Life On Demand

We live in an on-demand society. We have a lot of options, so we can typically have what we want when we want it. I wonder how on-demand impacts our discovery.

I have favorites at various coffee shops. I usually choose hot chocolate or iced tea since I’m not a coffee drinker. I know what I like at my most frequented shops, Starbucks and Panera. While I was traveling recently, Coffee Bean was more convenient. I like Coffee Bean, but there are none around where I live. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and try something I couldn’t get at one of my favorite places. I told the server I wanted some sort of iced tea and a muffin and asked what she recommended.

Done.

I didn’t demand; I discovered. And I liked it! I went again the next day and got a different muffin and a different iced tea. A group of people celebrated together later that night, and I tried yet another flavor of iced tea – and discovered Coffee Bean has frozen yogurt. Of the available flavors, I ordered the one different from my default setting.

How can I find out what I like if I don’t try new things?

It’s just as important to discover what we don’t like as it is to discover what we do. In fact, it’s often not about our likes and dislikes at all. That’s the end result, but the process is often equally, if not more, important. Discovery is the process.

We can’t demand discovery. We can only seek it.

Consider the “usuals” in your life. Walk through your routine.

  • What is your typical drink order? When and why did your current “on demand” begin?
  • Where do you take your car to be serviced? When and why did your current “on demand” begin?
  • Where do you shop for groceries? When and why did your current “on demand” begin?
  • Where do you attend worship services? When and why did your current “on demand” begin?
  • Where do you meet with friends? When and why did your current “on demand” begin?

At some point, you had to discover something new. Perhaps you accepted advice or began a routine by default. Making no decision is still making a decision.

What you demand tomorrow is today’s discovery.

Be intentional. Pay attention to the “whys” of your “whats.” God created you with purpose. He created you to think and interact with the world around you. Put the two together and intentionally discover his purpose, one adventure at a time.

Dear friend, listen well to my words;  tune your ears to my voice.  Keep my message in plain view at all times.  Concentrate! Learn it by heart!  Those who discover these words live, really live;  body and soul, they’re bursting with health. Proverbs 4:20-22 (The Message)

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Scouring the Hills

I grew up on a beautiful farm, which meant (1) there were always adventures to be had and (2) there was always work to be done.

Despite living in central Illinois, where you can usually look across the plains and see for miles, we could walk about a mile and reach fantastic sledding hills in the winter. The hills overlooked the creek bottom, and the hike to sled was worth the effort. After hiking back up the hills after the sled runs, we began to wonder if our legs would carry us back home before our fingers and toes froze. But the promise of Mom’s homemade hot chocolate was all the motivation we needed to return.

The hills took on a different context in the summer, especially the year we cleared the north hills. The bulldozers came in to knock down every size of tree and pull up root systems. We’d check on the process when they weren’t working, and I was amazed to stand beside many tree trunks large enough for me to walk through with barely a stoop if they had been hollowed. It was quite a process of transformation to watch. The hills of scattered trees I had known became almost unrecognizably bare. I noticed details I had never seen before. And it wasn’t long before I knew those hills more intimately than I ever thought I could.

After the large machinery was done, it was our turn to scour the hills. Since farm machinery would be working the hills, planting and harvesting beans and wheat in the coming years, we had to pick up what the large equipment couldn’t get and the farm machinery shouldn’t get. So, our trekking began.

We walked back and forth across the width of the hills. We worked as a team (most of the time), picking up rocks and broken pieces of root systems and throwing them onto a trailer. It was dirty, exhausting work. Every now and then, we’d find a treasure – Indian arrowhead or a fossil – and we’d gather around to examine each other’s discoveries. We’d soon go back to the monotonous search for rocks. The land was rough, a result of being pulled apart. We weren’t working on level ground. What looked like stone was often a clump of dirt and when kicking a clump of dirt, we often found stones. Walking on uneven ground was tiresome. Repeatedly bending over and picking up debris was exhausting. The adventure of the process quickly wore off as we returned to the hills day after day.

But the process was necessary in order to prepare the fields for the next thing: crops.

