Intentional Growth

In August and September every year countless young people and adults go back to school around the US. The kids are in school because that’s how we do it as a society and the adults are there because they feel more specific education will benefit them in their present and future. To be honest I have plenty of less than pleasant memories from my school years. While they may not be the bad memories that too many students have of struggling with learning, bullying, racism or other types of discrimination, it would have to be something pretty serious to get me back inside a traditional classroom. I’m slightly more open to the online schooling concept, but it’s still not something that excites me by any means.

However, I am a huge supporter of being a life-long learner. Any chance I get to pick up a book, I do it. I enjoy watching some of the more educational shows on TV to learn about history and different parts of the world today. I subscribe to tons of newsletters on a variety of topics (and I’m not talking daily deal emails). I enjoy listening to friends, family and others talk about things they’re interested in, hear about or are concerned about. I even check out the news once a day so that I have some idea of what the popular media is talking about.

Why? Because one of the best ways to get ahead in life, to become better, to improve yourself, to help others, to overcome the challenges and obstacles in your life, and even to make a difference in the world is by learning. By learning about what you don’t know and learning more about what you do know you’re gaining power. No, I’m not talking about superhero power, but that may be possible some day. I’m talking about having the knowledge to know what to do when someone’s not breathing, to know how to fix a technology issue on a website, to know how to increase customer retention, to know how to help couples work through issues in their relationship, to overcome your fears, and to bring endangered species back from the brink, just to name a few. It’s not knowledge that everyone has, but if we all were more proactive about learning we would be able to fix our issues and the issues in the world faster, and have more knowledge to actually understand what the issue is as well as present several options for moving forward.

So what about you? Did your early school days ruin learning for you, or are you actively pursuing knowledge in your life today?

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The Protection to Fulfill Your Purpose

It’s not easy to live your purpose some times. Some of us are called to do dangerous things, go dangerous places or work with dangerous people. And even if we’re not, we usually face obstacles to fulfilling them and people who don’t want us to succeed. It can be discouraging to be in these situations and be trying to fulfill the purpose God has for our lives. The good news is that not only do we not go through our lives alone, we’re not without tools to overcome the challenges we face.

Who goes with us? First and foremost God goes with us. He has promised to never leave us alone, and while we may not see or feel Him working in our lives and supporting us, He is always there! God also sends people into our lives to support us. Some people will support us physically or in person, other people will support us through prayer. Both types of people are valuable, and we do need both to be fully supported and be able to make it through the challenges we face.

Second, we have personal gifts, tools, and abilities that God has blessed us with to use while learning, exploring and fulfilling our purposes. God would not give us a purpose to live without providing us with the tools we need to do it, or at the very least the ability to get the knowledge we need to make it happen.

Finally, God knows that we will face opposition, pain, hurt and hatred throughout our life journey. The good news is that He also sends protection in the form of His angels, special people on earth and The Armor of God to protect us and help us in our times of need. If you’re feeling resistance to fulfilling your purpose or in your life in general, take time this week to reequip your armor if necessary and reconnect with God and the people of protection He’s put in your life for such a time as this. Don’t give up yet, the best is yet to come.

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”  Ephesians 6:11

Reality Reflection: Black History Month

This month we will be looking at 2 more controversial topics, Black History Month and President’s Day, in our reality reflections. To start the month off I wanted to start with Black History month. It’s a holiday, if you will, that some people really hate because it speaks to bad memories, bad history and bad people, while trying to honor a people group when no other people groups have similar holidays, which does makes it sounds like a bad idea when you look at it like that. However, there are more people who see the importance of taking time to recognize this people group that has played such an important role in the development of the US.

I’m of the mind that just about everyone and every people group should be celebrated (with the exception of the bad guys and groups like Hitler/Nazis etc.). It’s important to recognize the people, and/or groups who played an integral role in history; in some ways it’s like honoring Veterans or the explorers. If we don’t make it a point to remember these people, we’re losing a large part of what has shaped us into who we are today. It’s impossible to remember each and every person who contributed, but by taking time to recognize and remember these groups, in some small way we’re able to honor and thank them for their sacrifices and contributions.

Black History month is also a reminder of how much work there is to do yet to get the world to stop seeing people by their race or gender. Just because someone is black or female for example, doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable or less able to contribute something of great value. It’s a reminder that we can’t let anyone or anything stop us from using all our talents and making the world a better place. Black History month is really less about the color of the people who came together and really about their common unhappiness and dream to make the world a better place for everyone.

It’s up to all of us to rise to the occasion and not only find the thing or things we have in common with each person we meet, but establish deeper relationships with some people and look for ways they can support us and we can support them as we all work together to achieve our dreams.

Learning to Be Free

Today is our last post on this month’s topic, lessons. Like so many other things in life the power of a lesson comes down to what you do with it. The choices we make determine not only what our personal futures will look like but also what the futures of all generations yet to come look like. I believe the lessons we learn should be applied so that we can make the world a better place for them and ourselves.

Yes, we can use the lessons as a reason to lash out on those that have hurt us, because it’s inevitable that we will be hurt by at least one person during our lives, after all, the concept of justice must exist for a reason. But constructively applying our lessons to our lives means that rather than destroying the world for future generations we may be seen as heroes to them. This is a lesson we have to work through during our lives, and will continue to be challenged by as long as we’re not learning it. We will be constantly challenged by things and people throughout our lives, it’s up to us to decide what to do with these lessons.

Why choose a constructive application of the lessons in your life? So you can be free. It’s that simple. When you choose to be empowered by your lessons rather than let them hold you back you open yourself up to a whole new world of possibilities that isn’t available to you unless you choose to release yourself from them. When you see things as opportunities rather than obstacles you take the actions that will bring you to new levels rather than keep you stuck where you are.

