Slippery Slopes

6e1912c446bf752b54df0487e2bff50cSometimes slopes aren’t as slippery as we want to think they are. Our fears and pessimism, perhaps even lack of faith, get in the way.

Sometimes we fall into a pit through no fault of our own. We need to struggle with things, not because of something we’ve done, but because we live in a messy world. Other times, we put ourselves in the pit. We might not want to believe it. We might want to find every excuse we can make and every person we can blame. We might even like the pit after a while, so despite our pleas for help, we’re really not willing to make much effort to get out.

Other times we try to claw our way out of the pit and use up all of our energy instead of taking a moment to think. We need to learn. We need to trust.

And isn’t that the bottom line whether we’re living in the pit or skipping in the sunshine in soft, green grass with fluffy clouds above our heads? We need to learn. We need to trust.

God is authority. He is sovereign. He has understanding and power. He will give us some as we need it, but we can never have as much as Him.

But we can trust Him. We can learn from Him.

Why We Blow Things Out of Proportion

ALWAYS!

NEVER!

ALL!

There’s a lot of blowing things out of proportion that goes on around us. And in us. We exaggerate things to make a point. We add a sarcastic tone and rationalize we can say just about anything we want. But the problem is…people are listening. We have influence. We need to be responsible, rational, respectful, and humble people. (And we can still be goofy and have fun!)

Some of the things we say and post might seem witty–and even accurate for our feelings in the moment–but that doesn’t mean we should say it, such as, “I’m not mean. I’m brutally honest. It’s not my fault truth hurts. Here’s a band aid.”

Take some responsibility, and not just for yourself. Take responsibility for your thoughts, words, and actions, and consider what impact they’ll have on others, as well as the impact they’ll have on your future self.

When we claim “always,” “never,” or “all,” we box ourselves and others in and out. We draw lines in the sand, and we all know how sand shifts. The more we learn, the less (or more) adamant we might get. The more mature we are, let’s hope we get wiser, and more discerning.

We blow things out of proportion, usually as a result of averages. It’s easier to generalize when we don’t have enough information to and experiences to average an isolated situation across many contexts in order to establish a more accurate perspective. Sometimes all we have is an isolated situation, and it’s a powerful one, and the generalization we make is accurate. But we can at least take the time to discern, then be willing to admit we were wrong when we learn more later.

If you blow things out of proportion in the little, everyday things, even if you convince yourself you’re only joking most of the time, you’re more than likely going to blow the big things out of proportion. At least, that’s the generalization I’m making, looking across a few years of experiences. Maybe you’ll disagree.

After all, we don’t have to always agree. And we don’t have to never agree, either.

Freedom Can Be Misapplied

Everything is permissibleFreedom is not getting to do whatever we want.

“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. (1 Cor. 10:23)

In these verses, Paul is speaking, and he’s quoting a phrase, “Everything is permissible,” the Christians in Corinth likely said. Plus, he added a correction and a challenge for them to consider what is helpful and what builds (others) up. Just because we ‘re free to do something doesn’t mean it’s what we should do. Just because we believe it’s something we should do (usually because it’s something we want to do) doesn’t mean we should.

How many times do you express the right or freedom to do something as a rationalization or excuse? You believe you are in the right because you have the freedom to choose. If it’s difficult to see in yourself, try looking around you. What do others tout as their “right” because of freedom, but you disagree? Why do you disagree?

Now, consider why someone else would use a similar disagreement for something you claim as a right or freedom? How is your rationalization similar? Are you starting to see the slippery slope?

As a Christ-follower, you might throw in the added power punch of “I do it because I know God wants me to. I’m just following and honoring Him.” But are you, really? Have you checked with Him on your motivation and your heart? And have you checked with Him recently, or are you on auto-pilot? Do you truly understand what He’s prompting you to do in a specific situation? Are you letting others sway you, and possibly seeing that influence as positive? Are you jumping on a bandwagon Jesus isn’t leading? Worse yet, are you using Him name and encouraging others to follow when He’s not leading?

Freedom can be deceptive. What you believe is freedom might be bondage. In order to be free, you need to know what to choose, and perhaps more important at times, what not to choose. You have to discern, which means you have to yield yourself. You have to be humble and set yourself aside. It’s counter-intuitive. We want to think freedom is really about us, that we get to step up and do more because of our freedom. Yes, but…only when we give up ourselves. We then get to walk all over the places God has prepared for us. We have full freedom within His boundaries. And when we live in His freedom, those boundaries don’t seem limited. They seem protective and…freeing.

We don’t miss out when we live in God’s freedom. We miss out when we don’t. We miss out on the region of freedom He’s prepared for us.

Be careful not to define your own freedom. It’s not yours to define. It’s yours to receive and savor. Open your eyes, hands, and heart. God has a grand gift for you.

