Live Well, Finish Well

FinishWellI want to finish well.

They do not know what the future holds, and no one can tell them what will happen. No one can control the wind or stop his own death. (Ecclesiastes 8:7-8)

I don’t know when the finish line will be underneath my feet, and it really shouldn’t matter. After all, if I believe it is “someday,” I put off finishing well, because I can rationalize I’m not really in the finishing phase of life.

Finishing well is about living well.

It’s about doing the best thing today, right now. It’s about not getting upset about what I’ve done that I wish I hadn’t or wish I hadn’t done that I had. It’s learning how the past has impacted my present, then moving into the future. God knows it all. He knows how it all weaves together. I don’t. I can try to understand it, and at times, it might make sense, but there are still missing pieces. There is still the un-understandable, and many times, it’s God’s grace that allows us to continue without full understanding.

Finishing well begins with living well.

Every step of the journey is important. Of course, I get distracted. I whine. I sit beside my path and mope or complain. I watch someone else’s journey and think it looks so much more appealing…and do-able. Or I celebrate too early and then lose momentum.

But I want to finish well.

I want to live a life today that is worthy of being the foundation of tomorrow. I want to be where I’m supposed to be today so I can make it to where I’m supposed to be tomorrow. I want to plant and tend the seeds of relationships today so I can continue to cultivate and harvest tomorrow. I want to stretch the spiritual muscles today that I will need to use tomorrow.

I can’t plan to finish well, because I can be wrong about the timing of finishing well. But I can finish well by living well today, right now. I want to notice people around me. I want to be respectful and authentic. I want to be patient and loving. I want to strive for peace, which will sometimes involve uncomfortable confrontation.

I know living well involves all these things and much more because living well isn’t about what I’ve personally determined to be living well. If I’m going to finish well in the life God creates, guides, and intends for me, I must know, trust, and follow his lead. Living well isn’t about deciding what living well involves. It’s not about living by my own standards; my own standards shift, and it’s not all that difficult to live by them. Living well includes becoming more like God, relying on him through the process.

Finishing well is living well. And living well is living faith out loud…right now. It’s giving everything of me, including my weaknesses, concerns, questions, and doubts. It’s trusting God with all of me.

Today, right now, I will live well. Will you?

I ask only one thing from the Lord.  This is what I want: Let me live in the Lord’s house all my life. Let me see the Lord’s beauty and look with my own eyes at his Temple. (Psalm 27:4)

Being Resolute in Finishing What I Start

Whoever is not willing to carry his cross and follow me cannot be my follower. If you want to build a tower, you first sit down and decide how much it will cost, to see if you have enough money to finish the job. If you don’t, you might lay the foundation, but you would not be able to finish. Then all who would see it would make fun of you, saying, “This person began to build but was not able to finish.” If a king is going to fight another king, first he will sit down and plan. He will decide if he and his ten thousand soldiers can defeat the other king who has twenty thousand soldiers. If he can’t, then while the other king is still far away, he will send some people to speak to him and ask for peace. In the same way, you must give up everything you have to be my follower. (Luke 14:17-33)

What are you most likely to procrastinate?

How do you typically approach projects in terms of deadlines, starting, and finishing?

If you could change one thing about your habits of perseverance, what would it be?

There will always be at least one more thing to do. You cannot cross every single thing off your to-do list. New tasks are added as you’re accomplishing another. However, that’s no reason to become paralyzed. Progress is important. It’s not the same as busyness. One is purposeful and involves growth. The other is typically a time and energy waster. Not everything is intended to be finished in the way you believe it should be finished. When finishing becomes the focus, you’ll miss lessons along the journey. Let’s not use that as an excuse to not strive to finish what we start. We often don’t know where the finish line is until we begin. We start a project and think the finish line is full completion to our satisfaction. What if we’re supposed to complete something to a halfway point, then share it with someone who takes over the next part of the process? What if we’re supposed to learn something in the distractions we experience? Let’s not make excuses for not finishing, but let’s not get too task-driven either. Let God grow you. He already started. Join him as he finishes.

Take a “next step” today. Step toward the finish of something. God provides the energy. You provide the obedience.

Fit Faith: “Coach Bus-Driver”

I had what seemed to be a long recovery when my hip was damaged while running in junior high. I had to watch others run most of the season while I hobbled around on crutches and then limped around on my own. I went to most of the meets to support my teammates. I followed the doctor’s orders, so I could get back to running as soon as possible. (Well, I didn’t stretch as much as I should have, but I was in junior high and didn’t see the potential long-term benefits.)

I was able to start running a little before the end of the season. The problem was I wasn’t going to be able to push my body enough to be competitive in the short sprints, which were my specialty. I didn’t have enough time to retrain my body to run much distance. Nor did I want to become a distance runner. At the time, it just seemed boring to me. The only option seemed to be the 400-meter dash. Of course, in junior high, I’m not sure “dash” is the correct word for it, but it was definitely as close to a full out sprint I was going to get without pushing my body beyond its limits.

The problem was I didn’t know if I wanted to try, probably because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it.

I wasn’t familiar with the strategy of the length of a race. I didn’t know if I had the endurance, especially since my training time was limited. I only had a couple weeks before Regionals, which would be my last chance to run that season. Our team didn’t have any strong 400-meter runners, so if I wanted to run it, I could. The coach was occupied with preparing all the stars for upcoming meets, so I didn’t have much opportunity to learn what to do.

Mr. Brooks had driven the bus to most of our track meets. He’d seen me stand on the side of the track to cheer on others. He knew I was itching to run, and he asked me one day when I was planning to get on the track again. I explained my options, and he said without hesitation, “Well, of course you can run the 440!” He gave me a few tips and words of encouragement. When he looked me in the eye, I believed what he was saying. Perhaps it was possible.

