Saturday, January 16, 2016

"Don't Be Such a Chicken"- January

The One-Year “Don’t Be Such a Chicken” Challenge

            Why is this called the “Don’t be such a chicken” challenge?  Well, for one thing, I think the word ‘chicken’ is funny.  And “chicken challenge” has a nice ring to it.  And for another, it just seems to fit.  Because this challenge is about doing things that we are afraid of: praying the prayers we are afraid to pray, facing the things inside of ourselves that we are afraid to face, and asking ourselves and God the hard questions.  It might take a little guts to do this, but “Don’t be such a chicken.”  You can do it!  And you’ll be better for it!   
            It’s also about doing some challenges and tasks that we might not normally think of (and others that we might already do).  Chickens are content to just scratch around in the dirt and never really consider how they might better their barnyard life.  They just peck and scratch, scratch and peck.  But this challenge is about doing things to better our lives, our walk with God, and our relationship with others, instead of just running around the barnyard, looking for the next bug.  Don’t be such a chicken! 
            And it also includes counting our blessings.  Have you ever seen a really thankful chicken?  Cats show how thankful they are by purring on your lap or brushing up against your leg.  Dogs are deliriously thankful, even when all you do is smile at them and pat their head.  But chickens?  Did you ever see a chicken run up and throw their little chicken wings around the neck of the person who just threw some chicken feed at them, affectionately pecking them on the cheek in gratitude?  Don’t be such a chicken!  This year we are going to be deliberate about counting our blessings, about looking high and low for things we are thankful for.
            There will be hard questions to ask yourself, hard questions to ask God in prayer (from my “250 Questions to Ask God” post), tasks and challenges to improve or simplify your life and your relationships (I wrote this with busy moms in mind), and prompts to help you find blessings in your life.  None of this will be too hard for you.  But it might help change your outlook, your faith, your relationships, and your heart.

            (For the “Ask God” questions, I suggest you ask them in prayer in the morning and then spend time throughout the day and the week listening for the answer.  God does not always answer us right away.  I once had an answer pop into my mind two weeks after I asked the question and after I almost gave up on the answer.  And remember that there might be many questions that God will not give you an answer for.  But the point is to ask them and to listen.  Because the answers that you do get will change your heart.  And if God does reveal something to you or if you have an insight about something, you’ll have to figure out what to do with it.  But if you are not sure what to do, pray about it and ask God for help.  He will guide you.) 
            You can jump in at any point during the year.  There is no great rhyme or reason for the order of these things.  But if you choose to do this, there is a new task, question, or “thankfulness” prompt every day, with a few repeats.  Of course, it's not always possible to do the task on the day it is suggested, so try to do it soon thereafter.  And I recommend taking this challenge with a journal, where you can write any insights, answers to prayers, and blessings that you are thankful for.
            On top of these prompts, I think there are a few things we need to do every day anyway:
            1.  Wake up every morning and say, “Thank You, God, for another day!”  (As someone who has struggled greatly with depression for years, I have to be diligent about starting my day this way.  It reminds me of God’s presence, that life is a gift, and that I do not face my days alone.)
            2.  Read your Bible, even if it’s just for 15 minutes every morning.  If we are not regularly in the Word, we are drifting from where we are supposed to be and we won’t even know it.
            3.  Pray all throughout the day.  Talk over with God whatever comes in your mind: requests, hurts, doubts, sins, fears, things we are grateful for, need for guidance, etc.  We do not have to put on a “stiff upper lip” for God, acting like we can handle everything.  And we do not have to (in fact, we should not) polish ourselves up for Him, presenting a false, smiling front.  He wants us, the real us.  Our broken hearts, our ugly feelings, our irrational fears and doubts.  If we are not honest with Him, there is a wall between us.  This is why I include so many hard-to-ask “Ask God” prompts, to get us to be more real with Him and with ourselves.  To really change our life, our heart, and our faith.
            4.  Laugh and smile as much as you can.  Laugh with those you love.  Learn to laugh at yourself and not take life so seriously.  Laugh when you’d rather gripe and complain.  Laugh when life hands you lemons.  Life is too short, too difficult, and too heartbreaking to be so stressed and grumpy all the time.  Relax and enjoy the day for the gift that it is.  The problems will always be there, but our response to them will make all the difference in how we feel.  In whether we are really living or just existing.
            5.  Hug and kiss your family every day and say, “I love you!”  You never know when it will have been your last chance to do that.  Always make your last words to someone good ones!  Because they might the last they hear from you.   
            So . . . are you willing to take the challenge?  Are you ready to ditch the chicken tendencies and take a challenge to change your heart, mind, and life this year?  If so, let’s go.  There’s no time like the present!  (I am putting the whole year in January so you don't have to hunt around for it each month.  It's all together here, at the beginning of the year.) 

1.  Ask God to help you find a “verse of the year” and a “word of the year.”  And ask Him how He wants you to apply it.  (He may not give you both, maybe just one or the other.  But pray for both and see what happens.)  In addition, ask Him for a verse and word for the month of January.  Post it where you can see it.  (We will be asking for a new verse and word for every month.)

2.  Choose two or three people to pray for this month (people you know or don’t know personally) and pray for them every day this month.  (Write their names down somewhere to remind you.  And ask God if there is anything you should pray for specifically.  You will be asked every month to pick new people.)

3.  Write down five things you are most thankful for right now in your life?

4.  Ask God this: “How do I really view You?  What are my fears and doubts about You?  Deep down, do I feel like I have to earn Your love/blessings?  Like You expect too much out of me?  Like You’re unfair?  Like You don’t really want to be close to me or care about me?  Etc.?  What do You say about this? How should I view You?”  (These are some of the biggest ones you could possibly ask.  So take time for it and let the answers come to you over the next month or so.) 

5.  Brainstorm a list of nice things you can do for someone else, either someone you know or a stranger.  Pick one to do sometime during this month and DO IT.  (You will be asked to try a new one every month.) 

6.  What are five things about last year that you are thankful for?

7.  Ask God: “How do I currently think/feel about myself?  Deep down, how do I think You see me?  How do You really see me?” (Take time to listen for these answers over the next month.) 

8.  Spend at least 30 minutes away from all technology at least 3 times this week and do something peaceful and relaxing instead.  Protect your “alone time” and your time with your family.

9.  Look around you right now.  What five things can you find to be thankful for?

10.  Ask God this:  “In what ways am I afraid to be the ‘real me’?  What would be different if I lived more honestly with myself, others, and You?” 

11.  Pick a verse you’ve always wanted to memorize.  Memorize it over the next week.  (Post it where you can see it and look at it every day to help you remember it.) 

12.  What five inventions are you thankful for?

13.  Ask God:  “What do You love about me?”  (If there is resistance to even wanting to ask this question, then ask God, “Why is it hard to let myself be loved?”)

14.  Spend some time exploring this: How has your past shaped you, for good or bad?  What are you thankful about?  What do you wish were different?  (Ask God to help change the things you don’t like if it’s possible.) 

15.  What are five answers to prayer that you are thankful for?

16.  Ask God: “Do I have any expectations of myself that are not fair and reasonable?  What is Your response to them?”

17.  Brainstorm some nice things you can do for yourself periodically throughout this year?  Find time to do one of them.  (You will be asked later to do another one.)

18.  What are five things about your body you are thankful for?

19.  Ask God:  “Do I have any expectations of others that are not fair and reasonable?  What is Your response to them?”

20.  What are three bad habits/unglorifying things you do that you need to stop doing?  Ask God’s help in this.

21.  What five people are you thankful for?

22.  Ask God: “Do I have any expectations of You or of life that are not fair and reasonable?  What is Your response to them?”

23.  What are three good habits you need to start doing?  Ask God’s help to start doing these.

24.  What are five things you are thankful for that you normally take for granted?

25.  Ask God:  “What kind of person do You want me to be?  Is there anything else I can do to become that person?  What do I need to change to be more glorifying to You and to live a more holy life?” 

26.  List three things you need to forgive yourself for or give yourself a little grace about.  Ask God’s help in doing this.

27.  What five things are you thankful for about your family?

28.  Ask God:  “Do You have a “new name” that You want to give me?  Why this name?”  (This is the answer I got two weeks later.  I got the name the moment I prayed, but I got the explanation two weeks later.)

29.  Pick a room or closet in your house and clean it out, finding at least 10 things to get rid of.  (We will do this every month for the first half of the year.)

30.  What five possessions are you thankful for?

31.  Ask God:  “Is there anything You have been wanting to say to me?”

What fun, inspiring, or challenging task would you include in a list like this?  Or have you ever done something that really changed your heart and life and faith for the better?  Share it, and maybe someone will use it in place of one of my suggestions.  Or do you have any thoughts on anything in this list?