How My Personality Landed Me in the Mud!

I need to have some fun with today’s blog – so I hope you’ll join in!  Here goes…..

If you’re like me, you’ve got a personality trait or two that impacts most areas of your life, for better or worse.

My Trait #1:  If you give me a good challenge, I’ll probably agree to do it.  Even if it’s something most people in their right minds wouldn’t. For example…..

In 2012, my friend Amanda challenged me to do something called the Warrior Dash – a 5K Mud Run with various insane hurdles to get over.  First she told me it would be fun, and that I didn’t really have to be a runner to do it.  I wasn’t convinced, so I suggested perhaps people my age don’t do things like this (surely not, I thought!), to which she replied (and I quote) -“sure, plenty of old people do it”!

Did she really just call me OLD?  With that, she had given the challenge – and I accepted!  I would show her!

I was off and running, literally, to get ready for Warrior Dash.  I took a running class.  I pushed harder than any middle-aged non-athletic woman in her right mind should.  As a result, a few months later, I was sidelined with a stress fracture.  Warrior Dash was not to be – that year.

But that didn’t mean the end of the Warrior Dash!  Of course not, because….

Trait #2 –  Once I tell you I’ll do something, I keep my word – period.

Fast forward 2 years.  After recovering from my injury and doing a lot more running, I signed up for the 2014 Warrior Dash.  And this time, I finished!  3.4 miles running – lots of hills, barbed wire and mud – climbing cargo nets – even swimming across a lake.  The best way to share it is with pictures, so here goes:

The "BEFORE" Picture

The “BEFORE” Picture

I figured my clothes would get trashed, so I wore the most hideous clothes I had available.  When were those shorts EVER in fashion?  I can’t imagine why I ever bought them….15 years ago.

The rest of my sporty ensemble:

Ugly white shirt with red dots, which turned into my very own wet t-shirt contest shirt (thank goodness for sports bras!)

Garmin sports watch – which, fortunately, IS as waterproof as they say!

The shoes I never wear because they don’t fit right.  Kudos to my trainer friend Todd Soura for telling me to put holes in my shoes before the race – otherwise my wet shoes would have been even heavier and I probably would have drowned in the lake.

I LOVE my hat, so I took it off just before the race started.

WD2014 younguns

I did this race because Amanda told me plenty of old people do it.

See all the old people?  Yeah, me neither….

 

The start of the Mud

The start of the Mud

At the start of the race, there was a little mud.  I’d heard you should stay up off your knees to avoid scraping them.  That worked when we were going under netting.  Later on, it changed to barbed wire closer to the ground.  If you didn’t get down on your knees and elbows, you ended up with holes in your shirt from the barbed wire.  Yes, I learned the hard way….and ended up with holes in my shirt AND sliced knees.

More mud

More mud

 

 

 

 

 

 

wd2014 goliath1

Near the End!

race.chutes

 

WD2014 balancebeam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

race collage

As I was running this infernal race, I have to admit I wondered if I’d finally taken things too far.  Was it possible there are things people my age just should not do?  I was two years older than when Amanda originally challenged me – if I’d just let this thing quietly die, I don’t think she would’ve ever noticed.

 

But I did it – because I said I would.

I couldn’t let myself off the hook.  And by the time it was over, I had two gashed knees, one less toenail, and a bruised tailbone.

But I did it…and that’s what counted.

It all comes down to those traits that drive my entire life.  Give me a compelling challenge and I’ll do it – no matter what.  Just ask my second grade teacher, who I’m lucky didn’t march me straight to the principal’s office after I accepted an (inappropriate) challenge.  Or the people that convinced me to go rappelling down cliffs.  Or to be the target in the dunking booth at work.  Or spend my vacation with people living in poverty.WD2014 fire

These personality traits have worked great for me – they helped me finish my education well, they helped me in my career.  They helped me honor commitments to God, even when the going got rough. They’ve helped me be there for people when they needed me.  They’ve been a real plus.

Yes, God gave me some pretty good traits when He made me, but the problem is that Satan knows just how to exploit them.

DONE - The "After" Picture

DONE – The “After” Picture

Because the ugly truth is when I’m challenged and I tell you I’ll do something, the ME inside my head kicks into high gear.  I can slog my way through lots of things – by myself – no God needed.  That’s my natural tendency.  And sometimes that means I end up covered in mud – literally or figuratively.  Over the years, I’ve been reminded countless times how I can take the toughness and feistiness God built into me and use it in ways He never intended – as self-reliance, rather than determined reliance on God.

I know y’all are thinking now “What did they talk her into doing in second grade that almost landed her in the principal’s office”?  Or better yet…..”What crazy NEW challenge can we give Diana – do you think she’d really do it?”

You never know friends, you never know.  I just might!

But be forewarned.  Because I’m not the only one with these quirky little character traits that can be both good and bad.  No…..You have some too. (Yes, I’m talking to YOU).

SO – here’s the deal.  If you’ll share a brief story in the blog comments about a wonderful character trait of yours that’s landed you in some funny or awkward situation, I’ll consider a new challenge.

So bring ’em on!  Let’s have some fun :-)  We’d all love to hear your stories in the comments!

 

 

 

I Have a Confession to Make

Just What We Wanted - Our Very Own Porta-Potty!

Just What We Wanted – Our Very Own Porta-Potty!

Ever had one of those times when you wanted to crawl into a hole?  Yep, me too.  Just the other day, for example…..

We recently started having some maintenance done on our house.  It wasn’t a surprise – I knew it was coming.  We’d been anxious to get the work done. Hubby signed a contract.  Brian the foreman called and gave us the start date and time.  The porta-potty appeared in our driveway.  ALL the signs were there.

So you’d think I’d be ready, wouldn’t you?  But NO……

When Brian rang our doorbell that first morning and came into the house, was I fully dressed and ready to meet him? Nope – I’d been doing my normal “non-morning-person routine” – procrastinating, having one last cup of coffee, dragging my feet.

I always keep a camera handy for those....awkward moments.

I always keep a camera handy for those….awkward moments

So I did what came naturally – made a panic-stricken dash for the bathroom, where I sat in darkness waiting for him to leave.  I kid you not.  Don’t ask me why I didn’t turn on the light…there may be some psychological explanation about darkness reflecting embarrassment at my appearance.  I don’t know, but that’s what I did.  Until Brian went back outside.

Then he reappeared at the back door and walked into our kitchen.  And I (still in my robe and frizzy hair) sank down into the family room sofa cushions, hoping he wouldn’t notice me.  Trying to be invisible.  If Brian saw me, he was polite enough not to comment.  And for that I am forever grateful.

