Sunday Reflections – The Logic of Patience

1-30-13 PatienceMy pastor recently stated that rather than having a temper problem, he has a patience problem. I certainly identify with that. My temper usually flares when something isn’t happening when I think it should and in the way I think it should. It flares, usually, when I’m simply being impatient.

When exploring the value of patience, we largely consider its negative consequences, and we do this because of the motivation that doing so can provide. For today, though, let’s look at patience from the other side, from the benefits that it provides.

Do you remember using “If… then…” statements in geometry? What about computer programming? Grammar maybe? Concepts explained through these statements stuck with me, I think, because they provided a logical argument with which to analyze any topic.

Looking at the benefits of patience through “If… then…” logic has helped me gain a renewed ambition to become more patient and as a result to further defeat any control my temper might try to exert.

  • IF I want to grow, THEN I need to be patient.
  • IF I want to harvest, THEN I must wait after I plant.
  • IF I am patient with others, THEN love and unity will grow.
  • IF I want to overcome temptation, THEN patience must be a rule.
  • IF I want to win over my enemies, THEN I must employ patient persuasion.
  • IF I am patient with others, THEN I am showing love.
  • IF the Holy Spirit controls my life, THEN patience will grow within me.
  • IF I love one others, THEN I won’t get hung up on faults.
  • IF I exercise patience, THEN I act counter-culturally.

A spirit of patience must blanket our lives. We also need to choose patience during specific life events too. Patience happens when it becomes an attitude of the heart.

AMPLIFY: My 2013 social focus involves thinking first and reacting less. I want to develop a better habit of acting instead of reacting. I’ve tried willpower. Doesn’t work. The fruit of the Spirit needs to increase in me.

DISCUSSION: Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, “Patience is better than pride.” Help me understand and apply that concept.

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How to… Instantly Make the World Better

1-28-13 toolsMy instinct when hearing about a problem and even when seeing a problem walking by me is to instantly think of solutions. How can this problem be fixed? How can this person be or do better? I can’t fix most of what I see, whether on the news or walking by me at the grocery store, and that bothers me. (Just so you know, I am hardest on myself when it comes to fixing problems.) I am bothered by the sadness and apathy I see in the world, and I want to make it better somehow.

While I’m confessing here, let me also say that I’m a homebody. While there are others, one reason is that the visual stimulation overwhelms me when I go out in public. No, this is not a phobia, I promise. I just get so easily frustrated by people, by lives that are unhealthy in the spiritual, physical, emotional and relational sense. And that ill health affects all of who they are and what they will do – or not do – in life.

People seem in their own little worlds, unaware of how what they do or don’t do, say or don’t say, affects others, how it ripples out to affect their culture and world. Please know that I realize I contribute to this problem at times, but I have a great deal of control over changing that. I can’t make others change.

Fortunately, each person can instantly make the world better by doing small acts of respect. These small acts can not only brighten days on an individual level, they have the potential – as they accumulate over time – to affect change on a much larger scale.

Warning: These suggestions may rub some people the wrong way because they get at some habits that we carry rather close to us, and they force us to admit those habits may not always be beneficial. Yet, we need to realize that what often satisfies in the immediate can at the same time be contributing to a larger problem

1. 1-28-13 cel phonePut your cell phone away. When a friend stops mid-conversation to text, I feel unimportant. When the guy behind me in the checkout lane gets his items mixed in with mine because he’s talking on his phone, I feel invisible. And when someone swerves like a drunk because he’s texting while driving, that makes me angry. The message being sent, really, is that the person on the other end of the phone is more important than the person standing in front of them, more important than having manners, and even more important than my life.

If we can learn how to keep technology from consuming us (watch for a future post on this topic), perhaps personal value will increase and depression decrease. Maybe that would make the world a better place.

2. Use your turn signal. And use it before you actually slow down to turn. Life hands us so many unexpected bumps, and we all could really use more warnings to help us prepare. We all could use less abrupt stops and turns.1-28-13 Turn signal

Fewer driving frustration would significantly lessen the level of stress in a person’s life. Less stress would make the world better. Right?

