Faithinflipflops

Living simply, loving deeply!

Archive for the tag “Church”

Mid-Life Crisis: Good or Bad?

I have been thinking a lot about mid-life crises. By definition, a mid-life crisis is an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age. I witnessed a good friend of mine go through one years ago leaving a wake of destruction in its aftermath. I have seen others go through them successfully. I don’t think mid-life crisis are bad things unless handled badly. I think there is something healthy about reassessing your life periodically. I tend to be extremely introspective. One of my life mottos is “If you’re not growing, you’re dying”. It hangs in my office so it must be true. 😉 Scripture talks about examining ourselves in several places. An examined life is a healthy life.

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I think I have been pondering it because over the past two months I have had four different people say something to me that struck a chord. Two of the four were in the form of a question and the other two were observations about my life. Three out of the four were basically asking the same thing, “What are you doing with your life?” They obviously took root and have been germinating in my spirit. I honestly believe God is trying to get me to see something so I can grow. My daily prayer is to be more like Jesus in all areas of my life and to daily walk out the good works He has for me (Ephesians 2:10). These are prayers He delights in answering.

Before I get to the four things people have said to me, let me give a little back-story. In July I began to work on my Masters in Strategic Leadership. I have wanted to continue my education for years. The idea of going into debt did not appeal to me at all. I had a friend tell me that I needed to not look at it as going into debt but as an investment in my future. That resonated with me so I went for it. And I am so glad that I did. Our first class and residency were on the personal life of a leader. The premise is if you are going to be a great leader, you need to be able to lead yourself well. How can you lead others if you cannot lead yourself? We learned a lot of great theory and practical tools in that class. We talked a lot about finishing well: life and ministry. We had to identify what would keep us from finishing well. My two areas were physical and financial health. Our final paper was thirteen pages. The last two pages had to be a personal growth plan for the next two years (the duration of the MASL program). It was a painful process. But healthy and life-giving.

I have two goals to be physically and financially fit by 50. There are concrete goals that I am working on. I will probably blog more on these two areas in the future. Needless to say, after scheduling an appointment with my doctor and some very frank and honest conversation, he set me on the right path of cutting out sugar and grains. I have lost 30 pounds in twelve weeks and feel the best I have in my life. I have a way to go but the accountability and desire are there. I do not want my body to give out on me before my mind and my dreams. Finishing well means taking care of the one body God has given me to do all He has called me to do.

I read a quote somewhere that said, “Men with dead eyes, dead hearts, just waiting for the rest of their bodies to catch up and die as well.” I don’t want to be like that. I think when we hit mid-life, we can choose to tread water (security) until retirement, thinking then we will do what we want or we choose to continue to take risks and grow in the present. We cannot wait for someday to do what God has put in our hearts to do.

In September, Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography came out. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge, huge fan. There was a companion album that came out with it. The album had a tag line describing it as, “a hard-working Jersey boy living out his wildest dreams”. I wrote in my journal, “Am I living out my wildest dreams? What are my wildest dreams?” God has given me so many.

At the church I serve at, we are going through some restructuring. It is healthy and exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time. I love it! In September, I met with our youth pastor to discuss a change in roles and responsibilities. He would be taking some of mine and we were discussing what that would look like and where I would fit into all of that. He asked me the first question that has been causing me to think about the next season of my life. It came the day after I had read the tagline from Bruce’s album. He asked, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” He’s 26. I’m 46. And he so hit the nail on the head. (Side note: our future is in good hands. God is raising up a generation that can fix the things we have messed up. Do not fret! Our best days are ahead!) I have done about everything in church life from children to youth to missions to women to senior pastoring to pastoral care and I love it all. I am living out my wildest dreams. But I sense God is refining my wildest dreams (I am sounding like a Taylor Swift song). I have said from the time I graduated from college that I want to do it all before I die. I wanted to experience every aspect of ministry and life. But I feel God is doing a refining.