I wasn’t ready for Brian to come. Even though I knew he was coming. Even though I had plenty of warning.  Why couldn’t I get myself ready?

And as I cringed in the sofa, I realized I’d had hints of this feeling before.  Usually when my mother talked about how

My view of what my mother expects Jesus returning will be like....

My view of what my mother expects Jesus returning will be like….

wonderful it will be when Jesus returns.   This has become a fairly frequent topic of conversation with her – more often than you or I would discuss.  I think it’s partly because of her age.  When you’re facing the ever-nearing and increasing likelihood of dying, there’s an appeal to just bypassing the whole death thing by having Jesus return. I also suspect she envisions herself staring into the sky from her driveway, watching the whole “Jesus Returns” thing like some Cecil B DeMille movie.  It would certainly add excitement to her life!

But here’s my confession –

Whenever she says “wouldn’t be be great to be here and see Jesus returning” my answer is usually a very tempered “uh-huh.”  Outwardly I agree, but inwardly I’m not quite as confident.  You see, I have a slightly more pessimistic view of how Jesus returning is likely to play out.

I think it would be great if Jesus returned while I was in church, in the middle of awesome worship.  Or telling someone about Jesus.  Or caring for the poor.

But not all parts of my life are ….well…ready for company on a moment’s notice, if you know what I mean.

And it’s not just about Jesus returning.  Because I have no idea whether Jesus will return today, next week, or in the year 4014.  There’s probably a decent chance that I will die someday – just like people have been doing since Adam and Eve. But whether Jesus returns first or I die first, the result is still the same.  I’ll be standing face-to-face before God and Jesus.  Not me and Hubby.  Just me.  Alone.

And if I haven’t gotten my act completely together with God by then, it will be like me – a child of God – standing there in my pink bathrobe, with no makeup and messed-up hair.  Wishing I’d done something to be more presentable.

And as I thought about it more, I thought about the Hubby. It’s different with him.  He sees me all the time – and I don’t cringe at the thought.   He certainly sees my flaws. But he loves me anyway.  He’s seen them, we’ve talked about them, he helps me work some of the flaw-edness out of my life.  He knows things about me I’m not even ready to admit to myself.

And yet he loves me. He sees the potential in me, not just the current reality.  And it’s that vulnerability we have with each other, the trust that he loves me regardless and he works to help me overcome my flaws – that’s what has made us closer.  All because I’ve openly shared all my flaws with him.

The cringe factor is gone.

And then it hit me.  THIS is why the Bible tells us to confess our sins to God. For years I’ve known “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”  I’ve always viewed this as just describing a transaction – “I confess, God forgives.”  But it’s more than that.  It’s also relational.  Because when I bring my shortcomings to God and confess them – yes, He forgives me.  But it also opens me up to a much deeper relationship with Him.  We’ve discussed my shortcomings.  He’s said “I forgive you.”  He’s helping me overcome those sins (good thing, because on my own I’ve not been too successful!).  He sees me as perfected, because Jesus died to take away my sins.  We can be closer because I’ve experienced His unconditional love – in spite of me.

“If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”  1 John 1:9

Another confession –

I’ll admit that in the past I haven’t been too consistent about confessing my sins to God.  OK – Maybe if I did a “whopper sin” – but otherwise, confession hasn’t featured prominently in my prayer life.  The smaller sins tended to just slide on by.  After all, I’m alot less sinful than I used to be….  And I would rather spend my prayer time asking for things and praying for other people, rather than dwelling on my sins.   But when I don’t confess my sins, well….I can’t even forgive myself, much less experience God’s forgiveness.

I know I’m not the only one.  King David was a man after God’s heart – and even he messed up big time by sleeping with Bathsheba and then having her husband killed to avoid discovery.  And after trying to avoid the topic with God, even David experienced the restored relationship with God when he said “I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them.  I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’  And you forgave me!  All my guilt is gone. For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble.  You surround me with songs of victory.” (Psalm 32:5)

And with that, I decided it was time for a confession experiment. If confessing could make me not want to cringe before my Lord about some parts of my life, then bring it on!

And while I was doing that, I decided to go for the gusto!  No more of those wimpy confessions – like (hypothetical example) “I told a little white lie today.”  Because those are merely symptoms.  While I was clearing the air, I wanted to get at the root of my sins. Why did I lie? Because I want to look good, because I care more about me than about honoring my God, because I am proud and self-centered.  Because I don’t trust God to get me through the consequences of telling the truth.

Why confess just symptoms, if the root issues remain?  Whatever it was, I was ready to bring it before God.  Because on the day I end up standing before God, just me….I don’t want to be cringing.  I want to be saying “Thank You God – that was SO awesome how you helped me overcome that!”

So lately I’ve been spending time each day focusing on confession.  And you know what? I don’t think I’ve shocked God yet.  In fact, I’ve never been so motivated to confess my sins.  I’ve got plenty!  But I have a great God who forgives me and helps me overcome.

How about you?  Have you “come clean” with God about your sin?  If so, what was your experience?  Or (like me) do you tend to avoid confession?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

My Sabbatical Year – Rediscovering Me

Absence-ManagementWhat happens when you suddenly find yourself with 50+ hours of free time each week?  When a large part of your identity is just….gone?

Virtually all of us will experience this at some time in our lives.  It happened to me two weeks ago when I left my job – and the structure it gave the last 32 years of my life.  For you it could be job loss, the end of a relationship, a sudden illness, a child leaving home, a death or even the end of football season.

Anticipated or not, the result is the same.  Yesterday you were a valued employee, a student, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a child of your parents, or healthy.  Today you are no longer one of those.  Who are you now?  What do you do?

If you’re like me, things may have been too hectic anyway.  I often said I’d love to catch a break.  But now that it’s here….now what?

Several years ago, after a death in our family, the folks from hospice cautioned us not to make any major decisions – that after a major loss, you need time to reorient yourself.  But our life couldn’t wait!  So we sold our house, moved 1000 miles away, bought a lot, contracted with a builder, and made a hundred different decisions about options for our new house.  (The house worked out ok, if you were wondering!).  Forget grieving, we were busy!

I don’t want to do that now.  I want to take time to reexamine who I am and where I’m headed.  What does God have for me?  I want to spend time in prayerful consideration understanding what is of God….and what is not.

Before I announced my departure, I knew I’d have a sudden void in my life and wanted something to ease the transition.  So I volunteered to help a friend with a 3-month project.  I joined the YMCA.  I scheduled a visit with Mom.  That’s ok. I think that was smart.  Where we can smooth an abrupt transition, that’s appropriate.

