The Wise’s Time

A couple of posts ago I mentioned Ben Sasse’s book Them. I’ll finish it before the sun goes down, but I’m taking a break to ask a question.

The question comes after reading chapter seven entitled “Buy a Cemetary Plot” (you should get your own copy to find out what that title’s about). That chapter contains thoughtful words from a 2017 commencement address by Josh Gibbs, a teacher and author in Richmond, Virginia. Address paraphrase: life is full of seasons in which we are tempted to look forward to the next season in order to find contentment. Sasse includes this quote by Gibbs:

Contentment is a condition of the soul, and it does not come with getting what you want, but in giving thanks to God for what you have been given.

Both writers lead their reader to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes where Solomon describes how everything has its time:

Birth, death; love, hate; gain, lose; weeping, laughing; breaking down, building up; silence, speaking; war, peace; gathering, discarding; mourning, dancing; planting, gleaning; embracing, distancing; tearing, sewing.

Then Sasse wrote this:

The wise man learns how to grow where he is planted. He chooses joy. He embraces the time and season.

And that’s what forms my question: What time is it?

  • What time is it in your season of life?
  • What time is it in your family?
  • What time is it in your community?
  • What time is it in your church?
  • What time is it in your country?

Solomon said every time has a purpose. To wring every ounce of purpose out of their time, the wise make these choices:

  • Choose to embrace this time and season
  • Choose joy
  • Choose to learn and grow
  • Choose to thank God for what He’s already given 
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They Don’t Have To

I got a call today from a friend looking for a reference for his friend. He flew states away to help his friend who is in crisis. He illustrated this truth about friendship-you do what you don’t have to.

A friend doesn’t have to tell you the hard truth.

A friend doesn’t have to go to bat for you.

A friend doesn’t have to give you their time.

A friend doesn’t have to offer you help.

A friend doesn’t have to sacrifice for you.

A friend doesn’t have to go the extra mile.

A friend doesn’t have to do for you what you aren’t capable of doing for yourself.

A friend doesn’t have to care about your future, your success, or your wellbeing.

A friend doesn’t have to choose to be your friend.

But because they do what they don’t have to, you can call them friend. 

Who in your life does what they don’t have to for you? Thank God for them. Thank them for them.

The Gift of Balance: Rest/Play/Sabbath (Part 2)

(This is part two of the fifth topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. At the end of this post are suggested resources on this topic.)

John: What are the key components for balance in this part of our lives?

Mark: A couple of thoughts. One that Tonya has already expressed is that we are wired differently. We need to understand how we are wired and recognize what healthy is in terms of resting mind, body, and spirit. Another one is acknowledging and understanding that it is important.

I came up with this analogy of junk food. When we are hungry, we eat; but we don’t always eat the healthy foods. Our body and minds can be craving rest, so we have to feed ourselves healthy rest. Sometimes we feed ourselves junk rest where we are not fully disengaged or something like watching TV three hours a night and calling that rest. It’s not the same thing as unplugging from electronics or work, or going out for a bike ride or a run. So being able to distinguish between healthy and junk rest is also important.

Tonya: That’s really important.  I agree with that need to understand ourselves.  Like, I know what time of night my brain is shutting down. So it’s stupid for me to think I can push through and do a little more work, and I can’t.  If I try, I get frustrated or angry, and then I’m upset with people around me. So I have to know my body and set up my schedule to fit my body.  So I like that, knowing when you need rest and what kind of rest.

John: Using your junk food analogy, Mark, what is healthy food for you?

Mark: I have always been fond of sleep. I’ve often used the phrase, “Sleep is not overrated.” I’m in tune with what I need in terms of sleep. And if I don’t get it, I feel it physically, emotionally; I’m more irritable. Even 30-45 minutes in change of bedtime makes a difference the next day in how I feel.

On the flip side, I’m not so good with play. Part of me being comfortable and valuing play is continuing being present. Being in the moment to laugh, to see an opportunity with the kids or my spouse to be in the moment and just let go of everything else to be creative, whether it’s with a puzzle or a walk or a game, whatever it is to be in the moment.

John: What works in California?

