Choosing What You See

As I shared on Monday, this month we’ll be talking about joy. With the topic we’ll obviously be spending a lot of time on joyful topics, but since joy, and it’s cousin happiness, are topics that challenge us, we’ll spend some time talking about some of the aspects of joy and happiness that we struggle with. Today we’re going to start off by dealing with the “what’s wrong with the world?!” statement you hear from people when they see something bad on the news or read about it in the paper. Let’s face it: there are plenty of things that are wrong with the world. If I felt the need to be depressed I’d list a bunch for you, but I don’t. I don’t like feeling depressed or facing the problems of the world even if I know they are there. Ignoring them won’t make them go away, and until everyone realizes how their actions impact others and choose to only help and not hurt, we’re stuck with them.

Joy and bad/evil are very opposite topics because you don’t usually find bad things where there is joy. But what if the reason that we don’t seem to have joy or happiness in our lives is because we’re too focused on the bad? It’s like when you’re thinking about purchasing a new car or just purchased a new car, you see that car everywhere you drive. There aren’t more of that car on the road all of a sudden, what has changed is you. You’re seeing different things, choosing to see different things, and focused on that car.

So what’s to say that if you choose to see the good rather than the bad things wouldn’t change? If instead of thinking the world was a bad place you thought the world could have potential, that there’s hope for a better tomorrow? Is it possible for one person’s choice to see the good and not the bad have an impact on the world around them? I believe so. Because one less person watching the news for the bad in the world is one more person choosing to see the world for the good in it. What will you choose to see this week?

“Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys. If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it.”  Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Return on Thanksgiving

I’m a believer in Karma (reaping/sowing, cause/effect, reincarnation, the Rule of Three, payback, etc.). Call it what you want but I believe that there are repercussions, reactions and responses to our actions whether they are good or bad. I believe that if you are nasty to someone you’ll suffer similarly in the future or something else will be the kickback/payback for your cruelty. If you are someone who steps up to the plate whenever a need arises I believe that your needs will be met as well. It’s not always black and white but I believe that for every action there is (at least) an equal and opposite reaction.

I know that most of us are looking for an edge in life and being happy or successful, and I believe that Karma and being thankful are two things that can work for your advantage if you’ll work with them. The foundation of this edge however has to be your understanding of how it works. It’s really quite simple: when you do good, good things will come to you, and when you do bad things, bad things will come to you. Again, it may not be immediate, but then again it may be so immediate that it smacks you upside the head without warning.

So if you’re in need of a little boost or advantage today in your life the place to start is with Karma and being thankful. It may not be the easiest place for you, but it’s one that not only is good for you, but good for others as well. I’ve read countless stories and talked with countless people about how a kind action totally changed their life. You, too may have stories you could share of the difference that someone made in your life because they were kind.

So the closer we get to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas I encourage you to get caught up in the spirit, and challenge you to stay in the spirit all year long. Be thankful, spread goodness and accept the blessings that come your way.

“The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” Henry Ward Beecher

Trapped by Lies or Freed by Truth?

One of the things that annoys me most is when people feel they can’t make mistakes.  Let’s get this straight for once and all: no one is perfect.  Everyone makes mistakes at some point in time or another.  The issue is that we can’t accept that it’s OK to make mistakes and for others to make mistakes.  The fact that Christians are expected to be perfect is absolute garbage.  There are no perfect Christians, not in church or out.  The sooner we accept that we’re surrounded by people who make mistakes and have room for improvement the better off we will be.

But because we haven’t all accepted that it’s OK to not be perfect, some people feel it is necessary to lie or omit the truth so that they appear as if they have it all together.  This usually does more harm than any intended good, and is one of the main reasons Christians have been given the often truthful ‘hypocrite’ label.  Yes, there is value in not showing up for life in the dirty sweats that show how you really feel about things right now, and showing courage and being willing to push forward through your struggles.  The value disappears when you put on that front to create the illusion that there are no issues beyond what you may see.

Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong!  Lies don’t help you move forward in life or get closer to God, they hurt you! When you present a lie to the world or omit important details you damage your relationships, diminish your professionalism, decrease your chances for success and do the opposite of what God wants you to do.

