Thankful for Success

We have so much we can be thankful for in our lives! As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US today I’m making my list of things I’m thankful for. And as I type those words and think about this blog post and other work I have to do, I’m reminded that it’s important to be thankful for success, and how thankful I am for the different successes in my life that I’ve experienced. Yes, we’ve talked about celebrating our victories, but that’s a little different. As much as giving thanks is a celebration, there’s also often a lot of humility involved as well.

Giving thanks for our successes means being honest about how difficult it was, seeing the failures and close calls for what they were, and feeling the relief that you’ve accomplished as much as you have. You can certainly share words of gratitude during your victory celebration or success party, but it’s not usually shared from a bragging perspective, but rather with a distinct down-to-earth feel.

As you take the time to reflect on your successes, the way this year has gone, and your dreams for the future, I encourage you to make time to be humble, grateful and honest about it all. Recognize what has gone right, create time to fix what went wrong and needs to be better in the future, get the support you need, and thank those who have played a crucial role in your success, whether they knew it or not.  What or who are you thankful for?

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Supporting Each Other

This week I’ve been thinking again about my place in this world, and yours too. It’s challenged me to really consider who I am, what I’m good at, why I’m here and how my imperfections work into all of it.  If you can’t admit that you struggled with something this week, shame on you.  Unless you buried your head in the sand for the whole week, I know that you’ve been challenged by something this week.  I’ve really been challenged by how much I can’t do.  I’m OK with it, but at the same time, not being able to excel at everything gets to me occasionally.  If I’ve had a particularly bad day lists of my faults and failures can parade through my mind without my permission.   Maybe you’ve dealt with some of these insecurities too.

These struggles really reminded me why it’s so important that we let others in our lives, that we not try to get through this life alone, that we make the effort to build relationships and support those we come in contact with.  Often it’s those relationships and those other people that challenge us the most, but they also make life the most rewarding.  So how do we get past the challenges and let others into our lives, let others take control in areas that we’re not so strong or capable in and they are?

First, I think we have to be humble and admit that we aren’t alone in the world and need others. It’s not easy to admit that you have weaknesses, especially if you have an image with someone.  But opening up and admitting that you’re not perfect creates an opportunity for you to grow a deeper relationship with them.

Second, Galatians 5:22 says “But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.”  When we choose to enter into relationships, and sustain relationships, with the fruit of the spirit, not only will we pave the way for a satisfying relationship on our end, the other person will benefit too.

Finally, find the point of reference, point of unity, or common ground you two have.  Everyone has something in common.  It may take a while to discover it, but it’s there.  For many people, a common point of interest is faith, especially faith in Christ.

Our relationships should make us stronger because they force us to work together, make us learn how to work together, and to learn how to communicate what we need and want.  This week I encourage you to be honest with yourself and the people who matter most to you in life about what’s going on in your life, where you stand and what you need.  Most people would be thrilled to step up to the plate for you and give you a hand if you would just ask.

Enjoying Our Differences

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

Reality Reflection: Life Changing

I heard it said again on the radio tonight, the statement said by someone who had some interaction with an entertainment group (music/TV producer etc): “my life has completely changed!!”  Don’t get me wrong, I love life changes.  I love that we can step into them and many things can go right as a result.  There are plenty of people who have benefited from “life changes” that have begun like this, but there are others who have not benefited, and may even have a worse life as a result.  For every successful reality, music, TV, sweepstakes, lottery star/winner there are also those who end up throwing many good things in their life away as a result of the encounter with the “life changing moment.”

One of the things that pushes my buttons most about this is that before they won the lottery or before they became a mega star they were living this whole life-a life that probably wasn’t awful and they were OK living.  Sure, we all wish we could improve or change our lives in some way, but many people live OK lives in this day and age. As much as we may hope and dream for our own fairy godmother (in whatever form “she” comes in), most of us don’t need her to get through life.  With a little hard work most of us can reach the real goals we have for our lives (without robbing a bank or selling drugs).  We may never become the super pop star known ’round the world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make enough money or have the life experiences we truly want.

Assuming you get lucky one day and it happens to you and you can say “and my life has completely changed!”, I encourage you to keep a level head.  Yes, you should celebrate the abundant blessings and great opportunities that come your way as a result.  You should take time to live it up and try things that before weren’t things you could do because of who or where you were or your finances.  But at the same time you should also put away as much of the money as possible to keep in case it happens that there’s an ‘after’ to your happy life change.  I’m not saying something will go wrong, just that it’s always a good idea to plan for the future.  And don’t give up on the people who mean the most to you now either, because it’s likely that they’ll be the people there long after the fame has ended.

