This month we’ve been talking about enjoying life, enjoying each other, enjoying our world and enjoying God. I know that what I enjoy in life may not be what you enjoy in life, and that’s OK. That’s one of the reasons why the world we live in is so diverse. If it wasn’t so diverse neither would we be, in fact we’d all look, sound and act a lot the same, and I can’t believe that our world would be anywhere as awesome as it is if we were so similar.
But as different as we are we also have to have similarities or we wouldn’t be able to live in relative harmony and partnership with each other. Sure, there are wars and disagreements and the like, sometimes because we heard things wrong or don’t know how to communicate effectively using words, sometimes words aren’t effective when it comes to defending yourself, and sometimes people prefer to hate and hurt. But back to our similarities, we all have feelings, have families (in whatever form they may come in), have dreams and goals and gifts and talents.
This week I read a passage that reminded me about the importance of respecting other people and their preferences. It reminded me that just because I enjoy simple things and you may enjoy much more complex and complicated things, neither of our enjoyment should be less joyful than the other, nor should we reject or not be willing to try what other people enjoy simply because it’s different from what we enjoy.
I encourage you this week to be open to the joy of others and trying new things.
“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” Romans 12:14-16
I can remember as a child the town I lived in planting evergreen trees to hide water containment units. Some towns are proud of their water towers, but we didn’t have pretty ones or ones with our town name or mascot on it, they were simple green cylinders. While I don’t live in the town any longer I still drive through occasionally to visit with friends and work with clients, so I see how things change and grow. Some of the most remarkable growth in the town is with the trees that were planted at the edge of the property where the water units are: it’s almost impossible to see the units anymore unless you’re at the (short) driveway of the property. It’s the best result they could have hoped for when they planted them, many towns aren’t as successful with trees they plant and replant each year hoping for better results.
Sure, the town could have come up with a different plan, maybe painting the units, having the town get involved in painting them (perhaps something patriotic) or just telling people to deal with it like many other towns with a visible water unit do. But instead they took the time to think about a solution that would be visually appealing and good for the environment, even if it might take a little extra work. Trees do require some care, they need watering especially when they’re in their early years, and they could look scraggly if they aren’t cared for, which would defeat the purpose of having them. But the town has taken the time and put in the effort to care for them and grow them into trees any tree-hugger would be proud of.
These trees are a great reminder for us that some things take work and time. We may start something today that won’t show a lot of fruit until our children or grandchildren are our age. We may not even live to see some of the great results. If you think about the men and women who sailed on the Mayflower and other ships, they didn’t know all the trials and tribulations we would go through to reach this point, or the great things and people that have happened and been part of the journey thus far. Don’t give up because you’re not seeing a great result today, keep putting in the effort day by day and don’t give up on your dreams.
“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Warren Buffett
I love writing and reading, it’s something I’ve always loved. I enjoy the story as well as the process of doing the writing, and creative outlets like writing are an important part of my life and health. You may be familiar with the debate that’s been raging for some time about how many blogs and books there are and how sometimes it seems like everyone is saying or writing the same thing. Maybe there aren’t any new ideas, but I haven’t read too many books or blog posts that were exactly the same. Everyone and just about everything is different in at least a couple of ways, and I believe we can keep writing and reading because everyone sees things a little differently, and, even more importantly, I believe that there are still some new things and thoughts to come.
If you had asked someone in the 1800’s about what they thought the future would hold, they might have come up with some interesting ideas, but I have my doubts that they would come up with laptops and iPads, or the ability of the internet to connect different parts of the world instantly. So I don’t think it’s possible for us to run out of ideas, we’re just in a phase where we’re working with what we have and not ready to make a big upgrade yet. When it comes to the concepts that people say are overdone and overrated and overused, I’m always amazed when I read a new author or article about a topic and see things differently because I’m seeing things through a new perspective, their perspective.
Yes, there will always be someone who sees too many similarities and can’t appreciate the creative output. There will always be a critic in your life that you can’t stand. Why? Because some people just can’t see beyond their personal box. That’s not wrong, it’s just how they are. But I believe life is to be lived and can’t be fully lived if you’re not willing to see beyond where you are.
“Faith is raising the sail of our little boat until it is caught up in the soft winds above and picks up speed, not from anything within itself, but from the vast resources of the universe around us.” W. Ralph Ward
The past couple weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about what life holds for you and me. I received an email recently about a blogger I enjoy reading who has decided to stop publishing; somehow it didn’t occur to me that at some point in time someone I enjoy reading from would choose to pack it in. It got me thinking about life and how things change. But that’s the way life goes: we travel a path for a season and when it ends we go in a different direction. It’s not bad to end things, but we don’t always think about the end or when it’s coming. When things end all too often we’re at odds with life. We ask ourselves “what do we do now?” and “what’s next?” and we don’t have an answer.
So as I was thinking about this I was reminded how important it is to see life as a journey. Journeys aren’t made up of one part, they’re made up of stretches and seasons, of moving from place to place until the final destination (death) has been reached. The journey doesn’t end because you reach an age or an accomplishment, that’s only the end of that part of the journey, which is why it’s so important to keep the bigger picture in mind at all times and not exclude parts of your life while you’re on that part of the journey.