3. Smile. There are a lot of unhappy people, probably largely because they feel unimportant and stressed. Research shows that smiling increases happiness and success. And the smile doesn’t always have to be genuine; even a forced smile brings these benefits.

1-28-13 smileNot only does smiling bring you benefits, those on the receiving end feel happier too. And wouldn’t more happiness make the world a better place?

As individuals, we can all play parts in shining light in this dark world through simple acts that require us to get outside ourselves by preferring and showing consideration to others. It’s these small acts that can instantly make the world better by helping people feel more valued and less alone. At least, I know that would make my world better.

AMPLIFY: There’s this crease in my forehead that gets deeper when I frown or am in deep thought and lessens when I smile and am more relaxed. I am so inside my head sometimes (I blame it on my melancholy, introverted personality), that I slight others by unintentionally ignoring them and probably frightening them with the crease that could hold a pencil. I need to get outside of myself, smile more, and decrease the crease.

DISCUSSION: What small acts do you think would make the world a better place?

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Running With Weights

When getting ready to run a 5k last fall, I saw a man wearing a weighted vest at the start line. I’m assuming he wore it for the entire race, but I can’t say for sure as my view from the back of the pack did not include keeping track of this particular individual.

Supposedly, running with weights can improve running time and increase endurance. Wearing weights while running should also burn more calories without having to increase distance or speed. For those of us who already struggle to complete a run of 5k (3.1 miles) or more, the idea of running with added weight seems, well, simply crazy.

In fact, in all of the races I have run during my 25 years of being a runner, this is the first person I’ve noticed wearing extra weights during a race. Most of the runners, especially the really good runners, the ones who run to compete, run with very little on their body. In fact, the front-runner almost always has the bare minimum allowable based on the weather.

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As I stood waiting to run this 5k last fall and watching this weighted man who seemed quite eager to begin, I couldn’t help but think of Hebrews 12:1-2.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In our physical lives, the idea of running with added weight seems foolish to most people. In our spiritual lives, however, most of us carry extra weight that prevents us from running the best race possible even though doing so is not only foolish but can prevent us from a strong finish.

In Kick Off the High Heals, Day Two of Week 10 in God is My Refuge, Kathy Howard expresses this issue by saying:

“Like the heroes of faith who have gone before, let us rid our lives of anything that keeps us from complete obedience to Christ. Maybe a sinful habit or unhealthy relationship prevents us from fully submitting to our Savior. Perhaps pride or selfishness keeps us hanging on to our own will and way.”

The weights I commonly carry as I run “the race marked out” for me include comparisons, fear and pride. And really, those weights show my failure (sin) to believe that Jesus is enough. It’s my failure to believe that He created me for a specific purpose, and that He will make that purpose come to fruition. It’s fear over my kids not following God instead of my having faith to believe God for their security. And it’s my pride that keeps me from asking for help and from admitting my dependence on Him.

But that’s just me. Perhaps the weights that entangle you are quite different from mine.

Looking further into this scripture, Hebrews 12:2 tells us where to focus after we’ve cast off those weights that trip us up, a focus that allows us to endure the race of our lives.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.”

What does a focus on Jesus do for our ability to run with endurance? Kathy Howard puts it this way:

“Let’s turn our full attention to Christ and consider what He endured for us. His example will help us throw off any sin that entangles us and run freely toward the finish line.”

Just like any runner wanting to improve her speed or endurance or any other aspect of her running will look to the experts who have successfully gone before her, so too must we look to Jesus as we seek to improve how we run this race of life.

DISCUSSION: What sinful attitudes or selfish motivations or activities hold us back from following Christ in complete obedience?

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Sunday Reflections – You’re Rich, and So Am I!

1-23-13 treasureIf you line all of “us” up (meaning, everyone who reads this post and probably pretty much everyone we know too) based on our financial status, we would all be in the top 10% of the world’s income. Think about that for a minute.

Still not sure? Go to How Rich Am I? at Giving What We Can, and enter your information to calculate where you stand with regard to income compared to the rest of the world. Surprised?

