Afraid of Failed Resolutions?

Do you have a big goal for 2016? Are you shoring yourself up today, with solemn vows, threats and motivational thinking, so you don’t quit by February?

Me too. Here’s a thought for today.

amateurs

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield was one of the best books I read in 2015. In it, he says the enemy of our progress is not the size of our goals but the “Resistance” we face in our daily attempts.

Yes, exactly! That’s what I do when I quit running or writing or practicing my French. It’s not even a conscious decision, it’s just that life seeps in the cracks, expanding and contracting until my resolve crumbles like busted up asphalt. 

That’s resistance and life’s not going to stop doing that. The professional shows up and hunkers down anyway, while the amateur sighs and rings in February.

I don’t suppose it matters much what you’re trying to do in 2016 –  lose 20, get out of debt, write a book, make your marriage better – the victory exists in the daily showing up, deciding to go pro.

pres4

But the professional is not dumb either, so rather than set a bunch of lofty goals I’m bound to fail at, I’ve crafted a few small ones, which, if I attend to them daily, should add up to something interesting in 2016.

Here they are:

  1. Write a little.
  2. Get on my mat.
  3. Drink water.
  4. Walk.
  5. Speak French.

Small and quotidian, without arbitrary quantities, (Science says that helps), each of them is something I enjoy, so if I will simply roll out my mat and get on it, or sit and my desk, I’m bound to stay longer than I planned. Over time, that adds up to interesting.

Pressfield who’s also written several heady books on Ancient Greece, says the question is not, did I write with genius today but rather, did I overcome Resistance? Did I sit down and try?

That is such a better question.

One more thought on the matter:

Do you ever wonder how King Solomon felt when his dad rolled out the plans for the Temple in Jerusalem and told him to build it?

Probably not, but I have.

“Uhhhh Dad?”

Here’s what David said to Solomon to encourage him, and it seems like a thought worthy of posting on the bathroom mirror this New Year’s Day.

stars6Remember, our part is to show up daily and act!

How nice that He promises to help us along.

Is Your Mind a Mess in the Morning?

Ever find yourself launching a mental argument with your boss/customer/spouse/kid two minutes after crawling out of bed? There you are sleepy-eyed, brushing your teeth, practicing how you’re going to set them straight. Adrenaline slips through your veins and you walk out of the bathroom angry, bitter and depressed, cobbling together a defense against grievances real and imagined.

Or is it just me?

In cattle this is called “being on the muscle,” and frankly I don’t want to act like some pissed off cow 16 hours a day. But for a long time I thought I had no choice – I didn’t know I could control my mind.

 Villefranche

My teacher says our minds are the battlefield and whoever wins control of that ground, commands the whole person and ultimately the whole life. That’s why, she says, satan works hard to crank us up first thing in the morning, before we’re even really conscious. If I am mad before I leave the bathroom I spread strife and bitterness like a champ.

Ever considered that?

Nice Lights

Where does your morning depression come from? Were you depressed when you went to bed? What are you so mad about? Are you dreading something? Dread is a relative of fear, you know, so what are you afraid of?

Maybe, just maybe, someone is planting your garden for you.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph 6:12

But why are spiritual forces interested in keeping me bitter and depressed? Well, look around at all the “angry Christians” – an oxymoron if there ever was one –  do you want what they have? Depression, anger and fear hinder the love of God and remember, this is war.

So here’s what to do about it:

1. Notice it. Stop bushing your teeth and watch the angry nonsense. WTF is a rational response.

2. Stop it and replace it with something else – a mantra.

Nice Sea

I use this little book all the time to help me. It lists hundreds of scriptures by topic – anger, depression, fear, worry, money, rejection, patience etc. Each scripture is reworked into the first person and meant to be spoken aloud. The Bible says words are containers for power, so why not fill our space with the word of God rather than the black smoke of our bitter fulminations?

So, try it and tell me what happens. And in case you’re short on time, I’ve pasted a few on my pix of the French Riviera, tailor-made for your bathroom mirror. Feel free to print em up.

What are some of your favorites?

What Do You Do With Suffering?

With all my recent chatter about contentment, it seems wise to tiptoe up to that bloated, hateful beast called suffering.

calla lillies in the window light

(Photo credit: shannylynne)

Because I can hear you saying, “Oh yes following Jesus is all hearts and rainbows for you, but I have cancer, or the bank just repossessed my house or my country is beset by civil war. I mean, would a good God really allow all this suffering?”

First of all, I am so sorry. I am. Suffering sucks. However, the question of suffering has vexed religious scholars forever, so my answer to why God allows it is:

I DON’T KNOW.

But I’ve got a few hunches gleaned from The Bible and some bathroom mirror posts to help you through it. If you don’t happen to be suffering right now, read on anyway. It’s good to be prepared.

1. The Bible says the world’s rent is paid by the father of sin and death, and he roams like a lion seeking people to destroy. A lot of people are following that lion, by choice or default, therefore we ought to expect destruction. Why doesn’t God step in? He did. He sent Jesus who demonstrated how we are to live here – forgive your enemies, take care of the poor, love and obey God – then he died for our inability to do it.

2. There is an epic misunderstanding about the price of following Christ. Jesus told his disciples it would cost them everything, but it would be worth it. I don’t know who started the Christianity = hearts and rainbows rumor, maybe that’s just American zeitgeist, but take a note from the Apostle Paul.

I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once…I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by the desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers…And that’s not the half of it. II Corinthians 11:23-27 MSG

Paul suffered mightily but he believed Jesus won, so he could handle it. I believe the same thing so, when the lion attacks me, I can appropriate this promise in Psalm 91.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty (Whose power no foe can withstand). I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely on and in Him I (confidently) trust.

3. Sometimes God doesn’t remove our suffering because he’s using it to make us stronger and more compassionate. We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, Paul said in Romans 5:3-5. So while we’re groaning under the weight of that process, here’s another for the  mirror.

…be satisfied with your present; for He (God) Himself has said, he will not in any way fail you, nor give you up, nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down. Hebrews 13:5

I struggled hard with that scripture because for many people, like women and children sold into sexual slavery, it seems patently untrue. But faith only works if you know God’s word and trust it. So when I posted Hebrews 13:5 and read it every day, I began seeing evidence of it in places I had overlooked. That made me trust it more. The more I trusted it, the more active I became in fighting those ____fill in the blank____ who buy and sell helpless women. I only cared about that theoretically before. Now, it inflames me so much I financially support those on the front lines; and from time to time my unholy, potty mouth runs away with me – sorry.

Do you see? God works through people who trust Him with their own lives first – especially in the suffering.

We are assured and know that all things work together and are (fitting into a plan) for good to and for those who love God and are called according to His design and purpose. Romans 8:28.

You are not alone. Hang in there.