New Years 2016
Ditch your New Years Resolutions and step into a God-given REVOLUTION in 2016!
So… Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get it all done. Upcoming work deadlines still loom over my head, there are still a few gifts to buy, and the black-eyed peas are still occupying space in my pantry instead of in my belly.
As you can see, this past Christmas Season, I declared freedom from my to-do lists. I decided that it was okay to let a few things go undone, and instead, allow myself the gifts of rest and a less-rushed schedule so that I could enter into Christmas as a participant rather than a spectator.
Freedom from the things we feel like we “ought to do” is a very cool thing. It allows us the opportunity to stand securely on the Truth that Jesus came to the manger, lived out God’s divine will. It assures us that regardless of how many boxes we check off of our agendas, It. Is. Finished.
He accomplished it all….so we don’t have to stress at all.
The point of Christmas- the truth that assures us into the New Year- is that we can rest in God’s perfection, because He embraces our imperfection. God loves us just for being- not for doing.
As December rolled around, I have to admit, my “freedom project” seemed like an awful idea. I was almost immobilized by the feeling that there was just SO MUCH TO GET DONE. There’s no peace in that feeling is there? So I became strategic and identified the top few traditions, people etc. that needed to be included in this season, and I let the others go.
Then, I became intentional about allowing my heart to contemplate Jesus’s coming (both the one in the manger so long ago, and the one to come) and I found an unshakable feeling of contentment. The more I searched for Jesus instead of searching for the perfect gift, the more rest, joy and peace I found.
Surrendering and pursuing God revolutionized my Christmas, and I’m eager to see what God will do with 2016!
In Philippians 3:13, Paul talks about, “Forgetting those failures that lie behind, and pressing ahead to the goal, I PURSUE and I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. Let’s be a pursuing people, rather than a collection of ladies that let their unmet expectations hold them back from their God-given and God-accomplished destiny.
These are easy words to escape my mouth, but I must confess, I am so guilty of thinking that if I just try harder, maybe I’ll get it right. Maybe if I try harder to be more organized, try harder to be more of a woman after God’s heart then I can change. But I’ve come to realize that it’s this self-striving that nurtures self-hatred.
Trying harder only seems to bring harder trials, and contentment won’t be found in the RESOLUTIONS, but rather in the REVOLUTIONS – in the turning around and the pressing into God.
A.W. Tozer says that, “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible.” What a pity it is when we plan on accomplishing only the things we can get done in our own strength? Why have plans that we can do by ourselves- when God can do the impossible through us…. And here’s what is great…
He doesn’t even need our effort. He needs our surrender.
I was on the step mill the other day trying to sort through my life and my upcoming commitments. I was climbing, and toiling with my mind and my body, when all of the sudden, I felt the Holy Spirit quietly place, “stop working so hard & start surrendering” on my heart. I almost fell off the step mill!! I wanted to relax and find relief from my stress so badly and I was working really hard to find a way out. But God’s quiet proposition to exchange yokes with Him- was the very thing that brought peace.
Apparently, the Lord knew I’d require another dose of His medicine to help me embrace this concept of letting go. And, not long after my step mill encounter, God arranged an interaction that changed the way that I looked at stress in my life. I have a dear friend who lost her husband to cancer at an early age. She has three precious children and I have watched the hand of God illuminate and restore their lives in miraculous ways. One day, we got together to plan our annual, “head to the hills snowshoeing trip” with a group of fifteen other women. My friend was working hard to arrange childcare, rides etc. I could see the preparation and planning for this trip was becoming burdensome for her, but she knocked my socks off with the way she responded to the impending stress. She sat me down, looked me square in the eyes and said, “I would love to go on this trip, but it’s creating stress for me, which is a sign for me to let it go.”
“Let it go?!” Rather than coming up with an excuse, or just simply saying, “it’s not going to work out”, my friend was brave and shared a beautiful life lesson with me. Her statement was counter-cultural! Her comment was pro-soul and created a healthy boundary. Her words were wisdom and insight from the Holy Spirit in her, speaking to the Holy Spirit-infused soul in me. Instead of digging down and bearing the weight of an unnecessary commitment, my friend chose God’s way out. God will always give us a way out of the crushing weight of our schedules, and it’s not found in the depths of fatigue; it’s found at the foot of His throne.
I want us to walk in that kind of freedom this year. What if we resolved to let things (especially the things that create stress) go? Instead of resolving to lose five pounds, eat less sugar, or some other shallow resolution —
What if we SUBMIT to God as our King and Master? What if we tried to ALIGN OUR GOALS for the upcoming year with the HABITS that God would want for the New Year? Just dream of what our lives could look like.
Let’s take action:
There’s a Jewish proverb that says: “Man makes plans and God changes them.” Similarly, in Proverbs 16:1, the Bible says, “a man’s heart plans his own way, but God directs his step.”
God has placed a passion inside you to do great things while you’re here on earth. Beth Moore says, “To really live we need passion for Jesus and purpose to serve Him. Passion and purpose fulfill more of our human needs than health or wealth. Plenty of healthy and wealthy people feel dead, meaningless, and hopeless. As Christians, we represent hope to people who may have given up on finding real life.”
If we are willing to open up our hearts, abandon our plans, and loosen our death-grip on life, God will take us to a place where dreams come true. If we let God be the One who gives us our wings, He alone can lift us higher than we could ever fly on our own.
Romans 12:1-2 from the Message gives us great guidance on how to do this:
“Take your everyday, ordinary life- your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life- and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings out the best of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
The Bible takes it even further in In Psalms 32:8, where the Lord says, “I will guide you along the BEST pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”
God’s got a plan for us! And if we allow Him to be Lord in our lives we will receive guidance, well-formed maturity, vibrant joy, true heart’s contentment, and peace.
