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Using the gifts

Sweet William and I attended a wedding today. Guests brought gifts for the young couple to help them begin their lives together. Their journey of two becoming one will be a challenge, and they can use a little help as they begin.

We all wish them the very best and hope what we gave them is useful. Gift cards will be welcomed as the wedded couple purchase exactly what they need.

Don’t we all love receiving gifts? There’s a thrill in seeing a brightly wrapped package or pretty gift bag that is meant just for me. I enjoy the anticipation of wondering what is inside. More than anything I appreciate that someone cared enough to go to the effort and expense of getting something he/she thought I would like, find useful, and consider beautiful.

God gives gifts to each person, talents and skills to be used to help us on this journey of life. They are to be shared and to be a blessing to others as well.

 Kelly Minter, author, speaker, and musician, thoughtfully presents a new year’s opportunity to refine our God-ordained gifts. Wouldn’t that idea help me focus myself in the coming year? Instead of spreading myself thin in lots of areas, I might concentrate on a few strengths, hone my skill set, and use my spiritual gifts for the building up of the body of Christ.

kelly-minter

I think it is one of the best ideas I’ve heard yet for my goal setting in 2017 (and yes, I’m still working on that). I will let these thoughts swirl around in my mind and see where the Spirit leads.

Will you join me here to read Kelly’s blog?

 

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The goal

Goals for a new year can be concrete like “loose 20 pounds” or they can be indefinite like “be a nicer person.”  Whatever the goal, there must be a plan to carry it out or it just becomes words in a list, a wish, a hope for.  Maybe it will happen.  Maybe it won’t.

To Do List taped to a wooden board

I’ve written pages of goals.  Some years it was a waste of paper because life took a U-turn and derailed all my plans.  It was either adjust or roll up in a fetal position.

We do not know what a year will bring.

I ponder the coming year with all of it’s untouched days before me.  Writing in my journal on January 1, I count my blessings first:

  • Relatives who gave us a week down south
  • Walking on the beach, the grandness of the sea reminding me of the grandeur of my God
  • An umbrella in the rain
  • Warm fleece shirt, a barrier against the wind
  • Sound of ocean waves, its crashing, its ebb and flow
  • A snugly throw made for me by the mom of one of my piano students
  • Water birds – pelican, sea gull, sandpiper – each one unique and fascinating
  • Simple days, relaxing and moving at a slower pace
  • A new year offering a new beginning, a fresh slate, a clean white page of life

Then these thoughts begin to take shape:

  • I want to live the next year, 2016, as if it were my last, making the most of every single day.
  • I want to spend my time doing the truly important things, not just what seems urgent.
  • I want to speak words that will be kind and tender, as if they were to be the last ones heard, the last remembered by my loved ones.
  • I want to walk fearlessly and make progress on my journey, to live the prayer of Habakkuk 3:17-19.
  • I want a fresh passion for my Savior, a love that is deep and wide, that finds my delight in Him.
  • I want to love others without prejudice and judgment, with acceptance of the persons they were made to be.
  • I’d like to learn to be more content in every season, in each present circumstance.
  • I’d like to live abundantly, each day, as long as I have breath.
  • I’d like to view every situation as an opportunity for God to show up and show off.

These are lofty goals, and I quickly realize my limitations to accomplish them.  But they give me ideals to seek after in the reality of a living relationship with the God who is bigger than me, loftier than my thoughts, and able to accomplish something huge in me, through me, and for me.

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”  The Message, Ephesians 3:20

Then to Him and Him alone will be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever.

And isn’t that the real goal after all?

Sunset in Destin

photo by Louise Wright

 

How to be a genius in the new year

I’m intrigued by things that promise to make me a better person.  I usually find out that it just isn’t that easy and that I have a long way to go.

I read an interesting article about the daily routines of geniuses.  Someone did a study of astounding minds and what their days looked like.  Sounded like something I wanted to know.  After reading the article, I decided there were some things I could incorporate into my life, and maybe, just maybe, I would get smarter along the way.  One can dream, can’t one?

genius

In the spirit of the new year and the goals and resolutions we tend to make and break, here are some activities I might try to incorporate into my day.

Minimize distractions.  I need this badly.  I am like a butterfly too often flitting from one thing to the next without completing the project I am currently working on.  Getting sidetracked.  My mantra sometimes is “stay focused” until I can finish and move to the next thing.

Distractions come in the form of disorganization, clutter, too many things on the list for one day, papers scattered on my desk.  I can start taking some control over these areas and remind myself to do one thing at a time.

A daily walk.  This should be easy, except when it’s ten degrees here in Kentucky.  But hey, tomorrow it might be 40 degrees and the walk not so intimidatingly frigid.  I do enjoy walking and always feel better afterwards.  Just the view of the world, quiet time to pray for my neighbors, thinking time is good for my brain.  And my body.

Accountability metrics.  It’s a bit of a confusing phrase but basically means determine a set amount of time to stay on the project.  Maybe only 20 minutes will accomplish it.  Maybe it will take several hours. Too often I expect a job to take less time than is reality so I get rushed and frustrated.  I need not expect I can build Rome in a day.

