Reality Reflection: Historical Passions

This week one of the headlines in the news was “How to weigh a dinosaur.” Yes, you read that right. I had to laugh because it’s so perfectly interesting yet so completely unnecessary, irrelevant, weird and impossible. I’m all for exploring history and learning about the people and things that happened in the past, whether it’s 2 years ago or thousands of years ago. I frequently watch pyramids-era documentaries and explorations as well as Titanic ones, and I’ve been known to tune into some other ones as well. I may not be good with history dates, wars and battles, or keeping people straight but that’s OK because it’s not (currently) my interest or passion, other people have those passions and interests.

I love that we ask questions like how do we weigh a creature that lived tons of years ago and isn’t alive anymore. I love that people go to historic sites and perform reenactments in full regalia. I love that people tell stories about the role their ancestors played in different parts of history. I love hearing the stories of people who have passed on before, and discovering that they’re not just a name on a page, but had passions, interests, dreams and faced challenges too.

I still can’t weigh a dinosaur (and really don’t want to), but I’m glad that someone is taking the time to learn and explore and discover things that matter for one reason or another, at least to them. If that interests or excites them, good! If thinking about people trying to figure out how to weigh a dinosaur makes others laugh, well that’s good too because we’ve had a really tough year this year and always need more reasons to laugh. This weekend I encourage you to find a bit of a tangent that interests you and leave the issues of the world behind, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. The challenges of the world will still be there when you get back, and hopefully you’ll feel a little more refreshed and confident when you get back too.

A Little Spice to Life

You’ve probably heard the saying “variety is the spice of life,” and I believe there’s a lot of truth in that statement. I’ve always been someone who enjoys a variety of things (from dogs to TV to foods to people to places), but equally important with variety in that statement is the mention of spice. I know some people aren’t fans of spicy foods, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about a life, food, job, relationship with vitality, personality, passion and flavor. I don’t believe life should be dull and uniform, I believe that we’ve been created to enjoy life and live a creative, colorful and meaningful life.

I’ve been sharing about this in recent weeks in my devotional, starting with sharing in May about the book of Ecclesiastes and how God would not have placed or allowed to be created all of the pleasurable aspects that we enjoy if we were not to enjoy them. This past week I shared about mornings, and while I’m not a morning person, I know that each one is different in the different ways the sun rises and colors the sky to the animals that move around to the flowers or plants that are growing and changing. God’s not a boring God, and in case you need more evidence, He created each of us different! That’s a huge challenge and investment right there and takes lots of creativity (over 100 billion individuals).

It can be easy to get wrapped up in your own little world and miss what’s going on around you. For example, I know that there’s a lot more that goes on throughout the day on the street I live on now that it’s summer and I’m outside to see it, than I could predict just from hearing the cars go by. But you also miss out on lots of God’s little blessings and signs that He has for you when you’re too focused on keeping your life status quo and not open to a little spice and variety. What’s the point of asking God for stuff if we’re not open and looking for it?

So this week I encourage you to add a little spice to your life and to be open to something new and different and whatever blessings God wants to send your way. I think you’ll be blessed and amazed with all that goes on around you that God has a hand in that you don’t know about, and those little blessings might be exactly what you need to give you the strength to navigate the challenges and changes that we’re going through right now.

Reality Reflection: Reality is Complex

Today my partner and I were out doing some grocery shopping at my favorite fresh food market (basically an indoor/winter version of a farmer’s market or farm stand) and we had a conversation about the violence in the world. We discussed if social media has been responsible for an uptick in violence (having a platform to share it with everyone) or if there isn’t really more violence and we’re just more aware of it because of social media and the news, or if there isn’t more violence but people are more apt to tell someone about the violence they’re experiencing, or if in fact the world is a more violent place, perhaps because of shorter tempers and less patience and more interaction between different people.

