Monthly Archives: December 2016

Clear Out The Old …

“A new year can begin only because the old year ends.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season … 

The Year known to us as AD 2016 comes to an end today. Another year bites the dust! I seize this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and healthy and prosperous New Year AD 2017 which starts tomorrow.

It can be difficult for many of us to accept this truth in life–that for something new to begin, the old must come to an end. Perhaps that is because many of us have placed so much of our limited time, effort, and resources into those things that have now passed. But if we cling to the things of the yesterday, we will be unable to experience the coming tomorrows through anything other than the perspectives of the past.

When a movie ends, it is over. We will carry its memory with us, and we may use its lessons in certain aspects of our lives, but it is over. So it is with the many chapters in our lives; we must die to the old to give way to the new. And when one year ends, we can allow it to be over–there really is no need for us to carry around the excess baggage of yesterday.

We must work to live each day on its own terms so that we might make the most of the present time we have been gifted–for that is exactly what the “present” time is… a gift. And when today draws to a close, hopefully we will be able to put this past year behind us and place our focus on the next year, free from the worries, concerns, and uncertainties of the past, and open to all the potential and possibilities that lie ahead.

“Clear out the old because of the new.” Leviticus 26:10

Questions to consider:

Why do wo tend to carry our yesterdays into today? What effect does this have on our lives?

What is required of us to allow a year to end?

What are some ways in which you can help to ensure that your new year starts out right?

For further thought:

“The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” ~ G.K. Chesterton, Daily News


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Resolve Every New Day Like A New Year

“Time has no divisions to mark its passage; there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins, it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.” ~ Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain … 

It is rather peculiar that out of all the creatures of this Earth, it is only us, humans, who tend to place so much emphasis on the transitional periods, when in truth, all time is equally important. For example, the two minutes between December 31, 1999 at 11:59pm and January 1, 2000 at 12:00am have just as much potential as the next two minutes of our lives. And as this year comes to a close, perhaps it would be beneficial to re-examine the reasons for celebrating the passage of time in our lives.

This past year, my family and I decided to work on becoming healthier and losing some weight, and over the last several months, we have lost more than a combined 60 pounds. The thing is, though, we did not resolve to live healthier lives on New Year’s Day. In actuality, I do not even know the real date or time in which we made this decision, other than it was in April. Now I am not trying to downplay the power of a New Year’s resolution, rather, I am trying to illustrate that we do not need to wait until New Year’s Day to initiate positive changes in our lives.

Many of us have high expectations of the coming year. Perhaps there are new opportunities available for us, or important changes that we would like to see in our lives. Honestly, I think a lot of the excitement surrounding this period in our lives each year is the presence of hope, the possibility that we can empower ourselves with courageous resolve and have perhaps the best chance of realizing the changes we seek. And while the festivities and celebration can be fun, it is important that we keep in mind the present moment and how we are living it. We can take examples from the universe, the Earth, and all its other inhabitants, for they do not concern themselves with such a limiting concept as time. The here and now… that is where our focus is needed most.

The New Year will not bring us anything that we could not have discovered at any other period in time, even right now. Everything that comes into our lives originates from us and our own perspectives, our own efforts, and our own acceptance of life; all the potential of the upcoming year is already there within us, waiting for us to discover it and let it out.

Make a positive change in your life, every new day like you resolve for a New Year.

Questions to consider:

Why do we often wait for changes to occur from outside rather than focusing on creating the change from within through our own thoughts, attitudes, and actions?

Have you ever felt that a new year can bring you change? Why?

What true purpose do New Year’s celebrations serve in our lives?

For further thought:

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” ~ Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons

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Be Receptive To Ideas And Opinions

“Having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgement of others.” ~ Benjamin Franklin, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin … 

My stubbornness has been perhaps one of the most annoying–and difficult–of my bad habits to break. There are so many instances that I can think back on, when I held on to my opinions and beliefs even after they had been proven wrong. The problem, I have found out, is twofold: one being that I often place part of my value and worth in my beliefs, thinking that if others disprove me, or if I am wrong, that I am somehow a lesser man. The second issue is that I then abandon reason and logic, which perhaps would have brought about necessary growth and change in my life.

Unfortunately, this type of foolish stubbornness happens a lot in key areas of our world today–politics and government, education and research, athletic competition, and even relationships. In fact, many of the relationship issues that arise in marriages today are never resolved due to the couples’ inability to remain open to “fuller consideration,” or “being obliged by better information.” Instead, many individuals stubbornly choose to hold on to their own narrow beliefs, opinions, and judgments of others, which is entirely unfair and disrespectful. It is also quite frustrating, to say the least, to have to spend time around anyone who acts in such a way.