Tonya: Well, we have lots of sunshine, just like you, so a lot of outdoor activities. I agree with the area of sleep; I have to get about eight hours of sleep. If I don’t get that, then I’m not good.  I also know that I need to be in my bed by 9 o’clock.  I might be reading, but I’m winding down. If I try to push past 10, it’s going to go all bad for me.

The other part for me is I need a quiet morning. I get up early, but I don’t necessarily like to talk to anybody. That’s my time with the Lord. I often take that time to go on prayer walks or sit and read in my favorite chair and read; that time helps me get my mind prepared for the day.  I don’t want to be up and moving fast.

Play has also been important to us as a family. Going outside and shooting hoops, just goofing around in the yard throwing a ball; that’s always been important to us. At times, the margin to do that was being lost with traveling with the boy’s hockey. So we had to adjust; sometimes that meant going early ahead of the team or stay a day late and just goof off. That was important to us, but we had to be intentional about it sometimes.

John: Following thoughts about sleeping needs, I read several years ago that the optimal hours of sleep is from 10-2.  That’s when your body most gets what it needs from sleep. When I started paying attention to that, I realized how helpful that was. So it’s rare that TV stays on past 10. I’m working more toward turning it off an hour or two ahead of that, which I believe is a key thing for a single person. If you allow it, TV can become in essence a companion, another voice in the room. So shutting that down let’s you start shutting down your mind, your emotions in order to give space for renewal to start.

Mark: In a similar way, I’m thinking about how noise can be a challenge in a family as well. We can all be together and yet there’s noise in the background, whether it’s music or TV.  I think it’s a struggle for families also, to feel like we have to have this constant companion of noise.  I’m driving in the car and I have the radio going. Why is that? Is it a habit? Is it healthy? Or do I need to unplug and rest from input and work on being comfortable in silence?

John: Which is anti-cultural. Everywhere you go you are inundated, maybe feel like you’re in Time Square all the time. Your house is where you can control that. That’s up to you, how inundated you and your family are going to be.

Tonya: From a counseling perspective, when it’s silent you have to deal with yourself, your thoughts. If that’s painful, you keep noise. So it’s something to pay attention to. “Why is this hard?” There are times, by the way, when it all has to be off in my car.  I love listening to worship music, but sometimes it needs to be silent.

John: I have to tell you about the best day of my month off in October. Mark, it was the day I left your house and drove to New York. It was a nine-hour drive. I had no structure to the day, other than I knew where my hotel was in New York. I hadn’t traveled that highway before, so I determined in my mind that I was going to enjoy this road that I haven’t been on before; I got off on exits that I was curious about. When I got to New York I realized I had never turned on the radio, never had music on, didn’t listen to any podcasts. It wasn’t intentional. It was just the rhythm that worked for the day. When I realized it, it shocked me. It was just me and God and what I was looking at. It was revelational. “I need to pay attention to that.  I feel quite refreshed, and the only input was what I was seeing through my windshield.”

Mark: That’s a great reminder of being present and being in the moment.

John: We’re talking a lot about day to day. For the person who is committed to a weekly Sabbath idea, what’s your thoughts on establishing that for you or your family?

Tonya: I’m a big believer in a day off from work, and that includes house/yard work. We are not just the lay-around-sleep family. It usually means some type of sport, watching or playing. At least one day that is disconnected from work. For me, it is about making it a family day.

John: How does spiritual connection happen in that time frame?

Tonya: Typically when they were growing up that was Sunday. We’d do church together; I liked to have a tradition for going and getting donuts or coffee on the way to church. After church, we might discuss the message, but that was it for us.

Mark: Our family rhythm has been a lot like Tonya has described. Monday through Friday was school and career work.  Saturday has tended to be house work, chores, whatever. Sunday we try to put that down and not to work. Sometimes we are more successful than others; it’s more a guideline than a rigid rule. Sometimes we shift days because of weather, but that’s been the rhythm we have pursued.

In my career, I don’t think I appreciated the importance of unplugging from work for a day until I’d go through really long days weeks at a time. Growing up I had this perspective of Sabbath being a very spiritual day. Practically when Monday through Saturday is jammed packed, Sunday or a day can be very beneficial to give your body a chance to heal and recover so you can hit Monday on a full battery and not running on empty.

