5 Tips for Making New Year’s Resolutions

calvin-and-hobbesI mentioned in yesterday’s post that if you feel like you ought to make a resolution this year, then that probably means you need to make a resolution.

But the word resolution is overused and not as heavy as a word I am going to propose in its stead for this post. This year, I plan on making a few New Year’s commitments. But how do you decide if it’s worth it?

You know what I mean… you resolve to lose three pounds a month and it’s December before you even realize you gave up on that back in March. But this year, let’s make deeper commitments than just meager weight loss and less video game time. Let’s examine a structure for how we can set commitments for 2013 and actually keep them.

1. Start Now

If there’s something you know you ought to change, we’ve less than a week before New Years; start today. Get a head start and prove to yourself that you can indeed make this change in your life. Don’t wait till New Years Eve. If you plan on drinking less, start now and persevere through December 31st. That way, when you’re tempted on January 3rd, you can look back and say, “If I can make it then, I can make it now.”

2. Replace, don’t omit

As creatures of worship and busy schedules, it’s not really possible to omit something from your life. We’re all completed puzzles, but if you take a piece out, we’re going to search frantically for something to fill in that missing piece. If you decide you want to play less video games, have something positive to fill in that block of time you usually play games. And make it fun! If you can afford it, go out for coffee during that time. If you’re trying to cut back on your cursing, learn to replace curses with blessings or positive words.

3. Commit to add 

When we think of New Year’s resolutions, we often think of depleting something from our lives, like sugar or bad habits or attitudes, or time spent online or in front of the TV. If you’re like me, you read too much, oft times at the expense of my loved one. So, instead of merely reading less, I am going to try to involve her in my reading more, and propose we read more together. If you watch too much TV, try watching things your kids would rather watch and join them in their interests. Add your loved ones to activities that have become solely about you.

4. Commit to fail

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy. If I fail once, I throw in the sack. But if I make room for imperfection, then I have a better chance at success in the long run. When I started this blog back in March I never made a commitment to post every single day. I just sort of generalized it by saying I’ll post 2-6 times a week. That’s a pretty big margin for failure if I’m committed to to posting every day. But 2-6 times a week – that’s doable, and it’s worked!  Leave room for imperfection.

5. Commit to achieve 

In exactly one year from this very moment, what do you want to look back on and say you’ve achieved? Want to have that book finally written or published? Want to have that degree in your hand? Want to have a stronger relationship with your spouse? Keep this future moment in mind. Every day. All year. And remember how fast a year goes by. It’s but a breath, so you really have very little time to achieve these goals.

Get a head start and begin today, before the 31st. Replace something bad with something good. Add things to enrich your life. Know your potential and leave room for imperfection. And always have the end in mind and imagine how wonderful it will be to reach it with a job well done.

Please help us achieve our goal to foster-to-adopt in 2013 by purchasing my book here.

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Moving Forward

NO LIMITS SIGN BLOG_0Post Christmas blues. December 26th – the most depressing day of the year. I’m sure Ebenezer Scrooge once had this day marked on his calendar with smiley faces and highlights while the rest of the world cried boo-hoo-hoo like the Grinch wanted to hear from Whoville.

The wrapping paper is torn and thrown out, the Christmas cookies are half eaten, the sink is piled up with dirty dishes, work starts back up, and reality sets back in. Through the magic and joy of Christmas, the Curse sets back in and reminds us of our daily duties and responsibilities and the grudges and burdens we carried on December 23rd set themselves back upon our shoulders, causing us to mope and drag our feet with breaking backs.

Last night, as Christmas came to a dreadful close, I made a couple of promises as to how next Christmas will be better than this year. And I perked up a bit because I have an entire 365 days stretched out before me to ensure that I accomplish what needs to be done to make Christmas 2013 a year for Sarabeth to remember for the rest of her life.

It was hard, I admit, celebrating another Christmas without a baby giggling in a crib. But if God allows it, those sounds will ring through our house next Christmas morning, and God will provide a way for us to pursue our foster-to-adopt goals.

