Spiritual Fitness

 

 

Race (12)Recently I ran races on back to back weekends.  First it was a race called Rough & Rugged which was a 5k cross country, trail, mud kind of race.  I finished but was exhausted and struggled along the way.  Then the next weekend I ran a 10k on a flat course.  Again I finished but struggled and had to reach deep to keep pushing myself. After I finished that second race I made the comment that these races are much harder when you don’t train properly.

You see I had been running once a twice a week in preparation for both of these races.  I also did nothing between the two races and I felt it on race day.  I know this because at one time I did train hard and went into similar races in much better physical condition.  I ran better times and felt better after the races.  The preparation I put in made a difference on race day.  I was both mentally and physically ready.  That was not the case with these last two races.

It is similar in our spiritual lives, when we are staying connected to God and feeding our minds the truth, it is much easier to recognize lies and deal with the difficulties of life.  It’s the things we do day in and day out that prepare us for those big moments in life and those small moments that make a big difference.  Those crucial conversations, the big decisions, the temptation that comes out of no where or the unexpected tragedy.  When we are not training spiritually those things can knock us down and take us out.

So here are some spiritual exercises we can all do to keep fit both spiritually and emotionally.

  1. Pray – This is a very powerful way to train.  It has been proven to reduce stress and it’s a great way to express your heart to God.  How incredible to know that the God of this universe wants to listen to what is going on in your life right now.  Short prayers throughout the day or longer prayer times when you able are great ways to stay spiritually fit.  I like to use ACTS when I pray: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
  2. Reading the Bible – For some this is a challenge, because they tried it and didn’t understand what they were reading so they gave up.  Keep trying, try a different translation, try listening to it, but keep trying.  the translation I’ve been reading lately is the New Century Version.  I just read through the New Testament in 30 days and am now reading through Psalms in 30 days.  You might not be able to read that much so set a goal that works for you.  Find a time that you can read for 5-10 minutes and try to stay consistent  When you miss a day, just pick it up the next.  Pray before you read and ask God to help you understand and to pick something up that he wants to tell you or teach you.
  3. Go to Church – I know that sounds simple, but unless you make that a priority in your life you will only go when it suits your schedule.  Today many people only go to church once or twice a month.  That’s good but your missing a lot by not going every week.  I know life happens and I don’t expect people to be in church every time there is a service, but it should be high on your priority list if you want to be fit spiritually.  Find a church that challenges you to grow and get involved.  Don’t settle for comfortable, because it’s hard to grow and train and get better when your comfortable.
  4. Volunteer at your Church and in the Community – When you make a commitment to volunteer it gets you out of your comfort zone and into making a difference through the local church and through good local organizations.  This is one of the best ways you can grow spiritually.  It will help you to serve others and be part of something bigger than yourself.  Serving increases your responsibility and develops your character.  It also allows you to use your gifts and abilities to make a difference.
  5. Get involved in a group – When you meet with other people to build relationships, learn, and care for each other it stretches you and pushes you to grow spiritually, relationally and emotionally.  When you open your life to some other people it brings a new level of accountability and connection that often leads to growth.  Find some other men or women or couples that you can get to know better, have fun with, have spiritual conversations and pray with.
  6. Listen to Messages – There is incredible communicators out there.  Find someone you connect with and start listening to there messages.  Several that I like a lot are Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Jon Weese.
  7. Read – I already mentioned reading the Bible, here I’m talking about reading blogs, articles and books.  Some people avoid reading because they hated in in school. I’m not saying you have to read every day, but try to start reading because it’s a great way to get fit spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  There are great resources out there that can help you improve your marriage, parenting, finances, work life and build your faith, develop your character and grow your leadership.  Here are three books I’m currently reading.
  • The Top Ten Leadership Commandments by Hans Finzel
  • The Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick
  • The Cure by John Lynch

I encourage you to pick one or two of the areas I mentioned and start incorporating it into your everyday life.  If you do all of those on a regular basis you will grow and become more fit spiritually.

Balance

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A Balanced Life

Are You Courting Burnout?

What do you do to keep your life balanced?

