The Revelations of Christmas: Sharing

I love just about everything about Christmas, I’m even somewhat OK with a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day snowstorm because they come with a special magic. For some reason I’m thinking about the quiet side of Christmas today, those little moments that we have by ourselves as we look at our tree or sit in Church or read Christmas related scripture or watch the snow falling past our windows. One of my favorite Christmas stories, A Christmas Carol, has some of these moments as well. The story also takes time to share a very serious side of Christmas with us, one of what can happen if we don’t take time to consider others and spread Christmas Cheer.

In thinking about A Christmas Carol as well as The First Christmas as told in the Bible, I began to reflect on the serious side of Christmas, and something that Mary, Joseph, Scrooge and even Santa have in common: honesty. Scrooge had to face the truth about his life, and then was honest with those in his life about that truth. Mary and Joseph had to deal with the realities of being parents in an unconventional way, not to mention parents to the Christ Child, as well as work through what it meant for them and their relationship plans. And Santa hands out treats to those who are good and coal to those who are bad.

This Christmas I would encourage you to try a little honesty. I’m not talking about ripping the rug out from under people and telling them what you think about them. I’m suggesting that you get honest with yourself and make time to be honest with others. Take time in those quiet moments to share the truth with them, share your heart with them and if necessary begin mending your relationship or your life. What will you share this Christmas?

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Thinking Through Success

As you may know we’ve entered a new month, and with that month comes a new topic for us to discuss in some of the posts here (and in my newsletters and on social media). I do make a plan at the beginning of the year for my overall strategy and some specifics, but I don’t review them or reference them really until we get to that point. So in thinking that November includes Thanksgiving, I was thinking that maybe this year I went with a ‘thankful’ theme for the month because I haven’t in the past couple of years, and I was feeling excited to think thankful thoughts and talk thankful topics. So I was a little surprised and a little unsure when I discovered that this month I planned to primarily talk about success.

So as I’ve been sitting with the revealed/reviewed topic for the past few days in preparation for this month and in thinking about this blog post, it got me thinking about what success is, and how it works and what it means to each of us. Sometimes, success is about being honest with ourselves and others. Yes, success can be attained through less-than-honest means but if you really want enduring success, there needs to be a core or foundation of honesty involved. Sometimes success means knowing what you don’t know and admitting it so that you can learn what you don’t know or get the help you need to get to the next step in your success journey.

But today I want to start off with something simple. I encourage to take a minute and really sit with the following question: do you want to be successful? Yes, you should have an instant response (like yes or no), but there may be another response, a more complicated one, a more detailed one, a scarier one, a more empowering one, or even a controversial one that follows.  I encourage you to sit and let that second response come before you move on, because that answer could reveal more about your desire for success or what success means to you or how you could achieve success, and will help you get even more honest with yourself about the place of success in your life.

If I stayed with my initial feeling about being disappointed with the topic of success and tried to push through the month with it as the topic anyway, my posts might not be that great and I might not be that invested in it as a topic. Also, if I went with my other thought of talking about just being thankful, the month might not end up where I hope it will, or want it to. But because I was honest with myself about how I felt and worked through those feelings and went back and reviewed the initial plan and purpose behind it, I’m feeling much better about it, and even looking forward to working through the topic of success this month with you. And on the other hand, because I sat with my feelings of disappointment about not focusing on being thankful, I realized that it was important to make extra room in the schedule for it, so it will be the Friday post topic for the month.

What will you discover when you take time to really think through what’s important to you?

The Truth?

How often do you tell the truth? Do you try to tell the truth most of the time? Do you give the full truth to people most of the time or do you only give partial truths, holding back some things either for yourself or for them? Over the past few years honesty and truth have been given an increasingly important position in our lives and it’s a lot harder to hide things now with all the live video and phones that go everywhere with us. I don’t believe that the truth should be used to hurt someone, but truth can be an educational and self-improvement tool, especially when shared with love and good intentions.

However I know that sometimes we choose to hide from the truth. Maybe we’re scared of the answer we’ll receive, maybe we don’t want to know how far out of proportions we’ve blown something, maybe we would rather continue living in the little bubble we’ve created for ourselves, and maybe we know that if we were to receive the truth we would have to do something about it. I know the truth can sometimes be intimidating and overwhelming, but neither of those are reasons to shut yourself off from the truth.  But ultimately truth should free us to move from the lies and hiding into a better future, or at least give us the motivation to take action on moving past where we are.

Sometimes the truth is unquestionable. You can’t change the fact that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. But what my truth is regarding the best dog in the world may differ from your truth regarding the best dog in the world. Some truths can be swayed by personal opinions and experiences. However, I don’t think you can really apply the title of ‘truth’ to something unless you’ve got some solid reasons to back it up, more than just “I don’t like it.” I don’t think that this should dissuade us from sharing truth, but we should be more willing to acknowledge when something is “the” truth versus “our” or “my” truth.

Today I encourage you to step up and be open to learning the truth. Whether you are dealing with opinion truths or fact truths, the real focus should be whether it’s honest or not. Don’t ask someone to lie to you or give you partial truth, ask them for the whole truth, and ask them for their reasons or understandings that led them to that truth when appropriate. I don’t believe our world can be improved if we’re not willing to ask for the truth, share the truth and apply the truth to our lives and our world.

“The object of the superior man is truth.”  Confucius

Do You Hear God?

