Making a Difference in 2011

I love the week between Christmas and New Years Day. I love the fresh start, clean slate, second chance, new season, do-over feeling that New Year expectations bring. The start of another year is definitely the time for New Beginnings.

I’ve been thinking about how to make a difference in 2011 . How about you? Are you looking for anything more or different in any area of your life in 2011? Do you want to be the same person you were in 2010 or do you want to learn and grow and change? Do you desire to have, to do, and to be something more – someone better? I know I do.

My husband is a goal setter and planner. There are three things I’ve learned from him…
Going with the flow will always take you downstream.
A pile of lumber in the yard never becomes a house.
Nothing will change in my life until I change.

In other words, 2011 will only be a great year if we decide today to make it so. All the potential in the world won’t make it so. Wanting it more than we’ve ever wanted anything won’t make it so.

The only way to make 2011 count is…
An intentional decision to possess, accomplish or become something more, something different, or something better.
Specific goals by which changes can and will be measured.
Clear and definitive written plans to reach the goals and
A commitment to immediate and continuing action to execute that plan starting today.

Here are five prerequisites that will keep us on track as we dream, set goals, and plan for 2011.

First… Ask God what he wants from you.

I urge you therefore, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. ~ Romans 12:1

Present yourself to God in prayer. Ask him what he wants from you this year. God speaks most clearly to those who are ready to listen. Usually, we must commit to obey before God will speak.

Second… Pay attention to who God created you to be.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place – when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. ~ Psalm 139:13-16

God knows everything about us; more than we know about ourselves. Ask him to help you discover the specific purposes for which he has hard-wired you. We all love and serve God best by loving and serving people. But each of us are created and called to do it differently. Pay attention to the blueprint of how God has uniquely shaped you for loving and serving people.

Third… Remove the obstacles before you begin.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. ~ Hebrews 12:1

You know your weak spots. Take steps to eliminate them. Get creative. Think outside the box. Don’t set impossible goals and don’t ignore the things that you already know will hinder and encumber you. Keep it real. Ask for help.

Fourth… Commit fully and engage immediately.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. ~ Ecclesiastes 9:10

Say what you will do and do what you say. Make a commitment and get started. Conditions will never be perfect. A good plan aggressively executed today is better than a perfect plan executed sometime next week.

Fifth… Stand strong against the fear of failure.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. ~ Joshua 1:9

The fear of failure keeps many people from starting. Fear is a powerful foe. Don’t let it stop you. The essence of courage is feeling the fear and moving forward in spite of it. Besides, failing is not failure. Not trying is the only true failure. I like my husband’s motto, “If you’re going to go down, go down in flames.”

2011 will not be a great year just because we want it to be great. Don’t let the clock strike midnight tonight without completing your plan to make a difference in 2011.

Happy New Year and may God Bless each of you.

The Nativity

The Christmas tree is perfect. Colorful lights hang from the eaves and sparkle merrily from the trees in our yard. There is a small choir of blow up snowmen caroling near the deck next to an animated reindeer. A row of super-sized candy canes lines the sidewalk and magically illumines the path for Santa to make his way to our house.

I love Christmas decorations – especially the kind that light up when you plug them in and this wonderfully creative homage to the traditions of Christmas makes me happy. But as I step back and survey our winter wonderland display, I notice that something is terribly wrong with this picture. Something’s missing.

Where is the nativity? How does baby Jesus fit into all of this? Is there still a place for the Christ child of Christmas who is after all, the reason for the season? Why is the hope of a hopeless world missing from his “holy day” celebration? If Immanuel means “God with us,” where is he? In the profound words of a seven year-old boy visiting Santa at the mall, “Where’s the line for Jesus?”

As I pondered these questions, I realized that none of us are immune from the powerful influence of the world in which we live. We are often unaware of our tendency to avoid “politically incorrect” references to God, Jesus, and all things religious – even at Christmas. And that’s what is wrong with this picture.

God sent his only son to earth to reconcile us to himself and provide salvation from the penalty of sin to those who had rejected him (you and me). Jesus Christ, the Son of God was born of a virgin and entered our world as a tiny babe with no place to lay his head but on a bed of straw in a manger.

He lived an exemplary life without sin and died a criminal’s death he didn’t deserve after being falsely accused and convicted. His cruel and painful crucifixion paid the death penalty for my sin (and yours) and his resurrection from the dead three days later provided us with new life – a second chance, clean slate, do-over.

The cost of this amazing gift – a simple yet heartfelt step of faith – a choice to believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness of sin and new life he offers.

As a society, we continue to marginalize God and remove his fingerprints from all aspects of public life. At the same time, a growing sense of hopelessness, helplessness, emptiness, isolation, futility, fear, death, and despair overwhelms us and strips meaning and purpose from our lives.

The “good news of great joy for people everywhere” is a much-needed message in 21st century America. For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given. Unto us is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. His name shall be Immanuel – God with us.

The Story of the Four Candles

The Four Candles burned slowly. Their ambiance was so soft you could hear them speak.

The first candle said, "I am Peace but these days, nobody wants to keep me lit." Then the flame of Peace slowly diminished and went out completely.

The second candle said, "I am Faith but these days, I am no longer indispensable." Then the flame of Faith slowly diminished and went out completely.

Sadly the third candle spoke, "I am love and I haven't the strength to stay lit any longer. People put me aside and don't understand my importance. They even forget to love those nearest to them." And waiting no longer, love went out completely.

Suddenly, a child entered the room and saw the three candles no longer burning. The child began to cry. "Why are you not burning?" You are supposed to stay lit until the end.

Then the fourth candle spoke gently to the child. "Don't be afraid, for I am Hope and while I still burn, we can relight the other candles." With shining eyes, the child took the candle of Hope and lit the other three candles.

Never let the flame of Hope go out. With Hope in your life, no matter how bad things may be, Peace, Faith, and Love may shine brightly once again.

~ Author unknown

While I have used this particular piece in one of my earlier blogs I thought it was worth a repeat.

Merry Christmas everyone!