God’s Children

imagesEveryone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is God’s child, and whoever loves the Father also loves the Father’s children. This is how we know we love God’s children: when we love God and obey his commands. Loving God means obeying his commands. And God’s commands are not too hard for us, because everyone who is a child of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world—our faith. So the one who conquers the world is the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus Christ is the One who came by water and blood. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood.  1 John 5:1-6

No excuses. That’s what God wants us to understand. His commands are not too difficult for us. If we believe, we love. If we love, we obey. We access God’s power because of our belief. We aren’t concerned with having God’s power because we want to be powerful. We want God’s power because it reveals him to others. When God shows up in our lives, he shows up to others. We glorify him by becoming transparent, allowing him to show himself and work through us.

We obey not because we can get something in return, but because our obedience honors God. Our obedience acknowledges God as Creator and Redeemer. We place our trust in him, knowing he is sovereign.

We struggle with obedience at times, not just because we want to do something our own way but because God’s way seems more difficult than we want to pursue at times. We often don’t understand, which further diminishes our energy level. When we’re not invested and don’t see the purpose, we can easily disengage and make excuses. In the process, we’re turning the focus back on ourselves. God says his commands aren’t too hard for us. Since he created us, he should know!

He doesn’t say his commands are easy. He simply says they’re not too hard. Let’s not confuse the two.

Sending Jesus to earth to die wasn’t easy. Jesus didn’t have an easy life – or death. However, sending Jesus to earth to die wasn’t too hard. Jesus’ life – and death – wasn’t too hard. Both were accomplished regardless of the pain and suffering. God chose the hard over the easy, because it was best. God knows the difference between hard and too hard. In order to give us living water, Jesus had to shed blood. His water and blood are inseparable.

Live It. What is in your life right now that seems too hard? Let God give you fresh perspective, showing you the difference between hard and too hard. Respond obediently.

No Excuses

Loving God means obeying his commands. And God’s commands are not too hard for us. (1 John 5:3)

excusesNo excuses: That’s what God wants us to understand. His commands are not too difficult for us. If we believe, we love. If we love, we obey. We access God’s power because of our belief. We aren’t concerned with having God’s power because we want to be powerful. We want God’s power because it reveals him to others. When God shows up in our lives, he shows up to others. We glorify him by becoming transparent, allowing him to show himself and work through us.

God will invade any space we make for him. As we yield to him, he fills us. As he fills us, we radiate his glory. We become transparent. Our presence is secondary. God’s is primary. Yielding is both difficult and easy. It’s difficult because we must set aside our own self-centeredness. God replaces our priorities, boundaries, strength, courage, and peace with his. Being transparent isn’t about being who we want to be; it’s about being who God created us to be. It’s not about self-discovery; it’s about God discovery. It’s not about loving ourselves. It’s about loving God. In the process of becoming transparent so that God works and shows through us, we will love God, know God, and accept God for who we are more, trusting him for and being content with who he created us to be. As we yield control, we find living by God’s guidance is easier than struggling for control.

What is in your life right now that seems too difficult to yield to God? Let God give you fresh perspective, showing you the difference between hard and too hard. Be transparent with him. Ask God to reveal to you the areas in which you need to more completely yield to him and become transparent with him and the people around you. Trust him to give you his courage and strength even when you feel vulnerable in your transparency.

Fit Faith: Essential: Side-by-Side

“A friend loves you all the time, and a brother helps in time of trouble.” (Proverbs 17:17)

As much as I advocate healthy relationships and accountability among women when I’m speaking and teaching, I have to admit I’ve steered away from fitness accountability. I’ve worked through several reasons (a.k.a., excuses). It was easier to set my own schedule. When my girls were young, I needed to sneak in workouts whenever I could. I often took them in the stroller for long walks when I knew they could best manage. To set a specific time and days seemed unfathomable. I knew the weather, kids and other factors would get in the way. Why schedule something at all when I was sure I’d have to reschedule?

Even as my girls grew and I had more flexibility, I didn’t welcome the idea of working out with others. I enjoyed the solitude of being by myself. It was one of the few times I could listen only to my own thoughts and take in everything around me without distractions. Also, I walk quickly, and few people I knew, whose schedule somewhat matched mine, could keep up. That meant I didn’t feel as if I had a “complete” workout when I was done. So, I’d potentially spend precious time away from my family, get no alone time, and not get a great workout. The choice to work out on my own seemed like a no-brainer.

There have been a few exceptions. I love walking with husband, especially in recent years. I walk at his pace and take a separate walk if I feel the need. We walk and talk, enjoying each other’s company. I love walking with my oldest daughter. We live a state apart, so we don’t walk together often. She can now easily walk as quickly as I can; in fact, each time I walk with her, I ready myself for being left in her dust. I also enjoy walks with a few of my best friends who walk relatively quickly. Sharing seems to flow freely as we walk, and these friends know long walks don’t daunt me. I’m in it – the walk and the friendship – for the long haul.

