Reality Reflection: Everything to Everyone

I’m a fan of saying no to people, you know why? Because you don’t have to be everything to everyone. Not only is is about being honest to who you are and not putting yourself in positions that you’re completely unqualified for or incapable of doing, but because every time you take on something that you’re only slightly capable of (or not at all), you take away an opportunity from someone else who is qualified. If we really want this world to be all it can be, I think we have to be willing to share a little of the control with others, have to be willing to let them do their thing, and not get in the way when they take charge.

Yes, there are time when you’ll go a little outside your preferred box to help a friend or to try something new, and that’s a good thing. We should be trying new things to keep our minds engaged and learning. But we have our safe zones for a reason. The good news is that my safe zone isn’t the same zone as yours. You’ve got talents I don’t have and don’t have any inclination for developing. I believe there are plenty of opportunities for us within the things that interest and drive us that we should never have to take work, resources or life away from someone else.

But that does mean that we all have to step up in that which we are gifted in, and a whole lot less slacking, hiding or letting someone else’s sub-par job suffice. You need to take responsibility for what you can do in this world with your unique talents. Be proud of who you are and what you can do. That doesn’t mean you have to start a business or blog, it may just mean finding a company to work with and bring your unique talents to (one that fits better than your current one), or donating your time on weekends or vacations.

This week I encourage you to give others the chance to do what they do best, and choose to do what you do best. Who knows, you may not cure cancer today, but you certainly may bring a smile to someone’s face or relief to their life in some other way.

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.

Thankful for God

We’re almost at the end of the month and I want to take time over the next few days to talk some more about our topic of being thankful.  One of the biggest challenges we face in life is in dealing with other people.  We’re constantly challenged, disagreed with, hear conflicting statements, see conflicting actions, and have our trust in others challenged because of things they say or do or things that others say about them and who they are or what they do.  While you can’t be too wrong about what they say or do in your presence, the same isn’t true for what others say about them.  That’s not to say that they didn’t do or say something, but it means that you can’t always take what others say as fact, especially when they’re talking about someone else.

It’s pretty much fact that at some point in time or another someone else will let you down.  Maybe they don’t mean to, maybe they were overtired and something stupid slipped out of their mouth, maybe they said or did something without thinking, maybe they thought about it and thought something different would happen as a result, maybe they thought it would be funny, or maybe they thought you were someone else, but one way or another the trust you had in them was broken or you got a glimpse of them in a totally different light than you were used to seeing them in.

The thoughts of thanksgiving that I’ve been reading over the past few days surrounding the holiday have been a reminder, even if they haven’t talked about it directly, of how awesome God is because He doesn’t do stuff like that. Even though He’s perfect and doesn’t have to earn our trust, He has in countless ways and continues to reinforce it each day.  Even on the days that we’re challenged by our faith and the things going on in our lives, we can still trust that He’ll be there, He’ll never give up on us, He’ll always have our best interests at heart, He’ll always remember us, He’ll never give up on us, and He’ll always be the God of Love.

As we head into this Christmas season I encourage you to take time this week to thank God for all He has done, is doing and will do in your life and in the lives of those around you, especially for sending His son on Christmas.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

How Would You React?

It’s not something everyone does, but when I’m out driving, whether running errands or heading to meet with a client, I listen to the radio.  I’m one of those annoying radio control freaks who constantly changes the channel and only listens to commercials if there isn’t a better option.  As I was driving yesterday I heard that it was National Sandwich Day.  The radio personality said that he called a few sandwich shops in the city where he works (a major US city) to wish them a happy sandwich day.  He went on to mention the name of a sandwich shop and said that they had hung up on him when he called and delivered his cheerful greeting.  Yes, on a major radio station a deli was called out as a grumpy (which leads one to assume they’re not customer-friendly) business.

The other day while driving I heard another story of a little child who started up a conversation with a senior gentleman at the grocery store while she and her mom were shopping.  She told the gentleman that it was her birthday and she talked to/with him for a few minutes and before heading on to do the rest of their shopping the girl asked if she could take a picture with the man.  He agreed, and her mom posted it on Facebook.  After seeing the post a friend of a friend shared that they knew the man and that the man’s wife had recently died and he’d been lonely and struggling to adjust.   The mom reached out to the man through their mutual friends and since that incident they’ve had visits and the gentleman is now part of the little girl’s family.

Why do I share these 2 stories today? I share them because the differing reactions of the people really spoke to me.  Sure, we can react like the deli did and shut people down because we think they’re rude or weird or making fun of us.  Or we can choose to say even just a simple thank you “thank you” or do a little more and be willing to meet a new person and not just judge them for how they look, how old they are or a quirk they may have.

