Wednesday, December 30

Lose the List & Pick a Word

Tis that time of year where we reflect upon the current year and look ahead towards the coming year. We look at the things we've accomplished, the happy moments, the hard times that continued to mold and shape us...and we look at the upcoming year with anticipation and hope.
For me, 2015 was a year of some of the things I love best:
Crossfit. Yoga. Travel. Dance. Fellowship and Faith with Friends.

As I look forward to 2016, I have a heart of anticipation and wonder at what God will call me to do, what doors He will open, and what He will bring me through. (John 14:1 Don't let your heart be troubled, trust in God). 

Although my 2015 was full of highlights there were low points. There were hard things to walk through, friendships I had to let go, peoples loved ones who passed away, unanswered questions, fights, angry tongues that flew, disappointments and failures. I made goals and promises that I didn't keep (to myself and others) but I survived it, made it through and here I stand at the end of 2015. I promise you we all will face troubles and hardships in 2016... that is hopefully not a shock to any of you; but what can we do to ensure that God can use us for His best in 2015? What can we do today to ensure that one-year-from-now, we can recall on 2016 and be like "Wow, God was in that. He was in that mess. He was in that victory. He really has shown me...."? 

I think it starts with a simple list: throw out that list and pick a word.

Lose the list of resolutions we shove to the back of our mind come late winter. Yeah we all want to be happier, be healthier, lose weight, spend more time with friends and family, quit a bad habit, learn a new hobby, save more, spend less, travel, get organized, be less stressed, live life to the fullest, stop procrastinating, declutter and spend less time on social media. Sound like a familiar list? Yeah. I used to have a few of those items dashed across the imaginary paper in my head of 'New Years Resolutions'. How many of those 'came true'? Well if I had to write a list today, I'd say a lot of those would still appear on my list which makes me ask- Are these even obtainable goals? Are they quantifiable? Eh. Instead of getting stuck in the cycle of list making and resolution breaking, several years ago I started doing something different. I threw out the list and picked a word.

Pastor Mike Ashcraft, the pastor of the church I attended in college Port City Community in Wilmington North Carolina, would always preach a sermon at the end of the year about MY ONE WORD. A few years later he took his sermons, thoughts and prayers and published the book, My One Word. To put it briefly, Pastor says instead of focusing on this list of things you may or may not be able to obtain, pick one word to inspire you throughout the year. "Choose just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year". 

Great- sounds good but how do you pick just one word? Pastor Ashcraft has some simple steps to help you narrow down a couple million word choices to just one. Ask yourself, what kind of person do you want to become this year? Identify the characteristics and qualities of that person. Is that person slow to anger? Is that person outspoken? Is that person generous? This should help get your mind flowing on qualities, characteristics and words that can help inspire you in 2016. Check out the website for some great jumping off points:



Chose your word. Write it down. Focus on that word. How can you apply it to your daily life? What do you want to see at the end of the year? I had a friend who chose the word 'carefree' one year because she was always worrying and stressing. So on a notecard she wrote the word CAREFREE on one side and a Bible verse she could read when she found her mind wondering down the road of distress. In the end she had to tape notecards in the kitchen, her bathroom, the car, her office.... and she worked at it for a whole year. Not saying it was like snap-your-fingers-everythings-perfect, but she really did become stronger in her faith by trusting God with the little things and when she was stressed or anxious she could turn to God for comfort. 

So who do you want to become in 2016? What qualities or characteristics do you want to grow or bolster in this next year? Pray about it! Ask God what He wants to show you. Open your heart because you'd be amazed at what God will do if you only let Him. 

Happy 2015 and a Blessed 2016 Everybody! 

Wednesday, December 23

The Promise of Possibility

The promise of possibility

Life can be incredibly overwhelming. Daunting and exhausting, deadlines loom in our face reminding us of all the things we still need to accomplish. If you're like me, the post-it note and iPhone note lists go on and on even when the light of day disappears. It's easy to look down at your list and think "This is impossible, I'll never get all of this done in time!".

Life can be hard. We face hardships and trials. Financial struggles, relationship issues, problems at work. How often do you look around and think "I don't think I can do this. What am I going to do?"

Life can get complicated. We take on too much. We don't learn to say no. We attempt something and fail. Do you ever just want to throw your hands up and give up, "it's impossible" running through your mind?

Jesus replied "What is impossible with men is possible with God"
 Luke 18:27

I'd venture to say most of us have heard the Christmas story. Mary, a virgin girl, becomes pregnant with a baby boy. She travels to Bethlehem with her husband Joseph to register in their 'hometown' of sorts. While she's there, she goes into labor but no one has room for her and Joseph to have the baby. With no other options, they settle into a manger and she gives birth to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. A Star shines brightly over Bethlehem causing shepherds and wise men from across the land to seek and search for this star. They arrive and bow down to this new born baby, the Savior of the world. 

It's a great story, right? The humble beginnings of the greatest King to ever grace this earth, lowly and quiet. But this morning as I was reading through my Advent devotional I was struck by the strength of Mary and the miraculous power of the Lord. When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Mary and told her that God had chosen Mary to carry His son, her response was:

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 

In modern translation she's basically like "What?! That's impossible since I'm a virgin". It's got to be hard to wrap your mind around the fact that you're not only going to have a baby but the son of God.

I am plagued by the thought that things are just not possible, that there's no way I can do something, that X is too hard, Y is too much, and Z…well I can't handle that. But God tells us in so many areas of the Bible that what is impossible with men is possible with God….that we can do all things through Christ. As I read through the Christmas story another time, I was struck by the idea of something being so impossible and unfathomable was completely possible and capable with the help of God.

The Bible is laden with accounts of God doing miraculous things, things that seemed impossible at the time but were completely possible with His help.  
Impossible: escaping Egypt and the Pharaoh's brutality
Possible: with God's help, He led them out of Egypt
Impossible: crossing over the Red Sea
Possible: God split the sea for them to walk
Impossible: Thousands of hungry people and not enough food
Possible: God provided fish and bread tenfold to the masses
Impossible: one young man taking down a giant
Possible: God provided David the strength to fight His battle
Impossible: A virgin to get pregnant
Possible: God chose Mary and blessed her with strength to give birth

All of these scenarios seem impossible at the moment. It's unheard of, it's too much to wrap your mind around but it is the truth. God promises to do the impossible in our lives, we just have to wait and seek His counsel. God can do ANYTHING He wants; He can move mountains and rebuild broken homes, so surely whatever you're facing right now- remember that everything is possible with God if you just believe. What is impossible with man is possible with God, so whatever you're going through right now just remember there is a God who loves you, is fighting for you and will make the impossible possible if you just believe.