January 2nd

So how many of you set goals and have already slacked on them?

Ha. I know it’s January 2nd and you may feel behind. Or that you’ve failed.

I mean I had resolved to not write this year. I felt I was being led away from writing, and yet, here we are. But when you have these deep seeded goals for your life, not just this month, this year, you find yourselves coming back to them giving them another go, right?

I think that’s why people set goals on better health-whether dieting or working out-around this time of year because we know we want to feel better, and our health drives so much of the rest of our lives. When we feel good about our health, we naturally let it flow into other areas-our relationships, our families, our work.

I was chatting with a member of my class yesterday before we started about how I like to work out first thing in the morning a few times a week (I teach after work the other days) and she was floored that I get up that early to run or lift weights. I told her it’s a direct correlation to how I feel. If I don’t, I am typically in a funk, shaming myself for sleeping in or choosing “I don’t wanna” over a good day. I will inevitably eat worse, I’ll feel sluggish throughout the work day, and frankly, I tend towards grumpiness.

That may not be for everyone, but how you start your day flows into what choices you make throughout your day. It’s something I learned much later than I would have liked. It would have saved me alot of wrestling…and I will be honest with you, I didn’t make it this morning, but I consciously told myself today would be a rest day because I had already prepared out my week for working out and other plans with friends.

Be intentional about your week, your days. If you set out with a plan instead of cannon-balling into them, you’d be surprised how much extra time and energy you can make for yourself to accomplish those goals.

And yes, it is work. You have to put effort into what you want. It took effort for you to get where you are now, and if you want to be at another marker or meet a goal, you’ve got to do the work. Only you can do it, and you have to figure out the map for you specifically on it.

That Insta-model or celebrity you follow has trainers, they have time because they put in the work elsewhere. They can spend three hours with a trainer in their home because of other factors that just aren’t applicable to you. Maybe for you, it’s two visits to the gym this week. Or taking one group class instead of getting on the dead-mill (yes, I use it but I prefer running outside). But it won’t just happen in your schedule.

You have to prepare and you have to work for it. Pack that bag the night before while the kiddos pack their lunches–and by the way, pack your lunch too. Prep out so you aren’t leaving rushed from the house. I never feel more like an adult than when I have set the coffee brewing timer the night before and have pre-packed my lunch before I go to bed.

Because on January 2nd you’ve not failed. You’ve only given yourself room for growth and opportunity. So don’t shame yourself today if you feel like you’re already behind on your goal for 2019, or for your self.

It’s Day 1 for you. And you are the one that matters to you. Your goal is the one that matters to you. You are the one who has to do the work to make it happen for you. Be intentional. Put in the work.

 

Chiamari Fuori

Over the next week I am traveling in Italy. In being here under 48 hours I have to say this place is one that I never could have imagined loving as I now do.

Its a social culture, a slower pace, and a place that I am interested to discover more about. It’s beauty and character go hand in hand with its history. I’ve sat and reveled in a park already at all around me. People who are image bearers of Christ but might not know Him. Rarely do I get in this mindset on home turf. Italy is changing my view of life and people, of culture and demands.

As people of God we are chiamari fuori -separated, called out. Do we look that different? Do we look separated and called apart? So this is the question I carry now. This is what I was with in each step.

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Spoiled, Rotten

There’s a story told of when I was a kid, mom had taken my sister and I out to dinner one night. For us, a dinner out was a big deal and especially if it was at Western Sizzlin’, because that meant Jello cubes. One night we go, and fried chicken was apparently ordered for me. I relished in the Jello cubes (and squirted them through my teeth as that is the proper way to eat said Jello). Feasting on everything but the chicken. My leftovers were wrapped up in a napkin and put in the car…then forgotten, as they chicken leg rolled under the seat.

Weeks roll by and a definite smell starts to pervade the black car my mom drove to horrifying levels. After searching high and low, the rotted, spoiled remains of a dinner I chose not to eat was discovered and extracted from the car.

I was thinking on this as I looked at the story of the Israelites this week in Exodus 16. We find them in the desert now complaining to God about their food source. Provision of deliverance wasn’t fulfilling as they journeyed. So God provides food for them, food that they are given detailed instructions on.

(Can we pause and revel in how God was specific to them in how to collect what He provides? It’s such a beautiful picture of detail and His care in us depending upon Him to provide)

Moses is intentional about pointing out that some gather much and other gather a little, but all have what they need. You miss it if you are familiar with the story or skim past it as it seems so minor but so soul-clenching good. What I need looks vastly different to what another needs, yet God provides each according to what He knows is the need. He meets me right where I am to provide-whether camped out in the wilderness or on the mountainside reveling in His teaching.

