New Year Resolutions: Keep It Simple

New Year Resolutions. A new start. A fresh beginning. The new year begs for a reboot, a fresh focus. 2021 is over. Let the new year begin! If this draws you, I encourage you to keep it simple. Keep it simple in order to be successful.

Far too often in the past, I have made my list. Prayed over it. Mulled it over. Confident that I could “do” these few things (okay, maybe five or six), I set out with the best of intentions in the new year only to find that by the end of January, I had already failed.

What went wrong? Had I chosen the wrong new year’s resolutions? Where did my motivation go? It seemed so easy as I made out my list, even prayed over it. The best of intentions flew out the window, oh so quickly.

For some the key is to ask the Lord for a theme verse, phrase or even one word. Then pray over what the Lord would have as a new year’s resolution that supports that key focus. I really love this approach. For me, it works much better than making a list and hoping for full implementation of multiple things. If I am honest, my previous lists were all based in what “I” wanted.

Keeping it simple helps me be successful. One small step in the right direction keeps me going. If I take a leap, I may stumble or even fall. Often I do. But one step at a time, no matter how small, keeps me on the path.

I remember one year that the Lord gave me a phrase: “embrace the place.” He gently reminded me that He wanted me to embrace the place where He had put me. Focus on what He had for me right there. Look no further or allow temptation of the “grass is greener.” Instead, recognize that His “grace is greater” and His intentions are best for me.

Recognizing what God had for me helped me to focus. I knew that the next step, albeit a new year’s resolution, centered around this very focus. The new relationship to nurture. The next opportunity to embrace. I didn’t have a list of many goals but rather just a few. Not only was it easier for me to implement but it was easier for me to see progress. That encouraged my motivation to continue and the motivation wasn’t about just pleasing myself or the satisfaction of successful goals. Instead, it came from a heart to serve and please my Lord.

It is important to also write it down somewhere. Tell someone. When you voice your goal, it gains commitment and strength. There is power in the word, both written and spoken. Not only will your commitment increase but accountability also encourages motivation.

What is it that God is calling you to focus on for 2022? Could it be that He wants you to do something simple? Perhaps it is actually something you are already doing that He wants you to do more of or more often. Or maybe it is something completely new. Regardless, I encourage you to seek Him for clarity. Ask Him for His goals for you.

I realized that in the past, my list of goals were ones that “I” had decided and then I invited God along for the ride while “I” did what “I” wanted. When I finally recognized that any new year’s resolutions in my life should be His and come from Him, then it was not only easier to obtain, but the delight of implementing them grew exponentially.

I invite you to seek Him and expect to simplify. Focus on a few and walk in freedom with Him. As His new year resolutions become yours, you will find that you are walking in freedom with Him and not only reaching those goals but making them as part of who you were meant to be in Him.

May 2022 bring you refreshment and rejuvenation that you never thought possible in your relationship with Him. As He shares with you and speaks gently His ways and His wisdom on the way forward, may you be blessed abundantly as you not only make but keep those new year resolutions throughout all of 2022. And as the year end comes and you reflect, may you indeed see all that “He” has done in and through you!

Self-Care, not Self-Indulgence

Self-care. Over the last decade or so, self-care has become almost a buzz word for those in missionary care. But rooted earlier in the medical world in the 1950s, self-care assisted medical professionals in rehabilitating patients. Used to describe activities that preserved some physical independence, originally it involved simple tasks to nurture a sense of self-worth such as exercising and personal grooming. Today the definition of self-care expands to include anything that helps develop one’s health, happiness and resiliency in life.

But the emphasis on self-care may resemble self-indulgence to those who don’t fully understand and embrace it. For sure, self-care involves a focus on self but there’s a balance required by the very nature of self-care itself. Self-indulgence encompasses an excessive or unrestrained gratification of one’s own desires, appetites or whims. Imbalance exists in self-indulgence. It is simply that; self-indulgence without regard to its impact on self except to fulfill that impulse.

Self-care, on the other hand, involves a stability and intentionality that is not about promoting such lack of self-control. Instead, self-care seeks to live a balanced life that influences all areas of well-being: the spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual and even social self. It’s about living life in good health in all areas which leads to resiliency.

