Do You Care?

Today I’ve got a challenging question to ask you that I’ve been asking myself: do you really care? Do you really care about what’s going on in the world, in the lives of friends and family, in your relationship with your partner, with your kids, or in your community? If you answered yes, does your life really reflect that you care? Just about everyone makes the appropriate noises or says the appropriate things when they have to, but do they really mean it? Do you really mean it?

One of the simplest ways to check if you really care is by taking a look at your finances. How are you spending your money each month? What charities or organizations do you donate your money or other resources (like your knowledge) to? If you’re spending your money on clothing from name brands who don’t have any type of cultural give-back/investment program and not giving to any charities or organizations I would have to say you don’t really care about any of the causes you say you care about.

The other way to check is how you’re spending your time. What posts are you sharing on social media? What conversations are you having over drinks with friends and at the dinner table with your family? If you’re religious what are you praying about or meditating over? Are you donating your time to support organizations and charities? Are you watching only pop-culture programs on the TV or are you watching some more educational ones as well? Are you subscribed to and reading educational or personal growth emails and blog posts/podcasts or are you only signed up for the latest sales?

I’m not asking you to care about every cause or person in the world. All I’m asking is if you’ve got anything in your life that you really care about, some way of leaving a legacy on this planet after you die, a way of making the world better for this generation or the next, and if you’re including things in your daily life that really matter to you. Yes, there are some things that are part of our lives that we may not enjoy or feel great about, but there should be something in each and every day that does matter to us and we enjoy. What are you looking forward to today?

Don’t Fear Love

Love is one of the greatest challenges of all times and has provided countless headaches over the centuries. This little word has created such a stir that I’m sure entire countries would split if someone tried to put the word in any type of legal or political documents. It’s a word we’ve become wary of, one that holds too many meanings (aka traps) and has been exhaustively over analyzed. It’s been used where it doesn’t belong, and as an inappropriate scapegoat. So we’ve run from it.

But what I realized today was that as we’ve run from our definition and application of love, we’ve run from Love. We’ve backed away from the one who can teach us what love really is, what it really means to love and be loved. We’ve put Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit in every other corner we can think of while throwing, maybe even catapulting, Love out of the ring. It’s no wonder that we’re so confused as to what love is and if we’re loved.

2 Timothy 1:7 says: “The Spirit God gave us does not make us afraid. His Spirit is a source of power and love and self-control.” Paul is reassuring Timothy here, as well as all of us that we have no reason to be afraid of what love truly is, specifically and especially when we are looking for the truth about love from Love itself.

Let’s be honest: it will be scary when you first open your heart, open your mind to love again. True love is all consuming, never ending and more patient than any of us deserve. But there are countless examples and verses of reassurance throughout the Bible that tell us that when we love God and are open to His Love we’ll get it and be glad we have it. He promises to be there for us, to support us, to affirm our beauty and value, to celebrate the great moments and comfort us in the bad ones. Feeling a little funny about all that attention, all that, dare I say it, love? It’s not easy to get used to what love really is, maybe that’s why so many of us have shied away from it.

Remember that old song you sang as a child, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…?” Life may have seemed a lot more simple back then, but the reality is that we’ve let other things get in the way of accepting that some things are just that simple. Love can be very complicated, but when you really take a look at it, it all boils down to the fact that Jesus loves us, has provided the best example, and always will be the best example of what love is for us.

This week I encourage you to take lots of deep breaths and open your heart to what God wants to tell you about love, and what it really is. He won’t rip your heart out and stomp all over it, He may have a strong dose of reality for you though. And no matter what the truth will always remain that God loves you and wants you to love Him.

Reality Reflection: Hope and Freedom

Today I’m thinking about the sometimes elusive feeling, being, and experience of hope. You may not even really recognize that it’s not in your life, but when it reappears suddenly you realize how long you’ve gone without feeling it. In that moment you might feel a little shame or discomfort, but the feeling I really want you to focus on is the joy that comes along with experiencing hope again.

There’s something almost magical about the spark, light and warmth that hope brings with it. You feel alive again, or like you’re waking up after a very long time asleep. Hope is a reminder that maybe things aren’t that bad, and even if they are, there’s something worth working towards. Hope is the encouragement to keep going even in the face of difficult odds and obstacles.

Freedom is directly connected with hope; it’s believing in something better, choosing a standard of living that’s respectful of your value and the value of others, and taking action to support those beliefs and values. Freedoms happen because people had hope in something and worked to make it a reality.

But as we all know, sometimes those freedoms and realities are a long time coming. Sometimes we don’t see the instant results that we’re hoping for (and expecting in this fast-food, fast-technology world), which discourages us. When we see things going downhill rather than upward like we want we can lose our tentative hold on hope.

If it’s been a while since you experienced hope in your life I want to encourage you to stick it out. The hope you’re waiting for may be just around the corner. Sometimes that may mean that you have to do something to find hope again or ask for help, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, hope and freedom may be waiting for you to do exactly that.

If you’re blessed to have hope in your life right now I invite you to share how hope is encouraging you below in the comments.  What do you have hope for or in today?

Simple Freedoms

I can’t believe that we’re this close to the end of another month! As we focus on the topic of freedom for just a few more days I got to thinking about one of the trends that’s really been sweeping the world: simplifying. Countless people are discarding clothes, books, kitchen items, papers, furniture, decorations and other items that they don’t use, don’t like or don’t need, and some even go so far as to downsize their home too. I think most of us have at least a few items that we can get rid of, whether it’s that shirt that doesn’t really fit anymore or those gardening tools that you haven’t used in several years. It’s easier and often cheaper to replace things today so don’t let the fear of not having it or not being able to get it be the reason you hold onto it anymore.

