Image provided by about–eye.blogspot.com
If you have ever had the opportunity to spend significant time with a person from a different culture, it can truly be a perspective changing experience. I have had a few of these great opportunities in my life so far. Both last year and this year, I have had the privilege of serving as a host to young men from a European country. Each of the young men have lived with me (one is currently living in my home). It is a great delight for me to hear about their native countries and to have them share their perspectives on life in this country, the events of the world, and upon life in general. These young men are truly amazing individuals and have helped me to grow.
I was thinking this morning what a great value it is to at times look through the eyes of others. I find that it is very easy for me to view life from only my perspective. When I do this, I have a limited understanding of life and individuals that I encounter. I easily become judgmental and make judgments quickly. It is only when I try to understand life from a different angle that I am able to be more open, understanding, and caring. When you realize that not everyone experiences life exactly like you experience it, you are open to new possibilities. You also gain the ability to have empathy. You may still not agree with the other person’s perspective but you can at least have a greater understanding of the basis of that perspective and can respect where it comes from.
My challenge for you this week is try to look at life through someone else’s eyes. You may discover a much different world.
Yesterday the Department of Transportation closed a major highway coming into our community. The reason that they had to close the highway was because the road was falling apart due to unstable soil below it. This road underwent a major reconstruction and paving last year and earlier this summer they were working on a section to stabilize the hillside on one side. That section is now the area that is crumbling so the road has been closed. This new reality prompted a conversation this morning regarding why this issue was not apparent when the reconstruction was done a year ago. What has become clear is that there is not a correct foundation for this road at this time and it has become unsafe.
As I pondered these events, I was drawn to consider the importance of the foundation of my life. Without a solid foundation, life can be much like the road mentioned above. Life can begin to crumble, fall apart, and become unsafe. As a person of faith, I was reminded of the following passage:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27, NIV)
Jesus is speaking of the importance of the foundation upon which to build our lives. Here Jesus is referring to his teaching as the foundation we should have in our lives.
I think that in addition to Jesus’ teaching, there are some important pieces which need to be included in the foundation of our lives. Jesus’ teachings undergirds all of the foundation but we can add relationships, personal care, our faith and community involvement. We need to make sure that we have a solid foundation so that we can withstand the storms of life and not crumble under pressure.
In light of the weather this morning (and for the past few weeks):
The first cold snap of the fall has arrived today. The cool wind from the north is a not-so-gentle reminder that winter awaits us. All I want to do is scream, “I AM NOT READY YET!” I am becoming less and less enamored with winter; the cold temperatures, biting winds, and endless snow. So I would like to delay the onset of winter as long as possible. This cold temperature change is not giving me confidence in a delay.
As I thought about not being ready for winter, I began to turn to what types of life experiences that most of us truly are not ready for even though we have no control over their arrival. I would have to admit that I am sure that I truly was not ready to be a parent. While the concept of having a baby seemed a bit exciting, I had no idea what lay ahead for me as a parent. There truly have been great joys which accompanied having children but there also have been some challenges and frustrations.
I was talking with some college students yesterday and they were discussing what changes awaited them when they graduated from college. I indicated to them that there would be some wonderful aspects of making this transition in their lives. I also mentioned that there would be some challenges which they would have to encounter. One of the significant changes would be in all the decisions which they would have to make and the reduction of “things being provided for them.” Again, I would say that I was not ready yet for this transition when I was younger (although at the time I thought I was more than ready) but I managed through the challenges and grew in the process.
So while I am not ready yet for colder weather and the changes which accompany the temperature change, I will be able to manage through it. Just as I manage through temperature changes, I can and will manage through whatever life changes may lay ahead for me whenever they occur. Even if I AM NOT READY YET!
When we are young, we quickly begin the battles for our own independence in life. Two and three-year-olds quickly learn to tell parents and caregivers, “I do it!” From that point forward, each child strives to create more and more independence from their parents and other authority figures. That independence grows when they reach the age which allows them to drive and especially when they obtain their first vehicle. The next major step of independence occurs when the individual moves out of their parent’s home. With each step toward personal independence, there is an increase in pride and self-worth.
Then there is the other side of life. As a person ages, he/she loses some of their ability to care for their own needs. There may be some memory loss or other mental changes that impact the person’s abilities. The physical changes which occur can impact their mobility and/or their steadiness in movement. When these changes begin to accumulate, there is a need to adjust living arrangements, driving, and other day-to-day tasks. Each adjustment leads to a reduction of independence on the individual’s part. This reduction can cause a person to question their worth and often can lead to depression. Much like a young child, they may even rebel against those who they perceive are trying to reduce their independence. These times can be very difficult.
Recently, I have been dealing with this other side of life in regards to my father. I struggle with watching a very independent and strong-willed individual lose that independence. I struggle with how the changes in his life are impacting his sense of being and his view of the future. I try to listen and be supportive but know that the answers which I can provide are not the answers he wishes to hear.
So I am reminded of the importance that we place upon personal independence. I am ever more mindful of those who struggle with the loss of their independence. I find myself taking my own independence a little less for granted.
Image provided by sodahead.com
We are living once again in a time of great unsettlement in the world. There are so many uncertainties as countries and factions continue to clash. Who knows what will happen in the Ukraine? Is Russia starting to return to behaviors as we saw before and during the Cold War? Will the ceasefire hold in Gaza? Will ISIS be brought under control in the Middle East? Are the tensions between China and Japan going to lessen? Who will demonstrate leadership in the world?
During unsettling times such as these, I am grateful for my faith. I know that these situations are only temporary. I believe that overcoming all of these things has already been secured by the Lord. This belief gives me strength to face each day not with fear but with confidence. I know and realize that life as I experience it now is not perfect; there will be hardships and struggles. However, I also know that my future lies in the reality where all of these challenges and pains will be removed.
So my prayer for each of you is that you will weather these latest times of uncertainty with confidence found from your faith.
Sometimes in life we are given the responsibility to have conversations that may be uncomfortable or difficult. The conversation may be a sensitive matter. The conversation may be with a person we are close with and whose feelings we would prefer to protect. The conversation may be with a person who is difficult to deal with and/or someone who is prone to responding very negatively. Whatever the details of the conversation, we each encounter times when we would prefer not having the conversation at all. Yet, because of our position or some other responsibility, we must have the conversation.
What do you do?
First, let me state that there is no one “correct” way to have the conversation. Second, there are skills that you can develop in both listening and communicating which can help to reduce the tension level in the conversation. However, there are some general guidelines that I have adopted in my experiences of having these conversations. Here is my list:
- Do not enter the conversation with the goal of assigning blame.
- Look at the person as a person, not a problem.
- Understand that everyone has a different perspective so you need to be open to hearing the other person’s perspective.
- Be honest without being mean.
- Clarify misunderstandings and/or different perspectives of a situation.
- Take ownership of what you can take ownership of and not assume all the aspects as your own.
- Maintain your sound level and pace of your words.
- Be mindful of your non-verbal communication.
This list is far from exhaustive.
What would you add to this list?