Dare to Have a God-Sized 2018

January – A Season of Grace

There seems to be a special grace in the month of January – a brief period between the boxing up of the Christmas decorations and the head-first plunge into the brisk waters of a fresh, new year. A golden opportunity to be seized or squandered – a brief pause in which we can see with clarity and set the tone for the New Year.

Like the starkly beautiful forms of naked trees of winter, the underpinnings of life are visible during this brief season of grace. Choices and goals normally concealed by the thickly clustered leaves of activities are revealed to be reconsidered, and wisdom quietly invites us to choose well.

Do You Dare to Have a God Sized 2018 - winter treesI’m not just talking about noticing that our jeans are uncomfortably snug from holiday overindulgence and resolving to sign up for Zumba or Boot Camp, although that could be a good thing.

I’m talking about our goals, choices, and habits that will define us over a lifetime, and the chance to reflect and recalibrate that feels uniquely fitting for this time of year.

What goals are in your heart for 2018?

One thing I know for sure as I look ahead to the rest of the year – in the words of John the Baptist:

“I must decrease, and He must increase.”

I need more of Jesus this year than ever before.

But to have more of Him, I will of necessity need to have LESS of some other things.

What am I willing to sacrifice to see a fresh move of God in my life?

Sleep? Self-indulgence? Free time? Commitments that are good but keep us from what’s best?

Are We Asking the Right Questions as we set our goals?

I wonder – what kind of 2018 does God have in mind for me? For you?

Are our goals paltry in His mind and unworthy of our calling, though they may seem lofty and nearly unattainable in ours?

What is in His heart for you and your family this year?Do You Dare to Have a God Sized 2018 - woman with Bible

How does He desire to add to, detract from, or change what we are focused on?

What does He want to empower you to do in this world?

How does He want to grow your faith and mine?

I suspect God’s ideas would blow our minds, scare us to death, and energize us like a bolt of lightning all at the same time!

Are we willing to have the 2018 that GOD wants us to have?

A New Year For Those Who Dare

My prayer for you and for myself is that God would make us willing to pay the price to fully engage with Him this year and to see His plans for us come to pass.

To dare to have the 2018 that God has in mind for us.

Do You Dare to Have a God Sized 2018 - man prayingIt’s okay if you don’t feel that daring, but really wish you did. He can work with that!

Let’s move past weight loss goals (although I have those as well!) and really dig in this year and see what God will do.

If you are ready to recommit to the disciplines that form mountain-movers, drop me a line and let me know. I’ll be praying for you as I recommit to them as well. Time with Jesus, time in His Word, fasting, obedience.

Not new, not trendy, not glamorous.

But nothing new, trendy, or glamorous forms solid people of faith who are able to hold out life and hope to others drowning in anxiety and disillusionment.

There aren’t shortcuts, there’s just plain old obedience.

But through this process of decreasing so He can increase, I believe we will position ourselves for a 2018 that is full of His power and presence.

Are you ready?

With faith, hope and love,

The Beautiful Journey

A Christmas Celebration Fit For a King

I can hardly believe Christmas is almost here. I feel like I have just emerged from a whirlwind of school, shopping, soccer tournaments, and sickness and have been deposited, right-side-up and breathless, in the week before Christmas.

The shopping is done. Almost. Everyone is over their colds. School is winding down, and the soccer season is over.

Now the sacred moments, like graceful deer grazing in a snow-covered meadow, can softly appear in the wake of all the activity.

The moments that take the true richness of the Christmas season and reveal it to our wondering eyes.

A Christmas Celebration Fit for a KingAnd it would appear that we Americans have some funny ideas about the true meaning of Christmas. While waiting patiently (well…trying to!) in line at Wal-Mart last week, my eyes were drawn to a large, attractive sign in front of the in-store banking institution. The enticing Christmas colors and sparkles promised a cheerful holiday message of some sort, but when I read the words I was mortified: “Spend like you WANT to this holiday season”, the sign called to hapless shoppers, inviting them in to apply for loans for Christmas shopping. No mention was made, of course, of how it would feel to begin the New Year saddled with debt for gifts that already lost their sparkle.

What a message! “Spend like you want to, and never mind the consequences!”

Is that what Christmas is about – lots and lots of presents that we can’t even afford?  Is that the way to honor the One we celebrate?

I will admit, no one likes to feel poor at Christmas. We have had the years of mandatory homemade gifts, the wishing there was more to go around, and the tension of wanting to bless those we love with something they will enjoy, and not having the money to do so. Not fun.

But not the end of the world, either.

If you are having that kind of Christmas this year, I understand that tension and my heart goes out to you.

But the truly poor this Christmas, I believe, are not those who can’t afford a lot of stuff.A Christmas Celebration Fit for a King

The truly poor are those who do not see.

That kind of poverty is not solved by more cash or gift cards, and it results in a Christmas devoid of true meaning.

Those afflicted by this kind of poverty don’t see their need for the infant King who came to dwell among us.

They don’t see the incredible miracle of “God WITH us”.

They don’t see the wonder of fulfilled prophecies and the sweeping grandeur of God’s timeline from eternity to eternity.

They don’t see the mystery of the infinite God making Himself small and enduring deprivation, hunger, coldness, and suffering for A Christmas Celebration Fit for a Kingpeople who would misunderstand, mock, and crucify Him – and doing it all for love.

They don’t see the poignant beauty of that rough feeding trough that disguised the costliest gift of all time.

Oh, that we would all have eyes to see, this Christmas, the glory and the wonder of a love so incomprehensible.

We don’t have to have anything special this Christmas except eyes to see the wonder and a heart open to receive the Gift and the Giver.

That will truly make it a Christmas celebration fit for a King, regardless of what may or may not be under the tree.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours –A Christmas Celebration Fit for a King

The Beautiful Journey

Roots and Shoots – The Powerful Link Between Faith and Gratitude

What’s Faith Got to Do With It?

Is there a connection between our faith and gratitude?

What does faith have to do with our ability to be grateful?

Most of us understand that gratitude is a choice.

Dr. Viktor Frankl says, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Our circumstances don’t dictate our attitude; we do.

Our attitude, in turn, has the ability to propel us out of our circumstances.

Root and Shoots - The Powerful Link Between Faith and GratitudeHal Urban quotes a study in his book, Life’s Greatest Lessons, which concluded that up to 85% of our success in life is due to attitude, and ability only makes up the remaining 15% (p. 40, Life’s Greatest Lessons).

That is both a sobering statistic and an encouraging one. Sobering, because it puts the responsibility squarely in our court. Encouraging, for the same reason.

You’ve surely heard the old axiom, “attitude determines altitude”.

What then, is the basis of a positive attitude? What enables us to live each day with grateful hearts?

Faith is the Root; Attitude the Shoot

I believe a great attitude and a truly thankful heart are the outgrowths of the root of faith.

Sure, we can go about it another way, and read lots of books on positive thinking.

We can try to patch up our bad attitudes and give ourselves a 30-day thankfulness challenge.

Or we can look below the soil and see why our lives are producing what they are.

Our basic, bedrock level beliefs are the roots of the shoots that spring up in our daily lives.

If the shoots need to improve, we need to check the health of the root.

Very much like in math, where one small miscalculation takes the equation on an entirely different trajectory to the wrong Root and Shoots - The Powerful Link Between Faith and Gratitudedestination. The trajectory of our lives will take us where our root beliefs determine, whether or not we admit those beliefs to ourselves or others.

A healthy root of faith that God is, that He is good, that He loves us, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him will produce shoots of trust and gratitude (which will be seen in our attitude).

A root that has been (and here my garden knowledge becomes thin and spotty) attacked by grub worms and eaten through will produce very different growth…poor, stunted, and withered.

The root of our faith will always determine the health of our attitude.

Do I truly believe that my steps are ordered by God, that I am here to serve Him and to allow my life to bring Him glory? Or do I believe He is untrustworthy, doesn’t have my best interest at heart, has “done me wrong” and owes me better?

Those beliefs, even if we don’t consciously admit them to ourselves, are the basis for our attitudes and actions. The root determines the fruit.

Does a healthy, solid root of faith ensure a carefree life? No, it sure doesn’t. We will still have struggles, disappointments, and heartaches like everyone else, but even in the midst, our faith will enable us to see evidence of God’s care. We will be able to look back over the path already traveled and see many reasons to be thankful. Faith will enable us to live in the tension between who God is and what we see what our natural eyes before everything in this world is made right once again.

Root Health Check

If we discover that the root of our faith needs some attention, what can be done?

We can pray, along with the centurion, “I believe! Lord, help my unbelief!”. We can ask Him to remove from us that which blinds us to His goodness and to give us eyes to see Him as He truly is. We can immerse ourselves daily in His life-giving Word and allow the measure of faith He has already given us to grow as it is tended.

