Pursuing Intentional Growth

verse image for 1 Timothy 1:7Unless we fight against it, entropy will get us every time. Inactivity, laziness, choosing what’s convenient over what’s beneficial … Those habits may satisfy in the moment, but ultimately leave us weak and, potentially, diseased. My guest today shares how a 22-day challenge motivated her to change and what God showed her through that. But first, I’ve got fun news to share! I recently signed a contract (well, my agent did) for a Love Inspired Contemporary set in a fictional town located in the Texas Hill Country. I’ll share more info soon!

How learning to do pushups helped my faith walk

By Jessica Brodie

With spaghetti-noodle arms, I never could do a proper pushup. My version of this exercise involved me on my knees, arms splayed wide, barely bobbing up and down.

“I’m just not built for it,” I’d insist when my well-muscled husband encouraged me to try one the traditional way. “Easy for him,” I huffed to myself. He can lift twice my body weight. I, however, was that kid in elementary gym class who couldn’t last longer than three seconds on the pull-up challenge. Nope—I could power-walk all day long, but pushups were out of the question.

Then about four years ago, I started working out with weights. The trainer on the video, also a small-framed woman, had great abs and biceps. She inspired me to think maybe I could step up my abilities if I worked hard enough.

One day, my brother-in-law posted a Facebook video about a 22-day pushup challenge he was doing. This involved doing 22 pushups a day for 22 days to raise awareness for the 22 veterans who take their life each day. I’m not sure exactly what seized my heart, but I knew right away—I needed to participate. So I trained ever harder, built up the strength, and soon did my own 22-day awareness challenge—without doing any on my knees. Motivation teamed with training allowed me to achieve what I thought impossible.

In 1 Timothy 4:7, the apostle Paul tells a young pastor, “Train yourself for godliness.”

Reading those words reminds me of what we can accomplish with dedicated training. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he lays out criteria for his mentee and encouragement for other church leaders to be trustworthy, righteous, self-controlled, hospitable, and gentle, steering clear of drunkenness, evil, and love for money (1 Timothy 3:2-11).

Paul knew well that all people are sinners and cannot be saved except for true faith in Jesus. But he also knew God loves holy living, and as followers of Christ, we’re expected to turn from sin to embrace the way of the cross—the way of Jesus. We’re to imitate Jesus in our thoughts, words, and deeds by loving God with our whole heart and loving others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). Everything we do is to be done for the Lord.

Paul didn’t say, “Be godly.” He knew this took effort. He urged Timothy to strive to set the best example possible in spite of his youth. What he modeled, Paul knew, would lead others to Christ.

Just like it took me some time to build up the muscles I needed to do a proper pushup, it takes time to learn what godliness looks like—and to live that out. But we have tools to help us develop those spiritual muscles: prayer, daily reading of Scripture, spending time with other Christians, wisdom from pastors and other faith leaders, and quiet time in nature with our Lord.

In my example, my love for veterans motivated me to reach my goal. Similarly, our love for Christ should stir us to live in a way that pleases Him.

Now it’s time to train.

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Let’s talk about this! Have you participated in any challenges similar to the one Jessica shared? Did the challenge help motivate you? In what ways do you intentionally train yourself in godliness? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

Get to know Jessica!

Author Jessica Brodie's headshotJessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/shiningthelight.

Before you go, I encourage you to pop over to Crosswalk to read my article on ways to increase marital intimacy. You can read that HERE.

 

 

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God Among the Bullet Points

planner and pensEvery birthday and New Year, I’m forced to take stock. Have I lived the past year well? Am I moving forward in faith? Can I reasonably recover from all my mess ups and mishaps and perhaps behave differently the next time around? Unfortunately, I fail much more often than I’d care to admit, but despite my mess-ups, mishaps, and downright failings, one thing remains certain and unwavering, as my guest today discovered while doing a little life-check of her own.

God among the bullet-points

By Jessica Brodie

Ever try to sum up your life in a bullet-list? It’s a weird, sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious exercise in self-absorption (if I’m generous, self-healing) that I tried one lonely New Year’s Day 13 years ago.