As you finish out this week I encourage you to take a breath before going with your initial reaction in situations that aren’t the norm for you (like in these 2 stories).  Don’t just react and be a jerk or dismiss someone as silly or not important.  That deli could have gotten great publicity, but instead they’re possibly losing business as a result of a snap judgment.  There’s now another family learning from the wisdom that seniors have to offer and sharing the gift of being alive and enjoying life with each other across multiple generations.  What will your reaction be today?

First and Last

In the US we’re really gearing up for the November elections.  Candidates are being finalized, sides are being chosen (or rechosen), and people are hoping that the person of their choice will look good to the rest of the country and be the person who ultimately wins.  It’s gotten me thinking a lot about winners and losers, and about first and last place.  I’m not big on competition.  I know it can be good for some things, but personally I prefer to work together rather than against people whenever possible.  I know that there isn’t one candidate that we can all agree on, that’s part of the reason it’s a democracy.  But I also know that what seems like a victory for one person or one “side” doesn’t have to mean a total loss for the other.

For example, just because your team loses the game, it doesn’t mean they’ll lose the season or that they couldn’t have a personal best number of points in that game.  Or just because you didn’t win the cook-off at the fair, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be picked up by a national brand or get great publicity anyway.  Or just because you lost this round, it doesn’t mean you can’t win the next.

And sometimes being first isn’t a good thing, especially if you are one of the first people to try something new it might have some major flaws and you’ll experience loss or frustration instead of the great experience you were expecting.

What I think the US needs, and the rest of the world as well, is more working together and less violence and fighting.  Competition is one thing, hatred and senseless killing is another.  Now is not the time to see who can come out on top of whatever war is being fought, now is the time to learn to work together and bring together all our differences.  Choose not to be first or last in the war but to help others make it through to another day alive and healthy.  As brothers and sisters of Christ we’re called to lead the way to a better tomorrow, and that tomorrow doesn’t start with more violence or hatred, but with more love.

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  Matthew 20:16

Reality Reflection: What do you Want?

There’s something that most of us do but don’t really have the right things in mind when doing it.  What am I talking about? Wanting.  Do you really want that jelly doughnut, or do you want something sweet in general (could be healthy like summer raspberries) but the doughnut happens to be handy, are you trying to procrastinate or avoid something by eating it, or are you ignoring what your body really wants to eat by having the doughnut?  I know, it’s a really simple example, but food is one of the areas that we’re most confused in about our real wants.

Every day we use the word “want” countless times.  ‘I want to do this.’ ‘I want that one.’ ‘I want this more than you.’ ‘I want you to do it.’ The list could go on.  And on the surface the question I bring up today is about whether or not you really want what you think you want.  But it’s also about something so much bigger and deeper.

Last Friday was the Brexit vote, something that’s still being talked about and debated, and will be for some time.  And coming up on Monday in the US we’ve got Independence Day, the day we remember when in 1776 the people of the US signed the Declaration of Independence from Britain.  My point? It would be easy for people in pre-Brexit UK or Pre-Independence Day US to say ‘I want a better job’ or ‘I want a better house’ or ‘I want to make things work better between our countries.’  And none of those things are wrong.  But the people of the UK and US in 1776 made some really big choices that they don’t want to just work on improving in the current (or what was current) situation, they want a new set of rules, new set of opportunities and future that doesn’t line up with how things are (were) going in the present.

As I said, it’s not wrong to want to improve within the confines of your current situation.  But if you have the ability to want for something more, something bigger, something different, something new, something better for not just you but many people, why wouldn’t you want that?  As we look towards the 4th in the US and the future of the UK, I encourage you to consider your life.  What do you really want from and in your life?

Reality Reflection: Decoration Day

Did you know that Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” back in 1868? It was established by the Union veterans after the Civil War as an opportunity for everyone to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. It’s a tradition that has continued since then, and we do it for more than just soldiers too, but on days like Memorial/Decoration Day, the 4th of July and Veteran’s Day, we make extra effort to decorate in honor of the soldiers.

Why decorate? For the same reason that we wear team colors to the ball parks and school events. For the same reasons that plaids and family crests were the norm years ago. For the same reasons that we think of red and green at Christmas and pastel colors in the spring and for Easter. It’s a way of celebrating, unifying, showing respect, remembering and honoring. We decorate because it means something to us and we want people to know what’s important to us.

This Memorial Day I encourage you to decorate. Hang the flag at your house, bring flags or flowers to family member’s graves and to other veterans’ graves you know of, participate in a town parade, put a poppy in your car and any other reminders that will encourage you to remember the veterans and their families and let them know you remember them and appreciate their sacrifice.