30 Days of Thanksgiving: encouragement is all around

Each day it seems like there’s at least one tragedy in the news, one story of sad news, or something not great going on in our own corner of the world.  For example someone who has done a lot of good for the world died suddenly, there’s a school shooting, a soldier has been killed in action, someone got a serious diagnosis, someone lost a job, an athlete was injured in a game, there’s been a report of a hate crime or discrimination, there was a natural disaster, the list could go on.  There’s no denying that some days especially the world can be a tough place to live.

But I was reminded by an email today that there’s more to the world than that.  And more so now than ever people are working to make more go right and well in the world than ever before.  There are organizations dedicated to addressing the world’s biggest challenges, to helping people navigate their personal challenges, to helping both nations and people turn their lives around.  There is more openness allowing people to be honest about their faith or their feelings or their struggles with less fear of judgment and condemnation, and more encouragement to get help.

Sometimes it’s simply that we’ve forgotten to look around and find the good that’s there, even when it seems like nothing is going right.  Because if we really look we can find the hope and help we need at any time.  So go ahead, subscribe to another encouraging social account, newsletter, blog, magazine or radio station and ensure that the hope you need will be there when you need it and when you least expect too.

“Holy God, thank you for making each day good, for making this day good. We know that we may encounter disappointment and discouragement, but with your great love, we will not be defeated. Today we choose to live in kindness. For in showing kindness, we will experience true happiness. Amen.” Sojourners


Reminders from God

Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we forget to stop and take a moment, or we’re so focused on one direction that we can’t see the way God is trying to lead us.  Let’s take a look at some of the reminders in the Bible:

There’s a lot we can’t see, and a lot to hope for:
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Use your words wisely:
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”  Proverbs 15:1

Live with joy:
“I will be filled with joy because of you.  I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:2

If God can forgive and be merciful, can’t we?:
“But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love.”  Nehemiah 9:7b

God saves us, leads us and teaches us:
“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”  Psalm 25:5

God is generous, gracious, and loving:
“Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.”  1 Timothy 1:14

We belong to God, and are to worship Him:
“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship…”  Acts 27:23 ESV

Choose patience:
“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.”  Ecclesiastes 7:8

Don’t give up:
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  Philippians 3:14

Each of our days include thousands of interactions, experiences and relationships, each with the potential to teach us something, help us heal in some way, make us a better person, put us in a position to help someone else, or reveal another aspect of who God is to us and who we are to Him.  It’s up to us to be open to where life takes us and where God sends us, and to pay attention to what’s going on around us.  What has God shared with you recently?

Reality Reflection: Something To Smile About

Some days when the sun comes up we’re not so excited, but today as I watched the sun slowly rise and add light to the land what I was feeling was hope. It helps that yesterday was cloudy and cool, but there’s something special and exciting about summer mornings. Maybe it has to do with old memories of waking up early to drive to the beach and seeing the sun come up as we drove. Or maybe it just has to do with summer mornings being the only mornings that ever make me happy. Some days it feels like we have to focus on finding things to celebrate, but with summer mornings for some reason I’m just excited to start the day.

What about you? What will you find in your journey today that will make you smile? Will it be the discovery of flowers that have bloomed over night for the first time? Will it be the way the sun light hits some raindrops left over from the night before? Will it be that first taste of coffee today? Will it be the joy between your dog and your kids as they play on the grass? Will it be a book you’re finally making time to read? Will it be the cheerful song of a bird? Will it be a special night out with your significant other?

Sometimes at the end of the day it is hard to come up with a list of things we’re thankful for or good things that happened, but if we start the day with the expectation that good things are coming our way, that there will be things to smile about (however small), and that today can be a good day, not only are we more likely to have a better day, we’re more likely to notice those special moments that are meant for us to see.

Trust and Hope for the Next Generation

One of my favorite things to do is watch dogs and puppies. I love to watch all animals, but especially dogs and puppies. OF course in this internet age there are tons of videos on YouTube and lots of social accounts for animals (including an adorable husky my brother shared with me the other day). I also love watching and supporting the organizations that have great missions like those who raise assistance dogs or work on conservation of species. As I was watching the puppies on one of my favorite sites, Explore, they posted news that a baby osprey had hatched so I popped over to check out the new little one. As I was watching I was reminded of the uncertainty of life and the hope that we all live with.

Bird parents sit on their eggs for however long and hope they hatch and then hope the babies don’t get eaten as they grow. The same is true for dogs, they are pregnant for however long hoping that all the babies are born healthy, hope they grow up with no health challenges and live a long life. Humans are the same, that we’re pregnant and hope the babies are born healthy, and then hope they grow up to be amazing men and women who make a difference in the world.

