5 Questions to Ask Before 2013 is Over

By Kevin Howell

photo by losmininos via compfight creative commons

photo by losmininos via compfight creative commons

It’s December, so it’s the perfect time to reflect on the past year. Since I have a December birthday, I like to reflect around that time, reviewing the ups and downs and accomplishments and setbacks of the year, as well as get a head-start on New Year’s goals.

I was journaling on my commute to work and asked myself five simple yet honest questions in order to give account of my year:

What have you learned?

How have you grown?

Are you stronger in God?

Did you value family and friends?

Did you live a meaningful life?

These aren’t just “yes or no” questions. These are questions that caused me to probe how I spent the past year. Notice, I didn’t ask what I accomplished, if I met my goals, how much time I spent in the Word, or what my net worth is. The questions that matter most aren’t quite measurable. They’re less black-and-white, more gray. But the answers often tell you more about yourself, and whether the year hardened you or developed you.

There was good and bad in my responses (which I’m keeping confidential). And I tell myself to build on the good, and forget the bad. No time to harbor guilt or regrets, they’re quite unproductive (and destructive, too).

So with roughly three weeks left in the year, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions (or whatever variation you choose). Take time in answering them. You may have done better or worse than you thought. Either way, build on the positive, move on from the negative, and let it all move you forward into the new year.

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Moving in the Stillness

By Yodit KifleMoving in the Stillness

It’s the rush of the New Year. The excitement hasn’t worn off quite yet. Our minds are still fixed on the goals and resolutions we’ve put in place and we are ready to charge towards them.  We are determined to make this a year of movement and we’ve been encouraged about that.

Before we thrust ourselves into the busyness of this year, I believe there is a goal we need to set:

Be still and know that He is God! (Psalm 46:10)

You’re probably wondering how we can deem this year to be a year of movement yet set the goal to be still. We often equate being still with not moving. But when God tells us to be still and know that He is God, I’m beginning to see there is more movement than we think.

BE STILL

I am sure that there will be times during this year where we will allow our “doing” to consume us to the point of feeling overwhelmed.  I am confident that we will in some way experience disappointments and confusion as well. However, to heed God’s command to be still and know He is God is His way of preventing these moments from shaking our foundation and taking us to a place that we don’t need to be. We don’t need to be overwhelmed. We don’t need to sit in confusion.

When we set it in our hearts to consistently be still and know Him, we invite His presence to quiet our soul — the seed of our thoughts and emotions. Yet at the same time, we are allowing His Spirit to awaken our spirit to be sensitive to His voice so that we can move in the direction He is leading us.  Our soul can often get in the way of what our spirit needs to hear. It’s when we learn how to be still that God helps us align them.

Being still is not to restrict our motion but to boost our faith. It’s to help us see that God knows us — intimately — and what God knows, He watches over.

Now, He’s asking us to know Him more because what we know, we are willing to trust and relinquish control to. What we know will keep us moving. It will keep us alive.

Being still and knowing that He is God is a chance for that exchange to take place.

KNOW HIM

What you know enough of will help you refuse that which comes against your knowledge. Know Him more so that you can refuse the enemies scheme to kill, steal, and destroy.

So know His faithfulness (2 Timothy 2:13); Know His grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). Know His promise (Psalm 119:50). Know His love (Jeremiah 31:3). Know His peace (Isaiah 26:3-4). Know His hope (Hebrews 6:19); Know His way (Psalm 32:8).

He wants us to know that He is God, not just intellectually, but practically, spiritually, and emotionally.  So as an encouragement to all of us, as we are in the mind-set to fully charge towards all the amazing things in our hearts to do, let us first set the goal to consistently be still and know He is God.

And there is no need to be afraid of being still — it will only keep us moving forward.  So let our soul be still and let our spirit move in Him and by Him.

 

Yodit Kifle is a young woman passionate about God and the things of God. She started a ministry called WITHIN — www.thewithingroup.ning.com — focused on connecting young women to embrace sisterhood and encouraging them to become all that they are called to be. Connect with her: withinministry (at)gmail.com

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In Need of Encouragement

By Kevin HowellIn Need of encouragement

I need encouragement. It’s not something I like to admit, but I need it. I’m not dependent on a pat on the back or on others’ validation. I feel I’m self-sufficient. But from time to time, I need words of encouragement because they work wonders.

