A Mindful Resolution, Part II

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV)

In my last post, I revealed my one-word resolution for 2018 – mindfulness. In response to that post, many of you have offered your own. Each one was excellent and, if followed through, will no doubt bring us all closer to being the person God desires us to become in the new year.

Like “mindfulness”, so many of the words you selected for your one-word resolution can be applied in multiple areas of our lives. They include:

  • Worship
  • Discipline
  • Submission
  • Determined
  • Grateful
  • Share
  • Grace
  • Patience
  • Awareness
  • Discernment
  • Contemplative
  • Embrace
  • Forgiveness

Last time, I focused on my intention to be mindful of my time, both in terms of years I have ahead of me and the way I spend the hours available to me each day.

The second area in which I want to be more mindful in 2018 is my interactions with others. By nature, I am very much an introvert. When I met my wife thirty-five years ago, her first impression was that I was a “snob”.

People who have attended my classes and heard me go on and on about a passage of Scripture express amazement that I can talk so much in front of a class teaching and so little at the lunch table afterwards. The trick is that before I stand in front of a class, I have written down word-for-word everything I plan to say.

Extemporaneous may be in my vocabulary but it is not within my ability when it comes to speaking. I suppose that is why I gravitated to writing.

But to be the witness God has called me to be, I need to be more mindful of and engaging with the people he places in my path – from the person waiting my table at the restaurant, to the cashier at the grocery store, to the strangers I encounter every day.

The potential impact of a single encounter with a stranger is exemplified by Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John Chapter 4. Though everyone in Sychar apparently avoided her, our Lord engaged her in a deep conversation that not only changed her life, but transformed her into a powerful witness, leading many Samaritans to faith in Christ as “the Savior of the world”. (John 4:42 NIV)

At the close of 2017 I encountered a perfect modern-day example of being mindful of others when I read Walking to Listen, the memoir of a young man named Andrew Forsthoefel. At the age of 23, having just graduated from college, Andrew left his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania with a loaded backpack, a tape recorder, and a sign on his back which read “Walking to Listen” and began an 11-month walk across America.

I was fascinated by the number of people who welcomed Andrew into their homes and shared their stories and life philosophies with him. Inspired by his courage and his desire to engage with others so different from himself, I was reminded of the importance of personal engagement in a world that is growing increasingly insular.

At the close of the book, Andrew thanks everyone he met on his walk for “teaching me what I was asking to learn, showing me what I needed to see, and telling me what I was open to hear.” 

Those words truly resonate with me as I seek to be more mindful of others in 2018, and I would be delighted to hear any suggestions you may have that might help me achieve that goal.

You can learn more about Andrew and his incredible journey by <clicking here>.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

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Timeless Truths

“The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails – given by one shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. (Ecclesiastes 12:12 NIV)

Every new year brings with it the inevitable spike in gym memberships and sales of diet and exercise books. Many of us are looking for the latest exercise craze or fad diet that will help us achieve that fitness goal that eluded us last year. And yet, most of us know implicitly that maintaining good health and fitness comes down to a few simple rules: 

  • If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.
  • Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
  • Walking is man’s best medicine.
  • That which is used – develops. That which is not used wastes away.
  • Everything in excess is opposed by nature. 

These “health rules” are simple, clear, straightforward, and unchanged for over 2,000 years. In fact, they were first articulated just as they are presented here by Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived several hundred years before the birth of Christ. Rather than chase the latest fad, save yourself some money this year, ingrain these few timeless principles into your heart, and discipline yourself to follow them. 

The same applies to our approach to spiritual health. Walk in the door of any Christian bookstore and you will be immediately confronted with the latest bestseller by your favorite Christian author with his/her face prominently displayed on the cover promising “Your Best Life Now” or “30 Days to Spiritual Maturity”. You will likely encounter a wide assortment of devotionals offering nuggets of Biblical wisdom and spiritual insight for each day of 2017. 

imageYou will have no difficulty finding these publications. They will be prominently displayed out front. But you may need a little assistance if you’re actually looking for a Bible. They will usually be tucked off to the side somewhere out of the way. Sadly, that is too often the case in our homes as well. 

Devotionals, Christian books, and religious blogs such as this one serve a useful purpose and my comments are not meant to denigrate them in any way or discourage you from reading them. (Certainly not mine!) But if they are your primary source of spiritual food, you will be woefully malnourished. If your goal is a stronger relationship with the Lord and improved spiritual fitness in 2017, there is simply no substitute for spending undistracted, quiet time in God’s Word. 

If it is not already your practice, I encourage you to resolve this year to begin each day reading and prayerfully digesting the clear, straightforward, and timeless truths found in the pages of your Bible. Ingrain its teachings into your heart and apply its principles in your life. There is simply no better source for spiritual nourishment and guidance than a clear word straight from the heart of the Creator and controller of the universe.