But the simple fact is we don’t know. We don’t know that they’ll live and be healthy and thrive.  Sometimes they don’t.  But we have to rely on God and trust that God has the best plan for those animals and those babies. The Bible shares in Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” God has a plan for each of our lives, we may not know the full amount of that plan, but we do know that it’s a good plan, a plan that includes a future.

So if you’re going through a period of uncertainty, I encourage you to remember the birds and the animals. If they can trust God to provide not only for them but provide and protect the next generation, shouldn’t we do the same. Trust that God has a plan for your life, and that He will be with you through whatever you’re going through now.

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.

Easter: A Beginning

Today is Easter! Each year we take time to remember the events of Good Friday and Easter to remind us that God sent Jesus to die for our sins but that death is not the end and that through the Resurrection we’re promised eternal life if we believe.

The day known as the Resurrection, the stories tell us, and the days following to the day known as the Ascension were days when Jesus appeared to many different people proving his Resurrected status. Many believed simply because others had told them it was true, but some, like Thomas, had to see for themselves. Having faith or belief in things is important, but in this case we do have to see God for ourselves, we can’t have faith on behalf of anyone else, we have to each believe and commit to Jesus by ourselves.

The journey continues this way: we need the support and encouraging stories of other believers, but we also have to have our own experiences with God. We need to make time each day to personally connect with God, as well as take time each week to connect with and support other believers. Some who saw Jesus after His resurrection were with others, yet some were alone. Jesus knows that some things in life need to be done alone, and others are better when we’re together with others.

But Jesus’ Ascension wasn’t an end, but rather his Resurrection and Ascension were a beginning. As much as it’s our “job” to tell people about Jesus, it’s even more important that we keep the conversation going long after the initial conversation and/or conversion. Jesus came to earth to complete one chapter in life and begin another. His return to Heaven wasn’t because His time was a failure or the work was done. He returned to heaven because He had done His part and now it was our turns to do the work and continue writing the story.

Easter is the beginning of a new story of hope, a new way that God wants to connect with us, new hope and potential for each person. But it’s only the beginning, and it’s up to each of us to continue the story. It may seem dull to you between the holidays of Easter and Christmas, the 7 odd months that we have to wait between “the good stuff,” 7 months that don’t always seem to matter. But the truth is that this is a lot like our lives. We’ve got high points and quiet days. Busy weeks and slow seasons. Times when things fall into place and others when they fall apart. We may remember the high and low points most, but often it is the times in between that matter most.

I encourage you to see today and each day as a new opportunity for Jesus to show you something important, even if it’s as simple as a basket full of plastic eggs, rainbow after a rain storm or bagel from a coworker, and a new day for you to live out God’s purpose for your life and celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead for you and me.

Reality Reflection: The Legacy of Ireland

Today we’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, honoring the man who was later honored with the title of Saint, as well as remembering and celebrating all things Irish. As I’ve been enjoying learning more about the world of Ireland, celebrating my Irish heritage and appreciating the beautiful products they create, I have been reminded time and again about something that isn’t really unique to the Irish but is part of who they are: history, legends and lore. Whether you believe in faeries, pots of gold, leprechauns, luck or not, these stories have been passed down through the generations, and are a big part of the culture. Also woven in with the legends and lore are symbols that are iconically Irish like the Claddagh, trinity knot, and many knitted patterns like the basket, honeybee and cable stitch.

These symbols may not be only found in Irish culture and products, but all of them have a story connecting back to Irish history that is uniquely Irish and has remained tied in to Irish beliefs and lifestyles. For example the Claddagh is based in a story of a man who was kidnapped before he was to marry, learned to create jewelry while away from his bride-to-be and came up with the Claddagh design and presented her with that ring when he returned to her and they were married. Many other connections tie in with the land and work that people do like fishing, bee keeping, and basket weaving. And we can’t forget the clover leaf, which became an icon when St. Patrick used it to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity when he came to Ireland.

I think these stories, icons, symbols and legends do more than make Ireland a place tourists visit. I think in many ways the stories and rich history has given the Irish a leg up in life where the history of some other places and cultures has been a point of contention. The joy of finding 4 leaf clovers, looking for magical fairies and pots of gold, and believing in love that lasts has taught many Irish to have a better outlook on life, to respect each other more and have more faith. That doesn’t mean they don’t have challenges, bad days and problems, it means generally they’ve learned how to bounce back better and to keep the faith. It makes me very proud to be part Irish.

What do you appreciate about the Irish, or about your heritage?