Reality Reflection: Being Good Neighbors

Sometimes I can’t believe how obtuse we can be, how easily we can miss the point, or why we make the decisions we do. Yes, we do have to take care of ourselves and our families, but we’re not living on little islands where we’re separate from others, most things we do have an effect on someone outside of our immediate circle. I’ve been reflecting on two very different situations in the past few days, that both bring us to the same point, and thought I would share them with you today.

The first is how mother nature amazes me. Yes, there are times when it’s kill-or-be-killed, but there are also some really impressive examples of how caring and accepting other creatures can be. In spring you can see mixed flocks where one bird family has picked up a stray or two, or mother animals adopt another baby animal because they were orphaned or their own mother can’t care for them.  You can even occasionally see it with the male animals and birds, that they have a stronger-than-normal drive to care for other animals.   It makes me wonder why we humans have so much difficulty caring for each other when we’ve got way more similarities than some of the animals do.

The other topic I’ve been considering has to do with being a good neighbor.  I’m pondering why people call the cops on people who speak another language, who have a different color skin, who are having their annual party (the only party they have every year) and it’s a little noisy, who have kids playing, essentially people who aren’t doing anything illegal or dangerous, they’re just different or being a little loud.  Yes, there’s a level of consideration for everyone to take into account when they’re doing things or going places regarding how you behave or act, but on the flip side of it, wouldn’t you want the benefit of the doubt over how you look or what you’re doing?

If we’re all neighbors considering we all share the same planet and resources, why don’t we treat each other with the respect and support of that, like so many animals do?  Why instead are we shooting up stores, driving impaired, and overreacting to people living their lives?  When will we start to change the story from one of conflict to one of community?

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Work-Life Balance

Thanks to technology we’re almost unlimited as to what we can do when it comes to work. By that I mean that we can work at any point in time during the day because we’ve got electric lighting and because we’ve got the mobile devices and personal computers that allow us to do so from almost anywhere. We don’t have to wait for the sun to come up, we’re not limited to only working with/selling to those near our physical location, and for so many things we don’t have to work the same hours as others.

It also means we’re more on-demand and have more expectations placed on us. People expect to be able to get help at any point in time, bosses expect to be able to reach you if something changes or happens, and it’s easier than ever to bring work home because so much of work is done over email and apps.

So if we’re being asked to work longer hours or be more available, doesn’t that mean we should be getting something in return beyond our normal paycheck? Shouldn’t there be a level of flexibility or some other benefit for being willing to blur the lines between work and home (or eliminate them almost completely)?

What got me thinking about this today was a headache. I get them occasionally and sometimes they’re bad enough that I end up needing a nap on top of a pill to make it go away. But today I was not working from home and it wasn’t really acceptable to just put everything to the side and take a nap, and I know many can identify with the desire to have just 30 minutes to themselves for either picking up kids or eating something or taking a walk or a nap. I’m fortunate enough that I do work from home a lot and can take a break in the middle of the day, or work very late or very early or whatever hours I need or prefer, but that’s not the case for everyone.

If we’re really going to do this working-almost-all-of-the-time thing, isn’t it time that we remember that our bodies and minds need a break? That while much of our world has evolved to support us in doing this our bodies still need food and rest? When was the last time you took a break at work and didn’t work straight through the day? Yes, there are a couple of more progressive companies that do have workout rooms and nap rooms and it’s not frowned upon to use them, but that’s not the case for most.

So today I’m inviting businesses to step up and make sure their workers are cared for, and encouraging you to make sure you’re caring for yourself (whether you work a traditional job or you’re working as a parent): eat the foods that properly fuel your body, get rest when your body asks for it, and spend time with people who rejuvenate your heart.  Are you caring for your body and mind’s needs?

What To Do With Today

Each moment of our lives we’re given both the opportunity and the challenge to accept what’s in our past, live in the moment and work towards the future. Some of us choose to only live in the moments, others of us are stuck in the past, and some of us only see the future. It’s healthiest if we can balance all 3 of those, that we fix our mistakes from the past (whether the past is just 10 minutes ago or 10 years ago), seeing life for what it is in the moment, and take smart actions that would build a good future for us and those we care about. Living in the past, present and future means that you’re not just focused on your life, but the lives of those around you as well.

