Saturday, January 9, 2010

The difference in a goal and a resolution

By now, many have relegated their New Year's Resolutions to the trash along with their Christmas wrapping paper and boxes. Some haven't completely trashed them, they just given it a try and when it didn't work figured they'd try again next year, so they packed their resolutions away with the ornaments and decorations. A few hardy individuals are hanging on for all they are worth, barely holding on but determined that this will be the year of success. Then there are those of us who have decided that resolutions are an exercise in futility and given up on making them all together.

This year, I did not make any resolutions...instead, I made a goal, and so far I'm seeing a big difference. That could be because of the difference in me, or it is more likely due to the difference in resolutions and goals.
I've read plenty of articles on making good resolutions, but somehow I still always fail to keep my resolutions. Envisioning success, writing them down, making them measurable...nothing seemed to help. Perhaps this is because resolutions tend to carry with them a "DO or DON'T" mindset. If I vow to do something and then don't, I've blown it. If I vow to NOT do something and then do it, I've blown it again. There are just too many opportunities to fail. Goals on the other hand are different.

With a goal, if I don't reach it, I don't stop. I just keep trying. I talked to my students about this. Many of them play soccer or basketball and I asked them, if they were playing and missed the goal, would they just give up? Of course, the answer is try again....and again.....and again....and, well, you get the picture. Goals carry in them the idea that if you don't reach your goal the first time, you keep on trying. Resolutions carry the idea of either you do or don't; one slip up and it's over.

With a resolution, if you don't accomplish it, you've failed. With a goal, I can see myself getting closer and closer to the target, even when I fail. It's a process, a learning and retraining process. It's so much easier to see that I am making progress with a goal. I may still miss the mark by a mile, but at least I'm closer than I was when I started...even if it's only by the tiniest fraction of an inch! The fact that I am even looking at the goal is progress, because it means I have a target to work toward. You've heard it said, those who aim at nothing hit it every time. I'm tired of hitting nothing.

This year, I have a couple of goals. I've put a calendar up to help me see how I'm doing toward reaching those goals. I've also made myself accountable in other ways....but the point is, even on days I do very little, I'm still doing SOMETHING toward getting closer to the mark.

Even if you haven't made a goal for this year, the year is young and there is plenty of year left! Make a goal. Think about it...the decisions you make today can make a difference in the year, the decade...even in your life! If somehow you wind up reading this article with very little year left - I still encourage you to make a goal. Make use of the time you have and get closer to the goal than you were before you started. There is no time like the present.

The difference in a resolution and a goal - it's never too late to work on getting closer to our goals. Join with me and we'll  make a difference in our tomorrows. I like the way Paul, the author of Philippians put it:
Philippians 3: 12-16 (Message translation)
"I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.

So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it."

Monday, January 4, 2010

How do we get there from here?

Many years ago, when my husband and I were younger and gas was MUCH cheaper, we'd just go out for a ride to see where we'd end up. Once we wound up at a gas station that had the unique name "Someplace Else". It stuck in my mind because I've had lots of times when I thought I was going in one direction only to find I wound up at "someplace else."

I guess being slightly ADD, or HD (High Def) has added to this problem. I have to ask my husband on a regular basis how to get started going somewhere. Oh, I don't have difficulty with the places I'm really familiar with, like work and church and the way back home....but places I go to only occasionally, like Meridian or Atlanta or ANYPLACE other than the norm...I have to ask which way I go to get started. He is always patient and tells me something like, "Go like you're going to Laurel..." or "Go past the convention center," or even "Go past the school where you work, but don't turn in there...just keep going straight."  Once I'm on the road, I'm pretty good....make that pretty good if I have a map.

Well, this past week I read a verse from Romans 5 that really caught me off guard. It was talking about hope, something that we could all use a lot of this year! What struck me was the unexpected way you go to get there! Here, see for yourself: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." The emphasis part is mine, cause it is what caught my eye! I never thought of suffering as the road to hope before.

The translation I was reading at the time offered a bit of help. According to this translation, suffering was translated as 'thlipsis' (Strong's) and a further explanation was given that it meant "pressure, oppression, stress, adversity....imagine taking your hand on a stack of loose items and manually compressing them. That is thlipsis, putting a lot of pressure on that which is free and unfettered. Thlipsis is like spiritual benchpressing." Okay, so evidently the first leg on the journey to hope isn't at all what I had is difficulty!

