Friday, July 31, 2009

Here, on the edge...

I've been challenged by several people I know and some I just follow this year. I keep hearing stories of those who have made wholesale changes in their lives, stepping out in faith to do what they feel they've been called to. The challenging part, though, is that by definition "stepping out in faith" means you cannot see what will be catching your foot.

A blogger I follow left what I would consider a great job to do something he has always wanted to do. He's created a new story, and he's trusting that God will bless it and others through it, but he just doesn't know.

I don't like not knowing.

(A small caveat: I am not trying to describe my story as a leap of faith like Ben Arment's. Mine is more of a small step of faith, but I feel it's significant to me.)

I was really good at my job. I could do just about anything there without a terrible amount of effort. I was good with goals, good at motivating people, good at the actual tasks, careful (and care-full) about the process, and good at training others.

And I was bored.

God provided me with several job offers this year. What is interesting, looking back, is the opportunities that each decision afforded.

I could have stayed right where I was, doing the same thing I had done for years. This is undoubtedly what I would have done years ago. Something I have discovered about myself over the last few years, and my friends have know for much longer, is that I am scared of change. Extremely afraid of change. Like, didn't go to college because I'm afraid of change. This choice would have required no faith and would have involved no growth.

I could have accepted a job offer to be the regional manager for a restaurant chain in the area. This offer came with a pretty good sum of money, as well. The problem is that even though there was money, there weren't many benefits. And the other problem is that it felt too safe for me. I knew I could do this job, and do it well. But this step would require little faith and have involved little growth.

I accepted a job with a plant near my city. While the overall idea of the job, which is inventory and purchasing, is very familiar to me, the rest would be brand new. It would be challenging. I would know almost nobody there and have to prove myself, and quickly. This step has required no small amount of faith and is involving growth.

There was a fourth choice, though. I could have accepted a youth ministry position for less money than I was making at my last job on the other side of the country. I loved the kids there and was really excited about going, and thought for a little bit that I was, but ended up turning it down. I just thought it was a bad decision for my family. That step would have required a LOT of faith and surely would have involved a lot of growth.

Let there be no doubt: I know God would have taken care of us if we had gone to New Mexico. Even if that was not what He wanted me to do, I know He still would have taken care of us. That's not to say it wouldn't have been hard (because we're not promised a comfortable life), but we would have had all we needed. I just wonder if that job offer was a test of my faith.

And I'm thankful that God provided me with options. I don't think it was a "pass" or "fail" test of faith, I think God is trying to show me that He needs me to trust Him. And I'm grateful that I still took a choice that requires me having more faith than I'm used to.

I've just come to realize that my success really has nothing to do with me.

I will always work as hard as I can - that's just who I am. But I've prayed a lot lately for God's help in doing a good job, because I'm now in a position where I don't know it all. As a matter of fact, I don't know much at all! And so I am acutely aware that when I succeed it is not because of me. I am doing everything I can to succeed, but God is providing the success. And so I am having to trust that even though I am trying to learn and do at the same time, God will make what I do good, and that if He does let me fail, it's for my own good.

I don't seem able to write a short blog post, and this is no exception, but if you've made it this far, I want you to understand something. I am a FIRM believer in Colossians 3:23-24: "23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." It is freeing to realize that if I act and work at my job as if the only one I am responsible to is God Himself, then I don't have to worry about what men think about me. If God decides that I keep my job, then I will keep it. If God decides that I lose my job, then I will lose it. Either way, He will take care of me. I don't have to be worried about my reputation or making a name for myself or covering up my mistakes. I'll let God worry about that. I'll just work hard and try to make Him proud.

So while I may not have taken a leap of faith, I have taken a few steps. And while it's scary at times, it's fun too. Thank God.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One Mile, One Verse

I always excited when someone is passionate about bringing God to others. I can remember a friend of mine coming back from a Passion Conference on fire about a particular issue. Did you know that there are 200 million people who do not have the Bible in their language? It is the calling of One Verse to bring the Bible to all those people who don't have it. Only $26 will fund the translation of one verse of the Bible into one of these last languages.

What else do you know that comes in sets of 26? Marathons!

My friend also likes to run marathons and do triathlons. So he has joined Team One Verse, a running group devoted to raising money for Bible translation. As someone who believes very strongly that God often speaks to us through His Word, it means a lot to provide that Word to those who do not have it. My friend The Tri Runner is asking for whatever sponsorship you can provide for his performance in the Augusta Triathlon towards One Verse. You can click here to sponsor him. Please consider giving whatever you can to help him out. Make a sacrifice to help make a difference across the world. Thanks!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Power of Positive Thinking

I am becoming more and more convinced about some theories I have. And some recent goings-on have added relief to those thoughts.

I see too many people who invest their time, energy, and emotion into others' failure. From my perspective it's quite sad, but that's not to say that I don't understand where they're coming from. They've been hurt (whether actual or perceived doesn't matter) or abandoned or passed over, etc. and want retribution. And so they plot ways to make life hard for their "enemies." They keep tabs on them in hopes that they can rejoice in failure. And so often they dig themselves a deeper hole if and when that person succeeds instead of fails.

The problem is that others' pain is never enough to sate your pain.

The desire for revenge is just like lust, anger, materialism, or any emotion that is completely indulged - it is never-ending. More is never enough.

What happens is that the person succeeds and they grow more bitter. Or the person suffers a minor setback and it's not enough.

I can't live like that. I've grown tired of investing in other people's failure. I've grown tired of investing emotional energy in someone else's discontent. I'd much rather invest my time, energy, and emotion into my own success. I've been trying to think of people I know who have been consumed with negative emotions towards someone else and I can't think of one who went on the become a success in whatever it was they were doing. It takes too much time to try to plot the downfall of, think of the perfect snide comment for, or just to sit and stew over that person who annoyed you, or got your promotion, or didn't fulfill your every wish. Meanwhile, the person your angry with is too busy avoiding pitfalls, being nice, and proactively getting ahead in life. It's like the guy who got mad that I backed out of a parking space and got in the drive-thru ahead of him last night. He's cussing and fussing and pointing and mouthing off in his car and I'm getting a great laugh just looking at him!

That's one reason I think God tells us to forgive - to actually let go and cut the cord on our hate.

All of that negative energy spent on someone else (or yourself!) doesn't get anyone anywhere. It's just entrenchment. Besides, don't you believe that God has your best waiting for you? If God wanted you to get your every wish he wouldn't be looking out for your best interests, now would He? Maybe someone else got the promotion so that you wouldn't fail in that job. Maybe God has something else entirely in store for you. Maybe He knows you're not ready. Why prove that last point right by stewing about it for days, or weeks, or even longer? Why not swallow that pride and get to work improving yourself instead of trying to degrade someone else?

I do not think you can succeed if you are invested in others' failure. Your attention is divided. Let it go and move on to more important things. Wish them well and then you'll be able to rejoice when they succeed and work towards your own success.

Wouldn't you rather enjoy life than wallow in misery? Put on some music and sing - loudly. Watch your favorite movie. Go on a picnic. Smile. Pray.