Above and Beyond

These words are often used when one does a task or job better than what was expected of them.  Phrases such as, “Our waitress went above and beyond expectations tonight at dinner.”  In this scenario, this  behavior is typically rewarded with a great tip.  At one time or another, we’ve all heard these words, most of us have probably said them but how many of us have them said about us?

Over the past few years, I have read articles, blogs, and even some books by great thinkers and innovators of our culture.  One characteristic I see in every one of them is their willingness to go above and beyond what’s required.  You don’t see big dreams become a reality by simply punching a time-clock from 9-5.  You don’t see ideas that will change a culture by only doing what’s required.   Don’t get me wrong, many people do that and are fulfilled in doing so.  But, if you’re a dreamer, if you desire to be an innovator, then it is essential that you go above and beyond.

You may ask, “What does that look like in every day life?”   Simple – start where you are.  Develop a mentality to do more than the task or job description details.  If your job is to file papers in their applicable folders, so so – plus volunteer to analyze and reorganize the file drawer.  Your task may be to shovel your walk.  Do so – plus bless your neighbor by shoveling theirs as well (That was a reference to my blog 01/24).  The reason I use that example is because this isn’t just about a job but it’s about life.    Jesus even teaches us about this during the sermon on the mount:

Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. (Matthew 5:41)

This is where we get the well known statement, “Going the extra (or second) mile.”  In the context in which Jesus teaches this, it also references when someone slaps you, turn the other cheek.  If someone sues you for your shirt, give him your coat as well.   Our logical (unspiritual) thinking is this is crazy.  But Jesus teaches and demonstrates how to go above and beyond.

We hear a lot today about the “participation trophy” given to everyone who participates rather than rewarding those who work harder to accomplish victory.  Listen, I am all about encouraging and appreciating those who do the job expected of them.  But, just like our waitress at the beginning of this blog, when you and I go above and beyond what’s required, you will see rewards come your way. . . financially, relationally and spiritually.  IMG_2425

As I wrap up, let’s not be one of those who just do what’s necessary to complete a given task, project or job.  Consider everything an opportunity to show your passion and potential.  Let this quote be your daily mantra.

Be blessed and go above and beyond what other’s think you should or think you can.

LENT – Why or why not?

Adhering to the Lenten season isn’t something I grew up with because it was thought of as a “religious tradition” that wasn’t necessary. I grew up and am still protestant and concepts of religion that requires certain acts was always thought to be “under the law” or “legalistic”.   So in my adult years, do I now think it is necessary as a follower of Christ? No. Is it beneficial? Yes. So with that being said, allow me to explain why I now adhere to basic tradition of Lent and encourage you, as a following of Jesus Christ, to do the same.

Traditionally, lent has a wide range of applicable actions such as ashes on the forehead, no meat on Fridays, one day a week of complete abstinence, giving of alms during this time . . . etc.  I’m not here to debate the validity of any of those external actions. But from my study of this tradition, let me simply say this,

Lent is a season where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting or sacrifice in order to grow closer to God.

Now after reading that, some may cynically ask, how does giving up soda or chocolate draw me closer to God? Well, that in and of itself doesn’t. People who drink soda or eat chocolate every other day of the year are not sinning which is what separates us from God. So how is the lack of that action drawing us closer to God?   To understand this, we must understand the basis of why lent has become a tradition. You see, beginning Wednesday of this week, February 10th, we begin the Lenten season, which is 40 days prior to Easter. This represents the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness. In case you’re doing the math, there are 46 days from February 10th until March 27th (Easter Sunday) but realize Sundays are not included in the 40 days of Lent.

So, given that brief history of Lent, allow me to explain why it’s a good thing. The act of fasting at any time of the year isn’t an action that, by itself, brings us closer to God. In reality, those who do not eat for 1 day, 3 days or even up to 40 days may follow the accepted protocol of fasting but if you don’t spend that time reflecting, praying, reading the bible . . . etc. you are pretty much on a temporary diet plan. But yet, Jesus said in Matthew 6:16, “When you fast . . .” giving the reader the understanding that it is expected of me.   The benefit of any fast is what we do in accompaniment with the external sacrifice. One may fast for the salvation of a wayward friend. Others may fast for specific direction in their life. Regardless of your motivation, the connection with God one way or another must be part of the process.   When I was a child, I remember hearing teaching such as this . . . when you fast a meal, take the time you would usually be eating to pray. While the practicality of that is valid, fasting is not a formula of removing one thing to insert another. The reality is we should pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17) so even if designating a prayer time during lunch will always be beneficial, it is not an item to check off on a list of daily obligations. The same can be said about Lent. Following the tradition without applying other actions is simply an exercise in discipline. But once you attach times of reflection, prayer and bible reading, this becomes a spiritual discipline.

