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Being Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Girl Suffocating

When I swim, I sink like a rock.

I’d like to think it’s because I’m a solid mass of muscle. Isn’t it common knowledge fat floats and muscle sinks. ;)

But lately I’ve been trying to counteract that tendency. I’ve been going to the local swim club to improve my swimming technique.

One of the biggest hurdles I’ve encountered is how terrible my breathing becomes when I start to get tired. I can feel my body tense up. I start to panic. The mechanics of my stroke start to change. Overall, everything about what I know to do starts collapsing.

So often we can get overwhelmed with life.

You can’t find a job. You don’t know how you’ll pay the bills. The kids are driving you crazy. A past relationship is throwing you in a frenzy. You’ve been breathing from your reserve oxygen tank, but you sense it’s starting to run out.

It’s getting harder to breathe. You’re losing faith and trust in God.

But you know what was interesting about my swim practice the other day? You’d think my breathing would become more labored as I progressively got more tired. But it actually improved.

The reason?

I got better at staying calm when I got tired. I kept myself together instead of collapsing. I remembered to breathe.

That’s exactly what God wants us to do when we feel overwhelmed, confused or in a world of chaos. To remember to breathe.

But not on our own.

God wants us to increase our capacity to breathe through Him.

Rather than struggle and fight through a seeming lack of oxygen, we need to realize we have a God who will breathe for us.

Daniel 10:17-18 (NIV)
…My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”

18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength.

Just as I learned to breathe when I wanted to panic, we need to learn to rely on God whenever our current situation has us scrambling for breathe. We need to learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and say “God, I trust you” with my current situation. (Click to tweet.)

When you want to quit, learn to take a deep breath, exhale and say “God, I trust you.” Deep breath. Exhale. “God, you are the source of my strength.”

Photo courtesy of ontwerpplus.

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Why I Started Reverse Fasting to Grow Closer to God

What’s the purpose of fasting? To me, there’s two components of a fast.

  1. Denying your physical needs/temptations so that you can . . .
  2. Be more intentional seeking God.

The problem I’ve experienced with myself over countless years of fasting is that I spend an overwhelming amount of time focused on #1.

What type of fast am I going to do? Daniel, liquids, water only? Full, partial? Am I going to incorporate a non-food fast like social media? And then 99% of my fast is focused on trying to find fast-approved recipes, avoiding social media, and honoring the fast I’ve chosen.

But what’s the missing piece?

Seeking God.

Whoops.

There’s always lot of intentionality about what I’m fasting but little when it came to how I’d seek God more. How do I always lose sight of that? I have no idea, but it’s so easy to let what I’m fasting completely overshadow why I’m fasting.

The hope is that fasting provides an opportunity to seek and depend on God more. Whether that be an extra meal during the day or time saved not on social media or watching TV. But, more than I care to admit, God doesn’t generally get that extra time.

Which is why I now start any fast by reverse fasting.

What’s a reverse fast?

Instead of focusing on #1 first, I’m going to focus on #2. Reverse the priorities. Instead of spending so much time figuring out what I’m not going to eat, I’m going to first figure out how to seek God more.

It starts by doing an honest assessment of my day and identifying unproductive times. Once I’ve identified those, I can cut them out and get more time in my day. Then I intentionally plan how I’m going to use that extra time to connect with God.

That’s the key to a reverse fast.

For example, here are some unproductive times I’ve identified in the past:

  • Hitting the snooze button. Seriously, I waste 30 minutes a morning.
  • Always having a TV show I’m watching and watching it when I have idle time.
  • Checking social media a gazillion times a day.
  • Randomly browsing the internet for no productive reason.

Cutting out those things could easily free up one to two hours a day (if not more!). So with that extra time, my reverse fast has looked like this:

  • Morning (15 minutes): Read from a devotional like My Utmost For His Highest. Marinate on it.
  • Lunch (15 minutes): Eat lunch at home. Before eating, spend time praying for people in my life (intentionally collecting prayer requests beforehand).
  • After Work (30 minutes): 15 minutes of personal prayer/worship. 15 minutes of listening for God’s voice.
  • Before Bed (30 minutes): Read and marinate on a longer Bible reading plan.

So there you have it. My reverse fast. I feel this change puts the priority and focus back on the right thing (God). This coupled with a few other practical things I’ve discovered along the way will help you set the table for a spiritual significant fast!

How about you? What’s been your experience with fasting? How do you structure yours?

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Do You Have These Four Characteristics of a Disciple?

Have you ever wondered what it means to be a disciple of Christ?

The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) tells us to go make disciples. But what exactly is a disciple? I asked myself that recently and went on a quest to find out. Turns out if you search the Bible for the phrase “my disciple” you get some amazing results.

