We Whine Too Much

“I have to go to the store now.”

“Well, I guess I have to go to work.”

“I wish all this stuff would just happen on its own!”

How many times do you say or hear others say they “have to” do something…with a hint of whine, reluctance, or disdain? Perhaps we don’t want to work our way across that super store, finding the few items we want among the rows and rows of options, people who are grumpy like us, and cashiers who seem to want to be anywhere but there.

Not everyone has the options we have to shop where we shop and to be able to afford it. Not everyone has the opportunity and ability to work. We often take our blessings for granted, and whine and complain about them. We get bored.

 photo cactus_zpsvsldtsa5.pngWe need a fresh perspective.

It’s not that we need to be overly excited about everything going on in our lives. We just don’t have to see our routines as drudgery. We don’t have to see the limitations of our lives without realizing we made many of the choices that got us where we are (and were often excited about those choices at the time)…and that we have the opportunity to make many choices today that impact tomorrow.

And we choose our attitudes.

Perhaps you’re dealing with some difficult stuff today, and it seems out of your control. Yet, you can control how you respond. Like the saying goes, “You might be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.”

Filter every detail of your life today through God’s perspective. See the blessings in the routine and in the turmoil. Notice the opportunities you have and choices you make. Pay attention to your attitudes.

Trim the whining, whether it comes out of your mouth or stays in your head. It’s tainting your joy…and those around you.

The First Time

Some firsts are exciting.

  • 1st day of kindergarten (I really liked my pink pleated skirt!)
  • 1st paycheck (Even if I got sun poisoning lifeguarding that summer.)
  • 1st dorm room (Cleaning the floor with furniture polish was not a great idea.)
  • 1st plane ride (And the grandest view of a sunset in my life.)
  • 1st cell phone (Even if it didn’t fit in my pocket!)

Some firsts aren’t so exciting.

  • 1st speeding ticket
  • 1st overdraft notice
  • 1st surgery
  • 1st perm

My first date was boring. My first kiss was sloppy. My first bridesmaid dress was hideous.

Firsts can be thrilling, frightening, or disastrous. The first is always a beginning. We don’t stay in the first. We grow from it. We shouldn’t steep in it; we should step out of it. It’s a journey.

You experience a first every day of your life. You have a choice to live today in a way that sets the foundation for tomorrow. Hopefully, many of the days leading up to this one have set firm foundations on which you’re now building. The firsts of today set the pace and priorities of tomorrow. You can wait until tomorrow’s today to make changes, but why waste today?

I remember the “today” I decided to live all other todays of my life for God. I appreciate the memory of that day, but I’m not going to reside in it. I don’t want to lose today and the opportunity to choose to live for God in the details of my new today. I haven’t filled every today with great choices. Not even close. But each day sets the pace and priority for the next.

What pace and priority are your setting today?

Challenge: Write a number one on your index finger in ink or permanent marker. Each time it catches your attention through the day, consider what you’re experiencing that can be used a foundation for tomorrow. Be intentional in your choices, responses, and adjustments.

God Makes A Way

wayWe have a lot of opportunities throughout life and throughout every day. We have the choice not only to take or refuse the opportunity but also to take or give credit for the opportunity.

We feel we’ve “made the way” on our own. We take credit when, in reality, we haven’t gotten where we are on our own. In fact, we don’t achieve in isolation. Even when we think our efforts paved the way to where we are, opened the doors, and made the right choices, we’re surrounded by others. Our lives aren’t lived in isolation. Our paths are paved with relationships.

We feel we’ve messed up everything. We assume fault. Taking responsibility is one thing, but thinking we’re powerful enough to mess up everything is the same as thinking we’re powerful enough to achieve anything we want. Whether we think too highly or not highly enough of ourselves is filled with pride, and just about the time we excuse our pride as necessary confidence, we’ll trip over the stumbling blocks pride puts in the way.

We are never so low that we cannot go higher, and we can never get to a height from which it’s impossible to fall.

We have responsibility, but God gets the credit. Obedience is the responsibility; guidance and provision only comes from God.

He defines who we are and determines when we’re letting pride slip into our lives. Whether we’re giving ourselves too much credit or not enough credit, our credit is misguided. It’s not about our credit; it’s about God’s glory.

So, when you’re faced with an opportunity, give it to God. Let it filter through his fingers and will. Let him decide how you’re supposed to best respond. When you’re faced with an opportunity, get prayed up and prayed for. Each is indispensable, and neither should be done just when you feel it’s an emergency. God’s presence and will isn’t just the only way when we can’t see another way. It’s the only way when we can see thousands of ways ahead of us. Many ways may look beautiful to us, but only God’s way is undoubtedly, incomparably, the most beautiful ever.

Being Resolute in Today

So God planned another day, called “today.” He spoke about that day through David a long time later in the same Scripture used before: “Today listen to what he says. Do not be stubborn.” — Psalm 95:7-8 (Hebrews 4:7)

Is the majority of your focus on yesterday, today, or tomorrow?

How much do you take today for granted?

What do you have planned for today?

We can easily become so consumed with the yesterdays and tomorrows of our lives that we miss out on the todays. Yesterdays are simply past todays that we can no longer change. However, we can change how we respond to yesterdays in our today. Tomorrows are simply future todays we cannot yet live. However, we can prepare for our tomorrows in our today. Yesterdays and tomorrows shape our todays; there’s no doubt about that. We can’t completely ignore yesterdays and tomorrows, yet they often consume our todays. Today is what we have to live fully right now. Why waste it?

