Monday, September 5, 2016

Project: Inspiration, Week 11 + Conclusion

With Labor Day marking the unofficial end of summer 2016, I am officially wrapping up Project: Inspiration with one last piece of inspiration. For today's post, I'm turning to a passage of Scripture that has really stood out to me lately as I've been learning more and more about the overwhelming goodness and grace of God:

"I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken" (Jn. 12:47-48, NLT).

A verse on judgment and obedience might seem a bit out of place in a series of posts related to the topic of motivation. But as someone who has struggled with both chronic procrastination and intense guilt and shame, I feel that this passage highlights some important truth for those whose lack of motivation stems from deeper emotional issues.

Some of my lack of motivation in life has stemmed from those persistent feelings of guilt. It's incredibly difficult to choose and commence upon a course of action when I have incredibly high expectations for myself. I get caught in paralysis of analysis and avoid moving when I so fear making the wrong decision, moving the wrong way, or making a mistake. In short, I try to avoid the feelings of guilt that I know I will experience if I fall short of perfect.

Clearly, that is not a healthy or realistic approach to life. No one is perfect, except God, and expecting myself to live up to that kind of a standard, to be able to always choose the right path and follow God's plan for my life perfectly is unreasonable and will never work in real life. I understand that, cognitively. But when I believe that that is what God expects of me, I keep trying to meet that standard anyway.

But then I read that verse in John. And it tells me that when I'm not perfect - heck, even when I'm outright disobedient - God isn't going to judge me. He knows I'm only human. The only thing He will ever judge me for is rejecting Him and His message (Jn. 12:47-48). And what is His message to us? Salvation by grace. Through faith. Something we can never earn, never be good enough to obtain on our own. It's a gift, to be received humbly and with gratitude (Eph. 4:8-9).

So when I find myself struggling to complete a project I want to turn out just right, or stuck in analyzing my options due to fear of making the wrong decision - all I have to do is remember God's grace. It's okay to be a little less than perfect. God's grace gives me freedom to try and fail. And try again. Jesus was perfect in my place. I don't have to hold myself to such a high standard, because Jesus already met that standard for me. And best of all, a deep understanding of His lavish grace and love should inspire such immense thankfulness that I cannot restrain myself from doing everything I can to live a live that brings Him glory. How freeing is that?

So, friends, that was the last post in the Project: Inspiration series. After a summer's worth of posts, I have to be honest: I'm still struggling with procrastination. A lot. But I have found that even writing these posts - and my commitment to do so - is helping me focus better. As I have to keep reminding myself frequently, it's a process. Rome wasn't built in a day - bad habits take time to break. The important thing is persistence.

I hope you all have enjoyed this series, and perhaps even found it helpful in your own lives. Motivation can be hard to get a hold of at times, but it is possible. And when all else fails - just do it anyway. That's how you learn to master the force of inertia in life.






Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Project: Inspiration, Week 10

Have you ever been stuck in a rut, completely lacking motivation to do anything? Knowing that you have a list of things to do, but in such a state of exhaustion or overwhelm that you feel like you just can't get to it?

I've been there a lot lately. Sometimes, it's necessary to push through in spite of those feelings and just get things done. And sometimes, just starting a task in spite of my feelings is all I need to gain the inertia to keep moving. But other times...I just need a break.

I know that a lot of people have discussed this subject, but since I've found it so relevant in my own personal life, I feel like it bears repeating. It's so easy to feel guilty for just taking some "me time." While that can be a bad thing in excess, there's nothing wrong with having some regular time out. In fact, as a creative, sensitive introvert, I find it necessary to my health - mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Sometimes, in order to gain the motivation and energy to move forward, I have to pull back for a while from the daily grind. And that's okay. It's normal. It's healthy. And to be honest, I feel like that's the way God wired us. He instituted a Sabbath day of rest for a reason.

I don't know if it's necessary to have one specific day per week, every week, designated as a day of rest. I don't know if God really cares about that as a hard, fast rule. I do think, though, that He wants us to get the principle of the Sabbath: rest. God has promised rest to His children, and refers to refusal to enter His rest as disobedience (Heb. 4).

To be honest, I struggle with truly resting. In part, from feeling guilty because I "should" be doing something else. So even when I do try to rest...I can't. I'm too anxious, thinking about everything I should probably be doing instead. Too, I've always resisted the idea of a Sabbath day because it seemed like a capricious, unnecessary, life-limiting rule. But that's not what it was intended to be.

