Photo Friday: Walking in the Clouds

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This is a picture I took about 8 years ago in Costa Rica while on a mission trip.  I shot this picture while walking on a mountain above the central valley above San Jose on a magical and verdant ridge that connected two mountain tops.

Have you ever walked in the clouds?

Most folks will not get the chance to do it.  Not because they can’t- but because they won’t. They will not step out of their comfort zone to see the world.  They will continue to tell themselves the lie that they can’t do it.  We get so caught up in our little corner of life and miss that we live in a great big world.

Are you ready to step out?

Kathy and I have seen some crazy stuff while seeing the world.  We travel and explore every chance we get.  We made a point to show the world to our kids as they grew up and I am convinced that it helped to open their eyes to the world.  The great big world.  No matter where you are or what your financial situation is you can see the world.

You need to take the time and resources and make it happen.  Now.  Not later.

It’s time for you to walk in the clouds!

So what do you think?  Have you ever walked in the clouds?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me your story!

 

 

Rich or Poor?

I just returned from a mission trip to Costa Rica.  This was my fifth trip to Costa Rica.  The country is full of breathtaking natural beauty.  Most folks visit Costa Rica to enjoy this beauty.  Many head to the Pacific coast to a resort, maybe surf, or enjoy the excellent offshore fishing.

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On our trip, we went to the very poor barrios surrounding San Jose in the central valley.  These areas are filled with tin covered shacks packed together on the hillside.  VERY, VERY, tough living conditions.  Most of these neighborhoods are squatter communities.  Very little in sanitation and services that we have come to expect here in the States.  It is a bit of a sensory overload visiting these barrios- lots or colors, sounds, smells and movement.  Children and dogs everywhere.  Sounds of life.  Colors cobbled together in scraps of tin and salvaged doors and building materials.

The thing that has always amazed me about Costa Rica is that the Costa Rican’s are generally very happy people.  Yes, there is strife and hardship in the poor barrios, yet even there, you will see smiles, laughter and life.  If we subjected the average American to the conditions in Costa Rica they would be miserable.

Complaining, heads down, depression.

So who is really poor?  We seem to equate the word “poor” to money.  We think that money will solve our problems.  Money can make us happy.  Right?

Well, I got news for you.  I have seen the Costa Rican’s lifestyle first hand and I believe they may actually be the rich ones.  In the US, we are slaves to our lifestyle.  We struggle to gather and save.  We strive to buy the best things.  We work ourselves to death- really– in order to sustain our wealthy lifestyle.

Results: pain, suffering, disease- AND- complaining, heads down, depression.

So how are the Costa Rican’s rich?  What makes them rich without the money. Here are a few observations:

They value their families!  We talk about having close family relationships but the Costa Rican’s do it on steroids.  Most live in the same areas their whole life.  In the US, we are transient.  We move away from our families, often, again to make more money.  Costa Rican’s care for each other when times are tough.  In the US, we often let the government take care of our families.  In Costa Rica it is common to have extended families living in the same household.  They understand what it means to be a family and to take care of our own.

They live slower!  In Costa Rica things get done when they get done.  If it takes longer they are OK with it.  This has been frustrating for me in the past working on construction project in Costa.  They don’t fret over the time.  We struggle so hard to pack it all in.  In Costa Rica, there is alway mañana (tomorrow).

They have strong community!  In even the poorest areas, the Costa Rican’s know their neighbors and understand the power of living in community together.  They take the time to stop and greet their neighbors.  They watch out for their neighbors children.  They help each other when they are sick.  In the US, most folks don’t even know their neighbors!

They let you in!  We are so guarded.  We are cautious to let anyone into our lives.  Costa Rican’s invite you into their house.  They want you to sit down and they will often bring you a drink or some food.  They are not worried about whether their house is messy or if they have something really impressive to share.  They share what they have.  They welcome in strangers.  They want you to sit down and relax.

They walk!  The streets are filled with life with sidewalks filled with people walking.  Walking leads to interaction with others.  In the ten years or so that I have been visiting Costa Rica, car ownership has grown significantly, yet walking remains a way of life.  Walking up and down mountainous steep paths and walking to shopping and visiting friends is the natural order of things.  I am sure that this exercise contributes to the longevity that Costa Rican’s enjoy.  Living a life that extends well into their 90s is not uncommon.

So my question again- are we really rich?  Seems like the things that we gather and our lifestyle may be more of a hindrance than a benefit.

Can we slow down?  

Can we dump the stuff that we end up serving?  

Can we take the time to develop community?

I’m not sure that we can go back-completely.  The genie is out of the bottle.  I can even see Costa Rica changing as we bring them added wealth and raise the expectations.  I pray that they can hold on to riches that they have!

So who is really living the rich life?  Seems like we have a lot to learn from our friends in Costa Rica!