But deciding the direction of my life for the long haul?  That’s more serious.  As much has I’d like it, God doesn’t often smack me upside the head with the answer.  And both God and Satan can put potential options out there for me to see.  One is God’s will, the other is just a distraction.  Within 2 hours of announcing my departure, I received an email from an organization I already volunteer with – an offer to engage more deeply.  Maybe.  Within 4 hours, I received my first contact from old coworkers, many of whom are now engaged in consulting work.  I would be good at consulting.  But is that why I retired?  To do more of the same?  Maybe not…..

It would be comfortable to sign up for several commitments so I can to keep my schedule as jam-packed as I’ve been used to.  And then I’d be stressed, behind on the things that really matter, missing the people I want to be with – in fact I’d be right back almost exactly where I started.  Not smart….

So as I head into this new chapter – this thing I refuse to call retirement (because that smacks of “you’re OLD”), I’ve made a commitment.  To me, to the Hubbie, and to God. For one year, I am going to swear off making major commitments.

I will not take on any significant new long-term roles, paid or unpaid.  A limited project?  Ok.  Specific dates with no ongoing weekly commitment?  OK.  Beyond that….ask me next year.

This is my year to figure out my life.   To spend time with the ones I love, to meet new friends.  To be intentional.  To learn to trust God….to REALLY trust Him.

This is my sabbatical year.

Here’s what I’ll be doing – in no particular order.

1.  Reconnecting with friends and family.  Want to do lunch?  Want to go on an adventure?  Give me a call!   My relationships have taken a back seat due to the demands of work – it’s time to fix that.

Last week I had fun experimenting with fireworks photography

Last week I had fun experimenting with fireworks photography

2.  Exploring/renewing hobbies – I want to learn to use my new camera better.  I have a huge stack of unread books – hopefully I can plow through some of those.  I want to do more cooking and try new recipes.  I want to learn to tune my own piano.  I want to try kayaking.  I want to go target and trap shooting with the Hubbie.  I want to run Disney’s Princess Half Marathon.  I’m thinking of brushing up on my Spanish.  Have another idea?  I might add it to my list!

My Work and Home Offices - All Crammed Together.  Too Much Junk!

What Happens When You Bring Your Work Office into Your Home Office – Too Much Junk!

3.  Purging surplus possessions.  There hasn’t been a good purging in the Gleaton household since shortly after we got married, when we had a spectacular garage sale to offload most of Hubbie’s bachelor stuff.  With his permission of course…..  It’s time for another one!

4.  Getting myself in shape!  Did you ever say you’ll get in shape once you have more time?  Yeah, I’ve said that for 32 years.   I’m hoping now to actually do that.

5.  Reconnecting with God in a challenging way.  Sure, I have a spiritual routine.  Daily devotions, go to church, etc.  But I’m convinced God wants much more than that.  I want to focus on being in-tune with God and in-the-moment, seeing others each day as God sees them and relating to them  with Christ-like love (instead of my natural tendency to  focus on to-do lists and long-term projects).

6.  Exploring opportunities for serving others – In the midst of all this, I want to be open to new or better ways of serving others.  I have no idea how this one will unfold.  Stay tuned and we’ll figure it out together!

When this year of sabbatical is over, I hope to have a different story.  Instead of saying “a large part of my identity is gone,”  I hope to be saying “I’m so excited about the future – here’s where I’m going.”  I hope to have figured out what Michael Hyatt calls a Symphonic Life, where all the parts of my life are aligned around a common purpose and important parts of my life don’t get squeezed out.

But right now, this sabbatical year is a bit of an adventure, one day at a time.  Where will I end up, and what will it look like?  Who knows….but God has a plan, and that’s good enough for me.

How about you – have you ever lost a major part of your identity?  How did you handle that?  Did you ever take a sabbatical?  Have an idea for something I should do?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

 

I Met God at the Philadelphia Zoo

I’ve been away from the blog for a bit….there are some things in my life I’m not ready to blog about…yet.  But don’t worry – all things will become clear very soon!

In the meantime, Hubbie and I had a chance to go to the Philadelphia Zoo.  We hadn’t been there in about 10 years, so we figured it was time.  The weather was spectacular and it seemed like a wonderful time to wander in a beautiful setting and enjoy some time together.   Just the two of us.  And thousands of other people.  And some animals.

You may remember I have a new camera I’m trying to learn to use, and the zoo seemed a great place to experiment with it.  So please humor me as I show you a few of my favorite pics from the day.  Like this one:

tortoise 1

Tortoise Close Up!

Now here’s a face only a mother could love – a mother tortoise, that is. Somehow, when you get up close, you see more of the personality and less of “just a slow lumbering animal.”

We learned a group of tortoises is called a “CREEP.”  How appropriate!  Well, the zoo has a nice area where the tortoises roam free and do whatever their tortoise hearts desire – swim in the pond, creep across the yard,  eat, you name it.

zoo tortoise2

Tortoise Licking up a Leaf

Did you ever wonder how a tortoise eats?  I mean have you really studied it?  We watched the tortoises ripping up grass, but I never thought about how they pick up the small bits of grass since they don’t have lips like ours.  And then we say this guy…. sticking out his tongue to pick a leaf out of the mulch.  Who new???

zoo giraffe5

Giraffes

Then it was on to the “tower” of giraffes – always a favorite of mine.  We stayed a while, watching their leg joints “snap” into place with each step, and then seeing them reach awkwardly down to eat some grass.

zoo giraffe1

Giraffe Stretcchhhhhing for Food

Have you ever seen giraffe eyelashes?  They’re quite remarkable – check out those uppers!

zoo giraffe2

Giraffe Eyelashes

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Mother and Baby Gibbon

This little Gibbon baby and his mom were just too cute.  This is the one time he was visible – the rest of the time Mom was swinging on the jungle gym with the baby clinging to her stomach.

zoo monkeys

Do You Know What Kind of Monkey This Is? I Don’t….

I never figured out what kind of monkey these are, but I love their expression! We had quite a time watching this guy who’s aptly named a Silverback Gorilla.   He watched us for a while, all macho-like, then ripped up a big hunk of sod in his hand and threw it at us as he charged us.

Silverback Gorilla

Silverback Gorilla

 

He did have a softer more pensive side, though….zoo silverback gorilla5

zoo penguins

Humboldt Penguins

The penguins are another favorite of mine.   Just wait until the zoo keeper hints feeding time is near, and all their heads  immediately snap over in his direction!

You probably don’t want to go to the zoo with me, because I’ll totally ignore you (just ask Hubbie – fortunately he didn’t mind, because I was so enjoying the camera he gave me).