Since there are only so many hours in a day and so many days in our lives, we have to sometimes make tough decisions about the things we do “today” and what we put off into the future. There are some things that I don’t think we should ever put off until tomorrow, like telling someone you love them and praying. Sometimes asking for forgiveness or apologizing should be done that day, while other times it should be put off until things cool down.

In my weekly devotional this past week I talked about how we have the opportunity with each day to start fresh, to have a clean slate, to get a new lease on life. God is a past-present-future God. He’s been with us through everything that happened in our pasts, and He’ll go with us through whatever our future holds (and Jeremiah 29 reminds us that He promises us a future). But one of the biggest gifts He gives us is His presence in the here and now. He can give us the insights, peace, patience, endurance, and words we need to navigate whatever each day brings, including helping us to know what needs to be taken care of today and what can keep until tomorrow.

One of the notable points of Jesus’ ministry on earth was His willingness to stop and care for someone who needed Him. He put off whatever plans He had to help them, to listen to them and to heal them. A few examples are the woman at the well, Zaccheus, Lazarus and a demon-possessed man, Jesus met them on His way to wherever He was going and stopped to make time for them.

I’m not saying that we should be stopping for everyone or everything we come across in a day, but encouraging us to follow the example that Jesus set and taking care of what’s truly important each day. It’s why we need to know our priorities and make sure they’re taken care of. Are you taking care of what’s truly important in your day or just going with what’s easy, creating regrets and wasted opportunities? I encourage you to remember the gift that we have with each day, and each moment of your life.

Reality Reflection: A Discussion on Freedom

As we get closer to this month wrapping up, I have been thinking about the topic that opened this month: freedom. It’s a topic we all crave, we certainly talk about having freedoms or wanting more freedoms. There is a balance to be found between structure and freedom, between limits and freedom though, because we’re not alone in this world. Part of that structure and those limits have to deal with the other people that we share this planet with. These are people that we not only share space and air with, they’re people who we impact with our decisions and the way we live.

Each of us define freedom and what we want for freedoms differently. You may want the freedom to eat pizza every day or marry the person you want to marry or just stay home with your kids and not work or get a divorce or quit/change your job or take a vacation every year or order whatever you want on the menu and not worry about price. Freedom means different things to different people, the question that has to be addressed is regarding our freedoms vs. the freedoms of others.

Can we accept what others want as freedoms? What about the freedom to hunt? Can we accept it as long as they’re respectful of the animals and the rules, aren’t wasteful and do their part to help the species thrive? What about relationships that have messy lines? Can we accept someone loving someone of the same sex or more than one person at the same time or more than one person throughout their life or not wanting to be in a relationship at all?

No, we may never understand why people want the freedoms that they want. We certainly won’t claim to want all the freedoms that others want. But with a little patience, good communication (not arguments or laying down the law), and respect for others and their beliefs, I believe we can all have at least some of the freedoms we desire. Why is this important? Because sometimes we judge, block, fight and criticize what we don’t understand, especially if we think there’s wrongdoing or hurt happening, or we think the freedom will be destructive in the future. And sometimes that is the truth, which is why it’s important to talk about our freedoms and desires and go into them with eyes wide open as well as a willingness to hear others out before passing judgement or just journeying into a freedom without considering the costs.

A Different Victory

Lately I’ve been struggling to figure out how to make victories in some areas. It’s frustrating when you’re doing what you think works or what has worked in the past and it’s just not working. Do you try harder? Do you keep pushing through and hope there’s a breakthrough? Do you just give up? What do you do?

As I was thinking about this I was reminded about something my partner and I talked about doing this year, and that was trying new and different things, which got me thinking about doing things differently when it comes to victories. How sometimes what it takes to get to victories is changing the plan, doing something new, doing something different, or bringing into the conversation someone new or different. Sometimes ‘different’ is a small tweak, but other times it’s a completely different something, something you haven’t thought of or tried yet.

The challenge with thinking about doing something different is knowing what you don’t want to do or what you can’t do and trying to find something that does work at the same time. For example if someone was having trouble with one of their kids and they’ve tried all of the typical techniques, getting rid of the kid isn’t a viable option, they would have to do something different other than that.