Just in case today is your lucky day, it’s always a good idea to have a smile, decent outfit, cleaner house and positive attitude at the ready (and it wouldn’t hurt to work on meditating and finding your center now while you have the time to practice).  Who knows, maybe because of that smile and positive attitude you’ll get lucky without a fairy godmother today.

Faith in Fasting

This past Monday Ramadan started. It’s not a holiday I participate in, but it is one that many people around the world care about. Ramadan is a month of fasting by Muslims to celebrate, remember and honor the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.  Today though I wanted to talk a bit about the topic of fasting and what it says about Ramadan as well as the other times that people may fast.

Let’s talk about what this type of fasting is all about. It’s really a religious commitment to purify yourself, remember the founders of your faith, return to spiritual beginnings, ask for answers or intervention about something, ask for forgiveness and/or shake off the evil that may have become part of your life. Most spiritual traditions include fasting in one way or another. Depriving yourself of food, sleep, and even sometimes drink can be an effective way of helping you refocus and get reconnected spiritually in a very raw way that isn’t usually something you experience.  Other types of fasting can include taking a technology fast, chocolate fast or other type of fast, also with the goal of finding freedom, focus, or practicing sacrifice.

I’ve mentioned fasting before in talking about Ash Wednesday, but it’s not something I talk about much, nor is it something we do as much as maybe we should. What stood out to me as I was thinking about Ramadan is that Muslims give up a LOT to fast for this holiday. They fast for a whole month and not just the food as is typical of most fasting practices, but drinks as well, and they totally alter their days to partake of food before and after the daylight hours.  It shows true commitment and even gratitude towards Muhammad and their faith, but not in a way that would harm or be disrespectful to others, it’s a commitment they keep in and of themselves.

What about you?  When was the last time you made a sacrifice like that?  Maybe you didn’t think about it as a sacrifice or didn’t realize what a big sacrifice it was until you were involved in it.  Are you as committed to things in your life as the Muslims are to honoring the Quran and Muhammad?  What do you value enough in your life, physical or spiritual, that you would make such a life change for?  If there is something that is that important to you, make sure to express your gratitude today and give something back too.

Reality Reflection: Do Your Job

On Wednesday on the family and business blog I talked about, among other things, not being lazy. I hear from so many people that they don’t know things or that something is too much work. A business owner was sharing with me the steps he had to go through to help a client and the thought I had was “yea, that’s your job!” It wasn’t like their client was asking for something unreasonable or that extra work was really required, it was just the normal work required to do his job.

But it got me thinking about how easy we really have it in today’s world. We can go online and find answers to just about anything. It’s just a matter of taking the initiative to do the research. We can get just about any products we want, it’s just a matter of finding it for sale on eBay, Amazon, Etsy or another site that reaches into the world. We can go anywhere it’s just a matter of finding a way or the money to do so.

So what’s the moral of this story? It starts with accepting that life takes work! Even with all the shortcuts and resources we have today there’s still work to be done. I’m OK with sharing about what we’re doing or the steps it took to achieve victory.   It’s great to celebrate your hard work and the things you accomplish.  But don’t expect me to celebrate when you’ve done what is expected or required of you unless it’s a huge step from what you’ve done in the past.

When we all do our jobs we’re given the opportunity to do more than just what’s expected of us (although that is a very big deal for some people).  We’re then given the opportunity to wow others and make a bigger difference in the world.  But it all starts with doing the job you’ve been given well.  Are you doing your job?

The Spirit of Service

As people of faith we’re here with a very important purpose, one that may seem insignificant at times, and others may seem too big: the purpose of being of service. Service is something I’ve made a study of over the past 10 years or so, I’ve spent time observing how different churches and parishioners view service, how individuals serve, and even the different ways we can be of service outside of spiritual boxes. Sometimes we’re of service just by being kind and greeting a neighbor, other times it’s a very spiritual service where we’re praying over someone very ill, and sometimes it doesn’t even look like service in a traditional definition, like when we make a donation to a faith-based organization.

Yet, I do believe we’re called to be of service in whatever way we can be at that time. While it may look different, the goal is always the same: to spread the love of Jesus. This is what Jesus asked us to do in the Great Commission, what He spent His time on earth showing through His actions and what He has always asked those that call themselves God’s Children to do.

It happens through a humble and willing heart, someone willing to be used to care for someone else in some, however small, way.  To do what you can to alleviate the suffering and stress of others around the world, and show them that they haven’t been forgotten. Sometimes you’ll need to pray for strength to do what God has called you to do, other times it will feel like you’re not doing enough. But that you are willing and do what God has asked you to do is what matters.

Who will you serve this week?

“Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow men and women throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them, through our hands, this day their daily bread, and by our compassionate love, give them peace and joy. Amen.” Rev. Peter Schineller