Christian Living

Free to Fly

How was everybody’s Thanksgiving? I really love the idea that we can set ourselves up for success! Like I talked about last week with using Thanksgiving to set up our holidays. I guess it’s because my schedule tends toward the packed side and my health tends towards exhaustion and my stress level tends towards more than I want it to be. There’s so much I can’t control. The idea that I can hook myself into a railroad track that will carry me the direction I want to head is music to my soul.

On our podcast, Epic Every Day, we introduce it by saying it’s designed for busy, overwhelmed Christians who want to move towards freedom, abundance, and peace. Those concepts have been my goals for the past several years.

In Gal. 5:1 Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” It’s easy to forget how amazing that is in the daily grind of life. Unless I’m reminded, I don’t think about freedom when I’m in the middle of school or housekeeping or even writing and podcasting. But we can’t take it for granted. Paul continues by saying, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (NIV). We’re designed to fly, but so often we hang around on the ground.

I’m reminded of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. They were so used to working 7 days a week that they went out to gather manna, even though God (via Moses) told them not to. He reinstated the Sabbath but their train tracks were to work 7 days.

Our natural tendency is to live in bondage. It might be the bondage of fear/worry. Or maybe it’s bondage to an addiction. Or bondage to stress. Or bondage to jealousy or envy. Or maybe it’s bondage to the past–carrying regret or being unable to forgive yourself. Maybe it’s bondage to people-pleasing or trying to control things in your life. Or, like Paul talks about, maybe it’s bondage to rules–trying to earn salvation. We all lived in bondage before Jesus saved us. For me, I had so much fear wrapped up in my PTSD. Years of therapy and personal work, by God’s grace, have brought freedom that I never thought possible. Sometimes I notice it in little things, like being able to watch my kids chew gum without having a panic attack. Or sometimes it’s in big things like sleeping through the night consistently for the first time in my life.

We all have some kind of bondage. The question is what we’re going to do about it. We can stay trapped. One of the most insidious traps is to be stuck in “someday”–“Someday I’ll address that bondage.” “Someday my life circumstances will be different and my heart issues will go away by themselves.” “Someday I’ll have time to inventory where I’m in bondage.”

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts…” (Heb. 3:7-8)

There’s no time to wait for someday. And, as I’ve talked about before, we can’t apply a circumstance solution to a heart problem. The heart problem will be there until we fix the heart problem. Freedom is internal before it shows up externally. We’re so blessed because we don’t have to earn our salvation! We have a loving heavenly Father who gives us good gifts that are perfectly individualized for each of us (James 1:17). We have the Holy Spirit to work the fruit of the Spirit in us when we surrender–so many of which are the antidote to bondage. We don’t have to live in bondage–we choose to live in it.

So where don’t you have freedom? And what’s stopping you from getting it?

Copy of Blog_ Using Thanksgiving as a springboard

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Christian Living

Saying “No” to the Good.

I’ve been sick this week, which means I am further behind on my writing goals and further behind on my other goals and commitments. And the house is a disaster. So as we (hopefully) jump back into our regular schedule, Evan and I have been talking about how to be wise with our time. We’ve also been talking about how to make time for connecting with people–probably because we spent a whole week talking about connection on our podcast, Epic Every Day.

So how do you make time for things?

I’d argue it’s impossible to talk about saying “yes” to thing without talking about saying “no.” In Boundaries, Cloud and Townsend talk about how we are all gardens, metaphorically. There are four types of gardens or people: 1) the garden with no walls, 2) the garden with no gate, 3) the garden with a gate that keeps out the good and lets in the bad, and 4) the garden with a gate that lets in the good and keeps out the bad.

For a person with no walls, they don’t have a “no.” They say “yes” to everyone, so anyone can come in and pick the fruit in the garden. This person often doesn’t have any fruit left to feed themselves so they’re starving all the time. They also don’t have time to cultivate the garden so there’s not loads of fruit for those who wander in.

The person who has no gate doesn’t let anyone in at all. They keep their own fruit, but miss out on the joy of relationship. Personally, I believe that results in another kind of starvation.

Then there are the people who have walls with a gate. Some of us are raised in such a way that we don’t know how to keep the bad out or how to let the good in. We don’t know how to let people love us. We don’t think we’re worth protecting so we just let bad people wander in and steal our fruit. We’re the people who automatically assume a criticism is about us (and personal) but can’t accept a compliment to save our lives.

Obviously, the person to be is the one with the last garden. Even if you’re in this place, you’ll have a tendency towards one of the other three–something that you came from or that you can slide back into. People with the last garden believe they’re worth protecting so they keep the bad stuff out of their garden and let the good in. They let themselves be loved and joyfully give to those God has called them to give to.

Our time is an indicator of what kind of person we are. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to be someone who does exactly the things God’s called me to do. I love doing what God’s called me to do because it’s fun and life-giving. It feeds my soul. It creates margin even in the midst of doing it. On the other hand, it’s also hard and takes energy to do.

For me, I don’t usually get sucked into letting the bad in. I used to be there, but I’ve grown past it. I am, however, way, way, way more likely to get sucked into focusing on the good over the best. You know what I mean–when you do something that’s not bad but it’s not the best use of your time? Scrolling through Facebook, extra housecleaning, messing around with my phone, organizing my recipe cards, reading, checking our finances more than once a day, liking people’s posts instead of hanging out with the person in real life… the list goes on and on and on. Some of it is just stuff that is the best when I do it at the right time–for example, we organize our finances and have a money meeting on Fridays, but sometimes I’m tired and avoiding other, harder things so I’ll check mint.com just to “categorize the latest receipts” (even when there aren’t receipts). It’s not a bad thing to do, it’s just not the right time to do it.

So often, it’s the good that keeps me from doing the best. I can rationalize the good in order to avoid the work that comes with the best. I might not be as fulfilled as if I engaged in the best, but I don’t have to work up the energy either.

Connection is like that: we’re too busy doing all those “good” things or we’re too busy engaging in the “good” relationships or we don’t have good gates so we let people in who suck us dry. It takes work to say “no” to the good and and to go after the best.

But really, is the “good” good? I mean, if it keeps us from our best, is it good? Or does it become bad?

Blog_ Saying No to the Good