3 Spiritual Resolutions I’m Working On

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I had mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was going to blog about three possible resolutions to pursue for 2014–here is the first!

Sadly, the word “resolutions” already seems like a word from the past, since it’s already February. In the past, I would have trailed off into my old habits by the end of January if I hadn’t made radical changes by this point.  Not this year!  We still have almost the whole year ahead of us to grow and thrive!  God gives us a new beginning EACH DAY to put the past behind us and take control of positive growth in our lives.

Today I want to share about spiritual resolutions and three ways I am trying to accomplish growth in my own life:

1.  Resolve to Put In Effort –yep, just do it!

In my relationships with friends and family, if I don’t move toward them and give at least an equal amount of effort the relationship struggles.  I often have to be intentional about those relationships–date nights with my husband, quality time with my kids, or coffee with my friends whose lives don’t so easily intersect with mine anymore.

It is the same with God–we need to be intentional in setting aside all the distractions of life and giving time to Him.

I don’t know about you, but it is extremely easy for me to get distracted as soon as I walk downstairs each morning in my fuzzy robe and slippers.  I have the full intention of sitting quietly by the fireplace with my bible and a steaming mug of coffee in my hands (just kidding, I don’t drink coffee, or tea for that matter) and all of a sudden I find myself with honey stuck to my fingers from the sandwich I hurriedly made, children shoving permission slips to be signed in front of me, frozen chicken to be thawed for dinner, a load of “emergency” laundry to be thrown in for the kids theme day at school, etc.

Not to mention the bright shiny distraction of the EMAIL INBOX.

The truth is, I must be intentional (and disciplined)  in how I want to grow–and use discipline to seek God first and my inbox later.  I need to plan into my busy schedule how to make time with God (quiet times, church, bible study)  a reality amongst the distractions.

In other words, I will not feel any closer to God through osmosis.

2. Discover God on His Terms, Not Ours.

The pastor at our church has challenged us on this way of thinking, which has been so enlightening!  Ask yourself this question:  “Is the bible about humans or God?”  Think about it.  Humans, you say?  After all, the bible is about the human experience with God, shared in heartbreaking and exhilarating stories.   But, Pastor Cuss explains that actually, the bible is about God.  It is about His character, His plan, and His will for humans.  It is about His desire for relationship with them and the sacrifices He made to make that possible.  God created humans to be in relationship with Him–not for Him to be in relationship with us….subtle difference, think about it.

As Christians we need to discover God on His terms (we are a part of His greater plan) not ours (He exists to help us with our plan). We need to remember that we are set apart for the purpose of glorifying God and to fulfill His will for the earth.

How does that become a resolution?  In my daily attitude, and my heart in seeking God.  Is it self-serving? Or do I  humbly surrender to God, asking Him to fulfill his plan in my life? I’m working on the latter.

3. Rinse, Wash Repeat.

Developing my spiritual habits come from repetition.  To have a time and a place each day for my quiet time (6:30 AM on the bean bags by my fireplace), gives me consistency and structure.  During this time I read my passages out of the Daily Bible, do part of my bible study for the week, and spend a few minutes in prayer.

I am the first to admit this does not always happen the way I would like.   As I mentioned earlier, there are many distractions that happen in the morning, and many days my younger two get up earlier than I’m expecting (during my quiet time)  to work on homework or go to school early for an extra-curricular activity.  So, I just try to get back on the horse the next day (when they actually stay asleep until 7:00).   The point is the pattern is established so I can get right back into it when the opportunity is there.

Whether it’s bible study, church, prayer, or listening to worship music, repetition is the key.  I know it is good for my soul and my closeness to God to walk with Him consistently.  As I “practice the presence of God” in my life, my attraction grows toward Him.

These three spiritual resolutions; putting in effort, discovering God on His terms, and rinsing, washing and repeating, help us to thrive in our spiritual lives each day! Let’s do it!

