How soon until I start to die?

How soon until I start to die?

Here’s a powerful story of giving I wanted to share with you. It comes from Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird and illustrates the power of being selfless.

An eight-year-old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukemia, and he was told that without a blood transfusion she would die. His parents explained to him that his blood was probably compatible with hers, and if so, he could be the blood donor. They asked him if they could test his blood. He said sure. So they did and it was a good match. Then they asked if he would give his sister a pint of blood, that it could be her only chance of living. He said he would have to think about it overnight. Continue reading “How soon until I start to die?”

What would it take for everything to change in your life?

What would it take for everything to change in your life?

If you could meet with one person, who would it be? The president? A celebrity? The pope? Or maybe a professional athlete? Take a second and dream about the encounter. And then ask yourself an honest question. Would it change anything about your life?

Continue reading “What would it take for everything to change in your life?”

2 ways to E.A.T. better every day

I have a confession. I don’t live my life expecting God to do great things. The way I approach each day is typically unfocused, with an over reliance on “go with the flow” to dictate what I do. I let things happen to me rather than take hold and make things happen.

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My attitude most day is “what happens is what happens”. I rarely live with expectancy. I don’t drive to work, or interact with a friend, or read the Bible, or write, or pray expecting God to do something. No, I allow my self-interest to get in the way. Isn’t that what it boils down to most of the time? Self-interest vs. God-interest? If I can be honest for a moment, I live each day expecting myself to do amazing things. Unfortunately, I lack the ability to do anything amazing because I’m flawed. We all are.

So what can you and I do to change this perspective we approach our lives with? I believe every person wants their life to matter to some degree. We are designed to live with purpose but somewhere along the line we lost touch with the Purpose-Giver. Here are a few ways to reclaim the unique purpose given to each of us, the one which resonates deep in our souls.

1. Realize it’s not about you. This simple phrase is how Rick Warren begins his best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life. “It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness.” I struggle hard with this especially when it comes to my writing. I want what I write to impact people, but I grasp for a gauge on how effective I am at doing that. So I obsess over stats, likes, follows, and retweets. It is easy for my writing to become all about me and the empire I’m trying to build. So I guess at what posts and articles to write that might appeal to my audience instead of writing what’s on my heart. But God’s been reminding me that it’s a gift He gave to be used for HIs purposes. My inspiration needs to come from Him and not my own self-interest driven ideas. What purpose have you been created to do but has been hijacked by self-interest?

2. Start each day with the right perspective. In Acts 4, after Peter and John had been released from the Jewish Council unscathed, the church immediately prayed. But their prayer didn’t start with “keep us safe” like you would think it would. No, it started with a confession of God’s greatness and with truth of who He is and what He’s done. Then the believers asked God for boldness to continue speaking His word. What they did next is what we should do everyday. Start with God. I’m so guilty of jumping into prayer times with a laundry list of what I want. Rarely do I stop to get synced up with God and His agenda. I don’t start my day or a writing session or really anything with Him. The times I do, however, change the trajectory of my day. When I begin with God, I emerge expecting Him to do amazing things. My focus has been shifted from self-interest to God-focus.

Everyone wants to lead a meaningful life, but it looks different for each of us. The only true way to make an impact is to allow God to fill our desires with His desires. By remembering it’s not about you and to start each day with a God-centered perspective so you can enjoy a life full of purpose and joy.

How recovery applies to everyone (Guest Post)

By Wesley Hicks

We all seek wholeness and joy, but none of us can find it on our own. We need help but are often too full of pride to admit it. Because we are designed to seek these things, we will pursue them in one of two ways: According to God’s design or according to our own.  

