Celebration of Discipline

When my alarm went off this morning, I sat up in bed and said, "You have no discipline, and you need some."

Apparently my subconscious had been lecturing me in my sleep.

The other day, I got this fortune in my Chinese fortune cookie:

At first I thought, "This is awesome."

But the thought that followed directly afterward was, "No, I won't." 

I would love to be an accomplished writer, but, even if I am a talented writer, I will never become an accomplished writer, because I don't write. Because I have no discipline. I only write when I'm inspired, when I feel like it, when I want to.

Just because my room is clean doesn't mean I'm disciplined. I just like to clean. If I hated to clean and my room was clean, then I'd be a disciplined person. As it is, I'm very, very poor at doing things I do not want to do.

I've quit a lot of things in my life. Ballet, gymnastics, playing the piano, playing the flute, public school, choir, Business Management, boring novels. I'm pretty undisciplined. Especially...when it comes to eating.

A couple weeks ago I told my boss I'd save him some Cheez-Its and he said, "Can you? I know you. If there's food in front of you, you'll eat it."

I can't even take offense at that, because there's nothing false about that statement.

(But I DID save him some Cheez-Its. So...step one on the road to discipline.)

Discipline's biggest enemy is self-justification. If I can justify something in my mind, I have overruled discipline. I want to eat 7 cookies. They have oatmeal in them, and raisins. Hello, healthy. I went running this morning, it's fine. I haven't eaten this many truffles in, like, three days. So it's like a treat, really. If you think about it. Really.

God has been telling me a lot recently about discipline. Discipline is what it takes to grow. Discipline is what God uses on us to help us grow, and discipline is what we institute in ourselves to help us grow.

In what areas do you want to grow? Reading more? Praying more? Thinking of others more? Eating less? Buying less? Being more generous? Being less selfish? Being a better cook?

In case you simply need some encouragement: Take some steps to discipline yourself. (Tell me this, too.)

Write out the names of those you want to pray for and tape it to your shower to pray through every morning.

Fill out one of these calendars for 100 days, each day checking off the same three habits (or disciplines) you really want to be a part of your life.

Stop eating 7 cookies.

I'm not willing to sacrifice growth and character for comfort and temporary satisfaction.
He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly. - Proverbs 5:23


Soon, but Not Yet

New seasons. Aren't you glad we have them?

Soon it will be autumn. Soon there will be football. Soon there will be pumpkin cupcakes. Soon I will snuggle into bed and wake up in the dark and drink tea while wrapped in an afghan.

But summer has been full: Of days lying beside the pool in warm, easy sunshine; of early morning runs through still-sleeping neighborhoods and just-awoken sprinklers; of homemade fruit smoothies with blackberry seeds stuck in my teeth.

I'm thankful for new seasons. I'm thankful for newness.

The same is true in life. There are seasons, and sometimes I'm very happy to see that the one I am in is ending, and a new one's beginning. Not immediately; perhaps it starts with just a sniff of air that smells more like crisp leaves than mown grass, or a sky that looks a little clearer and colder than rippling and blazing hot.

But these [just] glimpses of newness give me hope to finish out the season I'm in. It's okay that the sweat will still run down my legs, for now, because soon I know I will be wearing sweatshirts and Sketchers and homemade knitted socks.

Soon, but not yet.

In the meantime, let God do what He does in the season that's right for it. Let Him bloom the flowers when it's right for them to bloom. Let Him wither the fig tree when it's right for it to wither. Sometimes He puts you in the fire, but to walk through it in your own strength simply leaves you charred at the end of the day. He doesn't desire charring, but refining; transforming; renewing; always with hope that this season won't last forever, and a new season is coming.

And He gives us seasons because no one knows better what is needed to grow you than the One who created you.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." - Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV


Pigeon's First Day of School

My roommate and I have a pigeon nesting on our porch. In the words of my roommate: "She did a crappy job. Look, there's like a bush growing out of the side."

So Pigeon and I stood (well, Pigeon sat...on her eggs) on the porch and waved goodbye to Courtney as she headed to her first day of school. She teaches music to 900 kindergarteners. You can understand why she wasn't exactly boarding a rocket ship so she could get to school quicker.

This week, some of us Vineyardites took school supplies and lunch to two neighborhood elementary schools. We prayed over them and blessed them. We gave them chewy oatmeal walnut raisin cookies (through which I was also blessed). And I thought about how important prayer is; how important it is to be aware that God is with and in and around and before us, at all times of the day, and that that fact lends a much bigger picture to the work we do in our measurable hours. And that, my friends, gives us joy.
Success waits upon cheerfulness. The man who toils rejoicing in his God has success guaranteed. - Charles Spurgeon
I lose sight of the bigger picture, and I think that I'm serving this person or that chair or this piece of paper or, worse yet, myself. All of those "masters" will only leave me empty and spent and exhausted at the end of the day, and very, very lacking in joy.
If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. - 1 Peter 4:11
Bringing God praise is a much bigger picture than cutting and folding paper, than sitting in a cubicle, than teaching playground rules. And serving God, to bring God praise, in the strength God provides, is an attitude-changer when it comes to serving others.

I prayed these words over my roommate (Pigeon was not involved in this portion) today, and I pray them for myself today, and I pray them for you today: May you know the joy that comes from serving the God who created you and in bringing Him praise, even when the tasks [for the moment] might seem joyless.

Happy first day of school, from my family to yours.


Summitting, Now Hang Gliding

I was feeling pretty professional, very business-y, with my iPad and iPhone and Styrofoam cup of not-so-great coffee. But then I propped my feet up between the chairs in front of me, and when someone came and sat in one of the chairs I tried to pull my feet out before he could see, but my left foot got stuck. I tried to unstick it but I couldn't, and I started to panic because his elbow was getting close to my toes. So I slipped off my flip flop, leaned forward, and literally yanked on the stubborn shoe from side to side until it came free, like pulling a 300-pound man up a cliff on a rope. Karen, my coworker sitting next to me, laughed so that she almost snorted, and I realized I wasn't very professional at all.

But sitting for two days (in the Global Leadership Summit) and listening to intelligent, experienced, smart, witty speakers speak about leading, success, personal growth, responsibility, and Jesus, has left my mind full and stretched and ready to process, chunk by chunk.

One thought: God is working 24/7 on building His church. He knows it is the hope of the world. He loves it as His bride. And He has given me, little old me, a role in building it. Holy cow. The extreme privilege, honor, and blessing of this profundity has rocked my attitude, motive, and humility (or lack thereof). I am merely called to join a God who is already at work. This shakes me out of whatever prestige I thought I had (how silly of me!) and makes me feel honored to answer the call, yet even more eager to honor the One who calls.

Another thought: The world needs better female communicators. 

Finally: It definitely matters today how you receive criticism, instruction, and tutelage. You do not know what God might be preparing you for in the future. Soak it in! Be a sponge. Let that be your mantra, and don't worry about appearing foolish or unskilled. Nobody who humbles himself to learn from someone wiser will ever end up foolish.

I have lots more to process. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to learn.

Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. - Luke 22:26b ESV