A Little Love

So I’ve been on the road a lot lately for work, and I’m overcome with gratitude.

I am doing this ambitious, year-long project with a very dear friend, so that makes it fun.

I’m also so grateful that I can even DO this! For so long, it felt like I would NEVER be able to have a normal life and do the things (like work) that I always took for granted before the accident.

I won’t lie and say it’s all easy-peasy lemon squeezy for me on the road, but I’m DOING it. Even more importantly, I’m enjoying it and our project is off to a fantastic start. It’s always nice when that happens and the clients are, in their words, ‘over the moon,’ about how the project is going so far.

In a weird way, I might be most grateful for my near-death experience. The accident was horrible and the long recovery was agonizing. That wasn’t the good part.

The good part…the part I’m so grateful about, are the fruits of the accident. I learned that I am MUCH stronger than I ever imagined and I learned, without a shadow of doubt, that all things are possible with God.

I have overcome injuries that ‘experts’ said I’d never recover from. I have endured pain that I didn’t think I could live through. I have defied all odds and emerged from great hardship with a clear focus on the many blessings that grace my life.

Having experienced all this fundamentally changes my perspective on EVERYTHING! Even the hard parts are a joy because every ounce of life tastes so sweet. It makes it easy to stay on the right side of gratitude and remain constantly aware of what a gift life is.

Through all of this, faith has been my mainstay. I am certain I couldn’t have managed without it. For me, my faith gives me the strength I need, when I need it. It gives me clear perspective always, and it helps me hold onto the idea that, no matter how rough things might be, there is always hope when you open your heart and your life to God. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have been carried through this adversity (and all adversity I’ve ever faced) on the unfailing wings of faith.

One of the gifts of faith for me is the ability to see things that I never noticed before. I notice how many people I meet are fueled by an impervious positive outlook on life. These people are happy, grateful, and they tend to roll with the unexpected bumps that invariably come up during the average workday of my fellow road warriors. Bad weather, cancelled flights, unexpected maintenance…none of that fazes them much.

Watching how these positive people respond to unexpected obstacles in their lives has taught me that, at the end of the day, you take action on the things over which you have control and you accept the things that you have no way of managing. No matter what, you just keep your attitude in the right place, and life remains pretty consistently good, no matter what kind of chaos might be swirling around you.

In stark contrast to the indomitable spirits of these positive souls, I have come in contact with those that are clearly miserable. They are grouchy, rude, and self-important. Whether they realize it or not, these Nasty McNastersons isolate themselves in their dark world of mean and malevolent thoughts, words and deeds. Their negativity just oozes out of every pore making it hard for anyone to come close.

I have come across plenty of these folks in my travels, and I’ve learned to see them through a lens of faith that makes it clear that their unkind behavior is likely to be a symptom of the suffering they are feeling inside. I’ve learned to just maintain my happy countenance, and I have found that the light of my Spirit can sometimes brighten up the dark days of these cranky humans.

Whether a kind word makes any difference to them is not the point.

The point is that I am not letting anything or anyone rob me of my joy. I have worked too hard to get here. I suffered through years of terrible, debilitating pain, and every day for me now is a celebration. Even if I do still have some residual pain, I’m able to function and my appreciation for the simplest things makes life great.

The fascinating thing that I’m finding out is that happiness can be contagious…sometimes. My good mood quite often sparks a smile on the faces of the occasional crabby person I come across.

This revelation helps me connect the dots on a more global scale.

The thought process goes like this…

If I continue to take care of myself, have patience when I can’t zip around as fast as I once did, and just learn to enjoy life, even with the unwanted impediments that I experience, I can continue on my constant road of improvement. My injuries continue to heal, my life continues to get back to ‘normal’ (or my new normal as the case may be), and I’m happy.

When I’m happy, that joy naturally, effortlessly emanates from me to those around me. Because I’m happy, it is easy to be kind, and sometimes, just a kind word is all someone needs to trigger a shift inside of them from grumpy to a little bit glad.

If this pattern continues to extrapolate out, the multiplier effect of joy can, quite literally, change the world.

This is the happiest surprise ever!

I suspect I never would have been able to choose joy despite pain and difficulty, and see its impact, if I hadn’t been through a terrible accident, and a long, slow recovery.

It makes me aware that the hard times bring about the biggest benefits.

