Posts Tagged ‘ boldness ’

Faithfulness > Passion

It’s hard to believe that I originally created this note in Evernote almost a year ago. I never wrote in it for different reasons that were probably excuses, so I figure it’s about time to finish what I started all those months ago.

And yes, I totally get the irony of the title of my blog post vis-a-vis the fact that I started this long ago and “didn’t get around to it” till now.

Something that I’m learning over the last few years of life is that while passion is a great thing to have and a great thing to see in others, I’ll take faithfulness over passion any day when choosing someone to work with. I think that many folks in this millennial generation have plenty of passion, but they certainly struggle in the area of faithfulness/commitment. I don’t mean it as a death sentence – I’m still part of this generation – but it is something that we need to recognize and work on.
Passion is great. It’s often needed. Without passion, there’s no push to get anything big started. We wouldn’t have much of what we now take for granted without someone having passion to get it started, particularly not the social enterprise products we love so much these days (e.g., TOMS, free trade coffee, etc.). We need passion to get started on something important.
The problem with passion is that it’s often associated with emotion, and it doesn’t stick as a result. It can easily fade, and it can easily get redirected to other things. Without your passion being funneled into one direction, you end up with nothing to show for it. You can end up devoting effort into different areas, and at the end of it all, you’ve accomplished nothing but pushed some stuff around.
It’s like digging for treasure. You need to have a direction you’re digging in; otherwise, you’re just pushing dirt around. It’s possible that you get to where you think you ought to go and find nothing, but the only way for you to get there is to push through the resistance and be consistent in a directed, concerted effort.
This is why I believe faithfulness/commitment is more important than passion. Passion can come and go. Hopefully it comes and stays, but without commitment and faithfulness, it will go where it wants. The Bible has all sorts of warnings about our plight when we decide to follow our passions instead of what we know to be true.
More than someone who preaches with fire, I’m impressed by the pastor who sticks it out through challenges galore at the small church without any recognition, any big favors, any fame, and stands fast for years and years.
More than someone who draws a bunch of attention by being super effusive and outpouring with eloquence, I’m impressed by those who are there in those critical moments where a friend needs them.
More than those who shut it down during worship service at church, I’m impressed by those who have served faithfully behind the scenes for years and years without much recognition, status, or benefit.
These are the people I’m impressed by – the people who stand by their freaking word. People who don’t over-promise and under-deliver. People who count the cost with wisdom before making a commitment, rather than making them on a whim and breaking them. People who I can believe when they look me in the eye and say, “I’ve got this.”
This is what I aspire to become. A man who, by the grace of God, follows through on his commitments and does what he says he will.
I would encourage other men (and women) to take up this challenge as well!

Living in the tension.

Probably my favorite poem right now is Rudyard Kipling’s “If.” It’s a few stanzas, has some clever rhymes, and has a pretty great rhythm. But more than that, it alludes to virtues that characterize great men – being honorable, taking risks, not complaining, being well-balanced, etc.

Every time I read that poem, my heartbeat picks up, and I feel that urge to embody each of the virtues mentioned. What’s more, I see the areas alluded to that I lack in my own life, and long to have more of that virtue in my life. What this poem, great preaching, and good friends do to me is remind me of the tension I think we all face: the tension between who we are and who we would like to be.

Whether your goals are financial, physical, spiritual, or in any other area, having them keeps that tension alive, and I think that’s a healthy tension to keep. Without it, I know I can easily become complacent, thinking I’ve done well enough and don’t need to keep pushing forward. I’ve been there, and it’s not a healthy way to be.

To progress, though, requires discipline, and that’s something not easily attained. It takes work, time, energy, commitment, dedication, sacrifice… and there are no shortcuts. You need to do the work, and you need to keep going when it gets difficult (perhaps especially when it gets difficult). And that’s something I think our generation needs to grasp (but that’ll get me started on a blog post for another day).

It’s a few months into 2014 now. Perhaps you’ve fallen on the wayside on some of the commitments you made at the beginning of the year. Perhaps you’ve gone back on some of your Lent commitments. What’s past is past.  Begin again today.

Decide today to get back in the fight with the Holy Spirit alongside.

Decide today to work hard and pray harder.

Decide today to stop making excuses. You can make excuses, or you can make progress.

Decide today to set and keep your priorities.

Decide today to take on the God-sized challenges you’ve been shying away from but that God has put in front of you.

Decide today to start becoming who God made you to be.

Punching out for true independence

In the spirit of Independence Day, I thought I’d write a little something about some thoughts I had this morning surrounding what I might consider true independence.

