BEFORE YOU MAKE A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

new-years-2017

I used to make a New Year’s resolutions.

But over the last few years, I’ve started something…well, uh… NEW which I’ll share with you in a little while.

But first, did you know that 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions? Sadly only 8% are successful at keeping them, according to Statistic Brain Research Institute.

Why are so few of us successful at keeping our resolutions?

Psychology professor Peter Herman and his colleagues have identified that many make resolutions that are significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves. When you make positive affirmations about yourself that you don’t really believe, the positive affirmations not only don’t work, they can be damaging to your self-worth

According to brain scientists, making resolutions involves changing behaviors—and in order to change a behavior, you have to change your thinking (or “rewire” your brain).

Interestingly, this lines up with what Christians have been reading from the Bible for centuries.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” Ephesians 4:22

CONSIDER DOING THESE THREE THINGS BEFORE MAKING A RESOLUTION: 

1. Change the way you think

Making a resolution means that you want to change something—that you’re not satisfied with something. This can be a negative and discouraging pattern of thought.

The only way to make lasting change starts in how we think. We must exchange a negative for a positive (Ephesians 4:22-23). Psychologists say this is how to create new neural pathways in your brain in order to change habits. 

A great exercise to begin creating positive thought patterns is to count your blessings.

Yes, I’m talking literally counting your blessings. Here’s how:

2. Make A Blessing And Personal Accomplishment List

I like to start each new year on a positive note. A great way to do this is by making a list of blessings and personal accomplishments. I write my blessings and accomplishments in my journal. It serves as a great reminder of how God is working in my life. You may want to check out a post I wrote that includes how to keep a prayer journal:  https://beckielindsey16.com/2016/09/26/3-ways-to-fight-distractions-during-prayer/

I cannot tell you how much keeping a prayer/blessing journal has helped my spiritual life. I also write out scriptures as well as what God is teaching me about the scriptures (I’ll be writing more about that in another article.)

I realize not everyone is the ‘writer’ type. However, I think if you’d give this a try, you will be blessed.

Here’s an example of a few things that I wrote in my journal:

I’m thankful for:
God’s daily grace, mercy, His Word, His Holy Spirit
My marriage
Family
Friends and church family
The United States of America
My husband’s health issues have improved
My health is good
My oldest son got married

Personal accomplishments:
I went to two writers conferences
I was published on websites, in my local newspaper, and magazines this year
I’ve finished the first edits on my YA novel
Finished the rough draft for the Bible study I’ve co-written
I lost five pounds and didn’t gain it back
Kept up with exercise 3-5 days a week
I have 3,482 readers on my blog (That’s YOU! I thank you for your support, dear readers)

What will your blessings and accomplishments list look like?

3.Prayer

Once you’ve made your list of blessings and things accomplished throughout the year, pray for guidance on any new goals.

Doesn’t it make sense that we’d ask God before attempting a major life change like a resolution?

It pleased the Lord when Solomon asked for wisdom (1 Kings 3:7-14), and it pleases Him when we ask as well.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5

Finally,  it’s important to remember we are not alone. We have God’s help to accomplish the goals that He has given us. In fact, God has given us all we need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). His Spirit is at work within us, giving us new desires to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13), which make us more and more like His Son.

This should be our primary resolution: to be more like JESUS.

If being more like Jesus is our primary resolution, God will direct what that looks like in our individual lives in the new year.

WISHING YOU MANY BLESSINGS IN
2017


Do you make resolutions? If so, what have they been and have you accomplished them? Please share your thoughts below in the comments.

 

 

 

TWAS THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS AT THE RESCUE MISSION

Twas the Week Before Christmas at the Rescue Mission https://beckielindsey16.com/2016/12/20/twas-the-week-before-christmas-at-the-rescue-mission/

I circled the block of the rescue mission three times looking for a safe place to park. The building is conveniently located in the poorest area of town. After all, that’s what the mission is for: to help the less fortunate, homeless, and the poor. And that was why I was compelled to go there. God has been working on my heart ever since I met a homeless young man who’d been kicked out by his abusive step-father. So there I was, a week before Christmas with not a clue what the Lord wanted me to do. Last week I’d spoken over the phone with Mike Meyer, the very kind Outreach Coordinator for the mission. I figured I could start with meeting him face to face.