If you’re facing challenges now, I hope you’ll feel encouraged to keep soldiering on. The best is yet to come and you’ll discover such a wealth of strength and resilience inside of you in the process of walking through the hard parts.

And as you get to the other side of your hard time, you will feel so proud of your ability to overcome really difficult circumstances. Little by little, the light of your Spirit will gain momentum and carry you through the rough patches.

And if you are blessed by good times right now, please know that just a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, or a shoulder to lean on can make all the difference in the life of someone who might be enduring some dark days.

A little love can change the world.

My prayer is that the love and light you feel in your life overflows to not only lift you up, but also to lift up those around you.

With love and light to you, and everyone I meet, always,

A Fresh Start

On the heels of Easter, as we wait expectantly for Spring, there is enormous energy fueling new beginnings right now.

For me and my family, this is so true!

Our oldest daughter just moved to Charlotte to take on a new role (sports marketing…her professional dream) in her company.

I’m about to start a big new year-long project that I’m so excited about.

I’m even more excited about the fact that, against all odds and the opinions of most medical professionals, I’m making progress in the healing process. Trigger point therapy, while excruciating in the moment, is facilitating the repair of a 1/2 inch tear in the L4/L5 disk. It’s a slow go, but it’s working and I’m so thrilled because all of this means that I’m getting my life back!

I’m working hard to get my fresh start, and I’m savoring every second of it.

In the process, I am wondering if the long, difficult patch that I’m finally coming out of carries more blessings than curses.

It’s given me such extraordinary perspective. Surviving such a severe accident, and making my way through such a long and painful recovery, makes me so aware of all that is GOOD in life.

I’m inspired to continue to move forward and build momentum to craft the next chapter of my life. So much time being laid up has enabled me to get crystal clarity about all I want to do, see and experience in my life. This, all by itself, is an enormous blessing.

As I step forward after such a long period of having my life be, effectively, on ‘hold,’ it frees up my family to move ahead with their lives as well.

My progress enables my family to shift their energy and attention from helping me along through a very hard time, to other things, so they too can expand their own experiences.

It’s amazing to me how interconnected we all are.

If my family is any indication, we are all in this together. Our pain, our joy, our trials, and our victories are all shared.

I am so aware that the fresh start that Haley and I are experiencing with new and exciting work opportunities come with big changes, and the stress that goes with that.

In our family, we deal with the stresses together as well. Hard to avoid it since we are all so intertwined.

The point is that change is good. It can be stressful, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The challenges that come with growth and change stretch us and show us that we are capable of so much more than we might have realized.

Our changes inspire us to be BOLD! That is all good and enormously exciting!

For me personally, faith is the foundation of the fresh start I’m enjoying now.

It helped me keep going despite the medical experts telling me that my injuries, and the extensive limits that they brought to my life, were things I’d just have to accept as my ‘new normal.’

Perhaps, when viewed through the black and white, myopic lens of a world without faith, this is the ‘logical truth.’

To me, this passive acceptance of a life of limitations was and is unacceptable.

Ironically, huge worldly challenges like this one have been springboards to faith for me. I didn’t come to faith because of any lofty ideological or theological platitudes. I came to faith because life kept serving up challenges that were/are WAY above my pay grade.

I came to faith because it was my only hope on far too many occasions.

And my walk of faith is a not a something that happened in a brilliant flash of light and it has remained embedded, without question, in my life ever since.

Faith, for me is a choice I make every single day. I wrestle with it. I question it. I tug and it and try to pull it apart. It is fundamentally at odds with my robust rational brain. But ultimately, I make the conscious decision to live my life with faith at the center of it, and my life is better for it.

The beauty of seeing the world through the lens of faith is that there is such a broad, bright perspective, infused with a kaleidoscope of color and beauty, that is difficult for the naked eye to discern.

I am living proof that when God is with me, I can overcome obstacles that appear insurmountable.

Over time, each step of faith has been a building block that leads to more and more bold steps, and sometimes desperate leaps, of faith.

This is where the magic is.

Faith in a power bigger than we are, who is fully engaged in our world, changes everything!

NOTHING is off the table…ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH GOD.

I share all this with you today because I am sure my family and I are not the only ones who are enjoying a fresh start.

Each one of us is a spiritual being having a temporary human experience.

Today, I remind myself, my family, and all of you, of the truth of this. I hope we can all let the divinity that is in each one of us bubble up and fuel our individual (and collective) fresh start.

It’s exciting. It’s unpredictable. It’s revitalizing.