In terms of spiritual, for a significant period of our lives it was traditional church attendance with processing and discussion afterwards. For the last ten years, it’s been more of the home context where we set aside time as a family that we label as “God time.” It involves many of the components in a church context just in a smaller setting. We’ve always prioritized the spiritual together as a family for at least a specific time in the week to indicate it is a priority.

John: I just got this imagery of you passing the offering plate around, just the five of you. You should try that just to see what happens.

Mark: We have joked about that at times.

Tonya: That’s not a bad idea because kids are expensive.

John: To answer this for myself, sure Sunday is the day. As a staff member, it can very much feel like a work day; it’s labeled one. I have to play around with other times.  That’s going to look different. Sometimes it’s Friday; sometimes it’s Saturday; sometimes it’s a mix of those two days. I have to be intentional. When I’m good about it, there’s nothing else on the day. It’s probably little engagement with other people; it keeps me from expending energy and resting. I’m trying not to take in too much because it moves my mind toward work. I have to find things that make me disconnect. Running is usually in there somewhere, but the rest of the day goes better if I leave it more unstructured since I am a very structured person.

Tonya: We’re talking about something that is very much a western culture problem. We have so much information bombarding us, and people are moving fast. These are things we know, but it’s still hard. We have to really work at rest. I think it’s much more about where we live.

Mark: I think you’re right. The two words coming to mind are doing, which is how our western culture is biased, versus being, which may be found more readily in an eastern culture. We are raised to do, but we are talking about being.

John: Shelly Miller in her book hones in on that quite a bit. There are some things that we do that are okay to do on Sabbath or while resting, but if we forget the need to just be, or have any intentionality to be, we are not getting the full effect of what the commandment is really all about.

Anything else come to mind for you that you have to focus on to maintain balance?

Tonya: My big motto lately is living out of your values. “Does your time, your money, your life reflect that? What’s the evidence in your life that matches what you’re stating?”

Mark: We have to give ourselves permission to do the things that are beneficial and healthy for us. That’s not selfishness. It’s more about recognizing God’s context for wholeness and healthiness requires these things. Because of this, then you are best able to bless others through your service, your creativity, your relationships, your time. The ripple effect cascades through your impact of creating legacy.

John: I’ll add to that the importance of giving yourself permission to say no. When you are asked to do things that interfere with your normal rhythm of rest, you need to be okay to say no or make rearrangements so your rest is not put aside. It can be tweaked but shouldn’t be put aside. If you have to say yes to something, where else are you going to say no to create balance.

Mark: The image that comes to mind is putting boundaries around rest, just like we’ve talked about putting boundaries around work.

John: And not to be legalistic. You determine what it is.  You and God work it out.  You know what feeds, restores, and refuels you. So don’t let anything else take that away from you.

Mark: Honor the Sabbath and keep that holy and set apart.

 

Suggested Resources:

Mark’s:

Tonya’s:

John’s:

The Gift of Balance: Family & Parenting (Part 2)

(This is part two of three for the second topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance was appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. In part two on the subject of family and parenting we address one question.)

How have you approached spiritual formation in your family that is a balance between legalism and “letting them find their way”?

Tonya: My experience as a homeschool mom gave me an opportunity to teach them about the Lord. I taught them subjects like “who is God,” “can I really know him.” I also taught them a class on all the different religions of the world to make sure that understanding came from their parents. We tried to give them a bigger picture view. But the biggest piece for me is that you have to walk the talk. If I’m teaching them about the Lord, I need to be serving him and walking the talk.

Another thing comes from a book I read a long time ago on mother/son relationships. She talked about giving them room to make mistakes. If they aren’t allowed to make mistakes, they don’t learn how to recover from them. Without that learning, when they leave the house they’ll have no reference for recovery when they make mistakes. Giving them freedom was important.

We were totally attacked by several church people because of their hockey. We were told we should never go to games if they fell on Sundays. I said, “If I take something away from them that they love in the name of the Lord, who are they going to despise?” It was a balance of teaching them how to walk with the Lord even if we aren’t always at church. But, you know, when they go through those teenage years when they question everything, which I know now is important, they find their own faith and not their parent’s faith. That’s hard, but they have to have that to make their own choices.

