Take A Stand

As we look ahead to July 4th and the celebration of Independence Day here in the USA, I want to talk a little about this special day and one of our topics for this month, taking a stand. In case you’re confused or forget your holidays, July 4th celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared the US as separate from Great Britain. This wasn’t a decision like saying they’re not going to celebrate the same holidays or worship at the same type of religious center, they choose to make a really big difference in the direction that the lives of all who call the US home took and still take. The signers of the Declaration of Independence chose to take a stand in a really big way, a way that changed the future for the US and the world forever.

Are you taking the stand you really need to in your life? I’m not necessarily talking about attending big ‘save the world’ rallies or even making the big commitments that the signers took some 200+ years ago. I’m talking about standing up to the people who say not so nice things about you, or standing up to bullying and peer pressure, or learning how to say ‘no’ or find better solutions to all that you’re asked of at work that’s really outside of your job description, or getting out of the relationships that aren’t helping you grow or don’t support you.

I’m talking about choosing to make commitments that are in your best interests, being in relationships that will support you and those you care about, getting involved in the causes and organizations that speak to you personally, and taking a stand for the things that you believe are right and add value to the world. I’m talking about seriously looking out for yourself and your future as well as the life, health and happiness of those you care about most, like your partner, children or grandchildren. The signers all those years ago believed that not only did something have to change in their lives, but there had to be a clear statement made about exactly what that change meant and establish a clear separation between themselves and their past.

This week as we head into Independence Day and the next 2 months of summer, I encourage you to really think about the choices you’re making in your life and if you’re taking the stand for your life and future that you need to. I know I’m looking forward to being more proactive about that stand, will you join me?

Reality Reflection: Everything to Everyone

I’m a fan of saying no to people, you know why? Because you don’t have to be everything to everyone. Not only is is about being honest to who you are and not putting yourself in positions that you’re completely unqualified for or incapable of doing, but because every time you take on something that you’re only slightly capable of (or not at all), you take away an opportunity from someone else who is qualified. If we really want this world to be all it can be, I think we have to be willing to share a little of the control with others, have to be willing to let them do their thing, and not get in the way when they take charge.

Yes, there are time when you’ll go a little outside your preferred box to help a friend or to try something new, and that’s a good thing. We should be trying new things to keep our minds engaged and learning. But we have our safe zones for a reason. The good news is that my safe zone isn’t the same zone as yours. You’ve got talents I don’t have and don’t have any inclination for developing. I believe there are plenty of opportunities for us within the things that interest and drive us that we should never have to take work, resources or life away from someone else.

But that does mean that we all have to step up in that which we are gifted in, and a whole lot less slacking, hiding or letting someone else’s sub-par job suffice. You need to take responsibility for what you can do in this world with your unique talents. Be proud of who you are and what you can do. That doesn’t mean you have to start a business or blog, it may just mean finding a company to work with and bring your unique talents to (one that fits better than your current one), or donating your time on weekends or vacations.

This week I encourage you to give others the chance to do what they do best, and choose to do what you do best. Who knows, you may not cure cancer today, but you certainly may bring a smile to someone’s face or relief to their life in some other way.

Daily Victories

We celebrated the official day of Easter a little over a month ago, but people of the Christian faith are always celebrating Easter because it signifies the hope that we have for life today, tomorrow and forever. Easter gives us the motivation to keep going even when we’re faced with the challenges of life. In some ways just the action of Jesus coming back to life is enough to bring us hope, but He went beyond that and gave us the opportunity for eternal life, because Easter was more than just Jesus rising from the dead, it was Jesus overcoming the grave and the death that could be the end for each of us, if not for His sacrifice.

The two fold challenge is that while we have the ability to live our lives in victory every day we are faced with all the stuff going on in the world. First, it’s hard to always be upbeat and see the victories of life when life is going down the tubes, and second, it’s really not right to be the happy-go-lucky person when there’s a big tragedy going on. God understands the need to take time to cry and mourn, there’s nothing wrong with dealing with those emotions in this world, as long as the sin remains in our world.   While there’s a tragedy in someone’s life somewhere in the world every day, I would hope that the good days far out-count the bad ones in your life.  And even in some of those not-so-great situations you still can choose to have a positive attitude, it may be what helps you retain your sanity through the challenges.

But when you’re not experiencing a tragedy, and the world that you live in isn’t being affected by one at the moment either, there are lots of opportunities for victories.  Victories can be found in big and small opportunities, from finding a bedspread you and your partner both like, to finding the perfect parking spot, to your home cooked meal turning out great, to the kids doing their homework without complaint, to completing the assigned task at work on time.  Those may seem like little things, but they’re the kind of thing that we run into on a daily basis in our lives, victories aren’t just about the big things in our lives like Easter.  Jesus performed many miracles before Easter that were pretty awesome to those people. so why should your ordinary victories be any less victorious than the big ones?

