Mile Two

go extra mileA recent MYER customer service experience blew me away when my question about a size 10 white blouse turned into conversation about  where I was planning to wear said blouse. After sussing out my style, the trendy young associate gave me ideas for other outfit combos, escorted me to the dressing room and even found some heels in the shoe department to try on with her suggestions. She made shopping fun and certainly went “the extra mile!”

When I envisage “going the extra mile,” I hear my CrossFit coach, Carl, encouraging me to get in an extra set if I want “gains!” I think of excellence in standards, generosity of spirit, an “over-and-above” attitude.

 

The opposite sentiment asks “do we have to” and, “what are the minimum standards?”

Extrinsic motivation for fear of retribution.

Jesus, in Matthew, instructs us this way: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Jesus referenced an ancient Persian custom of using couriers to deliver letters or important news, one with which his audience would have been familiar. The King’s personal courier held absolute power to enlist whatever help he needed to fulfil the task at hand. For example, he might not only ask to use your horse to deliver his message, but he could also demand you come with him; and, if you refused, you could be punished, even put to death! That would certainly motivate you to get moving!

All of us do things because we HAVE to; however, Jesus was speaking about attitude.

He was saying, “Don’t merely do what’s asked of you because you know if you don’t, you’ll be punished.” Sure, do what’s asked of you. Please.

And then, do a little bit more.

Go above and beyond in your effort with no expectation of a reward. It’s a “Wow, I can’t believe we GET to…” attitude driven by personal satisfaction, intrinsic motivation. Anticipation of fulfilment despite any tangible payoffs.

In the second mile, the one that isn’t required, fatigue sets in. You might start questioning why you’re there in the first place. You look back at what you’ve already done and if you’re not careful, martyrdom sets in:

POOR ME!

WHY ME?

DOES ANYONE EVEN NOTICE ME????

You look at other people and how little THEY’RE doing and you tell yourself how amazing YOU are in comparison and it’s enough to stop you short.

It’s HARD… this whole staying-the-course, second mile thing.

So, how do you fulfil the expectation Jesus has for you, going not just one mile, but two? Ratcheting up a level with joyful willingness? Expectancy?

Well, you don’t quit. When the pressure builds and odds seem like they are stacked against you, dig deep. Find your true strength, what you’re really made of. Don’t hold back. Cry out to heaven and ask for help. Push through the pain and remember that nothing good ever comes without a fight.

If the going is getting tough in your job, your marriage, your church, (your workouts), don’t retreat. Don’t entertain giving up. Don’t let a bad attitude, doubt, offence, or fear cause you to throw in the towel.

Your best days are ahead and if you’re struggling to stick with it, you put one foot in front of the other and press into the strength that only comes from seeking God.

He will sustain you. After all, he has all the answers. He laid out a path before you and his plans are worth fighting for. But, you’ll only find out if you keep going.

“Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Philippians 3:13-14 MSG).

 

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A Cup Check

My whole life, I’ve battled the “glass half empty” mentality.  This will come as a surprise if you know me because I am generally full of joy and positive about everything.  My natural tendency, however, is to see things as a “realist.”  I think that is  my excuse for worrying.  It’s rooted in fear and doubt.  It comes from a desire to protect myself; playing out the worst case scenario somehow makes me think I can handle it better if it comes.  It’s not the way any Christian should look at life.

The word of God is full of His promises to us.  It’s full of descriptions and examples of His character and faithfulness to His people.  There is NO natural reason for any of us to ever walk in doom and gloom.  Or to expect bad things to happen.  I have spent a lot of time taking my thoughts captive as the Bible tells us to do in 2 Corinthians 10:5.

In order to see the glass “half full” there must be a conscious effort to choose my response to negative situations in life.  Although I’m not always perfect, I have found the greatest way to battle any negativity is to choose an attitude of gratitude.  Concentrating on the goodness of God and giving Him credit for each and every blessing overrides any sadness, depression, fear, or anxiety.

I can fill my own cup with a spirit of gratefulness.  I think this must be what James was referring to when he said to “consider it pure joy when you face trials” (James 1).  No one really is happy when he faces a problem.  But I can find something of joy in every circumstance and the perseverance I’m building is certainly something to celebrate!

Many of us have experienced inexplicable tragedies or pain that is unbearable.  It’s hard to see the cup half full during these times.  A good friend of mine years ago was walking through a dark time in her life after her husband left her.  It was difficult and lonely yet I never heard one negative word come out of her mouth.  She never spoke ill of her ex-husband.  When I asked how she remained positive despite her circumstances, she taught me something amazing.

She said it would do no good for her to hate him or to feel sorry for herself.  She actually prayed for him everyday.  On days when life was really hard she would take out her journal and literally make a list of things for which she was thankful. Writing down “my bed, my pillow, my breakfast, my car” might be the only things she could come up with some days.  This attitude of gratefulness would crowd out any fear, anger, depression, and/or doubts about her future.  I am forever grateful for what she taught me in that moment.

As my family is in a season of transition, I could easily let my cup dry up and be enslaved by anxiety and fear.  Instead, I wake up everyday and thank God for my blessings.  He fills my cup.

This morning, I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for my children, my health, my most loving husband.  I thanked God that we will move to Australia debt free and able to start a new life without financial stress.  I thanked Him for choosing us to start Lift Church.  Most of all, I thanked Him for my salvation and my relationship with my creator who loves me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my CUP overflows. Psalm 23:5

Half and Half

When we told our 9-year-old son, Brett, about our decision to follow God and move to Australia, his first reaction was to lament over leaving his best friend, Matthew.  Within a minute or so, he looked straight at us and very matter-of-factly said, “Well, I am 50% American and 50% Australian.  So, I guess I’m 50% sad and 50% happy.”  And that was the end of it.

Brett’s wisdom in that moment is a lesson we can all learn.  Oftentimes, our days are filled with good and bad, happy and sad, difficult and easy, fun and boring.  To think that everyday is perfect or that every situation is easy for anyone isn’t realistic or true.  The Bible even says that in this life there WILL be difficulties.  We are to take heart, however because Jesus (our redeemer) has overcome the world (John 16:33).  Even though we are Christians, our days can be 50% joyful and 50% sorrowful.

It’s up to us to determine our attitude toward those circumstances.  The Bible tells us that we have authority to take any thought that is contrary to our knowledge of God and “make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).  What are thoughts that are contrary to our knowledge of God?  Feelings of unworthiness, depression, worry, anxiety, bitterness, etc. The Bible is full of God’s thoughts towards us.  They are to prosper us, to give us hope.  We are created in God’s image and He has gigantic plans for us. 

The question is not whether we will have hard days and tough challenges.  The question is what are we doing to do with them?  We have all authority to take our thoughts captive.  We can choose what we dwell on.  We can choose the perspective we have about our circumstances.  We can choose what action we will take to MOVE FORWARD past our problems and worries.  God has given us this ability and if we choose to dwell on the negative, it will only hold us back from God’s best for us.

I’m impressed that the biggest potential “bad news” my sweet 9-year-old could have received took him all of a minute to move through.  He took his sadness over leaving the home he has lived in for two-thirds of his life captive and immediately thought about the 50% of himself that was totally fired up for our new adventure.  This is not to say hard days won’t come.  Or that loneliness won’t creep up when we are starting our new lives in Australia.  But what it does say is that he is going to do well.  He will have many blessings to focus on and we will make sure to point them out!  And if I need a “pick-me-up,” I know who to call!