After parking on the street around the corner from the mission, I locked my doors and was on my way by foot. A disheveled woman with wild gray hair pushing a shopping cart sang loudly to no one in particular. I kept my eyes on my destination, passing a group of four men who paused their conversation momentarily as I passed. I felt out of place.
Who was I kidding? I was out of place. A white middle-aged, middle-class women walking alone on these streets was probably not the norm.

Once inside, my nervousness quickly subsided. The building bustled with life. There were men and women busily sorting, stacking, and piling hundreds of boxed toys. It looked more like Santa’s workshop than a rescue mission. I was directed through a narrow passage around the toys to Mike’s desk. A tall fellow with kind blue eyes, stood reaching out to shake my hand. Instantly, I no longer felt out of place. Mike welcomed me as though he was greeting a friend.

Mike got down to business right away. He knew from our phone conversation that I was there to learn. He began explaining the obvious—the reason for all of the toys. The mission was collecting for its annual Christmas Toy Giveaway that would be taking place in a few days. So far they had received 1,458 toys that would help 428 families with children from the ages of 0-12. This is only one way the mission reaches the community, but it is by far, the most popular. There would be anywhere from 150-200 volunteers. The local fire department and many businesses would donate and volunteer as well.

Mike showed me a map of our city fairgrounds where the event would take place.

“Right here…”  Mike pointed his pencil at the map. “Is where the families will enter what we call, Santa’s Village. The toys will be sorted by age and gender.” He glanced up at me, a grin stretching from ear to ear. Then he looked down at the map again saying, “and over here is where the fire department will be and over here is for crafts and face painting.” The pencil moved from point to point on the map. “And here…here is where the kids can get their picture with Santa!” Mike’s excitement was contagious.

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I listened and took notes as Mike explained how the families came into the mission at the end of November and filled out a form to pre-register for the toy giveaway. The form would help the mission determine which families would qualify. The mission is careful to do its best to ensure that qualifying families are of limited income, state residents with an address and that they have at least one child from the ages of 0-12.

Mike took me on a tour of the mission, all the while giving me a crash course on its many facets such as the food pantry, men’s ministry, farmers market, transitional housing program, recovery program, shower program, hot meals, and thrift store. He even created a file with information I could research later regarding the operations of the Rescue Mission Alliance. I was introduced to Director, Bill Edwards who was kind enough to take a few moments for me to ask some questions.

It became clear to me after meeting the director, the employees, and volunteers that for the mission to work effectively, it must be based on the care and relationship with individuals. And isn’t that exactly what the ministry of Jesus looked like? The key word being RELATIONSHIP. That’s what I witnessed taking place at the mission: people caring, loving and establishing relationships. And you know what? ANYONE WILLING TO HELP FITS IN. 

After taking the grand tour, we headed back to Mike’s desk. I looked at the clock, realizing I had been there for two hours. Boy, how the time had flown by! As Mike and I talked, the volunteers had loaded all the toys into a large truck that was serving as Santa’s sleigh—at least for that day. And it would seem these volunteers were his elves. No, scratch that. These people were not elves. Maybe just maybe, they were God’s angels, or at least His ambassadors. With tears in my eyes as I drove away, I was determined to learn how to become one of them!

 

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Inside of the truck, over 1,400 toys!

How can you help? I wrote an article on the ways the average person can help the homeless and poor without enabling. See last week’s post, Homeless at Christmas: https://beckielindsey16.com/2016/12/13/homeless-at-christmas/

I will continue to research issues that prevent the average person from helping the homeless such as mental illness. Hopefully together and one relationship at a time, we can shine our lights to “the least of these”.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.”Matthew 5:14

I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and suggestions on this subject.

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This post is linked to LMML Linkups:
http://maryanderingcreatively.com/lmml-linkup-special-canvas-memories-giveaway/

HOMELESS AT CHRISTMAS

Homeless at Christmas https://beckielindsey16.com/2016/12/13/homeless-at-christmas/

I parked my car in a coveted parking space directly in front of Starbucks. I was glad for a short walk since it was cold enough to snow. I locked my door and rushed against the wind toward the tantalizing aroma that wafted out of the double doors.