I encourage you to find at least one victory each day to celebrate.  If you can’t find one good thing that happened in your day, one thing to celebrate, one thing that amazed you, or one person you’re thankful for, we need to have a serious talk about your attitude and what’s going on in your life.  What victory will you encounter today?

“Wherever in your life is victory; there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is joy, there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is wonder, there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is resurrection, there is Christ calling you to follow him out of death into his larger and more glorious life.” Br. James Koester

Victories for Mom

This Sunday in the US is Mother’s Day! It’s a great opportunity to celebrate the moms who brought us into the world, or who made our lives special or who taught us something, or just loved us for who we are. There are birth moms, adopted moms, and spiritual moms, the woman or women you call mom don’t just have to be the one woman that you share DNA with. If you’re a mom, you’ve got lots of challenges to deal with in your own life like all of us do, but you’ve also got the challenges that your kids go through added to your plate. So today I’ve got a few thoughts about how you can achieve more victories as a mom.

1-take time for yourself. It sounds simple and yet I know many moms say that they just can’t put themselves first all the time. I get that. But I would counter and say that at least once every day you should put yourself first. Maybe that means hiring someone to come for 1 hour a day to be with the kid(s). Maybe that means really scheduling things with your partner so you each get some alone time while still caring for the kid(s). Or maybe it means putting your foot down and saying that you’re picking the next game or TV show (within reason) or quiet activity instead of doing/watching the current favorite (read: obsession) for the thousandth time. But do try to have some alone time and make sure you’re taking care of your health and happiness

2-use the power of options. Every parent deals with kids who just don’t want to listen or don’t like something.  It’s not a bad thing, we all like different things, but it can be tough to encourage variety when they only have a preference for one thing.  One of the ways you can work through this is to offer them 2-3 options and have them pick which one of the options they choose. This gives them the power to make their own decision (and not hate you so much for forcing them into something), as well as gives you the power to narrow down their options into those that you’re OK with.

3-accept that no one is perfect. We all mess up and we all need days off and I don’t expect anyone to be able to be and do everything (and neither should you). These are just a few of the reasons why I think it’s healthy to follow the old advice/practice of having a village raise a child. There’s no reason that you should be doing it on your own, and I believe kids are healthier and more well rounded with their education and life experience if you welcome people you trust into your lives.

If there’s one “trick” to being a good parent I’d say it’s love. I don’t believe there are any perfect parents, but with a little love, attention and effort any Mom can get a superstar award and deserve a really great Mother’s Day gift.  How can you show the mom(s) in your life a little love this Mother’s Day?

A Love for Justice?

This month the topic we’ll be talking about a lot is the topic of love.  It may not be February, but with Passover, Good Friday and Easter this month, I think there are plenty of reasons to talk about the topic of love from a spiritual perspective.  And you just have to turn on the TV to a news station for a few minutes and see reasons why it’s always a good idea to talk about love from a life perspective. As I was looking for a verse to write about today I came across one that isn’t really what you think of when you think of love.  Psalm 37:28 reads:

“The Lord loves justice, and he won’t ever desert his faithful people. He always protects them, but destroys the children of the wicked.”

In truth most of us do love justice.  We love when the good guys win and the bad guys lose and go to jail (or worse).  It’s why fairy tales are so loved and shared, and what countless TV shows and episodes and written stories each year are based on.  Then there are the stories of people who overcome the challenges in their past, having left the past and those situations.  In those stories we’re not reflecting on the past or getting justice for the past, but celebrating the life that this person has chosen to make regardless of the past.  In some ways I think that’s justice too because there’s always a portion of “right” involved in justice.

As long as there’s evil in the world I think it’s important that we do love justice.  We should want good to prevail, victories to be achieved and happiness to flourish.  I think the biggest struggle we have is the violence that’s often attached to justice.  Sometimes justice is violent, there were many examples throughout the Bible of God’s justice being violent.  I think one of the best ways we can look at justice is not from the point of how ‘justice was served’ or the loss the bad guys experienced, but rather to celebrate the new potential that is now unleashed for the future.  I have a feeling that the tales of conquering heroes will continue, but rather than go over again how the victory was achieved, I’m going to encourage that we focus more on the happily ever after and start a new chapter to the story.

Thanksgiving Reflections

Thanksgiving is just a day away and I’m looking forward to it!  I love what it means, the gathering of family and friends and of course the opportunity to eat!  Today I wanted to share some verses of thanksgiving, verses that speak to what we have to be thankful for, and even verses to challenge us and keep us humble.

