God’s…Not Mine…Mine (Part 3)

I checked into an Airbnb in Dade City Monday. Across the road is this scene, a huge pasture with a lake.

Each morning I’ve driven downtown to get in my run. Tuesday morning when I returned, the pasture cows were having breakfast.

A couple of them paused to check me out. This one, I’ll call him Fred, was the most curious. He seemed a little bothered like, “Hey, human! What’s your problem? Can’t we eat without you people always staring at us?”

And that’s what Fred and I did-stared. It became a contest. Human won.

In my exercise work under the “Mine” column, I’ve come to a conclusion. I can be a lot like Fred. Chewing, wandering, mooing, doing whatever I want when someone comes along, mostly God, and interrupts. Gets my attention. Even calls me out. “How’s your responsibilities going?”

I’ve concluded that there is one thing that must top the list of mine-above my character, my integrity, my heart and soul. If I keep this one thing, it seems everything else on the list will fall into place. The top item is a surrendered will.

Freds can be stubborn, territorial, even proud. But eventually, they will surrender. And usually that comes in a moment of prayer. Consider these words from Paul David Tripp’s Awe:

The Lord’s prayer is a model for us. From “Our Father” to “your will be done,” the opening of this prayer presents a way of thinking, living, and approaching God inspired by awe of him. Only awe of him can define in you and me a true sense of what we actually need. So many of our prayers are self-centered grocery lists of personal cravings that have no bigger agenda than to make our lives a little more comfortable. They tend to treat God more as a personal shopper than a holy and wise Father-King. Such prayers forget God’s glory and long for a greater experience of the glories of the created world. They lack fear, reverence, wonder, and worship. They’re more like pulling up the divine shopping site than bowing our knees in adoration and worship. They are motivated more by awe of ourselves and our pleasures than by a heart-rattling, satisfaction-producing awe of the Redeemer to whom we are praying.

Christ’s model prayer follows the right order and stands as a model for our personal prayer. It’s only when my heart is captured by the awe of God that I will view my identity rightly. And it’s only when I view my identity rightly that I will have a proper sense of need and willingness to abandon my plan for the greater and more glorious plan of God.

So I guess I need to thank Fred. And do what’s mine, and only mine. Stay surrendered.

God’s…Not Mine…Mine (Part 2)

Exercising leads to discoveries. And when it comes to this exercise about responsibility, the discoveries may not feel good at first. Like discovering you really shouldn’t eat the entire quart of ice cream just because you worked out today.

Chances are through this exercise you discovered that you are taking responsibility, trying to own something, that isn’t yours. It’s a common battle for humans to wrestle with God, stealing responsibility. Paul David Tripp says it’s because we are at war between being in awe of ourselves and being in awe of God. When we are losing that battle, we think everything is ours: money, possessions, relationships, career. Contrary to our wants, we win when we let God own what really is his.

That second heading, Not Mine, can be as big a battle as the God heading. When we haven’t won in that heading, forget about winning in this one. Why? Because if I’ve kicked God off the throne taking all the responsibility, it’s going to inevitably spill over into every area of my life. I have all the answers and control. In fact, I believe I want them. Reality is, I’m burdened and miserable. Like Pilgrim trudging uphill bearing his burden.

I have found three things to address when I’ve discovered I’m taking on someone else’s responsibilities. You might say, these are my responsibilities to stay out of “not mine” responsibilities.

  • Trust-Sure, you’ve job searched before; so what’s keeping you from staying out of your spouse’s or child’s searching efforts? You’ve also scheduled employees before; so what’s keeping you from allowing your manager to do it? You’ve been doing this task much longer than your new volunteer; so why are you micromanaging them? Discovery #1: Sometimes we do what’s not ours because we have trust issues. (Proverbs 3:5; Isaiah 55:8)
  • Humility-If I’m having responsibility issues, chances are I’m also having pride issues. Humility is required to allow good failure (yes, that’s a thing). Humility is required for personal and team growth. Ball hogs, dictators, authoritarians, glory-stealers, all losers in general taint outcomes because of pride. Discovery #2: Often we do what’s “not mine” because of our pride. (Matthew 23:12; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3)
  • Being For-Many of us are recovering tellers; by nature we take “not mine” responsibility by telling what needs to be done. My recovery started a few years ago. One mindset for a recovering teller is to be for others. Parents/bosses/leaders, you can avoid the “not mine” heading by being for your child/employee/volunteer. Not being over, behind, ahead-be for them. Encourage. Celebrate. Cheer. Discovery #3: Everyone benefits when we are all for each other. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Those are my three. They may be yours also. What else may yours be?

We’ll address that more in Part 3.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Elizabeth French

God’s…Not Mine…Mine (Part 1)

I was awake again before the alarm sounded. It’s a thing. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. When it’s good, I focus my mind toward heavenly things before stirring. My body may not want to move, but my mind does. Relate?

I asked God a question regarding responsibility. And I got a pretty clear answer:

John, many things you believe you’re responsible for are things you choose to be responsible for rather than letting the right person be responsible. Often, that person is me.

That’s how my day started. Jolting. Or not.

I actually decided it wasn’t jolting at all. Instead, it was loving, merciful, and freeing. Loving because God owns his responsibility for all things, including me. Merciful because God waits for me to give back what I wrongfully take. Freeing because I, with repentance, get to return to him what’s his.

In that freedom, an exercise came to me. The exercise is quite simple. On a sheet of paper or on a digital note, make three headings: God’s, Not Mine, Mine. Under each heading, list responsibilities. That’s it.

So for example, I’ll list one under each heading. 

  • God’s: Life
  • Not Mine: Other’s Choices
  • Mine: My Choices

This exercise has lots of potential. It could be an exhaustive look at all areas of life, which could be extremely useful. But it could also be isolated to one present challenge, which is where my mind was before the alarm sounded.

