No More Resolutions, Excuses and Regrets

No More Resolutions, Excuses and Regrets

I stopped making a “new years’ resolution” several years ago because they just didn’t stick. We all know in January the gyms are full and so are Weight Watchers and other dieting programs. Memberships start to dwindle in March. (I know, I have tried several gyms but I don’t enjoy going to the gym…) The intentions are good but often the goals are fuzzy or not worth the effort to follow through.

The noun resolution has a few related meanings having to do with being firmly determined about something. If you lack determination, you’ll never fulfill your New Year’s resolutions. . If you approach a task with resolution, you do it with determination. And if you make a resolution, you make a firm decision to do something or meet some goal. ( from vocabualry.com)

Because many of our resolutions are just wishful thinking, what follows is a terrible cycle of excuses with all the reasons to justify why we quit moving forward and even going backwards. This in turn can lead to regret if we do not learn from the experience. The Bible refers to regret as a way for Satan to get inside you mentally. Regret can be devastating if we don’t keep it in check. The apostle Paul addressed the root of the problem.

Romans 7:15–25 (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language)
What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.

How can we fortify our resolve to be better, do better? First we need to recognize our strengths and weaknesses before making plans. It is all too easy to let the tyranny of the urgent to take over. The newest crisis or “important” activity bumps what we know we should do. Sometimes I find myself living by the boxes on my calendar without leaving margins for health and soul care if I don’t prioritize and ask for God’s help.

We all need to begin the new year and every new day with a the right attitude for a fresh start.

Psalm 51:10 (ESV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold (sustain) me with a willing spirit. ( NIV reads : renew a steadfast spirit within me)

Philippians 4:13 (ESV) I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Psalm 37:5 (ESV) Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.

Instead of making a “resolution” try to form specific goals for the month or year. Ask yourself how important each goal is. What will it take to start moving in a positive direction to reach the goal? What are some action steps to take? How long will the goal really take to complete or see a difference? This is a more thoughtful process to get things accomplished. Blessings are in the new year my friends if we look to Him for guidance, discernment and determination.

A riddle for the new year: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

My “What-Ifs” Went Over the Bridge

My “What-Ifs” Went Over the Bridge

Traveling over the Tappen-Zee bridge I symbolically threw all my “what-ifs” over the railing. That was a long time ago but I still remember it vividly. There comes a time in all of our lives when we need to deal with the things we hold on to that never happened.  Past plans, dreams or maybe lost opportunities can resurface in our minds and cause discontentment in our heart.

Tapnzee-cuomo-bridge_2

We were heading south to visit some dear friends. Paul was driving and our young children were buckled in the back with kids music playing on the radio. We traveled Rte. 95 with all of its twists and turns.  As we went through Bridgeport I saw two of the hospitals where I interviewed as a graduate nurse….but I was never meant to work there.  A twinge in my heart wondered, “what if” I had worked in the Cardiac unit I was hired for? “What if” we had moved to Connecticut? “What if”???

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.         Jer 29:11 (NLT)

My life took a very different path.  I had major surgery right after graduation that took awhile to heal and my now husband had changed jobs to one in Boston.  I ended up training for the Operating room in MA, a career  I have loved for over 34 years.  We bought a nice home and met awesome people at church who are now life-long friends. We were much closer for our children to be loved and spoiled by their grandparents.  Life was different from my simple “what ifs”  but in a good way!

Is it wrong to think back and wonder? Not really. But for me they created a little wedge of discontentment, a feeling that I had missed out on something. It was wrong thinking because I haven’t missed anything – I have enjoyed all that God did have in store for me and my family!

As we passed over the bridge I silently prayed,  “God take all my “what-ifs” because You call me to live in the present and not hold on to the past. Your plan is better than I could ever imagine. Don’t let me feel any regrets or false yearning but contentment instead.” And over the bridge they went.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.         Phil 4:8 (NLT)

Seeds of discontent and comparison should have no room in my heart. Instead I will make the choice to count my blessings. I will choose gratitude and praise towards God for His faithfulness and provision for all of my needs. Satan still uses the same old tactics he used in the Garden when he told Eve that God was withholding something good.  So the next time he whispers in my ear, I’ll tell him to jump off the bridge.

 

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A Clean Sweep

A Clean Sweep

A new year is upon us and I find the need to clean or clean-out.  It’s not the same as “spring cleaning” or fall “harvest and prepare for winter” cleaning but it is a type of renewal.  The beginning of a new year gives a chance to look back at the accomplishments and struggles of last year and look forward to the new and hopefully better one. I change the calendar, the checkbook register and get a new “planner”. My husband and I sit down and discuss home improvements needed, taxes and vacations… but not at the same time!

_20180126_094451 (1)January is known for its “white sales” – new appliances, linens and storage containers.  There are all kinds of magazine articles, books and Pinterest ideas on de-cluttering and getting organized. And of course there are many new years’ resolutions made because we want to do better. Everyone has some area of their life that they want to work on. As to house cleaning, we deal with daily and weekly messes on a regular basis but occasionally we have to do some deeper cleaning.

Being inside more due to the weather, I tend to re-organize the pantry – the kitchen junk drawer is a mess – and how can those spices be outdated? But rarely do I make it to the hidden areas of the house like under the bed, the spare closet, the attic or the boxes of old papers. If it isn’t seen – it doesn’t bother me. But it won’t go away on its own. That takes time and real determination.

 

DSC_0927 (1)We also need to deal with the messy areas of our lives.  It’s easy to ask God to forgive us for “little sins” of omission or commission. But what if we are honest and go a little deeper?  There are hidden sins of the heart like when we try to hide a wrong-doing. If we let a grudge turn into bitterness or shame turn into fear, it affects our hearts and minds. We can try to justify our feelings and actions – but that doesn’t bring peace of mind. It started in the Garden of Eden and continues to this day. Adam and Eve disobeyed, lied about it and then played the blame game.

The Bible has a lot to say about unclean hearts.  God sees and knows it all and yet we often try to sweep our “stuff” under the rug.

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you Psalms 69:5 (ESV)

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

Only God can wash our hearts from all the hurts and hang-ups. He says come – let me remove the “dirt” and cleanse you from the inside out. God desires to restore a right relationship with Him and promises us a new beginning. Even if something seems impossible to forgive (like trying to get red ink out of a white shirt) nothing is impossible with God.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.       Psalms 103:11-12 (ESV)

prayer in church

Start the New Year off by spending time in prayer and reflection. Let’s open up the closet of our heart and ask God to do a deep cleaning. Sometimes that deep cleaning takes a long time because first we need to recognize our fears, failures and faults in order to let Him work in our hearts. The process isn’t easy but it is freeing and satisfying. Let this prayer of David be yours :

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.        Psalms 51:6-10 (ESV)

 

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