The next post will be on physical (health) resolutions and some tools I’ve found to help us keep those.

Blessings,

Amy

Your Future Self

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Yesterday I spent the morning in a business meeting.  It was a motivational meeting, one like you might experience if you were at a Tony Robbins seminar (although much much smaller).  The speaker, Scott, spent about an hour talking to us about where we would like to be in a year from now–our “future self.” The key word was “like” to be, not where we naturally would be.  You see, we naturally will be just an older version of ourselves in a year, because we are a machine of habits and limitations, as Scott pointed out.  We will keep doing what we always do, an object in motion that stays in motion unless something knocks it out of orbit.

So, Scott asked us to picture ourselves split in two–one self is who we are in a year if we just keep on doing what we always do–same habits, same patterns, same thoughts.  The other self is who we would be a year from now if we stepped out of our box, changed bad habits, fixed some relationships, took some risks, changed things up–all the time striving for the goal of being our best self.  We would do this by listening to our “personal trainer’s” voice.  Think the gym.  A personal trainer sees how we move then makes slight adjustments so that we are in our best form, and can get the most out of the work out.  The personal trainer in our head will help us make the proper changes to our lives so that we are moving toward the best “me” we can be.

Of course, as I sat in my chair listening these words of inspiration, which was focused on changing our financial lives, my mind translated everything he was saying to my spiritual life (when God is at the center of our soul, everything we see, do and hear filters into a spiritual dialect). What is keeping me from being my best spiritual self in a year from now?  If I believe that closeness with God equals peace and joy in my life, why wouldn’t I strive to get there?  Who doesn’t want peace and joy?  I can’t think of a single human.  Ask yourself these questions that I asked myself (I provided some general examples, and you can also fill in the blank)

What would my best “spiritual” self look like in a year?   (Close enough to God to hear his voice whisper in my ear, contentment with the path he has me on, sense of peace with my circumstances and relationships, ______________________________)

What habits would I need to change?  (less time on the computer, more  time in the bible, _________________________)

What new things would I need to do to break out of my box of habits and patterns in my walk with God?   (rearrange my hours in the day to set aside time for prayer, have a coffee date with God at Starbucks once a week, ________________________)

What negative thoughts about my walk with God do I need to release? (God can’t possibly love me because of my past mistakes, I’ll never be as good of a Christian as _______________, I can’t be forgiven for _____________)

In order to get to this “best spiritual self” we would need to listen to our personal trainer’s voice, which of course is God.  He will coach us through this process if we let him into our lives and ask him to help us evolve.  He will help us not be in the same place relationally with him that we are today.  But, we have to be willing to do this exercise of picturing where we want to be in a year from now.  What does that really look like for you?  I know I can become very complacent in my daily walk with God.  It becomes too comfortable.

The times in my life when I have experienced God to the full were times I took risks:  started a bible study in my sorority (scary!), worked at a Young Life Wilderness Camp for two summers where I was tempted and pushed to my physical and emotional limits, started a neighborhood bible study with ladies on my street who I barely knew (more scary!), etc.  Now, I think my risks would be letting go of some things I like to do first thing in the morning like checking email and instead opening the bible first. What risks would you be willing to take this next year to grow?  What small shifts in the 24 hours a day you are given would you be willing to take to become the best you that you can be?

Think about it….I am.

 

Bible Bites : Top Ten Ideas for New Hosts of a Small Group

Last summer I met with a few of my friends every Monday evening at Starbucks for a book club.  We all read The Hole In Our Gospel together.  It is now one of my all time favorite books.  It came with an Interactive Study Guide called The Hole In Our Gospel Six-Week Quest.  I loved the layout and thoughtful questions in this guide.  In the beginning of the guide it has some great tips on hosting a book club, small group or Bible Study.  If you are considering asking some friends to read a book or start a study together, way to go!  It takes courage to start a group!  Here is a bit of advice and encouragement for new hosts or a nice refresher for old hosts! 