Determine important work versus busy work.  Do we all struggled with this occasionally, spending way too much time on things that don’t really matter?  It’s the difference between the temporal and the eternal.  Is what I’m doing really going to make a difference in eternity?  Sure, I understand that I need to wash the dishes and make up the bed in order for our home to be clean and pleasant, but sacrificing time with someone who needs me over busy work is not worth the exchange.

Stop when I’m on a roll.  This seems hard.  When I’m moving forward on a project, I’m supposed to stop before I’m done?  Seems counterproductive, but apparently it worked for those geniuses.  Perhaps it’s a matter of the creative juices flowing for just so long and when I’m tired it’s OK to quit and come back to it another day.

At this season of my life I’m not sure I have enough time to become a genius, but maybe I can just keep learning until the very end.  I think that would be a noble ambition.  Keep learning.  Keep trying.  Never give up.  Growing older is not an option but how I do it has a lot to do with my choices.

I will seek God’s wisdom.  He is the fountain of wisdom and gives it generously to His children who ask for it.  And I believe this is the greatest brilliance of all.

Be it resolved

Resolutions.  Goals.  Lists.  They are part and parcel of a new year.  Perhaps the incentive is that we want change, something different from the last year.  We want it to be better and we want to be better.

journal

I’ve found that there are some goals I want as lifestyle resolutions more than a “been there, done that, check it off the bucket list” activity.

Here are some of my thoughts about goals for life.

  • Have a welcoming heart.  That means more than just inviting people into a spotless home.  It means opening my heart to people whoever they are and accepting them wherever they are on their journey.  It also means being honest about who I am, my success and failures, being open and vulnerable.
  • Live healthy.  Eat fresh as much as possible.  Exercise regularly by doing something enjoyable, like walking or gardening.  Sleep enough to be rested.  Enjoy chocolate once in a while.  Don’t obsess about the numbers on the scale or the size of my jeans.
  • Be in the moment.  Enjoy the process instead of being anxious to speed up, to hurry through it.  Listen intently to the one in front of me.  Focus on the present instead of fretting about the future.
  • Be still more often.  Sit for the sunset.  Watch the birds play and gather at the feeder.  Allow quietness to envelop me so I can hear the gentle Voice.
  • Leave ’em smiling.  Wouldn’t it be nice if people were glad to see me because I was cheerful and courteous?  Because I offered a smile or an encouraging word?
  • Allow for thinking time.  I’m a doer by nature.  Busy and active.  I must give myself time to simply contemplate, remember, process.  Preferably with a cup of coffee in hand.
  • Do the right thing.  Sometimes decisions would be easier to make if it was just a matter of “what’s the right thing here?”
  • Laugh a lot.  It’s healthy and good for the heart.  It is contagious.  When I learn to laugh at myself, I will have a continual source of entertainment.
  • Read good books.  Electronics are at our fingertips.  But there is still nothing quite so satisfying to me as holding a good book in my hands and relishing each word.  I get smarter, and perhaps more interesting, when I do.
  • Give grace.  Rather than taking offense too quickly, let me just give the grace I’ve been given so freely.  It would quiet my thoughts and help me let go.
  • Be teachable.  Growing older can mean being set in my ways.  I don’t want that.  I want to be open to new ideas, willing to change my opinion or way of doing things.  Quick to hear, slow to speak, always discerning rather than quick to judge.
  • Be more faithful.  To my calling, to the study of God’s word, to His mission for me.

Some tall orders when I think of it.  And really, how much ability do I have to change myself?  Self-help books have lined my shelves to no avail.

Instead, I will pray this, the words of Paul the apostle:

. . . that [my] love will keep on growing and that [I] will fully know and understand how to make the right choices. Then [I] will still be pure and innocent when Christ returns. And until that day, [may I] keep busy doing good deeds that bring glory and praise to God.

So I will put my confidence in the One who made me, the One who abides in my present and calls me to a higher place, being sure the this One provides grace enough and will keep working on me until the end.

Planning for the unknown

A new year.  Brand new notebook.  Fresh page.  Crisp and pristine.  I like the feel of it, untouched, no smudges or coffee spills.  No torn or worn corners.

A new year is like that for me, presenting a fresh start.  Not exactly a do-over but a chance to do-differently.

I’m a planner by nature, making lists, checking things off.  It brings me satisfaction to make a plan and follow it through.

But oh my, I’ve learned a lot lately.  My plans are subject to change at any moment whether I’m ready or not.  This is the unknown factor to figure into the equation.

I hope I’ve learned to make adjustments more quickly, so I don’t stick long in the mud of my stubbornness wanting my own way.  I hope I’ve gotten better at discarding my plan for the richer plan of my Father.

As I begin 2015, my inner planner starts to list projects and goals.   There are things I want to do, places I want to go, people I want to spend time with.

Scripture teaches that we should plan for the future.   But it also tells me I must bow the knee to the greater plan, one that I cannot fully see or understand.  As I make my lists, I must be ready to change and be willing to roll with it rather than fight against it.

I’ll set aside some time in the next few days to make some plans and write a list for 2015.  They will be subject to the Father’s will, and I will pray to be ready to adjust to Him rather than throw a tantrum because I’m not getting my way.  But I’m learning.  After all these years, it’s about time, don’t you think?

 11836218446_4505cec52d_bPhoto by Alex Markovich of Idiot Photography

If you are making goals in 2015, would you share some of them with me?