Speaking “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Supersized

In the public speaking I’ve done – Toastmasters, testimonies, teachings, and even intros to worship songs – I usually prepare with one of two methods: either I write the speech out fully and read it verbatim, or I have a high-level outline in mind and give the Spirit free reign on the details. Each talking type has its appropriate time. A written testimony, for example, can be a powerful and moving thing to hear, because the speaker simply can not keep the emotion out of reliving those moments.

A talk from bullet points works, too, on two levels: one, no one knows me like the Spirit and I do, and two, what I spend my time cramming into my heart is what flows out – overflows, actually – in these moments. A teachimony is a great thing – a lesson backed with personal example.

As part of my Spiritual Formation, I intentionally choose what I believe and keep this message at the top of my thinking and feeling. (And grace is God’s gift, as well.) This post is more about that latter point: that what we fill our hearts with is what comes out in our words to others.

Ephesians 4:29 ERV
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

The Bible, God’s Word, teaches many things, in many ways. The “How To” manual for being human is a very apt description. It is our Spiritual Guide, yes; but it is also a practical psychological reference. The first of its kind. Quite literally, it consists of thousands of years of informal study of human nature. You can peruse any Self-Help section in your local bookstore and read the same truths that you find in the Bible.

The first of these truths is that our words can help or hurt, encourage or discourage, motivate or kill ambition. (“According to their needs:” It’s interesting that, for some, reverse psychology is what works. Tell my wife she can’t, for instance, and watch her. See my post on Spartan racing.) As a Christian, a parent, a husband, a sponsor, a disciple of Christ, the message I want to consistently give is one of loving and caring, encouraging and lifting everyone up to their highest potential. So I consciously make time to spend reading the Word of God. (I confess, seizing every opportunity to speak these things is something I work hard at.)

We are each created for a purpose which can be discerned in/through an intentional relationship with our Creator.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ERV
All scripture is given by God. An all scripture is use for teaching [ME: oneself] and for showing people [each] what is wrong in their lives. It is useful for correcting [individual] faults and teaching the right way [for each] to live. Using the scriptures, those who serve God will be prepared and will have everything they need to do good work.

[Oneself / each / individual / for each]: The trick is it generally only works from a one-to-one relationship with God. I have seen good in people who only listen and don’t do their own “research”, but usually it is in people who “admit” to taking some time at some point to get to know God that I see the kind of behavior towards others that I want to emulate.

Another truth is in regards to worry. “Don’t worry; Be happy.” I know how much I worried about all manner of things before I came to Christ. I know I can still slip down that slope without realizing it. And it is at those times when I turn to the Word for simple reassurance and healing:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?
Luke 12:25

So I tell you, don’t worry about the things you need to live – what you will eat, drink, or wear… You can not add any time to your life by worrying about it.
Matthew 6:25-34

The Lord will lead you. He himself is with you. He will not fail you or leave you. Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid!
Deuteronomy 31:8

The Bible is worth reading – even just once through – to find out these basic ideas for living well. And, I believe, when it is read even just for its practical advice, it does work upon our Spiritual beliefs.

Now, about that talking thing:

Even when you are arrested and put on trial, don’t worry about what you will say. Say whatever God tells you at that time. It will not really by you speaking. It will be the Holy Spirit.
Mark 13:11

And God will work in some one who listens, and hears.

Spartan? Try Roman!

My wife, God bless every bit of her, has always been a fitness nut. She’s always felt driven to it. Before we were married, she worked aboard tanker ships, and would tell me about her off-hours on-board exercising. (There was not much else to do when embarked for months at a time.)

Mid-life has been no different. Several years ago, prompted by the sudden, shocking passing of a co-worker who had gone out for a jog, a group from her company started working out together. They set and accomplished goals, at first running 5Ks and 10Ks, and then getting into Spartan racing. This is a race on a course filled with obstacles of every kind: walls to climb over, barbed wire to crawl under, tires to pull, weights to carry, etc.

It was a time of great camaraderie, as family and friends got involved. Our son joined. Even I, just months after open-heart surgery, took up walking the 5Ks (and still do). Spartan races are held in specific locations, and sometimes there are multiple levels and lengths. Finishers are awarded medals. A series of three is a trifecta. There’s a shadow box here at the house, proudly displaying all of my wife’s hard-earned memories. Seasons have come and gone, and the group’s makeup has changed as members move away and change jobs, but a group it remains.