As an introvert, I've come to realize that I need down time. Time to refresh, recharge, and release the built-up tension of day-to-day life. Daily, in my case. If I don't get it, I end up wound like a jack-in-the-box, ready to burst at any moment. Too, I find that when I'm just focusing on keeping busy, getting things done, I end up lacking focus on where I'm going. Focusing on the details, I lose sight of the big picture. I have to step back to reflect on what I'm doing and how it relates to what's important in my life.

The best part of resting, however, is that it's the best opportunity for connection. It's hard to really connect with others when you're running at 90 miles an hour. Always thinking about something else. But taking time out really gives you the opportunity to get to know someone on a deeper level. God. Other people. And even yourself. It may be hard to make time to rest, but it's worth it. God knows that it's an essential ingredient in life, which is why He said that if we fail to rest, "we will fall" (Heb. 4:11, NLT). But when we do truly rest, we find the abundant life that God promised. That's His design.

It's okay to rest.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Project: Inspiration, Week 9

"Take a fresh look."

One thing about a journey of growth and self-discovery is that sometimes you need a little inspiration from an outside source - hence the reason for my summer inspiration project. That in mind, I've been going through an inspirational journal recently, and it's filled with writing prompts that have challenged me in a lot of areas of my life.

Today's prompt encouraged me to look at something in my life from a new angle. Since I've been going through a job search process lately, I decided to start with that. And wow, was it enlightening!

So...here's the deal. I HATE job searching. It's usually a long, involved process. Lots of uncertainty. Lots of decisions to make. Lots of interviews. And I hate interviews. They're nerve-wracking, and I tend to blank out at important times or stick my foot in my mouth when I answer a question. Plus, I hate the feeling of being evaluated and having to sell myself to a potential employer. It's like I have to put on a show, pretend to be this perfect, have-it-all-together type of person, when I'm not. I'm human. I'm not perfect. Have I mentioned how much I hate interviews?

But, when I stepped back to look at it from a big-picture perspective, I could see a lot of positive aspects to this unpleasant process. I may dislike job searching, but it's something I need to do. So forcing myself to focus on the hunt in spite of its unpleasantness helps me develop diligence and self-discipline. But most of all, this is the perfect time to allow my trust in God's faithfulness and provision to grow. It's discouraging when one job opportunity after another doesn't work out and I have financial needs staring me in the face. But, it's also an opportunity to grow in faith, patience, and endurance as I hold on to God's promises to take care of me. God's Word says that He "will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19, NASB). My trust in Him deepens as it's challenged and I choose to hold on to His promises anyway. And when I finally do find just the right fit and my job search ends, God gets the glory because He did provide - just as He promised.

So this week, I want to challenge you to take a fresh look at your circumstances. Do you currently have any situations in your life that are dragging you down? If so, is there anything that God might be doing behind the scenes to bring about a greater good (Rom. 8:28)?



Be inspired journal. (2016). Del Mar, CA: Piccadilly (USA), Inc.



Monday, August 15, 2016

Project: Inspiration, Week 8

I've been to several miracle healing services in my life. At almost every one of these services, I've heard the phrase: "Do what you couldn't do before." Reach your hands over your head, in spite of the broken shoulder. Try to get up out of the wheelchair, even though you can't walk. That phrase is grounded in the principle that supernatural healing power is activated through the expression of faith. Even Jesus operated this way when He walked the earth. For example, a man with a withered hand wasn't healed until he followed Jesus' instruction to stretch out his hand. As he reached out his hand - something he couldn't do before - his hand was completely healed (Matt. 12:9-13).

Well, my friend, faith healing isn't limited to the physical dimension. God desires to heal and restore every area of life - and, as discussed in the last post, He has already provided for our healing. We just have to believe it and receive it. In that respect, then, if we face a seemingly impossible situation, are faced with our own limitations, or don't feel adequate to do what God has called us to do - we don't have to listen to the voice of inadequacy. In and of our own strength, we are indeed not enough - but God has provided His healing power for our bodies, hearts, and minds and fills us with His strength as we rely on Him. As the Scriptures say, "[W]ith God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26, NIV).

In sum, I may feel like a failure. I may feel emotionally ill-equipped to handle that new job or not smart enough to pass that test. But guess what? If God has called me to do something, He will give me the power to do it. He says I can - no matter the voices whispering in my ear telling me that I can't. All I need to do is step out in faith and try. Speak to the mountain. Get out of the boat. And see that miracles really do happen when radical faith defies reality.



