Songs of the Season: Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Today I want to talk about one of my partner’s favorite Christmas characters and the story shared through the song Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The song tells the story of a reindeer with a red nose who was teased for having one because all the other reindeer had regular dark colored noses, how fog created a dangerous flying situation for Santa on Christmas Eve, causing Santa to ask Rudolph to lead the way so they could see and deliver all the presents to kids for Christmas, and being a true leader Rudolph stepped up and led the way and saved Christmas.

One of the biggest reasons people love the song is because it’s about victories for the underdog, for the weird ones, for those who are different.  I don’t know too many people who haven’t been bullied at some point in their life or felt different and like they couldn’t compare to others.  Sometimes our harshest critic is ourselves, but often that rejection or questioning starts with what someone else says or does.  It’s sometimes hard to accept what’s different about you as something good, but as Rudolph showed, it’s being different that can make the biggest impact or be exactly what’s right in a situation.

It’s also a song about teamwork. Most of us have worked with a team in our years in school or work that has been less than awesome or supportive. It wasn’t an easy experience and you may have been downright excited to be done and not work with that group going forward. I can’t imagine Rudolph was excited to work Christmas Eve with the other reindeer, at least not until they showed him that they were accepting of him being part of the team, that he was a valuable asset for the team, and that he was welcome with his red nose. Rudolph had to have the courage to be open to accepting their change of heart and trying to work with those who he hadn’t gotten along with, or his hurt could have ruined Christmas for all those children.

This Christmas I encourage you to embrace what’s unique and special about you. After all, that’s what the Christmas stories are about: both Santa and Jesus bring something to the table that the rest of us can’t and don’t. And if you’ve got a relationship that needs some work, I encourage you to step up and try to make your part in it right so that you can hopefully move forward better together. Life is too short to let our differences keep us apart or for us to let things that should be fixable to cause permanent division. Choose to celebrate together this holiday season and work together to make victories happen for those you love.

Reality Reflection: Death and Funerals

The past couple of days with Halloween, All Saint’s Day and Day of the Dead all happening and Veteran’s Day in a little over a week, we’ve been thinking and talking a lot about the topic of death. As I was out driving the other day I stopped for a red light and was met by a sight that we see on occasion and always makes me emotional, and that’s a funeral procession. This one had quite a few cops as escorts or participants, and it got me thinking once again about death and specifically about why we do things like funerals and funeral processions and graveside services.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t enjoy going to funerals or graveside services. I don’t really see a point in viewing someone in their death state or watching them be put in the ground. Do we need to see proof that they’re no longer with us? I don’t say that to sound callus or insensitive, I guess I’m just more personal and would rather say goodbye in a different way. That said I think it’s great when and important for family and friends come together to celebrate and remember someone, I’ve just always struggled with the aspect of including the person who has passed on as part of this event.

But seeing this procession the other day got me thinking about it again and for the first time I felt a bit of pride that people were stopping their day to put someone to their final earthly rest. I also had the thought that doing these activities (funerals etc.) is a sign of respect and love for the person who passed on, and a sign that they won’t be forgotten. So maybe there is some value in doing traditional funeral activities, it’s certainly something I’m going to think about the next time attending a funeral is potentially in my future.

Time to Save Time

This week we’re a little more sensitive about the topic of time because Daylight Savings time happened on Sunday, which means we lost an hour. I enjoy the extended daylight we’ve got now but as for everything else, I’m not a fan. It’s just confusing and extra work and even though we don’t have to as much work as we used to because most of our devices update themselves, it doesn’t mean our bodies are able to make the adjustment as easily.

Whether or not you care about the time change or if we’ll ever be able to get rid of it or not, time is a topic that’s often on our minds. So today I thought I’d share a few tips on managing your time and making the most of the time you do have.