This morning I awoke wondering what (or who) inspires a Spartan. I immediately noticed that there are parallels with followers of Christ, because Jesus, our founder, ran a race very similar to the excruciating challenge of Spartan. Let’s call it “Roman”.

We have all these great people around us as examples. Their lives tell us what faith means. So we, too, should run the race that is before us and never quit. We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fail.
We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy that he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.
Think about Jesus. He patiently endured the angry insults that sinful people were shouting at him. Think about him so that you won’t get discouraged and stop trying.
Hebrews 12:1-3 ERV

What Spartan racing is to full, comprehensive physical training, the Roman cross has to be to full, comprehensive spiritual training. And the biggest difference between the two is that the cross, for Jesus, was run to the death.

You are struggling against sin, but you have not had to give up your life for the cause.

We Christians are called to die “in effect”.  To die to ourselves, to die to our own selfishness and goals, and instead to live in and for Christ, for God’s purpose for us. And in service to others. This is the biggest similarity between Spartan and Roman. Sure, there are elite Spartan competitors, but, by far, the “common” racers are not concerned with their own times; they’re only concern is surviving the race to the finish. And they willingly aid those running alongside them. Throughout a Spartan course, you will see nothing but one racer helping and encouraging another.

A Book of Cliche’s?

There are, of course, many cliche’s I’ve heard from my Spartan. Motivational sayings are printed out and tacked up on the fridge. You can google on Spartan race quotes and quips, and fill a book with such sayings.

Likewise, we have a book of Christian motivation, The Bible. But “cliche” doesn’t do either of these collections justice. “Cliche” has a negative slant. It’s definition is “a saying that is overused to the point of meaninglessness”. So I looked up some synonyms: platitude, banality, maxim, axiom, truism. I think I found the right word in “dictum”, which has two definitions. One, is like those other words: “a short statement that expresses a general truth or principle”; but the other is very definitive: “A formal pronouncement from an authoritative source”.

The Bible is our guide. It is full of advice and recommendations on life’s best practices. Can it function the same way for a Spartan racer? I think so, but I now know that in it, I have found another way to connect with my beautiful, hard-charging bride.

Faith Is Like ____; Faith Is Really ____

Have you ever heard faith being described?

Faith is like re-watching a recording of an amazing come-from-behind sports victory – knowing how it will end; but faith is really sitting down to watch the first game of a new year, knowing that my team will consistently play well, make a game of every contest, no matter the final score, no matter a single game throughout the season, and be playing in January. (Yes, my team is the New England Patriots.)

Faith is like my favorite “happy ending” movie marathon (again) – it seems like Lord of the Rings/Hobbit are always on somewhere; but faith is really catching a movie I’ve never seen before, knowing the ending will be just right, because the best stories are all based on The Greatest Story Ever Told.

Faith is like being up early enough to take in the sunrise; but faith is really the assurance of tomorrow’s sunrise.

Faith is like the hostas around my house in the springtime, making their annual re-appearance; but faith is really having the landscaper move some of them to new spots in the yard, knowing that they will do just fine. (I’ve seen this – you can’t hurt a hosta!)

Faith is like reading Revelation and other verses about The Day; but faith is really waiting expectantly, counting the signs, completely sure it is well on the way, even if it won’t get here in my lifetime.

Faith is like tasting the memory of last year’s Thanksgiving dinner cooked my Brother-in-Law Dan – and the years’ before that, too; but faith is really the delicious smells coming from the kitchen this year and knowing they’ll be worth it.

Faith is like the finish line of a 5k walk, barely 4 months after open-heart surgery; but faith is really like the starting line of yet another 5k, today.

Faith is like hearing my favorite worship song this morning at church, and making my joyful noise right along with it; but faith is really having that song ringing in all glory in my head for the rest of the day, and then having it return fully at a stressful point during the week.

Faith is like a warm bear-hug; but faith is really feeling that hug again at exactly the right lonely moment.

Faith is like every intimate moment I’ve ever had with my wonderful spouse; but faith is really appreciating the true feeling of closeness when our bodies have aged past the capability or interest of experiencing it any longer.

Faith is like the precious moments spent holding my grandchild; but faith is really the immediate smile at the sight of his face or even the simplest thought of him.

Faith is like seeing my daughter go forward at Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs; but faith is really knowing she’s going to be all right in this life.

Faith is like the time I spend in the Word, comforted by its promises from a loving Creator; but faith is really looking back on a life that has been completely changed and re-arranged to now have purpose.

How do you describe faith?