I LOVE being at the zoo and watching the animals – all the different kinds of animals, each so different from the other.  Some very beautiful, some not – but each amazing in its own way.  I get transfixed, and it makes me forget the other things pulling for my attention – all the deadlines, problems and uncertainties in life that can hang like a dark cloud over me.  When I’m at the zoo, I am just amazed at what I see.

flowers As I planted flowers at my house the next day, I thought about how much I enjoyed flowers too.  I’m not particularly good at growing plants, and I rely heavily on Miracle Grow to prevent plant disasters.   I realized I got that same feeling from digging in the dirt, looking at the delicate roots and various flowers of my new baby plants, and then sticking them in their new homes on my deck.

I think I figured out why I love hanging out with animals and flowers. They’re all part of God’s creation, aren’t they?  That’s obvious, but that’s not all.

In Genesis 1,we read about God creating the plants and animals and placing them in the Garden of Eden – for us.  Eden was to be our home, where we would live with God and enjoy His creation.  Can you imagine that?  It blows my mind, really, to think that God would ever want to hang out in person anywhere with me – ME. But that’s what the Bible tells us.  God made the garden, and He made it all very good –  a beautiful home for us to be with Him. Can  you imagine hanging out with God, learning from Him all the intricacies of all He created, and why He made each one as He did?  (I personally want to know why God made scorpions….)  It’s kind of like having a personal tour of the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo – only on a much grander scale.

Well, you probably know that Adam and Eve messed everything up – for themselves, and for you and me.  They sinned, and that was the end of living with God in the garden.

And today, society tells us God is dead, God started things going and then left it all alone, God doesn’t care, God is angry at us, God just wants to punish us, etc.

But it’s all wrong.

Because when I read the Bible, I see something very different.  I see a God who created a beautiful place for me to be with Him – and that means God WANTS to be with me.  And after Adam and Eve sinned, God didn’t leave mankind totally alone in the world with no “tour guide.”  Because God still wants to be with us.  God’s desire to reach out to us didn’t end – it was just complicated by our sin marring the relationship.

And in this broken world, He gave us bits and pieces of His creation – clues as to what He originally intended, places where, if we will just slow down and stop, we can see Him in nature and catch our breath to realize that….yes….God IS there, revealing Himself and His creation to us. It never ended – God still wants to have relationship with us.  And so even though we live in a far from perfect world, God is still there, showing us His creation as He’s done since the beginning, revealing His glory.

And when I see it, I am amazed…..

That explains my zoo trip.  I met God at the Philadelphia zoo that day.  God showed me His creation…and I watched in awe.  And took some photos to help me remember my special time with God!

Well, you may not care for the zoo like I do.

You may not be impressed by my animal photos.

But you know what?  Everyone has their own part of creation that speaks to them.  That makes them forget time, worries and cares.  That makes them stop and go “Wow – God, this is AWESOME.”

There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.     – John Calvin

YOU have one of those special places too, where – whether you realize it or not – God is waiting to meet you, to delight in showing you what He has made, and in doing so, telling you about Himself.

Where is your place?  Perhaps for you it’s a waterfall, a field of flowers, the ocean waves, a forest, or a beautiful sunset.

My friend, Murgendra Mehta, meets God in His creation as well, and captures the beauty in wonderful photos (his make mine look like child’s play).  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mrugendra taking pictures at a zoo (as soon as he reads this, I’ll probably get a call to tell me he HAS taken pictures at a zoo).  But put him in an area with nature or waterfalls, and he takes tremendous shots – ready reminders of God’s creation when we can’t be in nature ouselves.  Here are some of my favorites – you can click on the photo to link back to his webpage to see which are YOUR favorites.  (If you like, you can also purchase his work on the website).   I LOVE it when God shows me His creation.  The presence of God makes me forget everything else.  Deep inside of me, God has placed a desire to enjoy His beauty and reflect on my Creator.  It’s what He always intended – that I would enjoy the beauty that He made for me.  Too often, I get caught up and miss out on the wonder of God’s creation.  But I’m convinced my world would be much better if I would intentionally make time every day to enjoy creation, where God delights in showing off for me.

The Bible tells us that one day God WILL make all things new – restoring creation to the original beauty He made for us.  And I will be in God’s presence.  It will be perfect – just like God intended it all to be.

Today we just have the preview – a dim view of what God intends.  It can be easy to miss.  I need to stop and look.  But it’s there.

I met God at the Philadelphia Zoo.  How about you – where do you meet with God and marvel in His creation?   What makes you stop….captures your mind….makes you forget all else by God and His wonder?    I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments….

4 Unforgettable Lessons from Running the Race!

Having Fun Before the Rain

Having Fun Before the Rain

Last week I ran my first half-marathon – an exciting, miserable morning I’ll never forget.  The weather forecast had been glorious – 57 degrees and sunny.  But 48 hours before the race, everything changed.  The temperature dropped into the 40’s, with wind and rain all day.   In the end, it was a record-breaking 3 inches of rain – a monsoon.  The great adventure I’d so looked forward to became something just to endure. During my hours of running I pondered, reflecting on things I’d learned – all about running, some about my life as a follower of Christ.  I will never forget…..

Running Lesson #1 – Garbage Bags are a Girl’s Best Friend!

Never Underestimate the Ability of a Garbage Bag to Keep You Warm!

Never Underestimate the Ability of a Garbage Bag to Keep You Warm!

When I heard it was going to rain, I frantically searched the internet to see how best to cope. I soon got the magic answer – garbage bags!  They keep you dry, they keep you warm.  You can tear a hole in the bottom for your head, and then holes for your arms when you’re ready to run.  And if you ever get too warm (I didn’t!) and want to get rid of it, you can just toss it!   I kept mine on til the end – I’m convinced my trusty garbage bag was one of the main things enabling me to finish – and it certainly kept me from catching pneumonia!

Running Lesson #2 – Hydrate, But Not Too Much!

Well, this was a new problem for me – a delicate topic, but here goes.   It’s always wise to visit “the little room” – or in this case, the Porta-Potty – before you line up to start the race.  I did that.  But I’ll admit the length of this race – a first for me – had me a bit stressed.  My mouth was dry as cotton.  And so I kept sipping at my water bottle, hoping to get rid of the dry mouth.

Nothing worse than a LINE at the Porta-Potties!

Nothing worse than a LINE at the Porta-Potties!

Unfortunately, I failed to take into consideration that it takes a lot longer to line up 10,000 runners for a half-marathon in Philly than it does a mere 300 runners for a local 5k race.  Lots of time to be nervous and sip water – in retrospect, way too much water.  And before the race even started, I knew I was doomed.  I tried to convince myself it was all in my head, but to no avail.  I was trapped in the starting area with no relief in site.  When the race finally started, off I ran, hoping to find a Porta-Potty before things became critical. At last, I found one!  Only to find out there was a slow moving line – a 15-minute wait! I eventually gave up and ran another 2 (very desperate) miles to find a shorter line.