It went something like this:

  • Born January 19, North Miami, Florida
  • Lived with parents in small house near grandparents
  • Earliest memories: books, brown shag carpet
  • Age two, moved to better house
  • Favorites: banana trees, stripy sneakers, books, spiky grass, swing set, Mom’s typewriter
  • Afraid of everyone and everything

I should mention I was a full-fledged grownup when I did this, well into my career, married…old enough to have achieved some maturity. And at the end, I had a neatly printed six-page document filled with all the dysfunctions and quirks that had comprised my life. Right there, in black and white, I could see exactly how far I’d come.

Take that, Mean Girls of the Sixth Grade. Harrumpf.

Sure, I’d had my share of embarrassing failures and broken hearts, but a few lines later there was the college scholarship, the promotion, the kiss. Life went on. Ups, downs—they littered the page without discernible pattern.

“That’s just life,” I’d concluded—random, messy, beautiful, full of chance and happenstance, with me in the starring role. I saw how time and again I’d navigated a difficult circumstance with a solid, moral decision or confronted a tough issue by standing strong, staying true. I congratulated myself on my perseverance and gumption.

Ah, younger me.

I knew nothing.

See, all that time I thought I was steering myself through the tough times. But it wasn’t. It was God. Now I see the light.

Thirteen years later, I’ve had two children and gained two stepchildren. I’ve become a daily reader of Scripture rather than a casual Bible-thumber. I’ve experienced loss, single-momhood, near-poverty, and wealth. I’ve been to Africa and walked with lions, seen miracles happen before my eyes and within my body.

I’ve lived. And in living, I’ve come to understand how little any of it has to do with me or the choices I made. I’ve also come to see how lucky I am God has allowed me to experience this grand, majestic ride.

Recently, I tried that bullet-list exercise again—but this time, instead of chance and happenstance, I was struck by the master pattern I saw: God’s hand on everything. Every. Thing.

Why had I ever thought my life was random? It was a magical, God-orchestrated symphony. In every moment, big and small, God was there—guiding, maneuvering, until whatever He’d planned had been fulfilled … then leading me onto the next step.

That infertility struggle that seemed to last forever? Now I saw it so clearly pointing me toward humility and submission to God’s will.

That tough job where I felt so utterly alone? God was helping me rely on my internal chops—and Him—to be a better leader.

Today I look at my list and don’t regret any of the mistakes and painful moments I see. My only regret is all the time I wasted from worry.

And I see what I should have been doing all along: resting securely in the knowledge that God has our roadmap already printed out for us in the form of the Holy Bible.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” He tells us, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).*

Try the bullet-list for yourself and see if you, too, can tell all that God has done and is doing in your life.

*Bible verse taken from Biblehub.com

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Author Jessica Brodie's headshotJessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest continuously published newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/.

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Let’s talk about this! In her book, Victim of Grace, author Robin Jones Gunn talks about taking an annual “Selah” where she hits the pause button and sort of takes stock of her previous year and what God might want to do in the year ahead. This really struck me because I have a tendency to stay so busy doing, I can miss observing all God has done or might want to do. Jessica’s post today encouraged me to hit the pause button this week, to take some time to prayerfully look over past journal entries, to meditate on Scripture, to contemplate all God has done.

What about you? Do you normally take time to remember and contemplate? If so, when and how? If not, how might doing so increase your sense of peace and awe for God? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Before you go, I wanted to invite you to join me and my Wholly Loved sisters each Wednesday for our new video devotions–short, transformative nuggets designed to help you center yourself in Christ and His truth. You can watch our first two HERE and HERE, then return to the Wholly Loved site each Wednesday for another inspirational message. And if you haven’t done so, make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive inspirational content, recipes, short stories, and more sent directly to your inbox. As an added bonus, subscribers cover image for study based on 1 Timothyreceive a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (sent separately). You can sign up HERE.

For those in the Omaha/LaVista/Lincoln area, join us for one of our upcoming conferences. You can find out more HERE.