Reality Reflection: Leaving a Legacy

As you know from other blog posts I’ve been thinking a lot about the violent events that have happened over the past few weeks, and of course this week my heart and prayers are with the people of Texas and Louisiana who are dealing with Harvey. Along with these events, around the country people are going back to school. School is supposed to be a safe place, a place that helps prepare you for what your future holds. I know that some get very little from their school experience, and even less from the actual textbook/class studies. While I wish that wasn’t the case, simply put there’s no good way right now of truly designing a program that looks similar to what kids experience now and provides the necessary socialization, all while giving the really necessary customized education platform. However that doesn’t mean that teachers should give up.  I think teachers should have the same goal as everyone else: impact just one person positively every day. I can only name a small handful of my teachers from all my years (k-12 and 4.5 years of college) who had a truly lasting positive effect on my life. Yes, I did learn from my education and have some memories of activities, classes or particular topics that still speak to me today. I can’t say that I really enjoyed my education for the most part or found it as valuable as it could be, but who knows, I’m still young and maybe there are things that will still have a greater impact on my future.

What’s my point in this? These 3 events have me thinking about legacy. What legacy are we leaving with all the anger, hate, and violence? Are we really making a difference? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to stand up when there are injustices, I sign lots of petitions every week and support organizations that help those who aren’t as blessed or healthy as I am. What legacy are we leaving by allowing the hate to stand and continue through the generations? I’m not saying we all have to be willing to give up our lives for everyone, just that there has to be a degree of human respect.

In many past storms there has been a positive legacy left by the countless men, women and organizations who have stepped in during or immediately after the storm. While there are always issues and visible devastation remaining years later, sometimes just knowing that someone is willing to step in and put their life on hold so that your life can begin to be rebuilt can be invaluable. I can remember being so thankful for all the trucks I saw on the roads that had license plates from other states (some very far away) coming in to help get power back into homes after some of the big storms the Northeast had a few years back. Many people may have even had power back at that point, but just seeing their willingness to come and help out with not only the immediate fixing but also the rebuilding was incredibly touching. I pray that those impacted by Harvey will see an equally heartfelt response, and I look forward to hearing stories over the next few weeks and months of how we came together as a nation.

So what about you? Do you have the opportunity to help leave a positive legacy on our world today? Yes, you do because you can donate to Harvey relief, send out a tweet letting them know you’re praying, or even volunteer to go down and help if you’re out of a job. You can also make someone’s day by encouraging them or helping them with their groceries or pay for their coffee. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter. Yes, you could choose to leave a legacy of hate, but why would you?

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Healing and Assumptions

The past few weeks we’ve been hearing about many tragedies around the world, something that isn’t really new, but seems to have taken on another level of activity again recently. As humans we struggle to understand how people can be that violent and inconsiderate of human life. As spiritual people we struggle to understand how anyone could kill another person, or could live with the hate that’s being slung around at people regardless of whether they deserve it or not.

I know that until Jesus comes back we will continue to have wars and violence, that’s part of the sin experience. But I believe we can do a lot more to heal our country and world, and it starts with having faith that the people we share this planet with are worth working towards a better future for and are just as human as you or I.

It starts with not believing we’re just defined by our race, religion beliefs, political opinions or social status. Yes, those things do define us, but they should not be our bottom line. Using a very publicized example that means that just because you’re black not everyone is out to get you. You have to take the first step to see yourself as something other than what someone could define you as.

Why? Because many people are capable of treating each other as average/ordinary human beings without a specific label, but some people escalate and force them to profile them that way. For example if a police officer pulls you over and you get all angry and curse at them saying that they pulled you over because you’re black, when the reality is the police officer may have had no idea what race you were, but pulled you over because you had a taillight out or were on your cell phone or you were speeding. If you pull the stereotype card that’s how others will often treat you.