I have a pair of boxing gloves that I picked up a few years ago when some friends and I attended a Muay Thai class that required them. After that class ended, though, I didn’t really have much of a reason to use them, so they ended up collecting dust for quite a while. I would look at them every once in a while with longing, but without really the wherewithal to find and sign up for a gym where I could use them, they stayed neglected.

Last Sunday, I joined a new gym that will be more convenient and economical for me, since it has many locations and doesn’t charge extra for going to other locations. One big bonus I saw right off the bat is that the one closest to where I currently live has an area in the back for boxing. So the times I’ve been there this week, I went through a workout, then spent some time in the boxing area hitting the bag.

I’ve mentioned this to some friends already, but I do find this pretty therapeutic, as it’s a good way for me to channel frustration, since I tend to be pretty even-keeled in most situations. It’s good to get it out somehow, and I rather like taking it out on an inanimate punching bag. There are folks who choose to use people as punching bags, but that’s a whole other story I’m not trying to get into in this post.

I have found that when working out, channeling anger can help with adding adrenaline or something to enable me to do a little more than I could without that extra boost. I’ve seen this work sometimes with lifting, and it certainly helps with boxing. I find that I have more endurance and more force behind my punches when I can channel some anger into it.

In the interest of improving my boxing this morning, I started to think about situations that are causing me some frustration right now. I have to admit that channeling my thinking in that direction did help my game a bit, but it was temporary, because I couldn’t truly bring myself to be angry with people in my life. What happened next was interesting, though.

As I pondered on the things that were frustrating me, I took a step back mentally and looked up to see a mirror. In that moment, I realized that while I can choose to be angry with this or that person or be upset about this or that situation, the only influence I truly have is to change myself, and that is often the biggest obstacle. I realized there that my worst enemy aside from the devil himself is not someone or something outside of me, but myself – my pride, my sinful tendencies, my desire to do things my own way instead of submitting to Christ, my selfishness. So instead of thinking about a person or a situation to get mad about, I looked in the mirror and saw my worst enemy, and channeled my energy into beating him up.

Of all the things I tried to improve my boxing, I think that helped the most. Focusing on myself and my need to change, my need to be better and more Christ-like, that more than anything gave me fire to hit harder and faster.

Now to bring it back to true independence. As a Christian seeking to follow after Jesus wholeheartedly, I think the way we define true independence is the ability to deny ourselves and recognize our own sinfulness, and to deal with it harshly, while being gracious to others. It’s being ruthless with sin in our own lives and sorrowful over sin in the lives of others, but exhibiting grace in our interactions with others, as well as accepting God’s grace for ourselves. It’s refusing to allow people, situations, or things to affect our relationship with Jesus, and guarding that relationship above all else.

Just a few thoughts for this Independence Day. Now to TURN IT UP!

Stepping in.

I just started a new job the other day, my first full-time job since my quarter-life crisis a year and a half ago. Pretty great so far. One interesting experience to share…

Our building is equipped with the best in energy-efficient technology, and I’m told we spend an insanely low amount on energy for the amount of people we have in our building. One of the energy-saving measures is that lights are motion-activated.

Disclaimer: I drink a lot of water/tea/coffee, so I run (don’t walk) to the bathroom pretty frequently. I used to receive comments about that, which did sometimes get strange.

I entered the men’s room and saw that it was pitch dark. Thought process:

  1. Did we forget to pay the bill?
  2. Hmm… this is not going to work…
  3. Hmm… I really have to go…

And so I went forward, expecting to grope around blindly to find the appropriate station for my needs at that time. But lo and behold, as I took a few steps in, the lights came on! It was a miracle!

OK, so why do I share that rather mundane story? Why have I wasted a minute of your time to tell you about lights turning on in the men’s room?

Because I believe that many times, we encounter moments like this in our lives, and the way we choose to respond to those times can either hold us back or help push us forward.

Living and walking by faith, not by sight, isn’t easy, but it’s what we’re called to. If we’re truly following hard after God, we will encounter times when we have no clue what’s ahead. We will run into situations where all we see around us is darkness, and hope is nowhere to be found. We will find ourselves in circumstances we never wanted, with people we never planned on running into, doing things we never thought we’d be able to do.

What do we do when we encounter times, situations, and circumstances like these?

With prayer and wise counsel, we do what I had to do in that dark restroom – we step forward. We ask God for courage, for boldness, and we move toward that ambiguous yet promising future that He’s set in front of us. He doesn’t show us the whole roadmap; if He did, we’d trust the map and not Him. But He promises to be with us and to be the light we need to navigate the darkness.

But the decision remains on us whether we will take that first step into the unknown and trust God to provide the light, or turn back and potentially forfeit that chance to experience the Holy Spirit’s guiding hand.

