Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Preponderance of Provision

It's easy to think about all that we don't have. Maybe this is because we live in a consumer culture; maybe because this is just human nature, but whatever the cause, it doesn't take long for people to list the things that they don't have that they wish they did. In fact, for most of us reading this blog, if someone during the holiday season asks for our wish list, any amount of time that it takes us to deliver it is usually because of what we choose to leave off, not because we are lacking in desires.

One of the many amazing things about God, however, is that He never leaves us in this state of want. In fact, He always provides more than enough for what we need. Sure it doesn't always feel this way; sometimes it feels like we are lacking the right resources, opportunities or options to pursue a certain course, but in fact, God promises that this is not the case. He is actively pursuing our good (Rom. 8:28), not based on how we define it, but based on what is truly good. That is why Scripture teaches us not to worry about what we have or what we don't - God already knows what is needed, and He will provide (See Luke 12:29-31).

However, its not just in our day to day lives that the magnanimous nature of our God is displayed. In fact, the best example of the preponderance of His provision is illustrated in His Son's death on the cross. Not only did Christ's sacrifice provide payment for the sins I've committed, but His goodness, His righteousness, is put on my account (See Romans 4:6-8). In other words, not only is our debt erased, but when God looks at us, He sees all of the "credit" that Christ obtained. Our account is not at a "zero" balance, but instead, from God's perspective, it has all the riches of Christ's righteousness.

This isn't to say that we have nothing left to offer. In return for the riches of His provision, God asks us to lead a life that's pleasing Him. All things considered, it seems a small price to pay.

(This post was inspired, in part, by Dr. Mike Fabarez's message titled "The Gospel According to Abraham - Part 2" which you can find here)

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Friday, October 30, 2009

How My Parents Made a Difference

It's rare that I use this space to reflect on personal things. Or more correctly, it's rare that I'm personal in my reflections. However, every once in a while I break this rule, and this is one of those occasions.

The reason for this departure from the norm isn't all that earth-shattering. It's just that throughout this week, I've frequently been reminded of how grateful I am for my parents. For those of you who don't know them, let me start off by just saying - they're great. It's an undeniable fact that my mom and dad are just truly outstanding people. And that's a good enough reason by itself to be grateful for their presence. However, it's not just their sheer remarkableness that has me writing about them today. You see, not only are my parents great people, they are exceptional parents and that's a distinction that's often lost today. For not only did my parents model and exemplify what it meant to be a follower of Christ by how they lived their lives, but they followed Him in the way that they parented me. And for this fact, no amount of gratitude is sufficient.

You might wonder how it's possible to not only live a life for Christ, but to parent as Christ would parent and I think that's a fair question. My response is simple, although enacting it is complex. There are two things that are always paramount in my mind when I think of how my parents raised me. First - I always knew they loved me, and I always knew that if I went against their directions, there would be consequences. That may seem counterculture in today's world, but it wasn't in my parents' home. Regardless of how they punished me, it never diminished my understanding of their love. And because of how much they loved me, they never shied away from correcting my misbehavior.

The second thing that my parents did is that they prayed for me. Just like Christ intercedes for His children, so my parents did for me and my sister. Even as a child I knew this. And even as an adult, I don't think I can comprehend the power of those prayers. I'm confident that I am who I am today primarily because of the time they spent lifting me up to our Father, but only heaven will reveal the full return on that investment.

My mom once told me that her and my dad used to say that God was raising us and the truth is, she was right. I'm confident that the omnipotent Father had plans for our lives and that regardless of what my parents did, He would bring them to completion. However, the manner in which my parents raised us not only provided a great example of God's love, but they prepared us to receive the direction He would provide. John Wesley's mother is said to have spent hours daily praying for her kids. And at least two of them (John and Charles) are still notably impacting the Church today.