Running Lesson #3 – Train Tough – Beat Your Body!

half marathon yet more garbage bagsIn my mind (and actually, in all my prior experiences), all races were accompanied by beautiful sunny skies.  Whether cold or hot, it was always sunny.  But not this day!  At the start of the race, I managed to stay fairly dry.  I knew running in my garbage bag would generate enough heat to keep my torso warm.  But the rest of me?  Well…..

By mile 5, I started to feel cold water seeping into my shoes.

By mile 5 1/2, my shoes and socks were soaked.  My feet started to go numb.

By mile 7, my fingers were getting stiff.

By mile 8, my fingers were totally non-functional.  I had brought gummy bears in a zip-lock bag for snacking to help keep my blood sugar up, but by this time I couldn’t open and close the bag any more, let alone pick up gummy bears and put them in my mouth.  I resorted to sticking my face in the bag to get at the bears, and just held the bag closed to try and keep my gummy friends dry.

By mile 9, my gummy bears were all wet and had become “Slimy Bears”….and more and more of them eluded my mouth, slipping out and landing on the street.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned I was very naive about running.  Sure, it’s a physical sport, but it’s also a mental sport.  As you run, your mind keeps telling you to stop.  Like the serpent in the garden of Eden trying to derail Eve, the mind says it’s ok to stop – just for a little while.  It says you’ll never finish.  You will die of cold.  Yes, you might be able to do this in good weather, but how could you ever finish this under these conditions? Everyone will understand if you don’t.

And as I wrestled through these mind games, these lies told inside my head, I suddenly realized what Paul meant in I Cor 9:24-27 when he says “Do you not know know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  

I’ve read 1 Cor 9:24 more times than I can count. I generally think of it in terms of watching the Olympics. I sit on my comfy couch and think “Yes, it’s just like these athletes.  I can envision them training so hard!” But this day I realized I’d never really personalized what it meant for me. During my hours of running through the cold soaking rain, it hit me.

I had failed to train correctly.  

Oh sure, I’d put in the miles. I’d even run in the cold. Since this race was so early in the year, I’d run through the winter, much of it outside. I’d worked on developing the mental toughness to will myself to keep running when I wanted to quit.  But when it rained….I ran on my treadmill.  In my very dry, very warm  house.

And this was my downfall.

So when the race-day weather forecast changed, I found myself scrambling to figure out what to wear, how to prevent blisters from waterlogged socks and shoes.  And as I ran, I thought about the importance of trying to anticipate the various situations I might encounter, and then making sure I incorporated some of the most probable challenges into my training program.  I needed to train tough!

Because if I’d trained in the cold rain as I should have, all this would have been a non-event.  Cold and miserable, I could told myself “no problem – I’ve done this before.  I know how to get through this.”  Instead, I kept trudging along hoping I would make it to the finish before I froze.

Which made me wonder over my hours of running…..when Paul talks about beating his body in I Cor 9:24, he wasn’t just talking about running – he was talking about life. What does that look like for my life as a Christian?  To intentionally put myself in very uncomfortable situations – over and over and over – so that I’m assured of finishing well, attaining the prize waiting for me?

I’m still pondering this one, but here are some thoughts.  Getting up early to spend time in God’s Word….Every. Single. Day.  No matter how tired I am.  Intentionally spending time with the unlovable – the unpopular, the controversial – listening to them, befriending them, sharing with them.  Wading into areas of desperate poverty – sharing life with those in poverty, understanding what it’s like for them, sacrificing time and resources to help them lift themselves out of poverty.   Following God’s leading, even when it doesn’t conform to society’s expectations.

I need to be more intentional about doing this, because I believe it can really grow my faith and transform how I live my life for Him.  I believe because I’ve seen first-hand.  The  trips The Hubbie and I have taken into areas of deep poverty  in Latin America and Africa have transformed my perspective on my ability to live on next to nothing.  I know I could survive financial ruin, because I’ve seen God provide in dramatic ways for my friends living in poverty.   That’s one worry I don’t have anymore – where my faith is sure.  What other worries need to be trained out of me by training tough, beating my spiritual body?

Running Lesson #4 – Stay Focused on the REAL Prize

I started out thinking I was running for personal satisfaction, a t-shirt, a coffee mug and a medal.  In the end, none of that mattered.  Honestly, what really motivated me

Crossing the Finish Line! (still in my garbage bag)

Crossing the Finish Line! (still in my garbage bag)

to keep going was the thought of a warm shower back at the hotel.

In the race called life, we anticipate many rewards – happiness, success, family.  During life’s tough training, sometimes it looks like we’ll never finish, we can’t possibly last.  And that’s where keeping our eyes on the prize  – the one that REALLY counts – makes all the difference.

Don’t ever give up hope – and don’t ever stop pushing and beating up your spiritual body.  We will finish, and it will be worth it – because it will be glorious!  

How about you?

What kind of races are you running?  Maybe you’re a “real” runner, and like me, you need to consider a different kind of training to help you prepare for your next race.

Whether you’re a runner or not, we’re all running that other race called life.  How would God have you “train tough” to be ready for the challenges you’re likely to face?  If you’ve already stepped into uncomfortable situations instead of staying comfortable, how have you seen your faith in God grow as a result?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Toilets, Lightning Bolts, and Other Lessons in Prayer

http://gameshows.wikia.com/wiki/Let's_Make_a_Deal?file=Vlcsnap-596763.png

http://gameshows.wikia.com/wiki/Let’s_Make_a_Deal?file=Vlcsnap-596763.png

Sometimes I feel like a contestant in series of TV game shows.  Just recently, for example, I had to choose between two different options for a major change in my life.  For those who used to watch the show “Let’s Make a Deal,” it was like Carol Merrill offering the prize behind Door #1 or Door #2.  The contestant must select Door #1 or #2 without knowing what’s on the other side of the door.  It could be a new car, it could be a monkey, it could be a $1 bill.  And so the person chooses, hoping they’ve made the right choice – but afraid that when the door is opened, everyone will know they made the wrong choice.

Now I was that person staring at Door #1 and Door #2.

Make a choice, and make it soon. The choice that hopefully aligns with God’s will for my life.  Did it really matter in the long run whether I chose #1 or #2?  I didn’t know…because I couldn’t see the other side.  It could be a very important choice, or a totally inconsequential choice.  But because it had the potential to impact several other people, I wanted to choose wisely, as God would have me choose.

