Stepping Out

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I began something yesterday, something that I knew I needed to do but had continually put off. Have you ever done that? You knew there was no getting around the fact that you needed to get something done, work on something, or focus on a goal, but you just couldn’t bring yourself to start. Why do we do this? What makes us continue to find excuses for not even beginning, let alone finishing, something we realize has to be done? There are many reasons for our procrastination, but for me it usually boils down to two. One, that I feel like I have plenty of time to get it done. Unfortunately, I seem to work well under pressure, so I will procrastinate until I feel the deadline approaching, and I have no choice but to get to work. Two, I put things off because I’m afraid I might fail. If I never start working toward that difficult goal, then I can’t fall short of reaching it. Of course, neither reason is good or even true.

The idea that I have plenty of time is one that takes a lot for granted. There is no way I can possibly know how much time I have. The book of James points out to us that our lives here on earth are like a mist that is here for a little while and then vanishes. None of us knows if we will be here tomorrow, let alone next week. Only God knows how much time we have on this earth, and it is our responsibility to use that time wisely. I should stop taking time for granted and instead, use my time to complete the tasks given me without procrastinating. In this way, I won’t leave things undone and have regrets.

My other excuse, the fear of failure, is just simply untrue. The only way I truly fail, is by not trying at all. As a child, and later as a young adult, my dad kept drilling this into my mind. He used to tell me that not trying was the true failure. He encouraged me to set my goals as high as possible, because then, even if I didn’t reach my goal, I would achieve more than I thought possible just by aiming for it. If we set our goals based only on what we know we can achieve, then we leave out one very important element, God. He wants to use us in ways we can’t even imagine. If we set our goals based only on what we feel confident we can accomplish, we leave no room for Him to amaze us and show others His power. It is scary to step out of our comfort zones, but when we do and God accomplishes something through us, what an amazing feeling we experience. It strengthens our faith and we are able to see God at work. Taking that step in faith, even if we don’t accomplish what we hope, is a victory in itself – there is no failure when we trust God.

So, yesterday I took that first step. I stopped procrastinating, thinking I had plenty of time, and I stopped worrying about failing. In my weakness, I began the journey toward accomplishing what I believe God has called me to do in His strength. It was frightening to take that first step into the unknown, but I’ll tell you a secret. Today, because I took that first step, I feel totally alive. It feels like I have woken up from a very long nap and I’m excited about the time that lies before me. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Surely there will be more scary steps to take ahead, but the adventure they’ll take me on is one I’m eager to experience.

 

Revealing the Subject

Woman photographer with camera, isolated on whiteWith the new year comes my traditional cleaning and organizing period. I’ve been busily shredding old papers, cleaning closets, and catching up on things I’ve put off. The last couple of weeks have been dedicated to cleaning out my son’s old bedroom and transforming it into a craft room. Finally! A place to have all my craft supplies neatly organized and easily accessible.

The other night I was in the new craft room, working on a scrapbook. Because I have so many pictures, I try to fit as many as possible on one page without sacrificing aesthetics. So, as I looked at the pictures of my beautiful granddaughter, I had to decide how to trim the photos. When I first started scrapbooking, I was nervous about cutting my pictures. Then I realized that most photos were filled with extraneous images that did nothing to enhance the picture, but actually took away from the subject or focus of the shot. With that realization came a freedom to cut the picture until the image I really wanted became the focus.

Our lives are so much like that. They are filled with so many extra activities, experiences, must-do’s, should-do’s, work and events, that we are spread so thin that the image of our lives becomes distorted. It’s hard to tell what is really important from what looks important, but could really be cut away. We get so busy with life that before we know it, it’s passed us by. None of us are here by chance. God determined when we would be born, to whom and where we would live. (Acts 17:26) He has a specific purpose for each one of us, but if we’re not careful, we might miss it. The busyness of life could distract us and take our focus away from what is most important.

Just like in my pictures, our eyes can be pulled away from the true subject or focus of our lives, to things that detract from our purpose. God has called us to something, and it is up to us to bring that  calling into focus by recognizing the things in our lives that either enhance it or detract from it. So, while I’m cleaning out and organizing my home, I’m going to do the same with my life. It’s time to cut away the distractions and bring my life into focus around the true subject – following God and pleasing Him. It won’t be easy, but in the end, the picture of my life will be more beautiful and full of  meaning that will outlive the snapshot of time I spend on this earth. So let the trimming begin…

Resolute Growth

(From the archives – enjoy!)

New Year!  It’s that time of year again and like most of you, I’ve been thinking about resolutions. In the past, I have not done very well with them so I am hesitant to make any this year. Yet, it seems I should set some goals. Oh, not the usual ones, losing weight, exercising more, (though I need to do both of those things) but I’m thinking more along the lines of spiritual goals. Goals that will bring me closer to God. Goals that will bring my relationship with Jesus to an even more intimate level than it currently is.  There are the tried and true – reading my Bible everyday, praying everyday, having a “quiet time” everyday – these are all admirable goals and things I know I should be doing. But this year, I want my goals to go deeper. I want to know Jesus on a whole new level and that is going to require a different set of goals.