But let’s get back to the topic here: freedom. When you’ve got less you do have more freedom. You can do more with your resources, including finances and time, and you feel more open because your life isn’t full of clutter or “some days”. Sometimes the biggest freedom we’re desiring is just the feeling of freedom, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day.

The good news here is that freedom doesn’t have to be complicated or take lots of money or time to be invested before you’re experiencing freedom. Sometimes all it takes is saying “no,” letting go just a little, or actively choosing to do one thing differently than you have in the past. What positive impact could simplifying your life have on you?

Standing Up for What You Believe

A big part of the Bible are the people who stood up for what they believed. As we look at our topic of freedom this month, that’s one of the biggest keys to having freedom: standing up for what you want and going after it. We’ve got people of all ages who stood up for a family member, their people, or God; some lived because of it and some died because of it. But because of their bravery and willingness to be honest about who they were, what mattered to them and what they believed was right, we’ve got some amazing stories and people we can look up to as we navigate our own life journeys.

We could look at many examples but the one that came to mind today was the story of Solomon and the two women who both claimed to be the mother to a child. The story goes that both women had sons but one of them died during the night and the women were both claiming that the living child was theirs. Solomon, using the wisdom that God gave him, said that he would cut the child in half because both women refused to back down, so they would each get half. He knew of course, as the story tells us, that the real mother would say that the child should live and be given to the other lady so that her son would not die. Solomon quickly hands the child over to the real mother and everyone was amazed.

Of course, there are tons of ways that story could have gone, but we know that Solomon had God’s wisdom and true parents want their children to live and thrive even if it can’t be with them, but it still took bravery on both Solomon and the true mother’s part to even go down that path.

We don’t usually end up in a situation nearly as serious as Solomon and these mothers did, but we still have choices to make each day about whether we stand up for what we believe or if we let ourselves and others down. We all have moments of weakness and doubt, but when we remember that God has a plan for our lives that will ultimately end up being good for us, we can be strong and make the choices that we need to. How will you stand up today?

Reality Reflection: What Adventure Did You Choose?

Each week, each day, we make thousands of choices in our lives.  Our life is like one of those “choose your own adventure” books in which the choice you make determines what happens next.  One thing may not ruin the ending, or bring us closer to success, but each choice we make does have an impact on our lives.  If you make a really wrong choice you’ll end up on countless evening news stations as the talk of the day (or those crazy afternoon shows if you really mess up).  But if you make a really good choice you’ll find doors opening for you and relationship possibilities you never thought could happen.

As a child I must have read the one or two of those books that I tried from cover to cover several times trying different endings.  It was pretty frustrating because I do like a story to have a happy ending (I gave the series up pretty quickly), but it was a good reminder that unfortunately, unlike the books, we can’t go back and make a different decision if we don’t like how it ended up.

With every choice, action, or lack thereof making an impact on your future you would think more of us would do the right thing more often.  It can get frustrating that we don’t see the progress, but one day we’ll realize exactly how far we’ve come and how many pages we’ve turned and we’ll either be thrilled or mad. Every decision we make has an impact on our lives.  We can choose to have a positive impact on our lives and the lives of others, we can choose to do as little damage as possible on the world or we can choose to just do whatever and let the cards fall as they may.  I don’t know about you but I’d rather have a say in my future, and the future of the world.

If you were to turn the page and find that tomorrow morning your story ended, how would you feel?  Choose to make this a week that gets you even a little closer to your goals.

“Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time.” Lyndon B. Johnson

Your Freedom, My Freedom, Our Freedoms?

One of the biggest challenges we have when it comes to freedom is that what freedom looks like to me may not be what freedom looks like for you. That’s not a challenge in the sense of it being bad that we each like different things and want different things in our lives (that can be a very good thing), the challenge comes in when my freedoms take away or block your freedoms, or I try to take away your freedoms for no reason. The US Constitution talks about the freedom of speech for example. It wouldn’t be much of a freedom if it said that only politicians were allowed to speak freely and not their constituents or reporters.

But at the same time there does have to be a line drawn somewhere because, in an extreme example, we can’t have people who love killing others to be free to do that, because then their victims aren’t free to live their lives. So how do we find that right ground, or can we? Most would say we haven’t found that middle ground yet because there are still parts of the world that are under extreme laws and restrictions and face death on a regular basis. And there’s only so much we can do to change their minds about the value of people having freedoms, especially the freedom to be different. We also can’t force everyone to behave and not kill, steal, hurt or do evil, we can only encourage everyone to be respectful of everyone else.

I don’t have to like your freedoms, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t respect you and give you the ability to state your opinions or do your own thing. I don’t have to like that you have certain spiritual beliefs, I don’t have to like that you enjoy hunting, and I don’t have to enjoy that you love going skiing, but that doesn’t mean that I have any right to be violent or nasty towards you for liking those things, because I want you to be nice towards me when I like things that you don’t like. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have conversations about and try to persuade each other to change those choices, because we certainly can. But it does mean being willing to step outside of our comfort zone to allow others to be free to be who they are, so that we can be who we are.

This week I encourage you to think about the impact that your actions have on others. Are you giving people the freedoms to be themselves or are you trying to fit them into your preferred preferences?

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”  Nelson Mandela