Start Again, but THIS time ...

To be honest, I stopped making New Year's resolutions years ago. My hashtag now is #NewYearResolutionsNOT.

But that doesn't mean I don't take time to stop and reflect, observe and correct—and pursue a fresh start in so many areas of my life.

I like goals... not resolutions.

But that doesn't mean I can't approach those goals with resolution! And that doesn't mean I can't take those goals to the Lord every day and admit my total dependence on Him.

It's taken me many years to even begin realizing: Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing! (John 15:5)

I have no doubt many things would change if I would remember that every single day.

It's not so much about making huge changes in my life as it is listening to the Lord, learning from my mistakes and tweaking my choices to better serve God, others, and even my own legitimate needs.

For example:

1. This year, I'm starting my Bible reading plan again; but this time I'm forgetting about all the "shoulds" and focusing on delighting in and pleasing the Lord as I read. It's too easy for me to get caught up in perfectionism and make my reading a matter of performance and "checking it off my list.

So what is my reading plan for 2018? Keep moving forward on what I started last year. Be faithful.

2. This year, I'm noticing what hindered my health choices in 2017; but this time I'm challenging myself to slay those dragons, or at least locked them up and give the Lord the key.

For me, it's all about daily surrender so the Lord can conquer my gluttony addiction.

3. This year, I'm finally writing a book. I thought about this for years, but this time I'm actually setting in motion a plan of action for bite-sized productivity. 

The truth is, I've been a great starter for years. And a lousy finisher. So this time, to help me facilitate my goals, last week I started reading Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff.

That one choice was amazing, eye-opening and motivating.
So ... my New Year's advice for my friends?
If you don't do anything else in the New Year, get Finish and read it. Don't quit the book until you finish it (HA!). And put what you read into action!
I think that will help you with whatever else you decide to do in 2018.

If we don't stop, be still and consider 
what hindered us last year, 
and ponder what needs to change, 
we'll likely repeat last year's poor choices.

I don't want that. You probably don't either.

Finishing should not be a foreign topic for Christians.
  • Paul urges us to "press on toward the goal" for our reward (Philippians 3:14).
  • He also says, don't grow weary of doing good so you can reap at the right time (Galatians 6:9).
  • We must count the cost for pursuing our goal (Luke 14:28-30).
  • And throw off hindrances and sins that hold us back from the "finish line" (Hebrews 12:1).
  • The good news is, we can trust the Lord to complete His work in us, one day at a time (Philippians 1:6).
  • But we're not to become lazy. We need to put forth our very best effort—cooperating with the Lord and striving to please Him! (Colossians 3:23)
It's almost 2018. And it's never too early to say, "Finish well!"

What will you do differently THIS time?


Hallelujah! Our Savior Prays for Those He Came to Save.

When mothers, fathers and relatives see a newborn, they often dream of what their child may become someday.
"Will my daughter be a great artist... or a scientist?" 
"Will my son be a teacher... or a baseball player?"

I wonder if Mary and Joseph thought ahead to the days when Jesus would be a man. 

We do know Mary "pondered" and treasured many things in her heart.

We get a glimpse into her ponderings:
  • She pondered the angel Gabriel's words about her pregnancy (Luke 1:26-38). She said, "How can this be....?"
  • She pondered the Shepherds' testimony about her newborn son (Luke 2:8-21). 
  • Some years later, she would treasure her Son's own words as they left the Temple together (Luke 2:51).
Feeling so greatly blessed, she understood something of the greatness her Son would someday manifest from his humble birth (Luke 1:46-49).

But I wonder whether she fully understood, until perhaps after Jesus went to the cross, that her son would also be her Intercessor.

In His great High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed for those who followed Him while He was on earth, as well as those who would believe through their testimony (John 17:20-23).

The writer of Hebrews said of our Lord, "...he always lives to make intercession" for those who draw near to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25). Though His work was "finished" on the cross (John 19:30b), His loving care for His own continues throughout eternity. 

