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.

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Reality Reflection: America is Awesome

As I was thinking about what to write today I discovered that National Park Week ends on Sunday.  National Park Week is a great reminder each year of the natural treasures we’ve got here in the US, and an invitation for us to not only visit them but support them too by volunteering on some upkeep and other projects at the parks.  With over 400 National Park affiliated areas around the US, there’s a really good chance that you can check out at least one in the next few months, or make one part of your summer travel plans.

Visiting National Parks as a kid with my family was definitely a highlight of the vacations we took together, especially some of the ones that aren’t household names like the Black Hills and Salem Massachusetts.  I still love getting out in nature as an adult and visiting some of these places that were discovered and enjoyed by many generations that came before me. One of the cool things about National Parks is that if you don’t want to get into the history there’s tons of great nature to explore without ever having to hear about the history side of things, but there’s lots of history if you want to get into it.

But after exploring the National Parks, you’re usually hungry, and there are some really awesome restaurants around the US to enjoy. Shows like Best Thing I Ever Ate; Diners, Drive-ins and Dives; and Food Paradise give viewers a look into some of the best and unique eats around the US. I’m always amazed when I watch shows like these because there are so many different recipes for the same food favorites and takes on classics that you could easily eat something different every day for the rest of your life and not repeat at any one restaurant (even if you might want to). There are so many chefs around America that are doing great things with food, whether you’re looking for vegan, Mexican, fried, salads, sandwiches or classics, whether you’re looking for a great sit-down meal or something on the go, that it’s impossible to give them all credit, but we can try.

I’m so thankful that we’ve got so many awesome opportunities to enjoy life and food here in America, what are your favorites?

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

Earth Day Wisdom

Yesterday was Earth Day, I hope you spent some time in nature or made time to help nature.  Since Earth Day is really about all of us coming together to support the world we all share, I thought I’d share a few quotes about the earth with you today.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”  John Muir

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”  Gandhi

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Rachel Carson

“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.”  Einstein

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”  Henry David Thoreau

“Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”  Walt Whitman

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”  Lady Bird Johnson

“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

“He that plants trees loves others beside himself.”  Thomas Fuller

“The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

“Man is still the greatest miracle and the greatest problem on this earth.”  David Sarnoff

“Dear old world…You are very lovely, And I am glad to be alive in you.”  Lucy Maud Montgomery

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  Albert Einstein

“Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.”  Karle Wilson Baker

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair.”  Khalil Gibran

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

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?

Trees for Tomorrow

I can remember as a child the town I lived in planting evergreen trees to hide water containment units.  Some towns are proud of their water towers, but we didn’t have pretty ones or ones with our town name or mascot on it, they were simple green cylinders.  While I don’t live in the town any longer I still drive through occasionally to visit with friends and work with clients, so I see how things change and grow.  Some of the most remarkable growth in the town is with the trees that were planted at the edge of the property where the water units are: it’s almost impossible to see the units anymore unless you’re at the (short) driveway of the property.  It’s the best result they could have hoped for when they planted them, many towns aren’t as successful with trees they plant and replant each year hoping for better results.

Sure, the town could have come up with a different plan, maybe painting the units, having the town get involved in painting them (perhaps something patriotic) or just telling people to deal with it like many other towns with a visible water unit do.  But instead they took the time to think about a solution that would be visually appealing and good for the environment, even if it might take a little extra work.  Trees do require some care, they need watering especially when they’re in their early years, and they could look scraggly if they aren’t cared for, which would defeat the purpose of having them.  But the town has taken the time and put in the effort to care for them and grow them into trees any tree-hugger would be proud of.

These trees are a great reminder for us that some things take work and time.  We may start something today that won’t show a lot of fruit until our children or grandchildren are our age.  We may not even live to see some of the great results.  If you think about the men and women who sailed on the Mayflower and other ships, they didn’t know all the trials and tribulations we would go through to reach this point, or the great things and people that have happened and been part of the journey thus far.  Don’t give up because you’re not seeing a great result today, keep putting in the effort day by day and don’t give up on your dreams.

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”  Warren Buffett

Reality Reflection: The Setting Sun

This week I’ve been thinking about changes and happened to see a beautiful setting sun.  We all have seasons where the sun sets on parts of our lives.  Sometimes it’s the death of a family member or close friend, sometimes it’s a job or career change, sometimes it’s a new place to live and other times it’s smaller like the end of a brand or product we loved.  The transition time isn’t something we do well with or enjoy all the time.  Endings and partings aren’t things we always enjoy either, and they can be difficult and painful, and sometimes confusing especially if you weren’t expecting it.

Some of us get stuck in the change and transition process, others of us can’t let go of the past, and some of us are so busy moving forward that we don’t grieve and let go of the past.  I think in most cases it’s important to take time to remember the past, work through the transition and move forward.  I don’t think we should skip any of these steps, whether our past was bad or good.  Learning from a bad past is helpful, but it’s also important to take time to cement the memories of the good things you have had or experienced.  Yes, life is about moving forward and living to the fullest, but part of that fullness is the past that has brought you to this point.

This weekend, this summer, I encourage you to take time to enjoy the setting sun as well as the rising sun.  With the late summer nights and early summer mornings there are lots of opportunities to see the sun and remember it as part of your life.  I remember lots of trips as a child where we would watch the rising or setting sun while driving and a few thunderstorms too.  Those are treasured memories from my childhood and I am thankful for them.  Choose to find the beauty in the endings in your life this summer, not just the joy in the future or relief of leaving the past.