This year, I want to read my Bible everyday and learn something new about my God from that reading. This year I want to pray everyday and have my prayers focus on praising our glorious Lord and intercession for my church family and for the lost. This year I want to have a “quiet time” everyday and focus on obeying the voice of God instead of just hearing it. If I do these things on a consistent basis I cannot help but be changed and have my relationship with God change as well.

Isn’t that what we all strive for as Christians? To have our lives changed; to become more like Christ each day; to bring glory to our Father’s name; to truly KNOW our Father in heaven! Our God is so awesome, and the fact that we can approach Him so freely is such a gracious gift! Let’s get to know Him like never before, to have His Spirit work through us in a powerful way, to bring glory to Him in everything we do, and to be used by Him in ways only He can imagine.

 

Harvest Time

Fall makes us think of harvest time. We enjoy picking apples right off the trees. Pumpkin patches are great places to take the kids and to pick the pumpkins that will eventually become the delicious pies we enjoy on Thanksgiving. Cranberries are harvested in the fall as well, just in time to make an appearance on our Thanksgiving dinner tables.

There is a proper time to harvest every fruit and vegetable, and if we don’t take advantage of that time, the fruits and vegetables will just wither on the vine; they will be lost.

There is another harvest that we must keep in mind and be sure not to miss. If we aren’t cultivating the fruit and looking for the right time to harvest it, it too will be lost. Jesus cared deeply about this particular harvest and said this in Matthew 9:36-38.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” 

We are the workers Jesus has sent out into the fields of harvest. There are so many lost in the fields, and if we don’t get to work, watering and cultivating, they will remain lost for eternity. Jesus takes the harvest very seriously and we must as well. Paul tells us in Colossians 4:5 to be wise in how we act toward those outside the church and to make the most of every opportunity. God provides the opportunities to touch the hearts of those around us with His saving love, but we have to seize the opportunities He provides.

It’s fall; it’s harvest time. Let’s get out in the fields of harvest. Let’s start making the most of every opportunity. It’s time to get to work.

Focusing the Image

Anyone who knows me at all, knows I love books, pens, and paper. I’ve been known to remind my husband, while we search all over Disney World for a pen I don’t yet have in my collection, how fortunate he is that I don’t like to clothes shop. After all, books and writing supplies are so much cheaper than clothes.

My latest fancy is the fountain pen. I’ve been thinking about getting one for a long time and finally purchased my first a couple of weeks ago. I’m hooked. There will definitely be more fountain pens in my future. While writing with my new pen I started to draw some comparisons between it and the Christian life. Okay, I know that sounds strange, but just hang in here with me for a minute.

Think of the fountain pen as the physical body that goes about doing all the tasks necessary in our daily lives. When you look at a fountain pen, you only see the outside. You can see the body of the pen and the nib, or point, of the pen, but nothing else. That’s what people see when they look at us. They see our outside, our physical body, nothing more.

On the inside of the fountain pen is an ink cartridge. It is this cartridge which supplies the flow of ink to the nib. Writing with a fountain pen takes some getting used to. At first I wrote with the same pressure I apply to a ball point, and I didn’t like the results. The ink spread too much on the paper and the writing looked blurry. I even thought about abandoning my new pen, but then decided that maybe the problem wasn’t the pen, maybe it was me. So I tried again, applying different amounts of pressure until I was happy with the result. What I found out was that with a fountain pen, you don’t really need to apply much pressure. The ink just flows smoothly from the cartridge, through the nib, to the paper if you let it happen naturally.

It’s the same way with us. When we became Christians, the Holy Spirit was given to us by God to dwell in us. The Holy Spirit is supposed to work through us and transform us, exhibiting His fruit in our lives. He is like the ink cartridge in the pen – always there, just waiting to flow out of us. The problem is that we sometimes press too hard; we try, on the power of our own will, to transform ourselves. We get in the way, usurping the role of the Holy Spirit and revealing only a blurred image of Christ in our lives for others to see.

The key to writing with a fountain pen, is to relax and let the cartridge do its work. That way the letters will be sharp and focused, easy to read. The key to living in the Spirit, is to let go and let Him do His work. When we try to do it ourselves, our work looks messy and out of focus. When we relax and yield ourselves to the Spirit, He can transform us, revealing a focused image of Christ in our lives.

The power of the fountain pen is in the ink cartridge, not in the hand that holds the pen. The power of the Christian is the Holy Spirit, not the person He lives in. If we let Him, if we get out of the way, He’ll flow freely through our lives. Time to bring the image into focus. Time to let go.