If you’re feeling stuck I would encourage you to do what I’m going to do, and that’s sit down with pen and paper and do some brainstorming on what you could do different. Maybe you need to open the conversation up to someone else or several other people and get together to talk about any and all options you can both/all come up with. Having the conversation with others increases the likelihood of coming up with a viable different option. If you’re not comfortable having the conversation with someone else yet, go ahead and just do the brainstorming on your own for now. Get creative and don’t reject any ideas, just write them all down. Once you’ve got them all on paper you can go through them and think about how well they might work for you, if they feel right, and which would be easy to give a try to sooner rather than later. If none of them strike your fancy, then come back to them another day and review the list then, and keep adding to it until you hit on something or several somethings different that work for you.

Be Who God Made You To Be

You’re probably familiar with David from the Old Testament. He’s really famous because he defeated Goliath, became king and had a special relationship with God. There are over 900 references to his name in the Bible, and there’s only one David, so that makes him a really popular guy. David’s life is one that in many ways mirrors our own because he’s got highs and lows, he tries to follow the path God has him on, he tries to be someone others can respect, he has a family, and he makes mistakes.

The verse I want to take a look at today comes from early in his story, during the time that he defeats Goliath. I Samuel 17:39 says: “David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.” (NIV)

The context of this verse is that David was brought into Saul’s tent because he questioned why no one was defeating Goliath, Saul said that he was more than welcome to go fight Goliath and gave him a bunch of armor and weapons to do so. As our verse says, David passed on the armor and weapons and went back to his tried-and-true method of stones and sling. He went onto the battlefield and swung the sling, struck Goliath in the forehead and Goliath was dead.

This verse caught my attention this week because it was such a powerful reminder of how wise David was and why God chose him to work through in such a big way. Sometimes what we need are the extra resources like the armor and weapons that were offered to David. Sometimes we take them because we think that’s the right thing to do, when in fact we should just be relying on what works for us and what God has gifted us with.

God wants you to be confident in the person that He made you to be. He didn’t create you to be someone else or to try to be someone else. We all should be learning and growing on a daily basis, but that means becoming a better person, a better version of ourselves, not someone we’re not.

This week I encourage you to work on trusting yourself, trusting God and fully using the tools, resources, blessings and gifts that He’s given you. What difference can you make in the world just by being you?

Reality Reflection: Fighting Injustice

I believe that we’re capable of making the world into a better place and we’re also capable of destroying it. It’s a choice we have to make each day with our words and actions. We may not see the impact our individual actions have on the world at all times, but you can be sure that they are having an impact.

This past week I was paging through stations on the radio and caught the end of an interview on Z100 with Laura and Vanessa Marano who have a movie out on the topic of human trafficking, which is a bigger issue than we would believe. It’s not something that happens only in books, it happens in real life as well, in fact it’s a billion dollar industry.

If you want to listen to just the interview with the ladies you can watch it here, but the part I caught was about 85 minutes into this podcast of the whole morning show that day, talking about the topic of trafficking and about the publicity it doesn’t get. This portion of the show wrapped with the hosts raising the question of why it’s not something people talk about, how uncomfortable it makes some people, how some people in power shut down all talk on subjects like this, and the importance and responsibility of organizations and groups like this radio show who have tons of publicity to, as one senior executive producer said, talk about tough topics even if it makes some listeners turn off the station.  Because for every listener that doesn’t change the channel, it’s one more person who’s hearing the message and maybe able to do something to help.

Unfortunately there are still injustices happening in the world on a daily basis. We’ve not beat the monster at the game yet. We’re doing better in many respects because of social media and the ability to spread the word with less censure from those who would try to use their power or resource to hinder and hide. The first way we can fight human trafficking, help veterans, fight substance abuse, fight race discrimination and the other issues that keep parents and partners and countless others up at night is if we speak up and let people know it’s not acceptable and we’re not going to be quiet about it. From there we have to start making changes so that fewer people are hurt or taken or profiled unfairly and incorrectly or dismissed. It won’t happen in one day, but with tenacity we’ll be able to make an impact.

What causes are close to your heart and you support?