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:
- Church and religious beliefs
- Places we work
- Clubs and affinity groups
- Colleges and universities we’ve attended
- Civic groups
- Volunteer organizations
- Common goals
- 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.
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.
I’ve really been enjoying summer this year, which seems odd due to this being the Summer of COVID. Like many people, I’ve been working from home since late March, so my morning commute has morphed from a 20-minute drive into a walk through the neighborhood with my wife. It’s been great!
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I love early sunny mornings in the summer. The bright, calm, cool skies, coupled with the quiet, slow pace that exists before the world starts to wake up and get busy, is one of my favorite parts of summer.
As September has arrived, I am keenly aware that these beautiful mornings will soon give way to the gray, cold, rainy events that describe many late fall and winter mornings in the Pacific Northwest. This certainty fills me with a sense of urgency to take advantage of these sunny mornings as much as I can before they’re gone for the season. I don’t want to waste a single remaining morning, because as soon as rainy mornings are the norm, I’ll wish I had taken advantage of any sunny mornings I might have squandered in the summer.
Therefore, my plan is to enjoy them as much as I can while I still have them. I want to look back on them this fall and winter with the satisfied feeling that comes from knowing I appreciated what I had when I had it.
Is there anything currently in your life that will soon be gone, either for a season or for good? If so, enjoy it while you have it.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin […]” ~Zechariah 4:10
The first stages of a new venture always seem small. Whether it’s getting in shape, building and growing a business, pursuing an educational goal, building a new house, learning a new skill, or any number of big worthy pursuits, the initial steps are small and feel insignificant when compared to the overall goal. However, it’s important not to poo-poo this stage in the process, because from small, seemingly insignificant beginnings are where great things start.
Very rarely (actually never, in my experience!) does a big goal start out as a great success in the early stages. Significant results come slow initially, and require consistent effort over time… lots of time! This is where people can feel like they aren’t making progress, become frustrated, and give up on their goal during the small beginnings.
For this reason, it’s important to be aware that our big goals will grow from small beginnings, so we shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed by them. Small beginnings should be an expected, and even welcomed, part of the pursuit of our goals.
Is there a goal you’ve recently started that you’re feeling frustrated by? Does the lack of perceived progress leave you considering giving up on your goal? If so, I encourage you to look at this time as the small beginnings of your larger goal; much like the progress of the growth of a large oak tree. Would you be frustrated with an oak that was only a few inches tall after a year? Out of frustration, would you pull that young oak out of the ground and throw it away because it wasn’t a full-grown mature oak after such a short time? Of course not!
Then why would we do that with our goals?
I did it! I potted and started pruning my first Bonsai tree. Last week I wrote about how I finally caused something to happen to get me int Bonsai. Now I’m learning that although I’ve discovered much about potting, pruning and shaping, there’s still a lot I don’t know, but that’s not keeping me from getting started.
After I got my juniper start, I was reading how to pot it and discovered that there is a lot written about the soil you should use. Apparently, there are certain soil mixtures that work best for certain trees. I found myself getting overwhelmed with what specific kinds of soil to use, where to get it, and whether I was making the right choice. Ultimately, all these questions were keeping me getting the juniper potted.
Finally, after much reading, and little success finding the perfect soil mixture, I bought a plain old bag of Bonsai soil and got it potted. Maybe the exact soil would have been a better choice, but for me, the more important point is to just get started and learn as I go.
My plan with learning Bonsai is to gather enough knowledge to take the next step… and then to take it. I can always check my results and adjust my actions as I gain experience.
I’m grateful we don’t have to have all the answers before we get started on a new endeavor. For me, a lot of the fun comes from learning as I go.
For about 2.5 decades I’ve had this recurring interest in Bonsai trees. I’m intrigued by their shape and diminutive size and how you can shape them and train them to get the look you’re after. I’ve always thought, “that would be fun to get into”, but I never have… until now.
A few weeks ago, I began thinking about Bonsais again, only this time I caused something to happen. I watched a video of Bonsai expert Peter Chang pruning an Alberta Spruce from a nursery. That caused me to go to the library and checkout (and read!) some books on Bonsai. That caused me to run down to a local nursery and pick up a small juniper that I will shape and train into a beautiful Bonsai tree. I’m finally getting into Bonsai!
This week I was reminded that, if we are interested in a desired result, how important it is to cause something to happen toward that end. The video lead to the books, which lead to purchasing a small plant I will shape and pot. It isn’t until we take action that will cause something to happen that things actually start happening.
So, what do you need to cause to happen?
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.
“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.
There’s so much going on in world and the US lately! Compared to what was happening just 6 months ago, it feels like we’ve been transported and dropped off in a whole new world. As a result, there is so much news coming at us every hour (or very often in real time) in an attempt to keep us informed. While it’s good to be informed, it’s not good to be over saturated.
When I watch too much negative news, it starts to impact my attitude and my thinking. It leaves me feeling weighted down. I’m grateful that I know this about myself, so that I can monitor my news intake and stop watching once I’ve been informed, instead of continuing to watching to the point of over saturation. It’s good to know my limit!
Do you know your oversaturation limit for negative news? If not, pay attention to your attitude and outlook based on the amount of news your consuming. If you too find yourself being weighted down by current events, perhaps throttle back on the consumption. Who knows, you might be able to improve your outlook, and free up some time, by watching less news.
I laugh when I look back at things that seemed like such a big deal in the moment, but are soon forgotten. Like the time I tried to put in a sprinkler system in my yard. It seemed so simple and made perfect sense on paper, until I actually set about the task. After renting a ditch witch (that I didn’t even know how to operate) I proceeded to tear up my lawn in a failed attempt to dig trenches for the sprinkler lines. I addition, I also broke off my main water line to the house at the meter while attempting to connect the sprinklers to water. What a mess!
Needless to say, I was pretty anxious and discouraged in that moment, and for several moments beyond. I had a hard time seeing past the big expensive-looking mistake I had just made and was worrying about I would get it corrected.
Fortunately, I was able to get things rectified. The plumber came out and fixed the main water line, and a local landscaper came out and took over where I left off. Never before have I been happier to pay for someone’s services! Everything worked out, and before long, my discouragement and frustration were a distant memory.
I think back to my sprinkler event whenever I find myself experiencing a similar “adventure”. This memory is important in that it helps me not to become anxious or fall into needless worry. When I think back now about how much worrying I did over the sprinkler situation, it seems like such a waste of time. I don’t want to waste time like that because it doesn’t achieve anything. Mathew 6:27 sums it up well for me, “Can anyone of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?” I know I can’t.
Dale Carnegie also has several good thoughts on worrying. One of my favorites is, “Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth and refuse to give it more.” I like the premise in this statement that we decide how much anxiety or worry we give something, and we can choose to give it less.
I hope you’ve got some “adventures” of your own, where in the moment they seemed like such a big deal, but after you worked through them, you now wonder why you worried so much. If you do, use those memories to help regulate your anxiety when the next adventure occurs. We’ve got better things to do with our lives besides parking in worry’s driveway.