For the missionary life, self-care becomes an essential piece of resiliency, livelihood, and contributes to longevity on the field. The intentional balance for a missionary is the direct result flowing out of a vibrant relationship with the Lord. When every decision is first filtered through Him, life balance can result. Self-care must flow out of a deliberate daily choice to put Him first in all things. Outside of this funnel and focus, self-care can easily cross over into self-indulgence. Pure, balanced self-care is an overflow that results from a life fully focused on Him.

This is true for all Christians, not just missionaries. The stress that every day life brings each one of us affects our bodies, our spirits, our souls. Without care, we can easily fall into synicism, a critical spirit and anger before we even realize that we have left living the vibrant, fresh walk with Him that God intends for each of us. We can become entrapped by apathy, anxiety, fatigue and general lack of care. It doesn’t generally happen over night, or all at once. Instead, slowly by slowly these things creep into our homes, our ministries, our lives. Before we realize it, these new attitudes have become a part of our every day habits.

Keeping our relationship fresh and new each day with the Lord is key to combatting such tendencies. It is through that lens with which we can discover the true balance of self-care. Reflecting with Him and choosing intentional activities to refill, refresh and rejuvenate our souls becomes life-giving to all of us. And I am not talking about necessarily taking a two week cruise to an exotic island every year. Intentional activities for self-care encompass a variety of interests and meet different people and personalities in their specific areas of need.

For some, it might mean a two week cruise to an exotic island. But more often, it is regular (and vital) time off each week starting with a Sabbath rest. And then perhaps it is a day once a month where time is set aside for a hobby. For those with social needs, it might mean a day out with the guys for fellowship fishing on the lake. If you work in a high stress environment, it is likely important that you get away for a weekend once a month to decompress. For some it may mean a day at the spa getting a massage. Perhaps it is a morning routine at the gym or an afternoon nap. For some it may mean doing a puzzle or playing a family game. But the primary focus is a relationship with the Lord and not self-indulgence that satisfies our temporary appetites. Self-care is secondary, flowing out of our walk with Him, care that honors Him as we care well for ourselves in all aspects of how He has made us.

One exercises quality self-care so that he or she can serve out of the abundance that results. One is filled up to once again be poured out on behalf of the Lord. It is no small task. It may mean trial and error until one figures out what rhythms truly rejuvenate and which ones just don’t work towards the goals. But setting up these rhythms of life may mean the difference between thriving and just surviving.

I encourage you to seek the Lord and ask Him to help you see where to either carve out some time or add in some new activities that will free you up to be with Him regularly and refresh your very being. Make these new habits until they are literally rhythms of life for you. Start small and build on what He leads you to, so that it is possible. Experts say it takes 21 days in a row to form a new habit. Some say it takes up to two months. Clearly, it varies depending on the person, behavior and circumstances. So don’t give up easily on self-care building. It may take some time, but it is so worth it. It may make the difference between walking in the freedom and vitality that God intends for us.

After all, the Christian life is about walking with Him day in and day out for the purpose of advancing His Kingdom and bringing Him glory. Instituting self-care routines and rhythms can unleash new energy in not only your relationship with Him but others, thereby resulting in a new and fresh outlook as you face each day with Him. Be diligent to seek it and reap the rewards.

Are You Ready for Christmas? – By Bob Peterson

I was taking my time at the old five and dime,

As I glanced at the newspaper rack.

There was a Santa’s sleigh sighting, a holiday fighting

And a recipe for a “Christmas Eve Snack.”

I looked in dismay at the worldly display,

And thought, “Oh, what a commercialized mess,”

When a voice from behind inquired quite kind,

“So, tell me, are you ready for Christmas?”

I turned right around and what there I found

Was a man of elderly years.

His hair was now thinning but his smile was winning,

Reaching up to touch both his ears.

I said not a word, not sure what I’d heard,

And so left a silence between us.

With his smile in place on his good-natured face,

He asked again, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

I spoke of my shopping and last-minute hopping,

Of my tree with its lights all aglow,

Of Christmas card greetings and holiday meetings,

And crowds wherever you go.