Not long ago, I ventured into one more shared fitness experience. My youngest daughter, who is very involved in dance, asked me to go to an intense, full body workout in preparation for her upcoming busy dance schedule. I agreed along with another dancer’s mom. It was challenging to say the least, and I left with a desire to return so I could meet the physically demanding challenge.

After a couple more classes, I found out one of the women in the class shared a very good mutual friend with me. I had heard many great things about her from our friend, and she had heard about me, so when we put the puzzle pieces together, we felt like we already knew each other. Someone else I knew but hadn’t seen for quite a while showed up for the following class, and I found out those two women not only knew each other but worked together and often attended a couple fitness classes together. It was fun to see new connections among my network of friends.

We were glad when we saw other in class, and it wasn’t long before we started checking with each other prior to class to encourage each other to be there or be aware when someone had a conflict. Working out together spurred accountability as well as fun, as we shared inside jokes, exhaustion, sore muscles and challenges. When we took a break over Christmas, I missed the routine of the classes, but I missed seeing my friends more. Who would have thought I, the woman who preferred to work out on her own, would suddenly be missing my work out buddies?

Friendships are essential. Healthy friendships are essential. Set aside your excuses. You might think you don’t have time for a women’s study group. You might prefer to control your own schedule. You might not want the hassle of potential personality conflicts. But it’s what God intended for you.

So encourage each other and give each other strength, just as you are doing now. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Fit Faith: Emotions: I Don’t Wanna!

I enjoy working out, but I don’t always feel like working out. I usually feel better once I do but not always. The problem is feelings can’t determine behavior. When we let them, we’ll likely get in trouble. Emotions enhance life; they don’t drive life. When we allow emotions to determine what we do and don’t do, our wants override our needs.

Right now I feel like eating a piece of peppermint chocolate. The problem is there’s one readily available to me in the candy dish near my computer. I want to eat chocolate, but I know (1) I don’t need chocolate and (2) I’ll regret eating it. While it’s what I feel I want right now, it’s not really what I want. What I want is to moderate my diet and avoid undoing the effort of working out earlier today.

Yesterday I was excited to get to take a long walk outside unexpectedly. I paused my writing to allow a two-hour walk time. It was glorious. However, with nearly 30 minutes to go, I started thinking about returning to write. My creativity began to flow, and since my muscles were beginning to hurt at the same time, I felt like returning home to write. However, I knew the opportunity to walk outside was limited and that I’d wish for the same opportunity in days to come and wonder why I hadn’t taken full advantage of it while I could. I felt like stopping in the moment, but I knew I really wanted the rejuvenation of an as-long-as-possible outdoor walk, so I finished.

We can get so accustomed to feelings leading our behavior that we don’t realize what’s happening. We can assign other reasons and excuses for our behavior. A common one is “I don’t have time.” We all have the same amount of time, and if you’ve ever experienced time seemingly flying by or dragging, you’ll agree that while 24 hours is a measurable time, what we can fit into it isn’t always measurable or predictable. What we plan to get done in an hour at times doesn’t get done. Something we thought would take a full day takes a half day.

How you spend time has to do with priorities. Instead of “I don’t have time,” perhaps a more accurate statement is “I choose other things to occupy my time.” Yes, I understand that some things, such as work and family time, are “givens” in many people’s lives, so they might assume that block of time is occupied not by choice but by obligation. However, there are still choices.

We don’t have to make excuses for our choices when they’re good. Yes, I choose to get my work done and spend time with family, but instead of saying “I don’t have time” as if I’m a victim of my circumstance, I can say, “I’m choosing other things right now that limit any extra time I’d have for…” It’s not that you don’t have time for something extra. It’s that you’re choosing to spend time on other things. As long as you’re being obedient to God through the process, that’s okay. If you’re rationalizing your own wants, it’s not. If you’re letting your feelings guide what you do and don’t do, it’s not.

It’s really not your time to determine. Time is God’s gift to you, and you’re expected to steward it well, which means you should glorify God with it. After a busy travel schedule, I woke up on a Sunday morning and wanted to have a “junk day” instead of going to church. I don’t think God would have been angry with me for not going to church if he was prompting me to do something else that would have nourished or challenged me to grow in my relationship with him. That wasn’t the case. I just wanted to stay in bed, eat junk food and watch reality TV all day: not exactly nourishing or challenging. I felt like staying in bed, but I knew it wasn’t what I actually wanted, because I want what God wants. I want to be in a relationship with him in which I’m seeking his will, listening and being obedient to him and glorifying him in the process.

And God gives us what we ask for because we obey God’s commands and do what pleases him. This is what God commands: that we believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, and that we love each other, just as he commanded. (1 John 3:22-23)

The next time you feel you do or don’t want to do something and let those feelings go unchecked and guide your behavior, check with God. Ask him what he has planned, and be obedient despite your feelings.