the ways these men and women are used and the battles they fight.  But, if it weren’t for those individuals many more of us would be making sacrifices and facing more devastation as a nation.

I mentioned the other name for Monday, Decoration Day, because it is a huge opportunity to really show your pride and support for the men and women (and their families) of the military. A big part of the day is decorating our houses, streets and neighborhoods in red, white and blue. Just this morning I was out running an errand and passed a home that had to have a hundred or more flags on their yard. It looked very festive and really showed their pride for our military. Growing up I always wanted to be the one to help hang the flag outside our garage, and I look forward to the day when I can be part of the neighborhood and fly a flag in celebration and recognition of the bravery of the men and women of the military.

Until then I’ll proudly hang my red poppy from my rear view mirror in my car, donate to organizations that support warriors and their families, and use my voice to thank and support the men and women as they’re in the military and when they come home.  How will you show your support this weekend?

The Choice of Freedom

Today I’m thinking about the topic of freedom with Memorial Day on Monday. If you want freedom you can just go ahead and choose freedom and let everything else fall by the wayside, but that only works for so long before you’re out on the street or without a job or your family feels abandoned by you. The other way to get to freedom is to be very intentional about the actions you take and the relationships you build so that you build into your life the freedoms you want.

For most of us we’re not looking to be free all day to do whatever we want. We like having a purpose and making a difference in the world and helping others. If we worked harder on working together, communicating better and being more productive, we wouldn’t have to work as many hours per day to get the same or more work done. We would all probably get a great lunch break as well or be able to have more flexibility in our hours or work location. Not to mention all the benefits of better communication and more productive businesses on the rest of our lives like at the grocery store and with purchasing products and services.

This week I would encourage you to take one action each day that will help you have more of the freedom you desire in your life. Maybe that means finally committing to a budget or schedule, or saying yes or no when opportunities come up, or making the job or career changes that you’ve been avoiding, or shopping more in the fresh food aisles and not the junk food ones, or giving your kids more responsibility, or cleaning up on a daily basis. Whatever choices you make I encourage you to think about whether the choices you make will help or hurt the goals you have in your life before you make them.

“Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.” Malcolm X

The Freedom To Love

This past month I’ve been looking into a lot of church marketing, growth, health and support topics and seminars. It’s got me thinking again about how people see the Church (any faith organization that fits under the ‘Christianity’ heading), and the people who attend. The world around us has done some serious changing over the past few decades and the Church hasn’t fully caught up. I can understand because it raises fears and questions of healthy boundaries and what is/isn’t secular/spiritual and how it all works together, if it does. But in many ways these fears and the slow and lacking transformation that have accompanied them have held the church back from embracing and investing in the digital mission field.

So going back to how people outside of the church view those inside of the church as well as the church itself, many see it as a restrictive and boring thing, with serious walls between church people and those outside the church, where you can’t do anything wrong (even though forgiveness is a discussed topic). And there is some truth in all of this, especially in churches that have a very old school culture and aren’t interested in making changes. For those of us in the church, the limitations and rules sometimes may feel restrictive, but often they result in bigger and better freedoms than those outside the church ever experience.

One of the most notable is one that’s very prevalent this week, and that’s the topic of love. One of the things we’re called to do, and free to do as much as we want, is to love others with the love that God teaches us about and Jesus modeled for us during His ministry. The word love is used throughout the Bible over 600 times depending on the translation, and is something that Jesus specifically challenges us to do. So as you work through the rest of this week including Valentine’s Day, I would encourage you to pick up that challenge and show love to those you interact with, in both big and little ways.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

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?

Reality Reflection: Independence

This week coming up in the US we’ve got Independence Day. As I was reflecting on the history of the day and the topics of freedom and celebration that surround it, I circled back around to the official name of the day: independence. Just about every kid you ever meet will use the phrase “no I can do it” even if they’re really not quite capable yet, because they want to do it themselves and be on their own so badly (or be big enough like their older siblings). It’s an important stage of growth, learning to do things on your own, but as we’ve gotten older I think some of us have lost that independent spirit, or at least the important aspects of it.