That suffering takes us through the next town on our journey - perseverance. This trip is tougher than I'd imagined. Perseverance means endurance....the ability to keep on keeping on. I know from running, one of the hardest parts is building up your endurance, and sometimes it comes down to mind over matter! My mind wants to quit long before my body reaches its limits. Please tell me I'm not alone in this battle. Surely others know what I mean.

The next town we come to on our trip is "character". We've all met some real "characters" in our life, but that's not what this word means. Here it means more strength of convictions. I heard once that "character is who you are in the dark when no one is looking." That's a pretty good definition. I knew that trials helped produce good character in us, but I'd never really thought of it as part of the route to hope.

Finally, we reach our destination...hope. According to Strong's, "hope is not a sense of optimistic outlook or wishful thinking without foundation, but it is the sense of confident expectation based on solid certainty." have you ever met someone who had that hope? I have, and come to think of it, they had all gone through some pretty tough times, yet with God's help, they had endured. They had a character that shines like the sun in the dark places, and no matter what, they had hope. It wasn't some Pollyanna attitude, it was based on what they knew...that no matter what - God is faithful.

This year, this decade....I hope you find your way from here to hope. You may not like all the towns you pass through on the way, but trust me - it's worth it. May your years be filled with hope that never fails.

Happy New Decade everyone.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Picking up trash and throwing aside the weights....

Today's blog has sort of developed as the day went along. It all started when I ran into a friend in the hallway before church. She and I were talking about getting back into the routine of exercise when she started telling me about some health issues that she knew could be helped if she'd just take the time to exercise each week....but she just never seemed to make the time.

I asked her, "What if you walked into this building and there were candy wrappers, chip bags, and empty soft drink cans all over the floor? What would you do?" Her immediate reaction was, "Why, I'd pick them up of course." I could tell by the look on her face that as soon as she'd said it, she got to connection. We wouldn't dream of just walking past the junk at church, and since our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) it's just as wrong to allow the junk to build up and clutter things there! It all begins when we open our eyes and allow ourselves to see that it's important to care for that which God has given us and the very temple where His Spirit lives! Not taking the time to care for that temple just doesn't agree with what we say we believe.

Well, I got excited when this thought came to me an I wrote it on the edge of my bulletin so I could blog about it later....that's when my pastor, Dwayne Higgason, started teaching about prayer for 2010. With one of his very first points, my ears perked up! What he was saying seemed to go right along with the random thoughts already turning in my head. Hebrews 12:1 - "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." Pastor brought up a point I don't think I've ever seen before...that conjunction 'and'. Most of us think of the weight that holds us back as sin, but in this verse, weight is a separate thing. It is those things from our past that hold us back...regrets, guilt, whatever. Yet some of us, even after we've been set free from our past, reach back and pick up the chains that once held us and carry them as we go. Take a minute and let that word picture sink in. We know we have been set free, yet we still carry the weight. It's time to let it go of the past so we won't miss the moment we have been given! I knew there was something more....I just couldn't quite put my finger on it...till I went for a run this afternoon.

I headed out the door all bundled up against the cold. I had on lined track pants, undershirt, long sleeved t-shirt, fleece jacket, fleece headband....I was still freezing, but I was determined to get in my run. For the first few steps, all that clothing served me well, but by the time I neared the half mile I was unzipping the jacket. As I closed in on the first mile, the jacket HAD to come off. Since it is a nice jacket and I didn't want to lose it, I tied it around my waist. The fleece headband came off, too. Each step of this run seemed to take more energy than I had, and with each step, that seemingly lightweight jacket got hotter and hotter around my waist and felt as if it weighed a ton. I didn't want to toss it aside and take the chance of losing it, so I just tottered along. That which had once served me well was now such a huge burden, but I hated to lay it down for fear it would be gone. That's when I started wondering how many things in my spiritual life have I hung on to fearing if I put them down, I'd lose them. Sometimes, we have to let go and move on trusting God to protect and provide.

Physically, mentally, spiritually - as we face the new year, it's time to look at ourselves, pick up the trash and throw the weight aside. Take care of that which you have been entrusted with.  It's a new year...a new decade.... and the possibilities are endless!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Just how much does a doughnut weigh?