On this side of heaven, my parents may never receive the acclaim that's now afforded to Susanna Wesley, but I know that they will be rewarded on the other side. And I know that the only praise that will be louder than mine will the words of our Savior acknowledging their faithfulness and a job well done.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

No Stone Unturn

Most of us don't like to consider ourselves selfish. We want to be, and we want to be thought of, as giving people, people who have the interests of others in sight. The truth is though that it's hard not to be selfish. After all, the only perspective that we can see things from is our own and therefore we are inclined to view others, and their lives, from that vantage point.

What we must be careful of, however, is that we are actively pursuing another vantage point. As Christians, one of our goals is to make sure that every area of our life is reflecting God. We must purposefully and deciding look for ways that we can bless those around us. Conversely, we must actively avoid that which may be taken as a curse. This isn't to say we mitigate that call of God on people's lives - our job is to accurately reflect His justice and His grace - but it does mean that instead of waiting for the opportunity to be a representative of Christ to someone else, we are investigating tangible ways that we can do this. We should be looking, high and low, for ways that we can be the dispensers of His love.

A popular Sunday School song says "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine." May our light not only shine, but may we, by our actions and our lives, light the way for others too.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Risk Aversion

My husband and I have very different driving styles. I tend to follow the "stop far enough away that you can see the preceding car's tires" rule; he tends to follow the "if the car can fit, there's enough space to change lanes" philosophy. This isn't to say my hubby is an unsafe driver. He's not. I don't know this for sure but I think if we were to compare records, he would have less accidents. He's just more accepting of risk than I am, and he manages that risk very effectively.

Risk aversion doesn't just show up in my driving. It shows up in other parts of life as well. If something's not a "sure thing" I'll rarely go for it. If there's a significant probability that I'll fail, count me out. If the results can't be anticipated, than I am probably not going to participate.

While there is some wisdom to approaching certain circumstances with caution, I don't believe this is how God wants us to approach life. After all, our Savior left the very rewards of heaven, for the sake of His sinful children. How much more should we be willing to risk all we have, all we desire for Him?

I will probably never be as savvy a driver as my husband, but I've learned from him that willingness to accept some risk, can get us to our destination faster and can present us with opportunities we'd otherwise be without. May I consider this the next time God calls me to take a step of faith, and I don't want to take the risk.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

At the Sound of the Bell

Temptation is never an easy thing to deal with. That's why there are so many weight loss programs out there. If it was easy for people to forgo the things that taste good but are bad for us, then the majority of Americans would probably be much more healthy.

However, despite it being hard, Christians can view temptation differently. In our Savior's life it marked the beginning of His public ministry. When He was led out in the dessert to fast, commune with His Father, and face Satan's calls towards sin, it was an indication that He was about to enter the scene. Instead of marking the termination of work in Christ's life, it marked the beginning of God's work that would be publicly displayed through Him.

May we view it the same way. As a pastor at my church stated, Christians should view temptation like the ringing of the bell at the start of a boxing match. It's the signal that there's about to be a fight. And believers have the confidence to know that we have been thoroughly equipped and prepared to win. Our job is then to do that which we've been in training for - to reflect God's glory not only despite the temptation, but within it.

My dad has always said, using his military background as context, that if you aren't being tempted "you better check your six" because if you are being used for Christ's kingdom, you soon will be. May we not only be on the lookout for what's calling us away from God, but may we recognize the honor that it is to fight temptation like our Savior did, and to stand victoriously with Him.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Too Close for Comfort

Cooking is a favorite pastime for many people. For some, it's the thrill of creation - taking ingredients and combining them in such a way to discover an unrealized masterpiece. For others, cooking is a means of expression - a way to take care of those that we love. For me, it's a mixture of both, plus a dash of being able to offer hospitality. Food is a unifier - it creates common experiences among us.

Along with the benefits enunciated above, there's also lessons that can be learned from spending some time in the kitchen. Some of these lessons are rather mundane in nature such as what ingredients taste well together, and what spoon is best for stirring sticky dough. However, other lessons go beyond the confines of the kitchen and filter into life.

