Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Listen Twice ... Speak Once

How many times have you had someone approach you saying they heard 'this' or 'that'; something that takes you by surprise or possibly saddens you? It's easy to overhear a conversation that you weren't actually part of, hear only parts of the information being shared, and then find yourself sharing what you 'thought' you heard. We all do it; perhaps not intentionally, but we have done it. There are dangers, though, to speaking too soon.

When we only have half of the real information - sharing assumptions can be misconstrued as gossip. In our eagerness to help others (often times asking people to pray), the old game of 'telephone' (symbolized with a tin can and a long string) can be started. We all know what happens then. The more times a phrase is repeated it is inadvertently changed ever so slightly with each re-sharing. We could be doing others more harm than good by speaking too soon. Suddenly, someone who said they were hoping to start a family (some day) is now expecting twins. Someone, who is going in for tests has already been diagnosed by those who overheard a conversation. The proverbial train can now start to derail. Someone hears something (maybe incorrectly, maybe indirectly) and now in an effort to show support sends a sympathy or encouragement card. Their intentions were good, but now the person receiving it may or may not be ready to discuss something that they thought was still somewhat private.
Perhaps there is no clear, defined moral to this story other than for the sake of others we should always remember to listen twice and speak once, preferably when we know for a fact that it's o.k. to share people's stories. Prayer is a beautiful, compassionate, and powerful thing to do - but we should be sure of exactly what we are actually praying for. God is busy - wouldn't it be best to give him the most accurate information in our prayers that we can?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

When Your Shoulders Begin To Weigh You Down

The month of March arrived with hopes of sunshine, spring weather, and 'yes' even an extra hour of daylight each day. Unfortunately, for many, it has also dropped an extra load of stress, sleepless nights, insurmountable worries, and feelings of uncertainty. So, how do we adjust when our shoulders begin to feel too heavy?

We tell ourselves we just need to get over the current hurdle, cross a few more items off the To Do list, and that things will return to normal soon. But are we kidding ourselves? Will life ever get back to the way that it was or is life today 'the new normal'? For some it's a busy time at work - lots of pending deadlines, for many it's crunch time as April will bring with it final exams for college students, and for others it's having to face unwanted challenges head on.

In the grand scheme of life the important thing we need to remember is that we can do this (whatever THIS is). Why? Because we don't have to do any of it alone. It may feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders, but it doesn't have to be that way. My hope is that each of you has at least one person in your corner that you can call, have coffee with, send an email to, or pray with. Let us help balance your stresses, your concerns, and your worries. Don't work so hard at being brave or trying to be a superhero; even superheros needed kryptonite or a golden lasso.

I pray that your upcoming nights will be full of restful sleep, your thoughts will be productive, your mind will gain new clarity, and your shoulders will be a bit lighter.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Be The Light

Tomorrow is the first day of spring. For many of us the snow has been melting, the sun has been shining a bit more, and the temperatures have seemed warmer. As we say goodbye to the winter season, we say hello to spring and summer. Many will also say goodbye to their winter doldrums. Funny how we can be affected, both physically and spiritually, by darkness - as well as by light. There is such power in LIGHT.

This week was my 4th week in a series of 5 for a small group Lent bible study. For me to commit to anything for 5 straight weeks is a miracle in itself, but truth be told I felt 'nudged' to make this commitment. I've been part of a group of amazing people and have gained not just acquaintances, but new friends in the process.

This week the topic was 'The Path of Discipleship: Within the Light' with a focus question of  'What does it mean to walk in the light of Christ?' We read John 3:14-21. We discussed why some people resist the goodness of God, why some have difficulty trusting and believing in God, and what it means to 'love darkness'.
Often times people will take the easy way out. It's just easier and takes less effort and commitment to wear blinders. With blinders on we see only what is in front of us; we see what we want to see, we don't steer off course, we don't wander, and we don't acknowledge what we're doing wrong or how we could do better. But when there is light; whether that is God himself or someone you know who just brings a sense of brightness and positiveness into your life we ARE affected.
Light can draw people like moths. We don't know exactly why but when we observe someone with a sunny disposition, a positive attitude, a sense of good morals and values ... we want to go in that direction. They are the LIGHT for us. They are offering to us an opportunity to better our course. What a gift! The only positive to wandering in the dark is that we have a chance to search for the light. Be open to looking for the light, to experiencing the goodness that comes with the light, and then BE THE LIGHT. You could easily be the beacon that helps steer someone (even a stranger) back onto their right course.
Do you have someone who is a LIGHT in your life?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What do you want people to see?

