Power to the Ordinary

History is littered with ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  What’s stopping you?

How many times have you heard a story of someone rising up from obscurity to achieve some great accomplishment.  Hollywood is inundated with this theme.  Erin Brokovich, Rudy, The Lord of the Rings.  Seemingly ordinary people with no special gifts.  Just a heart for a mission and a spirit of determination.  How are you any different?

I’m currently reading a book called Finding Ultra, the story of Rich Roll, a Stanford swimming prodigy turned alcoholic, turned overweight couch potato who, on his 40th birthday, decides that it is time to make a change.  The story chronicles his rise in a few short years to the top of the endurance sports world.  Starting from a position of being winded just climbing the stairs in his home, and against seemingly insurmountable odds at an age way past his prime, Rich set a goal for himself and set his heart to the task.  No special skills.  Just focus and direction.

So what’s stopping you?  What challenge is on your heart?  What goal can you set to help spurn you to action?  Don’t let the fact that you are “ordinary” keep you from setting a challenge before yourself and actually achieving it.  You don’t need any special skills.  You don’t need any special training.  You already have all that you need inside of you.  You just need to have the courage to set that goal, and make a plan to realize it.  You don’t have to be the next endurance superstar or take down a tyrant corporation (though you can if you want).  Find those desires unique to you and go with it.

Show the world what ordinary can do!

J

When the Going Gets Tough…

I used to think that if I tried something and I received resistance, or a push-back against accomplishing what I set out to do, that it was somehow a “sign” that it wasn’t the right thing to do.  I think that many of us feel the same way, especially if we set out to on a path that we are not sure is the right one.  The road starts to get bumpy and we immediately start to question whether we made the right choice.  But one important lesson I’ve learned, especially from my adoption experiences, is that the “rightness” of a decision has little or nothing to do with how difficult the result might be.  In fact, I believe that the more difficult the road, the more “right” it really is.  In battle, the closer you get to the enemy the more the bullets start whizzing over your head.  Head in the wrong direction and you’ll probably find the road pretty easy going.  Please be careful when someone tells you “this is an easy way to lose weight”.  Chances are the road is not taking where you really want to go.  Or, “what you’re doing is really hard, and I think God is telling you that you should stop and try something else.”  Standing tall in the face of adversity is a true sign of courage.  Don’t give up.   When the going gets tough, the tough keep going.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

J

Tootsie Pops and Sand Dunes- Setting Short-Term Goals

The marketing strategy for Tootsie Pops, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?”, reminded me of a truth as it relates to our physical and spiritual lives.  We have already established that life is a journey.  A succession of smaller steps leading to a destination.  But to maintain direction, it is essential that we have milestones.  Markers to show the progress that we are making.  Especially when the destination is very far away.  A couple of months ago I was hiking with the family in the sand dunes of coastal Oregon.  We parked at the trailhead and began the journey along a well-marked path.  But it wasn’t long before the trail opened up to a sea of sand as far as I could see.  I stood for a moment, surveying the landscape wondering which way the trail went.  The constant wind had blown away all traces of footprints that would have marked the path.  Having a general idea of which direction to go, I climbed the first dune to the top and examined the surroundings.  Off in the distance, breaking up the smooth, blonde landscape was the dark, sharp image of a wooden pole stuck in the sand with a blue stripe at the top.  This was our only marker to show us the trail.  So down the dune we headed towards the pole.  Once we reached it, we again made our survey and were able to spot the next pole in the distance.  It was in this pole-to-pole fashion that we were able to reach our final destination, a beautiful, secluded beach.  Without these markers , we would have been walking blind, never quite sure if we were heading in the right direction or if we were making progress towards our destination.

In order to reach a goal in your journey towards optimal physical and spiritual health, it is essential to have these markers.  Smaller, more achievable goals that when combined together, lead the way to your destination.  Instead of looking at the 30 pounds that you need to lose, break it into more manageable 5-pound segments.  If you are wanting to read the Bible cover-to-cover for the first time, set a goal of 1 book a month or one chapter a day.  If you are starting from a position of not exercising at all, then instead of focusing on a weight loss goal it might be beneficial to just set a goal of exercising once, twice or three times a week for the first 2 weeks.  Achieve that goal first before moving on to the more difficult ones.  Same with the Bible goal.  Start with committing to read the Bible 3 times a week, two times a week, or even one time a week.  Then, reward yourself when you reach a goal.  It is an accomplishment!  When you stand on top of the dunes and see the ocean way off in the distance, it is sometimes easy to get discouraged because it looks so far away and you can see the many dunes that need to be climbed before you get to the end.  However, if you can set your sights on the one marker in front of you, once you reach it you will realize that the next marker doesn’t look that far away, and you will find the strength to make it to that next marker.  Like the Tootsie Pop, no one knows how many licks it will take.  Just take it one lick at a time.