I was reminded of this recently when, while I was cooking, I knocked a tomato out of the pan and onto the stove top below. Without thoroughly pondering my actions, I reached for the outcast tomato. The problem with this was that the stove was still on. I convinced myself, however, that my fingers were small enough to reach the tomato without getting burned. As you might imagine, I was wrong.

You can also probably see the analogy to life. So many times I find myself reaching for something that I want, even though I know that in all wisdom I should probably pass it by. I convince myself that I can negotiate around the hurdles and still get my coveted prize. Whether its a tangible reward or the reputation I long for, I try to create shortcuts to getting that which I think is rightly mine. And so often I wind up getting burned.

What I have to learn is that if God desires for me to have something He will provide it. No amount of compromise is required on my part to get something which He wishes to bestow. And if it's not something that comes from His hand, why should I want to grasp it anyway?


Monday, October 19, 2009

Questioning Faith

Death is not a topic that most people like to talk about. It's a little odd that this is the case since as George Bernard Shaw is quoted as stating, "The statistics on death are impressive." We all die, yet despite this shared state, it's a subject we like to avoid.

There are probably many reasons for this discomfort. We don't like to think of our limits; we'd rather focus on our accomplishments. For many in may be an uncertainty of what happens after we die, or it may remind us of all that we still want to do. Regardless of the cause, death is a subject, as well as an entity, that most people choose to ignore.

The problem with this is that if we all avoid talking about death, there is little hope that we will have ever confidence in what the afterlife holds. After all, there can't be an afterlife without the ending of life as we know it. And the concern is not for our lives alone. As Christians, we can know with certainty that we'll spend forever in heaven, but can we have the same certainty about our family and friends? Do our believing friends have the same confidence about us?

It's often been asked, "if you were put on trial for being a conviction would there be enough evidence to convict you?" Let us make sure that the answer to that question is a resounding yes. So that, when it is our time to add to the impressive statistic, no one questions where our faith stands.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Eye of the Storm

As we all learned from elementary school science class, or from the movie Twister, the safest place to be during a tornado is in the center. This is where there is an unexpected calm, where, as the winds circumvent it, peace remains.

Although I'm sure the point has been made elsewhere, I was recently reminded that when the storms effect our lives, this too is where we want to be, for as Christians, our desire is that Jesus is the center of our lives. At the center He not only calms the waves and the seas (Matthew 8:26-28), but He is the source of unexpected peace. His eyes are on the sparrow (Matthew 10:29), and its in the eye of His grace that solace reigns.

Let us not forget this when life throws challenges at us and when things don't go as we planned. Run to the center. Run to the One who commands peace (Luke 24:6). Run to where the storm swirls around you but can cause no lasting harm.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Breaking the Rules

He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." - Mark 5:34

There's an old saying the "familiarity breeds contempt." The idea is that the more something is commonplace the less we think of it as special. Sometimes familiarity can also breed complacency. For Christians, this often happens when a story that we've heard from youth looses its meaning. The miracles of the Gospel can be seemingly commonplace and expected because we saw the flannelgraph characters since childhood. It becomes another "same old, same old" rather than an astounding act of God's grace.

The story of the bleeding woman who is healed is no different. Here is a woman who had been suffering from a humiliating and life-altering ailment for over ten years who was healed simply with a touch of faith. A life was changed for not only was she healed, she was once again accepted.

To realize the power of this act, we have to recognize what the rabbinical rules were for those who suffered from this condition. Leviticus 15:25 indicates that this woman was "ceremonially unclean" which meant that she couldn't worship, socialize, or participate in community as a "normal" person. She was ostracized from the rest of a society that few of us can imagine. Yet, when she met Jesus, she was in the midst of a crowd. In a place where everyone was battling for Christ's attention, He reached out to the one that wasn't supposed to be there.

