Anticipation

vacation-planning-1524450-1600x1200Pleasurable Anticipation

Anticipation can be pleasurable expectation or filled with apprehension. It involves contemplation and hope, and it serves to create a foresight or foretaste of future events. While anticipation can be positive or negative, let’s focus on the pleasurable side of anticipation today.

Just like memories allow reliving of events and the joy they brought, anticipation presents the opportunity for enjoying events even before they take place. Yet, too often, we get so caught up in the details of planning that we forget to enjoy the process. For anticipate to hold pleasure, we need to learn to enjoy the process.

When planning events gets in the way of the pleasurable anticipation, it’s time to step back. Maybe feeling uptight and anxious about an upcoming event means over-planning and considering every contingency have added unnecessary complexity and simplifying your approach is needed.

I’m certainly not suggesting a lack of planning. Anyone who knows me much at all knows I would never say such a thing. What I am saying is that I do know that failure to enjoy the process not only results in missing out on a lot of joy but also creates a lot of tension and stress.

For me, truly anticipating means not doing everything myself. When my family prepares for a vacation together — or any other event, really — the joy of the event multiplies. We get to enjoy planning the event, connecting during it, and reliving the memories for years afterward.

Involving others has truly allowed me to enjoy planning and thus enjoy anticipating many of life’s events. If only I’d have had this mindset before planning my wedding many years ago, before so many of my kids’ birthday parties and even during times spent planning for something as simple as a cookout with a few friends.

As I considered how my over-planning and worrying about “what ifs” use to constantly impede pleasurable anticipation, the Holy Spirit led me to also ask how anticipation exists in my relationship with the Lord. My discoveries revealed yet another area needing some pruning.

A Christian’s Anticipation

The Bible says Christians should anticipate the day of the Lord’s coming by choosing to live for him now.

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight — we are of good courage, I say and prefer to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed (compensated) for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-10)

It also tells us to praise God in our anticipation of what He will do because of what He has already done.

“It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation…” (1 Peter 1:3)

Unfortunately, my walk with the Lord has not always been one of pleasurable anticipation. Rather, it has been one of “hold me up, Lord,” “please fix this,” and “I can’t take it anymore.” While those are not bad pleas in and of themselves and the Lord wants us to cry out to Him in our need, they only just skim the surface of what having a relationship with Christ means.

That relationship doesn’t just mean leaning on Him for help in troubled and stressful times, but it also means soaring with Him in victory and anticipation of His fulfilled promises yet to come because of what He has already done through Christ.

No matter what happens this side of Heaven, we can expect greater things to come when we enter eternity. No matter how low the valley or high the mountaintop, a Christian’s future exists as one of pleasurable anticipation for greater things to come both in this life and in the next.

Living with this anticipation of the Lord should alter our daily lives because we know what God has done, can see what He’s doing, and have promises to hold on to that tell us what to anticipate from Him in the future.

DISCUSSION: Do you eagerly anticipate events such as vacations? Or, do you dread them because of all the work and planning involved? How can you learn to enjoy the process? Do you anticipate the Lord’s activity in your life? If not, how can you better enjoy the process He’s leading you through?

Not Just A Baby In A Manger

baby jesus

No Doubt About Jesus

All parents dreams of what their child will one day grow to be. I am no different with my boys. What career will they choose? What about sports? Who will they marry? Parents usually have tremendous hopes and dreams for their kids, but they have no way of knowing for sure what they will become.

When Jesus was a baby, his mother did not have to wonder what He would grow up to be. Isaiah made very clear what baby Jesus would one day do and be.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Whatever my children will one day be are only guesses teeming with possibilities for greatness. When Jesus was a baby and even many years before he was born, his destiny of greatness was already clear.

Focus on Jesus

This Christmas season, make a deliberate effort to focus not only on Jesus as a baby, but also on your current relationship with Him and how you are growing in that relationship. Intentionally consider the fact that this baby in the Nativity scene at Christmas is a King worthy of your best.

As the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” ask yourself if Jesus is getting your best. Remember that He knows your past, present and future, and He loves you exactly as you are today. He deserves the best you have to give.

What can you deliberately and intentionally change your focus to make sure Jesus is getting your best every day?

 

Believing is Seeing

Birthday 2Until the recent past, shopping existed as therapy and a way to for a least a little while forget about life’s struggles. I loved finding good deals and saving money on unplanned purchases. Loved the image I showed from being stylish, though I’m not sure how much others actually noticed.

For whatever reason, the feel of some new thing energized me and gave me a sort of high. A high I forgot and needed again as soon as the new became old.

I’m not sure when, but the same sort of fading of newness happened with my physical self too. I find myself wondering…

When did the physical weariness begin to rear its ugly head?