(Note: I don’t necessarily recommend Giving What We Can as your primary giving source. I personally feel your tithe should go to your church home.)

So, knowing that we are all truly rich, let’s look at what the Bible says should then follow. In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, we find a list of what the “rich” on earth should and should not do with OUR wealth.

  1. Don’t act superior because you’re wealthy.
  2. Don’t believe, desire or trust in wealth.
  3. Believe, desire and trust in God.
  4. Make your good deeds as abundant as your riches.
  5. Distribute your wealth liberally.
  6. Share your wealth to make others comfortable.

The Weymouth New Translation says it this way: “Be beneficent, rich in noble deeds, open-handed and liberal.” (Beneficent means “doing good or causing good to be done; conferring benefits; kindly action or purpose.”)

This portion of 1 Timothy also gives us the benefits of keeping these commands, which is realization that our true treasure exists in heaven, where we find “life that is truly life.” Matthew 6:19-21 expands on this concept.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

In other words, have an eternal perspective. Focus on that which will last into eternity and not on that which will one day cease to exist. So, “life that is truly life” means life that cannot be destroyed and that is completely protected by God. In focusing on the eternal in this life, we focus our hearts on that which will go on forever.

AMPLIFY: Last year, my husband and I held A Spending Fast during the first quarter of the year. Our motivation for this was to stop the habit of spending without thinking that we had gotten into during the holiday season (which, for us, also happens to be somewhat of a birthday season too). We are holding another spending fast this year, but we have amplified it by not just limiting our extra spending but also by praying for ways to better invest in “life that is truly life.” More on our amplified spending fast in an upcoming post.

DISCUSSION: How do you think that the command to give to help others fits with God providing us with “everything for our enjoyment” (see the end of verse 17 in 1 Timothy 6)?

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Separation Is In the Preparation

Rookie Wisdom

Prior to the Wildcard playoffs, Seattle Seahawks’ rookie quarterback Russell Wilson was the subject of several newspaper and television features lauding his leadership ability. While being interviewed, Wilson’s verbalized his philosophy:

1-11-13 separationThese features went on to describe Wilson’s detailed approach to preparing for games, citing a specific story about how he put “cheat sheets” on his teammates’ chairs prior to their Monday morning team meeting following an away game the day before. Actions like these, teammates say, are why Wilson has become a team leader even though he’s only 24 and in his rookie season in the NFL.

And while watching Wilson on the field before and during both before and during games, his actions emphasized his leadership ability as he encouraged and motivated his teammates. Clearly, Wilson’s approach to preparation has separated him as a player and leader in the NFL.

Biblical Principle

As Christians, we are called to separate ourselves too. Just as Wilson has separated himself from being an average football player, we too should seek to separate ourselves from blending in with the world around us. Specifically, the Bible talks about Christians separating themselves in three aspects of life. We are to separate ourselves from:

The World1 John 2:15-17 encourages us to love the things of God instead of the things of this world, and Romans 12:2 encourages separation by not conforming and by letting our minds be renewed.

False Teachers – In Romans 16:17-18, we receive warning to avoid those who deceptively preach anything contradicting God’s Word, and Deuteronomy 13:1-3 indicates deliberately and consistently choosing God above all others.

Disobedient Christians – According to Matthew 18:15-17, while we are not to instantly avoid fellowship with disobedient Christians, we must do so when every effort to persuade them from wrong receives rejection.

Separation through Preparation

Just as Wilson deliberately prepares himself as a football player thus allowing him to excel when game time comes, we too must prepare to separate ourselves as Christians in order to excel in glorifying God.

Wilson’s preparation comes through viewing game tapes, analyzing opposing players, creating a plan for the next game, and making sure he’s in top physical and mental condition. A Christian’s preparation – and maintenance – for separation comes through establishing Godly habits, keeping short accounts, taking thoughts captive, having firm convictions and refusing to conform.

Examples to Follow

Russell Wilson seems to provide a terrific example for other football players as well as athletes in general to follow.

