It's easy to go through life day by day with very little plans for the future. Where do you see yourself in five years? Automatically, we would think about our job, our home, our children and their position/age. But that's not what I'm talking about. Where do you see yourself, the reflection of your inmost being, your foibles and fortes all rolled up into one? I could sit here right now and easily come up with at least five things that I don't like about my personality, my inner dialogue, and my faults. However, identifying these things is only the first step. I will never be improved, never be in a different place down the road, if I don't take specific action toward improving myself right now.
Romans 12:1-2 says ,"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing, and perfect will." About a year and a half ago, this verse spoke to me in a way that it never has before. I needed to WAKE UP and take action to improve myself, discipline myself, and grow my love for God so that I could transform my mind (and my life) to discern God's will. Some of my changes have been big, some have been small, some areas I haven't made much headway in yet; but I have seen the goodness of the Lord pour into my life in ways that are both shocking and much-awaited. I am on a journey of self-improvement and self-discovery, which is opening up a greater understanding of God like I couldn't have imagined before.
So I thought today I would offer up a few suggestions. My challenge to you today is to adopt one of these actions if you don't presently have it in your life. Be disciplined with it, and you will find blessings.
1. Exercise at least four times a week -- You pick the exercise, make a schedule, and stick to it! Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and a vessel made in God's image. Take care of it! Make the whole family or a close friend part of your routine as well. A healthy body creates a clear mind.
2. Seek God's wisdom above all else -- 1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, "Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next." When I first started being disciplined about workouts, I ended up trading first-thing devotions for first-thing exercise, thinking that I would get to my quiet time later in the day. Sometimes I did; often I didn't. Now I get up earlier so that I can do both before my kids wake up for school. Am I tired when I roll out of bed? More often than not. But boy is it worth it! I am a much better witness when I start my day out in the Word.
3. Read self-improvement books -- I was challenged a couple of months ago by a mentor in my business to read one self-improvement book a week. I had never read them much, so I wasn't looking forward to it; I committed to it for my business, but my heart wasn't really in it. Man! Was I in for a surprise. I have been richly rewarded by the books I've managed to finish in the weeks since July. Whether you're self-employed, in direct sales, or part of the corporate atmosphere, you CAN benefit from this challenge. If you're unemployed or retired, you can benefit from these books too. They're for everyone! I would highly recommend that anyone and everyone read The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews. It reads like fiction and presents seven decisions that can benefit CEOs and stay-at-home moms alike. I would also recommend Rhinoceros Success and Advanced Rhinocerology by Scott Alexander as well as the devotional Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer.
4. Learn something new -- Never consider yourself as having arrived at the post-learning era. Nothing leads to stagnancy of mind like an unteachable spirit. Learn a new language, take interest in a hobby, have your kids show you how to use some "new" technology, attend art shows, or watch an old movie. Broaden your horizons. Take in the beauty of your Creator through diversity of experience and scope of existence. Proverbs 9:9 says, "Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning."
5. Laugh every day -- Don't take yourself or the world too seriously; God has the final word. Cultivate joy and spread it around. Celebrate your faith, don't mourn it. Thank your Maker. Count your blessings twice. This life is a gift, and it won't be handed out again.
I will leave you with a question from a song by Switchfoot that really resonated with me at about the time that I started seeking to become more:
"This is your life....are you who you want to be?"