What will you do or not do in 2017? That is the question.

AmberOBrien"

Dear Amber:

What is your New Year’s resolution? and How can I stick to mine? I am stressed about picking the right goals and following through.

Dear Sweet Sister:

I understand your stress.  I have spent the last few days in prayer and study as I attempted to make my yearly goals for my body, mind and spirit. I talked to my physical trainer who encouraged me to pick a physical and a nutritional goal. I studied my monthly planner who encouraged me pick a theme (word of the year) to set my priorities and to make goals for all of my relationships: Family, friends, business. The stress mounted as I thought about all the people in my life and how I wanted to help them all and yet with another year passing, I know how little time there is in every day to accomplish so much.  So instead of an excitement over the new fresh year, soon I was feeling overwhelmed with all I felt I “should” accomplish.  I see why some choose to just not make any goals at all…..the fear of failure is crippling.  But I for one know that people that set goals accomplish more that those who don’t and that writing them down and coming back to them increases the likelihood of them being realized.  If a resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or to not to do something” then our focus should not only be on what we plan to do in 2017 but also what we plan not to do.

So what should we do Sweet Sister?

First, what should our number one focus and priority be as Christians ?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden of sin that clings (distracts us) to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.”        Hebrews 12 : 1-2

 Our goal to to run after Jesus keeping our eyes fixed on Him,  to stay on the narrow path and to invite as many of our friends and family to come join the race.

So ask yourself these two questions?

  1. What is weighing me down or distracting me from following closer to Jesus?           Is a person, social media, a hobby, an addiction,  T.V., clutter, love of sleep..?…..What do I do first when I wake up instead of spending a date with Jesus? What do I need to take away so I have more room to grow in my relationship with Jesus?
  2. How can I be sure to stay close to Jesus in 2017? Do I need to go to bed earlier? wake up earlier? make a pact to not look at emails or Facebook until I  have sat in quiet and became still before my Lord and Savior? To not exercise my body until I have exercised my soul? Maybe decide to read the good news before I  read or watch the depressing news on T.V.

We are promised be bear good fruit if we remain close to Jesus. So this needs to be our Top priority. He will guide us each morning as to all the other goals.  We don’t know what the future will hold and what we will face, but if we meet with God and walk and talk with Him on a daily basis, we will know at the right time what we should do.   When we have our “date time” then we can ask…How can I take better care of the body you gave me?  How should I handle this business decision? How can I show Love to this person who really rubs me the wrong way?

Now this is really important Sister. Write down what you plan to get rid of and hand it over to Jesus.  You need to make room for Jesus and so some housekeeping must occur in your heart.  Don’t just think about it….write it down. now:) 

Next, write down how you plan to improve or add your personal relationship with Jesus.  Will you make a commitment to not look at Facebook or emails when you wake up? Go to Church every week? Join a small group bible study?

Just as an athlete makes sacrifices and trains with others that are like- minded, as Christians we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and  find like-minded sisters to keep us accountable and encourage us.

So Write down what you will remove from your life or only do after you spend time with Jesus……….and then write when and where you will meet him for your daily “Date”.  I have a special place and chair and if I fail to allow for some good, sweet time to chat with Jesus and tell Him what’s on my heart, I imagine in my mind’s eye that He quietly waits until I do make time. Love is patient and He will not force His love but quietly waits for us to make room.   I hope we look back on 2017 as the year that no matter what happened around us or to us that we kept our eyes fixed on Jesus and we persevered in running the race.

Are You Spiritually Fit? 5 Ways to Keep From Becoming Spiritually Flabby

AmberOBrien"

So yesterday my bathroom scale confirmed what my thighs had been secretly trying to tell me. I had gained back the five pounds I had worked so hard to lose weeks before. I had gone a couple weeks without weighing in and had stopped using the Myfitnesspal app to track my food. In addition, the bible study using the book Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst had ended, my exercising had slowed and voila I gained 5 pounds.

