Thursday, January 5, 2017

Press Pause

"There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven." 
- Ecclesiastes 3:1

* * * * * * *

There was a lot I wanted to do in 2016, but there was this little thing called graduate school that kept getting in the way.

Since starting last fall, I've had to make some adjustments. I’ve had to say “no” a lot more. I’ve had to step back from some responsibilities. “I’ll get to it later” seemed to become one of my new mottos.

It was frustrating, because it felt like I failed or fell short in a bunch of areas where I was hoping to excel.

It's easy to fall into the I-have-to-do-everything-and-I-have–to-do-it-now trap mentality, and I think I fell in head first into that trap last year. But that mentality, that feeling that if you don't do this activity or chase that dream now it will never get done at all, is a lie. As much as we would like to try, we can’t. In fact, whenever we try to do everything all at once, we wind up not excelling at anything at all.

Last year taught me the value of pressing the pause button. I wrote down a list. On this list are dreams I want to pursue, places I want to travel to, hobbies I want to take up, skills I want to learn. Out of the bunch, I picked two or three to chase right now. For the others, I hit pause. I can’t chase them right now, but eventually I will. I wrote them down and pinned them on my bulletin board so I won’t forget about them. They are there and will still be there whenever I'm ready.

Pressing pause is not failing. There is no shame in stepping back in one area so that you can excel in another. Take a deep breath and take that pressure off of yourself. You do not have to do everything all at once. 

We all find ourselves in different seasons and stages of life, and each season requires something different from us. At the moment, graduate school is my season. That’s my hustle. That’s the battle I’m trying to win right now. What’s yours? Are you willing to press pause on some things in order to win the fight right in front of you?

Don’t be afraid to press pause.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How Important Is It To You?

Some questions I’ve been asking myself lately:

How important is it to you?

Are you willing to get up a little bit earlier?
Are you ready to go a little bit farther?
Are you prepared to sacrifice a little bit more?
Are you finished saying, “I’ll start tomorrow/Monday/next year”?

Can you be a little bit more vulnerable?
Can you reach a little bit higher?
Can you let go of the things you’ve been holding on to?
Can you grab hold of the promises God has made to you?

If the answer to those questions is ‘yes,’ then say so. But don’t stop there. Back it up.

Set the alarm.
Run the extra mile.
Say “no” to good so you can reach for greater.
Start now.

Break down your walls and pour it all before Godall of it.
Dream bigger dreams. Set a higher vision for yourself.
Let it go. Surrender your will for His. Every day.
Write down His promises and circle them in prayer.

If it's important to you, it will change the way you think. It will change the way you speak. It will change the way you live your life. It might change everything.

How important is it to you?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Election Is Over. Now What?

It’s over, America.

We’ve watched almost two years of wall-to-wall campaign coverage, argued politics in Facebook comments sections for hours on end and endured an onslaught of political advertisements and random strangers asking us if we’re registered to vote. 

And now we have chosen a new president. 

Chances are, you’re not happy. You’re not happy with the candidate that won. You’re not happy with Uncle Bob or your friend Jane. You’re not happy with leaders you used to admire. You’re not happy with the media. You’re not happy with America. 

Maybe “you’re not happy” is an understatement. You’re probably sick and tired of all of it. Let’s go a little further, you’re probably mad as hell.

I’ve felt it, too. The anger. Disgust. Frustration. Sadness. Disappointment. 

Those emotions have led me to think, say and do some things I’m not proud of. I have strong opinions, I’m passionate about those opinions and I get emotional about them – not always a great combination. 
    
Don’t get me wrong – I have had some great conversations with wonderful people, many of whom disagree with me on just about everything. Those exchanges have helped me understand why people are thinking the way they are and have helped me shape my own stances on certain issues. I hope you’ve had some of those types of interactions, too. But I’ve also let my emotions run wild, both in person and on social media.

Now it’s over. The votes have been cast, the winners announced, and the speeches delivered. 

But it’s not really over is it? The wounds and divisions that have been caused by this election might take a long time to heal, if they ever heal at all. The anger is still very real and very much on the surface for all to see (just take a quick glance at Facebook or Twitter). 

We’ve pitted ourselves against each other based on a wide variety of lines: race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, political party… the list goes on and on. 

The most disheartening thing for me has been the division among Christians in this election and how we’ve let two political candidates rip people of faith apart from the inside out.

We need to heal. We need to heal as a Church and as a country. But how?

I don’t have a lot of answers, but just some thoughts on how we might get started. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Last Page


The other day I reached the last page in the journal I’ve been writing in and tracking my life with for the last two and a half years.

I decided to flip through some of the early entries I made in the journal – and many of those entries seemed pretty familiar to me. Some of the struggles I’ve had to work through are the same ones I’m wrestling with now. I had to double check the dates of the entry to make sure they read “2014” and not “2016.”

After I closed the journal, leaving that final page blank for the moment, I felt a wave of discouragement and disappointment. How could I still be dealing with some of this? Why do I feel like I’ve made so little progress? Why is this taking longer to walk through than I originally hoped?

A discouraging thought then popped up in my head: God, You must be pretty disappointed with me.

* * * * * * *

Writing is how I process what’s going on in my life. The good stuff. The bad stuff. And everything in between.

