Beginnings

Don't you love new beginnings?

Don’t you love new beginnings?

Beginnings.  “I love how you just go for it! Look at all the stuff you’re doing,” my friend said during our girl time the other night.

“Humph,” I grunted. “Don’t let me fool you, Sharon.  I am a great starter, not so great finisher. I am more easily distracted than Narcissi in a room full of mirrors.”

It’s true. It’s not that I don’t finish anything~ incredibly, in spite of many false starts, I do manage to see the finish line on some projects. But I still start and stop more things than I should.  Websites. Blogs. Business ideas. Stories. Diets. Exercise plans. You get the idea. It is a character issue I am continually working on and I believe I am seeing improvement. It’s just that I really love beginning!

If you look at my side of the bed you will find no less than ten books scattered around. How many started? Ten. How many finished? I’m still working on it. Each one sounded so good that I had to take a peek, give it a start…until the next one caught my attention.  And so it goes…

That is probably one of the reasons I love celebrating New Year’s Day ~ it’s a beginning, the start of a new year. Never one to look back, I am much happier leaping forward.  It’s so exhilarating to dream and plan all the great things I am going to do ~ that is, if God is willing (see my previous post!).

But this year I think it would be wise to pause before I begin, take a minute to reflect on the last year and how it went. What went right? What could have been better? Am I a better person today than I was a year ago? Did I finish well?

I still can’t wait to begin 2013, with my dreams and plans in tow; though I hope to begin with a little more intentionality, a little more focus. What about you? Do you embrace beginnings or do you find it hard to start? Is there something you need to start this year or is there something you need to finish?

An excerpt from my reading this morning was ever so timely, written in a letter by Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk, in 1685:

He (God) knows what we can do, so let us then begin. Perhaps He expects but one generous resolution on your part. Have courage. We have little time to live (you are near sixty-four, and I am almost eighty.) Let us live and die with God.

Oh, Brother Lawrence, how relevant your words are today! Friends, as we turn the calendar page to 2013, let us remember to number our days and let us begin!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

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Our Days Are Numbered

My days are numbered...and so are yours!

My days are numbered…and so are yours!

Days. It’s that time of year. I reached the end of my calendar and it was time to get my new Zig Ziglar performance planner ready for the new year. I spent an hour writing the number of the day in the little boxes for the weekly and monthly views. I went through and marked out the major holidays. It felt weird to write in the year as “2013” and then I got to the end of the planner and found it included a thirteenth month to get you started on the next year ~ and so I wrote “2014”. 2014? I can barely grasp that 2012 is nothing more than a memory; it’s hard to imagine that one day I will be writing 2014 on checks ~ assuming we still use checks in 2014!

I love this time of year. I love thinking about a new year, a fresh start, new goals, revising my bucket list. There’s nothing like a fresh, clean calendar just waiting to be filled with things to do, goals, and plans. But as I pulled out my new calendar and numbered my days, I had a sobering thought. My days ARE numbered. There is no guarantee I will live to see the date so neatly written in the little box. Even as I reread the first paragraph of this post, I realize how presumptuous I am to say that one day I will be writing 2014 on checks; in fact, what I should have said was, one day I may do this or that. Recent events, both nationally and personally, have made this realization very clear to me. It’s a realization I hope I think about often in 2013, not to bring me down, but to remind me that every day is a gift and an opportunity.

God knows the number of my days here and I am very thankful I don’t. The Mayans sure didn’t.  But I do know that my calendar does have an end date ~ every person born has an end date. In Southern California, where I live, there was a radio talk show host I used to listen to in the afternoons. When you listen to someone on the radio on a regular basis you begin to feel like you know them ~ you’re familiar with their quirky words, their laugh, their opinions. That’s how I felt about Frank Pastore. And then one day, a little over a month ago, I tuned in to hear an unfamiliar voice in Frank’s place. Frank had been in a serious motorcycle accident and lay in a coma in the hospital. I could hardly believe it. Sure, everyone who listened to Frank knew that he rode a motorcycle; but he was so vibrant, still so young, doing God’s work and influencing people in his world. How could this happen?