From the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of someone approaching. I walked a bit faster. I had a feeling it was a homeless person who was going to ask me for money. Sure enough, I heard his voice despite the violent wind.

“Excuse me, ma’am.”

I wanted to just keep walking. I was almost to the doors and warmth and coffee. But my conscience wouldn’t let me ignore him. I turned and faced his strained eyes. Although his look was disheveled, he appeared to be quite young under his overgrown beard. He wore a beanie and a dirty, threadbare coat.

“I don’t mean to scare you,” he said, raising his shaking hands. “Can you help me?”

I’m sure many of you have been in a similar situation. Perhaps you’ve seen a homeless-looking person near a place of business holding a sign. And if you’re like me, you become extremely uncomfortable and maybe even a little afraid. Many of the homeless are on drugs or alcohol, or are mentally ill, right? It seems so much easier, and safer, to just avoid eye contact. To walk on by and pretend we don’t see them. But ignoring them does not make them go away. In fact, Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you…” (John 12:8).

According to a one-night national survey done last January by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are 564,708 homeless people in the United States. That’s more than half a million people living on the streets, in cars, in homeless shelters, or in subsidized transitional housing. Of that number, 206,286 were people in families, 358,422 were individuals, and a quarter of the entire group were children.

Those numbers don’t reflect what I have believed about the homeless. I never imagined there are that many homeless children here in the United States. According to the same survey, there are approximately 550,000 unaccompanied, single youth under the age of 24 experiencing a homeless episode of longer than one week. About 380,000 of that total are under  18.It’s difficult to get an accurate counting of homeless children and youth. The National Alliance to End Homelessness explains, “Homeless youth are less likely to spend time in the same places as homeless people who are in an older age range. They are often less willing to disclose that they’re experiencing homelessness or may not even identify as homeless. They also may work harder to try to blend in with peers who aren’t homeless.”

It’s difficult to get an accurate counting of homeless children and youth. The National Alliance to End Homelessness explains, “Homeless youth are less likely to spend time in the same places as homeless people who are in an older age range. They are often less willing to disclose that they’re experiencing homelessness or may not even identify as homeless. They also may work harder to try to blend in with peers who aren’t homeless.”

So, there I stood face to face with a young man who asked for my help. I could hear Christmas music playing from the speakers outside of Starbucks. I thought of the gifts that were in the trunk of my car, and how I was about to go in and buy a $4 cup of coffee. Surely I could help him with something to eat.

“Wait here,” I said. He nodded, looking at the ground.

I went to my car and grabbed a granola bar. “Here,” I said handing it to him. “I’ll go in and get you some coffee too.”

“Thanks,” he said, still looking down.

When I returned with the coffee, I was compelled to asked, “Do you have a family?” I struggled to find the right words. “Uh, I mean, why are you out here? It’s Christmas time.”

“My stepdad who beats my mom kicked me out,” he said flatly. This time his green eyes caught mine briefly before he looked back at the ground, stuffing his hands in his coat pockets.

That was not the answer I expected. Honestly, I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t that. I hesitated then finally said, “I’ll pray for you. I’m so sorry.”

Driving away slowly, I watched him through my mirror. A scripture from James 2:16 echoed in my mind: “..and you say, ‘Goodbye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”

As I laid in my warm comfortable bed that night, I prayed for the young homeless man, realizing I never even asked his name. Where would he be sleeping? Where would others like him be sleeping—other nameless faces I’d passed on so many occasions without an acknowledgment? I could picture him pressed up against the back wall outside of Starbucks laying on the cold ground. The thought made me shutter.

“Lord, forgive me for turning a blind eye to people on the streets. Please show me how I can do more,” I whispered.

I compiled a list of what kept me from helping the homeless and what I have learned may prevent others as well. Then I compared the excuses to the Word of God.

Excuses Why People Don’t Help the Homeless

  1. There are “programs” to help them.

Loving and helping our neighbor is the responsibility of each and every Christian. In the parable of The Good Samaritan, (Luke 10:30-37)  Jesus explains this. The takeaway from the parable is this: Our neighbor is any fellow human being, especially one in need. I encourage you to read the parable even if it’s one you know well. 