Mark: I’m putting myself in your shoes, Tonya, with that do we/don’t we on Sunday activities. We also had the chance to put one of my boys in competitive ice hockey. For a couple of reasons, we pulled back. I still wonder what would it have been like to have one of my kids play. Growing up, I couldn’t do things on Sunday from the decision that my parents made. So there were a few baseball tournaments that my parents took flack on from the team, not from the church. So I can see it from the other side.

The balance that my wife and I have tried to take, particularly over the last ten years as our kids have gotten to the age where they can reason through some of this, is you cannot measure faith or any relationship with externals or with things that can be quantified by participation, giving, or other activities. It all comes down to what’s in the heart. We have pressed and pressed and pressed that it’s about the heart. Man looks on the outside; God looks at the heart. There’s no one that knows your relationship with God more than you. The externals flow out of that relationship, but they don’t define it. The other piece you alluded to, Tonya, is owning it. “Here’s our choice and our desire for you, but ultimately you’ve got to own it. You have to make this relationship priority and invest into it.”

Tonya: It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship. Jesus wants to have a relationship with us. If you want relationship, you have to invest time. The externals-reading Scripture, spending time talking with the Lord-is critically important. That’s how you get to know him, how to hear his voice. We felt it was important for them to understand relationship. It was a balancing act with ice hockey. There was no respect for Sundays or holidays. For them to play at the levels they were playing, they had to be there or be off the team. We had to talk through that, and sometimes I told them, “I’m feeling unbalanced like our God has become hockey, so how are we going to adjust this?” We had to work through that but also teach them that relationship is everywhere. “God is with you in the locker room. He’s with you when you’re on the ice. What does that look like?” 

Mark: At the risk of sounding too critical, I think the Christian community has maybe placed too much sacredness on traveling into the four walls of a church rather than being the church in your activities. No doubt there is a balance, but there can be a powerful witness and testimony from two grounded and strong and committed teenage boys on a sheet of ice. Playing a game that is honoring and consistent with how they live in other parts of their life.

Tonya: It was also the idea of our opportunity as parents seeing the mission field of the other parents in ice hockey. I remember one morning at breakfast on one of the tournament weekends where I happened to be sitting across from the coach. I don’t know how it happened, but before I know it the table is full of people and he starts asking me questions.  In no time we are having this long conversation about the Lord. He began sharing his heart about how God had been speaking to him over the last year.  The result of that conversation was he started leading the team in prayer before practices and games. He knew that there was this God, and he wanted to recognize it. It was definitely a mission opportunity.

John: Two thoughts have come to me as you both have been talking.  Mark, as you were talking about externals, one thought came to me of how legalistic thinking and practices are highly conditional versus unconditional, as you think about how people are loved and received. How do we help our family members understand unconditional relationship versus conditional relationship?  That angle seems to not be thought about very much. The thought is, “Are you going to church or are to you going to hockey?”  Conditional thinking is very do/don’t.

The other thought that is huge to me these days is the subject of grace. How does a kid understand grace?  I don’t remember really understanding it as a kid; it’s a hard concept. We maybe don’t use that word with our kids, but we can model to them giving grace either to ourselves or our family members who don’t look or act like us.  Unconditional/grace living go hand in hand-zoning in on what that means for me and how do I build that into the spiritual formation of my family by the choices we make.

Mark: Grace makes me think how easy it is for children to forgive and extend grace in comparison to parents. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pinned my ears, tucked my tail and gone to my kids and said, “I’m sorry for my behavior,” and they demonstrate to me a willingness to extend grace which is way more than my tendency to extend to them or others. I think they’ve taught me more about grace than I have taught them along the way. 

John: That illustration is an example of a teachable moment to help them understand the grace concept. They are doing it, but they don’t know to call it that. “You just exercised your grace muscle.” Help them understand what that means and as a family commit to it.

Tonya: You being willing to go back and apologize is you walking your talk. That’s an example of living out your faith-being willing to admit your faults, being open. You’re teaching them that’s how we do this walk. That’s really good.