My experience with faith makes me certain that the life that you want (and that I want) is within reach. It is there for the taking.

Sending you love, light and a flood of faith and energy to help lift you up and carry you closer to your dreams.

A Deeper Dive on Easter: Part 4

Easter morning. This is when the impossible happens.

For Christians, this is the defining moment. Christ overcomes every adversity, including and ultimately death, when he rises on Easter morning.

For me, it is the fulfillment of the promise that ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is possible when you keep the faith.

All things are possible with God.

I love that.

It is this spirit of possibility that has kept me going in the toughest of times.

It also expands the scope of my dreams when life is humming along just fine.

Easter inspires the idea of living a resurrected life.

By that I mean living a life that breaks through limits and dares to reach for the impossible.

It is a life where miracles happen.

It is a life where everything you need to experience the transformation you want and need flows in at just the right moment.

On Easter, its easier to abandon the confines of our human perspective and get a glimpse of what could be from a more Divine vantage point.

Easter is a day overflowing with joy.

My greatest ambition is to carry a little bit of Easter, and the hope and infinite possibility this day embodies, with me every moment of every day throughout the year.

Even if the Easter story is not something you take as gospel, I absolutely believe that the ability to rise up and shine, no matter what hardship you face, is possible for everyone.

In the spirit of Easter, I’m sending you love, light and prayers that the light of the spirit that is in each of us shines with a radiance that illuminates every aspect of your life!

 

 

A Deeper Dive on Easter: Part 3

So now, it is Saturday, the day after Christ’s crucifixion.

Not only have Christ’s followers lost their Savior, they are on the run. They are thinking that they are next.

Even worse, they have the guilt of their own failings to contend with. Judas sold his soul to the devil (the political and religious leaders of the day who wanted Jesus gone) for a 30 pieces of silver.

A little back story on Judas…he was against Christ making any kind of capitulation to the powers that be. He was vying for his place in history. He wanted to be on the right side of Christ, the new leader who was gaining more and more acceptance as the King of Kings (despite his humble appearance). Judas was watching his claim to fame evaporate as it became increasingly clear that Jesus wasn’t going to fight City Hall, so to speak. Christ conceding to the leaders who wanted to arrest him meant Judas would have no chance to take a leadership role in a new world order.

So what’s an ambitious guy to do when his well-laid plans are disintegrating? He ingratiates himself with the other side by betraying Jesus. He not only got 30 silver coins, but he hoped to curry favor and save himself by throwing Jesus under the bus. Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was an ill-conceived, shameless power grab.

And Peter. He swore he would always pledge his allegiance to Jesus. He would never disavow his relationship to Christ, but the second that things got dicey, he insisted that he had no knowledge of Jesus…and he did it three times, just as Jesus said he would. Peter just wanted to save himself.

So ambition, greed, and self-preservation won the day, but at a terrible cost. Judas was so consumed with guilt that he hung himself. Several years later when Peter was about to be crucified, he insisted on being hung on the cross upside down. His reasoning? He didn’t deserve to die in the same manner as Christ.

While you and I have never experienced exactly what Judas and Peter did, we all have experienced loss. We all have made mistakes that we deeply regret. We all have had cherished hopes and dreams go awry, to one extent or another.

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter is the darkest day. It’s ‘the land in between’ death and resurrection. I imagine that this was a day of unspeakable mourning for Christ’s followers.

This must have been the kind of day where grief was so heavy, so overpowering that it made just breathing in and out a task that felt too great to bear.

I imagine this was a day when those close to Jesus wept and wondered, “Now what?”

I’ve had days like that. I’ve learned (the hard way, of course) that it’s better to just let the wave of sorrow wash over me, although I consistently try, unsuccessfully, to hold that wave back.

I’ve also learned that, as dark as the hardest of times are, all is not lost.

I’ve learned that God comes in when life brings me to my knees because I’m too exhausted to reason away His existence as is always my wont.

I’ve learned to let God in because I am 100 percent certain, in those agonizing times of sorrow, loss and defeat, that I can’t take another step without Him.

These are the moments when I surrender completely, not in some grand, come-to-Jesus way, but simply because I have nowhere else to go, and no idea how to find my way forward.

I’ve learned that these are the moments when faith bubbles up.

These are the moments when miracles happen.

These are the moments when I have eyes to see God, and when God gives me eyes to see me…my true self. My divine self.

