Heart Resolutions

“On a note of hope, on a strong amen

“I will start anew, I will make amends

And I’ll thank the world and remember when

I was able to begin again!”

Ebenezer Scrooge (Albert Finney), Scrooge

We made it! Another Christmas season come and gone. While normal people are sitting around the tree enjoying their homes and families, I am packing away Christmas like it’s my job and staring excitedly at my 2019 planner. Not because I don’t like Christmas, I love it. I love it so much I may have started decorating for it just after halloween. We celebrate long and hard, but when it’s done, my greatest present to myself is a clean-ish house and a fresh start.

We wrapped up Christmas night with a final watching of one of our favorites, Scrooge, and the timeless story of a changed heart and new beginnings. The end always gets me, when Ebenezer’s eyes are finally opened to the beauty around him and he stops focusing on the wrong things. We use the New Year as our jumping off point for new beginnings. Hope is a powerful thing. We all know though, that by early March the shiny promises have begun to tarnish a bit.

The beauty of this story to me is that Scrooge isn’t making any New Years resolutions or empty promises, his heart really is different. You just know that this isn’t going to fade away. The difference between heart and head decisions are big ones. There’s a lot of things in my head I’d like to accomplish, but unless they are planted in my heart, I know all too well not much is going to happen. Good intentions always lead me into frustration because they don’t have much backing them up when it gets difficult.

We need times to ‘start anew’… we need hope… we need to make our amends and move forward, even if it is into the unknown. Each new calendar year gives us the chance to do that in part, but the freedom we have in Christ means that every day can be our January first.

Before any lofty goal can change us on the outside, God’s words to us must ba able to start their work from the inside. “My son give attention to my words; For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:20-23

Every single day can be a new start with Him. He doesn’t hold our past against us, He holds out His hand anew to us every morning and just invites us to step back in to our story.

Good things and God Things

Happy 2018! I think I’m not supposed to say this, but I don’t mind one bit the end of the holidays. I love Christmas, but there’s something about January. December is a month filled with family, friends, food, activity and just… a lot. I love decorating the house, and I equally love un-decking all the halls. There’s just a fantastic feeling about hitting the reset button in different areas of life.

Like most people, our family has goals for 2018, some big, some small, some practical and others lofty. As we were talking with our kids about the specifics of them yesterday, two words popped in my head: big picture.

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Forward and Free in the New Year!

“How the Lord takes by its corners
This old world and shakes us forward and shakes us free…” Rich Mullins

New Years is almost here! That lovely time when we can all do a “mental reset” and reorient ourselves a bit to wherever it is we think we are going. I saw no less that three articles today alone that laid out numerated steps for keeping New Years goals intact. We Americans really do love when things are given to us in bullet points. So convenient!

Goals keep us going. Big or small, we need them. Mine include training for a 120 mile race through the Colorado mountains next July. I’d also like to stop buying so many Lunchables and make my kids an actual lunch when they go to school. Baby steps.

So come January, we’re ready to move the proverbial football down the field. Maybe we get a new journal. I like doing that. We get out the new workout clothes. Those are fun too.
But by February, the journal is empty and the workout shirt still has its tags on. Because, life.

So here’s my New Years thing: I’m going to remember that while the year is new for a little while, I am living in a New Covenant every single day. A covenant of grace that never gets old, whether it’s January first or July fourth. We are redeemed from the law (Galatians 3:13) and we are a new creation.

After years of living the Christian life, Paul stated that his main goal was to know Christ and the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10).

That should be our goal! To know Him. To know His power. Let the rest fall into place, because it will. We all have our own little roadmap of goals and things we want to see come to pass. When we set ourselves to knowing Him, we can relax and let it be. We’ll accomplish more than we ever thought possible. And even if we don’t, He can get us back on track.

So here are my two bullet points I shall preach to myself:
– Be flexible
– Be sensitive

Flexible to let Him lead, able to change course if He asks me to.
Sensitive to His voice, not that of the world or of others.

That’s it! Be in the Word, get to know Him more and more because His love is without end. His plans for us are more than any goal we could ever set. Go into the new year with hope set high that He is ready to shake us forward and free!

The Messages of January

Happy New Year! As much as I love the fun of the holidays, I always feel kind of refreshed when January rolls around. A new (mostly blank) calendar and a house free of Christmas nutcrackers does me good. A symbolic “do over” time for everyone, January holds a lot of possibility. We hit the ground running for sure – the gym is packed with well-intentioned go-getters. Weight loss commercials play nonstop on TV. The Target Christmas section is now a home-organization paradise, with bins and totes and hooks galore to help us find a place for our newly acquired stuff – and if we need more stuff, we can always hit the Valentines Day aisle, because it’s been up since before New Years.
So, the messages of January assail us:
Get in shape! Organize your life! Get it together! Check off that list!”
It’s all well and good – but what happens when we try and apply those New Years intentions to our spiritual lives?
We start off with a bang, but it rarely lasts. The Bible reading plan we began tapers off once we reach Leviticus. That calendar begins to fill up. Duty replaces passion. The excitement for what could have been fades away. We are disappointed with ourselves for not sticking it out. We go to church, read some books, get some pointers… but the spirit in us is not engaged. By March or April, we return to the same old routine. We aren’t created for resignation, however. Why do I say that? Because the next January 1st we will do it all over again. So, the desire to grow and know God more is a part of who we are. Why then, do we lose it so quickly?

“The Religious Man or Woman is a popular story option in which we try to reduce the wildness of life by constructing a system of promises and rewards, a contract that will obligate God to grant us exemption from the Arrows. It really doesn’t matter what the particular group bargain is-doctrinal adherence, moral living, or some sort of spiritual experience-the desire is the same: taming God in order to tame life. Never mind those deep yearnings of the soul; never mind the nagging awareness that God is not cooperating. If the system isn’t working, it’s because we’re not doing it right. There’s always something to work on, with the promise of abundant life just around the corner. Plenty of churches and leaders are ready to show you how to cut a deal.” John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance

Try as we may to organize our spirit life, there is a wildness about God and life that we can not get a hold of. His desire is to make us holy, to be in relationship with us. You can’t compartmentalize holiness. You cannot make a system out of it. Systems last until February.

Here’s a thought: What if we embraced the desire in us, that wonderful drive we feel at New Years to do great things, and just handed it over to the God who gave us the desires in the first place? The goal isn’t to be comfortable and organized – the goal is to get out there with those desires and let God lead us through the wilds and the unexpected into our victory. What if the excitement of January could be turned into a year long adventure of actual achievements? It’s not foolproof, and we aren’t perfect, but how about going in His strength instead of our own? How about asking Him what His desires are for us this coming year? We aren’t meant to set and attain goals alone. We aren’t meant to rely on human strength or wisdom to get us to the finish line. Our “deep yearnings of the soul” can be fulfilled by one thing alone, and that is a holy God making us holy.

Don’t let the messages of January turn to disappointment in a few weeks – embrace the desires God has placed in your heart and ask Him to walk it out with you. His ways may be a bit wilder than we expect or a bit messier than we want – but they are the only way in which we will ever have true success.

Long live the January goals!