‘One day…’ or ‘Day One’

‘New Year, new you!’ is synonymous with January. A new and improved version of ourselves will apparently be ours if we buy this or sign up for that.

A new year with a new beginning is very attractive. Rather like newly fallen snow covers grime, New Year resolutions are sometimes seen as a way of obliterating imperfections. So we promise ourselves we won’t do this or that anymore. But all too often, a few hours or days or weeks later, our grimy side resurfaces like familiar landmarks emerge from thawing snow.
Truth is, my track record of keeping New Year resolutions is poor. So this year before making any, I’ve been thinking about why I’ve failed on so many occasions, and what needs to be different.

Resolutions are sometimes likened to activating a reset button.

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But we are human beings, not machines.
We cannot ‘reset’ ourselves because our present is influenced by our past. We can’t delete our pain at the touch of a button, nor can we wipe sadness away in a simple stroke. But we do have a choice in how we respond to our life experiences – we can become better people with authentic empathy and wisdom, or we can become caustic and bitter.
So resolutions aren’t magic buttons that delete our past, but they can set us on positive paths – nudging us to change the things we can, while accepting the things we can’t alter.

Being realistic is probably the key to success. Frequently, resolutions are big and bold and while there’s nothing wrong in having high hopes, a goal without a realistic plan is just a wish.

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Wishful thinking is having a ‘One day…’ attitude and less likely to lead to fulfilled hopes than a ‘Day One’ approach.
If we make today ‘Day One’ and take one small step to our bigger goal, then it will be a good start to Day Two, and so on.

As well as being realistic in the goals we set, we need to recognise that we will have days when we fall short. How many resolutions are ditched at the first hitch – we do what we said we wouldn’t, or don’t do what we said we would, and so we give up and probably feel guilty. It’s at this point, that as a believer I remember that fresh starts are God’s specialism. An Anglican prayer of confession sums it up in the words:

‘Forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be’

God is sometimes perceived as the author of ‘thou shalt nots’, but actually I believe that ‘thou shalt’ is more God’s line. Our negative attitudes and actions are far more effectively resolved when they are displaced by positives. In the same way, New Year resolutions are more effective when they add something into our pattern of life rather than remove something from it.
Happy New year!

Truth is… Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new is come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 

Nudges…

I haven’t been writing recently as I’ve been busy bonding with a new partner.
Just over a month ago I had the news that a possible ‘match’ had been found for me, and the invitation to meet him…

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Yes, ‘him’ is a dog.
I’m deaf, and I’ve been waiting for an Assistance Dog for over two years, so imagine my delight at the prospect of a first meeting to see if there was a spark between us!
There was, and with the basics in place, ‘Marshall’ moved in and a trusting relationship is resulting.
Truth is, I’m learning a lot from him…

A successful partnership has trust at its core. A Hearing Dog trusts a deaf person to notice and respond to what it is communicating through its nudges, and the person trusts the dog to be with them 24/7. Like any meaningful relationship, it’s rooted in trust.
Isn’t this what God longs for us? That we trust God to be with us, and respond knowing that our best interests are at heart.

For Marshall and me, the nudges are all important. Marshall has been trained to nudge my leg with his nose and lead me to what needs my attention.

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His nudges are gentle yet firm, and always for a reason. He urges me to follow him, and in doing so, I find out what I need to know.
Isn’t this the way of God? That if we respond to the nudges we sense, we will discover more of what life is about.
For in doing what we have been gifted to do, and in being who we are blessed to be, we will find connection and fulfilment.

It is true that:

in giving we receive

Giving is about filling the space that has our name on it.
Marshall does this – and without looking for the approval of others. My affirmation of him is sufficient. But he only receives this because he keeps close to me, and senses my affection.
Isn’t this the same for us? If we are to sense deep affirmation and love, we need to keep close to God.

Truth is…. There is more happiness in giving than in receiving. (Acts 20:35)

 

Clearing the clutter…

Depending on your generation, you may call it ‘sorting’, ‘decluttering’, or ‘destashing’. But it all comes down to the same thing – having a good clear out.
It’s been the subject of popular television programmes with names like ‘Keep, Chuck or Clean’ and ‘The Life Laundry’, with professional declutterers proving that mountains can be moved when it comes to clutter.
Books too, offering neat and tidy solutions, have become top sellers like Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up…’
Feeling burdened is clearly a growing problem in consumerist societies.

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While there may be complex reasons why some people get overwhelmed by clutter, for many, it starts off with a pile that slowly grows and then feels insurmountable. The same thing can happen in our minds too. Thoughts and feelings can mount up, burdening us and weighing us down. Fears that aren’t addressed can multiply, wrong assumptions can hem in, and resentments can fester. I guess we all need to declutter in one way or another!

For many this week, it was ‘pancake day’, or in the Christian calendar, ‘Shrove Tuesday’.

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Traditionally this would have been a time when people used up their stores, in preparation for a Lent stripped back to the essentials.
Maybe for us today, it’s an opportunity to clear out in a different way – to see what’s lingering in the store cupboards of our hearts and minds.
Truth is, I have feelings and thoughts that need sorting. To name a few pile-ups – fear of failure that prevents me from having a go; assuming I know best; wavering when having to wait…
But as a believer, I have faith that God is more than willing to help me clear the clutter.

If we can bring our doubts, prejudices, resentments and whatever else might be lingering, out of the shadows and into the light of God, then all sorts of possibilities can unfold. God is the source of ultimate fresh starts and enables us to become more and more our true selves.
To make a pancake, what is within the shell of an egg, needs to be released.

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The same applies to us, so let’s crack on!

Truth is… Create in me a clean heart, God, and put a new and right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

Read the instructions…

We’ve had our current vacuum cleaner for seven years, but I’ve only just discovered that it has not one, but two filters that need regular rinsing under the tap to unclog them.
When we bought it, it was mainly used and maintained by one of our offspring whose weekly contribution to housekeeping, was to vacuum the home.
Having flown the nest, maintenance is now my job, and it was only because I thought that I should check I was doing the right thing, that I looked at the instructions and discovered the second filter! A filter, which if not regularly cleaned, puts the motor in danger of over-heating and damage.
All this has prompted a note to self: read the instructions!

Actually, the same principle can be applied to life. Instructions are guidelines for ensuring best possible outcomes, whether it’s a recipe for melt-in-your-mouth cookies, or assembling flat-pack furniture.
Likewise, faith can guide us through life. As a believer, the Bible gives me some pointers along the way:

Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already – you can see it now… (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Do for others what you want them to do for you… (Matthew 7:12)

I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord… Plans to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

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We all have some attributes that come naturally to us, and others that take a determined effort. For example, I find it fairly easy to be supportive of others – I don’t need a lot of instruction, but being flexible is another matter.
Truth is, I have to make a conscious effort to change direction when a situation prompts. Only last week my plans had to change, but once I went with the flow, there was an opportunity to use my skills in an unexpected way.

Although I’m not a sailor, I guess it’s like adjusting sails to catch the prevailing wind.

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For me, this ‘Wind’ is God’s Spirit, and although I don’t always catch it, the good news for you and me, is that it keeps blowing our way.

Truth is God’s spirit made me; the Almighty’s breath enlivens me. (Job 33:12)