January Joy Challenge #2: Finding the Balance

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Balance is very important in the life of a Christian, but most of us have a very, very difficult time finding it. You see, somehow we have to find the balance between —

Accepting where the Lord has placed us

and yet,

Continuing to learn and grow from the trials

And between–

Accepting and resting in the grace of God to cover all of our sins

and yet,

Striving to be more pure and holy with each passing day

And between–

Accepting the way God has made us

and yet,

Never giving up on improving ourselves

This is all especially personal to me, because about this time in life (speaking only for myself, you understand), I am not always accepting with much of anything (just being honest here). My kids are almost grown up and I find myself nearing the end of the only full-time job I ever wanted. I don’t look like I want to look. I often don’t act or react like I think I should. I am frustrated that I haven’t progressed more as a Christian. And, a few years ago, I started to realize that happy endings are mostly in movies. Thankfully, there are a few in real life, but even those take a ton of work. Mostly, you just do the best you can with what you are given.

And, look, I have a great life. I know I do. I am not complaining–not a bit. But, somehow, I have to figure out how to accept who and where I am–right now– without giving in to complacency and apathy. And that’s what is so hard. And that’s where joy comes in.

You see, if I can’t accept the circumstances in which God has placed me or in who God created me to be, then discontent will reign in my heart, pushing out joy (Romans 9:20; Psalm 139:14; Philippians 4:11). But if I am too accepting of myself or of my circumstances, then there is no desire to change for the better, also pushing out joy (Philippians 3:12; I Corinthians 9:24-27; Romans 12:1-2) . And, so, somehow we have to find the balance.

So how exactly do we do this?  I confess I am not totally sure. But maybe we should start with this week’s challenge:

Take some time this week to do an inventory of yourself.  Think about what you don’t like about yourself or circumstances. Are they things you can change or are they outside your control?

Prayerfully, give the things you can’t control to the Lord (you know–things like the scar on your face, your husband’s horrible boss, the wayward adult child). In fact, go a step further, and thank the Lord for these things, for they have probably led you to a deeper walk with the Lord.

And then, look at the things you don’t like that you can control (things like a huge amount of debt, laziness, bad temper, extra pounds) and develop a plan to start working on them, yielding them prayerfully to the Lord.

Of course, sometimes issues get lost in the big black hole between the can control and the can’t control –things like marriages and wayward teens. Okay then, if that is the case, we do what we can do and then submit the outcome to God, praying confidently for His will to be done. After all, we know it is His will that our marriages stay together and that our teens follow hard after Him.

This challenge is a little deeper this week and a little more work, too. But, I truly believe that until we can find the balance, we will either be stuck in the land of discontent or find ourselves in the fields of laziness and apathy. May we always be striving, instead, for the life of balance, which will lead us to deeper joy.

The Quest to Find the Perfect Jeans

Disclaimer: This post is for women only. While men may gladly read it, I have my doubts that any of them have ever had a difficult time finding a pair of jeans that fits!

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I think I was on my 100th pair of jeans (okay…I may be slightly exaggerating, but it certainly felt that way!) Most of the styles I liked weren’t available in my size. If they just happened to have my size, they didn’t fit. Once again, I despaired over the extra pounds hugging my body and berated myself for my lack of discipline. I gave up and dejectedly walked out of the store. I went home discouraged.

That evening I went online and ordered three or four pairs of jeans in my size and even a couple in a size bigger–just in case.  I excitedly carried the box up to my room when it arrived. I had high hopes. Surely one of these would fit!

Imagine my discouragement when not one of them fit right. They were either too small or too large or gapped at the waist or were too baggy at the crotch.  I threw them all back in the box to return to the store and decided to just give up my search.

I shared my dilemma with my mom and she suggested I try Target. She told me she likes their jeans. I hadn’t thought of them before. I figured what did I have to lose?

And, so, on Friday, when I had the opportunity to get to a Target, I made one last-ditch effort to find a pair of jeans. I found seven pairs that were in my size and took them back to the dressing room.  I had little success with the first five pairs and they lay in disarray around me.  I sighed heavily and resigned myself to another fruitless attempt of finding a pair of jeans.