Some of you know that we have been keeping Sarabeth’s sister’s two dachshunds for the last fourteen months or so, as she and her husband are over-seas as missionaries. They’ll be back next year, which we’re SO excited for, but they’ll be taking Rox and Syd back. So, not only do I pray we have a baby in the house, but we’ll also have a new puppy.

So 2013, as I have it set in my heart, will be a really great year. Now, maybe relatives will die, and disasters will strike and finances might deplete. We can still rest at peace if we are daily walking with the Lord, because we know that whatever happens this coming year, God has already got it written out, and has permitted to happen.

And everything that happened this past year happened because God allowed it. Maybe you had a bad year, and there are things you want to do differently in 2013. If you’re like me, you’re wondering if you should bother making New Years resolutions. Well, here’s a rule I generally go by. If you keep thinking you ought to make a resolution, that means you probably need to make that resolution, no matter what time of year it is.

Resolutions aren’t something you decide you want to make and live by. They’re generally something you need to make. But make them while looking forward. If you had a bad year – maybe you fell into some nasty habits, or you strayed from your relationship with Jesus, or you haven’t been running from anger or selfishness, or you have been denying your calling – then commit to making this very moment in exactly one year from now, one where you look back and can say, “Some things happened that were out of my control, but overall, I’m more refined by God because I allowed Him to do a work in me that needed to be done.”

Wouldn’t that be beautiful? Wouldn’t that be a great moment? I should say that that would definitely make up for the Christmas blues!

Or maybe you had a great year. Then I still say, make next year even better. How can you be more loving to your family? How can you spend more time with the Lord? How can you be more kind to others?

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

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URGENT: Bring the Howells Back Together for Christmas

HFP11_0008Our friend Adam Howell went to Africa a week ago to pick up their newly adopted one year old boy, Judah. Everything is in place as far as adoption paperwork is concerned (Judah is theirs!). Right now, they’re just waiting for their exit visa so they can come home and be with their family by Christmas. Adam, to be with his wife and kids and Judah to be with his new mommy, brother and sisters.

Adam and Liz just had their third child a month ago. So Liz would love to have Adam and their new son home by Christmas so they won’t have to spend the holiday on opposite sides of the globe. Below is a snippet of an email Adam sent out. Please pray that Adam and Judah can make it home to be with their family for Christmas. What a wonderful gift that would be! Share this on your facebook or blogs to raise as much prayer as possible.

Hey everyone.

First of all, thanks for all your prayers and support. It means more to me than you know. This is a very dark place in many aspects, and Iam more than ready to come home. The US has said we can come home… wehave Judah’s visa. However, the Congolese government hasn’t yet issued the exit letter to say that we can leave … [We’re not] going anywhere until the Congo says we can. It’s crazy.

So, part of the update is to ask you guys to pray. We need the exit letter by Saturday at the latest in order for me to come home on Monday as scheduled.

See you soon,
Adam and Judah<><

Visit their blog here.

Herod’s Massacre

giovanni-innocentsHome Alone and A Muppet’s Christmas Carol are amongst my favorite Christmas movies. And nothing screams “It’s Christmas!” like Ron Howard’s brilliant version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which he actually claims should be called Why the Grinch Stole Christmas). But do you want to know what movies put me more in a Christmas spirit than any of the aforementioned?

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Bear with me. The reason The Lord of the Rings puts me in a Christmas spirit isn’t so much because they were all released in the theaters days before Christmas, but because they represent more closely than any Hallmark special could, what the first Christmas was like.

Bloodshed followed on the trail of the first Christmas day. God started a necessary spiritual war, and an evil king started an unnecissary earthly war against children. 

The Lord of the Rings is all about war, is it not? And more than that, it’s about good vs. evil. It’s about finding something precious and either destroying it or using it for great power. It’s about the smallest of creatures changing the course of history and saving the world from destruction. It’s about true love, sacrifice, miracles, hope, and the beauty of evil and evil-doers being destroyed for all time.

I tell you, pour yourself a glass of Fresh Market eggnog, nibble on some puppy chow, cuddle up with your loved one, and  you can’t get much more Christmasy than that.

King Herod, who reigned during the time of Jesus’ birth inflicted a war against children because he was jealous of the future reign of this promised baby, Jesus. Any male child two years old or under were choked, drowned, stabbed, beheaded, aborted…

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:18)

A small town in America suffered its own massacre less than a week ago. Many parents now know the feeling of losing a child. They will daily, and involunterily recount in their minds what their child’s last thoughts were just before they were shot.

But King Herods and Adam Lanzas and Pharaohs are more numerous than we would like to imagine. We walk amongst them everyday. We bump shoulders with baby killers all the time. Abortion doctors, pediatricians who offer abortion as an option to confused couples, politicians who support abortion funding, deadbeat husbands and boyfriends who push their women to “get it taken care of.” Women who willfully decide to “get it taken care of.” Yes, even people who drive around with “Pro-Choice” bumper stickers.

Adam Lanza. Pharaoh. King Herod. Pure, unadulterated evil.

But that’s only one side of the Christmas story. You see, God came down as the one thing the king was after. He came down as a baby. I think that’s why our world is so lenient with baby killing, because somewhere deep in our conscious, we associate babies to the long-awaited Messiah. I bet if a study were done (and I’m sure it has), the same people who are proponents of kicking God out of school and the Bible from the White House, are the same ones who advocate for abortion.

But you see, Herod, in all of his rage and madness, couldn’t stop the Christ-child from growing up to be King of Heaven. It makes me wonder just how many other children have been saved by the divine hand of God. It’s easy to point to God when bad things happen and blame Him, but just how many crimes are conceived in minds that don’t bear fruit because of God’s intervention?

Just like in Lord of the RIngs, the smallest creature is chosen to save the world and do away with evil. God chose the most helpless of things, a baby, to grow up and become the most humblest of beings – humble enough to submit Himself to the authority of the corrupt politicians and willingly be stapled to a wooden beam and die an agonizing death, beaten, bloody, and naked, for all to see and mock.

That’s the Christmas story. The baby Jesus was an unwrapped gift from God tucked away under, not a tree, but a manger. And that gift loved the children who came to Him, felt the thumping of a pregnant woman’s belly, and made way for the Kingdom of God to open the gates for all of the children of the world, young in years and young in spirit.

And here’s the best part! The gates of Heaven are opened to the abortionists and corrupt politicians and King Herods, if only they would repent from their sins, turn to God, and accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Make Him the best Christmas gift you will have ever received, and He will forget your sins like they never happened and accept you as a weeping child searching for a home.

That, my friends, is a Christmas story worth hearing.

Please help us get one step closer to adopting a child by purchasing my novel here. We’re trying to sell 1,600 copies by 2013.

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Journey with Bilbo

hobbit-bilbo-baggins-home-610x428I’m not sure if it was my love for Shire music, hobbits, Tolkien-ish themes, semi-theology-based storytelling, or all of these combined, but The Hobbit took me for an emotional ride that I was not prepared for. It could also have been that seeing it in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre made it so wonderful and glorious to see good triumphing over evil time and again throughout the movie.

Sarabeth and I were fortunate enough to have my publisher treat us to a 3d viewing of Peter Jackson’s latest masterpiece – and it did not fail to deliver in every way that Peter Jackson typically does.

But, as most movies do, it got me thinking. It got me thinking about my own journey and unwillingness to oblige my calling. Gandalf the Grey shows up unannounced to young Bilbo’s “hole in the ground,” and after he has been asked to join up with the several dwarves who have invaded his home, and he declines, Gandalf says, “Since when did you start caring more about doilies and dishes than about love for adventure?” ( last part paraphrased).

I feel like the Holy Spirit asks me that on a regular bases. At what point did I trade sleeping in for morning devotions? When did I start caring more about catching up on the latest episodes of The Office than engaging my wife? When did having a whole pizza pie to myself become more appealing than throwing a pizza party – just for the heck of it?

Want to know a secret? If money were no issue, and I were given a chance to go to France for a year, I would be hesitant, because I wouldn’t want to leave behind my DVD player, my bookshelves, and Mexican food. Don’t get me wrong! If you feel it in your heart to send Sarabeth and me some plane tickets to travel overseas, you would not be turned down (hint, hint)!

