New Year Resolution Disillusions

New Year's Resolutions, list of items

 

Yep, it’s that time again!  It’s hard to believe another year has come and gone already. I’m still tanned from my last visit to the beach-it can’t be almost January! But just as the ghost of Christmas present dries up and blows away at the strike of midnight on Christmas Eve, 2015 will soon be but a memory.  Some will have great memories of the past twelve months while others will still be living through the pain the year brought them. Whatever your story, you will likely be among the countless throngs who sum up the year and take inventory in an attempt to make the New Year better.  And just like last year, you will wonder after another twelve months just when your plans veered off course.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am all for self-improvement, being a better version of me, and perhaps a bit smaller as well.  We all tend to resolve to accomplish things that will make our lives better.  I would bet that if you compared one hundred random lists of resolutions, the majority would have very similar and common objectives: lose weight, eat better, save more money, pay off bills, quit smoking, drink less, (or for some, more), reduce stress, etc., etc.   The busiest week of any gym or fitness franchise is the first week of January. These are healthy and positive goals and I see nothing wrong with having them, at least on the surface.  But this year I have to ask myself, what is the real value of these goals in respect to the world around me?  Look at the list again, I want to lose weight, I want to eat better, I want to save money, and so forth. In being consistent with my faith and desiring to be a better Christian as well, I have to line up my list of resolutions against a master list that is provided each year in scripture, and one that never changes with time or the calendar.

Christmas is a time that temporarily for most, alters the usual inward perception to an outward one, making us more benevolence minded.  We buy gifts for “angels” we’ll never meet, serve at the local shelter or food bank or maybe even adopt a family for the holiday.  These are grand and caring gestures worthy of our efforts. But for many the charity outfit worn so festively just before Christmas is pressed and put back in the closet for another year the day after. I know as I am guilty and keep a closet full of barely worn charity outfits myself. I’ve always wondered why it is so easy to give of our time and resources for three weeks before December 25th, but so unnatural from December 26th on.  Our focus at New Year tends to change from others to self, resolving to do all I can to make my New Year a better one for me.

The sum of my annual resolutions should be met with but one command, the same command Jesus gave His disciples when He said to love your neighbor, even as I have loved you! Simple yet profound, straight forward but complex. Love each other-support each other-provide for each other-rejoice and mourn with each other.  In a world increasingly bigoted, hateful, intolerant and partisan, how can we possibly achieve a level of love that would ever resemble the same love that Christ shows, the “even as I have loved you” kind of love? What of our human efforts could ever be mistaken for that kind of supernatural, super human love?

On the surface it seems unattainable and unachievable and perhaps for some, an impossible undertaking not worthy of even attempting. While it may be true that our works of righteousness are “as filthy rags” compared to our Savior’s, the precedent has been set to take care of and notice the least of these. The same needs that are presented to us during the holidays exist 365 days of each year.  Hunger doesn’t hibernate until the next Thanksgiving; the homeless don’t retreat to some unseen holding area for eleven months; the need for visitation in nursing homes and jails isn’t silenced at the start of a new year. The only thing that seems to change is me, my perception, my involvement and investment in others.  This year the change I need most is the desire to bring change to others, which consequently will bring about eternal and valuable change in me in the process.  This will be my resolution this year-God help me help someone else just as you would.

One parting thought as I submit this last post of 2015. This year many families, including ours, said goodbyes to loved ones they were not expecting to leave so soon. Death and tragedy is not reserved for the elderly, as we have seen played out once again this year. While an unexpected passing is cause for us to hold our loved ones a little tighter, we should always have the attitude that any day could be their last, or ours in an unpredictable world of disease and tragedy.  As we strive to love each other a little more this year, please don’t forget to love on each other within your earthly family as well, bearing in mind that only God knows the number of our days.  Make each day count, say what needs to be said, don’t be shy or stingy with affection and be foolish enough to be vulnerable with your family, your mates and your closest friends.