This ‘land in between’ death and resurrection is where the blessings are getting ready to make your cup overflow.

The hardest part is that we just have to wait for it.

With love, light and prayers for peace whenever you find yourself in this land in between.

 

 

A Deeper Dive on Easter: Part 2

Good Friday. I’ve always wondered why in the world the day Jesus was unjustly arrested, convicted, tortured, and crucified in a slow and agonizing death, would be called Good Friday. Feels like the worst Friday on record to me.

No one seems to know for sure why this day is called Good Friday, but the consensus seems to be that the word ‘good’ in this context connotes that today is a day of religious observation.

Years ago, when the kids were very little, we started our family tradition to observe Good Friday by going to the beach every year on this day, sometime between noon and 3:00 p.m. when, according to the Bible, Jesus’ life was ending.

We start off next to one breaker with a prayer, then we all walk in silence down the beach to the next breaker and then we turn around and head back. Along the way, each one of us picks up stones from the sand. Every stone represents something that weighs heavy on our hearts.

When we arrive back at the point where we started, we pray together again. This time, we pray with grateful hearts that we can give God all our problems with faith and confidence that somehow, some way, all will be well.

Then we throw every rock back into the Sound and release our pain, our worries, our fears, and our regrets.

With each satisfying splash into the water, we let go of all the things that weigh us down, and give it all back to God. We also give thanks to Jesus for the supreme sacrifice He made so we could live our lives directly connected to God, free from sin and forgiven for being reliably imperfect.

This started, way back in the day, because I wanted to observe Good Friday with the kids, but trying to keep four squirmy little ones quiet in church for three hours felt like it’s own kind of hell. It just didn’t work with little ones.

The silent beach walk worked then, and it works now, because it gives us a way to worship together, and also have some quiet time to reflect, to grieve if we need to, and to reconnect with God in a way that feels personal and powerful.

The fact that millions of other Christ followers are experiencing their own ‘come to Jesus’ moments at the same time makes me feel connected to something so much bigger than myself.

Good Friday inspires a wide range of emotions in me…many of those emotions are highly uncomfortable. Our beach walk ritual gives me a place and a way to let them all bubble up to the surface, be recognized and addressed, and released in an act of faith that helps me hold onto the idea that God is not only in these rough and raw moments on the beach, but in all the moments of my life.

Today is a mash up of grief, deep sorrow, and anger at the savage injustice and torturous death that Christ suffered. I feel simultaneous solitude and connection, and the tiniest seeds of hope for tomorrow that good will come from what looks as bad as bad can be today.

Most of all, for me today is a day to remember that there is something so vast, so encompassing, and so powerful going on. It is impossible to get my head or my arms around it. It defies understanding in my limited human brain, but my heart and my soul are starting to stir.

This story isn’t over.

The best is yet to come.

With love, light and prayers for peace and love to embrace you, to comfort you, and to illuminate that tiny glimmer of greatness that lies underneath the grief, pain and sorrow.

 

A Deeper Dive into Easter: Part One

I love Easter! It’s my favorite holiday because it shines a bright light on our human response to adversity, the transforming ability of deep faith, and it is a beacon of the power of the Divine.

Before we dive in, a quick back story…When I started studying the Bible, I felt like I was Charlie Brown listening to the teacher drone on unintelligibly. My eyes glazed over and I couldn’t find a way to connect to the scriptures.

It helped a lot when I started viewing the Bible stories as though they were ancient texts loaded with messages meant for me, in my life, in a modern world. I had to take a leap of faith and trust that, somehow, the content of Bible was relevant to me today.

Someone suggested looking at the characters in Bible stories to see which one you identify with most. This was, and is, quite an adventure, particularly if I’m being brutally honest. For me, it helped to make the stories come alive.

So it is through these lenses that I look at the Bible stories around Easter.

The Thursday before Easter (sometimes called Maundy Thursday), is when Jesus had his last supper with his disciples. They all knew the end was near. Christ’s adversaries were closing in and they wanted him gone. He had become far too powerful as he preached a gospel of love, inclusion, community, and direct access to God. People couldn’t get enough of his message and his popularity made him a political and secular threat to the existing power structures (Jewish and Roman leaders respectively).

It was the first day of Passover and Jesus and his disciples gathered together for the Seder dinner. They spoke candidly about Jesus’ impending death. It was not only foretold in the Old Testament, but it was clear that the political and secular leadership were getting close to capturing Jesus.

