Sometimes we sugar coat things, thinking we’re sparing others upsets or upheavals. But, if we choose to deny anyone the truth by withholding from them the reality of a situation, we don’t really do them any service at all! Speak the truth, give the facts as you see them, relay honest appraisals whenever possible. Trust and deliver the difficult truths with kindness, compassion, and an earnest heart determined to help others.
Our challenge shouldn’t be how we can hide facts and the truth, for now, to protect someone we love from possibly being hurt, but rather our consideration should be how we can best deliver or present to others what they may need to know to make the most optimal choices for them, to face their dilemmas head-on as they are presented in life, while standing up to what they must! Some of the purposeful omitting or concealing we do may seem to soften a blow to others, but truthfully, it might also be that we don’t want to be responsible for having to give bad news or to burden another when they’re under significant duress! It might also be that in white-lying, omitting, or actually distorting reality, we are making assumptions about others which suggest that we believe them weak or incapable of facing reality. And that projection upon them might be a serious disservice to them!
The truth is truly what each of us deserves to know, process, and ruminate, even when that truth seems like a bitter pill to swallow or a hard left to our already-battered head! Some of the storms we face in this life actually provide great lessons and the impetus for significant and positive change, but if we’re always hiding in a shelter of our own making or in one provided too readily by others, we run the risk of missing those important life lessons! Not all storms can and should be evaded. They serve as necessary opportunities for individual growth and personal development! We have to give that chance to ourselves by facing each obstacle and trial in life head-on, but also others deserve that same opportunity! Honesty, reality, and truth are the power of knowing what to do, where to go, and how to proceed. The light of truth reflected in life is always preferable to the darkness of uncertainty and ill-preparedness.
Today I had the tremendous honor of personally thanking and embracing two World War II veterans, who were called to stand for acknowledgment in front of the congregation at church, in honor of Memorial Day tomorrow. It surely was a momentous moment for our church, given how few of those from the greatest generation remain! Both these gentlemen, members of my church, are in their 90’s now. Time becomes more precious each and every day we are fortunate and blessed by their presence in our lives. And when speaking with one of the men named Joe, he mentioned how much more proud he becomes of his service in both WWII and the Korean War as time passes! I responded that my gratitude for all those who’ve served this nation has increased with age as well, given my heightened understanding of what such a sacrifice entails! It means time away from loved ones, the risk to life and limb, and it requires a heart of unselfish discipline often under unimaginable conditions!
Although Memorial Day is set aside for remembering our fallen servicemen and women, our church congregation chooses to single all veterans and active military out on each of the national holidays which honor our military. At the start of each service prior to, or on such an occasion, the minister(s) asks for those who’ve served in each conflict and war to stand to receive our grateful applause. Now some people object to confusing Memorial Day’s fallen recipients of honor with Veteran’s Day, which honors all those who’ve served – living and dead. But I believe there’s a pressing need to honor service whenever possible! In the case of those who served in WWII, time is leaving their memory behind and fewer veterans of that conflict are alive to serve as obvious reminders! I personally would rather be honoring their service and celebrating their presence among us rather than standing graveside with those same sentiments after they’ve passed! Too many of those who’ve served this great nation have gone to their deaths unaware of how very esteemed and infinitely valuable to the preservation of liberty their sacrifices were in service to our nation! What a shame it is to imagine how many men and women have sacrificed everything for the sake of securing and protecting this nation’s freedom without really knowing our full measure of gratitude!
My heart aches for such overt love, as is mentioned in the Bible: John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. And in this life, we are all “friends” in our common humanity. Surely those who sacrifice everything for this nation in the military service branches do so because they value their families, their loved ones, their communities, their neighbors, this nation and their freedom more than life itself! Preserving and protecting our precious freedom is reason enough for so many to choose to voluntarily enlist these days! Liberty persists because of the sacrifices of all those who serve this nation and for that, we cannot possibly express ample enough gratitude!
Memorial Day is a special day set aside to honor those who died in service to this nation and our hearts should be filled with somber gratitude and remembrances of them all. Such a history of personal sacrifice through voluntary and involuntary service to our nation throughout our history have cemented for us a continuous freedom, prosperity, and peace unrivaled by most other nations! Our nation’s history is filled with amazing heroism, valor, and personal sacrifice for the sake of preserving and protecting America for generations to come! But forgive those of us who take the opportunity to include veterans still living in our remembrances on this special patriotic day, especially those dear souls advancing in age who are within earshot of our accolades and our applause! We must take advantage of every opportunity we’re given to show them our gratitude, being thankful for their long, indelible lives as part of our nation’s most honorable contributions to the prevalence of freedom in the world! I wish you all a blessed Memorial Day! I pray for the families, loved ones, and souls of all those who perished in service to this nation, may God be with them all!
We aren’t here to live a life free of problems, but rather to motivate, to inspire and to elevate ourselves and others around us through them. We’re meant to rise to the occasion, to learn, to grow and to mature within to be able to take on more problems as well as to develop our abilities to handle greater challenges ahead. How do we do that if we and those we nurture are encouraged to hide from our problems, or worse, kept purposefully from them?? Problems seem to be now viewed as problematic, the very ways in which we challenge our status quo in life now have taken on such a stigma, we often want to escape instead!
Facing our problems is the only way we know how strong and tough we can be as the “overcomers” we are meant to be! Hiding, denying, ignoring, backing away, settling for less, or creating safe spaces only cripples us within. We must accept challenges as part of the continuous growing cycle we are always in, we must experience lessons and tests as the ongoing way in which we mature and develop ourselves in life’s perpetual classroom. If we were to live life sans problems, challenges or tests, we would never learn about our own inner strength, our fortitude or most of our abilities. Status quo and easy-breezy doesn’t really teach us about ourselves, nor does it develop within us the appreciation, acknowledgement or awareness of our metal, our own persevering spirit or our maturity as time passes. Overcoming gives us that. When we overcome and mature through things, we develop more self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. Of course, all of that is God’s gift to us, through His gift of love within us to begin with. We are meant to be overcomers because God made us to so. In this world, we face daily challenges and must learn to rise to those challenges to become more. There are infinite opportunities each new day for us to become something more and someone greater than who we are today!
Even if we ourselves created some of the taxing problems we are now enduring through accidental or purposeful choices, we must accept the responsibility we now face for extricating ourselves from the constraints those problems represent. Problems always offer us a chance to be overcomers! And that is always a more inspiring and uplifting response rather than denial or flight. God is with us as we endeavour and pursue the ways to move forward, through and beyond our current issues and problems. But we will not learn how to make our way if we choose to always make our way safer, easier, and problem-free. Accepting problems as the necessary learning experiences they represent is always the best way to keep our peace in this world. Doing otherwise makes our journey more miserable and our role as problem-solver less rewarding.
Yesterday was truly the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” at the Rio Olympics! There was a horrible bicycle crash when the leader in the women’s race went down and laid immobile on the side of the roadway on a very steep, winding and rainy descent. She ended up breaking three vertebrae in the lumbar region of her spine. It almost appeared as though she had died as she lay there motionless, the accident was so horrible to watch! Offset that with the world-record shattering swim of Katie Ledecky and another gold for Michael Phelps, both of the American swim team; or with a 41-year old gymnast still competing in her 7th consecutive Olympics, seemingly defying aging just because she can!
If this teaches us anything, it is that daily life mimics the microcosm of the Olympics. One minute, we’re in our rhythm, enjoying the ride and then we’re flat on our backs (literally or figuratively), having experienced something truly random, shocking and devastating. Or we might be working daily towards some truly big goal, not sure if we’ll make the grade and capture the prize for our efforts! Yet, one day, if we commit to something, we surely will make either the goal or the changes in ourselves which occur in our attempt the prize we gain!
Perseverance, effort, commitment and training our minds, bodies and hearts for success are key. Whether we have a major setback, such as that bicyclist’s fall, or a great success, like Michael Phelps and the American swim team, we need to remember that life’s constant lessons continue as long as we breathe! We shall have great days, bad days, days when the sun shines on us and days when the dark cloud overhead seems eternal. But human beings are resilient, meant for unlimited potential and capable of so much more than we ourselves can even imagine, as long as we don’t give up on life when the going gets tough, or when we have known the agony of defeat!
I got to visit my dear friend’s new place yesterday. Somehow it was satisfying and comforting to explore the place into which she moved after giving up so much from her other residence at this stage of her life. She is elderly, in her early 80’s. My friend didn’t want her children to go through what she had gone through with her own mother years before; having to quickly find a nursing home for her mom upon the sudden eroding of ability, mind, thinking, cognition and/or loss of faculties. So she chose to go on her own timing and by her own choice to a smaller place in a senior residence community (with assisted-care on site), where she can get ready help should it be necessary some day or any day.
She left most of what she had collected in her 40+ years of living in her own home behind. Most everything she had amassed as family matriarch, along with her husband who passed away a decade ago, her sons left for the less fortunate curbside at her old house. In a lot of ways, I mourned for her decision, knowing that she didn’t really want to move or change address after all this time. She enjoys her freedom, lamenting having to be accountable to staff at her new place for safety sake; and her house was her connection to her deceased husband and many memories of prior times which have passed for good. But she did this out of love and because she didn’t want to be a burden to her children. She gave up the bigger house, the pool, the secure garage, the possessions and her freedom to move into a place where she has her own space for now; she is part of a community of seniors in transition, each learning how to face whatever is to come.
Each of us must find our way through the minefield of life, often fraught with such discomfort and significant change that we are rendered stunned. In hopes that she has eased that stage for her sons, I give her great credit! It takes unconditional love and an unselfish heart to leave almost all you’ve treasured and gathered behind for the sake of the ease of others. It is hard to imagine rendering most everything material as inconsequential; but not when measuring the worth of such things against those most precious to your heart – your children and/or family- and their needs! It is not easy watching people change, but it is incredibly hard to watch them go. I am preparing myself for that time with her, with my own mom and with others in my life; as time itself erodes the illusion of safety nets we seem to have when we’re younger. We must learn to accept the changes, to face things with bravery, even to blaze the pathways into unknown places for the sake of love! Fortunate are those of us who also do it with faith.
I’m rolling with the changes . . otherwise the brakes of resistance I try to apply wear out from fighting against the natural state of things. Life is ever-changing and though we might believe ourselves easily rocked by all the change we experience, we are only able to truly grow and develop when we’re forced out of our comfort zones. Change is life!
We begin as babies incapable of fending for ourselves or appraising our own course; were we not to change, we wouldn’t even understand that we had life! So why does it often become harder to accept all the change of life by the middle or perceived end? I suppose it is our awareness having awakened us to the realities of life’s abruptness and unfiltered truths. Life can seem so hard once we understand loss, brevity, failure, fear, doubt, worry, anxiety, lack, need, and all the emotions which push upon our souls. But at the same time, life is supposed to have prepared us each step of the way for exactly what comes next, known or unknown. We should know by now that we’re not invincible, infallible and that our time is not infinite here on earth; but we should also believe ourselves successful at having made it this far!
We’ve learned, grown, developed, overcome, strengthened our minds, bodies and spirits for the journey yet to come! Why then be reticent when changes happen? Without change there can be no actual growth or development in us or around us, in which we might take great pleasure in having mastered another life skill or challenge! Life wouldn’t be much at all were we to remain as we once were. If we keep applying the brakes to our life as it changes around us – hiding or diverting from the changes we fear, dread or imagine – we risk stalling, crashing or disabling our own lives in the process. In the end, life is really the sum of all that we met and overcame in pursuit of some level of contentment, inner peace and joy within our souls! We should welcome the changes as new tests and testimonies for having stood tall and strong in this life!
I used to believe that life’s simplicity emanated from an earlier, easier time. Now I realize that nothing has really ever been “simple”, it was just how I processed life happening to me and around me that has changed. When I was a child, even the biggest ordeal or disappointment soon faded into hopefulness with a childlike sense of promise for what was yet to come. As an adult, we are able to process things with a much deeper analytic nature; we view life through lenses of regret and “what if”. We consider consequences, and have experienced many more of the hard knocks life often brings just by living. So we understand our mortality, life’s wear and tear, as well as relating to our perceived failings and shortcomings. We also should understand our measure of success better, and even bring light to them via a different perspective.
To “grow up” means not only a physical renouncing of what once was with our bodies, but it also means that we have accepted change within! We should know as adults that if all things were easy and safe, our lives would not have amounted to much at all in the way of inner development or growth, much less wisdom! We then should readily accept our role as student in life’s giant daily classroom. Our day as student didn’t end when we left the safety of our kindly teachers and friends in adolescence. It didn’t end when we walked a field to receive a significant diploma.
Life only progresses to bigger and more arduous learning experiences, for which we should consider ourselves suitably able to face rather than to dodge! When we dodge those challenges, walk safely without meeting them head on, or even when we accept ourselves as failures for not overcoming them, we are settling for less in life!
Life is for the over-comers! We are human beings, but we have to learn how to be human doers as well. We have to accept life coming at us like a series of uncertain waves, hitting our vessel (our being) as we venture out into the uncertain seas of circumstance around us. We may not know for sure our ability to handle all that comes our way, but trust we must and have faith we shall! For the waves of this life won’t stop until breath has left our bodies. If we look at life through our grown-up eyes, the reality is not always what we would have liked; but we had better choose to make the most with what we have while we’re still afloat! So my advice is this: sail onward all ye over-comers! Start by seeing life’s waves as opportunities to rise up with a new, improved you. Let hope and faith be your guides as life leads you onward into more complex and uncertain times and tides. Call upon that inner child’s hopeful spirit if you must!
Living takes a will . . one courageous, trusting and hopeful enough to overlook fear, the “what-ifs” and the scrapes of falling in failure. We cannot dare live, with our eyes closed, behind our protective walls and within our safest confines. Living means we face our fears with courage, we endeavor to meet our challenges head on and we keep climbing no matter how many times we slip or fall from this rung or the next. Living isn’t easy, without obstacle; and it surely isn’t done in the safety of our mind’s making. It takes faith, hope, trust, perseverance as well as a surrender to our inability to control every detail and every outcome. But living is worth every scraped knee we endure, each failure, all of our attempts, each broken heart or broken dream. For in getting those, we lived!
No one ever experiences anything worthwhile when merely existing. Push yourself to go beyond today and every day you get by purposefully living rather than merely existing through them. How do we do that and what is the difference? Living means we are already outside of whatever comfort zone we may have set up for ourselves; it means we dare to realize our dreams, to attempt to make our desires reality and it means we don’t give up on ourselves! Living, as opposed to just existing, means that when faced with challenges, we don’t hide, run or flee. We aren’t going to outrun all of our challenges, so the sooner we learn to step up to the plate each one represents, the better. It is life-affirming, confidence-building and esteem-igniting each and every time we take life’s challenges on for the sake of passing the tests and trials each represents to us. If we run, hide, seek to escape or let others do the heavy-lifting in life, we never learn to trust in ourselves, to believe in ourselves or to have faith and hope in our future!
Just like with our first steps, our first developmental stages through infancy, life never ceases to present to us challenges and learning experiences which we must overcome and pass in order that we may grow and develop into new stages! And each of those new stages brings more of the same by way of tests and trials which we must learn to pass successfully in order that we grow and develop for what lies ahead. Imagine if we had chosen in our toddler years to remain helpless and infantile? No one does that because adulthood represents an promising period which prompts our desire for more. All children seem to want to leapfrog through their development, eager to grow up before their time. Why then do we suddenly find our scraped knees, fears and failures so overwhelming at some advancing age, that we wish to halt our own progress? Keep pushing through challenges, obstacles and all the mess life brings! The only person you really hurt when you let fear, doubt, insecurity or apathy win is you! Make it your goal to live today, with a will, courage, faith and hope. Don’t let life beat you back, down or out.
We do ourselves no favor when we look for the easiest way out or the way of least resistance every time! I choose the stairs because I know that habitual choice does more for me than an elevator. A flight of stairs is harder, the elevator often more convenient and easier; but the stairs does something for me physically which the elevator can’t! And so, I choose the stairs most times. In all the ways life was made easy for me by choice or by circumstance, I responded with less change, less growth and less will. In every way.
When we aren’t challenged, we don’t grow, change or become stronger. Look at someone who truly has overcome significant challenges and see if you aren’t truly inspired! Life is in our challenges and how we do in fact overcome them or at least endeavor to! There isn’t much to say about evading, eluding or ignoring challenges . . and so there isn’t much we can say about our lives when we have or when we do evade, elude or ignore challenges most of or all the time. We’re meant to develop, learn, overcome and to experience change all of our lives. Shutting down that process by means of self-doubt, self-protection, fear or even an apathetic attitude towards growth doesn’t serve any purpose but to instill a false sense of acceptance about a life which then stagnates.
Push yourself to stand up to the fears and doubts which could otherwise prove crippling. Take a stance against your own urge to run, to evade or to always choose ease. And when others give you the easy way, or life proves itself too simple, challenge yourself to more! And if you believe your life has already been too challenging, hence your desire to not experience anything but ease; I suggest you take a look at how much personal growth and what lessons were hidden there within everything you have had to overcome! There isn’t much you’ll gain from a life without challenge, without test or trial and sans difficulty. But in the throes of what seems challenging, there is much to learn, much to overcome and much by which we make ourselves better! Perhaps it is just the perspective . . challenges aren’t all bad, negative or hard. In challenges lies great potential for change, opportunity for growth and life lessons!