There are possibilities in today. We can grasp the moment we have or resign ourselves to it. We can find purpose or meaninglessness, be encouraged or discouraged, and stand on a firm foundation or stumble across shaky ground. God gives us many choices, but he gives them to us one at a time. We often focus on the big opportunities of our days – or we turn something small into something big – and we’re soon so consumed with one thing that we miss out on many others. Or we focus so much on the way in which we reached our today, basically focused on yesterday, that we miss out on the opportunity to shape our tomorrows. You get only one today. As you read this, the moment is gone. You can’t grasp the moment and keep it. You can only choose well and live it fully. Will you?

Keep a small notebook with you and jot one word each time you experience the opportunities God is providing you through the day. As you experience God more, you’ll watch for, notice, and acknowledge him more.

Fit Faith: Frequency: My Special Day

Consistency is important, but sometimes it’s the special once-in-a-lifetime experiences that stand out. The very infrequency of something strikes it with a bright highlighter, illuminating it for later attention and recollection.

I rarely asked for anything special on Mother’s Day. I felt as if every day of the year was Mother’s Day, because I got to bask in the joys of being a mother. Yes, there were challenges every day, but in the context of the blessings, I could accept them and appreciate the opportunities I had.

One Mother’s Day, I surprised everyone by announcing there was just one thing I wanted: to load up everyone’s bikes and go for a ride on my favorite hiking path after church. No one was as excited about it as I was, but they entertained me. The girls weren’t very old, and they knew the bike ride would be long and challenging. Tim knew he wouldn’t be able to ride his bike at full speed with the rest of us along. But we packed a lunch and headed to the trail after church.

It was a glorious day for me, and no one else seemed to mind it much at all either. We rode five miles, stopped for a lunch break beside a small lake, and made the return trip. It was a gorgeous day.

Had I experienced bike rides with my family every weekend, I probably would have enjoyed some of the experiences and endured others – when someone would be grumpy or get hurt or the weather wasn’t ideal. As it was, I had one glorious day of memories with my family on our bikes on that path.

Something similar happens when we go on a retreat or attend a conference. We walk away rejuvenated and ready to tackle our lives with renewed energy and purpose. The infrequency makes these experiences impactful. We build time with God into our daily lives: devotions, prayer, accountability. While we benefit greatly from the consistenty, daily also means routine. When we’re at conferences and retreats, we step away from routine. While routine is excellent for discipline, occasional escapes encourage us to listen in fresh ways.

How can you capture renewed energy and purpose on limited time, money, and flexibility?

Here are a few thoughts:

Use your senses. Quietly reading your Bible is wonderful. Experiencing God’s Word through multiple senses helps us put an exclamation point on a verse. Consider how you can see, hear, and touch Scripture.

Use repetition. Carry your quiet time throughout the day with you. We too easy compartmentalize our time with God. Choose one key verse of the day and post sticky notes in places you’ll find them throughout your day. Set your cell phone alarm to vibrate hourly as a reminder to reflect and act on the verse.

Use social networking. De-compartmentalized your faith while engaging others. Tweet a verse each day on Twitter. Post a reflective question or action challenge on Facebook.

Whatever your approach, seek renewed energy and purpose with occasional escapes from routine. Listen to God in fresh ways. Open your ears to hear from God.

Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. (Proverbs 8:34)

Responding To Judgment

I caused a bit of a stir with a blog post. Soon after posting the link to Facebook, someone commented on the inappropriateness of a phrase I chose to use. She said it was something a Christian writer shouldn’t say.

I have to admit I thought about deleting the comment. I saw it quickly, so only one person – well, two counting me – would know I had deleted it. I’d clear the way for more positive responses. Then I considered temporarily taking down the post in order to revise it, replacing the phrase with something people might see as less disagreeable. However, I intentionally chose the phrase for impact, so I thought changing the wording would lessen the impact of the post. Perhaps it would just be easier to delete the blog post altogether. It would only take a few clicks. I don’t write in order to create a flurry of discussion.

Oh, wait. Yes, I do.

I write to challenge people to think. I write to refresh them. I write to encourage them. I want people to grow. I want people to respond, because I want to engage them in conversation. I want to spur them to action. My concern was that a word choice would become the focus of the blog post instead of the actual content and lesson I was trying to portray.

I decided rather quickly (the speed of the internet and social networking allows for nothing less) to simply respond with what I hoped was honesty and respect. After all, I appreciated the comment despite feeling judged. I want to know what people think. If people don’t speak out, I don’t know their responses. I can assume, but my assumptions range from people being disinterested to being spurred to life-changing experiences. I’d rather know than assume.

The following day, I received an email from a friend who noticed a typo on my blog. I would usually be thankful, but being tender from the previous day’s judgment, I was a bit defensive. I fixed the problem within a minute, but the sting lasted a bit longer.

What was up with people judging me so much?

Wait. This judgment wasn’t so bad. I could choose to get defensive and assume the judgment was spurred by negative motivation, or despite the motivation behind it, I could learn something from it. I could choose to see it as an opportunity to grow. I could improve my writing because of it. I could practice my gracious response because of it. I could get to know someone better and deepen a relationship because of it.

I could choose mercy.

You must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment. (James 2:13)

Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of judgment today, you have a choice.

Are you willing to err on the side of mercy?

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?