Discipline is not a Four-Letter Word

I just signed up for a Diet Bet. I know, I know – “diet” actually is a four-letter word. I guess I’m in a place right now where I need a little bit of external motivation, and maybe some accountability, in order to keep myself on track. Quarantine life isn’t exactly conducive to stellar eating behaviors. At least not for me.

This Diet Bet has gotten me thinking about discipline. Not the “go to your room!” kind, but the kind rolled out with love by a parent who has my best interests at heart. The kind Richard Foster unpacks in his classic book “Celebration of Discipline.” The kind that shapes a life and creates space for the God of everything to breathe holiness into an otherwise messy (and these days, often fear-filled) existence. The kind that’s good for you. That kind of discipline.

Recently, I’ve become acutely aware of the way I rush into each day’s work, many times without taking time to meet with God in prayer or listen to His voice through Scripture. Once the clock has been punched, even from my home office (read: couch), I’m checking off to-do lists in a swell of momentum fueled by my own steam. Productive? You bet! In step with God’s good plans for me? I don’t know. I forgot to ask.

This is not okay! As I shared with many of you at our virtual women’s retreat last month, our first response to trials and troubles and stressors and life’s various plot changes ought to be prayer. The thing is, I do pray and seek God when things aren’t going well, but on a normal everyday… I skate. Right into it. “I’ve got this, God. No worries! I’m good.”

But I’m not, actually. Good. Without Him.

So, in terms of discipline, I’ve decided I need more of God and fewer carbs. More guidance from His Word to start each day and a few extra laps around the block at night. You might say I’m training myself to pass on empty calories and to savor more of what feeds my faith.

The really beautiful thing is that it’s predictable – when I start my day praising God and searching the pages of His Word for Him, everything is different! How I feel about the challenges I face. How I prioritize the work He’s gifted me to do. How I care for those who share my home. It’s all colored by how I start my day, and whether I invite God to share in that first, sleepy cup of coffee.

“Show me your faithful love this morning. I trust in you. Show me what I should do. I put my life in your hands!” Psalm 143:8 (ERV)

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Make Good Choices

There’s a sign hanging over the door that leads from my laundry room to the carport, reminding my family to “Make Good Choices” out there. You might think I’m the kind of Mom who raised her kids on these words, but frankly, you’d be wrong. That sign hangs there – always slightly askew, never mind my countless efforts to straighten it – reminding me of the many times I heard my daughter say these words to my son while the two were growing up. Always with a hint of playful sass, these words were shouted through open car windows at school or before the front door slammed shut, letting her brother know she cared about what he would do that day.

Make Good Choices.

You may have noticed that Lent began today. Driving home from church, ashes imposed on my forehead in the shape of a cross, I started to wonder whether a Lenten discipline makes sense for me this year. Should I give something up? Take something on? Running through the list of past seasons in my head, I recalled the year I gave up coffee and considered whether God might be pleased with me doing that again… My very next thought was actually to figure out what I would replace that habit with, for the next 40 days plus weekends. (It also felt weak given that I had to give up caffeine last fall, which was definitely a greater sacrifice than giving up decaf would be now. Seriously.)

I remembered the year I gave up my wardrobe from Fat Tuesday until Easter (no – I didn’t pull an Isaiah 20:3). Failing to consult with my daughter first, I chose seven outfits to wear during Lent, ignoring the rest of my closet for the duration. About two weeks in, she said something that sounded like: “What were you thinking? I would not have picked that shirt. Why didn’t you ask me for help?” Good memories.

I could recap the entire monologue that played out in my head for you, but let’s not waste your time. Here’s where I’ve landed tonight…

Life has been a challenge these past couple of years. You haven’t heard from me because I’ve spent a disproportionate number of days grieving losses and struggling to create a sense of normalcy around the person I see in the mirror each day and the life that she now leads, which often doesn’t feel familiar to me. The old Brita would already have an idea for a Lenten adventure, which she would have invited you to join her in, and trust me – it would have been deep and meaningful. I catch glimpses of her every now and then, and she makes me smile.

