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!'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.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Defined Through His Eyes

At some point in our lives, each of us has to face the question of who we are. Some people find the answer to that question, while others search all their lives and never find resolution. Still others choose to ignore that subtle stirring, burying it deep in their hearts as they try to fit the mold given them by society or loved ones. But even at a subconscious level, that question still burns and demands an answer.

I've felt that stirring within me for many years. Even when I was a little child, perhaps 5 or 6 years old, I can recall defining myself by something as simple as my favorite color. As I grew older, I tried defining myself by things like favorite movies or fashion styles. Certainly, those kinds of things can tell people something about me. But they don't really tell who I am.

As I grew up, of course, I could more clearly see the superficiality of such definitions of myself. I would still choose clothing that reflects my personality, but I also understood that it isn't what defines me. So, I would try to define myself by other, more important things. My religious beliefs. My family. The people I hang out with (or don't). My job. My performance. Things I like or don't like, and things I do or don't do.

But still, those things are merely information about me. None of that tells me who I really am. 

So where can I find my identity? As I've walked in this journey of freedom, I've had to come to grips with the fact that there is only one sure foundation for my identity: God. He, after all, is the one who designed me, placed unique gifts and talents within me, and called me to a destiny bigger than anything I could ever imagine. And He knows me completely, inside and out (Ps. 139:1). Problem solved, right? I just line up with what God says and believes about me, right?

Except for one problem. My perception of how God sees me depends upon how I see Him. If I tend to think that God is hard to please and demands perfection of me, for example, then I will automatically feel like a failure because I make mistakes. It's a terrible trap, and far too easy to fall into.

So how do I know what God is really like? According to Scripture, He is tender and kind, full of love and compassion - far from the demanding, critical father He's sometimes made out to be (Is. 54:10, Hos. 2:14). So full of love, in fact, that He would send His only Son to die for me. For me. A miserable failure and a sinner. And then...He erases all of that. Every mistake. Every failure. And His grace says to me, "You aren't defined by what you do. You're defined by who I say you are."

So who am I? In God's eyes, I am beloved. I am redeemed. I am pure. I am gifted. I am one-of-a-kind. I am beautiful. I am His.

When I really believe what He says about me...everything changes. I don't spend my time feeling like a failure because I make a mistake. I know that I am forgiven, redeemed, and pure, so when I do slip, I can simply recognize that I was acting inconsistently with my identity. I am no longer defined by my mistakes. Similarly, I don't just give to others because I have to. I give because I'm a generous person. Not giving in a particular case doesn't make me stingy, but it may mean that I'm not acting authentically according to how I was designed. I am not what I do...but my actions flow out of who I am. I may make mistakes, but my identity ultimately remains unchanged.

And above all, when I know who I am, I’m free to be myself, love myself, and love other people, regardless of what they say or do, because I am God's beloved. All He asks is for me to be true to who He created me to be - a lover of God and other people. That is enough.

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.