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!

A Diamond in the Rough

A Diamond  in the Rough
Quartz

When our daughter was in Middle School she had an interest in rock collecting so for Christmas we gave her a rock tumbling machine. Her kit came with a small variety of geodes.  The machines they design for kids are very noisy and take what seems like an eternity to semi polish a stone. Geodes are rocks that are plain on the outside but can have beautiful crystals on the inside. These polished stones can be found at rock shops all over the country.

The world’s love of diamonds had its start in India, where diamonds were gathered from the country’s rivers and streams. Some historians estimate that India was trading in diamonds as early as the fourth century BC.  Today diamonds are plentiful compared to other precious gemstones and can be found all over the earth.

A diamond has to go through a lot before it reaches the jeweler’s display case. It forms deep in the earth under extreme heat and pressure. It’s ejected violently upward until it arrives at or near the earth’s surface. It’s forced from its hiding place by nature or by man. Then it’s cleaved and cut and polished until its natural beauty shines through.

World’s largest uncut diamond auctioned in 2016

Diamonds are then graded in four categories to measure value. First by Carat or it’s size and secondly by the Cut which displays the jewelers skill in making the stone sparkle. The next grade is grade for lack of Color, clear being the best . All diamonds have an inclusion or tiny unique imperfection developed when it was forming , like a birthmark, which determines Carity. The Master Jeweler can tell the difference between a diamond and quartz and sees the microscopic details within.

Industry statistics indicate that approximately one ton of earth has to be moved for every one carat of diamond that is mined, so in the case of the 1.60 carat diamond about 4.25 tons of earth were moved… That’s a lot of dirt for a tiny rock. (from pricescope.com) Only 30% of diamonds mined are used for jewelry the rest are used in industry for drilling, grinding and cutting among other uses.

We are all like a “diamond in the rough”. He sees our imperfections and knows our value and uniqueness. He already knew all about us before we were born and has a purpose for our lives.

Psalm 139:15–16 (ESV)
15My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.16Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

God is Sovereign and wants to mold us into the person we should be. But like a potter with a lump of clay, we are a work in progress. Some people require a lot more “dirt” to be removed before moving on to the next step but that too is part of the process. (sorry no verses for cutting a diamond)

Jeremiah 18:2–4 (ESV)
2“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

When we are going through difficult circumstances of any kind it is easy to question what God is doing. But He ultimately desires the best for us. He will use the pressure of trials to help us grow in faith and resilience. We will shine brighter in our testimony because He puts the sparkle of love, joy and peace into our lives.

Zechariah 13:9 (ESV)
9And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are m
y people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ ”



Seeds of Potential

Seeds of Potential

There is a bumper crop of apples in New England this year.  The too hot and too wet weather for people was great for the fruit trees.  Each seed has potential for life and growth and an abundant harvest. Each apple has the potential to be used in a lot of ways….eating, baking pies, muffins, pastries, making cider, applesauce, decorating and the list goes on.  An apple tree takes eight years of growing before it will bear any fruit and then varying amounts each year. How many apples will there be in its lifetime?

IMG_0909

Did you know that apples are not native to the US? They were introduced to North America in the 17th century by European colonists and their descendants.   Most stories about the American folk hero John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, are more fiction than fact.  Born in  Massachusetts, he planted apple orchards as far as the Midwest. He  never married, lived a very simple life and shared the message of God’s love to everyone including native Indian tribes.

The word potential means, “ having latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness”.   Synonyms for potential are possibilities, prospects, promise, capability and capacity.

The Bible tells us that most of the twelve disciples were hard working but uneducated men.  They were trying hard to understand and follow Jesus’ teaching but questioned how they could possibly do what He asked.   5  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.         Luke 17:5-6 (ESV)

We serve a God with Whom nothing is impossible.   When the Hebrews were taken out of Egypt – God parted the Red Sea.  When David faced off against the giant Goliath – God took him down with a stone and a slingshot.  When Daniels friends refused to bow to the kings statue  – God rescued them from the fiery furnace.   Jesus fed 5000 people with only a little boys lunch.  

 For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37 (NLT)

Since we don’t have any mustard trees in New England, can I use the term “apple seeds of faith”?  Is your faith as small as an apple seed?  Every person has potential and so does each day. We need to find our gifts and abilities to develop and use them by reading the Bible – God’s manual and by talking to the Master Gardener.   Every day we are given new opportunities and choices to share our faith with a lost and hurting world.   Just think of all the possibilities!           

Whatever circumstance you may face today ask God to show you the potential within and take a small step forward even with “faith like an apple seed”.