We often are in the process of clearing something of the past in order to prepare for the future. It’s essential we do the work. Sure, we’d rather be enjoying the thrill of sledding or consistently finding treasures. The filth and exhaustion isn’t as much fun as the adventures, but it’s a critical part of the process. We can complain and whine. We can sit and pout. Or, we can get to what needs to be done.

What work is God requiring of you today? What’s your attitude about it?

Be obedient, and let him prepare your life for the next season. His purpose might be beyond your wildest imaginations…and memories.

The farmer is like a person who plants God’s message in people. Sometimes the teaching falls on the road. This is like the people who hear the teaching of God, but Satan quickly comes and takes away the teaching that was planted in them. Others are like the seed planted on rocky ground. They hear the teaching and quickly accept it with joy. But since they don’t allow the teaching to go deep into their lives, they keep it only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the teaching they accepted, they quickly give up. Others are like the seed planted among the thorny weeds. They hear the teaching, but the worries of this life, the temptation of wealth, and many other evil desires keep the teaching from growing and producing fruit in their lives. Others are like the seed planted in the good ground. They hear the teaching and accept it. Then they grow and produce fruit—sometimes thirty times more, sometimes sixty times more, and sometimes a hundred times more. (Mark 4:14-20)

Uprooted and Cooked

Fennel, Sweet potatoes, beets, leeks, turnips, carrots, and more.

Not exactly my idea of the best foods. Okay, so I really like sweet potatoes when they’re baked well (in other words, the way I like them). Carrots are the same for me. The rest I can do without. When I think of turnips, I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder having to eat them over and over and not liking them – to harvest or eat. When I think of beets, I think of the runny, fake purple juice running across my elementary school lunch tray. Leeks remind me of a garden hose. And fennel? To be honest, I’d never had it (to my knowledge) and was certain I wasn’t missing out on anything.

Yet I came face-to-face…um, vegetable to mouth…with a large roaster of root vegetables at a women’s conference this fall. As usual, I arrived a little early and was greeted by a delicious smell consuming the building. I meandered into the eating area and first noticed a table of desserts: homemade baklava with pumpkin and apple filling. Mmmm. I wasn’t sure what was going to be placed in all the dishes on the main tables, but the smell was irrestible.

The couple in charge of cooking and baking introduced all the foods before we began: herb-crusted pork roast, creamy garlic mashed potatoes, lemon green beans…and roasted root vegetables.

“Just try them!” we were told. Don’t let your past experiences and preferences taint your willingness to take a risk.

We were also told that if we tried the root vegetables, we should try a piece of each kind to get the perfect blend of flavors. I decided to be adventurous. I was swayed a bit by the chef standing over the serving table, directing me on what to spoon onto my plate!

Each bite was scrumptious, savory, and very…surprising. I liked every single one of the vegetables. The tastes chattered my preconceived presumptions. I walked away from lunch determined to try a similar combination soon. (I have yet to actually attempt it, but I’ll let you know when I do! I think I’d better wait for a large family event so I’ll have a few more brave tasters.)

I’ve written about adventures in eating before, but this was slightly different because of my existing assumptions. I expected not to like what I was eating. I was wrong.

Our assumptions are often wrong. We’ve had one experience and base future decisions on it. We’ve heard someone’s opinion and adopt or reject it automatically. Making assumptions helps us make sense of new information, but if we’re not willing to question existing information, our assumptions will sometimes build walls that limit our opportunities.

Take inventory of your assumptions today.

This isn’t a simple food challenge. I’m referring to the assumptions you make about people, relationships, and experiences. God continues to grow you beyond where you were yesterday. He continues to invite you into a closer relationship with him, which means searching for answers to probing questions, meeting challenges with anticipation, and taking steps of adventures. Be willing to get your hands dirty as you uproot assumptions that might be holding you back from amazing experiences. You might just find a new favorite recipe in the process.

Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness. Ecclesiastes 10:13

Guarded Aerobics

I recently blogged about the (dis)comforts of home, the things we don’t necessarily like when we’re at home but we might miss when travelling. Travelling can be an odd experience. When the novelty of it wears off, a quest for balance begins to surface. On the one hand, new experiences and adventure keep travelling interesting. Even when a seasoned traveller is confused as to where he is, as each airport, hotel, and conference center blends into the next, there are intriguing and energizing experiences of watching, meeting, and listening to people that never seem to grow stale. There’s beauty in the changing landscapes and architectures. There are challenges of finding directions and getting orientated to new home-away-from-homes.

On the other hand, there’s a quest for sameness. Finding a favorite coffee shop. Arranging clothes or an office-away-from-office in the hotel room. A schedule of travel rarely reflects the average schedule near home, so finding a few common threads helps maintain some continuity and familiarity. For me, that includes exercise.

It would be easy to avoid exercise when travelling. Finding a suitable place to work out is often a challenge. Finding a suitable time to work out is often more of a challenge, especially during a busy convention schedule. To work out in the morning requires an unreasonably early wake-up call because of the time it takes to work out then shower and get ready for morning sessions. Late night sessions aren’t ideal because there’s little energy at the end of the day, but late night workouts might also spur enough energy to keep me awake. However, I’ve found delayed sleep doesn’t matter much anyway, since I’m usually waiting for complete exhaustion to set it, so I fall to sleep with a dulled realization I’m not falling asleep next to my husband.

So, I often opt for the late night option. And I’m rarely sorry for the sacrifice. No matter how tired I am, I feel better knowing I’ve expended energy other than walking from room to room throughout the event venue.

Another challenge often presents itself with late night workouts: location. Why large hotels don’t keep fitness rooms open late I don’t know, but I’m obviously not going to go outside for a strange-city-in-the-dark tour. And that’s why I’ve gotten into the habit of travelling with an exercise DVD.

So when a group of women were standing around the first evening of the conference, lamenting about not being able to work out when we were done for the night because the fitness room would be closed, I offered my DVD. Next problem: There’s barely room in a hotel room for me to do aerobics, so we needed an alternate location. Because there were several of us, we’d also need a TV, because we wouldn’t be able to see the laptop screen well.

Aha! One of the displays right outside the conference ballroom had a TV and a DVD player. Perfect! Of course, that meant we’d be in a major hallway while working out, but since it was late at night, who would notice?

Um…the security guard!

It was actually quite comical. He was a nice guy and will likely find his way into a future blog or two. He’s probably seen much more interesting things during his late night shifts!

The bottom line is we got to exercise, and we felt much better. Plus, we got to work out side by side each other, which makes it a bit more fun. It’s funny: We set aside the reality of working out in a very public area, because establishing some sort of routine to our day took priority.

We might need to find some adventure among the regularity of daily life, but we also seek regularity among the adventure of life.

Consider what habits bore you and make you long for adventure.

Consider what habits keep you grounded. What will you try to incorporate into your daily life even when you’re outside your norm?

We do not enjoy being disciplined. It is painful at the time, but later, after we have learned from it, we have peace, because we start living in the right way. Hebrews 12:11

Be Careful

I grew up on a farm. I learned about safety. But I also had a lot of adventures. I had a blast playing around the farm and in the woods. I didn’t have a lot of fear. Looking back, I think of “what could have happened” and shudder.

I wasn’t supposed to be outside without shoes. Generally, the rule was only enforced beyond the yard. I could understand that. There were all kinds of sharp objects around the barns and other buildings. My sister had stepped on a pitchfork once. I preferred bare feet. Still do. One day, I was playing in the yard, and a barn cat ran under the old porch. I “needed” to rescue him. One rusty nail and a tetanus shot later, I still hadn’t caught the cat.

I could have stayed in the house. We often stay in the safe zone. But what if we don’t take any risks? What if we’re not bold? We often seek safety. We want the people we love to be safe. There’s security in safety. Even those who thrive on adventure would prefer to be safe at the end of the adventure. We often want a thrill, but it’s a time-limited experience. We don’t live on the constant high of a thrill. We want an underlying, dependable foundation of security.

Where do you fall on the safety/adventure scale? Which do you prefer?

What unsettles you about the opposite end of the spectrum?

