3 Steps to Stop Not Losing and Start Winning

In most sports the overall objective is to win, but with soccer, not losing is a legitimate goal. If the team can tie up the score, they will have achieved a satisfactory measure of success.  Not winning, but not losing either.

Photo Credit: VarsityLife via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: VarsityLife via Compfight cc

This might be acceptable for soccer, but when it comes to living life, not losing is a pitiful goal and typically not something we desire. Very few people wake up and think, “Mediocrity will suffice today. I just want to maintain the status quo. I want to not lose.” Even if we did think this, we probably wouldn’t admit it. But too often our actions reflect this kind of thinking. We are risk adverse. We gravitate towards safety, comfort, and convenience. It’s natural. We like the idea of winning, but its reality seems elusive.

What if we dared to actually win? To be the best in our field? What if we wanted our work to be characterized by excellence and not mediocrity? How do we stop not losing and start winning?

1. Identify the win. And be specific. What does “win” look like for your job? Your family? Your community? Write down every detail.

2. Implement the means. How will you begin today to chart the path to your newly identified win(s)? What sacrifices will you have to make? Who will keep you accountable? Begin with one step towards winning. And then take another step. And then another.

3. Anticipate the challenge. Whether it’s your doubtful extended family, a strained economy, the inevitable unexpected, or the known risks, you will encounter resistance. It’s part of winning. Expect it. You must have the will to prepare to win.

Winning may look different for different people, but it is always illustrated with intentional focus and perseverance. Would you be willing to forfeit not losing for the sake of winning?

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Stillness in an Over-Stimulated World

Chatter, music, movies, advertisements, social media, and a plethora of electronic devices ensure our lives are, at a minimum, noisy. Life has become a perpetual stream of consciousness fed by the loudest digital source at the moment. We have an epidemic condition commonly referred to as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). We can’t sit still. We can’t be quiet.

paris driving

Do we even remember what silence is? It’s the complete absence of sound.

When was the last time all of your electronic devices were simultaneously in the off position and you were not flying? Perhaps we’re afraid of missing something. Or maybe it has been so long since we were truly quiet that the idea of a world absent sound terrifies us.

The question naturally arises, why do we need to be quiet when there is much to do and see and talk about? The answer is simple: to know God.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

Stillness is an opportunity to learn who the Lord of Hosts is. It forces us to listen. Unplugging from the constant entourage of stimulation allows us to focus entirely on the Creator of the universe. He is a self-revealing God who desires for us to know Him intimately deeper than our 30-second-microwavable devotionals.

The Amplified version phrases the admonition, “Let be and be still, and know that I am God.” Knowing God requires time and stillness. However, retaining an unmoved posture does not automatically equate with the knowledge of God. Stillness is a conduit that allows the Word of God to seep into our minds and penetrate our hearts. Silence prepares our heart to learn.

Being still is rare because it is difficult. Well, let’s be honest- it’s almost impossible in our over-stimulated world. But the reward for intentionally silencing the commotion around us to know our God cannot be measured.

Will you join me in taking the challenge to be still and know our God? To completely unplug from the world and listen to the Lord of Hosts?

Whether it’s thirty minutes, 2 hours, or the whole day, let’s set aside time today to be quiet.

Be still and know that He is God.

Paused by Pain

“Why don’t you just get over it already?”

“Suck it up and deal with it!”

“Stop being such a baby.”

I cringed. The words stung like pure acid on a gaping wound. My own criticism was executing revenge.

A few months ago, I had spouted those words in great confidence to the “whiners” around me. Their chronic distress was a damper to life and I was convinced they were bluffing. I justified my sentiments by thinking real people can deal; they just move on with life.

But now I was the one in pain- real, physical, chronic pain. What was worse, no one could decipher the symptoms. Nothing showed up in the blood work, CT scans, ultrasounds, or any other test the doctors could think to run. As the evidence for my condition vaporized, my pain became suspect. “Just man up and deal with it, Laura!” My mind reeled with the hasty assumptions I had made about others in similar situations.

The truth shamed me: I was wrong.

I was wrong to assume others didn’t have real pain. I was wrong to expect them to “get over it” and be happy. I was wrong to criticize. Pain hurts. Perhaps that is obvious to most, but without experiencing it myself, I could never have imagined the awfulness pain creates.

Trying to be tough and acting like there is no affect only worsens the wound. Being brave doesn’t mean you wear a mask. True bravery is honesty. It’s okay to have a horrible-no-good-rotten day. Or several. Be real and tell the truth. I had so many bad days I wasn’t sure if they would ever end.

Have you ever noticed how intense pain, whether physical, mental, or emotional, alters your capacity to think clearly and make logical decisions? One of the wisest statements my dad made during this season of sickness was, “We never cry alone.” He knew I would inevitably cry when the pain would cross a certain threshold. And he knew beyond that point I would not be able to process the situation and get the help I needed. It’s true of all of us. When the pain intensifies to the point of irrational thought, we need someone to do for us what we cannot do ourselves.

I regret every pep talk I quipped. Forgive me. Pain tenderized my heart and silenced my judgment. Now I can’t help but pause to empathize with others. I feel your pain.

When God is Silent

Earnest, desperate prayers have been brought before the throne of grace.