The Brita we have to work with, however, is acutely aware of the fact that life is hard and she has changed and nevertheless – God can use what she’s got left to make a difference in the world.

Third-person references aside, I realized on my way home tonight that I have been so focused on just being okay that I’ve failed to create anything new. I don’t think there was a healthy workaround for this – I’ve had to walk this road of change and loss in order to get through it. But if there is something I can do that will please God during this season of Lent, it isn’t going to be a discipline that shines the light on me, my addictions and shortcomings.

If there is anything missing in my life right now, it’s everyone else.

I have what I need – and most of what I want – most days. I could easily exist quite comfortably in the little bubble I’ve created, tending to my knitting (correction: to my husband’s knitting) and risking implosion at some later date. But when I asked God on my drive home tonight what would please Him for me to do for Lent, I’m pretty sure I heard: “Make the world a better place.”

So, that is what I’m going to try to do. For the next 40 days, I am going to ask God to show me how I can make the world better for my being present in it. I might share some of my stories with you, but I kind of feel as if the world (and probably you) are weary of words and starving for proof of life instead. Jesus’ life, that is.

I don’t know if you have already decided on your Lenten discipline, but if you haven’t, maybe you’ll do this thing with me. Invest your energy and creativity in the people and problems that others are content to criticize and condemn.

Less talk. More action.

Let’s make the world a better place.

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Want What You’ve Got

“Thou shalt not covet.”

For today’s woman, there is plenty to wrestle with when it comes to applying the wisdom of the Tenth Commandment to everyday living. Teacher and retreat leader Brita Hammit invites readers on a 30-day devotional journey toward embracing what we’ve got – which is everything! – in Christ.

Start the adventure – get your copy on Amazon today!

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An Unlikely Mentor

At William “Bill” Alfier’s memorial service today, memories flowed freely and were peppered with laughter, salted with tears. Bill was a colorful guy for whom appearances meant nothing, but whose family and friends meant everything to him. He lived exactly as he pleased and gave permission for others to do the same, and whether or not he intentionally chose to mentor three young men, including my husband, the return on Bill’s investment of time and attention touches my own life every single day.

People like Bill Alfier are a rare breed, yet today more than ever we need these unlikely mentors to grow the next generation of engineers, leaders, teachers, world-changers; people who see potential in everyone and are willing to pour into a few lives the best of what they’ve learned. These exchanges might take place at the conference table or over a working lunch, but it’s all the better when they happen during the course of a real and imperfect life; for my husband, this included countless rides in cigar-smoke infused vehicles and many hours spent seated on bar stools, listening to the shaping-stories of a man who held nothing back.

It was a beautiful thing to hear my husband, Dallas Hammit, speak the following words in honor of his mentor, Bill Alfier. We share them with you now in hopes that you, too, will consider the power your life still has when you make the choice to give it away.

If you knew Bill, you know he had strong opinions on many subjects: politics, the Marine Corps, and building roads, but what stayed with me were his thoughts on people. Bill often said “God did not make any junk.” Bill looked for the best in people and was constantly watching for ways to assist people in their personal and professional development. This help came in a number of forms:
        Pushing you to start or complete college,
        Providing a work schedule that would allow for continuing education,
        Providing coaching to advance one’s career, or
        Taking a backseat to allow a young engineer to learn and grow.

Bill lived servant leadership. It was not a fad or the trending thing to do, it was a belief.  “A leader must put their employees first and allow them to grow.”

Bill liked to tell stories, and I heard most of them in the car as we drove through the District. Many times it would start with Bill calling loudly down the hall, “I’ve got roads to build!” and we would be off. There were lots of stories. Stories of the days when he worked in the carnival. Stories of going to Montana to mine copper. Stories of stripping down to his underwear at the bar, to win a bet with Mr Higgins. Stories of changing the way things were done at ADOT. One of those lasting changes was the Maintenance Servant Leadership Team. Bill – and others – believed the people closest to the work should have a larger say in what goes on and how we do things in maintenance. They formed a team of engineers and superintendents that met regularly and set policy for the way their department would do business, from dividing the budget to advocating for worker’s pay. This group is still active today.

