Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Focus on Today

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Happy New Year! Most of us approach January 1st with hope and expectation. The new year signifies a fresh start and new beginnings. Social media is filled with New Year’s resolutions and advice for goal setting. In the midst of the excitement for striving for greatness, I would like to offer a different perspective. Instead of looking ahead to conquer thirty pounds or set action steps to achieve a goal in the next twelve months, simply focus on today.

This may seem odd coming from someone who believes in goals. After all, I’m pursuing a doctorate degree in Strategic Planning. Sometimes, though, the quest for success can suck the life out of us. We get so fixated on the future that we lose sight of the present. Worry, anxiety, and stress rule our lives rather than the peace of God. If you can relate, this blog post is for you. (I am taking these words to heart, too.)

Here are suggestions to help narrow the focus to today.

View this day as a gift from God. There are no guarantees that you will be alive tomorrow. I’m not being morbid or fatalistic. Our days are numbered. Approach the tasks in front of you as a blessing and a chance to be a blessing to others.

Remember that each day is an opportunity for a fresh start. You do not need to be defined by the shortcomings or failures of the past (or even yesterday). Learn from mistakes, but do not be chained to them. This day is a new day.

Identify one thing you can do today to help you thrive. I know there are dozens of things clamoring for your attention. It is better to do one thing important to your well-being than to get pulled in so many directions that you end up doing nothing. It is also more manageable to make wise choices today instead of thinking long term. You can more easily give up sugar today than give it up for the next twelve months.

Open your heart to God’s presence. Don’t allow yourself to worry about possible outcomes in the future, whether at work, with your family, or in your personal life. Stop going down the road of potential worst case scenarios. Acknowledge the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness. Express your trust in Him to take care of challenges.

When we live today, taking opportunities to honor the Lord and love others, it reduces the pressure caused by straining to achieve goals.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never ceases. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT).

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15 NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for this New Year. Help me to live it one day at a time, making the most of each opportunity to love You and love my neighbors. Remind me that You are always near every moment in the midst of every situation. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Servant Leadership, Vision & Goal Setting

A Different Approach to Goals

It’s that time of year again! Every January we’re reminded to take advantage of the new year and to make better choices than we did last year. Now is the time to lose weight, start exercising, conquer that bad habit, heal those broken relationships, dream big, set goals…

I have nothing against getting fired up for a better life. I’m a believer in making positive changes, and an even stronger believer that it takes strategic planning to get there. However, reaching my goals is not really a problem for me. God has blessed me. I’ve been able to set many significant goals in my personal life and as a leader, and through God’s grace I have achieved them.

I emphasize through God’s grace, because I am often my own worst enemy when it comes to achievement. I am driven. I don’t relax when there is unfinished business. My mind is constantly on the move, and I am given to anxiety. I act as if I am in control and the success of everything I am a part of depends on me.

Yes, I need to be responsible. No, the world doesn’t rest on my shoulders.

This approach to goals sabotages my energy and health. Years of living this way have taken a toll. Now when the stress is too great for too long, my body shuts down, I cannot function, and I have no choice but to stay in bed. I wish for a different approach for you, before you reach this point. And I wish for a different approach for me, to truly place Jesus in the driver’s seat of my life.

As I have prayed and pondered about this, I have sensed the Lord showing me what this different approach looks like.

Live fully in this day. Didn’t Jesus say not to worry about tomorrow, because today has enough worries of its own? (Matthew 6:34) Stress builds when we add tomorrow’s projects and next week’s deadlines to today’s plate. It also distracts us from the things at hand. When we approach this day (with its interruptions and unseen twists and turns) as a blessed adventure, we are in the flow of God’s grace, and not working against it.

Love the person in front of me. Loving our neighbor as ourselves means we pay attention to the person in front of us. They are not here to make our lives better and simply a means to achieve our own agendas. That person is more important than any goal looming over us. That person is someone whom Jesus loves deeply. We must care about their needs, and look for ways to be a blessing. After all, it is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35).

Look for Jesus in this moment. There is a story in which a young man asks Jesus why He doesn’t do great miracles anymore, like He did in the Bible. During their conversation, the young man is blessed with a bottle of water when he is thirsty and a reward for finding and returning a wallet. However, he overlooks these blessings, thinking they just happened or are coincidences. Jesus then tells him, “How do you expect to see me in the big things, if you miss me in the little things?” Jesus is actively working in our lives. Let’s keep our eyes open to the little things with hearts of thanksgiving.

In this month of new beginnings, I invite you to join me in discovering a different approach to goals. May we be directed by the Holy Spirit and walk in God’s grace each day.

Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Out with the Old, In with the New

There is a sense of excitement as the old year winds down and we say hello to a new year. I realize there isn’t much difference between December 31st and January 1st. One day seems pretty much the same as the next. But having a distinct marker where one year ends and a new year begins can be powerful in our journey of faith.

Out with the Old

I love traditions. They create a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves and forge strong ties with a beloved heritage. But holding on to the past can also hold us back.

The Apostle Paul stated his philosophy.

But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us (Philippians 3:12b-14, NLT).

The past Paul referred to was good—notable heritage and achievements, things any Israelite would be proud of. Some of it was bad too—the zealous persecution of the Church.

Growth can be thwarted when we hold onto the old-bad. We are chained to our past mistakes and doubt we can break free. The consequences of the past cast doubt that we can ever change.

It can also be thwarted when we hold onto the old-good. “We’ve always done it this way! It works! Why should we change?”

In the final days of 2014, what do you need to let go? Whether it is old-bad or old-good, invite Jesus to show you what you should release.

In with the New

Our Lord specializes in new beginnings.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

The Lord gives us new life.

…Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And He transforms us to make us more like Jesus.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2).

What joy and hope there is in knowing God is at work in you!

As we count down to 2015, what new thing does the Lord want to do in your life?