Reality Reflection: Peace is Possible

I heard the phrase “peace is possible” this week and it got me thinking because as much as I believe in the possibility of peace and hope for world peace some day, sometimes it feels like it’s more of a concept than a truly possible reality.  Like the difference of seeing an architect’s plans for a building on paper versus the building actually being built and being able to touch it and walk through it.  Both are “real” but the physical building seems more real than the paper drawing.

Also I think we’ve been hurt more than once by people who have great words and ideas but never follow through with actions, so we tend to be more distrustful when it comes to the intangible things of the world, like love, honor and peace.  This is especially painful and difficult when it’s the same person or group repeatedly who says great stuff but doesn’t follow through, like the drug user or alcoholic in our life who promises to change but doesn’t, or the boss who thanks you for your honestly good ideas and those ideas end up in the garbage almost before you leave the room.

So is peace really possible?

Beyond the few people who seem to thrive off of chaos and discord in the world, I think most people really would like peace.  We’re not talking about a world without challenges or anything to stimulate us, a “perfect” world, but a world where bombs dropping and genocide or civil wars or slavery aren’t the daily reality for some people.  For those who are so busy strategizing and putting energy into planning how to kill someone (or many people), why don’t they put their talents to work on how to kill cancer or HIV or Alzheimers or resolve world hunger and the need for safe and accessible water around the world?  There are plenty of issues in the world that will only be resolved with the help of great thinkers and people with specific skills, skills that are currently not being used for the good of the most people.

I think one place peace starts is with more people believing that it’s actually possible.  Because if we believe it’s actually possible we’ll think, act and react differently, which will create a ripple effect wherein other people start to think, act, and react differently too.  While one little ripple can’t be a tidal wave, it certainly can and does start one.  You may not see an instant change in your life when you choose to believe that peace is possible, but over time the little things will add up and it will be clear that life is better with peace than without.

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Learning to be Content

Over the weekend we in the US experienced the bi-annual time changes known as Daylight Savings Time, and in the next few days the northeast USA is also looking at another big snowstorm, and of course quickly approaching is the celebration of Easter on the 1st of April which is early. I don’t know about you but sometimes all of this just seems to add extra stress to our lives that we don’t want or need, especially because we don’t have any control over these things. As I was reflecting on these events I read Philippians 4:11 which says

“…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…”

That’s a tough statement to make, for someone back in those days and someone in these days. In some ways we’ve each got some things easier or less complicated than the other, but much of our lives is still the same and includes the same challenges of work, family, relationships, finances, weather and health. Content in and of itself is a challenge, because there’s a difference between being content and not having aspirations or goals in life. More than anything content is about having an attidue of gratittude towards the life you have and the blessings that God has sent your way.

So rather than focus on the many things going on over the past and next few days and weeks that may be stressing you out, today I encourage you to be grateful: enjoy the special blessings in your life, smile and laugh along with the little kids playing, take a moment to appreciate your evening beverage or sweet treat, celebrate that you’re another day closer to spring and summer, and/or call a friend just to chat. Once you’ve done that if you want to take a moment and pray about the stresses in your life and ask God to help you come up with a plan to manage and prepare for everything, you can, but don’t just return to stressing about things, instead work on being content with the now and plan for the future.

What will you be content and find peace in today?

The Revelations of Christmas: Peace

Where I live we’re experiencing a bit of winter, we’ve had a couple of minor snow storms, which have made it look a little like Christmas. I know the kids have been excited and have enjoyed playing in it, but it’s not my thing. But as an adult I really don’t enjoy the piling up of the snow and how it screws with plans. However, I still can find some magic in it and even peace.

There’s this bit of magic during a snow storm, especially at night, if you sit very quietly and listen. There’s a shushing sound as the snow is blown around a bit, and a silence that can’t be described when there’s no wind and just snow falling. I’m sure a scientist could give you some reasoning or explanation behind the silence and the sound that snow makes in the wind, but that kind of takes away some of the magic. While rain does have some magic, I can’t say I’ve felt peace like I do when I watch or listen to the snow fall.

The ironic thing about how people often connect Christmas and peace is that I don’t think the First Christmas was very peaceful, and most Christmases we have aren’t very peaceful. I imagine Mary and Joseph were going through a fair amount of panic, frustration, fear and even excitement on that First Christmas. Our Christmases are filled with joy, celebration, laughter and satisfaction. There’s nothing wrong with either of those scenarios, it’s important to celebrate life and within reason we should live life to the fullest.

So why do we connect peace with Christmas anyway? Is it because of how peaceful it is when it snows? Is it because it’s often a time that people put aside their issues and differences to be together? Is it because we feel peace when we think about the birth of Jesus? What brings you peace at Christmas?

Reality Reflection: What’s Enough?

This week I’ve been contemplating a difficult topic in our world of consumerism and extreme focus on success and wealth. If you’ve been in the self-help industry for a while, especially the success and career related portions, you’ve probably run across people who say they can help you grow exponentially, and they talk about the people they’ve helped earn multi-six figures and millions (or more) each year. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making good money and with being financially well-off. Having financial resources can make many things in your life easier, and you’ve got lots of opportunities to invest in others and in our world. So here’s the question: is it OK if I don’t really want to make millions each year?

I know it may sound like a silly question, but really, there are people who would be very happy with a fraction of the money some of us make (even if we’re only making 30k per year). Yet I also understand how valuable (and powerful) someone can become when they have all those resources at their disposal. And some people find the thought of having that much wealth intimidating or even fear-inducing. Yet I understand that for some of us that by really living our life purpose we’re going to make lots of money. So is it wrong to want to (or actually) make lots of money, and/or is it wrong to not want to make lots of money?