Chances are, you need encouragement, too. And if you need it, then the co-workers, neighbors, friends, and family you’ll see today need it as well.

You probably already have some New Year’s resolutions or One Word you’re planning to live by. But on Mondays, why not make it a habit to encourage someone.

A simple compliment or affirmation can literally make someone’s day.

A former co-worker of mine used to dye her hair different colors every month. I’m talking the whole ROYGBIV color spectrum: blue one month, pink the next, orange another  (yes, my workplace is more casual than formal). One time she dyed it red. Not Lindsey Lohan red, but Taylor Swift’s lipstick red… Ronald McDonald red. Strange enough, mixed with her natural brunette hair, it looked good. When I told her I loved her hair color, her face lit up with a smile I’d never seen before.

For the most part, complimenting others doesn’t come easily. I’m a bit hesitant because I don’t want to come off as insincere. Maybe it’s just my cynical side, but I  internally question encouragement I receive. It’s almost always sincere, but I’ve allowed the culture to harden my heart, and skew my perspective. Compliments are so rare today, especially on Monday, that we just can’t see them as genuine.

But that changes today. For me… for you.

This Monday, the first Monday of 2013, set the tone for the year. Be someone who encourages others around you. As author and counselor Debra Fileta said, encouraging words “nourish, strengthen, and grow relationships faster than many other things can.”

Someone you encounter today needs some encouragement. Why don’t you be the one to make their Monday meaningful.

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New Year, Only One Word Matters

By Kevin Howell OneWord365

It’s time to simplify things.

We’re all juggling a lot in life. We play many roles. We’re probably involved in too many things. And when it comes to New Year’s goals, where do we start? Your health? Finances? Career? Relationships? Or, of course, your walk with God? If you’re like me, you have plenty of areas to approve upon.

I’m big on making New Year’s goals. Last year I filled in a spreadsheet to organize my aspirations in every area of my life. That worked as well as Kim Kardashian’s last marriage.

So for 2013, I’m joining the One Word revolution. I’m focusing on one word that sums up who I want to be and how I want to live this year and beyond. One word I will focus on every day, all year.

Sacrifice.

This word has been resonating with me the past five months. I can’t escape it. I wrote about here, and then again here. God’s been drilling in me that love is sacrificial. We know as Christians we are called to love. And though there are several characteristics of love (see 1 Cor. 13), sacrifice seems paramount to me. I blame Jesus for that. Everything in our Savior’s life was about sacrificing for others and for a greater cause.

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed His life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.” 1 John 3:16

That’s what God is calling me to this year: In big ways and small ways, to live sacrificially for others. To surrender my time and resources to serve others. I’ve already been doing this in many ways, but He’s beckoning me to go deeper for something greater.

The needs are great in the world around us. Family, friends, neighbors, and strangers need our time and attention. I have my own needs. And God knows my schedule isn’t filled with free time. But if I desire to love anyway remotely close to how I’ve been loved, then in 2013, I must embrace sacrifice.

Maybe 2013 will be something special. Maybe it can be my greatest year yet. Not because I kept a resolution, or I accomplished a slew of goals listed on a spreadsheet. But because I simplified. Focused on one word, embraced it, lived it, and loved sacrificially.

What One Word can you focus on to live how you desire this year? Link up with the One Word 365 community for inspiration and encouragement, and see how my journey is going by signing up for email updates from Transparency by clicking here.

 

 

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The Power of New Beginnings

new beginning

By Eb

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! For I’m going to do a brand new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert!”

Isaiah 43:18-19 (The Book Translation)

It’s a new year. Many of us have been anticipating this new beginning since October of last year. Last year, or our past in general, may not have gone the way we wanted it to. Perhaps the goals we made at the start of 2011 were all just a vapor by February. Or maybe even with the best intentions to change or create new habits, we found ourselves back into our same drama, lies, lust and negative thinking. It may be, as a result of all of this, we have thrown in the towel already in 2012.

Don’t do it.

God is in the business of providing us with new beginnings.

