When Falling Behind Isn’t

Our bus dropped us off, so we could walk the narrow street to the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, most walks in Israel involve an incline, and this one was a long one. As usual, our tour guide led the way, and I trailed behind to make sure if anyone got misplaced, I would be with her. As long as our guide could turn around and see me, he knew everyone was accounted for.

The steep inclines were rough at times, and anyone with any kind of breathing problem would have to slow down and pause. As the sidewalk got steeper on the way to the church, one woman slowed and took several breaks. Our group got ahead of us, but we could see where we were going. We followed a little girl with her mom and grandmother, and her cuteness distracted us from the effort of the walk. The little girl paused and turned around. We smiled and waved, and she smiled back at us. We didn’t share a spoken language, but a smile bridges all language barriers. The mom saw our smiles, and I imagine it was obvious we thought her daughter was beautiful. She smiled warmly at us. I motioned at my camera and asked permission to take a photo of the girl. The mom smiled and nodded and stepped aside, telling the little girl to smile (I assume).

@2014 PurePurpose.org
©2014 PurePurpose.org

Had we kept up with the group, we would have missed that beautiful smile. We would have missed the wordless exchange with the women. We got to have a brief, yet sweet exchange that bridged our cultures.

Sometimes, falling behind is worth it. We want to be at just the right place at just the right time. We don’t want to miss out on anything. However, the right place at the right time isn’t ours to decide. God knows best where we should be and why. People might say, “You should have been there! You missed out!” but we only missed what they experienced, not what we experienced because we weren’t with them at the time. We can’t experience it all. We can’t be at all places at all times.

I’m sure I didn’t hear every word our tour guide said throughout our journey through Israel. I was more often behind him than beside him. But it’s okay. God sent a smile through a little girl and her mom and grandmother to remind me to run, walk, pause, or stop in His timing. There is a time for everything, and that time is His to decide, not mine.

Looks Like a Duck

Have you ever watched a duck move across the water? They move so smoothly, as if they are gliding on ice. They look calm, serene, unhurried.

Look beneath the water surface, and you will see something different: frantic paddling that propels the duck forward. What you see on top isn’t the reality of what’s going on. Is it the same in your life? duck

What do people see when they look at your life?

Does what people see differ from what’s actually going on?

Of course, we can’t share everything about our lives with everyone…nor should we. But we do ourselves, and others, a disservice by projecting a calm, serene appearance, when, in reality, we’re frantic and stressed.

Sharing our struggles helps us by releasing some pressure. We don’t have to keep it all inside. Letting someone else know what’s going on in our life lets us breathe a sigh, share the burden, and invite encouragement and accountability. Saying “I’m fine” when we’re not isn’t a good option. It might be the easy answer, but only in the short-term. The easy answer becomes a hard facade to maintain down the road.

Sharing our struggles helps others by reassuring them they’re not the only ones who experience stress. When we authentically share, we invite them to do the same. We can check in with each other. Let’s make sure we’re not supporting ourselves in ways that support the frantic pace. We can’t control all the chaos in our lives, but we can respond to it in different ways. We have choices, and we need to take an honest look at what we can change. Sometimes, we can coast and recharge through the rest. Sometimes, we can paddle smarter, not harder.

We don’t need to go everywhere we think we need to go at the pace we think we ought to go. We can let God determine the where and how fast (or slow).

For we are making provision for what is right, not only before the Lord but also before men. (2 Corinthians 8:21)

Fit Faith: Breathing: Face Down on the Floor

A woman returned to our biweekly intensive workout class after more than a month, determined to jump back into it. Since she’d been there, the routines had intensified. Several of us encouraged her, insuring her she could definitely handle it but to be sure she took it at her own pace and didn’t push too hard too quickly.

She made it through the warm-ups and first song with no problems. The next song was more challenging, but she made it again. Then came a series of floor work, including a challenging series of push-ups. Halfway through the routine, she headed for the bathroom. She was back by the time the song ended, and I made eye contact to be sure she was okay. I didn’t want to make a big deal about her slipping out for a moment in case she was embarrassed she hadn’t finished. Not to mention, going to the bathroom is something not everyone wants to openly discuss!