Do you care what people think about you or what you think they see? Do you ever feel judged? The big question is 'do you encourage it'?
I think anyone who knows me will tell you that I TRY really hard not to judge; as much as is humanly possibly. But I will admit that I like to observe. It doesn't mean I feel an observation is necessarily right or wrong, it just means that I prefer to take the time to stand back to watch and listen.
For example, I know people who will wear a wig for no other reason than they prefer how they are perceived when they wear it. There was a time when I lost all my hair during chemo and I wore a wig. I will admit I didn't wear it for me; perhaps at first I did because I didn't know what people would think of my bald head, but after a week or so I found myself wearing it for the sake of other people - so I wouldn't be a distraction (or so I thought).
I have known people who when they were sick created a story to tell people, because they were afraid that if people knew what they were really dealing with they would be looked at differently. Somehow they thought it was better to just tell them that they had a heart condition, rather than the whole truth that they'd also had cancer surgery. This person was so worried about their image and how they felt they would surely be labeled or judged that what they didn't acknowledge was that they were guilty of judging as well by pre-conceiving how they assumed people would react.
It's o.k. to let our vulnerable sides show from time to time. It lets people know we are just as human as they are. In a world where there is already so much commercialism, photo shopping, predetermined demographics, and judgment why would we ever want to add more fuel to the fire? So let's agree to be more honest and first worry about how we see ourselves before we worry about how others will see us. Yes, we absolutely need to set positive examples for children and adults of all ages and it's important to let them see our goodness and our true selves. So let's try harder to be real and honest and worthy. When that begins to happen we won't have to worry so much about perceptions because they won't be phony.
Have you ever felt the need to change or present yourself in a different way for the sake of acceptance?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Just be YOU!

Many people find it difficult to create a balance these days, and NO, I'm not referring to your checkbook. I'm talking about your life. We all wear many hats in our daily lives. We're someone's wife or husband, we're someone's mom or dad, we're someone's brother or sister, we're a son or  daughter, perhaps we're a step-parent, we're an employee, we're a caretaker, we're a financial provider, and hopefully we're a child of God. We're many things! And, truth be told, we're often exhausted.
We also tend to be perfectionists; we want to be our best and we want to be all things to all people. But last time I checked there were still only 24 hours in a day (expect this past weekend when we lost one). We don't allow ourselves to take a 'pass'. We don't say, 'On Monday I'll be your daughter and on Tuesday I'll be your wife and on Wednesday I'll be your employee and on Thursday I'll try to squeeze in being your mom.' No ... we try to wear ALL the hats simultaneously and we try to keep the balance and the momentum going. Undoubtedly there will be days when adding even one more description or role becomes too much. We don't want to do one thing not as good in order to make more time for something else, but I can almost guarantee there will be days when you need to stop and just be YOU.
So what do we do? How do we find the right balance when our lives become overwhelming? There is no right answer except that we need to be aware when we're reaching our temporary limit. It's o.k. to say you need a break, you need some help, and you need to regroup and reprioritize. Guess what? We're all human. Needing to stop and breathe is NOT a sign of weakness ... I think it's a sign of maturity. After all, we cannot be all things to all people all of the time. It's great to be selfless and always wanting to think of others first, but if you can't take care of yourself as well you won't be any good to anyone else.
I may not be able to help you wear your 'hat' of the week, but I can certainly listen if you're feeling overwhelmed. Email me, I'm good with listening.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Grin And Bear It!

How fragile is your ego or your spirit? Are there times when you think you need to have the word 'FRAGILE' stamped in red on your forehead so that people will know to tread carefully? Do you find yourself easily frazzled when your routine gets out of whack?
We're coming up on the tail end of a long cold winter. Many are ready and more than eager to feel the warm sun on their skin again. But sometimes this time of year can find even the perkiest of people a little down in the dumps or easily agitated. For several the answer is a simple car drive to Florida or someplace where a heavy winter coat isn't required. The warmth will make them feel better both physically and mentally. Yet 'getting away' isn't an option for everyone. So, what do the rest of us do?
Perhaps take an afternoon off; treat yourself to a movie or lunch with a friend? Give yourself permission to immerse yourself with whatever distraction warms your heart (if not your skin); maybe reading a book on the couch, getting a pre-spring mani/pedi, or going window shopping at the mall to see all the bright spring colors adorning the store window displays. Whatever distraction brings you hope.
Checking the calendar I can see that officially there are only 17 days remaining until spring, yet I looked out my window today and saw snow, sleet, rain, and freezing rain. I half expected an old-fashioned pony express rider to fly by my window; battling all the weather elements.
I have hope for the sunshine to return and hope for the temperatures to warm up and hope that the darkened dirty mounds of snow will get a little smaller each day.
What brings you hope on these dreary days?