The Gift of Balance: Series Introduction (Part 2)

(This is part two of the first post in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter.)

Of the topics the rest of this series will cover, which one have you had to work on the most?

Mark: For me, it’s the work, career, job. I often use the analogy of a spectrum. At the tail end of my corporate career, I needed to change where I was on the spectrum. Too much work had become a detriment to my time, family, and even emotional health. So now I’ve shifted the pendulum to asking the question, “How much work should I be doing? Am I doing enough work?” My day looks so different. I’ve enjoyed a lot of personal time with family, but I have to balance the time to develop and grow a new business. Work is the area that most easily disrupts the other areas of my life. I’ve gone from placing balances on it, to trying to control, to asking what are my boundaries and what should I be doing. This one isn’t always a challenge, but it is the one that I need to pay the most attention to because it’s so influential to other components of my life.

John: Tonya, since you’ve counseled a lot of guys, would you say this is probably the case for most men?

Tonya: Yes, especially the “how much work do I put in” leading back to values. But this is my issue too. What I’ve had to learn, and learning to do all the time, is setting all my hours according to my values. My values have to be stated first. And then ask, “Do my hours reflect my values?” That helps me. If I don’t accomplish my tasks in the hours I’ve set, then I have to be okay with stopping. That was the biggest thing for me, being okay with not accomplishing everything that was on the list for that day.

John: I remember hearing Bill Hybels saying how he addressed that issue for himself. When the clock hit five, he gave himself an automatic stop. But before he left his desk, he’d pause and pray, “God, thank you for what I got done today.” Just a simple prayer that allowed him to leave and to leave stuff not done.

Tonya: That’s good. A professor once taught me that when I put my hand on the doorknob to leave to pause and say, Everything that happened in this office today rest with you, Lord, and now I go home to my family.” Disconnect my brain from work and be with my family. Again, it comes back to values. We can give lip service to our value system, but do we live out of it. When we do, it’s a whole different dynamic because then I can be sitting with my kids and playing a game and have peace because that is a value for me, a higher value than my work.

John: My input on this question is coming from the backside of what’s been said on the work topic. The topic that goes hand in hand on this one is the idea of sabbath/rest/play. It’s not so much that I struggled with finding my identity in work. It was finding the balance between the idea that as a single person I can give more time to the job and the need to find balance between work and play. When I started running it wasn’t just because I enjoy it, which I do, but it was for that purpose to give me structure and personal accountability about the need for this balance. But even then, I had to work on not letting my play feel like work. The competitive drive or need to get better would mess with the balance. Injury is actually a good thing for me. It makes me slow down and pause to evaluate am I pushing too hard. Finding balance in play time helps correct any issues that are on the work side of it.

Suggested Resources:

Mark’s

  • Essentialism, by Greg McKeown
  • Living Forward, by Michael Hyatt
  • Jesus’ message – “Store up treasures in heaven, rather than here on earth.”
  • Quote by martyred missionary Jim Elliot – “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Tonya’s

  • The Bible
  • Emotionally Healthy Leaderby Peter Scazzero
  • Leading on Empty, by Wayne Cordeiro
  • Dr. Leaf.com – 21 Day Brain Detox – podcasts, youtube channel
  • Sleep: It does a Family Good & Adrenaline and Stress, both by Dr. Archibald Hart

John’s

  • Integrity, by Dr. Henry Cloud
  • Awe, by Paul David Tripp

Dude…You’re on a Detour

(An “Own It” series for Dudes)

My last post had to do with my recent travels, with quite a bit of levity. This post also has to do with those travels, but with a more introspective tone. Balance.

My travels have taken me through 13 states. Guess what? They all have construction going on. Shocking. And guess what? Google maps is there for you, in the congestion and the isolation, ready to be silent or ready to give you an alternate route.

Another term for alternate route is detour. I literally took one detour that had me circle all four exit and entrance ramps at an interstate exchange to detour around a closed exit. That was a first. Pretty sweet, actually.