Monday, August 1, 2016

Project: Inspiration, Week 7

When you were growing up, did you ever have a moment of not wanting to do something that your parents asked you to do, only to hear them say, "do it anyway"? I certainly have heard that phrase many times in my life. I never liked to hear it when I was a kid, but in retrospect I can see that I was being taught an important life lesson in those moments.

One part of emotional maturity is learning how to set aside your feelings in the moment, in order to get things done. As a recovering procrastinator, I can attest to the fact that waiting until you feel like tackling a project is a guaranteed way of ensuring that it doesn't get done. I can't count all the times that I've made a to-do list, only to complete about half of what I'd written down. Nor could I tell you how many times I've turned off my alarm clock in the morning and slept for a while longer, only to rush to make appointments on time...or show up late.

No matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable it is for me to attend to the task at hand, however, I almost always feel worse when I don't complete a project. Conversely, I can't remember any instances of pushing through the desire to procrastinate and regretting it. Every time I've focused on what needed to be done, instead of my feelings about it, I've only felt a sense of satisfaction about what I had accomplished.

Along similar lines, another thing that I've struggled with is finding the motivation to do something that I used to love doing, but no longer enjoy. For example, I used to love reading and frequently spent my spare time curled up in a chair with a novel. During college, however, I had to read so much that at the end of the day I found myself loath to pick up another book. Even after graduation, I found that my fondness for books had not returned. I thought that my drive to read might return with taking a break for a while. But it didn't. The only thing that has brought back my love of reading was going ahead and doing it anyway. In other words, sometimes when you lose the joy of doing something you used to love, you may have to force yourself to start again if taking a break doesn't bring the joy back.

If, like me, you've struggled with inaction due to your feelings, then I challenge you to take your parents' "advice" to heart: do it anyway. It may not be fun or comfortable in the moment, but in the end, the sense of accomplishment will outweigh the present discomfort. Please excuse me while I take a look at the next item on my checklist.





Monday, July 25, 2016

Project: Inspiration, Week 6

"Never look back unless you are planning to go that way" - Henry David Thoreau (n.d.).

It's so easy to get stuck in the past. I've spent much of my life there, in mourning and regret about things that I've done, things I didn't do, and things that other people did or did not do. But a funny thing happens when I spend my time looking backward: I quit moving in the present.

For those who believe in Christ, there is no reason to live in the past. God knows about every past wound, every injustice, and gives us His healing power. He also calls us to extend His forgiveness to everyone who has hurt us, intentionally or unintentionally (Eph. 4:32). Releasing His forgiveness not only is acting authentically as sons and daughters of God, but also releases us from the power of bitterness to hold us back.

And as for regret? That can hold you back, too. If you spend your time worrying about your past mistakes, you won't be focused on living in the present. And if you attach so much importance to your mistakes, you won't be inclined to take the required risks that go along with a life of faith. But as believers, we don't have to be shackled by regret. The apostle Paul didn't allow his imperfection to drag him down, but instead focused on "Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead" (Phil. 3:12-14, NLT). God's mercy covers those mistakes, so that we don't have to let them hold us back. His grace gives us an abundant future with room for creativity, exploration, and even a few mistakes as we discover what God has in store for us.

God isn't looking at your past (Is. 43:25). He's moved on. So why don't you?

Reference:

Thoreau, H. D. (n.d.). Never look back unless you are planning to go that way. Goodreads. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/62257-never-look-back-unless-you-are-planning-to-go-that

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: The Epic Seed Yogurt

Yesterday, I made the mistake (again) of wandering around the store a little bit after I picked up the items on my list. For some reason, I almost always end up buying something I don't need when I do that, and this time was no exception. Thankfully, I only picked up one extra item, however. I'm a sucker for trying out new foods, new flavors, etc., and when I saw some yogurt I had never purchased before on clearance, I couldn't resist adding it to my basket.

So today, I'm going to review The Epic Seed Greek Yogurt + Chia. But before I do, can we all just take a moment to admire my amazing photo editing skills?




Okay, so I'm not a photographer. Not yet, anyway. On to the review.

As you can see in the picture, this product is Greek yogurt with chia seeds on the bottom. The Target store I purchased it from had a few different flavors, including blueberry, blackberry, and peach. I opted for peach. 