I pulled on the sixth pair of jeans and buttoned them. I did a double-take. I stared at myself in the mirror. Not only did they fit, but I actually liked how they looked on my body.  I was pleasantly surprised.

I left the dressing room with one pair of jeans to buy. I still felt discouraged about how I looked, but at least I had found one pair.

I heard yesterday that only 2% of women like their bodies the way they are. That means 98% of us don’t. I confess I am definitely one of the 98%. Why is it that so many of us are unhappy?

Well, of course, weight is a big issue for many of us. But there are other things that we pick out, too. Things like big feet or big noses. Hair that is too fine or too curly. Calves that are too thick or too thin. You see, we have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the world’s definition of beautiful. And I am right there with you.

We judge ourselves by the world’s standards, or shall I say Hollywood’s standards, and come up short. Very short.

But I am not going to sit here and write that we are all beautiful, as seems to be the typical message of the day. We aren’t all beautiful.  Not really.

I would suggest we need to go a different direction. I think we, instead, need to stop worrying about if we are beautiful. Oh, we should take the greatest care possible to look nice and to be healthy. Don’t get me wrong. We are Christians and want to present ourselves as such. We are also stewards of our bodies and are responsible to take good care of them.

BUT it ends there. Our obsessive concern about how we look is not from God. It just isn’t. It is a self-absorbed, me-centered thing that distracts us from being the best Christians we can be.

When I was looking at myself in the mirror trying on jeans, I never gave one thought to what people would think of Christ if I bought these. I was thinking only of myself and how I looked. I wasn’t standing there thanking God for my body, but instead, I was complaining to myself. About myself. Under my breath, of course.

As I write this, I find myself being very convicted! I am so self-centered and focused on me. There is no better time for that to surface than when I am in a dressing room trying on clothes.

Some of us are gluttons for punishment and keep trying things on, hoping that we will eventually feel good about ourselves in something. Others of us totally avoid dressing rooms if at all possible. We don’t shop for ourselves. Ever.

But no one is going to look good in everything. We’re just not. But we think we should. We are focused on a standard that isn’t possible for most of us. We want to look a certain way, but that way takes time that we don’t have or requires us to grow longer legs or to have a different type of hair and so we find ourselves with a dilemma, don’t we? We can’t look that way. But we think we should.

Perhaps it is time to start thanking the Lord for how we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and then stop thinking about ourselves at all and go about the business of our Savior.

Instead of worrying about how people think we look, let’s worry about how they think we act, and speak. Let’s worry about if they think we love them.

Sometimes I get all mixed up and distracted and focus on things that aren’t important and forget the things that are important. My quest for jeans showed that to me so clearly. I was guilty of doing just that. I have some work to do. But at least I don’t have to visit another dressing room for awhile, since I did find that one, elusive pair of jeans!

Wednesday Wisdom: The Power of a Habit

I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do, you might just as well turn over to me,
and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.
I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me.
Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.

I am the servant of all great men.
And, alas, of all failures as well.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine.
Plus, the intelligence of a man.
You may run me for profit, or run me for ruin; it makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will put the world at your feet.
Be easy with me, and I will destroy you.
Who am I?

I am a HABIT!

I could not find the author of this profound bit of writing, but when I heard it the other day it struck a chord with me. How many consequences could we avoid by simply changing a habit?  It is so simple, but yet it is so difficult. I can think of several small habits that, if I could change them, would yield tremendous rewards in my life. How about you? 

 

Who Do You Look Like?

When my son was just a little boy, he used to play little league baseball. One day, as I was chatting on the sidelines with one of the moms, she said something like this, “Oh, I know who you look like! I have been trying to think of who you look like and now I have figured it out!” I looked at her, very curious to hear who she thought I resembled. Her next words could have knocked me over with a feather.

“You look just like Cindy Crawford!”

What?? That is the first (and last!) time that anyone has ever compared me to a beautiful model.  But I certainly felt honored. I knew this was a situation where she had no need to flatter or impress me, so I knew she had said it sincerely.

As I remembered this incident the other day, I thought about how my heart’s desire shouldn’t be for people to tell me I look like Cindy Crawford (or any other well-known, gorgeous woman) but, instead, to tell me that I look like Jesus.

Now, while I will never resemble Jesus physically, as he is a man from the middle east, I can resemble him by my actions. As we grow in Christ, we should grow more and more like Him.

Stop and take a minute to think about your life. I know for my own life, there are many areas in which I haven’t resembled Jesus at all.

Here are a few areas for us to think about —

1. Do I look like Jesus in how I love others? Look, anyone can feed orphans or go on a mission trip. I am not talking about the socially acceptable “love for others”, I am talking about the love for others we show in our everyday world.  The reactions and choices we make around our families and in our daily living. When a spouse needs some help and we are lying comfortably on the sofa, do we get up? When there is an interruption to a favorite TV show, do we grow quickly frustrated? When we are in a long line at the store, do we give the clerk an angry look or shower her with frustrated words? If someone criticizes you, do you grow defensive or hold a grudge? All of these are just normal, everyday occurrences, where we have the opportunity to look like Jesus…or not.

2. Do I look like Jesus in what I choose to do with my time? This question covers a lot of ground, doesn’t it? Would Jesus spend so much time on _________? (you fill in the blank with your favorite, time-consuming hobby or pastime). Would Jesus spend so many hours doing this, if there is no eternal value? Of course, there is nothing wrong with hobbies, but we do need to keep it all balanced. It also covers this question: do I spend my precious hours on entertainment that will make others think of Jesus? Or do I waste hours and hours on movies, video games, and listening to music that is against everything my precious Savior stands for?

3. Do I look like Jesus in the area of self-disicpline? This is a challenging question that encompasses two big areas: money and food. I covered the question of food in my recent post entitled The Sin No One Wants to Talk About, so I will move on to the other area– money. This is a challenging one. Money is one of those things where we can hide our true state of affairs. In this age of credit and debt, no one really knows how anyone is doing financially until they completely crash and burn. But, whether we make a little or a lot, we need to ask ourselves if we look like Jesus in how we spend our money. Are we focused on the here and now or are we focused on the eternal? Jesus was very clearly focused on the eternal, which is clear in scripture. So, in order to grow more like Christ, my priorities should be the same.

4. Do I look like Jesus in the words I speak? Words are so powerful. They can cut to the core. I have always thought that the old adage “sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me,” to be one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. Word do hurt– dreadfully. Whether we are talking about someone else behind his back (otherwise known as gossip) or are short-tempered and unkind to someone’s face, words are one of the quickest ways to tell if we resemble Jesus.

 

I don’t know about you, but I see much room for growth in many areas of my own life. In fact, I feel like the older I get, the more work I see ahead of me. But when I look back, I also see that I have come so far. And so, I will keep on going. I know I may not look like Cindy Crawford anymore — it is my guess that, to most people, I never did in the first place — but oh, how I hope I resemble Jesus more and more as I grow older.

I Peter 2:5-11

 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The sin no one wants to talk about

I have been so convicted lately of something in my life that isn’t quite right. Oh, it’s not out of control, but it’s not quite right. I know in my heart that I haven’t surrendered this area of my life to my Lord and Savior. It’s one of those things that none of us want to admit.

The area I am talking about is food. And lest you say, “Oh, I don’t have a weight issue,” might I remind you that this has nothing to do with weight, but instead about your relationship with food? I have seen skinny women who eat like a pig. I have seen healthy women that the world would call overweight. I have seen women who look like a stick obsess over every bite they put in their mouth. I have seen overweight women who fill their bodies with fat, sugar, and carbs, leaving little room for anything healthy…and I have seen extremely thin women who do the same thing.

And, lest I forget, this is not just about women. Men have issues with food, too.  For some of us, this sin is so obvious in the extra weight we carry around. Or perhaps it’s obvious in our unhealthy thinness.  But, then again, let’s remember that God made every body differently, and so this isn’t about judging anyone else, because it is a very private and personal area of our lives so that only we can know personally if this is an issue for us. And that means as you read this, you can only think about yourself. What is your relationship with food?

For many of us food is our comfort, strength, and go-to remedy. But for some of us our ability to control what we eat becomes our source of security and stability in our lives. And then there are those of us who simply love to eat and so we do, giving no thought to the consequences of our big appetites.

Gluttony. When’s the last time you heard that word? Or how about the word “idol” in regards to our relationship with food? So many of us Christians have an unhealthy relationship with food, that we dare not talk about this subject too much.

It’s so easy to talk about things like anger and gossip and slander. It’s easy to preach about stealing and lying and cheating. But self-control in regards to our food? Boy, that hits right at the heart of most of us “good” Christians, doesn’t it?

And maybe I am alone here. But I realized, yet again, that I am to surrender EVERY area of my life to Jesus. I can’t pick and choose. I can’t tell Him that I don’t cheat or lie or steal, so I will eat how much of whatever I want, thank you very much. It just doesn’t work like that. If you are saved, then you are no longer yours, but have dedicated to live your life for Christ and Christ alone. This encompasses everything.

Another thing I have realized as I am working my way through this is that there are no bad foods. Okay, let me take that back– highly processed and chemically generated foods probably classify as bad foods. But it is not wrong to eat dessert or to have fries or a doughnut. In the Bible days, and even in many poor countries yet today, bread is the staple.  Carbs are not evil. God has given us good things, and we should enjoy them.

My problem is I want to enjoy them too much. There is always a special event or a birthday or a bad day or a great day–anything I can do to rationalize an extra snack. It’s about moderation.

And, while there aren’t necessarily bad foods, there are definitely good foods. There are many benefits from eating our fruits and veggies and even most meats.

But this isn’t a blogpost about nutrition. This is about our relationship with food. And, once again, there are women (of which I am not one) whose relationship with food becomes an obsession. They are so concerned about not gaining weight or with how they look, that self and the control not to eat becomes the idol. It goes so far beyond weight or the perception of others. This is a heart issue.

Personally, I find myself looking very forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb mentioned in Revelation 19, where I will be able to eat to my heart’s content, without any concern for the food’s nutrition (I guess it will be nutritionally perfect, anyway?) or the damage it will do to my hips! But, until then, I have a responsibility to have a healthy and balanced relationship with the food I eat. It is a never-ending battle that rages within me, but I cannot quit…and neither can you.

I Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

The Buzzing Fly

I was reading in my bed.  It was after 10:30 pm and I was comfortably snuggled in for the night with book in hand.  That is, until the fly came around. You know the kind I mean – the kind that buzz around your head loudly and incessantly and move so quickly you can hardly spot them.  At first, I tried to ignore it.  But it was impossible.  It seemed to have some special attraction for my head and would not go away. Irritation set in.  Why now?  Why won’t it just go away? But I got myself out of bed and grabbed a fly swatter and then set up watch.

I am glad no one was watching, because I am sure I looked ridiculous standing there in my pajamas with a fly swatter poised up in the air, just waiting for the annoying fly to land somewhere.  This went on for several minutes but the thing never landed.  It just flew quickly to and fro.

But then I stopped to listen.  I didn’t hear any buzzing.  Perhaps it had left?  I looked around in the light shed by just a single lamp in the room. I couldn’t see it.  I couldn’t hear it.  I sighed and climbed back in bed, the fly swatter within arms’ length, just in case.

I started reading again and enjoyed a few moments of peace and quiet.  A few moments.  Until that crazy fly returned, ruining my peace once again.

This reminds me so much of how it works with problems we don’t want to deal with. We are comfortable…but then our teenager says something worrisome or we hear something disturbing about a family member.  Oh well, perhaps it’s nothing to worry about.  And then we hear something else or perhaps someone even comes to talk to us about a problem they see.  But we don’t want to rock the boat and so the buzzing continues. And then, quite suddenly, the buzzing goes away for awhile and we think the problem has disappeared.  Just about the time we are starting to let our guard down, it shows up again, worse than ever.

You see, most problems won’t just disappear.  If we don’t face them head on, they are not only likely to come back around, they are probably going to get worse.  Unlike a fly that is limited in the damage it can do and is simply an annoyance with a really short life span, problems can blossom into huge things that will change our lives, if we aren’t careful.

A teenager that is interested in an unbeliever can turn into a troubled marriage.

A young adult who gives no care to a budget can turn into a debt-laden adult, struggling to just survive.

A person who gives in to their passion for eating can turn into an obese person who can’t fit in airplane seats or amusement park rides.

A teenager that hangs around with the wrong friends can turn into a pregnant teen or drug user.

A husband that spends too much time online has become the cause of many a divorce.

A wife that flirts with a co-worker becomes the beginning of an affair.

These are just a few of the scenarios that play themselves out if we don’t deal with issues head on.  It is so much easier, in the short-term, to just bury our heads in the sand.  But, oh, the devastating consequences of not dealing with things when they are manageable, instead of waiting until it is almost too late (for nothing is ever “too late” for God).

Of course, there are some times when it is better to wait it out and practice patience while we watch and pray.  And so that is the tricky place we find ourselves in.  But, let’s remember, that watching and praying is doing something, too.

What we don’t want to do is simply ignore problems.

As for that fly, I can’t even remember what happened (isn’t that pathetic?! the sad truth about my 40-something memory) But whatever happened, it did teach me a lesson that evening.

Wednesday Wisdom: The Words of My Mouth

I am currently reading a wonderful book called 40 Days to Healthy Living, written by author Danna Demetre.   We only think of healthy living in the physical sense, but this book has some very insightful points on living healthy spiritually, as well.  As I was reading “Day 18”,  I knew it was what I would have to share with you today.  I do not normally recommend a book before I have completed it. However, I have been so thoroughly impressed with this author’s handling of both the spiritual and the physical side of our health, that I am counting on her to continue to do so through the end (I’ll let you know if the book doesn’t live up to my expectations!)  

Nourish Your Spirit— The Words of My Mouth

Matthew 15: 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man “unclean.” 

The mouth can cause us so much trouble. From putting too much food in to letting the wrong words out, it is often a key player in many of our challenges. Too often, we say something before we’ve passed our thoughts through the filter of God’s truth. Words that tear down and wound don’t please God. Words that gossip or slander don’t either. Yet it is so easy to want to share a juicy tidbit about someone or pass on some interesting news in the cloak of a “prayer request.” I wonder how many of these kinds of prayer requests were ever really prayed about.

It seems if we can get to the root of controlling our mouth and our tongue, which we are told in James 3: 6 “corrupts the whole person,” we may be able to control our entire self. Our verse above says that what comes out of our mouths actually originates in our hearts. If we want to know the state of our own hearts, perhaps we should listen more carefully to not only the words we are speaking but also the silent conversations we are having inside our own minds. In the Bible, the word heart refers to the soul. And the mind is the soul’s pilot. As we have already learned, our words are by-products of our thoughts, and our thoughts originate from our beliefs. If we want our hearts to be pure and have words that flow naturally from our mouths, we must change our thinking.

If the words we are speaking are tearing down more than building up, we definitely need some “heart surgery,” which begins by identifying the lies we believe so they can be excised from our minds. These are the “unclean” things that Matthew is speaking about.

Angry words come out of an angry heart and despairing words out of a desperate heart. Whatever negative, destructive words seem to flow out of our mouths freely and regularly reveal the condition of our hearts. But the opposite is true as well. Kind words flow from a kind heart, lovely words from a loving heart. By identifying our negative emotions and words, we can begin the process of transformation as we replace that which tears down with that which builds up.

As with all spiritual concerns, this is not a matter of self-control but rather of surrender and transformation. It took time for those lies to become imbedded, and it will take some time to dislodge them. As our hearts and minds become purified, so do our thoughts and our words. And surprisingly, a changed heart may also produce changed appetites for food and other things, as the “mouth” may no longer need to try to fill the gaps of a damaged heart.

Demetre, Danna (2012-03-01). 40 Days to Healthy Living (pp. 217-218). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.

 

You can find this book on Amazon here.  As of the date of this post, the hard copy only costs $6.99 and the Kindle edition is only $5.38.  If you have been struggling with the topic of living a healthy life, this is definitely worth the few dollars!

WW #6: Simple Does Not Mean Easy

Today I am sharing some wise words from a friend of mine who is a missionary in Cambodia.  She is a wonderful writer and I know many of you will appreciate what she shared in her newsletter on Monday.  The analogy she makes is a great one.  Read on and see what I mean!
 

The heat here [Cambodia] makes it quite hard to want to get out and do anything, really, but I am glad to report I was up bright and early today for a riverside jog/walk. And I almost enjoyed it. Almost.

You’ll have to forgive me if a lot of my object lessons recently have been about exercise and the physical side of things. It is taking a bit of my focus and energy right now, as I am working toward some “before forty” goals. (The clock is ticking!) But I am beginning to see why many of the NT writers used athletics and sports allegories to make their points about the spiritual life. There are so many parallels!

A number of years ago, a doctor said to me that—unless your weight gain was due to medical reasons—all you had to do to lose weight was to eat less and move more. It’s that simple. It comes down basic math, really. If your calorie intake is consistently less than the number of calories you burn day after day, you will begin to lose weight. This is not rocket science, folks!

However, “simple” does not necessarily mean “easy”.

Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows how hard it is to change lifestyle rhythms or habits. It is soooo difficult to pass up that extra helping, or that tempting snack. It is exhausting to submit your body to rigorous exercise and grueling to stick to disciplined daily routines.

Weight loss might be simple on paper, but it certainly is not easy.

In the same way, salvation is basically simple. You have a debt of sin that you could never repay. Jesus has paid the price in full, and offers to clear your account. You simply have to accept His gift and His Lordship in your life.

But there is nothing easy about the Christian walk. The dying to self, the denial of fleshly desires, the breaking and bending of the will to the Spirit’s control. None of this comes naturally. But it must be done, intentionally and regularly. Besides that, the world will heap us with abuse once it sees we are trying to do things differently, not living by its norms and standards.

The basics of salvation might be simple to grasp, but living it out on a daily basis is probably one of the hardest things a person can do.

We do a great disservice, I fear, when we minimize the cost of following Christ. When we promise a primrose-strewn path, leading not only to future Glory, but also to heaven here on earth. We mislead others if we do not prepare them for the rocky road ahead.

Of course we do not walk this path alone. We need not strive and strain in our own strength. We have a Helper always available to us. In fact, He is eager to do most of the work if we will just submit to His control. It’s that simple. But not that easy.

–by Deborah Wise

Just do it.

For many of us, January 2 brings the opportunity for a fresh start.  Some of us have specifically set New Year’s resolutions.  But, if you are like me, those resolutions usually last about a month…if that.   So what truly brings about lasting change?  Why can even people who do not know the Lord change for the better?

Could it be that they just do it?  They just make up their mind to behave a certain way and then follow through on that decision?    When Nike came out with their logo of “Just do it” I wasn’t sure what to think. But recently, I realized the wisdom of that phrase.

Our language is so peppered with words like “try” and “maybe” and “perhaps” because we are so afraid to commit to change.   And maybe that is because we are so afraid to fail.    When we make the statement, “I will lose weight,” or “I will stay on a budget,”  it sets us up for failure.  It is much easier to say “I will try to lose weight,”  or “perhaps this is the year we will work on the budget,”.  Now, we have a way out.  A bit of a loophole that we can crawl through if it doesn’t work.

As I was thinking about this, I realized that the Bible never tells us to try to trust the Lord.  There is never a verse that says perhaps we should love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Instead, the Bible is filled with verses of commands we are to obey.  There is no loop hole there.  Below, I have placed a few verses that I looked up as I was writing this.  I didn’t find one verse that gave me a way out of obedience.

So, how does that affect our resolutions?   I think it is because many of the resolutions we set have to do with sin issues in our lives.  Perhaps we are overweight (gluttony) or we are in debt (money is our idol) or we are wrapped up in an evil habit (spoken against in God’s Word).   So we know that these are areas that God wants us to have victory.   What are some steps we can take to assure that we succeed this year?

First:  We need to set attainable goals.  I am in the process of trying to figure out what are realistic goals for me.  If we make a resolution to run an hour a day and we are having a hard time even finding 15 minutes of extra time for exercise, we are setting ourselves up for failure.   In his book, Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey recommends paying off the smallest debt first, so that there will be some reward early on.  I think the same is true for setting goals.  Set one that you can actually reach.  And when that one becomes a habit, then stretch yourself a bit further.  It doesn’t have to be New Year’s Day in order to set a goal.

Second:  We need to pray and ask the Lord for His guidance as we set goals.  It is important that we make sure the goals we set are in accordance with His Word and His will for our lives.  Let’s ask Him to give us strength.  We need His help.

And  third: Once we have determined realistic and attainable goals and we have asked the Lord for guidance and strength, let’s commit each morning to doing them for just that day.  Let’s actually follow through.  We make it seem so hard.  But it’s not hard.  It just takes commitment.   We just need to do it.

Here’s to 2012 and attainable goals!

 

Proverbs 3: 5-6  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,  And He shall direct[a] your paths. 

Mark 12:30  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there isany virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Colossians 3: 12-13  Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 

James 1: 2-3  My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 

James 4: 7-8  Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 

25 Ways to Make 2012 a Great Year

As we anticipate the new year, we often make lofty resolutions or set impossible goals.  But sometimes small, thoughtful actions can reap wonderful rewards.  Here are a few simple ideas on how to make next year a great one:

1.  Smile.  A lot.

2.  Ask someone a question about their life.  Be genuinely interested.

3.  Don’t waste time or energy thinking about things you can’t change.

4.  So everyone has a bad day.  Find perspective and choose joy.

5.  Study God’s Word.  Simply reading it isn’t enough.

6.  Open your mind to a different type of music.  Try classical, jazz, or hymns.

7.  Try something new and interesting this year.  How about painting, photography, ice skating, gardening, camping, baking, running, or learning to play an instrument?  The ideas are endless.  And, for goodness’ sake, stop telling yourself you are too old to try something new!

8.  Read a book that goes beyond boy meets girl.  Read something that will deepen your understanding of humanity.

9.  Find ways to serve others.  Don’t waste your time, energy, or money trying to impress them.

10. Turn the TV off.  Only turn it on if you know specifically what you are going to watch.  Make a rule never to turn it on while your family is sharing a meal together.

11. When someone says something hurtful, don’t defend yourself.  Just walk away.

12. Listen to someone’s point before jumping in with your own opinion.

13. Make a budget and stick to it.

14. Only eat when you are hungry.

15. Pick one area you would like to see changed in your life and pray about it daily.  Watch God work.  He may change the circumstances or He may change your attitude.

16. Don’t try to change people.  Instead inspire them.

17. Stop hedging and tell the truth.

18. Visit a museum and take the time to read the displays and increase your knowledge of the world around you.

19. Appreciate the ordinary moments. Life can change in a heartbeat.

20. Train your mind to gloss over real (or imagined) offenses of the past, whether they happened 5 years ago or 5 minutes ago.  Grudges aren’t beneficial to anyone.

21.  Develop a relationship with an elderly person.  We can learn so much from their experiences.  Don’t be so arrogant to think  they couldn’t possibly understand you or your predicament.  Life hasn’t changed that much.

22.  Remember that every choice has a consequence.

23. Think before you talk.

24. Think before you act.

25. While you are thinking, ask yourself these questions:  Will this glorify God?  Will it encourage someone? Is it necessary? What will be the consequences of these words or this action?

As I was writing this list, I realized that there are some changes that I would really like to implement.  However, it almost feels impossible to make a permanent change.  But perhaps, instead of seeing the looming, overwhelming need for a permanent change, we just think about the next 24 hours?  Which of these can we work on today?  And then do the same thing again tomorrow.  Before you know it, a year has gone by and we have changed.

Can you think of other ideas I should have added to this list?   I would love to have your input on other changes we can all make that would make 2012 a great year – for ourselves and, more importantly, for those around us.