In my trek from Ohio to New York, I had a long time to think. One thing I was chewing on was a phrase I kept throwing at my Columbus friend, “You have options.” And as I passed a couple of detours and watched various driver’s reactions to the traffic flow changes, including my own, some interesting thoughts about detours and options in life came to mind. So here they are in randomness:

  • Some detours in life come at you with no warning-GPS lost the signal, the accident ahead just happened, the road seemed closed for no reasons. You don’t know what it’s about, how long it’s going to last, and maybe even uncertain if the new route really is taking you in the right direction. These life detours could be anything from financial to physical to vocational to relational. You really aren’t sure if you have options or not. This delay is full of uncertainty.
  • Other detours in life come with a few warning signs-“Road work 5 miles ahead. Left lanes closes in 1 mile. Detour ahead.” Reasons may be clearer because of better information, which may also give you options to consider for getting through the delay sooner. The delay is real but with less uncertainty, less stress on the traveler.
  • For a little bit of honesty, let’s acknowledge that we drivers actually bring some detours on ourselves. Maybe we failed to listen to the GPS, or arrogantly said, “She doesn’t know what she’s saying.” Maybe we purposefully chose to take a detour to see something that looked interesting that takes us off the planned course. And we are mostly okay with these detours. Some end well, some don’t. Regardless, we have to own the fact that we chose the detour.
  • The truth about most detours is this: they don’t ruin our lives. We may immediately start worrying about arriving in time or disappointing the in-laws or missing the meeting, but the end of most stories is we eventually get there and all is well.

So what’s a dude to do when approaching a detour or waking up to the reality he’s in one that he didn’t see coming?

  1. Consider your options
  2. Thank God you’re still on a road and not under it
  3. Take a breathe
  4. Look at the scenery that you wouldn’t otherwise have seen
  5. Adjust your speed, your expectations, your plans
  6. Realize that 15-30 minutes is about the same time it takes to get your hair cut. It won’t last forever.
  7. If the Spirit leads you to take a detour, listen and obey
  8. Ask God “what” questions rather than “why” questions
  9. Look for the purpose in the detour. You might find that it’s taking you to a better road.
  10. Turn up the music. Lower the windows. Enjoy the ride.

Sabbatical: Week 1 Roadtrip

Last week was a step back in time. My mom and sister Debra joined me on a roadtrip to Illinois. Final stop, Beecher City, population 500. This was a delayed 80th birthday trip for my mom to visit her twin sister and brother-in-law. 

Last time I was in Beecher City was probably before I started kindergarten. What would I know, but it appears not much has changed. For instance, to our surprise at the gas station, we received full service. I can’t remember ever receiving that. Anywhere.

We enjoyed the disconnect from the rest of the world for a few days. My mom and aunt enjoyed seeing the home they grew up in (cover photo above) and their high school and even catching up with classmates from their elementary one-room school classmates. A taste of yesterday. In this place. A meaningful week to start a sabbatical month.

Obstacles: Sometimes You Have to be Your Own Generator

It’s been two weeks since Irma. Much continues to happen around the world with natural disasters. In our town, we haven’t had to deal with the devastation of other places. Regardless of how impactful the storm, one thing is true for anyone living in a post-storm world: things aren’t normal. Normal has been replaced, if not permanently, at least temporarily.

This was clear the first day I went for a run. It was Tuesday morning, not much longer than 24 hours post-storm.

As odd as it sounds, I literally had to tell myself that it was okay to go for a run. I’m sure to many it would have been the furtherest thing from their mind. To me, it was what I should do. It is my routine, and I should do it even if I didn’t want to or questioned if I should.

I did a 5.7-mile route through West Bradenton. A little darker than usual, even for early morning hours. Darkened street lights, humming generators, and impassable sidewalks were obstacles to my normal carefree run. Watching traffic on Cortez Road between 51st and 75th was interesting; actually on this entire route it was. Non-working traffic lights (5 out of 9) were catching many drivers offguard. They were having to pay more attention because routine was broken.

When routine is broken, when there are obstacles in life to doing what we are accustomed to doing, it can be quite jolting, to some life-altering. All of these things I noticed on my run were simple examples of obstacles that post-storm living presents. And if you allow them to, these obstacles can appear overwhelming and unnavigable. They can appear to be.