She caught my eye and instantly confessed, “That was my own fault. I just forgot to breathe and got dizzy. So much for not trying too much, too fast!”

Breathing is important. In fact, it’s life-sustaining. Stop breathing and you’ll stop living. It’s that simple.

It’s amazing how many issues are related to breathing, yet we take it for granted. Minor anxiety can often be averted through regular breathing. It helps with pacing during running and other exercise. Its regularity provides stability and nourishment, and its irregularity indicates issues to be addressed.

Breathing appears early in Scripture: Then the Lord God took dust from the ground and formed a man from it. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nose, and the man became a living person. (Genesis 2:7)

Breath is God-given. It’s life-sustaining. We can use all kinds of relaxation breathing techniques, but there’s one that is above all others. Anything that draws us to God, emptying ourselves of ourselves and allowing him to fill him with himself, is desirable. You can fully access God. As a follower of Christ, you’ve been blessed with the Holy Spirit.

The word for spirit comes from a word that means breath, air, or life. Perfect, isn’t it? The Holy Spirit is breath, air and life! We need air to live, and the Holy Spirit equips us to live our faith on a daily basis. We can’t live on stale air. Our bodies use oxygen and get rid of waste through the carbon dioxide. We use what we need and get rid of the rest. If we don’t access fresh air, we can’t live for long.

The Holy Spirit is always fresh. He only pours into us what we need. There’s no waste in what he gives us. He’s completely nourishing, but we have to inhale. The Holy Spirit is active. When we yield to him, we will move. We’ll grow. We can also be tossed in wind, and to be honest, living a life of faith can feel like being tossed in the wind at times. But God doesn’t aimlessly toss us in the air. He knows exactly where the winds are carrying us and at what rate.

As always, God invites us to be active in faith. Breath isn’t nourishing unless we breathe. We must inhale. In the same sense, we must yield to the Holy Spirit to get the full nourishment and guidance. If you hold your breath, you trap the carbon dioxide, the waste of daily living, that needs to escape, and you block the inflow of refreshing oxygen that refreshes and sustains your body, so you can do what needs to get done. You can be who God created you to be. He didn’t create you and walk away. He gave you life-sustaining breath. Use it well. Otherwise, you might end up face down on the floor in the middle of a series of push-ups.

The First

Today was my first book signing. I reflected other firsts in my life.

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 Pledge was not a great idea.)
  • 1st car. (I sacrificed my 2-door Ciera to accommodate a car seat. Great exchange!)
  • 1st plane ride. (And the grandest view of a sunset in my life to date.)
  • 1st cell phone. (Even if it didn’t fit in my pocket!)

Some not-so-fun firsts.

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

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

Firsts can be…thrilling, frightening, or disastrous. The first can make a huge impression or get lost in surrounding details. Sometimes we soon get caught in a routine so that the first doesn’t seem as significant. Sometimes the first is so remarkable that everything that follows is a disappointment.

The first is a beginning. The first starts something. We don’t stay in the first. We grow from it. We can appreciate it, but 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. If you stay aware, you’ll likely find something fresh in your day to celebrate as a first. A seed planted to grow in the coming days. If you notice nothing new in your day, it’s at least the first day of the rest of your life. That phrase might seem lofty and dreamy, but it can also serve as a practical reminder.

I 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 I’m now building. Firsts lead the way. Today sets the pace and priorities. You can wait until tomorrow’s today to make changes, but why waste today?

I remember the “today” I decided to live every other today for the rest of my life for God. But I’m not going to stay in the memory of that day. I don’t want to lose today…and the opportunity to choose to live for God in the details of today. I haven’t filled every today with great choices – not even close. But each day – each today – sets the pace and priority for the next.  

What pace and priority are your setting today?

 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Hebrews 13:8