When did the groaning and sighing become so commonplace?

When did my desire to recuperate replace my desire to be active?

I’m not talking a negativity, really, but rather an increased awareness that feeling new and energized — like I used to in a new outfit — happens a lot less frequently in the physical sense now than it used to not too many years ago. My body simply doesn’t respond and renew physically like it did even 5 years ago. At the same time, my desire to focus there exists more for maintenance purposes now anyway.

When I read 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, I gain a better understanding of what’s likely happening. I’m becoming more aware of my earthly tent and its weaknesses. At times, I focus there and allow the number of my life as it increases toward finality to consume me. If I stay in that thinking, I get increasingly discouraged. But if I choose to dwell instead on God’s truth, I find tremendous encouragement once again. Specifically, I am renewed in my knowledge that…

I will have an eternal home in Heaven one day, one God Himself made.

The body I will have will be like wearing heavenly clothing, like putting on a new outfit but knowing the newness will never fade.

Not only did God prepare this eternity for me, He guarantees its reality through His Holy Spirit.

This reality — one more real than the physical one we live in now — not only encourages me, it gives me great confidence too. And this confidence…

Always exists even though I’m not yet in my real home.

Focuses on believing rather than seeing.

Provides motivation to always please the Lord.

The encouragement and confidence instilled by God’s truth in my heart through His Holy Spirit helps me turn my birthday focus from a melancholy perspective that feels overwhelmed by the current reality to one that aims to please God rather than self. One where the earthly weakness still exists but that matters less and less as eternal life draws increasingly near.

DISCUSSION: How does “believing is seeing” play out in your life?

Happy Birthday to Me

Birthday Cupcake with CandleMiddle age struck three years ago, and I muffled through the passing as quietly as possible. Since then, I prefer not to even talk about my age most of the time. (Okay, not at all, actually.)

Approaching my last day in this life doesn’t really bother me. The steady decline of my physical state between now and then bothers me. My body already shows signs of it happening, and I hate feeling helpless knowing it’s going to happen no matter how much I resist. Exercise. Healthy eating. Adequate rest. Anti-wrinkle cream. And still the signs of aging multiply.

The forehead crease between my eyebrows bothers me the most of all the signs of aging, probably because of its prominence. Without major intervention via Botox or going under the knife, the crease will likely continue to stop conversations. “What’s up with that crease in your forehead?” (Seriously happened.)

When I focus on my physical aging, a gaze that happens in August more than any other month, the mental and spiritual aspects of my self seem get wrapped up in the obsession too. And this all-inclusiveness of the aging process bothers me more than the forehead crease.

Anti-Aging Scripture

One portion of Scripture brings me not only amazing peace within my struggle over my physical aging but also tremendous encouragement and even guidance.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

What’s that about “eternal glory”? Just this…

“…because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.” (2 Corinthians 4:14)

As I celebrate (which basically means pretending it doesn’t happen) my third year past what many consider life’s halfway point, I am drawn to focus on the part of me that isn’t “wasting away” but is “being renewed day by day” (means I’m actually not aging, right?)… the part that gets to experience this “eternal glory.” I’m definitely up for that!

This change in focus certainly gives the physical decline (and I may be exaggerating its severity only slightly) less attention, which then allows my attentions to find their way toward God’s desires. And that renewed focus — the one bent toward eternity — completely changes my perspective by helping me to…

  1. Refuse to give up and become a couch potato.
  2. Focus on renewal instead of on that which will continue to fade.
  3. Look past the physical of this life and toward the reality of eternity.
  4. Maintain a forward focus instead of a downhill one.
  5. Seek eternal joy in place of temporary happiness.

And while I now feel motivated to continue making progress because of the truth of the Scripture given above, what follows in the next chapter of Corinthians ices the cake (and I don’t even eat cake, not even for my birthday). We’ll look at that portion of Scripture — at the new body we’re promised — in next week’s post.

DISCUSSION: Where does your focus lie?

Remember?!

RememberIs Remembering Enough?

From holidays to monuments, memorials commemorate and preserve a significant person, place or event. We can think of memorials as “direction markers” in history, showing the people and events that shaped cultures and individuals. Consider the following examples, most of which are likely familiar:

Labor Day celebrates the American labor movement and commemorates the social and economic achievements of workers.

Veteran’s Day honors people who served in the US Armed Forces. It coincides with Armistice Day and Remembrance Day celebrated in other countries. All of these mark the anniversary of the end of WWI.

Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 when the United States declared independence from Great Britain.

The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France in 1886, is a worldwide symbol of freedom & democracy.

Castle Clinton, the most visited national monument in the United States, sits on the bottom of Manhattan Island and was originally built to protect New York from British invasion during the War of 1812.