If the appearance grips us with fear, we would do well to step back and let our brains catch up to our emotions. Our brains can help us see…

  • …taking a shower by flashlight is doable.
  • …if you don’t know how to do something, most likely you know someone who does.
  • …a new routine will take more time…so leave earlier for work, allow more grace to other drivers, and expect the unexpected.
  • …the obstacle may not be addressable in the desired timeframe. That’s okay. Give time to yourself and to others to get it addressed in a safe and wise manner.
  • …obstacles don’t automatically mean you can’t do your thing.  They may just cause you to have to figure out a different way.
  • …like many pre-storm days, the best motivation is self-motivation. Sometimes you have to be your own generator.

Closing the Gap

Nehemiah is a rich book. One great example of the story is how Nehemiah and his community managed themselves and others as they completed a massive project. As with any project, there is a starting point and a vision of what the finished work looks like. This gap between the start and the finish is where life happens.

Some of us have a tendency to expect the completion of our vision sooner than is logical. Sometimes this tendency leads us to go beyond ignoring logic and simply not having the patience to wait through the logical. It’s as if we are always asking God for miracles.

Does God still perform miracles? Sure. But many of the situations we want to experience change, where we envision the completion of a “project,” aren’t “lion’s den” moments. For example, changing the culture of an organization doesn’t happen in 24 hours, overcoming a cocaine addiction most likely takes months or years, and reshaping a dysfunctional family can be the work of an entire generation.

That’s reality. Some questions we should ask ourselves are, “Am I committed to closing the gap? Am I willing to see this through rather than expecting God to do what He intends me to do?” We know where we are and can probably envision where we want to be, but are we committed to the work and time to close the gap.

That’s doable. It actually may be even more life transforming than an instantaneous miracle.

So here are some questions to challenge ourselves when beginning a project, committing to closing a gap of any nature:

  • Where am I and where do I want to be?
  • What’s the real challenge I want to overcome?
  • What does God desire for this situation?
  • What steps are needed to start overcoming?
  • How long am I willing to work on closing the gap?
  • Who should I recruit to walk with me through this gap-closing season?
  • How will I celebrate when the gap is closed?

Fruity Fridays: 5 Ways to Own Your Faithfulness 

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

The fruit of faithfulness is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit which require the most use of Galatians 5:24, which says,

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Faithfulness is not a natural trait we are born with. It flies in the face of our natural bend toward selfishness. Left to our own desires and passions, we keep moving from job to job, bed to bed, habit to habit, relationship to relationship because it’s just too hard to be faithful when you are wrapped up in “what’s in it for me?”

We have to give that bend to God. We have to choose to own faithfulness rather than selfishness and pursue it with the Holy Spirit’s aid. So how can we own our faithfulness? Here are five thoughts:

Own Your Purpose

Yes, your purpose is God-given. But he doesn’t make you pursue education. He doesn’t make you go on the job interview. He doesn’t make you leave a purposeless job to pursue the purposeful job. He gives you a purpose, but you have to own it. Chances are when you do own his given purpose, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: John the Baptist)

Own Your Margin

We all have the same amount of time. We haven’t all learned the value of margin, the value of saying “no,” or the hurt created by a flippant, inattentive “yes.” Your margin is yours; your time is yours to obediently and wisely fulfill your God-given purpose. Chances are when you own your margin, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: Jethro)

Own Your Commitments

If we take care of owning purpose and margin, this one is a lot easier. Commitments should not be causal, quick, or thoughtless. If the commitment is entered into only after checking it against purpose and margin, the odds of its longevity increase. Chances are when you own your commitments, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical examples: David and Jonathan)

Own Your Distractions

Owning purpose, margin, and commitments don’t negate self-imposed or enemy-induced distractions. You can be your own worst enemy; and, you are always target practice for enemy attacks to your mind, body, and soul. Know your susceptibilities. Know your distractions. Chances are when you own your distractions, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: Daniel)

Own Your Tendencies

Very few people know you like you know you. It may be that no human really knows you. We should all own the truth that God knows us, every part of us, even when we forget he does or try to behave like he doesn’t. Knowing your tendency to leave when you should stay, run when you should walk, talk when you should listen, or obsess when you should forget will move you along in owning your selfishness. Chances are when you own your tendencies, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: Paul)