We were not only saved by His death, but by His life (Romans 5:10); and now our exalted Lord is interceding for us before God's throne (Romans 8:34) as our great Advocate—always pleading our case—when the accuser, our enemy, comes against us before the Father (1 John 2:1). He is our all-wise and worthy Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).

This great work on our behalf should cause us to bow before the Lord in unending gratitude and give us courage to ask great things (Matthew 21:22; 1 John 5:14; John 14:13; 16:24; Hebrews 4:16).

As the great Scottish preacher, Robert Murray McCheyne, said:

"If I could hear Christ 
praying for me in the next room,
I would not fear a million enemies. 
Yet distance makes no difference. 
He is praying for me."

Did Mary and Joseph fathom the extent of Jesus' great work on our behalf? Did they understand He would be their Mediator and Intercessor?

Regardless, we know... because the Bible tells us so.

Our Savior prays for those He came to save!
And because of Him,
we can come boldly to God's throne of grace.


Cleaning Out the Christmas Clutter

I opened up box after box of Christmas decorations this year and sighed.

"When was the last time I used that?" I said. "And that. And that!"

Year after year, I have re-packed Christmas-y items that I never used. I just couldn't seem to part with them.

But this year, I changed my perspective and took action.

As I unloaded the "Christmas boxes" and put up the tree and all the decor around the house, whenever I came across a never- or seldom-used holiday item, I set it aside temporarily.  

Then I followed a plan.

I decided:

1. To throw out everything that was broken beyond repair.
2. To mend anything that was still usable and potentially "keep-able."
3. To ask my children and nieces if they wanted the things that are still nice, useful or heritage-based.
4. If they didn't want them, the items would be donated to a women's club who sells things—even Christmas things—in January. The women use the funds to contribute to college scholarships for high school seniors in their town.

Less stuff just makes more sense. 
Release it and let it go!

Releasing things makes sense spiritually too.
I'm asking the Lord to help me clear out the clutter in my life that obscures seeing and worshiping Him. 
What kind of clutter?

1. I need to examine the clutter in my CALENDAR.

Instead of taking time to be still and meditate on why Jesus came and what He is doing in my life, it's off to another concert... off to another party... off to whatever!

Busyness does not contribute to godliness at any time; and "crazy-busy" gets in the way of our celebration of the Lord's birth.

Pursue peace. And if you're not sure what that looks like, talk to the Lord. He is not a God of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33a). Plan time to sit down and be still before the Lord so you can rise up to praise Him! (Psalm 46:10)

2. I need to examine the clutter in my PRIORITIES.

I need to get back to the basics: God, family, ministry.

Other things may be good. But when life gets busy, we have to focus on the best!

We don't want to honor the Lord only with our lips at Christmas, but also with our hearts (Matthew 15:8). Focus not so much on fleeting things that eventually fall apart; focus on things that are "above"—the things that are worthy and eternal (Colossians 3:1). Focus on Jesus! (Hebrews 12:1-2)

3. I need to examine the clutter in my CHECKBOOK.

Do I really need this thing or that? Does it truly contribute to Christmas joy, or will it simply be another thing to pay off later or even to regret purchasing.

Sometimes the things we think will be "treasures" end up being trinkets. And they steal away the focus of our hearts.

     "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21).

4. I need to examine the clutter in my ATTITUDES.

When stressful times come—and Christmas can be a stressful time—it's easy to get upset, "short" with family and friends, crabby and complaining.

I can let bad attitudes negatively color the environment and clutter what could be simple and beautiful. Or I can choose to respond in love and wisdom, giving people grace just as I would want grace too.

"Do all things without grumbling ... Let love be genuine..." (Philippians 2:14-15; Romans 12:9-10).

I encourage you to do what I'm doing—draw away from the busyness long enough to actually examine personal clutter.


We can get comfortable in our clutter and forget what life feels like without any clutter:

It feels like FREEDOM!

Is there some sort of "clutter" in your life? Can you "release it" and let it go so you can experience more freedom and joy?

I truly believe cleaning out the Christmas clutter will prepare our hearts for worshipful opportunities we might never imagine possible. 

Graphic adapted from a photo by Cheri Durbin at Morguefile.