Okay, something is just not right here. I read that on New Year's Day you were supposed to eat something "round or ring shaped" for good luck. I, of course, made the wisest decision I could think of and ate a doughnut. Okay, so I ate three, but the "They're hot" sign was flashing!
My point is, that doughnut couldn't have weighed more than 38 grams (I googled it) and that translates to 0.083775 lb (I also google this.) So how in the world did those 3 doughnuts which together only weighed about 0.25 of a pound cause my weight to go up 1 1/2 pounds this morning? They didn't even have sprinkles! That's a half pound per doughnut for crying out loud! This is NOT the kind of luck I needed. Maybe I should have checked on the countries that think round food is good luck. Perhaps in those countries, being pleasantly plump is considered a good thing!

The point is, I only slipped up a little...but I'm going to have to fess up and deal with the consequences. Getting mad at the injustice of it all isn't going to make the pounds go away. Yelling at my scale will not make the numbers go down....I know; I tired that already. The only thing that is going to make a difference is different choices.

Sometimes I make right choices, sometimes I don't choose quite so well. I really can't blame anyone one held a gun to my head and made me pull in to that doughnut place. I have to take responsibility for my actions, not blame whatever is going on around me...not even the "they're hot" sign. The choices we make in life do make a difference, and they are far more important than whether or not to eat a doughnut. We are each given the same number of hours in each day, but it is up to us how we spend them. I can try to blame circumstances all day long, but ultimately it is my choice. The hard part is seeing past all the "flashing signs" that would try and distract us to what is really important.

We've all heard the analogy of putting the sand into a jar, then the pebbles, then the big rocks....they just won't fit that way. If, however, we put the rocks in first, then the pebbles, then the sand, somehow they all fit just fine. The rocks are the things that are most important in my life - God and my family, next come the pebbles - my job, my friends, my church (yes, I know that some may think these are more than just pebbles...I didn't say how BIG the pebbles were, they just aren't as huge as the rocks!) Finally comes the sand - all the other "stuff" that we fill our days with. The key is making sure we put the important "rocks" in first.

How did I get from doughnuts to choices and putting first things first? I'm not sure; it's just the way random thoughts work. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to take responsibility for my choices, and I've also got some doughnut pounds to run off!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Resolutions for the New Year...

It's a new year and I have spent at least part of the past couple of days thinking about whether I should try and make a New Year's Resolution. Of course I want to exercise and lose weight....that has been a struggle for the past year. I'd love to be more organized....that has been a struggle for the past 50 years. Do better with the budget - who doesn't have that as a resolution? But in all my ideas, there have been a couple that have really resonated within me.

This is a year to get my house in order. Now, I don't mean the organizing thing, but I do hope that will somehow fall into place before I lose the children in the clutter. No, I mean something more, and the ten commandments keep coming to mind. For me, this is a year to focus on setting things in order so that I can truly STAND no matter what comes my way. I guess that means no matter what comes physically, financially, emotionally - whatever. This isn't some kind of gloom and doom feeling mind you. It's just that it's time to do some training and get ready to stand.

So, for the next year I'd like to try and focus on one commandment a month, with the last two months focusing on what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments. Just what will that mean? I have no idea, but you're welcome to join me in my discovery.

I looked up the commandments today - they are found in Exodus 20 for those who don't want to have to look it up in the concordance like I did. (I admit it! I had no idea of the exact "address" of the commandments! That's what Google is for!) The first commandment is "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Seems simple enough. I'm guessing that this month I will find out more about this, perhaps discover some "gods" I have that I didn't realize existed! No other gods before Him....hmmmm. I have to ask myself, what things do I put before God? How many times have I said, "I'll do that after....?"  I'll read my Bible after I ....., I'll dedicate more time to missions after......, I'll do what I feel God leading me to after......., Sometimes the word after is replaced by the word someday, but they mean the same thing.

My second goal is much easier. I've set a goal to go out for a run each day, even if it's only for a mile. After that mile, I have permission to stop if I want to, but I've got to at least go that first mile. As anyone knows, the first few steps are the hardest....sort of like it's hard to clear away the clutter of life and put God before everything else...but once you've done it, you're so glad you did.

Yep, I have a feeling it's going to be a pretty interesting year. Of course, I'll share what I discover with you, after I've figured it out.

Happy New Year everyone.