THREE STEPS TO BALANCE:

  1. Get Organized around your purpose.

When you know your purpose it brings better focus to your life.  It determines the patterns in your life and the disciplines you pursue. Finding your life purpose is a process that everyone should go through. It will take some time and effort but it’s worth the time and energy.  A great place to start is to answer this question: What would I want my family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to say about me at my funeral?  Not what would they say now, but what would you want them to say.  Think about that and start writing down some things.

When we understand our purpose better, it helps to simplify our lives.  It allows us to eliminate the things that distract us and say yes to the things that further that purpose.  I my own life I’ve developed a purpose statement of Leading myself and others to grow in Faith, Character & Leadership.  That statement drives what I do at work, at home and in my spare time.  It’s what I write about in my posts, it’s what I talk about with the people around me.

Balance in life is possible if we practice life according to a single priority, and that single priority is our purpose.

  1. Define the dimensions of your life.

FOUR DIMENSIONS IN LIFE

  • Intellectual – This includes all activities that stimulate our ability to think.  It includes our work, what we read, what we research, what we study. Are we still learning and growing or are we stagnate and declining?
  • Physical – This includes how active we are, how much we exercise, the amount of rest we get and how we eat.  Basically how well we take care of ourselves physically.  Are we getting better or worse from a physical dimension?
  • Spiritual – This includes what we believe about God, about where we will spend forever, about the world around us, about why we are here and who put us here.  This includes our prayer life, going to church, serving other people, how well we love others.  Are we growing spiritually or declining spiritually?
  • Social – This is all about the relationships in our lives.  Immediate and extended family, close friends and casual friends, people you work with and people that work for you, current neighbors and previous neighbors, people you know from church, clubs, sports teams, people you went to school with, teachers, mentors, coaches and even the stranger you just met.  Are we developing and strengthening our relationships or are our relationships declining and dying?
  1. Build Capacity.

Balance is achieved when we establish, build, and maintain capacity in each of the four dimensions of life.  How much time and energy do we give to each of those areas of our lives?  That will only happen if we are intentional about focusing on each of those areas of our lives.

 

Reflect and rate yourself on the four dimensions in your life:

Play …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Work

Intellectual

Couch Potato ………………………………………………………………………………………………..Cross Fit Freak

Physical

Dead……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….Alive

Spiritual

Poor …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Awesome

Relationships/Social

Take this quiz to gauge whether or not you’re headed for burnout. (Pay attention not only to your answers, but also the way you react to the statements.)

1)     Despite getting adequate sleep each night, I wake up tired.

True

False

2)    Lately, I’d define myself as moody.

True

False

3)    Increasingly, I see the negative, or what needs to be fixed, with my work and others’. Positive comments and thoughts are rare.

True

False

4)    My vision or purpose is becoming blurry, or harder to focus on, despite being clear in the past.

True

False

5)    If I were totally honest with myself, I’d say I’m going through the motions at work or home, rather than contributing everything I can.

True

False

6)    I shorten (or wish I could do so) my workday just to leave work or get away.

True

False

7)    I lengthen many workdays to get the job done, instead of delegating or managing my time or mindset more effectively.

True

False

8)    I cut down or stop other activities (such as hobbies or other rejuvenating activities) in order to keep up with work responsibilities.

True

False

9)    I don’t have time to reach out to connect with colleagues,mentors or friends on a regular basis.

True

False

10)  Relationships within and outside of my work are not as strong as they were.

True

False

Score Yourself:

1-4 “True” answers: You should be in the normal ebb and flow of business ownership, or work. Continue to find ways to improve.

5-7 “True” answers: Burnout is rearing its ugly head. Within the next week, schedule two days away from work to reconnect and clarify your vision or purpose, and identify at least 5 action items that you can do to change the course and refuel your engines.

8-10 “True” answers: Stop, your in trouble. Stop everything and take a deep breath. In the next week get away for awhile to revisit your vision and purpose. Reconnect with colleagues and mentors. Write out your vision and an action agenda to get you back on track in doing what is important.

TEN TIPS FOR AVOIDING BURNOUT AND INVITING BALANCE:

  • Breathe deeply
  • Take a walk
  • Eat well
  • Drink water
  • Slow down
  • Team up
  • Sleep well
  • Loosen up
  • Have fun
  • Get away

Where do you need to focus more and be more balanced?