However, we’ve got a choice to begin our lives, our days, and our attitudes in a different way.  We can choose to make fewer assumptions, choose healing and love rather than hate and judgement, and choose to listen and learn before reacting. Unfortunately there will always be people who stereotype others and treat them based on some factor like race or religion that really may have very little to do with who that person is.  But for the many people who don’t see you and me specifically or only as our race or religion, working on treating them better and making fewer assumptions could really go a long way to healing many of the issues in our world.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave for the next generation? One of perpetuated hate or one of healing, growth and opportunities?

Reality Reflection: Who wants more tragedy?

It’s hard to miss all the news reports about shootings or tragic deaths or other tragic experiences that happen around the world. I’m kind of amazed that it happens day in and day out. You would think that we would finally get the picture and start doing something different with our lives instead of submitting them to drugs, alcohol, bad influences, and general destruction. Of course there are the tragedies that you have no control over and have not really caused like cancer or tsunamis or being hit by a drunk driver. But the simple fact is almost everyone, if not everyone, has been through a tragedy. Would you really ever wish that experience on someone else?

And yet every day we do and say things to others that just aren’t nice. We choose to post the negative reviews instead of contacting someone who could help resolve the situation. We send scathing emails and texts about things instead of just moving on or trying to work things out. We make up stories because we’re jealous or insecure and spread them to anyone who will listen. We grab a gun rather than avoiding someone or telling someone who could help. We don’t think through our words or actions before they happen when 2 seconds of thought could avoid serious repercussions.

I know life’s not perfect but I’m getting really tired of the nastiness, the excuses people throw out about why things happened, and the reasons why they didn’t do anything to make a difference. If you’ve been living with some of those bad habits, aren’t you tired of being nasty and holding onto the anger in your life? Does that anger really benefit you? Do we really need more tragedies in the world?

Do You Care?

Today I’ve got a challenging question to ask you that I’ve been asking myself: do you really care? Do you really care about what’s going on in the world, in the lives of friends and family, in your relationship with your partner, with your kids, or in your community? If you answered yes, does your life really reflect that you care? Just about everyone makes the appropriate noises or says the appropriate things when they have to, but do they really mean it? Do you really mean it?

One of the simplest ways to check if you really care is by taking a look at your finances. How are you spending your money each month? What charities or organizations do you donate your money or other resources (like your knowledge) to? If you’re spending your money on clothing from name brands who don’t have any type of cultural give-back/investment program and not giving to any charities or organizations I would have to say you don’t really care about any of the causes you say you care about.

The other way to check is how you’re spending your time. What posts are you sharing on social media? What conversations are you having over drinks with friends and at the dinner table with your family? If you’re religious what are you praying about or meditating over? Are you donating your time to support organizations and charities? Are you watching only pop-culture programs on the TV or are you watching some more educational ones as well? Are you subscribed to and reading educational or personal growth emails and blog posts/podcasts or are you only signed up for the latest sales?

I’m not asking you to care about every cause or person in the world. All I’m asking is if you’ve got anything in your life that you really care about, some way of leaving a legacy on this planet after you die, a way of making the world better for this generation or the next, and if you’re including things in your daily life that really matter to you. Yes, there are some things that are part of our lives that we may not enjoy or feel great about, but there should be something in each and every day that does matter to us and we enjoy. What are you looking forward to today?

Take A Stand

As we look ahead to July 4th and the celebration of Independence Day here in the USA, I want to talk a little about this special day and one of our topics for this month, taking a stand. In case you’re confused or forget your holidays, July 4th celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared the US as separate from Great Britain. This wasn’t a decision like saying they’re not going to celebrate the same holidays or worship at the same type of religious center, they choose to make a really big difference in the direction that the lives of all who call the US home took and still take. The signers of the Declaration of Independence chose to take a stand in a really big way, a way that changed the future for the US and the world forever.

Are you taking the stand you really need to in your life? I’m not necessarily talking about attending big ‘save the world’ rallies or even making the big commitments that the signers took some 200+ years ago. I’m talking about standing up to the people who say not so nice things about you, or standing up to bullying and peer pressure, or learning how to say ‘no’ or find better solutions to all that you’re asked of at work that’s really outside of your job description, or getting out of the relationships that aren’t helping you grow or don’t support you.

I’m talking about choosing to make commitments that are in your best interests, being in relationships that will support you and those you care about, getting involved in the causes and organizations that speak to you personally, and taking a stand for the things that you believe are right and add value to the world. I’m talking about seriously looking out for yourself and your future as well as the life, health and happiness of those you care about most, like your partner, children or grandchildren. The signers all those years ago believed that not only did something have to change in their lives, but there had to be a clear statement made about exactly what that change meant and establish a clear separation between themselves and their past.

This week as we head into Independence Day and the next 2 months of summer, I encourage you to really think about the choices you’re making in your life and if you’re taking the stand for your life and future that you need to. I know I’m looking forward to being more proactive about that stand, will you join me?

Reality Reflection: At An End

This week I got the news that a family friend is getting very close to the end of his journey.  He’s had medical problems for years and things have worsened and now he and his wife are working with hospice.  The man has always had a great sense of humor, is good to his friends, loves his wife, and has really endured through serious medical issues in a positive way that you don’t often see.  He’s not perfect, none of us are, and I’m sure that he’s had his moments of anger and frustration, as well as fear and sadness, especially at this point in time.

It’s not easy to know the end is very close, whether it’s your life or that of someone you know well, especially when they’re one of those ‘good people.’  No, it’s not good to wish anyone were dead or think it’s better to lose someone who has some not so great habits (everyone has a family and a mother), but when the world loses a bright soul it seems like it’s felt even more.  What would you do if you knew that your end was near?  I would hope that you would take advantage of every moment you have with those you love, and maybe even do a splurge or two that you’ve always wanted, like take a special trip with your partner or kids, maybe even take the opportunity to try and mend a few fences.

As I was reflecting on the impending loss of this friend it got me thinking about the other side of death and loss, the side of the living.   We don’t go anywhere when someone we know or love dies, we’re still here.  And often we end up at a funeral or life celebration talking about them with other friends and family.  It’s not often that we’ve got the opportunity to let someone know what they meant to us and how thankful we are that they’ve been in our life before they pass.  It adds something to the grieving process for both sides, to be able to share that with them and support and love them, and it can make their last days very meaningful and happy, instead of painful and sad.

Loss is never easy, especially when it’s someone we’ve known for a very long time, and known on a very personal level.  But the way things work right now, everything comes to an end.  So I do encourage you to take a little time to reflect on how you want your end to go and make sure that you’ve got things clearly written down, but more so I encourage you to make as many memories as you can, to love as big as you can and to enjoy as much of life as you can.

A Little Love for Everyone?

As we think about this month’s topic of love and the celebration of Earth Day later this week I wanted to share a verse that will challenge us on both topics: Psalm 24:1 says:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

First this verse reminds us that if we really care about God and are following Him, we’ll take care of what He has given us.  That means being a little more aware of what you’re buying and doing and how you’re interacting with nature and the impact you have on it.  We all have an impact, but we can make smarter choices to minimize that impact and protect the gift God has given us.

Second this verse reminds us that God created everything in the world, all of the plants, animals, creepy crawlers, and people.  I know it’s hard to imagine the God that created you and me also creating things like scorpions.  It’s also hard to imagine the God that created Billy Graham created Hitler too, but according to this verse, He did.

Which brings us to our challenge.  It can be really easy to be sloppy and lazy and not take care of the earth, after all there’s a really good chance that it will last through our lifetimes regardless of the damage we do.  It can also be really easy to just focus on the nice and good people and ignore those who display their faults and imperfections more than the rest of us do.  But this verse challenges us to remember that God has called us to care for that which is His; all of it.  That means attempting to remove our judgements, preconceived notions, prejudices and opinions and trying to see things from God’s perspective, which can be easier said than done.

But just like with caring for the earth and making earth-friendly decisions, treating all others with respect and courtesy, and maybe even love, is something you can get into the habit of doing.  God didn’t say it would be easy, but He called us to set the example for our fellow man.  So as we move away from Easter and toward Earth Day, I encourage you to consider how you can be more considerate of “everything” that the Lord has created.  What ways will you choose to show love today?