Just Make a Decision

“Doublemindedness is a refusal to face a choice.” James MacDonald

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Some of the decisions we make aren’t the right ones. That can discourage us from making decisions in the future. We don’t want to take a stand and be wrong. But if we don’t make a decision, we get stuck. We don’t move. Which means, we can’t grow. We might avoid a mistake, but we also miss a lesson from the mistake.

And perhaps we don’t avoid making a mistake after all; indecisiveness can be a mistake.

Double-mindedness is wanting two things that can’t co-exist. We can’t simultaneously be on both sides of a fence. We should certainly pause and discern before swinging a leg over to one side of the fence or the other, and that process can take some time, but we can’t get stuck in the process. It’s an uncomfortable position to be in, yet some people find comfort in it.

We face choices all the time. I’m not talking about decisions about what to eat, who should drive, and what to wear. (Although ambivalence about these things can be as maddening.) I’m talking about significant choices that impact our next steps. We think, if we delay long enough, we can avoid the choice, have the best of both worlds, or fall into the default.

God wants us to be more intentional and willing to engage in the choices we face. Those choices and the way we handle them impacts our faith. They reveal our trust in Him. They refine our hope. They prune our character.

Just make a decision.

Not to Be Left Out

All this month, I’ve been sharing stories and thoughts about my dad, who died just over a year ago. The month is coming to an end, and I would miss an essential part of Dad’s life and my memories if I didn’t share about my mom and dad’s marriage.

They did marriage well. Maybe I can claim that for the sheer length of their marriage. But to me, it was more than that. I’m sure they would agree. It wasn’t that they had it all figured out or had a perfect marriage. They were two imperfect people doing their best.

It’s not that I think my or everyone else’s marriage should look exactly like my mom and dad’s. All marriages are different. But there are some things I learned from watching them together, through better and worse, richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.

Do your best.

Love well.

Laugh often.

Be willing to grow.

I’m still working on some of these. But I’m doing my best. Just like they did. I’m thankful for their example.

Guard the Lessons

437612785_12801Hold on to instruction; don’t let go. Guard it, for it is your life. (Proverbs 4:13)

We must grasp and hold onto God’s words, not just bump into them or be familiar with them. God’s Word has power even with the slightest contact, but co-ownership requires more of us.

We need to guard what God is cultivating within us, not to be stubborn, because a open invitation for Him to change us is essential, but to be attentive. He’s willing to work in our lives. We can respond with a willingness to listen, learn, and live well.

Are You Willing to Walk through the Door?

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Imagine yourself on the outside. In front of you is a closed door. You’re pretty sure you’ll like what’s on the other side. In fact, you hear some voices and laughter. You see warm lights and comfortable chairs. It all seems so inviting, but you can only see a glimpse, because you’re on the wrong side of the door.

Consider a time you’ve felt out of place, as if you don’t belong, and you can’t quite get from where you are to where you want to be.

Perhaps it’s that you want be have more friends. Or perhaps it’s that you want to escape from where you are. Maybe you want more of something good, perhaps fruit of the Spirit. You stand at that door until your feet get sore. You pace back and forth. You try to distract yourself and sit on the nearby steps for a minute. But you find yourself back at that door.

Then you see it. You have no idea why you didn’t notice it before, but there is a key in the door. All you have to do is turn the key, open the door and walk in. But your heart quickens. You pause. You now have access to what you’ve been longing for, imagining, but what if it isn’t all that you expect? What if it’s not as wonderful as you want it to be? What if you’re disappointed?

We’ve all walked through the doors and found ourselves in the very places and situations we longed to be, and we still don’t quite feel complete. We stand in a crowded room yet feel alone. We feel as if we have grown spiritually, yet we long for more. We feel insufficient, hesitant. We’re not sure we can continue. We start to second guess ourselves. Doubt and insecurities creep in. Why?

Because we are living on earth. It’s a messy place, full of challenges, but also full of opportunities. We don’t get everything tied up in a neat tidy bow here, but it is worth turning that key and walking through the door…into an imperfect place with imperfect people with a perfect God. We soon learn that once we’re in that room, there is another door and another and another. We think once we’ve walked through, we will have arrived. That’s not the case. Sometimes we stay in a room longer than we prefer, and sometimes we rush through and would prefer to stay in a comfortable place a bit longer. But keys are placed in doors with different timing for different reasons. Are we bold enough to trust God’s timing? Are we courageous enough to stay alert, learn some lessons, be humble, and grow in our relationship with Him?

Before long, you’ll walk through a door. You get to choose how to leave wherever you are right now. We often move on from where we are, yet we are unchanged. If we’re not changing, if we’re not growing, what is the point? We only have a specified yet unknown number of minutes, hours, days, and years in this life. How many of them are you whittling away? How intentional are you about changing and growing spiritually?

Failing Forward

index“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Henry Ford

How do you respond when you fail?