But still, that hesitancy would linger. I’ve grown accustomed to my comforts, and at times (most times) I worship them. It’s easy to lay in bed and dream about exciting scenarios where I fight off armed robbers, offer the last morsel of food to someone else in an apocalyptic setting, travel the world to spread the Good News like some unstoppable Super Christian…

But I still wake up the next morning, turn on the space heater, read a chapter of a book, jot down notes for things to do that day, write my blog post, wake Sarabeth up, feed the dogs, turn on Fox and Friends, and get to work.

But if God called me overseas, would I go? Sarabeth and I have talked about how we would love the opportunity to smuggle children out of trafficking networks and set up orphanages… but we’re still here, in Louisville, KY. Writing blog posts and going to the movies and making grocery lists.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that. I understand mortgages must be paid, children have to be provided for, and toilets need to be fixed. But the question is, if God were to ask you, would you be willing? Would you be ready? Or would you fight it, and waste years of your life fighting something you’re only destined to give in to in the end anyway?

Life is supposed to be an unexpected journey. But we set everything in place to prevent it from being so. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door…” You wonder: will you come back? Maybe not. “But if you do, you won’t be the same.”

At least take a look outside to see if God is standing there, knocking, waiting, calling.

And answer.

Please help us get one step closer to adopting a child, and purchase a copy of my suspense/adventure novel, The Man in the Box.

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Sandy Hook Massacre

Tears-eyes-16143904-500-368Forty sets of parents are waking up childless for the second time this morning, or one child short. Siblings are waking up without their brother or sister under their roof, some only for the second time in their lives. Many dogs and cats are still sleeping on empty beds, many grandparents lost faith in this next generation. Uncles lost nieces and nephews. Aunts lost best friends. Friends keep waking up from tearless nights.

The sudden realization of that forever-lost sort of feeling crashed into more than 27 homes again this morning. And it will continue to happen long after the rest of us move on.

Friday, death reigned. But it reigned the day before and the day before that, and it still reigns today. At least in an earthly sense.

But soon, Satan will be de-throned and cast into the fiery pit for all eternity. In the end, sin and death and tears and sorrow will be destroyed forever. And God will comfort His children, young and old. And rest assured that God is comforting many children as you read this.

This is probably why The Hobbit was such a perfect movie to watch at a time like this because it’s a great comfort to see good triumph over evil time and time again.

Our hearts are breaking, and will be broken for a long time. We are also more scared than we ever have been. Our country has entered into a new phase of perversity. Over the last fifteen years we’ve seen our homeland sink deeper and deeper into depravity, starting with the Columbine shootings, the first massive school shooting we had ever heard of.

We’ve gone from high school shootings to college shootings to airplane takeovers to movie theater shootings – and we thought that was the lowest people can sink. Until Friday.

But remember that kids have been killed since the time of Pharaoh. All over the world kids are deliberately killed on a daily basis. Babies have been shamelessly murdered in the womb in our own country longer than we care to remember. There is nothing new under the sun. And people, by and large, are no less evil than Adam Lanza.

That is not to diminish the terror of Friday’s events. An age-old monstrosity, that has been committed since the time of Moses, simply stepped into the spotlight on the most prominent stage in the world, and gained a worldwide audience.

This will continue to happen all over the world, though we will not hear about every instance. There will be many prescriptions to curbing these heinous acts, laws put into place, and security will tighten around every school campus at least for the remainder of the school year.

But let us be clear, as good as some of those things are, it all comes down to the depravity of the human heart. And the only remedy to that is the redemption and love of  a Father who hates this sort of sin more than even we possibly could.

Remember that when we fall into fantasizing about personally punishing the Adam Lanzas and James Holmeses of the world, we are falling prey to the same depravity that they started out with when their crimes were first conceived. Thus our hearts are just as wicked as theirs in God’s eyes.

We must respond to this in love. Pity the murderers who are burning in Hell; resist the temptation to laugh and rejoice over their eternal torment. It does no good to pray for their souls now, because what’s done is done. But know that they are not in Hell because of this, any more than a man who committed one sin early in his life is in Hell.

Adam Lanza is not only paying for his sins from Friday. He’s not even paying for the many curses he uttered under his breath or the white lies he’s told. He’s in Hell for the same reason the other inhabitants are – refusing to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

Not only would he have experienced salvation, but twenty sets of parents would not have woken up childless again this morning. This is part of what we mean as Christians when we say that Jesus saves, and that He has an alternative plan for our world and for humankind.

