How to… Rediscover Enthusiasm, Step 2

Last week, we began to Rediscover Enthusiasm (Review and Revise) with Step 1, and now we’re on to Step 2, Do What Works. Hopefully, you were able to do an honest assessment of your current goals as well as to make any necessary adjustments. Chances are, just completing Step 1 brought back at least some enthusiasm. But if you’re in need of a little more spark to get the fire of enthusiasm going and growing, keep reading.

Step Two: Do What Works

As I thought back through successes I’ve had with achieving goals, I realized there were some tried and true methods that kept me enthused and helped keep me moving forward. I figure that if they worked before, they can work again, and they can work for others too. To that end, the following are 5 tried and true methods for rediscovering enthusiasm.

  1. Go through the motions. Sometimes, often actually, getting started is the most difficult part. But if you can force yourself to just start, you’ll most likely get into what you’re doing very quickly. By the end, you’ll be glad you decided to do it, and the next time starting won’t be quite as difficult. Each time you force yourself to go through the motions, you may find that you are having to force yourself less and less.
  2. Try something new. You’ve probably heard the definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” This certainly holds true when your enthusiasm has decided to stick its head in the sand. So, maybe it’s time to try something new. But what? Read a book or watch a movie that is different than what you usually choose. Try a new recipe or restaurant. Go to a store you’ve never been in. Hang out with someone you don’t usually spend time with. Find some new way to mix up your routine. Trying something new usually refreshes the spirit and often leads to a perspective change.
  3. Surround yourself with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is contagious. Find an enthusiastic person and hang out with him/her. We all know people who seem to always be excited. Even on bad days, they seem to tackle life with enthusiasm. These are the people to get around. Another way is to watch a movie that always inspires and encourages you. My husband’s favorite movie is Facing the Giants. He likes to watch it the night before a race (half marathon, 15k or marathon), and he’s known for quoting it during his running group’s Saturday morning training runs. Not only does the movie inspire him, but his yelling “Don’t quit! Don’t quit! Don’t quit!” when others are finishing a long run in freezing temperatures (we live in Michigan) passes enthusiasm on. Look for and remember the sources of enthusiasm in your life and get around them when you need a boost.
  4. Minimize the negative input. Just like we all know enthusiastic people who get us excited about life, we also all know people who gravitate toward the negative. While I’m not saying that we completely dessert the negative influences in our life (although, sometimes we should), I am saying that when an individual struggles with enthusiasm and possibly with figuring out how to Beat the Blahs, minimizing negative input is probably wise. A person cannot be strong and positive for others when his enthusiasm is weak. Get strong again, so you can be enthusiastic for others.
  5. Laugh. Nothing erases negative feelings and helps you refocus like a good laugh. Even a little chuckle can make a big difference. Get around people who make you laugh. Read funny stories or comics. Watch a funny movie or television show. Learn to Laugh Often and work to Develop Your Sense of Humor if it seems to have died off. Laughter seems to bring a new perspective almost immediately.

Enthusiasm is an essential element of motivation and is often driven by our goals as well as by our perspective. When enthusiasm wanes, as it is prone to do, our choices lie with simply pushing forward in the mud of “should” and “need to” and rediscovering enthusiasm. While we won’t always feel enthusiasm and will sometimes have to just keep moving forward no matter how flat we feel, we don’t have to let enthusiasm stay deflated. We can Review and Revise our current state and then use go to habits that reliably help us rediscover enthusiasm.

DISCUSSION: What tried and true methods do you have for rediscovering your enthusiasm? Please share them, so we can learn from each other.

Sunday Reflections – 5 Principles for Focusing on the Now

Many people live in the past. Some long for the glory days while others staunchly resist any change. Other people live planning for the future and focus is on “what ifs” or on maneuvering towards goals. Remembering the past and learning its lessons is healthy just like planning for the future is wise. Yet, dwelling in the past causes stagnation, and being obsessed with the future leads to missed opportunity. A balance must exist, but in many cases the past seems to fade into the future with barely a glimpse at the present.