 
 

Are You a Blessing or a Basketcase?

Are You a Blessing or a Basketcase?

basket-artI have a very large “collection” of baskets in my home and I don’t even know where most of them came from!  Some are from gift or flower baskets and some have a more specific purpose like my Longaberger pie basket. My baskets are varied in sizes, shapes and colors. I have used part of my collection to visually share that we are uniquely designed by God for a purpose. We have different abilities, backgrounds, spiritual gifts and talents.

The term basket-case comes from WW1 British English, indicating a soldier missingstress-collage both his arms and his legs, who needed to be literally carried in a litter or “basket”.In common slang it is used to mean one made powerless or ineffective, as by nerves, panic or stress.

On the other hand a blessing can mean:  1.some kind of divine or supernatural aid, or reward. 2. good fortune   3.a thing one is glad of

The account of Jesus feeding the 5000 is in all 4 gospels but John gives us a little more detail.  “Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him 4 (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.)5 Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”6 He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.7 Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to fishandbreadfeed them!”8 Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up.9 “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”10 “Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered 5,000.)11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted.12 After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.”13 So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.”    John 6:3-13 (NLT)

I’m asking you, “What’s in your basket?”  You may feel like you don’t have much to offer but Jesus asks us to give whatever we have back to Him. He especially delights in using the broken fragments of our lives to help hungry, hurting people. When we are willing to do that, nothing is ever wasted.

So are you a blessing or a basket case? Are you totally incapacitated by apathy, some pain in your life, fear or stress? Give it all to Him and let Him heal your wounded heart. God designed each one of us with a void in our lives that can only be filled by Him.  Are you using your gifts and abilities for God? God created you in a unique way – one of a kind – and you were made for a purpose. I encourage you not to hide your abilities under a “basket” but instead find a way you can serve Him and others!

 

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Seeds of Potential

Seeds of Potential

WP_20150927_001Did you know that apples are not native to the US? They were introduced to North America in the 17th century by European colonists and their descendents.  My daughter lives in Leominster, MA -the birthplace of John Chapman the folk hero known as Johnny Appleseed.  It’s a really big deal. They have a Johnny Appleseed Festival in town every year. Most stories about the American folk hero are more fiction than fact. He really did plant apple orchards as far as the Midwest. He also never married, lived a very simple life and shared the message of God’s love to everyone including native Indian tribes.

An apple tree takes eight years of growing before it will bear any fruit. That’s a long time to wait while tending, watering and protecting the sapling before it produces anything. Then each year that tree will yield a varying amount of apples for many years to come.  How many apples in its lifetime?

IMG_0909

I keep a sign in my kitchen over the door frame and it reads:  “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple but only God can count the apples in a seed.”  Each seed has potential for life and growth and an abundant harvest. Each apple has the potential to be used in a lot of ways….eating, baking pies, muffins, pastries, making cider, applesauce, decorating and the list goes on.

The word potential means, “ having latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness”.   Synonyms for potential are possibilities, prospects, promise, capability and capacity.

The Bible tells us that most of the twelve disciples were hard working but uneducated men.  They were trying hard to understand and follow Jesus’teaching but questioned how they could possibly do what He asked.         5  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.         Luke 17:5-6 (ESV)

Since we don’t have any mustard trees in New England, can I use the term “apple seeds of faith”?  Is your faith as small as an apple seed? When you go apple picking this season, take joy in His creation all around you.  I hope you know that God has a purpose and a plan for each of our lives. Every person has potential and so does each day. We need to find our gifts and abilities to develop and use them by reading the Bible – God’s manual and praying – or talking to the Master Gardener.   Every day we are given new opportunities and choices.  Just think of all the possibilities!           apple pie

Change or growth doesn’t happen overnight, nor can it usually be seen….just like the sapling. Sometimes we don’t see any “fruit” or results. That’s okay. Ask God to show you the potential within and take a small step forward even with “faith like an apple seed”.

 I AM A PROMISE
  I am a promise, I am a possibility
I am a promise, with a capital “P”
I am a great big bundle of potentiality.
And I am learning, to hear God’s voice
And I am trying to make the right choices,
          I’m a promise to be—anything God wants me to be.

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Why blog?    Good question!
God has impressed upon my heart to share short devotionals on a bi-weekly basis. My goal is to share observations from scripture, nature, and my own experiences with you, my friends and readers. I hope you will enjoy this journey with me and that it will cause you to pause and reflect on God’s Sovereignty and faithfulness.

Stay tuned…I look forward to having this site up in the fall.