Jesus said to his disciples, “One of you will betray me.”

There was a chorus of denials, but Jesus knew it would happen, and he knew who his betrayer was.

Jesus also predicted that his disciple, Peter, would deny knowing Jesus not once, not twice, but three times before the sun came up. Of course Peter swore up and down that he would NEVER deny Jesus.

Despite all this, Jesus established the covenant IN Christ during that Seder dinner. This covenant made all other covenants null and void. Through this, ALL of God’s people are forgiven of all their sins. Prior to this covenant, the need for absolution had to come only through a priest or a rabbi. Not anymore. That night marked, among other things, the democratization of salvation…it was available for FREE to EVERYONE!

When they broke bread together, Jesus said, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup, which is poured out for you, is the new covenant [ratified] in My blood.” That covenant ensured the forgiveness of sins for those who followed Jesus. 

After dinner, Jesus and his disciples went to the Garden of Gethesemene. Jesus was completely distraught. He knew he was living the final hours of his life,and that agonizing reality was shaking Him down, all the way to the core. Jesus needed some prayer time so he asked his disciples to keep watch while he went to pray.

Jesus prayed that God would somehow let him live, and also he prayed that not his own will, but God’s will be done. When he went back to his disciples, they had fallen asleep. This happened two more times. In Christ’s darkest hour, they couldn’t even manage to stay awake!

After the third time, Jesus said, “It’s Go Time. My betrayer is here.”

Judas had come to where Jesus and the rest of the disciples were, accompanied by a big, angry, well-armed crowd sent from the chief priests. Judas told them to arrest the man he kissed.

Sure enough, Judas went right up to Jesus and kissed him and Jesus was arrested.

The disciples panicked and scattered like shrapnel. They were scared that they, too, would be arrested and possibly killed. While trying to evade capture, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. The prophecy came true.

But here’s why this story really resonates with me…I see bits of myself in the highly flawed characters in this story.

While I have never betrayed anyone like Judas did, I have let pride, ambition, and a healthy sense of self-preservation come between me and making a good decision.

Like Peter, I have done really stupid, hurtful things to the people I love when I’m stressed out and scared.

Everything these disciples (and all of Christ’s followers) had hoped for was blowing up.

They wanted the ‘king of kings,’ their Messiah, to come and save them from their misery. They expected a proper king to lead them out of their bondage…a king in a crown of gold with a revered and exalted existence.

Instead, what they got was a nice Jewish kid with a hammer.

They expected their king to liberate them from oppression, but their number one draft pick for Savior was arrested and about to killed.

To them, in those desperate moments, all was lost.

And they weren’t just worried about Jesus’ impending, unjust, torturous execution…they were worried about saving themselves.

Like me, the characters in this seminal story are highly flawed.

Ironically, I identify with their oafish missteps, their misguided response to extraordinary stress, their unspeakable grief to be on the brink of losing their Savior, their teacher, their friend. It’s raw. It’s real and it’s part of our very messy history.

More on how the story unfolds tomorrow.

 

*Scripture references taken from Luke 22, Mathew 26 and Mark 14.

 

A Few Small Repairs

Thanks for the great responses to my last post’s question about ways we might be able to remedy what is ailing American society. More specifically, how do we allay the fears that seem to be deep-seated and truly destabilizing on every level of our culture.

There was a lot of consistency in your replies. Here are some of the highlights.

The family received a lot of focus in your responses. Parents who are (ideally) working together to be available to, engaged with, and focused on their kids was one of the top comments. The need for parents to truly LISTEN to children was a common response. Some readers went so far as to say that kids often feel ‘invisible.’

One reader suggested that our heavy reliance on technology might have something to do with this common feeling kids have of being unseen. Among peers, kids who don’t have the most magnificent ‘Snap Stories’ and Instagram posts feel immediately ‘less than’ those that do have ‘evidence’ on social media of a fabulous life. The fact that much of the ‘magnificence’ portrayed on social media is fabricated doesn’t accurately reflect reality.

Either way, kids remain lonely because their lives are too often lived virtually. They don’t hang out together, or even talk on the phone. “There are no voices, no faces, just keyboards.”

Kids often feel like their parents are too stressed out about their jobs to take time out to really notice what is going on with them. The fact that so many people are more devoted to their phones than their spouses and children sounds alarm bells that something is seriously wrong here.