So what do you think?  Are we as rich as we think we are?  Have you noticed the difference when you visit other cultures?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

 

Entertainment Expense

While vacationing recently in Costa Rica, Kathy and I had the pleasure of staying at a beautiful B&B in the central valley near San Jose.  The innkeeper was a remarkable elderly widower who was strong in her faith and equally strong in her wisdom on life. Each morning Kathy and I would enjoy our conversations about life, love and living out our faith in a way that was honoring to the Lord. 

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One morning during our stay, our host commented about the incredible damaging power of the tongue.  She shared that she had been convicted lately about talking about others in a negative way and she shared about the damage that comes along with this kind of conversation.  I completely agreed with her.  Gossip and talking about others behind their back is a very easy thing to do.  I shared that I thought that talking about others can actually be a kind of entertainment- the act of talking about others and their problems can actually be fun for some and a source of enjoyment. 

My comments actually knocked her back a bit.  She commented on how my characterization of “entertainment” was especially painful to her as it seemed to hit the mark.  She pondered the description and we revisited this topic a few times during our stay as a result of my description of damaging talk and gossip- entertainment.

So what do you think?  Do you know some folks that seem to enjoy gossiping and talking negatively about others?  What can you do when you are confronted with someone who wants to rope you in?  Here are some ideas:

Respond With The Positive!  If they are focusing on merely the negative- then respond in a way that would honor the person.  Regardless of the discussion, there are always positive aspects to the story.  Bring up the good and stay out of the mud.  You will see that most gossips just won’t get any enjoyment out of the positive.  By focusing on the negative they are really lifting themselves up.  Be a person who builds up- not a person that tears down.

Confront Them!  If they are speaking out in a way that is damaging for no constructive purpose then call them out.  There are folks that really don’t realize they are being negative or damaging- they are so used to gossiping they really don’t see what they are doing.  Help them to see that speaking out has power and can be extremely damaging. 

Walk Away!  If you have friends engaged in damaging conversation and you feel uncomfortable about the discussion, then have the courage to leave.  Even by sitting in silence- you are participating.  If you are not comfortable with confronting the issues or if you are not familiar with the situation, the best choice may be to leave the conversation.  You will not regret walking away- you will regret being included if the cruelty spreads.

Think Before You Talk!  I am convinced that some peoples mouths just run faster than their heads.  Take a minute to really consider what you are about to say.  Thinking about something is far different than speaking it- and that expands even further when it’s to a group of people.  If you have to say “don’t repeat this but…” you probably need to think about it a little more before you say it.  You could be reading the situation wrong, you may have bad information, you may be misinformed.  Always default to keeping you mouth shut if you are not sure what to do.

Remember that you are a leader.  Others are watching you and learning from you- both good and bad.  Character and integrity are time sensitive.  They take a long time to gain yet they can be lost in an instant.  Don’t loose something that you will really regret later.  If you are uneasy about the conversation, then you know you should not participate.  Stay out of it.  Go find your entertainment elsewhere!     

So what do you think?  Do you find that you get “roped in” sometimes?  Do you have some tricks to avoiding gossip?  Click on “Comments” and share or hit “Like” if you agree!        

Different Is Good!

Yesterday Kathy and I went on a hike through the Cahuita National Park along the Carribean coast of Costa Rica.  We had a guide who had an amazing eye to pick out wildlife far off in the trees.  The diversity of life that we saw was remarkable, yet everything fit together and you had the feeling that it all belonged together

Why do we always strive for things to be the same?
This park is located along the Carribean coast near Panama.  This area was settled by turtle hunters from the Carribean islands about 150 years ago.  These settlers have roots in Africa so they do not look the same as either the indigenous natives or the native Costa Ricans.
The lore is that the Costa Rica Carribean coast is more dangerous because of these Carribean natives and widespread drug influences.  Well, we were approached by the Rastafari peddling their stuff but this is not much different than any Carribean beach town.  So why is there so much talk of this area being so dangerous?  What is the reason that there is this fear and apprehension about this area?
Because they are different.
Costa Rica is not immune from discrimination.  The native Costa Ricans complain about the Nicaraguans as well as the African Carribean people.  A wise lady told us that she believes that the discrimination is based on money.  The Costa Ricans feel that they have these illegals and others costing the country money, much the same as our current conversation in the U.S.  I think this is part of it.  There is a self centered element in nearly every discussion and this logic is consistent here.  Yet, I think there is more to this.
I think much of the struggle for diversity is based on fear.
We want things to be the same.  We want things to be like us.  Anything else brings a sense of discomfort.  We like things vanilla.  We like security and the predictable.  Yet, this is not the design.
Nature screams diversity.  The design of everything from our Creator is abundant, rich, and diverse.  So what can we do as leaders?
Fight the urge for conformity.  When choosing your team, make some bold choices.  Choose the ones that are not like you, or the ones that don’t fit the mold.  If you are analytical, choose the artist.  If you are an introvert, maybe the conversationalist.  A diverse team will always be superior.  This is the design of nature.  Different is better.  You will see!