In the sense of living only for the moment, focusing on the present becomes a dangerous thought pattern. When learning from the past is ignored and planning at least to some extent for the future is neglected for the sake of the moment, a dangerous self-centered pattern of behavior is allowed to grow. But when living in the now involves applying lessons learned from past mistakes along with using possible future destinations (goals) as a tool for guidance and direction, the present becomes an exciting time filled with ministry that “makes the most of every opportunity” presented.

Focusing on the now allows for creating memories that enhance the past and create excitement for the future. We can be motivated by the goal and guided by the past but focus on the moment. When we have a healthy balance among the past, present and future, we become able to live in the now in a way that keeps us prepared for the opportunities that God sends our way for ministry.

We can choose to let the past consume us with fear of change, and we can let the future cloud our vision of the present as we constantly plan and look ahead. We can also choose to live in the now being guided by the past and motivated by the future. The following 5 principles encourage balance to happen in a way that allows us to seize the ministry opportunities presented every day without letting our free will constantly put up obstacles.

  1. Give relationships priority. We shouldn’t push people away because they are inconvenient. The “out of sight, out of mind” approach is not meant for people. We need to love as Jesus would love. The Holy Spirit leads us daily to people who need ministry in some way, and living in the now allows us to see and to act on those opportunities.
  2. Determine not to give up too quickly. In John 14:12, Jesus tells us that we can do “greater things” than He did. So why aren’t we? We often give up too quickly. Be determined to live in the opportunities God gives. Push through, even if that means (as it often does) simply persevering for today – for the now – and not focusing on the difficult road ahead.
  3. Discipline free will. God never permits sin. Deliberate sin always hurts His heart. Yet, while he does not give us permission to sin, He does allow for our free will to make our own choices. Using the past as a guide and the future as motivation, our free-will choices can create a now that is productive and pleasing to God.
  4. Understand that people are afraid. As opportunities to minister arise, we must understand that people can be very afraid when they experience the anointing. Rejection is often a giving in to these consuming fears rather than a rejection of us. For this reason, we need be ready to minister over the long haul. Take the opportunities in the now to minister into lives with the knowledge that a long future of patience likely lies ahead.
  5. Pursue simplicity. Distractions abound to draw our attention from the present. Frustrations and over-commitment steal our focus causing us to fail to enjoy living in the now, and life quickly becomes complicated. Focusing on simplifying life allows for us to feel unencumbered to take the opportunities God sends our way.

As we learn to focus more on now and not what we plan to do or what will be, we begin to realize that compassion and ministry are very tangible. We realize that we can always do more with the gifts God has given us, and that we always have an opportunity to share Him with others. Living in the now allows us to show Christ in us through actions instead of just words. When we live in the now, we see more of the opportunities he gives us for ministry, and we begin to fulfill His will for us as disciples who “go into all the world.” (Mark 16:15)

How to… Rediscover Enthusiasm, Step 1

With two months of 2012 just about gone, I’m sure everyone is still as excited about their New Year’s resolutions as they were when they set them at the beginning of the year, right? Wrong! Maybe you’re still as enthused, but I definitely am not. In fact, my enthusiasm has seriously waned, and I find myself feeling a bit sluggish. So, I decided to take steps to help rediscover enthusiasm. This week we will cover step one, Review and Revise, and next Wednesday we will cover step two, Do What Works.

Step One: Review and Revise

Take a look at the goals you set at the beginning of the year. Do you need to adjust any of them based on what you’ve done or haven’t done? Have you gotten off track with the purpose behind any of the goals? Maybe the goal doesn’t really mean that much to you after all, and it’s time to admit it and nix it altogether. Maybe just some tweaking is necessary.

