"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).
Show dogs are trained in gaiting --- trotting around the ring with their heads held high. Keeping the dog’s head up displays her form and motion for the judge who awards the final prize.
My dog is no show dog. On our morning walks she strains on the leash with her head down, snuffling along the pavement. She pauses at every abandoned candy wrapper and discarded cigarette, sees only the dead leaves and clumps of dried grass left withering on the sidewalk. Ahead of us rabbits leap for cover and birds flutter to higher vantage points, but my dog never notices them. She is too distracted by the clutter and garbage that litter the ground, and she misses the excitement and activity that cross our path only feet away.
Too often we keep our heads down, focused only on the road under our feet, gazing at the small patch of earth only inches ahead of our toes. We forget about the wide world, and we become unaware of the rest of life teeming just beyond our sight. We limit our perceptions and stifle our experiences when we do not raise our heads to see what lies before and around us.
I want to always be looking forward, scanning the distance for new and exciting opportunities. I want to be always fully aware of the broad and beautiful world that lies beyond my next step, and I ask God to guide me as we travel the path together. I pray I am always ready to discover all that lies behind each new horizon.
My dog is no show dog, and neither am I, but I can lift my gaze from the pavement of our daily walk and see the sights beyond my own small circle. I pray I will always examine the wider view and explore everything God puts in my way.
Have you ever limited your view of the world? How can you look beyond your immediate surroundings to perceive a broader horizon?
Many years ago I worked in a bank. Banking is a fine career for someone with financial aptitude; but for me, it was just a job, and not a job I enjoyed. I felt bored, stifled, and out of place; but I dragged myself through work each day because I was afraid to give up the steady paycheck and health insurance. I had many other dreams for my life, but I told myself I needed that job, and I settled for punching keys at the bank while wishing I were anywhere else.
God doesn’t want us to settle for life that makes us feel stifled and unhappy. He tell us we are capable of reaching the goals and dreams he gives us. Often it is our lack of faith that keeps us from achieving our full potential. Over the years I’ve noticed a few behaviors that keep people from achieving their best.
I don’t deserve it. I’m not good enough. I can’t do any better.
Negative beliefs are usually fed into us by other people who believed the same about themselves. This has been the hardest area for me to overcome, and I’ve never found an easy answer. At some point in my journey I decided that I will never know how much I can accomplish until I try, so I at least want to be able to say I made the attempt. That new belief has kept me persisting despite my doubts and persevering toward my goals during many times I wanted to give up and settle for less.
I’ve worked all day and I’m tired. I have too much to do. It’s not my fault.
Excuses deflect responsibility, blame others for our failures, and free us from the expectation to work hard. Excuses also prevent us from becoming the people we are meant to be. Becoming all we are capable of means taking responsibility for our actions, discovering how to motivate ourselves, and making the effort necessary to reach our goals. When I stopped complaining about being trapped in my job and started looking for a way to change, my situation improved and new opportunities presented themselves.
I’ve always done it this way. It will never get any better.
Habit thinking is hard to identify because so often our bad habits are unconscious and automatic behaviors. It is easy to stay in roles, routines, and relationships that are bad for us because they seem so comforting and familiar. The best way I’ve found for changing bad habits is to work in the smallest possible increments and build up to achieving greater goals and bigger accomplishments. When I decided to leave the bank and began college, I started with one class while I worked. Over time I added more classes and worked up to full-time enrollment.
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Each small step we take leads to the next phase of our journeys. I spent years of working to change my limiting beliefs and reach some of my goals; but I still have far to travel. When we choose to believe that God wants us to live more abundantly, we can faithfully follow wherever he leads.
How do you motivate yourself to reach your goals and dreams? How do you choose to live abundantly?
I threw the tennis ball in a perfect arc across the living room. The dog leaped airborne, soaring off the sofa and running before her feet hit the floor. She caught the ball on the first bounce and brought it back, dripping with dog spit, to drop at my feet.
Back and forth we repeated this ritual: toss, retrieve, repeat. Over and over. Again and again.
How does she find this entertaining? I wondered after the second hour of this mind-numbing repetition. How does she not get tired of doing this hour after hour, day after day?
But when I considered why this game, which seems so boring and pointless to me, is important and interesting to my dog, I realized there may be a lesson here that I need to learn.
How often I feel I am playing fetch with my own life. How many times I felt I have caught all my goals, only to have them escape from my grasp and fly away, forcing me to run after them again.
My dog doesn’t ask, Why do you keep tossing that ball? She doesn’t wonder, What’s the purpose of chasing this again? She chases the ball because for her, the pursuit is the purpose.
My dog follows the ball for the excitement and challenge of the hunt. She leaps and runs across the room because the exercise builds strength, speed and stamina. The practice teaches her to jump higher, reach farther, and catch faster on the next toss. She knows that if she keeps chasing the ball, someday she will jump high enough to catch it on the fly.
God often uses activities that look like play to teach us skills we need to learn. He allows us to experience the excitement and challenge of the hunt. Repetitive practice builds strength, speed, and stamina for the future. Chasing, catching, and releasing our dreams is often teaching us to persist in pursuing our goals.
Throwing the tennis ball for my dog reminds me that when what I want is out of my reach, I need to get off the couch and go after it. If it flies free again, I need to follow it further. And no matter how many times I drop the ball, I will keep pursuing, chasing, and retrieving because I know that someday I will jump high enough to catch it on the fly.
And I know that if the pursuit is the purpose, catching everything I wanted wouldn’t be fun anymore.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my dog is waiting to play.
What are you chasing today? How has God taught you to persist in the pursuit of your goals?
It’s spring, when flowers bloom and wishes float on the breeze. Here are a few wishes for you today:
I wish you will always know your beauty and see yourself as God sees.
I wish you will always find adventure and have the courage to explore the opportunities God sends.
I wish you joy in every day God has made and peace in every night he watches.
I wish you commitment to your work, confidence in your purpose, and assurance of the plan God has for you.
I wish you always know your potential and anticipate excitement for your future.
I wish you truth to speak your story clearly and certainty that God is writing your next chapter.
I wish you freedom to explore, contentment to stay, and willingness to learn and grow.
I wish you always know God’s love for you and see his direction throughout your life.
I wish you feel gratitude for all you’ve been given and faith in all that is yet to come.
I wish you a wonderful day and a beautiful springtime when all your wishes come true.
What do you wish for when spring flowers bloom? How do you tell others what you wish for them?