Friday, December 30, 2011

It's All About Your Investment

Are new years a big deal to you? I was chatting with a friend the other day, and she brought up how people make such a big deal out of a new year.

I like new years because there’s the hope of a new beginning of sorts. Of course, we’re not actually going back to something we can remake, but we can start over in the sense of changing habits and bettering our quality of life through our new, wiser choices. And with a new year, there’s hope we’ll succeed. We all have a reasonable timeline to work with.

FB lets you see photos from previous years. One of my dear friends posted photos of herself from last January. But she’s not the same person. Well, okay, she is, but she’s been very successful this year with her goals. And she looks much more content with herself now that she’s succeeded. She inspires me and others, I’m sure. She transformed her appearance all in one year and without outside help.

So, it occurs to me, that the new year can be what we make of it. Do you set goals? Do you make plans for change? Do you want to make changes? Why not go for it? That’s the hope of a new year. But it’ll only be as successful as your investment.

If I go into the new year without setting goals, if I decide January 1st means nothing, that it’s just another day on the calendar, then I won’t make plans for change. And guess what? I may change (let’s be honest, we all change) but it won’t be as I’m secretly hoping I will.

But, if I go into the new year with a plan for change, if I decide to restructure my schedule or rework my priorities or set goals, then I strive toward them, I will see the changes I want to see.

Here's what it will take:







God’s law of sowing and reaping will manifest in our lives, for better or worse. If we work toward positive changes we’ll see them, eventually, if we persevere.

So, where in that list above are you weakest? Do you make a plan you think is wise, but never discuss it with God, or better yet, get His leading before you begin? Do you prayerfully plan well, but then give up when things don’t go as planned? Do you have a hard time implementing the carefully constructed plan? Maybe you give up after the hard work but just before you would have reaped the reward.

I think the possibilities of a new year lie in what you make of it. Just like any restart. If you invest in it through prayer and planning and implementing, through persevering, you’ll reap. If you blow it off, you’re giving in to the inevitable changes and those might not all be desirable.

Isn’t it interesting God gives us plenty of chances for a fresh start—sunrise, seasonal changes, new years, birthdays? And He give us some means to make the changes we want to see. I say take advantage of them. Sow and you will reap, good or bad. So, sow good deeds and seeds, and reap good benefits. By summer, or by next December, you’ll be a new you. And you’ll be glad you invested all you did.

It’s gonna be worth it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Memory Overload

Twice in the last month, I’ve had notices about too much data: both on my phone and on our family’s internet service (modem and router).

Both resulted in us being unable to use the services as they were meant to be used: our computers stopped connecting to the internet, or our internet service became spotty. And my phone stopped allowing texts and even internet browsing.

I know, sounds all techy. But I have a point here. We can get overloaded with memories to the point we sequester ourselves away in our thoughts and become burdened, run slower, miss the moment because we’re distracted by what’s happened before.

Part of the reason for our rumination is because the memories aren’t pleasant ones, or we’re rehearsing arguments in our heads about painful situations. But those painful memories aren’t serving us in the moment.

Why do we hang onto them?

Why do we rehearse them, come up with better arguments?

Why do we waste one moment of the present dwelling on the past?

No closure. The issues may be unresolved and sometimes we don’t have a choice. We can’t go back to Aunt Susie and talk over the issues that happened twenty years ago. Aunt Susie is dead. In this case, we have to lay the situation down at the feet of Jesus. We have to forgive, if necessary, and trust God with the situation. When the negative thoughts try to come back, when our minds default and we start ruminating again, we have to take a stand. “No, I’m leaving Aunt Susie and that situation with the Lord. It’s not mine anymore. It’s His. He can handle it. I’m going to live this moment and the rest of my life in the light of the lessons, and without hauling that burden around.”

Regrets. We may have left the situation without having a chance to apologize. And sometimes by the time we’re ready to apologize, by the time we’ve agonized enough that we’re willing to do something about it, it’s too late. Again, we can only ask forgiveness of God, forgive others (as necessary), and let it go. Once again, only God is able to bear the past, present, and future. We’re finite. Let the infinite God have that situation. Hand Him your regrets and lay that thing down. Then, live in the Light of His love and forgiveness. Burden-less.

Pride. Sometimes we have the opportunity to seek forgiveness because the other party is still alive (for example), but we don’t because we’re ashamed or because our pride gets in the way. When you imagine addressing that other person, what comes to mind? Do you imagine them berating you if you sought their forgiveness? Do you imagine them rejecting you? Being indifferent? Yelling? Do you imagine yourself getting the last word? Best thing to do is ask God both for direction (maybe reconnecting with that person now would do more harm than good) and for softened hearts. Our ever tender-hearted God loves to redeem situations, soften hearts, restore relationships. If you pray along those lines, you’re very likely praying His will. Don’t let pride keep you from asking for forgiveness. God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. (see James 4:6)

Once we’d cleared the stored memories on both my phone and the modem and router, both systems worked again. Imagine how free you’d be to go about your day, your Christmas season, without all that baggage in tow. Imagine your memories under the blood of Jesus, your heart washed clean, and your burdensome or painful thoughts rendered powerless. Imagine freedom.

Perhaps it’s time to hand those ruminations to Jesus, cooperate with Him, and get free.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reflections of the Season

How do you prepare for Christmas, spiritually speaking? On a heart level, what do you do to connect with God around the real reason for the season?

Last night, my youngest and I set up the nativity scene in our living room. As we slowly unwrapped the figures, we talked about who each one was: a shepherd boy, three kings (the timing doesn’t work, but it makes for a more full crèche) and a few scattered animals. Seems the creators of this particular nativity scene used “The Little Drummer Boy” as inspiration, and those rhythmic “ox and lamb” were included. But it’s a good guess there were animals all around on that first holy night.

We talked about the placement of Baby Jesus, and my oldest and I discussed if we should include the cherubs someone gave us once upon a time. We decided not to since their design wasn’t biblical. Something inside us wanted to keep the scene pure; no baby-shaped angels allowed. There were angels, to be sure, when Jesus was born, but they weren’t shaped like naked babies with tiny wings. Back in the box with those figurines.

I think it’s fitting the nativity set is the first holiday decoration now on display in our living room. We’ll get to the tree. We’ll hang the lights. We’ll change out the wall art. But for now, there’s a symbol all in place to get our hearts focused on the real reason for the season.

There are presents to purchase and parties to attend, but what would any of it be without Jesus?

Without Him, there’d be no hope.

Without Him, no redemption, no eternal life.

Without Him, there’d be no reason to celebrate Christmas. He makes the season. He is the reason.

This season, take some time to reflect on Who Jesus is to you and what He means to this season.

And may none of us lose touch with those truths as the pace picks up and the parties commence.

Have a joyous, hope-filled Christmas season, dear friends, with Jesus right at the center.