Today I’ve been thinking about one of the earlier references to Samuel that we know of in the Bible. It’s when he’s bedded down for the night at the temple and he hears a voice (you can read the whole story in 1 Samuel 3). The voice calls to him, he thinks it’s the priest but it’s not. The third time this happens the priest realizes God is calling Samuel and tells him to say “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Of course what goes on to happen is God calls to Samuel again, tells him some important information and then continues to talk with Samuel for the rest of his life and ministry. I encourage you to explore the story for yourself, but I want to highlight a few things that stand out to me today.

First, God’s persistence. I find it interesting that God didn’t give up on the first or second try, He really wanted to speak with Samuel, and He was willing to be patient enough to make it happen. In some ways I think God was patient because of Samuel’s young age, but in other ways I think He would be equally patient for us if we showed active willingness to listen.

Second, the message. The message, given to this young boy (some research estimates he was about 12 at the time), wasn’t all roses and sunshine. I think what amazes me most is that God knew the plan He had for Samuel, knew he could handle a message like this and didn’t sugar coat it just because he was young. I know I’m more inclined to protect the young and not share the horrors and reality of the world with them, but at the same time I know it’s important that they don’t grow up with rose colored glasses and have a jarring reality check when they become adults.

Finally, Samuel was honest about the message. As we’ve discussed it wasn’t a fantastic message, but when he was asked about it by the priest, he was honest about it, even though there was some not great news for the priest in it. I don’t like delivering bad news as an adult, so I can’t imagine how difficult it was to deliver that news as a pre-teen. But again, God knew what He was doing and Samuel passed along the message.

As you go about your life this week I encourage you to be persistent and honest, work on trusting others, communicating with others and listening both for God and to what others have to say.

Doing the Right Thing

Last week in my weekly devotional I talked about the topic of guilt.  Do you feel guilty often?  I think most of us are human enough that we do feel guilt from time to time and feel bad about the things we’ve done or choices we’ve made. We should feel guilty about sins we commit and people we hurt because it means that God is working in us, and we recognize when we do things we shouldn’t.  Today I wasn’t planning on talking about guilt, but about doing the right thing.

Do you sometimes choose to do the right thing because you know it will be the easy thing?  That rather than maybe getting caught for cutting corners or having to redo things you just do the right thing the first time? I know I do.   I like shortcuts as much as the next person, but sometimes those shortcuts aren’t so short and it’s just easier to do the right thing the first time.

What about doing the right thing because it feels good? What about treating others with respect because that’s how you want to be treated? What about doing things for the right reason period?  What about doing the right thing because God says to in the Bible?  This week I challenge you to do the right thing.  Treat others with respect, go the extra mile to do things right, do things right the first time, say ‘thank you’ and ‘bless you’ often and choose to make a difference doing right not only because it will feel good, but because it’s what God calls His people to do.

“So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”  Acts 24:16

Secrets and Sharing

This week I’ve been thinking about how well we know people.  Some of us are really secretive and don’t like to share anything, others of us seem to share our whole lives with the world.  But with the media today how much of what we see is real and how much is marketing, right?  Sometimes we’ll think we know someone really well only to find out we really don’t know them at all!  And other times we know people so well we can predict their words and actions.

It can be really intimidating to us when people know us.  Why? Because when they know us that well they can call us out on our BS and procrastination and bad habits.  It’s not fun to be called out on that stuff, even if it is necessary sometimes.  So because we fear being called out some of us try to stay away from others as much as possible or build fake relationships.  I call them fake not because the people aren’t real, but because you’re not being real with the people.

However, one of the best decisions you can make, one that’s ultimately essential to your health and sanity, is to have at least one person you can be completely honest and open with, without fear of judgement.  Personally, I believe that honesty is one of the best policies.  If we’re not honest with the people in our lives, soon we won’t be honest with ourselves.

Each day we’ve got a choice whether we’re going to open up to the people in our lives or if we’re going to hide who we are and how unique, special and interesting we are.  Don’t be afraid of your quirks or getting close, instead learn how to make the most of the time you have with the people you love.

“I don’t have any fear of intimacy, but rather thrive on it, which is rare in a public person.” Jack Nicholson

The Victory in Vulnerability

Today’s topic is a doozy: vulnerability.  It’s not a topic people like to talk about because we don’t like to admit that we’re not perfect.  We don’t like others knowing that we’re not the rock star they think we are all the time.  No, we’re less-than-perfect.  But the good news is that that’s OK.

As much as you may think the secret to success is being right all the time, it’s just as often, if not more often, about being wrong.  But, not just about being wrong, but about your ability to transform the wrong into something very right.  This ability not only makes you stand out as someone who is a leader, it also gives you unlimited power and potential. When you’re able to see beyond the mistake you’ve made to what can be done with what you’ve learned you’ve freed yourself from being someone who just makes mistakes to someone who transforms.

We don’t really have a choice in whether or not we have vulnerabilities, each of us do.  But when we choose to show them to other people it gives us first and foremost a connection with them.  When they see that we’re not perfect, they feel more comfortable with being honest with us about the struggles they’re dealing with.  Think about your relationships.  When you’re acting like you’re always right and always capable and don’t admit any weaknesses to your partner very often your partner tends to resent you for having it all together.  But by being honest with your partner about the things you do struggle with it’s easier to work together to fix the issues and support each other through your personal struggles.

Today I encourage you to reveal even a little glimpse of your vulnerabilities and weaknesses to someone important to you.  Let them know that you’re human and that their support and encouragement matters to you.

“In reality, vulnerability is a strength. All great leaders have vulnerability. So, in order to help you grow into a more powerful and courageous leader, I want you to be vulnerable.”  Darren Hardy