Getting Results

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If your in any kind of leadership position, whether leading your family or a major corporation, you want to be productive and get results.  You want to see your family communicate and grow closer together and for your children and spouse to develop and grow.  You want your company to be profitable and your employees to succeed.  You want to deliver on what you promise.

There is always resistance to getting results or productivity. Every day we wake up and that resistance is there to greet us.  Here are some of things we must face everyday and overcome in order to be productive and get results.

  • Procrastination – we can over-analyzing things, and talking ourselves out of doing something. We convince ourselves that we will do it later.
  • Interruptions – every day we have distractions.  Things that are urgent, things that pop up, people that pop in and bunny trails we pursue.
  • Stress – The higher the level of stress the harder it is to function, make decisions and get results.  Stress limits our thinking and allows emotions to overcome us.
  • Multitasking – No one can actually multitask.  Some people are better at jumping from one thing to another, but when you do that, you are distracted and end up not doing either thing well.  You also don’t tend to finish things.
  • Blaming Others – When you start blaming other people it shifts the focus onto things you cannot control.  It also distracts you from seeing how you contributed to the problem or allowed it to happen.
  • Fear – fear can stop us in our tracks and feeds all of the things I mentioned above. Fear of failure, rejection, being misunderstood, not being good enough – those are just a few of the fears that greet us daily.

So what can we do to overcome these forms of resistance and be productive on a consistence basis?

  1. Commit to Excellence – whatever you do, do it the best you can.  This is not perfection but doing it right and not cutting corners. When you do it right the first time, you don’t have to go back and do it over later.
  2. Plan – This is probably the most important step.  Putting a plan together with clear, specific goals and timelines will help get results.
  3. Focus – People that have the ability to block out all the resistance and distractions and focus for an hour at a time on a project get great results.  To keep that focus, take frequent breaks and refresh your mind, then come back to the project.
  4. Do the Hard thing first – If your facing a difficult conversation, complicated problem or hard task, tackle it right away.  The faster you accomplish that hard thing, the more productive you will be the rest of the day.
  5. Stick with it – people that get results have the ability to hang in there and keep at it until it’s finished.  It’s having the tenacity to work through all the obstacles and keep focused on the bigger picture.  It’s showing up every day and doing what needs to be done.

Everyone can improve in this area of productivity and getting results.  Think about one thing that if you finished it would bring great results or move you further along as an individual, family or organization.  Now go do it.

Lessons From Sheep Shearing

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I was watching some video’s on how to shear sheep.  It’s pretty interesting, but I’m not ready to give it a try.  If you want to watch click here. The reason I was watching the video’s is that I had heard that sheep have to be sheared before summer or they could actually die from the heat.  So I started researching this to find out more.

The first time a sheep is sheared it puts up quite a fight and I am sure feels like its in danger.  However once they experience what its like after being sheared they are much more cooperative the next time.  They soon discover that without all that wool it’s much cooler and they don’t get sick as easily.  So the next time they sit quietly while the shearing happens, because they know they are not going to be hurt, but helped.

As I was thinking about that I realized that many of us need to be sheared as well.  We have weaknesses that cause us to fail and struggle and overheat/stress out.  We need to have the layers of sin, bad attitudes, hurts and hang-ups cut away.  But when someone tries to do that we fight and kick and are scared or angry.  You see we can’t shear ourselves, we need the help of other people.  Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  That is the point of accountability, caring enough about another person to respectfully shear away the layers of life.

If you want to be sheared here are three things that must happen:

  1. Take responsibility and admit your weakness – You are the only one that can decide to change or allow someone to shear you.  It takes humility and self-awareness to take this first step, but without doing this nothing will change.  I believe this is only possible with Gods help, by asking him to reveal the things we need to own and shear, and then asking for the courage to take responsibility.
  2. Raise your expectations for yourself – We talk ourselves into and out of a lot of things.  Over the years we tend to lower our standards and accept things we would not have before.  In 1 Peter 1:13-16 it says this “So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, ‘I am holy; you be holy.'”  So don’t settle for mediocre, God has a greater purpose and plan for your life.
  3. Find a trusted partner – If you really want to change and be sheared, you will need some trusted friends to help along the way.  Shearing is not a one time thing, it needs to be done over and over again.  It’s the same with us, we need to be held accountable over and over again.  That’s why we all need some people that we can confess too, that we can listen too, that we can talk too.  If you don’t have someone like this in your life start praying and ask God to bring the right people into your life that can be on your shearing team.  Remember after the shearing you will feel so much better, after the confession is great freedom.

The cool thing about this whole process is that when you allow someone else to sharpen you or shear you, you can in turn sharpen and shear them.  That only happens when you you are open and honest.  If you hide your stuff it can’t get sheared.  Happy shearing!

Leadership Lids

can-lid

LEADERSHIP LIDS

Every leader has lids on his life.  The issue is never whether you have lids.  The issue is what you are going to do about them.

Lids that limited us:

 

 

  • Fear
  • Impatience
  • Denial
  • Impulsiveness
  • Deceit
  • Jealousy
  • Anger

 

 

Most of these have to do with character.  If you are more concerned about keeping up appearances than cleaning up your character these lids can limit you.

Lids that did not limit us:

 

  • Family
  • Leaders
  • Background
  • Youthfulness
  • Inexperience

 

What lids exist in your life? 

 

What character flaws do you have?

 

What is your attitude toward those lids?

 

Are you taking responsibility for lifting them?

Are you willing to allow someone else help you lift them

Three Things Great Leaders Do

leadership

For the past 15 years I have been focused on growing myself and others in faith, character and leadership.  Those three areas of my life are guiding lights for how I approach life.  I have made a lot of mistakes over those years, yet I keep coming back to those three things.

As I reflect on leadership here are three things I believe we must be committed to in order to lead well.  Whether you are a parent, spouse, employee, employer, student, teacher, athlete, coach, artist, musician, or just a friend, you are a leader.  If you have influence with anyone else then you are a leader.

Leading is not easy, because in order to lead you need to have influence.  In order to have influence you need to have a vision of where you want to go or the way you want things to be.  If you want to increase your influence and leadership in this next year then these are some things you will need to do:

  1. Leadership means you are willing to get uncomfortable – In order to grow you have to get out of your comfortable surroundings and stretch yourself.  When was the last time you did something that made you sweat?  Where you felt you were out of your element and in new air.  It is in those moments that we grow, stretch and discover new ground in our leadership.  It’s where we can learn from mistakes and expand our perspective.
  2. Leadership also means you should be dissatisfied with where things are at – As a leader you need to be pushing for improvement, a better way, greater things.  You should be dissatisfied about how the world is, how people are treated.  Don’t get me wrong you also need to be content with what you have and be thankful for the many blessings you have in your life.  But you also need a passion to see things better than they are today.
  3. Leadership is also about disruption – A leader should never be satisfied with the status quo.  You don’t change things just to change them you change things to improve and get to a higher, better place.  It starts with leading yourself and disrupting your habits and negative patterns.  It’s saying no some good things in order to get the best things.  It pushing for what is right and best for the world around you.

The best leaders do all of this with humility and persistence.

So what are you doing to get uncomfortable?  What are you dissatisfied about?  What do you need to disrupt in your life or the lives of those you lead?  That is how Jesus leads us.  When he wants us to grow he brings discomfort, dissatisfaction and disruption.  Jesus is the greatest leader ever, so let’s follow his example.  If you don’t believe me just read about him in the Bible.  Lead On.

Keys to Excellence

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My first job was pumping gas, servicing cars and repairing tires at a local gas station.  That’s were I learned how to make change without a cash register and how to fix a flat tire.  My second job was at a local meat packing company.  I was the clean up guy and had to dismantle and clean all the machines they used to process meat.  That is where I learned how to have a system and follow a process in cleaning the plant.  I also learned how to work alone and to not cut corners.  I learned that people were counting on me to do my job so that they can do their job when they showed up in the morning.

My next job was at a local cheese manufacturing and retail business.  I learned a lot working there, things like retail sales strategies, inventory control and customer service.  I learned how to cut cheese samples and set up displays.  I even got into some construction by helping to remodel an apartment for one of the children of the owner.  During that time I got to interact with subcontractors and did work like drywall, floor tile, and general construction.  I learned about working hard and doing it right the first time.

Soon after that I went to college and then started my career in banking.  I started as an internal auditor for a Savings & Loan in Wooster Ohio.  That was my first exposure to corporate America.  I learned to pay attention to detail as I had to audit every area of the company and make sure everything added up.  I also learned how to set goals and work on projects and be a team player.  I learned how to manage my time and finish what I started.  I also learned how to cut costs and work within a budget.  I learned how to show respect to my boss and follow direction.

My next job was at a local community bank as a loan officer.  I was in my early 20’s and this was my first job where I got to directly interact with customers.  I learned a lot about finances, balance sheets, financial statements and tax returns.  I learned about risk and how to manage that.  I learned how to read people and their character.  I learned about customer service and how to win over potential new customers.  I learned how to serve customers and make them want to continue to do business with us.  I was promoted quickly to a branch manager and did all kinds of lending.  I continued to learn about management, customer service, lending, community service and economic development.  I developed a passion for developing leadership skills in myself and others.

After 12 years in the banking industry I transitioned into the accounting world with a regional accounting firm.  They created a new department for me to run which focused on enhancing profits and adding value to their clients.  I did a lot of training in customer service, leadership, management and strategic planning.  I learned how to interact with business owners and CEO’s.  I learned how to win friends and influence people.  I learned how to lead groups of business people and do public speaking and presentations.  I got even more involved in community organizations and public relations.  I learned about marketing and sales and what it takes to run a business.

Then I took all that I had had learned in all of those jobs and went to work at a local church.  Those experiences have helped to shape me into the leader I am today.  The things I learned in the workplace have helped me to lead the local church and continue to influence people and impact our community.  Here are some of the things I believe are vital to leading with excellence no matter where you are:

  • Value excellence and don’t settle for average
  • Pay attention to details and finish what you start
  • Remain committed to what really matters, keep first things first.
  • Display integrity and sound ethics because people are always watching
  • Show genuine respect for the people around you
  • Go the second mile, take the initiative if something needs to be done, don’t wait to be told.
  • Be clear when you communicate
  • Listen and then listen some more
  • Be consistent, show up and do your job well
  • Never stop improving or growing
  • Be flexible and open to new ideas and other ways to get things done.
  • Empower the people around you and mentor and coach them
  • Always give 100%

Leadership is all about influence and we are either gaining or declining in our influence.  There are a lot of things that are out of our control, but the way in which you work and lead is within your control.  So no matter where you are working, what are you learning and how are you growing.

How to Communicate with Difficult People

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We all have people in our lives that are hard to get along with.  It may be someone you work with, live beside or even live with.  While we cannot change the other person or force them to treat you differently, you can change the way that you respond to them.  You see, many times it’s the way we respond to bad behavior that drives even more bad behavior.  This is hard to do because we all have emotions and sometimes those emotions can take over and take us down a path that causes more damage.

When we work on ourselves, we can change our attitude, our words and our non-verbal communication.  Here is a simple communication rule that may help you make progress in those difficult relationships:

People who are hard to get along with allow their anger, frustration, insecurity and disappointment to drown out most everything good around them.  The good news is that they don’t act that way all the time, even though it may seem that way.  Eventually they’ll leave the safety of their negative emotions-even it’s only for a moment.  They’ll do or say something nice, show concern, or offer to help with something.  It is in those moments that you need to recognize their best.  Let them know the good you see in them.  Show them how much you care and how much they mean to you.  When you look for and focus on the good in people, you help them to see what is possible in their lives.  You give energy to what is right about them.  Your love and attention creates an environment where they can choose to change and respond differently themselves.

It’s in those critical moments when they do something right that we can choose to be positive and re-enforce good behavior or be negative ourselves and destroy any glimmer of hope.  Every person has some good in them, even though it may be buried deep inside them.

Feeling Stuck in Your Faith?

 

 

man-stuck-in-box-no-controlOne of the promises in the Bible is found in Joshua 1:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Author Graham Cooke talks about this promise in his booklet called Drawing Close: See God’s Face and be Changed Forever.  He says this:

God likes to hide-in fact He invented the game Hide & Seek.  In certain seasons, He will reveal Himself to us; in others, He will hide from us.  God only hides because He wants to teach us to look for Him.  We all want Him to be manifest in our lives, all the time, but God sometimes wants to hide and draw us deeper into his presence.  If God is hiding from us-but He also promised never to leave nor forsake us-we can extrapolate one thing: God is hiding in plain sight, teaching us to look for Him in a different way.  God is unpredictable but completely consistent.  We always know where we are with God because He never changes, but we seldom know what He’s going to do next.  Go will push us into places where we are not equipped to be.  To survive and flourish there, we have but one choice: Seek God in a place of rest.  Let Him carry us forward.  God hasn’t called us to do the reasonable, the possible or the attainable.  He has called us to do the outrageously impossible.”

That challenged me in a fresh way today as I read it.  When God feels distant and we feel alone, we aren’t.  He is right there in plain site patiently waiting for us to discover Him in a different way.  He is constantly active in our lives, whether He is pushing us into a place we are not equipped to be or patiently waiting for us to open our eyes.

I love the thought that God hides so that we can seek Him and find Him in a fresh way.  To me this speaks of being active in my faith.  Not staying comfortably inside my box but pushing forward through barriers and obstacles.  I love that last line about God not calling us to the reasonable, the possible or the attainable but the outrageously impossible.  It’s only then that we can say Only God could have made that happen.  Those are the times that we grow the most and our faith is increased.

If you are feeling stuck in your faith maybe it’s time to look for God in a different way.  Start praying and asking God to show you that new way and then pay attention and be ready to get out of your box.

It’s About Time To Go!

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Last Sunday my wife and I went on a bike ride on the local Rails to Trails in Millersburg.  It’s a great place to ride, walk or run because its mostly flat.  We were with several friends enjoying the beautiful day.  The local Amish also use this trail with their buggies because it’s nice to avoid the traffic on the main roads.

On our way back we came up behind a buggy that was going very slow.  I was in front of the group and had to slow down, because some other people were coming the other way on bikes.  We all slowed down as we got behind this buggy and then a young Amish man turned to me and asked what time it was.  I didn’t have a watch on, so I couldn’t help him out, but this is what I said in Pennsylvania Dutch, “I’s bout site for gaya” which means it’s about time to go.  With that I quickly passed him and headed on up the path.  (I know just enough dutch to be a little dangerous.)

That was a brief encounter, but I haven’t been able to get that phrase out of my head.  I don’t know why that came to my mind in that moment, but here is what I’ve been thinking about.

It’s about time to go.  Most of us go through life living safely, trying to be as comfortable and happy as we can be.  Our motivation is often for what is best for us or our kids.  We can live selfish, private lives and never really have much impact or influence in the world around us.  It’s so easy to get into our comfortable buggy and ride along the familiar trail and occasionally ask someone what time is it?  Yet That’s not how God intended it.  God never promised that life would be safe and comfortable.  He did promise that he is good and faithful to be with us no matter where we are at.  That should give us courage to go wherever he directs us.

God is telling us that it’s time to go.  It’s time to step out of our comfort zone and push ourselves beyond our perceived limits.  Now I realize that means something different to everyone reading this.  For some it might mean having a difficult conversation with their spouse, teenager or adult child.  Maybe it’s confronting someone at work and speaking the truth in love to them.  It might be to give up some things you enjoy doing so that you can serve at church or spend more time with your family.  It might mean not taking that job because it would hurt your relationship with your family.  It could be to downsize in order to get a grip on your finances.  It might mean taking your relationship with God more seriously and start reading through the Bible.  It could be asking someone for forgiveness and admitting how you got it wrong.  Whatever it means to Go for you, don’t hesitate, start today, find a new trail or speed up on the one your on.  God loves us but he also doesn’t want us to stay where we are at, he wants us to grow in every area of our lives: Spiritually, emotionally, relationally and even physically.  Where do you need to go?

Whatever it is for you “I’s bout site for gaya.”