Admittedly, this was my first experience eating chia seeds in gel form. I half expected the texture to be slimy and viscous, but to my pleasant surprise, it was not. The yogurt masked the odd texture of the chia seeds perfectly...I only noticed a slight crunch reminiscent of soft blackberry seeds.

The peach flavor was a good choice - pleasantly sweet and well blended. I didn't notice the chia seeds at all, flavor-wise. 

Health-wise, I was impressed with this particular yogurt. According to the label, it's gluten-free, non-GMO, and grass-fed. It also contains 14g of protein, 700mg of Omega-3, and 250mg of Omega-6. The down side, of course, is the sugar: 11g, in the form of pure cane sugar along with the natural sugars in the yogurt and fruit. I actually didn't think this number was excessively high, but obviously that will be more of a concern to some people than others. 

Ultimately, for any review, the test comes down to this: would I buy this product again? In this case, the answer is "yes." The flavor and texture were excellent, providing a good introduction to the unfamiliar world of chia seeds. This yogurt also fits in well with my (not always successful) efforts to live a healthy lifestyle. My only recommendation to the manufacturer would be to make this product organic. Still, I highly recommend this product, and would purchase it again in the future.



*Note: This was a personal review, with my own honest opinion. I was not paid to promote this product. 




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Project: Inspiration, Week 5

For week 5 of Project: Inspiration, I'm turning to the most powerful source of inspiration: God's Word. 

Matthew 6:34 contains one of the most oft-quoted scriptures on the topic of trusting God. In this verse, Jesus reminds us not to "worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself" (Matt. 6:34, NIV). God will take care of all of our needs, if only we will trust Him (Matt. 6:25-34). 

Having been plagued with torturous doubts, I have long craved a sense of certainty that nonetheless seems to elude me. Too many times, I respond to that uncertainty by allowing fear to take my eyes off of God. I let worry paralyze me into inaction as I analyze all the things that could possibly go wrong if I make a misstep. What if I make the wrong career move and don't have enough to live on? What if I take the risk of vulnerability in a relationship, only to be rejected?

When I refuse to take a step forward out of that place of uncertainty, however, I end up getting stuck. And ironically, I may attract the very thing that I was afraid of by simply not moving. For example, if I don't take steps to further my career, I will almost inevitably have difficulty supporting myself at some point down the road. If I don't open my heart to other people, I will never be able to have the intimate relationships that I need. 

The answer, then, is trusting in God and taking some risks in spite of the doubt and fear. Yes, I may pray about a decision and agonize over it, yet still make the wrong move. But God is more than capable of leading me back in the right direction or working in my life right where I am. His mercy and grace cover my mistakes. And if I take a risk and get hurt, God will always be there for me. His love is more than capable of healing any broken heart.

If you've allowed worry to keep you in a state of "paralysis of analysis," I challenge you to give your worries over to God. Pray, yes. Weigh your options and consider the risks, yes. But don't stop there. Take a step forward and move anyway. God has your back. 







Friday, July 15, 2016

My Enemy, My Neighbor

The violence of the last two weeks has shaken America with the tragic losses of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, the five police officers killed in retaliation, and now what appears to have been a terrorist attack in yesterday's massacre in Nice, France. At such a time, it is easy to start pointing fingers and to allow fear, anger, bitterness, prejudice, or discouragement to set in.

Jesus calls us to not respond in kind to the evil actions of other people. Instead, He tells us to "'love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you'" (Matt. 5:38-44, NIV). In fact, I would argue, it is easiest to do this if you don't see other people as your enemies at all. Murderers, kidnappers, abusers, rapists, terrorists...they're easy to label as the enemy. Certainly, their actions pose threats to the safety and wellbeing of others. But they are also human beings, created in God's image. People for whom Jesus died. Our neighbors.

Scripture is filled with accounts of God's mercy and love toward even the vilest of sinners. David, a man who committed adultery and murdered his mistress' husband, was known as "'a man after [God's] own heart]'" (1 Sam. 13:14, NLT). Paul, the great apostle who authored much of the New Testament, sought the lives of believers prior to his repentance (Acts 8:1-3). But perhaps the most dramatic example of all is Manasseh, King of Judah. He murdered many of his people, sacrificed his own children to idols, and led Judah away from worshiping the Lord. But later on, while held captive in a foreign land, he repented. God heard him and restored his kingdom, and Manasseh went on to serve the Lord and reverse much of the evil he had done in Judah (2 Kgs. 21, 2 Chron. 33).