There is a story about an old man who found that a tool of his went missing. He suspected a neighbor boy, and the next time he saw him, the boy walked like a thief, talked like a thief, and acted like a thief. The following day, however, after the old man found the tool somewhere that he had left it himself, the boy happened by once again, but this time walked, talked, and acted just like a boy.

If we wish to be treated fairly and respectfully, then we must extend that same courtesy to those around us. It all begins by changing ourselves. Of course, it helps tremendously to always keep an open-mind to the ideas and beliefs of others, as our own understanding is only an opinion and is not always accurate or complete. Embracing such a healthy habit helps us to foster respect for one another and keeps the channels of positive growth and change open in our life.

Listen to the ideas and opinions of those around you with receptiveness.

Questions to consider:

How often do you change your mind? How easy is it for you to do so?

How often do you take the time to reconsider some of your most important and deeply held beliefs? How open are you to allowing those deeply-rooted beliefs the chance to grow and change in lieu of understanding, intellectual knowledge, and wisdom of the heart?

How does holding on to outdated or inaccurate beliefs and opinions prevent us from living our lives purposefully? How can it hold us back from affecting others with meaningful change?

For further thought:

“If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.” ~ Frank Gelett Burgess

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Be Open To Ideas And Thoughts Of Others

“It is amazing how many people think that they can answer an argument by attributing bad motives to those who disagree with them. Using this kind of reasoning, you can believe or not believe anything about anything, without having to bother to deal with facts or logic.” ~ Thomas Sowell … 

So many of the important issues of today are swept under the rug by character attacks. It seems that over the last decade or so this style of rebuttal to arguments has become nearly the norm when it comes to politicians. Here, discrediting and attacking the character of those who disagree with them becomes the first and only answer employed. But such a personal attack is wholly wrong, for not only does it disrespect others’ thoughts, ideas, and arguments, but it also dismisses those thoughts without even allowing them to be examined.

Do you ever notice the “personal attack” being used around you? How often do others attempt to “win” an argument by discrediting you? How often do you try to stymie the attempts of others to employ facts and logic to answer an argument? When an idea contradicts our beliefs and deepest convictions, it is very tempting to try to discredit that idea by moving the focus off it and onto something else–preferably, something we can show in a negative light, like one’s character. Maybe their motives are selfish, unethical, or unfair. Perhaps their knowledge or upbringing makes them incompetent to disagree with us. But what about their idea?

If we discredit others without examining their thoughts, we truly are losing the argument. What’s more, we are rejecting the opportunity to learn more about our own beliefs and to grow in understanding, knowledge, and conviction. Perhaps examining the ideas of others will challenge our beliefs and even change them. But maybe it will simply reinforce our beliefs and leave us with a greater understanding of why we believe what we believe, and feel what we feel.

Many children look to us as role models–imitating our actions and emulating our behaviors–and the only way we will see change, is if we become the change we wish to experience. Thus, if the thoughts of someone else do not align with our own, as fellow human beings with similar experiences and gifts, we must take the time to consider their ideas; if we wish for others to respect the power and importance of logic and reason, we must respect their ideas, thoughts, and arguments. The way we treat others in this world says a lot about our character and goes a long way towards determining whether our experience here on Earth will be positive and meaningful.

Respectfully listen to and acknowledge the ideas and thoughts of others.

Questions to consider:

Why do we often focus on the motives of others rather than on facts and logic?

What are some of the things that other individuals disagree with you on?

Has anyone ever attacked your motives in order to avoid an argument? Why? How did it feel? How often do you do this same thing to others?

For further thought:

“He is a true fugitive, that flies from reason, by which men are sociable.” ~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Between Knowledge And Ignorance

“All of us necessarily hold many casual opinions that are ludicrously wrong simply because life is far too short for us to think through even a small fraction of the topics that we come across.” ~ Julian Lincoln Simon, The Ultimate Resource … 

As Plato once stated, “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.” And although most of us have very limited knowledge on many topics that we have not researched or studied, we still like to think of ourselves as “experts” on them. We feel that we know all that we need to know about something simply because we have been introduced to it or heard others talking about it. In truth, however, no one can be truly expert in more than a few topics, for there is simply not enough time available for us to dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of knowledge in more than a few. Not to mention that things are always growing and changing, and if we are not constantly keeping up with the changes, our knowledge on the topic becomes stale.