Scripture gives Christians numerous examples of the importance of preparing ourselves to become and remain separate. Examples include the Recabites, Daniel, Joseph and even David. The Recabites show the importance of knowing your why and being ready with an answer. Daniel gives a great example of the value of the habit of daily prayer. Joseph shows us that staying true to God holds significant long-term impact. And David lets us know that even when we mess up, pursuing God restores us to our separated (holy) state.

AMPLIFY: Many questions resonate in my mind as I consider how I can personally amplify my separation from the world, from evil and from disobedience. Does what I read and watch honor God? Are the video games my kids playing harmful to their minds? Am I too busy, overloaded and stressed? Do I over-plan and miss God’s plan way too often? Am I preoccupied with money? Do I explore alternative teachings? Am I too open-minded? Do I justify my attitudes, actions & words? Am I unteachable? Am I creating my own reality in order to continue doing what I want? Do I avoid conflict? Do I get caught up in comparing myself to others?

DISCUSSION: Can you think of additional examples, biblical or otherwise, of someone implementing the principle of “separation is in the preparation”? In addition to what we’ve already mentioned, how else does the Bible tell us to live separately?

Related Posts:

How to… Take Every Thought Captive, Part I

How to… Take Every Thought Captive, Part II

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Sunday Reflections – Divine Uniqueness

1-16-13 comparisonsMy husband belongs to a Saturday morning running group to which he and about a half dozen other runners remain extremely faithful. We’re talking every Saturday morning regardless of weather, and in Michigan that sure creates some interesting running conditions at times. This group inspires me!

Their inspiration reached the point of me wanting to train for the distances they constantly focus on, mostly ½ and full marathons. So, I convinced (meaning, laid a guilt trip on) my exercise partner to train for and run a ½ marathon with me. After two ½ marathons apiece, we decided that we hated them.

Our bodies simply refused to cooperate, and the resulting chronic injury has forced me to reevaluate my approach to exercising.

This led me to truly understanding that some people are built for distance running, and some are not. So, I am now working to find the approach to exercising that works best for my body, schedule, temperament and lifestyle.

Guess what? I enjoy exercising again. I still run, but shorter distances. Plus, I do a lot of cross training. My husband on the other hand, while he will play almost any sport, focuses on running ½ marathons and on actually continually achieving a personal record. (His fastest ½ marathon is a 1:38.)

Non-Negotiables

Life requires a lot of non-negotiables in order to be physically, mentally and spiritually healthy. We all need certain nutrients. We all require rest. Everyone needs physical activity. And we all need connection with others. While we all need these non-negotiables, we each require a unique balance of them.

We all need exercise, but we don’t all have to get it exactly the same way. We all need rest & relaxation, but those can look very different from one person to the next. And we all need connection with others, but how our relationships operate and even the number of them we have exists as uniquely our own.

Divine Uniqueness

A relationship with Christ is also a non-negotiable. But just like with all the other non-negotiables, your individual relationship with Christ is unique and different from anyone else’s. Let’s explore this a bit further.

  1. God is limitless. His power is limitless, infinite, beyond measure (Psalm 147:5). He knows everything (1 John 3:19-20). Nothing is hidden from him (Hebrews 4:13). Doesn’t Him being unlimited take the pressure off though? I mean, if He already knows and sees everything, I don’t have to pretend with Him or hide anything from Him like I feel I have to sometimes with people. For me, that relieves a lot of pressure. I can completely be my unique self with God.
  2. You’re different. Yeah, I hate to break it to you, but you’re a little different. So am I. (Some would say I am a lot different.) But different is okay because that was God’s intention. He created us to be different from one another, each for a unique purpose. We all have a unique combination of qualities given to us by our Creator. (Romans 12:3-5)
  3. We need differences. A person without an arm or a leg can adapt and accommodate for what’s missing, but doing so doesn’t change the fact that a part is missing. The body of Christ works the same way. It can and does adapt when a part is absent, but nothing can exactly replace the missing part. The job that missing part was meant to do simply won’t get done in the exact way that part was meant to do it. Our uniqueness is essential to the body. (Romans 12:3-5)

Amplify: So, we probably all realize the truth of our uniqueness. Just a quick survey of the people you know personally should be proof enough of this truth. Though we fight against it sometimes and give in to conformity, we ultimately know that no two individuals are alike. Knowing that our relationships with Christ are unique should impact our actions. This happens through avoiding comparisons, appreciating differences, acknowledging strengths and accepting a person regardless of weaknesses.