J

Come Out of Physical Retirement

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. “  Ephesians 2:10

The term “walk” implies movement.  Not a single action, but a series of actions carried out over time.   We are to be continually engaged in the work that the Lord has for us here on Earth.  He created us to be actively engaged in the world around us, bringing the hope and love of Christ to the hopeless and unloved.  There is no indication that this journey has an end.  No quota to fill.  No years of service to receive our pension.  No retirement age.  Many believe that once they reach a certain age, they are entitled to stop working.  They’ve put in their time.  But the Kingdom of God not only needs, but requires those that are mature in the faith to be actively engaged with the younger workers in mentoring and service.

In the same way, many believe that exercise is for the young.  I hear things like “I used to be able to do that”, or “I wish I could exercise but I just can’t anymore”.  “It’s harder than it used to be.”  As an aging individual, there are two reasons to fight this mentality.  One is what was stated above.  There is still work to be done.  The aging population plays a pivotal role in shaping the generations to come, and they need to remain sharp and focused.  Their physical health plays a significant role in this task.  As we stated before, service is active, and requires work.  Whether it is being able to stand for long periods of time without pain, carry out physically demanding tasks, or have the energy to display vigor and passion in your work, they healthier and stronger you are physically, the better you will be able to carry out the work that God has for you to do.

The second reason is stated right in the excuse, “it’s harder than it used to be”.  When you are young, the muscles, tendons, and bones are naturally stronger, more flexible, and can handle the stresses put on them much easier.  As you age, the muscles get weaker, the tendons and ligaments get drier and less pliable, and the bones get more brittle.  Regular exercise combats all of these degradations of aging.  You might have been able to get away with not exercising when you were younger, just relying on youth to protect you.  But as an older adult it becomes not only recommended, but an absolute essential that you stay healthy and physically active.  It is the only way that you will be able to stay strong, energetic, and pain-free, all characteristics of a vibrant life of service.  Don’t throw in the towel.  God still has much for you to do.  Come out of physical “retirement” and get this journey moving again!

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.   Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:35-38.

J

Our Purpose Part 2: Serving God is Not a Desk Job

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. “  Ephesians 2:4-10

God created us with physical bodies for a reason.  As it is clear in Ephesians 2:4-10, we were created by God, designed by a perfect craftsman, tarnished through sin, but made new through His grace in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  As verse 4 states, we are walking testimonies to that grace to this generation and generations to come.  The things that we do today, tomorrow, and the next day should bear witness to the fact that we were once dead, but have now been made alive.  And while we can take no credit in having earned any of it (“it is the gift of God”, verse 8), it is clear that we have work to do.  Verse 10 states that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works”.  The term “works” implies a physical action, and a physical action requires a physical body.  Being a follower of Christ means, whether you like it or not, you signed up for a day-labor position.

Often we like to think of our “Christian life” as that part of our lives where we meditate on spiritual things, pray, and think about God and his wonder.  And these are all things that we should be engaged in on a regular basis.  But following the Lord is not a desk job.  The call in Matthew 28 to “go and make disciples of all nations” did not call for the disciples to sit in the upper room, design a global strategy of ministry, create an online presence, and then implement a social media campaign.  It involved walking from place to place (sometimes running out of those same places as fast as they could, stones flying past their heads).  It involved talking and praying with people.  It involved healing the sick.  It involved meeting needs.  It involved time, sweat, and sometimes blood.

That early call to the disciples has not changed for Christ’s disciples today.  And in order to serve Him effectively, we need to be physically healthy.  It is a proven fact that people who exercise regularly, eat healthily, and get proper amounts of rest have more energy, have better outlooks on life, and are less prone to depression.  What kind of servant are you when you are chronically tired, depressed, and over-stressed?  Being physically healthy allows you to carry out the spiritual desires that God has placed on your heart in the life-changing way that they were intended.   How fit for service are you if God asks you to serve Him in a way that is physically demanding?  Could you help that neighbor dig post holes for his fence, creating an opportunity to get to know him?  Could you kick the soccer ball or toss the baseball with your grandkids whose parents don’t know the Lord, creating opportunities to talk with them and share God’s love?  Are you prepared to dig wells, build houses, repair a single mom’s home, carry grandchildren, play with orphans, or walk with widows? Serving is an action, and actions are physical.  Good “works” are not passive, but filled with movement.  And it is through those works that we fulfill the call to love and to disciple.  It is time for us to stop separating the spiritual and the physical.  It is time for us to stop thinking that it is ok to be physically unhealthy, as long as we are spiritually strong, and start realizing that if we want to make a strong spiritual impact for the “ages to come”, our bodies need to be up to the challenge.

J