For example, I recently found myself avoiding reading. For a person who loves to read, this was troubling. When I thought about my reading goals (I have several) and about why I choose to read as much as I do, I discovered the cause of my absent enthusiasm. Somehow, I had gotten myself wrapped up in reading what I thought I should read and reading just to get through the books. I wasn’t enjoying the books I was reading, and I had to force myself to complete them. So, I did something I rarely do. I stopped reading a book halfway through and picked up one I was enthused about. I’ve decided to read only what I want to read, which allows me to read for the joy of it and not out of some self-imposed obligation. This may mean resetting some of the goals I have for this year, but at least my enthusiasm is returning.

Taking time to deliberately and intentionally analyze your goals and objectives can help you decide whether or not you are truly working toward that which is meant for you to accomplish. Take the time this week to review and revise your goals. (Treat yourself to a latte while you’re at it!)

DISCUSSION: What did you discover when you took the time to review and revise your goals? What adjustments did you decide to make?

Sunday Reflections – Be Committed

Ask almost anyone over the age of 60, and he/she will tell of a time when, “Your word was your bond.” In other words, if a person said he would do something, he could be counted on to do it. Sure, there were those who did not follow through, but they were the exception.

Today’s culture is very different. A person’s word is rarely fully trusted even when it is actually fully trustworthy. In a culture where selfishness and greed seem to dominate, a fog of mistrust covers almost every relationship at least to some degree. Unfortunately, not keeping a commitment has become almost acceptable, and excuses for doing so are a dime a dozen.

With that in mind, let us consider three areas where making and keeping commitments can work to build trust in a way that can be a catalyst for change within our culture. Understanding and striving for trustworthy commitment with regard to work, family and especially faith defines a person like no other character quality and can affect change in compounding ways.

Commitment to work certainly includes but definitely goes beyond work as it relates to a job. For children and teens, work means the effort put forth in sports and school. For adults, commitment to work involves a job but also other commitments such as volunteering. Commitment to work, really, is fully giving the effort needed to accomplish a task to the best of one’s ability. Commitment with regard to work involves the following core principles:

  • Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.
  • Do what you know is right. You only control yourself and no one else.
  • Be someone who can be depended upon regardless of whether or not others are reliable.

Commitment to family does not revolve around activity but rather around connection. In fact, over-commitment to activity actually serves in working against connection. Commitment to family involves a letting go of self and enters into a habitual preferring of others not out of obligation but out of love. Commitment to family also involves keeping whole as an individual and bringing the best of you, whatever that might be at any given time, to every situation. On a more detailed level, commitment to family involves placing a spouse above others (yes, even kids), as it is the one earthly relationship that most closely relates to the relationship we are to have with Christ.

Commitment to faith in Christ really surrounds and permeates all other areas of commitment. How a person commits to the call of Christ on his/her life determines how commitment exists in every other area, including family and work. Yet, caution must exist when considering faith as a separate area of commitment. In other words, faith is not yet another commitment to be balanced; instead, faith in Jesus is the scale that balances all other areas. Consider the following when evaluating your commitment to Christ and how your answers reflect your commitment in life as a whole.

  • Are you willing and ready to arise and be His voice? Whatever and wherever?
  • Has Christ won your heart? If He truly has, are you running after Him and following His lead?
  • Would you lay down your life for Him? What are you willing to sacrifice for Him?
  • Have you committed fully to the Lord? Are you allowing Him to pour you out as He sees fit?
  • How has Christ’s love changed you? Will you go and be where He wants? Do what He wants?
  • Will you follow the path He chooses and leads you down?

Answering these questions not only determines how your commitment plays out in the areas of faith, work and family, but it also determines the character with which your entire life is lived.

We live in a culture where keeping commitments seems optional at times. But while we are in this culture, we don’t have to be people of this culture. John 15:19 says “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”  As we commit more fully to Christ and increasingly give our lives to Him, commitments in other areas of our lives increase as a result. And we soon find that while we may live in a culture where greed and selfishness seem rampant at times, we do not belong to the world but to a Savior who deserves our complete and total commitment.

DISCUSSION: Discuss the impact of the above questions on your current level of commitment.

