Perfectly Whole

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I am a recovering perfectionist. I used to be a perfectionist in virtually every area of my life. Now I have selective perfectionist tendencies. The results of the four Are You a Perfectionist? quizzes I took (you see taking 1, 2, or 3 quizzes was not enough! I said I was recovering, not recovered!) indicate that I am a high achiever with perfectionist tendencies. My results say that I am “able to enjoy the journey without getting overly hung up on the results.” That’s true for so much of my life; however, in certain areas of I just don’t know when “good enough” is good enough. Perfectionism usually rears its ugly head in areas of my passions: teaching, speaking, and writing. Each lesson, speech, or article is researched, written, revised, revised, and revised again until eventually time expires and I’m forced to end the process, not always satisfied with the result. Being a high achiever means I can slip over into the abyss of perfectionism at any time!

Perfectionists are complicated beings. We set high standards for ourselves and are displeased when we don’t meet them. We believe that other people count on us and feel guilty when we don’t meet their expectations.

Perfectionists struggle with contentment and often place too much emphasis on self-satisfaction. And that’s when perfectionism can be an obstacle to spiritual growth. It becomes a stronghold as the perfectionist is held in the bondage of self-contentment.

Christ came to give us freedom from all kinds of bondage. In Galatians 5: 1-5 Paul speaks to the Galatians about the danger of getting tied up in the “chains of slavery” of the Jewish law. He points to the way of grace based on Christ’s love instead of the way of law based on human achievement. The Galatians were guilty of following rules and regulations but not giving Christ their heart. Perfectionists get tied up in our own laws and human achievement. We need to do as Paul advised and find our satisfaction in Christ. If we substitute the word perfectionism for the word circumcision in this passage, we’ll discover a relevant message.

1 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.
2-3I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision (PERFECTIONISM) or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ's hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision (PERFECTIONISM) trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law. 4-6I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
Galatians 5: 1-5

How do we release the bonds of perfectionism? Ask Him!

Accept our limitations.
Set attainable goals for progress not perfection.
Keep a sense of humor.

Have a plan to know when “good enough” is good enough.
Invest in the process more than the result.
Make Christ the center.

For the Greeks the word perfect means whole or complete. The perfection we should strive for is in being whole in Christ. Our goal is to be perfectly whole!

Essential Friendships

Monday, February 15, 2010

A 10-year study of older people in Australia revealed that satisfying friendships predict long life better than even close family ties. It showed that friendships are good predictors of longevity and can protect against obesity, depression, heart disease, and other health problems. Additional research shows that people who have an extensive network of friends outlive people with the fewest friends by 22 percent. Talking with a friend releases the hormone oxytocin, which has a calming effect on the body and mind. In fact, brief chats with friends or a spouse several days throughout the week can have tremendous health benefits. There are certain types of relationships, outside family relationships, that have the most positive effect on health. Right now, before reading any further, make a list of your closest friends. Go ahead! The reading will still be here when you get through.

Now compare your list to the cherished friendships below to see if your friendship “types” are among those that just might extend your life.

1. A childhood friend – This friend “knew you when” and shares a history with you. Nurture these friendships to help keep you centered on your roots.
2. A new friend – This friend has no preconceived notions about you and can help spark new interests and ways of thinking. He or she can help you network when it’s time to make changes in your life.
3. A workout friend – This friend serves as an accountability partner to keep you focused on your physical health, a strong indicator of longevity.
4. A spiritual friend – This friend supports you in your faith journey and that’s good for your health according to research by Duke University Medical Center. The study found that those were regularly engaged in religious services, prayer, meditation, or Bible study had a 50% lower risk of dying over a 6-year period than those of the same age and health status.
5. A younger friend – This is a friend you can mentor and encourage by sharing what you’ve learned through life. Research shows that nurturing and helping others is an element of a happy, healthy life.
6. Your spouse’s/significant other’s friend – This friend helps create tighter bonds in relationships. Research shows that when a couple intermingles their family and friends, they have happier relationships.

How does your list compare? Are on track for a long and healthy life with your choice of friends?

These friends may help our physical health, but which friend will truly help our spiritual health? Jesus is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. Jesus is the friend who bears all our sins and burdens. No other friend is so faithful.

In John 15:12-16 Jesus tells his disciples five characteristics of his friendship.
1. Love – He loves us.
2. Expectations – He expects us to obey him.
3. Chosen – He chose us.
4. Fruit – He wants us to bear long lasting fruit.
5. Prayers – He will give us what we ask in accordance with his will.

12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. John 15:12-16

For longevity in our spiritual health, let’s follow our true BFF (in case you’re not tuned in to Best Friend Forever)! He is our essential friend.

Enjoy singing the favorite old hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” Karaoke style by clicking here -

In the Pits

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Have you ever been “in the pits?” Dan Woolley was in Haiti with his friend and co-worker David Hames when the earthquake hit a few weeks ago. Their work with Compassion International took them to Haiti to document the country’s poverty-stricken children. Standing only feet away from each other in the lobby of their hotel, the two became separated by the quake. Dan cried out for his friend but couldn’t locate him and eventually crawled to an elevator near others. With a badly injured leg and bleeding head, Dan waited and prayed realizing that his hope was in God. Strengthened by the sound of fellow Christians singing “Peace Like a River,” Dan called out the words from Psalm 40: 1-3,

1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.

Dan knew that his future lay in God’s hands. After sixty-five hours in the rubble, in the pit, Dan received his miracle rescue. Sadly, his friend and brother in Christ, David Hames, has not been found.

King David wrote this Psalm to describe how God took him out of the pit and gave him new life. David’s pit was quite different from Dan’s.
David was in the pit of troubles from the bad choices and bad habits he’d developed.
He was in the pit of sin after sleeping with Bathsheba and then having her husband killed.
He was in the pit of threats and on the run from Saul, his countrymen, and the Philistines.
He was in the pit of jealous people who sneered at him and caused him to run away.

Whether we’re in the pit because of our own doings or because of circumstances over which we have no control, God is there ready to lift us out.

How did David get out of the pits? Psalm 40: 1-3 shows 6 ways God worked in his life.
1. He turned to me
2. He heard my cry
3. He lifted me out
4. He set my feet on the rock
5. He gave me a firm place to stand
6. He put a new song in my heart

He’ll do the same for us when we’re in the pits of life. He’ll turn to us and hear our cries. Then he’ll lift us out of the pit of sadness or depression or fear or worry or pride or any of the myriad of strongholds that keep us from him. Next he’ll set us on the solid rock of his Word and his love, surrounded by faithful followers. No longer living in muck and the mire, we have a new song in our hearts, a song of hope and praise.

We can get out of the pits!

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