But it’s when we attempt to store up His provision, as some were prone to do even in Israel that we find our dependence is no longer on Him to provide but ourselves. We cast doubt that He will do as He said, that His promises aren’t good or sure, and that He is not faithful to complete. We question His ability, strength, character….who God is. We put our place above Him to provide for ourselves when that happens. We store up provisions that end up spoiling, because in our own minds we find it easy to pack it up and then let it roll underneath the seat of our lives…where it begins to rot, it festers and spoils. Pride, selfishness, ambition falsely founded lead to the rot. They lead to the trust being broken and provision coming from our own means and not His.

So we come back, we throw out that which has spoiled-cleansing our lives of the doubt and lies that He won’t provide for us in need, the need He knows and the need He meets, not our own definition of need. We wait for a new day, full of new mercies and the manna which He provides for that day. I know I try to jump ahead and point to  tomorrow, next week, next year while He beckons us to this day. Only this day, over and over again. Just. This. Day. It too is a provision for us, that we are given just this day before us.

Let us not spoil tomorrow with the doubts of provision when He has given us the joy of the manna of today.

Just For Today

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I am not sure why but this time of year we all seem to be carrying around more than usual. More than our usual stresses, anxieties and fears. We pile on doubt, ego, pride…we throw in for good measure a couple of pounds of anger or hurt. We find we are just packed to the gills with gifts we really weren’t wanting to give or receive.

 

It’s the Monday of Christmas week. So for today.

Just today.

Why not put down all the stuff you have been carrying around with you? All of it. The stuff you wake up every morning and pick up, like worry and fear. Instead, for today, pick up the Cross.

Carry just the Cross today. Nothing more.

The fears and stresses of today need not weigh you down as they once did. They should not become your idols of busy and pride. It’s difficult to put them down, but when we pick up the Cross instead we find the burden light in comparison-as there truly is no comparing them.

One thing you lack:
Go your way,
sell whatever you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven;
and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.
Mark 10:21 (NKJV)

It’s not easy. But it’s a decision for today you can make, to not pick up everything else. Just the Cross. Just for today.

Blank Space

Blank spaces can be exciting. Filling in your new married name…putting down the name you are giving a child…entering a new address….or even a new job occupation.  Reasons to be excited about a blank space.  But then there’s the blank cursor of a page. Or the blank dates in a calendar. The bare ring finger of a left hand. The quiet of an empty house.  All blank spaces that are painful and difficult. The stillness and quiet of something can be exciting and new or terrifying and lonely. We can look at the opportunity or see the bleak obstacle. I think both are equally worth pondering and also valuable in life. Each one having its own season of merit and definition in a life. I might be the only one but there are few more times that I am seeking to fill that page, with dialogue, action, adventure and life rather than allow the blank page to be bare. To sit and look at the openness with appreciation and the tension of the unknown. I want too much to push the words, the life, the filling of the blank space rather than be in it with myself. With God.  Blank space means that I have to be just me. With Him right there with me. That’s a scary and anxious place to find oneself sometimes all the time. Even when facing the good blank space,  not knowing (or being able to control) the outcome or what will fill it will always be a gamble. It will always mean that I have to relinquish what sense of control I thought I had in the filling of the blank space completely to Him. It means I stand there bare before Him giving over the pen, the hand, the heart and the mind for Him to do as He sees fit.  What a joy to realize. And what a frightening thing to live out. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t apprehensive of living in the blank space. But I am finding when I allow Him to come into that starched white area of life, in whatever season He is writing His name….and He’s been long doing it without my consent, this time I have handed it over willingly instead of fighting to put my own graffiti overtop of the prose He is writing that is my life.  So, sorry Taylor but the only name that will be written on this blank page will be God’s.

I Wonder

DSCN2329I love photography. I am not that great at it, but I absolutely love taking photos. Spending hours looking through them, finding ones that just grab at what my heart was saying in a moment. Sometimes you will catch me, if you are with me, staring up at angles or tree branches. It’s because I find myself in constant awe of the beauty of life.

Truly.

Like the photo above, I sat in a courtyard a few weeks ago just staring at the corner of this mansion in awe of the beauty of the day. Of the hands that made it, and the minds which were inspired to create it. It’s set against the contrast of a beautiful sky which the Maker swept His hand across. This photo, of what some would call a simple awning of a building, capture the awe of wonder for me.

DSCN2355“We get so preoccupied with ourselves, the words we speak, the plans and projects we conceive that we become immune to the glory of creation.”-Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

DSCN2446That captures so eloquently what I believe we are losing in life. We are losing wonder. What it means to wonder. What it means to be in awe. Even in our most based state, we lose it in ourselves because we are living into our flesh. It’s a preoccupation that is as old as the fall. It’s something we have to work against daily.

It is choosing to see the weeds and know they are good too. Knowing they serve as a reminder to us of a life lived in preoccupation, a life that needs to slow and be in wonder of Him more. It’s choosing awe in the face of mundane. It’s seeing wonder despite our schedules, our busyness. It’s pausing even for a moment to appreciate His work.

DSCN2401It’s asking Him for more wonder, and knowing He gives it freely.