Archive | October, 2015

Looking at new chapters as a change for the better

I read quite a bit and always have.  Each work of fiction has a flow and a story, and it just keeps moving, whether you’re willing to participate in that continuing story or not.  That movement of represents change, and it it usually reflected by the change of chapters as the book continues through its story.

Sometimes you find a section or moment in a book that you really like, and you can stop and settle into a moment and enjoy it for a while.  You can read a passage over several times and enjoy what’s happening with the characters in that particular moment,  but the story keeps moving regardless.  As a reader, you could stop right there and never read another word, but you would miss the rest of the story as it continues to naturally unfold.  You must be willing to accept change for the story to continue.

Chapters represent change as your story unfolds

Changes in life are like the turnings of chapters in a book

Life is similar but much more complicated.  You sometimes land in a moment you really enjoy, but if you stay too long in that moment, you lose the rest of the story and the flow of what will come out of that moment and what it ultimately means.  You can live in that moment for a while, but life changes and flows, just like the unfolding story in a book, and we must change with it.  The chapters of life keep turning whether you like it or not.

The reality is that you are a character in your own story and in the stories of others.  You must move along with the flow of the story.  You have influence and control over many of your circumstances, but there are other circumstances that you can simply watch happen as if you are reading the stories of characters in a book.   Whether it’s a career change or a move to a new location or a death of someone close to you or even simply a child going to school or college, the chapters of life keep turning, and as the pages turn, you must adjust to those new chapters and the moving story.  In the end, the chapter will always turn, and that’s not bad.  It just is.

How well do you handle the change of chapters?

How well do you handle these types of adjustments?  When a chapter of life turns to the next, does it overwhelm you?  Do you breathe a deep sign, mourn the loss of the last chapter, but then pick yourself up and move into what’s coming next?  Or do you get stuck, hanging onto the old, hoping it will return, struggling to figure out how to face tomorrow?  Do you try to re-read and re-live the simpler moments of your life, hoping they will come back, trying to turn back chapters?  Or do you move with the flow of your story, knowing that the story must continue?

If you watch over time, you will realize that the change of chapters looks differently depending on your place in life.  Depending on where you stand at any given moment, you will have a different perspective on what is happening.  Often when you’re younger, you may get a little more emotional or freaked out as your life shifts, but if you’re older and you have been through some of these transitions already, you might be able to gather yourself in a moment of maturity and realize that this is how it happens and know that it will all be fine if you just weather the storm of emotion that comes along with the change.
The chapters of every book represent change, just like in life

The changing of a chapter in life signifies growth

More and more, I find that it’s important to be grateful for the next chapter as it comes.  It’s part of being human, and if the world around us and our context doesn’t change, we don’t grow.  Growing is a key part to being human, but growing is not always easy.  Growth comes with an ebb and flow in a very natural way, like a moving story.

Don’t be afraid of the changing of chapters — be grateful and thankful that you can still grow.   You will resist change — it’s only natural — and you will eventually lose that fight.  The chapters will change.  Take a deep breath, know that you can handle anything that comes your way, and grow with the change.  Shift, adjust, learn, and step into what’s coming next.  Being human is a constant cycle of seeking out and enjoying the moments of warmth and connection and then jumping into the rush of change and struggle with courage and anticipation as it comes your way.

You can prepare for the changing of chapters in life

Prepare for the change of chapters.  In relationships, I find myself mentally and emotionally preparing for whatever moment I know will someday arrive when I will have to say goodbye to my spouse, my child, my parent, my friend, even my dog.  It’s a strange mental exercise that I think is an emotional defense mechanism to help avoid being completely overwhelmed when the moment arrives.  It’s not an exact science, and I know it won’t fully insulate me from the actual emotion that comes when things shift in a relationship, but by projecting (and in a way, practicing) that emotional and mental process in advance,  I attempt to prepare ,uself to some degree for that moment and maybe work through it in a less intense and more healthy manner.

Also, in your career prepare for changes.   I encourage you to look ahead, be intentional and think about who you are and want to be, what you’re doing with your time and your skills, how to improve and grow, and who can help you along that path.  For more on this idea, check out Jon Acuff’s book Do Over.  Just like with a personal savings account you fill up over time at your bank, Acuff explains how to establish a Career Savings Account to help you prepare for the future and the change that is inevitable as the chapters of your career turn. I encourage you to check out his book and start building your own Career Savings Account.

Be both introspective and grateful as a chapter changes

Accepting change takes perspective.  When you’re in the midst of change, you can develop perspective as the story unfolds, helping you learn more about what’s to come and  about why things happened in the past.  Your perspective must expand to include memories and lessons learned in the past while glimpsing the future all in one moment.  But when your perspective expands to include both the old chapter and the new and you begin to have more insights into the broader story, be thankful for the new.

Reflect, enjoy and share the chapters in your life

Be grateful for your story and that you get to take part in the stories of others, and be willing help someone else adjust into a new chapter that is coming their way.  Be generous in your sharing of your stories with others and in helping them understand that the turning of chapters is natural and healthy.  And, if possible, take a deep breath, reflect and enjoy the changing of chapters with someone you love, knowing that the moment of connection and warmth ith them will be that part of the cycle you can look back on right before you jump headfirst into what’s next.