It's not only stories from the Gospels that become familiar to us. In some instances the Gospel itself - the Good News of salvation- can become commonplace in our lives. This should never be. We, just like the woman who was healed, should be shattering boundaries and breaking the rules in order to meet with our Savior. Nothing should keep us from being at His feet. Nothing should stop us from feeling His touch.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Unqualified Generosity

It's a debate that perhaps you've had - either with yourself or with friends. What do you do when you someone on the street asks for money, food or help? On one side, people cite documented or experienced deceit, when people have acted like they were in need when they really weren't. There is also the point that organizations exist to provide such needed assistance. Additionally, people raise legitimate fears about how the money will be spent or perhaps, there are appropriate safety concerns for the potential giver. All of these make sense. All of these are rational explanations of why we should gently shake our head "no" and move one. And yet, the other side contends, Jesus never addressed any of these. All He said was that what you did for the least of this world, would be credited as good done to Him.

It's interesting how we want to put qualifiers on our lives where Christ doesn't put any. So many times people reject Christianity because of all the restrictions, and yet sometimes, we as Christians use our own "logic" to offer additional ones. Maybe the reasons for these are well-intentioned, but sometimes, I fear that they conflict with Scripture. Particularly in the case of giving. Scripture says "God loves a cheerful giver" not a well-intentioned, or a well-rationed, one.

The generosity that God commanded was unqualified. He said "give" to those that He puts us into contact with. The rest, the outcome, just like every outcome in our lives, is up to Him.

*Postscript - Although God has called us to be generous, He has also called us to be wise. One way to mitigate many of the concerns raised above, is to have a stash of fast food gift cards at the ready to add out to those in need. In my own walk as a reluctant giver, it's been a great way to follow Christ's commands of generously giving.


For Christ's Sake

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. - Philippians 1:12-13

Life rarely goes as we have planned it. No matter how prescient we may be, or how fortuitous our lot, still things happen that we did not anticipate. When these unexpected road bumps are good, we rarely complain. When they are bad, our cries of foul play are readily heard.

Paul seemed to have a different view. As indicated above, he spent some time in prison. In fact, Paul was in prison on numerous occasions, not for some treacherous deed but for saying things that the religious and political leaders rather he didn't. Many of the letters that we have from Paul were written while he was in jail. It's not too far a stretch to say that Paul may have had the very first prison ministry - and that his stocks and chains were his primary pulpit.

Paul's concern, however, wasn't for the injustice of his imprisonment. When he viewed his time in jail, he was able to count it as a success for it "served to advance the Gospel." All that happened to Paul was put through this filter. And it wasn't just believers that noticed. As he states in the passage above "it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ." Even those that did not serve God, knew it was for His sake that Paul suffered, and by this testimony Christ was revealed.

Let the same be true in our lives. Let others look at us and say everything that happens to them, every hurdle, every obstacle, every slight, every perceived injury, is for the sake of Christ. And through this testimony, through lives sacrificed to the One who sacrificed His life, may the Gospel be made known, that they too may give it all, for Christ's sake.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Accepting Sainthood

The movie Julie and Julia is about one woman's quest to find meaning and significance in her life by cooking her way through Julia child's cookbook on French cuisine, and blogging about the experience. In doing so, the character, Julie Powell, and presumably the real-life version of her, learns about what's truly important and meaningful to her.

Throughout her blogging journey, Julie includes tales of her husband's help in producing the fine cuisine. Repeatedly she calls him "a saint." Later, in a burst of anger, he rejects this title and in fact emphatically asks that she stops using it. He contends that it represents an inaccurate portrayal and puts him up on a pedestal off which he is bound to fall.

Now, without dissecting Eric Powell's line of reasoning, its easy to understand what prompted him to deny his own sainthood. After all, while we all want people to think well of us, we also want them to have realistic expectations. Perhaps the fear of failure is a tad bit stronger then fear of personal rejection.

