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New Life Resolutions

“I hate new year’s resolutions,” the man said to his wife with a gravelly, sneering tone that conveyed absolute contempt for the annual tradition. In five forceful words he made his feelings known. Convincing him to change his mind would have been a waste of time – a fact his wife must have known because she didn’t even try. Silence followed the man’s statement and the conversation abruptly ended.

The exchange that unfolded between the man and his wife is a common new year’s scene. People tend to either love or hate new year’s resolutions. The pro-resolution crowd believes it is good to at least make an effort to better one’s self. The anti-resolution crowd says it’s a silly tradition especially since 80% of resolutions fail.

Resolution haters have a point. Every year like clockwork the resolution resolve that was so strong on New Year’s Day wanes by Martin Luther King’s holiday and is ancient history by Valentine’s. After a few slip ups (and who doesn’t slip up?) the resolution feels more burdensome than beneficial. The promises made get trapped in the ruts of life and rarely do they make it out before December 31st.

New Year’s resolutions have earned their bad rap. They have a horrible track record for producing lasting change which is why this year I’m promoting a whole new kind of resolution: A New Life Resolution. A promise to make a spiritual change with eternal significance.

My new life resolution for 2019 and beyond is to pursue Christ…and nothing else.

For my entire life (up until now) I have pursued Christ AND something else. Christ and education…health….a miracle healing modality…a career…a killer business idea…a calling…a livelihood….a passion….a purpose. I believed it was acceptable to seek what this world has to offer while still honoring God.

Turns out I was wrong.

Seeking the world’s offerings made me more like a frenetic squirrel than a faithful follower of Christ. Like a wild, bushy tailed animal that scurries up every tree in search of a tantalizing nutty treat, I frantically searched for purpose and usefulness in this world. I thought if I could just find the right tree bearing the treat I’d be happier, more content and fulfilled.

What I’ve discovered is that I can’t pursue the world in addition to Christ. The result is a life of dissatisfaction, confusion and distraction. Balancing two lives, one lived for God and one lived for the world, doesn’t work. God requires my full, undivided attention be given to knowing Christ and making Him known.

In order to fully obey and glorify God I must put an end to my frantic search for a place in this world. I must surrender my former life of dual quests so I can live exclusively in pursuit of Jesus – His way, His truth and His life.

As I embark on my new life resolution it is important to acknowledge that the key to success does not rest in my own power. If I bank on my own resolve I am doomed to fail as miserably as most new year’s resolutions. The only hope I have of realizing my resolution is to rest in the truth and assurance of Christ’s resurrection. All the strength I need is available at the foot of His cross and to receive it I must stay put, resisting the temptation to be the squirrel that goes scampering off after every distraction. I must continue in the way of obedience, constantly surrendering myself to Jesus and God’s will for my life.

Jesus said in Luke 9:24 that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” With the Savior of the world as my sole pursuit in this world I have no idea what the year ahead will bring but I know who will bring it. And knowing Him is enough for me.

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My Grown Up Thanksgiving List

Out with the old and in with the new…traditions that is.

This Thanksgiving I’m instituting a new tradition and I think it could catch on: The Thanksgiving list.

My thanksgiving list could go on forever because, as the saying goes, there is always something to be thankful for. From the bed I woke up in to the family that will fill the dinner table tonight for a feast, my life is full of blessings that give me an abundance of reason to over flow with daily thanksgiving.

So, without further ado, this is my grown-up Thanksgiving List:

1.     Redemption.

I was once a lost, rebellious, hideous sinner. My life was marked by bad decisions and double-minded wickedness. But God saved me and on November 2, 2009 I received new life in Christ and a fresh new start. On that fateful day Jesus rescued me from myself and redeemed me with Himself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the day I received God’s free gift of salvation was the best day of my life.

2.     Forgiveness.

I mess up daily, if not hourly. Although I constantly fall short God is always full of second chances. He keeps picking me back up, brushing me off and giving me the opportunity to try, try again.

3.     Strength (and weakness).

Becoming intimately acquainted with my weakness by way of chronic illness has introduced me to the limitless depth of God’s strength. Every time I surrender in weakness it is an invitation that welcomes God in so He can effortlessly lift me up by His almighty, strong and powerful hand.

4.     Grace.

“Amazing Grace” has always been my favorite hymn and with good reason. It tells the story of my life. “I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.” By grace through faith in Jesus Christ I have been given new life.

5.     New mornings.

Every sunrise is an opportunity to wake up, get up and start again.

6.     Healing.

God is the healer of the body and the soul and I am thankful for both. Last year at this time I was a shocking 65 pounds; a walking skeleton, uncertain of what the future held for my health. Wow, it is truly amazing what a year can do. Although my journey to full health isn’t over yet the healing I’ve experienced in the past year is a miracle. I am alive! That in and of itself is a miracle. I am regaining function in parts of my body that were either dead or dying. At the same time God has been doing a work on the inside, restoring hope, peace and joy to my soul. God works from the inside out, healing on deeper levels than I ever imagined possible.