I think it’s OK to be comfortable where you are as long as you’re covering your basic needs (and the needs of your kids or others under your direct care), and have at least a little plan for the future. It’s also OK to want to earn more and to put in the effort that will get you there. I think it comes down to two questions: are you at peace with where you are financially in your life and are you fulfilled? If you’re not at peace and not fulfilled then it’s time to make some changes to your life and start making more money. That doesn’t mean you have to make millions, just more, and while you may not be ready for millions today, there may be a day down the road that you will be. What are your thoughts on how much is “enough”?

Spreading Peace

Our verse this week is Psalm 29:11: “May the Lord make his people strong. May the Lord bless his people with peace.”

You can flip on any TV channel or open any newspaper or magazine and see that there’s a serious lack of peace in this world right now. If I asked you about work, your relationships and your family, at least one of those 3 topics would bring up a situation that lacks peace. I totally understand, after all there are some seriously messed up people in the world. It doesn’t really matter how they got to be that way, but they sure challenge those of us who normally are pretty decent people (no one is perfect, right?).

First, let’s talk about those difficult people. Some are totally oblivious to the damage they cause, others are fully aware of the destruction they leave in their wake. I don’t believe that they should have our sympathy or sorrow, somewhere along the line they chose to live and act the ways that they do. The best thing we can do is understand that just because they’re miserable people we don’t have to let them make our lives miserable too. Given the sheer number, it’s almost impossible to avoid them, which is why it’s important to understand them. But just because we understand that they are who they are, it doesn’t mean we should spend tons of time with them.

Second, let’s talk about spreading peace around the world. Peace spreads through peaceful people. If you want to spread peace, you can’t overreact to miserable people (including drivers). You have to remain calm and collected. You can impact people by being peaceful yourself. And, there will always be opportunities that pop up that will allow you to spread the message of hope and peace with others verbally and through actions, like going on missions trips or when friends ask about your positive attitude in the face of challenges.

Third, looking back at Jesus’ ministry on earth, there were people who didn’t like Him, and He was a really likable guy. You can’t make everyone happy nor can you know the right thing to do every time. Jesus set the example of spending time with people who wanted to spend time with Him and were good for Him. While Jesus couldn’t avoid the teachers of the law, He didn’t make a point of spending a lot of time where He wasn’t wanted.

This week I encourage you to spend time with people who lift you up and encourage you to be the best version of yourself (including Jesus). You’ll feel better about your relationships and be able to find peace and satisfaction with your life.

Reality Reflection: What Adventure Did You Choose?

Each week, each day, we make thousands of choices in our lives.  Our life is like one of those “choose your own adventure” books in which the choice you make determines what happens next.  One thing may not ruin the ending, or bring us closer to success, but each choice we make does have an impact on our lives.  If you make a really wrong choice you’ll end up on countless evening news stations as the talk of the day (or those crazy afternoon shows if you really mess up).  But if you make a really good choice you’ll find doors opening for you and relationship possibilities you never thought could happen.

As a child I must have read the one or two of those books that I tried from cover to cover several times trying different endings.  It was pretty frustrating because I do like a story to have a happy ending (I gave the series up pretty quickly), but it was a good reminder that unfortunately, unlike the books, we can’t go back and make a different decision if we don’t like how it ended up.

With every choice, action, or lack thereof making an impact on your future you would think more of us would do the right thing more often.  It can get frustrating that we don’t see the progress, but one day we’ll realize exactly how far we’ve come and how many pages we’ve turned and we’ll either be thrilled or mad. Every decision we make has an impact on our lives.  We can choose to have a positive impact on our lives and the lives of others, we can choose to do as little damage as possible on the world or we can choose to just do whatever and let the cards fall as they may.  I don’t know about you but I’d rather have a say in my future, and the future of the world.

If you were to turn the page and find that tomorrow morning your story ended, how would you feel?  Choose to make this a week that gets you even a little closer to your goals.

“Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time.” Lyndon B. Johnson

The Disservice of Rushing

Lately I’ve been thinking (again) about the rush that most of us live our lives being and doing. We’re so busy, trying to pack something into every second it seems. And in some ways I can understand because there’s a lot of life to be lived and lots of things to do and we’ll never be able to complete them all in our (short) life time. But I think that pressure and decision to say yes to so many things has had a negative impact on our relationships. I don’t think that we take the time often enough to really think about what we say or how we talk to people. Sometimes we’re so focused on being right or doing something our way that we’re not able to see the value in doing it another way, and we’re certainly not willing to admit that we don’t know everything.

I believe we can all learn something from everyone on the planet. Maybe it’s just one or two things, but those things can have great value. But when we go into a conversation or relationship with our minds already made up in how a conversation will go or how smart we are (and they’re not) or making a decision without really listening or getting all the facts, it’s not only hurtful to them, but can have a negative impact on us as well.

Just because someone is younger than you, is older than you, is from another country, went through a divorce, went through bankruptcy, doesn’t like pets, or likes your favorite sports team’s biggest rivals doesn’t mean that they can’t have good ideas, can’t teach you something and aren’t worth a few minutes of your time really listening to what they have to say. The same is true for advice, just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s bad or because it costs a lot it’s good.

I don’t think it’s (just) about trying to pack every minute of every day full, it’s about making sure to use your time wisely and make the most of your life. Some of the best moments of your life will be with other people. Some of those great moments will only happen if you slow down and take the time to meet someone new, take the time to build up existing relationships or make amends in one that you’ve damaged. I encourage you to take time to slow down this weekend and really watch where you’re going, listen to the full explanation or conversation before making decisions, and suspend judgment a bit longer than you do normally. What will you experience with an open mind this weekend?