Upon watching this movie unfold, I was reminded of the fact that Christians also want to refute the title of saint. Perhaps this is because some religious traditions teach that sainthood is reserved for a select few who have been formally canonized. Or perhaps, just like the character of Eric Powell, we are concerned about what that title will do to our reputation. However, Scripture doesn't seem to share our concerns. Throughout God's Word, His people are identified as saints (See Psalm 30:4; Psalm 31:23 and Romans 1:7 among others). If God Himself identifies His children as being saints, why should we reject it?

Instead, we should consider this holy title as a call to live our lives according to the ways of saints. Will we be able to do it perfectly? No. Will we be able to do so in increasing degrees? Yes - through God's own work. And perhaps, just perhaps, accepting this designation will spur us on to live a live worthy of the title He's bestowed.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Character Centered

Warren Wiersbe once stated that the difference between Saul and David was that Saul was concerned about reputation, while David was concerned about character (qtd. by Ronnie Stevens). It's a point easily validated by the Scriptures. After all, Saul was the people's king, the one that was chosen based on their perceptions of what royalty should be. Therefore he had to be focused on maintaining that reputation. David, however, was the man after God's own heart (see I Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22). David's concern then was not about maintaining man's perception of him, but God's.

Maintaining this distinction is not easily done in our own lives. After all, we are more often aware of our reputation then God's perception of our character. We hear whispers in the hall, see a comment on Facebook, or receive an unsolicited piece of feedback and our reputation is quickly revealed. Character, however, is something that's easier to mask, and therefore we often sacrifice it in order to maintain our reputation. After all, if our heart is not in the right place who's going to know but us?

The truth is we know that there is One who does know when are heart is askew. We also know that sooner or later our reputation will be affected by our character. After all, "out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45) and "a man's heart reflects the man" (Proverbs 27:19). If our character is not right, sooner or later we will mess up our reputation.

The challenge then is to put our focus on where it should rightly be - not on maintaining our reputation but on maintaining our character. As David's life can attest this commitment to character will not be without its challenges, or failures, but in the end, a life focused on maintaining a heart after God's own, will earn the rewards that reputation alone can never achieve, rewards that last long after our reputation fades away.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Assent of Silence

In Regarding Henry, Harrison Ford memorably quipped to his movie daughter, "Silence is taken as assent." (If that's not verbatim, my apologies. It's been years since I've seen the movie and a quick Google search was no help.) The title character makes this declaration in an effort to justify yet another night away from his family, a justification that in the film, he soon regrets.

Although the line may not be a good governing standard for human relationships, it does offer us some advice to heed when it comes to our relationship with God. I was reminded of this fact recently when, as I mentally griped about the rough day I was having, the soundtrack of a worship song played almost unconsciously in my mind. As I was mentally throwing myself a pity party for all that hadn't gone as planned, my heart was singing, "Savior please rescue me." The contrast was remarkable. It was as if my soul knew the proper response, even when my flesh didn't.

What I recognized this duality - singing a song of adoration while bemoaning the unrealized expectations of this life - I immediately knew that the problem was that I hadn't taken the problems I was experiencing and brought them to my Savior. I knew that instead of grumbling about what I hadn't received, I needed to stand silently before His throne as I reminder of all that I had been given. Instead of loudly declaring the injustices I was suffering, I needed to silently assent to my Father's will recognizing that it is His job to call the plays, it's my job to follow. If I'm too busy talking, I won't hear what He's saying.

This is not to say we aren't authentic in our prayers. I believe God wants to hear our needs, and is in fact honored when we take our requests before Him. However, so often when I pray, it's about telling the Lord what I want, what my desires for this life are and how I think things should be. There must be times of listening too, of having our hearts silent before the Lord assenting to what He will reveal and what He has already called us to be. Times where our opinions cease and our obedience begins.