Schedules: I love freedom as much as the next person, and as important as it is to be flexible, having a schedule can really help keep you on track and help you get stuff done. This is especially true when it comes to social media and email checking. For email, it’s rare that whatever message comes through is important enough to need to be dealt with immediately, more likely it’s something that can wait until your next scheduled check in. As far as social media, it’s impossible to keep up with everything that is shared or going on even if you were on social all day every day, there’s just too much happening, so it doesn’t make sense to push yourself into over checking.

Learn to say no: I get it, we don’t really like the guilt trip we sometimes get when we say no to someone or something, and sometimes we feel that we can’t say no. But when you don’t say no it may mean that you don’t really respect yourself and your time, you don’t really understand how long things take (or care), you don’t always commit to giving your best effort to each activity or person, or you feel you have to be in charge of everything. Saying no means you respect your time, other’s time, and are committed to giving your best to yourself and your family.

Purge: I like my stuff and my information as much as the next person, but there’s something satisfying about being able to get rid of something you don’t need or use anymore or doesn’t work. The same holds true for the emails we’re subscribed to and all other subscriptions we have (audio, music, TV, movies, boxes etc.). There’s no reason to pay for something or get updates about something if you’re really not using it and aren’t going to be in the future, and if you need it in the future you can always resubscribe.

Time is one of the most limited resources we each have, I encourage you to treat your time with respect and make the decisions that will help you get the most out of it.

Still Here Living

Everyone struggles at some point in time in their lives. Every people group experiences struggles, whether with religious or cultural persecution, judgments based on actions that some don’t agree with, or judgments based on their beliefs, skin color, sex or who their parents are, just to name a few. One of the groups that has been given a gift even through their struggles is the African American community. Each year schools and communities take time during the month of February to talk about Black History Month and profile some of the African American men and women who have done some amazing things throughout history, both past and more recent. Yes, you could be frustrated that we feel the need to recognize African Americans and especially highlight the challenges they’ve faced, but there’s another way to look at it, and that’s to see the honor that’s being bestowed.

In past years I’ve highlighted some of the African American men and women who have lived and died, and shared some of their wisdom with you. I don’t think the color of skin has an impact on how smart someone is, what they’re capable of doing or the impact they can have on our future. As I mentioned already there are countless reasons why people are persecuted or judged, and many are absolutely inconsequential to how amazing they are. In fact, some of the people who have struggled greatly are those that we remember most and can directly connect some amazing innovations and discoveries to them. There are many people who could have chosen to give up or not try to share their gift with the world, but they chose to persevere through.

This month I would encourage you to not only celebrate the African American community’s contributions to making the world we live in a better, richer, more diverse place, but also to recognize that there’s more to life than the struggle, that it’s worth pushing through the struggle to what is beyond. Life is worth living, it’s up to you what you make of life though.

“…So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve died for love—
But for livin’ I was born…”

Langston Hughes

Hope and New Beginnings

We’re just days away from the year, some of us have already packed in this year and are eagerly trying to urge the days to move quicker and get out of 2018. I’ve got a couple more blog posts in store between all my blogs before the end of the year with some reflection, anticipation and hopefully words of wisdom before we get there.

In Philippians 2:4 it says: “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” In 2018 (and 2019) I don’t think it’s possible or right to not consider yourself and your own importance, but I don’t think that it’s right to only focus on yourself and never on how your life impacts or could impact others. Everyone, from the biggest leaders to youngest children should consider the impact they can have on the world, and on the feelings, hearts and minds of others.

Today I read an article about the Queen’s annual Christmas message, she spoke about the Biblical Christmas story: “I believe his message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone; it’s needed as much as ever.” and about how to navigate this world of uncertainty, change and differences of opinion: “Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human being is always a good first step towards greater understanding…”

We could try and conquer world hunger in 2019, and honestly I think solving world hunger would be fairly simple to do if a few people would put their minds to it and more people stepped up to the plate to follow through on their directive. As impressive as it would be to do that, there’s something that I think is more important and as as big or bigger of an impact, and that’s doing our best to be at peace with and have respect towards each other.