While we didn’t reach any real conclusions or even do any searches to see if in fact any research had been done on this topic, we settled on the fact that it’s probably a combination of these, and all of those things are really a reflection on the ways that life has changed over the decades since this country was officially founded. But as I was watching a TV show tonight and thinking about the incredibly complex and innovative things that people have done over the centuries like build the pyramids, dig tunnels, build impressive and detailed buildings, create detailed burial complexes, and endure through challenges of daily life without any of the modern technology or advantages that we often take for granted, it got me thinking about how maybe life has always been complicated and complex, but we’re only able to reveal exactly how sophisticated we’ve always been and still are now.

Yes, sometimes it’s as simple as “I was hungry so I ate the only thing I had in the house” or “I love you” (love has no real rational basis or logic as to how it’s established), but for just about everything else when it comes to people it’s not simple and there are so many sides and layers to the story, some that you may never be able to figure out or understand. Assuming that it’s as simple as face value or that someone doesn’t have a history could be a serious mistake, something that could hurt you or someone else. Maybe the safe answer is to assume it’s complicated and complex and do your best to be impatient and understand as well as you can with the information you’ve got now, and know that as more information is revealed you’ll have to adjust your understanding.

Reality Reflection: A Little More

This past week I noticed that some people took the first few days of the year off. Many would have had to start back in some capacity after the New Year, but for some reason I didn’t see as many people out and about on the first days of the year as I remember seeing in the past. For whatever reason people decided not to dive back into life full throttle after the New Year, but instead took a step back and took a little more time for themselves and their families.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is take or give a little more for ourselves. I don’t think that 2020 is going to be about being selfish, but perhaps about being more conscious and considerate about how we’re living and what’s really important. It may be the year when we finally start making some decisions and acting on them regarding how we’re living and treating each other. Maybe this will be the year that we all get a little more aligned with what we’re here to do and how to live our purpose in such a dynamic world.

What do you need a little more of? Is it something you can just take a couple of days and be refreshed? Is it something that you have to make some sacrifices to get to? Is it something you have been avoiding for a while? Is it simply time to step up and do something different in your life? What would make you most comfortable and confident going into this new year and new decade? If you haven’t made time yet this year or leading up to this year, I encourage you to take some time for reflection and planning, and think about your life and where you really want to go from here and how to get there.

Reality Reflection: Present Today

With as much as goes on in the world and online in this day and age, sometimes it’s not about having the best idea or doing something specific, but just about showing up. People have been standing in Hong Kong not technically doing anything and not sharing ideas, just being there, visibly showing that they exist and want to be heard. You may not have the most exciting job in the world, but your continued persistence in doing a good job day in and day out may make all the difference in the world for your company, and for your career advancement. You and your partner may not have large amounts of money or go on really extravagant dates, but lots of communication and just being together can make your relationship healthier and thrive more than many others.

Whether we’re talking family parties, holiday gatherings, or charity/non-profit events, you don’t have to know how you’re going to help get things ready or cleaned up, or the opportunities or happenings while you’re there, you just have to show up willing to help and participate and be your wonderful self.

Everyone has room for improvement, and yes, some of us do go through experiences and seasons of our lives where we have to go through major changes and overhauls that are painful, challenging and/or more extreme than the average person or family.  But often that improvement amounts to some tweaks and general age/maturity related growth, not major life changes, and for many of us just showing up and making the gradual changes that life prompts is more than enough for us to thrive in our lives and have great relationships.

Whether you’ve got a list of things to get done today or you’re just taking it easy, choose to be present with the people you meet, the places you go, the things you’re feeling and experiencing and the world around you.   Put down your phone, look around you, don’t worry too much about what’s in the past or future and just live in the moment and what is going on here and now.