In pursuit of living a healthier lifestyle, my doctor encouraged me to listen to some podcasts. There’s a guy I have been listening to plus reading his stuff. The information is so good and makes so much sense. It’s all about the why you should not eat sugar and grains. It has changed my life. I am convinced God has used this to save my life. I believe we will look back on white sugar and it will be this generation’s version of nicotine. My mom and dad’s generation started smoking in the day in which nicotine was “good” for you. It wasn’t until the 70s the government admitted how terrible nicotine was for you. White sugar is killing us. Our health care system will break under the weight of our obesity not the Affordable Health Care Act (though that needs help, too).

I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I remember being in seventh grade and starving myself. I would eat an apple a day because you know what they say, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. I have lost the same sixty pounds five times during my life. I have done Weight Watchers, the cabbage soup diet, Atkins, South Beach, counted calories, and on and on. I was honestly quite concerned that I had permanently messed up my metabolism with all the yo-yo dieting. I was on the phone with one of my sisters talking about this new way of eating and working on my Masters. And she said the next thing that made me think. She said, “Heidi, any goal you have ever set, you always achieve it. You do whatever you set your mind to do. You are great at setting goals and meeting them. You are driven. Your problem is once you achieve it, you are lost, and you don’t know what to do with yourself.” That hit me like a ton of bricks. I am so thankful I have people in my life who are honest with me. God uses them to push me and examine my life.

As a result of my conversation with my sister, I began to think through my new lifestyle of eating. I was not viewing it as a diet but I knew eventually I would. What could I do now to prevent slipping back into my old behavior? The guy I have been listening to on the podcast offers paid consults. I have never done anything like that in my life. And remember my goal of being financially fit by 50? This did not fit into the budget. But I knew I needed to do something different if this was going to be lasting so I scheduled it. And I am so glad I did. He was so incredibly helpful. He was firm but genuinely caring. It was like having a personal trainer to get you started. The only way I can describe him is he is the Howard Stern of fitness. Growing up Strickler prepared me for that 😉 He asked me a question on the consult when I told him I was working on my Masters (he wanted a snapshot of my life…age, height, weight, what your schedule was like, etc). He seemed shocked that I was going back to school at 46. I thought it was normal. He asked, “What made you go back for your Masters at the age of 46?” The emphasis was on the age. I never once thought about my age when deciding whether or not I was going to go back for my Masters. It was always money and time. I never want to get intellectually lazy. And I don’t want to coast on what I have learned previously. We are to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, all of our strength, all of our souls, and all of our minds. And I think it is part of whatever God has for me in the future.

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The last incident that happened was a dear friend called me a couple of weeks ago to inform me he had re-married. I jokingly said, “Maybe it’s time for me to think about getting married.” I remember a couple of years ago I woke up one day and thought, “How did I end up at the age 44 not married?” I knew I never wanted children but marriage had always been an option. I just never thought about it much until two years ago. Life has been so fun and so full and time just marched on and before you knew it, here I am. His reply to me was, “You have such a unique life, and it would be hard for someone to come alongside it.” In my journal that night, I wrote, “It (his statement) caused me to think what am I doing with my life?” At first, it stung. That statement made me feel like a freak. For a nano second. In the end, it caused me to appreciate the uniqueness of my life. I have never been lonely. I have amazing friends and family. The community I get to live in and serve is full of great people. I am not rich in material things but I am with the things that matter (now I feel like I’m going all George Bailey on you).

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As I contemplate those four incidents, I am so filled with excitement. God says in His Word, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

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Re-assessing your life mid-way through can be a good thing. It becomes a crisis when you fill it with things that will rob your soul and hurt those around you. The self-examined life is the healthy life.

 

 

 

 

 

Heart Shaped Rocks: A Tale of an Optimist

Mondays are my day off. I sleep in and unplug for most of the day. I try to go for a long walk or bike ride somewhere new. I stuff a blanket in my back pack along with my journal and Bible and just go.