There was my family for dinner and wood for the winter,

And my brother coming in on the bus.

He listened quite well, as my tale I did tell,

Then asked, “But are you ready for Christmas?”

“You see now,” he said with a tilt of his head,

“Christmas is much more, you know.

It’s God up above, who because of His love,

Came to earth His mercy to show.

It’s on Him, don’t you see, that our thoughts should all be,

And not on this holiday fuss.

It’s not the gift in our cart, but our mind and our heart,

That are needed to get ready for Christmas.”

I nodded my head and to him then I said,

“It’s true, the things that you say.

And too often I find that the things on my mind

Don’t point to God or His way.

Despite all the show, in truth I don’t know

The peace the angels foretold.

I wish I could feel and know it was real

That hope of which I could hold.

Now with that in mind, I think I’ll go find

A place to ask God’s forgiveness.

For it’s come clear to me if I want Him with me,

It’s about time I get ready for Christmas.”

What is Your 20/20 for 2020?

They say that 20/20 is perfect vision. But what is your 20/20 for the new year? It’s hard to believe that it is 2020 already! Have you given any thought to what’s ahead in this new year? Do you ask God each year for a “word” or key “phrase” for the year? Do you have a list of resolutions? Whatever your approach to starting a new year, we would all like to have 20/20 vision for what’s ahead – oh, to see clearly!

If only God would share complete insights about what is ahead or give us a full road-map to success for the year … Perhaps He has given you a glimpse by offering you a ‘word’ or ‘phrase’ to follow for the coming year. Perhaps He has even shown you some of what’s in store. Perhaps you even know some concrete ways He wants to use you. But if you are like me, you still want to know more, thorough details of what’s ahead.

You see, I can be impatient. I can be near-sighted. I can get distracted. I like to follow clear check-lists and how-to’s, all based on my goals and objectives. I can allow myself to get frustrated when these things are not clearly outlined before me. During these times, I have been known to even abandon those things that I already know to do – at least for a time. You see, if I allow myself to get overwhelmed or stressed out, I just want to stop for awhile. Take a break. I get stuck!

The only way for me to get started again is to focus. Yes, focus! If I had not taken my focus off what was the aim was, I wouldn’t have lost my focus to begin with. Sounds a bit backwards, but it’s true. I bet you can guess where my focus should lie … and remain! Yes, I must focus on Him, the One who has made all things new. Focusing on Him makes things come back into view clearly. I may not know all of the answers to the questions flinging around in my mind, but when I focus on Him, I don’t need to. I can see what I need to see for that moment.

When I forget to focus on “Him,” and instead focus on my to do list or goals, that is actually when I get overwhelmed and stressed out. It makes sense, but it often creeps up on me. I am having great quiet times with Him and remembering to speak with Him throughout the day. I am playing praise and worship music regularly. I am doing all of the things that help me keep my focus. But if I allow myself to break my routine, my habits, that is when my focus begins to wane. They say it takes 21 times of repetition to make a new habit, but 1 time of missing that repetition to break that habit. Oftentimes, one must start over multiple times before the new habit is formed. I have found so much truth in this in my own life.

It is good to remind myself that to focus on Him is to have 20/20 vision. While it doesn’t necessarily mean I have all of the answers, I do know what to do next. I just need to do the next thing that He has revealed to me, the thing that He has given light to. I need to be faithful to follow what He has revealed to me. I don’t need to worry over what I cannot see ahead. I just need to take the next step that He shows me, just one step at a time, and keep focusing on Him.

What next step has He revealed to you? What light has He given to you? Is he asking you to draw close to Him, to focus more fully on Him? Perhaps this is the one and only resolution that each of us needs to make as followers of Him – to focus on Him. If your habit of time with Him or habits of how you continually connect with Him has been waning, perhaps there is only one real resolution. Rebuild that habit that connects you back with Him. Yes, focus. Focus until you see clearly just the next thing that He has shown you. Focus and have 20/20 vision for 2020. Pick up the challenge!

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