Dearest Siestas, I am so sorry to not respond to your comments last week. It would seem that I have had some busy hands lately with our family and activities around the Smith home. Only 23 days left of school for our crew, and boy are they excited!!
Each week I will do my best to phrase the questions, so that you may participate, whether or not you are reading along with us. I have left my responses in purple, after each question.
Even though I have been reading this book from our local library (we have the best library system here in the Colorado Springs area!), I intend to buy it. For I am finding that it is sparking some good thought-provoking thoughts in my rusty ol' brain, and I would love to be marking the book up with a highlighter and some thoughts in the margins.
Chapter 4 - Expect: The Believer
I loved what Erwin had to say about leaning forward. I even shared this story with a friend this past week. Erwin says, "Chad Becker, who serves on our leadership team at Mosaic, once qualified for the US Olympic Ski Team. He would be the diametrical opposite of me in skiing. For him skiing is natural; for me, it's unnatural. I still try and continue to hope one day to learn how to ski. I give it a shot every ten years or so.
"I've come to realize what has been my problem. See, when you put on those skis, the mountain is going down and the snow is slick. And the natural tendency when you are going in a certain direction really fast with a lot of trees and a ski lodge awaiting your arrival is to pull back, right? Think about it. If you are going too fast, you want to pull back, but there's nothing to pull back on. All you have are those little sticks, which are essentially worthless. So you're pulling back on your skis, thinking. Slow down Slow down. Now they tell you, if you lean back, you'll lose control, but you know that's not true. They're lying to you. They just don't want you on the mountain taking up space on their snow another day.
" 'Lean forward,' they tell you with a devious grin. But you know you shouldn't lean forward. Why in the world would you lean forward in the direction you are trying not to go? So you keep leaning back, and they nag, 'No, if you want to learn how to ski, you have to bend your knees and lean forward in the direction you are going.' But you are certain about this: when you don't want to go in a direction, and you definitely don't want to get there faster, if you lean forward, you're going to lose control and get hurt.
"So you eventually concede and try it their way. You bend your knees and start going faster and think. Lean forward, lean forward. You're leaning.
"That's what happens when you begin to dabble in this God thing and maybe invite Jesus Christ to change us and lead us into a new life. What we really want God to do is be the calming presence in our life. We want God to bring some peace and stability. But soon you're saying, 'Wait a minute, nobody told me this relationship with God is like skiing downhill in the Swiss Alps as a beginner with no lessons!'
"OF course, we enjoy the ski lift. The ride is so nice, so scenic, so relaxing. It's when you get off the lift and you make the turn that it hits you: 'Wait a minute. Where is the lift down?!' Has this been your experience with God? Your life is a mess, you're overwhelmed, you turn to God, and He picks you up and sets you in the lift. And it is beautiful and breath-taking. Then you get to the top and turn around, and the journey is bigger and more challenging than you ever imagined.
"Now what you have is a beautiful mess. There is life inviting you to engage it, to conquer it, to come at full speed ahead staring at you from below. You hear a haunting but gentle voice whisper into your soul, Lean forward; don't shrink back. To create the life of your dreams, you have to lean forward. You have to expect, to believe, to live a life that could actually be described as a life of faith. You must live a life that presses into the future."
What might your life look like right now if you did not shrink back from the goal, but leaned forward and pressed into the future God has for you?
No doubt about it, if I was fully leaning forward and not shrinking back, I would be so happy to volunteer to go, like the Compassion bloggers, who are overseas right now. As it is, I can think of the hindrances of my own making and yes, even fears, that keep me from leaning forward. Leaning forward for me comes with a cost of daily obedience, daily picking up my cross and daily submitting myself to the Lord--yet, I lack the discipline of long obedience in one direction. There is where my struggle lies. But it is one of the many goals of my life, so I press on.
I like how Erwin looks outside the box when he said this to a businessman, "Transformation is the ability to get up in the morning and look in the mirror and like the person you are becoming."
Do you like the person you are becoming or not? What are the biggest challenges you face in becoming and transforming into Christ's likeness?
I DO like the person I'm becoming. I know I am not who I was AND I know that I have miles yet to go. The biggest challenges I face fall in the areas of past hurts and past sins, where I begin to attribute truth to something based on experience. So I sometimes look into a faulty mirror and find that what I see in that faulty mirror cannot look like Jesus. I have to speak TRUTH over my mirror on a daily basis.
