Reality Reflection: At An End

This week I got the news that a family friend is getting very close to the end of his journey.  He’s had medical problems for years and things have worsened and now he and his wife are working with hospice.  The man has always had a great sense of humor, is good to his friends, loves his wife, and has really endured through serious medical issues in a positive way that you don’t often see.  He’s not perfect, none of us are, and I’m sure that he’s had his moments of anger and frustration, as well as fear and sadness, especially at this point in time.

It’s not easy to know the end is very close, whether it’s your life or that of someone you know well, especially when they’re one of those ‘good people.’  No, it’s not good to wish anyone were dead or think it’s better to lose someone who has some not so great habits (everyone has a family and a mother), but when the world loses a bright soul it seems like it’s felt even more.  What would you do if you knew that your end was near?  I would hope that you would take advantage of every moment you have with those you love, and maybe even do a splurge or two that you’ve always wanted, like take a special trip with your partner or kids, maybe even take the opportunity to try and mend a few fences.

As I was reflecting on the impending loss of this friend it got me thinking about the other side of death and loss, the side of the living.   We don’t go anywhere when someone we know or love dies, we’re still here.  And often we end up at a funeral or life celebration talking about them with other friends and family.  It’s not often that we’ve got the opportunity to let someone know what they meant to us and how thankful we are that they’ve been in our life before they pass.  It adds something to the grieving process for both sides, to be able to share that with them and support and love them, and it can make their last days very meaningful and happy, instead of painful and sad.

Loss is never easy, especially when it’s someone we’ve known for a very long time, and known on a very personal level.  But the way things work right now, everything comes to an end.  So I do encourage you to take a little time to reflect on how you want your end to go and make sure that you’ve got things clearly written down, but more so I encourage you to make as many memories as you can, to love as big as you can and to enjoy as much of life as you can.

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.

Strength for Patience

Last month we spent some time talking about the topic of faith.  It’s a topic that calls us to suspend doubt and have a little trust in stuff that not everyone will agree with or believe in or understand.  Sometimes we’re better at having faith than other times.  The good news is that we can always work on growing our faith and developing it. It’s kind of like a muscle in that way.  This month the topic we’ll be talking about is patience.  Today the aspect of patience I want to talk about is having strength.

If there’s one thing that patience calls for it’s having strength.  You have to be strong to wait until the time is right and your patience can be rewarded.  You have to be strong to keep moving along even if you’re not seeing the results you were hoping for, especially if you know that God is leading or calling you in that direction.  You have to be strong to just take things step by step and not leap immediately to the finish line because it won’t accomplish the full victory.  True patience isn’t for the weak.

The good news is that God not only provides the guidance for our lives, He also can provide the strength to be patient and work through things as He calls us to them.  If you really want to live a life of faith and fulfill the calling God has for you, it’s necessary to be patient and continue on the journey that God has put before you.  If you find your patience is being tested this week I encourage you to ask God for the strength to keep going and not just endure but thrive.

“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Reality Reflection: The Setting Sun

This week I’ve been thinking about changes and happened to see a beautiful setting sun.  We all have seasons where the sun sets on parts of our lives.  Sometimes it’s the death of a family member or close friend, sometimes it’s a job or career change, sometimes it’s a new place to live and other times it’s smaller like the end of a brand or product we loved.  The transition time isn’t something we do well with or enjoy all the time.  Endings and partings aren’t things we always enjoy either, and they can be difficult and painful, and sometimes confusing especially if you weren’t expecting it.

Some of us get stuck in the change and transition process, others of us can’t let go of the past, and some of us are so busy moving forward that we don’t grieve and let go of the past.  I think in most cases it’s important to take time to remember the past, work through the transition and move forward.  I don’t think we should skip any of these steps, whether our past was bad or good.  Learning from a bad past is helpful, but it’s also important to take time to cement the memories of the good things you have had or experienced.  Yes, life is about moving forward and living to the fullest, but part of that fullness is the past that has brought you to this point.

This weekend, this summer, I encourage you to take time to enjoy the setting sun as well as the rising sun.  With the late summer nights and early summer mornings there are lots of opportunities to see the sun and remember it as part of your life.  I remember lots of trips as a child where we would watch the rising or setting sun while driving and a few thunderstorms too.  Those are treasured memories from my childhood and I am thankful for them.  Choose to find the beauty in the endings in your life this summer, not just the joy in the future or relief of leaving the past.

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.

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.

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