We prayed for him, my family and all his many listeners, family and friends. We prayed that God would heal him so that he could continue to be a part of our world and continue to spread the good news about God’s plan for His creation. But it wasn’t meant to be and December 17th was Frank’s last day here. God knew the exact number of Frank’s days.

Amazingly, Frank spoke of the dangers of riding his motorcycle on the air the very day he would suffer his deadly accident. You can read his testimony here and listen to his prophetic words here (scroll down to see the link). If you listen to this clip from his show, you will know that Frank’s concern wasn’t about his physical death, because he got it. He understood that his days here were numbered. And he didn’t seem at all concerned about spiritual death either, because he knew with all assurance that he was going to be with his Lord and Savior when his time here was done. His concern was for the souls of others, those who didn’t have a Savior to bridge the gap between an imperfect human being and a perfect, holy Creator.

Last time I checked, no one I know had an expiration date stamped on them. But don’t be mistaken, though we don’t know the time, we all have an end date. There’s a country song that says “I wish that you would live like you are dying…” Well, guess what? You are dying! I am dying! Will this realization cause you to live differently in 2013? Will it cause you to think about your priorities? And most importantly, will it give you reason to think about the relationship of your own soul with its Creator? I pray it does and, if you are interested, I would love to introduce you to my Savior. Frank knew Him. Zig Ziglar knew Him. In fact, you may have heard about Him ~ we celebrated His birthday on December 25th!

A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.  Job 14:4-6

“Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.”  Psalm 39:3-5

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:11-13
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Satisfaction

Dog with the bone syndrome?

Dog with the bone syndrome?

Satisfaction. The dog was looking up at me with those big brown eyes. Then she glanced over at the take out container I had in my hand and gave me that look, the look that says, “I would like some of that!”

“Okay, Hope,” I said, kneeling down to give her one of the leftover pancakes. I justified the treat by telling myself it was a whole wheat pancake, after all, and she just loves anything that comes out of a Styrofoam container. As I was breaking up one pancake another one fell out, but I quickly grabbed it knowing that one more for our little dog would be one too many.

I set the container with the cut up pancake in front of her, but she just looked at me intently as I held the other pancake.

“Hope,” I said sternly, “be satisfied with what is right in front of you!” What is the matter with that dog? I muttered to myself as I threw the remaining pancake in the trash. No sooner had I heard the smack sound of the pancake hitting the plastic liner did I also hear a small voice in my head say, “Oh, like you don’t do that!”

As I took my plate of eggs, which was glaringly absent of carbs, and sat down to eat, I realized that too often I am just like my dog. In front of me was a perfectly nutritious plate of food. It was seasoned with spices and salsa and topped with guacamole. But I still looked longingly at the toaster, the bread and muffins sitting in the bread basket. What I wouldn’t give for a carb right now! Thinking a thought that has entered my mind many times since realizing that I would have to change the way I eat if I ever wanted to have the energy and body I desired. It’s a challenge, sometimes, to be satisfied with what is right in front of me.

I wish I could say the challenge was isolated to food, but sadly, that is not the case.

“Yes, Lord, I am grateful that my piece was published in Chicken Soup, but wouldn’t it be great if I could just get a book published.”

“Yes, Lord, I know I get to speak at women’s luncheons, but wouldn’t it be great if I could just get listed in the speaker directory, then I might have better opportunities to speak.”

“Yes, Lord, I know I have all my teeth and they work just fine, but wouldn’t it be amazing if I could have teeth as perfect and white as her.”

“Yes, Lord, I know you have prepared a place for me in heaven, and I know heaven is a glorious place, but wouldn’t it be great if this could be heaven now.”

Satisfaction – sometimes I can’t seem to get none. Another word for satisfaction is contentment and the apostle Paul sheds some keen insight into this nebulous state of being. He said, “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Phil 4:11

Learned – Paul learned to be content. Learn is a verb, it is an action word; therefore, this means it will require some effort on my part. Maybe that means making a conscious effort to, first of all, see all that I have already right in front of me. And second, keeping my focus on that and not what someone else has. Third, I might try being grateful for the blessings I already have in my life. And finally, I could try to keep a heavenly perspective, remembering that this life is temporary and broken but God has something better planned. Yes, I must learn to be content in every circumstance, and regardless of what they say, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Phillipians 4:12

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