Another common response had to do with the narcissistic focus on the self. It has become the norm, and its impact on society is devastating. It breeds a level of selfishness that makes sustaining any kind of relationship, whether it is between partners, friends, parents and children, or children and any adult (parents, teachers, coaches, etc.), nearly impossible.

“This selfishness creates a breeding ground for the dissolution of families, communities and the loss of hope,” one reader eloquently said.

Readers also suggested that the focus on our differences — which may be an offshoot of our narcissistic self-absorption — makes it difficult to find common ground. Without any way to meet in the middle, we find ourselves in a society of isolation, strangely alone in a crowd. Americans hold tight to polarizing ideals, constantly doing battle to hold tight to opposing positions. This mindset makes people who were once friends, enemies, and people who were once neighbors, adversaries.

You all had some great suggestions for how we can remedy these divisive, destabilizing issues.

First and foremost, readers said what is needed most is LOVE.

You said that we need to love one another… Treat each other with respect and behave with the dignity that makes saying, “Please.” “Thank you.” and “How can I help?” come naturally.

I was mulling all this over while watching some March Madness basketball. After one of the games we were watching, a documentary special came on about North Carolina State’s infamous coach, Jimmy Valvano. A couple of things really popped for me, in light of the discussion we are having on this blog.

The first had to do with how Coach V’s dad believed in his son 100 percent. He always told Jimmy, “I know you’re going to win the championship Jimmy! My bags are packed. I’m ready to come see your team win it all!” Every call, no matter how unlikely a championship win actually was, Rocco Valvano never failed to tell Jimmy he had complete faith in him. It inspired a belief in Jimmy that anything was possible.

The second thing about Coach Valvano was how he loved his players. Several were interviewed and they all said that they had no doubt that Coach V loved them like a father. For some, it was the only time they ever felt the love and faith of a parent in their lives.

Maybe what struck me was that Coach V was loved by his dad, and he paid that love forward to the players he coached with such devotion.

In addition to love, readers said believing in a power greater than themselves, and being part of a faith community, helps create a solid foundation for life.

Spiritual faith, and worshiping with others who share you beliefs, can set deep roots in a community that literally and figuratively feeds the soul and creates a bedrock of stability, interconnectedness, and joy.

Even if you don’t necessarily subscribe to every element espoused by a faith community, participating in it can help to cure the many ails of isolation.

I saw this, up close and personal, when one of my best friends started attending a church in Florida. He has never believed in Christianity, although he grew up attending Protestant churches. He was on an extended assignment in Florida for work, and was separated from his family, friends and community.

He started going to church because he just wanted to be connected to other people. It didn’t change his belief system, but being part of this church family gave him some work/life balance. Even more, he said he really liked being around people who shared a common desire to be the best version of themselves that they could be. This church community fostered that, and being part of that made his life on the road happier and more fulfilling.

I don’t know, for sure, how or why we are where we are in America.

I do believe that breaking the bubble of isolation, and coming together in love, fosters faith that the best is yet to come.

With love, light and prayers that peace and hope will crowd out fear and isolation  and help to restore our souls,

 

BROKEN

Did you know that when you break a bone, if it is re-set properly, protected in a cast or sling, and given the rest and TLC it needs, that broken part of the bone will repair itself and be exponentially stronger than the undamaged bone?

I think this might also be true for people when they suffer an emotional injury of some kind. Whatever the trauma or ‘break’ we have suffered, and whenever that hurt happened, I believe there is a way to heal.

On an interpersonal level, I’ve learned that the best, and most complete, healing comes with a free flow of  love.

I wonder if this same healing process is possible for ‘breaks’ in society.

Since the  Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting, I feel like the obvious brokenness in America that has allowed school shootings to become almost commonplace, although always unspeakably tragic, has finally reached a tipping  point.

Thanks to the outcry from students, parents, teachers, and millions of others, in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, it feels like maybe, this time, we might have a chance to address the broken parts in our society to ensure that our kids won’t have to be scared to go to school everyday.

It is remarkable what is happening in people’s homes, in communities, in state and local legislatures. More and more companies are standing up and saying “Never again!” A beautiful chorus of voices, as well as hands, hearts, spirits and  minds, are rising up out of the anguish and the tears.

In short, people are coming together in an effort to solve the problem of school shootings in America.

While I’m happy to see that the American people, some U.S. corporations, and a rising number of state and local governments are starting to take action on the issue of gun control, there is something that still worries me…

I wonder if the ‘gun problem’ is a symptom of a bigger issue.