“You don’t need a plan; you just need to be present.” Bob Goff

An Appreciation of Quality and Permanence

A big part of our lives is the stuff we have and use, stuff that has to be replaced and replenished, sometimes on a daily basis. Some stuff like cars and homes most of us replace every couple of years or every couple of decades, depending on how our lives change. For homes most of us go into that purchase hoping that it will last us for many years and be a good return on investment, but for other things like shirts or steaks, we just hope that it’s going to satisfy the need we have for as long as that may be, even if it’s just a couple of hours.

We typically look at price when going to buy something, and depending on what we’re buying will depend on how seriously we get into the quality question. Sometimes we’re looking for quality that is excellent but only lasts for a day or a few hours (a hotel room or theme park visit or steak), other times we’re looking for quality that lasts a few years like shirts or cars. Sometimes we’re just looking for an experience, other times we’re looking for something that will make us feel good, other times we’re looking for the quickest suitable solution.

I know some people complain about how things break or how quality has really decreased overall in the past few years, but lately I’ve been appreciating just how long I’ve had some things like my car and some of my favorite shirts. They may not be as “perfect” as they were when I got them, but they’ve lasted a long time, longer than I planned when I made the purchases. It’s impractical to think that things will last forever, but I don’t think we truly appreciate how long things can last when treated with care.

New is great, but there’s incredible value in taking care of what you have. If we show a little more respect and appreciation for what we have, it can also inspire businesses to give more care to the products they create for us. What do you have that you’ve had for a long time that you love?

New Year’s Analysis

I don’t do new year’s resolutions. I don’t find the new year to always be the most effective time to start something new or make such a big change. It works well for some people, but unfortunately too often the idea of new year’s resolutions doesn’t live up to the potential. Most of us do better with more concrete motivation than just a ‘new year.’ For example, people get in shape when faced with the upcoming summer outdoor season, they work on relationships when faced with a holiday or big life event, and they clean the house when they know company’s coming. That said, even if you do make a new year’s resolution, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it all year long, you may make the change in the next few weeks and not have to working on fixing it for the next 11 months.

So if you’re not into resolutions, or even if you are, the new year is a great time to evaluate where your life is at and what does need to change, whether the time is right to change things now or it’s coming up in the future. We don’t always take the time to do a serious evaluation of our lives, habits, relationships and plans, but a new year with a fresh and empty calendar, can be a great time to do so. A big part of dealing with dissatisfaction and making improvements in our lives has to do with taking the time to really evaluate where we’re at and exactly what the issue or cause is.

So this week I would encourage you to take some time to really think about what’s frustrating you or what you would like to improve or how you want to grow or ways that you’re hindering yourself. Take the time to write down each of these things and explore a little around the feelings, actions, reactions, frequency and situations of each and how they’re impacting your life. Maybe this list will motivate you to make changes or at least plan for changes in the near future, but even if it doesn’t I bet it will reveal some interesting things to you. What will you learn from a little introspection analysis?

An Easter Refresh

One of the things I love about Easter is it’s a reminder of the fresh start that we get with our relationship with God. Sometimes it’s important to be persistent and really see things through, but there’s something almost magical about new things. I’m not a huge fan of having 4 seasons, personally I prefer it to be a bit warmer all year long, but where I live there are 4 seasons, and we get all 4 every year. But as much as I sometimes find the change of seasons to be challenging, there’s something magical about the season of spring. There’s just no way to truly describe the feeling of wonder and excitement that you feel when you see those cherry blossoms begin to appear and little yellow forsythia blossoms appear practically everywhere after months of living in shades of primarily gray, brown and white.

On the first Easter morning all those years ago people woke up feeling disappointed and hurt, until they found the grave empty and learned that Jesus actually did what He said and rose again. His rising means that not only are we given the opportunity of eternal life, but we’ve also got the ability to be forgiven of our past and have a fresh start. Easter is like that big fresh start that appears each spring, but sometimes what you need isn’t that big refresh, but rather a smaller one. One of the things I’ve always been amazed by are morning glories. They flower for a few hours at the beginning of each day in the summer and then they close up. Yes, all the greenery in the summer is amazing, but there’s nothing like waking to find an explosion of color waiting for you on your deck or fence or wherever you have them.

