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more nothing and a few other things

I don't really do resolutions, but I do like to learn, so here are a few things that I would like to get better at in the next few months by turning my attention to them.

1. Not complaining. This is not merely a matter of squelching the oft-present urge to see the negative side or stuffing my tendency to criticize deep down inside of me where it can fester. Instead, I want to redirect my energy, my attention, and my focus to the goodness of God all around me. Gratefulness is the secret weapon that can transform not only my perspective but the tone of any interaction or task. I want to take gratitude out and wield it more often.

2. Being True. One of my favourite tv shows right now is "Lie to Me," a drama about a deception expert who reads faces in order to tell if someone is lying or hiding something. The amazing principle present here (and yes, the show is based on an actual science) is that our bodies are made to tell the truth! Every time we venture into deception, our bodies send out a signal to say that they are not in agreement. It could be a flinch, an aversion of the eyes, or any number of "tells." We were made to not only tell the truth, but to embody truth. I want to cooperate with my body more this year in those things that it was meant to do, and one of those is living the truth.

3. Having more nothing. Today at our church gathering, we were singing the old hymn, "Nothing But the Blood." Part of the chorus goes like this: What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. I started to think about that word, "nothing," and realized that I have quite a few "somethings" that need to become "nothings." If I really believe that I am only made complete, healed, and whole by the loving sacrifice of God in the person of Jesus, then the somethings that I have been counting on to get me through life need to be relegated to the nothing pile. What are the somethings that need to become nothing? Perfectionism (setting very high standards for myself and everyone else around me) cannot take away my sin and it cannot make me whole. Self-sufficiency (resisting asking for help, devaluing vulnerability, and under-developing relationships) is not a healer. Comparison (I'm not so bad when you look at those other folks, and I sure did better than a lot of my friends) is a bed-fellow to deception and pride. Having nothing, on the other hand, is a close companion of humility.

4. Motivating people to choose a more generous and loving way (starting with myself). This is not to imply that I want to control people or put undue pressure on them (though positive influence is a very good thing and somewhat undervalued in our independent, free-choice culture); more precisely, I want to cease demotivating myself and others. Criticism is a big demotivating factor. So is constant praise (no need to change or improve if everything is always great!). Lack of goals or appropriate challenges can cause me to flounder. Too much information or too many demands can be overwhelming and may tempt people to give up. It may also lead to depression and discouragement, and cause one to lose sight of the many small steps of improvement already made. This means that I have to keep my mouth shut more (really, who needs to have it pointed out every single time they miss a comma or don't use the right word?) and carefully choose which challenges are important to focus on. I have to take the emphasis off of what is lacking and instead, direct my eyes (and the eyes of those whom I deal with) toward the goal, rejoicing in every step of progress made along the way.

5. Being present. I have long since given up multi-tasking, but it is still a struggle to be present to what is happening here and now, especially when I have a lot of things to prepare for and think about in the next few months. This tendency to be thinking about something other than who and what is right here in front of me means that I also tend to forget that God is present with me. He always says, "I am here." It never changes. No matter whether or not I sense it, see it, or know it, it is always true, because He says it is. May I hear God's, "I am here," often each day, and may I respond with my own: "I am here!"

This is a picture of some of the items I found on my table today. They conveniently formed themselves into this number.

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