The other thing I was reminded about was how important it is to dream throughout our lives. We can get so wrapped up in things that we forget what it’s like to have passion and dreams. I’m not (just) talking pipe dreams and dreams of retiring to our own private island, I’m talking about the realistic ones like being in a long-term happy and healthy relationship or raising kids or making a difference in the world in a way that’s personal to you. The past 2 weeks have reminded me how little I’ve been dreaming and as a result I’ve started again. I’ve started reaching for that which makes me feel and that which excites me rather than just plodding through where I am.
What about you? Where is life taking you right now and are you prepared for the changes that are coming, or will they take you unawares?
“Einstein was entirely correct when he said that imagination is more important than knowledge. You are where you are today as a result of where you’ve allowed your imagination to take you. It either spirals you down to greater depths of despair or propels you upward to greater levels of success” Chris Howard
There’s been a big debate around the US about student loans lately. I’ve got student loans, so do most of the people my age. If you’ve been to college there’s a good chance that you have or had student loans to pay off. Some people have made the argument for free college and are trying to get student loan debt deleted. Whether you fall on the side of free education for all or the side of requiring students to pay to learn the bottom line is the same: education matters. Thanks to the internet we’re able to access education no matter our physical location or abilities, anyone anywhere in the world with access to the internet can get an education.
Educations matter because more education and more knowledge opens the door to more opportunities. If all you know is how to care for dogs you can’t go become an accountant or create websites for a living, first you would have to learn about those things. A simple way of looking at it is what mom used to say at the table: if you don’t try it how will you know if you do/don’t like it? The same applies to life: you’re stuck where you are unless you don’t learn about it or explore it.
If you want a better future, if you want more victories in your future, if you want a better future for your children and nieces and nephews, you’re going to have to leave your little bubble and start exploring and learning. A better future wont’ be created by accident, but only by intentional actions, lessons, failures and conversations.
Challenge yourself to learn something new each day. I’m not just talking about reading a Snapple cap, I’m talking about reading a chapter from a book or listening to a TED talk. Take advantage of learning opportunities when they come your way, and pursue them on your own time too.
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Malcolm X
I’m really excited that spring is beginning to peek out from beneath the snow! I’m always ready for warmer weather and more sunshine. But I’m also ready for what spring stands for: spring is the time when God renews the world and brings it back to life. We’re all experiencing our own challenges, life’s journey is full of them, and Jesus was no stranger to them. During his time on earth He experienced many challenges, challenges that made him an impressive leader, a promise keeper, a bringer of hope, a friend to many and a miracle worker, but they also made him humiliated, hated and hurt. I know that as awesome as spring is in my mind, there will be plenty of people who will be too busy talking about their sneezes or grumbling about the rain or hating on the flowers to realize the miracle that’s around them. The same was true for Jesus’ day: people were so worked up over what He was doing that went against their rules and knowledge that they totally missed how awesome and amazing it really was.
Spring is a time of potential. It’s time for us to get out of our igloos and start living again. It’s time for us to get out in nature with friends and family and find reason to enjoy living again. Time for us to lift up our heads and see the world we’re living in. Time for us to clear out the old and welcome the new. Time for us to stop limiting ourselves because it’s what we think others want to hear and start embracing all that life can be.
We will never be totally free of the evil in the world, not until Jesus comes back. But that does not mean that we have to live with the world as it is. We can choose to move on and start living life with the principles of spring and being willing to see life as more than an individual season but as one that changes, adapts, adjusts and is full of potential. Sure you can view the world as lost, hopeless and worthless as another winter storm in Boston or Capracotta, Italy, but I prefer to see the world through Jesus’ eyes: with hope. How will you view the world today?
“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” Virgil A. Kraft
With a new year we’re thinking about resolutions, the frustrations of the past year, and hopefully hopes and dreams for this new year. I know I’m excited about the opportunities that come with a new year, but as I reminded some of my newsletter subscribers this weekend, a new year is just one of the opportunities we have for a fresh start, because honestly we can have a fresh start any month, any week, any day, any second we want. It’s just up to us to choose to and take action to make it happen.
But with all this talk of new I wanted to talk of something old, something that doesn’t isn’t bound in the structures and limits that we are: Jesus. Jesus, for all of the forgiving and making things new He does, He is really quite consistent. His principles of forgiveness, love, peace, and yes, judgment have remained the same. He has promised to be there for us and hasn’t gone back on that promise, no matter if we think we have evidence to the contrary.
As you dive into resolutions, hopes and dreams for this new year and as we take strides to become better, more loving, more supportive people this year it’s encouraging to know that Jesus will still be the strong encourager that He has always been. We can expect and anticipate that He will always listen when we call, be open to forgiveness if we are honest in repentance, choose us as His people, and love us almost to a fault. From Jesus we can learn that while things will change, because things changed drastically between the time of Abraham and Jesus, and many times between Jesus and now, that the foundations are what stays the same and allows us to become better people.
Change isn’t usually about getting rid of or completely changing everything. More often we have to take everything back to the bare bones to be able to then build up to fulfillment, success or whatever goal you’re working towards. So this week as you work on those New Years Resolutions I encourage you to really think about what needs to change; is it the trimmings and trappings that need to change or is the foundation you’re building on the problem?