Are You Not Bad Enough?

il_fullxfull.588807341_7eiyThere are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all! (Proverbs 31:29)

The Bible is full with redeemed people. The worse the person’s reputation, the more amazing the story of transformation seems to be. The woman at the well in John 4 had multiple husbands, yet her encounter with Jesus spurred her to share her changed life with many. Rahab was a prostitute but “was shown to be right with God by her actions” (James 2:25). Perhaps you can recall stories of people you know or have heard or read about whose lives were drastically changed from bad reputations to beautiful reflections of God.

What happens when you didn’t have such a bad reputation? You’ve lived a good life – not perfect by any means, but you certainly wouldn’t be identified as the black sheep of your family or voted Most Likely to Serve Prison Time by your high school classmates. Having a good reputation can be a blessing, but it can have downsides as well.

A good reputation can make us question the impact our story has on others. Our stories can seem too boring. Remember, God doesn’t need drama to shine a spotlight on Himself. Your consistency, quiet struggles, and gradual growth are important themes in the story He’s telling through your life.

A good reputation can cause us to be insensitive to what needs to be pruned. Because we’re seen as “good” by so many around us, we can rationalize some of the small steps we’re taking away from God, because “at least we’re not…” doing what the person next to us is doing. Remember, God doesn’t measure your spiritual growth against anyone else. He is the standard of measurement and the one who does the measuring.

A good reputation can pressure us to wear masks. We can feel pressured to keep up the image of our good reputation and end up leading lives of charades. God wants you to be authentic. He wants you to be transparent with Him and those around you, because when you are, He shows through more completely.

Thank God for where you’ve been, where you are, and where He’s taking you. Celebrate with a mini-party today. Treat yourself to an ice cream cone or a long walk in the park. Buy a balloon to place in your work station or home to remind yourself of the blessing of God’s reputation, the keeper of all promises for your life!

Fit Faith: Flexibility: Location, Location, Location

There’s something to be said about consistency. However, the reality is things will never be exactly the same. It’s important to infuse some flexibility into consistency. Doing something the same every single time has limited benefits. Trying new stretches or exercises will quickly reveal weaknesses even if you’re strong in your areas of consistent workout. Trying something new gives you a fresh perspective. You never know when you’ll find something new you’ll enjoy. You never know when you won’t like something new but gain an appreciation for your routine.

I travel often, but not consistently. I enjoy the adventure of traveling and meeting new people in new places, but travel disrupts my fitness routine. I don’t travel regularly enough to have an established routine while travelling. The closest I come to an established fitness routine while travelling is a determination to work out in some way. The details of the workout differ.

If there’s a safe place to walk outside, and the weather is decent, it’s my preference. I get to enjoy being outside and exploring a new location. However, that option usually doesn’t exist. My second option is the treadmill in the hotel fitness room. Depending on my available hours and those of the fitness room, that doesn’t work all the time either. If I foresee a problem finding a time and location to work out, I put an exercise DVD in my laptop case to use in the hotel room.

I’ve been creative. I’ve worked out with friends in the hallway outside the main convention room late at night. I’ve circled the hotel, going up the stairs on one side of the building and down the escalator on the other. I bought a one-week pass to gym. There have been a few times I haven’t been able to find the time or opportunity to exercise, but it’s not for lack of trying! The flexibility has almost become a challenge. How can I creatively find a time and location to work out in an unfamiliar location?

It’s equally important to infuse flexibility into consistency in all things spiritual. There’s definitely something to be said for routine. When we consistently work prayer, study, and service into our lives, we grow, but we have to be authentic about it. Being consistent doesn’t presume spiritual growth. You can be consistently stubborn, self-centered, and wrong! What’s critical in consistency is the desire to seek and know God.

We can get into such regimented routines that we don’t stop to process and savor the journey. Infusing some flexibility can help.

Consider how flexible you are. If you have a designated time for prayer every day, what happens when your routine is interrupted, either predictably or unexpectedly? Do you excuse the change as a valid reason for shifting priorities? How much effort goes into rearranging your schedule to accommodate the change?

If you miss your prayer time, assess the remainder of your day as early as you can find the first possible time to shift your prayer time into. If you know your schedule will be altered ahead of time, you have time to plan.

When you miss a small group meeting, perhaps two, do you rationalize you’re too far behind and decide not to return? You don’t have to be perfect. No one is. We should strive to establish solid, healthy routines, so we can grow spiritually. However, we need to be realistic. Missing one or two studies, prayer times, or worship services doesn’t mean we can’t be consistent. We need to widen our perspective and see the larger picture.

We’re going to be consistent at something. Would you prefer to be consistent in your discipline or lack of it?

Fit Faith: Burn: Fire-Starter or Fire-Sustainer?

To burn something requires fuel. The composition of the fuel greatly impacts the fire. If you need to start a fire quickly, lighting a fire-starter log is more effective than rubbing two sticks together. When leading a group of scouts for years, I created homemade fire starters with dryer lint and melted candle wax: very effective. I’ve seen other people throw gasoline on a fire to get a quick start. It accomplishes the goal of a big explosion but isn’t sustainable for long.