Memorials aid our memory and help us preserve what we cherish most as a culture. We have many types of memorials throughout history such as stones, prehistoric drawings on cave walls, grave markers, tombs, pyramids, obelisks, and statues.

Memorials also exist on a more personal level. We have special days like birthdays and anniversaries to commemorate the most important people in our lives and objects like wedding rings and photographs to help that remembrance to go beyond just a single day a year.

While remembering certainly exists on a variety of levels in our lives, is simply remembering and recalling enough? Is just bringing to mind these people and places and events enough to serve the purpose for which these memorials exist? If we just remember, are we doing justice to the event or person or place?

Active Remembering

To help answer these questions, consider the theme of “remembering” that runs heavily throughout Scripture. Looking in depth at the word used for remembering can help us understand how we are called beyond simply recalling or remembering.

Azakarah (n) “memorial” = a sacrificial term describing the act “which brings the offerer into remembrance before God, or which brings God into honorable remembrance with the offerer.”

Zakhar (v) “to prick,” “pierce,” “penetrate”

These definitions help us see that the idea of “remembering” in Scripture goes well beyond just recollection by combining it with action and sacrifice.

You see, remembering or recalling by itself isn’t enough. Without action, we just have a day off work or a reason to eat or spend too much. When a call to action accompanies our remembering — which it does throughout Scripture — we find ourselves changed, hopefully for the better, as a result of that active remembering.

In the coming weeks, we’ll explore this idea of active remembering with the goal of discovering the true purpose remembering should have in our lives. And with that purpose, we’ll see the results that active remembering can bring to the life of a Christian.

DISCUSSION: How does remembering exist in an active way in your life?

Aging Gracefully

Birthday Confetti Email SalutationEvery year as my birthday nears, I struggle with aging. Actually, I continually battle the thought of aging but fixate on it more when I must actually add to the number that captures the reality.

Yeah, I know the “age is just a number” sayings, but I don’t buy them. To me, that constantly-increasing number reminds me of my mortality, and I find I must deliberately confront my thoughts in this area in order to not find myself consumed by what sometimes feels like futility.

Maybe I love this world too much. Maybe I’m too attached to the desires of my flesh. Or maybe I simply struggle with the wasted time of my past, now lost forever. Regardless, I know I need to, as my pastor said recently, live forward instead of backwards, and for me this means confronting these thoughts that could paralyze me if I let them.

tent

While I struggle with aging, I’m also acutely aware that the number placed on my age only involves my current dwelling or “tent” as Paul calls it (2 Corinthians 5:1-10). I know that the real me, my spirit, renews daily (2 Corinthians 4:16)… it doesn’t age. I hold dearly to my future promised with Christ in Heaven, and I know I must “not think only about things down here” but must “also set [my] sights on the realities of heaven” (Colossians 3:1-2).

At the same time, I can’t deny my desire to extend this tent-dwelling life as much as possible, to live a long, good life on this earth. I simply cannot escape the deep sense that this mortal life truly matters even amidst its fleetingness.

Since this life does matter, I want to age gracefully. I want to live fully in a way that pleases my Creator because I don’t believe He would give me this life if it didn’t matter much, if He didn’t have a specific purpose for both now and into eternity.

Do you have a similar struggle with aging and/or a desire to age gracefully?

In my goal to age gracefully, the focus topic for August on Struggle to Victory, I’m looking to what Scripture says to help me live in victory even within the struggle. In that, I will explore what the Bible teaches about living a long, good life (which is actually quite a lot), attempt to understand the truth that “physical training is of some value” (1 Timothy 4:8) and look at what it takes to finish well.

DISCUSSION: What are your thoughts on aging gracefully?

A New Vision for My Life

Well, today’s the day. TODAY is the 11th Anniversary of My 29th Birthday. I’ve finally reached an age that no longer sounds young to me. I have reached “middle age.” (Is that anything like Middle Earth?)

I have been attempting to come to terms with my aging for a while now, and I think I am starting to believe that there is a new vision for my life. This point did not come in the form of an epiphany by any means; instead, it came gradually and through unexpected paths.

About two years ago, I began to feel that God was leading me on a quest (hey, this is getting to be more and more like Middle Earth) to discover His vision for my life beyond 40. That realization began as I was reading the book of Isaiah.

“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder the things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the dessert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Part of that quest involves my health journey, which I talk about in How to… Be Victorious. About a week ago, through comments in the post Approaching Halftime, several of my online friends encouraged me in another aspect of my quest with the following pieces of advice.

“The best is yet to come.”

When I look back over the past 40 years, that statement has held true for sure, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t continue to do so. So even though a part of me wishes this life involved immortality (if I could be any mythical creature, it would be an elf), knowing that “the best is yet to come” adds an excitement to life.

“We are not guaranteed tomorrow.”