DISCUSSION: What additional application do you see?

How to… Amplify

Choosing the Word

My family and I set goals together at the end of every calendar year. As already mentioned in Vacation Reflections: Resolutions, my husband and sons set their goals for 2013 rather quickly while I struggled setting mine.

After being drawn to the One Word 365 approach, I then focused in on selecting just the right word. As I am a recovering perfectionist, finding the “perfect” word seemed like a daunting challenge. Fortunately, and maybe because I was on vacation, I was able to sit quietly and notice God’s leading.

Just before going on vacation, I purchased a compact amplified Bible. While on vacation and soon after praying about a direction for my 2013 goals (it wasn’t an immediate “ah ha” moment right after praying), the word “amplified” on my Bible jumped out to me.

At that moment (and this was an actual “ah ha” moment), I knew I had found my focus for 2013. And as I studied the meaning and application of the word Amplify, my decision became increasingly solidified.

Connecting the Word

1-9-13 amplify beach 1

God had already prepared my heart for this focus. For about 6 months prior to purchasing the Bible, He drew my attention to reading the amplified translation during daily Bible study. I loved the depth this translation provided and continued reading it daily.

In addition to the spiritual application, the desire to go deeper made its way into other areas of my life as well. Physically, I felt like I was operating at 80% capacity and wanted to find out why and to do some tweaking to make headway into the remaining 20%. Socially, my weakest area, I had yet been able to truly make the progress I desired. I wanted to finally and fully know why. Other areas, as I note below, also called for amplification.

As I reviewed my 2012 blog posts, I realized that this desire to amplify could be also seen in much of what I was writing. Here are just a few examples:

So, when the word “amplify” came into my consciousness that relaxing day in Myrtle Beach, I knew that it was the focus I needed for 2013.

1-11-13 amplify

Applying the Word

When my family sets goals for the coming year, we focus in on 5 specific areas: Spiritual, Physical, Work/School, Social & Family. I knew what I wanted to work on in each of these areas already, so I then looked to key words that truly emphasized my intention to “amplify” in these focus areas.

The following resulted:

Spiritual – Generosity. Memorization. Transparency.

Physical – Posture. Stretching. Water.

Work – Projects. Crafting. Learning.

Social – Responding. Listening. Preferring.

Family – Individual. Relationships. Connections.

The key words in each of these areas reflect how I am purposefully choosing to amplify my life, and each involves taking what I am already doing in some way and adding power, detail, depth and quality.

This approach seems to leave room for change and flexibility and even spontaneity, not at all a natural quality for me, and I also find that these are the ways that I most notice the Holy Spirit moving in my life.

DISCUSSION: What would you list as important elements in how a person could “amplify” her life?

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Amplify

1-11-13 amplify

Understanding the Word

To help understand the meaning of “amplify,” consider the purpose of audio amplifiers. They aren’t about adding volume; instead, they are about control. Through control of sound, amps give extra power, which leads to more detail and better sound quality. In other words, a sound amplifier produces a more powerful and detailed version of an audio signal.

To amplify in any way involves deeper analysis and further illustration. Amplifying also means increasing in amount and strength.

As I focus on amplifying in 2013, I want to create better understanding within each of my goal areas, which I’ll talk about in Monday’s post. I want to take my time to go deeper and create more detail. I liken this to becoming an expert in fewer areas rather than a generalist in many.

With amplification in 2013, I want to expand the basic meaning and purpose of what I am already doing and give them increased depth. I want to discover more power, power that is “immeasurably more” than all I could ask or imagine, “according to His power that is at work” within me (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Already Prepared

As I meditated on and studied the word “amplify,” I realized that the Holy Spirit had been cultivating the concept in my spirit for a while already. Let me explain.