7.     Church family.

This year more than ever before I am aware of what a precious gift it is to be a part of a faithful body of believers and so appreciative for the incredible prayers warriors who intercede on behalf of one another. I am always stunned by how many dear brothers and sisters in the Lord are praying for me and pleading with God for my continued healing and renewed health. I cannot say thank you enough.

8.     Eternal assurance.

I have no doubt about what comes after this life. After I leave earth I’m going to Heaven. End of story. That part of my journey is not a mystery because I am a child of the King and know that one day I will cross through the pearly gates and spend eternity with God.

9.     Pain with a purpose.

I’ll admit that I am slow to be thankful for pain. Naturally, I tend to have the opposite reaction while assaulted by gripping pain in my gut, burning in my eyes, or spasms in my legs. Instead of rejoicing I want to escape but when I consider my circumstances through a spiritual lens my agony drenched tears are replaced with abundant thankfulness because my pain has an eternally profitable purpose: to pull me closer to Jesus Christ, to make me wholly dependent on the Holy Spirit and to draw me into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.

10.  Love.

The greatest gift of all is the love of God poured out on the cross of Christ. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” I am alive today – both physically and spiritually – because of the love of God that will not let me go. God lavishly showers me with love through His Word, His Spirit and the people He has put around me.

 

Although this list is not exhaustive it is foundational. My abundance of thanksgiving is rooted in this list because every good gift, from the love of family to the comforts of home, comes from above and springs forth from the fountain of everlasting life.

 

Have you written a Thanksgiving list? I’d love to hear what you’re most thankful for.

Share in the comments below!

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Jesus, take the pen

For the past few months I’ve been fighting every writer’s arch nemesis: the dreaded dry spell.

Every time I sit down to write a prolific, enlightened word my fingers freeze up and mind draws a blank. Even when compelled to share a particular message the words don’t come out right. The moment my fingers hoover over the keyboard my thoughts evaporate. I hit the keys, racking my brain for the right words but it’s useless. The dry spell has me in its clutches and I’ve been unable to escape.

Being caught in the arid land of a writing dry spell has caused me to experience great grief. For eight years, writing has been a rich source of joy in my life. While experiencing loneliness, isolation and loss, writing has been a much-needed buoy for my ailing soul. When chronic illness closed doors and changed the course of my life, picking up a pen provided me with purpose.

But, more importantly, writing has been my lifeline. As I’ve struggled through sickness, God has used writing as a means to communicate with me and fill me with His strength. Through writing God has reached down and lifted me up from the depths of despair.

Although I didn’t write about it at the time, over the past few years I have experienced severe depression. At my lowest points I have truly wanted to die and a desire I shared with my Mother on numerous occasions. Plagued by the ongoing agony and pain of chronic illness my will to live has been threatened. Physical affliction has compelled me to plead with God and ask Him to release me from my suffering – if not by instantaneous healing then by the escape of death.

But God didn’t give me what I asked for. He didn’t let me die nor did He heal me in an instant. But God didn’t abandon me, either. Every time I fell into the pit of hopelessness and begged for death He gave me what I needed most: an infusion of hope.

God carried me through the darkest periods of my life by giving me one command: get up and write. He used writing as a lifeline to fill me with overcoming life and encourage me with truth. When depression broke me and brought me to the end of myself God grabbed hold of me using a pen and a blank page. Over and over again He has reached down and guided my hand to write a message of perseverance and endurance when I needed it most. To save my life and rescue me from the brink of despair Jesus has truly taken my pen.

In the past few months my body has experienced remarkable healing, much less pain and an improvement in overall health. With the physical improvements have come emotional improvements too. My bouts of depression have become less frequent and less severe while my daily pain levels have been greatly reduced.

But the physical renewal has had ill effects on my writer’s life. Without a need for ongoing, moment-by-moment emotional support my ability to formulate thoughts has dried up. The healing of my body has resulted in a barren season in my writer’s soul.

And I know why.

I’m in a dry spell because for the past eight years most of my writing has been about suffering, affliction and pain. Sickness has been the story of my life – the one ’ve been equipped and compelled to write. But my body is healing now. I’m physically stronger than I was and I’m thankful for that.

The dry spell I’m experiencing is not truly a writer’s dry spell. it is a sickness dry spell. All of these years I have depended on the thorn in my flesh to draw me to the throne of God. I have relied on physical suffering for inspiration and illumination. But physical sorrow isn’t the only reason to write. Pain and suffering is not the only reason to ask Jesus to take my pen and fill the page.

Praise God, I am not spiritually dry. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit is alive and well in my life, compelling me to continue writing and praying, “Jesus take the pen.”