New Year’s Resolutions, Again? by Samantha A. Wright

I remember a time when my Christmas newsletter was written, printed, in postage paid envelopes, hand written notes on all 125 of them, and ready to be mailed by December 1st. I’m not sure where that woman went. And as I think about it, I am not sure whether I really want her back?

It’s the time of year when billboards, commercials and magazine articles are filled with advertisements to join XYZ gym or to lose weight. Ads even line the walls in public restroom stalls; you can’t escape it. We are now half way through what might be called, guilted into doing it January. Countless scientific studies have proven that up to 100% of New Year’s Resolutions are broken by February 17th. Okay, some studies actually claim there are 5% of people who actually keep their resolutions. I don’t know if any of these people, do you? Either way, it is the minority that keep resolutions, not the majority. Have you made New Year’s resolutions? If so, how are you doing in the resolution keeping category? Or, are you one of those people who figures you will just break them so why even make them?

Age makes you do more soul searching, or maybe it’s the hormones. Either way, contemplation has been one of my main activities the past few months which has lead to a desire is to be more intentional in making goals that matter. For example, does having my newsletter mailed out on the first day of December really matter in the scheme of eternity? Or does having a newsletter at all matter? What does God really desire of me? What aligns with His purpose for my life and how He designed me? Setting goals is not a bad thing, what we need to ask is, ‘are we setting the right goals?’ I like the word goals rather than resolution because it seems less cliché.

So, how do I set the right goals and succeed in keeping them? Here are some ideas.

First, determine what energizes you. What makes you smile from the top of your head down to your tippy toes? These are the things that God has designed you for. Do MORE of these things and get your goal aligned with them. If more of your goals are about improving your weaknesses you will be like the majority who break their resolutions. For a more extended version of this idea check out Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham.

Second, have a mission/purpose statement for your life. Write it out in 10 words or less. Unless you know where you want to go in life, your goals will not get your there. Your life statement should be based on your spiritual gifts and how God designed you. These things fuel your tank and give you more energy even after a long day of activities. Take a look at Get More Done in Less Time, by Donna Otto.

Third, pick goals based on your life statement and write them down. Ask yourself “how does each goal line up with my purpose/mission statement?” If they don’t line up, cross them off. Now put your written list where you can see if often. For help here, check out Life Mapping, by Dr. John Trent.

Lastly, but most importantly, write down HOW you are going to accomplish these goals. If you don’t have a plan to get them done they are likely to just be words on paper at the end of the year. Remember the old adage, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

When I look at my goal list for 2010 I am energized, excited, and ready to take them on. Some are things that are difficult, like listening to 12 hours of Greek and Roman history. But, each is necessary to accomplish a bigger goal of mine. For example, the Greek and Roman history is a step toward writing a historical fiction novel. How about you? What are your big bodacious dreams? Have you broken them down into realistic goals? Are they in writing? If not, what are you waiting for?

When Holiday Family Gatherings are More Prickly than Polite by Samantha A. Wright

sillouette nativityHave you ever played the word association game? Lets try~I say chocolate, saliva develops as you sternly bark….’get me some!’ Or, I say ‘fruitcake’ and you say, ‘that wouldn’t even make my dog drool. Move on.’ How about if I say, “family holiday gathering?” Be honest. Do you start perspiring even though it’s 65 degrees? Your eyes start to glaze over as you painfully realize Christmas is just around the corner. You are about to spend hours with people who don’t really like you. In fact, the family tree may be the only reason they gather with you at all.

This time of year we ponder Jesus as light of the world. But, Matthew 5 states that we, Jesus’ followers, are the light of the world. Is it possible to be the ‘light of the world’ spending time with family members? Yesterday while I was shopping, I gave the lady behind me in line 2 of my extra coupons. You would have thought I had given her a $20 bill. She was elated. That was easy. Why is it easier to be a light for Christ with a stranger? What happens to that thoughtful spirit in me when I get around my relatives? What is there about us that can be so stubborn about demanding our way when we are with family? Do I demand more from my relatives? Am I a poor communicator? Do my actions corroborate my words or discredit me?

Recently I had to answer these questions when I received a email from a family member that left me shaking. Angry. Hurt. Angry. Disgruntled. Angry. Hopeless. Did I mention angry? It, however, was not a righteous anger. I had to ask myself why the letter caused so much anger within me. Perhaps it was because some of the things in the email were painfully true. Initially, I chose denial fervently building a case for myself of all the things in the letter that were not true. Not a good plan. Fortunately, after much prayer and seeking counsel, I snapped out of denial mode.

Many of the things in the email were not necessarily true, but the result of poor communication. But, regretfully, some of the things were true. My pride did not want to see where I was not being Christlike. Baggage from past interactions prevented me from loving as Christ calls me to love. But when I sought counsel and realized my actions were causing pain in the life of someone, I discovered that I needed to confess those things to God and ask His forgiveness. More importantly, I needed to ask my relative for forgiveness. That, my friend, was not an easy task. If I hear the word apologize the first thought that comes to my mind is, “Gulp, how do you eat an elephant?”How-to-eat-elephant_thumb[1] Well, as I tell my girls, “you eat an elephant one bite at a time.” What do the first bites look like? Let me suggest the following.

    • Read Scripture. Perspective is everything and nothing provides perspective like God’s word. We need perspective when asking if there is something I have done to cause conflict in this relationship.
    • Go to the Person. No emails or texts. Communication is 90% non-verbal and only 10% verbal. If distance prevents a face to face interaction, make a phone call.
    • Listen. Listen. Listen. Did I say listen? Our tendency is to defend ourselves. Resist this temptation. God is your defender and protector.
    • Admit Wrong. I had to say, “You are right. I have___, would you please forgive me?”
    • Make a Commitment. Tell the person you will try and not commit the offense again and take the necessary steps to back up your words. For me, the culprit was poor communication. I made a commitment to call in the future and not rely on others to communicate for me.

