Happy New Year!
As with each New Year, for most of us, this one probably started with watching the crystal ball drop in Times Square (we miss you, Dick Clark), a kiss from a loved one, and a string of well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions:
“I’m going to lose that elusive 40 lbs”.
“I’m going to finish that never ending remodeling project .”
“I’m going to quit smoking.”
The list can go on and on for most of us. A New Year is a time for new beginnings… a time at which we contemplate the person we would like to be – a thinner, kinder, healthier, more organized person. However, by the first couple of days into January, any failure to strictly adhere to our good intentions spells doom for the other 363 days. We begin to look at the big picture through the lens of our failure at keeping last year’s resolutions, and the spiral of defeat begins before the last of the spiral-sliced ham (and other Christmas leftovers) has found its way to the garbage can.
But hold on a second! Before you give up completely, and start looking for a yard stick and paper towels with which to construct the white flag of surrender, please allow me to throw a sound-bite of reason into your intellectual quagmire.
Christine McVie of the band Fleetwood Mac put it this way…
If you wake up and don’t want to smile
If it takes just a little while
Open your eyes and look at the day
You’ll see things in a different way
Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop… it’ll soon be here
It’ll be better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone
Years ago, the news media was interviewing soldiers on the front line of Vietnam. It was the Christmas season and the reporter asked a question of a grisly, old Gunnery Sergeant.
“What gift would you like this season?”
The old soldier answered – “Tomorrow”.
Stop trying to bite off a mouthful that it is going to take 365 days to chew. Start with that one thing that this old soldier understood all too well…
In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul talked about how he approached the future…
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (v. 13-14)
Sounds like good advice to me. However, in spite of the blank page, uncharted waters, open doors, and genuine hope that 2013 offers us (which, incidentally, I am running with), many of you reading this right now have already resigned yourselves to defeat. Because of things such as personal problems, taxes and inflation, wars in the Middle East, and the uncertainty of the stock market, many of you have already decided that 2013 is going to be a bad year.
I, for one, haven’t. But let’s go with this line of thinking for a moment…
If you are bound and determined that this is going to be a bad year, here are several ways to guarantee that outcome:
Keep your eyes on the rear-view mirror.
John Maxwell says that there are four bridges that we all must burn if we want to have a better life.
- Wrongs done to us. Successful people let the past go. Ignore the little stuff… forgive the big stuff.
- The unfairness of life. Determine that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you are NEVER going to live with a victim mentality.
- Bad habits. Break unhealthy patterns from the past.
- Our own stupidity. Become intimately acquainted with the phrase, “I was wrong”.
There is a story told of an old black man, age 85, down South, sitting on his porch one summer evening, slowly rocking in his rocking chair, with his pipe, blowing circles into the motionless air. A young hyperactive salesman approaches him and shouts from the sidewalk:
“Grandpa, I got a book for you here that will help you remember everything from your whole life. It costs only five dollars.”
The old man sat there in silence, reflecting, not saying a word as he rocked, and finally, after what seemed like an eternity, said:
“Sonny, I’ll give you a thousand dollars for the book that can help me to forget.”
A really great way to sabotage your year: Don’t pray – Worry instead.
In Matthew 6, Jesus says ten times, “Don’t worry”. The Apostle Paul encourages us:
“Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6-7).
So why do we? Why do we worry about tomorrow when it can do nothing but destroy our today? Dr. Charles Mayo of the Mayo Clinic said, “Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands and the whole nervous system. I’ve never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from stress.”
Someone once said that, “Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.” So what did all of that worrying gain you? What was it about today that had you so in knots yesterday? Was it really worth it, or do you think that a little less worrying and a little more praying might have given you, if nothing else, a little more peace of mind?
Remember: Nothing kills a good year like having a bad attitude.
“If you don’t think every day is a good day, try missing one.” ~ Cavet Robert
So, you walk into a room, and the very first person that speaks to you begins by sneezing in your face.
That is exactly what a bad attitude is like. It is a virus of ill-will that is spread every time you open your mouth. Just like passing a cold, a bad attitude has the potential to infect all of those it comes into contact with.
Life is full of things over which we have no control… where we were born, who our relatives are, what we look like, any physical limitations. The one thing in our life that we have TOTAL control over is our attitude. People cannot make you have a bad attitude. Your job cannot make you have a bad attitude. Your church or pastor cannot make you have a bad attitude.
Attitude is ALL up to you.
“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” ~ Herm Albright, Reader’s Digest (June, 1995)
But if you are determined to have a bad attitude, then by all means…
- Be a fault-finder. Go out of your way to find fault with everything and everyone God puts into your path. Family, co-workers, church leadership… make no one exempt. For the true fault-finder, there are always plenty of targets. However, anyone who wants to be like Jesus will find potential, not pessimism. They will focus on the positive, not the negative.
- Kill your passion. You were created for greatness, but if you have your heart set on killing your God-given passion, it can be done. If you never question why you were created, avoid people with passion at all cost, or just shift the transmission of your creativity into neutral, that’s a good beginning to the end of passion. However, if you have a dream you can’t stop talking about, or a vision that excites you, it could be that God is trying to tell you something. As Nelson Mendela once said, “There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”.
- Blame others for your situation. This is the one that permeates society. There is never a shortage of people or circumstances to blame for our misfortunes. If your business fails, blame your downline. If you don’t like your looks, blame your parents. If your kids are a mess, blame the church for not raising them right. If you get a speeding ticket, blame the policeman for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, if you want to break the cycle that has made us a nation of “victims, crybabies, and fault-finders”, take responsibility for your life. If something is not working, be willing to change.
“The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.” ~ Thomas Carlyle
Good intentions won’t carry the day (or year) if you don’t finish what you start.
Success in anything starts with a determination to finish what you started. No runner ever won a race by lying down on the track 20 feet shy of the finish line. Don’t let mediocrity weaken you… set goals, make a plan, then work the plan.
Write them down.
Embrace them by faith.
Give it your all.
Do not be afraid.
If you make your plans for “someday”, just remember this… Someday never comes.
A promising year will end in a big pile of nothing if you have all of the answers, and never listen to others.
It is what you learn after you know it all that really matters. No one knows less than the “know-it-all”. Be teachable… be humble.
Live out your year with an attitude of defeat… Never take the risk of faith.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” ~ Paul (2 Timothy 1:7)
“Greatness, in the last analysis, is largely bravery. Courage in escaping from old ideas and old standards and respectable ways of doing things.” ~ James Harvey Robinson
Taking the risk of faith begins quite simple, requiring just three things… power, love, and a sound mind.
Hopefully, in the process of reading this New Year’s blog, you’ve changed your mind, and have made the decision to make this the best year ever. The future is full of promise, and tomorrow is (as Annie sang) “only a day away”. Using Philippians 3:12 -16 as a model, we can have a simple formula for not just a great year, but a great life as well…
Stay Hungry – “not as though I had attained”
Stay Focused – “This one thing I do…”
Stay on Course – “… forgetting… reaching…”
Stay Determined – “I press”
Stay Disciplined – “toward the goal”
Stay Open – “God will reveal…”
Stay Together – “be of the same mind”
So have a great year, my friend, and may faith and the favor of God find you wherever you are.