Life is all about balance. We talk about a balanced diet, a balancing act of time and priorities, the balance between work and play..etc. As summer begins to come to a close and the new school year begins (hello, master's program!) it is of interest to me to understand how to effectively manage both my time and other areas of my life in order to achieve my greatest potential. There are many philosophies that talk about ways to categorize life and the different aspects of it. While I certainly don't claim to know everything, or to have achieved perfect balance in my life, I recently did some study and teaching on things I discovered through examining my own life, and thought it would be of interest to share with you.
We all want to live incredible lives. We're not called to be "normal", we're called to become extraordinary, and an extraordinary life is really all about whole living, being balanced and complete as a person in all areas of life.
There are three main areas to life:
Philippians 4:8 says, "Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies." (MSG)
What does this mean? The things that you think about will determine the course of your life. Here's the deal: What you watch, read and listen to will affect your life, regardless of whether or not you're conscious of it. I challenge you to be intentional and strategic about what you allow into your mind. We've all heard the phrase, "garbage in, garbage out", and while it's cliche, it's very true.
I have many friends who watch all kinds of movies--and they say all the time, "it doesn't affect me", and perhaps they are right in the sense that they may have become de-sensitized to all the violence or profanity or other content, but that information still goes into the subconscious as material for the mind to work on. One of the things that's been beneficial to me in this process is to ask myself what kind of lifestyle I wanted, and then to step back, and honestly analyze where I was and what changes needed to be made in this area in order to begin moving toward the life I want.
We are all individuals, and each person's idea of who and where they want to be in life is very different, so choose what works for you. Personally, I didn't grow up watching TV, and to this day have continued this habit as I feel that it is a distraction and full of content that isn't consistent with where I am going. (you can read more of my thoughts on that here) Negative thoughts, people and information are easily accessible, and if that's not the kind of influences you want directing your life, then it's best to become diligent in monitoring that. Remember, thoughts become feelings which turn into emotions and those emotions, when acted upon, create results. Be aware of what you allow into your mind, and what you think about.
James 2:17 says, "Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup?--where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?"(MSG)
We live in a culture that thrives on procrastination. It's so easy to say, 'Oh, I'll just do it later/tomorrow/when I have time..' and then somehow we push things back until they reach the bottom of the "to-do list" and perhaps never make it off. Do you know someone who wants to change something? (Maybe it's getting better grades, losing weight, getting to sleep earlier, change in career..) What would happen if all this person does is simply tell people they are going to change, yet never make the first step of action? Nothing. If we want to change, we need to start changing our habits. John Maxwell, in his latest book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, (a great read, and HIGHLY recommended!!) talks about how the secret to success is found in our daily routines. We see action when we begin to examine the things we do all the time and make adjustments.
Recently, I have been studying the topic of integrity, and over the course of the summer was blessed to receive more teaching and information that further confirmed what God had been revealing to me about this subject. Integrity is often thought of as the things you do when no one is looking, but really, integrity is about what you do when you are in front of others, in a place of leadership, AND when you are alone. Integrity is consistency...what you say you do, and what you really do should be the same. Instead of just talking about doing something, let's take the necessary action steps to begin doing.
Whole, balanced living also means caring for the body you've been given. We only get one physical body, and scripture calls it the 'temple of the Holy Spirit'. Care for yourself by eating right, drinking enough water, getting exercise and creating those healthy habits. You act your best when you feel your best!
Finally, the most important part of whole, balanced living is your Spirit
Colossians 1:9 says, "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives." (NIV)
We all want to know God's will for our lives, and if you haven't asked that question of life purpose yet, you will. Part of being in that will is becoming like Christ and joining him in his work. How do we know where God wants us to be? Begin by growing and developing your spirit which is the heartbeat of your life. Strengthening your spirit will, in turn, affect and help to balance the other areas of your life.
-Invest time in your relationship with God.
Like any other relationship we have with another person, it's important to talk to them, spend time together, to know their likes and dislikes..etc. A relationship with God works the same way; we need to talk to Him, get to know what He delights in and also what breaks His heart.
-Here are a few practical, Spirit-building habits:
1. Church: Do more than just show up. Listen to what God is trying to tell you for your life, and be engaged in the message.
2. Community: Do life with other people. We need others to surround us to encourage, inspire and enjoy life together. You are not an island or a hermit, and you (and I) need people.
3. Quiet Time/Devotions: The best way to get to know God is to invest time with Him. Start a prayer journal, read a verse or two in scripture and think about how it can apply to your life.
4. Prayer: Communication with God=a life that is successful.
5. Worship: It's amazing what some worship can do to totally revolutionize your perspective and attitude. Put on some music and really worship the One who created you.
6. Tithing: Give of your time, talent and resources. It's not just a financial decision, get out into the community and help through an outreach project, serve at church, take time to listen when someone needs help, and if you do have a job, tithe off your income. Here's the deal: you can't out-give God. Test Him and see if He doesn't open up a floodgate of blessing upon your life when you give the best of your life to Him.
Whole, balanced living means an extraordinary life, but that's not to say that it is easy, quick, or without challenge. It is always a challenge, and making changes is often a painful or uncomfortable process; however, the results are SO worth the temporary discomfort. I challenge you to leave "normal" behind, and follow adventure. You see, God is already at work...the question is 'will you join Him?' You don't have to have all the answers, you just have to get involved. You were born into this time for a reason, and have been called to greatness. If God had wanted someone else to do what He's called you to do, He would have chosen them to live your life instead.
God says, "I have come so that you may have life, and life abundant."
Abundant life is not normal. Abundant life is extraordinary.
Let's live it.