 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?” 1 John 3:17

“Blessed are those who are generous because they feed the poor.” Proverbs 22:9

       2.  I don’t want to enable an addiction or laziness

Many don’t want to give money because they fear an addict will use it for alcohol or drugs. You don’t need to give money unless you feel God leading you to do so. Giving food is not enabling. Jesus freely gave to the sick and the poor.

“Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.“” Luke 6:38

3.  What Can One Ordinary Person Do?

Many of the programs designed to help the homeless and the poor are successful due to the help of volunteers from within the community. The existence of programs and organizations does not exempt the individual Christian from our God-given responsibility to love our neighbor as ourselves. The best way to shine our light is to show love and compassion to others.

I used to read the Bible and think I could never accomplish the things that the men and women of scripture did. As I became more familiar with the Bible, I realized my thinking didn’t line up with God’s teaching. God, in fact, uses the ordinary person.

Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.”  James 5:17-18 (emphasis added)

 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13 (emphasis added)

I love the idea that others recognized them as men who had been with Jesus!
The same goes for us today.

 

Showing compassion to a homeless person is something even just an ordinary person can do. Remember, God takes our ordinary and makes it extraordinary! We have no idea the power one cup of coffee can hold when the Holy Spirit is involved.

             4. I Don’t Know How to Help

Most every community has at least one homeless shelter or rescue mission. With the convenience of the internet, it’s easy to search your local community’s resources.

My suggestion is to look for an organization that does the following: States their mission. Shows a breakdown of where the donations received goes. Keeps track of the people who come in for help. Prays for those who come in. Assists in finding work if this is applicable to individuals seeking help. Bible studies are a wonderful resource as well.


It wasn’t long after the incident with the young homeless man that my women’s Bible study got connected with our local rescue mission. I knew this was an answer to my prayer. Our study began making hygiene bags for the homeless that we call Blessing Bags. Many of us are still doing this on a regular basis. We keep some of the bags in our cars which are handy to give out on the spot (in lieu of money). Additional bags are taken to our local rescue mission to give out to those who come in for help. They’re really simple and pretty cheap to put together. I bought all the items from the dollar store.

To make your own Blessing Bags, here’s what you’ll need:

Gallon size zip lock bags or quart size for smaller bags
Chap Stick
Packages of tissue
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Comb
Soap
Trail mix
Granola bars
Crackers
Pack of gum
Water bottle or juice box
Band-aids
Mouthwash
Hand wipes and/or hand cleaner
Warm socks, gloves
Information about your local homeless shelter or missions
A note of encouragement or scripture

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When researching shelters in my community,  I found out that 41% of homeless individuals are women and children. I spoke with a wonderful man named Michael from my local rescue mission. Four years ago, he was on the streets himself. Today, he works for the mission, serving the less fortunate and homeless.

Many times the average person would like to do something but is concerned about safety and of being scammed. When I asked Michael about those who are addicts or who “scam” the system, he told me that his organization works to keep from enabling those who attempt to take advantage of the programs by keeping records of its recipients.  As I stated previously, this is a good thing to check when you are researching organizations in your community. We want to help, not enable. Michael also said they give out about 40 hygiene bags on Fridays. It made me smile to know I was doing something that may make even a small difference. 

I still think about and pray for the young man who was homeless at Christmas. I wish I would have known then what I do now. I wish I could have directed him to a shelter where he could get a hot meal and a shower—a  place where someone would share the love of Christ with him.

Instead, the Lord used him to teach me. I hope his story touches you too. The fact is, there are a lot of people— many are women and children—who are homeless this Christmas. We have the opportunity to show Christ’s love in tangible ways if we will just open our hearts and our eyes.

God bless you and yours this Christmas!
Love, Beckie

Please let me know your thoughts below.

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 I enjoy linking my blog with other great blogs. Please check them out:

Literacy Musing Monday:  http://www.brandiraae.com/10396-2/
Mostly Blogging:   http://www.mostlyblogging.com/inspire-monday-linky-party-111/
Create With Joy:   http://www.create-with-joy.com/2016/12/inspire-me-monday-week-258.html