It’s not always easy to tell the truth and be honest, I get that.  It’s not easy to tell others that you screwed up, that you need help or that you’re struggling.  But the sooner we start taking those steps, the sooner we will feel better about our lives, have healthier relationships and accomplish our goals.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32

Together We Have More

“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.” Jane Addams

Jane Addams brings up a good point, one I’ve seen proof of over and over: together we all have more than we do separately.  We’re designed down in our genes to be together, work together, live together and succeed together. Yet many of us don’t see the point in helping others and are only concerned about our personal future.  Let’s think about it from a very simple perspective: if we didn’t have schools for our kids we would have to homeschool them.  You might be OK with that, but others definitely say there’s no way they would ever want to be without a school that they can send their kids to.  Personally I believe that there’s a lot of improvement needed in our schools, but until more people are willing to call for and make changes happen nothing will change for the better.

Another example would be in the fact that I can only snack on organic celery (as opposed to regular celery).  No matter how good organic celery may be for me, unless there are other people who want organic celery at the same stores I shop in, the stores won’t carry it.

But all this goes back to the age old marketing lesson that if you really like something or something really matters to you you’ll tell all your friends and get them involved in it too.  You can’t go too far online before you run into a charity or non-profit looking for some assistance or just a “share.” No matter how helpful or amazing that charity is, it won’t get anywhere without more than a few of us stepping up to support them.

The reason we have schools, organic celery and charities changing the course of people’s lives for the better is because we’ve accepted them and incorporated them into our lives.  These aren’t things that only benefit one person, but rather benefit whole communities and groups of people.  What have you done lately for others?

Confidence in Patience

“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.  Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

These verses present a concept some of us aren’t very good with: delayed gratification.  Yes, we like our stuff NOW.  But as a business owner and coach I know that if we all went viral all at once we’d miss out on lots of stuff that only happen when things are built strongly over time.  Not to say that it’s not good to get stuff or be successful quickly, but that there is value in having to work and/or wait for the good stuff.

One of the harder things to wait for is for the miracles we pray for: for the answers to financial burdens, health troubles or relationship challenges.  When we feel like we’re between the rock and hard place and God tells us to wait it’s not something we look forward to hearing, let alone want to hear.  Which is one of the things that our quick culture has really encouraged.  While hundreds of years ago they knew that things took time, today we’re expecting instant internet-type results.

As the verses point out, it’s really important for us to be confident in knowing we’re on the right path, the path God wants us on and the path that, while it may take some work, is really a good learning experience for us.  I’ve been through more things than some but not as many as others in my relatively short life.  And one thing I learn over and over is that each and every moment in life is a learning moment.  We can be blessed by more moments than we suspect if only we were open to the blessings.  I don’t know about you, but I want more blessings!!

This week I encourage you to be confident.  Not just the fake-it-til-you-make-it confidence, but confidence in knowing that God made an amazing person (you) and that you are more capable and powerful than you ever knew or believed.  I believe in you!

Finding Goodness

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6

I don’t know about you, but sometimes saying the first part of this verse feels like the complete opposite of the reality of my life.  Goodness and love? No, I didn’t see that anywhere around here today!!  It can be hard to remember that a relationship with God doesn’t eliminate all the bad stuff in the world around us, it just gives us the hope and encouragement to keep stepping in the right direction regardless of the challenges.

This verse isn’t a cocky statement meant to boast the stuff we have through our relationship with God, but a confidently calm statement that we are assured that God has our best interests at heart and really truly and honestly does care about each and every one of us.  The difference is in the heart.

It’s one thing to be confident in God’s love of you, it’s another thing to be arrogant about how He’s going to spare you of all pain and suffering because of that love, which isn’t realistic.  Just because you’re saved by Grace doesn’t mean that the pain and suffering in the verses before this one won’t be there.  As I was writing in my spiritual newsletter for this weekend, the good stuff isn’t an all-the-time, anytime thing.  Sometimes we have to wait for the good stuff, or even harder, get through the bad/tough stuff before we can get to the good stuff.

We’re not good with delayed gratification but whether we want to or not, sometimes we have to be patient and let the days take their courses.  However, we have the absolute, guaranteed home with these verses that there will be good times again.  No matter how bad things get if we trust in God there will be good stuff again for us.