Monday, July 30, 2012

Staying Fresh - Discipleship 183

There is something inspiring about creating some new, or tweaking something that already exists in order to make it feel like a new experience. 

I like variety. There are seasons when I enjoy the same thing (pizza....) and then there are others when I can't get enough of new perspective shifting mindsets. 

I wonder if our relational connection with people and with God might fall into this same desire to keep things fresh? I know there are times when I'm looking for something new instead of the systematic routine that I have established. Maybe I'm the only one, but if you too crave variety and newness...consider experimenting with these four things:

1. Shake it up. There is nothing more system shocking for those of us who crave our routines, to deliberately do everything different for an entire day. So you stop at the same coffee shop every morning? Try a different place. Never tried a certain ethnic cuisine for lunch or dinner? Today is that day!! Create an experience...good or bad. Sometimes keeping life fresh is about our willingness to shuffle the deck when it comes to our routine.

2. Adventure Robinhood style. Steal for the rich and give to the poor...sort of. Let's be honest here. In our current Canadian climate, we live in the land of luxury. There is nothing more humbling then spending time with people who are less fortunate than we are and discovering that they have what we and contentment. Adventure Robinhood style is about learning to identify with the poor in your community. Get outside of yourself and your circumstances and spend time with people who can teach and inspire you. If you don't know where to begin, find out what your city is doing to serve the less fortunate and discover how you can get involved beyond merely handing out cash.

3. Follow the leader. Consider allowing someone else to dictate the pace and rhythm of your entire day. This is one of my favorite things to do on occasion with my young family. My wife and I have allowed our kids to design our entire day...and we've put a map together in order to help us follow the plans that we've created. It's been a blast...stretching for sure, but certainly worthwhile. Give up control a little bit, there's no telling what might happen when you are willing to be led by someone else.

4. Dream big. So you don't want to wake up 30 years from now with a heart full of the shoulda coulda wouldas...well, I suggest that you start dreaming today. What would you like to see, where would you like to visit, what would you like to experience. Start dreaming and then start evaluating where you are today and where you'd like to be in the future. Learning to translate your dreams into reality will be the greatest adventure you can ever experience.

Staying fresh is something we all crave. I hope that you consider what this looks like for you, and that you invite others into your quest for freshness. There is nothing like experiencing a deepening interconnectedness and support for following your hopes and dreams.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When It's Hard to be Thankful - Discipleship 182

Maybe I'm alone in feeling this way, but there are times in my life where I simply do not appreciate nor do I feel grateful for who I am, what I have and what my life is all about. I find these moments in time very interesting as I observe how I'm reacting (or over-reacting) to circumstances, people and the other things that life brings.

I often wonder what I would or could do if things were different in some way.

It's in these moments of introspection that I'm learning to discipline myself to be thankful, instead of wishing for something more or something else. It's alright to crave something deeper, but when the craving for more (consumption) overshadows current reality (perspective) run into the proverbial dead end internally and feel like you are hitting a wall that cannot be overcome...and the vicious circle continues unless you can system shock your way out of it.

Here are three things that are necessary for me to initiate system shock:

1. Pursue Simplicity. I define simplicity for myself and my family as an intentionality behind who we are and what we do. When it's hard to be thankful, it's usually because we've allowed the intentionality behind who we are and what we do to become less of a priority for us. For example, if my hope is to be a great dad to my kids but I don't take advantage of the opportunity to spend time with them while on vacation or during a down moment in our schedule, I may struggle with the fractured relational connection I experience with my kids due to the lack of intentionality in my pursuit of them. When I choose to keep life simple (ahem...when I'm intentional about what I pursue), I maintain a grateful and thankful perspective on life.

2. Pursue Relationship. Much of introspection occurs in an isolated state; meaning that the person who is introspective is often alone during the moment of reflection (and yes you can be alone even if there are others in the same room as you!!). When it's hard to be thankful I find great value in taking the time to connect relationally with others so I can share some of the difficulties I may be experiencing, but also so I can simply listen to how their life story is unfolding and find things to be grateful for from observing their lives from a distance. This observation isn't a state of comparison, but one of hopefulness as I begin to trace the theme of thankfulness and gratitude in another person's story...and hopefully can begin to translate this same perspective into my own.

3. Pursue Generosity. Sometimes I find it hard to be thankful because I have too much stuff. We've all heard the line, "what do you get someone who has everything?" To be honest, live in North America (regardless of your current financial status), is a life of luxury and want...not one of need. I find that when I choose to live generously with my time, stuff and skill set, I'm not only disciplining myself to be thankful but I'm also alleviating some of the burden that my consumeristic nature brings (ie, more is enough).

When it's hard to be thankful, take the time to stop, listen, examine and respond accordingly to the space you are presently occupying. Life isn't easy, but it can be full in a non-materialistic way...which is the best kind of life to live! I'm grateful for learning yet again that I've got more to learn, and I'm thankful that I've got a perfect example of someone to follow who knew how to be thankful in all things...thank you Jesus!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Relational Ties - Discipleship 181

I'm sure many of you have heard the phrase "the tie that binds us." It might be a little here's a more modern approach to this same idea - relational connecting points.

I've had the amazing privilege of knowing some fantastic older folks over the course of my life. Some of my favorite memories are having spent time with wise, old, wrinkled individuals and chatting. You know what the common denominator in most of their stories they tell is? Relationships. No matter how old or how young you might be, it's the relational ties that we have that grant us a portion of our identity. Here are three key things I'm learning about relational ties:

1. All relationships shape us. Whether it's a positive interaction with a teacher from your Grade 1 class, or a frightful first date experience...all relationships shape us. We are formed, reformed, dented and glued by the relational connections we develop with others...even if these connections are limited and brief. Picture someone you admire in your mind. How are you connected to them? The social business network Linked In defines these types of connections as first, second or third type connections. A first connection is an immediate interaction with an individual. A second connection is a "friend of a friend" type of scenario, and so on and so on. Regardless of how well or how little you know another person, every single interaction leaves an impression. I shudder to think how some of the people I've interacted with over my lifetime have been affected by me, but I also smile when I think of other people who may have had a more positive interaction with me.

2. We don't like having real connections. Even though we are defined my our relational connections, we are afraid of developing a real connection. We are so starved for attention or connection, that we are willing to embrace a placebo or plastic connection instead of risking these synthetic connections for something of real substance. It's easier to cope with rejection when some doesn't like the real we create fake connections out of fear and a desire to protect ourselves. The funny thing is that these fake connections only enhance our insatiable appetite for we end up creating an internal monster that will never be satisfied by our attempts to live in shallow waters relationally instead of a deep ocean of connection.

3. We mimic what we know and see. If we've been marred positively or negatively by a relationship, we mimic this behavior. It takes extreme courage to rise above negativity, swim up stream and reject corporate compliance. If you don't have a great relational role model in your life, find one...start learning from them and begin mimicking their posture instead of the negative expressions of relational connections that might seem more natural to us.

We are defined by our relational ties. They aren't something we wear, but they are something we live. What do your relational ties say about you?