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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Eyes on Jesus

This Wednesday in the US is See You At the Pole, a day honored by high school and college aged students gathering for prayer around the flag pole at their schools. As adults we can certainly pray for them as they gather, and we can also reflect on the verse they’ll be focusing on: Hebrews 12:2: “We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete.”

This is a great reminder verse for all of us, believers of all ages. We all can benefit from the reminder to keep our eyes on Jesus because there are so many distractions, responsibilities and dreams that fill our days and nights, often not specifically focused on Jesus and the work He is doing and has us doing. Having done the human experience Jesus understands some of what we’re going through and trying to manage in our lives today, so we should not be completely discouraged or frustrated by the fact that we get distracted, that’s part of the life we live.

But as people of faith we should always be working to strengthen, grow and share our faith. We should be listening and learning and praying and sharing as we all work through the challenge that is 2017 and beyond. We should be more understanding of the pressures each of us face, and be more encouraging as we try to figure out what it looks like to live a life of faith in 2017.

So as students around the country gather to pray and remind each other to look to Jesus, I encourage you to pray this week for that generation.  Pray that they’ll gain the wisdom, knowledge and experience that the world needs to lead it into the future, that they’ll be good stewards of the world we share, and that they’ll share the love, compassion, consideration and faith the world needs to hear today.

Reality Reflection: Helplessness

I think one of the reasons I don’t watch the news very much is because when I really think about what’s going on I feel helpless to really do anything. I’m not a cop, I can’t chase down bad guys; I’m not a medical doctor, I can’t cure crazy diseases; I’m not a politician, I can’t change or help a vote; I’m not a conservationist, I can’t save a forest from logging destruction; I’m not a political scientist or foreign emissary, I can’t help avoid WW3. But it’s not just about the big things, it’s about feeling helpless when there’s an accident near me or someone’s struggling to walk to their car or someone’s lost a dog.

Yes, we’ve talked and will continue to talk about how important and invaluable the little actions that each of us do throughout our lives. Yes I can call in a tip about a bad guy I saw from the news, I can donate to medical research facilities, I can vote in every election, I can plant trees, I can drive safer myself, or I can help someone cross the road. I can do something in each of the situations mentioned, but when they’re presented on the news or on a video and there’s nothing I can do in that moment, how can I not feel some amount of helplessness?

I think feeling that helplessness is healthy and normal. It’s a good indication that you’re still feeling and emotionally connected with the world. It means that you’ve got concern for your fellow humans and everything else that makes up this great world of ours. Unfortunately, for most of us though it also means that we have to accept being uncomfortable and unhappy with some things in life. Most of us simply can’t fix everything, no matter how much we rant, rave and feel bad.

Sometimes it helps to find what’s ‘glass half full’ in the situation, and even doing that little something like I mentioned earlier can help you feel a little less helpless. Unfortunately, until we all find that magical spider or the DNA to make us a superhero, we can’t be everything to everyone everywhere in the world. We have to stick to being superheros in our own part of the world.

Happiness and Help

This month one of the topics we’re talking about is help. One of the concepts and sayings that everyone knows but many still struggle with is that of putting on your own oxygen mask before putting one on your child or whomever is in the situation with you. Especially recently we’ve been hearing and talking about all of the natural disasters going on around the US from multiple hurricanes to fires. One of the things that was noteworthy to me was how many people didn’t take the recommendation of getting out while the getting was good and called for rescue during or immediately after the dangerous storms. For the storms that followed the first storm, it was made clear that once it was too dangerous rescuers weren’t going to be coming out no matter how many times you called until it was safe for them, which makes a lot of sense because you can’t be rescued if your rescuer is dead, right?

Yes, there are times that being selfless or giving of yourself and your resources can be beneficial. There are tons of people around the US who are incredibly thankful for the donations that were made in response to the hurricanes. Some people who made donations didn’t have much to give, but they chose to give anyway because someone else had greater need than they do. But there comes a point in time that you have to stop giving selflessly and recharge and take care of yourself.

One of the biggest areas that you’re responsible for in this regard is your own happiness. Yes, if someone gave me a dog I would be happy (unless it fit inside a teacup). Yes, when I see my partner I’m happy (almost all the time). Yes, I’m happy when I read a story in the news about how good triumphed or someone was saved or rescued. None of those things am I really creating or able to influence, but they make me happy. But since the universe isn’t giving out dogs at the moment, I don’t spend all day every day with my partner and the news is full of lots of other types of stories, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of my day that isn’t influenced by those 3 things, which means that if I want happiness in the rest of my day I’ve got to do something about it.

No, I’m not pretending that every moment will be good, there are lots of challenges, both large and small, we have to face each day. That’s the way life goes right now. But we can choose to have a good attitude, take the high road and look out for ourselves and others. You can either help yourself be happy, safe, fulfilled and healthy or do your best to hurt the world. And you don’t just hurt the world by throwing bombs, killing people, or defacing national monuments, you hurt the world when you’re so self-centered that you no longer do anything to help others be happy, safe, fulfilled and healthy too.