Isaiah 43:18-19 has been a sort of theme verse for me for the past three years

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

After choosing “amplify” as my focus for 2013, I realized how well Isaiah 43:18-19 fits with that focus. When I choose to give control of my life over to my Creator, I know that I will experience increased power and depth in ways beyond what I can even imagine. In other words, He is the amplifier!

Another avenue leading toward my “amplify” focus came through a quote by Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Final Battle.

“Come further up, come further in.”

Another way to say it is to go “deeper down and further out.” (I was reminded of this quote after reading If You Started a New Community, Where Would You Begin? by Tom Tarver at A Curious Band of Others.)

My accountability partner and I have been talking a lot these past few months about application of “deeper down and further out,” which I now realizes can be summed up in one word – “amplify.”

So really, I started to “amplify” about halfway through 2012 but didn’t realize it until participating in my family’s annual goal setting. God prepared my heart for this focus, and His timing remains perfect.

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What’s next?

On Monday, I will go into more detail on how I plan to integrate “amplify” into different goal areas for 2013.

For what it’s worth, I had no idea when writing Vacation Reflections: Resolutions that I would be writing today’s post going into details on the meaning behind “amplify.” I also had no idea before writing this post that I would decide to continue the topic in “How to… Amplify” in my next post.

Perhaps that illustrates well part of the process to “amplify” as I allow the Holy Spirit more control. In that, I realize that to “amplify” for me involves increasingly more of Him and less of me as 2013 progresses (John 3:30).

DISCUSSION: What are your thoughts on the word “amplify”? 

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Vacation Reflections: Resolutions

1-9-13 resolutions

Not-So-SMART Goal Setting

The turning of one year into another brings reflection for many people, reflection that includes evaluating and looking back on the past year in a way that provides insight as to where to focus efforts in the new year ahead. For many, this means setting Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant goals that are also Time-bound.

SMART goal setting works for a lot of people. I’ve tried the SMART approach, but it has never been very effective for me. I struggled with sticking to the “requirements” of this approach and constantly felt too confined by it, probably due in large part to my tendency to go against the flow. (If others are doing something, if something is trendy, I look for reasons not to do it.)

While on vacation last week, my husband and sons set their goals for 2013 rather quickly. To no one’s surprise, I took a little longer to set mine. While inspiration for my guys came from “this is what I want to work on and accomplish,” inspiration for me came from a variety of sources that were much less direct.

What I’ve come to realize is that not only are goals themselves highly unique to the individual, goal setting is as well. While my husband and sons can set SMART goals and find great success, I find myself going a very different route. The problem up to this point has been finding a route that truly took me in a productive direction.

This year, I am taking the One Word 365 approach. This approach seems to fit my personality and temperament not to mention my habits and preferences much better than other approaches I’ve tried. But as they say, time will tell.

The idea for a One Word 365 approach began while reading 2013 Will Be My Year to Pursue by Stephanie Spencer at Everyday Awe. Confirmation for taking this approach came while reading One Word 2013: Listen by Teri Lynne Underwood at Fresh Perspective and Cour_ge vs. Fear by Amy at The Messy Middle.

Accountability

Setting goals as a family provides a great deal of accountability. But where I struggle in this area is that the accountability source is usually me. I remind my guys of their goals and ask them about their progress. They receive external encouragement from me.

While I am a largely internally motivated, I still desire external encouragement too. In fact, I think I require more external encouragement than my guys have it in them to give and in a deeper way than they can provide. I also get the sense that I am not alone in this.

I believe that no one person – not even your spouse – should be asked to fulfill all of your needs except Jesus. And because I believe He so often does this through connection and community within the Body of Christ, I am requesting accountability and encouragement for 2013.

This request for accountability comes not only for myself, but also for others within your circle of influence. Just as personality and temperament affect how a person sets and achieves goals, so too do they affect how a person encourages another. In other words, however you feel led to encourage others, not necessarily me, let me encourage you to Be Encouraging Just By Being You in 2013.

So, what is my One Word 365 focus for 2013?

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On Friday, I will discuss how and why I chose “Amplify” for my One Word 365 in 2013.

DISCUSSION: What is your approach to goal setting? Please share that approach along with some of your goals in the comment section.