Today I went to a place I just discovered a few weeks ago. Sheldon’s Marsh is in the next town over I never knew existed. You walk for about a mile and a half through a beautiful marsh and come out at a barrier beach on Lake Erie. The beach stretches for over a mile. Absolutely amazing. I spent most of my time today walking the beach.

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Flowers in the marsh

Flowers in the marsh

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Beautiful butterfly

Beautiful butterfly!

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Sheldon Marsh

Sheldon Marsh

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Find the heron

As I was walking I noticed a heart-shaped rock. I stopped and took a picture of it. As I continued to walk down the beach, I saw about 6 or 7 more rocks in the shape of a heart. It’s interesting after you first notice something, you begin to see it everywhere. Maybe it’s because you’re actually looking for it.

Heart-shaped rocks

Heart-shaped rocks

Heart

Heart

You find what you are looking for!

You find what you are looking for!

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As I continued walking, I began to think of all the Scripture I knew with the word heart or love in it. What a great exercise. It helped me center on God and His love. God’s love is evident all around us if we are looking for it.

And I thought about church. I love church. I get so frustrated with people who constantly criticize and make fun of the church. The Bible teaches that the church is not a building, it is the people who accepted Jesus and everything He claimed to be and have chosen to follow Him. Scriptures also teaches how much Christ loves the Church. She (the church) may be imperfect and not always live up to her potential but she is who Christ has chosen to represent Him.

As I discovered more heart-shaped rocks on my walk, it reminded me of people who say they do not like going to church or use the excuse of not going to church because the church is filled with nothing but “hypocrites”. My answer to that is whatever you are looking for you will find. If you are looking for a hypocrite in church you most definitely will find them. If you are looking for a man or woman who sincerely loves God, you will find them as well. And you know what? They are probably the same person.

I am an optimist by nature. I recently took a strengths finder test for some coaching I am doing. One of my top 5 strengths is positivity. I understand that a person can be a hypocrite and a person who loves Jesus at the very same time. I am such a person. The heart-shaped rocks I found today reminded me to keep looking for positive. Because you really do find what you are looking for. If you are looking for negative stuff, negative is what you will find. If you are looking for positive, positive is what you will find. What are you looking for?

 

 

The Importance of Community: A Lesson from Woodstock

This morning as I was getting ready for church, I noticed that my dog, Woodstock, was not around. Woodstock and I have a routine. Every morning when I get up, Woodstock hears me and comes to greet me. She wants to go out and then come in and be fed. (Have I mentioned before that my dog is OCD? Routine is quite important to her). I found her laying on the recliner. Remember, Woodstock weighs at least 100 pounds. She was wedged in the chair pretty good. She could not get out herself. Every time she would try, the recliner would rock which freaked her out a bit. I finally got her out and as her back legs landed on the floor they crumpled underneath her. I think they fell asleep.

Woodstock before I helped her out <3

Woodstock before I helped her out ❤

Tonight I had the opportunity to lead our elders in communion. As I was thinking about the Lord’s table and what happened to Woodstock, I was reminded of the importance of community. The Bible makes it pretty clear that life was always  meant to be lived out in community. And the Bible teaches that when we become followers of Jesus we are placed into the family of God by the Holy Spirit. I don’t understand it but I believe it. And I am grateful.

We need each other. All of us at one time or another get stuck. Not in a recliner. But in life. We try to rock ourselves out of it but the fear overwhelms us. What I have found to be true is God usually sends us people to help us get unstuck.

I was reading in 2 Corinthians 7:5 – 6 

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn – fighting without and fear within. But God who comforts  the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

God comforts the downcast. How did He comfort Paul? By sending him Titus. God uses people to bring comfort. God uses us!!! We are His hands and His feet.

Have you ever been in a season where there is fighting on the outside of your life? and fear paralyzing you within? We all go through those times. It is in those times we need community. We need each other. Sometimes we need people to fight for us. Pray for us. To help us get unstuck.

One of the most important reasons to be in a church is for community. I watch people go through loss and sickness and see the people of my church rally around them and comfort them by providing a meal or praying for them or sending them a card. I often wonder how people who have no support system like that get through the hard times.