And if there ever was a question about whether Bill had a lasting influence at ADOT, just look at the current leadership: a District Engineer, State Engineer and Chief of Operations all grew and developed under Bill’s leadership.

Bill Alfier will be missed.

William “Bill” Peter Alfier, July 22, 1944 – January 22, 2018

Trek to the Manger (DQ29)

We can only imagine what awaits us at the end of our own Trek to the place where Christ is present.

“Only Christ can get rid of the veil. Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are – face to face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” 2 Corinthians 3:14b-18

May you arrive at the manger – in your heart – and be so much more full of Light and energy and life this year, for having taken this Advent-ure with us.

And remember – from this day on, it’s you and God on a road revealed milepost by milepost – the adventure of a lifetime!

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If you registered for the Trek and posted at least three times in response to the daily questions during Advent, stay tuned for the results of our nifty prize drawings! Recipients will be posted on the Trek to the Manger page by January 2, 2018.

Trek to the Manger (DQ28)

Trek to the Manger 28You’ve heard the saying, “there’s safety in numbers,” right?

Maybe. But on this Trek to the Manger, I’ve become a firm believer that “there’s energy in numbers,” too.

Think about it! Together, God’s light in the lives of believers shines more brightly than a life lived – however passionately – alone.

I wonder, is God leading you toward others who share your passions? Energy? Vision? Who are they, and how are you going to respond?

Over the past week, I’ve also decided to adopt a new mantra in 2018: Follow the Energy! Where God’s good stuff is happening, the Spirit is stirring, and even if you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel the power surging as you move closer to the action.

I’m pretty sure that’s what happened at the manger, all those years ago.

 

Trek to the Manger (DQ27)

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So much life is lost in waiting for “someday” to arrive.

Some of us, hearts set on Heaven, miss the beauty to be found in our broken world today.

Others, so dialed-in to their goals and agendas, squander today’s opportunities while planning for a tomorrow that may never actually arrive.

Do you remember a time when the anticipation of a coming event or milestone kept you from truly engaging in your life being lived “today?” 

Today, let’s agree to give away the temptation to look forward to the future at the expense of here-and-now!

Trek to the Manger (DQ26)

Trek to the Manger 26Being stranded stretches us.

Even in the face of warm hospitality and a tasty bowl of chili, some of us will choose to pout because things just aren’t going our way.

“The Holy can be either a Hiding Place or a Boulder blocking your way.” Isaiah 8:14

Which one is it going to be for you, as the long-awaited Christmas holiday arrives?

Will you take refuge in the strength of the Baby in the manger, while you wait for life to make sense again? Or will you stand, hands-on-hips, and complain about the roads that have been closed along the way?

Maybe today is your day to whip up a batch of “chili” (real or proverbial – you decide), to make someone else’s wait less trying. At least they’d know they’re not alone.

 

Trek to the Manger (DQ25)

Trek to the Manger 25Lately, I’ve taken quite a few rides on Lyft. It takes a little bit of getting used to, being a passenger in someone else’s car.

When I’m driving, I get to decide when to change lanes, when to change directions. Not so when someone named Andre or Pete is driving.

On this Trek to the Manger, we’ve talked a lot about making changes. The thing is, what God is really after is our willingness to go along for the ride.

Do you trust Him to get you where you need to go?

What’s it going to take for you to enthusiastically call out “Shotgun!”?

 

Trek to the Manger (DQ24)

Trek to the Manger Ch 24Can’t help but chuckle, reading chapter 24 afresh, now that my Stinky Friday kid is all grown-up. Maybe it was in rebound from those good ol’ sixth grade days, but there was a definite spike in water usage when high school rolled around.

I’ve got two questions for you to consider on this Stinky (Friday) Tuesday…

 

Deodorant is a cover-up for body odor. Anti-perspirant works to keep smelly conditions at bay. Which have you been relying on to keep your world stink-free, and how’s that working for you?

Just in case you hadn’t realized it, stink is a by-product of living. Close your eyes and engage your spiritual nostrils… What smells a bit ripe in your domain today?

Today, I thank God for the waters of baptism and the chance He gives each of us to start again, fresh and clean and stinky-sin-free!