Am I saying that we should lie down and ignore the very real threats posed by people with evil intentions? Not at all. There is a real need at times like these to take measures to secure public safety. Nor do I downplay in the slightest the suffering of victims of violence. They need our love, our prayers, our open hearts and hands in a big way right now.

What I am saying is that if we are God's children, and God loves and forgives even the greatest sinners, we can do no less. We act authentically as sons and daughters of the King when we resist the temptation of fear and bitterness, and instead choose to forgive and pray for those who seek our harm. Reach out in love to the families of those who act out in violence, who may well be hurting and shunned because of their relation to the perpetrator. It isn't easy.

What I ask you is this: Pray for your neighbors today. Pray for the victims of acts of hate and terrorism. Pray for their families. And pray for those who are so caught in the web of hate, bitterness, and extremism that they seek to destroy innocent lives. Pray for love, forgiveness, and truth to prevail. Pray that the light would shine and dispel the darkness that is trying to take over our world. There is no limit to God's power to heal and restore.



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Project: Inspiration, Week 4

Have you ever been faced with a job loss, a mountain of debt, or other circumstances that tested your faith in God's ability to provide for you? I have, more than once. It's easy to get discouraged at such times, and to start believing that God won't come through for you. If you give in to this discouragement, then doubt and fear of losing everything can take hold, causing your joy and trust in God to be shaken.

One time, I faced a situation in which I was out of work for 6 months. Just before that time, the Lord gave me a verse in Jeremiah that inspired me to hold on in faith as long as it took to find a new job:

"But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They  are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit" (Jer. 17:7-8, NLT).

When I read that verse, I began to see that God is truly my provider. He won't abandon me in my hour of need; He will take care of me. And sure enough, as I held on to that promise, He provided a job just when I needed it the most. I've seen Him provide for me in other ways since then, in ways that worked together too well to be explained in any way other than supernatural provision.

So I encourage you today: if you're facing a situation that's testing your faith in God's provision, keep holding on. God is your provider. He will take care of you. Just keep trusting Him, and watch Him come through.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Project: Inspiration, Week 3

This week, I'm going back over a note of inspiration that I wrote to myself a few weeks ago: "Failure is an option. So what?"




Few people, if any, enjoy failure. But for some people, fear of failure can become crippling. As a recovering perfectionist, I should know. For years, my standard for work, school, and other areas of life has been just shy of perfect. I've left very little room for imperfection, let alone failure.

Looking back over my life, I can see that I've feared failure so much because I thought that failing would make me a failure. And because I didn't want to be a failure, I held back from doing a lot of things that I wanted to do but considered difficult. That is, I let fear of failure paralyze me.

One thing I've been learning, however, is that failure is an option in this life. In fact, it's inevitable. Should I let that stop me from trying to succeed, though? In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a parable about a master who gave 3 servants talents to invest while he went away on a trip. Two of the servants invested the money, but one feared losing the money on risky investments and therefore simply hid his portion for safekeeping. In the end, this servant was severely chastised for refusing to even try to earn a profit. That is, allowing fear of failure to hold him back was worse than actually failing.

Knowing this, I have no excuse for not even attempting to use the talents that God has given me. I may fail, and probably will. But at least let it not be said that I didn't try. After all, when something looks too big for me to handle, God's power has the greatest opportunity to shine. God gets the glory when His strength enables me to do things I could ordinarily never do on my own (Ps. 18:29, 2 Cor. 12:9-10, Phil. 4:13).

With that said, I'm learning to step outside of my comfort zone. Try things I haven't tried before. Re-attempt things that I failed at in the past. I'm still making mistakes. I'm still finding that there are some things I'm just not good at. But I'm also having a lot of fun discovering that I can do more than I thought I could. And perhaps the most enjoyable of all is the discovery that I can make a mistake, shrug it off, and move on.

God's mercy covers our mistakes. His grace gives us the ability to press on regardless. That is finding freedom in Christ.




Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Project: Inspiration, Week 2

In the last few months, it seems that every time I turn around I see the phrase, "Life is a beautiful ride." This quote, likely derived from Gary Allan's song, "Life Ain't Always Beautiful," sums up nicely some things I've been learning over the course of my journey.




