Coming to the end of 2012, the barrage of New Year resolution ideas are flowing into our news sites and inboxes. All of these ideas are well intentioned I suppose, but the motivation behind many are in marketing something that will help you finally succeed in carrying out your resolution.
Unfortunately, these gimmicks, gadgets or products never produce the change in our lives that is desired. They jump start us, but the staying power is not in the gimmick. It is in us.
I'm looking forward for change that has staying power...something sticky. How about you? I think the stickiness of change is found with an interior look, in knowing and loving myself. How does that sound to you; boring?, scary?, a waste of time?
What if I told you that taking an interior look may be the first step in loving well; making a relational resolution that will not only guide you in loving yourself, but will leading you into loving others.
This theme of loving yourself and searching your heart is one that appears time and time again in the Scriptures.
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:8-10
We find this teaching in Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:25-37 and 1 John 4:16. You can't miss it as you read the words of Jesus and his followers. So how about some relational resolutions this year that will affect your relationship with God, your love of yourself and your love for others...sound good and doable? Here are some truths with stickiness:
1. See yourself as uniquely created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27
2. Trusting in Christ...see yourself as a chlid of God, as God sees you. John 1:12
3. Trust in the truth that you have been made new. You are not who you once were. 2 Cor. 5:17
4. Knowing and trusting these truths, take an interior look and ask this question; What area of my life is most in need of change so that I can grow in loving well? These might include loving God, loving myself, loving my wife and children, loving others.
Be specific in naming these areas and take action steps in loving well. For help with this journey I recommend; Emotionally Health Spirituality.
5. In the context of piecing together your Marriage Mosaic, one of the areas I think we can all grow in is listening. Intentionally seek to be a better listener in 2013. This is one of my goals.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
― Ralph G. Nichols
“Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals. (attr to J. Isham)”
― Sura Hart, Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids: 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflict into Cooperation
Heartfelt hurt and comfort
I had the opporunity to substitute teach in an elementary school this past week. This experience brought me closer to the tragedy in Newtown, somewhat unexpectedly. I felt the hurt and pain for the children, parents, friends and community in an up close and personal way.
I turned to a couple of my favorite writers, Max Lucado and John Eldredge for their thoughts on the evil act that shattered lives and the ripple effects that have touched people all over our country. John Eldredge's last two blogposts reminded me that I should not be surprised by evil. I encourage you to read them.
Max Lucado offered this prayer, one which I've prayed several times in the last few days. I pray that it comforts you this Christmas. To me it speaks of a reality that exists in our world, one that has existed since the beginning of time; Evil continues to live on and demonstrates to us the dark side of humanity, yet there is hope. Press into the hope this Christmas and rest in the fact that He is in control. Proverbs 3:5-6
It's a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.
These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.
The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?
Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod's jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.
Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.
Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won't you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.
This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.
The gift of affliction
“Don’t be deceived my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above.” James 1:16-17
The definition of affliction can be defined as something that causes pain or suffering. This morning I awoke, for the first time in a long time, resting and accepting this truth: Affliction is a gift, because it keeps me ever dependent upon God’s strength and not my own.
It seems everything in me resists those two words (affliction/gift) being in the same sentence, as I have come to yet another crossroads in my journey with Christ. Short-sighted vision and perspective whispers in my ear, “The real gift would be for God to take the affliction away and fix everything.” As health issues surface with another family member, I am questioning. Do I really trust you God? Hasn’t there been enough?
How quickly I forget. His suffering, a gift to me...to all of mankind, leading to eternal life. In my amnesia, I sense God patiently putting His arm around me and asking this question, “How do you know this isn’t a gift?” Pause. My response. “Well, I can see you at work through all this, and yes, we all have grown and much good has come of it, but a gift? I hadn’t thought of it that way.”
If I’m being honest...rather than a “gift” it has often felt like a “take”. Taken opportunities, taken energy, taken finances, taken youth, taken time, etc. This explains the many nights I have asked God “why?” as opposed to saying, “thank you”. If someone takes something from me, I want to know why they did it...if they give me something I simply say thank you and receive it. Again He asks, “How do you know this isn’t a gift?” and two passages of scripture come to mind: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 and Habakkuk 3:17-19.
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in the difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The scripture says that Satan gave Paul the thorn. God chose not to take it away...or as we might say, heal him. According to Paul, it was to keep him from becoming conceited. The gift: Paul experienced God’s grace and power resting on him...can’t think of a better gift than that. Paul seems to accept and embrace this thorn, confidently rejoicing and delighting in his weaknesses...living in a state of “expectancy”. Why? Because in his weakness he is strong. He receives the gift of God’s grace and power resting upon him. He receives God’s presence.
I guess I’ve had it all wrong. As much as I’ve seen growth and good things emerge from the circumstances of the last few years..and even said these words, “God is at work through all of this.” My ultimate hope? That the thorn would be taken away. I think on some days I was just mad. “God, you’ve got the divine power...it would be so easy for you to do this. I don’t get it.” I’m not sure I’ve realized it, but before today, in my limited perspective,thorn removal=gift from God. For some, that may be God’s decision...and it may still be for us one day. For now, however, I believe God is speaking to me and offering an invitation to a much larger party than the one I’ve been trying to attend. Will I open the gift he is offering or refuse it because it is not the one I had wanted?
I close with one of the strongest affirmations of faith in all Scripture. In light of the anticipated Babylonian invasion and devastation, I see Habakkuk trusting God. He has learned the lesson of faith to trust in God’s providence regardless of circumstances. He declares that even if God should send suffering and loss, he would still rejoice in his Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”
A sense of relief and peace have washed over me and I am filled with energy and hope. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights...” Today, I choose to believe it.
Vic and Monique
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