Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What It Will Take To Keep A Resolution This Year

Of course this is the time of year when many people start make resolutions, turning over new leaves and hoping to finally win the battle to lose some pounds, start exercising, quit smoking, begin school or whever. And my hunch is that most of those people are pretty serious and sincere.

But so many of those hopes, dreams and goals simply never happen. Why? And what WILL it take for us to finally look back and realize we actually did accomplish something in the new year?

I think there are a couple of key ingredients for success. First, we need a crisis mentality. A good friend of mine just discovered that some cancer he had had removed has returned other places. While it was serious before it's a potential personal crisis now.

I know this. He doesn't need anyone's motivation, list of resolutions or accountability partner to fight this now with all of his being. If he doesn't the results will likely be disastrous. And yes we hope that many of our goals aren't that serious but we need to think more that way. For example, we might need to lose ten pounds or more.

What if we started thinking that if I don't lose this weight I could end up gaining more, becoming more unhealthy and perhaps not be able to enjoy my family the way I could if I got healthier? To not lose weight with this kind of thinking could be a crisis. That would probably motivate us a lot more than just a list.

More significantly, what if we thought about the consequences of not getting our finances together, working on a relationship or stopping a habit or practice that could destroy our marriage? That might get us going.

Second, we must have a plan. The old adage, you don't plan to fail you just fail to plan, fits here. Write down not only your big goal but the little goals you need to get there. Have someone doing it with you if possible. Make deadlines for when you will start, join a club or group, start classes, etc.

Ideally, have an accountability partner keeping tabs on you, too. Make sure they are ruthless. Plan to work and work the plan.

Third, we must get real. So many of our resolutions are just talk, way beyond our resources or ability and discourage us just thinking about them. So start at a realistic trailhead. Make sure you can accomplish the first few steps before you commit to the bigger ones. And if you can't really do this find something else! You don't have to climb Everest. There are other smaller mountains to climb first.

Fourth, anticipate and then enjoy your early successes. Dave Ramsey, financial expert, tells couples in large amounts of debt to first pay off the smallest amount. That way they get success and can apply those funds to the next smallest sum. We need to do the same no matter what our goal is. Get to the first plateau and celebrate it, encourage yourself and look forward to the next one.

Finally, remember that God wants you to grow, become more like Jesus and to be the person He intended. Invite Him into the process, ask Him for strength and wisdom along the way.Christ followers actually have God's power in them to do more than they could otherwise.  Use it.

If you'll tackle your resolutions wisely and with God's help they might just turn into a personal revolution!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

We Would Never Be A Hoarder Would We?

Maybe you've seen the reality show called Hoarders. The producers find someone who is clearly obsessed with keeping everything and a team of expert organizers, a psychologist and other helpers try to get them to change their ways.

In most cases it's not easy. There is usually all sorts of personal baggage hidden under their emotional layers of debris which will not be disposed of quickly. Often the person breaks down in despair seeing their prized possessions being thrown in a dumpster or at best organized.

Most of us watching a program like that would say, "That will never be me. I couldn't stand living that way." And we're probably right. There are only a small percentage of people who will endure the extremes of a true hoarder.

But I wonder if a lot of us aren't closer than we think, at least in spirit. We really do hoard we just do it in an organized and more acceptable way.  Let me suggest a few areas where potential hoarding can crop up in our homes.

We may hoard successes. We keep trying to add one more award, win, trophy or adulation for our kids or ourselves. We live for the next chance to tell a friend or put on Facebook the latest impressive feats in our family. How many Christmas letters rather than just giving an update on the family's important moments of the year are filled with all of the latest things to brag about on each person?

We may hoard security. Of course it makes sense to set aside savings for emergencies and retirement and to do all we can to make sure our family needs are maintained. But many keep adding more: another piece of real estate, bank accounts, other income streams and the like. We're never satisfied that enough is enough.

We can hoard extra stuff. Just like we might do with our finances we feel we always have to have a lot of abundance or we won't be OK. So we buy mulitiples of everything, never miss a good sale and keep trying to find more space to store it all in.

So what might we do at our house to battle the temptation to hoard?

First, make giving things and money away the norm at home. Look for ways to share what you have, find a regular place to give things to and teach your kids to do the same. Yes, be wise and careful that you have planned well for your needs then give the rest to someone or a great organization.

Second, take inventory and pare things down to only what you need. This may take some soul-searching and admitting that you really do have too much. Get rid of a lot, have a garage sale or rent a truck and donate things to a needy organization. If you really want to get serious, move into a smaller home and you will quickly find you can't take it all and will have to do something about it.

Third, start living in ways where you must trust God more to make it. Don't be foolish. God  has blessed us in many ways so that we would have what we need. Take good care of those basic things. But find some challenges, mission opportunities or whatever that require you to have special faith in God meeting your needs. You will live on a lot less but live a lot more.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Gifts I'd Most Like Again: They Can't Be Bought

I can think of all sorts of special gifts I've received down through the years. Of course, like most of us, I got most of them when I was a kid. I'll never forget the electric train cars, sports equipment, electronic games (yes, there were a few when I was young), the cool clothes (at least I thought they were), a special Bible or book and a host of other gifts that I longed for so badly.

