Listening for Encouragement

Psalm 23 is one of the most recognizable Bible passages. Many people hear it in church, but it’s also often shared at funerals or with those who are going through a challenging time in their lives. In some ways it reminds me of the Serenity Prayer which is used by countless self-help programs and groups. One of the things I love about Psalm 23 is that it brings us through the journey of our lives in just 6 short verses, talking about both high points and low points that we go through.

As I was thinking about this chapter and about our topic of the month I was reminded that sometimes what we need is to hear something as simple as Psalm 23 to find the peace, hope, encouragement, strength and perseverance to make it through another day. It’s not about having all the answers, having tons of money, having lots of friends, being well-known, or not having any issues or challenge or problems in life. That’s not the story of Faith or the Bible, despite what some people may say.

Throughout the Bible we’re reminded that there will be challenges we face and there is no guarantee of a great life on earth. However, we are assured if we’re people of faith that God will go with us through all challenges we face and that we’ve got the hope of heaven to look forward to because Jesus died for our sins and rose again. Earth is a chance for us to learn from the challenges we face, to
explore our individuality, to develop the gifts God has given each of us, to encourage each other, and to pave a better way for the next generation. Perfection isn’t expected or the goal on earth, instead it’s to live a life worthy of the God you believe in.

If you’re going through a challenging time in your life, I encourage you to print out copies of Psalm 23 and maybe even the Serenity Prayer to post in locations around your home, workplace, and car and anywhere else you go frequently. Don’t give up because it seems like the darkness is lasting for so long or the mountain seems too high. Rely on God to bring you through, and don’t forget to ask for help if you need it. After all, Jesus didn’t do His years of ministry on earth alone, He had men who worked closely with Him and women that He taught and trusted too.

Reality Reflection: A Little Communication

I was at a funeral service yesterday and it got me thinking about what my understanding of “traditional songs” are versus what other religious practices have as “traditional songs” and how my traditional songs aren’t necessarily theirs. There’s nothing wrong with each religious group or culture having their own traditions and songs, in fact it’s important because it makes them who they are. It’s also what makes people feel at home when they connect with these groups and even can be the reason they join these groups.

The challenge comes in when you’ve got people from other groups interacting with your group. In this internet accessible world it’s very easy to create a resource that visitors can tap into to be prepared for these things. To be completely honest I did do an online search to see what the typical practice was for this type of religious funeral service so that I was somewhat prepared. Had there been a helpful link to a blog post or other form of information on the funeral home’s page for the person who passed that would have been even better because in a matter of seconds I could have found out exactly what I needed to know about the specific plans for his funeral and what I should expect (and then I would worry a whole lot less about whether or not I was doing the right thing at the right time).

But this is about a much bigger conversation. There are so many ways to remove the isolation in many parts of our daily lives or at least limit it that we’re not tapping into. You hear all the time about buzz words or industry-specific terms that people don’t understand because it’s too technical or they’re new to the industry or business, or confusion over typical processes and procedures. It costs very little to put up a page on your website with all these items explained clearly. Then you’ve helped visitors feel a little more comfortable with you and you’ve established that you are someone to be trusted and that you’re willing to work with people to help them get up to speed and will do your best not to overwhelm them.

The same is true for our lives. If we took a few seconds to send out a text or call or email or write a note and communicate the details to those who need to know, we’d avoid so many fights and frustrations and our relationships would be healthier too. It’s important to set up a central communication point or method as a family so that everyone is aware of where notes would be or how best to get in touch with  whomever needs to be reached.

It’s amazing what a few seconds of research or considerate communication can do for someone. What will communication do for you this week?

Listen and Learn Together

Something I often say is that I don’t need to be everything to everyone. I have no problem admitting I don’t know everything about a particular topic, like spirituality, relationships or business. I can’t say I have a real interest to know everything either. However, that doesn’t mean I’m happy to be done learning or that I’m not willing to learn any more, because both of those would be big lies. I’m always interested in learning something new. I subscribe to dozens of daily newsletters on a variety of topics so that I can keep learning.

I’m curious, I like to watch TV and see how people do things, how they think, and even how crazy they are sometimes. I like to sit in a busy location and watch people go by. I like to read books and watch/listen to educational programs and so that I can be exposed to different ideas, new strategies, new ways of thinking and even things that will keep my imagination and curiosity alive.

So I’ll never give up learning and am always open to seeing things from a different perspective, trying things a different way or listening to what others have to say. But I’m not learning with the intention to be the absolutely exhaustive fount of knowledge on each and every topic. I don’t feel the need to know everything first because it’s probably not possible as we’re always learning new things and discovering new ways of exploring and analyzing. Second, there are billions of people in the world who also have great knowledge and when we bring our knowledge together not only do we combine what we know, we make the world a better place by choosing to work together.

The more you know the more connections you can make, more possibilities that will open to you and more ways you can make a difference. What will you learn today?

Reality Reflection: Where I Belong

This past weekend I’ve been reflecting on the upcoming celebration of Independence Day here in the USA and thinking about all that it means to us even so many years later. One of the things I’ve been reflecting on are the men who signed the Declaration and the women (and kids) who were part of the country as it was being established. These people chose to come to the US because they wanted freedom from Britain’s rule and wanted to be their own people and have more say in what they could and couldn’t do. The stories we hear about are pretty clear that it was very difficult in those first years, and many people died sooner than they would have if they stayed in Britain. But they believed in what they were doing and the future that they were creating.

The accounts of those early years tell us that everyone had to work really hard to build a life here. They didn’t go into a new country like we do today, knowing that it’s almost guaranteed to have available housing and essentials like food and water, they had to start completely from scratch. So by the time they got to the Declaration of Independence each and every piece of the country they built had been built by their hand, with the help of the Native Americans and others who had joined over the years. I can’t imagine how proud they all were of the country they had built and the fact that they were really ready to take some pretty significant steps away from Britain. They had built a place that gave them the freedoms they were looking for, a place to be the people they wanted to be.

We don’t have to do anything nearly as significant as start a new country to experience pride and find a place to belong to in this day and age. There are countless opportunities and ways to make a difference in our world including starting a business or charity, having a family, donating time to the community, being part of a church group, donating to a charity, or starting or joining a group on social media. The important thing is that you find a place, and people, that you fit well with, feel comfortable with, that will support you and that will encourage you to grow. You just might find that in belonging to something and being an integral part of the lives of others you find the freedom and fulfillment you’ve been looking for.

Reality Reflection: I Need, You Need, We All Need

This month we’ve been talking about relationships and something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the topic of needs. We all have needs, some of us meet them pretty well while others aren’t as good at realizing, communicating, or acting on those needs. My partner recently said that he wished he could do more to meet my needs and I said that he does meet my needs, I just may not need him in the same way he’s been needed in past relationships. It’s an important fact to remember because while we all have the same basic needs (food, shelter, love), how we meet those needs and the levels of those needs are different for all of us, not to mention the other needs (and passions and interests) we have individually.

But going back to the topic of relationships, when you choose to enter a relationship you go in with the intention of bringing something to that relationship and hoping to get something out as well. So while the word “need” doesn’t have to be the one that’s applied here, because you may already have food, shelter and love, there’s still something missing in your life that you think you can gain by entering into that relationship.

I don’t think ‘needs’ is a dirty word, unless you’re content to have serious needs and not do something about them (dumping them on someone else isn’t “doing something about them”).  It’s perfectly normal to have them, and also perfectly normal to ask for help with them. I’m not a believer in knowing and being everything to everyone. I don’t have to be able to fix a pipe or rewire a house or fix a broken bone, there are other people who are very good at those things and actually enjoy them.

I think it’s time we stop seeing our needs as an embarrassment or something we should hide. I think it’s time we step up and ask for the help we need, ask for the direction we need and ask for the support we need, and above all do something about the needs we have. Yes, sometimes you’ll have others turn you down, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how many people are willing to step up for you, especially if they know you’ll step up for them in their time of need.

Together in Love

With Valentine’s Day just a few days away many people are thinking about love in the US.  But love and relationships aren’t exclusive to the US, they’re present around the world. As I was reading through my emails today and thinking about my partner a few rooms over from me I was reminded about one of the things that often challenge us in a relationship: unity.  That’s kind of a big part of a relationship, that on multiple levels you and your partner are a good match.  Even if you’re together for “political reasons” (not something that happens as often today), there are still things that bring you two together and you can agree on or talk about comfortably without the conversation feeling one sided.

The other part of unity is the feeling of being completed you have about/with/because of your partner.  I don’t believe we are supposed to be alone, I believe we should be going through life together, and that everyone should be able to find the person that makes them feel like a better and more complete person. Not every couple experiences that “click” where you meet someone and it just feels right.   Sometimes getting to the point of feeling that connection takes time and effort even if your intention originally was just to build a friendship.   No, it doesn’t have to be for forever, but for however long you are together you should feel that connection with that other person, and work together to keep that feeling alive.

Unity is all about who you two are together, whether with family, your kids, at work or out with friends.  It’s also what others see in and of you and how you interact with the world as a couple.  Constantly berating your partner or telling (negative) stories about them in public doesn’t make you look unified, it hurts the relationship and may even hurt your relationship with others.   Valentine’s Day does have a way of bringing people together, which is one of the reasons I love it.  But this year instead of just taking time out during one day to be together, I encourage you to work on building your unity and connection throughout the year.

We the United Nations

Yesterday was United Nations Day. Today I want to share a few verses from the Bible about the nations and a short reflection on what it means to be part of the united nations.

Psalm 67:3: “May the nations praise you O God. Yes may all the nations praise you.”

Deuteronomy 7:7:  “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples..”

1 Chronicles 16:31: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!””

Psalm 9:8: “He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness.”

Psalm 9:20: “Make them tremble in fear, O Lord.  Let the nations know they are merely human.”

Each and every nation has their own people, culture and history.  No nation is exactly the same as any other, and even the nations who are similar have differences.  Those differences are one of the reasons why it’s so important to have an organization like the United Nations, so that we can all come together in a safe environment and support each other.  Because what may be seen as differences could be the solutions or insights that other nations are in need of and could benefit from.  The United Nations should also be a safe place for us to talk about our challenges and and concerns that we have with other parts of the world.  The United Nations is also a reminder that we all share this same planet and should be considerate of what we’re doing and how it could be affecting the future of our world.

The verses above also remind that all nations should give honor to God and that God is aware of all nations from the largest to the smallest.  God doesn’t care about size or military might, but cares for all nations. We should remember that we’re visitors on this planet that He has created and that if we want to keep living here we should do better with working together to care for it.