Does it work? A few weeks after our interaction, our families had the chance to get together. Instead of dreading the interaction, I went with hope that things would go better than they have in the past. I felt God’s peace and joy in doing what He has called me to do. Was it easy? No. Were there times I needed a breather and needed to be alone? Yes. But, I can honestly say I had a great time and am not dreading our next family get together.

What about you? Do you need to go to someone before that family holiday gathering and make things right? If so, here may be some utensils to help you eat that elephant one bite at a time~

silverware edit 2

Read scripture

Go to the person

Listen. Listen. Listen

Admit wrong

Make a commitment

(more…)

Which Piece of the Puzzle are You? By Samantha A. Wright

teamwork-gold pieces of puzzle

When the LIFT team members met in October, we discussed the account of Naaman (2nd Kings) and the one theme that stood out is that God wants to use each one of us. Many of you will remember Naaman, the Aramean army commander with leprosy who was healed by bathing seven times in the river Jordan. Seven individuals are involved in the account that God used in specific ways~Naaman, a young servant girl, King of Syria-King of Israel, Elisha’s servant Gehazi,Elisha the prophet, and Naaman’s servant.

Before we look at how God used each of these individuals, lets set the scene from Naaman’s perspective. At first glance, Naaman appears to be the main character. He is devastated when he discovers he has leprosy (the AIDS of the ancient world). He sees a ray of hope when he hears that a prophet of Yahweh can heal him. Naaman is insulted and angry when the prophet Elisha sent a messenger in his place and told Naaman to bathe in the Jordan River. (vs. 11) Ultimately, Naaman begrudingly obeys the prophet and is healed. (vs. 14) Healed, Naaman finds the peace only God can give and returns to Elisha, acknowledging that “there is no God of all the world except in Israel.” (vs. 15)

But God was not just at work in Naaman’s life. He was using an unlikely group of characters to demonstrate His power. Each of the individuals had a role to play—a job to do for God…

Young servant girl-had information that would help Naaman. She was brave enough to speak out.

King of Syria-sent a letter on Naaman’s behalf. He used his influence to help Naaman, but there was a risk involved if Naaman misused the recommendation.

King of Israel-had to trust he wasn’t being tricked.

Elisha’s Servant, Gahazi-acted on behalf of Elisha and approached Naaman even though Naaman was considered unclean. Gahazi had to remain in seclusion for 7 days before he would be considered clean.

Elisha the Prophet-doing what God had designed him to do. Elisha wanted to be God’s agent one hundred percent in whatever way the Lord chose to use him. Elisha obeyed completely, and uniquely so God received the glory.

Naaman’s Servant—urged Naaman to obey even if it wasn’t what Naaman expected or felt was appropriate.

As we look at each of these individuals, they EACH had a part in God’s divine plan. What if one of them would have said, “No, I don’t want to do that. Someone else will do it”? What about you? Are you Naaman and in the stages of devastation, hopefulness, angry and disgruntled? Or are you a servant girl who needs to give information to someone you are intimidated by? What about the king of Syria or king of Israel? Do you need to vouch for someone or trust someone you’re hesitant to trust? Then there’s Elisha…are you doing what God has asked you to do? Or what about Naaman’s servant? Do you need to tell someone in leadership something that is on your heart but are scared to death because they’re ‘the boss?’

What is God asking you to do today that you are resisting? Wouldn’t it be a blessing if God and others around you knew you were playing your part in God’s grand purpose and could say, ‘there is no God in the world, except the God of the Bible.”

For more about Samantha A. Wright

Begin With the End in Mind by Dr. Kristin Beasley

leadership penguins

I’ve been thinking about leadership and vision lately. As the leader of a new ministry I am constantly thinking and dreaming: Where are we going? Who do we want to be? What should this ministry look like? What does it look like if we “win”? In other words, what is the goal? And what do I do first? Second? Third? These thoughts can be exciting but also a little daunting. They are exciting because of all the opportunities out there to impact lives, daunting because of the constant need to prioritize, keep the main thing the main thing and lead others toward the goal. Yet I find encouragement by regularly looking at the life of Christ

What is a leader? A leader is someone who has followers, and who influences others. Jesus is our prime example of a sacrificial servant leader who had vision. He guided and directed–but He also provided vision for a positive future. He was a visionary leader. It has been said that vision is the “act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be”. Doesn’t that sound like our Lord? He knew why He was here (His mission statement is in Luke 19:10). He knew where He was going. He knew where He wanted His followers to go (to reach the ends of the earth with a message of hope and then join Him in heaven). He kept the main thing the main thing and He began with the end in mind.

Do you as a leader know where you are going? Do you know where you want to take those who are following you? Do you know who you want to be? What would you do in your ministry if you knew you couldn’t fail? What would “win” look like for your ministry? Don’t be afraid to think and dream about “the end”: where you would like your ministry team (including yourself) to end up.

It is fun but also a challenge to dream in the future. But we must dream…and dream big! Henrietta Mears, a tremendous woman of God who, a couple generations ago, was used mightily in kingdom work said, “Dream Big Dreams: There is no magic in small plans.” Don’t worry about the money, or what you need to get there. When you dream there are only opportunities, not obstacles. Be willing to be stretched into the vision God has for you. Prayerfully listen, and begin building the ideas. Write them down. And then tell people. And you will have followers who come alongside because they believe in the vision. Jesus received His vision from the Father and then He told people about it. He never wavered from staying the course, He set goals to get there, and He began with the end in mind! Follow His lead…and become a visionary leader.

For more about Dr. Kristin Beasley