Memory Loss… What if…

What if the last 5 years were erased from your memory? They still happened and exist in the memories of others, but you don’t remember them. What would be gone? For sure, there would be good and bad memories that are lost, and at first maybe the thought of redoing the last 5 years is somewhat appealing. But when considering all that is really lost, the idea becomes an exercise in appreciation for life, struggles and all.

If the last 5 years of my life were erased from my memory, I would not remember the pain of several surgeries and sports injuries. But I would also not remember the healing process through those circumstances and all that I learned about myself as a result. I would also have to relearn how to change habits such as the way I eat and how I exercise. If I lost the last 5 years of memories, I would not remember the struggle of bringing our youngest son into our home at age 9 and having to discipline and fight with getting him to unlearn bad habits and learn positive ones. I would not remember crying with him as he realizes the consequences he is living as the result of others choices. But, I would also not remember the joy of his silly remarks, the fact that his laughter is so infectious, and the progress he’s made as a person. I would not see the contrast in his life over the past two years that gives me hope to know that God rescues the hurting. Come to think of it, I would have no memory of my son at all.

If my memory of the last 5 years was suddenly gone, I would not remember the struggle of teaching my oldest son to write better or to be a good big brother after being an only child for 11 years or to understand that people are often selfish and that life hurts sometimes. I would also not remember him developing a love of running and of reading as well as what it was like to see him become a terrific older brother. Losing 5 years of memories would erase depression caused by poor nutrition as well as the feelings of distance from my husband because of that depression. But the feelings of reawakening as I came out of that darkness and then fell in love again would also be gone.

Would I think I was five years younger? Would I feel like the memories beyond the five years were current, or would there just be an empty space in my memory? Even though I wouldn’t remember the events that happened in those 5 years, I still would be the person they created, right? Or, would I revert to being the person I was before those 5 years? Would I know God the way I do today if I didn’t have the memories of Him working in my life the way He has during the last 5 years? After all, isn’t my current spiritual maturity the result of the victories He’s brought out of the struggles in my life?

We are a sum total of all the events in our lives, the good as well as the bad. The events over the past 5 years have shaped me into who I am today. The bad memories provide the contrast needed to enjoy the good. The struggles caused me to grow and to become closer to the people in my life. I love my husband and kids the way I do today because of the memories we’ve had together over the past 5 years.

As you go about your day today, think of everything you do in the context of whether or not you would know how to do it if you lost the memory of the past 5 years. Would you understand what a blog is? Would you know how to cook a certain recipe? Would you know how to get to your place of work or to your kids’ school? Would you know your child’s eating habits or favorite toys? Think about the struggles you’ve gone through over the past 5 years and the victories that came out of them. What life lessons that were so hard fought for would simply be lost?

Yes, we are the sum total of all of the events, both good and bad, in our lives. While we certainly sometimes wish that some of the bad would not have happened, we can’t deny that when we have embraced the lessons learned in those events that they become infinitely valuable and not something we want to lose.

Note: This blog was inspired by seeing the movie “The Vow.” While it is certainly a love story, there’s more to it than that. I recommend it for anyone wanting a perspective check.

Sunday Reflections – Harmonious Submission

Marriage is sometimes used in the Bible to describe what our relationship with Christ will be like in Heaven (Revelation 19:7 is one example). Matthew 22:30 indicates that there will be no marriage in Heaven, and the implication in Scripture is that all of our needs will be fully met by Christ. In making this connection, God creates a framework for earthly marriages that reflect how our relationship will one day be with Him.

This framework is found in Ephesians 5:21-22, which says for spouses to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In other words, out of respect for Christ and His submission to the will of the Father, we submit ourselves to our spouses within our marriages. Unfortunately, our flesh often bucks up when we hear the word submission because we think it means a sort of dominant/submissive type of relationship. But that’s not what God intended.