And so…..I went with “Phone a Friend”  (yes, from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”).  When all else fails, I call on my prayer partner.  We don’t live close, but thanks to the wonders of technology, we can be in touch at a moment’s notice.   I explained my dilemma, the pros and cons of my options, and my desire for God to guide me.  Actually, it was more like “I need clear direction as to the right option.  You know…..a lightning bolt this weekend would be nice.”  Funny how cavalier we can be when approaching the Almighty.  “Hey God, how about telling me your will for my life – oh, and let me know in the next 2 days – and send a lighting bolt or something else unmistakable to be sure I don’t miss it.”  I’m lucky He didn’t hit me with a lightning bolt right then!

Prayer partners are wonderful, because when you feel lost or hopeless, you know you’ve got someone in your corner pulling for you. Someone lifting you and your issues up to God even when you can’t.  And so I went about my life, knowing my prayer partner was doing her part.  Waiting…..

It’s at this point that I need to tell you a lesson I learned on prayer many years ago.  I lesson taught by a toilet.

http://www.awkwardgrl.com/2011_04_01_archive.html

This is about what we looked like – trying to have a little fun in our crisis!

I was living in a house of 8 women…and 2 bathrooms.  And as inevitably happens, one of our two toilets….ahem…..well let’s just say it no longer flushed.

All our attempts at flushing it were met with threats of great flooding.  You get the idea!  We tried everything, and I mean EVERYTHING.  Nothing worked!  We had no money for a plumber.  We were stuck.  Finally, when we were truly desperate, one of our group suggested praying over this stopped up porcelain beauty.  Because God wants to meet our needs, right?  And if ever there was a need, this was it!  8 women and only one functioning toilet is a disaster if ever there was one!  So after much anxiety, one of us, I don’t remember who, suggested we pray over the toilet.  We all gathered around, and just as we were about to pray, a shred of doubt began to fester.  There was one camp – “Isn’t this sacrilegious?  To pray over a toilet?”  And the other camp “We can bring ANYTHING to God – He cares for our needs, and this is a NEED if ever there was one!”  Ultimately, the latter camp won.  We prayed and we prayed.  And then we flushed.   And the water….well…..it rose and rose and rose.  It reached the very rim and threatened to go all over the floor and down into the basement apartment under our house.  And then one of the “Let’s pray” camp sighed “I guess God’s not going to fix our toilet after all.”

We had reached the end of our faith.

But just then it happened!  All of a sudden, it cleared with a huge WOOSH, and all was well.  And thus the lesson I’ve never forgotten, the one taught me by a toilet….God answers prayer, but sometimes He brings me to the breaking point in my faith to show me I can trust Him more – sometimes I give up too soon.

Back to my original story.  There was no lightning bolt or flaming arrow or even as much as a smoke signal that weekend.  The little voice of doubt was whispering in my mind that God wasn’t going to provide clear direction after all.  I was just going to have to make a decision and hope God would intervene if I did something really stupid.

I had reached the end of my faith.

A week later it happened.  A conversation – not at all what I’d expected.  Someone explained to me why Door #2 was not only right – it was good for me and good for others in ways I hadn’t imaged – that I hadn’t even dreamed were possible.  Suddenly all the fog cleared and the path forward became brutally obvious.  Of course – it had to be Door #2.

I went on my way, relieved to have a plan.  I shot a quick note to my prayer partner telling her I would go with Door #2.  She replied…..”So, was this the lightning bolt we were praying for?”  And then I realized…she was right!  I needed clear direction.  I prayed for clear direction.  But I didn’t expect to get such clear direction.  To avoid disappointment, I’d reduced my expectations to hoping for a mere hint as to which choice to make.  I’d given up on God answering in the direct way I’d asked.  But He did.  And because I wasn’t expecting it, I missed it!

Oh me of little faith!live-expectantly

I wonder how many other answers to prayer I miss because I don’t live expectantly?  Or I expect, but not very much?  And if I were to spend my time waiting, really looking, how many other answers to prayer would I see?  Not because there were more answers, but because I was looking for them?

And at that moment I realized another benefit of having a prayer partner.  Not just someone to lift me up in prayer, but someone to help me see when my prayers are answered.   God answered my prayer in a way designed just for me, and He didn’t want me to miss it.  So He used my prayer partner’s words to point it out.

How about you – Has your confidence that God would answer your prayers ever fizzled out too soon? Do you have a prayer partner?   If not, how do ensure you see all God’s answers to your prayers?  

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments – and especially if you were one of my housemates praying over the toilet that day! :-)

 

 

Faith – Cruising on Auto….

The gift that taught me about faith

THANKS Dear! Fortunately, the gift made up for the card!

I have a new toy! (The Hubbie did great for my birthday!)

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been fascinated with photography.  It started with my first Brownie camera – remember those?  But somehow all I ever progressed to were “point-and-shoot” cameras.

Because I always had one rule – my camera must be convenient.

It couldn’t be heavy, it needed to fit in my purse, it needed to be easy to use.  I wanted artistry that didn’t interfere with my life.  Now don’t get me wrong – point-and-shoot cameras have become pretty good over the years.  But looking at other people’s photos, I know I can do better….a lot better.

If only I had a “real” camera to take advantage of all its features.

the gift that taught me about faithSo I was delighted when the Hubbie got me a “real” camera for my birthday, with lots of lenses, settings,  buttons, dials and other gizmos that attach and plug in….somewhere.  I’m still figuring out where.

Which leads to my next dilemma….how do I use this thing?

Because when faced with a “Kodak moment,” I need to set up the camera to capture my spectacular picture. And for that, using my camera needs to be second nature.

But there’s a major temptation I face, every time I use it.  It’s called….Auto mode.  That evil Auto mode…..

Faith on Auto

Auto Mode – the Great Tempter!

It seems the marketers knew there’d be lots of people like me who want good results, but don’t want to do the up-front work for outstanding results. So they made Auto mode, which essentially turns my camera into just an expensive point-and-shoot model. Trapping me forever in the world of pretty good, but not great….and definitely lacking the competence to work a “real” camera.

What do I need to be competent?  Not much. Actually, I have everything I need – except practice.  Taking the same picture over and over, using different settings – in MANUAL Mode – seeing what works and what doesn’t.  Changing lenses until I figure out how to do it quickly. Over and over. It will happen if I spend the time.

But somehow it’s never “the right time” to practice.  It’s just so tempting to use Auto.  Nikon gave me a booklet on how to set the camera for each kind of picture.  A reference manual.  But how can I see a great shot – and then tell everyone “hold that pose” while I go read the reference manual?  Tell your family that.  Tell a bunch of wiggly kids that.  Tell a sports team to freeze the action for a few minutes. HAH!