Top Ten Ideas for New Hosts

 Congratulations!  As the host of your small group, you have responded to the call to help shepherd Jesus’ flock.  Few other tasks in the family of God surpass the contribution you will be making.

1.  Remember you are not alone.  God knows everything about you, and He knew you would be asked to facilitate your group.  Even thoughyou may not feel ready, this is common for all good hosts. God promises, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5 TEV). Whether you are facilitating for one evening, several weeks, or a lifetime, you will be blessed as you serve.

2.Others are there to help you. Pray right now for God to help you build a healthy team. If you can enlist a co-host to help you with the group, you will find your experience much richer. This is your chance to involve as many people as you can in building a healthy group. All you have to do is ask people to help. You’ll be surprised at the response.

3. Be friendly and be yourself. God wants to use your unique gifts and tempement. Be sure to greet people at the door with a big smile. This can set the mood for the whole gathering. Remember, they are taking as big a step to show up! Don’t try to do things exactly like another host; do them in a way that fits you. Admit when you don’t have an answer and apologize when you make a mistake. Your group will love you for it and you’ll sleep better at night.

4. Prepare for your meeting ahead of time. Review the sessions. Write done your responses to each question. Pay special attention to exercises that ask group members to do something other than engage in discussion. These exercises will help your group live what the Bible teaches, not just talk about it. Be sure you understand how an exercise works.

5. Pray for your group members by name. Before you begin you session, take a few moments and pray for each member by name. You may want to review the prayer list at least once a week. Ask God to use your time together to touch the heart of every person in your group. Expect God to lead you to whomever he wants you to encourage or challenge in a special way. If you listen, God will surely lead.

6. When you ask a question, be patient. Someone will eventually respond. Sometimes people need a moment or two of silence to think about the question. If silence doesn’t bother you, it won’t bother anyone else. After someone responds, affirm the response with a simple “thanks” or “great answer.” Then ask, “How about somebody else?” or “Would someone who hasn’t shared like to add anything?” Be sensitive to new people or reluctant members who aren’t ready to say, pray, or do anything. If you give them a safe setting, they will blossom over time. If someone in your group is a “wall flower” who sits silently through every session, consider talking to them privately and encouraging them to participate. Let them know how important they are to you — that they are loved and appreciated, and that the group would value their input.

7. Provide transitions between questions. Ask if anyone would like to read the paragraph or Bible passage. Don’t call on anyone, but ask for a volunteer, and then be patient until someone begins. Be sure to thank the person who reads aloud.

8. Break into smaller groups occasionally. With a greater opportunity to talk in a small circle, people will connect more with the study, apply more quickly what they’re learning, and ultimately get more out of their small group experience. A small circle also encourages a quiet person to participate and tends to minimize the effects of a more vocal or dominate member. Small circles are also helpful during prayer time. People who are unaccustomed to praying aloud will feel more comfortable trying it with just two or three others. Also, prayer requests won’t take as much time, so circles will have more time to actually pray. When you gather back with the whole group, you can have one person from each circle briefly update everyone on the prayer requests from their sub-groups. The other great aspect of sub-grouping is that it fosters leadership development. As you ask people in the group to facilitate discussion or to lead a prayer circle, it gives them a  small leadership step that can build their confidence.

9. Rotate facilitators occasionally. You may be perfectly capable of hosting each time, but you will help others grow in their faith and gifts if you give them opportunities to host the group.

10. One final challenge. Before your first opportuinty to lead, look up each of the passages listed below. Read each one as a devotional exercise to help prepare your heart. Matthew 9:36-38, John 10:14-15, 1 Peter 5:2-4, Philippians 2:1-5, Hebrews 10:23-25, 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, 11-12

From The Hole In Our Gospel Six-Week Quest 
Based on the book THE HOLE IN OUR GOSPEL, by Richard Stearns, President, World Vision U.S.,
Published in 2009 by Tomas Nelson, Inc.

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