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When we pursue wholeness and joy in relationship with God, we will find even the rough spots of life won’t derail us on the track laid out by His design. As we continue to see Him leading us toward more wholeness, we also see a natural curve happen as our Joy in Him is increased.  The more joy we find in Him, the more geared we become toward wholeness and we begin a cycle of Joy-fed wholeness in relation to Him that overflows into our relationships with others.   Continue reading “How recovery applies to everyone (Guest Post)”

Climbing out of the cesspool of negativity

glass1A few weeks ago, I wrote about dealing with change. As I said, I have been enduring a season with a lot of change lately and I found myself in the middle of a cesspool of negativity because of it. It can happen pretty easy, right? We humans can be pretty resistant to change, especially when circumstances that directly affect us but are outside of our control are involved. It’s made worse when the amount of change is significant. Job changes, financial stress, relational conflict, and loss of a loved one are all examples of circumstances that can often be outside of our control but have the potential to rock our world!

So the negativity grew like a cancer within me. I found every reason to complain and every excuse not to press on and do what I knew I was supposed to do. And it didn’t help that those around me were wallowing in that same cesspool. Something had to give because I was on a path that I knew was bad for me and I was not being a good example to those around me. My attitude stank like a rotten egg and it was time to take out the trash.

That blog post I alluded to early was the starting place. As I realized that I didn’t have control over any aspect of the situation, an urgency began growing inside to change my perspective. (There are few things we truly have control over, and perspective is definitely one of them!) It was almost like someone tossed a rope ladder down to me in the pit so I could climb out. You’ve seen the movie scenes where the good guy struggles to escape danger by climbing up the rope ladder dropped from a hovering chopper. It doesn’t look easy, does it? And that’s how my exit from negativity happened. Slow and intentional. I’ve had setbacks, but I kept climbing hand over hand, foot over foot.

I also received help along the way too. I specifically remember one night a buddy exchanged text messages with me for close to an hour about the situation. (Probably would’ve been easier to pick up the phone!) He related to my situation (grace) and added some perspective (truth) to it, and helped me more than he probably knows. It’s like he was there holding his hand out to pull me out of the cesspool. And it worked! I’m very thankful for the number of family and friends in my life that have helped me over the years.

So now, I’m finally out of the negativity. It feels fantastic to be back to “normal”. But there are still moments or days when I’m drawn back into it. Those are the times that I have to remind myself of the perspective I so desperately want to maintain. I can’t control the situation, but I can control how I respond to it. No matter how bad the circumstances are, I can still choose to work hard and give my all to whatever tasks that are in front of me.

If you find yourself in the negativity cesspool and want to escape it, I encourage you to remember these same things that helped me out. Change your perspective. Reach out to someone you trust. And remember how easy it can be to slip back into it. Let’s face it. Change and hard times are going to come which means negative attitudes will emerge in all of us. How we respond to those circumstances is what really matters.

Are you an ostrich or an eagle?

Processed with MoldivThere was recently a fun conversation that broke out during my Life Group from church. It was a light hearted debate about planning for the future versus planning for the here and now. Some of the people are planners, having a mental timeline for where they want to be in five years. Others are more focused on day to day planning, giving more regard to what’s in front of them then what they could potentially face down the road. It was interesting to see the different personality types emerge in the group and how open or resistant people were to the idea of planning for the future. To me, it’s a tight rope because too much focus on it can cause you to miss out on the important things in front of you now. But to ignore it completely can be unwise because you need to have a general strategy of where you are going. I am very guilty of becoming consumed with the here and now and then realize that I’m living life kind of aimlessly. So a question that comes to mind is whether we are ostriches or eagles?

Most people have heard that an ostrich will stick its head in the ground when it sense danger. This is not completely accurate, however, because the ostrich will actually lower its head close to the ground when trouble is coming. But let’s not get caught up in semantics. An eagle, on the other hand, soars at great heights and uses its tremendous eyesight to assess the situation. Two very different responses to danger. My money is on the eagle to survive over the ostrich!

It might seem like a silly analogy, but I hope the point is pretty clear. Are you short-sighted (ostrich) or long-sighted (eagle)? How strategic are you when you look at your personal growth, your family, your career, or your business? Do you tend to let life come to you or do you go out and seize the day? I confess that I’ve never been one to have a five-year plan. I hated those exercises in college where you had to imagine yourself 10 years down the road. But there is value in forcing yourself to think about the future and where or who you would like be. The few times I’ve actually followed through with this I feel better about myself and the direction I’m headed. I’ve applied it to finances, personal growth, parenting, volunteering, etc. It’s a powerful self-discipline that bring about positive change in our lives. But we also have to take steps toward achieving that vision.

Tom Landry, long time NFL football head coach, said that “Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.” In other words, you have to plan the work and then work the plan. And then you have to deal with the inevitable setbacks that will come. In the words of the great philosopher Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.”

Going back to the earlier analogy, eagles are viewed as powerful, mighty creatures. Would they be viewed this way if they soared high in the air but never came down for the attack? Probably not. It is extremely important to find a balance between looking down the road and seeing what’s right in front of you. Once we can achieve that balance, life can be a full and exciting journey.

5 things that might be affecting your faith

I picked up a book that I started reading back in the fall that I drifted away from for some reason. The book is God’s Power for Your Life by A.W. Tozer. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that Tozer is hands down my favorite author. The way he writes just connects with me and challenges me to grow and take serious stock of my life. To refresh my memory, I decided to skim the underlined passages I made and stumbled upon a section that I believe is a message worthy of sharing.

The purpose of the book is to establish God’s word as authoritative in communicating His thoughts to us. It is also intended to inspire and enlighten us as to the riches found in a daily habit of soaking in the scriptures. In chapter 2, Tozer spends some time exposing the false authorities we allow to affect our faith. “These false authorities need to be named for what they are, and then dealt with according to the blessed Word of God.” So here they are, five false authorities that permeate religion today.

1. Tradition. “A tradition has a history that cannot be supported by facts. This is crucial to understand. Beliefs and practices come to be based on that tradition. There is no other reason to do something than that it has been done that way in the past.” How many things do we practice and hold fast to in our churches today that we have no clue the origin? Tradition isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be given a much greater purpose than it deserves because “we’ve always done it that way”.
2. The Authority of Numbers. “It is the size of the organization that matters. The bigger the organization, the more authority and power it has. I have never been one to base the importance or validity of an organization of a count of noses.” A common question about a church is how many people are coming. It’s like a sense of validity is assigned to a church the larger the attendance number is. While keeping track of numbers can be good for strategic decisions, such as allocating resources to best take care of the people in the church, it can drive churches to do whatever it takes to get butts in seats. And that is where the gospel tends to get watered down or even compromised because we want to see our empire grow rather than see individual hearts transformed. “This generation of Christians needs to understand that numbers do not make anything true. You can get a vast number of people to believe something, but if it was an error before they believed it, it is still an error after they have been convinced.”
3. Nature or the Native Instinct. Simply put, it says, “Trust the light within you.” It’s the wicked practice of picking and choosing what in the Bible inspires you and throwing the rest out the window. “If we run across something in the Scriptures counter to our natural inclinations, we can dismiss it by claiming that part of Scripture is not inspired, and therefore I do not have to pay attention to it.”
4. Reason or Philosophy. “If our authority is to come from reason or philosophy, the logical question is which one? Spiritism? Naturalism? Idealism? Realism? Materialism? Intuitionism? Atheism? Humanism? You can jumble them all together and have a rather fine mixture on your hands. However, it is not what is good about the philosophy but what is bad about it that concerns me. It is not the water but the poison in the water that kills.”
5. Religion. For a long time, people would ask me what faith or church I was a part of. And I would answer “Southern Baptist” or “Christianity” to them. But as I got older and saw the emptiness of religion, I started to change my answer and tell people that I’m a Christ-follower. To me, to say I’m Southern Baptist is just a label. But to say I’m a Christ-follower implies a life style. I have experienced the reverence and respect people give a label. And that, according to Tozer, is what gives religion its authority. And it keeps its power through customs, pageantry, intimidation, and economic pressures. I have personally experienced every single one of these and maybe you have too. Being able to break free from those chains brings a new life that I wish everyone could experience.

This is just a quick overview of what Tozer calls false authorities. I encourage you to really look hard at each of these and how they affect your faith today. A genuine faith in Christ requires that we shed religion. “I believe the time is coming when evangelical Christians will not be able to take our Christianity as casually as we do now. The time is coming when we may have to stand up and be counted for the genuine thing.” Will you be ready?