How to be More Alive

How to be More Alive

One of my favorite quotes is by Saint Irenaeus and it goes like this, “The glory of God is man fully alive”.

I know it’s actually a miss-quote but I really like it anyway. The expression “fully alive” really inspires me. It reminds me of Christ’s offer of a rich and satisfying life. It also makes me think of how many of us aren’t really fully alive. We’re alive in the sense that our hearts are beating and we’re walking around, but we’re plagued by unfulfilled hopes, abandoned dreams, and lives that make little to no impact on the world around us. When our ideas of a good time are watching TV or taking the edge off with alcohol, then we’re missing out on a whole lot of actual living.

It seems more like we’re kind of alive but not fully.

There are many reasons why we don’t live fully. Too many to list here. But I thought I’d share four things with you that might help you move to a greater place of fullness in your life.

Never let shame settle in.
Nothing sucks the life out a person like shame. Shame over our appearance, shame over our lack of anything, and especially shame over our actions. I had a conversation the other day with a friend who was wrecked by shame because he lost his temper at work. It’s like he was stuck in that moment, unable to enjoy life. You can’t live fully and hold onto shame at the same time. You can’t learn from your mistakes either. Accept God’s forgiveness, forgive yourself, grow from it, and get back to living.

Don’t compare.
Comparison can be deadly. For years I struggled with comparing myself with my peers in the same age group. Most of my friends owned houses before I did, they made more money than me, and generally seemed to be enjoying life a whole lot more. In addition, my pastor friends seemed to be reaching more people than me, and I imagined that there was an excitement about their ministries that made mine seem boring. When I learned to accept the uniqueness of my own journey, and that God’s blessing and favor were on my life, regardless of my own definitions and expectations of success, I could stop comparing, and start enjoying life right where I was.

Give yourself permission to dream.
Disappointment happens. And the older you get, the more disappointments stack up and it’s easier to stop dreaming than it is to keep getting your hopes up. We focus on failures, missed opportunities, and unfulfilled hopes instead of believing that the best is yet to come. By the way, no matter how old you are, it’s still okay to believe that the best is yet to come. Dream! Have big hairy ideas. Set audacious goals and go for them. Without a vision, we parish so keep dreaming!

Appreciate where you are while taking steps to move forward.
How often do we look around ourselves and express gratitude for where we are in life, and how God has taken care of us? Gratitude is the gateway to joy and appreciating where we are gives us an excitement for what’s next. But don’t stay where you are, keep moving forward. Read another book, take another step, create strategies for reaching your goals and act on them. I heard once that a rabbit’s heart beats just as fast the day before it dies as it does when it’s younger. It keeps moving and running until the end. I want to be like the rabbit. God forbid that I ever choose to bench myself and spend my days watching TV and complaining that I’m too old. There’s just too much life to live!

I hope you choose to live a life that’s fully alive. I hope you accept God’s best for you, dream big, live gratefully, and never stop moving forward!

Totally Worth It!

Life is hard.

Let me be more specific; life is hard if you want to live it.  NOT living life is easy.  Just grab the remote, game controller, magazine, drink, or whatever other escape device you prefer and… cease.  Stop engaging.  Stop trying.  Just vegetate.  You have no idea how attractive that sounds to me at times.

The big lesson I’ve learned over the years is that living, REALLY living, is difficult.

Want a great marriage?  WORK for it!  Read books, attend conferences, talk to each other.

Want to raise great kids?  Put your back into it!  Take parenting classes, read, spend time with your kids.  For Pete’s sake your hobbies can wait!

Want to be in better shape?  Complaining about being fat won’t get you there.  Get up earlier and hit the gym.  It’s a pain.  It’s a struggle.  It can be a total drag but it is so worth it!

Almost two years ago I started my own business.  I can’t even tell you how many times I wanted to give up.  It wasn’t unusual to go for weeks without work.  IT WAS SO HARD!  But you know what?  It was totally worth it! If I would have taken the easy way, I would not be nearly as happy as I am today.

Choosing the difficult thing is not only immensely rewarding, but it also strengthens us.

As I move into the next big phase of my life (planting a church) I’m acutely aware that it’s going to be one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever undertaken, but I also know it’s going to be worth it.  Lives are going to be changed, eternities decided, and needs met.  I’m confident that it will be worth it and, five years from now, I’ll be glad I decided to do the hard thing.

So what about you? What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?  Was it worth it?

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We All Have One…

A quick fill-in-the-blank for you.

I’d really like to _______________, but I ________________.

I think we all have something sitting on the backburner of our life.  Let’s talk about it.

Just type your completed sentence in the comments section below.  I’ll start it off by adding the first comment.

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What Didn’t You Do?