Independence goes hand in hand with responsibility. Whether that means wiping up the water you spilled after trying to fill your cup as a kid, or paying bills on time and having money left over in your account for emergencies and special occasions as an adult, if you really want to stand on your own, to have more victories in your life, you have to start taking responsibility. Take responsibility for your dreams, desires and actions (or lack thereof), and start doing something different if you don’t like the direction things have been going in.

Independence is something to celebrate. There’s something incredibly satisfying about saying that you did something all by yourself, even as an adult.  So take time this coming week to celebrate the ways you’re standing on your own, and make a commitment to be responsible and own the independence that you’ve been staring at, perhaps for years.

Reality Reflection: Salute the Flag

Thursday here in the US was Flag Day. The US flag, like some of the other flags around the world is iconic. It’s a flag that many people recognize, even though it’s only looked exactly like it does since 1960. The flag has actually been redesigned 26 times since 1777, and what’s stuck around for all the versions are both the strips and the colors. The current flag is awesome because it honors the past and the present, with the 50 stars representing the 50 states, and the 13 stripes representing the original 13 colonies.

I think the fact that it’s developed and changed over time is also an important reflection on our country. It means that we’ve become our own country (the original flag looked pretty similar to the Britain one where the original colonists were from). We’ve developed our own personality, our own values, and struggled through our own challenges. And we’re still growing, learning, and changing.

Our flag is a symbol of what we’ve been and who we are now, as well as a reminder that we’re strongest and greatest when we work together. Days like Flag Day are opportunities for us to show that we’re part of that nation and proud of it. So whether you get some small flags to stick in your lawn or hang in a window, or are able to hang one from your home or garage, make sure you’re ready for the 4th of July, the next opportunity to show your pride in the USA.

Reality Reflection: One Small Person

This weekend in the US we’re celebrating Memorial Day. It’s a time we take each year to remember and honor the people who have made a huge personal sacrifice, as well as remember and thank their families who have suffered too with their loss. Every so often in the news we hear about one service member being killed or having died as part of whatever conflict they were working on. And maybe we think that one doesn’t sound like a lot, or it doesn’t seem that serious. And in some ways it’s not, because it is only one person and there are many others who are still out there fighting for our country and innocent people around the world.

But the simple fact is one person can have a huge impact on the world, even if that impact seems quite small. For example one soldier may save one child’s life and it seems small in the short run, but to that child’s family and who they may become in the future it is and could be huge.

With each word, action and attitude we each choose, we can make a positive or negative difference in the world, one that can be small or large. Sometimes it’s necessary to be part of a group to really see the impact, like with the Ice Bucket Challenge a few years ago. But often we can see the difference with only our own actions, like when we help someone pick up things they’ve dropped or share some encouragement with someone.

This Memorial Day I encourage you to step up. Don’t let the sacrifice that men, women and their families have made go to waste. And don’t forget to let those you love know that you love them, because you may not get another chance to tell them.

How are You Living Today?

One person I’m always learning from is the late Dr. Wayne Dyer. Today I thought we’d take a look at a quote that speaks to how he lived his life and should inspire us to live ours as well.

“Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”

This quote says to me that too many people are living as though they have forever. Regardless of any spiritual doctrines you follow, right now physical laws dictate that we all die at some point in time. Some of us will live “normal” lives and die from old age essentially, but others of us will not have the blessing to have lived a full life but will die, or be taken as people say, “before our time.”

This is a bit of an oxymoron because the reality is that when our time is up, it’s up. We may think that it’s required to have a full 80 plus years of living, and that the kids, teens, parents, and people who get deadly diseases or are killed just weren’t given that full amount as is their due. But since we’re not “due” anything when it comes to how long we have it’s important to decide how you really want to live out however much time you do have.

I’m all for preparing and planning for any financial, health and end-of-life difficulties. I believe we should anticipate being able to live that long, and that squandering all we have isn’t what living life to the fullest or living this day as the last is really about. Instead, I believe it’s about being more intentional about what will really fulfill us and we’ll want to reflect back on when our life ends. Do you really want to think about that TV show, or would you rather be able to enjoy another memory of walking with your partner or playing with your kids?

Dr. Dyer may or may not have had some idea that his end was near when he died in 2015. But throughout his life, he didn’t give up or stop living when life got tough, he kept going and kept living. Don’t give up on life, don’t give up on trying new things and don’t give up hope for a better tomorrow.