Living and Growing

I believe that God has created us with the ability to grow. It’s fairly evident from the fact that while we may be born fully formed almost none of us are born the size we become, or with the abilities and capabilities we grow into. We should work each day on growing more closely into the person that God has created us to be, physically, mentally and spiritually. Very few of us ever stop growing in one way or another, because if we were to stop growing we would become perfect and probably wouldn’t be here on earth anymore. So yes, life is a journey, with many stops along the way, and one destination that we hope to reach some day: heaven. Until that point we keep growing.

But life is about so much more than just growing, because if we only focus on the growth we’ll miss out on things that go on around us or things we could be part of that may not help with our personal growth, but rather the growth, health or happiness of someone else. Which means that as much as we need to focus on growing, we also have to stay present in what’s going on now.

God is a God of yesterday, today and tomorrow. He knows our beginnings and our ends, our ups and downs, our struggles and victories, our potential and our failings. He knows who He created us to be for what’s going on in our lives and in the world now as well as what’s to come in the future. Working on focusing on and living in the now is not only important to what’s going on now, but also sets us up for what the future holds. The lessons we learn, even if they aren’t seemingly relevant today, may have great impact on us in the future.

If you remember the story of Samuel in the Old Testament, his life started off because God fulfilled a prayer request of his mother, and his life really took off when he accepted and listened to the voice of God one night as a young man.  You may have an equally non-traditional upbringing or it may have been very ordinary, but your beginning doesn’t have to dictate your present or your future, the lessons you learn from the past, how you live today, and what you do with your future are all up to you.  What will you do with the life God has given you both today and in the days to come?

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Breaking through Assumptions

What do you think about reality TV? No, I’m not talking about “reality” TV wherein people try to find a significant other or people get dropped into the wilderness to try to survive or do all kinds of physical and/or mental challenges, I’m talking about shows like Dirty Jobs, all of the live police and rescue shows, and even shows like those being done with natural locations (Yellowstone, Egypt etc.). Yes, there’s editing in some/all of them because that’s part of TV, but the core of the shows remain: honest looks at what’s going on in our world.

I’m not a fan of news programs, I never watch the “nightly news” or morning news or anything like that, they typically cherry-pick what they want to show and never give you a fully honest glimpse of all of what’s going on. The live/reality shows are designed to show it all, from the very mundane and stupidly simple to the very intense and dangerous. For the more dangerous shows/episodes, you can’t predict what’s going to happen, you just have to do as much planning as you can and hope for the best. For the less fascinating or intense shows you have to play up the story and purpose behind what’s going on.

I hinted at it already, but here’s why I like these shows: because it shows a side of the world that most of us never see, and could never hope to understand without them unless we did a ‘day-in-the-life’ type thing, which most of us wouldn’t or couldn’t do. These shows can give us an awareness about things other people wish we knew or help us understand how things work (and why they have to be done certain ways). True, honest, open awareness reduces or eliminates fears, rebuilds trust, fights falsehoods, and gives us an opportunity to build our world and relationships on healthy foundations, not those of lies and fears.

So this summer as you explore on your vacations or just explore your world at home, I encourage you to put aside your knowledge and assumptions and be open to hearing and seeing the truth from the perspectives of those who live it every day, or whose ancestors lived it and have passed along the stories and ways of living. Be curious, be open to learning, be open to hearing the stories and experiences of others, and don’t let your preconceived notions get in the way of what could be great friendships and opportunities.

A Word About Wisdom

This week in my devotional time I read a lot of verses that talk about wisdom. Take a look”

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5

“Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it.” Proverbs 8:33

“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.” Proverbs 19:20

“Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.” Proverbs 9:9

I also looked a bit into the story of Esther. If you remember her story (there’s a whole book of the Bible written about it), as a young Jewish girl she’s drafted into possibly becoming queen of Persia, she actually does become queen, she saves her people (the Jews) from massacre because she pleads with the king and reveals the villain, and ends up living happily ever after. One of the supporting characters in the story is Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, who helps her with knowledge about the impending massacre. But the story reveals that Mordecai sharing knowledge with the King goes back further than the main story of the Book of Esther about the planned massacre, to a time when Mordecai revealed that there was an assassination plan targeting the king (Esther 2:21-23). The king is saved and the story apparently goes on. But some time later (in the middle of the story about the planned massacre) the king had trouble sleeping so he read back through the logs that were kept of the goings on in the kingdom and was reminded of this assassination attempt and he asked an important question about what was done to reward him for his dedicated service (Esther 6). It turned out that nothing had been done, so the king followed up and rewarded Mordecai.

I share all of these verses and this story from Esther for several reasons. First, there’s no reason whatsoever to ever think or assume you know everything. Everyone forgets things and everyone can only remember or know or be exposed to so much. It’s one of the reasons the internet is so powerful and such an important tool for our lives today. Second, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help or a second opinion. Since we’ve already established we don’t know everything, it follows that someone else certainly knows something you don’t and you can tap into their knowledge. Third, keep learning! I keep notes about lots of stuff because I want to make sure I take care of things or to remember things, and as we saw with the story of Mordecai and the king, notes of those kind can make sure that you’re following through on the important things in your life, as well as to keep a record for those who come after you.

