Monday, December 31, 2012

Priority Check!

It's hard to believe that another year has come to an end. If you are like me, you've probably spent some time reflecting on 2012 and its successes and failures. Like wide-eyed children, we look forward to 2013. It is a blank slate; the coming year is filled with hope and possibility! I suppose that is why many people make New Year's Resolutions.

For most of my life, I never participated in this cultural ritual. Honestly, I didn't want to make a pledge at the beginning of the year that I was certain I would never be able to obtain. Several years ago, a friend suggested that my approach to resolutions was all wrong. Rather than seeing them as promises to myself that I would certainly break, he told me to look at them more as annual goals. What would I like to see myself accomplish in the coming year? Since they are targets, any movement towards achieving them is a step in the right direction. Even if I lose my way in March or April, a quick review of my resolutions in this new mindset gets me back on the path toward my goal.

For me, the resolutions that I make are a reflection of the things that are most important to me....those things that currently hold the top place for me as well as I what I aim to make a priority in the coming year. A helpful tool in determining your current priorities is by considering what you have said "yes" to this year. Regularly submitting job applications means that making a career change is a high priority for you. Agreeing to babysit your grandchildren as often as possible shows that building a relationship with the youngest members of your family is high on your list.

It is not only important to look at the "yes" answers in your life. Examining what you have said "no" to can be just as insightful. I may say that becoming a better musician is very important to me, but if I regularly neglect practicing my instrument then my words are simply hot air. All the good intentions in the world to lose weight are worthless without making changes to my diet and exercise routine. No matter how much I may WANT these things to be priorities, my actions define what I truly value.

Dare I say it? Does this same concept apply to our spiritual lives as well? As a Christian, I say that I want to be a servant who shows the love of Christ to others in both word and deed. Do my actions support the words claiming this is a top priority? Thankfully, only two beings truly know the answer to that question:  God and me. No one else is able to judge the condition of my heart. However, Paul does invite us to "examine ourselves" on a regular basis. Now it's time to be honest with myself and take a hard look at my actions.

Each of us know the areas that are most difficult for you. See if any of these scenarios sound familiar? They may bring to mind some other items you need to consider.

  • I say that I love God and want to worship Him with all that I have. Do I allow any excuse that presents itself to keep me away though? I'm too's so far out of the way.....the children......the parents......I'm just not interested.  
  • I don't study the Word because I don't understand.....I'll just wait and let the teacher explain it.  After all, God understands! 
  • I don't talk to my colleagues about God because I don't want to offend them...after all, I can't push them away since I have to work with them.  
  • Don't ask me to work with senior adults (insert "children or teens or adults" at will) because they annoy me. I don't have to like everybody, I just have to be kind to them. [Does that really sound like a CHRISTian response to you?]

Before anyone gets offended and thinks that I am speaking directly to them or their situation, please know that this mirror is pointing back directly at me. Are my words that describe my "priorities" matched and supported by my actions? If not, I'm not fooling God. If we're honest with ourselves, we're probably not being fooled either. Time for a priority check! I want to make sure that everything is in its proper order as I enter the New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hidden Treasures

My mother's kitchen has always been a place of laughter and joy. It is also a place of learning. On Christmas Eve, Mom and I were doing quite a bit of baking together. Two important ingredients throughout the day were sugar and flour. The sugar is stored in a plastic canister that lives on the top shelf of the cabinet. Flour, on the other hand, is found in various sacks piled on top of a potato bin that sits near the entry to the room. (Lest you get the wrong impression, the potato bin is full.....of pots and pans!  The potatoes are kept in their plastic bag next to the cabinet that stores the sugar.)

While grabbing the sugar, I spied a companion canister and asked Mom why she didn't keep her flour in it so she could clear up some of the clutter in the kitchen. Her response was not what I expected at all. I thought it was because she needed to distinguish between self-rising flour and all-purpose. Her reason was that the canister was probably dirty! Such a simple solution, I thought.  I immediately went to my room to grab the labeling machine so we could establish which flour was in the container. Mom was further surprised when she opened the container and found that the ENTIRE SET (minus the one she was using for the sugar) was inside!

I was a good son (in that moment, at least) and didn't comment on the situation. Inside, however, I was wondering how long the canisters had been hidden away and not doing what they were designed to do. To me, that was such a tragedy.....and explained so much. Mom comments regularly on how little room she has in the kitchen and how she hates that everything is piled around. All the while, she has at least two sets of canisters that are normally empty and not doing their job. (Earlier this year, I did convince her to stash the coffee K-cups in one of the larger containers. I'll take one small victory at a time.)