For the wife, submission means following her husband’s leadership in Christ. This includes deciding to be committed completely and without reservation to the relationship, cheering him on instead of trying to fix and change him (that’s God’s job anyway), and determining to build him up whenever possible. On an individual level, a godly wife can focus on developing her inner beauty as encouraged in 1 Peter 3:3-4, which says, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” Note that the scripture doesn’t say to NOT pay attention to one’s appearance; it just says to not give that the greater focus.

For the husband, submission means laying aside his own interests in order to care for his wife. In doing so, a husband will seek to understand and protect her and will strive to be gentle and tender with her. In addition, his leadership will be godly and without superiority. By submitting in this way, the husband is “giving honor to [his] wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together in the grace of life, so that [his] prayer may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7) What 1 Peter is saying is that a good marriage benefits a husband’s spiritual life. Logically, the opposite is also true.

As husbands and wives submit to one anotherin the fear of God,” they show their trust in God. Doing so indicates a willingness to let go of self, which is the enemy to submission. They are deliberately and intentionally choosing to prefer one another. In essence, they are indicating that they are choosing to love one another in the way God designed a marriage to exist.

Within this choice is the idea of emotional harmony. The definition of emotion indicates a constant moving or agitation of strong feelings while the definition of harmony indicates a more stable fitting together of parts to form a whole. Emotions seem to exist as an individual experience, meaning a person can only feel his/her own emotions completely and no one else’s. In contrast, harmony exists only when separate wholes come together in an agreeable way to make a new whole. Harmony, then, is a shared experience. In a godly marriage, each spouse makes a choice to experience his/her own gamut of emotions and to still continually work to tune the voice he/she brings to the marriage so that harmony can prevail.  This tuning is done through biblical submission within a godly marriage.

DISCUSSION: How can each individual experience his/her own emotions and at the same time manage those emotions in a way that benefits the relationship and not the individual? Can two so very different individuals bring the whole of who they are to create a better whole? Can that harmony be maintained over the long term within the framework of godly submission?

Note: This post is inspired by the sermon “Harmony in the Home” given by Pastor Steve Miller at New Hope Assembly of God on February 12, 2011.

Stain Free

The other day while doing laundry, I pulled some clothes out of the washer and along with them came an ink pen. For some stupid reason, I pulled the cap off the pen. Sure enough, some ink dripped on to my jeans… my favorite pair of jeans. I would love to say that one of my kids or my husband is the culprit, but I would be lying. It was a Sharpie pen, and I’m the only one who uses them in our house. In fact, everyone is instructed to not use them because they are my writing pens.

So, with 10 minutes before needing to leave, I hurriedly take off my jeans and work to get the ink out. Any woman who has a favorite pair of jeans knows how potentially devastating this incident could have been. I put a towel inside the jeans behind the ink stain, take a wet cloth with some dish soap, and start scrubbing. I was praying too. I mean, they seriously are my favorite jeans. I wish I would have bought 5 pair of them. Thankfully, the stains came out. Actually, the ink soaked into the towel I had put inside the jeans. If I hadn’t put that towel there, the back of the jeans would have absorbed the stain.

This whole incident reminds me of my salvation for several reasons.

First, my mistakes caused the stain. I couldn’t blame anyone else. So often, we want to look for somewhere else to place blame. We try to avoid admitting we did anything wrong. This is pride. Clearly, the stain on my jeans was my fault, just like I cannot blame anyone else for any of the sin in my life.

Second, without Jesus absorbing my stains, I would just experience them in another part of my life. Had I not put the towel in the pant leg, I would either have had to scrub the other side of my jeans or given them up as lost. But the towel took on the stain and removed it from my jeans. Jesus does the same for us. He did it on the cross at Calvary. When we admit our sins and ask for forgiveness, he absorbs those sins, and we no longer have to bear their stain on our lives. Sure, there are consequences, but we certainly do not become useless. He washes us clean and makes us presentable again.