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”  Psalm 1:1-2

“”These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.””  John 16:33

“”For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”” Jeremiah 29:11

“But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:57

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.” 1 Chronicles 29:11

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all we have, for the very gift of life, and for the gift of God in our lives.  Things could have gone so much differently for us, we could not have a God who’s so involved in and invested in our lives.  We could have fewer blessings and promises that we can depend on.  We could not be able to see the workings of God in big and little ways in our lives and the world.  We could be less individual and more similar.  We could all face significant challenges and threats on our lives.  And most of all we could be without hope in the future and in a permanent home in Heaven some day with God.  And those are just a few of the things we can think about this Thanksgiving as we gather around the table.

The Pilgrims created Thanksgiving because they were thankful for the most simple of things: being alive.  They were thankful to have found friends in the Native Americans and in their own ability to survive and work on thriving in a new world.  They weren’t celebrating billion dollar successes, curing serious diseases or finally helping world peace happen.  No, the were just thankful to be alive.  This Thanksgiving I encourage you to take time to be thankful for the big and little things in your life.  Everyone has something to be thankful for, even if it’s as simple as being alive.

Reality Reflection: Winners and Losers

Tuesday this week in the US was election day.  When people woke up on Wednesday morning some were quite surprised with how it turned out and who won.  People were surprised for many reasons including the facts that winner has been someone who has said a lot of controversial things throughout the race and that the winner is not a traditional politician.  As with every race there has to be a winner and a loser, sometimes the underdog wins, sometimes the bad guy wins, and sometimes the winner is the one everyone thought was a shoe-in.  I’m not going to technically reflect on the result today. What I want to talk about is what we can learn from the result of the election, and there are tons of lessons regardless of which side of the very divisive fence you are on.

First and foremost I believe this is a wake-up call. If you listened to the news or lived in the US for the months and years leading up to the election you’re familiar with the unrest that is being experienced  most often as shown with shootings and between the police and minorities.  There have been countless calls for change and change has been slow moving, if it has really even happened. The reality is though that you can’t expect change to happen if you aren’t willing to do anything to change. Sometimes those changes are relatively easy like switching breads because your favorite company went out of business.  Others are much more difficult like learning how to walk again after spinal surgery or after you lost a leg.  The type of change that people have been calling for isn’t the bread type of change, it’s the learning to walk again type of change.  And as the well-known definition of insanity says: insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  (While that may work for flipping coins it doesn’t work in the situation of human life and tragedy.)

So this very real wake-up call, that the divisive non-politician would be elected, means that people are really sick of how things have been run for a very long time and are finally willing and able to step up and say so.  Maybe what we had wasn’t so bad and we were getting along OK with it, but I believe that we can do better as a people and as a country. Maybe what we need most is someone with a big set of brass balls to step up and make some changes. No one makes all good changes, but the hope is always that the majority of changes that are considered are given careful thought given to how other people will be affected by the intended result before changes are made, and that decisions aren’t made based on superficial qualities like money, skin color or sex.

The second lesson here is that there’s always a chance you’ll lose or fail.  We don’t like losing or failing especially on such a grand scale or in front of so many people, but sometimes it happens.  When the loss or failure happens it is important to take a step back and see why the loss or failure happened.  Maybe you weren’t the right person for the job, maybe you don’t have all the qualities that are needed, maybe you didn’t bring enough confidence to the table, maybe you were trying so hard to make yourself look good and fit the mold that you missed that the mold was no longer a mold, maybe you didn’t throw enough money in the ring, maybe you didn’t give it enough hours, maybe you didn’t try something new, maybe you secretly needed to fail so you could finally have a day off, maybe you needed to lose because there’s something bigger and better for you to work on, and maybe the reason you lost or failed isn’t apparent today but will be revealed years from now.

I close with a thought that I heard as part of one of the reactions to the election result: whether you agreed with the election result or not there’s nothing we can do about it now, it has been decided.  What we can do though is decide how we will live each and every day.  You still have control over the attitude you live with, the career you pursue, the people you’re in relationship with, what you do when you lose or fail, and how hard you work to accomplish your goals, dreams and purpose in life.  One leader can do a lot of good or a lot of harm, but they are only one person, just like you are only one person and I am only one person. We may not have the platform that the president has, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to do our part to make the world a better place, regardless of whatever hate or violence others around the world choose to try to throw around.  Don’t let a single loss or failure determine the rest of your life. Don’t stop working after a single victory.  Each day is a new opportunity to resolve to do your very best and make the very best impact on the world you can.