Because any of our lives could end in a blink of the eye (just watch the news if that fact isn’t clear), enjoying the gift of today provides tremendous motivation for discovering and living out the vision God has created for my life. Thinking on this statement encourages me to truly “make the most of every opportunity” that God gives me within each and every day (Ephesians 5:15-16).

“Celebrate the gift of life.”

The gift of life includes the joy of family. It’s thankfulness for successes achieved. Knowing that life is a gift means realizing that God allows dreams and goals to unfold when we don’t even realize it and in doing so creates something to celebrate that is bigger than our greatest imaginations. Celebrating this gift of life has to involve not letting birthdays burden you. And certainly it also means sharing that gift, and more importantly the Giver, with others.

A New Vision for My Life

I do not know specifically what God’s “new vision” looks like for my life, but I do know that it involves better than I can imagine, more joy in my life and celebrating His goodness and mercy. Even though my thoughts sometimes dwell too much on the past or too often on “what ifs,” I know that He is creating a roadway for me to follow and rivers that will bring refreshment along that journey.

Sometimes we will wish parts of our lives did not happen and that we could erase them. And too often, perhaps, we pretend they really didn’t happen and fail to ever really deal with them.

Frodo: “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”

Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

(Fellowship of the Ring)

But instead of living in regret, the birthday present I am giving myself, is to now decide how to live out the time that has been given me and to age gracefully. And even though I may not know the specific details of that living, I do know that it involves a tremendously hopeful future (Jeremiah 29:11).

DISCUSSION: If this post reads like I struggled through writing it, that’s because I did. Do you have any recent struggles that you have made public to allow others to come along side you in your journey?

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Approaching Halftime

Sorry to be selfish today, but I need to write this post for me. Why? Because this post is all about preparing me for an event I have dreaded for the last 10 years. It’s about assessing where I am and where I want to be. This post involves me documenting the process by which I have come to realize that I am aging and can’t do a thing about it.

As The 11th Anniversary of my 29th Birthday now lies just a week away (no, I still can’t say that number), taking a post to publicly assess some aspects of my life seems not only appropriate but necessary in my preparation for halftime (meaning, the mid-point of my life on earth).

Setting Goals

Just under a year ago, I decided to set some goals to reach by my, um, next birthday. My 40 by 40 Bucket List resulted from this decision. Actually, setting these goals (or at least publicly declaring them) got me started blogging, but my main reason was to find a way to come to terms with my inevitable aging.

Some goals were reached fully and some partially. Injury prevented others from being completed. Others, I lost interest in very quickly, which tells me I probably set some wrong goals. In some ways, my motives were wrong for some of my goals.

In considering why I reached some goals and why others were missed, several life lessons have surfaced for me. Lessons I believe that are helping me to age gracefully.

  1. We don’t always have control over whether or not we reach a goal.
  2. Some goals are just not right for us right now.
  3. Goals are tools for character development even if they aren’t reached.
  4. Motives play a big role in motivation for reaching goals.
  5. You’re not a failure if you don’t reach a goal.

Making Adjustments

With these lessons learned, I have one major adjustment in my goal setting.  Instead of setting another round of goals for the next monumental birthday (don’t even try to get me to say that number), I instead simply put all my goals into one Lifetime Bucket List. I think part of my mistake before was forcing myself to set a certain number of goals instead of setting the goals that were right for me regardless of how many there were.

There is a lot of advice available on goal setting. Honestly, it all overwhelms me. So, I focus on the bare minimum, what some call the SMART way to set goals. Even with this guideline, I realize that I would not get great marks from a goal-setting guru. But, I am learning what works for me and moving forward in that.

Honestly, I hate the idea of being too structured with my goal setting. I feel too confined and fear limiting the Holy Spirit’s directing in my life. But I am also aware of God’s indicating a need for balance in this area.

Proverbs 6:6-11 clearly indicates that we need to work and not be lazy with our lives and that we must make certain plans for this to happen. On the other hand, James 4:13-14 clearly shows that our lives can change from day to day and so too must our plans.

In making adjustments with my personal goals, my intent lies with creating a balance between making motivational plans and allowing for inevitable change.

Final Thoughts

As I enter my last week with an age I think still sounds young, I feel good to at least have some goals established even if I know many will change and some not come to fruition at all. Goal setting has provided, for me, a way to assess what I’ve done and map out what I want to do. It has helped me write the story of my life.

Shopenhoaur said best the sentiment I am trying to portray here:

“The first forty years of life give us the text; the next forty supply the commentary.”

I am ready to start writing the commentary on the text of my life.

DISCUSSION: Any advice for someone entering a new stage of life? (PLEASE don’t say, “Age is just a number.” I hate that.) Does my experience and struggle with goal setting resonate with anyone?

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