Fit Faith: Limit: S.T.O.P.!

What stops you? When are you in the middle of a journey and a bit red stop sign seems to appear out of nowhere, nearly hitting you in the head and screaming, “STOP!”? Think about when you’re working out. What’s your limit? What screams out to you, demanding you stop? If you don’t work out, perhaps you should consider what screams “stop” at you when you momentarily consider getting off the couch or outside your busy routine?

Our limits are relative.

I was at the post office on a particularly cold winter day. I had decided not to walk outside. I didn’t want to bundle up as tightly as an Eskimo so I either couldn’t move or I’d start to sweat under my many layers. I’d get on the elliptical later in the day.

As I was standing at the window, I heard a man’s voice behind me ask, “Did you walk this morning?”

I walk regularly, so many people know me, if not by name, by my routine of walking.

I admitted I had decided it was too cold.

“What?! We’re going to have a lot colder days than this!”

Yes, he was right. Of course, he had walked. He wasn’t bragging. He was encouraging, letting me know I could persevere. The cold didn’t have to stop me. He was right.

This is the man who walks by my house every morning. He only misses a few days a year. He’s quite a bit older than me, and he has significant physical challenges. He often walks with a tall walking stick. His walking gait doesn’t seem comfortable to me, but he’s moving – quite quickly, I might add. He enjoys walking, because he can walk. He knows if he stops, he’s going to lose the already limited range of his ability to walk. He appreciates what he can do, so he doesn’t let what he thinks he can’t do limit him.

I’m motivated – and convicted – every time I see him walking. If he can get outside on a regular basis and push though discomfort, weather and schedule conflicts, I certainly can. He walks because he can. His limits are beyond mine even though I can physically do things he can’t. I think.

Everything I see has its limits, but your commands have none. (Psalm 119:96)

Our Lord is great and very powerful. There is no limit to what he knows. (Psalm 147:5)

What’s your spiritual limit? How are you limited your faith? When does discomfort make you pause or stop? When do you press your hands tightly over your ears to block out the conviction to move, change and grow?

God provides limits for you. He has boundaries for you, because he loves you. He knows you need limits for focus and security. We don’t have to limit ourselves. We only have to listen to God’s limits and live by them. It’s not as easy as it seems. We can refuse to listen. We can think we heard one thing when God is actually saying something else. We can rationalize what we think God is saying to justify what we want.

God is unlimited. We cannot limit him even if we try.

You don’t need to compare yourself to others. Comparisons cause you to either feel inferior because of what others are doing or feel superior because of what others aren’t doing. God doesn’t define you based on who others are. He defines you on who he created you to be.

This Week’s 7 – What’s Love?

Each Monday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, when love is expressed among many people. What if we expanded the love communicated on Valentine’s Day to express God’s love more completely instead of picking and choosing the feel-good stuff over the tough accountability and discipline of life? What if we chose to live out God’s love, which isn’t easy to do at times, instead of picking out a card to say what we feel (or think we should feel). Let the following challenge you today.

God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

God’s love is active. Is yours?

But in all these things we are completely victorious through God who showed his love for us. Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

God’s love is trustworthy. Is yours?

Dear friends, we should love each other, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has become God’s child and knows God. (1 John 4:7)

God’s love is the source of our love. Are you relying on God or trusting yourself?

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.” But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong. If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends. (Mathew 5:43-47)

God’s love has no limits. What about yours?

No one can serve two masters. The person will hate one master and love the other, or will follow one master and refuse to follow the other. You cannot serve both God and worldly riches. (Matthew 6:24)

God’s love assumes priorities and choices. What are you choosing?

One of the teachers of the law came and heard Jesus arguing with the Sadducees. Seeing that Jesus gave good answers to their questions, he asked Jesus, “Which of the commands is most important?” Jesus answered, “The most important command is this: ‘Listen, people of Israel! The Lord our God is the only Lord.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.'” (Mark 12:28-30)

God’s love is not one way. Are you loving God?

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

How are you living biblical love out loud today?

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

Multi-Tasking: Thrive and Survive

We all handle multi-tasking a different ways. It’s overwhelming to some, while others feed off the thrill. Multi-taking can help you accomplish a lot, but it can also slow you down. In some situations, it can cause major energy depletion or be downright dangerous, like texting while driving. So here are tips to thrive and survive multi-tasking:

Thrive – The “DO’s” of multi-tasking.

Set priorities. Lists are great, but they can also be overwhelming. Be realistic when you create your “to-do” lists. If you make a weekly list but notice a pattern of needing to carry over more than a couple items into the following week, or you feel overwhelming pressure at the end of the week to complete your list, set smaller goals. Continue to create a weekly list but also break it down into daily lists, or early week, late week, and weekend lists.

If you’re not used to lists, allow yourself some wiggle room in the beginning. It will take awhile to get familiar with how many things you can realistically accomplish. Be realistic with time frames. Slightly pad your times, so if something takes longer than expected, you have a forgiving schedule. Watch for patterns. If you notice you consistently feel too much pressure, don’t get your list done, or ignore your list altogether, you need to re-assess.

And remember, you’re lists are supposed to help you, not control your life. It’s okay to put things on your lists such as “do something special with my daughter” or “call and listen to my best friend.” Yes, you might feel guilty putting people on the same list as grocery shopping and cleaning, but the note on your list might be just the motivation you need to set aside your daily tasks and share your life with the people who mean the most to you.