I can’t help thinking that the preponderance of guns in America suggests a deep feeling of insecurity and lack of safety (perhaps both physical AND emotional).

The people who engage in these heinous acts of domestic terrorism typically suffer with anxiety, depression, and an obvious mental ‘break’ that leads to too many instances of human carnage.

So how did we get here?

What is going on in American society that has pushed so many people to the breaking point? Our suicide rate is on the rise. The number of people addicted to opioids has become an American crisis. Our populace is undeniably distraught and depressed.

In a recent Wall Street Journal feature, Princeton professors Anne Case and Nobel-prize winning economist, Angus Deaton, share research that suggests the rise in deaths of despair stem from a failure of spiritual/social life, the breakdown of families, and the deterioration of social bonds in America.

If that is true, does it follow that we might be able to turn things around by rebuilding the connection and community that we are so sorely missing?

Is faith and family a good starting point?

Are there other ways you can think of that might help us fix what is broken in America?

Please tell me what you think. I will do a follow up to this post that includes your thoughts, insights and inspiration.

I can’t wait to hear what you think!

With love and light,

 

Letting Go: Part 2

The other day, I wrote about letting go of toxic relationships. (You can see that post here.)

Today, I want to talk about some other ‘letting go’ processes that, on the surface, appear far more innocuous than toxic relationships, but in truth, they can insidiously cause as much — or even more — damage as toxic relationships.

Here is a laundry list, in no particular order, of some things I have needed to let go of. I share them here in case you have similar sticking points that feel like you’d be better off without.

–EXPECTATIONS

I have a girlfriend who says, “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.”

When I first heard  that, I thought it was pretty extreme. How could we be anything more than mediocre if we didn’t set high expectations for ourselves and others?

Here’s the flaw in that thinking; expectations are different from goals. Setting goals gives you something to strive for, and they are typically things that you have complete control over. Your goals are your own. Sometimes, you might have goals that include others, like goals for your team, for example. These group goals are discussed and shared with your teammates so everyone can work together to get a win. That is all positive and productive. All good.

Expectations, on the other hand, are often foisted upon others, and frequently without their knowledge that you expect something of them.

When you find yourself placing expectations on others, you set yourself up for disappointment when/if the other person doesn’t measure up. This is also  true for the expectations (not goals) that we put on ourselves.

Disappointment leads to resentment and it all devolves into a negative, downward spiral.

Just knowing that I suffer with expectations is helping me break the pattern. It feels like breaking any bad habit…when I start down the rabbit hole of expectations, I stop and remind myself that nothing good comes of this, and I remember to mind my own business and ditch expectations.

–THE NEED TO BE RIGHT

Being ‘right’ might be a worthwhile pursuit if you are a lawyer arguing a case, or if you are competing in a debate. If you are in a relationship with another human, this ‘need’ can be a killer.

For me to be ‘right,’ that means the other person must be ‘wrong.’ This black and white, all-or-nothing thinking makes it impossible to ever meet in the middle. When the need to be right rears its ugly head in my life, I ask myself one critical question: “Do I want to be right or  do I want to be in a relationship with this person?” Most of the time, maintaining the relationship wins the day.

–THE NEED TO BE WRONGED

Victim mentality comes in lots of shapes and sizes. I grew up surrounded by it and have seen, first hand, how crippling it can be, not only to those who act as victims, but also to the ones who love them. I fall into the latter category.

Here’s what I learned: some people hold onto their ‘victimhood’ like it is a lifeline. When a person plays the victim, they never have to take responsibility for their actions because it (the problem of the day) is always someone else’s fault. Folks like these constantly bank on the pity play and tirelessly beat the ‘Poor me, I’ve been so wronged,’ drum. At best, it is tedious to be around people like this. At worst, it can be very damaging to be around the negative current that pulses through those who play the victim.

Tough stuff happens to everyone. We all CHOOSE how we will respond to life’s challenges. Victims capitulate in the face of real or imagined adversity. Victors use life’s challenges as a springboard for growth, strength and achievement.

When you love someone who insists on being a victim, the only thing you can do is keep a safe distance to avoid being collateral damage of the chaos that swirls around perennial victims.

–THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

It’s a lot easier to hold on to what you know, even if you don’t like it much, than it is to take on the unknown. The thing is, if you stick with the status quo, even when you know it’s time to move on to something new, you start to stagnate in your own complacency. I’ve learned it’s better to acknowledge your fear of change, and make some changes anyway. It’s scary to step into uncharted territory, but also emancipating and exhilarating. It’s so worth it to abandon the devil you know.

–YOUR WELL-LAID PLANS

I notoriously make all kinds of detailed plans in my life, and I pursue them with gusto. After a few trips around the block and some well-earned grey hair and wrinkles, experience has taught me that I’m better off when I hold onto my plans loosely. So often, God has a better plan than anything I could ever conceive.

I’ve learned that plans are fine, but it’s good to let go of my myopic view and stay open to alternatives. This way, I don’t miss even better options when they show up.

Faith comes into play on ALL of  these issues, including toxic relationships. These are tough issues for me. There is an element of ‘control’ in all of these…at least I want to think I have control over these things. The truth is, I do not have control over anyone but myself.

For me, it takes a leap of faith to excise toxic people and behaviors from my life. Opening the door to Spirit gives me the courage and confidence required to make the bold moves necessary to live my best life. Faith also provides comfort when making healthy choices involves letting go of people you care about.

With love, light and prayers that you feel empowered to let go of any baggage that might be keeping you from living your best life!

 

Letting Go: Part One

I was talking with an old friend the other day about letting go of toxic relationships. This is a sticky problem that virtually everyone faces, I suspect, at one time or another in their lives. I certainly know I have.

Admittedly, I have not handled this type of problem well in the past. I tend to be loyal to a fault. I give the other person the benefit of the doubt for far too long. I tend to examine my own behavior under a microscope looking for clues to what I must have done to cause rancor in relationships. I imagine that I am, somehow, to blame for being at odds with someone in my life.

When it finally comes time to stand up for myself, I hesitate because I don’t want to be hurtful or unkind to the other person, even if they’ve been hurtful or unkind to me.

In an effort to sort through a recent bump in a very rocky relational road, I prayed about it because I just couldn’t sort out how to work through this perennially problematic relationship.

The prayer part, for me, really helps me just calm down, in addition to helping me set off on the right foot in dealing with a problem.

Then I shifted to looking for guidance in the Bible.

As I wrestled with this issue of toxic relationships, a couple of scriptures popped out at me.

The first one is from Matthew chapter five where Christ tells his followers to work out any divisive issues they have might have with their brother or sister before they come to worship Him. The clear message is that being in the midst of conflict with people in our lives creates a huge distraction that gets in the way of spiritual growth. You have to clean the messes up before you can get a fresh start.

Later on, in chapter seven, Christ throws a flag on the  play when people come to him complaining about how awful their brother has been to  them. Jesus gets a little heated about this and delivers a message of accountability when He recommends that we all, “pull the plank out of our own eye before we start complaining about the speck in our brother’s eye.”

The very next scripture warns against casting our pearls (the best we have to offer) among swine because they will take the good that you give and destroy it, and then turn on you and rip you to shreds. (paraphrasing Matthew 7:6)

The juxtaposition of these passages has confused me for years because they seem so contradictory, but I think I finally get it.

I think the message is to be accountable for what we say and do. If we have an issue with someone, don’t go around complaining about it, take responsibility for your part in the argument and go to your brother or sister to try to make amends. Treat them the way you would want to be treated.

The ‘swine’ text that has always seemed to be so at odds with the earlier texts might actually be instructions for what to do when we do our best to make things right, but the other person is not motivated to respond in kind.

Maybe in these cases, you have to recognize that the words of peace that you offer in hopes of reconciliation are just falling on deaf ears. Perhaps these situations require you to simply move on and detach with love.

Stepping out the of relationships like these is about more than self preservation.

Clearing toxic people from our lives is necessary if  we believe that we are each  created by God to do great things in the world. Jesus says that we are destined to do FAR GREATER things than He did. This is a tall order and it requires all our energy and focus to live up to our divine potential.

Allowing ourselves to stay stuck in the mud with the swine of the world keeps us from being all we are designed to be.

With that in mind, it is so much easier for me to let go of toxic relationships, wish the other person well, and move on.

There is a lovely sense of liberation that comes with this realization. It is so freeing!

I share my “Aha!” moment about toxic relationships in hopes that my newfound awareness that empowers me to just step away from the muddy mess might help liberate you from relationship distress too, freeing you up so you can move forward toward greater joy, success and fulfillment.

With love and light,