But my friend Auto……

Auto is easy.

Auto is comfortable.

Auto makes me look like I know what I’m doing…..even when I don’t!

I love Auto…..

But……only spending time in Manual mode gives me the maturity I want.

I got a bit uncomfortable when a little voice hinted to me that this was like my faith.  

There’s a difference between interest and commitment.  When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient.  When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.  – Kenneth Blanchard

I often wish I had great faith – like Paul, or Billy Graham.  God’s made it clear – God doesn’t play favorites with our faith.  I CAN have great faith, if I’ll get out of “Christian Auto” mode, be willing to roll up my sleeves, work in “Manual” mode and trust God, step by step.

Now Auto mode is not entirely bad.  It’s kind of like training wheels for your bike – supporting you, helping you develop basic skills.  We all need to start in Auto mode.  But we miss out if we stay there.

What does Christian Auto mode look like?  It may be different for you, but here’s what it looks like for me:  focusing only on building and maintaining relationships with Christians, because they support me in my spiritual walk without really challenging me.

Not bad….but if I want to have mature faith, I need to move into “Manual mode”, stepping out in faith and trying new things.  For me, that means focusing on developing relationships with non-Christians, especially those that are “unlovable,” or involved in “the big sins.”  Being their friend, loving them right where they are, in tangible ways so they can see the love of Jesus in me.

Maybe you can relate to that.  Or maybe to these:

Auto: Attending Bible studies, but not reading the Bible myself (other than perhaps looking up some verses for Bible study homework).

Manual – Daily Bible reading and studying – on my own.  Finding one thing each day to apply…..and then applying it.  Reading the Bible all the way through….several times.

Auto – Talking about something I do at church, without ever talking about faith issues.  Or inviting friends to church so they can hear someone else talk about Jesus.

Manual – Learning to talk about my faith in everyday language folks can understand.  Initiating spiritual conversations with non-Christians, that progress all the way from general spiritual topics to helping them commit their lives to Christ.

Auto – adding items to a prayer list.

Manual – routinely getting on my knees for my needs and the events of my day – that one day.  Sharing with others about how God answered my prayers that day.

I have to confess – so often I intend to operate in Manual – but in that last moment, I cave. I resort to Auto.  It’s a day-by-day moment-by-moment thing – so many decisions, each one about whether I’ll step out in faith, or whether at the last minute I’ll say “Maybe next time.” Each “next time” delaying the growth of my faith to maturity, my ability to trust God and capably handle the situations that are coming my way.

So….over the next several months, I’m going to spend a lot of time with my new camera…first in Auto mode, but quickly moving to Manual mode.  Because I want to grow in my photography skills.  And that “evil Auto” button is my reminder that I need to shift into Manual…to gain Maturity.

And when it comes to Jesus?  I’m asking Him for an opportunity each day where I can wade into Manual….for Maturity. My current area of focus is making social connections with those that don’t yet know Jesus – a divine appointment.  I’m excited to see what God will do as I practice trusting Him!

How about you – when does your faith slip into Auto?   Or perhaps you can encourage others with the story of how you were able to step out in your faith?  I’d love it if you’d share your perspective in the comments!

 

 

Worship – Setting My Inner Child Free…..

This past week’s snowstorm caused no end of excitement in our household.  So much, in fact, that some of my friends marveled at how I could get so excited by something as simple as a little snow. But here’s the thing – it wasn’t about the snow….. My life is complicated – I’m sure yours is too.  I routinely deal with heavy topics that  consume my life.  They spill over into everything.  I’m distracted when I shouldn’t be, I’m too tired to enjoy things, and occasionally I don’t react as I should (yes, it’s true…).  What’s more,  when I go to church, sometimes I struggle to stay focused and worship. But every once in a while, something happens that changes all that.  Snow is one of those things.  I’m not talking about just seeing lots of “white stuff” on the ground, or skiing or sledding.  I’m talking snow FLAKES – watching them land, and looking at their designs before they melt to nothing before my eyes.Snowflake1 Yes, like most of you (at least those that will admit it), there is a small child that still lives in me. And this child plays a bit of a game, trying to find two identical snowflakes.  I haven’t done it yet.  And I understand from those who’ve tried, even after cataloging thousands and thousands of snowflakes, I’m not likely to see two that look the same.  And even if I did – I’m pretty much guaranteed they will be different if only I look closer. But I digress….. The whole point is that snowflakes captivate me – they make me lose all sense of time, and forget my problems and anything else that’s not really that important.

   I want to let my “inner child” worship, as only my inner child can do.

And they evoke this surprising response from me. It’s like God is showing off part of His creation in a private showing – just for me.  I’m filled with wonder – at the beauty and detail of what God has made, and at the incredible God that could create something like this. I’m  amazed that God would choose to show off His creation….to ME!.  It drives home to me that God not only knows I exist, He delights in me and loves to reveal Himself to me. And I love Him…. Well, it’s not just snow that does this.  There are other things….. Like seeing the tops of the clouds when I fly in a plane:  Above_the_Clouds In all of history, it’s only in the last several decades that anyone has seen this.  I get all excited to see this view that previously only God and the angels saw.  How cool is THAT???       And spider webs (without the spiders :-) ):Spider Web Morning I think about the God that designed the webs – all their various shapes and purposes.  They are beautiful and so perfectly detailed…..     Things like these in nature trigger the same reaction in me: This is SO beautiful……I can’t believe I got to see this….that God is showing this to ME – just me! And I feel like the most special child of God on the planet! I am TOTALLY delighting in God!     I am WORSHIPING God! I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever felt that way.  I think might be a little of how David felt in 2 Samuel 6, when he was bringing the Ark to Jerusalem for the second time. You may remember that his first attempt didn’t work out so well – because David didn’t do it God’s way.  But David learned, and now the second time was incredible.

David Dancing before the Lord

David Dancing Before the Lord(http://lorialexander.blogspot.com/2013/11/a-scolding-wife.html)

And so we see David, in pure joy, praising God by “dancing before the LORD with all his might.”  It got to the point that David’s wife told him this was totally inappropriate behavior for a king.  But David was adamant: “therefore I will celebrate before the LORD.”  I think David was bursting with joy that God had allowed him to do something as special as bringing the ark to Jerusalem. And so he danced with child-like abandon, not caring what others might think. That’s what I want.  I don’t want to act my age, or according to what others think is appropriate when I’m with God.  I want to worship and celebrate before Him – no holds barred, in  pure joy.  I want to let my “inner child” worship, as only my inner child can do. Which makes me wonder – isn’t this another aspect of what Jesus meant when He said that only those who receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will enter it.   Yes, we need to come to Jesus with child-like faith, trusting Him as a child trusts a parent.  But then we are also called to worship as a child would worship – in pure amazement, pure wonder, pure enjoyment. That’s what I want in my relationship with God. And little things like snowflakes help me do that. How about you?  Am I the only one who sometimes struggles to worship in church (please tell me it’s not so!!!)  Have you found things that help you worship?  What does it look like for you when you delight in God and worship Him?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!  

