Friday, October 24, 2008

7 Ways to Change Your Life

They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. Psalm 145:6

Okay, so you want to lose weight but it just never seems to happen. Or you try to get out of debt, but your checkbook just isn't cooperating. Maybe you REALLY want to get rid of that bad habit that's been plaguing you for years, but like an unwelcome guest, it never quite leaves. Why is change so hard?

Whether you feel stuck in a job that no longer suits you, you're getting over a relationship that’s ended, adjusting to a new baby (or empty nest) or something else, change is not always easy. In fact, it can seem downright impossible.

I believe that real change is possible. Difficult, but not impossible.

Change is in the air here in Colorado as summer's green leaves show off their new fall fashions in crimson red, burnt orange and vivid yellow. This week it was warm and sunny one day, and another day it snowed. In mid-October! Abrupt changes are common here at the foothills of the Rockies. In fact, some say, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute."

Weather changes we may tolerate. Other changes not so much. We want things to be different, we really do. But whether you use the word change, alter, modify, vary, transform, or revolutionize, we often resist the very things that could help us, heal us or make our life better.


We resist change for myriad reasons: because we like things the way they are, because it takes effort, because we have no motivation or incentive, because we don’t think it’s in our best interest—or even if we do, we feel selfish, lazy, or we lack willpower. Sometimes we simply don’t want to attempt to change because we think we may fail, or we don’t have the energy, time, money, resources, (fill in the blank with your excuse of choice).

Say you really want to lose weight, for example, but you don’t want to give up your treats. Salty or sweet, you just don’t want to. So the number on the scale never budges--or it gets higher and higher. Argh!

Nothing changes if nothings changes. Yep, we've all heard that before. Here are some things I’ve learned about altering my life:

1) Do something, even if it's a small thing. Change often comes in baby steps. Just do ONE THING differently today, and then build on that momentum. Like eat a green vegetable with your French fries. Add healthy food to your diet, then takeaway the bad stuff. One thing.

2) Get motivated. I’ve heard that the two main motivations in life are FEAR and DESIRE. Going back to the losing weight example, we can choose to make changes in our eating and exercise level out of fear (I may get a major disease and die early, or worse), or desire (I want to be healthy, I want to look good and feel good about myself, or whatever the reason). What motivates you to make changes? Who can you ask—a trusted friend or family member—to help you stay accountable to making the step-by-step changes in your life?

3) Get inspired.
Chuck Swindoll once said that self discipline is “doing what you don’t want to do, so you can have what you’ve always wanted.” Hmm. I may not want to walk, go to the gym, or eat a lot of green stuff, but I really want to be healthy, fit into clothes I haven’t worn in years, avoid disease, and have more energy. It’s like the old saying “short term pain for long term gain.”

4) Choose wisely. Actions have consequences. If you don’t send out resumes or make phone calls, you’ll never get another job. If you don’t move your body and get some exercise, the shape stays the same. Someone I know once told me, “Everything is a choice, so choose wisely.”

5) Pray! Give your struggles to God and ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to help you. He is the only one who can make real and lasting changes in your life. When we are weak, He is strong in us. Prayer is the most important thing you can ever do to change your life.

6) Take a risk.
Behold the turtle who only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.

7) Perspective. Take a long view. The growing pains of change may seem hard, but they won’t last forever. It’s like being “under construction” in your life. When a road is being repaired, workers put up signs and orange safety cones. It looks like a total mess for a few weeks or months. But eventually, the work is done; and when it’s over, things run a lot more smoothly.

Change can be good. Moment by moment, and choice by choice it happens.

And then you start seeing positive results, and you feel really good. Success! Victory! Overcoming! Things really can be different. Even for you. I can almost see it now…just stay connected to the One who never changes and see what He can do.

You are the God who performs miracles;you display your power among the peoples. Psalm 77:14

Friday, October 17, 2008

Raspberry Memories

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

I had a bowl of fresh raspberries this morning. And when I took the very first bite of the little red fruit suddenly I was eight-years old again. I could see my younger self walking across the gravel road outside my grandparent’s cabin in the Wisconsin Northwoods toward a long patch of wild raspberries. We'd pick them and eat them with cereal or right from the vine when we just couldn't wait. I can still remember those long summer days of freedom and adventure--just me and my two sisters at my grandparent’s lake cottage every two weeks, every summer. Bliss!

I remember swimming in the lake until "our lips turned blue" as grandma would say. Walking through the woods with my nature-loving grandfather was a given; he’d point out different kinds of birds, plants and animals. He knew a lot and longed to share his knowledge of the land with us, but most of it didn't sink in. We were kids; we just wanted to have fun. However, I’ll never forget one important plant, the wintergreen. When you snap the firm leaf in two and it smells like gum! That one I can identify!

We'd take drives in the pine-covered countryside, visit animal farms, go horseback riding, or go into town for supplies. Minocqua was a quaint nearby tourist town with water-ski shows and Mass on the lake. Good little Catholic girls couldn't miss Mass, even in summer. Then we'd look at the shops lining the main street and buy trinkets with our allowances. Grandma would always want to stop and look at fall clothes and we just couldn't image why anyone could even THINK about autumn when summer was right here and ripe for the picking. I wanted to stay in my summer state of mind forever.

I remember the smell of Folgers’s coffee brewing early in the morning. As I chomped on my Frosted Flakes, I wondered why grownups drank the stuff when it tasted so bitter. Grandpa took us for boat rides on the lake, taught us to fish (he made us bait our own hooks, of course) and clean our catch. Grandma would fry them up for a fresh perch or bluegill dinner, complete with a baked potato and green salad. Yum.

After dinner we might take a short walk down the peninsula that jetted out into the water. As night fell, we could hear the distant sound of a loon singing his own unique tune and return, walking on a soft bed of pine needles and mossy green ground, to the cabin.

But back to the raspberries. Funny how a taste can incite a memory. Good memories. What foods give you good memories? What could you taste right now that would transport you back to a time that was happy, carefree, and wonder-filled? Today mine was a bowl of red raspberries. It sure felt good to be eight again.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Season of Surrender

"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

Autumn is a time of surrender. Green aspen leaves give way to bright yellow ones, which turn brown and waft slowly to the ground. The earth seems to close up shop as winter approaches.

Maybe it's a time of surrender in your life, too. You want something really badly and it just does not come. Perhaps it's a different job...or a special someone in your life...or a health concern you want to just go away...or even letting go of fear, doubt and worry.

Letting go is not natural for most of us. We keep tightly clenched fists around what we think we want. But that doesn't keep it from happening, or not happening.

Surrender is about opening each finger and holding, finally, open hands toward God. Only then can he fill them with the best things. In order to surrender, we must trust. Trust the One to whom you are giving all you hold most dear. In order to trust, we must KNOW and BELIEVE that the One we are trusting is good, and faithul...that He really does have in mind our good and does all for His glory.

The cool thing about surrender, is that you don't stay in that place forever. For after surrender comes resurection. A seed in the soil dies, and one day grows to be a beautiful, colorful flower. Likewise, all that seems dead in our lives (our hopes and dreams, or other things) may actually be merely dormant. Autumns losses turn to gain in the Spring when the world blooms again.

God didn't bring you this far just to leave you. He never leaves! He who began a good work will complete it. He finishes what he starts. Always.

What will you let go of in your life today? What will you surrender with open, trusting hands to God?

The answer He gives, may just surprise you.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Choosing Joy

I am happy today. On a Monday, at that. Driving home for lunch on this sunny-blue-sky autumn day I am content, peaceful. Not that I don’t have problems, mind you. Many things swirl in my head without answers or clear direction. But today it doesn’t seem to matter. Today I am happy.

Maybe it was last night’s good night’s sleep. Or maybe it was the refreshing joy of going to the mountains on Saturday and seeing the fall colors—groves of bright yellow aspen leaves dotting the evergreen covered landscapes. Perhaps it was the new worship CD my friend Tammy gave me that has me smiling today. (It’s called “Counting on God” from New Life Worship and its amazing!)

I have learned that the elusive “happiness” that everyone seeks is not a constant in life. It’s not a state one attains and camps at forever. Life happens. We have triumphs and tragedies, success and sadness. But in between the endless cycle of work, chores and errands, “happiness moments” come—big and small, surreal and tender, and oh so very good.

Happiness comes and goes, but only joy lasts.

No matter what direction the stock market goes, how the economy fares, what happens at work or with your relationships, health and finances, joy can still be present. You may not always feel like smiling. Laughter may not come. But real, deep-seated contentment joy can arise in any circumstance.

A long time ago, the prophet Habakkuk penned these words...

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the
stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17, 18 (italics mine)

While most of us are not farmers, we could still adapt the same idea for our world today. Though my checkbook is low on funds, though my retirement plan savings fluctuate with world events, though gas is so expensive and many things uncertain….I will be joyful.

I choose Joy.

What will you do?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Certainty in an Uncertain World

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." (Jeremiah 33:3)

One thing I have learned in this life is that God is smarter than me...He knows everything--even when I do not, even when there seems to be no way out. His wisdom is more vast than I can ever comprehend.

And that's okay with me!

In these uncertain times....the economy, the election, the high cost of living, and everything that's going on in your life and mine, these things I know for certain: that God is good and that He is faithful. He keeps His promises--all of them, all the time.

He has good plans for us (Jer. 29:11)

He longs to retore our health and bring healing (Jer. 30:17)

He gives comfort and joy from our sorrow (Jer. 31:13)

He provides HOPE (Jer. 31:17)

He loves us, cares for us, longs to be close to us more than we know (Jer. 31:3,4)

Whatever you are facing today, may God give you strength. Because you know what? Nothing is too hard for him. He said it Himself, "I am the LORD, the God of all mankind, is anything too hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:27)

Stand strong, and know (whether you feel it or not), that all will be well. All will be well.