Root and Shoots - The Powerful Link Between Faith and GratitudeMy daughter recently planted some herb seeds. She has made several herbal remedies lately and is branching out into cultivating her own plants. If she simply poked the seeds into the dirt and went on with her life, it is highly doubtful that she will have flowers and leaves to harvest later on. The young plants must be carefully tended, watered, placed in the correct amount of sunlight, and kept weed-free. They must be sheltered enough, but not so much that the wind can never reach them, for without adversity neither plant nor human will grow.

Such is our fledgling faith. If we are trying to increase our faith, it must be tended. It needs to be watered daily with God’s Word, given the light of His presence, and the practice of being put to use in real life trials and tribulations so that it will be strengthened and proved real. Everything about our lives can be greatly impacted for the good by a daily choice to be grateful and have a great attitude, and our choice to have a great attitude is given wings to fly by the faith that grounds it.

What choice will you make today?

Happy Thanksgiving from my heart to yours to all the American readers, both here and abroad!  May our hearts be truly thankful.

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey

Why We Need Thanksgiving

Some of you may have seen the turkey meme going around Facebook that says “Back off, Santa! This is my month.”

Sandwiched between the more profitable Halloween and the mega-fest of consumerism, Christmas, Thanksgiving airtime seems to shrink more every year.

I must admit, I agree with the turkey.

For rushed and harried denizens of the postmodern era, a season of thankfulness is a blessed balm to the soul.

The shopping season is pushed on us earlier and earlier each year, it seems, crowding out the solemn pause that should accompany our Thanksgiving feast.

Why We Need ThanksgivingSales and dollar figures blot out images of Pilgrims, sacrifice, and suffering. The crumbs from the last bite of pumpkin pie are barely brushed away before we dash out the door for the madness of pre-sales.

But…isn’t all this just normal?

Why not simply take the path of least resistance and allow ourselves to be swept away by the treacherous current that would rush us past the shores of quiet contemplation? Why not just relax and be carried and jostled along with myriads of other hapless shoppers in the quest for more stuff to cram in our over-stuffed homes?

Because Thanksgiving is more than the day before the Black Friday sales.

Thanksgiving is a way of life, a spirit, and the way to enter into the presence of the Giver of all good gifts.

Thanksgiving is what grounds us in reality and guards us against excessive consumerism.

Without it, we are blind and grope in the dark for things which cannot restore our sight. Thanksgiving is what gives us eyes to see the many profound gifts we daily take for granted.

Legs, with which to get out of bed, and which give me independence, the glory of which I may never fully grasp.Why We Need Thanksgiving

Eyes to see the brilliant sunrise over the horizon, the tousled heads of my sleeping children, and the smiles on the faces of the precious souls I help serve at our church food pantry.

Ears to hear the sound of my husband’s voice praying over our meals, to be filled with strains of music, and the joyful songs of birds.

A sense of smell to savor the aroma of brewing coffee, an apple pie in the oven, bubbling under its flaky crust, and the tang of wood smoke on a crisp, cold night.

A sense of touch to feel the cozy, soft blanket that enfolds like a gentle embrace; to feel the silky lengths of my daughter’s hair, and the safe, honest, work-roughened hand of my husband as he holds mine.

These treasures were given to us – given! Many of us make it all the way through the long days of our lives retaining every one of them.

If we own a Bible, we own an even more valuable treasure – one that many have shed their blood and persevered through desperate danger for us to one day be able to own freely. Many countries today do not offer that freedom.

The freedom to live and worship as we choose, if we have it. Many don’t.

The ability to love, because One considered us worth loving.

These are among the things most precious, and for which we should be most thankful.

Why We Need ThanksgivingWill you accept the challenge to see through the lens of thanksgiving and to verbalize your gratitude? Thanksgiving, by definition, is gratitude expressed – thanks given.

Is there someone today who needs to hear the kindly spoken words that you are thankful for their life? That they matter to you?

Is there a blessing that has gone unnoticed for which you can express heartfelt gratitude today?

My challenge to myself and all of us is, every day for the rest of this month, to choose to express gratitude to those around us and to our Maker.

Then, when the dazzling lights of the Christmas season momentarily blind us, we will still be able to see.

We will enter that season solidly grounded by the preparatory work of feeling and expressing our gratitude and seeing the bounty we already embrace. We will firmly hold to the thread of thanksgiving that will sew the seasons together, uniting our thankful hearts with the coming of the Christ child, and we will then truly experience the joy of both.

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. – for great inspirational quotes on gratitude, check out this post:
https://daringtolivefully.com/gratitude-quotes

Simple Life Hack That Will Make Others More Thankful For You

the Life Hack That Brings Light

I love learning simple solutions that are immediately useful and actually make a difference in my daily existence, don’t you?