I recently ate two scrumptious cookies right before working out, and it felt as if I had a heavy lump of dough in my stomach. I’ve eaten the obligatory pasta meal the night before a marathon. I’ve used GU Energy Gel® and candy bars while walking long distances. They have different effects. My daughter ate a large bowl of her favorite chili before a soccer game when she was in elementary school and later decided that wasn’t the best choose for a pre-game meal. What we put in our bodies impacts how our bodies function.

“John answered everyone, ‘I baptize you with water, but there is one coming who is greater than I am. I am not good enough to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. He will come ready to clean the grain, separating the good grain from the chaff. He will put the good part of the grain into his barn, but he will burn the chaff with a fire that cannot be put out.’” (Luke 3:16-17)

I know I prefer to be the grain! However, I have to admit I welcome the fire that cannot be put out. In fact, I want to be a fire that can’t be put out. I’ve lived a lot of my life in spurts. Load up on sugar and sprint. Spend all the fuel I have and collapse in exhaustion or boredom. Grow for awhile, meet some challenges, do some good, then take a break. Consistency is more important. If I feed a constant refining fire, I’ll burn away all that isn’t necessary in my life, leaving only the essentials.

Using the gift God gave me, I laid the foundation of that house like an expert builder. Others are building on that foundation, but all people should be careful how they build on it. The foundation that has already been laid is Jesus Christ, and no one can lay down any other foundation. But if people build on that foundation, using gold, silver, jewels, wood, grass, or straw, their work will be clearly seen, because the Day of Judgment will make it visible. That Day will appear with fire, and the fire will test everyone’s work to show what sort of work it was. If the building that has been put on the foundation still stands, the builder will get a reward. But if the building is burned up, the builder will suffer loss. The builder will be saved, but it will be as one who escaped from a fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

Fire reveals genuineness. Only what’s genuine will survive the fire. We don’t default to genuineness. We’re only as genuine as we are close to God, reflecting his character. God purifies us to get rid of the junk in our lives. In order to invite him to prune, we have to invite him to sustain the refining fire. The invitation we sustain is how we feed the fire.

Consider your consistency. Do you wait until the coals are cold and you’re shivering before you see your need to grow? How often do you wait until you feel the distance between you and God before investing in your relationship with him? Do you reignite burning embers by throwing highly flammable liquid onto the weak fire to strengthen it? Do you jump into every kind of study group and service opportunity when you feel a distance in relationship with God instead of discerning what he wants you to do and when? Do you check the fire throughout every day and build regular maintenance into your life to insure a consistent refining fire? Do you take the warmth for granted?

Be aware of how you’re fueling your relationship with God. Are you a fire-starter or a fire-sustainer?

Good Qs. Solid As.

If you’re standing still, you can’t move on. The Southwest Airlines poster caught my eye as I strolled through the airport.

We stand still for several reasons. We feel paralyzed, unable to move by…perhaps fear or the unknown. We stand still because we’re indifferent. We’re not committed to standing up and putting one foot of the other. We stand still because we’re busy. It sounds odd, but even though we’re physically moving, we’re drifting in the busyness of life. We basically do the same thing every day. Time passes. We’re shocked to when we realize how many months or years (and opportunities) have passed. We circle in one area and become so accustomed to our surroundings that we don’t realize much outside of our small circle.

Familiarity and consistency isn’t bad. That small circle might be right where you’re supposed to be. Are you paying attention or going through the motions? Be intentional in the choices you’re making. If you’re busy, sit down. Breathe. Take a look around. Ask yourself, “Am I where I’m supposed to be?” If you’re already sitting, stand up. Take a step. Any step. Get a new perspective.  Ask yourself, “Am I where I’m supposed to be?”

It’s not easy to know for sure, but one way you’re certain not to know is not to ask.

Seek. Discern. Choose. Listen. Correct. Learn. Grow.

It’s a process.  Ask good questions. Seek solid answers.

A friend was recently lamenting about a relationship. It wasn’t my role to tell her what to do or even what I thought was best for her. Either choice could be painful. Either could help her grow. It wasn’t clear-cut. My role was to help her ask good questions so she could get unstuck. “What’s the reason you’d choose ______________? Are you trying to fix the past or move into the future? How strongly are you being influenced by others – positively or negatively? How will you deal with those same people’s responses if you go against their advice?”

Good questions. Solid answers.

Not making a decision is a decision. But without good questions, we’ll often struggle to make decisions in roundabout ways. We rationalize what we most want. We get confused.  We listen to too many people, often with conflicting advice. Or we ask people we know will support what we want to hear. We end up standing still – either because we’re too paralyzed to take the next step or we’re running so quickly in the direction we most want.

Solid answers take a different kind of movement. We need to pause long enough to seek. Stay attentive enough to discern. Have courage to choose. Be persistent enough to listen. Be humble enough to correct. Accept the challenge to learn. And celebrate the moments and process – big and small – of growth.

If you’re standing still, you can’t move on. Are you supposed to be standing still? Is it time to move on? Seek. Discern. Choose. Listen. Correct. Learn. Grow.

Good questions. Solid answers.

God’s ready for both. And when you seek God and discern, choose, listen, correct and learn within your relationship with God, you’ll grow. You’ll be moving on all the time – even when standing still in the quiet moments God will guide you into.

We can see now that you know all things. You can answer a person’s question even before it is asked. This makes us believe you came from God. John 16:30