Oftentimes, I see this particular quote paired with a picture of a bicycle. Perhaps some people experience life in the leisurely way that you might expect of a bike ride in the park. However, this has not been the case in my personal experience. Life is indeed a ride, but at least for me, it's more like a roller coaster than a bicycle. It's got ups, and it's got downs. And all too often, the downs feel like a plunge into the ocean with chains around your neck: frightening, overwhelming, and at times even hopeless.

As I've been learning, though, I don't have to despair in moments of pain, doubt and shame. Even when it feels as if nothing will ever be right again, "God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (Rom. 8:28, NLT). While my humanity naturally tends to only consider the high points of life to be "beautiful," my God is a God who brings beauty out of ashes (Is. 61:3).

I have already seen some good things come out of the pain that I have experienced in life. For example, I have found that my own personal struggles allow me to better understand what other people are going through. How could I understand the turmoil and hopelessness that shame can cause, without having experienced deep feelings of shame for myself? Too, I've found that I've been forced to start learning to depend upon God instead of things and other people. He is the only one who is strong enough to handle all the pain that I've been carrying, and offers an endless supply of love, grace, and mercy that covers my every doubt, insecurity, and failing.

While I wouldn't say that I would want to relive any of the painful experiences that I have been through, I can honestly say that I wouldn't trade them, either. Walking through some dark valleys has led me to some higher places than I have ever tread before. I've learned and grown in ways that I probably wouldn't have were life a comfortable bike ride.

Now, I find myself excited to discover what other beautiful things God is going to pull out of the ashes in my life. And yours, assuming that your life hasn't always been a smooth ride, either. God will turn the broken places in your life into a masterpiece, if only you will let Him. He's just waiting on you.



Thursday, June 23, 2016

SMART Goals

Today I am going to continue with the topic discussed in the last few posts - goal achievement. If you're anything like me, perhaps you're one of those people who is a serious rock star when it comes to laying out detailed plans, but often falls flat when it comes to execution.

While many things can contribute to unmet goals, in my own personal life, I have found that procrastination, indecisiveness, and lack of focus are among the biggest drivers of the problem. For example, I tend to feel intimidated by large or time-consuming projects, and therefore I procrastinate as long as possible. When I have a long list, I often have trouble prioritizing in terms of which items to tackle first, and sometimes I switch back and forth projects, leading to a number of incomplete projects. In short, I need a better system of working on my goals than my current one.

One of the many things that I learned prior to obtaining my degree in business was the concept of SMART goals. Although this concept was developed to aid organizations in achieving their objectives, it is also easily applicable to personal goals. As espoused by Peter Drucker, a SMART goal meets the following five qualifications:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound ("Management," n.d.)
To illustrate how it works, let's take a look at my application of this approach to my goal of increased reading. My love of reading took a nosedive during college, and in the last few years, I've only read about 2-3 books per year. To correct this situation, I recently challenged myself on Goodreads to read 20 books by the end of 2016. As you can see, this challenge meets the qualifications of a SMART goal:
  • Specific - reading books
  • Measurable - reading 20 books
  • Achievable - reading 20 books in a year is reasonably doable; reading 365 might not be (at least for me!)
  • Realistic - adequately challenging, but not to the point that I would feel overwhelmed and potentially give up; reading 50 books might be achievable, but not realistic, given my current reading rate
  • Time-bound - target date is 12/31/16
Easy enough, right? If you've had any problems in the area of achieving the goals that you set for yourself, then I invite you to join me in applying the SMART approach to your list of objectives. CAUTION: your bucket list may get considerably shorter.


Source:


Management by objectives (Drucker). (n.d.). Communication Theory. Retrieved from http://communicationtheory.org/management-by-objectives-drucker/

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Project: Inspiration, Week 1

Today begins week one of Project: Inspiration. I hope you are ready to be inspired!

First off, I would like to tell you a little more about the postcard that started this project. As noted last week, a friend of mine sent me this postcard a few months ago:


Such a simple, intuitive message, and yet profound all the same: it is meaningful action, and not idle wishing, that leads to goal completion. I've needed to hear this message for a long time. For many years, I've felt powerless to turn my dreams into a reality. I've believed that I didn't have the time, resources, intelligence, or competence that I needed, and for that reason I've tended to circumscribe myself to setting goals that I felt were easily achievable. Although I still struggle with these feelings, I've had to face the fact that these are all false beliefs. Regardless of how insurmountable my natural limitations may appear, God will provide everything that I need to accomplish everything that He has called me to do (Phil. 4:19).