Here are four characteristics of a disciple along with some questions to ponder.

Bear Much Fruit

John 15:4,8 (NIV)
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Do people look at your life and want to pick your fruit?

That question sounds kind of like the start of a lame pick-up line, but it’s valid here. ;)

Would people want to eat the fruit of encouragement they see from your life? Would they see how you’re slow to speak and quick to listen and want that fruit in their life?

Or would they take a bite from the fruit of your life (e.g., pride, selfishness) and want to spit it out immediately?

Love One Another

John 13:34-35 (NIV)
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Have you been demonstrating the love of Christ to the co-worker who annoys the crap out of you? Are you cussing people out, flipping them the bird when they piss you off on the road?

Remain Faithful to Jesus’ Teachings

John 8:31 (NLT)
31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.

Being “faithful to my teachings” means put it into practice. Consistently.

James 1:22 (NIV)
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Can you honestly say the Word of God regularly impacts your life? Or that you even read the Bible regularly, let alone have it consistently affect your actions?

Are you quick to obey Jesus’ teachings? Even when it’s uncomfortable and seemingly not beneficial to you?

Follow Jesus

Luke 9:23 (NIV)
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Following Jesus is not a casual decision (cf. Luke 14:25-35).

Are you willing to leave behind and give up everything in pursuit of Jesus? Even your spouse, your family or your own personal success?

So, Are You a Disciple?

These four characteristics really gave me some tangible things to think about. Do I demonstrate these characteristics in my life?

I hope they did the same for you.

What do you think about this list? Anything missing? What’s it mean for you to be called a disciple?

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How to Grow Spiritually and Save Time with Grace Letter

Here’s a little snippet I got in an email last week.

I realized last year that I spend tons of time researching dev [tech] related things on the web, yet I don’t spend anytime using it to learn about the Bible, Jesus, etc.

Ouch. Zing. *hangs head in shame*

I know that’s me.

What’s even more embarrassing is that last Thanksgiving (or was it the one before last?) I was most thankful for the Internet because of how much it’s enriched my life through the wealth of information instantly available.

True story. ;)

But 95% of my Internet usage is not for spiritual growth. It’s more for growth in other areas I’m interested in (writing, technology, personal development, etc.).

When you look at your time spent online, could that also be you?

How much time do you spend checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest compared to searching for spiritual content that will challenge you to grow, develop and become more like Jesus?

The truth is content on the Internet is overwhelming. Which is why I’m extremely excited about the launch of Grace Letter.

Grace Letter Logo

It’s a weekly newsletter that links to the best spiritual articles, videos and stories across the web – delivered straight to your inbox! It does all the hard work of sifting through the web’s noise and shares only the stuff worth checking out.

I highly recommend you subscribe.

Grace Letter is run by Kale Davis (the guy who sent me the email I quoted above). He’ll be the one scouring the web for spiritual gems to pass along and has a proven track record for delivering high quality links in the tech-newsletter he also manages (which I happily subscribe to).

His other newsletter is definitely the one I read the most regularly and get the most out of.

So I’m super confident Grace Letter will be of the same caliber.

</end Grace Letter plug> :)

Where do you go online to find spiritually yummy food? What are some blogs, pastors, podcasts, Christian authors you read regularly?

Maybe some of your suggestions will make it into an issue of Grace Letter!

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Why I Hate Fasting

Update: While I can’t say I love fasting now, I have found a few things that have helped me get the most out of my fasts. I jotted those down in another post you may find interesting.

Every January for the past six years I’ve taken part in a 21 day fast. The idea is to set the spiritual tone for the rest of the year.

I’ve heard it said before, this can be your best year ever if it’s your best year spiritually.

But I hate it. I hate fasting.

I don’t deny it’s a great way to start off the year. Praying, fasting and seeking after God. What I hate about it is what it reveals about myself.

It always show show incredibly undisciplined I am (maybe that’s why “discipline” is one of my words for the year). How I’m consumed with hunger for food. How I’ll cave to temptation and cheat on my fast. How I’ll compromise and change the fast to make it “easier.” How it becomes less spiritual and more diet.

What I hate about it is how a season/time of denying the flesh and focusing on God becomes just the opposite.

A time of focusing on the weakness of the flesh.

So this year I’ve made a conscious effort to use that to my advantage. Whenever I feel the weakness creeping up, I use it as a reminder that weakness is where Christ wants me (2 Corinthians 12:9). That as my body hungers for Pittsburgh steaks, it should really hunger for a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ.

And that is where I find myself. Craving all sorts of food, but being reminded that my hunger should truly be for Christ.

For all you fellow fasting peeps out there, what are some ways you keep disciplined and focused on the right things when you fast?