Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009: A New Year's Plan

Yesterday, er, last year...

I gave you a list of lessons I wish we had learned (but I'm afraid we haven't). I begin this new year with this...

Don't make resolutions!

I know, I should have written this a few day's ago, but come on... it seems the only thing we consistently do with resolutions is joke about not keeping them! Soooo, here's a simple way to make a New Year's plan that you just might live up to...

1. List a few things about your life you would like to be different a year from now. Cathy and I have a running joke about the word "few." For some reason I grew up thinking it meant "two." She always corrects me and tells me it means "three or more." Either way, KEEP YOUR LIST SHORT!

2. Think long-term and act short-term. We have a niece who decided, at age 37, to run a half-marathon. Someone who runs all the time would not consider this a big deal, but she had never been a runner. She completed that race last January, but she had to put in lots of miles preparing. In other words, she had to set aside time and overcome the regular temptation not to run. It took literally hundreds of little actions to accomplish her long-term plan.

3. Find an encourager. Up until the Fall of 2006, I weighed about 30 pounds more than I do now. Cathy asked me at the time to join her on a diet. I said okay, but kicked and screamed all the way to the first day. After that, we daily talked about what we were doing and why. I never could have changed the way I eat without her encouragement. One of our cultural fallacies is that you can be whatever you want and do it all yourself. You can't. You won't. Find people who will help you.

4. After you are "in the groove," take occasional breaks. Someone said it takes 30 days of doing something to make it a habit. Make sure you have "burned in" your new way of living. Then take a day off here and there, with full plans to return to your new life the next day.

5. You will fail sometimes; forgive yourself and get back on track. I was talking with a friend who has some experience with addictions and addicts. He said, "It's not a matter of whether you will relapse; it's when. Then it's whether you will get back on the wagon again. If you keep getting straight after your failure, you develop a long-term victory over your addiction."

My New Year's Plan is to continue the daily habit of writing this blog. In addition, I have started an encouragement blog for people from our church who are reading the Bible through this year. Finally, I am considering a plan to read at least 50 books this year, but haven't settled on it.

What's your New Year's Plan? I would love to hear about it.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: Things I Wish We Had Learned...

...But I don't think we have!

Today we say goodbye to a year of increased challenges -- especially on the economic front. Many adults in our nation are facing financial hard times for the first time in their lives. Our season of seemingly unlimited prosperity is over for the moment and we have a great opportunity to reflect. Hopefully we could see long-term attitude and action adjustments. I doubt it, though. Here is a grab bag of changes I would hope we have the sense to make.

1. You can't borrow yourself into prosperity.
I have heard that even some economists think you can, but let's get real. Our Creator knows better and says so: "The poor are always ruled over by the rich, so don't borrow and put yourself under their power." (Proverbs 22:7 The Message)

2. The best economic growth is slow and steady.
I frequently talk to people my age who are shocked that their grown children want to start their adult lives with all the things their parents have taken years to collect. An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning Will not be blessed in the end. (Proverbs 20:21 NASB)

3. Blaming someone else for our problems will rob us of great lessons we could learn.
Of all the sad stories which have come from our money meltdown, this one disturbs me the most. "The government let this happen!" "It was those corrupt lending institutions!" "It's the president's fault!" "It's those greedy people from Wall Street (or the automakers or the unions)." Sadly, almost none of us has stepped to the front and said, "I did it. I bought things I couldn't afford. I bought a bigger house. I took out a second mortgage to buy a new SUV. I spent everything I made to add more and more stuff to my life." The Bible says, "If you hide your sins, you will not succeed. If you confess and reject them, you will receive mercy." (Proverbs 28:13 NCV)

4. We are not able to determine our own destiny.
It's a fallacy to think that we can just will ourselves back into prosperity. The very real possibility is that, by the time this recession is over, we will no longer be the world's only superpower. We Americans have arrogantly thought that we could withstand all challenges and come out on top. We have subtly supposed that we have all the answers for every problem in the world. In my limited travels in the third world, I have observed this arrogance first-hand. American missionaries go to other nations and try to impose American models of ministry. They refuse to believe that the locals are fully capable of taking the lead and developing strategies to get the job done.

5. We discover life in how much we serve, not in how much we think we DEserve.
During our economic heyday, we have had the freedom to buy virtually everything we think we want. With a little creative financing, we have constantly played Santa Claus to ourselves. The mad rush to die with the most toys has left us empty and frustrated. I would love to think that we will see a whole new spirit of people genuinely giving their lives away, even when they feel that they have nothing. If that were to happen, they might find joy that was unattainable through bloated buying.

There you have it. Five things I wish we had learned. What would you add to the list? As we say farewell to 2008, I would love to hear your thoughts.