Perhaps even more limiting, however, has been my belief that I have to get explicit guidance from God concerning every decision that I face. For this reason, I've wavered, agonized, and debated myself extensively on issues such as job choice, college major, and even charitable giving, fearful of what would happen if I made a mistake and didn't hear God telling me what to do. Naturally, this has led to a great deal of "paralysis of analysis" on my part if my requests for divine guidance were met with silence.

Recently, however, a new perspective has challenged that belief. A couple of weeks ago, guest speaker Shawn Bolz (2016) spoke at my local church on the troubling issue of divine silence. In his view, God isn't interested in micro-managing our lives, but instead, like a parent, wants us to make good choices based upon what He has already taught us. If He is silent when we pray for guidance, it may be because He's waiting to see what we're going to do. This perspective has transformed my thinking, allowing me for the first time to truly embrace the concept of free will. Not only is it okay to make an executive decision if I don't hear from God about something, but also it's something that God expects of me.

If, like me, you've allowed false beliefs about yourself or God to hold you back from following your dreams, I encourage you to give those beliefs a second look. I pray that you discover the truth that you have both the freedom and the tools that you need to accomplish everything that God has called you to do.


Reference:

Bolz, S. (2016, June 5). Translating God (sermon series). Sojourn Church. Available from https://sojournchurch.org/?sermons-speakers=shawn-bolz

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bucket List

Have you ever made a bucket list? If not, then perhaps it's time to consider the idea of making one. No matter what your age, it's a good idea to think about the future and the long-term goals that you would like to accomplish.

Back when I attended community college, one of my professors gave the class an assignment. She instructed us each to make a list of life goals, in areas such as personal, relational and career. Prior to that time, I hadn't given much thought to such things, so my goal list reflected my uncertainty about what I wanted to do with my life and has received little attention in the ensuing years. Recently, however, I read a book called "The Art of Non-Conformity," in which author Chris Guillebeau stresses his belief that you can accomplish everything you want to with your life - just not all at once. With that little inspiration, then, I took a fresh look at my bucket list. Here are a few of the highlights from the revised version:
  • Get married
  • Start my own blog
  • Start my own business
  • Start a non-profit organization
  • Travel to at least 10 different countries
  • Learn to speak Spanish fluently
  • Publish a book
Right off the bat, you may have noticed that I have already achieved one of my goals - starting a blog. I would also like to call attention to a couple of other details. First, some of these goals are short-term in nature - to be accomplished within the next few years (start my own business), while others are things I hope to accomplish before I die (publish a book). Additionally, while I hope to check off every item on my bucket list someday, I do see it as ultimately flexible. For example, my desires could change, or God could have some plans for my life that I am not aware of yet (doesn't He always???). The important thing, however, is to have a list of objectives that I can be working toward completing, even if that list changes down the road.

All that said, if you have not yet made your own personal list of life goals, I challenge you today to take some time to pray and reflect upon your life. What has God called you to do? What are your long- and short-term desires, personally, relationally, ministry-wise, and career-wise? And then rock your world: put a pen to the page, create your personal bucket list, and start working on it. 


Reference:

Guillebeau, C. (2010). The art of non-conformity: Set your own rules, live the life you want, and change the world. (n.p.): TarcherPerigree.





Monday, June 13, 2016

Project: Inspiration

Now that I'm officially off of blog break, I want to share with you a project I've recently started. A few months ago, a friend gave me a very encouraging postcard that, along with other things that have transpired of late, has been a great reminder to get up and start working on the things I've wanted to do but felt incapable of doing:




I've been on an inspirational quotes kick lately, and this one is near the top of my list. The other day, I decided to tape the card to my closet door, where I can see it every day - especially those days that I'm plagued with self-doubt and insecurity. And then I got to thinking: why stop with one? So, I added another card with a note of encouragement to the door:




I'm setting a goal for myself to fill up this door by the end of the summer with motivational notes to self. And every week, I'll post about one of the cards, what it means to me, and how I'm learning and growing - starting next week. Historically, I've had a tendency to begin projects and not follow them through, so even this small goal is important to me as a declaration that I'm going to complete something that I started. By seeing small goals like this through to the end, I hope to gain the motivation I need to tackle bigger, longer, and more important goals in the future.

I hope that this post inspires you, as it has me, to actively seek out ways of motivating yourself to change things in your life that dissatisfy you. Too, if you've found yourself struggling with project completion, I hope that this encourages you to set some goals for yourself, however small they may be, and work on changing the situation.