Thanks to all who have considered my thoughts worthy to follow this year.  God bless and extend His grace to each of you in 2016 so that we may collectively draw a bit closer in reflecting His love to others.

Year End Inventory-A Personal Assessment

inventory-management

As I begin my last blog of 2014 I want to take a minute to thank those of you who have signed up to follow papaswords.com this year. It is humbling anytime anyone is interested enough in what a person has to say that they choose to follow your weekly posting.  Your interest, your comments and your sharing on topics and the every day struggles of living the Christian faith are always welcomed.

Having been in business and retail in the past I’ve taken many physical inventories.  While some businesses take quarterly inventories the big one is always the one taken at the end of the year. In business much can be learned from the inventory left at year’s end. It can tell you what items you sold or distributed the most.  It can tell you how well you forecasted your annual needs.  Inventory can identify current trends and it can help you better judge which items you will need to restock or liquidate for the upcoming year.

Each year at this time many of us do similar personal inventories.  New Year’s Day is the day when resolutions are made usually for the betterment of our personal lives based on habits or trends of the previous year. There are the standard quit smoking, eat better or lose weight commitments and maybe the read the Bible and pray more resolutions.  However you do it and whatever it looks like, this is the time of the year when most of us swear to make some kind of change in our personal lives. That is unless you have come to the stage where past failures in keeping these year end decisions deter you from taking such personal assessment tests ever again. Like you, each year I too consider what I did wrong the previous year and what I need to do to live better in the year ahead.

2014 was not a kind year for me.  After much effort, sleepless nights and negative health effects, I lost my business.  Some reports in the medical field read that losing a business is as traumatic for some as losing a close family member.  The grieving process is much the same. As a result my personal year end inventory tells a story that isn’t necessarily a pretty one. I am left with many boxes of good inventory that should have been distributed and I have little left of bad inventory that should never have left the building.  Here is what I’m talking about.

The Bible is clear about the inventory of good items that every Christian believer should posses and distribute.  Galatians 5:22 says this;

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

“By our fruit they will know us”.  I’m not sure if I displayed enough of this fruit or inventory in 2014 to convince some of my faith. I certainly didn’t display much peace as I struggled with the business. I can’t say I demonstrated much kindness or goodness to others as I was a bit too focused on my own issues at the time to consider others. While I tried to remain faithful through the process there were many days when I lost control.  These items listed are inventory items that should be replenished at the end of each year because we distributed and shipped all the inventory we had to others throughout the year.  Sadly I still have quite a bit of unused inventory still sitting there on the shelves at year’s end.

On the other end of the scale are those inventory items that each of us are born with because of our sinful nature that should be stored in a part of your warehouse for slow moving items.  The Bible lists these as well. They are listed earlier in Galatians 5:19;

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

I am convinced that God enabled me to be a business owner.  I could not have accomplished purchasing a business on my own accord or with my limited resources. So naturally I had a difficult time understanding why through prayers and fasting and blessings God was taking the business away from me so soon. I depleted all my strife inventory. I certainly had my fits of rage and shook my holy fists at God more than once. Through selfish ambition I tried desperately to hold on to something that was being taken from me. And on more than one occasion my blood alcohol count might have exceeded the legal limit while wallowing in despair in the midnight hours of my home. As I count the various items that one should never be giving away I find that some of these boxes have been emptied and others are shamefully low. Many elements of my personal inventory are reversed.  Like the Apostle Paul, those things I should have I am out of and those things I don’t need are in abundance.

What a blessing it is that with God you can start new inventory habits every single day.  Thankfully His memory is shorter than ours is. We can start each year, each quarter, even each day with a clean slate and fresh start.