***Update**** - In God's good providence, after writing this blog, my before-bed reading began with the following, "Deep silence leads us to realize that prayer is, above all, acceptance" - Henri Nouwen, With Open Hands. Truly, silence is assent.


Power of Hope

It was recently announced that President Obama was this year's recipient of the Noble Peace Prize. While this is quite an accomplishment, it was a surprise to many, including it seems to the President itself. As an Associated Press article that was written prior to the announcement stated, "U.S. President Barack Obama is thought to have been nominated but it's unclear on what grounds." (H/T John Miller). Upon the prize being awarded, many pundits speculated that it was bestowed mostly for the hope of what President Obama would achieve, rather than his actual accomplishments. (A prime reason for this speculation was that the nomination period for the Noble Peace Prize closed February 1, 2009 - only eleven days after President Obama had been in office.)

Now regardless of one's opinion as to the worthiness of this selection, it's easy to understand the motivation that hope can provide. Read Facebook statuses for a day and you'll see this manifest itself many times over. People hope for a good day, a good job, and a good life. People express hope for a thousand things that they want that are seemingly possible to achieve. People want to believe in something greater than themselves and believe that their future will be bright. We want things to be different than they are and hope is the manifestation of this desire.

The rarely acknowledged, but astonishingly wonderful truth for Christians is that we have the greatest propellant for hope known to man. After all, our hope is not in a prize, or even in Earthly standards of determination, but in hope of eternity. We live with the confidence that when everything in this world returns to dust, we will be at our eternal home where there will be no need for a Nobel Peace Prize for the Prince of Peace will reign.

Let us not grow weary in hanging on to this hope. Better yet, let us make sure that we share in with others. It's only through doing so that we can be assured that their hope will also be rooted in eternity...and that they will know truly noble peace (Romans 15:13).

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Monday, October 12, 2009

A Road Often Travelled

As is common in Southern California, I commute to work. As is uncommon in Southern California, my drive goes against traffic, which means, that although my car accumulates mileage much faster than cars across the rest of the nation, my drive is much more pleasant than most of other commuters. What this also means, is that it is very easy to relax on my way to work. In doing so, there are times that my attention to my surroundings is lacking. More than once I've been driving along, and I look around, surprised at where the journey has already taken me. (Before you get concerned, I do pay attention to the cars and other objects in proximity to me; I just don't always pay attention to the landscape.) Less frequently, there have also been times when I've noticed my surroundings and asked myself "wait, am I on the right road?" It seems to be a place that I've never been before even though its part of my regular commute. A few seconds later, I'll realize this and wonder how I could have gotten so confused to begin with.

The cause of all this uncertainty is that when I'm on a familiar path, my attention tends to wander. I think I know where I'm going so I don't have acknowledge the signs and the signals as I must when it's a place I've never been before. I relax in my commitment to awareness and as a result I find myself asking, "Wait, where am I?"

As a long-time Christian, this also happens in my walk with God. When I get comfortable, when I get complacent, I stop paying attention to the signs and the signals along the way. My commitment to diligent watching fades and I get to a place where I ask "How did I get here?" and "Wait, where am I?" I think I'm on the right road and hit cruise, only to have my attention called to an unfamiliar sight and I must question whether I am in fact, walking the intended path. Thinking I've been down the road before, I neglect the practices that got me safely there to begin with.

This is no good thing. Just like driving is a "privilege not a right" a close walk with God is not a guarantee, even for believers. We must continuously do those things that make us aware of how God is leading. Even on familiar paths, we must pay attention to His directions. Otherwise, we may find ourselves in a place where we look around, surprised, and ask "Are we on the right path?" and regret the answer.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Two dogs, a girl, and a lesson

Having two small dogs is full of adventures. Having grown up with only big dogs, it takes a while to get used to the quirks of 2 dogs that combined weigh just over 20 pounds. Although I was never a fan of small dogs when I was younger, I've grown to love my two companions. Goose and Maverick live up to their names on a daily basis; Goose is very silly and Maverick likes to get away with whatever he can. They aren't exactly like their Top Gun namesakes, but they are entertaining nonetheless.