It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. – 1 Corinthians 3:7 (NLT)

Schedule rest. Multi-tasking isn’t just about accomplishing tangible tasks. It’s about balance. Rest is part of the balance. Without sufficient rest, you will be less healthy and less effective. Your relationships and work will suffer. You need to be recharged. Schedule time to crawl up in God’s lap and take a nap. Take time to be rejuvenated by studying his Word. Listen to his guidance and comfort when you pray.

But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. – Luke 5:16

Be flexible and realistic. You won’t finish what you don’t start, so get started. You won’t finish anything if you start too many things, so finish something. Know you’ll speed through some tasks, and others will take time. Some can be done on the go, where it’s noisy, and some require silence and isolation. Procrastinating has consequences. So does having some things done well ahead of schedule. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Challenge  yourself, and forgive yourself. Expect growth, and allow for setbacks.

If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. – Proverbs 15:32

Survive – The “DON’Ts” of multi-tasking.

Don’t exceed your limits. We all have limits. Multi-tasking can be addictive. It’s the thrill of completing one more project, answering one more email, tweeting one more time. You’re only given so much time in each day, month, and lifetime. Spend it wisely. If you’re (1) obedient to what God wants you to do, and (2) using time wisely, God will provide every second you need. He’s not bound by the confines of time. He’s the ultimate time-management expert, and he’ll manage the time he gives you if you’ll let him.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

Don’t say “yes” to everything. Efficient people tend to get asked to do a lot, because they appear to be able to handle a lot. Say “yes” to the things God prompts you to do. Say “no” when you have no prompt (or God is saying “no”!). “Who else will do it if I don’t?” and “Surely it won’t take much time.” are not adequate reasons for taking on another responsibility. “God wants me to do it” is your prompt for a “yes.” And it’s not just about your personal obedience to God. If you say “yes” when you’re supposed to say “no,” you’re taking the place of someone who is supposed to serve in that role! Only you  can be you, and you can’t be anyone else.

But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. – 1 John 2:5

Don’t try to duplicate someone else’s system. It’s great to learn from other people. There’s not need to recreate the wheel. Yet, you’re unique. Your gifts, responsibilities, skills, and relationships require customized organization. Try something you read or see is working for someone else, but if it doesn’t work for you, move on to another approach.

So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. – 1 Corinthians 9:26

Choose your tasks well. God has a pure purpose for you. Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. – 1 Timothy 4:15

It’s All About Perspective

A friend on Facebook posted: “You know you’re in California when the weather report includes a ‘wind chill’ of 49 degrees!” Others were posting actual temperatures below zero the same day. It’s all about perspective.

Contestants on The Biggest Loser are thrilled to purchase a size 16 for the season finale. When a new mom has to purchase a similar size, much larger than her pre-pregnancy weight, she’s devastated. It’s all about perspective.

Your life, leadership position, ministry…is all about perspective. How do you respond when challenged with conflicts, timing, and resources? Do you respond from your own perspective or God’s?

Conflict. It’s not an option in life. Conflict is inevitable. Your choice is in how you deal with it. Ask yourself:

  • Do I jump into conflict without assessing the situation first? Do I avoid conflict at all costs? Or do I fall somewhere in between?
  • How has conflict resolution been modeled to me by mentors, leadership models, and family?

It’s important to be aware of your personality and experiences in order to understand initial reactions or limits you’re placing on your responses in conflict. Most important is seeing God’s perspective on conflict. It’s all about perspective.

How would our spiritual growth be impacted if God chose never to confront us? Or if he chose to always confront but never encourage us? You have a similar impact on those you lead. It’s not up to you, your experiences, and your personality to determine when to confront and when to encourage; God provides you the discernment you need.

Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. – Ephesians 4:15

Do it God’s way. Confront (in love) when required. Encourage (in truth) when required. See it through God’s perspective, and be obedient.

Timing. All of us have time issues at times. You might think there’s not enough time at your fingertips. You might be a poor manager of time. Perhaps you’re impatient, or you wait so long for God to make the next move obvious that you miss out on the opportunities he provides to you during the wait.

The truth is everyone has the same number of hours in the day. If you’re obedient to God, you’re going to get done what he intends for you to get done. Replace your to-do list with his to-do list. If there’s something that doesn’t get done when you’re being obedient, apparently it wasn’t supposed to get done in that time frame!

You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. – Proverbs 19:21

Perhaps your challenge with timing isn’t about time management as much as it is about patience. You want to act now, but you find yourself in a waiting pattern. Or you think you need time to prepare, but God says, “Now!” Reread Proverbs 19:21. No matter how you struggle with timing, it’s not about your timing. Set aside your perspective. Adopt God’s. It’s all about perspective.

Resources. Every leader (and people!) struggles with provision at some point. We have too few volunteers, too small of a budget, too many meetings. “If only we had….” would solve many of our leadership woes! It’s all about perspective. When we assess resources through our human perspective, there will always be a desire for more or less. We don’t see how everything fits together. God’s provisions are perfect. If we don’t have enough of something, he’ll provide what we need (not what we think we need) to accomplish his will. When we feel burdened with “too much,” God balances the scales. But we have to adopt his perspective in order to experience his balance.

And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. – Acts 17:25

Be aware of the perspective you have. Jot down words to describe your responses and experiences throughout the day. Overwhelmed, frustrated, joyful, ecstatic, betrayed, compassionate, frantic, blessed. At the end of the day, give it all to God. Share your list, your perspective, with him, and ask him to help you see it through his perspective and to ultimately replace your perspective with his. After all, you’re living life for him…and it’s all about perspective.

Adapted from original article by Susan printed in the Fall 2010 Just Between Us magazine…for women with a heart for ministry.