Today I encourage you to take a step back and consider what your life needs right now. Do you need to take a step back for you and focus on yourself for a time, or is it time to step up and help others?

“I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness…” Jane Austen

Celebrating A New Year Everyday

This week is the celebration of Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year. It celebrates something that Christians are familiar with, the creation of Adam and Eve. More than anything else it’s a period of celebration, of joy and of prayers for peace, prosperity and blessing for the new year. While it’s not a day that Christians celebrate, it is one that can teach us a few important lessons about life, faith/spirituality and our journey.

One of the most interesting things to note is that it is a celebration of Adam and Eve. If you remember they’re the people the Bible begins with, the people everyone can trace their roots back to. They’re also the people who connected this world and our lives with sin when they ate from the tree that God told them not to eat from. It’s not exactly the best moment in our collective spiritual history is it? And yet we can all agree these people are worth remembering, and their creation worth celebrating.

The other thing that I’m reminded of by the celebration of a new year in September, what is known to many as the 9th month of the given year, is that everyone has different beginnings. If you’re familiar with the business world at all you know that many businesses start their year at some time other than January 1st. Personally, it would drive me nuts to try and balance more than one calendar. But if you really think about it we’ve all got a different calendar we could go by, because very few of us were born on January 1st (technically my year begins in October).

So what can we learn from the celebration of Rosh Hashanah? First and foremost that you don’t have to be perfect, do perfect things or get it right all the time to celebrate. Sometimes the little moments and victories should be celebrated more than the big ones. Second, any day is a great day for a fresh start. Don’t say that you have to wait for 2018 to make changes in your life, you can begin today, or tomorrow, or whenever you feel inspired. Third, if God says that Adam and Eve are worth remembering, even with their really big mistake, I would say that each of us are worth remembering and celebrating as well. Finally, take time today to celebrate, and if you can’t come up with anything to celebrate, you can celebrate that you’re alive and have another day to live, learn, and love.   What will you do with today?

Reality Reflections: do your best

Today I have a simple message for you: do the best you can and be the best you can. I said it was a simple message, I didn’t say it was necessarily an easy one. The best you can doesn’t mean you’ll be perfect, that everyone will like you or that you’ll always be satisfied with yourself at the end of the day. Doing your best means that you don’t give up when the going gets tough, you don’t let the criticisms beat you down, and you choose to do the right thing rather than the easy one.

Doing your best means that you get up each and every day with the thought in mind that you’re going to give this new day your best effort, that you’re not going to give up on it, just like the sun doesn’t give up on us (it’s always behind the clouds or on the other side of the world). It means that you’re committed to being aware of what’s going on around you in the world, to have an attitude of love, care and helping others, and to believe in standing up for yourself and others.

It makes finishing a day that didn’t go so well a little easier. It makes it a little easier to sleep at night knowing that you’ll try to solve tomorrow’s problems then and that you’ve done as well as you could with today’s. It won’t “fix” other people or their problems, but it will help you find the patience to deal with them and reach peace easier when something or someone is completely outside of your control or influence.

I encourage you to choose today to be the best person you can be for your partner, your coworkers, your kids, your boss, your employees, your customers and/or yourself.

The Truth?

How often do you tell the truth? Do you try to tell the truth most of the time? Do you give the full truth to people most of the time or do you only give partial truths, holding back some things either for yourself or for them? Over the past few years honesty and truth have been given an increasingly important position in our lives and it’s a lot harder to hide things now with all the live video and phones that go everywhere with us. I don’t believe that the truth should be used to hurt someone, but truth can be an educational and self-improvement tool, especially when shared with love and good intentions.

However I know that sometimes we choose to hide from the truth. Maybe we’re scared of the answer we’ll receive, maybe we don’t want to know how far out of proportions we’ve blown something, maybe we would rather continue living in the little bubble we’ve created for ourselves, and maybe we know that if we were to receive the truth we would have to do something about it. I know the truth can sometimes be intimidating and overwhelming, but neither of those are reasons to shut yourself off from the truth.  But ultimately truth should free us to move from the lies and hiding into a better future, or at least give us the motivation to take action on moving past where we are.

Sometimes the truth is unquestionable. You can’t change the fact that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. But what my truth is regarding the best dog in the world may differ from your truth regarding the best dog in the world. Some truths can be swayed by personal opinions and experiences. However, I don’t think you can really apply the title of ‘truth’ to something unless you’ve got some solid reasons to back it up, more than just “I don’t like it.” I don’t think that this should dissuade us from sharing truth, but we should be more willing to acknowledge when something is “the” truth versus “our” or “my” truth.

Today I encourage you to step up and be open to learning the truth. Whether you are dealing with opinion truths or fact truths, the real focus should be whether it’s honest or not. Don’t ask someone to lie to you or give you partial truth, ask them for the whole truth, and ask them for their reasons or understandings that led them to that truth when appropriate. I don’t believe our world can be improved if we’re not willing to ask for the truth, share the truth and apply the truth to our lives and our world.

“The object of the superior man is truth.”  Confucius