  • I feel paralyzed. I don’t know how to move forward.
  • I struggle to learn lessons to apply to the future.
  • I don’t consider anything a failure.

The way we each define failure differs, but let’s agree that it’s an unsuccessful attempt at something. You have failed at something in your lifetime. We all have. However, that doesn’t mean we’re failures. God created you, and He makes no mistakes. He knew how you would succeed and fail before you did. In fact, He likely doesn’t see success and failure with the same perspective as you do. He sees the big picture of your life and how the details fit together. He wants you to grow throughout life, and the learning process includes failures and the lessons we learn from them.

How you respond to failure impacts your life as well as those who look to you for leadership and example.

Failing is unavoidable, but you can choice in what direction to fall. You can fall backward, sitting in the messy mud puddle until you are miserable, or you can fall forward, perhaps stubbing a toe or scraping a knee but ready for the next steps of your journey.

In order to fail forward, you must…

Deal with disappointment. Failing forward doesn’t mean you ignore the frustration and pain. In order to move forward, you must learn from past experiences. Otherwise, you’ll repeat the same errors. Evaluate the factors contributing to failure, but only look back long enough to gather strength to move forward.

Prepare to plan. Apply what you learn. You don’t need to have everything in life alphabetized and color-coded, but a failure to prepare usually prepares you for failure. Look to the horizon and anticipate growth, but be intentional in the steps you’re taking toward your goals.

Celebrate. Broaden your focus beyond your failures. You will find whatever you look for most consistently. Pay attention to the progress you’re making. Celebrate when you’ve met a goal, fostered a relationship, or maneuvered through a difficult conflict. Your celebration doesn’t need to be over-the-top. Treat yourself to a favorite coffee drink, long walk, or soothing bubble bath.

Find contentment. God wants to be the center of our lives. Life on earth isn’t going to be perfect or easy. He knows it, but it seems to be a realization that takes more time for us to accept. When our gaze is intently on God, we can find contentment even in the chaos. We can find peace among the mayhem. Focus on God. He will give you what you need even when you’re not sure what it is.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Straight Lines Aren’t Always Best

indexThe shortest distance between two places is a straight line. While the rule might work well in geometry, it doesn’t work as well in real life.

Imagine nature with only straight lines. Imagine artwork. Imagine your movements. Imagine conversations.

Imagine spiritual growth. We want it to be straight and narrow. We want to intentional, purposeful, but what if quick, focused arrival isn’t the goal? What if the process, including extra effort, detours, and obstacles, is? Sure, there’s frustration in meandering, but there’s also beauty, rests, and discoveries.

Anytime I’ve climbed a mountain of any significant size, I have not taken a direct route. The path usually meanders back and forth. As I work my way up the side of the mountain, I see the same view over and over as I look out across the valley, but my perspective changes. I notice new details. I appreciate where I’ve been. I appreciate that I’m a few steps closer to the top.

It’s the same with spiritual growth. I sometimes wonder why it seems I learn the same lessons over and over, but in reality, it’s not the exact same lesson each time. I have a little more experience, and I get a slightly different perspective.

I can’t stand in exactly the place I am without having taken each step leading me here.

The meandering line seems less-productive than a direct route, but in reality, it’s a lot more productive, beautiful, and productive than a direct route.

Touring Styles

There are many ways to “see” Israel. Most people sign up for a trip to Israel because they want to “walk where Jesus walked.” They do…sort of. I’ve watched throngs of people get on and off buses, follow a guide who sometimes has to use a microphone to be heard. Where microphones aren’t allowed or available, people hear what they can as they trek from one stop to another. It can be a good experience,

…but there’s a difference between touring and journeying.

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

The trips I’ve led have been a little different. We try to combine touring certain “essential” locations with exploring some less familiar ones. We keep the group small, so we get to know each other well and can help one another with questions along the journey. After all, journeying through Israel isn’t about sites as much as about heart. It’s not about gaining head knowledge as much as inviting life change. We serve the people of Israel so that we’re invested in people of today. We might be drawn by the past of Israel, but we engage in the “now.” We look people in the eyes and serve with our hands.

It’s not a perfect approach. I always long for more. As I connect one place with another, I wonder what it would be like to hike instead of drive. I savor conversations inside the hotels and at coffee shops, which makes me want to seek out and enjoy even more connections with people. During the adventure of daily itineraries, I wonder about the simplicity of routines. I come across the people living everyday lives and want to walk alongside them. Yet I have to balance the expectations and opportunities of a limited block of time.

No matter what the approach, I have to be available to journey the way God wants me to journey. That means, being available to notice, change, reflect, and learn every step of the way.

Are you touring or journeying? How available are you? How committed are you? Flexible?

Learn from others, but let God lead every step of the way.

If you’re interested in receiving information about the next women’s trip to Israel (Fall 2016) when it is available, click here.