Lamentations 3:23 says Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

As you consider on this the last day of 2014 those things you want to achieve in 2015, your good inventory, and those things you wish to change, the bad inventory, prayerfully seek God in humility and ask Him to supply those items He deems necessary for the purpose He has for your life this year. Be prepared for trials-Christianity ain’t easy! But never forget that God forgets! Fresh everyday are the tools and the inventory He sets aside for you to accomplish his will in your life and to bring you through to complete peace and joy.  It’s a long learning process, longer for some of us than others, but well worth the lessons. And don’t forget to inventory your blessings along the way!

I prayerfully wish all of you a blessed, a peaceful and God fulfilled Happy New Year!

New Year Resolutions and Other Lies

As the New Year approaches I am sure to be among countless millions who will be reflecting on the past year and formulating resolutions for improvement for the upcoming year.  Like the short lived season of charity manifested just before Christmas, we find within us a desire to clean house and make self-improvement adjustments on the last few days before the new year begins.  Our motives may be different-maybe you don’t like the way you look at the beach, or maybe you are weary of the burden of your job or finances.  Whatever the reason, New Year’s just seems like the time to proclaim change for the year ahead. For many however, it’s a time of disappointment as we reflect on the resolutions we made for the soon to end year and come to the annual reality check of our lack of resolve to follow through with what seemed at the time like good resolutions.

Maybe this was the year we were going to learn to play a new instrument. Or perhaps this was the year to finally get a grip on our finances and pay down our debt.  If you’re among the majority, this was probably the year when you were going to lose that extra twenty pounds you’ve been carrying all year long but were suddenly most aware of after the food-filled holidays.  Whatever your list may have included, I’d bet we all fared about the same-poorly!  I saw a statistic lately that said most of us manage to keep only 8-10% of our New Year resolutions.  Ouch!

The desire to improve one’s self is admirable and understandable.  Most of us want to be better at who we are or what we do.  As a Christian believer on a life long faith journey, that desire to be better seems daunting when considering our ultimate example.  And whether of the faith or not, the realization of how far we have to go in light of where we want to be seems unattainable, like the perfect golf game. No matter how low a score you shoot, you can always do one stroke better, and you may spend your entire life striving to reach for something that is simply out of reach.  We are all in the same boat when it comes to letting ourselves down through self reflection of broken resolutions.

And yet I am encouraged when I consider the lives of the great names of our Christian faith, the Prophet Elijah, King David, Peter the Disciple and the Apostle Paul, author of most of our New Testament.  These are men who at times in their lives failed miserably, even after witnessing first hand the miracles and the magnitude of the God they served, something most of us can’t comprehend.  The Apostle Paul confessed to his own shortcomings, doing what he knew not to do, and not doing what he knew to be right.  But in the end, these are the men and the examples that we try to emulate as we approach Christ, the supreme example.  Finding myself in such company of those who fell short at times in their walks gives me courage and resolve to keep walking and keep striving for my own betterment without fear of occasional slip ups. The revelation that each year we’re given on Earth is merely a step in a long journey should keep us motivated through those times when we let ourselves down.

We serve a God who delights in our earnest attempt to be the salt and light of the earth, even thought He knows we will fall so many times like a child learning to ride a bike or stay up on skates.  When we fail he showers us with mercy and helps us back to our feet, over and over again with the grace and patience only a loving Father could posses. Like Paul, who admitted that he wasn’t yet where he needed to be in Christ, we keep striving for the higher calling, knowing each year we may not get it all right, but staying focused on the journey by not being distracted by our recent failures.

Who can be like Christ?  Who among us can adequately display the goodness in our lives that He illustrated for us as He walked our Earth? Daunting? Absolutely! Achievable? Hardly. But with grace and mercy and forgiveness we can look back on the promises we made to ourselves last year knowing that if He who is perfect cuts us some slack for our low scores, we should be as forgiving for our unmet resolutions. And it is in this spirit of grace that I can prepare my list of resolutions for the New Year and continue my journey to be the husband, the father, the grandfather and the man God wants me to be, always trying my best but knowing I’ll be expected to fall off the bike at times.  My resolution this year? Lots of prayer and a good bike helmet!  Happy New Year!