One of the oddities about having small dogs is that when you walk them you can use a connector to join their two harnesses together. This way you only have to carry one leash and the dogs can calmly walk side-by-side each other. That's the theory at least. My dogs, again living up to their names, like to do the exact opposite of what's intended. Although they've gotten the hang of both walking the same direction if they meet an obstacle, almost without fail, they will choose to try to go around it in completely opposite ways. Even when they are both going to the same place, they battle over which side of the sidewalk they will choose to walk on. One of the dogs (Goose) weighs nearly twice the other, so he usually wins, but that doesn't keep Maverick from making his position known. And so their stubborn wills cause an untold number of mishaps and reprimands as we strive to get towards our destination.

Recently, it occurred to me that my dogs' desires to have their own way has a lesson for me as well. You see, just as my dogs are thethered together when they walk, I have made a commitment to walk life's journey alongside a wonderful husband. However, my commitment to him isn't momentary, but life-long. So, just as with my dogs, it's important that we are walking in the same direction. However, equally important is that when we encounter an obstacle, we go around it together. Sure we could each struggle to get our own way, and maybe eventually we would get to the same spot on the path, but when we both take the course and the bumps side-by-side, the journey is so much sweeter for each of us.

What's true in my relationship with my husband is also true in our relationships with God. He wants us to walk with Him on our journey, not struggle for our own way. He wants us to be tethered so tightly to Him that we view obstacles from His perspective, and combat them accordingly. When we put our faith and trust in Him, knowing that He knows the way, we can rest assured that we will arrive at our desired destination. And we can do so, without struggling to ensure our own position and demands.

I sometimes doubt that my dogs will ever completely learn how to walk calmly when they are tethered together. However, there are two other dogs in the neighborhood that give me hope. They walk in partnership - seeing each obstacle as their obstacle; seeing each break in the path as one they will walk together. May I approach my relationship with my spouse in the same way. And even more so, my relationship with God.

**Bonus points to any reader who can name the TV show that provided the inspiration for the title of this blog. :-)

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Living a Strong Life

We owe the popularity of the phrase "Live Strong" to Lance Armstrong. It was he who used the phrase as his rallying cry against cancer. And it was an effective rallying cry because it echoed a desire in each of our souls to live a live that others identified with strength; a life that could withstand the tests and trials of time.

In his book "Find Your Strongest Life", Marcus Buckingham picks up on this very theme. However, his audience is not those that suffer from cancer, but those who are plagued by a lack of fulfillment. Specifically, Buckingham targets women with this tome because, as he persuasively presents, the range of choices that have been made available to them in the last 30 years have led to a consistent decrease in reported happiness. Through the author's StrongLife Test, he presents a way to try to reverse this trend, and Buckingham's presentation is impressive. The StrongLife tests reveals in which two roles (of nine) a person most often performs with strength. An individual can then use these revelations to reflect on the way they engage with their careers, their family and their friends to focus on building moments where their strengths are at play.

Buckingham's writing is compelling. His research-based approach to a stronger life substantiates his claims. However, that doesn't mean that the book is without disappointment. First, the book tends to have a "self-help" feel. The focus is on the individual and remains there throughout. Additionally, although published by a publisher of Christian material, there is no acknowledgement of the impact that God has - not only on the circumstances that an individual faces but in the unique way that the individual was gifted to respond. Finally, there is a bit of uncomfortable familiarity for those that are familiar with Buckingham's other books. While the StrongLife test does provide new information, those who have already taken StrengthsFinder may find it unnecessary.

Living life to your strengths is a great idea. Living life to reflect God in those strengths is a better one. Hopefully future books will focus more on the outcome and not just the methodology.

This book review was completed as part of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger's program.


Better Things Ahead: October 2009

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Better Things Ahead