“I’m not worried about what I’ve done.  It’s what I could have done that troubles me.” – A.W. Tozer

I’ll admit it.  Between the ages of 15 and 30 I put off a lot of things.  Somehow I thought, “I have a long time to accomplish that.” and that line of thinking brought on a certain passiveness that today I regret.  Now, here I am, almost halfway through my life with such an urgency to do something great for God that it’s almost paralyzing.  My greatest fear?  That I’ll reach the end of my life having made little to no impact on the world around me; that somehow I will have missed it and I’ll be full of woulda shoulda couldas.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the 15+ years I’ve been in ministry.  It’s just that somehow I believe that there’s something… more.  More than Western church work.  More than preaching, more than music, more than programs.  I mean, if that was what we’re supposed to do, then why are so many going to hell? Why are there starving?  Why are people still being sold as slaves?  Why do 80% of young people leave the church?  Why is the divorce rate just as high in the church as it is outside?  Why are 1,500 pastors leaving the ministry every month?

I really do love the local church.  I don’t know where I’d be without it.  It’s through the local church that I found an awesome relationship with Jesus.  That’s where I learned how to pray, found community, and received blessing after blessing from the Father.  My question is, “What aren’t we doing?”

Notice, I didn’t ask, “What isn’t the church doing?”  After all, WE are the local church.  Remember when that missionary came and said he needed help in South Africa?  Remember when the Holy Spirit pulled on your heart to go and you didn’t?  Do you recall the many times you felt a tug to give to help those in need?  You made a mental note to write a check when you got home, but the check was never written.  How about that calling to work with the teenagers at your church, but life got in the way and you never got any further than just mentioning it to the youth pastor?  I know I’ve been there.  My whole family would have been to Africa, I would have had a book written, and thousands of my hard earned dollars would be poured into hundreds of projects by now if I would have just done what I’d meant to do.  It’s too bad we don’t get points for good intentions.

Here are a few things we can all do to shorten our list of things we didn’t do:

Start writing down the things you felt you were supposed to do, then start doing them.  Sounds overly simplistic, I know, but sometimes the mere act of writing a thing down gets it out of the realm of whims and into a greater sense of reality.  Why not?  We write down goals like the car we want to buy and the vacation we want to take.  Why not write down the things we want to do for God?  We’re always looking for God to tell us what to do.  Maybe He’s been quiet because we haven’t done the last 20 things he told us to.

Tell somebodyHave someone in your life who will hold you accountable to your dreams.  It’s too easy to blow things off when the emotion dies down and it’s all just a big idea rolling around in your head.

Take a small step.  Put a couple dollars in an envelope marked “Missions Trip”, commit to serving at only one youth event, or pray five minutes a week for your pastor.  Remember, a very small thing is better than no thing and you’ll be surprised at how several baby steps can add up quickly.

So how about you?  What are some things you felt called to do but didn’t?  What are the things you haven’t done?  You can post some things here and have a bunch of people praying for you.  Let a life of no regrets be your goal!

* My apologies to all those who commented on this post.  I lost it during maintenance and had to repost it.  Feel free to comment again!

I Give Up.

“I give up.  I’m done.  I quit.  It’s over.  I surrender.  I’m not doing this anymore!”  These are some of the most powerful words in the Christian vocabulary. Unfortunately, they’re seldom spoken accept in reference to an assignment.  The idea of a life absolutely surrendered to God is foreign to us in our culture of achievement, prosperity, and recognition.  We attach so much of our self worth to “making it” that we can’t conceive that God might have a better plan for us.

Here’s what I mean.  We find out that there is a God who’s crazy about us.  We ask Jesus to be our savior.  We then put Him in our pocket with the rest of our possessions and let Him be a part of our lives as long as He doesn’t interrupt our lifestyle or standard of living.  Sure He’s important to us, even vital, but he’s still just a part of the picture.  He’s not the whole thing.  Instead of stuffing Him into our pocket, we should be asking Him to stuff us into His.

I’ve had the honor of knowing people who have found the freedom of a life of absolute surrender.  They completely wrap their lives around God, regardless of the cost.  And you know what?  I’ve noticed a few things.

1. They seem to be an effortless blessing to others.  It’s never a strain or a struggle to bless people.  All they have already belongs to God so when He asks them to give it, there’s no debate.

2. They have nothing to prove.  They don’t have to keep up with the Joneses.  Status is unimportant.  “Standard of living” isn’t even in their vocabulary.  They’re bond servants and they’re OK with that because one day they’ll hear “well done.”

3. There is a joy and peace that seems to radiate from them.  Think about it, if you’ve surrendered it all, then there’s nothing to lose.  If Christ owns it all, then He can worry about it.  If you’ve given your dreams to Him, then he’ll help fulfill them, or give you an even better one.  That’s the kind of peace I want!

4. There’s a simplicity about them that makes you want what they have.  In a world of hurry-sickness and spread-too-thin-itis, simplicity is good medicine.

In Matthew chapter 16 Jesus says, If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?

A life of absolute surrender is life abundant.  It’s life the way God meant for you to live it.  It requires laying down what we want from time to time.  It requires giving at an (initially) uncomfortable level.  It requires giving God permission to mess up your plans and change you.  It’s not easy and it’s a challenging process.  However, if we’re going to be used by God to make a difference in the world, we have to go there.

One thing I know for sure: people who give up what they want and surrender all they are and have to Jesus will have some incredible stories to tell.  When their lives draw to an end and it’s time to reflect on it all, you’ll never hear them say, “I wish I would have…”