Since that day of holiday baking, I have found myself returning to those empty canisters. I find myself wondering if there are canisters in my own life that I have not unpacked. Are their skills, dreams, and abilities that I am allowing to waste away in disuse? Have I forgotten that they are there or am I neglecting them because I fear the implications that unpacking them would bring? You see, if Mom were to begin to use all of her canisters as they are intended, it would require some cleaning and changing to occur. She would have to create a new arrangement for things in the kitchen. Some things may have to be combined while other things may need to be tossed out.

The same can be said of my life. Once I begin to unpack the forgotten "canisters", it will require cleaning up the disorganization and admitting to myself, others, and my God that I didn't really have it all together. While the process can be painful, frustrating, and embarrassing, the final result enables me to be more productive and successful while bringing honor to the Kingdom. Lord, remind me of the treasures you have given me that I have packed away and allowed to lie dormant in my heart. Give me the courage to unpack them today and allow them to be put to use in the coming year.

Mom's plastic canister set is still packaged up and holds a quiet place on the back shelf of the cabinet. I'll just quietly keep my eyes open to see when they will be freed up to do what they were meant to do and see the impact it will make.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


The last week in December is naturally a time to reflect on the year that is coming to a close. We like to recall the successes we have experienced. We revel in the joy and laughter. Sadly, we must also face our disappointments.

Disappointment is certain to come into every life. The reasons can be numerous. I have experienced disappointment this year because of my own personal failures. Goals I set for myself were unmet. Positive changes I hoped to make were left behind on the planning table. Good intentions fell prey to lacking motivation.

I have also been disappointed in other people. Some have made commitments that were not fulfilled. I have been betrayed by others who I have invested in extensively and trusted completely. Still others made poor decisions (in my opinion) contrary to my "sage" advice.

Unfulfilled dreams have been yet another source of disappointment in 2012. I still search for a full-time job in my industry. Hopes to reconnect with friends and to see the world have not come true. Visions of personal enjoyment and fulfillment danced in my head but never became a reality.

If we are not careful, we can easily become depressed and frustrated as we face our disappointments. Disappointment is an emotion, but it does not define me. Despite all the things I had hoped would come to me in 2012, I stand in the confidence that my true identity is found in God alone. My momentary disappointments will ultimately result in something good for me since my Father declares that He "knows the plans [He] has for me." (Jeremiah 29:11)

I choose to keep dreaming, trusting, and hoping. Not all of my dreams will come true. People will let me down and some of my hopes will fall in the dust. Still I have hope that some of my dreams are birthed in me by God Himself. I trust that "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it." (Philippians 1:6) I choose to simply be who God created to be.....a man who dreams big!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Watching Preferences

I've always been a bit of a television junkie. If there's a new series on the tube that everyone is talking about, I want to make sure that I am current with my television watching. I really enjoy a good thriller -- something that keeps me on the edge of my seat. What's really funny, though, is that I miss most of the REALLY spine-tingling moments because I'm watching through the slits between my fingers! It's sad, but true.

Since I'm rarely home on a regular basis to watch anything when it first airs, I'm addicted to Hulu Plus. I'm sure there are other services that people like better, but I'm a creature of habit. Since I started with Hulu, I anticipate sticking with it. Tonight, I was catching up on episodes of Chicago Fire. It's really a great show with its strong plot line and talented cast. In each episode, the fire squad deals with crises of all types. When we're fighting fires or dealing with explosions, I'm good. A little blood on the face or problem. But when I'm watching a man with his arm stuck in the gears of a machine, blood all over the place, and the rescue team starts pulling out bone saws and other instruments of torture.....enough is enough! The episode opened with this scene. I had to get up from my computer and listen to the story without watching. When the victim began screaming as they were removing his arm from the gears, I left the room! I'm a wimp, and I accept it.

As you can imagine, I've never had much luck with the medical dramas. I get nauseous simply watching! I know I've missed some incredible shows like ER and Chicago Hope, but I decided that their entertainment level wasn't worth the ill feelings I experienced week after week.

My other version of the addiction is grabbing up DVDs of shows and plowing through the entire season...and sometimes through an entire series!  I realized today that I have a little free time coming up in the next few weeks, so I added a few videos to my collection. (Besides, I have to do something since Scandal is on hiatus!) I'll be catching up on Once (I saw the first half of the season before life got crazy, so I decided to just start from the beginning again). I may be the only person in the world who hasn't seen some of Mad Men at this point; that will change in a couple of days since I picked up season 1 today at Target as well.

I've never had much luck finding many comedies that I think are worth the investment of my time. I liked the Tim Allen series and other shows like that. If it's witty and based in realistic situations, I'm there! So much of what I see on television today is romantically driven and/or what I refer to as "stupid humor."

I'm open to suggestions. What are some of your favorite television series (either drama or comedy)? I'm willing to give almost anything a try. Just promise you won't be offended if I don't share your taste in entertainment!