Everyone processes life differently, but it’s critical that we find an outlet – or a combination of different outlets – where we can express ourselves honestly and completely. We have to find a way to air out all of our junk and pour out our hearts before God and the people closest to us.

For some of us, writing is that outlet. For others, it might be just talking it out. Maybe its artwork or music; exercising or building something.

I’m a huge believer in journaling. As someone who is naturally prone to forgetfulness, it’s a great way to remind myself of that God is good and still faithful. God is. I can go back and remember all the answered prayers, all the times He walked me through a difficult situation, all the reminders to just trust in Him and find rest, peace and joy in Jesus and nothing else.

My journals also a reminder that life is messy. It’s not always going to feel like I’m listening to “Walking on Sunshine” on repeat (although that gets old really quickly).

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, emphasis mine). There will be moments where you feel like you’re in over your head. But Jesus is bigger than all of it.

It helps to write all that down once in a while.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Do Something That Scares You


“Do not be afraid.”
“Fear not.”
“Have courage.”

Abraham needed that reminder. Joshua did, too. So did Paul, the Apostles, Jesus’s mother Mary, and dozens of other characters in the Bible.

So do we. A lot. At least I know I do.

Those phrases are repeated hundreds of times throughout Scripture -- the most repeated sentiment or phrase in the Bible -- and I don’t think that happened by accident. 

Whenever I've read those verses commanding us to exchange our fear for courage, I used to think God didn’t want us to ever be afraid. I thought God meant that ever experiencing fear was an insult to Him. My solution: Play it safe. Stay in the shallow end of the pool instead of stepping up to the diving board on the deep end.  

But what if we’re supposed to feel fear sometimes? Maybe God repeatedly tells us "don't be afraid" because we need to face something that scares us -- and then walk through it. 

IF IT DOESN’T SCARE YOU, IT WON’T HELP YOU GROW

If we’re honest with ourselves, fear is often the biggest barrier we face to experiencing growth. But fear can also be an indicator that we’re close to doing something that we’re called to do in the first place.

In one of Pastor Rick Warren's recent Daily Hope devotionals, he writes that "there is no growth without change; there is no change without fear or loss." Whenever we face a big decision that will cause some significant change and discomfort, fear pops up.

Fear is uncomfortable. Fear makes us pump the brakes and tempts us to make a U-turn instead of charing ahead. But the goal is not to avoid fear. Sometimes we need to be scared. We need to experience those moments when we know we're in over our heads. It's how we respond when we reach those moments that matters and can help us build our faith. 

The goal isn't to avoid fear, but to conquer it. When fear pops up and tells us we're not ready or qualified or equipped to face that thing, we invite God into our situation. We remind ourselves that God is bigger than our fears. We exchange that fear for faith.

We have to do something that makes us shake a little bit and doubt ourselves. 

WHEN WE'RE SCARED, WE GO TO GOD

Facing our fears gives God a chance to show up and speak into our lives. Fear drives me to Him and make me realize I need to lean more on Him for support, guidance, comfort, strength and reassurance. And when He walks us through it, there's no doubt about who gets the glory.

When you’re afraid, God reminds you that he is your shield and your reward (Genesis 15:1), because He will fight for you (Deuteronomy 3:22), because He is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9) and He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). 

Many of the heroes of the Christian faith felt fear. They had their doubts. They had their reservations about God’s plans. But they decided that their faith in the Lord was bigger than their fears. They made a decision that their fear would not prevent them from doing the thing they knew God wanted them to do, and they were rewarded for their obedience and faithfulness.

Doing something that scares us will put us in a position to depend on God in ways we never have before. And that's the best place to be. 

WHAT MATTERS MOST OFTEN SCARES US THE MOST

Starting over is scary. Opening up a business is scary. Becoming a parent is scary. Writing a book or publishing your work for the whole world to see and scrutinize is scary. Deciding to become a mentor or seeking out a mentor is scary.

But all of those things are exciting, too. And they are all important. The most important things, the things that matter the most, are usually the scariest things we will ever do.

The world needs more curious travelers, more creative innovators, more intentional parents, more fearless mentors and more people willing to share their voice and start a conversation on issues that matter.

So are you doing something that makes you a little nervous and a little afraid and makes you want to quit? Good! 

Fear can sometimes serve as a signal that you are close to doing something that might make a difference in this life and for eternity. 

But we have to be willing face those fear head-on.  

TO GET RID OF FEAR, WE MUST FACE IT

I was speaking with a couple of collegiate divers recently who told me that the biggest obstacle they face is fear.

For platform divers, the distance from the elevated platform to the water in the pool is 33 feet. A lot can go wrong in 33 feet. They know this perfectly well every single time they stand up there right before taking the plunge. How do they overcome it? They just have to do it. And then do it again and again.

And after a while, they're standing up there on the platform and remember that because they've executed the dive hundreds of times, they can do it one more time.

The great theologian John Wayne put it perfectly: “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”

The only way to get over the fear of something is to actually do the thing. You can't get over fears you never face. And every time we face a fear, the less afraid we'll be when we face them later. 

We can saddle up and take on any challenge, take advantage of every opportunity and face every fear because after God says, “Don’t be afraid,” He follows that up with “I am with you.”

When God says “Don’t be afraid,” how will we respond?

Getting scared isn’t a bad thing. It means you made a decision to get off your couch and do something. It’s how you handle that fear that will make all the difference. We have to get ourselves to the other side of fear by faith.