If we really want to see the world change we’ve got to do something different. If we really want to be like the heroes we watch on TV and in the movies we have to be courageous enough to learn from the lessons that life teaches us. If we want to be free and not wake up every day feeling trapped by the lives and ruts we’ve gotten stuck in we have to do something differently than we’ve been doing.

If you’re feeling stuck it’s time to reach out and ask for help. Don’t continue down that unending drain to nothingness, start fighting your way back to the surface. Decide that each and every day you will do something to make a difference for someone, and something that will make a difference in your life. Are you ready to be free?

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”  Christopher Reeve

I Believe in Success

What you believe about yourself is one of the greatest indications of how successful you can be.  If you believe you can be successful you’ll have the motivation, the focus, the drive and the willingness to do what it will take to accomplish your goals.  If you don’t believe you have the abilities, the confidence, the means or are worth being successful you won’t get there.   Success means different things to each of us, some of us will find success in a monetary value, others in a family one, and others in making a difference in the world, so the definition of success isn’t what we’ll talk about today, but that I believe you have the ability to be successful, we all do.

Every day I see things in the news that are an unbelievable waste of time, from random crimes and large scale unprovoked violence, to physical abuse and cyber bullying.  They’re a waste of time because if life is all about the result that you achieve, the success you achieve, the success you achieve from any of these actions isn’t going to get you more than a passing rush and won’t make the world a better place for future generations.   I believe that everyone has something of value they can contribute to the daily workings of the world or to the future world.  It’s their choice, it’s your choice, what kind of future is created.

I believe in you.  I believe that you have abilities that are needed in the world, whether that’s in raising the next president, discovering a medical breakthrough, creating a business that gives people jobs, or just making someone else smile.  We won’t all believe the same thing or agree on everything, that’s the beauty of each of us being different.  The one thing we should all agree on is that we each have value and the potential to make an amazing difference in the world.  It’s unfortunate that there are so many people around the world who refuse to see or tap into that belief.  Take time this weekend to check your beliefs.  Are your beliefs holding back your success?

“We are what we believe we are.” CS Lewis

I Believe in Love

With this new month we’ve got 4 new weeks of 7 days each to learn and, as this month’s theme indicates, to love! This month we’ll be talking about two very important love topics: loving others and loving yourself. I believe that one is essential to the development and health of the other; if you can’t love others you will struggle with loving yourself and if you can’t love yourself you’ll struggle with loving others.

Monday we started off the month talking about discouragement. If you haven’t experienced discouragement in your life up to this point you’re either living in another world, not in touch with reality or have 50 First Dates type amnesia. So I’ll assume that you’ve experienced discouragement, just like I have, at some point in time or another during your life.

What we seem to forget when we get wrapped up in disappointments and failed love stories is that we’re in complete control over what we do with our future. We can continue to dwell on the bad stuff, or we can learn to not make those mistakes again.  Or we can think about what we would rather do in the future.

A future that we’re in control of, a life that we enjoy, a romance for the ages really starts with one thing: belief in yourself. If you don’t believe that you’re capable of loving, capable of creating an amazing future for yourself, capable of making a difference in the world, you’ll probably live the mediocre life that too many around the world do.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired of mediocrity. Will you join me this month in learning to live and love with all that we are?

“I am the captain of my ship and master of my fate. I believe in myself. I believe in the hands that work, in the brains that think, and in the hearts that love.” Richard Branson

The Emotion of Health

One of the things that surprises me in life is how much hurt and suffering we unleash on ourselves. It sounds crazy, and it really is, but there are lots of us who are suckers for punishment. We choose to be miserable, choose to be unhappy and do nothing about it. There has been a lot of talk and research over the past couple of decades about exactly how we get sick or where diseases come from. There are some really obvious answers to that question like the child with developmental disabilities whose mother smoked crack while pregnant or the viruses and bacteria we can see under a microscope slide as causes of illnesses. We know a lot about what goes on in our bodies when we get sick or have a disease, but the actual cause is something that has been under more study of late.

The question that has been raised over and over is: can something like anger, hatred, stress, depression, fear or sadness cause these illnesses and diseases? Lots of people have come to the conclusion that they can. There’s also really good evidence that much of the reason we’re sick or overweight has to do with the foods we eat, but that’s a discussion for another time. Today I want to focus on the possibility that what you’re feeling is causing the illnesses and diseases you face. Like the mom who gets cancer after her son dies because she struggles so with her grief, or the executive who develops ulcers because he’s so stressed about his job. In these cases it’s an illness or disease indicating that something is wrong: and it’s not necessarily a biological thing, it’s an emotional thing.

When we choose to bottle up all the negativity and stress within us we’re like a well shaken can of soda: when opened immediately after shaking it explodes everywhere (and sometimes before opening if the pressure is too much). Why we don’t think that the pressure inside our minds and bodies has an equal impact on us, I don’t know. But how many times have you been really angry about something and going over and over it only to realize that the more you think about it the worse you feel physically or emotionally, maybe even sick to your stomach over the situation?

The fact is emotion isn’t just a bunch of words or an intangible feeling: it’s something that has very physical implications. Unfortunately if we really let the negative emotions take hold in our life we can become so wrapped up in them that we start to ignore the physical indications that the negative thoughts are hurting us and just try to keep going. Sooner or later it will catch up with us, whether with premature death or other long-term consequences. Choose today to not let negative emotions rule your life anymore, release them, forgive yourself for holding onto them and move on.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” Mark Twain