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The Tale of the Two Seas: the secret of those who give

Generosity is a character trait that I don’t quite understand because it doesn’t seem to always show up when you think it should. When I look around myself, I’m often surprised to find otherwise well-resourced and well-meaning people who don’t live a life of generosity in how they deal with their time, skills, money and resources. I don’t claim to have this all figured out or put fully into practice either; I’m still discovering and processing it as I’m sure you are as well.

What is the source of generosity?

Actual generosity seems tied to gratefulness and thankfulness, but I can point out people who are overwhelmed by emotion sometimes when they speak of their lives and the place of prosperity and abundance in which they find themselves but who still aren’t generous with their time and resources. Maybe the emotion they express is not fully driven gratefulness and thankfulness, or maybe I’m just misunderstanding the element that brings the generosity to the top. Regardless, there’s something special that makes generosity a vital part of someone’s outward life.

Generosity definitely flows out of a deep heart place and is separate from being well-meaning and having good intentions. Generosity is action-based and is a living out of something inside that wells up in such a way that the inner feelings transform into intentions that then incarnate in the form of action that impacts other people and the world around. I personally theorize that it starts with with gratefulness and thankfulness as the key, but there may be more to it.

The Tale of Two Seas

Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea - courtesy of Talk About Giving

Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea – courtesy of Talk About Giving

A few weeks ago, I heard a speaker talk through the Tale of the Two Seas. After the speech, I went out to research the facts in it, and I found this discussion to be a broad analogy that’s been used by many people to talk about the issues of generosity and gratefulness, so this Tale of the Two Seas is not unique to me or that speaker, but it’s still poignant.

If you pull out the maps in the back of a Bible — or more likely, just pull up Google Maps or Wikipedia — and look at the Jordan River over Israel, you will see that it sources two different bodies of water: the smaller Sea of Galilee to the north and the larger Dead Sea to the south.

If you’ve done any reading of the Bible, you recognize that much activity occurs in and around the Sea of Galillee in the life of Jesus described in the Gospels. Throughout history, towns and cities have been situated on the sea, and it has served as a center of trade. Fish and plant life are abundant in the area. In the Gospels, Jesus and the disciples travel by boat all around the Sea of Gallee, meeting people, fishing its waters and participating in the local culture. Today, the Sea of Galilee is just as active and populated as a regional center of commerce and tourism and is surrounded by farms, resorts and bustling communities.

Sea of Galilee — courtesy of Cana Guest House

Contrast that with the body of water known as the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is just that: dead. It’s a lake in which nothing swims or grows. It is extremely salty and is a harsh environment in which animals, plants and other aquatic organisms cannot flourish. In Hebrew prose, the Dead Sea is simply called the “sea of death” due to its scarity of aquatic life. So extreme is the chemistry makeup of the Dead Sea that it actually discharges asphalt, spitting up small pebbles and blocks of the black substance used to pave parking lots. While there are small settlements near the Dead Sea and its extreme mineral traits have been found to have therapeutic qualities that draw a niche crowd, overall it is no hub like the Sea of Galilee.

Dead Sea shoreline salt crystals - courtesy of Velvet Escape

Dead Sea shoreline salt crystals – courtesy of Velvet Escape

What is the difference between the two seas?

Both of these bodies of water are sourced by the fresh waters of the Jordan River. But they are opposites in their environment and impact on the life and people around them. What’s the difference? The Jordan River sources the Sea of Galilee, and the Sea of Galilee’s waters are then in turn used to source most of the population centers in Israel. Every drop that comes in from the Jordan River is given back out to the people and land around. The Sea of Galilee serves as the source of much of the drinking water of the country as well as the source of irrigation of farms nearby. The Dead Sea, by contrast, is a dead end. The Jordan’s waters pour into the Dead Sea only to come to their termination point, and as the Jordan’s life-giving stream comes to a stop at the Dead Sea, it loses its vitality and sustaining qualities.

While the same waters feed both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, it’s only when the waters are used and active and moving that they retain their productive, community-building value. The Sea of Galilee gives back out what it is receiving from the Jordan River, while the Dead Sea is just a dead end, and every drop it gets, it keeps. As one blog writer puts it, the Sea of Galilee is full of flow while the Dead Sea is full of woe. Once the Jordan River’s fresh waters stop flowing and come to a halt, they become stale and salty and lose their abilities to give life.

How we deal with our abundance multiplies how we impact the lives of those around us and our world

This contrast can serve as an analogy of what happens to us in relation to how we deal with what we have. We can take the abundance that we have received and keep it moving, using it for others and their further benefit out of a heart of gratefulness, thankfulness and generosity, or we can take our abundance and hoard it for ourselves out of fear of losing it. Regardless of the source of our abundance, its ultimate impact depends on how we choose to use it once we receive it.

What we will find it that when we hoard the great gifts we have received, they lose their value and are no longer life-giving. But if we act out of our abundance and keep those resources moving for the betterment of those around us, the value to us and to others can multiply beyond what we ever imagined and supply great life and joy to those with whom we come into contact. Everyone around us can benefit from our use of our resources for others, and it’s only when we’re truly generous that we can live life to the fullest and also provide that same life to others.

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