Jesus went to the cross to provide us the opportunity to walk with Him and live life with Him. What’s your response?

Permission to be silly.

Last night, I checked out the middle school ministry that I’m praying about serving with at church.

I noticed that while worshiping, not only was it acceptable to act a little silly, it was encouraged. And it started at the top.

The worship leader, who’s been doing youth ministry for years, wasn’t “acting his age,” and in doing so, gave the kids permission to act theirs without having to worry about looking silly. He acted like he was their age so that they could act like they were their age in worshiping God.

Some might say that he’s making up for something, or that he hasn’t grown up. But I don’t see that. Instead, I see a man doing his part to serve his community doing what he loves – connecting with the middle school children at his church. I see a man letting his “street cred” suffer a bit so that he can bring pre-teens closer to Jesus. I see a man posing as a youth so that at the appropriate times, he can treat teenage boys like men and teenage girls like women.

It’s rare to find places where it’s okay to act a little silly. But by showing me his world, he’s given me one such place. If they’ll have me, I think I’m taking that part-time job.

What part is the grass?

It’s been said that the grass is always greener on the other side, but what part of the experience is the grass? What’s the part that looks better but is actually the same? Maybe it differs depending on the situation.

Some things that may be grass:

  • People
  • Routines
  • Responsibilities
  • Daily tasks
  • Freedom

But there are things that can actually be better:

  • People to learn from
  • Experiences to benefit from
  • Projects to be a part of
  • Vision to move forward with
  • Risks to take

At the end of it, though, maybe the only way to tell is to  go to the other side and see. Maybe stepping into uncertainty isn’t such a bad thing.

You pick it up. I’ll carry it.

First of all, happy 2012! Hope it’s gotten to a great start for everyone!

I spent Christmas weekend with my cousin and her family in Pennsylvania. At one point, my mom mentioned something she witnessed between my cousin’s husband and daughter.

The three-year-old daughter had left something on the floor, and her dad wanted her to pick it up. She told him that she couldn’t carry it, so his reply was, “You pick it up. I’ll carry it.”

I love that line, not just because it was good parenting, but because it’s such a great picture of what God wants to tell us sometimes. And we need to hear both parts of it.

The part I’ve always tended to hear about in church is “I’ll carry it.” So important for many of us who are high achievers and keep wanting to make things happen. We can become so results-oriented that we leave God out of the picture. And in His love, He won’t let us continue to make results our god, so He will sometimes break down those results we were so intent on.

It’s in those spaces that we realize that results don’t come from our labors and toils but from His grace and kindness. I’ve seen that happen plenty in ministry, and my mind goes to Abraham as a Biblical example. God kept him from having children with Sarah until such a time that having Isaac could be attributed only to God.

But the first part is very important for those of us who have heard the second part and begun to rest too comfortably in it. Taken the wrong way, we can come to a place where we start to believe that God will take care of everything, and we just need to relax. I was there for a while, and although it always felt uneasy, I was quite content to stay there.

The problem with this view isn’t only that we can get lazy and stupid or something. The real problem is that we can miss out on the miracles God has for us. Whenever God performed miracles in the Bible, He required a step of faith. A step into the unknown, where I’m going to fall if no one catches me. Some of the commitments are bigger than others in our minds, but there’s always a commitment on our part. I think the lesson here is that God can do great things with even our smallest step of faith.

When Jesus turned water into wine, it was in response to his mother Mary calling for him when the wine ran dry at the wedding. She didn’t know what he would do, but she knew he could do something. The Bible says Jesus could not (note, it doesn’t say “would not” but “could not”) perform miracles in Galilee because of people’s unbelief. Peter could see Jesus walking on the water, but to experience it, he had to step out of the boat.

We have to understand that when God performs miracles, He wants to involve us. We get to be part of the story. But the first step can often be an uncomfortable one. It’s a lot easier to just stay where it’s comfortable, where it feels safe. But we’re in a spiritual war. Nowhere is safe. Eventually, if you insist on staying in your comfort zone, God in His mercy may draw you out. Or even scarier if you make a habit of it, eventually relent and let you stay.

Imagine being in a bunker on a battlefield. Thinking about stepping out of that safe bunker is an uncomfortable thought. But you can’t win by staying inside. You may not lose, but you can’t win. Your team might win that day, but you didn’t. On the other hand, if your team loses, you’ll be forced out of the bunker, without the opportunity to make a difference.

What’s your biggest challenge today? Where do you need to trust God? And where do you need to act on that trust by taking a step of faith, as uncomfortable as it feels?

Will you choose to move forward, or will you wait until God pushes you? And, what if He stops pushing?