Reality Reflection: Tax Day

In just a few days once again the day arrives for the majority of Americans to tell the government about their earnings over the past year.  It’s an annoyance for some, hassle for others and annoyingly large complication for others.  I’m thankful that we live in the day of computers and great programs we can use to figure it all out and don’t have to do it by hand, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy working through it either.

We know why taxes are necessary: so that things like police, water, sewers, roads and snowplows help us live the lives we enjoy so much.  Not to mention paying the salaries of the leaders and military who serve around the world.  I believe taxes do have a purpose, but I can also agree that sometimes they don’t seem proportionate or accurate given all factors.

But when we think about our purpose and taxes I’m reminded that there isn’t always logic involved in things, nor do they always move in the direction and speed that we expect.  That’s reality.

So while I do my share of complaining and lobbying to get them lowered, I pay my taxes.  I would much rather pay taxes than be without the services and people we often take for granted.

As already mentioned I enjoy the technology we can take advantage of to do them, and even though it’s a bit of a hassle I don’t want to pay more than I have to and I appreciate knowing the factors they use in determining taxes.  To relieve the stress of this time a bit, I make it a point to do as much work as possible to prepare for them throughout the year rather than having to deal with it all at once in February/March or, heaven forbid, April.

If you’re rushing to get your taxes done this week, or even if you’ve already finished them, I encourage you to take just a minute to appreciate all that you get as part of them or because of them.  America’s a pretty great place when you think about all we’re blessed with.

Make 2016 Your Year

Welcome to a new year! The year before us will be filled with lots of choices to make, people to meet, and opportunities to thrive. We’ll be faced with more choices than ever and in many ways that’s a good thing. It means that there are more ways than ever for us to stand out and be who we are without having to settle and fit into the box the world tries to fit us in. But it also means we’ll have to be more decisive than ever and more willing to stand up for what we want and what we believe is right. There’s no time like the present to stand up for ourselves, each other and the world we live in.

It’s my hope and prayer that you go into this year choosing to accept yourself, own up to your mistakes and failures, and choose to make empowering decisions each day that will allow you to love, thrive and grow in more ways than ever. Don’t let your past hold you back with fears and regrets, instead choose to move into the new year knowing that you were born with gifts and a purpose that when embraced is essential to the world becoming a better place.

Will 2016 be your year? Will you let this new year be the year you finally choose to love and accept yourself? Will it be the year when you finally move into all that you were born to be? Will you finally see the positive results of what you’ve been working on for the past few years? What are your hopes and dreams for 2016?

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”  Brené Brown

A Better Future Begins with Change Today

There are lots of bad things that happen in the world.  Some say that a violent offensive and approach is appropriate, others say that the way to change is peaceful discussions.  Regardless, something has to be done so that the future is less scary than the past and we worry less about bringing another generation into the world.

The first place to start is the cause.  If we don’t know what the cause of the unhappiness it’s very difficult to fix it or do anything about it in any way that will have lasting and positive results.  Trying to fix a leak without going to the source will always lead to more problems in the future rather than a resolution now.

Once the cause is known practical, logical and doable measures must be put into place that everyone can work with.  That doesn’t mean a free ride, or throwing a bomb to start fresh, it means tools, resources and education to empower the people to do things differently along with good leaders who can support them through the transition and into a better future, as well as judgments and punishments for those who committed crimes against humanity.

The biggest challenge of this though is that not everyone wants everyone healthy and happy.  Some people have serious issues with people groups for whatever reason and don’t have world peace as their goal but rather destruction and chaos.  Why they think that the world will be a better place with destruction and chaos I haven’t figured out yet, but I do know that the more people who choose the side of making positive change the harder it will be for those people groups to keep a foothold in the world.

Maybe the change won’t be seen today or even in your or my lifetime but if we don’t start today there’s no hope of a better future for anyone.

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”  Nelson Henderson

Working with God

Today I’ve got a couple verses to share with you, verses of encouragement and challenge.

Encouragement: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”  Ephesians 3:20
God has big plans for each of us: He doesn’t create us without ability or purpose, He’s always got plans for us.   But more than just having plans for us, they’re big plans, plans bigger than we could come up with, which is kind of both awesome and intimidating at the same time.

Encouragement: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
God doesn’t give up on people, He always has hope that they’ll turn things around, get back on track or be able to pull things through and finish what He has called them to.  He will keep working with us, guiding us, and providing for us until our mission is complete, and then He may have another one for us!

Encouragement: “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17
It’s a serious question: does God hear us when we talk to Him or is it more like talking to someone on our phone without actually dialing the number (which means we don’t talk to them)?  Throughout the Bible God strives to answer this question because lots of people question whether He’s there or not.  After all, He doesn’t always take out a billboard or even send us a simple text or email confirmation to let us know that our prayers were heard or how our prayers will be addressed.  But over and over God tells us that He does indeed hear our prayers.  We just don’t always see how they’re answered, understand the answer or like the answer.