Third, acting quickly made all the difference. If I hadn’t taken the time to get the stain out right away, the ink would have dried, and my favorite jeans would have become my work-around-the-house jeans. This equates to keeping short accounts in my spiritual life. When we allow sin to remain in our lives, it becomes a permanent stain. Sure, Jesus will remove it whenever we ask him too, but a stain’s imprint (the consequences) becomes more prominent the longer we allow it to remain in our lives. The quicker we ask for forgiveness, the longer we are able to live without that stain and the less the consequences of our sin are allowed to wreak havoc. Doesn’t mean we won’t have to live with any consequences, but certainly the impact is lessened the sooner we repent.

Looking back on the inky jeans incident, I realize that the stain resulted from my failure to think first. For some reason, I just pulled off the cap. So often, sin happens because we don’t stop and think before acting. It also happened because I failed to take care of the pen in the first place. When we intentionally avoid situations that can lead to sin, more of our lives will remain stain-free.

Also, I am thankful that the pen fell out of the washer onto the floor and didn’t make its way into the dryer. Otherwise, a whole load of clothing may have gotten permanently stained. With situations in life, God either gives us a way to bear it or a “way out.” (I Corinthians 10:13) It’s a matter of whether or not we take that way out when it’s presented to us. If we don’t, sin often is the result.

Everyday situations present us with opportunities to hear from God. Even an ink stain can teach or remind us about His truths. When we are open to hearing from Him at any time in our day, we find that He will work in the smallest details of life in some very powerful ways. And the small changes that He makes in our lives will always add up to make a huge difference over time.

Sunday Reflections – Go Against the Flow

Did you see the play in the Super Bowl with just over a minute to go in the game when New England LET the Giants score a touchdown? The commentators called it a calculated risk. New England thought that having the football with a minute to go and having to score a touchdown gave them better odds than having it with about 20 seconds and trying to score a field goal. (Turns out they were right… but the catches just weren’t made.) I’ve been watching football for a lot of years, and this is the first time I’ve heard of a team allowing another team to get a touchdown. Though I understand the thinking behind the decision, it still seems counterintuitive to me. In other words, it went against the flow of my thinking about football.

Switch sports to baseball. Moneyball is a basically a story about a general manager who decides to build a team based on statistics. Everyone, except the economist working for him, thought he was making a huge mistake. Everyone was wrong. Turns out that his counterintuitive decision was right on the money. Billy Beane went against the flow of conventional baseball wisdom, and it ended up changing baseball forever.

Sometimes, going against the flow creates a paradigm shift on a major level, and sometimes it occurs on a more personal level. The following 4 principles will help guide you in making a paradigm shift in your life in a way that not only will help refresh and renew your perspective but also draw you closer to the One who loves you more than anyone else. And who knows, maybe you’ll be the catalyst for large scale change at the same time.

  1. Acknowledge limits. Our culture is one of pushing limits. The sports world is a perfect example. How fast can the mile be run? How many touchdowns can one person make in a season? Who can jump the highest or farthest? No matter what records are broken, the new limit becomes the goal. But the truth of the matter is that we do have limits. We are not God who is limitless. Limits are something to be thankful for because they allow us to enjoy life without consequences (think weight control and traffic signs). Intentionally setting limits on desires and pleasures allows us to stay balanced and healthy in body, mind and spirit.  It’s also counter-cultural.
  2. Raise expectations. There is always someone who isn’t doing as well as you in some area, and it’s easy to get a false sense of your superiority when looking at others. Comparisons are dangerous, yet our culture promotes them like crazy. (Just pay attention to advertising to see this.) Comparisons create a false sense of reality, and they can lead to pride in feeling like improvement is no longer necessary. But when we realize that Jesus is the bull’s-eye, we understand that there is always room for improvement. He is the standard by which we should measure our lives because only he is perfect. In doing so, our expectations are raised, and we have new goals to strive for. Forgetting comparisons is certainly not mainstream thinking.
  3. Be separate. Holiness is a Bible word that many think means perfection. But holiness is not about being perfect, it’s about being separate. In other words, avoid conforming to the world. Avoid walking the path of destruction. Be an example of one who is aiming for Jesus. Others will consider you odd, but their approval isn’t what matters. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Does God approve of my life?” if the answer is yes, then we are living lives of separation and not conformity. Seeking God’s approval over man’s approval goes against the flow.
  4. Make relationships priority. Limits and rules exist for our safety, but they mean little more than restriction and confinement without relationship. Parents can discipline kids, but kids won’t truly aim for obedience if the relationship is weak. The book of Leviticus is all about establishing rules for the safety of the Israelites. While they focused on God, the rules weren’t a big deal to follow. But as soon as they took their eyes off of him, they rules were something to rebel against and meant little to them. Relationship makes following the rules worthwhile because they protect the relationship. Focusing on relationship over self does not support the thinking of our “me first” society.