Erwin says, "The great challenge for many of us is that there will be times in our lives when God will say, 'I have done all of this for you. I have provided for you tremendously, but I want you now to give that up for the life you were created to live. There's more than this.' It is very likely that the life God has given you as a gift today is the very thing He will ask of you as a sacrifice tomorrow."
Also he later states, "A life of expectation sometimes brings great public success, but sometimes God glorifies Himself and finds the greatest honor from our lives when we are willing to fail in the eyes of others simply by doing what is right even if it means losing out perceived value to the world. Faith is not measured by success but by faithfulness."
Have you ever suffered a loss or been perceived as a failure in pursuit of following hard after God? What helped you to press on in the midst of it?
I have suffered loss. I have been perceived as a failure. Both were in pursuit of following hard after God and not from blatant sin or disobedience. In the process of giving up what I struggled to keep, I found God to be faithful in the midst of it. I felt His Presence in such a palpable way. I heard His voice so very clearly. In the process of failing, I knew that God had (and still has) purpose in it and was going (and still is going) to use it for His glory. That was enough for me to say, "Yes, Lord. I will continue to press into You. You are good, Lord." So I rehearsed what I knew about God and I listened to His voice. I delved deeply into His Word and found richness in the text, almost like God has highlighted certain sections just for me! I responded to Him with thanksgiving and praise, even with telling Him what was hurting or hard.
Chapter 5 - Focus: The Seer
Erwin refers to the story of Peter walking on the water to Jesus. Then he says, "It says here that when Peter 'looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink.' Now I want to give the translators a break here, but truth be told, they didn't translate what's actually there. If you look at the original language, it actually doesn't say when Peter saw the high waves. You know what it says? It says when he saw the wind...
"Maybe you've thought something like, If I could see God then I would never lose my faith in Him. If I could hear God's voice, then I would never fall away.
"...But Peter could see Jesus, and it didn't help. And to make it more laced with irony, what distracted him was that he saw something that was invisible--he saw the wind.
"...As talented as you and I may be, you cannot walk the road God has prepared for you without Him. To follow Him is to live in His strength."
What are your thoughts and responses to this?
I have to admit, I have always faulted Peter for losing sight of Jesus. I think keep your eyes on him, buddy! Just like every time I watch Anne of Green Gables, I pray that this time Matthew won't fall in the field. But he does. And so did Peter. And honestly, truth be told, so would I. I would take my eyes off Jesus. I do take my eyes off Jesus. And I end up getting caught off guard by the wind.
"Do you ever struggle with feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities and opportunities? This alone can cause you to lose your focus. It's easy to lose sight of where you're headed and why you're going there when there is so much need and opportunity. If you don't lock into the life God has called you to live, you will find yourself pulled and torn by everyone else's desire and expectation for your life," Erwin states.
"What happens to many of us is that everyone else has a plan for our lives, and we end up losing our lives trying to live theirs. Everyone else has something you should be doing. Believe me, if you don;t have a purpose for your life, there are plenty of people who will be happy to give you theirs. If you do not develop the ability to say no to many important things, you're going to lose the big yes of your life."
Are you currently living in an overwhelmed state? Are you following everyone else's plan? Or are you following God's plan?
I am definitely in the first category--overwhelmed. I'm not following anyone else's plan, but I am struggling with the simplest of daily activities sometimes. I think this is a factor of letting my "want to" get in the way. I don't want to get up earlier. I don't want to do this or that. And it leaves me in a state of chaos of my own making. But I WANT to be following God and I WANT my "want to" to change.
Erwin talks about setting your sights and focusing your lens to see what God is placing in your heart to dream. Then he says this, "We act as if the spiritual journey is like God leaving little breadcrumbs, and we are Hansel and Gretel. Through the woods we can find our way home. But somewhere along the way all the ravens ate the breadcrumbs and we're lost in the forest asking, 'God where do I go?' The dilemma is that God doesn't draw you a map, doesn't give you chalk lines, doesn't leave you bread crumbs. He builds your character. As you develop your character, you have an internal compass that guides your way and begins to give you clarity to see the life of your dreams. It is here that the hero within you is awakened and you discover you are the seer."
What a word picture! What do you think of character building, compass guiding and bread crumbs?
I love this idea of bread crumbs. For I have been growing up in Christ--maturing and learning that I sometimes have some superstitious beliefs about God's will and His plan. Circumstances do not always define my direction. Sometimes they do, but often it is that internal compass and staying in the yoke of Christ Jesus that has made the biggest strides and leaps in my faith journey.
Next week, we'll look to chapters 6 and 7. Let us engage in some conversation now....see you in the comments.