We all had that present, too, that our parents gave us last that we knew was the big gift. But there are very few of those that I want again now. In fact, I really don't long for any of them.

But there are a lot of gifts I wish I could enjoy again that I simply won't ever have. And they remind me and I hope you that we need to cherish similar gifts now while we still have them. It's so easy to just rush through the most special moments of all because we're wrapped up in the tyranny of the urgent or trying to do it all when only a few things matter.

For example I wish that I could again have:

My kids be little again for even an hour.
My wedding day with my young bride.
A morning with my dad or father-in-law.
A moment or two or a cup of coffee with some of my childhood heroes and mentors.
A Christmas as a young kid with my mom, dad, sister and any other relatives who decided to show up that day.
A game of basketball or catch with my teenage son.
A weekend back at college with my good buddies.
A date with my daughter in elementary school.
A school program, sporting event or awards ceremony.
An evening with our whole family at home together.
A day of playing baseball with my neighborhood friends.
A morning with my church friends from a bunch of years ago.
A snow day.
My first climb of a fourteener in Colorado.
The day our son or daughter or grandsons were born.
A conversation with Al or Don or one of many other friends now in Heaven.
A family vacation.

My list could be much longer. In fact, I'll probably put a more extended one together just for me. The problem with doing it now is that every entry brings tears to my eyes both of joy and sadness.

So what's the point? It's pretty simple. Enjoy every special moment now. Savor them. Slow down. Be thankful. Don't rush them and please don't wish them away even though some of these moments came with pain, hardship or challenge. Some of us still have these moments in front of us. Watch for them. Be ready. Relish every one.

We live such faced-paced, driven lives it's easier and easier to miss the great moments because of the quantity of mediocre ones.

They are still gifts. All of them. Gifts you'll someday wish you could have again.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Avoid the Immaculate Deception This Christmas

Before Thanksgiving Alice was already planning for Christmas. Yes, she put her usual passion into the food planning, preparation and family inviting for turkey day but she also made time to start her Christmas checklist and knock a few of those tasks off as well.

And now that the first round of food and football are over she is going full steam ahead to make Christmas as wonderful as it always is. There are gifts to buy of course, but the house decorating has always been an obsession with her so the attic and garage have been cleared of their Christmas decorations and she is on her way to turning her house into a fantasy land.

Granted her oldest will be home soon from college and her parents are getting up in years. She hopes to spend some quality time with all of them and even invite a few close friends over but all that will need to wait until she has things just right.

Alice is encouraged, however, because she did get up early on Black Friday and buy some of the gifts she knows her family will treasure and she saved some money this year in the process. And she knows that with a few late nights (OK, maybe a lot of them) she will also get her Christmas cards signed and sent out. This year's cards, more like booklets, are the best and most creative ever with lots of pictures and updates on the kids successes and family milestones.

Is Alice a version of  you at holiday time? She certainly represents a lot of people who are caught in what I call the Immaculate Deception. It's the false belief that certain expectations must be met every year at the holidays. And as a result many individuals and families miss out on the most important opportunities of a time like Christmas.

Some common misguided demands?  That everything be perfect. The house, the cards, the meals, the outfits, the church service, the time spent with family - they must all be refined to a standard that in reality can never be reached. As a result family members (often mom) never sit down, can't relax and miss out on the many spontaneous and casual conversations, interactions and special moments that they will never quite have again.

Second, that everyone be happy. Yes, holidays are a time when we should be happy and joyful but there is no way to please everyone . . . and yet we often try. We have to get Uncle Ralph the perfect gift and send Grandma Mary a card on time. Our kids need to get every gift they asked for and be allowed and even transported to attend every gathering required of them. Even Jesus didn't go to everything or give everyone what they wanted so why should we?

Third, we do more than in the past. If last year's Christmas card was really creative, then this year's must be more so. If we bought such and such last year for a present we should do better this year. We at least think that everything we've done before should be equaled if not improved. Says who?

The sad part about buying into the deceptions that often surround our holidays is that we miss out on what really matters. Let me suggest a few things:

Jesus. Yes, Jesus as the saying goes IS the reason for the season. I get it when non-Christ-followers don't focus on Jesus much but I don't get it when Christians pretty much avoid Him other than going to a Christmas Eve service. Try making Jesus the focus of your holiday and see what changes. Re-teach the real story of Christmas and tell about some of the things you are most thankful for from God.

Close family time. Notice the word close. Sure families are generally together during at least some of the Christmas vacation but are they close?  Do they really talk? Do they slow down and just enjoy each other, perhaps even get to know each other better?  When we're running, running, running there will be little time for each other.

Spontaneous get togethers with friends, neighbors, relatives or associates.  What would our holidays be like if we took time to just grab a friend and go have coffee (egg nog latte)? What if we did something really unique with our family or in the neighborhood, something WAY out of the box that we would never forget instead of the usual? What if we just enjoyed the tree that we put up, played some games, listened to music or watch a favorite Christmas special without having to fit it in between events or responsibilities?

You know there is still time to make this year's Christmas different. But you'll have to make some decisions NOT to do a few things pretty soon. Nevertheless try it. Remember all that other stuff may just be taking you away from the best Christmas ever and from the Jesus who started it all in the first place.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.