Yet God remains silent.

We double and triple check our motives and our requests.

Yet God remains silent.

In our feebleness we persist asking, seeking, knocking.

Yet God remains silent.

We question if God heard. We confess every known sin.

Yet God remains silent.

Could there be something more? Something bigger than we can imagine?

In response to this perplexing dilemma, I would like to share a couple excerpts from a tremendous book by Oswald Chambers titled “If You Will Ask.” The thoughts are based John 11:5-6 when Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead to visit. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He had heard therefore that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the same place where He was.”

“God’s silences are His answers. If we only take as answers those that are visible to our senses, we are in a very elementary condition of grace. Can it be said of us that Jesus so loved us that He stayed where He was because He knew we had a capacity to stand a bigger revelation? Has God trusted us with a silence, a silence that is absolutely big with meaning? That is His answer. The manifestation will come in a way beyond our comprehension…

“That is what prayer means – not that God may bless us. As long as we have the idea only that God will bless us in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give us the grace of a silence. If He is taking us into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, He will give us the first sign of His intimacy – silence. The Devil calls it unanswered prayer. In the case of Martha and Mary, the Spirit of God called it a sign that He loved them, and because He loved them and knew they were fit to receive a bigger revelation than ever they dreamed of, He stayed where He was. God will give us the blessings we want if we won’t go any further, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing us into this marvelous understanding of Himself.”

Is this the case with you? Is God trusting you with silence? Then take heart, my friend! You have not been forgotten, rather, our Father is inviting you to experience Himself in a deeper, fuller way. Embrace God’s silence.

Go adventure.

Life happens fast. Whether categorized by survival, maintenance, or sheer delight, time escapes without return. Seize every moment. Stop postponing your “someday” plans because someday is never guaranteed. We have today, this moment. What about the vacation to Santorini, Greece you’ve been dreaming about?  Or the dance lessons you always wanted to take? The Tough Mudder you purposed to conquer? The friend you promised to meet for coffee? The course you wished you could take? Buy the airfare and block your calendar at work. Sign up for a dance lesson. Create a Tough Mudder team. Call your friend. Enroll in the course and secure your books.

tough mudder

Be intentional about your life. Start living this moment to the fullest instead of fantasizing of an alternate life in a world of somedays. Break your comfortable norm and take a risk. Go adventure.

What risk will you take today to start living your someday dreams?

Craving Community

We are all designed for community, regardless of personality.

And I’m not just referring to the kind of community that resides in the same zip code. We were created to communicate with others. Friends, family, colleagues, classmates, and clients are all part of this network called community. And with today’s technology and social media, it is easier than ever to connect with hundreds and even thousands of people around the world.

How is it possible then, that I can be drowning in connections and still crave community? Where is the disconnect between being surrounded by people and actually having community?

Intentionality.

Community springs from authentic relationships that require effort to initiate and maintain. Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and LinkedIn connections, are merely an avenue to facilitate building relationships. Assuming a social media platform will magically be transformed into community is a catastrophic misconception. It requires individual hard work and persistence. But most importantly, community demands intentionality.

Communicate purposefully. Invest relationally. Create your own community.

Confessions of a Planaholic

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved to plan. It began harmless enough as she inquired about plans for school, lunch, and playtime. But this desire to know what was happening, when, and why, steadily morphed into what some might classify as an obsession. Instead of a series of moments lived, life became a ferris wheel of calculated plans and regimented actions.

Perhaps you can relate. Is your life a scripted sequence of events with the vague promise of security and success? Or is it a mathematical equation where event[a] added to event[b] equals presumed happiness? Sadly, this was my life.

Through several job changes, a mission trip, a severe extended illness, and unrealized ambitions, God engineered my circumstances to obliterate my carefully crafted plans. Without a doubt it was an excruciating process. I was a control freak and I didn’t want to admit it. The only guaranteed path to success that I knew was snatched away and I was no longer in control. In hindsight, it seems evident that one of God’s divine purposes in this upheaval of my life was to teach me to trust Him.

Trust, not just a passing thought or a clever cliché, but real trust in a real God through real situations. Each event was like Jesus asking me, “Will you trust Me now?” I am ashamed to say, too often trust was my last recourse. As a natural-born planner, I had Plan A, B, C, D, and E readily available. Trust was Plan Z. Having exhausted my plans and finding myself in a state of desperation, I collapsed in the Lord’s ever-present arms. I discovered that all the while He was ready and willing to prove His faithfulness to me. He was simply waiting for me to wait on Him. To trust Him fully. To rest in His supremacy. To relinquish my plans in exchange for His perfect plans.

Trusting God is scary. Not because God is in any way inept or insufficient, but because the path is unknown to us. According to common sense, the unexpected is risky. But, this is not true when the unexpected comes from our omniscient God. “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” (Corrie Ten Boom) Trust is a daily, intentional act that requires courage. Although it still freaks me out to surrender my plans, I’m learning that Jesus is always trustworthy. Only through trusting Him can I find the authentic peace and security I crave.

 

The words to this old hymn by Frances Ridley Havergal say it best:

 

Every joy or trial falleth from above

Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love.

We may trust Him fully, all for us to do:

They who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest

Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest.