Monday, December 31, 2007

I Am Resolved

It's that time of year again--time for the dreaded "New Year's Resolutions." I know, I know...what's the point? We're just gonna resolve to lose weight, exercise more, stick to our budget and other things that we're not even gonna manage to hang with for the first WEEK of the new year.

I used to be firmly in the camp of refusing to even make resolutions, because I knew I had TWO chances of seeing them accomplished--slim, and none. But, as I once told a friend, I resolved one year to quit making resolutions, and I failed at that one too.
The truth is, most of us, even if we refuse to "make" new year's resolutions in any formal sense, make them secretly in our head anyway. We just don't want to voice them--we think if we don't say them out loud, or write them down, then it won't seem so bad when we fail to actually do them.

Over the past few years though, I've changed my mind about resolutions. I think they are, in fact, necessary, and the New Year is a perfect time to make them. The problem, I think, is in the word "resolution." We dread the ultimate failure that seems to already linger in the air as we pronounce the, perhaps "goal" would be a better term to use.
Now, we all know that if we have no goals, we will never achieve much at setting goals, I challenge myself to keep moving, keep trying. I may not "achieve" the goal, but at least I'll achieve something!

I make "to do" lists at work, pretty much every week...these are really "goals" as well--what I intend to get accomplished that week. I don't actually remember the last time I ever managed to actually DO half of what's on that list, but can you imagine how long my job would last if I just quit trying, because I know I'm not going to make it?

So, making goals gives us something to shoot for--and the New Year is a great time to "re-evaluate"--set new goals, reorder some, drop some, whatever we need to do. Why? Because the New Year gives us that sense of a "fresh start," a clean slate. See, it really doesn't matter whether we accomplished last year's matters that we have set our sights on something to achieve now.

But--here's the important thing, to me anyway. The New Year shouldn't be the only time we make these goals, or evaluate them. I think the major reason we fail at some of our resolutions is because we make them, then we set them aside for another year.
Well, good grief!! No wonder we fail at them. Can you imagine a teacher looking at the curriculum for the grade she teaches at the beginning of the year, "committing" or "resolving" to teach everything...but then never looking at it again, never reviewing her lesson plans against the curriculum, until the end of the year? I'd hate to see her students' test scores!! The fact is, she may or may not get everything covered as thoroughly as she'd like, but she'll do a whole lot better by staying focused on the goal, than by looking at it once and then forgetting about it. Make it at least a monthly habit, even weekly, to pull out your list and re-evaluate: Am I getting this done? Do I still WANT to do it? Is there something I can do to get it done better/faster/differently?

Just as God gives us a clean slate EVERY time we come to Him and ask forgiveness when we fail, so we can start with a clean slate over and over, throughout the year, as we attempt to achieve the "to do" list for our lives.

So, go ahead...don't just MAKE the resolution/goal--resolve to remind yourself of it, often, and to keep trying every time you fail. And most important--make sure that you pray FIRST and ask God what His Goals are for you this coming year!

My resolutions? Well, some are personal and not to be shared on such a public forum...but there are a few that I will be bold enough to post here for all the world to see (or, at least the portion of the world that will read this, which I recognize is substantially less than "all the world."):
--to get the speaking ministry God has put on my heart started in earnest.
--to spend more time in prayer & in real Bible study (i.e. studying the Bible, not just participating in book studies) Note: I've quantified this for myself, but no point sharing that here--in other words, don't just say I'll do this more, but "how much more?"
--to try at least one thing I haven't ever done before (I'd better be careful here...THIS is how I ended up in a choir when I can't sing!)

Mostly, I am resolved to become more fervent about my walk with Christ--to submit more and more to Him and less and less to the world. In the words of the hymn that keeps buzzing around my head these past several days (and yes, I know I skipped a couple of verses):

I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.

    I will hasten to Him,
    Hasten so glad and free;
    Jesus, greatest, highest,
    I will come to Thee.

I am resolved to enter the kingdom
Leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
Still will I enter in.


I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay,
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We’ll walk the heav’nly way.

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I will press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Gifts for that REALLY Special Someone

Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I posted anything--I didn't mean for that to happen, but life does sometimes get in the way...
I've had a sick kid and have been in and out of ERs and doctor offices, with nobody able to really figure out what's wrong with him. We have as many opinions as we have doctor visits, and meantime, the kid (all 17 years and 6'4" of him...) still hurts...but he DOES seem to be improving now and hopefully he's on the way to getting better...when your kid hurts, everything else seems to fade into the background, and so it's been for me.

And so I find myself in an all-too-familiar situation: just a few days left before Christmas, with too many gifts left to buy and WAY too little money to do it. I am making something for most of those on my list, so the only ones I've really got to buy for are my kids. I've had a LOT of medical bills this year and so have even more limited funds than usual, but we're all okay with that. Still, you want to do what you can, and you want to "please" your you look at the list and try to determine what you can give that will give the most "bang for your buck." Would they rather have ONE more expensive thing, or several smaller items on their list? Would they rather have THIS game, or THAT DVD?

And it's the same no matter WHO your intended recipient want your gift to please them.

Well, maybe you're all done with your shopping, or maybe you're like me and you've just gotten started....but what I want to talk about in this post is one particular recipient that you may have left off your list, and what you might consider giving them that would be sure to please.

See, you've probably got the kids, and the spouse, and Mom & Dad, and maybe even the aunts & uncles, some friends, maybe a Secret Santa gift to buy.
But what about Jesus? Is He on your gift-giving list? It IS His Birthday after all, so shouldn't He at least get a present? But what do you give someone who really DOES have it all? I mean, His Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills (but come to think of it, so does mine). Yet there are plenty of things we can give Him that are sure-fire hits...every time I think about it, I come up with more and more ideas for Him, but I am going to list just three, since there were three gifts mentioned in Scripture that were brought to Him. These are the three I am giving Him this year...what about you?

1. Time--in one quiet moment over 2000 years ago, in a dirty little stable, an event happened that changed the world forever. We talk about that event even today, and we talk about the angels, and the shepherds, and the wise men bearing gifts. We talk about Mary and Joseph, and, of course, about the baby. But there's a group of people we don't often think about yet...they are the ones who MISSED it. THE most incredible event of all humanity happened right in their own town and they never saw it!! They are the entire rest of the population of Bethlehem, those who lived there as well as those, like Joseph and Mary, who had come only because of the decree. The city was filled with people hustling about, busy visiting family and taking care of the business that brought them there...they were so busy that they MISSED the birth of Jesus. Do we do the same thing? Are you so caught up in the gift-buying, card-signing, present-wrapping, cookie-baking, family-visiting busy-ness that you've missed spending time with Jesus? Give Him that gift this Christmas. One night, after everyone's in bed, take a few moments and seek Him out, like just a few did that first Christmas. One of my favorite ways to do that is to sit in my living room, with only my Christmas tree lights on, and read the Christmas story, out loud, to myself and then just sit and talk to Jesus and enjoy the beauty all around me that is because of Him...
2. Music--Jesus LOVES it when we sing to Him! The Bible is FULL of references to singing our praises, making a joyful noise, lifting our voices in song, and we may as well practice now because when we get to heaven, we WILL be joining the choir!! Maybe you're like couldn't hit a particular note even if you knew HOW, which you don't....Jesus doesn't care!! So, just sing Him a the car, in the shower, anywhere you want to...but sing out loud, sing with abandon, and sing TO HIM! Pick a Christmas carol that really speaks to you and sing it as a prayer to God. Not only is it a sure-fire hit with Jesus, but you'll find it brightens YOUR mood as well! It's hard to get too grumpy when you're singing!
3. Gratitude--I admit it, it's easy for me to get caught in the last-minute frantic atmosphere....rushing from one place to another, trying to get everything bought and wrapped, and the house decorated, and still make all the church events and parties and family visits...not to mention still having a job to go to!! It's so easy for us to begin to focus on all that we still have to DO, instead of focusing on all that we HAVE. That's especially hit home for me this year, because I have less to "spend" on Christmas than I ever have...and yet, we have SO much to be thankful for!! When I'm tempted to "wish" I could buy more for the kids, I shift my focus to be thankful that I HAVE kids, and that, relative to many, many kids in the world, mine are VERY well taken care of, and I have Jesus to thank for that.
Here's a challenge...every time you find yourself thinking something negative between now and Christmas, make a conscious decision to give Jesus the gift of gratitude by choosing to replace that negative thought with something that praises Him. If you find yourself thinking "I need 8 more hours in this day," instead thank Him for even giving you this day, for giving you the very breath you breathe. Upset because every store is out of that one last item you "need?" Thank Him for giving you the health and the means to go from store to store, and show Him thanks by making it a point to say some uplifting to at least one person at each store you go a gift to Jesus. Frazzled about all that's left to do at home? Thank Him that you HAVE a home, and then give something to those who don't...give a gift to the local homeless shelter, donate a coat to someone who needs it, go spend a couple of hours at a nursing home, handing out Christmas cards and/or small gifts to residents you don't even know! I don't really even have to ask myself whether Jesus would rather me spend some more time putting out my decorations at home, or bringing joy to an individual who can't even BE at home.

"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh." Matthew 2:11