Booo! How frustrating. I started to mentally blame my husband and the two pounds of chocolate covered pretzels he bought. “He knows sweets are my weakness. Why is he undermining my progress?”

Ultimately, however, I am responsible for what goes in my mouth. I have free choice, and each day I am making lots of little choices that contribute to whether the needle of the scales moves to the right or left. After all, the point is to be making healthy choices and not focus on a  number on a scale when we gauge our physical health. However, in my case the scale gave me a little wake up call that my healthy choices had diminished.  

What if there were a spiritual scale that we could step on each day? What would it weigh?

Perhaps the scale we should be most concerned with is the one that measures the size of our hearts.

Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So according to scripture, the amount of Love that fills our hearts is an indicator of our spiritual health.  

How are we showing God that we love Him? Are we praising Him in the hard times? Do we spend time worshiping Him? Reading His love letter to us – the word of God? What about how we love others? Do we try to see the good in others? Are we patient and kind when others are not patient and kind to us? Do we forgive quickly?

If my heart and yours were on the spiritual scale today, how would they compare to yesterday?

I have found that seeking to be physically fit and spiritually fit have similar principals. Here are my top 5 ways to becoming spiritually fit:

  1.       Spiritually exercise first thing in the morning.
    While physical trainers often advice physically exercising first thing in the morning so your metabolism has a kick start, the same is true for spiritual exercise. Make a commitment to wake up and spend time with Jesus before you look at your phone or check your emails or connect to Facebook. Spend time praying or reading the Bible before checking the headlines – read the Good News before hearing the world’s negative news. Get ready with God before looking in the mirror and getting yourself ready. Give God the best time of your day. If you must look at your phone first thing, try the free app First5.org. I just love receiving a devotional each weekday to look at first thing in the morning.
  1.       “You are what you eat.”
    Just as our goal physically is to eat healthy and nutritious foods for our bodies, we should be filling our minds with wholesome music, books, and thoughts, as well. Are you listening to a positive radio station? Are you watching TV shows that are negative or use foul language? Are you letting your friends speak negatively about mutual friends or family members? Instead, redirect the conversation and say something good about the person. Feed your mind with nutritious foods, just as you do your body.
  2.       Exercise with friends.
    When working toward a physical fitness goal, it often helps to have an accountability partner. Physical fitness is often influenced by other body conscious people and having a walking buddy or gym partner can help keep us motivated. The same is true for spiritual fitness. We need to spend time with others who are striving for holiness. Find friends who love God and who have His joy and peace; maybe a prayer partner to talk and pray with on the phone, or a small group bible study. We are to be like iron sharpening iron – let’s help each other to be as sharp and fit as possible. 
  3.       Make it fun.
    Similar to picking an exercise that we enjoy so that we continue (I love to play tennis), we should choose ways to honor Jesus in ways that are enjoyable. Following Jesus should be fun! Watching Him change lives and seeing answered prayer is so cool. Keep a journal to write down all your prayer requests and answered prayers, and spend the beginning of your time in the morning listening to uplifting praise music and singing and thanking God for all that His has done and is and will do. Be excited to spend time with Jesus – shout your praises with a smile on your face and joy in your heart. Have fun praising Him for all the past gifts He has lavished on you and your loved ones. 
  4.      Spend a Sabbath day in rest.
    Rest is just as important to physical health as exercise. Often, the importance of a good night’s rest is overlooked when pursuing fitness. Just as we need to get quality sleep to improve our bodies, we also need to rest to improve our souls. I love reminding type A people that “even God rested on the seventh day.” Be sure to honor the Sabbath. God created this because He loves us and wants to prevent us from getting physically sick or spiritually flabby. Use the Sabbath as a gift to spend time doing activities to help your soul grow.

Even though our culture focuses on our outer shell, it is our souls that will last forever.  Being spiritually fit is eternally more important than being physically fit. May the size of our hearts grow as we seek to be spiritually fit and desire to be more like Jesus each day.