Detach yourself form the company of Adam Lanza and Timothy Mcveigh, and join with the One who firmly stands against these monsters. You may be concerned for the lives of children and innocent people, which is commendable, but if you are not concerned about their souls, then you care only for what cannot be saved.

Do not be concerned for your own life as you go to the movies or to school or Christmas shopping at the mall, but be concerned about where you will go after your life has ended. We were reminded all too brutally that life is but a vapor, but our souls live on forever. Now is the opportunity to decide where. Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and your prayers for the victims, for your friends and family, for your life, will be heard.

Grace, peace, and love be to all the Sandy Hook victims and their families. May they be drawn to Jesus through this unspeakable tragedy. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many lives may be saved” (Genesis 50:20).

Come, Lord Jesus. But only once all your children are gathered. Amen.

Please read this blog post by Dr. Albert Mohler concerning Friday’s tragedy.

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The End is – Still – Near

end-of-the-worldThere’s a lot of talk flooding the Web about the End of the World being just days away. My friend and Bible Study leader, Adam has the best response to this:

“So the Mayan calendar stopped. The calendar sitting on my desk ends too at the end of December and we’ll keep on going just like normal.”

Needless to say, though no one will voice it, people are worried, deep down inside. I guess we’re always worrying about the inevitable, aren’t we? With Hollywood reminding us that it’s not a matter of “If” but “When,” and the Bible itself prophesying about hail the size of basketballs falling from the sky and worldwide earthquakes and widespread wars.

The Israel/Iran crisis doesn’t seem to sooth our fears either, what with Israel being tied to so many prophesies concerning the apocalypse, U.S. spies being crucified in Yemen, not to mention North Korea and its missiles and snow in Southern California (my origin).

National affairs don’t seem to be much of an encouragement either. With the oncoming fiscal cliff drop off, investors are withholding their money, the working class is scrounging around for every penny to save up so they can get through the tsunami of taxes headed their way, riots breaking out over Union labor… the list is endless right there alone.

As unsettling as all this is, this is not new. “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). In fact, things have been worse in the past, before and after Christ, and even in America (I keep hearing about the detestable Jimmy Carter days).

Let’s not forget the horrors of the Holocaust and the Gulag, Nero’s persecution of the Christians, the Colosseum’s glory days, the earthquake of 1906, Egypt’s plagues, Noah’s flood, the Y2K panic, e coli, mad cow disease…

So all this worry over the end of the world happening in just eight days is just silly. The Bible is clear that the angels in Heaven, nor Jesus Himself knows the hour at which the world will stop turning (Matthew 24:36). Only God the Father knows. And He knows where you’ll be – if you’ll even be here at all – and precisely how it will happen, and just how long it will take.

There’s all this talk about being premillennialist, postmillennialst, or amillennialist, Left Behind-ist, zombie apocalypse vs. vampire apocalypse, global warming, or an EMP explosion.

I’ll tell you what. I thought that by last March (of 2012) the stock market would crash and there would be anarchy in the streets. Obviously, I was wrong about that. So there is no need to worry about the end of the world any more than a newborn baby has to worry what college he’s going to get into. He may live long enough to have to figure that out, he may not. And once he’s there, it will be over before he knows it.

The only thing that matters is, are you ready? Because when the end comes (and it won’t be in eight days …it could be in four, or three thousand twenty-four), that will not be the time to choose sides. C.S. Lewis famously says, “There’s no point in choosing to join the winning side after the war is over!”

After all, you don’t undergo surgery for the doctor’s sake. No, you undergo surgery in order to have an improved quality of life afterward. If you are a child of God, the end of the world, or just simply death even, is a necessary procedure to bring about your redemption begun by Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection.

Put your trust, hope, fear (yes, a healthy fear), and confidence in that. And anything else that comes your way will just be a fleeting memory or a non-issue, because you know, as any Christian does, that “The End” according to Hollywood’s or the Mayan’s definition is not the end at all, but the beginning of Life the way it was meant to be lived.

Purchase my suspense/fantasy novel here.

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