You see in the scripture above, we are reminded that God grants us a second chance. He even tells us to forget about the past. Once we recognize our faults and ask for forgiveness we are granted another chance, which brings about a new beginning. Thankfully, we don’t even have to carry the guilt and condemnation of our past.

There is power in starting over and God consistently reminds us that He, in fact, loves a new start. He tells us in Revelations that He will make everything new (Revelations 21:5). Your broken heart will be made new. That strained relationship, He will make new. He will even renew your mind.

One thing that stands out to me is that even in Revelations, which is the last book of the Bible, God talks about restoring our lives. It is amazing how merciful God is to us. Even when it seems like we have missed the mark or it is too late, He will re-establish us.

If your new year has not begun the way you had hoped, it is not too late for your new start. Jesus is waiting for you to seek Him. Ask God for guidance and pray for restoration. He will do it. It is in His word. If there is one thing I know God to do it is that He will renew our minds. He did it for me.

In the referenced scripture God asks, “Don’t you see it?” I believe He wants us to start envisioning our goals and dreams.  Pray for a new beginning and believe God for it. See yourself healed, focused, employed or however you want to start your new life in Christ. Remember, even though we are almost one month into the New Year, you can still start over. Just pray for it, see it, and believe it.

 

Eb is just a girl who loves God and wants to share Him with others. She is also the creator of The Soulcial Circle (www.thesoulcialcircle.com)

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My Story, Chapter 2012

living a better story

By Kevin Howell

I’m finally starting to develop into what one would call a reader. I’m not quite an avid reader yet, but this past year I was finally able to finish several books in a 12-month period. This is quite an accomplishment because I have a pretty impressive book shelf full of half-read books. There are plenty of books I purchase or are given to me, but whether it’s because I lose interest or I find a more intriguing read, I tend to put them down before I get to the end.

I have a few new books on my nightstand that I’m looking forward to diving into and finishing this year. But maybe the most intriguing read I’m anticipating this year is my own story, chapter 2012.

Like many people, I have goals to begin the New Year. I like to simplify my new start into one theme, one slogan, and one mind-set to live by. This year, I want to live a better story… a more interesting one… a more meaningful one. Essentially, our lives are a book, and each year we write a new chapter. However, I get the sense that my life is sometimes like those half-read books on my nightstand — for some reason, just not interesting enough to keep reading.

Like anyone, I have my share of happenings and events that highlight the year, as well as life-changing moments that impact me internally, or drama and conflict that come up from time to time. But for the most part, the past few chapters have been the same. It’s time for a shake-up. It’s time for change.

Of course that can mean a lot of different things, from a career change to relocation, but for me, this year, it means taking risks, exploring new areas, and stepping into adventure. Now, I’m not a thrill seeker, so I won’t be jumping out of any planes, climbing any mountains, or auditioning for The Voice — though that would be interesting to see if Cee Lo would pick me for his team. For me, the best stories aren’t necessarily the stuff of action flicks, but rather they are found in the beauty and complexity of human relationships. I want to take the risk of exploring that area.

I want to meet new people, people different than me. I want to be the guy who starts conversations with strangers in Starbucks. I want to deepen the shallow relationships in my life. I want to know, intimately, the stories of those around me, and reveal to them the story I’m living. I want to invite people to be characters in my book, and become an essential character in their stories.

I say this because my role model and closest friend, Jesus, lived this type of life. He invited 12 ragamuffin strangers to live with Him, and journey with Him. He spent the most meaningful and documented part of His life meeting new people, serving them, and loving them on a daily basis. He took the time and effort to seek out hurting people, those who simply needed a friend, needed someone to take an interest in them, and needed to know they were important and worth His time and attention.

So why is this risky? Because it’s uncomfortable. It’s not something I want to do, or even know how to do. And it’s not something everyone will be receptive to. But it will make a more interesting story than one of mere personal goals and self-development. It will bring new characters in my life. It will bring conflict and it will stretch me. It will make me care more than I do, notice those around me, and step outside my personal bubble. It will make a more interesting chapter than the previous ones. And it will make my life story a little more intriguing, and worth the read.

What will your Chapter 2012 look like? What type of story will you live? Feel free to share your goals and your theme.

 

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