Jesus himself went against conventional wisdom of His day, and in doing so He certainly ruffled some feathers. He definitely changed the way people think. Peter is one example (Acts 10:1-48; 15:6-11) and Paul is another (Galatians 2:1-12; 3:23-4:7; 1 Corinthians 9:20-22). As John Carty noted in Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life, “It’s not easy to overcome the training and traditions of a lifetime,” but this is often exactly what Christ led Peter and Paul to do. He calls us to do the same.

DISCUSSION: How do you adapt when God asks you to adjust a habit, attitude or behavioral pattern in your life?

Note: The above discussion question is taken from the chapter on “Adaptability” in Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life.

Are You a Pepper Too?

Remember the old Dr. Pepper commercial from the 1970s that asked, “I’m a pepper… Don’t you want to be a pepper too?” While I don’t drink much soda, I’m definitely a “pepper” when I do. Recently, Dr. Pepper came out with a new commercial that I like not because I like Dr. Pepper but because it has individuals proudly proclaiming how they are “one of a kind.”

Being one of a kind gives an impression of high value. A one-of-a-kind painting. A one-of-a-kind car. A one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry. These items are unusual, unusual makes them special, and special indicates value.

Are you one of a kind? If you were to wear a t-shirt like the ones in the new Dr. Pepper commercials, what would your t-shirt read? You can go to their web site and make your “declaration” about what makes you “one of a kind.” (You can even order a t-shirt printed with your declaration.) What would you declare? My favorites are “I’m a rebel” and “I’m one of a kind.” Adding to the impact of the commercial is the song playing during it. If you didn’t catch the words, it’s worth a second and a third listen.

This post isn’t an advertisement for Dr. Pepper (though, if I did promote a soft drink, it would be this one). But I like the idea of making a declaration about what makes me “one of a kind.” Why? Because there’s something unique about everyone. Well, not so much one specific thing necessarily, but rather a combination of qualities and skills that make each person “one of a kind.”

While this commercial is primarily a marketing effort on the part of Dr. Pepper, I think it goes well beyond that and into a concept that can be a valuable exercise to help realize the value we each hold. Long before Dr. Pepper, long before each one of us existed in fact, God had a “one-of-a-kind” design in mind for each person. Exodus 19:5 tells us we are a “special treasure.” Ephesians 2:10 says we were each made for a purpose. And Jeremiah 29:11 says God has good plans for each one of us. (That isn’t all either! Check out Romans 8:15-17, 1 Corinthians 9:25 and Psalm 139:13-16 for more.)

In a world where individuals constantly aim to stand out in unique and special ways through their various gifts and talents (and unfortunately is some very odd and often frightening ways), we all too often overlook the fact that what we do has nothing to do with why we are most special. What makes us “one-of-a-kind” special is whose we are. All of creation shares the imprint of God, but no one imprint is exactly the same. As individuals, we each represent a unique part of our Creator. As pieces of the whole, we form the “one-of-a-kind” body of Christ with each part being crucial to the successful function of the whole.

DISCUSSION: What part are you? Are you functioning at your best? If not, what can you do to improve how you function? What can you do to help the other parts function better too?