Reality Reflection: Who will you be at 92?

With much of the world looking at England for the Royal Wedding, my ear was caught by a couple of statements made not about the royal couple, but about the Queen. I’m not a huge history person, nor am I really on top of all that goes on in England, but every statement I heard in the days surrounding the wedding regarding the queen were positive, which is a huge statement about who she is and how she has ruled.

The first statement that stood out to me was regarding her fashion choices. According to those who pay attention to these things, her fashion statement has always been “I need to be bright,” and her fashion choice for the wedding certainly was that, and you couldn’t miss her in the bright green outfit she wore. But it’s far more than just a fashion choice in my book. I think the bright fashion choices not only help her to stand out, but they’re a reminder to her, and the world if they pay attention, that we’re at our best when we’re being bright lights in the world.

The second statement was regarding that at age 21 she gave a birthday speech and in it she said I “shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family…” That’s far different than saying ‘I will lead this country’ or ‘I will be the best leader I can be’ or anything along those lines. It’s really a statement about how she chooses to put others first and considers their needs/worries/concerns/hurts. And it’s a statement that she has lived up to, and something she has passed on to her children and grandchildren.

When you’re 92 what will people say about you? Will they smile and think of the cheer you brought to the world, way you uplifted others, and the service that you led? What will they remember you for?

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Earth Day Encouragement

Earth Day is less than a week away, and as I was reflecting on some of the earth/nature related Bible verses, the earth related events I know about coming up this weekend, about tax time, and still about Easter which is only a few weeks ago, I was reminded that it all eventually circles back to one thing: community.

Let me explain. Yes, the Bible tells of God doing things for just one or a few people, but Easter is really about everyone, not just one person or a few people. Everyone pays taxes, because it’s too big of a burden for just one person to take care of. The earth is something we all share and we’re all going to either keep it or lose it depending on how we live on it. As much as we’re all individuals and God sees us that way and has individual relationships with each of us, we’re all still part of a body of believers and called to meet together, care for each other and love each other.

Earth Day is one of those things that individually we’re responsible for doing our part to pay better attention to how we live on the earth as well as make sure we give back to the earth. But it’s only when we look at our collective effort that we can really see the difference over the years since 1970 when Earth Day officially began. It’s only when we recycle all year long, and not just on Earth Day, that we’ll make a difference. It’s only when we consistently choose the environmentally friendly choices that we begin to see a difference.

The same is true for our faith communities. You may not think you’re doing much only talking with one person about what faith means to you, but when many people are talking with others about their faith, not only does the Great commission not seem so overwhelming, but it actually looks like we’re making progress spreading the word.

So today I encourage you not to give up. Don’t be disheartedned if you don’t see your personal efforts having huge effects. Take the time to be part of your community and see what your community is doing to make a difference in the world, both your local community for Earth Day and your church community for the Great Commission. I’m not suggesting that when you see everyone else is doing the work that you let others do all the work and don’t give a personal effort, but rather be encouraged that the work you’re doing in connection with the work they’re doing is making a difference.

“Sometimes—by sheer determination–we can just kick the stone away from the door of the tomb and march out triumphantly into Resurrection Life. More often, we must wait: wait for circumstances to change, wait upon on God, wait on others for help. When Lazarus was called out of the tomb, Jesus said: “unbind him.” You –you friends and family of Lazarus—you unbind him. Sometimes we cannot unbind ourselves, but have to wait for others to help us into freedom.” Br. Mark Brown

Are You Memorable?

Most of us spend a good portion of our days with other people, whether we’re talking with them thanks to technology or interacting with them in a more physical way like driving the same road, shopping in the same store, working in an office or living in the same house together. It’s both a blessing and a challenge that we’re so connected and have so many people in our lives. Some of the people that you’ll spend time with you may never really know or ever see again after that one interaction, while other people you’ll see again and again throughout your life journey. Most of us meet so many people that we don’t fully remember them, what they said, who they were, their name or where we know them from when we first met them, but if we meet up with them again we may remember them for two reasons: how they acted and how they made us feel.