Living the life God intends isn’t safe. Read the Bible. He’s not a safe God. He’s a God of refuge. He’s a God of trust. He’s a God of dependability. But he’s not safe. Look around you. Life isn’t black and white. “Good guys” die young. “Bad guys” get away with some things. Or so it seems. We need to broaden our perspective. Even when we broaden our perspective, we can’t broaden it enough to see life from God’s perspective.

But we can know him better, and by knowing him better, even when we don’t understand, we trust.

We trust God enough that when we’re bold, we know we’re safe. Not the kind of safety we prefer perhaps…but safe in knowing who God is, the guidance he gives us to live the life he intends, and the provision he’s given us to live eternally with him because of our personal relationship with Jesus. If we choose it.

When we choose to play it safe, we’ll miss out on some opportunities God gives us to be bold in his name. When we’re bold for God, we’re safe in the security of his plan.

I’d rather be bold in obedience to God and not be safe by the world’s standards than shrink from the person he wants me to be.

What do you want? Listen to God’s guidance. Live by his rules. He’ll allow room for adventures. Enjoy the thrill!

And this is the boldness we have in God’s presence: that if we ask God for anything that agrees with what he wants, he hears us. 1 John 5:14

Save the Best for Last

“Make your last move your best move.”

My husband and I heard the commercial for a retirement home in our area. After it took a few seconds to sink in, we turned to each other in disbelief. Did they actually just say that?!

We’re not looking for a retirement home, so maybe we just don’t understand. Perhaps when we get to that stage of life, we’ll gladly admit it’s our last move, but it seemed insensitive to us – and a bit humorous at the same time.

The theme seemed to continue the next day when our daughter, studying in London, posted this photo…

There seemed to be a theme.

But it isn’t about age or lifestage at all. I’m just wondering about the “best” being paired with “last.” I’ve heard many talk about enjoying the last decades of their lives, but I’ve also seen people suffer horribly. Some work their whole lives so they can “enjoy life”…and then don’t know what to do once they retire because they don’t have a purpose. They don’t feel needed. I know others who thrive in the adventure and opportunities they have with a different structure and responsibilities.

Saving the best for last can also be phrased, “The best is yet to come.” And this starts early in life. We can’t wait to pour milk by ourselves, stay up late, celebrate our first double-digit birthday, get a drivers license, move into our first apartment, etc. What are the experiences or milestones in your life you most anticipated? What are you still anticipating?

From an eternal perspective, there’s no doubt in my mind, heart or soul that the best is yet to come. In life on earth? I have no idea, but I’m not going to waste time waiting. I’m giving my best today. I’m anticipating God’s best today. How about you?

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you aren’t looking for me because you saw me do miracles. You are looking for me because you ate the bread and were satisfied. Don’t work for the food that spoils. Work for the food that stays good always and gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give you this food, because on him God the Father has put his power.”

The people asked Jesus, “What are the things God wants us to do?”

Jesus answered, “The work God wants you to do is this: Believe the One he sent.” John 6:26-29

Soaring Adventures

When Mom looked out the kitchen window, she saw us in the second-story barn window. My older sisters held me by my legs and arms, and they swung me back and forth several times before tossing me out the window.

What she couldn’t see was my landing. The garage obscured her view. She charged out the door in a panic, rounded the corner of the garage and…saw the hay truck stacked with straw and me rolling in laughter and delight. What a great day! Mom, on the other hand, didn’t share my joy. She was relieved I was okay, but her initial fright gave her enough momentum to yell at all of us and demand we stop the fun.

Bummer! I was having a blast. It might not have been the safest way to pass the time, but many of the “fun” things we did on the farm weren’t necessarily safe. Some of the most memorable experiences are the adventurous ones. We’re creative through adventures. We learn through adventures. And we often struggle through adventures. Struggling often produces growth.

What’s one adventure that thrilled you?

What’s an adventure that challenged you?

Consider how you grew through each.

Adventures often involve risks and usually involve excitement. Approach today with an anticipation of adventure. Learn. Struggle. Be creative. Make some memories.

Children, come and listen to me. I will teach you to worship the Lord. You must do these things to enjoy life and have many happy days. Psalm 34:11-12