My 2014 “Triple-Dog-Dare Ya” Goals

New Year’s is fast approaching, and with it my annual tradition of goal setting.  I’m a fan of  goals, but it seems every year they’re becoming eerily (wearily?) similar.

This year needs to be different….

I want to get it right – so that next December I don’t say “I didn’t make a lot of progress” or “so many missed opportunities.” You know….the gap between “how my year should be if I really live by faith” vs. what really ends up happening.

I suppose this year the sense of urgency is increasing.  It pains me to say this, but in just a few weeks I’ll be able to order off that “special menu” many restaurants have.  You know, the one with the smaller portions and lower prices. I shudder to think of the word “senior” and me being used in the same sentence.  It’s time to get serious and kick things into high gear.

Instead of focusing on the same old goals, what if we each picked at least one item that would be revolutionary in our lives? One that would hit at the undercurrent of dissatisfaction, and turn life back into a great adventure?  Would we dare do that?  Would I dare do that?

That implies change – with potentially big consequences.  It sort of makes me feel like the character Flick in that scene from “A Christmas Story”  where Schwartz dares him to stick his tongue onto a frozen pole:

christmasstory450_53158a_8col“Well I double-DOG-dare ya!”
“Now it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a “triple dare ya”? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare.” “I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya!” “Schwartz created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat!”
Ralphie, Narrator and Schwartz in A Christmas Story

That’s what I need for 2014 – a “triple-dog-dare ya” goal.  Bold and daring.  (But hopefully without leaving my tongue stuck to a pole!)

I decided to seek wisdom from the masters.  So here, my friends, in a nutshell, is pretty much everything one needs to know about goal-setting:

#1 -“YCopyright © 1995 - 2008 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). All Rights Reservedou rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices.  And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”  Mr. Rogers

Diana Translation – I have way too many demands on my life – and I’ve learned it’s impossible to do them all well.  It’s time to make some choices based on God’s Word and the gifts, talents and desires He has built into me.

francis chan#2 – “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that really don’t matter.” – Francis Chan

Diana Translation – Just because I CAN do something, doesn’t mean I should.  How can I better align myself with God’s plan for my life?  If I weren’t afraid of failure, what would I do?

tom-landry

 

#3 – “Setting a goal is not the main thing.  It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.”  Tom Landry

Diana Translation – Intentions without follow-through are cheap.  Don’t just build goals, build solid plans to make sure you reach them.

And so for me, this is the year of the “triple-dog-dare-ya” goal……

While I’m not totally done with my goal-planning (after all, it’s not January yet), these themes are emerging for my 2014:

1.  First Priority – Free up a significant amount of time to make room for the things God would have me focus on during this period in my life.

2.  Adjust my personal and ministry priorities and choices based on what really matters – especially those things that are aligned with the gifts and abilities God has given me.  This could mean many things, but for sure it will require more willingness than ever to trust God and “go out on a limb” to obey His leading, and then see what He does!

3. Share my goals and plans with a critical few who can provide wise counsel and hold me accountable.

Well, that’s where I’m at in my 2014 goal-setting. Thoughts or advice?  What about you?  What bold goal would make a big difference in your 2014?  I’d love to hear from you!

How Do You Rate?

It’s that time of year again!   No, not Christmas and New Years – I’m referring to that OTHER “special” time of year.

You know, that time where we endure employee performance reviews with our bosses – telling them what we’ve done, then hearing how the boss sees us.  I admit it – this is one of the more uncomfortable times of year for me – hoping my boss will appreciate how hard I’ve worked, but fearing he didn’t notice or understand what I did.

I’ve lived through this performance review cycle 31 times in my career. After 31 times, it’s still uncomfortableBecause let’s face it, deep down we all want to be viewed as “better than most,” and not just “average.”  

In some watodolistys, my Christian life is like this, always wondering how “the Big Boss” views me.  I want God to be so impressed with me that He comments to the angels about my amazing performance.  And since God built me to be task-oriented, I run my personal life with “to-do” lists trying to achieve great results for God.  I love checking items off my list.  Did your devotions?  Check!  And in my imagination, a little voice whispers “God is SO pleased with you for spending time with Him.”

So you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that in addition to my “to-do” lists, I also set annual goals for my life.  Please don’t laugh at me – remember, God made me like this.  It helps me get things done. Besides, having annual goals is WAY better than New Years resolutions.  Because I can work on goals all year, and not just throw everything away on January 2nd when I choose cheesecake over my New Year’s diet.

Which I probably will……

As I get to the end of this year and reflect on the state of my personal 2013 goals, I’m afraid they aren’t in great shape. My personal performance rating would be “Didn’t Meet Expectations.”  I didn’t lose 15 pounds.  I didn’t de-clutter the house.  I didn’t spend as much time with friends as I intended.  I’ve been focused on just surviving in 2013, and it shows.

In spite all that I didn’t do, I was able to spend time with Jesus most days.  And you know what?  That made all the difference.  Because Jesus is not like an earthly boss….no, He is WAY better!

Bosses says “Get things done.”

Jesus says “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind.”

Bosses says “Live by your accomplishments.”

Jesus says “Live by faith.”

Bosses say “Figure it out!”

Jesus says “Follow me, and trust me.”

Bosses say “You can be replaced.”

Jesus says “You’re precious to me – I gave my life for you.”

Bosses say “You’ll be held accountable.”

Jesus says “Your faith in me saves you from your sins, I see you as righteous.”

And that’s when I realize….being rated as “righteous” by the God of the universe….well, I can’t think of a better rating than that!  So why am I working so hard to impress Jesus, when all He asks is that I love Him, trust Him, place my faith in Him?

And as I hold on tightly to Jesus each day and trust Him, He shows me things I can do for Him that day, that don’t necessarily “count” toward my goals – but that share Christ’s love with others.  And you know what?   I think Jesus cares a lot more about my following His lead and sharing His love with others each day than about my annual goals.  I just need to remind my task-oriented brain of that.

How about you – do you live off a “to-do” list?  Are you constantly checking to see if you’ve done enough to please God?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…..