Challenge: “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” Luke 6:46
We’ve established that God has a point for each and every one of our lives, He’ll be with us every step of the way as we work on completing them and He really truly does hear us when we pray to Him.  But what we don’t always get is that we have work to do.  God doesn’t complete the tasks for us, make us get out of bed each day, or make us say our prayers, that’s up to us.  We have to take the initiative to follow through on what He has called us to do.

So this week I challenge you to look at what God has called you to and what you’ve been ignoring or slacking on.  God is after a partnership with each of us, not a one sided speech or lesson.  We’ve got work to do, are you doing it?

Productivity Plans

Summer’s here and I want you to make the most of your summer.  So today I thought I would share about productivity.  I know, it sounds strange to talk about productivity when summer is about having fun and relaxing like we talked about on Wednesday.  But let’s be honest, we’re not in school anymore where we’re guaranteed the summer off, most of us are still working.  Knowing how to be productive is important especially in the summer because it means that you’ll be able to complete your work and commitments sooner and get to the fun stuff.  Sounds good, right?!  While I don’t advocate dragging things out at anytime, summer’s the time you really don’t want to drag things out.  So let’s talk about what we can do to be more productive.

First we need to establish what productivity is: it’s really a commitment to getting stuff done.  It’s more than knowing you have deadlines and you’ll have work to do that day, it’s being committed to getting that work done.  Some people feel they’re productive if they get stuff done however it gets done, but I believe that if you want to be truly productive you have to do decent work, not a shoddy half-ass job.  If you’re really making a commitment to get something done, do it and do it right the first time.

To be more productive there are lots of things you can try.  Everyone is different so you have to find the productivity techniques that work for you.  Most people commit to working certain hours each day.  To make the most of that commitment you should schedule within those hours meetings, private time for you to get your work done, time for connecting with clients, and time for emails.  If you’re working more than 3-4 hours make sure to schedule in food and stretch breaks so you don’t get overwhelmed.  The scheduling aspect is important so you can pace yourself and make sure it all gets done (or as much as possible).

Other people find they’re more productive when they start out doing the hardest or most important and valuable tasks each day.  Once those are out of the way they can then focus on the other tasks.  Some people start by getting the easiest and quickest tasks out of the way so they feel encourage that they can get stuff done.  Lists are another great tool to being productive, they keeps you on track for what has to get done and you get the satisfaction of crossing things off the list.

What about you? What are your productivity tips?

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” Paul J. Meyer

Prepared to Trust

This month we’ve been talking about being prepared.  There’s only so prepared we can be, we can’t predict what other people will do, how the weather will change or our health.  Yes, we can be prepared for possibilities, but other than death, change and taxes, there aren’t too many guarantees in our human existence.  But as people of faith there’s another aspect of this all, the spiritual side, the parts of us and our world that connect with God.

When it comes to the topic of being prepared and God, God does put people and situations in our lives to help prepare us for things He knows we’ll face later in life.  But He also asks us to trust Him, that He has our best interests at heart, with plans to protect us, not harm us.  He asks for our trust because He knows that no matter what happens He will be there for us, and throughout the Bible He’s made promises along those lines, even as early as Abraham and Noah.  Those promises continued with the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.

When we have a strong relationship with Jesus we’re able to trust that Jesus will be there for us.  When we’re Sunday or Christmas-and-Easter Christians we may not have the foundation of relationship and trust with Jesus to know that beyond a shadow of a doubt we are His and He cares for us.  This week I encourage you to take time to make sure your relationship with God is built on an unshakeable foundation, one that you spend time together each day, one that you rely on His strength and power in times of challenge, and one that helps build you into the person God created you to be a little each day.

“Come before Him with your trust in His promises…with your feet standing on the truth of His Word…and with your heart filled with the power of His Spirit.” Roy Lessin

Finishing the To Do List

This month we’ve been talking about being prepared, and while this week has brought me to the point of eagerly anticipating what next month and the rest of the year will bring, we do have a few thoughts on preparation to wrap up. Today I want to talk about something that preparation isn’t really supposed to be or do. I know, when we talk about being prepared we talk about it in the sense of being prepared (as much as possible) for anything and everything, so that we can cross everything off our to-do lists and be huge successes, but that’s not really what your ultimate goal of being prepared should be. Why? Because there will always be something new to add to your list, a new lesson to learn or new challenge to face.

Which of course sounds completely frustrating and really annoying! It would be nice to just be able to get it all done once, right? But that’s not really how life works. Being prepared means that you’re ready for each *new* goal or task, that you’re able to feel confident waking up each *new* day, and that you’re capable of working through the *new* challenges life presents; not that you’ll ever get it all done.

Being prepared does mean that you’ll make a plan for getting things done though. If we really want to grow and have more victories in our lives we need to learn how to be better, how to deal with new situations, know how we deal with and work through things and be able to get a plan in place to deal with the challenges or get things done. When we don’t understand ourselves, don’t make plans and don’t get prepared we’re wasting lots of opportunities for bigger and better and quicker victories. So get to work on that to-do list this weekend, but be realistic about it and make sure to have some fun too.

“You will never get it all done. Ever” Anne Pustil