Where’s your mind? Find yourself stuck wondering who’s responsible for _______. Could it be you’re stuck under the wrong heading?

We’ll look more at that in parts 2&3.

Happy Exercising!

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Elizabeth French

5 Ways to Combat Forced Fear

Yesterday I saw the CBS commercial featuring actors from their shows sending this message: “We’re in this together.” Yes, community is important, always but certainly now.

If you think about that message for a moment, you can be more descriptive by replacing “this” with a specific noun. Like…

  • …We’re in economic uncertainty together
  • …We’re in confusion together
  • …We’re in isolation together
  • …We’re in media overload together
  • …We’re in the drive through together
  • …We’re in the grocery line together
  • …We’re in fear fatigue together

I’ll stop there to chew on that one. This “this” is one of the major things we are in together. 

Some of us by nature, personality, or any number of reasons tend to live more fearfully. But this is different. This feels like we’re all in fear together whether we want to be or not. Feels forced, on many levels.

We all have natural tendencies in responding to fear. Generally, we are defined as fighters or flighters. I tend to be the former, which explains why I tend to believe much of the fear we are in together is forced.

Regardless of its origination or our response tendency to it, fear does not get an automatic win. It can be overcome when we choose to combat it. You probably are already trying to combat it, subconsciously or thoughtfully. In case you’d like more help, because we’re in this together, here are five ways I’m combating forced fear.

  1. Created a Playlist…just this morning I decided it was time to create a COVID-19 playlist. My list includes songs that address fear directly, bring God into the picture, and focus on the hope of eternity. Pretty sure I’ll be playing it daily.
  2. Exercising Early…many years ago I had to overcome not being a morning person in order to pursue better running training. I’m not in training mode right now. But I’ve put my mind in combat fear mode, meaning setting the alarm on most mornings to get up and exercise first thing. My guess is, if you don’t already do this, when you give it a try you’ll like it.
  3. Increasing Peace Intake…this “this” is to combat that media overload we’re in together. Here’s a challenge to consider: however much time you spend watching, reading, scrolling, engaging in media that produces fear in you, spend at least that same amount of time or more taking in peace. Whatever produces peace in your heart, mind, and spirit needs equal time. Personally I’m barely looking at Twitter, looking at Facebook less, and pretty much looking at headlines only.
  4. Making Others First…this one can be very simple. Something as simple as letting someone go ahead of you in the grocery line, greeting the cashier by name, thanking them for the extra work they are doing, being empathetic with those you’re together with in the grocery aisles (practiced these Wednesday). For something more impactful, ask God to bring to mind someone to bless and how to do it (doing this today).
  5. Reading>Meditating…in particular, biblical characters that endured forced fear. Examples: Joseph, Esther, Ruth, Daniel, Mary and Joseph, and certainly Jesus. Many of them were forced to face the fear of death. Read their stories. Meditate on how they combated fear. I’m taking a look at Genesis all this weekend.

How are you dealing with forced fear? Got something else to share? Please do. We’re in forced fear together.

It’s Always Election Day

Fear is a powerful emotion. And for some bizarre reason, we are drawn to it. We are intrigued by it. And if we are not paying attention, we can be controlled by it.

Think about which political figure you are drawn to or disgusted by. That drawing or disgust is most likely rooted in fear(s) of what the future holds for you, our country, and the world. And they know it; thus we have the fearmongering onslaught from every media avenue possible.

But this isn’t new. It’s just the largest example currently put in our face. Reality is, we face fear every day whether it’s an election year or not. Reality is, it’s always an election year. In fact, every day is Election Day.

We elect every day what fears to believe, where to place our fears, and whom we will allow to influence us with fear. This is exemplified by something as simple as your cell phone. When you get any kind of notification-text, email, social media, or call-what is your response time? Does it even cross your mind that you have a choice as to how quickly to respond? If you don’t respond when that person wants, or if you don’t reply to the latest post, or if you let that call go to voicemail, it is highly possible that fear has somehow found its way to your heart and mind. You’ve elected to live in fear.

Paul wrote in the New Testament that God doesn’t give us this type of fear. Instead, he gives us power, love, and a sound mind. But, again, every day is Election Day. God’s fear replacements are offered and accompanied by his presence, but we have to elect to give up our other offerings of fear and choose to live in his image.

Is this easy? It’s like anything else that requires growth; it takes practice. There’s a reason it’s called exercise or discipline. If you’ve been choosing fear every election day, then it’s going to take discipline to change your choice every day. It starts one Election Day at a time. It’s always Election Day.

To Do #8, according to science

In an article posted yesterday, Jeff Haden lists nine things science says to do to be happier. Here’s #8 (time to “moderately” hit the pool):

8. Exercise for twenty minutes after you wake up.

Researchers at the University of Vermont found that aerobic training of “moderate intensity,” with an average heart rate of around 112 beats a minute–elevated, sure, but it’s not like they were hammering away — improved participants’ mood for up to twelve hours after exercise.

According to Dr. Jeremy Sibold, “Moderate intensity aerobic exercise improves mood immediately and those improvements can last up to 12 hours. This goes a long way to show that even moderate aerobic exercise has the potential to mitigate the daily stress that results in your mood being disturbed.”

And you’ll also feel smarter; exercise creates new brain cells and makes those new cells more effective. As Gretchen Reynolds says, “Exercise does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.”

So there you go: Work out first thing. Feel better. Be smarter. Sure, you could work out after work, but then the happy feelings and extra brain power will be wasted while you’re asleep.

Remember, you only need to do about 20 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise. For most people, “moderate” means your heart rate should be within 100 to 120 beats per minute (depending on age, fitness level, medical conditions, etc.).

That’s a small price to pay for being happier all day.