Posts Tagged ‘ reject comfort ’

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.

Why talk small?

I was at my friend’s apartment last night, and we were sitting on a couch together when I asked him a pretty pointed question about his girlfriend and where he saw things going with her. He answered, but then asked where that question came from. My answer surprised me too – “Well, I think we’ve run out of small talk, so I figured why not just jump into something meaningful?”

While it wasn’t a normal topic to delve into so matter-of-factly, the conversation was good, meaningful and not strange. We’ve had serious talks before. The only difference this time was that instead of stumbling upon it by accident, I intentionally started a valuable conversation. I’m glad I did.

Small talk is our default mode when we don’t think we have anything to say, or have something but don’t feel comfortable saying it. Intentionally flipping the switch takes courage and can be risky, but if it falls on receptive ears, the result can be priceless.

Things I wish I knew in college…

Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with a bunch of college students. Many of them attend my alma mater, where I volunteer with a campus ministry they’re involved with. Others I met through an Epic conference in January. Still others I’ve met through other means.

Students, this post is for you. It’s a list of things I wish I had known when I was in college. Hopefully it will be helpful for you.

  • Evernote is probably the best all-around software for taking notes and remembering things. Of course, Evernote may not have been around when I was in college, but go check it out! I’ve also written a Squidoo lens about why Evernote rocks.
  • Google Calendar is so key. Especially being able to share it with others.
  • Gmail is awesome, especially with the new Priority Inbox function, but to really hack your e-mail, play the E-mail Game.
  • Blogging is underrated. Maintaining a blog can be a great way to share insights with people, build community online and practice writing. Platform-wise, I think WordPress is great for customization, but Tumblr is great if you want to just get started with the basics. If you have some real value to share and are interested in making money from your writing, though, Squidoo is awesome for that.
  • Mac is great.
  • Reading the Bible consistently is challenging but very beneficial. Sign up for YouVersion to get on a plan and stay on it.
  • Consuming media is fun but often distracts you from what is much better.
  • Figuring out what you’re naturally good at is a challenging but worthy pursuit. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things to do but one of the most important. Sadly, many don’t care to investigate this, and many of them don’t want you to either.
  • You become like the people you hang out with most. This is not meant to condemn. It’s just something you need to realize.
  • Mediocrity can get you by, but it will never get you where you want to go. I used to take pride in my mediocrity. That was unbelievably stupid.
  • Stop complaining. Hustle instead. You’ll grow and learn far, far more.
  • One of the hardest questions to ask yourself is, “What do I want?” Many don’t want to answer that question because they know they’re not doing anything to get there. Ask it. Answer it. Go get it.
  • If you do what everyone else is doing, you’ll end up with what everyone else has.
  • Choose a major that will enhance and utilize your natural strengths, not one that will “guarantee” you a job (it won’t).
  • Find ways to get both inspiration and wisdom, and keep going back for more. Proverbs says this more eloquently. I will post a resource list soon and link it here.
  • Read this and share it with everyone you know who’s in school or working at a school.