One final thought: wisdom only does good if you do something with it. It’s important to keep learning and to connect with others, but only if you’re going to do something with that knowledge because there are people out there in the world who could greatly benefit from what you know. For example imagine learning all you can about cancer and never doing anything with that knowledge, it sounds silly, right? Whether you do more learning or sharing this week doesn’t matter, what does matter is that you’re taking time to both learn and contribute your wisdom to the world.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: shared knowledge

Yesterday I was talking about all the emails I got for Giving Tuesday (which raised over $125 million for non profits). For the rest of the holiday season we’ll be getting a steady stream of emails about deals or donation opportunities. As I was thinking about this I was reminded how lucky we really are. Technology has advanced in so many ways over the past two decades, and along with that technology information has spread as well.

Now doctors in China can tap into the knowledge of doctors in Canada. Archaeologists in South Africa can reach out to cultural experts at various universities and museums around the world. Students can get a first hand look at something they’re studying live through cameras posted half way around the world. Parents can get more answers to the medical conditions their children have. Almost anyone can get an education on whatever passion, interest, hobby or skill they have. Not to mention all the information that’s just fun or cool to learn, including those cute animal videos.

I know there’s been a lot of talk this past year about the misinformation and fake news, and it’s definitely an issue. But I think the good far outweighs the bad when it comes to being able to share information. It’s also easier than ever to connect (privately) with people who have similar experiences and interests as you, and can help you heal from or navigate through challenges you’re facing.

I’m thankful for all the information we have at the touch of a few keys, as well as the ability for that information to be sent to us as we desire. Having newsletters, blog and podcast subscriptions, devotionals, inspirational messages and educational bits that get sent our way via email and social media, means that not only is that information out there, it’s coming directly to us without us having to search. This not only helps with keeping us inspired and encouraged but also with making sure we learn something new every day.

So what are you thankful you’ve learned recently?

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: Know It All

When was the last time you asked someone a question? What were you asking them about? Maybe it was directions or the location of something, or their experience or insights on a situation. Asking questions is something important that we do in our lives, and is an integral part of learning, growing and creating a life that we enjoy. Sometimes there are even the times that someone gives you an answer without you having asked a question! Sometimes it’s interesting, sometimes it’s helpful, and other times we’re frustrated by someone giving entirely too much information or showing off with the information they’ve got.

One of the most frustrating experiences is when someone asks you a question they already knew the answer to because they want to confirm they’re the smartest person in the room, or asks you a question without really being open to hearing what you have to say. There’s a difference between wanting confirmation on something and being a know-it-all about something, and a lot of it has to do with attitude. Some people who give advice for a living feel the need to know everything or be right all the time, but I try to make it really clear with potential clients that I don’t know everything and that I’m committed to growing and learning constantly both personally and professionally.

Being a know-it-all means that you can’t possibly fully experience life. I don’t think you can be exposed to or appreciate the variety and the details that others who are open to life and learning experience. You also run the risk of not being liked by people because of how you treat them or communicate with them. If you’ve ever been called a know-it-all and aren’t totally thrilled with that title, one step you could take would be to slow down and learn to really take things in before passing a judgement that you know it or outright dismissing the other person. This isn’t a step that really threatens your knowledge or IQ, it just gives you an opportunity to create better relationships with those you interact with, and gives you a chance to respect the time and effort they put in to giving you the answer you’ve asked for.

What about you? How do you deal with know-it-all people?

Reality Reflection: The world is flat

For many years people believed something because that was what the “experts” said, and quite frankly they didn’t think it could be anything else. What was that belief? That the world was flat. I can understand why they would believe that, it’s hard to really understand living on a sphere. Wouldn’t that mean that someone is upside down or sideways? Who would live that way? Besides, it certainly seems like the world is flat. But we know now, especially with the ability to go into space and take pictures, that the world is not flat, it’s round, and we’re not the only round planet out there.

As I was reminded about this part of history while I was reading it got me thinking about if we’ve got a “world is flat” belief that hundreds of years from now people are going to laugh at us and try to consider what we could have been thinking. I think it’s entirely possible because just like the people back then, even with all our technology we still don’t have the full understanding of everything and everyone in the world. It’s a great reminder of exactly how small we really are, and how little we really know. We really only know the portion of the world that we call “ours” well, and we don’t always know that portion well. I bet you could ask adults who have lived in NYC for their whole lives if they know all of the city and they’ll tell you that they’re still learning and discovering new things.

I don’t think the answer is to be worried about having a world-is-flat belief for generations from now to laugh about, I think when we come upon a question we’re not sure about we should keep on making educated guesses based on all the facts that are available to us. There’s no shame in discovering that you didn’t have all the facts or that all the facts weren’t available when you had to make a decision. The only shame is in not being willing to keep learning and gathering more education that can be used to help us make more educated guesses in the future.

What will you learn today?