I recently learned that one can use a stick of uncooked spaghetti to light candles with hard-to-reach wicks. After years of sticking my arm up to the elbow in jar candles and simultaneously burning my fingers while getting covered in soot, I was ecstatic to learn this handy tidbit of information.

Simple Life Hack That Will Make Others More Grateful For YouBeyond revolutionizing the lighting of jar candles, how wonderful would it be to learn a life hack that could bring light and joy to the atmosphere of our homes and workplaces? One that not only can transform the atmosphere around us but inside us as well by increasing feelings of happiness and well-being? Today, I am going to share just such a treasure with you. If applied regularly and sincerely, it will also make others more thankful for you! Sound like a winner? I think so too!

The secret? Well, it’s no secret. It’s something you use already every single day. What will make a difference, however, is eliminating (as much as possible) negative uses and incorporating positive ones. The item in question? Words.

We use them all day, every day. But few of us really take time to think about the impact our words are having. I suspect an even smaller number of people recognize that each time we open our mouths, we make a choice about what emerges. No one’s mouth “runs away with them”, not really. We hold the reins on that pony the whole time, but too often we refuse to use them.

The Power of Words and the Power of choice

Our words can lift, or they can crush. They can bless, or they can curse. They can bring life or they can speak death, but we are the ones who choose how we use them.

Making a conscious choice to use words to lift, bless, and encourage can truly change the atmosphere in our homes and workplaces. If I am feeling super irritated with one of my kids and the downward spiral has begun, I have learned how to turn the situation around. Most of the time. 🙂 Stopping, looking into the eyes of the guilty (or perhaps innocent) party, and affirming something positive about them can completely change both the atmosphere and my current emotional state.Simple Life Hack That Will Make Others More Grateful For You

Consciously use words to affirm the value and good in others and see how things change around you. Examples: “I know we haven’t been getting along the best today, but I want you to know I can’t even imagine life without you, and I’m so thankful every day that God put you in our family” or “I noticed that you took the trash out this morning before I even asked you to do it – I so appreciate the ways I see you turning into a mature, responsible young man – you are a blessing to me”.

If at first, this kind of language sounds foreign to you, and if at first, you get suspicious looks from your family or coworkers, don’t give up! Mastering how we use our words can be the one factor that makes the difference between people running in the other direction when they see us coming, or intentionally seeking us out because we are positive, affirming people others enjoy. The key is to be sincere, not smarmy, and certainly not sarcastic.

The Book I Wish I’d Written

Need a resource to help get you moving down this path? I have The. Most. Incredible. book to share with you!

It would make my short list of books to take to that desert island people always discuss – Positive Words, Powerful Results by Dr. Hal Urban (and thank you, Jan, for recommending it to me years ago!). After reading it, I became so much more aware of what was coming out of my mouth and how much I actually choose to complain – ugh. My kids and I read the book together, and doing that really helped us stay accountable – and without my having to do anything else they, too, were filled with a desire to use words in a more positive way. That right there is worth the price of the book and music to a parent’s ears!

Dr. Hal’s book is filled with real-life stories and examples from his many years as a teacher. We considered the lessons learned in this book (which really just reinforced in a fresh, easy-to-apply way what I already knew from Scripture) to be so important that we keep the book in our everyday reading basket with plans to read it through at least once each year.

November, when our focus naturally shifts to thankfulness, is the perfect month to do it! For me, reading this book and putting its principles into practice helped me to become a more thankful person, and I know my family appreciates the changes, too.

Another great way to stay mindful of the power of our words is to commit verses like these to memory:

“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Pr 15:4, NIV

 

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Pr 18:21, NIV

 

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Pr 12:18, NIV

 

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Pr 16:24, NIV

Be Someone Others Are Thankful For

  • I want to be master over my words, not let my words master me and keep others and myself from a joyful and victorious life.
  • I want my words to bring life, healing, blessing, and encouragement to others.
  • I want to be an example to my children of the way God wants us to use words.
  • I want to be someone who makes a positive impact on others and makes them feel better for having been with me.

I think it’s time to refresh those Scriptures in my memory, grab my copy of Positive Words, Powerful Results, and spend some time absorbing the wisdom of both.

Simple Life Hack That Will Make Others More Grateful For YouDear friend, what about you? Do you want to commit this Thanksgiving month to use your words to be a blessing to others? The benefits will bless you in return!

Harnessing our words – simple, though not always easy.  But the results, I think you’ll agree, are so worth the effort it takes to achieve them.

 

 

With gratitude,

The Beautiful Journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is Dr. Hal Urban’s website for those who would like to read more about him and his books!