It’s easy to make a snap judgment about someone, but it takes a little more care, compassion and heart to stop for all of a moment and really see them and really listen to them. It’s my hope that 2019 is a year of beginnings of respect and goodwill to all mankind.

Building Relationships with Respect

With yesterday being Mother’s Day here in the US, I’ve been reflecting on families and relationships. Every day in the news there are stories of relationships gone wrong, of people letting others down, of people hurting other people and ways that people are destroying our world. But at the same time you can’t ignore the fact that some of those people are bad people. They’re not people you want in your life or around your kids, and they can’t be “fixed” unless there’s an Act of God. But fortunately, there aren’t as many of those people as the news makes it out to be. Most of us just have issues, quirks and traits that may or may not mesh with the people around us.

I do believe that we can learn to get along with just about everyone, whether it’s having a civil conversation or actually developing a friendship with them. But that does take a lot of work, typically from both parties. For some reason some people choose to hold grudges or make snap judgments about some people, and aren’t open in the future to changing those opinions, despite how they or the other person may have changed over the years. And no matter how kind or polite you may be to them, they’re just nasty. I’m not suggesting that you need to be best friends with everyone, but I don’t think we need to have the poor interactions and relationships many people have.

Does it take superhuman effort in some cases to get to that point? Yes, but that’s part of what God can help you with. Yes, the Bible talks about loving everyone, but for some of us loving is a big stretch. So let’s start with two things that are a lot simpler: treating others as you want to be treated and respecting others. God made them just like He made you and I, and I haven’t known God to make anything that was wrong or without purpose. So if for no other reason, choose to respect and treat them based on how you want to be treated, because God loves them. Not all moms are perfect examples, but many moms can run circles around us when it comes to loving and accepting their kids in a way that we struggle to accept and understand others.

This week I encourage you to think about your attitude and how you treat and interact with others, and spend time in prayer with God asking for His strength and guidance in how you can build more relationships and have more interactions that will honor Him.

“Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:17

Are You Memorable?

Most of us spend a good portion of our days with other people, whether we’re talking with them thanks to technology or interacting with them in a more physical way like driving the same road, shopping in the same store, working in an office or living in the same house together. It’s both a blessing and a challenge that we’re so connected and have so many people in our lives. Some of the people that you’ll spend time with you may never really know or ever see again after that one interaction, while other people you’ll see again and again throughout your life journey. Most of us meet so many people that we don’t fully remember them, what they said, who they were, their name or where we know them from when we first met them, but if we meet up with them again we may remember them for two reasons: how they acted and how they made us feel.

Some people are just memorable people. Maybe it’s because of how they dress or the accent they have or the funny/tragic/bizarre story of how you two met. Sometimes many years later we’ll still tell the story of meeting that person and what went on even if we don’t ever see them again or know their name. But for most of us the people who seem memorable in the moment quickly become a memory. We move on and meet other memorable people, people who do add to our life journey, experience and lesson in their own way, even if we don’t really remember them.

The people we remember in crystal clarity even decades later are those who made us feel stand-out special or like dirt. Maybe it’s the school teacher who showed such love, grace and compassion on all the students in your class, and you knew that you’d always see a welcome smile on their face and cheery welcome, even if the rest of your life wasn’t great. Maybe it’s the boss who consistently talks down to you, has a nasty attitude towards you and doesn’t accept your ideas even when they asked for suggestions. Both of these situations are such that you have repeated interactions with the person and really get a good idea of who they are, not just the snapshot you get when you meet someone once. But sometimes you will only meet someone once and it’s a lifetime experience, like meeting the CEO of the really big company you work for and they make you feel like you’re not just one of thousands, but that you personally make a valuable contribution to the company.  Or you meet the person who’s been your hero from afar (sports stars, celebrities, leaders etc.) only to be completely dismissed by them.

How do you treat people? How do they feel after interacting with you? What will they remember you for? I know I would rather bring a little sunshine to someone than ruin their day, what about you?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou