A Quick Thought On Your 2021 Calendar

2021 looks promising, although it did start off a little bumpy.  Since we’ll soon be getting back to life that includes more events and interactions with others, it’s important to remember that we are the ones who decide what events we allow on our calendars.

When you’re considering scheduling an event, make sure you’re not doing it out of a false sense of obligation, or because you feel you can’t say, “No” to something you really have no interest in doing. 

I would argue that our time is more valuable than money, because we can always get more money.  That’s is something we can’t do with time.  The limit on a day is 24 hours, we can’t get more.  The only choice we have is how we’ll spend the finite amount of time we’ve been given.  Therefore, we need to make sure that it is our priorities that fill our calendars in 2021, not someone elses.

Learning With Others

I’ve been teaching an adult Sunday school class at our church for about 12 years.  Actually, I’m more of a discussion facilitator than an actual teacher or instructor.  I prefer this role as facilitator, because I’ve noticed that the best learning in class occurs when the participants share their knowledge and we seek answers and explore the Bible together.  As a facilitator, I simply bring interesting information about the topic we’re studying and encourage others to ask question and share any insight they might have.

If I approach a Sunday school class as the teacher, it feels like I need to have all the answers and have a lesson plan figured out that details everything we’ll discuss during the class.  I don’t like that approach because it doesn’t leave room for questions an exploration.  If I’m seen as the teacher, the class feels more like a lecture, where I’m imparting knowledge to the rest of the class while they sit quietly and listen.  This approach would be boring to me!  While I’ve got some knowledge on the topic, I also have lots of questions that I’d like to ask.  If I’m the teacher, there’s a lid on the class that only goes as far as my knowledge and understanding.

I much prefer to leverage the collective intelligence of the class.  The people who attend regularly spend time in the Bible, so they are very familiar with it.  They’re also eager to learn more, which causes them to read it with the purpose of gaining a greater understanding of what it says. 

Having a forum where we can learn together, ask questions and share our knowledge has sparked numerous conversations (as well as opportunities to learn) that would not have occurred if I were the teacher, simply giving a one-way lecture.  Our class works much better when we all have the opportunity to share the role as teacher.

I think it’s exciting to approach life as a facilitator as well.  It’s fun to encourage others to share what they know about a topic and to hear, and learn from, experiences they’ve have had.  Most people are willing to share what they know; they often just need someone to invite them to do so.

Taking Inventory Our Habits

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Warren Buffett

Habits are fascinating, because despite the fact that they are small, they can be extremely powerful.  Their power comes from the compounding effect they have when done over long periods of time.

Some habits taken conscious effort to do, like deciding to get up every morning and go to the gym.  Yet other habits are so easy to fall into, that they almost become an automatic part of our daily life.  Things like drinking several sodas or going out for fast food on a daily basis.  (There are a zillion others, but those are the first 2 that came to mind.) These habits are rewarding in the moment, and thus easy to form.  And while an occasional soda or trip to McDonald’s isn’t terrible, the impact of these habits done continuously over years, if not decades, can have severe negative consequences.

For this reason, I think it’s important to regularly determine whether we’ve developed any habits that have the potential to plant land mines for our future selves.  We should ask ourselves:

  • Are the habits we’re engaged in healthy or destructive? 
  • Are they leading to a good outcome or a potentially dangerous one? 
  • Are there habits we should stop doing?
  • Are there habits we need to cultivate?

We all want good outcomes in our lives, but as we know, they don’t just happen.  They require action from us, as well as reflection, to determine if our habits will take us where we want to go.

With 2021 approaching, now would be a good time to take an inventory of the habits we’ve acquired.  It might be time to say, “Good-bye” to some potentially destructive ones we’ve been heretofore traveling with.  It may also be time to say, “Hello” to some new productive habits and invite them to join us on our journey forward.

It Makes Sense To Them

Brace yourself, because I’m about to drop a news flash!  Ready?  Not everyone shares the same viewpoints as me.  Whoa, that’s huge!  Here’s an even bigger news flash… not everyone shares the same viewpoints as you either.  BOOM!!

You’re probably sarcastically thinking, “Thanks for dropping the obvious on me, Scott.  I had no idea!”  If that’s your thought, then you’d be right; we all obviously know that not everyone agrees with our viewpoints and opinions.  Yet while we know this to be true, I think we sometimes forget that a person’s viewpoint or opinion, which may seem strange, or even wrong to us, makes perfect sense to them.

There is a reason why a person thinks the way they do, or believes what they believe.  Their viewpoints are likely shaped by their own unique life experiences, which are probably not the exact same life experiences that we’ve had. 

Ok, that seems pretty obvious too.  So why do I bring it up?

There’s so much divisiveness now.  It seems when we encounter someone with a differing viewpoint, we feel we a need to defend our position.  We’re eager enter into a debate and convince the other person that their viewpoint is wrong, and if they had even a slight modicum of intelligence, they would adopt our position.  We already know where that usually leads: more discord, animosity, hurt feelings, and possibly fractured relationships.  I propose another response to differing viewpoints.

What if, the next time we’re confronted with an opposing viewpoint, instead of immediately entering into a debate, we try to genuinely find out why the person holds that viewpoint?  Not with toxic accusations or labeling, but with a genuine curiously and non-inflammatory questions.  What if we cared enough to see beyond the differences, and to see the person and their experience that lead them to the viewpoints they hold?  

My guess is, that once we’ve taken the time to understand someone, we’ll have a better comprehension of why they think the way they do.  Who knows?  We might even change our own viewpoint in the process.

A Thought On Unity

There’s a lot of talk currently about how divided we are in the US.  While I think that’s true, I also think there is a lot that still unites us. 

Consider the following things that still unite us with other people:

  • Family
  • Friendships
  • Church and religious beliefs
  • Hobbies
  • Places we work
  • Clubs and affinity groups
  • Colleges and universities we’ve attended
  • Civic groups
  • Volunteer organizations
  • Common goals
  • Neighborhoods
  • Common experiences
  • Countries or states of origin

That’s a good, yet incomplete list!  We don’t realize all the things that bring unity until we pause long enough to consider them.  I’m encouraged by such list. 

Unity doesn’t mean “in total agreement with”.  In fact, we can have unity with someone, even when we don’t agree with them.  For example, you can disagree with a relative, yet still have unity with them as a member of your family. 

Disagreeing, or having differing viewpoints, with someone doesn’t mean we can’t have unity with them.  We’re not required to hate someone and treat them poorly, simply because we don’t agree with them on a specific topc. Why would we sacrifice unity on the altar of disagreement?  Why would we throw out a relationship simply because of differing viewpoint or opinion?  That seems wasteful to me.

When you have a disagreement with a friend, family member, or someone you currently have unity with, remember that you can still be united, even amidst differing opinions or viewpoints.

Unity and disagreement are not mutually exclusive.

Friends Sharpening Friends

I currently facilitate an adult Bible study group at our church.  I’ve been doing it for several years, and I just love the folks that attend!  They consistently show up eager to discuss the section of scripture we’re studying and share their knowledge, while also remaining open to the fact that we don’t know everything, and that we all still have much to learn.  Spending time with them every Sunday is one of the highlights of my week!

I was especially encouraged by our group this week when one of the members suggested that we have a Zoom meeting during the week to further discuss a specific concept we were studying in our weekly class.  (Right now, we’re in the middle of studying the book of Romans.)  The class was up for it, so this person scheduled the meeting and sent out invites.  We met for almost 90 minutes on Thursday evening to dig deeper into our study.  It was an enjoyable and energizing time.

I love spending time with growth minded people. There’s a verse in the Bible that states, “As iron sharpens iron, so a fried sharpens a friend.”  May we all look for, and spend time with, those friends that sharpen us.  So too should we do our part to sharpen them as well.

It’s Not Always Someone Else

When you see a natural disaster on TV or hear about people dealing with life challenges, it’s easy to think that those kinds of things only happen to other people.  Until they happen to you.

In the past 2 years I’ve had some life events happen that, in the past, I would have seen as things that happen to other people, but not to me.  One was some health news and another is the current wildfires burning in Oregon that is directly impacting friends and family.

Its’ quite different when these things are happening to you versus happening to others.  When it happens to others we think, “That’s too bad” and then go about our business.  It’s different when it’s happening to us, because we can’t just turn it off or change the channel like we do when we’re watching a disaster on the TV.  When it’s happening to us, we’re living it, and there is no off switch.

I’m reminded of the importance of empathy toward others in the struggles they face.  While that doesn’t mean I have to take on, and be responsible for, everyone’s burdens, it does remind me that others don’t have an off switch in the troubles they face either.  With that in mind, I should offer what I can to help others in their struggles, because I know I appreciate it when others do that for me.

A Lesson From A Blueberry Bush

This summer the blueberry bushes at my house have been going crazy! We have 3 young bushes and for the past several years they’ve been somewhat light in the production department.  This year, however, they seemed to have turned a corner and re producing more berries that we can keep up with.  It’s quite a change from years past when they produced only a couple of handfuls per season.

Fortunately, my wife and I were aware that it takes a time for the bushes to mature before they start yielding a large quantity. Therefore, we weren’t mad at the bushes in the early years.  We didn’t put the plants in the ground one day and expect a bumper crop the next.  We realize that it takes time

These bushes remind me that learning something new also involves a process that takes time.  We all know this.  Yet we often become frustrated with ourselves when we expect to be further along in the process after only a short time.  The best thing we can do when learning a new skill is to realize that it will take time… and to be ok with that.  We simply have to put in the effort over time and the results are sure to follow.

Here’s a fun thing you can do to observe the impacts of time on something you’re actively trying to learn.  Write yourself an email that will be sent to you one year from today.  In that email describe what you’re attempting to lean and the level of skill you currently possess.  When you read the email next year, you’ll likely be amazed at how far you’ve come.

Building Valuable Experience

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

We often think that learning takes place in a controlled environment like a classroom or an online course.  Here, lessons are orderly, information is dispersed, and an opportunity to apply the knowledge we’ve gained is provided.  While this is certainly one way to gain knowledge, the best learning and experience is usually gained when the wheels are coming off.

Don’t get me wrong, the base knowledge we gain on a topic from classroom instruction, or in other ideal conditions, is crucial in helping us develop an understanding of our topic of choice.  However, when we find ourselves having to apply this knowledge to solve a problem in an uncontrolled setting where conditions are far from ideal, that’s where experience is forged.  And that experience is valuable!

Consider the following scenarios:

  • Parenting a child through a challenging time or situation
  • Restoring a computer network outage that is keeping scores of people from working
  • Leading a family or team through an unexpected tragedy
  • Running a business during a global pandemic

Problems like these can easily cause us to feel like we’re in over our heads, which may be accurate. What we can do, is take the skills and knowledge we’ve gained to this point and focus it toward solving the problem we’re facing.  No, it’s never fun to be in “rough seas”, but if we can see past the storm and be confident in our abilities to apply what we have, we’ll likely come through with a greater depth of experience, and even wisdom, than we possessed before.

Be confident and apply what you’ve learned.

Do You Need To Make A Point

Earlier this week I was having a conversation with someone about recent events. At several times during the conversation, I felt like there was a point I could make about what they were saying.  Fortunately, I decided not to, and just listened to where they were coming from.  In that circumstance, I think I made the right choice.

Speaking from my own observations and experienced, it seems like people are all over the spectrum with regard to what they think, how they’re dealing with the current myriad issues and how they’re being impacted by those issues.  There are so many opinions, world-views and stressors on people, and so many different ways people are handling them, that it’s unlikely you’ll find someone on the exact same place on the spectrum as you are.  I certainly haven’t.  As such, in our effort to make a point, we could easy turn a conversation into a divisive exchange without even meaning to.

I think it would serve us well to know when the time to make a point is, and when it would be more appropriate to compassionately listen to someone in order to better understand where they are coming from.

May we continually be able to discern which response is appropriate for the conversations we find ourselves in.