Uphill

Everything worthwhile is uphill. Sadly, many people have uphill hopes and downhill habits. – John C Maxwell

Romans 12:2 Do not conform 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.

I don’t know about you, but 2017 was a very long and often difficult year for me. 2017 coming to an end was life’s Christmas present to me. I welcomed 2018, but with with cautious reservations like drinking a steaming fresh cup of hot cocoa.

I am confident I was not alone in this feeling. Michael and the team at Journey are sensitive to this spirit of apprehension as well, choosing to kick off 2018 with a series titled ‘Uphill’, inspired by a quote from leadership coach, John Maxwell.

The first and most significant step in developing uphill habits is focusing on what you do. Where your feet take you (or where you allow them to go) determines who you are. One thing that life and humanity guarantees is that we will create habits in our life. Some good, some not so much. It is a mistake to consider habits lightly. Your habits are your responsibility. You define your habits, but then these same habits will define you.

You stand at the 2018 block of Another Way. You get to choose your road from here.

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The Parable of the Hole
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t
my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place, but it’s still not my fault. It still takes a long time getting out.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there, but I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it. I walk down a
different street.
– Portia Nelson

 

Change what I do. Check. That’s really easy to say, but how do I actually do it when my habits are so deeply part of me? You must take control of your mind, be the master of your thoughts.

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Romans 12:2, 3:5-6
Ecclesiastes 10:2
Philippians 4:8-9

We are what we repeatedly do.
How we think determines how we feel.
You can’t change your behavior without changing the way you think.

Your thoughts determine your destiny

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My 11 year old son drew with me this week! His explanation of his drawing is the person is thinking of things he wants his life to be, while what is happening around him are habits he needs to change in order to make his thoughts a reality.

 

Well, ok. I am focusing on what I do and controlling my mind so it stays focused on uphill habits and not sliding comfortably back into old routines. Now what?

Keep your life aligned with your purpose.

Guardrails along the interstate are put in place to keep drivers safe. They don’t actively hold vehicles on the road, but they do prevent an accident from becoming something catastrophic. Using our actions and out thoughts, and leaning on God’s direction, we can put up guardrails that keep our lives aligned with the path we travel. That doesn’t mean accidents won’t happen, but it will ensure bumps in the road won’t change our direction.

Work of Art
εργασία
Ephesians 2:10

The Israelites marked each milestone on their journey to the Promised Land with a pile of stones, which inspired them to keep moving; at work of art to mark every accomplishment.

Out lives are God’s work of art, His workmanship. The word in today’s drawing is the original Greek, translated ‘workmanship’; or more literally, work of art.

God builds our lives as His work of art, we climb uphill, becoming our lives by living God’s work of art.

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The greatest asset to the trajectory of our lives are our relationships. The crowd we run with, the people we let into our circle. Psychology has studied social phenomenons of friendships and discovered many details about an individual can be determined simply by looking at who they hang out with. Political views, annual income, consumer habits, even the number of children you have and how healthy your most intimate relationship will be can be predicted with astounding accuracy by looking at your five closest friends in a lineup.

Relationships being our greatest asset, also makes us vulnerable to them becoming the most significant threat to our ability to grow. Choosing our relationships wisely, the ones to start, to keep and to change or end entirely, is critically important to defining our lives and holding to our path.

Uphill 4 – Choose My Relationships Carefully
Romans 12:2
1 Peter 4:7-8, Romans 12:17-18, 1 Corinthians 15:33, Proverbs 13:20, Proverbs 29:17

Nurture – Anything left on autopilot is destined to crash.
Restore – Forgiveness is not dependent on the other person’s response
Sever harmful relationships.
Initiate heathy relationships.

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We feed each other, but we also depend on each other. We are responsible for feeding each other well, and just as responsible to ensure we are being fed well.

Noah interpreted this message a little more literally than I

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Full.

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Imagine finding yourself on a busy street corner in Santiago de Cuba. As you walk amidst the bustle of traffic and the humidity you notice drivers motioning unusual hand gestures and locations mimicking a bus stop location, but the signs do not share that assumption. Just then a car pulls over to one of these ambiguous pick-up locations where about a dozen people are gathered. The driver of the vehicle motions for a gentleman at the stop to get in, then raises his left hand in that familiar gesture as he pulls away with his new passenger.

Overcrowding on public transportation is a very real issue in Cuba due to a low ratio of vehicles to the population. To appease this issue and make travelling around the nation’s cities as smooth as possible, Cuba strongly encourages hitchhiking to its citizens and its tourists. The Cuban government set up official hitchhiker posts for riders to gather and drivers to observe. Government vehicles who pass one of these posts with an empty passenger seat are obliged to fill their vehicle with the next hitchhiker in line. Should a government vehicle with available seats fail to stop, the incident can be reported and the driver fined.

To avoid confusion, drivers will indicate the number of seats they have available by a show of fingers out of their window as they approach a pick-up location. If a car is full, the driver’s hand will be raised palm up with their fingers curled into the shape of a cup. This is the driver’s way of saying, “Sorry, but I’m full.” (or “Don’t report me, I just don’t have room” if it is a government vehicle). This philosophy of people helping each other get from one place to another is evident much closer to yours and my home as well.

In Matthew 18, James, Peter and John are returning with Jesus to regroup with the rest of the disciples and begin to talk. Having just witnessed Jesus transfigured and two ancient prophets appear before their eyes, this trio is feeling pretty important. Not satisfied by their experience alone, they asked Jesus to rank them; specifically to name his number one man. Jesus responds in his usual manner, with an enigma that turns the disciples cookie jar upside down. “Truly, I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven and whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” He goes on to elaborate about dealing with anyone who leads a child of his down a dark path, pursuing one who has wandered away from the church, and confronting one inside the church community who is starting to turn away. The simple, yet arrogant request for a hierarchy or spiritual status among the disciples is turned around to show humility needs to be priority and the operational design of the church is for the body to direct each other down the right path in that humility.

How God loves His children affects how we love each other. Though humbling ourselves to serve each other, we are raised to the stature of kings and filled beyond capacity to serve more. By loving another, we ourselves are filled.

Stay full my friends.