But Easter isn’t the only fresh start we get, it’s not a one-and-done thing. We can have a fresh start any day, at any time. We can choose to sing a new song, have a new conversation, make a new friend, think a new thought or have a new attitude whenever we want or need. But we only get that start if we’re willing to let go of the past and move into the future. That takes a measure of trust in God as well as ourselves, in knowing that He’s got something better for us in the future, and that we can ride out the changes and be strong enough to resist whatever lures our past, recent or distant, may have. What will you do with your fresh start?

“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

Reality Reflection: What’s Enough?

This week I’ve been contemplating a difficult topic in our world of consumerism and extreme focus on success and wealth. If you’ve been in the self-help industry for a while, especially the success and career related portions, you’ve probably run across people who say they can help you grow exponentially, and they talk about the people they’ve helped earn multi-six figures and millions (or more) each year. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making good money and with being financially well-off. Having financial resources can make many things in your life easier, and you’ve got lots of opportunities to invest in others and in our world. So here’s the question: is it OK if I don’t really want to make millions each year?

I know it may sound like a silly question, but really, there are people who would be very happy with a fraction of the money some of us make (even if we’re only making 30k per year). Yet I also understand how valuable (and powerful) someone can become when they have all those resources at their disposal. And some people find the thought of having that much wealth intimidating or even fear-inducing. Yet I understand that for some of us that by really living our life purpose we’re going to make lots of money. So is it wrong to want to (or actually) make lots of money, and/or is it wrong to not want to make lots of money?

I think it’s OK to be comfortable where you are as long as you’re covering your basic needs (and the needs of your kids or others under your direct care), and have at least a little plan for the future. It’s also OK to want to earn more and to put in the effort that will get you there. I think it comes down to two questions: are you at peace with where you are financially in your life and are you fulfilled? If you’re not at peace and not fulfilled then it’s time to make some changes to your life and start making more money. That doesn’t mean you have to make millions, just more, and while you may not be ready for millions today, there may be a day down the road that you will be. What are your thoughts on how much is “enough”?

Learning to Listen

In our lives we have lots of questions and issues that pop up.  We don’t have all the answers, nor will we ever get all the answers.  But I believe there’s a lot of good advice out there, should we only take the time to look for it or listen to it.

There are tons of people around the world who can give us advice.  That advice isn’t always right for us, the same thing doesn’t work for everyone.  But if we’re not able to see the real issue or think we’ve exhausted all possibilities and we’re stuck, getting advice from someone else is the best course of action, rather than choosing to stay stuck.  I’m a big believer in the power of education and learning, and getting outside opinions is one of the best ways to work through an issue you may have or discover what the real issue is that you weren’t even aware of.

Listening to advice is one of the hardest things to do.  It’s not easy to hear someone else’s opinions or judgments on something we worked really hard on or something we really like, but their advice may give you the motivation and freedom to do something you’ve been debating or try a course of action rather than stay stuck.  If we can get over ourselves, our pride and our self-reliance and open up to the possibility that someone else may have some good ideas and may be able to offer some good insights, there are tons of people willing to give their opinions (educated or not) about your challenges.

No, not everything is relevant to everyone.  It’s important that when you’re given advice you take time to think about it before acting on it or dismissing it.  Don’t reject it because it’s too simple or too hard or because it doesn’t sound like something you want to do or would work for your situation.  Instead ask them to clarify and give you some more insights on the aspects that particularly challenge you.  Ask them to address the specific concerns you have.  And if after you’ve really talked it through it still doesn’t seem like a good fit, then maybe you should ask for some other advice or advice from someone else.

No one knows everything, so no one can give perfect advice all of the time.  Take all the advice you receive with a grain of salt, but always be open to learning new things and seeing things from a new perspective.