Throughout the next 2 days, I would encourage you to ask God what you should give up (sacrifice) for Lent. Over the years, I’ve laid aside a variety of things that I felt led to do so at the given time. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong thing to fast.   I would encourage you to take time when you’re reminded of what you’re sacrificing to pray and reflect. Simply put, we have certain habits and when that pattern is interrupted, we take notice. If you fast a certain meal, it could be your body saying, “hey, it’s time to eat” or if you give up television, it could be your mind say, “hey, it’s time to chill and watch the tube”. (Okay I guess I’m showing my age a little with that last response) Regardless, your body will remind you of the pattern you’ve disrupted. Take time at that moment to pray and seek God. In the end, the purpose you do any spiritual discipline is to draw closer to God. Lent can be a time on the calendar that you put this specific discipline into practice.

For some practical purposes, I want to show you what is common for people to give up during times of Lent in our culture based upon Twitter reports of 2015.

  1. Foods (sweets, chips)
  2. Technology (social media)
  3. Alcohol
  4. Swearing, being mean
  5. Complaining

All of those disciplines are very good. But we could expand the list to be more specific at times. For example, some may cut out social media altogether. But social media isn’t always a bad thing. Often the issues that need to be dealt with are what we post on social media. We all experience challenges in our life, but how we respond to that can please or displease God. In our culture we use social media to voice every response we have to opinions, situations and circumstances.  So now we can publically tear one another down, complaining about this or that rather than blessing and encouraging one another. I could give example after example of this but I’m sure you could as well.

As I wrap up, you may read this and feel, this is all just legalism.  That’s okay, then don’t do it. Some times we neglect solid traditions in the name of “not being legalistic”. This becomes legalistic when I demand or expect you follow it. I’m not doing that. Simply suggesting. If you don’t adhere to any of the disciplines of Lent, I want to encourage you to find another way to express spiritual disciplines in your life because it is beneficial, I promise.

Click here for a much more detailed, yet simple understanding of Lent.

Back Up!

Basketball is the sport our family is currently thinking about. Jaxson plays on his school team as well as a travel team that plays on Sunday afternoon.  Needless to say, we have seen our share of basketball this winter and since I often look for a life-lesson (illustration) through every aspect of my day, I am reminded of two words used a lot in 5th grade basketball, “BACK UP!”  This is not in reference to moving backwards or backing up a player.  This refers to when we take a shot and miss (which happens often) and our offense rebounds the ball, you hear from the stands, “Back Up!” which indicates go right back to the hoop, shoot again.  Since the rebound and subsequent following shot is often missed, you hear again from the crowd, “Back Up!”

At a recent game, I heard this often and shouted it myself as we cheered on our players.  To give a brief commentary on the game, we were losing 22-12 towaIMG_1657rds the end of the game.  Our boys played hard and never gave up.  In the final few minutes, we shot, missed, rebounded and shot again time after time and closed the gap.  With a couple timely shots and determination, our boys pulled out a huge victory, 25-23 in what was probably our most exciting game of the season.  And even better, this helps our play-off positioning.

Now that I’ve given a little personal story let me give the life lesson God showed me in all of this.  You see, we often hear motivational things like, “Go for it”, “Give it a shot”, “Go after your dream”.  Heck, I’ve even said these myself over the years to encourage someone.  But what often happens is if success isn’t experienced in the early stages of our pursuit, we often give up and give some sort of excuse such as, “I don’t have what it takes”, “I tried and failed”, “It must not be God’s will” . . . etc.  To anyone who’s used those statements as a justification to quit, let me say to you today, “BACK UP!”  Just like a father yells from the stands to an inexperienced 5th grade basketball team, I believe God, our heavenly father, is yelling from the throne, “BACK UP!”, “Try again”, “Don’t quit”

Even after being down 22-12, our 5th graders never looked at the scoreboard as the end of the game scenario.  Don’t look at your current situation in life as the what the final score will read.  You still have time on the clock to make a difference.  Keep pushing forward, rebound and shoot again.  The bible says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  (Galatians 6:9)  Let’s never forget that.