This is a very harmful habit to fall into, as assuming we are expert in something, or claiming to know something we do not, will in many situations, prevent us from learning things that might be very important to our growth. In addition, we could lead others to harm as well, as they might simply take our word as fact, thereby diminishing their own growth and further spreading ignorance and untruths.

My mother once told me, “a jack of all trades, is a king of none,” and it seems this is exactly what Julian is saying here. Growth, understanding, and the pursuit of knowledge are wonderful aspects of our becoming. But we have to be careful not to carelessly hold dear our opinions without putting them to the test, for much of what we know is second-hand knowledge at best. And the casual opinions we share or hold dear, will serve to form the basis of our credibility with others–or lack thereof.

Be honest with yourself and others when sharing casual opinions; do not be afraid to say “I don’t know.”

Questions to consider:

Is it really necessary that we know everything? Why do we tend to feel that we must be seen as experts on so many different things?

How do we develop casual opinions that are simply wrong?

What messages do we send to others when we express those opinions as fact?

For further thought:

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” ~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Christmas Season

“Christmas is the time for looking ahead courageously through the gates of the swiftly approaching new year… of resolving that the coming months will reflect a kinder, more forgiving, and less heedless person than mirrored in the past.” ~ Ellen V. Morgan, Christmas is the Time … 

The season of Christmas is a wonderful time to focus on changing our hearts and our minds. With the holiday spirit permeating our lives, and the approaching New Year rousing our resolve, we have perhaps the best opportunity to take the kindness, love, compassion, and joy of the Christmas season, and plant it in our own hearts so that it might manifest itself throughout the upcoming year.

There really is no good reason for allowing the Spirit of Christmas to dissipate and letting normalcy hide how special our lives–and the lives of all humankind–truly are. Doing so is a disservice to all. And although reflecting a better person than years past requires some courage and resolve on our part, we all have the ability–and duty–to try.

Aim to keep the kindness and compassion of the Christmas season in your heart and mind throughout the upcoming year. Strive to focus on the beauty of life each morning you awake, whatever season it happens to be–spring, summer, fall, or winter. Allow yourself to be more kind, forgiving, compassionate, and generous to others in your life. And if you can do this with great purpose and resolve, each day will become just as remarkable as the one before, and your life will become a series of extraordinary days, weeks, months, and years.

The truth is that the Spirit of Christmas is needed all year round, as the qualities it brings–peace, hope, joy, love, family, sharing, giving, kindness, compassion, and much more–shine as a beautiful light to dispel the darkness, hatred, evil, and unrest in life. Let the light of Christ be born in your heart; let the Spirit of Christmas take residence within. For wherever the Christmas Child is born, God’s love and peace begins anew.

Come up with three ways in which you can help carry the Spirit of Christmas with you in the coming months.

Questions to consider:

Why do we often tend to let Christmas fall into the past each year, rather than carrying it with us?

Which qualities of the Christmas season do you feel would benefit you the most if you carried them into the new year? Which ones would benefit others the most?

What are some ways that can you share your favorite qualities of the Christmas season with others?

For further thought:

“I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.” ~ Harlan Miller, Better Homes and Gardens

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At Your Door Knocking

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” ~ Revelation 3:20 (NIV Bible) … 

Before he died in a tragic plane crash on July 28, 1982, Keith Green was the biggest name in contemporary Christian music. He had the heart of a David and the prophetic message of a John the Baptist. His song “You Love the World,” written as a message from Christ, is typical of Keith’s radical style. Consider some of the lyrics: “You prefer the light of your TV. / You love the world, and you’re avoiding me.” The songwriter goes on to ask from Jesus’ point of view if it is right to ignore him after he “gave my blood, to save your life.”

These are hard-hitting words, but certainly not a new message. These uncomfortable lyrics communicate the same message we find in Revelation 3:20. Speaking to and through the apostle John, Jesus describes himself as being at a “door,” knocking and desiring to come in.
Christians typically use this verse in evangelism, urging unbelievers to “open their hearts to Jesus.” While it is certainly true that Christ wants non-Christians to receive him in faith (see John 1:12), this particular verse is actually addressed to Christians! A group of believers in Laodicea (modern-day Turkey) had become spiritually indifferent. They were going through the motions of Christianity, but in their attitudes and by their actions, they had actually shut Christ out of their lives! Is this true today as well?

Christmas is the perfect day to examine your heart. Have you shoved Christ over into the margins of your life? Has he become a bit player in the drama of your life? He wants to be central in your thoughts and plans. He wants to fellowship with you and be your closest friend. Are you letting him?

Pray this today: 
Lord Jesus, please come and fellowship with me …

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