During every meet between then and Regionals, I didn’t stand beside the track cheering. Mr. Brooks had me training. He told me what to do on days between meets and even came to a couple after school practices to check in with me. I began to believe I could not only run the 440 but that I could run it well. I told my coach I’d run it. I was excited but nervous. I was fast before getting hurt. I was used to doing really well. I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

It would have been easier to back out, but Mr. Brooks had poured too much time and confidence in me. Every time he looked into my eyes and spoke words of encouragement, I knew I would run that race. When we got to the regional meet, I remember him standing with me beside the track and pointing to the various points around the track where he wanted me to pay attention to certain things about my running and breathing. He reminded me how to hold my shoulders and what to expect from other runners. He told me to run my own race. He told me I could do it. He told me he believed I could do it.

I remembered everything he told me while I was running. His voice rang through my head, and I could hear him yelling every step of the race. I pushed through the finish line, my first race since being hurt, and I won. I won my heat, and I qualified for Sectionals. I was ecstatic, but I think Mr. Brooks was even more thrilled.

I don’t remember my track coach giving me any advice about the race. I don’t remember my track coach’s response. But I clearly remember Mr. Brooks and how critical he was to the process. Sometimes the most important coaches in life won’t be the people in actual coaching positions.

We are surrounded by a great cloud of people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. (Hebrews 12:1)

Who has coached you to run the faith race well? Whose faith journey are you coaching? Be strategic. God believes in you and wants you to finish well.

The Argument That Had to End

It started with a “gentle suggestion” to my husband. Okay, I’ll admit it: Looking back, I was probably nit-picking a pit. But I really didn’t mean for it to develop into an argument. You know how it goes: one person takes offense and says something, which offends the other person, and the argument escalates. Once it began, I wanted to finish it.

And by finishing it, I mean I wanted to prove my point and do a victory dance.

Yes, despite great strides in my maturity in recent years, I really am that childish at times. So, I perpetuated the argument. The problem is we kept getting interrupted.

Tim’s phone rang. It was his work.

It rang again. His dad.

Again. Our oldest daughter.

Sure, he could have declined the calls, but I understand his willingness to step aside and pause the argument each time. During each pause, I’d do a couple small tasks, and when he’d hang up, we’d resume.

Then he got a phone call that needed more time and attention. I wanted to finish the argument, but I also wanted to get some other things finished. Besides, when I took an honest look at the situation, (1) it probably wasn’t going to be neatly tied in a pretty bow anytime soon, and (2) it really wasn’t that important in the big scheme of life – or our marriage.

So while he was on the phone, I decided to wave the white flag, literally. I wrote a large note on a piece of white paper and taped it in the shower, where I knew he was headed soon.

He got off the phone and came back to me to resolve things. I downplayed the argument, trying not to give away what I’d already written in the note. When he sensed I was ready to move on, he did, too.

He wasn’t out of the room long when he returned – after finding the note. I got him. I like to surprise him. In fact, seeing that smile of contentment is much better than arguing – even when it involves a victory dance.

Let go when you’re supposed to let go. When it’s more about winning, your own victory, than the relationship, it’s not worth it.

Now shake off the dust and stand up… Now free yourself from the chains around your neck. Isaiah 52:2

Do you need to leave a white flag note for someone today?

(No) Stone Unturned

Masada archeologist Yigael Yadin left parts of Masada and the Roman camps surrounding it unexplored.

He uncovered much of Herod’s palace, the Roman ramp, the synagogue, scroll fragments, skeletal remains and much more.

Imagine: Standing among treasures, surrounded by opportunities to explore and learn. Faced with a task, an adventure. Having the expertise to work on something that makes a difference.

Could you leave the job undone? Do you leave the job undone?

  • When you’re passionate about a project, how willing are you to delegate?
  • Do you ever do for others when you know it might be better to let them do for themselves?
  • How often do you seek others who know more than you and ask them for advice and assistance?

How do you measure a job or task is “done”? Is it when there is absolutely nothing left that can be done, or is it when you personally can do no more – or you know you’re not supposed to do more?

Yadin didn’t quit because he got tired of the project or could no longer work on it. He deliberately left some of the site covered…because he assumed there would be later be archaeological developments beyond what he knew and that by waiting, archaeologists who followed him would learn much more by sifting the same areas.

Look at this photo of Herod’s store rooms.

Most has obviously been excavated, but take a look at the left side of the photo at the uncleared area.

Yadin – even though he wasn’t sure of the specific benefits – trusted that someone else could do something that he couldn’t.

Perhaps we sometimes feel lazy if we don’t finish something. Or we think we have a responsibility to finish what we start. Or we think if we commit to something, we can’t possibly hand it to someone else. Perhaps someone else won’t care as much about it as we do. Or they don’t have the experience we do. Whether it’s about us or them, we won’t put down the trowel and tweezers. We exhaust ourselves until our fingers bleed and our eyes water. We’re so tired that we don’t do a thorough job. Sometimes, someone is waiting in the wings…but she gets tired of waiting and moves on to something else. Or, she lets you keep working because it’s easier.

Sometimes you’re called to finish a job…but sometimes you’re called to set it aside. You fit together with others. It’s okay to pick up someone else’s tools and finish the job and put down your tools and invite someone else to pick them up. Sometimes you’ll work for a brief time between the start and the finish. Your contribution might seem insignificant – but it’s part of the big picture.

Be obedient. Take it from a (recovering) control freak. You don’t have to do it all. The world won’t fall apart without you. And yet you do have an important role. The key to knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no” is discernment. Be obedient. Trust God. He knows what he’s doing and how you best fit!

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly. Romans 12:3-6