“Let God be your guide and let the Holy Spirit be the wind that gently carries you when your feet are too weak to carry on”. Jesus says, “I am the Way”- will you allow Him to lead you all of the days of your life and define, or redefine who you are? Let Him give you the kind of life that will leave a great legacy: let go and place your life before God.
Get into God’s Word and Let it Get Into You:
Making time to memorize and study God’s Word is putting 1st things 1st. If we fail to read and contemplate the Word of God, we may simply fail.
Dennis Lennon urges that, “what a heart knows by heart is what a heart really knows. And what the heart knows by heart is all that can calm the heart, direct the heart, and strengthen the heart.”
When I had my first child, Brooklyn, at twenty-five, I can remember panicking as we left the hospital. I could not believe they were letting me leave with this new little life. Did they not know how ill-equipped, immature and afraid that I was?! In those moments I was desperate for a guide, a book, someone to help me navigate the world of being a mama. Thankfully, the Lord provided just what I needed as I cried out to Him. He didn’t do this all at once, but rather bit by bit and one step at a time. He does the same thing for us through the Bible! “The word of God is living and active and full of power” (Hebrews 4:12) and it’s our navigational guide for this life! READ it, inspect it, and let it sink into your heart. The Holy Spirit will use it in your life and in the lives of everyone you come in contact with.
E.M. Bounds says that, “Our praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied, and a courage that never fails.”
Prayer is critical!!! It’s our direct lifeline to God, and it’s THE MOST POWERFUL weapon we’ve been given to fight our mortal enemy. God has deliberately chosen prayer as the vehicle that drives His activity in our lives, and it’s the portal that brings the power of heaven down to earth. If it’s that important, and that powerful, why not apply it passionately “without ceasing” like the Bible directs us to? I know I was intimidated and hindered by the lie that I didn’t know how to pray, or that my words didn’t sound as eloquent as one of my sister’s in Christ. I knew that those were excuses planted in my heart by the devil, so I pushed back. I cried out to God to equip me with the gift and passion of a vibrant prayer life and I started to talk with my Heavenly Papa as often as I could.
I also picked up a few resources from trusted sources. My favorites are:
- The Power of a Praying Wife, and The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie O’Martian
- Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer
- Whispers of Hope: 10 weeks of Devotional Prayer by Beth Moore
I encourage you to pick one of these guides up and release the floodgates of God’s power in your life…..START TO PRAY.
“If we want to live a wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating rest and play, and we must work to let to of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.” ~Brene Brown
Rest is one of God’s greatest gifts for us, and throughout the Bible, we are called to MAKE EVERY EFFORT to enter into rest. When we push the stressful aside, it allows us to focus and be ministered to by the One who loves us most. This slowing down enables us to have a fresh encounter with God, and it’s a sacred place where God clears our thinking, slows our heart rate and restores our sanity.
Sleep, rest & play are more than just our friends, they are God-given fuel! Make every effort to find more of that in 2016.
It brings God glory when we praise Him for the life that He’s given us--- and bringing God glory is why we are alive!
Gratitude is one topic that has settled in closely to my heart. As a result, I have dug into a lot of research on the matter. I’ve discovered that both biblical and secular research connects joy and gratitude together. Where there is one, there is usually the other.
I believe that we are a culture that is hungry for more joy and starving from a lack of gratitude.
If you want more JOY in 2016, then PRACTICE gratitude.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to live out thanksgiving:
- Gratitude Journal: writing down 3 things you are thankful for each day will make you twenty-five percent more joyful
- Family Gratitude Jar: Craft (or find) a cheerful-looking jar and leave it in a place where you will see it often. Keep a small notepad next to it and encourage anyone that enters your home to add to your gratitude jar.
- Daily gratitude prayers
- Create Gratitude Art
- Stop during a stressful moment to say these words outloud, “I am thankful for…”
Set Measurable & Attainable Goals AND Harvest the Power of Incremental Change:
Goal setting is important. Each year, I write out five to seven goals that I’d like to achieve.
When writing out your goals, make sure you are creating specific, concrete, measureable statements.
For example: Beginning January 1, 2016, I will spend a minimum of twenty minutes each day reading the Bible and/or praying.
Pray over these goals and remain surrendered to God’s plans for your life. Remember…God’s at the helm of your life- ask Him to direct this process.
Like most things in life, the journey is more important than the destination when it comes to achieving our goals. What often keeps us from making changes in our lives is the feeling that we continue to fail and that we can’t achieve the changes we want in a perfect manner. Sometimes we think if we don’t make instant progress, then real change isn’t coming. This misconception of attaining our goals perfectly and instantly is a lie that comes straight from the devil.
First Timothy 4:15 admonishes us to “Practice these things; immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.”
It’s about practice and progress…and the result is change.
It’s imperfect change, because we are imperfect. “Imperfect changes are slow steps of progress wrapped in grace - imperfect progress.”
“You can be confident that God will complete the good work He started in you.” ~Philippians 1:6
Progress. Just make progress. It’s okay to have setbacks and the need for do-overs. Even if the progress you are making is miniscule, you are still moving. PERSEVERE and grow through the process.
So give yourself grace and give healthy reverence and awe to God!
Join me in abandoning the shallow resolutions of old and step into a God-given REVOLUTION in 2016.
Shout out Philippians 3:13 “I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward to Jesus. I’m off and running and I am not turning back!”