I would have never known to go looking for Woodstock if I was not used to seeing her every morning when I get up. One of the perks of being established in a church is people are used to seeing you week after week and when all of a sudden you stop coming around, somebody notices. Someone will go looking for you (or they should). People who say they can love God and serve Jesus without going to church are missing something God never intended them to miss…community. Sure you can have a relationship with Jesus and not go to church but I believe strongly your spiritual growth will be stunted. We were designed to live and grow in community.

You are probably not stuck in an actual recliner but there are areas of your life that you can’t seem to get victory. You are stuck in a rut. You are discouraged and have shut people out. Remember that God comforts the downcast but He usually uses people to do it. And if you are not stuck, be the person who God uses to bring comfort to someone else.

“We Did it!” (Thoughts on a life well-lived)

Last Sunday during worship – there was a moment – a moment in which an appreciation – an overwhelming appreciation washed over me- an awareness of how blessed I am, on how good life is, on how good God has been to me…how faithful He has been to me. I just stopped singing and savored the moment. I so wanted to be able to push the pause button and just stop the clock from ticking even if it were just for a minute. It was one of those rare moments when one feels FULLY alive.

Life is not perfect. Life has not always been easy. There have been deep hurts and tough challenges. But in this season, there is so much joy in the journey. And there is within me a knowing that this is how it is supposed to be in every season of my life…joy in the journey.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a bookmark that someone had given me quite awhile ago. I had never fully read it. There was a line that stuck out to me. And it annoyed me. It said:

There are women of wit and wisdom who —

through strength and courage —

MAKE IT THROUGH

Isaiah 44:20 says,

He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

What ashes have I been feeding on? What insecurities, unhealthy coping mechanisms, what lies have I been feeding on? What lie is in my right hand that I have not recognized as such? One of the lies that I have believed and so have many other Christians is that we just need to “make it through”. We are just sitting here, biding our time, managing our sin until our real life begins when we die and go to heaven. Not really enjoying life or making the most of it. Passively watching life go by. Limping through life, nursing old wounds. Bruce Springsteen really was right when he sang “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”

We were created for so much more! To live an abundant life. A life full of joy, peace, and righteousness. Jesus has made this possible for me! What is an abundant life? It is not being rich (though God can bless that way). It is not attaining the “American Dream”. In fact, the older I get and the more I study Scripture, the more I see how opposite the Kingdom of God and the American Dream are to one another. Most other Christians living outside of America live in poverty but have rich lives marked by joy and peace even in the midst of suffering.

An abundant life is a life that follows Jesus. Wherever He may lead. Whatever it may cost. Loving people. Standing up for what is right. Showing compassion. Putting others before ourselves. Living a life of gratitude. Being wonder-struck by the many ways He blesses our lives.

I say all of this to say this:

When I have breathed my last – I don’t want to have just “Made it through” – God forbid, I just make it through life. I want to finish well – to finish with energy – to finish strong.

At the end of my life

  • I do not want to say “I made it”
  • I do not want to say “We made it”
  • I do not want to say “I did it”

I want to cross that finish line with Jesus and say:

“We did it!” 

Jesus and me and the people He gave to me to run the race with because no one runs the race by themselves…and to think you can is to have a lie in your right hand. We were meant to serve Jesus in community.

We did the stuff.

We did what God purposed for us to do – no matter how difficult or hard the task.

We did it with joy.

We did it with grace.

We did it with peace.

We did it with faithfulness.

We did it with humility.

We did it with power.

I think that moment I had last Sunday…of overhwhelming gratitude and feeling fully alive….can happen more often. I must not choose to just “make it through” but to live life full throttle, arms opened wide, embracing every opportunity and taking risks as I follow Jesus. And when I have closed my eyes for the last time on this earth and opened them for the first time in Heaven may I hear Jesus say “Well done, my good and faithful servant…WE DID IT!!!”

 

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