“What we need as Christians is to be able to feed ourselves. How many there are who sit helpless and listless, with open mouths, hungry for spiritual things, and the minister has to try to feed them, while the Bible is a feast prepared, into which they never venture.” – D.L. Moody

Reflections On 2015

“You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-24)

I have never been a big fan of New Years resolutions. After many failures through the years, I have come to view them as a waste of time and energy. I also came to question why anyone would wait until the start of a new year to make a change they desire to make. As that great philosopher Bono once sang, “Nothing changes on New Years Day”.

I’m often reminded of one of the most memorable sermons I have ever heard. It was preached by Brother Bob Melvin at Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I remember few of the details of the message, but I’ll never forget the title – “Why Spend Another Night With The Frogs?”. It was based on the Exodus account of the plagues that God sent to convince Pharaoh to release the Israelites. After the plague of frogs, Pharaoh agreed to release the Israelites if Moses would pray that The Lord would take the frogs away. When Moses offered to allow Pharaoh to set the time when he would offer that prayer, Pharaoh replied, “Tomorrow”. (Ex. 8:10)  When you stop to reflect on that response, it begs the unspoken question, “Why spend another night with the frogs?”

That expresses how I feel about New Years resolutions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for setting goals, whether they be physical, educational, spiritual, or otherwise. But if there are frogs keeping you from reaching those goals, why wait until January 1 to address them? Why spend another night with the frogs?

By the way, my wife apparently understands that principle better than I do. I informed her last week that I planned to start the new year off by following the Atkins diet regimen for several weeks to shed a few pounds. She started me on it this past Monday. I guess she took Brother Bob’s sermon to heart! Either that, or she is really anxious for me to lose that weight.

In keeping with the implication of the title, I planned to make this my last post of 2015, but then a frog jammed up those plans. The frog that interfered is best known as the BCS College Football playoffs. So this will be my first post of 2016. I’m nothing if I’m not flexible.

In case you’re concerned, I have no intention of recounting all the details of my 2015 like some of those letters we sometimes receive with Christmas cards this time of the year. But I would like to reflect on my blogging experience which began in February.

First of all, my heartfelt thanks to all of you who felt my posts were worthy of your time. For the year, I published 16 posts on Ridgetop Reflections and those posts received over 1500 views. I don’t know if that would be considered a good first year or not, but it was very encouraging to me.

My most popular post was “A Tribute To Mama“, which was taken from the eulogy I imagedelivered at my mother’s funeral in 2004. More of you shared that post on Facebook than any other – no doubt a leading factor in the number of views it received. Mama could have never imagined that people would be reading about her life on something called the internet eleven years after her passing. Knowing her humble spirit, she would have been more embarrassed about that than proud.

The second most viewed post was “Lessons From The Treehouse” which was taken from my brother Ronnie’s eulogy earlier this year. Knowing him, he would have been both amazed and proud of that and pleased that the post about him did not surpass “A Tribute To Mama” in popularity.

Blogging is more challenging than I anticipated. I have been writing Bible Study lessons word-for-word for years and expected blogging to be not so different. But I quickly discovered that when you write for public distribution, proof reading for proper grammar, punctuation, and narrative flow adds a whole new dynamic to the process.

Mountains of doubt entered my mind every time I pressed that intimidating “Publish” button staring at me on the screen. Is this worthy of publishing? Do my words convey the message I’m trying to communicate? Will anyone read it? Why should anyone care what I have to say? Those frogs of doubt plagued me so much at one point that I didn’t publish anything for three months.

But your encouragement, a guilty conscience, and a divine nudge helped me shake those doubts long enough to get back on the blogging horse. Many thanks to all of you who have served as my Barnabas with your encouraging comments on the blog as well as Facebook. I’m especially grateful to those of you who have shared my posts with your own Facebook friends and retweeted my posts on Twitter. (For those of you scratching your head wondering what retweet means, just ask your Grandkids.)

I hope that moving forward in 2016 you will continue to find my posts worthy of your reading time and worthy of sharing and commenting on. Your feedback and contributions to the dialog are always welcomed and appreciated.

My plan this year is to publish more often. Many ideas for future posts are in various stages of development, but I’m contemplating focusing most of my writing this year on the Gospel of John. As I mentioned in The Word Became Flesh, none of the disciples had a better understanding of the person of Jesus Christ than John. No one knew Christ more intimately than John. No one had a deeper insight regarding the purpose of His coming than John. And no one can help us know Christ better ourselves than John.

Like the Apostle Paul, I want to better know Christ and the power of His resurrection in my own life and make Him better known with my writing. While nothing I have to say should ever take the place of your own study of God’s Word, I hope that my words may deepen your hunger for and enhance your understanding of the Holy Scriptures.

Happy New Year to you all. I pray that 2016 will be prosperous for you in all the ways that would be pleasing to our Lord and that every day, in some small way, your spirit will be refreshed and your faith renewed.

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“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16)

Note: All Scripture references from the New International Version (NIV)