Some people are just memorable people. Maybe it’s because of how they dress or the accent they have or the funny/tragic/bizarre story of how you two met. Sometimes many years later we’ll still tell the story of meeting that person and what went on even if we don’t ever see them again or know their name. But for most of us the people who seem memorable in the moment quickly become a memory. We move on and meet other memorable people, people who do add to our life journey, experience and lesson in their own way, even if we don’t really remember them.

The people we remember in crystal clarity even decades later are those who made us feel stand-out special or like dirt. Maybe it’s the school teacher who showed such love, grace and compassion on all the students in your class, and you knew that you’d always see a welcome smile on their face and cheery welcome, even if the rest of your life wasn’t great. Maybe it’s the boss who consistently talks down to you, has a nasty attitude towards you and doesn’t accept your ideas even when they asked for suggestions. Both of these situations are such that you have repeated interactions with the person and really get a good idea of who they are, not just the snapshot you get when you meet someone once. But sometimes you will only meet someone once and it’s a lifetime experience, like meeting the CEO of the really big company you work for and they make you feel like you’re not just one of thousands, but that you personally make a valuable contribution to the company.  Or you meet the person who’s been your hero from afar (sports stars, celebrities, leaders etc.) only to be completely dismissed by them.

How do you treat people? How do they feel after interacting with you? What will they remember you for? I know I would rather bring a little sunshine to someone than ruin their day, what about you?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

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?

Celebrating St. Patrick

Saturday in the US (and in Ireland) we’ve celebrated St. Patrick‘s Day.  While many people celebrate it by drinking, eating and wearing green, the holiday itself is named for a Saint.  So I thought we’d take a look at who the individual was and why he’s honored on this holiday.

He, Patrick, was a missionary back in the 5th century to Ireland.  He is one of the primary saints of Ireland and many credit him as having brought Christianity to Ireland.  Of all the holidays that are celebrated in the US today, St. Patrick is one of the few people that a holiday is named for specifically, and not as part of a larger celebration or remembrance.

I don’t think it ruins the memory or honoring of St. Patrick to have a drink and wear a little green, just like decorating a tree, having cookies or hunting for eggs doesn’t hurt Jesus or the true meaning of Christmas/Easter.  One of the reasons we celebrate St. Patrick is to honor our heritage if we’re Irish, and to honor and remember our heritage in general.  St. Patrick’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate whatever heritage you have, and especially to pass traditions, stories and icons on to the next generation so they’re not lost.

But it is also important to take time to remember what the stories of Jesus and St. Patrick are all about: their faith.  Both men are known because they chose to step up for their faith and the faith of countless others.  It’s not necessary to go to another country and share your faith like St. Patrick did, that’s just one way to do it.  You can practice the countless much smaller but not less significant examples of faith that Jesus showed through every kind word, loving touch, and prayer you pray.

How will your faith and heritage live today?

Reality Reflection: A Legacy For Today

As we work towards wrapping up another month of our lives in just a few days, I though it would be appropriate to talk about legacy. Denis Waitley said:

“That which you create in beauty and goodness and truth lives on for all time to come. Don’t spend your life accumulating material objects that will only turn to dust and ashes.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about “the end,” partially because we’ve been thinking about Martin Luther King Jr’s life which was officially celebrated this month, and also because I hear so many stories each week of close calls and great people who have finished their journey with us. More than that, I’ve also been thinking about what it means to live while you’re alive. We’ve all got regrets, we’ve all got moments that we’re really proud of, and we’ve all got people who will remember us after we’ve gone (or at least wonder where we’ve gone when we’re dead). After all, as you probably know, there’s not much you can do about anything after you’ve gone.

You can only do something about today.

When we choose to build relationships with people, and focus more on those around us and how we can help them or just bring a smile to their face we’re immediately making a difference in the world. Why? Because people are the only thing that can make a difference. We can send all the tools and resources we want around the world, but unless we create them, unless we send them, unless we use them, they won’t go anywhere or do any good.

Money makes the world go ’round a lot easier, but without people there would be no reason to have money. Little has survived from the Aztecs, Incas or other old cultures and societies. Would they be happy with what we see of them and believe about them, or if they had it to do again would they make changes? By doing random acts of kindness, supporting charities and caring for others around the world with a passion and cause for good, we’re doing our part to create a legacy we can each be proud of.

Think about the legacy you want to leave with the world after you’ve gone. What are you creating in the world?

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?